A/N: I did mention I was out of practice? Good news I'm stuck in a hotel in Florida with free internet!

Here's another chapter to resurrect this story. Also, I have a frightening number of grammer mistakes in my older chapters, I'm so sorry!

Enjoy!

Japanese Fun: Saa - "Now"; Haiyaku! - "Hurry!" or "Quickly!" (Note: this is the same root as haiyai); Baka - "Idiot";

Disclaimer: Alas, Naruto will never be mine


Chapter 30 – Bait

The shock of their comrade's quick defeat by Sakura lay stark on Hikaru and Yuki's faces. They had thought to have avoided stronger opponents when they snuck into the village away from the Sound main assault force.

Tenten's eyes narrowed with concentration as she decided to capitalize on the opening. She had purposely bit deeper into her bleeding lip to increase the blood flow. The steady drip fell to her hands that lay flat in the dirt were she knelt under guard by Hikaru. Blood was the medium for inking many types of seals and Tenten as a weapons specialist had signed tens of thousands into being. During Sakura's fight she had lightly traced a seal into ground, a pattern her's hands knew without needing her eyes to follow.

As Tenten heard her captor's breath his breath catch at the scene before him she also felt his grip slacken and the kunai held at against the skin of her throat fall away. She recognized this unconscious fear, this irrepressible desire to flee. Hikaru's stance had to shifted away from her if only slightly like he'd forgotten she was there.

"Your mistake," she thought.

Slamming her head back she felt it impact solidly with Hikaru's chin. The grip and the hand holding the kunai fell away completely. She slid hands together on the earth and released the chakra necessary to charge her seal, then rolled forward on her shoulder, twisting to meet her opponent.

Tenten had performed this all in breath's time, yet even as she turned still kneeling she faced an enraged Hikaru.

He yelled charging forward, "Where do you think you're going, you...".

Tenten's smiled with cold satisfaction as his foot made contact with her seal.

"Baka," she said with a grin.

Hikaru heard the hum of the release and had no time to looked down as kunai materialized to slash up at him from the seal trap Tenten had set.

The ring of steel passing through flesh was drowned by Hikaru's cry of pain. Yukimaru's tore his eyes from Sakura to spring to his brother's aid. Tenten too jumped away to move to a safer distance. She was pleased, yet unsurprised when her three brave genin jumped in front ready to defend her retreat.

Yukimaru scanned the opponents in front of him as he shouldered Hikaru. The tables had turned and he grimaced as he saw Sakura step forward.

"Shit," he muttered.

"Brother," Hikaru moaned at his side.

Yuki looked into his twin's eyes and seeing their intent nodded. Intertwining the fingers of his left hand with Hikaru's right, the cloud-nins deftly swiped blood over each of their tattooed arms.

Moving in unison the twins slapped their free hands down to the ground.

"Kuchiyose no jutsu!" (Summoning technique)

Tenten shied her eyes at the smoke and dust that billowed up as the summoning was performed. It thinned to reveal a writhing mass of giant centipedes, arm thick and blood red that spilled writhing toward them.

She looked to her large seal scroll still lying against the wall where she'd left it. As she did so Sakura moved in front of them in blur of motion so quick that she seemed to materialize out of thin air.

Her hands were filled with seals, but as her chakra built Tenten could tell what was coming. The once apprenctice of Tsunade was now employing her other gift, a skill in which she surpassed even the Hokage. Sakura's form seems to swirl out of existence as the body of any genjutsu user always did to an observer.

Tenten heard her voice echo around her and her team.

"Magen Shounsetsu Machi!" (Demonic Illusion: Inferno Road)

Tenten knew it was just illusion, however the wave of fierce heat that washed over her felt terribly real. She heard Hana cry out as the girl shied from the blinding wall that of flame that sprang in front of them.

The illusion's affect was felt by the summoned creatures as well. The centipedes' advance had halted and the swarm seem to retreat from the blaze. As the insects fell back the line of fire moved to ring out them in a tightening trap. The creatures boiled together in a mass as they searched for escape.

"Now Tenten!" came a voice.

Sakura's call broke the pull of the illusion on her senses, shaking her head a little, Tenten moved like a flash back to her large seal scroll. Gathering it up she launched herself high into the air.

"Eat this!" she yelled, unfurling it from the bindings.

Her hand swiped over a large intricate seal that released a spinning bundle of explosion tags. The cannonball-like bomb hurtled to it's mark and hit it with a deafening explosion, obliterating the creatures. As Tenten landed the illusion winked out of existence and a relieved looking Sakura who materialized nearby gave her a smiling nod.

Hana, Daichi and Futaba all gawked at the two chuunin in amazement. The spell of wonderment was brief though as Hana noticed a piece of centipede stuck in her hair. "Eww! Gross!" echoed from the three kids as they each started to clean off the results of Tenten's attack.

