Kill us, my brothers and sisters. The war is on.
Vertigo; gravity; confusion; nausea; hatred.
Otherwise known as the things Naruto felt as he cascaded down a long tunnel of emptiness. His normally white ANBU uniform was dyed crimson and sticky with blood, most of it his own, and torn to pieces. His hair was caked with the red substance and stuck to his forehead, the skin there missing and the large crack on the skull underneath showing. Blood flew upside down in rivulets from the incinerated stump of his arm as he fell, and his ears rung from his own voice screaming one particular name.
Naruto's throat was hoarse from screaming. Pain throbbed from behind his crimson eyes, and he was suffering from a -comparatively- mild stab wound. The crimson haze he had learned to associate with the Kyuubi pouring its superior chakra in his inner coils was intensified, yet the haze that normally overcame his senses slowly gave way to dreaded focus. He could get out of this… situation. Now all that he needed to do was find out how.
Briefly, blindly, he ruffled his working hand and fingers through his body, finding out that his wounds, dire as they were, were slowly healing. It wasn't being done as fast as he would have liked, but they were getting there. The Kyuubi was keeping his promises. Good. Slowly, the hole in his head from when Pain stabbed him with that ice lance faded. Nerves were reattached and with a jerk of movement Naruto had a right hand once more. He closed his eyes and knew that he was painfully out of chakra, and that that the Death God seal in his stomach was so stretched out that no good was going to come from tapping on the Fox's power.
So, what to do, what to do?
Summoning a cyclopean toad to get him out of there (Naruto was quite certain that something the size of Gamabunta would be able to cross the chasm's width with ease and thus halt his descent) was the best solution to his problem, but he had no chakra to mold.
Deciding on a course of action, Naruto moved in swim-like motions blindly until he reached the edge of the gaping hole he was in and tried to stick to it with the wall clinging technique. A move that cost him four fingers, the rocks' razor sharpness combined with the momentum his body possessed making clinging to the craggy surface impossible. With a curse, Naruto moved away from the walls and glided into a horizontal position back to the center of the chasm. He needed to think, ignoring the predicament that concerned his newly gone missing fingers. They would be back in an hour or so, maximum. Been there, done that.
Anything using chakra was out of the question. His entire body was a mess, and channeling chakra, his own or the blasted Fox's, would only serve to make his inner coils explode and send him into a world of pain. So what could he do?
Naruto had no light to judge time with, only his sense of tiredness and hunger. Only a vague feeling of boredom and the constant falling. These were not accurate readings, however. What had to be hours passed. Naruto knew so because he kept track of time – chopping his own fingers off and waiting for them to regenerate. He duly noted that so far, he had been falling for six hours, based on his finger-reading.
Wait. He had been falling for six hours?
Where the Hell had Sasuke tossed him into? Or was this infinite falling a product of the Mists? Was he wrapped up in a state of illusion brought up by nothing else but his own insecurities? The Mists, sentient as they were, would readily define his torment as something else, like the first time he had walked into them…
Naruto briefly reminisced of the first time he had entered the mists.
He was in his old shitty apartment that he used to live in before he handed the ownership to Sakura when she needed a place to live in and moved in with Ayame. In front of him stood the only woman he had loved, smiling that absolutely beautiful, timid smile of hers, her chocolate brown hair framing her gorgeous face and her deep brown eyes emulating her smile. In her arms she held a small girl with long sunny blond hair and her mother's eyes. "Ayame…?" He had croaked. "…Aika-chan?" They were both smiling and looking a lot like Raphaelite angels. True and forgiving, honest and always bringing the best out of him.
Tears overflowed Naruto's electric blue eyes, cascading down his marked cheeks. The same cheeks she used to tease him about when he was younger and now caressed with passion. He could not believe it. There was so much emotion in the back of his head that he thought that his own love for them would finish him off where Orochimaru and suicide could not. He made his voice fight the sobs. "I love you." He told them, and his beautiful flower, his beautiful Aika offered him their love song, humming it softly as she stared at her daddy's eyes.
"And we love you too." Ayame said with bristling confidence before claiming his lips.
There was so much truth in the whole scene that he imagined disappearing into it, bursting like a ripe melon and giving his life to the whole place, only for the two of them to live eternally with him. But such a thing was not meant to happen. Even as little Aika giggled at her parents' antics, a deep voice rumbled with what seemed like fear. Echoes of denial and bursts of chakra rushed to his inner coils, and he was suddenly drawn away. The Kyuubi was warning him… It Is The Mists. They Will Devour You. Offer You What You Want Until You Are But A Pathetic Corpse, And Then Claim Your Soul, Unite It With The Collective Unconscious They Really Are And Let You Roam Until The Next Fools Take Your Place Whilst They Search For Salvation Or Precious Artifacts.
