Lord of Death
Lord of Death- Chapter One
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto in any form or way. I make no money from writing this fanfiction.
Summary: When Naruto stumbles upon the creatures, he is intrigued. They don't think. They don't die. But they are the key to making him the most feared man in the shinobi nations: the ruler of a belligerent empire, and an army of monsters.
Includes: Zombies. I know, the concept sounds a little odd, but trust me when I say that it can work, and it will work. The story is less horror than adventure, and is less about the shambling creatures and more about the interesting tactics they can be put to, so don't be put off if you hate them- I don't particularly care for them either.
Genre: Adventure / Horror
Word Count: 4,300
Cumulative Word Count: 4,300
Date: Started- 22nd June, 2009
Finished- 11th August, 2009
Posted- 11th August, 2009
Current Manga Chapter: 459
Chapter Title: Death
A/N: This story stemmed from a little idea spawned from reading a random story back quite some time ago. I literally exhaled story ideas at the somewhat frightened (or so I imagine) writer, and it has occupied my mind ever since.
It was a sickly hot afternoon: loose shirts clung to moist flesh and flies buzzed in the incessant heat, hanging in writhing clouds around the group's heads. He had asked, once, why it was that in the heat of summer the flies gathered around them in such groups. He had been told that they were waiting.
Flies always waited. Even as a black corpse dropped from the sky, a new one would rise to uphold its legacy: to wait. They were literally living corpses as they bade their time above your heads. He had asked what they waited for.
Death. Purest, simplest death. And death would indeed come- they waited for your body to fail you, for you to collapse in the heat, and if you did not give up first, they would. They fell from the sky, always so insignificant... they'd been corpses long before they died.
The sun was dimming as it sank: clouds marred the horizon, and it dipped close enough to illuminate the edges with vivid pinks. Despite the darkening light, the heat had not lifted. A light breeze only stirred the hot air, callously pushing it in their faces as they swatted a fly away from their damp glistening skin, or ineffectually fanned at their faces to keep the heat down.
It was gloomy. No-one spoke.
There were four in the group: three children of roughly the same height, and an averagely built adult who towered over the three, dull hues of his clothing and hair clashing with the vivid orange book he held poised in front of him. It looked as if he was trying his hardest to enjoy the novel, but with the prevailing weather and the slight frown etched upon his face, one could tell that the heat was getting to him. Every so often, the man would abandon reading and simply use the novel as a fan.
One of the three children – the girl – would pin him with a slight glare as he did so, seemingly wishing she had something to use as a fan herself. She was stockily built: not naturally so, but her uncovered arms revealed a muscle toning gained from a lifetime of physical arts. It was not an ugly look on her, but to the average person the toning would look out of place. It gave away easily the lifestyle she held.
To the right was a pale creature. His skin shone with sweat, but he had been stubborn enough to refuse to remove any of the clothes he wore. The others didn't pretend to understand this, but then it was hard to understand the boy at the best of times. The sweltering temperature had made him irritably sullen, and so he walked with a slouched back, hands firmly lodged in his pockets, glowering at the dirt below. His arms and face held a tint of pink that suggested sunburn.
The boy on the left was a contrast. One of his more prominent features was his heavily tanned skin, which accompanied vivid blue eyes and cheerful golden hair. He had an animated face: it was permanently clear what he was thinking, no matter how hard he tried to hide it. The face he wore in the near stagnant air was a childishly moody pout. He stared straight ahead as he walked, shifting constantly, trying not to let his limbs come into contact with the rest of his body. Around his waist was the top of his jumpsuit: bright orange, and boiling hot in the summer sun. He constantly pulled at the simple black top he wore, which stuck to his torso again when he let it go. He didn't have a particularly intelligent look about him – too friendly, too open – and even the people closest to him would admit he wasn't cut out to be a thinker. They weren't wrong. Not exactly.
Behind them, their teacher stretched, giving a fake yawn to attract their attention. They turned expectantly.
"Time to set up camp, I think." he said, and the genin groaned, managing to look both annoyed and relieved at the same time. Being in a tent was obviously preferable to more walking, especially in the overbearing heat, but knowing Kakashi they would be the ones who were going to do all the setting up, and their teacher would pass it off as 'training'. The tanned boy scowled, and for a second the three students possessed the exact same expression.
Kakashi managed to find some humour in this, and had cheerfully instructed them in their tasks: Sasuke and Sakura were to set up the tent. Naruto was to collect some firewood and kindling for when the night hit: it was warm now, but when the sun set, the lack of clouds would plunge it into a biting cold. And one of them had to keep watch. The assigned tasks were treated with the sort of futility of argument one would expect from three subordinates, and so they moved with no voiced objections.
