And here we go.
Chapter 18: Amegetsu
On the second sublevel of the underwater prison, the four opponents stared each other down, surrounded by an audience of inmates who could not interfere. For two of them, what stood before them was merely the last stage before freedom. If they got out of there, Kirigakure's plan to contain Naruto and pry information from him would have backfired completely before it even started. For the other two, it would have meant that their proverbial heads rolled if they let these two very important prisoners escape captivity.
Naruto cracked his neck from side to side casually, while his golden chakra leaked from his body in viscous waves. Inside he was thinking about how to go about this, and didn't necessarily like the idea of teamwork with his new ally.
"So, you wanna split up and do this?" he asked, addressing Kimimaro, "I'm not really into the whole teamwork thing that you shinobi seem so keen on, and from the looks of things, these two don't look like they can fight together anyway!"
He wasn't wrong on that account. The professional, no-nonsense Ao fighting alongside the sadistic leader of the Houzuki Clan? It was a recipe for disaster that would get them both killed, possibly at each other's hands.
"That's fine. I have never worked within the context of a shinobi squad anyway. I am at my best working alone as well..." he stated, causing Naruto to give a feral grin. White material began to emerge from within the shinobi's body, breaking skin as the bones exposed themselves to the air.
Kimimaro pulled one of his bone swords all the way out, flipping it over and grasping the "handle" while leveling the point at his opponents. His eyes panned around while simultaneously never leaving his opponents. The prisoners had returned to their cells where they were cowering. The people who had made a mess of the prison versus their vicious warden. He could see why they would want to stay out of it for fear of their lives.
"You two..." Amegetsu drawled, the silver-haired man baring his teeth at them and reaching for the sword on his back, "have made enough of a mess of my beautiful prison. I'm afraid I don't allow troublemakers such as yourselves to live..."
It was at that point that Kimimaro realized what was at stake for both Ao and Amegetsu. They had both gone against orders from the Mizukage and would be punished severely, especially if they allowed Naruto to escape. Amegetsu's purpose in the world was probably in a place like this; he had no place in civilized society and was fit to run a prison full of people just like him.
It clearly wasn't out of loyalty to Kiri that he fought them, more so loyalty to himself.
With that, he rushed forward, dragging his blade against the hard stone behind him. Naruto too met him halfway, his golden chakra flaring and his zero-tailed cloak forming around him.
What sounded like metal clashing against metal rang through the prison, but all that happened was Amegetsu locking his sword against Naruto's chakra-coated elbow.
The two danced in a flurry of strikes, fitting for the two more emotional members of each squad. Kimimaro and Ao only stared each other down, still waiting for the other to make the first move.
Meanwhile, Ao had activated his Byakugan eye and was daring Kimimaro to make the first move. The more stoic pair of opponents clearly did not rush into battle much like the other two, but Kimimaro seemed slightly more on edge than the veteran shinobi.
He tuned out the screaming and the exciting laughter from Amegetsu and Naruto next to him, and focused solely on his opponent. From what he knew of Ao, he was a veteran oi-nin, so his job description meant capturing or killing nuke-nin such as him who defected to join Orochimaru. Unlike many oi-nin, he didn't necessarily relish in his job and those who captured, but that did not mean he wasn't an effective fighter.
Kimimaro had taken his eyes off Naruto for a moment, and in doing so had not even noticed that the human Bijuu had been injured. Amegetsu had pushed into one of the stone walls nearest the cell block, with a big chunk of Naruto's protective chakra taken from his left side and rapidly spreading.
"Agh! What did you do?" Naruto roared, watching his chakra cloak disappear in front of his very eyes, leaving only his unprotected self liable to harm. He pushed himself off the stone wall and breathed heavily. The wound had clipped his shoulder, puncturing the faux flesh and allowing yellow chakra to leak ever so slightly from within.
Amegetsu grinned and readied his sword, while Naruto still had his elbow outstretched.
He still may have been a mass of chakra in this form, but a missing arm was a missing arm. Wisely, Naruto pulled his arm back and rotated just as Amegetsu was about to lop his arm off.
The silver-haired man gave a perverted cackle, swinging the broadsword around wildly. Naruto breathed in and out, and to his relief he was successfully able to call upon more chakra.
"You wanna know what my sword did, do ya? Well, I'll tell ya!"
Amegetsu handled the blade fondly, like it was a pet.
