Chapter 29

Scream Aim Fire

The streets of the capital of Blood Country bristled with activity. Merchants and miners of all races and countries teemed around. Blood Country was famous for its precious metals, and the capital was the best place for both sellers and buyers from around the world to come.

Naruto recognized garb from Sunagakure, as well as a few merchants who might have been from Konohagakure. He ducked his head lower, pulling the hood over his bright yellow hair just as an armed patrol walked by menacingly. His friends had agreed that using a Genjutsu disguise was too risky, as there might be guards who could sense the chakra use. Naruto wasn't the most skilled at such low level chakra use anyway. A large cloak and hood kept him from prying eyes while he slipped into the cafe they'd agreed to meet in.

As he stepped through the doors his eyes adjusted quickly to the darker room. The room had a light fog to it, probably due to the scattered cigarette smokers littered around the room. In the corner he spied Sakura and walked over.

"Are we the only ones here so far?" he asked quietly. The decision to split up was also agreed upon. The guards would be looking for a group traveling together, not individuals.

"So far," Sakura nodded, her pink hair hidden beneath an oddly shaped hat that pulled down around her ears. She looked up at Naruto, surprised to only now notice that he was slightly taller than her.

"When did you outgrow me?" she asked quietly.

Naruto smiled. "I..I don't quite know! Ha ha," he laughed quietly and stood up a little straighter, the deeper meaning of her question lost on him.

She locked her eyes on him, forcing him to face the truth until he finally looked away.

"Those soldiers," she said softly. "We didn't need to kill them. We could have gone around."

"And then what?" Naruto answered, his gaze becoming icy as he turned back to face her. "They'd have gone on and found someone else to murder. Why should we allow these…monsters… to roam free? A sense of morality? No, someone has to stand up to them. Stop them. Punish them."

"But why you?" she asked, genuine sadness in her voice.

Naruto looked out the doorway as someone talking loudly walked by the entrance. "Because someone has to do it. Because I can."

"Naruto," she said, still quiet. "Is this who you are now?"

He looked into her eyes, his steely glint softening. "It is who I need to be Sakura."

"Are you sure?" Her hand touched his.

The door swung open and Senjii walked in with Hiroka on his arm. Their disguise as a bickering couple made all the more realistic with the added bickering that they were doing. Naruto spied them and waved them over. Sakura withdrew her hand quietly and smiled at her fighting friends, wondering when they would get their act together.

Nagi walked down the street looking as inconspicuous as possible. He blended in very well with the populace, his skin matching theirs, his hair as well. He'd liberated some robes that covered his Tengoku gear from a clothes line some streets back. This gave him a good chance to see what the Capital of his family's former Kingdom had become.

Much like the village they'd passed through, most of the faces here were vacant, and listless. The people walked about their tasks, but without any zeal or zest. It was as if they were all already dead, just waiting for their bodies to catch up to that reality.

He came across a child that was sitting by a fountain. There was not even any water flowing in the fountain. The child was watching passersby with an emotionless stare. It made Nagi's heart ache for that child, and these people. Someone should help them. Would that person be him? Did he want this Kingdom back? It was a thought that had crossed his mind, but he'd not allowed himself to focus on it. He had one goal here, the death of the man who killed his mother and father and sister.

A ruckus approached and he ducked into the shadows of a building. A contingent of capital guards were marching by, making a big show of it. An old man who could not get out of the way fast enough was pushed into the dirt of the street while the guards laughed and kept on marching.

Nagi restrained his anger, and watched as the people went about the business, no one even looking at the old man in the street struggling to get to his feet. He fought with his inner thoughts, knowing he should ignore it and go meet Naruto and the others, but his good nature won out and he stepped out of the shadows and gripped the man's arm. He pulled the man to his feet, and helped him settle.

"Thank you young man," the old man looked at Nagi and appeared startled. "Why, you're the spitting image of the Old King."

Nagi backed away, "Yeah... really... well I get that sometimes. Funny huh?"

The old man looked at him again and shrugged. "Funny. Yes. Thank you for your help. Here..." He dug into his pocket and pulled out a silver coin. "For your trouble. If my grandson were here he would have helped me up the way you did. This is his customary reward."

Nagi raised his hands "No, no. I couldn't possibly," he turned to keep going.

The old man took a step towards him holding out the coin. "But I insist young man. You must."

Nagi sighed, and reached out for the coin. He didn't want to cause a scene. As his fingers touched the coin he felt a shock arc through his body. Every nerve screamed in agony as electricity coursed through every fiber of his being. He collapsed in a fidgeting heap.

The old man also fell to the ground, but more like a limp rag doll. Nagi managed to see that the old man's eyes were open but unseeing. He was dead.

"Over here! Over here!" The child who was people watching earlier was shouting. A small crowd had gathered around Nagi, who was unable to control his body still. The guards from earlier came running. They saw Nagi convulsing on the ground and the leader grinned madly. He motioned to his squad and one at the back who held a backpack stepped forward. He pulled out a white device and laid it against Nagi's chest. Straps snapped out of it automatically and wrapped around his body. He immediately felt a drain. An all too familiar drain.

"A...a...chak..chakra ...inhi...inhibitor..." he stuttered out, the convulsions easing.

The head guardsman laughed. "Yes. Don't want you using any tricks, your former highness."

Nagi looked at the dead old man again. "What...what did you do? How?"

The guardsman motioned for the others to pick Nagi up. "Every citizen was made aware that you were coming. These coins," he reached in his pocket and pulled out an exact replica, "were handed out. It incapacitates the intended victim. At the cost of the other person holding the coin of course, it has to get energy from somewhere." He kicked the old man's body. "But no big loss am I right?" he laughed as they dragged a helpless Nagi to the castle.

After they'd left, the street returned to 'normal', the citizens and witnesses going back to their meager existence, not even bothering to gossip about the capture of their rightful ruler nor the inconsequential death of one of their own. The child had even gone back to the empty fountain like nothing had happened at all. Such was their lives that apathy won out over everything else.

An hour later everyone was gathered in the back room of the cafe. Almost everyone, there was one conspicuous absence.

"Where is Nagi?" Naruto asked, concern echoing in his tone.

Senjii peeked his head back into the main room from the doorway, shaking it. Naruto clenched his fists, resisting the urge to race out into the streets and start searching for his friend himself. The cafe was empty now except for his team and the owner who recognized the danger that they represented and chose to stay on the far side of the room reading a newspaper.

"Five more minutes," he said, glancing at the clock on the wall.

N'uihc sat quietly, not needing to look at the clock, his body knowing the correct time instinctively.

"There is no need my Lord Tenshikage. He is not coming," N'uihc said evenly. "My student would not embarrass me by being late willingly. He has either been killed or captured. This is my own fault, if I had trained him better this would not have happened."

Naruto looked at N'uihc hard. "Nagi is not dead." He turned to the door.

"Senjii!"he barked. "Find me someone to interrogate."

Five minutes later Senjii stepped back into the room with a struggling guard that he slapped across the face a few times. He threw him down onto the ground where Calamity kicked the guard in the ribs before grabbing him by the collar and lifting him.

"Have you heard anything about a new prisoner?" Naruto growled at the man, his eyes taking on a reddish glow.

To his credit, the guard held out for thirty seconds before wetting himself.

Nagi was alive. He was captured an hour ago and sent to the castle. They had been on the lookout for him specifically. He looks so much like the old King that he was the easiest to find. The new King was going to kill him.

