The Serpent God
Chapter 1: About old mistakes, and an Exorcism
Main Characters: Jiriya, Orochimaru, Tsunade
Minor Characters: Naruto, Kakashi, Sakura, etc
Warnings: somewhat AU, Yaoi(eventually)
Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto
"Oh, check out this place! It's frickin' huge!"
"As to be expected of a temple dedicated to worship."
"Yeah… but damn… " his teammate whistled, still scanning the surroundings with big eyes.
"I never would've pegged you for an architecture connaiseur, Jiraiya," Tsunade said with a slightly teasing tone. It was the first time since that morning's "incident" , when she had caught their pervy teammate peeking on her washing herself off in the river, that she had spoken to him. Unless you counted the loudly yelled death threats.
Orochimaru was glad for that small respite, having Jiraiya and Tsunade not speaking to each other always had an unpleasant side effect: They whined about the whole ridiculous ordeal to him. As if he had nothing better to do than to listen to their inane whining.
"I'm a connoisseur of all things pretty, Tsu," he heard Jiriya reply and without looking he could feel the flirty jumping of his eyebrows.
"Oh yeah? Guess that's why I found you trying to sneak in to peek at...Hmph!"
Obviously Jiriya must've covered her mouth with his hand at this time, trying to keep her from finishing that sentence. No matter, he had an idea of what she had been about to say. As he heard his teammates begin to struggle with each other, once more starting up a new argument, Orochimaru continued further into the abandoned temple. The only light source as he got further into the temple and away from the entrance was the torch in his hand and the golden light cast restless shadows on the heavily decorated walls.
He ignored the sounds of the argument from behind as he approached the altar. He didn't need those two to finish this mission. All he had to do was to find the serpentine scrolls that were supposed to be in this temple. The altar was of a rather simple design, obviously quite ancient judging by the primitive way in which the altar was cut and decorated. He ran his fingers over the rough surface, wondering over what kind of deity that had once been worshipped here.
No doubt something to do with snakes in some manner, he though as he studied the decorations on the walls and altar. The decorations all depicted slithering forms, some with human features, some distinctly snakes, and others were larger, and looked more ferocious. Some kind of snake deity? Or a naga perhaps? Was that the reason that he felt a… connection to this place? Or was it just his imagination? Yet, he had never been one to conjure up impressions out of nothing; in fact he had always been rather proud of his clinical mind. It had always served him well. So why was it that he felt this deep, almost vibrating, bond to this place? At the same time filling him with both comfort and dread.
The thought struck him like a punch in the gut that this place was… dangerous. They should get out of here as quickly as possible, he decided.
Suddenly he felt something coming at him from behind and he quickly jumped out of the way. As if in slow motion he saw that it was Jiriya, screaming as he probably had been hurled across the room by Tsunade. The other young man crashed into the altar, causing it crash to the ground and hitting the small shelf behind the altar. The white haired man groaned.
"Dammit, Tsunade… I was just kidding…" he heard him complain, but Orochimaru barely paid his words any attention. Instead he found his gaze fixed on the stone vessel that had been standing on the shelf. The impact from when Jiriya had crashed into it had rattled the self and now the vessel was tipping. Sliding. Off the shelf.
The same feeling of dread as he had felt previously assaulted him, and in the same second that the vessel tumbled off the shelf he knew that if it crashed into the ground things would get bad.
"No!" he cried, launching towards the falling vessel, reaching out desperately. He almost caught it, he really did. He could feel the cold, rough surface of it against his fingertips before it slammed into the floor. But almost didn't cut it. He was a shinobi, and he if anyone would know that.
"The hell are you doing?" Jiriya grunted, and gave him and odd look as he scratched his head gently.
Once again Orochimaru barely heard him, his eyes fixed in the broken vessel. The dread tore through him as he stared at the slowly rising dust that had slipped out of the vessel. For the first time since he was a child he felt horror.
Bad. This was bad. His limbs felt weak, almost sluggish as he pushed himself up from the floor.
"Run…" he hissed, still unable to tear his eyes away from the vessel.
