Demons In The Mist

I stared at the demon, "How did I get here? Am I dead?" The thought was mildly disturbing; had I accidentally killed myself with the most basic fire technique?

The fiend's maniacal expression didn't change, "No no no, little Prince." He reached out and tapped me on the forehead with a clawed finger; a gesture I was terrified to notice I was too slow to dodge. "Your eyes are a gateway to hell, your chakra its power bubbling out." He gestured about as my eyes went wide as dinner plates, "You being here is like a Jinchuuriki being in their mindscape."

"So… I'm essentially the Jinchuuriki of Hell? How does that even work?" My thoughts were swimming in my head at the implications of this revelation. If my chakra is Hell's power then all the souls that swim in it…

"Oh, pondering the implications, little Prince? Hmhmhmhm, indeed little princeling; every death at your hand is swallowed by the Hungry Dark." ...Everyone I kill exists in ceaseless agony. It should disturb me immensely to find out that I just condemned over two hundred debatably innocent men, women, and children to endless torment… but I just can't bring myself to feel anything but amusement over that. "The mechanics behind your existence are beyond me; though I imagine the Queen could explain."

A dry chuckle escaped me, "Heh heh, then shouldn't we speak to her?"

The beast shook its head, "Unfortunately you are not ready, nor do we have the time to go find her."

My brow furrowed, a frown spreading across my face. "Then why am I here?"

The creature threw its arms wide as it laughed, "Hahahahaha! Do you know where you stand in the Abyss?" It leaned down to look me straight in the eyes, "No? Hmhmhm, this little slice of Hell here is called the Labyrinth. Its sole purpose is to bring false hope." He gestured behind me, drawing my gaze to a hunched over figure, so thin its bones were clearly visible through pale skin covered in weeping wounds. "That wretched creature is one of Hell's tenants who was either let out to run around this beautiful little lie or they somehow "escaped" from their keeper." He reached over and grabbed the scurrying creature by the back of its neck. He splayed his fingers out in a grasping position before ramming his hand through the struggling creature's stomach in a splash of blood; sharp claws easily piercing all the way through. His fist came out the wretch's back, clutching the man's spine and trailing intestines behind it. To my surprise the creature kept struggling, only a high pitched scream evidencing its horrific wound. "There is no escape from Hell; not even death. Those who have been bathed in Hell's energy can never die; though it comes at a cost. Pain is ten times worse for all residents of Hell." He smiled at me, "Whilst you are not a true resident here; you are being constantly bathed in Hell's power now that your eyes have reached their second stage. Of course these energies also cause your soul to burn a little quicker."

Everything has a price afterall; makes sense that immortality would have one of the greatest prices. Intensified pain and speeding up my transition into… something else. "Does this immortality have any weaknesses? Atomization, starvation, something else?" At this point my soul is lost to me; best to focus on the future.

The monstrous creature's smile grew even more unnaturally wide as it shook its head, flicking its arm and flinging the writhing creature off its wrist. My eyes followed the creature's path before it crashed into the wall with a wet crunch and a splatter of its putrid blood. The woeful creature barely slid three feet down the wall before a section that looked like a diagonal mouth opened up and bit in half; a spear ended tongue impaling the piece that fell free and dragging it in. I turned back to the towering demon as repulsive chewing sounded from the wall, accompanied by screams of abject terror and agony. "Not a one. Even were you destroyed on the atomic level a new body would form, molecule by agonising molecule around your facsimile of a soul." His smile faded minutely, "Even so… the pure regeneration is slow when compared to other enhanced healing factors; barely thrice as fast as normal healing. This "blessing" is designed to extend suffering; its use in combat is purely coincidental given how rarely demons leave Hell." Here his smile regained its massive size, "But now you have the ability to change that!" He pointed two fingers at my eyes, his long claws coming uncomfortably close to piercing my conjunctiva as he traced the new circle that had burned its way into place. "Those eyes of yours now act as a summoning contract for the denizens of Hell! Though I recommend learning the Infernal Tongue to commune with some of our less… humanoid members. Besides, it'll complement the Black Speech of the Shadowlands you already speak."

I didn't think my eyes could get any wider, "With these eyes I can open the gates of hell and loose those who dwell in the shadows? I'm literally a walking apocalypse!

His smile faded, "Not yet. I doubt you're strong enough to summon the Queen even if you did have the ten thousand undisturbed years and the ten million sacrifices it would cost at this stage. No, until your eyes reach their final stage you won't be summoning any Archfiends and greater demons, or even drawing out the greater creatures of the shadow realm. No, only lesser demons can be summoned in less than a week; even the weakest of greater demons would take upwards of a month to summon."

Well, that's less useful than I had hoped; but it still has potential. "Do… do demons have a Sage Mode equivalent?"

