Disclaimer: I dont own nothing but my words.
A/N: I know...I shouldn't have a new story here...but I'm bringing down Journeys for it's re-write and I would feel weird about not having four tales up here after having it for so long, so here is an idea I've had kicking around for a while, let me know what you think. ^_^ Special thanks to LoPe for help with some of descriptions and story ideas. Same to Whitedragon and Narilyte! Thanks a ton guys!
To Live Forever
Chapter 1: A Place for Everything…
So it is said of Zandri,
First among the High Queens of Deshret,
Last among the rulers of Deshret,
She stood alone against the great beast of Calamity,
That she fell defending the people,
May her reign continue for all eternity in the next life.
-Translated from the hieroglyphics at the Pillar of Remembrance.
He couldn't really remember when it was he had started coming here.
He knew it had been hot, that was about it, the scorching heat of the summer, noon-day sun was not something to be underestimated when one lived in Fire Country.
He remembered searching everywhere, at this time of the day the matron didn't let any of the children back into the orphanage, believing that they needed that time out to play and get some good exercise, it also helped to keep any of the kids from getting to sad at their rather paltry living conditions.
The fact was a simple one, when recovering from war and the devastation that a demon will bring to your town, funding an orphanage was hardly the first place that the money was sent.
Still, it was a nice enough existence, while most of the children avoided him, usually at the behest of the other workers at the large, though crumbling, home, the matron was always kind to him.
He had asked the old man that would visit him from time to time why it was that she was always so nice when the others would ignore him or push him away, he had remembered him smiling a little sadly before saying that the matron was once something called a wet nurse, that she had worked for the Kages for years, helping to rear his own sons when they had been small, and now she ran the orphanage.
It was on this day, his desperate search for a shady spot that was not taken up by the large dogs the tattooed people would have, or the ones that would always look at the clouds, that he had happened upon a rather strange place not too far out of the 'village' in the surrounding forests that were still contained by the outer walls of the growing city.
The odd little place was surrounded by a low, rotting fence that looked as though that, at one point, it had been pretty, more for look than effect. Pushing aside a rotting bit of bamboo he stepped cautiously inside and was almost instantly swallowed up by overgrown grass and weeds, a boy of no more than six, he couldn't hope to be taller than these things.
Smiling at how much cooler he was feeling already he had moved deeper into the odd grounds and promptly fell face first to the ground, his tattered sandals catching on something at his feet. Looking closer, and still needing to part the grasses so he could better see, he saw what looked like a large stone, the worn kanji on it unreadable for a number of reasons, first of which being that he couldn't read.
He remembered idly cursing the stone before he rose once more and ambled deeper in, his eyes barely spotting what looked like the top of a stone structure through the almost suffocating foliage.
As he moved in, careful to dodge around the other stones that seemed laid out in something of a pattern he came to the base of the structure, his eyes widening in shock at what lay before him.
The whole of the thing was large, if worn. It's yellowed and rough stone showing that it was at one point a thing of beauty, water worn and windswept effigies all but lost to time.
However, it was the large door, flanked by odd statues that had caught his eye. Each of the large, man looking stone sculptures were standing tall, arms before them in what looked to be, at one point, the pose for holding something quite large. The faces of the men were long washed away, but the odd hoods they seemed to have worn were still somewhat there, though he could see where they had been broken before being further weathered.
Putting them aside for the moment he peered deeper inside the doorway and smiled to himself, it was dark, cool, hidden from sight and hard to find.
Casting one last look about the area, a brilliant smile lighting up his whisker marked face he dashed inside, almost instantly being engulfed in darkness and a comforting cool, slightly damp air. Letting out a sigh of contentment he looked around the darkened room and saw that he couldn't see very deep inside at first, his eyes slow to adapt as he moved closer to the walls, his little hands coming up to run along the stone as a guide.
Adorning the wall in many neat columns were odd pictures, most painted in badly faded inks and flaking stone inlay. Some images were of birds, others of people, some looked like plants or other animals or odd symbols. It was all more than a little strange for the young blond.
Slowly he moved deeper, this time being a bit more careful of the walls, the matron had always said, if it looked old, don't touch. Slipping his hands into hole-ridden pockets he moved closer to a large picture that seemed to be in far better shape, it still had a lot of the same images on it, but he could at least tell that it was some kind of a battle. He saw men with odd hats and long, pointy sticks on horse drawn carriages, rows and rows of people with odd clothing and bizarre things in their hands. The things were big when compared to the people, almost as large as they were in some cases; the parts they were holding in two hands were almost as long as their arms, with a strangely shaped, curved second half to them, kinda like the hooked knives that the farmers used, but they looked like they were holding them facing the wrong way.
Moving a little further he saw those same images, this time they looked to be fighting some strange creature, the thing was massive and darkly colored, something he couldn't hope to make out in the dim light, but what he did see was that it had ten weird little tail things coming off of it. The images showed the men swinging the odd things, cutting pieces off of the monster as the ones in the carriages charged and stabbed at the legs. Another picture showed row after row of men with strangely curved looking sticks with strings in their hands, sticks that could fire other pointy sticks. Pictures showed a huge number of the pointy sticks raining down on the beast.
He couldn't remember being more excited in his life! Only the matron would read him stories, and even then she only told boring ones about dogs or living cookies. Right here before him was a giant picture book showing people fighting a real monster.
Hardly able to keep his steps steady he ran to the next picture and gasped. This picture showed the monster again, this time next to a bunch of strange looking triangles and other buildings, some like the big tower in the middle of the village, only pointier, others like the faces on the mountain. The thing that was scary was he saw just how big the creature was compared to these buildings, and how small the people were next to them.
