Obito walked through the dense ring of brambles that protected the Black Needle and came out unscathed, not even a scratch on his long black robes. The vines covered in poisonous thorns parted before him, admitting him into the secluded place.
It was his birthright, after all, and the ancient magic embedded in every part of this place knew it. He was one of the few last living Uchihas, and the only one that had followed the path of the Old Magic and completed the Trials, paying the high price that came with it—his scarred body and soul were the proof.
The sky was packed with turbulent clouds and the occasional lightning. A murder of crows flew in circles around the lofty tower, screaming their excitement at Obito’s arrival. The entire place seemed to vibrate at Obito’s presence, tiny gooey bubbles of magic popping in the air, the little animals around sticking their heads out to see him. When Obito got into the inner ring clearing and approached the building in the center, the doors of the tower opened wide for him, as it was written for the coming of a new Master of Black Magic. The Needle was welcoming him.
Obito stopped for a second in front of the huge doors, thinking of how all his life, all his sacrifices had taken him to that place and that moment when he was going to claim what was rightfully his, and leave everything else behind.
Another thought popped in his head, about how the old Obito would have laughed and pointed out at how cliché it all was—oh yes, dark skies, dark crows for the dark master in the dark tower, how lame and unoriginal. He pictured how Rin would have smiled at him, encouraging, and how Kakashi would have silently disapproved of him, crossed arms and a stubborn frown to show it. Master Minato would have been there too, powerful and wise and alive, white robe floating around him, long blonde hair somehow still shining in the cloudy day.
Obito smiled without joy and said goodbye for good to his younger naïve self and to those memories of a time long gone. He looked at the darkness waiting for him inside the Needle, took a deep breath and walked into his new home.
His waving black robe fused seamlessly with the dark void around, right before the imposing doors slammed shut after him and sealed his fate.
Kakashi wondered again why Master Tsunade had to choose him, of all the elite wizards in the Fire order, to be the one to fight Master Obito and try to remove him from the Black Throne. Was Tsunade being cruel on purpose?
‘But it had to be me, I guess,’ Kakashi thought. He was close to Obito, or at least he had been close to the old Obito, the one who wasn’t the Black Master trying to rule the world and end life as they all knew it.
It had to be him, Kakashi the Grey. Perhaps the sharingan eye he borrowed from Obito before he apparently died would be a hindrance, more than a help, for the fight that was coming. Obito’s fate was tied to his own; they shared a common past, and a permanent bond through that set of extraordinary eyes and the Blood magic powering them.
The legend said that Uchiha magic was cursed, that no Uchiha ever did anything good for the world. Some wizards even said Uchihas should be eradicated. The Uchiha themselves had made an excellent job out of that, so that the clan was almost extinguished, and mostly by the hand of one of them, Itachi the Red—but the remaining Uchihas were powerful enough. The Five Great Orders could only hope the other two rogue Uchihas who were alive would stick to their current obsession about fighting each other, and wouldn’t join Obito in his attempt for world domination.
So, Kakashi prepared himself to leave Konoha and travel to the no-man’s-land in a remote place beyond the Northern Mountains, where the Black Needle tower hosted his deadly Master. Kakashi had made his amends to his many personal ghosts, and was ready for this adventure, knowing that the quest would probably demand his life.
He could not fail the Fire order in this. He had meditated for a whole day to replenish his chakra magic, and gathered his best spell scrolls. He had readied the white staff his father passed to him after he killed himself, the one Kakashi only wielded for the most dangerous foes, made of pure materialized lightning magic. He had donned his black mask, his silken grey robe, and his faded white travel cloak to protect him from the autumn cold winds. When he had everything ready to leave, he summoned his guardian dog spirits.
“Boss,” Pakkun greeted him gruffly raising a small paw, after appearing in a puff of smoke that smelled vaguely like powder. His seven pack mates yipped and greeted Kakashi with joy, and settled around, getting used to the human dimension once more. “You smell worried. What’s the matter?”
“We have a tough mission. The world is in danger.”
“Again?” Pakkun scratched behind his ear with a rear paw, unimpressed. “Don’t they have anyone else? It’s been less than a month since last time.”
“It’s Obito.” Kakashi didn’t need to say anything else.
Pakkun nodded. “All right, where do you want us to guide you?”
