Hinatas mind was in something vaguely resembling an overload. For years she had been asked to do things that were impossible for her. Day after day, year after year, she had been asked to excel at techniques that she couldnt even complete. One of the things that leaving with Sora had meant to her was learning the difference between unreasonable demands and being pushed. Her father had always come to her holding up an ideal and asking her to become that. Sora held up her potential and asked her to live up to it. She never asked to do things she wasnt ready to do.
At least until now.
You have to summon a falcon big enough for all three of us to ride on, Sora said solemnly.
Hinata stared at her as though she was out of her mind. But Ive never summoned anything larger than a peregrine! she cried.
Well, you are now, Sora said. I dont have the chakra right now and any other way is going to be too slow. Even at top speed, were a good four or five days away from Yasu and Nori. We need to get there fast, and that means we have to fly.
her voice trailed off, not knowing what to say. She turned to Naruto to look for support, only to find him nodding his head.
Shes right Hina-chan; its the only way to do it.
She bit her lower lip and looked down at the ground. They didnt understand; both of them were the type to simply decide they were going to do something and do it, without much consent to the reality of the situation. Naruto was far worse that Sora, but she was just as good at digging her heels in.
But the fact of the matter was that while she had more chakra left than Sora, she was at nowhere near the level needed to summon anything big enough for them to ride on. She was going to need a lot more than she had, and there was no way for her to get it. Her stores were depleted; all theirs were
Her head shot up as she looked at her boyfriend. His chakra reserves were never depleted. Thanks to the Kyuubi, his own chakra restored itself quickly, in addition to having the Kyuubis chakra when he was completely drained. That meant that he not only had more chakra than them, but that it restored itself faster. If he had a contract and some experience with the falcons, he would probably have enough to summon the falcon (they needed).
Or she might be able to if she had some of his chakra.
She turned to face him. Naruto-kun, I need you to give me some of your chakra.
Naruto looked at her as if she had lost her mind.
Using someone elses chakra in order to perform jutsu was certainly not a terribly advanced technique. It was slightly more difficult to mold chakra that you were given rather than charka you produced yourself, but in the end chakra was chakra.
Unless you were Naruto.
Sora had never let Naruto feed her chakra, no matter how much sense it made for them as partners, because of the possibility that she would get a dose of Kyuubis chakra. It was too risky; they didnt know how anyone but Naruto was going to react to having demonic chakra pumped into their system.
Hinata looked over at Sora. She was standing with her arms crossed across her chest staring down at the snow. She obviously didnt want to say yes, but couldnt bring herself to say no.
She looked back at Naruto and their eyes locked. He didnt want to do this at all. He didnt want to put her at risk and he was desperately trying to think of another way. But they both knew that there was no other way for her to build nearly enough chakra by herself to do this.
I wont do it, he said.
Naruto-kun- she started, but he barreled right over her.
I wont do it! he yelled. You know how dangerous this is! Im not going to risk your life like this! Well find another way!
I risk my life every day! There is no other way to get there in time! she protested, laying her hand on his shoulder, trying to make him understand.
Boost me, Sora said from behind her. I have more experience. Should something go wrong, I have a better chance of being able to do something.
Hinata turned her body partially towards her and shook her head. Onee-chan, youre completely drained! If Naruto gives the chakra to me, all he has to do is give me a boost. Hed have to provide enough for you to do the entire summoning, and thats bound to get into demonic chakra. With me, he might not need to use the Kyuubi.
Im not going to do it! Naruto yelled. Im not going to boost either of your chakra! Its too dangerous!
Tears threatened to leak out of the corners of Hinatas eyes but she pulled them back. If you dont, it will take us days to get to Nori and Yasus house. Flying, it will only take us a couple of hours. That could be the difference between whether they live or not!
There was complete silence for a minute as the weight of Hinatas words settled over them.
Do it Naruto, Sora said quietly.
Naruto looked at her in shock and anger. But Nee-chan!
