Darkness. That was all that surrounded him. The nauseating stench of blood drifted the air like a wandering phantasm. Corpses literally littered the streets, their eyes forever staring into infinity and their last image of horror forever ingrained. Macabre, almost glowing eyes stared down at him, his murderer in all of his blood-covered glory.
He was dying; he already knew that. The wound was too deep, positioned too perfectly. Even if he were to escape right here and now, he would not be able to reach the hospital before bleeding out.
The question, however, still taunted and evaded him. Why? His wife, his family, all of them dead. It had happened so suddenly. They had had no warning, no chance.
"Why…?" the man, crouching on the ground in a growing puddle of his own blood, asked to no one in particular.
The crimson death looming overhead did not answer. It looked at the formerly powerful man with emotionless eyes; so, pity really did exist in its being.
"Was it…" the man questioned, "because of the plan?"
It remained silent. After a moment, and yet an eternity, the eyes answered. "In part."
"Was there… another… reason, then?"
Steel-toed boots clopped against the floor. Only a portion of Death's harbinger came into view of the moonlight, its hand an instrument of bereavement like a scene found only in horror movies.
Blood ran down along the katana's edge, dripping from its very tip next to the face of the man to mingle with the pool beneath it. He looked up, the living nightmare hovering above. If only this was all a dream.
"Yes." The emotionless voice rung eerily through the building, as if meant to haunt the halls for the rest of eternity. "There was one more reason."
The person raised the weapon above his head, making it glint red in the faint light.
"You tried to kill my sensei's son."
The blade came down.
Tenko no Renkinjutsushi
One: A Boy Named Maelstrom
co-authored with The 17th Immortal
"Hokage-sama!" a chūnin yelled as he rushed into his commander's office.
Sarutobi looked up from his painting, his pipe smoking in his mouth. In his hand, he held a paintbrush, having been interrupted during his time of relaxation. Unlike normal, he wore his civilian clothes, the robes of the Hokage strewn about on his desk.
With a sigh, he stood up and moved to his desk where his conical hat lay. Putting it on, he went into business mode. Another second, he threw on the red and white robes. Couldn't this have waited at least another couple of minutes?
"What happened now?" he exasperatedly asked.
"It was Naruto!" the chūnin quickly answered.
Sarutobi ran a hand across his face tiredly. "What did he do this time?"
His subordinate took a moment to try to figure out how he was going to explain it this time. Over the past several years, the pranks had become more and more elaborate, which meant it was becoming harder and harder to adequately explain what the boy had done.
"Well, sir," the chūnin began, trying to find the words to describe what had happened, but after a moment sighed and gave it up as a lost cause. "I think it'd be better to just show you, sir."
The Third Hokage followed to his outside deck where the chūnin promptly pointed to a general direction. Amused, Sarutobi's sight followed the finger, and when he saw the problem, all amusement was replaced with contained aggravation.
Konoha's precious Hokage monument had been renovated, and not in a good way: all of the faces that had been carved there had been replaced by those of animals. In place of the First Hokage's face was a donkey's head, the Second Hokage's visage likewise replaced by a fish's. Sarutobi's own face now looked more like a chimpanzee, and the Fourth Hokage had been replaced by a toad's head. And a fifth face had been added: the culprit's own.
Sarutobi sighed, a sigh of long-suffering patience, before ultimately asking, "Where is he?"
This time the chūnin pointed downward. Sarutobi looked to find two blurs, possibly high-ranked chūnin, chasing after another blur, this one safety-orange. The chase went frantically through rooftops, buildings, alleys, and even the sewer at one point. It was entertaining, if only until one was reminded of the reason behind the antics.
The orange blur suddenly stopped, revealing a young boy with golden hair. A mischievous grin painted his face as he clapped his hands together. As the two blurs chasing him came within range, the boy slammed his hands against the ground, and a wall of earth suddenly thrust up out of the ground in front of him. The two chūnin attempted to slow down to avoid it, but ended up running into it anyway, two human-shaped indents appearing on the other side. Their target laughed and then took off again.
The chūnin behind Sarutobi sighed. "His ninjutsu skill is one of the best out of his entire generation. That's always been bad for us."
