Chapter Eighty Four: The Summation
A/N: Just so you all know, this is a very long chapter.
(ROOT Underground Headquarters, Interrogation Room)
"I swear, that's everything I know about the book," cried Shiho, "heck, I even spilled the beans about Uchiha Madara possibly surviving! If you were spying on me the entire time, wouldn't you have learned about my discoveries through mere eavesdropping?"
By this point in the interrogation, she had succumbed to several doses of truth serum, evident by the numerous needle marks on her right forearm. Also, a few fingers on her right hand were broken, clearly as another part of the torture.
"Shiho, don't be such a crybaby," mocked Suzume, who was reclining on her chair and clearly basking in the moment, "I'm doing you a favor by increasing your bone flexibility."
Shiho clearly ignored the ill-humored joke, tightening her face in agony and still feeling the pain in her right hand.
"You look pale and sickly," noted the interrogator, "Haven't been working out, have you? You could probably get a little sun."
Of course, Suzume stopped at the end of her sentence, realizing that she herself had pale skin. She joked, "Then again, who am I to talk?"
And before Suzume could continue talking Shiho to death, the door opened, revealing another ROOT agent.
"Suzume," said Torune, "your role in this is over. You have completed your assigned task; now, Danzo-sama himself wishes to personally participate in the interrogation."
"Ah, but I was having so much fun with our guest!" pouted Suzume, "Besides, can't a teacher do some catching up with her student, let alone her prized protégé?"
"Are you challenging Danzo-sama's orders?" questioned Torune, "There will be consequences for any sort of insubordination."
"Of course not," conceded Suzume, "I suppose I'll have fun with her later."
It was then that Suzume rose up from her chair and left the room, with Shiho completely alone, broken, and aching.
It was then that Shiho decided to think of an idea she had to escape from her chains.
"If I break every bone in my hands and feet, all of my limbs should be able to slip through the chains easily, right?" reasoned Shiho, "it's certainly a preferable alternative to amputation. I'll need a blunt object first."
She then looked for said hypothetical blunt object that could help her in the escape plan; but unfortunately, nothing of use was found.
"Dang it, I'll have to count on Danzo making the mistake of bringing a paperweight into the room," Shiho mumbled lowly.
Her chain of thoughts was then interrupted by Danzo, whose arrival was indicated by the sudden opening and shutting of the door with his cane.
Shiho made brief eye contact with her captor, only to look away in anger and pain.
"I take it you've been enjoying your stay?" inquired Danzo, who maintained a stoic expression.
"Are ill-humored jokes a signature behavior in ROOT?" shot back Shiho, who clearly dodged the question.
"Just answer the question; are you enjoying your stay?"
Shiho slightly relaxed for a moment, saying, "Aside from the obviously itchy chains, I might consider saying yes if you gave me a crossword puzzle and a cup of tea."
To her surprise, Danzo pulled a crossword puzzle book from the belt on his robe, tossing it over on the table. He then added, "As for tea, we're completely out for today. I can arrange for some hot cocoa later, should you prove to be cooperative."
Shiho glanced towards Danzo in suspicion, "For such a stoic man who rarely talks, this sort of hospitality is uncharacteristic of you."
"While I am against long-term emotional attachments," admitted the ROOT leader, "I am not without manners and a personal sense of honor. This is but a basic courtesy."
"Like the courtesy Suzume-sensei showed me?" countered Shiho, "You're not exactly doing a good job of convincing me right now."
"You and I are alike."
Such a response from Danzo startled Shiho.
"I'm being uncharacteristically gentle with you for one primary reason; you remind me of myself at a younger age," said Danzo, "Like you, I didn't like to socialize much with others too; and like you, paperwork back then was a much more preferable option than field experience."
Shiho frowned. "Those are rather shallow reasons to like me; I remain unconvinced."
"There are more reasons I could list," countered Danzo, "But as you can see, I'm on a fast-paced schedule, so I can't spend too much time talking here."
"If you really have so much common ground to empathize with me, you could have stopped Suzume earlier from hurting me."
"You forget yourself, girl. This is still an interrogation defined by my terms, not yours. Suzume got some useful information, but she never really gave you any context to properly answer the questions."
"And you're providing the context?" guessed Shiho, "Brilliant, as if I was in the mood for another lecture."
"None of us at ROOT have your level of skill when it comes to decryption," stated Danzo, "ROOT has always known about the Blood Double's existence all along; it is something we managed to trick Orochimaru into giving to us a few years ago. We suspected that he was responsible for pilfering various kinjutsu which originally belonged to our Shodaime and Nidaime Hokage; thus, we made it our priority to reclaim Konoha's secrets. ROOT is in regular correspondence with Orochimaru under the false pretenses of an alliance; our true goal is to retrieve back the village's stolen information one by one while designing the endgame to be his eventual capture and execution."
"Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer? How cliché…" observed Shiho, who was beginning to feel the itchiness of her handcuffs and the soreness of her ankles.
Danzo seemingly ignored her comment, proceeding to carry on with his explanation.
"Because of our…reputation, we could not directly ask for help from the Cryptology Office without Tsunade knowing about our involvement; she lacks understanding of our bigger picture, so she would be more harm than help to the cause. In essence, we had no legitimate excuse for examining the Blood Double without revealing incriminating details of our staged alliance in the process."
"Thankfully, the favorable opportunity came sooner than expected. After Orochimaru's defeat at the end of the invasion, Naruto asked for help in order to get rid of his fiancé's cursed mark; more specifically, he requested access to Orochimaru's blood and other materials. Once I was informed of his request by my agents, I saw an opportunity and grabbed it."
"I tasked my agents to plant the Blood Double in the S-class archives, where Naruto or some other gullible ANBU would easily find it. Either of them would most likely assume that the Blood Double was left behind by Orochimaru in a previous experiment when he defected from Konoha. Naturally, we anticipated that Naruto would next come to the Cryptology Office for help. It didn't matter whether Mitarashi was cured or not; all we had to do was encourage Naruto into having the Blood Double decrypted for us."
Shiho eyed Danzo suspiciously. "So why are you telling me all this? Why spill your big grand, gambit in all its glory when secrecy seems to be the norm of ROOT?"
"It is I who control the norms and rules of ROOT," responded the war hawk, who tapped his cane for emphasis, "and right now, I'm making an exception for you."
"To what end?"
"To have you understand our perspective and eventually join us in our underground crusade to benefit Konoha. As easy it would be to silence you, even I know that potential talent should never be wasted."
Shiho froze at that response, only to slowly glare at Danzo once she regained her bearings. "Benefit Konoha, or benefit ROOT?"
"Strength for ROOT is strength for every Konoha civilian and shinobi," argued Danzo, "We dive into the darkness, sparing everyone else in the village from having to make these hard, morally-questionable decisions which preserve Konoha's welfare."
Shiho took a few more moments to discern the sincerity of Danzo's words, only to stop in the middle of her thoughts and ask, "Wait, what about Orochimaru's recent invasion? If you've just admitted to working with Orochimaru under false pretenses, does that mean you planned the invasion alongside him? Getting rid of Tsunade-sama and Sandaime-sama would certainly strengthen your presence, wouldn't it?"
"You assume too much," defended Danzo, "I do often disagree with their soft-hearted policies. However, I wouldn't go so far as to recklessly toss away their lives for short-term political power. Challenge their short-sighted authority? Yes, I will concede to that. But I would never betray either of them out of petty spite; I have ways other than murder to achieve my goals."
"Forgive me if I'm not fully convinced," sarcastically replied Shiho, "I'm afraid that I'll have to refuse your offer."
"Your belief doesn't have a say in this matter," bluntly countered Danzo, "ROOT will survive with or without your cooperation. The offer… was merely a courtesy."
He then proceeded to leave the interrogation room, opening and closing the door by himself.
Right outside the room were Fu, Torune, Suzume, and Sai, all of whom were on standby for his next orders.
"Fu, Torune, Suzume. You three are to patrol the outside of this room every five minutes," instructed Danzo, "Sai, on the other hand, will be tasked with keeping an eye on our tenant, making sure she doesn't escape. He could really use the learning experience."
While Fu and Torune just nodded silently, Suzume was quick to throw in her opinion.
"Why not just sedate the poor girl, lobotomize her, and then throw her in a dumpster?" suggested the grinning kunoichi, "She'll just be another mouth to feed if we keep her here for too long."
"I still have hopes that Shiho will eventually see reason to join our cause. But if it comes down to a split decision, sedation is what Sai will do as a last resort if Shiho breaks out of her chains," said Danzo, who then pulled out a vial full of green liquid, nodding to Sai's direction, "Do I make myself clear?"
Sai bowed on one knee. "It shall be done, Danzo-sama."
(In the Cellar of the Safe House)
Goki inquired, "And what wish would that be?"
With a cold tone Naruto answered in the form of a question, "Do you wish for the pain to cease?"
"What pain are you talking about?" asked Kentaro, "All I feel are these ropes, and they're not too bad, ow-"
He was interrupted, as those "ropes" for both captives suddenly went up in a poof, each revealing themselves as an anaconda in disguise.
"I'll only repeat myself once: do you wish for the pain to cease?" The two captives could not answer Naruto's question properly, gasping for air as they struggled against their respective anacondas.
"And don't even bother trying to use ninjutsu or genjutsu to worm your way out of here," warned Naruto, "I applied the chakra containment seals quite thoroughly."
True to his word, there were seals placed on the shoulders of both Kentaro and Goki. Those seals were similar to the design that Anko used for her rope when she earlier tried to get Naruto to "submit" to her, only for the situation to quickly reverse itself.
"What the hell do you want from us, Namikaze bastard?"
"Well, for one, you're going to tell me where each of you were during the nights of the kidnappings, particularly the night when my young orphan friends were kidnapped."
Kentaro growled angrily at the son of his village's most hated enemy. "You think we're scared of you? You may have a hell of a family line, scum, but you're still just a kid!"
Naruto shook his head. "That's certainly not a good way to start things off." He mused. "I guess I'm going to have to break you both first."
With that, the anacondas bit down on Kentaro and Goki. Both men screamed in pain.
"Let's try this again, what do you know about the kidnappings?" Naruto asked.
"Fuck you." Kentaro groaned.
Naruto sighed. These two were perverted idiots but they were tough. Oh well, he was not trained by one of Konoha's best interrogators for nothing.
(Uzumaki Mask Temple, Forest of Death)
"So wait, Tsunade-sama is your granddaughter?" asked Haku, curious for more details, "But you look so youthful…"
"Perks of being a ghost," chuckled Mito, who was reclining in a midair position, "Trust me, I was well advanced in age around the time I died, having passed on the Kyuubi to my successor, Kushina. However, if you prefer my wrinkly form, that can be arranged-"
"No thank you," replied the Hyoton user, who suddenly lowered her head in embarrassment, "Your current form is much appreciated right now."
It was then that Ryota put two and two together once more. "When you said Kushina, you meant Uzumaki Kushina, right?"
"Why yes, it's not as if the Kyuubi could be placed in a non-Uzumaki; amateurs can't be trusted with this sort of serious business."
"Kushina is Naruto's biological mother," stated Ryota, "she died of childbirth around the night of the Kyuubi's attack."
Mito's face suddenly changed, adopting a worried expression. "As much as I don't want to believe that Kushina died; what you just said makes perfect sense; given how vulnerable the Eight Trigrams seal becomes during pregnancy and childbirth."
"Wait a minute," said Haku, "What are you talking about? How could a seal weaken during childbirth?"
Mito blinked and then smiled. "Oh dear," she said, "Perhaps I'm getting a bit too far ahead of myself, hmm?"
Haku and Ryota seemed interested, so they listened intently. "Well," she began, "what I say is true, the Kyuubi's seal does indeed weaken during childbirth. Even mine did when I gave birth to Tsunade's father. I'm lucky that Hashirama-kun had been my husband, otherwise keeping that monster inside would've been so much more difficult. If the Kyuubi really did get free from Kushina and attacked Konoha…Kami, even I would rather not think of it."
Haku and Ryota nodded at this, as they were well aware that the Shodaime had been a master at keeping a Biju under control.
