Sit Upon the Frozen Heavens
By: James D. Fawkes
Chapter Twelve: Gotta' Knock a Little Harder
— o.0.O.O.0.o —
People milled around, walking through the village as they went about their day to day life. Men carried swords at their waists, the tops of their heads shaved and the rest tied in a topknot. Women busied themselves with things essential to the comfort of their family and their home. Children ran around, playing in the dirt streets.
The sun shone brightly, illuminating the vast village in all of its modern structures. Buildings had sliding doors to them now instead of the flaps of straw and bamboo that the lesser, humbler villages used to protect their huts from the elements. Homes were sturdy with cream colored walls and dark blue-tiled tops.
Three men walked through this village, and, in their black kimono and hakama, they wouldn't stand out all that much amongst the inhabitants. Two were tall while the other was hunched over, gripping a gnarled cane. Two had hair, the other was shaved bald with a long, plated white beard. The third figure, hunched and bald, had a white haori draped over his shoulders.
To the villagers, however, none of this mattered, as they couldn't see these men anyway.
"Yama-jii," one of the men complained to the third, "what are we doing here?"
"Shush, Shunsui!" the second man scolded, his long white hair tied in a ponytail. "But I must admit to being curious, Genryuusai-sensei. Why is it that we're here? I see no hollows."
Yamamoto paused for a moment, looking at something in the distance that neither Shunsui nor Juushiro could. At length, he responded, "We're here to see an old friend of mine."
As the old man began walking again, Juushiro and Shunsui shared a look, blinking with wide eyes. To one another, they mouthed the words, "Old friend?"
Turning back forward, Juushiro rushed to catch up with his teacher, "Genryuusai-sensei! What do you mean by 'old friend'?"
"You will see when we get there," Yamamoto said without pausing, his half-lidded eyes set forward. As Shunsui caught up, he shot Juushiro a questioning look. The white-haired man gave his friend a bewildered shrug, jogging slightly as Yamamoto left them behind again.
To visit an old friend. That was the excuse that Yamamoto-Genryuusai Shigekuni had given his two students for their trip into the living world. What puzzled Ukitake Juushiro was not the trip itself, but rather the supposed purpose of it. Yamamoto was at least thirteen hundred years old and had spent those years as a Shinigami, so who could he know in the living world that had been alive at the same time as him?
The rest of the journey was silent; neither Shunsui nor Juushiro was willing to ask more about their destination and the man they were looking for (or woman, as the case might be). Several random people shot them funny looks, as though they could actually see the strange trio, and most of them had either blonde hair, vibrant blue eyes, or pale lavender eyes (which struck Juushiro as odd; weren't people whose eyes had no pupils blind?).
For the most part, however, they were left alone. No one bothered to talk to them or stop them on their journey and no one questioned their presence, which made Juushiro think that, perhaps, Yamamoto had been here more often than he had ever told them. The other explanation was that they were used to strangers walking through their village, but that made even less sense than the first.
"This is the place," Yamamoto said suddenly. Juushiro stopped walking to turn his gaze to the building that his sensei was talking about.
It was an extremely tall tower, especially by the standards of the buildings and houses around it. The top reached into the clouds, its peak scraping the sky with red tiles. About midway up, a large, circular red sign hung, the kanji for 'Fire' written in its center and the paint peeling from age. The building itself was also strange, made of what appeared to be some sort of beige brick, and, though it looked in disrepair, was definitely habitable.
It was certainly old looking, that's for sure, but Juushiro wouldn't put it at any older than two, maybe three hundred years old. It looked as though it hadn't been kept up for nearly fifty years, but, beyond that, was in fairly good condition. A gate surrounded it, tall and just as circular as the tower itself, but in just as poor condition as the sign.
"Are you serious? But, Yama-jii!" Shunsui whined. "This tower doesn't look like it could support a pin, let alone three full grown Shinigami!"
"What are you talking about?" Juushiro gave him a funny look. "This tower can't be more than three hundred years old. It may be rundown, but it's in good enough condition that it could certainly be lived in!"
"What are you talking about?" Shunsui shot back, jabbing a finger at the tall tower. "This thing looks like a strong breeze would knock it over! Look, the roof is rotted through and the foundation looks so unstable that I'm surprised this thing is still standing."
"So, Shunsui, you fell for the illusion," Yamamoto remarked with a light amusement. He tapped his cane on the ground and, immediately, Shunsui's mouth fell open. Juushiro looked back at the tower, but saw nothing different.
"What just happened?" Shunsui asked in an awed voice.
