[Wind Monk Banishment] Chapter 15 (Main)
Naruto: Wind Monk Banishment 15 (Main)
Chapter 15: Selfish Desires
Tsunade nursed the mother of all headaches—no. No, a headache was too weak of a word. She nursed the mother of all migraines as she briskly walked through the corridors. She had to take her leave of that trip to meet the Wind Daimyo when a summoning had reached her with a short message containing six words:
Agents dead. Fox missing. Red Dawn.
Jiraiya could handle the meeting. That was the second worse combination of words she could have gotten in a non-coded, non-secure message. The worst would have been: Village destroyed.
Now she walked towards the medical room of the Anbu detainment facility, separate from that of the hospital because of the nature of both the work and those brought in, being briefed by one of her Anbu that had been on the scene. She supposed that was the first of the bad news—several key agents and assets were missing, including Naruto.
The second of the bad news was that Sasuke Uchiha had been on the scene, cradling his brother’s corpse while holding a hand over his eyes. They had to knock him out to get him away from her half-burned down home and he was currently in the medical room, recovering from what looked to be severe chakra exhaustion and moderate damage to the chakra system—consistent with that of a Gentle Fist-related injury. The corpse was in the morgue, just waiting to be dealt with by her.
The third was that the corpse of Hinata Hyuuga was found near the base of wooded lands her ancestral home was perched on, right around the time that her younger sister happened to have stumbled upon the corpses of several of their clan’s elders. Though an investigation wasn’t really needed since the suspect was obvious, they would carry one out regardless if asked out of obligation—though she suspected they probably wanted to keep that quiet.
The on-spot forensic investigation of Hinata Hyuuga revealed that she had more than one severe wound, with fragments of some kind of wood splinters found within them. They would need to be put under the microscope, but the fatal strike was the one done to her heart with extreme accuracy, possibly up-close. Yet her body was laid down neatly judging from the posture they found her in, rather than left to crumple to the ground, and no fragments of wood were found there.
Several facts were clear from that much alone: There had been at least three parties involved in the conflict, one of whom possessed expert intelligence-gathering and infiltration techniques considering she kept the location locked down and guarded by Anbu. Hinata clearly snapped and attacked Sasuke. And Naruto had very likely been taken in the confusion.
Entering the room, guarded by two Anbu on the outside and one on the inside, she bypassed them to find that Sasuke was awake. He wasn’t moving, only staring down at his hands. Nor was he responding to the questions being asked.
“Uchiha,” she said firmly. It got his attention as he turned the dull black eyes towards her. Oh she remembered having those after Dan died right in front of her eyes. Her voice was a little softer this time. “You weren’t supposed to be at the scene, so can you explain what happened before I need to get a member of T & I involved?”
He took a deep breath and nodded. The Anbu inside took that as a cue to start the audio recorder. “… I was on my way home after an evening out with my current relationship partner when I came across Kiba Inuzuka. He was inebriated, being carried on his Ninja Hound, Akamaru. He mentioned having seen Hinata Hyuuga outside of the manor, despite her being under House Arrest. After confirming it with Akamaru, I went towards the location.”
He continued on after that, droning lifelessly. His words painted a vivid, ugly picture as he recounted Hinata and her claims of not encountering the Anbu, meaning they had been killed well before she arrived, as well as the culprit responsible for planning on framing them for the death of Naruto while spiriting him away having both a Sharingan and Wood Release—two things that should have never been mixed given they belonged to opposing clans, and weren’t supposed to even exist anymore outside of three individuals.
The only good news was that Naruto had apparently woken up. But he was gone and possibly had been taken outside of the village—though the sheer destruction showed there had been a brief fight. There was a chance he might have gotten away, but they couldn’t bet on that given his body should have been overtaxed from the lack of motion while he was comatose.
“Show me your eyes,” she ordered, after hearing his description of the burning he felt in them at the end. He looked up and the black pupils were dyed red as the pattern came to the forefront. It reminded her of a Scarlet Trumpet in bloom. “Don’t use them until you’ve recovered. We’ll handle the investigation into what you’ve told us discreetly for now.”
“Itachi said he left a will for me in his robes,” Sasuke said softly as his eyes went back to their dark tone.
“…I’ll have it brought up shortly,” she assured him, before turning and walking out the room. There was work to be done—starting with getting this information to Jiraiya.
Fuu’s chakra-wings worked themselves at a steady, rhythmic beat as she crossed the cliffs that nestled far into Wind Country, far out of the way of most travel caravans and well-off the beaten path. The travel-bag slung over her shoulder drifted as a hot wind blew, and sweat dotted her forehead as the sun glared at her from above. The only shielding she had from its rays searing her caramel-toned skin was the wrap around her lime-green hair and the cloak that she slit two opening into so that her wings could work without compromising it.
Past the cliffs were desert grasslands that spread from the bottom of the craggy slope onwards, with bunches of grass that seemed as dust-colored as the ground surrounding it, only sparse outcroppings of bright green flora and twisted trees. A pack of coyotes lounging around lifted their heads when her shadow passed over them, as if contemplating to give chase, only to lie back down.
