Forest in the Fire Country
The man was walking through the forest at a leisurely pace. Next to him walked his ten year old son. The midday sun beat down on them but the cool breeze alleviated some of the suns' affects. Despite their leisurely pace the boy could tell that his father was uncommonly tense. "Dad, what's wrong," he finally asked as they made their way. "You've seemed upset since we left."
The father looked at his son and smiled wearily. "I just want to get home soon son. The fire country just isn't as safe as it once was and it saddens me." The son knew exactly what his father meant. He had heard rumors throughout his village that another war between the ninja villages had begun. And there was fear that this war threatened to engulf the whole world. Looking sadly at his father the boy asked, "Dad is this war really going to be as bad as they say?"
For a moment the father looked to the sky thoughtfully and then looked at his son with a smile so bright it took his son by surprise. "You know son," he said, "during the last war, before you were born, I travelled to a village that was at the crossroads of it. The buildings were destroyed and there was little food or water and many had died. While I was there I met a beautiful girl that despite all the tragedy around her hadn't lost her spirit and was as strong and vibrant as ever."
"Really dad," the boy said, "Who was she?"
"Well," the father responded, "she was your mother. It was then I realized something; that where there is evil, there is good. Where there is darkness there is also light. Where there is suffering there is hope. Hope that matter how deep in the darkness you may find yourself that the sun will shine once again. And it will son. Because it is always darkest just before dawn."
Naruto: Chronicles of the Seventh
Book Two: New Dawn
Chapter One: Sunrise
Chojuro ran desperately through the halls of the Mizukage's office. He was exhausted and worn from battle but he knew he had to keep going he had no choice really. Personally he couldn't believe what was happening, the idea that Kirigakure could be in such peril seemed for him to be an unimaginable thing. As he turned the corner and made his way down the hall Chojuro couldn't help but recall how this all began, how his world seemed to turn over in just one night and how it seemed it would never again be the same. Events such as this began as they always do; not with an explosion but a whimper.
Kirigakure – Just after Midnight
Hachi yawned deeply from his high perch. This was always the most difficult time of his duty. Nothing ever really happened between midnight and sunrise and he always found it a chore to remain alert. Mind you, he had never once fallen asleep on duty. It was something he was quite proud of. Also, he knew, as all shinobi of Kiri knew the consequences of being caught sleeping on duty. During times of peace, that was few and far between in Kiri one would be banished. No ifs', ands' or but about it. There was no trial, no opportunity to defend oneself. During times of war, sleeping on duty was met with death, and again no one bothered to hold any trial.
"Hey Hachi," said a man as he approached. Hachi turned to see Sato approaching. Hachi smiled at the sight of his old friend. "Sato," he said, "glad to see you buddy. I swear this job can get tedious. I'm glad you stopped by to kill some time." "Yeah," he said as he smiled weakly, "Well I got the short straw and got patrol duty for the night, so don't come complaining to me."
"Yea," Hachi responded, "I guess you're right. So anything interesting happened so far." "Not much," Sato responded, "Just the usual teenagers sneaking around trying to have some fun and one or two party-goers walking around who had a few too many. You know the usual. What's going on over here, anything interesting?" Hachi smiled, "When does anything ever happen around here? By the way have you seen Hiromi? He went off to use the restroom a while back and hasn't returned?"
Sato shook his head, "Sorry, I didn't see him. But you know him. He'll use any excuse to goof off. I'm sure he'll be back soon." Hachi nodded his head in agreement. Personally he never liked Hiromi. Hiromi was a slacker. He often sought to take time off and didn't work as hard as the others. He never seemed interested in advancing his position and was often quite rude. Personally, Hachi didn't understand why Hiromi chose to be a shinobi. His father was a wealthy trader who lived in luxury and Hiromi was his only son.
On the other hand Hiromi and Sato got along greatly. Sato, despite his youth, was strong and wise beyond his years. It was his skills and dedication that allowed him to rise to the position of Third in command of the military and number two of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen. But it was willingness, despite his position, to do even the more menial jobs that endeared him to his men. Even now, to think that a man of Sato's position would volunteer for regular late night guard duty and perform it faithfully was amazing to his men. Sato was always there to listen to his men and never asked of them what he himself would never do.
Hiromi and Sato spoke for a few minutes regarding nothing of great importance. After a while Hiromi began to notice that Hachi had still not returned. "Where is that damned Hachi," Sato said now visibly annoyed. "That bastard better have a damned good reason for being on a thirty minute bathroom break! I swear if he's not back here soon I'll report his ass for dereliction of duty!"
