Disclaimer: Neither I nor my co author own Naruto. There's nothing more to say than that. This story is a collaboration effort between me and Drakuzz. For those of you that have read our first collaboration Twin Troubles, we hope you'll come enjoy this tale. For those of you that haven't, we also hope you enjoy this as well.

Diverging Paths
By David Knight and Drakuzz

Chapter Six: Meetings and Training

Sasuke was traveling again, alone this time. It felt odd in a way now that some of the immediate danger was gone. For the moment he wasn't in danger from Leaf or Sound. He had no delusions about hearing the last of either power coming after him, but for now he had some peace.

Peace. Something I though I'd not have really, Sasuke smiled bitterly. The last five days were almost too good to be true. Though it was acting when around Asuka's mother, it felt... Comforting to be in a family environment. Something he thought he'd never feel until after he killed Itachi and started to resurrect the clan.

Life in Asuka's village was simple. They had no fighters outside of a couple of men that were strong enough to give children at the Academy some trouble back in Konoha. It was a world so different from the one Sasuke knew.

Still, he knew it was a life that he could never live. Perhaps good enough to rest in, but for someone like him, a ninja, it wasn't enough.

He left early in the day, though at Asuka's instance had her grandmother look over his cursed seal.

The woman was surprisingly knowledgeable in seals, and told him a great deal about Orochimaru's advantages over him in placing it. She did tell him, however, that it had limitations. Such a seal was severely limited if the receiver was far away and had a strong will, so getting as far away from Orochimaru as possible was advised.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Sasuke asked himself, as the old woman could have a few more secrets or tricks. He did realize however that the seal Kakashi had put on him was broken and any one of even Jounin level wouldn't be able to put one on that would suppress his upgraded seal. That left him with few options, the most obvious for the moment was to get the hell away from Sound and Orochimaru.

After thanking her and Asuka he had been ready to leave when the old woman had asked where his weapons were. When he mentioned he had only shuriken left, she surprised him by giving him a katana.

When asked, she said the sword wasn't much, but that it once belonged to someone in the family. Even when Asuka asked the old woman didn't give many details, just said that she hoped it would serve Sasuke well.

It was strapped across his back, along with a supply bag carrying herbs, medicine, food and his old clothes. They had had enough kindness in them to give him a clean set of clothes.

They had been that kind. In a way that he'd never thought people could be.

Asuka gave him a hug then and he stood there in shock until she let go. After saying good bye, he couldn't help but keep himself from trying to leave at full speed.

I don't deserve it, Sasuke said as he walked. I didn't deserve that kindness. I'm a murderer.

"Yes and no, Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke dropped the pack and his eyes widened as he saw someone that couldn't have been there, standing from a distance in the woods. Yet he could not forget that face. "S… Sakura?"

Sakura fell into the woods. Before he even realized it, he grabbed his bag and ran after her. "Sakura! Sakura wait!" He rushed into the woods calling out to her, trying to find the Leaf kunoichi but found no trace of her. It was if she had never been there.

That was all that he needed now. First Itachi and now Sakura... Who was next? Naruto?!

"Am I losing my mind?" Sasuke asked putting a hand to his head. He took a moment to rest. He had to consider what his next move would be. Aside from going to Thunder country he had nothing.

Plus it's not as if I can just walk into Hidden Cloud, Sasuke said to himself. There was no way he'd try for Water country and the Mist. He remembered his encounter with Zabuza and knew enough about that village to know he wanted no part of it.

But Hidden Cloud, well he had no idea what they would do with him, especially when they found out about his missing nin status. Would they simply hand him over the Leaf or the Sound, or try to understand his Sharingan for their own purposes?

Something tells me I might want to wait a while before trying to enter Hidden Cloud. He could enter into Thunder Country, it would give him better protection from his pursuers. Not a lot but every small bit helped. In the mean time, he had to train, become stronger in all aspects if he hoped to survive.

And, of course, there was Itachi.

He had killed Naruto already. If he forgot about avenging his clan then killing his best friend would've been for nothing.

"No place to go but forward," the Uchiha heir said getting up.

After walking for several hours he noticed another set of footprints. Something about how they were though put him on guard as he decided to follow them to their source.

They weren't the measured step of a shinobi, which wasn't that out of the ordinary, yet there was something about them that was strange.

Someone in his situation couldn't overlook strange occurrences. It was too dangerous.

He activated his Sharingan just to be ready, continuing to follow the footsteps until he found their source.

The path was easy to follow, and pretty soon Sasuke came upon a clearing next to a small stream. The trace led directly to the stream, where the ninja could see a figure sitting against a boulder.

He leapt up to a tree for a better vantage point and could see that the figure in question was a woman.

A young woman in her teenage years. Older than him, maybe in her late teens. The first thing that caught his attention, however, was the fact that she had a piece of cloth tied around her head, effectively blindfolding her.

Is she trying to protect her eyes, or something else? Sasuke wondered.

As he continued to stare at her he started to notice other things. The girl sitting next to the stream had light hair, though the rays of the sun reflecting on the water didn't allow him to see exactly what color it was. Her clothes were on clear colors as well, though he was sure they were soiled from traveling, and baggy.