Her voice took on a chilly tone. Shes right Naruto; its the only way. You want to be Hokage? Then learn how to make tough choices. Boost Hinatas chakra!
Naruto glared at her. When Im Hokage, I wont let anything like this happen! Ill keep the whole village safe without risking others!
Sora cut him off with a slap across the face, then grabbed him by his hair and forced him to look at her. Her voice was calm and callous as she spoke. Yes you will! Because that is the nature of the world. We have to take risks, and not just with our own lives, but with those we love. We go into battle with them, we risk hurting them, we even risk killing them because there is a greater good. And sometimes that greater good is all that we have. Trust me kid, you havent even begun to see what this world is capable of. If you think that a couple years of traveling, a whole lot of reading and one restored clan has taught you what you need to know to lead, then you need to grow up. She released him and shoved him towards Hinata while they both stared at her, astonished.
Grow up, Naruto. Make the tough decision. Boost Hinatas chakra.
He stared at her in shock. She hadnt spoken to him in that tone of voice since he had tried to teach himself the Fire Wall no Jutsu. Looking back, he could tell why she had been angry at him. He had been acting like an idiot and putting all three of them in danger. Was he acting like an idiot now? In two and a half years, would he look back on this and wonder why he had hesitated?
He felt Hinatas hand on his arm. He looked at her, confused and obviously torn. She seemed to radiate comfort and sadness, as if she understood what he was going through. She reached up with her free hand to cup one of his cheeks.
Please, she whispered, a single tear running down the side of her face.
He clenched all the muscles in his face and looked down at the ground. They were standing over a spot of red, where someones blood had dyed the snow. His view was blocked by Hinatas shoulder as she stepped towards him, put her arms around him, and squeezed him tightly. Burying his face in her hair, he wrapped his arms around her and allowed himself to breathe in her scent.
She rubbed her hands up and down his back. Please, she repeated.
He held her tighter and then nodded into her hair. She squeezed him back and then pulled away, pushing a few strands of blond hair out of his face. Standing up on her tiptoes, she kissed his cheek. Ready? she asked.
He nodded again as she turned herself in his arms and pressed her back against his. Contact wasnt necessary for them to use each others chakra, but considering the risks, they were taking as few chances as possible.
And the last thing Naruto wanted was to let Hinata go.
Reaching into the pouch on her leg, Hinata pulled out a kunai and sliced her thumb. Returning the weapon to its pouch, she pulled her thumb across her opposite palm, leaving a bright read streak.
Twisting to look back and up at her boyfriend, she nodded. He moved his arms from around her waist and pulled up the sleeves of her jacket so that he could put his hands on the skin of her arms.
He closed his eyes and tried to think of the color blue. That was all he was going to give her; pure blue chakra, not the red, Kyuubi-tainted stuff.
He felt her arms move as she brought her hands together and started to seal. He counted them off, one, two, three, four and then right before she spoke the name, he pushed his remaining chakra into her.
It felt like she was getting hit with a two-ton brick. His chakra slammed into her, stronger than anything she could have imagined. His normal chakra didnt feel like hers; even it was supercharged. She struggled to stay on her feet as the chakra pressed her into the ground. Her throat was suddenly dry and her voice gone; she was unable to get out the words she needed to complete the jutsu. The chakra just kept coming, past her normal reserves to levels she had never experienced before.
And then she saw it. In the back of her mind, roaring towards her, was something immense and red. A mouth opened, displaying sharp teeth as claws lashed through the air. It was coming to devour her and then use what little strength she had in her to make itself stronger. It wanted OUT, and it wanted her strength to help it.
Naruto grit his teeth and gripped Hinatas wrists harder. The Kyuubis chakra had never come up this fast before. Normally he had some sort of warning, a pause between when he ran out of chakra before the demon started to loan him his, but this time it had just come barreling thorough him before he was even aware that he was at the end of his chakra. It was as if it had a mind of its own and was determined to get to Hinata.
