Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Naruto whatsoever, except for my fictions.

"Speaking"

'Thinking'

Demon talking

Flashback

ooooooooo

Bloodlines and Demons

by chairomori

Chapter Eight: Decisions

ooooooooo

"Raikage-sama!" A jounin burst into a luxurious office. The sudden noise disrupted the serenity created by the soft, cream-colored drapes and opaque lamps that bedecked the room.

A middle-aged man glanced up from a file he had been examining. His thinning blond-gray hair hung limply past his shoulders, complementing the tired look on his face. Wrinkles around his eyes and mouth marred what otherwise could have been a youthful face. Old battle scars could be seen tracing this throat, chin, and forehead. His dull, green eyes, which had lost their former vitality frowned at the jounin. "Couldn't you have knocked, at least?"

The jounin bowed low. "I apologize, Raikage-sama," he panted. "Another civilian was found dead this morning. Judging by the state the corpse was in, it must have been done at least a while ago. Please, Raikage-sama, as a jounin of this village, I ask that you put a stop-"

The Raikage held up a hand, silencing him. "Did you identify the body?" He asked wearily.

"Yes. It belongs to the popular ramen chef – the one who runs Icha Icha Ramen Paradise."

Alertness suddenly overtook him, but he didn't display any change in demeanor. "Is that all?"

"Yugito is still missing. We can't find her anywhere, but," the jounin burst in frustration, "Raikage-sama, I know Ruko-sama is behind this. I know it probably seems far-fetched to you, but I can explain!"

Silence filled the room for a moment before the Raikage penetrated it. "How long have you known?"

The jounin let out a short gasp. "Are you saying, do you mean to say that you knew? You knew and didn't do a thing while our people were murdered? How could you?"

"Enough," the Raikage interrupted him. He sighed. "My brother has gathered many followers. How could I just blindly thrust our loyal shinobi into battle? I wanted our village to remain in peace, to prosper. A few lives seemed to be little payment for peace. It was – is – my mistake. A foolish one. I allowed him to scheme and plan, thinking I'd be able to stop him when 'the right time arrived.' Now our jinchuuriki is gone. There is no doubt that is also my mistake. Yugito is brash and hardheaded. I didn't trust her to keep this ordeal secret, so I pretended to ignore her. I should have known the child wouldn't have let it rest." He sighed again. "I'm not cut out for this position . . . If only the former Raikage could have lived a bit longer."

"Raikage-sama, I don't mean to be rude, but this is no time for regrets. Are you going to do anything or not?"

The Raikage's eyes flashed. He closed the file he had been viewing and rose. "I had been waiting for the chuunin exams to finish before acting, but it seems Ruko has no intention of doing so. Whatever he's planning, it's going to happen soon." He walked around his desk towards the jounin. "Give the signal to inform all the shinobi of the village that there will be a meeting tonight. You're dismissed."

The jounin bowed and left. 'Ruko-sama was right. He'll be please to hear this turn of events . . .'

ooooooooo

Tsunade leaned her head in her palm and held a steaming cup of jasmine tea in front of her, lazily sipping it. She stared at Kakashi and Gai. "And your point is . . .?"

"Tsunade-sama!" Shizune reprimanded.

"What?" Tsunade frowned in irritation. "Do you really think they'd try anything in the middle of such an event?"

"In the last exams, one of our shinobi, Hayate, was killed by a jounin from Suna."

"Okay, so what does that mean? We'll be able to swoop in and get rid of this Hyuuga-clone or whatever, then get away scot-free?" she asked sarcastically. "Listen. The only thing that concerns us here is the Hyuuga. Unless it can be used to our advantage, anything else happening in the Cloud is useless to us. For now, we'll just bide out time and watch."

ooooooooo

Sukai stifled an irritates sigh as she accidently released her byakugan again. Outside of regular training with Kafun-sensei, she had been trying to keep her byakugan on as long as possible. Currently, using the inheritance costed too much chakra and effort, thus her decision to accustom herself to it.

Activating the byakugan, she continued to sprint down a street to get a bento for her lunch break. After turning a corner, she noticed a crouching Kumo near the borders of her vision. Curious, she headed in his direction without realizing that her advanced vision had deactivated itself again.

When she arrived, Sukai hid herself on a rooftop. Kumo was just completing a sequence of seals. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning crashed into the alley and he rushed in, following up the attack with a crackling fist of electricity.

