Author Note

Hi there and welcome to another chapter of Nidaime no Sairin.

Regarding last chapter's impromptu question, whether to do a new filler mission with Yuugao or move to the last chapter of the Naruto series, I have decided to do both.

Just like I did in other chapters, the filler mission will work in flashbacks and this chapter shall focus on a final mission as well as one specific leap that I trust everyone (including me, of course) is quite anxious to read about.

Like I said before, this shall be the last chapter of the regular series, before the Shippuden timeline begins.

It won't have a timelapse of three years like it happened in canon, since Naruto is aging along the filler chapters. Three or four months will pass by between this and next chapter, only.

It's to be expected that not many mission are note-worthy in the life of a chunnin. Some are rather mundane, like a specific scene of Shikamaru in the anime going on a leading mission and treating it like an everyday occasion (episode 86).

The filler chapters served one specific purpose…for Naruto to have more experience as a shinobi as well as a young adult in a shinobi world, where the life expectancy is less than thirty years old. So, in this chapter, I plan on showing him learning about more adult subjects…which ones shall be clear as you read it, so I won't bother telling it ahead of time. I just hope to make justice to the scenes in my head and write it accordingly. After all, that's the job of a writer to transfer the reader into the scene.

One final warning…from this chapter onward, the reader shall expect more adult scenes coming, hence why the M rating for this story.

Anyway, here is the chapter.


Nidaime no Sairin

Chapter 27 – Life-Altering Mission

Beta: Scheffinator


It was already night time as one Uzuki Yuugao appeared dressed in the standard Jonin attire, while focused on fixing up the fire for her and her partner.

It was still cold tonight, but quite certainly not as cold as it was when in the location of her mission together with her protege and partner.

A few months ago, she had expressed her desire to the Sandaime Hokage about stepping away from the regular ANBU forces and becoming a regular Jonin and even a Jonin-sensei in the future. Both Anko and Kurenai had advised her that it would do wonders for her grief to form new bonds with students. The pain of losing Hayate was still fresh and perhaps it won't ever go away, but she could learn to overcome some of the feeling of loss or at least learn to live with it. This path was similar in a way to Kakashi-senpai and he appeared better than in their ANBU days, even if Yuugao now understood the signs of his depression hidden by his aloof attitude, after she had lost Hayate.

The Hokage had approved of the change and immediately gave her a mission towards Iron Country.

Since the mission entailed the protection of a young female samurai, Yuugao had chosen Naruto as her partner.

Her tutoring him, these days, had truly ended and Naruto was no longer her student, but a training partner for her to practice with.

He wouldn't be an expert in kenjutsu like her and Hayate anytime soon, but he had grown enough to give any sword fighter a run for his money. Plus, it was never his intention to become a sword expert, but an expert in every possible shinobi art out there. He mastered Genjutsu with Kurenai, Ninjutsu with Asuma's and Kakashi's assistance, Fuuinjutsu from the Sannin, Jiraiya's, supervision, Taijutsu and Shurikenjutsu from his own effort ever since he was little. Truly, at this point in age and life, Yuugao could truly wonder if there was something out there out of his grasp to learn, understand and even master.

She wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to learn all Ninjutsu elements like the Sandaime.

Her once called protege was truly on his way to surpass most of them and at such a young age.

That's why her still fragile heart clenched at remembering what happened in the mission that they had gone to…to see her student in such a fragile state of mind was truly painful in more ways than she realized. The life of a shinobi, indeed, comes with these perils and Naruto could never truly grow before he came to terms with these situations. However, it still pained her greatly to witness it. Looking up at the clear skies and seeing that the fire was ready for them, Yuugao walked calmly towards the place where she left her student alone to grieve.

Climbing up a hill, close to their location, she saw him sitting down at the edge with his legs dangling dangerously, while he held the beautifully crafted katana he inherited from the girl they were tasked to protect…or rather convince her against doing what she was set out to do in Iron Country. As soon as Yuugao paid close attention to her eyes and iron-clad will, she realized that the success or failure of this mission wouldn't be up to her or even Naruto's actions, but the client's own. Whether male or female, samurai had that mentality and nothing would change it, no matter how much her student tried to dissuade her.

