Chapter 12: The Water Shadow Falls
On the Lake
Gray skies overhead rumbled.
Three set of eyes, filled to the brim with righteous indignation, subtle fury, and quiet uncertainty, fixed on the blank gaze of the Mizukage who release the protective cocoon of coral that had protected him from their initial assault and stood on a platform that remained, anchored to the bottom of the lake with a single shaft of thick coral.
Standing on the water as it shifted beneath them, a cold sweat broke out on the face of the ice-user. He had lost much to this man's regime and yet, looking into his gaze he noticed the Mizukage was nothing but a puppet. Even then, he wasn't certain they could win.
The muscles beneath the scales of the Maiden of the Sea were strained, taut with the desire to release. She wanted nothing more than to drag him into the depths for the sake of Villa, her fin blades lengthening at the thought of rage-fueled justice. Taking a step forward, she prepared to lunge and dive down, coming at him from below.
But, before she could take that step, Naruto was the first to change forward against the Water Shadow. The sooner he was defeated, the sooner the fighting stopped and the less bloodshed. The deaths at the port, the torturous pain inflicted by the hunters, the suffering of the country and his fellow jinchuuriki, everything led up to this moment. With that in mind, he shot forward, a Rasengan forming in his right hand.
"Isobu's chakra forms coral to restrict your movement or attack," Kurama supplied as his container charged into the fray.
Got it, Naruto affirmed.
The Mizukage crafted another mirror from the water vapor and his chakra. The reflection pulled itself free in the same pose as its original. It would spring forth to catch him in the middle of his attack, intercepting him.
Naruto halted and spun on his foot, turning his back to the clone and thrusting the spiraling sphere forward. The clone mirrored the action, slamming its own attack through the mirror that had brought it forth. Before it could connect with the Mizukage, the mirror clone was dispelled, leaving him facing the blond shinobi that was now closed the distance.
Setting the shaft of his weapon in the crook of his elbow, hand seals faster than the eye could catch and water chakra seeped down into the lake waters. Just as Naruto was within range, the water rose and swept him up with it. The rising wall of water shot up, ascending higher and higher into the sky with Naruto atop it and trying to free himself from within it, until it reached its plateau and broke through the surface to take a deep breath.
Mizukage was still ascending higher than he was on his mushroom-like platform of coral that kept spreading as it rose. Soon he was looking down at Naruto, overlooking the lake and the lands that were his by right of his position. Thrusting the staff out, the wall of water lurched out and came down like a tidal wave, the force of the impact enough to flatten the land at the edge of the lake and the three insects that were swept in it.
Haku prepared to unleash a stronger version of his Arctic Winds technique, the Great Arctic Winds, when Isaribi grabbed him. She dived, taking him down to the deepest depths, where the pull of the water was not as great, as he held his breath. Even below the massive wave they could hear the muffled echo of the monstrous crashes from above as the neighboring trees were smashed to pieces.
But, while they had escaped the massive wave from above, the dangers below were just as great as a reef the size of the lake bottom had come into existence courtesy of Isobu's chakra. And it was still growing, climbing and threatening to capture and flay them with jagged bits of coral.
Isaribi was forced to return to the surface as quickly as she could, shooting out of the water like a green missile and into the air. No sooner than Haku gasped for air did the spires of coral do the same, sticking out of the water like colorful spears. She grimaced as she lost one of her advantages, the ability to travel deep, as the water overflowed its natural boundaries due to the massive reef that took up most of the space beneath the surface.
"Where's Naruto-kun?" Haku asked as they touched down on the surface of the water, remaining aloft it.
"He was caught in the wave," Isaribi said as she raised her arms towards the Mizukage in the distance. Her scales stood up on the end. Scale Senbon were unleashed towards the jinchuuriki. "I'm not sure where he was taken or if he's okay."
Haku gritted his teeth. There was nothing that could be done then. If he was okay he'd rejoin them. He focused his attention on the Mizukage, who was twisting his staff and using it to block the scales that came close to hitting him, and padded out her assault with his own Thousand Flying Ice Needles of Death.
Yagura put more spring into his step as he dodged them, occasionally batting aside the projectiles until he could take refuge behind one of the brightly-colored spires from his reef. Behind it he ran through more hand seals and the water at his feet rose and slithered through the air, carrying him atop it as it surged up and then came careening down in an arch.
