Chapter 1: Prologue
Coincidences are a funny thing. One either believes in them or not, there is no in between. However, should one not believe in coincidences, the many reasons for doing so are plentiful, and some quite beautiful. For instance, the belief in a higher Power is something that can bring hope to the hopeless, light to the darkness, and indeed a powerful reasoning for the so-called 'coincidences' in life.
There was one such man of faith who had found himself a secluded area deep in the forests of Fire Country with which to properly display his devotion. He was in the midst of painting an intricate seal in the large clearing he had created, colouring the green floor of nature with clashing streaks of red.
He had finally found it! The seal that would bring him face to face with his deity, the one that had guided him for his whole life thus far, was underway and the complicated space-time ninjutsu would be able to be performed within the hour. The man was quivering with excitement, his unnatural silver hair glinting in the dappled sunlight that streamed gently through the leaves of the tall trees surrounding the clearing. He would finally be able to properly thank and demonstrate his loyalty to his belief of the powers-that-be for the gifts he had bestowed upon the priest.
Hidan gave a cursory glance around the outside of the seal to make sure that everything was perfectly in place for the summoning. He then turned his attention to the rest of the clearing, littered with his 'gifts', and laughed in sheer joy and anticipation at what was to come. Deciding that he could waste no more time, he sat down cross-legged and began the technique.
A good distance, but not too far away, one Uzumaki Naruto was practicing his late father's famed jutsu, his inheritance if you will. Yes, it was not perfect, but the teenager was finally making progress that he was pleased with. The technique that gave the famed 'Yellow Flash' his moniker would soon see battle once more. The blonde boy was preparing for a more challenging jump, and he paused and gritted his teeth. Pleasantly requesting the assistance from the bijuu in his gut, the boy was surrounded by a golden shroud of energy as he steeled himself to make the jump.
The silver-haired holy-man performed the last part of the ritual to call his deity from his world and waited with baited breath.
The son of the fourth hokage held his breath and set his technique into action.
And, deep in the forests surrounding the shinobi Leaf Village of Fire Country, a yellow flash appeared dead in the centre of what was clearly a summoning circle and deposited an exhilarated young man in front of an awestruck, slightly older young man, and the two could only stare and stare at the other.
Finally, Naruto was the first to speak, his eyes still wide and jaw still slack in surprise. He cleared his throat, "Who –."
The priest threw himself at the teen's feet and prostrated himself as low as he possibly could. Naruto's face paled as he took in the seal he was currently centred in, and that he had neglected to notice upon his arrival in the forest clearing.
As the hysterical cackling of a sealed nine-tailed bijuu echoed throughout his mind, the boy could only utter one, intelligent thought.
A slightly green-looking Naruto Uzumaki stomped his way out of the forest and onto a main road. There was no way in hell he was going to be using the Hiraishin any time soon if it would get him into these types of situations. He shuddered as he tried to get the sight of that damned clearing littered with…with…the teenager shuddered and refused to finish the thought – out of his mind's eye.
The Jashin-priest was tailing him at a distance he deemed respectful, which meant that the man of unusual colouring was practically screeching excited gibberish into his ear. His black, collared cloak fluttered with every excited gesture he made, obscenities that did not seem to be intended to offend cluttering his speech pattern as he tried to display his utter gratitude and excitement that his Jashin-sama had graced him with his awesome presence.
The fact that Naruto did not consider anything about his appearance to be 'awe-inspiring' in the slightest, and that he was certainly not a heathen god, didn't seem to dissuade the man in his…staunch beliefs.
Hidan (that was all the information an extremely pissed off Uzumaki had cared to glean off of his 'summoner') was currently proclaiming his devout loyalty to the boy and was spouting some highly worrying spiel about him 'following his Jashin-sama to the ends of the earth.' Naruto, who was in no mood to entertain, nor correct the man in his delusions merely stalked along the main road to his village. He had no time for this ridiculousness, he had to train! He had a promise to keep! Sasuke was still refusing to see reason and had been sighted recently. There was no doubt going to be a showdown soon enough, and Naruto had to be ready to make his friend see sense. To bring him back.
Hidan interrupted his brooding (and yes, he was brooding, although the blonde would never admit it) with an extremely concerning statement, "Ah! You have deigned to grace me with the knowledge of your will, Jashin-sama!" He crowed in delusional glory, "I will bring back this Sasuke-fucker for you!"
Naruto skidded to a halt, the taller man crashing into his shoulder, he was following so close behind him. The younger male's head creaked around to face his (literal) follower eerily and he addressed him through a clenched jaw, "Wh-what did you just say?"
