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After the week off for the Podcast, the main show returns and opens with the lovely Pyrrha Nikos in all her glory kicking the collective asses of Team CRDL. It was glorious, showing that Pyrrha is the stuff of legends and earned her last few tournament wins on sheer badassery. Don’t get me wrong, those guys showed they were rather decent at fighting too, but she completely wrecked them and Cardin got it worse than the rest with that finish.
Then Mercury decides to give it a go. He’s okay in that he managed to actually disarm her, but he quits after she starts getting into it and cites she’s a renown fighter, to her ire. Blake, on the other hand, has been neglecting sleep to in her hunt for everything going on and even reject Sun harshly for a date. The others want her to take a break, but she brushes them off.
Then we have Jaune, who tries asking Weiss out with a Serenade. It fails epically, considering that she has Neptune in mind. Then we skip to him sparring with Pyrrha. He still doesn’t know what his semblance is, but the bigger issue is that we see beneath the cracks in her armor in that her skill has isolated her and Jaune is a clueless moron and innocently insensitive.
As it ends we skip to Team CRME discussing her ability and she gets added to the list and that Cinder can apparently take her in a fight.
5 out of 5, and a perfect continuation of the last one!
Well, after the events of last issue things can either go good, or they can go pear-shaped. Which happens now? Read my review of Avengers Undercover #9 and find out.
The comic picks up where it last left off, with the Avengers flying towards Bagalia and into Zemo’s trap. Ax-Bro, on the other hand, just finished his flight as Cullen’s Soul Beast beats him like a drum. Hellstrom tells him to just stay down since he’s just putting them in their place and they were pawns who don’t need to die for this to work. Ax-Bro, however, doesn’t care about living so long as he saves Cullen.
Hazmat and Nico show up to hold off Hellstrom while Ax-Bro manages to snap Cullen out of it, which earns him a kiss he wasn’t expecting. The Avengers show up about now and back the kids while Hellstrom calls in his own backup and soon we have a free-for-all. Or at least it looked that way until Zemo gives the word and Hellstrom teleports the bad guys out and seals the entrance to Bagalia, trapping them inside as Alex then returns to Hell.
Zemo pretty much takes the Helicarrier they bought with them by killing everyone on-board. He then has Deathlocket hack the ship and take control of it. They intend to go even further, but as the comic ends we see that Cammi has escaped her prison and is on-board as well.
Okay, review time.
I’m kinda disappointed with how this ended up. For starters, even though covers always lie, I wanted to see Zemo and Ant-Man at least attempting to go at it. Alex went back to Hell, which he shouldn’t have been in for starters by Canon, and Chase is a vegetable, which leaves Nico as the only Runaway in the story and they’re shilling that she’s leveled up but we didn’t see any of that beyond a single spell and hit-and-run. This was unsatisfying overall, but it is a major part of the plot.
3 out of 5.
As we concluded our first part, She-Hulk and her Skrull bounty hunting partner Jazinda had kidnapped a major Skrull religious leader in an attempt to halt the Skrull invasion of Earth. From Skrulls. While the plan went off magnificently (with some involvement from X-Factor), only one more obstacle stands in the way of our two green heroines: Jazinda’s daddy. Jazinda betrayed the Skrull people, and unfortunately, Papa Jazinda must be the one to murder her to save all that pesky honor and whatnot. Today, we’ll read the conclusion of She-Hulk and Jazinda versus the Super Skrull. Has Kl’rt learned anything from these past few years of war and trauma? Has the Annihilation Wave and his time with Nova taught him anything? Is he still a remorseless supervillain who’ll stop at nothing to massacre his only remaining family? I mean, I already know the answer, but I like to build suspense.
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Well, that was an interesting look into her pre-52 life…
In the past 25 years, you’d be hard-pressed to find a brand new comic book character more popular than Harley Quinn (well, maybe Deadpool). She first premiered in the Batman: The Animated Series in the 1992 episode “Joker’s Favor,” written by the wonderful Paul Dini. A year later, she got her initial comic book appearance and she was officially a part of the Batman universe. A lovely success story for the Joker’s girlfriend.
Real fast: Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum requests to interview the Joker. She falls in love, becomes his second-in-command, and they share an abusive, roller-coaster relationship. But unlike so many origin stories, hers isn’t tragic, which means she gets to go do cool things such as visit parents and have family dinners. Like in Gotham City Sirens #7, also written by Paul Dini. She’s his creation, after all.
Oh yeah, her secret identity…
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Just another normal night in Gotham City:
No costume or gimmicks means this young girl’s getting locked up in normal prison. No psychiatric treatment and padded walls for her. Being well aware of her options, she chooses the smartest one.
Except in our little adventure today, Batman’s the antagonist. Yup, we’re rooting for that girl with the cool leather jacket and fancy motorcycle. Just because she offed some dudes doesn’t mean she can rumble with the Dark Knight, so she goes to seek help from someone who can.
Thus starts Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, a graphic novel written by Greg Rucka and drawn by J. G. Jones. The success gathered from this one-shot became so great, that Rucka was hired to become the writer for the Wonder Woman series the next year. Y’see, Wonder Woman (Princess Diana of Themyscira) comes from the Amazonian island soaked in ancient traditions and…
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Before we start today, I want to do something I haven’t done before: plug. After my Deadpool/Kid Apocalypse article, I received word from a rapper named Kid Apocalypse who raps exclusively about comic books. And regardless of your opinion about anything I’ve just said, shouldn’t we as a community do everything possible to support our own? Any comic book fan attempting something new and creative with our shared passion deserves our support. Go watch his YouTube videos, especially the first one that uses a remix of the X-Men 90s cartoon theme as his beat. They’re professional and everything.
Kid Apocalypse – Kid Apocalypse Rising
Kid Apocalypse – Came from the Chain
Okay, let’s jump into our story today. During any major Marvel event, major character deaths are inevitable. We accept this, and it’s sort of fun to see if we can figure out who it’ll be before Marvel drops the…
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While the Super-Skrull doesn’t arrive on Earth until Secret Invasion, we’re going to go back about a year before the Marvel event took place to follow whatever She-Hulk’s (real name Jennifer Walters) up to during that time. It’s bounty hunting. I know she’s a lawyer by trade, a lawyer in the first twenty issues of the volume we’re reading today, and a lawyer currently in her ongoing series. But she’s taking a break — mainly due to her being disbarred. Long story. Anyway, using the following issues, we’re going to tell our final piece of that beautiful Super-Skrull puzzle we’ve been putting together the past two weeks.
She-Hulk #24, written by Peter David and drawn by Shawn Moll
She-Hulk #26, written by David and drawn by Moll & Val Semeiks
She-Hulk #27, written by David and drawn by Semeiks
She-Hulk #32, written by David and drawn by…
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I’ll admit a secret: I rooted for the Avengers during the Marvel event Avengers vs. X-Men. In the past, my appreciation for the X-Men tends to be far less reliable and deep than my adoration for Captain America and his gang of misfits. But with this website, I’ve had to read hundreds of issues of series, characters, and teams I never experienced before. It’s awesome, you should try it. Through my “research,” I’m now totally on board with America’s favorite mutants. The depth, complexity, and long-lasting cultural impact of the X-Men and their stories have been sorely missing in my life. A hole in my heart repaired itself as I delved into the enormous backlog of X-Men adventures. But enough about me. Let’s talk about Quicksilver.
Debuting in X-Men #4 back in 1964, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver) and his sister Wanda (Scarlet…
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Tony Stark’s flamboyant personality makes him the natural spokesman of well, everything. Sure, Captain America knows how to make the riveting pre-battle speeches, but who speaks for superheroes when they’re at a press conference or plain ol’ meeting? That’s where Iron Man flies in.
Let’s take a look at three Stark speeches, two from Avengers Disassembled (written by Brian Michael Bendis) and one from World War Hulk (written by Greg Pak). Get ready for a ton of word bubbles. Oh, and a bunch of spoilers.
Iron Man dissolves the Avengers
So after a whole bunch of awful stuff happening within the span of a few issues (Avengers dying, mansions blowing up, jets crashing, etc.), the Avengers decide to disband. I’m sad also.
The man has to take care of business first. But why is he distancing himself from the armor? That’s the second speech. Though he should probably just wear…
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It’s time for Serval to announce the All-New X-Factor to the world. What will go amiss? Read my review of issue #12 and find out!
It starts with Havok meeting with his spy, Quicksilver, in a downtown bar. After his report, Havok tells him to come back to the Avengers, but he feels Polaris still needs him. Havok tries to pull rank, but Quicksilver up and quits the Avengers because he didn’t want to be another power-set like the sell-out that Havok was. This alone earned my respect for Quicksilver.
We then skip to Danger questioning why she has to wear a uniform, before she encounters Warlock. He tells her she looks nice and she notes he changed his speech pattern, despite it being hard for him, because he thought it would impress her. He got a kiss on the cheek for it, so good for him.
With Gambit, he goes to confront Harrison Snow about being left to die. The man is so damn smooth with pretending that being with his wife didn’t bother him that Gambit is confused. If it weren’t for the evil eyes at the end you might even believe him.
Things aren’t as smooth for Doug, who is trying to comfort Georgina after losing all her parents and home because of him, technically. He offers her the chance to slap him if it would make her feel better, which she does so hard it hurts her hand, but it doesn’t make her feel better in the slightest. She then apologies and thanks him for everything he’s done regardless before he leaves for the press conference.
Cut to the conference, where Quicksilver asks a final time if the PR lady, Linda, wants to do this because it’s waving a flag for villains to come and attack them. She points out it has happened a few times now and they were fine. The press conference is derailed when Fatale calls Quicksilver out on his actions in Son of M, which he owns up to live and on camera, before leaving for his room.
There, hours later, when he expected Captain America or someone to come and take him in, his daughter Luna shows up. Now, because of Son of M and that Quicksilver claimed that a Skrull did it in preparation for Secret Invasion, she was ashamed of him and told him she would love him because he was her father, but she would never forgive him and would always be ashamed of him. Since she was watching the press conference and saw him admit the truth, she forgives him and they hug as the comic ends.
Okay, review time.
This was not an action piece, but I loved it all the same as it served as development for Quicksilver. He owned up to a mistake (granted most of the other Inhumans are too busy with the Inhumanity event to bother him about it now) and earned his daughter’s respect again after years later our time and like one in theirs. He’ll probably get arrested, but I like him more than I did before this series and when he was working with the sell-out.
5 out of 5.
It’s time to put an end to the MGH hunt in Magneto #8. Read my review of how he does so with surprisingly little bloodshed.
The comic begins with our useless agents of SHIELD coming to the site of where the Predator X remains are. Turns out they’ve managed to piece together what happened pretty well and they even manage to get a computer that the master of magnetism trashed working again. Because of this they claim they know exactly where he’s heading.
Magneto himself is venturing into a ghost town, noting that like any living thing it can die. But it’s in this town where the ones who’ve earned his ire are holed up and making MGH. The men shoot up instantly with the stuff when he walks through the front door and gain powers, but he claims he only wants to talk. They don’t believe him, which is smart, but rather than simply ganging up on him they reveal they admire mutants and don’t hurt them since the ones they get are already dead.
He wants it to stop, but it’s a very good business and he doesn’t think that Mags can take them down because he’s lost his powers. Mags knows he’s goading him, but he’s also right. Still, he notes that the difference between someone who’s a real mutant and a MGH-user is that they haven’t been persecuted and think they’re immortal just as SHIELD busts in and starts shooting with rounds meant to kill Mags, who he notes only shoot because they look like mutants at the time.
The head of the operation tries to run with his cook, but Magneto puts a stop to that. The useless agents chasing him tells him to stand down, but he rightfully points out that if they did a better job of stopping this crap he wouldn’t need to keep doing what he’s doing. The agent ignores him and thinks he’s just a feeble old man hurting people to make himself relevant.
Magneto promptly states she doesn’t understand him and he doesn’t answer to her, before escaping with the MGH cook. He takes the cook to a lab that his new friend bought and tells him to perfect the MGH formula so he can regain all his lost powers as the comic ends.
Okay, review time.
What can I say, Mags is a man with more than one goal and this time he only personally killed one person. It’s clear he pretty much set it up so SHIELD would do the dirty work for him, and he got what he wanted without having to strain himself. That’s a master planner for you, folks.
The air was a little off at the end, but other than that it was a solid issue at 5 out of 5.
After the Annihilation Wave almost destroyed all civilization, the Skrull empire collapsed. Warlords fought among themselves for control and whatnot. It happens. When the Skrull empire gets carefully pieced back together in that fragile manner diplomacy and lasers can accomplish, it’s time for them to show their superiority once more. They decide to invade Earth. Secretly. Hence begins the Marvel event Secret Invasion in which many of our favorite superheroes were secretly replaced with Skrulls over the past few months. Now, no one knows who can trust — shapeshifters can be sneaky. But we’re not talking about Secret Invasion today. Instead, we’re going to take a look at a scene across the galaxy from Nova #16-17, written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning and drawn by Wellinton Alves & Geraldo Burges.
Nova Richard Rider checks out a distress signal on a distant planet. Nova responsibilities beckon.
So yeah, Skrull…
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Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:
A Fate Stay Night/Persona 4 Crossover Fanfic
Summary: A chance decision leads to an unlikely discovery. The mention of a rumor leads to an unbelievable mystery. And the connection to a long forgotten family leads to an unforgettable experience. Welcome to Inaba, Yu Narukami… or should I say Shirou Emiya? (Co-Authored by Nameless Flame Wielder)
A Persona 3 / High School DxD Crossover Fanfic
Summary: Igor had asked him to die for the world. She would ask him to die for her. Problem was, he didn’t really like dying, not for a second time, at least.
A Dresden Files / High School DxD Crossover Fanfic
Summary: Harry Dresden had thought he’d seen it all. So had the voice inside his head for that matter. But when one of his all too typical wild weekends ends up with him stranded far outside the Outer Gates, beyond the stretch of even creation itself, he finds out that there are other things out there, laying in wait. Still doesn’t make it any easier to make rent on time though…
A Naruto / Fairy Tail Crossover Fanfic
Summary: Naruto knew something was up the moment he landed in the strange forest; being sucked into the sky should have been his first clue. How’s a shinobi supposed to adapt to such a strange new environment? Easy, one step at a time.
An SAO Fanfic
Summary: What if Akihiko Kayaba had created the Death Game of Alfheim Online rather than the floating castle of Aincrad—a world in which the nine player races are in competition to escape the game, and player killing was not a crime but rather a predictable product of human nature and tribalism in the face of mutually exclusive goals? AU reboot of the SAO universe.
A Fate Stay Night Fanfic
Summary: Emiya Kiritsugu was happy living the rest of his short days. He had put his past behind him… until he began to dream of futures that had yet to be. Let it be known that the Magus Killer was not dangerous simply because he was dying and had no plans to fight.
