Despite my desires, I couldn't stop myself from writing another Naruto story. Those of you familiar with my works know some of the things to expect. For those who don't, I'll give a short brief:
Summary: "My sword is yours in victory and defeat", Uzumaki Naruto remembered pledging those words to the Second Mizukage as he became one of the feared Seven. He swore to defend Kiri, to protect its people, to serve its Kage until his dying breath. But he also made another vow, one more dear to his heart. "Family. Duty. Honor". Now he must choose: A Path of Honor? A Path of Duty?
This story shall be set between the Second and Third Ninja War era. The pairings will be NarutoXMei Terumi and NarutoXIno.
How it shall work? Read and find out.
PS: I have a habit of taking inspiration from many different TV series and movies, so if that is not your style then please don't read. Also, please don't expect a Cannon Naruto since this story is essentially going to take place in the Blood Mist Village. I'll retain a few key characteristics of Naruto's character but in this story he shall act as a ninja working in the shadows.
A few more notes: No dojutsu, no God mode, but a differently strong Naruto is what you can expect from this story.
The Seventh Swordsman
Gengetsu Hozuki clenched his fist.
The Second Mizukage was not a happy man these days. It was due to multiple reasons, most important of them being the fact that he was losing a war.
His village was on the backfoot, unable to fight against the combined might of Land of Earth and Land of Lightning.
The Second Ninja War had started with a great promise for Kiri but like other great nations, it had also suffered due to the chaos.
The Second Hokage was dead.
So was the Second Raikage.
Yet both Konoha and Kumo had plenty of skilled shinobi to fight on despite the fall of their leaders. Both nations had great armies which they were using ruthlessly to carve each other up. Meanwhile, Kiri was locked in a duel war against Kumo and Iwa.
It had just been two months since the war began and already thousands of shinobi were dead, atleast a thousand from Kiri's own lands. The death toll didn't only include the common shinobi ranks, but also Anbu, Hunter Ninjas and even most of the Seven Great Swordsman.
Gengetsu cursed his own petty rivalry with the Second Tsuchikage that made him take impulsive decisions that led to the deaths of four of his seven great ninja swordsman at the hands of Mu and his student Ohnoki.
Now, Kiri was on the backfoot with its strength dwindling and the shinobi morale collapsing as news of four of their strongest falling to enemy hands reached the masses.
But Gengetsu was not one to give up so easily. Despite the losses, he knew Kiri had plenty of skilled fighters in its ranks. Men and women ready to fight for their motherland and honor their fallen comrades.
It was from them that he had already chosen three of the four vacant spots in the ranks of the Seven Ninja Swordsman.
A woman from the Hunter Corps who would now wield Nuibari (Sewing Needle), her Ice Release and sharp instincts would make her the perfect new master of the blade now that its former wielder was slain.
He had chosen two of his most powerful and dangerous Jounin to wield Samehada (Shark Skin) and Kubikiribocho (Executioner Blade), their violent nature and monstrous power would serve them well in handling those dangerous swords.
Ameyuri Ringo was still serving him faithfully as the master of the twin blades Kiba (Fangs).
While Mangetsu Hozuki, his own son and heir wielded Kabutowari (Helmet Splitter). Gengetsu knew his son had potential not just to lead the Hozuki clan in the future but also Kiri with his power and cunning.
Jinpachi Munashi had survived his battle against the Tsuchikage with his blade Shibuki (Splash) and was eager to blow his enemies to oblivion despite the wounds he sustained.
Unfortunately, the last of the holy blades Hiramekarei was destroyed alongside its master when he fell in battle against Mu, the Second Tsuchikage.
The loss of the swordsman was a heavy blow but the destruction of one of the seven holy blades was an unforgivable sin, one which the people of Kiri would make Iwa repent in blood for.