His grin stretched behind his ears, "Equivalent? We have so much more. Not only do some of our infiltrators know vanilla Sage Mode, we have our own version utilizing the negative energies Hell is so rife with. We call it Demon Sage Mode; creative, I know. Though the two modes clash heavily, three demons have managed to draw on both the positive energy of vanilla Sage Mode and the negative of Demon Sage Mode to acquire an unnamed hybrid of both. These three are unquestionably the strongest denizens of Hell, one of them is the Queen herself."

My eyes lit up, this is exactly the boost I need to propel me into the upper echelons of the world. "Can you teach me?"

He threw his head back and laughed, "Of course!" His expression turned serious as he looked down at me. "But right now you need to wake up. Meditate when you have time and we'll begin your lessons." So saying he tapped me on my forehead and I dropped to the mismatched floor like a puppet with its strings cut.

I awoke to find myself lying in a pile ashes. Slowly sitting up, glanced around to find nothing but ash and fog until the horizon met the sky. I picked a direction and started walking, reaching the coast in a few minutes at the leisurely pace I set.

I stared as the shore swept ashes out to sea, "At least the flames didn't manage to spread to the mainland. No more fire for me." I decided there and then that until I have a method of putting out the flames I start Fire Style was only a last resort.

It wasn't hard to spot as the mist began to artificially thicken; the chakra that suffused it was rather obvious to my eyes. The mist itself did nothing to hinder my vision, though the chakra diffused with it was mildly annoying. Shapes became blurry, like I was looking through a frosted stained-glass window rather than the clear glass I was used to.

"So you did this?" A gruff voice spoke up, the sound seeming to echo from everywhere.

Even though I could see the man creeping closer to me, I didn't turn to acknowledge him. "Yes, though it was an accident. I don't imagine you much care the reasons though."

"Heh, can't say I do. You just cost me a payday kid." As he spoke he pulled the massive blade from his back. I noticed right away that something was different; everything was moving in slow motion. As the man slowly approached I wondered if this is how the Sharingan sees the world.

I nodded, "That I did. At least with you here I can reimburse myself somewhat for the money I burned along with this village."

He was less than two feet behind me, his blade drawn back to strike. "How do you plan to do that…" He swung, "when you're dead!"

His gargantuan blade swept through me with ease, dispersing the ashes I had become. I drifted behind him, my upper body reforming with my sword in hand. I swiped my blade to take his head, only commenting when he ducked. "I'll claim your bounty; Zabuza Momochi, Demon Of The Bloody Mist.

He raised a hairless brow, "Ash based Genjutsu, eh? Never seen that before." He stabbed his blade into the ground and formed the confrontation seal. I, of course, took advantage and spat a ball of burning blood at his head.

His eyes widened as he dodged to the side, leaving his blade behind in his haste to dodge the blast. I darted forth as my attack smashed into the ground, my blade slashing out to take his head.

The kunai he raised to defend himself barely slowed my blade as it was sliced in half. The millisecond he gained was just enough to avoid a fatal injury; only a thin and burning line scratching across his throat through the bandages he wrapped loosely around it.

I furiously swiped at him, the same chakra that was slowly disintegrating my blade turning the numerous scratches across my enemy's body to far more dangerous wounds as they bubbled and burned. A grin spread across my face beneath my bandages as my blade swept out in a blow that would cut the infamous ninja in half.

My long and now ragged blade shattered on a short blade of ice that appeared between me and my foe. I jumped back as a figure slightly shorter than me leapt between me and Zabuza. "Oh, taking on a little genin of your own Zabuza?" I looked the feminine child over, "Or perhaps you keep this one around for other reasons." One of the best ways to win a fight against a superior or equal opponent is to get them mad. I may have gotten lucky early in the fight by separating him from his blade, but Haku's interference just put me at a disadvantage.

I flicked my wrist and summoned another blade as I dodge the innumerable ice senbon the child sent my way. Dodging the thin needles was relatively easy, apparently Haku hadn't gained the speed he would have in a few years. Even were that not the case, this new stage of my eyes appeared to have the same predictive powers of the Sharingan for I could see exactly where the senbons' paths would take them before the child even finished throwing them. Even with this advantage I still didn't manage to dodge them all and was forced to resort to my ashen form, my body's speed simply not enough to act on my eyes guidance.

I grinned, reversing my momentum and moving through the hail of sharpened ice towards my assailant. I maintained my general shape as I approached, my arm and blade fully reforming just as I reached the child. My smile widened as I rammed four feet of chakra steel through the boy's heart, twisting my blade to face upwards before carving up and out of his body through his head.

As the boy, barely older than me, fell to the ashen earth beneath him I leaned forward to allow the Kubikiribocho to pass over me. I whirled, my blade slicing through the air… only for the legendary blade to cut clean through mine.

I saw satisfaction flash in Zabuza's eyes for but an instant before his fury overwrought it as I slid passed his massive blade, slashing open his throat with the foot of my blade still connected to the handle as his blade crashed into the ground. I reversed my grip as he fell to the scorched earth, driving the shortened blade through the back of his head; piercing straight through to split his nose in two.

