Chapter 35 – The power of the ancients
Hoshigaki Kisame, former swordsman of the Mist, stared at the blonde jinchuuriki in front of him with mild interest.
"Hey brat! Before I send you to hell, how 'bout you tell me how you came back from the dead" He grinned, revealing his teeth, which were filed and sharpened to points.
Naruto simply raised an eyebrow. "A good magician never reveals his secrets"
Kisame barely dodged the attack that came from behind him. Even as he twisted and swung his sword, the Naruto he had been talking to let loose a barrage of shuriken. But Hoshigaki Kisame, for all his bulk, was almost as fast as Uchiha Itachi. He spun in mid air, wielding his giant sword to bat them away.
Even as he landed, Jiraya rushed in, hand flowing through seals. He slammed his palms into the ground and multiple dragons made of earth charged towards Kisame. Kisame laughed and flew into a few seals of his own. Seconds before the earth dragons reached him; water dragons burst out of the ground and struck them.
Jiraya moved in again, this time closing in on Kisame as he unleashed the devastating hermit style taijutsu. He flowed through Kisame's defenses and landed blow after blow, forcing him back. The hermit style was a rare style that was taught to only a select few and was made to counter most of the styles in the world. The blows were designed to deliver maximum damage without putting in too much effort.
So it was quite a shock to Jiraya when Kisame snarled and counterattacked, delivering a kick to his ribs that sent him flying away. He realized then that there were two problems with the attack. First one was that Kisame seemed to shrug off blows that would have dropped even a ninja like Hatake Kakashi to his knees, indicating that he was built for taking punishment. Two, though his mastery over seals and ninjutsu had grown over the years and had reached a level where everyone feared him, his taijutsu had declined. No matter how hard one trains, old age is an enemy that can not be defeated. His movements were a fraction slower, his energy a fraction lesser. For a ninja of Kisame's caliber, that was all he needed.
Seeing his teacher getting kicked away, Naruto summoned twenty clones who attacked Kisame with various low powered elemental ninjutsu. Kisame leapt high in the air, causing the clone army to be wiped out by each others attack. But by that time, Naruto had already opened four of the Celestial Gates.
"Naruto! Don't!" Jiraya screamed frantically, but it was too late.
A massive blast of chakra raced towards Kisame. Jiraya's hair stood on its end as he felt the sheer power behind that blast. It had enough energy to wipe out a small settlement. Kisame laughed in pure pleasure as he sung his sword to meet the attack. As sword met chakra, there was a blinding flash, causing Jiraya and Naruto to cover their eyes. When the glare subsided, they saw Kisame standing there unharmed, with a big grin on his face. Naruto's jaw dropped open and Jiraya groaned in frustration.
"What the hell?" Naruto could not believe it. That attack should have wiped him of the face of the planet, leaving nothing but ashes behind.
"His sword absorbs chakra, you dumb blonde!" Jiraya yelled angrily.
Kisame laughed. "Samaheda says thanks for the lovely lunch" he said as he patted his sword lovingly.
Give me a break. A chakra absorbing sword? Naruto groaned
Kisame was surrounded by a blue aura as he drew on the chakra in his sword. He flew through hand seals, taking advantage of the momentary lapse in his enemy's concentration. As he finished, the ground began to rumble. A second later, very high pressure water jets began to shoot out of the ground. Jiraya quickly teleported away. Naruto, on the other hand, could not move quickly enough. He screamed in pain as some of the jets found their mark and punched through him like a drill through paper. He fell to the ground, bleeding like a stuck pig and in terrible agony.
Kisame roared with laughter at the sight of Naruto lying helpless on the ground, slowly bleeding to death. He sauntered over to his prone form and hefted his sword on his shoulder, eyeing him with glee.
"You should have stayed dead boy" He smirked. "Now I am going to cut you off into tiny pieces while you scream"
As he lifted his sword to start his grisly work, there was an explosion of movement behind him. He whirled back to see Jiraya coming towards him with incredible speed. He could not react in time and was sent flying back by a blow to his chest.
