Plunging Into Darkness
Chapter 19 This chapter has been rewritten. Please reread before moving on to chapter 20!
Himawari was thanking the gods that she had stuffed her bag full of allergy medicine. There was no end to the grass. No clearings, no trees, nothing. Just a sea of green swaying in the wind. It was almost peaceful if not for the lurking dangers of who knows what hidden in the organic blades and the seemingly permanent cloud of pollen that was hanging around, drifting down lazily like snow on a windless day.
Their first totem, a small figure of a tanuki with a small but surprisingly detailed leaf on its head was easy to find, as it had been tied at eye level not ten feet into the green sea. The second totem, a perched cat licking its spotted paws while wrapping its two tails around its body was also relatively easy to find. It had been placed on the ground in plain view of the rest of the pile of small totems. However night was falling and the Konoha Duo had yet to locate the third totem.
"Can you use your Byakugan?" Naruto finally asked as he pulled his canteen from the loop on his belt. He had refrained from asking her before, partly out of arrogance, partly from politeness. He really tried not to, but the younger Namikaze couldn't help but underestimate Kusagakure in his mind. It was smaller and had a different military set up because of this. He knew very well that underestimating anything in his profession would get him killed, but he found himself catching himself in the act. It was sobering and made him wonder if ninja from the smaller nations were constantly overestimating 'The Great Five' when they visited them (or attacked them; this was a military).
The Hyuuga girl activated her pearly off-white eyes without a sound and took a good look around. After a few minutes beads of sweat started to form on her cheeks and neck and she finally released the jutsu, letting out a sigh of exhaustion. She slipped her hiteate off and poured a bit of her water on her forehead before rubbing it into her cropped hair. The redness in her cheeks could have been from a number of things, but Naruto assumed it was from straining her bloodline limit so hard it started to be physically exerting.
Himawari glanced at her golden partner and smiled before saying tiredly; "I think I found a bunch of them. There are several groups of cleverly hidden masses of chakra. There must be a few more on the other side of the arena, I think I only saw four other spots." Naruto handed her a bag of trail mix to munch on while they caught their breath. The blonde sat for a moment looking at the slightly swaying stalks of grass.
He took a few pieces from his own bag and said, with his mouth still full of half chewed nuts and raisins, "How do you know those are the totems?" Himawari barely caught what he said, glad she could barely see anything in the failing light without her Byakugan, but was still kind of disgusted. She waited until she was done chewing and swallowed her food to silently make a point before speaking. "The proctor mentioned that they were infused with chakra to prevent them from being taken off of their totems, correct?" Naruto nodded, which Himawari was barely able to make out so she continued, "So after taking a good look at the two totems we have, I'm looking for similar signatures. I don't think this test was designed to be Hyuuga proof."
Naruto laughed and slapped his knee. "Hima-hime, you know you are really smart right?" Himawari blushed so fiercely it would have put a tomato to shame. "Th-th-thanks, Naruto-kun." Naruto grinned loudly and tipped his trail mix bag up to pour the crumbs into his mouth.
Himawari ate the rest of her bag in silence, watching Naruto gaze around in the darkness. She wasn't sure what he was doing, but he'd tell her when he was ready. Naruto was never one for secrets and subtly. If Naruto could hear her thoughts he probably would have felt immensely guilty. Such as it was though, he couldn't so he instead turned to his best friend and said, "We should continue until dawn before breaking for camp. With your eyes we have the advantage. Do you agree?" Himawari nodded before realizing that it was too dark to see, but before she could say anything Naruto clapped his hands together and pulled his pack on. He must have caught a bit of light from the sliver of moon that was just starting to peek through the grass.
Meanwhile, a solid week's journey away, three young souls battled for their lives against a monster made of sun. No matter what they did they could not strike the monster and it finally fell to the single female of the trio to come up with a plan to save their lives. Time was running out.
A middle aged man crumpled a piece of parchment in his hand and stroked the chin of his marred face. It seemed that the decisive battles with Iwagakure and Sunagakure were not going to end this petty war as he had previously thought.
