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Unbound Soul (Multicross) (SFW Version)

Chapter 1

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
I’m not sure how long I’m in the darkness. I have no sense of time where I am and there are no senses here, no sound, no sight, no touch, no smell, no taste. I am unbound consciousness. I don’t even remember how I got here.

For the longest time memories and imagination keep me company. I fear I’m going crazy actually. There’s no hallucinations, but at one point I spend what I think may have been in fact years just acting out conversations and stories in thought.

The worst part about being here is I think I’m losing myself as time goes. At one point I realize I can’t remember my family’s faces and spend weeks? months? screaming in frustration at the realization.

I have to get out of here… I have to get out of here… I have to get out of here…

Who am I? Gods, I can’t remember my name? No… I have it… it was Vague? Vagrant? Wandering? Wanderer? but that doesn’t seem right… it’s an alias isn’t it? I know the meaning, but I can’t get the exact word…

How long have I been here?


I begin screaming again… I don’t know how long.

I ask, Is anyone there? Please let there be someone there. There’s no response. I don’t know how many times I ask that or some variant.

All this time I try to move, to think, to will something to happen. For a very long time I am simply concentrating on that in silent thought.

LIGHT! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! It’s disappearing… it’s gone…

I did that… I know I did, but how? I need to do it again. I NEED TO ESCAPE!

Come on, Vagrant, you did it once… do it again. Again, time passes… but the light appears again. I will with everything I have to be in the light. I NEED IT.

I find myself more lights popping into existence around me. Lights… so many… there’s more than I can count. Where am I? Oh I think I can see a… what’s the word… galaxy? I seem to be moving towards it.

I am alone again, but at least I have something to look at! I admire the the stars and cosmic wonders. Again… I don’t have a body that I can tell, but just the simple perception after being alone with nothing is enough for quite some times.

I still have difficulty telling time, but I vaguely recall that galaxies are very far apart from each other aren’t they? I need to move!

Come on. You willed yourself here… will yourself there! I concentrate, again I’m not sure how much time passes, but I notice the changing position of the lights around me as time goes one, it’s very slow, but it’s there.

And suddenly, like a rubber band snapping, I find myself near a star within the galaxy. There’s a planet… green and blue… that means… that means… LIFE! Someone to talk to!

I will myself towards it. I’m floating over a forest. It’s very large. I marvel at the sea of green. There’s something here. A city? A village? A town?

There are very large walls. I pass through them and explore the city. It’s strange here. I see some people who wear metal on their foreheads, head bands? The symbol on them resembles the green things on the trees… leaves… yes. To think I’ve forgotten so much and only now remembering it.

I come to a walled compound. The people here all have strange eyes, grey, without pupils. I want to communicate with these curious people, but don’t know how, so I simply observe. Several dozen rotations of the planet pass before I realize that I can touch minds. I just… reach out… will it… and it’s there… I learn about the people, their names, their lives, their language. I can see and feel their souls, their minds.

This is the Hyuuga Clan. They live in a world of shinobi, a form of mercenary if I understand correctly. So many things are coming back, but so many things remain missing of myself I realize. Years pass as I observe.

One day, one of the children is brought before the clan head… I realize what is happening, I’ve seen it so many times over the years. The boy’s name is Neji. I reach out to him in an attempt to stop what is happening desperately like so many times before.

Something is different. I feel a brush of something. The boy shudders as he submits himself to the clan head. I do it again and suddenly I am the boy. I look around in confusion. I have a body!

The clan head, Hiashi, prepares the jutsu that will seal this boy. I don’t think Neji even realizes I’m there yet…

I feel… rage… how dare this…. this… man… this human… try to bind me… in this body after I’ve just stepped into it?

I stand and glare at Hiashi, fists clenched. Neji seems to be panicking as he’s lost control of his body. I don’t care. I can interact with the world! I will not be bound.

I feel the clan head’s soul. It’s strange. I’ve never done this before… it’s like breaking something… destroying it. His eyes widen for a moment and he collapses.

I take a strip of cloth in the room and cover my forehead. I calmly leave the room. The boy’s father is waiting outside. He looks to me. I calmly state, “Hiashi is dead… I don't know what happened, but he finished the seal.”

Hizashi is concerned and dashes into the room. He examines his brother and confirms his death, commenting, “I suspect a heart attack, but the med nin will need to confirm.”

Hizashi turns to me. The boy is still panicking. I move the boy’s mouth. It’s so strange, but comes naturally, “What will happen now?”

“I need to report this. Go to your room, Neji.”

I do as commanded. I reach the boys room and sit on his futon.

I then begin speaking mentally to the boy, I am in control now, but I believe I can relinquish my control. I do not know how to leave your body though. However, I will say one thing before you begin speaking: I will not be bound in anyway. I’m not sure what I did, but I’ve watched your clan for a long time and anyone who attempts that seal on you while I share this body will suffer the same fate as Hiashi.

The boy is silent for a very long time after calming down before speaking, Thank you for preventing me from being sealed. Who are you? What are you?

I do not know what I am and I do not know my original name. I suppose I am something like a spirit. You can call me… Vagrant.


The boy begins asking questions and I answer them to the best of my ability as we sit there in silence.

Author's Note:
Current Location: Konohagakure, Hyuuga Compound
Current Body: Hyuuga Neji

I tried to convey that an unknown, but very long span of time had passed in the first chapter. This is the first time I had done something like this.

The premise was that the protagonist has two powers to start with from the Power Wiki along with subpowers, but will take time to control and master them:
http://powerlisting.wikia.com/wiki/Unbound_Soul
http://powerlisting.wikia.com/wiki/Soul_Manipulation

This is a version of Unbound Soul with any sex scenes only implied or left as "fade to black". Basically nothing on screen or otherwise directly shown. The main reason this was originally put in QQ's NSFW section was because of a few gory scenes and depictions of "hell" universes the characters encounter on their interuniversal travels. Sex scenes were only intended to be a minor part of the fic. For those who are interested in the uncensored version of this work I direct you to the QQ thread in the NSFW section. At the time of posting this on FiC there is only one sex scene in the unedited work that had little relevance to the plot.
 
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Chapter 2

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
Hyuuga Hiroto is meeting with the med-nin that performed the autopsy on Hiashi.

"As you can see in my report, it's strange.There's just no physical or chakra damage of any kind. It doesn't resemble any jutsu we have on record and there's no poison detectable in Hiashi's body fluids. It's as though everything in his body just suddenly stopped working."

Hiroto, the father of Hiashi and Hizashi and former, now current acting clan head, furrows his brow, "Only the boy knows what happened. I will speak with him."

***

The next day Hizashi calls I and Neji to follow him. He leads us to the clan head office. Hyuuga Hiroto is waiting there. He orders us to sit. We comply. Hizashi sits next to us.

Hiroto commands, "You will tell me what happened during the application of your seal, Neji, in detail."

I command the boy to stick with the story we went over, "Hiashi-Sama clutched his chest and fell over after completing the seal. Then I stepped outside and reported this to my father."

Hiroto's gaze is impassive as he states firmly, "You're lying, boy. Tell me what really happened."

Neji looks around nervously and starts asking me what to do. I take control and state flatly, my tone very different from that of Neji's which the men in the room take note of as I remove the cloth headband, "I do not know how I did it or what I did, but I killed him."

Hiroto states matter of factly, "I am not speaking to Neji am I?"

"You are not. I am a being known as Vagrant. I believe you would call me a spirit. I do not know how to leave Neji's body, but so long as I am here I will not be bound by the seal Hiashi would have used, however I care very little if it's used on other members of the clan. I am willing to comply with this clan's rules for the moment otherwise. Know that I have been here since you were a boy, Hiroto."

Hiroto states calmly, I get the impression he does not want to anger a being that so easily killed a Jonin without knowing how it did it and for all he knows I'm some form of unknown Tailed Beast... though even I feared the fox that night despite not being able to interact with the physical world at the time, "If you can not leave the boy then I suppose we have no choice but to allow you to stay. I do ask that you keep the fact that you are not sealed hidden."

I nod.

He asks me, "Can I speak to Neji?"

I return control to the boy. Neji bows, "Hiroto-Sama ask of me what you will."

"What are your thoughts on this, Neji?", he commands, "Answer honestly."

"I am sorry for what happened to Hiashi.", the boy hesitates, I tell him it is okay to do as commanded, "I am glad that I am not sealed. Vagrant and I talked last night. He seems... nice."

Hiroto's expression does not change, "You're dismissed. Do not leave the compound."

Neji and I leave the room.

***

Hiroto and Hizashi begin talking. Hiroto says, "We don't know what we're dealing with. I want that boy watched. Hizashi, you are to inform the Hokage what has happened."

Hizashi nods and leaves the room.

***

I speak with Neji, We're leaving the compound., I notice we're being followed by branch members of the clan.

But Hiroto-Sama said not to.

They wanted to bind you... us.

But-

I forcibly take control as the boy protests. There are guards at the main gate. I walk calmly towards them. They look to me. The left one speaks as he raises his hand, "The clan head states you are not to leave the compound."

I calmly stand there. They look to each other then move to forcibly remove me when I do not leave. I'm picked up by one of them. I struggle. Neji begins to struggle against me controlling his body. I do the only thing I know how to do. I tap into that anger, that desire to be free, and reach out to the guards' souls and the branch members following me. I'm dropped as they crumple to the ground.

I rush out the gate. I ignore Neji's mental shouting. I need to get out of the village. I don't know what I'll do from there, but as long as I am here I am in danger of being contained. I run through the streets without a plan. I quickly lose myself in the crowd. I go off Neji's memories towards where the main gate is, drawing on them out of need without thinking about it.

I feel as though I'm being followed... watched. A man in an animal mask suddenly appears in front of me. He speaks, "You are coming with me."

I concentrate again, but before that can happen I take a punch to the gut from him, knocking the wind out of Neji's body. I had forgotten what pain felt like! Strange...

My anger bubbles to the surface. I focus on the shinobi who harmed me. He collapses.

Something cold and hard strikes me in the chest from somewhere I can't see. I can hear Neji crying out. I look down to realize it's a kunai. I clutch at it and collapse.

I find myself looking down at Neji's corpse. Several ANBU are examining it.

I reach out to one of them in attempt enter one of their bodies. She shudders for a moment and nothing happens. She says to her comrades, "We need to move."

They do so and are gone leaving me floating there. I shout in frustration.

I wander the village for some time... angry and frustrated. I had a body. I could have... I'm interrupted by a black eyed girl with a cloth headband staring at me, Hi there... I'm guessing after that incident you're figuring things out and still adjusting, right?, she chuckles, I remember when I first possessed someone, killed about a dozen people before they put me down. I'm Watcher by the way... though this body is known as Uchiha Izumi. Follow me if you want to learn some things about what you are.

Curious, I do as commanded. She leads me to what I recall from my explorations is the Uchiha compound. I follow her to her room. She sits on the bed.

I'm about to ask a question, but she interrupts as she adopts a lotus position, You're what's called an Unbound. You're an immortal spirit... a soul that isn't bonded to one universe. Theoretically you can go anywhere you want to. Your earliest memories are a lack of senses and nothingness and you can't remember who you were before this, but you know you were someone, right?

She stares at me. It's a bit unnerving that she can see me when I'm used to being unseen like this, Yes... you're like me? Is this... Izumi in there?

She smirks and says cheerfully, Nope... ate her. You'll learn to do that with time. And listen I know we're all kind of crazy compared to mortals, but you need to learn some subtly and control. I can help with that. It'll make things easier for you. First you need to learn to confuse or mask your spiritual presence because I found your precise location easily once you started throwing around your power like crazy.

I query, How common are Unbound?

She shrugs, We're pretty rare I think, but from what I understand usually we get drawn to another one of our kind when we exit The Nothing as a sort of instinctual thing even when most of us can suppress our presence as the first thing we teach each other.

What is... The Nothing?

It's hard to describe... the best way you could understand it at the moment is the "space between universes", but that's inaccurate because technically there's not really "space" there., she smiles, So... ready to get started, pupil?

I don't quite trust her but I don't have anyone else to turn to, Alright, teach me what you can.

Alright, let's begin with...

***

The autopsy on Neji's corpse reveals nothing much to the chagrin of ANBU, the Hyuuga Clan, and the Hokage. The ANBU and Hyuuga clan members killed during Vagrant's escape attempt are found to have the same cause of death as Hiashi. Considering there is no real way to detect this spirit and that it claimed to have observed the Hyuugas for years this incident is deeply concerning to the clans of Konoha and causes a great a deal of paranoia in the village.​
 
Chapter 3

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
I still don't have a body, but she's deemed I've trained enough over the past couple months to not cause too many problems. We arrive at Konoha's academy. She's been forbidding me otherwise and after the "Neji Incident" just got my host body killed I'm willing to defer to her. I simply watch the class and chat with Watcher. She states, Take your pick of the students. No matter who you pick, just remember to give some time for your host's chakra coils to adapt. I burned out the first couple of mine before I figured out an Unbound's strong soul results in a lot of Chakra and you need to wait a bit for the body to adapt properly.

Understood..., I browse the children. Watcher explained to me that children are typically easier to take possession of. Their wills and souls are usually weaker.

A young female with attractive red marks on her cheeks catches my eye. I speak to Watcher, gesturing to the girl, Her.

Dog girl? Not what I would have chosen, but if you like her I'll get her alone after school.

I wait through the day's lessons. I ask Watcher, Why learn fancy jutsu when I can simply obliterate a soul as I did with the Hyuuga and that ANBU?, I recall as she told me humans apparently can't survive without their souls here, or at least not in this universe they can't.

Because anyone that examined the bodies afterwards would connect you with the Neji Incident for one. Not all Unbound are friendly and the Unbound aren't the only multiversal travelers. I've said it before, you have power, but subtlety is key if you want to avoid attention. Besides playing by a world's rules can be fun.

Alright... again, you're right.

She adds, Treat your host body right, it's better if you make them last by the way.

Got it sensei., I say with a roll of my non existent eyes.

The rest of the day passes in silence with me simply observing the class. I follow Watcher as the day ends. She calls out to the girl I've selected, "Hana!"

The girl turns and meets Watcher with a brief bow, she seems nervous, "Izumi, um, how can I help you?"

"I was wondering if you wanted to spar? We can use one of the south fields."

The girl seems hesitant, "You have the Mangekyo... I couldn't give you a challenge."

I've seen her activate the Mangekyo once and it was just to show me that she could do it. She explained that she staged a training accident in which Izumi's crush, Itachi, was burned alive via a fire jutsu in front of her to activate it before she took possession of the girl. Apparently she's been here long enough to learn it activates from trauma of the death of a loved one, though the Uchiha clan thinks they have to personally kill their loved ones for it. Watcher has never felt the need to correct any of them.

Watcher reassures her, "Why would I use it? I need to get better at taijutsu."

She still seems reluctant, but says, "Very well, lead way."

I follow the girls to the training field. They bow to each other upon arriving and begin sparring. Watcher comments to me, I don't detect any spiritual presences in range. Act when I knock her to the ground.

I wait. Hana blocks a strike and throws a kick forcing Watcher to back up. Hana's eyes widen when Watcher surges forward afterward at an impossible speed though I can see Watcher projecting her soul self forward an instant before this happens even though it's invisible to mundane senses. Hana is struck in the stomach and knocked offed her feet. I move and pour myself into her. She panics as she feels a presence with her.

The process takes less than a minute, but it leaves the host body exhausted and Hana and I lay there gasping for air with the throbbing pain in our gut from Watcher's strike. Watcher comes to help us up, "Good match, Hana."

I smile, "Hell of a blow though. Did you have to hit so hard?"

"You need to learn what a stun feels like anyway. Does everything feel alright?"

We switch to telepathy as we walk, Things... smell weird.

Inuzuka senses are heightened, you'll get used to it.

Hana has stopped panicking and is now firmly demanding, What are you two? Give me back my body!

I say dismissively, My name is Vagrant and this is Watcher. We're something called Unbound. I'm using your body because I want something to interact with the physical world. You get the benefits of enhanced Chakra from my soul and my spiritual powers, understand? If you do not accept this deal I can always gnaw at your soul until there's nothing left of you and trust me I've been told that it will be quite slow and agonizing because I'm not experienced at doing it. We can share control of your body. This can be a mutualist relationship.

She is silent... and takes a moment to understand the gravity of the situation. She sounds defeated and fearful, Okay then., and stops struggling against me

I note that Konoha security seems to have kept what exactly the Neji Incident involved secret from the general public so as not to cause a panic. I speak to Hana, I'm going to allow you control, but we're going to be walking with Watcher... Izumi as you know her.

Hana mentally sighs, Alright.

I ask Watcher, So... is this your first world and who was your mentor? You've never mentioned that.

Yes, it's my first. My sensei was a guy named Shadow. I don't know where he is now. You know when I said I killed about a dozen on my first possession? The guy who would become First Hokage ran several tree branches through my chest to stop me, she shrugs, I don't hold a grudge and even enjoyed it. I traveled a bit after that before coming back to Konoha, fought in the First and Second Shinobi Wars for this village.

I get a sense of incredulity from Hana, You can't be that old!

Watcher shoots back, Immortal souls not bound to this universe or its afterlife. Death can go fuck itself with a kunai as far as I'm concerned.

Hana doesn't seem to know how to respond to that as we reach an intersection, paths leading to our separate destinations.

"See you tomorrow?", I ask Watcher.

"Of course.", she responds with a smile.

Hana begins talking with me. She seems to be aware that heading home is what she she should be doing now, "So... you're like a spirit, right? Do you have to be here?"

You look weird talking to yourself so think your responses, but yes on both counts. I need to interact with the world. I spent a really long time in the void between universes and then drifting through space. Do you have any idea how lonely those places are and the lack of sensation?

"i sense some genuine sympathy from her after saying that, Okay... but can we lay some ground rules if you're going to be in my body?

Fine..., I say roughly. It's not like I can't just seize control whenever I want anyway.

So... I'm guessing you feel and sense everything I do... can you give me privacy and turn things off at times?

I actually don't know how to do that yet, but Watcher is teaching me, but even if I wanted to I wouldn't because I am not missing out on anything. Literally alone and without sensation of any kind for a very long time. Longer than your civilization has existed I suspect.

She groans in annoyance, Could you at least tell me you're a girl so I'm less embarrassed when changing clothes or bathing?

I don't know what I was before all this. I could have been a some sort of planet sized hermaphroditic tentacle horror for all I know. I'm not even sure I was anything close to resembling a human. Also I don't care if you're naked. I get armor and protecting against the elements, but why do you beings wear clothes beyond that?

She blushes, Because that's just what we do and it's embarrassing to be naked in front of other people.

Okay... sure... whatever... any other questions?

My family...

If you can keep the secret of my existence I have no reason to harm you or them. All I want is sensation and interaction. I'm even willing to ride around and hand you control the majority of the time., I tell her. I pause and then say anxiously, Can we run? I want to run.

Uh, sure?, she seems to find this odd.

Hana breaks into a run. This is glorious... exhilarating! My feelings seem to be rubbing off on my host as she grins and pushes herself harder with no prompting from me. We quickly reach the Inuzuka compound.

Hana heads towards the clan's communal kennels. The dogs turn their attention to her. She stops at one of them. She comments as she kneels next to a white female nursing her pups, Mom said I'd get my partner from this litter once they were old enough.

I scan the pups and force one of Hana's index fingers to point at a black coated female with a white underbelly upon noticing something which startles her for a moment, You want that one.

Why?

She's the one with the highest soul presence. They're all weak compared with the average human at the moment, but that one has the most potential if I'm reading things right.

But... Mom said more than just raw potential mattered in bonding with a partner.

Trust me... you want something with a strong soul... strong souls produce more chakra. Strong souls are usually more intelligent and willful. You'll have a partner with more chakra, intelligence, and a stronger will. All those things are good if you want to be a great ninja if I understand correctly., I add, Of course if you want to take a weak partner that will get you killed that's fine with me. I'll just find a new body if you die.

She's seems a bit downcast at that, Okay... I'll talk with Mom when the time comes.

She gently runs a hand along the back of the pup I've selected before leaving.

We come to her house and she takes a moment to remover her shoes before entering, a custom I've always found odd for this world, but I don't comment on it now. A toddler with similar facial markings to Hana almost immediately runs up to her as we enter, "HANA!"

She picks him up and embraces him in a hug, "Hi, Kiba. You didn't get into too much trouble today did you?"

The child smiles innocently, "Nope!"

A woman, elderly, greets Hana with a warm smile as she enters the room, there's a large, old grey furred dog following her, "Welcome home, Hana."

Hana smiles back, her tone is respectful, "Good evening, Grandmother and Aki. Is Mom back from her mission, yet?"

"She arrived home this morning, she's currently giving her after report. She should be home late this evening."

I feel a sense of relief from Hana at those words. Hana says as she puts Kiba down, "I've got homework to do, so I'll be in my room."

Hana heads to her room. She sighs as she removes a scroll from her pocket and a book from the shelf in the room and begins to work. She pauses after working for several minutes, Listen, I know you're not going to go away... and I get the hint you don't really care about the village or me, we're just a means to an end for you, but could you at least tell me you're not evil or something?

I consider the question. I haven't really thought of myself as evil, but I don't think I'm good either. Part of me considers should this girl be asking about morals when her kind kill and use each other for profit and war so much? According to Watcher this world has never really been in a state of peace since she arrived here. I don't see why it's wrong when I use them for my own needs or wants if they do it to themselves.

I'm not evil... I don't think I am., I tell her.

She seems to accept that and goes back to her homework.

***

It's been a bit over a year since I possessed Hana, but we've progressed in such a short time. We both have quite a bit to learn, but the fact that I've been enhancing her chakra reserves with just my presence has helped her graduate. She's actually been grateful for that.

Of course Watcher advised not to show off too much and we complied, but Hana is considered something of an early bloomer in terms of her chakra potential because of me. Even her clan was surprised about when she started displaying it.

Currently Watcher, Hana, and our new team mate... Izumo Tenma who seems to have a problem with Watcher for some reason, have gathered at one of the training fields in Konoha to meet our Jonin Sensei. Hana's partner... our partner... Kuroko sits next to us, wagging her tail.

She steps out of the tree line. She has purple marks on her face and wears the standard Jonin uniform. She greets us as she raises her hand, "Hello, I am Nohara Rin. I'll be your Jonin-Sensei"

Watcher comments as Rin begins introducing herself and explaining things, She's going to do that stupid bell test.

Hana glances to her. We both ask, What?, simultaneously.

She has two bells for three of us. Two bells are supposed to trick us, but we're supposed to work together to get them. Better tell our third wheel that, referring to Tenma.

How do you know this?, I ask

I've done this before as someone else., she says with annoyance, It wouldn't bother me so much if I could have just done it on my own the first time.

Rin finishes explaining the test. We stand there for a moment... and Tenma rushes forward before we can stop him. Damn. Watcher and I blur after him, each of us grabbing an arm. Watcher whispers harshly to him, "This is a team work test, we're supposed to work together to get the bells."

He shoots back, "Why should I listen to an Uchiha?"

"Because if Izumi and I lose this test because of you being stupid we're going to break your legs.", I warn him.

You're not really going to do that are you?, Hana asks with concern.

I'm not losing this test because of an idiot., I state firmly.

Rin just continues smiling at us as we whisper to each other. Tenma begrudgingly says,"Fine."

We break off for the tree line. Rin observes us curiously. We begin talking. Watcher looks to Tenma, "Think you can act as a distraction? Even just for a moment?

"Why do I have to be the distraction?", he complains.

"Because Hana and I stand the best chance of getting the bells, slacker.", Watcher tells him.

We quickly formulate a plan. Tenma rushes forward. He's actually surprisingly fast. He closes with Rin and engages in an exchange of blows, but even with his above normal speed Rin is dodging everything he throws at her.

While she's distracted Hana and I move in with Kuruko from the left, FANG PASSING FANG., Hana and I mentally shout in unison.

Rin knocks Tenma off his feet and sends him rolling as she leaps into the air and out of the way. We and our partner miss and drill ragged troughs in the earth. I smirk as we claw at the earth and come to a stop on all fours and we look up. Watcher body flickers from the trees and catches Rin from behind.She swipes at the bells and rips both off the Jonin's belt.

Watcher lands near me. Tenma groans from the hit he's taken as he steps behind us. Rin smirks at us as she approaches, "Good teamwork, but I did say only the two of you who retrieve bells become shinobi."

Watcher just flatly states, "Nice try. This is a team work test. Two bells is only meant to trick us."

Rin sighs with some annoyance, "Did someone tell you about the test beforehand or did you figure that out on your own?"

Hana points out, covering, "Genin squads are three person teams... it seemed obvious that we were supposed to work together."

Rin is silent for a moment before saying cheerfully, "Congratulations, You pass. We start your training tomorrow morning at the same time we met today."

Hana and Tenma breathe sighs of relief while Watcher just gives a triumphant smirk.

***

Hiruzen clasps his hands as the ANBU, Owl, reports, "I have gone through the archives and found something interesting that may be related to the Neji Incident.", Owl places an old scroll on the Hokage's desk as he continues, "In his journals the Shodai reports an incident in which his brother, Senju Itama, went berserk during a battle and displayed previously unseen abilities as he killed friend and foe alike. The descriptions of this incident and the method used to kill bear a great deal of similarity to the technique Vagrant used during the Neji incident, particularly in that the bodies showed no trauma, either physically or to their chakra network. The Shodai describes the effect at one point as "a puppet having its string cut"."

The Third Hokage considers this, "How was Itama defeated and did he give any information before being killed?"

The Shodai impaled his brother with the Wood Release technique. The journal states that Itama's final words were, "It's been so long since I've felt anything, but you can't kill the Watcher. Thank you for the experience." It is speculated in the journals that this Watcher was some form of previously unknown demon, but there is no further record to our knowledge of it appearing again.

Hiruzen dismisses the ANBU and begins reading the book marked pages in the journal. He sighs as he remembers something one of his old students, Tsunade, had said that seemed out of place when speaking with her comrades once. She had only said it once, but had suddenly stopped mid sentence and gotten silent for several seconds before changing the subject. She had said, "There's a Watcher..."

Even though the words had stuck with him he had thought nothing significant of them at the time and misinterpreted it as paranoid concerns all shinobi face, but he was now realizing it was like she was trying to tell her team mates something. She was not expressing concerns of being watched, she was referring to something she knew was watching her.

She seemed at times downcast and would occasionally behave oddly, but after the Second Shinobi War... Tsunade had undergone a change... she carried herself differently... she became more cheerful and shortly afterwards she had left the village without explanation.

He needs to send a team to retrieve or at least question Tsunade on this matter he decides.

Author's Note: Made a minor correction to the last chapter, mistakenly said that Watcher/Izumi had a Leaf Headband when she hadn't graduated yet.

And yes, there are some slight differences in this particular timeline due to the presence of Watcher and her teacher, Shadow.
 
Chapter 4

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
"What exactly are you showing me that's so important?", Hana asks for the both us to Watcher as we enter her room in the Uchiha compound.

"This!", she explains.

We raise an eyebrow as she bites her thumb, performs a series of hand signs and places her palm on the floor. Lines of characters spread on the floor with a puff of smoke. Coiled in front of Watcher is a small white snake.

Hana tilts our head, "You have a summoning contract... how?"

"If you try to perform a summon without a contract you get sent to the home of the summon you're best suited for. I got snakes.", she adds telepathically with some annoyance, I always get snakes if I'm the only one in the body.

Hana asks, "So you're suggesting I do the same to get a summon?"

"Had mine for awhile", in this body, " thought after we became genin you'd be ready to get your own, and hopefully you won't get snakes."

Hana seems enthusiastic about this, "Okay... can you go over the hand signs again?"

Watcher does so while instructing on how to channel the chakra. Hana seems nervous. I tell her, Relax, we've got this.

She pauses for a moment and looks to Kuroko, "Come here, don't want you getting left behind."

The dog barks and hops on Hana's lap. She bites her thumb and goes through the seals before slamming her hand on the floor. There's a puff of smoke and we find ourselves in a thick, mist filled forest. There's the flapping of a great many wings and cawing.

I detect many souls heading this way, Get ready.

Think that's pretty obvious., she says as Kuroko begins growling.

Thousands of black birds land in the tree branches above us, Crows?, Hana comments.

I correct her, No... Ravens. Funny, I thought you would have been better suited to Wolves or something, but I guess that was too obvious.

She smirks at that as a raven lands on a low hanging branch near us and stares. Hana seems to find it unnerving. It speaks, "Who are you? Why are you here?"

Hana hesitates for a moment, "I am Inuzuka Hana. I have come to sign a summoning contract."

The ravens begin laughing cacophonously. When it dies down, the raven on the branch says, "You? A summoning contract? What makes you think you are worthy?"

"I performed the summoning jutsu without a contract. As I understand doing this will send me to the home of the creatures I am best suited to summoning."

The raven tilts its head to the side in curiosity, "Interesting. Haven't gotten someone like that in a while actually. Just thought you were some random wanderer. Follow."

The raven takes off through the forest. Hana runs after. It's rather fast and she has to struggle to keep up. I'm tempted to use the soul speed technique to help her.

We eventually come to an utterly massive tree in a clearing that's trunk is so tall and wide it extends beyond the cloud barrier. The raven lands on the ground before us, "The World Tree. You will climb.", it states firmly.

Hana says, "That's a big tree..."

We can do this., I tell her, A little spiritual help never hurts.

She chuckles quietly. The raven tilts its head in curiosity again.

I take control and approach the tree. Considering how massive this tree is Hana is never going to be able to climb it on her own. It has to be kilometers tall. The trunk itself itself has to be at least a couple kilometers wide. I've rarely used the soul speed technique, only in training with Watcher really, but in theory it can be used anywhere my soul can get to that Hana's body can physically follow, it doesn't use chakra, just my soul energy, and souls can quite literally travel at an impossible speed since they don't have mass. Hana's body will follow instantly after I project myself to the location I need to be.

I concentrate and hold Kuroko tightly. Time stands still as I move up the trunk. I find a large flat open clearing at the top with many branches where a huge raven with a red iridescent sheen to its black feathers and deep red eyes waits. I pass several holes in the trunk where smaller ravens make their homes. I stand before the raven and let Hana's body snap back to me. We rejoin and Hana drops Kuroko who gets out of the way and whimpers in concern. The girl looks at her hands as she shakes for several seconds before vomiting. Oh right, Watcher warned me that long jumps could do that to the host body, especially if not used to it.

The giant raven waiting there steps back when it sees us appear seemingly out of nowhere. Hana takes a moment to wipe the vomit off her chin and catch her breath before speaking in a trembling voice due to still feeling the after effects of the jump, "I am Inuzuka Hana. I have come to sign a summoning contract."

The colossal raven narrows its eyes, "I am Chiboushi, Leader of the Raven Conspiracy. A girl your age could never have gotten up the World Tree alone and I've seen that technique once before.", Chiboushi demands, "The eyes are the windows to the soul and I can see there is more than one in that body when I look into yours. You will tell me who is in there with you."

Hana's heartbeat quickens with nervousness. I speak for us, "I am Vagrant. I share this body with Hana."

The raven tilts its head, "I have met your kind before, Unbound. The Shadow did a great service once for the Ravens. Though he also warned that the Unbound affect their hosts just as their hosts affect them to a lesser extent. I am doubtful this Hana would be here if not for you."

I ask, curious, "What is this service that was done for the Ravens? The only significant thing I know about Shadow is that he was the sensei of my sensei."

The raven chuckles, "Ah, so the Watcher has taken you in. I wonder what form he wears now? It does not matter I suppose. He was never compatible with us even if some of his hosts were.

The service the Shadow performed was rescuing the son of the previous Leader of the Ravens. He was kidnapped in an attempt to force us to give up our secrets, but that is unimportant right now. Vagrant... Hana... why do you think you are deserving of the Raven Contract?"

Hana and I consult with each other for several minutes. I allow Hana to answer for us, "The both of us have come to agree that we want knowledge and new experiences in the time we've been together. We want to learn and explore."

I get the sense Chiboushi is smiling despite the beak, "Then you have some understanding of what the Ravens are about. Thought, Memory, Knowledge, Experience, we are keepers of these things. Those who wish to summon us must seek out new knowledge and experience. If you are willing to do this and swear that you will share all that you learn with the Raven Conspiracy and help us learn and experience new things ourselves than I will allow you to sign the contract."

Hana and I say in unison, "We swear it."

Chiboushi caws to signal another raven. A man sized raven with a large scroll clutched in its talons swoops down from one of the upper branches and lands in front of us. It unfurls the scroll and explains, "Hana is to write her name in her blood and put the finger prints of one her hands on the scroll."

Hana and I don't really recognize any of the names on the scroll as we examine it. Hana removes one of her kunai and makes a small wound on her finger. She quickly signs her name in blood and leaves the finger prints of her right hand on the scroll beneath it.

Chiboushi speaks,"Then the contract is sealed, Welcome to our Conspiracy."

A normal sized raven lands on our shoulder followed by our vision being obscured by a puff of smoke. We're back in Izumi's room. She's laying on her bed and reading a book I can see from the cover is titled Icha Icha Paradise. Hana just stares for a moment and blushes before commenting, "How did you get a copy of that? And isn't that a bit adult for kids our age?"

Watcher rolls her eyes, "Henge is really useful for getting into the adult section of book stores and have you forgotten I've been around long enough to have personally met the Shodai Hokage before the founding of Konoha?", she grumbles under her breath, "Wish this body would go ahead and hit puberty... really would like to get that over with. Spike in sex drive is fun too.", Watcher puts down her book and sits up, "You got ravens?"

"How did you know?"

Watcher points to our shoulder where a raven sits. It speaks cheerfully, "Hi! I'm Oboe!"

"Why are you here?", Hana asks, "I didn't summon you."

"You see, the leader likes to send out a raven to keep a record of your life, the things your learn, and the things you experience. I'll be following you around and memorizing everything that happens to you. Ravens have eiditic memories, you know? That knowledge will be recorded in the Great Archives beneath the World Tree along with the lives of other people who have signed the Raven Contract."

"That's a little creepy.", Hana comments.

"Oh, don't worry. I'm just a chronicler. You still get privacy... I mean as much you can with that other guy sharing your body."

Watcher raises an eyebrow at remembering something, "Oh yeah, how's Chiboushi doing?"

Oboe turns his head to Watcher, "He's fine, you must be Watcher."

"Yes, but you will call me Izumi. Just a you will call her Hana and not bring up the Unbound in front of others. Otherwise this will be a short relationship."

"Got it!", Oboe says cheerfully.

When Hana and I get home the household is needless to say surprised though impressed that Hana managed to get a summoning contract. Tsume hugs her daughter in congratulation at achieving it, though she warns in a firm tone, "Your friend, Izumi, put you at a great risk in telling you about the reverse summon. Not everyone who uses it comes back. I going to have a talk with her mother about that and I don't want you telling any other genin about it."

Hana sheepishly replies, "Understood Mom."

Kiba, who's nearly four years old at this point stares at Oboe as he stands on the table then looks to Hana, "Why'd you get a dumb bird?"

Oboe shoots back, "Who's the dumb kid?"

Kiba shouts, "Hey!"

"I got the summon I was best suited for. That turned out to be ravens.", Hana explains.

"And why is this one following you?", Kiba asks with the curiosity one expects of a child.

"Ravens like to record things, so he'll be memorizing what I do and sharing it only with his clan."

Tsume narrows her eyes at the bird at the mention of that, "That wouldn't happen to include Konoha secrets my daughter might learn would it?"

"She may hide things from me if she chooses and I am expected to give her privacy within reason at times, but she swore to share all that she learns and improve the knowledge of the Raven Clan. That means chronicling her life. She has sworn to do so and it is a stipulation of the contract.", Oboe explains as if reading from a book, "However, nothing chronicled of her life will be shared except with other ravens while she is alive and any knowledge shared about her life with others who sign the Raven Contract, or acceptable individuals on a case by case basis, will only be allowed posthumously with the exception of such access being needed to prevent a direct threat to the Raven Clan or its allied Summon Clans.", he finishes with, "We take knowledge and secrets very seriously, Ma'am."

Tsume considers this, "Alright then.", she notes however she's going to have to speak with the Hokage about what is said within earshot of this bird if it remembers everything.

Hana heads down the hallway with Oboe perched on her shoulder. She leaves Kuroko in the living room for the moment as she's busy trying to get her much larger father, Kuromaru, to play with her even though he's resting by nibbling at his ear. Hana seems to think it's cute and decides to leave her partner alone for the moment.

Kiba follows us and asks, "Can you teach me how to summon?"

"No and if I did at your age Mom would kill me... when you're older, genin maybe, if Mom allows it. Besides, you'll be starting the academy in a few months, you'll have plenty of ninja training to focus on.", she tells him firmly.

He frowns at that and walks away. We enter the bathroom for a shower. Hana gives a short glare at Oboe and she uses our telepathy, I have one other person who watches me in the shower already, I don't need another one.

The bird seems to shrug, "Understood.", and heads to another part of the house.

***

Watcher had a problem. She had known it was going to be a problem ever since the Uchiha clan had begun resenting the village for accusing them for the attack of the Fox, but things were snowballing fairly quickly and at most she had a few years before the clan would stage a coup which would inevitably result in the destruction of the entire clan she expected... she didn't want this body or the Uchihas destroyed. She had grown to like both. She was beginning her work now. She would start with Shisui... she rarely used her Mangekyo to begin with so most people didn't know what it looked like, but she would need the Eternal Mangekyo for what she had planned and as much she had grown to like her host body's cousin, Shisui was the only one who had the requisite eyes.

She sits on her bed seemingly meditating as she projects her soul self. A bit of astral projection in the right places had let her know what missions Shisui would be on and where and she had observed his soul enough to recognize his unique signature. While chakra abilities were common, actual abilities that directly affected the soul were incredibly rare in this world and it was inaccurate to think chakra was soul energy even if a strong soul was a component that could contribute to strong chakra.

She finds him and a trio of Chunin escorting some minor noble. She lets her body snap back to her soul out of sight before stepping onto the road in their path. Shisui steps forward with his sword drawn and his Sharingan activated. He lowers his blade when his eyes reveal this is not some form of illusion, but in fact his cousin Izumi as he recognizes her chakra. He looks at Watcher in confusion, letting his guard down, "Izumi, what are you doing here? Did you follow us?"

She says nothing, gives no killing intent or any indication of a threat. One moment she is standing in the road and the next she has kunai in Shisui's throat. Her soul speed and that he had let his guard down meant he had no hope of responding to her. The Chunin respond as Shisui falls and grabs at his throat. She throws Shisui's body out of the way telekinetically behind her. She dodges as several kunai are thrown at her.

One of the Chunin charges her first. She materializes her soul weapon as a katana. The Chunin attempts to block with his gauntlet only to have his hand severed mid forearm. He steps back and shouts in pain as he looks at the bloody stump. Watcher smirks as she takes advantage of his pause and stabs him through the heart. He drops as the other two Chunin attack her simultaneously with fire jutsu.

She converts her weapon into a large shield and gets behind it as the attack burns against it. The Chunin immediately push forward as the jutsu end. She bashes one with the shield breaking his nose before using her soul speed to get out of the way of the strike from the other and high into the air.

She forms her shield into a hammer and channels chakra into it, EARTH RELEASE: METEOR STRIKE.

She slams into the ground knocking over a dozen trees and creating a sizable crater.

The force throws the noblewoman's caravan and the Chunin. She gest up from the crater and disperses her weapon. She goes over to the Chunin and examines them. One has been crushed by a tree which a great deal of blood is now pooling under, no soul presence so obviously dead she noted. She moves on to the other Chunin. It seems one of her legs is broken and she is trying to drag herself away. She calmly walks behind her and steps on the broken leg eliciting a scream of pain. Watcher kneels and hungrily devours the woman's soul.

She moves onto the caravan. There is only a driver, some injured horses, and the noblewoman. The driver has been impaled on a tree branch. She cuts his throat with a kunai and does the same with the horses. The noblewoman she finds hiding behind a tree. Rustled, but uninjured. She screams when Watcher finds her and starts begging, "Please don't kill me, I have money. Name your price."

Watcher smiles, "That's not what I came for.", as she kneels before the woman and eats her soul.

She begins the work of clean up, telekinetically tossing everything through a portal into The Nothing. Physical matter eventually dissolves into nonexistence while souls that aren't Unbound are effectively trapped there for eternity if something or someone doesn't free them, at least for souls that are immortal anyway. No bodies, best to leave a mystery she reminds herself. She goes to return to Shisui's corpse and her eyes widen when it is not there. She was so caught up in the attack that she neglected to keep track of his soul and ensure that he was dead. She immediately begins scanning the surrounding area for his soul signature. There he is.

She uses her soul speed and appears in front of him. She notices he seems to have managed to cauterize his neck wound closed with a fire jutsu. She chastises herself for the mistake, but it shouldn't be difficult to finish him and since he's still alive it presents an opportunity. He's lost quite a bit of blood. He coughs, his breathing ragged, "Why... have you... done this Izumi?"

"I need your Mangekyo.", Watcher states with her Mangekyo already activated. Space contorts around his arms and they each violently implode at the elbow as she activates her dojutsu's ability. She continues as he falls to his knees, "That was to make sure you don't try to stab out your eyes."

His breath is labored and he's rapidly bleeding out from the loss of his arms. She places her hand on his chest. He draws in a breath sharply as his eyes roll back in his head before his body drops. Watcher takes a moment to create a pair of of Shadow Clones and lays down on the forest floor. The clones begin extracting Shisui's eyes and then start the procedure to implant them in Watcher.