Calamity bashed the guard on his temple, sending him into dreamland and turned to find all of her friends strapping on their gear and shedding their disguises. N'uihc was instructing Kenichi to stay close to him at all times and to observe. To his credit the boy showed no fear.

"The time for deception and sneaking is past." Naruto declared. He flexed his fists and reached behind his jacket, pulling out a round tube that was pure white. With a flick it expanded to full staff size. Calamity gasped, it was a heavenstone staff. Its unbreakable surface as smooth as glass. Perfect for someone who kept breaking his wooden staffs like Naruto did.

"Where did you get that?" Calamity asked.

"Yoshi," was all Naruto said, twirling it absently in his hands then collapsing it and putting it back under his jacket. "We must get to Nagi fast. Any ideas?"

"The castle is right up the road. Why don't we just knock?" Sakura suggested.

Senjii looked out the window to the castle walls within the city. He flexed his fingers, feeling the song of the twin kodaichi at his sides, knowing they longed for battle, any battle, this battle.

"OK. So..." he turned to Naruto. "Front door?"

Naruto grinned.

"Front door."


The sound echoed throughout the entire city, vibrations knocking down anything that wasn't too heavy, and if there was any glass windows anywhere they all probably would have cracked at the very least. The heavy oak doors to the castle were fifty feet high with reinforced beams across them. To their credit, they had stood the test of time, protecting the castle from marauders, invading armies and the like for over a century. The wood was petrified and oiled, harder than all but the best steel. It had served its purpose. Until today.

Deadly splinters flew down the main path inside the castle walls, massacring the small platoon stationed in front of it, clouds of sawdust filling the air. In the midst of the clearing dust stood Sakura, fist still outstretched.

"Nice knock." Hiroka grinned at her friend and teammate.

The path ahead remained empty. Clearly inviting them to go straight to the King's Castle. Naruto was only too happy to oblige the open invitation.

From the open gate poured hundreds and hundreds of clones. They filled the path and ran straight down the road. Within seconds a crossfire of arrows and cannon fire drilled into the horde of clones. The horde stopped and then began to spread into the side streets. Incredibly the pops of smoke that indicated a clone dispersing appeared less and less as more clones poured in, taking on and subduing the palace militia.

"How are they avoiding those arrows?" Calamity asked Naruto.

He shrugged. "My clones know the same tricks I do. Like my Hiraishin. So they're popping up behind the line of fire."

After a few terrible minutes of fighting, the sounds of battle receded further and further away from the main pathway.

"That should keep them busy. My clones will mop up the army outside here, while we go in," Naruto said, his smile slipping from his face as he looked down the path into the castle. His eyes taking on that serious glint again. Nagi's life hung in the balance.

"Let's go."

Nagi spat the blood out of his mouth and onto the boot of the man who called himself his 'cousin'. The Blood King laughed.

"It really is remarkable how much you look like your father." The King bent down and hit Nagi across the face again. "Why did you come back here?" kicking him in the side of his face as he asked.

Nagi felt the pain lance through his head as the boot connected, stars appearing in his eyes as he skidded across the concrete floor. The chakra inhibiting device on his chest glowed bright white, a gift for the Blood King from his friends in Snow Country. As an added precaution, he also had steel handcuffs that held his wrists together behind his back cutting deeply into his skin, the blood making them slick but not any less tight.

"For revenge?" the King stalked over. "To take back your Kingdom?" he laughed. "What could you possibly hope to accomplish here?" He spread his arms and pointed out the window.

"Do you see outside? You must have seen what this country has become. It burns. The entire country is at a slow burn. I have made it so. The people fear me, and that is the only thing keeping them in line. Knowing who their one true master is."

"What could you possibly do in the face of my might, boy?" he knelt down and held Nagi's head in his hands. "What? Cousin?" he punched Nagi in the face again, collapsing him into a heap. The King stood and walked calmly back to his throne, pulling out a long sword.

"How fitting that your father's sword be the one to reunite you with your parents. It's positively karmic."

"Your Majesty! There has been a breach at the gate! Intruders are overrunning the guards!" a guard burst into the room and declared.

The King lowered his sword and grinned. "They're here," he nodded to the five shadowy figures to the left of the room. They disappeared in a flash. He looked back at Nagi. "I think we'll prolong this just a little bit longer, and let you see the heads of your friends lined up before you before I cut yours off as well."

"If it's all the same to you," Lash said lazily. He stood off to the right next to his brother Scorpion. "We'll just wait here for his friends to show up."

"At that point, you can ask for our help and owe Emperor Danzo...everything." Scorpion smirked.

The Blood King laughed again. "We shall see."

"Yes. Yes we shall," Lash replied, looking out of the window.

The corridor was eerily quiet compared to the noise of the fighting outside. The group from Tengoku raced quietly along it, the shadows from torches dancing along the red walls. It didn't take long for the corridor to end and gave way to a large hall. In the middle of the hall stood a single man. He was short at maybe five foot three, his sword in his scabbard.

He pointed to Senjii.

Naruto turned to his friend. "We can't wait, Nagi needs us."

"Go ahead, I won't be long." Senjii said in anticipation.

The group from Tengoku ran around the swordsman and up the large regal stairs to the next floor, leaving Senjii alone. Senjii flexed his fingers and smiled wryly at the man across the room.

"Senjii Makato, the Dark Blade," he said quietly.

"Daibetsu Sichhu, the Blood Letter," was the man's reply. He drew his sword and took a ready stance. Senjii touched his fingers to his twin kodachi and bent at the knees.

The men disappeared in a blur and flash of steel.

Naruto and his team raced up the stairs at the top there was another short corridor and a door. They stepped through and entered what had to be a waiting area. Standing in the middle was a huge hulk of a man. He sneered at them.

"Who amongst you is the strongest?" he bellowed. He stamped his foot hard on the stone floor and the room shook. "Come let me tear you apart! Ha Ha Ha!"

Naruto growled and was about to step forward when Sakura stopped him.

"No Naruto, you have to save Nagi." She stepped forward. The man held up his hand.

"No no. Not you little girl. Let a man face me."

Sakura's face grew stormy she punched her fist into the other. A small boom filled the room and air rushed outwards. The man stopped smiling and looked at her anew. He flexed his fists.

"OK," he pointed at a door at the other end of the room.

"Where are they keeping Nagi!?" Naruto demanded.

"Throne room. Top floor. Just keep following the doors. Now leave." He licked his lips looking Sakura up and down, judging. "I think I'm going to have some fun."

Naruto turned red and toyed with the idea of just ripping the man's head off, but Sakura caught his eye and shook her head. She wanted to fight him. Naruto trusted her to do what needed to be done, and took off with Calamity, Hiroka, N'uihc and Kenichi trailing behind him. N'uihc glanced at the two fighters, Sakura and the large man and then didn't spare another glance. The Tenshikage was allowing his fighters to do their jobs and trusting them to do it, as he should. He approved and hoped his new apprentice was watching. There was much honor to be learned here.

As they raced down the long corridor, Naruto had a few seconds to think. Despite what N'uihc assumed Naruto hadn't had time to process everything as yet, instead acting on instinct and gut. The enemy was throwing up individual obstacles to try to divide them and eliminate them one by one. He was purposely ignoring the comparison to the last mission he'd taken as a ninja of Konoha, the one that ended with his banishment. In spite of the outcome, all those individual fights back then were won by the good guys in the end, despite the overwhelming odds they'd been up against and were up against now. There was a chance each was a trap, and he was leaving his friends to die. But, if he stopped to fight anyone and for whatever reason it took time, Nagi could be dead by the time they got to him.