"What does this have to do with Uzumaki Kushina, though?" Ryota asked. "A Jinchuriki dies when his or her Biju is extracted. What makes Kushina any different?"
"Her Uzumaki blood, young one." Mito replied. "We of the Uzumaki clan have powerful Chakra. Chakra that is so vast and so powerful, that we can survive a Biju extraction. Part of the reason why the Senju were so keen on forming an alliance with the Uzumaki was for this very reason. Hashirama-kun was so sweet; he hated the concept of the Jinchuriki, but even he knew that he could not allow the Kyubi to roam free. So, when forced to seal it inside of someone, he turned to the Uzumaki Clan for help. He decided that if he was going to force someone to bear such a horrid burden, it would be someone who could survive a Biju tearing itself from his or her body."
"And it ended up being you?" Ryota interjected.
Mito nodded. "Of course it did," she said, "Hashirama-kun needed someone he could trust to bear this burden. So, he chose me, his wife."
"Kami, to do that to your own wife," Haku shook her head, "I thought I had heard it all when I heard that Yondaime-sama sealed it in Naruto-kun, his own son."
Mito shook her head. "Do not misunderstand, child, I accepted the burden for his sake and the sake of my people, Uzumaki and Senju alike."
"You're quite honorable, Mito-sama." Haku noted.
Mito smiled. "Thank you, child, but I digress at the moment." She said, before pausing for a moment, frowning for a bit, and then coming to a realization. "Wait, did you just say Yondaime-sama? That can only mean that the brat Sarutobi Hiruzen has retired the Hokage position! Just who is this Yondaime?"
"Minato Namikaze," replied Ryota, "master of the Hiraishin and the Rasengan, while possibly the most renowned Hokage yet." We also have him to thank for Naruto-kun's good looks, she thought while secretly blushing.
Mito's face darkened at the mention of "Namikaze." Both Ryota and Haku could detect her bloodlust pouring throughout the temple; even Mito's chakra chains shook violently as if perfectly reflecting her mood.
"Did you just say Namikaze?" yelled the Uzumaki, who glared intensely at Ryota.
"I'm not lying to you; I swear!" Wow, even my former colleagues from Iwa never had this much anger bottled up! Ryota thought with an understandable level of fear.
"Oh, I don't doubt your credibility, child," replied Mito, who controlled her temper before it got any worse, "But if you knew what I knew about the Namikaze clan, you wouldn't be so quick to give your praises to them."
"Well, I'm pretty sure that Minato Namikaze was a hero," said Haku, who adopted a confused expression.
"Minato was but an exception, a golden egg in a clan otherwise filled with liars and thieves," venomously growled Mito, whose chakra flared immensely, "Always take, take, and take. The Namikaze clan as a whole never gave anything back in return to the Uzumaki clan, stealing credit for our blood and sweat even after everything we did to help them. Were it not for Minato-kun's sweet selfless nature and his rescue of Kushina from Kumo, I wouldn't have allowed Kushina to tutor him in the arts of our fuinjutsu, nor would I have allowed Minato-kun to ask for Kushina's hand in marriage. Why I would have-"
"Mito-sama, I've finished rearranging the masks and setting up the ancestor shrine as you have requested," said a masked female who had entered the temple section via sliding door, bowing before Mito, "What is your next order?"
Pausing for a moment, she raised her head and saw Haku and Ryota, reacting immediately. "Intruders!" she hissed, unsheathing the katana she had at her side, "You shall not pass!"
"Stand down, Honoka," instructed Mito, who raised her hand, "These two are our welcomed guests for today, and are not to be harmed." By now, her bloodlust had left the atmosphere of the room entirely.
Seeing the truth in Mito's words, Honoka nodded and sheathed her sword, "If you say so."
Haku and Ryota were indeed caught off guard by the servant's sudden appearance, but kept their composure and observed closely. Though Honoka's face was concealed by a dragon mask, her flowing red hair and white headband was easily visible.
The servant was also wearing a purple, sleeveless kimono with yellow trimmings held together by a traditional obi with a long streaming bow tied to it, mesh armor underneath it and a short white skirt.
Most notable, however, were the chakra chains that were constantly poking out of the servant's backside, moving as if they were tails.
But before they could continue observing, Honoka interrupted their chain of thoughts with an outburst, staring at Haku with wide eyes.
"Mito-sama! This…This chakra!"
"Yes, Honoka, I felt it too the moment she set foot in the temple. Another reason why I have allowed this child in particular to set foot in this temple alive is out of respect for the Yuki clan," Mito revealed.
Now, it was Haku's turn to be surprised as she asked, "You've met my clan? What can you tell me about them?"
"Met them?" responded Mito, "Oh, I did more than just meet them. Child, the Uzumaki clan has been close friends with the Yuki clan for decades!"
"But the Yuki clan was based in Mizu no Kuni while the Uzumaki clan was based in Uzushiogakure," argued Haku, "How did you-?"
"It's a long story," sighed Mito, "It appears I'll have to slow down a bit and make things a bit clearer."
Mito then turned around and faced Honoka. "But before I do so, Honoka, my dear, would you kindly go prepare our guests a hot meal and other refreshments? They look exhausted."
Honoka once again bowed. "It shall done, Mito-sama." She then vacated the premises to complete her task.
"Now, where was I?" grinned Mito, who once again faced Ryota and Haku, "Oh yes, I was about to explain the connection between your clan and mine. Do you remember the Tengu mask you two saw earlier?"
Both girls nodded.
"Masks such as those confer immense power to the users who wear them," Mito explained, "To prevent those powers from falling into the wrong hands, we needed some additional manpower. Keep in mind that the Uzumaki clan's population wasn't exactly impressive to begin with. Anyway, we eventually got the help we were looking for. That help came in the form of a clan almost entirely composed of kunoichi, the Yuki clan."
"So you're saying that my clan served as your bodyguards?" asked Haku.
"In every sense, yes," confirmed Mito, "They also went the extra mile to serve as our maids and chefs; you'd be surprised how scrumptious their dango and ramen is!"
"I'll be sure to let Naruto-kun know you said that," commented Ryota.
"And, if any of our Uzumaki female members were deemed to be infertile, we had a tradition of occasionally enlisting a few Yuki members as temporary mistresses for the husbands," Mito revealed.
Haku blushed at the mention of that particular detail; Mito then frowned, replying, "Don't be so shy; trying producing an heir is always serious business!"
She then continued, "Anyway, once the Yuki clan discovered their ice kekkei genkai, they nicely asked for independence from the Uzumaki clan, claiming that they had a grand destiny to fulfill on their own. Being the grateful, kind souls we are, we granted their wish."
"So that's why my clan was in Mizu no Kuni," realized Haku, "They were immigrants!"
"Exactly," said Mito, "but despite our geographical distance, we made sure to keep in touch with them through letters. This continued communication eventually paid off when I married Hashirama."
"How so?" asked Ryota.
"Well, you see," explained Mito, "Before I gave birth to Tsunade's father, I thought myself to be infertile for quite a while."
"So you repeated tradition once more?"
"Yes indeed," said Mito, "But unlike husbands of previous generations, Hashirama protested against the arrangement. He said that I was good enough for him; he truly was indeed a faithful husband to the very end."
"I'm assuming there's more to the story than that?" surmised Ryota.
"Yes. Though Hashirama-kun agree with the idea at first, I was the one who encouraged him to go through with it," grinned Mito, "After all, why change tradition? Besides, our recreational evening activities were starting to get stale; your ancestor made for a perfect addition during lovemaking."
Once again, both Ryota and Haku blushed heavily.
I'm starting to figure out which side of the family Naruto-kun got his perverted side from, Ryota mentally commented as she remembered the embarrassing outcomes of her two previous fights with Naruto during their days as enemies.
"Just what exactly was my ancestor's name?" asked Haku.
"Yuki Yachiru," answered Mito, "Not only was she Hashirama's assigned consort, she was a dear friend to both of us. After giving birth to her daughter, Nanao, the agreement was considered complete and Yachiru was allowed to return home to Mizu no Kuni. Once I finally overcame my infertility, giving birth to the male heir the Senju and Uzumaki clan needed, Nanao, too, was allowed to return home, where she could be reunited with her mother."
Mito then moved closer to Haku, looking at her face to face.
"You not only have Yachiru's chakra, but you have subtle amounts of my husbands' chakra as well."
Haku gasped, "You mean…"
"Yes, child. You are not just Yachiru's legacy, but also Hashirama-kun's. The two of us may not be related by flesh and blood, but I consider you as family nonetheless."
Mito then inched closer and whispered to Haku, 'Welcome home."
Mito then turned her attention to Ryota. "And you, I sense something rather familiar in you as well."
Ryota briefly forgot about her anxiousness concerning Kushina Uzumaki. "What are you talking about?"
"I am a sensor, child," Mito reminded her, "I'm also one of the best. I can sense just about anything, including the incredibly rare Kekkei Tota."
Ryota's eyes widened at this. "A Kekkei Tota?" She asked. "I have a Kekkei Tota?"
Mito nodded. "You have a similar chakra signature to the Nidaime Tsuchikage, Mu." She told her.
Ryota almost fell backwards. She had a connection to the Nidaime? The man who was hailed as the strongest Tsuchikage was connected to her.
"Does that mean…" Ryota began.
"You have the Dust Release, just like the Nidaime Tsuchikage." Mito told her.
"Kami," Ryota said quietly, "I have Dust Release."
"Judging by your surprise, I'm going to say that you are distantly related to him." Said Mito
As amazing as this was for Ryota, she was starting to get anxious to hear what Mito had to say concerning Naruto's mother. "Returning to our earlier topic, why are you so suspicious about Kushina Uzumaki's fate?" Ryota asked.
"As I've mentioned before, the Kyuubi's seal weakens during childbirth. Because of the strain birthing a child it puts on a woman's body, the seal weakens."
Great, Ryota thought, giving birth is painful enough to weaken a seal strong enough to hold back the Kyuubi. That certainly makes me look forward to having Naruto-kun's children. What was also certain was the sarcastic tone of her last sentence. But then again, I'm not a Jinchuuriki, so I really shouldn't have to worry about such an ordeal happening to me.
"If the seal weakens during childbirth, then why was the Kyuubi sealed inside of Kushina Uzumaki in the first place, and inside of you for that matter." Said Haku.
"As I've mentioned before, Hashirama needed someone he could trust to hold the Kyuubi. Naturally I was that person." said Mito.
"But what about Kushina?" Ryoata inquired.
"I'm sure you're all aware of the destruction of Uzushiogakure?" Mito answered.
Ryota and Haku nodded. "After that incident, myself and Kushina were the last of the Uzumaki. There was no other choice but to use Kushina as the second Jinchuriki for the Kyuubi. The poor thing, she shouldn't have been forced to carry such a burden." Mito said sadly.
"Back to what I was saying earlier," Mito continued, "even if the seal weakens during childbirth, she is still an Uzumaki," Mito said with a hint of pride, "and one of the strongest ones at that. I met Kushina a long time ago. She radiated power, even when she was in emotional distress over her fate of being the Kyuubi's next Jinchuriki. I simply have a hard time believing she died in childbirth unless she was dealing with an illness of sorts that weakened her body."
Haku and Ryota both made mental notes to check Kushina's medical records when they returned to Konoha.
"Out of curiosity, Mito-sama, what exactly is your theory concerning Kushina's fate?" Haku asked.
Mito sighed. "Obviously you didn't have a resident seal master with you at the time of Kushina's birth, otherwise the Kyuubi would never have escaped."
"But Minato was a seal master!" Ryota interjected. "And I know for a fact that he was present when Kushina was giving birth! What kind of parent wouldn't be present for the birth of their child?"
Mito nodded in agreement at this. However, she still looked disturbed.
"If Yondaime was present and the Kyuubi still escaped, then there may be more to the story then what you already know."
Haku and Ryota's eyes widened when they heard this. Naruto would definitely want to hear this when they returned.
"If you have any ideas," Ryota said with a serious gaze, "then by all means, share them."
Haku looked at Ryota, surprised at how demanding she was.
"If there is any information that you have that might give Naruto-kun answers concerning his mother, then I want to hear them. As one of his lovers, it is my responsibility to gain that information." Ryota said with conviction though she wasn't physically intimate with Naruto yet.