Exasperated, Hachi turned to look out into the dark mist beyond the gate. When out of the corner of his eye he saw movement and heard the rustle of leaves. "Sato-sama," he said sharply, "I think we have an intruder!" Sato drew his famous sword, Earthcutter. Every time Sato unsheathed his sword everyone around him, ally and enemy alike, always seemed to stand in awe of the shear size of his blade. Out of the seven legendary swords this was said to be the heaviest and unbreakable. It was the size of a Zanbato. The blade was made of the purist granite and said to be as sharp as diamond. The hilt was made of reinforced steel in order to compensate for the weight of the blade.
Once, when they were all off duty and drinking together, Sato challenged Hachi, who was no weakling, and three two other ninja to lift his blade. With one hand, Sato placed his sword on the floor as the three men walked over. Smiling confidently they all grabbed the sword and tried to lift it. It did not move. No matter how they tried they were unable to lift the sword even an inch of the ground.
From that day, Hachi was forever impressed with and terrified of Sato. But if there was one thing Hachi knew, it was he was glad Sato was on his side. At least, until this moment, when Hachi looked down to see the blade of Earthcutter piercing out of his chest. Funny thing was, he felt no pain. His entire body was numb. And he watched as Sato pulled his sword out, Hachi couldn't believe how detached he felt. It was as if this wasn't his dying body; as if this wasn't his chest that was now practically gone with only a gaping whole now remained. All he could think about was why? But unfortunately Hachi he would never come to learn the answer. Hachi was dead before his body even hit the ground.
Sato stared at his Hachi body with a cold, indifferent stare. Part of him regretted what he had done. Despite his best efforts Sato had grown to genuinely like Hachi. It was unfortunate that Hachi had drawn guard duty tonight. But once Sato had received word that his masters' plan was to begin tonight, Hachi's fate was sealed. As was Hiromi's for that matter. But unlike Hachi, Sato didn't like Hiromi. In fact Sato smiled a little as he beheaded Hiromi, who as Hachi had correctly guessed, had snuck of to relax. Hiromi didn't even open his eyes in time before Sato lowered Earth Cutter to his neck. And after quickly disposing of the body Sato had made his way to the Eastern gate where Hachi stood; and where he would die.
Sato felt a little self satisfaction in completing the role he had played. When Zetsu approached him those many years ago he was just a young ninja who had barely just receive a place among The Seven. He had recently lost his sister, sacrificed in a needless battle. It was then he knew there had to be a better way; a better world. It was then Zetsu came and showed it to him. Zetsu told him about his master and his plan and most importantly, how Sato could play a significant role in bringing change and peace.
So Sato joined, and focused only on raising though the ranks of the Kiri military. Over time he gained the rank of Number Two of The Seven and Lieutenant of the Military. With the position came the ability to move the security personnel away from places Akatsuki needed to be and access to information Akatsuki could use. And on this night, the ability to volunteer for guard duty so that he could personally weaken Kirigakure's defenses.
Sato bent down to remove himself from anyone's view and then reached into his pocket and removed a small radio receiver. He then placed it in his ear and turned the dial trying to get a signal. After a few seconds he heard the sound of breathing on the other end. "This is Sato at the East gate," he said, "All opposition on this end has been neutralized." On the other end Kisame smiled, "Great job Sato. We're going to move in now."
Kisame knelt on the branch of a tree not more than five hundred yards from the Eastern gate as he waited for it to open. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath as if he were trying to savor this moment. From the very day he was forced to leave Kirigakure he had dreamt of this moment. Of the time he could return, not under the cover of darkness, hiding in the shadows. But as a conqueror; the one who would crush Kirigakure for its' weakness. That was the reason he joined Akatsuki.
He remembered the day Pain approached him. It was day like any other. He was had just completed a hit for one of his multitude of nameless clients when Pain stopped him in the middle of the road. At first he found Pain and his pale female friend to be hilarious and quite foolish. To him they were just like all the other weaklings who thought themselves strong enough to challenge a member of The Seven. His first instinct was to kill them both. Well perhaps not both. The woman could prove useful he thought; if only for an hour or so. Pain realized that Kisame wasn't the type to be swayed by words and proceeded to antagonize him into fight.
Within seconds Kisame was defeated and came to a swift realization. That this man, Pain, wasn't like the other little weaklings with little dreams he was too weak to ever attain. This man may be crazy, but he's strong. Strong enough perhaps, to actually do what he claims. It was then Kisame decided to listen in earnest. It was then Kisame became Akatsuki. Now, finally, his goal was within his grasp.
"Hey you plan on day dreaming forever old man?" Kisame turned to his right to see that Suigetsu had arrived and was staring at him coldly. Unlike Pain, to Kisame Suigetsu was every bit like those he despised. To Kisame, Suigetsu was a fool who believed he had the strength to defeat him. Suigetsu was the living embodiment of everything that was wrong with Kirigakure. Suigetsu was far too enamored with what little strength he had and because of this, never pushed himself to get stronger. And his overestimation of his power is what made him weak. If it were not for Madara, Kisame would have long since killed this boy.