The man clasped his hands together and got to his knees, it wouldn't do to have his head higher than his deity after all, "Forgive me for overstepping my boundaries, Jashin-sama! I've always been able to hear your will, and you have guided me my whole life! I-I want to bring back the shitstain that caused you all this pain on your behalf, it would be an absolute-fucking-honour!"
Naruto was floored, and not just because of the man's odd contrasting style of speaking. This was…impossible. This, this entire situation could not be real.
Hidan suddenly stiffened from his position at the Uzumaki's sandals and looked up to the boy with a terrifying grin, "Ah! Allow me to display my devotion to the cause, Jashin-sama!"
And with that he sprinted ahead down the road where Naruto could feel a few civilian-level chakra signatures approaching. So, this Hidan was a ninja then. That did not bode well at all. Still frozen in shock, the teenager was startled into action at the large and rather alarming chakra spike that came from the direction his persistent companion had disappeared to.
He pushed chakra into his legs and ran, an uncomfortable feeling of worry clutching his chest, only for the unnerving sound of screams of terror suddenly being cut off to reach his ears.
When Naruto reached the scene, his eyes widened in horror. Hidan was standing in front of a civilian transport vehicle, with the dismembered limbs of at least five once-people scattered around him. The robed man was crouched in front of the cart, smearing blood into the hard-packed dirt of the road in what could only be a ritual of some kind.
Naruto could only watch with a revulsion that stiffened his joints, his vulpine tenant uncharacteristically and solemnly silent as the unhinged man finally straightened up and turned towards the younger of the (still living) occupants of the area.
"Here you go, Jashin-sama!" he called enthusiastically, waving an arm in a wild greeting, "An offering! So please, please can I go and fucking look for that Uchiwa-whatever bastard for you?"
As if that statement was a spell of some kind, Naruto could feel an awful, horrible, tainted chakra filter into his own coils. He gasped as what he could only describe as death brushed along his shoulders and an unnatural cold seeped into his bones.
Kurama? He thought to the Kyuubi in alarm, what's happening?!
Said Kyuubi was still unnervingly quiet and he remained so for a good few moments before he decided to answer the boy.
You're definitely not going to like this one kit, he started carefully much to Naruto's raising ire. Just spit it out, you old fox!
Okay! Calm down, Naruto – yikes. It looks like the techniques the two of you were doing affected each other and – er, combined – somehow. Back in the forest.
Naruto's eyes widened at the implications, the feeling of that repulsive chakra finally waning away, slowly. The timing of that phrase by the priest, and that feeling, could not have been coincidental. Not with what Kyuubi was implying now.
You mean? Kurama gave a weak chuckle at that, Yeah, uh, this Hidan somehow turned you into his 'Jashin-sama.'
Naruto despaired silently as he slouched along, finally in sight of Konoha's main gates as his relentless travelling companion sauntered happily alongside him. The wicked scythe he had used in his – well, blatantly sacrificial ritual earlier was perched across his shoulders, his forearms resting on it to keep it secure as the two walked in what Hidan believed to be an amicable silence.
He had seen Naruto's silence as permission to go along with his schemes, clearly, and was satisfied to leave his god to his thoughts for the moment, it thankfully seemed. He did briefly wonder why they were at Konoha of all places, and a sneer curled his lips when he realised that they were probably there to raze it to the ground. He was so, unbelievably honoured to be Jashin-sama's chosen personal companion. The world would no doubt tell tales of their adventures for centuries to come!
Relax Naruto, you're not some pagan god or something, Kyuubi made his beliefs known in an attempt to get his once jailor, and now friend, to cheer up. It was unnatural to see the boy so subdued. He gave a mental (as that was all he could do, currently) shudder. It was so wrong. Naruto was grateful for the reassurance that he wasn't going to start feeling compelled to demand virgin sacrifices or anything of the like anytime soon, but he couldn't get over the feeling of that terrifying chakra that had washed over him as a result of Hidan's ritual.
The Jashin priest had somehow linked him to his religious beliefs and now, whatever malevolent chakra that resulted from the murders of innocents was going to him – Naruto – instead of the presumably mythical deity itself. The boy shuddered as he fervently prayed to whatever other gods that were out there that he wasn't pissing off a homicidal one by accidentally stealing what was apparently his number one fan, along with the man's disturbing skill for sacrifice.
Enough, Naruto shook his head and a familiar determination settled onto his tanned features as they approached Konoha's main gates. He would find Tsunade and Jiraiya as soon as possible to get this whole unfortunate mess sorted out. He refused to let the situation get far enough to cause any lasting effects.
