Naruto: Tetsuden - 083
Alright, now that I’ve introduced one of the key players in this part of the story, let’s have some fun! Hope you enjoy
Here’s my previous chapters, for those who missed any:
Chapter 083: Omen
Airon: I’ve heard about you. You’re the one who singlehandedly killed every member of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist five years ago, along with nearly all potential candidates to replace them. …Hmph, I thought you’d be a little older.
Masurao: I could say the same for you, Airon Namikaze. You’re obviously the genin who blew his competition out of the water during the Chūnin Exams four years earlier. …You’re the one I came looking for.
As he spoke, he pointed his sword towards Airon, who was trying desperately not to bite his lip in annoyance at the genericness of his dialogue.
Airon: (God, that’s really starting to annoy me.) Sorry, but I don’t swing that way.
Masurao: Hmph, funny.
The two fell into a brief spell of silence as Masurao assumed a battle-ready stance, taking a long step back and keeping both hands firmly on his weapon, which he held inverted and tilted at a downward angle.
Masurao: If you’re really as skilled with a sword as I’ve heard, you’ll survive a duel with me at only half my full strength.
Airon: (His eye twitched slightly in light of this subtle insult to his skills.) Fun as that sounds, I’m afraid I don’t have my sword on me at the moment…and I was tasked with dealing with you and the other intruders quickly.
Masurao: Then what are you waiting for? Come at me.
With his sword momentarily misplaced and a growing urge to test his new opponent’s abilities coursing through his veins, Airon chucked three kunai at him that had suddenly emerged from beneath his sleeve, only for Masurao to use a few rapid spins of his sword to deflect them off course. Noting his attentiveness for cutting the strings he had previously wrapped around their hilts, Airon shot him a conniving smirk as his hand began twitching slightly, creating strong responses from the chakra he’d previously channeled into the three projectiles, which suddenly stopped moving through the air and turned until their tips were aimed towards Masurao before rapidly closing in on their target. With one swift turn of his heel, though, Masurao spun around with chakra now visibly coating his sword, using this added strength to effortlessly cut all three of them straight through their centers, greatly impressing Airon in the process.
Airon: (He’s good…)
While Masurao turned back around and pointed his sword back at Airon, visibly displeased by his choice of an opening move, the latter took one more kunai in either hand and charged forward, the sounds of clinking metal following at a loud and rapidly increasing pace. The exchange felt eerily similar to those he shared with Manako, but his apparent lack of an assisting dōjutsu, not to mention his unfazed and seemingly bored expression, quickly began to infuriate Airon. This rage eventually boiled over into his swordplay, instigating just the slightest misstep, but enough of one to allow Masurao to slip one of the kunai out of his hand, cutting in the process, before meeting the other head-on. They pushed their weapons against each other for several seconds before Airon’s injury forced him to leap back for the time being. Once his hand had been completely healed by the green-colored chakra emanating from around his wound, he flexed his fingers to ensure such before glaring back up at his opponent with gritted teeth.
Airon: (Holy shit, he’s good. This’d probably be a lot easier if I could read his mind, though. …Damn it, why can’t I!?) You’re lucky I don’t have my sword right now, you prick!
Masurao: (He continued to pay no mind to his insults and pointed his sword in his direction once again.) If you were the swordmaster I’ve heard you are, Airon Namikaze, that wouldn’t be an issue for you.
Airon: (Most of his visible anger vanished upon hearing this.) …Touché.
Keeping with the single kunai for now, what followed was an extravagant series of somersaults and heel turns that sent Airon spiraling around his opponent in search of an opening, his feats of agility ultimately giving him little success against Masurao’s outstanding handwork. He followed up with a swipe to his ankles, but Masurao’s speed and low elevation as he somersaulted to avoid it gave Airon little time to attack him while he was still airborne. The moment his feet touched the ground, though, Masurao spun around with a swift and strong swing of his sword, forcing Airon to channel more chakra into his kunai and hold it up to his neck to avoid it breaking on impact with his opponent’s weapon. This didn’t stop his sword from burying itself half an inch into the side of Airon’s kunai, giving Masurao enough leverage to yank it forward slightly in order to line up Airon’s neck with the tip of his blade. His outstretched arms giving him a disadvantage, it took all the strength Airon could muster to hold back the sword’s advance, but even this couldn’t stop it from drawing a small trickle of blood from his neck. Masurao’s eyes were hidden by his large shades, but the remainder of his expression made it fairly obvious how disappointed he was with this outcome.
