"Medic!" Senjii bellowed as the smoke cleared and they appeared on the seal in front of the White Tower. A Naruto clone was nearby and nodded, using Hiraishin to get Tsunade as soon as possible. Senjii watched him for a second before turning back to the girls' team unconscious at his feet. They did not seem to be badly hurt. Sakura had one eye swollen shut, a small trickle of blood coming from her nose. She probably had a few ribs broken from her earlier fight.
Calamity was out cold, but seemed otherwise unhurt. As too was Hiroka. Senjii was more concerned for someone else…
A puff of smoke and N'uihc, Nagi and Kenichi appeared on the seal. One look was all Senjii needed to know the situation was bad.
"Move!" Tsunade bellowed, almost running Senjii down. She knelt by Nagi, and her hands began to glow immediately. N'uihc, that most stoic of teachers, wore a look of utmost concern on his face. He grimly pulled Kenichi aside and instructed him to watch everything but say nothing.
Shizune and another young girl ran up behind Tsunade as well as a few more Naruto clones. Tsunade turned her face serious. "Antiseptic, morphine, splints. I'll have to field dress this before we move him to the Operating Room. Shizune; Prep the room. Find a blood donor." Each word was barked firmly and quickly. She spared a glance at the others, pausing for a second longer on Sakura with a frown, then at Senjii.
She didn't say another word though, working at a pace that only someone of her skill could maintain without making mistakes. After a feverish fifteen minutes she leaned back and pointed to the Naruto clones, who Senjii now noticed were carrying a flat board. "Move him to the Hospitals prep room without jostling him. NOW!"
Senjii let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. His adrenaline was beginning to fade, and the dull burning ache of the 'healing' his swords gave him was kicking in. He wobbled on his feet for a second.
Tsunade glanced at him, "Go to the hospital as well. I don't know if all that blood you're covered in is yours, but everyone here is going to be admitted until I say otherwise."
He didn't bother arguing; instead bending to lift Hiroka in his arms, and locking eyes with Tsunade for a second he nodded and walked slowly to the Hospital, which was mercifully not far.
More Naruto clones showed up to help carry Sakura and Calamity, cradling them gently yet moving swiftly.
N'uihc nodded to himself grimly and turned to a quiet Kenichi.
"Do you understand why I wanted you to watch this all?" he asked.
Kenichi looked up at him sadly. "I'm sorry Sensei. I do not."
"That is OK. For you are as yet a newborn, eyes awakening to the world of the Sun Source." He waved his hands at the burgeoning city. "This place is called Tengoku. I make my home here. This whole city was created by the Tenshikage, with his bare hands and his will. He has shown himself to be a man of supreme honor and heart. A man worthy of my services. What did you think of him?"
Kenichi grinned. "He was amazing! I've never seen anyone fight like that. A little scary."
"Yes. He is a formidable opponent. He and his friends have paid a price today." He looked out over the city. "A hefty price."
Naruto walked out of the palace onto the grounds. The soldiers that were still nearby did not attack him. In fact they hardly even noticed him. They were too busy ransacking the palace, stealing anything of value. Part of the castle still burned. Naruto couldn't decide if the fire was the soul of the Blood King raging against his death, or just a remnant of their battle. Regardless, it was consuming the place.
Outside in the streets, word was spreading of the King's death, and the only word to describe the reaction was pandemonium. Looting was wide spread, there were killings in the street, screams and explosions from buildings near and far.
Naruto closed his eyes and wished…no WILLED himself far from here. For the first time, he did what his father had been able to do. He 'jumped' with his version of the Hiraishin and appeared not only where he could see, but where he could see in his mind's eye. He found himself on top of the mountain overlooking a plain. They had crossed this spot a few days ago, he and his friends. The jump left him a little disoriented. He walked to the edge, and looked out over the plain. From up here it looked so peaceful. He inhaled deeply, trying to release the sickening feeling he had in his chest.
"...leave my daddy alone!..." The little girl's voice echoed in his brain. Each syllable stabbing him, gouging at him.
A plume of smoke erupted in the plain, then another. Then another, and another, and another. As he watched, the scattered villages began to burn. He imagined the sounds of people screaming. He shouted into the wind.
"STOP!" Without thinking he began to suck in Natural Chakra, pulling it in from the four winds. Taking it in as one would breathe. More. And More.
"Naruto!" The voice in his head shrieked at him. Clawing its way out. "Stop! You'll destroy us both!"
With a guttural cry Naruto channeled the built up chakra into a beam of light, shooting it straight up into the sky, burning a hole in the clouds above, tearing open the sky in his grief. He cried out in mental anguish, and just poured energy into the blast. It went on and on until he was spent and collapsed onto his knees.
The Fox did not say anything, knowing that his container was in a fragile state of mind right now. Death for one was death for both. But he marveled at the amount of power the youngling had just unleashed. Enough power to rival even himself. Perhaps…perhaps there was a way after all. He grinned and decided to lay low for a while. Magnus' day would soon come.
Tsunade emerged from the operating room several hours later. Her scrubs were covered in blood, her hands ripped off the surgical gloves. The entire Tengoku council was there, as were all the members of the girls team – having all woken up. Senjii stood grimly and still as a statue in one corner of the room. His face was a thundercloud of concern. The old witch Granny Sara was there, her two bodyguards left outside the building. N'uihc stood by himself across the room.
"He'll live. He suffered a tremendous amount of blood loss. The left side of his body has 2nd degree burns. His left arm." She swore. "Well everything after the elbow was useless. Every muscle and tendon was burnt to a crisp and atrophied. I tried…but" She looked over and met Senjii's eyes. "I had to take the forearm."
