'Till Eternity's End
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Final Fantasy
Chapter 17: Of Fragmented Dreams
Kazuma Kawazoe frowned as he stared at the pile of chips lying before him, his hands trembling with nervousness and apprehension. Perhaps, looking around the table at the ring of stony faces, the mid aged oil tycoon could not help but wonder if he had made a mistake joining this particular game. As a man who had dragged himself from the gutters, Kawazoe always believed in his luck. It had, after all, carried him through the roughest times of his rise to wealth, when he had allowed his intuition and not judgment to formulate some of the most daring, suicidal, and miraculous decisions of his career.
And tonight those same instincts lead him to join a poker game aboard the massive luxury ocean liner SS Oceania, where was held one of the largest gambling tournaments of its kind in all of the Elemental Nations. Everyone who was anyone was present upon the cruiser, either lounging on the decks, down below enjoying the various allures the ship had to offer, or more likely than not, partaking in one of the many gambling events scattered about the enormous vessel.
It wasn't just the professionals either that flocked to this event. Casual gamblers, vacationing-Shinobis, and even simple travelers and tourists too are attracted to the spectacle of it all. Of course, they mostly acted as audiences to the more advanced and heated casino games, preferring to part their money to others just as unskilled, or to the indifferent slot machines strategically placed at convenient locations.
Though at this particular moment in time, most of the passengers have gathered in one of the largest and the most extravagantly adorned chamber of the liner, where the single most intense and high staked poker game was taking place. It was, despite the nonviolence and the unnerving silence, no less than a veritable war waged between the players, who fought their battle in the excess of millions of ryous.
Kawazoe bit his lip as he steeled himself, then, when it came to his turn; he pushed the small mountain of plastic chips to the center of the table. His words, when he did speak, came out in a barely audible hiss.
"Twenty seven millions, all in." The man declared, ignoring the gasps and whispers that went on amongst the onlookers. This would be the game that decides everything for him. Winning or defeat, everything he has brought with him was riding on this one game.
With that thought, he glanced around the table at the others, all of whom seemed to be contemplating on their course of actions.
To his left sat a white haired man looking to be in his eighties. Kawazoe knew the man; Ishikawa Katsurou was an incredibly wealthy business man famous for his extensive collection in all things rare. His house held, according to rumors, more artifact than any museum in the whole of the Elemental Countries. Of course, being as it was, it also boasted enough guards to constitute a private army. Katsurou, supposedly, dabbled in just about everything. Real-estates, law firms, and manufacturing were just the tip of the ice burg for the aging aristocrat. And if whispered tales were to be believed, he even had connection to certain Missing-nin factions.
To his right, next to the dealer, was seated an incredibly attractive and voluptuous female with a dress a size or two too small. The revealing clothe clung to her skin and bring to attention her already impressive attributes. Kawazoe didn't know much about her, other than her name Chinen Midori. As far as anyone could tell, she was simply a professional poker player with nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Of course, given the nature of this game, it was unlikely that she was just an average player.
Then, there was the one who had offered himself as Arashi. He was an enigma if Kawazoe had ever seen one. His entire body concealed beneath the folds of a black robe, he was the perfect embodiment of the unknown. Yet something was strange about this player, something that screamed danger, something that warned Kawazoe to run away at the first chance. Whoever this Arashi maybe, there was an air of unearthliness to him, an aura of the supernatural. Judging by the piles of chips in front of him, that supernatural seemed to have extended to his skills as well.
Kawazoe had never seen anyone play so well before in his life. It was almost as though the man knew exactly what cards he would receive. If Kawazoe hadn't known that the dealer had no connection to any of them, he would have thought Arashi to be out right cheating.
"Thirty million, all in." Chinen Midori considered her hands for a moment, before calling out as well.
Ishikawa Katsurou appeared pensive, but shrugged his shoulders and tossed his lot in with the two players. "Fifty two million, all in."