"Naruto-kun, the fire is ready…we have to eat something and get some rest." His sigh in dismay brought her chest pain all over again.

"Ok, sensei…just give me a minute." She could see his downcast eyes and merely nodded, before turning her back on him.

"Sure, but don't take too long, you still need to secure the perimeter and set the tents, while I make…."

"It's already done…" Yuugao turned briskly at the cold edge in his voice, but then he corrected himself. "I apologize…I didn't mean to snap at you, sensei. The clones had already applied the security seals and fixed our tents. I will be there."

Yuugao had understood the outburst…she had done the same to him, when the Hayate wound was still fresh as she did to all of her peers who tried consoling her, but failed.

"Naruto, what happened to Tsubaki-san wasn't your fault…there was nothing you could do to stop her."

Her student didn't respond, but chose instead to look at the sword in his hand, once more isolating himself. All she could do was release a sigh and walk away, but she couldn't miss the few tears that echoed in the clearing once it reached the katana scabbard. In his mind, he replayed the imagery of him and a young samurai girl close to his age with brown hair tied in a ponytail wearing a white robe with a turtle-neck undershirt, shin-length pink pants and black leggings, practicing Kenjutsu together on top of a frozen lake near her family house. Her contained laughter and joy hidden by her will to win their spar was evident in his mind.

Naruto's hands, then, squeezed her sword as the tears fell freely at the later image in his head.


===In Konoha===

Yuuhi Kurenai was seen casually walking in her full Jonin setting, with a few differences from before.

It was actually an old look she had when she began her Jonin career, wearing dark red pants and the Jonin vest on top of a sleeveless dark blue blouse.

The sun had just appeared over the horizon and the village was slowly waking up from the night before with vendors opening their shops and visitors crossing through the front gates of the village. Today, her schedule was free for now, so she had settled to see if either one of her former Genin team needed her help with something. Anko had told her that Naruto and Yuugao left for a mission together towards Iron Country, but that was almost a month ago, so she was expecting them to return by now. Yuugao's decision to step down from ANBU duty was a welcomed relief as no doubt, she would begin to cope better, once she manages to take a new Genin team under her wing.

As to the blond Chuunin, Kurenai admitted missing him when he is out on missions, or rather missing their time together, either training in Genjutsu or simply hanging out by themselves or together with Hinata and Yakumo.

It was something she couldn't describe, actually.

Their bond began by being sensei and student, but it has quickly evolved past that…to fellow comrades and friends.

When the story about Naruto's sort of romantic involvement with Princess Kazahana became known, it was the first time Kurenai lingered on the topic of thinking about him in a different light. It had only gotten worse when she and Anko went to the premier movie and saw the scene as described. Anko only added insult to injury when she commented on Naruto's and the Princess's heated performance in a sake night-out after the movie, going as far as to describe a possible follow-up scene that left little to the imagination. Of course, since both of them were rather tipsy, once the second bottle dried, the mind became easily susceptible to influence.

'Stupid Anko'

Ever since then, the scene of Naruto kissing the princess had yet to leave her mind.

As Kurenai was strolling past the main gate, she was surprised to see the two people that occupied her mind just now, conversing with Izumo and Kotetsu.

A smile soon erupted from her face at seeing one of her best friends in full Jonin outfit and the young man that occupied her mind every now and then. Kurenai then decided to walk to them, when she saw that they had finished registering their arrival. Yuugao appeared to be conversing with Naruto, but Kurenai stopped walking once Naruto vanished in a shunshin. The Genjutsu mistress was at least close enough to see the sigh escaping Yuugao's mouth and Kurenai had enough experience to be concerned that something didn't go well in their first mission together.

A small rational area of her brain registered somewhat painfully that Naruto was probably the strongest sensor in Konoha. As such he knew that she was close by, but left, practically ignoring her presence.

"Yuugao-chan, hello there. Why did Naruto storm out like that?" The sword expert turned to see her friend approaching.

"Oh hello Kurenai…it's kind of a long story, actually."

Kurenai frowned in concern…Yuugao's eyes and disposition reverted back to when she had lost Hayate. As far as she knew, the mission was a simple B-rank in a foreign land.

