A/N: Yes it has been a while but life and writer's block win out against creativity. Anyway this chapter concludes the prologue arch and following an interlude chapter we will jump to the series start. I also wish to say that I now have a form on the site which can be accessed through my Author's page for any questions that you may ask in review or on the form. As always all reviews, flames, and threats of death are welcome. As always thanks to my Beta Kirallie for putting up with me.
So for your consideration I give you:
Ch. 7: The Road Home
"Is he awake yet?"
"No still out cold."
"I wouldn't be surprised if he was out for the rest of the day after what he went through."
"But he'll be alright?"
These were the sounds a dazed Zenith returned to conscious to. "What…Oh right, that bastard Tiger got loose. If Xa'an-sensei ever hears about this, I'll never live it down" he thought drowsily to himself as he slowly returned to consciousness.
"He's coming around" called one of the voices as Zen began to open his eyes. Dazedly he gazed up at a face that one could only consider to be angelic.
"I must have done something right in a past life for Kami to send such a beautiful angel to collect me," he said dazedly still half asleep. The other voices chucked as the red-eyed angel blushed. "Wait angels don't blush" he thought when the realization hit him and he shot up.
"Glad to see you up and about Zenith-sama" said the one female voice. Zenith looked over doing a slight double take as he registered Tela's human form.
"Crap, the Tora-teme must have put me through the wringer if you're still human" he said as his sore muscles finally caught up with the rest of him.
He began to turn to see who else was here when a yellow blur streaked over and nailed him on the chest laying him out with a thump. There perched on his chest was an irate looking Naruto, his eyes streaked with tears. "Nii-san, you JERK!" he yelled as he began to pound on his chest. "You almost died and left me. You said you wouldn't leave. You said…" yelled Naruto only to have Zenith catch his wrist halting his tirade.
"Naruto, thank you for bringing me back" he said with a kind smile. Naruto could only pause before he broke down crying and embracing Zenith.
"I can't believe it, of all the Watch-weres I have ever heard of, I get saved by the softy," said a chuckling voice.
Zenith looked up and caught sight of a man in his late teens early twenties. He had dark hair and piercing dark eyes of an Uchiha but they seemed to hold a fire in them not usually seen in an Uchiha. "Well if the dishonor of being saved by this softy is too much for you Uchiha-chan I could arrange for you to be tied up and sent to Kumo in our stead," retorted Zenith cheekily.
The Uchiha looked as if he was about to let out a trite retort before he finally burst out laughing. "You got a set of brass ones there fur ball, few people would dare mock Shunshin no Shisui (Shisui of the Body Flicker)" he sad boldly as he held out his hand.
"An Uchiha with a sense of humor will wonder never cease" Zen said shaking the Uchiha's hand. Before turning to the woman he saw earlier, she was still blushing and still as attractive as she seemed when he was out of it. Zen could only assume that she was Yuhi Kurenai, the Genjutsu specialist that was sent with the Rescue team. "Forgive my earlier remark Kurenai-hime, I was out of line and sorts" said Zen formally.
"It's alright, given your condition you probably would have said the same thing to Shisui-san" she said coolly. The two men looked from her to each other and shivered in revulsion at the idea causing Kurenai to laugh at their expense. Naruto only looked at them confusedly and came to the conclusion that all adults were just weird.
"Now that I've embarrassed myself anyone care to tell me what has happened since my… episode and where everyone else is?" asked Zenith.
"Kakashi and the other ANBU have taken up watch around our camp. Once Lord Hiashi and his brother were awake he took Hinata and the other Hyuga boy along with Hizashi to a clearing near camp. Your other familiar Shar'rei decided to follow them," said Shisui.
Nodded expecting that since the elder familiar had seemed to taking a shine to the Hyuga heiress. That was until he saw Hinata running back to camp, here eyes filled with tears and immediately glomped on to Zenith for dear life. "Hinata you're crying, what is it?"
Asked the Watch-were concernedly.
"F-f-father took h-h-him, Neji nii-san, t-t-they…" the Hyuga girl tried to say before she broke down in sobs again. Zenith's face turned serious and turned to Tela and the others.
"Stay with her and Naruto Tela, you two with me" said Zenith as he struggled to his feet almost falling only to get caught by Shisui and helped to his feet. "Thanks, just need to get my feet under me."
"Any time furball" Shisui answered cheekily as he helped the Watch-were to his feet. Without another word the trio went off in the direction Hinata had come from not sure what they would find.