A Naruto Fanfic
Summary: Sakura is ensnared in a world of deadly intrigue her last year in the Academy. As an unwilling agent of Oto, can she discover what it means to be loyal in a world that promotes deception? Will that loyalty conflict with her growing sense of self-worth? AU
A Harry Potter Fanfic
Summary: Before the start of fifth year Dumbledore changes the plans. Unfortunately he didn’t bother to inform Harry. At his trial, Harry realises that it is down to him to save his own skin. To do so his Slytherin side must come out to play, and once it’s out it sticks around turning life at Hogwarts on its head. Warnings: EvilDumbles, SheepOrder/Staff, GoodGuysDontGetEverythingTheirWay
A Jackie Chan Adventures Fanfic
Summary: Daolon Wong’s summoning spell goes wrong; but rather than awakening an ancient evil, he resurrects a more recent threat. With Queen Jade as their opponent a race for the masks is on. Can the Chans stop Jade’s plans and save her from the darkness? NOT JxT!
A RWBY Fanfic
Summary: What does it take to be a hero? What must one give up in order to defend others? What does one gain? What if you don’t have the same advantages as everyone else? Jaune will have to find out whether he wants to or not. Jaune/Weiss.
A Naruto Fanfic
Summary: The potential of Team 7 was never questioned. But when the drums of war thunder in the distance, and a rain of blood covers the land, can three Genin and a broken Jonin weather the storm? [AU]
A Pokemon Fanfic
Summary: In a different life Ash Ketchum looks upon his world from an unique perspective.
Chapter 11: Towards the Mizukage
The Depths – Strategy Meeting
“We have two jinchuuriki with partial control, summonings, a seal master, a sensor, three bloodline users, and the rest are powerful combatants adept at water jutsu and aquatic combat.” Ao summarized as he presented a map and pointed to a region to the north, where swamplands surrounded a lake that bordered a small mountain to the rear. It was where the Mizukage resided, who had to be defeated if this conflict would come to an end.
He couldn’t help but rub his chin at the prospects. “In all honesty, the thought of the few of us going against a fully matured jinchuuriki doesn’t inspire confidence, but it’s all we’ve got now that things have progressed to this point. The key point in this will be whether or not a few individuals can disable or kill Yagura while the rest of our forces hold off against the amassed army and defenses in place.”
Ao then went on to explain where the battle would take place and the groups assigned tasks. Their unit was to stealthy make their way to Yagura, going past the war zone itself using swampland that they would have to traverse quickly, where he would be waiting on a lake. There they could confront him, but the collateral damage would be lower, meaning they face the possibility of being assaulted by a Tailed Beast Bomb.
There would be two teams, one holding a jinchuuriki each, split apart and coming in from the east and the west. If one didn’t make it by some chance or there were more guards than expected and sacrifices were made, they’d still have enough to fight.
“The Seal Master will have to remain out of combat at all costs since her role is arguably the most important. I don’t need to tell anyone that failure means death”—Ao shot the jinchuuriki pair a look—”or enslavement. The purging of bloodlines will continue unimpeded and more lives will be lost as this country falls into recesses of history.”
“No puny human is enslaving me again,” Kurama snarled inside Naruto’s mind.
“I’d rather the kids not fight at all against a jinchuuriki in the first place,” Kushina stated as a fact.
“I’ve been too through much at this point to back out halfway mom,” Naruto told her. “My hands are already stained with blood…ever since I became a shinobi. It’d be better to fight and ensure that all the deaths until now…aren’t wasted.”
“I’m fighting as well,” Isaribi said coldly. “I can’t just let what happen to Villa go…this feeling won’t fade away unless I can do everything to bring down this hateful reign.”
Kushina’s face melted into one of sorrow for a brief moment before solidifying again, she didn’t want them to fight anymore but they were warriors who’d been bloodied at this point. “Damn it. Then, if we can face him near a large body of water, my summoning might be able to do something as well even if I’m not able to move personally.”
Naruto raised a brow. “You have a summoning too?”
“The guardian of the Land of Whirlpools and her kin to be exact,” Kushina said with her tone a bit mysterious. She had undergone the trial for it and made the contract. “They tend to be fond of women and are dedicated solely towards the benefit of Uzushio, which is why they aren’t fond of Konoha either since they desperately needed help during the war and never got it. You look too much like your father for their tastes.”
“That’s not fair towards me,” Naruto pouted.
“I know sweetie,” she told. “The Boss Summoning agrees that it’s petty and, while she could order her children to behave, they could still circumvent the spirit of her laws. You’ll just have to win them over in time.”
“Right…” Ao sighed. “Well, Yagura is currently positioned in the middle of a lake, so that should suffice. Moving on, Zabuza will be supporting our men on the front-lines along with Choujirou and Suigetsu. Having two of the Seven Swordsmen, as well as the brother of one, will raise morale amongst the men…”
Ao continued his role as the strategist to set up contingency plans. That night marked the beginning of the end. By the time the sun had set the next day, Yagura would fall.
The bloody mist would be cleared by the burning horizon.
The Next Day
The battlefield was a mist-blanketed swampland, thin trees with little greenery jutting out of murky water. The soft earth was packed full of hardy shrubs that reached towards where the light would break through the mist and fill them with the essentials they needed to survive. Turtles, salamanders, alligators, poisonous snakes, and all other amphibious creatures lingered below the surface along with fish, partaking in the numerous insects that dwelled within the environment.
There was a sole oasis in this swampland that encompassed the majority of the area, a lake that was not muddied by the waters of the swamps, and quiet reigned. That was where the final and most important battle would take place. A battle between beings that surpassed the norm and those that stood on top of the norm.
Naruto, Isaribi, and Haku formed a three-man team and were making their way through the swamplands towards the jinchuuriki Mizukage. Haku was in the lead with Isaribi, already transformed, and Naruto following.
The rest had decided to go through the other directions, making themselves a bigger target by having the head of the insurgency, Mei, among them. It was a strategic move, coming in from multiple sides and in waves to assault a sole target, allowances in case more than one vital member was killed, so they wouldn’t all be slain.
If one jinchuuriki fell, there was still one more. The only unacceptable losses were Mei herself, as the face of the insurgency if she died it died with her, and Kushina, which meant that a rampant Tailed Beast would be free and other countries would swarm to claim it.
“This mist is making it hard to see…” Naruto muttered, annoyed as he hopped along the trees to avoid the water and wetlands below. Isaribi could swim beneath it with ease in her Kaima-Form, and Haku was literally skating along the surface of the water. He wished he had his Nine-Tailed Fan, but that was gone. Not that he was bad at the standard shinobi tools of the trade, but goddamn it that fan was freaking sweet.
“You get used to it,” Haku told him.
Naruto thought about the current situation that led to this country becoming a powder keg and found it somewhat confusing. The routine extermination of bloodlines was something he never imagined living in Konoha. If bloodlines and power made up a part of the power base, by killing them off as they did they were weakening themselves. He, hesitantly, brought this up to Haku.
“Why is why we believed Yagura to be under another person’s thrall,” Haku replied. “The purge was only officially started when one clan that could utilize their bones caused such destruction that they were killed off with no survivors by the Kirigakure forces. While that could have been considered a necessity in the eyes of most people, from there it extended to other bloodlines, even those outside of the country and the minor villages in it.”
“… Did the people support that?” Naruto asked.
“The civilians have their own problems,” Haku stated. “Living in these lands is hard enough as a shinobi, but the smaller and rural villages have an abundance of difficulties that are much worse. I was, for example, a simple peasant born of a farmer in a small village. Food was scarce for us, most going to those who can fight as shinobi, and it was dangerous with the abundance of missing-nin that this nation births. Most of the people couldn’t tell a shinobi with a bloodline from one without, so it really didn’t matter…”
He trailed off and took a moment to think over his words before he continue. “But Yagura made a pledge to keep the smaller villages safe as long as no one with a bloodline was found alive. If they were then not only was the protection voided, but a few days later the village was wiped out in an ‘insurgent attack’ as it was told. So when my father found out…”
Naruto picked up what he was hinting. “You mean he…”
Haku nodded, his eyes slightly glazed over as he recalled the memory. “Rather than allowing his wife and son to risk the village, my father killed my mother with tears in his eyes and then tried to kill me. My bloodline kicked in and… well, now we’re heading through the mist-laden lands in order to topple a Kage.”
Neither Naruto nor Isaribi openly commented on that. Not from lack of experience, but because it didn’t need to be said. They knew all too well how the public could easily be conditioned to loathe someone simply because it was easier, mob mentality forming out of fear, ignorance, and hatred.
Discriminated because they were different, changed because of factors beyond their control, both had their own way of coping. Naruto wore the mask of a fool who cried when he was alone. Isaribi was isolated, closing off her heart and betraying her own sense of morals for the promise of being turned to normal, only to have been manipulated by the one responsible.
Their moment of silent reflection ended as Isaribi submerged and witness something surging through the water. She broke the surface and called out the attack. “We’re under attack!”
As if to punctuate the point, a chakra construct molded into the shape of an alligator using the water itself emerged and took Isaribi into its gaping maw, before dragging her below the surface and out of their sight. They stopped their advance and stood on the mangrove branches above the water at the sudden loss. But there was no time to concern themselves with their lost comrade as the scent of ozone reached Naruto’s nose from a lightning jutsu coming from behind them and the churning of water to either side of the tree reached Haku’s ears.
Taking from the reservoir of chakra he drew from, Naruto used hand-seals to convert it into wind chakra and then poured it into his lungs, expelling in a single breath a gale that was known as the Great Breakthrough technique from his mouth. The squall grounded the lightning through affinity and opened up the mist a bit as the leaves and weaker branches of the mangroves were carried by it.
The churning water to their sides became drills, liquid fangs meant to pierce through their bodies. Spiraling towards the pair, they chewed through the branch the two were on mere moments after Haku grabbed Naruto and leapt away. Like lashing serpents they gouged out furrows in the bark as they slithered up the length with a grinding noise in their pursuit.
Taking to the air in a chakra-strengthen jump, Haku ran through a set of three seals and took a deep breath. Within his lungs he melded the dual elements that composed his bloodline, wind and water, to generate a freezing squall that nipped at the inner lining of his lungs and throat as he exhaled. From his puckered lips a flurry of relentless cold and hoarfrost emerged like a billowing cloud of white and blue that swallowed the drills of water streaking towards them.
The Arctic Winds technique buffeted the drills, stripping them of their heat and freezing them over. The forming frost overtook the rotations and slowed it to a halt as it consumed every inch. Soon they were nothing more that rigid poles of ice that sought to touch the sky and fell short. From the source of the water that had served as the base of the water drills, the ice that had ran over it from the excess arctic winds served as solid surface for the two to land on.
A senbon filled Haku’s empty right hand while a kunai appeared from his gloves in Naruto’s as the water next to them spouted upwards. From it emerged the kunoichi clad in deep-green scales, her eyes as black as the night and her fins extended with the intent to use them as blades.
Isaribi, her voice less human than before, asked, “Which way?”
Naruto sniffed the air with his enhanced sense of smell. The lingering moisture made it a hindrance, since it wasn’t like he was a member of the Inuzuka Clan that had been trained in tracking, but he picked up three different scents. “Two o’ clock, Six o’ clock, and Ten o’clock.”
Haku went through single-hand seals and let his chakra sink into the moisture in the air and the water beneath the ice, clinging to it and taking authority of it. The water turned to ice and then shaped themselves into needles that stood around him at the ready, an ice variation of the Thousand Flying Water Needles of Death technique. Armed with over a hundred small ice needles, they were sent flying in the direction north-west of them.
The ice needles ran through the trunks and branches of the thin trees and covered them in a thickening layer of ice as they speared towards the shinobi in hiding. The ringing of steel deflecting the ice was heard as the shinobi avoid their cover for the sake of blocking and avoiding rather than being skewered. His location compromised, he moved to kill the bloodline-user with a kusarigama in hand.
Isaribi went through the hand-seals that she had been taught, her water element chakra seeping into the waters of the misty swamplands around them rather than generating fake water and then controlling it, reducing the cost. The water churned into a throbbing sphere twice her size. Then it violently surging out, dragging the rest of the water into the Giant Vortex technique as it barreled to the south.
The sheer mass of the destructive torrent, plowed through whatever cover that had been provided by the thin fauna and trees, tearing out anything on the surface of the water and carrying it as the path of devastation was torn straight through in a line. The surge settled as her chakra, which had held it up, dissipated with the release of the technique. For a moment all was quiet and she wondered if she killed the attacker right out, but that delusion quashed as a Tornado of Water drilled towards her and then slammed into the ice platform that had been formed, sending the ice crashing down atop her as she fell beneath the murky waves.
Naruto, now airborne again as he leapt before the ice pole he was perched on shattered, lacked the sheer destructive technique needed to flush out the last member due to his fan being destroyed, but he had plenty of explosive tags and kunai. Sending them out en masse, the rain of destruction fell upon the grove and water alike. Thunderous and deafening roars emerged as spout of water and sprays of splinters and sheered bark followed.
A bolt of lightning snaked out towards him, acting like a spear that flew toward him with the intent of piercing through him viciously. Too composed and fast for him to try anything special with wind techniques, he created a single clone and had it kick him towards the water before the lighting tore through where his chest had been and the clone was snuffed out. Naruto landed atop the water, chakra on his feet keeping him afloat, and then darting off towards the source of the last spear of lightning with the scent of ozone leaving a trail he could follow.
Lightning ripped through the air again, snaking towards the youngest shinobi who remained astride tree branches as he advanced. Naruto kept off the water as he moved, wary of the traps that may have been beneath the surface. He wasn’t Haku or Isaribi, the water wasn’t his native land that he could swim or skate over. He grew up among the land of leaves and trees, even if he left it behind. Thin as the trunks were, they still dave him a solid surface to kick off of and advance towards the enemy.
He abandoned the branch as the lightning smashed into the wood. It exploded, splinters flying and dropping down to the waters below. He jumped up for the nearest tree right afterwards and kept moving.
The opponent continuously sent out streams of lightning that darted for him, but he was fast enough to get away rather than trying to smother the element with its opposite. Extending his hands, the jounin then sent out thrashing forks of lightning that ran rampant. When Naruto leapt up to avoid it, the tendrils of lightning darted towards him like snakes seeking prey and slithered to swallow him.
Naruto crafted a Shadow Clone and used it as a kickstand to spring further, leaving the clone to soak the damage as the memory of its destruction was fed to him. Now within range, he crafted chakra chains from the palms of his hands and then whipped them down, the pointed tips seeking to cut into flesh.
The jounin dodged as the younger shinobi landed and then exploded into a billowing wave of smoke as he detonated a handful of smoke bombs. Lightning snaked into the smoke, seeking out its prey above and below the waves, only to have a gust of chakra-turned-wind smother the lightning and send him backpedaling.
From out of the water three clones shot out, propelling themselves like missiles that bombarded the jounin. His hands blurred and struck them down, one after the other, only for him to freeze up as a set of wrists grabbed his ankles. The clone that had done so was then swung around like a flail, connected to a set of Chakra Chains beneath the water, before both of them were flung like ragdolls into a mangrove tree, the clone dispersing as a final set of chain came from behind the tree and around his throat, crushing his trachea.