His trained eye, however, quickly caught sight of something resting on the ground with her hand over it. A sheathed katana.

Doesn't look like a ninja though. No forehead protector. No other weapons at all. Sasuke analyzed.

Not every fighter he'd run across in his relatively short life had been a ninja, of course. There were those that were simple brawlers and mercenaries. And those that carried weapons simply to intimidate any potential bandit on the road.

He thought about it for a bit and decided to meet this woman. He didn't have any immediate plans and there was just something that peaked his interest. He jumped down from the tree, his feet hitting the ground and he made his way to her.

As he approached the girl remained oblivious to his presence, her posture obviously relaxed as she rested her body against the boulder. Sasuke had to admit, the sound of the running water was very soothing.

When he was within only a few feet did he speak. "Hello."

She gave no outward sign of surprise as she continued to sit there, not even tightening her hand around the sheathed katana. "Good morning."

"Are you by yourself?" Sasuke asked.

"Did you see any other footprints as you followed me?" She asked with a small smile, not moving a muscle still.

Sasuke blinked but decided to try ignorance. "Following you? I was just walking through the forest."

"My apologies, then," the girl said in obvious amusement. "I must've mistaken you hiding in the trees as following me."

Sasuke stared at this woman, in total disbelief. "But... How?" He asked dropping the ignorance act. "Your eyes were covered the entire time."

The girl stood up slowly, and any doubts Sasuke had about her were gone in an instant. She was too graceful not to be a fighter. And a dangerous one at that, just by the way she stood and the ease with which she held her weapon. "My eyes are covered indeed. What of it?"

"You can't see through that cloth. Not clearly enough," Sasuke said, getting on guard now as his own hand went to his holster by reflex. He had fought people with bladed weapons before, but people that could be considered a threat, only two. Zabuza and that partner of his brother.

He wasn't about to make a mistake now.

"Oh, make no mistake, boy," the girl said with a grin. "I can't see at all."

That made him freeze. "... What?" The words came out of his mouth like a choke, in disbelief. Blind?! There's no way she can't see!

"What is this? Are you holding your breath because you can't believe I'm blind?" She asked curiously.

Sasuke got over his disbelief and went back to a guarded position. "You can't possibly be this good without sight." He had seen people with uncanny abilities and bloodlines, but for someone to use a sword or to have that dangerous a stance and be blind?! It was inconceivable to him.

Especially since his bloodline limit was all about sight. Yet here was a blind girl that seemed very threatening without even making a move against him. "What's the matter? Cat got your tongue, ninja?"

"... How do you know I am a ninja?" Sasuke demanded suspiciously.

"The way you walk gives you away," she answered as she turned to face the stream, giving her back to Sasuke. He had to blink his eyes as he finally saw that her hair was a light blue.

"But if you can't see, how can you tell how I walk?"

"Your walk can't just be seen, boy," the girl said with another amused smile.

"I don't believe you," Sasuke said. There was no way she could do what she was saying.

"Cocky little ninja, aren't you?" She said with mirth.

"If you think I'm cocky, why don't you show me?" Sasuke challenged.

The girl stopped smiling at that, yet she didn't turn around. "Do you wish to fight a complete stranger? And for what?" Though she obviously wasn't adverse to the challenge, even if her questions were harsh.

"I'm willing if you are," Sasuke said, willing to put her claims to the test... And his own pride.

The girl snorted and slowly moved her sword to her right hand, taking it by the sheath. She then reversed her left hand grip and took a hold of the handle. "I wonder, do you have experience fighting left-handed swordsmen?"

"Yes," Sasuke said, lying but looking at her sword.

"I am Ishida Shori," the girl introduced herself formally as she assumed a ready stance with her blade still in its protective cover.

"Uchiha Sasuke," the boy replied, his own honor telling him to give his name fully, even if it was a stupid move for a shinobi on the run. He didn't draw the katana, though. He was going to see how good this 'blind girl' was.

Shori remained unmoving, facing slightly to the right from Sasuke and exposing part of her back.

Sasuke realized she was going to leave the first shot to him. Fine. He decided. He'd attack using his speed, get behind her and end it by attacking her from the back of the neck. End of story.

The girl made no move to make Sasuke think she was aware of his intentions. Even as he turned around her and shot forward for a quick defeat she didn't react in any way. It was only his Sharingan that saved him from a sour surprise, however, as he read Shori's movements just in the nick of time to avoid receiving a blow to his sternum from the tip of the sheathed katana.

How did she...? Sasuke asked as he flipped back wards. He looked back at this woman with renewed respect and smiled. "Nice try."

"The same could be said about you, nice reflexes," Shori complimented seriously. "Though why you would go to the trouble of attacking a blind person in the back, I have no idea."

"You left yourself exposed for a reason. I wanted to if you were just being stupid, or if you really had a trick or two," Sasuke told her.

"I have no tricks, ninja," the girl said, feeling insulted.