With a gasp, he pulled back, letting go of her arms. Suddenly, the fox was gone, and Hinata was left only with the buzzing of chakra leaving her, feeling like there was an electric current running through her body. Quickly, she slammed her palm down onto the ground. Kuchiyose no Jutsu! she yelled.
Lines shot out from around her hand in a huge circle, and she felt herself rise in the air and then start to fall. Naruto caught her, and they watched as the huge falcon arrived in a plume of white smoke. Suddenly Hinata felt like she had no energy left and collapsed against Narutos shoulder.
Hina-chan? HINA-CHAN! he yelled shaking her slightly, He fell to his knees to cradle her in his lap. She moaned slightly and shifted in his arms. Looking down, he could see finger-shaped bruise marks on her forearms from where he had grabbed her. Where his palm had rested on each arm there were sets of jagged lines burned into her skin forming a rough semi-circle.
He cringed and held her closer. What if they scarred?
The falcon dug its feet into the snow and let out a squawk. It was huge, its flapping wings stretching wider than most of the houses in Konoha. Its beak snapped impatiently as it lifted one wing to peer underneath it at Naruto and Hinata.
I thought we had made it clear that we couldnt be summoned on flat ground! the falcon, who from the pitch of her voice was female, snapped rather crossly. Your lucky that I can get a good foothold in this snow! Im not some common pigeon whose feet are flat!
Hey, we just busted our asses to get you here! Naruto yelled back, still holding Hinata against his chest.
The falcon snapped her beak again, then brought her head close to stare Naruto down. Dont forget, fledgling, that if you summoned us here, you are obviously asking for a favor.
Why you- Naruto started, only to be cut off by Sora.
Hey, cut the kid some slack! Like he said, we just busted our asses to get you here, she said, walking over to stand next to her brother.
The falcons eyes narrowed. Oh, its you. She said. What do you want?
Sora crossed her arms across her chest. What the hell does that mean?
The falcon snorted, sending out a gust of wind that pushed all their hair back. You always summon us, are rude and then ask for us to do crazy things.
What the hell are you talking about! Sora asked indignantly.
The falcon snorted again and turned her attention to Naruto and Hinata. The last time I saw her, she wanted me to fly her out of a building surrounded by an army of people with arrows! And not just people with little bows and arrows, oh no. People with unspeakable machines that launched the largest arrows I have ever seen! I thought I was going to be killed!
Oh, pardon me for thinking that a few measly arrows wouldnt be difficult for a great big falcon to deal with. Youre only supposed to be the fastest birds in the world.
Her eyes narrowed again. Why you little-
Please! Hinata managed weakly. Please, we need your help! She turned in Narutos arms and opened her eyes to look at the bird.
The falcon pushed her head in closer to Hinatas face. Her eyes widened. Are you the one who summoned me? she asked.
Hinata nodded weakly.
Suddenly the falcon reminded Naruto more of a hen than a bird of prey. Oh you must be Hinata. Only one little girl on our summoning scrolls with eyes like that. For goodness sakes, you should hear the little ones talking about the rookie. They just go on and on about what a sweet little thing you are and how nice you are to them even when theyre little and
oh for goodness sakes! She laughed, a slightly horrifying sound. If youve managed to summon me, then you must be doing better than before. You should be proud of yourself for making such a big leap in such a small time!
Please, Hinata said weakly. We dont have time!
Huh? the falcon said, peering at her. Are you alright dear? You sound rather weak.
Shes right! Naruto said quickly. We have friends who are in trouble, and we need to get to them fast!
The falcon shot an accusatory look at Naruto. Did she completely drain herself to get me here?
Im fine, Hinata said, although her tone left a great deal of room for doubt. Im just tired. Please, we need to get to our friends. There are some very powerful men after them and if we dont get there
her voice trailed off.
Well, why didnt you start with that? the falcon asked, lowering her body close to the ground.
All right! Naruto yelled as he stood up, still holding Hinata in his arms. Balancing himself carefully, he climbed up onto the back of the bird, settling himself and Hinata between the falcons shoulder blades.