But it didn't matter. Kisame knew one day or another Suigetsu would challenge him. And then Suigetsu would realize his weakness, seconds before his death. Kisame smiled at Suigetsu, "Actually I was just about to make the call boy. But if you'd like I can let you do it. Would that make your day?" Suigetsu grimaced slightly. Kisame always went out of his way to patronize him and treat him like some petulant child. He hated being treated like that and he knew Kisame knew that. But he let it slide, like he did all of Kisame's affronts. For Sasuke he would let it go, but one day, when things settle down, he will kill Kisame and take Samehada.
Suigetsu looked on to the Gates of Kirigakure and grunted, "Damn I hate all this hiding and shit. If it were up to me I would have just stormed the placed and cut through anyone who opposed me." Kisame stood and raised his hand. "That's why you're not in charge of anything," he said. "It's because of stupid ideas like that. If we stormed Kiri in that way many on both sides would die and it would leave us with too few shinobi for our needs. By doing it this way we spare the lives of those we will need later." "Besides," Kisame said as he gave the signal to the hundreds of ninja behind them. "Sometimes stabbing your enemy in the back is just as pleasurable as finishing them from the front."
Sato stood as dozens upon dozens of Akatsuki ninja poured through the gate he had just opened. Silently they stormed the city and went about there task with cold efficiency. Both Kisame and Suigetsu landed on either side of Sato and Kisame smiled wickedly. "This has been a long day coming," he said. "Tell me Sato, are you truly ready for what lies ahead." Smiling Sato replied, "I've been waiting as long as you have Kisame. Remember, I was left behind during your failed assassination attempt for just this reason. I'm ready." "Excellent," Kisame said, "Then lead us to your Mizukage."
Kirigakure – fifteen minutes before dawn
Chojuro was still running through the halls at his fastest pace. Almost there, he thought to himself as he rounded the final corner. He could see the entrance to the Mizukage's chambers a short distance away. And standing before the great iron door stood a dozen of her finest and most loyal bodyguards. Chojuro could hear the distant sound of battle emanating from outside. Try as he might, he and his fellow ninja could not hold back the invading force.
Chojiro had to admit, they seemed to have struck at the most opportune time. Ichiro, the first of the Seven, was away on a mission with a sizable portion of their forces and somehow the invaders knew this which allowed them to infiltrate easily. Obviously someone had tipped them off as to when the best time to attack was. Whoever that person was probably helped them get in as well. Kirigakure was a land in constant turmoil and traitors were often found within the ranks. But whoever helped them this time had to be high up to affect things in such away.
Chojiro had been awakened from his slumber by the sounds of battle. Because of his training he readied himself quickly and was prepared when two of the invaders entered his room. He quickly dispatched them and moved outside where he had been thrust into a nightmare. All around him he saw the scattered bodies of fallen comrades and citizens. Obviously they were all equally unprepared for this assault. Unfortunately they were not quick enough to react.
Chojiro made his way across the rooftops killing enemies were he could. His sole focus was reaching the Mizukage. He arrived near her building where he saw a group of shinobi desperately fighting to fend off the enemy. He quickly came to their aid and helped to kill them all. "What's going on here Chojuro," one ot the ninja asked. "Wish I knew," Chojuro said. "Based on their dress I'd say their rouge ninja; possibly Akatsuki. Where's the Mizukage?" "She's in her office," the ninja said. "She's trying to get a handle on the situation."
Suddenly Chojuro and the others heard several massive explosions coming from different locations in the village. Large plumes of smoke rose and flames could be seen. This isn't some raid, Chojuro thought as he ran inside, this is war.
The doors to the Mizukage's office swung open as Chojuro ran into the room. The fifth was standing looking the windows as her home her village struggled under this sudden assault. Ao was also in the room standing just off to the side. Everywhere she looked she saw signs of battle, fire, smoke, screams. "Mizukage-sama," Chojuro yelled. "What do we do?" Turning to face Chojiro he could see the anger plastered on her face. Never before had he seen her look this way and he knew that before this night ended, someone would pay.
Chojuro stopped in his tracks and fell to one knee and bowed. "I await your orders Mizukage-sama," he said. The Mizukage's face seemed to soften a bit as she looked at her loyal young friend. "I've already sent word for available ninja to either help fight of the invaders and for others to help evacuate the citizens," she said. "However I'm now receiving reports that many of our own Ninja are part of the invaders and they have turned on us. It appears this isn't some raid. This is a full blown coup."
"Which is all the more reason we should get you to the fallout shelter Mizukage-sama," Ao said. "We can't afford to have you taken by these barbarians and traitors!" The Mizukage leaned on her large oak desk and seemed to be in deep contemplation. Slowly she got to her feet and again looked out her windows. Burning, screams, smoke, blood, she could hear, see and feel it all. Her home was turning to ashes around her feet.
