Chapter 22: Gaara of the Abyss vs Naruto of the Leaf
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"You're dead!" Naruto, who recognised Gaara to be a Jinchuriki after being informed by Kurama, put all that anxiety he felt down as punched again. This time sending his opponent flying... apparently.

In fact, Gaara wanted to find a better place for them to go all out as he didn't want to alert the Hidden Leaf. The spiky-haired knucklehead gave chase as Kabuto kept a close eye from a distance.

There was a lot of data that could be gathered from watching two Jinchuriki fight. He had kept an eye on Naruto once before, but for some reason he could feel the kid's 'presence' as different from before. As if monumental event occurred without his knowledge... He wanted to see just what is it that made that knucklehead so physically capable.

Naruto is unconfident if his current training right now was enough... Although he was now under the tutelage of a Great Sannin, he had yet to master the Rasengan or even had actual battle experience.

Gaara didn't speak anything. Once he found a good place, he let his actions do the talking.

A volatile Chakra arose over his body as he released his Tailed Beast Cloak, a staple ability that any Jinchuriki was capable pf producing once they tapped into their Tailed Beast's enormous power.

Normally, the red chakra would stay as a 'cloak' around a Jinchuriki's body to protect them and increase their physical might. However, Gaara's seemed different as it was sucked into the gourd of sand on his back, causing it to gain red tattoos.

"Kid, watch out. He has better Chakra Control than you right now." Kurama spoke from within him.

"Are you going to hold back? I thought you wanted to protect that pink-haired girl." Gaara provoked as he wanted to test the limits of his power. His hand gesturing towards Naruto as the sand behind him turned into spikes that shot at his opponent.

"Do it. You focus on attack, and I'll focus on defence." The Nine Tails spoke with fighting spirit.

Before the spikes could hit him, Naruto weaved the hand signs of the Multi Shadow Clone Jutsu and replicated himself a hundredfold. He surrounded Gaara with his clones before slipping away, the real him forming a Mini Tailed Beast Bomb secretly.

Kabuto was leisurely eating snacks while watching the duo fight. His eyes shining under his glasses.

"Uzumaki Tactics- Hundred Clone Fist Barrage!" A almost chuuni voice escaped the lips of all those cloned knuckleheads as they synergistically worked as a single entity to fight their opponent.

Gaara was a little caught off guard, but he reacted fast by forming an absolute defence. The sands cocooned him and took the brunt of the enhanced strikes that were filled with great chakra. Naruto's own 'Power Fist' wasn't to be underestimated as each one of these clone had a higher punching power than even Sakura despite being clones.

The 'absolute defence' shook, but Gaara wasn't the type to be beaten so easily. The clones easily found themselves being pierced by sand spikes as soon as they let their guard down. Their opponent had full mobility despite being covered in a shell!

[Personal Jutsu- Slaughtering Sand!]

Gaara weaved hand seals from within the cocoon before manipulating it to attack. The clones couldn't handles the 'countering' nature of his retaliation and disappeared in droves. This was the opportunity the knucklehead was waiting for!

As the cocoon of sand was busy focusing fully on his clones, he dropped from the sky with a Mini Tailed Beast Bomb on hand. The of it slowly enlarged before the drove it into the sand cocoon.

An explosion far beyond anything that he had ever seen before happened at that moment. He broke through the cocoon and was about to beat the crap out of the redhead inside, but was shocked to find the sand cocoon defence was actually empty.

"You finally showed yourself...!" A creepy voice entered his ear before a sand spear struck straight towards his spine. Naruto didn't have the time to dodge as the lethal weapon of sand approached.

His Chakra released at a breakneck speed to form his own red Tailed Beast Cloak, but this one was different from Gaara's 'sand cloak' as it seemed to move on its own violation using Kurama's will.

Red bodied, featureless clone of the knucklehead formed out of his back and grabbed the sand spear. Even Gaara felt his heart shake as he realised that Naruto had 'tamed' his inner Beast.

Even though he once thought of himself as someone with great hatred, that seemed like a candle in front of the giant inferno of wrath he could sense from Kurama. Yet still, its appearance didn't seem to corrode Naruto's mind at all...

The bloodthirsty youth's face was still stoic as he ignored any apprehensions to push the sand spear with more strength. One palm pointed towards Naruto as the 'Fox Cloak' was slowly pushed back by the overwhelming force. This wasn't a contest of chakra but the ability to manipulate it, and as someone who had grown in a less than peaceful village, Gaara honed as a perfect 'ninja tool'.

A blackness started covering his skin as his Curse Seal provided him with more power. His other hand made a clenching motion as the Jutsu he was using changed as soon as it hit the Fox Cloak.

[Sand Style- Empyrean Tomb!]

The sand within the 'cocoon' that Naruto was standing on rose to cover his body. He wanted to resist, but the sands were like water as they ignored his strength and covered him entirely.

Gaara roared as the fingers of his hands almost touched together. He could feel that in between than was a projection of Naruto and the Nine Tails within it. Even so, his eyes were ruthless as he made the sands around them constrict his enemy.

The knucklehead ninja felt suffocation as he struggled against the pressure around him, but the pressuring sands trying to crush him seemed to ignore his physical strength and Fox Cloak as it constricted. His bones creaked as his body started to buckle under the pressure. Though his eyes hadn't lost fighting as he gave an idea to Kurama.

