Chapter 14: The Showdown
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or HSDK, or any characters or logos associated with either series. This fan story is made for fun, not profit.
Both factions remained relatively silent as the Devil Fist stepped into the open, his presence pacifying the enemy fighters along with his own teammates. The crushing pressure created by his killing intent lingered in the air, making even the hastiest individuals too afraid to break the silence. While normally loud-mouthed and boastful, Nijima was rendered speechless for the moment, his antennas having retracted into his hairline due to lack of necessity. He didn't need to scan their opponents to know how dangerous they were.
Most of the Konoha students were relatively calm, although Hinata appeared paralyzed with fear. Sakura and Ino wore defiant expressions while Choji and Lee looked as if they were sizing up the enemy, the latter appearing excited at the prospect of fighting them. Despite his lazy nature, Shikamaru seemed uncharacteristically focused, his gaze pensive and his mannerisms remaining calm with a sense of strong concentration hidden directly underneath the surface.
Due to most of them being former thugs and delinquents, the Shinpaku Members looked eager to battle. Even Siegfried appeared to be taking the possibility into consideration, despite several of his lingering injuries.
Ukita clenched his fists, looking sickened by the standoff. "Damn it! Who do these guys think they are, popping up on our turf like this?"
"Ease up, big guy… Something tells me none of us are getting out of this without a scrap." The blue-haired boxer clapped a hand on his friend's shoulder.
Before either of them could continue the conversation, their self-proclaimed leader addressed the enemy. "You pitiful fools! It doesn't matter how powerful you think you are, we still have you vastly outnumbered!"
Suigetsu stepped out from behind the Devil Fist, pulling back his hood. "You sound pretty confident for such an ugly piece of trash. I'll have to take advantage of that!"
"You actually believe I would waste my time on someone like you!" The alien placed his hands on his hips and let out an arrogant cackle before hiding behind a row of his bodyguards. "All right kiddies, now we know which one of these punks is the Devil Fist. Take down the boss, and the others will be sure to follow!"
"Don't have to tell me twice!" Thor screamed before charging towards the enemy ranks.
Lee smashed his left fist into his right palm, his ki flaring up excitedly. "Count me in as well!"
In a matter of moments, Ino joined the advancing group alongside Takeda, Ukita, Choji, and Kisara, all of whom seemed confident in their own abilities. In response to the sudden attack, several of the hooded figures surrounding Team Hebi's leader left his side and began converging on the attacking group like a flock of angry crows, each of them stepping directly into the path of their respective opponents. The advancing force stopped instinctively to face this new threat, all focus on defeating the enemy leader being lost in that moment. A strong tension lingered in the air as the two sides squared off, their gazes locking, but neither attacking.
Shikamaru nudged the alien with a look of disdain. "There you go, riling them up for no reason. It was a dumb idea to send them in without a plan."
"Oh, that… I was just trying to speed things along! Don't think I haven't accounted for all of the variables here." Nijima saw the expression on the other man's face and smiled evilly. "Come now, you're a smart lad, Shikamaru. I'm certain you know exactly what I mean."
The genius seemed to understand after some brief consideration, but his expression did not change. "Let's just hope your gambling doesn't get my friends killed."
Kisara ducked a punch from his opponent and performed a roundhouse kick, only for her foot to collide with the side of her opponent's wrist. She prepared to strike again, but the enemy responded with a series of counter kicks. The redhead placed one hand on her head to avoid losing her trademark cap while bending backwards to avoid a left hook to the face. Although the opponent's knuckle grazed her cheek, Kisara remained relatively unscathed by the assault.
"What do you know? You're not half bad." She commented with an amused smirk.
The enemy pulled back her hood, revealing grayish blue hair and sharp eyes. "So far your idiot friends have proven despicably weak…" She pointed to the others with a look of disdain. "I hope you won't disappoint me like that singing freak."
Siegfried stepped forward with a spin in his step, shaking his head disdainfully. "It may be true that I was defeated, but you claim that your body's resilience is due to unnatural procedures rather than intense training. Can one such as you truly be called a martial artist?"
"Are you actually questioning the integrity of my training!?" she began coldly.
"It doesn't matter how you obtained your abilities, so long as you know how to kill!" Suigetsu added in, quietly taking into consideration the experiments performed on his own body.
Lee tensed up with a look of utter revulsion as he faced off against his enemy. "I do not know what you are talking about, but a true fighter would never devalue the fruits of hard work!"
The shark-like man glared at his opponent with a sense of malice. "No one asked for your opinion, bushy-brows!"
Gritting his sharpened teeth, he took a swing at the green-clad youth, but the target used his superior agility to dodge with a well-placed flip. He landed gracefully on his feet before thrusting his leg forward, but the opponent turned his wooden blade sideways and blocked the attack before shoving the other boy backwards while swinging his weapon in a wide arc. Lee saw the attack coming changed the angle of the strike with another swift kick. Despite coming within inches of getting his skull smashed, he looked unshaken by the exchange.
"You seem stronger than your friend, Kagero… That is good." He remarked with anticipation.
"Don't insult me!" the swordsman began menacingly. "I'm on an entirely different level than that weakling."
Lee stood his ground and struck a stance, jabbing at the air a few times to loosen his muscles. "If that is true, than this should be a very interesting fight."
Choji slammed his fists together and glared at his adversary. "I can tell by that strong aura that you're no slouch. That killing intent you exude isn't something to sniff at."
"You seem quite confident, confronting me even with this prior knowledge." Kimimaro stiffened up and snapped his neck nonchalantly. "While your courage is admirable, you may not live to regret your decision."
Ino cast a hollow expression at the small figure standing in front of her. "So, I take it you're the one who's gonna be fighting me?"
The girl removed her cloak, revealing a slim figure and white cat suit, complimented by her light green hair and pale features. "I way always taught that introductions are important before each battle." She spoke calmly, before bowing her head. "I am Kagero Fuma, and you are?"
"I never took you thugs as the type to be so polite, but at least you have manners." She shrugged casually before returned the gesture with a look of amusement. "My name is Ino Yamanaka, and it'll be a great pleasure to take you on!"
"Very well…" Kagero slid her claw-like gauntlet into place on her arm with a loud click.
Karin straightened her glasses with an arrogant smile, her eyes darting towards Lee for a brief moment. "I was hoping to get another shot at bushy-brows, but it looks like he's a little busy right now." She eyed the blue-haired boxer up and down pensively. "You're not bad-looking, but can you fight?"
"Don't know whether I should thank you for the compliment or not." Takeda replied sheepishly, flashing her one of his trademark grins. "If you're curious about my fighting style, why not come over here and find out for yourself?"
Thor scraped his foot against the ground and raised his arms like a bear preparing to strike. "Don't waste your breath on these rotten thugs." He scolded the others impatiently, breaking into a violent tackle seconds later. "You hear that, Hebi-dudes? I'm gonna smash you all to pieces!"
His threat did little more than irritate the enemy gang, although several of the Killing Fist users couldn't help but snicker at the thought. The Devil Fist sized up the odds in his head, quietly taking into account the skills of his former comrades from Konoha, his subordinates in Team Hebi, and whatever limited knowledge he had of the Shinpaku Alliance. He was confident that the current lineup could handle everyone alone, but he wasn't worried regardless. Even if his calculations were wrong, he could always step in personally to finish the fight quickly. Back on the battlefield, Thor continued his charge, but the large figure refused to budge even an inch.
Sakura's jaw dropped in awe. "Is that guy trying to get himself crushed?"
Shikamaru went over the scenario for a second before discerning the truth. "Tale a look at that stance." He advised the other bystanders. "That big guy fighting Thor has this entire situation figured out completely."
"What do you mean by that?" she cocked an eyebrow with a puzzled expression.
Nijima's eyed widened in horror as he figured out what the genius boy was talking about. "Thor, you're playing right into his hands!" he screamed, frantically throwing his arms in the air.
"Now you die!" the Sumo Wrestler broke into a dive with surprising agility for his size
The mammoth opponent thrust his fist forward, smashing his attacker in the stomach and greatly weakening the powerful of Thor's tackle using the strength of his punch as a counter strike. A collective gasp came from the assembled fighters as they watched the sumo practitioner's gigantic form crumple like a marionette whose strings had just been cut. The enemy's hood slid away, revealing bright orange hair styled into a series of spikes, and a rather serious expression.
"I was hoping you wouldn't be so irrational as to perform such a predictable assault, but even I won't simply stand around when an opponent charges me with such strong killing intent." Jugo stated in a surprisingly civil tone.
"Im-Impossible…" he gasped. Thor was shocked that someone had managed to inflict so much damage with a blow to his armor-like chest.
The fiery-haired man recoiled his fist hand, using the opposite to slam his opponent in the jugular, causing Thor to stumble backwards before landing on his back with a crash. The sumo wrestler wondered if his neck has been broken by the sudden impact, but quickly confirmed the answer by moving his fingers tips. Although it took some effort, he managed to regain the feeling in his limbs while biting back the searing pain in his stomach.
