Sarutobi panted heavily as he glared at the smirking visage of his former student, watching from the corner of his eye as Kakashi and Jiraiya fought to free him from the snake sannin's barrier. All around them battle waged, foe and friend alike falling all under the whim of the monster in front of him.
"What's wrong, sensei?" Orochimaru sneered at him, not looking the least bit out of breath, but the Sandaime could see the sweat beading his forehead and the fatigue slowly seeping into his gaze. It made the paternal part of him want to reach out to his wayward boy and hug him, comfort him.
Instead he summoned Enma, who took one look at the situation and shook his head sadly. "No more second chances, Sarutobi." The ape king rumbled and the Hokage nodded, pain lancing through his heart.
Even after all he'd done, he couldn't help but love the younger man as his son. A father's love was unconditional, yet even he knew what must be done. He couldn't allow his village to suffer for the sake of his own heart.
"No more second chances."
A scream sounded to his left, the scent of burning flesh filled the air. Kakashi had pushed an oto nin against the barrier and held him there until it fried him. The Barrier cracked, something dark flashed in Orochimaru's eyes.
Sliding into a loose fighting stance, Sarutobi waited patiently. Orochimaru lunged at him. Another Oto nin was thrown against the barrier only to be caught and pressed there by Kakashi, whose entire expression was blank. He was regressing…however, the Kage couldn't allow himself to worry for the young jounin at the moment. Not when Orochimaru's blade was only moment's away from nicking him and infecting his blood with its deadly poison. He ducked and Enma slammed into the other who flew back to hit his own barrier and screamed.
What a horrible sound.
Orochimaru stumbled to his feet, his yukata falling in burnt tatters from his upper body as he glared at him with all the venom he could muster. He began flying through handseals a manic grin crossing his lips.
A loud crack sounded from the barrier, before it shattered completely.
Kakashi tackled him just he went to complete the last seal, knocking the jutsu off course and a large puff of smoke appeared. Sarutobi stilled, having hoped the jutsu, especially that one, hadn't worked, his heart sinking and soaring all at once at the smoke cleared.
Orochimaru was gone, as were his shinobi, and Kakashi lay unconscious in his stead, but more importantly were the five shinobi that had appeared in front of him. Five very alive, very sound minded shinobi.
He slumped, watching as his student gathered the unconscious jounin in his arms, before he turned to the group of new comers.
"One moment, please." He turned his gaze to his village and straightened, projecting a proud front when really all he wanted to do was rest.
"Everyone, listen and listen well. You all fought very valiantly today, and because of that our village will persevere and see another day. We will not be broken as my former student hoped, no for he has unknowingly granted us a boon, one he will very much regret. Go home and rest, tomorrow begins a time of renewal and rebirth."
Everyone stood at attention, even the Chuunin hopefuls and Naruto. They didn't even notice the group behind him, thanks to Jiraya keeping the five far from the edge, it was no matter it would need to be addressed soon. For now, there were other things to be taken care of.
"Hai, Hokage-sama!" They all responded and soon he was left alone with the group.
"Hokage-sama," Kushina began hesitantly and he finally focused on them, noticing the worried and curious looks on all of their faces including his. "What's going on?"
'How long has it been since I've seen you so innocent, Kakashi. How long as it been since I've seen you whole.'
He didn't respond, choosing to silently observe them for a moment. Sakumo was in his late twenties, the same age he'd been that fateful day so long ago. He noticed the dark shadows in the man's eyes and knew he was from only days before that one. Team Minato were older than they should've been coming from Sakumo's time, telling him that in their time the man was already dead. He could see it in the Kakashi's cold eyes and stoic demeanor. In Minato's darker eyes and the sad glint in them. The new jounin jacket told him that they were from the day of the mission that had changed that for the boy. He also noticed that the boy hadn't noticed his father, who stood a little way behind the group, silent and vigilant.
"This is not the place for this discussion, Kushina-chan. Please henge yourselves and follow me."
"Sensei-" Jiraiya started, pulling his unconscious pseudo nephew closer when everyone turned their gazes on to him.
Sarutobi shook his head. "No, you need to be there too."
Something tortured crossed his student's face at seeing the faces of his dead student and the man who had been his brother in all but blood. He could only imagine how it would effect Kakashi, whose mental state wasn't the best and hadn't been for a very long time.
The toad sannin lowered his head, avoiding eye contact with the ghosts of his past and tightening his arms around the young man in his arms.
"Yes, sensei." He muttered before disappearing. Sarutobi stared after him then sighed, wondering why he couldn't have just remained in retirement.