Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Simple and concise.

Just a note, this fic is set four years after Sasuke defected to Orochimaru. It is AU as of the manga story arc, as Naruto did not train with Jiraiya. 4/12/05: Looked it over and finished some parts which I missed prior to uploading. Very annoyed at myself.

Act VI: Complications I

Beneath the large metropolis that was Konoha, there lay a maze of tunnels, made as an alternative route to the front line in the event of a siege, each tunnel barely wide enough to hold five people shoulder to wall. While this may seem excessive, many a city has fallen in the Third Secret War because of the lack of a contingency escape route and the Fire Council deemed it necessary to prevent that scenario from happening. In one particular tunnel, which leads from Konoha to the borders of the Fire-Sound border, two ANBU were half dragging, half carrying a body, though dead or alive, one had to guess. Their faces were concealed by animal masks and the shadows, colored by skillful dabs of paint. However, it was clear that one was anxious whereas another was impassive.

"Are you sure we should be hauling this one by ourselves?" His companion asked nervously, throwing the occasional glance at the man who was clasped in iron cuffs, "I mean he is-"

"There is nothing to worry about," A harsh grisly voice spoke out, "The little sucker here can't do shit when he's stuck in these." At this, the man lightly kicked the captive, who remained motionless. The other wasn't convinced.

"This is Higara Yukito you're talking about here, sir. I still can't believe we found him alive and unconscious…"

He didn't get a reply. Soon, they reached an intersection, the front, left, right tunnels leading to parts he wasn't entirely sure of. Only one led to Konoha while the rest were dead-ends, armed to the teeth with traps and other unpleasant wards for the unlucky nin. There have been rumors that many a enemy shinobi lay dead within these tunnels never to return because they had merely taken a wrong route, hence preserving the secret of the tunnels to their deaths. An irony, really.

The dog-masked man stopped his stride, causing the other to stumble as his body tried to deal with the inertia. Then the bird-masked man saw something odd. Though the dim lightning made it almost impossible to see, he noticed that his superior's hair was now jet black and not the light brown he had seen during the day, the once short crop now a long mane.

He felt a slight stirring in his gut, the type which only happened when there was something really wrong. Then he caught sight of the captive, and froze.

Gone was the scarred face of Higara, replaced by the face of his superior, his still features displaying surprise. He must have died quickly, the stunned ANBU mused.

The dog-masked man must have noticed this too, for he muttered a curse. "I was hoping the jutsu lasted longer."

Dropping the body, the man removed his dog-mask, hair of the darkest obsidian spilling forth from their bindings.

The ANBU didn't waste anytime however, and within that instance, had drawn a kunai, preparing to lunge at the interloper.

He saw a flash of red. Six tear-shaped dots in a circular pattern upon a layer of crimson. Time slowed as he saw each one of them start to glow and spin in a clockwise direction. Spinning faster, spinning so beautifully, he couldn't bear to divert his gaze from those horrible eyes.

Then, all went blank.


"Sasuke-sama." The voice was quiet and servile, while at the same time it was silky and smooth.

The Uchiha turned, his eyes still suspended in crimson as the dots in his eyes faded away. He regarded the girl, Kikyou, was it? The girl was a beautiful thing, graced with lustrous raven hair which framed her face perfectly. Her skin was creamy white, almost bordering a porcelain-like quality, and her eyes were of the deepest blue. But despite her seeming docility and frailty, Sasuke knew to keep his distance for every rose has its thorns.

"What is it?" He asked.

The girl tilted her gaze to the ground before speaking in a soft, silky voice. "The others are here." Sure enough, Sasuke picked up faint footsteps coming from behind them. A deep voice resonated from behind. Sasuke turned once more to face a youth of his own age, skin tan from the sun and eyes dark as the shadows. He bowed.

"The way is secure, Sasuke-sama."

"Hmph." He grunted in acknowledgement before remembering one important detail. "And where is that dumb girl?" Sasuke scowled; of all those who were assigned to accompany him on this mission, he hated this one the most.

