This article, Shadows of the Past: The Darkened Skies, is property of B14.

The Dark Meeting

Somewhere - in a location left unspesified - there was a cave surrounded by thick mist clouds hiding the entrance of the cave from sight unless you were standing a few meters from its entrance - or knew where it was. Two people arrived at the place, and these guys obviously knew the exact location of the hidden cave. "Come on", said the other one, "the Leader is waiting." They entered the cave, descending down to the undeworld. After going down a while, they entered a larger open space, carved crudely inside the cave. There were five other people at the place already. "Good. Come, join us, Sorakamen, Rinkamen", said the figure completely concealed in black robes. "There are important matters... on the Hand of the Sun." The two figures, Sorakamen and Rinkamen, joined the ring and sat down on a few rocks to hear what the leaded had to say. "Our yellow-haired friend is growing faster than even I could have foretold. It is not long before he will become a true threat to us. To prevent that... Sorakamen." The tall, slender and short-haired figure rose up with an everlasting smile on his face. "It shall be your duty to take care of the mighty midget." The smile on the man's face widened, baring his teeth for a truely daunting smile. "It shall be done, oh great vampiric leader!" There was a short silence. "...and cut the joking, or I'll kill you."

Later, after everyone of the Masked Shadows had left, exept for the leader and his adjutant, the two remaining Masked Shadows stood outside the cave's entrance. The fox-masked woman was the first one of them to speak: "Are you sure about this, Kurokamen-sama? I'm not questionin your judgement, but that Sorakamen..." Kurokamen raised his hand to stop his adjutant from speaking. "I am sure, Kitsunekamen. Sorakamen is crazy. He is also cruel. He will not kill his actual target first... he never does. And that is what will seal his fate... and open me the path to realize my plans..." The dark leader started to laugh, silently at first, but his laughter increased until it was echoing around the surrounding misty valley.

Face Off Fate

Behind the house of the Uzumaki family, Takatsuke Uzumaki was training. He was panting heavily. Once again the new jutsu he was trying to get grasp of had exploded in his hands, further damaging his already badly treated body. His mother was walking towards the training ground with a worried look on her face. "Maybe you should call it a day, Takatsuke. You don't look very well." Takatsuke looked to his mother's eyes, and through his eyes shone the same powerful will than his father's. "I'm not going to quit now. I'm just starting to get the hang of it..." Suddenly, another voice was heard, interrupting Takatsuke. "Come on, Takatsuke, your mother is right. You have already accomplished enough for a day, and you are clearly tired." The speaker was Takatsuke's father, Naruto. "Call it a day and come get some food. You can continue some other day." Takatsuke had a disappointed look on his face. "Aww, dad, I have a mission tomorrow! Can't I just train furhter so I can have this jutsu wrapped up till tomorrow?" Naruto looked straight into Takatsuke's eyes. "Takatsuke. Believe me when I say that you have already done enough. You don't have to accomplish everything in one day." Takatsuke's expression lighted up. "Okay, dad, but you owe me one!" he said and ran towards the house. "And I want that food coming right away!" Naruto chuckled and followed his son.