The next picture showed the huge…thing with its tails pointing all over, and a ball of fire coming from its mouth, destroying the buildings and killing the people. Naruto felt a flash of anger and sadness wash over him. Was this what these stories were like? They were supposed to be heroes beating the monsters…but all these people were dying…
With a slight pout he moved up to the next picture and gasped. There, standing on top of one of the weird, hokage-mountain-like buildings, was a really pretty woman…pretty like that purple haired girl he had seen going to the academy and her red eyed friend. This one looked like she had long black hair; a strange thing on her head like some of the other people on the carriages, but hers was even fancier. It looked to wrap around the back of her head and kinda fan out, and covered the top of her head completely, like when some of the kids would put pots on their heads and played samurai. At her forehead there was a picture of two snakes wrapping around each other to make a neat little symbol.
She was wearing what looked like a long, white dress, like the people with the white eyes would wear, in one hand was a long stick with a snake on it, and her other hand had a big claw. She was standing on top of the mountain alone, all the other people hiding behind her as the monster came at her.
That was the end…
IT WAS TO DARK TO SEE MORE!
The young blond wanted to scream, it wasn't fair! How did it end! He'd never heard of a pretty lady being the hero in a story, now he found one and he couldn't find out what happened!"
"This is the worst day ever…"
Kicking at the dust at his feet Naruto slowly started making his way back towards the entrance, the doorway so bright that it was hurting his eyes. Squinting at the sudden pain his foot caught something, making him spill onto the floor and let out a yelp as he scraped his knee.
Rubbing the damaged limb vigorously he glared at what he had tripped on.
His eyes widened.
'A hall! Best. Clubhouse. Ever!'
With a massive grin the boy sprang back to his feet, unmindful of his slight limp and made his way down the side passage. As he moved a bit deeper, and seeing that the hall lacked all forms of lighting he knew he wouldn't be getting far without risk in getting lost in the surprisingly large building, never noticing that as he moved deeper the hall would tilt downwards.
Just as he was about to give up his exploring for the day he spotted it, something large and white that seemed to soak up what little light was in the room.
There, before him sitting on a large, slightly glittering chair, was the woman from the picture!
Shock and no small amount of fear washed over him as he stared up at the woman, one hand still holding her odd staff, the other brought up over her heart and showing the long, two pronged claw he had seen from the mural.
"W-WOW! A-Are you real?" As his words echoed through the room he felt a slight chill sweep over him, like someone had just rubbed ice over the back of his neck. Quickly casting a look around him he crept closer to the throne. "I…I saw your picture, you were fighting the monster right? I couldn't see the rest…could you tell me what happened?" As he finally got close enough to really make her out he saw that she wasn't really there…well she was…but she was just a statue.
"Oh…I guess you can't, can you?' Throwing up his hands in frustration he sat down at the foot of the marble statue and let out a sigh, 'I wish you were here…I really want to meet a hero, like you, or the Forth Hokage! He was the greatest! He beat a giant fox monster an-"
Giving a slight chuckle at his own antics he let a smile linger, that had been the first time he had talked to her about things in his life, and it had become quite the habit. When he had returned that evening to find the matron worried sick he just smiled and said he had found a great spot to stay cool and lost track of time exploring. She had scolded him for a while then put him right to bed after a bit of food.
That was another thing he was always thankful for, she had always made sure he got enough to eat. The others that would run the food line or sometimes just the bullies would always take his good or give it to others, he used to complain about it, but after a while he had given up. Besides, when the matron would take him aside for his stories she would have warm tea and some little cakes for him, and those were always better than the thin soup that they had to eat.
Before he knew it, four years had passed, almost daily he would make his way back to his little hiding place, squirreling away all his little trinkets he would find, make or be given as the years passed, all of them back by the statue of his Goddess.
Well, after he had seen the all the murals, curtsy of a small lantern given to him by the Hokage, he couldn't call her anything else. The last of the pictures showed the woman using strange rays of light and her claws to fight the beast, but she ended up being stabbed, it seemed, by one of the tails. As she lay at the beasts feet there was another man that showed up, somehow trapping the monster in a large ball that was torn from the ground before it was thrown into the sky.
The last mural, which dominated the far back wall was of a scene at night, showing the moon. The whole of their city, if not her people, were in ruins.
He knew there was something of them that had lived, this tomb was proof of that, but with no way of reading the script, or even finding out the name of the woman on the throne then he was largely out of luck.
At the time he thought it was a good, fitting name, Megami, and as the years passed it just seemed to grow so by the day.
He was hoping that title would mean something today.
Making his way through the overgrown grass once more, his head now visible above it, he made his way back into the tomb, down the corridors, whispering his greetings to the ghosts of memories that filled the halls, the dusty floors that had once muted his steps were now cleanly swept and carefully cleaned. Interspaced along the walls, away from prying eyes that may catch the light from outside, were more of the lamps that he had managed to buy or trade for over the years, setting them where it looked torches would have once stood.
Making his familiar turn he found what had, seemingly, always been there, his Goddess he had found four years ago.
"Hey Megami-chan…it's me again…" Taking a moment to light a pair of lamps, causing the large room to glow in the artificial light, and showing her in her true magnificence, he stepped closer before settling to the floor beside her, a lamp at each side of the throne.
Once he had gotten light in here he had been shocked at what he had found. There was the form of his Goddess, perfectly smooth and immaculately detailed marble adorned in riches the likes of which he knew he would never see elsewhere in his life, sitting atop a golden throne that had been encrusted in jewels made to look like beetles, serpents and scorpions. Her body, seemingly, was once covered in cloth; as the statue was quite nude, save for her headdress and a section of upper armor, bracers, belt and greaves.