He had to trust his friends.

Glancing ahead, he saw two women in the corridor waiting. He didn't even slow down, looking left and right, receiving nods from Calamity and Hiroka. He and N'uihc and Kenichi raced past the female adversaries, leaving them to the girls' team.

Senjii clutched his swords tightly. Thus far he'd avoided any cuts from his enemy, but he'd also been unable to land any attacks either. His twin kodaichi could attack from more angles at once, but the other swordsman seemed to have superior speed nonetheless. He charged in low, double swinging with his swords, aiming for the main artery in the thighs. The swordsman stepped backwards just enough to avoid the attack, and brought his katana down towards the back of Senjii's neck.

Senjii rolled forward, avoiding the swing. He rolled almost into the body of the man, and stood suddenly, dragging his swords straight up. A lesser man would have been cut in three. The swordsman spun in a circle away, deflecting the attack with his sword.

Senjii felt a scratch along the back of his left fist. The other man had drawn first blood. The cut stung, he glanced at it, the skin was torn rather than sliced.

"Ahhh." Daibetsu grinned. "You begin to see why they call me the blood letter." He held up his katana and turned it so the blade caught the light.

"My sword. It's name is Bonesaw. Its bite has teeth."

In the light, Senjii saw what he meant. "A serrated edge katana."

"Yes. Come let Bonesaw bite you again." Daibetsu lunged, his sword arcing towards Senjii's left.

Senjii blocked with his right kodaichi, bringing the left sword's point in a thrust to Daibetsu's side. However he was thrown off balance when the swordsman grated his swords against Senjii's, the serrated edge rattling the steel. His thrust wasn't as fast or as effective as he planned.

Daibetsu rolling into and down, dragging his serrated edge sword straight down, pushing into Senjii's body, then ripping it suddenly across his chest. It raked skin, cloth and blood in its path.

He took one step backwards and then flash stepped forward, swinging both blades in a move designed to cleave a person in two. Daibetsu blocked both blades at the point they would have connected, stepping back slightly. He slammed his fist into the flat end of his sword, the force sending Senjii backwards. Senjii rolled and came up onto one knee.

"Is this the best you have Dark Blade?" Daibetsu shifted his leg backwards and swung his sword towards Senjii, the cutting force slicing through the stone floor on its way to Senjii. He dodged it easily, jumping high into the air. He took his kodaichi and sliced the air, the cutting force almost visible as it decimated the ground Daibetsu was standing on just a second earlier.

Senjii landed and felt a piercing pain in his left shoulder. He'd miscalculated, Daibetsu hadn't dodged backwards, he'd moved forward to attack Senjii as he landed! Bonesaw had cut clean through his shoulder and out his back, piercing his shoulder blade and sticking out through his back. A few inches to the right and he'd had cleaved his heart. Blood spurted from the wound and Senjii momentarily buckled, but swung his swords regardless to disembowel his enemy. Daibetsu grinned and ripped his sword free, its serrated edge doing more damage on the way out. He jumped backwards to avoid Senjii's swing.

Blood splattered against the stone tiles, Senjii's eyes grew steely as he willed himself to keep standing and fighting. He had to catch up to Naruto and help save Nagi!

The hulk of a man punched towards Sakura. The air whistled past her ear as she dodged the attack easily, slipping inside his punch. With a quick intake of breath she cocked her fist and unleashed a powerful blow into his solar plexus. The result was...surprising.

The man didn't fly across the room as she'd expected. Though the impact made a loud boom, and dust and wind flew from the site of impact, that was the only physical result to her attack. His hands came down in a surprisingly fast swing. She held her forearm over her head to block, the impact sent her a full four inches into the stone floor, the rock buckling and dust flying. Sakura rolled backwards and out of the way. Standing, she looked at the man again. He hadn't moved from his spot.

"That the best you got girlie?" The man laughed. He lifted his legs one at a time and stretched, cracking his chest muscles and shoulders. "That was a tickle. Come let me tickle you back."

Sakura frowned and thought quickly. The man was strong, that was clear, but that punch would have decimated a boulder of comparable size. Tsunade had taught her how to destroy almost anything, but it was a smaller lesson that came to mind right now. She had told her that one day Sakura would face someone who could take her punch easily. 'Always remember there is someone stronger than you. The key is not to be stronger, but smarter. Everyone has a weak spot. Find it, and then strength wouldn't matter.'

Sakura needed to find his weak spot. For that she needed more information. She steeled herself and leaped in, fists flying.

"We will be your opp—" the twin female guards began to say. Calamity left them no time to finish the sentence. Her arrows were in the air before they even stopped moving. Two embedded themselves in the eye sockets of the girl on the left. The girl on the right managed to block with her metal fans, but Hiroka's scarf snaked out and thirty different razor sharp threads exploded towards the female. Half connected, impaling the woman through her neck and torso.

Calamity and Hiroka stopped, looking as the bodies dropped to the floor. N'uihc had taught her something that she had already learned once a long time ago in the badlands.

"If you're going to kill someone, do it. Don't talk," she said to the corpses.

Naruto and N'uihc were already out of sight around the corner. Hiroka was about to suggest they keep going and catch up to Naruto when the bodies on the ground began to stir.

Calamity and her friend watched as the arrows were pushed out of the eye sockets, and holes were filled with hundreds of small writhing red worm like creatures. The damage was repaired and the two female guards sprang up, attacking.

"Fair enough," they both spoke in unison, already in motion.

Hiroka cursed and sidestepped a sweeping fan attack. She lifted her front leg to avoid a sweep and raised her back arm parallel. With a sudden step forward she shifted from defensive to offense. Her hands struck forward, fingers rigid in a knife strike. The female guard blocked the attack with a closed fan. She then tried to slice Hiroka's hand with an open fan. Hiroka folded her arm at the elbow and stepped sideways, flowing into an elbow strike.

Calamity jumped backwards, loosing arrow after arrow into the body of the other female. This one was deflecting most of the arrows with twin daggers, but Calamity's training with N'uihc had paid off immensely. She didn't need to aim, she just knew where she wanted to hit, so she did. The arrows took out the female's hands, impaling them, making it harder to use the daggers. Then another arrow in the temple knocked the woman down again. Those worm things though were faster this time, healing the body almost instantly, and pushing the arrows out.

"These bitches won't stay down!" Hiroka grunted.

"I know!" Calamity exclaimed.

Blood dripped freely from his forehead and stung his eyes. His opponent had a few small slashes as well, but it was clear the majority of the damage had so far been done to Senjii. He tightened his grip on his swords. This opponent was better than him, that made this fight even more important. His best friend and leader was getting stronger every day. Senjii had once told him he was the best swordsman in the world. Well that wasn't true, but someday it would be. And this man, this man stood in his way. He took a breath and blinked, his eyes clear again, a serious shine glinting in them.

"Why are you smiling!?" Daibetsu demanded. "You are unable to defeat me using these traditional techniques. You are using twin kodaichi which requires more energy to use than my single katana. You bleed freely onto the floor, I'm surprised you're actually still standing."

Senjii stood up straight. "Now that's an idea..." He grinned wildly.

"Hop Step!" he shouted as he disappeared in a series of erratic blurs bouncing towards Daibetsu. The katana wielding swordsman stepped back and barely managed to block Senjii's attack to his throat. He thrust forward in a move to disembowel Senjii, but he was no longer there, his 'hop step' attack taking him beyond and behind the swordsman.

