Author's note: Revised this chapter because I simply did not know where to go with it as it was. I have also decided that the pairing will be NarutoxHarem. You can vote to include, or exclude, any girl you would like to be a part of the harem.
I may use some techniques from my other story (Yokai Sharingan). If you find anything wrong grammatically or as part of the plot please tell me in your review. One more thing, I am in desperate need for a beta reader for this story. If you're any good, leave a review or pm me.
Italicized – for emphasis.
Bold – demon or god talking.
Chapter One – Blood and Seals
What man's land is the graveyard?
It is the crowded home of ghosts, -
Wise and foolish shoulder to shoulder.
The King of the Dead claims them all;
Man's fate knows no tarrying
A chilled wind ran over the near lifeless form of Uzumaki Naruto. It whistled into the raw, hacked up hole that he used to call an ear; its incessant groan emulated the hushed whispers of the villagers who hated him.
Tears sprung to his pristine azure eyes, running down his hole pocked, hemorrhaging cheeks.
So this is how I die.
And somehow, Naruto knew he was. Right here, in this battle between teammates, he was going to die. A failure in every definition of the word: a failed friend, a failed teammate, a failed ninja on a failed mission chasing after a failing dream.
Sasuke wasn't coming back.
A sob caught in is throat, and he felt all his hope drain out of him; like water slipping through grasped fingers. He would never become Hokage. Heck, he never even reached Chunin. The villagers still hated him, and he would be remembered forever as the nuisance of the Hidden Leaf. Even Sakura would probably look back on the memory of him with distaste. Could he really blame her?
A wave crested, crashing into Naruto's defenseless body. For a moment he was completely submerged, surrounded by frigid cold. His back hit the bottom of the river and jagged stones stabbed into his flesh, ripping at his skin. He screamed in pain and the air left his lungs in the form of bubbles dancing to the surface. Finally, he bobbed back to the surface. The pain was so great it was all he could do to stay conscious.
I deserve to die like this, and the sad part was he truly believed it. Why should someone who couldn't even save one friend be allowed to live? For the first time in his life, Uzumaki Naruto gave up and darkness consumed his world.
"Naruto..." It was Sasuke's voice. It sounded almost reverent, regretful.
The Uchiha stood not even two meters away from the blond. His stark white knuckles were clenched into a taut fist as he tried to deny the sight before him. Desperately trying to convince himself that this grotesque image was fraud. That wasn't really Naruto; that could never be Naruto.
But it was.
Sasuke had seen death. He had seen the bloodied remains of hundreds. Loved ones, family, friends, but nothing could have prepared him for this. This thing he had brought upon his best friend. He wasn't even entirely sure how it had happened. All he remembered was his chidori piercing Naruto's heart, and then…
It was like some invisible force had thrown him and Naruto in opposite directions. The explosion of, whatever it was, had broken at least three of Sasuke's ribs, and probably shattered the bone in his left arm – the arm that went through Naruto's chest. By the time he had managed to get back on his feet that thing was drifting in the water; a shredded piece of flesh, which held almost no semblance of his teammate. It looked more like a slab of raw hamburger that someone had jokingly slapped a wig on than anything else, but there was no mistaking those eyes. Those blue, incandescent, yet lifeless eyes.
"I didn't want this," Sasuke whispered mutedly, "never this."
He fell to his knees, teary eyes unable to look away from Naruto. The grief of knowing that he had done this to his best friend rose up in him. It forbade any movement, any flicker of the eyes, commanding him to look at what he had done. He had killed. No – he had done worse. This was not just murder. This was torture. It was slaughter. What he had done made him no better than his brother.
His mind momentarily succeeded by insanity, Sasuke screamed.
Sakura sat in the whitewashed halls of the Konoha hospital. Her olive green eyes glistened with the unshed tears of sadness that welled within her. She held them back the best she could, wiping at her eyes with the end of her sleeve every time one threatened to fall.
Apprehension hung in the air; an uncomfortable cloud of tension that acted almost like a poison, filled with all the unspoken questions that plagued her mind.
"Naruto…" She whispered the name to herself, lips quivering slightly. She glanced at the closed doors before her. Their clean, wooden surface betrayed nothing of the frantic scene that lay on the other side. Sakura would never forget the sight. The tear stained face of her sensei Tsunade, frantically trying to fix what could not be undone. Even after he had been 'officially' proclaimed dead, Tsunade had kept on attempting to heal him, hands shaking as they glowed with a bright green luminescence.
Kakashi had been foolhardy enough to try and pull her away. That had ended with his head being the victim of a vicious backhand that sent him crashing through a wall. No one touched her after that, but all the genin had been shooed out by Kurenai and Asuma. Now they all sat in the hallway, silent except for the sobbing of Hinata.
An hour passed by, or at least it felt like it. In reality it may have been just a few minutes, but grief had a way of changing things, altering one's perspective of reality. Maybe this was all one big nightmare. One a intricately dark, gut wrenchingly messed up nightmare.