Her face itself had deserved immortalization, if he had anything to say about it, perfect cheekbones, slightly tapered chin giving her an air that reminded him of delicate porcelain, a gently curved nose and a regal mouth that at the same time, he imagined, had the gentlest voice he could imagine.
The chest armor was in a large half circle made of straight bands, not unlike the feathers of a bird, alternating blood red metal and some kind of green stone that he knew was valuable, the odd armor then swept up her throat in the same alternating bands. Her hair was cast in stone as well, a lusterless black that was well manicured and shown in the light of the room in brilliant contrast to the rest of her form, the black stone almost drinking in the light even as it shined. The crown she wore styled in the same fusion as her chest armor, though the solid green-stone serpents caught the light in a way that made them seem a lighter shade, wrapped around each of her arms were more of the snakes with two long belt knives at her thighs had a deep, purple stone inset in the pommel and the hilt, the knives' sheaths adorned in a shining yellow metal that he just knew had to be gold as well as more of the black stone flanking a central strip of gold.
Naruto pulled his knees to his chest, hugging them tightly as he rested his head on them, unmindful of his nicest set of clothing, dark brown pants and a black shirt the old man had bought him, getting dust all over them. "She's gone, Megami-can…she's gone and now I'm all alone…the old man won't have time to come see me…the new matron kicked me out with just these clothes…and these…I stole them from kaa-sa-the matron's room…they were her favorite hairpins…" Naruto pulled the little set of jade combs from his pocket, one of the tines broken from the outer edge, probably from where they forced him from the home. The top of the artfully carved combs showed a single lily, inlaid with some kind of white stone. "Megami-chan…if you can, can you keep an eye on her? She was always really nice to me…" Taking a moment to turn the little combs over in his hands he rose and reached up to slip the combs just below the crown by her hair, the ornaments staying and letting the lighter stone shine in the light reflected from her hair.
"I…I don't know if she'd want you to have them…but I do…you're the most important person in the world to me…" Looking up into the endless black depths of the statues eyes, the hollow void seeming to draw him in, he fidgeted, "Is…Is it alright if I stay here tonight? Till I can find somewhere else?"
Taking the silence as an affirmation he settled into the statue's lap and curled in on himself.
Life, it seems, was just too cruel.
Time has an odd effect on people. Some become more attune to their surroundings and those they are with over the years. Others will gain wisdom, able to give you some of the best advice you can imagine or possess a singular insight into situations. Still more will either become calm and cool, able to calculate and understand situations as well as people, but possessing a cold logic, uncaring of the human element.
Naruto, over the next six years he would gain a bit of it all. Empathy for those that were not unlike him, outcasts or those that have suffered so much that they just disconnect. Insight into situations and conflict that only an outsider can glean, and a calmness when he focused that would belie the large reserves of energy he possessed.
This last aspect is what those in the academy would know him for. While he was no Nara he did currently hold a solid position in the middle of the pack, something that was obvious to the teachers as the blond would only answer half of his tests or not bother to throw all his weapons.
He knew what he needed to pass, and he didn't want to draw any undue attention to himself. He was under no delusions that people were more than a little confused as to how he had survived so long after the orphanage had kicked him out. Eventually the Hokage had found him, got him signed off as an adult and given an apartment as well as a stipend to live off on, but upon arriving he had made a decision and instead got a new teacher, a chunin named Iruka, to get him a few storage scrolls and quickly packed up everything he could and returned to the safety of the tomb.
It was odd, every since he had asked Megami if he could stay there it had seemed all the more welcoming, the light from his lamps seeming to reach that much further, the food he would cook would taste that much better. Not wishing to impose on his goddess he set up his bed and things in another of the chambers that he had found in the structure.
That was another thing that had really surprised him, every time he went to try and explore, something new he would seemingly be there for him to stumble upon, new halls, tunnels, recesses or even whole chambers.
In one place there were giant statues that reached the ceiling, each one bearing a strange, animal like head; birds, dogs, lizards and snakes, eight of them in total each holding massive weapons that would decimate anything they fought. Another room seemed to be an armory of sorts, holding more of those oddly shaped swords, what he learned were bows and spears. Opposite of them were row upon row of shields and other smaller hand weapons.
Throughout it all, he remembered the matron's words, if it's old, don't touch it.
He was no fool, when he had really gotten into exploring the tomb he came to understand that it was far larger than he thought it was, the halls and chambers twisting deeper and deeper underground and hooking back in on itself so it didn't become a sprawling complex, the only thing that kept it from being found by the sewer workers was its position so far away from houses or businesses.
Still, it was a great place to live, especially after he had 'officially' moved in. Every day after his classes he would head back to the apartment and linger for a few hours, always studying or working on his chakra control, at least until he was certain that he had no more prying eyes on him, then he would slip out through the roof access he had and would make his way through back allies and tall grasses, using the time to work on his stealth, then would have a simple supper before more training, the larger chambers, halls staircases and materials in the tomb affording plenty of training opportunities.
Hay bale targets, a stone pillar that he would carefully wrap with a spare futon to use as a striking post, long, twisting hallways and steep stairs for speed and reaction training, stones and rope to add weight to his body for physical training.
Indeed, the tomb afforded him all he needed, he had even found, in one of the larger halls that held more ceremonial looking weapons, images on the walls that acted something like a manual, showing fighting styles both with and without weapons, quickly showing the blond, albeit in an abstract fission, how his stances should look, how to wield the large weapons as well as the small.
He did think at times that the place seemed closed in, stuffy, but whenever he would think that he would see all the images and murals that showed the life of these people and would smile a little. He may not understand the language, but he still felt, somehow, like a part of them, learning their styles, taking up some of their dress, honoring the statues that even he could understand held a religious meaning to them.
That was something that had always confounded the teachers. Every time he would rush home and seemed to hit the books, never training physically, so how was it that he was getting so strong, where did his fighting style come from?