Jugo took a few steps away from the other man while shaking his head. "Stay down…" he ordered with a look of disdain. "If you choose to continue this farce, I may have no choice but to kill you."
"You wish, smartass!" Thor ignored the pain and stood up, his body quaking violently.
"I purposely held back with that initial strike to test your strength." The red-haired demon warned him, earning an uneasy grimace from his opponent. "The fact that you're still conscious after taking a blow to the neck is proof enough of your strength, but I will not be so lenient with the next strike. Do not throw your life away needlessly."
The giant wrestler coughed violently, his stance wavering, as the pain coursed through is entire body. "I true sumo doesn't give up a match until he loses or can't continue fighting. That's why you'll have to kill me if you wanna claim victory in this fight!"
The enemy closed his eyes with a somber expression, opening them seconds later to reveal a pitiless stare. "I was hoping to avoid needless bloodshed… Just remember, you only have yourself to blame for whatever happens next."
Thor let out a growl as he charged again, raising both arms while pumping them back and forth in a series of high-speed sumo slams, but the enemy remained still. Jugo absorbed a few hits without flinching to get the enemy in range before kicking upwards with his leg, nailing the large wrestler in the face. Thor's body began to fall backwards again, but Jugo seized him by the neck and hoisted the wrestler over his head with one hand, grabbing his giant form with bother hands.
With a violent jerking motion, he slammed the sumo into the ground with excessive force before heaving him across the battlefield like a sack of trash, his body leaving an imprint at the point of impact before skidding violently across the dirt. Although several of the others were engaged in their respective battles, the rumbling and tremors caused by the battle diverted their attention away from their own fights. Regardless of the side they were on, everyone present stood in awe of Jugo's display of power.
"What the Hell, that guy's a monster!" Nijima screamed, his antennas spinning round wildly as he analyzed the enemy fighter.
Matsui lowered his flag with a horrified expression before ducking behind their self-proclaimed leader. "Did you see how easily that giant tossed Captain Thor? Maybe we should order a retreat. What do you say, General Nijima?"
"Give up our base of operations to the enemy!? Never!" the alien barked defiantly, his eyes narrowing with concentration moments later. "The real question is, what kind of martial arts was that big guy using just now?"
Shikamaru stroked his chin thoughtfully. "From the looks of it, I would say he's using a variation of Pankration, only without the anti-killing limitations."
"I'm no martial artist… Why don't you bring that by me again."
"Pankration is an ancient variation of martial arts created by the Greeks during the early Olympic games." The genius explained with a note of concern. "The style involves the use of powerful strikes to break bones and crush the enemy's body with sheer force. In a way, it's not too much different from modern day mixed martial arts."
Sakura nodded tensely. "In modern competition there are a lot of rules to prevent people from actually killing each other, but the style of Pankration we just witnessed seems to lack all of the safety procedures."
Nijima opened his mouth to respond, but a familiar shape darting past caught his attention. "Get back here before your injuries kick in… Are you trying to get killed, Sieg?" he screamed after the retreating figure.
Siegfried ran into the battlefield to check on his defeated friend. "Thor, are you all right?" he called out, placing a hand to his mouth.
Guren leapt into his path with a sinister expression. "How cute… Come to die alongside your friend, you singing freak?"
"Out of my way, I don't have time to deal with the likes of you!" the composer extended his arms outwards and moved into his trademark twirling position.
"Hey ugly, you've still got me to deal with me, remember!?" Kisara tripped the blue-haired woman from behind with a low kick, taking the opening created by her first strike to plant a second kick to her back.
The blue-haired women stumbled slightly, but the redhead's kicks did surprisingly little damage due to her protective bodily enhancements. Guren smiled at her master's cunning, knowing that despite the occasional disadvantages of her prosthetics, they incredibly helpful. She prepared to counterattack, but was forced into a defensive position as the Kisara began hammering at her with a frightening barrage of kicks. Kisara flashed her teammate a reassuring look while forcing her opponent backwards, allowing Siegfried to help Thor.
"Wake up! Speak to me!" Siegfried shook his friend violently in an attempt to rouse him, but to no avail.
Sakura appeared by his side seconds later, her focus lingering on the composer for a moment before shifting to the injured man. "I can handle this, don't worry…" she tried to comfort him upon seeing Siegfried's distraught face.
Using the medical knowledge that Tsunade had taught her to perform a quick test, she placed her hand on his face and another on his heart, although there was no breath or beat as far as she could feel. She placed her hand on one of his veins, feeling the steady pulse from within. After analyzing his unconscious form carefully, she struck him in a specific place on the torso with the side of her hand, causing the heartbeat to return. Seeing that his chest was now rising and falling steadily, she sighed in relief.
The gesture did no go unnoticed by Siegfried. "My word, did you just bring him back from the dead!?"
"He wasn't really dead, but he might've been close to slipping into a coma." She explained while dusting off her pants. "I've been trained in medicine in addition to the martial arts. That technique I used was just a little jumpstart to get his body functioning properly again."
The well-dressed man bowed his head while placing a gloved hand over his heart. "This is not once, but twice that you have done me a great service… I owe you now more than ever."
"No sweat. Let's just get your buddy out of this mess before something else happens to him."
As they carried the large man to safety, Jugo returned to his superior's side on the opposite side of the battlefield, noting that neither of he or the Hyuga clansman had removed their drapes or stepped into the battlefield. A certain amount of tension lingered in the air around Neji, but he wasn't particularly interested in asking, knowing full well that the cloudy-eyed boy wouldn't answer either way. Although most of his face was concealed, Jugo could tell that Sasuke's expression was one of mingled satisfaction and disapproval.
"Why didn't you finish him off?" the Devil Fist clapped a hand onto the larger man's shoulder, subtly releasing his monstrous killing intent.
Jugo felt the suffocating aura, but unlike most of his colleagues he did not panic. "I struck him several time with the intent to kill. If he managed to survive, it is out of my hands."
Sasuke considered his answer for a moment before nodding. "Fair enough, I suppose…"
He clenched his fist with a somber expression. "Would you like me to put an end to this ridiculous conflict and finish them all?"
The gang leader glanced at the ongoing battles before shaking his head. "Let the others have their fun for now. Why should we needlessly interfere when it's easier just to just sit back and enjoy the show? Wouldn't you agree, Neji?"
He received no answer from the Hyuga, who seemed to be focused on something else entirely. If he heard the Uchiha's question, he purposely ignored it. Having long grown used to his cold shoulder, the Devil Fist chose not to hassle him further. While Neji was a valuable asset to the gang, he was also stubbornly independent and thus very difficult to control.
The trio of enemy fighters remaining in the back did not go unnoticed by Nijima. "Looks like carrot-top decided to leave the battlefield." He grit his teeth, looking slightly shaken by the thought. "Those bastards are so confident that they're willing to step in outnumbered like this. How arrogant!"
"Not necessarily." Shikamaru put his hands in his pockets, his eyes never leaving the battlefield for a second.
"What exactly are you talking about now, smartass?" the alien quipped irritably.
"Well sure they're being arrogant, but at the same time they're also playing it smart. Those other guys are standing within range so they can enter the fight anytime they want, but leave if they lose interest."
The Shinpaku General grit his teeth. "Damn them, playing games with my crew like we're just some common street trash! They must think this is some kind of game!"
As the battle continued, Lee found himself forced onto the defensive. Not only was his opponent strong, but he also had the advantage of wielding a weapon. At this point the green-clad fighter had taken several hits from the wooden blade, and was certain that he would have broken several bones by not were it not for his intense endurance training with Master Guy. His body was strong enough to withstand the blows, but he wondered how much longer it would be before he reached his limits.
"You're looking a little worse for wear." Suigetsu found pleasure in his opponent's suffering, but seemed impressed at the same time. "I've never seen someone take so many of my strikes without passing out. At least you can take a hit like a man."
Lee smirked, the enemy's comment prompting him to deciding to switch tactics. "Tell me, can the same by said for you?"
The green clad fighter tore the weights from his ankles and tossed them at the opponent, forcing him to jump out of the way. Seeing his chance, Lee vanished in a blur of green, reappearing behind the swordsman in mid-air and kicking him in the back, propelling Suigetsu's body upwards. He leapt into the air above the swordsman and planted a kick in his mid-section, driving him back to the ground.
Suigetsu leapt back to his feet, a groan escaping his pointed teeth. "You bushy-browed freak, blindsiding me with a speed technique." He grumbled, his eyes alive with malice. "I'm gonna kill you for that."
"It appears you also possess strong endurance. I would expect nothing less from such a confident opponent. Consider that small kick a test of your abilities…"
"You should've hit me harder when you had the chance." The swordsman gripped the end of his blade so tightly that the wood creaked in protest, his aura darkening noticeably. "You may have caught me off guard by dropping those ankle weights, but I assure you it won't happen again!"
"Bring it on!" Lee performed one of his master's trademark poses before clashing with his enemy once again.