"I may not have been able to become one of the Seven Swordmen of the Mist, but they're not the only ones in the village who can wield powerful swords," Amegetsu paused and held his blade out for Naruto to see, "My blade allows anything it cuts to change its state or matter. From a solid to a liquid, and from a liquid to a gas. Even from a gas to a plasma."
Amegetsu seemed to take a lot of pride in explaining what his sword did, but Naruto took an educated guess on that most human's chakra was probably closest to a plasma. His... on the other hand was probably a liquid.
"Is that what happened? My toxic chakra turned into a gaseous state and dissipated?" If that sword could honestly change the states of matter, his chakra shield would end up being useless.
Naruto stole a glance over at Kimimaro, but Amegetsu took the opportunity to press the attack. Naruto turned back to him when he heard the shuffling movement, calling more of his chakra back up into its barrier form.
Well, at least it didn't have a more permanent effect on his chakra. He didn't have much time to think about that however, because Amegetsu appeared in a flash within Naruto's blind spot.
Naruto almost raised his claws to block the attack, but reigned himself in at the last moment when he realized that his chakra barrier wasn't the only thing that would be affected by Amegetsu's sword.
He settled for dodging the attack, contorting his body so that sword caught the air just where Naruto had been standing a split-second earlier. He crouched low, staying on the defensive, but prepared to strike back at any given moment.
He grabbed at the ground, sinking his fingers into the stone as if they were made of soft butter. The false Bijuu roared as he began to pump gallon after gallon of poison into the ground, corroding and melting the stone.
Amegetsu grunted as the stone floor was warped and distorted beyond belief, creating a terrain that was very difficult to stand on and keep balance. The heat he was feeling in the bottom of his sandals also forced him to jump, before his body was corroded, landing on a safe patch of stone near the very back of the cell block.
"So, you can corrode things like a deadly poison. Big deal! Watch this!" the leader of the Houzuki Clan twirled his blade on his finger, before pointing it down and thrusting into one of the cracks in the corroded stone.
After pumping some chakra into the edge of the blade, the corroded floor began to harden back into solid ground, albeit without the uniform feel of each individual block masoned together.
With the ground now stable, Amegetsu stepped back onto the solid stone, noting with satisfaction that the bottom of his sandals did not burn or corrode.
"That sword of yours is starting to piss me off," Naruto commented, the endless source of his chakra once again flowing freely from where Amegetsu had cut him. He pushed himself off the wall he was leaning against and walked forward casually, not really paying any mind to the cut on his shoulder that was leaking golden chakra.
The Kiri warden merely grinned at him, showing serrated teeth that were a staple for the bloodthirsty clan such as his. He twirled his blade on the end of his finger, before extending his arm and cutting a thin line into one of the blocks on the wall without even looking at it.
The stone of the prison walls began to melt down into slag, one more cut and they had turned into what looked like a gaseous layer of dust that covered the air like a fog.
Naruto walked through it like nothing, grinning when he saw Amegetsu's confident smirk morph into a frown. It was easy to see what his thought process was. For a human, breathing in particles of stone and metal like that would act the same way a poison, shredding their lungs to bits.
Amegetsu's plan backfired, for Naruto emerged from the cloud of stone like it was cover, claws extended and glowing with yellow chakra. He slashed down upon Amegetsu with his right hand, narrowing his eyes as the Houzuki extended his blade to block the attack. Naruto pulled back in order to avoid hitting it, crouching down and not taking a second longer to strike while his opponent had his back turned.
"Damn Kawarimi..." Naruto was really beginning to hate that technique. Even if he was able to use it, the false Bijuu was not sure he would, so much that he hated it.
The Houzuki Clan leader appeared in Naruto's blind spot, and Naruto twisted and contorted his body, swinging his leg around while never losing his pivot foot.
His kick would've taken off Amegetsu's head, had the clan leader not ducked underneath it. He had apparently telegraphed his attack too much, the human shaped Bijuu not used to taijutsu.
Naruto avoided two quick thrusts with the sword aimed at his face, followed by a quick flurry of a dozen more that all blurred together due to its speed. He backpedaled, cursing with his back hit the wall. Amegetsu wound up his next sword stab, cocking the hilt of the blade at his elbow to provide more force.
Naruto's eyes panned sideways, and a single tail of his chakra shot out the side, wrapping itself around one of the metal bars of the cell and pulling him away just as Amegetsu embedded his blade into the stone wall where Naruto's head was just a moment before.
Naruto wound himself around like he was on skates, putting some torque and spin on his momentum as he rotated head first directly back at Amegetsu, who was distracted by his blade in the wall which was rapidly turning into liquid.
