0: The Devil He Met

Midnight cast itself over the manor as it always did. The torches in the courtyard illuminated the expanse and the faint glimmer from the crescent moon above gave way to a typical night-time scene. The courtyard was empty, save for two figures next to one of the ponds.

The one closest to it was a figure with platinum hair of impressive length, holding a fishing pole; clad mostly in black and off-set by a silver coat, topped with a black wide-brimmed hat. Because of the figure's unusually slender form, it was quite hard to tell if it was man or woman. The other figure was quite obviously a man, his build and above-average height being the most obvious signs. Clad in black over white, the man's most distinct features were his nearly waist-length, braided crimson hair and his strange violet eye, the left being covered by a black eye-patch.

"Yeesh, this is so boring," the crimson-haired man commented. "Can't they hurry up and get here already?"

"Give it a rest, will ya?" Apparently the slender figure holding the fishing pole was a man, as the masculine octave was something no woman was capable of. "You've been whinin' ever since that fatass lord told us what to do."

The crimson-haired man just smirked at the silver-haired man as if he expected that exact response. The slender man grunted, bringing his line up to see that there was nothing on it.

"Damn it, why ain't anything bitin'?"

"Careful Mura, our client isn't gonna be happy if ya snag one of his fish."

"He can kiss my ass."

Mura once again cast his line out, the splashing of the water as the bobber interrupted the surface being pretty much the only sound around. Unusually slender, effeminate fingers with long, finely manicured nails atop leather-glove-bound hands gripped the fishing pole. The man sighed; though his features were shadowed by his hat he was obviously quite bored and irritated at the long wait of his job.

Both men had been hired for the bodyguard duty of some noble or another, who was being targeted for assassination due to illegal activities. In all honesty, the silver-haired man didn't exactly like doing work like this, though it was better than starving due to pride. Plus, when he heard who was targeting the lord…

His crimson-haired partner suddenly perked up, his head suddenly jerking towards the gates of the manor. His single eye narrowed and a smirk slowly etched itself upon his lips.

"So, those lazy morons finally coming, Iga?" Mura asked the crimson-haired man.

"Yeah, any longer and I'd've gone after them." Iga eagerly cracked his knuckles "So, who's turn is it this time?"

"Yours, last time I did all the work."

"Alrighty, catch ya when this is done," said Iga with a wave as he sprinted towards the corridors.

Mura went back to his fishing, brushing his long hair out of his face as he did so. His expression didn't change, nor did his current mood. In all honesty there was very little on his mind, except for one thing: that the shinobi coming soon would not succeed in their mission.

XXXXX

Outside of the manor, swift and shadowy figures made their way across the dim, quiet streets. Though their forms were hard to discern, only a certain kind of people could move in this manner: shinobi. With unheard steps and unseen forms, they skittered along the streets, not even fragments of sounds being heard as they went along.

The small squad stopped as one up front, a smaller figure with long black hair, gave a hand signal to halt momentarily. Scanning for but a few moments, the front figure did several small motions with their fingers, signaling several others to jump over the walls of the manor. Like ephemeral shadows, three shinobi had already gone inside the walls as if they had heard the front figure's thoughts.

The front figure signaled again, their arm whipping to the left, causing three other shinobi to run along the roofs of the houses outside and into the manor. With a final motion the front figure pointed straight ahead, the last two heading for the courtyard. In less than a minute, the figure that had been giving orders was now alone atop a house, and the only thing giving its existence away being the white armor worn over a shinobi uniform; a clear sign of those known as the ANBU.

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Iga sighed as he waited once again inside the halls of the manor, bored that his catch still hadn't shown up despite the fact that they had just arrived. He never could expect much from self-proclaimed shinobi. The red-head just looked wherever, hoping he'd catch a glimpse of his current enemies.

It was then that fingers as silent as the night itself crept towards the young man's throat. Ready to muffle his voice and slit his throat, they ever so quietly inched over Iga's face.

However, the owner of the hands wasn't quite expecting to be grabbed by his right arm and then thrown across the hallway by the very man he was going to silence. Crashing over hard wood, the ANBU came to a stop just before he hit the wall.

"Yeesh." Iga was strangely relaxed. "Can't you guys even try to do a decent fight? I mean, c'mon, I'm so used to being snuck up on that throwing you bastards has because a goddamned reflex."