A pulse of chakra connected her with the insects that span the scope of her tenet’s understanding, instantly bringing them under the Beetle King’s thrall. While the Tailed-Beast focused on managing the information, she stopped and lowered herself to the ground beneath a tree that’s canopy fanned open like an umbrella. She sat down, giving herself a breather, and slaked her thirst with the canteen while she waited for a bit.
The reason she was traveling so far out was because word had reached her that Naruto had gotten away from the village by Kanna. It was the day after she had spent hours searching for that black creature to no avail, so they had to assume it fled. Whatever her admitted feelings towards the young Wind Daimyo were, she couldn’t pass up a chance to check up on Naruto, so here she was.
Sweat that cascaded from her forehead down to her orange-eyes stung, forcing her to wipe it away, when the insects picked something up. A lizard half the length of her body lay still within something dark, one of many that a few flies felt the bead-like skin with their legs. The tang of blood reached her from the mosquitoes that had laid claim to an opened wound. It could be a clue, given the Ferrets ate meat.
Fuu put the canteen away and then took back to the air towards it, just over two minutes away. When she arrived at the spot, something cutting through the air quickly reached the Beetle King through the gathering of smaller gnats and flies it had been amassing. The wings stalled briefly before she could be shot through the heart with an arrow that churned the air as it continued upwards and then fluttered to life again.
She looked down to see a larger-than-average ferret with a camouflaged bandana on its head, and what looked to be stalk of some kind in its mouth. It was crouched low in a spaced mound of taller grass, reaching back for another arrow from its quiver. She waved her hands and yelled out before it could nock another arrow, causing it to squint its eyes and then realized its mistake. It lowered the arrow into the quiver on its back and then pulled itself out of cover.
Fuu dropped low and frowned. That arrow had Wind chakra layered on the tip. It could have killed her. “What’s the big idea?”
“Sorry about that,” the male ferret said in a gruff voice as he pulled out a sack. The flies and mosquitoes she had been tracking were in it. The ferret had caught a bunch of desert lizards, some big and some small. “I thought you were a big bird. You take good pickings where you can get them, and we don’t get a lot of humans out here.”
“I bet….” She sighed. “I’m looking for the Ferret Village. They should be expecting me.”
“That right?” His nose twitched and his head came to a stop at her bag. “I smell something good there. Maybe a nibble will spark my memory.”
Fuu reached into her bag and then opened a smaller pouch within to pluck out two chunks of dried meat snacks. They were for Pace, but there were more than enough to share. The ferret plucked it out of her hands, pulled out a small jar it kept its it quiver, and dipped the meat into the sauce inside of it before taking a bite while Fuu crossed her arms and tapped her feet.
“Mmmm…” The ferret smacked its lips when it was done. “Quality meat. Not as stringy.”
“Satisfied?” she asked.
“Mm-hmm.” He put the jar back into the quiver and twisted around in a southwest direction. “Head towards an outcropping that way and you’ll find what you’re looking for. I’d advise walking when you get closer. Sometimes the hawks get cocky and try snatch up kits, so the others are liable to shoot more than once.”
Fuu took that to heart and kept low to the ground as she renewed her flight over the grassland, eventually coming along what seemed to be a large section of grassland that had been upturned to expose bare soil, surrounded by a ring of pounded dirt upon that reminded Fuu of a pathway and several mounds that had hobs and jills with bows similar to the one that pointed the path to her.
She halted her flight and started to walk, only for a small blur to rush towards her before she could reach the guard mounds. She went onto her guard until it leapt towards her face and decelerated, allowing her to make out what was in the blur. It was Pace.
“Boss Lady, you made it!” Pace chirped as he leapt onto her shoulder and started licking her face. “I’m so happy to see you!”
A warm smile came across her lips and she found herself laughing at the tickling sensation of his tiny tongue against her cheek. She crouched down and set him onto the ground, running her palm over the top of his head. “I get that you’re happy, but you shouldn’t be so jumpy.”
“I can’t help it!” He was so excited that he bouncing around, hopping sideways, leaping around, and bumping into her leg. “I’ve been practicing my Swift Release since I got caught and couldn’t help you guys the last time. It makes me jumpy.”
“You have a Bloodline Limit?” He nodded his head frantically. “I didn’t know that.”
“All of us ferrets have quick metabolisms because we have a natural inclination to Yang chakra, which is why we eat a lot when we have to do stuff and sleep most of the day unless you summon us,” he explained. “But some of us are born with strong ties to Wind chakra too rather than having to learn how to use it, so when we focus on them together we can go faster than the others and usually become messengers. Race is the fastest, but I’m going to learn how to use it to fight by practicing a lot, so I can help you guys next time…”
He trailed off as he sniffed the air and looked to her bag. “Only it makes me hungry too, so can I—”
“They’re for you in the first place.” She pulled out the pouch of meat snacks and set them down for him. “This is from both me and Kanna, as thanks for your help in getting Naruto to safety. We were both very happy to hear it.”
“Thanks!” He nuzzled her hands and then sat down to start eating—
—then there was another blur and the bag was gone. Pace’s head swiveled around until his eyes fell onto a ferret roughly twice his size, with a white pelage covered in black stripes. It plucked one of the meaty treats out of the bag and nibbled on it in delight.
“Give those back, Dash!” Pace demanded, making a soft squeaking noise as the hob swallowed it and licked his lips. “Those are mine! She said it! You heard her!”
