Disclaimer: Still don't own Naruto, and - surprisingly - still don't own any copies of the Naruto manga. Despite growing my manga collection EXTENSIVELY since my wife and I started collecting two years ago, I have actually not obtained any Naruto copies. Probably cause there's seventy-two volumes. My brain knows I'll need them all when I start, and my wallet is doing everything in its power to prevent that from happening. We'll see how long my resistence holds before I cave into it. Cause once I own my physical copies, then technically speaking, through twisting the definition and meaning of the word 'ownership', I will in fact own Naruto!
MUahahaahahahaahahahah! THE DAY IS COMING! JUST YOU WAIT KISHIMOTO AND SHONEN JUMP AND STUDIO PIERROT; I SHALL- Oh, I wonder what those fancy laywers are doing parking their car outside of my place? Do they want to talk with me-
Unable to go back to sleep, Neji opted to meditate to pass the time, trying to push away intrusive thoughts in order to relax. His efforts were in vain, however, as Tōneri's voice continued to echo in his mind.
"You and Hinata need to come to the tallest mountain in five days, Neji."
Neji tightened his hands slightly, taking in a deep breath before exhaling. He repeated the process over-and-over again until the voice grew quieter.
After a few hours passed, the sun finally rose over Tetsu no Kuni and the day officially began. Upon hearing movement in the hallway outside of his room, Neji finally pulled himself out of his 'meditation' and left his room, walking straight to Naruto's and Hinata's door. He knocked on the door and a few seconds passed by before Hinata opened the door, still in her regular clothes, alongside disheveled hair and barely open eyelids.
"Neji-nii… san… good morning…" She managed to say between yawns.
Her cousin blinked: "Did you not change into nightwear when you went to sleep?"
"I… I haven't changed yet…" Hinata yawned in response as she briefly looked downward: "Was… about… to finally go to sleep…"
"At this hour?" Neji's eyes widened in response: "What were you doing? If I knew you were awake, I would have stopped by hours ago!"
"Studying…" She replied. "I… should sleep…"
Neji sighed: "Well, you can go to sleep in a moment, but I need to speak with you and Naruto, so please stay awake for a few more minutes. This is important." His eyes narrowed slightly as his voice grew quieter: "It concerns the Ōtsutsuki."
Instantly, Hinata seemed to grow more alert, the name seemingly waking her up.
"What about the Ōtsutsuki?"
The cousins turned their heads to see Naruto, now pulling himself out of bed. Unlike Hinata, however, he managed to change into his pajamas and seemingly go to sleep.
Hinata brought Neji inside the room and the two walked over to the bed. Hinata sat down next to Naruto while Neji remained standing, crossing his arms.
"Last night, I had a vision that pulled me out of the dream I was having. There, I heard a voice of a man named Ōtsutsuki Tōneri, who claimed he was communicating with me through a jutsu of his."
"Ōtsutsuki… Tōneri?" Hinata repeated the name, bringing her hand to her chin in thought.
'Kurama?' Naruto called out internally to the bijū sealed inside him: 'Do you recognize that name? It is the Rikudō Sennin's clan; was this guy around back then?'
"No. I do not recognize that name." Kurama replied.
"The Kyūbi doesn't recognize the name." Naruto spoke for Kurama, frowning: "What did this Tōneri guy say?"
"He wants to meet with both me and Hinata in five days." Neji replied, looking at his cousin: "This man knew our names and knew that we were in Tetsu no Kuni."
"Huh?" Hinata's eyes widening, a concerned expression forming on her lips: "H-How is that possible? Are we being stalked?"
"We would have noticed someone stalking us, right? Especially you two, when you both had the Byakugan active." Naruto noted, shaking his head: "You said this guy spoke to you in a dream? Do you think there's any shot that this wasn't just a part of your dream? Like, you read the name 'Tōneri' in one of the books and it just stuck with you?"
"No." The Hyūga shook his head: "It's hard to put it in words, but the conversation I had with him felt very real. I woke up in a cold sweat and I don't think anything particularly nightmare-ish happened in the talk. I reflected on it this morning; I'm positive this man was no dream."
"But if he wasn't a dream, how does he know information about us?" Hinata asked: "We only just learned that the Ōtsutsuki even exist; if there really are some still around, we've never met them."
Neji, again, shook his head: "I don't know. He wouldn't answer; just kept saying he wants to meet up."
"If your mate's cousin is being serious, then I wouldn't trust this man." Kurama's voice echoed in Naruto's ear: "My father, his brother Hamura, and his son Asura – those are the only Ōtsutsuki who's word is worth a damn. I can't tell you if this 'Tōneri' was a contemporary to my father or if he's from your generation, but either way, you should be exercising caution now."
"The Kyūbi is telling me that, if this man is really real, you guys shouldn't trust him." Naruto noted, sighing: "I… I don't know if I agree with him just yet, but I do agree that you guys should be cautious about a guy you haven't met that knows who you two are and where you're at."
"Agreed." Neji said: "I just wanted to inform you both about this. I'll keep you two informed if he tries to contact me again."
"I'll do the same." Hinata said, bringing her hands together: "I… If he really does want to talk to both of us, I'll expect him to try and contact me too."
Neji nodded his head in understanding. With a quick bow, he bade farewell to the newly-married couple and left their room.
Hinata was about to say something, but her eyes widened as she remembered something.
"Naruto, you had your clones studying the seventh floor, right?" She asked: "Did you learn anything from them about the Ōtsutsuki or the Tenseigan?"
"I didn't catch anything about them by name, no. Also, my clones didn't cover every book, although they marked everything they did not, so it should be easy going back to finding new info." Naruto shook his head before he brought his hands to his chin in thought: "There was something that caught my interest, though. I think I may have learned something about Hamura."
"Really?" Hinata's eyes widened: "What?"
"Well, again, I didn't read the name Ōtsutsuki or Hamura or anything." Naruto repeated. Hinata nodded her head in understanding, which he took as his prompt to continue: "But I read a few books that discussed the Rikudō Sennin like he was a god, and in those books, they also referenced someone they called 'The Man in the Moon'."
"Huh?" She blinked in response.
"A few of the books on the top floor talked about the Rikudō Sennin's 'day-to-day' life and I can tell some things were bullshit, which the Kyūbi confirmed." Naruto said: "However, one thing that he was apparently known to do was look up to the moon for hours. One woman asked him at one point what he was doing, and he told her that 'He was talking to his brother'."
The Uzumaki then brought his hands behind his head as he leaned back onto the bed: "So, other books also mentioned that some people reported seeing a man's silhouette in the moon. If you looked up on a full moon, you'd see this 'man' walking around on the moon's surface. Supposedly, if you actually saw his figure, it was supposed to bring you good luck." He shrugged his shoulders: "That stuff was in unrelated books, but if you take what the Rikudō Sennin has apparently mentioned, this 'Man in the Moon' was most likely his brother."
"Ōtsutsuki Hamura lived on the moon?" She repeated: "But… how would that be possible? How could someone even get to the moon?" She then paused for a moment before shaking her head: "How could someone live there? I thought scientists said the moon was most likely uninhabitable!"
"I don't know. I just know what I read." Naruto said: "But the Rikudō Sennin was basically considered a god, and I imagine his brother was probably something similar. With that in mind, I don't think the idea of Hamura being on the moon is impossible."
"I… suppose that's true." Hinata admitted as she closed her eyes for a moment: 'First hints about Shimon, and now this about Ōtsutsuki Hamura… we're finally getting some leads!'
With that thought in mind, Hinata stood up. She then looked down at her husband: "Get ready, Naruto. I'm going back to continue my research!"
The Uzumaki nodded his head in agreement: "As will I."
"Chiasa-san, Masayuki-san, you do not know how nice it is to see you both here again. I could hardly believe it when Mifune came home and told me you two were here!"
"We're just as excited to see you as well, Sachiko-san!"
Both Chiasa and Masayuki were smiling as they took a seat inside a restaurant for breakfast. Sitting across the table from them was Mifune and his wife, Sachiko. She was an elderly woman with pale skin, almost reminiscent of the snow falling outside, and had grey hair that was styled in a bun with an ornate purple flower clip holding her hair together. She wore a white yukata with red flowers and easily appeared to be the most dressed-up compared to the others at her table.
"How long are you both here until?" Sachiko asked, clapping her hands together.
"I think about a week. Depends on how long the shinobi decide to stay here." Masayuki answered.
The woman nodded her head: "One of them is your grandson, yes?"
"Yes, Naruto-kun." Chiasa noted with a chuckle: "You will adore him. The boy has so much energy and so many stories to share!"
"I've love to meet him! Maybe you could invite him over for dinner at our house? I could cook for the occasion." Sachiko noted before turning to her husband: "Does that sound like a good idea?"
Mifune did not reply. Sachiko's eyebrow raised.
"Mifune?" She spoke his name again. And again, he did not answer: "Mifune-sama?"
Once again, no reaction. A sigh escaped her lips.
"Huh. He hates when I use that honorific." She noted, chuckling: "Most be fixated on something."
"He still does that?" Masayuki asked, a grin developing on his face: "I figured he outgrew that when he took the title of General."
"No, just because he's our nation's top warrior doesn't mean he'd change at all. He'll always still be the nerdy Mifune you all remembered." His wife noted with a chuckle.
As Sachiko had noted, Mifune always had a tendency to hyper fixate on the most mundane of things. He had strong tunnel vision, focusing on whatever sparked his interest and rarely branching from the thoughts once they arrived, no matter how much he was prompted.
A real interesting case came when he was an up-and-coming samurai who had just received accolades as a samurai for his first major assignment as a samurai. His captain had compared him to the famed Tanaka Musashi. Mifune at the time did not recognize the name, but he became curious to learn about the man. This morphed into a deep long investment in studying samurai history, to the point where he spent more time taking classes and studying at university to the point where he rarely went out on missions. The very same captain that had praised Mifune told him he was disappointed to see him wasting his time and talents in the library and classrooms of the capital, but his complaints went in one ear and out the other; Mifune was too interested in learning about his former samurai and felt the compulsion to see his studies through.
This did result in the man meeting a foreign student from Hi no Kuni named Chiasa, however, and gave him the opportunity to introduce her to a friend of his that entertained his interests more than others – a man named Namikaze Masayuki.
"Good to see some things never change, Mifune." Chiasa chuckled.
Mifune, again did not respond as he rubbed at his beard in deep thought. A few more seconds passed and, after a waitress came by and took the orders from everyone else at the table, Chiasa shook her head and placed her hands on the table.
"Well, guess we should be going then if he's too lost in thought-"
"Go? Go where?" Mifune blinked, pulling himself out of his thoughts.