Naruto had hugged Ayame –what he thought was Ayame, what he needed to be Ayame- and kissed her one last time even as the Kyuubi roared its warnings, ignoring the scene that changed all around him, giving way to infinite whiteness and fog. "I'll always love you. And I'll continue living… for you." And then he woke up at a Wind Country beach a week later.
That meant that whatever this was, it was not the fucking Mists. It could not have been them – they would offer him Ayame and Aika once more, not whatever the Hell this was and a chance for Sasuke to kill him while he was at his weakest.
Crimson eyes woke at the memories of the only man to betray him three –no, four with this one- times and live in the premises of being his friend. Sasuke had made his choices, it seemed, only they were the wrong ones. Naruto had nothing to hold him back now; his wife and daughter were gone, Jiraya had been avenged and Tsunade's wishes were fulfilled and, hopefully, Neji and Sakura were safe and probably on their way home by now.
All Naruto had to do was find Sasuke. One. Last. Time.
Caught up as he was in thoughts of fiery vengeance, he failed to notice that his surroundings changed and evolved into clear air. He kept falling in a gigantic cavern with a sky made of rock as wide as the horizon until he crashed on a stony crevice… and died.
"Here, My Lady."
"Prepare the troops."
"It is him. He has arrived."
"The one we have been waiting for?"
"I will make haste. Tonight, glory shall grace our halls once more."
Many crows together are called a 'murder' for a good reason. Naruto discovered this as he woke up with an avian beak embedded in his right eye socket and about two dozen more picking at his splattered body. At first he was not sure at what he was experiencing. It could have been an illusion, or another of the Fox's dreams. For all he knew, this was a late aftereffect from his entering the mists. The beak in his eye drew back, and then returned with double intensity. He felt his cracked eye socket shatter and the crow's beak enter the soft grey material of his brain.
If he was not in pain earlier, he was now.
A howl of death exploded from deep inside his belly, and burning killer intent unfolded from him in waves before it manifested in the real world as encompassing flames. In an instant, the murder of crows was incinerated to less than dust and Naruto was rapidly healing as he was left gasping on the ground. For a moment, he had felt such insane horror that he was unable to control himself.
His shattered spine mended back, so he felt like he could move again. His eyes popped back in existence, brilliant flashes of light telling him so, and his eyelids slowly covered the macabre sight of white sclera revolving around soft flesh. With a sigh and a crack of joints popping back in their rightful places, Uzumaki Naruto was human once more. Slowly, he got up, blinking in rapid succession as he tried to make his eyes work a hundred percent properly. A 'craw' emerged from above him, and he looked up to see what had to accumulate as the strangest man he had ever seen, Juugo included. He was incredibly thin and old, his skin ashen with big rotten blotches. His eyes were a milky white, whether from disease or nature he did not know. He wore black clothes of strange fashion, and from his shoulders sprouted two dark wings that bore holes here and there. Dark feathers occasionally shed from the wings, and his long hair was balding on the top of his scalp in a rather awful looking manner. "Craw! These were my friends, miasma! How dare you do that to them?"
Naruto winced as his sensitive ears caught the man's shrill, shrieking voice. He purposefully ignored the man until he could figure out where he was. With a clean, powerful move, he tore his bloody ANBU uniform off his toned body, leaving only his shredded black pants and sandal-boots on. "I am talking to you, nekroperpatiti. Do not dare ignore me, craw!" The man was perched atop of a rock, part of the gigantic cave. Naruto looked around in said cave and saw that there were parts of stone hanging from colossal chains that reached up to the rocky sky and floated around like small islands in the sea of twilight this place seemed to really be. Naruto and the man were standing on one of those islands that flew in sheer air. No matter how far his superior eyes saw, Naruto could not detect any other pillar or foundation that held the cave up but one.
A cyclopean man made of stone. Immense and powerful, his hands were shackled and strapped on the sky much like the islands of stone all around him. He was made in a kneeling position, but his feet were so long that, in fact, Naruto could not see where they stepped on. In this inverted reality, where sky was the earth and earth was the sky in the up-and-down sense of words, the man's form appeared to be sleeping. His eyes were closed and his form was unmoving. Next to one of his hands, however, on the earth the man held up, was a hole leading up. Could this be the means to Naruto's escape?
A pebble struck him on his shore throat, product of the flying man's fury at being ignored. He told Naruto so, calling him other words that Naruto did not understand. "Craw!"
"What the fuck do you want, old man?" Naruto hissed, tired of this tirade.
"You killed my friends, craw! The only ones to take care of me, craw! You should be ashamed, apethade! Miasma!"
Naruto frowned in annoyance. "I do notice that when you call me things, you do in a language I don't understand. Care to get down here and call me things in my face, jackass?"
The man struck a pose of grandeur. "I'm the great Icarus, craw! I do not take orders from the likes of you! Never have, and never will!"
"Whatever." Naruto dismissed him as he rolled his eyes, and walked to the edge of the 'island' he was onto. With experience he calculated that, if he could jump between the 'islands' that hang all around them, he could easily reach the hole on the earth above them and begin his ascend back to the dead city he had fallen from.
