Night fell quickly, with the moon rising, so did the shadows hiding some crooks about to take on a couple walking through the park. And from a hollow tree, a blonde watched on, seeing as the criminals attacked. Inside him raged a war…
"You know it's not worth it. Helping them does not further your goals. They can perish and it wouldn't affect your skills."
"I've always helped those in need, it's what I always did, it was something I wanted to do."
"And doing it didn't hone your skills, all you faced were low-level punks, not deserving of fighting you at full strength."
"But they need help, what good is my strength if I cannot help those in need?"
"Your strength is good for one thing, killing those that stand in the way of what drives you forward, what desires you hold, what goals you made for yourself."
The thugs were winning, knocking the man out and taking his things, and trying to kidnap the woman. In his head, the dark thoughts were winning… But his heart was yet to be fully shattered, his soul called out to him and he raced forward, and without a second to think he kicked the guy so hard in his side that he heard the thug's back snap, the spine breaking from the force of his kick.
The woman knocked herself out against the ground, so all that was left to do was take out thug number two. The thug, seeing his friend gasping for breath and unable to move, grabbed his knife and decided to attack. "You'll pay for that!"
Though it was of no use, as the blonde fighter snapped a knuckle punch to the elbow to break the bone there, then pull the arm out of its socket, and then sent a punch right into the man's chest, breaking three ribs with little effort. As the man fell, gasping for his own life like his friend, Naruto stood there unmoving, staring.
The dark thoughts in his mind swirled. "This is what you are meant for, taking those under you out, and showing how powerful you are. You are a fighter, you shouldn't be showing mercy to anyone. They fight you, you should be doing just this, making sure they cannot hurt you ever again."
Naruto stared still, thinking of his masters. "But if I end their lives, they can't change for the better… We don't kill. We can't kill, we should NOT kill."
"We CAN, and if we need to, we WILL. Because if those who will never change get stronger, we risk everything we care for. You know it to be true, you know that we cannot afford to let our friends die."
"And if they die because we stop seeing them as friends? I can never just throw away my morality!"
"If you don't, they die, if you do they live, if they fight you over it, they die, but at least you'll never have to hurt with worry ever again."
Naruto growled and just held his head. He didn't know what to do, but he knew he was going to let out his Ki enough to be noticed, and he didn't want to be found like this. So he just took deep breaths and forced down his feelings until he was numb. After a minute he began walking, trying hard to find another place to rest, maybe find something to eat.
XxX xx XxX
The next morning, at Ryozanpaku, the masters were coming back one by one. "No sign, I felt something weird last night but he wasn't there. Though a few people were knocked around, no deaths yet."
Looking to the gruff man, the Chinese master Kensei hummed solemnly. "That's our only comfort so far, he's yet to actually kill anyone. He's at the final crossroads for who he is as a Martial Artist. Though we trained him to fight with Katsujinken, there was always the chance he would consider killing in the name of those he cares for."
"We all went through similar aspects, every one of us sought to fight, and found out what life or death meant to us. Now he must find it in himself to do so as well." Hayato spoke wisely. "If he starts killing and enjoys it, we may have to put a stop to his actions before Yami finds him."
The masters kept in thought as Miu listened in. She looked down sadly. "I screwed up everything. If I hadn't been so oblivious, he wouldn't be so angry…"
After finishing the morning chores, Miu went to school. As she found the friends they made, she found them all rallied around their table in their school room HQ. "Hey everyone, what's the commotion today?"
Niijima looked her way as everyone, Valkyrie and the Puncher, as well as even Hermit, was joined in the meeting. That last one made her think he must have told them everything. Though the alien mastermind stood and sighed. "We have an issue. The information has come to my attention regarding my partner in this group, Naruto. There have been reports of a blond master of martial arts roaming and beating people to an inch of their lives. There's even been reports of injured innocent civilians, not just criminals."