Then there was his clothing…
Over the long years he had began to adopt the calm, regal look that he had seen on the statues of the tomb, a look that was rather unnerving in one so young, even the clothing had come to reflect his new mentality. Rather than wearing tee shirts and shorts, pants or even mesh shirts or jackets he instead kept himself wrapped in a long, pale brown cloak, as though he were traveling through Suna, then when he got to class would take it off.
Beneath it he wore a simple, white tunic with a curious half-cape over his shoulder, gathered at the chest with a wooden clasp in the shape of a scorpion, leavening his arms bare and showing the results of long hours of hard work. Simple loose pants tied at the ankles and a woven reed sandal finished off the odd look.
The clothing was simple, and shockingly effective, on one side it was a soft white linen, on the other was a deep black, shrouding him as he would need. Due to all the heavy training he did, inside and out, he had a moderate tan that helped to hide him in the foliage of the village even better than the so called 'experts' in their class, only needed to use a bit of wet ash to break his pattern and move deeper, vanishing almost entirely from the teachers view.
So it was that he had become as much of an enigma as he was known.
Finally the day of the graduation exams had come and he knew he would have little to worry about. The intensive training he had been doing using a variation of the leaf balancing exercise had ensured that he had enough control to use the bunshin, he had been one of the first to understand and use both the substitution and the transformation techniques. His variation was simple. He sent out a small amount of chakra into the sands that coated the floor of the tomb and would then slowly pull it back once it had infused the earth, pulling it with his chakra and keeping a small amount cycling through the area, keeping the sand or dirt clinging to his body before pushing it further up, eventually letting it cover more and more until he felt his control start to waver, then would push just that little bit more, forcing him to adapt and his control to grow, before he would move out of the tomb and drop it off.
Then he did it all over again.
Day in and day out.
"Alright Naruto, you're up, first the henge, then the kawarimi, then three bunshin."
"Now just try your best Naruto-kun, go slow and try and relax."
The pair that sat before him always mildly unnerved him, but they also never went out of their ways to bother him, something he was thankful for. First he made a simple ram symbol, focused his chakra into a shell around him and willed it to take the shape he desired, in this case Mizuki-sensei, complete with the little rag he would wear on his head that sported his headband.
Next he swapped himself with one of the logs provided for the class for their substitutions, though some part of him noticed that the pull was…off…that it seemed to take more chakra than it should. Still, he poured more into it and succeeded with his swap and moved on.
Last came the bunshin, something he had pulled off every time in class without fail, yet still, he felt that odd pull, that more chakra was needed than should have, a clone required a level of finesse that could be troublesome should he just pour more into it like he had with the kawarimi, stopping his channeling of chakra for a moment he looked to his teachers.
"Forgive me, Iruka-sensei, may I ask a question?"
Iruka had to hide the small smile that threatened to take over his features, Naruto had always been quite respectful of those that had earned it, and apparently he had ingrained himself to the youth when he had first been approached by the boy. He knew he had had a hard time of things, failing the first two years at the academy before his removal from the orphanage, and wanted to help the struggling student as much as he could. To his joy the boy had taken to his lessons with a thriving passion, taking every session to heart and remembering things instantly that were taught in his 'first year' that others couldn't recall with the help of their notes and the books.
"Oh course, go ahead Naruto-kun."
"Sensei, it seems as though I'm having trouble focusing my chakra today, it's probably just the nerves, if it takes a few moments longer, will I be failed?"
Mizuki looked ready to speak but Iruka raised a calming hand, "While yes, this test is in your proficiency in the technique, recognizing your limitations in the field and adapting is just as important. Also…you're the last one to be tested today, so take your time." Both Iruka and Naruto chuckled at the little joke before the blond nodded and carefully started to gather his chakra, paying attention to the rate of the odd pull that he was feeling coming from all around him, like something was trying to drain his chakra.
Finally understanding the rate that he was losing the chakra Naruto quickly flew through the three hand signs needed for the technique and, with only a slight pulse at the end to up the number, released the chakra, causing the room to fill with smoke for a moment.
The instructors were stunned for a full minuet, they had required only three clones, yet Naruto had just produced over twenty of the illusionary blonds.
"N-Naruto, well done, I can see that you still need to work on your control, but you did an excellent job in making your clones. I'm proud to say that you graduate, come up and get your headband, ninja of Konoha."
Naruto gave a small bow, his face split into a wide grin as he moved up and took a pale white headband, something that matched his clothing and wrapped it securely around his forehead. He spared Iruka a small smile for the thoughtfulness of keeping one of the white ones in reserve for him before he moved back outside to wait with the others.
Seeing the others all happily greeting parents, siblings or guardians caused a slight twinge in his heart, absently he thought back to the matron, how those little combs would look in her russet hair, the kind twinkle in her green eyes as she would sit him on her knee and read to him, the little cakes she would make.
At the same time he thought back to his goddess and smiled, her gaze was always on him in the tomb, somehow he knew it, as insane as it sounded, and he knew she would be proud of him; he couldn't wait to get home to tell her.
He heard snippets of conversations drifting through the crowd, some of praise, others commenting on where they thought they would rank, all very normal.
Then there were the ones directed, somewhat, at him. The half muttered insults or comments of amazement that they would let 'a freak' like him pass.
Again, it was all very normal.
When they were all called back inside Iruka told them about needing to be back at school this time next week in order to get their team assignments as well as further instructions on their expectations on their new positions as ninja of the village. The whole of the class was walking a bit taller that day as they started to file out, those that had failed were somewhat buoyed by Iruka's insistence that there was always next year, and that not everyone could pass, as there simply weren't enough instructors to go around. As Naruto was about to leave, opting to be the last for his own reasons, Iruka approached him and clapped a hand on his cloaked shoulders.