Mito looked at the former Iwa kunoichi and smiled, "You truly do love Kushina's son. My husband had always wanted peace with Iwa and the other shinobi nations rather than war. Seeing such faithful devotion you have towards my young Uzumaki clansman give me some reassurance that perhaps Hashirama-kun's dreams may one day happen. I'll tell you both what I know about Kushina."
(Namikaze Mansion, Konoha)
Anko Mitarashi downed another bottle of sake as she regaled her sexual escapades with Naruto to her fellow 'Namikaze Five' who were present at the moment. Ino Yamanaka and Temari were both red-faced as Anko didn't spare a single detail.
When Naruto had been with them and Hinata, he had been loving and gentle. It was the type of first time girls were supposed to have. But when Naruto was with Anko, there was nothing gentle about it. It was like a freaky bondage scene you would see in Jiraiya's Icha Icha Pain, which was arguably his best book for fetish-lovers.
While Anko continued telling her story, she failed to notice that Ino and Temari were no longer listening to her. They were instead whispering to one another.
"I can't believe Naruto-kun would do that kind of stuff to…" Ino could not finish, she was turning even redder just thinking about it.
Sure, the girls had a wonderful time with Naruto, but they were still young. When combining that youth with the fact that they now have a rather intimate knowledge of how he could behave in bed if he wanted to, it was no wonder they were so embarrassed.
"You sound surprised," Temari said back, "this is Anko we're talking about."
Ino looked at Anko, who was going on and on how Naruto had 'dominated' her and 'pounded her into submission'. "Yeah," she said, "I guess you're right."
Ino's blush deepened even more at the thought of Naruto doing the same to her. Temari, however, was thinking something completely different, A battle for dominance, huh? I wonder what it would take to get Naruto-kun to try something like that with me?
(In the Cellar of the Safe House)
Pain was all they felt at the moment. Kentaro and Goki whimpered in pain as they watched their tormentor step back. Naruto looked at them both with annoyance and disdain. Hours of interrogation and neither of these perverted idiots had broken.
"If you want this to end, gentleman," Naruto said, now losing his patience, "all you have to do is tell me what I want to know about the kidnappings."
"And we've already told you we don't know anything!" Goki shouted, desperately hoping that this time he would believe them and let them go.
"Wrong answer," said Naruto.
"Why are you so insistent on finding those brats?" Kentaro asked. "They're just a bunch of kids with no parents, nobody will miss them!"
"That sounds like a confession." Naruto pointed out.
"It's not!" Goki shouted frantically. "We've already told you where we were on the nights of the kidnappings. We were out like usual."
"Yes, in the Red Light District." Said Naruto. "Even the self-proclaimed super-pervert doesn't spend that much time in the Red Light District."
Naruto could hardly believe it, in fact. He had found two guys who were just as, if not more, perverted than Jiraiya himself.
"Listen gentleman," said Naruto, "there must be some minor detail you're not telling me. Tell me everything and I'll put the pieces together and then let you go."
"Bullshit!" Kentaro screamed. "Like we'd believe some Namikaze-scum like you!"
Naruto chuckled. "That's fine, you don't have to believe me. Just like I don't have to stop doing this to you."
The anacondas started biting into Kentaro and Goki once again. "I've been injecting you fools with minor amounts of venom little by little," Naruto explained as he held a syringe in hand, "if we keep this up, you'll die. So answer this question before we continue: What's more important, your hatred of me and my father, or your lives?"
It was then that Goki finally cracked. "Okay, we'll tell you everything about the night those five kids were captured again."
"Good to hear. This time, spare no details," Naruto warned.
"We were both heading to the Red Light District as usual." Goki began. "We had both planned on catching some and then calling it a night. On the way there, we ran into Ni Ketsueki…"
Naruto's eyes widened at this. "Ni Ketsueki, the Iwa Kunoichi?" he interjected.
Finally, some relevant information on her impostor, the Namikaze thought to himself.
"Yes," Goki continued, "she asked us where we were going. We felt embarrassed about telling a kunoichi what we were doing so we lied and said we were getting drinks."
"Yeah, and out of courtesy you asked what she was doing." Kentaro interjected. "We shouldn't have stayed to chat that long, Goki."
"Well, yeah, but if we just ran off she would still be suspicious of us." Goki defend himself.
"Enough commentary," Naruto cut in sharply, "what happened next?"
"Well, she answered that she was going for a walk to clear her head."
"What direction did she go in?" Naruto, who thought to himself privately, "This could be a clue as to the replacement hideout where the impostor is hiding Tsukiiwa and the other children!"
Goki thought it over. "I don't know," he said honestly.
Naruto silently cursed at the lack of progress, but maintained his composure.
"Did she say anything else?" he asked.
"She was asking about the recent kidnappings before the last one happened." Goki answered. "She was wondering if we had heard anything."
"Why would she ask you two?" Naruto asked. "As far as I know, nobody in Iwa seems to be interested in finding those children."
"That may be true, but some people are at least keeping a lookout for leads." Goki admitted. "I think she assumed that we were one of those people."
Naruto had a lot to think about. Clearly, this impostor had to keep up appearances in order to convince everyone that Ni Ketsueki was still alive.
Furthermore, Naruto continued, is it possible that the real Ni Ketsueki was interested in the recent kidnappings? If she was one of the primary investigators, it's possible that she came close to the truth before getting killed by the culprit for knowing too much.
This interrogation, while long and arduous, had proven to be quite beneficial to Naruto. "Thank you very much, gentleman, you have been very helpful in my investigation."
"Okay, Namikaze, you've got your info. Are you gonna let us go now?" Kentaro asked guardedly.
Naruto nodded. "Of course I will, I am a man of my word after all. That being said, I can't have you two telling the Tsuchikage that I was interrogating his men. It would ruin everything I've been doing here in Iwa."
"We won't tell anyone if that's what you're saying." Goki quickly spoke, fearing for his life again.
Naruto smirked. "You're right, you won't," he replied. He then proceeded to touch Kentaro and Goki's pressure points, sending them into a deep sleep.
Releasing the anacondas from the two, Naruto sighed and said, "Now, to handle Keisuke."
(Room in Konoha Intelligence Department)
Tsunade grimly looked at the scene before her. This particular room in the Intelligence Department had been completely ransacked. Not only that, but Shiho was apparently nowhere to be seen in Konoha. Tsunade clutched her head, feeling a headache coming on.
First Naru-chan decides to stay even longer in Iwa of all places and now this. She mentally groaned. I'm gonna need a dozen bottles of sake when this is over.
"Tsunade-sama." The head ANBU investigating the scene walked up to her.
"What is it, Okami?" Tsunade asked the wolf-masked man.
"Well, my Lady, we've searched everywhere." said Okami.
"And?" Tsunade urged the ANBU on. "Are there any leads concerning Shiho's whereabouts?"
"Well," Okami looked grim, "all evidence points to Oto, Tsunade-Sama."
Tsunade wanted to slam her fist into the wall when she heard this. "Damn that snake-bastard!" She screamed. "I swear, he's incapable of giving us a moment's peace!"
Okami backed away, trying to save himself from Tsunade's anger. "Deliver this message to the ANBU Commander, Okami!" Tsunade ordered. "I want eight squads of ANBU heading in the eight directions they could have gone."
"Eight, Tsunade-Sama?" Okami repeated. "But wouldn't they have just left for Oto?"
"Oto is a possibility," Tsunade told him, "but Orochimaru had a plethora of hideouts. Whoever's running that hellhole now must've been close enough to him to know where his hideouts were."
"We have to be thorough, Okami, make sure the commander understands that."
Okami vanished in a swirl of leaves. "Are you sure sending eight squads of ANBU is a good idea, Tsunade-Sama?" Shizune asked, overhearing the conversation.
Tsunade nodded. "Shiho is a part of the Cryptology Team, a subdivision of the Intelligence Department," she reminded her first apprentice, "because of that, she is carrying vital information on Konoha. Getting her back is of the utmost importance."
Shizune nodded in understanding. Tsunade rubbed her temples once more. Why does this stuff always happen when Naru-chan isn't around, she thought, first the Uchiha-gaki defects, and now this.
(Unknown location in Tsuchi no Kuni)
The black robes fluttered in the wind. The red clouds on display for all the world to see. A blue haired woman lifted up her straw hat and looked around with an emotionless look on her face, making sure that nobody was nearby.
Konan had been rather surprised when Onoki had contacted the Akatsuki and hired them to find those kidnapped children. She had also been rather miffed that she had been sent on this mission instead of someone else. She was the Angel of Amegakure after all; she had a duty to her village!
It did not help that the other members of the Akatsuki were out on their own assignments. The so-called Immortal Pair were out gathering bounties to fund future Akatsuki endeavors; Deidara and Sasori were out checking Sasori's spy network and adding more spies as well, much to Deidara's annoyance she might add.
She smirked slightly, remembering that Sasori had to drag the screaming Deidara away from his 'art appreciation time'. The resident spymaster was busy looking into the whereabouts of the other Jinchuriki.
Finally, Itachi and Kisame were busy keeping tabs on that damnable organization from Konoha, ROOT.
Of course, Pein would have called at least one of them back and send them on this mission instead of her, had that man not insisted that she go on this mission.
"Konan needs to prove her worth to this organization; send her on this mission." He had said.
It cannot be helped, Konan thought even though she was still annoyed, I will complete my assignment. But I will complete it for Pein, not for him.
Perhaps while she was at it she could look into tracking down the Kyuubi Jinchuriki. Even though he was Itachi's target, she seriously doubted Itachi would care. The man did not seem to care about anything other than the organization and its success, something she could respect.
Konan then transformed into many sheets of paper. Each sheet of paper floated into the wind in various directions. Konan was probably the second best in gathering information behind Zetsu himself. It was this particular jutsu that was the reason behind it.
One sheet of paper in particular soon found itself in an area that had the chakra signature of a very familiar, and very detestable man. The papers soon converged onto this location and reformed into a scowling Konan.
"Orochimaru," the lone female of the Akatsuki spoke his name with venom, "what is that traitor doing here? Isn't he supposed to be dead?"
Konan looked around. "If his chakra signature was here at some point, one of my other sheets should've been able to pick it up in another spot. The trail could not have gone cold already."
Konan narrowed her eyes in frustration. "How is he even alive in the first place? Didn't the Kyuubi Jinchuriki kill him?"
Calming herself, Konan attempted to think up a reason why Orochimaru's chakra signature was only in one place. She then noticed how it was much weaker on the ground than when she had been in the air. Konan looked up into the sky.
"He couldn't be…," Konan said in awe, "…there's just no way."
Konan transformed into paper again and floated up into the sky.
The papers then came across a giant landmass above the clouds. Clearly, Orochimaru had an airborne fortress in the sky.
It was a large place. Konan floated around the large mass to see what it was like. It was patrolled by numerous flying shinobi with machine gliders, and dead in the middle of the place was a temple of sorts.
Konan floated back down to earth and reformed, scowling once again. "So that traitorous snake is alive and here of all places."
Konan narrowed her eyes in anger. "Him being here can't be a coincidence. He must be involved in the kidnappings of these children. He's not seriously thinking of using them in that detestable Edo Tensei of his, is he?"
Konan clenched her fists with uncharacteristic anger. "If he does, I'll personally cut his head off."
It was an empty threat and Konan knew that. She was certainly strong, being Pein's partner after all, but among the Akatsuki, only Pein and Itachi are capable of taking down that snake. Outside of the Akatsuki, however…
"Perhaps it is time I see just what it is about the Kyuubi Jinchuriki that has Itachi so…wary."
"Talking to yourself is a sign of madness, you know."
Konan frowned as a familiar face emerged from the ground. "Zetsu, always a pleasure." She said, even though her tone said otherwise.
Zetsu laughed. "Don't be so unwelcoming, we are comrades after all. What are you doing here, anyway? Shouldn't you be in Ame with Leader-Sama?"
Konan shook her head. "Haven't you heard? We have been given an assignment to find kidnapped orphans by Onoki, the former Tsuchikage. It appears he doesn't trust someone else who's conducting his own investigation on the manner."
"Ah, so this is what the Akatsuki has become, mere babysitters. Shut up, a job's a job."
