Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
Sakura groaned. Her entire body hurt. She knew that it only lasted a few seconds, but agony did not even begin to describe how it had felt. Mind-shattering might be closer. She tried to sit up, and noticed her limbs were tied to the bed with cloth.
"Sorry, but you might have hurt yourself." Came a new voice. Sakura turned her head and saw Naruto. "How do you feel?" He asked.
She gave him a tired smile. "Miserable. Can you untie me now?"
Naruto grinned. "Sure." He undid her binds, and smiled at her. "You'll be pleased to know that you have not gone through all that pain for nothing. It worked even better than I expected. You have more than four times more chakra than you did before. We'll work on your control as soon as you're ready."
Sakura stretched her aching body. "No time like the present, right?"
Naruto shrugged. "If you insist. Though I warn you, this will be annoying."
It was somehow amusing to watch Sakura trying again to climb the tree, who stubbornly resisted all attempts at scaling it.
Naruto grinned. "Not as simple as you thought, was it?"
Sakura gave him a death-glare. "Naruto, shut up!"
Naruto laughed and turned his attention back to the jutsu he was working on. Pointing his right index-finger, lightning dancing over it, forming into a ball hovering half an inch away from the fingertip, he intoned "Raiton: Kyoudan"
The small ball shot forward at frightening speed, leaving smoking and perfectly circular holes the size of a coin in the trees Naruto had tested them on. Fifty feet away. Naruto nodded to himself. "Not bad. The kinks are all worked out. The only problem is that it's too slow."
Sakura was trying to balance three feet in the air, wobbling dangerously. "What do you mean, too slow?" She asked, trying to listen and keep her balance. If she couldn't pay attention to the situation while using chakra, then she was nothing but a liability.
Naruto shrugged. "Just as I say it. It's as fast as Lightning-chakra will allow it to go, but an experienced shinobi will have little trouble dodging it. You can hear it before it hits, and it moves in a straight line, making it very easy to predict. No, I need something more to make this an effective assassination-jutsu. It's not good enough to be a sure kill, even if it is for sniping."
Naruto bit his lip. "Ranton? No, that doesn't help in this case. Perhaps a basis of Arashi?"
Sakura gave up her fight with gravity and dropped from the tree, Naruto absentmindedly using the wind to cushion her fall. "What do you mean Arashi?"
Naruto grinned. "Oh right, you don't know. You see, Elements, unlike Forces, can be mixed freely with each other, right?"
Naruto found it odd that he was lecturing her, but shook it off. "Mixing two elements to create a new one, like mixing Fire and Water to make Steam, Water and Earth make Wood, and that fake hunter mixed Wind and Water to make Ice. What most don't know is that some element-mixes can alter. For example, Wind and Water can also make Bubbles, while Earth and Fire can make both Lava and Metal, depending on the focus. Now, the Sage of the Six Paths is known for creating the ninja-world as we know it, but what he really did was that he invented handsigns. The twelve you know are actually just one of two beginner-sets, known as the Eastern Zodiac. The Western Zodiac also has twelve, and then it gets complicated enough to be a sign-language. Either way, chakra was known before the Sage, used mainly for physical reinforcement of the body and weapons, in seals, or in tune with the elements and forces. Monks back then used raw elemental- or force-chakra to fight. Arashi is one branch of that raw nature-usage. It is known as an omni-element."
Sakura blinked. "Omni-element? What is that supposed to mean?"
"Simple. As you know, Arashi means Storm, and that is the summary. It's base is using Wind and Lightning to create a superior Lightning. You see, the wind rubs air against air, creating great amounts of static electricity. The Lightning-chakra mixes with that, to get the result. Ranton, known as Storm-Release, mixes Water and Lightning to make the lightning flow, allowing precise control over it. It is Lightning-chakra, has the speed of Lightning-chakra, yet can be directed as simply as water. The part of Arashi I described goes the opposite way. It is as difficult to control as regular Lightning-chakra, but it has the speed of natural lightning, making it impossible to dodge." Naruto explained.
Sakura gulped. "That's scary. But I still don't understand why it's called omni-element."
Naruto frowned. "You're right, I got sidetracked. Well, the reason it's called an omni-element is that you can add all three other elements to it. Adding earth allows you to call upon sandstorms that can at full strength literally tear flesh from bone. Adding water causes rain, hail and snow, while fire... well, let's just say that the ancient scriptures that speak of fire falling from the sky are not as outrageous as one may think."
Sakura sat slack-jawed. "And you can use Arashi?"
Naruto laughed. "Goodness no! I'm badass, but not that badass. Yet. I can use the hybrid-lightning, and not even that very well, though it should be enough for what I have in mind. It takes years, if not decades, to master Arashi. I'm an adept at best. To truly master it, I'd have to be able to wield all elements as effortlessly as I do the wind. With that kind of control, I'd be able to use all elemental combinations, and would declare myself the strongest of elemental humans. Anyways, your control seems to improve faster than expected. I would have guessed you would need at least another day to stick, not to mention climb. Oh well, me and Sasuke owe Kakashi lunch."
Sakura sweat-dropped. "You were betting on me?"
Naruto nodded enthusiastically. "Didn't you know? Betting is also a part of being a shinobi, even the ANBU do it. It's entertaining, and a good way to keep motivated. Anyways, be proud. The estimated time to remaster chakra-control to that point is usually three days."
Sakura gave him a distrusting glance. "So Kakashi-sensei said I'd get it by afternoon. What were your and Sasuke's bets?"
Naruto shrugged. "I said you'd need until evening. Sasuke thought that nightfall sounded right."