"Then what did you do? How did you know I was coming?" Sasuke asked as he threw two shuriken right at her, then sped around to another angle, using chakra enhanced speed to shoot his third one in a totally different angle and direction but only a few seconds after shooting the first two.

"Oh ninja," Shori said in amusement as she took a step back to avoid the first two shuriken. "Do you really think so highly of your kind?" She raised her sword, still in its sheath, and the final shuriken stuck itself in the hilt. Shori's facial expression didn't change in the slightest as this happened. "How do you think I do it?"

"How about you tell me?" Sasuke responded, debating as to whether or not using jutsu at this point would be cheating.

"Tell you? Now that would ruin the purpose of this challenge, would it not?" Shori asked as she removed the shuriken and started advancing slowly on Sasuke's position.

Alright. Let's see how you deal with this. Sasuke thought as he made his seals, put his hand to his mouth and blew out fire for the Grand Fireball Jutsu.

Just then Shori moved in a way only the Sharingan could follow. Reminding Sasuke of Lee, the young woman jumped to the side to avoid the attack and then forward to close the distance towards him. Her leaps were so powerful that two explosions of dirt were left in her wake. In less than the blink of an eye she was already next to him, unsheathing her katana in a sideways slash.

He didn't even have time to move away from the strike. Reflexively however, his hand went to the katana hilt strapped on his back, taking the sword out fast using the chakra in his arms. The swords clashed against each other and Sasuke took the chance to move away from her. In a sword fight he had no doubt she'd beat him.

Shori made another attempt to slash at him, which was foiled as he jumped back and out of range. She frowned under the blindfold. "You have good reflexes, Uchiha Sasuke. Too good."

"It's ironic if you think about it," Sasuke spoke, trying to get a conversation that could gain him something but he'd end up giving something in return. "You can't see, yet you can predict where I'll move somehow... Just like how my eyes can see your moves."

"Indeed," Shori said and assumed a more defensive stance. "It would seem we are at an impasse here."

"Neither of us can really attack because we both can see ach others moves," Sasuke said, shifting his stance slightly. "It's a stalemate."

"I suppose now you'll start using all of your dirty tricks? Oh, excuse me," she said with a smirk that robbed the apology of any sincerity. "Should I say ninjutsu?"

"You don't seem to like ninjas very much," Sasuke said looking back at her. "You said before you don't employ tricks like my kind. What did you mean?"

"You shinobi use deception and betrayal as your main tools. That's dishonorable," the girl said flatly.

"So do politicians and civilians," Sasuke replied. "Is there a point?"

"Bushido dictates otherwise," Shori said vehemently.

"Bushido?" Sasuke asked before narrowing his eyes. "You're claiming to be a samurai?"

Shori snorted and took a step to the side, starting to circle the youngest Uchiha. "I claim nothing, but I do follow Bushido."

"Samurai are nothing but legends. They disappeared centuries ago," Sasuke said, remembering his history lessons in the academy. It was also the fall of the Samurai that lead to the rise of the Ninja.

"Are you fighting a legend, ninja?" Shori asked as she lunged forward and slashed horizontally at Sasuke. "Legends don't appear before you to fight you," she said as she continued her attack with a returning diagonal slash. "And legends certainly can't kill you."

Sasuke fell away then and growled looking at her. He was tempted again to use his ninjutsu but forced it back. It was time to use his eyes to the fullest. The Tsukuyomi might be useless against a blind woman... But his Mangekyou would be more developed in seeing her moves than his normal Sharingan eyes.

He saw the next attack even more clearly and grabbed her sword arm with his right hand.

The girl was visibly startled, not having expected for Sasuke to move that fast or for him to counter her attack so efficiently. She did have a counter for his own, though. Pretty soon Sasuke saw the sheath of the blade coming at him from a different angle.

Sasuke didn't have time avoid the hit but intended to give a hit of his own, driving an elbow into the stomach of the woman.

Shori twisted her arm in such a way that Sasuke either let her go of her sword would easily cut him. She coughed as the air had been driven out of her lungs, though.

Sasuke had to let go of the sword though but felt the sheath hit the left side of his body, though it was no where near as hard as his hit had been to Shori. He was away from her now looking at her. Even with the Mangekyou, I still don't have the upper hand. He couldn't believe it but it started to raise ideas to Sasuke about the limitation of what his bloodline had.

"You are fast," Shori complimented as she composed herself, her long blue hair covering her face. "Very well, let us see how well you fight now." And in so saying she moved her blade slightly, reflecting the rays of the sun directly into Sasuke's eyes.

Sasuke had to cover his eyes for a moment, the light blinding him. "Damn it."

That moment proved to be too long against a fighter as fast as the swordswoman. Sasuke felt the tip of the katana against his throat. "It would see you have come to rely on your ability. I found it strange that you would read my moves so easily."

Sasuke couldn't do anything but glare in disgust. He lost. "And you... How did you read my moves?"

Shori held the blade up for a moment more, before retrieving it slowly. "Your belief that my blindness would hinder me, for one. Everyone underestimates a crippled opponent." She smiled slightly. "As for predicting your movements, I did no such thing. Not like you do, at least."

"Then tell me how." Sasuke wanted to know.