"Ah, welcome back, Mifune." Chiasa smirked as she shook her head and got more comfortable in her seat.
"… Ah. Forgive my discourtesy." The Samurai General bowed his head.
"No need for that. It's nice to see that neither time nor status has changed you completely." Masayuki noted with a chuckle: "What's on your mind?"
"If it's what he was thinking about last night, it has something to do with your shinobi escort.' Sachiko noted.
"Hmm?" Chiasa tilted her head slightly: "What do you have in mind for them?"
"… Well, okay, I had conversations with Kinuta-san and Kurogane-san yesterday that have me thinking; there really is a great divide between Tetsu no Kuni and the other countries. Even I am not immune to generations of prejudice that have passed down." Mifune admitted, bringing his hands together: "Tetsu no Kuni and the Shinobi Nations have been neutral with one another, but I do believe that a lack of relationships could eventually lead to something dangerous down the line for any of us. No, I think this divide needs to be addressed, and what better time than when shinobi are physically present in our Capital City as we speak!"
"Huh..." Chiasa rubbed the back of her head, a chuckle escaping her lips: "I was expecting you to be thinking of something a little more mundane."
"I'm… not sure how to take that comment." Mifune admitted with a slight twitch of his eyes and a shake of the head. To anyone else, Mifune would appear as stoic as always, but to any of his closer confidants, the man seemed outright bashful at the moment.
"So what are you planning to do with the shinobi?" Masayuki asked.
"Kurogane-san requested a spar with himself and one of our samurai, but I think there could be something better done to better facilitate a deeper relationship." Mifune admitted: "I've been thinking about-" His eyes widened as a realization dawned on him. He then took in a deep breath and clapped his hands together: "Okisuke-san, report."
Instantly, the samurai appeared directly behind, still dressed in full armor.
"Mifune-sama." The man bowed his head.
"Oh, Okisuke-san. Pleasure as always." Sachiko noted, chuckling slightly: "If you are here as well, please make sure to eat something as well. Don't be shirking on your health!"
"…" The Samurai turned towards his general's wife. He bowed his head once more: "I have been taking care of myself, Sachiko-sama."
"Wh-Whoa!" Chiasa blinked in response: "Has he been here the whole time?"
"I've sensed his presence the whole time." Mifune noted, his eyes narrowing on the man: "He should be off-duty for the day, but I imagine he must be feeling anxious because 'shinobi are present in the village' and most likely wishes to keep watch over me, correct?"
Okisuke closed his eyes in response, but gave no verbal reply.
"Okisuke-san, in your opinion, do you believe any samurai in the village would be interested in exhibition matches with the shinobi present?" Mifune asked.
His subordinated nodded his head: "Yoshiteru and Chiyomatsu have asked me questions about the samurai, and Chiyomatsu has voiced a desire to spar with them. Takeko saw them with me on guard duty yesterday, so I imagine she might like a chance to fight them."
"Hmm. Interesting." Mifune rubbed his beard in thought: "Anyone else?"
Okisuke crossed his arms: "Sazanami is also usually interested in fighting strong opponents, so he might also be interested. Toki-sama might also be interested; she does seem to dislike most shinobi, but in a way where I feel like she might be willing to seek out a fight."
"Ah, she does have a distaste for them… but in this case, that would be good. That's precisely the prejudice that would be good to crush." The Samurai General nodded his head. He then looked at his subordinate with a curious expression: "Would you be interested as well?"
"If you ordered it of me." Okisuke replied.
"Then consider it an order. Perhaps it could help you understand the shinobi more and be a little more trusting." Mifune noted. Okisuke nodded his head in response before he turned to leave: "Also, Okisuke-san, please remove the armor. You've been wearing it out in public for a month straight; I'm starting to worry about your muscles."
Chiasa, Masayuki, and Sachiko, who had been quiet during the conversation between the Samurai, all nearly choked in response to Mifune's comments.
'Wearing armor for almost a whole month straight?' Chiasa wondered: 'What does that even feel like? What does that even smell like?'
'That armor almost functions like weights for training purposes.' Masayuki noted, his eyes focusing intently on Okisuke: 'While I imagine he takes it off-and-on for sleeping and bathing, If he seriously has been wearing it for a whole month straight… I wonder what that says about his strength and reflexes.'
"… Understood, Mifune-sama." Okisuke stated with a bow. He took a few steps away before a thought crossed his mind. He then turned his head: "One more thought, Mifune. I know this may seem a little odd, considering he is no samurai, but I am certain 'The Bard' would be interested in potentially fighting these visitors."
"The Bard-" Mifune's eyes widened as he nodded his head: "Yes. Of course. I know where he frequents; I'm sure he would be interested. Thank you for the suggestions, Okisuke-san."
The Samurai gave no reply, disappearing in a flicker. As the man left, a small chuckle escaped Mifune's lips as he shook his head.
"Well, I hope the shinobi are interested. I think I have something interesting planned that should be enjoyable for all involved." He noted.
"Care to share more details?" Chiasa asked.
Mifune nodded his head in response before beginning to share his thoughts to his friends and his wife.
Dosu had been the first to arrive at the Tetsu no Kuni Historical Library. He went up the stairs to the fourth floor and grabbed a handful of textbooks before moving to a desk and starting to study. He then pulled out a notebook and began writing down any pertinent historical figures he read up on.
He knew that Hinata and Neji – while taking this mission seriously and acknowledging strong shinobi they would read about – were here predominately to uncover truths about their ancestry. He also knew that Naruto, no matter how much information he read and obtained, would probably not keep detailed notes and would not recall everything he learned. In Dosu's mind, it was up to himself to create the most detailed account of all potential 'Edo Tensei' candidates for Konoha's records.
With this thought in mind, he moved through book-after-book, recording all the dangerous shinobi and samurai he read about.
Thirty minutes into his studying, he heard the sound of footsteps. He waved to the new occupant as they arrived, but did not bother to look up from his research. A few more minutes passed by before he felt a presence looking over his shoulder.
"You've got pretty intricate notes."
Dosu finally looked up from his notebook, coming face-to-face with Kankurō. He was quiet for a moment before nodding his head.
"Can I look?" Kankurō asked.
"Why?" Dosu asked back.
"Well…" The puppeteer blinked in response before shrugging his shoulders: "Starting to feel like I got to do something similar for Gaara. Just reciting names from memory might look a little weak to him. It would help to just look at what someone else has worked on so far, and see if I could do something similar."
The Konoha shinobi nodded his head before he held out his notebook towards Kankurō. The Suna puppeteer turned to the front page. Immediately, his eyebrow raised.
"You have a lot of Third Shinobi World War vets here." He noted: "Why? Shouldn't our villages have up-to-date records of them?"
"Correct, however, I am trying to compile a full list of any and all shinobi that I think Kabuto could revive." Dosu answered: "It does help for us to be at least familiar with some of the more recent enemies who are likely candidates."
"Hmm. That's true." Kankurō, again, shrugged his shoulders as he looked over the names: "And yeah, I can definitely see some of these being on Kabuto's short list. Toroi and Blue Bee from Kumogakure, Harusame, Aō, and Ringo Ameyuri from Kiri, Gari and Kitsuchi from Iwagakure, and from Sunagakure you have Pakura and-" Kankurō's eyes widened at the next name on this list, his grip on it instinctively tightening "Hey… you don't think that bastard Kabuto's actually gonna bring back Yashamaru, do you?"
Dosu sighed: "I have no clue. I am just trying to keep track of all the well-known shinobi, and I've heard that Yashamaru was a well-known and heavily decorated shinobi."
"He… was." Kankurō mumbled.
The memory of his uncle was still a rather troubling one for the puppeteer. All of Kankurō's and Temari's memories of the man were extremely positive, as Yashamaru was one of the most caring and lovely people they had ever interacted with. He played and took care of them infinitely better than their father – and unlike their father, Yashamaru actually told them stories of their mother. He loved his uncle… which only made what happened to Gaara all the more tragic and painful
"… I don't think I can see him." Kankurō said, shaking his head: "And god help us all if Gaara faces him. He's doing better now, but our uncle definitely put a lot of trauma on him that hasn't fully recovered…"
"I only wrote his name for us to be aware of the possibility. There's a chance he won't be summoned, and if he were, there's also a chance he won't be an opponent for you specifically." Dosu noted.
"Hmm… hopefully." Kankurō hummed, moving further past the list: "Konoha wise, you listed a couple of names here, I see. Hatake Sakumo, Katō Dan, Uchiha Fugaku…" He tilted his head slightly: "Oi, you put Inuzuka Kiba's name here; isn't he still alive? And our age?"
"Oh, that's referring to his deceased uncle – the man he was named after." Dosu replied.
"… Huh." Kankurō nodded his head in understanding before he continued reading through the names: "Yeah, this is pretty concise. You've written a ton-" Kankurō's eyebrow raised once more as he pointed to another name: "One more question!"
"You probably have more." Dosu replied, chuckling.
The puppeteer ignored the joke and, instead, continued to point at the name: "Why is this guy's name filled with question marks next to it?"
Dosu looked over at his notebook. Once he realized the name Kankurō was pointing to, his chuckling grew louder as he shook his head.
"That's something I want to study a little more in detail. That's Seiza, the Shodai Hoshikage. He-"
"Hoshikage?" Kankurō snorted: "I sometimes forget that Minor Shinobi Village still calls their leader 'Kage'. You think that would matter more diplomatically, but apparently no one gives a shit about their village, cause they keep to themselves just as effectively as the Samurai here do."
"That village is an enigma. Especially with this fact." Dosu noted, shaking his head: "For some reason, records are suggesting that the village was founded two hundred years ago, during the Warring Clans Era."
"Huh?" Kankurō blinked in response: "That's impossible. The Shinobi Village system didn't exist back then."
Dosu nodded his head in agreement. It was well-documented that the Hidden Shinobi Villages – both major and minor villages – formed almost all at-once at the end of the Warring Clan Era. Hoshigakure, the Village Hidden in the Stars, was amongst that list as well, having formed around a site that a 'falling star' supposedly crashed into the planet. However, the village was also written about in the Samurai Library in Tetsu no Kuni as having been founded during the Warring Clan Era.
"I thought so too, but the Shodai Hoshikage was a man named Seiza, and their village history regards him as their founder. And he apparently formed a village of shinobi during this time period." The Konoha shinobi stated.
"… Hmm … So their founder is from this era… maybe he just had a long life span?" Kankurō asked: "I mean, Monzaemon Chikamatsu lived over two centuries. Maybe this Seiza guy managed to live that long as well? And then history got distorted and put the founding of the village somewhere near the midpoint of his life?"