***

Watcher yawns as she gets up the next morning. A confused voice speaks in her head as he does not immediately recognize the room he's in, Where am I? I thought I was dead.

Watcher responds cheerfully, Good Morning Shisui. It's good to see you're awake finally.

You killed me for my Sharingan!

Yes, I did, but it was for a good cause. Surely you've been noticing the resentment from the clan due to being blamed for the Fox attack? I've been keeping track of their thoughts. Fugaku... he's been planning a coup and while it may be a few years off it's going to happen and I need the Eternal Mangekyo to avert this. I am going to have to eliminate some people to save the clan.

But... but... how am I not dead? Why do you need the Eternal Mangekyo if you can fight so well?

Not so sure I can reliably take down multiple Jonin at once, I can't just show off some of the powers I used on you and leave witnesses, and you let your guard down because it was your beloved cousin. Others won't do that. Also you know the normal Mangekyo eventually makes you go blind right? As for why you're not dead? I took your soul into my body. To put it simply, you were nice to me Shisui. I like you. While I needed to kill your old body to get something from you, I didn't want your soul to move on just yet, so I would suggest getting used to your new home. If you're good I'll even let you have some control of this body!, she says cheerfully and with apparent sincereness.

Shisui grumbles at that and realizes he has no choice in anything here, Alright then...

Okay? Ready for some breakfast? I'll explain more about your living arrangements and what and who I am while we eat. You've eaten Hazuki's cooking before haven't you? She's a very good cook., she says as Shisui tries and fails to avert his gaze due to not having any control of the body when he finds out that Watcher apparently sleeps in the nude at home as she gets out from under the covers and begins getting dressed.
 
Chapter 5

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
Hiruzen goes over the unusual report of the disappearance of Shisui and his assigned team. There were no bodies, not even scattered weapons or the remains of the horses or the caravan itself, not even footprints. The only thing significant was a large crater in the middle of the road surrounded by more than a dozen felled trees, some evidence that fire and earth release chakra had been used, and some dried blood which testing had confirmed belong to Shisui, the Chunin, and the driver.

The suspicion was another village had attacked and taken the bodies then cleaned up the scene. This was deeply concerning considering that Shisui had the Mangekyo and was a Jonin. That he and three Chunin could be defeated without more signs of battle spoke of someone catching them off guard or someone very powerful.

***

Nearly a year... that is how long it took for Kakashi and his team to track Senju Tsunade. She seemed to be good at avoiding people when she did not want to be found. Kakashi entered the bar alone while the other two shinobi assigned on this mission waited outside.

He approached the Sannin at a table where she was drinking and playing a game of poker which she seemed to actually be winning. She spoke as Kakashi approached not taking her eyes off the game, "What do you need?"

Kakashi responded simply, "I am Hatake Kakashi. The Sandaime has requested you return to the village to answer some questions or barring that you answer some questions for me and my team so that we can report back to the Hokage."

She scoffed as she raised the bet, causing two men at the table to fold, "Why would I return to the village or answer any questions?".

Shizune, holding Tonton, shows concern from off to the side of the table, "This is the Hokage making the request, Lady Tsunade. Perhaps you should listen?"

Tsunade just gives Shizune a look that shows a lack of interest after she pauses as if considering something for a moment and she shows her hand to the remaining player, three kings to his pair of threes causing the man to groan in frustration as Tsunade takes the pot as she says, "What could they honestly say or do to get me to go back?"

Kakashi places a scroll with the Hokage seal on the table as the other poker players leave. Curious, Tsunade opens it. It gives an explanation of the Neji Incident followed at the end by:

"There's a Watcher."

Tsunade's blood runs cold for a moment as she realizes what the scroll is saying. She takes a deep breath and speaks, "I'll come with you."

***

It's been over a year since Hana and I got the summon contract. Despite being behind us a major thing Watcher and I have been doing in addition to our own training is trying to bring Tenma up to our level. Watcher is clearly the best of the team with me and Hana behind and Tenma bringing up the rear. Most of the reason Hana and I are so much better than Tenma is due to having significantly enhanced chakra and getting training in various techniques both, spiritual and jutsu based, from Watcher.

The reason for all this is that we've been hoping that bringing up Tenma will hopefully get Rin to submit an application for us for the Chunin exams being held soon... and it turns out we succeeded. Hopefully Tenma won't die.

Hana, Kuroko, and I are training at the Inuzuka compound when Watcher appears out of nowhere with her soul speed. She seems concerned, worried even, "You need to come with me... now!", and she grabs Hana and I's hand, dragging us away with Kuroko and Oboe moving from his perch on a nearby tree.

We follow her to a spot near the Hokage's office and sit on a bench. I ask, What are we waiting for?

You'll see.

About twenty minutes later a busty blond with two pony tails being followed by a black haired woman carrying a pig approaches. Hana immediately comments in awe, Lady Tsunade.

Tsunade stops when she gets near us. She doesn't make eye contact or look at us as Watcher contacts her telepathically, If it isn't one of my old hosts... I thought I told you a condition of me leaving your body and helping you save Dan was that you never return to Konoha?

Tsunade shoots back, Part of your end of the deal was that you and none of your kind would harm the people of Konoha so long as you were in the village. You've broken your end of the deal since an Unbound called Vagrant went on a rampage.

There's a second voice from Tsunade, masculine, stating, Tsunade is right if she's explained the terms correctly to me. You were to not harm the village and prevent any of your kind from doing so, so long as Tsunade never returned to the village or revealed the powers or knowledge of the Unbound she had been granted by you. You've broken your end of the deal.

There's a very firm warning, But we had a separate deal, remember? I'll give you that bargain is broken, talk all you want on your spiritual powers and general knowledge of the Unbound or things this village already knows..., but if I find you speak even a word on I or my pupil's current hosts or any significant amount personal information that doesn't pertain only to you or the time I was with you, I will personally ensure anyone you care about dies screaming. You know I will carry through with that and you know I am better for this village if I am kept a secret and you also so know I have served this village of my own volition despite the problems you both may have with me.

Hana speaks up, So... Lady Tsunade is a former host of yours, Watcher?

Correct, she never responded well to it though..., she adds harshly, up until I helped save her lover's soul and left her body. It's always the same... you exploit each other for your own ends and most of you have a problem when someone explicitly does it to you personally, but as soon as someone offers you something you want suddenly it's not so bad is it?

I realize that Watcher is probably suppressing Shisui right now.

Tsunade's tone indicates anger, I still hate you for stealing part of my life.

Watcher says, Tsunade... Tsunade... the feeling isn't mutual. If I had hated or even disliked you... you wouldn't be here now.

Hana says to Tsunade, If you wouldn't mind, please don't say anything about Vagrant. I know she managed to get Hyuuga Neji killed, but she was panicked and the Unbound spend a very long time alone before they find a world and a host. She's lonely and while the things I've gotten from Watcher and Vagrant are nice I have genuinely come to value their friendship these past couple years.

I add, I have come to care about Hana. Really I have... I'd prefer not to hurt her or her family., I realize though at the same time my own needs and wants come before Hana, it's just that I happen to want Hana's well being and friendship.

Tsunade places a hand to her brow and sighs, It's best not listen to the Unbound, they only care about themselves. The things Watcher made me do... I... the things I had to watch when I wasn't in control.

The male voice from Tsunade seems to speak out loud to her, They can't all be bad, right? Maybe this Vagrant does indeed have good intentions? And you said yourself to me, Watcher has been with the Leaf a long time even if she's willing to cross certain lines. That has to count for something.

Tsunade sighs again, We have to get to our meeting with the Hokage.

Shizune seems to be confused by the silent conversation going on as she can't hear it, but it's not exactly the first time Tsunade has stopped in the middle of a crowd or a street for no apparent reason. She's asked about it before and Tsunade simply stated she was thinking. As Tsunade begins walking again, she gives no more telepathic contact and Shizune doesn't question this.

Watcher commands us to follow her. We do so to a secluded section of trees. She says, Watch my body. I'm going to astrally project to keep an eye on what Tsunade says., as she rests against a tree and begins to appear to meditate.

***

Tsunade enters the office of the Hokage with Shizune. They both sit in front of Hiruzen's desk just as Watcher enters in her soul form. Tsunade notices, but doesn't say anything or give any indication of it as Watcher observes.

He speaks, "I didn't think anything of what you had said all those years ago at the time, but I understand something of the significance now. You understand why I have asked you here?"

"I do.", Tsunade says with a nod.

"First question, what do you know of the this Vagrant and Watcher and how do they relate to you?"

Tsunade explains, "I know they are of a type of spirit called The Unbound and they come from what Watcher described as the place between universes called "The Nothing". They are capable of traveling between universes and worlds as I understand and are not bound to this universe or its afterlife. They normally have to take host bodies to interact physically with the world. From what I read of the Neji Incident, the technique used against the Hyuugas and the ANBU is known as Soul Destruction. I am sorry, but they no longer exist in any form. The Unbound are also capable of consuming souls as well to increase their own power and knowledge.", she hesitates for a moment, "My relation with them is that I was a former host to Watcher. It left me shortly after the end of the Second Shinobi World War. It had inhabited my body since before I became a Genin. When it left me, for the first time in a long time, I felt free and I wanted to explore the world... to do what I wanted to do without someone else's unwanted voice in my head or forcing me to do things."

Hiruzen feels sympathy for Tsunade at this and realizes it explains her change in demeanor after the war. He next asks, "Do you know the whereabouts of the Watcher or the Vagrant?"

She sighs, "I am what is known as a Touched-Bound. I have certain spiritual abilities left over from my time as host to Watcher. I could detect and track both of them with the spiritual abilities I have and knowing Watcher it is still in the village as it has taken an interest in this place and protecting it... even if that comes to crossing lines the shinobi of Konoha wouldn't normally cross or stealing people's bodies. I was not the first and I won't be the last. However, I refuse to track either of them. I made two deals with Watcher just before it left me.

The first was that it would not intentionally harm the village as a whole and protect it from other of its kind with my end of the deal being that I would not reveal my knowledge of the Unbound or the spiritual powers I have. That bargain has been broken with the Neji Incident.

The second was that if the first deal was broken I would only speak about my personal time with the Watcher and not reveal it's future hosts or those of its kind. In exchange it would not only continue to protect the village as it was already doing so even if the first deal was broken on its end or mine but it would not carry through with a threat to personally kill anyone I happened to even remotely care about."

Hiruzen clasps his hands as he considers this, "Unfortunate, but I understand. Is there anyway to detect, bind, banish, or kill these Unbound otherwise?"

"Watcher mentioned that it was aware beings with equal or greater spiritual strength could harm an Unbound and even those with weaker spiritual abilities could learn to detect them, but beyond that they're functionally immortal and can go where they want in soul form. They can choose hosts as they please, but prefer children due to the weaker wills and souls they have and the easier ability to influence them. Any of them that's gained any significant age can almost immediately jump to a new host if their current one is killed and more experienced ones can leave or enter a host at any time. They are not chakra based though the strength of their souls tends to increase the available chakra in a person's body.

If you give me some time, I can write a full report though as I've stated I still have to keep my end of the deal out of concern for the village. We do not have any real way combat the Unbound so I have no choice. I will say however that the Neji Incident is likely not to repeat. I know that the Unbound teach each other and Watcher is probably teaching Vagrant how to go undetected. Neji was likely Vagrant's first host and it panicked when Neji was about to be sealed as it believed it was being contained or limited. From personal experience, I know that the Unbound are willing to play by our rules to a certain extent and not disrupt things too much. They prefer to go undetected."

Hiruzen nods, "You've given valuable information. I want a full report on what further information you can give as soon as possible."

As Tsunade and Shizune leave. Watcher comments, Good girl.

***

Tsunade lay in bed in her old home in Konoha after explaining some things to Shizune... including the fact that she had been sharing a body with Dan since his death which had led to Shizune having a talk with her uncle through Tsunade. She sighs as she speaks to Dan in silence, I'm afraid that this won't end well. Watcher has always been a manipulator and a schemer who will do nearly anything to get what it wants. It may care about the village, but its only because its personally interesting to it, not out of any sense of loyalty. If the village finds it and turns on it, it may do everything in its power to see this village destroyed.

Dan replies, Are you sure she would do that? She has fought for the village since the First Shinobi War. That alone would suggest she cares about this village and its people. I also recall you mentioning that she and her sensei are the reason three of the tailed beasts are gone. That in itself is a good isn't it?

I've shown you my memories of the war. It enjoys killing... it enjoys causing pain... it enjoys eating and destroying souls. The only line I've seen it unwilling to cross was casting souls into The Nothing. I asked it why and it said, "No one deserves being trapped there.", it told me the only reason the Tailed Beasts were banished there was because binding them had always been a temporary solution and it admitted it and its master did not have the ability to destroy them permanently.

This will turn out alright., he reassures her.

I hope you're right., Tsunade says with a sigh.
 
Chapter 6

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
Rin says a final, "Good luck!", as we enter the building where the first stage of the exams will be held. Watcher comments, If we pass this, I think you and Hana are ready to help me with something I need to do for the good of the village.

Hana asks, What is it?

You'll find out if we pass.

Sounds both cryptic and ominous, I comment.

We're all lead to an exam room and the door is shut behind us. There's a total of twenty-seven teams, most from Konoha due to lingering tensions from the Third Shinobi World War. Shinobi from other villages include Takigakure, Kusagakure, and Shimogakure. Tenma, Watcher, and Hana and I sit next to each other as there doesn't seem to be any sort of assigned or random seating in place.

Then we wait... and wait... and wait... with no proctor showing up. The Genin in the room are becoming restless. Hana looks to our teammates and whispers, "Did we get the wrong time?"

Tenma says, "We couldn't have. We were lead in here by other proctors."

Hana asks, "Any idea who the head proctor was for this?"

Watcher shrugs, "Nope."

At the hour and half mark a couple teams walk out in annoyance. Two hours in three more teams are gone. Hana and I are busy making origami out of the blank paper sitting at the spot on our desk out of boredom. Tenma is sleep and drooling next to us while Watcher is picking her nails with a kunai. Kuroko is also sleeping with some quiet snoring on our head.

By the time three hours have passed a total of eight teams are gone. Tenma has gone back to sleeping after waking up briefly and asking why we can't leave with us threatening him over it if he does. Shisui speaks up with a mental sigh, This has to be part of the exam... a test of patience. Shinobi need to be able to be patient.

Watcher is graffitiing her host body's name into the desk, apparently ignoring Shisui for the moment as I respond to him while Hana is tapping her fingers out of boredom, It has to be right? They wouldn't make us just sit here for no reason. I mean, if the proctor keeled over from a heart attack suddenly or something they would tell us to come back later or get a replacement, right?

Shisui responds, I would think so.

The four hour and twenty-seven minute mark hits. Eleven teams are gone by the time a man with a mask covering his mouth and his headband covering his left walks in. Hatake Kakashi begins explaining his absence, though the only reason our team actually knows who he is immediately is because he's Rin-Sensei's husband, "Oh... hello... sorry I'm late, you see I had to help this old woman..."

Tenma gets up and shouts at him angrily before he can finish whatever story he's starting, "YOU'RE FOUR AND HALF HOURS LATE! WAS THIS PART OF THE TEST!?"

Kakashi seems to consider this before stating calmly, "Yes, this was actually the test. Those of you remaining pass."

There's various groans and sighs of annoyance from the teams left in the room.

Hana comments to Shisui and Watcher, Seriously?

Are we sure he's not just giving those of us who stayed a pass because he was late?, I ask.

Shisui and Watcher give a simultaneous mental shrug as the latter comments, I have no idea.

After about another man with bushy eyebrows and a bowl cut bursts into the room and announces to the remaining teams, "I am Might Guy and I am the Proctor for the next stage of the exam.", he looks to Kakashi, "Eleven teams, my stage will beat that number, Kakashi."

Kakashi doesn't seem to be taking any note of that. Though there seems to be some nervousness in the room at that statement from the various Genin. It should be noted the reason we know Might Guy is due to a weird rivalry with Kakashi despite both being Jonin.

Guy announces enthusiastically, "You'll be following me to the next stage which is to begin immediately!"

We all file out of the room after Guy. Hana and I are both hoping that this test isn't going to be as boring as the last one.

***

"Training Ground 44: The Forest of Death! Your objective is to make it to the tower in the center. However each team will be given a scroll, either Heaven or Earth. You will have to acquire another scroll from another team and get to the tower within five days to succeed in this stage! By design at least half the teams will be eliminated. You will also have to sign liability waivers due to dangers of the forest and other teams. I wish you all good luck in this part of the exam! Also you are not open your scrolls until you the reach tower!", Might Guy explains.

"Cheerful even though he may be sending some of us to our deaths.", Hana comments.

Tenma says. "It's kind of weird."

We line up to sign the waivers and get our scrolls. After that each team is lead to a different entrance to the forest. We're at Gate 10. We wait for the proctor to give the signal before entering.

We enter the forest. Oboe follows us, occasionally stopping on trees overhead. We have an Earth Scroll. Tenma states, "Seems pretty obvious what we should do. You both can detect chakra signatures. You detect someone, we find them, and take their scroll. We repeat if we need to if we get the wrong one."

Watcher and Hana and I nod, "He's right", Hana comments.

Hana and Kuroko begin sniffing for human chakra while Watcher scans with her Sharingan. Shisui comments, I know you're ruthless, but I would ask that you not kill Konoha Genin during this exam if you don't need to, Watcher.

No promises, she responds.

We pick up three chakra signatures close to us to the south and begin heading towards them. We stop when we get near them and move to the trees branches to avoid detection, it's three Waterfall Village shinobi. I catch Watcher grinning. Watcher gives a hand sign, "One Each?"

Tenma and Hana signal back, "Sure"

Just as the three ninja step below we drop down. The two on the sides draw their weapons. The one in the middle begins going through hand signs while his partners charge. Watcher takes the one in the middle performing hand signs as Tenma and Hana and I engage the other two.

Watcher interrupts and starts trading blows with her Sharingan activated. Unfortunately for this shinobi this interrupts whatever jutsu he was trying to perform and hoping his partners would distract us away from while Watcher is dodging or blocking everything he tries to counterattack with due to her Sharingan.

Tenma draws his sword and engages the left enemy. Hana combines the Beast Human Clone and the Four Legs technique and leaps at the kunoichi wielding a pair of trench knives. She mistakenly goes for Kuroko and misses while Hana and I attack from the side. Hana and I both knew going in that this was likely going to involve fighting to the death. As we leap at her we bite down on her jugular tearing out her throat as we channel chakra into our jaws to increase strength there. The Waterfall Kunoichi gasps and immediately drops her weapons as we back up and she attempts to stem the flow of blood gushing from her neck as she falls to her knees. She gasps and jerks a few times before falling face forward and moving no more as she continues to bleed out.

We turn out attention to Watcher who has had her back to the rest of us and decided to use the opportunity to use her Mangekyo... Hana and I get the chance to hear a sickening crunch and scream before we turn around to see the end of her opponent's legs then head being slowly compressed into twisted balls of flesh dripping with blood. He drops to the ground as she deactivates her Mangekyo and turns around to reveal her eyes are back to normal.

Finally after an extended sword fight that's been going on during this, Tenma swings his blade and decapitates his opponent. He looks at the the twisted and bleeding mass of flesh behind Watcher with a grimace, "Kami, what the hell did you do, Izumi?"

Watcher waves him off dismissively, "My Mangekyo allows me to manipulate space. I call it Magaru."

He still seems rather horrified by the result, "Remind me never to seriously piss you off, Uchiha."

She stifles a laugh at this before saying, "We should check the bodies and move on."

We all nod and do so. Turns out we got lucky, Tenma finds a Heaven Scroll on the guy he decapitated. All we need to do is get to the tower. We start immediately.

We have two encounters on the way there. One is a trio of teenage Konoha-nin who cross our path. They stare at us for moment and one actually locks up at seeing that Hana and I have dried blood down our front from tearing a person's throat out. We just smile at him with a predatory grin. He looks to his comrades and states, "This is fucking Team 3... we should just go..."

The other two nod and leave with him. Tenma gives a prideful grin, "Seems we're getting a reputation."

Shisui comments, Reputations such as yours are not entirely good. This means you will have people seeking to challenge you as an attempt to prove they can beat you not to mention other unwanted attention. I would advise caution.

Watcher, Hana, and I decide to agree with him as we move on. Our second encounter is an ambush of Grass shinobi near the tower. The only reason we got out of the way is because the idiot decided to shout the name of his jutsu (something we quickly got Tenma to stop doing and I don't know why some ninja feel the need to do this), "Earth Release: Quicksand Trap!"

Watcher has her Sharingan activated as we get out of the way, she scans the area and tracks one of the attackers, Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique.

The blast catches the offending ninja, setting him and the branch he was running on on fire. He falls off the tree and begins groaning in pain from severe burns and multi-story fall. Tenma draws his sword and goes to put the man out of his misery, but a pair of kunoichi body flicker in front of their team mate to defend him. One shouts at the other, "Get Ryu to safety, I'll hold them off."

One of them grabs the burned man and body flickers away as the other stands to block us with a pair of kama. Watcher grins at the two leaving before looking to us, "Take care of this one. I'm not letting a kill get away from me."

The kunoichi stares in shock as Watcher body flickers away, but she realizes she has us to contend with. Tenma charges and she blocks with her weapons, Hana moves behind her ready to attack with Kuroko, the kunoichi jumps out of the way into the air. Hana looks up and forms three hands signs in rapid succession, Wind Release: Compression.

We found that Hana's chakra affinity is wind. After some practicing and observing the effects the Magaru we came up with the Wind Release: Compression technique. The kunoichi hits the ground as we maintain the jutsu on her. She lets out what sounds like a drunken moan before passing out. We stop the jutsu and calmly approach before shoving a kunai into her brain stem. Tenma having never seen this effect before questions, "Why did she do that?"

Hana explains, "I compressed the air immediately around her enough to trigger nitrogen narcosis. It causes hallucinations, drunkenness, unconsciousness and eventually death from nitrogen being forced into the blood. The air you're breathing is mostly nitrogen."

He tilts his head, "Huh, I guess I learned something new."

We don't mention that we're trying to work out the opposite and create vacuums as well. We hear several screams from the direction Watcher went in. She returns after several minutes wiping blood off one of her kunai and humming to herself. She states, "They had an Earth scroll. I burned it. Two less teams making it to the next stage."

We begin making the final trek to the tower. Tenma whispers to Hana and I, "Seriously, I know part of being a shinobi is killing, but... Izumi is kinda scary."

Hana whispers back, "At least she's on our team."

"Right."

We enter the tower. It's been about twelve hours since we started, so it's night. We examine the scrolls for a moment before opening them. In a puff of smoke Rin appears, "Congratulations, you passed the second stage!"

She looks with concern at Hana and I who still have dried blood down our front, but she seem to realize the blood isn't ours, she says, "Since it will take a few days for the second stage to complete there are bunks here for you to rest, showers and a washroom for you to get cleaned, and a place for you to get something to eat.", she points to a side door.

We bow to our sensei and simultaneously say, "Thank you."

***

By the time the second stage is done only four teams have made it inside the tower, three from Konoha and a team of Frost Ninja. That includes us.

We all stand at attention as Might Guy and our senseis stand before us. Guy speaks, "You have all proven yourselves by making it this far. From here on you will no longer be competing as teams. The next stage will be a tournament against each other to display your individual combat skills. There will be an interval of one month to prepare and train. Good luck to you all and may the Power of Youth drive you forward."

We're taken out of the forest by Rin. She congratulates us again, "You guys have come really far in such a short amount of time. We're celebrating tonight. I'm taking you out for a dinner."

Tenma is the first to says with a smile on his face, "Thanks Rin-Sensei!"

I ask Watcher, Ready to tell me that thing yet?, as we follow Rin.

Nope, not until we pass the Chunin Exams, she responds.

Shisui?

Well...

Watcher shuts him up before he can say anything else.​
 
Chapter 7

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
When word had reached him from his spies that Tsunade had returned to Konoha he had seen opportunity to add to his strength. The Frost Shinobi hadn't even suspected their handsome comrade had been replaced. He had considered sending his own shinobi from Reigakure as well, but that might cause an overt amount of suspicion at the moment and his village was still not at full strength. No, he had the power. He would do it alone.

Tsunade could suppress her spiritual presence and chakra signature, but it didn't change the fact she had chosen to stay in an obvious place, her old home. He slithers his way into her room, disarming any traps or alarms. This would be simple... all he had to do was eat her soul to add to his own power. She lay curled up on the bed asleep as he approaches. Something is wrong. There is chakra, but no soul presence... his eyes widen, a Shadow Clone. He turns just in time to dodge an enhanced punch from Tsunade.

He backs up as Tsunade speaks, "You can wear someone else's face, but I can still recognize your soul, Orochimaru."

He grins predatorily and his tone seems too friendly, "Am I that obvious? And I thought I was doing such a good job at hiding my presence from you. I certainly haven't alerted those two Unbound in the village yet. How is Dan doing?"

"Tell me why you're here.", she snarls back and not letting her guard down for a moment.

"Can't an old friend visit? Does that deal that prevents you from mentioning that I'm Touched-Bound still stand? It was always funny that you were never good as adapting to Watcher as I was to Shadow. You realize you're very hard to track down by the way? When I heard you had returned to Konoha I just had to come see you."

Tsunade is considering her options. This is bad. Shadow and Orochimaru had always had stronger spiritual powers than her and Watcher. She needs help, but calling Watcher and Vagrant is itself a risk. Orochimaru charges. Tsunade dodges several blows before her fellow Sannin's arm launches several snakes to constrict and restrain her. She dodges narrowly. She knows he is avoiding spiritual abilities himself to keep from attracting Vagrant and Watcher as well.

Another series of blows results in Orochimaru dodging her attacks again. He backs up and his neck extends before she can react and with extended fangs he bites down on her arm. She gasps in pain as he withdraws and smiles at her, "Your time is running out now. That venom is deadly."

Dan, I have to call them.

Understood... they should understand if its someone like him.

Tsunade flares her spiritual presence, shining brightly to the mundane and spiritual senses.

***

Watcher wakes up and quickly gets dressed without saying a word. Shisui asks, What was that?

Someone who reluctantly needs help.

Watcher calls out to Vagrant and Hana across Konoha, Did you feel that?

I reply, We both did.

You know where it is then. Get ready quickly and meet me there.

***

Orochimaru backs up at the sudden flare and has to shut his eyes for a moment. He curses mentally. He needs to finish this quickly and leave. He lunges at Tsunade, tackling her in her weakened, envenomed state. He prepares to consume her soul.

Unfortunate for him this is the moment Watcher appears on the balcony, followed by Hana and I a few seconds after. A blast of white spiritual energy from Watcher lights up the room and Orochimaru manages to avoid the bulk of the blast but feels it grazing him and the twinge of pain in his soul from it burning him there. The blast craters the wall behind Orochimaru. He hisses at the Unbound in anger.

Hana voluntarily gives me control and I move at the unidentified Frost Ninja with soul speed, ready to attack, but he has soul speed of his own and easily dodges. I try to strike again, but he's gone. I can sense him running through the village as he starts and stops with his soul enhance speed. I don't think he can make as long a jump as we can at one time. I'm about to give chase, but Watcher places a hand on my shoulder, "Leave him. We need to take care of Tsunade."

Hana and I are training as a medic-nin... but that's mainly veterinary. We could help a human in an emergency, but we aren't knowledgeable on venom and it's not like we're experts to begin with either. We and Watcher kneel next to Tsunade. Tsunade's breathing is labored. She points to a brief case by the door and gives Hana a key, "Antivenom-003... inject me... with it."

We do as commanded and unlock the briefcase before quickly finding the a vial of antivenom and syringe. Tsunade struggles to say, "The... entire... vial."

Hana does as instructed and quickly finds a vein in Tsunade's arm before injecting the antivenom. We hear the crunch of glass. Watcher turns her head to the noise while Hana and I are still focusing on Tsunade. We hear Watcher say out loud while Shisui says it telepathically, "Fuck", Fuck.

Hana and I finally look up. A trio of ANBU are standing in the room as well as Shizune having entered through the door, likely drawn by the noise and light. One of the ANBU silently picks up Tsunade and takes her away for medical treatment with Shizune following. The other two ANBU approach us. The apparent leader speaks, we both recognize his voice as Kakashi's, "You're coming with me."

Hana and I both begin panicking. We both begin asking Watcher and Shisui what to do here. Watcher responds, "We're going with them.", she grins at the ANBU, "I'd like to know what exactly you have to say on this though."

The ANBU say nothing as we follow them.

***

Watcher and Shisui and Hana and I sit in separate cells next to each other at the Konoha Intelligence Division. Hana is curled up on the bed in the cell and wishing she could hold Kuroko right now while I try to console her, It's going to be okay... worst comes to worst, I'm leaving this body and taking you with me.

She's gives a sorrowful sigh at that and I can feel her fear, I've heard rumors and horror stories about what happens at the Intelligence division. They're going to do horrible things to us.

Watcher calls over from the other cell, not even bothering with telepathy, "Relax, they know that if we wanted to leave we would. Why do you think they put us in these lower security cells right next to each other? They want us talking and they know the higher security cells would be a wasted effort. We went with them voluntarily because our cover is blown. They're trying to decide how they and us are going to handle that."

Hana and I just stop talking to Watcher for the moment. I focus on her and trying to calm her down. After about half an hour the Third Hokage walks in. He is followed by ANBU and a young scarred man wearing a bandanna Hana and I don't recognize. The Hokage speaks, "That would be correct on what you said earlier, but since one of you has gone completely silent we'll move on.", he clasps his hands behind his back, "Which one of you is Watcher and which one of you is Vagrant?"

Watcher speaks for us, "I'm Watcher, Vagrant is sharing a body with Hana.", she pauses then adds as she briefly activates her Eternal Mangekyo to reveal the overlapping pinwheel and cross pattern of Shisui and her eyes, "Oh Shisui is here to. You can talk to him if you like. I took in his soul. I needed his eyes, but liked him enough for him to not move on."

The Hokage speaks matter of factly, "Than you are responsible for the disappearance of Shisui and his team a year ago?"

"Just me.", Watcher confirms, "Hana and Vagrant had nothing to do with it, but I did it for a good cause."

"And what cause was that?"

"I was hoping to reveal it to Vagrant and Hana after the Chunin Exams, but it looks like we may not get to finish them. I can read people's thoughts, you know? Surface thoughts are easy. Deeper thoughts require a bit of probing. The short of it is that the Uchihas are planning a coup which would likely get the clan destroyed. I like the Uchihas, this body, and this village. I don't want any of those things destroyed. Since you had shown no signs of noticing and dealing with it for the moment I was going to eliminate a few key members of the Uchihas to stop the coup.

Basically removing some cancer to save the body.", she adds, "Also you'll be happy to know that I'm willing to ignore Tsunade and I's deal since it was voided by a third party."

Hana and I gasp at this, "Why didn't you tell us sooner?"

"I didn't think you'd be ready to help until you became Chunin.", she states.

The Hokage asks, "Can I speak to Shisui if he is with you?"

Izumi's body's entire stance and tone changes as she kneels in the cell, "Lord Hokage."

Hiruzen and the others take note of this, "Did you know anything of this planned coup?"

"I did not. The reason Watcher decided to kill me was solely for the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan. She explained that she couldn't leave witnesses behind and had to kill anyone that could have reported the act at the time.

I have shared Watcher's telepathy and can confirm that a faction within the Uchiha clan led by Fugaku has been planning a coup to be carried out sometime within the next few years."

"Shisui... can you confirm the loyalty of Watcher to the village despite her actions?"

"She serves the village out of personal interest, simple like for its people, and that focusing on a single village allows her to always have host bodies available. She does not lie about the fact that as long as she is able to move freely and act for the village as she sees fit she will continue to protect it."

The Hokage turns his attention to Hana and I, "And what of you two, does Vagrant have the interest of the village in mind?"

Hana sighs for a moment and hesitates, she kneels in deference as Shisui did, "Lord Hokage, Vagrant is my friend. I'm not sure she cares about the village, but she does care about me and my family. As long as we're okay, I believe the village has her loyalty."

I take control and speak, the Hokage and others in the room notice the change in tone and stance again as I rise from the kneeling position, "Hana has assessed things correctly. It's her I care about before this village.", I give a firm warning, "If you hurt Hana or..."

The Hokage raises his hand to stop me, "Despite you causing the death of Hyuuga Neji I have no intention of doing that. Hana and her clan have done nothing wrong and Tsunade herself confirms that your actions then are most likely not going to repeat."

The Hokage turns his attention back to Watcher and Shisui, "Watcher, how long have you served this village?"

"Since before the First Shinobi World War. During that war my host body was Uchiha Kagami. He was a good man.", she recalls fondly as she leans against the cell wall.

Hiruzen gives a weary sigh, "I have one final question for you, Watcher. What happened to the original Izumi?"

"She wasn't compatible with me. I would have liked to keep her with me, but most of the time she was alternating between screaming at me or trying to annoy me as much as possible. I wasn't going to deal with that, so I ate her soul.", Watcher explains as if discussing a particularly unimportant topic.

The Hokage states to both Watcher and I, "I know we can not contain either of you if you do not want to be contained, but you have given indication you are at least willing to cooperate and serve this village even if you do so for your own reasons. I know that you want knowledge of the Unbound known to as few people as possible.

For now, you will be allowed to return home, but you will come to my office at nine in the morning tomorrow to discuss how things will continue moving forward."

We're let out of the cells. Hana looks relieved, "That's it, we can just go?"

The scarred man nods without saying a word to her. Then begins leading us out.

***

The next morning we're in the Hokage's office sitting next to a somewhat tired looking Tsunade with annoyed expression on her face, who's probably still not at a hundred percent even with the antivenom, and sitting next to her is Shizune. There's also a purple haired kunoichi in her mid teens I don't recognize. Something is clearly wrong with her soul like someone's been performing some kind surgery to add extra parts to it. Kuroko and Tonton are sleeping by the door curled up against each other with Oboe perched on the former's back.

We hear Dan speak, Thanks for saving us back there.

Tsunade seems to scowl at that and refuses to look at us. There's a pause before she curtly says, Thanks.

Several minutes pass in silence before the Hokage enters the room and sits at his desk. He clasps his hands, "Tsunade submitted a report last night despite her injury. Orochimaru was possessed by one of the Unbound at some point."

"My sensei, Shadow.", Watcher states flatly.

The purple haired girl says, "That bastard never explained how he got those powers... I guess now I know."

Watcher stares at the girl for a moment then looks back to the Hokage, "I'm sorry, but who is she and what's wrong with her? It's subtle, but it's like someone grafted a part of their soul onto hers."

The Hokage gesture the girl, "This is Mitarashi Anko, a former pupil of Orochimaru who was experimented on by him. With recent events and what Tsunade has told us, we have a better understanding of what happened to her and why she displays similar abilities to those Tsunade has reported."

I discuss with Hana for a moment before she says, "Like Watcher said it's subtle... I don't think we would have noticed if she'd been spiritually enhanced unless she were right in front of us."

Watcher huffs, "Explains why I didn't know about her.", she pauses, "So why are we here?"

"Orochimaru himself is enhanced and we have evidence that he was experimenting in modifying the souls of others to enhance them as well. It is likely he has improved since leaving the village. Now that we know the identities of our resident Unbound and have more knowledge about them I believe we need to form a team in preparation for Orochimaru and any spiritually enhanced individuals he may have under him.", he looks to Watcher and I, "While the Unbound have caused problems in the past and done morally questionable things, the fact is we need them and those they have touched going forward if we are to combat this threat."

Watcher smirks, "Sounds like a plan."

Hana asks with concern, "We're still going to be allowed to continue with the Chunin Exams, right, Lord Hokage?"

The Hokage nods, "You will be allowed to compete, but I don't think you need to be told that the abilities you have gained from Vagrant are to be kept hidden for the moment. So far you have shown you are quite skilled without using them."

"Thanks", Hana says as she scratches the back of her head.

Watcher asks, "So... how are we doing this and who knows about it?"

"Despite Tsunade being a Sannin she has conceded that you are more skilled in the ninja and spiritual arts due to being much older than her as well having more raw spiritual power than she does. As a result I am assigning you with training Tsunade and Anko on top of your student Vagrant so as to improve their existing abilities. I have discussed it with the Council and they have also suggested that if it would be a fruitful activity to evaluate residents of Konoha for spiritual potential so they can receive training. Of course anyone who enters this program will only be selected if they are loyal to the village and this will be kept a secret to everyone but myself, the Konoha Council, specific members of the Intelligence Division, certain members of ANBU, and certain other individuals on a need to know basis such as specific Jonin who may join you on missions."

He turns his attention to Tsunade, "I am requesting that you stay with the village due to this threat."

"I will stay and serve in this to protect Konoha.", though there's a hint of reluctance in her voice.

"Do any of you have any questions?"

Watcher raises a hand, "Have you already picked a name or..."

"You will be referred to as the Konoha Soul Division."

Watcher's face falls a bit, "Aw..."

"I feel like I should tell Mom about this... I mean, we're going to be fighting a Sannin and his spirit experiments, plus I've never liked lying to her about Vagrant.", Hana says.

The Hokage considers this, "I'm willing to allow Tsume this knowledge so that she understands that you may be pulled away on certain missions.", he looks to Watcher, "Obviously due to the threat of the coup from the Uchiha the same can not be done with any members of their clan, Watcher and Shisui. I will discuss matters privately with you after this on how best to handle the situation as well your duties as head of the Soul Division."

No one else has any questions it seems. The Hokage, "With the exception of Watcher and Shisui, you're dismissed."

***

Everyone seems to have their own things going on so we all head our separate ways for the moment except Anko is following Hana and I. Hana broadcasts to her, We know you're following us.

Her communication seems to have a bit devilishness combined with cheer to it, Just wanted to get to know my knew team mates., she says as she drops out of a nearby tree.

Uh yeah, Hana says, I've got to explain some things to Mom at home. I guess we can walk and talk on the way there.

She asks as she looks at Oboe perched on our shoulder, "What's with the crow? I thought Inuzukas were about dogs."

Oboe seems to take offense as he turns his head to Anko, "I'm a raven not a crow. Get it right."

Anko rolls her eyes, "Well excuse me."

Hana explains, "I signed a contract with the Ravens, part of the deal for those who sign the Raven Contract is that a raven follows them around to chronicle their life so knowledge can be added to that of the Raven Clan."

"I got Snakes.", Anko comments, "Orochimaru had me sign the contract while I was still his student."

"Izumi has Snakes as well."

Anko switches back to telepathy, So I'm guessing the reason you and Izumi... Watcher are such prodigies is because of the Unbound?

Hana replies, Well, Vagrant isn't as experienced as Watcher is, but the extra chakra helps, not to mention we've worked together on developing some new jutsu and I wouldn't have gotten the Raven contract without Vagrant's soul speed. I never would have gotten up the World Tree on my own.

World Tree?

Kilometers wide, kilometers tall tree where the Raven Clan make their home., I tell her.

Sounds impressive, so... what exactly can your sensei do? Orochimaru could do everything from form a blade out of his soul to soul jumping to creating energy blasts that weren't chakra. I'm interested in improving.

I take this one, We haven't seen all she's capable of, I learned Soul and Aura Reading, Possession, Telepathy, and Soul Destruction on my own as the first thing I did... Watcher has shown us a lot though we haven't been able to replicate all of it. We can use Soul Speed and we've been practicing Soul Removal and Eating on animals. Watcher has also been teaching us things like how to harm and heal souls without destroying them, again with animals. We haven't worked out creating a soul weapon yet though and we aren't that great at using telekinesis on the fly yet. She's taught us a lot and I'm guessing as long as you've got the power she can teach you. What can you do already?

Aura and Soul Reading and Telepathy are what I'm best at and I can do some telekinesis. They've been having me work in Torture and Interrogation mostly. I've received training from the Yamanakas, but they really haven't helped me improve much since my powers don't seem to be chakra based. That the bastard only marked me a few years ago and I've been working mostly with the Intelligence Division is probably why we've never encountered each other before now.

That would explain why Watcher was surprised by you, though I have to guess Orochimaru knew how to hide the spiritual presence of his labs. Working on souls like that should have tipped off Watcher.

I would assume that too., She's following very close at this point and doesn't drop that devilish, but cheerful demeanor, What's it like having someone else's voice in your head? When Orochimaru first gave me the Cursed Ghost Seal it was like I could hear his voice for about a week before it faded.

Hana I talk to each other for a moment as we realize she's keeping us talking to get information while probably only giving us certain information she's allowed in return. Hana answers, It was weird at first and I used to be rather self conscious about Vagrant watching me 24/7, but I just got used to it over time. Now, it really doesn't bother me. Like I said to the Hokage. She's shown she cares about me. I know she can take control of my body anytime she wants, but she only does it when she needs to. I'm in control most of the time.

Anko raises an eyebrow, When aren't you in control.

It seems like some of Vagrant's powers are rubbing off on me and I know I'm probably going to end up with soul powers of my own if Vagrant ever leaves, but she takes control anytime we need use of her Soul Powers or she has something she wants to say, though a lot of the time if she needs to say something she relays it through me as well. There's also times where it feels like we're acting in unison on the same action. We asked Watcher about it and she said it was pretty common if the host body had more than one soul for them to resonate with each other unconsciously at times, particularly if they're focused on the same thing. We haven't really figured out how to do it consciously and Watcher hasn't seen it as a priority compared with other powers. We've mostly just been meditating to focus on synchronizing with each other with some limited success after Watcher went over it briefly. Resonating seems to increase our chakra output and spiritual power from what we can tell.