"Do you really believe that because I lost my eyesight I have no way of sensing the world around me?" The girl asked as she sheathed her sword.

"No. I don't. I just want to know how you did it," Sasuke said.

"My other senses compensate my lack of sight," Shori explained.

"Wait. No bloodline, no implants... Just your other four senses?" Sasuke asked disbelief. A person like that wouldn't even be considered a ninja. A village would think more of someone like Lee than of someone like Shori.

Shori frowned, taking offense at Sasuke's words. "Just my four other senses? That is the reason why you lost our fight, boy."

"What's that supposed to mean?" The Uchiha asked, irritated at the demeaning way he was referred to.

"You are so dependant on your sight that you are even more blind than I am," the girl said as she turned away, walking towards the stream. "Each and every one of the senses is enough to guide you in a fight, not just your sight. You depend on one alone, perhaps with the aid of your hearing. You are more crippled than I am."

"Losing my sight made my other senses compensate for the loss to a point you can't even begin to understand. Even as we speak I can hear your heartbeat and every muscle contraction in your body. When you were hiding in the trees I could smell your scent as it was carried by the wind. When you walk I can feel the vibrations on the floor generated by your steps. I can even feel the position of the Sun as it warms my skin. No, Uchiha Sasuke. I'm not the crippled one here," Shori said and knelt down in front of the water to wash her face. The fight made her start to sweat slightly, even if it was so short.

Sasuke stared at this woman, how she explained things and said them. It sounded almost as if his brother were explaining something to him. Full of confidence and detachment. That alone made him angry, however he was forced to concede to her points.

And he just couldn't believe how she was able to use her senses like that.

Having said what she wanted, the girl remained silent as she placed her sword down by her side and removed the blindfold. As her back was facing Sasuke he couldn't see her face as she leaned down to wash it.

Sasuke decided to walk to clean his own face in the stream then, but also hoped to get a chance to see her face.

Shori made no move to hide her features from the peeking Sasuke as she washed her face, so he could see that a scar ran across her face. It was very similar to the one on Iruka's face, only that this one was broader and further up on her face, right over her eyes. That spoke of a deeper wound as well.

"What happened?" Sasuke asked.

The girl allowed her hands to rest on her lap, drops of water trailing down her face and dripping down from her chin. "Why do you want to know?"

"Because I'm curious," Sasuke said, rubbing the water off his face. "And I know that it must have been painful."

Shori remained silent as she took the blindfold and tied it around her head again. "I hardly remember that night. My father told me I was five when it happened."

"Someone just slashed your eyes for no reason?"

"A group of ninja attacked my family's house," Shori clarified for Sasuke, her voice even.

Sasuke sighed. So that was why she despised ninja.

The girl smiled in amusement at hearing that. "Is something the matter, Uchiha Sasuke?"

"I understand why you hate ninjas. There are those of us that are dishonorable and murderers. Then there are those of us that have honor."

"I have yet to meet a ninja with honor," Shori said solemnly. "I don't discount the possibility, yet at the same time I it find hard to believe that one of your kind would behave honorably."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed in anger at the woman. "Sandaime Hokage was the most honorable and giving ninja I ever knew. He was beloved by everyone. His only weakness was that he had too great a heart."

"Honorable... For a ninja, perhaps," Shori allowed. She knew not all ninja were evil. The philosophy behind shinobi was wrong to her, though.

Sasuke's glare lessened and then stood out looking over the water. "What happened to the samurai and how did you become one? Your kind vanished from the world five centuries ago."

"I didn't have much choice in the matter, as is usual with children from families with strong traditions," Shori said. "As for what happened to us... You shinobi happened."

"What do you mean we happened?" Sasuke asked. "You disappeared. Shinobi stepped in to fill the balance, eventually leading into the formation of the five great villages."

"That is what you have been taught," the girl said evenly. "By a shinobi village no less."

"Then what's the truth?" Sasuke challenged.

The girl shrugged. "Only the ones alive five hundred years ago know for sure. I was told samurai became less and less common as the young fighters found Bushido too restrictive. It was easier to become a ninja and do as they pleased."

Sasuke thought that over and did think that the ninja arts and chakra with its applications would make someone stronger over a samurai. In theory at least. Not to mention ninja have a less strict moral code. "Where do you plan to go now?"

Shori would've blinked at the question if her eyes weren't closed and covered by the blindfold. "Plan to go?"

"Where are you traveling?" Sasuke asked. "To see family? A job for someone?"

"I have no family, and currently I am unemployed," Shori said as she took a hold of her sword and stood up.

"We have something in common, then," Sasuke said to her.

"You presume much, thinking that because of those two facts you know me," the girl said.

"I have no home and my entire clan was murdered long ago," Sasuke said getting up. "And you're right. I am just presuming. But still, you have honor."

"Do I?" Shori asked in amusement. "Again, you know so little of me. Uchiha Sasuke, you haven't been on your own for long, have you?"

"... No. Not alone." In the village he had people watching over him, even if he was by himself without any family.

Now he was truly alone.

The girl nodded to herself. "And do you know where you're going?"