"Wha…?" Jiriya sounded as stupid as usual, and made no move to get up from the floor.
"Oro, what's going on?" Tsunade asked from behind him, sounding worried. She knew something had to be wrong for him to react this way.
"Run," he repeated, stronger this time.
"But why s….?" Jiriya began, but interrupted himself as the dust from the vessel suddenly burst into the still, dank air of the temple. He ran to his feet, and in the same movement whipped out his kunai, but it was too late.
For a second Orochimaru thought it looked like the dust formed into a grinning face, not quite human but distorted in some horrifying way, and then it was on him. In him. He screamed, the dust choking him and scratching his throat like fire as it plunged into him. He thought he could hear someone screaming his name, but wasn't certain, before everything went black and he felt his whole body crumble under some unknown force.
The stillness of the night was but a cloak to veil what lay beyond. Once daybreak came sneaking up on them they all knew that the hell they've been anticipating would break loose. Tsunade sighed tiredly, and once again read through the scroll, for must have been the hundredth time since she had found it in one of the secret compartments in the Hokage's office. In the dim light from the fire the familiar somewhat messy handwriting of Sarutobi-sensei was barely visable, yet she strained her eyes to read through it once more. The secret he had written in this scroll was only meant for her own and Jiraiya's eyes, but she had not showed her former teammate the scroll yet. He needed to focus on the horrible task they had before them, and she knew him well enough to know that letting him in on this would only cause him want to kill something. That was the last thing they needed right now.
Had she been anyone else she would've jumped at the sound of the voice, but as it was she merely looked up at the soft call of her name, while discretly slipping the scroll back into her backpack and in the same motion exchanging it for another one. To her right she saw Jiriya crawl out of the tent he was sharing with Kakashi and Shikamaru.
"Hey," she muttered, and opened the scroll. Trying to make it seem as though it had been the same scroll she had been reading through just moments ago.
"Why don't you get some rest? I'll keep watch."
"In a minute, I'll just read this through once more."
"You've read it so many times I'm surprised your eyes haven't started bleeding yet."
"I know that," she replied sharply, annoyed at his carefree attitude. "But we have to get this right. There will be no room for mistakes."
She hated to have to lie to him, especially when he pulled that crestfallen face at her rude answer, but she had little other choice. She'd tell him eventually, she promised herself.
Her former teammate straightened to his full height, as usual towering over most things as he did so. Few people could match Jiriya's size, and when he took full advantage of it as he was now, she could understand why enemies might find him intimidating. He had grown since their younger days, she reflected. Not only physically, but mentally. Though he was in many ways still the pervy carefree idiot she remembered, the years had given him a core of steel.
"The best way to make mistakes is to fight sluggish from exhaustion," he said softly, gazing up at the moon. Then he looked over at her again, an air of optimism in his voice. "It'll be alright,Tsunade. We'll make it alright." She almost expected him to do one of Lee's famous thumbs up of youth, but thankfully he did not.
"I hope you're right," she muttered, and stood up to hand him the scroll.
"Of course I'm right! When haven't I been right?"
She smiled despite the fact that he really rarely was right. The idiot of their little posse. Somehow she still felt reassured, so she supposed he had succeeded in that at least.
"But Tsunade-sama…!" one of the shinobi protested.
"I said: Stay back! All of you!" she ordered, quickly stepping up to stand before them. Begrudgingly they did as they were told, though she could tell by their body-language that they did not approve.
"Ah, Tsunade," Orochimaru's silky voice echoed in the cave, sounding amused. She had to fight down the urge to jump up to the ledge where he was standing and pummel his pretty face in with her fists. "Do you still harbour delusions of that you can beat me in battle?"
She couldn't, she knew. Not alone. Especially not now when he had his mobility back in his arms. Damned snake!
"I have no delusions." She growled. Not anymore. "But I will beat you."
"Is that so?" that smirk again. Mocking her.
She refused to answer him; there was no point in arguing with this creature, as she knew well from all of the times that she in the past had tried. Seeing Jiriya taking his spot they had previously agreed on, strengthened her resolve. They would do this. Together they'd have the power to do this.
The snake's face twisted in mocking delight.
