Chapter 95 – The Four Gates
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
"I can sense it…a darkness buried deep within you. You know despair. You have seen hatred. You have feasted upon loneliness," a demonic voice hissed out from the shadows. "But there is a stubborn light…I shall have to devour it. For then I shall feast on the energy within you, darkening it and growing myself."
"Kurama? What is that thing?" Naruto asked. He couldn't begin to make heads or tails of it as it slithered into a dimly illuminated spot, giving Naruto just enough light to make out what appeared to be a coiled-up purple snake with a white mask and red wisps of hair coming out. And on the mask, it bore the kanji for 'zero'.
"It's definitely demonic, I'll give it that," Kurama spoke. "But…I cannot recall this demon in particular. But its chakra…it has chakra, not Demonic Energy…well I think. We Biju are the only demons with chakra. And a similar chakra to Gyuki's…but darker…much much darker."
"You bear within you, a demon," the demon-snake hissed. "I am the Zero-Tails, and I shall consume you."
"Zero-tails?" Naruto asked to Kurama, who was sitting back, trying to think. Was there a 'Zero-tails' amongst the Biju. He was certain there wasn't.
The Zero-Tails slithered towards Naruto at a quick pace as Naruto readied himself for whatever it was, deciding to test the waters out with his signature jutsu, Shadow Clones.
A dozen Narutos appeared at once and tried to surround the Zero Tails but were surprised as tendrils shot out of its smooth and purple body skewering them and dispelling them. This thing, this demon was fast as it coiled around Naruto and Kurama was forced to send the blonde some of his chakra, engaging the version-1 cloak. However, the Zero-Tails looked towards Naruto with a renewed interest as it shot towards him, forcing Naruto back before flowing the entire laboratory with yellowish arms and appendages.
Naruto did all he could to dodge, but just eventually, the arms and tendrils overwhelmed and wrapped him up. But as he tried to break free…
"Kurama, what's happening?" Naruto called out to the giver of his chakra. And Kurama responded with a growl.
"It's trying to…siphon off my chakra…" Kurama grunted. And by the way he was sounding, the biju was fighting to keep control of his chakra.
"What?!" That even surprised Naruto. Biju chakra wasn't like normal chakra. And if this thing absorbed Biju chakra, then it would get ugly and fast.
The way the tendrils had him, it wasn't tight and didn't fully restrain him as Naruto reached to his side to retrieve his sword, or any sort of blade with which he could try and free himself before the Zero-tails siphoned off more than he wanted.
Drawing the sword Mifune-sensei gave him, the blade severed the tendrils which were wrapping him up and freeing Naruto from the grasp of the Zero-tails as he landed on the ground panting already.
"Damn…" Kurama swore. "He got more chakra from me than I'd hoped."
Naruto looked up at the form of the Zero-tails, which seemed to be growing. It was comprised of a sleep purple body and those yellow-ish appendages. And based on what had just happened, those appendages were dangerous.
"So, don't give it something it can latch onto then…" Naruto thought up.
"Exploding Clone Jutsu!" Dozens of Narutos popped into existence. Over the years, his exploding clone control had improved significantly to the point where, much to Tsunade's horror, he could conjure up dozens of walking and talking bombs with ease.
Sitting back and taking shelter, Naruto allowed the suicidal clones to do their job. But just as he was about to detonate them, the Zero-tails reeled back and unleashed a roar of black chakra, causing the clones to explode before they were close enough to do the damage Naruto had desired.
"Shit!" Naruto swore as the explosions rocked the lab. Cracking glass, shattering pillars, and breaking stone. And now, thendrils weren't the only thing Naruto was trying to dodge as he moved out of the way of a bunch of falling rocks and debris.
"MOVE!" Kurama shouted and Naruto picked up on what Kurama was referring to as a beam of concentrated energy flew past his head, missing him my mere millimeters.
Naruto retreated back further into the lab to give him some respite.
"Kurama?" Naruto called out to his partner.
"What the hell is Orochimaru doing with this thing?" Kurama thought outload as Naruto turned to give them a view of the tunnel the Zero-Tails had just carved through the earth. "I hate to admit, it's got the firepower to make even us Biju sweat a little. But the most troubling thing is the fact that it can absorb MY chakra. Orochimaru…he must have used the chakra in Gyuki's horn as a base before doing something to corrupt it even further. It's the only explanation as to why my chakra wasn't consuming it."
"So what you're saying then is…"
"Yeah…I think my chakra's going to be more of a liability than an asset here," Kurama resigned.
Just as Naruto had picked himself back up, readying his blade, the Zero-tails decided it was ready to feast upon more of Kurama's chakra as it darted towards Naruto. And just as it was about ready to do so, dozens of Narutos which were hidden all over the room popped up, armed with Rasengans as they tried to end the Zero-Tails with a good ol' fashion Rasengan Barrage.
But the appendages of the Zero-Tails just moved to intercept the path of the Rasengan Barrage. And as the Rasengans made contact with the Zero-Tail's appendages, they too were absorbed by the demon foe.
"Damn…" Naruto swore just as the Zero-Tails wrapped him up again, this time taking care to ensure Naruto was fully immobile…until even Naruto 'popped', revealing him to be just a shadow clone.
"Right. So ninjutsu's out and Biju-mode is out…" Naruto thought as he stood up, having taken shelter within a corner on the opposite side of the room where his clones and the Zero-Tails were.
"It feels like your sword work, which means physical attacks should affect it, but…" Kurama started.
"Yeah…it didn't seem to do anything, cutting off one of those appendages. It just grew back," Naruto responded. "So…why don't we give senjutsu a try."
Having entered Sage-Mode, Naruto stepped out from his hiding place while the Zero-Tails rewound itself, taking focus towards its prey. And it was then that Naruto could begin to sense it…what exactly this thing was.
"So Orochimaru was trying to create an artificial Biju," Naruto thought as he sensed the cultured chakra of the Hachibi in there. He was almost expecting Biju chakra to mixed in with the Cursed-Seal, but that didn't feel to be the case. In fact, he couldn't feel any natural energy within it, which was promising. No natural energy meant perhaps it couldn't absorb Natural energy. But the chakra was definitely dark.
