A Knife In The Dark

As soon as I left the Hokage tower I headed out to find a weapon's shop. My fight with Kenji taught me a valuable lesson; my chakra doesn't degrade metal fast enough to counter a blade. My solution to this was to get a blade of my own; though I would need to find something exceptionally durable and even then I would need back ups. My clan certainly wouldn't approve, though I hardly cared. Honestly, it's kind of amusing; swordsmen and ranged specialists are the Hyuuga clan's greatest weakness. Someone like Deidara could annihilate any Hyuuga with ease and seven out of ten times a swordsman will beat a Hyuuga of equal skill.

It didn't take me long to find where I was looking for (with the help of my Byakugan) and I soon found myself standing outside the Higurashi weapon's shop. I glanced at the window and saw my reflection grinning at me, 'Jigokugan, not Byakugan,' scratched into the window above it. Huh, he's usually not very keen on giving new information; perhaps the new upgrade loosened his lipless mouth.

I nodded to him (earning a silent laugh) and opened the door. A small bell chimed as I opened the door and an older man came out from the back of the shop. He gave me a curious look, "Hello kid, what are you doing here."

I kept my face blank (one of the few benefits of the Hyuuga clan's teachings; though my bandages made the gesture pointless) and responded, "I am looking for durable, chakra conductive blades."

He raised an eyebrow, "Aren't you a little young to be playing around with real swords?"

I pointed to the HItai-ate woven into the bandages on my forehead, "I am a genin." I just knew my age was going to be a constant point of annoyance for years to come.

His brown eyes widened, "But you're my daughter's age…" he mumbled. I wasn't sure I was meant to hear that, but anyone who interacted with ninjas for an extended period of time would quickly learn that whispers rarely go unheard. He shook his head, "Alright then; what kinda blade are you looking for?"

I glanced around the room looking at the various weapons contemplatively. My short stature would definitely be a hindrance for now. My eyes skim over the longswords; an image of a massive and powerful blade flashing in my mind for a moment before I shake it off. The blades were much too large and heavy for me to properly wield at my age; perhaps when I'm older. I turn to more reasonable blades.

For awhile I considered getting a tanto or wakizashi; something suited for my size. Then that Greatsword flashed behind my eyes once more and I turned my gaze to the katanas and chokuto; if I'm gonna work my way up to that I may as well train like the berserker. I sized up the blades before turning to the shopkeeper, "How much for ten chakra conductive Chokuto?"

He raised an eyebrow, "Why on earth would you need that many swords, kid?"

I barely kept from scowling, maintaining my blank mask with some effort. "I tend to go through blades quickly." I admitted; though I wasn't actually sure that was the case yet, it was fairly likely.

He frowned, moving over to the chokuto rack and picking out ten of them. There was nothing special about them; just ten uniform and utilitarian grey straight swords. He placed the pile of blades on the counter before him, "That'll be 100,000 ryo, kid." Apparently he didn't want or need any further explanation.

I blinked, I didn't have anywhere near that much money. A dismayed look managed to break through my well trained icy mask, "I… I don't-

"Allow me, Ken'o-san." A cold voice followed by a familiar rhythmic tapping sounded up behind me. Before I was consciously aware of what I was doing I had pulled my Hitai-ate over my eyes; upon reflection I realised this was pointless given the massacre had yet to occur and he certainly didn't have Shisui's eye. The elder raised an eyebrow but didn't comment.

I turned, activating my byak- er, Jigokugan and greeted the man. "Greetings Danzo-sama; to what do I own the honour?" I am not ashamed to admit (internally, at least) that I am afraid of Danzo; if this man wants me dead there's almost nothing I can do at this point. Given a few more years I may be able to take him on; but now? Not a chance. Even as much as I dislike and distrust the man, blatantly disrespecting him would be idiotic at best.

His single eye, hidden behind a seemingly closed lid seemed to evaluate me for a long moment as he placed a small stack of bills on the counter. "Hokage-sama informed me of your… predicament and allowed me to take you on as an apprentice. Your clan head has already confirmed my request."