I was unsurprised when the skewered Zabuza dissolved into a puddle of water. I turned my head towards the massive water dragon roaring towards me from the middle distance. "Oh, upset that I killed your fuck toy Zabuza?" I tauntingly called as I dropped my broken blade and formed a tiger seal. Guess I'm already breaking my rules; least there's nothing around here to burn. Fire Release: Great Fire Annihilation!" Honestly, why no one had figured out how to perform this jutsu I don't know; literally all you have to do is massively overcharge the Fireball jutsu.

An ungodly sea of black flames shot from my lips, easily overpowering the water dragon and sweeping across the island. I watched in amusement as Zabuza's two lesser minions were incinerated in an instant and the man himself sprinted from the wall of fire with terror in his eyes; stumbling in a very un-ninja like way in his desperate dash to escape the tidal wave of fire. He kept running even after he met the coast line… and the fire followed, turning a massive swath of the ocean to steam. I grinned as I followed the wave of fire, my lower body turned to ash as I flew through the air above and behind my technique. The massive drain on my chakra creating the unholy tsunami of black flames cost clued me in on a possible reason so few people use the Great Fire Annihilation.

As the flame finally died out the entire land was coated in a thick blanket of steam for miles around; though this steam was not infused with chakra like Zabuza's mist and thus did nothing to inhibit my vision. I darted towards Zabuza, blade trailing behind me.

He whirled as I approached, perhaps having heard me closing in. I whiped my blade forth, once more aiming to take his head off even as the steam scalded his skin a lobster red. He raised his blade in a desperate bid to block mine; and again, it worked. My blade was sliced in two as it passed along the edge of his own… except this time I had planned for it. The detached piece of my blade continued forward and lodged itself in his throat.

He collapsed into the boiling water he stood on, fingers desperately trying to keep his blood in his body as it flowed around my broken blade. He looked up at me, fear and defiance in his dark eyes. A water clone formed beneath me and attempted to cleave me from crotch to crown from beneath. I maintained eye contact with the dying Zabuza until his clones blade dispersed my own into ashes that diffused into the steam around us.

The clone stumbled drunkenly towards its creator, the swordsman's obvious desperation weakening his creation. As the clone unwrapped its bandages and attempted to staunch its creator's bleeding I reformed just my arm and impaled it from behind; splashing the near boiling water it was formed from all over the true Zabuza.

This time he didn't have the chakra to form another clone as we locked eyes. As I watched him bleed out I considered saying a few words; the man had meant nothing to me but he was the strongest opponent I've yet fought and I can't help but respect the man for the way he originally went out; hell, even using a clone to try and take me out after I fatally wounded him showed how much will power the man had. I couldn't think of anything to say so instead I simply drove my blade through his heart. Coming from me the action wasn't a mercy; only hell awaits those who die at my hand and quickening their end is a few seconds longer they'll spend in the fire.

I watched the life leave the man's eyes as his chakra and soul became mine before turning my head to his discarded blade; ignoring the oil that flowed from my eyes. The steam was too hot to leave my ashen form without injury, as evidenced by the burns covering Zabuza's body, so I reached out with chakra strings and dragged the blade out of the cloud behind me. It took every one of the ten strings I could form to lift the massive cleaver enough to impale Zabuza on it (I came for bounties, no way am I leaving Zabuza's behind just because I respect the man) and just how much the blade slowed me down showed me that I was a long way from the top.

I burst from the bank of steam and dropped the blade (and impaled body) on the ground before returning to my human form… and promptly dropping to the ground screaming. Jesus, when that demon said pain would be multiplied ten fold he wasn't fucking kidding! I could hardly feel it in my ashen form, but now the pain abusing my eyes caused hit me like a dump truck full of uranium bricks; my soul was on fire and oil poured from my eyes like two small rivers.

I flashed my eyes on to see what was left of my soul, only for them to widen when I saw that more than a fourth was burned to smoke. The thought that twenty five percent of my soul had been converted into… something else was highly disconcerting. What am I becoming?

I shakily rose up, vomiting more of the tar like remains of my soul and rolling onto my back. "I'm beginning to see a pattern." I groan out, wiping the tar that dripped from my mask (which I had modified to be able to exfiltrate material (both for this very situation and for certain jutsu)). "Ugh, if that hits me in the middle of a battle I'll be cut to shreds."

A smile crosses my face as I watch two souls sink into the earth, making sure not to look directly at them. One was distinctly inhuman, looking like a cancer upon reality and the other looking like someone soaked a human soul in bleach for a couple thousand years. The twisted and nearly black soul was wrapped around the bleached one like a parasite of the worst sort. There's no better way to ensure victory than to feed a spy false or incomplete information. Now Zetsu thinks he has a method to beat me in the future; a method that will let me get him close enough to me that he won't be able to dodge. And, perhaps more importantly; if he thinks he can easily kill me in the future he won't send a pair of S-rank ninja to murder me before I become a true threat. Though why the schemer was here in the first place I could only guess at; perhaps he saw the massive plume of smoke from the burning island or perhaps he just stumbled across my battle.