Unfazed, Gengetsu had ordered the creation of a new sword. In order to make his mark in history, he decided to create twin swords but while the Kiba (Fangs) allowed its master power over lightning and destruction, he wanted these new blades to be the embodiment of his own rage which was swift and brutal.
His weaponsmiths had outdone themselves and prepared a dangerous weapon.
Now, the Mizukage had to find the one most suited to wield them.
Learning from his mistakes, the Second Mizukage had chosen his greatest swordsman not just for their power but also for their personality.
He looked at his sides and observed the six dangerous swordsman watching the arena below them with different expressions across their faces.
Zabuza, Kisame, Jinpachi and Ameyuri were excited for the fights that were happening. The four of them were the most fiercest among the group and stroke fear in the hearts of the enemy when they stepped on the battlefield.
While Haku and Mangetsu didn't betray any of their feelings and impassively watched the battles happening below them. But in their sharp eyes, the Mizukage saw a keen intelligence as they searched for the one who shall join their group.
Gengetsu himself nodded proudly at the six of them. They were not just powerful shinobi but were soon going to be his trusted lieutenants who shall lead Kiri's army to a glorious victory against their enemies.
It was why he frowned on seeing the senseless slaughter happening below in the arena.
His veteran gaze caught sight of quite a few Anbu, Hunter Ninjas, Jounin, Chunin fighting to the death in order to make themselves immortal in Kiri's history by becoming the Seventh Swordsman.
Many of them had already died or were badly injured in their quest to achieve eternal glory. More would soon follow...
Gengetsu sighed when he saw one of the Hunter Ninja butcher two Jounin in a hail of poisoned needles. The two men dropped dead instantly just as two Jounin joined forces together and stabbed a lone Anbu. However their victory was short-lived as the dying Anbu beheaded them both before falling on the ground.
"They really don't understand, do they?" asked Mangetsu with a sigh,
"It would seem that they believe the strongest and most brutal shall gain place among us" lamented Haku bitterly, earning a snort from Jinpachi and Ameyuri, the oldest serving members of their group.
"That's the way of the Mist, brats. You would do well to remember" warned Jinpachi fiercely,
"This is a tradition even you had to go through and so shall every other swordsman of the future" reminded Ameyuri, earning dark smirks from Zabuza and Kisame.
Even as the group squabbled amongst themselves, Gengetsu's attention was diverted towards the dying Anbu on the ground. The Jounin's had skewered his lungs and neck leaving no room for recovery. Watching him choke and drown in his own blood was a gruesome sight and made the Mizukage wonder as to why he even agreed to allow this tradition to happen. It would be acceptable in times of peace, but he needed every shinobi during this war.
But he also knew, he had to tread a careful line with Kiri's elite ninja clans who preferred the old ways and tradition even if it was senseless at times. If he was to win this war, it would be best if he sated the desires of those clans.
Being a Kage was a bloody gruesome business, after all.
However, he was surprised when another man dressed in Anbu gear stepped before the dying Anbu. The new shinobi was a tall man with shining blonde hair and sharp blue eyes hidden behind his plain Anbu mask. He was dressed in traditional Anbu gear and black pants with gauntlets protecting his arms. He wore fingerless gloves and Gengetsu saw a facemask protecting the skin of the man behind the Anbu mask. In his hands was a traditional sword.
To the Mizukage's surprise, the dying Anbu weakly raised his fist before thumping it against his chest.
That stopped the squabbling amongst the people beside the Mizukage as they all saw the strange scene.
The blonde Anbu gave a single nod of acknowledgement before he slashed his sword. Most fighters would have missed the attack, but not the Mizukage and the other swordsman.
The wounded Anbu was freed from his agony as a swift strike speared his brain and gave him a merciful death.
That little display had not gone unnoticed by the remaining ten fighters in the arena, all of whom warily stared at the last Anbu in the arena.
"Hope you last longer than your friend there" mocked a Hunter Ninja,
"Anbu are pretty pathetic if that's the standards you hold yourself upto these days" mocked one of the two Jounin who had killed the other Anbu.