Meanwhile Takeda was having some trouble with his opponent. Although he was marginally stronger than her, Karin was faster, which more than compensated for their difference in physical power. The boxer advanced on her with a series of jabs, completing the combo with his signature left, but her footwork allowed her to keep enough distance between them so she could be safe from his punches while launching her kicks.
"It's like all you can do is run away. Here I thought you would be a more interesting opponent."
She smiled confidently while dancing around his strikes. "Boxing only permits you to use your fists offensively, but my kickboxing style allows for free usage of all four limbs! You'll never beat me with only your fists."
"It's not the style that matters, it's the fighter." He retorted with a grin, using his own footwork to dodge.
"Your technique may be strong, but it's too predictable to be of any use against a real opponent." Karin straightened her glasses and stood in one place, casually weaving back and forth with the rhythm of his punches to demonstrate her point.
Small beads of sweat began forming on his forehead. "Still running away?" he jeered in an attempt to trip her up.
"As expected, you're completely missing the point." Karin stated with a note or arrogance. "I noticed how you jab with the right fist often, while you reserve your left hand for finishing moves. It's a pity, since the latter appears to be both stronger and faster."
"So you're saying I'm predictable… Thanks for the advice, but what're you gonna do about this!" Takeda jabbed several times while alternating the use of both fists before reversing the order of his strikes.
Karin began backing away from him while using her arms to block his movements, occasionally throwing in a kick in an attempt to put him on the defensive again. As this exchange continued, Choji was barely able to keep up with his opponent. So far his opponent had been dominating the fight, but making it difficult to get a hit in, let alone have any chance of winning.
"This isn't looking good…" Choji muttered between labored breaths. Despite the agony coursing through his body, he refused to break his Hung Gar stance.
The enemy fighter ran a hand through his ivory locks, a merciless expression on his face. "I learned Aikido from some of the greatest masters in the world. You should have walked away rather than brought this upon yourself."
By this point Kimimaro had removed his cloak entirely, revealing his open-chested robes and combat gear. Despite having a smaller frame than his adversary, the white-haired man was strong and limber, and his techniques nearly unavoidable at close range. To Choji, it felt as though every time he launched an attack, the enemy would return the favor tenfold, but at the same time he couldn't just sit there and wait to die.
"Are you done stalling, or will you face death like a true fighter?" he questioned.
The larger fighter slammed his right foot against the ground, causing it to rumble. "Don't get cocky, you haven't killed me yet!"
Without another word, Kimimaro darted forwards and kneed the Akamichi in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain. He seized the overweight man by the arm and prepared to perform a throw, but Choji retaliated by pushing himself under his opponent's arm and thrusting his entire body upwards, lifting Kimimaro into the air with his shoulder and using his opposite arm to grab a hold of the flailing man's leg. Pressing all of his weight into the assault, Choji slammed his opponent downwards.
Kimimaro looked mildly surprised by the boy's move, but managed to break free of the hold and propelled himself to safety by pressing his hands against the ground, landing on his feet behind his opponent. Choji spun around and grabbed onto the enemy's robes with his hands in an attempt to crush him with a downward smash, but Kimimaro effortlessly shoved him backwards with his left hand grabbing Choji's head with his right hand and flipping him onto the ground face first. Lying facedown, the Konoha disciple pressed his hands against the ground and began pushing himself back up.
"You haven't been able to score a single hit on me, and yet you still desire to fight." The white-haired fighter commented with a note of irritation.
With some effort, the Hung Gar user forced himself into lashing out at his enemy. "Shove off! I'm not done yet!"
"Yes you are…" the other man replied coolly, his eyes narrowing dangerously.
He sidestepped Choji's sloppy move and seized him by the wrist, driving him back into the dirt with another flip. Rather than release the Konoha disciple's wrist, he tightened his grip and wrenched his arm back, snapping it in the opposite direction of the joint, resulting in a loud cracking noise. Choji screamed as he felt his arm snap, but the man on top of him pounded him in the center of the back with a powerful elbow movement, preventing him from rising again. Choji felt his heart skip as the sensation of cold steel touched his neck.
"Your arm is shattered, you skull fractured, and your ribs broken." Kimimaro turned the knife in his hand sideways to make a point. "I can see the shadow of death creeping onto your visage. Surrender or die. The choice is yours."
"Just give up before he kills you!" Sakura screamed from beside the other bystanders, her eyes wide with terror.
"Your no good to my master plans dead!" Nijima nodded in agreement, his own eyes widening in shock as he realized the genius boy was missing.
Before anyone else could move in to help, Shikamaru appeared behind the enemy and swatted the weapon out of his hand. Kimimaro released his previous opponent and shunted sideways to avoid a series of focused jabs. To the Aikido user's surprise, his new opponent turned his back towards him and knelt down over Choji.
"Hey, you all right?" the lazy fighter prodded his friend with the tip of his foot, his expression becoming more relaxed as the boy began to stir.
"Don't think I'll be able to move properly for while, but I'll live." The larger man replied.
"What a drag, and I was sitting back hoping not to get pulled into this." Shikamaru cracked his neck lazily before turning to face their opponent. He spared a quick glance at his best friend. "Just lie there and rest while I finish up this fight."
Kimimaro's stoic mannerisms remained unchanged by this new development. "You plan to take your friend's place, than so be it. It's very admirable that you're willing to stake your own life in the place of a companion."
Konoha's genius took a boxing stance, looking slightly more focused than usual. "We're both teammates and friends back at the dojo. I doubt you would be able to say the same thing about the thugs of Team Hebi."
"Hmmm… Yes, I don't suppose I would." The white-haired man agreed in a neutral tone. "So, are you prepared to fight me till the death?"
"I'm against killing, but whether or not you want to do it isn't really my business." He replied with a note of indifference.
As Shikamaru prepared to resume his friend's lost battle, Ino was still trying to finish up hers. While she had received wounds from several of Kagero's throwing needles, her agility and limited medical knowledge had allowed her to avoid taking any fatal injuries. It had been a pretty close battle so far, with neither side particularly dominating the other. Without her pre-made traps, the pale girl was a lesser threat than when she fought Lee, but was still more than able to survive in direct combat.
Kisara had been holding her own for a while, but it felt like she was fighting an uphill battle. The enemy never seemed to tire and seemed to recover instantly from any damage she took, while the Taekwondo user lacked the same qualities. In addition to that, the enemy's Drunken Fist style of combat was extremely difficult to read.
"Having trouble, washboard?" Guren screamed loudly, her comment enraging the redhead.
"Throwing insults instead of punches, huh? That kind of tactic really screams desperation."
The blue-haired women collapsed on the ground, rolled past her opponent, popped back up, and aimed a sloppy punch. Kisara instinctively dodged the feint only to regret it moment later when Guren stopped mid-step and landed a kick with her left leg, using her opposite leg to trip the other woman. Although Kisara tried to catch herself mid-fall, Guren quickly darted behind her and grabbed on her shirt, ripping it in two with a single tug.
"What the Hell was that!?" Kisara elbowed her opponent before struggling to cover herself.
"That bra looks like an A, definitely not much compared to someone like me." Guren jeered with a mocking gesture to her own bust.
"You bitch! I'll kill you for that!" the redhead blushed violently as she ran towards the enemy at full speed, blinded by feelings of embarrassment and rage.
The Drunken Fist user licker her rose-red lips in vindictive excitement. "Oh my… Letting your emotions get the best of you in the middle of a fight is an amateur mistake." She stated with a note of amusement.
Guren focused the strength in her right arm, focusing all of her physical strength into a single limb. Usually her muscle enhancements made it so that she could deliver powerful blows without having to exert herself in a fight, so she rarely was forced to use one hundred percent of her power. This was only the second time recently she had felt the need to use her peak strength against an enemy, the first time being her battle with Siegfried.
She took advantage of the opening made by Kisara's carelessness and smashed her in the stomach with full force, sending her flying across the grounds like a broken ragdoll. Although she screamed in pain at first, her eyes went blank and her cries soon ceased. Sakura ran the length of the field and caught Kisara in her arms, the force of their bodies colliding sending both girls rolling across the dirt.
The blue-haired woman approached the duo with a sickening expression. "So pinkie, do you wanna take me on next?"
Sakura made sure that Kisara was still breathing before turning on the green-haired woman. "If you want to pick a fight with me so badly, than I'll be happy to oblige."
"I consider this payback for you and your friend attacking me when my guard was down during our last encounter. Even though you both jumped me from behind, I haven't forgotten either of your faces!"
"Considering you were trying to kill someone, I do not regret stepping in." the pink-haired girl clenched her fists, her eyes moving back to the unconscious girl lying behind her. "I'll be sure to make this quick so that I can tend to the wounded."
Before either of them could aim a strike, a third figure stepped between them, her eyes alive with a sense of strength that Sakura had never seen before. Hinata Hyuga held an arm out in front of her friend protectively and focused on the enemy.
"Take care of the others… I'll handle this in your place." She turned back to her new friend with an uneasy smile.
