Blossoms hung heavily on the trees throughout the village.
The air was fresh and crisp, carrying fragrant petals as it swirled and danced between the larger buildings.
People on the streets hurried about their business, enjoying the promise of a beautiful day. Konoha was prospering. Its population was flourishing after the ravages of the past. There was reason for everyone to feel hopeful.
"It's good to be back home," Naruto said to himself. "I doubt that Akatsuki is going to try anything here."
Now that the three years were close to coming to an end, he had begun feeling more anxious than before. Not just for himself, but also for Sasuke. He had no idea why the Nine wanted him, other than the fact that they were interested in Kyuubi. He knew quite well what Orochimaru wanted from his former teammate.
Naruto strode down the street, his garish orange and black jumpsuit standing out amongst the more somber colors of civilians and shinobi alike. Sure, he was different. In some ways, that had plagued him all his life. But, he wasn't going to try and be like everyone else. That would mean they won and he lost. Not only that, there was no guarantee that any of the older villagers would see him in a better light.
"You'd think they might at least be a little more friendly," he griped, seeing some of the looks he got. "I spent all that time alone with Ero-sennin. Isn't that punishment enough?"
He had almost forgotten what it was like to be hated for the demon sealed behind his navel. No one had known in the other villages had known that secret. If anyone looked at him funny in those other places, it was because he was associated with the Frog hermit, who many of them new all too well.
Somewhat lost in his thoughts, the young ninja failed to realize that he was being followed. What's more, he didn't realize just what it meant, his having a shy and quiet shadow. Not only did he have friends who had been glad to see him again, there was someone in particular who felt much stronger than that.
It had taken a few days for Hyuuga Hinata work up her courage, but she had finally decided to speak with him. He had been gone for a number of years, and a lot had happened since then. She had run across him speaking with Kiba and Shino, but had come close to passing out. She had been caught off guard, unprepared to see him yet. Now, she was pretty certain she wouldn't collapse again.
As she watched, Naruto walked into the largest and oldest of Hidden Leaf villages Ramen shops. That was by no means a surprise. Years ago, when she used to follow him around town, he made it a point to stop at places like that, alone or with Umuino Iruka. She had never been brave enough to follow after him. Today that was going to change. Or, so she hoped.
"I can do this…" Hinata rubbed her fingers together. She would settle for a small victory. Saying 'Hello Naruto-kun' unprompted, and without keeling over, would be a big first move for her. It wasn't as if she was just going to walk up to him and be all forward or something. One thing at a time. She could work on her courage one step at time. No one else had ever shown any interest in him.
A flash of pink caught her eye. It was Sakura! What was she doing, going in there after Naruto. She never frequented shops like that one. Hinata willed herself to be calm. Why should she worry about Sakura? Back when Naruto used to make efforts to win her attention, she hadn't wanted anything to do with him. No doubt Team Kakashi had practice scheduled, or some kind of mission had come up.
"Be at peace…" Hinata swallowed hard, standing at the door to the shop. All she had to do was reach out, grab the handle, and pull. Before she could do that, the door swung open, almost hitting her in the face. She quickly stepped out of the way. The patrons were all leaving in a headlong rush. It was like a stampede.
Was there a fire? Had someone gone crazy? No. Everyone seemed to be smiling. Each of them seemed to be clutching gold coins in his or her hands. When the crowd passed by her, Hinata caught sight of Sakura again. She was hanging all over Naruto.
"Here!" Sakura slammed a bag down on the bar in front of the store owner. The bag jingled, as if it were full of coins. "This should buy me the private use of this place for the rest of the day." She tuned to wrap her arms around her startled teammate's neck. Now we can be alone, handsome boy." Her hands began rubbing here and there. All the noodles you could possible eat… all the drinks you could ever drink… and me."
"Sakura-chan, what's going on?" Naruto tried to pry Sakura off of him with little success. He didn't notice Hinata, who was standing outside the front door, peeing in through a crack.
Hinata, for her part, stood as stiff as a statue. She was the last person to ever eavesdrop; but, she just had to know how things stood between Naruto and Sakura. Her heart fluttered like the wings of a captured bird.
"You're acting really funny," Naruto said, his eyes going wide when Sakura touched him in a private place.
"Oh?" Sakura smiled, her eyes narrowing to slits. She smiled as she made a show of pulling her buttons off of her blouse one by one, putting them in the hand of a slack-jawed boy. "So tell me…" She pulled her shirt open. "…Do you find these amusing?"
"Gah!" Naruto couldn't help but stair at Sakura's chest. "But…"
"I'll show you that, too." Sakura licked her lips. "I find brassieres to be so confining. Mind if I take this off?"
"Is this some kind of joke, Sakura-chan?" Naruto's mind was abuzz. While he had fantasized about moments like this, things just didn't seem right. "Did the guys put you up to this?" For a moment, he wondered if this was a Sakura impersonator. But, using a quick jutsu, he found it wasn't a common Henge or something. And, there was no way that anyone could look that much like Sakura, except for the girl herself.
"It's funny that it took me so long to admit my feelings for you," Sakura murmured, bending over to nibble on Naruto's neck. She tightened her arms when he tried to push her away. "So strong…" She moaned softly. "Such a strong and handsome lad. Why don't you show me how strong…" She blew in his ear and hissed "Ple-e-e-e-e-e-a-s-e…"
Sakura moved her fingers deftly. Her skirt fell to the floor. With a quick series of movements, she removed her blouse and tossed it over her shoulder, sending it to hang from the door handle.
"You… you've…" Naruto stood transfixed. "You've gotten a lot like Granny Tsunade." He hadn't thought that his teammate's breasts had grown that much.
