Cries of the Forest @shiro1sora
Chapter 16

This chapter was heavily influenced by Joystick Sarah's 'Fly Me To The Moon-Lofi Cover' & KOKIA's 'Fukurou ga Shiraseru,' then basically any song from MYTH & ROID.

He knew he was dreaming.

He hadn't seen his Shika in so long, even longer had it been when they last took a day to slow down and just- watch the clouds drift by. The bright and warm sun, highlighted by the blue, blue sky wasn't at all like the grey overcast he knew he'd wake up to. The gentle breeze providing a welcome touch of coolness not at all like the harsh nip the blustery winds had adopted as of late.

But most of all, he knew this was a dream because life could never be this simple and perfect, not anymore; and that's what he wanted more than anything.

But in the meantime, he was content to enjoy this illusion while it lasted.

His hand was warm where it was connected to that of Shikamaru's and he breathed a soft sigh, catching the other's attention.


"I wish this was every day. We can just enjoy each other and nothing else matters." The Nara laughed a bit ruefully at that.

"Don't be silly. Something sweet can only be appreciated with a bit of tartness, right?"

"But! But it's so unfair, don't ya think?" He turned his head to look at the other, whose eyes were still cast to the sky.

"I wish I could simply do nothing for all of my days. But," he paused, thinking of things more complicated than Naruto could begin to imagine, "but then I would be quite bored, don't you think?" He knew vaguely of the other's lazy tendencies, but he wished he would explain more thoroughly. He didn't understand why everyone thought things had to change when he was happy with how they were now.

He let go of the hand and turned away. He didn't want to hear it.

"Naruto," the Nara called softly. "Remember your special tree?" Of course he did, that was his home. "Wasn't there a time when it was little?"

"Yeah, but I helped it grown super big, believe it!" Shika looked amused at his verbal tic and he colored a bit.

"That's right. But what do you think would have happened if you hadn't helped it?" The color drained from his face. A sapling had very little chance of survival, this he knew. The Forest could be kind and giving, but it could also be immensely cruel, (especially to its own.) At the welling tears, Shikamaru smiled sadly.

"You get it, right? The sapling had to grow very quickly to live so peacefully. It's the same with you. How can you be happy and strong if there's no change?"

The sky was now overcast, the clouds having thickened without their notice. He wanted to cry, but no tears would come.

The dream-Shikamaru took him into his arms, providing the comfort and familiarity he so desperately needed right now. He didn't like it, but he thought that maybe this change would be a good thing, so long as he had Shikamaru.

He woke up thinking of Shikamaru's gentle smile. His throat felt full and his skin cold, and he could vaguely feel the insistent thrumming of the trees trying to get his attention.

The feeling that something was wrong chased away whatever fleeting happiness he had felt and now incited panic. He was wide awake and scrambling out of his den.

The night was freezing and the trees rustled their bare branches in distress, the evergreens creating a cacophony with the rustling of blunt needles.

There were People within The Forest that did not belong.

His body warmed with the rush of adrenaline that propelled him forward, a flash of chakra and brief contact throwing him through The Forest's root system to the source of the disturbance. As soon as he emerged, he took to the branches of a great pine and hid from the People that looked to be fighting.

The group was having a standoff on the surface of the frozen river, two wearing long cloaks unfamiliar to him. The red clouds were vibrant in the night.

A female with long dark hair and red eyes was standing rigidly across a male that looked eerily similar, both staring into each other's eyes; (could they have been related?) Their fluctuating chakra told him that something more was going on than simple gazing.

A ways apart was what could be the man's partner, of which was fighting more physically against a plain brunet male. (He knew that People came in many shapes and sizes, but wasn't blue skin just a bit unusual?)

The blue man seemed to be winning with his giant weapon, (did that thing even still count as a sword? It didn't quite match with Shika's descriptions, but then what else would it be?) The slighter male was being overpowered by the other's brute strength and odd techniques. He wondered if he should intervene, but decided not to unless they harmed The Forest.

The unmoving pair finally stopped standing around, though it seems the female was on the losing end of that match as well.

The standoff was quick and seemed full of unnecessary conversation, but just before things turned ugly, the non-cloaked pair was joined by a man with more dangerous than his companions and smelled strongly of not-wolf.

More things were said before everyone burst into action once more.