"Hmm…feels like an attempted hybrid of Biju chakra and Demonic Energy," Kurama stated. Demonic Energy, the energy of darkness which most demons drew their power from, was an ancient type of energy from the Ages of Demons that predated Chakra, the Biju, and the founder of Shinobi. "Orochimaru's messing around with forces that are better left undisturbed."
"Right…let's go!" Naruto declared as he sped towards the Zero-Tails at blinding speeds, and before the demon was able to react, Naruto had planted a fist square in the middle of its white, mask-like face, sending it crashing back into the stone wall.
"Well, that seemed promising," Naruto thought, but then again, that wasn't necessarily a jutsu. Just the Frog Kumite, or a natural-energy-enhanced punch. "Let's try this. Senpo: Twin Choodama Rasengan!"
Naruto formed a large sage-powered Rasengan in both hands as he pressed his momentum. And the Zero-Tails brought up its appendages to block, but rather than absorb the attack like it should have, the Rasengans tore at the appendages and both Naruto and Kurama smirked. It couldn't absorb Senjutsu.
Both Rasengans had been consumed and it was clear the Zero-Tails was mad as it let out that same roar from before, pushing Naruto back with a dark and ominous force, setting the stage for one final clash as dozens of Shadow Clones popped into existence, each of them forming their own Senpo: Choodama Rasengan.
And as Naruto charged, the Zero-Tails twisted it way around the army's assault, blocking the Rasengans where it could and dispelling the clones when possible. But that was all just a distraction to set up for what was really coming as the real Naruto just sat back, grinning with the whirling vortex of chakra buzzing in his hand.
Even the Zero-Tails could sense that attack was bad news and as it did everything in its power to dodge, the few remaining Naruto clones headed it off, forcing the artificial-demon back into the path of Naruto's most powerful jutsu which curved back around, hitting the Zero-Tails square in the face.
"Think that did it?" Naruto asked as the Rasenshuriken exploded, engulfing the Zero-Tails in its entirety.
"Yeah, but next time you may want to pay better attention to where everything is before you decide where to admire your handiwork…" Kurama groaned as Naruto looked up, directly above, where the Zero-Tails was now in a free-fall, directly above him.
It took every ounce of strength she had as Sakura finally managed to pry whatever this…thing was…it's claw from her neck. From what it had said just before it grabbed Sakura…it was a member of the Fuma clan, the same ninja who'd attacked them on their way to the hideout. Who exactly this person, or these people were…well they weren't human any more based on what it appeared Orochimaru and Kabuto had done to them.
That claw. It had come at her surprisingly quick and with power that nearly rivaled her own. It took every ounce of strength Tsunade had pounded into her just to free herself and as she went up to rub her neck, there was a moderate trickle of blood. Nothing that she couldn't heal quickly, but a millisecond late stopping the attack and her headless corpse would be another thing Kabuto would add to his disgusting collection.
Sakura's eyes widened as she'd placed her glowing hand over her neck, hoping for just a moment to heal herself but the Fuma-monster wasn't even going to give her that as one of the heads shot towards her in a manner that shouldn't have been possible, claw at the ready to separate something from her body.
Her hand still on her neck, Sakura dove behind one of the stone counters, just barely dodging the attack. This monster was fast. But she wasn't giving a respite as the second head twisted around the other end, trapping her from both ends.
Both heads and claws struck at her from opposite directions as Sakura jumped for the ceiling, again still clutching her neck. Healing herself, while possible moving, was showing to be much more difficult than it should have been. And with the wound being on her neck, it was imperative that she healed up. And only to make it just that more difficult, Sakura was currently upside down on the ceiling, gravity pulling the blood towards her neck and head.
But still, her opponent didn't relent as the two limbs shot towards her, their 'bodies' twisting out, extending and oozing from the central body which was just sneering at her. And Sakura was running on the ceiling, making for the doorway of the lab as she slid out and behind the wall while the two pursuant heads and limbs followed her, crashing into the opposite side of the hallway before retreating back into the lab.
"So there's a limit to how far they can stretch…" Sakura assumed as she utilized the brief moment to seal up the wound on her neck.
But just as Sakura managed to catch her breath, the walls on either side of her shattered as both heads barreled through on either side of her and just as she was about to anticipate their movements and dodge, they took her by surprise as spider-like threads shot out of their claws, wrapping around her wrists. With a nasty, joint popping yank, they pulled at Sakura.
"Gagh!" Sakura grunted in pain. They were literally trying to rip her limb from limb. "Nnnngghhh…nnnot here…"
Again, it was a battle of strength. The strength of a monster, versus the strength of Sakura. The muscles and tendons in her arm strained hard against the tension the monster was pulling on her. And she wasn't losing. Not when losing meant she'd end up a head in Kabuto's jar or an experiment on his table. No, she could not lose. Not in here. "SHANAROO!"
Calling upon a strength deep within her, Sakura pulled with all her might, fighting against the monstrous strength of this abomination. She wasn't going to give and these damned threads weren't going to give. Something had to give. And with a mighty roar, something did.
The two appendage-heads flew towards one another as Sakura reeled them in, their heads crashing into one another, and the walls from which they came shattering as the shockwave rippled back towards the central body.
Sakura panted as the appendages retreated slowly while she caught her breath and worked out her arms. That had done it. The way those faces looked, colliding into one another like that…that had to have hurt it, if only a little. Now, she just needed to figure out how to kill that thing.
Peering around the ruined wall, and surveying the situation in the room, the monstrous creature was clutching himself in pain. Yeah, being slammed together like they were definitely hurt. And it was feeling the recoil of Sakura's attacks. Now might very well be her chance as Sakura steeled her resolve and rushed in, reeling back her fist and punching at her opponent.
But despite still recovering from her earlier attack, the monster looked Sakura in the eye and smiled as one of the side-heads moved to take her punch, literally blowing it off of the main body in a heap of flesh and goop. But while it had supposedly sacrificed a head, the other limb whipped around and sent Sakura flying across the chamber and into the far wall, hard.
And still, having reinforced her body with chakra, as well as parrying the blow so that it was only a glancing blow, Sakura smiled. The reinforcement had absorbed much of the damage, though she was definitely going to be feeling that punch in the morning. Three heads, one down, and if she were right…she'd just set up a powerful genjutsu that should allow for an opening, right about…now!
