A/N: Heya everybody. Long time no see and what not. Well, I've updated, and I don't think I really need to go into detail why this one took me so long. Suffice it to say, I don't have a job right now... woot, freedom.

Also, before getting to the story, i wanted everyone to know that I now have my own forum on this website, up and running. It has to deal with my current stories on this sight, and I may add other threads, we'll see. So if you want to head over there and start posting stuff about my stories and what not, feel free to do so. I check my forums everyday, you can find it by clicking on the link on my profile, which you'll also see has also been updated. Yay... Gadalla is actually doing stuff... yay.

Alright anyways, that's enough for now. I'm sure you're aching to get to reading, so I'll leave you to it.


(p.s.) don't forget to reveiw please! where you can freely swear at me for not updating sooner XD

Chapter 28: World in Black and White

She was surrounded by something, and yet, nothing. As far as she could see there was nothing here but whiteness; a world of white. It felt solid, after all she was standing on it, but she cast no shadow and could see no end. There was no horizon where land met sky, or any indication that there was anything resembling those things anyways. She was alone… oh, and she was naked.

Hinata blushed brilliantly and let out a little squeak as she tried to cover herself, her high pitched "squeak" seemed to be swallowed by the whiteness, as if it were muffled, but she could still hear echoes of her voice as if she stood in some great cavern. There was no one to see her, but she could feel something watching. She looked around her, trying in vain to see what it was that could be looking at her, but it was to no avail. Whatever it was, it seemed to be looking at her from all angles, it felt as if it were looking through her. Meaning her meager attempts to hide herself were utterly useless. Hinata blushed all the more at that thought.

Do not be so frightened. I don't bite… much…

Hinata gasped and completely forgot about her attempts at modesty in her shock. "W-who… who are you?" Hinata frowned at the thin high voice that echoed around her, she sounded like she was still thirteen, like she had not even a year ago. But she was indeed frightened, she couldn't see what was looking at her, and she didn't really know where she was. She didn't think this was her own mindscape, it was too… empty. Naruto had described his own mindscape to her on multiple occasions, the sewers in his head at least actually sounded like a place. This… this felt like she was nowhere.

That's because you are nowhere, little one. At this moment your mind exists outside of time. Time neither moves nor even stops here, it just doesn't exist.

Hinata frowned, the voice sounded warm and feminine, with a certain amount of iron underneath. As if whoever was behind this voice was used to being in command, or respected. It was a voice used to power, but it was gentle as well. It was niggling something in the back of her head, she recognized it as if from a memory of a memory. She swallowed the lump in her throat and stood up straight, trying to ignore her nakedness, "Who are you? And why am I here?"

Whatever it was chuckled softly, a sound that filled the white void completely. My my, aren't we the brave one now? You can't seem to remember who or what I am, but you put on such a brave face. Here, let me show you.

Hinata felt a presence behind her, as if the eyes that had been watching her from all angles were now only watching her from behind. She turned slowly, not sure she was quite ready to see what was behind the disembodied voice. After all, disembodied voices couldn't hurt you. It took her a moment of staring to realize what she was looking at, for it looked to be a part of its surroundings, yet definitely apart from them. It was white, covered in lavender colored stripes 

and it was huge. Hinata didn't need to count the mass of writhing tails behind the massive thing to now know who she was speaking to.


The massive feline face seemed to 'smile' at the mention of its name. Two lavender cat eyes stared at her from untold heights. Yes, I am Shichubi, the one who has plagued your family for centuries. I would ask if you despise me for being the reason your mother died so young, but I've been living in your subconscious for many years now and I already know that you don't… mostly. Shichubi 'spoke' without moving her mouth, her voice ringing off none existent walls all around Hinata.

At the mention of her mother, Hinata suddenly realized why Shichubi's voice sounded so familiar. It had been years since she had heard the sound of that voice; it wasn't the same voice, far from it, but it sounded like it came from almost the same person, like a sister or her grandmother that she had never met. "You sound like my mother."

Again the massive feline face smiled, showing some fang this time, but there was no fear in Hinata, the smile – if it could be called that – was gentle, cultured and almost… loving. Just like her voice.

Yes, I suppose I do sound like her don't I? In fact I probably also sound like your grandmother, your great grandmother, your great grandmother's aunt, and so on and so forth; all the way back to the day when the original, powerless, Hyuugas imprisoned me inside the daughter of the original head of the clan. I've spent my entire life with all those women all through their entire lives. All of them chosen by me, but restricted by blood. So you, Hinata, are directly related to the great ancestor that gave your family one of the first doujutsu abilities in the ninja world. I sound like your mother Hinata, because I am like your mother. She possessed the personal qualities – and the royal blood – that would make her into a great woman, and someone I would be willing to share my existence with till the day she died.

Hinata stared dumbfounded. She knew about the truth of her family history and the secret behind the Byakugan, but she hadn't known that Shichubi got to choose her own hosts within the main branch family; all those close to the clan head no less. She had thought it was always the oldest daughter or something like that. The seven-tailed feline was not done however.

Now Hinata, do you know why I chose you to inhabit? Why I did not choose a close first cousin or even your own sister?

Hinata shook her head slowly, "N-no. I'm not great like my mother was, so I don't know why you would've chosen me over someone as skilled as my little sister."

Again that all encompassing chuckle, soft as silk but as big as… well, a fifty-story cat demon. Yes indeed, your sister is very skilled and very talented, in her own way. But when I speak of 

greatness I do not talk of strength or skill at arms, bravery or an iron will. Hinata, I speak of kindness. You are most like your mother, who was most like her mother before her. People capable of showing the amount of care and affection to those around them, like you and your mother before you, have my respect, are most like me, and most importantly are most compatible with me. I had to find hosts of like mind and personality in order sync with them easily.

Shichubi sighed sadly. Those whose souls did not match my own died very early and very violently. The closer a soul's 'frequency' matches my own, the longer my hosts can live with the massive amounts of demonic energy living inside of their bodies.

Now Hinata really was speechless. She was believed to be great by an almost nigh omnipotent demon because of her kindness. Not only that, instead of seeking revenge on the Hyuuga family, the once high and mighty demon chose hosts that would live longer and more fulfilling lives than the others that she could've of chosen if she had chosen them. If that wasn't kindness she didn't know what was. "Um… th-thanks?"

Shichubi smiled at that. You're very welcome… though you wouldn't have been if you knew of my existence and were still going to die because of me. I suppose you and I are very lucky that our lovers came to our much needed 'rescue'. Shichubi made very human gesture of rolling her eyes, Yet another reason for Kyuubi to laze about and have me do chores for him. I can hear it now "… but I saved your life remember? So just make me a sandwich already."

Hinata stifled a giggle at the very un-Kyuubi sounding voice, and the very human situation of Kyuubi trying to get his mate to make him some food. Though, now that Hinata thought about it, it would probably be her making Naruto ramen. The thought wasn't really that bad, she wanted to cook for him, as long as he didn't try and get her to do it all the time. She stopped her musings to focus back on Shichubi, "How long have you and Kyuubi… you know, been together?"

