Author's Intro: Ah, here I am writing another Naruto Fanfic, why do I keep doing this? Oh right, because I can't make the ideas leave my brain alone for long enough. Also, because Kishimoto keeps giving all of us fanfic writers such great opportunities. Hey, look, suddenly we all have three years to play with, no I don't have an excuse. So, that caused this story to get written.
First, apologies to anyone who had read part of my aborted story Storm Chains, that got kind of abandoned in the transition from summer to school, and I've since decided it was too big in concept to handle. This piece however got started over Thanksgiving, and so far I've finished all the long works I started over Thanksgiving. Anyone who did read any of my other stories will recognize some elements from those when they show up. Things have been slightly altered because this piece is not meant to be compatible with those, but the source ideas remain the same.
Regardless, this piece is an attempt to expand the world of Naruto a little by taking a look at what ninja from other villages, specifically the Hidden Mist village, might do when they learn a bit about Orochimaru's and the Akatsuki's plans. Almost all characters, events, localities, and techniques will be original, but the backdrop will be based fully on what has been revealed so far in the manga. This is also likely to be rather dark, the ninja of my vision of the Naruto world are not nearly as nice as the Leaf's, and these are not happy times. So, if that doesn't interest you, you've been warned.
Like all writers, reviews, both good and bad, are always appreciated and help to keep the story going.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, or any portion thereof, and make no claims on its copyright. However, all original characters and events are my own property.Prologue- The Great Traitor
(Six Years Prior to Current Manga Date)
In poetic versions of history it was called 'the day the shark turned his back on the sea.' More realistic observers had a somewhat less epic vision of the events, but they nevertheless acknowledged it was a terrible incident. For those personally associated with the events of that day it was neither of these things, but simply a most evil deed born from failure and resulting in tragedy.
Regardless of what the specifics were there was no one in the whole ninja village of Hidden Mist who considered this specific incident as anything but a case of self-serving and disgusting treachery.
Such were the memories of the day Hoshigake Kisame left the village.
As most momentous incidents do this one began quietly, under the awareness of a bare few people. A single conversation served as the trigger, one witnessed by only three men. It was a quiet conversation, but that's generally the only kind of conversation important ninja conduct. If such a person raises their voice it is a sign they have lost control, among powerful ninja this is a clear sign to the wise that the time to strike has come.
Yet a skilled ninja can be filled with murderous hatred and never lose even the slightest bit of control.
Still, Kisame enjoyed letting his anger show on his face. It scared others, made them terrified deep in their blood. He took a predatory satisfaction in seeing others look upon him as a killer. The shark features infecting his face and skin normally made this easy. A man with blue-scaled skin, bright gill slits slashed into the cheeks, pointed and sharpened teeth lacking even the slightest interest in vegetative matter, and soulless eyes devoid of pigment could not be mistaken for a normal human by even the least observant. Shark essence consumed the blood of Kisame and his kin, and he reveled in its frightful predatory alien-ness. Other humans were merely prey to one of his gifts, and he took a deep and hungry satisfaction in seeing it displayed in the recognition of others.
So it only fanned Kisame's anger that he was having no effect on the two men before him.
They sat across from Kisame at the low tea table. Steaming cups sat in front of each man, but neither had touched them. With baleful eyes and measured words they spoke, dictating things of great importance in Hidden Mist. These two men, of all the many hundreds of ninja in the village, outranked Kisame and had greater personal skill than the shark-blooded ninja: Mizukage and his Warlord, Akai.
Kisame considered himself a shark, a predator of exquisite personal skill, a precise creature honed to killing perfection. Perhaps he was, but if so Mizukage was beyond him, a whirlpool capable of stillness, motion, or abject destruction. Of an age with Kisame and Akai, the current Mizukage had risen to power in the great bloodline purges. He was a ninja of great strength and depth. Supremely talented in combat he was also a cunning leader with knowledge of manipulation and politics. Mizukage had built the ninja of Mist into a strong and deadly force through cold pragmatism. Merciless as the ocean, he was likewise unmovable and potent, but never cruel. Kisame despised his leader for several reasons, but never once thought the other ninja weak. Yet it was not Mizukage who worried Kisame, he met those dark brown eyes with his own cold and empty stare, undaunted.
