I'm really depressed. For some reason, Tales of the Abyss is only for the PS2, and that's just stupid. It sounded like such a good game, too... DAMN YOU NAMCO! GIVE SOMETHING OVER TO THE GAMECUBE FOR ONCE!
Well, anyway, Chapter 5 is here, only slightly later than I promised, but just a bit better than the original version due to editing. Enjoy!
Deal with the Demon?
The ghost's fire didn't stand a chance, however, to the armor and strength of the beasts that they faced. Not predicting the presence of anything stronger than a regular trooper, all the ghosts were outfitted only with a standard issue lasrifle or laspistol, which were honestly pathetic against the might of the lightning tigers in which they faced.
This was why all the men found themselves in a tight spot when the lightning tigers charged, fully intent on wreaking bloody havoc on them.
The team clenched their eyes shut collectively, waiting for the blow. But just when they heard the beasts preparing to pounce, the heavy rattle of a cycling autocannon greeted them, just before five of the lightning tigers were blown away. The ghosts looked to the direction that the fire came from, and saw the three ex-PDF soldiers that they had left on lookout, wielding one of the autocannons that they lifted from the pillbox.
Intensely grateful for the fire support, the ninja now found that they had time to pull off longer handseal combinations, resulting in larger and more devastating jutsu. While both Neji and Hinata's only real longer range technique was their kuushou, Kakashi belted out a Doton: Doryuudan jutsu that dented the armor of the lead tiger and sent all of them flying back a few feet.
It now became an intense game of how close the tigers could come, dodging most of their projectiles with ease, only to be knocked back where they started by a lucky jutsu or autocannon shot.
- (Meanwhile, inside Naruto's mind) -
Naruto awoke, quickly taking note that he was not actually awake, for he was inside what he had dubbed his 'mindscape', where he could interact with the kyuubi. Of course, the only reason that he recognized this place on sight was because it was on his list of top 5 'places he refuses to go if he can help it'.
Knowing what he must do, he purposefully walked forward, towards where he know Kyuubi's cage to be. His mind was complex, even to him. There were scores upon scores of tunnels shooting off of the path he walked, each leading to dead ends, trash stored away, memories irrelevant, and the occasional memory of time immortal (taken from Kyuubi, of course). However, Naruto never got lost, for he knew the true path to his charge was denoted by a single pipe, exactly 23 centimeters in diameter.
Coming upon the large room, Kyuubi was clearly visible close to the bars of its cage. It was staring expectantly at him, waving its many tails back and forth like the fox it was. Having lost all fear of the beast, but no longer knowing joy, the boy replied impassively, "What?"
Kyuubi looked annoyed and growled appropriately, leaning down, but not baring its jowls just yet, "Have you no respect, boy? You should give your betters a proper reply."
Naruto sighed, growing increasingly wary of his time spent inside his mind, worrying about the lightning tigers that threatened his physical body. He knew he was short on time, and so realized he had to concede to Kyuubi's wishes should he desire to leave in any timely fashion. "Yes," he sighed once more, "I've been rude. Hello, Kyuubi."
Kyuubi's eyes narrowed, "Kyuubi-SAMA."
Naruto glared, tired of the nitpicking, "Kyuubi-SAN."
Now it was Kyuubi's turn to sigh, realizing that the brat would not get any more respectful than that. Kyuubi grinned somewhat mockingly, "I've seen, and I know, what you've been doing, thinking, and feeling." Said the bijuu. Pretending to be concerned, Kyuubi continued, "You…you've lost faith, haven't you? I know you're mind. All I've ever done this past decade and a half is explore it and get to know every inch of it. I don't see through your eyes, I see through your memories. Your past, your present, it has all up until now been ruled by that barrier of morality that has kept you sane all your life. Now though, now, it is shattered, remade into a thinner barrier of promise, which has already been pierced with your inability to protect it."