My mind short circuited for a long moment and I merely stared at him opened mouthed. I couldn't understand; Hiruzen and Hiashi sold me into the ROOT? I was already half way through plotting two very high profile assassinations when I was interrupted by an odd sound. It was like the quiet rumbling of a distant landslide or avalanche. "Hmhmhmhm, I see I chose well with you." Even staring straight at it, my mind could hardly comprehend what I was seeing; Danzo had a small smile on his face. Did… did he just laugh?

The founder of the ROOT gestured to the pile of swords he had just payed for, "Take your blades and follow me." He turned, not waiting for me to follow. I shook off my shock and grabbed up my blades, rushing to catch up to the surprisingly quick man. He sent me a glance, looking at the way I carried the blades. "Hmm, if you insist on having so many blades you'll need a method of carrying them around. I'll add Fuinjutsu to your training."

I kept pace with the elder easily as we walked. I had no idea where he was leading me, but I assumed it was to some hidden ROOT base. Imagine my surprise when he stopped walking just inside of a large, empty training ground. The slippery Shimura turned to me. "Do laps until you collapse, then repeat the process with sit ups, push ups, squats, and pull ups." I gaped at him and received a blow to the head from his cane. "Now, boy." I got the message and began running.

Ten hours later I was lying in the dirt, my short green tinged black hair was glued to my pale skin. I had torn the bandages from my face when they became so soaked in sweat that they were hindering my breathing; for a few moments I learned what it felt like to be waterboarded. My breath came in ragged gasps, the air steaming above me from my sheer body heat; the already abnormal temperature spiking from exertion.

A rhythmic tapping alerted me to Danzo's approach. His cane stopped next to my head as he stood over me; looking down at my fallen form with an unreadable expression. "Tomorrow you will do a hundred more of each." He dropped a canteen of water on my chest and turned away, "When you have recovered we will begin your studies of Fuinjutsu and strategy." He walked away as I stared at him. I didn't have the energy to shake my head, let alone grab the canteen he dropped; luckily my control over chakra strings was enough to lift the precious source of water, unscrew the top, and pour the blessed fluid down my throat.

Hours later I slowly trudged home; my blades stored in a small seal on the bandages around my wrist. I didn't notice I had taken a wrong turn until I felt cold steel press against my back. "Heh, you picked a bad time to get lost, kid." I turned my head slightly, glancing behind me; I lacked the energy to activate my Jigokugan. My assailant was a middle aged man so covered in filth I couldn't tell the colour of his skin, what few teeth he had were cracked and yellowed; rot filling the gaps and his long dirty, greasy hair looked as if he had torn clumps of it out.

"Heh heh heh, now why don't we see what's under them bandages, eh kid? Perhaps someone out there will pick ya up on the market." His voice was wheezy and ragged, a cruel greed barely discernable under the coughing. Normally a civilian, especially one with such poor health, would be no threat to me. Normally I'm not so far beyond exhausted that my legs felt like rusty iron poles. Nevertheless I attempted to kill the man; a sluggish gentle fist strike going towards his chest.

All I got for my trouble was six inches of steel in my gut. "You dumb shit, ya just cost me a pay day." He shoved me off his blade and I fell back towards the nearby dumpster. He turned to leave as the shadowy ground rose up to meet me… only for me to sink into the dumpsters shadow like water.

The shadow world was a twisted and distorted reflection of reality; warped and wrong in many ways. The sky was black with an incarnadine star burning where the sun should be. Trees were bent at odd angles and faceless shadows stood where people should be. I watched the distorted caricature of my assailant walk away for moment before pursuing; pulling my wound together with chakra strings (a temporary solution at best; though at the moment I hardly cared).

I followed the man for a long while, watching him hide in the bushes outside a playground before rising from the shadow of a tree. Black sludge began to leak from my right eye and mouth as I began to speak a vile tongue I'm certain I didn't know; the very words darkening the air around me with every syllable.

Slowly, from the man's very own shadow, pale, emaciated arms began to rise up; their long, bony fingers ended in sharp claw-like nails. The chuckling slaver didn't notice the creeping hands until they closed around his mouth. His screams went unheard as the cold hands pulled him down into the depthless darkness.

I barely had time to smirk before collapsing to the blackened earth unconscious; black sludge leaking from my eyes.

