Crow in the Shadows: The Terror of Akakuma
Good day to you all. Another chap. Read and Enjoy! Special thanks to chakrawizard555 for editing once again!
Once upon a time, the woods beyond the borders of Aoran were a splendid natural setting. One could not stroll between its towering trunks which spread their branches into a great emerald canopy, providing shade to the layers of dead leaves that littered the forest floor, and not be captured by its serenity and beauty. The birds nested in the tree boughs piped a happy serenade which coalesced with the distinct babble of a brook in the distance, producing a soothing calm and subtle ecstasy.
Proceed deeper into these wooded depths on a warm, sunny day and you would soon find yourself before the shimmering body of water known as the Aoran Creek, glistening like a sheet of quicksilver, and skirted about by muddy banks where the wooden boats of local fishermen could be seen. The timbers of the forest and the fish from the river served as the very lifeblood of the settlement, fetching more than half of its annual revenue, and were as much a part of the village as its denizens.
However, the sudden appearance of Orochimaru’s abomination, the one known as Akakuma, changed all this. The wondrous display of nature has been rendered galling by the odious and revolting smell of blood. Now, he who dares to tread upon these grounds does so with tremulous footsteps and a pounding heart clutched by the icy fingers of terror. The lapping waters of the Creek become polluted with the blood of the creature’s unlucky victims, the happy chirpings of the forest birds are turned into mournful cries, and the tall trees and their many inhabitants bear witness to the monster’s sinister exploits, trembling in fear and despair when its ungodly howl thunders forth as the moon shines dolefully on this murderous scene.
The team strolled through the forest, the fallen leaves scattered about the earth snapping between their slow, measured footsteps as their ANBU arm platings rattled with each swing of their arms. Each bore some chunk of a freshly killed cow over his shoulder on a pike. The local butcher had provided these materials for them on Shiko’s request. The reason for this burden was to lure out their quarry with the scent of blood—since it had acquired a taste for livestock. Itachi carried the head, Hoji and Sato were each laden with thighs, Tenzo trudged on with a part of the abdomen on his own stick, and Himura carried two feet while Shiko, in a display of remarkable laziness, carried only the tail as though it were a whip. A product of this extra load, numerous flies buzzed about the team, rendering them highly uncomfortable as they moved on.
“So, I think Sato will die first.” said Hoji casually, waving away the annoying insects that hovered around his head.
“What the fu—” began Sato, only to be interrupted by Shiko.
“Nobody will die.” declared the team leader in the guttural, lazy drawl that was his usual tone of voice. “Probably.” he added after a moment’s thought, something which took some of the color away from Hoji's face.
“What if we don’t find Akakuma?” asked Himura, the question directed at their Nara captain.
“Then we come back here every night until we do.” replied Shiko.
“Maybe it skipped town.” offered Hoji with a hopeful smile.
“Maybe you’re an idiot.” returned Sato.
“Shut up!” the medic had meant to roar, but the words came as a childish and pathetic squeak, which Sato was only too happy to laugh at. Hoji evidently did not take this very lightly, evidenced by his red complexion as he dipped his hand into his shuriken holster, flinging one of its sharp, steel contents at his best friend’s head. The Hyuga caught the weapon deftly between two fingers when it was but half an inch from tearing into his jugular, chuckling and laughing mockingly all the while, making Hoji flush deeper still. Sato muttered something about being able to perform Tenzo’s trick with Kakashi, enticing a chuckle from the Wood Style user. Shiko quickly ordered them to bring an end to their childish antics, a command which Sato and Hoji promptly obeyed, and the team ambled on in silence.
The night was surprisingly cold with a light mist lurking about the trees, like diaphanous fabric swaying in the wind without a care, hampering their visibility ever so slightly. The eerie silence of the forest was unnerving, not a single sound to be heard save for the crunching of leaves beneath their feet and the buzzing of flies around the dead carcass which they were carrying. Presently, the six of them had abandoned the trees and stood at the bank of the Aoran creek, its waters no more audible than the surrounding forest.
“Well, I don’t think we’ll find it tonight.” said Shiko with a yawn.
“So, we head back?” inquired Tenzo.
Shiko sighed. “I guess we have no—BEHIND YOU ITACHI!”