"Monkey Throws Banana!" Senjii bellowed throwing one of his kodaichi. The move was so unexpected that Daibetsu barely avoided the spinning blade. He spun out of its way, but couldn't dodge it completely on its return arc. Its blade dug into his side and sliced it neatly before flying back into Senjii's hand.

"What are you doing!?" Daibetsu bellowed frustrated.

"Well as you said, traditional moves would just tire me out, and I still need to catch up to Naruto and help save Nagi. So I'm trying some nontraditional moves!" he grinned slashing the air with his swords.

"Bastard!" Daibetsu spat on the ground. "It will give me great pleasure to line your head up next to your friends!"

Senjii's eyes grew serious. "A real swordsman wouldn't lower himself to threats such as that." Senjii swept one leg backwards slowly, raising one kodaichi above his head pointing towards Daibetsu, the other raised in front of him, pointing to the ceiling. "If someone such as you could give me this much trouble, then I have much further to go than I thought."

He closed his eyes. His muscles tensed, every coil tightening. He jabbed forward with one blade, then the other, then back again, faster and faster, the cutting force pushing forward in precise thrusts. Faster and faster, Senjii jabbed and jabbed, his swords blurring with his arms, almost disappearing with the speed. He shouted with the exhilaration and exertion of it. "Thousand Darkness Strike!" The effect on the far side of the room was devastating.

Every jab sent a force strong enough to crush stone and render dust. Daibetsu dodged at first but at his highest speed there was no way he could dodge them all! He took several massive hits to his shoulders and legs, collapsing him to the ground. Unable to wield his sword properly, he couldn't defend against the attack any longer. Bursts of blood rattled through the back of his body, exploding backwards to the stone wall. He convulsed with each hit, his body little more than a rag doll at this point. Senjii had to slow down the attack gradually or risk rupturing his own muscles. When he did, what was left of Daibetsu slumped into a wet heap on the floor.

He breathed heavily, the exertion leaving his arms numb. Only now, with the battle over did he feel warmth emanating from his swords. That's something to remember¸ he thought, the swords won't heal me during a battle, only when I've won. It's like I must prove myself in battle in order to earn it.

Senjii collapsed to his knees for a second, to catch his breath. His chest heaved massively, sucking in as much air as he could manage.

"You have ten seconds," he told himself aloud. "Ten seconds then we get up, and go."

Sakura spun backwards in a tight three sixty and fell to the ground. The man laughed and lifted his legs, cracking his joints. Sakura coughed loudly, blood falling to the stone floor. She pushed herself up and stood. This fight was pretty one sided so far. At this rate, she'd be dead and no help to anyone else. Every attack she launched was taken by the giant without so much as a flinch. She had hit him harder than she'd ever hit a person, or object for that matter. And he'd taken it. He'd not even moved from the spot he was on.

Her eyes narrowed.

She lunged forward, using her chakra control to make two sudden shifts in momentum and direction, then came in low under his guard and swung hard. For his knees. The hit connected with a massively loud boom, echoing in the room. Still, there was no effect. She felt a blow to the back of her head and her face was smashed into the stone floor. She struggled to rise again and another hammer fist to the back of her head sent her further into the stone. it was a miracle she maintained her consciousness.

"That was pathetic!" the brute bellowed. He reached out for her, thinking her defeated.

Sakura knocked his hand aside and rolled backwards. She knelt on one knee, teeth gritted in pain, but eyes sharp and alert, analyzing her opponent. He only ever attacked with his hands. His legs never left the ground.

"So your strength is tied to the floor you stand on. It must be earth based. When you take my punches your feet are always connected or planted square to the rock floor," Sakura said calmly as she wiped away the blood trickling down her mouth.

"Clever girl," the man snarled. "Still, you can't defeat me."

Sakura smiled and lightly jumped straight up. She balled her fists together and brought them down hard onto the stone floor as she landed. The stone floor they were on was the second floor of the castle. It crumbled in a mighty avalanche of stone and rubble and began to fall to the first floor below.

The giant brute lost his footing and began a free fall to the ground below. Sakura would not let him land though. She launched forward perpendicular to the floor at incredible speed, jumping straight over the crumbling ground.

His shocked expression looked up to see Sakura suddenly appear in the air next to him. Her grin was feral as she cocked her fist.

His head exploded into bone and mist a second later.

She flipped in the air and landed on the far side of the room, close to the door as the floor behind her crumbled.


Sakura turned back and saw Senjii appear at the entrance to the room, watching the gaping hole where the floor used to be and a body falling amongst the stones.

"You could have left a path for me to walk on you know!" he grumbled. With a jump he leapt to the wall and ran quickly along it for a few steps before jumping down to where Sakura was standing.

"I'm guessing everyone else ran ahead?" Senjii asked nonchalantly despite looking like the walking dead. There was blood on his face, shoulder, torso. Sakura was appalled at his state, but imagined she didn't look much better.

She nodded and wobbled for a second. Senjii reached out to grab her, noticing the large bruises on her face and the stiff manner she was standing in. He bit his tongue, not wanting to draw too much attention to it. Despite her appearance with her pink hair, Senjii knew she prided herself as a fighter as well. To treat her any differently than any other teammate would only make her mad.

And after seeing what she had just done to this room, he definitely didn't want to make her mad. He drew back his hand without holding her, letting her balance herself.

"Soon as you're ready, let's go," he said, looking out the door and down the long corridor. The sounds of a battle were reaching them. With a deep breath and a nod, Sakura ran out the door with Senjii following.

"Ahhh!" Hiroka screamed as a fan sliced through her scarf and deep into her thigh. A fount of blood sprayed across the tiled floor. The crimson guardswoman brought her fan back to her side, snapping it shut and stabbing forward with the second one, leaning forward with her body. Hiroka managed to drop under it and leaned back. She plied her scarf and channeled it towards the woman, impaling her wrist with three chi-hardened cloth spikes.

Like before, the woman slipped her arm off the spikes and it healed almost instantly. Hiroka flipped and skidded backwards away to recover for a few precious seconds.

Calamity kept putting arrows into the head of the other woman, who kept getting back up.

"You OK, Hiroka?!" she shouted without looking, keeping her eyes on the body that was getting up again. She spared an arrow and shot the other guardswoman in her head as well without looking.

"I'm fine." Hiroka took some threads and directed them towards her thigh. With a gnashing of her teeth she directed the threads with her chi to stitch her cut back together. The blood stopped dripping in time as the two guardswomen got up again.

"This is ridiculous!" Calamity exclaimed. "How do we get them to stay dead?"

Hiroka flexed her shoulders. "Well, remember those zombies we fought on the way to the Crescent Moon Kingdom?"

Calamity nodded.

"Good, but we need to hold them still long enough to NOT cut my scarf to shreds." Hiroka mused as the guardswomen took ready positions.

Calamity didn't respond, she just put away her long bow and drew her smaller twin crossbows. "Get ready."

She closed her eyes and felt outwards. She could see them moving with her inner eye. Feel their presence. Knew where her targets would be. She took a deep breath and let loose.

Her hands were a blur, small arrows flying like a hailstorm towards the two guardswomen. Despite their best attempts to block, they were pin-cushioned by tens, twenties, a hundred crossbow bolts. Her hands were firing and reloading faster than the human eye could track.

Hiroka jumped high in the air over the arrow storm. The pin-cushioned bodies were upright still. She lashed out with her scarf, splitting the fabric in two. Calamity simultaneously stopped firing long enough for the cloth to wrap around the women's necks.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaa!" Hiroka exclaimed as she pumped energy into the cloth, and tightened, cutting deep and in seconds popping the heads of the women off their bodies.