“Hehehe,tooslowbro.Gottagofast!” said the very hyper hob before he grabbed the bag between his teeth and then took off in another blur.
“I said give it back!” Pace promptly crouched low, the wind around him swirling as a golden hue coated his pelage. “Giveit!Giveit!Giveit!”
Fuu had a small smile on her face as she watched him zip off into the distance after the other ferret, using the pounded dirt that rimmed the mounds as a racing track. If she had to guess, the rapid speech was due to being in that speedy state. It was cute, but he didn’t tell her where Naruto was.
After she got crossed the guard mounds, she reached down into her chakra reserves and surged it out in the form of a wave to connect to the insects within the village. She had to practice on her own rather than allowing Choumei to shoulder everything for her. It would be good practice for when she began recruiting.
There were flying insects here that she could link to, and when the wave went past them it marked them. More chakra followed, linking them like invisible threads that connected to her optic nerves and ears. She then set them to work, looking through their eyes with the Insect Spying technique in search of Naruto.
The ferrets built their homes into the smaller mounds, the entrances to them like caves that faced opposite the rising sun. They were cool inside and dark, but the mosquitoes that laid their eggs in the nearby water sources could track the different exhales of each one. The net closed and found him in one of the ones in the back.
She slipped in through the makeshift door and found him sleeping on bedding made of dried grass bundled into cloth. He looked peaceful and in good health, which was a relief considering the last time she had seen him had been at the ruins of what was supposed to be his village. She set down her bag on the ground and then lay down next to him, feeling his warmth next to her.
Fuu hesitated to take his hand though. A part of her was scared he wouldn’t accept what she told him about what she had been like and what she wanted. But there was no point in hiding it from him and giving birth to another shadow. So she grasped his hand with both of hers, holding it tight as she pressed to her head, and then she sank her consciousness into it and joined his mindscape with Choumei.
What she found was a dark-haired man writing on what looked to be a blackboard while the fox watched on. The fox, lounging like a large house pet, told him to turn around. He did, giving her a view of violet eyes and a smile that was decidedly Naruto’s. “Fuu!”
“Naruto!” She embraced him as he rushed to do the same to her. “What happened to you?”
“Ah.” He pulled back and ran his hands through the dark hair. “My features have been like that since I came to terms with my darker-half. It’s… I guess proof I didn’t just accept what my dark-half was saying was true, I embraced it. The desires that I kept hidden away haven’t overtaken me because I’ve took them as part of what I want. I’m simply moving in-tune with them in a way that’s constructive to my thoughts… does it look weird?”
“It’s not a bad look. As long as it’s still you, that’s what counts.” She tilted her head and looked over his shoulder to the board. There was an unfamiliar design on it. “Are you working on a new seal?”
“Not just a seal.” He walked back over to the board and tapped it. “A Grand Seal, Fuu. This is going to be my greatest seal ever. I’m working on refining the design before I come up with a cipher, and it’s not going well so far. I think this is the twelfth—”
“Fifteenth,” Kurama corrected lazily.
“—fifteenth design that I came up with that’s insufficient for the task,” he amended, shaking his head. “Hours spent on each of them, only to end up at a dead-end. If I ever meet someone who says seal design is easy, I’ll punch them in the mouth for lying horribly.”
“Well, what’s it going to do?”
“Stop everyone from using chakra and bring an end to the age of Shinobi once and for all.”
Fuu froze when she heard that. He had said it so casually, yet she couldn’t find the undertone that would label it as a joke. “Come again?”
“When I merged with my darker-half, I came to an understanding. The system established since the Sage of the Six Paths time is flawed, broken in so many ways that any effort to patch it will just be delaying the inevitable.” He sighed. “I could give you an excuse, saying it’s only a matter of time before someone snaps and develops some kind of super-destructive technique that threatens the world, but the truth is that I want it gone for all the trouble it’s given me. So I’m getting rid of it.”
She… could understand that. Fuu could understand taking your problems out on others very well. But it didn’t sound right coming from him. “But what will happen to everyone without it? Every major village uses it to some level, and not to mention medic-nins. What about them?”
“We don’t live in a chakra-dependant vacuum, Fuu,” Naruto said. “We live in a big world, I learned that much traveling when I was younger, but the only one we know is those of the Elemental Nations where chakra is prevalent. If I just stop with etching the seals on them, they’d go and conquer some other place to keep living their lives like they’ve grown used to. The loss of chakra over the years will force them to either adapt to a life without it or be ground into dust. If they can’t handle the change, then that’s unfortunate.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly. “But shinobi aren’t the only ones who use it,” she pointed out. “What about Insect Summonings and the Ferrets? Pace is working hard to help us.”
“Sapient animals can use chakra, and it can be used as a catalyst in their formation, but they don’t need it to exist,” Kurama vouched. “They gained their sapience from the third source that acts as the wellsprings of life within the earth—evolutionary oddities compared to the norm.”
“Even if that wasn’t the case, I’ve made my peace with the fact that all plans have unexpected casualties,” Naruto said firmly. “If it turns out to be detrimental to their intelligence, I’ll work in a way to allow them to maintain it once everything is in place. I owe them that much, but I won’t stop because of just that.”