Suffocating and his mind left to the bombardment of signals his body was sending out, he fell still as a kunai buried itself into his chest and heart. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he went still after a moment, death claiming him.
Naruto released the chains, dispersing them and the clone that stabbed the man in the heart. The reclaimed memories were unpleasant, to say the least…. In the last few days he had more blood on his hands than he thought was possible and the only end in sight would be when they captured the Mizukage.
His nose perked as he caught the scent of Haku darting ahead. There was even more blood in the air, hidden amongst the smell of frost. Naruto took a moment to look at where the corpse had now sunk beneath the murky water, leaving a faint tint of blood, and shook his head to clear it.
Then he went to settle things.
Haku was pretty sure he faced a jounin of the mist as he created more needles of ice and sent the flying towards the man. It was mostly done in a spread to avoid allowing him to flee, but he didn’t attempt to avoid them. Instead he spun the chain of the kusarigama around, using it as a mean of batting aside the incoming needles that he read the trajectories of and figured they would directly strike him.
Just as well, Haku kept his distance as he kept up the long range assault with more needles born of ice that whistled as they flittered through the air. The opponent was advancing though, carefully slipping within range as he battered the needles that were close to hitting him as he ran on the water. After the last barrage failed the jounin was in range.
Haku grimaced behind his mask as he drew senbon to use as a makeshift melee weapon. He was never one to enjoy violence or direct confrontation, but if he and the others were to get to Yagura then they needed to advance. To that end he wanted to use the Demonic Ice Mirrors. But against a jounin and with water beneath them, he thought otherwise.
Now he was forced into dodging as the joining welded the chain and sickle with a level of proficiency that was rare in these lands, using the weighed end of the chain to try and crack open his skull or otherwise debilitate him as he avoided the blow, only for the sickle’s blade to try and catch him. Adding to the difficultly was the irregular angles at which the chain would move, almost slithering in fact, to ensnare him. It was most likely the result of chakra manipulating through the chain.
Dealing with the jounin only became more difficult as Haku’s ears picked up a second set of chains coming from behind him and he was forced to throw himself into the air, twisting as the second set snaked past his torso. The weighed end was heated, an orange glow condensed around it as it tore through the fabric of his outfit and set it aflame. Landing on top of the water and bounding off a second time to avoid as the two chains crossed as they attempted to ensnare him, Haku noticed the Water Clone that had joined the original, more emerging from the surrounding waters.
No sooner than he touched down did he notice that the surface of the water had been changed, thickened and given the consistency of some type of mire that held him in place so that he couldn’t flee again. The clones surrounded him on all sides, twirling their scythes at the end of the chains with intent of butchering him.
As the blades closed in, Haku released ice chakra from the tenketsu all over his body and froze the moisture in the air around him in a thickening layer. The Ice Style: Ice Dome was formed in time and held fast against the blades that tried to cut into him. That was the benefit of his clan’s techniques, as long as he possessed chakra and as long as there was moisture in the air around him he could shape it to his will with few to no hand-signs.
Capitalizing on that, he called forth a blossom of ice spears around the dome, the moisture in the air and beneath their feet freezing over and into spikes that speared out and penetrated everything in its wake with frightening speed. The clones were punctured, their cohesion lost until the water that made up their bodies was loosened and froze into icicles clinging to the edge of the spears.
The original managed to avoid the ice blossom by leaping back and then upwards, only to be run through. A pike of ice rammed through his back to out his front, taking a lung out in the process as the blood and other fluids were slowly submitting to the invasive chill and freezing him over from the inside out. As he fell from the sky his body twisted to see a single mirror of ice suspended in the air behind him, then came death as he hit the water and sank below the surface.
Haku immediately set off. Jettisoning himself from the mirror he was in towards the direction they were heading.
The Tornado of Water drove the Maiden of the Sea deep into the murky waters of the swamp before the chakra holding it together petered out. Unlike the sea that she formerly swam in, doing unforgivable deeds that cost the lives of many innocent people, the waters of the swamp weren’t to her liking.
The waters of the sea were a deep shade of blue, growing dimmer the deeper beneath the surface you sank, and kelp and coral were what formed the forest that loitered at the deep. Fish and other animals darted throughout the terrain, going about their business in schools or hunting for those beneath them on the food chain should they hunger.
The swamp water was an earthen-brown color, dank and depressing, lacking the scent of the ocean breeze. Twigs, branches, leaves and roots all made up the woodlands beneath the surface, and its inhabitants were mammals that flittered to the surface rather than remain in the deep.
But, in the end, it was a matter of preference, rather than anything substantial. Her eyes could peer through the murky depths with the same ease as above, her movements less encumbered as she could sift through the water in three dimensions, and her arsenal far deadlier.
Her opponent lacked the same inherit advantages, but made up for them with the arsenal at his disposal. Dressed in a black, skin-tight wetsuit, goggles, and a simple rebreather, he was mounted on top of a rather large alligator summoning that rested at the bottom of the swamp. All together they allowed him to stay under the water to hunt down those who took to the swamps.
She moved to take him out of the equation, but more alligators came at his beckoning, all constructed out of chakra and water. They clamped down on her limbs and pulled, desperately trying to perform a death roll and separate the limbs. She wasn’t worried about the fangs of the chakra constructs breaking her scales through sheer force, but they hindered her mobility and her joints could only take so much before the twisting broke them and left her unable to swim.
Her cheeks swelled as she molded water chakra in her mouth, and then spat out a sharp and powerful burst towards the one tearing at her right arm. The Water Style: Large Projectile was made of chakra, a construct that mimicked water flawlessly at the cost of being chakra heavy depending on the amount created and then pushed out of her lungs. At such a short distance the technique wasn’t dissolved by the murky water, but punched straight through the fake crocodile like a cannon ball.
The fin on her right arm, now freed, grew hard as chakra reinforced its strength, making it into a crude blade. With it she cleaved through the other constructs and then darted towards the summoner. It was when she passed by what she thought was an outcropping branch that she realized her mistake a moment too late as it exploded as she sped past it.
A muffled blast that radiated outward in a pocket of white ripped through her and blood escaped from her mouth as she gasped, the red being pulled apart and tinting the water around her before fading away. No matter how her body had changed to be strong enough to resist the crushing depths of the sea, no matter how easily she could live under the water, none of that changed the fact that she was still vulnerable to such attacks.
Her focus shifted to the surrounding plant debris and fallen logs that had been left jutting out of the muddy bottom and caught sight of a modified explosive tag was meant to be used in underwater warfare. It converted chakra stored in to the tag as a concussive wave on detonation. As the shockwave bypassed her scales and shook her organs, it was clear that had she of been in her human state and only had mere skin to protect the organs it would have torn her apart on the inside or forced her to breathe and thus drown.
She extended her arms and used the Scale Senbon technique, firing off the scales and then reforming them in short order. The spray detonated the vast majority of the water mines as they punctured the tags rather than going off when she was in the nearest proximity of them. The tags caught in the blast radius went off as well, creating a chain of muffled explosions were followed by pockets of air that were closed in as the bubbles blocked her view.
The large crocodile summoning darted out of the veil created by her, swimming with its tail going back and forth as it approached with an open maw. Isaribi avoided its lunge, not willing to risk the sheer crushing power of the jaws breaking through her scales. She noted that the summoner had hid himself rather than risk being killed as it circled around, coming back to snap into her a second time.
Scale Senbon flew, but the hide of the alligator was too thick and the water was too much for the scales to travel through while maintaining enough force. Thus she was forced to dodge a second time, but the tail lashed around and caught her in the abdomen. The amount of force sent her straight into the tangled mess of roots that formed the mangrove trees above. She darted between the thicker roots as the crocodile pursued her, breaking through hardy roots with its bulk while snapping at her.
Isaribi eventually grabbed and tore off a thick root and crammed it vertically in its mouth as it bit down. As strong as the muscles were when closing, it snapped down with ease, but the thick roots managed to puncture it’s snout in the process and prevented it from opening up again. She used the opportunity to rake out its eyes with her fin blades and forced it to retreat into the murky distance.
Movement in her peripheral vision grabbed her attention.
Her foe trying to escape after the summoning had been dealt with. He wouldn’t get away of course. He was only human and could only swim so fast, not nearly as fast as she could in her current state.
Her fins extended and she took off. Once she dealt with him, she would meet up with the others.
At the lake
A single figure stood on top of the grey waters of the lake, the clouds above matching the hue below with the promise of rain impending. The body of the youth belied its strength, the stitch-like scar running down from his left eye a sign of battles untold. The grey, short hair that adorned his head was messy, untended to for some time as there was no need to maintain appearances.
The Mizukage, Yagura, waited in silence, both his mind and his tenant’s one in the same as they followed the commands instilled into them by the mirror-wheel eye that loitered high in their mindscape, constantly whirling in place as it tethered them to its will.
The instincts of a trained warrior, one who reached the apex known as the ‘Water Shadow’, called to him. He opened his pink eyes and fixed his gaze to the left. The fingers around his staff tightened and the muscles in his arm tensed.
Silence followed. The water lapping beneath his feet the only ambient sound hidden in the mist…
Then there was a blur as a blond child approached with a spiraling sphere of chakra in his hand from above. The air chilled as the water beneath his feet froze and then shot spikes of ice from below at sharp angles, intent on skewering his legs and hindering his escape. A spiraling vortex of water from behind roared in fury as it dispelled the mist and churned forward to swallow him in the swell. A three-pronged attack from the three who arrive first to challenge him after crossing the swampland…
All meaningless in the end.
Yagura’s staff blurred as it smashed the ice enclosing on him into frigid chunks. The butt then smashed into the frozen platform and Isobu’s chakra seeped down into the crevices, changing within and bringing forth an instant bloom of a protective tower of coral that formed an anchored wall to protect his rear. As the churning water smashed into the bulwark and yielded, parting around the sides, a mirror formed of water chakra and the water vapor in the air constructed a clone of the incoming blond and the two met, smashing the spiraling spheres into one another and dispelling themselves to reveal neither had been the original.
Such was the power of a Kage.
At a glance, all three realized this would be the toughest battle they had faced thus far. But there was too much at stake, whether self-serving, self-preservation, or simple revenge, and they had to face him. Relying on back-up was meaningless in itself as they had no way of knowing of the adults had made it as well.
Thus they resolved to do their best as the final battle began…
Okay, had to cut this early but yes I’m still working on it. Big Battle next time. Boss fight.
Chapter 12: The Water Shadow Falls
On the Lake
Gray skies overhead rumbled.
Three set of eyes, filled to the brim with righteous indignation, subtle fury, and quiet uncertainty, fixed on the blank gaze of the Mizukage who release the protective cocoon of coral that had protected him from their initial assault and stood on a platform that remained, anchored to the bottom of the lake with a single shaft of thick coral.
Standing on the water as it shifted beneath them, a cold sweat broke out on the face of the ice-user. He had lost much to this man’s regime and yet, looking into his gaze he noticed the Mizukage was nothing but a puppet. Even then, he wasn’t certain they could win.
The muscles beneath the scales of the Maiden of the Sea were strained, taut with the desire to release. She wanted nothing more than to drag him into the depths for the sake of Villa, her fin blades lengthening at the thought of rage-fueled justice. Taking a step forward, she prepared to lunge and dive down, coming at him from below.
But, before she could take that step, Naruto was the first to change forward against the Water Shadow. The sooner he was defeated, the sooner the fighting stopped and the less bloodshed. The deaths at the port, the torturous pain inflicted by the hunters, the suffering of the country and his fellow jinchuuriki, everything led up to this moment. With that in mind, he shot forward, a Rasengan forming in his right hand.
“Isobu’s chakra forms coral to restrict your movement or attack,” Kurama supplied as his container charged into the fray.
Got it, Naruto affirmed.
The Mizukage crafted another mirror from the water vapor and his chakra. The reflection pulled itself free in the same pose as its original. It would spring forth to catch him in the middle of his attack, intercepting him.
Naruto halted and spun on his foot, turning his back to the clone and thrusting the spiraling sphere forward. The clone mirrored the action, slamming its own attack through the mirror that had brought it forth. Before it could connect with the Mizukage, the mirror clone was dispelled, leaving him facing the blond shinobi that was now closed the distance.
Setting the shaft of his weapon in the crook of his elbow, hand seals faster than the eye could catch and water chakra seeped down into the lake waters. Just as Naruto was within range, the water rose and swept him up with it. The rising wall of water shot up, ascending higher and higher into the sky with Naruto atop it and trying to free himself from within it, until it reached its plateau and broke through the surface to take a deep breath.
Mizukage was still ascending higher than he was on his mushroom-like platform of coral that kept spreading as it rose. Soon he was looking down at Naruto, overlooking the lake and the lands that were his by right of his position. Thrusting the staff out, the wall of water lurched out and came down like a tidal wave, the force of the impact enough to flatten the land at the edge of the lake and the three insects that were swept in it.
Haku prepared to unleash a stronger version of his Arctic Winds technique, the Great Arctic Winds, when Isaribi grabbed him. She dived, taking him down to the deepest depths, where the pull of the water was not as great, as he held his breath. Even below the massive wave they could hear the muffled echo of the monstrous crashes from above as the neighboring trees were smashed to pieces.
But, while they had escaped the massive wave from above, the dangers below were just as great as a reef the size of the lake bottom had come into existence courtesy of Isobu’s chakra. And it was still growing, climbing and threatening to capture and flay them with jagged bits of coral.
Isaribi was forced to return to the surface as quickly as she could, shooting out of the water like a green missile and into the air. No sooner than Haku gasped for air did the spires of coral do the same, sticking out of the water like colorful spears. She grimaced as she lost one of her advantages, the ability to travel deep, as the water overflowed its natural boundaries due to the massive reef that took up most of the space beneath the surface.
“Where’s Naruto-kun?” Haku asked as they touched down on the surface of the water, remaining aloft it.
“He was caught in the wave,” Isaribi said as she raised her arms towards the Mizukage in the distance. Her scales stood up on the end. Scale Senbon were unleashed towards the jinchuuriki. “I’m not sure where he was taken or if he’s okay.”
Haku gritted his teeth. There was nothing that could be done then. If he was okay he’d rejoin them. He focused his attention on the Mizukage, who was twisting his staff and using it to block the scales that came close to hitting him, and padded out her assault with his own Thousand Flying Ice Needles of Death.
Yagura put more spring into his step as he dodged them, occasionally batting aside the projectiles until he could take refuge behind one of the brightly-colored spires from his reef. Behind it he ran through more hand seals and the water at his feet rose and slithered through the air, carrying him atop it as it surged up and then came careening down in an arch.
The force of it caught Isaribi, driving her down and against the reef of coral hard enough that the thick material formed a crater. Countless bubbles were released in the process, carrying bits of green flecks from her scales that were crumbled beneath the impact. But she managed to rise again, standing and breaking the water’s surface to see that the lashing and serpentine column of water was chasing Haku.