Early tomorrow morning Takatsuke woke up, ate his breakefast, gave his mother a hug and headed over to Team Hotaku's meeting. For once, he was early, so he kept his pace slow and observed the surroundings, noticing the birds around, and even a fox in the bushes, returning to its nest after a night of hunting. Takatsuke looked up to the cloudless sky with his mind in a mixed state of calmness and strange feeling of anticipation - his body even seemed to tingle a little bit, as if it knew that it was going to face an adventure unlike anything before. Takatsuke whistled and picked up the pace just because he felt like going faster. In no-time, he was running like a yellow hurricane, enjoying the feeling of the wind on his face. Quickly enough, he arrived at the meeting spot. Only their team leader Hotaku was already there, and Takatsuke greeted him. Hotaku looked mildly surprised. "Aren't you early! What's up with it?" Takatsuke smiled widely and answered: "I just feel great! The world feels great! The future feels great!" Hotaku laughed. "Full of energy, I see! Now, we'll just have to wait for Hikarime and Kator..." but he was interrupted bu a voice. "No need to wait anymore. I'm here." It was Katoru Uchiha, one of Takatsuke's teammates. "And I see you are early for once, Takatsuke. Are you trying to surpass me in that as well?" Takatsuke looked at Katoru. "I'll surpass you in anything, Katoru, just to keep up the competition, 'cause that is what keeps us both in shape!" Hotaku looked at the two young ninja. "They both have grown in an exeptional rate, especially Takatsuke. Katoru was always a genious to begin with, but Takatsuke... he's became almost unrecognizable. Naruto... your son will be quite something." The jonin rose from the depths of his thoughts when the third team member, Hikarime Yakama, finally arrived. "Okay! With all of us here, I'll explain today's mission. Recently, we got reports from a village in our Land of Fire to be repeatetly attacked and raided by unknown forces. The number of them seems to be low, only a few, but they are suspected being missing-nin. We go to that village and see what we can do to these baddies." Hotaku raised his eyes and looked individually in each of the team members' eyes. "This mission is going to be B-rank. Meaning that it's the highest ranked mission our team has been given up to this point. The two of you managed to get promoted to Chunin", he said, looking at Takatsuke and Katoru, "and the Hokage seems sure that you - all of you - can handle a B-ranked mission. I will be there, yes, but you have to prove yourselves as ninja during this mission." Hikarime looked down, looking sad. She was the only one of the team to still be Genin. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up. She saw Takatsuke, smiling. "Don't worry, Hikarime. If we work as a team we can do anything we put our minds on." Hikarime smiled. "Thanks, Takatsuke." Hotaku raised from the rock he had been sitting on and clapped his hands. "Okay! Shall we get going then?" Takatsuke cheered. "Yay! On a B-rank mission we go!" Team Hotaku left with that being said.

The Challenge

After travelling not too long the team arrived at their destination. The signs of the raiders were clearly to be seen in the infrastructure, even though the inhabitants had tried to fix all the damage. The team arrived at an inn in which they would be spending their time during their mission in the village. They entered the inn. Hotaku greeted the innkeeper. "Greetings! We have been sent here from Konoha to take care of those nasty raiders that have been bugging your village. These ninja" - he pointed at his team - "may look like pushovers, but they are far from it. We'll be staying in your inn as long as we stay in this village." The innkeeper was surprised at first, but then he ran off, out of the side door. "Hey! Where are you going?" yelled Takatsuke and ran after him. The innkeeper was at the street yelling everyone to come out and see. People started pouring over, and the innkeeper explained what he had heard from Hotaku. The ninja from Konoha had arrived too free the village from the raiders. The mob surrounded Team Hotaku and started asking questions, but Hotaku quieted them down. "I guess it's the best to introduce all of us to you people. My name is Hotaku Kamateru. I am a Jonin and a leader of this team. This here is Takatsuke Uzumaki, a newly promoted chunin and the son of the Hokage. This is Katoru Uchiha, also a new chunin and a capable ninja from the Uchiha clan. And our team's most beautiful flower, Hikarime Yakama, still a genin but a good kunoichi." The people tried to further question the team, but Hotaku led them inside the inn and asked the locals to let them have some privacy. The mob scattered, as everyone returned to their daily duties.

Not far away from the village, the band of bandits that had been assaulting the village were recieving directions from their leader. "You heard it. The Konoha ninja have arrived - just what we waited for. Tomorrow we attack the village again - but this time I'll be there. Do what you want, but the Konoha bastards shall be mine." The tall and slender leader stood up, revealing his perpetual smile. "Those fools shall know the wrath of Iwari Fusuke, the Sorakamen - and the wrath of the Masked Shadows!"