It was from the brutal brown darkness of the Warlord's eyes that Kisame kept his gaze, eyes so pigmented as to be all but black with fury. Though he would never admit it, even to himself, and hid it so well that even as skilled a reader of emotions as Mizukage could not see it, Akai was a man Kisame feared.
Fear came to Kisame from twin sources, primal and personal. He might be a shark, a honed predator without peer, but Akai was an Orca. In the sea of Mist all were vulnerable to the Warlord, unmatched on the scale of raw destructiveness. Unswervingly loyal to his pack alpha, the Mizukage, no one else was beyond his reach. Yet unlike his master Akai was indeed a cruel man, and he had made it clear he believed Mist would be better served by his erstwhile comrade's death, and would do the deed himself if given the order.
The insinuation was clear in Akai's words now. "The results of the last mission were not acceptable, Kisame," Akai began, following an appropriate passage of time to signify the supposed drinking of tea. The Warlord was directly confrontational, not sparing his words, a legacy of his service on the battlefield.
Kisaem shot back just as quickly. "How so? I was successful in every aspect assigned," his anger, so obvious on his face, was completely absent from his words, though the shark-like voice could never be considered pleasant.
"Indeed you did," Akai acknowledged. "However, your failure in other areas outweighs those accomplishments by a wide margin."
"Outweighs?" Kisame was genuinely somewhat puzzled by the remark. "You've told me yourself time and again that completing the mission is paramount."
Sensing the opening, Akai seized it. He never lost an opportunity to take forceful command of a conversation. "It has taken a lot of work for you to come to understand such a simple thing, Kisame. I had hoped you might have absorbed why, but no, you have chosen to engage in activities that compromise this village's security even the youngest genin novice should know to avoid."
Kisame fumed silently, Akai's speech was measured, if undercut by the Warlord's inherent cruelty, using his remarks as sharp barbs. He gave no openings for Kisame to defend himself, conducting speech as if it was a battlefield. "Your actions have consistently revealed you Kisame," Akai continued. "Notably through a use of force that must be termed excessive even in the most tolerant of scales. This last mission you completed certainly, but you left ten ninja dead who could easily have been circumvented. Furthermore, you killed them using your highly recognizable personal sword style, leaving no doubt that you, and thus Hidden Mist, were responsible for those actions. You have compromised the secrecy necessary for ninja operations and invited retaliation."
"Is it not a good thing when our enemies fear us?" Kisame asked with a predator's grin.
"Yes, it is," Akai admitted without conceding anything. "Fear is an essential tool of the ninja, alongside stealth it is our most important tool, but it must be a certain kind of fear. Ninja must be feared as nameless workers in the shadows, never seen and completely unstoppable and unknowable. If they put a face to us it inspires retaliation, gives them something to hate."
"Then we should make them fear us more," Kisame replied.
"Unfortunately that is not within our power," Mizukage spoke for the first time. "If we were the sole ninja force in the world there would be merit to such an approach, but we are not alone. This incident will bear out a substantial cost in political and diplomatic repercussions. Additionally, though it was the most severe to date it was hardly the first. Regretfully Kisame, you have a history of making such mistakes as this. Another incident of this kind cannot be allowed."
"So what are you going to do, Mizukage?" Kisame laced his reply with barely acceptable hidden sarcasm.
"The necessary thing," came the simple answer. "I am going to take steps to prevent this from happening. Since you have proven you cannot curtail your own actions Kisame, we are forced to control them for you. Therefore, I am removing you from the roster for all missions."
"What!" Kisame did lose control here, and interjected an outburst.
Mizukage made no motion, but simply looked at the other ninja and Kisame said nothing more.
"You will no longer be serving missions beyond this village, but will instead be assigned to conducting the defense of Mist itself, and of course in time of war your skills will be heavily used. I acknowledge your substantial skills Kisame, and I do not intend to waste them, but your actions during missions have made you a liability I cannot afford there," Mizukage laid out his command. "Before you say anything, this is not open for discussion. You have made a mistake, and you will now bear the consequences. That is all."
"You'll regret doing this to me," Kisame spat.
"Perhaps," Mizukage replied levelly. "There is always a chance to make the wrong decision, but there is simply no option to let things continue as they are now." He paused, and then stood. "You have heard my decision Kisame, report to my office tomorrow to receive your full duties. You are dismissed."
Kisame rose swiftly, anger livid on his face, his gill slits burning red with his wrath, but he said nothing more, simply hefted his great sword Sameheda and walked out.