"What is he doing?" Sukai whispered to herself. She shifted her position to gain a better view of who Kumo was engaging. Her eyes widened. "He's crazy." But she couldn't leave her teammate in the mess he'd created. She stepped out onto the edge of the rooftop and prepared to jump down when a chop behind her neck caused her to pass out.

ooooooooo

Naruto stood on the hotel's rooftop, eyes closed in concentration. Tied to his fingers were ten wires, each with a regular shuriken attached to it. The shuriken were strategically placed around him. 'Alright.' He concentrated on his chakra and pushed it into the strings. When the chakra reached the shuriken, they began to quiver and slowly rotate. He forced even more chakra into them, making sure to increase his output at a brisk and even pace. The shuriken began to spin faster and rise from the rooftop. A small aura of chakra could be seen emanating from them. Naruto felt light breezes edging towards him. A shiver of eagerness passed through his body, causing him to accidently feed a surplus of chakra into the wires. As if on cue, all the wires snapped at once, sending the shuriken flying haphazardly in all directions.

"Aw man!" His concentration broken, Naruto comically dodged the shuriken that had backfired on him. "Man, it was getting good too!" He knelt next to a random shuriken and gulped. It had buried itself so deep into the wall, only a single tip protruded. Scanning the rooftop, he realized dozens more littered the area due to his training. Groaning, he summoned an equal amount of Kage Bunshin to quicken the task of pulling them all out. The sooner he finished, the sooner he could continue his training.

ooooooooo

Raikou Haden observed the groups of shinobi situated around the meeting room. He sat facing them, with the symbol of his status, the yellow Raikage's hat before him. Murmuring voices rose and fell. Glancing at the many empty cushions littering the room, the most flagrant his son's, he stifled a sigh and slowly rose. Any chatter quickly ceased as the shinobi listened with rapt attention.

"My loyal shinobi," Haden began, "as you may very well see, quite a few of our comrades are not present, despite this being a mandatory meeting." As if to make a point, he swept his hands over the empty spaces. "Some are injured. Others have been captured. But most," he paused, as if in weariness, "most have betrayed us."

A few gasps and murmurs, mostly from genin, arose; however, many of the older shinobi showed no surprise. They had relished the moment when their leader would finally take action for far too long.

"Why have they betrayed us, and to whom have they turned to? Many of you already know the answer; however, I shall enlighten those of you who do not. I am genuinely sorry to say that for many years now, one of our very own esteemed jounin has been plotting to seize control of this village. For what purpose, I do not know. But this individual has been steadily gathering a group of followers and slaughtering those who may be obstacles to his plan. This individual is none other than Raikou Ruko." Haden waited a bit for the information to sink into the formerly ignorant, most of whom were genin and chuunin. "The two of us have been carefully testing each other, feigning ignorance and innocence in these cases to find any weaknesses that could be exploited. For some reason, however, Ruko has chosen to make a few bold moves. On of which was capturing our jinchuuriki." Haden paused briefly. 'And most likely, now, my son.'

"This afternoon, I purposely chose a jounin I knew sided with Ruko, and told him to relay the signal for this meeting." Haden smile slightly as the said jounin suddenly started and began searching for an escape with his eyes. "The purposed of this was for Ruko to know that this skirmish will no longer remain an underground one. As you may judge by the reduction of our numbers, Ruko has heard the message and answered. Our village is now divided into two factions: ours, the larger one and the one in control of Kumogakure, and Ruko's the rebelling faction."

"But Raikage-sama, what are we going to do?" The question came from a newly instated genin.

"An excellent question, young one," the Raikage answered. "The first order of business will be a house-cleaning, of course. That's the most logical thing to do." The genin became confused, but a few shinobi tensed. Haden smile grimly, and uttered a single word. "Initiate."

Without warning, about a score of shinobi attached a tag onto their neighbors. Screams rebounded off the walls when the tags began to activate an shock many of them. Many confused cries rang around the room, but the Raikage maintained a hardened, triumphant air about him.