"What happened out there? Neither of you two seem to be in any kind of injury."

Yuugao merely negated, as her concern went for her student, wherever he is now, processing everything.

"Would you follow me to the Hokage's Office to report, Kurenai-chan…then we can have some breakfast and I can tell you." Yuugao didn't even register her best friend's acceptance, before she started walking. Kurenai followed soon afterward.


===After Yuugao's report===

After Yuugao reported the mission failure due to the client's actions, Yuugao and Kurenai took a seat at a small café to converse about the mission.

She explained what the mission entailed…the leader of Iron Country, Mifune had contacted the Sandaime Hokage regarding a special ritual that would take place in his country, in order to choose who would inherit his personal sword Kurosawa, once he either steps down or is defeated in battle. Two of his most promising students were elected to fight amongst each other to see who would emerge victorious in the end. Mifune wanted his students to use wooden swords for obvious reasons, but the council went against it, demanding the usage of a katana instead. And since he couldn't show any favoritism and considering his personal predilection for his female student, Tsubaki, he had secretly hired Konoha's assistance to try and dissuade her from the challenge.

The client, however, was firm in believing her to be the future wielder of Kurosawa, so she went on with the challenge, despite Naruto's insistence for her to back away.

"At the beginning, Tsubaki was winning the fight…her opponent was older, taller and naturally stronger than her, but she was indeed fierce, Kure-chan." Kurenai had enough experience to know the end of the story as she looked down at her tea, with a heavy pain in her chest. "Eventually, her arms gave out…her stamina faltered and she missed a precious step to center her defense. The opponent's sword pierced her torso. Ah…Naruto's follow-up scream for her name is still echoing in my ears, as we speak. He held her in his arms, until her last breath. Before passing away, she had given him her sword."

"I see, so that's what happened." Indeed, her heart went to Naruto's as did Yuugao's.

"Naruto and I had at least three weeks to try and convince her to back away. The two also spent a lot of time together as well as sparring constantly."

Kurenai looked up from her tea and inadvertently went there.

"Was he infatuated with her?" Yuugao wondered about that, considering the pain she felt from him, it would be plausible. Kurenai, for her part, wondered why she even asked that, but the words just came out of her mouth.

"I don't know if it went that far, they had spent a lot of time together, sharing stories of training and Naruto told her about some missions he went on, around the Elemental Nations. A bond was formed, but I don't think it was that kind." Yuugao then finished her tea, before continuing with the story. "We left Iron Country soon after her funeral, which surprisingly enough, was only attended by us and Mifune-sama. Naruto-kun is still due to let go of the katana she gave him, before her passing." Kurenai was quiet, wondering about a lot of things afterward. "Well, Kure-chan, I'll be headed home for some rest…now that I have more free time, I guess we can see if Anko-chan wants to do something later tonight." Kurenai, though, merely nodded and waved her goodbye, while her mind was still filled with many thoughts.

"Ah…Sure, get some rest and leave the bill to me."


===At Night===

Kurenai's day revolved around meeting with her old teammates Shino, Ino and Choji to see if they needed her help with anything.

However, throughout the day, her thoughts went back to Naruto and wondered how he was feeling after what happened.

She tried searching for him, in between meeting with her old students, but he was nowhere to be found. It was already night time right now, as she was heading straight to her house, passing through the dense gardens of Konoha. As she looked around, she noticed how familiar this particular path was, considering that she and Naruto would casually stroll through here, after a shared meal. She stopped walking, however, as soon as her eyes turned right to see a small lagoon, practically hidden from view. It came as a surprise to her, considering that she had never noticed it, until now.

As she approached the lagoon shore, she was surprised to see the very person of her interest, sitting there in the middle, holding a katana in his hand, presumably from the girl samurai Tsubaki. She didn't take two steps further, before she felt the wave of his Suiton nature chakra enveloping her. The feeling was nothing new, as she knew the secret of how he is able to extend his sensor reach.

Instead of the warm feeling of his humongous and dense chakra, she could feel nothing but chaos and disarray.

It filled her with sadness and she didn't need to see the teary cerulean eyes reflecting in the water.

"I'm sorry for not greeting you when we returned to the village." Kurenai was surprised upon hearing his mellow voice.

