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Misfits (Naruto/Gamer)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE, Jun 9, 2020.

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  1. Threadmarks: Metadata
    TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE

    TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE I see. I write. I conquer.

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    Series: Misfits

    Authors: The BlackStaff and NightMarE

    Warnings: Violence | Strong Language

    Summary: To fit in, is to belong. To be a part of a whole. Growing up an experiment with people far more broken than himself, Naruto was never given that gift. Armed only with a strange talking seal and the demons of his past, Naruto will have to carve his place in a world far larger than he is used to. Will the misfit find his family, or will the world find a monster? Gamer Elements.
     
  2. Threadmarks: Prologue
    TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE

    TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE I see. I write. I conquer.

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    Prologue


    It all started with the Hiraishin.​

    Invented by Tobirama Senju during the Second Shinobi War, the fuinjutsu technique was used to transport armaments, food, and people, to the war fronts. Only limited by its massive chakra requirements, the technique was a game-changer that left Konoha with the least fatalities after the war. Its main flaw lay in the chakra requirements of the technique, which increased exponentially with distance and mass.

    And now Sarutobi wanted him to make it better.

    To somehow turn this chakra extensive behemoth into a stable transportation system.

    It would no doubt be helpful to Konoha, improving its ability to deploy personnel.

    But it was boring.

    Very boring by Orochimaru's standards.

    Orochimaru was currently working on the analysis of Hashirama Senju's cells to understand the mechanism behind Wood Release— something that was taking up all of his time and attention. He had no time for trivialities and he told his teacher as much.

    And so Hiruzen had given it to Jiraiya, not that it would accomplish anything. Make no mistake, Jiraiya was good. Better than most people he knew, but he was no Orochimaru.

    All things considered, Orochimaru had even been happy. Well, relieved might have been the better word. The man-child would have hounded him relentlessly about peeking and bathhouses and all sorts of other perverted nonsense if allowed too much free time. At least with this, he'd be able to use his mind for something productive.

    Though the many misfortunate incidents he had been forced through by the toad-sannin told him otherwise. No doubt, he'd find some way to pervert the technique.

    He was good at that.

    Regardless it was officially not his problem anymore. Out of sight and out of mind.

    That, in hindsight, had been his greatest mistake.

    After tinkering with the formula for months and finding nothing but failure— as Orochimaru expected— the man proceeded to give it to his student.

    He almost laughed when he heard that. No matter how much Jiraiya boasted about his fuinjutsu apprentice and his innovative way of thinking, Orochimaru had never expected him to get anywhere with the technique.

    Hell, he was already trying to think of the next excuse he could use to avoid such boring seal modification work, when it inevitably landed back in his hands after Jiraiya's repeated failures.

    And then, eight months later, Minato converted Tobirama's transportation seal into an offensive technique, built for one purpose and one purpose alone.

    To slaughter armies.

    He had been skeptical about it first, but after the battle at Kannabi Bridge, there had been no more room for doubt. Minato Namikaze ambushed a massive Iwa force, comprising over a thousand Iwa shinobi.

    Alone.

    Only one person walked away uninjured and it hadn't been an Iwa ninja.



    "This is most unexpected, Lord Third. I dare say I wasn't expecting this invitation."

    Orochimaru held his teacher's gaze for a full three seconds, before sneering and looking away. The Hokage's office might not be the grandest edifice in Konoha, but it was certainly the most famous. Interestingly, it was the only other building, aside from the Konoha Academy, that was built on the slopes of the Hokage Monument. Ever since he had been a kid, Orochimaru had always been strangely fixated at that particular topographic feature. Not because it had the faces of the former Kages of Konoha sculpted upon its chest for all the world to witness, but for something far more mundane.

    If that mountain ever shattered, Konoha's past would bury its present and future.

    Orochimaru didn't know why, but every time he gazed upon the monument the instinctive desire to crush the mountain seemed to raise its hood. The mental description might seem a little too strange for a neutral observer, but for the Snake Sannin, it was an apt fit.

    "Actually, it was I who requested your presence."

    Orochimaru suppressed a hiss, as he turned to gaze at his opponent.

    "Namikaze." He muttered.

    "Minato, please," Namikaze nodded with a polite smile. Someone had been imparting the art of diplomacy to this… upstart, it seemed.

    "Namikaze," Orochimaru repeated. He wasn't in the mood to stand on ceremony at the moment, especially not for the one chosen over him by his own teacher.

    Minato sighed. "Before my position as the Fourth is officially announced, I suggested bringing about some changes in the Council. I asked for your presence for that purpose."

    "Not yet Hokage and you are already taking over the Council," Orochimaru smirked. "You've been a busy little man, haven't you?"

    "You have been requested to aid in this discussion, not make snarky comments, Orochimaru," Hiruzen replied in an acerbic tone, silencing the snake-summoner. "You were one of four possible candidates for the position, and Minato was chosen. All four are present here, but you don't see them complaining."

    Orochimaru's gaze flitted towards Danzo Shimura, who looked distinctly uncomfortable with the setting if the scowl on his face was any indication.

    He smirked and met Hiruzen's eye a second time.

    "Alright, most of them aren't complaining," Hiruzen muttered before forcibly changing the subject."Now can we get to the point?"

    "As I was saying," Namikaze began, completely ignoring the tension in the room, "there have been some changes in the Council in light of recent events. While elders Utatane and Mitokado have been advising the Hokage over administration issues, I've decided to invite in some more members of our society to promote smoother functioning."

    "Minato has my complete support," Hiruzen spoke up exuberantly, "Because of his… battle against Iwa, Konoha has entered a period of peace. It is to our benefit to preserve it for as long as possible."

    "I think you're confusing peace with quiet," Danzo spoke up.

    "That remains to be seen," Hiruzen retorted, "Iwa has all but surrendered, and the rest of the villages have already withdrawn most of their personnel from our land."

    Anyhow," Namikaze interrupted. "While we are currently at peace we must not—"

    Orochimaru yawned, tuning out from Namikaze's passionate speech before looking at the rest of the room.

    Probably members of the new council.

    He could see Shikaku Nara, the newly minted Jōnin commander. There was also Inoichi Yamanaka, current Head of T&I and finally Fugaku Uchiha, leader of the Uchiha clan and current Head of the Konoha Police division. In addition to these were the original trusted advisors of the Hokage— members of the original Council— Koharu Utatane and Homura Mitokado.

    "—this expanded Council is going to advise me over Konoha's administration" Namikaze's grating voice droning on before calling his attention. "Orochimaru, I'd like it if you were to be a part of this Council as well."

    "Me?" Orochimaru asked, surprising himself. Out of all the things he had seen coming, this was certainly not one of them. But then again, this was Minato Namikaze. That damn brat had the ability to get under his skin faster than anyone possible, and he was teammates with Jiraiya.

    "Tsunade was my first choice," Namikaze admitted, "her presence would have been an effective boost to our medical units. But the Lord Third here assures me that she's not… interested, and as such…" he drawled, while glancing at Hiruzen a second time, "we think that your skills at… research would be very contributing to this Council."

    That did it.

    Not only was his position taken away but now he had to be this whelps… adviser?

    This was adding insult to injury and Orochimaru could barely hold the anger in. His knuckles turned paler from the clenching of his fists— an exercise to keep himself from exuding animosity. He instinctively knew that if he allowed it, this rage would come out in the worst possible way. It would consume everything, including the delicate little balance that Namikaze and Hiruzen were trying to maintain.

    "Orochimaru," Namikaze spoke again, "I'd request your presence in the advisory council."

    "...Of course." Orochimaru replied, his smile never quite reaching his eyes.


    "You've taken to your new position like a fish to water."

    Orochimaru sighed, looking up from his desk. Trust Danzo Shimura to poke his hawk-like nose into matters he had no business interfering with. Then again, this was the Darkness of Konoha, a rather self-important title.

    Danzo was a war-veteran mentally stuck in the First Shinobi War who wielded significant authority inside Konoha, a fact that did little to diminish the most important thing about the man.

    Danzo Shimura was boring.

    Tobirama Senju had chosen Sarutobi over Danzo to succeed him— his last act as the Second Hokage, minutes before his death at the hands of some Kumo ninja. What was shocking was that Danzo had not fought the decision, not made his stand. Instead, he had denied it. Since Hiruzen would rule Konoha as the supreme commander of the ANBU forces, Danzo created an entire ANBU division just for him— a mindless group of socially-stunted individuals that were bootlickers at best and incompetent at worst. According to Danzo, his ANBU forces— which he renamed ROOT — didn't need to think. They just needed to follow Danzo's order to the fullest and that would be more than enough.

    Personally, Orochimaru thought that Danzo did it because he feared that anyone with two brain-cells in working order would ditch him and join the real ANBU instead. That, or the old hawk feared his needlessly byzantine plans would be torn apart by any competent genin.

    And now Konoha's war-hawk had settled his gaze upon him. Oh, why did the gods hate him so much? As if he didn't have enough to deal with.

    "What do you want, Danzo?"

    "It is a sad day when someone that should have been Hokage chooses to settle for a desk job."

    "I'd say pot-kettle, but then I'd have to consider Root a real organization," Orochimaru retorted acerbically. He had no patience for Danzo or his limitless paranoia. "It doesn't exist, after all. Isn't that right?"

    He half expected the man to attack, knowing how twitchy Danzo could get when questioned about his organization's significance. Personally, it'd be a breath of fresh air. Say what you will about his nuances, even the vicious Snake Sannin enjoyed physical combat every now and then. He was a shinobi after all.