"Hey Naruto, how about I take you out for a bit of ramen to celebrate, my treat."
Naruto let a smile play across his features and gave a small nod. "I'd like that, Iruka-sensei. Just let me go drop off some of my things and take care of some stuff, I'll meet you there in a few hours, is that alright?"
The scarred chunin gave a small node and patted him on the shoulder before they parted ways.
Naruto, feeling the twinge of excitement for the first time in many long months, rushing back to his 'home' he made a show of lingering before moving to one of his many little 'escape hatches' and started making a meandering path back to his goddess, mindful of prying eyes that were quickly taking note of his new head ornament and made a few extra feints, should people try and follow him, like on his birthday. Finally reaching his home he moved cautiously inside, carefully sidestepping the traps he had lain and turning on a nearby lantern before moving deeper.
Reaching the statue of Megami he smiled, a radiant thing made all the brighter by the well manicured room the figure that dominated its center. Putting his things aside, close to one of the little hiding places just outside of the chamber moved closer to the throne before dropping to one knee and bowed his head, arms crossing at his chest as he had seen some of the people in the murals do.
" Megami-chan…I've done it, the first step to becoming recognized, and perhaps one day, the leader of this village. I've become a warrior after all these years, and it was thanks to you that I could come as far as I have. You were there when no one else was, when I was seeking comfort from the villagers or the weather, when people were cruel to me, denying me food or affection…when the matron died…I promise you, Megami-chan, that I will eventually learn all I can about this place, and if I can, I want to bring our people back to the world. I swear it on my life, this one or the next; I'll find a way to make your sacrifice known."
Rising from his kneeling position he got a bit closer to the statue, a part of him thinking that it was smiling at him as his eyes were drawn to the small combs he had placed there so long ago, a flash of the original owner coming to his mind as he reached up and laid a gentle hand on the smooth stone cheek, his eyes going back to the statues empty gaze before he let his thumb ghost over the marble. Letting out something of a heavy sigh he stepped back and was about to turn and make his way towards Ichiraku's ramen bar when he heard it.
A soft, almost unnoticeable click, then the sliding of stone.
Looking back Naruto was more than a little confused, in all his time here he had yet to hear anything like it before, yes he had found passages that had seemingly been closed before, but this was wholly different.
Looking at the throne for a time he then started making a slow circle around it, looking for the source of the sound, part of him terrified that he had damaged it in some way. After making a full circuit three times he then started looking around the rest of the room when he spotted it.
There, just beside the throne and close to the ground was a small handle jutting up from the flood of the tomb; he had to have stepped over it twice without noticing it. Cursing himself slightly he looked back into the marble face before glancing at the handhold again. He looked back to Megami in confusion, questioning her about what he should do.
Silence was his answer.
With a trembling hand he took a hold of the stone handle, he set his feet firmly and pulled, slowly the stone started to move, a great grinding sound filling the chamber before a stone pillar just larger than his fist, reached the height of his hips. Again he looked to Megami and released the handle, his eyes widening in shock as he saw the stone grip slowly recede into the pillar. As the handle vanished back into the stone, the seam so fine that it could hardly be noticed anymore despite his careful eyes, the whole of the chamber gave a slight shudder, sending a large cloud of dust into the air.
Coughing and sputtering slightly Naruto struggled to see what was happening through the now hazy room and to his shock the large throne had shifted slightly, no longer did it dominate the center of the room, but now it stood slightly off, as though something else should be in the chamber with it. His curiosity was rewarded when he saw a section of the large stone panels that dominated the floor slowly move aside and a platform arose.
Naruto's eyes grew wide, for a moment unmindful of the dust that now stung at his vision as he saw an elegant golden crown rise up until it was almost at chest height. The whole of the things was covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs, a husk of a single scorpion lying next to it. It was designed not unlike how Megami's was, at least in coloration and basic structure, but that was where the similarity ended. This crown lacked the twin serpents at the forehead, instead having something that reminded him of a rising sun in a way. What looking like two wings swept up and outwards and set between the two was a circular disk of thin, orange stone that allowed the light to pass through it. The circlet portion and had the same red to green stone and metal that his goddess had, though the rising wings were styled in silvers, golds and the same dark stone that made up Megami's hair.
Naruto stood in awe of the crown for a time, admiring its beauty for an unknown amount of time. Slowly he stepped forward and reached out for it before staying his hand. Taking a moment to undo his headband he dropped it, utterly forgotten, to the ground before he took up the crown in shaking hands and turned it over and around, looking it over from every angle.
"I…Is this…for me?"
Silence was his answer.
With a surprisingly steady hand he placed the crown on his head and gasped as a sudden heat rushed through his body. With his eyes screwed shut and grit teeth he endured what felt like liquid steel being poured into his veins before dropping to his knees panting, the heat the seemed to linger within him settling into his stomach and mind, churning slightly as he slowly rose to his feet and reached up to the crown…
To find nothing.
Frantic, Naruto looked around the chamber before his eyes locked back onto the platform that once held it then to the statue of his goddess and let a sad smile overcome him even as a single tear rolled down his cheek. "I…I guess I wasn't supposed to have it…forgive me for acting out of turn…my goddess…"
Absently whipping the tear from his face he stooped and picked up his headband, tying it securely over his head, not unlike how he saw many in the murals wearing their headdresses before snatching up the bit of money he had squirreled away, intent on buying an extra bowl of ramen tonight to help settle his nerves, before giving one last bow to the statue and, extinguishing a lantern, left the tomb for the ramen stand.