She just casually stepped on the water and reached his position, though his eyes were finding it hard to leave the sword in his hand.

"So, you did notice I was there, Naruto-kun. That wasn't very nice of you to simply vanish without saying anything." Despite the choice of words, Naruto didn't sense any anger or disappointment in her chakra.

"Once again, I'm sorry…ah…I needed to process what happened on the mission."

Kurenai took a seat next to him, getting comfortable, while holding her knees close to her chest and looking at the night sky.

"Yuugao told me about what happened. Do you want to talk about it?" Naruto, once more, looked at the sword in his hand, trying to find the words…or any word whatsoever to respond, but Kurenai only smiled and continued talking. "It's okay if you don't right now, though. It takes time to find the words when you're grieving." Kurenai, then, saw his subtle nod, at least glad that he wasn't shutting himself from her. Still, it was an entire ocean's length compared to where she figured he needed to be in order to open up to her right now. Then, Naruto surprised her when she heard his rasped voice.

"I…failed…"

(Naruto Shippuden OST – Despair playing)

The mere word was enough to tighten the grip he was holding the sword in his hand.

Kurenai paid rapid attention as he clearly struggled with the words. "Tsubaki-san…she wasn't supposed to fight…she…she wasn't ready." Kurenai had enough detail to figure that out by herself, but she let him continue, as right now he was in his own little world. "When we sparred, she…she was improving, but it wasn't enough. And I tried…I really tried dissuading her, but I failed. She decided to go and now she's dead!" Kurenai's chest began to ache at the pained voice from him. It was surprising, because Naruto always seemed so confident in pretty much everything that he did, growing up. It was like an effortless and exponential growth, that was nothing but astounding.

"Is this your first mission failure, Naruto-kun?" A sad laugh was the answer, before he looked at her. She could see his watery eyes.

"Oh no, there were a few missions in the beginning that ended in failure, but this was the first time, that…that." Yes, she understood…it's like a rite of passage for shinobi adulthood.

"That someone died under your watch." Her hand went for his shoulder, offering him comfort and Naruto was just too absorbed in sorrow to realize it. "It's something that every shinobi goes through, Naruto-kun…the first time it's indeed hard to bear…you feel like a failure and consider folding under the pressure you place on yourself. Everyone went through that…Kakashi, Asuma, Anko, Yuugao, me as well, everyone." She could see his eased breathing at her offering of comfort, but the pain…the pain was still there. "Is this what you're feeling right now?" Her heart skipped a beat when Naruto negated his head and focused on the sword in his hand once more.

Yuugao did say that he and Tsubaki had formed a bond, though she didn't know what kind…could it be?

"You cared deeply for her, didn't you?" Now, the tears fell freely and Kurenai began to process her own feelings, based on his possible answer. Naruto, then, looked at the deep cerulean water below them, in wonder.

"I…respected her." Kurenai looked at him in surprise, not expecting that answer. "She wasn't ready for the challenge, but she never faltered…she knew she wasn't ready, but she was fixed on her goal to earn Mifune-sama's sword. No one thought that she was capable…not even me, but she went on ahead anyway…knowing it. She faced her fate head on." Kurenai smiled deeply as she felt pride in him for sharing this with her. Kurenai felt warmth in having this moment with him. So much so, that instead of the hand on his shoulder, she pushed forward and hugged him deeply, while feeling his tears hitting her shoulder.

"She didn't deserve this, Kurenai…she didn't." His sobs only made her want to hug him tighter, to be there for him.

"She sounds like an amazing warrior, indeed and I can say for certain that she wouldn't want you to beat yourself up like this, Naruto-kun."

She said that, after cutting off the hug and making eye contact.

Naruto, then, remembered his and Tsubaki's constant spars and the time he had known such a person, filled with unwavering resolve.

"No, I guess she wouldn't, but it still hurts." Kurenai nods solemnly, before standing up from the lake they were in.

"I know…it will take a while, but these are the events that shape us…makes us better in the long run. Now, dinner is on me and I won't hear no for an answer. Get up at once." Kurenai stated with a smile, offering a hand for him to stand.