“The Black Needle. Here.” Kakashi showed the dogs a rudimentary map of the known world and pointed to a schematic drawing of a tall tower decorated with spires and menacing pointy parts.
Pakkun huffed. “That country is bad news. Full of nasty beasts and poisonous plants. We’ll have to go through the mountains and a desert too.”
Kakashi nodded. “I know. I heard there are trolls and goblins, we’ll be careful—travel only by day.”
Pakkun didn’t seem happy with the idea, but a mission was a mission and his pack had a contract to honor. “All right. We leave now?”
“As soon as you’re ready.”
“Then let’s go.” Pakkun jumped on his paws.
As Kakashi and his pack neared Konoha’s North Gate, he saw some familiar faces by the wall opening, looking ready to go on their own mission. He spotted Gai in one of his garish green robes; Tenzou and Shizune flanked him, looking ready to start a lengthy trip, dressed in their standard wizard travel clothes (long dark blue and green robes, and warm cloaks similar to Kakashi’s one). He also saw Naruto, not clad in orange, for once, but in the soft brown tones of a wizard apprentice robe. Kakashi’s pupil was leaning on the wall and giving it light kicks, looking bored and tired of waiting.
“You’re late!” Naruto blurted out as soon as he saw Kakashi, pointing an accusing finger at him.
Kakashi ignored the young wizard’s complaint as usual, but this time he didn’t give him one of his crinkly eye-smiles. “What are you all doing here?” Kakashi said, frowning.
“Nice to see you too, Kakashi,” Shizune replied with a smile, laid back.
Tenzou stiffened a bit. “Master Tsunade is sending us with you. This enemy is too big for you to face him alone.”
Gai jumped into one of his motivational poses, sticking his thumb up and spreading some sparks around. “That’s right, my rival! We will join you in this epic mission and use the very best of our Youthful Efforts to help you—”
“No, you won't,” Kakashi curtly interrupted Gai’s effusive speech, “this is dangerous. It’s between Obito and me.”
“I know you two have things to settle, but there’s too much at risk.” Master Tsunade materialized by their side, with a sizzling burst of light and a whirl of her royal green and golden robe. “Kakashi, don’t be a brat. You need all the help you can get. I’m not sure we’ll be able to stop Obito even if I send every available High Wizard at my command.” Tsunade’s expression and voice got a hard edge. “You all here are the best I’ve got, and the Fire order’s last hope. The fate of the world is on you now. Do your best to stop Obito, and come back safe! I’m counting on you.”
Kakashi could only yield. “Yes, Master Tsunade.” He sighed and bowed to her. “Come on, we’re getting late,” he said, and started walking away. He couldn’t help a smile when he heard Naruto’s indignant huff.
Despite being worried about the safety of his travel companions, something tight deep inside Kakashi loosened a little when he thought of his skilled friends joining him to fight Obito. Perhaps he wouldn’t die on this mission.
He had the futile hope that, somehow, perhaps Obito didn’t have to die either.
The travel was complicated, with the expected skirmishes with rogue groups of goblins and the occasional big beast that tried to eat them. They left the more civilized countries and crossed the Northern Mountains and the Sand Desert (the name was really accurate). As Pakkun warned, the scarce living creatures they found beyond the mountains were often poisonous or vicious, or both. The group was guided by Kakashi’s eight dogs who warned them in advance of the dangers as they traveled. Naruto complained about everything that he could possibly complain about—which was a lot—but he did his part of the job and behaved quite acceptably throughout the trip. The rest of the party was nice to travel with; Kakashi felt lucky to have them in his team.
All in all, it was not a pleasant trip, but they all got to their destination in one piece: the no-man's-land where the Black Needle stood high, terrorizing the countries around.
As the leader of this quest, Kakashi insisted on facing Obito alone. He felt personally responsible for the whole situation—he knew Obito’s motivation to go rogue and rise as Black Master came from his wish of vengeance against the Fire order, but especially against Kakashi himself.
Perhaps if Kakashi went to Obito as a sacrificial lamb he would settle his grudge and leave Konoha and the world alone.
Kakashi knew it was probably not going to be that easy, and that it might end up in a fight to death, but he had to try. He didn’t want anyone else to die, nor the world to end, because of him.
When the party reached the outskirts of the Black Needle, Kakashi thanked his summons and released them to go back to their plane—their job was done, and dark magic was too noxious for them to stay around.