    One did get a little bored from long hours of work, even if it was something as interesting as cracking the code behind Hashirama Senju's abilities to create life.

    Instead, Danzo smiled. And wasn't that just annoying?

    "You raise good points, Orochimaru of the Sannin," The man went on, his formality almost sounding sarcastic. "However, I came here to discuss a proposition."

    "I've yet to hear any."

    "An offer to join Root."

    "Denied." Orochimaru returned to his desk, his eyes moving back to the diagrams he had been working on before this impromptu conversation. Picking up his pencil, he began to continue his work.

    "Just like Minato denied your request to start human trials?"

    The pencil in his fingers stilled.

    For the last five years, Orochimaru had been vested in personal research on Hashirama Senju's DNA— both in its ability to grant Life and its ability to prolong lifespan. As a diligent student and researcher, the possibilities of this DNA were endless, particularly if it could be harvested successfully. With this, Orochimaru could see his personal goal of achieving an immensely long lifespan, and the possibility of immortality close within his reach. Once that was achieved, learning all the jutsus of the world would be an afterthought at best.

    It was why he had been using his captures as his personal lab rats for the research over the years, but with him slowly spending less and less time on the field, the number of test subjects had become annoyingly small.

    It was why he had dropped his ego and requested the Fourth to grant him prisoners from the T&I to continue his pursuits. He had made it a point to explain all that his research had to offer.

    Namikaze had denied him. Because, of course he had.

    That brat had the gall to use his own statistics against him. Sure the number of survivors post the initial DNA injections were less than 2 percent, but it was still two percent. Two out of a hundred. Twenty out of a thousand. For fuck's sake, they were shinobi. Had that brat forgotten that his current throne had been a byproduct of butchering a thousand Iwa ninja at Kannabi bridge?

    The pencil began to move again, scribbling on the pages furiously.

    "I can grant you all the test subjects you want." Danzo mentioned casually, "After all, it is the sacrifice made by roots that allow a tree to grow and remain strong?"


    Orochimaru had never been an avid believer of fate.

    In the two years since becoming Hokage, Minato Namikaze had accomplished many things. Nothing grated Orochimaru more than the fact that he had somehow achieved the status of perfect sage. Not even Jiraiya, beloved of the toads, had been able to achieve it. Anyone else that knew Jiraiya would claim that the toad-sage was too dignified to be jealous of his student, but Orochimaru knew better.

    After all, Jiraiya had literally cried himself to sleep over losing to his perfect student like that.

    After finishing several caskets of high-quality sake.

    From Orochimaru's personal collection.

    Despite his personal grudges against Namikaze, Orochimaru had no qualms about admitting that the boy had potential. But to become the first perfect sage since Hashirama himself? It was almost like the kid was trying to one-up him.

    That would not do.

    He had never really been one to get all close and personal as far as fights were concerned, preferring to assassinate while hiding in shadows. Rushing towards the enemy was more of Jiraiya's thing and to his credit, the fool played his part well. Jiraiya was the warrior, Tsunade the healer and he himself, the assassin.

    And it worked perfectly for several years.

    But now… upon hearing about Minato's success with Senjutsu, a part of him that raised its hood in defiance and competitiveness wanted to prove the boy wrong. Show him that it was no big deal.

    That Orochimaru of the Sannin could do it. And do it better.

    That is how he found himself standing at the entrance of Ryuchi Cave.

    It had been enlightening and humiliating at the same time.

    Back when Manda had offered him the chance to learn senjutsu, he had openly expressed his contempt for it. And now, after thirty years as a snake-summoner, he had found himself awaiting the trials at the entrance of Ryuchi Cave. If someone was trying to teach him humility, Orochimaru would reluctantly agree that said person was probably doing a very good job at it.

    Unfortunately, the lessons in humility hadn't stopped at that.

    It had taken him seven months before Orochimaru had finally given up. Fifteen months of rigorous study of senjutsu followed by equally diligent practice and despite doing everything the White Snake Sage asked of him, Orochimaru hadn't been able to become a Sage. It had been frustrating.

    As had the White Snake Sage's answer to his question.

    If the ancient creature had to be believed, Orochimaru's soul was fragile. Whatever that meant.

    Soul manipulation wasn't his forte after all.

    As said before— it was frustrating.

    All of that information, and still completely useless.

    Orochimaru was just one step away from giving in to his anger and going on a murder spree. Say what you will about him, but there was something strangely cathartic about killing idiots.

    So when Jugo literally walked into one of the newer private labs he had constructed off the coast of Konoha, Orochimaru couldn't help but challenge his innate beliefs. For what could this be, if not divine providence?

    In less than a month, he had gotten privy to almost everything that made Jugo's bloodline tick— It directly harnessed natural energy to modify the body, giving it supernatural strength. Of course, the strength came with the side effect of temporary insanity, but sanity was overrated anyway.

    The only thing that remained was to learn how to harness that power for himself.

    But he would go further.

    The immense knowledge of Senjutsu he had picked up from the snakes had a lot to do with the Soul. From what he understood, the snakes had been able to achieve a form of immortality through a form of reincarnation known only to them. Orochimaru had the theory flat, but the practical application was beyond him.

    The answer came to him in the form of the Iburi Clan— a group of people that had the special ability to turn to smoke and back. People would have called that as physical body manipulation, but after several months of research, Orochimaru knew better.

    It was manipulation at the soul level.

    He had been unable to master Senjutsu— no, he had absolutely failed at it. But so what? He'd reach that perfection— that final stage when one became an immortal. He'd do it his way. He'd use all the knowledge he had gained, and arrive at the destination.

    After all, the ends always justify the means.

    He'd become immortal, or he'd die trying.


    Around a year prior to the Kannabi event, Minato had married Kushina Uzumaki— commonly believed to be the very last descendant of the famous (or infamous, depending on who you asked) Uzumaki heritage. If Orochimaru had been a bit more… interested in the pleasures of the flesh, he'd have tried to marry the girl. The fact that the girl was smitten with Minato from Day One had only made her more… repulsive in his eyes.

    Even he was allowed to be vain from time to time.

    Regardless, it was the very same Uzumaki who was the current source of his problems.

    Kushina Uzumaki was apparently the Kyuubi jinchuuriki.

    A jinchuuriki's seal was apparently unstable during childbirth.

    And of course, some crackpot had gotten to know about it, and of course he was able to bypass Konoha's extensive security, kidnap Kushina and set the Nine-tailed monstrosity loose.

    It sounded like the beginnings of a bad joke. Orochimaru would have laughed if said bad joke wasn't currently demolishing half of Konoha.

    He still did snicker a bit.

    Regardless, Konoha was not dealing with this situation well.

    The powerful and magnanimous Hokage was missing, leaving the shinobi population to deal with this… monstrosity.

    Jiraiya was away gathering information on Kiri. Tsuanade was a no-show for several years now. That left just him— to pick up the slack left by the other two Sannin. Either that, or allow his reputation to be besmirched.

    Now Orochimaru might have been a sociopath and a heartless killer, but he did have some attachment to the village. There was a reason he had wanted to become Hokage after all.

    No point complaining about it when you have a job to do.

    Shinobi were not capable of causing damage to a behemoth like the beast in front of him. You needed a monster of similar proportions for that.

    Fortunately, he had just the thing.

    He'd normally have not summoned him, but none of the other snakes would be able to put up strong resistance against the Kyuubi. Of course, Manda would demand a sacrifice of several hundred lives, but Orochimaru supposed that could be arranged.

    In time.

    With proper resources.

    At some point in the not-so-distant future.

    His hands moved in perfect unison, manifesting seals with his own blood, as he completed the summoning.

    A moment later, his request was answered.

    Loudly.


    Things hadn't gone the way he had wanted, at all.

    His summoning of Manda had been far less effective than expected. Fighting a feline was naturally difficult for a serpent, and this one was titanic and made of corrosive chakra. As such, the gladiatorial battle between two titanic creatures had annihilated two-thirds of Konoha. While he had been able to secure a lot of the clan members and other shinobi in the time Manda bought him, the event had rung a massive death toll for the civilian population.

    Of course, this had come at a heavy price.

    Over seventy thousand people had lost their lives. The Kyuubi's chakra was corrosive and while Manda could hold him off for a bit, the residual chakra alone was enough to kill civilians. Hell, a significant amount of shinobi perished as well— mostly genin and chunin. In one single stroke, the event had almost purged Konoha's future.

    He had followed wartime directives, prioritizing shinobi who could fight back, but he was aware that their lives were paid for with the currency of civilian lives.

    Of course, to some people, Orochimaru's summoning of Manda had been seen in a negative light. A lot of the blame for the mass destruction caused by the titanic snake was somehow his fault.

    He hoped the Kyuubi killed those people next.

    The remaining chunin and genin might as well be civilians for all the good they could do against such a monstrosity. He idly wondered what the Academy had been teaching them considering how vocal they were about hiding till the Hokage showed up.

    Orochimaru called those people quitters.

    For all their complaining about the number of deaths he had allowed, at least they were alive to complain. If he hadn't stalled the Kyuubi, they might not have had that privilege either.

    But, of course, if it was the venerated Lord Hokage, he could probably save them all.

    And there he was, appearing on top of the Hokage monument in a flash of yellow.

    Speak of the devil.

    He was wearing that horribly ostentatious white cloak with the words Fourth Hokage inscribed on them. God knew that the man couldn't get a bigger head.

    Though for all his hatred of the man, he couldn't help but be impressed.