He moved back ignoring so called Icarus, as the man ranted, and then began sprinting in order to jump to the island next to the one he was standing. He was honestly surprised when Icarus tackled him back to the ground with inhumane strength his frail body did not exhibit. "Fuck off!" Naruto told him as he kicked the man off of him. "What did you do that for?"
"Craw! Apologize to me for killing my friends!" Icarus yelled as he knelt in a defensive position, ready to take flight in case Naruto attacked.
Naruto hissed in annoyance as he got up from where the man had tackled him. "What for? For killing them in retaliation for eating me?"
"Fine! I apologize! Happy now?"
Icarus nodded, while a contempt smile crept at his face. "Yes – craw! Was that so hard?"
"How come I always get the crazy ones…?" Naruto muttered in disbelief. He looked around in an attempt to get away from him, when an idea woke inside him. "Say, I-ca-rus," he pronounced the man's name as well as he could in an attempt to sweet-talk him, "do your wings work?"
"Yes! They were my father's most brilliant creation, craw! No matter that I had an accident with them the first time I used them, craw, they work brilliantly!" Icarus admitted with pride in his voice.
"Good. Say then, can you give me a lift up to that hole?" Naruto asked with a smile of false modesty on his face.
Icarus looked at the hole that Naruto saw as a means of escape, and back at the blond. At the hole, and back at the blond. Finally, he stated "no."
Naruto gave him a look of disbelief. He felt like conversing with a drunken Jiraya and trying to convince him to kindly let go of the lady's tits or at least pay her for her services. "What? Why not?"
"You killed my friends, craw!"
"And I apologized for that, goddamn it!"
"Not good enough, craw!"
Naruto's rage reached newfound levels of white hot killing intent. "Take me up!" He roared, his killing intent rolling off him in immense waves. Icarus looked ignorant and actually yawned; and suddenly Naruto remember Orochimaru dying on his grasp from the same amounts of killing intent he had just released. Whoever this 'Icarus' was, he was immune to fear of death – something that was impossible. "What the fuck are you?" Not even Naruto was ignorant of the feel of sheer bloodlust a person could exhume, Kakashi having stunned him with it even after Naruto had faced incredible horrors in his life. Yet Icarus had not even budged.
"I am Icarus, craw! Ruler of the skies and son of Daedalus!"
"That's not what I meant!"
Icarus changed. From happy-go-lucky idiot, he was suddenly sophisticated and earnest. Naruto had to do a double-take. "That's because I'm an apethados, much like you, nekroperpatiti. I have died twice already, yet I escaped from Hades both times. That makes me less of a human, and less needy of the requirements to live." He gave him a strange grin, and then uttered "craw!"
"I… see?" Naruto was not 'seeing', per se, but at least he was going somewhere with the winged madman. He took a deep breath in order to calm himself and cocked his head to the side in inquiry. "So you're unnatural like me, is that what you're saying?"
"I'm saying that we're both immortals, fool." Icarus mocked him with a sagely look. "You and I have nothing similar. For one, I am human, free from the -craw- ungodly bonds you have formed. I can see the lay lines of your body, consuming the air around you, greedy and hungry. You are no human."
Something changed in that exact moment. Something in this old madman's look disturbed everything inside Naruto and woke dormant feelings inside him; feelings that he had never felt ever since he was thirteen and still a brat. Feelings that had grown as others directed their distaste and hate at him. Feelings that he had been forced to suppress. He had wanted the villagers to acknowledge and praise him, but deep down inside Naruto knew that his carefree nature was a ploy. It was a means to focusing his rage into harmless ways. That was why he pranked people, after all. Yet Icarus woke those feelings much like Naruto used to wake the Kyuubi. The look of disgust and superiority Icarus gave him riled him up like electricity, and all of a sudden he was thirteen and Sasuke was calling him scaredy-cat and it was all he could do to not rip the smug bastard's eyes out and shove them up his ass.
"Take that back." Naruto positively growled, a sound that would have made every person that remotely knew him run for cover. "Take that back or I won't be responsible for my actions, old man." He did not understand exactly why he had gotten so riled up. Perhaps this was his breaking point. He was tired, hurt, and wanted to be left alone. Or it could be something unconscious and subliminal… Either way, he was not about to relax. He could not relax.
Icarus' maddened look came back to the surface, and suddenly he was up in the air, his black wings flapping wildly. "Have I offended you, miasma? Craw!" He cackled like a witch of old tales. "Did the old man in his refusal to save you and rude words make you angry, craw?"
Naruto was seething for reasons unknown. He had dealt with people like Icarus his entire life, yet here he was, channeling chakra through his reawakened inner coils and pumping it into his system as he crouched for a readied attack. "Shut up and take me up, or by the spirit's I'll…"
Icarus cackled once more, feathers showering the ground beneath him in his wings' mad rhythm. "Or what? Is the child angered? Is the little child going to cry?"