The whole continent was at present enjoying an era of peace after the bloody and brutal secret world war that was perhaps the worst kept secret he had ever run into. The man remembered his participation as a fond memory. He was made for war. This peace was nothing but aggravating, but the escalating fighting was getting his blood flowing, this was his place in the world. However not every country was prospering from this era.
Sunagakure and Iwagakure, two villages that were classified as 'great' had always struggled for basics necessities such as food, trade, and in Sunagakure's case, water. The war had not been kind to them. It rubbed salt into their wounds to see Konoha benefit from the fertile soil and river rich country side that the fire country was known for. There were always small groups or single shinobi from other countries poking and prodding at their borders, but lately they were pulling brazen moves. The most recent being the burning and murder of most everyone at a guard posting. Luckily the star shinobi, Namikaze Minato and Jiraiya, a man even he could respect for his battle prowess were already headed there, or those responsible would have gotten away with it.
However there had been a few major clashes between Suna and Iwa that had occurred in middle grounds, such as the one in Amegakure that gave rise to the Densetsu Sannin. The man shook his head. Such a shame that the team didn't last very long, what with Tsunade now drunkenly roaming the country side running from the ghosts of her lover and brother. Still with Jiraiya and Orochimaru still running missions for them, he supposed the loss could be overlooked, for now.
The man was almost surprised that Suna was letting the Iwa shinobi goad them into this so called war. He had always pegged them for being smarter than to pick on someone they couldn't beat. Throwing he crumpled paper into the bin beside his desk; he pulled out his pen and a short scroll and started scribbling something down in a complicated code. He had contacts to write and pre-emptive strikes to prepare.
Naruto and Himawari had to visit each and every single mound of chakra signatures, but by the end of the second day, with only two hours of sleep for Himawari and none for Naruto, they had yet to find the third totem. Himawari tried to pick up the totem from the pile in front of her; it was a creepy looking monkey thing grabbing its four tails comically, its red tongue and cheeks further adding to the oddness of the sculpture. Her hands reached for it, but about a centimetre away from the monkey they were stopped by an invisible force that felt like it was pulling her hand away via her arm. Her eyes showed her the innumerable strings and complex weaves of the multiple jutsu that was cast to create this effect and only then did Himawari think about how long it must have taken to invent these jutsu. If she looked really closely she could even see traces of the symbols and lettering used in the seals in some of the clearer jutsu.
That was her talent in the Hyuuga clan, and it was why she didn't often get field missions. Not that she saw it as a curse or anything. Her Byakugan was gifted in a different way and she understood that it wasn't anywhere near as good as the fighters of the clan, like Hizashi and his brother, Hiashi. Most of the main branch, or branch members directly from the main branch were gifted fighters, but every clan needed scholars and that's what she intended to be when she was older.
"All right. This is good. We only have two more piles to check before we've seen them all. That means we know where the sanbi is right?" Himawari nodded and said, "Yes. We've already agreed that the Kyuubi was in the centre of the arena because I can't see into the weird fog that's surrounding it and because it's cliché and therefore very likely." Naruto sat down. Himawari could see the fatigue tugging at his electric blue eyes. "How far are we from the last pile?" He said; the Hyuuga could hear the fatigue now too. She still felt guilty that he didn't let her take guard watch. He claimed it was so she could use her Byakugan more without fear of chakra exhaustion, but it didn't lessen the feeling very much.
"It's not far. We can make it in less than half an hour. It's this way." Himawari said as she raised her arm. Naruto nodded and they pushed through the grass. Their faces and arms were already covered in thin welts, but they had become numb to the itching after the first night.
The grass was so thick that the clearing came rather suddenly, causing Naruto to halt and Himawari to smack into his back. He held his hand out and she quieted any protests she had. Something was off about the clearing. Perhaps it was how quiet the area had suddenly gotten; birds and other animals were constantly chatting and chirping. It may have been the slight discrepancy in scents he was picking up, but something was telling him that he had just stepped right into a genjutsu. He struggled internally for a moment. He wanted to tell his partner to activate her eyes as they could see through almost every genjutsu, but they were exposed and mostly likely caught in it. Experience taught him that when it was obvious the victim was aware they were caught, that was when they were attacked.