Tenten smiled at their antics and turned to Sakura who was scanning the village rooftops due east. Yukimaru and his brother clearly created a diversion to make their escape. "I didn't need your help by the way..." Tenten said smartly as she walked over to where Sakura stood. She softened her tone as she finished, "but thank you for saving my team."

Sakura's face hinted surprise as she suppressed as smile. While they always got along well enough as teammates, but Tenten did little to hide her rivalry with Tsunade's apprentice.
"No," Sakura replied, "I should thank you, I spied those three crossing into the village after I sent my team back. I decided to trail them alone. I knew it would be risky to take them on by myself." She turned to look at the genin who were still complaining loudly about bug guts. "You are a very good squad leader, you know, " she told her.

Tenten felt her face get warm at the compliment. She turned quickly to look in the direction where they were both sure the two cloud-nins had fled. "Should we pursue them?" she asked seriously changing subject, "They are dangerous enough to still cause trouble."

Sakura shook her head as Tenten's glance returned to her. "I have a good idea where they're headed," she said giving Tenten one of her rare evil grins, "And those two will wish they were still dealing with us soon enough."

Across the village seeming half a world away Naruto was locked in battle with another difficult creature.

Towering over him even as he stood on the rooftops was the coiling menace of Manda, King of Snakes, Orochimaru's most powerful summon. The snake's jet purple mass coiled together in the flattened area made by its demolishing entrance to the village. Naruto, not the one to play defense, brandished two kunai with teleport tags and threw them to either side of Manda's bulk. His hands were a blur as he performed a jutsu combo of this own devising.

"Kage Bushin Hiraishin no jutsu!" (Shadow Clone Flying Thunder Spirit Technique)

Two shadow clones appeared next to Naruto. As he placed his hands on them they instantly winked out of existence appearing where the two kunai has landed. All three brought their hands together in a series of seals then in unison slapped their palms to the ground.

Doton: Yomi Toge (Earth Type: Spines of the Underworld)

A black pool spread swiftly along the ground from each of their hands. In the blink of an eye three large midnight pools surrounded Manda. From each sprang sharp rocky crags, like the spines on the back of a giant fish, rising to and pierce through the giant snake. A hiss emerged from Manda as bared his fangs. Naruto grimaced seeing the result. "I was too slow." he thought. The snake's eyes were cloudy as it's body began to deflate. Manda had used it's skin to substitute itself for the target of Naruto's attack.

Naruto knew he didn't even have time to turn around as he felt something massive rise up from under the earth behind him. Flinging himself to another rooftop he turned to see Manda's tail smash to splintered rubble the three story house he had just been standing on.

A street over Manda's head emerged staring balefully at him. "When I eat you," it said, "I will digest you very slowly, extracting all of that Nine-tails chakra."

"Yeah, yeah," Naruto yelled, "Whatever, ya over-sized earthworm!" As he bantered another kage bushin appeared beside him. Taking this one by the arm Naruto whipped him around like a chain hammer to launch right at the snake's head. The clone cried out, "Rasengan!" as the tight swirl of chakra appeared in it's hand.

Manda roared a powerful serpentine hiss, the sound of it shook the air as it carried a shockwave of the creature's chakra, destroying the bushin before it could connect. The real Naruto had moved right to the base of the monster holding another rasengan, this one gave off a dark glow as it's vortex seemed to draw in the light and air around it. Naruto acted before Manda could attack again bringing his hand down as he cryed out

"Saikodama Rasengan!" (Perfect Marble Swirling Sphere)

The sphere in Naruto's hand shrank as he brought it down, becoming tighter and faster until it appeared no more than a shiny black ball as it met the soft dirt. The ground on which Manda's bulk sat erupted. The rasengan passed underground to expand billowing up in a violent explosion. Manda was launched straight up in the air to it's own bewilderment. A smug looking Naruto waited below him with another of his wind jutsu spinning like a thousand whistling blades in his hand.

The Manda was far from finished as he's opened his giant maw at Naruto.

"Hebi-Ou no Doku!" (Venom of the Snake King)

A torrent of sizzling liquid sprayed down from the monster's fangs. Naruto cursed aloud as he dug a seal wrapped kunai out and whipped it at tree in the distance. As his Hiraishin transfer met the tree branch it puffed into smoke replaced by the hand of a clinging Naruto.

He watched in disgust as the giant creature flattened another dozen houses in his fall, the rising dust screening most of the beast's girth, but even then Naruto could see it's violet hued mass shifting in the fog. He cursed again. "What the hell!" he said as he swung up to stand on the tree branch. This fight wasn't going his way so far and before it was all over half of Konoha's buildings would be destroyed. Naruto was trying to come up with something that could take down a stadium-sized reptile when he heard a powerful voice enter his mind.

"Oi, gaki! Still can't handle things by yourself yet," it said.

