Thank you for the reviews and PM's.
I'd say there's more than enough support based on just the first chapter, so I will be developing this into a full blown story.
Without further ado, here's the next chapter.
Gengetsu and the remaining six great swordsmen had gathered in the Mizukage's office.
In front of them was the Anbu commander who had just finished submitting every file they had on the mysterious Anbu who won the bloody battle to become the Seventh Swordsman.
"We call him The Young Wolf, an apt codename given by the previous Anbu Commander for him as he was one of the youngest boys to join our ranks. He has never lost any battle nor failed any mission assigned to him no matter how tough or painful" explained the Anbu leader, pride clearly audible in his voice.
"He's just a boy" commented Gengetsu, surprised by the boy's young age despite what his records said.
"He's an orphan, my lord. He used to sneak into the Academy and attended classes for a year in order to become a shinobi, he was good enough not to get noticed until one of our retired Anbu entered the academy for teaching and caught him. He saw the boy's potential and gave him to the Blackops. We made him one of us after seeing his potential and he has never disappointed since" explained the Anbu Commander,
"These records say his birthplace is Nachi village near the eastern coast, a small fishing colony. What about his parents?" asked Mangestu seriously,
"We did investigate but found no concrete records, Lord Mangetsu. However, the village was full of orphan children from the last war. Kiri had just been established and records were not being maintained properly until your father established a proper system. But I assure you, he is one of our finest and a loyal soldier of Kiri" promised the Anbu Commander fiercely,
"Huh? Naruto, what a strange name. No surname?" asked Kisame curiously, as he read through the records.
"He's already married and that too to a pretty blonde hunter. A shame for you, Haku" sneered Ameyuri, earning a cold look from the former hunter ninja now turned Swordswoman.
Haku ignored Ameyuri's remarks and instead turned her attention towards the Mizukage and his son. Even Zabuza watched her closely.
"The girl he is married to is called Ino. A successful hunter ninja whom I know in passing if not as a friend" vouched Haku,
"Boy's got quite a body-count on his hands for someone so young. 234 confirmed kills is not a bad start" grinned Zabuza,
While everyone was busy familiarizing themselves with Naruto's accomplishments and history, Gengetsu's eyes had caught something which the Anbu commander didn't want them to see.
The Mizukage looked at the man seriously then,
"If he is such a fine officer, then I would surely have heard about him until now. Why have I not heard about such a splendid shinobi?" questioned Gengetsu seriously, and was sure the Anbu Commander flinched.
"Naruto...is a bit strange, my lord. From what I have seen, he only has a handful friends and lives peacefully with his wife. He is loved by his juniors and respected by his peers and leaders, but he hates spotlight so much that he insists on keeping his mission records secret even amongst Anbu. He was one of the candidates I was hoping would succeed me in the future but I think he somehow detests leadership" explained the Anbu commander tiredly,
"What about this mission? The records say he disobeyed orders and went back behind enemy lines despite orders commanding him to retreat back to Kiri?" demanded Gengetsu, he could not afford to have any lose cannons in his ranks and this evidence was not painting a good picture.
To his surprise, the Anbu commander didn't flinch or cower in the face of that accusation. Instead the man actually straightened up with pride visible in his fierce gaze.
"We had sent two squads to assassinate an important political figure in the Land of Fire. The mission was a success and Naruto managed to evacuate his squad successfully, however the other squad was ambushed by Konoha Anbu. Some were killed while the rest were taken prisoner. When he learned of this, Naruto disobeyed command and went back for the Anbu who were captured. Only two were alive by the time he found them, he killed the Konoha Anbu and erased all evidence of Kiri's involvement in this entire incident" reported the Anbu leader,
"And the two Anbu that were still alive?" questioned Mangetsu with his narrowed eyes,
"They were not in any condition to be evacuated so he gave them a merciful end and brought their bones back to be returned to their families. He is stubborn, I accept that but he is also one of the finest warriors that the Anbu Blackops can offer for Kiri. A man of honor and courage, one who actually cares about his comrades and nation which is more than what we can say for quite a few of our shinobi" answered the Anbu commander, his stern gaze landing on a few of the Swordsmen for just a moment.