I turn my deactivated eyes over to Zabuza's corpse. Hopefully I didn't just fuck things up too bad by killing him this early. I shake my head, rolling my shoulders in a shrug as I rise to my feet; too late to second guess myself now. Walking over to the swordsman's body I pull out a scroll, wrench Kubikiribocho from his body, seal him in the scroll than secret the scroll away in my jacket.

I look at the blade in my hands, giving it a few experimental swings. I nearly throw myself on my ass with the first swing, the weight of the blade pulling me along with it. "Great, looks like I need to get used to swinging what must be over two hundred pounds of steel around." Kubikiribocho may not be the sword I was aiming for, but It was still a legendary blade; no way am I gonna let it fall into someone else's hands. Hell, maybe its regeneration ability will let it survive continued use.

I hefted the five foot blade onto my shoulder and turned towards Kiri, "One down, nineteen to go. Hopefully they won't all be that strong." I glanced at my new sword, a sword that's taller than me by four inches. Hopefully I'll hit a serious growth spurt soon or else I'll never be able to wield the damn thing; let alone my real goal.

I had originally planned to hire (read; threaten) a fisherman to take me by boat over to Water Country. Unfortunately; killing all of them kind of ruined that plan and I found myself walking the several miles of open water into the archipelago that housed the Village Hidden In The Mist.

Luckily the first of the numerous islands that made up the land was barely twenty miles from Wave and I reached it before day's end even at the sluggish pace I was going; the exhaustion of my previous fight hitting me as I walked. I knew I would tire before I reached the next island, but there was no way I was going to sleep in the ruins of wave. Perhaps the steam and smoke would attract plenty of targets, but waking up to being diced and burned would not have been pleasant.

A small pillar of smoke rising into the sky informed me that I may just be in luck as I approached the island. I grinned tiredly, quickening my pace slightly. When I touched down on the island I lept into the trees, moving through the branches towards the source of the smoke. Not noticing the way my exhaustion seemed to flow from me like water from a colander as I moved

When I arrived I was disappointed; nothing but bandits. I flashed my eyes to count their numbers. Twenty six in all; five around a campfire, five pretending to act as guards while getting hammered, and sixteen spread out through four tents. The apparent leader had a tent to himself, though he wasn't alone; apparently they had conducted a successful raid recently considering the defiance in the captured woman's eyes.

I smiled, ten chakra strings shooting out to latch on to each of those outside their tents. Again I usurped their will through the truly unholy pain my chakra caused; though this time I forced them to clench their jaws shut to muffle their screams of agony. Many of my ill-fated victims bit off their tongues and many more shattered their teeth in the process.

I grinned as I forced the men to rise and move towards their sleeping brethren with blades in hand. They fought me every step of the way but it hardly mattered; unlike Sasori I'm not a puppeteer, let alone one of his ridiculous skill, I don't control them through great skill but simply by causing them so much pain they can barely resist and flooding their bodies with my caustic chakra to make them move. I imagine that were the Scorpion himself in my place he could get much more use from his victims, but I merely used them as a shock horror tactic for the most part.

My unwilling compatriots tore open their comrades tents and began to jerkily stab their friends. Tears of anguish and agony flowed down their faces as I forced them to butcher people they had worked with for years. It didn't take long for the uncontrolled bandits to awaken, though by that point ten of them were already dead.

The six survivors managed to escape their tents before my slaves set them on fire with logs from the campfire. The bandit leader was one of these survivors and the look of horror and rage on his face was delicious as he looked upon the wretches I had corrupted. By this point four of my slaves had succumbed to my chakra and died; though this did nothing to stop me from puppeting their corpses, merely making them burn away faster and granting me more finesse in their control.

My living puppets screamed and cried as I finally allowed them to open their mouths, begging to die in the vain hope that death would free them from the living Hell they were in. Blood wept from their burning wounds and the vacant holes that once housed their eyes, their burnt skin flaking off as they approached their once allies.

The captain grit his teeth and clenched his eyes shut at the horrid sight before they widened as my voice came from the corpse that looked so much like him, a sibling I presumed. "It hurts so much..." I whispered through the corpse's mouth, a D-rank wind jutsu letting me project my voice. Another body spoke up, my hellish chakra glowing in their eyes as they stumbled forward on crumbling legs, "Join us…" My obscene grin widened further when the chief gave a roar of rage and charged the small horde of the damned.

The blue haired chief's overlarge cutlass made short work of my forces, cutting them to pieces with ease. Several of my unwilling servants crumbled to ash around his blade, but those few that didn't I forced to crawl towards the man on what limbs they still had. Of course this tactic would hardly be able kill even an academy student, the wretched men crumbling to ash before they even reached their crying captain.

I laughed, bouncing and distorting my voice around the camp to sound like an omnipresent-demon of some sort as I watched the bandit leader attempt to dispel a Genjutsu that wasn't there. "Hahaha, oh little bandit this is no illusion." I took inspiration from the demons I had met in the manner I distorted and deepened my voice. "The Pit has grown tired of waiting for you to come to us… so Hell has come to you instead."

