Enchantress

Chapter 17 – Animalistic

Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of mangaka (comic artist) Masashi Kishimoto. This story implies nothing about the characters nor does the plot of the story have any effect on the manga volumes (or the anime) themselves. This story is pure fiction.

A/N: What is this? Two chapters in one month compared to one chapter in two years? I know, right? See? I promised you guys that I would slowly come back to this story. It's the least I could do for my unexplainable hiatus.

WARNING: This chapter contains a fight scene and some slight swearing. Some of the content that you will read will be quite violent. You have been warned!

—†—

After talking for what seemed like hours, Minako and Koki looked back at Gaara in apprehension; the red-head seemed to be deep in thought.

"That is…quite the story."

"Look, I know it seems farfetched. Insane even. Heck, I still don't know whether or not I should believe it myself," Minako brushed aside a stray lock of hair which fell across her left eye, "but like you said Gaara, this is a lot more complex that either of us could possibly hope to comprehend. I have been shoved into a hole so large that I don't even know which way is up anymore."

Gaara snuck a glance behind Minako to stare at the Sakura Tree.

"Kazakage-sama, whether or not you choose to believe our plight is your decision," said Koki, "however this is as close to the truth as Naruto and I can get to given the evidence that has been laid out before us. While our explanations may not appear to be entirely realistic, you cannot deny the logic that was used behind them."

"Hmm…you do have a point."

As Gaara was left to digest all that he had heard, Minako spent a few moments idly gazing back at the stone tablet.

Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon…

Those same four words continued to playback from within her thoughts. And then suddenly, she had an idea.

"Hmm…I wonder."

Minako walked a few steps around the tablet until she stood right next to the Sakura tree. The honey blonde closed her eyes, raised her right hand up and gently touched the trunk. In a matter seconds, Minako heard youthful voices which echoed from within her mind.

—†—

"Not that I am insulting your intelligence or anything Michiko-san but what in the world would make you believe that any plant life, let alone a full flowering deciduous tree, could even stand a chance at growing in a place like this?"

"Shinnoske's right, Michiko. Such vegetation can only thrive in soil-based environments. Even though Yatahara (1) itself is a natural wonder, still, the odds of your tree surviving for even a few days after planting do not look promising."

"You boys are so pessimistic. You forget that Yatahara is home to priestesses. All of us are spiritually entwined with the blessings of nature which touch our very village: the waters of the oasis, the golden sands, the desert fauna, the wind, the sky, the sun and the moon. Many Spiritualists, as their name entails, are the links between the terrestrial world and the spirit world, and as such, are capable of accessing the hidden energies which constitute as the very essence of life. As a monk, I would've assumed that this wouldn't have been news to you, Shinnosuke-kun."

"W-well…n-no it isn't but…you must understand me Michiko-san that even Spiritualists have their limits with regards to how spirit energy can be manipulated, especially if it involves altering the natural land in any way, shape or form. And like Yamato-kun said, the odds of your tree even germinating in sand are next to nothing. It needs soil."

"While I do not refute your justifications Shinnosuke-kun, I am certain that this tree will be able to flourish when the time is right. Trust me; I know what I'm doing."

"Well…if only you're sure, then we're here to support you in any way that we can."

"Thank you, Yamato-kun."

—†—

The conversation stopped and the voices faded to oblivion. Minako opened her eyes at the worried tone in Koki's voice.

"Naruto? Are you alright?"

"Y-yeah…," Minako turned around and looked at Gaara straight in the eye. "Hey, Gaara? Was the Aoitama oasis ever referred to by a different name in the past?"

"Well, yes actually. When I was appointed as the 6th Kazekage the village elders took it upon themselves to educate me in the history of our village, albeit at a much more comprehensive version in comparison to our Academy's elementary history lessons. The oasis was christened as 'Aoitama' almost fifty years ago when Sunagakure was first established (2). If my memory serves me correctly, I believe that the original name of this particular landmark was called: Yatahara. Apparently this mysterious oasis has been here for centuries and according to legend the water is both inexhaustible impervious to contamination. Such claims actually aren't surprising to me as it looks exactly as it did even ten years ago."

Minako's eyes widened.

"I personally don't know why the oasis was renamed, when others were still aware of its original name, or even how it manages to retain such logic-defying properties. Never truly invested a lot of thought into such questions until now. Is there a particular reason as to why you are interested in this landmark?"