I was shaken awake an indeterminate time later, groaning as the red not-light of the distorted pasquinade of Konoha shined right in my eyes. I blinked my eyes open, only to come face to face with my twisted reflection grinning down at me. "Ah, we finally meet for real." Its voice was like gravel in a wood chipper.

My eyes were wide, "H-how are you here? I thought you only existed in the mirror." I barely noticed the pale and emaciated humanoids milling about.

His lipless grin stretched impossibly wider, "Making assumptions is a poor practice to get in, little prince."

"Prince? Prince of what?" At this distance I could see the way his cheeks split to widen his grin.

"Well, you're not the king yet; and the queen doesn't want me to spoil your larval stage too much." His serpentine tongue flicked out as he laughed, "Though she did tell me to inform you of what you've gained when you get it. And to give you a… warning of sorts." He dragged his index finger along my cheek, lifting it up to show the thick black goo that poured from my eyes. "Every time you use those eyes of yours you become a little less human." He gestured with the goo covered finger, "This is your soul burning away to make room for something more suitable.'

I didn't think it was possibly for my eyes to widen further, "My soul? ...Will I even still be me when it's gone?" I've always heard that the soul is the self; if that's the case, what happens when you lose it?"

The fiend's eyes glittered in a way my own never could, "Of course, the Queen wouldn't be interested in you as is if you wouldn't exist by the time the metamorphosis was over." Blood leaked from his face as it tore open to enable his grin to widen even further, "Though, the process will hurt, a lot. Nothing quite like feeling your soul burn, eh? Hahahahahahaha!" He stood up and roughly pulled me to my feet. His clawed index finger got a little too close to my right eye, an oddly serious look on his face. "This circle can force any who meet your eyes to experience the world the way you do; every sensation replaced with pain for a week. That power is single target though; if you switch before time runs out the timer resets on a new person and the old is freed. The first line lets you communicate with the denizens of the shadow realm and, perhaps more importantly, makes it so they won't attack you on sight." His finger shifted to my left eye, his smile returning "Now this one's fun; the circle can force one you lock eyes with to experience all the pain you ever have… all at once. Considering you've felt nothing but agony since you were two weeks old; that's quite a bit of pain. Now don't worry about the soothing balm that is the souls you swallow, they don't actually lessen the physical pain, just what you experience; your nerves are still pumpin' out agony twenty four seven."His smile faded, "The line lets you enter and exit the shadow world."

I was still processing his words when he pushed me forward. I fell on my ass and just sat there; watching him walk away as his words swam through my head. It took me quite a while to get home; and even as I lay on my in my bed my thoughts kept swirling around one sentence as my hand trailed over the stitches holding my guts in. "Everytime I use my eyes I lose a piece of my soul."

A manipulative and cold hearted man Danzo may be; but he was an excellent teacher nonetheless. Two years later saw me standing before him decked out in black, flexible bandages under black and grey camo patterned Anbu gear and a solid black, featureless mask. Two black lenses filled the eye slots in the mask, protecting my eyes and further securing my identity; the seal's within filtering out gasses and allowing one to breath under water. The black colour of my bandages hid the numerous seals of strengthening and flexibility covering them. I was tall for my age, standing at 4'6".

Danzo looked me over before nodding in approval. "Today I give you your first mission, Ken'o-san." He tossed me a scroll that I caught with my chakra strings; unfurling it before me and incinerating it after I committed it to memory. Danzo waved his hand, "Go."

I nodded and vanished in a shunshin; appearing in one of the numerous tunnels beneath Konoha, already racing towards one of Danzo's many hidden entrances to the village. The mission was relatively simple… for an Anbu anyway. It was a time sensitive assassination mission; some dictator was encroaching on Konoha's border and it was only a matter of time before he did something to piss the Daimyo or Hokage off. Normally his upstart nation would simply be burned to the ground in the night; unfortunately this particular bastard had managed to get the backing of Iwa to protect him. If Konoha nin were found to have killed him it could spark another great war.

That's why I was being sent; as a ROOT agent I was disavowed as an actual Konoha shinobi and if I was caught the Hokage would deny Konoha had anything to do with it. His genuine lack of knowledge and my lack of any symbols of affiliation might make the difference between a war and an increase in tensions. Not that I had any intention of being caught.