We arrive at the Inuzuka Compound. Anko waves goodbye and says as she leaves, "Guess I'll be seeing you kid. Nice talk."

We enter and speak to Tsume who's busy reading a book in the living, "Mom, we need to talk... privately."

She raises and eyebrow as she closes the book and sets it on the table before getting up, "Sounds serious. We'll speak in your room."

Kuromaru follows her. The Inuzukas know anything you can say in front of them you can say in front of their partners. Kuroko leaps on the bed as we sit and crawls into Hana's lap. Hana runs a hand along her partner's back and sighs a moment before speaking to a concerned Tsume, "You know how my chakra reserves started undergoing a major increase about a year before I became Genin? That wasn't me. I'm host to something called an Unbound. Her name is Vagrant. I've been sharing my body with her so she can better experience the world and in exchange I get things like extra chakra and access to her spiritual powers when I need it. The reason I didn't tell you immediately is because Vagrant's sensei, Watcher, didn't want us to reveal Vagrant's existence and also she and I were concerned that you would have a problem with the situation, but I've also not liked lying to you about it.

The reason I'm telling you now is because there was an attack on Lady Tsunade by Orochimaru. Both of them have soul powers from being former Unbound hosts. He was trying to eat Tsunade's soul. The Hokage realized that Orochimaru has likely been performing experiments to increase spiritual abilities in others and himself and that we need something to combat it. He's creating the Konoha Soul Division. The Hokage is keeping this a secret, but said it was okay to tell you because you probably needed to know why I'll be getting pulled off on certain missions and training with some new people. Beyond that no one but those who the Hokage personally has approved is supposed to know."

Tsume takes all this in before speaking, "Can I speak to Vagrant?"

I take control, "What do you need?"

"I know the shinobi life is a dangerous one, but can you assure me that you will watch over my daughter and keep her interests in mind?", Tsume says in a stern tone.

"I've come to genuinely care about Hana in the time we've spent together. As long as I am with her I will do this. I can promise you that."

"Does the village have your loyalty?", she asks.

I answer truthfully, "It has my loyalty so long as it has Hana's. I care about Hana. I've come to care about the things she cares about in my time with her. So long as she is loyal to the village so am I."

Tsume relaxes a bit, "Alright I can accept that. I am curious though what exactly are these soul powers? Can you show me something?"

I tilt our head with a smile, "Certainly."

I place Kuroko on the bed next to us. My hand blurs forward and palm strikes Tsume's chest. She gasps. She looks down and realizes she's looking at herself and her daughter on the bed while she's floating in the air. This only lasts a few seconds before she suddenly snaps back into her body. She's hyperventilating as if having a panic attack. Kuromaru looks up. Tsume glares at us and says between breaths as she slows her breathing, "Never... do that... to me... again."

I say a bit sheepishly, "I just kicked your soul out of your body for a second. They were still linked. It was harmless and you did say to show you something."

She grins, "I guess I did ask for it.", she gets up from the bed, "Alright, I can live with this. You've been taking care of my daughter so far and I expect that to continue, understood?"

I nod, "Understood, Tsume."

She leaves the room and Hana takes control. She breathes a sigh of relief as she looks to Kuroko and speaks out loud to the both of us, "I expected that to go worse."​
 
Chapter 8

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
The Hokage and members of the Intelligence Division observe as Watcher carefully lays out the seal work for the modified Fuinjutsu ritual. Hiruzen had been somewhat disturbed that Watcher even knew the Impure World Reincarnation technique and what she might have done with it in the past. Her explanation for knowing it was she had been in Konoha long enough to study the Scroll of Sealsseveral times as well as the fact that she had been around when the technique and scroll was first created and that she could astrally project to observe things remotely. It made Hiruzen realize they needed to improve the security around the scroll.

She had explained she had developed a modified version of the technique that allowed her to embody souls she happened to be carrying. In this case Shisui would be getting a new body. Hiruzen of course had reservations on the use of the technique even if the target was willing, but Shisui's Kotoamatsukami would be needed to prevent the Uchiha coup peacefully and this technique would resurrect him with his body as it was near death which included his Mangekyo even though Watcher had used Shisui's eyes for herself.

Watcher completes the ground work for the ritual by placing Shisui's skull, something she had collected specifically because she may have needed to perform this in the future. She turns around and smiles at the assembled shinobi and gives a bow, "All we need now is the condemned."

It bothers Hiruzen somewhat how Watcher seems to treat so many things as a game or a performance. The man, just a normal Konoha citizen who had been convicted of serial murder of various women in the village, is brought in bound and wearing a hood. He demands to know where is and what's going on as he's forced to kneel in the center ritual circle. Everyone observes as Watcher goes through the seals to activate the ritual. The man begins screaming as soon she completes it as his body is engulfed in dust and ash. A blinding white light flows in a stream from Watcher's body and she let's out something between a gasp and a moan as her back arches.

When the light dies down the ash and dust form into Shisui's form as he looked when he left on his last mission. He looks at his hands which are ashen grey with a few small cracks running along his skin. He looks up as Watcher walks behind him and inserts a seal tag into the back of his neck. This is not meant to control him, merely ensure that he can not be controlled with another tag Watcher assured the Hokage, as well as correct certain cosmetic problems.

Shisui's skin goes from grey and cracked to the color it was when he was alive though is sclera are still an ashen grey. Shisui approaches the Hokage and kneels, "It is good to be back Lord Hokage."

Hiruzen examines Shisui for a moment, "It is good to have you back Shisui.", he turns his attention to Watcher, "Can you do anything about his eyes?"

She shakes her head, "Sorry, that's permanent. I would suggest wearing sunglasses or using a henge to hide it. I'll add his Mangekyo should work as it did when he was alive and the regenerative powers granted by the ritual means he can pretty much ignore the negative effects of using it."

Hiruzen nods in response before speaking to Shisui, "You understand your mission and the explanation we will be giving for your return, correct?"

"On my last mission my entire team was killed and I was held hostage by enemy shinobi. Due to the sensitive nature of what happened everything about my time while captured is classified. My mission is to use my Kotoamatsukami to turn Fugaku and others away from what they are planning."

Hiruzen states, "We have already prepared everything for your return. You are to hide the true nature of your current body and we will be bringing you officially back to Konoha tomorrow. For now you will stay at the Intelligence Division while some tests are run."

Watcher decides to raise a point, "I still have my doubts that the Kotoamatsukami is going to be effective."

"If it doesn't work only then will we go forward with your original plan of discreetly eliminating members of the Uchiha clan planning the coup."

Watcher crosses her arms, "Alright, but don't say I didn't warn you..."

***

Hana and I sit eating with Tenma at Ramen Ichiruka. The final stage of the Chunin Exams will be held tomorrow. Tenma asks us, "So any idea why I haven't been seeing much of the Uchiha lately?"

Hana shrugs, "Clan business and private training from what I understand.", in reality she's been rather busy with setting up and managing the Konoha Soul Division. Both Hana and I suspect that Watcher will likely be promoted to at least Tokubetsu Jonin fairly quickly upon passing the Chunin Exams to reflect her new job and that it's known she's skilled from multiple lifetimes as a shinobi by the Hokage. We know she's going to pass considering she's done it before more than once.

He groans, "I am really hoping I don't have to fight her in the tournament. I know she's our team mate, but... you know what she's like even if I've gotten over my problems with her clan. I'm seriously considering just bowing out if I'm matched up against her."

"Relax, I seriously doubt she's going to rough you up to bad if you have to fight her.", she says reassuringly, "Surprised you're not worried about me.", she says with a grin.

"That's the thing, I am. I know you two have always been better than me. Thanks for helping me improve, but at times I just feel like I haven't been pulling equal weight."

"You're going to do fine, Tenma."

The hair on the back of Hana's neck stands up, Shit... it's him.

Even through that seal I can feel the Fox's soul faintly whenever we get near the kid. Something instinctual in me says to destroy or run every time we've passed the boy in the street. At this point we just intentionally avoid him if we can. Watcher told me that her master banished two of the Tailed Beasts before she arrived in this world and she helped with the third. As far as she's aware the rest of them avoid the Unbound if they're aware of us because of that.

Hana's eyes glance briefly to the side. The five year old blonde is with a woman with long red hair we recognize to be the widow of the Fourth Hokage.

Teuchi greets the two, "Kushina! It's been awhile since you've been here...", he turns his attention to the boy, "And this must be your son, Naruto, I believe this is his first time at my shop isn't it?"

The two sit at the bar. I can feel Hana's heart rate and breathing quicken as she senses the Fox because of me. Tenma seems to notice this, "You okay?"

She says with a vague hint of nervousness, "I'm not feeling well all of a sudden... I should probably get home and rest for the Exams tomorrow. Good luck.", we say with a smile.

We get up from the table and leave the money for our food as we walk quickly out of the shop. Hana starts talking with me as we walk home, I get why I have that response, but why do you?

Watcher told me her sensei explained that my kind have a sort of instinctual danger response when encountering souls that are hugely stronger than we are. I know the Tailed Beasts can't really manipulate souls like we do, but they have a lot of soul presence. Even a hint of something like that says, "Danger", to us. Watcher specifically told me the reason she hadn't taught me to open portals to The Nothing yet was because she was concerned I was going to throw the kid there just to get rid of the Fox and not have to deal with him.

Would you actually do that?

Part of me thinks I might. The idea of permanently getting rid of something like that is relieving.

Naruto's done nothing wrong though.

I know, but even you still have occasional nightmares about that night., I pause, I need to get stronger, not just because of encountering things like the Tailed Beasts, but because of Orochimaru. Watcher said there were two main ways for an Unbound to increase their strength permanently: Soul Consumption and Age. I'm pretty sure I can do it quickly enough with humans now that we've trained quite a bit with doing it to animals. From now on, if I can get away with it, I want the soul of anyone we would kill in combat.

Hana seems hesitant about, You're sure? Permanently destroying a soul... it bothers me, even when we've done it to animals.

Please, Hana... I need this to protect not just me, but you too and if my soul is strong your's will be due to being exposed to mine.

She sighs and I feel her reluctance, Alright, I trust you on this.

***

There are a total of eight remaining Genin for the final stage. Obviously one of the Frost Shinobi is dead while a team of Konoha Ninja decided to bow out when they saw they were going to matched up against members of Team 3 in the first round when the lots were drawn. A team choosing not to fight us annoys both me and Hana.

The first match is Tenma versus a white haired Frost Kunoichi named Riko Mori. Tenma and Riko step into the arena. Riko doesn't even hesitate and charges Tenma. Damn, she's fast. She has Tenma on the ropes. He manages to get a strike with his sword, only grazing her, but considering he's using a technique to electrify the blade with his Lightning Chakra Nature, the kunoichi spasms in her right leg for a moment and almost loses her head because of it before recovering. She backs up as she performs several hand signs then slams her fists into the ground. She sinks into the earth and disappears. For a couple minutes everything is silent as Tenma holds his guard up in anticipation of an attack. The kunoichi strikes, dozens of earthen arms grapple Tenma's legs and begin pull him under.

He doesn't respond in time and is pulled under the Earth. Riko pulls herself from the ground and bows to the spectators. There's several minutes of waiting before she goes over to a spot on the ground and digs her hands in pulling out Tenma's corpse as dirt falls from his clothes and mouth.

Hana and I simultaneously shout mentally, No!

Watcher glances at us with a frown and only commenting, Unfortunate...

The referee announces that Riko is the winner.

My first match is next. I step into the ring. My opponent is from Konoha, a branch member of the Hyuuga Clan, Hiraku.

He doesn't say a word as he drops into a combat stance. Kuroko growls next to us as we stand there, waiting. Getting into close range with a Hyuuga is a bad idea. He gets tired of waiting and charges. We form several hand signs as Kuroko jumps in front of us and we both intake a large breath, Wind Release: Black Hound's Howl.

We and our partner let out simultaneous howls, the sound amplified to deafening levels via nature transformation. A few people in the stands wince or cover their ears. The Hyuuga however is close enough and standing directly in front of the sonic attack that he takes the brunt of it. He falls to his knees and covers his ears. His Byakugan actually deactivates as he loses focus. We rush forward before he has any chance to recover, giving a hard knee to the gut and knocking the wind out of him with the second strike being our chakra enhanced nails raking across his throat and resulting in a spray of blood as his throat is torn out.

The referee calls the match as the Hyuuga hits the ground and grabs at his throat. We back up as medical nin rush to him to stop the bleeding. The referee announces, "Winner: Inuzuka Hana!"

As we return to where the participants wait, an Akimichi with black facial tattoos we can't remember the name of approaches, clearly angry, "That was another Leaf Ninja and my team mate, bitch! You didn't have to go for a killing blow!"

Hana gives him a glare and Kuroko growls at him. Hana and I have discussed this several times, "The world of shinobi is a dangerous place... you always end a fight as quickly as possible and expect your opponent to try to kill you.", she looks around at the rest of the Konoha Nin and says firmly, "The rules of this tournament allow and even expect us to fight lethally. If you want to beat me you're going to have to try to seriously kill me and I expect the same of any of you. These matches are not some sparring competition."

They all, except for Watcher, seem to tense at this and I notice Hana briefly giving off some killing intent. The Akimichi backs down, his fight is next anyway. We don't pay attention to it and go to wash the blood off our hand.

After the fight we didn't really pay attention to, though it resulted in the Akimichi winning, Watcher has her fight with the other Frost Ninja. At this point I realize Hana seems to have pissed off all the Leaf Nin in the room. We stand away from them as we observe Watcher's fight.

The Frost Ninja, Abe Saburo, bows before the match begins. As soon as the match starts each of them open with nature transformations issued from their mouths. Watcher with Fire and Saburo with Water. The two attacks hit each other causing a massive cloud of steam and water vapor. As the jutsus end, the two leap at each other through the cloud. They engage in melee, the Frost Ninja viciously striking with a pair of kunai. Watcher has her Sharingan activated and is dodging everything. I quickly realize she's toying with him, dodging attacks, but not throwing anything of her own.

She finally flips away from her opponent, landing an upward kick across the jaw. He falls backwards and as he gets up Watcher makes a beckoning gesture for him to continue. He hurls several shuriken at her. She leaps to the side. The Frost Ninja seems to realize she's screwing with him at this point and charges with a shout of rage. He suddenly stops and locks up mid charge as she makes eye contact with her Sharingan. The Frost Ninja starts screaming and clawing at his arms. He's actually drawing blood as he does this.

Watcher body flickers again as the shinobi is caught up in her genjutsu and stabs him in the gut three times in rapid succession. This seems to snap him out of it and he looks at his bleeding arms and then his stomach. Watcher is smiling as he collapses.

She walks back to waiting area still smiling. She grins predatorily at the Akimichi she'll have to face next. He gulps in fear. Hana and I's match with Riko is next. We're going to make the Frost Kunoichi pay for killing Tenma.

She seems confident as she steps into the ring. We know she's an Earth Release user and that means if she gets underground our Wind Release techniques will be useless. We don't plan on giving her a chance here.

As the match begins we body flicker forward into melee range and grapple with her, leaving Kuroko behind. We can both agree we're going to make this quick. We grab her head and lock our mouth with hers just before taking a breath. We don't even have name for this modified version of the Gale Breath technique. For a moment she seems stunned by intimate contact, but her eyes widen as we issue a sudden blast of air and overinflate her lungs, rupturing them.

She coughs up blood as we hold the lock with her and I devour her soul quickly, drawing it through our mouth to mouth contact. She collapses as soon as I release her. The referee declares the match over and medical nin rush into the arena. Hana and I stand there, staring with contempt at the kunoichi's corpse. We don't leave the field until the medical nin back up when they realize she's already dead, apparently from massive lung trauma.

Watcher comments as we return to the waiting area, "One more match and then it's just you and me, Hana."

Hana gives a weak smile back, still feeling the loss of Tenma, "Yep, good luck in your next match."

Somewhat unsurprisingly the Akimichi chooses to withdraw as soon as his match with Watcher is announced. Watcher's fight with Hana and I is next.

We both step into the ring. Watcher says, You know I'm better than you. You realize that?

Hana replies, We know, but we're still going to make this look good.

The match begins. We both charge, exchanging blows. I notice Watcher doesn't have her Sharingan activated, probably going easy on us to make the fight more entertaining for her. We both get in several hits on each before breaking off.

We're going to have to go all out if we want to beat her. We go through the hand signs as we back up and Kuroko leaps at us, Human Beast Combination Transformation: Double Headed Wolf.

We roar from both our mouths and charge. Watcher smirks and dodging as we pounce, releasing a Fireball technique in midair as she does so. We get out of the way, but not quick enough that we don't notice the smell of burning hair. We roll several times to put out the flames on our fur.

As we stand the ground rumbles beneath us and we catch Watcher slamming her fists into the ground sending shockwaves through the Earth as she calls out her attack to taunt us, "EARTH RELEASE: DEVOURING FISSURE!"

Our front paws scramble for purchase as we lose our footing and begin to fall into the crack in the earth. We fail and slam into the bottom of the pit hard. Watcher walks over to the opening and asks with a grin, "Ready to give up yet?"

We dig our claws into the walls of the pit and pull our way out just as it closes back up. We let out a Wind Release enhanced bark aimed at her. She body flickers out of the way and the arena wall behind her craters. We look around for where she went, "Game over!", she shouts from above and strikes one our heads, which is unfortunately the one that Hana and I control. I can only assume she has her Sharingan activated now to tell which one to hit. The jutsu disperses leaving Hana and I holding Kuroko in our arms. Our ninken partner whimpers as we stand there dazed for several seconds before dropping her and I struggle and fail to keep Hana's body going as it collapses into unconsciousness.

***

Hana and I stand in our mindscape, a simple copy of the Inuzuka compound. She looks to my mental form, just a mirror image of her own, "Knew going in we were going to lose."

I chuckle, "At least we put up a good fight I think."

The two of us go to find somewhere to wait for our shared body to regain consciousness. She comments, "I always find it weird that you choose to look like a mirrored version of me whenever we're here. Don't you have some other form you would find appealing?"

I shrug before sitting down next to a tree here to talk, "My spiritual body is just this sort of glowing amorophous blob to those who can perceive it. I never bothered to shape it into anything else and I always found your body appealing."

"Are you saying you chose me for my looks?", she says with a smirk.

"You do look good, you know?"

She leans in to me and sighs, "How long you think it will be before my body recovers enough to wake up?"

"I doubt it will be long. Remember we agreed not to do any serious harm to each other if it came down to us and her."

Her face falls, "Tenma's gone..."

"We knew it could happen."

"That doesn't soften the blow.", she says.

"At least his soul wasn't destroyed or anything which means he can move on to this world's afterlife."

She gives a hopeful sigh, "At least that's something to be glad for.", she pauses, "When I move on, you'll remember me, right?"

I hold her a bit more tightly, "Yeah, but... I was wondering if you wanted to continue afterwards? Eventually your body will die and I do want to explore other universes. Watcher has been going over how to carry souls with me and you know we've done it temporarily with animal souls."

"Having a squirrel soul in my body was a weird experience...", she comments.

"My point is... would you like to come with me when I eventually leave this world, Hana? We can see what's out there... together."

There's silence from her for several long moments as she considers it, "I think I'd like that."​
 
Chapter 9

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
We awaken in a hospital bed. It's night and the lights are turned off in the room we're in. Hana sits up and clutches her head, Kami... did Watcher have to hit so hard? My head is pounding.

Hana takes a moment to examine herself to make sure there's nothing serious. We both come to conclusion we probably only took a concussion at worst. We suddenly both feel this overwhelming presence in the room. Hana's blood runs cold and I can feel myself starting to panic with her. We jump out of the bed and get our guard up. Something is in here with us and it has a huge soul presence.

There doesn't seem to be anything physically here after examining the room and neither of us can tell where it's coming from. It's like the presence is everywhere around us. Hana checks the room. No weapons or anything that could really be used effectively as such and all Hana has on is a hospital gown.

I attempt to call out across Konoha, Watcher, do you feel this?

There's no response and what or who ever this massive soul presence is is clouding my senses so I suspect it may be interfering with my communication with Watcher as well. I can't really feel the souls around us except for Hana's. She comments, Something is seriously wrong.

We exit the room to get help or find out what's going on. We immediately notice the people lying on floor in the hallway. We approach one of them, one of the hospital's medical nin, and check her vitals. She's still alive. We explore the hospital. Everyone appears to have dropped unconscious.

We eventually find our way out of the hospital entrance. The people outside on the street are on unresponsive on the ground as well.

I say, We need to find Watcher or someone who isn't affected.

Hana agrees. I still can't feel anything other than the one overwhelming soul presence. Hana opts to try to detect an active chakra signature. There's four approaching. One is Watcher, one is Shisui, one is Tsunade, and the last is Rin-Sensei's?

We wait. The four arrive on the scene. Rin looks to Hana and I with concern, "You don't have to explain. Watcher already did. I can't believe he's back."

"Who?", Hana asks.

"Shadow.", Watcher states.

Hana and I both pause, "What do you mean, "He's back?"... you act like you've met him."

Something appears in front of us. One moment it wasn't there and then the next it just sort of coalesces into existence. It's in the shape of tall man. The outline suggests a hat and trench coat, but there's no features and it's like what this thing is... is eating the light around it. Visually it's more like a man shaped dark void in space than an actual person.

It bows and tips its hat to us. Then it speaks in our minds, Hello, I think you know me already.

It... He looks to Rin, It's good to see you, Rin. How are you and the Isobu?

We're all nervous, but Rin responds in a tone that still seems trying to be friendly, "Fine... it's been awhile.", she places her hands together and gives a short bow, "I have to thank you again for what you've given me."

Wait... Isobu? Hana says it before I can, "Rin-Sensei, are you a Jinchuriki? How could we not detect that?"

"I'll explain later. I'm sure you have some things to explain too."

Hana nods. All of us ready for combat, but I'm not sure how much good it's going to do.

Tsunade demands with a glare, "Tell us why you're here, Shadow."

He shudders as if he's laughing, That one., he says pointing to Hana and I. He looks back to Watcher, You think yourself a teacher? You're barely older than Vagrant is. Though I must say this Konoha Soul Division is interesting. I always wondered what Orochimaru would do with the powers he had been given... such ambition in that one., he turns his attention back to Hana and I, As for why I'm here I've come to the conclusion that Watcher isn't going to help Vagrant progress in the manner it needs to.

He says to Watcher, You never showed any interest in the worlds beyond this one... and there are things out there... you'll need to be prepared.

Watcher interjects, "Why are you raising this point now? You never had a problem with me when we traveled together and you said you were only a few centuries older than me."

Shadow tilts its head, Do you really think time is consistent throughout the entire omniverse? You don't even realize where and when you can travel either? In the time I last saw you, Watcher, I have experienced millennia. While this may have been my first world... there's horrors and wonders beyond your imagining out there, treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. I thought it was time you learned what's out there... both you and your "student".

Watcher asks with a bit of fear, "What are you talking about?"

Shadow snaps its fingers. There's a rippling in the overwhelming spiritual presence around us. We all turn around at the sensation of something behind us. I'm getting conflicting information between my spiritual senses and Hana's mundane senses. To Hana's eyes what we're looking at is a sphere of pure darkness, blacker than anything Hana or I have seen. To my own spiritual senses, this... hole in reality is nothing, no light, no dark, nothing in between. It's like a blind spot in one's vision. Absence of anything is what defines it. I begin to panic when realization hits me. This is a door to The Nothing. I won't go back... I won't go back... I WON'T GO BACK...

I try to forcibly move Hana's legs to run and they won't move. I can sense panic from the others. I try to use my soul speed to get away and I can't project my spirit to complete the action. All of us stare wide eyed in fear at the void.

Shadow begins to explain as if giving a lecture while none of us have the ability to move or act out all, Watcher and some others call it The Nothing. Many worlds I have been to have tales of a primordial void or nothing that existed before all things and from which everything in existence ultimately has its origins. I prefer to call this place... Chaos. There's no physical laws or matter or space... which ultimately means that if one knows how and has the power things can be created from absolute nothingness by will alone and this even happens on its own at random. It is from this beings such as the Unbound are born... and of course there are countless beings there trapped for eternity or cursed to eventually fade back into the nothing of Chaos, either created there or banished there... but the Unbound are special... we escaped under our own power. By sheer will we tear ourselves from the womb of Chaos to travel all of existence.

It pauses, One of my acquaintances is missing... ah... there she is., it snaps its fingers. A two dimensional portal opens up between us and the sphere to the nothing. Kushina and Naruto drop out and hit the ground roughly with the portal closing afterwards. Naruto is unconscious like the rest of Konoha. Kushina scrambles to her feet and locks up like the rest of us. Her eyes move to Shadow and widen in recognition.

Ah, yes, my red headed friend. It's good to see you. You're probably wondering why you're here. Well, I've come to the conclusion that anyone with a modicum of spiritual power deserves a chance here... even if you're not one of my kind.

Though Kushina can't move, her eyes dart to the side for a moment towards the unconscious Naruto. Shadow responds, Not to worry... I wouldn't separate a child from his mother. He's going with you.

Shadow snaps its fingers again. I know it's only doing that for show. The void suddenly grows to engulf all that we can sense around us. We're in The Nothing. I'm still getting the conflicting perceptions of darkness from Hana and Nothing from my own senses. There's a sense of weightlessness and the only thing I can really perceive is Hana's body and the spiritual presences of the others near me. Hana gasps for air... of course there's no air here. Fuck!

Come one Vagrant, you got out of here once. You can do it again. I concentrate with everything I have and trying to repeat what I did to enter Hana's world. I am not going to let Hana's body die or allow us to become trapped here. I sense Watcher doing something as well.

Light surrounds me. There's a feeling of gravity again and after about second or two, Hana roughly slams into snow covered ice.

Hana picks herself up and groans, not bothering with mental communication, "What the hell was that?"

We passed through The Nothing briefly. I brought us back out. You're safe., Hana looks around at where we are as I respond, I think.

We notice the Moon and stars are simply wrong suggesting we aren't on in the Land of Fire or even on the same planet anymore. We seem to be on a featureless frozen tundra. We register Kushina and Rin dealing with the unconscious Naruto behind us. I don't care where Watcher and the others are at the moment, chances are Watcher pulled them somewhere else. What I'm focused on right now is the palpable spirit energy coming in from the south. There's something there, but it feels contained or trapped? That would make it an easy target.

Shadow appears behind me. Time seems to stop. He speaks, You can feel that can't you? Find it and take it for yourself, ignore the consequences.

Hana begins to protest, I have a bad feeling about this. We shouldn't be listening to him.

I ignore her as time stands still upon the activation of my soul speed. It's not hard to find. The spirit energy present is like a beacon.

Hana's body snaps back to me as I come out of the water onto a small island surrounded by water in a cave of ice with a gate like structure. I step forward to the pool in the center. Shadow is behind me again ushering me on, Take it.

Hana seems to be trying to regain control. I remind her, We agreed to take the souls of those we killed. I'm taking these even if they are defenseless.

She doesn't respond after that, but I can feel the concern from her.

I kneel at the pool and thrust my hands in, grabbing the two koi fish circling each other within. They struggle as I begin draining them dry. There's a sudden cold in the air and the grass on the island begins to wither and die as I take everything. Soon, I'm left with a pair of lifeless soul drained fish, but isn't enough. I drop them where they float lifelessly in the pool. I feel a connection to every... waterbender? on the planet. I realize I can and will take all of the power back.

***

The citizens of the Northern Water Tribe witness the moon turn blood red. The threat is realized immediately as this as happened before. Defenders rush to the Spirit Oasis only to find the cavern sealed with ice. As they're trying to get inside, every waterbender finds themselves collapsing and writhing in pain.

As this happens the ice sealing the entrance to the Spirit Oasis violently explodes as it instantly converts to steam. Those attempting break the ice down or are too close experience severe burns.

A white haired girl in a hospital gown steps out of the Oasis, her eyes and facial markings are glowing a vibrant white as well. She's immediately attacked. She gestures and the defenders' bodies frost over as the water in them is turned immediately to ice. She calmly walks past them as the Water Tribe defenders back up. She slams a fist into one of the frozen men behind her. The corpse shatters. Several of the defenders charge her.

Notably the brain is water heavy and resides inside a mostly sealed skull. Flash boiling the brain has the rather spectacular effect of causing the head to explode. Headless corpses fall at her feet and she wicks away the blood spatter on her clothes with water bending.

She speaks to them in their minds, You can leave with your lives if you want or you can face me. Your choice.

A few of them do the sensible thing and run. The rest attack.

Those who decide to fight have their bodies immediately desiccated, leaving mummified corpses.

***

A deep rumbling is heard from beneath the Norther Water Tribe Palace. A great wolf of ice and water erupts and tears its way from the palace. Within its chest can be seen a glowing humanoid form. It steps calmly forward as the the people of the Water Tribe react with awe and terror. It leaps into the air and transforms into a massive raven mid leap.

It lands on the ice where Kushina, Naruto, and Rin were left. They hear a communication in their minds simultaneously as a set of icy steps forms leading atop the raven, Get on or stay here and freeze.

They decide to do as commanded and the raven takes off. The last thing the people of the Water Tribe see is a raven of water and ice soaring beneath the blood red moon.

***

We land on a beach several hours later. The others climb off and I allow the exterior form of the raven to collapse to reveal Hana standing in its place surrounded by the draining water. It's notable that her hair has changed to an icy white. She falls to her knees.

What did you do?, she demands.

I took more power than I ever have. It was simply sitting there and no attempts were made to fight back. Those fish contained great spirits. I don't know why nor do I care why they didn't put up a fight.

She stands shakily, I could feel you tearing something from a massive number of people.

I took all the power that those two spirits were connected to back. I am its sole owner on this world.

She gestures to the red Moon, You did that. You've done something great and terrible. I...

I interrupt her, We agreed we needed to get stronger. Whether or not Shadow led us here or we got to this world soley by my power once we were in The Nothing... I don't care. The point is I can feel spiritual energy everywhere here. It's ours to take. I'll admit it was strange, like once I started I couldn't stop when I was feeding.

But you hurt all those people... I think you tore off pieces of their souls.

There are an infinite number of universes. This one is of no consequence to us as we do not intend to make this a home. Tell me, would you not do the same? If we return to Konoha we can use this power to protect your clan and the village.

She sighs, I suppose you're right, it doesn't matter what we do here.

Kushina interrupts us in our silent discussion, "We should all find shelter and get some rest. We can go over what just happened in the morning."

Hana nods and follows the two women and Naruto away from the beach. I look at the five year old kid, who seems frightened by this entire ordeal. It's bothering me why I can feel the Fox in him, but I can't feel the Isobu in Rin if that is the case. If Shadow was involved maybe they both know how to conceal their spiritual presence? I never even noticed that Rin was above normal in terms of spiritual power.

Hana interrupts my thoughts as she runs a hand through her altered hair, examining it for a moment, Is there anyway you can get us back home?

I think I could open a portal to the Nothing, but it would just be a blind jump if we went anywhere. There's no telling where we could end up.

She responds with some annoyance, That might be a better alternative to whatever happens here. I get the impression you pissed off a lot of people. Do you know what happened to Watcher and the others?

They could be in another universe for all I know and I don't know how to find them.

Right... we should discuss what we're going to do going forward with the others in the morning.
 
Chapter 10

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
It’s morning. We made camp in a small cave next to the shore. The unusual thing is that it appears to have been artificially dug out. I understand from Tui and La’s memories that bending exists for four basic elements and all except for lightning lines up somewhat from what I know of Nature Release. For some bizarre reason lightning is part of elemental fire here. Unfortunately while I know some things about the spirit world here, I don’t know much about the physical world or world events.

The four of us sit in the cavern. I’ve already explained what I know of Shadow, how we got here, what the Unbound are, and that for the moment I can really only do random jumps between universes if I can manage getting a portal open to the Nothing. Kushina asks the next question, “What exactly did you do when we arrived? You left us then returned with powers I’ve never seen. Water Release on that scale should have required a massive amount of chakra. There’s something else I’ve noticed since arriving here besides the Moon turning red. There’s no tides here. The ocean has remained at the same level since we arrived last night.”

I explain, “I consumed the Moon and Ocean spirits and took all the power they had dispersed among the beings of this world into myself…”, I hesitate for a moment, “This has had some significant effects on the world, such as the blood red Moon and the lack of tides. These spirits were also the source of this world’s equivalent to Water Release, known as water bending. Since I took all of it from the people of this world through that connection I am theoretically the sole user of this element beyond anything the three of you can do with chakra.

While this has had a serious effect on the natural world and the people here… our home reality is the only one of significant consequence and there are an infinite number of worlds like this one. The way I see it if I exploit the increased amount of spirits and spiritual energy in this world it can help Hana, her clan, and Konoha. I fully intend to consume the other three elemental spirits that act as the source of bending in this world.”

Rin shows concern at this, “You can’t seriously be willing to destroy one world for the sake of our own?”

I shoot back, “I’ve already done damage and unbalanced this world. I don’t see a point in stopping what’s already been started and as I said there are infinite number of worlds. What we do here doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.”

“Does Hana agree with you on this?”, Kushina asks.

Hana speaks, “I do. Vagrant and I both agreed that we needed to get stronger. I seem to get some small amount of power every time Vagrant consumes a soul.”, she runs a hand through her hair, “If this is any indication my body has been modified with my soul.”, she draws some of the water out of the air into a small sphere that hovers above her hand for emphasis, “That’s all me. No help from Vagrant. I’m not even using chakra to do this.”

Kushina narrows her eyes at us and states firmly, “I’m not going to help you destroy an entire world. You should be training to get us back home.”

“We’re not asking for your help in what we’re doing, but the fact is Vagrant is the only hope you, Naruto, and Rin have of getting home at all for the foreseeable future. You don’t have to help us, but becoming our enemies means you’re going to be stuck in this world that is already on the road to the apocalypse.”, Hana replies, glaring back at Kushina, “You must have some spiritual power just from Shadow deciding you were fit to be sent along with us, but Vagrant just consumed two the most powerful spirits on the planet. If she wasn’t before she’s certainly far spiritually superior to the three of you combined at this point.”

Rin and Kushina look to each for a moment and Hana and I get the impression that they’re communicating telepathically. Kushina finally speaks after about a minute, “We can always help the people of this world try to stop you.”

“You could try, but this world has already been given a serious injury with the spirits I consumed. There’s no point in leaving it to rot pointlessly when I can take what’s left of it.”, I tell her.

I raise an eyebrow as Naruto speaks up, “Why shouldn’t we do what Vagrant says, Mom? If this world doesn’t matter…”

Kushina looks to him and sighs, “You don’t understand what they’re planning, Naruto, or how it would affect things. Even I don't understand the full ramifications, but it will hurt a lot of people."

Hana gets up and speaks to them, “We’ve already made our decision. If you want to oppose us, go ahead… but Vagrant has already consumed enough power that facing us would be a bad idea. If you want to stay here and die with this world… that’s your choice.”

Hana stalks out of the cave. I seriously question why Kushina and Rin are choosing morals in this case when they come from a world of mercenaries. Killing and exploiting others is normal for them. Is destroying a world that there are countless copies of really that big a deal? Ultimately, nothing we do matters in the grand scheme of things except what we personally care about.

Rin body flickers in front of us, “Hana, Vagrant, we can talk this out.”

Hana demands, “What could you possibly say or do to stop us?”

“Shadow saved my life when the Isobu was bound into me as an attack on Konoha. Over time I and Isobu became friends. I know the Unbound are capable of good. You don’t need to do this.”

Hana glares at her, “You obviously care more about this world than Konoha. Get out of my way, Rin-Sensei.”

She sighs, her fingers strike forward towards Hana's neck. Time slows down as I activate my soul speed due to detecting her intent before she can move. I appear behind her.

Hana’s eyes and facial markings glow as Rin’s right arm explodes at the elbow. She collapses and clutches the stump of her arm. I am in full control, but I sense a combination of horror at injuring Rin but also anger directed at her sensei from Hana.

Kushina watches and I look to her briefly. We stare each other down for a long moment. She seems to be aware that attacking us right now would be a bad idea. I move and kneel in front of Rin, calling on the collective power and skill of Tui, La, and the various waterbenders I’ve taken power from. Glowing water streams from the ocean and coats Hana’s hand. I apply the water to the bleeding stump and it rapidly heals over without scar tissue.

I lock eyes with Rin as I pick up her severed arm, If you ever get in my way or oppose me again, I’ll take more than a forearm.

The severed limb freezes in Hana’s hand and I clench my grip into a fist causing it shatter. Rin simply kneels there in shock and breathing heavily from the loss of her limb.

I get up and calmly walk into the ocean, displacing the water around us.

Hana comments, I feel bad about doing that to Rin-Sensei.

She wanted to stop us. I needed to make a point. She underestimated us and I could have killed her. We’re far above Chunin or even Jonin right now. You realize I ate what was in effect a pair gods for this world?

I understand and she shouldn't have gotten in our way, but if we don’t have to I'd prefer not to kill Rin-Sensei or the others.

I can agree with that if they stay out of our way, Hana. I’m doing this for us. We need to be stronger. Shadow overpowered Konoha easily. I’m afraid of what happens if we encounter something like him and it's actively malevolent by comparison.

Hana doesn’t respond after that and we’re both silent as we rapidly travel through the ocean.

***

We raided a merchant vessel to steal some clothes and money as well as get some information. The brown cloak we wear and the pants and shirt are a bit big for Hana, but it’s better than just wearing a hospital gown. Hana has taken to wearing a mask to cover her distinctive facial tatoos with the cloak’s hood covering her hair. Only her eyes are left exposed. I actually regret letting a few of the Water Tribals run as chances are they reported Hana’s appearance.

Currently we’re sitting on the deck of the merchant vessel. The entire crew has either been killed or had their souls drained. We tossed the corpses overboard and I made sure they wouldn’t be identifiable by freezing and shattering them in the water. Hana sits in a meditative lotus position. I sigh, You’re sure your okay with this? I’ll still be somewhat tethered to you so if there’s danger you’re aware of I’ll come back as soon as possible.

It’s fine. You need to get an idea of the spirit world and you projecting yourself is the only way.

I give a mental affirmation and focus. I leave Hana’s body and slip into the spirit world easily.

My spiritual form takes the form of an amorphous shining white sphere, though there now seem to be flecks of blue and silver from absorbing Tui and La.

Considering this is a realm of soul and thought I expect the landscape to be malleable. I experiment a moment on a nearby tree, reaching out with a glowing tendril, causing it to twist and warp into increasingly unnatural shapes before stopping.

I examine my surroundings. I appear to be in a forest of some sort. I begin hovering and exploring. I encounter strange spirits with unusual forms that mostly avoid me, but I’m approached by a a single small spirit resembling a humanoid flower. It looks at me curiously, it doesn’t seem dangerous based on the spiritual presence its giving off. I ask, "Could you point me to something interesting? Or give me any information on landmarks or points of interest?"

The flower spirit points to a path that wasn’t there a moment ago, “Thanks!”

I drift down the path until I come to a large tree with an opening big enough to pass through. I cautiously enter. There’s a set of steps, but I don’t really need them.

I detect something old and powerful as I enter. I’m assuming the tree was masking its spiritual presence or it didn’t reveal itself until I entered. There’s a strange clicking on the ceiling above me. Something to note about spiritual senses is that I can technically “see and feel” in all directions. There’s a large centipede like being with me in here. It extends its upper body so its face is level with me and looks at me with a woman’s face and begins speaking, “Ah, the eater of Tui and La… a great many spirits are either angry with you or afraid of you.”

My form quivers and the colors across my body shift and swirl for a moment as I give a chuckle, “I am. If you give me your name, I’ll give you mine.”

The eyelid like structures around the face blink and its face changes to that of an ape. It’s voice however does not change and it’s a little disconcerting considering, “I am Koh… The Facestealer.

“Looks like I don’t have a face for you to steal.”, I comment, “My name is Vagrant.”, I pause, “The Unbound.”

It looks at me curiously and its lower body scuttles in the hollow of the tree as the insectile limbs around its face quiver, “An Unbound?

Your kind haven’t been seen since the time before the first Avatar. I thought you were all extinct, wiped out by other spirits or voluntarily left the world.”

“There have been other Unbound here?”

“It was so long ago that few spirits remember their names. Tell me, why shouldn’t I alert every spirit I know of your presence?”

I lance out numerous tendrils from my central body and wrap them around Koh. I slam it into the floor of the tree hollow as water begins pouring down the steps of the entrance to the cavern, “This is why.

I’m fully aware that I’ve gotten rather strong from consuming the Moon and the Ocean. I’m stronger than you. Now… why don’t you give me a reason not to consume you?”

Koh seems genuinely fearful at this point and its face cycles several times before settling on that of a middle aged bearded man, “I can tell you where there are greater spirits than I. Your knowledge of the Spirit World must be limited from Tui and La. Allow me to be your informant.”

I consider this for a moment, “Speak.”

“I can tell you where there are more great spirits for you to devour. I am worth more to you alive!”, he hurriedly speaks.

