A Labour of Lightning

Prologue: Rain

Coast of the Land of Fire

The wind and lightning had become the orchestral conductor of the sea, sending waves and energy into their crescendos' all through the ballad that was the night and day cycle. All about us was the perfume of the salty water and the fine spray that came as boldly as any viola flurry – drawing humans to its addictive expanse. It was as if life had entered the water and the energy was so great that this great pulse came upward to form a steady rhythm. The sea off the coast of the Land of Lightning was a dreamy sea. A dreamy sea has this rhythmic pulse to it unmatched by any other part of nature. It forges its own sounds and kindles its own symphony. Humans have always been fascinated with it, trying to tame it, to capture the song of the sea and its steady, throbbing heartbeat. Visualising its glorious expanse, its dreamy surface, its untapped potential will have a man straining to hear its metronomic wave music, you may understand why it's called the fisherman's friend.

At the centre of this ocean rested a small wooden fishing vessel. The calm waters providing the two fishermen occupying the boat with a view of a variety of colour sea life.

"Can we go home yet, we've been at this for hours – they're just not biting today." A middle-aged man reeled his fishing line in and sunk down from one of the small wooden seats. This man wore a simple blue top with black khaki pants. His voice breaking the peaceful song of the sea.

"You can't be serious, they're right there!" His counterpart pointed to several fish hovering around his hook at the end of his fishing rod. "We must be using the wrong bait!" The younger man shouted. He sported a pair of loose-fitting jeans with a wide brim hat.

"You expect me to pay top dollar for that stuff? It's not my fault you can't fish here legally anymore. We wouldn't have been slapped with a ban for over-fishing if you hadn't gotten involved the whole town in that deal with the Earth ninja." He huffed shuffling in his position.

"What was I supposed to do? Kids today, so stupid! Please, please Mr ninja sir, don't sink our boats and burn our homes. We'll take your deal to food in exchange for ridiculous money." He huffed. "How else does that blow-hard Hiruzen expect us to feed our families?!" bellowed the older fisherman with a sour look.

"We'd ought to join the military, fighting in his wars is a bloody profitable business." The younger man sighed. "I don't think they'll ever stop fighting." He remarked.

"Why haven't you been conscripted yet? You're above the average age of most soldiers these days - you've actually fucked a woman." He laughed smashing his hand against the boat. "You wouldn't last, took you a year to learn how to tie a decent surgeon's loop – got as much coordination about you as a drunk cripple, you have. Your parents 'ought to have sent you away to a home for how simple you are." He wiped the tears of joy from his eye.

"My parents died in the war, remember." Suddenly the man stopped laughing. Catching himself he immediately adopted a remorseful look.

"Listen kid I'm sorry." The younger man didn't answer - peering over the boat his feature grew panicked.

"All the fish are gone!" He turned to his counterpart. "They're all gone you stupid old bastard - you scared them away. Even the fish want nothing to do with you!" He bellowed.

"Can't be." The older gentleman looked over the side of the wooden vessel. "Must be a shark or something – I knew we needed a bigger boat I said-

His sentence was broken as the clear sky began to fill with violent black storm clouds. A pool of yellow lightning travelled across the clouds like current a wave.

"What's that!" Shouted the younger of the pair.

The water began to shift – causing the men to panic. The pair lurching forward, catching themselves the apprentice fisherman grabbed the set of oars at his feet. Resting them in the metal holders to either side of the vessel he began frantically rowing toward land. A loud crackle of thunder vibrated across the sky and sea; rain began to fall heavily. The elements seemed to be turning against them – like they were intruders on the water.

"Come on boy! If we're caught up here we're for the end I tell 'ya!" Shouted the older of the two. "Row! Row damn it!" He ordered in a panic.

"I'm tryin' but I'm not getting anywhere!" He responded letting out a frustrated cry. "Something's got us!" Shouting and dropping his oars.

The bowel of the ship began to creak and the wooden began to bend. A large yellow lightning strike split the ocean in two as the boat was dragged beneath the waves by a violent force – crushing it and the sailors. The water turned a blood red, bubbles escaping from the men's lungs.