The mission was time sensitive because the idiot was trying to expand into the Land of Fire's territory; an action the Hokage simply can't ignore. Eventually Konoha would be forced to retaliate and this would almost certainly begin the Fourth Great Shinobi World War. That could not be allowed to happen; he needed to die as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the urgency of the mission had me sprinting through the Fire Country's infamous forests in the dead of night at top speed. It would take a solid day of sprinting to reach the upstart nation. A solid day with no breaks. Luckily Danzo's hellish training had the side benefit of massively increasing my endurance, though my simply obscene pain tolerance certainly helped; it's hard to hear your muscles screaming from exhaustion over the rest of your body screaming because your clothes shifted or a light breeze touched your skin. Not that I could really feel any of that under my bandages; though I no longer soaked them in numbing agents. Can't really be anything approaching accurate if you can't properly feel your limbs.

I arrived at the small village at dusk the next day; a little ahead of schedule. Apparently I'm faster than I thought. I smirked beneath my mask as I activated my Jigokugan, searching for my target. It didn't take long to find him, the short, fat and balding man was in his bed room on the top floor of the largest building. My smirk faded into a blank expression when I saw him; he was raping a seven year old girl.

I frowned beneath my mask as I began to sink into the shadows beneath me; my inability to use genjutsu making this one of my very few stealthy techniques. The technique to cast a genjutsu requires subtly slipping your chakra into someone else's; any attempt on my part only results in a weak and easily fended off attack on their chakra. Fortunately the same reason I couldn't use genjutsu made me immune to such; my chakra would immediately attack any foreign influence. Unfortunately "any foreign influence" included medical chakra; meaning I could only heal the old fashioned way.

I slipped through the town in the shadow realm and into the large mansion that housed my prey. Unfortunately, even in the shadow realm, a locked door is still locked; though a subtle application of a chakra string quickly fixed that and I was soon roaming the halls.

While I couldn't really see who anyone was (one faceless shadowy humanoid is much the same as anyother save their build) it wasn't hard to tell that the large, fat shadow thrusting into the small, frail looking one was my target. I rose from shadows under the luxurious bed; crawling out silently and turning to face my quarry. His eyes widened in fear and surprise as he met my hidden ones. A dark smile spread across my hidden face as the circle in my left eye glowed for a moment.

The pederast gave a choked scream before collapsing to the ground dead of a heart attack. My gaze was drawn to the weeping child before I turned away; I couldn't do anything for her without compromising the mission.

I took two steps and sank to my hands and knees, barely managing to sink into the shadow realm and wrench my mask from my face, taking several of my bandages with it (huh, those strengthening seals probably need more work), before I began vomiting up the blackened ruins of my soul all over the shifting, shadowy ground. A flash of near mind-shattering agony and exhaustion burst through me as my arms gave out and I collapsed; slowly curling into the foetal position as I twitched and shuddered in the puddle of my burnt soul.

My tremors slowly settled down, though I was still left paralyzed with exhaustion and pain for several minutes. I gasped for breath, slowly dragging myself from the small pool of my no longer so immortal soul. The few feet I crawled forward felt like miles as I rolled onto my back, ragged gasps misting the air above me.

"Th-that… fucking hurt." I groaned. Coming from me; that meant quite a bit. I slowly sat up, wiping the slime from my face with shaking hands. My clothes were ruined and I definitely need new bandages… luckily I brought spares. I didn't bother striping out of my clothes, simply flaring my chakra to incinerate them after unsealing my equipment; though I did have to unravel my much more durable bandages. Many of the seals on my bandages were for the sole purpose of surviving my chakra (many of these same seals were on my blades); though even with these seals they couldn't survive extended contact for very long.

Standing naked in the shadow realm only accentuated how odd the place was; the air was far colder than the "real" world and the red sun's light only seemed to make it colder. There was no breeze in this shadowy land yet the distorted branches of the trees still seemed to sway in one, the flickering shadows of people following them as distorted and twisted creatures that certainly didn't exist in the sunlit world. Somehow I found the creepy, silent land oddly comforting.