Fuu was lost for words for a moment and looked to her Tailed-Beast for a clue on how to handle this, but Choumei gave the equivalent of a shrug. When she accepted her darker-half, she just acknowledged everything she was holding back. Did merging with his flip a switch of some kind?
She rubbed her forehead and then tried again. “How?” she asked desperately. “How would that work?”
“Essentially, it’s going to create an inhibitor on a spiritual level that will make it difficult to meld spiritual and physical energy together over time,” Naruto said. “Chakra is made of a balance of the two, so I’m going to artificially disturb that balance. Over time, it’ll strengthen until it becomes virtually impossible to mix them as long as they live on the planet—like water and oil.”
“And you don’t think someone is going to try and stop you?”
“Which is why I won’t tell anyone who doesn’t need to know,” he said. “Of course, there’s also the chance that someone could figure it out, but I won’t talk. I suppose they could kill and resurrect me with something like the Impure World Resurrection to compel me into it… I’d really rather not etch a seal into my spiritual body so that upon death my soul goes into the Death God like my father did to take half of Kurama’s chakra, but it might be on the table.”
“I want that back, by the way,” Kurama chimed in.
“And I’ll get on that later,” Naruto said. “Since the technique is basically a summoning to bring forth the spirit bound to a mask brought over and set into a temple when Mito Uzumaki moved to what would become Konoha, I can get to them if it’s still there.”
“…Naruto,” Fuu said cautiously, after a good long pause in thought. “I want you to think carefully about what you’ve told me. You just explained to me that you intend to carve seals into several places across the world, drain people of their chakra—”
“I’m just stopping them from producing it in the first place and returning them to the state they were before the Sage of Sixth Paths taught them how to link their spiritual energy to other energy sources,” he corrected. “Draining chakra on that scale would kill them, and I’m not aiming for extinction of the human race.”
“—and then potentially sealing your soul into the stomach of a Death God for all eternity just to make sure you aren’t made to undo it after death,” she finished.
“I know how it sounds, but it’s all I got for the moment,” Naruto said in a tone meant to placate her. “What I want is get rid of a system that was broken from the start. No, I have to do it, but I only know Seals so it’s all I can do. If more options become available over time then I’ll work them into the fold—as long as the system is torn up from its roots.”
“Then you need more people on this,” Fuu stated. “I can think of a lot of ways this can go wrong with just you personally, not including the fallout or screwing over our friends.”
“Well, I can’t tell Gaara any of this because he’d try and stop me,” Naruto said. “He’s the Kazekage—a good one that brought his village back from the brink that led them to betray the Leaf in the first place. His deepest desire was to be accepted, and he got it. But if he learns of my plans, he’ll try to reason with me for the good of the village he’s taken as his domain and the people he cares about.”
“And you won’t listen?” she guessed. “So he’ll be forced into stopping you personally and you’ll fight.”
Naruto looked down at his feet, rustled his dark-hair, and sighed. “If he kills me, it’ll be the same as when his Uncle got killed and it’ll drive him mad again. Likewise, I don’t want to have to kill Gaara, or risk him spreading it to the other villages and starting a manhunt for me before I can get it in place and it’s too late to matter. That’s why I’m nipping the problem in the bud by keeping him in the dark and lying to him if I have to—I don’t want it to come to that with someone I care about, because it will force two of the things I want into conflict.”
“Then why are you telling me all this?” she asked.
His eyes softened. “Because you can understand me on a level closer to the surface, even if you don’t agree. I can feel it. We both suffered because of the system, so it’s natural that we want to do something about it. We tried to get away, and they chased us. They’ll keep chasing us because that’s what the system has taught them—chakra is power, and who has more than a Jinchuuriki and a Tailed-Beast?”
The logic was sound, if a bit extreme. And… damn, she could understand why he’d reach that point after everything. But, strictly speaking, it went against what she had planned—chakra was essential as a means of power, like he had said.
She ruminated silently as he watched her. It was clear from how he spoke he was firm in his convictions. No hesitation in what he wanted, no doubt in what he would do to reach that point. However, if the ends were set then it’s the means that she could do something about to influence that.
“I don’t object to the end goal of your plan,” she told him. “But some parts of it go against what I want. If you’re willing to deal with those then I’ll help you, because it’s what I want as well and the way to get it.”
“Okay.” He clapped his hands together. “Name them.”
“The first is that you’re going to change that part about shunting your soul into the stomach of a Death God,” she ordered. “I’m not letting you damn yourself for eternity just to stop yourself from being summoned on the chance that someone might believe you’re responsible for this. I’ll put up with a lot of things, but that crosses the line.”
“Technically, I only said there’s a chance that it would be—”
Her tone was firmer this time. “Change it.”
“—it’s changed. Next?”
“The second is that you put in something that will allow certain individuals to produce chakra, like the Ferrets and my Insects.” The thought of Pace trying so hard only to have it taken away by one of the very people he wanted to protect didn’t sit well with her. “You’re right on the system being broken and that it should be torn apart, but you haven’t said anything about what would take its place. If we limit who can access it, we can use then to give structure to the world and focus them under a proper leader.”
“Maybe…” Naruto scratched his chin. “But there’s an issue with that.”