The whispers grew into a crescendo of sounds as the excitement bubbled within the crowd, threatening to erupt at any moment. Over one hundred million was at stake here. One hundred million, with winner taking all. Of course, that was, if one did not consider the presence of the stranger Arashi.
The robes shifted and Arashi made his move.
"One hundred million… all in."
The audience waited with bated breath as the dealer revealed each card. To the nervously awaiting assembly, it was as though the card dealer was purposely prolonging the moment of truth. Every player watched the man's hands anxiously. Two hundred and nine million was an immense sum, even for them.
Kazuma Kawazoe's cards were up first.
"Ace high flush." Came the cold reply. The man wrangled his hands agitatedly as he waited for the others.
Ishikawa Katsurou came next.
"Full house." There were some mutters at this, and the old man seemed very pleased with himself. Kawazoe's shoulder sagged a bit as he realized he had just walked away from the table with nothing but shame.
Katsurou soon shared his pain, however, when Midori's cards turned out to be a straight flush.
As far as everyone was concerned, that was pretty much over for Arashi. Unless he could somehow pull out a royal flush – an event about as likely as the urban legend "Uzumaki Naruto" existing.
Midori licked her lips suggestively, causing several members of the audience to develop noticeable nose bleeds. She was all but set for the money, and she knows it too.
Until that is, the dealer called out the final cards.
"Royal flush. Mister Arashi wins."
"That was incredible!" Anko Mitarashi greeted 'Arashi' with a flying tackle as soon as the now two hundred million ryou richer gambler stepped out of the noisy and packed casino, the money already sealed within a small ninja scroll. "I've never seen anyone play like that!"
"Anko," From behind the purple haired Jonin, an equally attractive raven haired woman admonished her friend. Her ruby eyes resting upon the cloaked form of the poker player. "You've never seen any one play poker. Period."
"So?" The former student of the late Orochimaru raised an eyebrow and let go of her prey, shooting Yuhi Kurenai a rather defiant glare. Kurenai had to admit that since the death and probably vaporization of her previous teacher, Anko had changed almost completely from her sadistic and violent self. She was still sadistic, mind, just in a far more cheerful and less self damaging manner. "I could still tell a good game from a bad one."
At least, when the occasional brave soul dared to ask her for a date, the snake user would only smilingly knee the misfortunate bastard in his ancestral jewels, rather than sent the offender into a mental ward.
"Did you locate the objective?" From beneath the cloak, came the cold voice of Naruto, muffled by the thick fabric. Naruto had no idea how the two women managed to convince him to enter the poker tournament in the first place, but once he had sat down in the game, he had no intention of losing. Of course, just because he had won an enormous amount of money, it did not distract him from his original goal.
"Nah. Looked everywhere, can't find a thing." Anko shook her head, though she did appear just a tad sheepish.
Naruto sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. Perhaps he should not have imposed such a task on the two women. This was not their mission, after all. They had already endured more than enough during the invasion of Konoha, they deserved at least this.
Even though Naruto himself was not yet aware of it, his cold demeanor was changing with each passing day. However, whether or not the restoration of his humanity would prove to be a good thing remains to be seen.
"I apologize for this." He said with a stiff bow of his head, a brief look of genuine contrite flashing across his face. "Your assistance was appreciated. I shall leave you to enjoy the remainder of your vacation in peace."
Before either of the kunoichis could speak, the swordsman turned on his heels and left.
"Well, that was unexpected." Anko commented as she watched Naruto's retreating figure thoughtfully.
Naruto did have a point, regardless. It wasn't their mission to locate the next Hokage to be. Anko and Kurenai, long time best friends had, after the nightmarish war that nearly uprooted Konoha from the ground, decided now was a good time to take a break from the merciless Shinobi lifestyle. With the village in fairly good conditions, they could actually afford a few weeks of vacation time.
Naturally, when words got out about the maiden voyage of the deluxe ocean liner SS Oceania, Anko practically dragged the scarlet eyed Genjutsu mistress aboard. After all, as Jonins, they almost never go any place fun, at least according to Anko, and it would be such a shame if they were to miss this once in a life time opportunity.