The force of it caught Isaribi, driving her down and against the reef of coral hard enough that the thick material formed a crater. Countless bubbles were released in the process, carrying bits of green flecks from her scales that were crumbled beneath the impact. But she managed to rise again, standing and breaking the water's surface to see that the lashing and serpentine column of water was chasing Haku.
The ice-user gathered his ice chakra in his lungs until it was dense and breathed it out in a single push. The Ice Style: Frost Bullet was launched and the compressed element flew towards the surging tendril.
The Mizukage jumped as the condensed frost was unleashed on impact turned the water into a frozen formation that fell apart as it crashed into the shallow water. Twirling his staff above his head, he used it as a bludgeon to try and cave in Haku's skull as he came down. He was intercepted by a blast of water from the Maiden of the Sea, sending him skirting over Haku and bounding off the water before he got back on his feet.
It was then there was a large shift in the water as the spires jutting out of it began to buckle. The coral was being bleached, breaking apart as a poison spread through its system. Yagura extended his senses and found the source of this disturbance in his chakra construct.
Naruto was below the water, pumping the corrupted yang chakra of the Nine-Tailed fox into coral at the Tailed Beast's suggestion. The chakra that governed and encouraged the growth of life, in its corrupted nature, eroded the Three-Tailed Turtle's own as it had eaten away at the hunter-nin when he had been cleaved by the chakra blade fueled by the same source. He was taking away the advantage over the battlefield.
Hand seals were made. The water around the jinchuuriki came alive at the Mizukage's behest, grabbing and ensnaring the youngest of the gathered and breaking the surface as a tendril of dense water once more. It flailed around and then slammed Naruto through the remaining spires, brittle shells of what they once were and fragile enough to break as the shinobi screamed with the first, second, and third spires.
Before it could do so a fourth time, a blast of frosty air consumed the tendril and turned it into ice. A hammer-like strike followed as the Water Style: Large Projectile from Isaribi struck with enough force to shatter it. Haku appeared from a Demonic Ice Mirror and scooped him up before he hit the water barely conscious.
"Wake up!" Haku said, looking at Isaribi laying cover fire. She was barely hindering the Mizukage, who was fixed on them. "If you pass out we won't be able to protect you and survive!"
Naruto's dreary eyes closed. He was a mess. One of his arms was visibly broken and twisted in the wrong place. His clothing was scrapped in large places, blood staining them. Within the confines of his mind a plea went out of for mutual survival.
Then there was a pulse of chakra and he lurched. Azure-eyes opened once more and turned a shade of crimson as flesh knitted, bones reset, and strength returned to him. He stepped down onto the water and was draped in a thin shroud of the fox's chakra, a single tail waving behind him. He roared as he charged forward to aid his comrade.
Yagura smashed his staff into the head of the Maiden of the Sea and then held his staff horizontally in both hands and allowed Isobu's chakra to seep into it. Creeping coral enshrouded it, covering it and reinforcing it to make it a more suitable weapon against the shrouded jinchuuriki and used it to block the incoming hammer blow.
The crimson fist descended like a sledgehammer and the impact drove the guarding Mizukage downwards. Because his chakra was keeping him afloat the water, it caved in until it hit the dead coral and made it crumble over a large area.
Yagura strained his muscles and knocked the hand to the side. Bringing the staff around it slammed into Naruto's right temple and then the left temple, before coming from below and catching him in the chest. He watched as the younger jinchuuriki went soaring backwards and then turned his attention to thickening mist in the air.
Haku stood at the center of it. Acting as the apprentice of the Demon of the Mist, he let the white shroud blanket the area. He was hoping it would by them some time and create an opening…
It wasn't meant to be.
Yagura made the seal for the Water Style: Water Wall and exhaled the excess water. He moved it in a spiraling circle, crafting more and more as he did so. What was meant to be a defensive technique encroached more and more area as his Tailed Beast's chakra was vast enough to do so. The mist was swept away in what was a slowly growing hurricane, sweeping in the lake water and dead coral.
"Multi-Shadow Clone!" Naruto declared, hundreds of clones forming and surrounding the perimeter of the crushing bulwark of water. They all inhaled deeply and used wind chakra to craft Wind Style: Air Bullets that were fired from every angle. The compressed air was let loose and ruptured with explosive force as they hit the water wall, tearing into the churning waters and thinning it out as it became unstable.
Naruto fell onto all fours as the clones expired, his shroud and whiskers growing thicker and his tail standing up. Then he darted forward with all his strength before the wall could thicken again. Like a crimson comet, he became a blur and slammed into the Mizukage with all the primal strength he could bring forward. The elder jinchuuriki took it head on and went flying, the constant stream of water ceasing.