"Ninjutsu?" Sarutobi grunted. "I suppose you can call it that if you wish."
The weaker ninja looked at his commander-in-chief confusedly, but then shrugged and jumped down to the ground, heading off to capture the prankster. Others joined, but even as they all got within a half-dozen feet of the boy, thin bars shot up from the ground around them, forming into the shape of a birdcage. Naruto mock-saluted his captured would-be pursuers as they stood stunned, grinning widely before running off.
The aged Hokage groaned, resisting the urge to drop his face into his palms. "Why did it have to be alchemy?"
Umino Iruka eyed his student next to his desk wearily. Naruto sat in front of the class, bound with thick ropes and looking extremely annoyed, if the glare was any indication.
Iruka had arrived onto the scene shortly afterward, himself intending to chase the delinquent blond. Like before, Naruto had set numerous traps and blocks in order to escape, but Iruka had happened to have exactly what he needed to counter Naruto's alchemy: a piece of chalk.
The teacher wasn't too proud to admit that his knowledge of alchemy was rudimentary at best. Naruto was light-years ahead of him – indeed, of everybody else in Konoha – but Iruka was still stuck on the basics. Having to stop, draw a transmutation circle, and then activate it took too much time, especially in the shinobi world where often every fraction of a second counted, whereas Naruto only needed to clap his hands together to create and power his circle. It was a complicated formula that Iruka could freely admit he could not even comprehend, much less utilize. Yet Naruto could read it as if it was his own language.
Sarutobi had also mentioned that Naruto was quite possibly one of only two such high-level alchemists in all of Fire Country, if not the world. Iruka could perform alchemy, but he was limited to only the most simple of formulae and a piece of chalk. The Hokage's own student, Jiraiya of the Legendary Sannin, according to the old man, was of a similar level, knowing only the rudiments of alchemy, although in Jiraiya's case, that limitation was deliberate, the Sannin claiming that anything more would be too much work for him to learn.
It was also something of a point of pride to Iruka that Naruto happened to be one of the brightest of his generation. His alchemy easily substituted for jutsu – though Iruka actively tried to encourage him to learn the more traditional techniques, instead of relying solely on his science. His taijutsu form looked sloppy at first glance, but was custom-made and worked well for him, with the added benefit of being unpredictable. And although his grades never reflected it, Naruto even had the benefit of an almost encyclopedic volume of knowledge to draw from.
Despite Naruto's advantages, however, his weaknesses were also significant. His chakra control was horrible, the worst in the entire history of the academy. His taijutsu, despite its effectiveness, was still sloppy nonetheless, and Naruto found amusement in pulling pranks that even trained jōnin would be hard-pressed to avoid.
Of course, there was one negative trait in particular that Naruto had that to Iruka was by far the worst: he never applied himself. The blond could have easily been the 'rookie of the year', and yet he chose to goof off instead. His grades were somewhere in the lower end of the spectrum, although thankfully he was nowhere near the bottom.
Iruka sighed. Were all geniuses just inherently lazy? (Even as the thought struck him, Iruka cast an absentminded glance toward the currently sleeping Nara above.)
"What am I going to do with you?" Iruka thought aloud at the bound Naruto, receiving a glare from the rebellious student in response.
The teacher shot back his own glare and then got an evil idea. It had been a while since he gave the class one anyways.
"Today's lesson will be a test review!" Iruka shouted as he turned back to the class. He smiled as he heard the groans and the 'Naruto, you idiot!' that rang out every so often. There were perks to being a teacher.
"Alright," Iruka complimented, jotting down grades at the same time. "That wasn't half bad, Sasuke. Next up: Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto stepped up with his usual mischievous grin. The chūnin teacher quickly noted it and frowned. What was he up to this time?
He wants a Henge, thought Naruto, his grin turning feral; I'll give him a Henge!
Multiple scenarios suddenly played out in Iruka's mind, none of them good. One scenario stood out in particular, and that one wasn't going to be good for anyone's health. Before he could yell for his student to stop, Naruto brought his hand up into his favorite seal and shouted 'Henge!'