I moved swiftly around the small clearing the bandits had camped out in; placing myself behind the chief and his fellow survivors. Once more ten chakra strings creeped out, two attaching themselves to each of the five that stood behind the leader. I'm uncertain if a true ninja would be able to escape the jutsu, though it hardly matters, I'm no puppeteer and I certainly don't have the skill with the technique to take out anyone of value with the enslaved. Regardless, for causing shock and horror, it's perfect.

The agonised screams had the chief whirling around, his eyes going wide and tears leaking from them as he saw his remaining forces begin to burn as they turned on him. "Wh-what do you want!?" He begged as he sank to his knees.

"Hmhmhmhahahahaha! What do I want?" I drove the enslaved bandits towards him, their jerky movements opening up wounds on flesh weakened by my caustic chakra. "Isn't It obvious little bandit?" My slaves surrounded him, drawing their blades back as one, slicing each other's carotid arteries open in the process. "I want your soul!" The living puppets all swung their swords, decapitating the chief and forming a partial pentagram.

I grinned, pulsing my chakra through the connecting strands to quickly incinerate the enslaved bandits before jumping down into the clearing. I hummed as I approached the decapitated bleeder surrounded by five piles of ash. "The devil went down to Kiri, he was looking for some souls to steal~" I picked up the head and flicked my wrist, unsealing my Bingo book and flipping through it. A smile spread across my face, apparently this guy was notable enough to get himself a little bounty. I grinned as I sealed away his head in the same scroll I sealed Zabuza. "He was in no rush, he had plenty o' time; no reason to make a deal~"

I continued to sing my modified song as I jumped high into the trees, sticking myself to the bottom of a large branch. The simple chakra exercise kept me stuck to the branch as I slept through the morning, my skill simply not allowing my sleeping form to fall from the branch. Of course that would only really matter if I ever actually fell asleep.

I was knocked from my pseudo-meditation (meditation is a lot harder than it sounds) a few hours later when a rock impacted the tree next to my head. My eyes snapped open and I was already moving, my blade in hand as I dropped down. I slammed into the ground blade first, nearly impaling the blonde woman who stood beneath me. I stood on Kubikiri's guard and stared at her; she was naked save for the scraps of one of the tents she had wrapped around herself. It took me a second to realise this was the woman that the bandit chief had been raping before I psychologically tortured him to death. I raised an eyebrow, 'What do you want?" My voice was like my body, oddly developed for my age; no seven year old should have a voice deeper than some adults.

She shook herself from where she had fallen in her attempt to dodge my blade, standing and attempting to look dignified. "I-I am a m-member of the rebellion in Kiri! The Mi-mizukage's genocidal reign must end! He's ordered the death of every bloodline wielder in Kiri!" She seemed to gain a little bit more confidence near the end of her little speech.

My eyebrow remains where it is, "And? Am I supposed to care? I know you're country is in the middle of a civil war; why do think I'm here? You're little war is a wonderful opportunity to collect bounties."

A determined look set itself on her face, "It's your problem now," She jerks a thumb over her shoulder. "Those were mercenaries hired by the Mizukage. When word gets out that you killed them, he'll put a bounty on your head."

My eyes narrowed, "Oh, and how exactly is word gonna get out, eh girly?" A flick of my wrist had one of my extra swords against her throat, "Are you gonna tell 'em?"

Her eyes widened as she fell back, crawling backwards away from me a short distance. "N-no!" A miserable look passed over her face for a moment before she glanced up at me. A light entered her eyes as they locked with mine. "You have a bloodline yourself! What do you think will happen if he wins! He'll come for you too!"

I sighed, getting embroiled in a civil war I had nothing to do with was not why I came out here. "True enough… but I'm a mercenary and bounty hunter girl; I don't work for free. If I do help your little rebellion, I need to get paid and I will claim the bounties of those I kill." Even if the girl didn't spread the word that I'd killed these men, word of my actions here very well might get out anyway. The spies of this land had a nasty habit of learning things they shouldn't and my chakra signature was rather distinctive.

She smiled, "I'm sure Mei would be willing to negotiate!" Her eyes flickered to the sword I stood on, "She could probably even be convinced to let you keep that sword!"

I laughed, "Ha, I'm keeping this sword whether she likes it or not." My black eyes hardened as I stared down at her crystalline blue, "Hell awaits those who try to take what's mine."

She weakly chuckled, shaking her hands back in forth in a warding gesture. "Y-yeah… I-I-I'm sure she won't have a problem with that!" She sprang to her feet with surprising nimbleness, "Come on, follow me!" So saying she began to run off into the foggy woods.

I blinked, watching her for a moment before jumping to follow, ripping my blade from the ground and placing it on my back as I quickly caught up with the supposed rebel. I sighed as I followed her towards what I could only assume was the location of a rebel base; how the Hell did I get myself into this? A moment later, "Fuck! I forgot to tell Itachi I was heading out!" The blond glanced at me, a question in here eyes. "Don't worry about it, I'll just send a message when I get wherever we're going."