Naruto slashed out with his claws, intent on cutting the human cleanly in half. Amegetsu held fast and twisted himself upward to do a handstand on his sword, allowing Naruto to pass directly through and leave himself open.
Amegetsu flipped forward one more time, clinging to the walls with his chakra as he pulled the blade out of the liquidfied wall and slashed at Naruto's chakra barrier. It dispelled into gas, but Amegetsu was not yet done going on the offensive.
He thread the needle in a stab through the opening in the barrier, smirking even as Naruto brushed his head to the side and avoided being gored straight through his non-existent brain.
Indeed, there was the familiar scrap of paper attached to the end of Amegetsu's blade, lit and seconds away from explosion. With a flick of his wrist, he turned it over. The state of matter effect began to work, as the paper began to become liquid, sliding off the blade of the sword. Once it did, Amegetsu pulled back to place himself out of harm's way.
The thing was, it was still burning.
Naruto grunted as the blast engulfed the area his head, and he stumbled forward as the top right corner of his scalp fell against the stone floor. With only one eye now, his vision was blocked. But it was better than if he were a normal human, as he would have been killed.
At least he was still able to see the look of surprise on Amegetsu's face when he didn't fall from a normally fatal injury. Since even in human form his body was made of pure chakra, he wouldn't die from this.
If an attack hit him to the point where his chakra body destabilized, however...
Meanwhile, Kimimaro's bone sword met Ao's kunai. With his Byakugan activated, Aoi made sure his field of vision was covered in a complete three-hundred and sixty degree circle. If he were trained in Jyuuken, then he could really press an advantage against the bone wielder. But as Ao learned, stealing the Byakugan from the Hyuuga didn't mean an automatic lesson in gentle fist.
What Ao was versed in was several high level Suiton jutsu, common to ninja from Kiri. Kimimaro appeared directly before him, intending to draw the fight into close-quarters. Like his signature fighting style indicated, the bone ninja danced and weaved his way around opponents with his bone sword.
To his credit, Ao was able to keep up with the speed of Kimimaro even if Taijutsu wasn't his strong suit like the Kaguya. He reacted properly to all of Kimimaro's moves, from bobbing his head and neck with the flow to avoid jabs with the bone sword to moving as if he were a partner in the deadly dance.
"Dance... of the Willow!"
At a split-second's notice, Kimimaro jabbed forward while extending several bones from various points on his body, yet his main method of attack were the two bones he had extended from his palms. He sliced and diced around Ao, waiting for the older man to make the one move that meant he was lured into Kimimaro's trap.
Ao didn't take the bait and did not take to the skies, which would have signaled the end of the dance when Kimimaro protruded several bones from various areas of his body as if he were a porcupine.
When Ao failed to take the bait, he moved on to the second version of his dance. Using his superior speed, he pivoted to put himself in closer quarters to Ao, taking the opportunity to expand several of those bones from various points on his body.
The bony ninja kicked outward before backflipping, one of the bones sticking out of his shin creating a shallow wound in his opponent's leg as he fluttered back to earth and ended the dance.
Ao stared at his wounded leg through his Byakugan eye, being relatively unconcerned about the shallow cut. However, he would end up being far more concerned about Kimimaro's next approach, which involved him sticking a palm out and conjuring a large cluster of bone that looked like a drill.
Back in the other corner, Naruto was on the defensive as best he could with only one workable eye at the moment. The chakra was knitting his faux skin and muscle back as best it could, but he had to hold out until he was fully healed.
Upon instinct, he reached forward to try to grab Amegetsu's blade and engulf it in his chakra, but pulled back at the last moment when he remembered the effect the sword had.
Naruto could not attack Amegetsu directly, but enough tries of doing just that gave him an idea on how to bypass that irritating sword. He signaled something to Kimimaro, the bony ninja having the perfect means on how to dodge what Naruto was going to do next.
"Kimimaro! Can you encase yourself in those bones of yours? Right now?" Naruto called over to the white-haired fugitive, who managed to multitask while trading blow for blow with Ao.
"Shouldn't be hard..." he said, immediately stopping even as Ao charged forward, creating a dome of bones that Kimimaro used to surround himself. Ao couldn't stop the momentum as his kunai clanked against it uselessly.
"Watch it! This one's going to do something!" Ao called in a rare helpful display towards his reluctant teammate in Amegetsu. The Houzuki clan leader tsked in annoyance back as Naruto put his right foot forward.