The creature turned and began walking towards her, but not towards her. The genjutsu which she had cast on him making it look as if she'd flown a few meters off where she was right now, and unconscious on the ground.
Now really was her chance as Sakura pulled out a kunai with an explosive tag and gripped it in her hands. If she had to take out all three heads, then she would. The second would die to her punch, and the third would die to the tag.
But as she moved to implement her plan, the creature grinned and whipped around, catching her with its' fist. But it wasn't just the fist that was the issue as it was coated with a rainbow-colored chakra that shot Sakura backwards and into one of the nearby tables.
And as Sakura tried to orient herself, she was trapped. Trapped inside some sort of chakra-based, triangular prism. And the creature was grinning at her.
"Genjutsu won't work on me. Not when I have three bodies in one," her opponent spoke as his mutated arm, and another more human-like arm, sticking out of the mutated flesh held another prism in his hand. And Sakura was mentally cursing herself. She hadn't expected it to be such, but in a sense, it was almost like Naruto when it came to genjutsu. Three separate individuals, yet part of the same organism. She casted a genjutsu on one, but the other dispelled it. And now she was caught in their next trap.
The prism was solid, and as she pushed against it, it just closed on her, trying to squish her. All the while, her opponent just laughed at hear attempts to break out as he pushed his own hands on the prism in his own hands, and the prison Sakura was trapped in, pushed on her even more.
"Hehe…behold, the ancient technique of the Fuma clan, the Cure Mandala," the creature sneered. "No one has ever broken from its grasp."
And to accentuate his point, the Fuma-clan monster pushed his hands closer together, and once again Sakura was pushed further and further into a ball-like position as this jutsu tried to crush her. But she wasn't going to just give in as she pushed back.
Once again, it was a battle of strength. A battle of willpower. And a battle of resolve. No way was she going to lose here. Not today. No, she was going to kick this guy's ass. She was going to reconvene with Naruto, Sasuke, and Hinata. They were going to complete this mission, rescue Team Anko, and go home. No way in hell was she dying today as she pushed back against the enclosing prism. And ever so slightly, it gave to her attempt.
The Fuma monster's smirk turned to a scowl as he realized Sakura was fighting, and she was starting to overpower him. The Fuma monster put all of his might into crushing Sakura, but as her resolve and will grew, so did her strength. She was winning this. She was going to win this until…
The prism. The prism Sakura was incased in began to crack and she let out one last 'Shanaroo', pushing with all of her strength before the prism gave and the entire room was enveloped in a massive blast. Yet, as Sakura stood up, she was fine. The blast hadn't affected her, and yet the entire lab had been ravaged by the blast, including the monster who'd attacked her.
Panting, Sakura stood up while her opponent lay in a pile of rubble at the far end of the room. This was going to end now. Genjutsu didn't work, but the other tools in her arsenal should…namely her strength and knowledge of poisons as she took out a good deal of her senbon.
"I am NOT DYING HERE!" Sakura shouted as she drove one fist into one head, followed by her second fist into the other, crushing whatever lay beneath them, and driving the poisoned senbon into the monster.
Sakura had but a moment to survey her handiwork before the room shook and buckled and the victorious pink-haired nin too flight into the hallway as she ran to escape the collapsing cavern. With one last push and a jump, Saukra dove out of the way of the last of the falling ceiling tiles, tumbling on the ground, and coughing as she tried to force the dust from her lungs.
"That…that had to get him," Sakura panted. But as she began to relax, and the adrenaline wore off, bolts of pain shot through her body; in particular, her arms and the muscled that tore when the Fuma monster tried to rip her arms off.
"Gagh…" Sakura cried out as she did her best to focus her chakra into her healing jutsu, hoping that it wouldn't take too long to heal herself.
Clangs of metal against bone and stone echoed out through the tunnels and caverns that wound their way through the barracks of Orochimaru's curse-seal bearing minions.
Sasuke's Sharingan counted nearly 3 dozen, all in what had been learned to be the 2nd-stage of the cursed-seal transformation. And in that 2nd-stage, their speed, strength, power, and durability were all heightened beyond what could be considered normal. Well beyond 'normal' in fact.
And all three dozen of the cursed-seal freaks were descending upon Sasuke as the Uchiha was doing his best to try and funnel them down a tunnel where he could pick them off one-by-one. And while 2 or three had fallen by the quick slashes of his blade, they were more of the berserkers of the group, eschewing defensive capabilities in favor of speed and attack power. But for Sasuke, for the Sharingan, the berserkers were the ones who'd fall first as Sasuke's blade could easily cut through their minimal defenses.
It was the ones that had thicker hides, scales, bones and spines, or blade-like arms that were the problems. Those were the ones he couldn't kill with a simple flick of the sword.
Sasuke dodged another Cursed-Seal enemy, locking eyes with it and flaring his Sharingan as the attacker cowered away. That was a good sign. These things could be affected by the Sharingan's power. His eyes could momentarily pacify the beasts. And while his sword on its own couldn't pierce the scales of many of the more armored foes, his Chidori and its variants could.
Sasuke panted heavily as the last of the Curse-Seal enemies dropped. Yeah, he hurt all over from some of those attacks, but despite looks, he'd successfully managed to mitigate most of the damage, turning what should be 'kill-strikes' into mere glancing blows.
Naruto…considering that Orochimaru had a particular interest in himself, and Naruto had discovered that Orochimaru's Cursed-seal made use of this natural energy, and that Naruto could actually harness said natural energy, he'd taken every opportunity to ask Naruto about what the capabilities of natural energy was.
And even the prospect of going up against something that could harness natural energy, even if it wasn't anywhere near the point where Naruto or Jiraiya could utilize Senjutu…it honestly scared the crap out of him. But still, having witnessed full well what Naruto's potential was utilizing Senjutsu, the fact that he'd survived that onslaught of nature energy-wielding freaks was a testament to the training he'd been through the past 3 years.
But as Sasuke reentered the main chamber, there was still one last thing. One more of those Curse-Seal freaks remained, tucked into the back of a far chamber. But this one was obviously different, considering it hadn't charged Sasuke as the Uchiha carefully approached the huddled form of a man.
