A HISTORY LESSON. THE STORY THUS FAR.
— Context —
War has raged the continent since the time of the first Men. In centuries of skirmishes, certain names were raised as banners, higher than ever before. The cream of the crop. And, among this restrictive group, fewer still were there to stay. Those that were, however, created Legacies far beyond what anyone could’ve imagined. Dynasties to last for the ages, hordes of incredible individuals all bannered under a single name: Clans.
As lands were gained and lost, territories were established. Empires were born and lost in instants, and to the victor, the spoils. The strong were slain by the stronger still, and the weak banded together to put a halt to those too powerful for measure. In the midst of constant motion, there was balance.
And so the way of the world went on until, whether it be by thing of Fate or coincidence of cosmic proportions, a handful of individuals were born, scattered throughout these troubled lands. These people, of limitless ambition and unwavering will, would soon do something none before them could fathom. Our story begins with theirs.
— Blood and Sand —
The people of the south-west desert people were deemed to be monsters. Every year, new additions to their horrid forms appeared, as mothers and fathers told of them to their young children. Some cultures told of fiendish creatures hiding beneath beds, the continent’s little piece of hell was the desert. The truth behind these tales of horror had originated from the fact that there were as many tribes within the desert than in the remainder of the continent combined and, due to a lack of natural resources, most tribes bore great enmity towards each other. As such, constant skirmishes were in place. These sands had seen far more blood spilled than anywhere else. This constant state of battle had bred thousands of veteran soldiers, some of which were incredibly young and in peak physical condition. To have lived through a thousand battles was simply not feasible anywhere else, after all.
Aside from tribal wars, foreign invaders were common occurrences. Be they young commanders wanting to make a name for themselves or people after the natural Fortress and stealth that only the Desert could provide. After all, due to the constant shifting of sands maps were nigh impossible to manufacture and its extreme weather conditions made it incredibly difficult for an attacking force to be victorious. Therefore, many great Generals would bring armies numbering thousands, in hopes of taking the land by force. None knew how it was that it happened, but every single time few, if any invaders would return to tell the tale. Although these tribes absolutely despised one another, their hatred for outsiders far outweighed anything else.
This was the case, at least, until the appearance of a single man. Keiji, a member of a seemingly unimportant desert tribe, had always been a strange individual. Life, to him, was a game. To be played to win. To those around him, it often felt as though the heavens themselves parted to bestow him with the pathway towards undisputed victory, even in the most adverse conditions. The man’s strength was nothing to laugh at, but it was his insight that made him a nightmare for those who opposed him. A man whose accomplishments would deem him the greatest General in recorded history.
His troops were unstoppable. Having originated from the centre of the desert and expanding outwards, Keiji’s flags marked one victory after another and like an Empire, those who lost would be welcome to join and keep their customs, as long as they agreed to a set of laws, common to all of the desert’s constituents. The man’s name scoured the continent, drawing in people from far and wide for in search for glory, fame, fortune and a million other reasons. In a mere ten years, the entirety of the desert was under his command, a feat so many before him had tried to accomplish, and failed.
With his victory over the impossible solidified, the War God named himself Akiyama, the Autumn Mountain, a reference to his bastion and base of operations, surrounded by an auburn massif, a place that, with him as its founder would soon become known as The Village Hidden by Sand, the very first of the 5 Great Hidden Villages.
The First Kazekage continued to revolutionise the world with his ideas. The undisputed greatest of them all being the creation of an institution composed of both old and new friends of the desert, whose goal is bestow the newer generations with the ability to overcome their predecessors’ flaws through sharing knowledge they otherwise hoarded. An idea so powerful that all four other villages chose to mimic: the Shinobi Academy.
Having since met his death due to old age, the southwestern desert now known as The Land of Wind continue to pay homage to their greatest leader, acclaimed by the entire continent as someone who’d transcended the limits of human nature: Akiyama Keiji was dubbed “The War God”.
— The Will of Fire —
In the centre of the continent, a young man was born in the bosom of a ragtag band of brothers. His father, no longer with them, was a noble yet fierce combatant hailing from the frigid lands of the east and, bearing that man’s signature cyan eyes and greyish hair, the boy was dubbed a “wolf”: Ookami.
And so the little cub grew among his nomadic family, learning the ways of the combat and charm. The tools necessary for their survival. Mastering the former gave them the ability to fend off foes and procure food, while the latter allowed for passing through borders that could otherwise spell their undoing.