    Using a derivation of his Flying Thunder God technique, Namikaze had been able to snatch one of those stupidly powerful balls of pure, corrosive chakra and threw the attack into the surrounding forest. The looks of awe and veneration on everyone's faces indicated that this would be the latest chapter of Minato's legend.— One in which he fought a bijuu single-handedly.

    It only made Orochimaru hate him more.

    And then, in a flash of yellow so bright that it blinded everyone, around them both Namikaze and the Kyuubi vanished. He had somehow managed to teleport both himself and the goddamn bijuu away with him.

    The hero who saved his hidden village. And from the dirty looks he was receiving his own contributions would not be appreciated.

    Orochimaru sighed.

    Story of my life.


    Hiruzen stared in shock at the dead body of his successor. He had been Konoha's brightest flame. So young and yet so powerful. Hard when required and yet, kind where it mattered.

    "You… you did not deserve this." A tear dripped down his face and he closed his eyes. "Your will of fire burnt strong. Stronger than any of us. You saved us all. We will not forget you."

    He took a deep breath before opening his eyes again and turning to the surrounding shinobi. Everything was in shambles, more than two-thirds of their village lying in rubble.

    Hundreds of shinobi lay dead. Many of them had families with no one to take care of them. Many didn't have anyone to mourn them.

    And yet, all of them had bravely sacrificed themselves to buy just a minute longer for their village.

    They deserve to be cremated with honor.

    He took a deep breath. In his long life, he had never experienced anything quite so horrific, but he had to keep strong. His village needed him to.

    Minato's legacy needed him to.

    Reaching down, he slowly picked the child up from where he lay. Minato and Kushina had sacrificed their lives for the village, for this child. And even in their death, they had ensured that their child survived, and in return, aided the village.

    It should have been me that died. Not you Minato.

    He glanced at the baby again, at the seal on his stomach.

    A seal that would be Minato's greatest gift to Konoha, ensuring that it would not be destroyed in its moment of weakness.

    Naruto Namikaze. The Kyuubi jinchuuriki.

    "Orochimaru," he barked.

    "...Yes," the snake sannin replied.

    "Take the child to the Hokage Tower. Make sure he is safe from all harm." He stealthily rubbed the seal on the child's belly, knowing that his student would recognize it for what it was.

    As expected, Orochimaru's eyes widened immediately, before being replaced with a mask of cool indifference.

    "Of course," his student replied softly, almost as if making some kind of decision. "I'll make sure Minato's child is safe from all harm."





    ...

    It was quiet. Far too quiet.

    A few minutes later, Hiruzen realized the Hokage Monument was so quiet because it was empty.

    Something is wrong.

    His intuition had never failed him thus far in his life, and now it was screaming at him that something terrible had happened. He started to climb the Hokage Tower faster before he saw it.

    Both Chunin guarding the entrance of the Hokage's office, dead.

    Freshly dead at that— the blood was still dripping from their slit throats.

    He'd recognize the subtle perfection of those cuts anywhere.

    Orochimaru.

    The feeling of wrongness got even worse as he rushed into the room. If anything happened to baby Naruto, he'd never be able to face Minato in the afterlife.

    All he was met with was emptiness.

    Every bit of paper, every scroll, anything that had value really, was methodically removed from the room. The fuinjutsu-locked safe was left open.

    Konoha's forbidden Scroll of Seals was conspicuous by its absence.

    There was no sign of Orochimaru anywhere. Or the baby.

    "Orochimaru," Hiruzen whispered, collapsing on the floor, the shock almost too much for him to bear. "What have you done?"
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2020
  3. Omni

    Omni Not too sore, are you?

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    Okay, you have hooked me and I am hungry for more of this fic ^_^
     
  4. Edifier

    Edifier Trusted within thoughts.

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    This is a magnificent start!
     
  5. Threadmarks: Act 1 | Chapter 1 - Here be Monsters
    TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE

    TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE I see. I write. I conquer.

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    ACT 1 - BEYOND THE HORIZON


    Chapter 1 - Here be Monsters


    Just another day.

    Subject-19 walked out of his chamber. The events of the previous day had left him drained. Nothing to be surprised about, but, the feeling of utter wrongness hadn't yet faded. The people in white coats— he refused to call them medics— had put him through another series of rigorous tests, involving injecting him with several large needles and pumping some weird serum into him. He could never tell what it was, but it always filled him with an almost instinctive revulsion.

    Sometimes it would sting a bit, or at least, it probably did back when he was little. By now, he was used to it though. The prick was part and parcel of his monotonous life inside this cavernous dungeon that had been his world for as long as he remembered.

    Well, not exactly. The dungeon, which their vaulted lord and master called a laboratory, was built upon an island surrounded by water as far as the eye could see. He'd know, it was his favorite sight after all.

    Every morning before the warden was up, he'd climb his way past the facility and over the rocks to stand on top of the precipice, overlooking the sparkling waters below. He had oft entertained the idea of jumping down into the sparkling blue realm below, but he didn't know how to swim.

    Jumping in the water would mean certain death, or so he was told.

    "Whatcha doing up here, Nineteen?"

    He looked to his right, or more precisely, at the black-haired, tall, lean girl standing beside him. Well, not exactly a girl. She was probably closer to twenty, so it would be more appropriate to call her a young woman.

    Not that she acts like one.

    Anko Miratashi was a student of the Master and the most hyperactive human he had encountered in his admittedly, limited life. She was a recipient of the master's Cursed Seal of Heaven, and apparently the only one to survive the implantation so far.

    His gaze flickered towards the woman's hair. Short, spiky, and a mess— just like he remembered, save for the new lilac tints. Those weren't there the last time he saw her. He'd know. He noticed these tiny things.

    It was kind of instinctual.

    "My girls are down here if you really wanna stare, you know?" Anko interrupted, jiggling her breasts for his viewing pleasure.

    "...sorry?" He blinked, taken off-guard by her behavior.

    Anko sighed. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you've got a hair fetish."

    "But you know better."

    Anko looked crestfallen, as she touched her chest with one hand, giving the impression of someone in anguish. "Unfortunately."

    He didn't reply. There was nothing to reply to.

    "So what's got you here so early, Nineteen? Planning on a nice, long swim?"

    "You know I can't swim," He murmured softly before meeting her gaze calmly. "And don't call me Nineteen."

    "Really, what do I call you then, Nineteen?"

    She inched closer.

    "I have a name. Use it."

    "And if I don't?"

    Closer.

    "Then there is nothing left to say." He turned away, gazing at the endless sea in front of him. Every morning, he'd see the warden, waist-deep into water, offering some sort of prayers into the ocean. A neutral observer would probably call it pious.

    Naruto would have to, if not for that said pious act was performed after said person finished cutting dead bodies of prisoners, burning them and then spreading the ashes into the ocean.

    It was disturbing.

    "Look at you, trying to appear cool," Anko scrunched her face in frustration. Seeing his lack of interest in continuing the conversation, she went on, "That's not fair, Nine— I mean, Naruto. You can at least pretend to be caught off-guard." She jiggled her breasts again, "surely these girls catch your attention?"

    Fun fact. Anko Mitarashi absolutely adored him. To the point that she'd suffocate him with her attention. Sometimes literally.

    Naruto sighed. This barter of words was an old ritual between the two of them. Anko would continue to shamelessly provoke him with her body and he'd continue to ignore her. The results hardly varied but Anko was persistent if nothing else.

    "Why don't you try that with Mr. Yakushi?"

    "Pfft!" Anko snickered. "As if that bore would ever be interested in these beauties." She cupped her breasts again. "Sides, why's he Mr. Yakushi and me just Anko?"

    "I can call you Mitarashi." Naruto offered.

    Anko snorted.

    Naruto turned towards her and shrugged. "It works for him. Some people value power, others wealth. Mr. Yakushi values social superiority."

    "And that stickler-for-rules lets you come here."

    "That too."

    Naruto looked away again. The number of people he had personally talked to in his life were less than a dozen. Of course, that was discounting the white-coat men that called him Nineteen and treated him like a test subject.

    A walking, breathing, useful, test-subject.

    He blinked again.

    There went the feeling of revulsion all over again. He really needed to gain some more control over his thoughts.

    Anko sighed. "Why did you turn out this gloomy? Like, look at me," Anko smacked her chest lightly, "I served Orochimaru for this long and I turned out fine."

    Fine is such a subjective word.

    Naruto turned towards her for the third time. Friendly or not, Anko was a busybody. Overwhelmingly so. She was loud and stubborn and prone to doing things before thinking. The fact that she wore the prized cursed seal gave her a lot more leeway than other captives— the warden would often bitch about her when she thought no one was looking.

    "Whatever!" Anko looked miffed as if his silence had given her some sort of response. Knowing her, she'd probably interpret it in the worst possible context.

    "What are you doing here, Anko?"

    "You mean apart from flirting with a rock?"

    Naruto rolled his eyes. "Yes."

    "Well, this is kind of my last day here. So, maybe we could hang out a bit?"

    "Why?"

    "Well…" Anko looked a little uncomfortable. "Mostly 'cause you're the only guy around that hasn't been an asshole to me."

    "Seven in the morning is way too early to get mushy." Naruto looked at her suspiciously. "Are you drunk, Anko?"

    "Asshole!"

    She nudged his shoulder angrily.

    It hurt a little. She had hit him right where he had gotten several injections the previous night. There was no point in mentioning that now though. It would not push the pain back.

    "Where are you going?"

    "The Southern Hideout. Somewhere near Kiri. Bloody place, literally."

    "What's it like?"

    Anko shrugged. "Never been there. But that's where your sweetheart is from."