Plain scenery rolled before him: dull grass which gave way to trees either side of the travelling road. The forest at this point was not particularly thick, still littered with natural clearings and small, leafy trees.
They were halfway between Wave Country and Konoha, heading back after a successful mission. It had been exhilarating, Naruto couldn't deny that. They had fought a legendary man, had seen a gentle spirit wither and die. For the first time ever, he had a true look at what being a ninja really meant. The experience had widened his eyes, to say the least.
The grimace had dropped from his face, and he contemplated his experiences with a solemn calm. He'd changed. He had watched a friend almost die, and two enemies he respected sacrifice their lives for a pointless cause. He understood the two more than others would have thought- he often did. He treated every person with a tremendous kindness he wasn't quite willing to drop, and in many ways this was his greatest weakness. But now he had been slapped by the cold hard hand of reality, and the blow had stung. There was no other path than to get stronger: he would protect his precious people, no matter what.
Stooping, he gathered a few dropped twigs, bending them in his hands to test them. If he was lucky, they snapped. Most, however, seemed to spite him by merely twisting and flexing. The fresh wood – still green inside – would be useless for a fire. He tossed it back to the mushy ground and moved on. There seemed to be a pitifully small amount of wood to use, probably due to the type of trees in the forest, and soon twenty minutes had elapsed with naught to show for it other than a small armful of twigs.
It didn't take much longer for him to become him positively miserable. His back was beginning to ache, and it didn't help that his shirt was plastered to his torso. Flies still circled around him, a dark cloud of minuscule bodies that pulsed and swirled around his head like a black halo. He had tilted his head to watch them, for a second, and then he smelt it.
Death. Decay. Dessicated flesh.
Eyes wide, shaking slightly, he took a step towards the source of the smell. And another. His senses screamed at him to retreat, but the integral part of him that made him Naruto urged him to press on. The stench hit the senses like a sledgehammer, but he had to know what had happened.
Faulty steps brought him to a clearing of trees- littered across it were the remainders of a camp. A civilian camp. And strewn across the camp were the civilians.
His stomach wretched, and he clasped a shaking hand to his mouth, fighting the urge to throw up. All shinobi were trained to accept gore, and death, but this was not a battlefield. This was a slaughter. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the scene. There was a severed arm, not four metres away from him. It looked like it had belonged to a child.
There was a rustle. Something had moved. Naruto span around, instinctively drawing a diamond-edged kunai as he did so. It was held shakily out in front of him as he scanned the area. Another movement- just beyond a small bush. A man was crouched over a corpse, head bowed, and he was... what was he doing?
The man looked up.
The creature's eyes were glassy; unseeing, and yet it stared right at him. The skin was pallid, dessicated, and its chin was bathed in blood. This was a monster. It had been gorging itself on the bodies of those it had killed.
To the right, another creature emerged, shambling stiffly. It had a hollow where an eye should have been, but did not seem to care, or indeed notice its own wounds. It fixed the stare of its remaining eye on Naruto, stumbling forwards.
The tan boy flinched back. Wide eyes watched the creature over the corpse rise, abandoning its meal. That dead, unseeing attention was fixed on him.
He threw the kunai, heart hammering. It thudded to a dead halt in the aberration's chest, pushing it backwards like a dead sack of meat. His breath caught when the monstrosity did not otherwise falter from the fatal blow. It continued forwards; towards him, stretching out an arm as if it would bring them closer...
He spared the scene no second glance. He fled.
Shit. Shit. What were these creatures? Humans with the skin of a carcass. They were dead. They didn't die.
His feet pounded over the ground, breath coming in jagged gasps. The trivial mass of wood he'd collected had long since been abandoned, scattered in the woods. He skidded back into their camp, face pale, heart racing.
Their teacher was propped up against the rough bark, in the long shadow of a tree, out of the golden light. He glanced up from his book when Naruto arrived, calm against a flurry of panic. The boy's face was pale, he was trembling still. Kakashi raised an eyebrow in question.
"Shit." the student explained. "Shit, shit, shit."
This seemed to get the older man's attention. He was alert. "What's wrong?"
"Creatures-" The student's eyes were wild. "There was a camp – a civilian camp – completely destroyed... bodies mutilated-" There was a shift in countenance, and despair and grief shone through on the boy's face. It was Naruto who'd always been so unfailingly kind. Naruto who had always torn himself up for the sake of others. His altruistic nature meant he took the things that happened to other people – even those he'd never known – to heart. It was his biggest failing, in the eyes of a ninja.
"What attacked them?"
"Monsters. There were these creatures... I think they were eating the bodies." Naruto visibly shook.