Oh… many, many millennia. You wouldn't believe me if I told you, suffice it say, it was before you species was standing up straight when Kyuubi and I fell in love. Shichubi crouched down so that she lowered her massive head and leveled it with Hinata. But sadly, I did not bring you here for pleasantries sake or to speak of your family and our relationship with the Kyuubi boy. I brought you here for a very express purpose, one that must happen so that you are not destroyed or at the very least driven insane from the massive amounts of chakra and memories you are about to receive.

Hinata nodded, remembering full well why she was here. Dread and overwhelming nervousness threatened to overcome her. She had been avoiding thinking about this moment during their entire trek through Earth Country and through the Northern Mountains as much as possible, but now that the moment was upon her she could feel her insides clenching at the thought of not knowing how things would turn out.

Shichubi seemed to sense her tenet's discomfort. You don't need to worry too much, little one. The seal I've been working hard on for the past two weeks should allow our souls to fully merge with one another without dealing too much damage in the process. I am going to tell you now that it will not be pleasant, and most likely extremely painful. Not to mention that no matter how kind I may like to think I am, I am still a demon, Hinata. I have done some truly horrible things by human standards, and you will remember these things as if you had done them yourself. You will still retain who you are deep down inside due to our souls being very much alike, but you will become ruthless and as hard as iron when it comes to protecting those you care for. You may even seem cruel to those who don't know you. Not to mention that me being a demon will increase your instincts and senses by a much greater margin than you now possess.

Shichubi paused a moment to let that all sink in before continuing, In the end Hinata, you and I will probably never speak like this ever again, where it's just you and me sitting in your mindscape or some other place such as this. You and I will become one with each other, one being, one mind, and one soul. You and I will be half Hinata and half Shichubi, half human and half demon. If we do speak with each other, it will be like talking to yourself in your head with two very distinct voices, both coming from the same mind, though at the same time both may have different opinions. Sort of like arguing with yourself about something you can't seem to decide on.

Hinata only nodded her head. This was a lot to take in, but she didn't feel confused, not right now. She felt sad. This was the very first time she was finally able to meet the being that had been living inside of her almost all of her life, and now she would not only merge with her, but she would have to say goodbye as well. Even though they would be merging into one brand new being that shared both their characteristics, something she was still nervous about but was resigned to do, it would not be the same as how Naruto had described his own relationship with the nine-tails. Either way, Hinata was going to do this, she had to.

Your very genetic makeup will be affected as well and you will be officially labeled a half demon amongst your peers. You will also have the power of a half demon as well. Including slightly increased speed, strength and endurance, and of course the ability to summon vast amounts of chakra. Your chakra will become mixed with mine and will become one pool of energy instead of two separate pools that you had to pull on separately.

Shichubi stopped and pointed one massive cat claw at Hinata, Be forewarned though, Hinata. Though your body will become physically enhanced and your chakra coils will become much larger and far hardier, our body will still be the body of a human. You and I will not be able to summon all of our chakra at once; it would be too dangerous, and even with the healing factor that my own chakra would grant you, too much chakra and our body would be torn apart. Do you understand?

Hinata nodded that she did. It would be like Naruto who could only summon enough of Kyuubi's chakra to form three of his tails. Anymore and his own excessive amounts of chakra would begin to damage his body.

Shichubi stood back up from her crouching position, It is time to activate the seal that I created.

Hinata frowned, "Time? I thought we were outside of time here." She was pleased to hear that her voice had returned to full strength, no more quavering or stuttering. She no longer feared Shichubi, now knowing that the great cat demon would probably never harm her even if she could.

Shichubi shook her head. Yes we are, but I also cannot keep us here indefinitely. I need mine and yours energies to be at their best in order for us to endure the merging process. Plus I need the chakra to activate the seal as well, it's extremely complicated, and extremely powerful.

Hinata noticed that Shichubi's demeanor had changed from caring and confident to one that was uncertain and almost… sad. "Shichubi? Is everything okay?"

Shichubi looked at Hinata for a moment with those huge lavender eyes, and closed them with a huge sigh, before opening them again and responding. It's just… you and I will be merged into one new being that is comprised of both of us. I will be free again in a sense, but… Kyuubi... It has been centuries since I've last spoke with him much less spent time with him. Centuries, Hinata, and though I know I will see him and talk with him again as part of you, now that I'm free I will never get to see him again as just him and just me. It will be the new you and me spending time with the being that your own Naruto and my Kyuubi are becoming.

Hinata could understand such sadness, she too after all was not too hot on becoming one with a demon, even if it would make her powerful enough to protect her friends. But, the thought of not being able to be just Hinata and spending time with Naruto hurt. It would not be like it was at the tree house and the years before, though at the same time, she did not doubt that it would be almost exactly the same. The same feelings the same things said and done… but it wouldn't be just her… it would be the Hinata she was about to become.

Hinata walked up and laid her hand on one massive paw, causing Shichubi to smile slightly, "At least, we still have our memories, right?"

Shichubi nodded in agreement, Yes, we still have those and always will. The giant seven-tailed cat seemed to regain most of her vigor, and I suppose it won't be all too bad, it's still going to be Kyuubi I'll be seeing, even if it's in the body of a blond human, and you will still have your Naruto, even though he's practically half demon himself.

Hinata smiled and nodded as well, then set her shoulders determinedly "I suppose that we should get this over with, huh?"

White light began to emanate from the 'ground' beneath them. How Hinata could tell it was white light in a void of pure white, she could not tell, but indeed it was. Surrounding them was seal that was too large to make out from her vantage point, but yet Hinata knew exactly what it looked like. It was comprised of five circles interlocked together, surrounding both her and the massive demon. Within each circle was a complex array of seals, diagrams and symbols that seemed to move and twist as she looked at them. There was a sixth circle the encompassed all the others, making sure each complex seal remained part of the whole grand seal, and then there was the final seventh circle. It connected and went through all of the other five inner circles and within was a staggering and bizarre array of seals and strange runes that twisted and writhed under them and yet never lost cohesion. It was the most complex seal Hinata had ever seen. Naruto would have drooled to put it bluntly.

Yes, I suppose we should. Hang on, Hinata, this is not going to be pleasant.

Naruto stared down at the seemingly sleeping form of Hinata. He was worried, and he had cause to be. She was sweating, though her skin was clammy and cold, and her body kept twitching as if she were having a bad dream; and now all of a sudden she had started breathing hard, as if panting and was visibly shaking.

Naruto crouched down next to his love, his mate, and all time companion, and tried to hold her hand. "SSsssssshiiit!" Naruto pulled back his hand as if it were never extended and sucked on his fingers. She was no longer clammy and cold as she had been not five minutes ago.

Sakura frowned and edged around Hinata towards Naruto to get a look at his fingers, "What is it Naruto?"

Naruto gestured with his good hand towards the shaking Hinata, "Her skin is burning hot! I mean, really, burning hot." He pulled out his burned hand out of his mouth to show Sakura as she crouched down next to him.

Sakura hissed between her teeth, the burns went all the way down to his finger bones. She would have applied some healing chakra, but she could see the red chakra already seeping out of his wounds and begin healing the burns. "You're fine. But I don't think it's smart to touch Hinata anymore right now if her skin is that hot." Sakura looked over at the prone form of the Hyuuga girl and frowned worriedly. She knew what was happening… in a very general way, but it was enough to make her worry for the girl she considered to be practically her sister. She would have tried to diagnose her with a scanning jutsu, but Neji and Naruto had both told her that this was not something she could help Hinata with and it was best if they didn't try to meddle in anyway. Sakura bit her lip, she didn't like not being able to help someone; it's why she had become a medic after all, wasn't it?