The ice-user gathered his ice chakra in his lungs until it was dense and breathed it out in a single push. The Ice Style: Frost Bullet was launched and the compressed element flew towards the surging tendril.
The Mizukage jumped as the condensed frost was unleashed on impact turned the water into a frozen formation that fell apart as it crashed into the shallow water. Twirling his staff above his head, he used it as a bludgeon to try and cave in Haku’s skull as he came down. He was intercepted by a blast of water from the Maiden of the Sea, sending him skirting over Haku and bounding off the water before he got back on his feet.
It was then there was a large shift in the water as the spires jutting out of it began to buckle. The coral was being bleached, breaking apart as a poison spread through its system. Yagura extended his senses and found the source of this disturbance in his chakra construct.
Naruto was below the water, pumping the corrupted yang chakra of the Nine-Tailed fox into coral at the Tailed Beast’s suggestion. The chakra that governed and encouraged the growth of life, in its corrupted nature, eroded the Three-Tailed Turtle’s own as it had eaten away at the hunter-nin when he had been cleaved by the chakra blade fueled by the same source. He was taking away the advantage over the battlefield.
Hand seals were made. The water around the jinchuuriki came alive at the Mizukage’s behest, grabbing and ensnaring the youngest of the gathered and breaking the surface as a tendril of dense water once more. It flailed around and then slammed Naruto through the remaining spires, brittle shells of what they once were and fragile enough to break as the shinobi screamed with the first, second, and third spires.
Before it could do so a fourth time, a blast of frosty air consumed the tendril and turned it into ice. A hammer-like strike followed as the Water Style: Large Projectile from Isaribi struck with enough force to shatter it. Haku appeared from a Demonic Ice Mirror and scooped him up before he hit the water barely conscious.
“Wake up!” Haku said, looking at Isaribi laying cover fire. She was barely hindering the Mizukage, who was fixed on them. “If you pass out we won’t be able to protect you and survive!”
Naruto’s dreary eyes closed. He was a mess. One of his arms was visibly broken and twisted in the wrong place. His clothing was scrapped in large places, blood staining them. Within the confines of his mind a plea went out of for mutual survival.
Then there was a pulse of chakra and he lurched. Azure-eyes opened once more and turned a shade of crimson as flesh knitted, bones reset, and strength returned to him. He stepped down onto the water and was draped in a thin shroud of the fox’s chakra, a single tail waving behind him. He roared as he charged forward to aid his comrade.
Yagura smashed his staff into the head of the Maiden of the Sea and then held his staff horizontally in both hands and allowed Isobu’s chakra to seep into it. Creeping coral enshrouded it, covering it and reinforcing it to make it a more suitable weapon against the shrouded jinchuuriki and used it to block the incoming hammer blow.
The crimson fist descended like a sledgehammer and the impact drove the guarding Mizukage downwards. Because his chakra was keeping him afloat the water, it caved in until it hit the dead coral and made it crumble over a large area.
Yagura strained his muscles and knocked the hand to the side. Bringing the staff around it slammed into Naruto’s right temple and then the left temple, before coming from below and catching him in the chest. He watched as the younger jinchuuriki went soaring backwards and then turned his attention to thickening mist in the air.
Haku stood at the center of it. Acting as the apprentice of the Demon of the Mist, he let the white shroud blanket the area. He was hoping it would by them some time and create an opening…
It wasn’t meant to be.
Yagura made the seal for the Water Style: Water Wall and exhaled the excess water. He moved it in a spiraling circle, crafting more and more as he did so. What was meant to be a defensive technique encroached more and more area as his Tailed Beast’s chakra was vast enough to do so. The mist was swept away in what was a slowly growing hurricane, sweeping in the lake water and dead coral.
“Multi-Shadow Clone!” Naruto declared, hundreds of clones forming and surrounding the perimeter of the crushing bulwark of water. They all inhaled deeply and used wind chakra to craft Wind Style: Air Bullets that were fired from every angle. The compressed air was let loose and ruptured with explosive force as they hit the water wall, tearing into the churning waters and thinning it out as it became unstable.
Naruto fell onto all fours as the clones expired, his shroud and whiskers growing thicker and his tail standing up. Then he darted forward with all his strength before the wall could thicken again. Like a crimson comet, he became a blur and slammed into the Mizukage with all the primal strength he could bring forward. The elder jinchuuriki took it head on and went flying, the constant stream of water ceasing.
“Haku, now!” Isaribi yelled as she created a Water Pillar of her own. This one she didn’t churn, but raised it to be as high as she could make it.
Haku appeared behind it from a Demonic Ice Mirror and exhaled a thick gale of frost with the remaining chakra he had in reserve. The Ice Style: Great Arctic Winds caught the water and turned it into a massive and sleek ice wall, a mini-glacier. Yagura slammed into it and the cracking of bones could be heard as he rebounded off the surface, cracks forming where he had hit.
Then he tumbled into the water below and silence reign.
Haku and Isaribi were both panting, barely afloat on the surface of the water. On the last dredges of their chakra, they were exhausted. Haku pulled out a soldier’s pill from his pouch and ate it as Naruto stalked towards them and crouched down between them.
His shroud had thinned to a coat. “Did we get him?”
The response came from the other side of the wall, as a Sonic Roar rang out. The ice caught in the wake of it reverberated violently, cracking as deep fissures formed. The mini-glacier crumbled to bits and they witnessed what lay behind it.
It was black beast on all fours, draped in a thick shroud of crimson chakra, glaring at them with empty luminous eyes. Three tails swayed in the air behind it, before curling around and changing. It turned to coral, forming an armor-like carapace with jagged bits jutting out that would flay skin from flesh. It charged with a feral cry, running atop the water with surprising deftness for its size.
Naruto let loose a cry of his own as he dashed for it and was knocked aside for his efforts. The jagged surface of the armor tore the flesh beneath his thinner shroud, and the mighty limbs pushed him beneath the water as he was trampled over, leaving the two unprotected.
Isaribi pushed Haku out of the way and took the full brunt of it, her scales breaking and the denser bones of her Kaima Form fracturing. She was sent skittering across the surface of the water, bounding off of it once, twice, and a final time before a large splash was made from the impact. Her fish-like features receded and she sank beneath the surface.
“Isaribi-chan!” Haku cried as he moved towards her, only for the behemoth to start charging him again. He put his hands together to ready a technique when the water in front of him exploded and the beast was stopped by the younger jinchuuriki.
“GRAB HER AND GO!” Naruto screeched as he strained to hold off the other beast, three crimson tails of his own acting as extra-arms to pin it. “HURRY!“
Haku swallowed and nodded. He let himself fall into the water and swam to catch her before she sank too deep. Breaching the surface with her in his arms, he used the chakra brought up from the pill converting his fat to give himself the strength to escape the battlefield and look over her injuries.
That left the two jinchuuriki to battle atop the lake that was filled with dead coral bits and ice fragments, the grey skies above letting loose water droplets as thunder rumbled. Coral began to sprout where Naruto’s hands braced against the behemoth and was crawling along the surface to consume him.
He gritted his teeth. Any advice you want to share here? Before we end up unable to move?
“Gather my chakra into your lungs,” Kurama spoke. “Let it soak in and then release a cry that makes the heavens and earth tremble. “
Naruto did as told, unleashing a Sonic Roar that knocked away the falling rain and tore apart the coral eating away at him with a sound wave laced with chakra. It pushed away the residual chakra washing over him and spread cracks along the armor of coral that enshrouded the jinchuuriki of the Three-Tailed Turtle.
But the berserk beast wasn’t knocked back by the assault. Indeed, it pressed forward with the intent of mowing him down, causing Naruto to slide back along the surface of the water while gaining speed. With no other choice, putting all his control on the line, Naruto used his tails to divert the behemoth still pressing forward and sent the beast tumbling to the side as he let go.
I need more chakra! Naruto thought. He couldn’t do that again. Not like that.
“Can you handle it without going feral?” Kurama asked. “Your mother tampered with the seal after hearing about the time with the hunters. As soon as your cognitive state falls below a threshold, the flow will cease. In the middle of this fight, it will be your defeat and I would prefer not to have to reform or end up enslaved.“
In all honesty, he couldn’t. He was too pressured fighting this thing, struggling not to break again at the memory of Isaribi being broken as the Three-Tailed jinchuuriki emerged from the water where it had been driven in. It didn’t help that the coral-covered beast just stood there.
What is he…? Naruto’s thoughts trailed off as he noticed the fissures in the coral spreading, the loosened bits shaking. Instinct, heightened in his present state, told him to move. He darted atop the water on all fours as a spray of Coral Senbon rained forth in a barrage and left sprays of water where he once had been as he circled around until the shots ended and the crimson-shrouded figure beneath the coral was exposed.
Naruto darted in before he could regrow the armor. His tails thrashed as they were reshaped into claws and then shot forth to rake across its face. The three tails of the older jinchuuriki deflected them as it brought its palm forth with the intention of repeating the Coral Palm technique from before.
But Naruto and the fox were quicker than the turtle. He ducked under the thrust and brought his sharpened claws in a horizontal swipe. The Mizukage screamed in an inhuman cry as its sight was wrenched from it, the claws taking them away as penitence for the Maiden of the Sea as the armor of coral reformed.
Naruto leapt up and over the turtle, getting to its back and circling again. He was looking for an opening before it healed the damage its sight in seconds. It needed to end while he still had strength to bring forth.
“The Rasengan,” Kurama offered as a solution. “Focus on containing it while I bring the chakra forth and move it.“
Under the thickening rain he came to a stand-still and stood on two legs. His arm drew back and the malevolent chakra gathered and condensed. Streams of the chakra spiraled around the growing sphere, throbbing violently as it yearned to be freed from the container. Veins appeared on his forehead as he struggled to contain it, maintaining it as a sphere while its ominous glow contrasted the grey skies.
The other jinchuuriki, now armored and its sight restored, charged atop the water for hi m once more. Naruto roared as a chakra arm extended, pushing the technique towards the mad jinchuuriki. The two forces met and clashed, with the carapace of coral shattering as the spiraling sphere of crimson broke through it and met the body beneath it.
Swept up in it, Isobu’s container was pressured as the arm stretched and stretched and stretched, until it could go no further. Then the Kyuubi roared within Naruto’s mindscape as it forced the chakra that formed the length of the arm into the sphere and past Naruto’s means of control. The technique ruptured as a result, the shock wave of the blast throwing the water as a wave that came crashing down on either side and swallowed both jinchuuriki….
…the rain fell down continuously with lightning crackling above as Naruto surfaced a minute later, taking a deep breath of air as he panted. Tell me that did it?
“I doubt it,” Kurama noted. “Isobu has the greatest defense amongst our kin despite being the most timid. I doubt it would be enough to cur him for long, so flee now that those fleas you call comrades have escaped and leave the rest to the Saiken.“
Far be it for the tired youth to do anything less. He turned and started swimming to the shore before the remained of his strength vanished and he was left stranded….The water rumbled, trembling as the atmosphere shifted.
“It’s too late.“Kurama snarled within his mindscape as it felt the change, its kin’s chakra no longer constrained to a human vessel as it manifested.
Naruto turned to see the surface of the water bubbling up, rising in a dome that rolled down a hard surface beneath the cascading water. As the amount of water petered out, it revealed a grayish-green crab-like shell with protrusions at the base. Rising above it were three flailing and plated tails that took the place of its hind legs. Beneath the monstrous-sized shell was a layer of red, its face resting ahead of the rest of its body with a large bear-trap like jaw and forehead with only the scarlet red left-eye exposed.
Barely able to stay afloat with his head sticking out of the water, Naruto felt like an ant before a giant as he looked to see the full transformation of the Three-Tailed Turtle looming over him. Its single eye was fixed on him. There was a sense of primal fear, seeing such a being and know it would come for you while you could do nothing against it.
Isobu’s tails sank into the water and it started moving forward, mouth gaping as if it meant to swallow him… It was then a large bubble drifted down from the air to obstruct its path and the red eye of the Tailed Beast stared at it. Then the Blinding Bubble exploded, a flare of light and force that made it cry out and thrash its arms and tails, churning the water.
“Seems like you had it rough,” said a voice Naruto recognized.
He looked to his left to see that Utakawa had arrived, sitting cross-legged on a bubble that drifted just over the water next to him. His kimono was tattered in places, signs of burnt fabric and smatterings of blood on it. Despite that he looked as placid as he had every time Naruto had seen him to this date.
He stepped off the large bubble and onto the water, letting it drift ahead. Raising his straw to his lips, he blew another bubble roughly the same size that compassed him and Naruto. They began to drift in the air, light bending around the bubble’s outer sheen and camouflaging them from sight.
“Are the others here yet?” Naruto asked.
“Should be close” he said as he steered the bubble towards the swamplands behind them and away from Isobu, who looked around for Naruto now that the blinding wore off. “We heard its roar and figured I’d come ahead just in case. Ran across the Ice Boy on my way and got the jist of everything. We need to pull back and regroup.”
They didn’t have the chance.
With a roar, the shockwave that emerged spread out and destabilized the camouflaged bubble, popping it while the pair were still in the air. Freefalling, Utakata quickly made a replacement beneath the two before they hit the water. But ultimately it did what Isobu wished, as he now found them.
Utakata went on the defense as the large Tailed Beast made for them, he focused on crafting hundreds and then thousands of little bubbles that were laced with the chakra of the Six-Tailed Slug, directing them to his will to form six trails, curving paths that flowed forward and then smashed into the beast. They popped with impudence as they met with him, smoke sizzling from where it impacted.
Naruto’s nose twinged as he caught the acidic scent and noted peculiarity.
“Such is Saiken’s power,” Kurama filled in for him “Saiken commands corrosive fluids and gases, much like Isobu commands coral. Using those ridiculous bubbles as a medium he can contain where and what it destroys… however, its potency is reduced while Saiken is sealed and will never penetrate Isobu’s shell.“
As if that last line was a trigger, the Three-Tailed Turtle sped forth, its shell smoking from where the acid had tries to melt through it as cut through the water. It would bore down on the older man before reaching Naruto, who was still unable to fight with the lack of chakra. Despite that, the man stared defiantly as he lowered his straw. Casting a shadow that swallowed him up beneath the rain-filled sky, Utakata was gone as Isobu met where he once stood….
And in his places six were six massive and white tails, slick with an unknown fluid that embraced with the Three-Tailed Turtle. They strained, moving and offsetting the mass as all six divided the strain. In tandem they rose, until it was forced out of the water with its tails lashing and roaring in defiance at being trapped.
Then they tossed the beast out of the lake, opposite the swamplands Naruto arrived in. The crash could be heard throughout the land as trees crunched beneath the behemoth, the ground itself quaking as it writhed to turn itself upright and lift itself up with its arms. No sooner than it managed did golden chains wreathe it, snaking around its limbs and mass to hold it in place as lava descended upon it from above, causing the Tailed Beast to shriek as it was covered in the melted earth.