The whole of the night he had been dwelling on the strange occurrence in his home this night. It had made little sense, had it even happened at all? There were no signs of the crown at all, though he still felt the slight tingle in his fingertips from where he held it, the weight on his brow of the metal and stone, the elation he felt at being given a gift by his goddess.
Then the crushing despair of having it all taken away.
The ramen had been largely tasteless to him this night, while it had never been his favorite food this night it just seemed that much more empty…maybe he should have tried dango…
Still, the company had been nice, the trio had easily picked up on his rather somber mood and had done their best to cheer him up, all intent on what would make the rather upbeat teen seem so down, he just smiled and told them it was nothing before going back to his meal.
He didn't get any extra ramen that night after all.
His musings had been interrupted however when an ANBU arrived to give Iruka a set of orders, the whispered command making the chunin pale before he quickly tossed some bills onto the bar top and rushed off, apologizing for his abrupt departure he quickly leapt to the rooftops and made a mad dash to the tower. Exchanging worried glances with Ayame and Teuchi he wished the two a good night and started making his way back to his home, unmindful of stealth at this later hour, especially considering that most of the ninja force was apparently scrambled for some form of mission, the civilians all hidden in their homes in fear of what may be going on.
Reaching the tomb he was just getting ready to head inside when he spotted it.
The disturbed grasses that showed that someone other than him had been there.
The light of the waning moon enough for him to see the clear signs of heavy footfalls that lay down the almost reed like grasses that surrounded the tomb's entrance. Steeling himself Naruto pulled a pair of kunai from the weapon pouches hidden in the layers of his kilt-like clothing and slid into one of the loose stances he had learned from the tomb, one hand above his head, elbow bend while the other was pulled loosely to his side, not unlike those who were ready for a solid straight punch, but with his blades held firmly in place for the thrust.
With slow, gliding steps he moved around the outside of the little graveyard and, seeing the direction that the tracks had gone quickly moved after them, intent on finding out just who it was that may have discovered his home.
As he moved deeper into the forest his ears started to pick up the telltale signs of battle, steel ringing off of steel in the distance as well as the steady, thumping claps of flesh impacting flesh. Gritting his teeth he crept closer and had froze.
There, poised over Iruka with a short sword, was Mizuki, a set of massive shruiken at his back and a large scroll propped against a tree close by.
"I have to say Iruka, you put up a better fight than I thought you would for a simple, career teacher, most of us only put up with those snot nosed little shits as part of the duty, but you honestly like the little brats, don't you?"
Iruka grunted as Mizuki placed a foot on his chest, causing broken ribs to grind painfully in his chest, "M-More than I ever did you…teme…"
If anything Mizuki's smirk grew, "Awww…you wound me Iruka-kun…wasn't I you best friend…your teammate…"
"You're a traitor!"
With a lazy tilt of his head the silver haired teacher avoided Iruka's bit of phlegm, "Spitting? Is that all you can do? I expected more…" Mizuki stooped lower and brought the shorts word to the man's throat, "Any last words?"
A small trickle of blood flowed from his mouth before a small smile graced his lips, "Ya…behind you."
The traitor's laugh was long an laud, "Seriously! 'Behind you'? That's the best you can come up wi-"
The man's eyes widened as he felt the steel slicing into his flesh, just above his kidneys a pair of knives had found their mark. Staggering back he turned and spotted the oddly dressed blond, his hands passing back into his strange skirt and pulling another set of blades, "YOU!"
"Me." Naruto let fly with another pair, his perfect aim spoiled by the man tossing himself forward and rolling away, even as he moved he pulled one of the massive shruiken and brought it before him as a shield, the knives that had wounded him falling away with the sudden movement, not for the first time he was happy about the thick vest and how effective it could be at slowing blades and limiting wounds. What could have been a deadly blow was now little more than a nuisance that he knew he would have to treat before he made his final escape from the village.
"Missed me, demon brat."
"Did I? Who says it was you I was aiming at?" Mizuki stiffened as he heard the sound of steel slicing through the air and spun, whirling the large shruiken in his hand and deflecting the somewhat clumsy throw of his teacher. "My, Iruka-sensei, that was poor form, C+…"
Despite the situation he smirked at his student, "You try throwing straight with broken ribs." Sobering a bit he forced himself to his feet, one hand absently holding his chest, "Naruto, go to the village and get help, Mizuki's stolen a scroll with forbidden techniques and must be stopped, I'll slow him down!"
With a curt nod Naruto turned to follow his orders, understanding that if this should fall into the wrong hands it would cost many more lives than that of one chunin and one genin. "Oh…are you sure about that, Iruka-kun…after all, this scroll holds some rather…interesting things about our blond here…"
"Mizuki…don't say another word, as it stands you may get life in prison, but if you tr-"
"Oh…I think I'd rather take death…those cells are just do…dank. Now then Naruto-kun, would you like to know a secret?"
"NO! YOU MUSTN'T!"
Naruto's confusion was almost palpable as he turned back to the clearing to see Iruka trying to force his legs into propelling himself forward, but if the blood coming from his mouth was any indication then the scared chunin was already in serious trouble, Mizuki just stood with a sadistic grin as he stared at Naruto. "Oh but Iruka, don't you think that your favorite student deserves to know the reason he's hated? Why no one would adopt him? Why it was that he was given such a crappy little apartment and so little money to live off of?"
"Naruto, don't listen to him! He's just going to lie to you!" A sickening choking sound filled the clearing as Iruka dropped to his knees, arms wrapped around his chest as he coughed up a gout of blood. Naruto was moving before he realized it, trying to get to his sensei's side only to have the large shruiken impact the ground before him, stopping the blond dead in his tracks as Mizuki pulled the other large blade.
"Now now, let your elders finish speaking before you act. Naruto, if you knew the truth then you would hate this village as much…no, maybe more than Orochimaru-sama himself! Naruto, YOU ARE THE NINE TAILED FOX!"