Dosu shrugged his shoulders: "Possibly, but regardless of their founder's life span, there are records of a village of shinobi having been formed in Kuma no Kuni back all those years ago, if the books here are truly accurate." He sighed: "I don't know. This is why I want to research this more, if I get the chance to. The inconstancy about this is going to bother me."
"You really like history, huh?" The puppeteer noted.
The Konoha shinobi nodded his head: "I've always found it fascinating."
"Well, regardless of if this village was founded long ago, yeah, the Shodai Hoshikage might make for a good Edo Tensei candidate." Kankurō said, a frown forming on his lips as he crossed his arms: "Kinda weird though, huh? Realizing that we're reading about these people and that we might end up having to fight them?"
"It's terrifying." Dosu admitted: "The feats of some of the shinobi here are beyond normal. Especially those from the Warring Clan Era and before. It's…" He closed his eyes for a moment before shaking his head: "I'm not strong enough yet. If we can't discover where the Akatsuki is at and it comes to a war like this, with this caliber of shinobi, I honestly think that anyone not considered jōnin-level strength should not be permitted to battle."
"Gaara's said something like that. He thinks everyone should be somewhere between classified A-Rank to S-Rank before they're allowed to fight. A lot of our village's shinobi are training like hell to prepare and meet that standard. Guess all of our villages are." Kankurō said, sighing: "That's what makes what we're doing all the more important."
With those words, Kankurō returned Dosu's notebook to hm. The Konoha shinobi promptly went back to working on his notes while Kankurō went and grabbed some books of his own. He then took a seat next to the man and began working on his own set of notes.
All they could do was hope that their respective Kage and Village would be able to use their notes to prepare effectively for whatever was to come.
After five hours of straight studying, Hinata finally left the library with Naruto to go eat lunch. They had rushed over without having eaten any breakfast and her body was starting to grumble, as well as her body starting to tire. The lack of sleep was, to a degree, starting to catch up to her.
"No luck so far?" Naruto asked.
"Not really." Hinata sighed: "Mifune-sama mentioned the fifth floor's books did mostly talk about Samurai, and he was not kidding. You won't believe the amount of Tetsu no Kuni's history I've absorbed from skimming alone."
"Heh, well that's cool at least." Her husband replied with a chuckle: "Even if that's not what you're wanting, it's still important stuff."
"True. And I do think I am learning about some of the Samurai from here that Kabuto could try and summon." She nodded her head before she started to yawn: "Still though…"
"Who did you learn about?" He asked. Hinata opened her mouth to answer, but only yawned again in response, prompting Naruto to frown: "Do you want to skip lunch and go to sleep?"
She shook her head: "No, if I don't eat anything, I'm gonna be even more exhausted-"
"Oh, Naruto-kun! Hinata-chan! Are you two hungry?"
The couple looked away from each other and noticed Masayuki and Chiasa approaching from the other side of the street. A grin developed on Naruto's face as he nodded his head.
"Yeah, we're just on our way somewhere!" He stated.
"Why not you come with us?" Chiasa asked: "Masa knows a nice little hole-in-the-wall restaurant nearby that has really good ramen-"
"Ramen?" Naruto's eyes brightened quickly as he clapped his hands together and bowed his head: "Yes! We'll come!"
His grandparents and wife chuckled in response as the four began to walk together down the streets of Tetsu no Kuni. As they turned a corner, they walked past a samurai who was dressed in full armor – the same armor the guards to the city were wearing. The samurai briefly glanced at them before turning their head forward, walking past them.
"Question, Masa-jī-san." Naruto spoke-up, a confused expression on his face: "Why do so many Samurai walk around in their armor all the time like that?"
"It's not the norm, but a few do because it's good strength training." Masayuki noted: "The armor can be somewhat bulky and noisy to move around in, so it's often encouraged to regularly wear it outside of duties in order to build up necessary muscle and also practice moving in a way that doesn't make much noise."
"Huh. Guess I didn't even hear that guy approaching us." Naruto mumbled.
He looked back to see the samurai still walking down the street away from them. As Masayuki had noted, Naruto now noted that, despite how heavy the armor, the samurai was walking normally without making a single noise.
'Reminds me of Lee's weight training.' He realized.
"There's also another benefit to it." Chiasa added before gesturing to the area around them, pointing out the very visible snow on the ground, as well as the snow still currently falling: "That armor is warm. Sure some people just wear it to keep a little warmed up."
"Eh, maybe." Masayuki shrugged his shoulders: "But the people of Tetsu no Kuni are used to it. It's rare for it to be 'cold' here for the locals."
"Are you cold, then?" Hinata asked.
"Ha! Of course!" The former samurai laughed loudly: "I've lived too dang long in Hi no Kuni that it made me weak!"
"So, what's it like being a samurai here?" Naruto asked, bringing his hands behind his head: "Is it a lot different than being a shinobi?"
"Well, he doesn't use ninjutsu." Chiasa noted with a chuckle: "Ask him about hand signs and he'll probably panic."
"Hey, I remember a few of them. I tried to help Minato-kun when he was learning." Her husband replied, shaking his head. He then turned to face Naruto: "Anyway, I actually think samurai and shinobi have a lot in common. That… er…" He rubbed the back of his head: "That's a somewhat controversial opinion here, but I've always had it. I mean, they serve the same role; function as your country's military and work to protect people and take missions and assignments. Only real differences I can see are just how we approach combat and the fact that we work more directly with our Daimyo then you all do."
"I mean, we work with our Daimyo too, but it's complicated." Hinata admitted, shaking her head: "I don't really know too much about the politics of it, but I know his priorities are more centered on Hi no Kuni as a whole and tends to put the thoughts and opinions of Konoha as a lower priority."
"Minato-kun never talked much politics with us when he was appointed to be the Yondaime, but I can agree with you there; he did not like the Daimyo." Chiasa noted.
'I'm going to have to be working with him, though…' Naruto sighed: 'I'll really need to brush up on political talk and all that bullshit. Ugh.'
He shook his head before giving his grandfather a curious look: "Anyway, that Mifune guy said you left being a samurai behind. Why'd you end up leaving?"
"Well, it just sorta became an inevitability when I left Tetsu no Kuni. I mean, there are samurai in other countries, but other than the samurai from Shijima no Kuni – the Land of Silence – the other's nation's samurai are…" Masayuki frowned: "I'm not sure the best way to put it. I guess… they're just really weak."
"Gross understatement." Chiasa nodded her head.
"So, why'd you leave?" Naruto asked. His eyes then moved to his grandmother: "Is it because you met Chiasa-oba-san?"
"Well, yes." Masayuki admitted, chuckling as he reached for Chiasa's hand: "Chia only came to Tetsu no Kuni to study at a university here for a few years. I wasn't a student, but we met at a restaurant one day, and the rest was history. And when it was time for her to graduate and go back home, I didn't want to be without her. So if she wanted to go back home, I wanted to go with her."
"That's really sweet!" Hinata noted, a smile developing on her face.
"He really didn't have to..." Chiasa mumbled, her hand squeezing her husband's tightly: "I would have been fine staying here. I even told him that-"
"But you had said previously that you wanted to go back home and teach true history based on what you learned here." Masayuki said, shaking his head: "I would never have gotten in the way of that!"
"Tell us more about how you two got together!" Naruto added, grinning as well at them: "Over ramen!"
"Heh. Of course, of course." Masayuki chuckled in response.
Naruto and Hinata asked more-and-more questions to the Namikazes, who were more than willing to answer anything about themselves or Tetsu no Kuni. Both Naruto and Hinata were having fun learning more about them, eagerly coming up with new questions. The questions continued well into their time at the restaurant, with Naruto paying more attention to the conversation than the ramen!
Despite the great time, however, Hinata could not help but yawn frequently. Her exhaustion was slowly building-up more and more.
'Everything seems to be underway. Perfect.' Mifune noted, nodding his head in approval as he walked out of the Daimyo's office.
As he had expected, the Tetsu no Kuni Daimyo agreed to his plan and seemed rather pleased with the opportunity Mifune's suggestion presented. He even offered a venue for these 'exhibition matches' and seemed excited about the possibility of seeing the shinobi in action.
He had already confirmed with the samurai Okisuke suggested to reach out to and received positive affirmations of their willingness to fight. All that was left to confirm with one final person, and then reach out to the shinobi.
'Despite the snow fall, there isn't much wind chill today. I'm sure he will still be out.' Mifune told himself.
The Samurai General made his way through the streets of the city until he reached one of the market districts, Sanya. Unlike the finer market districts in the capital, the shops and stalls present in this district were relatively run-down, with paint slowly peeling from walls and loose boards present. It appeared that one heavy gust of wind would most likely take out a portion of the district's shops. Furthermore, the shops did not carry much that would be considered 'high quality' items – the clothes were of a visually-less quality, the food stalls looked a little more unsanitary, and the few artisan shops appeared to be selling shoddy, custom goods.
Nevertheless, the Sanya district was teeming with people, rushing through the streets. As Mifune made his way through the crowds, he felt a few people nearly try and shove past him on their way to stores. Despite the actions, however, Mifune only chuckled and continued to move on as if no offense had been given.
In a sense, Sanya was comforting to him – it was the one place in the Capital he could travel to and not feel venerated for being the Samurai General of the army. It was a nostalgic feeling for the man, and one he relished in every time he stopped by.
Mifune continued to move through the streets until he reached a stall that was selling handcrafted scarfs. The man behind the counter was currently arguing with a woman about the price of one of the scarfs. Standing near the stall, however, was a young man with shoulder-length blond hair, grey eyes, and ivory-colored skin. He wore a baggy purple sweater and black sweat pants with rips present on both and had a blue scarf around his neck. In his hands was an orange-colored ocarina with a crack down the middle.
The man was playing a relaxing melody on the ocarina, providing some sense of relaxation around that kept the stall peaceful. A few people stood off to the side, listening to the man play his music, while others, after briefly looking at him and noticing the scarf stand, proceeded to get in line to check out the merchandise.
Mifune approached the young man and waited patiently for him to finish his song. A minute passed before he finally put the ocarina down. The other passers-by that were watching clapped for him. He smiled bowing his head in their direction. As he stared out to the group, he noticed the Samurai General and his eyes widened.
"Mifune-sama?" He mumbled for a moment before shaking his head: "How are you doing today, sir? Do you need a new scarf?"
"No, not today, Menma-san. The one I bought last month is still in good condition." Mifune admitted with a chuckle: "I'm not here to shop; I actually came to see you."
"Oh?" Menma blinked in response before he put his ocarina inside a pouch on his waist: "What can I do for you, sir?"
