gigantomachy: (Itachi)
gigantomachy ([personal profile] gigantomachy) wrote on September 4th, 2007 at 04:57 am
[ Naruto ] Wraiths and Strays, Act IV
This is pretty much my longest attempt at a multi-part. WTF, right?

Act IV, set to Kenna - Hell Bent


Wraiths and Strays, Act IV
(the pain is of no consequence)

Absolutely not. He heard the Nine-Tails' voice rumble through his skull, full of dark intent. Are you so desperate to let this mongrel clan destroy you?

Naruto wonders about that for a moment. No, he returns softly. I want... To save them, perhaps, he thinks, but that's not quite accurate. He does not know exactly what this thread that binds him to the Uchiha clan may be, but it is not a tie so easily ignored.

The fox's laugh echoes into the night.

Naruto recognizes his surroundings, this time around. He runs his fingers reverently across the faded fan crest on the compound walls -- beneath them, the paint flakes away.

There are no birds singing tonight. The only sound is the unhurried cadence of his own breathing.

"This place is a tomb," Naruto says softly.

By the dead glow of the full moon, Naruto begins once more to climb the path to the house, each step thrumming with power. Behind him, ghosts stir to life, hovering in the bloody shadows.

And now, the boy is scrambling across the sand, all flesh and fear. This time, Naruto reaches out, catching him by the shoulder. The boy spins sharply, and stares into endless blue eyes, radiating with unworldly energy.

He opens his mouth, but no sound escapes his thin lips.

The boy crumbles to dust, and is gone.

Naruto gazes at the empty spot as if he can still gauge the outlines of where the boy once stood. He wonders if there is a meaning in this -- any of this -- or if it is as empty as the idea of clamoring for power just to say it is yours. He laughs at the foolishness of the situation, but the sound that escapes him is bitter and sad.

The dead leaves rustle in a sudden gust, as if these ghosts are in agreement.

Naruto walks the path to the old house with sure, unhurried steps. Power ripples beneath his feet, intoxicating him with the rush, and as it bleeds outwards, the plum and osmanthus bloom for a few fragile moments before falling again into decay.

The ghosts follow him faithfully, though none seek to cross the undrawn border that surrounds him.

As he steps onto the polished cedar porch, there is a sound of tiny bells ringing from somewhere inside the house. Naruto pauses for a moment, his hand inches from the paper-screen door.

Can you smell him, boy? The Nine-Tails' voice is smug inside Naruto's head.

Naruto lifts his face and inhales deeply -- he can smell old blood and death, the decay of summer flowers, and beyond it, the recognizable scent of Itachi: familar, but distorted.

"I smell fear," Naruto murmurs.

Yes.

Naruto shudders like his skin is trying to roll itself from his bones. Cautiously, he steps inside.

The corpse in the corner (Naruto searches for it immediately) twitches in the dull candlelight and begins to stir. Stiffly, like a broken puppet, it starts to rise, and Naruto watches impassively. It takes a few moments to steady itself on its feet, and lurches forward, almost losing its tenuous balance.

It stares at Naruto with large, pupilless eyes, but makes no move towards him.

The sound of bells is louder, now, and Naruto only waits a moment before moving towards the insistent chime.

Like an animal in a trap, Naruto thinks.

Yes, the fox replies. Just like that. Naruto can hear the grin in its voice.

Before him, a shaft of moonlight has broken through the torn paper screen. He pauses there, calm as a monk as the dead gather behind him in the narrow hallway. He breathes in, taking in the scents of death and decay around him, curling his fingers with the innate knowledge that he could tear this house apart, piece by piece.

He smiles, a slow and sleepy baring of teeth.

The door offers resistance when he tries to push it aside. Naruto growls softly and pushes harder, and while it creaks against the runners, it does not open. On the other side of the rice paper, something moves along the threshold, and the ghosts rustle back into the darkness, murmuring.

Naruto crushes the fragile cherrywood frame without a second thought. The shape shrinks back, and he bats away torn paper, staring into the darkened room with wide eyes.

Exposed in the flickering glow of several crimson candles, Itachi lies spread across the tatami in a bloody ANBU uniform, the falcon-head mask covering his face cracked down the middle. Naruto stops completely, fascinated by the scene before him, and the ghosts of the Uchiha clan crowd around Itachi like morning shoppers in a marketplace. At his head, a lone ghost kneels as if in prayer. Though Naruto does not know her name, he knows her face, the way her pale hands contort in death.

As Naruto moves closer, Itachi jerks and the bells chime again with urgency, tiny glittering charms strung along the delicate red rope that binds his limbs. Naruto is close enough that he can see Itachi's black, black eyes through the shimmering, translucent curtain of his mother's hair, and they are wide and glittering with unrestrained terror.