A downpour of water followed, a floodgate that appeared out of nowhere from above like a tidal wave, slamming into the molten substance and releasing a veil of scalding steam the enveloped the entire area where it landed, shrouding it as the lava cooled rapidly into hardened stone. By the time Utakata returned to normal, reversing the partial transformation, there was now a mound of blackened slag as the steam cleared.
“So… did we win?” Naruto asked as his bubble drifted down to the panting jounin housing the Six-Tailed Slug, breaking the silence that permeated the air afterwards. To that end, deep fissures began to form in the mound. Boulder-sized fragments began to drop off and the sound of something hard grating against it filled the air.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Utakata said with a grimace.
Isobu shot out of the stone while curled into a ball that was spinning in a wheel, rolling its way back into the water and then leaping up to come down as a cannon ball and creating another billowing wave of water that was even larger than the previous time. It was going to swallow up everything that spanned the lake.
Utakata grimaced as he realized there was no way to get out of range in time, only to flinch as someone set their hands on his back. He looked over his shoulder to see Kushina there, a hand on him and Naruto. Chains erupted from her back and curved around them into the outline of a dome, the space between them filled with a shimmer layer of energy.
The wave came crashing down and dropped them down into the depths of the lake, the water pressing against the barrier as they sank down. Silence after the crashing ceased.
Naruto noticed her outfit was barely faring better than his own, points where cuts had drawn blood and there was an angry bruise on her shoulder that left her right arm shaking. Her breath was heavy, beads of sweat lining her forehead as she kept her eyes ahead. It seemed she hadn’t come out unscathed either on her way there.
“Mom, are you okay?” he asked.
“I’ll manage,” she squeezed out as she withdrew a seal slip that contained Naruto’s chakra and applied it to the back of his hand, forcibly injecting him with his own chakra to return his strength back to him. She then brought her hands together, gritting her teeth as she struggled to make the hand-seals for the Summoning technique. “Just summon the Boss Toad…”
Isobu roared, the water carrying it as a wave of pressure that told them it was close. Kushina finished her seal and slammed the palm of his hand against the layer of defense that stood between them and the Three-Tailed Turtle. The water shifted outwards as smoke was expelled and a serpentine figure slithered out of the smoke, obscured by the darkness of the depths, and met with the Tailed-Beast.
Naruto did the same, slamming his hands at the bottom of the barrier. Suddenly they ascended as a larger figure emerged and then kicked upwards with its powerful legs, breaking the surface and into the grey skies that stormed. Coming to a landing on the surface, Gamabunta surveyed the battlefield with webbed hands on the hilt of his blade as the barrier atop his head dropped. He had already been informed ahead of time, before they left, about his role.
The shifting surface of the shot into a plume as two other massive figures emerged in the distance. One was the Tailed-Beast, but wrapped around it was a creature with crimson scales that were patterned with gold ovals with black outlines. A mane of black hair that was tipped with crimson flowed around it’s body, while it’s razor sharp claws continuously scrapped at the shell. Golden eyes with white-rimmed slits were narrowed as its fox like mouth was opened to reveal fangs, its black ears raised. A fox with a body like a snake, a dragon with the head of a fox and fangs.
She was boss of the Nguruvilu Summonings, Lady Filu.
Despite constricting as tightly as she could and raking her claws against the shell, she couldn’t pierce it. Three thick and armored tails swayed madly, before lashing at her elongated body and the impacts left welts against the scales that threatened to break under the strikes, forcing her to let go. She dove back into the water and slid, her body moving in wavy motion that made it seem like she was slithering through it.
Isobu refused to let her escape that easily. Opening his maw he fired massive blobs of chakra-kneaded water, sending shot after shot of the Water Release: Great Water Mass Bullets. The water bullets smashed against the surface of the water and then ruptured, sending up spouts that threatened to send her sailing upwards.
Agile as she was, the boss of the Nguruvilu race avoided them deftly as she circled it, the shots only ending as Gamabunta laid down cover fire with his own Water Style: Gunshot technique that caught Isobu in the face. The Three-Tailed Turtle switched targets, sending out another trio of shots towards the Toad Boss.
“Hold on!“Gamabunta warned the three atop his head before he leapt into the air with his powerful legs. The shots left trails as they passed under him and continued sailing into the swamplands in the distance and displacing the mango trees and murky water with thunderous spouts.
At the apex of his jump he drew his massive blade. Then he descended onto the Tailed-Beast with all his weight and thrust the blade down. It failed to pierce the shell and was then relegated to fending off the thrashing tails with the steel in his hands.
He jumped off again, the force of his legs pushing the turtle beneath the surface. The water crashed down around the turtle while the massive toad sailed backwards through the air and back down into the water at a safe distance with a major splash. Only its head remained above the water, housing the three atop it, while the Nguruvilu’s head surfaced next to him.
“Are you all right, Lady Filu?” Kushina asked her summoning.
“As well as one can be,” the summoning responded, her body shifting under the water. “My kin and I aren’t well suited against such an opponent, I’m afraid. That shell is quite resilient.“
Gamabunta agreed. “Gonna be a pain to deal with.“
It was then that another figure touched down, her auburn hair disheveled and her cloth torn in particular places where she had fended off more assailants on her way toward the battlefield. She leapt from the surface of the water to the top of the Toad Boss’ head.
“How are the kids?” Kushina asked as Mei.
“Ao managed to get them out of the immediate area.” She pushed her hair out of her eyes and then fixed them ahead. “However, we need to end this quickly.”
Lady Filu felt the water beneath her shifting and dove down to see the growing coral tower that was rising from the bottom and encompassing where the turtle had sank beneath the wave. It was growing at a frantic rate, branching out with jagged limbs that began filling the water. Breaking the surface, she warned them of the impending threat. The branches jutted out of the water like a bulwark that drove them backwards, leaving a mound of coral that resembled a bud of a flower that had yet to blossom.
Within it, Saiken and Kurama felt the melding of Yin and Yang chakra and told their respective hosts that they were on the verge of being on the wrong end of a Tailed-Beast Bomb. Once they told the others, the summonings did their best to halt it, with Gamabunta trying to cleave the coral away with his sword infused with natural energy while Lady Filu firing a pressurized spray of water from her mouth to break through it with no success, as it repaired itself to quickly.
Utakata fixed his eyes on where the buildup was at according to the beast inside of him. Apparently Isobu had the slowest charge time, but that just meant they had another thirty-seconds. The coral that was damaged was re-growing too quickly for them to manage as they were. But…
“Naruto,” he said, grabbing the youngest shinobi’s attention. “Get ready to release a gust that’s concentrated in one spot.” He pointed towards it. “I’ll use my Acid Spray and you focus it so it gets through the thickest layers. From there the others can hit it with the hardest attacks they have until we punch a hole in it.”
“Lady Filu, can you handle that part?” Kushina asked.
“I believe so.“
“I’ll finish then,” Mei said as she began forming hand-seals.
The chakra of the Six-Tailed Slug was molded into acidic vapor within the lungs of the bubble-user and wind was formed with the blonde jinchuuriki. On a mental count of three they exhaled from atop the Toad Boss, white gas leaving Utakata’s puckered lips and was backed by the gust that left Naruto’s, his control focusing the wind chakra mimic the wind to keep it in a nice and tight stream. The resulting combination slammed against the coral and began eating away at it without mercy, its touch breaking down the hard reef into a liquid that seeped through the crevices and spread out to counter the regrowth factor until they exhausted their chakra.
Lady Filu followed up, summoning with her own chakra a dozen whirlpools that churned into existence and then invert them into drills that arched out of the water. With a yip they spiraled into one another to form a single construct, melding into one large water drill that bore its way into the weakened coral and the spun madly to grate away at it and prevent it from reforming.
Mei finished the seals for her technique as the drill broke through at last and exhaled. From her own lips emerged a dragon that was molten in nature. It bellowed as it slithered through the space and into the opening that had been forming. Within that dark space where the only light was the formation of the two chakras melding into a sphere of destruction, it spied the eye of the Three-Tailed Turtle and lunged….
The roar that followed was the loudest that had been heard so far, the anguish and agony of it making the defensive bud of coral collapse as the two summonings and their charges fled. The pain disrupted the melding, imperfection setting it off. The yang chakra over shadowed the yin and the excess that wasn’t devoured ruptured in a thin pillar that broke the storm clouds above the lake and then slowly expanded from its base, a fearsome wind ahead of it and threatening to send the summonings and the shinobi attached to them into the swamplands before it settled. The steam that had risen up and formed a wall obscured their vision as they waited with baited breath to see the outcome of their gamble….
Isobu remained a lot the water, its eye closed as light no longer reached it and hoarse groans left its mouth. Motes of light and darkness appeared once more and tried to congeal into a single mass a second time.
“He just won’t quit,” Naruto noted.
“If Isobu is under the effects of that damnable eye he won’t stop as long as he remains standing,” Kurama noted with disdain. “It forces him to move and fight, a slave in his own body and mind.“
“Lady, got it in you for another light?” Gamabunta asked. Mei nodded. “Then I’ll provide the oil, you light it on fire.“
The cheeks of the Toad Boss swelled as he rushed forth and then released a spray of black and crude oil in the form of a funnel-shaped spout. When fire emerged from Mei’s lips, it met and a billowing wave of heat formed as the combination slammed into the tailed Beast with enough force to send it reeling.
Isobu wailed in agony as the burning oil transferred the heat through his shell and to the soft flesh beneath. It dove under water to try and alleviate the burn, but the oil kept it alight. Reaching the bottom of the lake, it upturned the silt and tried to smother the flames, only for a maelstrom to form around its mass and pluck both it and the silt into it to form a dirty whirlpool that shot up into a waterspout at the behest of the Nguruvilu Boss.
Sent skyward, Naruto watched as gravity took hold of the Three-Tailed Turtle once the spout capped off and sent Isobu down at an arch, leaving the hulking behemoth crashing down with a large cloud of splinters, dust, and murk in the woodlands. The massive chakra beast groaned and was then encased in a grey-greenish light as his form shrank.
“I think he’s down now,” Utakata mused.
Kushina shook her head. “There’s still one more thing we need to do…”
The mindscape of the Mizukage and Three-Tailed Turtle was a contrast to that of the One-Tailed Raccoon and Gaara of the Desert. Instead of endless sands with only an oasis of relief, it was a never-ending body of water perpetually shrouded in mist, with the only bastion being a chunk of land that peaked in a curve at the top. Kushina, Kurama, Naruto, Saiken, and Utakata all stood there, their gazes fixed on a horrifying sight.
Both Yagura and Isbobu stood in place on the water, empty-eyed with nightmarish chains piercing their bodies and minds from above. At the other end of the chains was the source, a red wheel that spun without end, what looked to be a black three-point shuriken with a tail connecting to the next point making them seem like a second circle within the first.
“The Mangekyo Sharingan,” Kushina said softly. She could never forget those same eyes that had ensnared her at one time, forcing her to release the seal binding Kurama inside of her after giving birth. The same design as those of the masked man who threatened to kill her child.
“Those same. Damn. Eyes.” Kurama snarled. “It drove Isobu to fight but it made him lame, a puppet on strings.“
Saiken agreed. “If he had been himself, Isobu could use a mist to drive away those within it or open a rift to another pocket dimension. That battle would not have been so easy.“
“How do we free them?” Naruto asked, ignoring the fact that they called what just transpired an easy battle.
“That eye is a physical manifestation of the chakra holding them in a thrall,” Kushina stated. “Because they’re already caught they can’t escape, so we need to use enough chakra to break them free. If both of the Tailed-Beast work it tandem then it should work and I can apply the seal.”
Kurama snorted. Even as it did so, the air around it warped. “I alone will suffice.“
Naruto backed away as the fox stepped forward. The water beneath its paws began to boil. Steam rose to envelope the limbs and the curled around the tails that menacingly swayed around.
“Shameful,” the fox spat out with barely constrained fury. “We nine, the second sons and daughter of the Sage of Six Paths, the inheritors of his will and vessels that hold the power of the Ten-Tails. Betrayed by those who bore his blood, to be bartered around by the descendant of the second-born of our father and then mentally enslaved by the first-born with those damnable eyes!”
The maw opened to reveal fangs. The nine tails curled up and inwards, nine arches that touched down at the opening. Spheres of crimson appeared as his rage was given form. They gathered into one where the nine points of the tail met, pulling towards the gap the entrance of its throat. The orb that formed was a single, violent, throbbing mass of malice.
“HOW. DARE. THEY!” A crimson spear of light launched, parting the air with such furiosity that it howled as it sailed towards the spinning eye. It smashed through it with impudence. The mirror-wheel eye crumbled like shattered stained-glass, the chains connected to it dissolving as they tumbled into the waters of the mindscape.
The group watched as the pair, now freed from the chains, collapsed. To hold them under its control for so long had hollowed them out. It would take months or possibly years for them to regain the same level of mental function they once had.
Wisps of crimson left the fox’s maw as Kurama turned to Kushina. “Get to work, woman. The longer I remain her, the more my fury will boil over.“
“If it weren’t for the fact that I’m as angry as you are I’d chain that mouth of yours shut,” she responded with her eyes closed as she advanced towards the pair. Regardless of their mutual enemy, they were under no circumstances in the mood to pretend to be friendly.
Nevertheless, Kushina set to work.
Some Time Later…
After that battle, once night fell, the group reached what served as a safe-house for the time being. Naruto had showered and dressed in spare clothing they procured some time after the battle, a simple shirt and pants to go with his gloves and sandals. There were a number of rooms in the building, each one having the simplest comforts of a bed, which he desperately needed after so many nights without one, but he couldn’t sleep.
Instead he wondered into a room where Kushina sat down in a chair next to Isaribi, who was bandaged more so than when they first met her. A soft whisper was coming out of her lips, a lullaby for the slumbering Maiden of the Sea. When she turned to look at him, her eyes were downcast and somber.
“How are you feeling, Naruto?” she asked.
“Fine, I guess,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “How’s Isaribi-nee?”
“Isaribi-chan…” Kushina sighed. “If her Kaima Form had dropped any sooner, then she would be dead. It saved her and, now that I’ve gotten the Contact Scroll back, I sent for Tsunade. But the healers here say that she won’t be able to move around well for months with the damage she took.”
His expression tightened. “If I had been just a little stronger…”
He trailed off as she shook her head. “If you had been stronger, if we had gotten there earlier, if, if, if… There are no ‘ifs’ at this point. There never are once the deed is done. Especially not in war….”
Silence ensued as the weight of the words pressed against Naruto.
“We’re heading back home,” she said slowly, to break the silence after a full two-minutes. “A change in regime doesn’t happen overnight, so Kiri will be unstable for a month or so at least. Maybe they’ll have themselves in order by the next Chuunin Exams, but I’ve exposed you and Isaribi-chan to too much in too little time. I’ll maintain communication with Mei-san and Utakata-san, but it’s time we left.”