Of the couple genin, and many chuunin and jounin, only a few jounin remained conscious after the unexpected attack. They forced themselves to rise and sprinted towards the doorway, only to find it suddenly blocked with masked shinobi. Realizing they were surrounded by loyalists, albeit mostly confused loyalists, they halted in their escape attempt and instead stood their ground. On particular jounin turned and confronted the Raikage, drawing out a kunai. "Since we've been caught, the least we can do is take you down with us." He lunged forward but was met with the katana of an anbu. The two face off, as did the other remaining traitors. Suddenly, a white bolt of lightning soundlessly struck each of them where they stood, rendering them unconscious. Eyes followed the jutsu back to Haden.

"Enough. Take them to interrogations. Make sure no one escapes," he ordered the anbu. Quickly, the anbu dispersed with the unconscious shinobi. Turning to the remaining shinobi who had begun to settle down, he joked bitterly. "Well, wasn't that an effective house-cleaning?"

A lazy chuunin, not unlike Shikamaru, spoke up. "Are you saying that all those shinobi were spies?"

"Precisely. After tipping off that jounin, I immediately gathered a few capable shinobi to carry out the task of incapacitating the spies. Although I feigned ignorance, I had already amassed a deluge of information."

The chuunin smirked slightly. 'Clever. By informing us of all the steps he's taken, not only is he assuring everyone he knows what he's doing, he's also displaying his intellect and power. In short, he's trying to prevent anyone else from betraying the village by insinuating that he knows every move everyone will make. It's the very same psychological strategy Ruko used to prevent shinobi from contacting the Raikage.'

"But Raikage-sama, how will this affect the chuunin exams?" a weak voice asked. It was Kohito.

Haden gazed at the man. He was a coward in many senses, but he was a loyal coward. "Despite everything that has occurred, I hope to continue the exams as long as it is safe to do so. However, if continuance will endanger our shinobi or any or our visiting shinobi in anyway, we may be forced to cancel it in order to maintain healthy relations with the other villages."

"I don't understand," a venin voiced.

Instead of Haden, a jounin answered. "What he means is, if anything were to happen to the shinobi or lords of the other countries, we may or will be held responsible. In that sense, we have to tread carefully until these exams are over."

"Why not just end them now?" someone else inquired.

"We don't want to let on that anything's wrong," a different chuunin replied. "Blatantly cancelling such an important event is like waving a sign that announces we're having internal conflict. It would be like an invitation for aggressive countries to invade."

During this time, Haden had seated himself once more. He struggled to give the meeting his attention, but his thoughts continued to drift toward his concern for Kumo. Where was he?

ooooooooo

Kogane Yokou refrained from allowing any trace of irritation to make its way onto his face. He, along with his siblings, sat a bit behind his parents, quietly listening to the politics rebounding back and forth in the clan meeting room.

"I'm telling you, our loyalty lies with whoever is the fittest to lead this village," a voice added to the ongoing debate.

"And that person is the Raikage!" another added.

"You mean the man who abandoned his shinobi just to avoid confronting his brother?" a third voice scoffed.

"You know his reasons."

"Like hell I, nor anyone else here does. You saw what happened in that meeting room – Raikou doesn't trust us with shit!"

"Language," a serene voice interrupted.

"What I mean is, why should we risk our lives over this mess? How does it affect us?"

"What you are suggesting is treason," an elder warned sternly.

"Besides, you'd risk allowing Ruko the chance to seize control? Can you even imagine the subjugation we would all be forced to succumb to?"

"Then why not join him?" Yokou was startled out of whatever reverie he was in. His father continued. "Ruko has gotten away with who knows how many atrocities for this long. If Haden could have done something, it would have been done by now. It's obvious Ruko will come out of this on top."

Next to him, his wife was appalled. "You're suggesting we betray our village?"

"We aren't betraying our village. It's simply a matter of who we want to lead us," he justified. The new perspective raised even more questions and discussions, slowly adding to the cacophony that plagued the room.

At the room's head, a slightly rotund, middle-aged woman who had been scuffling about her seat for quite a while began to twitch irascibly. Her eyes, which had been closed, flashed open to reveal golden irises. She let out a low growl. "Quiet!" she called. But the command lost itself in the din. Her eyes began twitching and her fingers curled around a cold cup of green tea. "Quiet!!" she tried to yell above the racket. Again, almost no one heard her. Scoffing in contempt, she rose and hurled the cup out a window. "I said QUIET!" Shafts of refracted light suddenly materialized from nowhere and threateningly suspended themselves around every inhabitant of the room. A reverberating silence filled the room and a distant crash from the teacup could be heard.