"Really?" Sakura unhooked her bra and slid out of it. She then began working on her panties. They were pink. "Mmmm-mmm-mm-m… you can call out her name, if you like…" She stood naked before him. "I won't mind…" She reached out, tugging on Naruto's zipper.
"Hey… wait…" Naruto turned to look at the shopkeeper for help, but the man had left and dropped down the wooden cover over his order window. "What… is… going… on…" He was far more anxious than turned on.
"You on me," Sakura said, laughing a bell-like laugh. "Or me on you…" She kissed him, causing his body to go ramrod stiff. "Any… way… you… want… it…"
"But… that… you…" Naruto let his legs go limp, falling straight down out of her grip. "This…" He had to get out of there. Maybe Tsunade or Kakashi would have some kind of answer.
Hinata had been so shocked, that she had gone weak in the knees and fallen hard to the ground. She didn't notice the people stopping to look at her.
"All I want you to do is love me," Sakura said, an odd glow in her eyes. "Love me fast, or love me slow. However you want." She began stalking him as if she were a wild animal. "I need you in me…"
Naruto made it to the door, opened it, and stepped out into the street. He caught sight of Hinata's retreating form.
"Aren't you hungry, beautiful boy?" Sakura stood in the open door, still naked as the day she was born.
Naruto flashed from view.
The noise in the restaurant was loud.
For most of the patrons, it was difficult to hold a conversation. But, despite that it was the place to be for the young and hip civilian, or for shinobi looking to blow off a little steam.
It was also the place that the kunoichi had chosen to hold their monthly get together. Genin, chuunin, and jounin-level women all stuck together, with some of them choosing to mingle with the townspeople.
Large platters of food were being carried about by busy waiters. The dance floor was crowded, and the bar was packed. The large front door opened frequently, the sudden gust of wind causing huge tapers and candles to dance. The ambience of the place was something special, to say the least.
Seated at a large table, Kurenai spoke to a distraught Hinata. "Here, let me feel your forehead." She put her hand on her pupil's head. "No, you don't have a fever. Have you been feeling OK lately?"
"Y-Y-Yes, Kurenai-sensei." Hinata couldn't meet her mentor's eyes. "I know what I saw…"
"I can't believe that Sakura would ever act that way," the older woman said, shaking her head. "Especially not with Naruto." She ran her hand over the younger woman's head, to make certain their was no sign of trauma. "That just doesn't sound like her. Wait. There she is. We can ask her."
"Hey guys!" Sakura was the next of the girls to arrive. "Is there something wrong?" She was startled at the way her two friends were looking at her. "Do I have something on my face? This outfit doesn't make me look fat or something, does it?"
In a stuttering and halting manner, Hinata repeated what she had seen.
Even in that noisy place, the medical ninja's shout had people turning to look in her direction.
"HINATA! WHY WOULD YOU MAKE UP SUCH A STORY!"
"I… I didn't…." Hinata shrank back into her chair.
"Hey, look, it's that girl." One man tugged roughly on his friends shoulder, pointing over at Sakura. "I wonder if she has more gold?" People began gathering around, pressing close, eager looks on their faces.
"But…" Sakura's face went blank. "How…" Her mouth fell open. None of it made any sense to her.
Before Kurenai or Hinata could speak again, Ten Ten walked up. "You will never believe what I saw today," she said in a rush. "I still don't believe it myself. I bet Ino doesn't show up tonight." She sounded breathless, as if she had too say things quickly or find the world change back to normal right before her eyes. "Not with what she seemed to have in mind for Naruto!"
"What happened?" Sakura asked a little too loudly, glad to have the subject change. Nevertheless, she felt a sense of indignation rising, a vestige of her days of fighting with Ino over Sasuke.
"I finished my training with Neji…." Ten Ten started.
"Training?" Sakura asked, raising one eyebrow. She knew that Ten ten and Neji had begun seeing one another in a dating kind of way.
"Training!" Ten Ten said, scowling at her friend. "When he left, I walked around the woods collecting my kunai and sickles. Pushing aside some bushes, I saw the two of them."
"Naruto-kun?" Hinata's asked, rubbing her fingers together faster and faster.
"Yes," Ten Ten said. "He had obviously been training by himself. I would have expected him to be working out with his teammate," Ten Ten looked at Sakura with a question on her face. The pink-haired shinobi shook her fist at Hinata and Kureani, daring them to say anything. "Any way, Ino walked up, without any sign of Shikamaru or Choji. She didn't even have any of her genin with her."
"Do you think she was specifically looking for Naruto?" Kurenai asked. "She never seemed all that warm towards him before. Maybe she wants to get to know him better, now that you guys aren't children any longer, and need to relay on each other more and more.."
"I would say that she wants to get to know him, alright," Ten Ten said, shaking her head in disbelief. "In a very adult way!" Ten Ten looked around the room, making certain Ino was nowhere to be seen. Satisfied, she continued with her story.
Ino had greeted Naruto, asking if he were alone. When he said that he was, she challenged him to a contest. Being who he was, there was no way that he would refuse.
"What kind of contest?" Sakura asked, unwilling to believe that Ino could do anything better than her teammate. While he still acted rashly and immaturely at times, Naruto had grown by leaps and bounds while training with the Frog hermit.
"Jutsu," Ten Ten said, as if anyone should have been able to guess. "What else?" She adjusted one of her hair buns. "Taijutsu. Ninjutsu. Genjutsu." She stopped her story when a waiter walked up.
"So, what was so startling?" Kurenai asked after the girls gave their orders to the waiter
"The wager was," Ten Ten replied. "Ino tricked him big time." She actually blushed. "If she won a pass, she wanted praise. If he won, he wanted acknowledgement. When they both agreed to those generalities, Ino made him promise on his honor… and on his goal of being Hokage… not to quit the contest before sundown. She also asked if he was brave enough to accept without knowing her choice of specific rewards."
