Stab. Dodge. Left. Down. Left. Back. Right. Parry. Forward. Slash. Guard. Feint left. Stab. Dodge. Left. Down. Left. Back. Right. Parry. Forward. Slash. Guard. Feint left. Stab. Dodge. Left. Down. Left. Back…
"You are talented, I will admit." And the boy was. Even with a full length scythe, heavy as it is, he would switch between a two-handed hold for upward slashes, left hand on the grip and right on the snath, to a single grip. He'd never seen anyone use a scythe with such deadly abandon. "Far better than the trash that live here." Stab. Dodge. Left. Down. "But you are quite predictable." An opening appeared just as the crazed boy lifted his arm to attack downward and Kimimaru took the advantage. He ran forward and aimed his bone sword at the boy's heart when the expected slash came. Suddenly, the boy grabbed the butt of the scythe with his right arm protecting his heart and leaving Kimimaru's Tsubaki no Mai to pierce his forearm, doing very little actual damage. Naruto released the grip and twisted his wrist, the blade sang in the air as it arced down then back up. The sharpened outer curve bit coldly into the Kyuga's flesh, but bone instantly exploded outward, trapping the blade. The boy only smiled a crooked grin of sharp white teeth.
"Hehehe," the boy laugh was deep, guttural, and insane. "Hey Snake, sorry, that's my fault. All my fault." Kimimaru wouldn't admit it, but the voice would have sent shivers down his back if it wasn't for the strict training he had gone through. "I'm having far too much fun." He released the scythe, it clattered to the ground and returned to animal-form almost immediately, and lifted his hands and gripped his face in an odd fashion, covering his right eye, as his voice echoed slightly in the alleyway. "Crow is coming. My fault, takin too long. Too much fun." His visible eye focused on Kimimaru again. "Yeah, I know. Finish it."
"Too arrogant." The boy suddenly let go of his own face and grabbed Kimimaru's face in the same way he had held his own, ignoring the bone spikes that pierced his palms. The boy moved in close to his face as the rotten snake circled around Kimimaru's body, trapping him.
"Playing with you has been fun, I've learned a lot." His gaze hardened. "See you in hell. Hideaki, headhunter." A scraping noise sounded. The boy he had seen earlier jumped onto the other's back and gripped his forearm. As he moved his hand down the limb, it changed into a thin, lance-like object that looked like a smaller version of his Tessenka no Mai. The smaller boy rammed the sharp point into his throat, almost strong enough to shatter the protective layer of strengthened bone Kimimaru hastily used to save his life. A small stream of blood ran down from the where the blade cut his flesh and was quickly absorbed by his shirt.
"You aren't strong enough to kill me." His curse seal instantly activated, spreading warmth and strength through his battered body. His muscles were rejuvenated, his reflexes increased three-fold at least. Faster then even he himself could see, Kimimaru threw off the animated reptile corpse and the smaller boy away, leaving the other exposed to his punch to the chest. The hand exploded out of his back, covered in blood and gore. The boy looked at him with open eyes, his shock and curiosity mingled into the insanity and dulled it. After a second, Kimimaru yanked his hand out and away, creating a bigger hole and splattering blood everywhere. The boy gasped like he had awakened from a deep sleep and pressed on his wound, but held his ground even as his breathing became labored.
"Why won't you die?" The guttural yell tore at Kimimaru's ears. It was an odd sound, as if under toned with a voice that was far more terrible than anything that could be found in the world. A twisting dark energy pervaded the voice promising agony that would never end.
The following silence was broken by a slow clapping. "Wonderful. Quite an entertaining fight. From both of you." The voice promised pain and pleasure equally; curling around the mind like the snake offering the sweet, succulent forbidden fruit. It was just close enough to tempt the senses but too far to reach out and hold in the hand; Kimimaru knew that silky voice that made the strongest of otonin both flinch and sigh in pleasure; his master Orochimaru.
"My lord," the last Kyuga spun around and hastily performed a low bow as the man appeared from the darkness, "I had no idea that you were watching. I had meant to deal with the interruption before it had come to your notice." As he straitened, he noticed that the blood surrounding his wound had changed from a dark red to a mud brown. Human blood didn't coagulate that quickly with a small scratch, let alone a gaping hole in the chest.
"Not much escapes my notice," Orochimaru grinned, sharp white teeth seemed to glow in the darkness of the alley. "Especially such an interesting fight. You have grown exponentially stronger since your birth, Naruto-kun."