“They’re only mortal,” he said. “They’ll make mistakes, and can be swayed by emotion. Even if you have someone who is the greatest and kindest person in the world calling the shots, what happens when they die and someone worse takes their place?”
“You mean like our Pops?” Choumei guessed.
Naruto nodded. “Kurama’s been giving me insight into him since I’ve decided on what I was going to do. He intended to for people to link their hearts on a spiritual level, essentially allowing everyone to empathize in order to stop warring around… except the moment he died, things got worse. The fighting continued on a greater scale, and both his descendants turned on all of you—one who had a god-complex and the other who sold you off to different villages to barter for peace that failed given the number of wars we’ve had.”
She guessed he was referring to the First Hokage in the case of the second person.
“They failed in the simplest thing possible, linking like-to-like, spirit-to-spirit,” he continued. “A world of empathy and understanding, where people don’t have shitty childhoods and children don’t have to fight and kill or be labeled as different because some masked asshole led to his parents being murdered—probably out of some bullshit sob-story related to someone doing him wrong in the past too. No, humanity abused the gift they were given and turned it into a weapon that I’m taking away.”
It clicked for Fuu then, listening to him. “Naruto… you don’t have faith in humanity anymore, do you?”
“I have faith in individuals, but as a whole….” He shook his head. “The point I’m making, Fuu, is that there’s a cycle to all of this. I can’t be the only one who has noticed, but I’m the only one who’s doing something about it by taking away the root issue—yes, they’ll go back to fighting, but better swords and arrows than village-destroying techniques and human sacrifices.”
Fuu went silent in thought. He’d given it more thought that she gave him credit for… no. She should have expected that much with the way he spoke and the conviction that rivaled her own—he understood why he was doing it. But all the same, she wouldn’t give up either.
“If the issue at the core here is that they’re mortal and die…how about we let the Tailed-Beasts do it.” She turned to Choumei. “They’re not mortal, and they’re the ones who would know what the Sage of Six Paths would want best. I’m assuming your seal won’t affect them since Kurama is backing this.”
“No, they’re actually fully-formed chakra entities rather than something that’s melded from physical and spiritual energy….” He looked to Kurama scratched his head in thought. “To be honest, I’m not sure how they exist with any of the corresponding elements that we know of. You see shinobi shape chakra into animals and stuff, but these guys are a cut above them by a long shot. My father literally used a technique meant to rip souls out and only pulled out half of his Yin chakra instead.”
Kurama’s tails swayed softly at that. “My Old Man’s workings surpass the watered down arts of your age. The method you proposed won’t affect us in the slightest.”
“And you aren’t going to tell me about it?”
“It’s not something anyone other than he can replicate. There’s no need for you to waste your efforts pursuing it.”
Choumei stirred in an unsettled manner. “Unless things get really bad and the—”
“Don’t,” Kurama warned. “That won’t happen, because if it did we would cease to be. That knowledge stays with us no matter what. ”
Fuu looked back and forth between the Tailed-Beasts for a moment and then walked over to Naruto. “Back on topic, why don’t we do this?” She pointed at his stomach, where his seal was. “Have them brand people they deem worthy with a bypass-seal and allow them to mold chakra. They can select the wisest of the candidates after I pass away.”
“Okay, but you do remember that there are nine of them, right?” Naruto asked. There was no malice in it. “I don’t think that they’ll all get along and select one person together, or even agree unanimously on the same thing. That little exchange before being my point.”
Choumei buzzed his wings a little in thought. “He’s got a point. Saiken and I don’t really agree on much of anything, and Kurama never did get along with Shukaku.”
“So they’ll likely split up,” Naruto continued. “They’ll choose their own domains and gather followers to give the use of chakra. Then they’re going to inevitably expand and start warring against each other. We’ll end right back up where we left off with super-powered villages attacking each other—the same cycle.”
“Well, the only flaw I see is the human error,” Kurama pointed out.
Both Jincuuriki shot him a look at that.
He shrugged it off and continued. “You said it yourself, the issue is that humans need to expand and can’t be trusted with that power. I’m willing to acknowledge individuals like the Old Man, but as a whole there just aren’t enough humans wise enough to handle that sort of power. My kin and I are different.”
“Shukaku,” Naruto pointed out. “I’m guessing he knew straight-off that you were inside of me when Gaara and I fought, but he was intent on killing me. And you, if for a few years. If that’s an argument between siblings, what the hell is a real fight between you going to be like?”
“He wasn’t always that way,” Kurama countered, eyes narrowing in displeasure at the mention. “Being sealed hasn’t boded well on his mental state.”
“The point remains that if he’s malleable to human thoughts, then what’ll happen to the rest of you?” Naruto asked. “You have it worst—you can literally hear malicious thoughts and negative emotions, Kurama. What happens if you suddenly feel the people who are supposed to serve you have unhappy thoughts about how things are run constantly? How long before you eventually decide you’ve heard enough and gotten rid of them? How long until one guy who’s a cut above the rest eventually turns against you and seals your kind away again like the First Hokage?”
Kurama grumbled at that, but didn’t utter a word.
“…To be blunt, no matter how you slice it there’s not really a good answer here,” Choumei chimed in, after listening carefully. “I can’t say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but either way you need to take it one step at a time, think everything over as you do, and do the best you can.”