The pin-cushioned bodies fell to the ground writhing, red worm like creatures spilling out of their bleeding necks.

The heads rolled toward Calamity, Hiroka landing neatly besides her. The eyes blinked and mouths moved silently, blood trickling out of their mouths.

"You girls OK?" Sakura and Senjii came running up behind them.

Calamity and Hiroka turned and smiled at their friends.

"Yes. Just taking care of some undead bitches." Calamity said with a smile. She put her mini crossbows away and shook her hands loose.

Sakura looked at the heads still rocking on the ground and frowned. "Well... let's just be sure." She turned and pulled a heavy wooden door off of its hinges. Everyone stepped back, and she slammed the door down on the heads, a splatter of blood escaping from the sides of the door on the ground.

"Where's Naruto?"

Naruto threw open the doors to the throne room. He spied four figures in the middle of the room, only one of whom he was happy to see.


Nagi was in a kneeling position, his arms cuffed behind his back. A white boxlike device was strapped to his chest and pulsated with energy. Blood dripped freely from his mouth and nose, one eye swelled shut. Naruto also noticed a slight lean to the right, telling him that his ribs were probably cracked on that side. All in all, he was beat to hell, but at least he was alive.

Naruto recognized Lash, the tall man they'd met before, but he didn't know the other two. Judging from the red and black gear and headdress the man on the left wore, he was probably the Blood King. The other man stood beside Lash and bore more than a passing resemblance to him.

N'uihc and Kenichi entered the room and stepped off to the side. The assassin gave Nagi a look and allowed himself to frown. This lack of respect for an apprentice of Sinanju would need to be rectified. Blood would be spilled today. He glanced at Naruto and decided to let the Tenshikage have first right of retribution as the boy was his friend. If the Tenshikage fell in battle, N'uihc would avenge him as well. He turned to Kenichi who was watching everything wide eyed.

"Apprentice. Do not move from this spot. No matter what happens here today, do not leave the stone tile your feet are on," he said quietly but firmly. Kenichi looked him in the eyes levelly, without blinking and nodded. Satisfied N'uihc turned back to observe the coming battle.

"Ah!" the Blood King cried out. "So this is the great and powerful Tenshikage! Destroyer of cities! Angel of Death! Hahaha!" he laughed. "You are a child."

Naruto smiled and Hiraishin'd forward. He appeared a foot in front of the Blood King his fist drawn back. His punch didn't connect, the King stepped back just enough to avoid it. Enough to avoid the fist itself. Naruto grinned feral as the chakra burst he put into his punch slammed into the King, sending him crashing to the ground. Naruto glanced to the right and saw that neither Lash nor the other man made a move to help.

He bent quickly and cut the ropes off of Nagi. He got a good look at the device on Nagi's chest and not being able to immediately decide on what it was, figured it couldn't be good so grabbed it and ripped it right off. Nagi took a huge breath of air and looked Naruto in the eyes. That one look conveying gratitude, anger, hate.

The Blood King was already on his feet as the door opened again and in ran Senjii, Sakura, Calamity and Hiroka, all looking slightly worse for wear.

"What are you two doing standing there!" he shouted at Lash and Scorpion.

"Are you asking for Emperor Danzo's help?" Scorpion asked lightly, a well-practiced smirk spreading across his face. Being one of Danzo's personal agents, his actual emotions were long since gone, but it was a valid tactic that certain expressions or other emotional outbursts could allow one to control their opponent as easily as the ROOT controlled themselves.

"Yes Scorpion goddamnit. Just kill them!" spittle foaming at his mouth as he snarled and pointed to the newcomers.

Scorpion nodded and he and Lash stepped forward. Lash walked towards Naruto, Scorpion towards the others. Nagi struggled to his feet, wobbled for a second then glared at the Blood King.

"Go ahead Naruto, I have some unfinished business with my cousin," he said through gritted teeth.

Naruto turned to meet Lash, who was smiling congenially.

"Sorry about this," he said apologetically, his red coat fluttering behind him as he sped forward in a sudden burst of speed. Naruto was standing perfectly still his eyes closed. At the last second, when the fist would have connected, Naruto's orange-marked eyes popped open, his irises having become rectangular slits. He raised his arm, blocking Lash's attack. However, Lash was very close now. Naruto felt the Senjutsu chakra he'd just absorbed draining out of him quickly. He punched forward quickly before it was gone completely. Lash caught his fist in his own, the force of the punch sending wind flying outward from their position. They stood there for a second, Naruto looking almost straight up at the seven foot tall man. They broke apart and Naruto jumped backwards quickly.

"I was right, you do absorb chakra!" he exclaimed.

"No, you're wrong. I don't." Lash jumped forward and snapped his leg into a side kick. Naruto raised his arm and blocked it, but the strength of the kick sent him skidding to the left. He managed to keep his footing though, simply skidding on his feet.

"I nullify it. I can't use it myself either of course." He cracked his knuckles. "Truthfully you're the worst possibly match-up for me. None of your chakra attacks would have any effect on me. A pure taijutsu user is probably the only one that could beat me."

He stepped forward in a blur of fists and feet. Naruto did his best blocking, but was quickly hit and fell to one knee. Lash jumped in to land a kick to Naruto's temple, a killing blow. Naruto however, Hiraishin'd to the other side of the room, giving himself a second to recover and think.

Lash looked across at Naruto puzzled. He should not have been able to do that so close to him...

Scorpion stood in front of the four teens from Tengoku. He 'smiled' and motioned for someone, anyone to come attack. Hiroka and Calamity didn't even need to look at each other, leaping in at the same time.

Calamity peppered arrow after arrow at Scorpion, while getting closer and closer. His hands though were a blur, knocking them aside as if they were moving at snail's pace. Hiroka was airborne, her scarf leaping, snapping, its threads splitting and attacking as a dozen deadly spikes seeking to impale him.

Scorpion stepped to the side and seemed to just grab the threads in midair. The cloth went limp in Hiroka's hands. She was so stunned that she didn't even see the fist that drove the air out of her lungs. She crumpled to the floor.

Calamity grunted and let the arrows flow, using every technique that N'uihc had taught her, every arrow seeking out a lethal spot, an opening. Scorpion anticipated every attack though and dodged or knocked the arrows aside. He dove forward, dropping to all fours suddenly and jumped at them while very low to the ground. He stopped right in front of Calamity his back leg came up and over, his heel connecting with her forehead, knocking her unconscious and backwards.

With a short 'derisive' laugh he stayed on all fours, his arms spread wide, his chest barely touching the ground, his right back foot raised and shook it at the others, daring them to attack.

Nagi growled as he and the Blood King circled each other. The King was looking more and more insane with each step.

"What now boy?" the King sneered. "Going to kill me?"

Nagi snarled. "Yes!" He charged forward, his Capoeira skills honed to an edge by the instruction of N'uihc, his feet and fists a blur, attacking with all his might. The King didn't even move from his spot. He blocked every kick, every fist.

"Is this it? Is this the revenge you want so badly?" the king demanded angrily.

Nagi let out a guttural noise and melted into the shadows. The King's eyes opened a little wider at that, but he still didn't move. Nagi burst from a shadow beside him, his kick arcing towards the back of the King's head. Just as it would have connected the King caught it. With a contemptuous flick of his wrist he pulled Nagi out of the shadow and tossed him across the floor.