It almost came to Naruto as a surprise that they were being attacked now of all times. They hadn't run into anyone else in the two days they had been in here so far and he had hoped to keep it that way, not out of fear, but out of avoidance of injury. He had enough serious injuries to last a lifetime thank you very much. This test was more a race than a fight to the death, but as the number of totems decreased, taking out fellow competitors made it easier for one in the long run.
Finally, he took a step out into the clearing, looking as if he was just searching around, but he moved his hand behind him and made the hand sign that Himawari used to activate her eyes against his back. The moon was half full and shining brightly into the clearing and hopefully she saw it. The tiny spike of chakra he had been hoping to feel flared behind him and another larger flare disrupted the genjutsu.
Two younger looking genin from grass looked shocked as their genjutsu suddenly back lashed at them and left them in clear view of the Konoha duo. The pair had been planning on camping at a few of the totem locations and taking out teams to make it easier for themselves. They were ordinarily very good at silent killing and genjutsu, but they had never met someone like Naruto before. The youngest one who cast the genjutsu reacted first and tossed a kunai at Naruto, aiming directly for his neck.
"Naruto-kun!" Himawari said as she flung her own kunai at the boy. Naruto deflected it, and two more tossed by the boy's partner before running through some hand seals and cast a blunt futon jutsu that struck the older boy hard in the gut, knocking the air from his lungs and leaving him a gasping mess on the ground. It was then the boy noticed his partner. Before Naruto's jutsu hit the boy, the kunai from Himawari's desperate throw hit its mark, burying itself handle deep in the younger boy's eye. He slumped back and landed quietly in the edges, noticed a second later by his defeated teammate.
Naruto put the shallow cut on the back of his hand from one of the deflected kunai to his mouth briefly before crossing the clearing and using the butt of his kunai to knock the boy out. He dragged both of them a fair distance from the totems so the older one wouldn't be picked off by other shinobi, and made his way back to Himawari. She was still standing in the same spot; the same look of shock was on her face. She barely noticed him walk up to her, but when he touched her shoulders she looked at him and then turned to her right and threw up. Falling to her knees she threw up again and again until she was dry heaving nothing but bile. Naruto rubbed the small of her back.
"Was this your first kill?" Naruto asked when the girl sat on her haunches. Himawari wiped her mouth and accepted her canteen from Naruto. She shook her head after she rinsed he mouth and said, "No... I've killed, but... It wasn't so... brutal. I heard my blade go right through, Naruto. He was so young; I didn't mean to aim there... refl-flex..." She started to cry into her hands softly and he put his arm around her shoulder.
"It's ok. I guess jyuuken is pretty bloodless, eh?" Himawari nodded and after a few minutes the sobs subsided. She wiped her eyes and looked up. "Ok. Ok, I'm alright. Let's get the totem and find a place to camp. I'm exhausted." Naruto helped her up and the pair disappeared with the newly added sanbi to their ever growing totem into the tall waving grass, their path illuminated by whatever moonlight filtered its way through the tops.
Morning came and Himawari, although tired from a fitful sleep, felt much better. She silently grieved for the boy she had killed and her dreams reflected it. But she was a ninja, and that's what they did. She knew this when she signed on for the job. Grieving for the boy, even though he was an enemy made her feel human.
Naruto grinned when he saw the girl rise. Her hair was mussed on one side and when she yawned Naruto felt a familiar pang pierce his heart. He spoke quickly before she noticed. "Are we ready to go win this trial?" Himawari gave him a shining smile and activated her eyes, determination showing all over her face.
Thanks to Himawari's wonderful memory, by the end of the third day they had a sizable totem. Eight of nine tailed beasts sat on top of another creating a pole almost four feet long. They had encountered 7 other teams, defeating all, killing none. Three days were gone, and two remained to find and obtain the last totem.
"So you think it's in the centre?" Naruto said after they clicked the oxen-octopus to their totem. The creature looked fierce and reminded him of a man that he had met shortly after little Hinata had been born. He claimed he was a travelling singer and songwriter, but after he sampled his work for Naruto, the blonde wasn't so sure his claims of leaving Kumogakure of his own volition were entirely true. Kyuubi immediately informed him of the Hachibi residing in the man's navel and Naruto subsequently asked him to make himself at home.