Befriending young Itachi was simple, one of the benefits of studying psychology. The only real difficulty had been getting to him before Shisui could solidify his beliefs in the boy. It wasn't until he came around and validated his abecedarian beliefs that they really took hold. I got there first and instilled my own beliefs.

I taught him that in life you're lucky to find even one true friend, one person you can really trust. I told him that when you do find that, nothing is more important; not family, not lesser friends, and certainly not your homeland. Of course, I practise what I preach; I wouldn't be here if I didn't take a bullet for my best friend.

After that it was only a matter of befriending the kid. Of course, Itachi, even as young as he was, was very perceptive; tricking him was next to impossible. Luckily, it didn't take me long to build on the liking I had from his fictional counterpart to actually grow close to him. Letting that friendship grow and not quashing it like every other relationship in this world was significantly more difficult however.

Breaking through his Danzo encouraged cold exterior was relatively easy. Figuring out why five year old Itachi had been trained by Danzo was a bit of a bitch (the man loved his secrecy after all), but finding out it was because his father wanted to ensure a strong heir pissed me off; the kid had been under Danzo's none too tender mercies since he could walk. Right then and there I knocked Danzo and Fugaku up a few notches on my "to be brutally murdered at earliest convenience" list.

I shook off my musing and focused on the supposed rebel I was following; getting stuck in the past will only get you dead in the moment after all. Though I don't think that applies to immortals.

The girl was true to her word and we soon arrived at a ramshackle assortment of tents and holes in the ground. I landed on the outskirts of the campsite, the girl I had traveled with dashing further in before realizing I wasn't following. She turned back to see me observing the camp, "Hey, you're not backing out now are you?"

I looked at her for a moment before sighing, "In for a penny,in for a pound." I leapt forward, crossing the distance between us in an instant. "Where is your leader?"

She smiled widely, "Follow me!" she yelled excitedly before running off into the camp. I wonder when the psychological trauma will set in.

As I followed her through the camp I noticed several people giving us odd looks. Those sent at me were the expected suspicion and fear; but the ones they sent at my companion were odd. Eyes laced with greed and lust followed her path. I snorted, no honour amongst thieves I guess.

I was unsurprised when it turned out she was leading me towards the largest ten in the camp. Unsurprised but slightly disappointed; guess these people never learned misdirection. My bubbly blonde guide threw open the tent flap and damn near skipped into the room, throwing her arms wide and shouting "Tada!"

I couldn't help but facepalm (or facemask, I guess) as I followed her in, looking through my fingers to spot Mei Terumi staring in shock at the blonde intruder. My blade was in my hand before I even realized it as one of the ninja in the room leapt to attack the girl as soon as she appeared.

I need not have bothered; before the man got halfway across the room a plume of steam from Mei's mouth engulfed him and and he was swiftly boiled alive. Unfortunately, my instinctive move drew the burnt orange haired rebel leader's gaze to me. A gaze that swiftly transferred to the massive blade in my hand.

"Rei, who is this and why do they have the Kubikiribocho?" Her gaze didn't move from my massive sword, even when I started moving it around just to watch her head follow it like a dog following a treat. "And what happened to you? Why did you take so long to get here?"

My companion, whose name I just realized I never learned until this very moment, jumps onto the flimsy desk set before Mei, which creaks ominously beneath her weight. She gives the leader a massive smile, gesturing to me and seemingly ignoring the unnatural stillness with which I stand. "That's…" She puts her finger to her chin, lips pursed in a childish gesture of deep thought, "I actually don't know his name." She shrugs, "It doesn't matter, he saved me from a bunch of nasty mercs working for Yagura!" I wisely decided not to bring up the fact that saving her had only been a consequence of my actions, not the intention. "And when I found him sleeping in a tree a little later he agreed to help the rebellion! Isn't that great Mei-chan?"

The rebel glanced at the girl before looking back to me, "So you're a mercenary?"

I shrugged, "More of a bounty hunter but I'm willing to branch out."

She raised an eyebrow, "Bounty hunter, huh?" I pretended to ignore the way two ninja's attempted to sneak behind me.

A grin spread across my hidden face, "Your friend her managed to convince me it would be quite lucrative to work with your little group. I do find your goal somewhat less idiotic and annoying than the Mizukage's."

Her visible eye narrowed, "And why should I hire you at all? What do you bring to the table that I can't gain by just stealing that sword of your's?"

I reached into my jacket, ignoring the way everyone tensed as I did, and pulled out the scroll I had sealed Zabuza in. A pulse of chakra had his body lying on her desk, "Does that prove my value? I killed him immediately after taking out an entire compound of bandits and minutes before taking out an entire camp of mercs." I decided it was probably best if I didn't mention reducing over two hundred innocent people to ash and smoke.