Gengetsu closed his eyes for a few moments as he pondered over all the information provided to him about the boy so far.
A borderline S-rank ninja with a large history of successful A to even one S-rank mission in his career. He was strong if the battle was any proof and was actually loved by his comrades. Even the Anbu who died in battle had given Naruto a respectful salute before the young captain gave him a merciful death.
He could do with much worse and yet Gengetsu wanted to see the boy for himself.
"Bring him in" he commanded,
The Anbu Commander nodded and disappeared quickly in order to carry out his orders.
Gengetsu soon after dismissed his remaining swordsmen save for his only son who took up seat at the window observing their beloved village currently protected in thick mist.
"What do you think, Mangestu?" questioned the father as he stared at his son.
"He's the best choice we have for now but there is something about him that does not sit well with me. I cannot pinpoint what this feeling is but when I watched him fight there was something I saw..." whispered Mangetsu curiously,
"What did you see?" questioned Gengetsu, keenly aware that his son had sharp instincts and was a good judge of someone's character.
"I saw pain and hatred in those eyes, but most of all I saw guilt" revealed Mangetsu with a faraway look in his eyes,
"It is natural, my son. We made him kill his comrades" rebuffed Gengetsu, but his son shook his head.
"I don't know why but I think he has been through something like this before, maybe much worse. The hateful look he gave you before leaving you was not just for you but also for himself" explained Mangetsu,
Gengetsu was about to reply when his son simply smiled and cut him off.
"Or maybe I'm just seeing things that don't exist. I could be wrong, Father. You have tested his worth as a shinobi, now test him as a person worthy of leading Kiri and its people. I know you can do it" whispered Mangetsu with a smile,
Mangetsu too disappeared away from the room leaving his father to ponder over his words. It was a well known fact that Mangetsu had very sharp instincts, even better than Gengetsu's very own.
Maybe his son was right and he needed to evaluate the boy for himself.
Gengetsu made up his mind and waited.
He knocked at the door first and when the permission was given, he stepped inside. Most people would have felt honored or nervous when their Kage called them for a personal meeting.
He was at peace and it reflected on his masked face as Gengetsu observed him carefully.
"Remove that facemask"
He obeyed without hesitation revealing his pale and clean shaven face to the Kage.
"You disrespected me" accused Gengetsu, his sharp eyes glaring at him but was surprised when the Anbu never flinched.
"Your actions didn't warrant respect" answered Naruto flatly, earning an eyetwitch from Gengetsu but a tiny smirk came on the Kage's lips.
"They told me you were blunt, now I know why" mused Gengetsu, as he gestured for him to have a seat.
The Mizukage didn't miss the boy giving him a thankful nod before moving forward to take a seat in front of him. He was young and handsome, but his stone cold eyes were full of the hardships he had endured all his life.
"I have gone through your career and it is impressive to say the least. Kirigakure needs sons like you to help us win this war" stated Gengetsu honestly,
"I am at my nation's service but the way you are now and the decisions you have made, you are not worthy of my loyalty"
Gengetsu blinked in shock, never in his entire life had he met a fellow shinobi who didn't fear or respect him. Many even loved him, but this green boy had the balls to say something like that to his face?
"I can have you executed for that offence" warned Gengetsu, some of his killing intent spiking which only made the boy smile.
"You can but it will only prove my point. A Mizukage who has to threaten his subordinates with death to make them obey him is No true Kage" answered Naruto without any fear and stared right into the shocked man's eyes.
"What have I done to earn such scorn?" asked Gengetsu, now truly bewildered and less angry with this boy.