A thought suddenly crosses my mind, “Why should I make a deal with you, Face Stealer? I need information and the simplest way to get that out of you…”

Koh screams as my spirit tendrils sink in to it and it begins wildly thrashing and cycling through faces. Its entire form glows and is gradually absorbed into my being as water continues to pour into the hollow.

By the time the hollow is flooded, Koh has been entirely assimilated into me. I know where Koh’s “mother” is and she has a power that could be useful. Space is a relative concept in this Spirit World and I blur out of the flooded cavern to my destination.

I hover over a thick forest with several large pools visible from my position above it. The fact that there’s spiritual essence all around me makes tracking things somewhat difficult, but powerful spirits stand out. I head towards the largest spiritual presence in the forest.

I come to a grove. At first it looks like a massive tree trunk with various glowing semitransparent faces hovering around it. Then it suddenly moves. It kneels in front of me with one of the half covered faces near the top seeming to look at me, “I sense what’s left of my son in you. You consumed him and now you have come for me, Unbound.”

I state flatly, “I have, Mother of Faces.”

“Your kind never cared about the accords against preying on other spirits. Consuming other spirits is taboo among us for a reason. It’s one of the few ways we can die and younger spirits don’t even know how to do it.”, she pauses and seems to glare at me without fear even with the lack of apparent eyes, “I will not go easily, Unbound.”

Hundreds of animal spirits step out of the tree line, growling and snarling, “Bring it on.”, I tell her.

The spirits surge towards me. My spiritual body converts to a massive amount of water and begins flooding the area. Watery tendrils rise up above the water snatching the animal spirits. Absorbing this many at once would take too long, instead I simply begin channeling my anger. Animals caught up in the watery tendrils violently explode as their spiritual essence is destroyed.

I catch the Mother of Faces fleeing in the chaos, seemingly hovering, using her spirit allies as a distraction, not going to happen. The trees part before as she runs from me. I surge myself after her, flooding everything and knocking over trees in my tidal wave. She’s fast, but I’m faster.

I catch up with her, flowing around the base of her body and the water of my body crawls up her form. She shouts at me angrily, “You can consume me, but word will spread and every spirit will turn against you!”

I silence her as my water covers her completely. There’s a blinding light and her form seems to dissolve within the water that’s covering her. I notice the trees in the forest around me have their leaves brown and the trunks seem to wither.

I allow the water to collapse and return to my spherical spirit form, hovering above the forest. I witness a sea of brown spreading over the trees as they wither with the death of the Mother of Faces. I pull on my connection with Hana and return to her.

***

In the physical world what seems to be sickness begins to gradually spread through the trees of Forgetful Valley and the pools in the forest slowly become stagnant, attracting insects and decay. The forest becomes eerily silent. Within days this is noticed in nearby Hira’a. The inhabitants are unsure of what has happened, but in the days following the death of the Mother of Faces dark spirits begin pouring out of the forest. Those who do not leave the village are quickly torn apart at worst and mutated by contact with the spirits at best.

***

I return to Hana on the ship causing her to gasp as I return to her body. I tell her, I know how to alter your face so that we can go hidden.

She asks, What did you eat?

A stealer of faces and a maker of them.

She hesitates, Do it. Those people who escaped the Oasis can probably give an account of my appearance.

I raise Hana’s hands and place them to cover her face. There is a brief glow and I lower them, restoring control to her.

She summons a small amount of water as a mirror and hovers it in front of her. She examines her appearance. Her hair has turned black and straight with her eyes having changed to a golden amber like color. Her facial tattoos are gone. Beyond this the effects are subtle. There’s a resemblance to her old face, but now it seems slimmer. Her nose and eyes are narrower and overall her entire skin seems to have gone a shade lighter.

After some examining and considering she says, I like it, but you can restore my old face when we leave this world, right?

I can.

She smiles at this and stands as the water mirror collapses onto the deck of the ship. It’s mid morning. Hana allows me to take control and I move the waters around the ship to get it moving to our next destination. I have a few places in mind where I can consume new spirits.

***

The Northern Water Tribe had to be evacuated shortly after the destruction of the Spirit Oasis and the spirits within it due to the city being over run with dark spirits. General consensus was that the spirits had been angered by the death of Tui and La and were taking their vengeance on the north.

Refugees were mostly streaming in to the Earth Kingdom and United Republic. Among them were Kushina, Rin, and Naruto who had been picked up from the island beach by a passing ship a couple days after Vagrant and Hana had left.

The ship was headed for Republic City and from there refugees were to be dispersed to surrounding temporary camps. The United Forces captain of the ship had shown interest when Rin and Kushina both stated they had knowledge on what happened to the Northern Water Tribe.

Kushina and Rin meets with General Iroh, who had been assigned to oversee the evacuation, in a meeting room aboard the vessel. Naruto has been left with a Water Tribe caretaker minding various children aboard the ship who had lost their families during the Dark Spirit incident in the Northern Water Tribe.

General Iroh gestures to chairs at the table, “Please, sit.”

Rin and Kushina comply. Iroh states, “I understand you claim to have knowledge of the Spirit Oasis incident and have displayed some unusual abilities, particularly the manipulation of more than one element which you claim is not bending and manipulation of what you call “chakra”.”

Kushina explains controlling water to hover in a sphere in her right hand while creating a gust of wind with her left briefly and returning the water to a glass on the table, “Every living thing has chakra where we’re from. We actually don’t understand how you people can be alive without it.”

Iroh eyes widen a moment at the manipulation of more than one element by a person other than the Avatar, “You described the person who attacked the Spirit Oasis before we had publicly released that knowledge and not being from the Water Tribe. How?”

Rin explains, “What you’re dealing with is a spirit called an Unbound. Its name is Vagrant and its currently possessing a girl by the name of Inuzuka Hana. Vagrant is the one who brought us to this universe.”

Iroh raises an eyebrow, “This universe?”

Rin continues, “From what we understand the Unbound are spirits that form in the void between universes. They are capable of interuniversal travel and a variety of spiritual powers including consuming souls and spirits. We were thrown in the void, or The Nothing or Chaos, by another Unbound named Shadow.

The Nothing is inhospitable to life and Vagrant pulled us out before we could die. We arrived in the tundra in the North. We don’t know exactly where. As soon as we arrived Vagrant seemed to take control of Hana’s body and vanished. When they returned Hana’s body was surrounded by a large raven made of ice and water. We were told to get on or freeze. We didn’t have much of a choice.

We discussed things the following morning with Hana and Vagrant and they revealed their plans. Vagrant intends to consume various spirits of this world to increase her own power with this empowering Hana as a side effect. They left when we stated we weren’t going support or help them.”, Rin raises the stump of her arm, “Vagrant used her powers to take my forearm when I tried to stop them and then healed it over. She warned me that if I got in their way again she would take more than a limb.”, Rin sigh with regret at that loss of her student more than her arm.

Iroh states calmly, but has a hint of incredulity in his voice, “They understand what that would do to the world, what has already been done to the world and its Water Benders?”

“They don’t seem to care. They believe that since universes are infinite there are countless copies of this one and it doesn’t matter if they destroy this world to make themselves more powerful.”

Iroh clasps his hands together, “I’ll have this information spread to the rest of our forces and police across the globe as soon as possible. The Avatar will also need to be informed along with the Elemental Nations and the United Republic governments.”

A soldier places a notebook on the table in front of Kushina and Rin as Iroh states, “I’ll need all the information you can give on what Vagrant and Hana are capable of.”

The two women nod and begin writing down everything they know.​
 
Chapter 11

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
Watcher, Tsunade, and Shisui stood on a beach on the edge of a jungle. Watcher seemed to be staring to the south-east, towards the great spiritual presence she felt. Tsunade demanded, "Where are we?"

Watcher looked back at her, "I don't know."

Shadow appeared between Watcher and Tsunade. Time stood still and Shisui and Tsunade did not appear to notice Shadow or move in any way. Watcher repeated Tsuanade's question, "Where are we?", she added, "Where are Vagrant and the others?"

Shadow's hands clasped together for a moment then spread apart to form a multicolored three dimensional interconnected chaotic web like structure. A point on the web glowed and blinked brightly. Though Shadow lacked facial features it seemed to frown and give an expression of disapproval, You and Vagrant's groups are in the same universe on the same world on different continents, but you should be thinking about what you'll be doing here. There's power waiting for you, ripe for the taking. You can feel it. You'll need it for what's to come., Shadow seemed like it was smiling, It's calling to you isn't it?

Watcher swiped a hand through the hologram like display causing it to disperse, "I'm not playing this game, whatever it is. How do I get home? There's work to be done there. There's a village I want to protect."

Shadow floated and coiled itself around Watcher, placing its hand on her shoulder as it hovered behind her and whispered to her, trying to persuade her, Now, now, my student. Don't be so hasty, you're showing signs of unhealthy obsession with a single world. I've brought you here because there's easy prey to get you started in the Omniverse... besides, you'll see your friend soon enough.

A wave a spiritual energy surged out from Watcher in anger. Bemused more than anything else, Shadow backed away from her. It tilted its head, Can't you see I'm trying to help you?

She crossed her arms and glared, "I don't need you anymore. You left me. One day you were there and then you were gone with no explanation given beyond a portal that stayed open for days.", there seem to be hint of sadness beneath her anger, "I waited at the portal, hoping you would come back, even after it closed I waited in the area for weeks. I care about you like a father. You never returned. You clearly don't care about me or the reality we came from anymore.

What happened to you, Shadow? I know you were getting restless and despondent, but the Shadow I knew would never have tossed me into some random reality to feed on the inhabitants."

Bitter over that? I had hoped you would follow my path out of curiosity., there was genuine concern in its voice, You wouldn't believe the things I've seen out here., it placed a hand on Watcher's shoulder only to be brushed off, I want you and your friend, Vagrant, greater than what you are now not just for your own safety, but to see you become more... you need to improve and the only way to do that is to consume, experience, and learn. Do you even understand what a soul... you... really are? It's effectively impossible for you to comprehend the true Reality as you are at the moment... there was a time I thought like you, concerned with a single reality rather than the full experiences and concepts the Omniverse has to offer., it seemed to smile at Watcher, I still love you, Watcher... in my own way... despite the changes I have undergone.

She stated flatly, "Are you done? You're not Shadow, not anymore. Every moment I waste here is more time for Orochimaru to ruin the place I call home."

Are you sure you want to return? There's so much out here... so much to do and know... and there's always more...

Watcher cut it off, "Send me back."

Shadow nodded and said nothing more. A portal opened behind it. The portal grew and engulfed Watcher. She briefly floated in Chaos before reality reasserted itself. She looked around and felt a moment of panic. There were two problems: Shisui and Tsunade were not with her and she was in a strange city she did not recognize.

She examined her surroundings. She was in the middle of a street with various abandoned four wheeled metal vehicles that she couldn't identify. The air smelled heavily of of decay and bit the back of her throat. There was a malignant spiritual presence in the air. The cloudy sky was black and gave a scorched impression with the land below bathed in twilight.

She looked around as she suddenly felt an intense killing intent directed towards her coming from multiple directions. She only had a brief moment to notice them before they tore themselves from the shadows and buildings in the area. They stood over six feet tall with long blades replacing their limbs below mid forearm. Their heads were separated from their bodies and suspended by a metal brace of some sort. They were each bandaged and bound in unusual ways, some even having their eyes covered though still advancing without hindrance and giving hisses and screams of varying levels as their bladed limbs clicked on the pavement.

Watcher attempted to open a portal... and nothing happened. Their had to be thousands of them that she could see advancing on her position and she did not know how many more there could be in this city. On top of this she had no idea of these creatures' capabilities, but she was aware they had a significant soul presence along with a very clear intent to kill her. She ran.

She leapt into the air hopping on tops of the vehicles and even stepping on the heads of the bladed creatures, even as they slashed at her legs and missed due to her chakra enhanced speed.

She eventually came to a tall building and climbed to its roof. The creatures were scaling its walls in pursuit of her and had been joined by various monstrosities which included everything from large bloated corpses with spider like limbs sprouting from their backs and having some form of projectiles weapons fused into their flesh to smaller creature that acted like every movement was agony and had glowing syringes replacing their eyes and sticking out of their backs to even conjoined monstrosities engulfed in flame and other things she couldn't immediately describe. In all this time the only evidence she had found of other humans were long dead corpses she passed as she fled through the streets. She stood on the roof as a city of perhaps millions of monsters converged and attempted to clamber up the sides of the building to get at her. Time stopped as the creatures came over the edge of the roof. As far she could see there was nothing but ruined, abandoned cityscape beyond.

She felt Shadow's presence and turned to face it. She stared angrily and demanded, "Where am I!? What kind of hellscape is this and why can't I open a portal!? Why have you sent me here!?"

This multiverse has... unusually strong barriers between most of its universes and Chaos. You just aren't strong enough to break through. It's a good thing really. A minority of universes in this multiverse have fallen into what you see before you. The universal walls being strong means this sort of thing doesn't spread to other universes.
As for what this is...
, Shadow paused as if considering its words, The best way to describe it that you can understand is that in certain universes the spiritual or psychic energy of various beings generates a reflection or realm of its own. In some cases this can get out of control and become self perpetuating without any further input from the beings that initially created it. In this case extreme emotions brought about by a planetary history of wars and violence and resulting suffering, pain, and death caused the spiritual component of this world to descend into what is effectively a self perpetuating cycle of hunger, rage, pain, and sadism., it gestured to the creatures surrounding the two of them on the roof, The most common unique collective name for these creatures in this multiverse is Malefactors.

As for why I have sent you here, it's to show you that some worlds are, as you put it, hellscapes. I would have preferred to show you this after you had gained some strength... but you refused my initial offer of help. Unlike Vagrant you immediately refused the power in front of you. Places like this if they had the opportunity would infect, corrupt, and destroy you and your homeworld and this isn't even the worst thing out there.

There was another pause and Shadow sighed for a moment, The worst things are our brethren that are not Unbound. They are things that are born of Chaos or were banished there at some point, things that are eldritch and incomprehensible to most souls. I could show you those strange things, but it would likely break you at your current level of understanding and growth.", it clasped its hands behinds its back and stared down at her despite the lack of apparent eyes in an almost fatherly manner, What do you want to do? I could leave you here in this degenerate world, you could go back to your homeworld and do as you please, or I could send you back to the world I initially sent you. There is another option of course... I open a breach into Chaos for you and you go where ever you are able from there with I interacting no further in your affairs. You only get one of these options though.

"Where are Shisui and Tsunade?", she asked defeatedly after some consideration.

In the world you just left behind.

She sighed, "If I do not return there will Vagrant make sure they're alright? Can I trust you on that and if I choose to go back home will you actually send me there and not some other hellworld? Is there enough of the original Shadow in there that I have your word on that?"

You have my word that I will send you home if you tell me to do so this time. And, yes, in all probability Vagrant will take care of Shisui and Tsunade, but I will not send them with you.

"It's more important that I defend Konoha, send me home."

Shadow opened a portal and Watcher stepped through after hesitating for a moment.

***

Watcher found herself falling through the air for a few seconds and landed perfectly on the ground. She looked around. She was back in the forest next to Konoha's wall. She moved rapidly, heading towards the gate. She needed to find out how long she had been gone and report the Hokage.

***

Shadow stepped onto Carnate Island near one of its cliffs. Hundreds of Malefactors immediately sensed its palpable spiritual aura it was doing nothing to suppress and converged on it. He stood there impassively as they ran towards him. A wave a spiritual energy expanded outwards from it and washed over them. They all locked up and stepped back. This was an unusual feeling for them... fear.

Of them only three dared move from the crowd that surrounded them. Malefactors in general are barely sapient, but there are exceptions. Particularly memorable incidents that spawn the creatures or strong souls or emotions and thoughts are more likely to produce stronger and more aware Malefactors. Dr. Killjoy, Copperfield, Horace Gauge, Hermes Haight, The Creeper, many others across this world... and these three: The Infernas, responsible for the the accusations and resulting mass hysteria that led to the witch burnings in the village of Goodsmouth on the island in the 17th century.

The three were identical, barefoot, and wore Puritan dress, each appearing about thirteen with long black hair. Shadow noted from what he had researched that the three were in fact identical triplets in life. The one who led the group smiled in a way that would have made lesser beings uncomfortable and she gestured to the Malefactors behind her and her siblings, "You're not one of us and you're powerful enough that I doubt we have anything to offer you. Why are you here?"

I am an interuniversal traveler and I can not be in more than one Multiverse at a time. Recently a student of mine raised the point of its home universe and refused to take part in my lessons or choose a path that would allow it to grow on its own. While I am busy with its... "sibling" who seems more inclined to what I am able to offer and teach... the one who returned to its home universe will need something more to stimulate growth., the Infernas suddenly had the impression of a grin from the shadow man before them, You three will do.

One of the girls spoke in an excited manner, "Oh I know of this! I read about it in one of the books left behind in the prison library. He's talking about alternate worlds... places where history or natural laws completely different."

The other two looked at their sibling with interest for a moment.

"What if we refuse?", the leader of three asked.

I don't think you will. You caused the witch hysteria in Carnate because you were bored, correct? Look around you. How long have you been bound to this island? I can tell you that the world outside is little different. This entire world has sunk into this mad state. You can stay here and torture and command your lessers for eternity and hope that some sapient being that isn't a Malefactor comes along for you to play with or I can sever the ties that bind you to this place and take you somewhere new. You will serve my interests of course, but you'll be free from the endless boredom and can do as you please otherwise.

The girls looked to each other for a moment as if silently conversing among themselves. The head of the group spoke after several long minutes and offering her hand to shake on it, "We accept. The humans called us Infernas. I am Sarah.", she gestured to her siblings next to her, "This is Emily and Anna."

You can call me Shadow., said as he returned the hand shake while raising his other hand in a clenched fist.

The three looked at the fist curiously as it opened and three intense white lights rose from it, orbiting each other. The crowd of Malefactors began to back up and even the girls winced at the spheres. All three of the Infernas turned and glared at the crowd however, the girls' forms engulfed in flames briefly. The Malefactors stopped their retreat and the three turned their attention back to Shadow.

Emily, the one who had read about alternate universes prior to this, tilted her head in interest, "What are those?"

You'll need a little something more where you're going. I've gone to many universes and collected many... things. Abrahamic Mythology isn't much different here than where this came from. These are fragments of Seraph soul. You'll burn with more intensity than you ever have before.

Anna sneered, "Do we look like beings that want a piece of Angel in them?"

"These three together don't even make up an entire angel's being and I've modified them a bit. There should be no problems.", Shadow said dismissively.

"I don't-", Anna began to protest.

Sarah cut her off, raising her hand for her sister to be silent, "We should not reject this gift. It's been centuries since the Cataclysm. If part of this deal involves taking on a fragment of an angel and it will improve us then I'm all for it. I know the both of you are just as willing as I to escape this prison and tedium as I am."

Anna huffed while Emily simply nodded with a hint of enthusiasm. Sarah responded, "We accept."

The glowing white spheres began orbiting each other even more rapidly then shot towards the sisters, striking each of them in the chest. They fell to the ground as soon as they were struck, engulfed in white hot flame and began screaming and writhing.

Shadow stood impassively as a blast of light and heat pulsed outwards from the three. Any Malefactor surrounding the cliff that had not made the immediate decision to run before this was obliterated in the flash, immolated and disintegrated in seconds at the most.

After several minutes the three Infernas shakily stood. They were in their burning forms and they still looked like charred corpses, but the flames had turned a more intense white and they each had sprouted a set of burning skeletal wings in this form. On top of this they now actually had what appeared to be hair made of flame rather than being bald. They took a moment to examine themselves. Shadow did not seem to be bothered by the brightness of them.

They returned to their human forms which had not changed in the slightest. Shadow opened a portal. The Infernas seem to be taken aback a bit by the sight of it. Shadow gestured for them to follow, "Come, there's work to do and more of our deal to discuss."

The three hesitated and stepped through.

***

Hiruzen clasped his hands together after Watcher concluded her report and left. Shisui had been able to use the Kotoamtsukami on Fugaku, and only Fugaku, before the incident involving Shadow. The biggest issue there was involving the Uchiha clan was that Shisui would no longer be available to make use of his technique.

On the positive side Watcher had returned of her own volition and would continue to be of use to the village and training the potentials in the Konoha Soul Division, though Watcher's absence of more than two weeks was certainly a set back. On the negative the village was down two Jinchuriki, one Unbound and her Genin host, a Sannin, the Fourth Hokage's wife, and an unkillable by conventional means undead shinobi with a very useful dojutsu.

Hiruzen also had concerns that this Shadow might return and Watcher had agreed with him on that. Building up their spiritual forces would be a top priority. He also hoped that Vagrant would return with their missing personnel soon as possible. Watcher had explained it had the option of returning here and aiding the village or being sent across various universes by her former teacher. Hiruzen had to agree that having Watcher here was more beneficial to the village though he didn't like to admit that considering what was lost.

He sighed as he returned to his paperwork.

Author's Note: I know it's been awhile. Trying to get back into things. The next chapter we'll be returning to Hana and Vagrant.

I also removed the SI tags from the story. I've come to the conclusion the really isn't an SI story despite the protagonist's name.
 
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Chapter 12

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
Our ship touches down on the sea floor roughly a hundred and twenty kilometers off the coast of the Eastern Fire Nation Archipelago. Hana and I concentrate for a moment and the water around us moves, expanding the small air bubble around the ship to a large dome a kilometer wide resting on the ocean bottom. Hana gets up and hops of the edge of the ship, touching down next to it. We walk a short distance and stare up at the red face and three glowing eyes of what we have come here for.

General Old Iron speaks matter of factly, not moving from his meditative position, with a weariness in his voice, "I knew you were coming for me."

"You also know it would be pointless to resist don't you?", Hana and I say in unison as our eyes glow.

He says with a sigh, "The influence of humans becomes stronger every day since Avatar Aang. The one I was sworn to protect is long gone. I have not moved from this spot in decades. I admit I have little reason to be here and I know I can not beat you here... but... still I will not go without a fight."

He rises and towers over us. We smirk, "We wouldn't have it any other way."

Iron rips itself from the surrounding sea floor and rapidly covers the General in a suit of scale armor. He rushes at us. We lance out a high pressure spike of water from the dome through his chest. He falls to his knees as it pierces his armor and turns to ice. He gives a rueful chuckle, "At least I die fighting."

I project part of myself and surround his body, engulfing him where he's pinned. He struggles briefly before his essence dissolves and becomes one with me. I retreat fully back into Hana as the empty iron suit collapses in on itself. We take in a deep breath and feel the surrounding sea floor. There are significant iron ore deposits in the surrounding area, likely why Old Iron decided to meditate here.

Hana's eyes stop glowing. She experimentally lifts one of the scales with a gesture, causing it to hover in midair before crumpling it into a sphere by closing her hand into a fist. She grins, "Awesome."

Agreed, I comment.

We move quickly and cover the deck and hull of our wooden hulled vessel in seamless iron of the General's armor, granting a significant amount of protection as well as something we can control, not to mention that it disguises the stolen merchant vessel rather well. I then shrink the bubble surrounding the ship and we move on.

***

I can feel the ships ahead of us, displacing the seawater and their iron hulls. There appears to be a series of patrols around the island we're headed for.

Hana takes note of my concern, They know we're coming.

Do you think Rin and Kushina...?

Hana's face falls at the idea of betrayal, Maybe if we had spent more time talking we could have convinced them.

Rin attacked us., I remind her.

Just... I know we haven't discussed them in the days since then, but if possible... if we can convince them... I want to take them with us when we leave this world.

I won't make any promises on that, but we can try. At the very least... Naruto hasn't done anything wrong and it's more likely he can be convinced to our way of thinking considering how young he is... and I think as my spiritual presence grows I'm less likely to have a panic response around the Fox inside him. It would probably help if we could teach him and the Fox to suppress their spiritual presences. I just have concerns about people who will be fighting us on every world we go to. There's also the issue of Shisui and Tsunade if we find them and Watcher.

She sighs, Alright.

Anyway, we have work to do. You're ready?

Yeah.

We move to pass under the patrols and do nothing to alert them as we have no reason to.

***

Our ship, we've taken to calling it the Hashirama, which honestly is a much better name than the Nanhai, makes land fall on the southern beach of the island and we quickly move it past the tree line to keep it concealed. Hana keeps the mask covering the lower half of her face up and we begin moving to the interior of the island. I'll add in relation to names that while the written language is certainly different here (though picked up from the individuals I've consumed), the spoken language of this world just sounds like a different dialect of what's used to in the Elemental Nations and isn't unintelligible to us, though I would add proper nouns have a tendency to be unusual.

Hana hops from tree to tree using chakra and pauses shortly after. Hana sniffs the air. Something isn't right. Those are chakra signatures. This world doesn't have chakra. It's difficult to tell who it is from this distance, but we decide to investigate before proceeding.

We come to a small... surprisingly primitive village compared with what we had seen at the Northern Water Tribe. We keep to a comfortable distance. There are more modern looking soldiers stationed here along with an abundance of purified iron in one of the huts on the edge of the village, probably weapons and radio equipment.

We scan the area and catch a blonde head of air and familiar forehead mark, Tsunade. We contact her telepathically, Don't make indication of anything unusual. Are you a prisoner? How did you get here? Where are Shisui and Watcher?

Tsunade pauses for a moment, but returns to talking with one of the villagers while communicating to us, Shisui is in the village with me. We arrived here the same way you did I'm assuming. Watcher... vanished shortly after we arrived, then Shadow explained that she had chosen to return home and leave us behind. It would not send us back with her when we asked.

Do you, Dan, and Shisui want to go home?

Yes, we would prefer to.

We have some things on this world to do. Hana and I will return for you when we're done on this island, be ready., I communicate the location of our ship to Tsunade, Be there if you want to come with us.

Hana is about to leave when Tsunade stops us, The Unites Force soldiers here have told us that a sipirt has caused the destruction of something called waterbending in this world along with the loss of tides, waves, and the moon turning red. They would not tell us much and we haven't told them much beyond that we're from another world. What did you do?

Hana shoots back, Does it matter? This is reality is of no consequence to us once we leave it. Tell them everything if you please, Lady Tsunade. The way I see it we're the only way you're getting home either way and we're strong enough to deal with things regardless of whether not you tell them. You alert those soldiers and you'll be sending people to their deaths.

We sense bitterness and anger from her before we leave slipping through the trees. We eventually come to a large stone city/temple complex we stand at the east gate. We're approached by men and women in red and yellow tribal garb. One of them, judging from his greater adornment he's the leader or chief, demands to know why we're here. Hana closes her eyes and takes a deep breath as we move in unison. Our eyes open to reveal them glowing vibrantly. The tribals back up in shock and several drop into defensive stances.

Our arms raise. There's gasping and pained shouts as the people rise into the air and have the water drawn out of their bodies. There's dozens of them and the resulting orb of water is of good size and hovers over us. The drained corpses drop to the ground as we walk past them.

We step on a pressure plate and there's a click. We narrowly dodge a swarm of darts where we were standing. Water exerts considerable pressure when freezing we remember. We draw water out of the air and surrounding vegetation to add to what we already have and flood the walkway immediately in front of us, freezing it as it works its way into the floor mechanisms. The pressure from the freezing water either damages the triggers beyond repair or triggers them before we get to them rendering them harmless.

More warriors come out buildings from the right and left. We surround ourselves with a dome of water as we're blasted with gouts of flame. We return fire by flooding the area with pressurized steam in all directions coming off the dome. We hear muffled screaming and shouts through our shield of water and hold the steam in a cloud around us for several minutes.

When we recondense the dome and steam cloud into a sphere hovering near us we find more than two dozen badly scalded, most of them dead, warriors. We detect a few spiritual presences running away, but we do not pursue them, instead focusing on the large spiritual presence we came for. We check for survivors and consume them before quickly moving on.

The city is eerily silent as we continue and absorbing any water sources we come across as we pass. Hana notes, They're regrouping.

Probably around our target. We haven't seen any United Forces members yet. That would suggest Tsunade didn't alert them, but that doesn't mean the people here wouldn't.

We should move quickly in case they do.

We glide across the ground on a surface of ice. Eventually coming to the tallest step pyramid in the area with a single set of stairs leading to the top. At the bottom of the stairs has to be hundreds of men and women in the same red and yellow clothing as earlier, some of them armed, others in firebending stances. We still see no members of the United Forces.

One steps forward, a woman, again apparently a leader of some sort based on the adornment. She begins to speak. We're not here to talk. An arm shoots out from under our cloak and with it a kunai shaped piece of iron traveling at high speed. She's caught in the forehead with it and gasps as blood sprays in front of her before falling face forward and driving it further into her head.

Several of them rush forward to attend her, but we know she's already dead. We hear multiple voices shout, "Defend the Eternal Flame!", followed by the Sun Warriors rushing forward.

We use our soul speed to rush past them... we're so close. We stand in front of the flame and for a brief moment marvel at it and its spiritual presence, the direct physical connection to Agni. Four rush to attack us from behind. We bend the water in their bodies without turning around and send them flying off the top of the temple. We call the water we've collected and freeze the entrances shut with walls of ice.

The part of us that is Hana says hastily, You're going to want to do this quickly. I'll keep the ice up as long as I can.

I project myself out of Hana and I can hear and feel the firebenders trying to break down the ice surrounding us. I briefly sense this sort of vague connection between Hana and I despite not being in the same body. I then shudder for a moment as I dive into the Eternal Flame.

I feel nothing but fire and pain and burning. I realize I'm screaming. I hear Hana screaming mentally with me though fighting through it the best she can. I have to fight with her, through the flame, through the pain. I transform my spiritual form into water and while that mitigates the heat and pain, even that is only delaying the inevitable.

I race down what seems to be a fiery corridor until I come to a flaming throne room where a flaming red giant of man with two heads sits. He begins to rise. NO!

I draw on everything I have and begin flooding the room. The flames actually begin to subside. Agni roars at me and charges. I flow at him at in a tidal wave and for what seems like hours we struggle in an attempt to dominate and consume each other, the Devourer of the Moon and Ocean, General Old Iron, Koh, and The Mother of Faces vs the Sun.

The throne room slowly begins to die down and smolder and I feel Agni's struggles weaken as I engulf his form. He glows brightly for a moment and explodes like a star going super nova, briefly causing my watery form to balloon outwards, and thentAgni is no more, absorbed into my being. I pull as I did with Tui and La and take every from all that Agni was connected to pulling the fire of countless benders into myself.

I snap back to Hana as Agni's realm collapses around me. She's laying on the floor, breathing heavily as the Sun Warriors surround her. I smile inwardly, they have no bending.

I whisper to her with a smile, Hana, I did it. I ate the Sun.

She looks around wearily, the world around the temple has gone from afternoon to twilight and the sun is dim and red, We have to get out of here.

Our eyes glow as we act as one again. We bolt into the standing position. Many of the Sun Warriors brandish weapons. One speaks, "We will not allow you to leave for what you have done."

We smile and say one word, "Burn."

Flame explodes outwards from us, hotter than any firebender could produce. We have the power of a Sun spirit. Flesh carbonizes and turns to ash and diffuse gasses. Stone turns to lava. Those surrounding us don't even scream as the nerves that would conduct pain are destroyed before they can even begin to send signals to the brain.

***

At the village where Shisui and Tsunade are staying a great flash of light is seen coming the direction from the temple. Shouts from both the villagers and soldiers are heard and they rush to act as something rockets away from the temple leaving a trail of smoke and fire behind it. Shisui says with Tsunade with clear intent, "I do not care about your past experiences with the Unbound. My loyalty is to my Clan and my Village. If Hana and Vagrant are the only option for returning home then their path is the one I wil take for now, though I would hope you would come with me."

"I can't with my past experience with them.", she gestures to the red dwarf that has replaced the sun, "Vagrant and Hana did that. This world is reliant on whatever they are taking from it."

"I understand, but I have my own priorities Lady Tsunade.", Shisui gives a respectful bow before heading into the forest and disappearing from sight.

***

After our firebending assisted flight we land near where we have hidden the Hashirama, creating a sizable crater in the sand from the impact. Hana sniffs the air and we tense. We approach the ship. It's Shisui.

He raises his hand and greets us, "I'm coming with you."

Hana tilts her head to the side and seems a bit suspicious, as am I, "Why?"

"My loyalties lie with my Clan, my Village, and now that I aware of such things beyond it, my World. You are my only way home. My motives may not entirely agree with yours, but I do not want to be stuck in a world that is already in the process of dying and I want to get back to Konoha and my Clan. As far as I am aware you are the only option I have for accomplishing that.", he responds.

He has a point., I tell Hana.

He could turn against us., Hana replies.

And what's to stop us from defeating him if he does? We wield the power of the Sun, Moon, and Ocean.

But...

From what little I know of Shisui he genuinely does care about the Uchiha Clan and Konoha. I think he's being genuine in wanting to travel with us to get home.

She sighs, Alright. I'll take your word for it.

Hana offers a hand, "Welcome aboard."

Shisui returns the hand shake, but says nothing. We quickly move the ship back into the water and get on board, submerging and setting out for our next destination.

Author's Note: I want to clarify that the point in time that Vagrant, Hana, and the others arrived in this world is during the two weeks between Books Two and Three of LoK.

The fact that the Equalists were able to use sea mines effectively and that this was unexpected would suggest that by the time of Legend of Korra sonar technology has not been developed yet or that waterbenders being able to replicate the effects of sonar in water the same way Earthbenders like Toph and the Bei Fongs can use Seismic Sense through earth is either rare or not in use for whatever reason.

There is implication that any bender can detect things through their element. For example, Daw is noted to be much more sensitive to air currents even mor so on bare skin and there's some indication Aang can do this as well IIRC. I've always gone with the fan theory that all benders could potentially do this. Fire benders are capable of something like thermal imaging. Airbenders can echolocate and feel air currents. Waterbenders can develop sonar like abilities through water. I've even seen a few fanfics that use this idea. It's just abilities like this are certainly rare considering the only people to have learned Seismic Sense are Toph and and a few people who learned it from her directly or indirectly.

Another thing I would note is that the setting has not had a major war for 70 years between AtLA and LoK, which would probably cause military technology to stagnate somewhat. No one's using submarines in a wartime setting much so there's not much pressure for sonar development (note that the main reason sonar was initially developed in the real world was for military use to detect submarines).​
 
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Chapter 13

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
Unlike the rest of the world which is experiencing a rapid decrease in temperature from the dimming of the sun resulting in what is the beginnings of an Ice Age, the Spirit Wilds of Republic City and Foggy Swamp, and the areas around the Southern and Northern Spirit Portals seemed to be maintaining stable temperatures. As a result people were flocking to these sites if able with the exception of the Northern Portal which was swarming with Dark Spirits, along with the Sun Warriors' city and the island it sat on forcing it to be abandoned.

Korra meditates on Air Temple Island. Her thoughts are distracted however as they keep turning to the condition of the world. Less than a week after Harmonic Convergence Tui and La had been killed by a spirit from outside the universe if Kushina and Rin were to be believed. Korra had concerns that Harmonic Convergence had somehow drawn this Dark Spirit to her world due to the increase in spiritual energy. She noted that as another apparent side effect of that, just this week they had found out that people were gaining airbending. It was great that the Air Nation might be restored, but the world was dying and if things kept going as they were there wouldn't be any any benders left in the world at all.

There was ongoing rash of suicides in the city and likely the rest of the world, particularly among former firbenders and waterbenders, which was thought to be a combination of the loss of the two elements and the decaying state of the world. She was not only fearful for the people who had already lost their bending and those who could, but fearful of losing her remaining bending ability herself and what it would do to her.

She shakes away the distracting thoughts and clears her mind. She enters the Spirit World and finds herself at the Tree of Time. She looks to the Southern and Northern Portals. The latter looks dark and sickly. A gathering of Dark Spirits circle around it in the air and on the ground. Some can be seen entering and exiting it, but they do not stray away from it.

Korra notices a shadowy figure, a three dimensional black silhouette of a man, in a long coat and wide brimmed hat standing at the base of the Tree with his back to her. She keeps a cautious eye on the Northern Portal as she approaches the Tree, but the spirits do not move from it. Dozens of neutral and Light Spirits surround the Tree, but they do not get to close to the man almost as if they do not want to draw his ire. He just stands there with his hands apparently in his pockets and doesn't show any indication of noticing Korra until she gets within several meters of him.

Korra recoils a bit at the lack of an apparent face and that his entire mass is effectively a three dimensional solid black shadow when he turns towards. His tone is friendly, "Hello, Avatar. You're here to gain the aid of the spirits in what is happening to your world, correct?"

Korra is wary of this spirit, "I am. Who are you?", she looks at the other spirits around the Tree again and they look back with concern, "The others are afraid of you."

"I am Shadow... for someone with significant spiritual presence you don't seem to know how to suppress your own. You shine brightly to me. As for why they're afraid... I'm a thousands of years old Unbound. They haven't seen or heard of my kind in a long time and they know what we're willing and capable of doing."

He approaches and Korra backs up a bit as he leans over her, "They won't help you, they know this is a lost cause with the damage done to the world and the power my student has. Most can survive the deaths of the Moon, Ocean, Sun, Earth, and Air. Many of them do not like the idea of aiding humans either or serving human interests, especially after the incident with Unalaq and Vaatu.

And believe it or not, humanity will survive. Not in the current numbers and it will not be easy, but your species will survive. You can already see the Spirit Wilds retain their warmth and life bearing properties despite the effects on the sun."

Korra speaks, looking up at him and not flinching, "We all have an interest in preserving this world. I-"

A Dragon Eel spirit interrupts her, hovering near her and Shadow, "He is right, Avatar. We will not aid in defeating this threat. Nearly all spirits will survive without the Four Great Elemental Spirits you and your kind draw your bending from and in time the Spirit Wilds will grow and support the planet. The Human World and the Spirit World will continue, just not as it was before Harmonic Convergence. Many of us believe that you opening the Spirit Portals was a blessing due to what is happening. We can more effectively aid in ensuring the survival of this planet now that we may pass between the Physical and Spiritual worlds freely."

"But most of the humans on this planet are going to die if we stand by and do nothing.", Korra protests.

"That is not our concern. When the Unbound known as Vagrant leaves this world, eventually a new balance will be found.", the dragon-eel spirit tells her.

She looks back to Shadow, anger in her voice, "You've been talking with them haven't you?"

"They would have come to the same conclusion on their own. I merely hastened things.", Shadow tells her.

"I know you're the one who brought Vagrant and Hana here. How can you accept killing a world?"

"You've been speaking with the others. Please do tell Kushina that I said it is in the best interest of her son's survival that he travel with Vagrant and its host.", he says with concern, "That is true for all of them in fact.

As for how I am willing to accept this? Avatar, you're thinking of only one world. Do you know how many iterations of your world have died? Do you know how many universes in your infinite Multiverse have been destroyed by things far greater than this one singular planet by internal forces? Can you comprehend the myriad of worlds that are exactly the same as this one with the only difference being the random placement of a few atoms? One world doesn't matter to beings like us that can travel through the various universes.

As painful as it is, a hard truth I've had to learn of the Omniverse that in time Vagrant will have to learn as well: Existence for many is conflict and consumption by necessity. To stop or hold back means death or a worse fate. Some may find peace by being born lucky or struggling for it, but do you honestly expect anyone to give up their life and well being for a single world or universe in this infinite Reality?"

Shadow turns away from Korra, "Maybe you'll survive and maybe you won't, but there are more iterations of you that definitely will. Perhaps you can find solace in that.", and disappates with no apparent trace left behind.

Korra looks to the gathered spirits as they turn and vanish as well, making it clear there will be no convincing them. She leaves, returning to her body to explain things back in Republic City.

***

We've all noted the temperature is rapidly dropping and we suspect this world will become a frozen wasteland in time due to the sun dimming. On the positive side Hana and I can both generate heat with what was acquired from Agni. We haven't seen any ice formations in the ocean yet, but we've been keeping the ship and the waters around it at a comfortable temperature. We've both believe that while she's nowhere near as strong as I am spiritually what ever is happening to her due to being my host and our apparent connection makes her powers over the elements stronger than any normal bender and appears to be increasing her spiritual power in general.

We've also noted Shisui's spirit presence is above average for people from our home world as well is this world, but he's not that spiritually strong as a result of being with Watcher for such a short time. About all he's capable of at the moment is short range telepathy and spiritual sensing. On the positive side this does allow for easy communication without us having to take turns physically speaking with him.

From the memories I have of Agni, Tui, and La the Air and Earth spirits do not have avatars or physical connections to the world, I'll have to enter the Spirit World for an extended period to acquire them.

I think we should have some allies going forward., Hana responds back to me.

Shisui raises an eyebrow and says what I'm thinking, Why? I'm certain you could handle anything short of the Avatar at this point based on the descriptions I've been given of her and as you eat the elemental spirits of this world she gets weaker.

Hana explains, We don't know what to expect going forward from worlds after this one. Here, we're effectively smashing and grabbing what we need, but that may not work or may not be desirable on future worlds we come in contact with. We'll need people who can perform specialized tasks or fight for us and we can't be everywhere at once. There's also that I expect we're going to have more resistance soon as we progress in this world.

I speak to only Hana for a moment, sensing some other motive, Are you sure that's the only reason?

Am I that obvious to you?, she says with a mental sigh, I think we should preserve at least something from this world if we can, even if it's only a few people.

Very well, if that's what you want., I respond back to her in a reassuring manner., I don't see a problem with this and they could be useful.

Thanks.

