Disclaimer: We do not own Naruto.

Co-Author and Beta: Etheral-23

Man, this one took a really long while to make

We're so sorry about that, folks. Life kept getting in the way, and really sucky things kept happening to both of us, and we had to deal with it. Then, there were multiple rewrites of the chapter until we could make it decent.

But it's done now, and we'll strive to do better.

Hope you enjoy

Chapter 71: Battle at Forked River Valley Act II

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Since they had memory, there were two people in the whole world Kushina and Lyn wanted to be like. One was their grandma Tsukiko; the other was their aunty Kaida.

They were both so amazing. Tsukiko was the most patient, kindest woman they knew. Immensely wise, which she had to do because she was an old sage. Her abilities were magic to them, and her skills with sealing, the prized Uzumaki technique, were the best in the clan.

And Aunty Kaida was just the coolest; she was larger than life. So tall and imposing and strong. Kushina and Lyn would often stare with stars in their eyes at how she trained. The boulders she would lift off her back with ease, the swift displays of martial arts, the jaw-dropping ability with her blade.

Aunty Kaida loved telling them so many stories. Sometimes, she'd be gone for months on end, only to come back with gifts and tales of the things she did and of things that happened long before they were even born.

Sitting on their aunt's lap, the two small Uzu girls looked up at her with their hands balled into fists resting on their legs as they were pressed together. Kaida's hand jabbed at the air with a punch while she smirked, recalling one of her best adventures. "The demon Tokaero thought himself so tough. But you know who's tougher?"

Kushina jumped up and down on her aunt's leg. "You aunty, you!"

"That's right!" Kaida ruffled her niece's hair. "Cause your aunty's the strongest!"

"I'm gonna learn the sword just like you!" Kushina eagerly said with a wide smile. "Imma fight all the bad guys!"

"I want to learn Baachan's weapon!" Lyn declared, her wild mane rustling as she excitedly vibrated. "So I can take on all the demons! I'll be a master of fire and the nani... naginana... spear!"

Kaida laughed heartily at the girl's stumbling of the word. "Naginata, honey. Oh, I've no doubt you'll be the fieriest Uzumaki there is."

"We can be like you and baachan!?" Kushina beamed happily.

Kaida gave a wink, "Better to be yourself than someone else."

"You sound like Baachan, really confusing," Lyn scratches her head.

The towering, muscular woman chuckled before hugging her nieces: "You two will figure it out when you are older."

"Yes, Aunty!"

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Pure shock radiated in the eyes of the two redheads, who gapped at the sight of, the redheaded woman, it was not their grandmother... but the aunt everyone assumed to have died during the massacre of Uzushio. The frail older woman, who they could barely recognize, was gone and in her place now stood with her body fully restored, as resolute and strong as Kushina and Lyn remembered as children.

"A-Aunty K-Kaida," Kushina's voice hitched with considerable feelings.

The red-eyed woman glanced down at the two, fully turning to look at them. "...Kushina... Lyn..." Tears trickled from her cheeks.

That voice, that husky, raspy tone...

The voice they heard as children when telling them tales of adventures. Joined in their laughter when pulling pranks throughout Uzushio. The same strong arms that had carried them so often picked up like they weighed nothing still, squeezing the two tightly against her larger form while burying her head between the two. Kushina and Lyn remained still, stunned by the achingly comforting familiarity of it all.

Kaida sniffed, a broken smile forming on her lips. "You got so big...!"

That phrase alone broke them, and the two sobbed openly as they surrounded their aunt with one arm each over her wide shoulders, burying their faces in her hair. The memories felt welcoming, like an old friend, instead of longing and melancholic like they always were. They felt all their family's loving care and gentleness in their aunt's arms: their uncle's head pats, their aunts' shows of affection, their mothers' embrace, and their grandmother's gentle caress.

They hugged each other with all their strength, reluctantly letting go as Kaida slowly set them down.

"We thought you were gone!" Kushina sobbed in a very undignified manner, ugly grimaces twisting in her face the streams of salty tears ran down her cheeks. "That you were gone with the rest!"

Lyn sniffed loudly, pawing at her eyes in a futile attempt to stem the flood. "We missed you so much!" She hiccuped. They weren't warrior women right now, with decades of experience and hardship hardening them. They were two little children just happy to have their aunt again. "It's been thirty years!"

Kaida sighed with heartache, gently cupping their cheeks, pulling them close, and letting her forehead touch theirs as she bent over. "I'll always come back to you," she promised them, just like she did when they were little.

Parting ways, she moved her hands to their shoulders, looking at them more closely and seeing the years' effect on them. They were beautiful, two strong women who must have endured so much. And here they were, having charged into the snakes' territory. So brave, her little girls...

"They told me none survived," Kaida muttered. "I always knew they lied, just to torment me."

"There aren't as many as we used to be," Kushina softly replied, drying her tears. "Uzu is gone; we're barely the village we used to be."

"Yet the clan lives on," their aunt smiled. "That's far more than I could have hoped for. To see you here, knowing you got the chance to grow up, even if you must have endured so much... I cannot be happier right now."

Lyn gave a wide yet crooked smile, "We all thought you died back then in Uzushio. How are you alive?"

Kaida sighed, letting go of them to run a tired hand over her face, fingers slipping through messy red locks. "I tried to kill as many of Manda's ilk as possible in one fell swoop. But after so much time fighting without rest, it wore me out too much. I was vulnerable, and the damn serpents kidnapped me and took me away from the fight," She stared at her cell like it was the most loathsome thing in the world. "Kept me locked up here as they drained my blood for their experiments."

"Your blood?" Kushina muttered.

"I'm a high sage and the granddaughter of an elder dragon. They were hoping that I would unlock the secrets of draconic transformation."

"They succeeded," Lyn gravely informed her. "Manda is now a dragon."

Kaida paused before letting out a low growl of frustration, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I always feared it was only a matter of time..."

"We saw eggs of various sizes. So more Kurokiba dragons are coming," Kushina explained with disdain.

Then, they were wasting time. Things will worsen if those accursed serpents have transformed more than just Manda. "I'm ready to get out of this godsdamned pit. How about you two?" Without another word, Kaida stomped out of her cell.

"Um, Aunty, you're going rather 'cavewoman' right now," Lyn explained, garnering the tall woman's attention to stop her.

Kushina continued, "Your boobs are out..."

Staring downward, Kaid was indeed barely clothed now, with just the remnant of those rags she wore only covering her womanhood. At the same time, her endowed breasts were shown for all to see. Adjusting some of her crimson locks over her flat nipples. "There we go." And she resumed leaving her prison with her nieces following.

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"Une paire de démons sauvages et stupides ne me tueront pas!" They all hear the strange language of that walking, robed undead skeleton sending waves of fire and other elements from his staff along with what remains of his group who weren't crushed or dismembered against three big ogres.

It made Kaida's brow rose. "Who brought those guys?"

"Oh, they are my Doki," Kushina beamed while her murderous demons tore through their enemies. "I'm still working on them."

A deadpan came from Lyn, "Thought you said you tamed them." Kushina nervously chuckled.

In a twist from how their assault started, the robed servants turned things around on the Doki as they held them at bay with blasts of elemental power and other unknown magics. Their leader, Gilles, chanted something in another tongue they couldn't understand but picked up. It sounded different enough from the other that it was yet another mystic tongue, holding up a leather-bound book that had its pages turned in rapid succession as it glowed with a dark purple energy.

Chains that eerily reminded the Uzumaki of the adamantine chains sprung from the ground as they wrapped around the large demons. These struggled against their bonds, cracking the earth they emerged from, prompting the cabal to increase the pressure to subdue the beasts.

Satisfied with the demons neutralized, Gilles closed his book with a snap and seethed. "I swear I will peel off the skin from your meat and then use it as paper for-!" He turned around swiftly, and his skeletal jaw hung at sight.

Kaida stared at the bone man with a piercing glare as though the mere sight of him offended her. He undoubtedly reminded her of all the wretched monsters and practitioners of cursed jutsu she had hunted over the years. "Who the hell are you?"

The skeleton's limbs trembled noisily, staring dumbfounded at the sage. "S-She's free? The sage is free?!" He screeched. "Damnadable serpents! It took just two seal masters to release her?!" He waved his hands and commanded his forces. "Get her, all of you, get her!"

His cabal immediately left the chained Doki and rushed toward the three redheads. Arcane energy flowed in their hands as they chanted spells foreign to the Elemental Nations. Kushina and Lyn readied their weapons but looked up in surprise as Kaida merely put herself before them, motioning for them to lower their arms. "Please stay back, you two. I'm still a bit out of it and need to ensure you won't get caught."

Kaida looked at the charging undead and dark sorcerers; taking a deep breath, she moved her hands in an arc. Heat gathered in them as flames began licking at her skin, going from her palms to the rest of her arms.

The cabal all let out a warcry as they jumped toward the woman, flinging spells and bolts of energy at her.

Kaida brought her hands together, resembling a large animal shutting its maw close. "Fire Sage Art: Dragon Bite!"

The flames erupted like a flashfire. Blinding and deafening in their intensity, they took on the rough shape of a dragon's head with its jaws open. They descended upon the cultists and biting down with rock-shattering force, swallowing them all.

Then, the flaming dragon head exploded in a torrent of flames.

The wave of heated air from the resulting blast was fierce, making the other two Uzumaki woman sweat just standing close, shielding their faces to protect themselves from the heat. The blast was worse for Gilles, as he was sent back with a cry until he collided with the wall once more, flames singing at his clothes.

The flames slowly died down, revealing the black charred bones from the cultists.

"Aunty..." Kushina muttered with a growing smile; seeing her aunt's prowess made her heart swell with hope.

"Yeah!" Lyn cheered eagerly at the display, feeling so proud of the dragon fire in her veins.

"Impossible!" The skeleton man screeched incredulously as he doused the flames on his clothing. "How are you this strong?! You were drained of power for decades!"

Kaida rolled her neck, loudly popping her joints. "I'm just built differently." She gave a challenging grin at the cultist. "Wanna see more?"

Gilles stepped back, jaw clenching tightly to the point his teeth made a horrible noise. His head snapped to the right as he heard the doki rumble and roar, followed by the sound of breaking chains, and saw them begin breaking their bonds.

His glowing eyes shined with despair. "...Jeanne," He muttered, "I've got to warn Jeanne!" Pulling out his book again, purple light emanated from the letters on its pages as a dark circle opened behind him. He jumped back, letting the blackness swallow him before the circle closed and vanished from view.

"That's right, bone man! Run like a chump!" Lyn cheered, jumping on the heels of her feet.

While Kushina was cheering just as wildly, Kaida kept her breathing as evenly as possible. She adjusted a bang, wiping a small bead of sweat not noticed by her nieces. She glanced back with her ruby orbs, "Let's go find my gear."

That drew a surprised look from the two, "Would they even have your things?" Kushina questioned before going to retrieve her Doki and seal them away.

