Crow in the Shadows: Conclusion
My next chap. This will bring down the curtain on this mission and the first arc of this series. Read, enjoy, comment, critique, rep but please don't ignore ^_^
Tenkaku was craned in a battle stance, a long blood streaked blade occupying his right hand, giant muscles bulging through the sleeveless shirt of his Hikari uniform. The back of his shirt was torn and soaked in crimson, and the palm of his right hand was caked with dried blood. Both wounds had already stopped bleeding and the chill of the Land of Iron had partially numbed the stocky ninja to the pain of the injuries.
However, he was sporting fresh wounds different from the one given to him by Itachi and Kakashi earlier; a bleeding cut crested above his furrowed brows, a gash on his left shoulder and a small burn which frayed the fabric of his left pant leg below the knee.
His six opponents were in no better shape.
Only one or two more uses of ninjutsu stood between Kakashi and total fatigue, evidenced by his quick short breaths and the slight wobble of his feet. Standing about ten meters from their opponent, the Copy Ninja grasped tightly to the hilt of his ANBU sword with both hands, keeping the blade pointed at Tenkaku, his Sharingan eye remaining fixed to the hefty Hikari ninja. The silver haired captain appeared to have suffered little injury, sporting only a bleeding cut across his left forearm.
Behind Hatake Kakashi was his teammate, junior operative and friend Tenzo who was crouched like a beast of prey, glaring coldly at Tenkaku with his hands locked in the basic seal for Mokuton ninjutsu, ready to command the forest to do his bidding at the slightest provocation. Tenzo’s reserves had sunk a trifle below half his full capacity but he was still at the ready. With locks of hair matted to his bleeding forehead, a panting Hyuuga Sato was arched in a battle stance at Tenzo’s right, and Uchiha Itachi stood with hands locked in a seal at his left.
Hoji was a small distance behind this entire formation, kept away as far as possible from the enemy due to his status as a medic ninja. He was crouched on the ground with both hands, surrounded by the greenish glow of the healing Mystical Palm technique, placed on the back of an unconscious Sarutobi Himura who had been knocked out and severely wounded earlier by their Hikari opponent.
Planting his blade into the ground, Tenkaku clapped his hands and about a hundred glowing beams shot towards the Konoha team, twisting and bending such as to attack them from every possible angle. Hyuuga Sato, despite his growing fatigue, prepared to shield the overwhelming assault with the Hakkeshou Kaiten but even his perceptive Byakugan barely caught a trace of auburn hair as the team’s medic sprung into action.
Instantly, there were four Hojis - the original medic and three shadow clones-arranged in a perfect square formation around the others and as their hands united in an identical seal, four purple walls appeared between them, enclosing the entirety of the ANBU team while intercepting and negating the perilous snake-like beams of Tenkaku’s Storm Release.
“I’m still here, you know?” said one of the four who now maintained the Violet Flame Encampment barrier technique. “I’ve stabilized Himura’s condition so now I can join the fray.”
“Save your strength to heal our injuries.” reprimanded Tenzo. “A medic shouldn’t-”
“-let their comrades die.” interjected Hoji. “And now I’m going to kill that bastard!”
“So, I guess you’re gonna get in my way, you runt.” growled Tenkaku with a nasty smile, taking up his sword once more. “Be my guest. I’d have hated it if the battle ended so quickly.”
The purple barrier reduced to scattered flaming embers of violet before utterly fading away, as three Hojis-the two at the rear corners of the violet defence and one of the duo positioned at the front-disappeared in a puff of smoke, the final one already flying through a series of hand seals. “Demonic Illusion: Tree Binding Technique.” intoned the ANBU medic ninja as he vanished completely into thin air. The earth beneath Tenkaku betrayed him, sprouting several wooden branches which ensnared his two legs before he could even react.
“Genjutsu!” cried the Hikari ninja.
“I see your plan, Hoji.” said Kakashi with a smile beneath his face mask as he felt something slip into his left pocket.
The mirage was however short lived as Tenkaku broke free with a swift hand seal before the emerging illusionary tree could completely restrain his body. Hoji was now visible, standing beside Uchiha Itachi with gaze fixed on their Hikari opponent, a smile curved on the medic’s face.
The Copy Ninja ran his eyes across his comrades, noting their depleted chakra levels. There would be no prolonged battle from here on out. Combining the meager vestiges of strength that remained in their weary bodies would most likely only be able to culminate in one more attack. He arched his back and stood with feet parted. Seals were weaved and from his right hand, the cries of a thousand birds rose to a deafening crescendo.