Sakura blushed when she realized that all of her team had estimated her to take a third of the average time, showing faith in her abilities, or at least her will.
Naruto smiled. "Tell you what Sakura. If your control improves enough today, then I'll teach you a jutsu I invented just for you. and once that's down, we'll work on Force-manipulation."
Sakura's eyes began to glow with the flames of iron determination, and Naruto knew that he'd likely have to make good on both of his promises. While he had no problem with that, he did worry just what Sakura could do with that jutsu. Then he shrugged. He'd find out soon enough, and right now, he wanted to figure this jutsu out.
The next day saw Naruto, Sakura and Kakashi standing in the forest, Sasuke and a medium-sized army of Kage Bunshin guarding Tazuna, the bridge, and the client's family.
Sakura had improved more than even Naruto had believed possible. She had not only remastered her control to the point where she could freely walk up and down the tree, though she still slipped if she ran too fast, but she had actually started trying to walk on water, and by now only sank in to her knees.
Naruto deemed it enough to teach her the promised jutsu. "Sakura, listen to me, and listen well. This jutsu is dangerous. I have no doubt that once the Hokage learns of it, he will label it a kinjutsu. This jutsu has to be strictly controlled, or the results may be devastating. Don't worry too much right now, I have a technique to cancel its effects before they harm us. The most important thing you have to do right now is make sure that you coat your ears and neck with chakra, to protect them from damage."
Sakura gulped, but nodded. She wanted to help. Naruto leaned close and whispered the instructions into her ear. Her eyes widened when she heard what jutsu Naruto had developed. "Are you serious?" She demanded.
Naruto nodded. "I know how it sounds, but trust me, it will be devastating. Don't forget to coat your body with chakra."
Sakura gave him a distrusting glance. Was he making fun of her? No, he seemed serious. So she hesitantly did as he told her, coating her body in chakra, putting extra care into her vocal chords and eardrums. Then she flashed through handsigns, before calling out "Ninpou: Banshi no Kyatu!" and screamed.
Naruto's eyes widened when he noticed that Sakura had not focused her voice in a particular direction. There was no time for handsigns or jutsu, so he used a technique he had invented that would have fitted into the era before the Sage of the Six Paths, and was named appropriately. Naruto slammed both palms together. "White Applause!"
A white ripple span through the air, starting at Naruto's clasped palms and extending quickly around himself and Kakashi, an instant before the shockwave of Sakura's shout reached them.
Suddenly, the world stopped.
Kakashi looked around. No, the world hadn't stopped. He could see wood splintered from Sakura's scream falling, and even felt the ground vibrate slightly beneath his feet. However, there was no sound. Everything was happening in absolute silence. Experimentally, he snapped his fingers. Nothing. Was he deaf?
But Naruto, after making sure that the jutsu was over, opened his hands from the position they had remained in before, fingertip on fingertip in a fashion that resembled prayer, and sound returned to the world.
Sakura stood there, pale and disbelieving. Naruto managed a grin. "That was good for a first try Sakura, it seems that you have a talent for this type of technique. If I had to guess, your natural vocal-power amplified the effectiveness of the technique. But please, next time don't just let the sound go, direct it. It may be difficult with your current control, but if you do manage to master it, not only will your attack become even stronger, but you won't accidentally kill your comrades. For now, you are forbidden from training this technique without my supervision. You can't really estimate the range and power of the sound-wave, and bleeding ears and deaths are not something we want to deal with. Do you understand?"
Sakura simply nodded, still speechless at the display.
Kakashi on the other hand had regained his voice. "Naruto, what was that just now?"
Naruto smiled. "Well, back when Sakura was still a useless fangirl, she tended to scream and shriek a lot. From that I got the idea to use an attack based on sound. Granted, not even I expected it to be this... devastating, but I think we can label this a success."
Kakashi nodded. "Yes, and you're right. Hokage-sama will definitely label this a kinjutsu. But I was referring to the technique you used."
Naruto blinked. "Oh. Well, that's easy to explain. It's not a jutsu in the conventional sense. It's actually the result of my experimentation with the Wind-element. You see, I figured out a way to completely stop the wind. I originally intended to develop a way to block fuuton, and I can proudly say I succeeded. What I didn't expect was for my trick to actually stop the movement of all air-molecules. Sound is vibration, and my technique essentially cancels all vibration. You can force it for a bit, like moving or in- and exhaling, but it won't move for more than half an inch, so you have to move or you will eventually suffocate. Either way, this technique is only usable for someone who has a Wind-affinity developed to my level, meaning it's pretty much just me who can use it, as far as humans go anyways. It cancels all sound and no fuuton can penetrate it. I actually helps a bit against katon too, since the flames don't get enough air for fuel either. If I gave everything, I could probably suffocate all in the vicinity by preventing the air from flowing back into the lungs of my victims. Is your question sufficiently answered, sensei?"
Kakashi nodded. "Well Naruto, I'm impressed. You continue working on that other jutsu of yours. Sakura, you'll refine your chakra-control, and I'm sure Naruto will be willing to help you with your new jutsu every once in a while, so I think I'll go rest a bit." He turned away, before seemingly remembering something. "And Naruto, I'm looking forward to seeing what you will reveal tomorrow."
Naruto grinned. "Oh yes, that will be fun. But tomorrow is still a few hours away, and I am still trying to work out the kinks of my new jutsu."
Kakashi nodded and shunshined away, leaving Naruto and Sakura to their training.
The evening had been pleasant enough, not counting Tazuna's bratty grandchild that was spouting nonsense about how they were all going to die and left before anyone could react appropriately, in other words whack him upside the head.