I shook of the thought as I finished wrapping my bandages and placed my mask back over my face; I was already late to report in. The journey home felt even longer, especially when my muscles spasmed in an aftershock and I fell from a tree; several times I was only saved from a nasty fall by grabbing my surrounding with chakra strings. Eventually I decided it would be best if I stayed on the ground for now.

I reached Danzo nearly a day late; though by that time I had recovered enough to not show any signs. I didn't want the shark to smell blood. I gave the elder a salute, "Mission successful Danzo-sama."

He looked me over, "You're late. Your clone has been dispelled for seven hours. This mission never officially happened; what excuse will you use against your family?"

I kept my expression blank even with my mask and bandages concealing it, "If they even care enough to ask I'll simply tell them I've been training. I won't specify whether I was doing it with you or not encase you were spotted around town."

He nodded slowly, seemingly pleased. "Good. Dismissed."

I nodded and vanished, heading home to recover.

A month of training later (during which I began to practise with a heavy weight on the end of a long rope and swapped my three foot blades for four foot ones) passed and I was once more standing before Danzo. The elder's face was as impassive as always when he spoke up, "The ROOT needs funds." He tossed me a small book. "That is a standard bounty hunter's Bingo Book. It contains a compilation of ninja's with bounties on their heads and what's known about them."

I flipped through the book for a moment, noticing that some pages had been written on, the neat-to-the-point-of-obsessive handwriting denoted these targets as threats to Konoha. I looked back up at Danzo at the clearing of his throat, "Pick out twenty of them, kill them, collect their bounties, return." A small frown briefly passed across his face as he considered me. "One fourth of the money is yours upon successful completion."

I nodded, ignoring his reticence to pay me. "Hai, Danzo-sama." I once more vanished from his shadowy lair. As I ran through the tunnels I flipped through the book, contemplating targets. If I recall correctly Kiri is currently engaged in a civil war; making the divided country both rife with deserters and easy to infiltrate. Unfortunately the Land of Water was a week away as the crow flies; and I can't fly.

I stopped in a random tree somewhere outside the village to check my map. Hmph, unless I want to try and navigate the infamous waters surrounding Uzu the easiest path is through Wave country. A smirk crossed my hidden face; perhaps I'll get lucky and Gato will have some missing-nin for me to slaughter.

I realized as I walked into wave country, that I had forgotten something important; I fucking hate humidity. Every step felt like I was half swimming and I was more grateful than ever for the filtering seals on my mask; I'm certain I would have straight up drowned without them. And this is beyond the furthest outskirts of Water country? I'm starting to think this may have been a rather bad idea.

The town itself was less dilapidated than I was expecting; but that's not truly surprising considering less time has passed than when Naruto arrived here. I took in the sights, looking at the people moving about with an air of veiled misery and fear. A brief glance down a dark alley revealed the dead and defiled body of a young woman just lying out in the open. Hmph, what poor waste management this country has.

I reached out and grabbed a passing fisherman, "Excuse me, could you direct me to Gato-san?"

The man shot me an odd look before glancing furtively around, "I don't where you're from kid; but we don't talk about him around here." He patted me on the shoulder and ineptly attempted to slip a folded piece of paper in my jacket collar. I pretended not to notice, returning the gesture in a deliberately awkward manner.

I walked away, pulling the paper out and making a one handed seal of confrontation (in honour of the master) as I turned the corner. My dark eyes scanned the paper as a building collapsed behind me in a fiery explosion and my chakra coils expanded ever so slightly. The note was a simple guide to Gato's mansion that was obviously meant to be given to missing-nin looking for work. The little guide tried to sell Gato a little too hard; it was honestly rather pathetic.

I followed the guide to the mogul's mansion and smiled at all the thugs surrounding the place; hopefully some of them will have bounties, though even if they don't killing them would still be worth it for their souls anyway.

The guards outside the gaudily decorated wrought-iron gate were asleep, leaning against the wall. I slashed open both their throats with a single swipe of my blade before leaping over the six foot gate. Landing silently on the other side I grinned at the thugs milling about, about thirty in total. I rushed forward and beheaded a group of four before anyone even realised I was there; dashing forth and impaling the first to spot me.