"Haku, now!" Isaribi yelled as she created a Water Pillar of her own. This one she didn't churn, but raised it to be as high as she could make it.
Haku appeared behind it from a Demonic Ice Mirror and exhaled a thick gale of frost with the remaining chakra he had in reserve. The Ice Style: Great Arctic Winds caught the water and turned it into a massive and sleek ice wall, a mini-glacier. Yagura slammed into it and the cracking of bones could be heard as he rebounded off the surface, cracks forming where he had hit.
Then he tumbled into the water below and silence reign.
Haku and Isaribi were both panting, barely afloat on the surface of the water. On the last dredges of their chakra, they were exhausted. Haku pulled out a soldier's pill from his pouch and ate it as Naruto stalked towards them and crouched down between them.
His shroud had thinned to a coat. "Did we get him?"
The response came from the other side of the wall, as a Sonic Roar rang out. The ice caught in the wake of it reverberated violently, cracking as deep fissures formed. The mini-glacier crumbled to bits and they witnessed what lay behind it.
It was black beast on all fours, draped in a thick shroud of crimson chakra, glaring at them with empty luminous eyes. Three tails swayed in the air behind it, before curling around and changing. It turned to coral, forming an armor-like carapace with jagged bits jutting out that would flay skin from flesh. It charged with a feral cry, running atop the water with surprising deftness for its size.
Naruto let loose a cry of his own as he dashed for it and was knocked aside for his efforts. The jagged surface of the armor tore the flesh beneath his thinner shroud, and the mighty limbs pushed him beneath the water as he was trampled over, leaving the two unprotected.
Isaribi pushed Haku out of the way and took the full brunt of it, her scales breaking and the denser bones of her Kaima Form fracturing. She was sent skittering across the surface of the water, bounding off of it once, twice, and a final time before a large splash was made from the impact. Her fish-like features receded and she sank beneath the surface.
"Isaribi-chan!" Haku cried as he moved towards her, only for the behemoth to start charging him again. He put his hands together to ready a technique when the water in front of him exploded and the beast was stopped by the younger jinchuuriki.
"GRAB HER AND GO!" Naruto screeched as he strained to hold off the other beast, three crimson tails of his own acting as extra-arms to pin it. "HURRY!"
Haku swallowed and nodded. He let himself fall into the water and swam to catch her before she sank too deep. Breaching the surface with her in his arms, he used the chakra brought up from the pill converting his fat to give himself the strength to escape the battlefield and look over her injuries.
That left the two jinchuuriki to battle atop the lake that was filled with dead coral bits and ice fragments, the grey skies above letting loose water droplets as thunder rumbled. Coral began to sprout where Naruto's hands braced against the behemoth and was crawling along the surface to consume him.
He gritted his teeth. Any advice you want to share here? Before we end up unable to move?
"Gather my chakra into your lungs," Kurama spoke. "Let it soak in and then release a cry that makes the heavens and earth tremble. "
Naruto did as told, unleashing a Sonic Roar that knocked away the falling rain and tore apart the coral eating away at him with a sound wave laced with chakra. It pushed away the residual chakra washing over him and spread cracks along the armor of coral that enshrouded the jinchuuriki of the Three-Tailed Turtle.
But the berserk beast wasn't knocked back by the assault. Indeed, it pressed forward with the intent of mowing him down, causing Naruto to slide back along the surface of the water while gaining speed. With no other choice, putting all his control on the line, Naruto used his tails to divert the behemoth still pressing forward and sent the beast tumbling to the side as he let go.
I need more chakra! Naruto thought. He couldn't do that again. Not like that.
"Can you handle it without going feral?" Kurama asked. "Your mother tampered with the seal after hearing about the time with the hunters. As soon as your cognitive state falls below a threshold, the flow will cease. In the middle of this fight, it will be your defeat and I would prefer not to have to reform or end up enslaved."
In all honesty, he couldn't. He was too pressured fighting this thing, struggling not to break again at the memory of Isaribi being broken as the Three-Tailed jinchuuriki emerged from the water where it had been driven in. It didn't help that the coral-covered beast just stood there.
What is he…? Naruto's thoughts trailed off as he noticed the fissures in the coral spreading, the loosened bits shaking. Instinct, heightened in his present state, told him to move. He darted atop the water on all fours as a spray of Coral Senbon rained forth in a barrage and left sprays of water where he once had been as he circled around until the shots ended and the crimson-shrouded figure beneath the coral was exposed.