"Well…," Minako gazed at the magnificent tree before her, "When I touched this tree…I began to hear voices. Michiko's, Yamato's and Shinnosuke's to be exact."

"Y-you heard their voices?" exclaimed Koki in excitement. "What did they say?"

"Well…it seemed to be like another memory. However, unlike the first two, which by our accounts have somehow related back to significant events during Michiko's life, this one however seemed to relate specifically to the beginnings of this tree. The conversation wasn't very long and I didn't actually see anything but from what I could interpret, Michiko wanted to plant a Sakura tree in the middle of the desert but her team-mates expressed doubt and uncertainty at her idea. Nevertheless, Michiko said she knew what she was doing…and I think that this may very well be the exact same tree that she was referring to."

"Hmm, it does appear to have a sort of otherworldly quality to it," said Koki as he took his turn to stare at the tree as well.

"Naruto-"

"Sorry Gaara. Not to sound rude or anything but could you please start addressing me by my fake name? That goes for you too Koki." The red-head and the white fox pop looked towards the blonde in confusion, "Sorry. It's just that, it's already taken me this long to get used to being referred to as Minako that adding my real name back into the mix would just complicate things for me even further. Plus, I really don't want anyone else finding out about my little secret. You just never know who might be an uninvited listener."

"Which reminds me…"

In the blink of an eye, a large flowing trail of sand burst from the gigantic gourd that was strapped to Gaara's back. It whirled around in the air for a few moments before whipping off to the side of the island. The sound of man's voice shouting "let go of me" rang through their ears. After being pulled out from his hiding spot, the man was unceremoniously dropped to the ground in front of the trio's feet. Shortly following, the red-head fashioned a mini whirlpool of sand beneath the intruder and submerged his entire lower body, subsequently anchoring him in place from the waist up. Despite the man's protests for release, the trio took note that his entire face (with the exception of his eyes) was covered with dark black cloth.

"An intruder." Gaara stared down at the man beneath him.

"Let me go you pesky brats!"

Without missing a beat, Gaara continued speaking.

"What business do you have with us?"

Gaara's preference of cutting straight to the point while he interrogated others never ceased to amuse the blonde.

"I ain't telling you ANYTHING!"

"Hmph. Stubborn one, aren't you?"

Without moving a muscle, Gaara manipulated the sand around the imprisoned man a second time. With a startled cry, the captured man was now submerged from the shoulders up.

"I will ask you politely once more; what business do you have with us?"

The man spat near Gaara's feet.

"You can torture me all you want Kazekage! But I will NEVER betray my leader!"

Gaara's eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Have it your way then."

The man's eyes widened when the formation of small, hand-shaped protrusions began to emerge from the sand. Several of them tightened around the man's neck where as a few others crawled upwards to enclose around his nose and mouth, forcefully depleting him of his air supply. The sounds of his cries were heavily muffled by the sand-made hands.

"I am not particularly fond of eavesdroppers," Gaara got down on one knee and glared down at his ensnared prey, "Now we can either do this like civilized people or," Gaara clenched one of his fists which tightened the hold that his chakra-infused sand had on the man's neck, "the barbaric way. The choice is yours."

As Minako looked upon the sight of the struggling man small sharp pains began to prickle in her head.

"Ahh…!"

"Mina? What's wrong? Are you okay?"

Koki's concerned voice was barely registered by the blonde as images continued to flicker in and out of her head. The strange thing was Minako's mental visuals only consisted of Aoitama oasis, the very location that they were in right now.

"Is everything alright?"

Minako took a quick glance at Koki before looking towards Gaara's captive. Before she knew it, her body was moving completely on her own.

"M-mina?"

Minako got down on both of her knees and took her spot right next to Gaara. The red-head looked at his companion in confusion.

"Is there something that you want to ask of this man?"

Minako gazed into the eyes of their prisoner with an apprehensive stare.

"No…not ask."

Before Gaara could ask the blonde to elaborate, Minako raised both her hands and gently touched the tips of her fingers to the sides of the man's head; she closed her eyes shortly after. The images that Minako saw within her mind from before had now become substantially clearer. Instead of rapidly flickering back and forth between multiple images in no logical order, they now began to replay much slower and more "cinematic" pace before changing from one event to the next.