Naruto saw the hand as well as Kurenai smiling at him. Wiping the tears from his eyes and placing Tsubaki's katana next to his own, strapped to his waist, he accepted the hand and stood up.

Kurenai, then, wrapped her arm around his and they walked together, towards the village restaurants.

Neither of them seemed to hear a giddy Anko and a groan from Yuugao at her friend's antics, observing them both from afar.

"You know that he knows we are here, right?" Anko only showed a full-teeth smile at that.

"Of course, I do…so what!" Anko then rubbed both hands like an evil mastermind, thrilled in her planning. "Now, all we need is one last push…" Yuugao blinked twice, while observing the snake Jonin.

"One last push for what, exactly?" Anko could only look at her friend with a smile and a wink.


===Next day===

One Mitarashi Anko then stood in front of the Hokage's Office and next to Jiraiya.

She had just laid out her evil plans to the village leader and stood there with her full-teeth smile.

"I must say, Anko, that this is unprecedented. To this day, I had never had a shinobi not only turn down an assignment, but indicate someone else instead." Jiraiya only stood there smiling, since he was of course already briefed by Anko, so he was okay with the change. Of course, like a personal enthusiast in the subject, he was already envisioning the next sequence of his famous book sequel writing itself. Anko knew that and silently hoped that her friend wouldn't be too mad about it.

"I understand, sir, but indeed this is for the best." Hiruzen only hummed, trying to see any angle to Anko's suggestion.

"What say you, Jiraiya?" The Sannin turned to the leader. "Considering that this is Akatsuki related and the fact that you specifically asked for Anko's expertise, do you concur with her suggestion?"

To that, the Sannin placed a thinking hand under his chin and turned into ponder mode.

"I won't be running into any of the Akatsuki members, so it shouldn't be a problem. I first requested Anko based on her skills in acting undercover, but her suggestions are sound as well." Anko smiled at him, backing her up. Of course, a snake or two would visit him in his little trips to spying on women, otherwise. Hiruzen, then, looked at the chart in his hand, particularly of Kurenai and Naruto's file. It's been some time since the two of them were on a mission together, but their track record is impressive.

"I see, so I shall call them here to explain it, then. Naruto's last mission ended in failure and Yuugao had expressed concerns about how he was coping with it. His mind is in need of a new assignment to move on."

Hiruzen looked sideways and a shadow vanished to call both for their new mission.

"Well, I shall get going, then, Hokage-sama…" Anko did turn and was about to leave.

"Not so fast, Anko…" The snake Jonin turned to see the aged leader throwing a scroll for her to get. "Since you have backed off from this assignment, I have another one for you to perform. The details are in that scroll."

"Ah, I was hoping to relax for a while." The complaint wasn't made to be more than a mumble, but the aged leader heard it and frowned.

"Another objection, Anko?" She scratched her hand in embarrassment.

"Nothing, sir, I will get right on it, then. See ya." She quickly left via shunshin and Jiraiya only chuckled at her antics.


===With Naruto===

Both Naruto and Kurenai arrived at the Hokage's Office no more than five minutes after the ANBU called for them. Jiraiya was no longer at the office, so Hiruzen was the one to brief them on their joint mission.

"Since everyone is here, I will get started with your next assignment."

Kurenai looked sideways at her partner, who was facing the Hokage intently.

Yesterday, dinner went uneventfully as they had talked more about Naruto's time in Iron Country. He had even said that both him and Yuugao had some tutorship from the leader Mifune himself. They had talked a lot and Naruto appeared more himself, near the end. The two parted ways after Kurenai paid the check. Kurenai was indeed surprised that the Hokage called him for another mission so soon and her as well.

"Jiraiya should have been here to explain it, but he had some places to be first. Now, in about three days' time, Jiraiya shall meet with one of his spies in a bar located between Fire and Rain Country. For some time now, this spy has not been as cooperative, so this meeting shall be the last one, before more drastic measures are in order to make him talk." Naruto and Kurenai looked at one another in wonder, before Kurenai voiced their shared doubt. That's all good and all, but they are still due to hear their part in this.

"Ah, sir, what is our role in this mission? I would consider Jiraiya-sama capable of running this by himself." Hiruzen hummed in acknowledgement.