"Kazuko said she would scout ahead, Sasuke-sama." The boy, Akira, said uneasily, his gaze focusing on something behind him. Something was unnerving the boy, he could tell.

Sasuke turned and saw Kikyou looking towards the bodies, her raven hair now bright red and aloft in the air; he knew what she was going to do and had no wish to watch. "Leave them, we have wasted enough time." He barked out. This stopped the girl, her hair floating down, now black as it once was.

Kikyou nodded, though her full lips held a small frown. While Sasuke did not fear much in the world, he dare not meet her eyes, which were surely amber from being denied her feeding. He took a glance at her a few seconds later. They were blue now. He almost sighed with relief. But he didn't.

An Uchiha does not fear anything.

"Let's go," He finally said, resuming his walk. The two silently followed him through the dark subterranean tunnels as they neared their objective; the Hidden Village of Konoha.


Sitting down on the cold hard concrete and stripped of anything which could be used as a weapon, Naruto grinned like a madman. His surroundings was devoid of light save for the stray glimmer of light which flickered every so often through small viewing rectangle from the candles on the nearby wall.

Though there was a distinct lack of light, he could see bright seals of crimson etched into the battered walls around him, swirls and symbols scrawled all over the peeling paint. He had seen such seals once, when he was captured momentarily in the Thunder Country, dumped into a holding cell far less clean than this one, with similar runes of arcane carved onto the walls.

They were simple in their function, but complicated in their design, confounding those who have tried to destroy them with relative ease by redirecting the flow of chakra within the body. It was supposed to keep the chakra of the prisoner suppressed, rendering both molding and regeneration virtually impossible. But it had another side effect, one that was not discovered by its creators.

The seals fed on chakra continuously, yes, but not in lethal amounts. Demon chakra, however, was an entirely different matter…

And it pissed the fox off, making the quiet demon more insane than it was usually.

Even now, it was raging within him, and Naruto could imagine the fox striking and clawing at the prison that was his mind. The runes were absorbing the Youkai's chakra as if they were a sponge. And while the drain was inconsequence to the Kyuubi's vast reserves, it unsettled the frail equilibrium between sanity and madness that kept the demon more or less dormant.

It was invisible to detection methods employed by those who first designed the symbols which made up the system, and thus it remained for centuries upon centuries since their creation. Anyone who was locked within these cells would not notice the signs either, becoming weaker as time went on. If they stayed too long, they would eventually die.

It wasn't the case with him though. He was already known as a stamina freak even before his growth, and it would take quite a while for the seals to kill him. Though not as long as he would have liked however; his chakra was draining too fast for his comfort.

But, as much as he detested it, he had to be patient or everything he done thus far would be for not. Naruto grimaced, he hated being patient.

He concentrated chakra to his hand, a slowly growing ball of blue forming above the ball of his palm. Naruto growled when he saw the firm ball of energy he had created being torn away, dissipating as the runes feasted hungrily.

He tried again, this time putting in more energy than before. It was a delicate balance that he had to maintain; too little chakra produced would result in failure while too much could whittle away what little he had. Sensing that the amount was right, he slammed it straight onto the ground. He heard a faint shriek of air and energy as the blood-red runes began to lose its vivacity. Within him, he could feel the demon beginning to calm and lose much of the induced insanity that the runes imposed upon it. Not that the Kyuubi wasn't insane by normal standards.

It was a short reprieve however for both host and demon, as the runes flared back to life, this time burning brighter than before. The air became thick, almost to the point that breathing became a difficulty, and he felt the draining process begin once more.

The demon howled, screaming threats of death into the void of its prison.

Muting out the shrill the demon was making as it assaulted its confining walls, he summoned up another ball of chakra and tried again. The ball dissipated but the wards were intact. Naruto frowned. This was going to take longer than he thought.


Dead.

One was an adjutant while the other was his predecessor.