Senjii nodded in acknowledgment but made no other motion. N'uihc looked pensive, and turned his back to leave.
"Let me know when he wakes up. We have already lost today to training, I won't tolerate laziness," he said in parting, not slowing down as he walked out.
Senjii stood by himself in the open training field. The wind fluttered his jacket. His swords were drawn but again he stood motionless. His mind though was a maelstrom. Naruto had not returned as yet. His Hiraishin should have brought him home already. Nagi had lost an arm. His friends. He'd let down his friends somehow.
The swords had a gentle blue glow to them in the dark of the night. He looked at them. Despite having these powerful swords, he'd not been fast enough, not been good enough.
"What troubles you Senjii?" Tenshi asked as he approached. He'd been actively looking for his brother's former pupil a long while now.
"I...failed today." His grip tightened on his swords, his knuckles turning white.
"You survived. Everyone came back alive," Tenshi said reasonably.
"Nagi lost an arm!" Senjii shouted at him. "Naruto is kami alone knows where! And Blood Country—the place we were trying to save from a tyrant—is tearing itself apart now!"
"How is that your fault?" Tenshi demanded of him angrily, stepping in. "You forget your place!"
Senjii was taken aback by Tenshi's anger.
"You are a soldier! Your friends are warriors! Naruto is the Tenshikage! The most powerful man in this village! Your friends step into battle not needing you to protect them, but to fight with them! To be by their side! Do you think them cowards? Needing your protection?"
Tenshi stepped in, resting his arm on Senjii's shoulder.
"You once swore an oath to protect Naruto. You are upholding that oath by being his friend."
Senjii frowned, letting his anger dissipate, feeling it wash away from him. "I must be stronger. I almost lost; I WAS losing."
"Master N'uihc came to me about that," Tenshi admitted.
Senjii looked stunned. "Why?"
Tenshi shrugged. "He mentioned something. He said your face when you were about to lose was peaceful as stone. Your movements became as a wraith, certain as death." Tenshi watched Senjii closely for a reaction.
"I was able to use the flame," Senjii admitted.
Tenshi smiled. "Ah. I thought as much. The Flame and the Void. Where all concerns, all emotions, all thoughts, even the concerns of life and death are fed into the flame. I'm impressed you were able to attain it. I myself was never suited to such a technique. I'm too emotional." He winked at Senjii. "A pity my brother could never finish his training of you. He was a true Blade Master."
Senjii shook his head and looked away.
"I know you still blame yourself for what happened. But it is as I've said here tonight. A warrior needs no one to protect him. Just to fight alongside him."
"I must get stronger to fight alongside Naruto, Sensei," Senjii said quietly.
"Yes," Tenshi nodded, "You must." He reached behind his tunic and pulled out a small map and a letter addressed to someone. This he handed to Senjii. "There is a small village, hidden in Wind Country. You will go there and look for this man and deliver this letter." Tenshi looked at him with steely eyes. "You will wait for a reply to bring back to me."
Senjii looked at the documents. "But… Naruto hasn't returned. I should wait. And Nagi.."
"No! You will trust the Tenshikage to take care of himself as he must. This you must do. You leave immediately. As for Nagi…"
Tenshi grimaced. "The old assassin has his own plans for him. He will be…fine."
"Report!" Danzo barked to the three ROOT ninja before him.
"News from Blood Country. The Country is no more. The Blood King was killed by the Tenshikage. The population has gone mad and turned on itself. There is no order, nor civilization anymore. Roving bands of former militia loot and pillage. Scorpion is in a field hospital with our northern army, he clings to life."
Danzo smiled. "Direct our armies to cross the Lava fields into Blood. The gem mines are close to the border in the northeast. Seize those. Let the rest of the country burn itself out."
"What of Scorpion?" the ROOT ninja asked.
"Oddly enough Naruto accomplished the task I sent Scorpion to do. Ahead of schedule as well. When he is healed send him back here." Danzo turned to the other two ninja. "Updates."
"Our spy in Sunagakure claims that there is some activity going on with the Kazekage. The village is locked down to all incoming and outgoing visitors. Our spy will not be able to contact us for a while."
Danzo grunted, but moved on to the other ninja.
"Wave country remains behind the Forbidden Zone. We had a scout make it into the village, but he has not checked in and is presumed dead."
Danzo waved his hand. "That's fine. Once they make no moves, I will deal with them soon enough. With the mines of Blood Country at my disposal, I have no need of trade with the Crescent Moon Kingdom. Our treaty will be worthless. We will move against Wave. Soon."
A voice rose from the shadows. "Ku ku ku. What about Lightning? Your most royal exalted excellency? Ku ku ku." Orochimaru stepped into view. "It seems at odds to me that you will ignore your enemy to the north but choose to move further east. If they moved, they would cut your forces in two."
"You understand little of tactics, snake." He pointed to the map of the known world displayed on the wall. "If we take Wave, then Water Country, we can attack Lightning on two fronts, by land and by sea."
"I didn't know roots could swim." Orochimaru chuckled, but he conceded the point.
"What do you want?" Danzo demanded of the Sannin.
"You requested an audience with ME, remember, oh great humble magnificent emperor?" Orochimaru bowed in mock reverence.
Danzo scowled. "Yes." He dismissed his ROOT ninja. Once they were alone he turned and looked hard at Orochimaru.
"What are your plans for the Uchiha boy?" he asked bluntly.
Orochimaru smiled wide. "Why I believe that's my business and our arrangement was that you'd leave me to my business and I to yours."
Danzo nodded. "My sources tell me you need to replace your physical body regularly, and it does not take a genius to figure out that you're grooming the boy, most likely to have access to the Uchiha eyes. Am I right?"