"What are you doing here, Zetsu? Shouldn't you be looking for the Jinchuriki?"
Konan never trusted this…thing. Perhaps it was because he was always hanging around that man.
"We're simply taking a break. The Yonbi is a bit harder to find than we anticipated. Kisame better appreciate us finding him."
"Well, your break's over, I'm giving you a new assignment as second-in-command of the Akatsuki."
"You flaunt your role too much, Konan. Keep in mind that there are limits."
Konan glared at Zetsu. "I want you to track down the Kyuubi Jinchuriki for me."
"Ah, taking Itachi's target from him, eh? Who are you kidding? Itachi won't care."
"I'm not interested in capturing him yet," said Konan, "I've discovered that Orochimaru is alive. I think he might be holding the orphans captive."
"Heh, I knew Orochimaru liked little boys but to go this far…shut up! So what do you want us to do?"
"Find Naruto and give me his location." Konan ordered. "I'm not strong enough to fight Orochimaru, but he is."
Zetsu smirked. "Do you really think he'll help you? I'm pretty sure that Itachi made it clear he hates our organization."
"I think you're overlooking a significant detail," smirked Konan.
"Oh, and what is it?"
"He doesn't know yet that I'm part of Akatsuki; I can keep up my facade as a mere bounty hunter. It's simply a matter of knowing what buttons to push. Besides, I saved the life of the Kyuubi Jinchuriki's female comrade at the club, so he has no reason to distrust me yet."
Zetsu found himself impressed by Konan's simple yet practical plan. "You're playing a dangerous game, origami girl. But I must say, you truly live up to the title of second-in-command quite nicely! Have fun!"
He then burrowed underground, beginning his mission while Konan set out to make her next move.
(Naruto's Safe House)
"You little brats," Keisuke growled, "do you really think strong-arming me with threats is going to do anything?"
Currently the Jounin was tied down to the armed chair with his arms tied to the armrests. All he had on was his boxers.
The Konoha team had been interrogating Keisuke for hours now with little to no success. It had quickly become, as Shikamaru had put it 'troublesome.' Their lack of success was especially starting to wear down Kiba, who was literally at the end of his rope with Keisuke and his stubbornness.
Kiba made this clear when he flexed his claws at Keisuke. "You're starting to piss me off, fucker." Kiba growled at their captive. "Now tell us everything you know and I won't leave a scar across your face."
Keisuke smirked and spat in Kiba's face. "You little shit," he said defiantly, "you really don't know what you're doing, huh?"
"Why you…" Kiba grabbed Keisuke.
"Stop it Kiba!" Neji ordered.
Kiba growled at Keisuke but restrained himself. "What a bunch of fucking brats," Keisuke said disdainfully, "honestly, is this your first interrogation? You guys suck at it. I don't know what Konoha is teaching you these days, but it's obviously not working."
Keisuke looked at Shikamaru. "You're a lazy ass who couldn't intimidate a four year old."
Then at Tenten. "You look like a fucking mouse with that hairstyle."
He paused for a moment and grinned. "However, you know how to give one hell of a massage and hula dance, so I'm not going to hold anything against you."
Tenten was fuming at Keisuke's comment on her hairstyle as Keisuke turned his attention to Lee. "And what the fuck are you? Seriously, what?"
Next was Shino. "Aburame, right? You aren't going to scare anyone with a bunch of bugs, kid."
Next up was Choji. "You couldn't scare anyone unless you were stuffing your face in front of them."
Neji received a verbal lashing next. "You, well, you're actually the most intimidating, it's a shame you can't do jack shit other than glare at me."
Finally, Keisuke turned to Kiba. "And you, you're the worst of them all. Just a little gaki who acts tough but doesn't know what he's doing."
"Maybe I really don't," admitted Kiba, "but at least it's better than what you did. You're the one who raped Ni Ketsueki."
Keisuke surprised everyone by grinning. "Don't change the subject, you little shit. Just admit it, you don't have the balls for this interrogation, you don't even have the balls to get a girlfriend! Admit it, I'm right on both accounts!"
Kiba's first instinct was to scratch out Keisuke's eyes, but that anger was soon overridden by a deep feeling of self-loathing. Lowering his head in shame, Kiba silently cursed himself, thinking, "Damn it; this guy does have a point about the second part; I haven't really had the courage to directly ask Haku out on a date."
He further recalled Hana's earlier advice on how to handle his bottled up feelings for Haku.
"But if she's not interested in you in that way, swallow your hurt and respect her decision as hard it may be."
Also recalling how enticing Tenten's seductress persona was on the business card he saw earlier, Kiba blushed and thought, "No matter how many other fish there are in the sea, I'm sticking with Haku as my choice! But Haku isn't going to wait for me forever; I better find out if she feels the same way immediately after we get back to Konoha. I can't leave this issue buried forever."
Meanwhile, Keisuke observed Kiba's silence and smirked, saying, "You don't even the balls to make a witty comeback."
"Kiba doesn't need to tell you anything at all," interrupted Naruto, who made his presence known in the room by appearing at the Hiraishin marker on Keisuke's chair, holding a glass cup filled with what looked like water.
Coming closer, he inched closer to Keisuke's ear and smirked, whispering, "You on the other hand…will confess to your crimes."
"What crimes?" calmly asked Keisuke, who feigned an innocent demeanor in contrast to his earlier foul language.
It was clear that Keisuke was trying to push Naruto's buttons like he did with Kiba earlier; however…
"Are you comfortable, Keisuke?" responded Naruto.
Keisuke was caught off guard by the unexpected reply. "What kind of stupid question is that?" he growled.
"Keisuke, I only asked if you were comfortable seeing that you're a "guest" in this house," Naruto politely replied as he brought a small table over to Keisuke's location and then a chair. Naruto placed his glass cup down on the table and then sat on the chair in front of Keisuke.
"My subordinate Chuunin and Genins have been keeping you company and giving you a measure of entertainment during your stay here before my return as I instructed them to," Naruto said just as politely.
"Hn," Keisuke grunted, "Is that a joke? Your idea of humor is as impotent as an erectile dysfunction if you're trying to get a rise out of me."
Naruto smiled and said, "Well, I do pride myself in skillfully training my studious Genin in sensual arts and becoming every man's fantasy."
"I only wished to strengthen the passionate flames of my alluring youth Naruto-sama," Tenten replied in her Moteki no Pando-ko-chan persona.
Shikamaru and the other boys present looked at Tenten with a surprised expression. Rather than blushing, Tenten gave them a confident smile and replied, "Oh don't look at me like I'm the center of attention now. We have our guest here to cater to as Naruto-sama said."
"We do indeed," Naruto agreed, "And as the main host, I'm inclined to entertain you with some motivational activities that'll move you to answer a couple of questions I'll be asking of you."
He got out of his chair, paced around for a few steps, and then moved closer to Keisuke, staring at him face to face.
"And should you find yourself to be uncooperative for all," Naruto continued, "You will become the one without any balls at all."
Kiba and Chouji could only snicker in response, being somewhat glad that Keisuke was the one now on the receiving end of his own insult.
Shikamaru, Neji, and Shino remained stoic as ever; but as for Tenten, she found it very hard to hold in her laughter.
Ignoring such laughter, Keisuke turned his attention to Naruto and growled. "Namikaze scum…So, you finally decided to stop hiding behind your team of amateurs and weaklings?"
"Actually, I was just finished questioning your two friends," explaining the Namikaze, who walked for a bit until sitting on the table across Keisuke, "I was initially under the impression that they were your accomplices, but from what I learned, they're nothing more than hapless perverts."
Keisuke raised an eyebrow. "Kentaro and Goki?" He inquired before laughing. "Shit, those two could never help me with anything."
"So I have discovered." Naruto admitted. "But you, nothing is going to save you from me. You may be appear to be a simple pervert and nothing more, but we know the bigger picture: we know about your involvement in Ni Ketsueki's death and the disappearance of those orphans."
Keisuke feigned innocence again. "Really? And why would I, an innocent shinobi of Iwa, participate in such horrific crimes?"
"Well, there could be a lot of reasons, Keisuke." Naruto replied. "One of the biggest reasons is greed. It's rather simple, really; you sold out Ketsueki and those orphans because you were greedy."
"Bullshit," Keisuke spat, "I didn't do anything."
Naruto smirked and moved the Hiraishin Kunai to Keisuke's groin. "I said that you would be without balls if you were uncooperative, and I never go back on my word. Are you sure you want that to be your final answer, Keisuke?"
Everyone's eyes widened in shock when they realized Naruto would make good on his threat. Kiba and Choji gulped and moved their hands over their groin. Tenten blushed hotly. Lee turned away and was muttering things along the lines of 'un-youthful'. Even Shino and Neji seemed uncomfortable with this.
Keisuke was sweating. However, he still kept his cool. "You don't have the guts, Namikaze scum!"
Naruto smiled evilly. "Then say goodbye to your two best friends, Keisuke."
In one fluid motion, fabric was cut through. Keisuke screamed in pain as blood started to pool around his groin. All the men present, minus Naruto, groaned and looked at Keisuke sympathetically.
"I left your twig because I still need a 'bargaining chip', so to speak. Now answer my questions before I cut that off and let you bleed to death!"
"Whatever you want, you won't get out of me prick!" Keisuke spat.
Naruto sighed in frustration. Turning to the others, Naruto suggested, "You guys might want to leave. I doubt you'll want to be here to see what happens next."
"Please Naruto, after seeing you slaughter armies of ninjas, what can you possibly do that can be even worse?" Kiba replied as if speaking for everyone.
Naruto simply shrugged and then pulled out from his pocket a small suction tube. He placed the bottom part of the suction tube into the glass cup and squeezed the top of the head of the tube and sucked into the tube some of what looked to be water from the cup.
"You're going to squirt water at me now?" Keisuke mocked. Naruto smiled brightly as he moved his right hand holding the suction tube up over the chair Keisuke was sitting on. He squeezed a small drop of the fluid from the tube and down onto the wooden chair between Keisuke's legs. When the drop hit the seat however, it started smoking and sizzling through the wooden as it dissolved its way down through the seat and onto the floor as it continued smoking with a sizzling noise.
"What the hell!" Keisuke yelled. Kiba and Akamaru covered their noses to keep from smelling the pungent smell from the smoke.
"Hydrochloric acid," Naruto clarified, "It's one of the strongest known corrosive acids, and this concentrated form of that acid is strong enough to melt your bones in under a minute. But the pain with each drop will feel like an eternity."
Despite the situation, Keisuke still held a strong front. The others though thought Naruto was trying to intimidate the man into talking since they never witnessed his methods of interrogation before.
"You Namikaze trash!" Keisuke retorted, "If this is to serve to intimidate me then you're just as useless as the rest of the pack of punkass Genin you're leading along with that lazy ass over there."
Naruto move his hand from over the chair and squeezed two drops of hydrochloric acid down onto Keisuke's left foot. The reaction from the impact of those drops were instantaneous as Keisuke's screams was heard by everyone as he rocked and shook back and forth on the chair he was tied down on. The drops dissolved through his foot to the floor and the damage done was clearly visible to the others present as the horrid smell of dissolved human flesh and blood was now present.
Lee looked sick and backed away not wanting to witness Naruto's cruelty further.
Neji cringed but held himself together.
Tenten looked horrified while seeing a darker side of Naruto she never saw before.
Chouji looked green and had to hold his stomach in from wanting to vomit.
Shikamaru was shock also but he when considered who Naruto's Jounin-sensei now turned girlfriend/lover was, it was clear that Anko would have eventually trained him in interrogation methods.
Kiba had a look of shock and disgust after seeing what Naruto did to Keisuke's left foot.
Shino outwardly looked as stoic as before but inside he was just as disturbed as the others.
"Now," Naruto suggested calmly, "let's get this game of mine started, and if you answer me honestly you'll live the rest of your remaining days with limbs that weren't melted."
There was no bloodlust present with Naruto's demeanor and his tone carried no sense of malice or cruelty. His expression was hard to read and that added to the fear everyone in the room now felt towards him after he took over the interrogation.
"It's such irony how your people hate and fear me for my background and heritage; and yet, within their own society they have people like you who would betray them to my village's worst traitors," Naruto remarked, "Now tell me, please, what moved you rape and murder Ni Ketsueki?"