Hizashi groaned as he took another blow from the enraged Tiger hybrid. He had never faced an opponent like her, she was faster then any ninja he had encountered, Hyuga or otherwise, her style was as fierce and brutal yet graceful as the animal she truly was, and her eyes held something in them that no human he had ever faced had, an utter lack of mercy.
He looked up and watched as she pulled back for a finishing blow. The Branch Family Head braced himself to meet his end, but that was not to be.
"Kakato Shar'rei!" yelled a voice and just as she struck her body froze inches from impact. Hizashi looked as her and saw that she was breathing heavily as if it took everything she had not to attack him. "Be glad Hyuga-san, another second and you would be unconscious," said the voice. Hizashi turned and saw the hybrid's master, the one Kakashi called Zenith.
"Zenith-sama… If you could…" said Shar'rei through gritted teeth. Zenith nodded and motioned for Hizashi to move away from her.
"Hanasu Shar'rei" said Zen and instantly Shar'rei continued her motion and cratered the ground with her fist exactly where Hizashi's head had been. "I was wrong Hyuga-san, if I had been a second later… You would have been dead," said Zen coolly.
"Hyuga got schooled by a fancy summons, man I miss all the good stuff" remarked Shisui smugly.
"I was good enough to beat you Uchiha-teme" Hizashi said coldly.
"Yeah, like ten years ago but I've gotten a lot better since so if you want another go" said Shisui eagerly.
"Like I would waste my time on a dobe-teme like you" said Hizashi coldly causing Shisui to seethe in fury.
"NOW LISTEN HERE YOU PALE-EYED, OVERRATED PIECE OF SHI…" began the Uchiha only to be silenced by Zenith clamping his mouth shut.
"Shisui as much as I would love to see you beat him up, we don't have time for it" said Zenith calmly. He then turned to his familiar "Now Shar'rei could you please tell me just what prompted you to attack them?"
The familiar stayed resolutely silent and glared daggers at Hizashi. Zenith groaned angrily, "Fine you two won't tell me, I'll ask someone who will" he said as he went over to Hiashi's unconscious body. Reaching into his satchel he pulled out a small bottle, and took a very deep breath before uncapping and wafting it under the Lord Hyuga's nose. In an instance he shot up as still as a board his eyes watering and skin turning slightly green.
"Well that's something you don't see everyday, a Hyuga about to loose his lunch" remarked Kurenai with a chuckle.
"Easy Hyuga-san, just take a deep breath; the nausea is just a side affect of the Iki no Akurei (Evil Spirit's Breath), it will pass, just keep taking deep breaths" said Zenith calmly.
After a moment Hiashi regained his composure and stood up his face stony and emotionless but his eyes and brow betraying confusion. "Hizashi what is going on, one minute I'm putting Neji to sleep and the next moment I'm being woken up by that foul smelling salt" he asked betraying a slight sign of anger.
"That was partially my fault Hyuga-san, my familiar Shar'rei took it upon herself to attack you and for that I apologize. However I also know that neither of my familiars would attack someone without reason so I must ask what was going on?" asked Zen in a serious but polite tone.
"A family matter, a private family matter," said Hiashi curtly. "One that must be dealt with so if my brother and could have some privacy…"
"A 'private family matter' is that what they call child abuse nowadays?" said Shar'rei in with utter disdain.
"That is a very volatile claim to make Shar'rei-san, what proof do you have?" asked Kurenai curtly.
Shar'rei gave Hiashi a vicious smile like a cat that had just caught a canary before answering. "After Hiashi and his brother were revived they had a discussion on the edge of camp. I was tending to Hinata so I didn't bother listening putting the cub before the intricacies of those who are suppose to care for her. Next thing I know Hiashi-sama comes to collect Hinata stating that he needs her for something. With her state as fragile as it was at the moment, due to her capture; I asked to go with in case she needed some comfort. Hiashi-sama refused then took Hinata to this clearing followed by Neji and his father. I had a bad feeling so I waited a moment before following through the trees, when I got here I heard Hinata yell saying 'You can't do it, it's not right!' 'It's for his own good that the seal be restored' just after that she ran off. That was when I knocked out Hiashi and attacked Neji's father. I intended to keep them occupied until you came… I did become a little overzealous on that part."
Zenith closed his eyes and groaned, he then looked over at the two elder men incredulously. He had a look on his face like the sea just before a freak storm hits, calm and placid yet likely to rise up and sweep you away. "'For his own good to restore the seal' just what good is that Hyuga? Afraid that you'll have an uprising from the branch house families once they know that the all so feared Hyuga Clan Curse Seal is breakable, afraid that once they no longer bow to you that you might have to answer some rather embarrassing questions? Just what good was there to do this to a child AGAIN?!" Zenith demanded with a tiger like growl no permeating his voice.