“All of you, cover me, create an opening.” came the sharp instruction from the Man Who Had Copied Over A Thousand Techniques as he charged at his burly foe.
From the earth below sprouted sharp wooden projectiles beneath Tenkaku as Tenzo’s palms slammed into the ground. A timely leap carried the Hikari ninja near the treetops where a two massive balls of fire blazed towards him, one from the lips of Uchiha Itachi and the other from the boy’s clone. Quickly sheathing his blade in order to free his right hand, the Hikari managed a wall of water which shielded the inferno and he was presently blinded by the resulting cloud of hissing steam.
From the trees around him budded several branches, quickly snaking towards the airborne Tenkaku. Sword immediately separated from sheath and the blade swung madly in all directions, hacking away at the approaching serpentine tendrils of timber with such speed and efficiency that when the rapid continuous slashing cleared the fog of steam, there was not a single splinter of wood to be seen near the Hikari.
However, the mid air encounter was not over as there was a chirping lightning coated right arm shooting towards Tenkaku’s heart while the man himself was pushed toward the incoming Raikiri by a burst of chakra from the clawed hand of Hyuuga Sato.
Death seemed all but certain but Tenkaku’s body immediately donned a blue aura which crackled and flashed with lightning as Kakashi’s deadly arm struck. Lightning blade met with lightning armor and both Raiton techniques instantly cancelled themselves out. Then several things happened in a instant; Tenkaku smiled as Kakashi’s brows furrowed, the Hikari lifted up blade to strike but the Copy Ninja withdrew something small and round from his pocket, hurling it at Tenkaku’s face as the man’s sword slashed towards Kakashi’s chest, there was a flash of something petite and black and a low metallic clang as the smoke pellet exploded into a massive yellow cloud which encompassed both the ANBU team leader and the Hikari.
“C’mon dude, you’re gonna make me wait again?!” whined Ryuu, staring down at Makoto who was busy painting an elaborate formula on the ground with black ink. The design consisted of a large central circle - in which Ryuu was currently standing - around which was drawn several straight lines of kanji each of which darted away from the circumference of the inner ring. The large diagram resembled a simple childish drawing of a bright midday sun.
“Almost done.” replied the brown haired team leader. “Just gimme a second and we’ll be outta here.”
“Outta here?” questioned Ryuu.
“Yes, the Hikari organization values it secrecy above all things.” said Makoto. “In a situation where one of our members is discovered, there are two options. The compromised operative is killed,” at this Ryuu gulped nervously, “or they find the nearest Hikari Port and fly to our headquarters to escape all means of tracking.”
“How do we fly to headquarters?” inquired the red haired Hikari. “I don’t have wings and last time I checked, neither did you or that dillhole Tenkaku.”
“With a space-time ninjutsu.” answered Makoto with a smile as he finished the kanji diagram. “This drawing is the formula. Only higher members like myself are able to draw the formula and use the technique.”
“So, we both escape and leave Tenkaku?” said Ryuu with an accusatory tone, glaring at Makoto with menace gleaming in his violet eyes.
“Didn’t know you cared so much.” teased Makoto with a light smile as he strode into the central circle to join Ryuu whose face was turned away in embarrassment . “Not to worry, we’ll get your pal out too.”
“Shut up!” shot Ryuu angrily. “It’s not that I give a rat’s ass. It’s just that I sense his chakra weakening.”
At this Makoto frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Hope you won’t delay us much longer cuz I think the Konoha forces have beaten the big brute.”
“That sleeping bomb plan was genius!” praised Hyuuga Sato.
The yellow smoke finally cleared revealing Kakashi and Tenkaku fallen on a blanket of snow, both still and unmoving. Hoji immediately rushed to Kakashi’s side, checking the silver haired ninja for injuries, as Tenzo wrapped the unconscious Hikari ninja in a cocoon of Mokuton, restraining his body and suppressing his chakra.
“Don’t worry, Hoji. I saved Kakashi-taichou from the enemy’s blade.” spoke a strained deep voice. All heads turned in search of the source and their eyes fell on a flushed and panting Sarutobi Himura, who was barely managing to remain on his knees and sporting a wide smile despite his obvious discomfort. Sato quickly rushed to his side, beaming with joy.
“Himura, you’re already awake!” exclaimed Hoji elatedly.
“But wait, how did you-”
“He threw a wind infused shuriken to deflect the enemy’s blade before Kakashi-san got slashed.” explained Itachi in a gentle voice. “I saw it with my Sharingan.” He then directed everyone’s attention to the hilt of the Tenkaku’s weapon which laid a few feet from the Hikari, without a blade. Then, the Uchiha gestured to where, rooted in the snow by its sharp end, stood the steel blade of Tenkaku’s sword, having been completely severed from the handle before it could sink into Kakashi’s flesh and taste his blood.