"I don't know who you are, but you should leave here now," the man said in a pleading fashion. Even Sasuke was caught by surprise. Not just his personal encounters with Orochimaru's Cursed-Seal subordinates, but other accounts from comrades and records didn't suggest them to be capable of hesitance, empathy, mercy, or sanity for that matter. They'd just attack. And yet…this one was different as Sasuke picked out orange spiky hair from the huddled human. "I could feel it…all of their bloodlust. Ever since Kimimaro…I've been losing it more and more. I don't want to hurt anyone, and yet…"
Kimimaro. Sasuke knew that name. That was the name of the leader of the Sound Four who were sent to abduct him from Konoha all those years ago.
However, before Sasuke could think on that thought further, the orange-haired man started screaming as his body underwent the version-2 Cursed-Seal transformation. Only the main difference was that it didn't emanate from a Cursed-Seal.
Sasuke jumped back, dodging man's strike as he quickly locked eyes with him, his Sharingan trying to enact the same sort of pacification genjutsu which had worked on many of the others.
But as Sasuke went to run the man through with a Chidori, the man stopped and the 'Cursed' form retreated.
"You're…" the man spoke. "Uchiha Sasuke."
And for some reason, Sasuke momentarily paused his attack. No really out of any desire to spare this foe, but more out of curiosity, considering that not only had the 'Cursed' form retreated, but also that he somehow knew who Sasuke was.
"Kimimaro was sent to retrieve you for Orochimaru," the man said. "He said he wouldn't return, as his health was deteriorating rapidly. Yet he referred to you as his legacy. And that for Orochimaru-sama's sake, he'd seek you out. But you never arrived. Kimimaro failed to bring you here. And yet…why after all these years are you here?"
"If you really must know, I'm here to kill Orochimaru," Sasuke stated plainly. "Now, must I kill you like the rest of your kind?"
"I see…" the man said before thinking. "It appears…Kimimaro served Orochimaru-sama loyally, and yet his legacy is Uchiha Sasuke. And now Kimimaro's legacy, Uchiha Sasuke, has come to kill Orochmaru-sama…Very well, I shall respect Kimimaro's legacy. I will not oppose your purpose."
This caught Sasuke by surprise. Those with the Cursed-Seal weren't supposed to think 'rationally', or as rationally as the man's rambling sounded. Who was this man?
"Who are you?" Sasuke asked. Though, he really didn't have much time. "You're different from all the rest."
"My name is Jugo," Jugo stated. "In truth, I don't like to kill. But I was born with a curse that causes me to enter periods of rage. Up until now, no one besides Kimimaro has been able to quell my rage. And yet…you are a far more effective 'cage' than anything Orochimaru has been able to provide to me. Orochimaru saw my curse, and in his attempts to cure me, also created his Cursed-Seal."
"Wait…" Sasuke's mind stopped to think momentarily. "This man, Jugo, is where Orochimaru's Cursed Seal comes from?" Perhaps, Jugo was more valuable alive than dead. But the question was…would he oppose Sasuke and the objectives of the mission, or not?
"So…what will you do?" Sasuke asked. "I intend to kill Orochimaru here. Will you stand in my way?"
"No. If it is your will that Orochimaru die today, then that is the will of Kimimaro as you are his legacy," Jugo stated. "And, you are the first person since Kimimaro to pacify my rage. As such, I cannot kill you and I do not wish to oppose you. In fact, I would request to accompany you."
"I'm…" Sasuke hesitated for a minute. "That's not possible. My comrades are also here. Things will get chaotic here and I don't think they'll take you for an ally."
Sasuke had to think for a moment. The name 'Jugo' was familiar, but it was old. And then he finally recalled where that name came from…Karin and Naruto. Jugo was the one who fought with Naruto and nearly destroyed the remaining ruins of Uzushiogakure. And he was certain there'd be a confrontation between these two the minute they met eyes. Sasuke definitely didn't want Jugo killing Naruto, if he even could. And as for Naruto killing Jugo…well that wasn't something he wanted either. Jugo had piqued an interest he didn't think he had and now that he was engaged…perhaps this was another of Orochimaru's traps, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe there was something more to Jugo.
"I see…" Jugo said. "Then I shall simply leave and await for you. Should I come looking for you around Konoha?"
"No…" Sasuke stated. THAT also probably wasn't a good idea. But he had an idea on how to find Jugo. And a certain cousin of a certain blonde might do just the trick. "I'll find you once this is all over…within the next few weeks."
"Very well," Jugo agreed. "I shall see to myself then. Somewhere quiet and away from people where I won't be provoked until you return."
"Hmm…" the woman, a warden of Orochimaru's whose name was Guren, hummed as she took in her handiwork. Out of all of Orochimaru's minions, Guren was one of his most fearsome. Bearer of the Shoton, or Crystal-release, Guren had the ability to crystalize any matter. In a way, it was like Haku's Hyoton, but even then it was a step or two above. Truly a most fearsome foe. "Perfect…"
"That four-eyes had better be thankful I brought him a Hyuga," Guren grinned. "He just had to go and throw a little tantrum once Orochimaru-sama told him he couldn't touch the little Hyuga girl because of her ties to the Celestial Guardians. Oh, he's going to owe me BIG for this."
Guren turned her back to the crystalized Hinata, grinning and laughing. It was time to go and rub it in Kabuto's face. That is, until a resounding crack echoed through the library and stopped Guren in her track as she turned back.
Hinata. The crystal prison which, in the countless times she'd used it, had never broken…until now. The purple crystal prison Hinata was trapped in creaked and cracked before it finally shattered. But that wasn't the surprising thing. Typically, whenever her crystals broke, whatever had been crystalized shattered with it. And yet, here was Hinata…uncrystallized, intact, and breathing.
"But…how?" Guren asked, taken by surprise.
"That was close," Hinata thought. That attack. It was similar to Haku's. Almost like she was being encased in ice. But…as she felt down. Felt herself, there was something off. Hinata hadn't activated her countermeasure without the jutsu affecting her in some capacity. Looking down, her left foot was still solid. The crystallization process had caught her foot before she had a chance to exert her chakra from her body in a protective measure.