The years passed and the little cub prepared to surpass his teen years. Having been blessed with a tongue as silver as his own hair and frightening military prowess, Ookami had naturally taken hold of the group and, upon finding land that provided plentiful food and cover, decided it was time for these nomads to settle down.
The drawback was, of course, that such a land had not gone by unnoticed and, before they could realise which side was up, this small village of theirs had effectively been boxed in by the Senju and Uchiha lands, two of the eldest and most powerful Clans in existence, that had been in fervent battle since time immemorial.
By then, Ookami had turned into a made man. Becoming village Chief of such a central point owned by neither Senju nor Uchiha had caused trade routes to move through there and then disperse into the continent and, the incredibly bright young man had taken advantage of the amount of funds that changed hands under his wing to make his position a little less precarious.
Having since gained access to books as well as mentors from the great clans surrounding them, the wolf voraciously studied the arts of Diplomacy and War and, before you knew it, the little land that had once survived by the skin of its teeth simply because of its ease in transferring goods suddenly moved on the offensive, doing the unthinkable: Pushing the Senju and the Uchiha back.
The few who remember such days claim that, were it any other man, he would have failed and perhaps even felt the wrath of the two frightening Households combined, but the Noble Wolf’s path was not one of destruction. Instead, he simply enticed the otherwise forgotten villages around his border and charmed them off of their feet. These forgotten individuals that had been pushed off to the extremities of powerful nations felt the pull of a band free of such things as pure or impure bloodlines, where all men were given equal opportunity and their unity gave them strength the likes of which these lands had never seen before.
Under the watchful gaze of Jetsuki Ookami, dubbed “The Heavenly King”, a Nation was born. One whose Will burnt higher than anyone else’s. Led by the once small Village, Hidden by the falling Leaves, the Land of Fire was established. A Land created by the people, for the people.
— End of an Era —
To the Northwest, is one of the wonders of the continent. Filled with mountains that pierce the sky as if to dare the firmament which seems to respond, in turn, with bolts of Lightning. A danger-filled mystique enticed the eyes and ears of travellers, particularly those pursuing spiritual enlightenment.
Among these many wanderers, stood a child: Uzumaki Raishimaru. He and his parents bore a monk-like belief that they would only find themselves and discover their ninja ways through meditation, through distancing themselves from the distractions of the material world. The trio had fallen in love with the landscape, and the peace found in the rumble of thunder.
The mountainous terrain and harsh environment led its people to pursue nomadic lifestyles with caves as the primary form of shelter, moving closer to the peaks or the bases depending on the seasons. Keeping on the move was a must and although food was easy to find, it was hard to reach, so the populace was spread thinly in small, independent groups that focused on maximising mobility.
Life as an Uzumaki was not simple, competition was the reigning word, as status depended on strength. But Raishimaru had also seen that, when need be, the Uzumaki were a Clan, a family - they depended on one another. And so, to a young member of one of the largest ancestral clans in history, this was an entirely new reality. Although conflict was not common, these people regarded one another, for the most part, as strangers. Decidedly, the young shinobi thought this against his ninja way. He had embarked on this journey with his parents to discover himself and had begun to realise his fate entwined with this land.
To the history books, the rise of Uzumaki Raishimaru began with a single act of kindness: A helping hand. Mending the broken leg of a young nomad, who had none to turn to. This one simple act would send ripples throughout the mountains, for once this young nomad had been restored to health, he chose to join Raishimaru’s cause. Where there was once one, now there were two. Soon, two became four, eight, sixteen.
By the time the Uzumaki saw his thirtieth birthday, a once broken land had come together. Those who once feared for their lives lives now saw them flourish. A singular idea had changed this world: The idea of helping your fellow man.
Now nearing his fifties, Uzumaki Raishimaru, rumored to be as fast as lightning itself, received the title of Raikage and was elected leader of the the Village Hidden by Clouds, from where he commands these mountains, the heart of the superpower now known as the Land of Lightning.
— Two Birds, One Stone —
The Northwestern lands. There, one can find the Land of Earth, the largest of the 5 great Shinobi countries. Not unlike the people belonging to the neighbouring desert, these lands were populated by ruthless individuals. The law of the wild reigned supreme. The weak followed the strong. Elegant. Simple.
Needless to say, those craving to test their power congregated in these barren lands. Here, where it did not matter who you were or what you’d done, you only needed to take what you wanted and fight for what you intended to keep. For warriors, this was the land of opportunity, free from the judgement of clans, ancient rules or unwanted ties.
