Disclaimer: Don't own the rights to Naruto, but I do own a broken air conditioning unit. That needs to be replaced and/or fixed. Cause ugggghhhh Florida is already unbearably hot as it is and, at this exact moment, it's somehow colder outside than it is inside; if I have to go one more night melting underneath my ceiling fan, I may cry.
"Sage Art: Water Style; Water Bomb Parade!"
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Call of the Tempest!"
Naruto spat out a massive ball of water which, upon flying for a second, broke apart into multiple, smaller orbs of water. Okisuke, meanwhile, sliced the air with his sword, which created a windstorm that resembled a mini tornado. The tornado made contact with Naruto's water balls, creating a massive explosion that resulted in rain falling down onto the battlefield and scattered winds that blew Naruto backwards slightly.
The Uzumaki quickly steadied himself as Okisuke rushed towards him. He tightened his fists, channeling nature energy into them, as he prepared to punch forward with his frog kata as the man grew nearer.
Before his fist could connect, however, Okisuke's body veered to the left, moving as if in a drift current as opposed to simply dodging.
'The hell was that-' Naruto's eyes widened as Okisuke immediately shifted directions, flying back towards him. 'Huh?'
"Wind Swordsman Style: Windmill Blades!"
As Okisuke flew towards him, he held out his sword in front of his body and began to spin. Naruto jumped into the air, narrowly avoiding the samurai rushing at him in a circular pattern, akin once again to a tornado.
'This guy's movements are-' Naruto bit his lip, as he noticed Okisuke, again, changing directions without warning: "Wind Style: Drift!"
Naruto proceeded to fly into the air, using the air currents around him to move upwards, just in time as Okisuke had swung upwards with his sword, creating another massive gust of wind. Naruto then flew to his right, narrowly avoiding the attack.
The Uzumaki remained still in the air for a moment, his eyes glued to Okisuke's figure. The samurai stared back at him. As Naruto continued to focus on him, he noticed that Okisuke's clothes – especially his scarf – were fluttering with the wind heavily, much more than Naruto's own clothes, even with 'Wind Style: Drift' active.
Realization dawned on the shinobi.
"I see what you're doing! All that nature energy you channeled… you're just letting a lot of that out of your body, right? You're allowing the wind to simply move and guide you." Naruto noted. "That's why you move so rapidly in ways that are hard to predict."
"Clever." Okisuke said, nodding his head: "You're almost correct. In this state, I allow myself to become one with the wind and, as a result, move free like the wind. The one point I will have to contest though is that I do not allow the wind 'move and guide me'; I move with the wind, and the wind moves with me."
The Uzumaki rubbed the back of his head in response: 'I don't see what's the difference between what we said, but alright.'
"Essentially, you implied that he was being moved. He's trying to say he has full agency with his movements; just that his movements are in harmony with nature, meaning he gets the benefits of moving freely with the wind." Kurama clarified.
'… Ah.' Naruto nodded his head in understanding as he crossed his arms: 'Well, I have to say, he's not the fastest shinobi I've ever fought against, but the moving with the wind thing does make his movements harder to predict.'
"I don't recall ever hearing about a ninjutsu technique that allows someone to fly freely like that. I assume you are a natural Wind Affinity as well, yes?" Okisuke asked. Naruto nodded his head in response, causing Okisuke to grin in response as he tightened his grip on his sword: "Both a Sage and a Wind Affinity… you are the perfect opponent I could have asked for!
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Air Cutter!"
Okisuke proceeded to slice through the air rapidly towards Naruto's directions. With each passing cut, blades of wind launched through the air rapidly towards the Uzumaki. Naruto flew through the air, narrowly avoiding the air blades. Okisuke continued to cut, however, sending more-and-more blades towards him.
Naruto continued to fly around in a circular pattern around the samurai, looking for an opening, while Okisuke continued to cut the air. With each slice, his blades seemed to get closer-and-closer. After about thirty seconds of chasing, one of the air blades finally connecting, cutting into his leg and causing it to bleed heavily.
'Shit. Can't be passive!' Naruto cursed as he held out his hands.
An adamantine sealing chain rushed forward from Naruto's left hand towards Okisuke. The samurai side-stepped and the chain hit the stadium ground like an anchor. Naruto then tugged with his left hand, pulling himself closer to the ground at a rapid pace, moving alongside the wind. As he near the ground, he pulled his body once more, launching him towards Okisuke as a large spiraling orb began to form in his right hand.
The samurai veered to his right, but Naruto followed him, moving as fast and irregularly as him. He bit his lip as he gripped his sword tightly and swung it upwards in a sweeping fashion.
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Wind Wall!
"Sage Art: Ōdama Rasengan!"
Senjutsu chakra rapidly left Okisuke's sword in tandem with his sweeping strike, forming a wall of wind directly in front of his body. Naruto's large Rasengan collided with the wind wall, promptly erupting.
The wind wall's explosion released massive winds akin to a hurricane, blowing Naruto away from the man. The Uzumaki's body flew through the air towards the stadium's edge before coming to a stop, barely avoiding a ring-out. He took in a breath, composing himself as he looked back towards Okisuke, who had remained still in the same spot as before.
The samurai gripped his sword tightly before he sliced the air at Naruto once more, sending more air blades directly at him. Naruto crouched downward, his hands touching the battlefield's rubble as he channeled chakra.
"Earth Style: Headhunter Jutsu!"
His body submerged into the earth, avoiding the air blades. Okisuke's eyes narrowed for a moment before he turned his focus towards the ground.
"I hope you are not intending on a sneak attack." He noted sharply as his eyes scanned the battlefield before they narrowed on a point to his right: "I can sense your energy; you can't hide me!"
Gripping his sword tightly, Okisuke charged forward to his right. He swung downward, his blade connected with the ground, causing the ground to implode slightly and scatter dust.
The samurai's eyes narrowed, looking at the ground once more. As he prepared to swing his sword once more, the ground erupted once more as Naruto jumped out under his feet. Okisuke jumped backwards, narrowly avoiding a punch to his jaw.
Naruto continued to fly upwards into the air until he was several feet above the ground. He then turned around, facing the ground. Okisuke gripped his sword tightly, as if prepared to cut through the air once more. Instead of flying away, though, Naruto made a hand sign, a grin forming on his face.
"Sage Art: Toad Oil Blaze!"
The hole where Naruto had jumped out of began to light-up, glowing a bright yellow color. Okisuke briefly glanced downwards to the hole before his eyes widened.
The hole had been filled with oil. Oil that had seemingly spread throughout the stadium ground.
Oil that now was starting to glow as flames began to form around it.
Within seconds, the entire battlefield was encased in a fire that crackled with the wind. The flames grew larger with each passing moment as Naruto continued to fly above the battlefield, his eyes narrowed.
"S-So much fire! It's so hot!"
"Is Okisuke-sama okay?"
"That shinobi… he didn't… did he?"
"No." Naruto mumbled to himself as he heard the audience seemingly grow concerned: 'He wouldn't go down like that. Actually… he's getting ready!' Naruto's eyes moved to one corner of the enflamed battlefield: 'There!'
The Uzumaki took in a deep breath as he channeled senjutsu chakra into his mouth: "Sage Art: Wind Style: Drilling Air Bullet Barrage!"
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Monsoon!"
As Naruto proceeded to spit out multiple air bullets from his mouth, a large, greenish-white glow formed within the fires before it quickly spread throughout the battlefield, extinguishing the flames in a massive blast of wind, revealing Okisuke. He was breathing heavily, burn marks appearing on his visible skin and a few scattered flames still present on his clothes. Still, he managed to remain standing, his grip on his sword still tight.
"MORE THAN OKAY; HE LOOKS EXCITED!"
As the audience's cheers suggested, Okisuke had a wide grin on his face as he bent downwards, as if preparing to leap into Naruto's oncoming air bullets.
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Last Breath!"
Okisuke took in a deep breath before the wind around his body launched him into the air, extinguishing the remaining flames on his body.
Within a second, the samurai had disappeared, crashing through the oncoming air bullets as if moving through a cloud, and appeared in the sky directly next to Naruto.
Naruto tried to fly away in time, but the wind around him was seemingly holding him in place. As such, he remained still as Okisuke delivered a series of five subsequent slashes of his sword, cutting through his flak jacket and drawing blood with each slice.
After the fifth cut, Okisuke flipped his sword and slammed the hilt of his blade into Naruto's chest, sending the Uzumaki barreling into the ground with a large 'crash' upon collision. Okisuke then landed directly onto Naruto, digging his knee into chest. The blond began to choke out more blood.
Okisuke's grin widened as he placed the tip of his blade against Naruto's neck.
"I would advise you call the match." He told him.
"Urk…" Naruto coughed in response. "M-Me? Give up?"
As if in response to Naruto's words, a seal with the kanji for 'fire' written on it appeared on Naruto's flak jacket revealed itself. The samurai's eyes widened in response.
"Give up on me giving up!" He shouted: "Uzumaki Fūinjutsu: Inferno!"
A large, blue flame escaped the seal and exploded in Okisuke's face.
The samurai screamed as he was sent flying backwards, a blue flame encasing his body. The man flew dangerously close to the edge of the battlefield until, gripping his sword tightly, he plunged the blade into the earth, forcing his body to come to a halt and preventing him from falling off. Upon steadying himself on the ground, Okisuke pulled his sword out of the ground and made a swiping gesture with the blade around his body.
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Monsoon!"
A greenish-white aura of winds formed around his body, completely encasing him and extinguishing the blue flames that had formed. With the flames gone once more, the state of his body was able to be seen properly: the top half of Okisuke's kimono had been completely burnt off and even more burn marks were present, with a few even beginning to ooze blood.
He took a deep breath as he walked forward towards Naruto. The Uzumaki, just like Okisuke, was also breathing heavily, blood still dripping from the various slashes to his chest and leg.
"I… normally use Last Breath as a finishing technique. The only person whoever continued facing that technique was Mifune-sama." Okisuke noted, shaking his head as a small, painful chuckle escaped his lips: "You… You must clearly be one of the strongest in your village, yes?'
"There's plenty of people strong in Konoha-"
"Don't be humble." The samurai interrupted with a scoff.