"Oh?" A smile appeared on Guren's face as she realized what exactly Hinata was looking at…her foot. "So, not going to talk?" But Guren already knew the answer. She knew the weaknesses in her jutsu, and she knew by reputation that Hyuga's had good enough chakra control to exploit one of those weakness.
Chakra. She couldn't crystalize chakra.
"What is it Orochimaru wants with Hanabi?" Hinata asked again. She needed to buy time. She was circulating chakra through her crystalized foot, taking an old note back from a training session years ago with Haku. When it came to warming one self when they were frozen, circulating chakra actually helped to reverse the effects of frostbite, a sort of crystallization-like effect. And she could feel her foot loosening up, if only slightly.
"Well, if you really must know," Guren shrugged. "The Legend of the Yellow Dragon of the Center. It says long ago, there was an emperor who ascended into heaven, not as a human, but as a dragon and as a god. Orochimaru-sama has forever been obsessed with immortality and believes that with the power of the Four Celestial Gates, he too can ascend to godhood. Whether its true or not, I can't really say. But who am I to oppose the will of Orochimaru-sama. Now, how's your foot feeling?"
It seemed like Guren was done giving Hinata a few moments, but Hinata had the feeling and control back in her foot as she extended a barrier of chakra around herself.
Well, if Guren couldn't crystalize Hinata, then she'd just have to fight. The good news…this Hyuga lacked a certain seal that sealed away the Byakugan upon death. That meant she didn't have to hold back. She could kill this Hyuga and if Kabuto really wanted, he could salvage the eyes from her corpse.
"Shoton: Shuriken Wild Dance!"
Hinata saw it through her Byakugan. The chakra forming and shooing out from Guren's arm before it numerous crystal shuriken formed out of air.
"It's like Naruto-kun's Shuriken Shadow Clone Jutsu," Hinata thought before making her counter. "Protection of the Eight Trigrams!"
Crystal met wind chakra, shattering upon the impact. But Guren only smiled as the shard of crystal remained suspended around Hinata, before converging on one another and coiling around Hinata.
"Shoton: Crystal Needles!"
The fragments of crystals converged around Hinata before forming into several long shoots that were bent on skewering her. But Hinata dodged as she dropped flat against the floor before pushing off the base of one of said needles and putting some distance between herself and Guren, landing her next to one of the many fountains that accented the library.
"Suiton: Great Waterfall Vortex!" Hinata called out as she made use of the water surrounding her, creating a torrential flood to sweep Guren away, but the Oto-warden was simply smiling.
"I'll be taking that. Shoton: Tearing Crystal, Falling Dragon," Guren called out as Hinata's water attack quickly crystalized before twisting and snaking around Guren, into the form of a pink crystal dragon.
"Oh no…she can crystalize jutsus?!" Hinata panicked. That wasn't good. That was a mistake.
And with but a flick of the wrist, Guren unleased her crystal dragon upon Hinata as the Hyuga shinobi did her best to dodge and avoid, being forced into the bookcases as the dragon snaked after her.
"Oh Orochimaru-sama's going to be pissed at you now for wrecking his precious library," Guren grinned as she willed the dragon after Hinata.
"If water won't work, then what about wind?" Hinata thought as she went about the next jutsu. "Eight Trigrams, Mountain Crusher!" The Hyuga technique she'd picked up from Neji-niisan. Regardless of what the elders said, she could feel it and Neji could feel it. It was inherently a wind-based technique. The Mountain Crusher made contact with the crystal dragon head on, shattering it into fragments. But in doing so, Guren led into her follow-up.
"Shoton: Shuriken Wild Dance!" Using the fragments of crystal from her dragon, she shot at Hinata with several crystal shuriken. Only this time, Hinata didn't have nearly as much time to get her Protection of the Eight Trigrams up. And as a result, she took some damage.
Panting and bleeding in numerous spots, she'd managed to avoid the worst of it, but a crystal shuriken embedded in her shoulder and thigh weren't ideal either.
What did she do? She needed to get in close to end this. She wasn't going to be able to fight from ranged and win this. She HAD to win. She HAD to get past Guren and get to Hanabi. Would Guren let her into close-combat? She had no idea, but from the looks of things, Guren appeared to be skilled at distanced-combat.
And it didn't help her either that Hinata had to significantly power-down her Byakugan. The entire chamber was filled with chakra-laced crystals that could reflect back on her, so not only was she forced to limit the range of her Byakugan to be just what was the distance between her and her opponent, but in doing so, the power and accuracy was downgraded as well. In other words, she was having trouble distinguishing chakra flows and tenketsu, seeing things as more of 'masses' of chakra.
Hinata and Neji were together sparring in the courtyard of the Hyuga compound. It had been nearly 2 years since Naruto had left on his trip with Master Jiraiya and just as Neji was training hard for the upcoming Jonin Trials in a few weeks, Hinata was diligently trying to improve herself as well.
"Good, now apply a shape transformation," Neji instructed as visible chakra glowed around Hinata's hands. In her spar, while she wasn't making use of the wind-laced version of the Jyuken for Neji's own safety, she was taking this spar seriously with the Jyuken and full chakra pulses. And having followed up on a series of strikes, chakra building in her hand, there was now a significant amount to do something with it.
And as Hinata focused on the chakra in her hands, it began to take the shape of a pair of lion-like heads. And Neji prepared himself, for what exactly Hinata had conjured as she struck out, hitting Neji with the chakra-laden fists.
Neji emerged from a nearby tree, having used a Kawarimi to escape from the brunt of Hinata's attacks, but was still panting heavily.
"N-neji-niisan!" Hinata shouted, worried she'd gone a little overboard, only for Hiashi to come over who'd been observing Hinata's latest attempt to come up with her own jutsu.
"Are you okay, Neji?" Hiashi asked as Neji was still panting and trying to catch his breath.
"Yeah, but to think I even felt that like that through the Kawarimi," Neji panted.
"I saw what happened," Hiashi said. "Hinata's new jutsu effectively pushed the chakra in the area of contact 'out', creating a sort of chakra void within Neji before the Kawarimi took effect."
A void of chakra, if even only momentarily, was dangerous as it threw the body's entire homeostasis into whack. But that wasn't the most worrying thing…
Ever since that day, she hadn't used that jutsu in training with another person, only on training dummies and stumps as she worked to improve it with her wind-chakra. Her, Neji, and Hiashi had discussed theories behind what it could do, but it wasn't anything Hinata wanted to use on an actual person in practice if what they'd discussed were even remotely true.