"Don't worry about her, Sakura-san. Hinata-chan is strong, she can handle this."

Sakura looked away from the feverish looking Hinata to see Naruto smiling sadly at her. He was worried, she could see it in his eyes, but he was still putting on such a strong face. She would too, for his sake, and everyone else's. Even hers.

"Uh… umm… guys? Guys!?"

Everyone looked up to see Tenten standing towards the end of the pass that they had just come from with her back towards them, and slowly, with increasing speed, was currently backing towards them.

Naruto looked past her at what she was looking at, and then felt his heart drop into his stomach. Oh shit. The fog, that scary-as-fuck freaking fog, was not sitting docile ten feet beneath the mountain pass like some creepy gray lake… like it was supposed to. Naruto could see it writhing like some living creature as it fluctuated and undulated chaotically, reaching up and into the mountain pass, as if it were trying to reach them, just before it dragged itself back down again. "Well. That's not good." Naruto's words were a lot calmer sounding than he felt at that moment.

Neji stood up quickly from his sitting position. He had been tired and exhausted, not to mention shaken up a bit from their little trip through that fog, so he didn't currently have his Byakugan activated. He would've noticed this if he had. "Naruto we need to relocate somewhere farther into the pass."

Naruto looked at Neji then at Hinata, who was giving off visible steam now as her own sweat evaporated instantly and the very air around her was beginning to shimmer with barely contained heat. "… and how, dear brother, are we going to be moving Hinata?" Naruto gestured to the super-furnace that was his fiancé, "Last time I checked Hinata's probably hot enough now to melt steel on contact."

Neji shook his head, mostly in agitation, but also to get rid of the memories, if the fog kept this up they were going to be in a bit of trouble. There was no way he wanted to deal with whatever had been watching them as they ran through that dank cold mist. "I don't… I don't know Naruto, but I really do not want to have to deal with that unnatural fog again. If you share the same opinion, then I suggest we find someway of moving Hinata so that we are able to move deeper into the mountains and away from that." Neji made a show of pointing at the fog that only seemed to be writhing more and more violently as the minutes passed and the very last rays of sunlight disappeared over the horizon. "Is there any seal in your repertoire that can help move Hinata without getting any of us seriously injured or killed?"

Naruto wracked his mind… or more specifically the part of his mind that his Zenseigan had all of the seals it had copied, stored. It was almost like a catalogue, where he could literally just think of something he'd want to do and the seal formation, with all of its variances, would be there, picture perfect in his mind's eye. He always wondered if this is how anybody with the infamous Sharingan felt when deciding on what jutsu to use or something like that. He found 

what he was looking for. It was a seal that had to deal with the wind element, and though it was meant for quick instantaneous use, he was sure he could tweak it for a more constant, gentler flow. Naruto flinched involuntarily, this was going to hurt. His eyes had been bothering him because of overuse ever since those asshole Iwa-nin had finally broken off their little pursuit. Again, he wondered if someone like Itachi or the Hyuugas went through similar dilemmas with their own doujutsus.

Naruto activated the bloodline of his family, his pupils turning white and fanning out into nine-pointed stars on fields of azure. The moment he placed the seal through air-writing though, he felt a strange… 'resonance' was the best word. Something clicked in his brain just a split-second too late when he realized what was happening.

"AAaaaaaaaRRrrgghh! Fuck!" Naruto deactivated the Zenseigan reflexively and covered his eyes with his hands, as if that would stop the pain that was now wracking the back of his eye-sockets.

It took him a moment to realize, but someone was kneeling next to him and trying to pull him up from his prone position. He had fallen to his knees and had curled upon himself in a near fetal position. He didn't even remember doing that. Just the white-blind pain that came on him so suddenly and seemed to leave as soon as he turned off the Zenseigan. But the phantom of the pain was still there, it was the most intense mind-numbing sensations he had ever felt, and he sure as hell did not want to do that again. Naruto looked up, and was glad for a moment that he could still see, then got pissed at the fact that everything seemed to remain blurry to him. Like someone had taken a wet painting and wiped their hand across it, smudging all the colors together. "Ah, Shit…" He at least recognized the shock of pink looking at him. He was sure the two green smears were Sakura's eyes.

Neji was there beside him too, "Naruto, what happened? Hinata seemed to start floating on what looked like blowing air for a moment, then dropped back down when you started screaming."

Naruto shook his head, memory coming back at what had happened exactly. Because of the Zenseigan he knew all the technicalities behind what had just happened to him and why it happened, but he would just give them the short version. "There's a much more powerful and much more complex seal activated around, on, or in Hinata. Trying to form, or even activating any seal around her will cause a kinda 'disharmony' between the seal formations, causing the weaker and less complex seals to backfire or go haywire, or in my case, fuck up my eyes."

Sakura looked on, barely comprehending, but Neji seemed to understand the simplified explanation. Which was good, Naruto didn't have time and didn't really feel like getting into energy fluctuation, formation inconsistencies, chakra distribution, circle equations or etc… Terms that only a qualified seal master would know, or someone who already qualified due to the potent doujutsu that Naruto possessed. The thing seemed to store any technical jargon that he had read up on seals as well, and due to it allowing him to fundamentally understand the outs and 

ins of seals, he knew what the terms applied to as well. Handy, but not really helping him with the painful eye problem at the moment.

Neji nodded solemnly, like he always did when he fully agreed on something, "Then it's best then that we don't try even moving Hinata either. Any attempt could lead to one of us being seriously hurt."

Naruto snorted, "Yeah, too late for that, I can barely see right now. Everything is just this really pretty blur of color that's starting to get on my nerves." At that moment he felt his face cupped by two gloved hands and recognized them as Sakura's, especially as the liquid warm feeling of healing chakra seeped into his skin and snaked to the back of his eyeballs. He flinched and hissed as the chakra met the back of his eyes, but Sakura held him still easy enough and applied the chakra methodically and without mercy.

Though it really hurt, Naruto was almost relieved enough to weep when his vision seemed to magically clear up and he could actually make out the worried frown on his teammate's face. "Thanks, Sakura-san, I can see again now."

Sakura nodded and stood up, dusting off her hands as if she had performed some hard labor, "Just try not to do that again, Naruto."

Naruto agreed. He really, really did not want to do that again. It hurt so much that he could barely remember what it felt like anymore, just the memory of the dull ache afterwards. Naruto looked around where Tenten was looking at him as well, and looked beyond her at the now very visible fog. The sun had already gone down minutes ago, but the mountain pass was awash in a dim pale light. It took Naruto a moment to realize that the fog was glowing. Barely, as if it were more reflecting light, rather than projecting it, but it and the barely visible full moon combined to make enough light for any trained ninja to see as if it were daylight. Especially for a trained ninja who possessed the naturally enhanced eyesight of a demon.