That got her attention, as he deployed a board of reports and picture sketches. She sat down looking and reading every single one as she listened, Takeda taking point. "I don't understand it myself… The latest report is from someone saying that he saved them from criminals, but knocked her out before disappearing. Knowing the guy myself, I'm having doubts we are speaking about the same person, but the reports are pointing him out specifically. Blonde spiked up hair, and whisker marks, along with cerulean eyes. This sounds way too much like Naruto's features, even if the reports sound too little like his usual self of protecting and helping others without any harm coming to the victims."
"Interesting theory… Except that the Naruto you know isn't the same right now." Hermit had to point out as everyone looked at him. He looked at Miu and then at them. "Listen, as you may know, there are two different ideals to Martial Arts. Katsujinken and Satujinken. Naruto, and Miu under the Ryozanpaku masters, practice Katsujinken. Life Fist. They fight with all their might but do not kill, period. Satsujinken, Killing Fist, means those under Yami kill whoever they want. Thing is, with Martial Artists, the ideals of each seem appealing. And to Naruto, although he practiced Katsujinken, he still has not faced the barrier all face. Whether that is the belief his heart is set to follow. I cannot say mine is set either, but he has been at this longer than I have. Right now, he is currently at the real crossroad to the entire question of WHY he fights. And whatever he is doing is in response to that."
The blonde martial arts pupil would have to thank Hermit for not telling them everything. Valkyrie hummed. "If that's true, then he might kill soon if he is feeling inclined. This is NOT the Naruto I know, so if he does go this route I will do my best to correct it. Niijima, any idea where he is?"
"Short answer, no." The alien hummed and thought hard. He turned to everyone. "I may not be like Naruto, but I do know this much. He is not killing anyone… Yet. He may be reckless, and those who are innocent and unable to protect themselves are getting in the crossfire, but there have been zero deaths. Even if he is at a crossroads of killing or saving those in his way, the Naruto under the Shinka Alliance is still very much alive and well. Whatever is happening must be from something else, more recent… Miu, he's been different as of late, has he not? You've been his friend longer than he has been our leader. What has changed?"
The long-haired blonde of the group was surprised by the question but looked down in thought. She could not answer without giving away the fact she was to blame. But after several moments, she spoke softly to them all. "He has gained even more friends than he ever had before. He only had me as a friend, but since public schooling, he met a lot more who have become his closest friends, and after the attack by Yomi he has started wondering how to protect those he cares for, who are not yet able to fend off such high-level combatants, from their deadly practices…." She gripped her hands together painfully. "He may be wondering why bother with his training from keeping those he fights alive, to protect his friends and close ones from the dangers of the threat that Yomi possesses."
Hermit looked at her closely, both knowing the truth, and acknowledging the truth she spoke. As the group focused, Valkyrie stood and slammed the table with her hand. "Then we find him, and show him we are not some weaklings who need his protection!" She glared at the table of people. "We show him we care and we will not stop in the face of this dangerous and deadly group! We show him we are strong, and we will be with him through even the greatest of his doubts and adversities! He should not, and will not go through this time of trial alone!" Kisara left quickly, leaving the group to wonder what she was up to.
After the meeting, Miu came from the room and wondered, and after an hour she was faced with the stairs to the direction of, go figure, no her class ahead. As she turned, she was met with Kisara, who frowned. "Oh… Hey."
"Uh, sorry... Hello." Miu bowed. "Sorry for my inconvenience." As she passed by the redhead, she was hoping to just go along her day. But she was stopped when Kisara spoke.
The redheaded master of the Korean Karate was soft in her voice, which carried the weight of love. "He didn't betray the very ideals he kept dear when facing Ragnarok… He can't be… You know him, you live with him, you are his potential girlfriend, you KNOW what must be happening… Why is he doing this?"
Miu was shocked by this but looked softly at the ground as she tried to make sense of it. "I… I truly cannot say for sure, but… I feel... It is my fault."
