Foreword: I know not everyone listens to music as they read or write, and I know my own choices tend to be hard to get for some people, but for those who enjoy a little background atmosphere when reading, I've included the story's soundtrack, and I'll be putting it before each new Part.
Scene One: Blue Gender - Preset
Scene Two: Trigun - No Beat
Scene Three/Five/Seven: Trigun - Never Could Have Been Worse
Scene Four/Six: Naruto - Heavy Violence
Part One: Strike the Sky
Introductions, Instigations and Inquiries
It took all of five seconds and one unexpected movement to end his dream of being a Hokage.
Two seconds for the approach, one for actual hit, another two to register what had happened.
Contrary to his increasingly persistent nightmares, it had not been a killing blow. In fact, it hadn't even knocked him out so much as it had brought him to his knees.
In some far too rational part of his completely irrational mind, something whispered to him that he should have seen it coming. After all, Iruka had always said that the smallest things are what kill or ruin most ninja. Everyone expected to have some grotesque killing technique levied at them at some point, and all of his peers had always gone for instant kills in every battle...
Well, almost all of them. Rational thought turned exceedingly bitter as the mental image of a Sound-nin being carted away from a total defeat. It was a thought that lasted all of a tenth of a second before a surge of blood drew his attention back to reality.
It was always the small things.
All but one of his fellow Genin had favored the direct approach, no matter what lengths they went to in order to achieve it. That approach was summed up in two simple words: Quick win. Or quick kill. Either worked, depending on the person.
Naruto had been the most direct out of all of his class. Perhaps Sasuke had occasionally rivaled him due to the Sharingan's ability to predict his opponent's moves, and if foriegners counted then Gaara's sister was definately close, but Naruto had always been the most blatantly direct. He went for the quickest win possible, and that generally meant hitting as hard and as fast as you could.
This way of thinking had caused him to forget something critical to any battle: Weapons are targets.
In his case, his right hand had been the target.
Jiraiya had blown it off at the wrist with a low-powered Rasengan.
And when it was all said and done, Naruto couldn't even bring himself to scream. He just stared at the blood-spewing stump where his hand used to be, jaws clenched so tightly that they almost threatened to hurt worse than his forearm. His eyes were widened and surprisingly dry, completely void of tears simply due to the shock of it all.
What was the point? A ninja with one hand was useless. Sure, he could try to get by on nothing but Rasengan, Taijutsu and the extreme basics like Kawarimi, but he wasn't a genius. He wasn't like that boy from the Hidden Mist who could do seals one-handed. He wasn't Rock Lee either.
So why was Jiraiya bothering to order him around?
"Get up, Naruto."
How did it all come to this?
The situation had changed so quickly that he had barely had any time to even think straight.
First they had arrived in a small city on the edge of the Thunder Country's territory. Then Jiraiya had wandered into a geisha house, having spotted a busty redhead giving him a come hither look. Naruto, being Naruto, had followed Jiraiya into said geisha house, regardless of the minor technicality that he was still underage for even being in the red light district. The guards at the door were so shocked by his brazen attitude and how stubbornly he followed Jiraiya into the building, bitching at every step about the man's worthlessness as a teacher, that they didn't even raise a blade to stop him.
Somewhere into it, things got... Interesting. To say the least.
Chiefly because at least fifteen women had come within a handhold of ripping his pants off and making a man out of him. He didn't mind the attention, but beneath nine layers of bravado, Uzumaki Naruto wanted to have his first time actually mean something.
By the time he had finally jumped out of a window, landed on someone else's balcony and then sprang up to the floor he knew Jiraiya would be on, it was already too late.
As he had been on at least one or two other occasions, the Frog-summoning lecher had been poisoned. Normally, as he was so fond of mentioning to people, women didn't get Jiraiya. Jiraiya got women.
In this case, the busty redhead had a sister, someone occupied the man's attention for a split second and when Naruto finally arrived with a crouch on the balcony, Jiraiya let out an obnoxious cackle before falling over backwards, completely unconscious.
