AN: Do not own Naruto… Sorry, sorry! I know it has been a while. I've been busy with work, then with losing my job, I've had plot bunnies attacking my muse left and right… seriously six plot bunnies for Worm and now two more for Naruto. I originally didn't think I'd have another one in me after this one but now? Yeah, probably one or two more Naruto fics in my future. Anyway, enough of my excuses.
Reader response: just a few this time since I can blanket state "I'm glad you all enjoyed the cats"
aguillar1180: I had a bit of trouble figuring out what you were saying but google is truly an awesome thing and it helped me work it out. So, thank you, I'm glad you found it amusing.
lordamnesia: lol noooo! Not the badgers!
Team Seven stood in one of Konoha's most infamous training grounds. Training ground 63; the haunted castle. The entire training ground in taken up by a scaled down version of a noble's castle. A masterwork of seals and genjutsu embedded into the castle walls to create semitransparent projections of guards, farmers, maids, advisors and noble's. An entire ghostly staff, that would respond to attacks like real people.
Not only that but it was filled to the brim with non-lethal traps. It was the ultimate infiltration training tool, and Kakashi was determined to run his team through it until they could take out any target he might designate, without being discovered. Oh, and he was making them do it without guns.
"The weapons you've made Naruto are, well, they're terrifying." The Jounin admitted amicably. "That said as we saw with the last mission they are not always the best option, or even a good option. So that means you are all going to learn to do this the old fashioned way. Slipping in between patrols and invading through castle walls if necessary, after all Kunai were originally meant for breaking mortar, (AN: This is actually true to the best of my knowledge) it's about time you learned to use them for their original purpose."
"I know, I know. I made stealth and infiltration some of my primary focuses after all. It's just, frustrating. I made the guns to make this kind of risky maneuver unnecessary." The blond groused with a slight frown.
Hinata lay a comforting hand on the blond's shoulder and favored him with a warm smile.
"And they are an excellent tool for doing precisely that. However, they are useless for say, extracting a hostage, or going after someone who is to terrified to venture outside their inner walls." The three students gave their sensei skeptical looks at that last one and he shrugged in response. "I once had to kill a man who had not left the walls of his castle in ten years… and the windows were more like arrow slits than anything else. He was extremely pale, even for a noble." Kakashi trailed off lost in the memory.
"Alright, you made your point. How are we doing this?" Sasuke asked.
"For the first run you will be working as a team. The obvious advantage to that is safety in numbers, and you can benefit from each other's skills. The downside is that it's harder for three people to sneak hidden through a compound than just one person."
Nodding the trio moved away into the trees surrounding the castle to begin planning their infiltration. In the feeble light of the half-moon they disappeared from even Kakashi's trained eye quickly.
"It's likely to be nearly completely dark inside. The only light will be from windows and any patrolling guards with flashlights or torches." Naruto mumbled, scanning the fortress with the practised eye of a master prankster. "If there are any inner rooms without an outer wall then it might be pitch black."
"I'll be able to see just fine though." Hinata offered not looking away from the castle as she scanned it with her Byakugan.
"Won't do either of us any good though." Sasuke murmured not all that confident about the Sharingan's ability to guide him through a room devoid of light. Enhanced eyesight and the ability to predict an opponent's next move was great, but only if he could see.
Hinata grunted in an unhappy acknowledgment.
"Wonder if I could cook up some seals to let us see in the dark." Naruto mused to himself.
"Could you?" Sasuke prompted.
"Maybe? Not sure. Anything is possible with seals but figuring out how to do it is the tricky part. I'll add it to the list of things to work on."
"So in the meantime?"
"Move slowly, and let your eyes adjust as best you can, I mean there should be some light." The blond shrugged. "Normally I'd spend weeks trying to learn and memorize as much of the layout as possible before I even thought about trying this."
Hinata paused in her observations and blinked several times before looking towards her teammates. "Did Kakashi-sensei give us any kind of time limit for this exercise?"
"Ugh, no. No, he didn't." Sasuke answered.
Nodding Hinata pulled out a blank scroll and began to sketch out a rough diagram of the castle. Her teammates shared a confused glance before going back to watching her as she made annotations for things like the height and thickness of the walls, hidden passageways, and guard patrol routes. After an hour and double checking her work she rolled up the scroll.