Right now, Naruto really wished that he couldn't see at all. Hinata's body had started giving off blistering heat in pulses and waves, accompanied by steam from her body, her face contorting as if she were in pain, and she probably was. One after the other the waves of heat came, as if she were a ticking time bomb ready to go off. That thought did not do anything to ease the acid in Naruto's stomach. Every time a wave of heat came off of Hinata's body the fog reacted and surged upwards, only to fall back again. But it only fell back so far, before surging farther ahead again… and the waves of heat were coming off of her faster and faster.

It was coming for them.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit… we have to run, we have get out of here! Oh shit…!

Naruto frowned in anger at the sudden reemergence of the demon fox that had been quiet since their trek through the fog, and pushed down the sudden instinct to run. God damn it, Kyuubi! 

What the fuck has gotten into you! You know we're not leaving Hinata or the others behind. What the hell are these things and why the hell are you so scared of them!?Of course Naruto could understand why he himself was terrified of the fog, but he was a seventeen year old human. The part of him that was the Kyuubi was a eons old demon lord of the highest caliber. The fact that the fox was just as terrified, or even more so, of whatever was in the fog as he was, was more than just unnerving.


Kyuubi's answer was a barely 'audible' mental whisper … God-Eaters…

When Kyuubi said no more, Naruto realized that it was a name and an explanation.

The papers in the Hokage's office sat undisturbed and unread. The four occupants in the room had stopped looking at the scouting reports and the other general papers that had to deal with Konoha, instead staring out the northern windows at a star-filled horizon instead.

Such huge amounts of chakra… Tsunade was sure she was not the only one to notice the massive chakra signature that had suddenly appeared. She had already had to dispatched ANBU and messengers to inform all Konoha ninja not to worry about the chakra signature. That it was being "handled".

The problem was that she could tell that it was a long distance away, and yet it was till enough to notice as easily as someone using a powerful jutsu standing right next to her. More importantly, it was the feel of the chakra. It was demonic. That much she could tell from her times dealing with Naruto and the Kyuubi's chakra he would occasionally call.

But this was not Kyuubi's chakra signature. Though the ninja in her village probably wouldn't recognize the difference, so to stop a mass panic she had sent out her most capable to deliver the news that it wasn't what they probably thought it was.

"What the hell is that? That's not Kyuubi…"

Tsunade turned to see Shikamaru, along with Jiraiya and Kakashi, staring out the window just like her, as if any of them could actually see the chakra. It was huge and far away, and part of her was telling her that she should see a pillar of light signifying where the demonic chakra was originating. It was that powerful.

It was the Nara boy who had asked the question, and so she answered to the best of the knowledge she had gathered. It could really only be one thing in her mind for it to be that powerful. Shikamaru was now part of their little group of conspirators, and therefore received the 

gift… or sometimes what she considered to be a curse with what they had been hearing, of knowledge.

"I think it's the Shichubi's chakra… though I don't know why it's flaring like this…" Hyuuga Hiashi's concerns rang in her ears as scenarios of the cat demon trying to escape Hinata's body ran through her head. It was infuriating not knowing what was happening to Naruto, the boy she had practically adopted as her little brother, and not for the first time she considered leaping out of her window and making a nonstop dash to save him from whatever harm may befall him.

She quickly squashed such notions as the responsibilities of her village came to the forefront of her mind. Damn you, you old monkey… Though there really was no edge of anger to her thoughts of her deceased sensei.

Shikamaru gave her a questioning look, "Shichubi? What the hell is that?"

Tsunade looked at Shikamaru and realized she hadn't really explained to him what she, Jiraiya, Kakashi, and the Hyuuga nobility already knew. So she launched into an abbreviated version of what she knew of the situation, and of the concerns Hiashi had voiced about his daughter.

By the end of the short diatribe, Shikamaru's expression was one of open-mouthed amazement… or horror, one of the two. He had already heard about Naruto though, and how he was the Kyuubi's vessel, something he had been suspicious of for a long time. This news that Hinata was a demon container as well was doubly surprising, but just like before, Shikamaru proved his values in not letting such information change is opinion of one of his comrades. Hinata would always be the shy and caring girl he knew her to be, and Naruto would remain loud, boisterous and determined as always. Demon container or no.

Then something clicked in his head, something he had read in an obscure book while he was still in the academy. He had found it on a dusty shelf in the back of the Konoha Shinobi library and had read it because it seemed interesting, plus the few pictures in it were actually very beautiful and didn't detract from the actual reading at all.

"Wait… I thought that a weasel or something… the Shibi was the seven-tailed demon… or was it the badger? Either way, I've only read that demons of the cat animal type only tend to grow a maximum of two tails, and the only one that does is the Nibi."

Even Kakashi's face was one of mild surprise, which was saying something since it was mostly covered by his mask. "Hm, never took you for someone interested in the topic of demons."

The Nara boy looked at the Copy-Ninja pointedly, and then shrugged, donning his usual bored expression. "I'm interested in all topics, Kakashi. Always have been." Then he looked back to his Hokage standing behind her desk, waiting for the answer to his question.

Tsunade did know the answer to this question at least. After dealing with Naruto, finding out about Hinata's own tenet, and the goals of Akatsuki, she had decided to raid the Hokage's vault in an attempt to find out more about the matter of demons and jinchuuriki. An attempt that proved more than fruitful.

"Yes your right, the Shibi is the seven-tailed demon that belongs in the ranks of the Bijuu. Apparently, Shichubi is considered to be the oldest cat demon in existence and the only one with more than two tails; and it hails from a time when apparently a demons aspect, or type, did not hinder how much power it could gain, or in terms of animal aspects, how many tails they could grow."

At the interested looks that the three other men were giving her she felt it was okay to continue, "The Bijuu were considered to be the pinnacle of power of the nine most powerful demon types of the animal aspect. Shichubi I believe was not actually considered the same type of demon as the Bijuu and their lesser forms, no matter its aspect. And therefore was not considered a Bijuu. It was instead labeled as a demonic 'spirit' that was considered neither good nor evil. While the Bijuu were definitely demons, the Shichubi and other's of similar order were considered more 'spirit' like no matter their demonic heritage."

Tsunade shrugged, "Truthfully? I don't really know what that means, or who came up with the classification, but it's what it said in those old dusty scrolls I dug up on demons and Bijuu. I was surprised that the Shichubi was even mentioned in them."

Nara Shikamaru nodded his assent to the explanation. It was good to know that his Hokage tried to learn about usually obscure subjects when they mattered. Overall, the fact that the sweet and demure Hinata was a demon container for a demon that was classified as the 'oldest of its kind' was quite a bit to take in. Of course, Shikamaru being Shikamaru found it too troublesome to worry about things too much. It was how it was, and his worrying about it probably wouldn't change it. He shrugged again, "Then I hope that that chakra signature isn't because they've gotten in over their heads."

Tsunade nodded and tried her best to push Naruto from her thoughts, turning back to the papers scattered across her desk. Hiashi is going to want to see me about this, she swallowed the wretched taste in the back of her mouth at that thought, her last meeting with the man was… less than pleasant, but he'll recognize this chakra without a doubt, and it's his daughter…

Tsunade picked up one of the sheets of paper, "Alright, this report is our best approximation of Orochimaru's current numbers…"

Oh we are SO over our heads in this…

Naruto glanced around frantically, not knowing what to do. The wall of fog was descending upon them in fits and starts, writhing in time to the pulsing chakra waves that were emanating 

from the prone Hinata. They had already tried using jutsu against the fog, trying to destroy it or at least blow it back, but it only seemed to swallow whatever they threw at it and just kept coming onward.