"Of course the idiot accepted," Sakura said, hand on her forehead. She didn't need to be told that part. She was certain that her guess was accurate.
"Yes," Ten Ten said.
"What did Ino want?" Hinata was not certain that she really wanted to know.
"For praise, she wanted a kiss. On the lips." Ten Ten watched as Hinata's face grew pink. "As acknowledgement, she would take off a piece of clothing." She saw her white-eyed friend knock over her water glass.
"OOO-OO-OH… INO PIG…"
Sakura's hands turned into fists. She didn't know quite what to feel. Should she be angry that Ino had wanted to take advantage of Naruto? Or, should she be furious with him if he turned out to be a pervert?
Kurenai started chuckling. When she saw the other girls looking at her, she put on a straight face and asked Ten Ten what happened after that.
"Naruto is really quite remarkable," the girl answered, fixing one of her hair buns. "As good as Neji is, I don't think that he could win a fight against him." She shook her head. "But Ino was the biggest surprise. I didn't know she was that skilled. I wonder who taught her all of her techniques."
"What techniques?" Sakura asked, unwilling to believe that Ino was exceptional in any way.
"Her talent with illusions has really improved. Her Henge seemed so lifelike. I could swear she had multiple tails. And she showed a control of fire that was delicate and precise. Her chakra control might even be better than yours, Sakura's" Ten Ten shrugged, impervious to the storm brewing on her pink-haired friend's face.
Ten Ten went on to describe the competition in detail. One thing was obvious. Ino mad it a point to win one round, then lose the next, win again, and then lose. Naruto had tried not to watch her disrobe. But, she did it ins such a seductive fashion, he couldn't help himself. He had intended the kisses to be mere pecks on the cheek, but Ino gave him little chance to come up for air.
"Oh m-m-my…" Hinata looked cross-eyed.
"As the sun was just about to set, Ino was completely naked," Ten Ten reported. "She asked Naruto if family was important to him. Hearing that he never really had a family, she asked if he wanted to start one… right there and then!"
The glass in Sakura's hand shattered. Hinata began choking on the roll she had bitten into.
"What happened next?" Kurenai looked entranced. This was all better than anything on TV.
"Well… I sneezed…" Ten Ten said. "When Ino turned to look in my direction, Naruto ran off saying he needed to collect all of the spent weapons before it got too dark." She swallowed hard. "I'll never forget the look Ino gave me. It was as if she wanted me dead!"
"Who wanted you dead?" A voice asked. It was Ino. Everyone was so caught up in Ten Ten's story, that no one had noticed her walk over to the table.
The girls all sat speechless. Ten Ten looked uneasy. Hinata hid behind her menu. Sakura began bending the knife she was using to butter a biscuit. Kurenai raised one eyebrow, taking it all in.
"Hey, girls!" Ino said in her chipper way. Noticing everyone's response, she asked "What's wrong?"
Sakura tossed her hair. "How could you dothat to Naruto?"
"I wasn't… I wasn't really spying…" Ten Ten put in. "I just happened to be there."
"Naruto-kun…." Hinata's voice was masked by the crowd noise.
When Kurenai repeated what Ten Ten had told them, Ino turned as white as a sheet. "It wasn't me!" Ino went completely pale. "It must have been someone who tried to look like me. I swear."
"Sure," Sakura said, narrowing her eyes. She snapped her fingers. "Ino was probably the one you saw at the noodle shop, Hinata. She was probably pretending to be me."
"But…" Hinata put a hand to her forehead. This was really getting to be quite much. "If someone could pretend to be you… why couldn't someone pretend to be her…"
"Or someone else," Kurenai said.
The darkening clouds moved by slowly.
They looked so peaceful, painted by the early evening sun. There was good reason. Their very existence was idyllic.
Being alive certainly had its perks. But, much of the time, it was merely bothersome. Ever since he had become a chuunin, things became more and more annoying.
But, at least he wasn't married yet. He didn't know how his father could put up with his mother at times. True, not all women were like that. But, even the interesting ones like Temari could be a royal pain in the ass. There were few girls who truly refrained from making waves.
Looking back down at the street, keeping an eye out for any sign of Choji, Shikamaru caught sight of one of one of those rare girls. It was Hinata. She was waving and shouting. Running too. What could possibly get her to act like that?
Naruto, of course. Then again, she usually acted shy around him, often coming very close to passing out. Against his better judgment, he found himself curious. Sdcanning the busy street below him, having a great vantage point from his sunning spot on the roof, he easy picked out the boy in an orange and black jumpsuit making his way through the crowd, even though the sun was in the process of setting.
His boisterous and hyperactive friend stopped outside of an adult bookstore, captivated by something he saw. The shop owner must have caught sight of his, since the outdoor lights lit up. Shikamaru was certain that the Hyuuga girl would not follow him there. Leaning over the edge of the edifice, he wind milled his arms when he lost his balance. Hinata's shout caught him entirely off guard.
"NARUTO-KUN… OHHH-HH-H NARUTO-KUN…"
Hinata's voice carried across the great avenue. Shikamaru was not the only one who looked somewhat taken aback. He sighed. This might indeed be worth watching. Anything out of the ordinary could provide him with important information. It was not gossip. Girls gossip. Guys collect data.
"Oh." Naruto jerked, as if he had been caught doing something wrong. "Uhhh-hh-h… Hinata… I was just stopping here to tie my shoes…" Naruto grimaced. He had put on his sandals that morning. "Well… I saw you running earlier…I don't know what came over Sakura." He rubbed his nose. "Ino was acting very strange too. I'm glad to see you, though. You're someone I can trust to behave normally."