The teenage blond froze.
He…he was a demon?
Suddenly all the looks, but muttered comments, the people at the orphanage…it all made sense, that's why no one wanted him, that's why…why Megami rejected him…
"N-Naruto…it's not true…he…the Forth…he sealed it…" for Iruka, the world went dark.
That gave him pause. That marking on his stomach he couldn't understand, it was a seal.
He wasn't the fox, it was inside him, but…that didn't make him it anymore than it making it him…Turning cold, blue eyes on Mizuki he felt his chakra spike as his emotions surged.
And that odd warmth that had been stirring in the back of his mind and stomach grew hotter.
As his chakra peaked, the massive wave of blue energy becoming a visible thing around him, something that shocked the former chunin to no end, he felt it, the same white hot burning coursing through his body and penetrating his mind, his vision filling with spots before things started to become clear.
Visions of sandy planes and magnificent structures that stretched to the horizon.
Images of artfully sculpted and carved statues and columns.
He possessed the knowledge.
He possessed the power.
The strength to lead, the wisdom to rule, it was all his.
Mizuki watched with sinister glee as Naruto's chakra went berserk; unmindful of the fact that it could probably be felt miles away, he only cared about the boy's suffering right now. Hell, if he pushed him just that little bit more he might break the seal and let the demon ravage the village once more.
Orochimaru-sama would be so proud.
As he watched, idly spinning the shruiken as he debated on how to make Naruto go that much further he saw it. The chakra that was visible seemed to pull back, rather than spiking around him and kicking up the earth and leaves around them it instead seemed to surround him like a cold fire.
Slowly Naruto rose from his slightly hunched posture, icy blue eyes locking on him before he rose to his fill height, "You, who would dare to use the sacrifices of another to fuel your own deeds…You who would injure friends in the name of power…You who would spit on your home for personal gain…You are an insult to all that you may have stood for…and those who would wear the mantel of traitor…are forfeit…"
He quirked an eyebrow at that, a smirk playing across his lips, "Oh…well spoken, but tell me genin what will you do…to stop me?"
There was no smile, no hard words, only a sense of pity around the blond as he looked at Mizuki, "I am no mere genin…where we are…I rule!"
With that Naruto extended his hand.
And all Mizuki knew about the world, changed.
The chunin could only watch in mild confusion as Naruto extended one hand, the chakra coalescing and seeming to pool, making a brilliant blue sphere that reminded him of the legends of the Yondaime. Naruto then simply turned over his hand, and let the ball fall.
As the orb impacted the ground he was startled to feel the earth shake slightly, a pulse of blue chakra racing through the landscape faster than he could even begin to react to. Looking around him for a moment he grinned, nothing had happened.
"Ha! Leave it to the mediocre boy to waste cha…kra…?" Looking back up at Naruto he was stunned…there, where the boy's headband had once been, was a very strange hat of some kind…a muted red and green thing that seemed to shimmer and waver as he turned his head, as though it wasn't quite there…
Following his line of sight he saw him looking at one of the little clearings, a largely bare patch that he had been sitting on trying to decipher some of the jutsu in the scroll before he had been so rudely interrupted. There, in the earthen patch, something stirred.
Mizuki gripped his shruiken a bit tighter as something seemed to travel through the earth, swirling slightly, as though it were softening it somehow when he felt it, a deep shudder in the ground once more, like something had broken deep beneath the earth.
"Sentinels at the portal of Eternity, mighty guardians of the King! ARISE!"
Mizuki felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck, King? Guardians?
The earth shifted, and a carefully bandaged hand appeared from the ground.
"W-What are you doing! What kind of jutsu is th-" Mizuki was cut off as a long, bronze blade erupted from now sandy soil, the oddly curved thing looking like a katana blade that was FAR too broad, curving back down to still be hidden by the ground. The hand that had emerged gripped at the earth as best it could, seeming to pull itself up slowly, more and more of the cruel looking weapon began to emerge, then what looked to be a golden serpent, and a bleached white helmet.
Mizuki let out a keening wail as he watched this…thing…pull itself from the earth. That wasn't a helmet.
It was the top of a skull.
More and more began to appear, thick, bronze armor, the body wrapped in tattered bandages that did nothing to hide the pale ones beneath it. A thick belt with a skull at its heart and something like a loin cloth.
Mizuki back peddled quickly from the skeletal warrior that was now almost fully free before seeming to notice that he still had his weapon, his fear at the moment blinding him to all else before he suddenly felt the comforting weight in his hands once more, quickly he snapped his wrist, spinning it quickly and turning it into a great saw before throwing it with all the strength he could muster, the thing rotating in the air and finding it's mark.
The sounds of brittle, shattering branches filled the air as the shruiken tore through the skeleton's chest, shattering ribs and sending the bronze armor scattering across the clearing, it's arms falling away as its head rolled across the ground to come to rest before him. With a victorious cry he brought one foot down, shattering it into nothingness.
"P-Pathetic demon! You think something like this could beat me! I'm a chunin! Nothing short of an army can stop me!"
Naruto just looked at him impassively for a moment before slightly nodding, an almost regal act, "As you wish…"
Mizuki froze as he heard that same odd clattering and shifting of the earth before turning, there, standing in almost perfect military formations, were another dozen of the warriors, all holding the same, massive curved swords, each as long as they were tall, but each were held easily, as though they possessed all the strength in the world. As one the skeletons stepped forward, and began to spread out.
Mizuki leapt onto one of the surrounding branches, watching as the things began to fan out, taking positions at the foot of each of the trees. One of them, this one holding his massive blade easily in one hand, the other with an equally large emerald green shield, moved up to the scroll that he still had propped against a tree. He cursed as the warrior dropped the shield to scoop up the scroll, quickly making its way over to Naruto.