"Are you sure?" He received a weak nod.
"I threw a kunai at one of them," Kakashi was told. "I hit it dead in the heart."
"No, you don't understand. It didn't die! I hit the heart and it didn't even stop!" Naruto's breath was heaving. He was frantic.
"Naruto, calm down. Are you sure?"
"Yes. And we've got to leave – now!"
Kakashi had to give him the benefit of the doubt. Naruto, at least, looked as if he believed what he was saying. "We'll report what you've seen when we get back, then. They'll probably send out a chuunin squad to investigate." Another nod. The boy looked a little more relieved.
Sakura and Sasuke were informed that they were moving. As could be predicted, they weren't particularly happy at this and treated Naruto's tale with a large amount of incredulity.
The journey back was as silent as the other half of their walk home. But the air was filled with tension, and the quick pace only fuelled it.
It had been a week since he'd seen them, those creatures with the rotting flesh, glassy eyes, and a stench of decay that seemed to permeate the very soul. It had been a horrible week.
The sickly weather had persisted, and they still had to do odd jobs around the village- petty pay, 'recuperation' from their traumatic time in Wave. Naruto strongly suspected that their teacher got paid extra when they did missions. That thought had made him sigh, but at least it meant that he got a steady income. He wasn't allowed to request missions by himself, after all, and he needed the money.
The only good point of the week was that Sasuke had gradually been turning pinker and pinker until his skin had relented in its efforts of trying to make him look like a ponce and had instead turned him a blistering shade of red, which the boy did not look happy about. Naruto thanked his luck that he had skin that tanned, instead of burning.
Yes, it had been a normal week. That was what made it worse.
It lingered, at the back of his mind. Sometimes when he closed his eyes he likened that he could see them- hallow cheeks, gaunt expressions, those clouded eyes... They lingered, just below the surface, pulling at his thoughts, a child wrenching at his clothes, something that wouldn't go away, just wouldn't shut up.
What were they?
He'd struck one a lethal blow. It hadn't died.
How did they work?
Those terrible, terrible faces. Corpses that moved.
Why were they there?
And he didn't know.
The thoughts were there, just below the surface, constantly there... he wanted to find out. He didn't know why, but he wanted to know.
There were those people killed. There were only a few, but their deaths had been gruesome. Naruto suddenly felt the wrench of guilt: all those people killed, and he just couldn't bring himself to care. He only cared about the creatures. He was... such a horrible person.
He looked down. He tried, didn't he? To care for everyone. He was a nice person. It was his biggest weakness, everybody said that. That Naruto, they said. Such a kind boy. A bit dense, but very kind.
And sometimes Naruto could believe it too.
He was sat on a swing. It was hidden by the leafy tree it was built on, and a swinger could only be glimpsed on either side: appearing, disappearing, appearing, an endless cycle. Naruto never swung. He was often just happy to be out of the way.
Sometimes it had the unexpected benefit of letting him overhear what other people said. Civilians frequented the spot, often with children, and they constantly gossiped. They talked about whatever interested them; children, other civilians, clothes, and occasionally an interesting tidbit of knowledge would pop up about something important – something related to him.
"Did you hear?" asked a woman, voice holding a tone of excitement that Naruto linked with a vivid mental image: flushed face, beady eyes, excessive make-up. A petty woman. "One of those new genin teams completed an A-rank mission!"
"What?" the other woman asked. In his mind she was a stern brunette- fairly intelligent and slightly scorning of her friends. She was the sensible one. Every conversation should have one of her, in Naruto's opinion. "I thought genins only did D or C-rank missions?"
"Yes, but apparently they were tricked into it! The man who hired them claimed he needed protection from bandits – or something like that, I don't remember – and of course he just didn't want to pay for the full price!"
"I'm sure," the other woman replied, and he could quite clearly picture her frown as she spoke, "if it was an A-rank mission, he'd have a better reason than that."
"Well I don't know." The first woman huffed. "But don't you think it's remarkable how they managed to finish it at all? What's more, it was the team with that Uzumaki boy on it. You know – Naruto."
"Really?" this was the first time the sensible woman had expressed genuine surprise. "I thought that he almost didn't pass the genin exams?"
"That's not the most interesting part, though – apparently when they were coming back the boy saw some monsters."
"Monsters?" He was being scoffed at.
"Yes – something had attacked a family's camp, and the boy found it and thought that it had been attacked by monsters. I heard he was quite convinced."
"Do you think he was just traumatised by it?"
"Probably. I told you they shouldn't have let him become a ninja – he's just too kind for it."
"But then again... what if he really did see monsters?"
"You've heard about Ai's husband, haven't you?"