"Perhaps." Orochimaru moved lithely around the room, touching the world map.
"I have a proposition for you." Danzo cracked a rare smile. "One that even you may like."
Danzo reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a jar. He tossed the jar to Orochimaru. The snake Sannin held the jar aloft and allowed a look of surprise to show on his face. Two perfectly preserved eyeballs floated in the language. It was the shape of the irises on the eyeballs that struck Orochimaru.
"Uchiha eyes! Sharingan!" he exclaimed.
"Yes. Salvaged a long time ago," Danzo confirmed.
"Why do you give me this?" Orochimaru asked suspiciously.
"I want my top soldiers to have these eyes. They are unfortunately, not only in limited supply, but also not always the most compatible. You're a scientist. I want you to recreate these eyes, and find a way to implant them into soldiers of my choosing."
Orochimaru held the jar and looked and Danzo across the room, his mind racing with all the possibilities. "What does this have to do with Sasuke Uchiha?"
Danzo frowned. "I have no guarantee of your success. I have to think of the long game. I would use him as a breeder, mixing with the lineages of my choosing. I'm sure we can find you a suitably powerful body to replace his, and well, if you can't duplicate these eyes, you can keep them."
Orochimaru chuckled. "I see." He held the jar up to the light, marveling at the prize inside. "We have an agreement. Ku ku ku."
"There it is!"
The shadow moved through the mountain rocks like a gust of air. The noon day sun shone brightly, making every shadow that much darker. The Shadow though, it paid no heed to the direction of the sun, instead jumping from one object to the next, as if projected from high above.
The three Iwa ninja that were on patrol south of Konoha had spotted the elusive shadow half an hour earlier and had spent the time tracking it. It was almost certainly an enemy spy or scout.
One ninja saw the movement and threw his daggers. They passed through the shadow as if it wasn't there at all. "Shit, it's not corporeal."
The Shadow took a human shape, and a Kunai flew from the center of it, embedding itself hilt deep in the eye socket of one of the ninja. Before the spray of blood hit the ground the Shadow had melted back down to the ground and was moving swiftly away. It got lost in the forest where the ground was thick with shadows. After a few minutes looking in vain, and a couple more losses, the Iwa-nin gave up pursuit.
They'd have to report this…whatever it was.
The shadow was out of sight of the ninja no more than ten seconds before it began to flicker, its shape clearly human, flashing between a normal person and a shadow like a strobe light for a few seconds before the man collapsed into a heap on the ground panting. Sweat dripped off his nose, his shirt drenched and stuck to his body. Shikamaru turned over facing the sky, his last kunai in his hand.
This was monumentally stupid. He thought to himself. This technique was powerful, but it had a limit. It drained his stamina to the point where right now, he didn't think he could move even if he wanted to. He panted hard.
Breathe. He told himself. I can't stay here. After a minute he rolled over and pushed himself to his feet, stumbling through the heavy woods, going back to his isolated bunker. He allowed himself a small smile. His skill was growing in a direction he'd not anticipated before. The Kage Karada no jutsu had…potential.
The Dark Forest
A pack of two-legs.
The image raced across the minds of every wolf in the area. Kiba jerked his head in the direction they were seen. Wolves didn't think the same way that humans did. Or even dogs. They didn't use words, but images and feelings through sound and scent. His time in the wild had taught him many things about the nature of animals. Akamaru as well. The two were no longer owner and pet, but pack brothers. Kiba just happened to be handicapped, having only two legs and therefore slightly slower. But he made up for it with his agility and mind.
The pack of two-legs looked like a squad's worth of fighters, passing through the forest. Once they left well enough alone, Kiba and the wolves would do the same.
Dead! The feeling passed electrically through the pack. Kiba saw the image. The group had captives and had just killed. He and Akamaru raced through the foliage, their paws making no sounds on the leafy floor.
It took only two minutes for him to find them in a small clearing deep in the forest. There were seven bandits, and three captives, a man, woman and child. Except the man was impaled on a large spear and two men were dragging the woman away from the child who was screaming. The smell of blood was strong.
Kiba and Akamaru charged.
His attack was silent. He let no growl escape his throat. No sound betrayed his presence. The first sound anyone heard was the first bandit's throat being ripped out and Kiba was already moving onto the second.
Akamaru had grabbed one by the skull, clamping his jaws down tight, and his fangs pierced the bone and cracked the skull. His screams were sickly and terrifying as his body thrashed and failed hopelessly against the giant dog-wolf hybrid holding him.
"What the fuu..." one man managed to get out before Kiba jumped onto his chest, his clawed hands crossed and holding onto either side of his face. He ripped the man's face off, pushing off his chest and into a ball of twisting claws and feet, hitting another in the stomach.
A sword slicing through the air almost connected with him, only his new instincts allowed him to avoid it. He rolled and came up again facing the remaining four fighters. Akamaru shook the man he had killed loose and stood beside Kiba.
They no longer looked shocked, just angry.
"Who the hell are you!?" one demanded. The figure before him looked like a man, but gave off no human vibes. He was in a crouch, but he probably stood close to six feet tall, and was built solid, like the dog or wolf or whatever it was that was next to him. Hell they looked a lot alike. The man's eyes though, they were golden yellow, like a wolf.
"...leave…" Kiba's voice came out as a low menacing growl. It made the bandits skin crawl and blood freeze in their veins. Maybe he was a demon of some kind? No human's voice sounded like that.
"To hell with you, whatever you …" Kiba saw no reason to wait on a response. Wolves are predators, only the two legs wasted time talking.
His hands were a flash, and in a puff of smoke he and Akamaru had joined and become a giant two headed wolf.