She stared at the dead man for a long while before lifting her head to lock eyes with me. "So you killed that traitor, huh? Somewhat impressive, he was rather strong. But I don't think one A-rank ninja could really turn the tides; what about you makes you worth spending our limited funds on?"

I shrugged, "My price is one hundred thousand ryu for my retainer and twenty five thousand ryu per mission. If the camp I'm located in is attacked, I will defend it free of charge so long as my retainer has been payed before hand and am officially in your service. Any bounties I collect can be removed from my bill so long as I'm allowed to keep them and any supplies I salvage." That last bit hurt, I think I'm starting to sympathise with Kakuzu a little too much. "I am a swordsman of some skill and-" Apparently she didn't like my offer because she fucking laughed at me mid sentence. With a gesture even my omnipotent eyes nearly missed she signaled the ninja behind me to attack; not two seconds later two blades slashed through my neck and torso, trailing ashes behind them. "I'm also quite difficult to kill." Restraining myself from killing my attackers took quite an exercise of will.

To my surprise the redhead burst out laughing once more, "Hahahaha! I can see that!" She glances at her baffled assassins before forming the release seal. Her eyes widened when nothing changed, "Okay… how did you do that?"

I chuckle, "It's no genjutsu, that's for sure." I swirl away in a nonexistent breeze, reforming behind her and whispering in her ear, "I'm afraid you'll find it's quite real." She swung around, swiping a kunai through my ashen form. I laugh and swirl back to my original position; god, I love fucking with people.

Her face set in a serious expression, Mei Terumi spoke once more, "I suppose if I don't hire you Yagura will…" A few seconds passed in silence. "Fine, you're hired." She settled her interlaced hands on her desk, "What should I call you then?"

I grinned beneath my dual layered covering, "Akuma."

She raised a manicured brow above a far too green eye, "Really, demon?"

I chuckled, "It seemed fitting." No need to let them know just why demon is such a fitting pseudonym. I somehow doubt that people rebelling against a ruthless and bloodthirsty dictator, who just so happened to be a jinchuuriki, would be quite so willing to hire someone with such close ties to literal demons.

"Well then, mister "Akuma", you'll have to find your own accommodations and supplies. We have neither the resources nor the inclination to provide you with such." Guess I shouldn't be surprised the desperate rebellion would be under supplied; honestly I'm surprised they can pay my bill… maybe they can't and are just hoping I kill enough bounties so they don't have to.

I nodded, "Acceptable." I turned to leave, memorising the faces of the people who tried to kill me as I walked out of the tent. Seeing the disarray the camp was in I sighed; people were desperately trying to get tents to stay up or digging holes to sleep in. Honestly either choice had its issues, tents are flammable, holes can be flooded or turned into death traps by a earth release expert. I raised an eyebrow as three men walked past me carrying a ladder wrapped in a thick cord. I watched them walk for a short while before an idea entered my mind and began to follow them.

I didn't need to directly follow them, with my eyes I could wander randomly around the camp and simply slowly head towards them. A dark smile spread across my face as I watched them head out of the camp. I snuck up behind them, the thought of negotiating never entering my mind as I drew my sword; I had a use for that wire. I announced my presence by bisecting the man in the rear.

A spray of blood and intestines splattered over the other two as their friend's body hit the earth. I leapt forward, catching one on the right shoulder mid turn. His scream was cut off with a crunching off bones as my inexperience with my massive blade resulted in him being more torn in two than actually cut. I locked eyes with the last survivor through the shower of blood and broken bone as he fell on his ass.

I laughed as he begged for his life, some distant part of me wondering where this needless cruelty was coming from. He scrambled backwards as I approached, my gigantic sword carving a trench in the loose earth as I dragged it behind me. The thin man's watery brown eyes locked with mine as he backed into a tree before flicking to my first victim as the man futilely attempted to shove his guts back in.

My grin stretched across my face in maniacal glee as I lifted my blade in the air with a reverse grip. Psychotic laughter bubbling from my lips as I brought the blade down on his chest, the massive blade's shear weight easily slicing through his ribs, lungs, spine, and the earth beneath him. My laughter burst from my chest as the man gurgled blood, his hands slowly twitching towards the intrusion before I began to twist. His bones tore through muscle as the tower of steel wrenched his innards apart.

The man sputtered and twitched, his whole body writhing with chocked, gurgled screams before falling still as life finally left his desecrated form. I threw my head back and laughed, insane cackles coming so quickly I began to suffocate, falling to the bloodied ground and rolling from side to side. As my laughter subsided and my shaking slowly stilled a thought floated through my mind, 'Why did I do that?' I blinked, raising my head to look at my gruesome work from where I lay.

I shake my head and rise to my feet, pulling my blade from my nameless victim's mutilated chest and walking away, grabbing the wire I had murdered three men for as I passed. I didn't head straight back to camp right away, first I incinerated the small clearing (with a water (blood) jutsu) to hide the evidence. Knowing that a burnt clearing would be just as suspicious as one splattered with blood and bodies I used a simple earth manipulation exercise to churn the earth. A skilled tracker would be able to tell something had gone down here, but probably not what.