"I know you?" The insanity bled completely out of the boy's eyes as a deep blackness began to replace the bluish-purple color of his iris. Blood flowed from around his fingers, slipping easily to the ground in small rivulets to pool at his feet. The skeleton snake rustled on the ground, seeming to thrive in the blood streaming onto its empty skull. A dark light glowed menacingly within the skull that was ignored by everyone but the sharp gold snake eyes. It was all very interesting to him. His years of experiments had given him quite a good sense of potential; the boy shaking from blood loss before him was setting off every radar in his mind. Orochimaru could see a future where everything was under his thumb with the help of the container of the Kyuubi. Kimimaru obviously had a strong effect on the boy and the snake would use that to his advantage.
Orochimaru took a few steps forward until he was just at the edge of the slowly expanding pool of blood. He noted the unnatural amount of blood that was dipping from the boy and the darkening eyes staring at him. Before he could say anything, Naruto spoke. "Your body dies, but not the soul." His wicked smile grew as the boy's confused frown did. "You are not a demon, a human, or a Fallen. What are you?" The split voice was back as was a twinge of the insane glee in his eyes. Orochimaru opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by the harsh caw of a bird. A blur of black passed his head by mere centimeters before landing on Naruto's shoulder. The arrival of the half rotten raven seemed to be a signal to the rest of the skeletons, because they both crawled their way up his body; the snake wrapped about his chest and arms, the boy on his back peeking out over the bird.
Naruto took a deep breath and his eyes shifted towards the Kyuga next to the snake. He vanished in an instant, blood splattering on the ground like rain as he rushed forward. He trust his hand inside Kimimaru's chest; he could feel an odd sensation of something moving in his lungs. His skim flowed back together as Naruto slowly pulled his hand out covered in a thick black gunk. It made a discussing plop as it slid from his digits to the ground. Naruto moved in close to Kimimaru's startled face. His breath was hot on his face. "Try to stay alive long enough for a rematch. I'll be waiting." He looked to the bird. "Kasei Maichimonji."
The skeleton let out a harsh call that seemed unearthly before it broke apart, merging with the small childlike skeleton to form large demonic wings attached to Naruto's back. The wings were made of a semi-transparent red membrane stretched tight over black bone. Without any signal on Naruto's part, the wings spread out wide, swelling as they filled with air. Wind whipped at the two staring at him as the wings shot down, propelling him a few inches into the air. Three more harsh strokes had Naruto completely in the air, hanging feet above the other two nin.
"Naruto-kun," the boy looked down his nose at him, "when Konoha casts you away, and you know they will, the country of Sound will be the only ones willing to take you in. I will be willing to keep you as I keep Kimimaru." Naruto sent one more glance towards the two, before turning into the wind and disappearing as the uplifting force of the heat of the Suna day drew him away. Orochimaru chuckled darkly as he turned into the darkness of the alley, walking back to the hidden door leading to the room given to him by the Kazekage. "Don't look so down, Kimi-kun. You just survived defeating the nine-tailed demon king. The first one I can recall." Kimimaru said nothing as he followed, mind occupied with the feeling of having a hand in his chest.
Naruto knew he couldn't stay in the air long, not for a lack of want the hot desert air made for a smooth and long flight even in the darkness of night but because of the hole in his chest. It wasn't fully healed even with the fox's chakra working double-time to close the wound and keep him in the air. He was exhausted from the fight and the killing rage that had filled him, drove him into madness, was completely gone, leaving him as hollowed out as a cinder from a day old fire. Cold and numbness tugged at his limbs as the shadows continued to dance in the edges of his vision. Crows intervention had been a much appreciated distraction that had pushed back the madness, but it was still there, waiting under the surface of his skin for the slightest sign of weakness for it to escape and continue to consume. It was a solid mass of confusing thoughts and rage that threatened to swallow him whole and never let him go.
Naruto's wayward thoughts were brought back to focus on the task of flying when one of the wings brushed against a fall. He was falling towards the ground. Enervation had sneaked up on him while he was distracted by his frightening thoughts. His control over his own mind slipping, Naruto leaned too heavily to the right and a wing slammed into the wall, crumpling immediately, but he couldn't feel anything. The Kyuubi was in control and guiding his container to the ground even before the pain could register.
