Author's Note: Hello and welcome to chapter 40 of Uzumaki Naruko!

Sadly, this author's note is a less than pleased one. If you looked at my last AN from Pain and Hatred: A Stray Devil's Tale, you will know that SOMEONE has copied my stories to a site called Fanfic dot me. It is a Russian site and it is monetised. To be absolutely clear, that is not me. I ONLY post stories on FF dot Net and on AO3.

Accept no imitations! All of you who are authors, I urge you to check the site and find out if some dastardly plagiarist has stolen your hard work as well.

Please enjoy this chapter though!

Read, Review and check out my other stories!

Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine, he is Kishimoto's

"Dattebayo!" -normal speech

'Dobe' -Thoughts

'{Shannaro!}' -Inner Sakura

"Ningen" -Boss Summon/Tailed Beast Speech

'Brat' -Boss Summon/Tailed Beast Thoughts

"Kage Bunshin!" -Ninjutsu/Genjutsu/Taijutsu move.

Beta'd by BigCC

Chapter 40: The Tower Part 3: Twin Scything Winds

Akimichi Chōji

VS

Sabaku no Temari

Chōji looked positively gloomy as he saw his match-up. He wasn't as smart or as insightful as Shikamaru was, but he was still smart enough to tell that the older Suna Kunoichi was probably a lot more dangerous than he was if her teammates were any indication. He wasn't really one to fight when he knew he'd lose, but his good buddy Shikamaru had done just that, so how could he give up without trying?

Temari eyed the rotund boy that was her opponent as they made their way down to the arena floor. Every aspect of his body language said that he knew he was outclassed, and yet he was still stepping forward to fight. That honestly raised her opinion of the Leaf Genin a bit.

Of course, that didn't mean she'd go easy on him. Just meant she'd try to make this as painless as possible and not torture the kid too much.

"This'll be interesting." Naruko said quietly. "She's a Wind Dancer, someone with a Primary Fūton Affinity. Suna almost never has a full roster in the Wind Dancer Corps because natural Fūton users are so rare, so people rarely see them outside of Kaze no Kuni itself."

"So if you'd been born there, you'd be a member?" Ino asked curiously.

"Probably. They have some method of testing people for just the wind element in Suna that work from a young age, so potential Wind Dancers often start training before they even become Genin." The Uzumaki Heiress replied as she kept her eyes on the graceful movements of the older blond girl. "She has a Dai-Tessen as well. That means she's an accepted member, not just a provisional one. That's pretty good for a Genin; normally they only allow Chunin and up to join the Corps fully."

Hinata pouted slightly at the attention that her girlfriend was paying the Sunagakure kunoichi, but it really couldn't be helped since it was the older girl's match.

"Do both of you understand the rules?" Raidō asked Temari and Chōji. Both genin nodded once. "Okay then…start!"

As the Tokujō leapt back, Chōji fell back as well before making the Ram handsign, followed by a handsign that Temari didn't recognize.

"Baika no Jutsu!" he shouted, and his entire body swelled up into a large round ball three times its original size.

"What the-?!" the dirty-blond kunoichi blinked in shock.

"Don't get shocked just by this! I'm just getting started!" the Akimichi Heir shouted. "Konoha-Ryū Taijutsu: Nikudan Sensha! (Konoha-Style Taijutsu: Human Bullet Tank!)"

Tucking himself into a ball and spinning rapidly, he sped at Temari like the world's biggest bowling ball. Using a chakra-powered leap, the only Sunagakure kunoichi present avoided the rolling attack of her opponent and unlimbered her fan.

"Ordinarily, I'd grandstand for a bit, but…" she muttered as she landed facing Chōji whose large form wasn't made for tight turns, forcing him to make a wide turn in order to come around again. Unfortunately, that gave Temari ample time to unlimber her fan. "I really don't want to give you another chance at that." Temari finished as she fully opened her fan, revealing three large, purple circles painted across the fabric's surface.

"Fūton: Kamaitachi no Jutsu! (Wind Style: Wind Sickle Jutsu!)" She shouted, swiping her fan down and unleashing a powerful vortex of wind at the Nikudan Sensha-using boy.

"W-Whoa!?" Sakura yelped and used chakra to stick to the ground. "This wind's intense!"

'Even if she's using her fan as a conduit for her jutsu, it takes a lot of time and practice, not to mention a strong Fūton Affinity, to use Kamaitachi via a fan.' Asuma mused to himself as he eyed Temari appraisingly. 'Looks like we have quite the talented Wind Mistress here.'