Naruto looked back at Hinata's still form as another blast of hot chakra hit his face and blew his hair and clothes in the opposite direction. It was almost like a hot summer wind… that hurt, and the closer you got to Hinata the hotter it got. The ground was already turning black and beginning to smoke underneath her, and he could see glowing cracks forming in the ground around her as the temperature around her body continued to skyrocket. It was amazing that her body hadn't combusted into flames yet. Something that Naruto was very thankful for.

All five them were arranged in between Hinata and the fog, as if to block the fog's advance, though Naruto had no idea how they were going to do that, fog was insubstantial and nothing they had done yet had proved to work. Naruto was not looking forward to being inside that fog and facing those… things again, but he would stand alone against all of them if he could keep them from Hinata. For he was sure that's what the fog was after, it hadn't started acting violently like this until Hinata had slipped into her coma and had started to sweat with heat.

Neji had already tried to order Naruto away from the fog and to the other side of Hinata incase they couldn't stop it. Naruto knew he was trying to continue his mission to protect him, but he had flatly told Neji that there was no way he was leaving Hinata's, or any of his comrade's, sides when it was apparent that they needed him.

Besides, now it was too late to try and run away. To try and run past Hinata and towards the other end of the pass was to probably be incinerated before you even got within five feet of the passed out girl. Super-heated girlfriend deathtrap behind me, scariest fog I've ever walked through in front of me… this is not good, not good at all.

You think?

Naruto started at hearing Kyuubi's voice inside his head again. He hadn't expected to hear the fox's voice after their little conversation about Kyuubi's fear and why he was so afraid of the fog. God-Eaters the Kyuubi had called them. The fox had yet to explain why he called them that and how he already seemed to know about them. Though Naruto was sure he could formulate an idea about what the name "God-Eater" meant, and why the eons old fox demon was afraid of them… it also explained why they were coming for Hinata now too.

Wow, nice to see you up and about. Thought you were taking nice little nap on me. Naruto's voice lacked the usual sarcasm such a remark would merit.

For once, the Kyuubi didn't fire back with an angry barb or sarcastic bit of wit. … I… I'd apologize, but we both know I wouldn't really mean it. Kyuubi actually sounded apologetic saying it though, which was surprising to Naruto.

Naruto shrugged mentally, that's the closest he'd probably get to a genuine apology from the bastard-fox, but that was okay. Mind explaining why you were so terrified? And how you seemed to know what this fog is? Oh and any tips on what we could do right now would be greeeaaat.

Kyuubi snorted, I was not… he paused for moment, discontinuing the rebuke and instead actually answered one of Naruto's questions for once without preamble.

They don't exist really in our time or space… not even in this little corner of what we call our universe. Hell, heaven, purgatory and all the other alternate dimensions included. Naruto didn't need to ask who 'they' were, the flat cold tone that Kyuubi used when talking about them said enough. I was young comparatively to my age now when I first ran into them. They almost killed me… the all powerful Kyuubi. I had never met anything I couldn't destroy, I had never met anything so…alien. I tried to ask Kami about it once, when we were still on speaking terms that is, but the moment the bastard heard that there was a fog cloud of the things in our current dimension he ran and hid behind those big golden doors of his. Kyuubi snorted in disdain, as if that could actually stop them.

Naruto actually wasn't surprised that Kyuubi used to be on speaking terms with a god, but didn't delve into the matter, instead he waited for the demon to finish his explanation; while at the same time keeping an eye on the slowly advancing fog – apparently filled with those things Naruto had seen, called God-Eaters – and his precious Hinata who, from her facial expressions, seemed to be going through more and more agony as the seconds ticked by.

I finally did get some answers though, from some of the older trans-dimensional beings. Apparently, whatever these God-Eaters are, they do what their name implies. They are the only thing known of that can actually bring the True Death to a god or god-like being. Naruto did not fail to hear the capitalization on 'True Death'.

They rove the multi-verse, migrating towards exceptionally large masses of chakra and supernatural power, then move on when their 'food' becomes scarce. The last time I encountered the damn things was when me and my fellow Bijuu, plus a few others, walked the land in our natural forms. Apparently being in actual bodies on the material plane of existence gives out a larger 'scent' for the God-Eaters, and so they come a-calling to do their hunting. They materialize randomly and in a random location, and don't leave till they've had their fill. No one knows where their from, how they move, what they truly are, if there are more, or how to defeat them. Only that they come when theirs too much 'power' in the world. The fact that they've materialized here in our universe again can only mean one thing. Something's happened. Either a god has decided to break the rules and take a stroll in our world, or a demon lord or lords of significant power have escaped hell. Personally, I don't know how long it takes for those damn things to notice something like that and then get to where their going, but the point is that they're here, and they're here for a reason.

Hearing this explanation, Naruto looked back at Hinata once again, worry clouding his fear of the fog. You don't think…

No. Shichubi is powerful I admit that, but something like this I don't think is enough to draw their attention.

Naruto almost sighed in relief as images of the half-seen, half-remembered fog beings hounding Hinata and Shichubi around the world until they had 'feasted', seemed to melt away. Though, that brought a slight curiosity as to what could have possibly attracted something so terrifying to their own world.

Naruto was about to tell his teammates that there was nothing they could do about fighting off the fog and that they should try getting the hell out of there… though Naruto himself did not plan on leaving Hinata's side for a second. But he never got the chance as he felt an immense building pressure of chakra coming from where Hinata was laying.

Oh shit… was all he could think when the world suddenly went white and he could hear nothing but ringing is his ears.

Then everything just as suddenly went black…


Flames blacker than night itself erupted where Orochimaru had been standing a split-second earlier.

They were outside, in the middle of a what seemed to be a plains that was studded with massive monolithic stones. Itachi had had no trouble tracking down the Snake Sannin's hideout, having known where a number of them were for several years now. When they had approached a group of the massive stones that Itachi knew to be the secret entrance to the underground lair, Orochimaru, along with over a hundred Oto-nin and his own right hand man, Kabuto, had been there waiting for them. Of course, they hadn't really bothered masking their approach, they had come here looking for a confrontation after all.

Now, the entire area was strewn with the dead and dying bodies of Oto-nin. Most were simply killed with Itachi's favorite weapon, a kunai knife, other's killed in their mind with genjutsu and then of course there were the gruesome half-skinned corpses that was obviously Kisame's work. Orochimaru had stood back with Kabuto, merely observing until Itachi and Kisame were done, before joining the battle as well, himself against Itachi and Kabuto against Kisame.

Itachi didn't seem to mind that his initial attack had missed, even as the blood flowed freely from his right eye, his attacks had been missing quite a bit, but he had been getting closer and closer with each consecutive strike. He was definitely in pain, and it was disconcerting when attacks like that missed the first time. Itachi didn't even flinch though when he focused his eye on the 

position Orochimaru was blurring towards and the entire area within ten feet of that point blossomed into burning black death.