Hinata licked her lips and sauntered over to Naruto. "Hmmm-mm-m…… you like those kind of magazines, do you?" She narrowed her eyes, sucked in her breath, and threw her chest out.
Behind Shikamaru, more familiar faces arrived. It was Kiba and Shino. They had seen their friend up on the roof.
"Yo, Shikamaru! How's it hanging?" Kiba waved, moments before Akamaru barked his greetings.
"Shhhh-hhh-hh-h… be quiet," Shikamaru said. Then looking at Shino he said "Sorry. Look over there." He pointed towards Hinata.
"I thought Hinata was meeting Kurenai and some of the girls for supper," Shino said.
Akamaru sniffed, and then shook his head, a strange look on his furry face.
"She's actually talking to Naruto!" Kiba chuckled. "I never thought that she'd find the courage. I bet you a week's dinner that she turns and runs away in the next five minutes."
"No bet," Shino answered, feeling somewhat loquacious.
"Uhhh-hh-h… do you have a back ache, Hinata…" Naruto began feeling a strange sense of déjà vu. It couldn't happen again… not with Hinata… could it?
"If I did, would you rub it for me?" Hinata unzipped her coat. She wasn't wearing anything underneath. "Hot oil feels really good. You do me… I'll do you… then we can do it…" She smiled, following Naruto's eyes. He was looking where she had hoped he would. "If some of those books might get you in the mood, I'll buy you as many as it takes. I can be very generous. I always reward those who show me kindness."
"Whoa!" Naruto brought his hands up. He quickly put them behind his back when he realized they had ended up at breast level by accident. "Have you been drinking or something? Did something hit you on the head?"
"Mmmm-mm-m… no…" Hinata took a deep breath and held it. She smiled a wicked little smile when she saw Naruto's eyes go impossibly wide. "But, if drinking gets you in the mood, count me in. And if you want to hit me… well… aren't you a naughty boy." The wink she gave him almost had him falling to his knees. "Just the way I like them…"
Naruto put his hand to his head, his mind suddenly feeling clouded. It was almost like someone was trying to do his thinking for him. There was a brief flush of Kyuubi chakra, and he felt better. At the same time, Hinata reached her hands out and stroked his belly.
Shikamaru scowled, thought a moment, and then brought his hands together. He worked a jutsu to break genjutsu. But, there was no illusion. Hinata was still standing there.
"What's going on!" Kiba's face looked incredulous. "I wonder if Ino is doing her jutsu as a trick again." She looked down at Akamaru who shook his head, looking confused. He was perplexed too. What he saw and what he smelled did not jibe. "If not, I want to find out what Naruto ate for breakfast. Whatever it was… if it works on Hinata, it should work on other girls…" He chuckled, still not believing his eyes.
"Pehaps it is pheromones," Shino offered. Those worked with insects and dogs.
"Nah!" Kiba said laughing. "That kind of thing would never work!"
"Let me listen," Shikamaru said. "I want to see if anything Hinata says gives us a clue."
"I've always envied your ability to trick people, beautiful boy." Hinata ran her hand through her hair, giving Naruto another view of her cleavage. "Maybe you can teach me to turn tricks. I love physical sensations. They make me so enraptured, wanting to experience more and more."
Naruto backed against a lamp post. Trapped, he began sweating when Hinata checked to see if he was ticklish.
"I know you'll end up being Hokage someday," Hinata said, blowing in Naruto's ear. "But, it would do the village great good to know who might follow you. Maybe we should go back to your place and make the Seventh Hokage…."
"Kiba. Send Akamaru out. Let's see if he can discover something." Shikamaru
"Look, Hinata… Akamaru…" Naruto pointed. When Hinata turned to look, he squirmed away and took off running. He need not have bothered. Hinata flashed up to the nearest roof top, then began jumping from building to building.
Soon, she was gone.
Water ran in strong torrents under the arched and ornate old bridge.
The three shinobi perched on the railing paid little attention to the soothing sound the water made as its ran over the countless flat stones, or washed against the larger slabs of rock the village sat on.
"It's really freaky," Naruto said to Lee and Neji, who were flanking him. "You know, we've probably all had dreams like that…." He scratched his head, looking at his straight-laced friends. "Uhhh-hh-h… maybe not all of us…"
"Ohhhh-hhh-hh-h…that does not sound like any of the kunoichi!" Lee tightened his hands, eyebrows tilting downward. "Sakura-chan would never act that way!"
"Are you sure you were not fantasizing?" Neji asked. "My cousin would never behave in that fashion, either. Did you try to see if someone was using Genjutsu?"
"I really didn't have time," Naruto said, feeling somewhat stupid. "They had their hands all over me… and… well… I was kind of distracted…"
"Ahhhh-hhh-hh-h… that sounds like a dream, alright…" Lee struck a sitting pose. "Gai-sensei has told me to avoid such dreams, as they can strip a warrior of his strength and will. He says it is much too easy for a foolish man to be distracted." He smiled. Light from one of the nearby streetlights reflected off of his teeth. "I cannot believe that any of the girls we know would ever behave in that manner!"
"Hey guys!" It was Ten Ten, walking alone. For some reason, her gait was off. She was showing a lot of hip action.
Neji nodded. Lee smiled. They had not seen their training partner that day. Neji gave her a subtle signal, but frowned when she did not return it.
Ten Ten stood directly in front of Naruto. Without warning, she pushed with incredible strength, knocking Neji and Lee off into the rushing water. "Some boys are in too big a rush to get wet," she said, sitting on the rail and sliding along it to bump up against Naruto. "Know what I mean?" She smiled. It almost sounded like she was purring. "I like a patient guy. And there's nothing like a male with stamina. You practice hard, don't you Naruto." She nipped his ear, almost sending a twitching Naruto over the railing.