The woman cleared her throat. "That's better." The shafts vanished as she reseated herself. "The direction our clan will take has been clear since the beginning. As one of the most prestigious clans in Kumogakure, it is our duty and blah blah blah, to protect this village and all else within it – that includes its leaders. As suggested earlier, to do anything else would be treason."

"But Yokohana-sama-"

"Silence! As head of this clan, this is my order. Anyone who dares defy it will be prosecuted. There is nothing more to discuss here." Yokohana rose, grabbed an old walking stick, and began to amble out of the room, while muttering something about stupid traditions and dull meetings.

"Can you believe it, Yotsuko? Being forced to obey a decrepit, old fool!"

"There, there – nothing to be so upset about!" Yotsuko waved off her husband cheerily.

He grunted in annoyance and headed off without her.

"Kaa-san?" she turned and face Yokou. "Is Yokohana-sama going to be able to protect herself? She's crippled, and it seems that many are upset with her decision."

She smiled an leaned toward him so that no one else could hear. "Don't worry. Yokohana-sama is clan head because of more than just her inheritance. And besides, sometimes there's more to a person than meets the eye – just look at what she did moments ago." She turned and waved him off as she did to her husband. "I know you have something to do, so take care!" she called airily behind her. "Remember to watch your back!"

Yokou stared at his mother's retreating form, wondering how she always managed to know what was going to happen. Mother's intuition, he decided. With her obscure form of permission, he turned in the opposite direction and began to search for his missing teammates.

ooooooooo

Naruto laid on his back, still on the hotel rooftop. Exhausted, he simply wanted to rest, but he only had a few more days before the final exams and had yet to master the jutsu Kakashi designed for him. Hearing the door to the rooftop open then slam shut, he reluctantly pushed himself up.

"Still training? How troublesome." Shikamaru walked over to him and sprawled himself on the rooftop, staring at the overcast sky. "I'm glad I already passed – now I won't be forced to keep taking these annoying exams over and over again."

"Tch. Lazy ass," Naruto muttered, flopping down again. "Why are you here anyway?"

"Just trying to look at the clouds. Of course, it'd be easier if this country's weather wasn't always so gloomy," he answered.

"It's night, Shikamaru," the blond deadpanned. "You're not supposed to see anything either way."

The chuunin sighed. "I take it you haven't been having anymore unwanted run-ins?"

"Nope. Just me and the roof – and a bunch of training."

"Naruto, don't feel so let down. You know whatever's happening is none of our business."

"Mm hm," Naruto agreed stiffly.

Shikamaru took it as a signal of acceptance and left the whiskered genin to his own devices.

Naruto waited until he heard the door click, then sighed. How was he supposed to pretend that nothing was wrong? Just that evening, for some reason much of the village had fallen silent, as if everyone had disappeared. Even in his training he could sense the abnormalcy. Now there seemed to be an air of solemness about the area. He took a breath and forced himself onto his feet. Whatever it was, thinking about it wouldn't do anything. Swiftly, he attached a handful of wires to more shuriken and resumed his training.

ooooooooo

"Sukai!" The clone whined and tried to turn over. "Sukai!" She frowned and swatted whatever it was that kept shaking her. "Sukai!"

"What?" she bolted up and demanded. Fully conscious, she took in her surroundings – a dimly lit room with two other occupants. "Where are we?"

The first of the two occupants shrugged. "I hate to sound stereotypical, but some kind of villainous, evil lair."

The second of the two scoffed. "What gave it away? The eerily dim lighting, or the fact that we're trapped between four walls?"

"Look, Sukai. He's talking to us. Besides, Shimaru," the first sneered, "you're Ruko's favorite lackey, you should know where we are. Oh, and it's four walls, a ceiling and the floor."

"As you so intelligently put it, we're in one of Ruko's 'villainous, evil lairs,' Honorable Prince," Shimaru jabbed.

Kumo snapped at the title. "No one calls me that anymore – thank the gods. And if you insist on being so formal, you shouldn't insult me."

"I said you spoke 'intelligently.' If you choose to take everything as an insult – not my problem," the navy-haired genin shrugged nonchalantly.

"Um," Sukai sweatdropped. "So what exactly do you mean by we're in Ruko's 'villainous, evil lair'?"