Naruto darted in before he could regrow the armor. His tails thrashed as they were reshaped into claws and then shot forth to rake across its face. The three tails of the older jinchuuriki deflected them as it brought its palm forth with the intention of repeating the Coral Palm technique from before.
But Naruto and the fox were quicker than the turtle. He ducked under the thrust and brought his sharpened claws in a horizontal swipe. The Mizukage screamed in an inhuman cry as its sight was wrenched from it, the claws taking them away as penitence for the Maiden of the Sea as the armor of coral reformed.
Naruto leapt up and over the turtle, getting to its back and circling again. He was looking for an opening before it healed the damage its sight in seconds. It needed to end while he still had strength to bring forth.
"The Rasengan," Kurama offered as a solution. "Focus on containing it while I bring the chakra forth and move it."
Under the thickening rain he came to a stand-still and stood on two legs. His arm drew back and the malevolent chakra gathered and condensed. Streams of the chakra spiraled around the growing sphere, throbbing violently as it yearned to be freed from the container. Veins appeared on his forehead as he struggled to contain it, maintaining it as a sphere while its ominous glow contrasted the grey skies.
The other jinchuuriki, now armored and its sight restored, charged atop the water for hi m once more. Naruto roared as a chakra arm extended, pushing the technique towards the mad jinchuuriki. The two forces met and clashed, with the carapace of coral shattering as the spiraling sphere of crimson broke through it and met the body beneath it.
Swept up in it, Isobu's container was pressured as the arm stretched and stretched and stretched, until it could go no further. Then the Kyuubi roared within Naruto's mindscape as it forced the chakra that formed the length of the arm into the sphere and past Naruto's means of control. The technique ruptured as a result, the shock wave of the blast throwing the water as a wave that came crashing down on either side and swallowed both jinchuuriki….
…the rain fell down continuously with lightning crackling above as Naruto surfaced a minute later, taking a deep breath of air as he panted. Tell me that did it?
"I doubt it," Kurama noted. "Isobu has the greatest defense amongst our kin despite being the most timid. I doubt it would be enough to cur him for long, so flee now that those fleas you call comrades have escaped and leave the rest to the Saiken."
Far be it for the tired youth to do anything less. He turned and started swimming to the shore before the remained of his strength vanished and he was left stranded….The water rumbled, trembling as the atmosphere shifted.
"It's too late."Kurama snarled within his mindscape as it felt the change, its kin's chakra no longer constrained to a human vessel as it manifested.
Naruto turned to see the surface of the water bubbling up, rising in a dome that rolled down a hard surface beneath the cascading water. As the amount of water petered out, it revealed a grayish-green crab-like shell with protrusions at the base. Rising above it were three flailing and plated tails that took the place of its hind legs. Beneath the monstrous-sized shell was a layer of red, its face resting ahead of the rest of its body with a large bear-trap like jaw and forehead with only the scarlet red left-eye exposed.
Barely able to stay afloat with his head sticking out of the water, Naruto felt like an ant before a giant as he looked to see the full transformation of the Three-Tailed Turtle looming over him. Its single eye was fixed on him. There was a sense of primal fear, seeing such a being and know it would come for you while you could do nothing against it.
Isobu's tails sank into the water and it started moving forward, mouth gaping as if it meant to swallow him… It was then a large bubble drifted down from the air to obstruct its path and the red eye of the Tailed Beast stared at it. Then the Blinding Bubble exploded, a flare of light and force that made it cry out and thrash its arms and tails, churning the water.
"Seems like you had it rough," said a voice Naruto recognized.
He looked to his left to see that Utakawa had arrived, sitting cross-legged on a bubble that drifted just over the water next to him. His kimono was tattered in places, signs of burnt fabric and smatterings of blood on it. Despite that he looked as placid as he had every time Naruto had seen him to this date.
He stepped off the large bubble and onto the water, letting it drift ahead. Raising his straw to his lips, he blew another bubble roughly the same size that compassed him and Naruto. They began to drift in the air, light bending around the bubble's outer sheen and camouflaging them from sight.
"Are the others here yet?" Naruto asked.
"Should be close" he said as he steered the bubble towards the swamplands behind them and away from Isobu, who looked around for Naruto now that the blinding wore off. "We heard its roar and figured I'd come ahead just in case. Ran across the Ice Boy on my way and got the jist of everything. We need to pull back and regroup."