Naruto collapsed to his knees. He had been denying it in his mind all this time, refusing to believe reality in order to protect what sanity and happiness he had left. Now all of it was set into focus by none other than the one he jailed, the one who should have by all means left him alone for the rest of his life. Kyuubi saw, for it was quite obvious, that the boy was trying to cry, but his eyes that had since then lost their fire had also forgotten how to cry and emote as well, leaving the boy pathetically helpless, kneeling devastated and dumb waist deep in dank, murky water. "What…what should I do? What can I do?" he asked, directing the question to no one in particular, "All the death, all the destruction, all the cruelty…I can't help any of it! It's invincible, that darkness which envelops half of all…but the light isn't…the light…I can see it disappearing as we speak… There's nothing left…for me…for anyone. I'm…I'm useless, there is no point to my existence…is there?"
Most would look upon the boy with pity, for he was certainly pitiable, but Kyuubi didn't. It is a little known fact, but demons cannot feel emotions, for emotions are products of mortality, and kyuubi is far from mortal. Demons instead embody one of mortality's worst traits. Kyuubi only ever does things when there is something to be gained, because he embodies greed. There are other demons that embody love of murder and bloodshed, or those that embody lust or pride.
It was also for that reason that Kyuubi, unnoticed by Naruto (who was at that point, rather preoccupied by his own problems), that it looked positively gleeful as it said, "Boy…I would usually not offer this, but…if you like…I can make that light shine bright once more, give you purpose, and give you hope."
Naruto was immediately snapped to attention at that offer, "What?" he said, eyes shining once more with hope and expectancy, "You can do it? H-how?"
"The only way someone like me can. I will give you power. The power to protect your promises, your loved ones, and yourself. If you have this power, you will never again have to see people die while you lie helpless."
By now, the blonde was crazed with hope and didn't even care about the consequences, "Give it to me! I'll do anything! I want it; I need it, the power to protect…" Naruto looked as desperate as he looked hopeful, a strange combination to be sure, strange enough to make even Kyuubi hesitate for a second.
Of course, the kyuubi obliged. For a moment the demon shined brightly before seeming to split in dozens of bright white motes of light. The motes all gathered at once spot and reformed into a woman. She was very tall, around 6 feet 4 inches, with flowing wavy red hair that was left down and reached to her calves. She was well proportioned for her size, but her curves were still easily dwarfed by the likes of Tsunade. Her fox ears were hidden inside her hair, but her long nine tails were still clearly visible from behind her. She was wearing a coat and skirt made of soft looking animal skins. Her eyes and lips were crimson red and both were thin and elongated, foxy, as if she knew something that she had planned was working and was laughing at it, making for a hot, but dangerous look.
"All right then. From now on you are mine and mine alone. You will follow my orders above all others with the greatest speed possible, and will come here whenever you are called. In return I will give you as much of my power as I can, and I promise to shield you from all that would hurt you. Does that sound good?"
Naruto's half sane mind had at that point completely stopped trying to process anything, just accepting information as it came. Thus, the boy immediately completely accepted the fact that the age-old demon, which was always thought of as male, was actually female, and accepted her offer without a second thought.
Kyuubi was smiling inside, congratulating herself on a job well done, "Then come here my child, and I shall give you your new name."
And so the boy came to her, walking through the bars that separated them and allowing himself to be enfolded in her arms, "Hmmm" she said, "We shall call you…Shinsou."
Naruto nodded, and closed his eyes, feeling comfort in the demon's arms. At that point and forevermore, he would never walk the corridors of his mind again, as he was now trapped as the Kyuubi was inside the seal, and inside Kyuubi's influence as well. From them on, he would always appear inside that same spot, inside the same cage, looking at the same wall. However, inside the outside world, a change was being wrought there as well, for at the exact moment that Naruto stepped into the cage, Naruto's and Kyuubi's chakra perfectly synched, both their chakra pools merging to become one even as the battle for dominance between the two minds began. This was a battle that Naruto was completely unaware of, and a battle that the boy was already losing.