Naruto sighed. “…Fine, I’ll work on it,” he conceded. “If anything, the Toads and Ferrets should have that right. Either way, we’ll have plenty of time to discuss it. What’s the last condition?”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. No turning back now. “You need to pick between me and Kanna. I don’t want to share anymore.”
“…Why?” Naruto asked, almost confused.
Fuu groaned softly. He had to make this difficult. “Naruto, would you be happy seeing me and her sleeping with some other guy?”
His answer was a very blunt, to the point, “No.”
“Because you want us to only love you in that way, right?” He nodded. “Then that’s why. I don’t want to share you with anyone else romantically, and I don’t think it’s fair to me and her that you get that option when we don’t.”
“So you want to be allowed to—” He cut himself off at seeing the frown that was forming on her face. “No, you don’t want to have to share at all with Kanna… but why?”
“Naruto, I need to be loved unconditionally,” she explained. “I want someone to give me all of themselves. And I’ll do the same to them.”
“Fuu, I’m willing to fight S-Class Shinobi for you. I think it’s clear I’m in love with you.”
“You’d do the same for Gaara,” Fuu pointed out. “And I’m going along with your plan to bring the culture, history, and system that we’ve been raised into to an end, so I think it’s clear I’m in love with you too. If you think this will make you happy then I’ll help, if only because seeing you happy makes me happy too.”
“Then what’s the problem?” he asked. “I’m happy with both of you.”
“Seeing you happy will make me happy as well, just not as much as being loved unconditionally when it comes to romantic love,” she clarified. “I need both to be truly satisfied, Naruto. And as long as you have someone else you love in the same way, it’s only unconditional on my end.”
“… But I still don’t want to decide,” he said. “I love you both too much to have to be forced to choose. Pick something else. Anything else within reason, and I’ll talk terms.”
Fuu frowned. “We just had a minutes-long debate on essentially governing the remnants of humanity… yet you’re being more inflexible with exclusivity?”
“That’s a distant problem, dealing with other people, over the course of a lifetime,” Naruto pointed out. “This is more immediate problem, dealing with us. My priorities are perfectly straight as far as I’m concerned. Is the problem Kanna?”
“Kanna’s…” Fuu looked down as she trailed off, bringing her tanned arms around to hug herself. “She honestly makes me a little jealous, but she’s so damn nice that I can’t hate her for it. That’s her nature, and I always feel like I have to compete with that when I know that deep down I’m not.”
“You’re fine, Fuu.” He stepped forward. “You’ve been just as kind and caring and—”
Her mint-green hair swayed as she shook her head. “Naruto, I’m…” She hesitated for a moment to take a deep breath and steeled herself. “Naruto, we may have both known what it was like to be abandoned by our villages because of what we are, but we didn’t end up the same. You held yourself together, but I took my problems out on others—especially after I tried getting together with Shibuki and realized he would love the village more than me.”
Naruto blinked twice at that, a look of minor surprise on his face. “Shibuki and you?”
“It happened when we were younger and was one-sided,” Fuu said, waving her hand as though to brush it aside. “I was… love hungry, I guess. Aside from Suien, I was trained by another man named Suika. He went missing-nin along with him, but was caught by some of your peers—the Aburame that looked like a drug dealer.”
“What do he and Suien have to do with Shibuki and you?”
“They betrayed me.” Her shoulders shook. “I had no one else but them. They were abusive assholes, especially Suika, but they taught me how to fight and actually seemed to care when the rest of the village just forgot I was out there defending them. I… believed in them—or at least Suien—with everything I had, enough to get Shibuki to tell me where the Hero’s Water was. And then, the moment I decided not to tell them because I wanted to believe in Shibuki after he called me a treasure of the village….”
Naruto caught on when she trailed off. “They turned on you.”
She nodded. “They started to try and beat it out of me, but Shibuki showed up in time before they could get too far. He had a hunch something was off, but he couldn’t fight both of them and live. So I reached out to Choumei and begged for help to save him. He answered, giving me a shroud of chakra to fight them off and save my only real friend.”
“I don’t enjoy the thought of kids being hurt,” claimed the Beetle King. “I mean, they threw her into a pit of spiders that could rot the flesh from bones when she was nine years old. I may not be human, but I have standards.”
Kurama grumbled lightly at that, musing he had been stealthy insulted. “I was angry and had just been released from the hell-hole of a seal his mother had and then had my mind violated. I saw a chance and I took it.”
“I became colder after that,” she continued, holding Naruto’s attention. She wanted to get this out of the way immediately. “If I couldn’t trust them, who could I trust besides Shibuki and Choumei? And it’s not like the other villagers would make the effort to pretend to like me either, so I stayed outside of the village alone—having minimal contact with any of the others assigned to oversee me after what Suien had done.”
“I am so glad I killed him,” Naruto said bluntly.
“Oh, I laughed when I learned you killed Suien—I mean, the most fearsome Jounin of our village got killed by a Genin still doing C-ranked missions at best while empowered by the Hero’s Water.” In her defense, she didn’t know he was a Jinchuuriki then or his mission history. “But I was also a little mad.”
Naruto’s mouth opened, probably to ask why. Then it closed. He extended a hand, gesturing for her continue on.