"I'll tolerate the honorifics, but no need to call me 'sir'." Mifune continued to chuckle, which caused the boy's cheeks to redden in embarrassment: "I just wanted to ask if you'd be interested in participating in an exhibition I am hosting."
"An exhibition?" The blond tilted his head: "Is there a music contest happening?"
"No, it's nothing like that." The samurai shook his head: "Before going into the specifics, were you aware that some shinobi arrived in the village yesterday?"
The musician tensed-up slightly for a moment, but nodded his head: "I was. I've been sorta avoiding going out to other parts of the city to avoid running into them." He frowned: "I… take it this 'exhibition' involves them. It... involves fighting, doesn't it?"
"It does." Mifune said, a gentle smile on his face: "Only if you wish, though. Recall that you are only a resident of this village, not a samurai nor a member of my army. I cannot order you to do anything, even if I wanted to."
"Well, yeah, but you still stuck your neck out and let me, a former shinobi, find asylum here. If you're asking me of something, it's hard to refuse…" Menma mumbled, his eyes failing to meet the samurai's.
The elderly man shook his head: "Again, I'm asking about your interest. Please, do not force yourself."
"… What villagers are they from?" The blond asked.
"The five major villages." Mifune noted.
"No… No one from Ta no Kuni, right?" Menma asked.
"No." The samurai shook his head: "If you are concerned, I can assure you that no one here has any allegiance to the deceased Orochimaru, I can assure you that."
"… I see…" The blond took in a deep breath for a second before his eyes met Mifune's once more. He nodded his head: "I… If you say these people aren't threats, then okay. I guess it would give me a chance to see where I stack up with other shinobi."
"You've still been training, yes?" Mifune asked.
Menma nodded his head as he pulled out his ocarina once more. His hands tightened on the instrument.
"Yes. I've been training. I can't afford to be rusty if something were to ever happen." He stated, a smile forming on his face once more: "Yes, I should do fine. As the sole shinobi of Tetsu no Kuni, I'll make sure to do you proud and beat these foreigners!"
"Heh." Mifune chuckled as he placed his hand's on the young man's shoulder: "You'll do great, I'm sure."
With the musician's confirmation, Mifune now had eight willing participants. All that was left to do was confirm with the shinobi that they were interested.
'Hmm… fascinating…' Yugito told herself as she flipped through pages.
The Nibi jinchūriki had been the only one to study on the second floor of the library, where she immersed herself in potential Edo Tensei candidates from the Third and Second Shinobi World Wars. She went through plenty of books rather quickly until she reached a book that genuinely surprised her: a biography on the Nidaime Raikage, the Second Ē.
She had grabbed the book rather quickly, expecting somewhat of a slam piece on the man that also acknowledged his worth as a shinobi. Instead, however, the Tetsu no Kuni historian gave a very detailed look into the man's life. The historian knew a surprising amount of information, even knowing the Nidaime's given name prior to becoming the Raikage – Honne.
Almost subconsciously, Yugito read the book at a relaxed pace, taking in the words as opposed to just skimming for the information on his combat abilities.
Upon nearly finishing the book, she heard footsteps coming down the stairs. She looked over to see Han coming down the stairs. The two locked eyes and the Gobi jinchūriki smiled behind his mask as he walked towards her.
"It's nice to see you." He said.
"You as well." Yugito smiled back as she briefly closed the book, marking her current page: "How'd your research go?"
"Fine. Spent most of it learning about more Warring Clan Era shinobi." Han stated before he frowned: "I know I had definitely heard about Uchiha Madara before, but I don't think I fully processed the extent of how terrifying that man truly was. I would be extremely concerned if Kabuto managed to get a hold of his soul for the Edo Tensei."
"Hmm…" Yugito crossed her arms: "Actually, I've been meaning to ask someone; do we even think Kabuto is able to control these summons? I imagine a good lot of them are perhaps even more powerful than him and could overwhelm his control."
"From my understanding, when Orochimaru used the jutsu during the Konoha Invasion, he summoned the Shodai Tsuchikage and Hokage, and the Nidaime Hokage, at reduced strengths in order for him to have control over them. Kabuto must be capable of doing the same." Han noted. A frown developed on his face: "That also implies the stronger Kabuto becomes, the stronger his Edo Tensei he will be able to summon. And I know the man has obtained Sage Mode, amongst other augmentations."
"… So basically, he'll be summoning these Edo Tensei maybe not at full power, but close enough that it'll make our lives hell." The Nibi jinchūriki replied. Han nodded his head, prompting her to sigh: "Juuuuust great."
"Naturally." Han sighed as he glanced over to the book that she was reading. An eyebrow raised slightly: "I'm surprised to see you studying your village's Nidaime. Do you not have information on him already?"
"Not really." Yugito shook her head, prompting Han's eyebrow to rise further: "Our Nidaime isn't particularly popular nowadays in our village. Kumogakure, historically speaking, has always valued strength above all else and sorta has kept an isolationist stance from the other shinobi villages, having concerns that the other villages would try and use our secrets against us to destroy us. That philosophy doesn't apply to our Nidaime Raikage, though; he actually spent most of his time in office trying to create peace with the other villages."
"Oh?" Han's eyes widened: "I was unaware of this."
"Yeah, the Second Ē went to the first Kage Summit as the Shodai Raikage's bodyguard and, according to this book that has way too many things accurate about him to just be making up shit, the Nidaime felt very uncomfortable about how tense the villages seemed to be." Yugito said: "He was very concerned about war starting up again and tried to prevent it. And when the First Shinobi World War did end up breaking out, he went against advice from his advisors and sought out an alliance with Konoha."
"That I do know about. There's a monument dedicated to him and the Nidaime Hokage." Han noted, shaking his head: "During that meeting, they were both ambushed by Kinkaku, Ginkaku, and their whole battalion."
"The Gold and Silver Brothers are regarded as deceitful scum for turning their backs on Kumo and for killing the Raikage, but the Nidaime also did take blame for inciting their betrayal through pursuing an alliance with Konoha." Yugito noted before she lets out a forced laugh: "Stupid, right? He was the one betrayed and killed, but he's the one who gets blamed for it?"
"Human beings are not known for their logical reasoning." Han stated, frowning behind his mask. "That is very unfortunate, however. I imagine Konoha and Kumo coming together publicly could have ended that war much sooner."
"Yep. I imagine that was his thought as well." Yugito said, sighing slightly: "I… don't necessarily want to fight the Nidaime Raikage – he is a Kage-level shinobi after all – but if I have to, I would just like to apologize to him about what happened. Cause he got screwed."
Han nodded his head: "And you can relate, I imagine."
"Yeah. Cause no matter how strong I get and how much I do for the village, a small subset of people will still just hate me on principle of being a jinchūriki." Yugito noted, a small sad smile on her lips.
The two jinchūriki were quiet for a moment. Yugito turned to face her book one more time, but the Nidaime Raikage's biography was starting to feel a little heavier than earlier. With a sigh, she stood up from her seat and grabbed her collection.
"Guess I'll call it for today." She stated.
"Would you care to go for a walk?" Han asked.
"A walk?" Yugito blinked in response as Han came forward and grabbed a few books from her hands. He then began to help her put them back: "Just around the city?"
"It might be good to get some fresh air." He noted. A chuckle then escaped his lips: "Not every day shinobi like us get to be in the famous Tetsu no Kuni capital city, after all. I'm certain there's a good sketch opportunity somewhere here."
"Hmm." Yugito mumbled for a second before shrugging her shoulders: "Sure, why not?"
As they continued to put the books away, Yugito did not notice the slight increase in her speed as she moved through the bookshelves to return the books. Her subconscious seemed more excited about the walk than she realized.
After a nice lunch with Naruto and his grandparents, Hinata returned back to the library, hoping the food would rejuvenate her energy and help her find the information she was looking for. With a determined expression in her eyes and doing her best to resist the urge to yawn again, Hinata rushed up the stairs to the fifth floor to begin her research.
Neji was already there at a desk, looking at a stack of books of his own. He briefly looked at his cousin and waved at her before returning to focus on his books. Hinata grabbed her own stack of books and took up a seat next to him.
Neither cousin spoke to one another for twenty minutes, focusing on their books only. Neji reached for the next book in his pile, tilted 'Demons of the Shinobi World' and opened it up. The first chapters of the book detailed the Kaguya Clan in great detail, focusing on their ruthlessness and berserker-style of combat, going into great detail about all of the Kaguya clan shinobi of interest at the time.
'With how much they show up here, it's surprising that they ended up in Mizu no Kuni of all places. It's even more surprising that the clan went extinct.' Neji wondered to himself as he read the name of the Kaguya Clan Head of the time, Kaguya Baraggan. 'But these Kaguya Clan shinobi are some of the more likely summons, I'd imagine. Kabuto did manage to steal their kekkei genkai, so obviously he has DNA to use.'
He continued to rush through the next set of chapters until, about half-way through the book, he read a familiar name. His eyes widened.
"Hinata! I found him!" He exclaimed.
Hinata, who was also face-deep in a book, nearly shoved hers off the desk as she pulled herself up and walked over directly next to Neji. A grin developed on her face as she began to skim the words and recognized the name present – Hyūga Shimon.
"You found him!" She exclaimed, reaching out to her cousin and hugging him: "Good job, Neji-nii-san!"
Neji smiled back, returning her hug for a moment before quickly breaking it and returning to reading. Hinata read over his shoulder, processing the words written.
"The Hyūga have presented themselves with a new clan head: a young man named Hyūga Shimon. First reports presented him as tall and lean with long brown hair that he wore into a ponytail that reached his lower back. He wore rather fancy kimonos and yukatas and appeared to care more for his appearance; he seemed like a man who was bred for politics, and not battle.
"Initially, this man was written off as non-concern to our nation, although there were a few warning signs of the monster lurking beneath this appearance. His father, the previous clan head, had passed away in good health and Shimon had an elder brother, who also appeared more capable in combat. Surely, he should have been the preferred Clan Head instead.
"Our Samurai's first encounter with the Hyūga Clan on the southern border of Tetsu no Kuni was our first introduction to the man in combat, where Shimon wiped out hundreds of samurai within minutes, even as they were retreating. This incident was an unfortunate omen as the Hyūga continued to advance further-and-further north in the territory, with Shimon leading the charge.
"Three spies were integrated into the Hyūga Clan, having seduced and married three of their men, and provided us with our most detailed accounts of their leader. They were able to confirm that the man does indeed possess an enhanced Byakugan that the Hyūga were calling the 'Kūsho Byakugan'. No Hyūga knew how the man obtained his dōjutsu; the man appears suspicious of all who ask about it. The few Hyūga who have shown interest in obtaining the eyes have subsequently had mysterious deaths shortly after their first inquires."