What direction are we heading? the falcon asked.
East-northeast, Sora said, climbing on. Back towards my house and then continuing on towards Yasus.
Yasu? That partner of yours? Shes the friend that needs help?
Her, her husband, and their daughter, Sora said, sitting herself down next to Naruto and putting her hand on Hinatas forehead. How are you feeling? she asked.
All right; just weak and dizzy. And my arms hurt, she said weakly.
Sora turned Hinatas arms over to look at where they had been burnt. She looked up and her eyes locked with Narutos. A flash of guilt passed between them; they were the ones who had allowed this to happen to her.
The falcon bent her legs and jumped, flapping her wings madly in the air as she gained altitude.
I dont have enough chakra left to really do any of my healing jutsus, Sora said quietly.
Naruto swallowed. Sora was a decent healer; you didnt spend three years apprenticed to Tsunade without learning how to patch people up. But while Sora had made sure Naruto learned basic field medicine, he had resisted spending time learning more than that. I just know the really basic ones, he said.
Well, considering that we dont know exactly whats going on with her chakra and the demon chakra, we probably shouldnt do anything to big anyway. Keep her generally warm and then alternate between warm and cool on her arms, she said standing up. Im going to go talk to the big bird.
Naruto nodded and put a light shield up to keep out some of the wind that was whipping around them. Laying his hands back over the marks he had put on her, he started to warm her arms to get the blood flowing again.
Hang in there, Hina-chan. We still have a long way to go.
It had never escaped Nori and Yasus mind that someday the aftershocks of their lives would hit them. They had precautions and plans set up, ready just in case the son of someone they had killed or a man who wanted them to work as assassins should show up. Yasu put a sleeping jutsu on Miki and hid her away in a sealed room where she would be safe away from the battle. Then she and Nori went out onto the front porch.
It had taken them less than a minute to raise the first level of their defense. It had taken them less than a minute to knock out their daughter and hide her away. It had taken less than a minute for them to get out onto the front porch and scan the horizon for their enemies.
But every minute that went by was a valuable minute lost and when they made it outside they could already see two dark forms heading towards them.
They must have just walked right through the jutsu, Yasu said in awe. Their first line of defense against enemies was a complex genjutsu that involved visual and physical illusion and a forced feeling of indifference. It was designed to simply make people decide that they didnt really want to go to Yasu and Noris, just in case there was a false alarm. They wouldnt be able to see the farmhouse, their body would feel tired and heavy, and a feeling of malaise would overwhelm them.
It was designed so that someone inexperienced would feel the effects without really knowing what was going on. They would be able to chalk it up to a strange thing that happened and not necessarily know that Yasu and Noris house was being so well protected. However, it was strong enough that most ninja would not be able to make it through. The further in you got, the harder it was to continue.
They had tested it once before. Nori had not been able to get through. Sora had not been able to get through until she activated her bloodline limit and did some serious damage to the places in the fields where the power was anchored. But whoever it was advancing towards them had just waltzed through and kept coming towards the house.
Well have to go to the next level. You ready? Nori asked, looking over his shoulder at Yasu.
She stood at the top of the porch steps and nodded. Im raising the next line of defense, she said, bringing her hands up to her face. Closing her eyes, she mentally reached out and caught the threads of chakra she had put into place over the years. Pulling them towards herself, she grabbed them in closed fists and stared out over the plane.
Air Tapestry no Jutsu, she yelled and pumped chakra down the threads. The chakra shot down the lines, filling the woven pattern that encircled the house. It rose out of the ground surrounding the house in a broad circle and shot up into the sky. Tiny streams of air traveling at hundreds of miles per hour wove in and out of themselves, battling against the ground as they tried to make a sphere around the house.
That should hold them off for a bit, Yasu said as she lowered her hands, a distinctive chill in her tone.
How are you on chakra? Nori asked her, looking up in concern. She was the one who powered most of their defenses. If it came to the point where they had to run for it, it would be him who protected them, but for right now she was the one who was being drained.