In these troubled lands, a band of fighters descended that changed everything. They called themselves vigilantes, fighting for their own twisted ideals of justice. One thing was certain, where they went, death followed, and death would soon be how they would be known: Zetsumei. Their identities remained a secret, as the only memories left of their presence were sights of gore and the animalistic masks that covered their faces. Of the terror struck witnesses, three men stood out, named by the masks they wore: The Mantis, a swordsman, presumably from the Kaguya clan, known for slaying his own followers after he’d grown tired of them, or they’d outlived their usefulness. The Crane, also known as the Doctor, rumored to enjoy dissecting his victims, all in a selfish pursuit of expanding his own power. And, the rumored leader, a blond-haired member of the Senju clan: the Serval. An insatiable tyrant, who ruthlessly struck down anyone who disagreed with his ideas or methods, and tempted other fiends like himself with promises of power. With each attack, this group solidified its power and continued the pursuit of more lands.
After thirty long years of living in fear and cursing their own ideals of following the strong, a desperate populace began offering great rewards to whoever managed to to be rid of these stains in their history, finish the job. Many had tried, but everyone had failed. All but one. Uchiha Sakai, a follower of the great Toad, Snake and Eagle Sages of Legend, was able to use Zetsumei’s trumps against them. Moving in the shadows, he laid the monsters to rest. A broken people now looked to their liberator for guidance.
From the ashes of its rogue captors, reborn. The last of the five great Shinobi Countries, the Land of Earth. Having never forgotten the terror Zetsumei had instilled in his people, Sakai, the consecrated Tsuchikage, created a secret force with the intent of keeping order, whose members would hide their faces in animal masks. An idea other Kage would soon make their own: This, was the birth of the ANBU.
— The Shroud of the Mist —
The southeastern waters have been known far and wide to be the continent’s siren song. Constantly surrounded by mist, these waters hold islands that are difficult to find and possess an almost mythical call. One must not be fooled, however, for in these waters, information is currency… and as they say: In a world of locked doors, the man with the key is king. But we’ll get to that.
In area, these lands are by far the smallest among the five great Shinobi countries. How such a small territory can compare with these behemoths is in no small part attributed to its people.
Since time immemorial, the archipelago has been populated by five ancestral families, whose names are shrouded in secrecy. Because of the lack of living space, these five feudal lords needed to control the numbers of their people. As such, in true dictatorship fashion, false enmities were established and small violent skirmishes were held regularly to thin out the herd, and the weak.
This caste society was one where geniuses were nurtured through carefully crafted war, but one where only those smart enough to understand the system, and strong enough to play it would flourish. It is because of these barbaric rituals that many believe these islands are why warriors around the lands name themselves Shinobi.
The rolling of the years distilled this mindset and ingrained it into the hearts of its inhabitants. They thrived thanks to the strong competition, but in turn required unbreaking laws and a zero tolerance policy to keep themselves in check. Moving against one of your own was unacceptable, no matter the circumstance.
Out of the five villages’ rise, Kirigakure’s was the swiftest and least publicised. In fact, it was only when two military excursions were sent to the shores of Fire and Lightning Country did the continent realise they meant business. Each convoy successfully held a major of one of the Nation’s country for precisely a week, and left without suffering a single casualty on their side. Led by a soon-to-be infamous duo entitled the “Fumi Brothers”, it later became clear that their purpose was to deliver a message: a man by the name of Yamamoto Kazel had risen to power in the islands and obtained the title of Mizukage, leader of the Village Hidden in the Mist, and the two, referring to themselves as their master’s “tools”, claimed it wouldn’t be fair for the world not to know.
Just like that, when it seemed things were calming down, this small little island state had flipped the world on its head. The four men who’d carved themselves a spot at the top of the world suddenly realised that not only did they need to make room for a fifth, but clearly, they were losing the war on a front few had considered: information. The two siblings leading the charge, Yoshi and Hiro, clearly had enough of Fire and Lightning’s dealings to pull off this impossible stunt and succeed, right under everyone’s noses. With shattered prides and keen senses, a race was on to discover the identity of the man capable of striking a blow to two of the most powerful nations in existence and not only not fear the repercussions, but actually instigate a response.
Though its newfound statute as one of the five great Shinobi countries has served as an equaliser, Kirigakure’s strong history of social stratification means that they divide the members of its army by achievements and responsibility: Ranks. From Genin, to Jounin. Shinobi of a certain stature were also required to wear identical uniforms, to further embody fearlessness and loyalty to country. Impacted by the power that had come from Kirigakure’s unity, the idea of shinobi ranks spread like wildfire. Within two years of Yamamoto’s initial “playful excursion”, every army in the continent had embraced this notion.