Privately, Naruto had thanked God that Jiraiya was still fully clothed, because what happened next made things go from interesting downright chaos.
The two women, caught off guard by his arrival, ran out of the room screaming. A few seconds later, two Samurai and a dozen guards armed with quarterstaffs barged in. The fight to follow had been a nice way to blow off some built-up tension from earlier -- he put one man through a wall, two more through the floor, sent one of the Samurai flying over the balcony and knocked the rest of them out with an odd reversal of his usual Naruto Rendan. This time, he had been alone and his opponents had been many.
Not that it made much of a difference. After the fighting, the remaining Samurai was hanging with his head lodged into the ceiling and all the others were just plain unconscious. Naruto had then gone over to Jiraiya to grab him and drag him out of this place, and then...
Chaos turned to outright annoyance.
"Dropping your guard to retrieve a single wounded comrade is one of the first mistakes taught in any academy," someone had said, though the voice seemed to come from everywhere at once. All he could make out of it was that it was a man.
Then the roof of the casino across the street had exploded.
"My... M-my... My hand..." He was stuttering. Shock was starting to either wear off or really set in. Hard to tell which when all you can do is stare at your own blood spewing stump of what used to be a wrist.
"So what?" Jiraiya snorted at him.
"You blew off my hand!"
"Boo-fucking-hoo. Want me to kiss it and make it better?"
Jiraiya snorted again.
"Just because you're a powerhouse doesn't mean you're going to win every battle by simply overwhelming your opponent. Some of them will simply refuse to play by those rules, and if you can't adapt, you've got no point in living life as a ninja," the man replied with a feral tone to his voice.
Had any of his former students ever had to put up with this?
"I wasn't even using very much of my chakra and you had enough power to do that," his teacher-turned-mutilator said, obviously pointing at the thirty foot wide crater behind him. Naruto didn't bother to look. "But I still took you down like the rank amateur you are. If you had thought to do something similar against that Uchiha brat, we wouldn't need to be having this conversation right now."
This was the thanks he got?
"MOUNTAIN SAGE JIRAIYA! YOUR HEAD BELONGS TO ME!"
Between himself and four hastily summoned Kage Bunshin, Naruto was barely able to hurl the Frog-lecher's body out of the way without being killed in the process. Two Kage Bunshin had ripped the man from Naruto's shoulders, another had grabbed Naruto himself and yanked him out of the way and the last one leapt forward with a suicidal devotion to unspoken orders, trying to block the hit with its own body.
In the confusion of the moment, Naruto was hardly surprised when he heard a sound like thunder and an appropriate flash of light to go along with it. His Kage Bunshin crashed almost head-first into the sword blade of whoever was executing the technique, stopping both dead in their tracks before the thing vanished.
When Naruto slid to a halt on both feet and one hand, the first thing he saw upon swinging back around was the would-be assassin himself.
He was obviously a ninja. Black pants, a black sweatshirt and a dark grey Chuunin or Jounin's vest. He wore flat-soled geta sandals and black socks, as opposed to the boot-sandals of most ninja Naruto ran across. He had on a pair of fingerless gloves with metal plates on the back. A presently empty sword sheathe hung at his back, a traditional shuriken holster was on the right thigh and his head was almost entirely concealed behind a tight black mask.
The only features that Naruto could actually see were that his eyes were as cold and distant as the clouds and his hair, judging from the eyebrows, was solid blue. What little Naruto could see of the man's skin indicated that he was probably paler than Kakashi.
"Kage Bunshin," the man said appraisingly, glaring right at Naruto and seeming to forget his actual target for the moment. "What is your name, rank and age?"
"What's it to you?" Naruto shot back.
"I was going to compliment you, as you seem to be young, but now..."
The man swept his Katana up in both hands, assuming a tight stance with legs slightly bent and sword held to the side of his face, giving him a clear line of sight.
"I think I'm going to just kill you instead."
Naruto had to actually force a smirk. Somewhere in between trying to think up a comeback, figure out how in the hell he was going to get out of this one and realizing that the edge of that sword was still sparking with electric blue chakra, it occurred to him to look at the man's forehead protector. He only barely recognized it as belonging to the Hidden Cloud.