"Alright, let's get out of here. I know an all-night tea shop not too far from here. We can start planning out our assault and come back in a week for the three quarters moon. The extra light will work in our favor no matter what plan we come up with." She reasoned.
For a moment, her teammates are stunned into inaction. It only lasts a moment though before Naruto starts to fight to keep his laughter down to a snicker. With that the trio set off to plan… leaving their sensei waiting all night for them to fail or report back that they had succeeded.
When later asked what happened, the genin simply responded that they got lost on the road of life.
Team seven stared down at Naruto's first rapid fire prototype. It was laid out on a small table in the middle of their training ground. It looked a lot like the old model but with a larger magazine that jutted out maybe five inches past the underside of the gun.
"Huh." Sasuke murmured.
"What?" His blond teammate asked.
"Well I guess I expected it to look… Different."
Naruto shrugged in response. "It's the first prototype. I'll worry about aesthetics after I get something that shoots."
"The seals seem a bit, cramped though." Kakashi pointed out, and indeed the seals did seem to be rather tightly packed. Along the stock.
Naruto fidgeted a bit. "Well, I am trying to fit three charging seals meshed into the one explosive seal on there." Naruto scratched at the back of his head looking frustrated. "There isn't any research on this sort of thing, which is stupid because it's giving me all kinds of ideas for redundant triggers on long delay explosive tags… Though that's a bit unnecessary unless there is a sealing expert on hand to try diffusing it."
Naruto trailed off getting lost in theory and possibilities. Sasuke snapped his fingers in the blond's face to draw him back to the task at hand.
"Right, sorry. Anyway, we should get behind some cover and I'll have a clone start test firing." The group moved away and Kakashi summoned an earthen wall which they all ducked behind. Naruto sent out a clone.
Thirty seconds later the clearing shook with the sound of an explosion.
"Damn it." Naruto cursed as he vaulted the wall to get a better look at the damage.
There was a distinct lack of craters though it oddly did nothing to detract from the clear signs of damage. Bits of wood and metal jutted out of the ground and nearby trees.
In that moment, an idea began to tickle at the back of Naruto's mind. Naruto being the impulsive imaginative teen he is chased after it.
"Well, I'm not going to be using that any time soon." Sasuke muttered looking around at the wreckage.
"Don't get too discouraged, Sasuke." Hinata said smiling lightly. "You would be absolutely amazed how many times I've seen this exact thing happen before, and I still trust my life to the weapons Naruto-kun makes." Sasuke grunted something that vaguely resembled an acknowledgment.
Kakashi glanced over at his blonde student who had been staring off into space. "Naruto?" said blond only grunted still focused on the idea building in the back of his head. "Any idea what went wrong?"
"Explosion was louder than previous failures." He mumbled distractedly. "The timing seals must not have functioned properly, possibly because everything was cramped together, made mistakes easier. They all charged the explosive seal at once, must have overloaded it."
Hinata tilted her head slightly and observed her boyfriend for a moment before recognizing the signs of an idea blossoming. "Naruto, what are you thinking?"
Kakashi and Sasuke looked back and forth between the couple, not quite understanding the rapport the two had built up over years of knowing one another, and missing the significance of the question, but knowing it means something from Hinata's tone of voice.
Naruto took another few moments to think before speaking. "The explosion wasn't all that big… smaller than one explosive tag… but it was more dangerous."
"What do you mean?" Hinata asked.
"The, shrapnel." He said pointing at the gun barrel embedded two inches into a nearby tree. "One big chunk of metal ended up like that… Imagine how much damage a bunch of pieces the size of a bullet could do, or more even smaller pieces."
"That's… Honestly a bit scary." Kakashi conceded.
Naruto just nodded. "I've got to go talk with Higurashi-ojisan. I'll catch up with you all later." With that he made a clone to clear up the wreckage before launching into the trees heading towards the forge.
"Umm, he does know we were supposed to do more training after the test, doesn't he?" Kakashi asked directing the question at Hinata who sighed a bit tiredly.
"He gets like this sometimes when he has a new idea."
"Right." Kakashi sweat dropped remembering a few similar instances where his sensei would wander off mumbling while scribbling away at a note pad. "Guess we'll call it an early day today then. Just make sure he shows up tomorrow."