…The poor, naïve child.
Oh, if only you guys knew what I have in store for you all.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
"Baa-chan! I need to speak to you, now!" Naruto flung open the doors to the Hokage's office to find the esteemed slug-sage, Tsunade Senju, with her cheek squished onto the hard, wooden surface of her large desk. She was snoring none-too-daintily and there was an empty sake bottle on the floor next to her chair.
At the racket his entrance made, the pigtailed woman shot up with a snort and pried her eyes open with great effort. When she saw the migraine-inducing blur of orange approach her with a purpose only he could have, she let out a soul-deep groan and brought strong fingers to each temple.
"What do you want, Naruto?" she massaged the sides of her head delicately, "I thought you were training."
The blonde Uzumaki was about to reply, when a commotion just outside the heavy doors that had now swung back on themselves drew both occupants of the room's attention and wrenched a groan (that was extremely similar to the female hokage's one only moments earlier) out of Naruto.
He brought an irritated hand to his forehead, which he proceeded to rub vigorously as he spoke, "We have a problem, Baa-chan," he gestured a thumb to the closed doors behind which he could hear a livid Hidan growing progressively more murderous at the two having been separated.
He sighed, as long as Hidan thought he was Jashin, he would obey him. They would be safe, for now.
"You'd better let him in before he kills someone."
Tsunade blinked in surprise, before nodding silently to her ANBU concealed in the shadows of the spacious office, who opened the doors without hesitation. A manic Hidan, who seemed only moments away from beginning to froth at the mouth tumbled in unceremoniously. The Senju princess immediately leapt to her feet as she moved to get between who she immediately recognised as the insane Jashin cultist (whom she had only heard horror stories about) and the boy she viewed as family, when Naruto only held up a hand from where he had sunk into an armchair across from the hokage's seat, causing both agitated parties to pause.
Tsunade looked to the teenager utterly bewildered, still in a fighting stance, only for her jaw to utterly drop as the older man sunk to his knees and pressed his face to the floor at Naruto's feet.
The boy could only smile weakly, "See?"
Tsunade gaped at the unexpected duo before her, before sinking into her seat, convinced that she was still drunk. Naruto grunted at Hidan to get up from where he was prostrated and the priest proceeded to stand almost protectively behind the arm of the boy's chair; an action that only made the hokage's hangover that much worse as she analysed the implications of it.
It was the next sentence out of the cultist's mouth, however, that made the blonde woman want to bang her head repeatedly against a, very hard, wall.
"So, when are we gonna slaughter these tree-fuckers, Jashin-sama?"
"This is too much for me to take in, brat," Tsunade grumbled as she poured herself some more sake. Naruto, point made, had managed to get Hidan out of the hokage tower with the explicit instructions not to 'sacrifice' any of the villagers for him, lest he be incredibly displeased. The silver-haired priest had gulped, gulped, and said that he would happily oblige before shooting off to explore the village that he still believed, somewhere in that deranged mind of his, that he would be bringing to its knees. Tsunade, for her part, had warned the ANBU and told them to spread the word, not to engage with the missing-nin for fear of provoking the immortal heathen into action.
Naruto returned the mumble with a scowl, "How d'you think I feel?"
The two proceeded to discuss a plan of action, Jiraiya joining in after finally being pried away from his 'research' at the women's baths, intrigued by the utter bizarreness of the situation, well into the afternoon.
Unfortunately, they had neglected to consider the impact a cult leader could have on a population of war-scarred shinobi who, for a long time, had been searching for some reason, any reason to get up in the morning.
Hidan was surprised when, as he stomped a path through the pathetic Leaf Village, he came across someone with a shock of silver-hair that seemed to be defying gravity. For a moment he frowned in thought, the expression on his face causing those who were walking by him to give him a wide(r) berth, contemplating whether the man it belonged to had acquired it much in the same way he had (through emotional and physical trauma, of course) but quickly dismissed it.
No weak, leaf asshole would be able to live through what Hidan had been through. Nevertheless, the guy was clearly a shinobi and that was enough to make the cultist wonder what he was doing in the civilian sector of the town. Hidan himself had been mentally preparing a menu for his Jashin-sama, while he forced the hokage-bitch into submission back at that eyesore of a tower, as he would no doubt be hungry by the time he had finished with the hag. He needed to remind himself to ask Jashin-sama whether he preferred virgins or whores when he saw him later.