Naruto laughed in response: "I could say the same about you! You're clearly one of the top samurai here, right?"
"You could say that." Okisuke noted. His eyes then narrowed on Naruto's figure: "You… You have more in you, don't you?"
"I do. And I want to see what else you're capable of too, y'know?" Naruto replied with a grin as he began to channel chakra.
"Naruto?" Kurama's voice echoed in his head: "Is this not just a friendly spar?"
'It is. But I got to respect the guy; I don't want to hold back at all.' Naruto replied.
Within seconds, Naruto's body became encased in a golden-chakra cloak as he entered his Bijū Mode.
Okisuke's eyes widened in response: 'This… This energy… This chakra…'
Naruto took in a deep breath as he crouched downward, getting in stance to charge again.
"You have more in you as well, right?" He asked. "I want to keep this going. Give you a real taste of what kind of shinobi I am!"
Okisuke was still for a moment as he stared at Naruto's form. Finally, he nodded his head, gripping his sword tightly.
"You may be a shinobi, but I can feel it in your energy and your drive; you have the spirit of a true samurai." He noted.
"Nah, the only spirit I got is my own." Naruto shook his head, chucking: "The spirit of Uzumaki Naruto, a Konoha shinobi!"
"If Konoha has even a handful of shinobi with half of your spirit, then I've clearly misjudged your village." Okisuke replied, his grin returning once more as he got into a stance of his own: "Very well, Uzumaki Naruto. Please. Let's continue this dance."
With those words, the two charged forward once more.
"Your grandson… he's this strong?"
Neither Masayuki nor Chiasa replied immediately to Sachiko, their eyes focused on the fight.
Both Naruto and Okisuke continued to exchange blows, fighting at close-and-long range as each side tried to gain an edge over the other. While the previous fights surely had a high level of combat and intensity displayed, this one appeared to be on a whole other level.
The rest of the Tetsu no Kuni audience appeared to be in agreement, as the audience had seemingly stopped cheering for Okisuke and simply opted to remain silent and appreciate the battle in front of them.
"We… We knew Naruto-kun was strong based on what stories he had told us, but this… this is much more amazing than I had ever expected." Chiasa admitted, her eyes glued to her grandson: "And to think he's only seventeen."
"S-Seventeen?" Sachiko choked in response before she gaped at her longtime friend: "I don't think even my husband was that strong when he was that age!"
"Naruto sure is something." Masayuki nodded his head as he closed his eyes. For a brief moment, the image of his own son came to his mind: "I wonder how he would compare to Minato-kun?"
"He… He doesn't move as fast as his father, but I think he hits with more force. And you have to assume that he is holding back since this isn't a life-or-death fight…" Chiasa mumbled to herself before she nodded her head: "I have to assume he's on his level. Naruto-kun most certainly is Kage-level."
"… If that's the case, then my husband is most likely praying to fight Naruto-san, then." Sachiko admitted, shaking her head: "He's missed fighting strong shinobi."
"Your husband's also got a strong attendant, I have to say." Masayuki noted, his eyes briefly moving towards Okisuke: "His kenjutsu and reflexes are incredible, and I don't recall ever hearing of a samurai who learned how to use senjutsu."
"To keep up with Naruto-kun, an Uzumaki and a jinchūriki and with all the various techniques and skills he possesses…" Chiasa's words dragged on before she finally turned away from the match and stared at Sachiko: "Is that samurai stronger than your husband?"
"No." The wife of the Samurai General shook her head: "Not yet. But he will be, one day." A chuckle escaped her lips: "I perhaps shouldn't be saying this, but it should be obvious based on how this fight is going; Mifune intends on having either Okisuke or another of his attendants - a man named Urakaku, who didn't participate in this tournament - replace him as Samurai General when he retires."
"That makes complete sense." Masayuki agreed before he chuckled: "So, I guess if he's still stronger than him, that means Mifune hasn't led old age catch up to him yet?"
"It has to degree, but Mifune still takes pride in being a Kage-level Samurai." Sachiko continued to chuckle: "With that mind, I'm absolutely positive; he's definitely excited to fight your grandson."
Once again, neither Masayuki nor Chiasa replied as they turned their focus back to the battle.
"Tailed Beast Shockwave!"
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Cyclone Blade!"
Naruto roared, creating a massive shockwave that flew towards Okisuke while the samurai pointed his sword downwards and began to spin it in his hand, like a propellor. Before the shockwave could connected, Okisuke's sword generated a large cyclone from the blade that flung the man into the sky, avoiding the blast. He then continued to fly, creating enough distance that Naruto was struggling to see him.
The Uzumaki crouched downward slightly before jumping into the air, using his Drift technique to fly towards Okisuke's figure. As he grew closer, though, Okisuke changed directions of his sword spinning, causing the cyclone to fly towards Naruto. The wind connected into Naruto's body, cutting into his skin and pushing him back momentarily, before Naruto channeled Kurama's chakra into his hands.
With a swipe of his hands, Naruto created a large tornado that pierced through Okisuke's, dissipating his wind while Naruto's attack continued to fly towards the soaring Okisuke. The samurai's eyes widened momentarily before he stopped spinning his sword, allowing his body to free-fall and barely dodge Naruto's attack.
"I have to admit, it's unnerving to see someone with a Wind Affinity proficient enough to overpower mine." Okisuke confessed, his eyes narrowed on Naruto, who was flying towards him: "I assume the bijū you have is the reason?"
"The Kyūbi's chakra does help, but the Wind Affinity is all mine." Naruto replied, a smirk on his face as an orb of spiraling chakra formed in his right hand. It then rapidly grew in size: "Using its chakra is just like using senjutsu for me."
"I see." The samurai nodded his head in understanding as he gripped his sword tightly in preparation for the oncoming attack. 'In this state, he's simply much stronger than me. I won't handle more than a few hits. So… I'll have to end this quickly before he wares me down. Never let up on my offense and never let him land even a single hit on me!'
"Sage Art: Ōdama Rasengan-"
"Wind Swordsman Style: Ninth Form: Idaten Typhoon!"
Just as Naruto was about to plunge the Rasengan into Okisuke's body, the samurai quickly ascended into the air, the nature energy around him pulling upwards directly above Naruto. Still upside down, Okisuke slashed downward, creating sharp gusts of winds that tore into Naruto's body and sent him flying towards the ground.
Naruto staggered slightly before he managed to steady himself in the air. He then looked up into the air in time to narrowly avoid more air slashes from Okisuke's blade. The samurai continued to free fall above him, slicing over-and-over and creating more sharp air blades, forcing Naruto to dodge.
'His attacks… they're also done at precise angles. It's like he's trying to prevent me from flying upwards towards him.' Naruto noted, gritting his teeth.
"I must admit, this Samurai is genuinely impressing me. There's something to say about a man who is moving and fighting in complete harmony with nature. I actually believe my father would approve of his use of chakra." Kurama noted n his head: "Although, I will say you could end this fight rather quickly if you simply used a Bijūdama."
'That would kill him.' Naruto shook his head, frowning. He then took a deep breath as he brought his hands together: 'Besides, I got other techniques that can take him down.'
Naruto ran through hand signs before he separated his hands, a pinkish-red energy appearing. The Uzumaki then launched the energy forward, which took the form of a laser aimed directly at Okisuke.
'Has he not realized by now? Fire Elemental jutsu may have the elemental advantage against wind, but they are ineffective against a Wind user strong enough to extinguish any flames.' Okisuke noted as he gripped his sword tightly and made a swinging gesture around his body with the blade.
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Monsoon!"
"Sage Art: Scorch Style: Heat Wave!"
As Okisuke's sword released a greenish-white gust of wind around his body to extinguish Naruto's jutsu, the fire laser exploded, creating a massive sea of pinkish-red flames that spread throughout the air.
Unlike with previous flames, this fire pierced Okisuke's monsoon barrier, crashing into him and burning him further.
"ARGH!" He shouted. 'H-How?'
The winds around him continued to blow, extinguishing the flames, but as quickly as they were blown out, the flames would respawn.
"What… kind of fire… is this-" Okisuke began to hiss before his eyes widened as he was now overcome with a strange sensation: "Huh?"
Naruto's jutsu was affecting the air around them. The Scorch Release technique rapidly increased the temperature of the wind around Okisuke, causing it to rise rapidly. In contrast, the cold wind immediately surrounding his body – as a result of the cooling affects of his Monsoon Jutsu – was starting to flow downwards.
Horror dawned on the samurai's face: 'That jutsu… he disrupted the wind's natural state!'
His realization was accompanied with his descent increasing in speed. Okisuke plummeted to the ground and, while still in Sage Mode, he no longer had control of the wind around him. As he continued to fall closer to the ground, he noticed Naruto was now standing still on the arena's battlefield.
And, in his hand, was an extremely large spiraling orb of chakra.
"Impressive, Uzumaki Naruto." Okisuke admitted, a smirk forming on his lips as he descended closer to him: "But if you are simply expecting me to acquiesce defeat, you are sorely mistaken!"
"Heh." Naruto smirked in response: "I'd have it no other way!"
Okisuke's smirk widened as he gripped his sword tightly. Nature energy poured from the blade while Naruto jumped upwards, extending his palm with the Rasengan.
"Sage Art: Wind Swordsman Style: Last Breath!"
"Sage Art: Ōdama Rasengan!"
Okisuke attempted a series of slashes at Naruto, wind blades forming from each slice just as Naruto plunged the Ōdama Rasengan into the samurai's blade. The resulting jutsus clashed created a massive explosion that caused dust to completely encase the battlefield and sent wind flying scattering throughout the whole arena,, blowing in the faces of all onlookers and forcing some of the Tetsu no Kuni civilians backwards in their seats.
"S-Such intensity!" Han nearly gasped.
"Holy shit…" Kankurō mumbled, the force nearly causing him to drop Sanshōuo.
'Naruto!' Hinata's eyes widened.
"Damn!" Sazanami grit his teeth, his hands moving towards his hat as he struggled to prevent it from flying away.
"Okisuke-san got pushed this far?" Toki's eyes widened as she tried to focus on the battlefield: 'This Naruto guy… who the hell is he?'