Sakura was pulled out of her thoughts and back to the present by the opening of the large, swinging doors that barred them from Naruto. When two white and gray clad medics carried out an unconscious Tsunade, Sakura almost burst into tears. Her last hope that something could be done to save Naruto was being carried out unconscious.
The taller of the two medics spoke in a solemn, sympathetic way, "She did all she could, but the boy's chakra coils had been ripped from his body through his flesh. It should have killed him instantly, but it seems he was somehow able to survive a several minutes before dying. Your friend must have had a very strong will to live. Still, no medic can heal the dead, even the great Tsunade. She collapsed from chakra exhaustion trying to revive him. I am sorry for your loss, but if it's any consolation, Tsunade will no doubt have his name engraved into the memorial stone."
Silence followed his words. A pained, hopeless silence that was more powerful than any utterance could ever be.
"Can we see his body?" Sakura asked, her face ashen. The other medic frowned and shook her head.
"I'm sorry, but the body is under guard. Hokage-sama was under the hopes that the boy had a chance when she issued the orders, but orders are orders. You can not see him." The medics then turned and walked away, carrying the still unconscious Tsunade.
Guilt burned inside Sakura as the image of Naruto's mangled corpse flashed before her eyes.
"He's dead then." Silence. "He's really dead." Sakura was unsure who had said this; it may have even been her. She was to shocked to fully grasp what was happening.
It was as impossible as the Sun not mounting the horizon every day. Just as the rise and fall of the tides, she had come to think of Naruto as an unstoppable force of nature. Not in that he was invincible, but in that she had never seen him give up. He was undefeatable in that aspect simply because he would never stop, he would never surrender
To think she would never again see him smile, never again hear his goofy, carefree laugh or his obnoxious voice. She had enjoyed simply being around him, and though she would never admit it, his advances had always perked her failing confidence whenever Sasuke turned her down. She would miss him, more than she liked to admit.
"It's my fault," Shikamaru's hoarse voice was barely audible, even in the silence of the waiting area. His head fell into his hands, lamely.
"I was the team leader. I was responsible. No – I am responsible. The mission was a complete failure. Every member of my team was injured, and Naruto…" His voice trailed off.
Sakura looked at him, cheeks wet from tears shed for both the teammates she had lost that day.
"Shikamaru, it-it's not your fault. I'm the one that made him promise to bring Sasuke back. If-if I hadn't made him promise h-he could be alive right na-now." She closed her eyes, wiping away her tears with the back of her wrist.
When at last Naruto's eyes flickered open he stumbled to his feet. Or...not? His brain had surely sent signals to the rest of his body telling it to get up, but he felt like there was nothing left to respond. Wait a second, then how did he just move? He did didn't he? How could he even tell? There seemed to be no real up and down, or right and left for that matter. Given, there was space on either side of his head – what use to be his head – and above and below him, but who said that was up or down? It was as if he was trapped under water, blind and deaf to his surroundings.
What is this!?
Panic swarmed through his mind, confusion and fear overriding all rational thought. Questions bounced around the inside of his head like water in a red-hot frying pan.
Then, suddenly, inexplicably, there was a light. A single, motionless, point of light. It was insignificant in the vast nothingness as a grain of rice adrift among the sea.
But it was there. Something was there.
He steadied himself. The light provided a road mark, something that made sense in a mass of chaos.
He had something to focus on. And wait a second, was growing bigger? Or maybe he was just moving closer? Maybe it was moving closer, whatever it was. Could you even use the word closer here? For something to be close, it had to be somewhere first, right? But there didn't seem to be any real 'here' to be in.
"No, this isn't hell, if that's what you where thinking."
The voice echoed through the darkness, and he heard it repeated many times, distorted in some way. He could feel the vibrations of it ripple though his body, showing him how very inconsistent it had become. He was more of an idea than an actual thing now.
"This is the place in-between. It is neither heaven or hell, but what lies before. A limbo of sorts."
The voice seemed to come from the light, and as he drew 'nearer' to it, he could see that the light was actually a figure. It was definably male, and humanoid. It appeared to be even larger than Kyuubi in size. It's body seemed intangible, and glowed with a sort of internal light and power. Long, white hair flowed down to its knees and a massive dagger was held between its teeth.
Around the figure, a sort of presence hung. Not unlike a killing intent, but more concentrated. It was as if death itself was radiating from the ghost-like man.
"I am Shinigami, god of death."
Naruto's eyes widened, or they would of if they were still there. He hoped they were still there. But it made sense now; this place and how he wound up here. He was dead. Sasuke had killed him.
Sadness swept through him, rocking him to the very core of his being. He felt the anger of betrayal and the pain of losing a friend, and worse, the belief that he could of stopped it and failed. It hurt more than anything he'd ever experienced.
Then something…tugged at him. Like something had latched on to him from behind (what would have been) his navel, and it didn't seem like it was gonna let go anytime soon.
Shinigami did not fail to notice, and he continued with haste.
"Naruto, the seal you bare binds me to a purpose. The Fourth wanted to protect you as best he could. He feared one of his many enemies might kill you, so he used this seal to ensure you a second chance at life. I will repair you old body and send you back, though the Kyuubi's soul will remain here with me. You will become the chosen, the Speaker for the Dead.