She felt a gaze on her and looked behind to see the questioning but sad gaze of the redhead friend to her love. Kisara was tearing up but kept all her composure. "He looked forward to your dates. He would not forget the promises he gave. How could it ever be your fault?"
Miu looked down and tears came to her eyes but refused to fall as her composure was steady. "I did not stop another from showing romantic interest, and was too stunned from my day… And Naruto could not handle that stranger's invasion of my privacy, the top disciple of Yomi, as he tried to steal me away from him to show me... Something I desired that day."
After explaining, Miu was hoping, even after going into further detail for a few more minutes, that Kisara was able to understand and share her sorrow. But instead, the redheaded woman came down and grabbed her by the collar, with intense rage emanating from her. "You let some strange man kiss you when you were trained to stop ANYONE from sneaking up from behind you… and in front of Naruto, whilst on a very nice date… No wonder he snapped, but to go this far, it is more than rage. The great man who saved my life, and the life of my best friend and pet, going rogue over such a thing, he must have felt betrayed… I know him, and I know you…" She growled in rage. "You should be ashamed of yourself, but I know his heart would burst in sorrow seeing you in pain, so even if I hate you, just get over it and never let it happen again. When you find him, make amends, and show him your heart. If you fail then you are unfit to be the one to hold his love." Kisara let go of the blonde woman and started down the stairs briskly. "The longer we let him feel sorrow and heartbreak, the worse he will get! Just don't get in my way!"
Miu was both shocked but also, as she was told to be, ashamed. Kisara was right, and though the redhead was not on the same level as her in fighting capability, Miu knew Valkyrie was telling the truth. She looked at her hand. "I should have stopped him, my muscles just… I was paralyzed."
She stood there, unable to move as she thought deeply about how it all went down. She could have done more… "I should have done more…" But she shook herself from thought to continue the day.
XxX An hour later at the HQ for Shinka XxX
Though a mastermind, even Niijima was uncertain for the fate of his beloved alliance. Watching video footage he had, some might say, acquired from linked digital recording cameras in the area, he witnessed the tapes alongside those he recorded. Behind him stood one of his best fighters, unknown to many in the Alliance. "It's the same rhythm and style, isn't it?"
The glass wearing individual nodded. "The moves are all there, it's indeed Naruto if the tapes you recorded are accurate, and they always are Commander Niijima."
Watching more, he could see the intent for more than just disabling his opponents. "I see. He has become less constrained… As much as it pleases me that he can be corrupted to be more violent, this is not the ideal we stand behind…" In his mind, as his alien senses became knowledgable of every movement, he hummed. "Behind his heroic demeanor, the Shinka is trying to gain subordinates with the ideal that we can change the world for the better. To keep the image of an alliance of good-hearted and proud souls, we need our leader, our greatest, to be incorruptible."
"Niijima… What do we do for Commander Naruto?"
A moment went by before Niijima stood. "Have half our intel squad search for any indication of his location, make sure they keep out of sight, and never have any fighting intent. Watch only, and when we find him, tell our fighters. One of them has to break through to get him to be much more sensible than this. Remember to never get near him."
"Yes sir, Commander Niijima!" The Salute was apparent from everyone in attendance as Niijima walked out to try and visit the next people to tell about this development. "The Masters will be my trump card to get Naruto back. Until then, I will keep vague but still truthful."
He was walking past the training room when he saw Hermit, who was glaring at the young man. "Well, if it isn't Hermit. Tell me, what brings you here? Last I checked, you specifically hated the idea of being near the Shinka Alliance."
"Listen you alien freak." That got Niijima's attention. "There is something you need to know…" After a minute of explaining, the antenna of the Alien twitched, sensing no lie. "So, now you know… I'm out, but keep what I said in mind… That fighter from Yomi is their greatest combatant. Naruto's greatest rival so far. Run into him, and it's game over."