Orochimaru may indeed be the fastest opponent Itachi had ever faced, after all the snake had all eight of his Hachimon open which probably made the world seem to stand still in his perspective. But Itachi was used to fast moving opponents, being exceptionally fast himself, even without his own gates open, which he could open three of – if he really needed to – and it was simply a matter of understanding where your opponent would be next.

Matter of fact, Itachi did have all three of his Hachimon open, all of them needed just so he could get a glimpse of the general direction the Sannin was headed for. Of course, for Itachi, that was all he needed as he almost allowed himself a small smile when he heard a screamed curse as Orochimaru almost landed right into Amaterasu's fiery grasp, but seemed to use a pure wave of chakra to push himself out of the way while still in midair.

The pale Sannin reappeared in a blur a few yards in front of the Uchiha, accompanied with an explosion of displaced air that blew back Itachi's Akatsuki cloak. Itachi was pleased to see that Orochimaru had his trademark 'angry look' plastered on his face, teeth gritted and eyes nearly bulging in outrage; though Itachi himself showed no emotion at all on his own features, not even in his dead eyes.

"Damn you, Uchiha!" Orochimaru was seething in rage. He couldn't understand it! He was faster, he was stronger, he possessed five times the chakra, but he couldn't kill that bastard Uchiha! Orochimaru felt a phantom tingling around his left wrist. Even now, after more than thirteen years since he left… no, fled from Akatsuki, he could still feel where the kin-slaying Uchiha had cut off his hand for trying to take over the stoic bastard's body.

Orochimaru pointed at the expressionless Itachi, almost dramatically, "You should be dead! You little weasel! Why aren't you dead!?"

Itachi ignored the slight against his name, and merely enjoyed the fact that he had seriously pissed off the near-demigod standing in front of him. Anger was good, when your opponent got angry, they started making mistakes, the angrier the better. But it was not Itachi that answered the questions directed at him in blind rage.

Itachi did not turn his head, but merely swiveled his eye in response to the loud guffawing off to his right, where his blue-skinned teammate sat with his massive sword resting between his lounging legs. Only for a split-second though, he turned back to make sure that Orochimaru hadn't moved, but the fool wasn't even paying attention to him now, instead glaring death at his partner. Didn't even realize that he had a perfect opening, especially with his speed… foolish.

"Wow, and they called you a genius back in your day?" Kisame was quite oblivious of the massive amounts of killing intent now directed solely at him. Kisame shook his head, the killing intent was potent, especially with that much chakra backing it up, but in reality, killing intent was based on the person, not 

on how strong or how much chakra they had. Orochimaru's killing intent felt like some hungry snake's, interestingly mixed in with a little demon.

Hoshigaki Kisame was not impressed. So much so that he didn't even bother directing his own killing intent back at the snake-bastard.

Orochimaru seemed to notice this slight as Kisame felt the snake's cold anger turn to a boiling rage. Unsurprisingly, so much rage clouded the snake's focus and his killing intent dropped noticeably. Kisame guffawed again, seemingly unconcerned that Orochimaru was a hair's-breadth away from ignoring Itachi for the time being and slaughtering the grinning shark man. "Orochimaru, you're such a fucking idiot, of course Itachi's not dead. Y'see all that hyped up power that you've got going there? It's fuckin' worthless if you don't know how to use it, dick-face." Kisame just grinned wider, exposing his sharpened teeth, as Orochimaru's usually pale face took on a noticeable shade of red.

Orochimaru's eyes narrowed dangerously, "What do you mean, fish-breath?" He wanted to hear what this idiot's reasons for invoking his wrath were… they'll be his last words.

Kisame chuckled at the pathetic attempt at an insult, he'd heard better. He glanced quickly over at Itachi to make sure he wasn't going to fry his audience in the middle of an explanation, then turned back to the seething Orochimaru. "Y'see, you little reptile, its all about skill. So even though you're more – quote unquote – powerful, than Itachi and me, we got full capability over our skills as it were."

Kisame gestured behind him with a thumb, "See the pale haired twerp over there? The one who tried to slice me up after going all purple-eyed and freaky on me? Yeah, he was powerful, I'll grant him that, that old-man you killed a few years back may have had trouble with him, but he doesn't have the skill to use his power to its full potential. You get what I'm saying douche-bag?" Here Kisame sneered, "You're the same as Kabuto-boy over there, moving here and there as fast as possible, throwing these super-powered punches and putting out more chakra than needed to power your jutsu. You're good, you're fast and strong, and you're jutsu are even more crazy than the last time I saw your ugly mug, but you sucked then, and your just as skilled now. You haven't grown at all, simply learning more jutsu ain't enough buck'o. You gotta actually train to get stronger. All this shortcut bullshit that you've been pulling ain't doing you a lick'a good in my opinion. Its like you keep getting all these cool new shiny toys and you barely know how to use them, you just bash'em together like some retarded three year old."

Kisame returned to grinning full-out, "Simply put, Itachi is just better than you, loser."

Kusanagi, was out of its sheathe faster than anyone could see just as Orochimaru screamed in rage and launched himself at the disgusting shark man in front of him. Or, at least he tried until Itachi appeared in front of him before he had even tensed his muscles to move. Orochimaru swung a vicious back hand, the glowing blade making a solid arch of light as it cut through the Uchiha's neck. Orochimaru grinned, fool! Who has more skill n-…!

'Itachi' dissolved into water the moment Kusanagi connected with the clone's skin. Orochimaru tried to move around the worthless clone to get at Kisame when the whole thing exploded on top of him.

Orochimaru got up slowly, staggering slightly from the mini-crater he found himself in. The majority of his skin was blackened, cracked and smoking even as he activated the second Genesis Seal to start healing 

his extensive wounds. He looked up through the curling smoke and steam to see the real Itachi standing there, his hand in front of his face in a half-ram seal, and let out an audible growl as he clawed for more chakra.

And it came.

There was a dull roar as Orochimaru expelled massive amounts of extra chakra from his body, a high wind picking up around him, clearing the last of the smoke away in an instant. He took a step towards the thrice-damned Uchiha, the ground cracking and breaking apart under his foot from the immense pressure of his chakra. Then another step, and another… he was going to take his time killing Uchiha Itachi. He wanted him to feel pain.

Itachi blurred as he seemed to disappear in speed, at least, to a normal bystander. To the near-demigod, he was moving in slow motion, each step painfully obvious to the Snake Sannin. The fool was charging directly at him! Orochimaru grinned maliciously and pointed his arm at the approaching Uchiha, his own movements probably even faster looking than the Sharingan user.


Orochimaru no longer wore his robe top, instead preferring to go shirtless so as to show off the glowing purple lines of the Souzou Saisei. So all could see as the three snakes that seemed to burst from his forearm, spiraling outwards at break-neck speeds to ensnare the charging Akatsuki member and then crush him… slowly.

The summoned shadow snakes coiled themselves around the Uchiha, effectively pinning him and biting into his skin, causing th normally expressionless Uchiha to flinch in pain as they injected their paralyzing venom. Orochimaru then used his shadow snakes to pick Itachi bodily off the ground and then swing him around, slamming him into one of the many stone monoliths around his base. Itachi's body, carried along by the shadow snakes, went right through the giant rock, demolishing it. Orochimaru laughed maniacally, as he drew the now very bruised and very bloody Itachi closer to him. He wanted to watch the life fade from the bastard's eyes.