Iruka eyed the puff of smoke as he took a step backwards, curious as to what his student had done. When it cleared, a curvaceous blonde bombshell of a girl wearing absolutely nothing appeared in Naruto's place with smoke drifting around her. Iruka shot backwards from a nosebleed and ran into the wall behind him.
Naruto transformed back, laughing despite the glares he was getting from his female classmates. All the males were suffering from blood loss, including one Uchiha Sasuke.
"You like it? I call it Oiroke no Jutsu!" Naruto proclaimed, proud of his monstrosity of an attack.
It was the first time Naruto ever saw a conniption. Iruka was downright pissed, though the two q-tips sticking out of his nose broke the complexion humorously.
"YOU IDIOT!" Iruka's head exploded to impossible sizes, almost blowing Naruto back from the sheer volume.
"So, you're planning to join Renbu?" Iruka asked, snapping his chopsticks apart to eat his own ramen.
Said boy swallowed his food and smiled fondly. "Yeah… Just like Mom."
Renkinjutsu Tokushu Butai, the Konoha Special Alchemy Corps, Renbu for short… A group founded during the Third Great Shinobi War, between Iwa and Konoha, which ostensibly worked as a sub-branch of the ANBU. Unlike the ANBU, however, ninja of any rank could join, so long as their knowledge and skill of alchemy was of sufficient level. But despite the group's unique organization, only two people had ever actually been members: Uzumaki Kushina, the Corps' founder, and Uchiha Itachi. Kushina unfortunately had died more than twelve years ago, during the Kyūbi attack, and since Itachi's betrayal and defection half a decade ago, the Corps had stood empty, bereft of membership.
It could not be helped, honestly. Alchemists were as diamonds amidst a bed of rhinestones; the Third Hokage had speculated that perhaps less than fifty true alchemists existed in the world today. Against such long odds the very obvious advantage that they could bring to Konoha, had kept Renbu from being disbanded. there were some that could perform lesser transmutations, such as Iruka himself, but who could not understand the science well enough to perform it to its fullest degree, like Naruto could. How the blond could understand such incredibly intricate and complicated equations that made up the science so instinctually was a mystery to Iruka, though the Third had hinted once or twice that he himself knew why that was.
Alchemy was also a lost art, a science that had all but disappeared from the face of the earth hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. History that was now little more than myth and legend claimed it had first originated from an ancient civilization that, legends told, had vanished in a single night. Details were fragmented, but apparently centuries later, alchemy was again being used, this time by a country that had been constantly beset by conflict, both internal and external. What eventually became of that country, whether it continued to thrive or it fell, no one knew, as no records of that time had survived to this day.
All that remained of either civilization now, were notes left behind, detailing the science of alchemy, the formulae and methods used to bring about transmutation. However, most often such information was coded, and had to be deciphered before it could be read and understood, oftentimes with multiple such layers of coding. The Nara might have little problem breaking the simpler codes, but further layers were often another story entirely.
Every so often, however, there was always someone who would come along, not only breaking through the codes with ease but who could also understand the material so completely as to be capable of miracles with alchemy's power. Someone like Naruto.
"Too bad you'll have wait until you're a genin to join it, though," Iruka laughed, noting as Naruto growled past a mouthful of ramen.
After his student had returned the monument back to its former glory, Iruka had agreed to treat his student (with great reluctance; his wallet could only take so much). It saddened him that his student had no one to go home to. He hoped to at least eliminate some of the boy's loneliness, if just for a while.
"Another bowl, please!" Naruto asked, holding up his empty bowl.
Iruka abruptly remembered that his paycheck was quickly disappearing with every bowl the blond ate. He wept to himself knowing he would be going without utilities until his next paycheck.
Naruto meandered into his apartment. Night had fallen, streams of moonlight barely lighting up the interior of the house. It didn't matter, he had always been able to see in the dark near-perfectly. For a long time he hadn't understood why, or why his sense of smell was so always much stronger than anyone else's, save the Inuzukas. In fact, all of his senses were a lot sharper than the average human's, now that he thought about it.
Well, it didn't matter. He knew why, now.