“Take care, Boss. Call us back when you’re ready to go back to Konoha,” Pakkun said, and Kakashi waved at the eight of them as they disappeared in clouds of blue smoke.
Gai cast his powerful taijutsu magic to open a passageway through the thick wall of magical brambles that protected the Needle from unwanted visitors. He did an excellent job carving a two-meter wide hole throughout the mass of vines. His spell involved a blur of energetic movements and exuberant cries of ‘Youth!’. Shizune later healed the few poisoned scratches he got without too much trouble.
The Fire wizards crossed the passageway through the brambles and got into the inner circle of the Needle, looking from afar at the menacing obsidian doors of the tower. The entire place exuded ominous vibes, plenty of dark magic right under the surface of everything around, oozing from the tower like poison. It made everyone’s skin tingle, like static electricity charging the atmosphere. It was very unpleasant for any trained wizard that wasn’t a practitioner of the Dark Arts.
“The magic here is the strongest that I’ve felt, Kakashi, I don’t like it. Do you still intend to go alone?” Tenzou tried one last time.
“Yes. Wait here, don’t get closer or you’ll get burned.”
Fire magic users couldn’t tolerate high intensities of dark magic for too long, it damaged the body’s magic channels. Shizune had explained these dangers of dark magic to Naruto along their trip.
Kakashi made the hand signs and pronounced the words for the protection spell that would allow him to stand about two hours of dark magic exposure. A faint blue glow and a tremor in the air manifested around Kakashi’s body and then disappeared.
Shizune warned him, “Come back out before the spell wears out. You know how bad dark magic burns feel, I don’t want to have to heal you from that, am I clear?”
Kakashi nodded, compliant. He didn’t want it either.
In the end, the Black magic itself was a blessing and a curse for their casters. No one other than its Masters could live around it for too long. Its most powerful user, the Black Master, was fated to be alone. No army, no servants, no family—no living people to follow their orders. The huge power of the magic in the Black Throne inside the Needle came with a high price—as it happened most times with great powers. Kakashi suspected it was Nature’s way to limit the abuse of those powers. But desperate people always found a way to break the rules, or didn’t care for the price.
Black Masters never lived long.
“If I don’t come out in two hours, wait for another hour, and then go back to Konoha. Do not enter the tower for anything, understood?” Kakashi turned around to stare into everyone’s eyes, especially into Gai’s and Naruto’s.
Gai the Green was not happy with Kakashi’s orders, and his face showed it. Kakashi turned and placed a hand over Gai’s stiff shoulder, his voice going softer. “Gai, I mean it. If I’m not able to deal with Obito, no one else will be. There’s nothing you can do against a Black Master, without a sharingan and the spells I stole with it. You would die in vain. Obito could evaporate you just by snapping his fingers.”
Gai’s chin trembled. There were very few things that could make Master Gai change his mind—one of them was Kakashi asking him nicely. It worked this time, once more. “Right, but if you don’t get out of that tower I will never forgive you, rival.”
Kakashi squeezed Gai’s shoulder and turned to Naruto, who looked concerned.
“Why did Master Tsunade send us with you, if we can only wait here and watch while Obito kills you?” Naruto's voice trembled.
“Have a little faith in your teacher, Naruto. Obito hasn’t killed me yet.” Kakashi ruffled Naruto’s hair and felt the teen relax a bit.
Kakashi didn’t want his last words for Naruto to be that lukewarm, in the very likely case he didn’t come back, but if he added anything deeper Naruto would freak out. He was not stupid and would realize Kakashi was giving him a farewell speech.
So, Kakashi didn’t tell Naruto what he really wanted to tell him: that he was a great kid, destined to do great things for sure; that he was a beacon for the Fire order, the Prophecy child, as Master Jiraiya insisted, and an inspiration for anyone around, including Kakashi himself; that the demon inside him was not who Naruto was, did not define him, and he shouldn’t allow anyone to tell him otherwise.
And that Kakashi loved him and would have wanted to help him through the next years, to see him grow into the amazing man he would become. Kakashi knew he could never tell Naruto those words—he told them in his mind, anyway.
Kakashi smiled at Naruto and hoped he at least had a hint that Kakashi cared for him. “Don’t do silly things, okay? Listen to the Masters.”