They didn't have the chance.
With a roar, the shockwave that emerged spread out and destabilized the camouflaged bubble, popping it while the pair were still in the air. Freefalling, Utakata quickly made a replacement beneath the two before they hit the water. But ultimately it did what Isobu wished, as he now found them.
Utakata went on the defense as the large Tailed Beast made for them, he focused on crafting hundreds and then thousands of little bubbles that were laced with the chakra of the Six-Tailed Slug, directing them to his will to form six trails, curving paths that flowed forward and then smashed into the beast. They popped with impudence as they met with him, smoke sizzling from where it impacted.
Naruto's nose twinged as he caught the acidic scent and noted peculiarity.
"Such is Saiken's power," Kurama filled in for him "Saiken commands corrosive fluids and gases, much like Isobu commands coral. Using those ridiculous bubbles as a medium he can contain where and what it destroys… however, its potency is reduced while Saiken is sealed and will never penetrate Isobu's shell."
As if that last line was a trigger, the Three-Tailed Turtle sped forth, its shell smoking from where the acid had tries to melt through it as cut through the water. It would bore down on the older man before reaching Naruto, who was still unable to fight with the lack of chakra. Despite that, the man stared defiantly as he lowered his straw. Casting a shadow that swallowed him up beneath the rain-filled sky, Utakata was gone as Isobu met where he once stood….
And in his places there were six massive and white tails, slick with an unknown fluid that embraced with the Three-Tailed Turtle. They strained, moving and offsetting the mass as all six divided the strain. In tandem they rose, until it was forced out of the water with its tails lashing and roaring in defiance at being trapped.
Then they tossed the beast out of the lake, opposite the swamplands Naruto arrived in. The crash could be heard throughout the land as trees crunched beneath the behemoth, the ground itself quaking as it writhed to turn itself upright and lift itself up with its arms. No sooner than it managed did golden chains wreathe it, snaking around its limbs and mass to hold it in place as lava descended upon it from above, causing the Tailed Beast to shriek as it was covered in the melted earth.
A downpour of water followed, a floodgate that appeared out of nowhere from above like a tidal wave, slamming into the molten substance and releasing a veil of scalding steam the enveloped the entire area where it landed, shrouding it as the lava cooled rapidly into hardened stone. By the time Utakata returned to normal, reversing the partial transformation, there was now a mound of blackened slag as the steam cleared.
"So… did we win?" Naruto asked as his bubble drifted down to the panting jounin housing the Six-Tailed Slug, breaking the silence that permeated the air afterwards. To that end, deep fissures began to form in the mound. Boulder-sized fragments began to drop off and the sound of something hard grating against it filled the air.
"Doesn't look like it," Utakata said with a grimace.
Isobu shot out of the stone while curled into a ball that was spinning in a wheel, rolling its way back into the water and then leaping up to come down as a cannon ball and creating another billowing wave of water that was even larger than the previous time. It was going to swallow up everything that spanned the lake.
Utakata grimaced as he realized there was no way to get out of range in time, only to flinch as someone set their hands on his back. He looked over his shoulder to see Kushina there, a hand on him and Naruto. Chains erupted from her back and curved around them into the outline of a dome, the space between them filled with a shimmer layer of energy.
The wave came crashing down and dropped them down into the depths of the lake, the water pressing against the barrier as they sank down. Silence after the crashing ceased.
Naruto noticed her outfit was barely faring better than his own, points where cuts had drawn blood and there was an angry bruise on her shoulder that left her right arm shaking. Her breath was heavy, beads of sweat lining her forehead as she kept her eyes ahead. It seemed she hadn't come out unscathed either on her way there.
"Mom, are you okay?" he asked.
"I'll manage," she squeezed out as she withdrew a seal slip that contained Naruto's chakra and applied it to the back of his hand, forcibly injecting him with his own chakra to return his strength back to him. She then brought her hands together, gritting her teeth as she struggled to make the hand-seals for the Summoning technique. "Just summon the Boss Toad…"
Isobu roared, the water carrying it as a wave of pressure that told them it was close. Kushina finished her seal and slammed the palm of his hand against the layer of defense that stood between them and the Three-Tailed Turtle. The water shifted outwards as smoke was expelled and a serpentine figure slithered out of the smoke, obscured by the darkness of the depths, and met with the Tailed-Beast.