Famous last words.
Naruto roared in crazed anger. Taking it to the skies, the chakra channeled to his legs made him leap fifty feet in the air in pursuit of Icarus, who gasped and took flight to higher grounds. "Get back here!" And thus started the most lethal game of tag; with Icarus leading the way through the various sky islands and Naruto rushing after him, his roars of hateful frustration echoing through the ether. Between Icarus' laughter and Naruto's rage, none of them noticed how they had ascended through the islands until they had finally reached the statue's head. As Icarus turned to mock Naruto, he failed to see one particularly edgy rock protruding into his line of flight and crashed onto it, his balance momentarily lost.
It was all Naruto needed.
He glided through the air, chakra propelling him, and caught Icarus by the ankle. Mid-air he rotated the winged man above his head and slammed him onto the face of the stone statue, which was relentless in its resilience. Before Icarus could fly away again, Naruto shoved his clawed fingers in the man's sternum. "I had enough of playing old perverted men's games!" Naruto spat in Icarus' face. "Enough!"
Before either Naruto or Icarus could truly understand what was going on, Naruto had ripped Icarus in half, showering both him and the statue's 'face' with black blood that looked and felt disgustingly a lot like tar. Naruto stood there, immense adrenaline levels leaving him and suddenly feeling incredibly tired, when the statue stirred. With something that sounded like a thundering yawn, two gigantic amber eyes with red irises awakened and looked down at Naruto, who leapt away from the face and onto a nearby island. "Who dares disturb my slumber…" Spoke the statue, its voice slamming against Naruto's eardrums like a tidal wave against an already toppled building.
With a rumble, the statue-man-thing adjusted his position as he kept the world above them in place. His amber eyes locked in on Naruto with immense precision, and Naruto realized that this was how a convict felt under a judge, jury and executioner's gaze. "…You…" The statue spoke with the volume of an earthquake, "…You have the same eyes as him…" Before Naruto could respond, the titan's gaze left him and turned to look between his eyes. "…And what is this? Did little Icarus die yet again…?" It was like being caught with the hand in the cookie jar for Naruto, who still held the very dead Icarus' body with his hands. He looked at it, but realized that the body had dissolved into something like black foam, leaving behind only tattered clothes and Icarus' wings. The statue rumbled once more, and Naruto realized that it was speaking.
"…Who are you…?"
Not many others around to ask that, Naruto mused. "Uzumaki Naruto!" He yelled to the titan, who looked surprised, his eyes widening a bit and the vortex of mouth splitting open in a small intake of air.
"…You are not from around here, little one…" The titan deadpanned. Naruto did not bother to respond, so the giant continued. "…Yet you have so many similarities with him that it is disturbing…"
Naruto did not know why, but he had one of those urges as the titan compared him to someone else that he obviously either held in high regard or feared or both. A flash of Kakashi telling him that he was going to train Sasuke instead of him rushed through his vision, and suddenly he realized that the sticky substance in his mouth was his blood where he had bit his cheek in anger. The pain jolted him back to… 'reality'. "So? Are you going to call me a demon as well or leave me alone?"
"…I sense the otherworldly presence about you, Uzumaki Naruto… The winds whisper your deeds in my ear… Born for greatness and shackled by fate, a person destined to rule the world in a godly status…"
Naruto spat. "There's no such thing as Fate!"
The titan chuckled, another booming sound that made the earth above them shiver. "…No, there aren't. Not anymore, at least…" Naruto discarded the wings he still held on the ground and turned his back to the titan, searching for a clue as to how he could get up. He was not sure if he wanted to ask that from the shackled man in front of him. The titan continued speaking to him.
"…Uzumaki Naruto, you have been brought here for a reason. And while I do not know it, I think it proper to help you…" Another well-natured chuckle boomed in the air.
"Help me?" Naruto raised an eyebrow. "How?"
The titan pointed at the earth above them. "…Take you away from here, of course…"
"I've been taught by a very wise man to always look a gift horse in the mouth. What's the catch?"
The titan made a strange whooshing sound, probably a sigh. "…I cannot bring you home. It is further than where I can reach…" He admitted. "…But I can bring you to someone that can lead you properly. Someone that can…" He paused. "…Someone that can help you have your revenge…"
Naruto caught Sasuke's haunting laugh of victory. Strangely, it was all the motivation he needed as he thought that if the traitor was in the Brokenlands with Sakura and Neji he might hurt them. He needed to get up, and do so hastily. "Fine. Tell me what to do, then."
"…Once you reach the lands of Greece, you need to find the Oracle. She will tell you what you need to do. All I can do is help you along the way…"
"And how do I know that you will help me?" Naruto accused. A wrong thing to say. What had to be amounted as killing intent slammed against him, and suddenly he was on his knees and hands, vomiting bile as his heart reached bursting point. The Kyuubi was nothing but an angry puppy against this hateful giant, who suddenly seemed ancient and regal. Just as he was ready to jump off the island just so that he could end this feeling, the titan withdrew.