"The image you saw was merely to repel trespassers and discourage people from trying to tear it down," Yamamoto explained. "It was merely an illusion, an expertly set up one, to keep this tower's inhabitant safe from the outside world. You will not find a Kidô capable of matching it."
Without another word, Yamamoto walked through the gate and opened the old, wooden door. Shunsui still looked to be in shock, so, sighing in exasperation, Juushiro grabbed him by the arm and half-dragged him forward as they followed their teacher inside. The door creaked slightly as he closed it behind himself, but showed no sign of falling off its hinges.
The inside was much more lavish than the outside was, that Juushiro noticed immediately. The floor was made of polished wood and, in some cases, marble tile, and reflected the light streaming in from the large glass windows. Several furnished hangings hung from the beige walls and oil lamps hung from the ceiling, illuminating what would have normally remained in shadow.
Yamamoto made a turn and began up a set of stairs, Juushiro following with a recovered Shunsui on his tail. They reached the second floor, but Yamamoto didn't pause to check it out. Instead, he merely continued up the staircase and on towards the third floor, where they also skipped out and moved to the fourth floor.
On the fourth floor, the sound of a pair of feet walking stopped their ascent. Looking up, Juushiro was met with a pair of wide, surprised lavender eyes, not unlike those he had seen on some of the people in the street. He got the impression that she always wore that look. She had long, silky black hair that traveled down to the small of her back and her bangs were cropped right above her eyebrows.
"Hello, my dear," Yamamoto said politely.
"Oh," the girl said in a soft, airy voice. She couldn't have been older than nine or ten. "Are you here to see Grandfather?"
"Yes," Yamamoto nodded. "We're here to see your grandfather."
Nodding, she said, still in that same voice, "Follow me, please."
She led them back up the staircase, a tray of tea held carefully in her arms. They passed the fifth floor, then the sixth, seventh, and eighth. At the ninth, she paused for a moment to light incense sticks in front of two pictures: one of a woman with chocolate brown eyes and her hair done up in buns on either side of her head, and the other who looked much like the young woman in front of them.
After a bow and a moment of what seemed to be prayer, the girl stood straight and picked up the tray of tea again, leading them further up the staircase to the tenth floor. It was there, they noticed, that the stairs ended, leaving nothing but an open hallway with two massive doors at the end. Along the walls were several frames, each containing a picture, a name, and a numbered title. The last picture on the wall was of a dark-haired man, beneath which was 'Namikaze Kaworu' and the title 'Kyuudaime Hokage'.
At these giant oak doors, the girl nudged one open and slipped easily into the room beyond. There was some light clanging, as of tea being served, and a soft, hushed conversation. Then, the girl's head poked out the door and she said, "He'll see you, now."
When the doors were fully opened and the trio entered the room, Shunsui and Juushiro gasped. The room was pristine and clean, undiminished by the passage of time. Large windows in the back allowed for a spectacular view of men's faces carved into a nearby mountainside, as well as the sprawling village below.
Sitting on a cushion behind a small table was a man with long white hair and an equally long white beard and mustache. He smiled at them in a friendly manner, and spoke in a firm tenor voice that one wouldn't expect of a man his age, "It's been a long time, Shigekuni."
"Indeed it has," Yamamoto responded in kind, "Naruto."
A wave of spiritual pressure suddenly buffeted the room, driving the air from Shunsui and Juushiro's lungs. Yamamoto merely smiled, "You've gotten much stronger since that time so long ago."
Naruto snorted and the pressure suddenly vanished, "You can blame the fox for that one, old man."
"Indeed," Yamamoto commented neutrally. "Now, why don't you remove that illusion? I must admit, even I cannot see through it."
"Really?" Naruto asked. The air around him rippled for a second, then his features dissolved into those of a middle aged man, gray hair just barely touching his head and wrinkles only starting to appear on his face. "At a hundred and fifty two years old, that's what you'd expect me to look like, though, isn't it?"
It really was miraculous, Yamamoto thought, what the Nine-tails could do to keep his host alive. Were it not for the few strands of grey on his scalp and the crows feet around his eyes and laugh lines around his mouth, Naruto would look to be in his mid twenties. At a hundred and fifty two years old, he really should look old and decrepit, but he didn't appear a day over forty five.
"Man," Shunsui whistled, grinning, "you look like you could be her father, not her grandfather!"
"She's actually my great-great-great-great granddaughter," Naruto explained, "and she does have a name, you know. She's Namikaze Hikari."
Shunsui bowed, smiling charmingly, "It's good to meet you, Hikari-chan."
Hikari returned it with a small smile of her own, but Naruto brought the attention back onto himself, "So, Shigekuni, who are the two little brats you brought with you?"