Before he could try to comment though, he was docking under a sword swipe that would have taken his head off. A Kage Bunshin jumped in to try and help, but the man was too fast and too precise. As the clone swooped in, Kunai in hand, the Cloud-nin shifted his stance. The knife hit the back of his sheathe and he spun around, simultaneously kicking Naruto in the jaw before laying in a shallow cut all the way down the Kage Bunshin's chest, vaporizing it instantly.
Naruto landed on both feet, upside down on the ceiling. One tiger seal later, his right hand shot up and two fingers halted just in front of his chin. Flames shot out from his mouth in a tight spread, and while it wasn't the fire of the Uchiha clan like Sasuke used, it was plenty in this situation. Even generic techniques pack plenty of power in close quarters.
His opponent dodged it with nothing but Kawarimi and an overturned floor-table. By the time Naruto had realized his mistake, the Cloud-nin was rebounding off the furthest wall and coming in fast with another sweep of his sword.
If he had been any later in jumping out of the way, he would've lost a leg.
His wrist was starting to burn. Blood bubbled, and Jiraiya let out a lazy sounding sigh of something that sounded almost like relief. Naruto spared him only a short glance, looking up and making eye contact before the man started laughing out loud. When he looked back down, blood was still spraying, but now seemed to be confined within the reaches of a familiar looking jagged claw made of pure red chakra.
A few seconds later, the urge to scream bloody murder overpowered him. His vision turned solid white, seering with pain as something cracked in his forearm. Not long after that, he doubled over and gnashed his teeth, and not long after that, he started beating his head into the ground to try and make the hurting stop.
When he rolled over again, he felt as if a thin layer of raw nerves had formed in the stump of his wrist. It was like they existed solely to give him the sensation of his arm ripping apart from the inside, stretched and warping and wanting to bulge in every direction at once. Jiraiya's laughter had died down, but amidst his own screaming, Naruto hadn't actually heard his teacher stop.
Finally, there was a stomach churning pop and his entire right side went viciously numb.
When Naruto landed, his opponent skidded to a halt on the ceiling and bounced off of it, coming right down at him with sword hald in a stabbing position.
Naruto was ready for it though. The remaining Kage Bunshin were too, and when the thrust came, one of them jumped in and crudely tackled the Cloud-nin right out of the air and into a wall, shattering it completely and exposing them all to the sight of a rather portly looking fellow currently being paddled by a very uncomfortable and frightened looking young woman.
The second Kage Bunshin appeared at his side. Almost as one, Naruto and his clone shot one hand each at one another, a mix of orange and yellow chakra immediately flowing between them. It was a refined version of his self-made shortcut to the full Rasengan, performed with himself providing the power and the Kage Bunshin helping to focus it. For all its complexity, he found this to be the easy version.
When the Kage Bunshin that had performed the tackle ceased to exist in a puff of smoke, the two ran forward in perfect step. Distance closed in an instant, and when the Cloud-nin was on his feet, Naruto and his second self both thrust their hands out, essentially seeking to plunge the Oodama Rasengan right into the man's chest and face.
As with before, it didn't go as planned.
The man ducked, slid forward with the grace of a cat and bolted upright with a spin. The hilt of his sword crashed into the side of Naruto's head so quickly that he barely even had time to register the miss. Simultaneously, he and the clone lost control of the Rasengan, and the attack detonated with a massive shockwave of a now-orange chakra. Both the fat man and his hapless geisha were spared mutilation or death only by virtue of being just outside the killing range. Even then, they were both blown into the far well.
Naruto himself slammed into the side of his last Kage Bunshin, sending them both into the nearest wall. For a second or so, he had the doppleganger as a shock absorber, but the force of the impact left it squashed into nothing but a puff of smoke far too quickly for his liking. It vanished half-way down the wall and Naruto was left skidding the rest of the way on his shoulder and face before hitting the wall seperating the room from the balcony and coming to a halt.
He couldn't win this.