The remaining seven Jounin nodded to their other competitors as they all ganged up and surrounded the lone Anbu from all sides.
They all had to jump back when the lone Anbu picked up his fallen brother's sword and threw a kunai five feet ahead of him.
"Hn, ready to die?" snarled one of the Jounin, earning a hidden smile from the blonde Anbu.
"We'll see" he replied,
The Mizukage had only a moment before all the ninjas charged at the lone Anbu at once from all sides.
It was then the power roared!
The intensity of the killing intent grabbed the instant attention of the remaining great swordsman completely. They all watched as two chunin and one Jounin collapsed instantly. The rest of the enemies flinched but charged forth regardless.
The Anbu raised his swords and Gengetsu saw a razor sharp aura cover them completely.
The first to reach the Anbu was the Hunter Ninja who expertly threw a storm of poisoned needles at him, all of whom were effectively torn to pieces by one of the Anbu's swords. It allowed the remaining Jounin to close in and try to skewer him from his sides and rear.
Mangetsu Hozuki narrowed his eyes sharply when he saw the Anbu rotate his swords sharply in a circular motion. Painful screams erupted in the arena as three of the Jounin saw their own kunai and tanto being broken in half courtesy of the wind chakra powered strikes. Their shock was clearly visible as they even failed to see the move before it destroyed their weapons and it didn't stop there as their palms were torn open.
The remaining shinobi instantly jumped away to avoid a similar fate leaving the three stunned men to their fate.
The blonde Anbu was upon the wounded men instantly and much to the surprise of the Mizukage and his personal guard, he delivered crushing but non-lethal strikes to his stunned opponents that made them collapse to the ground in a small pool of their own blood.
A thick mist enveloped the arena and the terrifying laugh of the Hunter ninja and his remaining accomplices echoed.
"Water Style: Water Bullets"
"Lightning Style: Electromagnetic Murder"
From the mist a hail of different jutsu's charged towards the Anbu who was already finished with his own hand seals.
"Earth Style: Earth Wall"
The explosions rocked the arena as chakra fought against chakra and just when the dust was about to settle, the mist was violently dismissed by roaring wind waves clearly exposing the now surprised Kiri warriors.
They watched their lone opponent step outside from the earthen walls that defended him with his hands clasped together.
"Now it ends" he proclaimed,
Gengetsu and his swordsman all tensed when the air started to become cold. It was impossible to describe the feeling in words but if they could, then it was an experience of having every ounce of light getting sucked away.
They each felt the feeling of death grow stronger and stronger as the remaining 7 opponents of the Anbu suddenly dropped their weapons and desperately clutched their throats as they fell to their knees.
Gengetsu narrowed his eyes sharply when the Anbu clasped his hands firmly.
His opponents vommitted but instead of blood, gore or fluids...they spat up nothing but thick dark smoke.
No, it wasn't smoke.
It was Ash.
The men and women thrashed painfully as more and more ash was spewed from their lips.
Zabuza, Kisame, Jinpachi and Ameyuri watched in fascination as the lone blonde Anbu calmly stepped in between his thrashing enemies.
"Yield" he commanded,
One of the Jounin glared at him murderously as he picked up his kunai and made a desperate charge towards his bitter enemy.
The blonde Anbu closed his eyes in resignation before clenching his fists shut.
Gengetsu watched in fascination and horror as the charging Jounin screamed in pain when his skin itself was set on fire. The poor man couldn't stop even as his entire body was set aflame and three seconds later he exploded in a shower of guts and blood raining down upon his struggling comrades.
All the while the lone Anbu stood detached and untouched.
Mangetsu and Haku felt their skin tremble on hearing that deep voice full of killing intent. Those cold blue eyes were devoid of any mercy, the stare of death itself demanding the creatures before it to make their choice.
And they made it.