Hidan was jolted out of his disturbing thoughts with a single hand on his shoulder, the other one occupied a pocket-sized, orange paperback, and the silver-haired ninja that had caught his attention suddenly whisked him away in a gust of leaves to what had to be a training ground of some sort. It was empty though.
"Whaddaya want, asshole?" Hidan snarled, the lankier man eyeing him over the book carefully.
"Why are you here, Hidan?" Kakashi Hatake demanded, no room for argument in the tone of his voice. The priest smirked and leaned back on his scythe, the sight of which had sent the civilians scurrying into hiding like the rats they were only minutes ago.
"I'm flattered that the Copy-nin recognises me," he purred smirk still stuck fast on his face, "Bingo book?" He enquired, but no answer was given. Instead, the 'copy-nin' pocketed his book over his breast and straightened, pure ice in his gaze.
"We've been instructed not to engage you, and I want to know why," Hatake's voice darkened considerably, but his attempt at intimidation had no effect on the immortal in front of him.
Hidan let out a snort of crude laughter, "Ha! That's rich! Jashin-sama really works fast, eh?"
If the masked ninja was confused, he made no show of it, instead raising a hand to his hitai-ate ready to uncover his gifted doujutsu should he need to. Hidan waved his hand in a placating manner.
"Relax, bastard," he cocked his head, "I'm waiting for Jashin-sama to be finished with the hokage before I do anything."
Hidan then grinned predatorily, sending shivers down Kakashi's spine that he would never admit to experiencing.
"But when he's finished, this village isn't going to be left standing," he then burst out into dark laughter as Kakashi's lone visible eye widened in alarm. The hokage was in clear danger if someone calling himself Jashin-sama was holding her hostage! Why hadn't anyone done anything?!
Deciding that this maniac was no longer the greatest threat, Kakashi decisively vanished in a shunshin and appeared in the hokage's office in a defensive position in front of her chair.
Tsunade herself was knocked back at the sudden appearance, while the copy-nin threw himself at the figure opposite the desk. He grabbed onto his shirt and violently tugged 'Jashin-sama' to the floor.
He blinked once. And then twice, as Naruto stared up at him from where his jacket was gripped in his sensei's white knuckled fists.
"…Naruto?" he looked around the room, finding the two remaining sannin, and his student the only occupants. They were all staring at him in astonishment.
He got up swiftly, pulling Naruto to his feet as well and he stated heatedly, "You're in danger Hokage-sama. A man claiming to be Jashin of all things is in the village. Well, if Hidan is to be believed."
The reactions Kakashi got were certainly not the ones he was expecting. The other three people in the office groaned and seemed to slam their heads into the nearest surface simultaneously. Now it was his turn to gape at them.
A sheepish laugh from his sensei's son caused his attention to fall on the boy, "That would be me, Kakashi-sensei."
Kakashi stared at the wall, his visible eye glazed over at the sheer absurdity his student had managed to get himself into. But then again, what was new? Number one most unpredictable ninja, right?
He rubbed his furrowed brow dazedly and then stood up decisively, "I'm going to go watch over Naruto's convert," the boy scowled at the term, which made the Hatake feel a lot better, "and make sure he doesn't get into any trouble."
"How in the world are you going to do that, Kakashi?" Tsunade groaned, "The man is a killing machine. I don't even know why I let him stay in the village, no matter how short a length of time." She scowled at Naruto who blushed under the scrutiny.
"He'll listen to me," he defended himself, "As long as he believes I'm, ugh, that. And besides," he continued, "If we were separated, he would do anything to get to me." Everyone present blanched at the implications of the words.
Tsunade, who was not the hokage merely because she was a pretty face, came up with a solution.
"Kakashi," the man stood to attention, "I want you to take him to 'T' and 'I'."
"Torture and Interrogation? Why?"
Her eyes hardened, "I hate to have to make the decision, but," she sighed, '"we have prisoners on death row who are being held there," Tsunade's words sunk in and her companions became solemn, "He is too dangerous if he is not controlled, somehow." Naruto began to reiterate that he was under a semblance of control, when the hokage interrupted him.
"I don't want you to have any exposure to him beyond what is strictly necessary," she stated, sternly. Naruto nodded in relief, he had no qualms about that. Although, a matter suddenly occurred to him that he didn't have to be in contact with Hidan for some of his, ahem – activities – to have an effect on him. But, just as he was about to explain why, his sensei disappeared in a cloud of smoke and swirling leaves and Naruto sighed before gritting his teeth. He would just have to prepare himself to bear that burden. If it kept everyone else safe, it was worth it.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Kakashi felt a desperate protectiveness swell up in his chest for Naruto as he watched Hidan at 'work.' He was clearly a killer, and a capable one at that, and so it wasn't unreasonable for the jonin to expect his silver-haired companion to make quick work of the latest batch in the death-row oven. Almost exclusively populated with moles and traitors, Kakashi wasn't exactly sympathetic to their fate. But, in spite of all his years of active duty, the Copy-nin had never seen something quite like a Jashinist at work.