"Oh, they do. These snakes have bragged for thirty years, taunting me with my things, along with other artifacts they stole for their trophies."

A snarl escaped Lyn's lips, "I say we take it all back. Agreed?"

Kushina displayed a wicked smile on her lips that their Aunt shared as they left the chamber/prison. The towering Uzumaki does not mention that using that jutsu had two meanings. One: Besides disposing of some evil bastards that had it coming. Two: it was to test how out of shape she was after three decades of confinement. She was not ready to offer any aid up top; despite all the feelings inside her screaming to go out there, she felt her grandmother and others fighting such powerful forces.

'What in the name of the storm god are they fighting up there?'

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A wild cheer came from Ibuki while dodging lightning and flames from the ancient dragon in human form. How long had it been since she felt such the rush of battle? The quickening of her blood flowed in her veins as her heart pounded in excitement! Bless her father for finally unleashing her and making him proud. To show the world the daughter of the white serpent of destruction was upon the earth again!

To be the great bringer of devastation, She had in ages passed! Lightning erupted from Ibuki's hands, firing at her gracious opponent, who was proving a powerful being worthy of battle.

"What about Kintoki? Were his words meaningless in the end?"

Those words once more came into the living calamity as her cheerfulness faltered.

...Kintoki... Kintoki...

Why was that name so puzzling to her that it made her ignore her fun? The lightning faded from her hands, dropping to her side, as she turned her head again, glancing back toward the others. There it was again, the strange feeling deep in the back of her mind that had not let go since appearing here. UGH! Why was this so bothersome when she had such a strong enemy to give her a battle she had longed for!?

From where she floated in the sky, Meihui noticed Ibuki looking back from where they had come from: "That's been the seventh time you have done that."

"I know! I'm sorry!" the dragon-demonic-divine expressed apologetically, scratching her head as she returned her attention to her enemy. "First real fight I've had in centuries, but something important I keep feeling is back there." Ibuki whined, slumping forward before looking up hopefully, "Do you know what it is?!"

"...How could I possibly know?"

"Well, you look pretty smart, plus you're old as balls, right?" she scratched her head with a long nail. "I figured you'd know better."

The dragon lady's face twitched with disbelief and annoyance. "Good grief and you're one of the Three Great Calamities..."

"That's me!" Ibuki cheered, proud of the fact. It had been such a fun time, raiding, pillaging, and feasting with all her best friends! A wild band of Oni acting as the ravenous bandits in old Japan. The capital was assailed and hopeless in the face of their raids, so much so that they turned to the best and brightest of their people to deal with them.

Though sometimes Ibuki half-remembered those days. Barely could recall the old dragons she killed. Was Meihui one of them? Hmm, no, she'd be dead otherwise... Come to think of it, how did she die again? Papa said they got her drunk with poisoned sake that weakened her, and then they cut off her head from behind. Which props to them, that was pretty smart. She was a sucker for a good drink.

Sometimes, Ibuki felt she should remember more, but apparently, that was just a side effect of being brought back from the dead. She had been gone for a long time, after all. So, she occasionally had these annoying gaps in her memory, but oh well, maybe they weren't important. She had Papa to fill her with everything.

Though now there was that nagging feeling she couldn't shake off. What was it...?

"Hmm," She whined and sat cross-legged on the crumbling mountaintop, pondering momentarily. It was such an odd feeling. Maybe she was thinking about her old bandit party? Were they even around? Papa said Ibaraki kept himself very hidden, so maybe-

A tail shrouded in lightning smacked her on the head, and Ibuki, a throbbing pain, almost split her head before her body was suddenly buried under multiple tons of rock, digging further and further into the mountain until she was pretty much down the middle completely buried inside it.

"Ehhhh..." She felt her eyes widen comically blank, with tears at their edge. "Ouchie!" Now that was cheating! She was distracted! And she didn't even get a drink out of it!

The earth soon cracked and groaned around the crater. The great Uzu matron saw glowing crimson light coming through before a massive portion of the mountainside erupted with pure energy. However, instead of seeing Yamata's daughter's rage-filled gaze, the immensely powerful woman was on the verge of balling her eyes out.

"Why are you being such a meanie!?"

"We are in a life-and-death battle here, Ibuki-Douji!"

Ibuki whined childishly, waving her arms, "But I can't even think straight!" She points with both hands toward the direction of the others, "My head keeps screaming at me that something really, really, REALLY super important is over there, and I don't know why!" A low whine came from her throat, rubbing her head once more, sniffing back a few tears. "Papa is going to be so mad with me..."

A dry deadpan came over Meihui's face before rubbing her eyes. If nothing else, with Ibuki, this distracted by whatever is pulling her attention lessens the danger she poses.

If only slightly.

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A deep guttural roar came from a towering, muscular, blue-skinned demon with grey rock-like claws and forearms. A gholen, as Kya had learned while studying with the White Lotus. It attacked alongside Phantom Guards as Mimir called them, swung large axe-like weapons at her and Rin, who threw several gems at the hellborn, who only snarled with irritation as they exploded and singed their skin. But they did not relent, sharing the two women who fought back in equal measure.

Sparks danced from Saito's katana, his eyes glowing steely determination, meeting his blade against a strange caramel-skinned woman adorned in revealing white clothing showing off her voluptuous figure and breasts. Her hazel-brown eyes danced with amusement, with her long white hair flowing as she moved like a feather on the battlefield. In her right hand was a strange long sword with what looked like a thin blade with an ornate guard and hilt to protect the hand.

While the woman appeared human, Saito's senses felt she wasn't with her angular facial features but also her elongated point ears. And despite how young she appeared to be, her eyes showed a vastness to someone who had been alive for decades.

...Maybe longer?

The strange woman never lost her provocative smile before thrusting her blade with near-lightning speeds that Saito barely dodged. "A shame you're not an elf. I would have been interested in you~." She spoke in a seductive, lyrical tone.

Saito ignored the words save one: Elf. The Uzumaki recalled that name before the Wolf Clan's Sage spoke it. The Elves are one of the many countless races that exist in their little world outside humanity.

Her smirk grew more arrogant, and with a flick of her blade, Saito felt a rush of wind. Fierce and strong like a sudden gale force. He squinted as his body was hit by the gust, his feet skidding across the ground slightly. He might have stumbled had he not remained firm. He watched as the woman seemed to move without even touching the ground, as though her feet were gracefully riding the currents of winds, her thin blade poised to strike.

He gripped his blade and activated a seal; flames ignited from the base of his blade all the way to the tip. Using the very gale that assailed him to his favor, the flames burned hotter and wilder, and with a swift upward swing, he struck right before the elf reached him.

The flames spread in front of him with great force; swaths of fire burst in all directions, seemingly consuming the woman before him. But there were no cries of pain, only the roar of flames... which were swiftly dwindling.

Saito's eyes widened as the flames parted to reveal the woman, her arrogant smirk still in place as she raised her hand in a claw-like grip, streams of his flames moving towards it as though guided by an unseen force until they became a sphere of hellish power. Every single one of his instincts screamed at him, and when she aimed the ball of fire at him, he quickly jumped out of the way.

The sphere flew from her hand at great velocity, missing him completely; he watched as it soared through the air, leaving a trail of embers on its path before hitting a tree. The tree and several others around it were consumed in a blast of heat and flames; the large explosion that detonated engulfed them all in a bright burst with a loud sound as they were ripped apart by sheer force, leaving only charred chunks.

The redheaded swordsman landed with a huff. He stared at the result of the woman's ability with astonishment. Such a masterful level of elemental manipulation, not a single hand sign or gesture. It was as humbling as it was frightening...

"Ohhh," The elf cooed as she watched his expression. "The little primitive can't understand how I did that," She chuckled condescendingly. "Your magic is all so low-brow compared to true magic. You summon elements and toy with mystical forces without understanding them, but I, Piotress!" She introduced her name with a grandiose flair of her arm, "Have been mastering the elemental forces centuries before you were even born, you furless ape."

"For such a low opinion of humans. You walk with unorthodox company." Saito addressed the issue, reinforcing his emotions by what he had seen.

Piotress cocked a brow, "Oh, you mean these pawns. They have their uses," she gestured to the human corpses of her forces that had fallen quickly before the trio. "I bear neither hatred nor contempt for your species. As fleeting as humanity is, you show resilience. Even if it is futile for what is to come." Green ethereal flame engulfed her free hand with tendrils of earth rising from the ground and speeding towards the Uzu swordsman at near blinding speeds with sharp pointed ends. "Really, what I feel about humans could be described as… amusement," She chuckled. "You're such a pathetic short, always struggling in futile causes."

If not for his decades of experience, Saito would not have had the agility to duck and weave from being impaled by the elf's magic. "Nothing is futile as long as you don't give up against the darkness." With steady hands, he brought down his blade, slicing through the tendrils despite more being made and coming for him.

His words only made the elven woman smirk before vanishing in a burst of swiftness around her earthy creations towards the redhead. Despite raising his katana to parry, Piotress's blade sparked against his. It still thrust forward and into his shoulder.

"Saito!" Kya called out as more demons came out from the darkness of the forest against her and Rin.

Blood lightly sprayed from the wound as the elf pushed the blade further in. "It will be a pleasure to break your spirit, Saito." The man growled, biting back the pain.

Leaping over several hellborns, Rin gathered gems in between her fingers as they glowed with energy and tossed them at the elven woman.

The elf narrowed her gaze at the incoming attack... and put Saito's body between her and the soaring glowing gems.

Rin gasped and quickly slammed her hands together.

The gems' glow fizzled out, and before they could impact Saito's body, they exploded like firecrackers and splintered into tiny pieces that harmlessly fell upon the ground.

"Nice try," Piotress smirked before her eyes widened, realizing the man's sword had gone to his other hand. His eyes glowed fiercely as he struck, letting out a cry of both fury and pain as the thing blade twisted inside his shoulder. His unwounded arm lashed out, sword in hand. The elf jumped just in time to avoid a fatal blow, pulling out her blade as she did so, but Uzumaki's edge managed to cut the side of her abdomen.

The elf landed with a pained grunt and grimace, holding onto her side as blood pooled forth a little earlier, and her guts would have spilled open. She let go of the wound to look at blood pooling in her hands, dripping in between her fingers. She let out a throaty growl and stared angrily at the man, who fell to his knees as he clutched his shoulder. "A lucky hit," She spat, channeling magic over her wound, mending the damage. "But this will heal in a moment."

Saito tried to stand up but crumbled under the pain and exhaustion. Rin quickly arrived at his side, putting a seal tag on his shoulder that began channeling healing energies directly into his flesh. He sighed with some relief as the pain dulled slightly, the tag working to mend the torn flesh and bone.

The elven women closely observed the adolescent girl's work healing Saito. Her wound mended as she slowly stood back up, "An Onmyōdō... How quaint..."