I ducked a clumsy swipe aimed for my head, claiming the fools arm as it passed over me. The one eyed man dropped to the ground, screaming as my caustic chakra ate away at him. I grinned as his screams attracted the rest of the hired goons before gutting him with a flick of my wrist. My blood was flooded with adrenaline and I was rock hard from excitement and sadism as his intestines tumbled to the dirt.

Five thugs rushed out of a tent, swords drawn and scowls on their faces. I raised my left hand and attached chakra strings to each of them, the sheer pain overwhelming their meager wills and allowing me to force them to turn on their comrades even as my hellish chakra ate away at them. Their own skill was pathetic, but with me at the helm they easily cut down a dozen mercenaries before being cut to ribbons; my own chakra degrading their bodies certainly not helping.

My eyes burned as two new lines joined the old, connecting the upper right to the bottom left and the bottom left to the bottom right. The blinding pain of my eyes' enhancement distracted me just long enough for a slightly more competent goon to fire a crossbow bolt at my head. I came to with the sharpened stick barely a foot away. My adrenaline spiked higher than ever as the bolt seemed to zoom forward in slow motion. My right eye bled oil and my sword fel from my hand (I wasn't coherent enough to berate myself for that at the time) as I frantically tried to dodge.

The bolt sank into my forehead… and I dispersed into ashes as it passed through me. At first I didn't understand what was happening as I drifted in different directions. Then it hit me; I'm a fucking ash logia! Gaining control over my new form took me a few minutes and I'm sure this new ability will take quite awhile to master. I drifted through the air, slowly moving towards the crossbowman.

The merc seemed confused, looking between the slowly approaching cloud of ash that was my body and his crossbow with a look of bewilderment on his face. This bewilderment quickly turned to pain and fear as I settled around him, the hot ashes making up my form burning him and sticking to his melting flesh. Slowly I completely enveloped the man, turning him into a white statue like the citizens of Pompeii.

The remaining thugs stared in horror as I began to move, forcing the still screaming man to move with me. Their shock and horror allowed me to kill three of them (including one who sank to his knees and begged some god for forgiveness) before they retaliated. Unfortunately this technique was slow and exhausting (not to mention the impressive amount of pain I felt as my soul burned from this extensive use of my eyes' abilities) enough that the rock hard exterior of my captive didn't last long and he quickly had ten swords through his abdomen.

I turned from tuff to ash in a second, flying behind the group and reforming facing them. A flick of my wrist had a replacment blade in my hand and three thugs lost their head before the rest turned to face me.

Once more my eyes burned, a new line connecting the bottom right to the top left burned its way across my eyes. The power this one gave me was much more obvious than the last; I could see the souls my eyes hungered for. I was briefly distracted when I gazed at myself and saw that parts of the blue orb that was my soul were replaced with shadowy black smoke.

My brief distraction didn't last nearly long enough for my foes to take advantage; though one did try. My chakra enhanced blade cut straight through the offending bandit's own cheap sword… and his neck. I moved slight to the left to dodge a swipe, bisecting the bandit as I passed and running through another.

A vertical swipe forced me to jump back and abandon my sword. I smiled at the man as he stood in front of his gurgling comrade; a twitch of my fingers had my abandoned blade whirling around and slicing through the body it was sheathed in and the man that stood before it.

I turned to the remaining three terrified merc; reveling in the terror in their eyes. I raised my hand theatrically, the chakra strings connecting it to my blade causing it rise in the air. My other hand shot out and connected more strings to the blade I dropped before turning to ash, lifting it into the air.

I swept my arms forward as the men attempted to flee. Two were stabbed through the back before they got three yards; though the last actually managed to evade my attempt to cut him into thirds.

I raised a hidden eyebrow as he drew a finely crafted blade and turned to face me. I swiped my right blade, aiming to take of his head and was greatly surprised when he managed to block the blow. The left blade joined the first, aiming to cut him off at the knees. The unusually skilled bandit jumped over the blow, flipping over the blade that still pressed against his own before sprinting at me.

He got five steps before I dropped my blades and just diced him with my chakra strings. I collected my two blades and sealed one back in my wrist before strolling casually up to the large, wooden double doors of Gato's mansion. I blew on my fingertips as I kicked down the door; channeling enough chakra to turn my strings solid was still a strain on my tenketsu, as the slight burns on my finger tips testified to.