Were those … frogs on his shoulders? Kisame shook his head as he stood up. Jiraya was glaring at him, so were the two frogs.
"Hey!" He exclaimed angrily. "What's with those frogs?"
"Frogs!" the one on the right croaked angrily.
"We've just been insulted!" the other one huffed.
Kisame was frowning now. Talking frogs! What next, singing frogs?
"This guy is built like a steel wall. I'll close in on him while you use your toad illusion technique on him" Jiraya muttered softly.
As they nodded, Jiraya literally flew towards Kisame, fists drawn back. A quick glance at Naruto had told him that he would be all right. The kyuubi had already started healing his wounds.
Kisame found himself guarding against a flurry of kicks and punches, more powerful and faster than the first time. He snarled in frustration as Jiraya kept up the offensive, not allowing him room to swing that sword of his. So, he allowed one of Jiraya's kicks to slip in. The impact sent him flying away, but also gave him the opportunity to get his sword into position.
"Now!" Jiraya yelled.
Kisame found himself struggling to breathe as a gigantic hand closed round his throat and started squeezing it.
Aw crap! It's a genjutsu!
Kisame had sparred with Itachi enough times to recognize a genjutsu if he was caught in one. He drew on all the chakra that had been stored in Samaheda, along with his own chakra and released it in a burst. The gigantic hand vanished and Jiraya was sent flying away.
"What the … is he really human?"
Jiraya was wondering the same thing. That chakra amount had been incredibly large, too large for anyone other than a jinshuuriki. But Kisame could not be a jinchuuriki. No, he had drawn on the massive chakra stored in his sword.
Kisame burst out of the foliage, roaring with rage. This time, it was Jiraya who was forced to go on the defensive. Before his defection, Kisame had been regarded as the strongest Swordsman ever in Mist. Years of travelling with elite rogues had only improved his skills. Slowly and steadily, Jiraya found himself giving ground.
A burst of power hammered into the shark faced ninja, sending him tumbling away. Jiraya looked back to see Naruto standing with his arms outstretched, a look a fury on his face.
Kisame angrily picked himself up. "Why don't you stay down, you little runt?"
Naruto clenched his fists as the ground in a five meter radius began to tremble. Trees snapped and fell to the ground. Within a span of few seconds, all the trees around him were down.
Kisame tightened his grip on Samaheda as the trees began to float in the air. With a thunderous crack, the split into tiny slivers; each the width of a senbon needle and the length of a grown man's forearms.
With a gesture, Naruto sent the countless slivers flying towards his enemy. Kisame kept knocking them back, but to his horror, the barrage was unending. The slivers he knocked back simply reversed their trajectory in mid-air and flew back towards him. He quickly realized that he would soon be turned into a pin cushion this way. He teleported a few feet away and flew into a series of complex hand seals. Naruto sent the needles flying towards his new position with even greater speed. The first wave struck Kisame as he finished his seals.
With a roar, the ground before him split open as a massive wall of water rose to defend Kisame. Jets of water flew out from that wall, crushing all the needles that flew towards it.
The wall slowly died down, revealing a wet and bleeding Kisame. He had been struck by quite a few needles and was panting heavily due to using such high chakra based techniques one after the other. He eyed his opponents warily. Samaheda was out of chakra. He was down to a little less than half. While even half was more than Itachi's peak, he got the feeling that it wouldn't be nearly enough against these two.
Jiraya had returned to normal, panting in exhaustion and with a puzzled expression on his face. Something had felt … wrong when Naruto had used his power. His tenuous connection with the nature chakra had wavered and then vanished. The sudden loss of power made him feel weak and tired. He looked at Naruto, who stood calmly, watching Kisame like a hawk.
Cobalt fire blossomed from Naruto's fingers. Kisame quickly swung Samaheda to block the attack. Sword and sorcery collided with a thunderous clap.