"Too late now..." Naruto said, as he merely stood back and waited, reptilian eyes trained on the two men and the bony dome before him. Amegetsu growled and clenched his sword tighter.
"Ugh. Too late, my ass. Whatever you to is use-" he cut himself off as he tried to move forward, but his leg shook as it locked in place, being incapable of motion. He tried his arms only to get the same result.
"What did you do?" he asked, the warden's eyes alight with rage. His eyes darted over to the other side of the room, where Ao seemed to having the same predicament.
"Nothing. I merely pumped my chakra into the ground through my feet. Plenty of materials out there can conduct my chakra, and this stone floor is no exception. I channeled it through the stone, down and around until I could pump some up out of the floor and into your pores. This one is a small dose of one of my neurotoxins, one that will paralyze pretty much anything but your head."
Indeed, on the bottoms of Naruto's shoes, his signature golden chakra was glowing, as well as the stone beneath him. Amegetsu grunted, as did Ao. The chakra faded from Naruto's feet, but the toxin had already been administered. Kimimaro's bony dome was left undisturbed.
Amegetsu remained rooted in place, but quietly resistant as the bony dome retracted and Naruto essentially considered him and Ao defeated. Without another word, Kimimaro fell into line with Naruto as they left them there, the matter changing sword falling from Amegetsu's grip.
The Mizukage sat at her desk, enjoying the cloudy, rainy, and gloomy Mizu no Kuni weather as much as she could. She reached for the cup of tea placed upon her desk, looking over a few loose leaves of paperwork on something or other.
They weren't important. They never really were important at any point in time, but they were even less important now. Once she got that letter a few days before, she knew she wasn't the only one who had received it. There was a tentative peace in the Elemental Countries at the present day, and the Raikage was at least trying to keep up the appearance of keeping allies in the know.
The Reibi had been a presence in shinobi politics for almost twelve years now, ever since it burst onto the scene out of nowhere and attacked Konoha. Classified as a Bijuu, Konoha made waves when it apparently sealed the beast and made its second Jinchuuriki, effectively shifting the power balance of the ninja world.
If that were the end of it, this wouldn't be such a crisis. However, Suna lost the Ichibi to unknown circumstances, and the purpose of the Raikage's letter was to inform them that Kumo lost the Nibi.
The strange circumstances of the loss detailed the disappearance of the cat Bijuu outside the village of Kumo, with the clear presence of the lizard-like Reibi at the crime scene. Stranger still, that beast had one tail.
It didn't take a genius to guess that the message the Raikage sent to the Hokage was a lot more hostile than hers, probably laden with plenty of demands for an explanation and some not-so-subtle threats. Konoha was more suspicious than ever these days, and the Reibi's appearance in Kumo only seemed to cement that they were up to something.
She had thought it as nothing more than the affairs of two other villages at the time, something they could sort out for themselves. No need for Kiri to be involved. That was until the incident from yesterday.
A very strange young man had entered the village underneath the watchful eye of the gate guards, and had immediately started asking around about Kirigakure's Bijuu. Now, Kiri was a shinobi village who traditionally had two Bijuu, but as of today neither of them were under the village's control. One was out in the wild, formerly sealed in the now late Yondaime. The other belonged to a nuke-nin.
Nevertheless, that young man's appearance at the village gates was indicative of a disturbing trend. First the Ichibi disappears from Suna, not long afterwards the Nibi disappears from Kumo.
Kiri was the village in possession of the Sanbi. What were the odds that right after the Nibi disappears, some guy shows up in their village and begins asking about the next strongest Bijuu after the Nibi.
That was why the Mizukage mobilized so quickly when she heard that report, and had taken the liberty to set up a trap beforehand based on her gut feeling and gut feeling alone.
It turned out that her hunch was right on the money, something she didn't exactly take any satisfaction in. Nevertheless, the blonde kid was now locked away in Kirigakure's highest security prison, where he could be interrogated at her leisure.
If she could prove Konoha's involvement in these affairs, then the leaf village was going around stealing Bijuu using one of their Jinchuuriki and other undetermined methods.
She had even placed him in the highest level containment cell, in case he tried to bust out. He was presumably a Jinchuuriki, but even those level of chakra seals surrounding his cell could prevent him from transforming into his Bijuu.
Mei strained her ears as she heard the caw of a messenger falcon as it soared over the village, making its way directly to her office or to the department of decoding.