The men screamed.
But not for long.
The woman cried and held onto her child. The sounds of the carnage had subsided. She dared not open her eyes yet. The giant two-headed wolf would surely attack them next, and she would hold onto her child until the end.
Soft footsteps approached her. "…are you ok?..." The voice was that same deep, haunting sound, but it sounded softer with no menace in it.
She dared to open her eyes and saw the wild wolf-man standing not far away. The giant dog was sniffing at them.
"Please," she cried out, holding her child tighter. "Don't hurt us!"
Kiba shook his head and stood a little straighter. He had to actively try to remember to be more human. Maybe it was time he and Akamaru went back?
"I wo...won't hurt you," he managed to get out without sounding too dangerous. "I …will take you home."
"It is time," the Queen chittered loudly. The vast cavern was lit by the glow of luminescent bugs, the floors and walls a writhing mass of witnesses. Shino knelt in the middle of the room facing the Queen. It had been a year, and he'd proven himself worthy. The Kikai bugs he held inside himself were buzzing with pride of their host. Not that they were alone. During the course of his training, a number of different hives had made their home within his flesh. His body had changed, but that was the price of being a Guardian of the All-Hive.
He'd grown taller than the average member of his clan. His body was thin but hard and sinewy, his limbs long. The customary cloak of his clan long since shed. A Guardian of the All-Hive did not hide what he was. He was naked as the day he was born, for that was what this was, a rebirth. His eyes were now all black, and had changed subtly due to the daily doses of a liquid the Queen gave him. He could now see as if his eyes were compound, like those of a fly, though they gave no outward appearance of oddness beyond the jet black color. His skin had also changed slightly, taking on an almost leather texture. He had become something more than just a human, but not quite an insect.
The Queen approached him in her human form. He had to admit, she was physically very attractive in this form. She had yet to avail herself of him as a consort, but today's ceremony bestowed the true title of Guardian of the All-Hive, and as Queen she would lay with no one less than that.
"It is customary for a Guardian to adopt a new name. I have chosen to call you Dragonfly." The Queen tittered. Her voice was clear and sweet as bells.
Shino nodded and spoke loudly enough for the cavern to hear him. "I accept this name with honor my Queen."
"Then rise, Shino the Dragonfly! Rise as a Guardian of the All-Hive, sworn to protect, sworn to fight."
Shino stood and the noise in the cavern was deafening, every insect within chitterring in approval and excitement.
Edge of Blood Country
Naruto wrapped the brown cloak he'd found around himself tightly, passing the dead bodies that littered the side of the road. He could have left the country long ago without seeing any of this, but he felt like he needed to. See the destruction that he'd caused.
They'd had no plan for this country beyond confronting the King. In hindsight he wondered what they were thinking. He'd just assumed that the people would be happy. That someone would take the King's place. He'd even started to wonder if he'd lose his friend Nagi to the throne that rightfully belonged to him. It all seemed very naïve to him right now.
The country had imploded into madness. And he had a hard time not blaming himself. He stopped and looked at a pair of burnt out corpses. A child and a woman, arms wrapped around each other, the fires that had consumed them still smoldering. The tears dripped down his face at the sight. He could no longer stand it.
He visualized a field that he knew – far away from this cursed land – and vanished in a blink.
Several miles away from Tengoku, Naruto stood and looked at the cloud that held his village. It looked like any other, but he knew which one it was by now. It just floated there mysteriously, unmoving at the top of the mountain range.
He remembered meeting the old trapper Livingston at this very clearing a long time ago. Well, what felt like a long time to him. It had only been a couple of years at the most. The island had held for him a promise of a new start. It still did, but for the first time since those days when he wandered, he didn't know what direction he should go. Was he a good leader? His friends had been hurt, he'd killed people, and that affected other people. Everyone he killed was someone's father, mother, brother, son. What gave him that right?
He looked up at Tengoku and decided not to "jump" there, as he'd taken to calling it. He'd walk and think. Think hard.
It took a day of walking, but Naruto was close to the wind tunnel that would take him back up to Tengoku. There were signs of Jiraiya's improvements in the tunnel. It had been hidden better. There were some traps as well that he could see; traps that wouldn't trigger against a citizen of Tengoku.
Naruto nodded to himself, and looked at the ravine. He stood and stared for a few minutes, unsure as to why he didn't just jump in and go home. Suddenly he heard a rattling sound behind and to the left. He whirled and saw…nothing.
He squinted and looked around, feeling a presence close by, but not able to see anything. A small landslide of gravel came from the left, a little further away, as if the person was now running away from him. Naruto leapt forward cautiously.
He followed the sound, which always seemed to be just slightly ahead of him. He stopped suddenly, standing on top of a boulder in a small ravine, his brain finally kicking in. This felt like he was being led into a trap. He brought his hands up to make the jutsu to create some shadow clones, when the ground beneath him vanished and he fell. He turned his body and looked down. It was pure blackness beneath and around him. He couldn't tell how far away the ground was, but it felt far. His mind flashed back to the time he had met Livingston, and remembered these mountains were called Heaven and Hell. Maybe he was falling straight into Hell?
"…Naruto…" A voice whispered in the darkness. Naruto could see nothing. He considered "jumping" to safety back outside, but he was very curious as to what was going on. He formed a Rasengan in his hand, the blue glow of the ball of energy illuminating his continued fall. There were no walls to reflect against, but he thought he could make out the ground racing up at him. He released the Rasengan and brought his hands in front of him, pushing an air pulse down to brace his fall. The ground did not crumble with the impact of his chakra, but the air bubble was enough to slow his fall, though he did have to brace his legs with chakra.