Gems dropped from within the sleeve of her free arm and into her hand. Tossing them into the air, they shot toward Piotress. However, they only exploded against uplifted earth in front of the elf as a shield. Behind the woman erupted new tendrils that aimed for Rin and Saito but collided against a quickly made ward by the Tohsaka heiress holding a tag in her hand.

"Just how resilient is that little flashy barrier of yours, girl?" Large rocks rose from out of the ground and quickly flew forward.

Rin's eyes glared, holding her tag with the resolution, "The only thing flashy is that whorish outfit!" She slightly winced upon the stones, slamming repeatedly against her shield.

Instead of being offended, Piotress tugged on the open portion of her top, moving her above-average-sized cleavage. "Is someone a little jealous?" Her hazel brown orbs glanced at the blond human woman, keeping her demon troops surprisingly busy on her own. "Now, was that fair leaving your friend to fend for herself against my soldiers?"

The Namikaze woman dodged a Phantom Guard's axe before twisting deftly out of the way of a Gholen and slashing it with her blade laced with wind chakra. Her sapphire eyes glared as more of their kind kept coming at her. But she was undeterred as it kept their focus on her and not the other two.

"I have faith in Kya-san, as she does in us in dealing with you." Rin winced again as the rocks were not letting up against her barrier.

Those words only made the elf smirk in amusement, "Self-assured faith in your comrades. You humans are so novel."

Saito groaned as he noticed the cracks in Rin's shield, "That won't hold much longer."

"I know," She replied with an edge to her voice, her mind racing to come up with a counter-offensive quickly.

Saito grunted, "I can summon some wolves-"

"Don't," Rin quickly stopped him. The seal is also using your chakra to heal you; if you suddenly perform an exhaustive technique, you may experience chakra exhaustion."

The swordsman frowned and remained silent.

The Tohsaka scion took a deep breath, "Rest up. I'll keep her busy." a series of hand signs made the earth rise behind her, covering Saito in a dome-like protection, much to his shock.

"Rin, wait-!"

She reinforced her limbs with chakra, taking a deep breath as she struck the earthen shield in front of her with a palm strike. She channeled her power through the earth and made it explode outwards. Chunks and sharp shards of earth flew towards the elf, who quickly brought her sword up and slashed the earth in mid-air as her blade was shrouded in lightning.

Hurrying up, Rin ran to the side. She went through a series of hand signs and gathered the moisture in the air while applying a deep coat of cold around it. Ninjutsu was methodical, utilitarian, precise, and structured. A type of combat magic that didn't allow for flow and diversity. Ninjas fought each other over secrets and bloodlines to create mixed elements because they didn't believe in spending the resources and studies necessary to access the greater craft of onmyōdō. Because their philosophies conflicted and they didn't have the mentality for it.

Onmyōdō was a craft based on spiritualism and a greater understanding of the world around them. It wasn't just converting chakra into elements; it was the study of the celestial and terrestrial movements, with an emphasis on the spiritual foundation that most ninjas did not comprehend. Or didn't have the patience to understand. A mystic craft that the Tohsaka clan prided themselves in cultivating for generations, and Rin, in turn, prided herself on her talent in it. They all had praised her skills and potential; from the moment of her birth, they had known she was destined for great things; being born an Average One was an extremely rare trait, to possess an affinity with all the five elements.

She was a practitioner of magic in an era where ninjutsu dominated and made people forget their true roots. Kekkei Genkai? Special bloodlines? Onmyōdō did not have such limits. She did not have those limits. They merely did not study jutsu as it truly was meant to be studied.

Rin conjured a frosty mist around her and fired off a shower of sharp ice spikes that flew like spears toward the elf.

Piotress smirked, dashing and dodging the projectiles effortlessly. "So you are adaptive enough to use more than those gems, girl?"

"I am Rin Tohsaka of the Tohsaka Clan! And I'm the greatest mage of our generation, Piotress!" Going through another set of hand signs, Rin's hot forward against the elf.

Once more, the elf raised the earth as her shi as she went through another set of hand signs before leaping above it and sending forward her lightning against the human girl. The Heiress ducked and rolled before dashing forward. Rin went through a series of hand signs and slammed her hands into the earth. The ground cracked and tore open as a sea of vines and branches and roots emerged from the earth. The Senju clan's rare and treasured wood style may have properties regular wood elements did not, but that did not discount the strength of earth and water combined. It was as if nature itself rose to strike the woman, seeking to impale her with sharp, jagged branches.

Piotress held a hand, and the wave of trees stopped.

They just... ceased moving.

"What?!" Rin gasped in shock, her pupils quivering.

"Would have possibly made you think," The woman droned, "that would work against me?"

She held up her sword, and this one became alight with flames.

"You third-rate mage."

With a slash of flames, the wood was reduced to blackened, charred remains.

Rin could barely dodge as Pirotess dashed to her side with her sword coming at her. She let out a sharp cry when the blade cut through the fabric of her clothes and into her arm. "Using the power of nature without understanding it. You barely comprehend the forces you tap into!"

The Tohsaka heiress felt the air escape her lungs as several large rocks rose from the ground and struck her with blinding speed. The force sent the girl flying back hard, hitting the ground with a grunt.

Rin gasped, holding on to the bruised parts of her body as the pain overwhelmed her. Rin was trying to keep her breathing even; she struggled to get up on shaky limbs. This woman, this nonhuman, outclassed her completely, her jutsu was countered with such ease it wasn't even funny. It was horrifying.

"Done already?" Piotress grinned, "Here I thought maybe at least you had some spirit."

Even with all her talents, she was of no use. Saito was still out of commission, and Kya was fighting those monsters and could not come to her aid. She came here to show support to Shirou and his family, and now she needed to be saved.

How could she shame the Tohsaka name so?

Anger and frustration built up in equal measures, along with feelings of inadequacy. She once promised that fool to help the world remember the Uzumaki name, that his clan's crafts would not fade into the pages of history, that the Tohsaka clan would be their friends to the end, and that she would be by his side.

Had she failed already? Was hiding and praying for someone to help her all she was good for?

She felt Piotress come closer, so she doubled her efforts to calm her heart. She thought of things that would relax her: her mother's garden, her days of study with her father, and tea time with her sister.

Shirou's work at the smithy.

For as much as she critiqued the idiot for spending too much time on the forge... she honestly loved it. Because it was in those times when Shirou looked in complete peace with himself, underneath that unwavering focus and devotion to his family's craft, there was a joy; there was a complete sense of freedom. Because even if the world had taken so much from their family, from their country, it could not take this from them. It could not take the pride and purpose in their heritage away.

The sound of the hammer striking the iron when it was hot became a soothing memory. Turning lumps of metal into marvels, that was Shirou, his legacy as an Uzumaki.

And he was always so content with it. Through his strives to be better and forge even better weapons, he never became disappointed with himself. All he needed to do was keep trying; he'd get there eventually.

"I don't need to be the best. My swords don't have to be the best," he said matter-of-factly. I will keep trying, even if it's likely I never will reach that point. Because these swords are my clan's history... because this craft belongs to us, as much as we belong to it. So I'll never stop."

When he smiled at her that time, Rin knew she had fallen in love with that thick-headed idiot.

"Ever onwards"

How could she, who proclaimed herself a friend to his clan, not do the same?

Enough self-pity.

So what if her magic was not yet perfect? So what is this arrogant woman who could counter it?

That didn't mean she wasn't going to try.

Sealing tags slipped out from her sleeves, and Rin threw them up in the air. The slips of paper froze as though they had stuck in solid air. A sealing array formed around them, letters inscribing themselves over an invisible surface around her.

She pulled out various jewels, and with a few hand signs, they floated around her; the multi-colored gems glowed brightly, and the elf narrowed her eyes. The elemental energy around them was... overcharged. The sealing tags amplify the energy, gathering natural aether from their surroundings.

What was she up to?

Rin clapped her hands together and made a barrel-like gesture with her hand. "Cutting Seven Colors!"

The gems exploded, and from within emerged seven bright beams of pure, concentrated energy: red, blue, green, yellow, black, white, and purple. Ionized elemental power fired off in pure streams, heating the air with their passing.

Piotress's eyes widened. Highly concentrated elemental energy in its rawest form as pure aether, all fired off simultaneously and amplified by the ambient energy. Clever...

But not enough.

Her blade was a blur, creating a several-layered in front of her, each stroke of her sword in the air creating an arcane letter. The beams impacted over its surface, spilling everyone like reflected light in an almost blinding display.

"A good effort, child!" The elf shouted over the screech of energy colliding. "But not enough, not nearly enough power to take down my defenses!"

Then... the air around her looked... distorted?

Like space itself was folding...

Her instincts screamed danger, and Piotress jumped the moment a series of cutting slashes emerged from nowhere and everywhere. Sword strikes cut through folds in the fabric of space around her. She was not quick enough to avoid several lacerations on her arms and legs. "ACK!" She shouted in pain, barely managing to remain standing. Her sword fell from her hand.

There he was, the damn human swordsman, blade in hand, with a series of seals glowing over the edge. His shoulder was still healing, but that did not stop him from attacking her all the same.

"You primitive ape...!" She seethed in rage.

The beams colliding against her barrier were too bright, too loud, and she missed the sight and sound of a figure leaping over them through the air. Only when they began to fizzle out did she notice the young human mage landing directly in front of her, hands poised to strike.


Then, a fist collided with her stomach.

Piotress spat a trail of drool with a choked gasp.

Rin clenched her other fist and struck again.

This time, Piotress spat blood.

She shifted her stance into a palm-striking kata, slamming her hands repeatedly over the various openings in the woman's weakened posture. She kept striking repeatedly with furious determination, not daring to give the woman a single chance to recover.

Flesh darkened under her blows. Blood trailed from Piotress' mouth and nose, bones cracking from the onslaught.

Rin finished by applying a lot of chakra to her leg and delivering a devastating sweeping kick across the woman's face. This made her skid over the ground like a pebble skipping a pond until a tree finally stopped her in the way.

Rin panted, her limbs exhausted and hurting, yet she did not relax her pose. "I am Rin Tohsaka of the Land of Jewels. I'm a mage of Goyou-koku! A friend of the Uzumaki! I came here to help that family reunite, so don't get in my way!"

Relief washed over Saito, feeling the last of his injuries heal, and the earth dome around him crumbled around him. He rose to his feet with surprise in his gaze, seeing Rin having dispatched the elven woman who lay on the dirt in pain, holding her side and sword out of her hand. A death roar echoed through the area as the last demon fell by Kya, the hellborn blood on her body and sword turning to ashes and vanishing. The Namikaze quickly came to Saito, who soon came to Rin, who glared down at Piotress, spitting out some blood from her mouth.

"You have been beaten," The Uzumaki declared, "Surrender."

"You will tell us everything your cult has been doing," Kya declared with wind flowing around her katana.

At those words came a smirk in response before the long-eared woman vanished in a flash of light.