"What?" Hinata's eyes widened, her hands tightening into fists: "This book… it's implying Shimon would kill anyone who asked about the eyes. And for what?"
"Fear of other people having his power. Even his own family." Neji noted, scowling: "The book is also implying that he may have had a hand in killing his father and forcing his brother to not take the Clan Head title."
"This man…" Hinata shook her head: "He was truly evil."
Neji nodded his head in agreement before he went back to reading.
"The Kūsho Byakugan is reported to have enhanced vision that the standard Byakugan is unable to match, seeing up to twelve kilometers from the man. Shimon has also claimed it allows him to perceive chakra at a much higher level than others in his clan. He appears to be an even more dangerous adversary to other shinobi than to our samurai; he is able to perceive ninjutsu and is able to use some type of jutsu in conjunction with his eyes to nullify ninjutsu and occasionally redirect it.
"More alarming is the access to a certain type of ethereal energy that Shimon has referred to as 'The Void' – hence the name he has chosen for his upgraded Byakugan. Harnessing this energy, Shimon is able to energy blasts and beams of chakra that can strike forward at great distances, with a range of ten kilometers. Using such abilities, Shimon has taken up the fighting style of a sniper, using his abilities to rampage areas from a distance without anyone even knowing where he was.
"More may be capable of the eyes; these are the only aspects of the Kūsho Byakugan that Shimon was willing to come public with. He is very resistant to sharing information more than he has to and seemingly does no trust even members of his own clan. Despite this paranoia, however, Shimon has no qualm in having his Kūsho Byakugan active at all times, never shutting it off even once."
"Hyūga Shimon is known especially for his cruelty, willing to toy with enemies. Intelligence reports that he may not be of sound mind, and they claim the Kūsho Byakugan might be the suspected reason. He never deactivates the dōjutsu, seemingly out of paranoia. Man should be approached with the utmost caution until a manner to fight him is uncovered."
"Nullifying ninjutsu…" Neji mumbled, rubbing his chin in thought: "Naruto I believe said that one of Pain's abilities was something similar."
"Even if there were no other abilities, what was listed is incredibly powerful." Hinata noted, shaking her head: "Eyes able to see up to twelve kilometers ahead? An attack range of up to ten kilometers? This man sounds borderline unbeatable."
"Unfortunately, though, we didn't find a clue about how to obtain these eyes." Neji noted, a frown forming on his face: "And with how Shimon's paranoia is reported, I doubt anyone was able to uncover how."
"I… I'm not sure." Hinata said, biting her lip: "But maybe a hint was discovered. Perhaps we can find more out about him, then we can-"
"Shinobi, a word, if you may."
Neji and Hinata tensed as they turned their heads towards the stairs. A bald man with a violet, pupil-less left eye was standing there. On his face was a cross-like scar that descended into his right eye, which was seemingly permanently closed. On the left side of his face was a dragon tattoo above his left eye. He wore a purple kimono and had a red scarf encircling his neck. His kimono had a lighter-purple belt, which also had a sword attached to it.
"Can we help you-" Neji began to speak before his eyes widened in recollection: "Your voice… you were one of the samurai from yesterday, correct?"
"Yes. You may address me as Okisuke." The man stated sharply before he crossed his arms: "Mifune-sama would like a word with you all. My colleagues are grabbing your comrades as we speak. Please return to the inn for a moment so he can speak to you all."
"Hmm?" Hinata tilted her head slightly: "What did he wish to talk about?"
"He will tell you when you get there." Okisuke stated, shaking his head: "Do not waste his time any longer. Leave your books as they are; you can return once your meeting with the General is over."
Hinata frowned, but nodded her head in response. Both she and Neji stood up from their chair and proceeded to follow the samurai down the stairs and out of the library.
"An exhibition?" Dosu repeated.
Mifune nodded his head, which caused the shinobi all to look at him in surprise. When they all were approached by samurai that Mifune had something he wanted to discuss with them, they expected something meaningful, such as discussing their research or more prompts from him about the Akatsuki. Nearly everyone did not expect him to bring them together to ask about something like this.
The sole exception was Risho; the Iwa jōnin had a grin on his face and a sparkle in eyes as the Samurai General was seemingly 'going through' with the promise he had made him.
"It is starting to come to my attention more-and-more that us samurai and you shinobi should build more camaraderie with one another while you are present in our country, and what better way than with an exhibition?" Mifune asked, chuckling: "I do have a handful of samurai who have expressed interest in seeing what shinobi are capable of."
"Oh?" Han's eyebrow raised slightly: "That seems rather surprising, since most appeared rather cautious of us when we first arrived."
"Not everyone is, though. And the fact that a few are is more than enough reason to go through with this." Mifune stated: "That is, of course, assuming you all would like to. I obviously cannot force you all, but I think it would be a good opportunity for our nation and for your villages."
"Well-" Yugito began to speak, but she was quickly interrupted as Risho took a step forward and placed his hand against his chest.
"I'd be honored to fight!" Risho declared.
'Ah.' Neji's eyes lit-up slightly as a small smile formed on his face: 'It appears you are getting the chance you were wanting to after all.'
Risho was promptly knocked on the head by Yugito, which caused him to wince in pain.
"Learn to not interrupt people, brat." She hissed.
"Uggghhh… my bad…" He grumbled.
"Wh-What kind of samurai would w-we be fighting?" Chōjūrō asked. Mifune turned to face him, prompting the swordsman to look downward: "A-And wh-what kind of exhibition w-would this be? J-Just standard fighting?"
"Do you have something in your eye?" Mifune asked, the Samurai General tilting his head: "You were staring fine at me a moment ago, but now you're-"
"I-I-I-I'm f-fine!" Chōjūrō exclaimed as he tried to look back-up and meet Mifune's eyes.
His attempt quickly failed, and the Kiri shinobi promptly looked down at the ground one more time.
"… Forgive him, he's very shy, especially around people of authority." Honoka noted, sighing slightly.
'Geez, this guy might be even worse than Hinata was when we were growing up.' Naruto noted, staring at the blue-haired young man with sympathy in his eyes.
"… I see. My apologies." Mifune cleared his throat before he looked away in an attempt to make Chōjūrō more comfortable. The Kiri shinobi still avoided eye contact, which prompted Mifune to sigh before continuing to speak: "I say 'exhibition', but my thought is perhaps more akin to a tournament with a 'ring-out' victory condition. First person either to get their opponent to leave the arena, to surrender, or to knock them unconscious would be the winner and would advance."
"A tournament, huh?" Han noted before a chuckle escaped his lips: "Sounds reminiscent to the Chūnin Exams."
"I imagine most of these fights would be rather quick-paced, since the ring-out condition could be exploitable. Therefore this would not be a huge time commitment." Mifune his hands to his chin in thought: "We have eight people total interested in competing. I would say six of them are equivalent in strength to A-Ranked shinobi with a handful bordering S-Ranked, there would be one who you all would consider S-Ranked, and the last…" Mifune shook his head: "Well, he's not technically a samurai, so I'm not fully certain how to gauge his abilities."
"A non-samurai wants to fight?" Honoka asked: "Why?"
"He is a former shinobi. He seemed curious to see where his skills stack up with you all." Mifune answered.
"A former shinobi? In Tetsu no Kuni?" Kankurō asked, his eyebrows raised: "I'm surprised you all let him in the village then."
The Samurai frowned in response: "Well, he was technically seeking asylum, and our country is not cruel enough to turn someone away if we can find reason to trust their character." A sigh escaped his lips: "He was a former Otogakure shinobi that was forced to work under Orochimaru. Once the man was confirmed to have passed, he fled and came to us, begging to be permitted in before a successor to Orochimaru came to power and tried to track him down."
"Otogakure?" Dosu's eye widened: "There's… a former Oto shinobi here?"
"Returning to the point at hand." Mifune cleared his throat: "That's eight representatives of Tetsu no Kuni. Would you shinobi be willing to participate? If eight of you were willing, we could make this exhibition a tournament. I'm sure that could go a long way in bridging the gap between Samurai and Shinobi."
"As I said earlier, I would be interested." Risho spoke-up, his hands instinctively going to his swords at his waist: "It would be an honor!"
"I feel like since you Tetsu no Kuni samurai are all considered kenjutsu masters, I do feel some pride that demands I participate and show you all that Kiri's swordsmen are at your level, if not greater." Honoka admitted as she reached for the scroll that contained Nuibari. A grin developed on her face: "Yeah, both Chōjūrō and I'll be participating!"
"H-Huh?" Chōjūrō's eyes widened: "Wh-What do you mean? You want m-m-me to fight too?"
Honoka nodded her head: "Of course you are. We have a chance to show off the might of the Seven Swordsman of Kirigakure. It'd be a waste for us to not participate!" Her eyes narrowed: "Just imagine what would happen if word spreads about this and Zabuza-taichō finds out you didn't participate."
"… Oh. Oh boy…" The glasses-wearing shinobi mumbled in response as he brought his hands together.
"This does sound like a unique opportunity." Han acknowledged as he nodded his head: "I would be interested."
"As intriguing at it sounds, I don't think it'd be a good idea to lose a day from our research." Yugito admitted, frowning: "I'll have to decline."
"That is true." Neji nodded his head in agreement: "We are on the verge of a breakthrough. I don't think it'd be beneficial for me to participate."
"That's completely fine." Mifune nodded his head in understanding: "You are all here for your own mission, after all. Perfectly understandable if you wish to pass."
"For myself, I'd like to participate." Dosu admitted, rubbing the back of his head: "I feel comfortable with how my own research is going that I could sacrifice a day. I would be honored to fight."
"… Just curious…" Kankurō began, his voice starting to trail-off: "Would there by any chance be some type of reward for the winner of this?"
"Hmm?" Mifune blinked in response before he brought his hand to his chin: "Well… huh… I had assumed the prestige of being the best fighter would be enough, but this is a friendly competition between samurai and shinobi. Such an occasion is rare; perhaps I could dip into my own coffers and provide financial compensation to the winner."
"Then I'm in!" Kankurō replied, bringing his hand to his chest.
"Cause he offered money?" Yugito rolled her eyes: "Aren't you the Kazekage's brother? Didn't think you would be pressed for cash."
"Stuff for my workshop is expensive and Sunagakure's Puppeteer Brigade is underfunded." Kankurō replied, shaking his head: "You bet your ass I'll fight and give it my all for some extra funds!" A grin then developed on his face: "Karasu needs another little brother. Well, besides Kuroari, and Sanshōuo, and-"
"Well, I don't really care about making any money, but I'd be more than willing to fight!" Naruto interrupted, bringing his right fist into the open palm of his left hand: "Would be cool to see where I stack up against some of the samurai elite!"