"Brats?" Juushiro repeated indignantly. "We're nearly as old as you are!"
"Have you ever seen one of your comrades die?" Naruto asked harshly. "Have you ever been totally outclassed by anyone but Yamamoto? Have you ever truly ended someone's life?"
"Well, no," Juushiro admitted, "but—"
"Then you're still brats to me," Naruto said firmly.
"I apologize for my student's presumptuousness," Yamamoto said sincerely. "These two are Ukitake Juushiro and Kyoraku Shunsui, my latest and only apprentices."
"Don't worry about it," Naruto waved it off. "So, I take it you got my message?"
"Yes, I did," Yamamoto confirmed. "But, first, what happened here? Last time I saw you, nearly a hundred years ago, this was a sprawling city of tall towers and power. Now…it's such a primitive place."
Naruto took a moment to answer, "After I united the Elemental Nations, ninja became unnecessary. Several were still around and trained should a war break out again, but, after six decades of peace, ninja declined into nothing. Hikari is the last child trained in the arts, by myself personally, and will, hopefully, pass these skills down my line. Like I said, though, she is the last one. The samurai rose to power, and, nearly sixty years ago, war broke out once more. I decided not to get involved."
"Not get involved?" Juushiro asked incredulously. "Why on earth not? If you can make a difference, why don't you?"
"Juushiro," Naruto sighed, "I was ninety years old, Hinata-chan was becoming frail and weak, and most people fell for my illusion. I wasn't going to abandon my wife for the sake of a country that would probably fall apart shortly after I united it again anyway. The only time I've gotten involved in Japan's affairs since then was to stop the Mongol invasion not so long ago."
"I see," Yamamoto said mournfully. "And all that technology…?"
"Was the first to go," Naruto answered. "The samurai wanted to return to the ways of old, to how things were before Rikudo Sennin introduced Chakra to the world. To that effect, they destroyed all of the technological advances that ninja and the Hidden Villages had made so that they could erase that part of their history."
He crossed his arms, "Ninja are back again, of course, to do jobs that none of the samurai want to touch, but they look like infants compared to the ninja I knew. They know nothing of chakra or ninjutsu."
"I see," Yamamoto said once more. "Now, why did you call me here?"
Naruto sighed, "I'm tired, Shigekuni. It's been fifty years since Hinata-chan died and sixty-five years since Tenten-chan passed on. If this current trend continues, then I'll be well into my five hundreds by the time the Nine-tails finally lets me go."
"You want to move on," Yamamoto concluded. As Naruto nodded, the old man suddenly looked thrice his age. "I'm sorry, Naruto, but the Central Forty-six is unanimous. So long as the Kyubi's taint remains on your soul, you cannot enter Soul Society."
Naruto frowned, sighing bitterly, "I figured as much. That's why I came up with a better idea."
Yamamoto perked up, intrigued, so Naruto went on, "There is one part of my soul that the Kyubi has never been able to 'taint'. This part of my soul is a reflection of how I was before the sealing, so it's pure and, essentially, a blank slate. In exchange for two favors from you, I'm willing to let you have this part of my soul, the part tied to Hyôrinmaru."
"What?" Juushiro asked incredulously. "How can you possibly —?"
Yamamoto shot him a look, which silenced him, then looked back at the blonde, "What two favors?"
"The first is that Hinata-chan and Tenten-chan regain their memories of their lives as humans upon reaching their Bankai," Naruto said, holding up a single finger. A second one joined it. "The second condition is that I be allowed to reclaim this piece of my soul as well as Hyôrinmaru once the Nine-tails' taint has been purified."
"I'm sorry, but I can't grant the first," Yamamoto said wearily. He looked grave as he turned his eyes back up to the blonde. "Namikaze Tenten-san has been reincarnated. Her memories are, unfortunately, irretrievable."
A look of devastation crossed Naruto's face. Without warning, he suddenly stood and walked over to the window, letting out a sob and a shaky breath as he leaned against the frame. After a moment, he spoke, his voice trembling as he tried to regain his composure, "And Hinata-chan?"
"Namikaze Hinata has taken up a life and a new name in the first district of Rukongai," Yamamoto reported. "She goes by the name Hinamori Momo. Within the next couple hundred years, she should rediscover her powers and, in all likeliness, join the Shinigami Academy."
"Good," Naruto sighed in relief. "Then my conditions stand. Do you accept?"
"Wait a moment, Genryuusai-sensei," Juushiro interrupted. "How can he split his soul? I thought such a thing was impossible."