The ghosts are murmuring for blood, a sacrifice.

For an instant, Naruto is seized with the desire to tear out Itachi's throat with his sharp teeth, to feel the rush of hot blood spilling across his tongue. He shakes his head, willing the sensation away, but he can almost taste the coppery tang in the back of his mouth, how good it would feel to have Itachi's life slipping down his throat. He can barely sense the manic grin that curls his lips.

"You will die, here," Naruto says to Itachi in a voice too low for his boy's throat.

Itachi's eyes widen, then narrow sharply as he stares into Naruto's eyes, sky blue gone hate-filled crimson. "Nine-Tails. How did you--"

"You gave me the keys, Uchiha," the fox retorts, the wicked grin spreading until it seems the boy's lips would split wide open. "You opened yourself to me. You were a clan of fools, mongrels drunk on power that was never yours."

Itachi growls and strains at his bonds, the bells jangling furiously against the stress of his motion. "Demon," he snarls, his perfect composure slipping away, "is their death not enough to satisfy you?"

"You still live." The fox says simply, and the grin slides from Naruto's face. "But not for long. I will kill you here, in your own precious illusion, and then I will destroy your pathetic brother. And him." The fox bends in Naruto's body, callused fingers giving way to wickedly sharp claws that reach out towards Itachi.

The ghosts of the Uchiha shudder and sway, tightening the circle around them. The Nine-Tails takes a step closer, savoring the reek of fear coming from Itachi -- he shudders, suddenly collapsing to his knees at Itachi's feet, convulsing as he reaches his clawed hand towards Itachi's prone body.

There is a short snapping sound, then an explosion of bells clattering across the tatami as one of his claws shreds a length of rope like cobwebs. Immediately, Itachi pulls his leg back to deliver a brutal kick to the Nine-Tail's shoulder.

It doesn't connect -- with lightning-fast reflexes, one clawed hand catches Itachi's foot in motion -- there's a short, sharp grunt of pain and Itachi stills once more. Shuddering, the fox rises to his knees with Itachi's booted foot still in his tight grasp. Itachi's eyes widen as the fox applies pressure, claws cutting into the soft leather, drawing blood.

The glowing light emanating from Naruto's discolored eyes doesn't suit him at all, Itachi thinks absently. He wonders if he truly will die here. His illusion has turned against him, his ninjutsu has failed him, his strength has failed him, his cursed blood has failed him -- perhaps, he thinks, the clan will truly die out under this monster's hand.

Naruto (the Nine-Tails, Itachi reminds himself) shakes his head furiously, panting with unknown effort. The pressure on his foot lessens, but Itachi considers his options and holds perfectly still, fascinated by the struggle playing out across the vessel's face. For a moment, the evil light in Naruto's eyes dims, and the familiar blue bleeds out like an ink spill. Naruto's fingers convulse, the claws drawing back halfway into sun-worn flesh.

Naruto gasps for air like he is drowning, head down, crawling up Itachi's body like a ladder, leaving a series of shallow, painful gashes in his wake.

Itachi realizes, too late, that the fox is winning. Naruto lifts his head, his eyes once more those of the Nine-Tails, and smiles.

It's a smile of victory, a perverted, corrupted version of Naruto's annoying grin, all razor-sharp teeth and flecks of saliva. Itachi watches the Nine-Tails come, forces himself to clench his teeth and not scream as claws shred his forearms down to the bone, as he tries to think of some way out of this.

The ghosts press around them, tightly, and he feels rather than sees the shimmering figure of his mother pull away. Itachi, through the haze of agony, thinks that he can't blame her. After all, he hadn't been there when--

--with a fluidity of motion unlike anything Itachi thinks possible, the Nine-Tails rears up, a victorious noise pouring itself from Naruto's mouth as the fox begins its downward ascent, teeth bared and claws extended, all in a perfect arc towards the fragile skin of his neck.

He closes his eyes and lifts his chin. He is proud -- a member of the Uchiha clan, still. He will not die asking mercy, not even if it means saving his soul from hell itself.

He is still a shinobi, the one thing the fox can never take from him.

On either side of his face, mere centimeters from his ears, the tatami erupts in a shower of bamboo chunks, scattering debris that bounce off the broken porcelain mask precariously balanced on his face.

Itachi can feel the light pressure of teeth against his neck -- human teeth. Naruto's breath comes in a long, shuddering pulls.

"No," Naruto mutters, raising his head. "No." His blue eyes are glazed and unfocused, and he pulls away from Itachi's throat, only to collapse on top of him.

And then the ghosts are upon them, phantoms wordlessly screaming their rage at being betrayed once again.
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