The man savoured each death like it was a fine liquor, painstakingly drawing intricate symbols with the wine that seeped from each body. Kakashi could almost taste the fear that permeated the room as the other inmates became increasingly aware that that was soon to be their fate. He knew that Hidan could. Taste the fear, that is. He revelled in it; was drunk off of it. But, if what he'd seen so far didn't make the Hatake sick to his stomach (which it really, unsurprisingly did), it was the way Hidan dedicated each 'sacrifice' to his pagan deity in loud, pious proclamations. The knowledge that, in that deranged mind, he pictured Naruto while saying his twisted mockeries of prayers made Kakashi want to throw up his internal organs.
"Oi, bastard!" the harsh yell shook his mind out of his thoughts and the priest was awarded with a venomous glare. Again, it did not deter Hidan in the slightest. Instead he continued, "Want to give it a go?"
For the first time in a long time, Kakashi visibly recoiled from that statement as if the words had bitten him. His mouth, fortunately covered by his mask, fell open in horror. Hidan merely stared at him patiently, a serenity that was somehow more disturbing than his typical maniacal energy surrounding him.
A lilac eyebrow suddenly quirked along with the corner of slightly upturned lips, "I'm sure the rest of these fuckers would appreciate the humane way."
The Hatake's expression darkened as he caught wind of the man's (who was supposed to be clinically insane) intentions. He was devious, putting him in a situation where he was given the choice to show mercy and that should he not agree to the priest's whims, it would be his name that the prisoners would curse with their last breaths. In shifting the attention onto him, a moral (even if it was slightly distorted, the line was still there) man, Hidan had successfully manipulated him into doing what he wanted.
With a parting glare at his counterpart, it was a stoic and cotton-mouthed Kakashi who stepped up to the next prisoner's cell. He entered it still without a word, but his stony expression faltered when the man breathed his own words of gratitude to him and then wilfully extended his neck to meet his blade. The jonin didn't think he could be more horrified by Hidan and everything to do with the man. He was wrong.
His lone visible eye cast to the heavens, Kakashi reminded himself why he was a ninja – and by extension, why he was in this situation. To protect his comrades, his precious people. And, right now, there was one that required his protection more so than the rest.
"This is for you Naruto. I hope you can forgive me," he closed his eye and with one flick of the wrist, the prisoner fell to the ground. A peaceful smile on his face even as he died.
Kakashi took a shaky breath. He was used to killing, but this – this was something else.
And then Kakashi knew he had clearly lost his mind, or cracked under the terror Hidan had wrought, because he heard his student's voice in his head.
'I just want there to be no casualties because of him. I don't think I would be able to handle that on my conscience.'
Okay, so it didn't take a genius to figure out who the 'him' was. In fact, said 'him' was far too close for Kakashi's comfort right now, way up in his personal bubble and almost nose to cloth-covered nose with him. There was an almost childlike wonder in Hidan's eyes that was sickening to see.
"Did you hear him?!" Okay, how the fuck could he have known.
The lack of verbal reply from the Copy-nin sent the Jashinist dancing around in an odd little circle, "I knew it! Jashin-sama is fucking amazing!"
Kakashi paled, "W-Wha-"
Hidan interrupted him, "Consider yourself lucky you one-eyed prick, you've been chosen."
The way he emphasised the last word, paired with the glint in his red eyes made Kakashi's heart sink into his feet.
"Jashin-sama only speaks directly to those he deems worthy champions of his power. Seems like you and me are in it together now, cyclops," he paused for breath, "Now, finish them."
Kakashi could only look, unseeing, at his self-proclaimed associate as he eyed him back. He hadn't been imagining it then. He had heard Naruto's voice in his head. He gulped when he remembered what he'd said immediately before his execution. Dedicating his actions to the boy had apparently been sufficient for it to be seen as a sacrifice by the powers that be – to him. This was so messed up.
Still. That meant that there must have been some validity to Hidan's words, then. It was possible that he had actually heard Jashin speaking to him in the past. But then, if he was so acquainted with his 'god', surely, he'd know that Naruto wasn't him. Now, Kakashi didn't know exactly what had happened in that clearing earlier that day, but he knew the just of it.