"You too!" Naruto blurted out. He pinched himself. Lee and Neji were wrong. He certainly wasn't dreaming. He shook his head again, feeling dizzy for a moment. It was that strange feeling again.
"I practice long and hard, too." Ten Ten said, her voice smooth as the finest silk. "I like the feel of sweat all over my body." She ran a finger along Naruto's leg, causing him to shiver. "There's a lot I can teach you. I promise you will be satisfied with what you learn. And, I always keep my promises, just as I always pay back those who break their promises to me." She actually licked the side of Naruto's neck, laughing at the wild look in his eyes.
Naruto wanted to get up and hot foot it out of there. Thinks were getting stranger and stranger. But, he found himself transfixed by Ten ten's gaze, even though it was getting harder to see her eyes as the darkness fell more quickly.
"There's something I'd like you to swear," Ten Ten said. The things she whispered into his ear had him turning beet red. "I'm not the jealous type. After I show you how, you can show the other girls…."
Naruto tried to stand, but Ten Ten had placed one of her legs over his. "The river makes a deep pool right around the bend there," she said. "Want to go skinny dipping?"
Performing Kage Bunshin, Naruto managed to get free when his shadow clones pulled Ten Ten off of him.
It was time to see Tsunade.
The street was very wide in that part of the village.
Tall streetlights illuminated the sidewalks running in front of the stone and wood buildings of the business district, but left a strip of darkness running down the center of the avenue.
Naruto moved quickly, darting from point to point, staying out of the light, stopping now and then to check his surroundings. He was very much on edge and on the look out for any more possible ambushes.
Kurenai had jumped him in one alleyway. Chasing after him, she had thrown off her clothing one piece at a time, begging him to stop. Anko had been lurking just inside of the door to his dormitory building. She had pulled him down on a couch and moved against him in ways that almost took away his will to resist. In the flickering glow of the dying foyer light, her hair had actually looked red for a few moments. It must have been a figment of his imagination. Sitting on top of a bed and mattress shop, Yugao had giggled, asking if he wanted to find out if her hair was purple everywhere. She had taken off an ANBU fox mask first. A naked Shizune had asked if he wanted to play Doctor.
There still was no sign of Tsunade. She wasn't at her administrative office. The medical center personnel did not expect her that evening. No one had seen her at the watering holes and eateries she frequented. He had asked a lot of people in a lot of places, with no luck. luck.
Making it a point to search out Kakashi, Naruto found that his team leader had left on a sudden emergency mission. Asuma and Gai were gone as well. Iruka was nowhere top be found. He might have been on a date with Ayame.
A fair number of people were walking the streets. Most were probably on their way home for the night, but some were enjoying the night together, while others were on duty. Naruto caught sight of two familiar faces and flashed over to speak with them. "Oi! Shikamaru. Choji." He slid to a halt in front of his friends. He hoped that they weren't kunoichi in disguise.
"Naruto," Shikamaru sighed. "This has been a rather annoying night."
"Tell me about it!" Naruto said. "You wouldn't believe what's been happening to me." He looked around warily, wanting to make certain that his shout hadn't attracted the attention of the female persuasion.
"Shikamaru… (munch munch)… told me about Hinata… (crunch)… and what she did with you…(rip rustle munch munch)…" Choji held a fresh bag out to Naruto. When his friend declined, he pulled out chip after chip in rapid succession. "He doesn't think that it was her."
"He's probably right," Naruto said. "I bet Hinata usually wears a bra!" He blushed, remembering something personal. Part of him had stood at attention when he stared at the girl. Did Hinata actually look like that, if someone was copying her appearance? Shaking his head, to tried to focus on the matter at hand. He went on to describe his encounters with the other girls.
"That makes this even more troublesome," Shikamaru said, rubbing the back of his neck and looking up at the moon. "I have been looking all over for the Hokage, to report what I saw. However, tonight must be one of the few nights per month that she makes house calls."
"Ino was supposed to be eating dinner with her friends tonight," Choji said, chip fragments covering the front of his voluminous vest. "We could go to the restaurant and see what they know." His eyes narrowed and he smiled a wide smile. He could use another dinner.
"That would notbe advisable at the moment," Shikamaru said. "I know why you wish to go there, Choji. But we've already eaten tonight. Twice." He waved one hand, speaking logically. "If they are involved in something strange, they likely would not tell us. If they are not… and Naruto challenges them with those stories…" He didn't need to finish that thought.
Naruto swallowed hard. He'd rather take his chances with the near-naked or nude versions.
"Oi. Naruto. There you are!" It was Iruka.
"Iruka! Were you looking for me?" Naruto felt somewhat safer, with a number of friends around.
"Yes," Iruka said. "Someone told me that you were looking for the Fifth. I saw her strolling through one of the garden areas towards the center of the village, just a few minutes ago."
"Great!" Naruto gave his mentor a 'V' sign. "I need to catch up with her before she disappears again!" Naruto pumped his arms. Finally, things were looking up. Old Lady Tsuande would know what to do.
"That will absolve my responsibility, then." Shikamaru said, nodding his head. "I'm heading home. Good luck." He and Choji left, and Iruka hurried off on his own errands.
Naruto ran all of the way to the Gardens. Strangely enough, some of the lights there were out. He saw a dark form crossing his path far down the way, but had no idea who it might be. There was any number of places that any number of people could be. He needed to call attention to himself.
"HEY… GRANNY TSUNADE… EVERYONE'S LOOKING FOR YOU…"
Tsunade might try to avoid him if she thought that he was the only one needing her attention. No doubt she would be tired if she had stayed out this late, healing those who were home bound. He repeated his call a number of times. Did she think he was calling out on a lark? Was his history of pulling pranks catching up with him?
There was a rustling in one of the tall ornate hedges. "Over here!" A voice called. "What did you want of me?"