- (Infiltration group, real world) -
Outside, it looked to all as if Naruto was surrounded by a circle of red fire, which slowly turned purple, and wrapped around his body like a shield. When he didn't get up for a few moments, the group started to assume that that was just a burst of chakra, not a sign of him waking up.
However, that few moments of ceasefire allowed the lightning tigers to get close. Letting loose a bestial cry as it pounced; the lead lightning tiger came upon the ghosts. In response, Gaunt hurriedly pulled out his power sword, thumbed the activation rune, and parried the first strike; his sword sliding along the length of the demon beast's armored claws in a shower of sparks.
Gaunt's parry was fast, but clumsy, leaving him stumbling back as he broke the blade-lock. The other four tigers took this time to attack as well, but by then, the rest of the group had brought their arms to bear. Their autocannon rendered useless by the close range (the rebels were afraid of hitting their allies); the ghosts had to rely on their smaller guns and whatever jutsu the ninja had left to throw.
The group started to retreat collectively, the ghosts firing their lasrifles to cover the ninja as they retreated with Naruto, the ninja throwing in a minor destructive jutsu every now and then. "Rawne!" shouted Gaunt as he helped the ninja, "do you have any grenades?"
"No, sir" replied Rawne, "All I've got is my satchel of det-tubes."
Gaunt sighed. They'd been mostly protected by the hired ninja this whole time and he was hoping, with one of their number dead, one wounded, and one incapacitated, that it would be their time to shine, though it did not seem so. Then, Gaunt's eyes widened, he had an idea! Turning around to the ranking ninja, whose name he didn't quite catch, he asked, "Do you have any more of those exploding papers?"
Kakashi checked his munitions pack, "I didn't pack much, but I've got one left. If you ask the others, they probably have more."
Gaunt smirked, "One is all I need. Hey, Rawne!" he turned to his subordinate, "Give me your satchel!" As the small bag was thrown to him, he caught it, and quickly pulled out all the tubes and attached them together before priming them and handing them over to the ninja. "Put your paper on that and prime it." He said, "Then throw it in the middle of the beasts. I know yours explodes faster, but the explosions are far smaller than the ones I've seen these dish out."
Kakashi, not completely understanding what Gaunt was getting at, did as he was told. He was rewarded with an explosion that was far larger than any he had expected, resulting in not only the shinobi, but also the guardsmen and former PDF soldiers to be blown back several meters in to various buildings in all directions.
Fortunately, he had both the reflexes and the advantage of being the one to throw the thing on his side, allowing him to kawarimi with Naruto's body out of the way and onto the roof of a nearby low-rise hab-building.
Two of the tigers had been obliterated, and yet another two had suffered minor injuries such as cracked and broken armor, allowing a small amount of the infernal energies that held them together to leak out in a toxic cloud.
Then, something occurred to Kakashi's mind, "Wait," he said, "Where's that other one, the leader?" It was then that the last lightning tiger, which was hanging on the lip of the roof right next to where said Jounin was sitting, sprung itself upwards, roaring its cry of fury as it attempted to strike down the one that dared kill its comrades.
Kakashi was caught by surprise, and was sure that he was going to die, when the demon-beast's attack was intercepted by…
"Naruto?" Kakashi muttered in wonder. The boy was standing, a full 3 inches higher than he had been when he fell unconscious, with long, flowing blonde hair with the occasional strand of red-orange mixed in. His body, though taller, was now less buff and stringier, completely encased in an aura of blackish red chakra that seemed…solid.
"Call me…Shinsou." The boy muttered back. Looking back at the beast with now midnight black irises (the pupils were slitted, but you couldn't tell because of the color), he said, "You fill yourselves with the chaos of demons in an effort to emulate them. Let me show you a real demon, one of the beings that you so love to worship."
He threw the beast away, and for a second his chakra spiked, making his shell-aura thicken and become vibrant and almost glowing in color.