Naruto, his student, had been summoned with a seal array that had been meant to call forth a deity. There was only one logical conclusion his genius brain could make.
Naruto was Jashin. Only he didn't know it yet.
With a choke Kakashi felt his knees buckle. It was so wrong, that bundle of sunshine being – being, that. And yet, hadn't he just been desperate to protect him? He had been through so much with that kid, that that instinct still hadn't waned.
Instead, he looked at Hidan contemplatively, he had been presented with the opportunity to do just that. If I knew what Naruto wanted of me all the time, a gleam that was ever-so-slightly unhinged reached is visible eye, piquing Hidan's interest, there would be no way I could fail him again.
Because he had failed him in the past; with regards to his parents, his training, (Sasuke). He would let him down no longer.
He got to his feet steadily, unwavering in his demeanour. He had found a new purpose. One that he would see through until he felt certain that his cute little student no longer needed him to fulfil it.
He squared his shoulders and matched Hidan's gaze, something he had previously felt too uncomfortable to hold for long. But now, now they were the same. The walked under the same banner. Naruto's.
"Show me how to do it right," was all he said.
And Hidan grinned.
"Naruto! Are you okay, brat?"
Simultaneous cries from the hokage and his old teacher brought the teenager to his senses. He gave them a strained smile, sweat beading on his brow as he attempted to hold the contents of his stomach as yet another wave of that vile, sacrificial chakra swept through him.
"I'm f-fine," he panted as he attempted to get up from where he had collapsed, without warning, out of his seat and onto the carpeted floor of the hokage's office, "Just, a – con-consequence of 'being Jashin'". He winced at his poor attempt at humour, but he managed to heave himself back onto the chair. The feeling was subsiding now, and Kyuubi was filtering it as best he could, grumbling all the while. It was comforting, somehow.
When it had mostly gone, his smile faltered as he looked up into the positively thunderous face of Tsunade the sannin. Right, he had neglected to tell them about that aspect of this troublesome ordeal.
Before she could round on him though, there was a lanky figure leaping through the window and rushing to Naruto's side before he could even register what was happening. A second one quickly followed, only to be tugged back as his scythe caught on either side of the window-frame, eliciting an undignified 'Ack!' from its owner as he inadvertently choked himself with his own weapon.
Kakashi's eye was inspecting his confused student for any visible injuries, an expression of worry on his face that took Naruto's breath away. The jonin was more expressive in this one moment than he had been the entire time he'd been Team Seven's sensei.
"Kakashi-sensei, what –"
"You were in pain, what happened?" the grey-haired man's voice was firm and his words concise, and one could almost hear the threat he had left unsaid. Whoever hurt you…
"How did you -?" Once again, Naruto was cut off. This time by Hidan gesturing vigorously at his sensei and doing something that could only be described as a 'happy dance' behind his back.
Naruto suddenly understood and put his head in his hands with a groan. When he looked up again after a few moments, all the occupants of the room were staring at him with different degrees of confusion (or, in Hidan's case, glee) on their faces.
He opted to pat the Hatake's forearm shakily, "I-I'm fine, Kakashi-sensei. Just a bit of a stomach-ache is all." He gave him a wary smile, searching for signs of mental instability in his sensei's dark eye.
And then it was like a switch had been flipped, the tall man gave him his trademark grin (the one where the simply closed his eye cheerfully) and then ruffled his already unruly hair.
"If you say so, my cute little deity."
Naruto thought he was going to have a stroke.
“Sasuke! Get back here you bastard!” Naruto was running as fast as he can, the rest of the fondly dubbed ‘Sasuke Retrieval Team’ hot on his heels like a pack of nin-dogs. There were also actual ninken running with them, courtesy of his latest devotee’s willingness to prove himself to his last student (as much as he would have liked to, Kakashi couldn’t really count Sakura seeing as she had been poached by the hokage personally). The turncoat was not far ahead of the group, ninja from Sound running with him faithfully even as they looked back on the gaining Konoha ninja apprehensively.
Just as it seemed he would be able to reach him, Naruto held out an arm to snag the collar of the Uchiha’s ridiculously low-cut shirt only for a feminine hand to bat his away just as the two collectives burst into a clearing that broke the monotony of the forest the chase had taken place in. The three ninja, looking like a strange flag with their respective black, red and white heads next to each other, quickly made their way to the other end of the opening before turning to face their pursuers.