He found himself agreeing, having had enough of the Bloody Mist for the time being. It had already dyed him and his world in its colors enough.
Notes: Finally, the Arc Ends!
Nguruvilu—a river-dwelling creature and looks much like a strange fox, with a long body, similar to a snake, and a long tail with fingernails that it uses like a claw; but it’s a water-being. Nguruvilus live in and are the cause of dangerous whirlpools which kill people who try to cross rivers. The creatures make the water shallow on either ford, to encourage people to try to cross it making it seem safe.
That’s right, I found an already existing creature to be used for summoning that has to do with whirlpools and foxes all in one.
Supervillains lose a lot. It sort of goes with the profession. How many times would the galaxy be wiped out without superheroes kickin’ butt every time a bad guy rears his or her head? But sometimes, we get these special character moments where the baddie puts aside his or her loser nature, embraces redemption, and fights to protect and save all that is precious to him or her. The Super-Skrull did that. And he still lost.
In a heartbreaking plot twist, the young Skrull mechanic the Super-Skrull attempted to turn into a soldier (complete with discipline, ferocity, and an unrelenting brutality) backfired completely when our protagonist pushed too hard and caused his protege to betray him. Now the Super-Skrull’s son — along with millions of innocent Skrulls — died when the Harvester of Sorrow exploded the planet Zargaz’na. We pick up our story with the captured Super-Skrull and his allies facing the…
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Jaune Arc Expelled Challenge: A Different Path
(A RWBY Fanfic)
Outline: Cardin Winchester took his information to Glynda Goodwitch, leading to Jaune being forced to leave Beacon after the events at Forever Fall. But just because that avenue was closed to him, it didn’t mean he couldn’t find another way. When he and his former friends meet again, Pyrrha see he’s a changed man. [One-Shot].
In Ozpin’s Office
“You had much potential here in Beacon,” were the first words out of Headmaster Ozpin’s mouth as he stared out the window of his office, part of the grand clock that overlooked Beacon. The gears churning above and below gave a low and continuous groan as the cup of coffee he held by the handle slowly swirled its contents with a simple motion of his wrist. “I am truly sorry it came to this, Mister Arc.”
Jaune Arc sat on the other side of his desk, the blond hair that fell over his downturned face covering it in a shadow. The expression on his face was one that was crestfallen, his dreams dashed. How could he be a hero now that Cardin had exposed him to Glynda Goodwitch the moment they got back from the Forever Fall?
It had been a choice, he knew. Protect his team or betray them. He’d chosen the former with no regret, but….
“Your dismissal will be kept quiet, for the most part,” Ozpin continued. “Merely unforeseen circumstances have led to you being unable to continue your studies for the time being. That should avoid the news getting out through official sources and prevent anymore fallout than there already is.”
It couldn’t be helped. He forged transcripts. It was unacceptable to the other students who entered after years of training, a level of dishonesty unbefitting of a Hunter and illegal. Professor Goodwitch had made that clear: No matter how good his intentions were it wasn’t proper.
“What will happen to my—” he cut himself off abruptly. He never once led them properly since they were formed. They had never been his team in reality, never the team of a liar and failure. “What will happen to the other members of the team?”
Ozpin took a sip of his coffee. The taste was unusually bitter with the flavoring of the atmosphere. “There are other future Huntresses and Huntsmen who are lacking partners. Some had lost their teammates to unfortunate circumstances, while others weren’t placed due to an irregular number of candidates. It would be for the best if one of the latter joined a team that has already formed, under the leadership of Miss Nikos.”
“I see.” It was for the best. Pyrrha was the most talented and skilled. She would lead them right.
“There’s nothing barring you from returning next year,” Ozpin told him. His cane clacked against the floor as he walked towards the disheartened former student. “So long as you qualify during the entrance exam, we will have no problem with welcoming you back.”
“I’ll consider that then,” Jaune said. “I’m still thankful for everything I’ve learned while here for such a short time.”
Ozpin nodded to the woman loitering in the distance, her expression stern. Glynda approached them as Ozpin set a hand on Jaune’s shoulder. “Then, this is goodbye for now, Jaune Arc.”
Jaune stood and followed Glynda to the elevator, catching a final glimpse of the Headmaster before the doors closed. The lift lurched to life and descended. Silence hung between the two for a brief moment.
Then the witch spoke. “This is for the best, young man. You aren’t ready for this level of combat. It has been a miracle that you’ve lasted this long without a serious injury.”
He didn’t argue with her. There was no denying that the truth was she was right. He’d only made it this far because of the people who had been at his back. It wasn’t fair that they couldn’t count on him to do the same.
Glynda took his silence as a sign to continue. “While you will make a wonderful addition to the Hunters one day, I’m afraid that isn’t now.”
“I understand,” was all he said as the lift stopped and the door opened.
“The airship will be departing in thirty-minutes,” she told him. “It will escort you to Vale. Please be aboard it or there will be ramification.”
“I will.” He took three steps off the elevator and into the corridor before turning back to the huntress and asking, “Will Cardin get away with everything he’s done?”
“Absolutely not,” she stated. “His actions will see him into an appropriate punishment by my hands. I assure you, he will not go unpunished, nor will his team.”
It was all he could ask for. He made his way down the corridor and then out of the building. In the courtyard, by the statue that stood at the center and would lead to the main avenue and landing platforms, he saw a student wearing their formal clothes and waiting for him. Her gaze was cast towards the cobblestone, arms around her waist.
“Pyrrha,” Jaune muttered with his throat dry. She was one of the last people he wanted to see at the moment. After the last time they had talked, he had said a lot of things that he wasn’t proud of. She’d offered to help him and he’d taken that offer and cast it aside rather than suffer the blow to his ego that came of it. He looked around to see if there was another path to take, maybe if he circled around the courtyard and behind the pillars…
“Jaune,” she called out, her face still out of his view. “Can we talk?”
There was no running away now that she had spotted him. He sighed and then tried to put a smile on his face, for her sake. Waving his hand as he approached, he tried to slip back into the role of the loveable idiot one last time. “Hey, Pyrrha. How’s it going tonight?”
Her emerald eyes rose to meet his blue ones. There were a number of things that were nestled within them, emotions that she tried to tamper down on: Guilt, Sorrow, Anger, and Regret. “You’re leaving.”
“Well, you know I didn’t get here on my own merits,” he said, making a gesture with his hands that said it was no big thing. “It was only a matter of time.”
She shook her head. “If I hadn’t taken you to the roof where Cardin’s room was—”
“It would have come out anyway,” he said, brushing her arguments aside. “Besides, maybe it’s good that I’m leaving now, y’know. One day it could have cost us our lives, and it would have all because of my… my pride.”
The last words were choked out. His pride ended up being his downfall, hubris reaping its toll. What right did he have to be proud when he had cheated his way in rather than taking the effort to rise to the same level they did, through years of hard work? He really had no right to even be there or had met people like her.
Clearing his throat, he looked away from her. “If that had happened then I would have never forgiven myself…. No, even if it was because Cardin was a jerk, this way was at least less harmful. Besides, what’s done is done and there’s no changing that.”
She didn’t find it in her to argue. There was no changing the Headmaster’s mind. “Then, we’ll have to say goodbye here?”
“I might be back next year if I can pass the entrance exam properly.” He rubbed the back of his head. “And it’s not like we can’t still talk, or send letters, or messages, or something like that. It depends on where I go from here.”
From there the night air whistled as it passed between them, cutting the silence in two. The short locks of his hair rustled, while her long flame-colored ponytail was caught in its fickle sway.
“I’d better get going,” he finally brought himself to say, stepping around her. The longer he dragged this out, the more painful it would be.
She reached out to grab his hand a final time, only to falter at the last minute. Instead she held it her chest and looked aside. “For what it’s worth, Jaune, you were a fine partner.”
“And you were the best,” he replied in kind, glancing over his shoulder a final time to burn into his mind the future huntress. “Tell the rest of the team that I’ll miss them. And do the same to Ruby, Weiss, and the others.”
He left down the path and boarded the small airship that was waiting, the metal lurching as the dust-powered lift-off began. Everything he’d brought with him had been packed onto the plane, not that it was much to begin with. The things that Beacon itself supplied were taken back, including the custom Scroll.
As he watched Beacon grow small in the distance, he could only think to himself that even if by some miracle he managed to pass the entrance exam the next year, it wouldn’t be the same as it was before. Even though the time since they had become a team was short, he’d felt closer to them than he would have thought possible. By next year there was a chance they’d never remembered he’d existed as anything but a clumsy fake… then again, that was to say if he could pass the exam in the first place.
The years of schooling needed to be able to match people like Ruby or even Cardin weren’t something he could invest in. If he could then he would have done so in the beginning. It was most likely a hope spot offered by Ozpin to make him not feel so bad about being a failure.
Realistically speaking, going to Beacon and becoming a Huntsman, his original path to being a hero, weren’t on the table for him as it was. But he couldn’t go home and face his family after this. Not after he vowed on his soul that he would become a hero.
If one avenue was closed to him, he would find another…
One Year Later
The airship housing the second-year class members of Beacon had touched down on the small town bordering the Jawenn Wilds. Pyrrha was amongst the first off the ship, her team falling behind her. Team PNRA (Pandorea) was still an intact and efficient unit.
Nora was still excitable and energetic, although Pyrrha suspected she was having some conflicting turmoil with her feelings regarding Lie Ren. Speaking of the intellectual of their group, they had been trying to do something about his stamina and endurance but only time will tell if that panned out. And their newest member, Aladdin, proved himself to be a suitable and capable partner.
While he wasn’t the same as Jaune, that was to be expected and compensated for. The team didn’t treat him as they would Jaune and accepted him for who he was… well, Nora did for a time but grew out of it. But the question of what could have been occasionally tip-toed on the edge of all of their minds, more than a little guilt and concern about his dismissal and subsequent disappearance for Pyrrha in specific.
Maybe that was why she didn’t exactly chastise Nora when she ‘accidentally’ broke Cardin’s legs. After all, while they all received consecutive detentions, it was never proven intentional.
Regardless, she didn’t let her emotions become influenced by those thoughts while in the middle of their training. For Hunters, in the battles against the Grimm and other forces that threatened the peace, causalities were to be expected and occurred even in Beacon and Vale. While they were fortunate enough not to have suffered any losses after last year’s Vytal Festival, there had been a number of them. It was a harsh reality of their lifestyles and careers.
So she put it away and merely hoped for the best as she armed herself for the training exercise, where they would survive in relatively hostile wilderness for a few days as part of survival training…
At least that had been the plan, until the initial training exercise had been postponed by Professor Port.
Apparently, rather than just the usual Treehopper, Beowolves, and Ursa variety of Grimm in the woods, a Timber Wyrm that was passing through had taken up residence shortly before they arrived. The professor wanted to wait until it had passed through to continue, as the training exercise was supposed to be a three-day one and at this time of the season it would be getting ready to advance south. There was no need to risk their lives when the fight could be avoided without anyone being harmed.
But complications abounded when children had gone missing in the forest and the locals had asked for help. As they weren’t full-fledged Hunters, a Timber Wyrm was the equivalent to the Death Stalker and Nevermore, and the terrain was laden with hostiles and ran the risk of starting a forest fire, Professor Port made it clear that it was an unfavorable fight. Then he announced he was going and asked for volunteers since, as future Hunters were there for the good of the people at the risk of their own lives, there would be many such encounters throughout their lives.
Now her team and few others were inside of woods with orders to find the children, only confronting the creatures of Grimm if the fighting could not be avoided. They synchronized their Scrolls for constant communication and spread out, with orders to notify the rest when the children had been found dead or alive. They could ping the signals from there and track them across the map.
Team RWBY’s leader called in first, right after a shrill and hoarse roar that rang throughout the forest and was followed by gunfire and explosions.
“We’ve got the kids in custody,” Ruby started out. “The good news: They’re safe and mostly unharmed, they just came across the Grimm while it was sleeping and one of them sprained their ankle over a root and the other couldn’t carry them both—“
Ruby was briefly cut off by the clicking of mandibles and then an explosion as it caught what sounded like a mouthful of Ember Celica’s explosive rounds. “The bad news: It just so happened to have woken up by the time we got there and stirred a nest of Treehoppers. We’re managing a fighting retreat while they hold the wyrm off, but there’s so many that we won’t be able to get back to help them in time!“
“No other Scrolls are registered in the immediate vicinity are near your coordinates,” Port spoke over the line. “The closest are those of Team PNRA to assist. Who exactly is it that’s fighting it then?“
“Uh, it’s a funny story really. I mean, really what are the odds of— ” A scream came from a young girl close to the Scroll, followed by the sound of ice parting the air and leaving an exoskeleton run through with a nasty splash of ichor. “Agh, let me just put it on the screen! How do I do the remote viewing… here we go!“
The screen transitioned from the audio and map to a video on the top of the screen, with the map being pushed off to the right and the details and markers made smaller. In the video they saw a clearing that was on fire in the distance, slowly being closed upon and clarity increasing as three figures came into view.
The flames that shrouded the clearing resembled a pond of fire that was slowly spreading, spilling out in all directions and would eat into the forest to create a bigger blaze. Standing amongst those flames that danced over the surface of the grass were two people and the massive creature of Grimm.
Pyrrha almost stopped her sprinting towards them in shock when she saw the first figure, the video capturing those same blue eyes she recognized instantly at a side angle. His blonde hair was longer than she remembered, but it had been a year. He also had a pair of firearms affixed to his lower legs by holsters, as well as a cloak that had seen some use. But, even if those allowed her fleeting thoughts of the young man being someone else, she couldn’t think of anyone else who was wielding that all-too familiar shield and sword: Crocea Mors.
Then there was the pure white, untainted outline that surrounded him, the aura shrouding the beige cloak that was being hefted by the hot air, rebuking the flames that tried to lap at his flesh and devour him as eagerly as they were doing the clearing. While his aura could shield him from the heat, the flames would be a constant drain as long as he stayed within them.
Is that…” Lie Ran started, only for Nora to blurt it out.
“It’s Jaune!” she exclaimed, leaning over Lie’s shoulder to watch the video.
Aladdin raised an eyebrow at the news, the large curved sword in his hand still held upright as he cut through the brush. “The former teammate who left?”
Nora nodded. There was a grin on her face as she poked at the corner of the screen. “Oooh, and he’s brought a friend to help slay the dragon!”
The view expanded to reveal another figure wearing a similar cloak, a blonde-hair Faunus that had ears that looked to be that of a ferret’s. He had some type of gauntlet-device, sleeker than the ones that Xiao Long used with a carousel filled with different colors of dust. With it, however, he cast a violet-blue bolt into the sky and it ruptured into a glyph.
The moisture in the air was drawn in by it, a dark cloud enveloping the glyph completely. It brought rain with a gesture of his fingers. Heavy drops of water came down to smother the flames, drowning the hungry tongues and quenching the parched earth.