Both found dead. Conveniently dumped within the death-tunnels. Aptly named because of the traps set within those tunnels. Many a enemy died within those, including the occasional Leaf-nin.

Kakashi sat in his new office, eyeing the significant stacks of paper lumped neatly on his tables with obvious reluctance. The mountain wasn't comparable to the one that the Hokage received without fail every morning, but it was close enough.

Things were getting a little out of control, but he managed to suppress the ensuing chaos from exploding into widespread panic; the previous captain had been found dead, along with a comatose subordinate, in the secret tunnels leading towards their front-line base of operations. The ramifications were dire. Not only was the head of the ANBU dead, there was also the matter of treason within their ranks. That particular tunnel had just been destroyed hours ago in order to maintain what little secrecy that was left, and the remaining ones were undergoing reroutes to suit the change.

The role of captaincy had been pushed onto him, being the most experienced within the ANBU, sane or otherwise. He was surprised, so to say, when he asked the Hokage to find someone else, she had said that there was no one else for suited for the task; the rest having died during the short but bloody engagements throughout the last four years.

Or locked away within the high-security asylums, their sanity cracked like an eggshell. Even though it had been years since he last saw one, those places still gave him the shivers.

The autopsy said that the captain was killed by a kunai in the back, which severed his spine fully. Not an uncommon method of killing, he noted, though the quality of the steel had to be very good in order to cut through bone. The autopsy on the coma-induced man revealed far more disturbing things however.

Despite the best efforts of the Hokage, she could not revive the man from his affliction. Kakashi had seen the body and shuddered, being reminded of the time when he was just like the unfortunate one currently lying comatose. Death was better than this, and he knew it.

Fortunately, the doctors didn't have the chance to do much about it. He died soon after, his body ceasing to function once the jutsu completed its job.

All in all, the affair was a hopeless one in his book though he didn't have any choice. Kakashi didn't want to think about it for long. Aside from the good old Captain, he had no real contacts within the elite organization that was now his to command, most of them either too inexperienced to be of help or both were unacceptable to him .

There was a knock on his door.

"Enter."

While Kakashi expected to find another one of those pesky courtiers delivering his share of paper work for the day, he didn't expect to see the famed 'Lazy Bum', Nara Shikamaru from the Ninja Academy, which was highly unusual in itself, considering the effort he would have to put in alone just to avoid the sentries and get to his office.

Not surprisingly, the whole thing seemed fishy to him.

"Shikamaru-kun, what brings you here today?" Kakashi asked with a fake smile while his hands underneath his desk drew a kunai from his leg hostler silently. It always pays to be cautious in his line of work, he reason. And if 'Shikamaru' didn't give him a decent answer to as why he's here, he will kill him. Cold-hearted, yes. But the enemy didn't care, so why should he?

'Shikamaru' yawned, "I suggest you keep away that kunai, I'm on your side."

Kakashi didn't response, performing a quick seal. The shadows of his desk suddenly sprung forth in which 'Shikamaru' made no attempt to resist. Kakashi looked towards his captive, idly juggling a pair of kunai as he stared straight on him. "Now how would I know then," He began, his voice taking on a tone akin to that of mock-puzzlement, "That you are who you say you are and not some Sound scum that's on a hit job? Besides, it isn't everyday that I see school teachers come strolling into the offices of one of the most secure buildings in the whole of the village. Makes it more suspicious, doesn't it?"

His captive sighed, liquid brown eyes of clarity and focus giving Kakashi a look. "If you want proof, take the scroll that is within my left pocket." Warily, Kakashi did so, finding the mentioned scroll within. He lifted his hitai-ate upright, revealing the famed Sharingan eye of legend. Without hesitation, he opened it, its contents beamed back to his mind by the eye in a split second.

"So you're from Special Affairs?" He asked, his surprise well hidden. "Well, to be honest, I didn't expect it to be you, Shikamaru-kun. You didn't seem to be the type." There was a subtle hint of sarcasm in his words that was not lost on Shikamaru.