Barrelling forward at full speed, Chōji had no time or ability to dodge the incoming jutsu. The intense winds fought against his own momentum for a moment, before the winds won out, a miniature tornado forming around his body as it sucked his massive form off his feet. Now forcefully and uncontrollably spinning within the vortex of winds, Chōji couldn't maintain his own jutsu, his body deflating in a puff of smoke just as the winds died down and he started to fall with a startled yelp.

"And here's something else!" Temari shouted as she jumped into the air, refolding her Dai-Tessen with a single movement. The Suna genin wound up and slammed her weapon into the free-falling Konoha genin hard enough to send him rocketing into the wall like a cannonball. He embedded into it for a moment before falling out and slamming to the arena floor.

Clutching his bruised and battered stomach, while his head and guts were still spinning from his impromptu airtime, Chōji looked more than a bit green.

"I think I'm gonna be sick." He muttered before raising his voice. "I give!"

"Victory by forfeit to Sabaku no Temari of Sunagakure." Raidō acknowledged.

"He tried, but it looks like the boy needs more training." Sarutobi mused quietly. "I think I'll have to speak to Asuma to get him to do more actual training rather than relying on their clans to teach them. He isn't training the next Ino-Shika-Chō at the moment, after all."

He had plans to have his son train Ino, Shikamaru and Chōji at some point because there would no doubt be people requesting that particular combination as a genin team due to the prestige involved in the Ino-Shika-Chō name. Those three clans had been allied with the Sarutobi and one another for generations, all the way back to well before the Warring Clans Period. That sort of alliance was almost unheard of amongst most shinobi, and that all four clans, Sarutobi, Nara, Yamanaka and Akimichi, had chosen to join Konoha shortly after the Shodaime Hokage had founded the village had added weight to the fledgling dream of Senju Hashirama.

'I doubt Naruko will be happy at the idea.' The old Hokage thought wryly. She liked her team and wouldn't like it if it was messed up by clients going after big names rather than proven teams. Truth be told, he agreed with her up until a point, but it was also important for shinobi to learn how to work with diverse people inside of the shinobi forces, as in wartime, you never knew who you would be teamed up with.

The Sandaime had done everything he could to prevent the outbreak of another war, but his old bones could feel things stirring in the Elemental Nations, just as it had before the previous Great Shinobi Wars. He just had to hope that he was wrong this time.

A change on the randomiser made Sarutobi look up and frown. What the…?

Uzumaki Naruko

VS

Akadō Yoroi

VS

Kagari

A clamour of questions erupted from the genin, and even a couple of the Jonin, but Raidō clapped loudly to draw everyone's attention.

"OK, calm down and be quiet!" he shouted. "Settled? Good. This is a rare situation known as a 'Triple Threat' match. It only ever shows up if there are three genin left on the randomiser's list. However, all three genin have to agree to this match. What do the three of you say?"

"I'm in." Kagari growled. The last member of the Amegakure team looked pissed.

"I'm in as well." Yoroi added. The older Konoha genin cracked his knuckles in anticipation of the fight.

"As if I'm gonna miss out on this." Naruko smirked before pecking Hinata on the cheek and leaping to the arena floor, landing in a classic three-point stance. Standing up, she crossed her arms and waited for the other two to make their way down.

"She really gets involved in troublesome things." Shikamaru commented.

"Indeed. Although Naruko-san seems to relish them. Why? I have no idea." Shino said in a monotone.

Kiba, having suffered a strong kick to his family jewels, had only just hobbled back with a pack of ice held against his groin and throwing the occasional dirty look at a thoroughly unrepentant Sakura. Even so, he still managed to eye the two who were to fight against Naruko.

"I've never heard of this Akadō guy. Any of you know anything about him?" the Inuzuka Heir asked.

"He has the ability to siphon chakra from people he touches with his hands." Anko said as she eyed the last member of Kabuto's team. "It's a pretty useful utility ability, since all it takes is either a willing ally or a captured enemy to quickly replenish your reserves, but it's only really useful in combat against Genin and other low-level threats. Usually, anyone Chūnin and up has enough chakra that you'd have to grapple them for several minutes to cause any real damage to their combat capacity."