"Thunder Country. It's the only direction I have to go now."

"That's an interesting coincidence," the girl lied, for she was headed to Fire Country instead. Still, she couldn't allow for this boy to be on his own till he learned how to fend for himself. There was a lot more to life than fighting, and letting him go like this felt wrong. She didn't like shinobi in general, but in a world dominated by them one had to make allowances.

"You're asking to come with me?"

"We are going the same way," Shori said. And that was true enough. Now she was heading to Thunder Country with him.

"Alright," Sasuke said, deactivating his Sharingan and looking at her. "What style of swordmanship was that?"

"A modified battoujutsu, my own family's style with allowances made for my condition," she said tapping the side of her head covered by the blindfold with her fingers.

"Battoujutsu?" Sasuke asked.

"It is a sword fighting style," Shori explained.

"Since we will be traveling together, would you object to sparing?" Sasuke asked.

"I would welcome the chance to fight without fearing for my life for a change," Shori admitted, though she inwardly wondered if Sasuke was so focused on fighting that he cared about nothing else. So far it seemed like it.

"Are you being hunted?" Sasuke asked.

The girl snorted. "We live in a world of shinobi, boy. And many people can't afford to hire the services of a hidden village."

"No they can't."

"So then, do you wish for us to rest after the fight or continue our journey?" Shori asked.

"Let's get moving," Sasuke said, picking up his pack. "There's still a few good hours of daylight. I'd like to use those to get as far away from the Snake as possible."

"Daylight, boy?" Shori asked in amusement.

Sasuke grumbled a little. She didn't have to worry about the time of day since she was blind. "I prefer to travel when there's light."

"Strange that a ninja would prefer the light, but suit yourself," the girl agreed.

"Easier to spot snakes," Sasuke replied as he started walking.

Shori started walking right next to Sasuke. "Is this snake you refer to by any chance Orochimaru?"

"You should know this if you wish to stay with me. Orochimaru wants me... Or rather he wants my body for his own," Sasuke explained. "I had to cut through all of Sound to escape his nin."

"And that is supposed to stop me? We are moving away from Sound territory as we speak," Shori said calmly.

"It won't stop him from sending his nin," Sasuke replied. "But from that reply, I guess that doesn't bother you, then."

"If it did I wouldn't be here with you," Shori said plainly.

Sasuke said nothing, instead preferring to walk as they continued on their way.


Naruto stood in front of an opponent he'd never thought he'd ever get to face. They were in the training ground Anko chose that same week to give them the Genin examination. At the blond ninja's insistence he'd finally gotten his wish, so now he was going to fight one of his teammates, while Anko and the other one watched from the side.

Naruto just smirked. "I'm going to enjoy this, fox."

Kyuubi looked bored as she stood across from Naruto, her stance lazy as usual. "No you won't."

"Ano, do you think this was a good idea?" Tenten asked Anko.

Anko shrugged her shoulders. "We know Kyuubi doesn't want to hurt Naruto badly, so why not see what she can do?"

Tenten nodded, but Naruto was deluded if he thought he was going to win.

"Here I come!" The blonde Genin said charging right for her.

Tenten sighed. Is that always his opening attack?

Kyuubi remained where she stood, watching with an amused smirk as Naruto charged in fearlessly. At least he has guts, she thought to herself.

Naruto took out several shuriken and threw them right at the Kyuubi. Dodge or don't dodge. I wonder, does getting hit even do anything?

He didn't find out, though, as Kyuubi simply side-stepped the attack without taking her eyes off Naruto. "Sloppy," she said with a smirk.

Naruto looked back and decided go out all at once, gathering up his chakra for this. Even though his ability increased since the last time he used this much, it was still a lot. "Taiju Kage Bushin No Jutsu!"

Smoke erupted everywhere. When it did settle though, the Kyuubi found herself surrounded... By two thousand Narutos.

Tenten let her jaw drop. ... That's way more than what he showed to Anko-sensei a week ago! Her mind boggled at how he could produce that much chakra.

"Now what are you going to do, Aunty?!" The Narutos shouted as they advanced. "How you plan to deal with this now?!"

Kyuubi looked all around, still a bored expression on her face. "Not bad, brat. It seems like you did have a couple of moves on your own." She smirked evilly. "But I fail to see what you can do like this."

Naruto was infuriated as he continued to rush her and was distance swinging. "Shut up, fox!" The first shot missed. So did the next from another Bushin. Eventually after fifty of them it did connect and slowly the Kyuubi continued to be hit. "Uzumaki Naruto Two Thousand Punch Combo!!!"

"That's really impressive," Anko said, her eyes slightly opened in surprise.

Tenten just nodded mutely.

Naruto smiled as he was up in the air with his clones. "Ha! What do you got to say to that, Aunty?!"

The demon rose to her feet, still smirking. "You don't get it, do you, brat?"

Anko stood next to Tenten and blinked her eyes. During Naruto's attack Kyuubi's nine braids moved all around the demon, blocking the boy's punches and robbing the impressive attack of any effectiveness. It had looked like Naruto was landing his assault, but in truth none of it even touched Kyuubi's skin. It was just so fast only the Jounin could actually see what happened.