"Hmmm…" Mifune's eyes narrowed on the battlefield, unphased entirely by the wind and seemingly staring through the dust towards the outcome of the battle. He nodded his head, a smile forming on his face: 'What a battle.'
Nearly a minute passed by before the wind finally calmed down and the dust started to subside. The spectators all tensed-up as they focused on the battlefield that slowly came into view.
Naruto had remained on the battlefield on one knee, breathing heavily and his left hand clutching his chest as another fresh cut had seemingly pierced his Bijū Mode cloak. Okisuke, in contrast, had fallen to the ground face-first and was seemingly struggling to get up. His sword was next to him, a heavy crack going down the blade.
The man was also on the lower ground, below the battlefield. He had been ringed-out.
There was silence throughout the arena for a few moments. After half a minute, the silence was ended by the sound of thunderous applause.
"WHAT A MATCH!"
"I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE!"
"OKISUKE-SAMA! YOU DID US PROUD!"
"THAT KONOHA SHINOBI WAS AMAZING AS WELL!"
"WHAT WAS HIS NAME AGAIN?"
"Wh-What a spectacle! What a way to end Round One! With that, I can safely announce that the winner is Uzumaki Naruto!"
Naruto's eyes widened as his eyes moved from around the stadium, focusing on the various Tetsu no Kuni residents in attendance. Their cheering grew louder-and-louder with each passing second. After a few seconds to process, a wide smile formed on his face as he felt his eyes tearing-up.
He could not recall ever hearing this many people – this many complete strangers – cheering him on. He could only barely hide the full extent of his joy.
"Uzumaki… Naruto…" The blond was pulled away from the cheers as he noticed Okisuke walking back up the battlefield, moving incredibly slowly.
Naruto moved over towards him, his chakra cloak fading away as he met him at the stairs to the arena. Okisuke was still for a moment, his breathing very heavy, as if he was struggling to remain conscious.
Nevertheless, a look of determination seemed present in his eyes. He also had a smile of his own on his face as he slowly reached out, extending his right hand.
"In all my years as a samurai… I have never… had someone push me this hard… You, a shinobi and fellow sage… You are a true warrior." Okisuke said: "I think I see what Mifune-sama… must have seen in you all now…"
Naruto's smile widened as he reached out, shaking the samurai's hand.
"I can say the same for you." Naruto replied: "Thank you for the amazing battle."
Naruto's cheeks turned pinkish in color as the crowd began to scream their names. The samurai only chuckled as he broke their handshake before he turned around.
"I'm afraid I'm going to need to… go to the infirmary now…" He stated as he began to walk back towards the stairs and move downward: "Good luck… moving forward…"
Naruto's smile morphed into a grin as he nodded his head: "Thanks! I'll make sure to do you proud!"
Feeling a little more rejuvenated and Kurama's chakra beginning to slowly heal his wounds, Naruto turned around and began to run back towards the opposite side of the battlefield and move down the other flight of stairs.
As he made contact with the floor, however, he was greeted by a blue-haired blur that quickly tackled him to the ground.
"THAT WAS INCREDIBLE! CONGRATULATIONS NARUTO!"
"Erk… Hinata… I can barely breathe…"
The combatants were given a thirty minute recess in the aftermath of Naruto's and Okisuke's fight to relax, although very little relaxing was done for anyone as the Tetsu no Kuni audience continued to scream and shout, seemingly ready for the matches to continue once more. When the time finally passed, the winners of each match were invited to the stadium battlefield.
What was initially a clean, finely prepared battlefield was heavily damaged, with charred rock debris scattered throughout the battlefield as a result of Naruto's Toad Oil Blaze technique and a few holes scattered throughout the area. Nevertheless, the stadium ground was still stable and seemingly ready for further fights.
"After such a marvelous round one, one can only hope that the second round of matches will be able to surpass them." Sōzōshī's voice boomed throughout the arena: "However, I truly believe we're about to witness matches even more breathtaking. As of this moment, we have only the finest caliber of warriors – shinobi and samurai alike – standing in front of us. I have seen plenty of warriors in my past, including the likes of…"
Once again, the Tetsu no Kuni Daimyo continued to ramble on-and-on in his speech, turning it into a monologue about himself and his various connections. The audience grew silent once more, becoming bored of the long-winded speech, while the seven tournament combatants all stood still, waiting.
"One warrior even said I should have become a samurai. Perhaps I missed my calling…"
"… The sword I would have used would have been…"
… And waiting.
"So… He really loves the sound of his voice, huh?" Naruto noted, a sweat drop forming on his forehead.
"Oh yeah." Sazanami groaned.
"Will never shut up." Toki nodded her head.
"… He lacks self-awareness." Mifune admitted.
"That's putting it mildly." Hinata noted, a sigh escaping her lips. 'Then again, some of the Hyūga elders are like this too…'
"Hey, Han-sensei. The Tsuchi no Kuni Daimyo isn't this bad, is he?" Risho asked.
"… I've met the man once." Han admitted as he crossed his arms: "He's not nearly as long-winded, but he is horribly ignorant to the workings of a shinobi and is extremely insensitive, even by normal human standards. If you ever have to work with him, pray to the gods for patience and hope your dealings are brief."
"It's enough to make you wonder what's the point of these rich bastards, huh?" Sazanami asked with a snort. His eyes widened, however, as Toki quickly glared at him. He bowed his head, tipping his hat: "Apologies, Toki-san. Didn't mean offense."
"… It's fine." She said, sighing.
"Huh?" Naruto blinked: "What offense?"
A scowl formed on her face: "None of your business-"
"With all of that in mind, let's kick off Round Two of the Samurai-Shinobi Goodwill Tournament, shall we?"
"FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!"
Sōzōshī's declaration, as well as the following chants from the audience, caused the seven fighters to tense-up in preparation.
"Now then, if the combatants can leave the battlefield except the winners of match one and two." Sōzōshī stated: "That will leave our first match as our very own Samurai General, Mifune, versus the Iwagakure shinobi, Yuge no Han."
The other five fighters nodded their heads as they marched off the battlefield. Within a few seconds, both Mifune and Han remained in the center of the stadium.
"SHOW HIM WHAT A TRUE SAMURAI CAN DO!"
"THAT'S THE GUY WHO WON IN ONE MOVE, RIGHT? HOPEFULLY HE CAN GIVE MIFUNE-SAMA A GOOD FIGHT!"
"Well, it seems like the audience is excited to see you fight, Mifune-san." Han noted with a chuckle.
"They're excited to see a potentially action-packed fight against one of the greatest shinobi of this generation." Mifune admitted as he drew Kurosawa: "I trust you will not hold back, yes?"
"So long as you don't, I have no intentions to." Han shook his head.
"Ha! I will go all-out, Han-san." Mifune noted, his eyes narrowing on his opponent: "I assume you'll return the same courtesy, however. Perhaps you'll even use the same form that Naruto-san had to use against my subordinate?"
"Oh?" Han's eyebrow raised: "And you are certain I possess a 'form' like that?"
"I know you do." Mifune smirked, his grip on his sword tightening: "Please. Allow me the opportunity to face off against a Perfect Jinchūriki, will you?"
"… Very well, if you desire so." Han took in a deep breath before he began to channel chakra.
Within seconds, Han's physical appearance changed as he became encased in the Gobi's Bijū Cloak. The gears on the cloak began to rotate rapidly and more-and-more steam seemed to release as he got into position to charge forward.
"Prepare yourself, Mifune-san!" He declared.
"Looks like they're ready! Let the match between Mifune and Yuge no Han begin!"
"Mist Swordsman Style: Fifth Form: Sea of Clouds and Haze!"
Just as in his first fight, Han launched forward at his opponent in an attempt to deliver a steam-powered jump kick. Before his foot could connect, Mifune side-stepped, causing Han's attack to crash into the ground and kick up debris around the two of them. Mifune's sword then proceeded to glow a white coloration as he sliced forward at the Iwa shinobi. Han avoided the first attack, but as he tried to predict the second, Mifune's sword seemed to release a haze that covered the battlefield around him, obfuscating both him and his blade. As a result, the blade managed to connect, making several small cuts onto Han's left arm, before he was able to jump back.
"Interesting." The Gobi jinchūriki noted: "I didn't take you as the kind of samurai who'd use a style built around misdirection and evasion."
"You aren't the kind of fighter that one should simply take a direct blow from, especially in this circumstance." Mifune countered: "As such, I need to fight you accordingly."
"I suppose that's a compliment." Han noted: "Well, you aren't the only one who can adjust their fighting style."
The Gobi jinchūriki then proceeded to clap his hands together: "Boil Style-"
Before Han could properly start his jutsu, Mifune slashed wish his sword, creating a bright blue energy wave shaped like a crescent that flew towards him. Han side-stepped, avoiding the attack, but Mifune continued to slash at the air, creating more-and-more crescent strikes.
'Ah, this must be a type of Iaidō. He's going to keep me from using jutsu that requires hand signs or long-prep time.' He realized as he continued to dodge strikes: 'He doesn't just want me to use my Bijū Mode, but also wants to make sure I don't hold back; he wants me to go all-out on him… Hmph. Very well.'
Han took in a deep breath as he continued to avoid strikes: "Boil Style: Steam Cannon Jutsu!"
Upon opening his mouth, a blast of steam rushed forward from his mouth, colliding with another of Mifune's crescent waves before causing Mifune's attack to explode, scattering light fragments into the ground. Han then launched another steam blast at Mifune.
The samurai jumped to his right, barely avoiding the blast, but Han charged forward at him, closing the distance as he punched forward at the elder. Unable to move away this time, Mifune brought Kurosawa upwards and blocked Han's fist with his blade.
Mifune's sword began to glow with chakra, as if absorbing the damage: "Tetsu no Kuni Secret Art: Counter-"
Before he could finish his technique, steam from Han's fist seemed to scatter and rush at the man. The steam collided with his body, knocking him back and creating burn marks on his armor.
Just as he had been sent back, however, the absorbed chakra from Mifune's technique was released, knocking Han backwards as well.
Both men were not staggered for long, however; Han slammed his palms into the arena ground while Mifune adjusted his grip on his sword.
"Boil Style: Geyser Impact!"
"Tetsu no Kuni Secret Art: Grand Cutter!"