The river's water mixed quickly with the pretty man's chakra and rose rapidly through thin ice and air to attack the newcomer, (who may or may not have been able to dodge, he couldn't tell.) But then something strange happened: the two engaged in a duel of subterfuge by creating fake People while the others sat back and watched. Why weren't the others doing anything? Was this another rule he wasn't told about in The People's way of fighting?

Oh wait, the one with silver hair went in down in the frigid water, traveling beneath their feet. Naruto could see a trail of chakra saturating and following him in the water.

The other probably sensed it too, as he had spontaneously tackled the female, (again, why wasn't she doing anything? If she wasn't strong enough to fight, she should turn tail and run. At least, that's what he thought.)

A huge wall of water erupted from where they had stood and the blond marveled at the man's amount of life energy, (of which looked yellow, though a darker shade than his own.)

The third uncloaked People jumped after the two, and they regrouped under the false rain. The nearby trees were still unnerved by the People's presence, the stray droplets freezing atop the snow on their branches and bases.

Something seemed to have happened, because it looked like they'd suddenly closed their eyes. The moon-haired man kept one eye open, red like the other two. He froze for a second, then collapsed without warning. In that second, he seemed far more exhausted than what seemed possible for such a rapid change.

The blue man charged during the silver one's moment of weakness, only to be interrupted by a new People clad in the horrid green and orange skin-tight clothes he had rejected on his first venture to The Village. (It was just as ugly as he'd thought it would be, the large features of the wearer failing to add any charm to it.) The new one created a burst of water and took to a ready-stance, protecting the downed silver one.

The useless two still stood behind them while more words were exchanged, and Naruto was feeling kind of. . . underwhelmed? He'd come expecting a grand fight to be occurring and he would have to intervene as always, but most of what had happened was just them talking.

What a letdown.

He shifted in annoyance and boredom, the drowsiness he was staving off making him feel antsy. It was a shame that the branch beneath him creaked with his movement, the needles rustling in a way as to tell him to stop moving like a damn idiot! To add insult to injury, the tree couldn't hold onto the heavy pinecones and piles of snow in its possession, the dulled sounds of impact alerting the shinobi to his presence.

Quickly, Naruto dodged the sharp weapons thrown his way, his survival instinct alerting him before his eyes could. (Largely unnecessary, as his chakra had already manipulated a small branch to slap the projectiles to the ground.)

Now that he'd been discovered, he didn't see the point of staying out of the fight.

He took a deliberate step off the branch to drop to the ground and landed solidly on his feet, his fall muffled by the snowdrifts slowly freezing his bare feet. He picked up the small metal objects that'd been thrown at him, fashioned in a strange shape reminiscent of a star.

He could feel the others' gazes on him, waiting for him to indicate his position in this fight. He gulped, uneasy under such scrutiny.

Stooping down and burying his hands in the snow, he willed the grasses beneath to grow longer than they ever had before, twining together into twin ropes that twisted around the discarded weapons at the ends. When his whips had grown to a satisfactory length, he uprooted the grasses and stood, confident his chakra control would outweigh his inexperience.

He stood as tall as he could and all was silent, The Forest seeming to hold its breath in wait of something.

"I want you all out," he said calmly, and shifted into a ready position. No one moved.

Then, in a rush of movement, a melee of three affiliations began, only one person staying out of the fight.

Naruto knew he was at a severe disadvantage, (having never actually fought beyond brief spars with Shikamaru and even less experience with weapons.) So he relied heavily on instinct, taking the offense more often than not.

He hardly noticed the illusions being set up by the woman before he was tearing through them, lashing out at the brunet that served as her guard. The green one was towards the opposite side, fighting against the blue man to protect the downed silver one. And the red-eyed one was working on getting closer to Naruto.

His weapons dealt mostly superficial cuts but did well to keep the People at a distance. He noticed the thin ice had started cracking in the commotion and hoped it would work in his favor.

The green one seemed to be straining against his opponent, a grimace overtaking his face. "Kurenai! Take Kakashi to Konoha and call for ANBU reinforcement!"

"But I thought you had already called them?!"

"A bluff! But I can't fight my best if I am protecting Kakashi!"

Naruto didn't have the presence of mind to be able to register their exchange of words, but he did notice when the woman removed herself from the fight and ran to support the silver one. He was leaning heavily on her, and they hobbled away in The Village's direction.

Good. That's two less People he would have to force out.

He was thankful that the blue man was still being preoccupied with the green one because the red-eyed man was all he could handle at the moment. The brunet had started teaming up with him against the cloaked one, their combined power letting them fight on more even ground.