Under the light of the three-quarter moon team seven stared despondently at training ground 63.
With silent nods, they start their approach flitting from shadow to shadow Hinata leads the group forward. Naruto had wanted to take the lead, this being his specialty, but Hinata argued that her byakugan made her the better choice. She had flashed puppy dog eyes at him and that had been the end of the discussion.
Privately Naruto believed that she would fail, then be more receptive to his advice… so long as he did not try to tell her 'I told you so'. That would just lead to her being pissed at him.
Hinata gently scaled the outer wall by clinging to it with her Chakra, slipping between patrols she dropped into the garden hiding in the shadow of a large rose bush. She moved from shadow to shadow until she reached the castle's wall. The castle was truly built like a fortress, two entrances, both guarded. The windows barely rated the term each being a mere six in six inches wide and only two or three feet high.
Careful to stay in the deepest shadows of the building Hinata pulled out a kunai, longer and thinner than the norm with a serrated edge with careful checks of the patrols using her byakugan, Hinata began to saw at the bamboo wall using the edge of a window as her starting point. Each motion slow and deliberate but with force behind it. Slowly she made an opening in the wall large enough to slip through. Her team followed right behind her.
Placing the chunk of wall carefully back and with a quick application of Chakra to make it stick in place the genin moved on, stalking through the halls dodging the illusionary patrols and making their way towards the inner rooms.
Hinata's confidence in her abilities soared with every step and she couldn't fight off the satisfied smirk on her face at the idea of getting one over on her boyfriend. She wanted to prove to him that she could handle this just as well as he could. Naruto on the other hand was slightly impressed with Hinata's performance so far, but knew just from looking at the map she had drawn up that she had missed one minor but important detail and the simple fact that she had overlooked it meant she had not recognized the threat. Sighing internally the blond schooled his features to neutrality and waited for the inevitable mistake that would end the exercise.
Hinata gave a quick hand sign that was only just visible in the faint light alerting them to an approaching patrol. She darted forward silently until she took her first step into the room she had chosen to duck into. Instantly the crinkling noise of feet going against the grain of a tatami mat sounded out clear and crisp. Normally such a noise would be minor and overlooked, but in the silence of the night the sound carried.
For a moment, everyone froze in place, then the sounds of guards shouting mixed with the noise of running feet rang out. With that the lights came on throughout the mansion signalling that the simulation had been a failure.
Naruto was careful to keep his mouth shut and his face blank all throughout Kakashi's debrief and analysis. Hinata had the good grace to take it as the olive branch it was and not assume that it was a different method of saying; 'I told you so'.
Naruto carefully drilled into the handle of a kunai with its ring cut off. Nodding in satisfaction the blond blew out the bits of metal still filling the thin chamber he had created. Next the blonde carefully rolled an explosive tag up before slipping it into the chamber he had just drilled out. A bit of wax sealed it up. Finally, he welded the ring back onto the end of the kunai.
Twenty minutes later found a batch of Naruto clones standing at various distances from the single clone holding the kunai bomb. All of the clones looked nervous.
"I hate you, boss!" The clone holding the kunai called out.
"Yeah yeah, like I frickin care. Now be a good little test dummy and blow yourself up already!" The original called back from his impromptu bunker of a hole in the ground.
"All of my hate." The clone grumbled before channeling chakra into the knife. The silence in the clearing made the clone think, for a moment, that the theory would not pan out and the metal was preventing the chakra from reaching the tag. Then the kunai exploded dispelled that notion, and the clone. When the dust settled, the original popped his head over the edge of his whole to see just how much damage had been done only to tilt his head in confusion.
"The hell? It only got three of you?" Several of the surviving clones shrugged looking equally confused. The original just sighed. "Right. Not enough shrapnel maybe." He scratched at the back of his head. "Now how do I make it break up into more pieces?"
Hinata and Hanabi had set up a small firing range near the back of the clan compound. Honestly Hinata was unhappy about the location but it was off limits to all but the clan elders. Her father's idea was to give the girls a place to practice close to home hopefully showing the elders just how devastating the new weapons could be and breaking them from their disdainful mindset. Hinata had expressed her reservations but in the end caved to her father's wishes.