The excruciating pain Keisuke was suffering from was clearly seen through his distorted and cringing expression.
"N-Ni...iwa...aishi," Keisuke made out through his strained voice.
"What?" Naruto asked.
"Her real name...is Niwaishi," Keisuke clarified.
"That's news to me," Naruto said, "Continue."
"Niwaishi heard about the kidnappings of those children going on through Tsuchi no Kuni but because they were mostly orphans from no prestigious clan or family...not much effort was put into finding them. But Niwaishi was an exception and she went under her alias...Ni Ketsueki in order to find those children."
"Why the name Ni Ketsueki?" Naruto asked, "Why not her real name?"
"The hell should I know," Keisuke barked. Naruto squeezed another drop of acid, this time on Keisuke's right foot. The traitorous Iwa Jounin screamed from the severe pain as Shikamaru and the other Konoha Genins watched.
"Does that serve to jog your memories?" Naruto asked, "Now answer my questions properly or I'll be sure drip this acid on what's left of your manhood."
To show that he wasn't joking, Naruto move the tube and held it up over Keisuke's crotch right above his bleeding groin. The others watching cringed at the very thought of Naruto carrying out his threat if push comes to shove.
"Niwaishi was a skilled undercover detective who would use the name "Ni Ketsueki" as her second identity whenever she was doing her investigating work. She would even change her appearance time and time again to keep from being discovered by those she was tracking. Only the Tsuchikage and her closest friends knew this," Keisuke explained.
"Were you aware of this," Naruto asked.
"Niwaishi never trusted me despite being my partner on missions," Keisuke revealed, "I found out about her second identity from Orochimaru."
"Orochimaru!?" Kiba repeated, "He's already making his move?"
"Of course it had to be him," Naruto patiently interjected, "And yes, I already suspected Orochimaru's involvement in this; in hindsight, he was probably already busy at Iwa when we met that snake bunshin of his."
"Who else could have been the mastermind?" dryly remarked Shikamaru, who avidly recalled the details of the report that Naruto and Team 8 submitted to Tsunade concerning their reencounter with the rogue Sannin, "Sheesh, you cut off the head of the snake, and it still comes back."
"Not exactly my favorite idiom, but you're absolutely right Shikamaru," Naruto said, "In fact, I'm looking into how Orochimaru survived our death match also. But we'll deal with that later. Right now we know for a fact that Orochimaru is here and is involved with what's been happening to those kidnapped children. But we still have more to dig out from our guest here."
Naruto turned his attention back to Keisuke, looking ready to drop acid on Keisuke's boxers.
"You and Niwaishi were partners?" Naruto asked skeptically as he hanged a drop of acid over Keisuke's covered groin.
"It's the goddamn truth I swear it!" Keisuke bellowed, "I fucking swear it! I always wanted her as my woman but she wanted nothing to do with me and she couldn't stand the fact that I spend much of my time at bars and brothels! She learned…things about me while undercover, which was unknown to me then. In her investigation, she started to suspect me as she began keeping tabs on my actions and whereabouts. She kept tracking me, and in time, Orochimaru saw that she was going become a problem; she was getting too close for her own good."
Naruto glared at Keisuke. "So what did you do?" He asked.
"What the fuck do you think I did?" Keisuke asked. "Orochimaru wanted her gone, so he asked me to get rid of her. I did, but not before I had my fun with her. I…I drugged her and raped her."
Tenten had to be held back. "You son of a bitch!" She screamed. "Do you even realize what that does to a woman's psyche? If she had lived, her mind would've been broken, you selfish piece of shit!"
"Calm down, Tenten." Naruto ordered.
Naruto turned back to Keisuke. "And the kidnappings?"
Keisuke kept spilling information. "With the exception of that old man who managed the orphanage, some of the caretakers were in on it." He admitted. "It's not like they gave a shit about those brats anyway. They were easy to bribe."
"What about the most recent kidnapping?"
Keisuke hung his head low. "That was me," he admitted, "I knocked them all out with an arrow laced with sleeping gas and took them all through the underground passage my associates in the orphanage had made."
"So you were the archer," Neji said in realization.
Keisuke nodded. Naruto gazed disdainfully at Keisuke. "You are nothing more than trash. Or as my nii-san would say, worse than trash. Think on that while you take a nice long nap, Keisuke."
Naruto karate chopped Keisuke and knocked him unconscious. "Tend to his injuries," Naruto ordered, "even if he deserves it, we can't let him die."
The group nodded, but then froze when Naruto brought his hands together. "Kai!"
In an instant, the blood around Keisuke's groin and feet disappeared. Everyone's eyes widened. It had been a genjutsu?
Shikamaru smirked, although he was still shaken from watching Naruto's actions. "Troublesome, but effective."
Naruto smirked back. "Figured you'd find out, Shikamaru."
"Wait, you knew about the genjutsu?" Choji asked.
"What the hell man?" Kiba asked angrily. "Watching the acid thing was bad enough, but did you have to leave us in the dark while Naruto faked cutting off a guy's balls?"
"Of course," said Shikamaru, "part of making it believable was putting us all under the genjutsu, right Naruto?"
Naruto nodded. "Keisuke was arrogant, I doubt he would've suspected a genjutsu at that level."
Everyone looked at Naruto for a while before Neji spoke up. "Umm, Naruto-sama, why didn't you just castrate him for real?"
For the first time…perhaps ever, they saw Naruto look uncomfortable. "Honestly, I'm too squeamish."
"NANI?" Everyone was shocked.
"I never was able to do that. When Anko-chan realized this, she taught me the genjutsu herself. She uses it to punish perverts that were peeping on her. I think she might've used it once on ero-jisan."
"So you would never actually castrate someone?" Choji asked.
"Of course not," Naruto said while feeling disgusted, "it's a fate I wouldn't even wish on my worst enemies."
"It is probably a fate worse than death." Kiba muttered.
"So," Shikamaru said, deciding to get back to the task at hand, "now what?"
Naruto narrowed his eyes in determination. "We're going snake hunting."
(ROOT HQ, Interrogation Room)
Still in her chains, Shiho was struggling right now to reach for the paper clip in her pocket, while also trying to avoid detection from Sai. She thought, "It may or may not work at picking the lock; but it's all I have left to work with right now." She then flinched, momentarily grasping her right hand in pain.
Meanwhile, Sai was across the other side of the table, smiling and calmly sipping from a tall glass of water. "While you may be a girl, I applaud you for having the balls to survive Suzume's interrogation. Trust me, it's no easy feat; I speak from personal experience during training days."
Shiho ignored him and remained silent, continuing to try and grab her paper clip.
"You know, Danzo-sama did leave behind the crossword puzzle on the table for your benefit. Open it. Even a hard working girl like you needs to relax every once in a while, right?"
Still, no response. Sai then got up from his chair, walked a bit, and twisted the desk lamp's head right in front of Shiho's face.
Even with her glasses on, Shiho cringed and closed her eyes instinctively at the abrupt presence of light.
"You know, it's really rude when a person doesn't give an answer to a question the other person just asked," sweetly explained Sai, who still maintained his ever present smile, "Have I made myself clear?"
"Crystal clear," gulped Shiho, who nodded as quickly as she could, "Now, could you already-"
"Of course," replied the ROOT agent, who twisted the lamp head back again, making it face the direction of his glass of water, "By the way, you should take off your glasses; you look more beautiful without them."
Shiho blushed at the unexpected comment, replying, "Do you always say that to every female prisoner who is kidnapped and brought here?"
"Only the pretty ones," shrugged Sai.
"You know, if it weren't for fact that Danzo is tasking you to watch over me and prevent me from escaping," continuing the cryptanalyst, "I'm sure we could have been good friends outside of these walls."
"Who says we can't be friends right now?" questioned Sai, "But you have a point; a job's a job. I apologize for not meeting you under more fortunate circumstances."
It was then that Shiho's attention was drawn to the glass of water Sai drank from earlier, due to the overbearing light from the lamp being pointed in the glass' direction.
Examining the glass closer without actually touching it, Shiho noticed several strands of ink on the side of the glass gradually coming together to form legible letters.
Once the sentence was complete, Shiho interpreted it as, "Don't worry; I'm going to get you out of here very soon."
She reflected, "Thank god I was allowed to keep my glasses on."
Glancing at Sai, Shiho could have sworn that he winked.
"That fortunate circumstance should happen around…3, 2, and 1." counted Sai, whose smile was wider than usual, "Boom."
(ROOT HQ, Lobby and Main Corridors)
It was then that smoke bombs and explosive tags exploded all over the place.
Every ROOT shinobi and kunoichi present for duty suddenly found themselves under attack by shinobi who had all the common trait of wearing a very familiar oni mask.
"The hell is going on?" Suzume furiously asked.
"We're under attack!" Fu replied, "It's those cursed Prajna assassins!"
"Dammit, how the hell did they find us?" Suzume was clearly angry.
"There's no time to find out," said Torune, who was currently trading blows with the enemy, "we can't let them roam free in here and ruin Danzo-sama's work!"
(Root HQ, Interrogation Room)
"I don't understand." Shiho said as they walked out of the interrogation room, watching several Root Ninja run towards the battle. "Why are you helping me?"
Sai's wide smile was still there.
"Let's just say for now, that I'm under different orders." He replied.
The sounds of battle continued to sound out through the halls. "There's no time to explain." Sai made some hand seals. "Just follow my lead."
First, Sai took out the green vial of sedative that Danzo gave to him earlier; he threw the vial at the corner of the room, smashing it completely. Sai then formed a few hand seals, with the result of forming an ink clone of Shiho.
It was then that Sai killed the clone with a slash to the throat. Interestingly enough, Shiho observed that the ink clone in front of her did not dispel, a behavior not typical of the usual clone.
"What in the world are you-?" she inquired, but Sai cut Shiho off.
"Officially, Shiho of the Konoha Cryptology Department is dead," Sai told her, "However, we both know that's not true."
Shiho nodded. Sai pointed down the quiet hall.
"There's a back exit we use during evacuations. Nobody should be there because of the 'battle' going on right now," Sai told her, "Leave the base and then keep going straight. Once you are 5 miles away from the base, you will meet a friend."
"And then what?" Shiho asked.
Sai smiled. "First I'm going to have to ask you to hit me a few times."
Shiho was surprised. "Why?"
Sai gestured to the dead clone of Shiho.
"I need to make it look like I was forced to kill you in self-defense," He explained.
"Okay, I hit you a few times, I run straight out of here for 5 miles and then meet with an ally of yours," Shiho ran through her instructions. Sai smiled, "That about covers it."
Sai leaned his face in. "Now than, let's get the painful part over with, shall we?"
Shiho nodded and threw a punch straight at Sai's face. Sai barely recoiled, but the mark was there. She hesitated for another few moments, but then put aside her fear as she threw several more punches. Despite Sai's pale face becoming eventually bruised and bloody; he still managed to smile at her.
"Stay safe, Shiho-chan." He said.
Shiho blushed again, this time surprised at the new honorific she had received. But regardless of her shock, she saw it necessary to return the favor.
"You too, Sai-kun," she replied, embracing Sai in a sudden hug. This time, it was Sai's turn to be surprised; he commented, "That was rather bold of you."
"Says the man who came up with the insane escape plan," giggled the cryptanalyst.
She paused for a moment before further commenting, "It's weird, really. You shroud yourself in darkness and secrecy, yet you act like a knight in shining armor."
"That's a rather interesting label you've got," remarked Sai.
"And you've certainly earned it," replied Shiho, "Thank you, Sai-kun. Let's hope that we meet again in even more fortunate circumstances than the one you've presented to me."
She then gave Sai a quick kiss on the cheek, turning her back and making her way to the evacuation exit. As Shiho ran off, Sai could not help but muse on his experience.
"Women are an interesting bunch. It seems they're automatically drawn to such 'knights in shining armor'." He noted.
"I guess I can be called that for getting her out of here." He decided.
(In the Hyuga Compound)
Hinata and Hanabi bowed respectfully to the Hyuuga Elders. Their father stood next to them, his face was impassive as usual.