"You failed your people. You started a war with Iwa when there was slim to no chance of victory and it got your men killed miserably. You allowed a senseless slaughter of dozens more of your men just so one of them could become the Seventh Swordsmen, you can say it was tradition and many were expecting for you to uphold them but when I looked in your eyes I saw that you knew it was a senseless tradition, yet you did it anyway. You are afraid and because of that weakness, men died. My men!" said Naruto furiously, his voice was still calm as he pushed a picture of a 14 year old boy towards the Mizukage.
"Do you know who he is?" demanded the Anbu Captain,
To his shame, Gengetsu didn't know the shinobi even if he was dressed in Kiri uniform.
"My subordinate. A boy whom I recruited into Anbu for he had great potential, a boy forced to fight in your senseless competition. I had to put him out of his misery, watching all his hopes and dreams fade when my sword delivered the mercy killing. He died because you were weak! He died because you didn't have the spine to shut down all the morons asking for this massacre when we need every able bodied shinobi on the frontlines. You demand respect but you deserve none!" snarled Naruto,
Gengetsu felt truly saddened when he saw the smiling parents of the boy posing with him in the photograph, from the looks of it he was their only child. He remembered Naruto putting down that Anbu when he was mortally wounded and beyond any saving.
"What would you do if you were in my position?" asked Gengetsu with a defeated sigh, no matter how much it hurt he knew Naruto was right because deep down Gengetsu had known all this but sanctioned all those decisions regardless.
"I would do what is right for our people, no matter how difficult or painful. You are not here to keep people happy, you are here to keep them safe and make them prosper. Command me to lay down my life for Kiri and I will do so in a heartbeat but I will not let the lives of my men be destroyed for such nonsense" answered Naruto honestly,
"You have a stronger will than mine, son" complimented Gengetsu,
The Second Mizukage got up from his chair and stepped towards the window observing the village for a very long moment.
He was soon joined by Naruto as both men stared at the village which was currently at peace.
"I understand you're angry with me. Disappointed even, however Kiri is full of people that are fanatic about traditions observed since decades. Even my power as Mizukage is limited in those matters" confessed Gengetsu, and raised a hand to silence the boy when he was about to protest again.
Naruto pursed his lips and watched as the older man clenched his fist, it was then that the young Anbu felt a fraction of the Mizukage's power and it was intimidating to say the least.
"But you're right. I must do what is right for my people even if it means taking decisions that are not acceptable to them. I shall strive to achieve that goal" promised Gengetsu sincerely, offering his hand towards the young boy.
He frowned when instead of shaking his hand, Naruto took a few steps back and unsheathed his sword.
Gengetsu tensed but made no move and went on to smile when the boy knelt before him and pledged him his sword.
"Then, I, Captain Naruto of the Anbu Blackops, hereby promise my life in the service of this great nation and its Mizukage. I swear on my honor and life to protect these lands, its people and its beauty with everything in my power, including my life. From this day forth, I shall live, fight and die as the Seventh Swordsman of Mist"
Gengetsu looked into those eyes full of determination and loyalty. The Mizukage had not failed to even miss the small alteration in the boy's vow. He had pledged to fight and die for Kiri, to serve its Mizukage's...but not Gengetsu personally.
A few men would have been furious at such an insult but Gengetsu was only even more impressed by the boy.
He was a true soldier of Kiri, a shinobi willing to put nation first before any person.
He was courageous if the blunt way in which he had confronted and made Gengetsu realize his mistakes.
A man of honor and courage.
Strangely, it warmed Gengetsu's heart to find such a soul after a very long time.
It was Naruto's turn to be shocked when the Second Mizukage knelt as well and placed a hand on his shoulder with a smile on his pale face.
"Thank you, son. I, Gengetsu Hozuki, Lord Second, swear to never misuse your loyalty" promised Gengetsu with a kind smile,
There was a flicker.
It barely lasted a moment but Gengetsu didn't miss it and it confirmed a few suspicions his son had about Naruto.