He stood and looked around, it was still too dark. He closed his eyes for a second to get accustomed to the darkness, his senses screaming that an attack must be coming. He opened his eyes and could make out...something. There was a faint glow coming off the walls. Very faint. Naruto looked at where it was coming from and saw what looked like worms, but with a faint glowing luminescence to them.
"…Naruto…" The voice floated towards him from somewhere ahead. He could see a sort of path on the ground, illuminated by the glow of the gigantic cavern he was in. He walked slowly ahead, following the path. It went on for what felt like miles, time stretching and impossible to keep track of in the darkness.
He found himself in a tunnel suddenly, the same glowing blue worms crawling over the walls and in cracks. This went on for another long stretch of time. He eventually came out of the tunnel into another larger cavern. This one however, was lit a lot better. The glow was brighter, seemed more focused. There before him on the path was a giant building, shaped almost like a castle, with towers and a main entrance. The building looked…old. Like really really old. Naruto looked around. He had no idea how far he'd traveled in the tunnels, but this couldn't be too far from where Tengoku was.
He saw no one though. No one who could have been calling him.
"Hello!" he shouted into the cavern. "Hey is anyone here?!"
"…shhh…" the voice came again. "…you don't want to wake…everyone…" it was ethereal and smoky, but a figure began to form in front of him. It looked like a man, but something was off about him. (Other than appearing out of nowhere).
The man was naked, with a faint glow to his body, much like the worms that crawled over the walls. He was far taller than Naruto, possibly as much as seven feet tall. He was built lean, but hard. He looked like a warrior. Naruto could feel nothing from him though. No killing intent, nothing.
"Who are you?" Naruto asked.
The man looked at the cloaked ninja, and that was when the Tenshikage noticed he had no eyes. Not that there were no eyeballs, but that there was no space at all for where his eyes should be. That area of his face was smooth and seamless.
The man said nothing, but motioned for Naruto to follow him. "…come…"
He stepped forward to the large structure. Naruto again felt this was a trap, but was even more curious now. He followed the 'man' into the darkness.
They navigated corridors that were filled with paintings and drawings on the walls. The paintings were of men, and beasts. Images that confused Naruto, some of the pictures were of odd objects, men inside flying chariots, beasts in the stars. He decided to stop looking at the pictures and focus instead on the man in front of him. He still picked up nothing about the man, if that's what he was.
They came into a room, and another man was waiting there. This one looked more normal. Naruto felt a clenching inside of him, a shock.
"Oh shit…" the voice inside of him said quietly. Naruto hadn't heard from the Fox since they'd left Blood Country, so he was surprised to hear his voice so suddenly, as well as the shock he felt coming through their connection.
"Who is that?" he silently asked the Kyuubi. But he'd gone silent again.
"Naruto," the new figure said quietly. His voice was clear as a bell. "Welcome. My name is Lucius."
Nagi opened his eyes. The sun was shining through the window, a soft breeze blowing the curtains. He could see the White Tower through the window. That meant he was back in Tengoku. He remembered the fight. He'd blacked out, and was in and out of consciousness during Naruto's fight. He saw the Blood King's death with his own eyes, and that felt…unsatisfying. After the battle they'd had… He remembered his arm.
He looked down and lifted, letting a cry escape his throat. The stump ended just below his elbow, wrapped in clean white bandages. He couldn't stop staring at it. Nagi swore he could still feel his fingers if he tried to wriggle them.
Eventually he let his arm drop and turned back to the window. He supposed his career as a warrior of Tengoku was over. With Capoeira, balance was everything and he couldn't balance himself missing an arm. Maybe Naruto would let him stay in the village anyway. He could get a job…doing something.
The door to his room opened and a girl he recognized from around the village entered. "How are we feeling today?" She moved around the room expertly, bringing in flowers, and a tray of food. When she was finished she looked at him.
"You have two visitors." She smiled then turned and left. As she walked out, in walked N'uihc and Granny Sara, the old woman who'd set him and his friends on their journey of revenge.
"Good Morning, My Lord." Granny Sara nodded to Nagi. His face grew dark and he was about to say something. N'uihc reached over and slapped him across the face. Hard.
Nagi reached up with his good hand and rubbed his face. He was about to ask what the hell that was for, but one look from his Master and he knew that the Assassin was preventing him from being rude to the woman.
"My Lord, you have paid a terrible price, but your parents can rest now," she continued as if nothing had just transpired. "The Blood King is no more."
Nagi nodded and looked pensive. "But what now?"
Granny Sara cackled. "The land is in upheaval. It's no longer a country in any sense of the word. Just the newest addition to the unnamed lands, the badlands that no one or nothing has the power to rule over."
Nagi opened his eyes wider.
"This is the cycle of time apprentice," N'uihc said firmly. "Countries come and go. Even my humble village of Sinanju is no more. Time marches on, and we people are nothing in the face of time."
Nagi slumped in the bed. "So it was all for nothing then." He held up his arm. "This. This was for nothing."
Granny Sara looked at N'uihc and he nodded his head. "I can offer you something perhaps, that would help ease your suffering." She took off a jewel from around her neck. It was black as night, shaped like a flat coin. "This belonged to your family once. I made it for them a very long time ago."
She held it out for Nagi, who reached for it with his stub before embarrassingly retracting that arm and reaching for it with the other.
"Thank you Granny Sara." He looked at the stone.
"This is no ordinary stone, my lord. Your family was once the best of the Shadow users. A long time ago, before this age, there was a great war, as there always is in every age. This war was fought on a global scale. It was not as it is now; there were machines more terrifying than the worst spell of most skilled Magic user, or the most powerful jutsu of the ninja arts. Devices that could wipe out a country for a thousand years. In fact, there was once a country larger than Wind country where the sea now hits the unnamed country. It was sent to the bottom of the ocean a long time ago. Your family survived even that age, carrying on into this one."