Mifune performed a quickdraw, briefly slicing the air before the ground underneath him rose up as a geyser formed, completely surrounding his body.
At the same time as the geyser's formation, Mifune's sword slice traveled through the air in the form of an invisible wave of chakra, creating a large slash mark on the ground before it crashed into Han's body. A heavy cut formed on Han's chest, seemingly piercing through the chakra cloak and causing the gears to rotate faster and for more steam to pour out. Blood poured from his open wound as he began to choke out blood, falling to his knees in response.
A few seconds passed by before the geyser subsided, revealing Mifune, who's armor breastplates were melted in some places. The man's skin was heavily burned and he, too, fell to his knees, a small trail of blood forming from his lips as he began to choke out more blood.
The two men were quiet, breathing heavily as they stared at one another, before they both seemingly pushed past their injuries and got back on their feet and charged forward.
"Boil Style: Horn Breaking!"
"Flame Swordsman Style: Third Form: Blazing Universe!"
Han launched forward at Mifune, his fists encased in steam and resembling the horns on Kokuō's head. He attempted to slam them into the samurai's body, but he jumped into the air just in time as his sword ignite, becoming encased in fire. He then swung his sword downward, creating an arc of fire that flew downward. Han jumped out of the way, avoiding the strike as Mifune's blade connected with the ground, causing embers to scatter.
The Gobi jinchūriki disappeared in a flicker, appearing directly behind the samurai general as he attempted to punch forward once more, his fists still encased in steam. Mifune, in response, began to spin in a circle, the fire on his blade extinguishing itself and becoming surrounded by water droplets from the air.
"Water Swordsman Style: Sixth Form: Whirlpool!"
Mifune's sword connected with Han's fist, creating an explosion as water began to surround Mifune's body, forming a protective whirlpool around him that shoved Han backwards and causing the steam on his fists to dissipate.
The Samurai general immediately spun his sword in a circular pattern above his head, still generating a whirlpool with the water droplets on his blade, before he slammed the sword into the ground: "Water Swordsman Style: Ocean Blitz!"
Immediately, the whirlpool around his sword separated into multiple water arrows that flew towards Han's body, crashing him into one-after-another and shoving him further back. He hissed in pain as his body neared the edge of the arena, before he took in a deep breath.
Just as he was about to fly off the arena, Han dug his feet into the ground and applied pressure before jumping into the air.
'Hmm.' Mifune's eyes narrowed on his figure as he seemed to almost disappear into the sky: 'He's really flying. I guess the steam is helping him propel him up. How far is he planning on going, though-'
His answer came quick, however, as Han began to descend rapidly directly towards him, his foot extended outward and completely encased in steam. In response, the general crouched downward as he drew Kurosawa once more and channeled chakra into the tip of the blade.
"Tetsu no Kuni Secret Art: Counter!"
Han attempted to crash his foot into Mifune's body, but the samurai lifted his sword and parried his attack with the tip of the blade, which proceeded to glow in response.
Immediately, another massive explosion sounded throughout the battle, encasing the battlefield once more in dust and causing debris to fly throughout the battlefield.
A shockwave seemed to spread as a result of the collision causing both shinobi and samurai participants waiting for the next match to feel the force of the explosion crash into their bodies.
"Wh-What the hell?" Sazanami nearly hissed as he averted his eyes, feeling as if he had just been sucker-punched.
"This force… this is just like the last battle… no… worse…" Toki grinded her teeth, trying to push back the pain and stay focused on the battle: 'Seriously, what kind of shinobi are these? To keep up against Okisuke-san and Mifune-sama of all people?'
"AGH! SHIT!" Kankurō shouted as the shockwave caused all the progress he had put on repairing Sanshōuo to go to waste, as the puppet crumbled back into its separate pieces once more.
"G-Goddamn…" Naruto mumbled, the force of the shockwave racing through his body.
The Tetsu no Kuni spectators were not hit by the force of the shockwave, but they still felt a massive energy that seemed to reverberate throughout the battlefield. No one said a word; everyone's attention was only focused on the battlefield, as if they waited for the dust to subside.
When the dust finally faded, the audience all stared intently as the forms of the combatants revealed themselves. Both Mifune and Han remained on the battlefield, both breathing heavily. Mifune's samurai armor had now been completely melted off and his clothes underneath appeared to be charred, with signs of scarring and bleeding present on his visible skin. Han, meanwhile, had been forced out of his Bijū Cloak. The regular Steam Armor he wore was overheating exponentially and had multiple slashes and visible tears in it. His face was red, and sweat was dripping heavily from his forehead.
Both were still for a moment, seemingly focusing on their breathing. Nearly a minute passed before either broke the silence.
"You… My counter kenjutsu is supposed to reflect the jutsu back to my opponent. I… don't think I've ever faced a jutsu that after being countered, it just… spread the onslaught instead…" Mifune noted, a small chuckle escaping his lips: "You… You're really something special, Han-san."
"I… appreciate the compliment…" Han replied, his breathing growing harder: "You… You as well… I do think… it's safe to say… you are the best swordsman… I've ever seen…"
"I would hope so. Otherwise I'd have to retire." Mifune said, shaking his head: "I haven't… had a fight like that since Hanzō back in his prime. You… You are easily Kage level." Han did not reply, only breathing harder, which prompted Mifune to continue: "You should be Tsuchikage…"
"I'm… not one… for politics…" Han answered. "Kurotsuchi… she is… she'll surpass me… one day…"
"So many of you shinobi don't take… the spot you deserve because you 'are not one for politics'." Mifune noted with a chuckle: "Well… enough of that…" His hand then moved towards Kurosawa as he took a step forward: "Are you… able to continue?"
"Yes…" Han tightened his hands into fists as he took a step forward as well: "Let's continue-"
The jinchūriki was unable to finish his words as his legs gave out and he fell to the ground, his body succumbing to exhaustion.
The stadium ground was quiet for only a moment before an eruption of applause sounded throughout the arena.
"Wh-What a showing!" Sōzōshī praised: "But it appears our general, Mifune, has proven himself victorious once more-"
The applause was unlike any from the earlier matches; the noise was deafening and none of the combatants or spectators could even think properly beyond the loud ringing in their ears.
The only person who appeared to be unaffected by the noise was Mifune, who took a deep breath and sheathed Kurosawa once more. He then walked over to Han's side as a few samurai attendants rushed to the center of the battlefield. The Samurai General looked at the unconscious form of the Gobi jinchūriki while his attendants struggled to lift the man on account of his heavy armor with a smile on his face.
'I've been missing a fight like that for years. Thank you for giving this old man one truly unforgettable fight, Han-san.' He noted.
"Unbelievable…" Chiasa mumbled to herself before shaking her head: "I figured Mifune must still be strong if he was still the Samurai General, but that… was unreal."
"That…" Masayuki bit his lip in thought before turning to face Sachiko: "Is he still in his prime?"
The Samurai General's wife chuckled in response as she shook her head: "If you ask him, he's not, but he's still at a close level. Mifune's stubborn and still trains every day the same way he has when he was younger."
"That's admirable, but still…" Chiasa shook her head: "I mean we've gotten to know Han-san on the journey up here, but I've always heard that Yuge no Han is one of the strongest shinobi Iwagakure has ever produced. For Mifune to still beat him despite his age…"
"My husband would probably laugh at that, then chide you that his age does not impact his strength in the slightest." Sachiko noted.
The three grew quiet for a moment as the audience around them grew even more restless with their cheering. As they turned their attention to the battlefield in preparation for the next battle, a thought crossed over Masayuki's mind.
'I wonder… how Naruto-kun will fare against Mifune?' He wondered.
"I know he's the Samurai General and all, but I can't believe that he managed to beat Han-nii." Naruto admitted, a frown on his face.
"Same." Risho nodded in agreement, his eyes still wide in disbelief: "I mean… it might be some latent naivety from my genin days, but I always thought of Han-sensei as unbeatable."
"He d-definitely did far better th-than I did, though…" Chōjūrō mumbled, his eyes moving downward.
"Don't say that, Chōjūrō-san." Hinata shook her head, a gentle smile on her face as she looked at the swordsman: "The Samurai General historically has always been on the level of the Five Kage. There is no shame at all with your performance." She then turned her attention to Naruto and Risho: "With that in mind, Han-san did amazing."
"Oh, no doubt." Naruto shook his head, a grin replacing his frown as he clapped his hands together: "That fight got me all pumped up! I can't wait for my next match!"
"You're going against that swordswoman. Make sure to give her as hard of a time as you can." Honoka told him with a smirk: "Also see if you can pull the stick out of her ass."
"Well, I'm somewhat a professional with things like that." Naruto noted as he cracked his knuckles before turning to face Risho: "Right Risho?"
"First of all, fuck off." The Iwa jōnin scowled in response: "And second off, you're not even the next match! The one who gets to fight next-"
"And now, let's move onto the next match! Can Kurogane Risho and Sazanami please come forward?"
"… Is me." Risho noted as he proceeded to pull himself up from his seat.
"Heh." Naruto smirked as he held out his fist towards him: "Avenge Han-nii and take out another samurai, Risho!"
He smirked back as he fist-bumped Naruto: "Will do."
Risho took-in a deep breath before he rushed for the steps towards the battlefield until he came face-to-face with Sazanami.
After the back-to-back battles between Naruto and Okisuke, followed by Han and Mifune, the once-neat arena floor was completely disheveled with scattered stone, debris, and holes present throughout the area.
Sazanami's eyes focused on the wreckage for a moment before he looked to Risho and began to laugh.
"What's so funny?" The shinobi asked with a raised eye-brow.
"Just the fact that you and I got the impossible task to follow-up on those last two fights." Sazanami said, still laughing lightly: "Surely this is gonna disappoint a few of the people here, y'know?"
The Kurogane shook his head: "We're still going to give it everything we got. They'll be interested!"
"I'm sure they will. Just acknowledging the truth of it." The former bounty hunted noted. He took in the serious expression on the Iwa shinobi's face for a moment before he shook his head: "You're all business, aren't you? No time for some pre-match banter?"
"You can say that the last couple of matches puts too much expectation on us, but honestly, all they did was get me amped up." Risho said as he reached for his side and unsheathed two newly-crafted blades: "I'm ready to go!"