Rin let out a small growl of outrage: "Of course, she ran! Ugh!" She stomped the ground angrily, her hands on her hips.

"It matters little now," The Uzumaki man peered over to his comrades, "We need to get to the others quickly.

"Right," Kya nodded as they soon ran into the forest.

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Insane laughter escaped Hidan's lips, bringing down his new demonic scythe towards his prey. He had never felt so alive in this new, more powerful body blessed to him by his masters. To be proven worthy of such an honor filled the insane man with joyous glee. For his undying faith and loyalty were rewarded! If that lout Kakazu were still alive, he would have taken delight in rubbing it in that idiot's face. This is what real faith can grant someone over meaningless pieces of paper and coin!

But still not enough.

Hidan let out a maddened cheer as his scythe cut through fur and skin, drawing blood. The giant's bear hide was thick, so the wound wasn't as deep as it could have been. The beast howled and recoiled. His cries were hilarious to him, inciting him to cut deeper until muscle was cleaved all the way to the bone.

He spun his scythe over his head and sought to deliver a strong swipe towards the animal. When a chain suddenly wrapped around his weapon's shaft. The Uzumaki man was glaring at him; in his hand, he held a chain wrapped around his fists, trembling with effort as he struggled to pull his weapon away from him.

Fool, he'd die before ever losing his instrument of slaughter. Of course, he wouldn't die, so that'd never happen as the actually soon-to-be dead man would soon find out.

Then the brat jumped at him and hit him square in the jaw. The bones shattered as the jaw dislocated, the chains unwrapping from his weapon as he was sent flying towards a tree.

The impact broke more bones, but Hidan didn't care; he'd learned to embrace and love the pain a long time ago. This was nothing but a momentary setback.

"Ysuf fkeng twasf!" He snarled as he set his jaw back into place, the bones soon mending with great speed. "Don't think you're in the big leagues just cause you got a lucky shot!"

Then a kunai buried itself on his chest, then a shuriken, and another kunai, over and over weapons rained on him, burying themselves on different parts of his person. The most annoying one was the shuriken to his eye. "You fuckers-!"

Suddenly, the kid was on him again, this time delivering a fiercely powerful dropkick to his face. This time, he was sent flying through the tree. His neck snapped with the through. History repeats itself when he hit the second tree, and finally, his head came off by the time he hit a third.

Sakura panted as she landed back, quickly retreating to Samenosuke before looking over Kumo. His paw was bleeding, it didn't look too deep but enough that it was bothering him. Unsealing a set of bandages and other assorted medical items, she began to work. Sakura quickly handed him a vial of pinkish liquid the monkeys were kind enough to provide. Animal clans had way more advanced methods of rapid healing, comparable to having a decent enough medic on the field with just a drink of this potion. "Come on, Kuma. Open wide." She uncorked the vial and poured it into his mouth; the bear swallowed with clear disgust. "Yeah, they told me it tastes bad." And quickly began bandaging his paw, where the wound was slowly closing before her eyes. Gods, healing potions were something else. "Samenosuke-san, can you lay down a trap before he comes back?"

The Uzumaki man was uncharacteristically silent for a moment before her next words chilled her. "...He's already here."

She let out a sharp gasp and heard the sharp slice of a bladed weapon cutting through wood. Followed by various trees falling at the same time.

She slowly turned, her jade eyes widening with horror at the sight of the blue-skinned demon casually walking with his scythe on his shoulder and his head held in his other hand.

"I hope you didn't really believe," He put his head back on his torn neck, and the flesh and bone quickly began mending, "that'd stop me for long."

This was insane. How was he regenerating so fast?! How was he even alive in the first place after all the damage he had received?!

"Ahhh, you understand now," The blue-skinned demon grinned ferally as he took short, lazy steps towards them, enjoying the way they tensed. "Yes, that look on your face, keep making it, wallow in your fear as you come to understand death is inevitable."

Samenosuke clicked his tongue as he glared, reaching into his pouches for something, anything, that could put down this man for good... but he was running out of ideas.

"Fear and blood, slaughter and death, they are the gifts of my god," He twirled his scythe in his hand. "I revered these things even before I learned of her glorious existence, but only in her worship did I come to understand the beauty of her gifts."

"You're insane," Sakura muttered wide-eyed.

"Hell, yes!" He laughed boisterously. "I am manic in my worship. I am unbound in my revelries for the Jashin! For the goddess of war herself! Praise be to Ishtar, praise be to the world she will baptize in the blood of her enemies!" His lips twisted into a macabre grin, "But she needs a lot of it to make that happen, so I'll be taking yours. Rejoice, for what greater honor could there be?!"

He dashed forward, going after the young girl first; sparks came from Hidan's scythe dragging against the ground before thrusting upward to slice his young foe in half. He snarled, seeing pinkette quickly grabbed by the redhead guy, avoiding his blade and throwing several knives that struck into his chest and head. It was enough to stagger the demon man, with Samensouke and Sakura getting a good distance away near a growling Kuma.

Hidan growled dryly, staring at the sharp object above his eyes and into his forehead and the one in his heart. With his free hand, he pulled out the one in his head, ignoring the blood flowing from the wound that soon closed. "I can't die, but those still fucking hurt!" He yelled out while pulling out the second knife.

This man was a brute. He mindlessly attacked without any strategy and let his immortality handle any injury that would come his way. He'd survive pretty much anything, after all. But that also made him predictable, easy to avoid, and distracting.

This was exactly what they needed right now. They couldn't fight him head-on, so their best choice was to fall back for the time being and give themselves enough time to plan a counterattack.

Samenosuke reached into his pouch and threw several paper balls lined up with sealing tags. The madman didn't even bother dodging them, he just cut those he could reach to pieces. "You redheads and your little seals, unless you can cook up something that kills an immortal, you really shouldn't bother!"

Then the seals glowed, and instead of exploding, they released a cloud of purple smoke. Hidan coughed as the cloud grew larger and denser, enough to obscure his vision. Samenosuke quickly ushered the others back. "Whatever you do, do not breathe that in," he said as he, Sakura, and Kuma stepped back.

They heard Hidan's coughing grow louder and closer the longer he stayed in the cloud. The dark silhouette inside it convulsed and struggled under the miasma of poison. He lifted his scythe and spun it around at high velocity. Dragging the smoke inside a vortex and blowing away a portion of the airborne poison.

Hidan's figure was seen once more as the poison cleared; he swayed from side to side, his eyes were red, and he was coughing blood. "You... asshole!" He let out a sharp, wet cough, falling to his knees as more blood kept pouring down his mouth.

"What was in that thing?!" Sakura recoiled.

"All the bad stuff I could think of," the roguish Uzumaki glibly replied. "That'll give us a few minutes; let's fall back now!"

The pinkette nodded stiffly, "R-Right!" There was no sense in staying around with that much poison still permeating the air in this area. Particularly not if the demon man would recover soon enough.

Swiftly, the Uzumaki, the youth, and the bear ran into the woods, leaving behind a teary-eyed demon whose eyes stung and burned horribly, scowling down at them while mouthing off incoherent obscenities his throat was capable of articulating properly at the moment.

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Sakura's lungs burned for oxygen, leaning against a tree. By Amaterasu, she thought she had run that hard weeks ago in the Land of Trees. She wiped the sweat off her face, glancing at the sole adult beside her along with the Ursine. "We can't return to the others with that lunatic on our heels."

"No. We can not," Samenouske said in full agreement as he, too, caught his breath. Absently, he patted Kuma's head as he stared in the direction they came from.

"You have a plan?"

A light chuckle came from the man, "Plans were always Saito's thing. I'm a more fly-on-the-seat-of my-pants kind of guy." Outside Saito and Soujiro, the pinkette noticed that was a running theme for most Uzumaki. Her mind went to the blond and her Uchiha partners for a moment. Her worry was visible enough to catch from the redhead, "We're going to make it, kiddo."

"I know... I'm just... I've usually fought alongside Naruto and Sasuke since our first mission. We've become a good team I'm proud of. It's just I got used to being with those two-"

"That not sure of yourself going solo?"

"Yeah." She squeaked, being patted on the head.

"You don't give yourself the credit you deserve, Sakura." The usual cheery tone is absent in the man who is always the wisecracking perv she had come to know. Replaced with an expression of encouragement and determination.

Sakura pursed her lips before she parted them in a sigh. "I became stronger to catch up to them, to pull my weight, to prove myself I wasn't useless. And then every single big fight we've been at, those two have always been at my side, fighting as a team. I... I guess I don't know how I'll perform on my own."

"Hey, I get you," Samenosuke said with a sympathetic voice like he understood exactly what she was going through. "I grew up on the run, Lyn, Saito, and his wife Maya. We all had to rely on each other constantly to survive, but eventually, as we grew up, we had to act independently sometimes, to do our part to keep each other safe." He said before looking over his shoulder, falling silent for a moment, trying to catch any sign of the demon's approach. "You do the best you can and hope it's enough."

Sakura stared up at him for a moment. "You're all so skilled, and yet you had to learn on your own while keeping your head down. That... couldn't have been easy..."

"Nope," the long-haired man replied. All we had were scrolls and the instructions our elders gave us, still fresh in our memory. We had to build up from there and make it up as we went along. We were lucky enough to meet people on the way who were happy to teach us what they could; Saito and Maya learned the blade not just from the writings we had left from Uzu but also from a man called Sakonji Urokodaki."

"I think I've heard of him in passing," Sakura said as she went over to check on Kuma's wound; thankfully, the potion had already taken effect. "A swordsmith and a swordmaster"

"And a complete grouch!" Samenosuke laughed. He began rummaging through his pouches, checking on his sealing tags and various other tools. "Hmm, that poison I made is only going to stop him for a moment. I'm going to need something stronger to at least take him out of the fight for a long while, enough so we can regroup with the others. Well, if you can't beat them, bomb them, I always say."

"How much firepower are you carrying...?"

"Enough to level a good acre, but I fear that'll just draw more attention to us. I might hold on to these.

"...I suspect you have a criminal record in some countries."

He paused, "Well, yes, but not for the reasons you think."

Kuma ruffled as Sakura finished her inspection, licking her cheek in gratitude. She smiled, patting his large, fuzzy head. "You Uzumaki are really easy-going, you know."

"It's in our blood," He shrugged, connecting a few explosive tags to kunai.

"I'm... envious, honestly. How you can live without fear regardless of the situation."

At that, Samenosuke stopped and gave the young pinkette a look. "Sakura... I am scared."

She stared at him.

"I'm scared for my family, I'm scared for my life, and I'm scared that anything will happen to you as well," Samenosuke said with a surprising level of severity. "How can I not be? This whole thing is insane."

Her mouth opened and closed a few times. "You hide it well,"

"I'm not hiding it," He shrugged. "I'm choosing to act despite that fear."

Heh, that sounds like a very Uzumaki thing even Naruto would do. Sakura wiry smiled back, "Thanks. I never guessed you could be the encouraging type."