Sasuke’s face was red-hot with childish indignance at the fact that Naruto had managed to both find, and catch up with him so quickly. He let his dark eyes sweep the group before him as he smugly took in the fact that they had sent so many elite shinobi after him. He preened under the attention; Kakashi Hatake, Maito Guy, Shikamaru Nara, Naruto and a ninja he had never seen before gazed back at him, an impressive range of emotions being expressed between them. Particularly disturbing was the unknown man, who was standing directly at the clown’s left shoulder, who was looking at him as a wolf might stare down a particularly plump sheep.
Tearing his gaze away from the disturbing ninja, Sasuke let his features settle into a familiar smirk as he addressed the fool that was beginning to slowly approach him, standing (surprisingly) at the head of the group. He scoffed inwardly when he surmised that it was most likely because he was the one Sasuke was most ‘attached’ to. Tch, as if.
“Why did you come after me, dead-last?” he sneered unkindly at the still advancing blonde, whose face was strangely solemn. His uncharacteristically grave eyes looked like they’d seen some shit, not that Sasuke cared, “Because we’re friends?” The last word was said scathingly, eliciting a chuckle from his Sound companions; although it did seem slightly forced on Karin’s part.
“Just come back, Sasuke, I’m not in the mood for this,” Naruto sounded exasperated and the Uchiha bristled. How dare he act like he was the annoyance! Still, he hadn’t yet said a word about any friendship nonsense. Good, it seemed that the message had finally made it through his thick skull.
Sasuke opened his mouth to continue taunting his old teammate when a sudden rustle behind him made him whip around. He stared into his ex-sensei’s cheerful eye, but when he attempted to jump away from him he found that he couldn’t move a muscle. Out of the corner of his stiff eyes, he could see the Nara gazing up at him with a lazy grin, his shadows extending to Sasuke’s own, and he growled lowly.
Naruto relaxed his stance now, the silver-haired man (who hadn’t left his side) panting in excitement, his eyes shining maniacally, “Huh, that was kinda anticlimactic. Oh well, we’ve got you Sasuke, time to come home.”
Sasuke grit his teeth, looking to his comrades to find that they too had been caught by Shikamaru’s clan jutsu. He saw Suigetsu’s form begin to quiver slightly, and he gave a dark grin. He had a trick up his sleeve still.
“You’re naïve to think you’ve won, moron,” Naruto rolled his eyes at the comment, only making the raven’s hackles rise more. “I will always beat you!” he literally spat, the spittle finding its home on Kakashi’s mask, which he wiped at disgustedly, eye that had still been carefully on his wayward student closing now with the action.
Seeing his chance, Sasuke hissed, “Now Suigetsu!”
And as if time was moving in slow motion, Naruto could see everything unfold. The swordsman dematerialised, effectively releasing himself from the shadow jutsu, only to reform immediately. He unsheathed his sword and thrust it defiantly at his sensei. His sensei who was too close in proximity to do anything about the surprise attack. Kyuubi felt his panic and Naruto knew his eyes had regressed into feline slits as he threw his hand towards the masked man. He couldn’t die.
“Kakashi-sensei! No!” he reached desperately for the shinobi, whose eye had widened as he finally comprehended his situation. Seeing the inevitably encroaching blade, he gave his student a peaceful smile, unlike any Naruto had ever seen before. And then his head flew off of his shoulders.
Letting out an unearthly screech that was neither animal nor human, Naruto fell to his knees and Kurama’s chakra curled around him protectively. Eyes red as much now with oncoming tears as with supernatural energy, he turned his head to where he could feel Hidan about to take his own action.
“Make them pay.”
With an odd combination of glee at finally getting to see some action, and rage at the stupid teenagers that managed to unsettle his Jashin-sama, Hidan went to work. It only took a moment of horrified spectating for Guy to join the man in his fight with his own emotion-filled battle cry, seeking to avenge his eternal rival and friend. Shikamaru meanwhile had immediately returned to Naruto’s side, a hand on his shoulder in understanding while he glared at the Jashin priest who had killed his own sensei; but who had been rendered untouchable on the hokage’s orders. It was a world of injustice that they all lived in. The fight was, unsurprisingly, not long – what with two seasoned killers going up against a newly minted team of teenagers, and it was only a matter of time before two waves of the unearthly chakra Naruto had come to associate with Hidan’s sacrifices rolled over him.
There was no associated pain or nausea this time though, a fact Naruto would contemplate later as, for now he had the traitor to deal with. He rose, unaware of Shikamaru’s sudden removal of his hand from his person or his bewildered gape. Sasuke was restrained and kneeling, face bruised and body bloody from the short battle, but he was glaring at his two captors with a vehemence that would have set them alight if it could.