The pineapple-haired youth grunted, brushing off the insult with practice. "I will take that as a compliment." He answered dryly, immediately breaking away from the binding shadows. Kakashi gave him a look, his eyes asking an obvious question.

"I specialize in shadow jutsu, if you didn't already know," The boy explained sourly while stuffing his hands into his pockets, his eyes nonchalantly gazing on the item on the desk, "My scroll please."

Kakashi looked at the scroll briefly, before passing it to him. "Ah, of course. Never can be too careful, you know."

The teen grumbled a bit. "You ANBU captains are always the same; always so paranoid." He didn't blame them though, it was almost an instinct hammered into them during their intensive training, and most of those who lived long enough to retire often ended up in the psychiatric ward of the hospital, their minds succumbing to their training. And ironically, it is what made them have the highest survival rates among the various shinobi battalions.

"Err…" Kakashi now had one hand scratching the back of his head, while the other was waving in a downward manner as if to refute the statement. He stopped the gesture a moment later, the man regarding the teen with a look, before he beamed.

"So...green tea?" The silver-haired man said a bit too cheerfully, gesturing to the nearby drink dispenser next to the wall. Shikamaru obliged, and soon he was sipping his tea comfortably in his seat.

Kakashi, seeing this, lost his expression of false cheer. "Now that you're more comfortably accommodated…" He said, before his voice hardened, "What do you want?"

"Resources." Shikamaru said vaguely, before reaching into another pocket in his vest, pulling out a black labeled scroll, one which was recognized by Kakashi as Priority One. "The upcoming Chuunin-Jounin tournament requires your expertise in order to maintain the security of the event."

Kakashi frowned. "Do you honestly believe that anyone in their right mind would ambush a whole arena filled with shinobi?" The sheer amount of shinobi present would be suicide for any group trying to force their way, in addition to the security wards placed to prevent such an occurrence. Somehow the thought hadn't occurred to Shikamaru, Kakashi mused.

The next sentence, however, shocked him. "In addition to this, you're to suspend any investigation concerning the murder of your predecessor."

"Now, you're asking an impossible thing, Shikamaru-kun," He chided,"You're asking us to give up jurisdiction of a issue that is must not go unsolved. I'm responsible for this, not you."

"I'm aware of that, Captain." He said, placing the scroll onto the oak desk. "I will elaborate further when you're done with the scroll."

Kakashi stared at it before taking the pre-offered scroll which sat on his desk. It didn't take long for him to read it and at the end of it, Kakashi narrowed his eyes. "You know that we barely have enough for our missions as it is. Stationing a squad would more than suffice for this type of thing but to keep-" He was cut off by Shikamaru, whose face for once showed extreme irritation.

"You have no choice." said Shikamaru, folding his arms, "I will petition the council to suspend the entire ANBU contingent to be avaliable for this assignment if I have to. Either way, you will do this willingly or not."

Kakashi whistled. Doing all of that required a lot effort and string pulling to even achieve, which was surprising to say the least, considering that all forms of action was deemed 'too troublesome' to be done. The Nara boy had changed since his Chuunin days, he had to admit. But that didn't stop him from poking fun at the boy's expense, seeing that he clearly hated the work that had to be done which came with his position.

The cheery tone that he used before came back. "Hmm...this coming from one whom normally slacks off his duty. I thought you would be a bit lax when handling paperwork?"

Shikamaru grunted. "You need not remind me of that, and I admit that it is a thankless job, but I blame our great illustrious Fifth, since she is such a wonderful taskmaster," Shikamaru mumbled, "Now on to the matter of your assured-" This time it was Kakashi who interrupted.

"I still fail to see the point of giving up the investigation."

"I'm asking you to give it up because," Shikamaru's cool brown eyes were relaxed though it was the ease of familiarity, not true relief. "We already have a solid lead on the perpetrators"

"What?"