When he finally regained both feeling and consciousness, it was almost nightfall. Jiraiya towered over him with an amused-but-satisfied look over his face. It hurt just to breathe, and he could smell the crusty stench of dried blood all over himself. It was a scent he had come to be used to, though he couldn't quite recall when or what situation had caused it to be so lodged into his memory. All he knew was that he recognized it on pure instinct, and he didn't like it because it usually meant something bad.
"You look like Hell, kid," Jiraiya pointed out with a grin that made Naruto want to deck him.
So he did.
A few seconds later, the pervert's oversized frame crashed into the dirt, skidded twenty feet and flipped over on his head before finally stopping with a distinct thud.
For all of a split second, Naruto felt an intense feeling of satisfaction.
Then it felt like his right forearm had caught fire. With a scream, he glared down and started blowing air on his hand...
And then it occurred to him: Jiraiya had blown his hand off not too long ago.
Naruto was so stunned that he didn't even blink until the Toad-Hermit finally scraped himself off the ground and started screaming obscenities about how unappreciative today's youth could be. Then, a few seconds later, both of them stopped and Jiraiya nonchalantly brushed dirt out of his hair, patted a red mark on the side of his face and shrugged it all off like nothing had ever happened to begin with. Then he waltzed over to Naruto and bent down to get a look at the new hand, which really, really should not have been there.
"Huh. Guess it really can heal you from a lost limb," the man pointed out. Naruto twitched.
"You blew off my hand and you didn't even know for sure if it'd heal?" He shouted, smacking Jiraiya again with the new limb, only to break out into another unbecoming scream at the utter burning sensation coursing throughout his right arm.
Jiraiya, in an entirely un-Jiraiya-like manner, took it in stride.
"I'm guessing the nerves are completely raw and tender still. It looked like the Kyuubi forged that out of pure chakra," he pointed out. "Obviously, that's gonna overload things a bit. Best to take it easy for a little while."
"Why did you do that?"
"To prove a point."
When he realized he couldn't win this fight, Naruto came to the equal realization that he had never been the target in the first place. Rational thought from a normally irrational mind did the rest.
Jiraiya was unconscious. The assassin had come for Jiraiya. Naruto couldn't beat the assassin, and Jiraiya was obviously not going to be of any help right now. There wasn't any point in staying, because this wasn't his fight in the first place. All he had to do was grab the old man and run like Hell.
The whole train of thought had taken all of a quarter of a second. During that time, the Cloud-nin had shifted into another stance. The sword's tip aimed at Naruto's chest, the entire weapon held close to its wielder's body. It looked unbearably awkward to him, but as he wasn't a swordsman, he wasn't about to question how lethal it was.
"What's your name?" He asked, trying to buy time.
"Chimi Tensho," the assassin identified himself, only to continue. "It's not my real name, but as you're about to die, you needn't concern yourself."
That was his opening. While Tensho wasted time explaining that it was only an alias, Naruto sprang into action.
Kage Bunshin and Kawarimi. It was all executed as quickly as he could manage it, first forming the clone with his hands performing the seal while seperated at his sides. It wasn't easy, but the technique was his specialty, and willpower alone made it work. The clone appeared in front of him instantly, but by then he had put most of his chakra into his legs and gave a hard push to the left.
As expected, Tensho didn't notice. Eyes beneath the Sharingan and Byakugan lacked the attention to detail and the speed of perception to catch him at his game. The Cloud-nin surged forward with a lightning quick attack, but by then Naruto had already landed next to Jiraiya. By the time the Katana's blade struck his clone, Naruto had grabbed the man and heaved him up across one shoulder. It wasn't easy, and he was sure Jiraiya's head had cracked against the ceiling on the way up, but a few bruises were acceptable right now.
With a loud puff of smoke and a feeling like someone had just ripped a hair from his eyebrows, Naruto whipped around to see that Tensho had halted himself in mid-stab by pulling out a pair of kunai and anchoring himself to the wall. The sword had still struck, and annihilated, the Kage Bunshin, and the release of chakra from its blade had completely singed the wall behind where it had been standing, but Chimi was onto him now, and that trick probably wouldn't work again...