However, it was the morning Sakura and Sasuke had been especially looking forward to, because Naruto had promised them both their first lesson in Force-manipulation.
Naruto smiled. "Well, we all know why we're here, so I'll skip the needless dramatics and get straight to the point. You two have an affinity for one of the Forces, namely Gravity and Void. Seeing that I have neither, I can't really demonstrate for you, but I can give you a first impression of a Force. I'm no expert, so don't expect anything too dramatic."
He focused, and the air around his right hand began to shimmer, and a see-through, elongated and somewhat grayish shape appeared in his hand. "This is Time-chakra. Before you ask, all Force-chakra is transparent, as none of the associated Forces are visible either. What I have in my hand is simply Time-chakra shaped like a blade. It sounds simple, but it actually involves the knowledge and ability to use the Force in a direct hand-to-hand fight."
He aimed at the branch of a young tree and slashed. for a second, nothing happened, then the branch simply fell off. A closer look revealed that the wood had practically rotted away. Naruto stabbed the branch, and in seconds, it fell apart.
Naruto nodded to himself. It had actually worked. As for the tree, not only had he grown it himself for the sole purpose of demonstration, but had also ensured to not kill it, so Kimori or any of her subjects had no reason to be angry with him. The last thing Naruto needed was an angry elemental on his heels.
He turned back to his stunned audience. "As you can see, a sword made of Time-chakra does not cut, it ages. If I were to use it against a human, he or she would likely become very wrinkly around the point of penetration, or, if I fight bare-handed, the point of impact. A sufficient number of hits will be fatal. Sakura, if you manage to master this with Gravity, you will be able to freely alter the weight of any object you come in contact with by altering their gravitational field. Though don't get your hopes up, I've been working on my affinities for almost two years, and they still both need more work before they could actually be practical in battle. I need all my concentration and at least fifteen seconds to create the chakra, never mind preventing it from dispersing, so not only am I a sitting duck while charging it, but even after that, my combat-abilities are dampened. As for you Sasuke, I don't think you're ready yet to learn how to use your force in close-combat."
If Naruto had expected Sasuke to explode in anger, he was disappointed. Sasuke simply raised a brow and gave Naruto a look. "On what basis?" He asked, only the smallest bit of anger vibrating in his voice.
Naruto shrugged. "On the basis that Void is the most devastating of all Forces in close combat. Time ages, Gravity alters weight, Death causes apoptosis in living beings and weakens inanimate structures to a lesser degree, Space is essentially a blade that cuts all, putting it in second place in terms of damage, but Void does more than that. Void erases all it touches. Basically, if you learned it right now, then you could essentially effortlessly and without even a trace of resistance annihilate almost everything you touch, unless another Force or certain objects of divine and... darker origin are used. And as much as I think of you as a brother Sasuke, I'm not putting such power in anyone's hands until I am absolutely convinced that that person will not abuse it. You will learn different abilities of the Void, but not the absolute annihilation of the close-combat style. Not yet."
Sasuke frowned, but he nodded. As much as he would have liked to be able to do that, he understood Naruto's unease. Such an ability in the wrong hands would undoubtedly lead to a disaster of epic proportions. And it was not as if his friend wasn't going to teach him anything, just not the instant-kill techniques right off the bat. "I understand."
Naruto nodded. "I knew you'd understand." He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, they were red and slitted. "Well then, let's begin."
Sakura understood that their teacher would not be Naruto, but the Kyuubi no Kitsune itself. She gulped.
After that day, Sasuke and Sakura had learned one thing about the infamous bijuu. The Kyuubi was a merciless slavedriver, and a sadist.
Sakura felt worse than ever before, including when Naruto had pumped his chakra into her to enlarge her reserves. Every muscle ached, she had the mother of all migraines, and her chakra-coils felt strained.
Sasuke was doing slightly better, being more used to training, but he too was tired, both physically and mentally, and his coils ached as well.
The reason for this suffering was that Kyuubi had not simply given them instructions, but personally ensured that there was no rest for them. She had pushed them to and far beyond their limits, until both were able to create at least a sliver of their respective Force-chakra.
Sakura was then given a large bottle with a feather in it and the task to alter the speed of the feather's descent after turning it around, while Sasuke was given a ball charged with chakra that he was supposed to absorb.
To ensure a quicker success, Kyuubi almost carefully refilled their reserves with small amounts of Naruto's chakra. Almost carefully meaning that Kyuubi made sure that neither would writhe in agony for a few hours or more.
Since neither of the two had come even close to succeeding their task, Kyuubi simply said they should keep practicing, and that further instructions would only come after they had succeeded in their current task, or to quote "I will not waste my time trying to teach you to run when you incompetent imbeciles can't even stand."
Naruto had warned them not to take it too seriously, and that Kyuubi had little patience and care when it came to humanity as a whole, let alone mercy, and that he was impressed that they had managed to create Force-chakra, even if it was only a sliver, on their first day of practice, subtly mentioning that even the Hokage had needed three days to accomplish what they had done.
Of course, the old man had less free time to practice, but Naruto saw no need to point that out.
Dinner was a pleasant affair, with the three genin telling Kakashi about their training, and some more detail about the Forces, Naruto in particular telling about the troubles he went through to reach his current level.
All was well, until Inari decided that now was a good time to share his depressions. He jumped up. "Why are you all even training? It doesn't matter how hard you work, you can't win against Gatou! He'll just kill you!"
For a second, there was silence, then there were chuckles. Sasuke and Naruto were trying to hold in their laughter, but after a few seconds of pointless struggle, it broke out of them.