Niijima smiled. "There's still a place here for you, Tanimoto. If you ever change your mind, we will continue to keep the spot open for you."
"Hard pass." The trained disciple of Kung Fu kept on till he was out of sight.
As Niijima processed the information, he hummed. "Maybe telling that Chinese girl would help… Is she still even here?"
XxX Night, two days later XxX
Kisara was on the streets, walking back to HQ. As she returned, she was met with Ukita, which was unusual. He was with Niijima. "Been a while, what's up, Thrower?"
Smiling, the sunglass-wearing huge man turned to her. "Got a day off, luckily the Masters are busy right now trying to focus on what to do with Naruto."
"So you've heard?"
Nodding, the Judo expert explained. "They've been in talks, apparently trying to find Naruto, and stop him. Their entire idea is to bring him in to talk, but have recently considered breaking some rules to bring him in, breaking bones… As much as I am less a friend than you or Takeda, he's helped me greatly, and he's been a good guy. I don't want anything bad to happen, so I thought on my day off I would come help, considering Takeda told me he was off to find his Master to start training up to face Naruto. As he said, it is to 'Knock some sense into that damned blond' or so he says."
Kisara smiled and put her hands in her pockets. Her usual red shirt and ripped jeans look sported proudly as she sat next to the others. "Alright, say we want your help, what can you do to help us out?"
"Well, not much I am afraid, but I did get some information from the masters." The thrower put out a slip of paper. "Had to write it down on the spot, but they know he's in the west part of town, just cannot pinpoint his activities. Something about this entire fight with the dark side connected to his past."
Taking it instantly, Kisara got it from Niijima and started reading, pushing the alien away as he tried to take it. Reading the paper, Kisara gasped. "Near… oh god… Naruto!" She ran out fast, bursting through the doors as Niijima caught the paper and read it.
"Interesting. Why KIsara though? Why is she so upset over this?" He hummed. He read that it was near an animal clinic, and had to figure that this might be one that Kisara knew, thanks to her cat.
Running down the streets, the redhead was huffing. "Naruto... You remember saving me and my cat, I know you do… You are trying to keep good, I know it! Naruto... I'm coming to help you!... I care too much for you!"
XxX Nighttime, commercial district. XxX
Sitting in a very dark alley, watching people walk by, the young man remembered fending off these streets. Something in his mind connected to a very old memory.
Closing his eyes, he saw the face of an old man with startled eyes, and another man with a mask and eye cover, a fire… It was vague but after that, he remembered a man extending a hand and then running. Ever since then, he stole from vendors and tried to keep to small petty grocery crime.
Until, of course, the Elder caught him and forced his hand to come to the Dojo. "He saw you as another tool and one that he had help in sharpening. A sharp tool to be for his cause. You have every skill to kill anyone you deem necessary of such degree's of force, and yet you continue to hold back your true strength, the strength it would take to stop the very people hurting your friends, your way of life, and of course stealing your beloved Miu from you, after everything she did to be your closest companion, to be welcomed into your heart… Only to destroy it by not throwing the punk who stole her from us in the first place! You have to know the nice guy act will only ever take you so far, and you need to start hurting those who dare take your life from you! Like that bastard tried to after your very birth!"
That took Naruto's attention as the voice reverberated into the hatred he started to feel. "What? Who? The old man didn't try to hurt me when I was on the streets, neither did anyone… I was never threatened with death."
"Because you don't remember the horrors of that night… Of the man, you saw bleeding during that fire. You suppress the very memory of the event leading you here, into this very life. You must unseal that memory, and understand why you are here, why that flame is not your determination but your fuel for hatred, the thing you should be angry with and feel the pain for the suffering you had for three years since you found yourself stranded in a street being seen as nothing."
Grunting and holding his head, the blonde could do nothing but try and suppress the rage and fear, as his memories returned to that image, again and again, he tried thinking of something that made him smile, the dates with Renka and Miu, the smiles of his friends. Only for red to enter his vision and make him think of that fire again… "Stop… Stop it… I don't want to… UGH!"