Naruto bit on his thumb, and was about summon when he realized it. Shit. I'm out of chakra! I don't have any spare chakra available this time around. All I have are my clones.

Seeing his predicament, Kyuubi chuckled. "What's the matter? Don't have your ace to get you out of trouble?"

Naruto growled as he glared at the Kyuubi.

"His ace?" Tenten blinked.

Anko sighed and explained. "What do you remember of Naruto's fight with Neji?"

Tenten blinked again and realized it. Neji had blocked Naruto's chakra points. Yet he still had chakra to use. It had to be the Kyuubi given what she knew now about Naruto.

Anko nodded, seeing the realization on the girl's face. "Now that she's out whenever Naruto runs out of chakra that's it." She decided she had to make sure to train Naruto carefully so he wouldn't suffer from chakra depletion. Before that wasn't a problem, but now he could really hurt himself.

Naruto looked back at the Kyuubi glaring at it. All he had was his clones now. His chakra was gone and used up to make... WAIT A MINUTE!!! The genin's eyes went wide as a plan took form in his mind and smirked. "Hey Aunty! I got a new move to show you!"

Kyuubi snorted in derision. "Shut up, brat. Just make your move so I can finish this. You're boring me."

"Five Hundred Naruto Charge!" The Genin shouted and five hundred of the two thousand bushins went jumping and attacking Kyuubi as if it was a street fight.

Tenten shook her head in disbelief. "Again? This is getting repetit..." She trailed off as she noticed other Bushins were moving around, gathering into small groups as some of them started pumping their hands into a bushin, forming a sphere and then disappearing. When that happened, another clone took its place and repeated the process, strengthening the Rasengan that was being formed.

Kyuubi wasn't fooled by the distraction, but she either way decided to deal with it before stopping whatever Naruto was doing before he killed himself. He didn't have enough control of the technique yet to try and do a more powerful version. She narrowed her eyes and red chakra burst forth all around her, hitting and destroying all the clones that were about to attack her.

"NOW!!!" Naruto shouted, still doing a Rasengan himself with a bushin but he still had twenty other clones left and they all had Rasengans themselves. "First wave!" Ten of them went right at the Kyuubi from all different angles, intent to hit their mark.

The demon rolled her eyes and simply used her reflexes to get out of the way, dodging around one of the clones and landing on all fours.

The clones kept on her trying their darnest to tag the Kyuubi but failing.

"Second wave go!" Naruto ordered and the rest of the clones joined in the fray, while Naruto was still pumping as much as he could into his Rasengan. I don't expect any of them to tag her, but maybe I can manipulate her position for me.

Kyuubi moved around the Naruto's as if they were standing still, so fast were her movements. From the side Anko was clearly starting to get a picture of Kyuubi's abilities, which were pretty much those of a fox. A very powerful fox. She wasn't fighting by completely overpowering Naruto, something she could easily do, but actually seemed to have some sort of strategy.

Naruto's eyes went wide as he saw his one shot. Without a word he dashed forward, the clone in front of him moving away as he was right behind Kyuubi at her back. GOTCHA!

Kyuubi felt the strong concentration of chakra approaching from behind her and knew that was whatever Naruto was preparing. The speed at which the attack moved towards her was laughable, though. She decided then and there that she would have to work the brat hard so he didn't waste his techniques the way he was doing in this fight. "Too slow," she said as she jumped vertically up and away from all the Naruto's, clones and real.

"What the?!" Naruto blinked. I had her! I had her!

Up in the air, the demon snorted as she thrust her arm towards Naruto.

Anko's eyes widened in shock when red chakra in the shape of a claw burst forth and towards Naruto, hitting the blond and pinning him to the ground. The technique made it look as if the Kyuubi had an entire arm formed completely out of chakra.

Tenten's eyes also widened as she saw the impact. She felt the earth move beneath her feet. Fearing the Kyuubi was one thing. Seeing it fight, even just a little, was another.

Especially if said demon was your teammate.

For Naruto, the attack hurt. It hurt just as bad as a chidori through the shoulder, if less lethal. All of his clones disappeared now. Even beaten, he stared at the Kyuubi in defiance.

The demon landed next to Naruto, her chakra arm still holding the kid down, and smirked. "You suck."

Naruto growled, staring at the fox. He probably knew he was going to lose. The Kyuubi was a demon and Yondaime had only sealed her. Still, it sucked.

Kyuubi looked down at Naruto, her slitted red eyes boring into him. "You have a lot of work ahead of you, brat. Who's the idiot that was training you?"

"Ero-sannin," Naruto said simply. "He was supposed to be training me but said he had go on an information gathering mission for three months. Personally, I think he went to peek at women in the bath."

"Well he's doing a bad job of it," Kyuubi sneered as she released the boy, the red chakra dispersing in the air. "All of your techniques are fine, but you have no fighting style to implement them."

"What do you mean?" Naruto glared. He could fight better than most people. Wasn't what he already had enough proof of that?

"You have some very powerful moves, I'll give you that," Kyuubi said as she looked down at the ninja. "Yet you don't know how to fight without them, so you become dependant on them."