"You wished to speak with us, honorable elders?" Hinata inquired.
The lone female of the group nodded. "Hinata, we have called you here to discuss your future once more."
Hinata was inwardly worried. My future? Are they calling off my engagement to Naruto-kun? She fearfully wondered.
"I'm not sure what you mean." Hinata said, not trusting herself to say anything more.
One of the two males spoke up. "Well, Hinata," he said, "just as we you told last time, it is tradition that you take up Namikaze-sama's surname once you marry him. Your father has brought your arguments before us; and we must say that we're quite impressed by your eloquence and determination…"
"However, our decision still stands," the female elder spoke up, "once you take the name Namikaze, you still will no longer be a Hyuga, and as such you will still lose your right as heiress of the clan."
"I see," once again, Hinata did not trust herself to say anything else.
"And because of your marriage to Namikaze-sama, Hanabi will still take the position of heiress when she is of age." The second male elder decided to speak.
Hiashi studied his daughter carefully.
Just how much do you love Namikaze-sama, Hinata? He wondered. Enough to give up on your dream of uniting the Hyuuga clan?
Hinata nodded. "I understand." She simply replied.
Hanabi was surprised. "Nee-chan, are you really going to give up the position just like that?"
Hinata smiled. "I love Naruto-kun, Hanabi. I love him too much to give him up instead."
Hinata looked at the Elders. "Is there no other way?" She inquired.
The female elder shook her head. "I'm sorry, Hinata," she said, "There really isn't another way. It is tradition. Our family name is just as important to us as our Byakugan; a name is a promise you make."
"Then I will relinquish my birthright gracefully." Hinata looked at Hanabi. "I wish you luck, Hanabi-chan."
With that, Hinata walked out of the room with her head held high. Hanabi followed her, still in shock.
Hiashi watched this happen.
When his two daughters were out of the room and out of earshot, he looked at the elders. "She reminds me so much of her mother," he admitted, "especially now. She's so strong-willed."
The first male elder eyed Hiashi carefully.
"It seems you are still troubled by the past, Hiashi." He noted. Hiashi narrowed his eyes at the elder.
"My eyes don't lie to me, Hiashi," The elder continued, "You must move on. There is nothing we can do for your wife. She will remain the way she is forever."
"I know that!" Hiashi said sharply. Remembering he was speaking to the elders, Hiashi recomposed himself. "Have there been any leads?" He inquired.
The female elder looked at Hiashi with a twinge of sympathy. "Hiashi, it's been years, the trail has gone cold. Hikaru is right, you must move on."
Hiashi sighed. "I can't," he admitted, "not while I know that whoever did…that, is still out there."
"You don't know that for sure, Hiashi." The second elder pointed out. "In the Ninja World, you can die any time."
"Hiro is right," Hikaru added, "let it go, Hiashi."
"She was my wife." Hiashi reminded them. "And not just my wife. She was…she was strong. She was stronger than me. It's not just the fact that the person who did all that to my wife is still out there that bothers me, it's the fact that someone strong enough to do so is out there."
Hiashi rarely lost himself to emotions. In fact, the only times he did was when his wife was involved.
"Not only that," Hiashi spoke up, "but I know that whoever put my wife in a coma is a Hyuuga!"
This really surprised the elders.
"Have you really become so obsessed that you would start blaming members of your clan?" Hiro inquired.
"Only someone with complete mastery over the Byakugan could have done it. The Main House members all have alibis for the night of the crime. But some of the Cadet Branch Members don't!"
Hiashi sighed at this. "But the only Cadet Branch Member who is even close to that kind of skill is my nephew, Neji and he couldn't have done it. I'm…stuck!"
Hiashi looked at the Elders. "But I'll keep searching," he said, "I'll investigate on my own if I must."
With that, Hiashi left the Elders alone. Hiro shook his head. "That man, why must he act so unbecoming of a Clan Head whenever his wife is the subject?"
The female elder gazed at Hiro. "She was his wife, Hiro." she reminded him sharply.
"Hanako is correct, don't forget that you were married once, Hiro." Hikaru reminded him. "If it had been your wife who had been brought back in that state, you would be acting just like him."
"Don't assume that I am not the least bit concerned." Hiro defended himself. "Hiashi was right about one thing, someone strong enough to place his wife in the state she is now in is trouble."
"But that's only assuming this person is still alive." Hikaru reminded him.
Hiro nodded. "There's nothing we can do about that though." He said. "For now, let's just worry about grooming Hanabi to be the next heiress."
"You don't trust Hiashi to do so?" Hanako asked.
"Hiashi is starting to soften up," Hiro told his fellow elders, "ever since his nephew's personality changed, he's been…different."
"Your point?" Inquired Hanako.
"Hiro's point, Hanako, is that if Hiashi starts to change his thinking, our traditions might be in danger." Hikaru spoke up. "And if he teaches Hanabi to change the clan, we'll lose everything our ancestors have worked for, and we can't if that."
Hanako nodded. "Yes, I suppose your right." She said. "The tradition of the Main House and the Branch House has been around for years, ever since the time of the Rikudo Sennin. Ever since that incident almost caused the clan's destruction."
Hikaru grimly nodded. "The Hyuuga Civil War." He said, shuddering slightly at the very thought of it. "The losing side of that conflict became the original Branch House as punishment for their uprising. Ever since that day, we have divided our Clan to make sure that a second Civil War will not happen."
"It is for the best that Hinata loses her position. It was a blessing in disguise that she and Namikaze-sama fell for one another. Were she to have become the clan head, that tradition would've been removed." Hiro said adamantly.
"Is there anything else we should address?" Hanako asked.
Hikaru shook his head. "Very well," Hanako said, "let us retire."
(Inside Naruto's Mind)
"Er, wait? You tailed beasts have real names?" asked Minato.
'Of course we do, Minato,' dryly remarked Kyuubi, 'You ever bother to consider if we ever had identities and lives of our own before being shackled to humans?'
"Duly noted," accepted Minato, "So what is your real name anyway?"
"That's simple enough to remember," shrugged the Yondaime, "It's actually a pretty good name, too; had Kushina lived to give birth to another son, I would've picked that name for him."
'You humans and your sense of humor…' commented Kurama, 'anyway, I believe that you have a mystery to solve.'
"Of course. It all started when Naruto revived himself and accessed a significant amount of both my chakra and your chakra during the end of his battle with Orochimaru," said Minato, who recalled the twin Rasengan which were propelled by Naruto's pythons to destroy Orochimaru's barrier, "For just two seconds, I saw that door labeled as "Kushina"; it was the same door we see before us right now."
"It vanished after those two seconds, and I thought it was just a hallucination, perceiving the door as symbolic of my guilt over not being strong enough to protect Kushina."
Kurama remained silent and continued listening.
"But every now and then, that door flickers and fades." Minato told Kurama. "Like…it's supposed to be here and it's buried deep in my son's mind."
Kurama looked at Minato. "That's interesting Yondaime, but why are you telling me this?" Kurama asked curiously. "Last time I checked, you and I hate each other, and for good reason."
Minato narrowed his eyes. "Because you're the only other resident of my son's mind besides myself."
"I'm concerned, Kurama. Naruto has no suppressed memories as far as I know." Minato explained. "We both should know that, we've been in his mind from the very beginning."
Kurama nodded. "It is a rather interesting situation," Kurama admitted, "while I normally could care less about you humans and your dilemmas, I myself am rather curious about something that may concern my previous Jinchuuriki."
"Wait, Kushina was your previous Jinchuuriki?" yelled Minato as his jaw dropped, "We at Konoha thought you were roaming mindlessly from across the country to our village! We prepared several days ahead of time for your attack? Weren't you feral?"
Kurama, too, shared Minato's confusion, saying, "I thought you already knew of my previous history with Kushina, and I never really talked about it much. If Naruto's memories aren't the ones being suppressed, are you sure that your memories and the rest of Konoha's memories weren't the ones that were altered?"
Minato snapped, "I know what I saw!"
"Yet here you are, eagerly discussing your doubts with me," pointed out the kitsune, "make up your mind already."
Kurama was also curious about one other thing. "Anyway, do you intend on telling the kit about this?"
Minato shook his head. "Not until I know what we're dealing with." He replied. "Before I tell Naruto anything I want to find what this is all about. Especially because it concerns my wife."
"Che, whatever," Kurama scoffed, "Do what you want, Minato, just make sure you tell me what it's all about when you've figured it out."
It was then that the door labeled "Kushina" started flickering in and out until it finally solidified. When it did, it started to thump repeatedly, as if someone was knocking on it.
Minato and Kurama then looked at each other with surprised expressions; they then finally had the courage to move closer and examine the door more thoroughly.
"Well, it's see who's on the other of Naruto's mind," Minato suggested as he reached for the door knob and twisted it, surprised to havbe actually found the door to be unlocked. Pulling the door open, both Minato and Kurama were shocked to see who was standing at the door.
"Minato-kun," Kushina said happily and affectionately, "It's been such a long time, dattebane."
"Kushina?" Minato and Kurama asked simultaneously with. Kushina looked to see Kurama standing behind Minato.
"Kyuubi, dattebane!" Kushina yelled before glowing chains erupted out of her and charged for the bijuu to restrain it.
"Not these damn chains again!" Kurama retorted as the chains wrapped around him and restricted his movements as they held him down to the ground on his back. All nine of his tails were also chained and locked down securely. Added to Kurama's grief was when the chains grew large stakes that were nailed into his wrists, feet, all nine of his tails and an even larger one into his chest cavity.
The stupefied Minato could only watch speechlessly with widened eyes and his jaw wide open. Kurama looked at Minato.
"You just had to open the door and let this vixen wife of yours out," Kurama growled before looking to Kushina, "Both you and my first host, Uzumaki Mito, were always a thorn to my side."
"The Shodai's wife!?" Minato replied with a more shocked and confused expression, "She was your first Jinchuuriki!? It can't this be so?!"
Kushina turned to Minato with a concerned and confused look, and asked, "Minato-kun, she was the Jinchuuriki of Kyuubi before I was. How could you forget so easily?"
"It's not like I forgot on purpose Kushina-chan," Minato explained, "But Kurama and I have been discussing how certain events Naruto and I, along with many others believed to have happened isn't adding up."
"Kurama?" Kushina asked with a perplexed looked, "Who's that?"
"That would be me, vixen!" Kurama remarked, "It was quite peaceful here before you showed up and attacked me for no reason!"
"Minato-kun, what's going on?" Kushina inquired.
"It's a very long story," Minato replied, "Hopefully in our in depth discussion we can figure out why I and many others aren't able to correctly recall what happened years ago before the three of us were sealed away into Naruto's body."
"How could you you not remember correctly what happened to us!?" Kushina asked before looking and pointing to Kurama, "Especially after he tried to kill our son the same night I gave birth to him. We used ourselves as shields to protect Naruto from being killed, dattebane."
"It was nothing personal against Naruto but it wasn't like I wanted to sealed away again," Kurama retorted, "And being sealed into you was no paradise either."
As confused as Minato was, he had to get both his wife and Kurama to stop arguing.
"Listen both of you!" Minato spoke up, "We're not getting anywhere disputing like this! We'll understand everything in clearer light if we stop fighting and actually talk things out."
"This coming from a man who only won one argument with his wife," Kurama mocked.
"Kurama, do you want to stay chained and nailed to my wife while reliving the old days with her as you said?" Minato retorted. Kurama snarled but he got the point.
"Now, please, let's talk things out and start trying to make sense of what really happened years ago," Minato said.
(At The Tsuchikage Tower)
Tsuchikage was currently in a meeting with Onoki, Tsuchiko, Akatsuchi, and Kurotsuchi; they were discussing the events that took place the previous night.
"So, Naruto lived up to his name as the Second Flash, after all," the Tsuchikage remarked.
"All of the culprit ninjas inside the cave were found dead by Naruto's hands alone by the time we arrived there," Kurotsuchi said, "Though his Genin team handled the guards outside however, those men were nothing but mere low class bandits.
"I will add though that Naruto was very angry when he saw that his five young friends weren't there among the children he found. He must have really became attached to those orphans much to my own surprise," further commented the kunoichi.
"And speaking of those children," Onoki inquired, "How's their recovery at the hospital progressing?"