Naruto did the same, slamming his hands at the bottom of the barrier. Suddenly they ascended as a larger figure emerged and then kicked upwards with its powerful legs, breaking the surface and into the grey skies that stormed. Coming to a landing on the surface, Gamabunta surveyed the battlefield with webbed hands on the hilt of his blade as the barrier atop his head dropped. He had already been informed ahead of time, before they left, about his role.
The shifting surface of the shot into a plume as two other massive figures emerged in the distance. One was the Tailed-Beast, but wrapped around it was a creature with crimson scales that were patterned with gold ovals with black outlines. A mane of black hair that was tipped with crimson flowed around it's body, while it's razor sharp claws continuously scrapped at the shell. Golden eyes with white-rimmed slits were narrowed as its fox like mouth was opened to reveal fangs, its black ears raised. A fox with a body like a snake, a dragon with the head of a fox and fangs.
She was boss of the Nguruvilu Summonings, Lady Filu.
Despite constricting as tightly as she could and raking her claws against the shell, she couldn't pierce it. Three thick and armored tails swayed madly, before lashing at her elongated body and the impacts left welts against the scales that threatened to break under the strikes, forcing her to let go. She dove back into the water and slid, her body moving in wavy motion that made it seem like she was slithering through it.
Isobu refused to let her escape that easily. Opening his maw he fired massive blobs of chakra-kneaded water, sending shot after shot of the Water Release: Great Water Mass Bullets. The water bullets smashed against the surface of the water and then ruptured, sending up spouts that threatened to send her sailing upwards.
Agile as she was, the boss of the Nguruvilu race avoided them deftly as she circled it, the shots only ending as Gamabunta laid down cover fire with his own Water Style: Gunshot technique that caught Isobu in the face. The Three-Tailed Turtle switched targets, sending out another trio of shots towards the Toad Boss.
"Hold on!"Gamabunta warned the three atop his head before he leapt into the air with his powerful legs. The shots left trails as they passed under him and continued sailing into the swamplands in the distance and displacing the mango trees and murky water with thunderous spouts.
At the apex of his jump he drew his massive blade. Then he descended onto the Tailed-Beast with all his weight and thrust the blade down. It failed to pierce the shell and was then relegated to fending off the thrashing tails with the steel in his hands.
He jumped off again, the force of his legs pushing the turtle beneath the surface. The water crashed down around the turtle while the massive toad sailed backwards through the air and back down into the water at a safe distance with a major splash. Only its head remained above the water, housing the three atop it, while the Nguruvilu's head surfaced next to him.
"Are you all right, Lady Filu?" Kushina asked her summoning.
"As well as one can be," the summoning responded, her body shifting under the water. "My kin and I aren't well suited against such an opponent, I'm afraid. That shell is quite resilient."
Gamabunta agreed. "Gonna be a pain to deal with."
It was then that another figure touched down, her auburn hair disheveled and her cloth torn in particular places where she had fended off more assailants on her way toward the battlefield. She leapt from the surface of the water to the top of the Toad Boss' head.
"How are the kids?" Kushina asked as Mei.
"Ao managed to get them out of the immediate area." She pushed her hair out of her eyes and then fixed them ahead. "However, we need to end this quickly."
Lady Filu felt the water beneath her shifting and dove down to see the growing coral tower that was rising from the bottom and encompassing where the turtle had sank beneath the wave. It was growing at a frantic rate, branching out with jagged limbs that began filling the water. Breaking the surface, she warned them of the impending threat. The branches jutted out of the water like a bulwark that drove them backwards, leaving a mound of coral that resembled a bud of a flower that had yet to blossom.
Within it, Saiken and Kurama felt the melding of Yin and Yang chakra and told their respective hosts that they were on the verge of being on the wrong end of a Tailed-Beast Bomb. Once they told the others, the summonings did their best to halt it, with Gamabunta trying to cleave the coral away with his sword infused with natural energy while Lady Filu firing a pressurized spray of water from her mouth to break through it with no success, as it repaired itself to quickly.
Utakata fixed his eyes on where the buildup was at according to the beast inside of him. Apparently Isobu had the slowest charge time, but that just meant they had another thirty-seconds. The coral that was damaged was re-growing too quickly for them to manage as they were. But…
"Naruto," he said, grabbing the youngest shinobi's attention. "Get ready to release a gust that's concentrated in one spot." He pointed towards it. "I'll use my Acid Spray and you focus it so it gets through the thickest layers. From there the others can hit it with the hardest attacks they have until we punch a hole in it."