The rain caused the third figure to move. Obsidian scales that ran uniformly along its body seemed to bulge as the clawed toes of its hind legs dug into the hearted earth. They sprung forward and upturned the soil and grass they held, the pinions on its back flexing as it lurched for the Faunus. The light gleaming off of the jagged claws of its left arm made it seem like the blade of the Grim Reaper as it sought the neck, carrying enough force to take everything below it off in a single swipe and spray it over the landscape.
Jaune intercepted. Taking to the front of the Dust-Mage, the Knight stood with his left leg forward in a solid stance, his shield angled to parry as his aura contorted to the front to reinforce both him and the white heater shield with golden trims. The jagged claws came down to rend the metal only to be rebuked by it and the Knight brought his longsword around to carve a bloody furrow through the scaled-palm between the claws, the blade biting into it with a faint tail of light following.
The blood that clung to the blade was then smeared across the shield rather than flicked onto the grass, across the emblem emblazed on the front. It served as a constant reminder to the wyrm that he had been the one who drew first blood, a puny man with only a blade and shield to oppose it for all its size. He was literally painting himself as a target.
The Grimm snarled in pain and rage, the antithesis and bane of its existence shrouding the blade causing the wound to froth as if poisoned. The black slits of its jade eyes, hidden behind a white-mask of bone as its skull protruded out of its head and the points formed what looked to be a frill, fixed narrowly as it lurched back, arching its long and serpentine neck in the process so its head was angled towards the Knight clad in the pale light. Small columns of acrid smoke then emerged from its nostrils as fire swelled within it.
The Knight dropped his shield hand from its rigid posture and used it to grab the shortened, triple-chamber, revolver shotgun (STCRS) in his left holster. He raised it towards the wyrm’s head and pulled the trigger thrice. Three shining darts of crimson light with thinning tails streaked forward like fireworks and exploded when they made contact with the head in a rush of heat and force.
With a flick of the wrist the chambers were exposed and the crimson casings of the spent shells were ejected, replaced by arctic-blue ones instead as he closed it and then sheathed the gun to holdfast the shield again. With careful motions he edged away from the Dust-Mage, tapping his heater shield with his sword to keep the Timber Wyrm’s attention focused on the one that hurt it.
“We have to hurry,” Pyrrha told her team, tearing her gaze away from the video as her pace doubled. The others followed suit, well aware that facing off against an enemy of that caliber with just the two of them alone was suicidal. She sped the thick of trees, crossing arching roots that jutted out of the ground trying to trip her up.
As they were the closest to the site besides Team RWBY, they made it first to a steep overlook with the clearing at the bottom. It was there they witnessed the battle still raging on, small pockets of fire that refused to be quelled by the rain still flickering in place now that the downpour had stopped.
The fact that the large Grimm now had a few weeping red lines over where black scales should have been showed that the Knight had opened it up several times when she had last checked. Just by watching the way Jaune moved she could tell he had improved in the last year. His movements were sharper, calculated and stable. It was a far cry from the memories she held to, when he was a clumsy and lovable idiot—his choice of words, not hers.
The wyrm let loose a deep and shrill rasp as its head came around from the left, maw with scorching flames pooled. It exhaled and spewed forth a blazing stream, hungry flames seeking to devour everything caught in their path greedily. And Jaune was right in that path, his shield upraised to intercept it.
There was a flare of white, blinding as it met the aura-reinforced shield. Even from the overlook they nearly took a step back as the meeting of the two created a crashing wave of force, leaving her heart to lurch at the thought of him being point-blank. She managed to pry open her eyelids and squinted at the sight of the flames washing around the shield and leaving the earth beneath him scorched black as his sneakers slid back. The sheer force of the controlled breath of flames was trying to knock him down, grounding him and then enveloping him in its fiery embrace until his bones were charred and then scattered into ashes.
She noticed he gritted his teeth. The strain to hold on must’ve been staggering. For an instant his legs seemed to buckle, only adrenaline and sheer determination straitening them out. They became marble columns, pillars of stone that would not fall. She knew from the look in his eye from behind the shield, visible if she struggled to look beyond the flames and between the gaps as the tongue tried to lick at his flesh, that he refused to collapse.
However, the Grimm was not merely a mindless beast. It had a feral cunning befitting a predator that was not to be underestimated. If the Knight wouldn’t fall on his own, then it would take away the legs he stood upon. The flames continued to pour out while its elongated tail snaked around like a serpent, hidden by the glare as it sped towards his legs to take them from under him.
Pyrrha could see it coming from her vantage point and screamed for him to notice, but his focus was on barring the flames from bathing him and the roar of the blaze drowned out her voice. Thus she watched as the tail came around like a sledgehammer to knock down the pillars that wouldn’t bend…
A flash of green appeared between the Knight and the sledgehammer tail, a viridian glyph that held a circle within a circle that had numerous hexagons within the outer ring and a pentagon within the inner one that had a second glyph woven into it. Defensive in nature, the first acted as an unyielding bulwark to stand against the sledgehammer while the second softened the blow by applying reverse vectors upon impact, discharging the aura in it to rebound the tail so that it didn’t by some change breakthrough using sheer physical force.
The Dust-Mage was still there. He had always been there, silently preparing for the counter-attack. Watching the Knight’s back as he held the front-line, the Faunus flicked his hands out like he would if water were on his fingers and then brought two digits together as he used them to mark invisible symbols into the air.
The flames were pushed back by a reddish glyph that appeared in front of the shield, a second layered behind it. Naval-blue in hue, it drew in moisture and created a stream of water that was ejected through the first glyph and met with the flames. The resulting steam created a veil that obscured them from the Timber Wyrm’s view.
The Grimm stopped heaving fire at the target it could not see. It spread its mighty wings, black pinions with leathery skin between them, and then began to beat them. The gale it called up washed away the steam to reveal the Knight standing where he had been, only with his aura built up around the tip of the sword, swelling as it took the shape of a wedge of light.
The wyrm lunged with its maw opened. Charcoal fangs dyed the color of blood in patches held strands of thick saliva between them. It would devour the Knight whole.
Jaune thrust the blade forward and the coalesced wedge of aura was launched and slammed right into the gaping jaws of the Grimm. Its head snapped back, the long neck whipping around and into the ground from the force. The wyrm warbled as it tried to stop the world from spinning and the stout yet short hind legs stumbled back as it tried to correct itself sloppily.
Pyrrha wondered if that was his Semblance. Some sort of repulsion effect that turned the defensive nature of his aura from a shield to a sword. It must’ve been a drain to fire it like that, given he was now huffing, even with the amount of aura he possessed from when she pulled it out of him. It was more proof that he had been training his usage in it as he looked like he was getting ready to do it again, strings of light drifting off his body and slithering along the length of his sword.
Not that the Grimm would let him charge for another strike. The Timber Wyrm was flapping its wings and kicking up a gale again, this time readying to take to the skies. From there it could rain fire down on them with impudence if it got high enough.
After that last attack and series of glyphs it was possibly their combined auras were depleted enough that there was a chance they couldn’t defend against that sort of assault. Or it would set the forest ablaze and catch the rest of the teams inside of it. That thought snapped her out of the trance she had been in watching them do battle.
“Nora, get ready to bring it down before it gets too high,” Pyrrha ordered, shifting Miló into its rifle form and taking the Grimm’s eye in her crosshairs. Aladdin and Lie’s ranged weapons couldn’t cover the distance. The excitable heroine, who had been enjoying the fight between the Knight and Dust-Mage against the Grimm, saluted with a wide grin on her face before readying her Magnhild. “On my mark…”
They needn’t bothered.
No sooner than it achieved lift did a glyph, more complex than Pyhrra had seen before and large enough to encompass the girth of the Grimm, appear on the ground beneath it. It shone with a twisted-dusk light that created some sort of downward force that made the air around it shift. Localized gravity manipulation if she had to guess, meaning it would alter the trajectory of the missiles and gunfire depending on the strength and throw them off.
A defiant hiss escaped the maw of the Grimm. Muscles straining beneath the scales as pinions struggled to flap against the gravity well. It was possibly too big to bring down so easily. More than that, it refused to bow to the two of them of its own accord.
The Faunus refused to let it continue to hold its head high above them. Like it had tried to knock away the pillars that held the Knight upright, he would clip the wings that held the Grimm aloft. The discharge of dust was heard thrice from both the gauntlets of the Dust-Mage as he extended his right hand forward and braced it with the left.
Smaller glyphs of the same design at the one pinning the Timber Wyrm encircled it in a square-design, multiplying the force drastically. The ground strained and rumbled as it gave way under the pressure, small fissures running from the center and spreading out as the depression beneath the glyph grew deeper. The atmosphere itself seemed to be shifting in the clearing, drawn into it like a black hole.
Pinions became lead and dropped down, the mass of scales buckling under the assault. With a mighty crash it deepened the depression and would have thrown up a cloud of dust if the gravity didn’t keep it anchored. The Dust-Mage made the Grimm kneel, its head low to the ground with a muted, bubbling growl as the columns of smoke from its nostrils were flattened as well.
Jaune said something that was partially drowned out by the Timber Wyrm’s furious cry at being bound, tethered to the ground by the glyphs that acted as localized points of intensified gravity. The Dust-Mage heard, however, and nodded. A gesture of his left hand was all it took for a glyph that was angled skyward to spring into existence in front of the Knight.
He rushed for the glyph and jumped through the luminous design. The moment contact was made he was accelerated skywards, the g-forces pulling at him like thick chains that bound him to the earth. At the apex of his climb he raised his sword and light gathered into it, swelling like before into a newborn star shining radiantly and casting aside the shadows below.
He swung downwards. Caught in the gravity well, the blow bore the weight and force of his entire aura was backed by the intensified gravity. The dazzling daystar fell to Earth in the form of a crescent blade.
Pyrrha saw it for what it was as the mighty Grimm laid helpless, with its neck outstretched. If the blade followed the same theory that it carried the repulsion of his aura then, concentrated in a point, it would repulse against both sides of the blade as it moved down, forcing them apart. With the gravity ensuring it would come down hard, the end result would be…a guillotine, of course.
The impact was thunderous, snuffing the flames as a fierce wind and dust was kicked up with the destruction of the glyphs holding the Grimm down. By the time it cleared they could see that the Timber Wyrm had been beheaded, black steam rising as it began its slow evaporation of decay. The skull-masked head was in the distance, eyes dim without the crimson light of life within.
Jaune had landed at some point when the dust was still lingering in the air. He whipped the blade sharply to the side, flicking off any remaining life-blood of the Grimm from the blade and onto the scorched and depressed grass. He used his cloak to clean the shield, revealing the emblem once more that had been emblazed upon it.
Shifting it into a scabbard, he sheathed the sword and slung it over his back. He then turned towards the Faunus and walked towards him. He was leaving again, back to her without noticing them.
Pyrrha wanted to call for him, but a thought occurred after watching that fight. He and the Faunus made an excellent team, partners she even dared to say if she could speak. The role she once held with him and lost. What if he didn’t need them anymore? What if he didn’t need her anymore?
“JAUNE!” Nora yelled with all the force she could muster, waving with the hand that didn’t hold the grenade launcher at the ready. If she had any doubts like Pyrrha did, they didn’t show at all. She honestly admired that about the hammer-wielder.
Jaune turned in a swift-motion, one hand reaching to his side for a firearm and the other reaching back for his sword, until his blue eyes fell upon them. It was then Pyrrha noticed his once unblemished face had been permanently marred, a large scar running diagonally from the left side of his forehead, past the bridge of his nose, and then down to his right cheek. His expression was one of surprise, before he relaxed, put on a smile, and waved back.
She opened her mouth to say something, but the sound gunfire in the distance reminded them that this was a battlefield. He nodded towards the direction of the sound, tapped his partner on the shoulder, and then drew his firearms to confront the excess numbers that remained. Pyhrra motioned for the others to do the same and assist their comrades still performing a fighting retreat…
An Hour Later
“Excellent hunt, my boy!” Professor Port told the young Knight after every team had gathered back in town and the children were tended to before being reunited with their parents. “Why, back when I was in my prime…”
Jaune listened with half-attention as his gaze fell to the distance where his friends, or former friends depending on how well they remembered him, were.
Nora seemed like she was ready to jump up, always the bundle of energy that she was. He couldn’t help but wonder how Lie Ren, who was keeping her in check at the shoulders, managed most of the time. Ah well, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Ruby, the first friend he’d made during his time at Beacon, had a giddy smile on her face and was waving at him with both hands above her head. He noticed that her hair had grown somewhat and she’d gotten just a bit taller too. Her sister, Yang, was also waving, only with much less enthusiasm. Blake just hung back next to them, although she gave him a welcoming nod.
Weiss, the Snow Angel, seemed content to strike up a conversation with Noyuu. The Dust-Mage had been his partner for a few months now as they made their way here. They were gesturing and bringing up small glyphs, so he guessed they were exchanging notes or something.
There was someone he didn’t recognize leaning against the wall. The new guy was tall; dark with tanned skin behind a vest and thick pants, and possibly handsome if Jaune had to admit. He wore a Scimitar on his back with an abnormally thick blade that had a hinge halfway through. Given what Jaune knew from his travels and time at Beacon, the blade probably folded down to reveal the barrel of a gun hidden in it.
His eyes stopped roaming when they fell on Pyrrha, the flame-haired warrior who he’d been partnered with by pure chance. For a moment he noted that her taut figure seemed even more alluring than before while draped in her combat armor. But he brushed the thoughts aside when he saw how close she was to the new guy.
Once the professor had taken his leave to report the situation to Ozpin, they approached him. Nora ran up to him and slammed into him with an open-arm hug alongside Ruby. It was almost enough to bring him down when the Grimm couldn’t.
His excitable teammate promptly started to ramble. “You were practically like one of those knights in the fairy tales who had to slay dragons to rescue princesses and—”
“—that was so awesome how you just stood there, with the flames rolling around your shield and then you jumped and then—” Ruby, also seemed to be just as excited now that the fighting was over. Apparently her Scroll had caught the entire thing.
It was this atmosphere that he’d missed since his departure from Beacon. The weight of their lives on the line sinking down and impressing upon them absent, knowing that there was safety in numbers. Not just allies, but friends.
“Where’d you get the cool scar?” Nora asked, snapping his attention back to her.
Ruby added hastily, “Not that it looks bad or anything. In fact it kinda makes you look cooler, and—”
“Okay, you two give him some space,” Yang said, lifting her sister with one hand easily by the hood of her cloak. “He just got back from fighting a wyrm. Give him some time to breathe.”
“Nora, that’s not polite to ask someone,” Lie Ren chided his childhood friend while he managed to wrest her free.
Freed of the other two, he managed to scratch the back of his head. He didn’t want to bring up exactly how he got the scar since it would sour the mood. So what he said next was a carefully measured lie, the truth buried within it to an extent. “It’s no big deal. Just ran into something I wasn’t expecting. It’s a risk when fighting the Grimm.”