Masurao: As I expected…not even close.
Airon: (He gritted his teeth in pain as he removed one hand from his kunai’s hilt, using it to point directly behind Masurao.) Aaarrgh…huhhh…huhh, look again, shithead.
Masurao apparently hadn’t realized as he looked around that they had essentially been dancing overtop Airon’s previously discarded kunai until now, his showcase of agility from before being not so much an intimidating display as a means of distraction to prevent him from noticing as he scooped it up and hid it away in his sleeve. Before he had time to react, though, Airon poured an immense amount of chakra into his arm and pushed away Masurao’s sword as the kunai shot out from his sleeve, giving him just enough time to place a small cut beneath his arm before Masurao could retain his grasp of his sword and deflect any attacks that followed before leaping to safety. Removing the kunai still caught on his sword with one strong swing, he took a moment to gaze at the cut he received with obvious amazement, so much as if to say he had never received such an injury in his life.
Masurao: Very impressive, Airon Namikaze.
Airon: (He gritted his teeth in anger as he clasped his chakra-coated hand against the wound on his neck.) Hmph, I thought you knew who you came here to challenge.
Masurao: I did…and my expectations couldn’t have been lower at the time.
As he replied, the small cut on his arm gradually closed up, Airon’s eyes widening in astonishment as his own wound fully healed. Pulling out another kunai, Airon teleported to the one Masurao had chucked away and charged forward, greatly surprising his opponent, though not enough to prevent him from deflecting all his attacks and quickly taking up the offensive. Expecting this, however, Airon quickly maneuvering behind him before once again teleporting behind him, though Masurao immediately caught on this time around and threw his katana in the direction of the discarded kunai. It was quickly cut off by one of Airon’s own, the prolonged, midair struggle between the two weapons causing both shinobi to realize they were being controlled by their respective owners. They looked on in amazement at one another as they retracted their weapons, the same thought coursing through their minds as they did.
Masurao: (…Only I can do that.) Your chakra control is astounding, Airon Namikaze. …I never thought I might meet someone else capable of a feat like that.
Airon: (He bit his lip in frustration.) Yeah… (I might have to end this sooner than I thought.)
Charging both kunai with lightning-enhanced chakra, he quickly threw them at his opponent before using his teeth to remove one of his gloves while he was distracted. He held out his arm with his palm outstretched, revealing the kanji for “kunai” tattooed on his hand, keeping his glove caught between his teeth as he used his other hand to form a hand sign.
Airon: Summoning Jutsu! Kunai Barrage!!
A small cloud of smoke appearing over his hand, from which dozens upon dozens of kunai shot out in every direction, prompting Masurao to spin his sword around to deflect any that came his way. When the barrage ended, every other inch of the vicinity had become covered with marked kunai, Airon taking the time to put his glove back on. Having already deduced the mechanics of his technique, though, Masurao’s blade quickly became coated with chakra before he bent his legs and began spinning around rapidly, the chakra around his weapon extending outward as he did and slicing in half every kunai within roughly ten feet of his position. Again impressed by his opponent’s everso unexpected skill, Airon cocked an eyebrow as chakra began twirling around his outstretched hand.
He began rapidly teleporting between the remaining kunai in an effort to throw off his opponent, the chakra in his hand spinning into a more recognizable shape all the while. By the time he stopped near the base of a tree roughly fifty feet behind Masurao, his technique had fully formed.
Airon: (…but not smart enough!) Wind Style: Rasenshuriken!!