After an hour passed, the night sky clouded, Naruto just shook cold and hungry and was starting to give in. That was until he heard rapid footsteps, someone running… and very fast in his direction. Eyes snapping open, he looked in the direction of the sound and stood up to meet the intruder head-on.
Trained to see in the dark, Naruto didn't take long to notice the figure of a slender woman coming at him, and almost seconds later seeing the details and his eyes went open to see that Kisara was running his way.
Not being one to see in the dark, Kisara kept running even though she knew she may eventually trip, or even accidentally run over, or run into and be knocked down by, the blonde fighter she cared for.
The problem did not come as expected, as she was met with some sort of movement sound, not like the light steps of the masters. She heard the thump of a shoe hit the ground, and with that she stopped, trying to acclimate her eyes to the area's darkness. "Hello?... Naruto?"
Though knowing that his steps were usually lighter, she doubted for a second before seeing a figure in front of her in the darkness of night, one with a spiked up style of hair. Then the soft almost inaudible steps came, as the figure got closer until her eyes finally acclimated to notice the features that made the one before her into the one she sought after, the blue eyes and the blondish hair. "Kisara… Why are you here?"
Her first instinct was to run up and give him a playful smack, but this was not the man she knew right now. She could tell he was ready for a fight, ready to be struck. "You need to ask? I came looking for you!" Seeing him not even budge, she scoffed. "Like it matters why I am even here when you have been missing in action for a while now. Can't even be bothered to say hey to friends, let alone get back home. What, stealing food off the street or something? That's not like you."
"You know nothing about me, and you presume to give me a lecture? I was an orphan, you can't even fathom at three as a toddler running from grown men and women trying to catch me as I stole from their stalls in the farmers market downtown. I stole for three years to survive, I can do it again if need be. So back to my question, what brings you here for me? Not like it matters…"
"Yes… you do not need friends or anyone to care for, they are only obstacles to your infinite power…" Naruto just kept quiet, but Kisara could see he was in distress and could also see he wasn't in the mood for being told how wrong he was, not after what she KNEW was him being wronged.
Lightening her stance, the redhead took a breath and looked around. "You know, speaking of the past… Around here? It's where we first met. You saved me and my cat from a very aggressive dog. Every day since all I ever thought was to reach that strength… To meet you again. You've heard me say it enough at this point I wager, but…" Huffing with amusement, she looked up to the sky. "Maybe you need a trip down memory lane. Maybe you need to rethink yourself. Whatever you do now is up to you, but whatever you choose it needs to be the real you. I cannot even think this is the version of you that saved me, that helped me, that has been good at heart even through Ragnarok. Stress, being betrayed, whatever it was that triggered your change? I want you to know that… you are not alone. You are still that kind boy who makes me smile."
Looking at him now, the redhead could see no change. Putting her arms out, she took a step forward. "And I want… I need, to be able to return that sentiment because it's you who made me realize that having those close to you can give you the strength to get even stronger, even greater… And even closer to the righteous individual that you can be proud to stare at in the mirror." Taking another step, she noticed him tense, looking at her much like an opponent.
The time went by, seconds to minutes, and onward still into what felt like an eternity, but in the mind of the woman before him, Naruto could not fathom what he was doing or what she was even trying. But Kisara smiled before standing normally… and then shifted into a stance to fight. "One thing I learned from you, the most important thing probably… One's true feelings, true self, comes out in the way they fight. So if it means knocking some sense back into your thick skull, let's go… Naruto!" Kisara yelled as she closed the distance and threw a hard hook.
Being in another league in terms of skill and strength was one thing, Naruto held back everything since the moment he started going to that school. Using weights, constricting cloth underclothing, everything to stop himself from accidentally hurting someone beyond repair if a bully got stupid. The unrelenting strength and speed now was nothing like Kisara knew, this was serious and precise, as he blocked the hook up away from his head and then knuckle jabbed into her ribcage, bruising even the bone.