"Hinata!?" Sakura was surprised by the shy girl's sudden change in demeanor. It was such a far cry from her usual self that she found herself wondering. "You don't have to do this! I'm the one who she's after, not you!"
The pale-eyed girl shook her head nervously, her strong demeanor slipping for a moment. "I may not like fighting, but you need to tend to the others and keep them safe. This is the least I can do to help you guys… Please, let me do this for you."
A strong understanding fell between the two girls as they exchanged glances, and after a moment of consideration, Sakura nodded firmly. "All right, I'll leave this to you."
As the medic carried Kisara to safety, Hinata took up her stance and faced Guren. As their eyes met, the young Hyuga felt her confidence waver before the older woman's cold stare, but she swallowed the lump that had begun to form in her throat and prepared to fight. Guren shifted her own body to the side and extended an arm, looking interested that someone had actually volunteered for the slaughter.
"Look at your fingers, you're quivering like a leaf in the wind. Are you sure this is what you really want?" Guren placed one hands on her hip and smirked.
Hinata felt her hands shaking, but remedied it by clenching them into fists. "It doesn't matter how I feel about fighting you. I still won't let you hurt them!"
The older woman seemed to find her comment humorous. "If that's how you want to play the game, I won't hold anything back."
The Hyuga heiress readied herself for a battle, but a paralyzing aura piecing the air diverted the attention of the female combatants One of the cloaked figures who had been standing away from the fray walked onto the scene, his presence causing several fighters to glance up from their own battles to watch. The newcomer walked with a sense of untapped superiority, causing both friend and foe alike to tense up.
"That's enough Guren… Leave this girl to me." The hooded man spoke. Hinata felt her heart skip a beat as she heard the sound of his voice, but she tried to conceal her surprise.
"She challenged me to battle, not you! I don't intend to just back down and allow such nerve to go unpunished."
Her comment made him sigh in frustration, but a moment later his aura flared up. "That wasn't a request!" he screamed, causing both girls to jump in surprise.
The newcomer raised a hand and smashed Guren in the shoulder with his palm, slamming her in the chest and again in the back with lightning fast wrist movements. She stood completely still with her face frozen in shock for a second before coughing up a mouthful of blood and falling to her knees. Despite being on the same side, her attacker showed no remorse as he struck Guren in the neck with his knee, causing her collapse motionlessly into the dirt.
"It's been quite a long time, hasn't it Hinata?" the man removed his black drape, revealing white and gray robes reminiscent of the Hyuga Clan's traditional garb.
Hinata blinked in shock, her suspicions all but confirmed. "Can it be!? Are you really?" her hands began shaking as memories of her cousin flooded back to her.
Neji noticed her mannerisms, but his expression remained cold and daunting. "It's been a long time since our last encounter, and yet you seem just as fragile and hesitant as before." He smiled at the thought. "Was Lord Hiashi was such a poor teacher, that he was never able to help you overcome these shortcomings."
"Wh-Why are you doing this? Please explain to me…" she choked out, her entire body freezing as their eyes met for the first time in years.
He ignored her questions and continued without pause. "Guren may have been a lowly piece of slime, but even she noticed your weakness. Such behavior is unbecoming of the one whose duty it is to carry on the legacy of the Hyuga Family!"
"My title was handed down to Hanabi." Hinata looked away from her cousin as if it pained her to meet his gaze. "I was considered to be unworthy of the honor by my father."
The elder cousin folded his arm with a stiff nod. "You are a disgrace in more ways than you can imagine, not only to the name of the Hyuga, but also to the world of martial arts. It is for this reason that I cannot allow anyone else to take you life but me."
A sense of righteous anger came to her cheeks. "If you have any pride in either of those things, than why are you doing on the side of the Killing Fist? What could possibly have convinced you to leave our family behind in favor of this?"
Neji closed his eyes for a moment, his expression darkening considerably. "You have no idea how unfair the world is, but I have long since come to understand that the concepts of peace and justice are false constructs created by humanity in order to maintain order. It is all a lie!"
"You must tell me why you feel this way!" she implored, extending a hand to him.
"One such as you who was born with everything has no right to speak to me like that!" he retorted, his composure slipping.
"What do you man by that? You can't just go around saying such terrible things without any explanation!"
"It matters not!" Neji replied flatly, shaking his head with disdain. "Enough of these games, Hinata. If you have the pride of a real martial artist, then hold you head up high and except my challenge as a fellow member of the Hyuga Clan! If you do not fight back, I will kill you where you stand along with your friends!"
Hinata swallowed nervously, her eyes moving towards her new companions before settling back on her cousin. She exhaled deeply and took a stance, a sense of righteous anger flashing through her eyes. "Defend yourself!" she declared.
The elder Hyuga looked surprised by her sudden change of demeanor, but the thought also brought a grin to his face. "I look forward to seeing if your abilities can live up to your bravado."
Both fighters placed one hand under the elbow of their opposite arm, extending the palm forward as they begun to circle each other. To anyone watching it would've looked like a mirror due to the identical stance they employed as practitioners of the Baguazhang style. Without warning, the female fighter widened her stance and thrust her hand forward, but Neji predicted the movement and stepped back, extending his opposite foot and shifting his stance so that he was standing behind her.
She sensed his approach and crouched to avoid his strike, jumping up as he performed a sweeping kick to the ground, while lurching forward to avoid his rapid palm thrusts. Hinata spun around and countered each of the oncoming strikes with her own movements, but despite her best efforts she was having trouble staying in the fight, let alone land an attack. He smashed he several time in the chest, throat, and limbs, but she powered on through.
They exchanged palm strikes with neither fighter letting up, but after a minute or so, Hinata was forced to stop the exchange and leap away. The female Hyuga breathed laboriously, having taken a couple of hits during the exchange, but her cousin's breathing remained normal and he was completely untouched by her barrage. While Hinata was rendered light-headed by the constant stream of attacks, the elder fighter hadn't so much as broken a sweat.
"Looks like that girl just might be able to give him a challenge after all." Jugo muttered more to himself than anyone else.
The hooded figure standing beside him seemed irritated by the comment. "Look again, you imbecile! He's not even trying." The Devil Fist glanced at the Hyuga pair again. "Still, I've never seen him Neji so shaken up during a fight. It's unlike him…"
As the two cousins waged their battle, the two remaining commanders continued to watch the battle from a distance. Sasuke seemed satisfied as Kimimaro gained the upper hand against Shikamaru, while Karin pummeled a worn out Takeda with her fists, although she was beginning to look a little ragged herself. Guren was clearly out cold from her encounter with Neji, but Kagero had clearly been worn down by her fight to the point where even one direct hit from Ino could probably end it.
"Damn it… You gonna keep dodging all afternoon, or what?" Suigetsu sneered as he advanced on the green-clad karate user.
Lee weaved around constantly while trying to exploit an opening. "Normally I would prefer to strike an enemy down without mercy, but I am not foolish enough to believe that my assault is powerful enough to smash through your defense."
Sasuke sighed as he watched the remaining battles raged on, but was clearly not amused by the proceedings. He had been expecting a much bigger challenge from the enemy, but so far they had fallen far below his expectations. Even more pathetic was that he hadn't even summoned all of Team Hebi's main offensive forces for this attack, and yet they were still winning without much of a struggle.
He scoffed at the idea of stepping in personally, having lost interest at this point. The gang leader glanced over at his most trusted subordinate and nodded slowly. "I've grown tired of watching this mayhem unfold… Go put an end to this, now."
"Yes sir." Jugo answered quickly before stepping into the battlefield himself.
The fiery-haired giant let go of his emotions, releasing all of his inhibitions in a large burst of ki that blanketed the entire battlefield. A rush of adrenaline coursed through his body, causing momentary discomfort for the large man. He grasped the side of his head with an irritable grown, but in a matter of moments, an evil leer contorted his features, and his usually calm face became like that of a savage animal. Feeling his untapped desire to kill, he let out a feral scream, causing several of his teammates to cringe in fright.
Takeda paused mid-punch, frozen in fear. "What on Earth was that?"
"The sound of your death!" Karin replied quickly before dashing away as fast as her legs would carry her.
"Where do you cowards think you're going?" Ino shouted after the enemy fighters.
Kagero leapt several feet into the air, landing on top of a broken fence. "It appears the Devil Fist has grown impatient… I'm afraid we may not see each other again."
Lee noticed the others leaving and looked concerned. Care to explain what's going on?"
Suigetsu turned his back to the green-clad boy and slung his sword over is shoulder. "Keep asking for all the good it'll do." He jeered with a sharp-toothed smile. "In about ten seconds you're gonna wish I had been the one to smash your skull open."
"What the Hell does that mean?" Ino called after her opponent, but the enemies simply fled.
Shikamaru came running over to join the others closely followed by Takeda, his calm visage displaying small signs of panic. "Hey guys, I think we've got some trouble! My opponent just ran off when he felt that dark killing intent in the air."