"The shadow users were all once one clan. They were formidable, once unstoppable. Imagine fighting a shadow. How would you even start? They used that skill and power to form the Land of Nubia, and enforced peace there."
She pointed at the stone. "This stone contains a piece of a shadow from every member of your clan from time immortal. It was given freely, collected from even the dead through techniques we won't discuss here. But trust me when I say every single member of your clan has contributed. Including your father."
"This. This is your legacy young Nagiri. The power of the Shadow users. There are few chakra users in the age we live in that could face a proper Shadow clan user. Even fewer a Shadow user with the power of his entire clan behind him."
Nagi held the stone up and noticed that even in the sunlight, it did not glisten. Light did not reflect off of it, but instead seemed to be absorbed.
"Th-thank you Granny Sara. It's an amazing gift," Nagi said in awe. Granny Sara nodded and held out her hand for the jewel. Nagi handed it to her puzzled.
"This is so that it would never be lost." She held it between her thumb and index finger, and pressed it against Nagi's chest where his heart was. He felt a slow intense burning sensation and then it was over. He looked down and there was a small circular scar, but no sign of the jewel.
"It now resides attached to your heart. I will retrieve it from your body when you die and pass it on to your young. This will be my way to pay my debt to your family."
"Apprentice," N'uihc chimed in "One of my ancestors spoke of a battle against such a Shadow warrior. This was a very close fight that my Ancestor was close to losing. Of course the glory of Sinanju does not lose. But it was close enough that he spared the other fighter's life in respect. This Shadow warrior was able to create weapons out of shadow. He displayed a remarkable ability to create almost 'anything' out of Shadow." He looked pointedly at Nagi.
Nagi looked at his Master confused for a second, but then understood. With a gasp he looked at his stump. "Do you think?"
"I am sure with the training of the Sun Source and my expert guidance we can bring out this gift from within you! If what Granny Sara says is true, then I have been going easy on you. There is potential within you that has not been tapped. I have decided this is because you are lazy." He looked at Nagi questioningly.
Nagi's mouth dropped open and he clutched his remaining fist against his chest. He nodded after a few seconds. "Yes Master, I have been lazy."
N'uihc almost smiled. "As I thought! It is good that you recognize this failing. You fought well against the Blood King, but your loss almost brought me great shame. This will not happen again! I have decided that you've been coddled enough in these white sheets. You are a baby now, born again to learn from the warm grace that is the Sun Source! We are expecting you on the training field tomorrow morning at five!" Again he looked questioningly at Nagi.
The injured warrior sat up straight in his bed, and with a zeal that would have rivaled a certain bowl cut ninja from Konoha he practically shouted. "I have rested enough Master! I am ready now!"
"Who are you?" Naruto asked as the first man disappeared, leaving him alone in the quiet room with the stranger before him.
"Just someone who was…curious." The man got up and drifted down to him. He floated; his legs not actually moving. "You have been on my mind for some time," the man said quietly as he floated around Naruto.
"You are not what I expected. But then, I've always been amazed at what the most innocuous of people can do in the right circumstance."
"Your name is familiar," Naruto said pensively. He wracked his brains for where he'd heard the name Lucius before. Then it hit him. He spread his legs, stood a little lower and pointed at the man, while shouting loudly. "You're one of those Titans the Kyuubi told me about!"
"Baka!" Kyuubi said from inside him. "Don't bring me into this!"
"But why shouldn't he?" Lucius said with a laugh. "It's nice to see you again brother. Well, PART of you anyway."
"I am not your brother," Kyuubi growled. "He was split into many. I am my own being now."
The man waved his hand dismissively. "Yes, yes. I don't care." He looked at Naruto. "This one though, he interests me."
He glided back to his chair. "Tell me Naruto, claimed Tenshikage of the Sky Island Tengoku. What is your purpose?"
Naruto stood and scratched his head. "What do you mean?"
Lucius sat perfectly still, resembling at that moment more a statue than a person. "Come now. Playing the buffoon may suit you in some circumstance, but not this one." He waved Naruto to a chair opposite him. "I seek to understand you. You who can harness the power of nature. Your little 'light show' a few days ago sparked my interest. I was intrigued."
Naruto sat down and sighed. "I don't really know my purpose right now."
"That… is a good answer." Lucius laughed. "If you'd said something stupid I'd have been disappointed." He leaned forward slightly.
"To be fair, I'll allow you to ask me a question for any question you answer of mine." Lucius said with a smile.
Naruto grinned back. "Sounds good!" he looked around. "What is this place?"
Lucius swept his hands wide. "This is my keep. Everyone needs a place to rest sometimes. This was once a mighty palace, for a country long since forgotten. I moved it here to preserve some of its memories."
"My turn." Lucius said. "Why did you destroy Blood Country as they call it these days?"
Naruto's face went dark and he looked down. "It was not my intention. We were seeking revenge for a murder."
Lucius sat back. "Ah." He sat there in silence, his eyes staring at Naruto and thinking.
"Why do you want to know?" Naruto asked.
"Ah is that your question? Good." Lucius shifted. "Truthfully you are an enigma to me. I above my brothers understand Man the most. But your motives are enigma to me."
"What do you mean?"
"Tsk. It's not your turn. Now tell me, what were you thinking when you walked through Blood Country in the aftermath?"
Naruto shook his head. "There was so much... There was this little girl..."