Moments passed and the sea began to calm and the rain eased – no trace of the boat or fishermen left. Following the cyclic force of the lightning another ear-splitting crack of thunder sounded through the storm clouds above. Ripples from the scene soon dispersed and the sea returned to its calmness – fish returned to the vision of the naked eye below and the water became still. The clouds opened up slightly, hovering as they disappeared slowly.

Several kilometres a man sat on a wooden dock watching the scene unfold. Resting behind him was a moderately curved katana with a blue and gold colour scheme. It had a white hilt with diamond-like shapes running down it and an image of two golden triangles in a circle – with a circular guard protecting it. The sheath decorated with images of clouds and a yellow rope wrapped around it. Behind his katana there was a small hidden beach backed up onto a thick forest. Mountains eclipsed the view in the background, reaching up to the clear clouds in that direction.

Beside this man rested a white tea pot above a small burner heating its contents. He poured the brown liquid into the cup adjacent – filling it using his right hand. A silver ring decorated with the symbol for 'north' shone on his index finger as the sun peered from behind the storm clouds in the distance. He short spiky blonde hair with a bang framing the left side of his face. The blonde crossed a leg over the other, dusting the sand off his black pant leg, which were wrapped with white tape at the from his mid calves to his ankles. His boots were black – open toed and heeled. Taking a sip of his tea with his opposite hand rested below the cup the wind picked up blowing the steam from the tea. He sported a white shirt underneath – covering himself in a black cloak. His red eyes examined the storm clouds clearing in the distance.

The blonde man swayed his legs back and forth observing the water below. A carrier eagle with a brown, white and yellow pattern landed on the wooden post next to him, flapping its wings the blonde put his tea down.

"Naruto – I have a message from Minato." The summoning animal spoke with a voice that belonged to someone from nobility. "I had no idea you were going to be such hard work, consider indulging more often." She spoke with an exasperated sigh.

He held his arm out and the small eagle jumped on his forearm, resting her down on the dock next to him. Grabbing the note attached to her leg, he unfolded it. Naruto folded the note and placed it in his pocket – taking another drink of his tea before another strike of yellow lightning struck the sky.

The Land of Storms: Village Hidden in the Rain

Turning off her shower a fair-skinned lady stepped out onto a lilac colour carpet – wrapping a towel around herself and stepping toward the mirror. She had light honey-coloured eyes, a silver labret piercing and purple hair with a slight curl, just long enough to reach her shoulders.

'Terrible weather.' She thought.

To her right the rain outside poured heavily and the clouds above were moving fast overhead. She breathed a heavy sigh as she readied herself for the day. Exiting the bathroom, she hung her towel over the shower railing – her bare feet making small sounds as they moved from the white tiles to the floorboards. She opened her wardrobe picking out her clothes and laying them out on the bed. The woman rubbed the back of her neck – feeling that she must have slept in an unfavourable position. After she was dressed she looked at herself in the full-length mirror next to her bed. She wore a white top with a blue dress with straps going over the top, complete with a pair of brown sandals, rings on her fingers and a hair clip. She opened her draw and pulled out a simple kunai, twirling it around her index finger she looked outside – her eyes narrowing. She paused as the rain began to cease and pass over her village. Placing the kunai back in the draw and shutting it – the young lady walked out of her room at a calm pace.

She lived in a small one-bedroom apartment, complete with a kitchen, modest seating area and small television on top of a unit. A cartoon of eggs sat in the opened recycling bin next to her kitchen counter, a pan, cutlery set, and plate were stacked next to the sink, freshly washed. Grabbing a set of keys and a handbag next to the door she stepped out into the humid weather and light rain– commonly forecasted for the Village Hidden in the Rain. Another crackle of thunder echoed in the valley in the distance. She locked her door and stepped out onto the street. She held her hand over her forehead as the sun peered through the clouds – the surroundings hitting her senses. It was a rare sight to see.