"Earnest, aren't we?" Sazanami said, chuckling as he drew his own blade. "Alright then, let the hunt begin, kid."
"With both opponents ready, let us begin the second match of the second round!"
With the match officially underway, both Risho and Sazanami rushed at one appear, disappearing in a flicker before appearing in the direct center of the battle, Sazanami clashing his single sword with both of Risho's. Risho then vanished in another flicker, appearing directly behind the samurai, and attempted to slice at him. Sazanami was unable to react on time and received two cuts to his arm. He hissed in pain as he jumped back, placing distance between the two.
"So, you aren't as fast as Takeko, huh?" Risho asked with a smirk.
"Yeah, but give me a break. The Arcane Swordsman style she learned from her master requires unbelievable speed." Sazanami grumbled as he steeled himself, tightening his grip on his sword: "But if you think just because you beat her that you'll be able to beat me as well, then I'll have to show you how wrong you are!"
Sazanami's blade began to glow a bright-yellow coloration. Risho's eyes narrowed in response before the shinobi rushed forward, appearing once again behind the former bounty hunter. Instead of trying to parry, however, Sazanami instead stabbed the ground below.
"Earth Swordsman Style: Crush!"
Instantly upon collision with the ground, earth spikes rose-up around his body. Risho's strikes hit the earth spikes instead and, upon connecting with them, the blades immediately shattered, causing the tips to fly around the battlefield before hitting the ground with a clatter.
A smirk formed on Sazanami's face as the spikes began to subside as he then lunged forward at Risho, his sword still glowing yellow. The shinobi bit his lip as he jumped back, narrowly avoiding the blade. As he placed more distance between the two, Sazanami's sword made contact with the ground once more.
"Earth Swordsman Style: Rising Earth!"
Immediately, the ground underneath Risho's feet launched upwards, forming a pillar of sort that sent the shinobi flying into the sky, knocking the air out of him.
"Argh!" He hissed.
Sazanami grinned in response as he charged forward his newly formed pillar before he began to run upwards on the side of it. He continued to move upwards until he reached the top. He then jumped into the air, towards Risho's floating position.
Risho bit his lip as he gripped the broken sword handles tightly: "Iron Style-"
"Dancing Blade Risk!"
Before Risho could finish forming his new swords, Sazanami closed the distance between the two. The Iwa shinobi tried to block with the handle of one of his blades, but Sazanami sliced forward with his blade, striking with enough force that the handle was cut in half and delivering a sharp cut to Risho's right hand.
"Agh!" He hissed.
Sazanami grinned as he then slammed the hilt of his sword into Risho's chest, causing the Iwa jōnin to fall more rapidly, creating a crater in the ground and scattering dust everywhere.
'May have went a little hard on him too quick. Whelp, my bad, kid." The samurai noted as he slowly descended back to the ground.
As soon as he stepped back onto the ground, however, he was quickly greeted by two newly-crafted swords. Sazanami's eyes widened as he tried to parry at the last second, but was unable to properly and ended up receiving two sharp slashes on his chest in an 'X' pattern, causing him to bleed heavily and for him to choke out blood.
'Wh-What the hell?'
The dust began to fade at that point, giving the former bounty hunter a good look at Risho. The shinobi was heavily bruising and bloody from his impact. Furthermore, his right hand was completely covered in blood. Nevertheless, he remained standing steady, gripping onto two newly formed swords of his, although coating the hilt of the sword in his right hand red with his blood.
"Argh…" Sazanami hissed, biting his lip to drown out the pain from his most recent injury: "I can believe that the fall didn't knock you out, but how are you standing with a sword in your right hand?" His eyes then narrowed on it: "That's a bad cut; you shouldn't be able to wield a sword at least until you get that treated!"
"Suppose so… but I've trained like this in the past." Risho replied with a shrug: "My cousin-" He frowned, shaking his head: "A clansman of mine used to have me practice with completely bloody, broken hands. Said no matter what, a Kurogane who can't use a sword at any point is worth more dead than alive." He tightened his grip on his right sword, wincing slightly in response: "Fighting like this does hurt a bit, but it's not something I can't do."
"… A clansman made you? And you've done this multiple times?" The samurai blinked in response before his eyes softened: "I don't mean to offend or anything, but Kurogane-san… it sounds like you were abused by this 'clansman'."
"… Maybe…" Risho's frown deepened as he shook his head: "I'd rather not about it that much."
"Right. My apologies." Sazanami shook his head: "Well, regardless of anything, it's impressive to see you still handle a sword like that. You may be a shinobi, but you definitely got the grit and determination of any our samurai."
Risho's lips twitched for a moment, processing the compliment. He took in a deep breath, before a small smirk formed on his face as he crouched downward slightly.
"I definitely underestimated you once I realized you were slower than Takeko. That won't happen this time." He replied: "This time, I'll end this in one go."
"Oh? You've gotten a few good cuts on me, but nothing to really brag about I'd say." Sazanami smirked back as he gripped his sword tightly, the light-yellow glow returning to the blade: "But alright, kid. Try and end this!"
With those words, the two swordsmen charged at one another. The two struck at one another, Risho's two swords being parried by Sazanami's, which proceeded to glow an even brighter coloration.
"Earth Swordsman Style: Shatter!"
Sazanami's feet proceeded to dig into the ground as he continued to apply chakra and pressure with his sword. The glowing intensified before his sword proceeded to completely overpower Risho's dual blades, causing them to shatter into several pieces that scattered in the area around them.
The shinobi, however, was not staggered by the act; instead, he tightened his grip with his left hand and punched forward, his fist connecting with Sazanami's face.
"Ack!" The samurai hissed, his nose starting to bleed as he was pushed back slightly. He tightened his grip on his sword: "Cheeky-"
"Iron Style: Multi-Blade Crafting!"
Before Sazanami could strike back, the pieces of scattered sword pieces proceeded to reform and elongate, each turning into their own individual swords scattered around the battlefield. Risho then lifted his left hand, using his Iron Release to control the newly formed blades and causing them to rise into the air.
'Han-sensei, I wish you didn't get knocked out… I wanted you to see this in action. But I'll just have to show you my ultimate jutsu at another time.' Risho took in a deep breath as Sazanami closed the distance between him: "Iron Style: Blade Weaver Dance!"
Sazanami sliced forward at Risho, delivering a deep, diagonal cut onto his chest. The shinobi choked up more blood in response, but still managed to bring his left hand forward in a pulling gesture.
Immediately, the blades closed in on Sazanami, the first of which impaling his shoulders and pushing him back.
The rest of the blades flew towards him, moving in a circular pattern akin to a whirlwind. The blades all struck at Sazanami's body, hitting with him enough force that they knocked the samurai into the air while slashing into his body, delivering cut-after-cut to his body.
Pain rushed through Sazanami's body as he began to bleed more-and-more. His eyes began to close as he felt his consciousness beginning to fade as the pain became too much. Before succumbing, however, he gripped his sword and began to channel as much chakra into the blade as possible, causing it to glow a dark yellow coloration.
Risho's dancing blades seemed to change focus to his arms, delivering more cuts in an attempt to get him to drop the blade. Nevertheless, Sazanami's grip tightened as his eyes narrowed on Risho.
'If this were a real battle, this jutsu would obviously aim for my vitals and kill me. I'll concede that. But in a match like this… if I'm going down, you're going with me!' The Samurai told himself as he extended his hand backwards: "Earth Swordsman Style: Meteor Storm!"
Sazanami proceeded to toss his sword downward directly at Risho. As the sword flew through the air, the earth-elemental chakra infused in it began to take solid shape, encasing it in stone.
'Can't break focus on my blade dance.' Risho told himself as he made a hand-sign with his bloody right hand: "Iron Style: Armor of Iron!"
Risho's body became encased in a thick layer of armor. Just as it formed and solidified, Sazanami's blade connected with Risho's armor.
Upon impact, the ground around Risho exploded, scattering rock debris everywhere as a crater formed underneath his feet. The brute force of the earth-covered stone tore the armor completely off Risho's body and causing him to get him overwhelmed by the force trauma from the attack as rock shards tore into his skin. Within seconds, the Iwa shinobi's body collapsed, falling unconscious.
With the shinobi swordsman no longer focusing, the iron blades mercilessly attacking Sazanami stopped moving before they all unceremoniously fell to the ground, clanging with the impact. The samurai's body then proceeded to fall, but he tried to channel as much chakra as possible to his body to help shield himself from too much fall damage.
His efforts were in vain, however, as upon crashing into the ground on top of the blades, Sazanami instantly fell into unconsciousness.
Silenced filled the arena as people waited to see if either combatant would somehow pull themselves up. After a few seconds passed, Sōzōshī's voice rang throughout the arena.
"Well, since both swordsmen appear to be out of commission, it looks like we have reached another draw!"
The cheers were instant.
"SAZANAMI-SAN! GREAT JOB REPRESENTING US!"
"WHAT AMAZING SWORDSMENSHIP! FROM BOTH!"
"RISHO-SAN WAS HIS NAME, RIGHT? HE FOUGHT LIKE A TRUE SAMURAI!"
"GREAT FIGHT SAZANAMI-SAN! GREAT FIGHT RISHO-SAN!"
As the audience's shouts echoed throughout the arena floor, Kankurō's eyes focused intently on Sazanami's body, a sigh escaping his lips.
"He got a lucky one-shot hit on me with the win condition, but based off how this fight, it didn't matter. He would have ended up kicking my ass in the end." He admitted before turning to Risho's body: "And he brought him to a draw, huh?"
"You're telling me that guy is seriously considered a 'black sheep' in the Kurogane Clan?" Honoka asked, her eyes wide in disbelief: "If he were from Kirigakure, he would be one of the Seven Swordsman.
"N-No doubt." Chōjūrō nodded his head, a small on his face as he looked at Risho's figure: "K-Kurogane-san is inspiring."
"He really is." Hinata nodded her head.
Naruto was about to reply, but his mind quickly flickered back to his Chūnin Exams, recalling when his younger self facing-off against Risho in the first match of the Chūnin Exams.
"It's funny; you think I give a damn what some clan-less orphan from Konoha thinks."