For the first time in a long while, Kakashi was afraid, "What…what's happening! I thought the Yondaime's seal was absolute!"
Naruto, now Shinsou, walked forward towards the regrouping tigers as his friends, teammates, and comrades started to come to. The konoha ninja, being able to sense chakra, reacted first to Shinsou's abnormal chakra signature. Subconsciously, they all recognized him as their longtime friend, but at the same time they were still wondering how that person gained all his power and just exactly who is he or what happened to him. The ghosts, Larkin (being completely paranoid) in particular, were wondering if that person was their ally and what was that aura surrounding him.
The ghosts, not knowing the identity of their savior, were convinced that Shinsou's aura was that of the warp, meaning that even if he was for the moment helping them, was to be considered an enemy. As soon as they had the sense to, the ghosts opened fire on the boy, spraying their lasrifles on full auto. Gaunt was rallying his forces, trying to get them into an organized attack on the supposed 'warp demon'. "Come on! Do you want to live forever!" he yelled.
Shinsou was stopped short of his target by the impending fire of his comrades. He dodged the opening burst easily, catching the bolter rounds fired by their commissar. Turning around to face the charging lightning tigers, he threw the bolter rounds at the one on the right, piercing its wound even further, making it wider and resulting in an explosion of warp gas.
The ghosts, for now conceding that whatever that thing was had killing the lightning tigers as a higher priority, backed off, covering their mouths to prevent breathing in any of the warp gases. Shinsou, however, simply flared his chakra while forming it into wind, causing the haze of warp gas to blow away.
The entire infiltration group, including Shinsou, was surprised by the effects. The warp gas appeared to have healed and revitalized the tigers. The hole in the leftmost tiger was closed, and the burning gas that existed inside the tigers glowed brighter in between the eyeholes and various other cracks in between the armor.
Shinsou's eyes narrowed as he started sealing. Splitting into seven, six of them drew kunai and attached explosive notes to them. Meeting the chaos beast's charges, 3 clones to a beast, the clones slammed the kunai as far as they could into whatever cracks in the armor were available: eyeholes, between the shoulder pads, under the breastplate, etc. Before the tigers could counterattack, the notes exploded, causing the bunshin to explode in a secondary burst, dealing further damage to the beasts.
The beasts were destroyed and the battle was won. However, the leader of the squad of thousand sons, being a trained in invoking spells from the warp, was able to hang on by a hair. Broken, bloody, and unable to budge due to his completely mauled torso and limbs, the leader maneuvered his head (for his helmet had been blown off) to glare scathingly at the one who defeated him, that boy who, just a moment ago was fainted dead away at the death of his friend, had turned into a true demon, eyes depicting nothing but bloodlust and contempt with an insurmountable power to back up the unseen threat pulsing from his eyes.
Helpless to do anything other than what he was doing already, the shaman captain could only watch as he was dragged by Shinsou back to his comrades, who the boy thought would appreciate the chance to extract information, or even revenge, on the leader of their enemy, who had caused them much grief.
Kakashi took the body off the boy's hands and dragged the wounded prisoner off to be questioned somewhere quieter, leaving Shinsou to explain to the rest of the konoha ninja and their allies what happened.
"Naruto…" Tenten started, but was stopped by the boy's raised hand as he started to speak.
"Call me…Shinsou." The boy had yet to fully get used to his new name, "A lot has happened, more than you would think. I've…resolved…a few of my problems. I assure you that I am still me, and no more a threat or danger to all of you than I was before, though, as far as I would like to think, I have grown far more powerful."
Kiba spoke up, "Ummm…"
Shinsou nodded in remembrance. "Ah, yes. About my power. I guess you can call it…a deal with the devil?" he said, cocking his head to one side slightly as a gesture of being unsure. Before anything more could be said, he walked off to see how the interrogation was going, ignoring the confused staring faces of his allies and comrades.