“Don’t do silly things yourself, either. Come back in one piece!” Naruto was unusually subdued, but he braved a smile for his teacher.
A blast of dark magic came from the tower. They all felt it in their guts, and looked at the upper levels where the Throne was supposed to be.
“He knows we’re here,” Tenzou said, frowning.
‘Of course he knows’ , Kakashi though. Four elite Fire Masters in the inner ring would stand like a sore thumb among all this dark magic, and Kakashi the Grey’s signature was very recognizable. Obito must be sharpening his knives.
The oversized tower doors opened for them with a reverberating sound.
Kakashi gave his companions a last look, gripped his white staff resolutely, and walked into the tower.
Kakashi climbed the long strike of spiral stairs that pierced the heart of the Needle. The passage got more and more narrow the higher he climbed. The tower around was dark and empty, the air stale and cold—centuries-old dust piling up in uninhabited rooms, unused furniture, decorations that no one looked at. This was a desolate place to live in.
Kakashi held up the hem of his robe as he climbed the high steps, trying to keep the dust away from his light clothes. He pronounced a quick spell and the crystal jewel embedded at the tip of his staff started to glow, illuminating his ascension with an eerie light that barely overcame the shadows that owned the whole building.
Some rooms glimpsed at the sides of the endless stairs were more interesting, with walls covered in bookshelves brimming with books and scrolls. Those rooms seemed to sing with magic, making the skin of Kakashi’s hands prickle, where it was not covered by his fingerless gloves. Kakashi’s sharingan ached when he thought of collecting all that wisdom, the countless spells and bits of ancient knowledge contained in those shelves—but he hadn’t come here to copy spells, and dark magic was out of his reach. He left the books behind.
The stairs ended, opening into a round chamber decorated with heavy red and purple curtains. A slanted ray of light from the only window crossed the room, unable to defeat the darkness of the corners and the sides of the wide chamber. From the hidden depths of the room, Kakashi tasted the presence of a strong magic tearing into his own. It had Obito’s signature, yet it was different from the one he remembered from all those years ago. Stronger, more defined, and dark black.
An imposing chair made of stone and petrified wood stood in the center of the room, an intense feeling of coiled power and menace surging from it.
“Behold the Black Throne. Impressive, isn’t it?” Obito came into the light beam, moving smoothly from where he had been leaning on the wall and waiting. He ran his hand over the back of the chair, appreciative. “Kakashi the Grey,” he greeted, with a soft mocking undertone and a sleek smile. His eyes sparkled, the black one and the red. “You come into my house like this, alone and exposed. Are you tired of living?”
Kakashi had imagined this moment many times through the years. When he first learned that Obito was alive, hope had bloomed inside him. The news of Obito not dying to save him removed a big portion of Kakashi’s heavy existential guilt, and awakened feelings buried under so many layers that Kakashi barely remembered they’d been there. But the taste of hope went sour in his mouth when Kakashi heard about Obito’s terrible deeds, about the path he had taken, and how he had overcome the Black Master Trials and was trying to destroy everything that Kakashi had devoted his life to protect.
The Obito Kakashi remembered, was dead indeed. This person in front of Kakashi was not him.
Obito opened his arms in a fake welcoming gesture. “What do you think? Have I changed?”
Kakashi took in Obito’s unfamiliar form, the black robe, the scarred face and hand, the handsome smile that didn’t reach his eyes. He was taller than Kakashi now, his shoulders broader. Kakashi thought he had grown up finely, and felt a pang in his gut about not being there with Obito to grow up together.
“You’ve changed so much,” Kakashi said, and couldn’t help a longing note in his voice. He realized he was failing badly at being indifferent to this new Obito.
“Seriously, why did you come? Do you think you can leave this place alive?”
“I was hoping so—that there still was a chance to bring you back with us to Konoha without having to kill each other.”
Obito laughed. “Come on, Kakashi. You used to be the smart one of the team. You know that chance died many years ago, with Rin.” Obito’s smile got cold. “One of us is going to die here, you know it, right?”
Kakashi straightened his back up. “So be it. I don’t want to fight you, Obito. For what it's worth, I think you’re right to be angry at Konoha. At me.” The exposed half of Kakashi’s face let out a glimpse of the sorrow he’d felt for years. “I come here with an offer. Take your revenge on me, I won’t try to stop you. As long as you step down from that Throne and get out of the Five Great Orders’ way.”