Both Guy and Hidan looked to Naruto, one startling when he did and the other’s eyes widening as a pleased grin spread across his face. Sasuke did the same, the venom in his glare quickly replaced with shock as he took in his teammate’s appearance. He had seen Naruto in his various stages of kyuubification, but this. This was something else entirely. Naruto was stalking towards him with such hate in his gaze that he would not have thought the blonde capable of generating. His lips were pulled back in a snarl that exposed, to his utter bafflement, two rows of sharp, shark-like teeth. His whiskers were indeed darker and more prominent, and his irises a demon-fox red, but his sclera had tendrils of black swirling into normal their milky white. He looked, for lack of a better term, like a vengeful demon.
Naruto stopped short when he reached Sasuke and tugged his head back sharply by his shoulder-length hair, his snarling breath animalistic in his face.
“Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you right now,” he said quietly, and the words were so much more terrifying than they would have been if he had screamed them at him. Sasuke trembled with a fear he had not known in so many years, and he cursed himself for it. He looked desperately to his two guards, and the silver-haired one watching on with a wide smile on his face was clearly going to be no help at all in preserving his life so he turned to Maito Guy who (to his frustration) was not even looking at him. He was, instead, sharing an overtly concerned look with the Nara who had made his own way closer as well.
He gulped when Naruto tugged his hair harshly in an attempt to return his attention to him, “We’re friends?” he squeaked.
Naruto snarled and Sasuke flushed red at his vocal mishap (he would take that squeak to his grave), but did not say anything more. What could he say? Then, with a bout of luck that he was wholly undeserving of, the boy was spared by the most unlikely voice speaking up and making the clearing’s occupants fall into an astonished silence themselves.
“Come on, Naruto. This isn’t my precious student at all.” Yep, that infuriating patronising tone definitely belonged to Hatake Kakashi, “You’re gonna regret it if you kill him now, as much as he deserves it.”
Naruto shook his head to clear it, effectively clearing the eerie new additions to his features as well and then turned to look at where the Hatake’s body was still laying. His jaw dropped, “S-sensei?”
The man’s disembodied head was laying a way off from where his body was now twitching like something from a horror film, but he still managed to eye smile at his favourite genin, “Yep.”
Naruto only continued to gape, joined by his companions now, and an increasingly paler Sasuke who trembled as he turned to look at the spectacle, his widened dark eyes appearing thoroughly haunted.
“Uh – a little help here?” The only one who could move was, unsurprisingly, Hidan and he whooped as he scooped up the grey-haired head and reintroduced it to its body. He dragged it by its shoulders into a sitting position where it remained like a puppet with its strings cut, before placing Kakashi’s head on the neck it had been cleanly removed from.
It immediately fell off again.
Hidan chortled like he didn’t know that was going to happen before pulling the Hatake’s body into its feet where Kakashi’s head realised that he could actually control it, he took his head from Hidan and held it facing the assortment of ninja in the clearing. He cleared his throat, his Adam’s apple bobbing from way above his crown, before addressing them.
“It would seen that we need lady Tsunade.” He then grinned insufferably and Naruto realised that yes, this was happening; yes, his sensei was apparently immortal and yes, Hidan was looking at him with the smug expression of a cat that got the proverbial cream.
That was, until he remembered his place and immediately dropped to the ground and pressed his face to the floor. A mumbled ‘Jashin-sama’ could be heard from the grass and he heard Gai sputter behind him.
He turned around to give the other three men a ‘what can you do’ shrug that was offset by the spooked look in his eyes when there was a fumbling and a cry of indignation as Kakashi’s body dropped his head to follow Hidan’s lead. Naruto sagged, and was about to explain the situation when the Green Beast of Konoha, apparently having come to his own conclusions, followed suit shortly after his eternal rival. He would not be outdone after all, immortality or not.
He met an aghast Shikamaru’s eyes, before the Nara came up to him and shakily patted his shoulder, staring at the prostrate men before looking back to Naruto, entirely lost for words.
Naruto felt his knees buckle but was caught by his peer before he could collapse to the floor himself, the sheer relief at his sensei’s (against all odds) miraculous survival and at the success of their mission.
He turned back to look at his ex-teammate, a satisfied grin on his face at finally being able to return his once tentative friend to the village, to Sakura. When he saw the boy’s expression, he sagged in defeat.
On the bright side, Sasuke was finally looking at him with something other than disdain. Unfortunately, it seemed as if he was now utterly terrified of him.
We welcome the new member of the Cult of Jashin!
The tally is:
and our fearless (albeit unwilling) leader!