"I have moments." Both go silent as Kuma growls. All three heard the loud swearing of Hidan now starting to move towards them. "Well, we can't kill the bastard. But might be able to slow him down maybe."

The pinkette's eyes lit up before turning green, "I've got an idea... But it might be a little... bloody."

Samenosuke cocked a brow.

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Hidan growled and groaned, the effects of that bastard's poison finally starting to wear off. "Oh, I am going to peel that son of bitch's skin off slowly for this." He seethed, rubbing his eyes with his free hand, "Make a fur rug out of that fucking bear and slice up that little pink-hair bitch." Despite his musings about killing the trio, His ears twitched as he turned around as four kunai flew and buried themselves into his chest. Hidan looked more annoyed than any real pain, "Did you idiots not hear me the first time? I. AM-" Whatever words he was going to say died in his throat as he did not see the tags on the kunai being lit and ignited him in an enormous explosion. The blast sent him flying back with a large hole in his upper torso.

"...Ow..." The demonic madman groaned, lying on the ground before sitting up. He grunted as another round of even more kunai with explosive tags was sparked, "Oh, go fuck yourselves!" He roared before being sent flying by another explosion.

In the trees, Sakura stayed focused beside Samenosuke, who readied more kunai, "He's predictable but relentless. Have to keep the pressure on a guy like this."

"I've got a few more tags. But like I said, if I go any higher, we will likely have more trouble."

The pinkette shook her head. "We just need these, and then we can proceed with the rest of the plan."

The plan was simple, extremely direct, and blunt. But Hidan was a brute, just a bloodthirsty maniac who was more interested in having fun than actually getting his job done. So despite his immortality and strength, the very things that made him very dangerous, it also made him very predictable and easy to work around. He did not attempt to evade; he just let his body continue taking damage even if he regenerated eventually, which cost him time and left him far more vulnerable.

If the man had any other useful techniques or were more interested in switching his strategy, in actually thinking instead of slashing his way through the fight, then the situation would be far more dire.

So, Samenosuke and Sakura had to distract him, weaken him, and keep attacking him until his regeneration was too slow to get him back into the fight proper.

So for that, Samenosuke kept throwing his projectiles with surgical precision, letting the explosives on them wear down the maniac.

Two kunai embedded themselves in Hidan's scythe arm, and then they exploded, and his arm was blown off. "AHHHHGHRGH!" He shouted in pain and rage as the scythe fell with it, glaring at the direction where the projectiles were coming from. "I'll make a coat out of your skin!"

Samenosuke flipped a scroll in his grasp. "Sorry, Kuma." He threw the scroll high in the air and then made a half-ram seal. "Release!"

Hidan watched as the scroll, flying high above him, unleashed its contents. A very large bear emerged from a puff of smoke, falling directly towards him. "The fuc-!"

Kuma landed on the man and mauled him. He bit deep into his neck and threw his body from side to side like a ragdoll. Hiden gurgled and struggled through the pain, hitting with his remaining arm at the bear's head, trying to set himself free. Even with his demonic strength, this proved to be a challenge, particularly with the loss of his other arm.

Then he felt something grab his legs, and he saw the pink-haired little brat glaring at him. She tugged at his limbs once more with far more strength than a kid should possess. Then the bear began pulling...

His bones began popping. "Oh, don't you fucking dare-"

Then they tore him apart.

It was an ugly sight, the type that made even Samenosuke, who had witnessed horrible tragedy in his youth, cringe and look away from a moment. For the flesh was being torn, and limbs were pulled out in a way only a girl with superhuman strength and a large, mighty bear could accomplish. Despite the man's tolerance for pain and his ability to heal fast, there was no other outcome once the two got their hands (and paws) on him. Particularly when Kuma brought his maw down on him, sinking his teeth and tearing the flesh.

The result was messy. Samenosuke had to avoid pieces of limbs and other bodily parts that were softer in nature sprawled all over the ground. Kuma's snout and claws were all dripping in blood, given they had previously been inside the demon man. Sakura, however, looked like she had come out from a horror movie, covered from head to toe in splashes of blood. She was taking in deep breaths as her eyes were with a thousand-yard stare.

"You okay?" He gently asked her.

She stiffly nodded, not saying a word.

"You can... You can drop that," he slowly said, gesturing to her hand, which was currently holding another hand.

She quickly dropped it to the ground. Then she threw up. Samenosuke at least held her hair for a moment and comfortingly patted her back. "Sorry, I you had to do this,"

Sakura groaned, wiping her chin. "Only I could help Kuma, though..."

Samenosuke nodded, looking over the bear, who was quite comfortable with the butchering they had done. "Kuma, don't lick yourself; he's gross."

The bear chuffed.

A furious growl caught his attention. Samenosuke turned his gaze to the head of the blue demon. Leaning sideways to the grass, the only thing he could do was clench and unclench his jaw in a vain attempt to move his severed head.

"Not again! Fucking HELL!" He swore, and Samenosuke was sure he'd be shaking with rage if he could. "You think this is going to stop me?! I'll just put myself back together."

Samenosuke idly watched a severed arm slowly crawling towards the head, to which he just threw a kunai and pierced the hand into the ground. "And how long will that take you?"

Hidan let out a string of obscenities.

"Yeah, I figured. You're pretty much unkillable unless we reduce your body to ashes. Well don't think we can pull that off right now, so this is the next best thing!"

"I'm going to drink your soul!"

"Mhmm, with what stomach?" The Uzumaki shrugged. "Well, it's been fun, but gotta get back to our friends, so..."

Hidan's eyes rose at the other man walking back a few steps from the still-sickly teen and the bear. Tapping his right foot in a manner he'd seen before from Kakazu, "No, no, no, no, no, no!" Samenosuke quickly dashed forward with his boot soon striking the demon's severed head and shot it into the air, "YOU SON OF A BIIIIIIIIIITCH!"

The rosette coughed up the last of her lunch, paler than usual but still steady. She watched Hidan's flying head, and cursing soon faded with distance. "I think we got him..." Her voice was shaky and uneven. Kuma sniffed Hidan's unmoving torso. Her jade eyes examined herself with a shuddering cringe, "I'm going to need a long bath."

"Yeah, maybe two? So," The Uzu man quipped brightly, "How do you feel about your first dismemberment?"

A deadpan glare came from Haruno.

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

'Everyone is born in blood,' so did the Ichimonyi say. You were born screaming and covered in blood from the womb, a violent beginning for a violent life. They raised their young ones to be the weapons they were meant to be, to test their mettle against any foe, come mortal or demon; they would welcome the challenge with a smile on their faces and a blade in hand. To fall in battle was the most glorious end of all. They sought out more and more dangerous foes across the eras: the mighty and knowledgeable Senju, the unrelenting and cunning Uchiha, and the hardy and ancient Uzumaki. Theirs was a clan that did not need friends. All they needed were enemies.

Monsters, they all called them. They didn't understand, and they couldn't see the beauty in the bloodshed like they did.

The Kaguya understood. The bone-benders were their kin in spirit; they saw the world as they did. They clashed so often and slaughtered each other so relentlessly across the eras. Their magnificent bone dances were a sight to behold, and so they repaid them in kind with their displays of merciless martial arts.

Then, the Kaguya died off. And the Ichimonji felt a hole in their hearts.

It was cruel for a beloved enemy to fall and never rise again. The Kaguya's end was glorious, yet the world was less.

Such a traumatic experience left many Ichimonji to wander aimlessly, desperately seeking foes that would fill his whole in their hearts, someone they could meet in battle and give them a reason to live.

Modern Ichimonji had been born in the wrong era, for it was much easier to find their beloved forever foes in a time when everyone was wantonly slaughtering each other.

Katsura grew up hearing the tales of the Warring States period and the Shinobi Clan Wars. She was heartbroken because she knew she'd never find herself in those fields of corpses like her ancestors did.

When she was five, she had already drawn blood. At six, she had already killed her first man. At seven, she began understanding what truly drove their clan.

Katsura was a proud Ichimonji, and like all of them, she would search for that foe that could satiate their endless blood. An enemy mighty not just in battle prowess but- also in *will*.

...And fateful day, she found her.

Scionwille illustrious Uzumaki. The sole daughter of Uzukage Daisuke of the Flame and granddaughter of the Dragon Sage Tsukiko. The lineage of the distinguished whirlpool was greatly respected even among the Ichimonji. The tales she had heard of their kin who held the honor to face and die against such powerful foes was a glory few attained.

Kushina... Her precious Kushina did not disappoint!

Oh, Katsura's body quivered every time she remembered their first fight.

How her heart fluttered as their blades met for the first time. Katsura, bathed in blood and viscera from a prior mission, had run into a group of Leaf shinobi led by that magnificent creature who fought against her with such intensity and willpower that it set her soul ablaze.

She was *amazing*. A perfect mix of strength and speed, cunning and knowledge, which she employed to the best use of all her abilities, beautiful swordplay, and magnificent knowledge of seals to counter Katsura's masterful savagery and unrelenting assaults. She never gave an inch...

An iron will, an indomitable spirit.

Katsura fell in love.

She lost her one day. She never got to say goodbye, never got to pierce her heart with her sword, never got to die at Kushina's hands...

...But now...

Now she was back.

She was back!


Their chance re-encounters nearly brought the Ichimonji to climax. Each time Kushina escaped only made Katsura crave to face her again and again and again and again. How her heart skipped, her blood raced, and the burning between her thighs ached just seeing that woman drove her to pure lust.

To keep fighting her. To finally ravage her. To have her completely in mind, body, heart, and soul!

Kushina had returned to her!

She could fight her. And again. And again!

Lightning burst from her body as she clashed with the she-dragon, her obstacle to face Kushina. Oh, she was mighty, but she wasn't her beloved redhead. She wasn't that whirlpool of a woman. She could enjoy the fight, but her heart wasn't into it. No, her heart was with Kushina. Only her. Always her.

Her heart beat like a war drum inside her chest, making her blood ignite.

Her muscles coiled, rippling under all her spandex as she struggled with metal-sharp claws and her blade. The dragon woman's eyes widened as she felt the increased pressure from Katsura's blade, the sudden increase in strength, the way her spandex made a leather-stretching sound accompanied by the wet sounds of flesh shifting, with the Ichimonji's otherwise lithe arms suddenly increasing in mass as her muscles expanded, her upper body morphing, widening.

The shapeshifted dragon backed away, staring intently into Katsura's eyes. "I see... they modified you."

Katsura smiled, her incisors now razor sharp as the indigo of her iris seemed to shine.

Her arms writhed, rippling and moving under her skintight sleeves like rolling water as they hardened into strained knots of muscle. The armguards cracked, and the spandex material of her sleeves tore open in wide gashes to unravel skin far too tight and bursting with pulsating veins.

Within the next moment, Katusra's body reverted to normal. The Ichimonji breathed heavily with a flushed expression, "Oops. That was meant for my precious Kushi-chan."