"And what is your name?" The man finally growled out again, now clearly annoyed as he tore the kunai from the wall and again assumed a stance. This time, the sword was held over his head, his side turned to Naruto and its blade aimed at his face. The two kunai, held side-by-side in one hand, were tipped up against the back of the blade.
"Uzumaki Naruto," he finally said with a smile.
For a moment, the two stared each other down. Then, through Tensho's mask, Naruto thought he saw a shred of movement indicative of a smirk. Whatever it was though, he said nothing more.
The mountain demon lashed out with another sword thrust, but Naruto pumped chakra straight into his feet and jumped up. One loud crash later, he and Jiraiya were through the ceiling and on the top floor, and another eight Kage Bunshin after that, they had been catapulted off the balcony and over the very casino that Jiraiya's would-be assassin had blown his way out of to begin with.
"... Prove a point?"
"Yes, dumbass," Jiraiya answered, just before continuing without giving Naruto the time to ask another obvious or redundant question. "Think about it. If someone doesn't play by your rules, they can just take you out by doing what I did. I can't even move all that well and all I had to do to beat you was trick you into using your best move. You failed to anticipate it, thinking I would foolishly try winning a battle of power against a damn demon."
"And how did blowing my hand off factor into all of that?"
"... Well, that was actually kind of an accident," Jiraiya commented with a shrug and a sidelong glance away from him.
"AN ACCIDENT?" Naruto seethed.
"Well, you've apparently regenerated from having a hole punched in your chest, not to mention everything else you've sprung back from," Jiraiya answered with a shrug. "It was an acceptable risk to see if you could come back from having a limb blown off--"
"WHAT KIND OF ACCEPTABLE RISK IS THAT? YOU FUCKING SADIST!"
Jiraiya trailed off. Naruto spasmed.
"Don't get an invincibility complex from this," the man cautioned, taking control back from his younger student. "The healing factor of the Kyuubi isn't a studied phenomenon. Chances are that it only kicked in because of your surge of overpowering fear from the wound. If you start thinking that you can survive without having to worry about losing a bodypart just because it could regenerate, there's a very real possibility that the Kyuubi will stop healing you."
Naruto paused. Then grimaced.
"Why would it do that?" He asked, suddenly feeling a bit sick.
"It leveled Konoha because it happened to be there, Naruto. It isn't exactly a nice little fox you can pretend to keep as a pet," Jiraiya reminded him with a bland tone. Something in Naruto's gut -- probably the Nine-Tails itself -- said that there was more to it than that, but...
For once, he wasn't going to question anything.
"So it's like having the winning lotto numbers and never being able to play," he said.
"Something like that. You've got to apply caution. Even if it does regenerate you again, you'll be weakened and vulnerable. A two-step kill is the same as a one-step kill as long as the opponent is dead," Jiraiya replied. "Chopping off an arm is just a precursor to taking off the head."
Naruto fought the urge to gulp. With this unsettling bit of information and advice now lodged in his brain, he turned his attention back to what had started this whole conversation to begin with: Why.
"Why'd you wanna... Teach me that anyway?" He asked, watching as Jiraiya finally straightened up and popped his back with an expression that looked as if someone had just kicked him in the groin. It took him a few seconds, but he answered with a grim tone to his voice.
"Because our-- Your opponent is using Raiheijin," Jiraiya answered him. "It's a Cloud technique, high-level combination of Ninjutsu and Taijutsu performed with either a Katana, Wakizashi or Tanto, though I've seen it used less effectively with other weapons too. Judging by what you told me earlier," he began, turning away and motioning for Naruto to follow him, "This particular swordsman is an expert with it. What did you say his name was?"
"Chimi Tensho. It was--"
"An alias. I know. I'll get to that later, but you should know one thing..."
Jiraiya stopped and turned to his side expectantly. When Naruto caught up and looked up to him, the man's expression was as grim as his voice.
"Raiheijin is a technique that's only ever been bested by Chidori. It's how it acquired the nickname of Raikiri. Kakashi literally cut through a Raiheijin and killed its wielder."