"Indeed he would be, but there are some nuances to be considered. Jiraiya's spy network is above all made of former shinobi spread throughout the Elemental Nations. He worked hard to get the members' trust. If he openly moves to capture one, then word shall spread quickly and he loses his network." Kurenai and Naruto nodded.

"So, we shall be the ones to capture the spy, then?" Hiruzen nodded at Naruto's question.

"You two have this time until the meeting to reach the location and act undercover as a couple." To that, Naruto's eyes widened instantly, betraying his lack of experience.

Kurenai betrayed very little in that regard, but Hiruzen noticed a slight tinge of redness in her cheeks.

"A couple, sir…?" Kurenai's hinted question made Hiruzen chuckle internally, but now wasn't the time to focus on that. Kurenai's head, for that matter, was filled with one thousand thoughts at the same time. One of them, though, was wondering who gave the Hokage such an idea. Naruto, for his part, remembered the dream he had and was focusing intently on not showing anything. Still, this wasn't the first mission he had to act undercover and he knew that he would have to play the part, very convincingly. From the looks of it, this was close to an A-ranked mission.

"Depending on Jiraiya's signal, you two shall move to capture the spy as soon as he leaves. But only after the signal, not before. If Jiraiya hears the intel he's hoping to get, then the mission is over." Naruto and Kurenai nodded, before Kurenai picked up the scroll of their mission's location. Both left in a shunshin so fast, neither of them heard Hiruzen's chuckled amusement.


===With Naruto and Kurenai===

Once outside and at the top of the Hokage tower, Naruto saw Kurenai's back as she looked over the rails towards the village.

"Ah Kurenai…" Naruto opened his mouth, but couldn't complete it, unsure of what to even speak in this regard.

"Naruto…" The lack of a suffix showed that she was still processing just like he was. At least, he hoped that that was the matter. She turned to see him, but she was having trouble looking at his eyes. "I trust that you have been in these types of missions, before, so you know what's to be happen between us." Naruto blinked a couple of times, before nodding in acknowledgement. Kurenai at least smiled, knowing he was taking this seriously. "Considering the level of this assignment, we are to play the part as convincingly as possible. That being said…" Kurenai took some time, collecting her thoughts and her breath. "We are to treat each other as a couple in a bar. I understand you know what that shall entail…" The experienced Chuunin merely nodded, looking down for a couple of seconds, before cerulean eyes met up with ruby ones.

"I understand, Kurenai. But, I don't know just how convincing I should be…I mean, I don't want to make it seem like I'm…you know…taking advantage."

She said nothing to that and simply approached him, before placing a comforting hand on his right cheek.

The Jonin was smiling at him and Naruto had truly felt something stir in his chest at the vision.

"It's astounding how much you have grown, Naruto-kun…I was having doubts about this mission, but now I truly wonder if there is a better partner in Konoha for this mission." Naruto blushed at the compliment and Kurenai smiled. "I trust you…but for mission sake, I shall choose a code word to say if I feel that I'm not comfortable with what you're doing. The word is 'illusion'. You shall get to use it, as well, in case you're not comfortable." He nodded, before Kurenai opened the scroll of the place's location. "The rendezvous point is close to three days in shinobi speed. We need to see an inn nearby to change into regular husband and wife clothes to then reach the place."

Naruto was also looking at the map, indicating an inn located at the same town the bar was at.

"Okay, then, by your leave, Taicho." Kurenai nodded and both left via shunshin towards the nearby gate.


===The Border between Rain and Fire Country===

The Sannin Jiraiya was inside the location as per the mission requirements and quickly maneuvered himself throughout the crowded tables and booths.

With this particular spy, if anything and that meant anything was different, then he wouldn't even appear. As such, Jiraiya made sure to arrive at a time when no one would bother choosing the private booths near the farther wall from the bar entrance. Ordering a sake bottle and two saucers, Jiraiya made himself comfortable while waiting for the spy's arrival. Of course, his state of mind was also key, so he just couldn't look at the door every time his peripheral vision caught sight of it. As such, after a couple of servings, the Sannin just allowed himself some time for his thoughts, while waiting.