Kamiko glared, "You will have to go through me. And I'll drag you to hell before you ever get near my cousin."

"Then let us dance~"

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Fireballs slammed into walking undead shambles from Tamamo's tails and hands, a growl escaping her lips. "This is getting irritating!" Much of her frustration was to herself still not uncovering the hidden necromancer. Whenever she had gotten close, the person quickly vanished before being located.

Yugao's blade sliced through decomposed fleshed while their Baboon companion, Feng Yongzheng, or Feng for short, kept her back protected from any ambushes. "Bastard can't hide forever! We will find him!" The ANBU declared with determination.

Dodging the blade of a naginata, Soujiro quickly parried and brought down his blade on the corpse of a Samurai. His normal calm expression he has always displayed even during the Sand and Sound Invasion, and at Han'ei. Now glowed a firm, narrowed glare. Desecrating the dead in such a profane manner, not just of these human warriors.

That alone made the young Uzumaki feel a burning inside his heart. But the fire grew more at the sight of several simian comrades that came alongside them for this mission. Who fell in battle to aid them in saving a precious member of the Uzumaki. They were now being used like puppets by this defiler.

Within the shadows of the forest around the fighting bunch stood the hooded masked necromancer. Sheer amusement dancing in the person's amber eyes.

A tip of the staff, making the rings on the circular tips rattle, and more foul magics were cast. More bodies joined the fray, some long dead and buried in years past, others were picked clean bones by the Kurokiba's feast, or the fallen monkeys that were turned into puppets.

Soujiro had witnessed tragedy after tragedy, horrors both subtle and depraved. His conscience could never let him forget the suffering, the innocent people who paid the price for the ambitions and cruelty of others. The monkeys had come here to help them because they were their friends; they were not just rescuing a mighty sage; they were here to reunite their family.

It wasn't fair they were dying to keep them safe, and their bodies defiled as their reward.

Soujiro was always peaceful in his thoughts. He had experienced indignation at Han'ei and righteous determination at the Land of Trees, but this day, he truly felt angry.

Rushing waves emerged from his blade as they cut through undead flesh; he did not hesitate with either human or monkey. They were only puppets now, no longer people. Their dignity had been taken from them along with their lives, so all he could do now was grant their flesh a final mercy.

Tamamo's platform shoe cracked the skull of one of the undead with enough force to bury it in the ground. With a snap of her fingers, she set a corpse on fire; her tail shimmered with chakra as it grew exponentially and swatted away three decaying samurai like they were dolls. She kept her keen nose up, trying to catch the necromancer's scent. A hard task considering the sheer level of decay around her caused by all the shambling corpses. Her fox senses had a hard time picking up their location.

But thankfully, she was no mere fox. She was half-kitsune, she didn't have chakra points, and her entire body was one giant organism of flowing chakra; this made her completely attuned to the chakra in the world around her. That of nature and the people around her.

It was like a mixture of scent and sight, something regular senses could not perceive. But the half-kitsune felt it, trailing from the undead all the way deep into the trees, leasing into a single figure that emanated a miasma of sickly dark magic...


Tamamo's tail moved in an arc, and from its tip, she left a trail of blue fire which gathered in orbs floating around her. The orbs glowed with mystical blue light, a technique more advanced than regular human ninjutsu, pure mysticism created by her thanks to her nature as a half-kitsune, coming to her as naturally as breathing. The orbs were pure spirit fire, and the type kitsune could conjure, the fire that could burn through even the spiritual.

With a thrust of her hand and a battle cry, she launched the spirit flames at great velocity. They didn't move in a straight line; instead, they moved in various arcs, going around the trees until they reached their true target- the source of the sound, that foul whiff of black magic.

The hooded necromancer let out a short, startled gasp and quickly jumped from behind their cover.

The fireballs impacted the tree and quickly consumed it with a raging blue inferno, igniting the area around it and bathing the terrain with bright blue light. The smoldering tree served as a beacon in the night.

"There they are!" Feng shouted; the baboon hollowed and bare his fangs.

Various monkeys jumped over the trees in pursuit of the now-revealed necromancer, seeking to tear them apart for defiling the bodies of their kin. The sorcerer slammed his staff, causing the rings to jiggle with an echoing metallic ring.

The animated corpses froze, then they convulsed, and finally, they were torn apart in gore.

Yugao gasped at the horrifying sight, Soujiro's eyes widened, and Tamamo let out a fox-like yelp as hundreds upon hundreds of bones all flew through the air at high velocity. A wave of ribs, femurs, joints, skulls, and more gathered up around the robbed figure, not just from the animated dead but from the ground itself. The bones sprouted like jagged rocks in a macabre grow until these, too, were flying around the caster, creating a protective cover as a cemetery worth of bones became a solid cloud.

The necromancer held their staff in both hands and swung it around, commanding the bones to move in tandem. The monkeys were thrown back by the collective wave of that enormous mass impacting against them.

The masked figure chortled. "You may have found me. But none of you can stop me!" the necromancer declared in a pure androgynous tone. "I am the Gravesinger! And you all shall become my thralls while your souls are sacrificed to our goddess!" Pain-filled cries came from Feng and the other living monkeys upon slamming into either trees or large rocks.

"Dodge!" Yugao ordered as the wave of bones approached her, Tamamo, and Soujiro. The trio scattered apart, avoiding being struck by the bones. But they could not stop with the bones still in pursuit right behind them with frightening speed.

Growling, Feng got back to his feet, spitting out blood. Rage glowed in his eyes alongside his fellow primates before charging again at Gravesinger. The masked figure glanced in their direction, adjusted their staff, and a wave of bones shot forward at the monkeys again. The veteran baboon leaped and dodged along with his companions over the bones, roaring with rage and hatred.

Gravsinger's staff glowed before slamming it into the ground. Multiple giant, ethereal, skeletal hands rose from the ground to grab and crush the apes. "You should rejoice, simians. You shall join your comrades as our goddess's divine meal."

Feng roared in pure fury, showing his fangs, "I'm going to tear your limbs off!"

Leaping through the trees, Yugao kept her fast pace to avoid the bones while trying to see a single opening to bring down this defiler of the dead. Her chestnut eyes gleamed when she saw her enemy's back exposed. With lightning speed, the ANBU dashed for her target with her sword ready to strike. However, instead of running Gravesinger through, her katana was deflected by an invisible barrier. The necromancer glanced back, "Don't take me for a novice, girl."

The end of the staff slammed upon the ground, and a wave of telekinetic force flung Yugao. She quickly regained her footing as she landed, looking up to see a wave of bones descending upon her. The ANBU twirled her blade before running two fingers over the edges. Her sensei's masterful work shined over the metal as a series of kanji manifested and coated the sword in rapidly flowing currents of air.

Yugao let out a war cry and swung her blade at the incoming mass of bones; a gale force of gutting wind shot from the blade, blowing away the smaller, weaker fragments and cutting the larger ones to pieces, creating a hole in the wave of bones as it tried to descend upon her. It spilled to the sides, trying to surround her, but Yugao kept swinging her blades in every direction, blowing and cutting away at them.

Soujiro and Tamamo jumped in from the other side of the fight; talismans slipped from the kitsune's sleeves and threw them at the ethereal hands, grasping their monkey allies, vanishing them upon contact. A tidal wave of bone fragments rattled as it rose higher and higher, looming over them. Soujiro took in a breath, and water coated his blade. A highly pressurized stream of liquid was followed by his weapon's swing, cutting the wave in half. Tamamo spread her arms wide and moved them in an arc, glowing green energy gathering at her palms before she twirled her entire body, sending a wave of wind that blew away the thousands of bone parts.

Gravesinger held up their staff and waved an arm, willing the bones to float around them at high velocity, becoming a macabre whirlpool. They chanted in an unearthly tongue as sickly dark energy gathered around them.

Feng bared his teeth, "They're preparing a grand spell; they're about to summon something big!"

"Cut him off!"

The monkeys lept at the necromancer but found a clear opening almost impossible as the bones kept spinning around at great velocity, forming a shredding storm that would cut them to pieces. "Need more firepower!" Feng roared out in command, "Fires of Samādhi Formation!"

Howls and cries of agreement rang out, and the monkeys all placed themselves around the growing storm of black magic. They went through several hand signs before they all clapped their hands simultaneously, taking in deep breaths that almost inflated their torsos. Then, they released streams of fire from their maws in every direction against the necromancer's bone defense.

Gravesinger mockingly laughed, "Amateurish magic is nothing compared to one truly gifted in the arcane!"

Blue flames shattered the bones around Yugao, who huffed with minor exhaustion. Tamamo and Soujiro came to her side, guarding the two women from any flying bones. A golden flame coated the kitsune's hand, and placing it on the ANBU woman's shoulder, the purple-haired woman felt her tiredness fade, giving a grateful nod. "We have got to find an opening and kill this bastard," Yugao quipped, wiping sweat from her brow.

"Those bones and magical barrier make it quite difficult," Soujiro addressed.

Tamamo shook her head, "Nothing is impossible, little cousin. And if we can't find an opening, we make one." Her smirk drew the other two's attention, "Show me your swords, please; I got an idea and need to get to Feng and the others!"

The two observed arcane sigils form on their blades, and blue flame soon coated the swords. Releasing them, Tamamo gave them a thumbs-up before leaping away to aid Feng. Soujiro glanced at Yugao, "Did she say what her plan was?"

A sigh escaped the older woman, "We will figure it out."


The laughter continued from the masked necromancer till seeing the Kitsune girl now joining the monkeys. "You show some skill, but you are far from my equal."

Tamamo did not retort. Her tails rose, and blue flames appeared upon the tips. Putting her hands together, flames soon coated them. "Big ego for a mage hiding behind a mask and just flinging bones around like a parlor trick!" She smirked, seeing a glare coming from Gravesinger.

"I will reap out your souls!"

"Charming," The fox girl said before walking towards the monkey's continuous stream of fire. Tamamo's hands swirled in an arc, her fingers doing gestures that were not quite hand signs but similar enough. Energy from the ambient around her gathered en mass over her head, a collection of miasmatic power made up of pure curses and malediction, feeding on the very same toxicity the necromancer had plunged the area into.

It grew into a sphere twice her size, a dark orb filled with cursed magic, pure harmful energy at its purest. She lifted both hands and, without actually touching it, directed its movements.

"Jujutsu: Imari!"

The dark purple sphere descended upon the swirling defense of floating bones and impacted upon them with thundering force. Joining the fire streams sustained by the monkeys, the sphere detonated with a violent burst of raging fire and powerful hex energy. The explosion shattered and incinerated bones in their vicinity and blew them away at great speed. Leaving the necromancer without their utter layer of protection.

"Urk...!" Gravesinger let out a choked sound under their breath, stunned at the display of power that managed to break their arsenal of innumerable bones.

"Go!" Tamamo shouted.