"…I am Atlas the titan! Ruler of the Earth, second only to my jailor! Do not dare insult me with your weak mortal accusations, for no matter how much you remind me of him, the one person who gave me hope, I will strike you down…!" Atlas was more than convincing in his argument. All Naruto could do was mutter apologies. "…Rise, jailor of the Kyuubi… I was planning to help you just because of the bond I share with him no matter the motive…"
Naruto shakily rose to his feet. "How…" He paused as the final effects of Atlas' attack subsided. "How do you know of the Kyuubi?"
"…There are many Hells, Uzumaki Naruto… Where Hades and Persephone are rulers of the aptly named Hades and Tartarus, the Kyuubi is ruler of Avernus. Or rather, used to be…" Atlas stated with something akin to remorse in his voice. Perhaps it was directed to himself and not the Fox, but who knew?
"Thank you, then, Atlas." Naruto said with a small yet formal bow. "I owe you a lot, it seems."
"…Yes, you do…" Atlas agreed. "When you attain that which you seek, Uzumaki Naruto, remember the ones that helped you and reward them properly…"
Naruto was honestly surprised. "What do you mean?"
Atlas gave him something akin to a smile. "…You will understand…" Adjusting on of the hands that held the earth in its proper place, Atlas drew his other one from where he kept it and grasped the island onto which Naruto stood. With a mighty roar, he snapped it off the chain holding it in place and lifted it up until it was close to slamming against the earth above them. Naruto was ready to jump away in fear of getting squashed but he saw the earth subside on its own and give way to him and Atlas' hand. With haste behind his moves, the ascending was incredibly fast. Before he knew it, Naruto squinted against the assault of a bright sun. He felt the rocks under him disappear and give way to soft grass.
Naruto was on a vast meadow. He detected a small town far to the west, and mountains to the north. Cattle roamed the meadow in search of their next meal. "Magic…" Naruto mumbled.
He looked around in search of Atlas, but the titan and all traces of his magic had disappeared. For all intents and purposes, he had appeared out of thin air. "Thank you, Atlas." He whispered softly, formally bowing at the spot from which he had first appeared onto. A memory of Atlas asking for a proper reward echoed in his mind, and he knew that the titan was serious about his request. Naruto was not certain how he could help the godly being, but he'd be damned if he did not try. But first things first. He had a traitor to kill.
He made his way to the city.
Sardonios was a gruff man. A giant amongst men, his body bristling with muscles and his armor made of superior steel, he was feared and respected from everyone, as he should be. Even with his frame and prowess, he would not be who he was if he had not been the captain of the Oracle's guard. People from every land came to visit the Oracle in search for destiny, and it was his job to make certain that no disbeliever tried to make harm come to his leader. Behind him, into the temple, were the offerings. Golden bars, jewelry, precious gems, silver statues of their lord Apollo, exotic animals and food, it was there in futile attempts to appease the God into whispering Fate's secrets to his trusted Oracle.
Only the higher class citizens visited the temple anymore. It was why they came with precious gifts in an attempt to outdo each other in offerings and be first to receive the God's blessings. Beggars and brigands avoided the temple with the ever-vigilant guards, who were swift to make such unworthy people turn their backs and ran for their lives. Sardonios was proud of what he did, and his pride was only outdone from his hatred for persons that did not respect the temple and what it stood for.
His day was made when another beggar approached the temple. The beggar was an outlandish man, who bore blond, almost golden hair and blue eyes. His chin was bearded, and his cheeks bore some strange marks. He was walking tall with his chest bare from clothing, and a strange fashion adorned his legs in the form of pants instead of the traditional kilt. At least he was wearing sandals, no matter how ruined those were. He could have been a Sumerian for all Sardonios knew, but it was not from where the man came from that interested him; it was where the man was going to go after he was done with him.
The man climbed the temple's stairs up to the entrance, where Sardonios and six more men stood guards. "Hi." The man said casually, "I want to go in."
Sardonios saw red. How dare this… infidel mock him so? Did he not know who he was? Was he not aware of where he was? "How dare you!" He seethed, and his men blanched. They did not like their superior when he was like that.
"Right, sorry. You fellas are quite pleasant." The man butchered words in his talking, changing the proper, formal words with others of his own making. What a bastard. "Okay then, I want to go in, please."
"Do you know what this place is?!" Sardonios yelled.
"Yes, the Oracle's temple. Some old guys in town told me so." He dared call their elders so improperly? It was obvious that the man needed a righteous smiting in the form of an angry guards' captain.
"Listen to me, and listen well. If you value your life, you will turn your back, descend those stairs, and never appear before me again." Sardonios warned.