The ANBU was dismayed at suddenly being tossed by some mercenary like this red-headed bastard. Shaking his head, the masked shinobi got up, crouching into an attack position with his hand going to his sword. Iga however looked a bit bored, running his left hand through his shaggy, crimson hair.

"Tch, oh well, I ain't got anythin' better to do. Besides, that bishi Mura's gonna get pissed if our cash flow bites it."

Iga stepped forward slowly as silver flashed behind him from the dark.

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Mura glanced at the halls to his side, the sounds of battle reaching his ears as he attempted to fish. He sighed, going back to his fishing as the battle raged on inside the manor whilst he sat out in the courtyard. Aside from Iga having to deal with ANBU, it was a peaceful night for Mura. Now, if only the fish in the ponds could have his definition of peaceful it would be an even better night.

"Well, this is the first I've heard of you being here."

Mura looked over his shoulder, slightly annoyed at having to turn around to see the person bothering him. He just looked dully, seeing another ANBU on the grass, this one's defining features being his small size and his long hair tied into a low ponytail.

"Tch, just as I'm about to relax a friggin' kid tries to bother me." His annoyance growing, Mura merely turned back to the pond to fish.

"It's Muramasa, right? Hodaishi Muramasa, the one they call the Beautiful Silver Slayer."

"…What about it?" This time he didn't even flatter the ANBU with a glance.

"Normally I'd chat with you a bit, but unfortunately you're under my target's employ."

"Save me the trouble of kicking your ass and fly away, forest boy."

"I decline."

Most people wouldn't have been able to see what happened within that split second. The ANBU had instantly charged forward, blade swiftly drawing out as he did so. However, what he hit wasn't the androgynous male sitting by the pond, but thin air. No matter how fast the ANBU had moved, Muramasa had moved even faster.

Suddenly a small, cracking sound rang out over the courtyard and a crooked line drew itself down the ANBU's mask. The mask split in two, both halves falling on the grass, which left the man's face fully exposed. The ANBU was a bit shocked, though his surprise was merely visual and not vocal, wondering how his mask could have cracked and yet no mark appear on his face.

"Tch, just as I figured, yer a damn kid."

The young ANBU turned around, seeing Muramasa sitting rather calmly on a sizable rock with a long, thin tobacco pipe in his hand.

"Where is his fishing pole?" thought the ANBU.

"God, why do I always meet up with either weirdoes or people wanting to kick my ass?"

Did Muramasa break his mask with just that pipe? No, impossible, a crack that clean wouldn't have happened with a blunt instrument. Shaking his head, the ANBU just went into a stance and his eyes turned from a solemn black, to a blazing crimson with three tomoe within their irises. However, the aloof Muramasa was unaware, rummaging in his pockets for something.

"Damn it, don't tell me I dropped it when I smacked that brat..."

The ANBU had grown tired of the man's lack of concern over someone pointing a blade at him. With all the power he could muster in his legs, the ANBU lunged forward, his sword ready to slice Muramasa's throat wide open. However, what the young ANBU got instead was what appeared to be the high-heel of one of Muramasa's boots straight in his face. That blow knocked the ANBU back to his previous spot, just short of his head hitting the pond.

"Ah, found it." Muramasa casually took out a pouch, retrieving some tobacco from it to put into his pipe.

The ANBU got back up, regaining what composure he had left and attempted to strike Muramasa with his blade. All he got was another dodge as the older man found his matches and lit the tobacco in his pipe.

"Alright, now I'm ready." Muramasa actually faced the ANBU now, not looking very concerned or worried.

"Rather arrogant, aren't you?"

Muramasa didn't answer the question, instead just walking nonchalantly towards the young ANBU. He inspired another charge from the teenager, though he merely turned on his heel with an unusually fluid motion, now back to back with the ninja. Before the latter could figure out what had happened, he got a tap from the former on his head.

"Kid, loosen up a bit, yer stiff as a board." Muramasa always did hate seeing bad swordsmanship, though his remark got him a circular sweep, but the blow missed him by about an inch "Plus yer as easy t' read as a comic book."

Muramasa then noticed that the ANBU was doing a few quick gestures with his hands. The next thing he noticed, there was a huge fireball coming towards him, ready to swallow him in the inferno.