Lucius nodded. "Yes. The daughter. Neither she nor her caretaker made it very far by the way. The fires in the castle engulfed them."
Naruto rocked back as if he was punched. Another casualty, he thought.
"Casualty?" Lucius wondered aloud. "Your thinking is so peculiar."
"You can read my mind!?" Naruto shouted at the man, standing up and pointing.
"Yes, yes sit back down." Lucius didn't even look at him while he clicked his fingers. Naruto found himself seated again, not remember actually sitting down.
"So you consider all the people who died after the King to be your fault then?" Lucius asked.
Naruto looked steely eyed at Lucius. "It's not your turn."
Lucius laughed. He motioned with his hand for Naruto to proceed.
"What do you mean my motives are an enigma to you?" Naruto asked through gritted teeth.
"Man usually does things for one of four reasons. Greed, power, love, lust. Far as I can tell you have no care for money, no desire for power, no great love and a shocking lack of lust. So I have to assume you do things for no reason at all."
Naruto sat there in silence, his mouth hanging open slightly. Lucius continued.
"You had no problem killing soldiers or those who you deemed deserved it?" Lucius punctuated the silence with a question to Naruto.
"No. But now…who am I to say who deserves death?" Naruto said quietly.
"Someone has to decide. Why not you?" Lucius replied.
"My decision led to countless people dying! To that girl seeing her father dead at my feet!" Naruto almost bellowed, tears welling up in his eyes.
"Your reasoning is flawed. The people who died, their souls were dead long before that," Lucius said quietly. "The Blood Country had destroyed them long before you showed up."
He waved his hands and Naruto looked out a window. There were countless people now, floating around the space behind the building. The cavern went on and on forever.
"What's that?!" he demanded.
"Those are spirits Naruto. My mother had need of someone to, well, clean up after people died. We like to recycle the whole souls. But often we get souls that are damaged beyond repair." He pointed at a woman walking quietly by the window. Naruto saw that her chest had a large hole in it where her heart would have been.
"Look at her. In life she had no hope. No family. Forced onto the streets. The Badlands are an unforgiving place to grow up as a child. She took her own life after she could bear it no more. A soul can only take so much abuse before it shatters. So I take care of what's left of her soul here."
"Why didn't you help her when she was alive?!" Naruto demanded.
Lucius turned and watched Naruto. "Why didn't you? She only died a week ago. Why didn't you seek her out and rescue her?"
"I…I didn't know. I mean, I don't know who she is?" Naruto replied confused.
"You can't save everyone," Lucius said as he floated back to his chair.
Naruto stood up, the chair scraping on the ground. He looked down, a tear dropping from his eyes.
"Why not? Why can't I save everyone?"
Lucius sat back down. "People die. People suffer."
"I will stop the suffering," Naruto said defiantly. His words echoed in the cavern. The souls outside seemed to freeze, hovering, almost as if they heard his words.
"How?" Lucius asked in almost a whisper.
Naruto stood unsure of himself for a while. He looked out at the pitiful souls wandering the never ending cavern. "I don't know," he said. "But I will find a way."
"Interesting," Lucius said. "I knew bringing you here would not be boring. The worst part of being immortal is getting bored. I look forward to seeing what you do Naruto Uzumaki, Tenshikage of Tengoku village."
"As for you," he spoke directly to the Kyuubi in Naruto's mind. "You know what's coming."
The Kyuubi answered with silence. Lucius nodded. "So be it." He clicked his fingers and Naruto appeared back on top of the boulder he was standing on before he fell into the cavern. It was no longer daylight. He looked up at the night sky and was startled. The stars were not where they should have been. They were further south than they had been last night. As if a month had passed in the forgotten city in those caves.
He glanced back and saw the cloud that was Tengoku. He didn't bother with the wind stream this time. For the first time since he left Blood Country he felt more like himself. He had a purpose again. He "jumped" straight to Tengoku.
Omake: Senjii's Delivery Service
Senjii the Dark Blade finished packing his supplies into an over-stuffed backpack, most of it water in special 'sealed' containers, considering his destination was Wind Country, a place that was primarily desert with very few locations to refill a canteen. Lastly, he secured his weapons and tools that he would need for this journey.
Well, he called it a journey, but really it was more of a quest. If he knew Tenchi at all, this would undoubtedly turn out to be more than he planned on it being, so he was going prepared. And if he just so happened to run into Naruto on the way to this person he was delivering a letter to, well life was just full of coincidences, wasn't it?
So, while Tenchi was occupied with teaching his class at the Academy, Senjii made his way not to the Stream to Wind Country and Suna, but to the 'Main' stream, the one that came out in a clearing not too far from the entrance to Tengoku. It would add a few weeks to his journey, but there was a greater chance he'd run into or find Naruto on his way through the Unnamed Country toward the Eastern Lands. In his mind, it was more than a fair trade.
Landing on the balls of his feet as the Stream gently let him fall, he turned back briefly to the mountain range Tengoku hovered over. He thought he'd heard a noise like one of those sinkholes opening and shutting that were scattered throughout the area amidst the multitude of earthquakes in the mountains. Shrugging it off, he turned east and started walking.
A few days later, Senjii had given up hope that he would 'bump' into Naruto on his little quest here. Either they'd just missed each other, or Naruto was still in Blood Country, either way the only possibility of Senjii running into him was by intentionally seeking him out, and he'd promised Tenchi that he specifically would not do that. The father of his true love could be a real bastard like that.
Not needing to adjust his pace for anyone else, and no longer having a reason to drag his heels, he was moving at top speed, and perfecting his Hop Step while trying to squeeze out some extra speed from his Flash Step along the way. Therefore it was quite fortunate that he noticed the trouble when he did, or he would have blown right past it.