If it was just a one-on-one match, Naruko would be able to win easily against Yoroi; she had more chakra than she knew what to do with, so Yoroi could stand there draining her chakra until the cows came home and there'd be no effect. With the addition of Kagari from Amegakure though, things became a lot less certain, particularly if the boy was like his teammates and specialize in an ambush-based combat style.

"So what's a Triple Threat Match like?" Ino asked.

"A right mess is what it is." Kakashi said with a sigh. "Technically it'll be a free for all, but two of them will doubtlessly gang up on the third and then face each other. That's how these kinds of fights usually go."

What he neglected to add was that it was usually the two strongest who did that…or at least the two who thought they were the strongest. Looking at the three genin, one might be forgiven for thinking that Yoroi and Kagari were the stronger of the three, but Kakashi, and every Tokujō and up in the room, knew that Naruko was likely stronger than the other two put together. In taijutsu, ninjutsu, armed combat…she was likely superior to the other two in every respect barring genjutsu and possibly combat experience.

"Do you three understand the rules as they've been stated?" Raidō asked, drawing the cyclopean Jonin's attention from his thoughts.

"Yup." Naruko nodded as she bounced on the balls of her feet eagerly.

"Yeah, I heard ya." Kagari said.

"Let's get this out of the way already." Yoroi said as he flexed his hand.

"Very well then….begin!" the Tokujō Proctor leapt back and away from the trio of genin.

Locking eyes, Yoroi and Kagari nodded briefly before turning to face Naruko, who looked utterly unsurprised by this turn of events.

"Bring it, boys." She smirked and assumed the Araumi stance of the Ushio-Ken.

"Arrogant bitch!" Kagari growled before running through several handsigns. "Doton: Dochū Eigyo!"

"Aw c'mon, this again?" Kiba grumbled. "Shino and that Neji guy beat his teammates when they used this technique and this guy still thinks it's gonna work? On Naruko? Gimme a break."

Down on the arena floor, Yoroi charged at Naruko, his hands out and ready to grasp once she was within reach. Despite his longer reach though, he couldn't land a blow on her. She moved slightly to avoid each strike and grab by a small margin. Then she counterattacked with a kick to his stomach, which sent the older boy staggering back.

"And right about now…yup, Oboro Bunshin." Naruko looked around at the illusory clones emerging from the ground around her. Seriously, using a clone jutsu against me of all people…"

"Katon: Jigoku Kōka no Jutsu! (Fire Style: Descending Hell Jutsu!)" Yoroi shouted. Above him, a massive fireball appeared and started to descend towards Naruko. It wasn't actually a Fire Style jutsu; it was a genjutsu, albeit quite a good genjutsu, as it affected the target's sense of temperature perception in addition to their sight, making them feel the heat of a fireball descending towards them.

Thus he was surprised when the girl simply formed a basic Ram handsign and said, "Kai!"

To Naruko's perspective, the heat and bright light of the fireball vanished. A good thing she had her trusty gauntlet to warn her of the use of genjutsu, otherwise she'd have taken that as an actual ninjutsu.

Then the small army of Oboro Bunshin charged her and Naruko simply stood there and occasionally dodged the attacks of the real Kagari who was mixed in among them before grabbing his arm and executing a textbook-perfect over-the-shoulder throw, sending Kagari careening into Yoroi so quickly that the other genin didn't have time to respond before the Ame genin headbutted him in the stomach.

As the two collapsed, Naruko moved her hands to form a particular handsign that all of the genin and Jonin from Konoha were familiar with.

"My turn. Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" the Uzumaki Heiress said.

In a puff of smoke, two clones appeared on either side of her, which puzzled the watching ninja from Konoha. Why only two?

Naruko passed out a handful of shuriken to her clones and smirked before, as one, the three Narukos threw them and ran through three handsigns before clapping.

"Gen'ei Tajū Shuriken! (Multiple Phantom Shuriken!)" The three said in unison.

The triple handful of shuriken instantly multiplied into a small swarm that bore down on the two gawping genin. Kagari used his earth swimming jutsu to dive down underground, while Yoroi started dodging frantically, drawing a kunai in one hand to he could defend himself. His frantic evasions worked for the most part, but he still had a shuriken lodged in his shoulder and one in his stomach when the barrage ended. Both faded into nothing as the jutsu ended.

Naruko, however, still wasn't finished. She and her clones ran through three more handsigns, Dog-Rat-Tiger and inhaled deeply.