"Fool! Your father was a master of the shadow. Do you not think I spent countless years sparring with him, studying these techniques?" he drew his sword, flames igniting then dancing along it's blade.

"Your childish quest for revenge ends here."

Sakura was airborne before Calamity hit the floor. She came down fist first, her strength behind it, ready to break the back of Scorpion. He skittered away to the right, dodging the attack without even looking at her. She landed hard, destroying a radius of thirty feet of stone around her impact point. Scorpion darted in with his two fists, his legs still extended behind him. Sakura blocked left, and right. His leg swept up and over. She blocked overhead with an x-block, then swept her right leg forward close to the ground seeking to take out his supporting arms. He pushed up and over her leg sweep, landed and corkscrewed, his fists punching out twice, hitting her in the chest both times.

She stepped back and resumed her stance, ready to rush in again. Scorpion jumped backwards and stuck to the wall behind him. His hands were a blur and he came at her. Sakura was intent on his movement, and drove forward with a punch of her own. His hands swiftly gripped her wrist and twisted her, throwing her off balance. His back leg came under his body this time and slammed into her stomach, knocking the wind out of her.

Sakura's lower body was sent flying backwards, but her wrist was still in his grasp. He twisted again and she felt her bones snap. He still didn't let go, his right leg landing and steadying his stance, his left leg snapping and connecting with her face, sending her flying backwards towards Senjii and the unconscious bodies of her friends.

Senjii's face was a thundercloud. He drew his swords and tensed his muscles.

"Boy." N'uihc's voice came quietly to him from behind. "By any chance do you know Eel Style Taijutsu?"

Senjii shook his head. "Then watch out for his legs, and be on the lookout for when he reveals his sting."

Scorpion stood, and pointed at Senjii, beckoning him over.

Naruto created three clones in a puff of smoke. One held out his arms and the other two made Rasengans in his outstretched hands. Naruto, the real one, lunged forward and attacked using his Frog-Fu Taijutsu. His fists were fast, but Lash was stronger. The extra distance that chakra would have normally added to his Frog-Fu was nullified, so it was a pure hand to hand fight. Lash was taller, with longer arms, and stronger. He open palmed Naruto's face in a move that would have crushed a skull. 'Naruto' disappeared in a puff of smoke. Lash was again confused, a clone was chakra, how was it able to fight him?

The three Narutos in the back lunged forward, the one in the middle was holding two Rasengans. He attacked swiftly, faster than the previous attacks. This time the Rasengans disintegrated before coming into contact with Lash. He brought his knee up suddenly catching Naruto in the gut. This Naruto popped into smoke as well. Lash looked at the two Naruto's he thought were clones flying towards him, their white suits fluttering slightly. He kicked out at the one on the left. Naruto ducked under the leg and punched up, slamming his fist right behind Lash's knee. Lash was temporarily spun off balance, long enough for the other Naruto to slam his fist into Lash's face.

Lash didn't even budge. The strength of the man extended further than just his fists. He grabbed the Naruto that punched him by the front of his suit and slammed him into the ground. He turned to the last Naruto who was rolling away. This had to be the real one.

He stepped after him and felt a rustle on his leg. He looked down to find an exploding tag stuck to his pant. He bent and removed it. "I told you, chakra doesn't work on me."

Naruto stood and nodded. He Hiraishin'd, appearing inches away from Lash, and body slammed into his stomach. Lash stepped backwards one step. Naruto rose in an uppercut that Lash dodged by moving his head slightly to the right. Lash caught him around the body then bent backwards, slamming Naruto head first into the ground, cracking the concrete. Naruto disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving Lash confused. He looked around and saw no more Narutos.

"Up here!" Naruto called out. Lash looked up and saw Naruto was standing on the very high ceiling of the throne room. He'd been observing the fight the entire time without risking himself. Lash grinned and inwardly applauded the tactic. He bent his knees and jumped straight up, flying to Naruto's position.

The real Naruto had been thinking and observing. Lash really was impervious to pure chakra attacks. And he was stronger than Naruto was physically. So why was he able to touch him with his clones? He dodged Lash's fists and allowed himself to drop to the ground, thinking furiously of a way to win this fight.

Nagi spun, swinging his legs around and around at head level, moving in closer to the Blood King. The King swung with his flaming sword, Nagi dodged it. Nagi in a front facing position swung his left leg forward in a sweep. The King lifted his front leg to avoid the sweep. Nagi kept the momentum going, turning around and back-flipping so his same sweep leg became an overhead attack to the King's face. The King slapped the leg away with his free hand and brought his sword in for an attack on Nagi's torso. Nagi collapsed away from the strike and disappeared into the shadows.

He burst out of the shadow behind the King. He legs swept in again trying to make contact with the King's side, under his raised arms. The King did a quickstep and moved forward, out of range of Nagi's attack.

"Better, but not good enough." The Blood King chuckled.

Senjii moved faster than the eye could follow, his flashstep taking him directly into Scorpion's path. The ninja however was expecting him and flipped, his leg driving into Senjii's midsection before he reached optimal attack distance. The wind was knocked out of Senjii, making him double over. In quick succession Scorpion's legs hit him on the right side, thigh, torso and head, followed by a spinning leg sweep. Senjii fell to the side and rolled quickly to his feet, his swords crisscrossing in a defensive sweeping manner, preventing any further attacks for a few seconds while he regained his footing.

Scorpion danced backwards and smiled. He lunged forward again smoothly and ducked and weaved, avoiding every swing of Senjii's kodaichi. His hands snaked in attempting to land a strike on Senjii. The swordsman from Tengoku swiped high with his right kodaichi. Scorpion bent at the waist and slipped underneath it. Senjii swiped at mid-level, a move that would disembowel a lesser opponent. Even as he swung he knew he'd miss. Scorpion snapped forward and lifted his lower half above the swing, his hands slamming into Senjii's chest, sending the swordsman flying backwards, tumbling across the room.

Scorpion stood up slowly. He smiled 'wryly' as Senjii struggled to get to his feet, noticing that a wound had opened up on his chest it looked like, for blood was dripping to the ground. Senjii held his swords firm, and tensed, snapping into an attack ready position. Scorpion nodded in respect, and stood straighter. He reached behind his back with both hands and pulled out two round things. With a snap, he unraveled them to reveal two black whips. He snapped them left and right, sparks flying where the tips hit the ground. Senjii looked closer and saw that the tips were coated in some form of metal. Grimly he prepared to attack.

He held on to his swords tightly, pushing his energy into the blades, activating them. They began to glow a bright blue, the energy emitting a low hum. A whistle and a sharp crack from Scorpions whip forced Senjii to dodge sideways. He landed lightly and burst forward. He thrust the blue lit blades in a curving motion that would remove arms from shoulders cleanly. Scorpion slammed his foot into Senjii's face, the reach of his legs longer than the reach of Senjii's arms plus the short swords. Senjii's momentum stopped as if hitting a wall. He changed direction of his swords in an attempt to cleave Scorpion's leg into three pieces. Scorpion retracted his leg faster than Senjii thought possible, but timed Senjii's attack so well that as his swords passed the peak of their attack his other leg came in and snapped Senjii's head backwards. He felt his body flying through the air through a growing haze in his head.

A whistle and sharp sting told him that one of Scorpion's whips had grabbed him around the ankle. Instead of a controlled fall, he was yanked and slammed hard into the stone floor. Another whistle and he felt a searing pain across his face. He rolled quickly away and onto his feet, swords raised. A slow trickle of blood made its way down his cheek. Senjii realized how close he just came to losing an eye.