Kurenai wasn't sure about that, though it did grant her a savage pleasure whenever she recalled the mental image of a devastated Kakashi upon being informed that the trip was invite only, and the only four tickets were already given away –two for Naruto and Jiraiya, two for Anko and Kurenai, who had won them in the contest the Hokage had set up.
She had been initially a little surprised to see Naruto about, having not known about other two tickets and their recipients. Although given his mission, it did make sense that she would find the flaxen haired youth here of all places. After all, what could possibly attract the legendary Tsunade more than one of the largest casinos in the world?
Of course, now that she thought about it, Naruto really did not need to apologize for cutting in to their vacation time. First of all, as fellow shinobis – well, Naruto wasn't exactly a ninja, but still – of Konoha, it was her duty to serve her village and to place the welfare of Konohagakure before her own. Besides, Jiraiya was right about one thing – if Tsunade was indeed aboard, then they wouldn't need to search very hard.
"Once you see people start to fly, chances are you've found her."
"Kurenai-chan!" Anko was yanking her arms now with all the petulance of a little child. "He's getting away!"
"Wha…" Before Kurenai could ask, she was pulled off her feet as Anko, still clinging on to her arm, dashed after a certain departing blonde. It was difficult to tell exactly what her best friend thought about the child. As far as she could tell, Anko's feeling towards the savior of Konoha alternated between a sibling affection and actual infatuation. Partly, perhaps, that feeling arose out of the fact that not only was Naruto one of the most powerful entities in the world, period, but he was also the one who had avenged Anko – unintentional though it may be – by reducing Orochimaru to floating atomic particles.
On the other hand, Kurenai licked her full ruby lips almost subconsciously. Though only thirteen, Naruto looks good. And besides, there was only what, five, six years (1) between them? Not enough to be discouraging, certainly. Besides, perhaps the boy would even be interested in some one more… mature…
The thought was firmly and swiftly repressed as the so called 'Ice Queen (2)' of Konoha fought hard to prevent a furious blush from surfacing. Damn it! She shouldn't be having such perverted thoughts! She's almost as bad as that damn Jiraiya.
After two days in the older ninja's company, whatever respect Kurenai has had for the Sannins was lost completely.
"Still," Kurenai rolled her eyes as she managed to fall into step beside the violet haired special Jonin. "I can't believe you are in Naruto's fan club."
"You're just jealous because you didn't act fast enough to buy the last membership." Anko responded by sticking out her tongue.
"Alright, may I have your attention please?" A rather non-descript girl was banging on her podium with all the authority of an academy teacher in a room full of chatty children. With all the success too. "Silence, I demand silence."
When it became apparent her congregation would not give her a moment of peace for her to deliver her painstakingly prepared speech, the girl narrowed her eyes dangerously and pulled out a megaphone.
"SHUT THE HELL UP!"
Everyone quieted at once, including several Kunoichis, who had been glaring daggers at one another for the past few minutes. In fact, they were just short of pulling out their kunais.
"Ahem, thank you." The girl cleared her throat in a thoroughly exaggerated manner, before speaking up again. "As I was saying, welcoming to the first meeting of the Konoha division of Uzumaki Naruto fan club."
A long and obscure title, but the original was much, much worse.
There was some scattered applause at this, though most of its members were still eyeing each other with silent promises of bloodbath and torture unless the other party gives up on their precious Naruto.
"I see every one has brought their required Naruto plushie, their Naruto water bottle…" The girl continued to list off the various merchandises which had incorporated the image of a certain golden haired child. Ignoring everything else about the boy, he does make a very profitable franchise.
The 'autobiography' alone 'Sealed Blade', supposedly penned by the man… er… child himself remained atop the best seller list for over three month with no sign of slipping, despite the acknowledgement that Uzumaki Naruto was not involved in any stage of the book's production. That did not stop it from selling millions of copies, however.