After he left Akai turned to his leader. "I still say we should get rid of him."
"I have no cause to justify such an action to his family and the village, and there is no way to remove him quietly," came the even-toned answer. "Besides Akai, besides you and me he is the strongest of us, and I cannot throw away such strength. Should a war come, Kisame would be invaluable. For now I must simply make certain he settles into his new role."
The ninja village of Hidden Mist is located on a small coastal island, off the shore of the great island that comprises the Water Country. It is a secure location, with only a few landing points and high, steep cliffs around much of the edge. A bridge connects the island with the shore, but the ninja have rigged it to collapse and keep it guarded at all times. With their security thus ensured against most threats the Mist ninja are sometimes lax in their watchfulness for those who might try to infiltrate their island, or those who are leaving.
A great monsoon only a week past had formed a grand sandbar near one of the small landing points, creating a spit of shallow water that extended much of the way to the mainland. As yet few knew of it, a minor oversight, and not one threatening to Mist's overall security, since a foreigner would almost certainly have missed it. This oversight would be responsible for a great tragedy, for Hoshigake Kisame knew of the sandbar's existence, and he had made swift plans after Mizukage's pronouncement.
Akai had not been naive, he suspected Kisame might try any number of foolish schemes to engineer his release from the restrictive order, and so a ninja was ordered to watch Kisame. This ninja was competent, but hardly high class, truly skilled ninja had better things to do. So when Kisame went down toward one of the docks his shadow lost track of him for a time and was not very concerned, knowing that even one blessed by shark blood could not swim to the mainland from such a distance, and the ships were barred to him.
It was an unfortunate mistake. One Kisame had counted on. He crept away from the docks with openness, appearing to simply be walking about the cliffs, something he had done commonly for training, so no one present there remarked it. From there he slid between rocks and then reached the concealed sandbar, his feet touching sand beneath only a few bare inches of water. Only a shark would know this place was here, he thought as he fled.
Had his escape been so simple the day would not have been remembered with the importance it held, but Kisame found he was not the only one on the sandbar.
Only a shark would have found the place, but Kisame was not the only shark in Mist.
Crack! The sound struck through the air, jolting Kisame like a bolt of lightning. Crack! Again the sound came, and repeatedly, with rhythm, the surging sounds of ninja sparring with wooden weapons. Kisame looked out and saw two others before him, both ninja, one a young man, the other a boy of ten years. Both had the pale blue sharkskin, gill slits, and empty eyes of Kisame. Other members of the Hoshigake family practiced here.
The sandbar was thin and open, there was no use for stealth here, and so Kisame came forward easily, walking steadily. He was revealed instantly.
With shock the two men turned, and Kisame saw and recognized them from the spears they held, his cousins. The older one was an ANBU member, Hoshigake Naki, the boy a newly made genin, Hoshigake Ise.
Naki saw Kisame and a look of dread spread across his face. He had heard the ruling passed down from Mizukage earlier that day. It was not hard for him to guess what his uncle was doing, and he knew the consequences. Smoothly he grasped the wooden spear haft in steady hands and spun. The spear twirled and with a swift hand Naki unwrapped the cloth binding masking the bright steel spearhead. He held the weapon before him, ready.
The younger Ise saw this in shock, his brother barring steel as Kisame approached. It confused him, for he did not understand what was happening. My uncle is a terrible man, I know, he thought, but we are all family, why are weapons drawn? Kisame taking the great sword Sameheda from his back punctuated his thought. The weapon was a masterful device, as tall as Kisame's own great height, and crafted not as a blade, but as a shark's skin is, a ruthless construction of seamless shearing teeth, able to rip flesh clear to the bone with a single stroke.
"What are you doing here Kisame?" Naki called, foregoing the use of 'uncle,' knowing that he faced the other man as a ninja, and not as a family member.
Kisame did not mince words. "I'm leaving." He spat. "Get out of my way now and I'll let you live, for the blood's sake."
Naki swallowed, and he knew what he had to do.
Ise, standing behind his brother suddenly grasped the situation. "Uncle no!" He shouted, voice straining with fear. Naki will die! His mind screamed silently.
"Quiet Ise," Naki said, placing his right hand on Ise's shoulder. Then he whispered. "When I give the word, run as fast as you can, get help. He can't be let leave."