I do have a place in mind where we could get some souls on our side., speaking to both of them, but I'll need to enter the Spirit World to claim them. If I'm correct they have every reason to be angry with the spirits of this world and most likely if given the opportunity to leave would do so.

Where?, Shisui asks.

The Fog of Lost Souls, According to the memories I have from Agni, Tui, and La it's a prison for human souls that have angered the spirits of this world sufficiently. However I have also noted from their memories that the spirits can be tempermental, vindictive, and spiteful towards humanity. Considering this and the souls are trapped there indefinitely, I'm doubtful many of them were completely deserving of such a punishment. Many would probably be willing to fight against the spirits and then leave this damaged world completely when Hana and I's tasks here are complete.

Hana smirks, Alright then. We'll wait for you on the ship. We're going to have change heading though to get these souls some bodies after you come back with them, but I'll keep the ship moving for now.

Understood, and with that I leave Hana's body and enter the Spirit World.

I already know where the Fog of Lost Souls is and quickly arrive there. I hover on one of the curved, spiked crags overlooking the canyon the Fog is in. I prepare my self and convert to a fine mist, diving into the Fog and intertwining myself with it.

I know the Fog is actually a sentient spirit and it begins struggling against me almost immediately as I try to consume it. The Fog is old and powerful and it will take time to complete this. I am careful to not absorb the souls trapped within the Fog.

Several minutes in my spiritual senses shut down and I am left with Nothing, no dark, no light, no up, no down, no anything. I begin to panic. No... no... no... not again. I flare my spiritual energy on reflex to create some kind of sensation. I jerk back to reality when I actually hear the Fog's telepathic screams accompanied by the screams of the people trapped in the Fog. I feel it struggle with greater intensity against me, trying to flee.

I remember where I am and the Fog's effects. It causes delirium with hallucinations based on a being's worst memories or fears. I grip it tight and draw the Fog into myself with greater resolve, angered that it would dare try to affect my mind in that way. Slowly I feel the Fog's struggling cease and I am aware I am the only fog in the canyon.

I gradually coalesce back into my spherical spiritual form. The people around me are still for several minutes as they come out of their delirium before looking around in confusion and then look to me. I call out to them, "I am sure many if not all of you have some awareness that the reason you were in the Fog of Lost Souls is because you angered the spirits in some way. I have consumed the Moon, Ocean, Sun, Mother Of Faces, Koh the Face Stealer, and General Old Iron. I intend to at least consume the Air and Earth spirits that are the source of bending in this world before leaving for a new one.

I offer you this: Follow me and I offer you vengeance and freedom from the spirits who put you in this prison. In return I ask you serve myself, my allies, and my interests in this world and those to come. Beyond this you are free to do as you please."

There's murmuring among the crowd and one, a young black haired woman, raises her hand and speaks, "Could you go into more detail?"

"I will also ensure that all of you will be granted bodies as soon as possible. This world is already dying due to the deaths of the Moon, Ocean, and Sun spirits. Those of you who were sent here for offending them have been granted retribution, but again I do stress that the world has been negatively affected by the deaths of these spirits. As for freedom, you can follow me and do as you want when you are not serving me or if you can choose not to follow me I will leave you here and you can do what you wish. Following me means that I will take you with me when I conclude with consuming Earth and Air."

There's murmuring again from the crowd. About two thirds step forward and following the example of the few who do it first offer salutes or kneel. I speak once more, "Is that everyone?"

A handful more step towards me with some hesitation, but no more than that. I lift upwards, drawing those who have chosen to follow with me. Many seem surprised or panic a bit and pulling them along with me as I snap back to Hana and the ship... only to be greeted by Hana and Shisui fending off three dark spirits in the form of strange multi-eyed serpents. Hana comments as she throws up a shield of ice to block the strike of one of the spirits, Good that you're back., she notes the spiritual presences of those with me, And you brought friends.

Hana and I surf a path of ice through the air to get closer to the spirits. They take the bait and converge on us away from the ship. I draw on the anger and let out a blast of destructive spiritual energy around me, obliterating the serpent spirits as they give shrieks of pain due to being ripped apart and destroyed.

The souls left on the ship back up and gaze in fear and awe. Even though most of them lack developed spiritual senses they can still feel the large spike in energy. We land back on the deck. Shisui looks around for a moment at the human souls standing around. If it weren't for his time with Watcher they'd be invisible to him.

Shisui comments, Will they be adequate? Many of them do not look like they're used to combat.

Not all of them need to be great at combat., I say, Some may be useful for other tasks.

We all pause as a familiar shadowy figure flickers into existence aboard the ship among the crowd of souls on deck and says, But it will help if they are... improved. Right now they are just average human souls, but you do have the ability to fix that.

Hana looks to Shadow in curiosity, How?

Vagrant already has the knowledge. Very old spirits such as Agni, Tui, La, Old Iron, and The Mother of Faces had such knowledge. They call it energybending, but it would be more accurate described as soul modification.

I look through the memories and they certainly are there. Shadow adds, I will help guide you through this., as it hovers behind us.

Hana's eyes glow as I draw on the power and synchronize with her. Her entire body glows vibrantly with a pale light as ethereal tendrils snake out and touch everyone on board, Shisui included. Some begin to panic, but Shadow communicates to us on how to calm them through this temporary connection.

It last several hours as Shadow leads us through the process. Each human soul aboard is modified into something that is no longer human based on the powers we have to give and what we get the impression each is most suited for. Some are given control over Iron, Fire, or Water, while others are given the power to create and steal faces or control their spiritual forms and energy as hallucinogenic fog. By the time we are done the dim sun has passed under the horizon and blood red moon has risen. Hana shakes her head as we come out the almost trance like state and we both notice that Shadow has left.

We look around as the souls come out of the forced calm. Their spiritual forms have changed. While each of them still appears humanoid in appearance and most retain faces and features they had prior they have each been altered by the process. Those gifted with Fire have glowing eyes with colors of skin ranging from flame red to charcoal black and are covered in flames though do not burn, those with Water have had their human forms translated into a version made of water that shifts into ice or steam as needed, those with Iron have turned into varying styles of suits of armor or become animate iron statues, the ones who have been given the power over faces have their bodies mostly unchanged save for facial features that are either absent or change and shift constantly, and finally souls with the power from the Fog of Lost Souls have their appearance changed the least and instead have their forms obscured by a constant mist that surrounds them.

Hana and I both feel a connection to them and I suspect it is somewhat similar to what the connection benders I have stolen power from had with Agni, Tui, and La. Hana comments privately to me on noticing this, If any of them betray us you could snatch back the power they've been given.

I hear various versions of the same question from the crowd, Where are we going now?

I reply back to them, Somewhere we can get all of you bodies. I hope none of you are squeamish about taking from people who own them already.

There's no response, but I sense anticipation from them as we change the ship's course.

Author's Note: One thing I've noted about Legend of Korra, the spirits, even Raava, harp on how much humans need to respect the spirits and how violent and selfish humans are. During the time of Wan, spirits are even shown going out of their way to harm humans when humans have done nothing to directly harm the spirits. During Wan's time the spirits were apparently so agressive that humans were forced to take refuge on the backs of Lion Turtles. Then there's Book 4 where Korra asks the spirits for help in defending Republic City and they refuse, not caring about the city or its populace. Another thing that's shown in Book 2 and 3 is the apparently disproportionate punishment that is the Fog of Lost Souls. Zhao's been there for seventy years and there's a few people there that look like they could be from Avatar Wan's time, so it's implied to keep people there for potentially thousands of years. There's also stuff in the Avatar comics that indicates much of the same. The spirits in the Avatarverse are kind of dicks. I find it a bit hard to sympathize with the spirits when humans appear to often be wary of them in the same way one would be wary of a dangerous animal that will attack if provoked and not handled the right way and apparently that humans can't really do anything to harm them significantly apart from angering them.
 
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Chapter 14

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
We've been keeping tabs on the world via the Hashirama's radio. The Fire Nation is combating the cold by use of geothermal power from its volcanic islands and the Earth Kingdom is doing much the same where it's practical. Apparently there's quite a demand for the rare lavabenders at the moment. What Spirit Wilds there are maintaining their warmth and are being reported as very slowly growing. Of course large areas are being evacuated due the drop in temperature and there's a great deal of unrest over the obvious coming famine. We've encountered a few ghost towns on our journey as we dock at ports for supplies. Luckily this means we can just take what we need without a fight from whatever people didn't take with them.

As for where we're headed, Foggy Swamp due to the huge number of refugees flocking there. Republic City was the alternative choice, but the large number of United Forces and the Avatar there could draw attention to us. The plan is to have my Elementals, exactly five hundred four after having a head count done, possess humans in the swamp. While I'm aware that spirits in this world cause mutational effects on humans if they possess them, I'm expecting that the Elementals being molded in my image, thus possessing qualities closer to an Unbound than a native spirit, combined with them being formerly human means they won't cause this problem.

We go up river and find our way to the geographically adjacent Gaoling about mid morning as the snow falls. I send a few Elementals ahead into the city. A few hours later they report back that the city is an evacuated ghost town like the others we've encountered with the only signs of human life being frozen corpses.

Hana gives the order to move the ship through Gaoling and towards the swamp. The ship moves over the frosty ground via a combination of bending a flow of water under it and the iron it's clad in. Hana and I stand on the bow with Shisui, observing. Much of the city looks as though it was left in a hurry, but we notice a few animals and humans here and there lying in the streets, frozen to death. I don't doubt there are more inside buildings who refused to leave the city.

"Is all this worth it?", Shisui comments as we pass through the city.

Hana and I both synchronize causing her eyes to glow as we both feel some anger at that question and glare at him, "We came from a world where conflict and death was a constant. You have a problem with the indirect deaths from our actions? How much innocent blood do you have on your hands, Shisui, directly or indirectly?"

"I never caused the deaths of millions by my actions.", he responds, "You're effectively committing genocide and truth be told I have no problem with what you are doing here. Our Home Universe is the only one of consequence, but I am asking if you feel anything at ending this many lives in a quest for power."

We look away from him and gaze back over the city, "We can protect Konoha... our Clan... our family with what we're taking. We can protect each other. That's what makes this worth it. You said yourself, Konoha, The Uchiha Clan, and Our World is what you care about the most. Would you not do the same as us if given the opportunity? We've given you Fire, Shisui. We're giving you nothing else. If you want to protect Konoha personally you'll need to take power of your own. We have already agreed that we will leave Konoha once we find it and explore the countless worlds out there at some point."

"I suspect you two care more about each other than anything else."

"And what if we do?"

"If Konoha or our World became a threat to the two of you...", he says.

"We prefer not to think about that. Konoha has been willing to cooperate with us and Watcher.", we tell him.

"Only out of need.", he states flatly.

We stop resonating with each other and Hana's eyes stop glowing. She turns to Shisui and sighs as her face falls, "Shisui... I do have concerns about what I am becoming at times, what I would have been if I hadn't met Vagrant. If I hadn’t met her I don’t think I would have been okay with threatening the Yondaime’s wife, maiming my Jonin Sensei because she got in the way, or be willing to destroy a world for the sake of power. At times I'm afraid I’m becoming something my family, my clan, Konoha, and all those other versions of me and them would hate.

Mom said what Inuzukas have isn’t quite a kekke genkai because it’s too subtle. The instinctual urges, the feralness that comes out when our emotions flare or we’re in danger, and the heightened senses, the ability to sense chakra… we all get some training before and during the Academy so we don’t maul someone in anger, but for me I feel like it’s changed... as Vagrant has been with me. Stronger would be the wrong word. Part of me hates to admit it, but I like letting that bestial part of me out, I like the power and freedom I have because of her, I like the thought of hurting people who go against either of us. When we got the Raven contract Chiboushi said that Unbound affect their hosts just as hosts affect the Unbound. At times I find it disturbing that I’m willing to go along with Vagrant or have no problem with allowing control of my body so fluidly or acting as one with her. I can’t help but think what would I be if Vagrant had never chosen me as a host and if that version of me is a better person."

Shisui is silent as though he's waiting for her to continue. She speaks curtly, "We're done for now. I need to speak with Vagrant in private.", and stalks past him.

She heads for the Captain's Quarters and sits on the bed. I sense a combination of sorrow and frustration directed at herself as her thoughts race. I take a long moment to decide what to say to her, Hana, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing your own pleasures and personal interests. You know I care about you and and the things that you care about and have an interest in. I don’t think I would if I hadn't chosen you, that is true. I have to think you’re affecting me as I affect you, yes, but I honestly think that out of all the Hanas in the infinite Universes, you are the best version of you.

But… if you’re afraid of what you’re becoming because you’re my host… I’ll gladly leave simply because that’s what you want even it hurts me to do so. If you have objections to what we’re doing to this world we can stop. We'll stop. Maybe it’s being alone with nothing for so long before I came to your world, but I’ve grown attached to you and I think I actually… love you. If you have an objection to something, just say it. I don’t have a problem with doing things for you.


I feel her tearing up, I don’t want you to leave! You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me! At times I wish I could physically touch you rather than just feel your presence in me. The mindscapes… they don’t feel like that's enough at times., she pauses, I’ve come to love you too, Vagrant.

I… don’t… want you to leave., she reiterates, When I said I’d like to explore universes with you, I meant it. The greatest feeling I’ve had is when we’re in sync and acting together. It feels like we’re perfect then. I… just need to know that I’m not becoming something horrible… that I’m… we’re doing the right thing. Just tell me that and I’ll accept it.

I project myself outside of her body and focus on making myself solid as I form into a humanoid shape and sit next to her on the bed. She looks up at the form I've taken. It isn't simply Hana's form, but still something intended to come off as friendly and familiar to her expectations. I take the Moon Spirit's human form.

I embrace her as I sit next to her. She seems stunned for a moment as I reassure her, We’re doing the right thing, Hana. In this infinite reality we have each other and, ultimately, I think that us and what we desire is what should matter. I'm with you and will do everything in my power to stay with you as long as that's what you want.

She returns my embrace. And I'm with you, thanks… Vagrant, she smiles, We’re in this together. You’re my pack, my best friend, my family. As long as you’re with me and have my back I know things are going to be okay, she gives a bit of chuckle, You’re warm like this you know? I don’t know quite how to describe it, the best I can think of is that it's like hugging light.

You’re warm too, Hana.
, I tell her.

We close our eyes and just enjoy each other's presence. Hana and I remain as we are for about twenty minutes before we realize we have work to do.

***

The ship comes to rest in a large pond in Foggy Swamp. We've gone over it, so Hana takes over and speaks to the assembled souls on board, Vagrant will be leaving soon to enter the Spirit World and claim the Air and Earth Spirits. Until she returns I'm in charge. For now half of you are to head into the swamp and take hosts from whoever you can find. After that return to the ship as soon as possible with what information you gain and what supplies you can carry. Stay in touch with each other by telepathy.

The rest of you are to go with Vagrant into the Spirit World to help with the Air and Earth Spirits. Those of you who go with Vagrant will receive hosts afterwards, but for now you are need to aid Vagrant. Understood?


There words of affirmation or salutes from the crowd before half take off. I ask Hana, You're sure you're going to be alright alone? This will the longest time we've been apart.

I'll be fine
, she reassures me, Besides someone needs to keep tabs on things in the physical world while you're gone.

Alright, I'll return as soon as possible then we can leave this world.


I project away from Hana leaving her alone and the remaining Elementals following. Hana steps off the ship and lands on top of the water, walking casually on its surface with Shisui behind her. He asks as Hana touches a nearby tree, "Where are we going?"

"There's something about this swamp. It's incredibly spiritually dense and seems likes it's alive. Can you feel it?"

Shisui says nothing and shrugs.

"It's converging somewhere, getting denser. I'm going to follow it, it's like it's calling to me."

***

The problem is that I don't actually know where the Air and Earth Spirits are or even their names which means I need to gather information. I ask my followers, "Is there anyone who knows where the spirits I'm looking for are or where to get that information?"

There's a moment of silence before a Fire Elemental steps forward. He looks to be in his thirties, possibly early forties, with red skin, black hair with mutton chops, and wearing an old Fire Nation Uniform. He explains, "I am Zhao. That information could likely be found in Wan Shi Tong's Library. I've been there... in the physical world."

"Then we should go there... where-"

I'm interrupted by a young female Elemental lacking a face speaking in a calm, respectful manner, "Forgive me for interrupting, great one. My name is Mei, I was taken to the Fog decades after Admiral Zhao because I stole from the library... it currently is in the spirit realm after Wan Shi Tong was angered by the Avatar and his companions."

"Can you lead us there, Mei?", I ask.

"I can, great one.", she steps forward and kneels in front of me, "I offer my memories of its location."

I reach out a tendril, sinking it into her head and copy the memories at the forefront that she is offering. I know where the library is. She stands and bows when I am done before backing up to stand with the crowd. I speak to them, "Alright, we're moving out."

I teleport to the Library, bringing my followers with me. Everyone looks around the forest we're in. I immediately notice it though and extend a tendril to point up, "There."

The library is suspended upside down in the canopy of the forest. I command, "Follow me."

Normal physical laws don't really apply here, plus spirits don't have mass in the normal sense so flight is trivial. We all ascend to the Library above. Some of them are a bit disoriented by the sudden inversion of gravity when we get close to it and then finally touch down inside.

We're almost immediately greeted by a giant owl spirit descending from above with a rush of air, "I am Wan Shi Tong, he who knows ten thousand things.", his head tilts side to side for a moment as if he's examining us, "Though her form has changed, at least one of you has stolen from me in the past.", he then narrows his eyes at me, "And according to the description my Knowledge Seekers gave you have broken the old accords and eaten multiple spirits, Unbound. Why should I allow you here?"

"I have no quarrel with you, Wan Shi Tong. I merely request access to you library to find certain spirits.", speaking truthfully.

He says with rising anger in his voice, "So that you may consume them?"

"Yes... however I am offering you the chance to simply allow me access to the information... or I can take it from you by force. Considering that I have consumed the Moon, Ocean, and Sun, greater spirits than you and I have a group of spirits I have empowered to fight with me, I'm sure I can defeat you and add your power to what I already have. Your call."

There's a long pause. He turns and begins walking away. I can detect a combination of defeat and anger from him as he speaks curtly, "I ask that you do put everything back where you found it when you are done. The Knowledge Seekers can point you to what you are looking for."

I turn my attention to my followers, "No stealing anything. We are guests and will treat this library with respect."

Zhao and Mei follow directly behind me. Zhao offers some advice, "I still remember the section of library that documented various spirits. I can lead you to it."

"Lead the way then."

As he leads us he asks, "So you really consumed to the Ocean and Moon?"

"I did."

"My only regret in that is that I could not kill them personally, but I suppose helping you take the Air and Earth Spirits will be enough. Tell me, do you know anything about how history has remembered Admiral Zhao?"

I tell him the truth from what I know of the few humans I've consumed, "History sees you as villain who killed the Moon Spirit and required that Princess Yue sacrifice herself to replace it."

"That would give some explanation why no one ever bothered to look for me.", he says with a scowl, "At least I am remembered if only as a villain."

"Better than being totally forgotten I suppose.", Mei notes.

We arrive shortly thereafter at the section of library Zhao remembers. One of the foxes passes and looks at us curiously. I ask it, "Can you point me to a book on the locations of the Earth and Air spirits that are the counterparts to Tui, La, and Agni?"

The fox tilts its head for a moment and runs off before returning a minute later with a book in its mouth. I gently take it with a pair of tendrils and begin rapidly reading. Mei and Zhao read over my absent shoulders. I quickly find what I'm looking for, committing the locations to memory and speaking aloud the names of the spirits we're looking for, "Thorannee and Fujin are what we're looking for. I know where they are."

I return the book to the fox, telling it, "Give my thanks to Wan Shi Tong for his compliance."

The fox seems to nod before running off to return the book to its proper place. I concentrate for a moment and pull us to our next destination.

***

At several points the swamp attempts to separate Shisui and Hana with various hallucinations and moving vines and roots. It is only the spiritual abilities and senses each have that keeps them together though of course Hana's are much more developed.

On their journey to the center they get telepathic reports from the Elementals that there are several refugee settlements throughout the swamp. Hana decides to purposefully avoid them, but eventually they come across a small earthen dwelling in a small clearing unintentionally.

Curious, Hana approaches while signalling Shisui to stay back and only move in if she calls to him. The dwelling appears empty. Someone calls out to her, "Heard you coming from a mile away. Even felt you moving that ship of yours through the trees."

Hana turns towards the voice. It's an elderly woman in Earth Kingdom garb with her hands clasped behind her back. Hana notes the woman's eyes are clouded over giving indication that she is blind. The woman continues, "I can tell you're not normal. Usually people don't walk so quietly or quickly, but at the same time with that kind of confidence. I've met a few assassins and trained killers in my life. You walk like them, kid. By the way, I know your friend is waiting in the tree line."

Hana raises an eyebrow, "You're perceptive. Who are you?"

"Why don't you tell me who you are first and why you're here. You're not one of the tribals that live in the swamp and you're not one of the refugees that have been coming here because everything is getting cold outside places like this swamp. Some Spirit ate the Sun from what I heard."

Hana smirks and speaks confidently, "I'm just here to find out what's at the center of the swamp. Everything is converging there. My name is Inuzuka Hana and my friend is Uchiha Shisui."

"I'd guess you're Fire Nation from you putting you clan names first. Where ever you're from though... I know you're lying about why you're here. I'm Toph Bei Fong by the way.", the woman says sternly.

"I'm not lying completely I am curious about this swamp, but the real reason we're here is for some spirits that are following me and my partner to gain some hosts if you must know."

"So I'm guessing you're the reason for what's happening to world.", Toph states.

"Vagrant and me, yes."

Toph smirks, "It's not with you now is it?"

Hana has a moment to narrowly dodge as the woman moves and rock flies by Hana's head. She speaks to Shisui, Stay back, I'm taking care of this alone.

Hana retaliates by firing off several kunai at the woman. She slides along the muddy earth fluidly and easily dodges causing the kunai to embed in a tree behind her. Toph comments as she sends the earth rippling in a wave beneath Hana's feet and forcing the girl to leap into the air, "That wasn't conventional metal bending. No, you're something different, girl."

The kunai embedded in the tree pull themselves out and strike at Hana as soon she lands. Two graze her arm as she moves out of the way and gasps in pain. She steps backwards and draws the water from the surrounding area, sending a volley of icicles at the woman.

Toph gives something of a mocking laugh as she casually slides out of the way again as if she's surfing on the earth beneath her, "Metal and Water? What other surprises do you have?", and returns fire with a large head sized rock.

Hana doesn't get out of the way in time and is struck in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her. She falls backwards gasping for air. Toph approaches her as the earth binds Hana's arms and legs.

Toph calmly steps forward, "You're no match for me, kid."

Hana roars while issuing a gout of flame from her mouth. Toph simply leans back to avoid it. The earthbender continues, gagging Hana with a bit of earth to cover the girl's mouth, "It's easy for me tell you've got a lot of power and knowledge, but not much in the way of real world experience with your bending. Now you're going to tell me-"

Hana draws on the anger she's observed with Vagrant and her spiritual energy flares in the direction of Toph. Toph feels an intense rending pain in her chest that spreads throughout her body. She stands there, mouth agape and stunned. There was no visible or audible attack through the earth or otherwise and suddenly she's finding it hard to think or recall what she was about to say. Her hand goes to the fist sized hole in the center of her chest. She falls onto her back and senses Hana kneeling over her as the blood pools and mixes with the mud of the swamp. Why is it so hard to focus or recall? It's like something's been torn from her. The girl place a hand to cover Toph's face and the earthbender gasps as she feels a pulling sensation followed by... nothing.

***

Toph's next conscious experience is confusion and of two people talking, one male, one female.

The male voice chastises, You could have gotten killed over relying on spiritual powers you have less experience with and have had less than a month to train with.

The female voice, a child?, scoffs, I had that under control. It's not like I'm going to get better if I don't use my abilities and as from what I understand chakra is a thing unique to our universe and ones related to it. If I end up with a body that doesn't have chakra later on, a large piece of my ninja training is going to be useless.

Plus I'm realizing it might be a good thing for Vagrant and me to be apart sometimes. We can learn to not be completely reliant on each other and use our abilities independently.


There's a pause before the male voice responds, And what are you going to do with that old woman's soul? Even with my lesser spiritual senses I can tell she's badly damaged from whatever it is you tried to do.

Toph pauses. She can tell that was referring at her. She tries to recall things, but it's so hard to focus on anything for too long and it all comes in flashes passing from her minds eye before she can get anything useful. She tries to remember and it feels as though she's a book with most of the pages torn out. She remembers a city of metal, she has a daughter and grandchildren there, but can't remember their names or faces. She remembers traveling with something call the Avatar and others. Were they friends? What were their names? The memory of being a police chief passes briefly to her attention, but it and any details there might be are gone as soon as she tries to get more. She remembers something called an Earth Rumble, but who she fought is a mystery. She was a noble in Gaoling? Where is that? On top of all this it feels like a large piece of herself is missing. She has memory of badger-moles and learning from them, but not what she learned and what a badger-mole actually is. She get's the vague impression the knowledge would be useless now due to that part of herself that is missing. Finally something concrete she can focus on comes to her. She still remembers her name and speaks to the nothingness and the voices, I am Toph Bei Fong., this is followed in a demanding tone, Where am I? Who am I? Who are you? Why is it so hard to think or focus? I feel... I feel as though I've been broken in some way... but... but I don't know how or why.

The female voice explains in a matter of fact way, We've been allowing you to hear us, hoping it would help wake you up soon. I am Hana and the other you're hearing is Shisui. You and me fought. You had me on the ground, restrained, and in a moment of anger at being nearly defeated I tried to destroy your soul. Apparently because either I had no idea what I was doing or because I lacked the power needed to do so all I managed to do was damage your soul rather badly. Just looking at you I can tell you're severed from the afterlife and cycle of reincarnation for this world and whatever part of your soul that your bending came from has been damaged to the point of unrecognizability or has been destroyed completely.

Toph feels a wave of loss and sorrow wash over her, but it quickly turns to anger, YOU DID THIS TO ME! I'LL-

She's cut off as a pulsing wave of pain washes through her while Hana notes, I wasn't really sure this would work, but I think I should be experimenting a bit going forward and suggest it to Vagrant. I expect you will heal in time, but right now your spiritual essence is akin to an entire body of exposed nerves and tissue I'm guessing. Sufficient amounts of spiritual energy that would be normally non-harmful are like being exposed to fire or electricity for you.

The pain stops and there's a feeling of frustration and defiance emanating from the damaged soul, What do you want with me?

What I am doing is an act of mercy. I learned, along with Vagrant, from Watcher, to bind souls into inanimate objects in a way that will protect them from outside spiritual forces using my own spiritual energy... as well as keep them from escaping. I suggest you rest, Toph Bei Fong, and allow yourself to heal. I could attempt to heal you faster on my own, but I think Vagrant would be better at it. I don't think you really want me to free you at the moment. It wouldn't take much to destroy you completely in this damaged state I think. There would be nothing after, just nonexistence, if that were to happen.


Toph remains quiet after that as Hana and Shisui continue through the forest, though Hana senses a combination of loss, fear, and resentment from the soul, but chooses to leave her alone with her thoughts.

She comments to Shisui after about twenty minutes as they come to the base of the Banyan-grove tree, It's beautiful isn't it? This is where everything in the forest is spreading from, physical and spiritual.

You aren't planning to try to consume it are you?
, he asks.

No... besides there's far to much here for me I think., but then she considers it for a moment, Maybe a small part of it. It seems to have a lot to spare.

The two climb the tree's roots towards the main trunk. If Toph could sense anything through the barrier of Hana's spiritual energy beyond Hana and Shisui speakin she would likely have some vague familiarity with this place.

The shinobi finally come in contact with the tree. Hana immediately places a hand on the tree's trunk leaving a grey and sickly hand print that spreads outwards in an irregular circular pattern at a very gradual pace. Hana seems to be in a trance as this happens and her eyes roll back in her head asshe lets out a light moan as her palm contacts the trunk. Shisui on the other hand chooses to remain on guard and watch over the girl without having to be told.

Hana finds herself looking at her body and Shisui. She sees, no, feels a stream of spiritual energy radiating outwards from the tree. The swamp quite literally is a single organism. There's something unusual however. The roots stretch beyond the physical plane and through the spiritual world, going somewhere else. She follows the path of the roots, keeping an eye on the connection to her body.

There's a moment of confusion as she passes into a place that feels like The Nothing, Chaos, but something feels vaguely off. She pauses and feels the root she's following, it glows in the darkness to her spiritual senses with a pale light. There's a voice she recognizes speaking in the darkness around her, Hello, Hana. It seems you've stumbled on to something interesting.

What is this?, she asks.

There are many things like this throughout the Omniverse in different forms and the manner in which they function. The trees' maze of roots don't just go into the Spirit World... they connect to each other throughout this Multiverse., Shadow explains. Though he warns, Do not stray to far for the moment, only one universe over, lest you lose connection to your body and your way back the world you first entered... and Vagrant. Let me guide you.

Hana can feel a hand taking hers. It's conflictingly warm and cold with other feelings she can't describe. It pulls her along the root though she can see is a shadow of a hand against her spiritual form and the rest of Shadow when he briefly passes in front of the root as though he blends into the darkness. She asks, curious how this places doesn't feel quite like Chaos, This isn't The Nothing is it?

Shadow explains as they travel, Perceptive even when you haven't seen what Chaos really is yet. The darkness you're seeing is part of this Multiverse. You see, Multiverses are collection of various connected Universes in some way, however those Universes within Multiverses usually do not exist with their boundaries directly exposed to Chaos. Rather there is a medium that usually exists at a higher state than the various Universes. An analogy you can understand at the moment is a great sphere filled with water and lesser spheres within. These "Multiversal Mediums" and the specific laws each has is also why it is generally much easier for beings within a Multiverse to travel to other Universes within than make the jump to another Multiverse through Chaos. Exceptions do exist such as when Multiverses are connected in someway.

As Shadow finishes they arrive at their destination. The two spirits stand at the base of the Banyan-grove tree. The swamp looks identical save for a scruffy middle aged man Hana doesn't recognize meditating nearby. Shadow snaps its fingers. The world contorts around them. Hana finds that they're at a damaged temple of some sort when reality reasserts itself.

The Eastern Air Temple., Shadow explains before Hana can ask.

She follows it through the halls towards the sound of... fighting? The come upon a large room with a statue of an airbender Hana does not recognize. In the room are what appear to be several young airbenders sparring with a teenage water tribe girl. Based on the varied elements the girl is using, she seems to be this world's Avatar.

Standing on the balcony next to Shadow and Hana are an elderly man and woman. The man is dressed in a very simple robe while the woman is wearing an orange and yellow robe modeled after that of airbenders. Time stops except for the ole woman and man and Hana and Shadow. The old man speaks first as they take notice of the spirits, "Hello, our old friend. It is good to see you after so long.", the two of them bow to Shadow for a moment before rising, "I must thank you again for bringing the two of us together all those years ago."

Shadow takes a moment to remove its hat and give a respectful bow, It is good to see you as well, Pathik and Malu. Have you considered my offer?

Malu, the woman, answers, "We have come to the agreement that while we would like it if you bond our souls so that we can find each other in the cosmos... our concerns lie with this multiverse and we wish to stay within it... at least for now."

Very well, my friends., it steps forwards and stands in front of them.

The two clasps each other's hand tightly as shadow sinks its hands then arms into their chests. There's a grimace from the two of them at the experience, but it only last a few moments and Shadow withdraws before stepping back. It comments, How do you feel?

Pathik and Malu look to each other in combination of surprise and intense love for each other before Pathik speaks, "We feel more in tune with each other than we ever were before. I don't know how to describe it. We can hear each other's thoughts."

Malu gives a smile to Shadow, "Thank you, Shadow. Not just for this, but all you have given us in the past."

Shadow, Hana, and the couple turn to look at the ground floor of the room where the girl and airbenders spar as time resumes. Pathik comments, "Surely we were not the only reason you came here and who is your friend?", looking to Hana.

"She seems human.", Malu adds.

She is human..., Shadow confirms, ...at least for now. She stumbled upon the fact that the roots of Foggy Swamp extend through this Multiverse and connect to other iterations of itself. I chose to guide her to this one as it was close. She is the host for one of my kind I have taken as a student and is gaining in power as it does. I chose that world because of its proximity to this one., it seems to smile, I wanted to visit at some point while I was here and just to let you know you're speaking to all of me, not just part of me.

Malu's face falls for a moment, "Your student is doing as you have done to other worlds, correct?"

Yes, Shadow tells her solemnly, I'm sorry, but it is necessary.

She nods with a sigh, "I understand, but I wish such an evil wasn't required for the Unbound."

Shadow does not comment on that, but Hana senses a twinge of guilt from the Unbound which she interprets as being more for having upset its friends than anything else. Hana asks, So... what is the difference between this universe and the one I came from?

Malu begins to explain, "My husband and I do not know the specifics of the universe you come from, but in this reality, Avatar Aang died while in his iceberg stasis, something we would not know if not for Shadow. What we and others who have come in contact with her know is that the current Avatar is a Southern Water Tribe girl named Katara."

Hana raises an eyebrow at that since she gained a bit of the knowledge from the humans Vagrant consumed, Uh, Katara was Avatar Aang's wife in the universe I was in so that's a bit weird.

Malu stifles a laugh. Pathik chuckles at the observation, "That is a rather odd thing to happen, Hana."

Hana looks to Malu, So I'm guessing she's an airbender that survived, she looks to Pathik, and you married her, she looks down to the group of airbenders training with the Avatar, and judging by the ages those are your grandchildren.

Malu grins as she corrects, "Great-Grandchildren. Outsiders have joined the family as the years have passed and our numbers have grown. We have been very careful to hide ourselves from the outside world and the Fire Nation in particular. When the Avatar defeats Ozai and restores balance... then we will reveal ourselves to the world. Our family has dreamed of that day."

I think I'll leave a piece of me here, so that I can be there for the occasion., Shadow steps out of itself leaving behind a copy. Due to both of the iterations of Shadow suppressing their spiritual energy Hana can't tell if one is stronger than the other or get an idea of which is the original.

The Shadow that stepped out of the other gives a brief look to Malu and Pathik, then to the Avatar still training before speaking to Hana, We should be returning.

Pathik turns his head to the two of them as they're about to leave, "Farewell, my friend."

Malu adds, "And Hana, I understand that the Unbound do questionable things, but don't lose sight of who and what you care about."

With that Shadow snaps its fingers and they're back at the tree, the one of the universe Hana left. Her body is still in a trance like state with Shisui standing guard, no noticeable time has passed, though the sickly grey area where Hana is making contact with the tree has grown to about two meters wide, though Hana assumes it to be minor and it will heal in time given how large the tree is.

Shadow says, This is where I leave you for now. I expect that when you next see Vagrant you'll have some things to discuss., and with that he fades from all senses.

Hana snaps back to her body and withdraws her hand. Whether her body was still drawing power from the tree or a small sliver of her soul was left behind and was doing so, there's a deep resevoir of power waiting for her when she returns and she greedily consumes it quickly. She stumbles back as she comes out of the apparent trance. Shisui looks to her, You get what you were interested in?

Yeah, let's get back to the ship.


***

The two shinobi arrive back on the ship to be greeted by the Elementals, now with bodies. Hana quickly makes sure everyone is there, then one of them steps forward, wearing an Earth Kingdom host, "Where are we headed?"

She considers it, "Set course for the open sea and get some people on the radio and compiling information gathered through your hosts. We'll decide then where we're headed."

The various Elementals set to work moving and navigating the ship as Hana heads to the Captains Quarters for some sleep.
 
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Chapter 15

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
I and my Elementals arrive at the edge of Fujin's territory. The book noted that both Fujin and Thorannee's realms were effectively impossible to teleport to or through by outsiders, unless one already possesses the appropriate element, meaning we had to go to the edge of it and march to our destination, the Palace of the Eye in the center of the great swirling storm that dominates the horizon. Several of the Elementals marvel at the size, sight, and sound of it.

Mei suggests, "Perhaps it would be better to draw out our foe."

"And how do you suggest we do that?", Zhao scoffs, "We have nothing to draw him from his lair and according to the book this storm only exists when there are threats to the lord of this realm. Fujin knows we are coming."

"Then we brave the storm. Everyone stay close. You are connected to me and each other through the power I have given you. Use that to stay together and keep from getting lost in the storm.", I order.

We enter and are immediately buffeted by high winds. It's like walking into an unnaturally large tornado. It's slow going as even though we have the spiritual connection to keep sight of each other we have to still keep from being blown away. The Water and Iron Elementals create claws of ice or metal and dig them into the ground beneath us while they in turn carry the Elementals of Fire and Faces. I personally lead the group, splitting of tendrils from my body and forming claws of the appropriate element to keep myself in place and move forward while carrying those I can.

It's very slow going and we march in silence as the howling winds drown out any communication. It seems like days that we pass through the storm before we see a light in the distance through the wind and debris. This strengthens our resolve and we quicken our pace.

The winds get stronger as we approach the light, acting to slow our progress. Hours more and we finally break through a great wall of the strongest wind in the storm and stare in awe at what sits before us. It is a great white tower gleaming with its own light, the Palace of the Eye. Here the winds are calm with the eye wall swirling around the area.

Before proceeding, a role call is performed. Fortunately we have lost no one to the storm and are thus at full strength. The palace is empty as we approach and step through the doors into the entrance hall.

There's two people sitting in lotus positions talking with each other. One is a tall middle aged green skinned oni like man with white wings, white hair, beard, and flowing white cloak. The other is a young girl about Hana's age with brown hair in a side bun and brown eyes. The girl is in airbender robes.

I raise a tendril for my Elementals to hold back for a moment. I approach, "We can do this without a fight if you prefer. You must know I'm going to win considering what I've taken already."

The girl and who I assume to be Fujin stand and face me. The girl speaks, "Don't you see what you're doing to the world? The damage you're causing? I came to warn Fujin the Air Spirit and hopefully talk you out of this."

"Tell me your name, girl. Do you have a family?"

She hesitates, "Jinora. I have three siblings, Ikki, Meelo, and Rohan. My mother and father are Pema and Tenzin. I'm the grand-daughter of Katara and Avatar Aang."

Interesting, I pause for a moment as I consider something, taking note of the the ephemeral almost imperceptible connection leading away from her and back to the girl's physical body, "Jinora, do you fear death for you and your family? Do you fear the loss of your bending? The loss of your body?"

She backs up, "I..."

I blur out a tendril, sending out a shot of combined fire and spiritual energy at her bodily tether. She collapses and clutches her chest in pain. I grab at the tether as it begin to fray and dissipate. Curiously Fujin still just stands there observing, why isn't he reacting? I turn my attention to the crowd behind me, "Who wants a body?"

A water Elemental with long flowing hair takes the tether and I quickly attach it to her. I add, "Get what information you can. Find Hana and report to me."

She grins. "This should be interesting.", before I sense her pulling on the tether as she disappears, snapping back to Jinora's body

***

On board a Future Industries airship at the South Pole Jinora's body begins hyperventilating before slumping to the floor out of the meditative position it was holding. Kya, who has been watching over the girl, immediately goes to check her vitals. Even without her bending based healing she still has some medical knowledge. The girl is breathing steadily, but is unresponsive for several moments before her eyes flutter open. Kya asks as she holds Jinora, "Are you alright?"

The girl simply responds, "I apologize for the things I'm about to do to you."

Kya feels a moment of confusion as she's thrown against the wall and pinned there before registering the technique and what this means, "You're not Jinora."

The girl says cheerfully with a smile, "No, I am Akako.", she pauses for a moment as she places a hand to her chin, "But I'm more than a name. Did you know the spirits came up with a particularly sadistic prison for those who anger them sufficiently? Ever hear of the Fog of Lost Souls? All I did to get in there was rediscover energy bending and use it a bit to experiment on certain spirits. Spirits did not like what I did to their friends... but as they say: you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs."

Kya seems disturbed by the entire thing and recognition hits her as she's heard about this person through a few ghost stories and didn't think they were true, "Akako, the Spirit Surgeon... you didn't just experiment on Spirits. You did the same to human souls. You're a monster."

There's a sickening pop and Kya let's out a silent scream due to her lungs refusing to move as her right pinky finger breaks at the base and is neatly severed there. Water drains from the severed digit, quickly desiccating it. The removed water covers the stump and glows, healing over before turning back to normal and hovering over Akako's shoulder as she clasps her hands behind her back and speaks with slight annoyance in her voice, "It's rude to insult people, especially the greatest blood and energy bender of her time. I'll take off a body part every time you insult me or refuse to comply by the way, starting with your fingers. Now tell me where we are and why we're here."

"Fuck... you...", Kya says with defiance.

Akako frowns with a sigh, "What did I tell you?"

The same action is repeated, this time with the left pinky finger with Kya giving another silent scream due to her lungs being paralyzed during this. Akako says, "I really don't like hurting people. Every time I've had to do it, it's just been a means to an end. I'm not a sadist. Tell me what I want to know."

Kya is silent for half a minute. Her hesitance earns her the loss of her right ring finger. She only pauses a few seconds the next time and says through ragged breathing, "We're here because the Avatar and the United Forces needed to use the Southern Spirit Portal to find and defend the Air and Earth Spirits."

"Thank you. Now I think it's only fair that I give you some information as well. Jinora's spiritual self is with my liberator, Vagrant. You should know it is not one to kill if it does not have to from what I have seen so far.", before going to the window she states, "I'm going to leave the ship. Follow me or alert anyone and you risk the destruction of Jinora's body or the deaths of those pursuing. Again, I do not like hurting people without necessity, but will do so if you force my hand."

