Imagine paradise, now think of the furthest thing from it, and I'm in the place furthest from that.
Off with your Head!
Naruto: Shichiyo Gaiden XXIV
Chapter 24: Voice of an Angel
Weeks go by as Suna continues to recover from its attack from the Jomae shinobi. All has calmed in the village for the most part yet, an ominous aura still lingers in the air. The recovered serenity of the village masks the aura to all with the exception of the skeptical Kazekage.
In the hospital of Suna, Koji remains in the recovery unit, his final days in the facility grow closer. He lays in his room, looking out his bedside window at the desolate windy desert in which the village resides.
“Koji-kun,” a gentle voice says from the door entering his room. A nurse opens the door partially poking her head in with a joyful smile “Ryoko-chan is here to see you again.”
The door opens fully and Ryoko enters the room holding two scrolls in her hands. The nurse exits and Ryoko heads to Koji's bedside and places both the scrolls in his lap. “I don't know why you keep asking me to bring you these academy texts,” Ryoko says “there isn't anything about genjutsu in these scrolls that even pose a challenge to your mind. These are more suited for your brother.” She mocks.
“It just gives me something to do while I'm cooped up in here.” Koji smiles, “Speaking of my brother, where might he be?”
“He's off on some mission with Kankuro-sensei.”
“And you're not with them?” Koji asks curiously.
“Koichi was starting to get on my nerves...more then usual. I told them I had something else to do just so I could get a breather. Honestly Koji without you around it's much harder to stomach him.”
Koji chuckles under his breath “At least he's back to normal.”
“If that's what you call it.” Ryoko sighs, “Anyway they left a few hours ago, I decided to do some training before I came here.”
“Training...it's been over a month since everything happened. I haven't been able to do anything in this condition.” Koji says. He tries to sit up but the pressure put on his stomach begins the stretch his wound and he begins to feel sharp pains in his stomach.
“Idiot!” Ryoko exclaims, standing up and holding Koji down tenderly. “They told you not to move so much, even though everything is patched up you could still open the wounds.” Koji turns his head down away from Ryoko's stare but motions his eyes to her. Ryoko's expression is strict but with concern hidden deep in her expression. “You'll be out of here soon so just be patient.”
“Y...yeah, sorry.” Koji's voice shakes with nervousness as he responds to Ryoko. He lays back down and turns his head to the window. “Ryoko-chan, would you mind opening the window for me?”
Ryoko heads over to the window, her back facing Koji as she walks. Koji stares at her with a saddened look and begins to grip the sheets on his bed tightly. As Ryoko opens the window a gentle, silent breeze blows through her luminous golden hair and passes by Koji's face. She turns around as her hair blows beautifully in the wind and she looks at Koji.
“What's the matter with you?” Ryoko asks bluntly, noticing Koji's stare. Koji loosens his grip on the sheet and turns his head towards the ceiling of the room. His depressed expression still remains on his face.
“Nothing, thank you Ryoko.” As Koji continues to stare up at the ceiling his mind fades into a trance, deeply enticed in thought.
*Koichi-kun, Koji-kun.* An angelic voice muster's in the heads of Koji and Koichi. Koichi stands on the other end of Koji's hospital room, his hand on the doorknob just before the voice enters his head. He pauses with heartbreaking shock as he hears the soothing voice. He remains frozen for several seconds before he shakes his head and continues on his way into the room.
“Yo little brother!” Koichi yells with a large grin on his face. Koji snaps out of his trance and turns towards his brother. Koichi looks and sees Ryoko standing next to Koji and he gets a sour look on his face. “What are you doing here? I thought you were busy.”
“I made myself busy because I didn't want to deal with you anymore today.” Ryoko says annoyed.
“Oh yeah?! I could say the same to you.” Koichi rebuts childishly.
“That's right and now that you're hear I think I'll take my leave.” Ryoko walks past Koichi, both of them exchange static annoyed glares and then turn their heads away, ignoring one another. “I'll see you later Koji.” she says exiting the room.
Koichi heads to the chair by his brother's bed and sits down next to Koji. He regains the huge grin on his face and looks at his brother. “Bet you're glad we got rid of her ri—”
“Why did you come, I thought you had a mission.” Koji says with a subtal but noticeable coldness.
Koichi's grin fades as he looks at his brother. “It was only a C-ranked boarder scouting mission. Wasn't even fun, there wasn't anybody to fight. We were only scheduled until the next team showed up. What's with the hostility?”
“Sorry, I was just...” Koji begins gripping his sheets again. Koichi notices the tension in his brother and his look turns melancholy as well.
“Koji, did you by any chance hear—”
“Yeah, I did.” Koji says before Koichi even finishes his sentence. The soothing breeze stops and the room is silent and still as if time itself had stopped. Both brothers stare into space transfixed on the voice that appeared out of nowhere in their heads. “Have you ever thought that...”