"You sure know just how to border on destroying yourself don't you?" He laughed before bring the uninjured wing close to his body. The effect was instantaneous, he dropped the few feet to the ground, landing in a dark alley much like the one he just left. By the smell of dust and decay, the beast king knew it had been abandoned for some time. He was able to stand for only a second before his legs collapsed and the Kyuubi's back hit the ground. He growled to the empty air his anger at the situation. "Such a creature as I should never have my body on the ground like some peasant." Dust blew away from him in an angry cloud. "I hate you for this boy. Waking me up from my nap just to land in a filthy place such as this. Just for that, I'm not helping you with the Fallen." Somehow, he managed a grin at the situation; If Naruto made it past this hurdle, he would grow exponentially in power. "I know you can impress them."
"You have abandoned us." The dry voice echoed from somewhere in the darkness surrounding Naruto. It was a complete darkness and he was unable to see the slightest of outlines, but he could hear things shuffling around him, whispers curled around him, just quiet enough to where he couldn't distinguish words. He could feel some kind of rough fabric-wool maybe-binding his arms to his sides tightly, but not painfully. Skeletal arms crisscrossed over his chest, pressing him against a cold wall of stone. A hand suddenly ran through his longish hair, ruffling it against his cheek in an almost caring manner. Naruto was torn, caught b between pleasure from the caress and not wanting someone to show such familiarity to him. The thing-could he call an unseen and probably dead hand a person? continued stroking his hair and he let it do as it wanted. It wasn't like he could do anything to stop it with his arms bound so tightly.
Naruto didn't know how long he hung in the darkness before the voice spoke to him again. "You have used our soldiers and abilities, abused our gifts, sung a Fallen around with the care of a madman wielding a katana." The fingers in his hair twisted painfully, nearly pulling it out by the roots. "Even the former king was better than you. He may have had very little respect for our power, but at least he repaid our kindness.." He had no idea what they were talking about. Kings and repaying kindness meant nothing to Naruto. It was then that the whispers became loud enough to hear; the Fallen around him were chanting a haunting melody about bones and souls of their ruler, their leader, their King.
"I never wanted to be your king." His words silenced the whispered hymn and only eerie silence answered him. "I only have a need for your power." The darkness pressed in, compressing Naruto's body as the bindings were ripped away, leaving him to float in the constraining shadows. The pressure built around him until it felt as if his bones would shatter.
"And what will you do with it?" the speaker was mocking him now, speaking to him in the crooning voice of an adult entertaining a child. "You're a mute living in a tree who cannot sleep without your dead friend." Naruto could almost hear a grin in its words. "Tell us," at this, the whispers broke out again, "how can we best serve you, our King?" He was struck dumb at the blatant attack of his life. When everything was laid out in such a condescending way, all of Naruto's actions and reactions in his life appeared childish. "You understand nothing. We have given you so much and yet you refuse us?" The pressure began to worsen until Naruto could actually hear his bones straining under it. "Maybe if I shatter this bone and break this heart, our true king will be set free of his wretched cage." Something had to give under the pressure.
It was Naruto.
"Enough!" The crushing weight was gone, but not Naruto's rage at the situation and his own ignorance. "Explain this to me!" he yelled to the inky blackness. "Explain all of this to me. Now!" The two-tone voice that had startled Kimimaru was back, but Naruto knew it was his own power fueling it and not the fox's.
"We are the Fallen, servants to our king, We have great power, as you have sampled over the years." The voice sounded tired, resigned in a way. "Loyalty is guaranteed to our King, transgressions against Him are unthinkable and impossible…to a certain extent." He paused dramatically before continuing. "No matter what you may think, it was not your power which stopped me from eliminating you. As King, I am unable to kill or harm you. Other, weaker souls cannot even stand the mere thought of placing you in any situation that may prove dangerous at all. Still others will swarm to your side should you cut your finger turning a page." The fingers returned to their smooth caress. "The only thing we demand in return is death. Consider it a payment of sorts."
A small voice whispered directly into his ear and Naruto finally understood it all. Well, most of it. "The villagers that attacked me, their death satisfied the cost."
"Yes, but you have not been paying your dues as of late. The more power you exploit from us, the more death needed to counter it." The voice seemed to lose its tired quality and became smug. "To rule the Fallen is to become the Fallen, not just pretty words, but advise passed through the line of kings. A ruler is only as strong as their people and must be open to said people's emotions. The Fallen's natural bloodlust has been leaking into your consciousness. Been having fun?"
"I almost died and yet I want to fight him again. Are you causing this? And the new jutsu?" Naruto had never felt this confused before. Everything he thought was his, was not. He had been surviving on the powers of others and accepted it as his own. Where did he end and the Fallen begin?