The water collected from Kya's severed fingers slams through the glass several times, shattering it. Akako leaps out the window of the docked airship and lands on the snow below. She quickly heads to the docks to commandeer a boat and find Hana.

***

Jinora looks at me with fear. Fujin steps forward and speaks, his tone is calm and shows peace and a lack of emotion, "I am not going to fight you, Unbound. I know that I can not win. I submit myself to you."

He steps forward and kneels. I hesitate and engulf him before he can change his mind. As I did before I pull on the connection to every airbender on the planet. There's an explosion of wind from me as I complete this and everyone is forced to brace themselves.

Something doesn't feel right though, like there's a part missing. I can feel Air, but I'm aware Jinora isn't in the room... it dawns on me and I extend my spiritual senses. I find her and something else at the top of the tower, something of great spiritual energy. I command everyone, "I think Fujin attempted to pull something similar to what the Moon Spirit did with Yue. Jinora is climbing the tower towards a reservoir of Fujin's spiritual energy. We will find her. She and it are last pieces of Air I need. Go."

My Elementals rush forward and begin climbing. More than a dozen Fire Elementals blast open the doors leading outside and fly upwards to cut the girl off from there along with others following them. Notably the storm has stopped and there's nothing but dead air outside the palace.

I use my Soul Speed to move quickly up the tower, searching. I get the impression of what floor she's on, but something about this tower is blurring my senses. I find her running up a spiral stair case just as she reaches the top. The upper most room is reminiscent of that of a light house. In the center of the room is a large meter wide spherical gem swirling with what appears to be grey wind inside. I take the form of Yue and begin stalking towards her as she approaches the gem, "You really thought something like this would work, little girl? If you had been raised in a world of war and death like Hana, you might have a chance against me, but you're not a killer and even if you touch that gem I'll consume you in your fledgling state. That's thing about this, you've got to kill and consume to get ahead. It's the only way you're going to survive in this Reality."

She backs up in fear, "Fujin told me about the Unbound. How they've ruined countless worlds, but how they can be reasoned with over the things they care about. Just please, listen to me-"

"What do I care about in this world, Jinora? Tell me.", I say as I notice my Elementals surrounding and entering the room.

"Rin, Kushina, Tsunade, Naruto, Shisui."

"Oh yes, but they pale in comparison to Hana and if anyone does anything to hurt her I'll tear their souls apart in the most agonizing and slow way possible."

She leaps forward and touches the gem. NO!

There's an explosion of rushing wind and a flash of light causing I and my forces to be knocked back. As we pick ourselves up we witness Jinora. Her hair is white and flowing. Her robes have turned white. Her skin is green and she's sprouted a pair of white wings from her back. She looks at me with sadness and pity. I give the order, "Don't let her escape.", just as she flies through an already broken window. We give pursuit across the plains where the storm once raged.

She dodges the shots thrown at her of spiritual energy, fire, water, and iron. No, I'm not letting her get away. I blur forward, drawing on my Soul Speed, taking advantage of the fact there's no ongoing whirlwind to prevent it. I catch her and tackle her. We begin wrestling in the air. She attempts to blast me off with gusts of wind. I grab at her wings as my palms gain the heat of the sun. She lets out a scream and I smell singed feathers as we both plummet to the ground due to her losing focus on staying airborne and dragging me with her. I use what power over air I have and increase our speed.

I transform into water just as we slam into the ground, creating a sizable crater. Her body is broken and she lets out a pained gasp. I retake Yue's form and place foot on her chest as she tries to get up. I look down at her, "I told you you're not a killer. If you had tried to kill me you might have won.", I take my foot off her chest and grab her by the throat. She coughs as I continue, "Sorry you had to be involved with this, Jinora."

Her soul breaks apart in my grip and is absorbed into me with a flash of light. The Air in me is complete. Zhao comments as he lands next to me along with the others, "I was unaware you could take the form of the spirits you had consumed."

"I figured it out shortly before we left for the Spirit World.", I add, "Humans find human forms more intimidating and produces a more emotional response from what I understand. Just a glowing sphere is something they don't really connect with on an emotional level."

"Ah, I see your point.", he replies.

There's cheers from the crowd at our victory. I concentrate for a moment and we teleport to our next destination.

***

Kushina takes Naruto and heads to the Republic City docks to steal a ship or boat, anything that will get her and her son where they need to be. She warns Naruto with a whisper, "We need to be quiet."

The boy nods. When it had gotten back to her that Shadow had said that Vagrant and Hana were the best means of survival for her son... she had believed it after some consideration and began making plans. She had stayed behind in Republic City when Tsunade and Rin had traveled with the Avatar to defend this world. She had packed supplies, something difficult with the rationing that was going on, and prepared for the night she was going to leave.

She arrives under cover of night at the docks and picks a small ship that should be suitable dubbed the Li Wo. As soon as she finds the bridge, time stops except for her... and Shadow. She looks around. Shadow is standing in the doorway, You made the right decision, Kushina.

"You were telling the truth weren't you?", she asks.

I don't like to lie., it responds, All the paths I can see lead to your boy's death in this world before he's twenty-five if he doesn't leave with Vagrant and Hana, almost always at the hands of some form of spirit. You usually die before he does.

"How can you see the future?", she asks.

It chuckles a bit, I've absorbed multiple precogs. I have several ways to view what is to come. The redundancies give me different viewpoints and more accurate information as a whole.

She sighs, "I do not trust Vagrant or Hana or like the idea of what they are doing, but in the few years I knew you, I came to trust you and you did save life of me and my son.", she hesitates for a moment, "I'm trusting that the information you have given will save me and my son again."

Again, I don't like to lie Kushina and if I didn't care about you on some level I wouldn't be giving you this information.

"I assume you are here to lead me to where Vagrant and Hana are?"

Yes, Hana specifically. Vagrant is currently in the Spirit World., he says as time resumes. The ship starts up and begins steering itself away from Republic City.

Naruto comments as he notices Shadow, "Hey, who's the scary shadow guy?"

Cute kid., Shadow says to Kushina as the ship makes it's trek across the ocean. It looks to Naruto, I am Shadow. I'm taking you and your mother somewhere you'll be safe.

The boy smiles, "Oh, thanks!"

The ship quickly moves out of sight of Republic city and a portal opens up in which a view of Kyoshi Island can be seen, barren of its inhabitants and with its bay frozen over. An iron clad vessel rests in the bay with a path of liquid water behind it.

***

Akako sits aboard her small vessel, guiding it out to sea as she sits on the deck. She meditates, focusing on her connection to Vagrant.

I and the Elementals are on the outer edge of the the shifting, rocky, mountainous home of Thoranee. I receive the message, Sir, The Avatar and the United Forces are gathering to protect remaining Elemental Spirits. I trust you took the Air Spirit, but they have likely amassed at the Earth Spirit.

I can feel the presence of a large number of human souls in the distance... and the Avatar. She's right. I respond, I can confirm, we'll proceed with caution. Continue to Hana's location.

Understood.


Akako speeds her ship up to its destination, feeling the connection to Hana and the other Elementals to guide her.

***

The Li Wo approaches the iron clad vessel. A dozen people jump off and begin surfing over the ice and water. Kushina looks around the bridge. Shadow is gone.

The apparent waterbenders leap onto the deck and quickly find Kushina and Naruto. A girl, about ten, steps forward from the group of adults, she seems confused for a moment, "Kushina-Sama?"

Kushina also is confused as she does not recognize the black haired, golden eyed girl, "Who are you?"

"Hana. I, uh, had my face changed. Spiritual power. I'll restore my old one when we leave.", she narrows her eyes, "Why are you and Naruto here?"

"We came to travel with you. I learned from Shadow that the best chance of survival for my son and I was leaving this world with you and Vagrant. Also I honestly do want to get back to Konoha."

"What about your objections to what we're doing here?"

She sighs and sounds a bit defeated, "I care about my son and his well-being. If following you means he will live and eventually return to Konoha then I have no choice but to travel with you. This does not mean I will aid you in destroying worlds however."

Hana considers it for a moment, "Welcome then.", though Hana communicates to the Elementals, Keep an eye on her and Naruto., she continues to Kushina, "We're staying here at Kyoshi Island for now. It's abandoned. We're just waiting for Vagrant and the other Elementals to return. We have plenty of food and water and we can keep ourselves warm so there's no issue with staying comfortable for the moment. You can take the ship closer to ours and set anchor."

Kushina nods, "Thank you."

Hana and the Elementals hop off the ship and return to the Hashirama.

Author's Note: The Avatarverse Arc should be completed in the next chapter or two.

For those wondering about Fujin's appearance it's a combination of Fujin from Japanese Mythology and Boreas which Fujin is theorized to be based on.
 
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Chapter 16

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
It was a piece of meteoric iron that the old woman wore as a bracelet. Hana had resized it to fit herself and it was what she had bound Toph's soul into. Toph had not said a word since the day her body had been killed, her soul had been damaged and then bound into the bracelet. Now she decides to speak a couple hours after Kushina arrived, I want to see my family.

We're staying at Kyoshi Island until Vagrant returns unless she contacts and tells us otherwise. After that we're leaving this world.
, Hana says firmly.

Toph takes about two minutes to actually process this and respond, This ship has a radio doesn't... it? I remember what that is... call them... here and... and besides it's not that hard for you to move this ship over land or for Vagrant to come to you... I-I've been listening.

Hana considers it for a moment, I'm sorry for what I did to you. I'll do it, but only as courtesy for tearing your soul to pieces.

Hana goes to the radio room where a few of the Elementals are listening to various channels. She gives them the order to clear out for the moment before taking a seat at the station. Hana notes that apart from the language labeling everything being different, radio systems she learned about in Konoha are not that different from here. She asks Toph, What frequency should I be using?

Toph tells her while adding, It's the emergency frequency for Zaofu where my family is... chiildren? grandchildren?, she adds the coordinates for the city, Reason... I was silent so long... was to having to sort things out I can remember and focus on..., there's some sorrow there, Still can't remember their... names... faces. Listen... I know I'm broken... but I need you to repeat after me, girl. This is... important.

Hana tunes into the frequency and begins speaking as Toph tells her to, correcting the pauses and mistakes as needed, "This Inuzuka Hana of the Hashirama. I am speaking for Toph Beifong as she can not speak for herself via radio. Her soul exists in a damaged state. I admit I am responsible for this and I am sorry for that, but I know someone who should be able to restore her. If there is anyone in Zaofu we ask that you come to Kyoshi Island or allow us to come to you. We have a large store of food and supplies that we can share and we have the ability to keep the area surrounding the ship warm."

There's long pause before any response is given, "This is Kuvira, Captain of the Guard for Zaofu. We are currently in the middle of evacuation operations due to the probable loss of our bending and our main ability to generate power for the city. Can you give any proof that Toph Beifong is with you?"

Hana listens to what Toph tells her before speaking, "Toph can't remember the names of her family, but she does remember one incident with her children that only she, them, and few related parties would know. She destroyed a police report to prevent jail time of one of her children. She doesn't remember which one of them it was though."

There's another pause before a different voice responds, "This is Suyin Beifong, daughter of Toph. Kuvira has informed me that you're Hana. Is this the same Hana we've been getting reports on that has been following the Spirit known as Vagrant?"

"Yes. Again I am sorry for what I have done to your mother, but I will not apologize for what is happening to the world. I will state we will be leaving this world soon. I will also state that in all likelihood earthbending is soon to be lost, but I may be able to persuade Vagrant to restore your bending on the condition you come with us and possibly serve her and me as needed, beyond that you'll be able to do as you please. I will point out that this world is slowly transforming into a state hostile to human life.

I also want to personally add that I have experienced that not only do the Spirit Wilds of Foggy Swamp retain their warmth, but the Banyan-grove tree's roots extend out into the Multiverse. It could be a place for you to escape to another universe and avoid what is happening to this one."

"Give us an hour to deliberate on our decision before we respond again.", Suyin says seriously after some consideration.

Nothing to do but wait now., Hana tells Toph.

There seems to be some genuine happiness from Toph, I have daughter named Suyin, it just took being reminded of it.

Roughly an hour later there's a call on the radio, Suyin again, "We came to a vote on the matter. Those of us who desire to do so will be joining you on Kyoshi Island via airship while others will be staying and heading to Foggy Swamp with some of our engineers studying the Banyan-grove tree for the connection you mentioned. I will state I do not agree with what you and Vagrant have done to the world, but some in the Metal Clan have decided that survival and potentially regaining our bending after it is lost is more important than objections we have against you. We should arrive in the next few days. If possible I would like to personally speak with my mother."

"That can be arranged and she would like that very much. I warn you though, her memories are badly fragmented. She's not going to remember everything about you. Until she was reminded of it she didn't even know your name."

"Alright, Suyin out.", Suyin says, ending the communication.

Hana leaves the radio room to inform the Elementals working there they can go back to what they were doing as well telling everyone in the group they're going to have some new arrivals.

***

Akako spots a ship in the distance on her way to Kyoshi Island. She's close to the island so she decides to investigate as she senses someone more spiritually developed than average on board. They usually make good subjects.

Her small boat approaches and she uses blood bending to enhanced muscle strength to leap on board the ship's deck. While she has been using blood and ordinary water bending to keep warm, surprisingly the ship is warm as well, though she does not detect any water based heating system. No... wait... there. There's a lavabender below deck keeping the ship warm. She chuckles to herself. That won't last for long.

She notices the deck is empty save for a single man meditating on the prow. She can detect more than a hundred spiritual presences below deck many with the telltale damages of having their bending ripped out when Vagrant consumed Water and Fire. The man with a beard and long hair meditating before her has signs of Air being ripped from him, interesting.

She speaks to him, "You used to be an airbender? I won't apologize for my current master's actions. I do agree with them."

The man get's up and looks down her, "You serve Vagrant. I have to thank him for the loss of bending allowing my companions to be freed, but at the same time that loss has meant we can not complete our mission as originally intended."

"And what mission would that be? The apocalypse is upon us so there's no harm in telling me.", Akako asks with a grin.

The man narrows his eyes at her for a moment, "We are what remains of the Red Lotus. We exist as what the White Lotus should have been to create a world of true freedom where man's allegiance is to himself and those he cares for. Our intent was to kill the weakened Avatar. We're heading for the South Pole to ensure that happens in the Avatar State to end the Avatar's unneeded influence on the world permanently."

Akako stifles a laugh, "Anarchists? You people are funny. Everything is based on dominance or hierarchy. Some can free themselves and take their own paths, but they need power to do it and many of you have and will lose your power."

"I don't think I caught your name or why you're here unless it's just to taunt us. I am Zaheer.", he says impassively.

"Akako... the Spirit Surgeon.", she says with a short bow, "You... as in you, Zaheer, specifically attracted my attention because you have significant spiritual potential which would give me quite a bit to work with in enhancing you.", she says proudly, "I am quite good at what I do. Even punished by the spirits for it. I can alter your soul to be better than it is.

I would suggest you follow me and see if my patron will have you, but I don't think it would be interested in the potential turmoil a group of militant anarchists might cause down the road.", she mentally broadcasts to everyone on the ship, If any of you would like to reject the philosophy of the Red Lotus, serve my patron, and regain your bending, ensure it is not lost, or gain it if you did not have it then I am willing to take you with me. It is a small boat though so only about a dozen can come unless we take this ship for ourselves. We will be leaving this world when Vagrant is finished with the Earth Spirit.

"I refuse both your offers and I ask you to leave.", Zaheer states firmly.

An armless woman in blue and a long haired man with a mustache in green step out onto the deck. The woman speaks in a depressed and weary tone, "I am Ming-Hua and this is Ghazan. I am coming with you. I am... useless without my waterbending. I need it. I will serve Vagrant if it is returned to me."

Ghazan crosses his arm and speaks solemnly, looking to Zaheer, "I'm sorry, but I don't think we're going to survive here in this world in the long term and ever since we freed Ming-Hua and found she lost her bending... me and her have been discussing some things. I'm with her on this."

Zaheer protests, "We have work to do for the freedom of this world. You-"

Zaheer grabs at his chest with a gasp as Akako glares at him, paralyzing his lungs, "I believe they've made their decision, you won't be interfering, Zaheer. Good luck on joining my master."

She releases him. He drops to his hands and knees, sweating and breathing heavily. Ghazan and Ming-Hua give one final look to Zaheer before descending onto Akako's boat.

As they take off, Ming-Hua asks, "Where are we headed?"

"Hana and the other Elementals are waiting at Kyoshi Island if I'm reading the directions of their spiritual signatures right.", Akako responds, "Ghazan you will experience a temporary loss of bending when Vagrant consumes the Earth Spirit, but it should be returned to you, stronger than before when it returns."

"I assumed that would probably happen, part of the reason I decided to come with Ming-Hua.", he and Ming-Hua look to each other for a moment.

Akako responds with a grin, her back to them as she moves the boat, "You to love each other don't you? I can sense the subtle elevation in heart rate, body temperature, and perspiration when you look at each other. I was the greatest bloodbender in my original life and my powers have only grown upon becoming one of Vagrant's Elementals. Reading people is one of the perks."

The two of them immediately look away from each other and Ming-Hua blushes.

"It's okay, I won't tell anyone.", Akako reassures them as the boat travels to its destination.

The rest of the trip passes in silence.

***

While being able to fly means we can avoid the constantly shifting Earth of Thoranee's realm it should be stated just how massive this mountainous region is takings us days to cross it. As we travel I go over military strategy with Zhao and some of the rare books Mei has read. We eventually come too the largest mountain any of us have ever seen that stretches far into the sky past the cloud barrier. We travel upwards and that itself seems to take days more due to the sheer height of the thing. It crosses my mind the Avatar and United Forces almost certainly had help from Thoranee in traveling here. We eventually reach the top which is a massive plateau on which sits a large castle like structure in a style matching the Earth Kingdom with a tall wall surrounding it. The castle and the mountain don't have any fancy names that I'm aware of, the book just referred them as Thoranee's Castle and Thoranee's Mountain.

We stay below the edge of the plateu and I begin planning with the help of Zhao. The Elementals will go in as a distraction while I rush in to attack and consume the Earth Spirit. As I understand physical weapons are functionally useless against spirits. All we're here for is Thoranee. Once I have consumed her I'll leave and pull my forces with me since her power will no longer prevent me from simply teleporting myself and everyone else out. I frankly don't care about anything else.

The Fog Elementals strike first, causing chaos and confusion as they spread their hallucinogenic mist. The Elementals were specifically altered to never be affected by the Fog of Lost Souls again and thus attack any human they find in the Fog. Soldiers scream as they're burned to death, have the water drained out of their bodies, or are impaled or sliced with various iron weapons, or just whatever hallucinations they're experiencing. The various Face Elementals use the chaos and the concealing effect of the fog to catch soldiers by surprise and steal as many faces as they can... even from the dead and dying.

It is not as though there is complete lack of resistance, a few have the willpower to resist the Fog's effects and fight back and as some of my Elementals get past the Fog and get over the walls of Thorannee's Castle. They're fired upon and bombed by planes and ships from above the Fog's reach. At worst this slows them down. Those who who come into the courtyard past the zone where the aircraft are attacking are confronted with what at first glance appear to be human soldiers, but are completely made of stone down to their Earth Kingdom style weapons and armor. The Fog has no effect on them when they are exposed to it, but they fall to being sliced with weapons of water and ice, melted with intense enough flames, or iron weapons. The only issue is that they seem to be endlessly pulling themselves from the ground.

I give them several minutes before I convert my body to air and move past the battle at high speed. I fly over the wall and through the courtyard ignoring everything else. I come to the doors leading into the castle and flow through the cracks before reforming.

Thoranee is waiting for me. She appears as a perfectly carved, beautiful female statue of black basalt and is wearing a brown hooded cloak. Her entire body is uniform black and as she moves and speaks there is a grinding sound, though her voice does sound feminine, "I didn't expect those humans stop you, but now you face me. I will not go as easily as-"

I interrupt her with a torrent of intense flame through her abdomen. She gasps at the hole, dripping with molten rock as she stalks towards me, her arms forming into swords, picking up speed and shaking the hall around us, "Y-you insolent-"

The second shot is a high pressure stream of water through her chest which immediately freezes. I can feel her rage and the castle begins shaking violently. Time to end this quickly before she brings it down on my head. I rush towards the Earth Spirit where she struggles to free herself as the entire castle rumbles around me converting to water as I do. I engulf Thoranee just as the entire place collapses on me.

Amidst the battle going on outside there is a pause as the castle, the walls surrounding it, and the stone soldiers accompanied by a deep rumbling in the Earth as parts of the plateau begin to collapse along with the various earthbenders still alive collapsing in pain for several minutes. I flow as water, trickling around the feet of those standing in shock or still fighting. I reform where I detect Tsunade's pained spiritual presence in the Fog. She's propped up against the crushed wreckage of a tank. Both her forearms and hands have been crushed and she's received critical trauma to her abdomen from what I can detect. It's obvious one of the Water Elementals got hold of her with bloodbending after seeing her use hand signs.

I look down at her as the battle continues around us. I don't think we have much time so communicate direct with her, mind to mind, at an accelerated rate, I've won, Tsunade, Dan. You should have never sided with these people.

You haven't gotten Korra and Rin yet.
, she responds in a biting tone.

Dan simply says, Haven't you done enough?

You're dying.
, I state flatly and with haste, I can sense a pair of large spiritual presences turning their attention towards me, probably Rin and the Isobu and the Avatar, You're not connected to anything in this world. You don't have the power to possess people or integrate souls into bodies on your own do you? You would have given Dan a new body if you could. You die here and you wander for eternity as ghosts or you end up being forced to eat souls to get enough power to sustain a possession. I'm offering to take you with me so you don't need to do that.

Tsunade scoffs, I don't need you, Vagrant. I don't need any Un-

Dan interrupts her, We accept.

I reach out and pull the souls from their bodies then with some effort and resistance from Tsunade I connect both of them to me for the moment. I reach out and feel every Elemental in the area. I briefly see Korra in the Avatar State and what I guess is Rin in a partial Jinchuriki transformation approaching me through the Fog given the tail and chakra arm replacing her missing limb. They aren't my problem anymore. I pull on my Elementals via the connection I share with them as well as my connection to Hana and with that we are gone.

***

Zaheer and those aboard the Red Lotus ship never made it to the South Pole. Without their only lavabender to radiate heat to keep the ship warm and melt ice in front of them. The vessel became stuck in the frozen sea rather quickly. It was not long before the rapidly dropping temperatures caused hypothermia to begin setting in for the crew.

They attempted to continue on foot, but they were still hundreds of kilometers from their destination. One by one they collapsed and died of cold. Zaheer and P'Li were the last.

P'Li fell first, shaking violently from the freezing temperature. Zaheer carried her corpse for several hours before falling to his knees looking down at P'Li and moving no more, freezing in that position.

***

Akako, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan arrived at Kyoshi Island and anchored near the Hashirama. Ghazan helps Ming-Hua off the boat onto the beach where it appears a large eel like creature is being cleaned and preserved with some parts being cooked immediately. Hana quickly finds the group. Akako introduce herself and the others, "I'm Akako, the Spirit Surgeon, and this Ming-Hua and Ghazan. Ming-Hua is a former water bender who is willing to serve Vagrant if she has her bending restored. Ghazan is a lavabender who chose to come with her."

"Oh you're just in time for this little party we're throwing. We found this giant eel thing frozen on the bottom of the bay. We decided to preserve most of it for later, but there's plenty to go around now. We've also got plenty of alcohol stored up. We've got some Elementals with musical instruments who know how to play them too. Join us.", Hana greets them with a pair of cups in her hands with a smile.

Ghazan looked at Hana curiously as he can smell alcohol on her, "Aren't you a bit young to be drinking?"

She shrugged, "We have spirits here drinking who took host bodies as young as mine even though they're older than you. I share my body with a Spirit of Chaos who is causing the apocalypse and mentioned that she thought she was older than my civilization, oh and I've killed people. I think if a person is old enough to kill they're old enough to drink. Tonight we celebrate the end of the world with dancing, music, booze, and feasting on a giant eel monster."

Ming-Hua nudged Ghazan, "We could use some fun."

He smirked back, "I guess we could."

The two go over to a make shift bar that's been set up near a fire pit. Hana turns her attention to Akako and passes one of the cup to her. The Spirit Surgeon begins sipping at it. Hana notes, "Most of the other Elementals didn't take the bodies of children."

"I took what was offered to me, Hana.", she shrugs, "I could get used to it. Are you not a child and Host to Vagrant?"

"Yes... I suppose what I'm really asking... is your host still in there?"

"I have her memories because I have her physical brain, but beyond that, this body's original owner has been permanently severed from it and then possibly consumed or destroyed by Vagrant. I'm sure we'll get the full story later."

Hana looks to the crowd dancing to the music around one of the fires then back to Akako, "Care to dance?"

"I don't really-", Akako gives out a yelp as she's pulled away by Hana before the Elemental can continue to protest.

***

Considering this had been Hana's first experience with drunkenness she woke with a rather heavy hangover and the accompanying splitting headache. She then noticed someone had their arm draped around her. It was Akako. The Elemental yawned and sat up, giving a smile, "Sleep well?"

Both of them were still in the clothes from the night before so it wasn't as though Hana suspected they had actually done anything besides sleep, she just found it odd to wake up with someone she didn't remember going to bed with. Hana groaned again as her headache seemed to get worse and she suddenly felt a wave of nausea that had her out of bed and to the bathroom. She found Akako waiting by the door when she finished. The girl simply tapped Hana on the forehead with an index finger and... Hana's headache was gone.

Hana, a bit confused, asked, "Did you just instantly cure my headache?"

"A minor blood bending technique. You're hungover and a symptom is blood vessels dilating causing headaches. It's really the only thing I can cure instantly for what ails you at the moment. I would suggest you get some water in your body for the other symptoms."

"Thanks.", Hana replied.

Akako stretched a bit before heading for the door. She paused, "If there's anything you want to do some time and I'm not busy... well... um... I'm not good with things like this. What I'm trying to say is I had fun last night and we share a few interests so I wouldn't mind spending some time with you again.", Akako bowed before heading out the door.

Hana did enjoy the time she spent with Akako. They had spent a couple hours discussing medicine, Hana's veterinary knowledge, and Akako's knowledge on spirits, surgery, and healing. It was obvious that Akako was more experienced and had a broader amount of information, but she had shown genuine interest in talking with Hana on the subject. They also discussed waterbending techniques and Akako went over some ways Hana could improve. There was also the fact that the entire reason for Akako's research before being trapped in the Fog was to benefit humans in the long term she claimed, to make better souls. Isn't that what Vagrant and Hana had done to the Elementals? She could sympathize with that goal.

She sighed and smelled the air, realizing she needed to bathe before heading back into the bathroom.

***

The Metal Clan airships had landed on the beach in the early morning. Suyin, her family, and the rest of the Metal Clan had yet to lose their bending, but knew it was coming.

Suyin and her immediate family currently sit at a table aboard one of the airships. Hana holds up her right hand and shows them Toph's bracelet, "This is what she's bound in with some of my spiritual energy protecting her. It was a necessity due to her soul being damaged. If I hadn't it's possible even a small amount of foreign spiritual energy could destroy her. What I'm going to do is allow her temporary control of my body, allowing her to speak through me. After Vagrant returns and heals her, I can withdraw my spiritual energy and we can find her a proper host body."

Suyin asks with concern, "You've mentioned that the Elementals aboard have all taken the bodies of others. What happened to the original souls?"

"Usually kicked out or destroyed, but a few are working on symbiosis with their host body's soul, I don't think any of them know how to eat souls or spiritual energy yet."

"That's horrible that you just casually destroy or remove souls.", Opal said with shock and anger.

"We do what we need to do. It's easier to have a host that isn't fighting you for most of us, but there are exceptions such as with me and Vagrant.", Hana added, "If you can find someone in the Metal Clan who is willing, Toph sharing a body with someone after she's healed is fine."

"We'll discuss it and find a suitable person. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would be willing to be host of the soul of the first metalbender.", Suyin tells Hana, "Now if we could speak with Toph?"

Hana nods as she slips the bracelet back on. She closes her eyes and her head falls for a moment before she looks at the assembled Beifongs, "Which one of you is Suyin?"

Suyin places a hand to her chest, "I am, Mom. How much do you remember?"

"I'm sorry.. but I can't remember... any of your... names and I don't recognize any of you. Could you... introduce yourselves?", Toph asks.

The Metal Clan Beifongs do so, going around the table. Toph sits silently during this before responding after about half a minute, "I-I remember... it now, your faces, bits of who you were. It's still hard to... focus on anything... unless it's in... front of me. I'm sorry. I'm not the Toph you remember... not... not... right now, but... Hana said Vagrant could fix me."

"All of us who came to Kyoshi Island have made the decision to travel with Vagrant, Hana, and their companions to a new world, they've offered to give us our bending back when it is lost in exchange for serving them when needed, but it was stated that we would be allowed to do as we please otherwise. This is also an issue of survival as this planet is becoming inhospitable to humans for now. We were informed that the roots of the Banyan-grove tree in Foggy Swamp extend into other universes as well as the swamp retaining its warmth. Several of our engineers, including Baatar Jr. chose to remain in this world and travel to the swamp to study the tree and research if it might be a way to travel to another world for the people of this one.", Suyin explains.

Toph nods, "I remember... the tree... the swamp... not the details of it. If I knew how far the... roots went I've forgotten it."

"Can you tell us how and why Hana did this to you?", Opal asks.

"I'd let the... girl answer that. That... fight is all a blur to me.", Toph says with a shrug.

Toph relinquishes control and Hana begins explaining, "I was on may way to the tree due to its massive spiritual presence. I encountered Toph by accident and explained who I was. She attacked me for association with Vagrant. We fought and she defeated me, binding me on the ground. I lost control of my emotions and in a moment of anger I attacked Toph spiritually when I had no idea what I was doing. From what I can tell this completely destroyed the part of her soul governing earthbending or damaged it beyond recognition and shredded other parts badly enough that she can't focus on or recall things easily. Also from what I can tell her link to the afterlife and the cycle of reincarnation is severed. I believe Vagrant can fix this though. Again, I deeply apologize and know that I need to get a handle on things."

Suyin sighs, "As long as is she can definitely be healed and we can get Mom a new b-"

Suyin gasps and doubles over along with every earthbender in the room. Opal recognizes this as she experienced it when she lost her airbending. She speaks to Hana as she does what she can to comfort those around her, "They will have their bending back after this right? Mine too?"

"I assure you, all of you will.", Hana confirms.

During this, Hana shudders for a moment and she notices the various spiritual presences in the room, You're back and we're finished here, right?

I am and we are.
, I confirm.

The now exhausted looking Beifong benders look up. Hana informs them, "Good news, Vagrant is back and we can get to work on healing Toph and restoring everyone's bending."

I ask, Who are these people and who's Toph?

Hana looks over to the rather angry looking spiritual form of Tsunade standing next to Dan, Tsunade?, the woman doesn't respond

Hana and Vagrant give a quick explanation to each other on what's been happening while the two have been apart. The Beifongs in the room gives her some odd looks as she is silent and unresponsive for several minutes.

I was unable to take Rin with us., I conclude.

Hana is saddened by that, but says nothing further on the subject.

Anything else?, I ask.

We need heal Toph and return bending to the Metal Clan and couple others, Ming-Hua and Ghazan.

Seems we have some work to do then. Let's get started.
, I say cheerfully, It's good to be back with you by the way.

Same here.


Hana's eyes glow as we begin. First we place her hands over her face and restore Hana's appearance. Next we draw some water from the air and float the bracelet in it as Hana draws away her spiritual energy from it. I slowly and carefully heal Toph's soul while modifying it the same way I've done to my Elementals except with Earth and as a bit of a test and compensation for this whole mess I add the ability to control Iron as well.

Toph is released from the bracelet. Her spiritual form is a perfect animated statue made from meteoric iron in the image of what we assume to be Toph in her late twenties to early thirties. She looks herself over, I remember... there's some pieces missing... but I remember most of it., she glares at us and adds, Don't ever do that again, girl.

We gave you Earth and Iron, by the way, as compensation for what was done. We may give it to the entire Metal Clan if they desire and we assure you what was done will not happen again.

And if you do try it I won't go as easily the next time.


The Beifongs look around the room as we're all publicly broadcasting. Suyin questions, "Mom?"

Toph responds, Yeah it's me Suyin. I'd hug you, but I'm short of a body right now.

We speak to the Beifongs with bodies, "Assemble everyone who lost their bending or who wants it. We are going to give it them."

Suyin nods.

Less than thirty minutes later all the members of the Metal Clan that came to Kyoshi Island as well Ghazan and Ming-Hua are assembled on the beach. We concentrate and do the same when we mass modified those from the Fog of Lost Souls. Since there are more this time, it takes longer. Most of the Metal Clan receives a combination of Iron and Earth and thus assume similar spiritual forms to Toph. The largest minority of another Element is Air such as Opal, their forms are more ephemeral, either taking shapes of cyclone like columns of wind or ghost like transparent humanoids that are similar to their original physical forms. A much smaller minority of those from the Metal Clan receive other Elements which they are suited for.

When it is finally done it is mid afternoon. Hana and I collapse to the ground on our knees, still synchronized, but that was a lot to do. Several of those who lost their bending and had it returned, gained new abilities, or never had it before are testing what has been given to them. I reassure the other Elementals without bodies, We'll get you bodies in the next world.

Shadow appears on the beach and time freezes once again shortly after we finish and are still feeling some exhaustion from the imbuement of our new Elementals. It seems to smile, A fine little group you have here, but you'll need a home for them and a base of operations for yourself.

We can open portals rather large at this point and we have a connection to all of them except Kushina and Naruto who we can just physically contact while we travel. We assumed taking them with us to the next world would be fairly simple, but what do you mean?

Remember when I said the lack of physical laws meant that one could create literally anything from Chaos if one had the knowledge, ability, and will? It's time for a lesson in what a soul really is and what you've been truly consuming when you take a spirit.


We raise an eyebrow in curiosity, Explain.

You already have an inkling of it don't you? A soul is a thought, an idea, a concept. What your abilities and powers are based are combination of raw spiritual energy and concept. Quite literally spiritual abilities warp reality based on the concepts they both represent and are.


We feel Shadow nudging us to look within in the proper manner and we realize after several minutes that this seems to be true and we actually were aware of this in some sense below the surface of things. We are Water, the Moon, the Ocean, Fire, Lightning, the Sun, Air, the Wind, Sound, Earth, Metal, Iron, Faces, Fog and all the Interplay, Balance, Subaspects of them. Beneath this there are parts of us that are separate. The part of us that is Vagrant is Freedom, not just the Freedom of Air, but Freedom from all things, Freedom to do anything, along with that Freedom comes Strength of Will needed to break bindings and chains, nothing can permanently tie an Unbound, and I am also the Soul itself and the ability to Control and Shape us and others. The part us that is Hana holds the concepts of the Raven and the Wolf... and the Fighter. Part of her is Curiousity of Reality while another the Beast within Man and the Refusal to Surrender. We look at ourselves for a long moment and feel joy as though we are experiencing a great epiphany, understanding ourselves truly for the first time. We look to Shadow, What do we do now?

It doesn't say a word. It merely holds a tiny portal to Chaos on the tip of its finger and presents it to us. We take it in our palms and concentrate, knowing what to do and forcing it to grow rapidly. It soon engulfs the entire island and spreads kilometers into the ocean. On the fringes we can feel parts of our domain dissolving and fraying into Nothing. We assert our will and control over the Elements that compose this sphere and with this it stabilizes. Above we see Nothing, though Hana still sees only darkness. We need to fix that. We raise a hand and will a miniature sun into existence high above the island to orbit and give warmth. With this and the light's interaction with the air we create a blue sky.

Shadow seems prideful as it looks around, You've come a long way in such a short time. Congratulations.

It vanishes and time reasserts itself. This is followed by the both of us ceasing to resonate with each other and promptly collapsing from overexertion of our spiritual abilities. We're briefly aware of several members of our Elementals coming to attend us before passing into dreamless unconsciousness.

***

It walks silently and invisibly among the United Forces attending to their dead and wounded on Thoranee's mountain plateau. It passes Tsunade's corpse and completely ignores the empty shell. Shadow enters the medical tent where Rin is attending the wounded. Time stops, Hello Rin.

She turns to him, "I thank you for what you have given me previously, but haven't you done enough here?"

I'm offering to take you home., it says bluntly.

She pauses, "I..."

Shadow stops her, I know what you're thinking. You want to follow where Hana and Vagrant are going to prevent what happened here from happening again. The Isobu could give them a challenge, but eventually they'll do what I did all those years ago to some of its brethren... they'll cast it into Chaos where it won't be a problem... that is if they can't figure out how to destroy it as they gain power. Chances are you'll suffer any fate it does.

"No... send me where they're headed. I need to do what I can to stop them... maybe I can reason with Hana.", she says defiantly.

If that is what you wish..., it snaps its finger and a portal opens up outside the tent, ...but don't say I didn't warn you and there are worlds crueler and darker than this one as it was and is now.

Rin doesn't say a word to Shadow and steps through the sphere of Nothing.

Author's Note: And with that the Avatarverse Arc is concluded. Currently still debating a bit on what the next universe Vagrant, Hana, and their followers will be going to, but I have general ideas for what each of the candidate universes would involve.

I felt I needed to add something about the Red Lotus since this entire thing took place during the time of Season 3 of LoK. I also assumed Ming-Hua would be hit pretty hard by the loss of her bending and desperately want it back since she uses it to compensate for her disability.
 
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V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
you have a list of universes you're crossing with?
I have a list of universes for crossing over with, but they are in no set order and I add to it as I please as doing otherwise I feel would be limiting myself too much. I just pick a universe from the list of candidates after debating and narrowing a bit on it and work a general idea of what the story would be in that universe then start writing.

I've got a couple universes I realize would be outright game breakers and am trying to rework them so they could be usable in the story (the omniverse is infinite and variations exist) or saving them for end game. I don't want Vagrant and Hana to become overly powerful to the point that nothing is a threat.
 
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Chapter 17

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
Shadow stands in orbit between its first world's Moon and Earth. Rin had refused the offer of return so it is time to accelerate things. Again, Time is not consistent through out the Omniverse, but comparing the world Vagrant is in with the one Watcher is returning to, no time has really passed.

Shadow snaps its fingers, a habit it picked up from one of the many Mages it consumed. The world turns on its axis and orbits around the planet and in turn the Moon continues its orbit as well, accelerating faster and faster. It inserts Watcher into the world, opening a portal on the world below and allowing it to step through.

It snaps its fingers, one month passes and the Infernas are inserted in the Land of Sound. They'll play havoc on the populace before Orochimaru discovers them and takes an interest. Of course he'll never be able to control of them completely in any fashion, not with each of them having a piece of a Seraph in them. The only thing he really has to offer them in his quest for power is entertainment.

It views the most probable timeline, makes a few adjustments, then snaps its fingers again and time leaps forward once more. Seven years have passed. It can see glass craters in the location of Sunagakure and the surrounding desert. The island Kirgakure sits on has been broken up into smaller islands. The Land of Fire is currently literally the land of fire since most of its forests are ash or in flames at the moment. Others places are relatively intact though a large portion of the population has been mass resurrected by the Impure World Reincarnation technique or variations of it with much of the population being either being dead or used for sacrifices.

Shadow steps through a portal to the burning and smoking remains of Konoha. Most of the civilians and non-essential shinobi have been evacuated. It can detect a massive amount of spiritual energy and chakra bound up into something. It moves towards it. What it finds is something it marvels at the attempt, but finds the execution lacking.

It appears to be a large volume of mixed chakra and spirit energy bound into what could best be described as a jury rigged pressure vessel acting as a bomb. Shadow taps it with a finger, quickly coming to the conclusion that better engineers with more time and better materials would have made a more sophisticated device. It notices the device is set to go off in three minutes and twelve seconds according to its timer. Examining it further reveals that it has enough collected spiritual energy that releasing it all at once could easily obliterate every human soul in Konoha and several kilometers past the city walls.

It teleports. Time stops. Watcher, her host body of Izumi now seventeen, backs up atop the Hokage building in shock from the flaming, winged demon of a girl that freezes in place midair. She looks around in a panic. Shadow is here. She knows it is responsible for the Infernas and has long known where they came from before they even told her directly due to them having the same spiritual taint as the Malefactors.

She checks to see if anyone else isn't frozen. The Godaime, Uchiha Fugaku with his Mangekyo Sharingan active, is unmoving in his battle with Orichimaru. The various members of the KSD are frozen as well as the various standard Chunin and Jonin. A confused Anko, who remains unnaffected, approaches her, What is this?

Shadow...
, Watcher responds.

That it is., Shadow says flatly, coalescing into existence.

Watcher glares angrily and says with clear spite in her tone, This is your fault, the Infernas, What ever knowledge or power you gave Orochimaru. Why did you do this!?

It looks at one of shinobi, Inuzuka Tsume, leaping in between a blast of Seraph fire and her son with his ninken partners, Kuroko and Akamaru. It says solemnly, I did this to encourage you on the proper path... what is one world among infinity if it helps one of my kind improve? You refused to leave this world even when it was clear the enhanced Malefactors I sent were out of your league., it shakes its head in disappointment, You are very stubborn and attached, Watcher. You need to unfetter yourself.