Itachi was a rather quick and sharp-witted lad, though not to the same degree as his deceased friend Shisui. He was competent enough in speed, however, to turn around—Sharingan already activated—just in time to see the large, rugged, red knuckles closing in on his head. He ducked immediately, and not a moment too soon, avoiding the approaching fist by only a hair’s breadth. From his crouched position, the Uchiha lifted his eyes up to see who was responsible for this sudden assault, and immediately deduced the arrival of Akakuma.
The beast, upon seeing its attack had failed, leaped away from the six Konoha ninja before they could counter. Now standing about ten meters from the team, he seemed in the mist, some ghost ghoul or apparition, with its immense size and frightening appearance. Glowing yellow eyes blazed underneath thick, wild eyebrows, his nose was incredibly flat, and his lips stretched so high on his face that the corners reached up to his ears, which were sharp, long and cat-like. He stood at a whopping ten feet, with massive, broad shoulders and great muscles in his limbs and torso, which squeezed tightly against his thick, crimson skin. The monster was scarcely clad in only an old, tattered rag, which might have been pants at some point, as he glared murderously at the ANBU team—who glared back with gouging eyes. Akakuma stomped hard on the earth, stretched out both arms, squeezed his fists, flung his head back—long, thorny tresses swinging madly behind him—and let out a great roar which seemed to set the very air aquiver with fear, and rocked the entire forest. Then he charged.
The team quickly got over their shock at his sudden appearance. They discarded the dead meat on their shoulders in preparation for the battle and, with his sword drawn and surging with razor sharp wind, Himura rushed forward to meet the hulking assailant. The Sarutobi’s blade slashed at Akakuma’s fat, muscular neck, but the monster caught the rod of steel with his bare right hand, yanked on the weapon, thus dragging Himura towards him, then shattered his ribs with a left-handed punch, knocking the wind and some blood out of him. However, instead of flying backwards into the forest, the ANBU’s body deconstructed into number of glowing, yellow blades, which proceeded to tear hungrily and furiously at the monster’s flesh with the rapidity of lightning. Akakuma lifted both hands to shield his face, groaning in pain as the blades of chakra continued to tear into him unrelentingly from all directions.
“Hmmm…Himura’s Wind Shadow Clone technique.” observed Shiko with a smile. “Good. I can capture him while he’s distracted.” Interlocking his fingers and forming a hand sign, the Nara lengthened his shadow towards Akakuma’s own and the two connected. In a moment, the beast’s red skin was wrapped in strands of shadow, which squeezed tightly on his arms and legs to inhibit his movements, Himura’s wind blades still slashing furiously at him.
At that moment, the real Sarutobi dropped from a nearby tree and joined his comrades. “Shall we proceed to the next part of our plan?” he asked as his technique began to dissipate, the yellow razors of chakra vanishing into thin air. Shiko nodded. His forehead was already moist with perspiration, a product of the strain of keeping their target tied down, but he continued the struggle. The monster was incredibly strong.
Itachi and Himura formed identical seals for the Shadow Clone technique, each creating three doppelgangers of themselves in a haze of white smoke, while Tenzo slammed both palms down upon the earth, wooden tendrils wrapping around Akakuma in the same moment to supplement Shiko’s restraining. The Uchiha and the Sarutobi leaped into action along with their clones, while the rest of the team retreated a good distance away from the beast. The four Itachis and four Himuras arranged themselves in a large circle around their opponent, who was still struggling with all his might against Shiko’s shadow and Tenzo’s wood, with little success. A thread of Shiko’s shadow slithered up from Akakuma’s chest to his face, wrapping around his jaws to keep his mouth shut. The eight individuals around the monster weaved the Tiger seal, inhaling deeply and simultaneously pouring out great torrents of flames at the red-skinned devil, who screamed in raw agony as he was swallowed up by the combined inferno.
Streams of searing heat continued to surge from the lips of the eight shinobi, sustaining the tall pillar of flames that devoured Akakuma. The mighty conflagration danced and flickered with glee, towering far above the tallest trees in the forest, casting its lurid glare on the surrounding trunks and leaves and causing the nearby Aoran creek to shimmer with yellow light as its heat slowly lifted the thin mist that had settled over the forest. After nearly a full minute, the flames ceased abruptly and were no more, the clones vanished into thin air while the originals—Itachi and Himura—panted heavily as beads of sweat streamed down their faces.