Yugao and Soujiro swiftly moved, positioning themselves on opposite sides of the necromancer. Yugao's speed was such that it looked like she left a trail of afterimages in her wake, the rustling of leaves following close behind her. The young swordsman and swordmistress readied their blades and dashed forward at the same time.

Blue-ignited steel clashed against each side of the necromancer; Gravesinger's eyes widened with desperation as their barrier shimmered, crackling under the magical blue fire the swords were coated with. The invisible force didn't crack so much as it was slashed, the mystical fire weakening it enough for the chakra-laced blades to cut through.


Two blades cut through their neck. Soujiro's and Yugao's form dashed forward until they were on opposite sides of the field once more, arcs of blood trailing behind their swings.

For a moment, all was silent. Nobody moved.

And then the necromancer's head fell from their shoulders.

Within moments, the bones that floated in the air came down in a heap with Gravesinger's body. Tamamo huffed loudly, "Well, that was an exercise." Her attempt to be upbeat did not reach her tone, noticing Feng and the other monkeys going to the bones of their fallen comrades.

The flames on Soujiro's and Yugao's blades soon faded; sheathing them, they came over to Feng, who was gathering up the bones, "I'm sorry this happened." The ANBU spoke remorsefully.

"No apologies are needed, Yugao Uzuki," the old baboon addressed. "We all knew the risks and volunteered regardless because the cause is just. They had no regrets, and neither do we. They will be buried as heroes when we return."

Soujiro offered a small prayer to the fallen before all of them felt the area shake violently in the direction where Meihui was. He saw renewed fear glow upon his cousin's face. "You know who great-ouma is fighting?"

"Someone who should be dead," Tamamo shuddered, remembering all the tales the Fox clan told Japan's Three Great Calamities. "We need to get to the others now!"

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

The ground erupted skywards, and Gamabunta grunted in pain from being flung by Dragon Manda with the immense force of his newfound strength. Fresh wounds and blood covered the Toad chief's body, and he struggled to sit up before his dangerous senses screamed. Looking up, he quickly rolled out of the way of a falling Genryu, who hit the ground where he was flung, creating a larger crater than before.

The silver dragon coughed, groaned, and rose, "He's... gotten a lot stronger..."

"No. Shit." Gamabunta quipped before painfully groaning, holding his side. Annoyance soon came to his visage, glaring upwards, hearing and Seeing Manda laughing.

The former serpent, now dragon's laughter, soon ceased before unleashing a torrent of flames from his maw. The respective chiefs pushed through their pain to avoid the fire raining down on them. Genryu roared with fury, flying up to meet his longtime foe, who met his charge. The savage smile upon Manda's lips did not drop with the two coiling each other, their claws digging into their scales, their sharp teeth trying to render the other's throat.

However, Gamabunta and Genryu were shocked as Manda overpowered the silver dragon with sheer speed and strength. A pain-filled roar echoed through the area as the former serpent's teeth ripped into the Dragon Chief's neck and began to spin, uncoiling the two.

Realizing Manda was trying to both snap and rip off his old comrade's friend's head, he inhaled deep and soon unleashed a power orb of pure water like a bullet.

The purple dragon's new eyes noticed the projectile and quickly released his ancient foe to avoid the Toad chief's attack. Genryu's wounds lightly sprayed crimson as he fell back to the earth at high speeds. Grabbing his tanto, Gamabunta leaped into the air, "Snake or dragon, I don't care! I'm still making a wallet out of you!"

"Feel free to try Bunta!" Manda roared, flying at the leaping Toad. "What I don't devour of you, I shall take to your kin at Mount Myōboku before I kill them all!"

Genryu sharply grunted in pain, slamming down into the earthy soil once again. Hissing out in pain from the wounds in his neck, he shook it off and turned his gaze upwards.

He saw Manda wrapping his body around Gamabunta, keeping the giant toad in the sky, his great maw snapping at him. Gamabunta grunted as he struggled to stab at Manda with his enormous tanto, but his arm was kept firmly in place by the dragon's body coiled around him. Acting quickly, the toad chief stabbed at the closest part of Manda's serpentine form, drawing blood and making him recoil. It was enough to loosen his grip somewhat, letting Gamabunta free his arm and aim his blade directly at the purple dragon's eye.

Only for his wrist to be caught in the tight grip of Manda's claw.

"Shit!" He was not used to Manda having claws now...

So he settled for the next best thing and punched him in the face repeatedly with his other hand. Manda recoiled and grunted under the blows before growling in a fury and biting down Gamabunta's fist. The great toad shouted in pain as the fangs dug into his flesh, blood flowing freely; the two great beasts were locked in this painful struggle, spiraling through the air with chaotic movements.

Then Gamabunta felt heat emanating from Manda's maw. "Oh no, you don't!" And quickly spit a steady stream of water directly over Manda's face. Though the force of the stream was enough to bring down a building, Manda held on, the fire building in his throat with the intent of incinerating Gamabunta's hand.

Dragonfire did ignite, but not Manda's, for Genryu quickly approached and spat several fireballs at Manda's coiled form with great accuracy. Weakening his hold on the great toad. Manda roared both in pain and rage, his grip loosening, but he was not about to give in to his enemies. Before allowing Gamabunta to retaliate, now with his hand free, he spun the great toad around before throwing him with great velocity at Genryu, the two giant beings colliding together in a shockwave.

"So this is the freedom our ancestors had!" Manda's voice boomed as he swirled through the air in an arc, relishing in the sensations of the raging skins against his skills. "What it feels to have the sky at the palm of claw!" As if to accentuate, he extended a claw upwards towards the clouds conjured by their struggle, obscuring the night skies in this particular area of the landscape. "To have the heavens so close to your reach!"

"Your kin were denied that right for a reason!" Genryu snarled, glaring hatefully at his foe.

"An injustice that has been rectified at long last!" Manda called out from above, smirking cruelly. "By the blood of your kin, no less!" He mocked, enjoying the rumbling growl of anger coming from the silver dragon. "We were cursed by foolish gods who denied our right to rule over mortals, and now, once more, by the hand of the divine, is our heritage returned to us!"

"You sold your soul to the Jashin!" Gamabunta shouted. "Even you have to understand you gave up your freedom to her!"

"I sold nothing!" His body coiled rapidly with his reply, no doubt a trait still leftover from his entire life as a snake. "I was given an opportunity, and I seized it! Not only will my kin return to their former glory, but we will inherit a world made for us to rule! Yamata-no-Orochi himself, the Great Dragon of Devastation, Mightiest of Serpents, has rewarded us in exchange for our allegiance!"

"You are a fool if you believe Yamata will prevail!" Genryu shouted. "He was vanquished twice before. He shall be beaten again."

Manda laughed, "Yet twice he returned as well- against Susano'o, against Karna! Not even the mightiest weapons of Heaven brought him low!"

His gaze turned towards the mountain peaks, where the battle between Meihui and the Eight-Headed Snake's spawn raged. The sheer, dread-inspiring power in her...

"And his very child walks among us once more," Manda said in a sort of fearful reverence before once more glaring spitefully at his lifelong enemies. "You brought them all here to die, your kin, your allies, your friends; we will feast upon their flesh and pick the meat left from our teeth with their bones. And my, what a sight it shall be to see the Great God of Mount Ibuki feast."

Genryu growled, slowly rising into the air once more. "We... came here to reunite our family. We are not going anywhere until my sister returns to us!"

He expected Manda to mock him again, to ridicule his goals, their desire to bring their family together, and their desire to rescue Tsukiko. Instead, he looked only very confused.

"Tsukiko?" Manda repeated, his features shifting to show his bewilderment. "You believe she's- Ahhhh... I see now."

"What are you saying?" Genryu demanded, "What do you mean by that?!"

Manda chuckled, "Ohhhh, you have it wrong, my old foe. It is not your sister whom we've had all along, but her daughter Kaida."

Gamabunta gasped in shock; he looked at his friend, who seemed to freeze at the revelation.

"You brought them all here when you don't even have the right target!" The snake-turned-dragon laughed, finding absolute delight at his foe's blunder.

Genryu was unresponsive to Manda's laughter. His gaze merely softened as his serpentine eyes shone with relief.

"Kaida," he muttered, "My niece, she... she lives." He let out a shuddering breath. "Oh Ryūjin, Ryūjin, thank you..." He was almost weeping with relief.

"What is this?" Manda didn't understand why the revelation wasn't hurting him. "Why do you cry out of joy? Your sister is not here!"

This time, Genryu glared back, "Only the heartless likes of you could not understand. You have just revealed to me that one of my nieces, one I long since believed dead, is still with us. Tsukiko may not be here, but there is no doubt in my heart she lives, and I have never believed otherwise. I know that one day she will come back to us, yet I dreaded the fact she'd return home with her heart broken, buried with all her children... I must thank you, Manda, for you've given me a wonderful gift. The knowledge that at least one of her children yet lives that she will be embraced by Kaida one day once more."

Manda hissed spitefully, furious at how his attempts at breaking his foe failed.

Thunder roared, lightning flashed.

Genryu rose higher. "And for having imprisoned my niece for so long... I will repay you all the pain you have dealt this family!"

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Fierce roars echoed through the night-covered forest with large fists colliding with so much force that the ground around the feet of the two large males fighting cracked. A dark, murderous smile gleamed from the demon Zoros, matched by the rage-fuel snarl from Kosuke Uzumaki. It was as if their fight in the Land of Trees never stopped as they poured their strength against the other with immense force.

The towering Uzu deflected a fist where his own slammed into his demonic foe's chest, sending him skidding back. "Yes!" Zoros declared, "Bring your fury against me, Kosuke! Let us see who becomes the sacrifice for the Goddess!"

Kosuke charged forward, "The only one dying will be you!" Zoros laughed, regaining his footing as he met his enemy's charge.

The hulking Uzumaki grabbed hold of a large, broken half of a tree trunk and swung it hard. Zoros could not stop himself or block in time as the air escaped his lungs, and the trunk slammed into his chest, shattering and sending him flying back. The massive muscular hellborn tore through several trees before smacking against a large boulder.

But he had little time for rest. Regaining some of his bearings, he saw Kosuke charging at him and smacking his fist against his face. The Uzumaki warrior would not relent, with his clenched hands hitting Zoros's head, chest, and stomach again and again.

His next fist, however, was soon blocked before a high knee to the Uzumaki's gut. The large man staggered back before the masked devil's fist struck him in the face.

The demon's fanged mouth twisted into a cruel smirk as he felt the blood splash against his knuckles, enjoying the impact of bones and flesh. He repeated his strike, holding the human back by the shoulder, slamming his fist into his face and gut, alternating between one and the other. Kosuke snarled the moment Zoros' fist went to his stomach again, catching it between his knee and his hand. He pulled the demon closer with his other hand and headbutted him, staggering in enough to be released.