Meanwhile, Haku sat to the back of the room, smirking rather sadistically at the squabbling girls. How very foolish of them, if they thought they could somehow gain even the attention of her Naruto-sama. They would have a better chance taming the raging fires of the sun itself. Ever since that thrice damnable tome came out, every Naruto fan-girl had gone from nonsensical to pure delusional, filled with impossible ideas that they are the ones to fill the 'empty' void in Naruto's life, that only their gentle touch could sooth and reign in a tortured soul.
How absolutely, appallingly ignorant.
Haku sighed and glanced around the room. At least the fact she was living with Naruto wasn't public knowledge, or there will be people out for her blood. Her gaze came momentarily into contact with a pair of startling white eyes – the eyes of a Hyuuga. Hanabi Hyuuga, to be exact.
Haku smiled slightly at the girl, who politely smiled back, though there was something in her gaze that wasn't exactly friendly, but not entirely hostile either. Hanabi was one of the few people, the elder girl knew, who had Naruto's good graces. Aside from herself, the small girl and her sister had been the only ones who Naruto had specifically protected. For Naruto to single and designate someone in such a fashion would mean that Naruto holds them in a completely different regards than the rest of the people.
It also means that they had more hope than anyone else to grow closer to Naruto, a friend or even something more.
Perhaps, Haku rubbed her chin in contemplation; it was time to have a talk with those two.
Tsunade was not having the best of lucks. That wasn't unusual, of course, since she could not remember a day when her luck at gambling was anything but abysmal. It didn't help that she was a gambling addict, certainly. Still, it was rather fortunate that she was a highly sought after healer whose pay was more than enough to support both her and her student, as well as her sinful urges.
Another sigh escaped her lips as Sannin no Tsunade watched the dice land on a three. Wrong again. Which, in turn meant that yet another handful of ryou just went up in smokes. Without a second thought, she reached for her pocket, only to find it empty of coinage.
"Damn!" The blonde woman swore loudly as she grudgingly relinquished her seat. Nope, luck not improving at all. Throwing one last longing glance at the gambling area, the slug summoner marched out of the casino and towards the café, where hopefully she could fill her empty stomach.
"Please don't feel bad, Tsunade-sama…" Tsuande's young and raven haired apprentice hurried to her side and as always, offered her consolation. Tonton the pig honked its agreement, snuggled between Shizune's arms comfortably.
"God damn it all!" Tsunade growled as she restrained her self from punching the side of the ship – an action that was sure to have exceedingly disastrous consequences. "I swear, Shizune, they are cheating somehow!"
Before the younger medic-nin could reply, several extravagantly dressed passengers walked pass them, speaking loudly to one another in excited voices. They seemed to be worked up over something, their faces flushed.
"Hurry, we might miss it!" A man with a rather pasty complexion exclaimed loudly, his words laced with an exotic accent neither woman could quite place.
"I know, two hundred million ryous!" A some what attractive woman – though with entirely too much makeup – sighed wistfully. "Imagine all the things we could buy!"
Tsunade's eyes lit up at the mention of the sum. Without a word, she grabbed her student's wrist and bounded off towards the casino once again. She had heard the casino would host an important event, but she would never have guessed they'd offer so immense a prize. It was true she wasn't qualified to participate, but watching was just as good.
Who knows, she might even learn a thing or two from the players there.
Like the rest of the audience, Tsunade applauded the winner. Unlike the crowd, she was able to detect other movements at the same time, such as the almost imperceptible nod the old man Katsurou gave to a sharply dressed youth standing just outside of the ring of gambling addicts. The younger man returned the nod and made a silent gesture. Tsunade could feel the barely detectable Chakra flowing from the hand seal – a signal.
She also noticed the thin, dangerous, and thoroughly predatory like smile the woman Midori gave the retreating Arashi. It was the kind of look a feline wore moments before it pounced. Tsunade narrowed her gaze as she noticed the thin reflective sheen on Midori's nails – a coat of deadly poison expertly applied. An assassin if she had ever seen one.
Not a ninja perhaps, but it didn't make her any less dangerous. After all, your average shinobi would never suspect a seemingly normal civilian, a weakness that assassins tend to take advantage of.