Naruto smiled, it had been some time since they had talked.. "Haven't heard from you in a while, ya damn fox," he thought.

"You haven't been this pathetic in a while," it quipped.

Naruto caught himself grinding his teeth when after a pause the Kyuubi added, "Maybe you should try it my way."

Naruto immediately hated the idea, yet conceded the fox had a point. There wasn't any other way to be certain he'd defeat the Manda and leave most of the village standing. "Alright," he said aloud, "Let's do it, but get him out of the village first."

A sensation of deep satisfaction that was not his own rolled through the blonde chuunin. "I'll show you how it's done, boy."

Naruto leap and ran over roof tops towards his huge adversary. The dust had thinned to mere haze as Manda turned toward him.

"Ahhh," exhaled Manda in pleasure, "There you are. I don't like when my food hides."

"Ok bastard," Naruto yelled, "I'm gonna give you what you've come for." He faced him unzipping the flak jacket he wore underneath his coat. Revealing a black undershirt he deftly slid out a kunai and sliced open its fabric to show his bare torso beneath. On his muscled stomach lay the cursed seal given him by the fourth Hokage, it's black calligraphy unfaded after eighteen years lay in sharp contrast to his pale skin.

Naruto nicked his finger in clenched teeth and as the blood flowed he dabbed to other fingertips placing all of them over the seal on his navel. In his mind's eye Naruto saw himself in a very familiar cavernous room before a massive iron gate. A seal tag was placed on it over and the papery remnants of an older seal, one he had broken, were visible beneath. The newer seal that replaced old was one of his own making and it symbolized a slightly different contract with his demonic tenant. A dangerous being that even now shifted in the inky depths behind the bars.

Two frightening eyes shone crimson from the caged darkness. "Come, do it," it said with impatience

Naruto showed no fear as he approached the seal with an outstretched hand. His palm hovered over it's destination as he looked up at those eyes. "Remember," he said sternly, "I want him out of the village first."

The red gaze narrowed slightly. It did not like to be told what to do, but it gave certain allowances to this brat in front of him. "Ahh," the Ninetails assented with annoyance. "Saa, haiyaku!"

Naruto's hand touched the seal and in the world outside himself he felt his voice echo with the power.

"Hakke no Fuuin Gyaku!" (Divine Seal of the Eight Trigrams Reversal)

An explosive sound of crashing rubble could be heard as a white mist, like a powerful summoning, poured forth before the King of the Snakes. The Manda hissed with pleasure as it guessed at what had happened. "Did you call out a toad for me to eat first?" he rasped mockingly. It's black eye's narrowed to slits as it saw large shadows list about in the thinning mist. "Something as big as I," it thought, "maybe even..."

A sinister, gloating laugh emerged from the mist. The drifting shapes in the gloom coalesced into blood red tails that crested high enough to blot the sun's light. Teeth glinted from a maw that spoke in voice like black thunder, causing the Manda to recoil in response it had rarely felt in it's long life, terror.

"Now snake," said the Kyuubi in the flesh, "let us see who shall do the eating."

The tremors of Naruto's titanic battle could be felt throughout the village, yet Shikamaru was too preoccupied to let attention be spent on things outside his control.

Moving swiftly from branch to roof to hidden vantage, he spared little thought as to what monstrous things the other Leaf-nins were dealing with. "I have my own monsters," he thought.

Peaking around the edge of a wall, from a window ledge above a narrow street Shikamaru spied Neji below him in an alley facing opposite his position. Shikamaru was immediately comforted to see the Byakugan on the pale visage of his partner. "Having that guy here means we shouldn't get surprised." he thought.

Neji brought his palm up and Shikamaru tensed as he pressed his body up against the cool brick. At the end of the street where the sun's rays played deeply into the street's lazy shadows, he found their adversary. Arashi Setsuko even now had a frailty about her, her slight appearance, her porcelain skin, her hair the color of snowy lilacs. Yet her eyes cast a frost that sought their prey with mechanical precision. Shikamaru felt himself hold his breath as she started to walk towards them.

"She's shows no fear of being ambushed," he thought. "Actually she doesn't show much of anything." Naruto had warned him about her temper, but he figured he could sooner make this one belch her name like Choji than get her angry. With eerie calm Setsuko paced down the street scanning windows and doorways, moving nearer to where Shikamaru wanted her to be. "Yosh," he cheered silently.

Neji, who could see easily see out around the corner from where he hid in the alley's entrance way, shifted his foot causing a slight scraping sound to whisper through air. Setsuko was a blur of movement as her slivery threaded needles studded the brick of the alleyway. A sound like a buzzing fly tickled Shikamaru's ear just as the pin-cushioned walls exploded. In a flashing step to the middle of the street Neji appeared unhurt and only short distance from Setsuko. Bringing both arms forward she released a new spray of electrified senbon on her target. With his flawless timing, Neji whipped his body around in his perfect defense.