"The rescued children are doing much better," Tsuchiko replied, "The doctors have been working round the clock to replenish the children after seeing how malnourished they were."
A moment later came a knock on the door.
"Sir, Naruto-san and his party wishes to see you," the secretary said, "He said it's very important."
"Send them in," the Tsuchikage replied. The door opened, revealing Naruto and his entourage entering the office and closing the door behind them. They walked over to where the others were and stood before them.
"Naruto," the Tsuchikage greeted, "You've been doing us a huge service these past couple of days. My people and I are grateful for the help you and your team have been providing in this investigation and in the rescuing of those surviving children."
"I'm grateful for your appreciation," Naruto said and added, "But I regret to inform you that not everyone one in Iwa wanted those children found and alive."
"What are you talking about?" Onoki replied.
Naruto took out a scroll from his cloak and opened it, revealing the kanji for "Iwa no Gomi" (Rock Trash) written in the center of the scroll. He poured chakra into the scroll and released and dumping the contents that were in the scroll down onto the floor in front of the Tsuchikage, Onoki and the three Iwa Jounins. These contents were the unconscious and tortured forms of Keisuke, Kentaro and Goki.
"Besides Soujiro and Deidara," Naruto sneered, "Here's more trash my team and I had to find and drop at your feet. This one, Keisuke, was responsible for the kidnappings of the orphans. The other two were just hapless perverts."
Seeing the horrid conditions of the traitorous Iwa ninjas, it was clear that Naruto tortured and interrogated them personally. Kurotsuchi was about to say something, but the Tsuchikage raised his right hand as a signal for her and the others to remain silent.
"This is a very serious accusation, Naruto," the Tsuchikage warned gravely, "What proof do you have?"
"Plenty," Naruto answered before took out a large folder from within his cloak filled with investigation and medical documents and photos.
"Where do I start?" calmly said Naruto, "Oh yes, we'll focus first on the kidnappings. Our initial progress was sped up when I asked Tsukiiwa and her friends to pass out surveys to as many Iwa shinobi and kunoichi as possible. A traitor within Iwa's ranks would have the most opportunity to perform the kidnappings without arousing suspicion, so the surveys were a quick and cheap way of narrowing down our suspects."
"And for some reason, you couldn't pass these surveys by yourself with an army of Kage Bunshin?" mocked Kurotsuchi, "We all know how large your chakra reserves are, so I'm having a hard time believing that you had orphan kids do the grunt work for you."
Naruto turned his attention to her. "Both my father and I are the subjects of hate in Iwa; do you honestly believe that I would gain any useful answers if I tried to ask my questions face to face in front of your colleagues? Because I instead sent the orphans, Iwa's shinobi became much more cooperative, with some even giving their names willingly, assuming that the children were playing an innocent game instead of performing an investigation."
Kurotsuchi was about to retort, but she was shushed by Tsuchiko, who gestured Naruto to continue. "What happened next?"
"Shikamaru's intel highlighted the Red Light District as a possible hangout spot for our kidnappers," continued the Namikaze, "Thus, I sent Tenten undercover as a seductress at the District, where she would covertly gather hair samples with lotion."
"Am I right to assume that you matched one of the crime scene samples with Keisuke's collected hair?" inquired Onoki.
"Indeed," affirmed Naruto, "Out of all the suspects in the club Tenten served at, Keisuke's hair was the sole match."
"I'm assuming that you have more than just this hair for evidence?" asked Akatsuchi, "Your case sounds rather circumstantial for the most part."
"Maybe if you just shut up," angrily interrupted Kiba, "Naruto would be able to finish his explanation sooner!"
The gathered Iwa group all frowned in response to the insult.
"Kiba," calmly warned Naruto, "While I appreciate your support towards me, let me do the talking as usual, ok?"
Kiba then stayed silent.
"Now, where was I?" asked the Namikaze, "Oh yes, you were discussing your concerns about circumstantial evidence. Once Tsukiiwa and her friends were kidnapped, we realized that time was growing short."
You left out the part where Tsunade issued us that inconvenient time limit, inwardly commented Neji, honestly, I don't blame you, Naruto-sama.
"As upset as I was about those orphans becoming the next victims," continued Naruto, "Keisuke left behind a crucial mistake."
"And what was this mistake?" asked Tsuchiko.
"Keisuke was able to snipe my kage bunshin with an arrow from a vacant apartment," commented Naruto, "an apartment which was rather far away from the orphanage."
"And that's when the orphanage workers seized the opportunity to grab Tsukiiwa and her companions?" asked Tsuchiko, who subconsciously flinched at the memory of being backstabbed by a reanimated worker.
"Yes," affirmed Naruto, "Keisuke also did the kidnapping after having received a massage from Tenten. I know this for sure since we found Tenten's business card dropped at the vantage point in the apartment. Also, there's the matter of him leaving behind blood at the crime scene. In order to fire his arrow in the first place, he had to open the window, accidentally cutting his finger in the process and letting a few droplets fall."
"That proves nothing," challenged Kurotsuchi, who decided it would be fun to try playing devil's advocate, "Keisuke could've visited the apartment way before the night of the kidnapping! And you can't prove when exactly he dropped the business card!"
Naruto sighed and nodded to Kiba's direction. "Kiba, now's your turn to talk."
Kiba grinned and wasted no time in explaining his point. "Right. Apparently you guys forget how powerful the nose of an Inuzuka clan member is. We not only can match scents; we're pretty good at estimating how old these scents are!"
"I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but," grumbled Kurotsuchi, "I stand corrected."
Apparently, Akatsuchi, Onoki, and Kurotsuchi were very skeptical and hard to convince, but Tsuchiko and her uncle accepted Naruto's explanation, having both experienced Soujiro's betrayal personally after he nearly triggered an international incident.
"My team also found a dead kunoichi while investigating a valley outside Iwa for additional clues. The autopsy revealed that she was raped and murdered; once we matched Keisuke's collected pubic hair with the one we found on the kunoichi, all we had to do was review our collective evidence for the kidnapping, rape, and murder one more time. It was then that we prepared a trap at the nightclub for Keisuke."
"You attacked and abducted our ninjas and performed an unauthorized autopsy on one of our kunoichi?" Onoki retorted, "You should have reported that one of our kunoichi went missing and that you and your team found her corpse!"
"As logical as that may sound, sir," Naruto refuted, "the circumstances did not allow for that and there were other factors that led me to not reveal who my team found dead."
"You have yet to reveal the identity of this so-called raped and murdered kunoichi, Naruto," Tsuchiko replied, "As a fellow medic-nin skilled at our trade, I could have performed the autopsy myself."
"It was too big a risk without knowing beforehand that Keisuke and his secret employer were responsible for these crimes," Naruto countered, "Keisuke's secret employer would have sought to compromise Ni Ketsueki's corpse before either of us would been allowed to perform our own autopsies to discover what truly happened to her and how Ni Ketsueki really died three weeks ago."
"Ni Ketsueki?" Tsuchiko said in disbelief.
"That's impossible! She's alive and well!" Kurotsuchi retorted.
"Are you sure you have the right girl Naruto-san?" Akatsuchi asked quizzically.
"I was trained throughout my life by the most renowned medic-nin in the world," Naruto replied, "which happens to be my mother, Tsunade. I know for a fact that your friend, Niwaishi, is dead."
Hearing that name pronounced from Naruto's mouth led the room to go into an eerie silence. No one outside that the inner circle of the Tsuchikage, Onoki, Tsuchiko, Akatsuchi and Kurotsuchi knew that Ni Ketsueki was in fact Niwaishi.
"As I gradually discovered during the interrogations, Niwaishi was investigating the kidnappings as Ni Ketsueki and found out too much," Naruto explained, "Keisuke overtook and raped her before selling out to-"
"Tsuchikage-sama!" a female voice called out as the door rushed opened to reveal "Ni Ketsueki" entering the office, "I have urgent news for you about ones behind the kidnappings and-"
"Ni Ketsueki" stopped in mid-sentence when she saw how everyone was looking at her.
"Why are you all looking at me as if I committed a crime?" Ni Ketsueki asked with a confused expression.
"Ni Ketsueki," the Tsuchikage stated, "We have reason to believe that you are not who you say you are and an imposter."
"What are you talking?" Ni Ketsueki asked, "How could you suspect something like that of me?"
Naruto went and closed the door behind them, preventing her from possibly trying to escape.
"That's because my team and I found the real body of Ni Ketsueki, or should I say "Niwaishi," three miles outside the village walls," Naruto said.
Undeterred by what Naruto said, the kunoichi chuckled.
"What's so funny?" demanded Naruto.
"You're so naïve," Ni Ketsuki countered, "What you found, Naruto, was a fake body."
"Excuse me?" Naruto retorted.
Ni Ketsueki continued, "I faked my death to do more investigating on my own. It took time and plenty of effort, but I was able to manufacture a fake body that could emulate the signs of death and decay. While everyone, including you, assumed that I was dead, I was free to investigate unhindered, though I must congratulate you for finding the children before I could. However, I found proof that not only was there more to those kidnappings but that Konoha secretly played a hand in this."
"This imposter is trying to set my village up," Naruto inwardly growled as his mind raced to conjure up a plan to expose the faker, "I could try to have this faker subjected to a blood test, but my autopsy showed that Niwaishi's corpse was drained of blood and I don't know what this imposter's abilities are. And since Niwaishi's dead, there's a chance that Orochimaru had already compromised Niwaishi's medical records in the event something like this happened."
"Neji's Byakugan wouldn't work either as Niwaishi's chakra coils would be too damaged to match due to body decay. Even if I use Kiba and Shino, the imposter can simply claim that she had never met Kiba and Shino before, insisting that we don't have an original scent to use as a reference."
Naruto further pondered for a few seconds, until he realized something. "Maybe there is something I can use after all."
"Keisuke's memories and confession say otherwise," Naruto countered, "In my interrogation of the man and his two henchmen, he confessed to the crimes of both what he did to Niwaishi and the kidnappings he and his men played a role in, in connection with working with their secret employer, Orochimaru."
"What!?" Onoki exclaimed, "How can Orochimaru still be alive! It was reported that he died at your hands Naruto! Your story is not adding up!"
"All the more reason why Naruto's testimony and Keisuke's confession can't be trusted, especially since Keisuke was known for his problem with alcoholism," Ni Ketsueki added, "We don't know how trustworthy Keisuke's confession would be."
"Damn it!" cursed Naruto, "I'm running out of options here!"
But before the argument could escalate and make things further worse for Naruto, Tsuchiko started coughing and breathing in an unusual way that caught Naruto's and everyone else's attention.
"Tsuchiko," Akatsuchi asked with concern, "Are you OK? Perhaps you ought to see a doctor."
"And once again, your concern is misplaced, considering that I'm a medic ninja," Tsuchiko replied with a frustrated tone, "It's just this illness with lung cancer I've been battling against for a good while now."
"What?!" Kurotsuchi shouted, "How could you keep something like a secret from us!?"
"I confided in Niwaishi about this a few months ago, but I asked her not to tell anyone about this before I could developed a treatment for it," Tsuchiko explained.
"This is true," Ni Ketsueki commented, "Her battle with cancer had started to take a toll on her health despite her best efforts to cope with the symptoms that were manifesting. I'm sorry if you're guys are upset about this secrecy but I couldn't break Tsuchiko's trust."
"Ni Ketsueki," the Tsuchikage ordered, "Please wait outside, we have to speak with Naruto about the new proof you presented."
Ni Ketsueki nodded, bowed down slightly, and then turned towards the door to exit the office. She started making her way to door, but before she could reach the door...
"Tsuchiko's early development and battle with lung cancer was at no time discussed with Niwaishi," the Tsuchikage revealed, "I was the only person my niece confided in about that disease before it was treated and removed on time successfully three months ago. Though my niece and Niwaishi were close friends, even treating each other like sisters; Tsuchiko didn't want to tell Niwaishi or anyone else of her early stage development of lung cancer. She didn't want them to worry needlessly about her condition."
The imposter knew that there was no longer any point in lying, now that "she" realized that "her" cover was blown. The imposter then let out let a sinister chuckle.