The man shrugged his shoulders. "Nah, sorry. I made someone important a promise to come see the Oracle, and I keep my promises."
"Someone important?" Surely this worm did not have connections into the noble underworld?
The blond shrugged awkwardly once more. "Yeah, he said his name was Atlas."
Sardonios did a double take and decided to bait the man for more answers. "You are telling me that Atlas the Titan asked you to come to Apollo's temple and seek the Oracle?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
With incredible speed that did not match his bulky frame, Sardonios' hand shot forward, his fingers clawing into the man's eye socket. Before any of the witnesses to the scene –the man included, caught flat-footed as he was- could react, Sardonios had ripped a soft orb from its proper place and squashed it in his grasp. The man howled with pain, a howl that was obscured by Sardonios' loud laughter. "Serves you right, infidel! Serves you right for disrespecting…" His words were caught in his throat.
The man was looking at him with both his eyes, the one he had just removed weeping blood. His eyes bore ungodly rage. "What's with you sons of bitches and tearing my eyes out?" The man howled before punching Sardonios in the solar plexus with immense strength that pushed him into the temple hard enough to smash its gates open and send Sardonios skidding on the lustrous floor.
The guards immediately drew their weapons. Whoever this sorcerer was, he was powerful. They would die protecting the temple and the Oracle, and perish while sending this hellspawn back where it came from!
No such thing ever happened. The sorcerer grasped the first sword to attack him from the blade with his left hand, twisted the metal ninety degrees to the left, and then used the same arm to uppercut the guard and send him -and few of his teeth- high on the air.
He leapt high above the low slash another guard sent his way and kicked the guard on the face, breaking his nose. Before the guard could follow the force of the blow, the man caught him by the helm he wore and brought him around as a meat-shield against the third guard's mace, which slammed against said helm. The sorcerer, still in mid-air, used the second guard as a springboard in order to leap at the third guard, the one with the mace, and knock him unconscious with a ferocious punch.
Another of the guards hurried inside the temple in order to call for aid, but the sorcerer stepped out of the shadows in order to shake his head at him with disdain. The guard looked behind and saw the original sorcerer still there, fighting off two of his teammates. He looked back at the visage that had stepped out of the shadows, which chuckled and punched him in the throat, knocking him out cold. Soon enough the man's combat prowess was revealed to be quite higher than the guards'. They were all down, with the exception of Sardonios. The leader of the guards, however, had a problem of his own. He had felt his ribcage break when the sorcerer punched him. If he got up he would have his own bone shrapnel pierce his heart. All he could do was watch helplessly as the blond man took down the best fighters Sardonios had the pleasure of training.
Footsteps alerted Sardonios that the man was closing in on him. The leader of the guards stared long and hard at the man, whose only injury was the -already healed- eye. The sorcerer knelt next to Sardonios, picked up the hem of the guard's cloak, and wiped the blood from his face. With an ever serious expression, he got up and stepped onto Sardonios' prone form, who started wiggling and groaning as the man's fingers reached for his eye sockets… "Come on, don't be such a baby! It won't hurt a lot and, besides, I owe you one for earlier. What, did you thought I had forgotten?" The man asked with something akin to glee on his voice.
A shriek of pain escaped from Sardonios' lips, and he was left alone on the temple's entrance to caress his eye sockets, which wept blood. Next to him sat his clawed out eyes, carefully removed. An eye for an eye. Or in this case… Two for one.
The doors slammed open and Naruto walked into the luxurious temple's inner domain. Silk curtains covered the walls and brilliant crystals hang from the ceiling, twisting the light and shedding it in various hues inside the large room. The marble floor was covered with expensive carpets, onto which dripped blood from Naruto's clawed hands.
A soft, child-like laughter reverberated throughout the chambers, yet it was feminine and confident. "I had a dream about you. You are about to change everything."
Naruto's retinas were confined into a vertical slit, and his irises were dubbed a crimson color. "Show yourself."
"Of course." Bare feet tapped lightly against the floor behind him. Gentle hands embraced him and reached to his front in order to caress Naruto's bare chest. He had never heard her move until she was behind him. "I missed you." She whispered, provoking Naruto's curiosity.
"You don't even know me." For some reason, her proximity did not bother him, even with the Fox's wild chakra running in his veins. He was like a cornered animal in those cases, relentless in close proximities, yet she was a lion tamer to his rage.
"Does it matter?" She kissed his left shoulder blade, a light caress, and slipped past him, bringing herself under his gaze. The Oracle was a young woman caught in the perfect age of twenty. Her features were greatness, her hair long and ebony, and her eyes wise and emerald. "You are here to get answers. Whether you let me live or kill me is inconsequential." Naruto heard light steps; a sign of others entering the chambers. Without losing sight of the Oracle, who saw it fit to lie on a bed at the end of the chambers, he shifted to get a better look at the entrees. Young girls, each of them were bearing different gifts. Clothes, a small bowl filled with water, a glass filled with wine. As delicately as they had entered, they exited the room upon placing the gifts they bore onto a table. "For you, warrior." The Oracle informed him.