I stripped out of my outfit and put on a spare that wasn't covered in the blood of erstwhile allies before heading back; I didn't want to have to come up with a reason for me to be splattered with blood already. Even with nothing damning visible I still got odd looks when I reached the base; though I shrugged these off as merely a (justifiably) paranoid group's reaction to the outsider. I ignored the suspicious glares and set about finding somewhere to implement my plan.

I didn't realise until I had half drawn my sword that I was about to slaughter the inhabitants of a tent for a private location to work in. I put my sword back in place and shook my head, "The hell is wrong with me?" I muttered, I had never been this quick to jump to violence in my past life. I turned away, thankful that no one had seen my slip. I shook my head, there was no way I could have gotten away with that if I had gone through with it.

I wandered outside the camp, my powerful eyes making finding shelter easy. About six miles outside the camp was a small cave hidden in a crack halfway up a hundred foot waterfall. The entrance was jagged and barely large enough for my lithe form to fit through; but the interior was spacious enough to be comfortable.

I sighed, sitting down in a dryer spot and leaning Kubikiri against a wall, "I better not get a fucking infection from all this damn moisture." With a flick of my wrist a small scroll was in my hand and a pen in the other; the odd mixture of technological levels this land had no longer even fazing me.

I penned out a quick apology and explanation to Itachi for my absence. Finishing the note with a small flourish, I rolled it up and began to speak the Black Tongue.

A small child, skin made to seem even more pale by the darkness of their hair and eyes frowned minutely at a training dummy. 'Hn, an eighth of a centimeter off… unacceptable.' Their dark eyes shot to their side as a nearby tree's shadow began to shift, a pitch black figure rising silently from it. The strange shadow man gave the young uchiha a short bow, extending a hand clutching a small scroll.

Itachi's head tilted to the side before nodding to the figure and accepting the scroll. Black eyes quickly scanned the scroll, 'Hey Itachi. Man, I'm sorry I missed training; Danzo sent me on a mission to collect bounties and I sorta kinda burned down a nation and joined a civil war. So… it might be a while before I get back. See ya soon as I can.'

Itachi's frown deepened, "A civil war? A destroyed nation? ...and why does he keep calling me "man"; he knows I'm a girl." She sighed, running a hand through her shoulder length hair and flashing her Sharingan to memorize the words. A burst of fire consumed the scroll in her hand, the breeze carrying away the ashes as she turned and walked from the training ground. "Well, looks like I'm heading to Kiri."

See, Ken'o had forgotten one thing about the Uchiha; one very important thing. Each and every single one of them forms an obsession at a young age; Sasuke was obsessed with revenge, Itachi was damn near the ultimate patriot, Madara sought peace to his last breath (thrice), so on and so forth. This Itachi however, never met Shisui, never fixated on his village and brother; no, this Itachi was found by a cynical young Hyuuga who gave the young heiress an idea. An idea that meshed so well with the Uchiha's obsessive nature that it gave rise to the damn near psychopathic side that lurks beneath their obsession. He taught her to find one person she cared about, and prioritize them above everyone and everything else. He taught her that having a single, as Haku would put it, "precious person", was beyond rare and thusly worth protecting with everything you have. He told her that neither family, lesser friends, nor homeland were worth more than this single person you cared about. 'True friends are rare; people you would bleed and die for and people who would do the same for you. They're so rare, when you find one; everything else is secondary.' he had said. He had gone on to explain that such shouldn't truly dominate your life; but those first words were what stuck in her young mind.

He had no idea what a monster these simple words would spawn.

I sighed as the message sank into the shadows. For a long moment I simply sat in silence in that dark cave behind a waterfall. Then, with yet another sigh I withdrew a kunai and removed my mask. I slowly ran a hand through my hair (when I decided to wrap myself up I had to choose between not wrapping my scalp or shaving, I felt it would be a crime to hide such gorgeous hair and left it unwrapped (maybe I'll figure out some hair based jutsu later to justify the choice)) before slowly unwrapping the bandages from my head. If I was going to be here for more than a few days I'll have to remove that damn seal before my clan decides to activate it from afar.

Unfortunately all of my studies into fuinjutsu had not borne fruit; whoever designed the damn thing did not want it to ever come off. However, there was one rather major over sight; the seal only affected the person it was attached to… and if it's not attached to anyone it simply won't function.

I brushed my hair back with my left hand, activating my eyes to be sure I wouldn't fuck this up as I pressed the small blade against my flesh. "This is gonna suck." I muttered, steeling myself for what I was about to do; shoving the bandages that were around my face into my mouth and biting down hard. With some hesitation I pressed the blade down, cutting into my forehead and curving down before I cut through the muscle. A muffled scream tore through my grit teeth as I slowly cut through my own flesh, the sharp blade easily severing the thick layer of skin. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I forced myself to keep going.

A nearby explosion caused my hand to jerk, and off came my face.