"In this world," Yamamoto paused for a second, "there are nine humans who are special, as compared to other humans. At birth, they are cursed, or gifted, depending on point of view, with a great power. Because they must live their lives controlling and, hopefully, harnessing this power, they are called 'Jinchuuriki'. These nine humans are the only ones capable of splitting their soul, because, by all technicalities, it has already been split. That is the general consensus of what happens when two souls inhabit the same body."
"So he's," Juushiro pointed at Naruto, "one of those nine?"
"The only one left," Naruto replied. He held out his hand. "So, Shigekuni, do we have a deal?"
Yamamoto thought for a moment, then took the proffered hand, "It is decided, then."
— o.0.O.O.0.o —
665 Years Later
"Kurosaki," the teacher said, glaring at him. Ichigo looked up, doing his best to turn his bored look into one of calmness, "perhaps you would like to share what you know with the class? Namikaze Naruto was the subject, in case you've forgotten."
With an almost inaudible sigh, Ichigo stood up from his seat, "According to the most accurate of records to date, Namikaze Naruto was born on October Tenth in the year 1183 AD. The minute details of his childhood, much like the details of any famous warrior's childhood, are obscure and relatively unknown. All that historians have been able to discern is that he was an orphan and generally disliked by the members of his village."
Ichigo took a breath before continuing, "At the age of fifteen, Namikaze Naruto was considered to be one of the strongest warriors in the military superpower known as Konohagakure no Sato, though many major researchers are still disputing over whether or not any such place ever existed. Generally, though, the Hidden Leaf Village is the accepted birthplace and 'home town', so to speak, of Namikaze.
"At the age of twenty," Ichigo went on, "Namikaze Naruto officially became the leader of his village and was, by default, its strongest warrior. Three years later, Namikaze completed a task that, before then, was considered to be impossible: he united Japan into a single country. He was married to two women, something which wasn't terribly uncommon in that age: a woman named Tenten, whose original surname or clan was never found, and the heiress to an important clan, Hyuga Hinata."
Ichigo inhaled again, "Namikaze would continue to set records throughout his life. He enjoyed a large family, reigned as the first true emperor of Japan, brought peace wherever he could, treated peasants equally, and lived to be one hundred and fifty two years old. Legends even tell of a mysterious power he wielded: the power to freeze the hottest flame and turn the moisture in the air into his weapon. Such claims have been disregarded as myth, despite the rose made of ice that still exists today in the national museum, forever frozen and preserved through some unknown force."
"Very good, Kurosaki," the teacher applauded him softly. Ichigo resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "but aren't you forgetting something?"
Ichigo sighed, "It's a widely unknown fact that the current generation of the Kurosaki family is directly descended from Namikaze Naruto through their mother's side."
Ichigo sat down amidst the stares of the entire classroom. Even Rukia was staring at him with wide eyes, though her skin had gone deathly pale during some part of his speech.
"Now, class," the teacher stated loudly, "please turn to the page we left off on yesterday. Kurosaki, if you would be so kind, I'd like you to read Act IV for us. Since you seem in such a sharing and talking mood, it seems only fitting."
Sighing, Ichigo flipped open his copy of the book, the word 'Loveless' written across the cover. Finding the appropriate section, he read, "My friend, the fates are cruel. There are no dreams, no honor remains. The arrow has left the bow of the goddess."
Taking a breath, he went on, "My soul, corrupted by vengeance, hath endured torment, to find the end of the journey in my own salvation…and your eternal slumber. Legend shall speak of sacrifice at world's end. The wind sails over the water's surface, quietly, but surely."
— o.0.O.O.0.o —
To be continued
Crisis Core: The Azure Moon
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or Bleach
Well, here you go. This is the final chapter of "Sit Upon the Frozen Heavens". For those of you who really enjoyed the TenNaruHina aspect of this story, I apologize for ruining it for you. However, as I could not give Tenten a reincarnation amongst the Shinigami, she had to become Tatsuki and forget, totally, who she once was.
Please, review! I got so few of them last chapter, that I really was disappointed in you guys.
Voice Actor changes for Crisis Core:
Namikaze Naruto — Steve Burton (Who voices Cloud Strife)
Hinamori Momo/Namikaze Hinata (Post-Bankai) — Andrea Bowen (Aerith Gainsborough)
The B-Side chapters are not considered part of SUTFH Canon. The sequel will be written in the normal chapter continuity. B-side chapters will not have any influence on the sequel.
I'm in the mood to write a Halo: Reach Crossover. What should I cross it with? I've considered Harry Potter but I'm not sure how I'd manage a NarutoXHalo: Reach crossover.
And mankind will be safe to dream beyond the clouds…