She first saw an image of the sun setting beyond the horizon.

Next was the exterior of the Kazaekage manor, to which the sounds of chatter and laughter were heard from when her team and Gaara's family had dinner earlier that evening.

Third came the image of Minako wandering around the village streets.

The fourth mental image saw Aoitama Island from the main shoreline, to which the faint yellow glow of Minako's hair and matching uniform could be seen reflected by the moonlight.

The fifth mental image involved a muted whisper between the captured man and a second, identically clothed, man from the oasis' shoreline. The faint glow of their matching rings shone bright enough for Minako to read their inscriptions: one read "Flower" and the other read "Bird."

The last mental image saw a suspended stream of sand looming up in the air before whipping downwards and ensnaring the man (who spied silently on the trio from the surface of the water just to the side of the island) in a tight grip.

Minako's eyes widened in shock.

"He isn't working alone!"

Gaara's eyes also widened in surprise. "Where is his accomplice?"

Minako's eyes darted to the spot where she saw the mental image of the two men whispering to each other. She pointed towards the shoreline just a few meters west of the bridge.

"Over there, by that mound of shrubbery!"

Without a moment's hesitation, Gaara dissolved into a mound of sand and streaked through the air in hot pursuit of the other unnamed individual. As Minako and Koki watched the red-head vanish into the night, the ground beneath them began to rumble.

"W-What's happening?"

The trench which previously held the nameless man erupted in a wide splash of sand and dirt. As soon as the debris cleared away, Minako and Koki looked on in shock as their once hapless prisoner was now free of his bind.

"Now…we're all alone," said the man in a most predatory voice.

"H-How did you manage to escape?"

The man let out an amused laugh. "Did the two of you brats really think that you could keep an innate earth manipulator trapped for very long? Sand is but a mere subdivision earth just as much as clay, rock or dirt."

"An innate earth manipulator…" Minako inquired out loud.

"And now with the Kazekage out of the way, there is nothing to top me from taking you to my leader."

Minako's eyes narrowed in defiance.

"Like HELL you are!" Minako pulled out one of the kunai daggers that was strapped around her right leg and assumed a battle stance, "If you want to take me anywhere, you'll have to kill me first!"

The man smirked and tore off his mask. With his natural face fully exposed, Minako observed that the man was definitely older than she was. He was only in possession of a single functioning green eye; the other eye (left) was closed shut and was covered by a long scar which streaked from his eyebrow and across the eyelid before ending at his cheekbone. The man's hair was quite long and was anchored down in a low ponytail. The blonde also noticed that tied around his forehead was a hitai-ate. The metal plate, which showed that he was an Earth Country ninja, had a perfectly horizontal slash etched right across the central width.

He's a nukenin

"My leader wouldn't be too thrilled if I even so much as harmed a single hair on you. But even if he wanted you dead, I wouldn't be able to do the deed. You are much too pretty for me to consider disfigurement."

The eerie hunger that was laced in the man's voice made Minako's blood momentarily run cold before rising to a boil.

"You make me sick…"

"Let's dance, princess…"

—†—

"Koki, stand back. This might get ugly."

"Be careful, Mina!" The white fox pup made his way behind the stone tablet and peaked around the corner in suspense.

Completely by-passing the "princess" comment, Minako let out a loud battle cry as she lunged at her opponent with an angry swipe of her dagger. The man vanished in a flash before rushing back towards the blonde, elbow-first, in an attempt to attack her exposed rib cage. Minako on the other hand anticipated the assault and swiftly blocked it with her arm. She took the opportunity to use the man's inertia against him by quickly grabbing on to his extended elbow with both of her hands and forcefully throwing him over her shoulder, effectively sending him off the island and towards the water. Minako followed up her attack with a soaring jump kick to the man's torso. While her foot was able to connect with her intended target, the opposing earth ninja vanished in a cloud of dust which unfortunately caught Minako off guard.

"Ah!"

"You're mine!"

With the dust particles irritating her eyesight, Minako was unable to predict the heavy slam to her back which caused her to soar in the air for a few meters before plunging into the dark waters of the oasis. Shaking the haze out of her head, Minako swam up to the surface and channelled her chakra towards her hands and feet with the intention of standing directly on top of the water. Minako barely noticed the large flying chunk of earth that was heading towards her but fortunately she was able to duck beneath it just in time to avoid getting crushed. As her opponent continued to manipulate portions of Aoitama Island to use as ammunition for his assaults, Minako's critical thinking skills kicked into high gear while she dodged and evaded.