Obito didn’t react, like he was having trouble processing Kakashi’s words. “You’re willing to die in exchange for my leaving the Throne?”
“I want to do whatever it takes to stop the war that’s coming.”
“Ah, Kakashi, that’s pathetic, and lame. What does it mean to die a hero, if you’re dead after all? Do you want to be admired, your story written in moldy history books? What would it matter to you, when you’re dead?”
“It’s better than failing. The Orders will defeat you in the end, Obito, but many people will suffer and die before that. Do you want that? Another war, after you’ve seen what they do to people?”
Obito threw a fierce look at Kakashi. “I’ve dreamed of killing you, Kakashi. I’ve seen you die many times, begging for your life. In my fantasies I’ve made you suffer more than any living man has suffered. It stopped being fun after the thousandth time.” Obito walked up to the big Throne, and sat in it, solemn, putting his hands over the wide chair arms. The room's air seemed to change, to get charged with anticipation.
“I’m not leaving the Throne. The Five Orders system is rotten, and I’m going to finish it. The world is going to be a different place, the tyranny of the Great Masters will end.”
Kakashi felt his hopes crash. “You’re just going to replace it by the tyranny of a Black Master. How is that better?”
“I’m tired of talking to you.” Obito raised a hand. A beam of magic surged from it and coiled around Kakashi, restraining him painfully. It was too fast, too powerful, inescapable. Here in this place the very air was loaded with magic at Obito’s disposal. Kakashi was powerless here.
Obito kept talking, each sentence punctuated with a throb of the invisible restraining beam. “You shouldn’t have come. You’re going to die, and it’s not going to change anything. No one will miss you, anyway. The world will be just the same after you’ve left it.” The clenches of the strangling tentacle hurt, the words hurt too. They hit Kakashi too close to home.
Kakashi mourned for a second his failed plan to take Obito away without violence, and moved onto Plan B. He couldn’t speak, crushed by the unforgiving magic restraint—but he could use his sharingan.
He gathered his magic and sent it flowing into his left eye, focusing on one single powerful word in his mind: Kamui.
The space around Obito and him wobbled and stretched unsteadily. A whirlpool formed in the very thread of reality, making them both dizzy. The space distorted, and everything went black in their vision as Kakashi’s spell transported them both away from this plane.
The Kamui dimension was empty, desolated, made of barren geometrical blocks, like it had been drawn by a bored architect’s apprentice—but at least here they were not in Obito’s terrain. The only dark magic here was the one in Obito’s reserves.
Kakashi and Obito kneeled on the smooth floor ten meters away from each other, panting, exhausted after several rounds of powerful magic attacks.
“Bastard. You tricked me, and I fell for it.” Obito chuckled, humorless, realizing he was right where Kakashi wanted him. He got too involved in the heat of their attacks, possessed by the high of using his powerful magic against a worthy opponent—and now his magic reserves were so low that he’d just gone past the point where he didn’t have enough chakra magic to leave the Kamui dimension and go back to his own one.
Kakashi wiped the sweat from his forehead and huffed. “Looks like you’re stuck here with me. It will be some time before we can get back. If we survive, that is.” Kakashi didn’t even have to defeat Obito. He only had to make sure he didn’t get out of this dimension.
“So, you want us to stay here until we starve?”
“No, the lack of water will kill us first,” Kakashi replied, lightly.
Obito stood up and got an obsidian dagger from a pocket hidden in the folds of his robe. “I’m not going to wait for that.” He launched himself at Kakashi, who stood up and ran towards Obito too, spending some of his last reserves of magic in a spell that made the top of his staff sizzle and chirp in a blaze of lightning magic. They clashed like madmen, impaling each other with the staff and the dagger. Kakashi stabbed Obito’s chest, a smell of burned flesh pervading the air around. Obito’s dagger sank in Kakashi’s stomach.
They stood like that for endless seconds, overcome by pain, and then separated and crawled back, trying to put some protective distance between them. They nursed their wounds and made use of their stashes of healing spell scrolls. Wizard's bodies were imbued with healing and protective seals and they had ways to withstand injuries that would kill civilians in seconds. However, they weren’t immortal, and the kind of wounds Kakashi and Obito were inflicting each other were severe enough to be a real risk for their lives.