Kumo sighed. "Exactly what I meant. I caught a jounin passing information onto Ruko and foolishly lost my head," he glared at Shimaru when the genin acknowledged the 'foolishly' part. "Without thinking – stop agreeing with me you bastard! – I attacked them. Apparently, you stink as stealth – I mean, no offense Sukai, and I told you to stop Shimaru! – so you were caught and obviously I got taken down."

"And then both of you were thrown in here with me," Shimaru summed up for them.

"But why are you here?" Sukai asked. "And where's your mask?" She suddenly noticed the small scars that now revealed themselves, particularly the one that ran from his left chin up to the side of his nose.

"The annoying medic who runs this base threw me in here. He's also the one who stole my mask," Shimaru frowned. Indeed, the prat had made off with it, sprouting nonsense about how 'one shouldn't be ashamed of one's appearances.' He felt self-conscious without it covering him. It was as if he were standing naked in front of everyone.

"That's what I don't get," Kumo stated. "Why would Ruko's favorite lackey end up here?"

Shimaru gave a frustrated sigh. "Why do you keep insisting I'm his favorite lackey?"

Kumo scoffed. "Oh, come on! You can't possibly be saying you aren't."

"For your information, Ruko doesn't have a 'favorite lackey.' He doesn't trust anyone enough, let alone a genin like me," Shimaru defended.

"Oh no. You're not his favorite? The world is going to end! Besides, you come close enough to one," he insisted.

"How so?"

Kumo began listing things off. "One, he personally called you his protégé. Two, you do every damn thing he says."

"And that's enough to make you think I'm his 'favorite'?" Shimaru waited for Kumo's nod of confirmation, which he immediately received. "To straighten things out, a 'protégé' is someone who'd under an influential person. I didn't know that meant 'favorite lackey' in your dictionary. And between the three of us, I really don't want to add to my collection of scars."

"Tch. Whatever, coward. Just go on killing innocent people like Toya for the sake of your own life."

"I see you've been taking lessons from that dumb, blond genin from Konoha," Shimaru muttered. "Anyway, are you saying that if you were to have the choice between killing her," he pointed at Sukai, "or having yourself be killed, you'd pick the latter?"

"Of course not," Kumo fired at him. "This is just like in the exams. I'd pick neither. Although I know what you'd have done."

"Wake up. We're shinobi – killing is just part of what we do. We didn't become ninja to help old ladies carry their bags across the street. We did it to fight and the ultimate result of fighting is killing."

"That's your own twisted logic. I admit there are times when it'll be necessary to take a life – I'm personally waiting for Ruko to go down – but that doesn't mean killing's what it revolves around."

"I beg to differ. Things tend to be different when you've been forced under a man like Ruko," Shimaru retorted.

"The only person who's forcing you to follow him is you."

"Oh, and I'm sure your father, the Raikage, had nothing to do with assigning me under him," Shimaru said sarcastically.

"Don't you dare bring him into your issues," Kumo warned.

"Or what? After all the time I've been under Ruko, the Raikage has yet to act against him once. Not even after all of the information he's gotten. Who's the coward now?"

"That's it. I'm sick of you," Kumo gritted. "Hekireki genkotsu." (Lightning Fist). The dim room suddenly became illuminated from the jutsu. He charged at Shimaru who was suddenly on defense.

"Um, I hate to interrupt," an intermediate grabbed hold of Kumo's wrist, dispelled the technique, and let go, "I mean, this is like a soap opera and all, but I don't really want you to kill each other."

Shimaru glare at the familiar annoyance.

"Aw, come on, Shimaru," the medic grinned. "After I healed you and all? Anyway, I was just here to check up on my new prisoners when I heard your interesting comments! You know, Shimaru, I should update you on the facts. The Raikage has now technically declared war on Ruko!"

"What?" the three genin asked. Sukai, who had been spectating intently as the boys lashed out at each other rose and stood with the rest of them.

"I said that Raikage-sama has declared war on Ruko," the medic stated nonchalantly. "Oh, by the way, Shimaru, that list you gave Raikage-sama is a bit faulty. Sure he got a lot of conspirators in that meeting, but a couple got away scot-free. Namely Hannya and-"

"What do you mean, 'meeting'?" Kumo demanded.