I don't know what else this bastard is capable of doing but as long as I keep him cornered on the island, I think I should be okay. If he gets anywhere near the mainland where he could manipulate all of the sand available to his liking, I'll be at a huge disadvantage.

Minako took the opportunity to leap high into the air in order to temporarily change the dimensions of the battle field. As the blonde performed an aerial back flip so that she could make eye contact with her opponent in the ground below, Minako shouted a mental warning to her fox companion.

KOKI! GET OFF THE ISLAND, NOW!

As she watched the fox pup vanish in a puff of smoke, which fortunately caused the earth ninja to look behind in confusion, Minako chanted in a confident voice.

"Ninpou: Koyousetsu!" (3)

Minako's hands temporary glowed with chakra which emitted a ghostly white light. When upon the immediate spreading of her hands, countless leaf-shaped projectiles, which were coloured in the same ghost-white aura, surrounded the suspended blond before raining down in a mighty storm towards her opponent. While the rogue earth ninja was able to dodge the blonde's attacks for a few moments, his speed was unfortunately no match for the sheer number of projectiles that were aimed at his retreating form. The earth ninja shouted in pain as he was pummelled by the chakra leaves which possessed both cutting and explosive properties. Upon her graceful descent onto the surface of the water below, Minako wasted no time in dashing towards her opponent for a follow up attack. However, the fallen earth ninja anticipated Minako's next move and reacted just before the blonde reached the edge of the island.

"Doton: Doryuheki!" (4)

Minako gasped in surprise as the path to her target was suddenly blocked by a large wall of solid rock. The blonde barely had any time to react as the man's fist punched through the earthen object, grabbed Minako by the front of her top, and brutishly pulled her in right through the wall itself. The pain that Minako felt across her entire upper body after she was essentially forced right through nearly a hundred pounds of solid rock made her head spin. The piercing green eye of the defected earth ninja glared back at her in aggravation.

"Must you insist on being stubborn?"

In spite of the pain, Minako smirked, "Damn right…"

Minako quickly raised one of her knees and slammed it into the man's stomach which caused him to release his hold on her uniform. As the earth ninja doubled over, Minako sent a heavy uppercut to his chin and followed it up with a backflip kick which launched him up into the sky. Immediately following, Minako whipped out her golden chakra chain which wrapped around one of the airborne man's ankles. Minako then used the strength of her entire upper body to pull the chain back and subsequently yank the man back down to earth, effectively resulting in the man crash-landing onto the surface of Aoitama Island. Koki came trotting back to his master's side when he saw Minako's victory.

"I witnessed the entire thing from the shoreline. You were great, Mina!"

Minako sent a tired smirk to her animal friend.

"Thanks, buddy."

When the pair slowly approached the unconscious form of the fallen earth ninja, the man surprisingly opened his good eye and glared at the duo in ire.

"You'll pay for that, you bi***!"

The man flipped himself backwards and shoved both of his feet into Minako's stomach, causing her to grunt in pain.

"MINA!"

"SHUT UP YOU DUMB MUTT!"

The man sent a heavy kick to Koki's ribs causing the fox pup to yelp out in pain. From her hunched over position, Minako stared in shock at the scene that she had just witnessed.

"KOKI!"

"TOO SLOW!"

The man rammed his elbow into Minako's stomach which sent her soaring off the side of the island. The man then sped towards the flying blonde, grabbed her by the front of her top (yet again) and dragged her across the surface of the water. The moment that the two of them reached the shoreline, the earth ninja threw Minako down onto the ground and slid his hand upwards to tighten around her neck. The man straddled the blonde's waist as he took out a kunai dagger and made a swift slash along her right bicep.

"AHHH!"

Minako watched in horror as the man raised his dagger, which dripped with her freshly drawn blood, up to his mouth and licked it clean.

"Mmm…sweet. I can see why Reiji-sama adores you so much."

Minako's eyes widened. Reiji? As in the crime lord, Takatori Reiji?

"You truly are the spitting image of the Enchantress; his absolute beloved. If only he was out of the picture, then I could have you all to myself."