Sasuke calmed down first, and shook his head. "That was a good one. Gatou is a civilian. He's also a midget, and not exactly fit. Even Sakura, who is the furthest one behind in terms of training, could wipe the floor with him."
Inari frowned. "What do you know? Sitting here and talking big, you know nothing of suffering!"
Naruto's chopsticks had snapped beneath his fingers. A dangerous silence filled the dining-room, before Naruto broke it, his voice hardly more than a whisper. "I dare you to say that again."
While Inari heard the warning, he was gone too far to realize that he should cut his losses while he still had the chance. "You come from your safe, prosperous village, you never had to go through any hardships, and you think you can just come here and give us, who suffered so much, your stupid lectures? Just shut up when you don't know what you're talking about!"
Sasuke's eyes had widened with the brat's speach, and while he wanted to give the kid a piece of his mind, right now, he had to save himself before Mount Naruto erupted. Grabbing Sakura, who couldn't know what was about to happen, and his sushi, he ducked beneath the table, while Kakashi prepared himself for the explosion that was about to happen.
Naruto had paled, but he remained silent. Instead, the glasses and plates seemed to vibrate. The shaking strengthened, and all present could feel a strong breeze shooting around in the room. "I know nothing of hardship?" Naruto repeated, almost curiously. Then he jumped up, and the breeze turned into a hurricane.
Inari was blown back, his hat torn off his head. "I know nothing of hardship?" Naruto demanded, furious. "I KNOW NOTHING OF HARDSHIP? You self-righteous little shit! You sit here in a warm room, with food on your plate, your loving family around you, and YOU dare lecture ME on hardship? So you lost a parent, Bu hu. My parents died the day I was born. I was alone for years, not wanted by anyone, and you dare to speak to me of suffering? Have you ever slept on cold earth even though it was snowing because you had nowhere else to go? Have you ever eaten dirt just to still your hunger? Licked the water out of a filthy puddle because the alternative was dying of thirst? Have you ever talked to someone even though you knew you'd get beaten, just because the months of absolute loneliness were driving you to madness? HAVE YOU?"
The winds circling Naruto were increasing with every word he spoke, until Inari felt like a ragdoll, wind and the occasional small object slamming into him. He was pressed to the wall, unable to move. Still, he forced his head left and right, just so that it would end.
As sudden as it had started, it was over. The wind ceased, and Inari dropped to the floor. Naruto was standing in front of him, his eyes cold as ice. "You know neither hunger, nor thirst, not summer's heat or winter's chill. And most of all, you have no idea what loneliness really means. Just shut up if you don't know what you're talking about." With that, he turned to Tsunami and bowed. "I apologize for the damage, and I will of course replace anything that I can't fix."
Tsunami nodded, slightly nervous, though reassured at Naruto's polite and friendly way. She understood what it meant to have a sore point, and if what the boy had let slip was true, then it was no wonder he didn't want to be reminded of it, and had zero patience for those who just claimed to suffer while still enjoying life's benefits.
Naruto then turned to his sensei. "I need to cool down. I probably won't be back before tomorrow."
Kakashi nodded. "That may be for the best. Take care of yourself, Naruto."
Naruto nodded and left. A few minutes later, the windows started to shake slightly. Sasuke sighed. "There will be a storm tonight."
And there was. Naruto's close bond to the wind had the unintended side-effect that his moods had a certain influence on the weather. Of course he didn't have the power to actually alter the weather all by himself, for that, his affinities in Water and Lightning would have to become equal to his Wind-affinity, and that would take years, but his power sufficed to effectively start a chain-reaction that resulted in a typhoon over Nami. Nobody was foolish enough to go out that evening, when the wind tore at the windows and doors, and the unfortunate souls outside, mostly mercenaries hired by Gatou, would go through the worst night of their lives.
One of the worst storms in the history of Nami no Kuni blew over the land, all to release the anger of a single jinchuuriki that braved it, roaring against the wind, until he finally exhausted himself to the point of collapse.
The storm blew a few hours more, before slowly dying out in the morning hours. Slowly, life crawled back out of its holes, and the daily trot began once again. One such person will gain importance later on, and deserves a closer look.
Naruto awakened at the feeling of another presence close by. He could feel wet grass beneath him, and the sun was warming his face. A few birds seemed to have chosen him as a good spot to rest, his instincts counting them as harmless. How had he gotten here?
Then he remembered his outburst. 'Shit. This close to a coast, there was probably a large storm tonight. Well, the only question now is who the person close to me is.' Naruto laid still, giving no indication that he had noticed his guest, wanting to see what intentions he or she had.
A shadow fell over his eyes. For an instant, there was a spike of killing-intent, but it was gone a second later, and Naruto felt a hand shake his shoulder. "Wake up. You'll catch your death if you sleep on the ground, especially after a storm like last night."
He opened his eyes, and was surprised. The face looking back was that of a beauty. Long raven hair, a friendly smile, and kind dark eyes. Naruto smiled back. "Don't worry, I've had worse. I'm Naruto by the way. Naruto Uzumaki."
"Pleased to meet you. My name is Haku." The stranger replied.
Really pretty. There was only one thing that slightly disturbed him. "Haku, no offense, but... you're a boy, aren't you?"
Haku's eyes widened, and a gleam of long suffering flickered through his eyes, together with an almost insane glee. "You can tell? You're the first that could tell!"