Turning back to chojuro and Ao they could see her firce determination and knew her answer before she ever uttered word. "No," she said, "I am the Mizukage of the Mist! A warrior, a soldier and if my people will die tonight then I will do so with them! They wish to kill me then I say let them come and I will show them my wrath and melt them all!"
Suddenly from behind them the large doors once again swung open. Turning they saw it was Sato, Rock of the Hidden Mist. He was breathless and covered in blood. "Mizukage-sama," he said as he closed the doors behind him, "I'm glad you're still safe." The mizukage smiled, she considered Sato to be one of her most loyal ninja and one of the strongest. "I'm glad to see you're safe Sato," she said. "Tell me what you know."
Sato remained close to the door as he he spoke, "It seems that these ninja are rouges who pledged their loyalty to Akatsuki. I'm not sure how they infiltrated our land so quickly but they were able to enter the village without much resistance and their numbers and skill are great. More distressing is the fact that nearly half of our own ninja are also loyal to Akatsuki and has turned on us. At this rate we'll be over-run in less than an hour."
Ao stood and listened to Sato's story and asked him, "Sato, where are the guard we placed in front?" Sato looked at Ao and said, "I thought it better if they were sent outside to hold off Akatsuki. With two of the Seven and the Mizukage herself I doubt we'd need mush protection." Ao thought Sato's explaination was sound yet there was something wrong. Something he couldn't place. Sato was covered in blood, obviously from fighting the invaders. Yet he seemed….calm. Even for him he was far too calm for someone fighting a battle in which his side was so overmatched.
"I strongly suggest you let me move you to the shelter Mizukage-sama," Sato said. "As I've said, we don't have much time. Chojuro and Ao can remain here to give their orders in your stead." Ao spoke up, "You think it would be wise to escort the Mizukage alone?" Sato seemed to take this as an insult and sharply responded, "I am number Two of the Seven, The Rock of the Mist. Who else is better capable than I, especially with Souta away?"
"I think Sato is right Mizukage-sama," Chojuro said as he walked near Sato. "Your safety is what's important now." The Mizukage frowned, realizing the wisdom in their words. "Fine," she said, "Sato, you take me to the shelter. But I want constant reports."
Something is not right, Ao thought, something is off. I hate myself for this but I have to check. Byakugan!! Using the stolen Byakugan in his right eye Ao quickly scanned about and made a horrifying realization. "Chojuro," he yelled, "Get away from Sato! He's a liar and a traitor!" Chojuro lept away and stood looking at Sato who merely stared at Ao with contempt. "What's the meaning of this Ao," the Mizukage said.
"Mizukage-sama," Ao responded, "Sato is covered in blood, and yet using my eye I can see he has not even a scratch on him! And the men we had placed to guard the entrance is at this moment all lying dead several yards down the hall. And even from here I can tell their wounds are all from a large sword like yours Sato!"
It was then Sato's contemptuous look turned to pleasure as he laughed loudly. "You know Ao," he said, "I should have killed you first. But my mistake was underestimating your ability to see through deception."
The Mizukage then burst into sudden rage, "So it is true. You are a traitor to Kirigakure!" Sato then turned angrily to the Mizukage and said, "I am no traitor to Kiri! If anyone is a traitor it's you! Under your watch Kirigakure has grown soft! We are joke to the Ninja world! There was a time the Seven Swordsmen and the military of Kirigakure was the most feared entity in the entire world! Now we are but a shell of ourselves, surviving off the scrapes of the other countries!"
"When we were this feared entity," the Mizukage said, "We lived in constant war. We never knew peace. Would you prefer to go back to that? To a time, under the third, where all this land knew was battle and suffering?!"
"I would prefer," Sato responded, "To die on my feet quickly than to die on my knees slowly." Sato reached behind his back and drew his heavy sword. "But I will do you the honor, Mizukage-sama, to allow you to die as a noble."
Without warning, Sato saw a large flash of light and from behind Chojuro came at him with his own sword drawn. Sato reacted quickly and blocked Chojuro's attack, which Sato quickly realized, was exactly what Chojuro wanted. Chojuro quickly separated his blade into two and used the second to release a blast of energy that launched Sato and himself forward, crashing through the window and out into the night.
The Mizukage ran to the window prepared to leap out in pursuit when Ao reached out and grabbed her arm. "Mizukage-sama," he said, "You can't go after them. Chojuro did this to by us time. We must leave!" Realizing he was right and quickly followed him to the door. "We can still make it to the shelter and from there re-assess our options." The Mizukage was about to respond when they heard the horse, grainy voice address them. "Leaving so soon? I was hoping our reunion would last longer."
Turning, Ao and the Mizukage stood astonished as they looked upon the masked figure in Akatsuki robes, who was now stepping through the broken window. "Long time no see, little Mayumi-kun."
End of Chapter One