But now…she really didn't have a choice, did she?
"Jyusho: Twin Lion's Fist," Hinata called out as she gathered and shaped her chakra in her hand, forming the signature lion-silhouette of her most powerful jutsu.
"Hmm…" Guren mused. "Fine. Shoton: Jade Crystal Blade."
A pair of blades covered Guren's forearms as the two prepared to clash. While Guren was confident her crystals could absorb the chakra burst from the Jyuken, she'd also coated herself in a sort of Crystal Armor that could protect her body from the worst a Hyuga could potentially unleash. One of Guren's blades and Hinata's lion clashed as the crystal shattered. Yet, despite the shattered crystal blade, Guren just stood there with a snide grin on her face.
"Sure you can destroy my crystal, but I'll just keep coming right back to…" As Guren went to form another crystal blade, but an immense pain shot through her arm. And as she looked down, despite the lack of apparent injury, the lack of chakra, the pain, and the crumbling crystal armor on her arm told Guren something was terribly wrong.
It was only brief, but Hinata focused her Byakugan on that particular arm. The one which had taken the strike of her still active Jyusho: Twin Lion's Fist. There was absolutely no chakra flow. And it wasn't returning, unlike what had happened when she'd just 'pushed' the chakra out of Neji. No, had she have focused her Byakugan even further, she'd have seen the remnants of Guren's chakra network in that arm.
"Why you little bitch! What did you do?!" Guren shouted as she tried once again to form her Shoton: Tearing Crystal, Fallen Dragon, but while the dragon took form, holding it together with just a single hand to form, maintain, and manipulate the chakra was near impossible. And out of rage, Guren moved towards and struck at Hinata, only for the young Hyuga to simply parry the strike and retaliate with her Twin Lion's Fist to Guren's stomach, the wind chakra ravaging the tanden, the very core of Guren's chakra.
It was over. The Oto-warden sunk briefly to her knees before falling flat on her face. And echoing throughout the entire hall was the shattering and breaking of crystal. It was then that Hinata finally got a glimpse of what that jutsu of hers could do as it was now safe to activate her Byakugan in its fullest.
Guren's tanden was shredded, and quickly fading. No longer would it be able to combine physical and spiritual energy into chakra. And without chakra, especially for a shinobi whose bodies were so accustom to and developed for the flow of chakra, it was a death sentence. This was not like what had happened to Hyuga Shinji, all those years ago. His tanden was still in tact, just most of the pathways radiating from it had been severed. Gurens on the other hand…it had looked as if one of those lion heads had taken a bite directly out of Guren's tanden.
And as Hinata left the library, moving on to finding Hanabi, she collapsed to her knees in tears. Sure, killing was part of a shinobi's job description. But tally up the 'kill-count' of every one in the Konoha 16, and Hinata's was by far the lowest. If there was one part of the shinobi life she hated, it was the killing of other human beings, even if they were enemies or served someone as despicable as Orochimaru.
Naruto groaned as he pulled himself out of the heaping mess that was the carcass of the Zero-Tails. Why did it have to fall on top of him like that? It was just plain disgusting. To think that Orochimaru had actually tried to create a demon by mixing the Hachibi's chakra with demonic energy…even Naruto shivered at the thought of what could have become.
But putting that aside, Naruto looked around the lab just to make sure there was nothing else that wanted a taste of his chakra. It was a mess. That was the simplest way to describe it. Glass and rubble littered the floor everywhere and as he looked on, a massive quake shook the entire base, causing a few more chunks of ceiling to fall and nearly knock him on the head.
"Shadow Clone Jutsu!" A few Narutos popped into existence.
"See what you guys can gleam from here," Naruto instructed before tossing one of them a scroll. "And see if you can seal up Octopops' horn. I'm going to go on and see if I can regroup with Hinata-chan and the rest of them."
"Tsk…why do you get to see Hinata-chan?" one of the clones argued.
"Yeah! I thought you promised me it was my turn to see Hinata-chan, -ttebayo!" another of the clones argued, just as another tremor shook the entire base, causing a few more rocks to fall down and smack one of the clones, dispelling it.
"And THAT's why," Naruto groaned. Why did his clones have to argue with him sometimes? "Anyways, you guys know what to do, so clean up here."
What awaited the blonde Uzumaki after proceeding on from Orochimaru's little specimen collection was a long and dark hallway. No resistance as he ran down the hallway, coming to a large antechamber, with four other doorways branching off of it. Hopefully…
There was a clicking of heels against stone as Naruto turned to another of the hallways, for Sakura to emerge from it, and based on the look on her face, she'd obviously seen better.
"Sakura-chan?" Naruto called out, grabbing the pinkette's attention as the med-nin ran over to her blonde teammate and wrapped him up in a hug which she desperately needed right now. "Are you…you're not hurt, are you?"
"No…at least nothing serious," Sakura replied, before turning back to the hall behind her. "Just…I knew we'd be seeing disturbing things…I just didn't think Orochimaru could stoop THAT low."
"I see," Naruto spoke as Sakura gave him a quick recap of the trial she faced.
"Sasuke-kun? Hinata? Have you seen them?" Sakura asked.
"No," Naruto spoke. He wasn't in Sage-mode, his fight with the Zero-tails have exhausting all of the natural energy in his system. "But I came from there, and you came from there…"
"Then they should be here shortly," Naruto stated as he pointed to the other corridors converging on the antechamber.
"Yeah," Sakura nodded before they heard the sound of footsteps running towards them from another hallway. The Negative Emotions Sensing wasn't picking up anything hostile, so while Naruto was ready for anything, he was a bit relaxed as a blue blur came flying from the hallway, crashing into Naruto and sending him and said 'blue blob' to the floor.
"Uhg…" Naruto groaned. "Thank Kami you're alright, Hinata." However, Naruto felt something wet soak through the shoulder of his coat and shirt. Looking down, Hinata was crying, not to mention bleeding pretty badly in a few spots. Naruto hated seeing her cry, but whatever had triggered her, had already happened and so all he could do now was comfort her the best he could.
