Chapter Fifty Seven ~ Pain

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I watch carefully as the two sparred in close combat. Naruto was good—better than ever before—but I didn't think he could beat Pain alone. Not as he currently was. Which was why I was here, ready to interfere at the opportune moment.

Just as Naruto was about to get the upper hand, Pain lifted his arm, and Naruto's body flung towards Pain's lifted hand. In that moment, I used the enemy's gravitational pull to speed my movement.

I slashed downward at his arm before his hand could grasp Naruto's throat. The scenario, however, did not work out as I had expected. With reflexes faster than lightning, the puppet had taken my actions into account, and positioned his body so that my blade would swing right through Naruto's shoulder.

I narrowed my eyes and manipulated my own momentum, twisting and releasing the blade that would have severed Naruto's arm. It flung out of sight as I landed in a feral position, low on the ground, scowling. Thankfully though, Naruto's shoulder had only been grazed by the blade, not severed.

Instead of acting in his normal, foolish manner, Naruto ignored the wound and narrowed his eyes at me. It was obvious he would like to shout at me, but the priority focus was the enemy who currently had his hand grasped around Naruto's throat. "Get out of here," Naruto rasped through his constricted airways.

Pain took this opportunity to slam Naruto down, stabbing a metal rod right straight through his hands. Naruto flinched and gasped in pain, but kept his focus on me. Through grit teeth, he said again, "Get...out--" I launched myself at Pain, ignoring Naruto. While he did seem changed, more mature and much more powerful, I didn't—I would never—take orders from him. I wouldn't have Naruto to distract Pain anymore, so I would have to find a new strategy of attack. For now, I would have to depend on my physical prowess.

Pain stuck another rod in the side of Naruto's body, and he yelled out in agony again. I advanced faster than a normal eye would be able to perceive, switching gears. Almost without my awareness, encouraged by adrenaline and injuries and facing an opponent so much stronger than me, I reverted back into Claw mode: attack, attack, attack. Pay no mind to blows received, damage inflicted. Continue to attack. The damage sustained would be worth it, if—

Aiden and Aisa's face flashed trough my mind, and, unwillingly, briefly, I wondered what they would do if I died here. Acting like a Claw. My self-preservation lowered to nothing in my bid to gain some ground against a much more powerful opponent. Would they understand? It was either maybe survive here, fighting against someone who could destroy me if I made the smallest mistake, or definitely die when Naruto failed alone and the puppet got the chance to make another massive attack.

I paid for my moment of distraction dearly, receiving a kick to the thigh that immediately cramped my muscles, making every step agony. My cracked ribs hurt like a bitch, blood trailed from my scalp down my face, getting in my eyes (why did head wound always bleed so much?), and there were numerous other small wounds that, as a whole, were hampering my movements.

I had to find a way to turn his ability to my advantage; the only blow I'd managed to land was a slice on his upper arm, and it wasn't effecting him at all. I was too low on chakra from my initial fight; I couldn't use ninjutsu in fear of collapsing from chakra exhaustion. Right now, I desperately needed some sort of distraction, or backup. I thought Kakashi would have sent someone, if not come down himself, despite the fact he had been nearly dead less than half an hour ago. I wondered if he'd passed out again.

Then, I sensed an approaching chakra, and despite the blood coating my face, I smirked. Just what I needed: a distraction.

Of course, Hinata was basically useless. Her strengths did not amount to anything when compared to Pain. I'd always regarded her as so much wasted potential, with her kekkei genkai and all. Never the less, she was exactly what I needed; someone weaker who Pain would focus on taking out quickly before refocusing on me. It would give me time to formulate an effective plan against Pain. No one would have come to my aid, if they hadn't come yet; they must have been explicitly instructed to stay away. Hinata, however... Her not so secret love for Naruto had finally proved useful.

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