"We received information from our informants that the Sound has been planning to infiltrate and assassinate key members of Konoha's administration for quite some time now, and rumor has it that the hit is going to take place sometime this week."

"Then why organize something so wasteful of resources better used elsewhere?" Kakashi's tone was questioning. "This matter should have been brought to the Council for deliberation the moment they entered Fire territory."

"The only reason why we're putting effort into this is to draw the assassins out. They wouldn't suspect anything while most of the ninjas are happily tucked away underground with a visible cadre of ANBU seemingly watching when instead the hunters are already prowling on their tracks."

It was a good plan, Kakashi admitted. "Clever."

"Also," Shikamaru ignored the captain, though he showed great reluctance to continue, "We have reason to believe that…he will be coming back as well." It was rather well-known who he was referring to. The protégé of Copy-Ninja Kakashi.

It was rather well-known that Kakashi was still sore about his prize ex-pupil. And most would avoid mentioning the Uchiha for the assurance of their continued wellbeing. Shikamaru was taking quite a risk when he mentioned Sasuke.

Kakashi, being true to the rumors, narrowed his eyes at the reference. If he was involved, then it would be an entirely different thing altogether. He would be the one to track down the boy.

"He," Shikamaru said, "As you know, is one of the last remaining Uchiha left. Aside from the Uchiha Itachi, that level of jutsu can't be just found anywhere. Spy networks from the Aburame have confirmed that the Uchiha have left the Sound territories."

Kakashi gave the teen a wary look; the boy was too smart for his taste. "I will assemble a nightly watch from today to the day of the tournament. Will that suffice?" Shikamaru nodded passively, but did not leave. Kakashi leveled a stare at the boy. "Is that all?"

Shikamaru pondered for a moment before shaking his head. "Yes, I suppose I should get going."

He stopped before he opened the door. "Can you accomplish your mission, Captain?"

There was a brief pause.

"…Yes."

With a nod, Nara Shikamaru left, but not before giving the man a searching look.

Left alone in his office, Kakashi knew what the teen meant, and he prayed that he find the boy before anything untoward happened. Anything which came after that he would deal with when the time came. For now, he needed to find Sasuke. It would take a lot of effort to redeem him, but Kakashi would make it happen.

He had to.


The wards were torn and tattered by the by the time Naruto was done with them, and he was satisfied with his handiwork. Whether this satisfaction came from the fox or his ego, he wasn't entirely sure but the feeling was good in any case. Without the effects of the runes, he set the next stage of his escape plan into motion.

Before he was placed into this dilapidated hell-hole, he noticed that there were shinobi-guards posted to attend to his cell. And judging from the vibes he was getting off from them he had to guess that they were vastly bored with their assignment. Which was no surprise to him. After all, they had dumped him into one of the most advanced of their 'Containment Rooms'. They did not expect to find much of a challenge in keeping guard a stripped and cleaned enemy. And by nature, ANBU Stalker-nins were hunters, not babysitters, which led to an even more enhanced state of boredom.

Sitting on the floor, Naruto entered the beginnings of a trance. The blankness within his mind was immediately washed away in a myriad flow of colors which transcended beyond the boundaries of his miniscule cell to the very city he was in. Almost overwhelmed by the sight, he forced himself to shift his focus to his cell, or more importantly, himself. Naruto did not see his body of flesh but instead a blob of red and blue intermingling constantly. It was as if he was a watching himself in a third prospective, but he knew better.

Gently and skillfully, he reached out, pulling a tendril of reddish energy from his form. He continued this until there were nine individual 'tails' stemming from his metaphysical form.

Satisfied, he let himself relax and his sight returned to his body, no longer an observer. He could see the faint outline of two people, their chakra a gentle flame. Now, it was time for the fun part to begin.

He tugged at them, and not too gently either, a large amount of chakra being torn away at every attempt, though his 'guards' only felt a tiny prick he every time did so. Combined with the fact that they were nearly half asleep with boredom, it made them vulnerable targets indeed.