"Now, all we need is…" Sakura looked towards the remaining two hallways as she quickly worked to patch up Hinata's wounds.
"Oi," and Sakura breathed a sigh of relief. Although, out of all of them, Sasuke definitely looked the worse, though he was still standing strong.
"So, what sort of welcome party did Orochi-teme have for you?" Naruto asked to no one in particular and everyone at the same time, afraid of the answer.
"This place, it's set up similar to the Golden Temple," Hinata stated. "Four gates…North, South, East, and West, leading to a central path that ascends to the final platform of the Golden Dragon."
Hinata pointed around to the 5 corridors. So if the four corridors they came from were the four gates, then the last corridor was the one that would lead them to Orochimaru.
"How do you know?" Sakura asked.
"I landed in Orochimaru's library," Hinata said. "I was confronted by its librarian, a woman named Guren. She had a powerful bloodline that could crystalize anything. Simillar to Haku-kun's Hyoton, but it felt more powerful. But I saw a tapestry that depicted the four Celestial Guardians, surrounding the Golden Dragon. That Guren lady, she commented that the legend of the Golden Dragon is some sort of obsession by Orochimaru in an attempt to gain immortality and godhood…one of those celestial guardians…Byakko, the White Tiger."
"Isn't that…" Naruto started.
"Yes, Byakko-sama is the leader of the White Tiger Clan, who I, and Hanabi are bound to by nature of our summoning contract," Hinata said. "I don't want to trust her, but she didn't sound to be lying…If Orochimaru knew Hanabi had the White Tige Contract, and what Guren said was right, then she's alive."
"And what of this Guren?" Sasuke asked.
"…Dead," Hinata said solemnly. "She was strong…but I'm not about to die here, not without saving Hanabi."
"What about you, Sasuke?" Naruto asked.
"Oh you know…only a few dozen of Orochimaru's Cursed-seal freaks," Sasuke said. "You?"
"Orochimaru was trying to create a demon called the Zero-tails," Naruto stated.
"I'd…rather not speak about where I went," Sakura stated as she involuntarily shivered. "It was Orochimaru's laboratory, where he and Kabuto perform their sick and twisted medical procedures."
"Did you…" Hinata asked Sakura.
"No…I didn't see anything that hinted towards Anko or her team in there," Sakura said. "Thank Kami for that at least."
"Then…shall we?" Sasuke said, motioning towards the final corridor.
"I still can't make out too far into this place," Hinata spoke. "Orochimaru built in some powerful chakra seals to reinforce the base. Even my Byakugan can't see through more than a wall or two."
"Let's get going, -ttebayo!" Naruto declared as they proceeded cautiously, yet quickly down the final corridor.
Numerous small chambers and rooms branched off from the main corridor as they made their way further into Orochimaru's world. Residences, labs, studies…all of those were contained within these chambers. And they included a good mixture of doctors, scientists, and shinobi loyal to Orochimaru. And now, it was time for Sasuke to do what his ANBU training had taught him, as he stealthily moved into any of the occupied rooms and dispatched any and all of Orochimaru's lackeys. There was no remorse in these kills. These people knew exactly what sort of man they were serving, and what sort of causes they were contributing towards.
And then, they came to another of the side chambers, only this one was bigger than any of the other labs. Strike that, this one was huge. Naruto was certain he could even go full-Kyubi-mode in here and still have room to maneuver.
But it wasn't the size of the room that caught everyone's attention. The room was rather plain, except for numerous support columns around the outside, and three tables, or alters in the center…and an elaborate sealing matrix covering the entirety of the room. And as Naruto found himself enamored with the sealing matrix, trying to decode its secrets, Hinata's Byakugan managed to catch a glint of a familiar chakra, off in a side chamber as she darted in with Sakura following.
Sure enough, there in a cage, lying on the floor, was the prone figure of Hanabi. And against a determined Hinata, the cage's lock didn't stand a chance as Hinata rushed to her sister's side. But Hanabi was unresponsive, and she was breaking out in a sweat while her body shivered.
"Sakura-san, she's not responding," Hinata said as Sakura took a seat next to Hanabi as well, activating her medical jutsu and checking over the young Hyuga.
"There's a pulse, the vitals are there, but something's wrong…something's very wrong," Sakura said as her examination took her upwards towards Hanabi's shoulder, and there they saw it…Orochimaru's curse mark. And Hinata gasped.
"Don't worry," Sakura assured. "Naruto can get it off. Though…the sooner the better."
"I'll go and get him," Hinata said, rushing out of the room, only to hear a loud crash come from the main chamber.
Naruto…obviously pissed off, had just crushed one of the stone tables with a single punch, from a hand that was now bleeding pretty bad.
"Oi! Dobe! Don't go bringing the entire chamber down on us!" Sasuke reprimanded.
"Naruto-kun! We found Han…"
"This seal has Uzumaki elements to it…" Naruto growled. "Ero-Sennin and I knew…we just knew it…that damned Kabuto DID get away with something."
"Hehehe…impressive observation, Naruto-kun."
That voice, and that sickening cackle…
"Kabuto…" Naruto growled as he looked eye to eye with the four-eyed traitor of a roach that Kabuto was.
"Ah, such a wonderful find it was too…" Kabuto relished. "Who'd have thought the Uzumakis were capable of producing something like this…the Chimera Seal. Oh and what a blast it has been, sealing bloodlines and combining them into each other. Orochimaru-sama's been absolutely delighted with my experiments so far. Although, his little obsession with the Yellow Dragon legend has…regretfully kept me from the Byakugan of dear little Hanabi-chan. Still…with the primary summoner of the White Tigers before me, perhaps I'll get to have my fun with little Hanabi-chan after all."
"Not before I rip your slimy balls off and suffocate you with them," Naruto growled, flaring demonic chakra and killing intent towards Kabuto, but the gray-haired traitor just stood there, laughing and basking in the hatred directed at him.
Naruto had rushed forward, intent on taking Kabuto's life right then and there, when his fist was stopped by a barrier, just inches from Kabuto's smirking face.
"Tsk…such a rude demeanor," Kabuto sighed. "You're all honored guests after all, and this is the reception you give me?"
"If you think a silly little barrier is going to hold us, then you really are an idiot," Naruto asserted.