"Why?" Naruto asked.
The Oracle gave him a look of curiosity. "I expected you to ask different questions. No matter. You are a guest, warrior. We are to greet you properly, lest your wrath fall upon us." Her tone was admonishing. A foxy teacher speaking to a student. Naruto felt himself get turned on from her undisputed cheekiness.
"You don't have to fear my 'wrath'." Naruto admitted with an edge of arrogance in his voice. He moved to wash his hands from Sardonios' blood.
The Oracle chuckled. "Is that so? I can see shades around you, spirits that seem to disagree. People that you have killed, warrior." If she had chosen to speak the exact lines to Naruto at some other point, the result would have been most bloody. Naruto just looked tired as he dried his hands on a piece of cloth and moved to sit on a chair opposite of the Oracle's bed, the glass of wine in his hand.
"I give my wrath to those that deserve it."
"This is not what I have been told."
Naruto scoffed. "And what is it that you've been told about me, lady?"
She raised a glass of wine in the air as a silent toast, and then drank. She looked at Naruto from the ceramic glass' edge. "That you would seek revenge against every person that wronged you. That you would kill the first person to discombobulate you for no other reason than that he or she would remind you of a ghost in your past."
Is the child angered? Is the little child going to cry?
The Oracle drank the last of her wine, and then casually discarded the glass, sending it to clatter against the floor. She looked at Naruto, who seemed haunted. "I can make everything go away, warrior. I can give you…" He looked up, and their eyes met. "…Purpose."
"Tell me." Naruto pleaded.
"You need to have your revenge, not for the namesake of others, but for yourself. You have always been acting selflessly, is that not right?" Naruto nodded needlessly. It was true. He had gotten in this whole mess because he wanted to please Tsunade in the first place. She smiled and continued. "You will need weapons for that, artifacts of legend, to help you in your cause. Seek those, and then you will find your way back to your outlandish home. You will have your revenge."
Naruto thought over what she said and finally rasped "Can it be so simple?"
She gave him a motherly look and crossed the distance between them to caress his face with both hands as she knelt in front of him. "Only if you make it so."
"Where do I need to go?"
It was as if her eyes were magnets; no matter where he looked, all he saw was emerald eyes looking right back. "You need to find a house by the sea under the Acarnanian mountains, warrior. There lives a blacksmith that will be able to forge two weapons for your quest, as well as tell you where you need to go next. All you will have to do is ask him where to find Odysseus."
"I understand." He felt mesmerized by her looks. In truth, he was mesmerized. "Anything else I need to know?"
"Nothing else, warrior. Your quest is simple, despite its true difficulty."
"Thank you." Naruto muttered. "How can I ever repay you?"
She smiled and withdrew her hands from him, reached for the brooches that held her clothes on her beautiful form and pulled them aside, sending the silk on the ground and revealing herself to him. "Give me a son."
"What?" Strangely, his question was not as strong as he would have liked it to be. It was as if he had already accepted the idea.
"All I seek in return is a son that can rise to become the incarnation of our lord, Apollo, him who was slain by the Crimson Tyrant years ago. Our son, warrior."
Naruto could only stare. When she kissed him, he responded.
When Naruto woke up, he was alone in the room, the Oracle nowhere to be found. The spell that she had cast upon him, literal or metaphorical, had since passed. He did not remember what he had done with her in the slightest –even though the smell in the room was a clue big enough- yet as he dressed in the casual clothes the servants had left for him and left the temple, he found himself moving with a newfound purpose that had previously abandoned him. He would find Sasuke. He would have his revenge and then resume his life. He would mourn his vainly lost wife and daughter and then continue living life to its fullest. He owed his family at least that.
As he walked away to the sunset, he failed to see the Oracle caress her belly and watch him from afar. "Thanks to you, warrior, Lord Apollo shall rise once more and grace us with his power yet again." She smiled. "Now we only have to see if you will rise alongside him as a God of War…
"Or a God of Mercy."
The metal sang under his submissive strikes, gaining shape and form and sharpness and stability.
His greatest creation was slowly coming to life. He smiled fatherly at the metal, which soon would be joined by its identical counterpart. If only his brothers and sisters were there to see him grant the world a new pair of the weapons that once had almost cut the earth in half!
The blizzard outside howled insanely, slamming against his small home's walls. He did not even batter his eye, but rather kept going at his weaponsmithing. "Soon."
This time, the metal's hum was joined by a wooden crack. Giving the blade a final smite, he turned to look at his door. Instead of its usual place at its hinges, it had crashed on the floor with the newcomer's arrival. In his maddened work he had never realized that the wooden crack was indeed a crash. "Come on in!" He cheerfully exclaimed.