"GET THE HELL OFF OF ME YOU SICK BASTARD!"

Despite her attempts to break free, the man's weight, when coupled with her fatigue from both the battle and a lack of sleep, proved to work against her favour.

"I'm sure Reiji-sama wouldn't mind if I…snuck a little taste."

The rogue earth ninja licked his dry lips and descended downwards on to his prey. The fear that once clouded Minako's eyes was soon filled with unbridled rage. All she could see was red.

"W-what the Hell?"

Crimson chakra began to envelop the captured blond. The man looked on as the beautiful girl's once soft features began to harden: her sapphire blue eyes changed to a fiery red, her finger nails began to extend and sharpen until they resembled claws, and a single set of three dark lines on each of her cheeks began to emerge until they darkened to a deep black color, thus presenting her with the appearance of whiskers.

"T-this chakra…"

The sheer energy of Minako's demonic chakra repelled the man right off of her as if he were pushed by an invisible barrier. As the blonde began to assume a standing position, the man noticed that all of the girl's cuts and scrapes, including the large one that he had inflicted on her arm only minutes ago began to heal over. It took only seconds for her marred skin to be restored to brand new.

This girl…Reiji-sama's prediction was right! The Enchantress has indeed been reborn into the body of her only living descendant: that brat to which the Kyuubi no Kitsune had been sealed into by the 4th Hokage nearly 17 years ago.

The man didn't even have time to process his next thought as he was suddenly hoisted up by the collar of his ninja gi by the snarling blonde.

"You injured my companion…so now you just made things personal."

Minako removed her right hand from the man's shirt collar and latched onto his side, just above his left hip. Her claw-like fingernails dug deep into the man's skin which caused him to bleed from the area that each nail had touched.

"Now, I'm going to ask you these questions once and ONLY once so you better pray to God that you give me the right answer."

The man's once confident and cocky persona was slowly replaced by fear.

"Why are you working for Takatori Reiji? And what the hell does he want with me?"

"H-he…he…"

"ANSWER ME!"

With next to zero patience for the man's stuttering, Minako tore out a large chunk of flesh out of the rogue earth ninja's body with the hand that she was using to grip his side.

"AHHH!""

The one-eyed man let out an agonizing howl. The part of his torso located just above his left hip bled profusely as evident from the large concaved portion of his flesh which now showcased his exposed muscle tissue and other internal organs. Minako, while still gripping on to the man's shirt collar with her left hand, forcefully sent the man down to his knees and stared straight into his eyes; her signature red chakra continued to swirl wildly around her body.

"Answer my damn question…unless you want the same thing that happened to your torso to occur on one of your limbs."

The man's sobs of pain prevented him from speaking coherently.

"I'm waiting…"

Minako's cold and demanding voice sent a chill down the man's spine. Despite his attempts to give the blonde what she wanted the lingering pain from the severe wound on his side continued to inhibit his speech skills.

"Reiji-sama…p-p-p…"

Minako rolled her eyes at his incomplete answer. In the blink of an eye, she vanished from her position in front of the man only to reappear behind him. Taking a page out of Sasuke's book, Minako used the man's kneeling position to her advantage by grabbing both of the man's arms and raising them upwards to about shoulder height. In a simultaneous fashion, she raised her left foot and placed it flat on the upper part of the man's back (5). The man let out a grunt of surprise at the lightning-quick position change.

"I will give you one last chance to give me what I want. Otherwise," Minako increased the downward pressure on her foot, "you can say goodbye to your arms. And trust me…I will know when you're lying."

Minako continued with her ministrations by gradually pulling back on the man's arms in conjunction with the pushing motion of her foot. Knowing that there was no other way to get out of this predicament unless he met the blonde's demands, the rogue earth ninja finally caved in. As the rogue earth ninja felt the beginnings of his shoulder joints sliding out of their respective sockets, he mustered what was left of his strength and spoke through the searing pain in his body with fevered shouts.

"Reiji-sama prophesied that the Enchantress would once again walk the earth by being reincarnated into her only living descendant! The rebirth of her soul would only occur if the balance between Earth and Hell shifted into Hell's favour! H-he…He is very well informed about the Legend of the Enchantress and he desires to make you his Queen! He is captivated by your beauty!"

Minako added more pressure to his back.

"How can this son of a bi*** be captivated by my beauty if we haven't even met yet?"