Naruto recognized the voice. It was the Hokage. When he caught sight of her, she motioned for him to follow her. Pointing to a bench in one of the darker areas, she walked to it and sat down.
"Old Lady!" Naruro hurried to report. "Some really strange stuff had been going on!"
"Oh?" The Hokage stretched and yawned. "Well, tell me about it then. I'm all ears." She yawned again. "But, don't take too long. I'm for bed soon."
Naruto reported everything that happened to him.
"Well, you have been quite the charmer, haven't you. I'm surprised that you didn't take any of them up on their offers. I'd think it would be a dream come true." Her voice was melodius, in a manner Naruto couldn't remember hearing before. It had his breath coming quicker and quicker. "You've had a tryingday. Let me make it better." She took his face on both hands and pulled it against her ample bossom. "Maybe you prefer a more mature woman. One with a great deal more…… experience…."
"Huh?" Naruto tried to pull away, but the Hokage was strong. "I can't breath!"
"Hmmm-mm-m… sorry…" Tsunade said. "Maybe I should smother you with kisses instead. Here, come lay with me in the tall grass. I just adore nature, don't you?" In the moonlight, her body looked magical as she slipped out of her medical robe. Dramatic curves were exaggerated by the silvery glow, making her look like something out of legend. "I can make it an order, if I have to."
"Or-… Or-… Order…." Naruto swallowed hard. "You can't do that!" Especially since this couldn't be the real Hokage. It had to be another trick. "No way, Granny!"
"You'll soon be amazed by what I can do," Tsunade said. "I promise." She pirouetted, showing Naruto a naked profile that had him feeling weak in the knees. "Does this look like the body of a granny?" She put her hands on both nipples.
Naruto stumbled for a brief instant. His head felt very odd. A warmth spread slowly throughout him as his libido clamored for attention. Against his will, he took a few steps towards Tsunade, who had reclined on the soft grass.
"I'll make you mine while we're here," the faux Hokage said. "Then, we can find a bed and get down to serious work. Every woman wants a child. What man would make a better mate than you?"
"M-… M-… Mate…" Naruto fought very hard to resist. Kyuubi chakra surged through him, to no effect.
"Mmmmm-mmm-mm-m… " Tsunade said, holding her arms out to him. "Have you ever heard the phrase 'taking the fifth'? Well, that's what I want you to do, in a manner of speaking…" A bell-like laugh echoed throughout the area. "Why fight it? You know you want this." A strong breeze rose up and swirled around the two of them.
Naruto's actions were completely beyond his control. One part of his body still worked on its own agenda, but that was an involuntary reaction. He couldn't stop his hands from unbuttoning his pants. Soon, they fell down around his ankles.
"N-… N-… Naruto-kun?"
Naruto jerked like a puppet on a string. That unexpected voice had given him back control for just an instant. It was Hinata.
Kurenai's shout of disbelief had the busty getting to her feet in rage. "Mind your own business," the ersatz Hokage said. "We don't want you here. You should hurry on your way, if you know what's best for you. Consider that an order."
Unable to move again, Naruto began sweating up a storm. His pants still lay at his feet. The tenting of his briefs couldn't be entirely hidden by the low light.
"Who are you really?" Kurenai asked, wishing that she had brought her weapons with her to dinner.
"The real Hokage would neverdo something like this," Ino stepped up next to Kurenai and Hinata.
"Naruto… you… you…." Sakura shook her head in disgust, arriving somewhat late to the scene. "You're a bigger pig than Ino!" She froze, seeing her teacher naked. Her mouth fell open.
"I… can't… help…it…." Naruto said through clenched teeth. He wondered for a moment if those were the real girls. Their actions seemed contrary to what Tsunade… or whoever that was…wanted. "I don't have control…"
Hinata let out a small sigh.
There was a very tense showdown, as the girls fanned out around the area and Tsunade raised her hands in the air. It looked as if she and Naruto had vanished. But, they hadn't. She waited silently, using her control of Naruto to keep his mouth shut.
"Sakura, you check over there. Ino, take the other side. Hinata, follow the road. I'll look in the next garden." At Kurenai's commands, the four shinobi vanished.
"Well…" Tsunade said, when she and Naruto were alone again. "I doubt that they'll bother looking here again. Where were we…" She smiled, intending to rekindle Naruto's physical arousal. But, before she knew what was happening, a great tree appeared behind her. "That's a poor illusion,' the fake Hokage cried.
"This isn't illusion." Kurenai grinned a fierce grin, holding a sharp blade against the other woman's neck. "Now… I have some questions…" The other ninjas joined her. They hadn't been surprised by the illusion, even though they found they couldn't break it. Somehow, Hinata had known that Naruto was still there.
For a moment, they were all in the same boat as Naruto, unable to move. The effect didn't last long, but it lasted long enough for Tsunade to disappear into the darkness.
"Damn," Kurenai muttered.
The fire crackled as the flames danced high.
Flickering orange light painted the lower part of large trees and gave an unearthly look to the faces of the woman standing around it.
By the sound of their voices, they were very upset. Nothing had gone as planned. One of them had been so close. To meeting her objective. Meddlesome humans had gotten in the way at the worst possible moment.
"I can't believe that we failed. We tried everything conceivable. Each one of us had spent so much time watching him and the others." One woman, her long red hair hanging down to the crest of her buttocks, stamped her pretty little foot.
"That's right, Shakko. We found out his likes and weaknesses. It should have been easy to exploit them. He's male. And we are so very female. Oooo-oo-oh… why did he have to resist me!" The second woman wound her long blond hair around her fingers, biting her lip.