His temporary partner was a close-range fighter who worked with knives coated thinly in chakra. They worked well to cover each other's weaknesses while the cloaked one was put on the defensive.

But in the heat of the moment, Naruto made the mistake of meeting the man's red eyes.

The genjutsu that ensnared him was far more elaborate than the woman's had been: he was tied to a cross of wood, copies of the other surrounding him and a crimson full moon high in the sky. She looked at him with cold indifference, far from the beautiful guiding presence she usually was to him.

Her light scared him more than the People.

"In this dimension, I control time itself. For the next 72 hours, I control everything." He punctuated this with a deliberate stab to the gut, absolutely no emotion guiding his act of violence.

Pain. It was more painful than anything the boy had experienced before.

And then he was stabbed twelve more times.

He wished to fall unconscious so he wouldn't feel this pain, but his body wouldn't follow his commands. He couldn't struggle, only hang limply and take it.

He felt frustrated. He felt hurt. And he felt angry.

By sheer power of will, he forced his arms to tear through their bonds with a vicious roar, making the People surrounding him pause.

The People were enemies. The People needed to leave now.

He could hear his blood rushing through his veins as he tore through the technique, more mentally drained than physically exhausted. He was done trying to do this peacefully, because they weren't trying to leave.

"GET. OUT!" His senses heightened more than normal with the slitting of his pupils, his fangs and nails elongating while tails of chakra sprouted behind him. It felt like a knot tightened in his gut and his body grew feverish. His muscles contracted and he felt so powerful and angry. He was more beast than man with his stance on all fours.

The People all paused in what they were doing, their senses reacting to the enormous amounts of malicious chakra he was putting out and telling them to run.

Naruto howled at the now-pure, (but still so cold,) moon before shifting forward, his chakra making him faster than the eye could see. He fought savagely with teeth and claws, tails aiding in balance and direction. He went for the one with red eyes first, sensing him to be the biggest threat.

The man seemed surprised when he was barely able to deflect a swipe to his chest.

Blood started dripping from his eyes, but he forced a giant skeletal warrior of chakra into existence to protect him against the rabid jinchuuriki.

Instead of trying his own against the giant chakra construct, Naruto turned to the blue man next. He charged and threw himself into a claw attack against his scaled sword. With each swipe, a little more chakra was taken, but it was worth every bit for each scale he rent from the thing, its shrieks sounding ever so satisfying to his ears.

The energy drain was miniscule, and so he went on.

He worked on mauling the blue man, the other seeming to evade every kick and swipe while his sword shied away from the boy. Naruto's thoughts were muddied by his rampant emotions, the lack of foresight gaining him a multitude of small wounds that healed as soon as they were made.

But despite this, he managed to land several devastating blows to his opponent, his claws gouging deep into leathery flesh and tearing whenever he could.

He was a monster.

He was an animal.

He was scared.

The weakest People of the four had regrouped with the green one while Naruto was battling the rogue-ninjas, the two staying clear of the confrontation as the ice finally emitted a series of cracks and fractured under the power of the everpresent flow of the river. They hurried off to the bank before they could fall through, though Naruto and the cloaked ones stayed atop the river, using chakra to keep above.

A murder of crows materialized from one of Naruto's blindspots and swarmed him, cawing and scratching even as their feathers molted and their skin peeled rapidly from his chakra.

But they had fulfilled their intended purpose in distracting him and the blue man and his sword were able to put some distance between them, where he rejoined his partner. The red-eyed one's construct had de-evolved and seemed to be growing ever weaker while the blue one was panting and trying to stem the blood flow of his wounds.

But none of that mattered to Naruto because they still weren't gone.

The blond was about to charge them once more when the dark-haired man spoke to his partner, body seeming to move to a defensive position.

"Kisame, we now have the information we need. Let's head back."

"Are you kidding me?! This is our chance-!"

"But now is not the time," he interrupted. "He is too agitated; we shall take our chances at a later date." They came to a reluctant mutual understanding and flickered to a location deeper into The Forest.

Naruto could still feel them and waited for them to leave completely before he allowed himself to let go of his volatile emotions.

With his fear and anger went the boost of chakra, and it was all he could do to jump to firmer ground before he collapsed, darkness overwhelming with heavy fatigue he'd never felt before.

The snow was bitter cold, the moon's light chilling. He was still scared.

So. . . how was my fight scene? I hope it wasn't too terrible. Especially since it was the entire fucking chapter.

Please leave a comment or review; they're really motivating!

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