Hearing the technique’s rapid approach, Masurao quickly arched his back to avoid it, staring up in shock as it started expanding no more than ten inches above his face. Making note of his position, Airon took two more kunai in his hand and ran a fair distance up the trunk of the tree behind him before leaping off, intent on ambushing from him when the Rasenshuriken dispersed. Much was his shock when Masurao suddenly appeared directly over him, leaving him no time to react as he drove his sword through his chest, narrowly missing his right lung or any other nearby vital organs.
The Rasenshuriken below dispersed just in time for the two to faze through its remnants during their descent, the impact with the ground coupled with the gaping wound in his chest causing a large amount of blood to erupt from Airon’s mouth. Masurao merely stared down at him as he fastened his grip on the hilt of his sword, keeping his knee wedged against Airon’s lower back as he gritted his teeth in pain and curled his fists in anger.
Airon: What the…rrrgh, how did you-
Masurao: I don’t take kindly to cheating, Airon Namikaze. …It’s a pity. I thought for a moment you might be the one.
Airon’s wincing gradually faded into wheezy breaths as he reminisced on these words, partially as a means to bar the pain from his mind. He gazed over at his fallen comrades, whose deaths an earlier peek into Minto’s mind revealed were carried out by his hands, wondering why he would even bother to bring them along if his goals were truly self-serving. Something bigger was at hand, he thought, as his chest was finally relieved of Masurao’s blade, driven back by the sudden arrival of his cousin and longtime rival, his own sword in hand. Still breathing heavily, Airon quickly stood up with his hand already pressed against his chest in an effort to heal his wound, gazing at the back of Manako’s head as he attempted a smirk.
Airon: You couldn’t have shown up at a better time, cuz. …Huhhh, he was really starting to piss me off.
Manako: (He started back at him with an amused smile, though it was plainly obvious he had been glaring intensely at his cousin’s aggressor just moments before.) Hmhm, perhaps next time, you should give the Hokage a larger estimate than five minutes if you don’t know what the situation is. (…Taking an educated guess, I’ll say that’s Masurao from the Mist.)
Airon: (He cocked an eyebrow.) (Lucky guess is more like it.)
Manako: (What? You think you’re the only one who keeps up to date on who the rogues are?)
They both smirked in amusement at one another before looking back towards Masurao, Manako turning back around upon noticing what Airon had deduced shortly after his own arrival.
Manako: (His thoughts…is it some kind of barrier?)
Airon: (From what I can tell. It’s not like any I’ve seen before, though. That one’s in a class of its own.)
Manako: (His troubled expression was replaced by a grin after a few more seconds.) (Well, that shouldn’t be a problem with both of us here.)
Airon: (He returned the gesture, though it quickly disappeared when he looked back at Masurao, whose initial surprise at Manako’s arrival had already vanished.) (I have to wonder about that…)
Masurao: Manako Uchiha, I presume…you’re the second man I was hoping to find here today.
Airon: (He glanced at Manako in annoyance as the wound in his chest finally closed up.) (He really does get under your skin, doesn’t he?)
Manako: (He smiled in amusement as he reached into the piece of cloth around his waist.) Hmhm, here. Maybe this’ll cheer you up.
He retracted his hand to reveal Airon’s sheathed katana, chucking it a short distance into the air before it landed in Airon’s outstretched hand. He quickly unsheathed it before sliding the strap attached to its holster effortlessly over his left shoulder, taking the opportunity to tighten it as he primed his feet to rush their opponent.
Airon: You always know just what to say.
Masurao answered their synchronized advance with another downward swipe of his chakra-coated sword, once again disposing of any marked kunai within his immediate vicinity. As they closed in on him, though, he suddenly vanished from view, reappearing on a tall branch of the nearest tree to Airon’s confusion and Manako’s shock.
Manako: (What the…was that Body Flicker?)
Airon: (I’m not sure yet…but he’s definitely fast.)
Masurao: I appreciate the enthusiasm from you both, but…
He extended his sword outward, pointing it towards Manako, again to the young jōnin’s surprise.
Masurao: I only take on one opponent at a time. …Your turn, Manako Uchiha.