"He didn't just resist you, Koryu," a beautiful dark-haired woman said. "He resisted all of us. He shouldn't have been able to. If he didn't fall prey to our beauty, he should have come under the sway of our possession powers…" She sighed, shaking her head. "Maybe he likes boys…"
The others all froze at that, all except a statuesque and curvaceous woman with majestic silver hair. "No, I was able to skim his thoughts. And, I had just the response I hoped for. If a number of human females hadn't interrupted, I would have had him. After that, he would have sought me out here. I would gladly have shared." She tapped long sharp nails against a small ball she held. "We don't have to leave this area for a while."
"Ahhhh-hhh-hh-h…" Shakko smiled. "With a Prime leading the way, we have to be successful. Thank you, Tenko. We should all be thankful that you chose to bring us here. It will be good to enlarge the family." She looked at the others. "Koryo, Genko, and Kiko have not had any children since they gained their second tails. Kuko, Nogitsune, and myself will not be able to earn our fifth tails until we conceive again."
"I don't want to resort to the males in the Upper level of Inari's Temple. Males of our own kind are so… insipid…" Dark-haired Genko stretched, and then took out a comb and began working on her hair.
"Yes… and none of them contain the Kyuubi…" A graceful woman with indigo hair purred. "What an accomplishment this would be, if we could only succeed. But I'm afraid we all came on too hard. The girls whose forms we took do not act that way that we did."
"What you said is very true," Tenko said, her wise voice captivating the younger ones. "But, we are too much into the rut for any of us to be subtle. That includes me. It is our nature, and we cannot fight it."
"If a Celestial can't resist the urges, what hope do Sprit, Wind, Void, Sound, Time, or Fire have?" Kiko chewed at the ends of her indigo hair. "Maybe if we moved as a group, we could overwhelm him and keep others off of our trail."
"Ohhh-hh-h… what other choice do we have?" Genko sounded miffed, as if her failure was a mark of personal shame. "If Tenko can bewitch and possess him again, we can cover her escape. Then we can all enjoy him later at a place of our choosing." Her lustful laughter had the other women smiling. "It would be a scandal if we, the myobu, were to fail in this."
"You may be right," Tenko said. "At any other time of the year, we could use our superior intelligence to snare the boy. It is unseemly for us to act like we are pack animals; but, we will do what must be done."
"Yes," Koryu giggled. "Again and again and again. Until we wear him out!" Her comment had the others giggling as well. "Maybe we can add an Earth, River, Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Thunder to the family…."
"Mmmm-mmm-mm-m… maybe we can add all of them," Kiko said.
"There's only one way to find out," Genko added.
The small animal noises of the forest had stopped briefly.
Now, the full chorus of night creatures had resumed their chirping, calling, and croaking. Fortunately, the ones under observation had not become suspicious.
Seven figures crouched in the darkness, their eyes on the clearing just beyond the small cluster of bushes. They had been there for hours, late into the night, waiting until things were precisely in their favor. It was only the fact that their prey's senses were blunted by a figurative hormonal fog that they hadn't been discovered yet.
They had left an anxious Naruto back in Konoha, where he sat fretting in his dormitory room. It had been difficult keeping him from sneaking off to join them on this task. But, it was best that anyone male stayed within the walls of the village. Neji and the rest were stationed inside and outside the dorm building. Jiraiya had arrived in town, and was sitting and chatting with his former pupil, taking detailed notes about his encounters.
"Anko, what do you think… the silver-haired one… she is greatest among them?" Kurenai's voice was too faint for anyone but the dark-haired woman to hear.
"So it would seem," Anko said. "She is also the only one who has not done what we've hoped. It also doesn't look like any of them are ready to go to sleep yet."
"If they even sleep," Kureani said, nodding her head. "I hate to resort to such measures, but we may need to resort to deadly force from the outset. The one I faced before had considerable power."
"Works for me," Anko said with a chuckle. "Naruto reported that one had taken on my form. He also told me that I look good as a red-head." She snorted. "The boy will be walking funny for the rest of the week."
"Good," Kurenai said, an edge to his voice. "He mentioned my supposed behavior too loudly, when others were listening. The rumors will be all over town. But, he moved too quickly for me to teach him a lesson." Then her voice became lighter. "His biggest mistake came when he asked Tsuande if she really had a birth mark on her… you know…"
"Hah!" Anko slapped her knee. "It's amazing that he's lived as long as he has!" She chuckled quietly. "Training with Jiraiya probably didn't help."
"Yes," Kurenai said, making a face. "Go check with Hinata. Some of the targets have moved out of our field of vision. She can use Byakugan to let us know if any start to leave." She handed Anko a whistle. "If you see what we're waiting for, blow the signal. I'll do the same from here. Blow the whistle twice if it looks like they're dispersing. We'll act immediately, before too many have chance to escape."
Kurenai watched a bit longer. She gaped when one of the women took on the form of a fox with five tails. Tsunade's supposition was right on the mark. They enemy were Kitsune.
Most people thought that they were legend. But, obviously, most people were mistaken. Fortunately, the Hidden Leaf village scroll library was extensive. In addition, Hinata had also heard numerous tales from her mother, and any one of them might contain a useful grain of truth.
It was not difficult to guess why they might have been drawn to Naruto: the Nine Tailed fox demon. No doubt they felt some kind of distant kinship to the great beast. But, that explanation would not be shared with the younger woman, a number of whom still were ignorant of boy's secret.
Kuenai blew on her whistle. She flashed towards the clearing at top speed, hoping that their adversaries couldn't react in time. Simultaneously, Anko, Shizune, Hinata, Sakura, Ino, and Ten Ten moved as well. Before the kitsune knew what was happening, each of the Leaf shinobi stood around the fire, a small shiny ball in their hands.