With a roar he pulled a brace of kunai and let fly, however, to his dismay, the iron darts only clattered weakly off the bones before falling to the earth, he would have to go bigger. Quickly the chunin began to move though hand signs, "Doton: Doryūsō!" He slammed his palms into the trunk of the tree, willing his chakra to race through the wood and into the earth. At once the newly churned ground seemed to flow, coming together and hardening before lashing out, forming several massive spears that pierced through the warrior and shattering him not unlike how his shruiken had, with a triumphant grin he pulled another set of kunai, ready to throw them at the blond when he felt the tree he was on shudder.
Looking down he felt his jaw hang loose, the entire trunk of the massive thing had shifted, the mark of a shockingly clean cut that had lain the tree low clear even in the dim light. Quickly the chunin made to jump again only to gasp in horror, all the other trees around him were falling as well.
"One of the prime rules of war…if the enemy goes to ground…leave no ground to go to."
His eyes widened at the voice whispering into his ear as he felt a foot planted firmly in his floating rib, the bone giving under the force of the strike as he was propelled to the ground, slamming painfully into his own hardened spears, only luck saving him from being skewered. With a growl he made to rise only to feel an icy grip on his wrist.
Looking up in confusion he lets out another whimper of pure fear, there, staring back into brown eyes, were the soulless black voids of a skull. His free hand came around hard, kunai still gripped tightly and pierces the bone cleanly through it's odd circlet, the golden serpent falling away just as the head did.
But still it did not let go.
Stabbing again and again at the hand he was only managing glancing blows when he heard it, the shifting of earth under feet.
Turning slowly he saw them, the whole group, now almost twenty strong, surrounding him, their blades held high to strike.
"I will give you one last chance…surrender."
"A wise choice…" Naruto looked to his 'men' and gave a curt nod. At once the twenty warriors gave a sharp twist of the weapons in their hands, turning the blades to their backs before bringing all twenty down at once.
Mizuki's cries filled the clearing.
"You have done well my children. Gather the fallen and rest. I will deal with these." Silent visages turned and began to collect the pieces of armor, bone and weapons before they turned as one, large column and began to march back to their homes.
All heading for the tomb.
Naruto collected the scroll quickly and slung Iruka over his shoulder in a fireman's carry, he spared a glance at Mizuki but knew he wouldn't be going anywhere, if he died he died, they had a good idea where he was heading after his Orochimaru-sama comment. Wasting no time he made a bee line for the village.
First stop, the hospital.
His debriefing had been an…interesting one…again and again the Hokage had asked how he had managed to subdue Mizuki, again and again he had told him that he had simply caught the man unaware while Iruka had kept him busy, that when he had seen the man trying to kill his sensei he had snapped and beat him mercilessly with a found branch.
He never wavered from his story, so it had to be accepted. Though he did tell the old man had disappointed he was in him for never telling him about the Kyuubi. Something that the elderly leader was shocked that he had known, and silently vowed that Mizuki would die for revealing.
He had asked, more out the desire to change the subject than anything, about what team he would be on, he had been told that after his impressive display with clones during the graduation that he had been specially requested to be under Kurenai Yuuhi, the village's genjutsu mistress.
Naruto had to fight the urge to smile at that, she was one of the pretty girls he had seen growing up.
With a small smile and a nod Naruto had turned to leave, only to be stopped by the Third and told that he would be there, if he was wanting to talk about his problems. Naruto gave a slight nod, but inside was annoyed that he would only now, after all these years, be willing to listen.
He didn't need that.
He already had someone that would listen, and better, would never judge him.
Arriving back at his home he walked directly back inside the crypt and froze.
His trap had been tripped.
The bladed snare he had fashioned lay broken on the ground, the trap having apparently missed it's mark to shatter on the stone, the scythe-like blade in several pieces scattered across the floor.
His heart froze.
Rushing inside he headed straight for the Megami's chamber.
And instantly fell to his knees, tears rushing down his cheeks as he started into the room.
The throne sat empty, the floor around it scattered with bits of broken marble, the elaborate riches gone and his lamps overturned, all save one that offered a guttural, flickering light as the little bulb tried desperately to hold on.
He felt his heart clench tightly, the doors of his emotions steadily clenching closed. She was his world…yet someone…
Crawling forward through the stone shards, unmindful of the cuts appearing across his form as the stone bit deep, as if to accuse him of his failings, he reached his target.
The strangely intact face of his goddess.
With trembling hands he picked up the marble as gently as he could, running a thumb across it's cheek once more as its pristine surface began to be covered with tears he wasn't aware he was shedding. His teeth clenched with shattering force.
'They will PAY!'
His chakra flared.
Another of the odd, blue pulses raced through the floors of the tomb, blasting away the dust and grime, long dead oil torches he had never been able to reach bursting to life and filling the tomb with gentle light even as things long still began to stir once more.
Holding the face a bit closer he saw that the way it had broken had left it concave and smooth, not unlike a mask. With a bitter smile he placed the shattered stone onto his face, using a small flow of chakra to hold it in place. Almost at once his tears began to flow through the once vacant eye holes down marble cheeks as he made a tight fist, part of him noticing the long dead husk of the scorpion skittering closer to him before it moved up his arm and over his body.
"I made you a promise…Me…" He looked closer at the throne, the odd scrip now as legible as his textbooks and smiled, "Zandri…I promised I would bring back our people…and I will, my queen…"
"The Deshret…shall rise once more…"
Megami – Goddess, hey, he was six ^_^
Doton: Doryūsō – Earth Release: Rising Stone Spears
Deshret (If the site I found is to be believed)- The Red Land (Also means desert)