It would surprise many to know that Naruto kept his apartment very nearly spotless. The kitchen was cleaned, his empty ramen cups stored in the trash bin. His refrigerator held no spoiled food and was cleaned out regularly. The living room itself was plain, only holding the absolute essentials, all either created or restored by alchemy. Naruto couldn't help it; he liked to save money, and it was good practice.
It hadn't always been like this, though. Once he had been just like any other boy, messy and more often than not uncaring of the state of his house. At least until that time…
Naruto shook his head, forcing his thoughts away before they could return down that old familiar path. He didn't need to bring it up. It was a memory that would always hold him back, that always made him just want to cry over what he couldn't have. Even now he could already feel the tears gathering at the corners of his eyes.
Swiping viciously at them with his sleeve, he let his legs carry him into the bedroom. Out of all the rest of the apartment, the bedroom was by far the most furnished. His bed and nightstand stood in one corner, augmented like all the rest of his furniture by alchemy. Many might even find it unusual for someone as… attention-deficient as Naruto to have a desk, much less one with numerous papers and books scattered about across its surface.
The blond sighed as he collapsed into the desk chair. Might as well get it over with.
First came the matter of tidying up his workspace – no matter what he did, Naruto found he never could fully concentrate, as long as his workplace was messy. He didn't know why; he just did.
Organizing his notes – one stack for alchemy, one for shinobi-related stuff, both proper arranged and collated. Neatly stacking the books into a pile, alphabetized of course. Pencils and pens moved into their proper places, desk lamp's positioning corrected and turned on, chair adjusted for best comfort.
Finally it was done, and Naruto leaned back into the chair with a heavy sigh. Then his expression brightened: finally he was comfortable enough to get to the fun stuff!
Almost giddy with excitement, Naruto pulled open a drawer to retrieve a hardback journal from the inside. He tenderly fingered the edge of the covering before opening it with an air of near-reverence, to reveal his mother's handwriting. This was Kushina's journal, not only her diary but her alchemy notes as well.
The Old Man had never noticed the codes hidden within the text; he had only ever believed it merely to be Kushina's diary. Naruto, however, had noticed it immediately. He had said nothing, however, instead choosing to take the book home and decode it for himself, out of the Hokage's eyesight. After all, if the Old Man hadn't noticed the code was there, that meant he wasn't supposed to read it, right?
Little did the five-year-old Naruto know at the time, only someone who understood intimately Kushina's way of thinking, her very personality with all of its little and not-so-little quirks, would have recognized the presence of her own personal code. Naruto, though he didn't know it, had inherited that very same personality in its entirety, plus his father's own natural brilliance as well – Kushina's code didn't stand a chance. What would have taken a master code-breaker six months to accomplish, Naruto unlocked within six hours. Mere days later, and the entire true meaning of the text had been laid bare to him.
From there, he had learned all that alchemy could teach him, the rules that governed its innermost workings, the formulae that brought it to life. A whole new world of knowledge had been opened up to him, and Naruto had dived right in without a second's hesitation. Driven by the knowledge that this was what his mother had done, Naruto set out to learn everything that he could from her notes.
His first successful transmutation, basic though it was, came at the age of six. Whatever doubts he might have had left about not living up to his mother's example had been erased, then. He had thought himself invincible, emboldened by his successes. There was nothing he couldn't accomplish!
Until that time. When Naruto had learned the truth, that for all he knew, all he thought he knew, there was still so much more that he had yet to learn. The day he had very nearly lost everything…
Stop it! he shook his head violently, forcing himself away again from those thoughts. It was a simple, stupid mistake and you know that! You learned your lesson the hard way and paid for it, now get over it and move on!
Disgusted with himself, he snapped the book shut, finished with its contents for now. Returning it to its place within the desk drawer, he pulled out another book in its place, this one far different than the previous.
As well as his mother's texts, there was another, older text that had he had inherited from her as well. Even though it was, in fact, only maybe a dozen or so years older, it looked far more than that. Its appearance gave more the impression some ancient tome to the blond, to be honest, bound in leather that had long since softened with use, its pages yellowed with age.