I can't move Kisame realized with horror. The muscles on his arms bulged out as he strained, but to no avail. He could not budge his sword even an inch and neither could he let go of it.
Unknown to him, Naruto was having a similar problem. The power within him felt alive as it flowed towards Kisame's sword. No matter how hard he tried, he could not shut it down.
What is going on here? He thought frantically. He could feel his power draining away slowly. At this rate, he would die.
There is something about his sword. I have to figure out and fast.
While Naruto could not shut down his power, he found out that he could, to a small degree, manipulate the nature of it. The searing attack became a probing attack, tendrils of power rushing through Samaheda.
Tell me your secrets
Seconds ticked by as Naruto and Kisame stood still, locked in combat by their powers. Jiraya could only look on nervously at the battle in front of him. This was no longer a ninja battle. The powers that had been brought out were alien to him. He dare not intervene in case he did more harm than good.
Naruto drew a soft breath in awe of what he was seeing. Samaheda was an ancient weapon, a work of a master. The steel had been folded countless times in perfection, each fold inscribed with runes. It was these runes that were responsible for the strange situation they both were in. All those hours of studies with his shadow clone army had taught him a lot about runic sorcery. He carefully began to weave his power at certain runes. Once he had attached to every rune of that kind, he deactivated them.
Samaheda shattered with a terrific explosion, flinging Kisame away like a rag doll. Naruto staggered back as he the backlash sent daggers of pain into his head. Even as he staggered back, Jiraya swung into action. Kisame was lying a few feet away, his chest shredded by the shrapnel from Samaheda's explosion. He dimly made out Jiraya charging for him, but he could not move any part of his body. The last thing he felt was the prick of a needle before darkness swallowed him up.
Jiraya let out a sigh of relief. Kisame had been neutralized. He tied him up then summoned a toad so he could be brought to Tsunade. He looked back to see Naruto sitting on the ground, massaging his temple. There were so many questions he wanted to ask him, but he stilled himself. He would leave the explanations for later. Right now, they had to find a place to recuperate. He slowly made his way towards Naruto.
"Are you feeling all right?" he asked.
Naruto nodded wearily as he stood up.
"Good" Jiraya said. "We can now .. oh my God!" He exclaimed. "Your friend! He's fighting Itachi. He …"
"He's alive" Naruto cut him off.
Jiraya looked closely at Naruto. There was no expression of concern on his face. Either he really knew what had happened or he was simply too confident in his friend's abilities.
Naruto simply took off where they had left Akira. A few minutes later, they came across a patch of burnt forest, an extremely tired Akira and the Itachi lying in a pool of his own blood. To say that Jiraya was shocked would be an understatement.
"Sensei!" Naruto nudged him, breaking him out of his thoughts. "We need a place to rest, a secure place."
"Ah ..!" Jiraya stammered, his mind reeling with the events of the last few minutes.
"We will head to Suna. I have some special arrangements with the Kazekage there".
Naruto's eyebrow rose skeptically. Jiraya saw that and grinned.
"Gaara became the Kazekage three years ago" he said.
"Ah" Naruto said softly. That would explain the 'special arrangement'. Gaara was probably very grateful to him for fixing up his seal.
Jiraya summoned a large mountain toad as Naruto helped Akira to his feet. Soon, they were on top of the toad and speeding towards Suna.
You look pretty banged up. Why didn't you go all out?
I want to keep the element of surprise all long as possible. Jiraya was there to help me. Plus, Kisame wasn't very good.
The two had mastered the art of telepathic communication and so could converse without Jiraya eavesdropping on them.
What about you?
Hah! Itachi simply used the wrong technique at the wrong time. Else I would have been lying on the ground, dead as a doornail.
Naruto smiled. Had he felt Akira was in serious trouble at any time, he would have rushed in to help. As the only two practitioners of sorcery, it was imperative that they both remained alive till the threat had been dealt with.