“Did…did we do it?” asked Itachi, resting his hands on his knees. Hoji hurried to his side and provided some soldier pills for the Uchiha, then proceeded to do the same for Himura as the rest of the team joined them. Itachi and Himura’s combination of fire techniques left behind a great cloud of smoke which prevented the team from seeing what had become of their target.
“I can see his chakra.” said Sato as he peered into the haze. “It’s incredible that such a fire technique didn’t completely obliterate him.” Growing impatient, Himura clapped his hands, invoking a small gale of wind which cleared the smoke at once. There was Akakuma, lying face down in massive crater, wisps of smoke still rising from his skin.
“He seems to be unconscious.” said Hoji as they leaped into the basin. The team stood around the collapsed beast, scrutinizing its body. Hoji bent down and placed a hand on Akakuma’s skin but immediately jerked it away due to the scalding heat. Sato snickered at this and the two began to bicker. Himura sighed exasperatedly at their behaviour while Shiko, Tenzo, and Itachi continued to stare at the monster.
“Something’s not right.” said Itachi.
“What do you mean?” questioned Tenzo.
Itachi answered by pointing a finger at the beast's loincloth. “Why is THAT still there? Shouldn’t the heat have—”
Understanding dawned on Shiko at that exact moment, horror now written all over his face. “EVERYBODY GET AWAY!” he warned. However, he was too late as Akakuma was already on his feet, a manic grin on his face which revealed continuous rows of serrated teeth, and with a great roar, the beast rammed his fist into Shiko’s chest before the other ANBU could react, sending him flying into the Aoran Creek.
“Shiko!” cried Hoji as he and the rest of the team leaped away from Akakuma and after their captain. The medic dove into the water and carried Shiko’s body out. He began to examine his injured leader from a safe position behind the rest of the team, who were standing on the water before Akakuma.
“He was faking. The fire didn’t even harm him at all!” growled Sato with clenched teeth.
Tenzo narrowed his eyes at the monster. “But how—”
“He’s attacking!” declared Himura, as Akakuma charged at the ANBU team, claw-like fingernails bared and a feral grin streaked across his grotesque face. “Let’s push him back!” he added as he clapped his hands. The Sarutobi summoned a gust of wind so powerful that it split the shallow shore waters of the Aoran Creek which they were standing on, as it swept towards Akakuma. Chakra surged in Hyuuga Sato’s hands, which he unleashed in an extremely powerful version of his Empty Palm technique. Tenzo weaved some seals and a powerful, spiraling torrent of water burst forth from his palm, rushing towards the beast. The combination of these techniques was sufficient enough to send their opponent flying about a hundred yards away into the forest, the distant, heavy thud of his crash reaching their ears. Hoji took the opportunity to create four more clones and a moment later, the whole squad was secured from Akakuma by the four walls of the medic’s Violet Flame Encampment barrier as the real Hoji examined their leader.
“A few cracked ribs…probably some internal bleeding….maybe even a collapsed lung.” the medic diagnosed. The rest of the team surrounded him and their captain. Blood leaked out the corners of Shiko’s mouth and his breathing became very labored. Hoji ripped off his ANBU flak jacket, as well as his shirt and inner vest in order to begin treatment. “Stay with us, man—I mean Captain!”
“Damn…” the Nara cursed, squinting his eyes.
“Hair…it was his hair….” he said in a weak voice and groaned from the pain of uttering the words.
“Huh?” asked Sato, confusedly.
Shiko replied by slowly lifting his trembling hand, his index finger pointed forward. The team turned in the direction which he specified and immediately understood. There was Akakuma’s hulking form, his chest rising and falling in great heaves, with a cloak of thorny, fur-like substance unfurling around its mighty frame, and shrinking into the spiky bushels of hair that fell from its horned head. They immediately realized that he shielded their most recent attack with his elongated hair and must have blocked the earlier Combination Fire technique in the same way.
“He blocked with his hair….ugghh.” the Nara writhed in pain as Hoji’s hands hovered over his chest, surrounded by the green aura of the Mystical Palm technique.
“That hair is packed with high density chakra. It wasn’t like that before.” analyzed Sato, narrowing his Byakugan eyes at Akakuma. “He must be able to direct a good amount of chakra into it for defensive purposes. Incredible—”
“We gotta get him outta here!” declared Hoji. Everyone turned their attention back to the medic and their wounded leader.“I need to treat him elsewhere. To think one blow from Akakuma could have done so much damage!”
