The Will of Destiny
I first learned Her name very early in my life. She was the reason I was mostly trained by my mother and not my father. She was the reason that no matter how strong, how fast, or how skilled I got, I could always be felled on a whim. She was the reason I am one of the select few capable of using the Gentle Fist style of combat, the reason I can seal my foe's chakra and manipulate their body as I wish.
She is the reason I am trapped. Trapped by my obligations to people who can kill me. I train knowing I am the one of who is forced by sealed ninjutsu to protect my jailers. Trapped into paying my respect to a pair of a girls not just younger, but much less skilled. Trapped into honoring the man who killed my father.
I hate Destiny. Yet like a raging storm, I am forced to not only endure Her but also grant Her the wary respect any true force of nature deserves.
It seemed to me that Destiny would fulfill Her plans as I faced the chuunin exams. My teacher had determined us too weak to enter the first year after we graduated, but this year would be different. This year promised a large turnout of genin from many different countries, with our own home as the proving ground. We had to enter, of course.
The first stage was a joke. The nine rookies who entered were destined to fail. They were unprepared, the stupid blond rookie getting through the written exam only through luck. That they'd gotten through the second stage of the test was also a fluke, with three sound-nin nearly killing six of them.
The surprise in the preliminary matches to the third round was that luck allowed three of them to get through: One match was against a pathetic leaf genin anyone present could have beaten, another match guaranteed that one of the rookie nine would advance, and a third was against an inept Sound-nin who barely paid attention to her surroundings.
Then Destiny showed me that even Her mighty plans could be thwarted.
Uzumaki Naruto was slated to fall before me, no more than a distraction on my path to defeating the vaunted Uchiha Sasuke: The only genin reputed to equal my own impressive skill. Her plan had been that I face the dark-haired youth in combat and determine which of us was truly better: Which of us was truly the strongest of our generation.
Byakugan against Sharingan. Unmatched vision against unequaled perception. It's a match I still crave, in the caverns of my soul. I will wonder to my dying day whether my ability to know everything all around me and my skill in hand to hand combat would thwart his ability to predict my my moves before I made them. I suppose it will forever remain unanswered.
For Uzumaki Naruto saw Destiny's skien and rejected his defeat at my hands. He rejected the certainty that he would lose, rejected my inherent superiority. Naruto met me blow for blow, shrugging off the best attacks the Hyuuga clan had to offer and standing to accept more with a grin on his face. Every time Destiny told him to stay down, he spat defiance and spite and got to his feet, fighting the agony and wounds which would have long ago felled greater ninja than he.
It was as if he knew that Destiny had laid different plans from his own and the very concept were offensive to him. As if he knew he had to accept what She had already forced on him and had decided that from that moment, he would accept no more.
As the battle continued, Naruto defied both Destiny and reality by overcoming the 64-point hakke, regaining the use of his chakra through the unflinching force of his will. We became opponents in a more philosophical battle, myself the agent of Destiny's will and Naruto embodying the wild, unpredictable whims of Chaos.
Destiny and Chaos, we soon clashed one final time. As my orange-clad foe employed speeds usually only achieved through Body Flicker jutsu, I threw the whole of my being into Kaiten in the trust that the spiraling chakra would deflect the unimaginable power of Naruto's final attack, just as it had deflected all of his attacks before.
As Naruto's kunai abruptly stopped me and I felt the chakra begin to explode all around us, my only recollection is shock that anyone could ever stop the spin. As far as I know, it's never happened before. Not once.
My memory then went blank and I'm sure I'd lost consciousness for a minute. I remember seeing a dim light at the end of a tunnel and wondering if I'd died. Lucidity crept back into my mind and as my hand reached out to grasp the edge of that light, I realized with some shock that I actually was in a tunnel. No doubt created by my body's momentum as it slammed into the rough ground of the stadium. Pain lashed me from head to toe as I pulled myself from the earth. I knew for certain then that I was alive, for nothing dead could feel this bad.
I stumbled to the other hole in the ground, noting Naruto's unconscious body with some relief. Though he'd shaken my belief in Destiny and Her will, She had, through me, prevailed over the strong-willed boy. His battered, senseless body was proof of Her infallibility.
In hindsight, the shot to my jaw as Naruto burst from the ground at my feet might have been avoidable. Certainly, the plan wouldn't have worked if I'd been able to see him with my Byakugan. That he tried it at all showed me just how narrow a chance of victory can be for him to reach for it. Yet reach for it he did, with no hesitation or pause.
I know now, with a surety I've never felt before, that Destiny's capricious plans can be thwarted. I have seen Her plot my death a dozen times since that fight, each time knowing that She sat at Her loom with scissors ready to cut my thread and end the story of my life. Each time, I fought to thwart Her will and won.
I owe my life, my will to fight Her plans, to the one man who has ever totally defeated me, made me yield to his superiority without any reservations. As I gaze at his profile on the mountainside, contrasted by the setting sun, I know that that defeat will always be the memory I hold most dear.
This is another story I had half-finished on my hard drive and felt I needed to finish, so that I could work on A Duet of Fists and An Unforeseen Consequence with a clearer conscience. I don't like having a short story plotted out and knowing all I've got to do is dedicate a few more minutes to it, but inspiration to write is random and not always directed at my shorter, less time consuming pieces.
I've always thought of Destiny as this capricious entity, hiding in the darkness and trying to make the world dance like puppets on a stage. I thought that'd fit nicely with this story.
For those wondering, the next chapter of A Duet of Fists and the next installment of An Unforeseen Consequence are both well underway. You might see both within a week...
...but no promises.