This time, Kakashi had spent a bit too much of his reserves with the last chidori spell, and couldn’t manage to heal the wound in his stomach so much as he would have liked.
Obito recovered better. He walked up unsteadily to Kakashi, who kneeled with his hands pressed over his stomach, trying to keep his guts from escaping his insides. Obito kneeled in front of him. He put his hands around Kakashi’s neck and pressed, cutting his breath. The dreadful wound in Obito’s chest bled over Kakashi’s silver robe, already stained with his own blood.
Kakashi struggled to breathe, against Obito’s relentless hands. After a minute or two Kakashi started to see black dots. His eyes rolled up to the missing sky and went blank; his arms hung limp.
Right before he passed out, Obito let go. Kakashi startled and inhaled a big gulp of air, his face almost purple. Then Obito’s strength failed him. He grunted in pain and collapsed over Kakashi, letting his head rest on Kakashi’s shoulder. Kakashi closed his arms around Obito’s waist, supporting him.
They stayed like that for a while, melted into that travesty of a hug, panting and bleeding over each other.
It was a stalemate.
Obito broke the silence, his voice brimming with spite. “You let Rin die. You said you’d protect her, but she died. By your hand.” He clutched the bloody front of Kakashi’s robe with both hands; a sob escaped his throat. “You failed so spectacularly, Kakashi. You couldn’t have done worse.”
Kakashi caught his breath. “I know,” he said, so low that Obito almost didn’t hear him. “She died because of me.”
Obito clenched his jaw and snarled. “I wanted to kill you. I wanted to kill you so bad, to punish you, to make you pay for what you did to her. I wanted to make the whole world pay. I wanted to see the world burn.”
Kakashi painfully raised one hand to his face and lowered his mask, showing his face to Obito for the first time since they both were kids. He stretched his other hand to Obito’s face, slowly, almost tenderly. “You should have left the world alone.”
“Our world is sick to the bone, and deserves to burn a thousand times,” Obito said, bitterly, taking in Kakashi’s face, a face he barely recognized after adulthood had changed it, making it so different from the one in Obito’s memories. The Kakashi he remembered, the person he had loved and considered family, didn’t exist anymore. But he already knew that.
They lost themselves in the other’s gaze for a long time. Their twin sharingan allowed them to see every single detail in each other’s face. Their magic eyes showed them the twirling alternative lines of time and the changes that would come in the next few seconds. Kakashi saw Obito’s tears, present and future, and the deep scars and pain creases in his face. Obito saw the guilt and the pain in Kakashi’s face, and something else he couldn’t translate.
Then Kakashi bridged the gap between them and pressed his lips over Obito’s mouth, softly, in a kiss meant as an apology.
After the initial shock, Obito basked in the feeling of a human touch that was not meant to hurt but to soothe. It had been years since the last time someone touched him like that, and it stunned him for a second—but soon the kiss unsettled him deeply. ‘How dare him?’ Obito thought, outraged.
Before the kiss ended, Obito pulled from his very last magic reserves and produced a pointy metal rod that protruded slowly from the palm of his left hand. He shoved that hand into Kakashi’s chest. The rod went all the way through Kakashi and out his back, by his shoulder blade.
Kakashi tensed, but he didn’t even try to dodge. He grasped the sleeves of Obito’s robe with shaking hands.
Obito cursed. “Damn, Kakashi. Your sharingan was open. You saw it coming. Why didn’t you move?”
Kakashi tried to smile, but it looked more like a wince. “You said it. It was my fault. I’m trying to pay. So you get what you want and change your plans on burning the world down, and the others waiting outside don’t have to kill you.” Kakashi looked at Obito with half-closed eyes, one last time, before passing out.
Obito’s sharingan saw the near future timelines around Kakashi. In all of them, Kakashi was dead.
“Stubborn, arrogant, snotty idiot…” Obito cursed into deaf ears. He dissolved the rod still impaling Kakashi, who started to slide to the floor, limp. Obito cushioned Kakashi’s fall, his own wounds making him hiss with the harsh movement.
Obito sat on the floor with Kakashi in his arms, feeling the life flowing away from his enemy. He would die in a few fleeting minutes.
‘You did it. You’ve finally reached the goal you’ve pursued for years.’
The voice inside Obito’s head was speaking the truth. Obito had dreamed so many times of killing Kakashi, of avenging Rin. He had gone through a lot to reach his goal, and it was here, finally.