Naruto felt his mouth twitch. Jiraiya started walking again.
"You thought Rasengan was superior to Chidori. It is. On a purely practical level, you can do a whole lot more with Rasengan than you can with Chidori, and you don't need some lame-ass Bloodline to use it effectively. As a piercing attack though, Chidori is unrivaled by anything I've ever personally laid my eyes on -- including Raiheijin. Your clashes with Sasuke weren't a true measure of Chidori or Rasengan, as both of you were basically striking at each other's techniques more than you were each other. It's like stabbing a grenade."
"What's the difference with this guy's technique then?" Naruto finally asked, forcing a word in edge-wise as he caught back up.
"Chidori relies on the dominant hand of its user to be effective. Raiheijin uses the blade of a sword to be a gathering point for its energy, and unlike Chidori, you don't need a running start. To make matters worse, it can be used for cutting instead of just stabbing, and the shock generated by the blade is usually enough to paralyze you or kill you even if the weapon itself doesn't," Jiraiya answered, bringing the two to another stop.
They were on a low cliff, overlooking the city. It had been where Jiraiya finally woke up and pried himself off of Naruto's shoulder however many hours ago, and it hadn't been too far from where Naruto's former right hand was currently lying in mutilated ruin.
The thought that a part of him would probably literally be here forever unless he went back and got it was utterly disturbing.
"As far as Chimi Tensho goes... His real name is Shunseito Kazuma. Son of a veteran of the last Secret World War, currently a Kumogakure Jounin. Has a flare for the dramatic and a reputation for being an expert swordsman," Jiraiya pointed out.
"... Gee. Lotta good that information is," Naruto muttered.
"Can't tell why he's after me in specific, seeing as how Kumogakure and Konoha only ever fought a few battles during the war. If it's revenge, he'd be better off going after Kakashi. Since I doubt the Hidden Cloud's current leaders would want to risk open war..."
He trailed off. Naruto raised a brow.
"Why kill you if your death'd lead to war?" He asked.
Jiraiya changed the subject.
"Either way, his motivation's not that important. What matters is that whatever poison he slipped me," Naruto noticed that Jiraiya specifically avoided mentioning that it was one of the two geishas who got him, "Messed up my chakra in a big way."
"Which means you're useless," Naruto replied.
"Hardly," Jiraiya bit back, punching him in the top of the head. Naruto let out a yelp, but the man spoke up again without even paying attention to it.
"But chances are, I won't be able to fight effectively for a week or more. Whatever poison he slipped me, it sure as hell wasn't as nice as Tsunade's," he said, suddenly sounding a bit grim. "Which means that until this is over, you're gonna have to be my bodyguard."
"... Like I hadn't already figured that out..."
Crack went the fist across the top of his head.
"It also means we're gonna have to start hiding a little more. Chimi's not as good as I am, but he's better than you are right now and he's got the brains to think ahead."
"Which means no more bath-house peeping, visits to whore-houses and drunken gambling," Naruto thought with a small grin. The old bastard would actually have to focus on his train-
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR!" He shrieked.
"Pay attention," Jiraiya replied. "Tomorrow, I'm gonna start teaching you the basics of what you'll need to beat Chimi. Hopefully we'll be able to avoid him until the poison wears off, but I'm not taking any chances."
"And tonight?" Naruto asked, rubbing his sore head with one hand and a bland expression.
"Tonight, we're gonna find a place to bunk."
And with that, Jiraiya turned and started walking towards a path down the cliff. Naruto grimaced.
"By the way," he asked, running to a catch up. "How is it you can fight even if your chakra's supposed to be messed up?"
As if on cue, the man passed out in mid-step. The only reason he didn't fall off the cliff was because Naruto grabbed him by his hair and held him over the edge.
"That answers that," he muttered.
Author's Note: Remember, manga readers, Naruto did say that Jiraiya was a brutal teacher...
... Well, that and I just wanted to have some fun with Naruto's ability to heal.
Chimi Tensho means something like Mountain Ogre Striking the Sky.
Look for the next Part soon!