Gengetsu breathed a sigh of relief when one by one the remaining survivors barely nodded their heads in resignation. The Anbu gave a single nod of acknowledgement before unclenching his fist much to the relief of his enemies as they stopped coughing and mercifully drifted off to unconsciousness.
The medics and emergency support staff rushed into the arena immediately taking steps to stabilize the wounded and seal away the dead.
It was over.
Gengetsu watched the Anbu stand alone in the arena watching the chaos around him with cold and detached eyes.
It was the look of a man who had not just seen death...but became death itself.
The Mizukage watched the victorious Anbu slowly walk towards the spot where he had made the defiant Jounin explode. The floor was covered in steaming blood and flesh as the Anbu knelt and picked up the traditional dog tag worn by many Kiri shinobi. While these tags didn't have names or crucial details, they did have the nickname their respective shinobi liked inscribed on them.
Gengetsu was surprised when the Anbu offered a silent prayer to the tag of the deceased man whose life he had taken before respectfully handing it over to the medics.
The same man then glanced at Gengetsu and the Mizukage flinched when he saw disappointment in those blue eyes.
Damn you for forcing me into this position.
Even if no words were spoken, the message in those furious blue eyes did reach the Mizukage who felt guilty once again. Gengetsu could do nothing even as the Anbu turned around and walked out of the arena.
The remaining swordsman were quick to point out and start arguing as to how that man had just insulted the Mizukage and all of them by not even staying back to address them and claim his victory.
But Gengetsu was silent.
Another faceless masked Anbu stepped beside the Mizukage making the Kiri leader stare at him. The new arrival had also stopped the argument among the remaining swordsman.
"This is on me, Lord Second. It was I who forced that man to participate in this death match. For long, the Anbu have felt ignored by the leadership. Even the village gives more respect and importance to the Hunter Corps while never acknowledging the sacrifice of those who die in the shadows. We felt that with one of our own joining the Great Swordsmen would help sway the village's opinion. It might even influence a few strong fighters to join our ranks which have been thinned quite a lot in this war. In doing so, I forced a few of my men to participate including him while never caring about how they felt which lead to this. I am truly sorry and willing to accept the consequences of my actions" confessed the Anbu commander,
Gengetsu felt as if someone had slapped him very brutally. He glanced at the carnage in the battle arena, he remembered those cold blue eyes full of disappointment, he remembered the Anbu commander's confession and it made him hate himself.
For he had done the exact same thing.
He had forced his Seven Great Swordsmen and a sizeable force of skilled ninjas to start a war with Iwa.
Gengetsu's reason for this action had been driven by his petty grudge against the Second Tsuchikage which he had carefully hidden behind the motive of a great conquest of Iwa that would bring Kiri to a new era of glory.
His village and people had accepted his decision for they believe in him fully.
And because of that decision so many of his people had died.
Gengetsu clenched his fists in fury and shame as he realized he had failed as a Kage since he had forgotten to think about the well being of his people, he had failed to consider the feelings of his own men who were all forced to fight a pointless battle that led to their deaths because of his orders.
Just as the Anbu commander had done the same with his subordinates.
What kind of an example had he set for his people?
The Anbu commander saw a new fire being born in his Kage's eyes as the man turned towards him.
"Tell me everything about that boy"
He hopped through the deserted rooftops of the village at a rapid pace. The cold air continued hitting him just as the pale moon graced the land with its light. It was almost midnight and most of the village was asleep with thick mist shrouding most of the districts.
In this loneliness, nobody would ever witness an Anbu.
Nor would they see his nightmares coming to haunt him from the afterlife.
He stared at his trembling hands and just for a moment they were again stained with blood.
Pain, sadness and fear had been clearly visible in the eyes of the Jounin he had killed merely half an hour ago. Those purple eyes so full of pain had brought back miserable memories of his past.
He fought back that haunting voice and closed his eyes. A darkness followed him, threatening to swallow him completely but he ran from it.