Why did his victory feel so bitter, then?
Obito looked at Kakashi’s face, serene and sad, like he was resting, truly resting for the first time in years—like he was finally at peace.
Obito should move. He really should. Finish Kakashi, or leave him to die by himself, and start thinking on a way to get out of this damned dimension alive.
He kept sitting on the floor holding Kakashi, feeling Kakashi’s blood seeping into his clothes.
The ground in front of Obito started to tremble, like disturbed by a spell. It distorted, bulging up, a form surging up from below the surface. The shape detached from the ground and morphed lazily into a humanoid figure, a naked man, their body bisected into two symmetrical halves, one half white like wood bleached by the merciless sun, one half pitch black.
“Master Obito,” a gruff voice said.
“Zetsu,” Obito greeted them, relieved, “take me out of here.”
“You know I can’t materialize into the Needle.”
“The ring around is fine,” Obito replied, curtly.
“There are intruders there.”
Kakashi’s comrades. Even weakened as Obito was now, they weren’t a menace once he went back to his own dimension. The Needle ring was brimming with dark magic at his command. Obito huffed. “It’s okay, Zetsu. Just do it.”
“What about him?” Zetsu tilted his head towards the almost dead body in Obito’s arms.
‘What about him,’ Obito thought, bitterly. That was a good question. One that Obito could not answer right now.
He doubted he could ever answer it.
He’d felt the Fire wizards when they forced their way through the outer wall. He’d recognized Kakashi, of course, but also Gai and Shizune. Their signatures hadn’t changed a lot since the last time Obito felt them.
Shizune could heal Kakashi.
Obito looked at Kakashi, limp in his embrace, his face pale and so smooth, so still. Obito ran his fingers through Kakashi’s wild hair, trying to tame it a bit. It was a lost cause.
He made a decision. By now, he wasn’t ready to see Kakashi dead. There would be time to kill him in the future if he changed his mind.
Obito fixed Kakashi’s mask up on his face again.
“He’s coming too.”
Zetsu, Obito and the unconscious passenger in his arms materialized in the second step to the gates of the Needle, startling the visitors from Konoha that had made camp by the vegetal wall right opposite the doors. Tenzou had put up around them a dome shaped magic barrier that filtered out the dark magic coming from the tower and kept them safe from its burn.
“Master Kakashi!,” Naruto yelled out. Just in time, Tenzou grabbed him by the cowl of his robe to prevent him from running foolishly into the enemy.
“Stand still!,” Tenzou ordered Naruto, stern, and turned to look at Gai, afraid that he too would try to run into the Black Master to retrieve Kakashi. Luckily, Gai held himself back. They all were too aware of the power of the foe in front of them.
Obito absorbed the dark magic around, replenishing his deprived reserves to the brim, and felt like he could breathe again freely for the first time since Kakashi dragged him into the Kamui dimension.
Then Obito’s gaze fell on Naruto, and he froze. Those eyes, that sunny hair, they brought back past memories rushing over Obito with a vengeance, making his heart throb in pain. This was Master Minato’s son, it had to be. The Nine Tails demon's host.
“Master,” Zetsu said, pulling Obito out of his daze.
“Ah, yes,” Obito sighed. He thought of a spell, and a human-sized floating platform materialized in front of him. Obito laid Kakashi on it, carefully arranging his limbs so they didn’t hang out of the sides of the magic gurney. He spoke without taking his eyes apart from Kakashi’s still face. “Shizune, he’s dying. You’d better be fast.”
With a hand sign, Obito sent Kakashi floating towards the Fire wizards. “Good bye,” he whispered, as the only person in this world that meant something to him moved away. Then he turned away and walked into the Needle.
Shizune didn’t wait; she ran out of the shield to meet Kakashi halfway, not caring about her own safety. This time Tenzou didn’t try to stop her—if Obito wanted to kill them they all would already be dead. Tenzou could feel Kakashi’s magic signature, weak and fluttering, but undeniably his.
“Oh, shit,” Shizune breathed out when she completed her quick first assessment of Kakashi’s dire state, as she walked beside the gurney, adjusting to its speed. She focused her magic, getting ready for a complicated healing session. Her hands glowed softly in a green hue, and she didn’t miss a second. Her right hand started healing the worst wound, the one piercing Kakashi’s chest, while her left hand went to the wound on his stomach, stabilizing it until it was its turn.