Scorpion 'smirked' at him, pointing to his own eye mockingly. He snapped the two whips crisscrossing them in front of and behind him, the whip cracking becoming more and more rhythmic.


Boom. Boom.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.

The whips thunder cracked continuously rolling into almost one continuous long rumbling. Senjii watched the movements. He'd not fought against whips before, so he had to learn fast. Their movements were not wholly unpredictable. Scorpion's hand movements sent a rippling effect down each whip. The problem was that Scorpion's hands were blazing fast. Senjii could not process the movement and counter it before the whip would get him. He noticed that where Scorpion was, there was no one behind him, so maybe if it worked once...

Senjii closed his eyes briefly then stabbed forward. The searing pain in his shoulder told him that his shoulder wound was opening up again. His swords hadn't had enough time to completely heal him as yet. No matter, he pushed everything he had into this attack. Faster and faster, he sent force outwards with each stab. "Thousand Darkness Strike!" he uttered, pushing past his limits.

Scorpion didn't move, his whips cracks and twirled in front of him. The chakra attacks melted as they touched each whip slash. Scorpion kept his whips moving, forming a complete shield against the onslaught.

Senjii slowed his attack down and almost collapsed to his knees again from the effort. His willpower all that kept him on his feet.

"I may not be as strong as my brother Lash, but I can nullify your chakra attacks as well."

Scorpion 'sneered'. He cracked his whip and Senjii felt a bite in his right forearm. He tightened his grip on his swords. Scorpion stepped forward, his left whip sweeping low for Senjii's feet. Senjii skipped over it, and blocked with a raised left arm as the right whip came in high, wrapping around his arm and pulling him off balance.

He fell and rolled free. He needed to think; otherwise he was going to lose.

Nagi was a shadowy blur, his legs and arms moving in circular but unpredictable patterns. He landed several hits on the Blood King, who swung his Flaming Sword at the shadows, and burnt Nagi a few times, but so far nothing had ended the fight conclusively.

"I admit, your Capoeira is, different than your Father's. Cleaner somehow. But it matters not."

The King looked at Nagi's coming attack and with a squinted eye watching the arc of attack, he grabbed Nagi's fist. With a squeeze, he tightened his grip and without expression on his face looked Nagi in his eyes.

"It's over boy." His arm lit on fire, the flames searing into and cooking the flesh on Nagi's arm.

Nagi screamed.

"Nagi!" Naruto shouted. He looked in horror as the Blood King held his friend and fire burned his arm. Naruto rushed to his friend's aid, but was blocked by Lash.

"Our fight isn't over I'm afraid," the tall man said laconically.

"No, you're not afraid." Naruto growled, his eyes turning to crimson slits. "But you will be."

Senjii saw Nagi being lit on fire, and rage overtook his reasoning. He was not going to win this fight at this level. He must be stronger. He had promised Naruto years ago that he would be the best swordsman in the world. Now his friends needed him, and his lack of skill kept him from them. To Senjii this was unacceptable.

He closed his eyes, and listened to the sounds of the whips, blocking out Nagi's screams. He took all his emotion, and imagined a small flame. He forced his emotions, memories, thoughts, fears, everything he was into that flame, embracing a void. It was a technique that his master had taught him long ago. He'd never been able to concentrate enough to do it right. Until today.

Senjii could hear the whips whistling and cracking through the air. He began to swing his swords in similar movements. His short swords crisscrossing in front of him, not snapping, but slicing. Faster and faster, until his movements perfectly matched those of Scorpion.

Scorpion's eyes narrowed, seeing the swordsman mimic his motions. He snapped the whips, first right then left towards Senjii.

Senjii sliced forward, first left then right, his swords slashing to meet the whips perfectly, slicing a small groove into the leather. In the same motion Senjii flash-stepped into Scorpions body, both blades leaving dark streaks as they stabbed into Scorpion's upper chest, protruding from his back. "Threading the needle..." Senjii muttered, while Scorpion rocked his head back in shock, his eyes glazing over.

"You're in my way," Senjii whispered into Scorpion's ear.

Naruto exploded forward so fast his feet were not even touching the ground, his charge kicking up a lot of dust in his wake. Lash moved to punch the charging boy in white, but was taken aback when he saw a red glow start to seep into the white blur. He changed his mind and instead tried to catch Naruto's punch. He succeeded, sort of.

Naruto's fist slammed with concussive force into Lash's palm. The thunder crack that followed was deafening. Lash felt...pain. Naruto followed up with another punch. This one didn't have the momentum of his charge, but that didn't diminish its strength. Lash caught it as well and felt the shock through his very core. Naruto was now covered in the red glow, his eyes crimson slits, his face a mask of rage. Lash frowned. Naruto was a Jinchurriki, something that Scorpion had neglected to mention. He willed himself to start dissipating Naruto's chakra, but to his surprise there was very little effect. Naruto's hands twisted and gripped his. He began to lift Lash off the floor, his strength, instead of decreasing, actually increasing by the second.

Naruto lifted Lash straight up and overhead, their arms outstretched. It looked like Lash was doing a handstand on top of Naruto. Lash bent and kicked at Naruto's face. The kick was a strong one, but Naruto did not budge. his white coat fluttered inside of the boiling glow and a single bubbling chakra tail showed itself. Lash had fought a Jinchurriki once before, and had been able to nullify the chakra. But this was different. There was just so much of it that he knew his ability was being overwhelmed. Like a hot stone that could evaporate a few drops of water, he was useless in a torrent such as this.

Lash looked over and saw the movement when Senjii impaled Scorpion. With a curse he pulled himself free of Naruto's grasp and dashed over to his brother. Senjii was pulling his swords free and backed away from the new threat. Lash caught Scorpion before he hit the floor. His brother was still alive, but barely. He looked around the room. Naruto was growling in his direction, and the swordsman was tightening his grip.

He looked Naruto in the eyes. "See to your friend." He grabbed Scorpion and put him over his shoulder in a fireman's carry, and ran out of the room heading for the nearest medical treatment.

Naruto's eyes snapped back to where the Blood King was destroying Nagi's arm. He flew in that direction, slamming his fists into the King, sending him flying backwards. The King retained his footing, catching himself a few yards back and snarling at Naruto. Nagi fell to his knees, the pain overwhelming his senses. His left hand grasped the charred remains of his right. The skin and muscle had been burnt, and some of it melted off in his hands, showing blood and bone beneath. He threw his head back and shouted in pain, before collapsing into blessed unconsciousness.

The Blood King charged at Naruto, his sword alight with flame. Naruto blocked with a red chakra arm. The King however sliced right through the arm. Naruto saw it in time and holding onto Nagi, Hiraishin'd back to where the others lay. N'uihc took Nagi's limp body and laid him gently on the ground. He moved fast, wrapping what was left of Nagi's arm in ripped cloth, binding it tight. N'uihc's eyes gave away his anger at the damage to his apprentice. He turned to the Tenshikage and shook his head. Naruto understood, Nagi would probably lose that arm. He struggled to suppress his anger, fighting down the demon fox's chakra and thoughts.

He managed to get it under control, his tail disappearing. With a few deep breaths Naruto opened his normal blue eyes and shot forward, towards the Blood King. As he was in midair, he reached behind and under his jacket, pulling out a short smooth white stick. At about two feet long and cylindrical, it looked harmless enough. He channeled some chakra into it and it expanded into normal Bo length. He swung it at the Blood King who blocked it with his flaming sword. The flames did not tarnish or affect the heavenstone staff in the least bit.