All too easy, he thought as stray chakra rolled off his astral self, its life essence desperately clinging to him before being pulled away all the same by the semi-sentient markings on the wall. While he had effectively rendered the wards null, their potency still remained, eating the chakra which strayed towards them. Naruto made a mental note to remember the design of the wards if he ever saw them again. Those things would prove somewhat useful in battle. He winced though as a particular surge of chakra zapped him when he was careless enough to absorb the chakra.

Soon, the guards began to feel the effects. At first, they felt a shortness of breath, though their duty did not require much from them. Then, as soon as the first sign of fatigue waved over, they felt a great yearning to sleep, the natural instinct overriding their strict training.

They fell to the floor, drained but very much alive. And snoring very loudly right about now if Naruto was right.

He gathered chakra to his fist, carefully adjusting it so that it was not too much to be absorbed but not too little to be of no effect. Sensing that it was time, Naruto slammed his fist into the steel door, ripping from its hinges the moment the punch connected. The door smashed into the adjacent wall, creating a screech that made him cringe. That ruckus had no doubt alerted every ANBU personnel on this level.

Bah.

The guards weren't Hunter-nin, in any case; which suited him just fine if anyone bothered to ask.

All he needed to do now was to get out of here and find Sasuke.


Normally, the detention blocks of Konoha's ANBU division were quiet most of the time. Even when there was a commotion, it usually lasted no more than a few minutes. Which made Kenji wonder why this one lasted for more than an hour.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

It wasn't loud a noise to indicate a escape attempt or else the wards would have triggered, thereby locking down the whole block with both ANBU and would-be escapees in.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

The infernal noise was beginning to tick him off. With a scowl, Izuma Kenji slapped his Icha Icha Paradise! Vol.12 onto his desk before turning to the stairwell.

"Stupid guards, can't they do their job more discreetly?" He mumbled as he got ready a suitable choice of words for those stationed in the next level.

The sound stopped.

Kenji paused in his stride before finally shrugging. The next chapter of Icha Icha Paradise! awaited him, after all! Like most male shinobi stuck with guard duty, Icha Icha Paradise was a haven for the bored. With that thought he thanked the author of that oh so good novel, for he didn't know what he would have done without the epic graphic novel that was Icha Icha Paradise!

Soon, he was lost within his world of bisexual women and nymphomaniacs of all creed and manner.

Of course that obviously meant that he didn't notice the shadow which crept behind him.

BOINK!

The last thing that Kenji remembered was that big breasted Yumiko-chan in her tight red spandex suit.


"Stupid pervert…" Naruto muttered when he noticed the familiar orange book with a large 'restricted' sign stamped on the back. The one who had been reading the book had been knocked out of consciousness by him and from where he was standing, he could see a small puddle of drool along with a weird expression plastered on his face. The book innocently lay a few feet from the body.

During the course of his escape, Naruto tried to gain access to the minds of his captors, another one of the small extra talents that he received from his 'tenant'.

Unfortunately, ANBU were trained to block off their minds while in battle, and the effect remained even when one was unconscious. Which caused Naruto no small amount of grief. Still, he had chance to get what he needed.

Naruto took one more look at the man's face and cringed. What he was about to do was definitely not going to pleasant for him.

Tentatively, he placed a hand on the man's head. Almost immediately, his mind was assaulted with an image worthy of the Super Pervert Jiraiya. And with great difficultly, he shrugged off the sensual imagery and began to delve deeper into the man's mind. At once, memories came flooding into his mind. A fail-safe against intrusion which was unconsciously hammered into all ANBU recruits, designed to overload the invading mind to the point of seizure.

Sweat began to form on his forehead as the memories began to get bigger and harder to recognize. With a determined push, he got past the mental defense of the man. The flow calmed and Naruto found himself releasing a sigh of relief. Gritting his teeth, Naruto filtered the traffic into a neat consumable package with effort, throwing away the excess and unimportant information. Soon, he was searching within the recent memories and information, shifting from one place to another. For that one single moment, he was Izuma Kenji, privy to all the knowledge that he had ever possessed.