Koichi stands up in the middle of Koji's sentence and walks towards the door. “I'll see you around little brother.” Koichi's tone is darkened with the words he speaks to his brother. Dark in the sense that old pain has come to rise again in his heart; a pain felt by both brothers.
“I told you to stop going there all the time.” Koji says, his voice carrying tidbits of anger and annoyance towards his brother.
The feeling is mutual inside of Koichi's mood at the moment, he clinches his fist at his brother's remark and doesn't turn to acknowledge him. “Maybe you should start going.” Koichi says with the same feelings of annoyance directed towards Koji. Koichi exits the room, closing the door gently behind him.
The hallway he stands in is dark and empty. As he closes the door Koichi closes out the last bit of light that shines in the hallway. He stands in the hall for several seconds, staring at the seemingly endless path. Koichi sighs and begins walking down the hall, his footsteps echoing as he leaves.
~At the Kazekage Residence~
Kankuro enters his brother's office holding a few files in his hands. Gaara sits with several books and scroll open around him and a stack of papers on his desk to the left of him.
“Here are the reports from the squads you sent out.” Kankuro says.
“Thank you, place them on that pile will you.” Gaara points to the pile of papers to his left, not even looking at Kankuro as he speaks to him.
“Gaara, why are you pushing so many of our resources into looking for Sasuke? Not to sound insensitive to the situation, but this is Konoha's problem. Helping out is fine but it feels like we're doing all the work.”
“Finding Sasuke would lead us to Kabuto.” Gaara says plainly.
“That's really your excuse?” Kankuro says boldly, “Come on Gaara, even I can tell that there's something going on that you're not telling me. Word has gotten to Jomae that we have another Jinchuuriki. How this happened I don't know but we should be focused on finding them and keeping this a secret for as long as possible. Instead of having our men go out looking for the Jomae, you're rationing several of our in village soldier to do boarder patrols while the scouts go out on search for Sasuke. If we were looking for the Jomae village that would be a different story, but we're not. So what's going on?”
Gaara stops writing and he sighs. “There's no harm in telling you so here it is. Naruto is trying to keep the investigation for Sasuke a secret for the time being so he requested Suna's help. Not for free of course, he's helping out with the Jomae incident and has even offered financial support to the country in exchange for our services.”
“I can get the whole keeping the Sasuke search a secret, but why would he need to take it to such extremes. With people like Shino leading the espionage of Konoha, he shouldn't have a problem trekking through the lands undiscovered.”
“Hiding from the other countries isn't his only concern.”
“He's trying to hide it from Konoha? What would be the reason for that?”
Gaara begins to fiddle with his pen, reluctant to continue the conversation. “He's trying to keep it from somebody in particular.” Gaara confesses vaguely.
“Who is he trying to...” Kankuro stops himself mid sentence coming to a stunning realization. He steps back as the realization hits him hard. “Are you telling me that—”
“Sakura doesn't know that Sasuke escaped from the village and is allied with Kabuto now.” Gaara blurts out.
“But how is that even possible, she may not have been there when the info first got out but later, especially by now, it's been over five months.” Kankuro says with shock.
“The only people who know about it are Naruto, the rest of the 11 with the exclusion of Sakura of course, and a select few of the Anbu including Konohamaru and Sai. Naruto forbade anybody from talking about it. Since it's only the higher ups of Konoha who know about it, it's more restricted.”
“Why is Naruto trying to keep this a secret, and from Sakura of all people?”
Gaara stares at his desk solemnly.
Note: During Gaara's meeting with Naruto in Konoha.
“Gaara, I need you do do this for me, please.” Naruto is on his knees tugging at Gaara's robes.
“You're the Hokage now, shows some dignity.” Gaara says trying to push Naruto off him “This is your responsibility as a leader to deal with your runaways Naruto. I'm all for offering you help but I'm not taking the job completely off your hands.”
“Come on Gaara.” Naruto looks up at his friend, a stream of water leaking down both eyes, his face is scrunched up and mucus drips from his nose.
“*sigh*Why is this so important that I look for Sasuke.”
“What about Sasuke?” A voice says entering the room. Sakura enters the room and sees Naruto on the ground and the vain in her head begins to pop out. “Get off the ground!!” she yells, the force of her voice seemingly props Naruto upright and at attention. Sakura closes her eyes and sighs as she shakes her head “Jeez and you're supposed to be the Hokage. Now what's this about Sasuke?”
“Oh, nothing he just came up in our conversation about the good old days right Gaara?” Naruto's voice is shaky and full of deception. Gaara looks at Naruto intensely as he tries to brush off the entire subject to Sakura.
“I think I'm going to go see him, he needs his physical done anyway.”
“Actually Sakura there's this mission for you, it's extremely important.” Naruto is more composed in his voice now, yet the deception is still alive, detected by Gaara yet passing just over Sakura's head.
“Well what is it?”