"You will all perish!" the Blood King shouted, his body becoming engulfed in flames. His entire body alight, eyes glowing white. Heat came off of the King in waves. Naruto lurched backwards, and swung the Bo again, sending a shockwave across the room. It hit the King but the flames were only fed, making him stronger. The wall behind the King crumbled. The King directed a spear of fire towards Naruto. He shot upwards, dodging it. While in the air he formed ten clones.

Each clone formed a Rasengan, and fell back to the ground towards the King. The King swung his flame sword in a huge slash, leaving fire in its wake. The Rasengans collided in a mind numbingly loud series of explosions with the flame barrier. The King was thrown off his feet, and Naruto landed hard some distance away, cracking the stone in a crouch.

His muscles tensed and he disappeared, a fast Hiraishin next to the King. The King swung low in a move to disembowel Naruto. His Bo blocked the attack though, the heavenstone ringing loudly in the room. Naruto punched with his free fist, the fire engulfing his hand but it connected anyway, knocking the King down.

Naruto felt the skin on his hands burning, but his healing factor was already kicking in.

The King stood up in a rage, and screamed. The flames came alive, exploding out of him. The very stone under their feet started to glow orange. The roof of the room blew out, the wooden beams reduced to splinter and ash. The sudden influx of daylight flooded the room. The King seemed to become fire itself, the sword he was holding disappeared. He grew in size, the flames growing higher and higher until the flame beast towered over Naruto and the already halfway destroyed throne room.

Naruto narrowed his eyes. He channeled his chakra, white energy bursting out and circling his body like amorphous beams of light. He crouched low then jumped high, the ground splintering from the force of his jump. He went straight for the Blood King's head, seeming almost to fly as his hands were a blur. A shout of effort escaped his lungs as he swung the Bo with all his might in a great cutting motion.

The slice of air chakra was razor thin and was one of the strongest forces Naruto had ever unleashed. It cut clean through the fire beast, through the stone walls behind it, and dug deep into the earth far below. The walls above where his slice had passed began to slide then crumble, opening the room further. The Blood King/Fire Beast swiped at Naruto with a large flame covered hand. Naruto didn't have time for a Hiraishin before being swatted into the ground, the impact shaking the castle.

He got up slowly as the Fire Beast stalked, seeming to flow, closer to him. His element of air was making things worse. The fire was feeding off the air and growing larger and larger. He needed a way to extinguish the flames, not feed them. He watched the flames flick at him, the shape of the Blood King almost lost in the blaze. When he had tried to cut the beast, there was a temporary gap in the flames...that might be all he needed. Naruto vanished from the spot he was in. A hundred versions of him appeared in a circle around the King. In unison the clones used all their residual chakra to do a wind cut towards the fire beast. The flames wavered and danced, the wind throwing it this way and that in an uneven pattern.

The real Naruto had a fully ready Rasenshuriken in his hand and was flying towards the center of the Fire Beast. The dancing of the flames prevented the Blood King from properly shielding against the attack and Naruto managed to slip through. The Rasenshuriken hit with ridiculous force. Naruto Hiraishin'd away from the point of impact just as the explosion began to swell exponentially. The shriek of the Fire Beast reverberated through the whole city, its cries of anguish suddenly drowned out by the high pitched whirring of the Rasenshuriken decimating his chakra induced fire form. After thirty seconds of agony, the Blood King was forcibly reverted to normal size and fell to his knees.

Naruto appeared ten feet in front of him and stood still, watching the King gasp for breath as he bled out from multiple wounds across his entire body. His white jacket fluttered behind him, the breeze making its way through the crumbled walls and missing roof. He should be rushing in to finish him off, but he wanted the King on his feet, to see his death coming.

"Fool!" the King spat blood at Naruto. "You pause now. Your hesitation has cost you your friend's life." The King moved faster than Naruto thought was possible for someone who had just been hit by his Rasenshuriken. The King's sword was drawn and while not on fire, was still deadly. He lunged straight for where Nagi lay unconscious, wrapped in bandages. Senjii moved to get between them, and N'uihc grimly looked towards the charging King. The old assassin had seen this scenario played out before. He knew he would not have to step in.

Naruto appeared between Nagi and the King, his heavenstone staff out again, and already extended. Naruto's face was a mask of rage, angry at the King for attacking his helpless friend. He slammed it hard at the King, stopping his attack dead in its tracks. His sword raised over his head, the King blinked and looked down. He let the sword fall.

The Heavenstone staff passed clean through his chest, and out his back, it's smooth surface unstained by his blood. The staff was not pointed, but the force that Naruto had used allowed it to impale the King's only too human body easily. Naruto's face moved from rage to shock. He pulled back and the staff slid out of the King like a hot knife through butter. The King fell to his knees, all strength having left his arms, they hung limp by his side.

"Daddy!" A little girl burst into the room, followed by an older man who looked pale and distraught at being there. The girl ran up to the King, who was leaking blood profusely onto the stone ground, and put her arms around his neck. The King did not move though, dead on his knees in front of Naruto.

"Daddy!" she cried again, her wails echoing into the now evening sky. Her eyes glanced at Naruto, forcing him to see her, to see what he'd done. She screamed at him "Leave my daddy alone! Daddy wake up!"

The effect on Naruto was devastating. He dropped the staff and stepped back, not wanting to see the scene before him unfold, but unable to look away. The girl cried, and cried, squeezing her father, hoping for a response. The older man ran up and tried to drag her off of him but was not able to.

Naruto turned away, looked at his friends, his face a thunderstorm of emotions. N'uihc's words echoed in his head now.

...make your choices, and have the conviction to live with them.

"We're done here," he said a bit too gruffly. Senjii nodded and moved over to the others. Sakura, Hiroka and Calamity were all still unconscious. N'uihc and his new apprentice Kenichi were pulling everyone together in a pile. They would use the Tengoku armbands to get home.

"We're one short," Naruto said to no one in particular. Kenichi did not have an armband, he would not be able to travel this way. Naruto reached up and remove his band.

"Naruto what are you doing?" Senjii asked, alarmed.

Naruto shrugged. "Kenichi needs to go with you. I'll activate the seal; it will take him to Tengoku. I can get home the fastest on my own. I'll Hiraishin all the way there and use clones if I need to."

Senjii shook his head. "I'll come with you."

Naruto looked at Senjii with emotion filled eyes. "Our friends are hurt, so are you. Go home, make sure everyone is alright for me. I promise I'll meet you there."

Senjii stared at his friend for almost a full minute then nodded and turned back to the others. He knelt down by Hiroka, touching her gently and making sure she was OK. Then he grimly held onto all of the girls team as he activated his seal, and theirs. A second later they disappeared.

N'uihc stood, satisfied that Nagi would be OK for now. He walked over and bowed to Naruto.

"You have protected your friends," he said quietly. "You had my services before. Now you have my respect."

Naruto smiled weakly and nodded at him, motioning for them to get going. N'uihc turned and to his credit did not look back. He, Kenichi and Nagi disappeared.

Naruto, Tenshikage of Tengoku, almost collapsed to his knees. He willed himself to keep standing and turned to face the girl. The old caretaker had managed to rip her off of her father.

"One day..." Naruto said quietly. "One day you might want revenge... for what happened here today." The girl's cries did not stop, but Naruto kept talking anyway.

"On that day, if you come, I will not stop you."

He turned and walked out the door.