According to Kushina's diary, this second book was a copy made of one that had been in the possession of the Uzumaki family for many generations. The original had long since ceased to exist, ravaged by time and crumbled apart, but the ancient Uzumakis, seeking to preserve the knowledge held within, had copied it, line for line, word for word, many times over the centuries.
Like Kushina's own, the book contained the notes and research, hidden in code, of another alchemist, one who had lived during the time of that ancient warring civilization, the one in which alchemy had been first revived.
It was from this book that the Uzumaki line had learned their craft of alchemy. Their line had brought riches and prosperity to the Land of the Whirlpool – and destruction as well. Enemy countries, greedy for the secret of the Uzumakis' power, had laid waste to their country and destroyed their clan utterly; only Kushina had survived, fleeing to the allied country of Fire, and even then only barely, carrying with her only the clothes on her back, and this one copy of the alchemy book.
The last laugh had been hers, however – those countries may carted off with many, many copies of the book, but they lacked the means to read it. Kushina had destroyed the only existing key to that ancient code herself, and if centuries of Uzumaki alchemists had been unable to decipher its secrets fully, then surely neither could they. As she recovered in Konoha, Kushina had heard rumors of massive book-burnings in those same countries that had destroyed her heritage.
Elderly Sarutobi never did learn what caused that massive bout of hysteria she had been struck with during her recovery. That thought itself always made her laugh again, afterward.
Slowly Naruto's fingers lifted the ancient pages, one after another, careful so as not to damage them. That it had survived through such trials was an achievement in and of itself, and Naruto had no intention of pushing his luck.
With the codebreaker key destroyed, Naruto now was forced to decipher the text the old-fashioned way: with determination, research, and just plain luck and inspiration.
Codebreaking was as much an art as it was a science. As Kushina had written, to be able to break such a personalized code, it required that you understand the coder's personality. How they thought, the habits and patterns they tended to follow. From there, you looked for recurring themes. Those themes formed the lynchpins, the weak points you used to unlock the code. Once applied, the rest of the code would always unravel, revealing its secrets to the world.
Not so, here. As the text went on, the code would become more complex, more elaborate. Once a certain point was reached, the coding style even became layered, multiple code techniques combined to create a whole new code.
Kushina had only ever been able to decode a third of the overall text, both before and after the destruction of Whirlpool Country. Her own journal had contained those decodings, which was where Naruto had learned them from – the explanations of alchemy, the detailings and formulae of that wondrous science, even much of the code used in the original version. Naruto, just under half.
The blond had to admit, though: this was by far the greatest challenge he had ever encountered. From a certain point of view, this… Edowaado Erurikku's code was like the ultimate prank, hiding his greatest secrets in plain view, just waiting for someone to come along and find it. What kind of prankster would Naruto himself be, then, if he didn't rise to that challenge?
Naruto scribbled down some notes, then blinked and looked back at a previous page. There! He was beginning to notice another pattern now, a term that kept being used any number of times. He quickly jotted down the words that lined up; he circled one set, erased another, underlined particular letters, descrambled, and then repeated. Finally, he got down something that made him look questioningly at it.
"Kenja no Ishi?" Naruto read aloud. He blinked his eyes. "The Philosopher's Stone? What's that?"
For the last several years he had been deciphering small portions of the fourth quarter of the journal, choosing to relay them back into the third quarter, a sort of reverse engineering as it were. This was actually his first successful attempt, and it certainly proved to be a significant time. There were no more layers after this final portion, and yet now this text had just hit him with something indecipherable altogether.
The blond leaned back in his chair, yawning and stretching out the kinks in his back. After this much effort and success both, this seemed a good place to close it off for the night. He closed the text and returned it to its rightful place in the desk drawer. Naruto then pulled out his own journal and wrote down his latest findings, encrypting them as well.
Hey, if alchemists for two different civilizations entirely, centuries apart, did it, encoded their notes, then who was he to go against that?
Besides, he loved deciphering alchemical notes; they always yielded up something, whether it was new ways to transmute, or lost tidbits of wisdom. It was like a game, or even a puzzle.
But then again, he probably wouldn't be anywhere near this level of progress, if it hadn't been for that time.