"All I want to do is show everyone here how a true shinobi fights – one of the Kurogane – fights."
"Fight me face-to-face you coward!"
"This is not fun! This is war, and my life IS on the line!"
The Uzumaki shook his head, pulling himself away from his memories in time to see more samurai attendants carrying Sazanami's and Risho's body to the medical bay. Naruto's eyes focused on Risho for a moment as a smile developed on his face. He nodded his head.
'You really have come a long way, Risho. And no matter what your clan may think, I think even you have to acknowledge that.' He told himself.
"Uggghhh…" Yugito groaned.
Neji blinked, looking up from his notes as the Nibi jinchūriki closed the book in her hands and proceeded to stand up, stretching slightly. She then started to stack all the books she had collected and picked them up before starting to walk to the nearest bookshelf.
"Are you finished for now?" The Hyūga asked.
"For now. I'm going to go get lunch and maybe take a walk." Yugito replied as she put one of the books away before moving to the next bookshelf and returning the next in her hand: "You want to come?"
"I'll pass for now." He shook his head.
Yugito turned her head towards him, her eyes narrowing intently on him. A shiver went down Neji's back for a moment, but the Hyūga held his ground and shook his head.
"It would be good for you to rest for a little bit." She noted.
"I'm aware. I will take a break soon; just not right now." He replied.
"You're going to burn yourself out." She reminded him.
He continued to shake his head: "I'm keeping my limitations in mind."
The two glared at one another for a few seconds before Yugito sighed, shaking her head as she returned to placing her books away. With the staring contest finally over and her attention elsewhere, Neji let out a silent sigh of relief.
"Just take care of yourself." She stated.
"I will." He said, nodding his head: "I do appreciate your concern."
The Nibi jinchūriki hummed in response as she returned the last set of books before she finally walked back to their table and grabbed her notebook. She then walked over towards the stairs, waving at the Konoha shinobi.
"If I come back here and find you passed out, you're getting slapped." She stated.
"Heh." Neji snorted in response before, again, nodding his head: "I'll either be wide awake or getting lunch myself."
Seemingly accepting that response, Yugito proceeded to walk down the stairs of the library, heading towards the exit. Neji watched her descend the stairs until she was out of sight. He then turned back towards his own books, another chuckle escaping his lips.
'Naruto has called motherly, and I can see why now.' He noted.
The Hyūga then returned his attention towards his own notebook, but before he got started, he bit his lip in thought.
While he did not think he needed a break yet, Yugito did have a point about potential burn-out.
"Perhaps a change of topic might be good…" He mumbled to himself.
Quickly putting away the few textbooks he was looking at, Neji grabbed his notes and walked up the stairs until he reached the seventh floor.
In the corner of the room were two figures dressed in black cloaks wearing Samurai helmets on their heads, both intently reading from a book. Neji could not ascertain much of either of their appearances from their outfits, but as he walked towards one of the bookcases, he made eye contact with one of them, revealing that he did not have a facemask on underneath his helmet. He looked to be an elderly man with blue eyes and a small patch of white hair visible from underneath his helmet.
Neji nodded his head in acknowledgment at the man, but he quickly returned to reading his book. With a shrug, the Hyūga returned his attention to the bookshelf.
After a minute had passed, Neji had pulled out a small stack of books and walked over to a table in the center of the room.
'There are other people here, so I should try and keep my desk organized and presentable.' He told himself as he opened his first book: 'Now… time to begin my research into the Tenseigan!'
"One of them managed to beat Okisuke-sama, one of them managed to give you a fair fight, Mifune-sama, and now one of them managed to draw against Sazanami-san." Toki mumbled, her eyes wide in disbelief as she stared at the completely disheveled and torn-apart battlefield: "What kind of shinobi did you actually let into the village?"
The Samurai General chuckled in response: "Some rather remarkable ones. I think we've been doing a good job keeping our audience entertained, no?"
The screaming crowd that they were doing their best to drown out was all the answer Toki needed.
Tournaments were somewhat a tradition in Tetsu no Kuni, with three tournaments a year that featured samurai of differing skill sets vying for personal glory. Toki had been a participant in a handful of these tournaments herself, but she could not recall a time where the audience was this rowdy. It appeared the public of Tetsu no Kuni truly was enjoying the presence of the shinobi and seeing them go against some of the samurai elite.
And while she was pleased that the audience was entertained, she herself wanted nothing more for this whole farce to end already.
"What did you think of the last fight, Takeko-san?" Mifune asked, turning his attention to the only other samurai in their seating area – the only one who did not have to get escorted back to medical after their fight. "How do you think Sazanami did?"
"Fantastic as always. I envy the control Sazanami-san exerts on the battlefield itself." She noted: "I was also really impressed with Risho-san. He really seemed to learn from the battle and actually managed to turn the tide against Sazanami-san!"
"Don't sound too impressed." Toki said, frowning slightly: "You are praising the shinobi who beat you, after all."
Takeko turned towards her, blinking in confusion: "Why wouldn't I? I'm not bitter at all, and I happened to enjoy both my fight with Risho-san and his fight just now." A smile developed on her face: "That jutsu he pulled off at the end… I know that was technically ninjutsu, but that almost resembled a swords dance. It was beautiful."
"Ah, I was impressed by that as well." Mifune admitted, his right hand going to his chin: "Just like with Chōjūrō-san, it might be a few years too early for Kurogane-san to give me a serious challenge, but I sincerely hope I get the opportunity five years from now." He then laughed once more: "I'll have to make sure my skills don't wane anymore than they already have!"
"I want to spar with him again before he leaves." Takeko admitted, her hand going towards her blade: "I'd love a chance to do a proper fight with no ring-out, and see if I can beat him in a more traditional fight!"
'How are they okay with all this? Wanting to fight the shinobi? To see him again in five years? It almost sounds like Mifune wants to open relations with the shinobi nations...' Toki scowled, but did not voice her thoughts.
"Moving on." Sōzōshī's voice rang out, bringing the crowd to silence and drawing the attention of the combatants: "Since the fifth match of the first round between Dosu and Menma came to a draw, this means that the winner of the sixth match, Hyūga Hinata - or is it Uzumaki Hinata? - will get a 'bye' and will automatically move onto the third round. With that in mind, let's move onto the final match of the second round!"
"Will Toriōritsu Toki and Uzumaki Naruto please come forward?"
"Well, it's time for your fight, Toki-san." Mifune spoke-up, smiling at her: "Do your best. Naruto-san has proven that he will be quite the formidable opponent."
'A guy who managed to defeat Okisuke? That's more than formidable.' Toki nearly snorted.
Takeko, as if reading her mind, shook her head: "I'm sure Okisuke-san wore him down some, so take advantage of that." She then began to smirk: "Kick his ass!"
"… I'll do what I can." Toki nodded her head as she walked up to the stadium battlefield.
As she began to move towards the stairs, her hand moved instinctively to her halberd. She took in a deep breath before her eyes narrowed: 'Yeah, I'll do what I can and kick this guy's ass. I don't care if he managed to defeat Okisuke; I'm not in the mood to lose to a damn shinobi!'
"Good luck Naru-"
"Thanks-" Naruto stopped talking, his eyes focusing on his wife after the abrupt stop in her speech: "You okay, Hinata?"
She blinked in response for a moment before nodding her head a little too fervently, a smile on her face.
"Of course." Hinata stated: "Make sure to win, okay?"
"… Yeah. I will." Naruto nodded his head before turning around and walking towards the stairs to the battleground.
As soon as he made up the stairs, he rushed towards the center, coming face-to-face with Toki. Naruto then took a deep breath as he began to focus on the nature energy around him once-more.
Toki's eyes narrowed on him, taking in his physical appearance. While there were still visible rips and tears in his clothes as a result of his battle with Okisuke, a good chunk of the wounds from his fight were seemingly all healing up, with the blond having only minimal bleeding visible.
"… You recover pretty quick." Toki noted.
"Yeah. I was born with it." The Uzumaki replied.
He could have sworn he heard Kurama snort in response, which only caused him to smirk in response. Toki's eyes narrowed in response.
"Well, you're lucky then; means you won't have to spend too much time in medical afterwards." She said.
"Yeeaaahh, that's not going to happen regardless." He shook his head in response: "Anyway, what's your deal with shinobi? Why do you hate us so much?"
"... Well, that's a pretty blunt question." She scowled in response: "Samurai and shinobi have always been enemies for centuries; why do I need a specific reason to hate you?"
"Our nations are not enemies, nor have we ever been." Naruto replied, a frown forming on his face: "But again, it's not cultural or history with you. I can tell that with you, it's deeper than that. Your hatred… it's personal."
Toki's eyes widened in response: "Wh-What makes you think that?"
"That's… something I've always been good at. Understanding what people are thinking." Naruto replied. His smile slightly curled up as he held out a hand: "I'd like to know why and see if there's anything I can do to help, y'know?"
Toki stared at him in disbelief for a few moments, processing his offer, before she began to grind her teeth, her grip on her halberd tightening as she undid its holster.
"Shinobi are scum: deceitful, lying, scum." She hissed as she swung the halberd over her head for a moment before pointing the spear-head at Naruto: "You're the last person I'd talk to about anything. Now, are we done with this stupid therapy session, or are we actually going to fight?"
"… Whatever." Naruto shrugged in response as he opened his eyes, revealing his yellow eyes, his Sage Mode now active: "I was going to try this part peacefully, but if you really want me pull the stick out of your ass that bad, then so be it. I'll make sure to beat you with it too, for good measure."
"Alright everyone; let the final match of Round Two begin!"
"Flame Swordsman Style: Ignite!"
The spear and axe of Toki's halberd became encased in flames. With her weapon now ready, she charged forward at Naruto, preparing to skewer him.
"Wind Style: Drift!"
Naruto proceeded to fly into the air, avoiding her attack. Toki turned her head upwards, eyes narrowing on her position as she tightened her grip on the halberd and began to spin in a circular formation, creating a ring of fire around her body, completely concealing her.
"Flame Swordsman Style: Infernal Demise!"
The ring of fire formed from Toki's halberd launched a massive spinning fire cyclone upwards at Naruto. He blinked in response before flying to his right, narrowly avoiding the blaze.