It gives another final snap of its fingers. A portal opens. Watcher stares at it for a long moment then Shadow explains, I'm not going to rewind time, I'm not going to keep this world in its frozen state, but I will say there are other worlds similar to this out there. If you really want to protect any of them... do as I suggested. Travel. Gain power, see the Omniverse... or don't and let those worlds suffer fates such as this., Shadow gestures around them.

Watcher glares at Shadow, I'm going to kill you one day.

Shadow begins laughing, You can try, but until you gain any significant amount of power and skill... you're just weak and can't even defeat a threat like this.

Shadow grabs Anko's hand and sighs, I only want one thing. None of your interference in this. I do this my way. I even get the slightest hint you're toying with the universe I'm in and I leave., she gives him another glare before begrudgingly stepping through the portal with Anko in tow after ordering her to follow.

Shadow shrugs at that last statement. Maybe she'll learn not to jump randomly quicker on her own. It turns its attention to the Inuzukas. Time resumes for them only... after considering for a brief moment a single raven as well who watches from a nearby building.

Tsume falls to the ground from her attempted self sacrifice and checks the battlefield, quickly noting time appears to have stopped. Kiba stays on guard as do his ninken. Shadow seems to give the impression of a warm smile to them, Relax you're safe for the moment... and may continue to be so depending on your choices.

"What are you talking about and who are you?", Tsume demands as Kuromaru comes to her side.

Shadow places a hand to its chest, "I am Shadow and I am making you an offer to go to where your daughter is... or rather will be."

"And just leave the village? I-"

It stifles a laugh, You were about to be incinerated to save your son. As far as I see you're already dead. Then there's that bomb that will obliterate your soul and that of anyone else left in the village., it looks to Kiba, Don't you know something about that, boy?

Tsume looks at her son. His head falls, "The KSD has been working on it for years. It's a bomb of chakra and soul energy. It'll wipe out everything in more than a twenty kilometer radius if the estimates are right. Everyone in the KSD was told about what the engineers had been working on shortly before the Orochimaru's army arrived. We knew none of us were going to make it out alive. It's the main reason we refused to leave. One last stand, you know?", he gives a rueful chuckle.

Tsume looks at him with concern. She knows how badly this war has been affecting him, but this and his tone, she looks to Shadow, "If you can stop time, I'm guessing you can do more than that. Do we survive this?"

Unfortunately, no. Though the Inuzuka clan will in this world.

"Take us to Hana.", she says.

As you wish., Shadow gestures to an open portal that forms.

Kiba looks to Tsume, "Mom, you're sure about this?"

Tsume simply responds, "Yeah... I am. I'm tired of fighting this war and we're going to die anyway...", before leaping through with Kuromaru

Kiba hesitates, but follows with his dogs behind him. The raven lands in front of Shadow shortly after and tilts its head, "Everything you say was true? They're going where Hana is going?"

Of course, raven, but Hana and Vagrant have choices in the matter. I am giving them options on where to go for the moment, but in what order they take things is up to them, but I know they will take the options given.

The raven gives a laugh, Really should get back to chronicling that girl's life. Guess I'm going through., with that it takes off and disappears through the portal.

It briefly looks to the battle frozen in time. It consider for the briefest of moments to turn back the clock... but, no. Its students will either learn to control time on that scale on their own or learn to let certain things go. His attention turns to the Infernas, they still might have a part to play should Watcher or Vagrant return so it leaves them behind as it steps through another portal.

***

It's unusual for Hana and I to be completely unconscious given that I don't actually sleep and when her physical body rests we share a mindscape. We both awaken and bolt upright in the healing bath of water, causing a splash and dousing anyone who can't control the element.

We look around, it's about midday judging from the light coming through the window. Akako is the one doing the healing and Hana takes note that Akako is now dressed in a long brown coat and blue shirt with suspenders, boots, tool belt, and a pair of goggles on her forehead with her hair now being tied back in a short pony tail. She smiles, "Oh, good, you're finally awake. I was beginning to worry."

Hana queries as we sit up in the bath, "Akako?"

"I've never had the chance to study this kind of spiritual exhaustion in one so powerful or bonded in the way you and Vagrant are.", she explains, "Not to mention the Unbound are completely new to me."

Hana gives a smile, "Huh, thanks for speeding our recovery up."

Hana climbs out of the tub and wicks the water off of herself, quickly getting dressed with the available clothes laid out over a chair in the room. It's less concealing, a simple green and brown Earth Kingdom robe reminiscent of a kimono, underwear, and sandals, than what we wore for our time in the world of the Four Elements, but we have no need for going unnoticed at the moment. I briefly catch Akako looking at Hana's body as she dresses, but I do not comment on it as she looks away when Hana turns her head.

I notice one other in the room, Mei. She begins speaking, It is good that you have recovered, but in the past week that you have been unconscious several things that require your attention have occurred, great ones.

Hana comments to me, Is she assigning herself the role of our secretary?

It would seem so.
, I reply, It's probably best to listen to her.

Mei begins listing off things, First there is the issue of the Metal Clan. Suyin wishes to speak with you on the terms and relations between you, the other Elementals, and the terms of service to you. There is also issue of two main factions forming within the Metal Clan. One, led by a woman named Kuvira, views you as someone who can offer protection from outside threats throughout the Omniverse and believes you augmented members of the clan for the better. The second faction is led by a small council headed by Suyin's daughter Opal, they believe that you and Hana effectively gave them no choice but to join you on Kyoshi Island or die and that terms were ambiguous. This faction als has concerns about their humanity being negatively affected by the transformation they have undergone. Notably, with the exception of a few that could be counted on one hand all Elementals originating from the Fog of Lost Souls are supporting Kuvira. Suying and various members of the govenrment of the Metal Clan are trying to remain neutral and prevent some form of civil war.

An issue related to this is governance going forward and your role in it. It has been suggested by several Elementals that while you and Hana, as the only ones who can transport things to and from the island and control the growth of this pocket Universe, will likely have a significant role a council of some sort should be formed for the purpose of government.

There also were a number of spirits and humans not affiliated with us that were transported with the island. As we have been exploring and restoring and repairing thing on the island we have discovered thiry-seven unique Spirits and nine humans. The Spirits seem to have been purposefully avoiding us while Zhao has ordered that all humans found to have somehow survived on the island without you are to be detained in the Kyoshi Island jail until you decide what to do with them.

Finally there are three portals that have opened up in Avatar Kyoshi Park. They have been cordoned off and are under guard, however we had individual step through a soldier speaking a language we could not understand who appeared to be some form of soldier. He has also been detained.


"If I have your permission, I would like to capture the Spirits that were transported to the island to further my research as well set up a laboratory and work area.", Akako asks with some enthusiasm.

Hana and I consult with each other for a moment before Hana says, "Only if it doesn't pose any threat to us or the population of the island."

She grins and hugs Hana, "Thank you! It won't, I promise.", and with that she hastily exits the room.

Hana stands there stunned at the hug for a moment before we consult with each other again on what to deal with first before speaking to Mei, "Take us to the Kyoshi Jail."

***

Fire Elementals named Reo and Sora greet us at the entrance to the jail. Hana gives the order, "Take us to the prisoners found on Kyoshi Island first please, we'll deal with the soldier that came through the portal afterwards."

They salute and lead us to the cell block. Before any of them can speak Hana and I resonate and begin giving a speech, "We are Vagrant and Hana. You have all been fortunate enough to be transported with the rest of the Island. We are willing to release you and allow you to prove your loyalty or just live on the island as you please. Considering that none of you have bending we do not care which. We are offering freedom to live and work on the island as you will, but we are asking you not cause trouble or there will be consequences. If you prove yourselves useful and loyal enough, you will be granted abilities that have been given to the Elementals."

We stop resonating and Hana gives the order to release them. Three stop to face us while the other leave the cell block. The one in front is an athletic looking woman in her mid to late twenties with black hair in a bun, dark skin, and blue eyes. She wears strange clothes reminiscent of a samurai from the Shinobi Nations. A man and woman flank her wearing similar clothes. She speaks matter of factly, "You ate the Moon Spirit didn't you?"

I speak through Hana, "I did."

"I am named for her. My name is Yue. Chief Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe was my grandfather. Former Leader of the Warriors Suki was my Grandmother. I'm the current head of the Kyoshi Warriors.", she states., "A few of us stayed behind to protect the citizens who refused to leave."

I sense a bit of caution and a hint of fear of something in her voice. I say with a serious tone, "There are more survivors on the island aren't there?"

"There are.", she nods, "One hundred seventeen in total, including us and those you captured, we were scouting after the sky changed. We'd been keeping warm via the geothermal plant near the island's hot springs. Frankly I don't care about what you did to our world at this point. As long as you allow the people of Kyoshi Island that remained here to live out their lives as they please and allow me and the remaining Kyoshi Warriors to protect them I will pledge my loyalty to you."

Her entire tone comes off as completely serious and she's speaking like a shinobi from back home concerned with her village. It's a bit strange actually. I tell her, "That is acceptable. Were any of you benders before this? Are there any other Kyoshi Warriors?"

"I was a waterbender before all that happened, but I have my other training to fall back on. There are six others beyond the three here."

"Hana and I have other matters to attend to for the day. If all you warriors swear the same loyalty on the same conditions I will grant you the same transformation as my Elementals. Meet us at City Hall by the end of the day."

She salutes and then leaves. Hana notes, You get the impression she's been a soldier?

Yes, probably United Forces at some point.
, I reply.

We move on to the other prisoner. His armor is strange and he almost immediately begins shouting at us in an unintelligible language. We can fix that. We unlock his cell and immediately pin him against the wall with bloodbending. We can feel him panicking as his heart rate and breath quickens as we approach. We drain his soul and suddenly we have all the information we need.

He is from a country called Persia and is in service to a King Sharaman. We pass over something interesting in his memories. There's a massive hourglass glowing with its own light. We get the impression it is of great importance to the soldier's king. We get no more information than that. Hana says what I'm thinking, We should claim whatever power is there for ourselves.

Agreed.

I call an Elemental of Faces and send them off to scout ahead the portal this man came from.

***

Mei leads us to the section of Kyoshi City where the Metal Clan has set themselves up and leads us to where Suyin is. We've called Suyin, her council, Kuvira, Opal, and her council as well. I note that Toph, still without a host, sits at the table next to Suyin.

Hana and I take our seat along with several other Elementals I've called. Hana and I begin speaking as one, "First off to Opal and her followers. I want to reassure you that we do not believe you should be concerned about your humanity. Why we altered your souls in ways more than just simply giving back your bending we believe this to be an improvement. Also have any of you really had any signifcant changes to your mental processes and emotions or did one of you raise the point of humanity as some form of paranoia?"

There's some murmering from Opal's side of the table. Opal stands and shoots back, "We can all feel a connection to you if we pay attention to it. How do we know you can't simply take back what power you've given if you ever decide to or that you can't control us?"

"Honestly we haven't tried to control anyone directly or do anything more than communicate telepathically. We will admit that we believe it possible to take bending ability back and that the connection we have with the various Elementals is similar to that of the Great Elemental Spirits that I consumed. We also understand you have concerns of coercion and not having a choice in the matter. You're free to stay on the island, but I ask that you defend it from outside attack when needed. Those of you who are more willing can go on excursions to other Universes and Multiverses outside the island. I do not ask that all of you fight outside the island. I merely ask that you all serve our collective interests. We're all in this together now."

Kuvira raises a point, "We will need more people and varied Elementals to protect ourselves. That will require Vagrant and Hana grow in power so that we may in turn grow in power. While I'm saddened at what happened to our original world. We need to look ahead and take care of what we have now. I and those under me are willing to go on excursions to other worlds to attain power for ourselves and our new world. I agree that our connection with Vagrant is no different than it was with Thoranee. If anything this connection is an improvement as we have a more direct line to what empowers us."

"I do not want the Metal Clan to be split on this issue. I am willing to allow a representative from each of your factions into the Metal Clan's advisory council.", Kuvira and Opal look to each other as if considering it as Suyin speaks.

Kuvira says, "I can accept that for the sake of unity of the clan."

Opals side converses with each other for several minutes before she speaks, "We can accept that as well."

Suyin raises the next point, "We will need some form of government to run things on the island and more as things grow..."

***

Several hours later I get out of that meeting and we have the beginning of a functioning government. We still have a lot of work to do, but it's a start. We find the Kyoshi Warriors at City Hall. Yue steps forward and bows, "All of us have accepted your terms."

We begin the process, considering it's only nine people it doesn't take that long. When we are done, Yue draws water from the air as a ball to float in her hand to test things, "Thank you."

"See that you protect this island and its people well."

***

We've gathered at the portal with the various Elementals that don't have bodies yet. I've spoken with the scout and he has told us that the portal opens up to a desert near a large palace.

We all move through the portal and find ourselves in a vast desert with a magnificent palace shining in the distance. We sense a great deal of spiritual energy in the direction of the palace. Hana gives the order, "There... and take what bodies you want."

I use our Soul Speed to get to where we need to be. We find what we're looking for quickly. We see an army of soldiers entering the city around the palace with what appear to be slaves and various treasures in tow. We spot the source of the spiritual energy, but it feels... sealed. Hana hides behind a nearby wall as it passes through the city gates and I project out of her invisibly.

I examine it. It appears to be an hourglass, but I can not draw anything out of it or get inside, however there does seem to be a keyhole of sorts. I scan the area for similar soul presences or things connected to this... there are three. I give the order and send the broadcast of the signal I'm getting from the three objects, Stay subtle. I want whatever those are.

I return to Hana and we quietly follow the procession of soldiers. We quickly identify the objects... a Staff, a Dagger, and a Medallion, unfortunately they seem to prevent possession as a side effect, curious, but annoying.

Instead the Elementals take bodies of the soldiers and people inside the Palace. Hana and I follow quickly and quietly.

Eventually the procession stops and Zhao reports the treasures and the apparent King Sharaman is now greeting the palace's Sultan and offering him gifts from his conquest. I use my soul speed again. Hana and I hide in the shadows of the room.

The men talk and it is suggested by the owner of the staff that the man with the dagger, a Prince, unlock the Hourglass. We wait.

As he does this we hear protesting and shouting from one of the slaves, the woman with the medallion, as the Dagger is inserted. We prepare to make our move. There's a rumbling and the Prince and the others begin to back up.

I use our Soul Speed and we move in front of the Hourglass before anyone can react. There's shock and surprise at both sand pouring from the Hourglass and that Hana and I actually seem to be absorbing it, all of it.

It's strange... the concept is Time, but something else... there is a very strong corrupting influence here. I attempt to fight and Hana and I let out a simultaneous roar of pain and defiance as we fall to our knees, sand pouring from our mouth and nostrils which gently fades.

We collapse shaking as if experiencing a seizure in front of the empty Hourglass. We hear the Sultan calling his guards to seize us and then experience unconsciousness.

***

We find ourselves in an unfamiliar mindscape. I feel something fighting against me, like a great sandstorm, but I am all the Four Elements and more and stand against the storm. Hana and I have separate bodies as usual, mirror images of her physical body. We are in a great throne room in a palace. A beautiful woman sits on the throne wearing intricate, and revealing, scarlet robes. She lounges and stares at us with what could be best described as curiosity, "You're trying to claim my power... everything I was for yourselves. Bold."

"Who are you?", Hana asks as we approach.

"Kaileena, the Empress of Time. What you just consumed was essentially my corpse and housed my spirit.", she looks directly at me, "I know your kind. It called itself Shadow, it told me that one day I would die and one of its kind would consume my remains. It seems that has come to pass. It told me one of three things would happen:

I would consume your mind.

You would consume mine.

Or you would give me new life in a new body while taking nearly all of my essence and leaving only a sliver for myself. Lesser than I was, but a new body and life none the less.", she seems to consider something as the Palace shudders as she and I's duel of wills continues, "I know you have allies that will turn on me if I win and even now I can feel you resisting me Unbound with everything you have and yet you do not falter against me.", her tone indicates amusement, "We're at a stalemate it seems and you're stuck in a catatonic state until we resolve things."

"It would seem so.", I tell her.

"Guess we're going with option three.", Hana says with a smirk.

Kaileena steps off her throne and approach me, "Let me show you what you need to do..."

***

Hana and I wake up coughing up a copious amount of sand in a cell in the Sultan's dungeon. After several minutes of pained hacking and coughing the sand forms into the shape of Kaileena. She converts to sand and passes through bars, which is immediately followed by the scream of a guard. She returns with the keys and lets us out. She purrs, "What now?"

I give the telepathic command to everyone, Retrieve the objects I showed earlier. Kill anyone that gets in the way.

"Ruthless.", she comments dryly.

We head out of the dungeons and find chaos as my Elementals fight a force that doesn't really have a defense against spiritual threats. Kaileena follows us as we make our way to through the palace. We attempt to use our new powers over Time and the first thing that happens is time jumping forward five seconds then back three seconds without us intending that. We look to Kaileena. She responds, apparently having notice the disruption in the time flow, "You don't have my knowledge. You'll have learn control of my powers. I can teach you, but it will take time."

We frown at that. A soldier rushes to attack us, we flick our hand and he burst into flames, screaming. Kaileena asks, "May I ask where you attained such powers? They are similar to what Djinn have."

"A world where Elemental Spirits gifted humanity with the power to control Elements. We have given this to our followers as well. Unlike with the Sands, we have a great deal of knowledge on how it works if lacking in actual experience."

She seems impressed, but warns, "I would advise caution in gifting the Sands to others. They are... not an easy thing to wield without a strong will or the right magics."

"We'll keep that in mind.", we say seriously.

We come to the Sultan's throne room. We did note there were a lot of traps on the way, but considering the elements we wield and that they were physical traps they weren't hard to disable. We sit on the throne and wait as we have instructed everyone gather here once the objects are collected.

Hana and I desynchonize. Hana asks Kaileena, "How did you die?"

"Despite my powers over time. In this world I was not its absolute ruler I was killed by the Guardian of Time, Dahaka, for my actions. After that my essence was bound into the Hourglass to prevent it from spreading and destroying the world.", she explains.

"That seems unfair."

"Agreed."

Kaileena, Hana, and I talk with each other while we wait and she gives some basic instruction on the Sands and Time in general. It's only about ten minutes before our Elementals begin arriving. Zhao is the first to arrive apparently having possessed King Sharaman. He presents the Staff. Next is one of the soldiers possessed by an Iron Elemental, named Jian. it's notable that the the sword he carries in his free hand is warped and covered in blood. Finally Mei arrives possessing the slave girl who protested against the opening of the Hourglass, she's wearing the Pendant indicating that she had to have gotten it off at some point.

I announce to the assembled Elementals, "We have what we came for. We're marching out of the city back to the portal."

Kaileena asks, "Before we leave, destroy the Hourglass for me, please?"

Hana looks to her and I take over. The Hourglass still in the throne room is engulfed in plasma and reduced to molten slag in less than a minute. We then begin heading out of the city.

***

As soon as the last person exits the portal it closes. Hana looks back, "Guess as soon as we're done they close?"

I give the order, Everyone get some rest. You've done good work today. I want those Artifacts secured and under guard.

Kaileena had informed me that the three Artifacts of Time we had collected provide immunity and control of the Sands. Kaileena looks to us and asks, "I suppose you are my master now?"

"If you want that, but for now there's plenty of room on the island. Go find a house to claim as your own and meet people. We managed to gift you with knowledge of the language here.", I tell her.

She nods and walks off, swaying sensually.

Hana asks, She's a bit unusual isn't she? I'm surprised how willing she is to go along with us considering we ate most of her.

I think someone calling herself the Empress of Time would be. I guess she's just happy not to be trapped in an hourglass and dead., I respond.

Hana and I head out to select our own home and get some rest. We'll be trying another portal tomorrow.
 
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Chapter 18

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
It's been a week and we haven't gotten any reports back from Mainju, the Face Elemental scout, who was sent through the second portal. We've been working on the government, setting up farms, and it turns out there are even some fish in the surrounding water. Kuvira and Opal's factions have settled into an uneasy truce for the moment. Hopefully that will last. Tsunade has been keeping to herself, though Dan is sharing a body with a young Kyoshi teenager. From what Dan has told me, Tsunade just needs time to cool off and open up again. Kushina has been training Naruto and while the boy seems to be getting along with the native Kyoshi children and those of the Metal Clan, our offer to train any spiritual potential has been refused.

Much of our time has been spent on training our spiritual abilities, training with the members of the Metal Clan and our Elementals. Toph, who has taken to sharing a body with Opal, is a rough, but good teacher I'll note and the same could be said of Zhao.

I and Hana have also been training with Kaileena on how to use the Sands properly. The best we can do at the moment is changing the flow of time or fast forward and rewind a few seconds at most. Kaileena tells us it could take years, decades, or perhaps centuries to control Time on a grand scale at the level of mastery that she had. The unusual thing about the Sands is it behaves in manner that feels like it needs to be tamed as though as it has a will of its own. Kaileena explained the Sands are much like Time itself. It is not an obviously controlled thing nor is Time actually linear. Most people think of Time as a river flowing in one direction when in reality it's countless currents and waves all branching off of each other and interacting and recombining in various ways like a vast ocean.

Today we sit in Kaileena's surprisingly modest home, just three rooms and a small walled garden surrounding it on the slopes of the island's interior. I honestly expected her to pick something more lavish given her title. She's introducing us to Sand Creatures, "While beasts act as they once did, often with added aggressiveness towards anything that is not their master, Men, though they will still maintain much intelligence when affected at the most basic level, must be altered in specific ways to retain what makes them Men and even then they are... more agressive... more obssessive than they once were. Any creature, be it Man or Beast will serve the Master of the Sand, you. I should warn you however, the Artifacts of Time, in knowledgeable and skilled hands, can wrest control of or destroy the Creatures, most easily the lower ones. The more work you put in the more intelligence they retain and the stronger the Sand Creatures can be made. In time this will become more intuitive as will your control of Time."

She sits behind us and guides Hana's hands while directing us as we work over a young cat, something simple to start with, gently infusing it with Sand. We work for a nearly half an hour before Kaileena is satisfied. We withdraw our hands.

The cat has changed appearance considerably. Rather than the white coat it once had its fur now appears a dull gold and its body gives the impression of being desiccated with leathery skin. It breathes sand gently in and out as it sits on the table and stares at us curiously with glowing golden eyes. Hana seems a bit awed by it. Kaileena explains, "Sand Creatures typically are immune to death by conventional means due to a lack of major organs or blood and the Sands perpetuating their lives. In most cases it requires magic or spiritual energy to kill them permanently. They eventually regenerate if torn apart or injured by mundane means."

We each give it a few mental commands, causing it to move to different points on the table and even hold various unnatural positions. Hana comments, "Not much of a cat person, you can still control them, right?", to Kaileena.

"I believe only if my commands do not conflict with yours due to be only a small fraction of what I was.", she considers the offer for a moment, "I suppose a pet would be nice to have around the house and a Sand Creature would remind me of home."

"Its all yours then.", Hana says with a smile.

We hear a knock on the door. Hana goes to answer it. It's a member of the Metal Clan, one of Kuvira's followers judging by the uniform. He reports, "I apologize for disturbing you, but the scout that was sent through the portal has returned."

Hana looks to Kaileena, "Looks like we'll have to cut this lesson short."

"I expect you two to return when you are able.", she says with a nod.

We follow him to Kyoshi park. Resting at the base of the statue of Avatar Kyoshi is Mainyu. He's shaking and muttering to himself. Hana stands over him, "Report."

"D-d-don't go in there.", he says as he looks up at her.

"What?", we ask simultaneously.

"It's insane... chaos... I-I-I... don't want to talk about it. The others told me it's been only a week, but I've been in there years... I think... it's hard to tell time in that place."

Hana face palms, Why would Shadow open a portal some hell Universe in the middle of our home?

I don't... know? It seems to open these portals for a reason though to help us improve. We can try to force it closed or we can go through and see what's in it.


She sighs, It traumatized Mainyu... and I don't want to spend years going through whatever this is either. Let's close it.

We synchronize and raise a hand towards the spherical portal as the guards in the park step back. We close our open palm into a fist as we concentrate on closing it. Slowly it shrinks, but it seems to be resisting. It finally collapses with a surge of spiritual energy exploding outwards knocking us and everyone too close off their feet.

We realize we're no longer resonating from being stunned by the energy surge. Dazed, we look up to see Shadow. It extends a hand to help us up. Hana takes it and we notice yet again time is frozen, but I feel something very different in how I'm perceiving it and I'm not sure Hana senses it fully. It's like I can tell how Shadow is freezing Time. It's hard to describe in the language I have. The flow of Time feels "locked" or "preserved" like an insect trapped in tree sap or amber. It's palpable and it almost feels like I need to push back on it due to being some kind affront on the home I've created. I don't think Hana is as aware of this as I am as she makes no comment though her hair seems to be standing on end and she seems more alert in response to the altered time flow in our home as if she's responding to some form of killing intent.

We both keep focus on Shadow. We can't shake the feeling that it is very wrong for it to be here and doing what it is doing right now. Shadow apparently senses this and comments, Your home contains some of your spiritual energy since that it what it was created with, thus are you connected to it, and you now have the ability to sense alterations in the flow of time. Someone attacking anything here or another Unbound or foreign spirit altering things without your permission in a way you can sense will put you on edge or give you a sense of danger. I apologize for this, but it is more convenient to keep conversations private.

I make the next statement very clear, I ask that you not do things like this again after this despite the convenience. Either actually speak with us in a private room in our home without altering things or don't speak with us in this manner in our universe.

"I agree with Vagrant.", Hana says with a glare.

Shadow tips its hat for a moment, Very well. After this, I will not do this in your home again after this. You should know that it's actually considered good manners not to alter a friendly Unbound's personal domain. It's good that you realize that on your own.

As for what the purpose of that portal was... well it was to show you there are things you should be cautious in consuming.
, he says as he goes over and taps the frozen Mainyu's forehead causing a moving image and sound to project from it.

What we see is a chaotic shifting maze like landscape. Plant life and animals constantly morph and the land itself roils like a raging sea. Hana asks, "This is what Mainyu was subjected to?"

It's the personal domain of one of the many Unbound we collectively refer to as The Mad., it clasps its hands, You see, when you consume a concept, a soul, you make it part of yourself. It becomes part of you. Some Unbound do not assimilate or dominate concepts properly and either are ruled by them or are driven insane by them. What you see before you consumed a powerful spirit of chaos... not primordial Chaos, but the Chaos of Dynamicism. It is fortunate that you sent an Elemental of Faces into that. They can better hang on onto their Identies in such a place since their concept is in part Identity.

You need to be careful going forward. The most recent thing you consumed, The Sands of Time, is in part Corruption. You will have to be careful and take control of it properly. Kaileena will help you. I think you can do it, but it will take more than knowledge. It will take work and experience. Remember, that just the act of growing more powerful via consumption is in itself a dangerous thing. Use caution my student.


Hana asks, "What's through the last portal?"

We still don't understand how Shadow gives the physical impression of smiling without a face, A great reward, some old friends and family.... if you're willing to put in the work and time.

"Home?", Hana asks anxiously.

No, Shadow responds flatly before disappearing and we can no longer feel its presence or effects in our home.

***

We've gathered a team of one hundred and eight volunteers to go through the last portal. We sent a scout through and they returned after three hours to report that the area around the portal appears to be unsettled and untamed jungle. Animals appear... strange and alien.

That's not unexpected, but we'll be proceeding with caution. We file into the portal. As soon as the last of us steps through something unexpected happens... the portal closes behind. A few of the Elementals begin to panic. Hana calls out, Silence.

Everyone immediately quiets down. I tell them, I told you this might be a long trip. We have supplies to last us a weak and we can probably forage if we need to keep everyone's physical bodies functioning and at worst they can be shed so we can find ones better suited to this world. Stick together, we're moving out. Keep to telepathic communication.

Kuvira, Mei, Shisui, Akako and Zhao follow closely behind us. Kuvira comments, You have quite a commanding tone. I can admire that.

Hana responds, Part of shinobi training is giving orders when needed.

I'm curious about what a shinobi is in your world. In our world they're just a form of hired assassin.
, Kuvira says.

They're more like mercenaries where we come from and then there's chakra and training in its use being unique to ninja. The closest concept to chakra in your world is chi, but its not really the same thing. People from your world don't actually have chakra and can't produce effects that require chakra. Likewise things such as genjutsu which require manipulating someone's chakra network don't work on things that don't have chakra.

Shisui confirms, I've tried that. It does not work.

Makes sense I suppose.
, Kuvira notes, What is the source of this chakra though? If it is a thing unique to your world it must have an origin, correct?

Hana shrugs, I have no idea.

Neither do I
, I tell her.

The group pauses. We pick up a significant spiritual presence moving in the nearby bushes. Hana and I try to catch it with bloodbending on reflex and that fails as whatever it is doesn't have water in its body. Kuvira manages to catch whatever it is by sinking it into the earth as it groans. We approach cautiously. It looks vaguely like a mecha tank and its much larger than a human, but its much more intricate than any mecha tank. It looks at us with a pleading expression and begins speaking in a language we can't understand. There's one way to correct that. I approach and tap its forehead as it winces and I reach for its soul looking for the proper information. There's some brief resistance before I find what I'm looking for and back up when I have it. I use the connection I have with my Elementals to pass on the knowledge of the mechanical being's language.

"Listen, I really don't know who you are or why you have... whatever this is. But could you let old Rattrap go?", the mechanical says, "I was only told to investigate after we saw this new type of animal wandering around."

Hana and I consult with each other for a moment before she speaks, "What are you? Where are we? What else have you seen?"

"I just saw that other guy who looked liked you and then I saw you people wandering around. You're on Eukaris and I'm a Eukarian. Can I ask you some questions? Where are you from, why are you here, and what are you? Also what did you to me and how do you speak Cybertronian?", he says nervously where he rests up to his neck in the earth.

Zhao comments, Just eat his soul to get the information.

Hana raises her hand and I say, No need to create conflict when we don't need to.

"We're from... off world... we haven't really named our world yet. We're human and the reason we're here is because we were led here by someone I don't feel comfortable discussing with you. As for how I, we, speak your language, I tapped into your soul and pulled knowledge of that from you."

"You been messing around with my Spark!?", he asks incredulously.

"That's what you call you soul? And all I did was pull some information so we can talk to each other.", Hana asks, confused.

He sighs, "Listen, just let me go and I'll lead you to my tribe. We can discuss things there."

Hana and I consider it, "Alright."

Hana free him from the earth. He shifts into a rat like form mechanically and begins leading us. Zhao asks, concerned, You're sure this is a good idea?

We need information and we don't know what we're dealing with so we'll follow him for now and play along.
, I respond.

***

Rattrap leads us to a large stone city covered in overgrowth. He transforms back into his humanoid form, towering over us and gestures to the buildings, "Welcome to the capital of the Fur Walkers Tribe."

I can hear one of the Elementals in the background comment in a whisper, "Fur Walkers, seriously?"

Rattrap doesn't seem to notice that, as he leads us through the city. We pass quite a large number of mechanical humanoids and animals who give us odd looks. Most of them are mammalian, but we see a few who are reptilian, avian, or aquatic.

We're led to what appears to be a city hall of some sort. Rattrap begins speaking to a feline looking mechanical sitting at the center of a council chambers as we enter, "Hey, Cheetor... I found more of the new organics you were curious about."

Cheetor looks at our group curiously and asks who we are. Hana gives him the same information we gave Rattrap. Cheetor presses, "I think you're more than what you appear to be if you can tap into a bot's spark so easily for information. What are you and why are you really here?"

I take over, mixing truth with lies and omission, "An unusual portal opened up on our homeworld. We have certain... special abilities involving the soul... we were sent as explorers and unfortunately the portal closed behind us when we used it. Our initial scout did not think that would happen. We did not want to alarm you with our abilities over the soul. We mean you no harm, but for the time being we have no where else to go. We have not actually seen beings like you before. We call ourselves Elementals. I am Hana, their leader."

Cheetor is silent for a long moment before speaking, "I will allow you stay here for now if you do no cause trouble. Since you are organic, we will direct you to what you can use for food and shelter here."

A few of the Elemental breath a sigh of relief. Cheetor gives a command to Rattrap, "Take them to the unused shelter on the edge of the city at sector #22."

Rattrap bows and proceeds to lead us out.

***

Cheetor goes to his private chambers and activates his personal comm, contacting the other Tribe representatives. Dinobot, Manta Ray, Sonar, and Blackarachnia respond almost immediately. Cheetor explains to them, "We seem to have some new organics on Eukaris. Physically they do not appear threatening, however at least one has displayed the ability to manipulate the earth enough to trap one of us and more disturbingly another has shown the ability to manipulate a Transformer's Spark directly. They claim that they are cut off from their homeworld, but given their displayed abilities this is something that concerns all of us. We need to discuss how we will handle this going forward."

There is confirmations from the assembled representatives and the discussion begins.

Author's Note: The beginning of the next arc!

I want to state that the continuity for Transformers I'm planning to use is primarily a combination of Aligned and IDW Generation 1.
 
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Chapter 19

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
The Eukarians have been keeping us under watch and have pretty much refused to allow us go around without an escort. Hana and I have given the order to remain peaceful with them, but in the few days we've been here we're starting to chafe under the lack of freedom of what most of the group is now referring to as "mechas" as shorthand for mechanicals to differentiate from "orgas" as shorthand for organics.

Despite the clear physical capabilities of the Eukarians and their unusual souls called Sparks, none of them we have so far have actually displayed any notable spiritual abilities. The most unusual thing about them we've noted is that there's a clear physical component of their bodies that houses the soul located in the chest and the Spark itself is much more tangible then a normal soul. When we asked about it, they referred to this as the "Spark Chamber" and none would say anything more on it.

I've been mostly spending time away from Hana, though keeping in touch, as have several of my Elementals from their bodies due the guarding nature of the Fur Walkers. I've also infused about a dozen of the planet's small animals with the Sands to act as scouts and given them the clear command to avoid attention of any mechanical life to avert distrust or suspicion. So far the connection I share with them has given no indication that they have been detected.

Currently I'm exploring a valley with many abandoned structures far from the capital city of the Fur Walkers along with a few other Elementals. The reason we're here is because there is a very strong, but seemingly slumbering spiritual presence nearby.

I focus my senses and point to a mountain in the valley, We should be heading in that direction. The strong Spark is there

We quickly move to the mountain and pass through the rock and dirt. What we find beneath is surprising... it's an utterly massive mechanical structure from we can tell. It's inactive and there's no response to our presence.

Kuvira notes, The structure seems to be made of the same unidentifiable alloy as the Eukarians. It lacks any detectable earth, but there are small quantities of iron at varying levels throughout.

I can detect that as well. The Eukarians have been rather reluctant with information, including anything about the strange metal their bodies are composed of. All we really know is that their bodies contain some small level of iron as part of an alloy. We move down through the walls of the structure, straight for the spiritual presence within until we come to a room housing the spark chamber, but rather than a blue spark within like every other one we've encountered this one is green. I look at it in awe as it seems to be very strong compared with the other Sparks. Ming-Hua notes the pause, So... what are you waiting for? We know what you're going to do, so do it.

Right, I surround the Spark and it is quickly consumed as it struggles against me. There's a brief moment where the Titan shudders as if the process of consuming its Spark nearly awakened it, but no more movement occurs. The metal around us quickly goes from gold to varying shades of grey, spreading outwards from the Spark Chamber.

Did you get anything useful?, Akako questions.

I focus on the gained memories, This structure is a massive... very old... Cybertronian called a Titan... it is... was... named Chela and was devoted to a member of the legendary first Thirteen Cybertronians called Onyx Prime. It came here specifically to create a haven for various beast-formers due to the persecution they received on their homeworld of Cybertron.

Ming-Hua dryly comments, It's a useless hunk of scrap metal now without its soul.

I think I can fix that. You can return to your bodies and inform Hana I'll be working on this for awhile.

They nod and leave. I begin pouring and shaping Sand into the Spark Chamber of the currently inert Titan.

***

Three days I am gone and Hana worries. She can feel something is wrong. She's been getting agitated and she's repeatedly snapped at people for the slightest things. She currently sits meditating at the edge of a lake outside the city. A Fur Walker named Bump quietly observes while resting in his beast mode which resembles a red over sized armadillo.

Hana attempts contact Vagrant, If you can hear me, please respond. Akako said you found something called a Titan and you were working on it with the Sands. What is going on?

She waits an hour and sends similar messages. There is no response and it has been the same over the past three days. Her hearts begins to race and her breathing quickens.

Bump raises his head, the organic is hyperventilating and appears to be breathing a copious amount of sand from her mouth and nostrils. He gets up walks over to her cautiously, "Are you alright?"

Hana, still desperately trying to get a connection with Vagrant, doesn't respond to the Eukarian. The Sands however do as if sensing Hana's frustration. It quickly invades every orifice and crevice of the bot and he immediately runs into the tree line to escape. He quickly collapses as his body spasms and convulses as the Sands corrupt him, body and Spark. He then stands, converting to robot mode, and walks over to Hana. He sits next to her. Sand gently swirls about him and his coloration has gone from red to gold-brown.

Hana looks to him when he shakes the ground due to sitting next to her and pauses. Her eyes widen, "Bump?"

He growls in a way that seems affirmatory in response. Hana begins panicking at the Sand flowing around her and him. Her skin feels dry. She needs to stay calm she realizes. She forcibly slows her breathing and clears her thoughts. The Sand retreats into both her and Bump. She looks at his Spark with her spiritual senses. It's gone from electric blue to a sandy brown and appears reminiscent of a swirling ball of sand.

She doesn't know how fix this she realizes. It's been several minutes, more than she can reverse the flow of time to undo this. She is about to order Bump to hide and stay away from the others, but before she can she hears a thunderous, ear piecing, metallic shriek of some impossibly large bird. Then she sees its shadow on the ground as it passes overhead and she looks up. It is an utterly massive golden eagle or hawk followed by a trail of golden Sand.

She looks to Bump, "Convert to beast mode."

He does so and she climbs on his back. Something has gone very wrong with Vagrant she realizes and she needs to warn the Elementals and Eukarians.

***

When Blackarachnia had discovered Airachnid's crimes. The former had been too slow in responding to the mnemosurgeon. Airachnid was upon her before she could inform anyone. Killing her would have alerted the other Fateweavers to her work and she would be discovered all the sooner. The Arachnicon had instead used her skills to erase all of Blackarchnia's memories of what had been discovered and evidence of mnemosurgery, however there was something very unusual among Blackarachnia's memories as she went over them. Of course she knew that Blackarachnia had the ability to truly perceive the future which was why this was intriguing.

There would come day when beings known Elementals would arrive. Their leader, a hungry creature from outside the Universe, would cause Chela to rise, but not as he was. His Spark would be gone and he would be turned into something far more great and terrifying than the original Titan.

She knew from Blackarachnia it would be fruitless to stop what was coming. In Blackarachnia's overlapping visions of potential futures Airachnid saw that if if the Eukarians succeeded in destroying the current bodies of the Elementals all that would happen is that for every one of the organics slain they would take a Eukarian body and the cycle would repeat itself until the Elementals left the planet or they had killed or possessed every Eukarian that resisted them. They did not have the means to permanently defeat them on Eukaris though the potential did lie on other worlds possibly, but that nearly all Eukarians had little to no trust of standard-formers would be their downfall in such a conflict. The best solution would be simply to allow these offworlders and their leader to leave once they had the means... the slumbering Titan.

Airachnid however saw a way by which to improve her work. This Unbound, the being from outside the Universe, possessed control over something that gave control and insight to Time itself. While at the moment it did not have the best of control which is leading to certain problems now if Airachnid had access to those powers she could gain what so very few Fateweavers had the gift of, true precognition.

Because of this she had sought out the Unbound at the right time. It would require giving her service to it, but that was a small price to pay for what could be gained. Chela slumbered beneath the mountain at Talon Valley. It took her a couple days to dig an entrance at the proper spot, but now she walked the Titan's halls. She noted a layer of sand hovered as a thick mist just above the floor, but it was strange, this sand glowed with a faint light and her sensors could not accurately analyze it.

She eventually found her way to the core of the Titan where its Spark should be. Sand streamed from and swirled around the enclosed Spark Chamber and she felt a strange giddiness as she approached. The sand moved as if noticing her and formed into a ghostly, vaguely Cybertronian face in front of her. It demanded angrily in her mind, What do you want? Why do you disturb my work on this great machine?

Airachnid bowed as a gesture of placation. She realized she needed to be careful in how she proceeded, "I am merely here to ask that I serve you in exchange for the power of Time and the visions it grants. I am a humble researcher, though my peers would ostracize me for my actions."

Without a word or warning the face of sand warped and twisted as a storm around her. Time seemed to stand still as she was engulfed and changed by the sand... no, Sands.

She eventually was dropped to the floor. She picked herself up shakily. She felt different, down to her Spark. Her color scheme and optics had gone from purple and black to gold and brown. She gestured her hand experimentally and the Sands around her swirled and twisted for moment.

She then fell to her knees as she was wracked by images flashing through her mind. She saw the Titans internal hot spot reigniting though forever tainted by the Sands of Time and every Spark that would emerge carrying the effects of the Sand with them, she saw Chela surrounded in Sand as he traveled via Transwarp, finally she saw the Titan landing on a ruined and dead Cybertron.