"Myself, Honoka-san, Chōjūrō-san, Han-sensei, Dosu-san, Kankurō-san, and Naruto-san makes seven. You only need one more person for an even sixteen." Risho noted.
Eyes instinctively went to the final shinobi who had yet to give an answer: Hinata. She started to look downward at all of the attention, a small tinge of pink coloring her cheeks.
"You only need one more person, huh…" She mumbled before she shook her head and looked back to Mifune: "When is this tournament?"
"The day after tomorrow." He answered.
"… I suppose I can work extra hard in my studies today and tomorrow to make up for it… as well as the time after the tournament…" Her mumbles grew a bit quieter for a second before she nodded her head: "Okay. Count me in."
As soon as she voiced her affirmation, Mifune began to chuckle lightly. The shinobi turned their head towards the Samurai General, their eyes widening.
The stoic leader, who seemed only capable of mild changes in emotion, was now grinning as a result of Hinata's answer.
"Excellent. I promise you, this shall be a rewarding experience for you all." He stated.
The shinobi parted ways after Mifune's conversation with them. Naruto, Hinata, Neji, and Yugito all went back to the library to continue their studying. Kankurō decided to go up to his room and tweak a little bit on his puppets in preparation for Mifune's tournament. Dosu decided to go on a walk through the streets of Tetsu no Kuni. Honoka and Chōjūrō decided to go train together and work on improving their kenjutsu in time for the matches.
'I should follow their example.' Risho told himself as he saw the Kiri shinobi walk off.
Before he managed to leave the inn, however, an armor-covered hand reached for his shoulder. He turned his head, coming face-to-face with his former jōnin-sensei.
"Care for a walk real quick?" Han asked.
Risho shrugged his shoulders: "If you'd like."
With that affirmation, the two Iwagakure shinobi began to walk through Tetsu no Kuni, heading further north. Within a few minutes, they entered a new district of the city – a modest residential district with older-looking homes present.
A few civilians were walking down the streets, staring at the shinobi intently. Their stares, compared to the mixed looks they received walking towards the library on the first day, were almost exclusively curious as they focused mainly on the swords in the scabbards on Risho's waist.
"I imagine the people here must be curious what a shinobi swordsman must look like." Han noted.
"Would make sense." Risho replied before his eyes narrowed on the jinchūriki: "Anyway, is there anything you wanted to talk about?"
"Just what Mifune-sama discussed a moment ago." Han said, his eyebrow raising slightly: "I assume he got the idea for this 'exhibition' from you?"
"I… guess he did. Although initially, I was just asking to spar with some of the samurai here." His student said: "I really want to see where my kenjutsu stacks up against the samurai here!"
"I'm sure you'll do most impressive." His sensei smiled behind his mask: "Depending on his 'tournament' is held, there is also a possibility you and I might fight. I'd enjoy that opportunity."
"O-Oh?" Risho's eyes widened.
Han nodded his head: "We haven't sparred since you were a genin. It'd give me a fresh opportunity to assess you."
"I see…" The Kurogane bit his lip as his hands tightened into fists: "I… I'd like that. Hopefully, you can tell me exactly how far away I am from matching Kusari!"
The two Iwa shinobi were quiet for a moment as they continued to focus on their walk. With the conversation at a pause, Risho took a better look at some of the buildings they were passing. While most were, indeed, homes and a few corner shops for the families here, one large building stood out to him. The black paint on the wood looked old and flaking, but there was still an almost regal feeling to the building. A small gate stood in front of it with a disheveled sign that, somehow, was still legible to the Kurogane.
"'Iron Forged Children Dojo. Ages six to twelve. Become a True Samurai and Find Yourself Along the Way'." Risho read the inscription quietly before a chuckle escaped his lips: 'Huh. Maybe if I was here, this is where I could have been training.'
Han looked back to his student, seemingly waiting for him to say something. When it came clear that the Kurogane was lost in thought of his own, the jinchūriki sighed as he pocketed his hands.
"… If I may preface this by saying I am aware I've not always been a good Sensei." He admitted.
Risho's eyes immediately turned towards Han: "Huh-"
"When I was first assigned to you, Kurotsuchi, and Roto, Sandaime-sama made it clear that he thought I had experience of what it mean to be a shinobi – the good, the evil, and all in between – and said my teachings would really benefit you all should I apply myself as your teacher." Han noted: "Unfortunately, I was still stuck in my own past and prejudices of you humans and I spent the majority of our time together as a poor, bitter man who taught only the essentials."
"That's not right!" Risho shook his head: "Neither would Kurotsuchi or Roto. I mean, yes, you were a little cold when we first met, but you still treated us with respect and you did teach us. Honestly, I thought you did a great job teaching me ninjutsu and battle strategies and survival tips, and the outlook you had at the time might have helped with that!" He chuckled slightly: "You cut the bullshit and focused on what's relevant. That's a good sensei!"
"In a practical sense, that's correct. But I'm sure you're aware from your brief stint as a sensei for the Kumogakure Mission that there's more to simply instruction to the role. It is equally an emotional role." Han sad, sighing: "And in that aspect, I failed you."
Risho, again, shook his head: "That's not true-"
"I'm the one who brought Kusari to train you during the Chūnin Exams in Konoha." Han stated. Risho's words died on his lips as Han only sighed louder than earlier before continuing: "I never bothered to look into your clan's relationships or even make the effort to ask what you thought of him; I simply invited him. And that proved to be a grave mistake."
"…" The Kurogane bit his lip in response, trying to come up with a response.
"I think what happened with Kusari and the Kurogane Clan and your living situation with Roto's family was probably for the best in regards to your character." The jinchūriki admitted: "You have definitely relaxed and become a true gentleman alongside being a great shinobi, even if Roto did rub off on you slightly and give you a minor case of 'talk first, thing second'."
Risho's eye twitched in response: "He hasn't rubbed off on me-"\
"You speaking out of turn in front of Mifune-sama is not like how you were; that, however, is definitely something Roto would do." He clarified.
"… Ah." The Kurogane's cheeks reddened slightly in embarrassment: "… I see."
"Back to the point, though. I do think you have become a better person and shinobi, and as your sensei, I am proud of you there. But, I am painfully aware that since then and since being removed from the Kurogane Compound, you've lost faith in your own abilities." Han admitted, a frown forming behind mask. He bowed his head: "That is where I have failed you. I am sorry for putting you in that situation."
Risho's eyes lowered slightly. He tried to look at his sensei, but his eyes could not focus on him. A few seconds passed by before he sighed.
"I… I do hope you get what you're looking for out of this tournament with the samurai." Han said: "But… regardless of how the event goes or how you may feel about yourself, please know that I think you are a marvelous shinobi."
The Kurogane was finally able to look back at his Sensei, his eyes wide in response.
"You're one of our village's top jōnin. You're a contemporary to our Tsuchikage and hold your own. You are a representative of what one of the 'Kurogane Elite' should be." The jinchūriki continued, smiling: "And no matter what, I am proud of you."
Risho grew quiet for a moment, his eyes starting to redden slightly. Before Han could ask or do anything, however, the Kurogane reached out, pulling his jōnin-sensei into a tight hug.
"… Thank you." He whispered, his tears finally following: "Thank you, Han-sensei."
"Anytime." The jinchūriki replied, returning the hug.
The two Iwagakure jōnin stood still for a few more seconds. Initially, they ignored the stares from the Tetsu no Kuni civilians around them, but eventually they broke their hug as they noticed one of the figures staring at them possessed an extremely high chakra signature.
It was a muscular man with brown eyes that wore a straw hat on top of his shoulder-length unkempt grey hair. Many scars were also present on the man's face – two smaller scars on his left cheek and one larger on his right - and had stubble present on his chin. The man wore a light blue kimono with a beige-and-grey colored torn-sleeved shirt. He also had a sword attached to his waist.
This man was clearly one of Mifune's samurai, and judging by the chakra signature he was no longer masking, he was one of their elites.
"Are you done eavesdropping?" Han asked.
"Didn't mean to. Wasn't expecting you two to have a personal moment like that." The man admitted, rubbing the back of his head. "Was just wanting to see what type of men you were."
"Who are you?" Risho asked.
"Just a guy checking out his prey." He replied, a small smirk on his face.
Han crossed his arms: "You are one of the samurai that Mifune recruited for the tournament, I take it?"
"That I am. Sazanami's the name I go by." The samurai stated, his eyes focusing on the jinchūriki: "And while the other one's face is familiar but the name is escaping me, I know who you are, Yuge no Han. Gobi jinchūriki." He laughed slightly, his hand adjusting his hat slightly: "You know, until about a year or two ago, Kumogakure had a two hundred million ryō bounty on your head. Guess your villages have gotten along better, though."
Han's eyes narrowed: "You sound almost disappointed; were you looking to cash in?"
"Nah. I used to a bounty hunter before I came to this part of the world and took up the oath of the samurai, so some of the bigger names with the big price tags stick out to me." Sazanami admitted, his smirk widening slightly: "But while your bounty might be gone, the 'threat' you posed still remains. I hope to get the chance to fight you at this thing."
Before either Han or Risho could say anything, the samurai proceeded to walk away.
"Anyway, I just wanted to assess you and introduce myself to my future opponents. But since you two were clearly talking some personal stuff, I'll leave you be." Sazanami stated: "So for now, farewell. We'll meet again on the battlefield soon enough."
The man waved goodbye as he began to fade into the distance. Han and Risho stared in his direction for a few seconds before Han brought his hand to his chin in thought.
"He had remarkably high chakra. The only samurai we've come across so far with similar levels were the two guarding the gate on our first day and Mifune himself." Han said: "Intriguing he's able to mask his presence well, but if he was a bounty hunter prior to becoming a samurai, I suppose that was something he had to pick up to excel in his field."
'That… If he's one of Mifune-sama's chosen fighters, then he's at least comparable to an A-Rank shinobi. He might be on my level.' Risho realized, his hands tightening: 'Good. Fighting guys like him… that's what I need!'
The Gobi jinchūriki turned his head towards his student. A chuckle escaped his lips.
"You seem fired up." He noted: "Care to work out some of that energy?"
Risho only nodded in response. The two Iwa jōnin then hurried off, looking for the nearest training ground they could find.
As the new began and the sun started to shine through the windows, Naruto began to stir slightly. He opened his eyes, expecting to see Hinata, who he had fallen asleep next to, hugging her.
Instead, he woke-up to the sight of a pillow instead of his wife.
"Hmm?" He mumbled, shaking his eyes for a moment as he woke himself up: 'She's… not here? Did she already go to the library?'