"You don't mean that-"
"He's been missing for three days. What if there really were these monsters walking around? What if-" her voice fell to an excited hush. "What if he was attacked, and eaten?"
"But... That's horrible. And what about Mia? Nobody's seen her for a while..."
At this point Naruto had stopped listening. If the creatures really were still out there... the thought made his blood run cold.
Their team had reported what Naruto had seen as soon as they had gotten back to Konoha, and had been promised that a squad would be dispatched to 'investigate' what he'd seen. But he could see it in their eyes: they hadn't believed him, not really. Now he wondered if they really had sent out a squad at all... he was Naruto the prankster, after all. Naruto the prankster who was just too kind for his own good... and too easily disturbed by the deaths of others? It wasn't that far a stretch to leap.
If they wouldn't believe him... then he'd just have to go and find the monsters himself. It was for the civilians who could be in danger, he told himself. Not because wanted to know more about the creatures with glassy eyes. People could be in danger, and he was a nice person. Too damn nice.
He set off for the gates of Konoha at a brisk walk, a deep frown marring his face. As always, his emotions shone off his face, and people gave him curious looks as he passed.
He went through the gates, waving distractedly at a guard who in turn smiled warmly back at him, and noted down his name in the records of who had gone in and out that day. Before he left he made a quick check that he had his identification on him; the guards would ask to see it when he returned.
He walked the path away from Konoha for twenty minutes before realising that he didn't know where to start searching if he wanted to find the creatures. He had no plan, no direction, no clue what to start with.
And so he wandered.
The sun was dimming by the time he finally got too fed up to continue. His legs ached, feet protested, and he'd developed a throbbing headache over the course of the day. And still nothing. Really, what had he been expecting? Even if he did see those monsters, there was little he could do about it.
He needed to sleep before heading back to Konoha, though- otherwise he'd be dead on his feet, and regardless of the place there was always the threat of bandits.
He hadn't thought to bring anything to sleep in, only a bag of meagre food supplies, so he had to make do with a tree for the night. Somehow, even with the rough bark grating against his back, he still managed to drift off into unconsciousness.
Blearily, his eyes blinked open.
It was pitch black.
He yawned quietly, sitting up and looking around him. It was still the middle of the night – why had he woken up? But he couldn't see through the permeating darkness, and so only stretched a little and settled back down.
There was a scrape.
Another scrape, louder this time. A rustle.
He relaxed, reasoning it was simply animals. The noises continued for a while, but eventually stopped completely and the ground beneath him came to a still. He drifted back into sleep, and didn't think any more of it.
The morning was bright and fresh. A few birds' songs cut through the air as he stretched and eat something from the bag of rations he'd brought with him. A fine cold dew coated his clothes and the tree he lay on, but he wasn't concerned as it looked to be another hot and sunny day.
He put a foot off the branch he'd slept on to climb down, and froze.
Below him were three grey faces, the clouded eyes of each fixed only on him.
He gasped, and recoiled back onto the branch, heart thudding.
They were the same as last time he'd seen them- stretched pallid faces, torn flesh, sunken eyes and gaunt bodies. Each abhorrence's eyes were locked on him. Watching. Waiting.
He'd set out to find them, but they'd found him.
Looking down again, he evaluated his choices. He was surrounded, but not well. Escape was certainly an option, but that would defeat the purpose of coming all the way here from Konoha. He didn't know how to kill the creatures – perhaps they couldn't be killed – but he could try.
Adrenaline rushed through him as he sprang from the tree, and in a heartbeat he was on top of one. Its knees buckled under the sudden weight and Naruto pinned it to the ground, kunai in hand, ripping its collar down to cut its throat-
But as he pulled the collar away he stilled, eyes wide.
Etched into the flesh, carved there as if with a knife, were hundreds of symbols. They ran down from the back of the neck onto the creature's torso, splayed in columns of interconnecting denotations. He didn't understand the symbols – they weren't in any language he knew.
No – all he understood was the name written in the middle: a name that struck fear into his heart.
So, there's the chapter.
I'm rather optimistic about this story. I had a lot of fun writing it- and this is just the start.
Before people ask: the answer is yes. Yes, there is an explanation. No, it won't appear for a while. Sorry.
Could anyone tell me if the start was too slow? Is there anything you particularly thought I did well or badly? Personally I find my writing in between action and dialogue is a little boring. Oh, and any pointing out of mistakes in logic or sentence structure is gladly appreciated.
Other than that, did you enjoy it?
Edit: Had to re-upload the chapter to change the name – if you spot any mistakes where it looks like words have been cut out and such then please point them out, as I haven't checked the chapter over yet. Words often get lost when you upload them.