Second Step into the Precipice
"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honour, loyalty. Those were the traits that the Namikaze clan head must have. It was bothersome. She didn't have half of those capabilities and the other half she would rather ignore. Her life as a shinobi gave her the right mindset to be a member of the second division. Well, former member since she had been promoted to captain of the Kido Corps. Stealth and assassination was what she excelled at and thus was glaringly obvious where she belonged.
The Kido Corps weren't as boring as she would have thought. They had absolute control over the Senkaimon and thus had to keep a close record on the shinigami that went through it. Her underlings all wore the standard uniform and all of them covered their face. The Kidoshu also presided over the spiritual law and had as much say in decision as the Gotei 13 and the Onmistikudo.
What she found amusing about her sation and her minions was all the secrecy around the Kido Corps. The rest of Soul Society eyed them warily and tried not to get too close to the corps. They avoided them with a passion that had Naruto sniggering behind her hand.
In keeping with all the secrecy and mystery around the Kidoshu the uniform of the troops included long white face-coverings. The rest of the uniform was black and the sandals had white tabi. Thank the heavens that she didn't have to wear anything like that. Hiruzen had insisted that she had to wear her haori over her regular clothing. Funny thing about the haori, even if it was the regular white other captains in the Gotei wore, had a high collar. It didn't bother her much but she found it amusing nonetheless.
Another of the obligations of the Kidoshu was taking care of executions. She had smiled wanly at Hiruzen at this and he had eyed her strangely. Lately he had been keeping a close eye on her, as if she wasn't trustworthy. She had shrugged inwardly at the time but the thought hadn't gone away.
When she had first approached the Sokyoku she had had goosebumps running up and down her spine, leaving a pleasant trail of tingling through it. The large halberd gleamed in the evening sun. When not in use, the Sokyoku was sealed by a number of thick and sturdy ropes wrapped around its pole, which, piercing the ground, held the halberd in place. During an execution the Kidoshu unsealed it and the ropes fell away, revealing its true spiritual pressure.
As the new head of the corps she had tested herself against the Sokyoku, trying to get the hang of unsealing it alone. In really important executions the sealing had to be undone by the captain of the Kidoshu herself. In cases of extreme emergency she would have to unseal the blade and use it in the defense of Soul Society, even if it meant dying.
When she had touched the halberd it had hummed to her in greeting. She had retreated her hand hastily, not trusting the sentient blade. Toyotama-hime had gone warm across her lower back, where she was placed. Naruto hadn't been convinced at all by the reassurances from his zanpakutou but she had placed her hand back on the halberd nonetheless.
The humming had answered her. Cautiously, as if not to startle a sleeping dragon she gently pushed some of her spiritual energy into the halberd, getting a louder hum in response. The blade was positively vibrating. A sentiment of content had settled around the erect weapon and Naruto's stance had relaxed slightly.
She had thought she had heard Toyotama-hime's tinkling laughter somewhere in the recesses of her mid. Shrugging she proceeded to unravel the seals around the Sokyoku carefully, reciting the incantation inwardly and taking extreme care not to mess it up.
As the Sokyoku activated it started emitting a large amount of flames, it had risen to the air and faced the execution stand, where the supposed victim would have been. The flames raged and shifted until they took the shape of a giant bird. A phoenix made of pure flame called Kikoo. The massive thing had reared its beak, taking notice that there was no victim to burn to death. It had turned to her and she had returned the gaze steadily. Naruto knew that being in contact with the Kikoo directly was fatal to the souls of shinigami, it burned their souls to crisp.
Nevertheless, and having a streak of her childhood mischievousness she stretched her hands towards the Kikoo, like a mother would to her child. It stared at her for what seemed like hours. Naruto was so nervous that she had started sweating and her breathing came in short gasps. She could feel the burn of the Kikoo's flames against her skin, licking at her teasingly.
The phoenix had lowered its gargantuan head and trilled.
Naruto had shuddered with trepidation as the beak got closer and closer and closer to her. Burning hot hot hot. A drop of sweat left a wet trail from her ear to her spine. The beak nudged her stomach and she stilled. It was hot. Very hot, burning. Burning but not harming. She let out the breath she had been holding in a breathy laugh, not believing what was happening. The halberd that contained the power of a million zanpakutou was nudging her belly in a playful manner.
A little chuckle escaped her and she bent over, placing her glistening forehead on the bird's. Her chuckle turned into a full-blown laugh of relief and excitement. The closeness to the Kikoo was almost unbearable, so hot in its nature she felt like her skin was melting away, melting her muscles, melting her bones, melting her soul. And it felt so liberating that she paused her laughter. A wild thought of making the Kikoo kill her snapped viciously through her mind.
The regal bird must have noticed her change of spirit because it had stopped bumping its beak against her abdomen. It was now staring at her with flaming red and crimson and orange and yellow eyes. She felt stipped bare of her shell, her armour. And felt weak and helpless.
No. She would not commit suicide. Not yet at the very least and not forcing this majestuous being to off her. No, this was not her way of dying. Naruto promised herself that she would not succumb to the madness, not again.
Her mind flashed to her fight with Pain. Of how she had let go of the little sanity she had left and her animalistic side took complete control of her limbs, of her heart, of her mind and soul. She shook her head and blinked rapidly, trying to force her jumbled memories away. Unlike most souls the ones coming from the Elemental plane retained most of their memories. This was a consequence of using chakra, a mix of physical and spiritual energy. The memories would not remain intact though. Hers were jumbled and in all the wrong places at the wrong time.
Sometimes her childhood contained people who she had not met until her teens. Like Haku and Zabuza and Tazuna and Inari. Sometimes people who had died became alive suddenly, and not because of the Edo Tensei. It irritated and frustrated her to no end to have such an unorganized mindset. Kurama's own memories were mixed into hers. Seeing the Sage of the Six Paths, the Shukaku as a miniature of what he would become, of the Sage's beautiful and terrible mother. Of how Kurama believed her to be a reincarnation of the Sage.
Sometimes she dreamt of the Jubi, and how the Sage's mother had stolen the fruit.
Naruto pushed the thoughts aside ruthlessly and faced the Kikoo once more, giving it a watery smile. It cooed and she placed a kiss on its beak, the contact searing and burning but never hurting. Her grim smile firmly in place she soothingly hummed at it and explained in soft tones that she had summoned it for the first time and that she would be the one to do so if it was ever needed.
She would not let the members of the Kido Corps summon the Kikoo by themselves now that the phoenix had grown attached to her an her to it. Naruto was a selfish person, after all. The gargantuan firebird trilled once and backed away from her. She kept her grimacing smile on her lips and chanted to seal the Kikoo once more into his halberd form.
The fire extinguished and Naruto felt empty inside.
Apologies for the really long delay. It is really a difficult time for me to write at all and looking back at this story I feel it's pretty much worthless and badly written. One day I hope I'll be able to rewrite it and pretty it up. Thank you for your patience and continued support.
The Sōkyoku (双殛, Twinned Punishment) is a large halberd which the Gotei 13 uses at Sōkyoku Hill to execute Shinigami who have severely broken the law.
As the Sōkyoku activates, emitting an immense amount of flames, it rises into the air, pointing towards the victim, who is held before it by support beams. The flames, enveloping the halberd, reveal its true form; a massive, phoenix-like entity called Kikōō (燬鷇王, Blaze Fledgling King)