    "She's not my sweetheart, woman."

    "Ooh, denial. I've seen that earlier. There was this kunoichi I seduced in this mission. Maybe have your little girlfriend learn a few tricks from her? There's this thing she does with her tongue—"

    Naruto cleared his throat. Loudly. "As I said," he stressed the last word out, "she's not my sweetheart."

    "Sure, sure. Anyway, don't stay here for too long or that bitch will get you. Honestly, she's got a tanto-sized stick up her ass—"

    Said bitch referred to Guren, the Warden and foremost authority on the island, excluding the Master. He had never seen her use her powers, but from the way everyone— save Mr. Yakushi— gave her a wide berth, it was obvious that her abilities were nothing short of frightening.

    As far as he was concerned, they had a working, if not amicable relationship, which essentially amounted to Naruto not breaking the few rules that she had put in for him, and Guren basically ignoring him. There had been few conversations between the two, but they were more out of formality than anything else. Sometimes he wondered why the Master even bothered with the prisoners. If he had been in the Master's place, he'd have just employed her, and that'd have been enough.

    Useless people were useless after all.

    Come to think of it, it was probably Guren's fault that he had ended up calling Orochimaru master.

    "— has she done and— are you even listening?"

    "I'm sorry. Were you saying something?"

    Anko grit her teeth ferally. It was… cute.

    "Sorry," he apologized. Apologizing was simple. It was the easy solution, one without the need for senseless antagonism. "I'll let Guren know that you think so highly of her."

    "You've got a strange sense of humor, Naruto."

    "I learn from the best."

    "Prat!" She smacked his shoulder again. This time it really hurt.

    "Any reason why you're leaving?"

    Anko slowly dragged a finger over his chin. "Oh? Will little Naruto miss me when I'm gone?"

    "You're more bearable than most."

    "Harsh!" Anko exclaimed, a hand over her chest as if wounded, "but I'll take it. I knew you loved me."

    In classic Anko fashion, she then proceeded to try and hug the life out of him. She was also vigorously rubbing her breasts against his back.

    Naruto took a deep breath before consciously ignoring her. If she felt even the slightest reaction, the women would take it as encouragement, and then he'd never be able to get her to stop.

    "Do you know why you are leaving?"

    "You're such a spoilsport," Anko frowned, "Would it kill you to react a little?" Sighing at his empty expression, she continued, "anyway, Orochimaru said something about some special experiment, so he's going to send out several people to the South Base," she went on animatedly, "something about very important and secret stuff."

    "You're a shinobi. Secret and shadows are in the job description."

    Anko let out a long-suffering sigh. "I swear Kabuto's been a bad influence on you. Reading those history books have made you addled."

    Naruto arched an eyebrow. "You get to be a shinobi. I get to read about being one."

    "Pfft! You really obsess over weird stuff. Honestly, you'll have a better life as a civilian."

    I think she actually believes that.

    "Out there, all you have is killing and killing and more killing." Anko continued, oblivious to his thoughts "Even your little sweetheart is happy that you get to stay here."

    That's like saying that I have a choice.

    He really didn't. For all the experimentation that he had to undergo, the Master was scarily protective of him. One of the lab-workers had knocked him during a procedure once.

    Naruto never saw that man again.

    "So about this experiment. Do you think I'll be able to come—" he trailed off, almost afraid to say his wishes out loud."

    "Who knows? Anything's possible and Orochimaru's giving a lot of importance to the mission. Even Kabuto's going with me."

    "Him too?"

    "Yeah, surprising ain't it?" Anko asked. "You'd think the worm would prefer to stay with his Lord Orochimaru," she trailed in a nasal voice, "during this great experiment."

    "You are really good at trash talking." He commented.

    "I can fart in seven different ways too. What's your point?"

    Naruto sighed. Anko would always take the last word. Why was he even surprised?

    "Anyway, I'll be going now." She hugged him again, this time a lot tighter before letting him go. " See you… Uhm, sometimes, I guess." Her body flickered for a second and then she was gone.

    "Sure," Naruto replied to the empty cliff.

    Of all the people he had known in his short life, Anko was probably the most forward. With the way she wore her emotions on her sleeve and with how she went along being a little ball of sunshine, it was hard to not instinctively trust her. And for all the time he had known her, Anko had never once lied to him. Even her flirting was real, and she knew that he knew it

    And yet, underneath her flirtatious and exuberant behavior, he could recognize her for who she really was,

    For what she really was.

    She might not know it, but he had watched her slaughter droves of people without the slightest change in was a reason why the Master had chosen her as an apprentice and a recipient of the Cursed Seal of Heaven.

    That was why, despite everything they shared, and no matter how close she tried to get to him, he'd never let himself forget that she was a monster.



    For fourteen years, the island laboratory in the middle of the endless ocean had been the center of his existence. It had been the place he had learned to walk and speak. It had been the place where he had made his first friends. Under the Master's supervision and command, this was the place he had begun to start associating with home.

    The only difference was that with age, home had begun to lose its meaning and instead become prison.

    A gilded cage.

    Naruto knew he wasn't a prisoner, because he knew exactly who the prisoners were and what happened to them. The Master's favored shinobi captured them and brought them to this place. They were then kept somewhere underneath this vast laboratory inside an underground colosseum. He had never really seen it but had heard more than enough to start constructing vivid images in his mind.

    A subterranean fortress made of metal and stone, keeping all kinds of deadly entities— some human, others not so much. All of them had but a single thing common.

    They were not ordinary.

    Some of them had special abilities, others an affinity for certain rare elements. Several were prisoners of war, captured from distant lands and some were given power through the master's experiments.

    And even among this group, there was a section of prisoners that were deemed special.

    These were people with bloodlines.

    Bloodlines, the Master called them. Members of clans and large families that were either separated or had survived extinction or war. The Master's private personnel were dedicated to bringing these people in, imprisoning them, and then forcing them into battling each other. The ones that showed potential were extracted and trained to become part of the Master's forces.

    That was unless said prisoner proved to be stubborn, in which case the warden would tear the prisoner down, and then the medics would use the body for research.

    Except for Naruto himself.

    For as long as he remembered, he had never been mistreated. Not even by the Master himself. He had a tiny, spartan room for himself, with a single rock bed with a pillow for comfort. Twice a week on average, the medics would call for him, attach him to a giant contraption that would drain a lot of blood out of him. Sometimes they would inject different drugs into his bloodstream and then keep him under observation. On rare occasions, Mr. Yakushi would come in to talk about a variety of topics, and give him some books to read. The older boy was a fountain of knowledge though he preferred to maintain distance from loud, boisterous people.

    Come to think of it, perhaps his personal distaste for Anko's behavior had been a result of Mr. Yakushi's influence.

    And that was it.

    No deathmatches. No training. Nothing about being taught the ways of the shinobi, and from how Mr. Yakushi avoided talking about formal training, there were no chances for Subject-19 to ever get that kind of training.

    It was a gilded cage, and inside it, Naruto would be a prisoner for life.

    Just like it had always been.

    Unless— and he really hoped so — today he'd get to leave this base and go to the Southern Hideout.

    He didn't really know where or what that was but at least it would bring in some variety to his monotonous life.

    "Ah Namikaze, how good to see you this morning."

    Naruto spun around, meeting the Master's eyes as he registered his presence behind him. Lord Orochimaru, or the Master, as Guren had taught him, was a rare presence on the island.

    On the rare occasion he was here, the man was either talking to the men-in-coats or would be busy with all sorts of calculations involving some pretty strange symbols. Probably a different language, but the Master seemed to use them to solve some kind of problem— a mathematical equation of sorts. Naruto didn't understand them per se, but he did feel a strange sense of familiarity towards the symbols as if he had seen them in some half-forgotten dream.

    "Have I caught you in a bad time, Namikaze? You seem unusually reflective."

    Mentally, Naruto let out a sigh. For some reason, the Master had always called him Namikaze. He had looked into the texts from Mr. Yakushi's library but had gotten nothing among the ancient warring clans. Then again, he didn't have a bloodline either, so it was improbable that it was a clan's name.

    Either way, it was a surname as good as any.

    Naruto Namikaze.

    "I met Anko a while ago."

    "Ah." The man smiled knowingly.

    "And I was wondering…."

    "If you're going to leave as well?"

    Naruto waited for what seemed like an acceptable interval to denote considerable thoughtfulness, before slowly nodding his head.

    "...Yes."

    Orochimaru smiled. There was nothing alarming about it. Just a genial, relaxed smile, albeit one that relayed the message that there was something Naruto was missing. A hidden joke of sorts.

    "Yes, you will. After today, you won't be seeing this lab ever again."

    "So I'll be… joining with Anko?"

    "... in time, I presume. Anko will be leaving for a mission shortly. So you'll be joining Kabuto instead. I'm told you're fond of him."

    "He gives me books to read."

    "Reading edifies the mind," Orochimaru drawled out, "a rather good habit. It's good to see you making good choices, Namikaze."

    "So will the others…." Naruto started, before pausing inadvertently. It would not do to push his luck against the Master. The Warden had warned him about it several times.

    "The others?"

    "My friend…"

    "Ah, Tayuya, my valiant shinobi. I'm told she's back."

    "She is?" His expressions brightened. The last time he had seen her had been over three weeks ago. She and the rest of the Sound Four had left for a mission in Iwa. If she was back, she was probably looking for him by now.

    "To my knowledge yes," Orochimaru replied airily, "and no, I don't think she'll be seeing you… anytime soon. I'm afraid you're not going to see her for a while."