"Are you deaf? I mean, 'meeting.' You know, as in an assembly, a get together, an-"

"Okay, just get to it," he impatiently ordered.

"Well, as I was saying, Raikage-sama managed to bag quite a few spies Ruko left behind. But you did miss a few big people, Shimaru. Now Ruko's called everyone who's not to remain as spies back into our bases to plan the next move. I heard we may target some of the shinobi during the exams."

"Wait, why do you assume it's me who gave this list? Anyone else may have done it," Shimaru tensed.

"Silly, silly. Didn't I tell you earlier you stink at this game? Don't worry though, secret's safe with me," he said all too cheerily for the situation. "Anyway, I think I've been talking way too much. Better to lock the door back up!" He turned his back on the genin who were mostly a bit dumbstruck by their captor. Once outside the door, he paused. "How careless of me! I accidently broke the lock in my rush to get in! Well, I'll just have to get another. How unfortunate. I just sent all the guards in this base to take a break too!" He addressed the genin. "I'm sure you won't go anywhere while I go fetch another lock? Who am I kidding? Of course you won't! You won't try and get your kunai and equipment pouches in the cupboard to the left of your cell either, I trust! Well, it'll take me about ten minutes or so to go to the supply room and back, so just sit tight, okay? You'll be locked up again in no time!" He turned around and reiterated in a more serious tone. "Ten minutes, that's all."

The genin waited until the queer medic had turned the corner before scrambling out of the cell and quickly retrieving their equipment.

Kumo turned to Shimaru. "What are you doing? Aren't you with Ruko?"

"You heard that guy – lines have finally been drawn, the Raikage's finally moving. I don't have to be here anymore."

"Whatever. We'll settle this once we're out of here. You lead us since you know this place better than we do. Sukai, try and use your byakugan as a look out."

The illegitimate Hyuuga nodded and activated the bloodline, hoping it wouldn't deactivate itself again. She turned around in a circle to compensate for its shortcomings. "No one's around." With that, the trio scrambled their way out of the base.

Five minutes later, a pair of voices could be heard coming down the hallway.

"Really, it seems like you don't trust me with my job," the polite voice from before stated. "You should go back to sleep. I'm sure it was nothing."

"Like hell," a deep voice grunted. "I know I heard something from around here."

"Surely you don't expect me to be able to keep the prisoners from talking?" the former replied dryly.

"No. I mean, kind of like footsteps." As the two rounded the corner, the man halted, seeing the door ajar. "I knew it. They must have gotten through the lock somehow! Don't worry, I'll alert the others!" He rushed back down the hallway.

Behind him the medic sighed. 'It seems you might have a bit of trouble after all.'

Meanwhile, the trio of genin had managed to make their way outside thanks to a few successful shortcuts and the lack of security. Once outside, Kumo and Sukai realized that the 'base' was actually disguised as an apartment complex in the village.

"Where do we go now?" Sukai asked while they leapt away bey rooftop.

"To my place," Kumo answered. "We need to avoid everyone – we don't know who's on which side yet. And before you talk, Shimaru, I don't trust your information. From what that guy said, it's flawed."

Suddenly, Sukai stopped for a second, catching a flash of something behind them. She maneuvered her body so that she could see directly behind them. "Kumo, we're being followed!"

"We're open targets up here, let's jump down," he ordered. "Sukai, set up a snare in the opposite alleyway. We'll head out on the open street while they might take a false lead."

She nodded and followed the two other genin down a wall. Quickly running through a few seals, she muttered, "Raisuji no jutsu." (Lightning Strings Technique). From her fingertips emerged her chakra which crackled soundlessly in thin wires. She quickly thrust them forward, causing them to attach to the alley's entrance like a spider web. Once it was settled, the trio headed on.

After a while, Kumo signalled for them to duck into another alleyway. "How many are there?"

"Six, I think. My byakugan's range isn't far enough to be certain."

"Make another decoy, then we'll keep going."

"We should head off in the direction of the decoy," Shimaru suggested. "If they recognized the first, they might think we'll try it again and ignore it."

With that settled, they dashed off again, only, "They're still onto us, an dclosing in – they must have a tracker or something." Sukai informed.

Kumo cursed. "I don't suppose anyone here knows any genjutsu?" Negative confirmations greeted him. "Well, I guess we're going to have to face them then."