Naruto glared at the fox but turned his head away. She was right. He either fought right out, used Kage Bushin and fought right out, or used the Rasengan. "Maybe I should have just summoned the Boss Frog from the start. At least I'd know if I could summon him without you."

"So you want others to fight for you?" The demon asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Of course not!" Naruto shook his head furiously.

Kyuubi crossed her arms over her breasts, looking at Naruto and waiting for him to explain himself.

"How do I become Hokage if I have other people fight my own battles! I'll fight them my self!"

"Sometimes being Hokage, you'll have to let others fight certain battles," Anko said as she approached. "Teams are created for a reason, Naruto."

Naruto sighed. He knew what they were saying was right. Learned a lot, and got a lot more to learn.

Anko then turned to regard Tenten with a smirk. "Want to try your luck next, girl?"

"Um, against whom?" Tenten asked nervously. Against the Kyuubi she'd get slaughtered hands down. Even worse than Naruto had been.

Anko's smirk remained on her face. "Naruto is already drained. Take a guess who's left."

"Um... You?" Tenten asked with some hope.

"She won't hurt you too badly, and you might learn something. Besides," Anko added, "You're going to be teammates from now on. You have to trust each other."

Tenten sighed, defeated as she walked towards the demon. She had learned a few things in the last few days, but never put them into actual practice against an opponent.

Truth be told, she didn't know how effective, if at all, it would be against the demon.

Kyuubi raised an eyebrow as Tenten approached. She overheard what Tenten and Anko said, and turned down to regard Naruto. "Seems like your girlfriend will get a piece of me as well, brat."

"She's my friend," Naruto said.

"Does that mean no broken bones?" Kyuubi asked loud enough for Tenten to hear.

Tenten swallowed her fear this point looking at the demon.

Naruto glared at the Kyuubi. "What do you think, foxgirl?" Naruto snapped before walking away.

Kyuubi just snorted as she waited for Tenten to reach her.

I got two new techniques. The last one I can't even use. I need more time to control it and I'm not stupid enough to try against someone like her. Tenten said to herself as she walked over and was now facing the Kyuubi. She felt a weight in her throat. Here's to hoping I don't get myself hurt, too much.

"Hello, girl. Remember our talk?" She asked with a smirk, trying to make the girl nervous.

"Yes. I do."

"Then you must see this as a test for yourself. Let's see if you've improved at all or if I'm doing good on my threat," Kyuubi said with an evil smirk.

Tenten nodded as she decided to start off this time by striking out with sending several throwing weapons at the Kyuubi before running away and heading into the trees.

Kyuubi hardly gave the weapons any mind as she dodged to the side lazily, waiting to see what Tenten could come up with before hunting the girl down.

"Katon: Housenka no Jutsu!" Several fire balls were fired right at the Kyuubi sent at different directions.

Naruto blinked. "Eh? When Tenten learn that?"

The Kyuubi rolled her eyes and simply jumped away and into the trees. Attacking a demon of fire with fire was so lame, not to mention stupid.

Suddenly chains started flying out of the trees at a fast pace, all of them aiming for the Kyuubi.

Now aiding herself with the tree branches, the Kyuubi's mobility was further enhanced, allowing her to dodge the chains more neatly as she looked for Tenten.

Suddenly there was an explosion, followed by a tree falling, save it wasn't the tree the Kyuubi was on.

The demon sniffed the air and quickly focused on where Tenten was. She jumped to the side and lost herself in the shadows, the way predators usually did.

Several explosions started getting set off in different directions as if a ploy to gain the Kyuubi's attention.

The Kyuubi, however, remained hidden. She knew the general location where Tenten was, so she wouldn't allow herself to be fooled. The demon in human guise moved stealthily, using the trees as cover.

A rustle came from a near by direction and then set of kunai were fired right from behind her.

The Kyuubi smirked in amusement. Did this idiot girl really believe she could be the hunter in this game? No matter. She dodged the kunai and continued to move through the foliage of the trees, hiding as she did so.

Tenten started stripping off her clothes now as she felt this entire game was cat and mouse. Let's hope the mouse likes cheese. After making a replication of her self to stay right where she was yet look as if waiting, she left, clothed only in her undergarments. She was taking a chance, but if the Kyuubi acted anything like a fox, then maybe it hunted like one.

As she moved through the woods silent as death, Kyuubi kept on sniffing the air to get an idea of where the girl was. She was in no hurry to finish the hunt so soon, anyway.

Tenten was preparing her weapons as quietly as possible. She had one other jutsu left but wouldn't even try to use it unless she had ample time. She hadn't even mastered it yet. Here's to hoping the fox finds 'me'.

The demon continued to approach the source of the scent and suddenly found the girl, standing on a tree branch and looking down at the ground. She smirked as she slowly started to circle the girl, preparing to attack.

After a few moments, Tenten saw the Kyuubi going right for her bushin and knew she wouldn't have much time at all. She immediately went into action, firing off her chain flails right at the unsuspecting demon, hoping to chain the demon to the tree.