Killer Bee stayed in the small ruined village of Konoha for almost a year. He helped Naruto through particularly rough patches dealing with both Hinatas and even helped him with Kyuubi and regulating his erratic chakra. When the jinchuuriki for the Hachibi decided to take his leave he was missed by not just Naruto, but the whole village. Unfortunately Naruto lost track of him after a few weeks and he had never heard from him again. The blonde hoped he found the peace he had been looking for.
Himawari looked towards the centre of the arena, her Byakugan blazing. "The entire area is covered with a haze of chakra. I can't see into it at all." Naruto clenched his jaw. Dangerous, but doable. He could almost feel the softness of a real bed, and the smell of something other than grass and flowers. Maybe even if he was lucky, the taste of delicious, delicious ramen. Naruto's mouth started watering and Himawari was looking at him strange. The blonde let out a blush and felt kind of weird at how their usual positions changed.
They crawled carefully towards the centre. Even up close Himawari couldn't see anything with her Byakugan, there was too much chakra everywhere. It was like trying to see into murky waters. She shook her head at Naruto and he frowned. He hadn't seen any tracks around the area and he couldn't even use his nose. All he could smell was grass and what he assumed was vast amounts of chakra. He guessed it was to keep the final area an even playing ground for those with extra sensory abilities.
"Alright, we'll have to do this the old fashioned way." The pair stayed low to the ground, making next to no noise. Weapons held ready and eyes and ears trained to find the smallest disturbance. This most definitely saved their lives as Naruto heard a quiet whistling noise before pushing his partner to the ground. He felt whatever had been thrown at him graze his shoulder as it whistled by. Before the two had a chance to get to their feet, four ninja were upon them. Both teams were from Kumogakure, one of them was the team that Naruto had occasionally seen around the village.
Jutsu were exchanged in a flurry of motions, the grass around them becoming a mess of scorched, drenched, cut, and trampled blades. A lucky break in an opening of one of the younger ones let Naruto slip in a kunai and slam it against her temple, rendering her unconscious. He caught the girl and ducked as her partner swung at his head and placed her down gently. Her partner let loose a poorly powered katon jutsu that Naruto countered with a blast of air. Powering his fist up with a bit of chakra he rushed the boy and winced as he felt the boy's kunai dig its way into his shoulder. Naruto's fist found its mark in the boy's solar plexus and the boy fell, struggling for consciousness and air.
Spinning he pulled the Kunai out of his shoulder and threw it at the two older pair fighting Himawari. One of them looked like he had all of the tenketsu in his arm closed, judging by the way it swung at his side, and was in the process of having the ones on his chest closed up. Himawari thrust her hand out and slapped the man's temple lightly. He dropped like a rock.
Naruto saw the other Kumo shinobi scramble up from the dirt and raise his arm. His hand held a short stick and he swung it towards Himawari's head before she could even register it. Naruto let the stolen kunai fly and it found its mark in the shinobi's side, causing him to fall and cry out in pain, but not before the stick was broken in half over Himawari's head with a terrible crack.
Naruto shouted and scrambled over to her. She was not unconscious, thankfully. He kicked the now panting Kumo shinobi over towards his partner. He pulled the Kunai out of the shinobi and struck him over the head with the handle of the blade. The wound was small and would crust over soon.
Himawari was lying on her back, holding the spot she had been hit and had her eyes closed. "Are you ok? Here sit up, let me look." Himawari nodded. Green fire lit up around Naruto's hand and he delved into the bleeding cut on her head. As far as he could tell, nothing was broken. He sealed the cut up and healed most of the bruising. "Any pain?" Himawari looked at him about to say something when she gasped.
"Naruto-kun, you're bleeding!" He looked down at his shirt and saw that the puncture was slowly spreading a red stain. He quickly let the healing chakra flow into his wound and felt the pain recede. He couldn't help but feel proud that he had learned some medical jutsu. He wished he had the control for it in his previous life. So many lives could have been saved.
