Chapter 10: Rot

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"Am I dead?" Naruto spoke as he found himself standing in a pool of darkness, not an ounce of light could be seen in any direction that Naruto turned. 

"No," A voice spoke up. Their voice was soft and held a twinge of sadness to it. "You stand between the gates of life and death once more." Naruto turned to the direction where the voice was coming from, only to see nothing but the empty abyss he currently resided in. 

He knew what the voice was talking about when it said 'again'. He had come close to death once during the 4th War where he met the Sage of Six Paths and gained his Six Paths Sage Chakra. He had almost died while losing Kurama and was saved by Sakura, who had manually pumped his heart to continue on. 

He snorted at the thought. He had failed, her saving his life was nothing but a useless endeavor. He had still died along with everyone else, Sakura saving him did nothing but delay the inevitable. 

"Why am I here?" Naruto asked the darkness. 

"To learn," The voice answered. "To collect, and to repurpose yourself." 

"My purpose in life is simple!" He shouted loudly. 

"Is it? You wish to change the future, but what was your goal before that? What did you yearn for more than anything else before the war? Before you died?" Naruto was quiet. "Peace, right? You wanted to bring the peace that Jiraiya had envisioned, you swore to Nagato that you would bring peace, right?" 

"I failed," Naruto whispered bitterly. "I failed Nagato and I failed Jiraiya." 

"And whose fault is that?" The voice whispered as if right in his ear. Naruto's fist tightened as he felt his grind against one another. 

"Mine." 

"Correct," The voice said as a hand grabbed Naruto by the shoulder from behind and pulled him back, causing the blonde to lose his balance and tumble backward into the floor of nothingness. As he hit it, the world around him shattered as a mirror would to a hammer. 

He fell through the abyss and into a plane of white. He hit the ground with a thud though he wasn't hurt in the slightest. He quickly sat up but the plane of pure white was now gone, replaced by grey smoke. 

"You couldn't save them," The voice spoke as the smoke suddenly cleared, revealing a battlefield. Naruto's eyes widened suddenly. 

The corpses of his friends and comrades littered the ground of the battlefield, their bodies covered with cuts and holes, motionless on the blood-soaked dirt. "What is this?" Naruto whispered in a horrified tone. 

"A reminder," The voice spoke. A pair of arms wrapped seductively around Naruto's neck, but the arms were just that; arms. No body or owner of such arms, just the two appendages. "Of what has happened before." 

"Stop it," Naruto whispered weakly as he watched Madara clad in his white Sage of Six Paths cloak stepping on his friends corpses, an evil smirk on his face as he did so. His Rinnegan eyes glowed brightly as they met Naruto's own blue, paralyzing the blonde as he found himself in darkness again. 

"He will rise again. . ." 

"NO HE WON'T!" Naruto shouted, gripping his hair as tears streamed down his face. "I won't let him kill those I care about anymore. I won't let him ruin my life!" 

"You are truly a selfish being, Naruto Uzumaki!" The voice exclaimed in a twinge of amazement. "You're a tragic, selfish hero. You want everything yet so far you have saved nothing. Everything remains the same except for one thing and even then you know that wasn't the root of the problem." 

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