“He died too quick,” she explained. “He was the man who had me kill a small boy when I was a child for the supposed good of the village—the man who stole my innocence and naivety. I dreamed of making his suffering last for days in the Worm Pit, and you killed him in minutes. Then came the day when they caught Suika.”
A predatory smile came across her face. “I had it all planned out what I was going to do to him. I was prepared to make his suffering legendary… but I let him talk before we began—I wanted to hear him beg for mercy after all the abuse he put me through. Not that it would have helped him.”
“It didn’t go as planned, I take it?” Naruto asked. He seemed pensive learning all of this.
Fuu felt her stomach churn as she recalled what happened. “He told me that I should have been grateful that they bothered to fake caring about me for that long, since no one would love me. He told me they didn’t make me do anything I wouldn’t have wanted to do—that I was a monster they trained up to attack on command, leashing the beast with a few soft words. They were just words, but they weren’t the ones I could stand to hear at that time and I… I…”
Choumei spoke softly. “Fuu-Girl, you don’t have to tell him the next part. It’s not something you could have helped.”
“I swore I’d let Naruto know the real me.” Her expression turned cold. “I snapped, Naruto. I went into my chakra form and everything went red. They said my roars could be heard around the village, but I didn’t remember any of it. Shibuki and the others who oversaw the Worm Pit in Suien’s place found me in shock, lying in a pool of flesh, pounded organs, and blood.”
He grimaced. Anyone would at the sight.
“It was only when I woke up in a private room with some hospital equipment, bound by restraints on my arms and my chakra sealed, that I could remember his screams and taste his insides on my tongue.” She looked into Naruto’s eyes. “Did you ever fall that far, Naruto?”
Naruto sucked in a sharp breath… then slowly shook his head. “There were times when I wanted to, like with Haku. But someone was always there to stop me, or they were too strong and I calmed down before I could act. When I was older, I had enough control and received enough teachings from the monks to make the kills quick and to the point, and Kurama was less of a jerk.”
Her orange-eyes turned downwards, and a bitter smile came across her face. “I wasn’t that lucky. Choumei cut the flow before I hurt Shibuki, but he was too slow to stop me from ripping Suika to pieces. Everyone who heard my roar and saw me that day had their worst fears confirmed by the time I woke up. Only Shibuki smiled when he saw that I was awake and hugged me… he was so warm. ”
That was part of the reason she cared so dearly for him. Next to Naruto, he was the most important human in her life. “But even after his death, Suika’s words haunted me for years—a ghost in my ear whispering how a monster like me could never be loved or accepted. I wanted to prove him wrong. So, when I filled out a bit and gained a bit of a libido, I practically threw myself at Shibuki. I mean, he smiled at me after seeing that I tore a man to pieces, so he could love me unconditionally, right?
It seemed so logical at the time. She never knew parental love, and hadn’t had enough friends to comprehend the divide between the love one would feel with a romantic partner and friendship strong enough to rival it. It was a natural, if mistaken, conclusion to draw.
“Shibuki loves me, but only as a childhood friend.” Her fist clenched. “I didn’t understand it completely, but it felt like Suika was right and it hurt, Naruto. So much so I took it out on everyone I could in a way that wouldn’t trouble Shibuki since I didn’t lose what we had after that. The Grass learned to fear the forest around the Waterfall after I got creative and did unspeakable things with my bugs, but I couldn’t stop this feeling inside of me.”
“Like Gaara,” Naruto realized.
“The things you told me about what Gaara did to his victims back then were child’s play to what I would do,” she said pointedly. “I mean, he can only crush with his sand. I have an entire ecosystem of ways to make someone suffer. I was grateful they reinforced the seals in the Worm Pit after my previous outburst, and I made sure that Shibuki was never remotely close to coming when I was in the middle of an interrogation.”
“She’s not kidding either, if you have any doubts,” Kurama said to Naruto, who turned to him. “I’m purposely not allowing you to hear it, but everything she’s saying is true for her.”
“And then you came along, trespassing in my forest—not affiliated with any village but knew where the entrance to ours was… At that point, I didn’t see the boy who killed Suien, but someone else I could take my anger out on to make it stop just a little. I was going to kill you horribly until Kurama’s chakra reached Choumei and he wanted me to listen to you.”
Another grimace crossed his face.
She sighed and felt tears burning the back of her eyes. “It seemed like a miracle. Another Jinchuuriki who didn’t want me dead, someone who could hopefully understand and love me… I had to have you. No matter what I had to do, or hide, or accept. I took advantage of you to fill in a void, becoming someone you had to love and wanted to protect. And it worked.”
“… It doesn’t matter if it started on a lie,” Naruto decided. “It was real enough to me and it made you happy. But, Fuu, Kanna’s had it rough too growing up—”
Fuu raised her hand to stop him. “I know, and that makes it worse. All three of us have had horrible things happen to us, but I turned out the worst—someone who’s selfish when it comes to love and ruthless when angry. I’m not going to be as bad as I used to be, but I will be doing things my way to get things done and it won’t be pretty. I needed to let you know that.”
He frowned. “Then it didn’t do anything for you in the end.”