"Looks like we brought just the right number," Anko said with a big grin. "Though I would have preferred a battle." She narrowed her eyes. "Which one of you… ladies… pretended to be me…" She twirled a wicked-looking hook knife around one finger. "I would guess the red head…"
"Anko!" Kurenai said sternly. "There will be none of that." The jounin held up the ball she had captured. "Unless they put up resistance."
"Would you do that for me? As a personal favor?" Anko licked her lips, looking at the red-haired woman. The kitsune was so unsettled, that it reverted to its fox form. The youngest members of the family group followed suit.
"Give me back my ball!" Tenko said in a jagged voice. The tone of authority in her voice was wasted on the victorious kunoichi.
"Or else what?" Kurenai asked. "You little plan didn't work. The Hokage told us all about kitsune. We know the ways of the fox women… and the Hoshi-no-tama…" The ninja spun the ball at the tip of her finger. "Keep a bit of your spirit in here? Use it to reserve some of your magic when you shape shift?"
"And you need to keep any promise you make, or suffer a deterioration in rank and power?" Sakura joined in the conversation, still seething about the smear on her reputation.
"I bet you'd promise anythingto get your ball back, each and every one of you." Ino rolled one of the balls in her hand. She blew her breath on it, and then polished it against her chuunin vest. "Pretty…"
Tenko glowered at the shinobi. The other kitsune, in fox or maiden form, nodded their heads enthusiastically, eyes fixed on their star-balls.
"It looks like they're all eager, Kurenai." Ten Ten said. "All except the silver-haired one. She must be a Heaven fox. A Celestial. One of the Prime ones that the Hokage's scroll described."
"We may be able to work out a trade," Tenko said, her eyes sly. "You can't make us promise to transform you into kitsune… the change wouldn't stick that way… but such a transformation can be accomplished by one of my level. It's rarely done, and it can be very painful, but you would gain centuries of life."
"Uh huh," Anko replied, tapping against one ball with her knife. That had Shakko on her knees, quivering. "Why would you be willing to do that, if it only takes a promise to get the ball back?"
"We kitsune live in families," Kiko answered.
"Whenever we can, we act to make the families stronger. That's why we chose the bearer of…." Nogitsune was cut off by Kurenai.
"WE WILL NOT SPEAK OF THAT HERE."
Ten Ten and Sakura knew the reason for Kurenai's reaction. But, Hinata and Ino were left wondering. They had no knowledge of Kyuubi's relationship to Naruto.
The look on Kurenai's face had some of the kitsune huddling together. "The penalty will be swift and severe." She held Tenko's ball over the fire.
"I'm…" Nogitsune's eyes widened. She realized what the issue must be. The younger humans did not know about the youma. "I apologize. We chose the special boy as the one best suited to give us strong pups." That should be safe enough to say.
"Naruto-kun," Hinata whispered. The ears on all of the foxes twitched. They heard what the human women did not.
"As I was saying," Kiko said. "You are strong females. You would add much to the family."
"Well girls, you know that a lot of guys always say they like a woman who's a real fox. Any takers?" Kurenai didn't expect anyone to accept the offer. None did. "Good. Let's get down to business. I'll start things off." She asked for Tenko's name. The kitsune gave it. "If you… Tenko… promise never to go after Naruto again, or seek vengeance against those of us here or our village, I will return your Hoshi-no-tama."
Tenko stood quietly for a while, her eyes locked with Kurenai's. Finally she sighed and slumped her shoulders. "On one condition," Tenko said, almost willing to put up a fight, even though it would likely lead to the death of some of the kitsune. "In five years time… when the spirit moves us again…we are allowed to seek him out and beseech his attention… without any tricks whatsoever."
The other kitsune all looked to their family leader with respect and gratitude.
"B-… B-… But…" Hinata almost dropped the ball in her hand.
Kurenai put a finger to her lips, silencing the white-eyed girl. Then she thought a moment before speaking. "Agreed. You will state your names to all of us, and you will use those same names when and if you ever approach Naruto again. Any use of magic or natural talents whatsoever will be considered breech of promise."
After Tenko and Kurenai had worked their deal, each ninja paired off with a kitsune and worked their way through the same process. When it was Hinata's turn, Genko tried to be shrewd. "You know, we could always work another promise." The kitsune woman smiled. "You like the boy, don't you?"
"Ummm-mm-m… " Hinata swallowed hard. She felt as if the whole world was staring at her.
"I'd gladly share him with you. And, I can teach you the kitsune art of seduction. If your will and desire are strong enough, it cannot fail. Tenko almost had him." Genko looked very eager.
"N-… N-… No…" Hinata twitched. "I… ummm… he should…" She went quiet.
"Good girl, Hinata. I'm proud of you." Kurenai had been holding her breath.
Sakura was the last one to go through the making of the promise. Lulled into the repetitive nature of the entire process, having seen everything go smoothly for the six other shinobi, she let her guard down ever so slightly.
In fox form, Kuko prepared to speak her solemn oath. But, seeing how loosely the pink-haired girl held the star ball in her hand, she took a chance. Rubbing her tails together, she caused a huge tongue of flame to jump out from the camp fire and burn the girls hand. Even as Sakura was beginning to cry out, the kitsune used her tails to knock the ball to the ground.
Grabbing her Hoshi-no-tama in her teeth, Kuko ran off into the forest, followed by all of the other fox women except Tenko.
"It was a very well-played round, ladies." The Celestial fox smiled, then disappeared from view.
Every one turned to look at Sakura. She shrunk under their gaze. Kurenai sighed and shook her head. "Hopefully, we won't have too much trouble from one kitsune. And, the time of her estrous should be over soon." Kurenai said. "I doubt that Naruto will be fooled, knowing what he does now."
"Don't count on it!" Kuko's voice came from somewhere in the tree tops.
Hinata stood staring at Sakura.