In the next morning Takatsuke was again the first one to wake up (exept for Hotaku, who had already left), the tingling feeling of something soon to happen being even stronger. Once again it felt like he was calm and nervous at the same time. He decided to go out and find a place to train his new jutsu now that he had the chance. He did find a suitable place and started working.

Meanwhile in the village, Katoru and Hikarime had already woken up. "Well, it looks like both Takatsuke and Hotaku have already left", said Katoru. "We better get going as well and find Hotaku." Hikarime asked: "What about Takatsuke?" Katoru scoffed. "Takatsuke can take care of himself. I know him well enough to know he's somewhere out there, training." Katoru and Hikarime got out of the inn, and bumbed at Hotaku right at the exit. "Oh! You are already up! I was going to wake you up, but it looks like I don't have to. But... where's Takatsuke?" Hotaku said, looking around for Takatsuke. "He had already left when we woke up", Katoru answered. "But I'm sure he'll join us later." The team got on the move, walking down the main street. All suddenly, their peaceful stroll was interrupted by an explosion from the outskirts of the village. Thoughts flashed through Katoru's mind as quickly as lightning. "Damnit! It must be those bandits again! Takatsuke, wherever you are, you better get yourself here and quick!" The team ran towards the direction where the blast came from.

The Terror

At the place, they found a burning house and a wounded civilian laying on the ground. "Hikarime! Take care of this man!" ordered Hotaku. Hikarime took her place on the man's side, prepared to protect him. Hotaku and Katoru stepped forth, Katoru activating his Sharingan. "I can't see the ones who did this...!" Then, suddenly, a voice shouted from behind them: "Wind Release: Great Breakthrough!!" A bullet of pressurezed air blasted towards the two ninja, but they managed to dodge it. It blasted to the burning house, damaging it even further. "My my, not everyone can dodge my attacks like that." A tall, slender man, smiling a rather unnerving smile, walked down the lane to meet the Konoha ninja. "You are the ninja from Konohagakure... but where's the fourth one of you? The yellow-haired loudmouth?" Both Hotaku and Katoru were worried by this man, and Hikarime had frozen. Katoru thought: "He's certainly no pushover...! And he knows about Takatsuke... even his looks and nature! Who is he? What is he?" Suddenly, Hotaku started doing hand seals, and yelled: "Fire Release: Fire Fox Great Comet Technique!" He spitted a huge fox-shaped fire attack from his mouth, headed straight towards the mystery man. The man however displayed elegant agility by dodgin the attack. Not only that, but he also seemed to be flying through the air! "This guy is no orninary ninja!" Hotaku thought. The mysterious enemy then attacked once more. "Wind Release: Vacuum Great Sphere!" The ball was fast. Hotaku barely had time to evade it, and the blastwave was enough to upset his trajectory. He flew through the air uncontrollably, but finally managed to get his controls back moments before he would have collided the ground. He landed on his feet.

The attacker had turned his sights on Katoru. Katoru had taken a battle stance. The attacker approached... until he was a few meters away. "No! Katoru! Run away!" Hotaku yelled, but it was too late. With an amazing speed, the mysterious enemy threw another jutsu. "Wind Release: Vacuum Wave!" The blades of wind sweeped over Katoru's body, injuring him gravely. He flew backwards a few meters and landed on his back, covered in wounds. Hikarime screamed and Hotaku yelled. "This is bad! If he's left like that, he... he will die." Then, suddenly, a third voice was heard. "What...? What have you done to Katoru, you bastard!?" Takatsuke came there, running. He looked somewhat worn out. "Well well, the mighty midget has arrived just in time to witness the death of his precious little friends... how nice." Takatsuke bent down over Katoru. He was breathing weakly. "Katoru, hang in there...! Just hang in there...! I'll... I'll..." his mind was clouded by a crimson mist of anger. Then, suddenly, the mist vanished like it had never been and his mind was filled with a powerful resolve. More powerful than anything he had experienced before...