"The only good worth anything, a father trying to save his son's life" answered Hizashi resolutely.
"Oh and just how does subjecting a child to that seal, save his life?" asked Shisui incredulously.
Hizashi looked to his brother, giving the group a look over the Hyuga Lord sighed. "Tell them if you wish, I do not have the strength to relive our family's shame and perform the ritual."
"Okay can someone just tell us what is going on?" demanded Kurenai. "What shame are you talking about?"
"It was just after I received my seal, our father was good man and hated seeing one of his sons purposely held back for no other reason then being born second. One night he slipped out of the village to seek out a legendary seal master, Kentaro Yoshi. I believe the Watch-were knows that name" said Hizashi looking at Zenith who seemed shocked.
"My grandfather, your father was the Hyuga that contracted him to reverse the seal?"
"Yes" answered Hizashi. "When the Elders found out they were furious. My father was the acknowledged family head and could not be touched without calling the attention of the Hokage. So they threatened him, saying that unless he ceased and desisted his actions, one of his sons would lose his life. Reluctantly he agreed severing contact with Master Kentaro and to ensure no one would get the idea again a law was past stating that any Hyuga Branch family member found without a seal is to be killed on sight."
"Are you kidding, Sarutobi-sama maybe an old man but he would never authorize the killing of someone just because they didn't hold to their family's retarded rules" said Shisui defensively.
"And he never did, but the elders set the standing order to every Branch family member to carry it out and under the Clan Non-interference Law he can't stop the elders from doing so. Thankfully the order has never been needed, but I have no doubt that should my son return to the village that the elders will order his death unless the seal is restored" Hizashi stated sadly.
Zenith groaned and massaged his head. "I wish you two had just told me that, I would have saved you the effort" he said exhaustedly.
"Just what do you mean by that?" inquired Hiashi.
"The Sealing Arts are some of the hardest and most powerful of all the Shinobi Arts but it has a major weakness, time. Every technique no matter how powerful or skilled the caster has a brief window where the seal can be broken or restored without harm to the recipient. Depending on the seal and the caster's skill the window widens and narrows but is still there" stated Zen.
The brothers looked to each other in shock at what the Watch-were was saying, "I will restore the seal without having to put that boy through the pain of the sealing process again. In return YOU BOTH will explain to him why his freedom was taken away and why he has to suffer. Do we understand each other?" Both of them nodded resolutely. "Then we have and accord, if you will stand aside" said Zen as he moved over to where Neji was laying. He silently pierced his thumb and smeared a line of blood over the boys forehead, then kneeling he formed a tiger seal and began to chant.
By blood it is done,
by blood be undone;
Let what was be once more.
By blood it is done,
by blood be undone;
Let what is exist no more.
He repeated the verse several time and slowly the smeared blood began to glow and on the seventh time through the light shattered leaving a perfect seal on Neji's brow. "It is done" said Zenith before collapsing from chakra exhaust.
"Easy furball, can't have you getting hurt after being all heroic" said Shisui sarcastically as he and Kurenai rushed over to help him up.
"I'll be fine just need to rest" he said as the pair helped him to his feet. He then looked over at Shar'rei who had not moved at all to help her master. "You disapprove of my actions?" he asked. Shar'rei said nothing only turning to head back to camp.
"That doesn't look good" remarked Shisui.
"It'll be fine" he said he then looked over at the two brothers now tending to Neji. "We had best head back to camp, I'm sure the other are worried" with that the group headed back.
Zenith awoke the following morning exhausted; he figured that he was at 75% of full strength. It would have been more but restoring a class three seal had taken its toll and he had to reap the effects. He gave a lite yawn and sat up stretching his arms. "After what you have been through most people wouldn't be able to move the next day" remarked a voice.
Zenith looked up and saw the Weasel Masked ANBU that had been rescued standing above him. "Well I'm not most people, like you I am more then I appear Uchiha Itachi" remarked Zenith smugly.
The ANBU chuckled, "What gave me away?"
"Without resorting to my dojutsu, there are only two Leaf ANBU who were admitted so young; as I have already met the Copy Cat that means you must be the Uchiha clan genius, that and the Kumo nins removed your mask while you were captured" responded Zenith.
"I'll have to remember to cast a stronger jutsu over my mask next time" remarked Itachi as he lept to the ground below.
"So, anything interesting happen while I was asleep?" asked Zenith as he began to pull out a few pieces of jerky from his pack.