At that moment, Akakuma closed the distance between himself and the team, delivering a powerful blow to the barrier wall in front of them. Upon contact with the purple barricade, the monster immediately burst into flames and collapsed into the water—which was too shallow for him to sink, as they were very close to the shore. There was a large, sharp crack at the point of contact on Hoji’s barrier, the beast who created it emerging from the water a moment later, the flames on his body extinguished. It proceeded to glare murderously at the faces of the shinobi, grinding his serrated teeth in frustration at being unable to do them harm behind the medical-nin’s defense.
“We need to get him out of here!” declared Hoji. Everyone turned their attention back to the Senju and away from Akakuma, who began to howl in fury at being ignored. “Shiko-san needs serious treatment. We have to get back to the village!”
“We’ll have to distract Akakuma and make a quick escape.” said Tenzo, his voice placid in spite of the gravity of their situation. Wooden tendrils were already sprouting from his back and shaping into two doppelgangers of the Mokuton user. “My clones and Hoji’s clones will take care of that using the barrier.” The medic nodded in assent. In the next moment, a loud crash rent the air as Akakuma attempted to break through the barrier once more, this time with both fists. The team turned around to see the beast writhing in pain from the flames on his skin, the crack in the barrier wall now even larger than before. Akakuma collapsed into the water again, producing a hiss of steam as the fire on his body went out. He stood up once more, breathing heavily as he ran his gaze over the faces of the team members with yellow eyes which sought murder.
“Once Hoji disengages the barrier, we’ll use our strongest attacks to push it out of the water and towards the land.” said Tenzo, hands already clapped into a seal as he began to knead chakra. “Then we’ll take care of the rest.” added one of his clones, who—like his fellow doppelganger—had his hands folded and his eyes fixed on Akakuma, the beast glaring back with his lips drawn back in a savage snarl. “Everyone prepare!” instructed the Wood Style shinobi.
Akakuma dealt another blow to the barrier, leaving an even greater fissure on it before bursting into flames, which it then proceeded to douse by rolling around in the water at the bank of the Aoran Creek. When he bounced to his feet once more, the monster began to undergo a most remarkable transformation. He sunk down on all four legs like a beast of prey, and began to emaciate. His bulging arms and legs became thin sinews and the great muscles of his torso shriveled away, leaving it a gaunt spectacle, but at the same time, two great, brown horns began to sprout from his forehead, reaching a length of six feet. Akakuma’s eyes began to glow an even brighter yellow, his neck lengthened slightly and his hair wrapped around its body to create a thick, spiky coat of fur, a long, thin tail sprouting from his rear and swinging about excitedly. The ANBU team watched on in wonder and fear as he leaped back on all four limbs with greater agility than any four-footed predator could manage.
“Those horns are packed with more chakra than all our reserves combined!” marveled Sato with his Byakugan activated, a bead of sweat trailing of his chin despite the cold night. “That’s not all, the muscles of his feet have become incredibly powerful and supercharged with chakra. In other words, he is preparing.”
Turning towards the purple walls, the now four footed beast lowered his whole body slightly to the ground, its blazing eyes fixed on the six ANBU. The air vibrated as great waves of chakra began to pour out of Akakuma’s skin, the pressure of his energy so great that small cracks began to emerge on the earth beneath him.
“Preparing for what?” asked Itachi with brows drawn over his Sharingan, glaring at the transformed monster.
“A Shunshin no Jutsu on a scale you’ve never seen before!” replied Sato with a grim expression. “Hoji! Double layer!” shrieked the Hyuga. The four clones at the corners of the barrier immediately created an inner barricade of four walls, with them now standing between the two layers, hands locked in an identical seal which maintained the whole purple structure.
Akakuma lifted his head to the starry night sky, bellowing a great and savage cry before lunging. In the blink of an eye, he was at the violet obstruction that had withstood his great strength many times before, but as its massive horns pounded into the barrier, it immediately gave way, shattering into a thousand pieces with a thunderous crash. Gone was the first layer of Hoji’s defense and the powerful horns were already pushing against the second newly formed layer, leaving greater cracks on its surface with every passing moment; it was only a matter of seconds before those horns would be headed directly towards the ANBU team next, and the flames which the barrier retaliated with were of no effect to Akakuma’s new weapons—blazing and flickering away harmlessly every time the beast attacked.