"Katon Renkeijutsu: Karura! (Fire Style Synergy Jutsu: Garuda!)" The three Narukos chanted, making the Sand Siblings' eyes widen in shock at the name of their mother, just before they exhaled, unleashing a wild wave of fire that swept across the floor of the arena in the form of a dragon. It slammed into Yoroi and consumed him. When the fire died down, the older genin was slumped against the wall opposite to Naruko, looking practically barbecued and obviously unconscious.

He was just lucky that Naruko hadn't fully charged her technique, otherwise he'd be a charred black corpse.

"One down." The redhead said calmly as she turned her head around to look straight at the wide-eyed Kagari, who had popped his head out of the floor and watched the defeat of his temporary ally.

"Tch…useless." The Ame genin snarled, recovering rather quickly. "Let's see you get at me underground!"

As he sunk underground, Naruko exchanged looks with her clones and they all smirked evilly. Each of them formed the Tiger handsign and said, "Doton: Doryū Taiga!"

In an explosion of mud, Kagari was hurtled from underground and straight up into the air, yelling in shock and confusion.

"Clever. That jutsu is cast at wherever the enemy is so long as the user can see them or otherwise know where they are." Kakashi complimented her choice. "As Kagari hadn't moved much from his former position, it was easy to lock in on him and expel him from the ground with Doryū Taiga. A clever use of a fairly weak offensive jutsu."

As one, Naruko and her clones charged at the flying and flailing form of Kagari and leapt into the air. One kicked him further up into the air before the other two used her as a leaping pad, making her dispel once they had jumped. The remaining two sped above the Ame genin before the last clone grabbed the real Naruko's arm, spun her around and threw her feet-first at her enemy before dispelling.

"Uzumaki Taijutsu Ōgi: Kai! (Uzumaki Taijutsu Ultimate Technique: Revised!)" The girl shouted as she whirled herself into a powerful spinning drill aimed straight for her opponent. Unbeknownst to her, the door leading to the rest of the tower had opened and a pair of shocked brown eyes was following her. "Rasentenkyaku! (Spiralling Heaven Kick!)"

Striking Kagari like a thunderbolt, the boy's body started to spin in step with Naruko's own before she kicked off after just a few seconds, sending her opponent slamming into the ground and rolling across it before stopping. He was still breathing, but the splayed manner of his limbs showed that Kagari was definitely down for the count.

"And that makes two." Naruko chirped proudly as she landed. The door had closed again before she could notice it.

Eyeing the two unconscious genin, Raidō nodded. "Agreed. Kagari of Amegakure and Akadō Yoroi of Konohagakure are no longer able to fight. Winner by knock out, twice over, is Uzumaki Naruko."

Cheers from her fellow genin made Naruko smile blindingly as she posed with one fist raised in victory. "I kick ass-dattebayo!"

Temari raised an eyebrow at the girl, somewhat impressed. Despite the fact that both of those other genin had been older and more experienced than she was, Naruko had clearly dominated that fight and just as clearly had been holding back the entire time. Her taijutsu wasn't any style that the oldest child of the Kazekage recognised, but the most riveting thing about the redheaded kunoichi was that fire jutsu that she'd used.

Sabaku no Karura had died in childbirth while giving birth to Gaara, mostly thanks to that stupid bastard they were forced to call their father wanting a weapon. It had been so long ago that Temari had only the faintest of memories of her mother. Still, she treasured what memories of her that she possessed, as well as the Dai-Tessen that Karura had left to her.

Before now though, she had never heard of a jutsu with the same name as her mother. She immediately resolved to do some research on it. It would be nice to be able to use a jutsu with her mother's name on it, even if she didn't have a Katon Affinity.

"Congratulations." Sarutobi said sincerely to all of the passing genin, all ten of them. Ino, Shino, Sakura, Hinata, Naruko, Gaara, Lee, Sasuke, Temari and Neji lined up in front of him and the other jonin. "A lot of you are rookie genin, who have been in your village's armed forces for less than a year. That you are standing here now, having beaten out the competition of much older and more experienced genin, is a rare thing. Take pride in it and use that to carry on.

"The Third Round will be taking place in exactly a month, at the Konohagakure Exhibition Stadium and, much like the Third Round Preliminaries, will consist of a one-on-one elimination tournament." The old Hokage continued. "Use this month wisely, for it is a poor shinobi who does not strengthen themselves when they know that a fight is in the offing in the near-future. As for how your opponents will be chosen…well, you shall choose them yourself."