Just as he was finishing with his own wounds, Himawari leaned over and threw up. Wiping her mouth she said, "I think I might have a concussion." Naruto nodded and fished out some painkillers. "I think you just have to sit down for a bit. Tell me if it gets any worse. I'm going to look for the totems. I won't go far." Himawari nodded and drank some water, holding her head.
About ten minutes after Naruto had left to find the totems, Himawari thought she heard a small rustle in the grass so faint she almost didn't catch it. She stood up, probably too fast as the world started to spin and she had to steady herself, and slowly went through the hand signs for her kekkai genkai. Chakra flowed to her eyes and she again saw nothing but the mist of chakra. Pain started to build behind her eyes and she released the chakra. The pressure of the pain lessened, but the pain itself did not. "Naruto-kun!" She called out, starting to get frightened. Her vision was blurry enough that she could no longer see the outlines of her hands when she looked down at them. The edges of her vision started to darken like she was losing consciousness. The Hyuuga heard Naruto's familiar gait nearby picking his way through the grass. By the time he got there he saw Himawari standing, staring at her hands.
"What's wrong? Did you hear someone?" Himawari looked at him, or more she look slightly passed him. When he looked behind him he saw nothing. Tears were started to fall down her cheeks. "I can't see."
The next hour was taxing on both of the Konoha team. Naruto had to lead Himawari through the grass by hand, and it was slow work. He stopped periodically to scour the area for the last totem; they needed to find it and get out of this area and somewhere they could camp up and figure out what to do. Himawari had tried activating her Byakugan again but it had gone as black as her vision.
The sun was setting, but Naruto wasn't going to stop until he had found the last totem. Briefly he wondered if maybe he was too late, and the nine totems had been found already, but he pushed it out of his mind.
Finally, as the dawn of the fourth day started to creep over the tops of the grass he saw an oddly shaped rock. He pushed it over on a gut feeling and saw 3 smiling totems with 9 bushy tails held up like a fan. He sighed in relief and gave an excited laugh. Himawari stumbled over, having almost gotten used to the blackness during the night.
"I found it! Give me the totem pole!" Himawari reached back and groped until she felt the long pole and untied it. Handing it over to him he quickly slid it into the slot. When nothing happened Naruto grabbed Himawari's hand and led her away. They snuck as quietly as they could out of the misty chakra. As soon as Naruto's foot stepped over the border, the totem started to glow. Naruto didn't notice it until a few minutes later when the glow was intense enough to be seen in the brightening daylight.
"Wait, stop. The totem…" Himawari stopped and turned her head towards him. "What, what?" She said, but Naruto didn't answer. He placed the totem on the ground and pulled Himawari back. "I hope it doesn't blow up, I don't need this…" Naruto said and Himawari would have laughed if it was any other situation.
"What's it doing?" She said, Naruto replied after a moment. "It's glowing, but it's not doing anything else." Himawari sat down and rubbed her eyes. Naruto sat beside her and they watched the totem get steadily brighter. Naruto looped his arm around Himawari's shoulder and she leaned in. She was very frightened. Her entire clan was based around vision and she didn't know what would happen to her if she never got it back. Would she still have to get married? That thought lingered in the back of her mind. Would she?
After about 20 minutes of increasing intensity, it finally got to the point where Naruto felt he had to look away. Not a moment after the totem burst into smoke with a small pop. In its place stood a tall Jounin from Kusagakure that he had never seen before. Instantly he was up with his kunai held out and his body protecting Himawari. The girl tried to ask what was happening but the blonde wasn't listening. The Jounin looked at him and then after a tense moment, smiled.
"Congratulations! You have passed the second test! If you grab onto my hand I can transport you out of here." Naruto hesitated, but when the man didn't do anything else, he said as calmly as he could muster, "Please, my teammate needs medical attention. Can you take us to a hospital?" The Jounin nodded and glanced at the girl and held his hand out again. Naruto guided Himawari's hand to his and with a puff of smoke and some whirling pieces of grass, they disappeared.
Chapter 19 END
Hey so I decided to rewrite the chapter after rereading it and thinking about how it was a piece of crap. I changed a few details around and kept some the same, I hope it's easier to understand now! Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter, I hope you are able to reread this!