Naruto opened his eyes.

He had found what he was looking for.


Kakashi finished the last of his paperwork for the day. The incident with Shikamaru left him drained and now he felt a great need to go back home for some sleep. Curiously enough, he noted that the last time he had a decent wink of sleep was 2 days ago. Checking the schedules to ensure that everything would be moving along smoothly when he came back in the morning, he ventured out of his office to the check-out point of the building.

The building where the ANBU were headquartered was large and often intimidating with its seemingly long and endless corridors. The fact that the majority of the facilities were under the city didn't help eliminate that impression. But he was no stranger to intimidation, since he was a master at it. Normally, the corridors were deserted given the extensive size of the compound and vast number of routes within it.

But today he saw another one of his ilk appear from another one of the long and winding corridors.

He noticed something peculiar about this person. Aside from the rare fox mask and the blonde hair.

"You there, stop." Kakashi pointed to the fox masked-nin. "Where are you off to? I specifically said that all of you're to patrol sectors 4D to 4G." At this, the man tensed, and Kakashi frowned. Paranoia began to set in but he was interrupted by the man's answer.

"Oh, we've finished our rounds earlier than expected, sir." He said, pausing as if in deep thought, "We already used route 56 to check in."

"Ah, I see." Kakashi said, allowing himself to relax a little.

"Sir, will we be able to watch the tournament tomorrow?" The blonde haired ANBU asked cheerfully. At this, Kakashi really began to suspect that something was amiss. ANBU were notorious for being cold, emotionless puppets of death and no one who had passed theInitiate Rites were ever openly happy.

"No, we got patrol duty tomorrow, as always." He answered, his visible eye glancing suspiciously at the masked ANBU. And since when did anyone been so amicable to him?

"Ah, a pity." He said, shaking his head. "Well, a good day to you, Kakashi-san. I'm off then." With that, the ANBU almost bounced away.

An odd one, Kakashi mused.

As he wandered out of the complex, he tried to recall whether there were any blondes in his department.


Tsunade was not pleased. Something which she happened to be for the last few hours.

Especially with that good-for-nothing ex-teammate of hers.

And currently she was at the bar with said-teammate.

Which was definitely much better than paperwork any day of the week.

"Jiraiya, you bastard! I thought you kept an eye out for that brat!" She ranted at the white-haired hermit who had next to her. Her cheeks were flush and her words slurred, though it only made her more attractive to said ex-teammate.

"Hmph." Jiraiya grunted, taking a swing from his flask. "It's not my fault that the brat disappeared, besides weren't the ANBU looking for him?

"Don't you dare shrug responsibility like that!" She retorted. "You promised me that you would keep an eye on him."

"More sake, bartender!" He yelled out, before turning to Tsunade. "I did, though I didn't expect that he was going to play the sneaky bastard." The bartender arrived with a fresh flask.

Tsunade stared at her cup, suddenly somber. "True."

"Wonder what the people would have to say about their Hokage drinking her brains out now?" Jiraiya asked, bringing his flask towards Tsunade's cup. "Another?"

"They won't, because no one recognizes me now." She grinned viciously. "Thanks."

"Geez, I didn't think that you would actually use that age jutsu of yours to become 18 again." Jiraiya muttered. "Isn't that a little bit extreme just for ditching paperwork?" Though he said that, Tsunade often found his eyes wandering towards her chest and she almost snarled. Seemed like Jiraiya never changed. But that doesn't mean that she had to put up with it.

"Quit staring at my chest."

Jiraiya responded in turn by giving her a cheeky look. "Your fault for making those look bigger than they actually are."

She resisted the urge to punch him. Hard.

So she settled for an alternative.

Poker.