"I said get out of the way!" Kisame howled, and he raised Sameheda.
"You will not leave this village while I breathe," Naki said in steady tones, though Ise heard his brother's ragged breathing like thunder in his ears. "I will uphold the orders of Mizukage."
"Then you will die!" Kisame showed no remorse, but smiled as a cruel predator, and he charged.
"Run Ise!" Naki shouted, and slammed his brother to the side. Naki leapt left, to the very edge of the sandbar, and hastily his hands shot through a sequence of seals, gathering chakra together, and sending it streaming into the water around him. "Water Element: Sweeping Breaker no Jutsu!"
The sea rose up before Naki, taking the form of a crashing wave that rose up three times the height of a man and surged down upon Kisame.
Sameheda slammed down into the sandbar and Kisame's hand sflashed through their own seal sequence. "Water Element: Water Shark Missile!"
Surging with terrible force a shark-shaped form of water blasted up from about Kisame's feet to slam into the oncoming wave and smash it apart. The scouring blast of water continued through to slam into Naki, knocking him to the surf. He was up a moment later, unharmed, for the force of the blast had mostly dissipated against his own jutsu, and the water around him had cushioned his fall.
There was not a moment more, for Kisame was on him then, Sameheda slashing in with terrible force, the tall shark ninja able to wield the massive blade in one hand due to his tremendous strength, and with great speed as well. Naki dared not take the blade across the haft of his spear, but knocked it aside with the butt of the weapon, and circled around. Kisame came back just as quickly, striking from above and then below, and Naki was thrown off balance, knowing it was only a matter of time. He counter-struck low, a jab at the knees forcing Kiame back for a moment, and letting Naki dare a glance toward the island. Yes! Elation surged in him. Run Ise! Run fast as the waves, and all may not be lost!
Ise ran, never once looking back. He was young, but he was a ninja, he understood what was happening. Kisame was among the village's strongest ninja. Brother will die! He could feel it is his bones and shark-tinged blood. I must hurry. I must hurry!
From the sandbar Ise came leaping over the rocks, his loose gray hair flying wild in the wind, and his eyes blinded by the madness of running. So it was that he ran almost full tilt into another man who appeared before him in the docks with eye blink suddenness. Ise slammed to a stop and the breath slammed from his body, so before he could speak his head jerked around, looking desperately. The man before him was tall as Kisame and wore a sword of equal length, inspiring a moment of terror when images of Naki dead flashed through Ise's mind as he thought his uncle had come to slay him, but then he saw the eyes. Black not white…the Warlord!
"What is going on genin?" Akai asked with impatience.
"My brother!" Ise screamed. "He's going to kill Naki!"
"What?" and for an instant the Warlord's face was colored in confusion, and then it was gone as his mind connected the pieces of the puzzle almost instantly. "That traitor!" He growled with terrible force. "Where boy!"
"The sandbar!" Ise pointed with a shaking hand.
"Show me, now!" Akai demanded, and he all but threw Ise forward.
The return passed in mere moments of breathlessness, but to Ise each one seemed and eternity, for with every scourging step he saw an image of Naki slashed apart by Sameheda before his eyes.
He reached the sandbar in time only to see it all come crashing down.
With a roar of triumph the great sword slashed across, shark teeth shearing away sharkskin, and flesh and bone, leaving Hoshigake Naki a dismembered body bleeding into sea and sand.
"Brother!" Ise howled in agony. Not so soon as his lungs had emptied he screamed again. "I'll kill you uncle!"
Kisame turned with a brutal grin formed of sharpened teeth. "Foolish boy, come here and…" The taunt never finished as Kisame's face went pale as he saw the man who stood next to the young genin. The tall and muscled figure of cold face was the one Kisame most dreaded to see now.
Akai put a hand on Ise's arm, holding him back. To Kisame he spoke. "There is but one fate for traitors Kisame. Death!" His right hand went back and he drew forth his own great sword, a massive blade whose edge waved back and forth, an image of the sea's motion. "You've cost us a good ninja, and so you die now."
Kisame raised Sameheda. "Try it lapdog."
Akai leapt forward.
The Warlord came in high, both hands on his sword, the blade in a mighty down-stroke. Kisame blocked, but the force of the blow was massive and he was forced to scamper backwards over unsteady sand. He grabbed Sameheda in his left hand and brought it around for a swift blow to wad off his opponent, but Akai blocked it and sent Kisame reeling backwards, sword out of position.