"Why is the enemy suddenly retreating? It makes no sense!" Lee raised a thick eyebrow.
"Look out!" Takeda screamed, prompting the group to scatter as a shadow descended from above their heads.
As if to answer their questions, Jugo landed in the midst of the assembled fighters with a loud thud, leaving behind a small imprint beneath his feet. His eyes were wide with an unstable sense of bloodlust that seemed primal in nature, but his sheer presence was intimidating enough without that. He stood up to his full height, looking even more monstrous than before while easily dwarfing any one of the others with his sheer size. Flailing his arms violently, the giant attempted to clobber them, prompting his targets to back away in fear.
"Crap, that's the guy who almost killed Thor!" Takeda spit out the blade of grass in his mouth, his cool-guy personality slipping away completely.
Lee hesitated for a second before squashing his doubt. "Really now, this prove quite interesting."
Jugo let out a sick laugh as he lunged at the green-clad fighter, forcing him to jump out of the larger man's reach. Seeing his insane level of speed, Ino landed a kick to his shin, stopping him just in time to save her bushy-browed friend. Although he managed to escape unscathed, the giant's hand came less than an inch from closing around Lee's ankle. Jugo began punching and swiping at Ino, but Shikamaru managed to score a few punches to his gut.
"Now you die!" the orange-haired man swatted the lazy genius away with the side of his hand, the gesture cracking several of the enemy's ribs in the process.
Takeda grabbed Shikamaru by the arms as his injured form was sent flying back, but Jugo responded by charging them. "Oh shit!" the blue-haired boxer shouted, unable to move while supporting the other man's weight.
Ukita grabbed the pair by the back if their shirts and yanked them to safety as he ran by, as Lee nailed Jugo in the face with a flying kick. Jugo attempted to pile drive the karate disciple into the ground, but the green-clad boy was rescued from a possible death as Siegfried entered the fray. Pirouetting into the air, the composer seized Lee by the ankle and tossed him to safety while kicking his feet off of Jugo's chest to propel himself away from the rampaging fighter.
"I may not be the strongest guy in the world, but I couldn't let the rest of you have all the fun." Ukita clapped his best friend on the shoulder and smile.
"Glad you made it on time, buddy." Takeda flashed him a thumbs-up and smirked.
"Look out!" Shikamaru forced their heads down as their opponent picked up a piece of the broken fence surrounding Shinpaku HQ, and tossed it at them.
The two friend exchanged similar glances, before Takeda spoke again. "Thanks for the head-up, kid. We owe you one for that!"
"Let's not start keeping track of who owes who… I don't think any of us have the luxury." Konoha's genius retorted with a grimace. "Team Hebi must be pretty confident that this guy can kill us all if they were killing to send him out alone."
Siegfried twirled around to avoid getting flattened by an oncoming punch, his counter attacks doing little to injure the enraged enemy. "This man fights like a real monster! There has to be some way to halt his rampage."
Lee crunched his knuckles. "We kick his butt until he stops moving."
"We're all injured fro, our previous battles, yet you make it sound so easy!" Ino replied with a role of her eyes, her own endurance having been spent during her battle with Kagero. "At this point I'd just be happy if we manage to survive in one piece."
"Dually noted. Miss Yamanaka…" Siegfried called out as they moved into position to attack.
Nijima watched from in front of the Shinpaku building. "Crap, I never expected us to be pushed to the limits." The alien felt his sharpened nails digging into his palms. "Damn it Kenichi, where are you?"
Sakura bit her tongue, sharing the same sentiments about Naruto. "Naruto, get here soon!" she muttered in a frenzied whisper.
Across the battlegrounds, Kagero approached her leader carrying Guren's unconscious form on her shoulders. The green-haired weapon user bowed respectfully, earning his acknowledgement.
"What is it, Kagero?" Sasuke questioned with an air of disinterest.
"It would appear that Neji has refused your orders to retreat and is actively engaging the enemy as we speak. How should the rest of us handle this?"
The Devil Fist relaxed his shoulders and returned his attention to the fights. "The fool does whatever he wants and nothing anyone says is going to stop him. Just leave him be."
Kagero bowed her head compliantly. "As you wish, sir."
As the battle royal continued, the match between cousins was just about over. Neji ran a finger over a crease in his robes and frowned. "I was expecting more of a struggle, but it looks as though you're about to pass out from exhaustion."
"I managed… … to… keep up… … with you… so far." She replied through labored breaths, a drip of blood streaming from the side of her mouth. Taking a deep breath, she attempted to ignore the pain. "Your attacks dealt minimal damage… I'm not finished yet!"
"Are you, now?" he asked with a pronounced glare, his tones sounding deathly serious.
Hinata wondered what he was talking about for a moment, but suddenly she felt an odd burning sensation in her limbs and chest, the agony spreading throughout her entire body in an instant. She tried to move her body, but for some reason it felt as though nothing would respond, and any attempts only resulted in further pain. The girl tried to stand up, but her legs gave out and she landed on her stomach, her neck craned just enough to look up at her cousin.
"Writhing on the ground, just where someone like you deserves to be." He commented, refusing to even look her in the face.
Her eyes widened in terror. "Those techniques you used just now… Could they possibly be?"
"The Hyuga Family's Fist of Death?" he finished for her. "I'm surprised you even considered the possibility, especially considering the circumstances that have existed between the two halves of our clan since Japan's feudal era."
"Only the person destined to be the head of the family is allowed to learn the secret moves." She muttered with a pained expression. "Such things are passed down from parent to child through word of mouth, and have carried down this way for generations. It's just not possible that you could have mastered my father's secret techniques!"
Neji looked down at her condescendingly. "Despite that fact that I was ineligible to receive the necessary teachings, I developed my own variation of our family's techniques through practice and observation."
"You only saw my father perform them once when we were very young… It's not possible."
"Your lack of insight is proof of your own inferiority." He replied coldly.
Hinata tried to look up at him, but found herself still unable to move properly. "What!?"
"I was a noted prodigy as a child, but because of the circumstances of my birth, I was never considered worthy enough to inherit the legacy of our family. Despite being a talentless worm, you were given this honor." The elder cousin explained.
"You would forsake your beliefs for that reason alone?" she asked incredulously.
"The source of my anger runs far deeper than you could possibly imagine, but I see no reason why you need to know anything else." Neji raised his right palm with a cold expression. "You may have lived the life of a failure, but at the very least, I shall grant you a warrior's death."
Neji brought his hand down in a powerful swiping motion in an attempt to deliver the finishing blow, but a hand wrapped around his wrist from behind, stopping his motion mid-way. Both cousins looked up just in time to see Naruto's smiling face and whisker marks, his spiky blonde hair glistening against the afternoon sun. He aimed a kick as the elder Hyuga, but Neji jumped backwards to avoid it, landing several feet away.
"N-Naruto…" Hinata stuttered, her cloudy eyes wide with shock.
"Oh, hey Hinata." Naruto greeted with a reassuring smile. "We just happened to be in the neighborhood when I saw this jerk trying to stick his fist through your neck."
Sasuke's eye twitched at the sound of his former friend's voice, his aura darkening as the Devil Fist remembered the last time they spoke to each other. Although he did his best to hide his annoyance, the shift in his demeanor did not go unseen by several of his subordinates. He was a little surprised that the idiot had chosen now to make his entrance, but thinking back Naruto always did have a habit of popping in at the most inopportune times.
Neji noticed that the blonde boy wasn't even looking at him, and quickly became annoyed. "This is a conflict between children of the Hyuga Clan. A stranger like you has no right to interfere!"
Konoha's top student squinted at his attacker before looking down at his injured companion, taking a moment to process the last statement in his mind. "HOLD ON!" he screamed, doing another inspection. "Wait a minute! Is this dude related to you, Hinata?"
"He's… my cousin." She replied weakly, at this point barely able to keep her eyes open.
"You'll be all right." He comforted her with a warm smile, causing the half-conscious girl to feel an unfamiliar heat in her cheeks.
"Thank you, Naruto." After a second, she felt the sensation of being lifted from behind by a certain pink-haired medic.
"Naruto, you made it!" Sakura replied, sound both surprised and relieved.
"Take her to safety, let me deal with this lowlife. He answered quickly, prompting her to follow his instructions without argument. Once they were a safe distance, he turned on the enemy fighter. "Hey asshole! Care to explain to me what kind of man attacks his own cousin and then tries to kill her?
"A moron like you obviously lacks the sensibilities to understand such things, nor is the substance of this battle any of your business." The elder Hyuga stated emotionlessly.
Naruto bared his teeth. "I honestly don't care what you were thinking or for what reason, but anyone who tries to hurt my friends has to deal with me first!"
Neji raised an eyebrow. "If that is what you wish." He paused momentarily. "Introduce yourself! I prefer to know the names of the ones that I fight as a measure of respect."
"You got a lot of nerve lecturing me about respect!" the blonde quipped, his anger rising. "I'm Naruto Uzumaki, the Number One Disciple of Konoha!"