Shinsou walked upon the scene of the leader, already mauled and bloody, being again beaten by his previous sensei even while he was questioned about the whereabouts of the chaos stronghold, enemy numbers, and any other pertinent information that came to Kakashi's mind.
There were many methods applied to torture, though many of which were denied them because of lack of supplies. However, Kakashi did what he could with only threats of pain, torture, and death, along with whatever beatings he could risk without killing the man. Only skilled in the most rudimentary of medical ninjutsu, Kakashi could do no more than stem the bleeding for a while, and he knew that if those wounds reopened, he would be powerless to stop the bleeding again, and the prisoner would be gone within the hour.
Kakashi still had the avenue of genjutsu, although he was not particularly skilled in that area, either. Realizing early on that it was one of the few actual tortures that were likely to be effective, he resorted to what genjutsu he knew quite quickly. No matter how many images of hell and fear he subjected the prisoner, however, the chaos marine held strong, proof of the insanities his brain was subjected to by the warp, desensitizing him to pretty much all torturous genjutsu the Jounin knew, no matter how strong or advanced they were.
The boy watched impassively from the entrance to the alleyway as the leader refused time and time again, all his answers only giving the barest of information. Eventually, the space marine died of blood loss, taking with him all the secrets and information yet to be divulged. Kakashi had learnt nothing except that the general direction they were heading in was correct, and that they were far outnumbered by their enemies, but not necessarily outmatched, mostly useless information that they already knew, although the information on their destination was reassuring.
Once again, the group was wandering aimlessly, knowing where they should go but reluctant to get there with anything resembling speed. By the time sunset had arrived, the group had arrived (due mostly to the help of ninja, as their speed were found to be far superior to both the ghosts and rebels) at the next section of city (because the whole planet was a large city, the city was sectioned into different areas, cut into four hemispheres, with one line at the equator, and the other at the 0 degrees latitude line) and were finally in the same hemisphere as the central governmental tower.
Deciding that they needed the rest after their battle, they called it a day and took shelter in the nearest properly roofed warehouse, once again preparing a warm fire with warm food. And though lacking a proper bed, it would be the closest thing to luxury that all in that group would have for a long while.
- (Pheguth, Central dogma holding area) -
It was sunset, and the pheguth was returned to the holding area to grab whatever fitful rest would be available to her…no…it, for she was no longer human, but a mere possession to be toyed with as the forces of chaos pleased.
It didn't even remember whatever humanity it once enjoyed. It's name forgotten along with everything else among the almost addictive haze of pain that came synonymous with being repeatedly possessed by minor demons of the warp in the attempt to drag something out of her ruined psyche.
Looking out through its tiny window, it listened as the chaos-mutated beasts assigned to protect the 'treasure' talked amongst themselves of the band of 'rebels' that were marching upon the tower, said to even have defeated squad of chaos marines of the thousand sons.
This piece of information did not register in its decaying brain, and so appeared as nothing more than an irrelevant piece of idle gossip, although deep in its soul, there was an inkling of recognition as a small fire lit inside the pheguth's worn soul.
The pheguth stared out of its tiny window, eyeing the blazing sunset with something akin to longing, hidden by the haze exhaustion and pain. It then looked down upon the city, seeing all the beings that so resembled it, and yet were roaming free of pain or anything of the like that was regular for the pheguth.
Why was it that the pheguth was picked out from the lot, chosen to be exposed to demons and much worse, all that it was sure those down there had never even given a second thought to in their lifetimes.
The pheguth pondered this thought for a long while, the retreating even farther down the horizon so that it was already mostly dark by the time the pheguth noticed anything.
The pheguth lay on its hard bed, forgoing the paltry meal shoved under the door that was to be its sustenance. With the pondering thought still in its head, but also with the knowledge that sleep would be desperately needed on the morrow, the pheguth slept as peacefully as it could, one thought lasting in its mind as it blacked out to the whatever dreams its oblivion would allow it.
There would be more of the same tomorrow.
BTW, if any of you were wondering, central dogma refers to the central governmental tower.
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