So, at least two factions wanted this Arashi person dead, and judging by the look of things, each side were more than capable.
Briefly, Tsunade considered whether or not to aid the winner, though her mind changed promptly when Arashi looked back over his shoulder. It was at that moment, when Tsunade realized just how dangerous the 'prey' was. In the brief moment that their eyes made contact, Tsunade felt herself caught in the vortex of an inexorable maelstrom, staring into the very depth of oblivion itself. But as a seasoned ninja, the feeling was quickly suppressed, though the memory of it still made her shiver.
Whatever that was, it wasn't human. Not entirely.
"Imagine seeing you here…" Midori purred as she leaned against the wall of the private cabin, eyeing Arashi with barely concealed greed. She wore a low cut evening gown that revealed ample cleavage, though Arashi seemed to ignore them entirely as he stared into the woman's eyes. "Not a very smart move, alone with all that cash…"
Her whispers trailed off as a kunai was pressed against the side of her neck, the cold steel biting into her flesh.
"The same could be said of you, Midori-san." The voice of young man intoned. He was about twenty five or so, handsome and professional looking, with his raven hair short and slicked back. The man was dressed in the traditional garbs of a shinobi, though without a forehead protector to indicate his allegiance.
Midori's pupil shrunk in shock as she felt the metallic weapon against her skin, though her calm and seductive demeanor returned in a hurry. "Now, now, aren't we a little hasty?" She asked with a perfectly innocent expression, her nails tracing a pattern on the interloper's cloth.
The man's eyes widened in shock as the realization struck. "Poison?"
"Observant, aren't we?" Midori grinned victoriously, knowing that she had the upper-hand. The shinobi frowned for a moment, before relenting. "Perhaps a compromise could be worked out?"
"Agreed," Midori smirked again. "We'll split the sum between us, what do you say?"
The young man frowned for a moment, and then nodded his agreement. Ishikawa-sama wasn't so much interested in the money as he was in getting even for some nameless brat that had showed him up. He could careless about the actual money. And with Chinen Midroi present, his mission was many folds more difficult if the woman chose to oppose him.
"I have no contention to this resolution." He offered.
"Right then." Midori licked her lips in a rather suggestive manner and turned towards Arashi, leaning forward just so she allowed him a gorgeous glance at what she had to offer. "As I was saying, it was quite a mistake…"
Naruto, beneath the cowl, allowed himself a cold smile as he channeled Mana to his finger tips, the energy around him pulsating unnaturally. "Agreed, Chinen-san. It was a mistake."
Midori stepped back in alarm. There was no panic in her prey's voice, in fact, if anything, the man sounded smug.
"…It was a mistake that you will not live to regret." Naruto muttered as Muramasa manifested into his hand. Before either of his would be assassins could react, Naruto brought his sword upward in a single, casual uppercut. The door to the room exploded outward, followed by an explosion of debris and splinters.
The room was demolished with a singular stroke of the blade.
"Die." Naruto's voice broke through the pandemonium as he shot towards Midori, his sword poised for a finishing blow. Before the katana could bury itself however, an earth splitting roar reached their ears, followed by a violent quake of the ship.
Naruto's eyes, for the first time since he had boarded the ship, expressed measured surprise.
This feeling… He thought as he lowered his weapon, inches from taking the female assassin's life. I should have known there would be more of them.
"What the hell is that?" Tsunade questioned, momentarily letting go of Jirayia's collar. The toad pervert fell to the floor, gasping for the precious air. Damn… Tsunade haven't gotten any weaker since he last parted from her.
Shit. Jiraiya narrowed his eyes as he messaged his sore throat, where Tsunade's grip had left a rather prominent mark. Of all the time for those things to show up… If they are as strong as they were the last time, this ship doesn't stand a ghost of a chance. Let's just hope Naruto could take care of them before they can do any real damage.
"That, my dear," Jiraiya spoke slowly as he performed a series of seals. "Is what we called you back to the village for."