“One of our allied nations, the Land of Crabs, they're a weaker nation with limited resources at their disposal. They wish to begin a shinobi village system and they need help. I sent a few other jounin to take care of instruction for military training but they need somebody for the medical division. So I thought it'd be a good idea to send you as the medical specialist in charge of training there.”
“Why me, I have a lot of work to do here, I'm the head of the medical department I can't just go on a time consuming mission like this. Why can't you send Ino?” Sakura protests.
“Well the thing is, if I sent Ino, I'd have to send more medics to assist her. Nobody has come as far as you in the medical arts, I'd even go as far to say you've beaten Tsunade-baa-chan.”
“Ass kissing won't work on me.”
“He's right Sakura, you're skills in the medical field have challenged even hers.”
“Not you too Gaara?” Sakura complains
“Nobody can teach as much and as well as you can, so I figure send one medic instead of several to keep the staff here full in the case of an emergency and in the mean time, Ino and Hinata are capable enough of handling the hospital for the time being.”
“Putting your own wife to work while she's pregnant, jeez.” Sakura sighs “This is actually a pretty smart idea Naruto, did you think of it on your own?”
Naruto's face scrunches as he faces Sakura “And why is that so hard to believe?”
“Do you really want an answer to that?” Sakura says sarcastically. Naruto drops his head in shame sighs. “Fine I'll do it just try not to screw things up will you?” Sakura says as she begins to exit the room. Naruto smiles at her as she leaves the room. The door closes and Naruto turns his attention to Gaara.
Naruto gets a guilty expression on his face as he turns his head down away from Gaara. “She doesn't know anything about Sasuke, and I need it to stay that way. That's the real reason I asked you this favor.”
“But why, why would you keep this kind of secret?” Gaara says sadly impressed at Naruto's ability to do such an act. “Of all the people Naruto, you're the last person I'd expect this type of thing from.”
“I know, it's a shameful pride I've developed that I can't seem to rid myself of. Sakura could never give up her heart for Sasuke. No matter what, the love she had for him was too great. It became too great to the point it started causing her so much agony and strife on her mental being. She was conflicted between Sasuke and myself.” Naruto heads to the picture on his desk, the picture of Team 7, their very first picture together when they were genin so many years back.
“I knew I'd always be second in Sakura's heart and it hurt, but more then that I wanted her to be happy. It was because of everything I fought for her, everything I leaped over for her that I realized where Hinata was coming from. After seeing Sasuke in her arms again and her happy, disregarding everything, I realized how painful it was to deal with it even though I had the joy of seeing her happy. I remembered Hinata's sacrifice for me when, almost loosing her life for me...and then when I went into Sakura's arms, she still smiled, something I couldn't do as easily as her, however that's not the point of all this.”
“The point is, I felt the connection with Hinata, I felt as if we were one, which is why I finally fell for her but I never stopped loving Sakura.” Naruto clinches his fist as he continues, “And I've become much stronger then I ever could imagine because of Hinata. After seeing how Sakura was just after my fight with Sasuke...I saw just how broken she was without Sasuke. I can't bare to see that ever again. That was the last promise I made to her, my last deceleration of my feelings for her that would always remain. I can't let her go through that pain again not after she's been happy like this again...how...could I ever face her.”
“Naruto, you must know that this isn't the best way to go about this. You're keeping her in ignorance of this situation you want to prevent. When she eventually finds out it'll be even more devastating.”
“I know this isn't the right way at all and it's going to hurt her either way...but I haven't become strong enough to let it go...not yet. That's why I need you Gaara, to help me while I become strong enough to do this for her.”
“A friend needed me, although I'm not in total agreement with his actions, I still need to help him.” Gaara says wholeheartedly.
Kankuro looks at his little brother and sighs, heading over to his desk, he places the files on the large stack of papers besides Gaara's desk and heads to the door. He opens the door, stopping just before he exits and looks at Gaara enticed by his work and leaves the Kazekage to fulfill his duties to his friend.
How the shinobi world becomes an issue once emotions and bonds of relationships enter the mix. A world that once crippled itself through it's stoicism now hinders itself through the hole in it's shield which leaves them more vulnerable then ever. The whole, which is the heart of the shinobi that was once nonexistent.
Alright this brings Naruto and the situation with Sasuke and Kabuto back into the situation as I'm trying to progress a canon-esque (yeah I made it up ) plot within my own central one. However this was to add an element of excitement as well because I know it wouldn't be sufficient with just the hospital scene. In that essence I know this may seem like a more boring chapter but it's all too important, especially the hospital scene and you can fill in the blanks for that yourself . Special thanks to Sensei for helping me with my chapter To those of you who read/comment/rep this post I thank you, enjoy
Death is natural... and to deflower such a natural thing is a sin, and those who defy the whims of Nature shall know the true pain in which none can shelter and shudder. s gift that we all can be happy for