The man let out a whimper of pain.

"H-he has been sending out spies to track and observe you! Capture you, if possible! Your p-physical appearance is virtually identical to all of the illustrations on the Enchantress that have ever been conceived by artists!"

Minako took a few moments to process all that she had heard, "So…he predicted Michiko's rebirth, huh?"

"Y-yes…"

"And all he wants to do is make me his," Minako shuddered at the thought, "his bride?"

The man nodded, "A-at least, that's what I've been told…"

Minako released the man's arms before kicking him in the back, sending him face first in the ground with a dull thud.

"Go back and tell your boss that if he wants me so badly then he will need to man up and come get me for himself. The nerve of him, hiding behind his henchmen like a coward."

The earth ninja struggled to stand up.

"I'll spare your life tonight. However," Minako speed walked towards the fallen man and forcefully yanked off the ring on his left hand, "this will be the spoil of my victory."

The blonde placed the engraved ring, which read "Bird," on her left middle finger.

"Now get out of my sight."

As the man vanished in a cloud of smoke, Minako's once animalistic nature began to calm down. Her eyes reverted back to their original blue hue, her nails shortened back to their normal length, the whisker markings on her cheeks had disappeared, and the Kyuubi's blood red chakra retreated back into her body.

"Koki…"

Minako made her way back to Aoitama Island and knelt down next to the white fox pup who was sprawled out on the ground with closed eyes.

"Come on little guy. Speak to me."

Koki slowly opened his eyes and saw the concerned face of his master.

"Mina…"

Minako slowly picked up the injured fox pup and gently cradled him in her arms.

"Where does it hurt?"

"M-my ribs…"

Minako felt around Koki's rib cage to which the fox pup whimpered when her fingers came into contact with a particularly sensitive spot.

"Nothing feels broken but I can definitely tell that something has been fractured."

Minako channelled some of her chakra into one of her hands.

"Don't move too much. This won't take long."

Minako used her medic-nin skills to heal her animal companion. The warm sensation of his master's chakra was comforting. Within a matter of minutes, the sharp pains which littered the entire right side of Koki's body ebbed away to a dull ache.

"Thank you, Naruto…"

Despite saying her original name, Minako smiled back.

"You're welcome, Koki."

The healing process subsequently caused the fox pup to fall asleep in her arms.

"Minako!"

The blonde turned her head towards the sound of the voice. Gaara was making his way across the surface of the water towards her standing form.

"Did you manage to catch whoever that other individual was?"

Gaara shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. He did however leave this behind."

The red-head opened up his hand and revealed the second ring that she saw in her vision when she peered into the mind of her previous opponent. This was the ring that had the word "Flower" engraved onto the surface. When Minako attempted to retrieve the accessory from her friend's hand, Gaara's eyes were directed to the nearly identical ring that shone from the blonde's left middle finger.

"Did that one belong to our first captive?"

"Yeah," Minako didn't hesitate to put the second ring on her left index finger, "turns out that he was an earth manipulator. Feigning helplessness when you first imprisoned him was just a ruse to get you out of the picture and leave me alone with him. Put up one hell of a fight though. The scumbag intentionally injured Koki in the process."

Gaara snuck a glance at the sleeping fox pup in the blonde's arms.

"Is he going to be alright?"

Minako nodded, "Yeah. He'll be a little sore for the next few days but he'll be just fine."

Gaara did a quick scan of Aoitama Island. While the stone tablet and Sakura Tree remained intact, select sections of the island's land mass were littered with mini craters.

"I set him free. I was seriously tempted to kill him however I managed to squeeze out some very interesting information from him when I had the upper hand."

The news piqued Gaara's curiosity.

"Information?"

"Yeah. You know that highly wanted international crime lord, Takatori Reiji, right?," Gaara nodded in agreement, "Well it turns out that the faceless creep somehow foretold Michiko's reincarnation and that he now wants to make me his wife or something."

"His wife?"

Minako shrugged. "I don't know. I'm guessing the guy has some sick fascination with the Enchantress Legend or something."

"Still though…someone predicted that this would happen to you?"

Minako's previously irritated mood sobered down a little.

"Well at least that's what our first guy told me. And furthermore," Minako gazed down at Koki's peacefully sleeping form, "it also seems as though that my bloodline…could possibly be traced back to Michiko herself."