Naruto got the feeling that while Haku enjoyed messing with others, which explained him wearing pink, there was a certain annoyance that had formed. Apparently people often mistook him for a girl. He took a step back. "Well, I have good instincts, and you have an Adam's apple, though a small one, not to mention that your voice is a bit too deep at times, indicating that you're still going through puberty."
Haku was happily nodding to every word. "You're right. I wish more people paid attention like you."
Naruto shrugged. "So, what are you doing here?" He asked.
Haku raised a basket, filled with herbs. "A friend of mine is injured. I'm gathering some herbs for him, and after the storm, I have to see how many places are still usable."
Naruto looked around. A lot of branches had been torn off, lying around all over the floor. Ups. "Can I help?" Naruto asked.
Haku smiled. "Sure."
For a while, both worked in silence, then Naruto asked "And how is Zabuza doing?"
Haku froze. "...Pardon?" He asked, hoping to feign ignorance.
Naruto smiled. "When you first found me, there was a burst of killing-intent. Also, you're moving far too graceful for a civilian. You're the fake hunter-nin that saved Zabuza. Looking at the herbs you've gathered, I'd estimate he still can't move much. How is his arm by the way?" A second later, he jumped to the side to avoid a load of senbon.
Haku's eyes had turned cold. "I won't allow you to harm Zabuza-sama."
Naruto raised his hands. "Whoa, calm down. I have no intention of harming Zabuza. Well, unless he attacks Tazuna again."
"How do I know that's true?" Haku asked, but he didn't throw any more senbon.
Naruto rolled his eyes, before making a quick motion, and the senbon in Haku's hands were cut in half. "If I wanted to kill you, you would already be dead. Your guard was down long enough for me to slice open your jugular veins like I just did your senbon. Take my not doing so as a sign of good will. Personally I don't understand why you work for Gatou, though my guess is that you badly need money."
Haku's wide eyes gave Naruto all the answer he needed. "As I thought. That exploding-tag Zabuza nailed me with was probably one of his last, and he is practically unarmed. The reason he goes without shirt is that he's trying to make it look like he has decided he only needs his sword, though in reality, you probably don't have the resources to buy more. My guess is that your only weapons are senbon, which are fairly cheap. You do realize that Gatou is not the type to keep his word."
Haku seemed insecure, Naruto having apparently spoken something that Haku himself had suspected for a while. "What are you trying to say?"
Naruto smiled. "Well, you could always join us. Not as a servant or anything, but both the Uchiha and the Namikaze would grant you protection, as long as you have committed no crime, not counting Zabuza's missions as a Kiri-shinobi, against Konoha or its allies. Recruiting missing-nin is a common practice after all."
Haku did a short mental recount, and couldn't remember anything they had done against Konoha. He sighed. "While tempting, there are two things speaking against it. For one, we have no way of trusting you. Second, we are professionals. We do not betray our employers unless they betray us first. As such, I must decline."
Naruto shrugged, understanding where Haku was coming from. "Oh well, can't say I didn't expect the reply. Still, the offer is open, perhaps you will both change your minds later. I've informed myself about Zabuza, and as far as missing-nin go, he seems to be a decent one. He still has his honor, that's more than one can say for most."
Haku bristled, but nodded. It was true, they had done things that he wasn't proud of, things that most would call 'evil', but at the heart, Zabuza was a good person. "Perhaps. Farewell." With that, he left in a shunshin.
Naruto couldn't help but smile. The day had been productive. He now had confirmation that Zabuza wasn't in any condition to fight yet, meaning they still had plenty of time to train. Also, he had found that he liked Haku as a person, and would rather have him alive on his side than dead before his feet, meaning that he'd try to recruit him. He reserved his judgment about Zabuza until he actually had a chance to talk to him outside of taunting each other on the battlefield. In any case, both would make good allies, if he managed to convince them to be such.
Pondering these new potential allies he turned to return to the place he had angrily left the evening before.
The next few days were all the same; the three genin training, Kakashi recovering, Naruto's clones working on the bridge under Tazuna's supervision.
Sakura's control had returned to its old level, only with much more chakra, and she was making good progress on her Gravity-affinity. She was still a beginner, but she could now create Gravity-chakra in amounts great enough to create weak gravitational fields in just over a minute. She could also now control the volume and the distribution of her sound-jutsu, and was in fact trying to come out with new variations.
Sasuke's training was less diverse, but in return, he could form Void-chakra in thirty seconds, and had the basics of draining chakra from an enemy and using it for yourself down, though he still needed five minutes to cause a single Kage Bunshin to pop from lack of chakra.
While that didn't sound like much, considering the difficulty of Forces, the two were prodigies. Also, before Kyuubi told them how to do anything with their Force-chakra, both Sasuke and Sakura had to be able to produce it from every part of her bodies on command, and they had to practice hourly to improve their time.
Naruto on the other hand was working mainly on his new jutsu, though he still trained both his body and his skills with his blade. There was progress, but...
Naruto frowned in concentration. His index-finger was extended, and wind was spiraling it, creating static electricity that mixed with the Lightning-chakra he focused at its tip. A small ball of lightning was forming, slowly growing from the size of a flea to the size of an ant.
Suddenly Naruto cursed. "Shit!"
Sasuke knew his friend well enough to immediately connect the dots. He tackled Sakura, throwing them both to the ground.
A second later, the ball exploded into a myriad of lightning that arched everywhere, smashing holes into the nearby trees and rocks.
Sasuke had used his own Lightning-affinity to redirect the bolts heading for him and Sakura, while Naruto's wind scattering all that aimed for him.
When the chaos died down, Sasuke slowly rose, his breath heavy. "Naruto... you... dobe! What's the big idea?"