A box was carried forward by Raidō and all of the genin stuck their hands in to withdraw a slip of folded paper.

"Kindly read the number written on your slip of paper aloud." Sarutobi directed. "The randomiser will assign your initial opponents once all numbers are read out."

"One." Gaara grated out flatly.

"Seven." Temari said.

"Four." Neji said.

"F-Five." Hinata squeaked out.

"Yosh! Two!" Lee shouted.

"Ten." Sakura said.

"Three." Ino said.

"Nine." Naruko rolled her eyes at the continued 'coincidence' of her being linked to that number.

"Eight." Shino said softly.

"Six." Sasuke said finally.

After a moment, the board displayed the match-ups to the watching genin's eyes.

Match 1: Hyūga Hinata (5) vs. Hyūga Neji (4)

Match 2: Uchiha Sasuke (6) vs. Rock Lee (2)

Match 3: Aburame Shino (8) vs. Sabaku no Temari (7)

Match 4: Yamanaka Ino (3) vs. Haruno Sakura (10)

Match 5: Sabaku no Gaara (1) vs. Uzumaki Naruko (9)

A lot of gasps came from the throats of many of them as the last match-up was revealed, with Naruko just exhaling shakily in response. Quietly, the Hokage dismissed them and left the room.

Gaara locked eyes with his future opponent, cold teal meeting brilliant sapphire and a heavy weight fell across the room as the two Jinchūriki clashed with their wills, their chakra responding and rising to match their will to fight.

"Mother will feast on your blood." The male redhead rasped finally.

"Bring it, little boy." Naruko snorted. "As I told you last time, I am no stranger to death threats. I'll see you in a month."

Gaara smirked at her, a slow and feral expression on his face, before he vanished in a Suna Shunshin. Temari and Kankuro looked at Naruko with wide eyes before the oldest Sand Sibling gave her a brief, respectful nod before quickly grabbing and leading her other sibling out

"Well, that was freaky." The Uzumaki Heiress sighed.

"Wh-what are we going to do? You're going to fight that…that boy!" Hinata asked in a panic. Naruko responded by drawing her girlfriend into a cuddle.

"Hey, I'll be fine." She muttered to the Hyūga Heiress as the bluenette automatically relaxed into her embrace. "You just focus on training yourself to face Neji."

"It matters not, for I am fated to win." The older Hyūga genteelly sneered before leaving the room.

"He has as bad a case of The Stick Up The Ass as ever, I see." Naruko remarked.

"Yeah…sorry about that." Tenten winced, mentally throttling her stoic male teammate. Why did her only sane teammate have to have a chip on his shoulder the size of the Hokage Mountain about the Main Family of the Hyūga in general and Hinata in particular?

"Not your fault, Tenten." Naruko waved a hand airily. Ino and Hinata both immediately noted the lack of honorific towards their sempai and wondered what had caused the change. "Neji's problems are his to deal with, not for his teammates to worry about."

"Yosh! A most Youthful stance, Naruko-chan!" Lee cheered.

"Agreed, my most Youthful pupil!" Gai materialised as if by magic next to Lee. "Alas, we must away! You have a month to train for a most Youthful match with young Sasuke!"

"Hai, Gai-sensei! If I cannot train as hard as I can, I shall run around Konoha 500 times on one hand!" the Mini-Gai declared, getting jaws to drop from those not used to his…Gai-ness.

"Tenten, here are lessons for you to go through while I am training Lee! Ask Anko-san if you need clarification on any of them!" the spandex-clad Elite Jonin said as he tossed a dozen scrolls at his kunoichi student before both he and Lee flew from the room at a sprint.

"YOOOOOOUUUTTTHH!"

"…" the room full of genin, Tokujō and Jonin were speechless for a moment before Kakashi sighed and facepalmed.

"Goddammit, Gai…"

"Well…that happened." Anko said with a roll of her eyes. "OK then, let's get outta this tower and back to Konoha, kids. I need me some dango."

"Anko…!" Kurenai groaned.

"What? I've been on a three-day fast!" the Snake Mistress protested. "I need my dango fix!"

"Is she like this all the time?" Sakura asked Ino in mild disbelief.

"No…she's actually being restrained for a change." Her old rival replied wryly.

"Oi!"