Even as the words left his mouth, he felt a breeze swept past his face and seconds later, Naruto emerged in a whirlwind of radiant Chakra. The disguise gone, the boy had once more donned his infamous black cloak and assumed his role as the angel of death. His eyes, which had shone a brilliant blue moment earlier, now took on a hue of indigo-green as the Mako within his bloodstream surged in excitement. However, he looked nothing like his child self, but a young man of twenty or so, with dark brown hair that grew past his shoulders, and a face that while not particularly handsome, was not exactly ugly either.
"Be careful, Jiraiya-san…" He warned as the roaring voice of the creature neared the vessel. "This adversary should not be taken lightly… Especially given our condition."
Jiraiya, ignoring the questioning look Tsunade threw him, nodded.
Without a word, Naruto turned and left, searching out the two other Konoha-Nins who had also took part on this trip. They were the only ones who had any experience dealing with those creatures, the only ones he could trust not to go into a panic once the feces hit the ceiling.
The last thing he needed was for these civilians to create needless chaos and distraction on deck.
Tsunade, watching the young man's retreating figure, faced her old teammate questioningly. Who ever that was, he spoke to Jiraiya in almost a commanding tone. Even more surprising, the pervert actually obeyed the instructions – something she'd never thought he would do, aside from those given by their sensei. What was going on here?
"Who was that?" The way she had stated the question allowed for no maneuver room. And knowing the princess, Jiraiya was sure that if he answered with anything less than the truth, he would be on the receiving end of a world of hurt. Damn her clairvoyance.
"That… my dear, was Uzumaki Naruto." At the stunned look on Tsunade's face, the white haired Shinobi legend couldn't help but let out a chuckle. "I see you've heard of him then."
They came from the distance, their shadows blotting out the sun it self. An angry swarm of darkness that seemed to stretch from one end of the airy expanse to the other, covering the horizon with their malevolence. At first the overhead speakers had warned the passengers to head inside in anticipation for a thunderstorm, though very soon the mistake became apparent. By the time Naruto located the two wandering women, it was clear to almost everyone that whatever the black clouds are, they were anything but natural.
Naruto's eyes narrowed as he took note of the creatures that composed the advancing mass. It would appear his work was not yet finished here. Slowly, his thin lips curled upward in the facsimile of a smile. With a wave of his hand, an enormous white wing unfurled from his left shoulder.
It was only right for a monster to end the lives of his brethrens.
Raising his hand skyward, Naruto summoned forth the dormant powers of his Materia. The green Master Magic Materia glowed brilliantly near his heart (3) as it answered the call of its master. Tendrils of Mana shot towards the darkening heavens and parted the gathering clouds, revealing what appeared to be numerous twinkling stars that grew larger and larger with each passing second.
Like death riding its pale horse, shooting stars descended from the height of heavens and launched their burning masses towards the lines of monsters, leaving behind fading streaks of blinding light. Explosions raked across the black armies, showering the sea below with a rain of burning flesh and roaring inferno.
Before the monsters could collect themselves, Naruto slashed the air before him with blurring speed, sending several beams of energy towards the assembled adversaries. Originally Sephiroth's technique, the attack enabled even a sword master to perform long distance strikes by focusing Mana into one's blade and releasing it in a compressed and devastating form. Though unnamed by the silver haired swordsman, Naruto had decided to call the attack 'Sword Aura' for organization sake.
The level of damage one could do depended on the amount of Mana available. An average SOLDIER's aura was enough to slice through concrete without much effort, though with someone like Naruto, the scale of destruction is unimaginable.
By this time, the Shinobis who had come aboard had assembled on deck, ready to defend the ship at any cost – most of them had been hired for just that purpose, at any rate. Though now they found themselves completely and utterly freed of that duty, instead acting as spectators to possible the most powerful entity to ever grace the surface of their planet, aside from possibly the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox.
"By the gods…" One of the Shinobi whispered. "Who is he… hell… What is he?"