Just for a moment, he had seen sadness and guilt pass through the boy's eyes before that stone cold look appeared in a flash.
"I wish a few people could have seen this day" whispered Naruto regretfully,
Gengetsu instantly regretted doubting the boy for even a second. He had to remind himself that Mangestu had advised him to give this boy a chance.
"Your records didn't say much" said Gengetsu carefully, but not unkindly.
"I kept it that way and would like it to remain so. Too many bad memories" confessed Naruto, earning a nod from the Mizukage.
"I understand. The only thing a man can do is move forward no matter how painful the past is" admitted Gengetsu, as he helped the boy rise back on his feet.
He was surprised to see Naruto was composed and in control of his emotions, but Gengetsu reminded himself that this boy had served in the Blackops his entire life. Controlling his emotions was an essential part of the job.
In that aspect, Naruto was half at best but Gengetsu didn't mind and in fact welcomed the boy's honesty.
It kind of reminded him of what his younger son would have been like.
Gengetsu suppressed a painful scream that emerged from his memories. If he closed his eyes, he could still see the woman he loved turn to dust before his very eyes alongwith their unborn son in her belly.
He would never...ever...forgive the bastard who took away the woman he loved.
If it meant burning the entire world in his fury!
Dismissing those dark thoughts, Gengetsu gestured his newest swordsman to follow him and was pleased to see Naruto obey without question.
They both walked lower and lower into the Kage tower until they reached the basement. The guards instantly bowed on seeing the Mizukage in their presence earning a nod from their leader.
"Where are we going?" questioned Naruto, unable to conceal the curiosity in his voice.
"Getting you started" answered Gengetsu with a smirk,
After a pause, Gengetsu decided to ask a question that had been plaguing his heart ever since he had seen the boy fight in the arena.
"That jutsu you used in the arena, is it an Kekkai Genkai?" asked Gengetsu curiously,
Naruto continued walking alongside the Mizukage as they passed through a dark corridor. He dared not close his eyes or risk having the screams ringing in his ears turn into real faces.
Faces that he wanted to forget more than anything else, most important of them being those haunting purple eyes.
He could hear that painful question lingering in his ears threatening to consume his heart in grief and agony.
"I can't say for certain but it is a jutsu only I can use. A few have tried to copy the same and it didn't end well for them" answered Naruto calmly, making Gengetsu wince as he could already imagine only charred corpses would remain of those fools who had tried to master that dangerous jutsu.
"Would like to explain how that power works?" questioned Gengetsu, earning a tiny smirk from the Anbu.
"I'll leave notes behind once I'm dead. Not before that, I hope you understand" said Naruto, amusement ever present in his voice.
Gengetsu laughed at that statement but did understand and accept the boy's wish to keep his secrets to his own. It was another trait that he had seen previously among many Anbu.
The Mizukage saw that they had almost arrived at the destination and the remaining swordsmen were already waiting for them both. Seeing that, Naruto instantly uplifted his facemask.
Even his previously friendly aura turned icy and Gengetsu felt the boy was ready to strike if the situation forced him to.
Nobody said a word when Gengetsu and his newest swordsman marched forward towards a lone dias where a bald man was waiting for them with a gleeful smile that was borderline disturbing.
There was a neatly crafted box on the table and Naruto had to force his heart to remain still as he instantly sensed the energy within calling out to him.
Gengetsu must have felt it too as the Mizukage gave him a nod to step forward.
Naruto nodded and walked forward until he was face to face before the bald man. He was shorter than him and in his fifties, his eyes were mismatched in color which only served to make the Anbu before him more wary.
The old man smiled at him and took a step forward to put his cold hand on Naruto's arm.
The same man then glanced into Naruto's eyes.
"I sense a lot of pain in you, more than most people I have ever met. It shrouds your heart like a raging storm never to rest, it clings to skin your skin like ash" whispered the old man,
"You know nothing" refuted Naruto, and fought back a wince when the old man grabbed his hand more firmly.