"Lady Filu, can you handle that part?" Kushina asked.
"I believe so."
"I'll finish then," Mei said as she began forming hand-seals.
The chakra of the Six-Tailed Slug was molded into acidic vapor within the lungs of the bubble-user and wind was formed with the blonde jinchuuriki. On a mental count of three they exhaled from atop the Toad Boss, white gas leaving Utakata's puckered lips and was backed by the gust that left Naruto's, his control focusing the wind chakra mimic the wind to keep it in a nice and tight stream. The resulting combination slammed against the coral and began eating away at it without mercy, its touch breaking down the hard reef into a liquid that seeped through the crevices and spread out to counter the regrowth factor until they exhausted their chakra.
Lady Filu followed up, summoning with her own chakra a dozen whirlpools that churned into existence and then invert them into drills that arched out of the water. With a yip they spiraled into one another to form a single construct, melding into one large water drill that bore its way into the weakened coral and the spun madly to grate away at it and prevent it from reforming.
Mei finished the seals for her technique as the drill broke through at last and exhaled. From her own lips emerged a dragon that was molten in nature. It bellowed as it slithered through the space and into the opening that had been forming. Within that dark space where the only light was the formation of the two chakras melding into a sphere of destruction, it spied the eye of the Three-Tailed Turtle and lunged….
The roar that followed was the loudest that had been heard so far, the anguish and agony of it making the defensive bud of coral collapse as the two summonings and their charges fled. The pain disrupted the melding, imperfection setting it off. The yang chakra over shadowed the yin and the excess that wasn't devoured ruptured in a thin pillar that broke the storm clouds above the lake and then slowly expanded from its base, a fearsome wind ahead of it and threatening to send the summonings and the shinobi attached to them into the swamplands before it settled. The steam that had risen up and formed a wall obscured their vision as they waited with baited breath to see the outcome of their gamble….
Isobu remained a lot the water, its eye closed as light no longer reached it and hoarse groans left its mouth. Motes of light and darkness appeared once more and tried to congeal into a single mass a second time.
"He just won't quit," Naruto noted.
"If Isobu is under the effects of that damnable eye he won't stop as long as he remains standing," Kurama noted with disdain. "It forces him to move and fight, a slave in his own body and mind."
"Lady, got it in you for another light?" Gamabunta asked. Mei nodded. "Then I'll provide the oil, you light it on fire."
The cheeks of the Toad Boss swelled as he rushed forth and then released a spray of black and crude oil in the form of a funnel-shaped spout. When fire emerged from Mei's lips, it met and a billowing wave of heat formed as the combination slammed into the tailed Beast with enough force to send it reeling.
Isobu wailed in agony as the burning oil transferred the heat through his shell and to the soft flesh beneath. It dove under water to try and alleviate the burn, but the oil kept it alight. Reaching the bottom of the lake, it upturned the silt and tried to smother the flames, only for a maelstrom to form around its mass and pluck both it and the silt into it to form a dirty whirlpool that shot up into a waterspout at the behest of the Nguruvilu Boss.
Sent skyward, Naruto watched as gravity took hold of the Three-Tailed Turtle once the spout capped off and sent Isobu down at an arch, leaving the hulking behemoth crashing down with a large cloud of splinters, dust, and murk in the woodlands. The massive chakra beast groaned and was then encased in a grey-greenish light as his form shrank.
"I think he's down now," Utakata mused.
Kushina shook her head. "There's still one more thing we need to do…"
The mindscape of the Mizukage and Three-Tailed Turtle was a contrast to that of the One-Tailed Raccoon and Gaara of the Desert. Instead of endless sands with only an oasis of relief, it was a never-ending body of water perpetually shrouded in mist, with the only bastion being a chunk of land that peaked in a curve at the top. Kushina, Kurama, Naruto, Saiken, and Utakata all stood there, their gazes fixed on a horrifying sight.
Both Yagura and Isbobu stood in place on the water, empty-eyed with nightmarish chains piercing their bodies and minds from above. At the other end of the chains was the source, a red wheel that spun without end, what looked to be a black three-point shuriken with a tail connecting to the next point making them seem like a second circle within the first.
"The Mangekyo Sharingan," Kushina said softly. She could never forget those same eyes that had ensnared her at one time, forcing her to release the seal binding Kurama inside of her after giving birth. The same design as those of the masked man who threatened to kill her child.
"Those same. Damn. Eyes." Kurama snarled. "It drove Isobu to fight but it made him lame, a puppet on strings."