"You two use that trash bin as a shield. I'm going to try a paralysis jutsu," Shimaru said. The two nodded and continued on to the bin while Shimaru skidded to a stop and began the necessary handseals for his Hekireki zenshinfuzui no jutsu, which he immediately activated as soon as the first trackers appeared. He managed to paralyze the first two with the hazy, enlarging bubble; however, the others leaped away in time to avoid the full effects of the jutsu.

"Shimaru, what are you doing, helping the prisoners escape?" One of them yelled before launching into an attack.

As Shimaru distracted their followers, Kumo whispered to Sukai, "How many are there?"

"Four. Six including the ones he's taken down," she answered. "Should we try and surprise them with combination two?"

"Yeah, that'd probably be best," he acquiesced.

"So what's combination two?" a female voice perked.

The two genin froze and looked behind them, where two more chuunin stood. Quickly, the two leapt away before they could be attacked. Sukai prepared her Raisuji no jutsu and tried to snare the chuunin's legs; however, they anticipated it and dodged by jumping. Trying to take advantage of their situation, Kumo ran through a lengthy sequence of seals, and soon, a fairly large bolt of lightning headed towards the chuunin. At the last second, they twisted in midair, causing the bolt to blast past them into the atmosphere. Once they landed, they propelled themselves forward to engage the genin in a taijutsu battle.

'Now's my chance,' Sukai thought once she realized what the chuunin were planning. Being unable to see neither tenketsu nor chakra pathways, she stood her ground and scrutinized their approaching bodies and attempted to estimate their locations. Once they were close enough, she channeled as much chakra as she could into her palms and tried to force a hit. The two managed to avoid a vital blow but suffered injuries to their left and right shoulders.

The female chuunin clenched her right shoulder. "So you've finally learned a bit of the Gentle Fist style you were created for, eh?" She neatly back flipped to dodge a lightning fist from Kumo, who had attempted a sneak attack.

'What?' Sukai blinked. The other chuunin, sensing and opening, threw a right hook at her which sent the genin flying back toward Shimaru, who still had three shinobi facing him.

Kumo landed next to them. "It's three genin of five chuunin. Plus, we're surrounded. What do you suppose we do?"

Before anyone could answer, hordes of glass shards began pouring down on the chuunin. They quickly evaded before any permanent damage could be dealt. As they dodged, the shards collected into larger, cracked fragments and reflected different images back at them.

"Up here," a voice called out. The trio glanced upwards and found their final teammate on the roof of a building. "Hurry. It's only a matter of time before they break the genjutsu." The three genin quickly climbed up to the rooftop.

"Yokou, how did you manage to find us?" Kumo questioned as they hurried onward.

"Anyone with eyes would have seen that bolt of lightning," the Kogane replied cooly. "I was looking for you and Sukai nearby and there just happened to be your signature move. Thought I'd head over. Other shinobi are probably going to check it out as we speak. By the way, what's he doing here?" he gestured at Shimaru.

A handful of kunai soon whizzed past them. "We should probably explain later," Kumo answered. "Sukai, why didn't you warn us they were following again?"

"Sorry. It's just that I'd been practicing with they byakugan all day, and it's so strained it keeps deactivating itself. I didn't see them," she explained.

"It doesn't matter," Yokou assured. "Just carry out combination three."

Sukai nodded and began throwing steal wires everywhere randomly as they ran, making sure they all connected. Meanwhile, Kumo prepared another lightning attack. Shimaru resigned himself to observing their teamwork. Once he had completed his seals, Kumo took the wires from Sukai. Instead of heading straight, the bolt began to travel along the wires behind them. In a few moments, the sound of electrocutions could be heard, accompanied by shrieks.

"I think it's safe to say we won't be followed anymore," Kumo smirked.

ooooooooo

A/N: Alright, so here's that next chapter I promised. I'm sorry to say that it's only half as long as I originally planned. The reason is I just don't have the time nor inspiration to sit down and write, what with trying to finish up Flamed and my Spanish homework. Anyway, I know it's ridiculous to a lot of you out there, but this is most probably my last chapter until the next school year ends. Sorry, but please understand school is my number one priority – it's what's preparing me for life, not fanfiction. Well, for those of you who are patient, I'll see you in ten or so months. Not that many of you won't, but don't forget to leave a review! This has been chairo, ready to disembark from vacationing in the lands of BaD.