The demon didn't know Tenten was behind her, but she did hear the sound of the chains cutting through the air as they approached her back. She didn't even turn around as one of her braids reacted to the attack, hitting the chain and turning it into scrap metal. Each one of her tails could destroy a mountain, it was said. Defeating a stupid chain was child's play for her.

Tenten however smirked, glad at least she had a backup plan, she then fell backwards down below. Let's see how you block a bomb.

Kyuubi wasn't fooled this time, however. She noticed Tenten's falling form and jumped from the tree to intercept the girl in midair before she had a chance to fall to the ground.

That's when the boom was heard, an explosion so massive that trees were blown apart and debris started flying everywhere.

Tenten didn't know what the Kyuubi would do or if the bomb had any affect, but she figured to go for her last shot now. At this point, I don't really have a choice. She thought as she was falling to the ground, making her seals.

Kyuubi closed the distance between them with her jump, and she would indeed catch up to the shinobi before she managed to touch the ground. The shockwave of the explosion made her nine braids to flutter all around her, yet that was all as she was well away of range to be harmed.

Hope I got this right, mom, Tenten said to herself as her hands started to crackle with electricity. "Raiton: Hekireki Sen!" A blast of lighting came from her hands and went right for the Kyuubi.

Unfortunately, she suddenly felt pain racking through her body and knew she screwed up. Now she was feeling the attack as well.

And that left her with a rather big problem in her hands. She was being electrocuted as she fell towards the ground. The fall was really going to hurt.

I really screwed up. Tenten thought now.

Just as she continued to fall her vision was filled by smirking Kyuubi, who reached the girl in midair. "Something up, girl? Having trouble with a jutsu?"

Tenten didn't respond as her pain was bad enough. Now made even worse by the fox demon making light of her situation.

They continued their fast approach towards the ground and the demon made no move to get the girl out of her predicament. In fact she looked amused by it. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't allow you to become a bloody smear on the floor."

"Besides, the fact that Naruto... Would hate you if you let me die," Tenten said trying to fight away the pain, still staring at the demon. "I... am going to be... stronger..."

"I couldn't care less about the brat hating me," Kyuubi said with a snort, yet as they reached the ground it was with Tenten held in the demon's arms.

"So... why?" Tenten asked as her jutsu was finally stopping and she could feel the pain, slowly, lessening

Kyuubi slung the weakened Tenten over her shoulder and stared walking towards the other two members of the team, not really giving any thought to the fact that the girl was clad only in her underwear. She was a demon, after all. "I have my reasons."

"Tenten!" Naruto started running to her but then stopped and saw her state of undress. He immediately shut his eyes. I am not Ero-sannin. I am not Ebisu. I will not peep at girls!

The Kyuubi continued walking and stood next to Naruto, enjoying the situation immensely. "What's wrong, brat?"

"Nothing, you stupid fox!" Naruto snapped, even though there was something wrong. "What happened to Tenten's clothes?"

"Incinerated by the blast from my bomb most likely," Tenten sighed.

The demon set Tenten down on her feet in front of Naruto, raising an eyebrow as Anko was laughing in the background as she approached at a more sedate pace than Naruto's.

"Why would you take your clothes off?" Naruto asked.

"She's a fox, right? Hoping she hunted by scent, thought I'd get lucky," Tenten said sadly.

"Idiot," Kyuubi sneered. "I'm a demon fox."

"I don't think I need to be reminded any more."

Anko reached the trio, still a smirk on her face. "This team is so interesting. Just remember, kids. You're both underage, so nothing beyond a little peeking. Maybe some making out."

Tenten just blushed and felt embarrassed. Naruto turned way and looked at Anko. "You know you and aunty got something in common. Why don't you just go out for a drink some night."

Anko grinned at Naruto as she leaned down and pinched his cheek. "Are you upset because of a little teasing? Don't worry, you two are shinobi, so you can go as far as you want," she said purposely trying to get a reaction out of the already embarrassed teenagers.

Naruto fell over in aggravation. "Mitarashi-san!" Tenten exclaimed.

The Jounin winked at Tenten. "Training for today is over. Tomorrow, same time," Anko said as she turned around and started to walk away.

Tenten wondered what she was going to do for clothing until suddenly she saw Naruto throwing off his jacket and then started to take off his pants. "Hey, what are you doing?"

"Not going to let you be embarrassed like that," Naruto said, as even though he took that off he still had on a t-shirt and pair of shorts. "You can put that on if you want."

Tenten was surprised by his act but put a smile on as she picked up the pants and decided to use a kunai to cut the pant legs a bit so they became shorts. "You can keep the jacket, but thanks for the shorts. Somehow, I think if people saw me wearing your outfit as it is, they might get the wrong idea."

Naruto blinked. "I hadn't really thought about that."

"There's a lot you don't think about brat," the Kyuubi smirked.

"Oh put a sock in it Aunty!"

To Be Continued...

Author's Notes: Next Chapter, Sasuke finally makes it clear into Thunder Country, but where does he go from here? Back in Konoha, a few new developments will happen in regards to the members of Team Anko.

Till next time.