"A king must defend his people from threats. You see him as one, so you feel the need to either defeat him or join along, as the rulers of the ninja," it spit out the word, "do everyday. But as for the new abilities your Watchers have shown…perhaps Death is evolving." Something shook Naruto violently and he felt himself begin to wake from the darkness surrounding him. Voices grew up put the surroundings, calling his name, wanting to be heard, fearing to be forgotten. It all tore through the boy but it slowly faded as he woke completely.
"You okay demon boy?" A rough voice asked as a shadow blocked his view of the rapidly paling sky. Naruto groaned as a disk in his back popped loudly; the fact that he spent the entire night lying on the ground was not lost upon his aching shoulders. Something within him seemed changed, altered, but Naruto couldn't place it. He knew his life wouldn't be the same after his talk with the Fallen.
"I am no demon," Naruto's voice hissed out of his throat like the skeletons', rough and chilling. "Not yet." He would change to better serve the Fallen, if only to save his sanity and skin in the long run. Bright light from the rising sun burned his eyes as the silhouette shifted away from him. "The sun isn't even fully risen yet," he said with a groan. He closed his eyes despite the danger the person might bring him.
"Well that's kinda creepy. So brat, why ya here? Huntin me?" The metallic sheen of a drawn knife cut the silent air of the alley. "You scared me bad a couple of nights ago but now you're just pathetic lookin. All that juice you've been putting out all night brought out some nosey Suna nin, but lucky for me, you dropped your pass." Something small and dense fell onto Naruto's chest, pushing the air right out of him. "Who knew such a pretty little crystal held such a sway over the ninja here? Aww well, it did its job. Just as I am." The ground shook, something passed Naruto's face by millimeters, and a rough thud echoed through the air in the minute it took Naruto to open his eyes and allow them to adjust to the light. When he could see, a concerned Snake slithered near his head protectively. From his spot on the ground, Naruto could see that Dog had the man pinned to the ground some distance away from him.
Give the order and I will silence this man. Dog's "voice" sounded different, more formal than before. It held an edge of uncertainty and wariness while still being the soft sounds that had led him through his very difficult life. It was an odd change.
He know something. Snake's thought echoed Naruto's own, but he was still unsure. But, it is still your order of course, my king.
"Stop talking like that. I'm no different," he growled out loud.
But you are. Crow hopped into view next to the other skeleton. Hideaki was nowhere to be found. The knowledge you have gained changes everything about all things. Naruto shook his head in denial, but winced as pain rushed along his back and spine. You hurt your back in the fall. It has set wrong.
Painfully slow, Naruto picked himself up off the ground, but was unable to rise from a hunched position. The crystalline object given to him by Gaara fell to the ground without a sound. His spine hurt equally if he straightened or bent down any farther. It was agony to hold himself in the small clearway between two fiery hells. He could just barely make out the man's face. It was dark when he last saw it, but Naruto recognized him from the night traveling in the desert in search of the insanity. The remembrance of the coy feeling of darkness sliding over his skin like velvet gave him the shivers and brought the feeling to the forefront of his mind. Pressure formed behind Naruto's eyes as whispers filled his ears, a jumbled mess of words without meaning or understanding.
"Shut up" he hissed out between clinched teeth. His ears popped, then he heard no more of the whispers. Warmth enveloped his ears and trailed down his face. In his peripheral vision, Naruto could see dark blood dripping from his face tot the ground.
…take his body…A deep voice whispered to him, a wicked, malignant muttering that promised pain. …Exarion can do it…Command it, it shall be done…You know how…
Thoughts not his own raced through his mind. Naruto didn't have the slightest clue as to who Exarion was. Words ran across his eyes and Naruto spoke without meaning to. "Exarion…Kasei Oushi." Sound returned to the world just as a scream of pain and horror rent the air. The man on the ground thrashed violently as the bones that were Dog's body sank into his skin. He clawed at his face and neck, as if trying to kill himself; blood ran in rivulets down to the ground from the tears in his skin. It seemed an hour, but it was only a few minutes before his muscles clinched and then he stilled on the ground like a puppet with cut strings. Naruto held himself still as darkness surrounded the man; he could practically see his soul being bound in agony to the Fallen. The shadows dragged his soul through the ground, taking him to the home of all those killed and forced to served the king. What was left was hollow shell of flesh and bone.