Even as Naruto demolished the forces of the monstrosities, the fiends themselves began to launch counterattacks, though seemingly more out of fear and confusion than in any organized efforts. A grim and superior smirk appeared on the 'young man's' face as he snapped his fingers.
A wall of crystal like structure appeared at his pronouncement, reflecting the destructive beams that had reached the ship back at their originators. Several shrieks of anguish were heard, though it was soon drowned out by the earth shaking detonations that resulted.
At the same time, Naruto once more trained his blade upon his enemies. Judging by the look of things, it would appear that Jiraiya had found their target. There was no more reason to linger then. Slowly, cautiously, the boy closed his eyes and welcomed the blessed oblivion, allowing the darkness in his heart to take command.
His eyes opened gradually, glowing a malicious evil that seemed unnatural, even for him. Slowly, the once snow white features on his back began to change, giving away to a black as deep and smooth as ink.
A feral smile appeared upon the boy's aged face as he glanced up at his foes… no… sacrifices.
The clouds began to swirl around the host of fiends, gathering in momentum and intensity. Gradually however, the black thunderheads vanished little by little, leaving a tornado of ice and snow. The frosty elements howled as the storm grew into a crescendo of sounds and fury, consuming all that was caught in the vortex. A maelstrom of freezing powers poured out in every direction, seeking to cover the very earth and still life itself. The blizzard grew stronger and stronger, filling the air with sharp crystals and snow flakes.
The air grew cold, incredibly so. Frost began to appear on the windowsills of the ship, and liquids turned to solid. Water froze as the wave of wintry passed the ship, caught in the grasp of a glacial entity. Then, all at once the coldness paused as the black clad figure pointed his left palm towards the still rotating storm. Then, as his hand formed into a fist, the storm vanished without a trace, leaving only the once seemingly menacing abominations, now trapped in prisons of crystal.
Another quick gesture, and the icy confines shattered, alone with their contents.
The gathered darkness was no more, consumed by far greater shadows.
It was on this day the Fire Lord of Konoha would be deified, and the legend of Uzumaki Naruto spread even further.
"Shit…" Kisame Hoshigaki swore as he watched the storm die down. As one of the Seven Swordsmen of Mist… well, former Swordsman at any rate, he was a fair judge of strength. Perhaps he wasn't as perceptive as Itachi on certain matters, but his instinct was usually fairly accurate on the level of danger his foes presented – a gift that aided him through many seemingly impossible battles.
Though this one… At the thought, Kisame tightened his grip upon his massive cleaver, though by now he wasn't even sure if he had the courage to the draw the blade when faced against the master of that supernatural force.
The shark man was not a coward by any means of the word. But he wasn't exactly stupid either. He was overall fairly confident about his abilities, trusting his blade and Jutsus to match even Kage leveled foes. Of course, there was a rather notable difference between a Kage and a god. The one who had just performed that feat seemed too much like the latter for Kisame's own comfort.
If it had been him that was caught in that storm, or even the early attacks the man had conjured forth… Kisame wasn't so pleased with his own chance of survival. Indeed, even if he did somehow live through the ordeal, there is a 99.99 percent chance he would be disabled on a level that allowed even a child to end his life.
"This is grim news." Itachi hesitated a moment before speaking, regaining his composure. "I've sent words to the organization."
"Well, what did Pein-sama say?" Kisame demanded. He hoped to the gods Pein would not be so mad as to send the two of them to confront this monster. He'd much rather take on the Nine-Tail when it was still roaming freely.
"…We are to return to the headquarter at once." Itachi answered at last. "Uzumaki Naruto is now considered a SSS security threat and the confrontation with whom must be avoided at any cost necessary."
Was it his imagination, or did Itachi seem almost… relieved?
Kisame shook his head. It wasn't just Itachi… by the looks of it, even Pein of all people are disturbed by this Naruto's presence. SSS leveled threat? Unbelievable. That would mean whoever Uzumaki Naruto is, he has the power to completely destabilize the structure of Akatsuki to the point of annihilation. Although considering what he had just bore witness to… Kisame wasn't so sure this was exaggeration.