Takatsuke stood up. His Akashogan eyes had activated, but he didn't turn to watch the enemy. Instead he laid his gaze on Katoru's immobile body. He closed his right eye. Somehow he knew exactly what to do. He focused his chakra to his left eye. "Hoshi no Tama!" he announced. The chakra in his eye was released and poured into the jutsu. A field of altered time surrounded Katoru, as his wounds began to close and heal... and soon enough it was like they never had been there. Katoru quickly sat up. "What the...? What happened? Wasn't I wounded?" He looked at his healed body and then to Takatsuke, who had now turned away his gaze from Katoru and stared at the enemy instead. He spoke: "Katoru. Get away. Now." Something in his tone told Katoru that this wasn't the time to oppose Takatsuke, but he still thought what could Takatsuke do against an enemy like this. He stood up and ran away, taking distance between him and the to opposing ninja staring at each other.

"HAHAHA! I don't care how you healed that brat. Now I'll be able to take you out! Wind Release: Vacuum Serial Waves!!" Multiple blades of wind blasted from his mouth towards Takatsuke. Takatsuke, however, closed his left eye, leaving his right one open. "Kitsunetsuki." The wind blast seemingly hit him... but it was the enemy who was blasted backwards and damaged. "RAAAGH...! What the hell was that? I made a clear hit, and I'm the one getting blasted?"

Takatsuke was now surrounded by an aura of golden chakra, taking a distinct form, with ears and a tail like a fox. "After countless times of trying to get mu chakra in order, I finally realized how to do it. If I'm going to need extra chakra control, this form gives it. If I'm going to need an extra limb, this form gives it", he said, bringing his chakra tail near his right hand, now cupped in front of him. "This form had everything I needed all the time to do this jutsu..." He began to move his left hand and tail rapidly around his cupped right hand, forming a spiraling ball of chakra... but this time it was enhanced. "Wind Release: Rasengan!" The opponent looked at Takatsuke for a while and bursted laughing. "Do you really think you can challenge me, the foremost master of Wind Release, in a combat with a petty wind move like that?!" Takatsuke began running towards the enemy. "Takatsuke, you fool!" thought Katoru. The enemy laughed more. "Now observe the difference in our level! Wind Release: Vacuum Great Sphere!" The attack hit Takatsuke, for real this time... but Takatsuke turned into a puff of smoke. "What the...? A shadow clone?!" flashed through Iwari's mind before he felt something smashing into his body from behind. "You were so wide open from behind I couldn't ignore it!" said the real Takatsuke, who had just slammed his wind Rasengan into Iwari's back. Iwari cursed as he was enveloped by a blast of wind chakra that carried him away and tore his already damaged body even worse.

Case clear... or is it?

When Iwari finally managed to get back on his feet, he was covered in blood and the most of his clothes were torn apart. "Goddamn brat! I'm going to kill him ten times over...!" But before he managed to finish, his hand was grabbed by a fox-masked woman. "You!! Kitsunekamen! How dare you..." But before he could finish, Kitsunekamen had forcefully poked him to the forehead, making him fall unconcious. "You have served your purpose for now, Sorakamen", Kitsunekamen announed with a cold tone. She picked up the unconcious man and looked at Takatsuke. "You have made great progress, Uzumaki. One day we will certainly fight." After saying that she disappeared along with Iwari.

Takatsuke just stood there silently for a moment, surrounded by his golden shroud. Then he let go of his chakra and the shroud vanished. In his mind he went through the words the very same fox-masked woman had told to him some time ago: These eyes are not only for seeing. They come with two unique temporal and spatial techniques - a temporal technique from the left eye and a spatial technique from the right eye. Unlock those, Uzumaki Takatsuke, and maybe we can fight as equals one day. Takatsuke closed his eyes and deactivated his Akashogan. "Okay, fox mask... I unlocked those jutsu. But they aren't something to be used offensively against an enemy... they are something to be used defensively to protect my friends." Takatsuke turned and walked to his teammates.

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