Knowing he could not block now Kisame changed tactics. "Water Element: Wave Blade no Jutsu!" The waves all about both fighters formed into knife-edges and surged toward Akai's legs.
"Heh, foolish," the Warlord spat, and countered swiftly. "Water Element: Whirlwind Wave Blast!"
In a circle about Akai the water roiled and surged, and then blasted upwards and outwards, and surging tower of spinning water that traveled outward and smashed apart everything in its path. The bladed waves dissipated uselessly as it swept over it and Kisame had time only to raise Sameheda before him in a desperation blocking maneuver and the blast crashed about him. A moving wall of water struck him head on.
Kisame's vision cleared a moment after the immense blast finished, and he whirled, bringing Sameheda around in a wide arc.
"Too slow," Akai's voice announced coldly. "You've been bruised enough you won't be able to dodge in this footing." He raised his sword in both hands again. "Good, since you can't block me." The Warlord's hands moved with a violent suddenness, and his sword moved.
Akai's hands moved with a steady motion, and his massive sword, over six feet of blade, just like his height, whirled in midair even as it traveled in sweeping arcs. A living buzzsaw was revealed, the true terror of the man who was the best of Mist's Seven Swordsman, Akai of the Spinning Sword.
The Warlord advanced and spun his blade around, brutally fast; so quick Ise, watching the two men fight, could hardly follow. Kisame, knowing blocking would only ruin his own precious weapon, tried to pivot aside, but was not fast enough. His right leg slipped against the sand, and for a moment the edge of Akai's blade spun over it.
The results were horrific. One moment Kisame's thigh was normal, the next it was a mass of blood and torn muscle. The shark-blooded ninja stifled a cry, but could not contain a shocked grunt.
"Now you die, traitor." Akai proclaimed.
"No," Kisame grinned with a sickening pleasure. He rolled backwards, buying a brief moment of space and sheathing Sameheda over his back in the process. "You won't get me." He brought his hands together into a single seal. "Shark Frenzy Waves."
Forbidden! Akai and Ise thought as one. Then the sea exploded.
Water went everywhere, blasting in every direction, fighting itself in a desperate attempt to smash everything nearby. The fury was tremendous.
"Water Element: Water Wall no Jutsu!" Akai protected himself behind a wall of water, forming a solid cube about him even as great blasts of crazed ocean smashed against it. Ise leapt high, back to the rocks, and avoided the strike, but he saw the results.
Kisame was struck full bore by the maddening technique, which saw neither friend nor foe, and he was picked into the sea, but the greater affect was had upon the sandbar. Water surged and struck everywhere about it, and as by the time his water wall dissipated Akai found himself swimming. Kisame was several hundred yards away, having swum underwater the whole time, for he could breathe through his gills, and never surface.
"Goodbye Warlord!" Kisame called. "You'll never catch me now!"
"Damn you traitor!" Akai shouted in anger. "This will not be forgotten, you will die for this treachery!" Yet even as he shouted the Warlord knew it was useless. Though he could use his chakra to run across the water, it would only work for a short distance. Kisame could swim with the speed of a shark, and with such a lead as he had would not be caught. Akai would send out searchers to prowl the shore, but he already knew Kisame would escape them; the man was far too skilled to be caught that way. I should have killed him when I had the chance. Akai decided. Mizukage, it seems we are to regret this decision, the shark man was mad. We should have remembered better, the bloodlines can never be trusted. With resolve he made one final decision. Don't think you can escape Kisame, it will be at Mist hands that you die, I swear it.
Akai swam back to the shore slowly. There on the rocks he saw the boy Ise standing stock-still. As he walked up to the boy the young ninja whispered a single sentence. "My brother is dead."
"Yes," Akai answered simply.
"My uncle killed him," Ise said slowly. "My uncle is a traitor."
"Indeed," Akai replied.
"There is only one fate for traitors," Ise spoke with the voice of the ageless shark now, not as a ten-year-old boy. "I will kill my uncle," Ise said with terrible finality.
The Warlord looked down at the boy. This one is also a shark, and he has potential, or so it has been said. Cunning and cruel was Akai's mind, trained by years of hellish warfare and battle. He saw an opportunity. "Should you get the chance, see that you do." He told Ise. Then he went to share the news with Mizukage.