"Not much, your other summons Tela, threatened Hiashi-sama with bodily harm after you returned, the heiress stayed mostly with Shar'rei or Kurenai-san, and young Naruto-san called him an emotionless bastard with a stick up his butt the size of an oak" remarked Itachi in board tone.
Zenith sighed, "Yeah that sounds like Naruto" he chuckled. "And speaking of the knucklehead, here he comes" said Zenith pointing out the blond who was darting about looking terrified before running up to Zenith.
"Nii-san, they're gone. Shar're-chan and Tela-chan have disappeared."
"Calm down Naruto, they probably just got up to hunt and didn't want to disturb you" said Zenith trying to calm the anxious blond, just as a torrent of water rained down from over head. Exasperatedly Zenith looked up and saw two black and white kittens looking down on the pair, both holding half a water containment scroll in their mouths and smiling cheekily. "This is for yesterday isn't it?" asked Zenith rhetorically. The pair just smirked and ran off.
"Well that was unexpected" deadpanned Itachi as the pair shook the excess water off themselves .
"Who the hell were those two?" demanded Naruto as he made a scene of gouging the water out of his ear.
"Shar're and Tela in their Chibi form" Zenith answered with a tired sigh.
"WHAAAAAAT?!" cried Naruto as his small mind tried to process that the two prankster kittens he had seen where the same as kind and caring Shar'rei and Tela.
"It's a side effect of the Inner Warrior technique, the chakra surge used in its performance greatly drains the user. As a result the user reverts to a younger form in order to heal and regain chakra" Zenith explained
"So until there chakra is restored…" started Itachi only to be interrupted by a loud yell.
"COME BACK HERE WITH MY BOOK YOU STUPID CATS!" Zenith, Naruto, and Itachi could only watch as the pair raced by one of them carrying a certain orange book in their mouth followed by a very angry Kakashi.
"We have to deal with two prank pulling kleptomaniac kittens" finished Zenith with an exasperated sigh as he raced off to save his two wayward familiars from being killed by a porn deprived ninja.
"Zenith-sama big meanie!" yelled Chibi Shar'rei about half an hour later as he brought the two wayward kittens back to camp tied securely with ninja wire.
"Yeah, big meanie baka!" parroted Chibi Tela as the pair struggled to get loose.
"It's only until you two are back to normal" said Zenith firmly. Zenith quickly handed the kittens to Naruto and a now awake Hinata for safe keeping while he joined the rest of the adults in breaking camp.
"If we go all day we should be in sight of the village by late tonight" said Kurenai as she doused the fire.
"Only if we go by foot, after all that has happened I plan on getting us to Konoha as quickly as possible. With luck, we'll be there by the afternoon or sundown at the latest" said Zenith as he secured the few perishables that had been gathered in a transport scroll.
"Oh and how do you plan to pull that one off furball, fly us home perhaps" asked Shisui sarcastically as he returned from refilling the canteens.
"Something like that" said Zenith with a slick smile as he walked off to check and see if anything was missing.
Kurenai and Shisui could only looked at each other confusedly. Whatever Zenith meant by that could only mean something interesting.
It was mid afternoon when the chuunin guard noticed something approaching the gate. From a distance it looked like a large dust cloud, that was until the huge chakra signature that accompanied it hit them. The guards quickly sent runners to the Hokage's Tower for orders. The gate reinforcements arrived just in time to see a large tiger lept the gate and land gracefully in the street.
The ninjas called in gapped in shock at the size of the beast. It was at least eight feet tall from ground to shoulder and had was looked like a huge saddle strapped to its back that looked like it could fit about a dozen people. The tiger ignoring the shocked humans laid down as if it was to take a nap as someone on the saddle threw a rope ladder down the side allowing the tiger's passengers to disembark. There was even further surprise as the ANBU Black Ops ninjas Tiger and Weasel were the first to disembark followed by the blonde head of Uzumaki Naruto, next was Hyuga Hizashi and Lord Hiashi followed by Yuhi Kurenai and Hyuga Hinata who was carrying two struggling kittens in her arms. They were followed by Uchiha Shisui and finally a man in a blue tunic and black pants who had mid size travel with him. Once he was off he patted the tiger on his flank and said "Thanks for the lift Za'or."
"My pleasure as always Zenith-sama, as always I am at your disposal" the tiger said with a bow before vanishing with a puff of smoke.
The Tiger ANBU simply turned to a nearby ninja, "Clear the crowed, ANBU Tiger and Weasel returning. Mission: Kidnap Retrieval success" he said quietly.
The ninja quickly cleared a path as the group made their way to the tower to inform the Hokage what had happened and what was to come.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed it and as always, Until next time true believers