    Naruto felt a pang of pain inside him. There weren't many people he could associate with on this island. Anko was an almost welcome respite from the day-to-day testings on his body. Mt. Yakushi was another reprieve, even though the former mostly gave him books to study. It wasn't much but at least the influx of knowledge made him feel like he was worth something.

    He'd probably never see the world outside this island, beyond the horizon, but he could still dream. But if there was one person he could genuinely consider his friend, it would be Tayuya.

    And now he'd be taken away from her. Possibly for a long, long time.

    His friend. His… only friend in this place.

    "Is there something you want to say?"

    Orochimaru's voice broke him out of his reverie. Realizing that he had an angry expression on his face, Naruto immediately tried to force it into a mask of composure. Anger never solved matters. Logic and rationality did.

    Accepting a compromise was always better than death. The story of the war between Iwa and Kumo during the reign of the second Raikage had taught him that.

    And yet...

    "I— I was just wondering—"

    "Yes?" The Master's smile widened.

    "Could Tayuya not go with me? Wherever I'm being sent?"

    "Hmmm... A curious proposition," Orochimaru seemed to consider the matter, "She synergizes well with the rest of her team so breaking up the Sound Four will be quite detrimental to my forces."

    He paused for a moment.

    "In fact, I'm quite sure that Kimimaro would be rather upset with the situation, and I believe you know about how quick he is to anger."

    That was a lie and Naruto knew it. Kimimaro was the leader of the so-called Sound Four, and from what Tayuya had told him, Kimimaro never got angry. From his books, he had learned that anger was a potent weapon in the hands of a shinobi. Make an opponent enraged and he'd make mistakes.

    Against Kimimaro, it was the opposite. The angrier he got, the more focussed he became.

    "Perhaps if you would…" he began, before nearly choking as he shut his mouth. Had he really lost his mind? For all the man's honeyed words, there was no suspicion about what sort of a man Orochimaru was.

    "Yes?"

    "...nothing. I'm sorry. Could I spend the day with Tayuya then, if I'm not going to see her for… a long time?."

    Orochimaru seemed to consider that for a moment. "Sure, also Namikaze—"

    Naruto paused. "...Yes?"

    "Come to the top floor tonight. Kabuto tells me you're quite the history-lover. Perhaps it's time you got to know a little bit about your own. Who knows when you might get another opportunity like this. Best not waste it, right?"

    Top… floor?" Naruto swallowed. Guren had warned him from ever wandering into that part. It was out of bounds for everyone, save Mr. Yakushi. Even the esteemed warden wasn't allowed in. "Of course. Thank you, Master."

    "Nonsense," The Master waved it off. "Now off you go. Spend the day with your friend. Both of you deserve it."

    Naruto had a strange suspicion that he was missing something but he knew better than to give voice to his doubts.

    "I will."

    The snake Sannin's lips curled into a knowing smile. "And I'll say this once, and only once. Take all the time you need."



    The gargantuan fortress on the island was home to many secrets. The castle was infinitely old and infinitely horrible, full of dark passages and high ceilings while the eye could only find cobwebs and shadows. Between the crumbling stones in the walls and the rotting smell of the corpses from the dungeons below this was precisely the kind of place where all sorts of gothic nightmares came to life.

    And I call this shithole home.

    Rushing up the steep stairwell, Tayuya found herself on the first floor, directly opposite to a large room on the other side.

    Our room.

    Technically, the room was officially his, but ever since she had met Naruto, she had begun to spend more and more time here instead of her own room on the other side of the fortress where the rest of the Sound Four lived. Then again, with how her compatriots had transformed their living arrangements into a training ground, Tayuya wasn't sure it could even be called a room at this point.

    No, as far as she was concerned, Naruto's room was her room as well.

    Say what you will about Lord Orochimaru, but the man was refreshingly open-minded about things, especially when it came to the unbending traditions of the shinobi world. Tayuya was young— very young by Shinobi standards, but even she couldn't help but question some of the stringent laws about male-female relationships and societal norms about what represented proper behavior.

    Not that she gave two fucks about that of course.

    And that is where Lord Orochimaru shined. Unlike that cocksucker Kabuto, she didn't have to kiss Orochimaru's ass twenty-four seven. So long as she did her job well, Orochimaru didn't give a damn about how she spent her days.

    Or nights for that matter.

    She pushed the door open and stepped in, feeling it close behind her.

    It was empty.

    Exhaling, Tayuya helped herself to the bed. If Naruto wasn't here, he was probably off to the cliff, doing his daily thing. Staring at the rising sun every morning was a dull activity, but he seemed to find meaning in the ritual. Perhaps if she had retained a little more of her humanity, she'd have seen some meaning in it too.

    For fuck's sake, I need to go find him.

    Stepping out of the room, Tayuya considered the castle around her. This castle, its high walls and dungeons had imprisoned hundreds of souls over decades. For those like her who were sensitive to such things, it was akin to walking through a murder scene— while said murder was being committed.

    Tayuya shuddered. No matter how much she pretended otherwise, the idea was arousing.

    Naruto… Where the fuck are you?


    The sounds of her footsteps hastened in frequency.

    This— this aggression, this insanity, this was why she fucking hated being alone. The faggots she called her comrades shared her taste for violence. She could ignore the whispers in their presence. With Naruto, she could close herself off from the rest of the world.

    But when she was alone?

    That was when the real horror began.

    Simply put, Tayuya was a warmonger. There were no two ways about it. Aggression flowed through her veins. The sounds of a kunai slicing through flesh made her heart beat faster. Mindless carnage and delirium seemed enthralled her. It was almost as if her sole existence was to bring about the world's demise.

    One didn't return to normalcy after becoming the host to the primeval demon Moryo after all.

    Her legs started to move faster and faster.

    Naruto….

    She was running now. The delirium was getting to her. She shouldn't have stepped into the castle so soon after their mission. It was too early. She should have stayed and trained with her team until her body had adapted to the castle's spiritual stench.

    But she hadn't. She had rushed in to see Naruto. She had chosen to meet him instead of playing it safe.

    And now she was paying the price.

    The sounds were ringing in her ears. The bells were ringing. Those that waited in darkness would start moving and they would bring in death and destruction. The bells would not be unrung. The bells would—

    Naruto. I need him. NOW.

    Her footsteps began to fall into disarray. Her heart was beginning to beat faster and faster. Her lips quivered as a strange mix of pain and ecstasy began to brim inside her like molten magma.

    Naru—

    "Ohey— WAIT!"

    Crash.

    Any other person would have probably tried to get out of the entangled state she was in. Instead, Tayuya grabbed the person below and hugged him hard. The sounds of the temple bell, the alien booming sound that had only seemed to reverberate louder and louder with each passing second now seemed to soften before slowly retreating back to that darkness they had arisen from.

    It was maddening.

    And Tayuya, hanging onto her companion for dear life, only hugged him harder. He was probably saying something, he always did, but it didn't matter. She had found him. He had found her. And she would be safe now.

    They would be safe now.

    The last of the bells had ceased ringing and Tayuya finally managed to push her head up. Several dozen curses flitted past her mind in rapid succession.

    How dare the idiot go loitering into the castle?

    Didn't the ass— he— know how dangerous it could be?

    How could he have been so fucking—

    Her eyes met his gaze.

    And just like that, a wave of something rushed through her. Calming her, composing her, raising her inhibitions….

    "Uh… hey!"

    "You're back!" Naruto grinned.

    The infectious expression flooded into Tayuya, who mimicked his grin without even realizing it. This— this was her salvation. This was what had kept her sane all these years. This was—

    "Why were you running? You could've hurt yourself."

    Tayuya looked away. Till this date, she hadn't been honest with Naruto about her malediction. About the curse she carried, and how staggering his presence had been in keeping her from becoming a malevolent nightmare over the years. And like several times in the past, the desire to come clean began to overwhelm her mind.

    "Tayuya—"

    I should tell him. Tell him. Tell him about—

    "What's wrong? Why are you—"

    Tell him. But what if— what if he hates me and—the fuck is—

    The rest of her thoughts vanished as she felt herself shaking. Or rather, being shaken by an apprehensive Naruto.

    "What the— are you doing?" She asked, not trying to stop as he kept trying to shake her like a toy.

    "You weren't responding. I was trying to wake you up."

    "I'm— awake."

    "Good. Want to get up? My back's hurting."

    "Huh— oh," Tayuya blushed slightly and pushed herself off. She had been sitting on him, with her entire form on his midsection."Sorry?"

    Naruto chuckled. "What's with you today? Master told me that you had arrived, but why were you running?"

    "Because— because I wanted to meet you and tell you that I'm back."

    "...Right."

    Tayuya scowled. Where was her naturally abrasive personality when she needed it? God, she sounded stupid. She really needed to pull herself together. It was almost as if every time Naruto talked to her she turned into a meek simpleton.

    "And you," Naruto sniffed, doing his best impression of a fox. "You're smelly. Go take a bath first."

    Tayuya punched him on the shoulder with a scowl.

    "My shoulder's fulfilled its quota of hits for the day. You done?"

    "Damn right I am." Tayuya retorted, getting back up. "I'll go meet my f— teammates before that and—"

    "No, you won't," Naruto stressed, looping his hand into her and pulling her towards his room.

    Their room.

    "You're gonna take a bath first. Everything else can wait."

    Tayuya allowed herself to get dragged away, easily falling into steps with her friend. It was moments like this that made all the suffering worth it. It had been three years since she had first encountered a terrified Naruto, shaking with horror in the dungeons. She had found him, and gotten him back to safety. She had watched over him as he was plagued by nightmares day in and day out. She had allowed him to hold her for comfort.