Naruto scratched the back of his head and laughed nervous. "Hehehe. Sorry. I need a lot of power to get range and penetration, but with the amount I need, it's really tricky not to lose control."
Sasuke his him up the head. "Idiot! A little heads up next time, is that too much to ask for?"
Naruto raised his hands in defense. "Sorry, won't happen again."
Suffice to say, that particular jutsu was still not even close to complete. However, a few days before the estimated day of combat, one more thing occurred. Something that seemed grand, but in reality was only the beginning of an even greater chain of events that would shake the world in its foundations.
The rematch, as Kakashi had called it in jest, was less than a week away. Team 7 had gathered to discuss the coming days.
"So Naruto, how much do you know about Hyouton?"
Naruto shrugged. "Not much. There are two versions. The first is used mainly in nations like Yuki no Kuni, where they simply use existing ice for their techniques. It's superior to Suiton, but it doesn't require wind. The second version is what Haku apparently has. It uses both Water- and Wind-chakra and can be called the true Hyouton. It's by far superior, and I wouldn't be surprised if Haku can imbed his Ice with special abilities."
"That much is obvious, but for human standards, it is a necessary warning." A new voice rang out.
Four heads spun, staring at the speaker, who was leaning against a tree.
It was a man, seemingly in his early twenties. His hair was red as blood and fell past his shoulders like water. His features were so even that they almost looked like a fine mask, his eyes hidden beneath a pair of sunglasses, though his ears were oddly pointy. He was wearing an exquisitely made black mantle that spiked at the shoulders, gloves, and elegant boots, both boots and gloves decorated with thorn-vines. What really stood out was that he was carrying something large on his back.
The man pushed himself up, and Team 7 could identify the object. It was a coffin. However, not an ordinary wooden box, this one seemed to be made of metal. It was black and decorated with what looked like silver vines with droplets clinging to it. The top was made to look like a giant bat. The wings were folded before the chest, while a surprisingly realistic bat-head with large sharp teeth was on the top.
What really unnerved the four was that the man had managed to come this close without anyone sensing even the faintest hint of his presence.
Kakashi's eye narrowed. "Who are you?" He demanded, his hand inching to his weapons.
The man smiled. "My name is of no importance here." Then he removed his glasses, and Naruto paled.
His iris was yellow, his pupil slitted, and his sclera black as the darkest nights. Naruto took a step back, his hand shooting to his sword. Anything else would only be a waste of time and effort.
Sasuke noticed his friends fear. "What's wrong?" He asked.
Naruto gulped, and said only one word, at which Sasuke's blood ran cold. "Vampire."
The man laughed. It was a cold laugh that revealed his sharp fangs. "Correct, host of the Nine-tailed Fox. I am indeed a vampire, and compared to me, the one you met, Maria, was but a child."
Naruto's throat was oddly dry. "What would someone like you want here?" He managed to stammer out.
The vampire smiled, set the coffin down and pressed one of the decorations, that caused the wings of the coffin to open slightly, revealing a hilt. The vampire pulled the rapier out and pointed it at them. "I wish to test you all. En Garde."
Naruto barely had time to pull out his blade before the immortal was on top of him and block the decapitating strike. But even though he had reinforced himself, the sheer force behind the strike blew him back.
Instead of rushing after him, the vampire turned on Sasuke, who had pulled out two of his daggers. Sasuke stared wide-eyed when he blocked a thrust, only for the vampire to slightly flick his wrist and send him flying. Kakashi jumped forward, using two kunai to block a blow that would have gutted the airborne Sasuke. The rapier sank into them like they were wooden, but the kunai stopped the blade once it reached the center. Then the shinobi jumped back, ready for the next strike.
The vampire raised a brow. "That truly is an excellent sword. I had expected it to shatter." He glanced around. "The boy's daggers are of a similar quality, while the knives the man has is not as good, though still enough to not break immediately. Perhaps this will be fun. Entertain me!"
Naruto spat out. It seemed there was no way out of this, so he'd have to give it his best shot. He pulled his blade to him until it was horizontal, the hilt at his lips and the blade extending to the right. He looked at the blade and whispered a single word. "Hum."
The blade seemed to blur slightly. The vampire smiled. "I see. High-speed vibration. Indeed, with that, you would be able to cut through nearly anything. However, my rapier is not forged by mortal hand, and will withstand your blows. Still, show me what you got!"
Sasuke's grip on his daggers tightened, while Kakashi drew a new pair of kunai. Sakura seemed unsure of what to do, and fell back a bit, noting that their enemy had apparently estimated her threat-level as beneath his notice.
Naruto and Sasuke had fallen back into their perfect teamwork, with Kakashi working support, but it was clear that the vampire was still way out of their league. He had yet to receive a single scratch, while the three mortals were covered in shallow cuts. Naruto had been disarmed when he protected Kakashi from being gutted, and Kakashi had formed a Raikiri in his hand to use the focused energy as a protection, hoping that the rapier would act as a lightning-rod.
The vampire looked at them, seemingly bored, as he cut Naruto's arm open. "That's not enough. If you can't do more, then I'm afraid I'll have to..." His eyes widened as the blood he had spilled formed razor-sharp tips that fired themselves at him, while a long, sickle-like blade of blood shot out of Naruto's arm, giving him a deep gash through his left eye.
"Ninpou: Banshi no Kyatu!" The vampire's head spun around, his remaining eye still wide. He had estimated the girl to be too weak, and completely forgotten about her. That was a fatal mistake, as Sakura had moved to a position in which she could strike without hitting her comrades.