Gato's arrogance was evident in his lack of guards within the building; the only one being the two that stood outside his door. They couldn't even draw their swords before I cut them both down and entered Gato's office as a new line carved its way across my eye; completing the pentagram I had suspected it would form. Even though the eyes looked finished I could tell there was more to them; the smile my reflection in Gato's mirror sent me only confirmed it. The man himself was huddled behind his desk, a look of absolute terror on his face as he stared up at me. I sneered when I noticed the growing wet stain on his pants. "P-please! Please don't k-kill me! I'll give you anything; money, woman, drugs, anything! Just don't kill me!" His pathetic begging annoyed me even more than his mere parasitic existence alone.

I contemplated just killing him for a moment before speaking up, "Where is your vault?" A man this conceited and greedy would probably want to be able to look over a physical representation of his wealth; of course a single glance with my eyes confirmed my hypothesis.

A tenuous look of hope spread across his face, "I-in the basement! I'll lead you to it!" I nodded, gesturing with my blade for him to lead the way. I followed the vile, cretinous little man as he scuttled along; my fingers twitching to kill him.

With every step I was searching for some method with which the three foot dictator could attempt to screw me over, but even with the ten miles circumference my immature Jigokugan could see I saw no threats. I was unsurprised by the massive pile of liquid currency the detestable little man had in his vault, having seen it before I even entered the house with my powerful eyes. "H-here it is!' Gato through his arms wide to display the wealth after (very, very reluctantly) opening the vault door. 'T-take what you want and go." The words were obviously like pulling teeth to the avaricious man.

I frowned at the ocean of wealth, calculating how many sealing scrolls I would need to carry it all. As I began to unseal several scrolls from another scroll (and wasn't that a useful trait of storage scrolls; you can seal full scrolls within each other) when I noticed Gato attempting to scurry away like the rat he was. I shot out a hand, grabbing the wretched man with my chakra strings and dragging him back.

He squealed in pain and fear as I held him over his ocean of wealth, a dark smile on my face. I formed a one handed tiger seal with my left hand, and blew out stream of black fire at the gold beneath the man. I blinked my eyes, idly noticing they were trickling out the burnt remains of my soul as I watched the off coloured flames reduce the gold to ash. What few elemental jutsu I could do were all far more destructive than they should have been do to the nature of my chakra; but they had never come out this different or enhanced. I had expected the gold to melt so I could dip the mogul in it; not turn to ashes in a way that simply couldn't be natural.

The smell of burning flesh drew my gaze to Gato. I watched as he ignited from shear proximity to the black blaze that burned beneath him. Watching his flesh burn away reminded me that I was literally burning money right now and I tossed the shipping magnet aside. I ignored Gato's screaming and writhing as I flashed through another series of hand seals; launching what I thought would be a blast of water at the powerful flames… instead a massive ball of what was evidently my own scorching blood shot out and smashed into the flame.

I watched in horror as my apparently highly flammable blood only helped spread the blaze further; adding caustic fuel to the fire that was consuming my newly acquired wealth. As the fire rapidly spread all over the room I turned to flee; only to find the exit wreathed in even more black flames. I tried to enter the shadow realm but the omnidirectional light cast from the intense flame eliminated any shadows I could hide in.

I desperately looked around for an exit as the flames grew ever closer. Seeing nothing I flashed through a set of seals, heavily overcharging the only earth jutsu I knew (I only really use hand seals and say the name when I'm overcharging the technique; I don't consider a technique mastered until neither seals nor words are required (my tendency to make a single one handed seal when not in combat was more of a decoration then a necessary, though it does make the jutsu easier). "Earth Release: Earth Spear!" A massive pointed pillar of obsidian speared up out of the burning earth, shearing through the vaulted ceiling and crashing through the entire building. The desperate jutsu drained a huge portion of my chakra reserves, making me light headed as I ran stumbling towards the pillar; drunkenly dodging falling debris. I jumped up, turning to ash and slipping through the cracks in the ceiling too small for a human to fit through and flowing up and out of the burning, collapsing house.