The Fox Cloak that looked like a humanoid figure of solidified flames shot out of the 'tomb' in an unexpected way to attack Gaara! Its dark red claws descended towards the youth at full speed!

In the darkness within the sand tomb, Naruto heard a slashing sound before feeling his strength being sealed up by the sands around him. He panicked as the Chakra was restrained back into his body.

Light hit eyes as the layer of sand uncovered his face. When he looked at his opponent, a chill ran down his spine as he saw Gaara look right back. A trail of blood ran down the youth's injured chest.

"You've lost." The eerie youth spoke with certainty.

Now that Naruto was within his grip, he could easily crush him like a fly. Naruto's immense Chakra didn't matter once inside his tomb, as it contained some of the sealing powers that had been incorporated into his Curse Mark of the Abyss. Despite having the upper hand, there was a question he had meaning to ask that had nothing to do with how Naruto gained his current strength.

"Is it worth it?" He asked, his eyes locked onto him.

"Is what worth it?"

"You are a Jinchuriki, and I know your pain as well as you know mine. Is it worth risking yourself for those who have mistreated you?" Gaara himself didn't know why he felt the need to clarify this.

"..." Although he was tempted to blurt out that he was just protecting his friends, he knew the similar kid before him wouldn't be satisfied with answer like that... This had nothing to do with 'friendship'.

Naruto could sense a deep loathing for humanity within Gaara using his 'aura sense'. He didn't need to exchange hundreds of words to see the scars festering in the youth's heart that were far more than his own. It was as if the boy was a broken puppet... One that had never truly understood friendship, but DID understand what it felt to be loved and betrayed by those he cared for in turn.

He could picture himself with friends, then picture Gaara with no one. At least, this was the youth's perspective. He couldn't understand how Jinchuriki like them could ever trust another person like him.

Then Naruto thought back to Sakura...

At first, his feelings for her was as shallow as they could get. The first time he met her, the sole reason he wanted to get close to her was solely because of finding her to be 'pretty'. There was no deeper reason to why he was attached to her.

But as time went on, those feelings started to change the more he started to understand about her cute personality. How she got angry, how she acted coy, how she would disregard his 'status' and look at him like he was an actual human.

Perhaps it wasn't 'love at first sight' like those love stories he heard of, but it was a bond he cherished.

Then he thought of Sasuke. The rival he had acquired who he saw as an brother like no other.

When the three of them were together, he felt like they could rock the entire world and turn it upside down. A feeling of invincibility would arise in his heart as he believed they can overcome anything!

This was Team 7, the closest bonds he ever made!

It was after considering all this did he answer:

"It is. I would never betray my heart."

"...Nonsense. You are just brainwashed...!" Gaara could tell that there was a close relationship between this knucklehead and that pink-haired kunoichi, yet his heart couldn't accept the fact.

They were in the same circumstances, so why was only Naruto the only one fortunate enough to create close connections? Why is it that whenever he invested in someone, he would be betrayed...?

His heart twisted as he believed Naruto was only living in an illusion. He too would be betrayed by those bonds the same way Gaara had...! There was no escaping the role of a 'monster' they played!

"I might as well end you before you can suffer." The bloodlust in his eyes intensified at that moment.

Red liquid seeped out of the sand tomb as Naruto felt the blood in his body being squeezed out. He coughed up a mouthful of blood as the sounds of his arms being broken resounded in the air.

'Am I going to die...?' The images of Sakura, Sasuke, Kakashi, Pervy Sage, and even some of those classmates he finally became a little bit more closer to flashed in his mind. Then one memory in particular arose that made him more unwilling...

'I haven't... heard her answer yet...' The light in his eyes darkened as he started to lose consciousness from the pain. Kurama roared and struggled within him, but it was no use, the sands constricted heavily as Kabuto was about to jump him.

He couldn't have the Jinchuriki of the Nine Tails die without being of any use to his master. Perhaps even the Akatsuki would hunt him and his master down should Orochimaru have his hand in killing a precious Jinchuriki. They needed him to be alive.

Suddenly, he saw a giant blade fall towards him out of nowhere. He dodged to the side but was immediately stabbed by a few needles despite deflecting them with his kunai. A feel of intense danger arose in his heart as he escaped the area.

The duo gave chase as their Boss launched a kunai like a cannonball towards Gaara. He didn't even turn his head though as the sands around him automatically defended against the thrown weapon. His head turned to side, but what he didn't expect was a pink-haired figure would appear on the other side of him as if through teleportation. Then her foot kicked upwards.

Even though there seemed to be a certain 'blackness' improving his physical defence to a level she couldn't easily break, those hands he was using to crush Naruto were thrown in the air by the impact of her kick. Then she used the Formula Seal she planted on Naruto's jacket to get to where he was and left this place without looking back.

Her aim wasn't to defeat Gaara, but to get Naruto somewhere safe so she could personally heal his injuries. His body was too broken of a state to be left without immediate medical treatment on the spot. All the eerie youth saw after suddenly having his arms blown upwards was locks of pink hair...

'That girl...!' He recognised this hair colour, but before he could capture her, both her and the knucklehead disappeared, leaving him to be the only person standing in this isolated space.

'I WILL kill you.' Gaara thought as he headed back to the village covertly. His power was now at a level that the only people who could catch him were those who were similarly Jinchuriki. Now that he had injured the people he was with, the only thing he wanted to do now was quickly complete his 'job' before leaving the village of his own accord and returning back to the Hidden Sand. For revenge...!