    In general, Tayuya despised any sort of physical contact that didn't involve maiming, but for some reason, it was different with Naruto. It was something she couldn't explain, but it just felt right.

    Like a piece of herself that she had long forgotten.

    It reminded her of when she was just like him. Before the horror that had descended upon her village. Perhaps that was what she had seen in him.

    The fragmented memory of what she could have been.

    An innocent Tayuya.

    She hated that thought, and yet, a stupid and trusting part of her couldn't help but latch on to it. That perhaps through preserving his innocence, her own demons would fade away with time.

    It was a dream.

    A stupid, selfish, and hopelessly naive dream. A lie in the truest sense of the term.

    And yet, it was beautiful.

    Tayuya had latched onto it with everything she could.

    For in that lie, she too, could be saved.
     
  6. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    I would find it more disturbing if the corpses were left to rot in the halls. Its all about perspective (and since he saw her cut them up and cremate them, I am assuming they would have been left in at least a semipublic place).

    Interesting chapter
     
  7. Threadmarks: Act 1 | Chapter 2 - Reaching for a Dream
    TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE

    TheBlackStaffAndNightMarE I see. I write. I conquer.

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    ACT 1 - BEYOND THE HORIZON


    Chapter 2 - Reaching for a Dream


    This hurts so much…

    Karin bit her lip, closing her eyes as she tried to ignore the dull throb in her veins. The shackles on her wrists rattled, the sounds grating to her ears. One would have thought that seventeen months of suffering would have gotten her used to this, but that was not the case.

    Meanwhile, the automated syringes, designed to extract her blood continued without pause or feeling.

    At least they were machines, beings incapable of emotion. They wouldn't know right from wrong. For all the pain that the syringes and the horrible machine connected to them caused her, they were not comparable to her silent captives.

    What excuse did they have?

    Maybe her mother was right— Healing was in her blood.

    She was born for it.

    And now, she'd die because of it.

    She considered the large room around her. There was a bathroom on the left, and a large window with sharp iron grills on the right. During the day, sunlight would flood into the chamber, and at night there was naught but darkness.

    As a little girl, Karin had been scared of the darkness.

    Now?

    Even the very notion felt hilarious.

    Her first nights inside this hell came to mind. She had shrieked and cried and pleaded and begged for someone— anyone — to save her.

    Her plight had gone unanswered.

    It had taken weeks before Karin learned to ignore it. Ignore it like every other thing that had ravaged her life.

    Even when her mother died, she had not felt such helplessness. She had no control over her own life.

    No matter what she did or what tantrum she threw, it would be met with the same result. She would be knocked out and then strapped back into the dreadful machine.

    And still, her captors would not speak to her.

    Not a single word.

    Karin found that despite all her efforts she could do nothing.

    And so she waited.

    Waited with nothing but the sound of her shackles for company.

    Waited as the scientists came in day after day, with new reports and tests.

    Karin sighed. She was spiraling again. She really needed to distract herself with something else. Her arms were starting to feel heavy anyway. Perhaps if she could get some sleep…

    But no, that wouldn't be an option. She knew the schedule. Every six hours the machine would finish its cycle and the large metallic door in front of her would open, and two men, dressed in white coats, and rubber masks would walk into the chamber. They never spoke, never uttered a word, no they simply went around conducting their jobs with an almost machine-like efficiency.

    It would start with the restraining. A cloth gag would be forced into her mouth while they'd inject something intravenously into her body.

    What happened afterward was a mystery to her because she usually ended up blacking out for hours.

    And then when she'd wake up, she'd find herself in fresh clothing, lying on her bed, her arms bandaged up to the shoulder, her hair wet, and the feeling of utter violation seeping into her soul.

    The first few times it had happened, Karin had screamed and yelled and lashed in anger and frustration.

    Now, she had no more tears to shed.

    The pain was flaring now, but that would fade as her accursed bloodline would begin to heal her.

    It always did.

    Her bloodline would keep her from dying. The white-coats kept her from living. She had contemplated suicide several, several times. And honestly, it wouldn't be all that difficult. Between the syringes, the large machine, and the shackles, ending this nightmare was more than possible.

    And yet she hadn't.

    Hadn't chosen the easy way out because of a reason. A stupid reason.

    Hope.

    Karin was a sensor and a ridiculously powerful one at that. She could easily spot and discern chakra signatures within the surrounding kilometer. It was this ability that told her that she was on an island somewhere in the middle of the sea— far away from any and all communications. It told her that the island was frothing with chakra.

    It told her that said chakra belonged to monsters.

    And yet, there existed a single ray of hope within it all. A single individual with chakra warm and bright and incredibly large. It was almost like bathing in the light of the morning sun. This strange person lived there, on this very island. He moved around, seemingly unrestricted, which told her that he wasn't a prisoner. And yet, he had never come to the top floor.

    Never.

    There were moments when Karin wondered if this person knew about her. Would he let her out if she could find him? What kind of person would he be?

    Dreams about this strange individual plagued her nights.

    It was no exaggeration. The dark fear of losing this ray of hope kept her from doing anything reckless and stupid.

    For a powerful sensor like her, the feeling of this warmth was like a soothing balm to her soul. Like finding an oasis after being trapped in a desert for weeks. With all the darkness that the entire place seemed to exude, with the nightmares that tormented her dreams every night, it was the only thing that kept her steady. Kept her sane.

    Kept her from dying.

    I wonder… Karin mused as her eyes began to feel heavy. Will I dream about him again?


    "I don't want you to go."

    Tayuya's face scrunched up as she glared at the ceiling. She was currently lying on Naruto's lap, the blonde ruffling through her bright crimson hair. She often teased him for having a hair fetish, much to Naruto's consternation.

    Naruto had the best reactions. Not taking advantage of them would just be silly.

    Though if she were honest with herself, Tayuya did have an absurd fascination with his hair. His unkempt stubborn blonde hair that would merrily disregard any and all attempts to be combed down both amused and vexed her to no end.

    Not that she'd ever tell him that.

    "That's not really in our hands now, is it?" Naruto asked gently from above.

    Tayuya scowled at the question, grumbling to herself as she turned over and buried her face into his lap. It didn't help, but the sudden darkness did feel a tad more comfortable than staring at the white ceiling above her.

    "...sorry?" Naruto offered.

    "I'm not mad, stupid," Tayuya let out "just… it's so unfair. Why do you have to leave?"

    Naruto remained silent, his hand stroking her head in his unique, infuriatingly gentle manner. It was calming in ways Tayuya could never understand, but she'd be damned if she stopped him from doing it anyway.

    Tayuya let out a reluctant sigh.

    If there was one thing that her selection as a host of Mōryō had taught her, it would be loss.

    The loss of her family, her friends, and control over her own life.

    The loss of her happiness.

    She had gained different things in its stead too.

    The overwhelming power of hosting a god.

    The obeisance of a village that followed her every whim.

    And yet, despite all of that, she was always alone. Nothing good ever happened to those she got close to. None of the few friends she had made there were still alive.

    All of this had lead to the creation of one simple rule—

    Don't get attached to things. Learn to let go.

    It was easier that way.

    Except for now.

    Tayuya snuggled deeper into Naruto's lap. She had most definitely broken her core rule here. She was nothing if not attached. She didn't even know how it happened. At first, he was just a kid she saw on occasion.

    A civilian.

    Someone who had gotten lost, and needed to be shown the way.

    Back then he had been a nuisance. Now? She couldn't imagine going back to the lonely existence she was before him.

    But Lord Orochimaru was going to take him away. And displeasing the man was not something Tayuya ever, ever wanted to do.

    She had thought she had known the human capacity to destroy. She had thought herself an incarnation of the Demon.

    And then she met Orochimaru.

    He was no man. He was a monster in the truest sense of the term.

    And going against him would only leave death and carnage behind.

    "I— I just don't— I— AARRGGHH!" Tayuya screamed in frustration, loathing herself for her inability to make a firm decision.

    God, she was pathetic.

    She had lived with Naruto for years now but she had never been able to tell him the truth. The fear of seeing Naruto look at her in fear and revulsion overcame her every time she tried to muster the courage to face her demons and come clean.

    She couldn't fight against Naruto's departure either, because Lord Orochimaru would be displeased.

    And she knew exactly what happened to people that displeased him.

    Still, she couldn't accept her master's decision because her own feelings were killing her from the inside.

    She felt Naruto ruffle her hair. For some reason, the act felt oddly cathartic.

    "Tell me," Naruto asked, his gentle tone calming her down. "Did the Master give you any new orders?"

    Tayuya bobbed her head and murmured something under her breath. Earlier, Sakon had arrived with a missive from the Lord. They were supposed to leave sometime the next morning for one of the bases in Suna.

    She'd be stuck there while Naruto would be taken from her.

    "I'm supposed to leave tomorrow morning for Suna. Long job."

    "That's… bad."

    Tayuya lifted her head and glared at him for his understatement. Did he really not understand what he meant to her?

    "Maybe I can ask him to send me with you in—" Naruto began.

    "NO!" Tayuya nearly shouted as she grabbed his shirt, "You have no idea how dangerous it is there. You aren't coming with me. No way. No fu— further discussion on this."

    Naruto looked confused. "Then you're fine with me leaving?"

    Not for the first time, Tayuya wanted to tear at her hair in frustration. Had this been any other person, she'd probably have been swearing at them with cuss words that would make a sailor blush like a bride. And that was even assuming that she hadn't already killed the person and set the entire place on fire for good measure.