“I’m a better person because of you, Naruto,” she assured him, holding her hands over her heart. “You gave me love that Shibuki couldn’t, companionship that Choumei couldn’t, and introduced me to the Bugs of Isle of Insects and the Ferrets. But because I had to hide my darker parts, I started making mistakes and holding back when I shouldn’t—lessening myself. The old me wouldn’t have let what happened in Uzushio go the way it did, and I lost you to Konoha for it.”
Fuu walked up to him and cupped his cheeks with her slender hands. “I don’t want you to pick me because you think it’ll make me help you, or because you pity me after hearing that. You can choose me permanently over her and any other woman, and be truly happy about it—” She strongly stressed that last part. “—or I can see you happy with her and find someone else who will love me unconditionally, now that I know I can be loved and be worthy of it. Either way, I’ll find satisfaction on that front—but I need it Naruto. ”
“…Akatsuki first,” he said after a pause, leaning his head back. “Then I’ll decide. Making a choice when we’ve got targets on our backs doesn’t do anyone any good.”
Fuu nodded. “Okay.” She pulled her hands back to her chest. “Where do we start?”
“Locating the other Jinchuuriki is one step.” He turned back to the blackboard. “But another is a power-source for the Grand Seals. I can’t use chakra to power a seal that stops people from generating it in the first place, otherwise it’d fail.”
That was an obvious problem when you looked at it. “Then what can you use?”
“That third source Kurama mentioned—Natural Energy.” He gestured to the air and ground. “Not only is it abundant in nature, but its constantly being produced by the planet and in the atmosphere from what I learned from Kurama. As long as the intake of the seal is below the amount it uses after it reaches capacity, it can be sustained indefinitely without too many negative effects.”
“I guess that sounds fine.” She nodded. “Then we’d need to ask around.”
“The Toads are out since they might like me, but they are allied with Konoha and I don’t want the Pervy Sage getting word about any of this.” He tapped his chin in thought. “It’ll be hard, but if we could find another authority on melding both Natural Energy and Seals, we could get this done in a few years than decades.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Fuu said. “The Ferrets, the Insects… maybe I could get bugs on the mountain with the Toads and spy on them. I’ll do that before I head to the Earth Country on business.”
She hadn’t been kidding when she said Naruto needed help, and she needed to start building her swarm to command. It was best to start with other Insect-users, and there was fledgling clan there that would be ripe for assimilating there. She just needed a bargaining tool, since making them serve by force would inevitably backfire.
“Oh, one last thing before you go,” Naruto added. “When you get back out, can you have the Ferrets leave an axe and give me about a day after I wake up before they come in.”
Fuu’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why…?”
Naruto held up the back of his hands, showing the seals on them in reflection to his real body. “I can’t give this my all if I’m hampered by these seals. I thought that it was proof of my freedom, but now I know freedom isn’t just being able to go where you want or do what you want. It’s about the drive you have to live in order to accomplish something as well—and I need to give this my all. So, I kinda need to my hands to work for this.”
She caught on immediately. It was a miracle she kept her expression flat and her tone dull. “I’m not a fan of that way of getting them off.”
“I don’t want to waste any time,” Naruto insisted. “And Kurama has reasonably assured me that I can grow them back in my Chakra Mode state, but it’ll take around a day and I’ll have to keep refining his chakra in my mindscape during that period of time.”
“… I’m in love with a madman,” Fuu decided as she turned to the fox. “If his hands don’t grow back perfectly, you’d better start praying to your father.”
“Noted,” was all Kurama said.
In a faraway place, isolated from others by miles of ocean water, Kabuto struggled as he felt the invasive nature of his master’s blood working to overtake him after his previous exertion. Not that he’d expect anything less. Regardless, he’d need a few moments to reorient himself.
“You’re not going to keel over, are you?” asked the red-haired young woman with glasses as she watched him from her perch against the wall. Blood and viscera caked the floor elsewhere, leaving it one of the few places still clean.
“I’ll be right as rain soon enough, Karin-chan.” There was no way he could die before he set out and completed what he wanted to do. “But about that matter we discussed. Have you made a decision?”
“Well, since you’ve gone out of your way to slaughter everyone I was supposed to be keeping locked up and Orochimaru is dead, I really have nothing better to do.” She pushed her glasses up by the rim. “As long as you keep your end of the bargain, I’ll help you.”
Kabuto smirked. “Of course. Now, just give me a moment to gather myself and we’ll be on our way. We do have others to collect, after all.”
April 2016 Sugar Bits Update 2
Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics – See more at: http://snafu-comics.com/swmcomic/one-small-step-for-lico/#sthash.sT8AKKto.dpuf
The Next Step 8-08
….Wood-man with a sword? Blake, what are you doing here?
Also, I knew those damn pleasure rushes were a weak-spot.
Heretical Edge and Summus Proelium
Gavant ordered Tristan to stay where he was. Then he, Shiori and I raced back through the narrow passage toward the central room. The sounds of fighting were getting louder with each passing second, and by the time we made it (Gavant having a pretty substantial lead due to his size), the battle was well under way.
I had a quick second to take in the scene. On the plus side, the lights had been restored to the room. Unfortunately, that also meant that I could see just how badly things looked. The Meregan were scattered around the room, being attacked by what looked like an entire contingent of various creatures. I saw more of those little sand goblins, along with several of what looked like the same kind of Orc creatures I’d seen during the vision of Gaia and Seller that the Edge had given me. There…
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