Of course, he had no fear of the Tsukiyomi now. Itachi had tried using it on him earlier, but Orochimaru had simply used his vast amounts of chakra to 'overload' his mind, booting the meddling Uchiha out of his head and practically nullifying the Tsukiyomi's effectiveness against him. And if the bastard even thought of using that thrice-damned Amaterasu on him he'd rip him apart in the blink of an eye.

Orochimaru was still grinning when the entrapped Uchiha Itachi suddenly turned to water and literally exploded… in his face.

"Aaaaauuurrrrggghhhh!" Orochimaru's agonized screaming rent the air as he activated his third Genesis Seal in an attempt to re-grow the front part of his face as fast as possible, which was now completely missing. It only took two seconds flat for him to fully heal all of his previous wounds with three Souzou Saisei open and active.

But that was apparently enough, because the moment his eyeballs grew back and he had shut off his extra two seals, Orochimaru couldn't see hide or hair of Itachi. He vaguely acknowledged that he was lucky 

that his forehead wasn't blown off as well, it would've of damaged the seal array slightly, making it less effective.

Kisame however was still lounging on his little knoll, grinning just like he had before, this time however the grin seemed to say "I told you so."

Orochimaru grinded his newly grown teeth in rage, that disgusting animal! I'll rip that smile right off his-


The cold dead voice behind him struck fear deep into the snake's heart. He whipped around as fast as possible, displacing the air temporarily around him… just in time to see Uchiha Itachi's right eye, Mangekyou Sharingan activated, and bleeding anew.

Orochimaru's world erupted into pain as black as night and as hot as the sun itself.

Itachi stared in disgust, or what could pass for disgust on his face, at the writhing ball of screaming black flames. The fool had been so enraged that he hadn't even stopped to think that Itachi was preparing this little attack on him the entire time he allowed himself to be distracted by Kisame's antics. "Hmph." Pathetic.

Itachi turned around and walked towards Kisame, and then, without a single glance, kept on walking right past him.

Kisame did a double take, looking first at the mass of black flames that was Orochimaru, and soon to be the entire area and his base, then at Itachi who, was now walking in the opposite direction, then back again. Kisame turned around, hefting Samehada with practiced ease and jogged to catch up with his silent partner.

As they walked past the prone form of Kabuto, Kisame, not wanting to be outdone by Itachi's little show, gave the unconscious body a good kick, sending it sprawling another ten feet or so. Kisame gave a sharp nod in satisfaction, and continued walking next to Itachi. "So… you do know that he's just going to use that weird seal of his to regenerate right?"

Itachi gave no sign that he heard other than answering, "Yes, Amaterasu's flames will burn for seven days and nights before going out, and he will have to maintain at least three of the Genesis Seals in order to survive. More if he wants to actually move around and function properly. Either way, when the seven days are done, he'll be weakened a little and will probably have aged that immortal body of his by fifteen to twenty years… if he's smart and just takes the pain, keeping only three of the seals active, that is."

Kisame allowed Itachi a little silence, surprised by the relatively long explanation that he just received. After a moment, he decided to ask what he had actually meant to ask, "So, uh, why didn't ya kill him?"

Itachi stayed silent for a minute or so, but Kisame knew better than to push for an answer right away.

Finally the Uchiha answered, "He's weak. It doesn't matter to me whether he lives or dies. I merely wished to gauge his strength, and I found him wanting." Itachi actually shrugged, at least his left shoulder 

moved upwards by a quarter of an inch, "Besides, Pein will wish to hear of Orochimaru's new found power. I will tell our leader that the Snake Sannin is no threat to his own dreams of achieving godhood."

Kisame shrugged, now that he knew, he didn't really care anymore. He had gotten what he had came for, a nice little tussle with someone who didn't die after just one hit of his massive sword. Samehada pulsed against his hand, expressing its own gratitude at being 'fed'.

Surprisingly, Kabuto hadn't died, only been knocked out, and Kisame had seen no reason to finish him off, seeing that he wasn't too much of a threat with his face planted in the dirt. The boy's curse seal was potent, and the supposed 'third level' the four-eyed idiot had called it was really just a simple refining of his own body so that it didn't have to mutate to contain the large amounts of demonic chakra coursing through his veins. The third level didn't make the retard more powerful, it just made it easier to control the large influx and random surges in his chakra. This in truth made Kabuto a more effective combatant, though Kisame could also see that the third level was taxing on the body; maintaining that much demonic chakra and keeping the body from mutating at the same time had put tremendous strain on the white haired fool, shortening what Kisame had hoped to be a nice long one-on-one fight.

Kisame mentally shrugged at his own thoughts. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. All five minutes of it.

Kisame turned towards Itachi again, almost excitedly this time. "Before we contact our 'fearless leader', do you mind if we stop at a restaurant? I'm starving!"

Itachi looked at Kisame with something akin to death in his eye. The six foot plus Kiri-nin had put a very large dent in his wallet the last time they had gone out to eat. However, noticing the much more gray pallor to his comrade's skin tone he let up and did another one of his barely-half-a-shrugs. "I suppose, but you're paying this time, Kisame-san."

Kisame's skin returned to its normal shade of blue as his fear died down, Wow, thought he was going to kill me there… I wonder why? He banished such thoughts from his mind though as he began to daydream of the multi-course meal he was about to consume.

Itachi on the other hand, stared north west, though at the moment all he saw was a smudgy blur as his eyes recoiled in pain at having to be used. Using his Mangekyou Sharingan three times in one day tended to do that.

The night before, before they had reached Orochimaru's hidden base, there had been a truly massive surge of demonic chakra from that direction. Then at the surge's peak there had been an explosion of white light that had sent a pillar of white chakra reaching in to the sky, apparently many miles high since it was quite visible from where he and Kisame had been.

Itachi had no doubt that the surge of demonic chakra had belonged to the Hyuuga girl. What he was curious about was why it had happened.

She opened her eyes and stood up slowly.

It was day… she distinctly remembered it being night, though. She looked around at her surroundings in mute surprise and shock. She was in the middle of what looked like to be a massive seal array that had burned into the ground, leaving behind nothing but a crater and lines that still smoldered with a amber 

glow. Around her little smoldering crater was nothing but rubble and rock dust. Through all the airborne dirt and grime she could make out the shapes of mountain peaks to her left and right, though they were noticeable farther away than she had remembered.

In front of her was nothing but open air, there were clouds as far as the eye could see and above her were only the high-rising cirrus clouds.

That's right, I'm still in the mountain pass…

She was trying to piece everything together, but it was all jumbled and blurry, like digging through a pile of pictures, trying to find the right one. She remembered running from the Iwa-nin up to the mountain pass. She remembered destroying a village with three of her tails once, she hadn't wanted to, but they had deserved it. She remembered the fog and its… watchers. She shivered a little at that memory, or memories actually, since she remembered two distinct times encountering the same fog. She remembered Kyuubi and Naruto…

Naruto! Kyuubi!