I drifted in the air, watching the house fall apart, weakened by the titanic pillar of obsidian and the black flames that rapidly consumed it. My theoretical eyes widened as I watched the black flames spread across the island. I formed ashen hands as I floated high in the air; forming the seals for a technique that I hoped would stop the flames. "Wind Release: Great Crushing Vacuum Sphere!" The jutsu was of my own design; an improvement on the vacuum sphere to actually be a vacuum.

A giant amethyst vortex shot forth, sucking in the air around it as it shot forth. It collided with the flames and, of course, made things horribly worse. As soon as the only potentially anti-fire wind release technique hit the blaze it burst into purple-tinged black flames. Honestly, I can't say I'm surprised; fire beats wind after all. Though the colour was a surprise; reminds me of Sasori's poison.

I watched as the black flames swept across the island in muted shock. As the mansion crumbled to ash the flames devoured the grounds around it, including the bodies I had intended to check for bounties. The flames quickly reached the village and I felt my coils expand as more and more people succumbed. My shock faded quickly and my horror was nearly non-existent; and I had a guess why. With my new ability to see souls I could actually watch as more of my soul burned up into black smoke with every second I remained in my ashen form (I just knew as soon as I had nerves again I was gonna regret staying like this, the metaphysical pain was already great enough); I had to assume this would have some consequences beyond mere agony.

Every one of the two hundred and seven villagers died screaming in agony and fear as I looked on; shock fading into a sort of prideful fear. Black flames crawled across the village, reducing the destitute civilization to ashes. I felt an incredible pain in my currently non existent eyes; if every previous line felt like a hot knife carved it in, this felt like Hell itself was trying to burn itself out from my skull. I fell from the sky, reverting back to my human form as I landed amongst the ash and flame; my hands clutched to my skull as I screamed and writhed. The black flames licked over my squirming body… doing nothing at all. My body simply crumbled to ash and reformed unharmed. I writhed and screamed as my infernal chakra devoured the souls of the villagers around me, before simply going limp and falling unconscious.

I blinked awake, staring as blearily as my powerful eyes would allow at my surroundings. I appeared to be in a cavern lit by skulls burning with black fire. The walls appeared to be made of screaming faces that released a purple smoke and raw, pulsating flesh with random bones and abnormally large teeth protruding randomly. Green lightning occasionally sparked from the ceiling to the floor; leaving scorch marks where it came form and hit. The floor appeared to be made from an odd mix of bone and obsidian with finger thick crisscrossing streams of what appeared to be blood.

Huh, well that's unsettling. I slowly stood up; glancing about before shrugging and walking in a random direction. I mean fuck it; there's at least a fifty percent chance I'm heading somewhere considering there's only two paths.

I walked about for what felt like hours, taking random turns and trying (unsuccessfully) to ignore the way the millions of bloodshot eyes followed my every move; before a crimson skinned, black clawed hand large enough to wrap completely around my head tore through one of the walls in a spray of blood. The hand was swiftly followed by a massive creature, its curved horns catching on the fleshy wall as the creature's furred and digitigrade legs broke free; hooved feet sending cracks through the floor as it stepped out from the wall. It grinned at me, its black eyes gleaming above its shark-like teeth. "Ah, the Prince-ling. Delightful to meet you," the creature purred; its voice like two belt sanders grinding together.

I raised an eyebrow, idly noticing that I appeared to be naked. "And who, and what are you, exactly?" I asked.

The creatures malevolent smile widened to a face splitting grin, "Oh, you don't know? Hmhmhmhmhahahaha! Ah, the Dark Prince doesn't know who he is?" He pointed a clawed finger at me, "You, my little Prince, are what the Queen has been looking for for so very long…"

My eyebrow remained where it was, that didn't answer my question at all. Regardless, I pressed on, "Queen of what exactly?" Though I did have my suspicions, the aesthetics of this place are quite the hint. There was also the wonderful classical melody of screams of the damned and screeching implements of pain and torture echoing maddeningly throughout the halls.

"Where do you think you are, Prince?" The unholy glinting in the beast's eyes grew more intense. "Well then; allow me to be the one to welcome you to Hell, little Prince!"