Sato had already charged up his palms with chakra, Himura was standing alongside a clone of himself, their hands united in different seals, Itachi’s hands were locked in the Tiger Seal, and Hoji had extracted a scroll from his weapon sack. Then, several things happened at once: “Empty Palm!” cried Sato as he let loose a great wave of chakra from his clawed hand, Hoji unrolled his parchment and several massive shuriken spun out of it in a haze of white smoke, fire surged from Itachi’s lips and united with the blaze pouring out of Himura’s, the conflagration magnified and intensified by the great squall invoked by the Sarutobi’s clone, all of these attacks directed at Akakuma, who had just shattered the second layer of Hoji’s defense. A tendril of wood erupted from beneath the charging beast, slamming into his jaw with a powerful uppercut which left him unbalanced, his face and great horns facing skywards, just as the powerful hail of ninjutsu slammed into his spiky body with a tremendous blast. Splashing water scattered stinging droplets in every direction as the terrific assault sent Akakuma soaring through the skies.
“Now’s our chance!” announced Hoji, as he threw Shiko over his shoulder, the rough manhandling eliciting a groan from the discomfited Nara. “Run!” The team took to their heels instantly and leapt from tree to tree, leaving behind Tenzo’s two clones and Hoji’s four.
In the midst of the patch of earth that was badly shattered by his collapse, Akakuma rose to his feet and a caught a glimpse of the ANBU team as they sailed over him through the canopy of leaves. Intent on giving chase, the monster reared, gathering enough momentum for a leap into the trees before becoming wrapped in a network of wooden branches, the two Tenzos approaching him with their hands clasped together. How the red skinned devil struggled and thrashed about, fighting and crushing his restraints, only for the tendrils to be replaced by new ones when they were overcome. One of the Mokuton users changed his stance, slamming both hands upon the ground. “Earth Release: Earth Flow Divide.” the clone intoned. There was a small tremor as the earth shook beneath them, finally giving way beneath Akakuma, opening up like the flat pages of a book and receiving the monster into the great divide.
Akakuma clawed futilely at the air as he sunk deeper and deeper into the dark partition. At that moment, the four Hojis joined Tenzo’s clones with one of them clapping his hands into a seal. “Earth Release: Hands of the Titan!” howled the medic. From the two sides of the pit, Tenzo created for their opponent two large earthen limbs appeared. They mostly resembled human hands, save for the fact that their entire composition was that of stone, and each of the fingers were as tall as a full-grown man. Said fingers quickly balled into fists before bumping each other with great force, crushing Akakuma between their earthen knuckles in a thunderous crash. The impact of their collision was so great that the two limbs broke and began to crumble, Akakuma collapsing between them, still conscious despite the devastating blow, roaring with no diminished vigor or ferocity as he continued his descent into the pit, a pit which abruptly sealed at the Mokuton user’s command, burying the yellow-eyed abomination along with the echoes of its cries.
One would have considered the battle finished at that point, but mere moments later, the beast which the gaping maw of earth had swallowed burst forth from its hold at the very spot where he was consumed, having drilled through it with his great brown horns. However, the beast had risen into the waiting grasp of Tenzo’s Mokuton. These restraints were shattered in an instant but the Mokuton user’s clones kept creating more and more. They were positioned one in front of their opponent and the other behind him, while Hoji’s clones had cast the walls of his Violet Flame Encampment Barrier around the three.
At length, the monster escaped Tenzo’s snare and promptly dispatched his two clones with the sharp ends of his horns, which he then proceed to slam repeatedly into the walls of the purple cage created for him. The two layers gave way after some effort and little time, the four clones of the medical-nin dispelling once the barrier was overcome, leaving Akakuma alone in his domain, the whole team having escaped from him—the first individuals to ever do so. He returned to his original form soon after and the muscular, red-skinned giant with long spiky hair, deadly yellow eyes and still undefeated prowess, threw his head back and shook the woods with a mighty cry, howling proudly in celebration of his victory, growling bitterly at the escape of his enemies, and calling a loud challenge to anyone else who dared to test his might.
To Be Continued.
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