The Second Great Ninja War's damage had only just begun to disappear, buildings were being rebuilt with extensive drainage systems, giving the village a more mechanised look. She mused at the people around, increasingly people began to return to the village with the help of Yahiko and the Akatsuki.

There was hope in the air.

The village followed a strictly isolationist policy, meaning there was an abundance of emptiness in people's bellies and wallets. Due to the village's location, central to 3 great nations it held an advantageous and disadvantageous position. This placed the village in a predicament – abandon their ideals in favour of potential political and social influence or be crushed under the weight of constant warfare going on around them.

The Third Great Ninja War had changed the landscape and broken the wheel.

Hanzo, the leader of the village was notoriously paranoid, although he could see through his own delusions momentarily to see the need for change for the times. Restrictions on things were easing and the Akatsuki were at the forefront of that change, providing food and shelter for many citizens.

The streets were bustling; however, the wide streets lent the people a great amount of space. The location meant that there were a lot of safety rails, overhead shelters, stairs and various types of alternative access paths to levels in the village. The light purple-haired woman walked casually down the street, hoisting her small handbag over her left shoulder. She travelled at a casual pace, carefully sticking to the sheltered path to avoid an imminent down pour. Traversing the streets and several flights of stairs she came to a modest house with the lights on. Thunder crackled ahead as she knocked on the door.

She waited several moments, and the door opened with a middle-aged woman appearing, clad in a dressing gown. The woman coughed, her skin a sickly white, wheezing she smiled.

"Good morning Lady Konon." She wheezed deeply. "Are you here for something?" Leaning against the door the older woman chuckled.

"I have made arrangements for your daughter to be able to cross the border to come see you." Said Konon with a small smile. "There should be a shipment of salbutamol coming to help with your asthma – you really should consider leaving for a warmer climate." She suggested examining the woman's fragile form.

"Be quiet please. Lord Hanzo would never allow it." Her features changing as she looked to see if anybody along the street was listening. "You must leave now." She snapped. She shut door quickly, stepping back inside – cutting Konon off. The purple-haired ninja shook her head in disappointment.

Like a sharp knife silence fell on the area – the people around her suddenly disappeared into thin air.

She paused momentarily looking down at the ground as a shadow cast itself in the corner of her eye. The light on the woman's porch turned off. Wincing she held her neck – pain shot through her body as she began to lose control of her motor functions. Trying to catch herself she fell against the door – gritting her teeth she tried to stand upright. Suddenly a sharp knock to the head bought her to the soaked floor. Blood ran down from the back of her head as she entered unconsciousness.

Tea shop

"Are you alright, sir?" Naruto was broken from his stupor by a young waitress. "Are you ready to order yet – I can come back." The young ninja sat on a stall underneath a shelter belonging to small humble café. He rested his hands the wood in front of him – his katana resting at his feet. He sat alone amongst the 4 empty seat available.

"Tea thanks." He handed her the menu on table. Crossing his fingers he leaned forward, taking a depth breath. The waitress bought over his tea. Before she could offer the newcomer a menu he waved her down, bowing slightly she walked back into the shop floor.

Several moments past until the figure broke the silence.

"I have provided you with back up should your negotiations break down." Naruto nodded as he watched the smoke rise from his tea. "Remember you must do whatever it takes to preserve the Hidden Leaf Village. I trust you understand, Naruto." The voice was gruff and blunt.

"How quaint." He spoke in a monotone.

"In some sense, yes. I have every faith that you will carry out the mission." Naruto sighed taking a drink from his tea.

"Danzo." Silence followed.

"Sorry sir, did you say something." Naruto's red eyes met hers and he shook his head.

The Land of Storms: 3 Days Later

A small makeshift shelter stood in the middle of the baron land outside the Rain Village. At the centre of the shelter stood a small table with two chairs. One on side sat the leader of the village – Hanzo the Salamander. Hanzo was a rather muscular man of above-average height, with long blond hair reaching down to his back and a prominent scar on his right cheek. He had a dark hat on his head and his lower face was mostly obscured by a helmet-like respirator, which he used to keep his own poison at bay. The upper portion of this mask bore the symbol of his village and was mirrored by four indentations on the part covering his mouth. He was a cautious man with a penitent for paranoia and underhandedness.