With a scroll clutched in its talons, this particular falcon came to rest directly on the perch outside her office. This bird in particular was a fast flyer, and Mei had a sneaking suspicion what the contents of the message were about. She had been getting regular reports on the status of her newest prisoner since his capture, including confirmation of his incarceration.
Perhaps they were requesting to begin his interrogation, or they were simply reporting in that the Jinchuuriki had awoken? What the case, the female Kage untied the string around the falcon's ankle and unfurled the scroll.
Her free hand pounded against her desk roughly no less than twenty seconds as her sharp nails began to scratch the rough wooden surface. She crumpled the paper in her hand in anger as she finished reading it, biting her lip as she threw the ball of paper against the wall in her frustration.
"Those idiots!" she roared. Not only had they acted in completely insubordination when they attempted to pull that little stunt, they had practically allowed the prisoner to get away unharmed and unquestioned, at the cost of one of their lives no less. Not to mention, the warden's sudden defeat at the hands of the Jinchuuriki meant that there was now a power vacuum in the prison, one that the escapee fully exploited by dispensing the cage keys to all the prisoners there.
Mei opened her desk in a heartbeat, noting with satisfaction that the messenger hawk remained on its perch as if ready to take another letter. She pulled out some paper and a brush, twirling the wooden writing utensil on her fingers as she prepared to write. It was time to write back to Kumo and get on Konoha's case about an explanation.
The Great Kirigakure Prison was not located directly underneath the village proper, and because of that Naruto was able to avoid coming out in the center of the village and being subject to the watchful eye of the Mizukage.
The Mizu no Kuni was known for being a marshy wetland with dozens of lakes scattering the small island. Dozens of years ago, the village of Kirigakure had chosen the largest lake within reasonable distance of their village, and began to build the maximum security prison into the silted cliffs of the lakebed. Four tiny civilian villages were built along the lakeshore, mostly making their living from fishing within Lake Zugan. No one had any idea of the prison lurking right below their feet.
There were two ways to enter the prison. The first was the normal way that guests and officials used, as well as new inmates entering the prison for the very first time. It was an underground channel whose entrance was hidden in the forest near the lake, and it led directly into the foyer of the prison.
The second entrance was only used as an emergency exit; an underwater gate that was only accessible through a valve within the maintenance room on the second sublevel which opened both the gate and an airlock which prevented water from flooding the prison.
With the main power structure in the prison defeated, any hypothetical escapee would have been able to use the chaos and confusion in order to trip the gate and airlock, provided they were a good enough swimmer.
Which is exactly what Naruto and Kimimaro did, tripping the switch on the second floor and bursting out into Lake Zugan before the prison could reestablish itself and get word out to the Mizukage.
As soon as the gate opened, two figures burst out from the underwater prison like speeding bullets in the water. Leaving the prison in shambles and without a clear power structure, Naruto and Kimimaro burst out into the lake proper without once looking back. Like expert swimmers, they moved to the surface, avoiding fish and some of more unsavory wildlife that might be lurking near the lakebottom.
Naruto of course didn't need to breathe, but Kimimaro was able to swim minutes up to the surface without any sign of needing air or rest. The two companions breached the surface of the water, Kimimaro taking a few deep breaths before looking around the foggy lake and the tiny village hidden by the lake near the shoreline.
Naruto spit out a bit of water, his hair and robe drenched as he began to wade.
"Okay, we're out of the prison. You told me the Sanbi is hiding in the northeast part of the country, in a lake similar to this one. Lead the way, Kimimaro..."
Back in the now destroyed prison, one of the two figures laying on the stone floor of the second sublevel stirred. Ignoring his dead "partner", Amegetsu shuffled around, letting his back hit the wall as he exhaled heavily, blood staining the corners of his mouth.
His sword forgotten, Amegetsu reached into his jacket, pulling out a small wireless headset. Situating it on his head, he tuned into a specific frequency until the static cleared.
"Hello? Yeah, this is Purple Rain with my report. I want to relay a message to Helmet Beetle. The intruders have left the sinkhole and are proceeding to your location. I can confirm that one of them is after the turtle. The other is bones, whom I can confirm has betrayed us and is working for the beast."
With his message relayed, the Houzuki Clan leader allowed himself to drift into unconsciousness.
"Too late. It's already over."
And we're done here.
Another reason I'm so hesitant to update this one is because I feel I've lost my touch with completely Naruto-esque fight scenes. Even with Amenaza, it was still Bleach style, which I can handle, but Naruto is just... eh. I never really got the hang of it, unless it's a Bijuu fight.
Anyway, that's all for now.
The God of Pikmin