When they got back inside Tenzou’s shell everyone gathered around, trying to check on Kakashi. Naruto pushed to get close and see him, his eyes shining with tears.
Gai stayed alert, looking at the retreating figures of Obito and his strange companion, who didn’t look human at all. They disappeared into the Needle, without a single look back. The doors closed after them, and that was all.
“Why didn’t he kill Kakashi? And us?” Gai muttered, puzzled.
“I don’t know. I’m just glad he didn’t.” Tenzou still was not sure this wasn’t some kind of twisted trap to kill them all, or to plant a human bomb in Konoha, or something equally evil. But they could only go with it—there was no way they would let Kakashi die just because they didn’t trust Obito.
“Will he be okay?,” Naruto asked Shizune, clutching the side of the immaterial platform where Kakashi looked more dead than alive.
“Naruto, step back, don’t get in Master Shizune’s way.” Tenzou placed his hands on Naruto’s shoulders, trying to pull him apart, and to comfort him too.
“It’s okay, Tenzou, He’s not doing any harm. Naruto, it’s soon to say.”
She turned her full focus back into her healing, letting the rest of the world out. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead, but she ignored them.
Everyone lost a bit of their sense of time. After what felt like years, Shizune’s green light died down. “He’ll be good,” she breathed out, and stepped back from Kakashi, rubbing the blood away from her hands. Her knees failed her, and Gai caught her before she fell down. He helped her to sit down, supporting her with an arm around her shoulders. “Easy, now. Rest for a while.”
Kakashi groaned and stirred, half-opening his right eyelid. Naruto’s worried face filled his field of vision, but the kid’s expression changed into a wide grin when he saw his teacher awake.
“I told you I’d be back,” Kakashi said, weakly, and closed his eye again to smile.
“I know, Master. I knew all the time.”
“Kakashi, what happened?” Tenzou asked.
Kakashi was too tired for lengthy explanations. “I’ll tell you all later. I failed. But I think in a way I succeeded too. Let’s get out of here, and make camp in that rock outcrop two hours away. We’ll rest for some hours, then we’ll head back to Konoha.”
Tenzou was used to Kakashi’s cryptic way of talking. He let the man close his eyes again. There would be time for explanations later—they had a long trip in front of them.
After Gai made sure Shizune recovered enough to walk, he jumped on his feet and made a gesture to take Kakashi in his arms.
“What are you doing, Gai?” Kakashi said, still weak but alarmed.
“My rival, I’m carrying you while you replenish your Youthful energy back. It’s clear you can’t walk.”
Kakashi had to concede to that. Shizune did an amazing job healing him, but he was weak as a kitten. He suspected he would spend some time in the Healing Houses when they were back in Konoha. So, he bit his tongue and let Gai maneuver him on his wide back, with resignation.
The company went out through the hole in the brambles ring and moved away from the tower. They followed Kakashi’s orders and camped for a few hours until Kakashi recovered his ability to walk. Then Kakashi summoned his dogs again, and the group started their trip back to Konoha.
Before entering the Sand Desert, Kakashi turned around to take a last look at the Black Needle, still visible in the horizon like a poisoned thorn. He got lost in his thoughts for a while. Then he turned his back for good and started walking back home.
In a balcony in the upper levels of the Needle, Obito looked towards the direction where he could still faintly feel the magic signatures of the Fire wizards, right about leaving this desolate land and entering Sand country. Kakashi’s signature stood out from the others like a silver beacon.
Why did Obito let them go away? They were trouble, for sure. Self-preservation demanded for him to kill them all—even if he had decided to let Kakashi live a little longer before the end.
What difference would three wizards and an apprentice do in the end? They wouldn’t tip the scales of the war, for sure.
That’s what his rational part told him. But Obito wasn’t oblivious enough to ignore that there was a part of himself, a tiny annoying righteous part from his past self, that kept screaming that they were comrades, that fighting against them was wrong.
It didn’t matter anyway. His plans were set and the future was going to bring a radical change. Konoha would be rebuilt to the roots, and the rest of the Order’s villages too. Only fate knew who would be alive at the end.
There were interesting times ahead of them. Obito turned and got back inside the tower. He sat down on the Throne, and got lost in his thoughts of the new world to come.