Manako and Airon stared at one another for a brief period of mutual confusion, eventually gazing back up at Masurao in amusement.
Manako: And we appreciate the enthusiasm from you, Masurao, but…
Airon: …There are two sides to every sword.
Manako: (He stared back at him in disbelief.) (You did not.)
Airon: (What? It sounded appropriate.)
Manako: (Yeah, appropriately corny.)
Airon: (Ah, shut it. Just follow my lead and try to keep up.)
Manako: (Hmph, I’ll take that as a challenge.)
Tossing two kunai to Manako’s open hand, Airon took three into his own and they each threw them upward, the latter teleporting to the one Masurao failed to deflect. The former quickly used his recently acquired Body Flicker technique to meet him on the opposite side of Masurao who, ever wary of their movements, reached behind him to unsheathe a katana roughly half the length of his primary weapon.
Masurao: (Teleportation…and Body Flicker…) Alright then. …If you really insist…
All but the most well-trained eyes would’ve failed to keep up with the lightning-quick exchange that followed their ambush, during which Masurao’s ambidextrous nature was hinted at and Airon and Manako’s irritation slowly boiled over into rage at their inability to land even a scratch on him. The sole advantage of the latter was the increased speed and brutality of their swings, albeit with a newfound lack of refinement, but Masurao quickly vanished from sight when they finally found a promising opening, reappearing on the forest floor and giving confirmation to Manako’s previous theory.
Manako: (Shit. So he does know it.)
Airon: (Seems we’re all pretty equal in speed now, doesn’t it?)
Manako: (He cocked an eyebrow as he turned his head towards him.) (Are we?)
Airon: (He smirked in amusement.) (Hey, I still gotta mark the area before I can teleport, so I’m not completely untouchable.)
Masurao: Are you two just gonna continue talking amongst yourselves? …Or are you going to at least try to match my swordplay?
The two jōnin stared down at him blankly, surprised that he’d managed to pick up on their telepathy. Masurao made no further inquiries and pointed his sword up towards them once again, prompting both of them to grip the hilts of the respective weapons all the more tighter.
Manako: (He’s as good as the rumors say.)
Airon: (The corner of his mouth slowly began curling upward as he replied.) (Better, from what I remember hearing. …Is it wrong that I’m starting to have fun?)
Manako: (He responded with a grin.) (You’re asking ME that, Airon?)
Sneakily accepting a marked kunai from Airon, Manako used his Body Flicker to reappear behind Masurao, who was quick to pick up on the subtle exchange and immediately cut the projectile in half the moment it was brought out, much to Manako’s shock. Having previously marked his shoulder as insurance for such an occasion, Airon nonetheless teleported down beside him, only to receive a sharp kick to the chin that sent him flying towards the opposite end of the tree line from Masurao, whose sword was currently holding back Manako’s. Now having the one-on-one duel he was hoping for, Masurao immediately took to the offensive, finding minor annoyance in Manako’s nigh impassable reflexes. A genius swordsman in his own right, though, he quickly deduced that this spontaneity stemmed from his hands and did not transfer to his footwork, prompting him to leap back a short ways before assuming a stance reminiscent of a charging samurai. Unassuming in his near perfect combat record – save for bouts against his two rivals – Manako met the challenge head-on. As they closed in and prepped to strike, however, Masurao suddenly pivoted his body, forcing Manako’s attack to miss as the tip of his sword entered through the side of his chest, narrowly missing his vital organs.
He dropped his knees in pain as Masurao retreated back to await his second opponent, the pain in whose chin and neck instantly vanished upon hearing his cousin’s cries of agony.
Manako: (He angrily swiped his hand away as he ran to his aid.) Forget about it! Just go kick his ass!!
Hesitating ever so briefly out of concern, Airon’s worried expression turned to rage as his gaze shifted from Manako to Masurao, who once again pointed his sword in his direction to signal a challenge. Without second thought, Airon attacked him head-on, his overall superior swordsmanship showing in every swing that Manako watched from afar.