"Kaiten!" (Heavenly Spin)

Shikamaru capitalized on the moment. As Neji deflected the attack, he deftly threw four kunai at explosion tags he'd set on the high walls above the narrow streets entrance.
Setsuko barely lifted her head at the sound as the smoking brick fell onto her. Neji covered his face as the dust and smoke rushed past him. The haze clearing to reveal the impressive pile of rubble created by the collapse of walls from each side of the street.

All was silent and Neji scanned the pile then looking up at Shikamaru gave him a smug smile. "She in there," he called up, "we have her." It was now Shikamaru's turn to smile with relief.

Neji turned back quickly. The brick and mortar in front of him blew out from the pile and from it walked a unflustered and unscathed Setsuko. Neji grit his teeth, this close to his opponent he instinctively let his arms span wide.

Shikamaru recognized the stance and called out, "Wait, Neji." It was too late.

"Hakke Rokujuyon Sho!" (Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms)

The Hyuuga clan genius moved faster than Shikamaru's eyes could follow materializing in front of Setsuko his fingers stabbing forward to close her chakra points. A crackling explosion sounded as Neji was thrown backward high in the air. Shikamaru threw a smoke bomb in front of Setsuko and caught Neji's flying body out of the air. Tossing him over a shoulder, Shikamaru sprang off to put as much distance as possible between him and their clearly failed attempt at an ambush.

Clearing his second building Shikamaru heard Neji cough a little and decided they had run far enough. Landing on a rooftop, Shikamaru gave Neji's butt, conveniently located next to his head, a stiff whack.

"Oi, Neji you still alive?" Shikamaru inquired. He was rewarded with an equally stiff elbow to the back of the head. With a smile, he stopped unloaded his cantankerous cargo beside him on the roof's ledge.

Neji's face was pale and without byakugan. He bent over to steady himself with his forearms leaning again his knees. He held his hands palm up as they shook uncontrollably. The skin on them was a patchwork of black and red burns. Shikamaru vigilantly scanned behind them as Neji with nimble fingers despite pain reworked the bandages he always had on his arms over the wounds.

"Can she turn her chakra to lightning and release it from her very skin?" Neji asked as he finally straightened and gingerly brought a hand over his face to rub at the temples of his forehead.

Shikamaru crossed his arms as he looked back the way he had come. The place where they had just been a few streets over looked completely demolished. "She's too powerful," he thought, "there has to be a trick to it."

"I don't think so," Shikamaru said, answering his partner and erstwhile rival's question, "From what we've seen she'd have more chakra than even Naruto and since I don't believe she carries a tailed demon... she must have a kekkei genkai. "

Kekkei genkai, a blood inheritance limit that a shinobi could never learn only be born with. Those who mastered such inherited abilities were declared genius by many ninja and their bloodlines closely guarded by the clans and villages that possessed them. The man standing next to him had it, so did Uchiha Sasuke. Shikamaru decided he didn't have time to be impressed.

"All blood limit users are one trick ponies," mused Shikamaru, "The game is figuring out the trick before they kill you."

Neji's byakugan reappearred, he said, "She's too slow to capitalize on the advantage. She underestimates us or.."

"...she needs the recovery time...," finished Shikamaru seeing where he was going, "or maybe recharge time."

Shikamaru noticed a slight haziness to the south. "Water... the hot spring bathhouses are right by us. Hey Neji," he began as he felt a hand rest on his shoulder.

"Good thinking, Shikamaru," Neji said just as he launching himself towards the bathhouses. "I'll wait there. It's your turn at bait."

Shikamaru became a little wide-eyed, before his characteristic frown returned. "Bastard," he cursed with a remembered fondness that changed frown into grin. It had been long time, but he suddenly recalled how much he enjoyed working with Neji. He turned back looking for the rebel cloud-nin's arrival. Standing idle as the sun played cross the now fading clouds Shikamaru mentally inventoried his supplies, what he'd use now and what he'd need later.

He didn't mind the waiting for Setsuko, after all planning was the best part.

TO BE CONTINUED


This chapter barely moves forward all the crazy plot threads... but that's ok because I wanted to give the impression of a war. I get tired of the standard shounen battle fare where everyone stands around saying ominous things while watching the most inexperience fighter (i.e. the main character) make a come-from-behind win against each villain in a nice neat power-order succession.

Naruto in this story breaks from canon in he's a chuunin and he knows some other attack jutsu besides rasengan. I gave him a Doton cause I figured that was what Jiraiya used. Of course to spite me the current manga plot threads have hyped all this elemental-incomplete jutsu stuff.

Oh well. I think what's presented here is somewhat plausible. I may need to rewrite some of my Sasuke stuff... not personality mind you, just battle style... sigh (I really am close to an end to this story.)