After pulling himself out of bed and stretching slightly, the Uzumaki got dressed and rushed over to the library. Upon arrival, he proceeded to walk up towards the fifth floor, expecting to come face-to-face with Hinata.
Again, he was mistaken; Neji was the only person on the fifth floor, a notebook laid out on his desk and a pen in his hand. A scowl was on his face as he scribbled over the book, crossing something out.
"No, that won't do. His mother apparently died in front of his eyes and his eyes didn't spawn then …" Neji grumbled, gritting his teeth. "Then maybe-"
"Uh, Neji?" Naruto spoke-up.
The Hyūga turned towards the blond Uzumaki. A small, forced smile briefly graced his lips before it quickly faded, the earlier scowl returning.
"Naruto, this is perhaps one of the most infuriating experiences of my life. We're so close, and yet …" Neji sighed as he rubbed his head in a moment to chase off the upcoming headache: "After finally finding a book on Shimon, Hinata and I began to find more. I've read so many damn accounts from all the spies of Tetsu no Kuni, and even found two written from before he became a person of interest to the samurai of that time, and there's nothing. Shimon went to the grave never telling a soul about how he obtained the Kūsho Byakugan. Not even his wife and children…" His scowl deepened: "I truly detest this man."
Naruto frowned, briefly putting his thoughts of Hinata to the side. He had never seen Neji so expressive before in his life. Even in his most bitter moments prior to his fight with Hinata and even in the aftermath of defeating their grandfather, Neji always still displayed a muteness to his emotions. Right now, however, his emotions were not muted and Naruto could say for absolute certainty that Hyūga Neji was royally and utterly pissed off.
"Did… any of the books theorize about how to obtain it?" He asked.
"Somewhat, but not particularly. The samurai had no Byakugan to try and evolve, so it wasn't really an interest of theirs." Neji stated: "So, I'm trying to piece together my own thoughts." He then gripped his notebook tightly: "There has to be a hint somewhere. I just know it!"
"Have… you tried connecting it to the Mangekyō-"
"No, the Mangekyō Sharingan forms from emotional trauma, such as what happened with Sasuke." The Hyūga said, shaking his head: "I have learned that Shimon's mother passed away in front of his eyes when he was seventeen, and while it apparently changed who he was as a person, his eyes did not evolve until he was twenty-four. That can't be the cause."
"Well, that's I guess a hint." Naruto replied: "Read anything about any life events that happened around then?"
"Again, there are only two accounts from the time prior to Tetsu no Kuni's interest in him. I have not seen much, or at least anything I could say that correlates…" He shook his head, frowning. "Maybe it has to do with-" His eyes widened for a moment as he turned back to stare at Naruto: "Oh, forgive me; I just realized why you're probably here." He then pointed upwards: "Hinata's on the seventh floor."
"A-Ah." Naruto's eyes widened as he nodded his head: "Thanks Neji. Good luck!"
The Hyūga mumbled something in response as he waved goodbye to Naruto and returned to his theorizing. With the conversation over, Naruto hurried up the stairs to the seventh floor where, just as Neji had stated, Hinata was present.
His wife was at a table alone with eight books all sprawled out. Her eyes looked half-lidden and had a redness to them, but they were focused all over the place, seemingly skimming multiple passages at once.
'… Huh?' Naruto blinked: 'She… She can't possibly be retaining anything if she's reading like that, right?'
The Uzumaki took a few steps further into the library until he reached Hinata's desk. He placed his hand on her right shoulder, which seemed to cause a jolt through her body. Her eyes quickly darted to Naruto. She stared at him for a few seconds before a small smile developed on her lips.
"Did… you sleep... well?" She asked.
"Yeah, but could have been a little better." He admitted, rubbing the back of his head: "How about you? How long have you been here?"
"The past eight hours." She replied.
"… What?" Naruto, again, blinked in response: "Hinata… did you not go to sleep?"
"No. I just waited for you to fall asleep, then I used the substitution jutsu to swap myself out for a pillow." She admitted, biting her lip as she turned back to her books: "I couldn't sleep. I… I need to figure this out already!"
"Hinata, I don't think you got much sleep the night before either." Naruto said, frowning: "You need to sleep."
"I need answers." She replied, shaking her head as she turned to one book: "Neji-nii-san is trying to crack the code of how Shimon obtained his Kūsho Byakugan, so I turned my attention up here. And I've uncovered a lot about Hamura." Her eyes then narrowed: "The Tenseigan is blue!"
"Hinata…" Naruto's frown deepened.
"The Man in the Moon you mentioned earlier; some people say they saw a blue light from the eyes in his silhouette. That has to be it. I… I even found out about some ritual people did in his honor." Hinata mumbled, bringing her hands together: "Some of the rumors suggested that people traded eyes with one another and, afterwards, they were able to see 'The Man in the Moon' more clearly. Maybe… maybe that's a hint!"
"Hinata." Naruto's face grew more stern as he reached out for her other left shoulder with his other hand.
She had no reaction to his touch.
"Trading eyes!" Hinata stated, a grin forming on her face as her eyes became to shut more. As soon as they came to a close, they immediately jolted open once more: "That's got to be it! And since he's the Rikudō Sennin's brother, maybe it has to be an Uchiha? Maybe if an Uchiha gives a Hyūga the Sharingan, it becomes the Tenseigan and if an Uchiha gets the Byakugan, it becomes the Rinnegan! Or wait, is it the other way around?" She brought her hand to her chin in thought: "The Uchiha have the Sharingan, right? Or maybe the Senju-"
Naruto immediately pulled her out of her chair. This feeling Hinata recognized, as a yelp escaped her lips as Naruto began to carry her off, holding onto her bridal style.
"Wh-What are you doing? I'm not done." She mumbled.
"Hinata, you're exhausted. Your thoughts are starting to get all jumbled." He stated sharply.
"I-I'm onto something, Naruto." Hinata replied, shaking her head. Despite her resistance, however, her body did seem to begin to relax in his arms: "Let me get back to-"
"I'll let you go straight back to it." Naruto insisted: "After you sleep. And I mean genuinely sleep and not like an hour nap."
"Hinata, your body's about to crash. Please." Her husband insisted.
"Ugh…" She mumbled, her voice getting softer: "I'm onto something…"
"Good. Then you'll be able to think more clearly after your mind and body is rested." Naruto answered.
Hinata continued to argue slightly but her words grew softer-and-softer. A few more seconds passed by until she finally drifted off to sleep for the first time in nearly forty-eight hours.
'Hinata…' Naruto smiled at the sound of light breaths and snores escaping her lips: 'You'll feel better after some rest. Then you can get back to studying.'
With that thought in mind, the Uzumaki carried off his wife back to the inn.
Hinata dreamed of her mother.
This was not the first time Hyūga Hitomi came to visit her daughter in her dreams, but usually they came in the form of memories. Today, Hinata was dreaming about what her life could have been, if her mother had not passed away in childbirth.
In her dream, Hinata saw herself having a picnic in the gardens at the Hyūga Clan Compound. She was joined by Hiashi, Neji, Hanabi, and Hitomi, who appeared to have a few more wrinkles than she remembered her having. As they all took a seat at a table, Naruto, Shikamaru, Anko, Kurotsuchi, and Dosu all appeared and took a seat opposite of the five Hyūga present Hyūga.
"Oi, keep your hands off the food, Whiskers!" Anko shouted, slapping Naruto's hand away as reached for a plate of onigiri that were stacked neatly on the center of the table: "Han, Tayuya, and Masakado aren't here yet!"
"Eh, they're my family. I don't care if I eat before they get here." Naruto shrugged his shoulders as he reached, again, for the snack.
"Let my son-in-law eat, Anko-san." Hyūga Hitomi chuckled: "He's been real busy recently. One onigiri isn't going to ruin the picnic."
"Heh." Naruto rubbed the brim of his nose as he grinned at the woman: "Thanks, Mom!"
"You spoil him." Shikamaru noted, shaking his head.
"That's the norm, though. I've heard of in-laws treating their child's partner better than their own." Dosu noted as he closed his eyes for a moment: "Something about the need to keep up a good reputation."
"Well, I don't think she needs to do anything else to keep up her reputation." Hinata said with a giggle: "Sometimes, I think she treats him better than me!"
"Hinata, that's not true-"
"She's right." Hiashi spoke-up, chuckling.
"Don't take her side!" Hitomi frowned at her husband.
"Eh, I'm sure she'll go back to spoiling Hinata-nee-san once the baby's on it's way." Hanabi said, giggling slightly.
"Speaking of, when is that coming?" Kurotsuchi asked, looking intently at Hinata and Naruto: "You two have been together so long, one's gotta be coming soon, right?"
Dosu shook his head: "Is it appropriate to ask a couple that?"
"Why wouldn't it be?" Kurotsuchi asked.
"They only just got married." Neji said, chuckling: "Give them some time."
"Well funny you mention that…" Naruto mumbled, his voice-trailing off.
Hitomi's eyes widened as she turned towards her daughter, a grin forming on her face.
"Hinata, is it true?" She asked as she reached out for her daughter's hand. "Are you expecting?"
Hinata grinned back at her mother as she reached for her hand.
"Yes Mom, I'm preg-"
Before dream-Hinata's hand could connect with her mother's, arrows of blue light began to rain down from the sky. The arrows collided with the bodies of Hinata's family and friends as their bodies became coated in blood. Her eyes widened as she watched them all fall to the ground one-after-another. Naruto fell second-to-last, his eyes focused on Hinata as he reached out for her.
"Hi… na… ta…" Hinata turned her head towards her mother, who was also reaching out to her: "Live…"
"Mother!" Hinata shouted as she rushed towards her mother, pushing the 'dream' version of herself out of the way.
As soon as her hands touched her mother, she vaporized in front of her eyes, turning into a mixture of dust and glitter. Her body began to shake and tears formed in her eyes as she fell to her knees, sobbing loudly.
Hinata's words died on her lips as she heard the sound of footsteps. She turned her head to the south as she saw a figure approaching her: a tall, slender man with long brown hair, styled in a ponytail, walked towards her. This man had a unique-looking Byakugan active in his eyes, displaying an ouroboros in the center as more-and-more veins around the man's eyes became visible to her.
"You… Shimon…" Hinata's voice grew soft as she pulled herself off the ground. She glared at the image of the man in front of her as her Byakugan subconsciously activated: "How dare you-"
Before she could charge forward, the image of Hyūga Shimon vanished, as did the world around her. She covered her eyes with her hands, the Byakugan deactivating, as she waisted for the dust to subside. Seconds passed by until she finally uncovered her eyes.
Instead of the garden in the Hyūga Clan compound of her dreams, she was now standing still in an empty, wide abyss, with a white-haired man standing in front of her.