'She doesn't seem particularly fast, but her attacks are-'
"Flame Swordsman Style: Halberd of Hell!"
The flame cyclone that Naruto had narrowly avoided dissipated, revealing the figure of Toki in the air directly above him. She then free-fell directly onto him, her halberd glowing a dark-red coloration as she impaled his stomach with the spear. Naruto choked in response.
"Y-You were in the cyclone?" He asked.
"I was that cyclone. I simply rotated my halberd fast enough that I began to fly." She replied, grinning as she pushed the spear further into him, causing him to wince: "Next time-"
Her words died on her lips as she began to notice something off about the shinobi: 'I've completely pierced his stomach… why isn't he bleeding?'
As if on cue with her question, the 'Naruto' she had skewered with her halberd dissipated in a poof of smoke.
The samurai's thoughts were interrupted as a chain launched itself from underneath the ground of the stadium directly at her. She swung her fire halberd at it, sending the chain flying away as she landed safely on the ground. She then jumped backwards as another chain was sent towards her.
"Underground…" She hissed as she proceeded to slam her halberd into the ground. She grinded her teeth as a burst of energy rushed through her body. This new energy seemed to rush into her halberd, alongside even-more chakra: "Cursed Warrior Technique: Flame Swordsman Style: Hell's Domain!"
The halberd's color changed into an even darker red, resembling maroon, as the flames from the spear and axe magnified, spreading underneath the ground. Within seconds, the entire battlefield became encased in fire.
Within seconds, the sounds of clones popping filled the air as more-and-more smoke rose from the ground. Naruto flew out from the ground, burn marks visible on his skin. He flew closer towards Toki, noting the fire around her was not burning her in the slightest.
'Widespread fire attacks like this are dangerous for the most part, because it can still hurt the user. That's what makes Anko-sensei's Flare Aura technique so useful; it allows her to use massive fire attacks without any concern of burning herself.' Naruto reminded himself, his eyes narrowing on his opponent: 'So, how is she not burning herself like that-'
His eyes widened as he sensed his answer; a distinct type of chakra was rushing through Toki's body that he had never sensed before, incomparable to any he had ever felt prior: regular chakra, senjutsu-chakra, nor bijū-chakra. Her chakra signature felt extremely dark, but unlike Shigaraki Tanuki's bastardized version of senjutsu, he would not necessarily say it was evil in nature.
This energy, while dark, still had a warmth to it that made Naruto almost feel sad in its presence. As if he could tell there was something missing in this energy.
'Kurama?' Naruto asked.
"I'm not entirely sure. It feels familiar to me, but it must be something I haven't encountered in the past few centuries" The Kyūbi answered: "This chakra signature… it's definitely foreign. Almost other-worldly. Perhaps undead?"
'Undead?' Naruto's eyes widened: 'What kind of-'
"That was a shadow clone I was fighting a moment ago, right?" Toki asked him, interrupting the shinobi's thoughts. He nodded his head, causing her to scowl: "I literally pierced its body; how did it not dissipate instantly?"
"Well, senjutsu-chakra enhanced clones are a bit more durable." Naruto replied, grinning. "You didn't think I'd go down that easy, did you?"
"… No. Besides the fact you definitely fought more in your fight with Okisuke, you seem like a pain in the ass who won't go down quickly." She grumbled.
"Heh. Well, you're right on that." Naruto said as he took in a deep breath.
'I definitely should take this more seriously, then. I'll try and end this fight quickly and see if I can get an answer out of her!' He told himself as he finished channeling chakra: "Sage Art: Wind Style: Drilling Air Bullets!"
The Uzumaki launched a series of air bullets from his mouth that crashed into the ground, hitting the flames with enough force that they extinguished the flames. Toki hissed as she was forced to avert her eyes, the pressure from the wind getting to her.
Taking advantage of the situation, Naruto held out his right hand, creating an adamantine sealing chain that flew towards her. The chain encircled her arms, forcing her to drop the halberd to the ground, the flames on it extinguishing upon impact.
Naruto then pulled upwards, dragging Toki into the air towards him. As she approached him, he held out his left hand, creating a large orb of chakra inside of it.
"Let go of me, scum!" She hissed, seemingly unphased by Naruto's planned attack as she tried to break free from Naruto's chains.
Before Naruto could shove the Rasengan into her chest, Toki managed to bring her hands apart, pulling her hands out of Naruto's chains. As a result, she began to descend downwards, avoiding Naruto's Rasengan.
'She broke out of my chains?' His eyes widened.
Toki grinded her teeth as she reached to her side, pulling out her dual swords from their holsters. Immediately, the two blades became encased in flames as she proceeded to swing her right hand upwards, flinging the sword at Naruto like a flaming boomerang.
The Uzumaki attempted to fly away in time, but the sword managed to cut into his side while burning at his skin around the wound. He hissed in pain, grabbing onto his side, before moving to his left, barely avoiding the sword's return trip back to Toki. She caught the sword just as she landed back onto the ground.
"Stay flying up in the air if you want, but I'll bring you down." She stated sharply, pointing the sword in her left hand directly at him.
Naruto did not reply immediately, his eyes narrowing on the samurai intently. She tightened her grip on the sword, ready to throw it once more, but Naruto, instead, brought his hands together.
"Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
Within seconds, the sky above became filled with a hundred clones of Naruto, all flying and looking intently at Toki. She scowled as she channeled more chakra into her blades.
"I don't care how many clones you can make; I'll slash and burn all of them until you're taken down!" She shouted: "Quit wasting my time; if you actually want to defeat me, you're going to have use that form you had to use against Okisuke!"
In response, Naruto's clones all descended down towards her. Toki proceeded to dodge each attack as they came in, moving with a surprising amount of grace as she sliced through the clones one-at-a-time.
After a few seconds, Toki had managed to cut down the majority of the clones, bringing the number down to twelve. The original Naruto and his remaining clones quickly landed back on the ground, surrounding her. Each held out their hand, forming a large orb of chakra in their hands. In response, she got into position, changing the grip on her swords as she got into a more defensive stance.
"Flame Swordsman Style: Fourth Form: Blooming Flame Undulation!"
As the clones rushed towards her – each trying to get close to her with their Rasengan – Toki slashed forward with her blades, creating multiple fireballs that intercepted the clones and dissipated them before they could reach forward. While the clones all failed, the original Naruto managed to avoid each of her swords' fireballs until he reached her, his Rasengan growing even further in size.
"Curse Warrior Technique: Strength of the Undying!"
Just as Naruto was about to shove the Rasengan at full force, Toki brought both her swords forward and intercepted the Rasengan, her swords become filled with the same dark energy as before.
Upon impact, a shockwave released from the collision of their jutsus, rushing through the ground level once again. Mifune, Takeko, Hinata, Chōjūrō, and Honoka all winced as the airwaves hit them, causing them to nearly fall out of their seats from the force. While it was less intensive than the one caused from Mifune's and Han's final attacks, this one still caused them all to tense-up heavily.
Kankurō's puppet Sanshōuo, however, crumbled at the feeling of the shockwave once again, just as he had finished.
"Oh come on, not again-" The puppeteer was about to shout, but the effect of the shockwave had now hit his body directly. The puppeteer, unlike his fellow shinobi, was sent flying out of his seat: "Wh-What the hell?"
As their clash continued, Naruto felt as if he saw an image next to Toki. Instead of her being alone, he saw the image of a young man with the same purple hair, wearing regal-looking clothes fitting of a Daimyo, holding a pair of swords as well, fighting back against him.
"This chakra…" Naruto hissed, applying more force: "What… is it?"
"It's… my brother's…" Toki grinded her teeth, continuing to push back.
"What… kind of jutsu… is this…" Naruto demanded.
She did not reply, instead focusing solely on their stalemate. It was Naruto's turn to grind his teeth as he pushed back against her.
"I thought… you samurai… didn't use ninjutsu…" Naruto noted.
"It's… something I did… before I became a samurai…" Toki replied, sweat beginning to pour from her face as she was pushed back slightly. Nevertheless, she kept her grip on her swords: "My soul… is bonded with my brother's… I used it… to become the Cursed Warrior… our combined strength… is mine…"
"Ah, so that's what this is! I had assumed this practice had been long forgotten. Must have wandered into some old temple and had a monk take pity on her. To think she managed such a feat…" Kurama's voice spoke within Naruto's mind: "Her brother must have died for her, or died with regrets tied to her. She had an archaic jutsu used on her soul, bonding the soul of her brother to her own. This, in turn, would give her major increases to her chakra and physical strength whenever she taps into it. The stronger the bond between the souls, the more strength she should get when she taps into it." The fox then snorted: "This comes at a cost, though. As one soul is alive and the other is dead, using this undead energy attached to her should be shaving off time from her natural life span as it tries to bring the souls' lives into balance."
'That…' Naruto's eyes widened, his force on the Rasengan weakening ever so slightly.
Toki took advantage of that and she quickly pushed back, forcing Naruto to reapply pressure and, barely avoiding being staggered. The resulting class of pressure created another shockwave that rushed throughout the arena.
"Why… would you… do this… to yourself? To… his soul?" Naruto asked.
"You… You shinobi… You killed him… both my brother… my father… my country…" Toki grinded her teeth: "DON'T YOU... DARE JUDGE ME FOR MY POWER… OUR POWER…"
'She's losing it…' Naruto noted, sensing the killing intent radiating from her body: '… I need to end this now.'
With a deep breath, Naruto's eyes narrowed as he began to channel Kurama's chakra. Within seconds, Naruto's Bijū Cloak formed around his body.
"Finally… FINALLY!" A grin formed on Toki's face: "FINALLY TAKING THIS SERIOUS… WELL… YOU'RE GOING TO NEED-"
Before she could finish shouting, the pressure from Naruto's Rasengan grew exponentially. Toki's eyes widened. She tried to apply more pressure with her swords but, in the end, the force of Naruto's jutsu shattered the swords, causing the blades to fly through the air before clanging to the arena ground.
Naruto slammed the massive Rasengan directly into Toki's chest, which promptly sent her flying backwards with a massive explosion. The impact from the Rasengan caused her samurai to crack heavily for a few seconds before it completely broke apart entirely. Toki's body continued to fly through the air until she crashed into wall directly underneath the first row spectators.