Both of her voices rang off in her head at the same time as fear and anxiety consumed her. She quickly looked around, looking for Naruto and the others. That's right! Neji, Tenten, Lee and Sakura too! But she saw nothing but boulders and rubble. No… it looks like there was an explosion here… they couldn't of… no…

She felt tears begin to sting her eyes as sobs started to choke her throat. "N-Naruto… Kyuubi…" It took her a moment to realize that she had rushed towards one of the piles of rubble and had begun digging. Lifting rocks as big as her head and boulders as large as her body with equal ease, and with equal fervor, her claws easily gripping the hard rock as if it were clay. She had to find them! They couldn't be… No! They have to be okay, He has to be okay… The sobs wouldn't stop though.

Finally she sat down, her hands scratched and bruised from digging for gods know how long. She absent-mindedly sent a little chakra to her hands, causing them to hiss and steam as the minor wounds quickly healed as if they were never there. But her mind was on her friends, and most of all, her lover… her mate. My fiancé…

Sobs wracked her anew, and fresh tears burned their way down her face. She covered her face in her hands, as if to hide from the reality of the situation… "no. no. no. No!… w-we were going to be m-married… e-everything was going to be okay…!" She could suddenly feel a wail of agony clawing its way up her throat, she tried to fight it, but it would not be held back.

The moment the scream was about to escape her mouth though she heard movement off to her left, deeper into the pass, away from the open sky. She sucked in breath, almost choking as the scream died on her lips, and watched as a pair of boulders as large as two-story houses began move slightly, shaking off dirt and dust.

She felt her self stand and take an involuntary step towards the two boulders, when there was a loud crack that split the air, causing her to nearly jump out of her skin. A crack had split one of the boulders 

vertically from top to bottom and she watched transfixed as both sides toppled over with a monstrous crash, sending up clouds of dirt and rubble.

She was already smiling and weeping anew though as she felt the familiar chakra suddenly engulf the area. It was like breathing after nearly drowning.

A glowing red tail appeared out of the hole and gripped the other massive boulder, at first moving it slowly, then finally heaving it away where it landed with another resounding crash.

"Yosh! Together we have conquered the boulders, Naruto-san! With our combined might, and our never ending fires of youth, nothing can stand in our way!"

She nearly cried out in joy, though didn't, afraid it would sound too much like a sob with how she was feeling at the moment, as a very exuberant Lee burst through the clouds of dust, loudly proclaiming his power of youth to the surrounding rocks and boulders… who aptly shivered in fear.

Sakura and Tenten came next, dusting themselves off, Sakura clearly huffing in frustration, "Its about time! I thought we'd never get out of there! How deep were we buried? Jeez!"

Neji climbed out right behind them, "We were exactly three hundred and fifty-four feet below what can now be called as the 'surface' though we had to dig at a slant so as not to rebury ourselves, so we traveled nearly half a mile. If it were not for Naruto using Kyuubi's chakra to create that protective sphere we would have all been crushed without anyway of getting out. I'm just glad he was able to use it just before the shockwave hit us."

They were all okay! The moment he came out crawling out though, the last vestiges of crimson chakra disappearing and evaporating off his body, the others seemed to no longer exist as his crystal blue eyes scanned the area, "Holy shit, I think that blast leveled both mountain tops that were next to us!"

…and then locked with hers.

They both stared at each other for a mere split-second before rushing the remaining forty or so feet towards each other to leap and then crash together into each other's embrace, landing roughly on stone ground, though neither of them really noticed.

They were both crying she realized, though she didn't really care. He was alive! All of them were alive! "I love you… I love you. I love you. I love you…" He was whispering it too, but stopped when she kissed him.

It was awhile before they both disengaged from their kiss, and awhile longer before they finally stood up off the ground. Though, neither of them would let go of each other. The others, though standing by patiently, and smiling in relief themselves… Lee was openly weeping, she still noticed that they were staring at her strangely.

"W-what is it?" She turned to look at Naruto for the answer, he was also giving her a look too. One of surprise with a little curiosity, all mixed in with the pure love, worry and sheer relief that reflected in his expressive eyes.

Naruto smiled, "Well, your eyes for one thing, love; and the fact hat you're covered in lavender stripes from head to toe. Oh… and you're naked too I'm afraid…"

She looked down at herself, suddenly realizing that she was indeed in the nude and without any sort of garment or covering. She also saw what he meant by stripes. Long sharp stripes of deep lavender, covering her shoulders and arms, her thighs, her sides, the tops of her breasts and when she looked around she could see them going down her back, her butt and the back of her legs. She wished there was a mirror around or something so she could see her eyes, but at the same time she wasn't surprised or disturbed by any of this. It all just seemed sort of… normal, to her. And besides, it didn't really seem to perturb Naruto, he just smiled at her seemingly new look.

She nearly squeaked in surprise when he reached to the sides of her head and fondled her pointed ears.

"Wow, those are so cute." His loud laughter seemed to bring back a bit of normalcy to everyone else who just seemed to accept that this was how she looked now.

Naruto grinned as he took off his orange trench coat, now slightly ripped and worn around the hem from traveling through such rugged terrain, and being buried, handed it to her to cover herself.

She took it, wrapping herself snuggly in it and breathed in deeply, as the coat was full of Naruto's sent. It seemed to calm her and brought a measure of piece to the jumble of thoughts and memories that was her mind at the moment.

"Alright, you can use that until we get to another town and re-stock on supplies and, um… clothing apparently." Naruto embraced her again, lifting her off the ground in a big bear hug as he buried his face in her hair, "I'm just happy that you're okay, Hinata-chan."

She froze, recognizing the name as one of her two past names. Should she even be called that anymore? Or her other name for that matter? What… or more importantly, who was she now? Did she even deserve a name? and if so, should it be a brand new one, a combination of the two, or just no name at all? It was a little hard to think with all the memories shifting through her consciousness and subconscious.

But as she felt her self relax in Naruto's embrace, felt his warmth, breathed in his scent, and felt both his human and demonic chakra, both separate and yet blended, she decided that she was what other's would call her; and Hyuuga Shichubi Hinata, sounded just fine.

Hinata-chan, sounded even better.

A/N: Alright everyone, hope you enjoyed the chapter as usual. Gots a few things to say here. As some of you may have noticed, I've started saying country names in Japanese (Iwa: Stone, Kiri: Mist, Oto: Sound... etc.) Mostly because I've gotten used to it, and I've just gotten better at it since the last few times I've updated. So I'll be going back to edit the other chapters for the same things.

So, Hope you all liked the explanaition for Shichubi's existance, and I hope I portrayed the new Hinata/Shichubi well enough. Oh well, more time to see if I do. Oh, and I hope the fight I had between Orochimaru and Itachi & Kisame wasn't too bad either. I thought I did it pretty well, using my own logic that I've gathered from the manga on Orochimaru's power level.

Anyway, I've already started work on the next chapter for Cursed Demon, and after that's up, I'll start on Chapter 29 for this baby.

Also, for any of you who are curious, I've come to the approximation that this story will probably be ending within the next ten or so chapters. After that, I will begin work probably on the sequal to this story whil simultaneously working on Cursed Demon, as I am now. Well, that's enough for now, until next time!

Next Chapter!: It's what you've all been waiting for! The world beyond the Norther Mountains and the appearance of the True Samurai!... or are those just barabarians?