Manako: Huhhh…huhh, come on, Airon…
His silent prayers were answers with a series of rapid swings of Airon’s sword, one of which gently grazed Masurao’s shoulder, removing just the faintest bit of fabric from his flak jacket as the missing-nin drove his own weapon through Airon’s upper leg. Crying out in pain, Airon swung at him in retaliation, prompting Masurao to leap back to safety before using his chakra control to recall his sword, forcing Airon to twist his leg uncomfortably to avoid having the blade tear through it.
Airon: Rrrgh, bastard!! I swear I’m gonna gut you for that!!
Masurao: (He paid no mind to his remarks and merely flung the blood gathering on the tip of his blade away with a quick swipe.) (He just continues to fight through his injuries. And not a hint of a decrease in his stamina…)
Intense curiosity built up in his mind and face as he reassumed his stance from earlier, prompting Airon to momentarily postpone the healing of his leg and mimic his movements. They charged forward as he and Manako did before, Airon’s still open wound slightly hindering his speed. Masurao once again pivoted his body when they came within reach of one another, only this time, his opponent managed to do the same, keeping in time with his own movements to his utter amazement.
Masurao: (I was right…verrry impressive.)
His foot barely grazed the soil beneath it before he suddenly began pivoting back in the opposite direction, history repeating itself as the tip of his blade slid between Airon’s ribs, causing the younger shinobi to cry out in pain. He might’ve punctured his right lung had Airon not forced him to retreat just moments after, some quick handwork on his part bringing the tip of his own sword back around and aligning it with the area of flesh directly above Masurao’s left kidney. When he was once again out of range, Airon nearly collapsed from the pain, using only his sword to prevent his knee from hitting the ground as he pressed his hand against the wound with as much force as he could muster.
Airon: RRRGGHHH, DAMN IT!!!
When his screams had softened to only heavy breaths, he glared up at Masurao with as much as hatred as he’d ever felt for another person in his lifetime, but Masurao failed to meet his gaze, instead directing his eyes up past the canopy overhead.
Masurao: (The sun’s almost reached that point.)
He looked back down to find Airon standing upright once again, having taken the time to close up his still bleeding leg before walking over to treat his patiently waiting rival, who had turned over on his back in preparation. Though his shades hid them, the look in his eyes made it clear how desperately he wished to continue their duel, but with the time of day fresh on his mind, he reluctantly sheathed his sword, prompting both of his opponents to look his way.
Masurao: I’ve seen enough from you both. …It’s time for me to take my leave.
Airon: (He stood back up with his thumb pushing up on the hilt of his sword, causing Manako to drop his head back down to the ground in aggravation.) Like hell it is.
Masurao: Indeed…but I think the two of you have more pressing matters to intend to…back in your village.
Both Airon and Manako’s eyes grew to twice their usual size as they became overwrought with shock and disappointment, the latter for having failed to sense any other nearby enemies with his Mangekyō Sharingan, and the former for failing to consider the possibility that Masurao’s presence was merely a diversion for an even bigger scheme.
Masurao: You’ve failed to impress me, Manako Uchiha. I’d do away with you now and get it over with if I didn’t have other arrangements…but you, Airon Namikaze…expect to hear from me again in the near future.
He turned to leave as he spoke, prompting Airon to pull out a kunai and throw it in an effort to stop him.
Airon: Hey!! I said you’re not going anywhere!!
Masurao unsheathed his sword once more, slicing the kunai in half as it came within range before sheathing it again, all in the blink of an eye. When this final task was completed, he tilted his head over so slightly to allow Airon to see the faint smirk on his face – his first since his initial appearance.
Masurao: Hmph, as if you could stop me at your current level.
He leapt into the trees and departed without any further hindrance, as Airon was far too stupefied by his remark to say or do a thing about it. Though he enjoyed joking to the old man about the topic, Konohamaru had indeed given him more than just simple errands to carry out in the four years since he became a jōnin. The diverse work experience had opened him up to many new allies and, on occasion, new enemies he was never aware existed when he remained confined within the borders of his village or even his country. However, none of them ever drew any real challenge or excitement from him that he couldn’t find in any one of his peers that was half as talented as he or his two rivals. Indeed, over the course of his seventeen-year lifespan, it stood to reason Airon – and Manako and Nakama, for that matter – had never once been faced with an opponent that posed a real threat to his wellbeing. So, to find one now that not only tested his abilities, but found them laughable in contrast to their own went beyond the mere concept of treading into unmarked territory – and it infuriated him to no end.