"Well…to play a game of fuinjutsu with an Uzumaki certainly would make me an idiot now, won't it?" Kabuto shrugged. "That barrier's not really meant to keep you in there forever. No, just to keep you from bringing the house down before Orochimaru could deliver his welcomed guests their presents."
Naruto wasn't buying it. Nobody was.
"But alas, you see we came across a little gem on Anko's team. Such an unexpected surprise really, so Orochimaru sends his apologies that he himself cannot welcome you and deliver to you with his warmest regards, his gifts," Kabuto explained and with a snap of the finger, three coffins rose up in the center of the room, causing Naruto to turn and face the impending Edo Tenseis with Hinata and Sasuke.
"Again…you really think the Edo Tensei concerns me?" Naruto replied. "All I gotta do is seal them up and they're as good as beaten."
"Yes…perhaps…an annoying weakness of this jutsu indeed," Kabuto resigned. "But…why don't we put your fuinjutsu skills to a real test now, shall we? Besides, these three have waited so long just to see you. Now, I need to go and see about a minor setback. You see, in all his excitement, Orochimaru-sama forgot to get poor Sakura a gift. The three of you enjoy!" And with that, Kabuto walked around the outside of the barrier towards the room where Sakura was seeing to Hanabi, all the while the lids on the three coffins fell to the floor.
Naruto, Sasuke, and Hinata stared into the darkness, ready to handle whatever it was Kabuto and Orochimaru had thrown at them. But as the revived people stepped out of the coffins, only the clanging of Naruto's sword against the cold stone floor broke the silence that ensued.
Until finally, that silence was broken by a single word. Uttered simultaneously from the mouths of Naruto, Sasuke, and Hinata.
Only jutsus that are non-cannon or have been modified for the purposes of this story receive further explanation.
Shadow Clone Jutsu
Exploding Clone Jutsu
Senpo: Choodama Rasengan
Curse Mandala – This is the jutsu from the anime where Arashi traps Naruto within a chakra prism and tries to crush him.
Shoton: Shuriken Wild Dance
Shoton: Crystal Needles
Shoton: Tearing Crystal, Falling Dragon
Shoton: Jade Crystal Blades
Protection of the Eight Trigrams
Eight Trigrams Mountain Crusher
Jyusho: Twin Lion's Fists; Rank – A+/S-; The version that makes use of Hinata's wind-chakra results in wide-spread destruction of the opponent's chakra network. While it is definitely powerful, I wouldn't quite call it Hinata's S-rank technique, but that'll have to be decided depending on where I take this technique with her.
Suiton: Great Waterfall Vortex
Chimera Seal; Rank – S; A kinjutsu-type seal from the Uzumaki clan that allows the sealing/transfer of others with bloodlines into a new vessel without said bloodline. However, said jutsu results in the death of the donors. It is unsure as to how many bloodlines can be sealed into a new vessel, but for the purposes of Kabuto's and Orochimaru's research, they have managed to seal 2 separate bloodlines within Orochimaru's current vessel. Kabuto managed to find this scroll/seal during the battle of Uzushiogakure.
Author Note: Energies
For the purposes of this story, the following energies are being used. The first 5 are continuous throughout the Naruto-universe, the last 2 will be used more in the context of the history of my story's universe and are less common. More or less, while Kamis and Demons are referred to in this story, their time has since passed and they aren't actively present in this world. They may make a return/appearance in future arcs and storylines, depending on how far I decide to take this story.
Yin Energy / Spiritual Energy
Yang Energy / Physical Energy
Chakra – The energy that comes from a result of the combination of Yin and Yang energies. There are different forms of 'chakra', such as human chakra and Biju chakra.
Natural Energy – The energy of nature, present in the atmosphere, soil, water, and surroundings. Very few people notice this and even fewer can utilize it
Sage Energy – The combining of Natural Energy with Chakra in a 1-1-1 (Yin-Yang-Nature). Doing so allows the user to utilize Senjutsu-techniques and greatly awakens their abilities
Demonic Energy – The energy and/or essence that powers non-chakra demons. Before Orochimaru's experiment, it was believed that chakra and demonic energy was not compatible within the same vessel
Divine Energy – The energy and/or essence utilized by the Gods of old. Before chakra became widespread throughout the world, Divine Energy was utilized by only a select few (i.e. priestesses, priests, guardians, heroes, warlords) to combat the efforts of various demonic entities.
*If anyone can please advise what 'Demonic Energy' and 'Divine Energy' are commonly referred to in Anime/Japanese history, it'd be greatly appreciated and please PM me.
Aaannnd…Cliffhanger, at least I think, right?
So, the fights were as follows:
Naruto v the Zero-Tails. The Zero-Tails is from the Naruto Shippden Movie: Bonds, from within the Land of Sky. In that movie, Orochimaru did have interest in it, or in Dr Shinno who was consumed by it, as he sent Sasuke to retrieve Dr. Shinno. For the purposes of this story, the Zero-Tails is Orochimaru's attempt at combining Biju Chakra (Gyuki's horn) with Demonic Energy.
Sasuke v Cursed-Seal Freaks/Jugo. Nothing too exciting with Sasuke's fights, sorry. The main thing though is his encounter with Jugo, who recognizes him as Sasuke, the one who Kimimaro was sent to retrieve and views him as Kimimaro's Legacy. Jugo will come back into the story within the next couple chapters following this story.
Sakura v Fuma Clan/Arashi. From the filler arc where Naruto, Sakura, and Jiraiya are infiltrating the Land of Rice. I'm not doing what the anime did with Sasame and the Fuma Clan being divided. As of this story, the entirety of the clan is dedicated towards proving themselves to Orochimaru. As such, Arashi offered himself up to Orochimaru who used him in an experiment.
Hinata v Guren. From the filler Three-tails arc. Guren, while a warden of Orochimaru, is acting as his librarian for the moment.
If I stick around long enough, the Celestial Guardian/Yellow Dragon plotline will be developed further in future arcs.
These four fights were meant to be sort of the 'warm-up' or appetizer to the Orochimaru arc. The next chapters feature the main confrontations within this arc.
Don't expect the next chapter of this story for at least a few more weeks. With this posted, my next priority is ch 19 of Rewriting the Past, so between that and hashing out the next chapter, it'll take me some time.