"My name is Neji Hyuga." the other man replied, gesturing casually towards the other battle going on behind them. "Hopefully you'll prove stronger than your friends over there. It doesn't look like Jugo's planning to let any of them live."
"Damn… I gotta end this quick and save the others." Naruto gasped.
Neji thrust his palm forward, forcing the boy to dodge. "It's not a likely scenario." He replied in a completely indifferent tone. "You'll be lucky enough to be alive once our battle ends."
Although Naruto tried to escape his current battle, reinforcements soon arrived on the opposite front. Ino screamed as their giant opponent prepared to snap her in half, but before he could finish her off, a shape came spiraling down from above, planting both feet into the large man's face, and causing him to drop her. Ino rolled over and scurried away from the savage fighter just in time to catch sight of a familiar face.
Ino immediately recognized the face of busty blonde who hung out with Kenichi all the time, but something about her was different. Maybe it was the lack of glasses or the different hairstyle that explained it, but the girl also bore herself with an air of confidence that seemed in sharp contrast with the more reserved personality she portrayed in school.
"Honey!?" Takeda shouted, blinking twice out of surprise.
"It's Miu!" Siegfried concurred, looking cheerful to see her presence on the battlefield.
"Hey guys, what's up?" she smiled back at the Shinpaku members while dancing around Jugo's animalistic punches. "Hope you don't mind that we showed up a little bit late, but Kenichi and Naruto had a sparring match back at the dojo."
Shikamaru watched in awe as the girl twirled and spun, her graceful movements making her almost untouchable. "So that's the granddaughter of the Invincible Superman." He muttered with a look of surprise.
Nijima shoved one of his lackey's aside as he ran into the field. "Never mind that, where the Hell is Kenichi?"
"We lost a few blocks back, but he should be getting here soon!" she called over her shoulder, barely moving in time to avoid another strike. Miu landed out of his reach, looking slightly bothered by the encounter. "It's been a while since I've fought someone this strong."
"Don't let your guard down!" Shikamaru warned, still unsure whether or not they had much of a chance.
Meanwhile, Karin glanced over at her superior with a look of disbelief. "Is that girl actually fighting Jugo in his beast mode!? That's impossible! No one can take him on when he releases his Dou and gives himself over to untapped rage."
"That girl happens to be the descendent of one of the most powerful fighters alive." Sasuke replied with a note of amusement. "I look forward to seeing how the Furinji fighting style compares against Jugo's instinctive killing technique."
"Stand still, girl!" Jugo screamed, flailing his arms around in a volley of punches with enough force to shatter boulders.
Miu leapt into the air again to distance herself from the onslaught. "He's a lot better than I thought!" she replied with a pleasantly surprised expression. "Not only is he powerful and fast, but that monstrous killing intent seems on par with most expert-level martial artists."
The fiery haired giant shunted to the side and followed her movements with his speed, easily catching up to her with a single dashing motion. He brought attempted to grab the busty girl in an attempt to use his Pankration deathblows, but she managed to move a fraction of a second before his hand come down, kicking his wrist with a twirling kick. Jugo charged forward in an attempt to strike her down, but was stopped as a small shape darted beneath his guard and nailed him in the torso with a two-handed punch.
"Hey guys! Kenichi made it too!" Ino shouted over the din, once again impressed by the fighting abilities of her fellow gardener.
Nijima popped up from over her shoulder, throwing his arms in the air in celebration. "I knew you'd show up eventually! We never lost faith in ya!"
"Weren't you the one complaining earlier about him not showing up." Shikamaru pointed out with a frown.
"Not to mention this annoying freakazoid is one of the reasons why he doesn't like to attend the meetings." Ukita added in.
"Who asked you two?" the alien leader barked, his eyes sliding back towards the battles. "The important thing is that our ace fighters arrived in the nick of time, just when the enemies sent out their own big guns. At least now we might have a chance of winning."
Shikamaru narrowed his eyes at the Devil Fist standing across the battlefield. "Something makes me doubt that."
Nijima fired up instantly at the assertion. "What are you babbling about now, pineapple head? This isn't the time to start bagging on our chances."
"The enemy's boss hasn't even moved yet, and the rest of us are in pretty bad shape." The genius subconsciously clutched his dislocated arm and winced as the pain returned. "We haven't even seen what their leader is capable of, so I wouldn't start counting my eggs before they hatch."
"I'm gonna have to agree with Spock just this once… Your way of thinking sounds more like the attitude of a loser!" Ino sniped with an irritated look.
Her friend sighed hopelessly. "What a pain. I think you've been spending way too much time with Master Anko lately."
As the others watched the battles from their respective sides, Naruto was beginning to feel the heat. He had never fought someone before who used such a refined fighting style. Compared to Naruto's aggressive techniques that relied mostly on physical strength and breath control, Neji's movements were rooted almost entirely in precise movements and forms, and for some reason, the blonde teen couldn't even get close to him.
He had spent several minutes trying to find a weakness in the enemy's movements, but the Hyuga prodigy was so fast and powerful that any attempt to do so would probably result in the loss of his limbs. He had see the ending blows of the earlier fight with Hinata, and Naruto was terrified by the idea that someone could completely disable another person's body without using a lethal force amount of force.
"Damn, it's just no good!" Naruto mumbled as he used his own strikes to block rather than attack, the feelings of frustration growing in his chest. "How did you get so good?"
Despite it being a rhetorical question, Neji chose to answer it. "You clearly lack the capacity to understand what it means to be completely outclassed." He explained in a matter-of-fact tone.
He grumbled incoherently, but suddenly his frustration faded into a smirk. "Talk like a jackass all you want, but I haven't completely lost this fight yet."
"I was touted among my family's youngest fighters as genius the likes of which our clan has not seen in several generations. A moron like you may have obtained the title of Konoha's greatest student, but it means nothing if you cannot defend that title against all challengers!"
Despite his confident exterior, Naruto felt a little bit uncomfortable on the inside. The enemy's palms were moving so fast that they seemed almost like blurs, and if this weren't bad enough, Neji also combined his tactics with strange stepping maneuvers that made it seem like he was teleporting around within the small area around their bodies. This deadly combo made him seem almost untouchable, and the idea that a single touch from the enemy could be his end, made Naruto infinitely more nervous.
"Wait a minute…" Naruto muttered to himself, his eyes glittering with a sudden realization.
While trying to read his opponent's movements, he came the realization that he had seen this method of fighting somewhere before. The movements were reminiscent of Master Kurenai's Baguazhang style, but the motions reminded him of something else. Although Naruto couldn't quite remember exactly what at the moment, he came to the conclusion that if there wasn't an obvious opening, he would be forced to make one for himself.
The blonde fighter thrust his fist into the torrent of palms, absorbing several of the hits with his left arm. While he soon lost the feeling in his limb, the direct strike had slowed the enemy's pattern just enough for him to thrust his own fist through the enemy's defense, his fist connecting with the side of Neji's face. The Hyuga felt saw the strike coming, but was unable to move in time to avoid the punch due to its speed and ferocity. The force of the blow broke his stance, sending the prodigy hurtling backwards.
Neji caught himself in mid-fall and righted his position, still feeling the throbbing pain in his right cheek as he returned to his feet. "You bastard… To think you actually managed to penetrate my ultimate defense!"
"Every defense has a weakness, and it looks like I just found yours!" Naruto forced a smile, despite having lost the use of his left arm. He tried to move his joint, but all the most he could do was shift the ends of his fingers.
"It would appear it cost you a great deal just to score a single hit. To think you had to give up your left arm just to graze me." Neji used a finger to wipe the line of blood leaking from his jaw.
"You're pretty good, but what I really wanna know is what kind of technique you're using to defend yourself?"
The older fighter's expression remained focused with a sense of superiority. "By maneuvering my limbs properly, I can use them to create an impenetrable circle around my entire body. It requires a completely calm mind, but the process results in the ultimate offense and defense."
Naruto almost slapped himself as he remembered where he had seen it. "The Seikuken!" he murmured, sounding foolish or having not noticed it earlier.
"Apparently you are not as ignorant as you appear." Neji replied with a stiff nod, his serious expression dispelling to reveal a look of interest. "I must admit, it's been quite a while since anyone has been able to penetrate my Seikuken. You are to commended for your efforts."
"I don't need compliments from a jerk like you!" Konoha's disciple retorted with a distasteful squint.
"Say what you will, but it no longer matters. Now that you have lost the use of one of your limbs, any chances you had of victory have dissipated."
The blonde fighter prepared to protest, but in the blink of an eye, Neji was already beginning to close the gap. He raised his palms and began thrusting his arms in a combination of complex motions, but Naruto found it much harder to keep up this time. Konoha's top student faltered for a moment before swinging his body around, block a strike with his motionless arm by moving his shoulder in a sloppy motion and using his other hand to absorb the strikes directed towards vital points.
"I see you are using your paralyzed limb as a shield… Resourceful as it is, such a move reeks of desperation. Yield, it is the only option!"