Airon: (My current level…Masurao, you bastard. You’re gonna see just what I can do at my current-)
Manako: Airon, come on!!
Having been lost in his mind for the past several seconds, Airon almost jumped in surprise when he saw Manako pulling at his pant leg as he attempted to stand back up. He looked back in the direction of Masurao’s retreat, reminiscing on their first encounter one more time and, with both his wounds fully healed, he placed his hand on Manako’s shoulder and prepared to teleport.
Airon jumped again in surprise, this time with annoyance as one of his prominent emotions, as Manako reached up and grabbed his collar with both hands, pulling him in closer as he struggled to keep his balance.
Manako: Finish fixing this goddamn hole in my chest first!!
Back in Konohamaru’s office, the seasoned Hokage and his son impatiently awaited the return of the two jōnin, having previously summoned Nakama to their side in case she also needed to be out after Airon. None of them had ever seen such lateness from the two prodigies in the years since they became proper shinobi and were quickly becoming worried for their wellbeing, for which reason the latter of the three clutched her chest and heaved a sigh of relief when they finally reappeared in the center of the large room.
Nakama: Oh, thank goodness. I thought you two were-
Konohamaru: It’s about time. What happened out there-
Manako: Inspect the village!! Now!!
Manako’s demand trampled over the two’s inquiries as he walked up and slammed his hands atop Konohamaru’s desk, while Airon continued to stand motionless behind him, still somewhat in disbelief regarding the events that transpired in the forest. Naturally, both of these uncharacteristic behaviors caught Konohamaru and Nakama’s immediate attention, respectively.
Konohamaru: Wait wait, what the hell are you talking about? You just got back-
Manako: He gave us a warning! He said something was about to happen to the village, so gather everyone available and start patrolling for intruders!!
Konohamaru: (Still confused by his behavior, he assumed a more serious tone upon hearing this request.) Manako, I have direct contact with our security team. No one has crossed the barrier into the village without authorization since you left-
Before he could finish speaking, a loud noise emerged from the outside of the building, a product of a massive explosion that caused part of the roof to cave in over the five shinobi. Elsewhere around the village, several more explosives set off almost simultaneously as the cries of those either caught in or near the blasts filled the air. Several seconds after the explosions passed, the five finally emerged from the rubble, the largest pieces of which were lifted and tossed aside by the ever so cautious Nakama, whose long hair waved violently through the air in response to this use of her powers.
Konohamaru: Huhhh…huhh, thank you, Nakama.
She gathered her hair in her arms once again after assuring the others had come out unscathed before looking around in horror at the destruction around them. In total, they counted six towers of smoke when including the one emanating from the Academy building, and when they turned around and looked up at the Hokage Monument, they found the faces of all seven of their past and present leaders mostly disintegrated by their own premeditated explosions.
Manako: GODDAMN IT!!!
Realizing he failed to warn them in time, Manako fell to his knees and slammed his fists against the ground, leaving small indentations in their wake while Konohamaru walked slowly out past where once stood his office window, staring blankly at the sight of his injured homeland in disbelief until he finally managed to regain his composure.
Konohamaru: Gather every shinobi we can! I want the sights of the explosions closed off and the village’s borders on high alert! NOW!!!
Suzaku and Nakama: Right!!
These three immediately sprung into action and took off, the older two with their phones already in hand, intent on doing what they could to bring the situation under control. Manako continued sulking on the floor of the decimated office long after their departure, while Airon continued standing at its center, the same blank expression on his face as when he first arrived there.
Airon: (What the hell’s going on? …What happened to the peace?)
The Leaf Village has been attacked – for the first time in decades!!!