Naruto shook his head to clear it for a third time that night. He was getting tired and he had school tomorrow. If he remembered right, tomorrow also happened to be the day for the genin exam; which meant he would also be one step closer to joining Renbu. His mother's Renbu…
He quickly slid on his pajamas, did his thing in the restroom, and then slid into bed.
Kill Joy no Jutsu (A.K.A. Author's Note): Welcome to my first crossover! If you hadn't already guessed, this is a Naruto/Full Metal Alchemist cross.
This is a collaboration between me and The 17th Immortal, my beta reader who does an outstanding job. Our planning went well over three months to produce a high-quality fic that hopefully everyone will enjoy; there is some serious planning going on here and there are some great plot twists you guys are seriously going to just eat up.
Now keep in mind that this isn't just another low-quality fic with a super powered Naruto; eh, it's not my style. Actually, over-powered Naruto stories drive me nuts, at least if they're not written well enough. Be assured Naruto won't be that strong in here.
If you're new to my fiction, please note that all original jutsu and bloodlines will have further information posted down here. I may have to also include different types of alchemy, or possibly even alchemist profiles.
One thing you all need to keep in mind is that alchemy is a very rare commodity in this story. I think we only have a total of six bona-fide alchemists planned for the story, and this doesn't include Kushina, Iruka, or Jiraiya. The reason why the latter two aren't alchemist will be explained further in the story.
Alright, enjoy you guys.
Lecture no Jutsu (A.K.A. Co-Author's Notes):
Yo, 17th Immortal here! Alias Lithius' primary beta reader (if not his only one, never really bothered to check), alias the schlub who just so happened to come up with the basic idea behind this little number!
Yeah, yeah, I know what's you're thinking: Naruto and Full Metal Alchemist, we've seen stuff like this before, right? Well not like this, you haven't!
One of my own biggest pet peeves about crossovers between such disparate series as these two, is that they more often than not turn into little more than fusions, simply retelling the original story only with either different, or else "new-and-improved" characters. Puh-LEEZ‼ Where the hell's the originality, people, dammit!?
*sigh!* Sorry, just needed to get that off my chest.
Anyway, when I first conceived of this fic, I wanted two, very specific conditions:
One: That Naruto being capable of alchemy has nothing to do being a Jinchūriki. Out of the few pre-existing Naruto/FMA crossovers I've come across, this was by far the most dominant trait out of all of them: Naruto learning alchemy from the Kyūbi itself.
The Bijū having a link to alchemy? Sure, I can accept that, depending on how the author decides to play that angle. But not when Naruto gets to learn a science capable of literally rebuilding and rewriting physical Existence from the ground up from one of the most bloodthirsty, hate-filled, and just plain foul creatures ever to have existed, just out of the "goodness" of its nonexistent heart. That's cliché as all hell, and I refuse to go there. I have better ways to do it, anyway.
And Two: That the source material for Full Metal Alchemist come from the manga, and not the anime.
I DO NOT LIKE the anime! The first season was good, but the second, to me, was nothing but complete and utter garbage. The origin of the Homunculi, the story behind their leader, the whole means to actually creating a Philosopher's Stone… The whole thing was just overblown and over the top to me, too much deus ex machina involved to be believable. The manga villains were just so much… more, ya know?
It's the same thing that happened with the Rurouni Kenshin anime as well: animators thinking they can actually anticipate how the story is going to continue, then being caught utterly flatfooted when the author does something to directly contradict their "vision" of it. Idiots. Compared to that, I would gladly put up with two years of nothing but filler anime that deliberately doesn't go anywhere, any day of the week!
Hopefully, that new FMA anime I've heard they're working on even now in Japan will be much better. Well, here's hoping, at least.
So anyway, with those two things in mind, we had something to start from. You'd have been surprised, really, how quickly all of our ideas snowballed and fleshed themselves out. All in all, I think this fic should pull off pretty nicely.
Oh, and by the way. If you happened to find that first scene, right before the title, vague and slightly confusing, good. It was meant that way. Like the first ever page of Full Metal Alchemist, it's intended to tantalize and make you interested, but keep the full significance hidden until much later.
Constructive C&C always welcome. Flames will be given to Gai and Lee.