Unlike before, the sound-wave was not just spreading, it was more like a blast of incredibly violent sound that actually shredded objects in its path. The vampire didn't have time to react, and was caught in the center of the attack.
For a second, he simply stood there, unmoving, then two fountains of blood shot out of his ears, coloring the ground crimson. Not one to waste a golden opportunity, Kakashi rushed at the vampire's back and rammed his hand through it, destroying the heart, before jumping back.
Naruto had used a chakra-string to retrieve his blade, and horizontally slashed through his chest and arms with his right hand. His left was open, fingers straight, and covered in an odd distortion, as he pulled it down vertically in front of the vampire's face, the distortion extending behind the devil. More blood sprayed as the vampire was cut into four pieces, the cuts ironically forming a perfect cross.
To make sure, Sasuke immediately sent a fireball so hot that it was glowing white, to make sure that nothing of the monster remained. Then the four stood there, looking at the flames as they slowly flickered out of existence.
Clap, clap, clap.
Four heads spun around, and seven eyes widened at the sight of the red-haired vampire standing there unharmed, the coffin once again horizontally on his back. "Very impressive. That was what I was hoping to see. Naruto Uzumaki, your usage of Space and your blood was quite impressive. Your comrades are also more than I had hoped. Still, after taking in all that, I believe that one more test is needed right now."
He pressed another decoration, and the mouth of the bat opened with a CLACK, releasing a giant spray of blood. The humans jumped back, unsure of what the vampire had planned.
But the mighty devil just stood there, a smile on his face. He looked at Naruto. "Tell me boy, what do you know of the Netherworld?"
Naruto blinked due to the obscure question. "It's a parallel world, completely different and independent from this one. There are no humans, it has completely different elements, and... No way!"
The vampire's grin widened. "Correct." With that, he merged with the shadows and was gone.
Naruto on the other hand was in a panic. "RETREAT! WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!"
Sakura stared at him. "What's wrong?"
Naruto gestured wildly at the spread blood, that seemed to vibrate slightly. "That! That madman released a Netherworld Elemental! GO!"
The blood meanwhile began to rise, as if gravity had reversed, before gathering.
Naruto groaned. "It's too late. Fuck!"
Kakashi looked at him. "Why are you so panicked?"
Naruto stared at him. "The Netherworld has its own set of elements, and logically, its own set of Elementals. That over there" he pointed at the stirring red blob "is a Blood-Elemental. Whatever you do, don't make contact with it. While your existence will protect you from immediate drain, if that Elemental gets into a single cut, it will suck all the blood right out of you, and I can guarantee that won't be fun."
The blob had finished forming, deciding on a appearance. Up to the hips, she looked to be a fairly attractive woman, if one wasn't bothered by the fact that she was entirely red, being made solely of blood. On her head were something that resembled upside down bat-wings, but could also be horns. She 'wore' a shoulder-less dress with long, frilly sleeves, though the frills had sharp endings which looked more like small spears. She had even added a necklace with a, what else, tear-shaped stone. Her lower body made it clear to even the most colorblind that she was not human. Instead of legs, there was a swirling blob floating two feet above the ground that constantly changed shape, though thorny vines seemed to be a preferred motive. Aside from those, Naruto spotted bats and other animals, flowers, and bizarre outgrowths, each of them potentially able to end them all.
The Elemental smiled, and laughed. Her voice was melodic and pleasant, though it had a certain slightly damp tone to it, signifying that its owner was indeed liquid. "Ah, sweet freedom. But this is not the Netherworld. Oh well, for now, a bit of nourishment will do me good. Hold still, this won't hurt one little bit. I'm not going to feel a thing." With that, the vines shot at them, intending to tear wounds.
Team 7 had been warned by Naruto, and dodged the lethal whips. The Elemental was unconcerned and sent out her blood-bats, who were slightly slower but harder to predict.
Sasuke shot a fireball at both the bats and the central body, hoping to do some damage, or at least distract the Elemental. But the Elemental simply scattered and reformed, the bats not even slowed.
Then Sakura tripped. It had been bad luck really, she still had enough chakra for some boosted jumps, but the pebbles she had landed on gave way, and she fell on her back. A vine shot at her, straight as a spear. She closed her eyes, waiting for the end.
She opened her eyes. Naruto had jumped before her, taking the hit. "Naruto!" Sakura called out when she saw the veins around the wound. Naruto grimaced, but whispered "Ketsuryuu Koushin!"
The swelling of the veins didn't decrease, but it seemed to change. "Naruto, what are you doing?" Sasuke demanded. "'Reversing Blood-Flow'? Do you really think you can take in an Elemental?"
Naruto was sweating and grimacing under the strain, but he forced out an answer. "If I don't... try,... we're all... doomed!"
The Elemental seemed amused, and gave Naruto a curious look. "Very brave. But do you really think a mere mortal can win against an Elemental?"
Naruto looked at her, grim determination in his eyes. "I am... no mere... MORTAL!" With that, his eyes turned crimson, and the tug increased.
The Elemental's eyes widened as it was sucked into Naruto, whose veins seemed to burst under the increasing amount and pressure in them. Then he collapsed.
In his mind, Naruto heard chuckles, then a voice. "Fufufufu, that was brave, but extremely foolish, Naruto Namikaze-Uzumaki. Even with the Kyuubi aiding you, I am far more familiar with my element. Your mastery of blood is weak, a cheap imitation compared to what a true Blood-affinity can do."
Naruto felt despair bubble inside of him. It had been a desperate move, and it had apparently failed. Now how would he protect his comrades?