"You…" Hinata tensed-up, her eyes still red from the tears of her dream: "You're… Neji told me about you. You're Ōtsutsuki Tōneri, aren't you?"
"You have no idea how much it pleases my heart to hear you say my name" The man Tōneri, said with a large smile on his face: "Hinata, it is truly an honor to finally make your acquaintance. Your cousin was correct; my name is Ōtsutsuki Tōneri.
"Tōneri-san… the pleasure is all mine." Hinata bowed her head slightly, but her eyes remained focused in a somewhat suspicious manner: "How… How do you know me? Of us?"
"The Hyūga and the Branch Clan of the Ōtsutsuki have always shared a connection. I have always been there with you and your family, just unable to make contact." Tōneri replied.
"The… Branch Clan of the Ōtsutsuki?" She repeated, her eyes widening.
"Yes, the Ōtsutsuki is no different than your Hyūga Clan, with Main and Branch families. Our clans are essentially sibling clans." He said with a chuckle.
"I… I see." She nodded her head, a smile forming on her face: "I… I have many questions for you, if I may ask. What-"
"All questions will be answered in only a few days." The Ōtsutsuki said, shaking his head: "I'll be in Tetsu no Kuni in three days, at the Sanrō mountain's summit. Please, if you and Neji can come, I would greatly appreciate it."
"You can't tell me here?" She asked, her smile fading slightly.
Again, he shook his head: "This jutsu is tiring to perform, both for myself and for whoever I contact. I'm sure your cousin woke up in a cold sweat after we finished talking, no? Again, I'd rather do it in person."
"… I see." Hinata mumbled, before shaking her head: "We'll meet you there, then. If possible, I would like to bring my husband as well. He-"
Her words died on her lips as, for a brief moment, she noticed a change in Tōneri's demeanor. The genuine, gentle smile on his face briefly dropped and an aura reminiscent of pure killing intent seemed to appear at the mention of Naruto. As quickly as it appeared, the man's expression returned to normal.
The small traces of her smile had now completely vanished from her face.
"I would kindly ask that he stays behind." Tōneri answered: "This is a matter that concerns only the Ōtsutsuki and related clans."
"But he's a related clan. He's an Uzumaki." Hinata replied, shaking her head: "He traces back to the Rikudō Sennin-"
"I know of the Uzumaki Clan's origins. It does not matter for our discussion; he needs to understand his place and not intrude!" Tōneri stated sharply. Hinata's eyes narrowed further on the man, which caused him to sigh: "… I'm sorry. That was a rather rude way to answer that. I am currently in a lot of pain, right now, so I'm a little snappier than I usually would be."
"... My condolences." She said in a neutral tone-of-voice: "What kind of pain?"
"Eye pain." He answered: "The Tenseigan… it burns right now."
Her eyes widened: "You have the Tenseigan!?"
"Yes." Tōneri nodded his head, a chuckle escaping his lips as his gentle smile returned to his lips: "And I can show you and your cousin how to obtain it. That is why you are in Tetsu no Kuni, yes?"
"Yes-" Hinata's eyes narrowed once more as she got into a stance: "Knowing about us is one thing, but how do you know where we are and why do you know what we're doing here?"
"Our clans are connected-"
"You said that already. It's not an answer." She shook her head: "What are you intentions with us? Why are you stalking us?"
"I'm not 'stalking'. I'm watching out for you. I've always been!" He exclaimed. "I promise you, it is in your best interest that you-"
"… 'you'? You mean, 'me'? Just me? And not Neji?" Hinata stated, tightening her stance as if ready to fight: "What do you want with me?"
Tōneri was quiet for a moment before he shook his head as he continued to chuckle.
"Forgive me, just a slip of the tongue. I meant 'you two'-"
"Ōtsutsuki-san, do not lie to me." She stated sharply. Her eyes narrowed further, the Byakugan activating unconsciously once more: "Neji-nii-san isn't a priority to you, so this can't just be 'clan' related. What do you want with me?"
Tōneri was quiet for a moment, his body going completely still. A few more seconds passed by before he finally opened his eyes.
Hinata gasped; his eyes were bloodshot, with actual blood dripping down like tears. Behind the blood, however, was a blue glow that ringed familiar in her mind. It was the glow she had just read about on the seventh floor of the library: the blue glow of the eyes of 'The Man in the Moon'.
He was not lying; Ōtsutsuki Tōneri had the Tenseigan.
"You will come to Sanrō in three days. If I need to give you a reason to come, then so be it." He stated sharply. "Hopefully, by the end of tomorrow, you will understand why you need to come."
Before she could even reply, a gust of wind rushed through the abyss, crashing into her body. Within seconds, the abyss and her image of Tōneri vanished.
Her eyes opened wide as the scream escaped her lips, swear falling from her body. Her eyes darted everywhere, taking in her surroundings.
She was in the inn.
She was in her room.
She was with Naruto.
The woman was quiet for a moment. She could hear Naruto asking her questions, but she was unable to reply. Her breathing was too hard and her heart was beating too fast.
'Just what was that dream?' She asked herself as her hands tightened into fists: 'What… Ōtsutsuki Tōneri… who are you? And what are you trying to do to me?'
"Dammit!" Tōneri growled out.
Just like Hinata, the man was breathing heavy. He took a few seconds to settle himself and his body before he tried to get up.
Immediately, he regretted that decision, as a sharp pain coursed through his head.
"ARGH!" He shouted, falling to his knees, his hands covering his face as his newly-acquired eyes continued to bleed.
This time, he remained still for a longer period for a longer amount of time. He took nearly five minutes to control his breathing and calm his heart before he slowly pulled himself up to a sitting position.
"That… was a mistake." He hissed to himself: "I should have just kept our talk brief. This pain… The pain from the eye transplant hurts so damn bad. I should have known it'd make me more irritable… that I'd say something stupid."
'My talk with her cousin went so perfectly; why couldn't I have just replicated that?' He wondered as a sigh escaped his lips: 'No, I know why. That was the first time Hinata had fallen asleep in days. I wanted to talk to her and I was greedy. And because I couldn't wait for us to be face-to-face, I let the pain get to me and say things I shouldn't have said. Now she's suspicious of me!'
"All because she mentioned him." Tōneri nearly hissed. 'I was doing fine, ignoring my pain. It wasn't until she mentioned her blasted husband that things went south. That man… Uzumaki… Uzumaki Naruto…'
"That imposter has too much sway over her heart. I won't allow it!" He exclaimed.
It was that thought in mind that propelled Tōneri's actions. It would still be a few days before he would meet Hinata, as his eyes were still recovering, but now he had to take extra measures to make sure he sought her out. And unfortunately, they would be measures that would displease her.
'It is what it is.' He sighed.
Tomorrow, he would show Hinata exactly why she needed to make contact with him.
1: Lol Dosu and Kankurō mentioning Hoshigakure and the Shodai Hoshikage literally came from me realizing that, per the '''canon''', Hoshigakure is stated to have been founded 200 years. Which, now with the whole manga having been finished, goes against what was implied from the Warring Clan Era and the 'big deal' of Konoha's founding and the other villages forming, etc. etc.
Now obviously, it's no big deal - Naruto filler makes a 'lore' that directly contradicts later canon? Shocker of all shockers! But I just thought it was fun to mention because I just recently learned of this fact and sorta laughed at it. I am now tempted to create and do something with the Shodai Hoshikage, but I'm not sure... just know if that if his Edo Tensei does pop up in the future, know that it was not initially planned and was born just from my own amusement of filler being wrong. XD
2: Although speaking of filler! To anyone who is familiar with Part 1 Naruto filler arcs might recognize some names! Menma (no not that one; the other one), Sazanami, and Toki are all filler characters from Part 1 that I've incorporated into Tetsu no Kuni. Why? Well, as much as I like making OCs and finding ways to make them organically work, I'd also rather not load my story fully with them. So, instead of making a whole batch of new OCs to exist alongside the few canon Samurai we know exist, I decided to bring in some filler characters and twist their backstories a little bit and include them in Tetsu no Kuni.
As alluded in his conversation with Mifune, Menma (again, not that one; the other one) does have identical lore to his in canon. I actually really like his filler arc (especially since it does center around Otogakure and gives more character to Orochimaru's minions and Ta no Kuni) and wanted to incorporate him more, if for no other reason to remind people that he exists. And while he is still technically a shinobi, I do like his reason I made up for him being in Tetsu no Kuni and think it's fun to explore even more things that happened as a result of Orochimaru's early passing.
Now, as for Sazanami and Toki (who did not show up in this chapter), I thought to bring them in because they're both kenjutsu users and I like their designs, making them easy to incorporate into Tetsu no Kuni. Sazanami is somewhat easier to explain away, but to anyone who actually watched the 'Cursed Warrior' Filler Arc and knows who Toki is; yes, I know her backstory and role in her arc and I think I have some justifiable story explanation for why she's here and serving as a Tetsu no Kuni samurai; all shall be revealed in time.
... Not that I'm expecting all of you to care about random "Part 1 Naruto Filler Characters" or how I plan on integrating them into my story to stay consistent with their backstories, but I just wanted to sorta explain/rant/ramble. Tbh, I actually had a lot of fun with all three of them! I hope you enjoy them, alongside the other samurai! :)
Author's Note: Hey everyone! Hope you all enjoyed the chapter! :)
Tbh, this is one of the most fun chapters I've had to write in a long time. I can't really place exactly what or why; just that I've been really enjoying being in Tetsu no Kuni so far. Probably cause just a lot is going on and it's going to be fun to bring everything together! Also probably cause of Samurai. This might just be the result of my own reading habits, but I have never seen Tetsu no Kuni get any focus in fanfics outside of their obligatory 'neutral zone' Kage Summits and occasionally some attention on Mifune. I guess just the idea of a Samurai nation existing despite the shinobi nations being a thing does interest me, but it's been a lot of fun world building and giving some perhaps needed attention to this ignored snowy country!
So yeah... a Tournament :P Now, giving you all a heads-up before I get to it; no this will not be like the heavy-focused Chūnin Exam Third Round fights that get whole chapters to themselves. I incorporated the "Dragon Ball Z World Martial Tournaments" ring-out mechanic for a reason; some of the fights in it will be quick. Just wanted to give a heads-up, so no need to worry that like a five-chapter 'tournament arc' was about to emerge and completely shatter the pace of this arc.
Don't have a ton else to say. Today's my sister-in-law's birthday, so my wife and I are going to take her and her fiancee out for lunch, so I'm excited for that! Aaaaannnd with that in mind, I need to finally go to sleep. XD
Anywho, y'all know the drill. Hope you all liked this chapter and I'll be seeing you on February 12th when Chapter 140 is posted! Until then :)