Im fine, she said icily, a bit of the old ice princess sneaking back into her voice. You worry about what happens if they get through this Air Tapestry. We have one more defense after this one; if this goes down then well have to run.
Well, I suppose Ill have to decide whether were going to try to bring the china with us or not, he remarked lightly, earning him a deadly glare from his wife. His face hardened and he looked at her with somber eyes. Why dont you and Miki go ahead and run. If I stay here I should be able to hold them off long enough for you to get to Soras house. Thats far better defended than here.
No. We agreed a long time ago. We both run or neither of us run, she said. Besides, we dont know whether or not theyre going to get through the Air Tapestry yet. It could very well be that the first jutsu malfunctioned and this will hold them back just fine. Dont jump to the worst possible scenario.
Werent you the one who just told me to worry about what was going to happen if they should make it through? he asked, his voice slightly patronizing.
He was about to reply when a giant sword came crashing through the wall of air, the tip of the sword puncturing the front. It shook against the wind, but held firm. It pulsed with chakra, sending ripples out through the air, sending threads crashing together.
Yasu again grabbed the ends of the chakra threads and tried to repair the damage to her jutsu. Pumping more chakra into the technique, she tried to hold the breaking lines together. She struggled for a few minutes against the chakra from the sword, but wasnt able to force it out.
She felt Noris lips on her temple. Raise the third shield. Im going to grab Miki; were running, he whispered and headed back into the house.
Gritting her teeth, she grabbed the lines of her last jutsu with one hand while trying to keep the Air Tapestry going. Ready to make the switch, Yasu started to drain the reserves of chakra she had tied to the land. She had added a little more in every day, making them larger and larger as the years went by, ready for when the enemy they could not defeat would arrive on their doorstep. Once she got it started, it would keep going on its own, allowing them the chance to escape.
The first barrier had been designed to divert people. The second barrier had been designed to keep them out. This one was designed to kill them.
Yasu started to seal. Up from the ground came a wall of dirt, forming a dome over the house and sealing out everything, casting the house into darkness. Still sealing, she walked up to the wall and stopped to reach up and draw a series of curved lines on its surface. She pulled her hands away to make a few more seals and then slammed it back into the symbol. Poisoned Earth no Jutsu! she yelled.
The wall shuttered. Yasu could feel the chakra bubbles popping, releasing hundreds of poisonous spores out into the air. Sora had brought the couple a few of the plants that produced them back with her from one of her trips back west. Yasu had used chakra to keep them alive while buried deep under the ground. The spores were one of the deadliest poisons known to man. Anyone standing within fifty feet of the wall would die.
Yasu waited a moment to give the spores a chance to ride the air towards her enemy. Then she used another jutsu to set the entire dome on fire. Now the men would not be able to get through before the poison got a chance to work. And they had their chance to escape.
Yasu breathed in sharply as the wall banged from a chakra assault. The fire and poison didnt seem to be affecting them. They just kept coming. They had to get out of there quickly. She ran back to the front porch.
Nori came down the stairs, carrying Miki wrapped up in a blanket. Her face just barely showed in the drape of the blanket, her nose peeping out above her closed eyes. Dango trotted along next to Nori on his short little legs.
Yasu took Miki from Nori, and he helped her quickly tie the child to her with another sash. Nori was far stronger in taijutsu than she was; he needed complete freedom of movement.
How long until the shield goes down? he asked.
At the rate theyre tearing it down, about two minutes, she replied, locking eyes with her husband.
Then we had better get going, he said. In a flash the two of them were down in basement, heading towards a small door tucked back in a niche in the dirt wall. They opened it up to reveal a tunnel in the earth that would lead them out past the boundaries of their own jutsu. Hopefully the few minutes it took for their enemies to figure out what had happened would be enough time for them to get away. They just needed to get to Soras house and then they would be under the protection of Nanashi and the Fourths wards, which were the strongest any of them had ever seen.