Then he roared and charged at the large blue demon, tackling his torso. He kept pushing through rows and rows of trees. The demon tried to free himself, elbowing him in the shoulder and hitting the side of his stomach, but to no avail. Zoros gasped when his back collided against a large boulder, cracking the surface behind him.

Kosuke stepped back but didn't give him a single second to recover. He unleashed a barrage of punches all over the demon's torso and face, screaming wildly as he put more and more strength behind every strike. Zoros' large forge slowly buried itself into the boulder, this one cracking further and breaking as his large mass was pushed through.

Then, with a final furious fist, the demon was buried deep inside the boulder, leaving only a broken trail of crumbling rocks and rubble. Kosuke panted, resting his hands on his knees as he haunced forward, taking in deep breaths as his powerful body began feeling the effects of exertion and pain.

Then the boulder rumbled, and Kosuke was alerted once more. It shook and cracked, jagged lines appearing everywhere as it began falling apart.

With a monstrous roar, Zoros emerged out of the boulder, this one exploding into hundreds of pieces. Kosuke shielded his face to protect his eyes from the rubble, but this left him vulnerable to the demon's attack, which punched with enough force to send him flying through several trees.

Kosuke skids across the ground with cuts and scraps before coming to a stop against a large tree. Blood dripped from his wounds and head with a single eye closed. He snarled before noticing a thick, broken tree trunk in the shape of a spear. Groaning, the big man stood back to his feet and heard Zoros laughing before he began to charge at him.

Putting his foot under the fallen trunk, Kosuke kicked it up to his arms just as the horned devil neared and impaled him through the chest. With a mighty roar, he lifted both the trunk and Zoros to ensure the hellborn wasn't going anywhere. Blood poured on the muscular Uzumaki, but he ignored it as he kept his gaze on his dying enemy.

Zoros groaned before weakly chuckling, "Glorious..." His final words came, his body becoming still and lifeless.

Dropping the corpse on the ground, he saw the demon's body begin to turn to ashes, alongside the blood that spilled on his body.

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Crystal shuriken and kunai formed in the air and soon rained downwards but missed against a laughing Aezvyn. Her mocking was not relenting while deftly avoiding chakra blades thrusting and slashing from Homura's hand in an attempt to cut her. Frustration came from the blond Uzumaki, with his body glowing with Kurama's chakra and two tails swaying about.

"Ohhhh, you're serving my meal on a silver platter~!" The demon woman mocked with a wry grin, watching as the youth ran towards her in a bestial manner on all fours. He raised a chakra-shrouded hand to strike, and she replied in kind by clenching her fist, the action causing the arm muscles to bulge and ripple. "You're so generous!"

The fists collided with a shockwave, scattering dust and making the glass flatten around them by the strong wind. Naruto grunted, feeling his fist bruise with the impact. His chakra tails quickly pulled at the ground and took him away from the devil woman before she could get her hands on him. Last time, Aezvyn had fed on Kurama's chakra so fast that he barely had time to get away before she got an insane power boost. Already, she had toyed with the other genin easily, so he didn't want to see what would happen if she got another transformation from it.

Fortunately, fighting by his side was someone far more skilled than those of his generation. Even if only by three years, Homura's experience dwarfed his own; hell, she was as skilled as some jonin-level ninja he knew. This was no surprise, seeing as she was a prodigy from the academy drafted straight to the ANBU and assigned to be his mother's student.

She pretty much danced her way into Aezvyn's space, attacking with a flurry of slashes from her chakra blades, creating a musical ringing sound through the air as she did so. The devil woman smirked at the challenge, enlarging her nails into sharp claws and shrouding them in energy to dodge the ethereal blades, unfolding her wings to attack with a gust of wind and a swipe of their sharp tips whenever she made an opening.

With a wing strike coming her way horizontally, Homura dispelled her blades and dropped to a perfect split, dodging the demon's attack. She then placed her hands on the ground and flipped her entire body in an arc akin to a break dance move, the long sleeves and flap of her robes spinning with her in an arc as she delivered a swiping kick at the admittedly beautiful devil's face.

Aezvyn grunted, her amusement morphing into annoyance and anger. She grabbed Homura's ankle, making her yelp as she threw her overhead with the intent of slamming her into the ground.

Before she was forced to swallow dirt, Homura brought up an arm and used her ability to conjure a solid shield-like surface that absorbed the impact. She wiggled herself free, dispelling the energy and backflipping to gain distance. Once she was far enough, she stopped, calling upon her technique to conjure an impressively sized longbow. The ethereal arrow was knocked, and with the poise of a seasoned archer, she let loose the shot.

It flew straight through the air towards the devil woman... who caught it in her grasp.

Homura let out a sharp gasp as the devil smiled, absorbing the energy from the projectile until not even motes of chakra remained. She licked her lips, savoring it as her eyes seemed to glow slightly. "Thank you."

She then clapped her hands and wings with thunderous force, with an equal deafening sound, casting a shockwave that tore through the ground in a wide arm, making evasion impossible, forcing Homura to bear the brunt of the attack as best as she could, by conjuring a new shield, this one as large as her entire body. She shouted as the force of the shockwave was too much, and she ended up flying backward.

"Homura-chan!" Naruto shouted in concern, losing sight of her in the woods.

"I'd be more worried about yourself, Naruto." The blond's danger senses screamed. He narrowly evaded the succubus's grasp, his two tails latching onto a tree and tugging him away to safety. A mew came from the hellborn, "Playing hard to get, are we~."

"You are not my type!" Naruto declared, going through several hand seals before extending a hand forward and holding his wrist. He discharged a heavy burst of wind. The force took the demoness by surprise upon hitting her wings and sending her flying back.

The blond's ears perked, hearing feet against trees and soon seeing Homura leap past him with chakra blades in each hand, using his wind jutsu to propel her forward. Despite the cuts on her skin and clothes, she looked no worse for wear, to the Uzumaki's relief as she roared to run her blades through Aezvyn.

"You are going down, you harlot of hell!" Homura's body glowed with blazing chakra energy dashing forward.

The succubus only smirked.

To the surprise of both teenagers, the devil woman vanished just moments before being run through. "You show some skill, little girl, but you are far from my equal!" The blond and bluenette were soon struck by waves of fireballs raining down on them. Setting the area ablaze as they hit. Floating above the trees, Aezvyn never lost her smirk as she unleashed more and more fireballs. Only after a minute of the onslaught did she relent to see neither Naruto nor the blue-haired girl burning from her flames.

Only two pairs of logs.

"Quaint..." the hell-born drawled before smiling again and surveying the area. "You've gotten a little smarter, Uzumaki. But it won't stop me from taking all your energy, along with that fake demon's!"

Hiding together behind a larger tree, Naruto and Homura were catching their respective breaths. "She is quite strong," The ANBU dropout quipped.

"You don't know the half of it," Naruto grumbled before noticing the older teen glancing at him. "Yeah?"

"Is that the Nine-Tails's power?"




"I can smell you!" They heard the demon woman roar.

"Man, she's got a creepy stalker thing going..." Naruto muttered, mustering up the energy to continue the fight. Going over the different tools at his disposal he could use. Wind and earth would help only so far, and she was too strong for his crystal to hold her; if he found an opening, then he could be able to deal a finishing blow.

It was easier said than done; the devil lady wanted him to get close to drain Kurama's chakra. If she absorbed enough, she'd get even stronger.

"Hmph," He heard Kurama make a rumbling noise; he sounded pensive. "Then... give her what she wants."

'What?!' Naruto thought back, 'What are you, crazy?!'

"You are not going to find an opening." Kurama said, "But you can make one for her."

Naruto realized who Kurama meant, and he looke.d back at Homura-chan, who kept a determined, steely gaze as she looked over the tree, readying her ethereal blades. "I got an idea," she glanced at her new sensei's son.

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Aezvyn stopped her march when she felt the brat's tenant's energy flare up, emanating in waves behind the tree with a red haze so powerful it sent gusts of wind in all directions. Her mouth salivated. It was only a taste, a hint of the sheer destructive power behind it. She needed it. She craved it so much.

The boy lept out from behind the tree. In his clawed hand, he formed a large mass of energy shining in a mix of blue and vermillion, fueling more of that delicious power into it.

"Yes..." She muttered, "Bring it here, give it to me..."

He dashed towards her, rearing his attack back as he aimed it at her.

"Yes!" She shouted in glee, her eyes shining with desperate anticipation.

The ninja shouted, thrusting his hand forward. The large mass of power in his hand looked ready to burst as Aezvyn raised her hands to intercept it. Violent winds exploded around them from the sheer force behind its spiraling power, threatening to shred the skin of her palms, but Aezvyn soldiered on, for that delicious energy was in her grasp.

"Ohhhh!" She moaned in delight as she began to siphon it.

The energy sphere grew weaker and smaller by the second. Her hand snatched up the boy's wrist and drank that intoxicating power. It flowed through her veins like fire, spreading through every cell and pore in her body.

Aezvyn laughed in enjoyment as her body responded to that great power, transforming further as her limbs elongated, her mass expanding and becoming denser and more toned. Her large wings elongated a full foot, sprouting sharper bone spikes on their ends. Bones of extreme sharpness burst through her shoulders, her elbows, and down her spine. She was ascending into a higher type of demon beyond the previous levels of an energy succubus and into the heights of true lore.

She pulled more and more, she wouldn't stop until every last drop of that fox's power was hers, until she became a creature of devastation that could rampage through the land, leaving only carnage with nothing but her footsteps. The boy was positively tiny next to her now, as the sheer breadth of her form kept growing larger and still, taller and wider.

He had delivered himself on a silver platter, and he didn't even offer any resistance! He just stood there and let her claim her prize like a fool!

Aezvyn's laughter was a dark, echoing sound. Her triumph would be felt by all in the valley... until a wet gasp, caused by a sharp object obstructing her airways, cut her merriment short.

A glowing blade had pierced her throat.

She shakily shook her head and looked back. The human girl, who was now small enough to land on the back of her neck, held in her hands the very long blade that had pierced cleanly through her neck. The blood flowed freely over its edge of solid energy.

Too late, Aezvyn realized that by focusing too much on the object of her desires, riding the high of this enormous power boost, she had completely ignored the existence of the other human. A mere spect that didn't warrant her attention and so disappeared from her mind.

And she had paid the prize.

Homura's blade finished slashing through the neck and severed the demon's head from her shoulders completely.

The blond Uzumaki felt slightly woozy before the large hand of Kosuke kept him from falling. "See, you took care of devil lady." His eyes glanced over as like Zoros, Aezvyn's body became ashes and faded away.

"That was crazy," Homura commented, "But glad it worked."

Naruto nodded, "Me too."

"You heard that!"

The younger boy and older man spoke deadpanning. "Yes," they chorused in a drone, making the bluenette blush. The trio sharply turned upon hearing a deafening roar off in the distance. "We still have work to do," Naruto remarked, dashing ahead with the other two following after him.

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