“Those are an interesting choice for firearms,” Lie Ren mused as his gaze fell towards Jaune’s legs. “May I?”
He pulled out the STCRSs and handed them over so Lie could inspect them. “They were a gift you could say. I know they’re nothing special, probably even relics, but at the time I needed a ranged weapon and they’re easy to use. On the positive-side, they’ve been modified so they’re dust-cartridge compatible as well as being able to use regular rounds. I usually keep those in the right one while the left contains the dust ones.”
As Lie turned them over and noticed the age and wear on them, the new guy approached and stuck his hand out for Jaune to shake. “Name’s Aladdin. I joined up after you were gone.”
So that makes him Pyrrha’s new partner, Jaune guessed. He looked like he knew what he was doing and could keep up with her. That was more than what he was capable of back then. That was probably the case even now.
The Knight shook his hand earnestly. “Jaune Arc. Thanks for looking after them. All of them.”
“Al’s all sorts of fun!” Nora told him. “Not that we didn’t miss you too, right Boss?”
Eyes turned to Pyrrha, whose head snapped up from being deep in thought. “Huh? Oh, um… right. Yes, we missed you very much, Jaune.”
The smile that formed her face at the end almost drew him in, but he turned his head and gestured towards the Dust-Mage. “Well, since we’re doing introductions, let me introduce Noyuu Arcys.”
The short-haired blonde Faunus bowed his head, obscuring his green-eyes. “It’s nice to meet all of you. Jaune told me a bit about you when we were traveling.”
Blake then spoke up for the first time. “So, what were you doing in the forest? It’s not the sort of place we expected a reunion to happen.”
“We were passing through the forest to get here to restock on supplies as we made our way to Vale,” Noyuu began. “Jaune had some business there, a delivery to make I believe, and I’ve been following him for some time. We’ve been on foot for the most part, passing through small villages and such.”
“It was just a coincidence that we all met this time…” Jaune trailed off as Lie handed his guns back.
Yang then popped up between the Knight and the Dust-Mage and slung her arms around their necks, bringing their heads towards hers in the center. “Well, since you two seem to have some interesting stories to tell, let’s go find some place to sit and talk about them.”
She then dragged them off, the rest following…
Night had fallen, draping the sky like dark satin, as Pyrrha excused herself from the others who were leaving to get ready for bed. The training exercise would begin in the morning and they needed to be well-rested. Likewise, the Faunus accompanying Jaune had left to get them a room for the night.
That left the two of them alone, Jaune sitting at a booth with his eyes staring into the half-filled cup. The flame-haired huntress-in-training steeled herself, before taking a seat next to him and asking. “Are you okay, Jaune?”
He looked up from his cup and tilted his head slightly. “What do you mean?”
“Your stories,” she started. “They were measured, the words carefully chosen to leave out some details. When no one was looking and your friend had their attention, your expression changed too…”
He acknowledged her points with a nod and then took a sip from his cup before addressing her. “Some of the others probably noticed too but didn’t want to bring the mood down when we’ve just gotten back.”
Pyrrha looked towards his scar and asked. “Jaune, I know I don’t have any right to ask this now, but… what is it that’s happened to you?”
He closed his eyes and sighed. “Pyrrha, it’s been harder than I ever thought possible. The hazardous terrains, dealing with monsters other than the Grimm—Human Bandits and Thieves, Rogue and Corrupt Hunters, Racist and Extremist Faunus…”
Blue-eyes opened and stared coldly at his hands as the fingers slowly closed into fists. “I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of to survive, from scavenging from corpses to having to kill in self-defense. I’ve lost the people I fought alongside against some Grimm that we’d never seen before, been stranded in hostile territory without my weapons, and betrayed by others I thought I could trust. I didn’t want them to know, so I lied and put on the same mask as before—the lovable idiot.”
“If it’s hard then you can always come back to Beacon,” she offered, slipping his hand into hers. She felt how calloused the tips of his fingers were from all the fighting he’d done. “I’m sure that Professor Port would give you and your friend recommendations for a belated entrance examination for the second semester in a few months, and I could tutor you so you could pass the written portions. You’ll be with people you trust, comrades who’ll fight alongside you, and when you graduate you won’t be alone handling everything out there.”
“I… I don’t know if I want to,” he admitted, his head low as he gently removed his hand from hers.
She seemed taken aback by the admission. “Why not? If it’s about Cardin—”
Jaune laughed a bit at that. “No, he doesn’t even rank as a threat anymore. Not after all the stuff I mentioned. I’ve dealt with people much worse than him. If anything I’d be afraid that I would hurt him too badly.”
“Then why?” she asked again.
“Pyrrha…” He turned towards the window facing the direction of the forest and just stared into the Grimm-laden territory. “Those children… would you guys have reached them in time before the wyrm seared their skin and turned their bones to ashes?”
“There’s no way of knowing,” she admitted. Her team probably wouldn’t have at least. “I’m just glad we didn’t have to find out.”
“The thing is, in the villages and towns outside of the four kingdoms they would have given the children up for dead because they couldn’t risk losing more people looking for them in that sort of terrain. All of you being here and willing to help was a fortunate coincidence, but normally Hunters wouldn’t even be on the table since there simply aren’t enough of them around to look for one or two people or the people can’t afford the services of those willing to take that risk.”
“That’s why we need more people like you,” she reasoned. “When I think about everything that happened this last year, I think about how things would have been different if you were around. If you were leading us….”
“I know, but you’re still three years away from being certified Hunters,” the Knight said. “What about the people who can’t wait until then? Someone has to do something to keep them alive until that point and, for all of the problems, pain, and suffering, I’m making a difference out there….”
At least I’d like to think so, he tacked on silently.
Pyrrha let a soft sigh flow from her lips and looked down at her hands on the booth table. She stayed like that, quiet in thought with only the sound of Jaune sipping his drink and the chatter in the other booths as ambient noise. What was she supposed to say to convince him to at least try and come back when his point was valid?
They could only reach so far from Beacon and Vale. Would it be better for the world to just leave him to continue what he’s doing? Even if it meant she wouldn’t see him again, just knowing that he was out there, doing good and being a hero like he wanted… that should make her happy, right?
“I thought about all of you,” Jaune said abruptly, breaking the awkward silence. “During the especially rough times, I remembered all of you and the fun we had. It was all that kept me going at some points. I would always ask myself: What would Pyrrha do?”
“… When I have to make decisions for the team,” she started, in admission to his confession, “I can’t help but wonder if you would have done something different. Better than me. Like, one time Nora had gotten really hurt and I blamed myself for weeks because it was my call that led to it happening. I asked myself what it was that you would have done too, so I understand.”
She stood up, set her hand on his shoulder, and looked into his eyes softly. “I won’t try to convince you to come back if you think what you’re doing is the path for you, Jaune. Just know that I’ll always be there and, no matter what has been said and done, I was proud to be your friend and partner. I still am.”
“Pyrrha…” He lowered his hand into his pocket and pulled out a Scroll, using it to send his contact information to her. “Use that to contact me, for any reason. If you just want to ask me what I would do, or talk, or… anything really…”
She nodded and left, her ponytail drifting gently from side-to-side as she walked away.
After his former partner left, Jaune turned his attention back to his drink and noted he was almost out. He called for a refill. While he waited, he reached up and touched his scar, running two fingers across the marking from forehead-to-cheek as he thought about the offer to return.
Once he’d finished what he was going to Vale for, he didn’t have much of a destination in mind. He’d thought about wandering around outside the kingdoms where they needed it, but truth be told there was only so much ground he could cover. Any people he helped like today would be more chance than anything, but there were those who needed a chance at the very least. A small part of him wondered if he was just using that as an excuse to run into the mysterious Grimm again by pure chance and avenge the dead.
Maybe he should at least try to get entrance to Beacon again? In the last year he’d learned a lot and gained a lot of combat experience. What seemed like a mere hope spot before was a real possibility for him now. More so if Noyuu followed….
Once the drink had been refilled he figured they’d been in town for another day or two and he could decide then…
End Notes: As of right now this is a one-shot. I was looking around for stories where Cardin followed through on his threat and Jaune got expelled because I saw potential in the story. Take this one for example. If I were to expand it there are a few ways I could do it:
1.) With Port vouching for him having exceptional skills (like Ruby did) he could be allowed to enter into the same year as the others if he passed a combat and written exam, which Pyrrha could help him study in Vale when not in class. If he got back in, he could try and reconnect with his old team while still dealing with the losses he went through prior, or join with a new team.
2.) He could act on his own or with his companion to deal with Grimm surrounding the continent as an exterminator. Maybe he discovers a plot involving the Grimm or faces off against the mysterious one from before that scarred his face and cost him a lot of people he knew.
3.) He could end up getting swept up as a bodyguard for some official and end up as a key figure against Cinder and Roman for whatever plan they have.
4.) The story could flashback to after he left and chronicles the events that happened to the point we’re at.
See, plenty of potential from that alone and, if you’re willing to tamper with the time of how long he was gone rather than a full year, you can find more.
Also yes, the Faunus helping him was an expy of Yunno Scrya from Nanoha series. Because the man doesn’t get enough love…
Didn’t see that coming at the end….
The only hope to save the Skrull planet of Zargaz’na lies in the hands of Skrull traitor/washed up war hero Kl’rt (y’know, the Super-Skrull). The guy’s tough, but he’ll need an army to protect the planet and defeat the Harvester of Sorrow, a gigantic battleship that can destroy planets and other terrible things. So far, his army consists of himself and a small Skrull child. Not a great start.
Today, our protagonist mounts his initial attack on this bug-carrying behemoth. After a recruiting drive. And remember the little Skrull mechanic who wanted to follow his father’s commander and his personal hero? It turns out that the “super” part of Super-Skrull’s name is short for supervillain.
R’kin (the kid’s name) might be looking at Super-Skrull in black-and-white terms. I mean, the Super-Skrull reeks of evil and his ruthlessness is only matched by his apathy in those who care about his ruthlessness. But…
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[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/gfoVg6v9ZwA?p=1 width=”600″ height=”400″]
So much awesome…
The fourth episode starts out with Penny explaining to Ruby that she’s the world’s first andriod that can generate an Aura. Ruby takes it extremely well and Penny glomps her, explaining that General Ironwood and her father built her to save the world one day and to enter the torunament to test herself. She then hides Ruby so she doesn’t get in trouble with the guards when they take her away.
Yang and Neptune then enter the bad part of town, in Junior’s bar. You know the same bar she wrecked in her trailer. Junior’s men are terrified of her, and Neptune is enthralled by her. Blake and Sun, in the meantime infiltrate the White Fang meeting. She explains that humanity wanted to make monsters out of them so they wear Grimm Masks.
Roman appears during the meeting and riles them up against the Government, showing them he’s bought them a giant robot, Atlas’ newest line of defense that his client got. With Junior, Yang learns from him that after Roman got his men he never saw them again.
When Roman sees them, they shoot out the lights and then jump out the window with the giant robot chasing them. Sun and Blake calls in the others for backup and we get a car chase scene, where Neptune shows he’s just as badass with a halberd and Sun can create clones. They then work together in combination attacks. Weiss shows she knows the Haste spell while Yang gets stronger with every hit she takes like some kind of badass berserker.
Roman is about to get his ass kicked, when some woman named Neo crates a mirror clone of them while they get away. Damn, this reminds me of Pieces and Players, when they went through that first boss battle. So metal.
5 out of 5, and only because there’s no higher number in my reviews!
We skip ahead three months later in issue #8 of Avengers Undercover. Who’s going native in the arc? Read below to find out!
The comic begins with a couple of panels of the Masters of Evil screwing over SHIELD while Hazmat is working alongside Ax-Bro and Madam Masque to basically get Sabertooth and Mystique’s attention in Madripoor. She’s striking up a deal for them while the kids get to talking about everything and then kissing one another. Well, both lost their lovers so I shouldn’t be surprised they’d hook up, but afterwards Hazmat calls up Hank Pym and apparently set things in motion.
When Hazmat goes to talk to Death Locket about it, who has basically done an evil makeover, she reveals that she’s playing for the other team now. Ax-Bro goes to talk to Cullen about it, but Damien seems to have him under mind-control at this point and sics him on the ax-less Celtic god.
Hazmat tries to tell Death Locket to pull herself together, but she’s having none of it since they’re her friends while she’s some stranger that tried to blow her up. Hazmat then decides to cut her losses and leave, giving shovel-boy a shot in the groin and stealing his magic shovel, before Death Locket tries to stop her. Hazmat pretty quickly takes her down, stating that she never did teach her how to fight.
Nico then wakes up because of all the noise to see Cullen trying to eat Ax-Bro and wonders what he’s doing. Alex, who isn’t wearing a shirt, points out that Damien is controlling him and that Zemo is springing his trap. When she asks what that is, he points out that they were never part of the game, but were bait to lure in the heroes as Zemo watches them arrive while the comic ends.
Okay, review time….
Let’s start with the fact that the art is worse than before. But at least the plot is moving. We see how everyone is acting, with Chase being referenced to being a coma (damn it) and Cammi is still in her cell. Cullen, well we had hints to him being controlled earlier, but Death Locket was somewhat of a shock. Points for that one.
It gets a 4 out of 5.
Miguel O’ Hara of 2099 is in the Heroic Age and he’s here to stay for some time. Read my review of Spider-Man 2099 #2!
The issue begins with Miguel enjoying the spider-man luck… by that I mean problems show up wherever he goes. He’s making a trip to the bank, it promptly gets robbed. After about five minutes and some acrobatic feats, he gets some flowers and promptly starts flirting with the girl from the last issue. He even gets inside her apartment, but screws it up when he reveals he knows she’s sick. Give the man some credit, he at least knows he was being too intrusive and apologizes before leaving.
On his way back up, Liz Allen shows up and catches a ride with him to his room. He’s only got a chair in it, I swear. Anyway, Liz asks him who he really is because she’s looked up the SSN and did a thorough background check on his ass.
He briefly entertains the thought of killing her, only to decide against it because it was too dramatic. I found it disturbing because there was no sign it was an imagine spot until afterwards, but he does come up with a reasonable lie after she explains she think he’s the Spider-Man from before.
He explains that he’s an Alchemax employee from 2099 and Ty stone is his grandfather and he wanted him to live up to his full potential. If she tells anyone, he either leaves or will throw her out a window. Again disturbing, but most of it was somewhat true.
Anyway, she mostly cares about how he changed his clothing so quickly, so he shows her Lyla and then asks what he wants. She kisses him for some reason and then goes about her way, leaving him as confused as I am. What is with all the spiders getting some action this week? Naturally Tempest shows up afterwards and explains she has Leukemia and she has months to live, before going about her way as the comic ends.
Okay, review time…
This basically a follow-up to the last issue, introducing all the players in the game. There’s the boss who knows his secret and seeks to exploit it, there’s the sick love-interest and he just so happens to be an expert in genetics, and there’s the archrival grandfather who’s kind of a dick.
Still, call it a 4 out of 5.