Naruto walked inside the small cabin, which bristled with heat. He ruffled his hair, shedding the snow that had been perched atop his head to the floor. "Sorry about your door. I knocked, but…"
He smiled at the blond newcomer, even if the gesture was lost under the veil of shadow he stood in. "Doesn't matter. I'm positively frenzied when I work. What brings you here?"
Naruto shrugged at the supposed blacksmith. "I was told to come here."
"With good reason, I guess." He raised his hand and pointed at the door with a long finger. Immediately, the door crackled and bristled before the materials that made it twisted and reached for the hinges. Soon, the wood was back in its place, and slowly becoming a door once more. He chuckled good-naturedly and resumed his work.
"Impressive technique. How did you do it?" Naruto asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. "I was born that way."
Naruto looked back at the door. "I had a colleague that could do that as well. He was born that way too. Coincidence?"
"He was probably a happy accident, much like me." He replied.
"I guess. Look, I hate to intrude, but, uh, I'm supposed to ask you where I can find Odysseus."
The man's demeanor changed, the good nature disappeared. Behind was left a brooding that could not be satisfied. "Odysseus?"
Naruto nodded, even if the man could not see him. "Yes. The Oracle at some strange temple told me to come here and find a blacksmith. I asked around, and you were the only one to come up. They said your name was Heph… Hepha…"
"Hephaestus." The man spoke with a strange longing. "Yes, this is my name."
"Cool. So, can you tell me where to find this Odysseus guy?" Naruto asked, sitting on a chair as he did so.
"It seems that my brother once more plays one of his pranks on me." The man said before turning to look at Naruto, the light from the forge obscuring his features. "Odysseus is dead, young man. You need to head into the Abyss in order to find him. And to do that, you will need weapons."
Naruto frowned. "It seems that everywhere I go, everyone knows what's going on besides me. Care to tell me how you know these things? An Oracle I can understand, but a blacksmith?"
"Not just any blacksmith." Hephaestus limped forward into the light, and Naruto cringed at his visage. Half of the man's face was twisted in a permanent wound, his eye swollen shut and his mouth drawn into a ripped smile that showed his teeth through his cheek. His skin at those parts was almost pink in color and wrinkled in immense amounts. From what Naruto show, the festering wounds continued down to the man's body, always favoring only one side of his body. "I am Hephaestus, God of Creation. They called me the All-Smith, the Weapon Bringer, the Life-forger. That was all before he appeared and tried to topple Olympus in his madness." Hephaestus grinned, and the deformed side of his face drew back, revealing muscle and body tissue. "Or maybe we were the mad ones and he was the only one left sane. I don't know."
Naruto said nothing. What can you say at a man as tormented as the one he saw?
Hephaestus continued. "It was I that created his original weapons. The Blades of Athena, they called them. Grafted into his body and bowing to his will alone, he was unstoppable. Once mortal, now an undead creature capable only for mayhem. I regret nothing."
"Did he do… this to you?" Naruto asked pointing almost rudely at Hephaestus' face.
"I was born that way. Kratos had nothing to do with how I look."
Naruto mouthed "fuck" while feeling extreme distaste. It felt strangely like uttering an apology.
"Apollo had foreseen this. It was he that informed our father about Kratos and what he would do to us unless we took measures, and our father listened to him well. The second war against the Titans was won, but the price was too high. We were remnants of past glory, mere illusions held together by the few believers that still devoutly prey for us. Fools, all of them." Hephaestus limped back into his forge, grasped his hammer and half-ready blade, and started his work yet again. "What is your name, boy?" He asked behind his shoulder.
"I do not understand your name, but I sense the meaning of the words. It's a fitting name. I will help you in your cause, Uzumaki Naruto. When I am done with my blades, I will tell you how to find Odysseus. He will be able to tell you what to do. He was a mortal, but he had traveled to lands that even Hermes' eyes could not spot in the horizon. Yes, he will tell you…" Hephaestus' volume was lowered to a whisper, and soon the only sounds in the small room were his working.
Naruto once again felt himself slipping to a different realm of existence and losing his grip on reality. He felt the damned Fox growl warning heeds to him, telling him to Be Careful, but he ignored them. He had been traveling for so long…
When he woke up, Hephaestus was looking at him. "It is done. They are ready."
"Your weapons, Uzumaki Naruto."
Hephaestus grinned horribly once more.
AN: Holy shit an update. It's only been two years! In all seriousness, this chapter has been boggling me. Actually, it's not the chapter, but the story itself. I have planned it and everything, know everything there is to write, and yet I just can't find the courage to write. I wonder what goes through the minds of my favorite authors when they write the epic-sized stories and if they get as… well, I'm gonna go with 'tired' on this one. I salute them (even if what I do is irrelevant, haha). Still, I have to say that my appetite on this story is pseudo-updated, so I can promise you that soon enough you'll be graced with the next part, which involves Neji and Assassin's Creed. See you next chapter…