Presently, Itachi stood towering over the bound and prostrate figure of Tenkaku. He stared down at the beaten foe, the mighty enemy whose strength could only be overcome by the combined efforts of six of Konoha’s best ANBU ninja and the Uchiha could only wonder how many more shinobi of similar or superior ability could be found among the ranks of the enigmatic Hikari. “Hoji-san, please awaken him so I can extract information via genjutsu.”
And so the foeman was hoisted up by his wooden restraints, Hoji opened a small vial in front of his face, releasing a red vapor into his nostrils. After a few seconds, the hulking man sneezed and blinked rapidly as his faculties returned to him. His eyes darted ever y which way for a few seconds, allowing him to comprehend his current situation and he spat bitter silent curses under his breath.
Itachi stood directly before him, eyes gleaming scarlet. Behind the boy was Kakashi who Hoji had already restored to consciousness and was now immersed in his usual Icha Icha Paradise. A furtive glance from the man’s right eye, his only exposed eye, appraised him of Tenkaku’s awakening. There was also Tenzo who stood, hands shoved into pockets, staring blankly at the beaten Hikari, the glowering Himura who only managed to remain on his feet thanks to the supporting arm of Sato whose’s blank eyes also gleamed with malevolence as they centered on Tenkaku. Hoji now busied himself with ministrations concerning Himura’s injuries.
Itachi drew closer and his blood red eyes met with Tenkaku’s which now lacked the fervor that burned so violently in them during their fierce battle. Now the man’s golden eyes were darkened, his gaze dull and listless, his expression sullen and morose, a great and mighty beast finally conquered. The fire had been quelled and, as his eyes remained locked on the Uchiha’s, his mind was also taken as well, falling prey to the powerful hypnosis induced by the Sharingan.
“Now,” began Itachi, “tell me about the Hikari.”
Makoto was now weaving a myriad of hand seals and as he swiftly went through the sequence, the roar of rushing water that loomed above them suddenly became louder. The piercing shrill cries rose to a deafening cacophony. Suddenly from the Stygian darkness that hung above this emerald subterranean compartment, a massive splurge of water descended on the Hikari duo in the centre of Makoto’s circle. Now the kanji writings that made up the jutsu formula were glowing with a bright white light as the whole HIkari hideout was slowly being flooded by the seemingly endless waterfall.
“The water will remove any foreign chakra that is on our bodies, any technique markings and even Cursed Seal markings of any kind will be washed away.” explained Makoto.
“So, it’s a really good shower.” said Ryuu with his trademark carefree smile as the water bathed him and his brown haired comrade.
“I will summon Tenkaku now!” and Makoto slammed his right palm unto the ground. With a sharp popping sound, the Konoha ANBU team instantly lost the fruit of their labors, the success that nearly cost their lives and their only real means to information about the Hikari organization, as Tenkaku vacated the wooden restrains that had him bound and appeared before Makoto and Ryuu.
The red haired ninja burst into raucous laughter as he gazed upon the defeated brute who laid motionless on the floor, mouth bobbing stolidly but no sounds coming out, saliva leaking out of the corners of his lips and drooping eyes barely open and unseeing. “Where’s a camera when you need one!”
“They must have had him under a genjutsu.” analyzed Makoto. The brown haired man placed his left palm gently on Tenkaku’s shoulder and weaved half the Tiger seal with his right hand. The result was consciousness immediately restored to the hulking man, who immediately bounced to his feet, eyes sweeping over his surroundings, hands raised to shield himself from the surging waters that buffeted him from above.
“Where the hell –” and then his eyes fell upon the soaked and laughing Ryuu, and the grim expression on Makoto’s drenched face. “I’m sorry Makoto, they tricked –damn Copy Ninja! He used –and then –”
“It’s ok.” cut in Makoto placidly and then he weaved another hand seal. The light from the jutsu formula intensified until it was utterly blinding and then abruptly vanished, leaving the old Hikari hideout a dark quiet cavern once more; the flood of water had ceased to fall, the shrieks from above gave way to silence, the kanji writings had disappeared completely and so had Makoto, Ryuu and Tenkaku. Somewhere Hoji’s eyes were widened in shock, Sarutobi Himura spat bitter curses, Hyuuga Sato was struck silent, Hatake Kakashi and Tenzo sighed exasperatedly, and Uchiha Itachi was gripped by a severe forebodings concerning this group known as Hikari.
To Be Continued.
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