The ANBU just looked as the flames hit Muramasa square-on, engulfing the man in the blaze. He just snorted in disgust, thinking that someone of a pedigree like that sword-for-hire would at least have the common sense to dodge a giant ball of fire. Sheathing his blade, the ANBU turned and went back to his previous objective. Well, until he heard an intake of breath…and the fact that the heat from the fire had vanished very, very quickly.

"Well, 'least you magicians are good for a light; my pipe was nearly out."

The ANBU's eyes widened, not especially huge but just enough to be noticeable, at the sound of those words. He turned around slowly, his eyes meeting with the impossible site of Muramasa still standing there, his pipe still in hand. What was even more impossible was the fact that neither his clothes nor his hair were a bit singed, plus the grass around him was barely steaming, let alone scorched. Muramasa just stood, smoking while the ANBU just looked at him, astonished.

"You…" the ANBU began after his initial speechlessness "first my Sharingan cannot read you, now fire cannot burn you?"

"Sharingan?"

"Well ain't this interesting."

Both Muramasa and the ANBU snapped their head towards a door at the voice, seeing Iga step out from the hallway, his hair a bit mussed and what appeared to be gauntlets on his hands. He brushed his messy bangs away from his face, showing that his gauntlets had claws ending the fingertips of the brutish armor.

"I heard about a new ANBU captain recently, one that had some rather interesting eyes," Iga said casually to Muramasa as he stepped forward.

"Oh… Now I remember; those uninspired idiots," Muramasa responded after a pull, smoke billowing from between his teeth.

The ANBU tensed up, none too interested in having to deal with two men such as Muramasa and Iga. Regaining what little composure he had, the ANBU got on his feet and readied the blade he had, getting an amused smirk from Iga.

"Man, you obviously ain't too smart, kid," Iga said as he began to take his gauntlets off.

"What do you mean?"

"If I'm out here, then where are your little buddies?"

"Iga, you better not've made a mess of things in there." Muramasa pointed his pipe at Iga.

"C'mon, how can you not expect a bit of messiness from the Tetsu-ori?"

While Iga and Muramasa had their little conversation, the ANBU they were ignoring seemed to have come to the realization that his entire squad had been wiped out by Iga alone. Of course he had heard stories of these mercenaries before, but he didn't think taking down a few seasoned veterans was something that could be so easily achieved by anyone.

"You…" The ANBU finally got the mercenaries' attention. "What are you two?"

The two men looked towards the ANBU, violet and silver orbs accented by the light in the courtyard. However, the one the ANBU was looking at was Muramasa. Smoke rose slowly from his pipe, giving his eyes more of a menacing appearance.

"Kid, you don't wanna know, believe me."

Muramasa breathed out again, smoke shooting out in a thin stream from his mouth. His eyes then darted to his right, seeing an ANBU with his mask partially cracked step out from the hall Iga had been in.

"Iga, you friggin' suck." Iga casually shrugged at the effeminate man's comment.

"Commander, the entire squad is out of commission!"

"I know," the unmasked ANBU answered, more than annoyed.

Muramasa just looked bored, continuing to smoke his pipe, giving the ANBU a look that said "just get going". Irritated, the commander merely gave his subordinate a quick signal, making their cue to leave. In a flash, both ANBU vanished from the grounds of the manor, leaving the two mercenaries behind. Muramasa merely looked as his pipe which had run out of tobacco. Sighing, he knocked the ash from the bowl by knocking it against his heel.

"God, I should've expected them not to last even one bowl, let alone two." he said irately as he put the pipe into his inner coat pocket.

"What else do you expect? People of this generation are just a bunch of sissies prancing around their friggin' magic tricks and illusions. It's not like back in the old days where people were basically fighting tooth and nail."

"…Yeah, it pisses me off."

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Author's Notes: Well, never thought I'd be coming back to Naruto after more than two years of not wanting to write anything about it. Anyway, you'll notice that this revolves heavily around my two OC characters Muramasa and Iga. This is really just going to be an introductory fic for my OCs and an observing ground for Trayne who will be taking care of an equally large chunk of the project. Hopefully the next few chapters are a lot smoother than this one was (damn you PS2!).