"It's been a long time, hasn't it?" The raspy voice reached his ears, before Jiraiya chuckled and looked sideways to his spy. A man with long black hair, a poorly shaved beard, wearing a blue haori and dark pants.

"It has indeed, please join me…the sake is still warm." The man grumbled and took a seat, opposed to Jiraiya's. No names were needed between the two and precisely not when people may be listening.

"Much obliged, sometimes, the thirst requires a bit more poison. I trust you ordered the finest brands." Jiraiya smiled and served the man's saucer.

"Of course, I wouldn't waste this opportunity for us to meet after so long, with cheap sake." The spy drank it all in one go just like Jiraiya remembered, before he poured more and the spy drank it all once more.

"Ahh, indeed…now, to what do I owe the pleasure of this meeting?" Jiraiya knew enough about him, not to jump ahead with the subject, even if he wanted to deck his face for even asking.

"Oh no, there is no reason needed to share sake with friends, isn't it?" The spy had simply nodded with a smile, asking for a refill.

He was about to open his mouth once more, when the both of them saw what appeared to be a couple walking inside the bar and taking the first private booth on the adjacent wall. The woman, with ruby eyes and brown hair too, was wearing an elegant brown kimono with red sash, while carrying an umbrella. Her arms were holding the male with blond hair and blue eyes, wearing a light gray overcoat worn on top of a military-like blue uniform. The woman's head was comfortably rested on the man's shoulder as she looked at him with plain adoration and love. The blond man, for his part, with his free hand, gently caressed her cheeks, while looking at each other with plenty of affection. The spy snorted at the display and Jiraiya secretly applauded those two, while at the same time seeing his new book writing itself.

'Anko was right…this is golden…though I wonder if they are this good at acting or if there's something else there…hehehehe…something else indeed.'

"And here I thought that this place was reserved for the drunk and pathetic…it's rather nice to see such a lovey dovey couple, isn't it?"

The spy kept on looking them up and down for a while and Jiraiya knew that he was checking their behavioral pattern attentively. One of the bar waitresses placed a bottle of sake and the man had quickly handed over the money, before the woman served him some sake. The man, then, accepted the serving as both drank it all, before the man told the woman something and she started laughing, before cuddling close to him, without worrying if they were making a show or not. While couples normally behave like this in public, nothing seemed out of the norm, so the spy turned to the Sannin.

"Indeed…it's a welcome view…now I take it that you wish to hear about what I have to say." Jiraiya nodded, as the two started talking.


===With Naruto===

The disguised couple were just enjoying their night out, unimpeded about the mission parameters.

Despite that they were playing a role, both were quite accustomed to one another, to the point that it felt automatic to have a nice chat. Of course, Kurenai's trained eyes and Naruto's sensor capabilities kept them focused on the conversation that Jiraiya was having at the moment with the member of his spy network.

"More sake, honey?" Naruto smiled at the offer, both already quite intoxicated by the product. Together, they had already emptied half a bottle and that only served to keep them even more at ease with each other.

"Oh yes, please do." Kurenai smiled and served him. Kurenai's kimono was a bit loose on the shoulders, so it dropped a little bit, showing the top part of her chest region. The alcohol was making its job by loosening some inhibitions, but not so much that he would jeopardize the mission, as well as losing Kurenai's trust. She, for her part, though, was acting out of character at the moment. Usually so composed, Yuuhi Kureni was already past her limit of social drinking. At this point, her inhibitions were also more loosened, despite her continued focus on the mission. Her female trained eyes, of course, noticed Naruto's focus on her chest area. She smiled coyly at this, while inside feeling the warmth. To what she attributed this feeling, so far, she was unaware.

It could be the alcohol talking or…it could be the images that she started having of the nice man by her side…images of his training regimen…of his discipline…images of his clothes off.

"Oh, honey, are you trying to sneak a peek…that's not very nice, you know…at least not in a public place."

Naruto sensed no tension in her chakra, nor did she use the code word.

"Sorry about that, though I am finding it hard to control my eyes."

Kurenai caressed his whiskered cheeks fondly, making it extremely hard for him to stay focused at the moment.