"Go ahead and give me your best shot! So long as I'm alive, I'll never stop fighting back!"
Neji inclined his head and focused for a second before nodding compliantly. "If that is what you truly desire, then very well." He positioned his arms into parallel angles and opened both palms.
"If you're gonna do it, than do it already!" Naruto pulled his right arm back and prepared his signature punch, but the enemy showed no signs of fear.
The Hyuga wait until his adversary was within the range of his Seikuken before acting. Once the fist was inches from his face, Neji maneuvered past his attacker with two stepping movements, smashing him in the back and crushing a pressure point in his opposite arm. With considerable effort, Naruto turned around to defend himself, but Neji swatted him away with a movement of his left palm before slammed the younger teen directly in the heart with both hands together.
"It's all over…" Neji prepared to strike the blonde-haired boy with his finishing movement, but a third figure jumped between them and struck both fighters in the torso area, sending them both flying away from each other.
"What the Hell are you doing?" Naruto screamed, his joints quaking like the supports on an old building. He stood back up, looking angry that someone had interrupted the fight regardless of what was about to happen.
Kenichi lowered his arms and wiped away the beads of sweat dripping down his face. "Phew, looks like I managed to get over here just in time, huh Naruto?" he asked with a pleasant smile.
Konoha's disciple coughed violently. "You jerk, I could've taken him just fine if you hadn't gotten in the way!"
"I won't ask you to thank me, but I don't care whether or not you're grateful. I'm not the kind of man who would let his friends die."
Naruto's eyes widened in surprise, and for a moment he remembered saying the same thing many times in the past. "Thanks… I guess…" he muttered stubbornly, his annoyance evaporating as quickly as it came.
The Hyuga prodigy glared at them, his killing intent causing them both to look back at their mutual enemy. "Regardless of your reasoning, interrupting a fight between two martial artists before the winner is decided is unforgivable. Who do you think you are?"
"My name is Kenichi Shirahama, and I'm the Number One Disciple of Ryozanpaku."
"Accept the consequences of your actions, Kenichi Shirahama." Neji began, his grim expression earning a puzzled expression from the brown-haired boy. "If you desire to save your friend, then take his place as my opponent!"
"Not chance! I'm the guy who's gonna beat your ugly mug!" Naruto thundered.
"You had your chance, now get back and let me fight him." Kenichi held his arm out.
"If that crap's supposed to convince me, then I'm not buying it! Besides, doesn't Miu need help fighting that orange-haired freak?"
"That's really doubtful." Ryozanpaku's disciple answered bewilderedly. "That girl could kick my ass with her hands tied and her legs bound if she really had to. And besides, Takeda promised me he would handle it if something happened to me."
Neji took a step towards them, forcing their attention back to him. "I may just save the time and fight you both together."
The blonde opened his mouth to agree, but Kenichi stepped past him and squared up to their opponent. "I'll be your next opponent… Let's go!"
Both fighters struck at the same time their fists flying at amazing speeds, but neither scoring any hits as the battle neared the minute mark. Naruto was surprised by the strange phenomenon, but upon taking a closer look for himself, he could make out the line where Kenichi's Seikuken was encroaching into the area of Neji's Seikuken. It seemed as though the Hyuga prodigy's dome had a much wider range around his body, but the more concentrated barrier around Kenichi's form seemed to be somewhat stronger.
What bothered Naruto right now was the sheer ferocity with which Kenichi was fighting, and how refined his techniques were compared to their sparring match earlier. The boy he had defeated earlier that day and the person now matching Neji on the battlefield seemed like completely different fighters, and it made him wonder how someone he defeated could possibly fight with an enemy that he was nearly powerless against.
The battle continued like this for several minutes with Neji trying to execute his family's death fist techniques properly, but was becoming increasingly frustrated. Whenever he went in for the kill, Kenichi would dodge by a tiny interval, smack his hands away, and aim his own attacks, making it extremely difficult for Neji to focus and prepare. Kenichi thought back to his fight with his old friend Ryuto Asamiya, noting that no opponent had fought so fiercely against him till today.
Shikamaru watched with interest, looking unusually engrossed by the display. "So that's what happens when two fighters execute their Seikuken at the same time… Interesting."
"Sheesh, now that's the understatement of the century." Ino placed her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow. "That guy managed to beat Naruto without getting clobbered in the process… I hope Kenichi knows what he's doing, or this is gonna get ugly fast."
"C'mon, Get 'em Kenichi!" Nijima screamed wildly.
Sasuke watched both of the remaining battles, pleasantly surprised that Naruto had managed to injure Neji, and even more surprised that the Ryozanpaku disciples had lasted this long against his strongest subordinates. After several minutes of fighting, Kenichi parted with Neji, allowing both men to take a breather. Although the movements Neji used in Baguazhang were rather soft-handed, he had mixed several of his family's special attacks in to no avail.
"It appears you're an infinitely more interesting opponent than that fool." Neji replied, his eyes settling on the blonde. "Still, it is unbearable to think that an ordinary person with no lineage in he world of martial arts could match blows with me. You must be quite talented…"
"That honestly has nothing to do with it." Kenichi replied resolutely. "I worked very hard to get where I am now, and that's all there is!"
As the two fighters locked glares, Naruto stared between them with confusion. The silence lingered for a few moments, the only sounds coming from the continued battle between Miu and Jugo. Before anyone else could speak up, Team Hebi's cloaked leader stepped onto the scene, his presence pacifying all three men equally. Neji's ironclad gaze bored his supposed commander, but the man seemed completely immune to its normal affects.
"What do you want?" the Hyuga questioned, his voice dripping with venom.
"I think we've done quite enough damage for now." The Devil Fist replied, his voice causing Naruto's head to perk up instinctively. His eyes lingered on the blonde for a moment, but quickly diverged back to his subordinate. "The others have left already… We're pulling out."
Neji sneered irritably, his expression unchanged. "Do what you will, I shall not leave until my battle is finished."
"And so it has." Sasuke stated, his tone threatening anger.
The Hyuga hesitated for a moment as he considered the options, knowing full well that a fight with his superior would do no good at the moment. In his exhausted condition, he was confident that victory was impossible. Gritting his teeth, Neji did a violent neck spasm that was his attempt at a respectful bow. He turned his back to the others and began walking away, quietly retrieving his cloak as he departed the property.
Kenichi took a calm step towards the newcomer, despite being terrified beneath the surface. "Are you the man Team Hebi calls the Devil Fist?" he asked respectfully.
Sasuke spared him a quick nod before crossed the battlefield in a dark blur, instantly appearing behind the rampaging Jugo. Miu took a fighting stance as she tried to factor in the presence of another possible opponent, but the newcomer did not even look at her. Team Hebi's leader placed a hand on the monstrous man's shoulder and focused his killing intent, causing the larger man to snap out of his killing mode.
"We're leaving now." He murmured, earning a nod from his servant.
"As you command, Devil Fist." Jugo bowed his head in a much more respectful manner than Neji before standing down.
As the two men began walking away, Naruto and Kenichi stepped into their path, closely followed by Miu. The duo paused mid-step, and Sasuke felt a sense of powerful anger coming from behind them, only to see the remaining members of the Shinpaku Alliance and the Konoha disciples approaching from behind. Their expressions were a mingled combination of anger, and outrage, while their alien leader appeared to be ecstatic that they had actually "cornered" the rival gang's boss.
"What an idiot, dismissing all your minions like that!" Nijima jeered loudly. "Surrender fool, you're completely surrounded!"
Naruto ignored his antics and began walking laboriously towards the cloaked man. "What was the point of this attack!? What were you hoping to accomplish by hurting all us? Answer and maybe we won't beat you to a pulp!"
"Sir, shall I…" Jugo began, earning him a silencing gesture from his master.
The Devil Fist glanced around at their enemies before taking a step towards his former best friend. "You always an idealistic dobe, but I never could fault your ability to cut to the point, isn't that right Naruto?"
"It just can't be… Can it? There's only one person that ever spoke to me like that!" his eyes lingered on the ground for a moment, his teeth grinding together violently. Naruto swallowed anxiously, his entire body shaking violently as he tried to recover his composure. "Show me your face."
Sasuke removed his hood, causing half of the crowd to react violently. Naruto gasped, Sakura's breathing became shallow, Ino blinked in disbelief, and Lee's bottom jaw dropped to the ground. Of the gathered Konoha disciples bearing witness to the revelation, only Shikamaru remained silent, but this did not mean he was not as disturbed as the others. While the genius had his own suspicions all along, he had not wanted to believe them, and was unwilling to until this moment.
"It's been quite a while, hasn't it?" Sasuke greeted the angry mob casually, looking completely unconcerned by their mixed reactions.
Nijima detected something was up immediately. "Wait a second! Do you know this guy?" he began poking the man next to him repeatedly, hoping to coax an answer out more quickly.
"Quit it!" Shikamaru swatted his hand away. "That's Sasuke Uchiha, a guy that used to be the best student in Konoha. He left a while back for personal reasons and disappeared. Until now, we had no idea where he went or what he was doing."