Hanzo sat with his arms crossed defensively – his eyes opened as Naruto pulled the chair away from the table, sitting down at the table.

"You've shown your hand early." Hanzo shifted in his position as he examined his guest.

"I don't have anything to hide." Returned Naruto placing his Katana on the table. Hanzo reached to his, placing his scythe in a similar position to Naruto's weapon. "You do have good tea here." Stated Naruto as Hanzo ignored him. He reached over and grabbed Naruto's blade, holding it with both hands careful.

The chakra presence of this man was immense. As he ran his hand along the blade's sheath, admiring the cloud images along the outer side.

"We are on the precipice of history; do you feel the same?" Asked the village leader in a curious tone.

"What makes this historical?" Naruto watched as Hanzo placed his sword back to its original position.

"You'll be the first Leaf ninja I've not tried to kill on sight." Hanzo's eyes locked onto Naruto's cold crimson red ones. The rain continued to fall around them – intensifying with a loud crackle of thunder.

"I'm humbled." Naruto leaned forward interlocking his fingers.

Hanzo gestured to the Namikaze clan symbol.

"The Namikaze are from the Village Hidden in Waterfalls. Tell me how you've managed to settle in Land of Fire?" Hanzo remained still and sharp.

"We were refuges." Answered Naruto honestly.

"Tragic. Something we have in common; we understand violence." Affirmed Hanzo shifting slightly for the first time in the conversation.

"With all due respect Hanzo, it's not that simple." Naruto appeared to be relaxed. Although, he could sense the tension in the air rising as the village leader continued to prod.

"Before we discuss the terms of our deal – I'd like to learn about your clan's bloodlimit– you combine two elements lightning and wind? Do you not?" He asked in a solemn tone. Naruto paused looking to his blade and then back to Hanzo's gaze. "You look like a calm and reasonable person – are you, are you a calm and reasonable person, Naruto?" Hanzo eyes flashed with anger for a second.

Naruto remained impassive as he continued.

"I don't deal with those who are unreasonable and scattered – I have an unhealthy obsession with order and cleanliness." The red-eyed ninja swallowed the lump in his throat.

"I'd like to think of myself in that category, orderly and clean." The older man nodded.

"Well, that's good – tricky business being a leader, never know whom you can trust. Can I trust you Naruto?" Asked Hanzo returning to his original position. "Can I trust the Hidden Leaf, your country, which has a history of failed alliances and deals of all kinds – some, you've betrayed and others you've left for better deals." Hanzo scrutinised his integrity and character in a relentless fashion.

"You'd be wise to trust me. We need not be adversaries; our nations could work for each other." Naruto watched as he leaned forward slightly. "Can I trust you, Hanzo? Can I trust you to act in the best interest of others? You don't even value the lives of these misguided people." The older ninja paused for a second.

"Most philosophers believe that trust is a kind of reliance on another person that, when violated, provokes not only disappointment but a feeling of betrayal and a desire for revenge." Hanzo's hand inched closer to his blade.

"It's called Light Release." Answered Naruto quickly as Hanzo moved his hand back to the edge of the table. "It's called Light Release." He repeated. Now can you tell me something? What could a man of your stature possible want? Your terms I hear can be exceedingly steep." He prodded.

"Do you think it's interesting? That a man of power is interested in a thing such as safety?" Asked Hanzo gauging Naruto's reaction. "Power is a fragile thing – it shows me the reality of mortality. It only lasts as long as you maintain control." Naruto nodded slightly.

"I see – I had wondered why you would ask such a thing of me." Hanzo gripped the table with both hands.

"Do you know how I maintain control?" He asked. "Fear. Fear and patience, harnessed in a sharpness that cuts out the cancer of disobedience rife within your nation right now, and it's spreading like fire." The rain around the shelter intensified.

"Are you afraid?" Asked Naruto.