"So it's the both of you then. My, it almost feels nostalgic."
Intent on wiping that smirk off his face once and for all, she reached into her bag and pulled out the thing that would make the difference this time around. With satisfaction she saw those slanted, yellow eyes widen, and she caught a glint of fear in them.
"How did you…" he hissed, so much like the snake that he was, and the monster he had become.
Never taking her eyes off him she put the repaired vessel down on the ground, and opened the stone lid.
"We repaired it, bastard." She spat back at him. Another hiss, one of rage this time, tore through his throat at this, and he launched at her. No at the vessel. Of course the bastard would go after the damn vessel; it was the one thing he feared. "Now Jiriya!" she cried, and in the same motion she did the hand signs, from the corner of her eye noting that the white haired man did the same.
Orochimaru arched mid-air as the jutsu was performed, stumbling as it wrapped around him. With a growl he whipped out, jumping back up to the ledge. Fuck, they hadn't caught him completely.
"Don't let him escape, Jiriya!" she cried, pushing the jutsu towards their old teammate, who once again stumbled, trying to get away from the energy, but this time there were no where he could run. The jutsu wrapped around him like coiling red snakes, and he gasped. His eyes were wide as he stared at the ceiling with unseeing eyes. "Gotcha…"
Gritting her teeth she put all of her power into the jutsu.
"No!" he cried, still struggling to get away, but to no avail.
"Yes." She heard Jiriya growl furiously at her side.
Orochimaru's body arched in a bow, convulsing violently, as the dust were drawn out of body. She thought she heard him scream, a short high pitch noise that bounced off the walls of the cave, and then the last of the dust was forced out. The second the last of that damned dust left him, the body faltered. He fell forwards, off the ledge and slammed into the rock with a sickening crunch before tumbling the rest of the way down to the cave floor where he remained still. She bit her lip, forcing her eyes away from him, and focusing on the dust whirling in the air now.
With trembling hands she did the last few hand signs and said: "Seal!" She put all of her remaining power into that command, and felt Jiriya do the same. For a moment she thought that they had failed once again, but then the red, snake like tendrils that had previously trapped the body whipped around at the dust. The dust seemed to try to get away, squirming uselessly as the red enveloped it to then force it back into the vessel.
The second the last of the dust was trapped in the vessel, she reached into her pocket and forced the lid into its place on the vessel.
"Seal!" God dammit seal!
And it did.
Exhausted she fell to the ground, panting and gulping in air as if she had been running for days. Suddenly her limbs felt like lead, and even keeping her eyes open felt like a struggle.
From the corner of her eye she saw a motion, and she watched silently as Jiriya heaved himself up from the ground, shaking like a leaf.
"Oro…" she heard him groan, and she watched as he stumbled to his feet and over to the still figure lying facedown on the cave floor. She watched, her whole body weak and drained from the justu they had performed, as he turned their teammate over gently, cradling him like a child in his muscular arms. "Oro… fuck… Tsu, he's… he needs medical attention…"
"Sakura," Tsunade moaned, still panting, she saw her student walk up to her. Hesitant. Confused. They probably all must be confused, she noted. "Sakura, please. I'll explain everything later."
She could sense the doubt, could see the hesitation in Sakura's eyes, but then the steel she knew so well pushed through. The girl nodded stiffly and hurried to Jiriya and Orochimaru. Tsunade felt a wave of guilt and relief flow through her. Despite it all Sakura still put her trust in her. She could only hope that the rest of the shinobi would do the same.
A shinobi kneeled by her side, and she glanced up at him.
"That was quiet some jutsu there. The Third's work?" Kakashi asked softly, keeping his eyes on the, what he should still perceive, enemy.
"Yeah… " she admitted tiredly. "Kakashi, please, help me stand."
For the first time he looked down on her, and she realised that his sharingan eye was unmasked.
"Of course, Hokage-sama." He reached to help her up, and she stiffened when she heard Jiriya's voice again, sounding urgent. With some effort she turned her head towards him.
"Don't…! Why are you…!?" the white haired man stammered as Sakura slowly withdrew her hands and shook her head.