Her body fell from the wall before it crashed again to the floor. Upon impact, her helmet was sent flying off.
"Toki! Are you okay!" A voice shouted in her mind.
"Sagi... nii... san..." She mumbled quietly before her consciousness faded.
"And what a conclusion to the second round of fights! The winner of the final match of Round Two is Uzumaki Naruto!"
Immediately after Sōzōshī's remarks, the audience erupted into cheers once more.
"FIRST OKISUKE-SAMA AND NOW TOKI-SAMA; THIS GUY IS JUST TAKING OUT OUR ELITE!"
"HE SHOULD BE A SAMURAI!"
"NARUTO-SAAAAAMA, PLEASE MARRY ME!"
"E-Eh?" Naruto blinked in response at that one cheer as he began to rub the back of his head: "B-But I'm already mar-"
The crowd's cheering quickly overpowered any words he had to say. The Uzumaki's eyes moved from spectator to spectator as a grin formed on his face. The cheering was even louder than it had been after his match with Okisuke; this tournament was truly becoming something special for him. He proceeded to raise his fist into the air in victory, his Bijū Cloak fading away, while caused the crowd to cheer even more.
His grin finally faded as he turned his attention towards the unconscious Toki, who was being carried out to medical. A sigh escaped his lips as guilt entered his mind.
He definitely did not need to enter Bijū Mode to beat her and he put a lot more chakra into the Chōōdama Rasengan than he needed to, but something about the rise in killing intent, as well as the energy Toki was radiating was disturbing him, to the point that he thought it fruitful to end the match as quickly as he could.
'I need to talk to her when she wakes up. Or maybe Honoka could… she also seemed to feel some way about her...' Naruto bit his lip before sighing once more: 'I want to figure out more about what happened to her.'
"That would be wise, for her sake at least." Kurama spoke-up: "The energy she utilized, which she seemingly used to break free from your sealing chains and resist your Rasengan with brute force alone is quite useful in a life-or-death situation, but that's not something she should just casually use in an exhibition tournament. She's either ignorant of what that cursed energy is doing to her, or she has little concern for her own life."
'Either way, that's not good…' Naruto shook his head: 'Sorry again, Toki-san. Hopefully whatever you have going on in your heart is something you'll be able to overcome…'
With that thought in mind, Naruto turned back around towards the shinobi waiting area. And as he continued to move, still hearing the sounds of the audience cheering his name, his grin quickly returned.
'This... This is nice.'
"Well, I've been avenged at least." Honoka said, a grin on her face: "I can say I'm satisfied with how this whole thing goes."
"Well I'm not." Kankurō grumbled as he continued repairs on Sanshōuo for the third time since his fight: "I would love for the final matches to be kept within the boundaries of the fight so I can focus on fixing my damn puppet!"
"Y-You know, Kankurō-san, you c-could go into the stadium t-to work on your p-puppet if you need." Chōjūrō suggested: "You d-don't have t-to be out here if you don't want t-to."
Kankurō grumbled something under his breath that Honoka did not hear properly, but Chōjūrō seemed to understand. The blue-haired swordsman let out a quiet 'eep!' before he turned his attention away from the Suna shinobi.
"You okay, Hinata?" Honoka asked, turning her attention towards the Konoha shinobi.
"Hmm?" She mumbled in reply.
"You seem a little distracted. Didn't seem like you paid too much attention to the fight in general until that first shockwave." The Uzumaki answered. "Something on your mind?"
"Hmm…" She shrugged her shoulders in response.
Truth be told, Hinata did not pay too much attention to the fight until the end; she got distracted by a singular thought she had prior to the end of it. A thought that, after confirming the match did end with Naruto's victory, was now going to be a reality.
And as Naruto walked back to the shinobi waiting area, a large grin on his face as he celebrated his victory, Hinata could not help but focus on this reality even more.
'Since Risho-san and Sazanami-san had a draw, that means Mifune-sama gets a bye to the final round. That means… the next fight… the only fight of the Third Round…' Hinata tightened her hands into fists.
'… The next fight is going to be myself versus Naruto.'
Chapter Note (not labeled 'quick notes' because LOL Point 1 ended up being a lot more than I initially expected XD) :
1: I probably don't necessarily need to do this, but I recently got into a small talk on reddit with someone about how samurai fight and how boring their fighting styls is/how useless it would be against a truly competent shinobi. So now that I've gotten a chance to further explore some more samurai's fighting styles, I kinda just wanted to mention them in more detail here and kinda hope that maybe someone will also get some inspiration for their own fanfics if they choose to try incorporating the samurai into their own works!
Mifune: My interpretation with Mifune that I used as the basis was 'what if Sarutobi Hiruzen was a samurai'? Essentially, a samurai capable with strong affinity for all chakra affinities, being able to incorporate them into his swordsmanship. This translated into Mifune having multiple different fighting styles all in one, where he casually switch them up depending on who is opponent and the need of the specific situation in the fight. Picture 'Jack of All Trades', but in this case, the saying would 'Jack of all trades, master of all'. Most techniques were inspired/used names based on the various breathing styles of Demon Slayer, but also incorporate other famous anime swordsmen/video game styles into his fighting kit as well to show a veteran samurai and how they'd be able to fight multiple different enemies.
Okisuke: Yasuo from League of Legends was used as the original inspiration that I built his fighting style around, which in turn made the decision to make him a Sage incredibly easy. Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender was also used as inspiration. Okisuke's style involves being one with nature, which in turn leads to his swordsmanship feeling like it incorporates the most kenjutsu that appears on a surface level like ninjutsu/senjutsu, but it is still rooted into kenjutsu (i.e. swinging his sword with enough force that it literally generates a tornado). The ultimate goal was to showcase a man who is able to command the wind, not through active manipulation of ninjutsu, but through almost a connection/loyalty with the wind around him.
Takeko: Master Yi from League of Legends was the inspiration and, tbh, I should probably wait until I get a chance to show another fight before I go into a ton of detail about her style, cause her fighting style was the most 'ripped off' I think I incorporated. I essentially tried to capture the essence of Master Yi's speed and the energy he incorporates into his "Wuju" style of swordsmanship, with her being able to flicker her around the battlefield rapidly. Of all the samurai I wrote, her style was definitely emphasized the most with the concept of 'speed'.
Sazanami: In contrast to Takeko, this is the one I think I displayed the most originality with, since I didn't base it off any character from a game/anime but rather from the idea of what an "area of effect" samurai would like. This in turn led me to give Sazanami an Earth Affinity and allow his swordsmanship to terraform the ground upon impact, sort of as if using Earth Style: Mobile Core, but on a much faster level since it requires no hand signs but rather a brief connection of his sword with the earth. Giving him an earth affinity also, in my mind, also translated to him being able to essentially harden his swords with earth chakra (which, in some cases, could happen literally with enough earth chakra causing granite to form around the sword) to add extra force. The gist of Sazanami was to explore the idea of how even a samurai could control the battlefield in a literal sense the way a shinobi could.
Toki: At the most basic of level, "The Flamed Swordsman" card from Yugioh was used as the initial basis for Toki, but then the idea of her swordstyle quickly morphed into more of a berserker as time went on. Think the concept of the Pokemon attack 'Flare Blitz', but as a fighting style, with her always trying to close the gap between her and her opponent and using both her swords and her halberd, completely encased in flames, as beatdown tools more than anything else. The Cursed Warrior aspect originated from the filler arc she obviously came from and I thought it was a good tool to place even further emphasis on the berserker nature style of combat she was forming. The core idea translated to basically a fire that is almost impossible to put out and one that can seemingly grow from unexpected sources.
(Side-note; the idea of my interpreation of the Cursed Warrior in general will be elaborated on in a later chapter; I do want to touch on the finer details of my interpretation of the Cursed Warrior and what a 'soul bond' and the nature of the extra chakra she was able to utilize, but I'll wait until I get a chance to let Toki explain in further detail herself. So yes, expect a detailed note on that too, but I'll wait until I get a chance to let the story explain it more first before I elaborate deeper into it)
So... why spell out the differences as blatantly as this? Again, just to hopefully illustrate in more blunt terms the various ways you can make samurai fighting styles unique and not just basic "guy swings sword, he blocks enemy attack with sword, he swing sword super fast and prevents ninja from using hand signs, he stabs in heart". Someone can easily put a lot of thought into the different fighting styles of the samurai to make them unique and super fun to write. And, honestly, this has been an absolute BLAST to write. Fight scenes sometimes are kinda difficult to 'get into the zone with' at times, but with these samurai, their movements flowed rather organically and made them some of my favorite fighters to write with tbh. So... the thesis of this long note; don't be intimidated by samurai feeling 'weird' in a world of ninjutsu. Write them. Show how they can be equal or even stronger than some shinobi. They're a rather fresh idea that's not explored a lot in stories, and would love to see more samurai focus, even if it's just a little bit! :)
Author's Note: Hey! Chapter 141 is finished!
No chapters in the bank just yet for scheduled update; this took a lot longer to write because my schedule at work sorta sucks, so when I got the chance to write and actually finish this chapter, I decided not to wait and just update. But the goal will be to end up posting scheduled updates again (most likely on the 'every 10 days' sorta thing I was doing); I will make sure to let you all know when I end up getting back on that. I'm hoping soon, but it'll all sorta depend on how much time I get to write. Sooo... fingers crossed.
Regardless, I hope you all are enjoying this tournament mini-arc inside the larger Tetsu no Kuni Arc. Tbh, this has been some of the most fun I've had writing in a while, especially in regards to writing fights, so I hope it's at least been enjoyable reads for you all! :)
As an aside, I am doing better at the moment then I had been in my last chapter. Thanks for all the really nice and kind words regarding my dog. That really, really helped me. And while everyday is still a trouble with missing him, it's getting a little easier. So... again, thank you all. So much. I appreciate all of you so much
... With that out of the way, I'm on to begin work on my next chapter. And get to do something I've been wanting to do for a while, since it's something I've been wanting to see HAPPEN in more stories... time to write a Naruto versus Hinata fight! :D
I will see you all when Chapter 142 is ready! until then :)