Gaara's eyes widened in surprise. "How is that possible? Until now, the Enchantress was only ever viewed as a mythological character. And none of the tales ever mentioned that she bore any children."

Minako shook her head in disbelief.

"Apparently the guy said that 'the Enchantress would once again walk the earth by being reincarnated into her only living descendant.' How else could that be interpreted?"

The pair spent a few moments in silence before Minako spoke up again.

"Things just keep getting weirder and weirder."

"Look, it's incredibly late and your team is to depart for Konoha in a couple of hours. With everything that has happened, the best advice that I can give to you now would be to get some rest and to not dwell on it for some time. Give both your mind and your emotions the chance to recover from the all of this chaos and confusion."

Minako looked back at Gaara with a soft smile.

"You know what? You're right. What I need to do for the next little while is just take a step back from it all and use my downtime to reflect and process all of this…this…whatever you can call it."

Gaara nodded.

"Right. However, please keep me in correspondence with anything new that comes your way about your 'situation.' I will be here as a resource for you and provide you with assistance in any way that I can."

Minako shared yet another smile to Gaara once again.

"Thanks, Gaara. You're a true friend."

"Same to you, Naruto."

—†—

"YOU FOOL! You were supposed to CAPTURE the girl and BRING HER BACK TO ME! Not divulge my plans to her while she threatened to cripple you!"

"F-forgive me Reiji-sama…but the power of the Kyuubi no Kitsune's chakra gave her the upper hand. I almost had her until the demon within her awakened."

"Grrr…And Kamatsu has been killed by the Kazekage so he's of no further use to me."

"I'm sorry, Reiji-sama…"

"On top of that the two of you also managed to lose your sealing rings during your respective battles."

"I-it wasn't my intention, Reiji-sama!"

"Perhaps not…however, my mirror shard showed me that you in fact had other intentions in mind with the girl apart from the specific instructions that I gave to you."

"R-Reiji-sama…?"

"You know full well that the girl is mine and MINE ALONE! DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?"

"Y-yes, R-reiji-sama! I-I will never disobey your orders again!"

"Of course you won't…because that will be both the first and the last time that you will ever this mistake. Takatori Reiji has no use for double-crossers in his circle."

"W-wait! Reiji-sama! P-please! Give me another chance to prove my loyalty to you!"

"Hell has a marvellous place for traitors like you."

"NO!"

TBC

—†—

A/N: It's been a while since you readers were given a fight scene with Minako as one of the contenders, eh? I thought this chapter would be a nice change of scenery for you guys as her last battle hasn't taken place since Chapter 2 (HOLY EFF!).

I partially censored some of the swear words in my story because I think stories get flagged by the admins if they have actually written swears in them – like the hardcore ones. I didn't want to risk it. Not with this chapter.

I'll be putting a minimum 5 review quota on this chapter before I post Chapter 18. Why? Mainly for feedback purposes. Not only do I want to know if my story is still interesting enough for you readers to keep coming back but I also want to know what your thoughts were on both Minako's long awaited 2nd in-story fight (among other things) as well on the overall quality of the story. Is the pace too slow/too fast/just right? Am I using an interesting/convoluted mix of different story elements? Am I portraying the characters in a favourable light? Let me know! You guys are my evaluators!

See you all next chapter!

(1) The fictional name that I gave to Michiko's ancient home village, which shares its namesake with the original name of the oasis.

(2) In my story, the Naruto World Capitals are quite young. My justification? I'm assuming that the capitals first became capitals when the very 1st Kage of the respective village was appointed to power, which to me entails the development of the very first form of formal leadership and township governance. And since the actual 1st Kages of any villages were alive only a handful of generations back, I can then assume, based on my logic, that the official ninja capitals are probably not hundreds of years old.

(3) Ninja Art: Fox Leaf Arrowheads:. The original name of one of Renamon's attacks from the Digimon Franchise. The English dubbed version of the Season 3 Digimon Anime renamed the technique as "Diamond Storm."

(4) Earth Release: Earth-Style Wall: This same technique was first used in the Naruto anime by the 3rd Hokage during his battle with Orochimaru.

(5) Seem familiar? Yeah, I myself loved this particular scene in Season 1 of the anime during the Chuunin Exams between Sasuke and Zaku. Suspenseful, Dramatic, AND violent!