Not tonight, he said to himself.
Thankfully, he saw the first visage of his cozy apartment up ahead which brought his trembling heart some much needed relief. He ran from the darkness, faster than before as if his life depended on it.
Soon enough he reached the doorstep and forced himself to regain his composure. As if a switch had been turned, his haunted gaze turned into one of calmness and his trembling hands stilled completely.
He bit his thumb and applied a small portion of his blood on the door activating an array of seals that glowed faintly before the door opened up slowly allowing him entry.
It was dark when he stepped inside and yet he was not alone.
The lights in the kitchen were burning and soon enough a woman stepped outside. Even in the darkness, her long blonde hair shined brighter than the sun itself. Her fair white skin reflected more of her beauty under the moonlight and her pale blue eyes that were so much like his own looked at him.
"How did it go?" she asked, her voice barely audible despite the silence of the night.
He walked inside and reached the dining table where he placed his faceless Anbu mask. It felt like a layer had been torn off and he could breathe again as he felt a hand being placed on his shoulder.
"It's done, isn't it?" she asked knowingly,
She didn't say anything and instead helped him get seated. Then she went back into the kitchen and returned moments later with a steaming bowl of Miso Ramen. He looked at her and she gave him a small smile which was sad and encouraging at the same time.
"Thank you'' he said gratefully, reaching out for her hand which she gave him gladly.
Her skin was warm and soft unlike his own which was scarred. He looked at her, still unable to believe someone who was not his family, nor his countrymen could understand him so much. It was a credit to her skills as a kuniochi and as a person which only made her more dangerous.
She knew she had his trust and could use it to destroy him but she never did.
Maybe it was because she knew he expected her to betray him considering where their loyalties lied, or maybe a part of her had came to care for him after nearly five years of pretending to be his lawful wife.
Just like a part of his heart had come to care for her as his wife and his friend.
"Do you think he'll ask you to join?" she asked hesitantly, her beautiful blue eyes marred between worry and curiosity.
"I think he will" he confessed, remembering the way the Mizukage had looked at him.
"The higher-ups will be pleased. They have been pushing you for this for so long" she congratulated him, earning a faint smile from him.
"They are always pushing us both, Ino" he retorted playfully, earning a wry smile from her.
"Look at it this way, Naruto. You'll be more closer to the Mizukage, more closer to what we have been working for since the past five years. In the Anbu, you had to watch every step of yours but now you may finally get some respite" she suggested hopefully,
"Nothing is ever easy, Ino. I have never felt that your job in the Hunter Corps has ever been easy, nor will I be safe as one of the seven. We will have to be even more careful now" he warned, which made her reluctantly nod.
He decided to silence his troubled thoughts for a while and allowed himself to be regaled in the fascinating smell of his favorite food. His eyes were closed and yet he felt Ino smile noting he was pleased with her effort. He hoped he could do the same for her someday.
She stepped behind him and gently laid her soft hands on his shoulders. He felt calm soothing chakra invade his body washing away the pain in his tense muscles as he ate the first morsel of ramen which brought a pleased smile on his face.
He was content as he gulped down the ramen and as his muscles relaxed under her touch. She leaned down and placed her cheek against his own, slowly pulling down his facemask even further than his chin.
He looked at her once and leaned in to press his lips against hers. It was a gentle gesture reciprocated by her as they both allowed their burdens to wash away.
She fought for her home just like he fought for his own.
Even if it had been years since they had last seen their own motherlands.
Their bliss was broken by rough knocking on their door and a strong male voice calling his name. He knew whom it belonged to and if he was here then it only meant one thing.
She looked into his eyes and gave him a nod.
"It is time"
Author's Note: End of first chapter.
Hope you guys liked it.
Feel free to read and review, depending upon the support and interest in this story I'll decide if it can be expanded to one of my long stories. For now, I'm considering it as a one shot.
More details will be revealed as the story progresses.
Until Next Time,