Perhaps, if it did come down to a full on fight, the Akatsuki might be able to neutralize the threat… but even if they did, it would be a Pyrrhic victory at best. Hell, would there even be any member left to celebrate it?
Thank the heavens Uzumaki Naruto wasn't a jinchūriki.
Sometimes, the irony is blistering.
"Sir." The voice of the messenger pierced the darkness, calm and reserved. "We have located the whereabouts of Project Zero."
"I see." The darkness stirred in excitement at the news, allowing a cold, bone chilling chuckle to issue forth from his throat. Slowly, the shadows parted to allow entrance to several figures, clad in ancient ceremonial robes of an age long past, their faces covered with opaque veils. The leader of the group, identified by the single star like symbol sewed on his garments, waved a hand and dismissed the Shinobi. "Excellent work… Your service shall be well rewarded."
As the servant vanished from sight, the leader turned to his fellow members. Though his face remained obstruct still, it was evident he was smiling as he addressed the assembly.
"It would seem that our efforts could at last come to fruition after some unforeseen delays. Go now and spread the word. The retrieval of the blue print from the experiment must be retrieved at any cost. Alive or dead, I want that…creature… brought to me."
With a collected "Hai", the mysterious entities disappeared one by one as tendrils of darkness took them.
For a long moment, silence reigned in the grove, though at length the leader spoke up again, addressing only the passing winds.
"It is such a shame that you aren't around to witness the destruction of all that you hold precious." He spat out every word, dripping with venom. "Namikaze Minato … traitor of the Kazama clan…"
(1) Ages are altered to fit the story.
(2) Again, AU elements are in play.
(3) Think of how the Materia glowed when Loz and Yazoo employed magic back in Advent Children.
Okay, didn't see that coming. First we thought the Sharingan was all powerful, or possibly the Byakugan. Now we find out there are three Great Doujutsus? And Pein has the most revered of them? Damn. Geez, if the Rinnegan of Pein could save or destroy the world, you have to wonder just how friggin' powerful Tobi must be to give Pein orders…
I wonder, if we'll be seeing any Rinnegan baring Naruto any time soon?
Yes, yes. I know. I'm terribly late. I apologize for that. AP courses are hell, truly and literally hell. As I'm taking five at the moment, that leaves me with very little free time to do anything. Since I haven't wrote Fanfic in a long time, it shows. If you think differently, wonderful. I aim to please.
Now, for some of the question raised in the reviews.
Naruto could use Magic on the Shinobi world because what Hojo did to him. He is essentially like a giant, walking Materia, to an extent. However, because of the distance between him and Gaea, the actual Materia he brought was not active until chapter… well, the Second Exam chapter. I think I talked about this in the Overview.
Secondly, yes, I apologize for using two different arrangements of names. From now on, it will only be last name, first name.
Third of all, on the subject of Konoha, my Japanese isn't too good, but I'm sure in its original form, Konohagakure no Sato do not imply THE leaf. In fact, there wasn't any designation of numbers at all. And it's really quite repetitive saying 'hidden in the leaves' over and over again. Tree leaves, leaves and so on are all different versions that can be used to avoid that. If you want to get eve more technical, the word Konoha "木ノ葉" literally means "Wood's Leaf", or tree leaves.
Lastly, as for the Chia pet comment, it was when that dog thing… Frank's comment. "Trapped, like a rat, in a Chia pet" when that plant woman took over the MIB headquarters. I thought it hilarious.
Now, as this is an AU fic, something will change from Canon. First and foremost, Naruto's origin will be the closest thing to plot twist in this fic… so far, at any rate. As how Kazama and Minato play into the overall scheme of things, you'll just have to wait and see.
One more thing. When I started out, I have zero info on Crisis Core. Now it's too late to change it. Pity. Genesis vs. Naruto vs. Angeal vs. Sephiroth would own.
The Silent Muse, over and out. Hopefully I can update again soon.
No flames, please.