She looked around as the vision ended. That was more chaotic than she was expecting. She felt the floor shudder and groan. The Titan was moving. A voice spoke in her mind in a manic tone, Hello my spider of the desert. Do you enjoy what I have given you? You'll grow used to it in time. Now prepare for the first flight of the Rukh!

She had little time to process this as she was knocked to the floor by the sudden movement of the Titan and heard a great rumbling of earth around her.

Airazor and Tigatron, the two lovers who had left their tribes for each other and now wandered Eukaris, were exploring Talon Valley. They heard a deep rumbling from the Earth and a mighty shriek as the former Titan Chela, now the Rukh tore itself out of the mountain it lay under and took to the skies. The two fled to avoid the debris that rained down and both knew this needed to be reported to the nearest city.

***

The Rukh tears through the air at incredible speed as I direct him back to the Fur Walker Capital to collect my Elementals and Hana. I can feel the ground beneath me shudder as my Rukh lands. He gives a glorious shriek to announce his presence before I begin directing Sand to corrupt and conquer this city's Eukarians and native life.

I can feel them resisting as they are converted to animalistic Sand Creatures... no... not like Airachnid. She had far more work put into her so she retains what she was. It feels like I am more in tune with what the Sands are than I have ever been in the short time I've had them. It's like riding a wave on this ocean of Time.

I sense Airachnid finding her way to the brain module to shut down the Titan. I believe she senses... feels what I am doing. I laugh at her attempts to stop me. This entire world will fall to the Sands of Time... after that this Universe and I'll consume and assimilate and corrupt until I'm one with everything becoming in effect a god!

I speak to Airachnid as she freezes in the middle trying to damage the brain module and it regenerates itself due to the Sands' power, You don't get it do you? In exchange for the power you've been given I own you and this Titan can not be killed by the means you're using. I-, I turn my attention away from her. There's someone boarding the Titan.

It's several of my Elementals... and Hana. They've ripped open a hole in the hull which is quickly regenerating and are rapidly making their way to the Spark Chamber. I leave Airachnid.

I meet Kuvira, Akako, Zhao, Ghazan, Ming-Hua, Mei, and Hana in the room that houses the Spark Chamber and coalesce into Hana's form, Sand shifting around me. I flick my hand and my Elementals collapse, excluding Hana. I tilt my head with a grin, You know you can't win. Destroying the Spark Chamber won't do a thing. Hana, join me. The Sands will-.

Hana runs forward, embracing me with tears in her eyes, "This isn't you. Remember what Shadow said. Part of the Sands is Corruption. Please, calm down. I know you're in there. Come back to me."

I stand there stunned for several minutes as she hugs me tightly before I return the gesture. It's like Hana is a lighthouse in the sea guiding me home. I need to fix this. I begin drawing the Sands from every creature back to me and the Titan.

***

While there had been a great deal of concern among the representatives of the Eukarian tribes, up until this point the Elementals had not apparently done anything that appeared hostile beyond the incident involving Rattrap in the few days since they had arrived. However Chela had now risen from his slumber and was displaying strange powers and hostile behavior. It seemed rather obvious that the Elementals were involved.

Various members of the tribes had seen their Titan streak across the sky and immediately reported it or followed his path. What the assembled Eukarians found at the end of the trail was the Fur Walker Capital engulfed in a massive swirling vortex of golden sand.

The representative from the Fateweavers, Blackarachnia, states, "I have seen this, multiple confusing overlapping iterations of it. We should stay back and allow these Elementals to leave when the storm dissipates."

"If you had seen this why did you not inform us, spider? And leave with what? Chela?", Dinobot growls.

Manta Ray notes, "Even if this storm expands any further, can it penetrate water?"

"The Cloud Walkers ask a similar question, can this storm even expand? Can it reach beyond the Titan? Look...", Sonar gestures to the storm from the high cliff over looking the city, "...it does not even reach the top of the canyon walls. This seems like a turfer problem at worst."

Dinobot bares his teeth at Manta Ray and Sonar, "My people will fight to the last against this threat. What makes you think that it will stop with the Fur Walker and Scale Walker tribes?"

Blackarachnia stepped forward between the representatives as their argument began to escalate, "This is not a threat we can fight. This Sand will corrupt any of us it comes in contact with. The only ones who can deal with it are the Elementals.", she looks to Dinobot, "The reason I did not tell anyone is because these visions have been confusing and only started recently. I was not sure what was mostly likely to come to pass. In some iterations of this, Chela did not awaken."

Airazor and Tigatron notice something as they overlook the edge of the cliff. Numerous brown and gold bots are scaling upwards, sand swirling about them.

Airazor calls out, "If what Blackarachnia says is true about the Sand then we should probably start retreating. There's angry bots climbing up the cliff."

Dinobot shifts to beast mode with his bretheren following suit, "The Scale Walkers refuse to retreat."

The first of the Sand Bots clear the cliff with the Scale Walkers charging first. Just as this happens the Sand drains from corrupted Eukarians, leaving grey shells that collapse. Those still on the canyon wall immediately fall due to no longer having any life in them. The sand storm dissipates and draws back into the Titan, leaving an empty city save for the unaffected Elementals.

The Eukarians look around in confusion. Tigatron asks, "What just happened?

***

Mei, Kuvira, Mingu-Hua, Ghazan, Akako, and Zhao stand up groggily to find the Sands within the Titan no longer swirling angrily throughout the Spark Chamber room. They've calmed and now hover just above the floor, clearing away as one moves about the room. Mei approaches as I meld back into Hana. She speaks, "The Sands are a terrible thing. I've spoken with Kaileena... if you delve too deeply without the proper control and power you risk losing yourself."

Hana looks to Mei, "Mei didn't force out or destroy her host's spirit did she?"

"She did not. I am Farah. While I do not like sharing my body, Mei and I have come to something of an understanding."

Wish you had given that warning sooner. Pretty sure I just corrupted then killed a good chunk of the Fur Walker tribe when I drew the Sands back into the Ruhk and myself., I tell her.

"I didn't know you were going to go this far and Mei and I both didn't know you were going to claim such a powerful being for your own."

Hana states, "It's our ride off this planet."

Airachnid enters the room. Farah and the others step back for a moment due to her size and the obvious fact that she bears the effects of the Sands. She raises a hand, "Relax I'm not here to hurt anyone. If anything I'm coming with you.", she gestures to the Spark Chamber, "It's strange. I can sense something is different in myself and that whatever is in the Titan isn't a normal Spark."

I ate the Titan's Spark and... replaced it with something based on the original Spark and the Sands. I'm not even sure exactly what I did. The past several days under the effects of the Sands are a hazy blur. However if I'm understanding things right, the Rukh should have the memories of Chela due to the brain module being left intact., I explain.

Airachnid adds, "I checked some of the schematics and readouts. The Titan's internal hot spot has ignited, likely from interaction with the Sands, though from the vision I had the hot spot has been affected by that interaction... meaning any Sparks will be similar to mine and the Titan's."

"That could be useful if they're loyal to us.", Hana comments.

The Rukh's PA system announces, "Attention, a large number of Eukarians have gathered outside and are attempting to find a way in. Should I destroy them?"

Hana pauses for a moment as if not knowing how to respond, "Don't destroy anyone right now. We're going out to talk to them."

"Understood. Powering down weapons."

I, Hana, Airachnid, and the Elementals who boarded the Titan exit via a door at the base of his left talon. We had to get some directions the Titan and also this place is huge so it took us a bit of time to exit. I called the rest of my Elementals as we made our way there and for them to grab whatever supplies they could carry.

We step out to find, as the Rukh informed, a large number of Eukarians. They seem to be rather angry. Behind them is a large earthen barricade that's apparently keeping them from attacking any of my Elementals. Around the city lies the grey and dead forms of the Eukarians who were in the Fur Walker Capital at the time of the Sands engulfing the city.

Four Eukarians approach me in robot mode. The one who looks similar to Airachnid introduces them, "I am Blackarachnia. This is Dinobot, Manta Ray, and Sonar. We are the leaders and representatives for the Fateweavers, Scale Walkers, Wave Walkers, and Cloud Walkers respectively. You have caused a great deal of deaths. We want an explanation."

"We should scrap all of them for what they've done. They dare to command our progenitor and kill our brethren?", Dinobot says as he stalks forward.

The Rukh states to us, Detecting hostility from the Scale Walker leader. Should I destroy him?

No., Hana and I both respond firmly.

Hana and I resonate with each other, causing Hana's eyes and facial markings to glow. We look up at Dinobot, "We only want to leave with our Elementals. We will admit the part of us that is Hana feels remorse for our actions while the part of us that is Vagrant does not. We are not going to give up the Titan.", we glare at him, "You are free to attempt to take him from us of course, but I'm sure you know what a Titan is capable of... or we could simply show you what we and our Elementals can really do."

There seems to be some confusion among the representatives, "Who is this Vagrant?"

"Vagrant and Hana share a body. We are currently resonating with each other to speak as one on this matter. I believe the closest concept you have to soul resonance and synchronization is Combining. We apologize for lying to Cheetor, but we had our own needs that had to be met."

Sonar steps forward and narrows her eyes at us, "Why are you really here, organic?"

"Vagrant is a being known as an Unbound and was birthed in the Nothingness outside your Multiverse. As a spiritual entity the only way to get stronger for an Unbound is consumption and acquisition of resources and allies. The deaths that resulted here were the result of Vagrant calling back the Sands of Time... a component of us and now the Titan. The Sands give control over time and corrupt living things, mecha or orga, that they come in contact with and as far we know there is no way to undo this as it affects the corrupted down to the soul. It was either leave the affected as monsters or call back the only thing keeping them alive."

"This isn't Chela anymore is it?", Sonar asks.

"We've renamed him "The Rukh" after a giant mythological bird. It still has Chela's memories, but it is not Chela and answers to us due to the effects of the Sands.", we tell her.

Dinobot looks like he's about to attack us. Manta Ray puts a hand on his shoulder, "This isn't a fight we can win."

"It isn't. If we kill them they'll just take Eukarian bodies and continue to do so as long we fight and kill them until they are the only things left. We do not have the ability to fight these beings.", Blackarachnia states.

Dinobot growls and steps back. There's a moment of silence. Dinobot simply says, "Get off our planet and never return."

Sonar sighs, "Permanent exile from our world is likely the best solution."

Blackarachnia crosses her arms and looks to Airachnid, "For apparently siding with these offworlders you will share in their exile."

"Very well, if that is what you deem necessary.", Airachnid says calmly, though chuckling to herself inwardly since she was going to leave anyway.

The representatives signal the crowd of Eukarians and they clear a path for the rest of the Elementals to pass through. We give the command to begin boarding the Titan. Hana and I are the last ones to board and we turn to the leaders of the tribes, "We give you our word we will never return to your world unless you for some reason call for us."

***

It takes several minutes for the Rukh to seal itself for holding an atmosphere and preparing for spaceflight. The Eukarians clear the launch area. With a boom and rumbling of the ground the Rukh ascends into the sky.

There's not really any crew quarters designed for humans even though the Titan can reconfigure its internals to an extent. Most of the Elementals are finding places to make themselves comfortable. I gave the approval for Akako to examine the hot spot when she found out about it. Kuvira and Zhao are managing some Elementals in carefully exploring the Rukh and its functions.

Airachnid finds Hana and I examining a star map in the room housing the Titan's space bridge. The Eukarian examines the map and asks, "Where are we going?"

"There were apparently several Titan colonies created and they've been mostly out communication with each other and the rest of the Cybertronian planets as according the Rukh's memory files. Eukaris specifically didn't have much connection with the rest of the colonies due to the historical discrimination against beast-formers, but apparently Chela had been in communication with other Titans. It just didn't share the information with the Eukarians due to it being in stasis mode for most of its history on your world.

The various colonies are possible destinations for the future. However one world has Vagrant and me's immediate interest at the moment.", Hana explains.

"Which one?", she asks.

Hana adjusts the controls by manipulating several iron spheres due to things being sized for beings much larger than her. The star map zooms in on a star system and then one of the planets orbiting within that has two moons. Airachnid's eyes widen as Hana says the name, "Cybertron."

Author's Note: My basis for living metal containing traces of iron is that Transformers consume various metallic foods one of which is explicitly iron filings. My theory for the reason why they consume metallic substances beyond only Energon is to maintain their metallic bodies and repair them when needed. As a result I've come to the conclusion that living metal and various Cybertronian components must be made of various metals and alloys beyond being described as composed of "Rarified Energon".
 
Chapter 20

V4Guss

Well-known member
Author
As the the Titan carries us to our destination of Cybertron Hana and I have taken to examining the internal components of the Rukh.

The room housing the Rukh's internal hot spot is connected to several other rooms with ample equipment for creating protoforms, creation, processing, and recycling what we now know of as "living metal" or its scientific term "sentio metallico" that makes up Transformer bodies, and various machines for constructing Cybertronian parts and assembling them. It is entirely possible for Rukh to both "forge" and "construct cold" Cybertronian bodies.

The hot spot itself is a great glowing sphere of swirling sand held within a strongly built specialized spherical chamber in the center of the room with a few small observation windows revealing the hot spot and the Sparks varying from a dull brown to a vibrant gold floating within. Eight equidistant support beams connect to the hot spot chamber and the floor and ceiling of the room, four on the top hemisphere and four on the bottom. Two large central pipes connect to the top and bottom of the sphere which according to Ruhk are for input and out put of energy as well as connecting the hot spot the Rukh's Spark, though at the same time the Sands regenerative power seems to be making the input of energy redundant and Rukh has even noted he does not appear to need Energon anymore to function. The pathways that conduct the flow of Energon within the Titan are now flowing with Sand. A brief examination by Rukh showed that this is true for Airachnid as well.

"It's beautiful isn't it?", Akako comments as we look up the Rukh's internal hot spot.

To both the mundane and spiritual senses it is indeed beautiful and Hana agrees, "It's like it has a warm heartbeat."

Zhao enters the room report as we observe the hot spot, "We found some interesting things aboard the ship. Kuvira is overseeing an inventory right now."

"What did you find?", Hana asks as both she and Akako turn to him.

"Apparently every Titan carried equipment for converting worlds to be more suitable to Cybertronian life. This includes bombs designed to convert a planet's surface into living metal and the means to distribute them and shape the result. It appears nearly all of the equipment was never used. According to Rukh, Chela wanted to preserve the native life of Eukaris. I will note the bombs for cyberforming could potentially be used as weapons if I'm understanding their abilities correctly.

We have also found a lab for experimenting with something called technorganics and the genetics of varying types of animals in stasis. Along with this we found food processors that produce a uniform gruel like substance for for feeding orgas. It is not the most palatable thing, but Rukh has assured us that while it was not made for humans it can have its composition altered for better flavor and nutrition. There's also a waste processing center aboard the Titan for the organic life in the lab.

We have discovered several storage rooms with tens of thousands total of Sparkless drones that vary in size from small animals to human. According to Rukh these serve the purpose of scouting, internal security, maintenance, repair, and other miscellaneous tasks. They are inactive currently due to not being needed for anything at the moment. There is also a fabricator on board for producing more of them if needed.

Finally we have discovered in one of the storage rooms what the Rukh refers to as the Triptych Mask. He says it was recovered by Cybertronians loyal to Onyx Prime and Chela who ventured to Cybertron's Core and taken aboard the Titan for safekeeping. It is sized for Cybertronians and Rukh has stated the device is difficult to use and impossible to master by anyone who isn't Onyx Prime. It apparently has powers involving precognition, remote viewing, insight to other beings, and the Cybertronian afterlife."

I announce to Rukh, Keep the cyberforming equipment secure okay? That stuff sounds dangerous. If you can set at least one of the food processors to human nutrition for the moment, do that. I'll discuss it with the Elementals later on what we can do about the flavor of the stuff. For now I want something that will maintain our host bodies in good health. The drones, I guess do whatever you see fit if they don't have a purpose right now, though we might need them for manual labor or something later on. The Triptych Mask, keep it secure for the moment, we'll decide what to do with it later.

Affirmative.
, Rukh responds.

As Zhao leaves Akako grasps Hana hands and looks to her, she gives a blush and nervous chuckle, "I've been meaning to ask you something."

Hana raises an eyebrow in curiosity, "Yes?"

Akako begins speaking rather nervously and in a rambling manner with short pauses, "You know... we've got some time before we get to our destination... and ever since getting this new body I've been wanting to know someone better. I mean ever since escaping the Fog this feels like a second chance to do certain things I didn't get to do the first time around... and then there's that time we got to talk during that party and then cuddle after which I liked both. We've been getting to know each other, but I want to be a bit closer to you and if I'm getting the date right I'm somewhere in the area of over a century and half old but I don't think that should matter... so, um, I know I'm not good with this kind of thing, but would you, um, mind moving your camp next to mine. I thought it would be nice to have someone to sleep next to... and I thought we could take some steps to making this a bit more serious... maybe go out on actual, real date some time."

Hana pauses, taking all this in and says to me, You don't mind do you, Vagrant?

If this makes you happy then I'm okay with it.
, I tell her.

Hana smiles and squeezes Akako's hands for a moment, "I would like that. Let's get my stuff moved."

***

The Titan is incredibly huge and it was designed for beings bigger than us so it takes awhile to get around even with the modes of transport inside. Akako actually asked us how we get around so fast and was surprised to learn about our Soul Speed and asked if we could teach her the ability. We said yes. Actually it might be a good idea to teach it to all the Elementals due to the sheer size of the Titan. As a result we spiritually modified Akako to gift her with Soul Speed.

She smirks at us as we enter the Technorganic Lab where she is staying, "You do not know how useful instant travel is going to be in my work.", she gestures around the room, "Isn't it amazing? An entire lab devoted to the marriage of mecha and orga. I asked Rukh why we didn't see much evidence of the fruits of this place on Eukaris and it stated the head scientists in charge of the lab went dormant along with Chela."

Hana questions as we head over to the corner where Akako has her things set up, "Why don't we wake these scientists up? How many Cybertronians are onboard in stasis?"

"Rukh said just the two head researchers and that they might be rather angry with what Vagrant did to Chela. They apparently did not want to awaken until the Titan awoke or the return of Onyx Prime."

"Best to leave them for now.", Hana says.

Agreed, I say to both of them.

Rukh says over PA system, "We will be arriving in the orbit of Cybertron in approximately twenty kliks."

I note that's about twenty four minutes. We all head to the space bridge room with Akako following us. When we arrive all the Elementals have assembled around the holodisplay in the room and the Rukh enters Cybertron orbit shortly after. It sends a few scout drones to the surface below.

Rukh begins reporting as images are displayed from the drones in the center of the room via holoprojector, "The atmopshere is not only unbreathable, but toxic to organic life. Going from available records there are several points of interest.", a smaller spherical map of Cybertron is shown at the bottom of the image with several places highlighted, "Cybertronian bodies scattered on the surface due to the Great War could potentially be recycled. Metroplex is currently in stasis lock in the remains of Autobot City. The last communication with Chela was, "Til all are one." after sending an emergency signal to other Titans that it was going to use the last of its Energon reserves to power a vessel called the Ark that would be able to escape the ruined Cybertron.", it pauses, "There are several energy signatures below the surface. Scans suggest a combination of Insecticon activity and underground cities populated by remnants of the war."

Hana uses airbending to hover up to the holosphere of Cybertron with the various points of interest marked. We examine the text of several that sound interesting and pause over one. Hana points to it, "Is this real?"

"The Tomb of Liege Maximo is the final resting place of one of the Thirteen. It is considered forbidden and sacred to Autobot and Decepticon alike.", Ruhk explains.

"And this one?", Hana says pointing to a large hole in the ground the map zooms in on.

"The inactive Well of AllSparks. The AllSpark that once powered it and the hot spots on Cybertron was jettisoned into space during the Great War by the Autobots to prevent its capture by the Decepticons. It's current location is unknown. According to data from other Titans hot spots sustained by them seem to have been left unaffected while the ones on Cybertron ceased to exist. General consensus among them is that since the hot spots of the Titans are sustained by their beyond normal Sparks this is what has kept them from being completely snuffed out. However, the various hot spots on Cybertron, with the exception of sporadic ignitions from the Well, went dormant well before the Great War and as a result the Matrix of Leadership was used to create new Sparks under order of Nova Prime at for a time before the Great War."

I note to Hana, We'll have to find the AllSpark and this Matrix of Leadership at some point.

Agreed.


Hana points to one more in a large urbanized area, "This one?"

"Vector Sigma, located beneath Kaon, a super computer with vast information stored within it, but it can not be accessed without its Key."

"Can you land near the tomb?", Hana asks.

"Affirmative."

After several minutes the Titan lands on a large flat plain of metal. Wrecked and broken Cybertronians and their equipment can be seen surrounding the Ruhk via its scout drone. Akako and Airachnid follow us as we leave the room, Hana announcing, "We're leaving the Titan."

I begin asking Rukh questions as Hana heads to the hot spot, How useful would a body of one of the Thirteen be?

The Primes were capable of many things due to both their Sparks and bodies. It is said that there are many things only a Prime is capable of wielding, unlocking, or doing. In theory it might only require a body due to the uniqueness of the Thirteen.
, Rukh answers.

Are there any others of the Thirteen entombed on Cybertron or anywhere else?

Solus Prime was entombed by the Thirteen at a hidden location off Cybertron after being killed by Megatronus. Only members of the Thirteen know where her body rests. Chela's master, Onyx Prime, journeyed down into the Well of AllSparks due to his injuries in the conflict with Megatronus and Liege Maximo in order sustain his life, but also that he could use his Tryptich Mask to reorganize the patterns of the Thirteen and varying lifeforms across the universe to increase the diversity of Cybertronian life. Micronus Prime and Optimus Prime journeyed into the Well with him, Optimus Prime to be reincarnated by the AllSpark and Micronus Prime to be with his friend Onyx Prime. The team that retrieved the Triptych Mask reported no remains of Onyx Prime, Micronus Prime, or Optimus Prime. Presumably their bodies were merged into the Core or the Allspark.

Any of them that are alive?
, I ask.

Unknown. Most of them have been lost to history or were have known to have left Cybertron to wander the cosmos. The only one known to have remained on Cybertron by the original three Titans, Chela, Metroplex, and Metrotitan, is Alpha Trion. Due to the lack of communication from Metroplex when it went into stasis lock approximately nine thousand one hundred twelve meta-cycles ago it is unknown if Alpha Trion remains on Cybertron. According to Metroplex's most recent communications on the subject, Alpha Trion had residence in Iacon and worked at the Hall of Records.

What exactly is the Core?
, I ask finally.

The Core exists as a physical, digital, and spiritually protective shell for the essence of Primus and the source of all natural Energon.

Anyway to get inside it?
, Hana asks.

The Core is only known to be accessible by the Spark of a Prime or any Cybertronian via one of the Sacred Implements: The AllSpark, The Matrix of Leadership, or Vector Sigma. Note, only the first two are known to be movable though access of Vector Sigma could in theory allow access to the Core. Metroplex's communications also indicate an incident involving the attempted corruption of the Core via Dark Energon and theorized it could potentially be breached or destroyed using the substance. However the inherent properties of Dark Energon would not only make this impractical, but highly dangerous.

I don't even ask Dark Energon to be elaborated on as I've sensed Energon has a spiritual component. I'm just going to assume Dark Energon is corruptive in some way and I don't need another one of those considering I don't have anything close to full control of the Sands of Time. Hana comments out of curiosity due span of time used, How long do Cybertronians live?

Potentially indefinitely.
, Rukh states.

Huh...

Akako says as we enter the hot spot chamber, "I'm assuming you're going to be projecting your spirits since the atmosphere will kill your physical body and this thing doesn't have protective suits for us. I know this world appears to be dead, but Rukh did say there's still some life out there and we don't know what it can do. Take someone with you or at least allow me to come."

"I'm heading there physically.", Airachnid says with a shrug.

I broadcast to the Elementals, Akako and Airachnid are already coming. I need six more volunteers. Meet me in the hot spot chamber.

Zhao, Kuvira, Mei, Ming-Hua, Ghazan are all unsurprisingly there. I recognize a young Air Elemental joining us as well. A refugee to the Metal Clan from the Earth Kingdom, Kai, who serves under Kuvira, though I haven't had any direct interaction with him. Kuvira eyes him for a moment in a way that says "Don't fuck up.", but says nothing.

I instruct everyone except Airachnid to sit, We'll be going in spiritually and maintaining contact with the Rukh via telepathy.

There's a moment of silence and after about a minute everyone is out of their bodies, though I have to help Hana as she hasn't really done this much before. I take the spiritual form of Yue again.

Farah still connected to Mei gets up and looks at us then the hot spot, "Why did you bring us here?"

I have an idea to get us a body of the Thirteen if it is still reasonably intact. I just need a Spark... and hopefully the Sands will do the rest., I say as I I hover near the chamber that houses the hot spot and extend my hands through the wall. It take several minutes, but I find one of the brightest Sparks among the currently thousands, and growing, circulating within. It's brightly golden and swirling with Sand as it pulses with an inner light.

I bind it to me temporarily and causing it to float in my vicinity as if tethered. I leave through the wall of the ship with the others following. We wait for Airachnid to exit out of one of the air locks. Rukh directs us to the Liege Maximo's Tomb. After traveling more than twenty kilometers we come to a nondescript, deep gorge and leap down into it, quickly passing through the entrance and finding a sarcophagus like box within.

Fortunately the atmosphere despite being unbreathable still counts as Air. I take the liberty of blasting off the lid. What lies within is a tall uniform gold green Cybertronian with prominent horns on his head. It looks like that while he's retained quite a number of injuries someone put him back together before interring him.

Kai shivers and says nervously, This place doesn't feel right.

Kuvira informs me, There's no spiritual energy in the immediate vicinity beyond residual energy in the corpse. I would suggest moving quickly however before we draw attention.

Rukh adds, From Metroplex's data, even the Insecticons do not like going near this place out of some primitive fear of a Prime that turned against his fellows.

I nod and hold the Spark between my hands, gently placing it in the chest where the Spark Chamber should be. The body shudders and gasps as it is engulfed in the Sands and its physical injuries begin self repairing. After several minutes of the body experiencing what appears to be a seizure it stops moving and appears lifeless for several long seconds. Unusually the coloration of the body does not change. An arm suddenly grabs the side of the sarcophagus then the other arm does the same with the other side. He pulls himself to the sitting position and looks around, "Where am I. Who am I?"

I note to the group, I expected that he would have Liege Maximo's memories but it would appear either lying here so long or due to damage before being entombed that is not the case.

Hana hovers in front of him with a smile as the last of the Sands retreats into his body, Hello, welcome to the team., she looks to me, What should we name him?

Shouldn't we let him decide?
, I respond.

The newly risen Cybertronian answers as he climbs out of the sarcophagus and heads for the entrance of the tomb, I... am... Raz Prime.

Hmm, Persian.
, Akako comments, I like it.

Raz Prime pries open the tomb doors and comments as he begins scaling the walls of the gorge. I sense curiosity from him. Ghazan says, Where is he going? Should we stop him?

I gesture for no one to do so and follow him. He reaches the lip of the gorge and stands on the edge, surveying the wrecked and barren surface of Cybertron. He asks, "What is this place? I have the barest fragments of memories, I feel like what I'm looking at is wrong."

It's called Cybertron and what you see before you is the result of a great and terrible war., I explain.

He looks to me, "I get the sense this body once belonged to someone else. What is my function?"

You have the body of Liege Maximo, one of the original Thirteen Cybertronians. Your Spark, what constitutes the core of you, was taken from the hot spot aboard the Rukh, a Titan I have renamed. The hot spot was tainted by a part of me known as the Sands of Time. This gives you unique abilties beyond a normal Cybertronian or Prime. Your function is to serve myself and Hana, I gesture to her then the others, and protect your fellow Elementals. You have community and companionship with us.

He seems bothered by the ruins around him, but smiles at the mention of somewhere to belong, "I would like that."

He looks to Airachnid, "She is different to my senses than the rest of you."

"They're just souls... spirits. You and I are the only ones with physical bodies here."

"Strange.", he comments as we begin to head back towards the ship.

***

Alpha Trion works alone in the Hall of Records. He is truthfully unsure if Shockwave and his Decepticon forces are aware of him or not and if they simply decided to leave him alone for some reason. He has had rare visitors from the various survivors left on Cybertron who did not join the Great Exodus, but what he sees out the window cause his eyes to widen in shock as this is not something predicted in the Covenant of Primus.

One of the first three Titans, Chela, lands outside on one of the old battlefields outside Iacon to the east, causing the entire city to rumble for a moment as it does so. He goes to the telescope in the room to get a closer look. Unusually he can see what appear to be swirling, glowing sands retreating into the Titan as it lands.

He also sees a pair of Cybertronians exiting at the base of one of the Titan's talons. One of them appears to be an Arachnicon... but the other causes his Energon to run cold, Liege Maximo. They convert to their altmodes and begin rapidly heading towards the city. If that is truly Liege Maximo he must prepare.

***

We arrive at the Hall of Records. The main entrance appears to be locked. Airachnid says to us, "You can easily get in due to lack of bodies, but Raz and I don't have that benefit right now."

Raz looks at his hand for a moment and opens his palm. A dart or arrow like weapon the same color as the rest of his body slides out of his forearm and he grasps it. Airachnid looks at him, amazed, "Is that a Liegan Dart?"

"I don't know what this weapon is, but I have the impression it could help us.", he replies as he examines the dart.

He throws it with pinpoint accuracy, startling Airachnid a bit at the sudden movement, where it embeds in the center of the door. It sinks in and smokes as an acid like effect dissolves the dart and eats through the door until it ceases and there's a large hole big enough for Raz and Airachnid to pass through.

We come into the Entrance Hall. A tall, elderly looking Cybertronian stands before the front desk with his hands clasped behind his back, "Liege Maximo.", he pauses, "Your Spark is bright, but it's unusual. In fact you don't seem yourself. You seem... unsure.", he raises an eyebrow, "How did you return to the land of the living?"

"I'm not Liege Maximo. I am Raz Prime", he answers truthfully as he looks around the room causing me to facepalm. That's not what we planned, but let's roll with it.

I coalesce in the form of Yue between Airachnid and Raz... and Alpha Trion, He's not Liege Maximo. I and my Elementals found his tomb and gifted his body with a new Spark. The difference you're noticing? It's because Chela's hot spot has been permanently affected by part of me with the Sands of Time. The Spark also seems to have regenerated Liege Maximo's body due to the Sands effect though from what I can tell he doesn't have Liege Maximo's memories due to damage or wear to the brain module before or during the body's entombment.

Alpha Trion seems incredulous, "Why would you do this?"

A soul with the body of the Thirteen seems like it would be useful.

He narrows his eyes at me, "And now you have come to collect my body."

Actually, no., I tell him with a reassuring smile as I approach him.

"Then what are you here for?", he says tensely, ready to defend himself as he grabs the handle of his sword.

I just want to know where Solus Prime's tomb is and if you know where the AllSpark and Matrix of Leadership are we'd like to know that well. You can tell me without a fight... or I can cripple you and have Airachnid tear it from your head.

"I will not let you defile Solus's grave or take the Sacred Implements", Alpha Trion says firmly as he draws a longsword which rapidly begins to glow red with intense heat.

If that's the way you want it.

Airachnid fires a blast of mesh steel webbing. Alpha Trion moves at a speed that seems impossible for something so large, dodging the attack. He closes the gap and rams the sword through Airachnid's chest, rupturing her Spark Chamber. Her widen and she slides off the blade with a gasp, crumpling to the floor apparently lifeless. Raz backs up from Alpha Trion as the elder Prime glares at him, "I would suggest you take your remaining comrade and leave."

I begin laughing at him. He looks to me in a moment of confusion then looks back just in time to see Airachnid gasp as her injury seems to reverse itself and she stand. He backs up, "What is this?"

I told you Sparks affected by the Sands of Time grant regenerative abilities., I remind him, Now... would you like to peacefully give the information I want to know?

Trion moves quickly and slices Raz's head off causing his body to fall. A few seconds later Sand pours from both the head and neck which Trion slices at uselessly and the entire process of decapitation reverses itself. Raz picks himself up shakily and looks to me for a moment then to Alpha Trion. A pair of darts slide from his forearms into each hand as he speaks with anger in his voice, "You hurt my companion and I."

Alpha Trion backs up in shock, then converts to his altmode of Cybertronian wheeled vehicle and attempts to head deeper into the Hall of Records. Zhao and Kai are unfortunately in front of him, which he apparently can not see, and combine Air and Fire to create an intense explosion of flame. I note that while the atmosphere is unbreathable and toxic it still contains components to sustain fire. Alpha Trion is thrown back as the metal floor twists and warps from the intense, concentrated heat.

Raz is quick and accurate with his darts and strikes Trion midair.

The elder Prime spins out of control and rolls out of his altmode coming to rest near Raz and Airachnid, the darts embedded in his legs apparently paralyzing. Trion grabs for his sword and rams it through his own brain module as Airachnid is about to get to work. He goes limp, very much dead. I can detect his Spark almost instantly leaving his body and going somewhere I'm unable to detect.

I frown and immediately call on the Sands to rewind time several seconds. I blur forward just as Alpha Trion reaches for his sword and grab his arm at the elbow joint, heating hit rapidly. It melts and his forearm falls off. I repeat the action with his other arm before he can attempt it again, Let me stress I don't enjoy this part of what I have to do, but people always want to resist or do things the hard way. Why do you beings insist on fighting the inevitable? If you didn't fight I wouldn't have cause you as much pain and suffering.

"There are others who will defend the Sacred Implements. You will never take them.", he says defiantly.

I look away from him, Airachnid, you wanted to examine the mind of a Prime. Get in and get the information we need.

"Gladly.", she says with a predatory smile as she steps forward and kneels in front of Trion. She quickly inserts her mnemosurgery spikes into him and begins working.

As we wait Raz asks, "How long does this normally take?"

I'm unsure. I would expect a Prime's mind to be well guarded so this may take awhile. The only reason I'm not invading his soul for the information is because Airachnid insisted on being given the chance to perform mnemosurgery on one of the Thirteen.

I start to worry about her an hour in. I examine her. Her eyes are closed and she does not move. I'm about to forcibly pull her away as she nears the three hour mark when she withdraws her hands as if touching something hot quickly and scurries backwards. She looks at Alpha Trion with a combination of awe and fear. He begins chuckling, "Did you think it would be easy? My mind isn't like that of normal Cybertronians."

I ask, Did you get what we need?

She looks to me, shaking a bit as she communicates telepathically, His mind is like a maze with numerous locked doors. It felt like I spent days in there... but I did manage to get useful information from him. I know where Solus Prime's tomb is. The Matrix of Leadership is in the possession of Optimus Prime... formerly Orion Pax, along with the Key to Vector Sigma. I'm unsure if he doesn't know where the AllSpark is or if he was able to keep the information from me. He also sent a number of artifacts from the Iacon Vaults to a planet called Earth. I also gained the knowledge of a few other artifacts on other planets that he knows of.

Where is Optimus Prime?

I'm unsure. Though that Alpha Trion sent so many artifacts to Earth would imply that Optimus Prime is there.


I glance at Alpha Trion. The paralysis of his lower body has turned into aggressive greying that's spreading up his torso. Raz asks, "What should we do with him?"

Leave him. That poison looks like it will finish him anyway.

We exit the Hall of Records and begin heading back towards the Rukh.

***

We come to our final destination on Cybertron for the moment, the dormant form of Metroplex. I tell the others to stay on the ship. I'm doing this alone. I move quickly to the ruins of Autobot City where Metroplex rests in robot mode. It only takes a few moments to detect his Spark and find where it is despite him being in mode lock. I asked the Rukh if there was anyway for him to download Metroplex's data and he stated that he can not while his fellow Titan is in stasis lock and that also that he is not a mnemosurgeon.

I cross into the Spark Chamber and much like Chela there is resistance against me, but it is over more quickly than with Chela. Metroplex lacks a hot spot according to Rukh and I do not detect such a spiritual presence so I don't bother looking for one. I move to the brain module and debate what to do. I don't want anyone else using the information in the Titan's head to follow me or my targets and I can not readily access the information inside. I have noted though that the Titan Sparks I've consume are not easy to gain knowledge from quickly and possibly not even completely. I suspect this is either due to age or strength of them. This is why I have had to ask Rukh to explain certain things.

I pass into the center of the city block sized brain module. I convert my spiritual body into a miniature sun. The resulting effect of plasma on circuits and computers chip is spectacular resulting in Metroplex's head exploding from the sudden heat change and scattering molten metal in all directions. I rest there for several minutes to ensure complete total destruction before returning to my normal form and returning to the ship. Our next destination is Solus Prime's tomb.

***

Shockwave's drones and Decepticons had quickly reported the arrival of what apparently was the Titan Chela in orbit. He had sent small cloaker drones to observe the Titan in response. While there appeared to be a store of Energon on board the Titan, there didn't seem to be any circulating within it as would be expected. On top of this there appeared to be a cloud of golden dust that enveloped the Titan as it flew along with apparently constant anomalous chronal distortions.

Shockwave was very much aware he did not have the resources to deal with a Titan, much less one that was apparently anomalous to the point it no longer ran on Energon and was subtly distorting the flow of time with its mere presence. As a result he sent drones to observe from a safe distance its activities and that of any occupants where it landed along with satellite feeds. The findings had been unusual.

An unidentified Arachnichon with similar chronal distortions to the Titan entered Liege Maximo's tomb near Rivet Fields with a disembodied golden Spark following her. The Spark then entered Liege Maximo's body and appeared to repair and resurrect it.

Observations indicated that Liege Maximo had little to no apparent memories of his previous life and had renamed himself Raz Prime. He also now bore the anomalous chronal readings of the Archnicon and the Titan. Unusually there was the impression of others present, but beyond the Arachnicon and Liege Maximo speaking to people who were not there and spirits and souls being referenced sensors could pick up no energy signatures to indicate disembodied, nonvisible Sparks or any sort of energy being.

The two then returned to the Titan which shortly thereafter took off and landed near Iacon before they entered the Hall of Records. Shockwave was aware of Alpha Trion residing there, but had taken to merely observing in hopes that he would reveal useful information or Autobot leaders would return to him in the future. So far this had not happened.

The two met Alpha Trion in the Entrance Hall. This time a small organic figure similar to a fembot had coalesced in front of Alpha Trion and approached him. While there was indication of the three Cybertronians speaking to the figure it did not appear to give any sort of detectable responses.

A fight had ensued between the Arachnicon, Liege Maximo, and the apparent organic which had resulted in an explosion from an unknown source and Alpha Trion being poisoned with what was apparently a Liegan Dart. After this Arachnichon proceeded to perform a mnemosurgey procedure on Alpha Trion lasting more than two cycles.

After this completed the Archnicon backed away as though the procedure had been difficult and the three had left with the organic disappearing shortly after exiting the Hall of Records. The conversation itself was interesting to Shockwave. While he could not hear what the apparent organic was communicating, Alpha Trion's words had suggested that it was after the Sacred Implements and Solus Prime's Tomb.

Shockwave had sent the drones in afterwards to collect the Liegan Dart that had killed Alpha Trion, but it unfortunately appeared to have disintegrated. He would be sending larger Decepticons in to retrieve Alpha Trion's body for analysis though a preliminary examination by one of the Drones suggested that it was a variation of mech-venom.

Finally there had been an anomalous explosion within the stasis locked Metroplex's head shortly after the Titan had move to Autobot city after this explosion the Titan left shortly afterwards. There was evidence of plasma discharge, but there was no apparent weapon or source of it. One moment the plasma wasn't there and the next it was.

Shockwave had considered all the data and did two things. He sent Lord Megatron a report to inform him of the incident and also attached a small drone probe to track and collect further data on the Titan. Whatever was in control of the Titan and had modified it was certainly something that warranted further investigation.

Author's Note: I'll note that since Drones don't have Sparks and presumably don't have any other form of soul they don't register to basic spiritual senses. This would also apply to any other universe encountered where truly soulless beings exist.

While I don't recall if it's ever explained how the regenerative powers of the Sands work to the point that Sand Creatures are immortal and can't be killed by mundane means, my theory is that it's all a Time Manipulation effect. That is, any injuries a Sand Creature sustains regenerate by effectively resetting their bodies to a previous state. This is why the right magic or spiritual powers (or potentially other Time Manipulation powers) can disrupt their regeneration and permanently kill them.

Another thing I want to state is that despite the issues the Transformers franchise has with scale I'm going with that Titans truly are city sized for Transformers. Going by this image, Chela, Metrotitan, and Metroplex are all about the same size:
[IMG]

While, again, scale is often inconsistent in Transformers, I'm leaning towards the high side for at least the original three Titans in IDW G1, Metroplex, Metrotitan, and Chela. The Lost Light is stated to be 10x15 miles in scale and at one point Metroplex is shown to be about the same size as that ship which would make him about fifteen miles tall in robot mode. A lower estimate for the IDW comics has the US military stating that Metrotitan is two miles tall. Another thing to note is that Caminus was stated to have been taken apart and integrated into various things across an entire planet. The point here is, Titans, while they can vary in size like other Transformers, are ridiculously huge for the purpose of this fic which I intend to keep consistent.

That everything on Cybertron (Cybertron itself is stated in the Marvel continuity to be the size of Saturn while the Live Action continuity has it being the about the size of Earth's Moon) and its colonies are scaled up for Transformers might make Titans seem smaller then they really are. Because of the sheer size of these things they generally have to either stay in orbit or land in relatively open locations to avoid crushing anything or otherwise causing collateral damage.
 

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