"I am. You are. The men camouflaging themselves all around us have an average heartbeat of 97 beats per minute are afraid – a little steep for men engaging in such evil. Don't you think?" Hanzo gradually began to lose his composure.

"I'm not afraid Hanzo." Replied Naruto in a monotone.

"Did you kill those targets" He snapped in a low voice. "Tell me - did you kill that boy with the Rinnegan?" Questioning his anger grew.

"I did as you asked." Naruto replied.

"Do not lie to me!" He snapped again slamming his hand on the table his anger boiling over "Well? This is of great importance – answer the question." Hanzo pressed.

"The only instruction you gave me was to kill all of the ninja involved with Akatsuki here in the village. I did as you asked, all current and active members are dead. There are none here in your village." Insisted Naruto.

"If we can't have trust we must replace it with fear – fear is what motivates people to obey during a time such as this." He reached slowly for his weapon again.

"I agree in times of crisis many are willing to give up their freedom for safety." Concurred Naruto. "I do not know what more I can do to earn your trust and confidence. I have nothing else to offer a part from my word and proof of results." Hanzo stood from his seat at a methodical pace. As he moved away he ran his hand over the sharpened steal drawing blood.

He paused for a second, quickly running through some handsigns and placing his right palm on the ground. A cloud of white smoke erupted from the seal created on the ground and a giant brown salamander with a lighter coloured underside appeared. It opened its mouth – unravelling its tongue a person fell to the wet mud face down.

"What are you afraid of?" Hanzo walked over to her, grabbing her hair he threw he toward the seated blonde. Naruto took his eyes off the giant summoning creature and into the girl. She was bloodied, bruised and her ninja attire was ripped and tattered. She was unresponsive.

"Are you making a statement?" Asked Naruto remaining seated and crossing his legs.

"You failed to kill this one – we agreed you kill all the members of the Akatsuki!" Shouted Hanzo causing the blonde to nod.

"Wrong – this woman, Konon, is not your enemy." The blonde looked as Hanzo retook his seat.

"If you want your deal – you'll run her through right now." He warned.

"I don't respond well to idle threats Hanzo. I assure you – we are not enemies." The blonde remained calm. "Be calm now and stop with your madness." Warned Naruto as he gripped the hilt of his blade tightly.

Hanzo sighed - taking a deep breath. Pausing, leaning forward slightly.

"In return for medical equipment, arms, soldiers to train more men and money – I will allow you free passage through my country to ferry supplies to your positions in the surrounding fronts unthreatened and guarded by our strongest ninja. In return, you will provide my men with weapons, agricultural resources and support our legitimacy as the six great power." The smell of blood rushed his nostrils as his eyes slowly moved from Konon's form.

"How does one support this legitimacy? I do not make the map." Asked Naruto loosening the grip on his sword.

"As a sign of our union you will join with this citizen of my country in marriage that I will legitimise right here as ruler. A public declaration – you take your village's honour in time when many are questioning it." Hanzo pulled a scroll from his back pocket. Naruto eyed the scroll – letting himself smile slightly. "Accept these terms or the boys you've sent to the frontlines will be killed, you will lose ground it took you months to break through, your country will be disgraced, and your clan will be shamed." Naruto looked down at Konon then back up to Hanzo whom laid out the scroll on the table. It was a certificate of marriage – Konon's fingerprint was next to her name.

"Your leaders are afraid they will be remembered as the ones who lost this war, who led your country to its ruin. You may not be afraid but I have every faith that they are."Hanzo held a pen out toward the blonde.

Naruto looked at the pen and then into the man's eyes.

"Do you want your deal or not!?" He pressed again.

Naruto gripped the pen, signing his name. Hanzo tore the scroll away from him and slammed it on the table.

"Do we have an accord – Lord Hanzo?" Asked Naruto holding his hand out toward the older man.

"May your war end with the slaughter of your enemies, Naruto Namikaze." The pair shook hands conceiving the first alliance between the Land of Storms and the Land of Fire.

Chapter End

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