Saiken agreed. "If he had been himself, Isobu could use a mist to drive away those within it or open a rift to another pocket dimension. That battle would not have been so easy."
"How do we free them?" Naruto asked, ignoring the fact that they called what just transpired an easy battle.
"That eye is a physical manifestation of the chakra holding them in a thrall," Kushina stated. "Because they're already caught they can't escape, so we need to use enough chakra to break them free. If both of the Tailed-Beast work it tandem then it should work and I can apply the seal."
Kurama snorted. Even as it did so, the air around it warped. "I alone will suffice."
Naruto backed away as the fox stepped forward. The water beneath its paws began to boil. Steam rose to envelope the limbs and the curled around the tails that menacingly swayed around.
"Shameful," the fox spat out with barely constrained fury. "We nine, the second sons and daughter of the Sage of Six Paths, the inheritors of his will and vessels that hold the power of the Ten-Tails. Betrayed by those who bore his blood, to be bartered around by the descendant of the second-born of our father and then mentally enslaved by the first-born with those damnable eyes!"
The maw opened to reveal fangs. The nine tails curled up and inwards, nine arches that touched down at the opening. Spheres of crimson appeared as his rage was given form. They gathered into one where the nine points of the tail met, pulling towards the gap the entrance of its throat. The orb that formed was a single, violent, throbbing mass of malice.
"HOW. DARE. THEY!" A crimson spear of light launched, parting the air with such furiosity that it howled as it sailed towards the spinning eye. It smashed through it with impudence. The mirror-wheel eye crumbled like shattered stained-glass, the chains connected to it dissolving as they tumbled into the waters of the mindscape.
The group watched as the pair, now freed from the chains, collapsed. To hold them under its control for so long had hollowed them out. It would take months or possibly years for them to regain the same level of mental function they once had.
Wisps of crimson left the fox's maw as Kurama turned to Kushina. "Get to work, woman. The longer I remain her, the more my fury will boil over."
"If it weren't for the fact that I'm as angry as you are I'd chain that mouth of yours shut," she responded with her eyes closed as she advanced towards the pair. Regardless of their mutual enemy, they were under no circumstances in the mood to pretend to be friendly.
Nevertheless, Kushina set to work.
Some Time Later…
After that battle, once night fell, the group reached what served as a safe-house for the time being. Naruto had showered and dressed in spare clothing they procured some time after the battle, a simple shirt and pants to go with his gloves and sandals. There were a number of rooms in the building, each one having the simplest comforts of a bed, which he desperately needed after so many nights without one, but he couldn't sleep.
Instead he wondered into a room where Kushina sat down in a chair next to Isaribi, who was bandaged more so than when they first met her. A soft whisper was coming out of her lips, a lullaby for the slumbering Maiden of the Sea. When she turned to look at him, her eyes were downcast and somber.
"How are you feeling, Naruto?" she asked.
"Fine, I guess," he said, rubbing his eyes. "How's Isaribi-nee?"
"Isaribi-chan…" Kushina sighed. "If her Kaima Form had dropped any sooner, then she would be dead. It saved her and, now that I've gotten the Contact Scroll back, I sent for Tsunade. But the healers here say that she won't be able to move around well for months with the damage she took."
His expression tightened. "If I had been just a little stronger…"
He trailed off as she shook her head. "If you had been stronger, if we had gotten there earlier, if, if, if… There are no 'ifs' at this point. There never are once the deed is done. Especially not in war…."
Silence ensued as the weight of the words pressed against Naruto.
"We're heading back home," she said slowly, to break the silence after a full two-minutes. "A change in regime doesn't happen overnight, so Kiri will be unstable for a month or so at least. Maybe they'll have themselves in order by the next Chuunin Exams, but I've exposed you and Isaribi-chan to too much in too little time. I'll maintain communication with Mei-san and Utakata-san, but it's time we left."
He found himself agreeing, having had enough of the Bloody Mist for the time being. It had already dyed him and his world in its colors enough.
Notes: Finally, the Arc Ends!
Nguruvilu—a river-dwelling creature and looks much like a strange fox, with a long body, similar to a snake, and a long tail with fingernails that it uses like a claw; but it's a water-being. Nguruvilus live in and are the cause of dangerous whirlpools which kill people who try to cross rivers. The creatures make the water shallow on either ford, to encourage people to try to cross it making it seem safe.
That's right, I found an already existing creature to be used for summoning that has to do with whirlpools and foxes all in one.