"Ah, the jutsu is running out. I have no time to answer questions Naruto. You no doubt feel the tug of the mortal realm pulling you back. I will have to explain things later. Explain the fullness of your title, and the duties that come with it. Do you understand?"
Naruto tried to speak, but how can you speak without a tongue, or a mouth for that matter? He was left no time to wonder on the question though, as he felt the same jerk pull on him. And this time, it didn't stop.
Like a trout caught by the hook of an excited fisherman, he was being reeled in. Then it stopped, suddenly, and he felt himself collide against something.
The first thing he became aware of was a sound. It was consistent, played over and over in the background. A steady thumping sound, like someone was pounding on a door. Well, more like a drum really. It was strangely familiar.
Then he recognized it. It was the sound of a heart, his heart. Suddenly the rest of his senses caught up with him.
Cool stone lay beneath him. Or was it tile? He drew in a shaky breath. It was almost like he was breathing for the first time, and then he realized that in a way it was his first time. The cool air rushed into his mouth, filing his lungs.
Yet it remained dark. Why? Straining his eyes he fought to see even a glimmer of light, a shimmer of color, but he only saw darkness. About to panic he realized that his eyes were still closed. Had he really become that stupid? Mentally kicking himself he tried to open his eyelids, but they felt as if they had been painted in lead and he only managed to open them a crack. A dull, steady light rushed in, but even such a weak light was too much for his eyes and caused him to see colors.
Reflexively, he brought his arm in front of his face to block the light, but only succeeded in setting his muscles on fire, or at least it felt like it. Screaming in pain he tried to grab his injured arm with his other. But as soon as he moved it, it burst into a torrent of pain as well. Curling into a ball, he was overcome with the onslaught of complete pain. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and flinched away from it screaming.
"Send for Tsunade, Shizune, any medic! Naruto is alive!"
That voice – Kakashi? A second later he felt a hand on his forehead. It felt cool to the touch. A numbing sensation spread through his body, and the pain started to ebb. Opening his eyes again, Naruto saw Shizune bending over him and Kakashi peering over her should at him. Initially he only felt confusion. Everything had happened so fast.
Struggling he rolled onto his side, but even that small amount of exertion left him winded. "I can barely move," Naruto croaked, "and my mouth is really, really dry. What's a guy got to do to get some water around here?" Naruto whispered hoarsely. He was vaguely aware of Shizune wrapping her arms around him and whimpering, "you're alive! You're alive!" before he slipped into blackness.
Ichiraku ramen had never seen a sadder day. The remaining members of the rookie nine along with Lee, Tenten, and Neji and the sand siblings were gathered there. They sat upon their various stools and chairs, slowly eating away at the remnants of their food.
Ayame was on the verge of tears as she served hot noodles to the grieving group, and Hinata had past verge and was in full-blown sob mode at the moment.
Hinata's tears traced the side of her face, running in tiny rivulets down her cheeks and nose. They dripped steadily into her untouched, cold ramen. It was misu pork, Naruto's favorite, she remembered. She couldn't bring herself to eat any of it, so she just sat there, hunched over, staring into her reflection in the murky broth.
Naruto. How could you die?
Naruto, the unbreakable will, the strongest boy she knew, her only inspiration… Another sob racked her body.
Why hadn't she told Naruto how she felt when she had the chance? God, she should have been braver! All the 'if only's bounced around the inside of her skull as she found herself nearing the breaking point. What chance would she have ever had with Naruto anyway? He was to kind, to brave for her. Had she ever mustered enough strength to tell him, she doubted it would have ever ended with him returning her feelings. Yet, there was always that question, that little voice in the back of her head that begged to differ. Naruto had only ever wanted to be loved. Perhaps…
If only you were alive I would tell you – Naruto.
With that she broke down into a fresh batch of tears.
"Excuse me." An overly loud voice said from behind her.
Hinata turned around in her chair to face the speaker. It was an Anbu. He turned his masked face, as if looking at everyone in the room. When he stopped, Hinata could have sworn he was staring right at Sakura.
"Kakashi said you might be here. He gave me a message to deliver, said you would understand."
The Anbu now had the attention of everyone in the room. What would be so important a message that an Anbu had to deliver it? Why wouldn't Kakashi just deliver it himself?
"He wants you to go room 212 immediately. He says there's one less name that needs to be carved into the memorial stone." The Anbu bowed, the lights casting his white crow mask into shadow, before he disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Nobody moved at first. Was is some kind of trick? Some kind of sick joke? Naruto was dead, wasn't he? Hinata's heart started pounding faster and faster. Suddenly she felt hope. She had a chance.
Author's note: Had this idea for a while and finally got it down. What do you think? Again, this is a Naru-Harem story. Again, the actual members are undecided, so feel free to vote (though I do have some idea as to what I would like). Flames are welcome as long as you back them up a bit. Predictions welcome. Also the next chapters will be longer so don't worry about this one being a bit short.