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "There's nothing I can do."
"What do you mean by 'there's nothing you can do'?" Jiriya blurted out. "You have to…!"
"Jiriya," Tsunade spoke softly, leaning heavily on Kakashi as he helped her up from the ground. Jiriya looked up, his dark eyes almost pleading. "She can't heal the dead…"
She watched the light of hope die in his eyes, and felt a gut wrenching shame tear through her. They had both hoped, obviously in vain, and now that hope was gone. Left was only that hollow place in her chest where it had resided. Perhaps that was the worst part. As long as the snake had lived, so had the hope, and now both was gone.
Jiriya nodded slowly, dropping his gaze to run it over the limp corpse in his arms.
"Isn't that odd, Tsu…?" he asked hoarsely, brushing the dark hair away from Orochimaru's face. "He looks… just like he did before…"
She nodded, feeling the exhaustion running though her even at such a small motion, she too eyeing their teammate's still face. Still pale as the death that held him in its grip, but as young as he had been when this whole horror had begun. How old had they been back then? Seventeen? Maybe sixteen? It felt like centuries ago.
"Yeah… it's odd…" she agreed with a sigh.
The funeral had been an even odder affair, and Tsunade suspected that amongst all of the shinobi gathered only herself and Jiriya had been the only ones actually grieving. Instead confusion had been the dominating emotion as the stood gazing at the coffin. It was, she knew, understandable. Most of the people from Konoha knew Orochimaru only as an enemy. A bogeyman come to eat their children and kill all of their loved ones. They had grown up fearing him, loathing him. It would be a long time, even when told the truth (which was a feat she didn't feel up to until she had had some rest), before people could disconnect the old image to replace it with a new. If that was even possible.
Oro had been as beautiful as always. That white face peaceful in death as he was lowered into the ground, and she and Jiriya had wept. They had both hoped, however futile and naïve it might have been, that the jutsu to drive the snake out of his body wouldn't claim his life. So naïve. Maybe it was as they said, and it hope really was the last thing to die.
She sighed softly and reclined in her chair, bringing the sake bottle to her lips once more. From the corner of her eye she could see Jiriya mimicking her motions with his own bottle. Although they have been sitting together in her office for hours no more than the occasional word had been exchanged between them. She felt herself smirk. It wasn't often either of them were at a loss for words, which Oro often had pointed out while rubbing his temples, but this time it seemed as though all words were futile. There was little left to say, and whatever little remained were not something to be spoken of tonight. She'd show him the scroll tomorrow, she decided.
She heard the sound of running feet before the door crashed open, so when it did she didn't bother turning around.
"What is it?" she grumbled out, making it clear that she didn't appreciate the interruption.
"Hokage-sama," the voice of Iruka said, sounding urgent. "There's a problem…"
"We just buried our friend not more than a few hours ago, Iruka," she heard Jiriya groan from the couch. "Can't you let two old geezers mourn in peace?"
"Who're you calling a geezer, Jiriya?" she asked, although not unfriendly. She was too drained to fight with him now anyways.
"Fine. A geezer and a hag then."
She threw a pencil at him.
"That's just… there's a problem by the grave, Hokage-sama," Iruka's voice interrupted.
They both turned to look at him, squinting in the darkness since they hadn't bothered to light a lamp.
"What kind of problem, Iruka?" she asked, feeling a cold shiver run down her spine.
The chuunin gulped nervously under their intense gazes, but didn't divert his gaze.
"The grave of Orochimaru… is empty."
Author's notes: Ok, there's been a loooooong time since I wrote anything… at the very least a couple of years, so I'm a tad rusty. I hope you've enjoyed the beginning of this little story anyways.
Hm, don't worry about Naruto, I love that little dobe, so he's going to be in the story, although not as the main character as I will be keeping focus more on the sannin. I'll also try to answer some question about the vessel, dust, the freaky justu thingy and all that in the next chp.
Right and don't forget to review so I know if there's any other questions, etc, about the story. Feedback is kinda essential for a fanfiction writer after all, so they know if they're keeping the characters somewhat IC, and so on.