There was a wagon on fire and over half a dozen men with weapons, all attacking the family that were cowering beneath it. Stopping with a quick Hop Step, he turned back and got a second look and saw that it was actually a Mail Merchant. The Elemental Countries had the Courier Ninja organization for delivering and shipping packages, but they did not enter the Unnamed Country. Therefore, to send mail or non-illegal packages to other people in the Unnamed Country, a few clans that stuck together set up a new kind of job, called a Mail Merchant, which did the same thing that Courier Ninja did in the Elemental Countries.
It was rare for them to have anything more valuable than letters or scrolls. So why would bandits be attacking Mail Merchants of all people they could attack?
Deciding that he could debate the reasoning of the desperate later, Senjii moved to attack. First, he put out the flames. Naruto would probably use a wind jutsu to blast them out, or if he was feeling creative, he'd make a vacuum to suck up all the oxygen the fire was using. Having only his swords and not being a wind type in the first place, he decided to do a combination of both. As he ran past the burning wagon, he sliced with each of his kodachi right above the flames, executing a spinning jump slash while moving at Flash Step speeds. It wasn't his fastest move, but it created a vacuum in the wake of the swords movements and pretty much slammed that vacuum down on top of the flames, smothering them. That taken care of, he quickly discerned who was and wasn't a bandit.
Keeping in mind that there might be a reward for some of these bandits, he kept it non-lethal for the moment, knocking the one with swords and clubs and torches out with either blows to the back of the head, hitting them with the flat of his blades, or knocking the wind out of them with well-placed kicks and punches. Took him about fifteen seconds using his Hop Step, but only because he double-checked that he was targeting actual bandits. Sometimes it was hard to tell, and one can never be too sure.
Once the fighting stopped, Senjii sheathed his swords and approached the 'family' that had been hiding beneath the no longer burning wagon.
"Are you all OK?" he asked. "Was anybody injured or killed?"
"No, thank you, kind warrior," a tall woman with striking green hair down to her waist. "I am Nelliel, the Chief Merchant for my clan. We... don't have much to repay you with..."
"Don't bother," Senjii waved off the offer. "I am Senjii, the Dark Blade of Tengoku. I'm on a mission for my village. I was passing by, saw the trouble and decided to help. Nothing more than that. If you really want to pay me back, please consider setting up a merchant house in or near Tengoku. If no one was injured, I'll be on my way." He turned to leave.
"Wait, you said... Tengoku?" Nelliel asked.
"Yes..." Senjii confirmed, though some suspicion lingered.
The green haired woman waved urgently to those still by the wagon, salvaging what they could. A package; a box about a foot and a half long, a foot wide, and half a foot deep was brought forth. The Chief Mail Merchant accepted it and then offered it to Senjii as she quickly tried to explain.
"This is actually the reason we were attacked," she said. "We were hired to deliver this to the Tradesman Guild near the Border. We have no one going that direction for another month or so, and we were taking it to your village, or rather your trading post? We'd like to hire the warriors of Tengoku to deliver this to its ultimate destination. And if you're already on your way, in the same direction, it would save a lot of time. Please?"
Sighing, Senjii figured he'd wasted enough time, and it would take care of the expenses of drowning his sorrows at a favorite tavern of his where he always made sure to spend the night every time he passed by it. He took the package and held out his other hand, saying, "Three gold, or fifteen silver and thirty coppers. And a jewel."
Hey, charity and good will was one thing, but business was business. She handed him one gold, ten silver and the thirty coppers, and a medium sized ruby of decent enough quality. Currency in the Unnamed Country wasn't as... controlled as the currency in the Elemental Countries. Everyone made do with what they knew to be valuable no matter where you were.
"The destination is written on the top there," Nelliel pointed. "Thank you, Senjii!"
Business concluded, Senjii hurried on his way.
It took him another two days to get to the address on the package. Fortunately it was in the same general direction he was going. He stopped at the tavern he planned on going by, spending the night, the rest of the time he was running and venting his frustrations through exercise. And the occasional bandit he came across of course.
At least, that's how it started out.
There must have been lookouts or the Mail Merchants had already spread the word that they no longer had the package. He did. After leaving the tavern, it wasn't an hour before he was being stopped by every thug with a sword wanting to make a quick buck, thinking that it was some great treasure they could sell for a small fortune.
The first dozen, all before he'd gotten more than a mile from the tavern, were hardly worth mentioning beyond the fact that it was more than a dozen! He caught on to the pattern pretty quick after leaving the city, and luckily he hadn't made any kind of promise about not looking in the package. Not that it was exactly worth much. It was just a briefcase in a box, filled with papers. Reading through some of them gave him the clues needed, and explained why it was going to a Tradesman Guild near the border with the Elemental Countries.
Some trader probably lost his luggage and this was his way of having it returned. Too bad it was filled with papers probably pretty important for the guild, and it would only be of any use to another Tradesman Guild. For anyone else, it was just paper.
Putting the package back together, Senjii resumed his journey, while wondering how it was he'd suddenly become a delivery boy.
To Be Concluded... Next Chapter! ;)
Happy New Ye...wait...it's February already? WTF. Ok...sigh. I know, it's been months since last update...but that's normal by now :)
Let me point out - Joshua the Evil guy besides being an awesome beta, is contributing nicely with these Omakes! Big ups and Respect!
Confused over who Lucius is? See Chapter 21 for his *sort of* story.
I am very appreciative of all the comments and PMs both negative and positive. They all help me guide this storyline and shape it into what it is. In that way this is a collaborative effort, and I thank you all. :)
Hope you enjoyed this chapter. See you soon!