The gaggle of gabbing genin and their Jonin-sensei headed through the corridors until they came to the entrance of a tunnel. It was this tunnel that connected the tower with several hidden or disguised entrances scattered around Konoha. As Kakashi explained to the genin, the tunnel was lined with powerful fūinjutsu that prevented someone from breaking into it with either Doton Ninjutsu or immense physical strength. The seals also made people travelling through it have a hard time orienting themselves with what direction they were travelling, and made compasses go haywire. That last pair of seals was a holdover from when the tower in the Forest of Death was the secret hideout for the entire civilian population of the village.

After exiting the tunnel, the group split off to return home to their parents. They all had to report to their parents about how they did in the Second Round of the exam. Shikamaru was gloomily certain that his mother would use Frying Pan-Fu on him if he tried to avoid it, so he decided to get it all over and done with as soon as possible.

Naruko was about to head to Ichiraku's to have her first bowl of ramen in almost five days when a familiar purple-haired ANBU with a cat mask appeared in a puff of smoke next to her.

"Genin Uzumaki, Hokage-sama wishes to speak with you at your earliest convenience." Neko said formally.

"That means…'right away', doesn't it?" Naruko asked as she scrunched up her nose cutely.

"I am afraid so." Neko confirmed.

"Dammit. Ah well, hopefully I'll get out before Ichiraku's closes." The Uzumaki Heiress sighed. "Why is everything conspiring to keep me from my ramen?"

With a chuckle, Neko placed her hand on Naruko's shoulder and whisked her away to the Hokage Tower via Shunshin.

"Urgh…I think I'd prefer doing my own Shunshin next time." Naruko made a face once she stumbled slightly when she appeared.

"Side-Along Shunshins tend to do that." Neko nodded. "This way, Genin Uzumaki."

Looking around, Naruko realised that she was on the roof of the tower, so she hastened after Neko. After going down stairs and through corridors, they finally made it to the Hokage's office.

Neko knocked on the door (odd, there was no secretary like normal, Naruko noticed) and stuck her head in a moment later. "Hokage-sama? I've brought Genin Uzumaki, as requested."

"Thank you, Neko-san. Send her in please and stay on guard outside to ensure we are not interrupted." Her Ji-chan said from within.

"You heard him, Genin Uzumaki." The ANBU swordswoman said with a nod.

Nodding back, Naruko headed in, wondering what this was about now. She stopped when she had gone three steps in, her eyes locked on the two figures in the room that she recognised from stories. One was a man with a wild mane of white hair, a kabuki-eske way of dressing, a horned hitai-ate with the kanji for oil on it and a pair of red lines running down his cheeks from the furthest corners of his eyes.

The other…the other was a tall blond woman, her hair tied back in a pair of pigtails. She wore a comfortable-looking grey kimono-style blouse that was opened and angled enough to expose her not-inconsiderable cleavage whilst remaining just this side of decent, and a pair of bluish-grey trousers, as well as a pair of high-heeled strappy black shinobi sandals. Over her blouse, she wore a grass-green haori. Set in the centre of her forehead was a violet diamond-shaped design that Naruko was vaguely aware as being a complex fūinjutsu of some kind.

"Ah, Naruko-chan. I see you recognise our guests." Sarutobi smiled at her. "Just for the sake of formality, however, I'll perform introductions. These are my two remaining loyal students, Jiraiya the Toad Sage and Senju Tsunade, the Slug Princess."

"Sensei, I…" Tsunade spoke softly, her own eyes not moving from Naruko. "I don't…how is this…?"

"Cousin Tsunade?" Naruko breathed.

Something in the older kunoichi seemed to snap at that and she moved two long and quick strides forward before dragging the younger girl into a bone-creaking hug. Tears fell from her eyes and a sob escaped her before she looked at her teacher with a mix of disbelief, joy and anger in them.

"How?!" she demanded harshly.

"Wh-what's…the matter?" Naruko managed to get out.

"Tsunade-hime, you may want to ease up on the hug…she's turning blue." Jiraiya pointed out in amusement, making his teammate leap back in shock, releasing Naruko, who sucked in air gratefully.

"The problem, Naruko-chan, is that ever since you were born, you have been alone." Sarutobi answered with a tired sigh. "Had Tsunade been aware of your existence, she would have come and helped to raise you, her own feelings about Konoha be damned. The reason she never did…"

He trailed off, but Tsunade finished it for him.

"The reason I never came, Naruko, is because I was told you were dead." The last of the Senju growled. "And I want to discover who arranged it and why, before I punch them into paste!"

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Next Chapter: Terrible Tales of a Tortured Toad Sage

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