That shell twitched before rising smoothly from the ground. Gold eyes peered at Naruto carefully, as if judging something. He seemed to like what he found, because the man performed a complicated bow. "Exarion, here to serve in any way possible, my lord." Naruto just eyed him. Dog's voice and way of speaking were coming out of his mouth, but was this Exarion really him? His eyes crinkled and a small smirk crossed his features. "I assure you, I am the Watcher previously known as Dog. Exarion is merely a name. One that must be unlocked before my true power could be seen." He cocked his head to the side, listening to something on the wind. It gave him an animal appearance that was not lost on Naruto. It had to be his most trusted guardian.
"We need to leave. Now." Exarion nodded before lifting him carefully into his arms, being extra sensitive to his injured back. Crow and Snake crawled on top of Naruto, a surprising comfortable weight. Hideaki crawled out of the darkness and onto Exarion's back. Within seconds, they were all back inside the room given to them by Suna for use during the mission.
Naruto ignored his teammates insistent questions and Genma's disapproving look with ease. The team was uncomfortable around Exarion even after Naruto explained-in writing as he wasn't comfortable dealing with the questions that would arise after speaking to them-that he was just another Fallen. The travel home was far more uneventful than the way to Suna, as all of Naruto's energy went to fixing his back and being sure to not damage it anymore. He spent his time slowly delving into the dark world of his mind to learn everything he could about the Fallen.
Naruto was glad to be home, glad to be back amongst the hollowed out trees of his stretch of forest. Death was a palpable thing here; the sugary scent of decaying flesh and dusty air of aging bone filled the small clearing to the brim. It was ambrosia to the young ninja. Nothing lived in this wasteland of hanging bodies, all the animals stayed away from this place without any action of Naruto or the fallen. Their natural curiosity was curbed by instinct that screamed at them to stay away. This was death's dominion. Too bad the revenge seeking Konoha villagers had sold their instinct away ti their easy life of living in large groups.
Naruto didn't know the man who's blood covered his face and arms. The man had screamed for him to stop, but so had he those many years ago. They hadn't listened, so he didn't feel the need to. It was all too easy to slice open the neck, the soft muscles there giving easily to his kunai. As he twitched on the ground, Naruto held him down, putting those newly awoken Fallen arm to keep the flailing limbs from getting in his way. Naruto slowly, methodically, cut into his attackers skin, going only deep enough to slice through the layers of dermis on the man's chest.; a vertical and horizontal cut made a distinct T. Blood bubbled and flowed from the wound but it didn't slow Naruto or make his grip slip.
The deranged ninja turned his knife slightly, positioning it right at the intersection of his two slashes. Naruto had never practiced his skinning skills, so it was sloppy at difficult places, such as the junction of the arms and the torso as well as the transition from front to back, but he soon had a full hide drying on the dirt next to his house. Sometime during the act, the villager had ceased breathing, but Naruto felt that he had enacted his vengeance adequately for now. "At what point does a person cease to be?" he lamented to the empty air. "When does one lose the privilege of holding a name and simply becomes a body?" Naruto continued to speak to himself as he returned to the corpse.
He replied his blade to the muscle, swiftly cutting it away from the precious bones hidden away by the useless meat. "Why does the value diminish simply because the heart is no longer beating, the lungs no longer breathing, the brain quiet?" Naruto was finished now and had stacked all of the bones reverently in a pile. They were the only meaningful pieces in it anyway. He would clean them later.
"You assume that they had value when they were alive. I believe this to be false." A cold voice spoke from behind Naruto, not startling him, but calming for some reason. The wind blew the scent to his face, the dark, thick, almost bitter taste of insanity. Naruto looked up into crystalline blue eyes. Eyes that had drove him crazy with the urge to kill for the past month. Eyes that held power, strength , and intelligence. Eyes that made him weep because they were so much like Hideaki's. "Such cretins never hold value. Not in life and not in death." Naruto began to laugh as the insanity tugged at his senses, dulling his ears while focusing his sight.
"What is life but a horrible precursor to death?" He managed out between his giggles. A grcefull white eyebrow arched elegantly over those murder-inducing eyes.
"What indeed?" The eyes left his face as the older teen turned way, headed towards the only path that lead out of the death trees. Naruto left out one final laugh before he grabbed his coat and followed. His Watchers and Fallen gathered up the skin, bones, and Hideaki before following behind the two cold blooded killers. A new violent chapter was unfolding itself around Naruto and he would follow the scent of chaos wherever it led him. For chaos bred insanity and that meant blood. Blood, the thing he, the Fallen King, craved the most.