A quick jutsu provided a light in the palm of Noris hand. They raced down the passage, Dango trying furiously to keep up with them. They had made it about a third of the way when the dog froze in its tracks and whimpered.
Come on, Yasu said encouragingly over her shoulder. It had just occurred to her that there might be a reason the dog had stopped when she and Nori hit the wall. There was a barrier in the middle of their passage, blocking their exit.
Damn it! Nori cursed under his breath, banding on the clear wall. How the hell had this gotten here?
From just outside the circle of light came a figure wrapped in a dark cloak emblazoned with red clouds. A high collar reached just below the brim of his wide straw hat, almost completely masking his face. But Nori could just make out two red eyes.
Yasu, go back, he said in Western, gluing his eyes to the mans feet. He could only hope the other man did not speak the language.
What? she asked shocked. Im not leaving you! Genjutsu was a far better weapon in these close quarters and she probably would be a more effective fighter than him.
If she hadnt been carrying her daughter.
Get Miki out of here. Ill keep this man at bay. Youll have to sneak past the other man upstairs. Just dont stop until you get to Soras.
Both of us run or neither of us run! she yelled.
Noris eyes stayed on the mans feet. He appeared to be doing nothing, but Nori didnt believe for a second that he was just standing there watching them. There was no doubt in his mind who this man was, and he didnt want his wife or daughter anywhere near him. They had a far better chance against his partner upstairs.
Ill be right behind you, he said. Go upstairs, get past the other guy and go.
Yasu hesitated. They had agreed years ago, both or neither of them would run from a fight. She didnt know how she would live if he was killed. But they had also both agreed that Miki always had to come first. And that meant getting her out.
I love you, she whispered.
I love you, too, he said. Go! And she turned and ran back down the passage.
He dared to move his eyes just up to the mans waist. Uchiha Itachi, I presume. Nori started working on getting down the barrier. There was very little he could do through it, and he needed to get rid of this man and get back to his family.
Yes, the man said. His voice was low and oddly neutral. He projected a strange calm , like a perfectly peaceful ocean with deeply moving currents underneath. Deadly, horribly so, but almost as if he had all of the good taken out of him, leaving a vacuum, rather than having evil grow up inside him.
You left quite an impression on a friend of mine. But he is not here.
Nori took another breath and started to pull chakra into his hands. We dont even know where he is. Sora might have taken him anywhere by now, maybe even back to Konoha.
We know where he is. We are here to wait for him, Itachi said, simply standing there staring straight ahead.
Nori grinned. Youll have to pardon me if I dont welcome you properly, he said, and the shield fell. Nori exploded towards the man in a masterful set of strikes.
Naruto had said that in his one encounter with Itachi, the man had not used taijutsu. From what Sora had gleaned from Tsunade before she left, the limited amount of information they had collected on Itachi since the Uchiha massacre indicated that the man had switched almost completely over to using genjutsu. It would thereby seem logical that his taijutsu had fallen, leaving him open to a physical attack.
What had failed to get to Konoha was that Itachi was probably the best evader Nori had every fought. He was completely unable to land a strike. Itachi just seemed to disappear from every place Nori was striking. He never even tried to parry the attacks; the man simply wasnt there.
He heard a very soft mumbling behind him and whipped around to see Itachi standing with his hands together but his sleeves hiding them.
Suddenly, the tunnel walls began to melt. They came down and wrapped around him. Nori tried to release the illusion, but realized too late that it wasnt one; Itachi was actually bending the walls of the tunnel.
He tried everything he could think of to get himself free; struggling physically against his bonds while he lashed out with all of the chakra he had left. But it was too late; he was already completely bound.
The mud slid up around his face, turning it towards his enemy. He tried to shut his eyes, but tendrils of mud came down and pulled them open.
He stared into Itachis eyes.
The three black marks (three-bladed circles - the Mangekyou Sharingan which performs Tsukuyomi and Amatarasu is a black circle with 3 blades spiraling out of it) began to turn.
Noris world went red.