    But with Naruto? Not a chance.

    "I'm not," She replied in a small voice. "But… I don't want you to go."

    "Then I won't," Naruto stated simply.

    "Won't— what— you!" Tayuya stared at him, flabbergasted at his expression before she finally managed to push out a single word out of her mouth. "How?"

    "I'll ask the Master. Nicely I mean. Maybe he will reconsider sending me too?"

    Tayuya suppressed a snort. She had tried to keep him safe from the darkness of the cut-throat world around him, but she knew that even Naruto couldn't be that oblivious.

    "And what if—" Tayuya composed herself, "what if he says no?"

    Naruto looked thoughtful. "Then… then we run away."

    Tayuya wanted to laugh. Laugh at him and his obliviousness. Laugh at the hopelessly confident expression on the teen's face. Did he not know just how strong the people guarding the island were? Even if he had somehow ignored the bitch, Guren, had he forgotten about the monsters that lurked beneath this island? Had he—

    "He's asked me to go to the top floor tonight," The teen went on in earnest, "I'll talk to him. The Master isn't as irrational as you think. Mr. Yakushi spends so much time around him and he seems pretty alright."

    Only someone that hadn't met Kabuto on a mission would say something as stupid as that.

    Tayuya decided not to shatter the teen's image of Kabuto. It wasn't worth it, especially since he was supposed to leave with Kabuto the next morning.

    Kabuto is good to him. That's more than enough.

    "I don't think Lord Orochimaru is the kind to change his mind like that," she began slowly.

    Naruto shook his head. "I understand Guren trying to make me super-afraid and formal," He went ahead to imitate a false shudder, "when the Master is around, but he never raises his voice around me. He's kind of nice."

    It couldn't be farther from the truth. And yet, Tayuya couldn't exactly refute that statement. Not just the Master, but no one misbehaved with Naruto in general. Even the ever-stoic warden seemed to develop a temporary un-bitchy facade where he was concerned. Not that Naruto knew that. Tayuya wouldn't tell him either— The teen was the only existing shard of innocence in her world and she'd be damned before she destroyed it herself..

    " — times I wonder why he even does that?"

    "Huh?"

    Naruto scrunched up his face, looking down at his friend in annoyance, "you weren't even listening."

    Tayuya giggled. She couldn't help it. His puppy-eyed expression was way too cute.

    Keep laughing, why don't you!" The teen grumbled making her laugh even harder, much to his consternation. Finally, he got so irritated that he pulled her waist towards him and began to tickle her relentlessly, making her squirm.

    If nothing else, Tayuya thought as Naruto did his best to tickle her to death, this is a good way to end it all.


    Night had befallen the island sooner than Naruto had expected.

    The top-floor, unlike the rest of the fortress, had an entirely different style of architecture. Unlike the mostly spartan features that decorated the other floors, this one looked like it was made for a ruler in mind.

    "Ah Namikaze, you're early."

    Naruto spun to his left at the sudden voice. Standing in front of him was the Master.

    "Master," Naruto began, inclining his head into a slight bow.

    The Master raised a finger, pausing him midway, before lifting a finger and curling it inwards. "Follow me."

    Silently, Naruto bobbed his head and began to follow him.

    A thin smile floated across the Master's face. "You have something on your mind."

    Naruto's forehead puckered as he looked up to match the Master's gaze. "It's nothing, Master."

    The Master's lips twitched in amusement.

    Naruto gesticulated but didn't say anything.

    "I see." The Master looked thoughtful for a moment before abruptly changing the subject. "Well, come along now. We have a lot of things to do tonight, and perhaps I'll tell you a bit about your own past as well."

    Naruto's face glowed in elation. "Really?"

    The Master smiled. It was quite possibly the purest smile Naruto had ever seen on his face.

    He began to walk ahead, and Naruto followed behind him. "Tell me Namikaze, what motivates you? What do you look forward to in life?"

    Naruto stayed silent, his expression dulling up in confusion. What did he want to do with his life? It was a question he had never considered, having been seen by most people as an object to be used.

    For the white-coats, he was a test-subject. For Anko, he was probably someone she could get away with molesting. For Tayuya, he was someone that made her feel comfortable. For the Master he was—

    "Do you know what drives me, Namikaze?" The calm voice interrupted his musings.

    "...What?"

    "Jutsu."

    The Master's voice was strangely exuberant. Naruto could feel that every word coming out of the man's lips was nothing but the absolute truth. Or at least what he believed to be the truth.

    "I want to gain a true understanding of everything in this world. The first one to mix blue and yellow called the new color "green". I want to do something similar. If we extend the analogy here— blue is the nature transformation, yellow is the chakra, and red is the ability to manipulate it.. Just as there is no end to the variety of color, there are so many thousands...tens of thousands of jutsus in the world as well." The Master said softly as he looked at Naruto measuring.

    "Can you comprehend the breadth of that dream?"

    Naruto swallowed. He had some idea about what jutsus were supposed to be about. From what he read techniques essentially had three requirements. The first was the raw chakra reserves. Different techniques needed varying amounts of chakra and one couldn't perform a technique if they didn't meet its raw power requirements. The second was the nature transformation. One couldn't use a fireball if they couldn't produce fire chakra after all. The final component was control. The actual manipulation of the transformed chakra by which one gave their technique form.

    The jutsu.

    From what Tayuya had told him, jutsus were hard to learn, and most shinobi usually spent their lives perfecting the ones they knew.

    "All the jutsus in the world?" Naruto started incredulously "That would take forever and—" He covered his mouth immediately, cursing himself for the slip.

    Orochimaru chuckled.

    "I have no need for yesmen, Naruto. To hear an unfiltered opinion is refreshing."

    "Uhm…. thank you?"

    Orochimaru lifted his shoulder in a half-shrug. "I'm glad that you realize the magnitude of the effort and time required to fulfill my dream. But even so, it is beautiful. And surely one who understands everything can truly be called the Ultimate Being. That," he looked down at Naruto, "that was my goal."

    Naruto perked up at that. "Was?"

    The snake-sannin gave him a lop-sided grin. "Was. It took me decades to realize the futility. For all my talents, I am but a single man. I cannot keep up with the march of human ingenuity. Progress races faster than I can ever learn. As such, it is but a fool's dream."

    "To do alone." Naruto surmised.

    Orochimaru smiled. "I can see why Kabuto has taken a liking to you. You have a smart mind, just like your father."

    "My father? You knew my father?"

    A shadow of… something flickered over the man's face. "I did. His name was Minato. Minato Namikaze."

    Minato Namikaze. Naruto repeated within his mind as if wanting to etch it in his very soul.

    "But I digress," Orochimaru went on, almost ignorant of Naruto's expression, "that is why I started to create something that could succeed where I couldn't. To learn faster than I ever could. Grow at a rate unprecedented and unthought of. Something that would allow me to reach my dream— become a transcendental entity that understands everything there is to understand in this world."

    Naruto stared at him, slack-jawed.

    "So tell me Naruto Namikaze, what is it you truly desire?"

    Naruto fidgeted, unable to face the man, or rather, at the blatant honesty the man was displaying. There were several things he wanted. He opened his mouth and thought about the sunrise he witnessed every morning, the one that made him wish to leave the island and see the world. He thought about the dungeon and wanted to ask for answers. He thought about the island, the fortress, and the experiments that the white-coats ran on him.

    And then a single image floated in front of his eyes.

    I don't want you to go.

    "I don't want to leave Tayuya. No matter what."

    The words flowed out of his lips before he knew it. Naruto cringed at his own bluntness, but the damage was done.

    "No matter what…" Orochimaru repeated the words as if tasting how they felt. "Determination. I suppose I can respect that. Tell me Namikaze, would you like to make a deal?"

    "...Deal?"

    "A bargain if you will. You give me a little, you get a little. If you make me happy, I'll make sure that both you and Tayuya will stay here for the considerable future. What do you say?"

    Naruto stilled. He had heard enough about the Master to know one single fact.

    What Lord Orochimaru wanted, Lord Orochimaru got. There were no two ways about it. And yet— What did he have to lose?

    His body shook with tension but his lips moved, almost on their own. "What do I have to do?"

    The smile on the Master's lips threatened to tear his face apart. "It is why you are here. Over the years, my precious army has gotten me dozens of interesting… candidates that could serve as a host for my technology, allowing me to develop it further. Unfortunately, none of them have been… fruitful."

    A memory of the dungeon flitted in Naruto's mind. It was a nightmare that he hadn't been able to forget over the years. He shivered.

    "All right." He replied, pulling a brave face.

    "I have reasons to believe that you can be a possible candidate for this… technology. I want you to not fight the process, and willfully assimilate it into your body. Run some diagnostic tests. That's it."

    Naruto looked at the man flabbergasted. "That's it?"

    Orochimaru arched an eyebrow. "Did you expect something more stressful?"

    "...No, just surprised. I'm sorry."

    Do not fret." Orochimaru commanded. "So, are we in agreement?"

    Naruto couldn't understand what the Master wanted to achieve through this seemingly simplistic agreement between them, but his gut told him it was anything but good. A part of him understood the reason why Tayuya had been so negative about his plans. He remembered all the warnings Guren had given him too.

    But the deal had been made. The bargain had been struck.

    "I… I accept."

    "Hah!" Orochimaru chortled as he extended his hands to meet Naruto's. "Then we have an accord."

    Naruto's eyes didn't leave the man's gaze as he grabbed his hand and shook it.

    "We have an accord."


    I am a fucking retard.