"Lie to me if you desire but don't ever hide your true self from this. Or it shall destroy you" warned the old man,
Before Naruto could ask or say anything, the old man had already left him and now hobbled towards the box.
Nearly all the other great swordsmen gasped when the old man removed a finely crafted longsword from the box. It was still sheathed in its scabbard but already they all felt its lingering power hidden inside.
The old man hobbled towards Naruto and respectfully offered the weapon to him with a slight bow.
The Anbu captain hesitated a moment before he steeled himself. With shaky hands, he accepted the weapon and slowly started to pull it out from the scabbard.
His eyes drifted towards the Mizukage who nodded at him with a smile and Naruto couldn't help but feel grateful to the man as the hilt of the sword bore a roaring wolf as its sigil. A tribute to his Anbu codename.
Apprehension and excitement bubbled in Naruto's heart as he fully removed the sword for all to see.
The very first thing he noticed was that the weapon was as light as a feather in his hand despite its length being almost half of that of his own height and he was by no means short in stature.
Next, he noticed the intricate seals carved upon the painfully blinding metal that seemed to glow even more in the darkness.
Bravely, he practiced a few swings and was pleased to note it was very easy to move and had a good reach.
But apart from that, it was just an ordinary sword and nothing like the other famed weapons currently in the possession of his fellow swordsmen.
A part of him felt disappointed but he didn't let it be seen in his eyes.
The old man again hobbled towards him until he was standing right beside Naruto. The Anbu officer looked at him and saw a knowing look present in that veteran gaze.
"If you conceal your true self from the blade then it shall do the same with you. This weapon is now a part of you and for that to work properly you both need to be one with each other. Free yourself" advised the old man sternly,
"I am free" refuted Naruto stubbornly, not able to understand what was going on here.
"You are hiding your true self. Once you step outside of those barriers, you will truly see this sword" said the old man honestly,
"What's its name?" asked Naruto with a sigh, knowing every sword wielded by the Seven Great Swordsman of the Mist always had a name. This one was the newest to be added in the annuls of history, so surely it would have a name as well.
The old man gave him such a wicked smile that Naruto's heart stopped for a moment. He bit his lip in frustration on seeing the other swordsmen were not impressed with this delay, even the Mizukage and his son were expecting something better than the spectacle currently unfolding.
At this rate...
He gave out a weary sigh before he decided to follow through on the advise given to him. It was not something he would ever do with a person but a sword would never betray his secrets.
One by one he allowed the numerous barriers expertly built in his mind and heart to unravel and flinched when a new power surged through his entire body.
No words could describe the feeling of this power that was now flooding each and every cell of his body.
It was consuming him.
It saw what he saw, it felt what he felt, it thought what he thought until he couldn't decipher his own thoughts from those of this strange power.
He knew his eyes had already closed and yet he could still see the basement they were in.
He watched the astonishment etched clearly across each and every person's face, including the Mizukage. They all were staring at him in a different light and he didn't know why.
Curious, he glanced at the light sword in his hand and was astonished to see it had turned pitch black. Its once shining metal had turned so dark that no light could ever pierce through it.
A similar darkness was swirling all around him, seeping into him and he saw his two blue eyes shining menacingly in the darkness.
The old weaponsmith was now glancing in his terrifying eyes with a knowing smile stretching across his lips.
"What's your name?" he asked,
His grip on the sword tightened releasing an even more greater amount of energy in the air nearly choking everything and everyone else. Strangely, that made him smile wickedly as he whispered his name.
Author's Notes: End of chapter.
Hope you guys liked it.
Consider this as my parting gift for 2017!
Reviews would be much appreciated.
Writing is time consuming and I devote a lot of my free-time and energy into creating my stories. I agree it is my passion and I write to entertain, but I also have a family to take care of and support.
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It was a great year with you guys!
Happy 2018 in advance!
Until Next Time,