After many hours and sake flasks later, the two found themselves in a comfortable silence. The bar has long closed though; the owner was willing to allow them to stay however. Turns out that he was a fan of Jiraiya's dirty books. Tsunade giddily thought it funny that how some things work out.

She hiccupped.

"Man, Tsunade," Jiraiya said, his cheeks red like her own, "You drank more than me! You never drink more than me!"

Tsunade glared at him. "You're just grumbling because you lost this time. And besides, I need a break like this every now and then."

There was a long silence before Jiraiya spoke. "You still thinking about him?"

"Yeah."

"It's okay to tell me," He said at last, "I will always be here, whether you want it or not." There was a bit of humor in his words, though she knew that he was serious. She didn't take it.

"I wanted him to come back but not like this." She whispered, letting her head rest on her arms.

"I know," Jiraiya murmured, feeling weary himself, "I know."


A/N: Unbeta-ed, possible spelling/grammar mistakes and other story issues. Tardiness seems to have taken a deep root within me and I have to apologize once more. Though I'm pleased to have this chapter up by the end of the week, I realize that the transition is going to be a bit harder for me as my language and other stuff improve (Or worsen).This chapter is noticeably shorter than the ones I have uploaded in the past as this would be the first part out of three that would comprise the Complications Arc. The next chapter would bring about the all the others characters together for the first time though they do not know that. :) I apologize in advance if any of the characters seem too OOC to you all. For those who have said that I have been influenced by Samurai Deeper Kyo and RK, you are partially correct. Unfortunately, those influences have only affected the early chapters of the story and I can safely say that Naruto has more than swordplay up his sleeve. :)

P.S: I'm beginning to hate the Quick for FFN...

For those who have continued to read this fic, thank you. Dunno how I would manage without you all.

As always, please read and review (or flame, if you so wish) because I cannot improve without your input. :P

Now for a little something extra for your time…

Hatake Kakashi

ANBU Captain

Shadow Division

Strength ... 16 Intelligence ... 18

Constitution ... 15 (16) Wisdom ... 14

Dexterity ... 19

Skills: Training (Ninja), Training (Jutsu), Specialist Training (ANBU), Weapon Proficiency (Swords), Weapon Proficiency (Projectiles), War Veteran, Technique Mastery (All), Gut Instinct, Paranoia

Equipment: Ninja pouch, ANBU-grade chest armour, ANBU-mask (Dog), Tempered Katana, Shuriken Holster (Right Leg), Steel Arm Guards, Personal Relay Transmitter, Icha Icha Paradise! Volume I-XIII Pocket Space version 1.1 / Collector's Edition, ANBU Cloak

War Veteran: A survivor of numerous conflicts, Kakashi has lived through various techniques and battles which would kill a normal shinobi. Thus he receives an additional awareness bonus on B to S-class missions. Additionally, he receives a permanent constitution bonus of 1.

Sharingan: This eye allows Kakashi to copy any jutsu, provided that it is not a bloodline limit that is performed within a certain range of Kakashi. However, it has its side effects. By way of forcibly remembering every single thing that happens in the proximity of the user, large chunks of data sent to the brain causes the brain to thereby 'overload' momentarily. Because of this, the Sharingan can be only used effectively for a short period of time lest the user suffers from a mental back lash. As such, Kakashi suffers a reduction of Intelligence, Dexterity and Constitution of 1 for every 1 minute using the Sharingan.

Jack-of-trades: Improvising is Kakashi's middle name. To represent this, Kakashi gets a +3 to saving throws when encountering an unknown threat.

Avid Fan: Often seen around with that infamous orange book, Kakashi is entranced by the multiple award winning novel written by none other than the Legendary Super Pervert Jiraiya which more than often leaves him (and any other non-self respecting shinobi) giggling like a school girl. Unfortunately because of this, Kakashi suffers an Intelligence and Wisdom reduction of 1 when idling while in the possession of any volume of Icha Icha Paradise!. (And they say porn does not make you dumb. -.-)