Posted: 22 June 2012
Last Updated: 21 October 2013
Chapter WC: 1,495
Story WC: 1,495
Worth Dying For
The manacles were too tight. Not by much, but enough that they dug into his skin with each movement he made, each time just a little bit more and a little bit more. It didn't take long for his skin to be rubbed raw and turn his wrists into bloody, mangled messes. It wouldn't be so bad except his skin kept trying to heal over and the manacles got in the way, causing it to grow over the metal and then break again and add more blood and flesh to the ever-growing mutilation.
The pain was more annoying than anything though. Naruto was used to pain after a decade of throwing himself headfirst into danger. But he was also used to pain vanishing quickly. This prolonged, dull ache was new and unwelcome.
Naruto leaned his head back against the wooden pillar and shifted his weight a bit, lessening the pull on his right arm but pulling against the manacles on his left. The sharp pain in his stomach was worse, he thought. They hadn't bothered to feed him and he didn't know how long it had been.
A faint scape came from his left. Naruto glanced to the side and saw a man ascending the stairs to the stone platform he was on. The man had blond hair, blue eyes, and three whisker marks on either cheek. He had Naruto's face, down to the last freckle. He had Naruto's height, body shape, and posture. He was identical in every way. Even though he was expecting it, Naruto still found himself shuddering.
The double walked across the large platform to where Naruto was bound, but stopped a few feet away. He didn't look at Naruto, but instead turned his gaze across the room to the chasm that took up most of the space.
Across from them, looming ahead and above, was an enormous statue. Well, it was called a statue, but it wasn't, not really. It wasn't made of stone or metal. It was made from some kind of wood. Dry, decaying bark stretch across its body like an aging tree, giving it the appearance of mummified remains. It was generally human in shape, except for the numerous branch-like protrusions growing from its back and its size, which would dwarf even Kurama. The statue sat cross-legged with its hands held upward. Its wrists and ankles were forced together and bound by metal manacles that were not so different from the ones on Naruto. Over its head was a blindfold with holes for nine eyes, eight of which were open and staring blankly ahead. It sat upon an equally massive pink lotus flower that seemed to be hovering in midair above a bottomless pit. The only light in the room emanated from deep below, but Naruto had never been able to see exactly what its source was.
Naruto knew precisely what the statue was. He could feel it pulsing in his chest like a second heart beat. Its presence was even larger than the statue itself and it beat down on him like waves crashing against a cliff. It distracted him from the pain and the fear, but granted a terror all its own, like he was staring into the maw of a beast that he knew would swallow him whole. Naruto had faced a lot of things in his life, but nothing had ever managed to fill him with dread quite like the Gedō Statue.
The minutes stretched on, but the man beside him still didn't speak, or even move. Naruto shifted again and stubbornly tried to wait him out. Unfortunately, patience had never been his strong suit. In that way, he and this double were very different.
"A little melodramatic, don't you think?" Naruto finally drawled.
At last the man looked at him. He only turned his head, keeping his body facing the statue. There was a long beat of silence, then the double's impassive mask broke for a second as he flashed a toothy smile. "I've always had a flare for the melodramatic," he said. "When I was a kid, I would run around with pillowcase for a cape and try to jump out at random shinobi. Remember that?"
Naruto's jaw clenched. Anger slipped onto his face for a fraction of a second, then it melted away into weariness. "You know this won't end well," he said softly.
The other man's face turned serious as well and the two of them stared at each other with identical expressions. The double tore his gaze away and looked back at the statue. "You don't know everything, despite what you may think," he said. "And you won't know how this will end."
More soft footsteps echoed from the stairs on either side of the platform. Naruto couldn't see anyone yet, but he guessed there were at least a dozen people approaching, maybe more. Beside him the double straightened and placed his hands at the small of his back in a parade rest position. Naruto snorted, then looked up at the Gedō Statue as well.
"'Even the immortal can die'," he muttered to himself. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back against the pole. Any hope of getting out of this flickered in his chest like a candle in the wind, then spluttered and died. "I guess today is a good a day as any for it."
Despite not being able to see him, Naruto knew that the double was smiling again. "Talk about a flare for the dramatic."
There was a whoosh of air as most of the newcomers launched themselves across the chasm. Through lidded eyes, Naruto watched them land on the Gedō Statue and perch on its fingertips. The remaining ones spread out behind him and his double stepped back to join them. There was someone perched on top of the statue's head as well and they were speaking, but their voice didn't carry to Naruto's ears.
There was chakra building up in the room. It was faint at first, but soon enough it was electrifying the air of the chamber, making it heavy and tense with latent power. It built and built as the figures on the statue's hands started to glow with condensed energy and visible chakra cloaks formed around them. Every hair on Naruto's body stood on end and goose bumps rose on his skin. Just as the air got thick enough to give him trouble breathing, the power rose sharply to a crescendo and chakra exploded from the Gedō Statue's open mouth. It formed nine twisting ropes of compressed chakra that shot out and coiled through the air, then darted past the statue's hands and straight for Naruto with a sound akin to a deafening avalanche.
Naruto strained against his chains and roared right back, baring his teeth in an animalistic howl of defiance that was completely drowned out. The chakra ropes converged together and barreled into him with the force of a freighter, sinking into every pore on his body and into every cell in his body, filling up every inch of him and setting it all on fire until he was so fill that he felt like he was going to burst into a million pieces.
It felt like hot knives pierced his flesh as the chakra dug into and latched onto the seal on his abdomen. It pulled and pulled and then with a great tear it ripped Kurama's chakra out and pulled it out through his tenketsu. Naruto's head bashed against the pole he was tied to as he screamed his throat raw. Each millisecond was agony on top of agony, as though every wound he'd even received was being inflicted on each cell of his body again and again and again until there was nothing left. He could feel Kurama's chakra flaring hotly and invisible claws dugs into his own chakra system, scrabbling desperately for purchase as it tried to hold on. With a last lurch it was pulled free and a cold darkness unlike anything he had ever known wrapped around him and took its place.
There was a massive empty hole in Naruto, like his ribcage had been torn open and his soul ripped out. His heart spluttered and skipped, attempting to pump more blood through his veins as the cold seeped in further. There was a still a roar in Naruto's ears even though only choked sounds escaped his throat. His limbs went numb as the cold crept up his body. He was being eaten alive by the darkness and he couldn't…couldn't…
Naruto's mind beat desperately against the cold that was overtaking him, trying frantically to hold on to something, anything, but it all faded around him and the darkness encroached on his vision, taking it over. The last thing he saw was the final eye of the Gedō Statue crack open and all nine eyes moving and focusing down upon him.
With a final wobbling shudder, Naruto's heart stopped beating.
A/N: First and foremost, be aware this is going to be an action/adventure and slightly sci-fi story. I want to do something with Naruto that hasn't been done before, something other than the usual struggles with Akatsuki and Madara. This story will span the entire shinobi continent and delve centuries into the past. It's going to involve shinobi and samurai and daimyo and tailed beasts, and I'm having a hell of a time writing it.
Memento mori - "Remember your mortality"