They reached Suna after eight hours of hard riding. After a quick word with the guards, Jiraya led them to a fancy looking hotel. It turned out that the topmost suite was reserved for Jiraya for his lifetime.
Akira whistled appreciatively as he entered the suite. "Impressive!" He said as he looked around. As a member of one of the richer Uchiha families, he had had his share of luxury during his childhood. Naruto, on the other hand was indifferent to such things. For an orphan who was force to survive on his own, he actually found such opulence a little wasteful.
"You two rest here. I'll have to go and meet the Kazekage and give him my report." Jiraya told them as he left the room.
Akira immediately jumped on his bed. The feeling of the soft pillow and mattresses, along with the silk sheets felt amazing.
"Ah!" He said softly. "The pleasures of being rich! What say you Naruto? Naruto?" Getting no response, he looked over to where Naruto was sleeping soundly. He rolled his eyes in exasperation. The first sign of real luxury after so many years and that guy just falls asleep without taking time to appreciate it.
In Konoha, Shizune looked on in horror as her mentor and the Godaime Hokage guzzled down three flasks of sake in less than two minutes.
"Tsunade sama!" she protested weakly. "You have a meeting in less than five minutes!"
Tsunade's only response was to grimace as she searched the desk for more sake. One dead Akatsuki, one incapacitated Akatsuki, both sent by Jiraya with a message saying that he would explain things later. What the hell was she supposed to tell the council about this?
Just then, Kakashi entered the room and nervously cleared his throat.
"What!" Tsunade snapped.
"Hoshigaki Kisame has been placed in the vaults. Also, the autopsy team has finished a preliminary examination of Uchiha Itachi".
"And?" Tsunade prompted, noticing the tone of Kakashi's voice.
Kakashi took a deep breath. "The burn marks on Itachi have been caused by a form of energy completely unknown to us."
There was pin-drop silence in the room for the next few seconds.
"Couldn't it have been a … some unknown justsu?" Shizune ventured hesitantly.
Kakashi shook his head. "Any jutsu invariably uses one of the five elemental chakra. Even the burn marks resulting from Itachis Amaterasu that we had come across a few years earlier showed traces of fire elemental chakra."
"So you're saying that .."
"The energy traces match nothing that we have come across so far" Kakashi finished for her.
"That's just wonderful!" Tsunade remarked dryly as she launched another search for her elusive cache of sake.
Naruto jerked awake as he heard knocking on the door. Gathering his power, he walked up to the door.
"Who is it?" he asked cautiously.
"The Kazekage requests your presence" came the muffled reply.
Naruto looked over to where Akira was snoring blissfully.
"Give us a few minutes to get ready" he said as he turned to wake Akira up.
Ten minutes later, Naruto, Akira and Jiraya were sitting in front of the fifth Kazekage of Suna, Sabaku no Gaara. Gaara sat on his chair with an expressionless face, which was not unusual for he was not the kind of man to display emotions openly. But the man at his side, Kankuro, was openly glaring at them, or rather, glaring at Naruto.
"I would like to know how you came back from the death, if you are indeed Uzumaki Naruto" Gaara said, leaning back into his chair. Though his face and body language was calm, there was an aura around him that threatened a world of pain if he didn't like the answer he got.
Naruto shrugged. "I never died. That was a ruse."
With a snarl, Kankuro launched himself at Naruto, only to be stopped in his tracks by Gaara's sand.
"Behave yourself, Kankuro!" Gaara snapped.
But Kankuro was in no mood to listen.
"A ruse?" He spat, voice rising with anger. "Do you know that Temari was in a funk for more than a year because of your ruse? You heartless little …"
"Kankuro!" This time the sand tightened around his chest. Kankuro spat once more then stopped struggling against the sand.
Naruto sighed. "I needed to leave the village in such a way that no one would pursue me. Do you honestly believe that I could have told anyone of my plans?"