Hissing in pain, Kisara flinched for a moment before using the positioning to kick straight up, and then slam back downward at Naruto, missing both times as he ducked back and then diverted the downward heel to the side.
This gave Kisara a disadvantage position, but she skipped back, landing on the recent kicking foot and turned, snapping a back kick at the blonde, only for him to have gotten to her blind spot on the side and punch her in the gut, lifting her in the air and then throwing her onto her back where he once stood.
Hissing from the pain, she sat up holding her stomach, opening her eyes to the shock that he had got up and close, fist raised. This was a killing blow if it was actually used. But right at the point of his fist being raised, he stopped himself. His fist was shaking, his breath heavy as if running a mile, his eyes fearfully wide. Kisara could tell, he was fighting himself, fighting something deeper than anything anyone ever saw before.
Slowly raising her hand, she smirked, and just before it touched, she flexed into a fist and gently bumped his chest. "Too slow. Got a hit in." Relacing her body, she just lay on the ground resting. "Naruto… You are the one I care for the most. No matter what happens to me, I will protect that bond. I wonder if you feel the same way right now?..." Laughing, Kisara could only joke. "Probably not. But the time doesn't matter, as long as you'll let me be by your side." The power of only those two hits was not enough to truly knock her out, but it was late and she just spent energy on fighting. Kisara passed out with a sigh, feeling safe with Naruto.
The dawn was breaking when Kisara woke up finally, she was against the wall, and apparently resting against someone. Looking to the one she was worried she was drolling on, she smiled to see it was Naruto, staring at the sunrise.
Setting back on his shoulder, Kisara bent her legs up to her chest and sighed again in content. "I'm guessing you're still… You know, confused?"
Silence again, but she was used to it right now. Best not to push it, she thought. Then the blonde asked her something very strange. "You said… I was not the one you knew. But what if… What if there's another me, deep down, trying to break free? What if there's an evil me in my head… What if I am not just… this?"
Laying her head on him, it took a moment of thought. She wiggled up next to him more. "Naruto, you can be dense sometimes. It doesn't matter. Whether there's a good you and evil you, whether this has something to do with evil you running amok, you are still the good-hearted blonde super fighter I know from my youth to now. I'll get to know all of you, and support all of you, and love all of you. And never let anyone take me away from you, because… my heart? It belongs only to you… So I will continue to fight with you, and I'll be damned if you try to punch me again because you think I'm a burden. Just you wait until I reach your level, then I'll show you I can be the girl for you, not those two cows."
Though at first, she was being serious, she went back to her usual self, smiling as she goaded for a reaction to an invisible audience of those she was talking smack about. Though through it all, she kept a soft smile, meaning it in a friendly way.
Naruto saw her looking at him, and saw the light in her eyes. Then he turned to the rising sun. Something inside him felt like it was ripping its way out of his stomach, but another part was dulling the pain with his heart beating fast and alive. He smiled softly, a few tears hitting his cheeks. "I guess… I'll look forward to it…"
The voice in his head chuckled almost inaudible. "Just you wait… You'll see… She is nothing more than another piece of the puzzle for you to lose it… She will die trying to be like you, with you, and you will release me in rage. When that happens, you will see the real horrors of being too naive like you do now. I'll bide my time… I've waited since you were just a year old. I can wait a while longer."
XxX xx XxX
The morning came and Naruto was at the gates of Ryozanpaku, bowing to his masters. "I… Have some things I need to talk about… To get off my chest… If you still welcome me back after.. What I've done… I understand."
Hayato stepped forward, putting his hand on the young man's shoulder. "Then understand this. There is nothing you can say that will make us see you any different, then the boy we've helped raise. If you'll let us in your heart again, we would love nothing more than to welcome you back home."