"Sasuke… Why?" Sakura moved to the head of the crowd, quietly fighting back tears.
Naruto looked saddened himself, but any of those emotions heated into a rage. "Why the Hell are you the leader of Team Hebi? What the fuck happened to you? Weren't we all friends?" the questions poured from his mouth like water from a tap, his anger boiling over when no answer came. "Damn it Sasuke, answer me!"
"We have a right to know, so spit it out!" Ino stomped her foot aggressively.
Lee followed suit. "What kind of horrible experiences caused you to abandon not only your friends, but also your beliefs as a martial artist?"
Silence lingered again for several moments, but it wasn't long before Sasuke broke out into a hysteric yet strangely menacing laughter. "Fools! Even after all these years you imbeciles still don't understand a thing about me!"
"That doesn't explain shit!" Shikamaru finally spoke up, his eyes narrowing with dislike.
The Uchiha dispensed with his laughter and returned to his normally stoic demeanor. "Konoha could not provide me with the tools I needed to accomplish my goals, so I left. It's plain and simple as that."
"Spouting crap like that… You've lost it!" Naruto cried, raising the arm that was still working properly.
"With these eyes, I can see things more clearly than you could possibly imagine." Sasuke pointed to his face with a dark leer. "Konoha is my past, and now both it and the Shinpaku Alliance will be my stepping stones to even greater power."
"Why would you say something like that? Weren't we your friends?" Sakura replied through sharp breaths, her body still unable to cope with the stress.
Team Hebi's leader let out a dry chortle. "I seek only power… Anything else is meaningless to me now!"
"That tears it!" Naruto screamed, his wounded body breaking into a limping run. "I'll make you see reason if it's the last thing I do!"
"What are you waiting for, capture that bastard Devil Fist!" Nijima ordered, causing several of the others to join charge.
Jugo prepared to fight them, but Sasuke raised a hand to stop him. In less than a second, he had repelled Naruto with a high kick and quickly began to fight the others. Moving with Takeda's punches, he nailed the boy in between the eyes with a whip-like movement of his arm, using his opposite hand to catch Ukita by the wrist and throw him at the blue haired boxer. Ino advanced on him from the other side, but Sasuke effortlessly fended off all of her attacks with a single hand before knocking he back with a quick swaying motion.
"Not so fast!" Kenichi activated his Seikuken and rushed at the dark-haired villain.
The Uchiha began stepping backwards out of range and penetrated the self-made barrier by catching both of Kenichi's arms and unleashing a series of one-legged kicks to his groin, using the boy as a shield as Miu tried to attack from above. Using her moment of hesitation, he managed to catch her off guard before sending her flying with a well-placed roundhouse. Although she managed to land on her feet, the force pushed her back several meters, allowing him to clear get past her with Jugo following close behind.
Now standing on a rooftop across from the Shinpaku Headquarters, the Uchiha looked down at his defeated opponents condescendingly. "Hopefully our performance tonight showed you just how futile your chances are. Consider this miserable defeat to be a preview of what lies in store when the day of reckoning arrives."
As the gathered fighters began murmuring amongst each other, Miu approached her best friend. "Kenichi, are you all right?" she extended her hand, helping him to his feet.
"Yeah, just a little shaken up." Kenichi replied, his eyes moving over he torso for a second. After getting his head out of the gutter, he quickly felt frustrated with himself. "I don't get it."
"Get what?" she pressed him.
"How did that guy stop my Seikuken so easily? Not even Ryuto was able to overwhelm me like that." He pondered out loud.
At this, Miu looked extremely concerned. "I'm not sure… One thing I do know is that this guy was definitely not a normal opponent."
The two were quickly interrupted as Naruto stirred a few feet away, his head shooting up like a flower in the spring. Konoha's Number One Disciple was still shaking, but unlike before the pain wasn't caused by his internal injuries. The raging fire within him had grown into and unless inferno, and for the first time in his life, he felt his Dou ki raging out of control. Looking up into he sky, he noticed darker clouds floating in, as if the weather itself was reflecting his inner emotions.
After a moment of holding it in, he screamed at the heavens, his single cry being heard for miles around. Hiruzen Sarutobi was standing on the deck of the dojo's main building as the sound reached his ears, causing him to take a long draft from his pipe. Gently exhaling a stream of smoke from his mouth, he stood still and relaxed as the scent of burning tobacco was scattered to the winds.
"It has begun…" Konoha's elder replied, his eyes focusing on the darkening horizon.
"I can't believe the boss left us behind to watch over the base." Loki grumbled, holding a handful of playing cards.
Shino sat across from him with a look of indifference. To pass the time, they had spent the time wandering the halls of the base while taking breaks in between playing cards. So far their games had been inconclusive due to Shino's keen eyes. Despite wearing his sunglasses even while sitting in a dark building, he had caught Loki cheating several times now, easily exposing his exploits and forcing them to start over again. The trickster found this extremely annoying, but for the most part he appreciated a worthy opponent.
"I honestly couldn't care less what the boss does, but I joined up with you people top get revenge on the Shinpaku Alliance." The blue-clad man straightened his trademark goggles with a sneer. "I'm telling you, that kid's really beginning to get on my nerves."
"I'll be certain to tell him that as soon as he returns." Shino replied emotionlessly.
Loki almost fell out of his chair. "Nah, there's no need to worry him with those kinds of details. I'm just frustrated that he hasn't been taking advantage of my talents, despite appointing me as one of the demons of Team Hebi."
The other man folded his arms and exhaled deeply. "You were only given the title as an urgent replacement for that traitor, Haku. At the time we were desperate to fill the ranks, and due to recent events, the situation had complicated considerably."
"Save all that static for someone who cares." Loki replied, tossing his hand down on the table. "Three Jacks! Read-em and weep!" he smirked.
"Three Queens." Shino retorted, throwing down his own hand. "Pay up, Loki!"
The former Fourth Fist grudgingly dug into his pocket and tossed his opponent a small stack of bills. "Son of a bitch!" he spat. "I'll have to win it back next round or I'll be forced to shake down my idiot minions for the rest of the week!"
"Don't complain… You're the one that suggested we play." His opponent replied in an empty drawl.
"Let's play another game! How about Shogi or Othello instead? I've never lost a game before."
Shino adjusted his sunglasses. "I don't suppose cheating had anything to do with it."
"Screw you!" Loki stood up with a grouchy expression, turning his back on the other man. "It's bad enough I'm stuck here like an old guard dog, but being trapped here with you only makes things worse."
When the other man refused to dignify his statement with an answer, Loki turned to leave the room, only to run into someone else. A busty girl wearing goggles, camo-gear, and a helmet bust into the room, clearly out of breath from running. After taking a second to catch her breath, she started babbling incoherently, prompting the former Fourth Fist to shake her violently.
"What's wrong with you, Number 20?" he shouted, causing her to jump a little.
"Loki, you'll never believe what I just saw on the security monitors!" his sidekick waved her arms around as if she were excited and afraid at the same time. "It's something bad… very very very very B-A-D… bad!"
"Shut up and get to the point… C'mon, out with it already!"
"The prisoners just escaped from cellblock D and are already on their way to the rear exit!"
The goggled man slapped his forehead irritably. "You idiot, you should've sent the guards to seal the exits instead of running here like!"
Number 20 shook her head frantically. "I did, but we lost contact with them shortly after they were dispatched!"
Shino stood up from his seat and let out an exasperated sigh. "It looks like we may have no choice but to get involved."
"Damn it to Hell!" Loki screamed, clenching his gloved hand tightly. "Old Devil face isn't going to be happy if the prisoners manage to escape." He turned to the girl sitting beside him. "Well, what're you waiting for? Lead the way!"
As the former Ragnarok duo bolted down the nearest hallway, Shino followed their path slowly, the light shining mysteriously off of the surface of his glasses. Although the high collar on his cloak concealed the lower half of his face, a look of mild amusement came to his lips. After waiting a moment longer in silence, Shino quickened his pace and headed off to investigate the situation for himself.
Note to Readers: This chapter was particularly hard to write, not only due to motivation a issues, but also due to the sheer amount of introductions and fights occurring in a single scene. It's hard to keep track of so many people and what they're doing, and I actually made a small chart in order to plot out everyone's battles properly as the scene evolved. Sorry for any typos or errors in spelling or grammar, but I as usual I typically write this story late at night.
So now Sasuke's identity is no longer a secret to the good guys, and Naruto's not happy to say the least. Sasuke's skills are shown rather briefly this chapter, and even Miu senses how dangerous he is. By now, it should be clear to the readers which fighters represent the bulk of Team Hebi's offensive power.
If you have any suggestions for the story, please share. Even if you can drop a comment, that would be greatly appreciated. Even saying you like it is nice to read. In the meantime, don't forget to REVIEW! It motivates me to keep writing this story. Please keep supporting. If you wanna see more, just keep dropping comments.