The Elemental laughed. "Even when faced with death, you care for your comrades? Not a bad attitude, though you need to see your own worth more. You are important for the future child, and you cannot fulfill your destiny if you get yourself killed. As the Queen of Blood-Elementals, I order you not to die. But still, you pass."
Then the voice was gone, and Naruto felt something leave him. The Elemental, no, the Queen-Elemental was using his blood as a gateway to her own realm!
Naruto blinked. This all had been a test?
Then Kyuubi spoke. "Naruto Namikaze-Uzumaki, who are you?"
Naruto was confused. 'What are you talking about?'
"Who are you that a Queen-Elemental of the Netherworld praises you? Who are you that a Prince of Hell tests you?" Kyuubi replied.
'Prince of Hell?'
"The one you fought was no mere vampire. That was Dracula, the first vampire, the mightiest of them all. Powerful enough to become one of Hell's Princes. Just who are you that he of all beings is interested in you?" Kyuubi growled.
Naruto had no answer. Madara spoke. "He is someone special. He is one, yet four, as the Wood-Elemental said. He holds the skills of the Uchiha and the Senju, the power of the Kyuubi no Kitsune, and the knowledge of a seal-master."
Hashirama seemed to agree. "Through you, he has access to knowledge long lost. It is no surprise that he has gained the interest of immortals. What else do they have to do but look for something special?"
Minato also had something to add. "Still, that Elemental spoke of destiny, and that vampire also mentioned something about tests and not enough. I get the feeling they know something we don't."
Kyuubi nodded. "Perhaps. There is an oracle that has never failed before. If she spoke a prophesy after I was sealed, then it could explain the interest. But if that's the truth, then you should train much harder Naruto. Because if your destiny is grand enough to interest Hell's Princes, then to accomplish it you would need far more power than you have."
"Would it be possible to visit this oracle, and learn the truth directly?" Hashirama asked.
Kyuubi shook its head. "Not at the moment. We do not have the time for such a journey right now."
"Yes, especially since, ignoring today's events, there is still a mission that Naruto needs to accomplish." Minato added.
"That's true." Madara agreed "But for now, the boy needs rest."
With that, the darkness completely claimed Naruto.
Chapter 13 is done. It felt like forever, but I finally managed to finish it. I can't believe it took me half a year!
To all wondering, I haven't given up on any of my stories, it's just that I don't have much free time, now that I've been drafted into the military. Should I ever decide to abandon one, trust me, I'll let you know immediately.
Well, I don't think anyone can complain that nothing happened in this chapter. Yes, I made Haku a boy. He does make a good girl, but here, I just decided that he should be male. In other fics I may decide differently, but here, Haku is a boy, and he will stay a boy, end of discussion.
There was some progress with the Forces, but nothing dramatic yet. Sakura has gained a jutsu that I find was made for her, and used it to give the true king of vampires an injury that would have killed any lesser being. And Naruto learns that he may be more than a talented genin striving towards the title of Hokage.
There will be a fight on the bridge, but the Wave-arc should be all wrapped up next chapter, when we will see a few more tricks Naruto has up his sleeve, and just why Madara was so certain that he'd survive no matter how the battle against Hashirama ended. I never liked the explanation 'He got his brother's eyes, so he's immortal', so I made my own.
Naruto trying to pull an Elemental in was a homage to the stupid spur-of-the-moment-decisions that children and canon-Naruto are known for. However, in the end, it was the only way to pass the test.
I've put links for Dracula's and the Blood-Elemental's pictures on my profile, wait a few minutes if they're not there immediately, though they should be by now.
In any case, I guess I'll describe the new jutsu I invented in this chapter.
Raiton: Kyoudan (Lightning Release: Assassin's Bullet)
Range: Long (10m+)
A jutsu developed by Naruto. It uses large amounts of Lightning-chakra, compressing it into a small orb that is fired like a bullet. It flies in a straight line, and has great penetration, easily able of smashing through half an inch of solid steel. Still, the speed of this jutsu is lower than the speed of sound, making it too slow to be of real use against an expert-shinobi, as he would have time to dodge. An improved version is in work.
Ninpou: Banshi no Kyatu (Ninja Art: Shriek of the Banshee)
Range: Short (0-5m) Middle (5-10m) Long (10m+)
A jutsu designed for Sakura Haruno. It amplifies the voice of the user, and allows precise control of the emitted sound-waves. This jutsu increases in strength not only with added chakra, but also with the strength of the user's voice. Sakura has shown to be able to use it on a scale that would be instantly fatal to humans, and it is estimated that it could do even more.
Ketsuryuu Koushin (Reversing Blood-Flow)
Range: Short (0m)
This technique is a result of the Chishio Seiha. The technique simply reverses the blood-flow within the body. Not a good idea to use on the entire body, as that can easily lead to death, but useful in preventing a injury from bleeding out. Also, when facing an opponent that can also manipulate blood, this jutsu can be used to prevent from being drained, unless the opponent is significantly more powerful.
Now onto the Q&A
Q: Will Sasuke learn of 'Kitsune's' identity?
A: Perhaps someday, but not in the immediate future. It's not like Naruto can just go to him and say "Hey Sasuke, remember the ANBU with the fully evolved Sharingan that frightened your brother away? Well that was me. How I have the Sharingan? Funny story really..." You see my point?
Q: Can Naruto copy bloodlines by draining the owner of blood?
A: No. Naruto can use the blood as a weapon, but he cannot gain any attributes that the owner of the blood has.
Q: Will Maria make another appearance?
A: Yes. Yes she will. And it will scare the shit out of Naruto.
Well, that's all for now,