    Tayuya cursed herself under her breath as she raced out of the second floor. How could she have been so stupid? Lord Orochimaru had personally recruited her teammates and herself amongst hundreds of others because of several reasons, but magnanimity hadn't been one of them. And more importantly, the Sound Four had been regular in collecting new and interesting shinobi for the Lord who'd then drop them into the dungeon and have Guren analyze their potential.

    All of that was known and yet, there was another side of the equation. A side that she had always overlooked all this time.

    Lord Orochimaru was many things, but wasteful he was not.

    Every single prisoner held captive in the dungeons had something interesting about them. Whether it be a bloodline, a unique affinity, or even just good chakra-conversion capacity, none of them were ordinary. Despite all the torture and battle that the prisoners were put through, one thing was assured.

    Their deaths were never futile.

    Lord Orochimaru was far too pragmatic for something like that.

    And yet, Guren would dispose of several dead bodies from time to time.

    The question was— whose bodies were those? Why were they killed? What manner of calamity befell them and why was Guren charged with something so mundane as the disposal of the dead?

    It didn't feel comforting.

    And yet, it made it no less true. Tayuya knew that the white-coats were always experimenting on something or the other and the top-floor was reserved for the Lord's personal experiments but—

    Tayuya had almost fallen down in shock upon the realization when it hit her.

    The dead were casualties of whatever byzantine and sinister experiments the Lord performed upon them. Those bodies— perhaps their bodies weren't safe enough to be disposed of the regular way so he had Guren encase them into crystal and then dispose of them?

    Was that it?

    And would that— was that what he was going to do with Naruto?

    No, he wouldn't. Tayuya told herself. Naruto had spoken to the Lord himself who had told him that Naruto would be leaving with Kabuto.

    Which meant they wouldn't see each other anymore.

    Why Lord Orochimaru would do something like this, when he had never cared about her odd relationships was beyond her. She knew that Orochimaru was sadistic beyond measure but the man was not petty.

    Or at least Tayuya didn't think he was.

    But that presented the question. Why had Naruto been kept imprisoned all this time? Why had the Lord called him to the first floor? Something didn't work out.

    Something was wrong— Tayuya could feel it in her very bones.

    And so she ran.

    She crossed the laboratories on the third floor before moving past the cubicles where the white-coats stayed. On any other day, this section would be filled with people, performing their strange experiments.

    Now?

    Now it was fucking empty.

    The sinking feeling in her stomach grew more pronounced with each passing second. Anxiety gripped her, as her thoughts about Naruto's condition grew more and more morbid. What if Lord Orochimaru caused him pain? What if he was put through one of those cursed seal experiments? What if he was screaming with unspeakable agony while begging for him to stop? What if he—

    Somewhere far away, large ornate bells began to toll.

    Not now. Please not now.

    But she knew better. The bells would ring every time she lost control.

    Every time she allowed her emotions to get the better of her. Every time she loved someone. Every time she was concerned with someone else's safety over her own.

    Every time she felt like a human.

    Mōryō would traverse past the eons of darkness that was her mind. He would claw his way out through the barriers to grip her mind and soul and pull her back into the abyss.

    And then death and destruction would reign once again.

    Until she was left with nothing and no one.

    Such was her accursed fate.

    Please. Tayuya begged. Not now. I have to save Naruto. I have to— I have to save Naruto.

    But the bells would not be unrung. First the smaller ones, then the larger one on the mountain top. Just like she remembered. The ones on the temple archway would follow next, waking up those that stood in darkness, waiting to enter the mortal realm and—

    "NO!NO!NO!NO! Stop RINGING!"

    Tayuya yelled her lungs out as she raced past the corridor that led to the stairs to the top floor, and skidded to a halt.

    The large ornate door in front of her was closed.

    More importantly, someone was standing in front of it, preventing her from getting to her goal.

    The thing to note was the person standing in front of it. With her unruly bluish hair tying down into a long, spiky ponytail all over her green kimono, stood the warden of the island.

    "Guren!" She muttered tersely.

    "Tayuya..." The warden replied in a soft, indifferent tone. "It seems Lord Orochimaru was right, just as expected. He warned me you'd try to break into the top-floor, looking for the boy."

    A loud, alien humming began to reverberate throughout her body. They were coming. They had heard the bell.

    It took all of her mental fortitude to keep the noise from affecting her. She needed to stay in control.

    "And he sent his pet whore to stop me?" Tayuya spat.

    Guren's lips curled. "You are fortunate that Lord Orochimaru values your skills, else you'd have been wiping the dungeon floor with that imprudent tongue of yours." A muscle in her jaw tightened. "Lord Orochimaru has instructed you to leave this floor and return to your room. This is a direct order."

    Tayuya was past listening now.

    "Why does he want Naruto?"

    Guren raised her chin. "Lord Orochimaru has chosen him as his new experiment. You'll see him tomorrow morning Unless he has perished. Then I will have to dispose of the body. Either way, you will be united with your lover come sunrise."

    Tayuya's face hardened. "Naruto doesn't have a bloodline. He's a civilian. Why is he—?"

    The rest of her words were drowned in Guren's maniacal laughter. "Civilian? Civilian she says. You fool, that child is the jinchuuriki of the Nine-tails, the most powerful and revered of the tailed beasts. You know what tailed-beasts are, right? You've experienced one first hand."

    Tayuya paled.

    She had the misfortune to encounter Roshi around a year ago, an event that had crushed her and nearly killed her entire team in the process. As Mōryō's former host, Tayuya had always believed her understanding of power to be superlative.

    Roshi had proved her wrong.

    She had strength, but what was the strength of a fledgling bird against the wrath of a hurricane?

    She had power and skill, but what could a pebble do before the weight of a mountain?

    Its steel teeth were larger than Kimimaro's largest bone sword. Its tails could whip a storm into submission. Great chasms opened and lava flowed like rainwater. Winds howled and whipped till the world itself cried out in pain.

    Tayuya had understood why jinchuuriki were feared and venerated in the shinobi world back then.

    "Nine… Tails… Jinchuuriki?" She stammered.

    "So, you remember," Guren was positively grinning now. "And yes, Naruto is the jinchuuriki of the Nine-Tails. That is why the Lord has kept him here. Kept him tame. Till the right moment."

    All color drained from Tayuya's face as she understood what Guren was getting to.

    "Lord Orochimaru deserves nothing but the best. And tonight, we will see if the Nine-Tails is worthy of him." Guren's tone had turned almost sycophantic now. "Tonight, our Lord will either tame the beast completely or send it to meet its creator. Either way, it ends tonight."

    Tayuya didn't answer. Her jaw was tightly shut, gnashing her teeth. It was taking every bit of her strength to not give in. To not wholeheartedly accept the darkness that threatened to flood through her veins, and let the monsters of the night tear the world apart once again.

    Naruto… She told herself. Think about Naruto.

    It didn't help. Instead, it accelerated.

    She could picture Naruto, not as the playful boy she loved, but as the jinchuuriki of the strongest creature in the world. His eyes had lost their blue sheen. His face had lost its playful smile. Instead, fire burned in his eyes, his skin glowed with raw, corrosive flames, his heart twisted in infinite madness.

    The sweet lovable boy she cherished was screaming, the monstrosity trapped inside him clawing his insides, tearing him apart into—

    No. She would not allow that to happen. She would reach back into the darkness, the part of herself that she hated— she would do it for him.

    As long as Naruto was okay, any and all collateral damage was fine. Up to and including herself.

    And then there was silence. The bells had finally stopped ringing. For Tayuya had found her answer.

    She had chosen.

    SWOOSH!

    Her flute had shot out of her dress and come spinning into her right hand. This wasn't her original weapon— the power reverberating out of her had already twisted it into something else.

    The warden took a step forward. "I suppose I will ask the final question. Are you going to be a loyal bitch that obeys Lord Orochimaru? Or are you a traitor that needs to be put down?"

    A tall bo-staff, made out of pure crystal materialized next to the warden, its apex tapered off into an ornate spear-head.

    Guren was powerful beyond belief, almost single-handedly able to hold down the fort in Orochimaru's absence.

    And yet, Tayuya didn't seem to care. She stared at him, a hypnotic smile floating on her face. It was the smile that appeared on the face of a predator before it clawed its way into the heart of its prey.

    It was the false peace before the arrival of a, particularly vicious storm.

    It was the smile of someone that would willingly let the world burn, and watch it with a dreamy smile.

    And then she began to speak.

    "For years, I have held back its wrath. For years I have hidden it away. Even Lord Orochimaru knew better than to try to control me through seals."

    Guren frowned uncomfortably before conjuring a dozen crystal spikes behind her, ready to be shot at the slightest movement.

    "Do you know why?" Tayuya's expression was serene. "Because even your Lord knows that in front of those that wait in darkness, shinobi are mere insects. Trash that cowers in the presence of real power."

    She took a step forward.

    "When they come, they devour the world. They shatter reality like glass."

    The very air around her began to ebb and flow in odd directions, forming ethereal shapes.

    Tayuya smiled savagely as she brought her flute to her lips.

    "Do you think your crystals can hold me back?"
     
    FeebleEcho, Anthony1967, Omni and 4 others like this.
  8. Darkarma

    Darkarma Loli Tentacle Slime

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    This seems interesting, going to hold my reservations for now. But is it me or does Naruto feel a bit like Harry Potter?

    He's not nearly as excitable as Naruto is in canon
     
  9. demonitter

    demonitter Making the rounds.

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    Considering Harry was a attention starved non-entity PoV character, not really? The anything for friendship is a standard shounen thing anyhow, much older than Harry Potter.
     
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