"But why did you want to leave?" Jiraya asked, a little perplexed. "I thought you were finally finding some happiness with Temari …"
"Do you honestly believe that I could have a normal life, let alone happy life as a demon host?" Naruto asked, a trace of bitterness in his voice. "I wanted to leave the village so I could find out a way to get rid of my tenant. You would never have let me leave the village, so I had to cook up that whole thing."
"But you could have .."
Naruto rolled his eyes. "I could have what? Even if you did give me permission to leave the village, I would have been hunted down by bounty hunters who want the kyuubi. My condition is not exactly a well kept secret, you know?"
There was silence for some time. Then Gaara turned to Akira.
"And you would be …?"
"Akira" he answered with a grin. "Uchiha Akira" He was careful to put emphasis on the word 'Uchiha'.
This answer was met with incredulous looks from everyone, except Jiraya.
"Of course!" He said softly. "There was one body we never found and that was yours. There were pieces of flesh lying around in your house. We assumed that you had been blown up."
Akira shook his head. "That was … Shiro, my companion."
At that moment, two servants came in carrying refreshments. After they left, Gaara leaned back in his chair and looked at Naruto.
"I would like to know how you escaped and what you did all these years. After all, its not everyday that someone can boast of defeating a member of the Akatsuki with abilities unknown to even a person as knowledgeable as Jiraya here."
For the next two hours, Naruto and Akira took turns in telling their tales. So fantastic did it sound that during the narration, not once did anyone make any sound. After they had finished, everyone had a shaken look on their faces, except for Gaara.
"Come!" Gaara said as he stood up.
With puzzled looks on their faces, Kankuro, Naruto, Jiraya and Akira followed Gaara out of the room. It was night in Suna, so there were not many people out at this time. After fifteen minutes, the group found themselves at the Suna hospital.
Why is he bringing us here? Did he also capture an Akatsuki member? Naruto thought as he entered the building.
They entered a heavily guarded room on the third floor, in which lay a woman attached heavily to life support systems. Something about her seemed familiar to Naruto …
"Temari!" he gasped.
"Can you heal her?" Gaara asked.
Naruto was too shaken up to answer.
"We never did learn healing techniques, unfortunately." Akira spoke up for him.
Kankuro bit his lips in disappointment as a tear escaped his eye. Sakura had given Temari at most 6 months more to live if the poison was not removed soon.
"Whats.. whats wrong with her?" Naruto asked haltingly.
"She was hit by a poisoned dart, a poison no one is able to eradicate from her system." Gaara replied as he stroked Temari's hand softly.
Hearing the excitement in his voice, Gaara turned and nodded.
"Poison I can remove." Naruto said with a smile.
"But I thought you said you don't know any healing." Kankuro asked suspiciously.
"We don't. We can't heal any damage to her body, but we can destroy the poison." Akira replied with a grin.
The two quickly moved to either side of Temari's bed. A blue glow filled their hands and slowly spread across Temari's body.
"Have your best healers come up here quickly" Naruto said softly.
"I can see the poison." Akira said as he directed Naruto's energy towards it. Once they had completely identified the poison, the energy changed from a soft blue to an angry cobalt. Cleansing fire swept through Temari's body like wildfire, destroying the poison faster than it could replicate. For fifteen minutes, they kept the fire directed in her body as each and every trace of the poison was obliterated.
"It is done" Naruto wheezed as he sank down on a chair.
Medics rushed in to examine Temari.
"Kazekage sama!" The head medic turned to Gaara. "All the poison has been removed from her body. Now we can easily repair the damages."
Kankuro gave a whoop of joy as he jumped in the air. The expression on Gaara's face changed to one of immense relief while Jiraya had an incredulous look on his face. These two had removed a poison which the world's best medic could not.
"Madara" the voice rasped with anger.
Madara quaked as he knelt, beads of perspiration running down his face even though the air in the cavern was very chilly.
"I sensed a power being used, powers used by the followers of those who sealed me."
Madara went cold. Had someone found out?
"Find them Madara, find them and kill them before they interfere."