"Oh, how flattering, even after our afternoon sessions, you're still lingering for more, I take it." Kurenai's inebriated mind was off the charts right now, as she couldn't even control her own mouth at this point. Plus, the images had already moved on to him taking some liberties with her. Cursing Anko at this point was irrelevant. She was there, already. The conversation was leading to something that was no longer under her control. And her hands were still caressing his cheeks fondly, when the image of Naruto kissing the princess also surged in her brain. She really wasn't prepared for what Naruto said next.

"You know, I was really trying to keep it together and not kiss you right now, since we are in a public setting, but I don't think I can resist another second." She saw his face approaching hers and all she wanted right now was to lean forward.

"Oh my! How mischievous you are, honey." His smile at her had literally made her heart skip a beat as the two embraced each other, while making lip contact.

As soon as that happened, cerulean and ruby eyes opened up in surprise, looking at each other. This wasn't supposed to happen...at least, not mission wise. However, at this point, none of them even considered stopping as the eyes closed once more as the respective heads moved sideways with Kurenai's resting on his shoulder, while Naruto leaned in to deepen the magical moment of the undercover couple. Naruto's hands caressed her back smoothly, while hers moved to feel his defined chest. Kurenai could feel the warmth of his chakra invading her system, bathing her whole, as if she was tucked in a blanket. To this day, she had yet to know anyone in Konoha with more chakra than him. But, this thick chakra came together with so much control, that she was feeling it inside her entire body.

Dared she say how she was feeling downstairs and the feeling started to scare her. The mission was still a go and she couldn't allow herself to lose control…or at least cross that boundary.

But she wanted it...she wanted it more than anything, right now. For sure, their relationship had shifted and it could never go back to where they were before. When they went back to the safe confines of the village, oh…the images…

Naruto, for his part, felt so out of this world, that for a moment, he had simply forgotten that he was still on a mission.

The dream he had of them kissing…was nice, but this…this was simply indescribable. And he found himself wanting more…

The couple didn't know for how long they were at it, just that neither even thought of remembering the code word right now. Jiraiya was watching his spy leaving the bar and passing by the heated couple making out. He, for his part, chuckled at the scene and got up as well to pass by the couple. The spy was already outside, so Jiraiya only needed to use the equivalent chakra of a regular bunshin, for the highly chakra sensitive couple to remember what was required of them, before both vanished in a shunshin to capture the tight-lipped spy, but not before Kurenai quickly casted a disorienting Genjutsu in the room, so the escape wouldn't be noticed.

The perverted Sannin just casually observed it all, before going to the cashier and paying for his tab. At this time, Naruto and Kurenai had already captured the spy and were waiting for him at the second rendezvous point.

The spy was about to talk about the recent moves of the Akatsuki's operatives, when something stopped him and he just said he needed to go. Jiraiya decided not to push any further, since that obviously meant that the spy was compromised, somehow. However, he had already worked through the info needed…those bastards were on the move once more. It's now only a matter of time until they start to hunt for the Jinchuuriki. It's time to push Naruto's training into at least giving him an edge against them.

Despite the grave situation, however, Jiraiya couldn't help but wonder about the kid's unlimited shinobi potential.


Author Note

To those attentive, indeed, I had used Tsubaki Kurogane and some of her side story from the Boruto series and gave her an sort of OC status, or rather an older version of her, as a pre-adult Naruto's current age. I understood that some didn't want more filler episodes, but I really wanted him to experience failure, before moving on and get stronger. Plus, the scene with Kurenai was on my mind for quite some time now and I really wanted to get it out. The relationship will only improve from here on out, for sure and the scenes as well, but I will inform beforehand, if some does not wish to read it.

As I said before, this is the last episode of the Naruto series, so next chapter, we shall move on to the Shippuden timeline.

A few topics are due to be addressed by next chapter, mainly some new skills that he's going to add, as well as Hiruzen's final choice for his successor, the Godaime.

You didn't think I had forgotten about that, did you? I'm in between three choices at the moment and shall make a decision by next chapter.

Also, I want to humbly express my excitement that this story is about to reach the 10k mark of followers.

It's mind blowing to imagine that no less than 10.000 readers are interested in this story. For that, I thank each and every one of you.

Next update: Avalon Bond