Hinata had already drilled her sister on safety and given her some basic instruction. Now would be her younger sister's first time using her new weapon. Hanabi approached the lesson with an almost concealed air of excitement. Only her slight fidgeting and faster than normal pace giving away how eager she was to begin.
Hinata noticed that only one of the main branch elders had come to watch them a particularly vocal traditionalist named Shitsukoi, though as they unsealed their weapons several other elders arrived as well.
Hinata carefully couched Hanabi as she took her first shots. Even being only a hundred meters from the target the new shooter was having some minor difficulties. Her shots all landed within eight or nine inches of the bullseye, but her grouping was terrible. Hanabi pouted cutely when her sister pointed this out.
So focused on the task at hand were the sisters that they never noticed Shitsukoi's aproach.
"Feh," the wrinkled old man scoffed. "Our ancestors must be weeping in their graves. Both heirs of the Hyuga clan abandoning their honor to fight like cowards with the demon's weapons." the man said fixing the two girls with a glare.
Hinata bristled, her boyfriend was not a demon. It had taken her months to convince the blonde to explain his seal to her, and a great deal of reassurance afterwards to convince him that she would not abandon him for it. To hear one of her own clan call him a demon made her blood boil. Hanabi did not know what Shitsukoi meant by his insult, but she easily picked up on her sister's anger and took that as her lead to glare right back at the elder.
"Were I you," Hinata said, her voice icy with anger. "I would use a great deal more care in how I spoke about Naruto. That is, if I was fond of keeping my head."
Shitsukoi reeled back slightly before his eyes narrowed and his glare resumed. "You know of the thirds law? You know what he is, and yet you would refer to him by name?! As if he is not-" he bit back the rest of his sentence with a glance at Hinabi who now looked confused.
"You both dishonor your clan by using those, things." He spat. "The Hyuga clan are proud warriors, not gutless assassins."
"We are ninja, uncle." Hinata spat back with equal fire. "Honor is for samurai; a ninja needs only to survive, and to kill their enemy."
Fire danced in the elder's eye's. "You would spurn our clan's traditions so easily! You are not fit to be the clan heir, and now you have corrupted your sister with your weakness!"
Both sisters bristled at the blatant disrespect.
"Tradition is neither good nor bad, it simply is." Hinata growled. "A good leader looks to the future; I see a future where some of our traditions will hinder our great clan."
"I dare to open my mind to the possibilities!" Hinata spat getting tight into the man's face. "To do otherwise would be to blind myself, like you."
It bears noting that among the Hyuga to be called blind is the ultimate slight. A blind Hyuga has no value to the clan, death would be considered preferable. This final insult was too much for Shitsukoi.
Lashing out with an open palm strike he knocks Hinata back a few feet, before grabbing Hanabi's rifle in one hand and backhanding the younger girl with the other. Sneering the man holds up the rifle with one hand and points it at the now wide eyed Hinata. "It's only fitting that you die by the thing you would betray the clan over." With that said Shitsukoi pumps a bit of chakra into the seals, and pulls the trigger.
It's as good as over in an instant. Seals flow up his arm spreading all the way across his body in only a second. For a moment Shitsukoi is frozen and silent. Then he begins to scream.
Naruto's security seals are a particularly vicious and creative bit of work. The first stage pulls all of the victim's stomach acid out through their body and to the gun where it corrodes all the seals related to firing. It utterly destroys an enemies chance to recreate the seals used. The second stage draws chakra out, not a great deal, just enough to power the explosive seals which destroy the few internal components. That explosion also happens to be large enough to take out most of Shitsukoi's right hand. The final stage is the truly brilliant bit though. The seals printed across the victim's body begin to absorb all the bodies liquids. Just a minute later Shitaukoi is nothing bit a mummy.
Hinata, Hanabi and the two elders watch the entire process in shock and horror. For a brief moment after the man's final breath there is only silence. Then one of the elders begins to shout of murder.
Wide eyed Hinata grabs Hanabi and with a quick hand sign the two vanish in a swirl of leaves. When they reappear outside the clan compound Hinata drags her shocked and protesting sister to the only place she is sure she'll be safe. Higurashi and Naruto's forge.
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