"Well played, Tsuchikage, and you too, Tsuchiko," the imposter complimented, "Playing on my ignorance of your niece's past disease to expose me was rather clever."
Without warning, the imposter suddenly turned and speedily open "her" mouth wide before a Kusanagi blade elongated and shot forth from "her" mouth and straight at Naruto. Everything seemed to have gone in slow motion as the blade was stopped by Naruto's hands that clapped together and prevented the blade from doing any harm to him. While holding the blade, Naruto teleported both himself and the imposter outside of the tower, leaving the Tsuchikage and the others behind.
Naruto and the imposter reappeared on a nearby roof of another building. The fake kunoichi retracted the blade back into "her" mouth and opened "her" mouth wider and wider before a most familiar male figure emerged from out of it and stood before Naruto.
"Orochimaru!" Naruto sneered, "What a detestable surprise!"
"It's been a while Naruto," Orochimaru greeted, "How's that mosquito bite of yours doing?"
"Never mind that, where are my friends?" Naruto demanded, going straight to the point, "What have you done to them?"
"Those orphans are doing just fine, better in fact," Orochimaru chuckled, "No actual harm came to them and I have your DNA and blood to thank for that. It actually saved their lives."
"What do you mean?" Naruto asked as he get ready to fight the Sannin.
"All good things comes to those who wait," Orochimaru replied as he eyes caught sight of the Tsuchikage and company rushing over to where they were, "But I must be on my way now. We'll meet again soon, Naruto."
Orochimaru leaped from the roof and down to the ground. Naruto followed after him, and after reaching the ground, Naruto saw Orochimaru sank into the floor and disappear from sight. The Tsuchikage, Onoki, and the rest of their ninjas appeared around Naruto.
"He got away?" Onoki asked.
"For now," Naruto replied, "But he informed me that Tsukiiwa and her friends are still alive and well and in his own twisted way, he thanked me for their survival."
"Onoki-sama." A new female voice suddenly spoke up.
A blue haired woman walked into view. Naruto, due to him just encountering Orochimaru, was on guard. The Tsuchikage was as well. Tenten's eyes widened in shock at who this woman was. Kiba blushed at the sight of her beauty. The rest of the Konoha and Iwa-nins maintained their neutral expressions. Onoki, however, stepped forward.
"Konan-san, how has your investigation been?" Onoki inquired.
"I have information that you may wish to hear." Konan replied.
"Information? Investigation? Who is this woman?" Naruto asked.
"This is Konan-san," Onoki introduced, "I hired her to investigate the kidnappings of the orphans."
The Tsuchikage and Naruto were surprised at this.
"You went behind my back, Onoki?" The Tsuchikage could not believe this.
"I'm sorry, Tsuchikage-sama," Onoki apologized, "but I could not allow my Kage to be involved in the hiring of a mercenary."
Naruto glared at Onoki. "Admit it, you didn't trust me to investigate by myself."
Onoki glared back. "So what if I didn't? You're not exactly the most liked person here."
"It's funny how you and so many in Iwa hate me when lately it's been your own ninjas who have been betraying you and the very people and village they swore to protect," Naruto calmly retorted, "And by hiring an outside mercenary, you questioned the integrity and trust of some of your own ninjas. Deep down, you suspected them also."
"Don't presume to lecture and chastise me boy!" Onoki growled while feeling insulted by Naruto's irrefutable logic, "You already crossed certain lines during this investigation!"
"Yet my team and I, in just a few days accomplished far more in this investigation than all of your ninjas combined," Naruto replied just as calmly with a shrug. Onoki was about to retort when...
"Enough, both of you!" The Tsuchikage said sharply.
The Tsuchikage turned to Konan. "Now," he said, "you mentioned you had some information for Onoki?"
Konan nodded. "I will present my information to both of you, as well as Namikaze-san as he is clearly involved as well."
Naruto looked at Konan. "You know my name?"
"You are in the Bingo Book, Namikaze-san." Konan pointed out, "You should have gotten used to this by now."
"The information, Konan-san." Said Onoki.
Konan nodded. "I have been investigating the outskirts of Iwa for quite some while now." She began. "In order to cover more ground, I split my body with a Jutsu."
"Splitting, huh? I kind of want to know what Jutsu that is." Naruto thought as he mentally took down notes.
"Using this Jutsu, I came across something surprising." Konan continued. "I came across an airborne fortress which has a huge resemblance to the architecture found in Sora no Kuni."
Onoki's eyes widened in surprise. "Impossible! Not them again!"
Konan narrowed her eyes at Onoki. "You hired me to investigate these incidents, Onoki-sama." She reminded him. "The least you can do is trust what my investigation turns up."
"Sora no Kuni?" inquired Naruto, "Why have we never heard of this place?"
Kurotsuchi looked at Onoki with an equally surprised look, "Yeah, jiji, where excactly is Sora no Kuni?"
Onoki sighed and regained his composure.
"Sometimes, I keep forgetting that you all are still part of the younger generation," explained the elderly man, "Sora no Kuni was once a country which sought to challenge the Five Great Nations. Their technology and flight capabilities were unprecedented and truly fearsome, conducting air raids on each of our territories and testing our limits."
"Since you're referring to Sora no Kuni in the past tense," deduced Naruto, "I'm assuming that it was eventually destroyed?"
"Yes, we have Konoha to thank for doing the dirty work of getting rid of them," replied Onoki before he paused, "But based on Konan-san's testimony, there must have been survivors. Their descendants must be the ones who are piloting that fortress she described."
"For arguments sake," Naruto spoke up, "let's say that there is an airborne fortress! How does this concern the investigation?"
Konan reached into her pocket and took out a headband. "While investigating the area, I noticed several shinobi doing their patrols and floating with their machine gliders. After finding several hiding spots, I came across several imprisoned children with these particular headbands. They said that they were gifts from 'Naruto-niisan'."
Naruto's eyes widened at this. He then looked at the 'Gonin no Uzumaki' headband and examined it very closely. There was no doubt about it; this headband was the genuine article.
Shino, however, had his doubts.
"If you found where the children are, then why didn't you free and bring them back yourself?" he asked.
"The lock has a seal on it and I'm unable to remove the seal," Konan explained, "And even if I was able to, I would be up against not only an army of ninjas, but also Kabuto and Orochimaru himself. And as much as I hate to admit this, I'm no match for Orochimaru."
"Seals and dealing with armies are my specialties," Naruto said and then demanded, "Show me where this place is!"
Konan nodded, but before she could direct Naruto…
"You," Tenten suddenly stepped forward, "I can't believe I'm seeing you again."
Konan looked at Tenten stoically. "Ah, Moteki no Panda-ko chan, is this your day off? Or are you perhaps rethinking your career choice?"
Tenten blushed, as did every young male in the group except for Naruto.
Konan looked back at Naruto. "Now then, Namikaze-san, I will take you to where I found the base in the sky."
Shikamaru stepped forward. "Wait a minute, Naruto," he said, "as troublesome as this may sound to you, we can't just rush off."
Naruto looked at Shikamaru in frustration, but the lazy shinobi continued, "I know you want to help the Gonin no Uzumaki but everyone is exhausted. Don't forget we're not all stamina freaks like you. Also, we need a solid strategy to take on this flying fortress. This is especially true, because we now know that Orochimaru is alive, and is probably at that base with plenty of reinforcements."
Naruto calmed down upon hearing Shikamaru's reasoning. He then realized that the lazy genius was right.
"Okay, Shikamaru, we'll do it your way." He said. Naruto looked at the Tsuchikage. "Do you have somewhere isolated and private where we can discuss strategy, Tsuchikage-sama?"
The Tsuchikage nodded. "There's a heavily guarded war room in the underground floors of the Tower; I'll take you there."
Naruto looked at Konan. "Konan-san, you should join us. You've been to this fortress in person; your intel would prove very valuable."
Konan nodded. "I'd be honored, Namikaze-san."
"This may also give me the chance to learn about the Kyuubi Jinchuriki." She thought, looking at Naruto.
(Iwagakure War Room)
As Konan finished giving her report on the base in the sky, Shikamaru, the Tsuchikage, and Naruto all found themselves in deep thought. After several minutes, not surprisingly, the lazy genius was the first to speak up.
"The first problem we have is obviously figuring out how to get up there." Shikamaru pointed out. "Obviously, Konan-san's flight jutsu can't take us all. Even if it could, I doubt it's at once, am I right, Konan-san?"
Konan nodded grimly. "I'm afraid I cannot transport anyone other than myself."
"Why would we all need to go at once, Shikamaru?" Choji asked.
"To keep the element of surprise," Shikamaru replied, "the more trips we take to get troops up there, the less of a surprise. Time is not exactly our friend in this situation, that's why if we're going to do this we need to do it with speed and ferocity."
"Well, that problem can be easily solved." The Tsuchikage spoke up.
Everyone looked at the Tsuchikage, who gestured to Onoki. "One of my predecessor's abilities was gravity manipulation. He can take us all."
"And even if Onoki-san can't get us all at once," Naruto suddenly interjected, "my Wind Release dome can take the rest."
Shikamaru sighed in relief. "Well," he said, "I'm glad we got out of the way, getting up there was going to be the second most troublesome part."
"Second most?" Kurotsuchi was surprised. "I would think going up to a floating mass would be the most difficult task to accomplish in the first place!"
Shikamaru shook his head. "I'm talking about what's on the inside of the base."
Everyone looked at him. Naruto nodded in agreement at this. "Shikamaru is right," he said, "even with Konan-san's report, what the base holds is still an unknown factor."
"I fail to see the logic behind your argument, Naruto-sama," Neji admitted.
"Okay, we know that there are strange machine gliders and shinobi that we'll be up against, great." Naruto explained. "Onoki-san knows how these machines work; but, have the capabilities of the machines changed over the years beyond his recognition? Have the shinobi adapted their tactics against us based on their previous defeat?"
Everyone looked at one another and nodded in agreement. "Also, we have to deal with the problem of being attacked by both ground and air forces. The last thing we want is to get flanked and put at a huge tactical disadvantage."
"I will be able to help greatly with that matter," added in Onoki, "I can stay airborne and provide artillery support with my Dust Release."
"What does this Dust Release do, exactly?" asked Shino, whom everybody was surprised to hear talk, "I'm personally interested in how it works."
Onoki chuckled, before holding his palms out wide, where he formed a tiny transparent cube with a glowing sphere in the center.
But instead of releasing it as a projectile, the elderly shinobi then collapsed the cube immediately, letting everyone feel a tiny knockback from the unfinished technique.
"Heh heh heh," chuckled Onoki, "Still got it."
"Interesting technique," Naruto commented, "But even with artillery support, we have another problem: Orochimaru."
Everyone shivered at this. "By all accounts we must assume that he has gone to the base and is probably waiting for us, specifically me. Hell, going back to the element of surprise, I'm not entirely sure we'll have it because he might warn his men ahead of time. Then again, it is Orochimaru and I wouldn't put it past the sick bastard to keep his men in the dark just for his own entertainment."
The Konoha ninja could not help but agree with this. "But for arguments sake, let's say we do have the element of surprise," Naruto continued, If we're going to keep it, we cannot afford to have an army. At most, we can only rely upon a specialized task force."
The Tsuchikage nodded. "A wise choice," he said, "Aside from my entourage in this room, I will set to work immediately in assembling a handful of Iwa's elite."
"If you don't mind, Tsuchikage-sama." Naruto suddenly interjected. "I would also like to bring my team along for this."
Kurotsuchi scoffed at this. "Really?" She said. "You, I can understand, but to bring the others would be sending them to their deaths."
Kiba wanted to retort but Naruto held up a hand to silence him. "Do not forget, Kurotsuchi-san, Orochimaru is an S-Class traitor to Konoha, it is our responsibility to stop whatever madness he is involved in."
The Tsuchikage looked at the young Konoha ninja. "Do you share Naruto's belief?" He inquired.
The Konoha ninja nodded at this. "Besides," Naruto continued, "they won't have to worry about Orochimaru because I will take care of him personally. They will handle his lackeys and will do so commendably."
Nobody argued with that, because if Naruto beat Orochimaru before, he can do it again.
"In the Bingo Book, it's stated that you never lost a fight, Naruto-san," Konan remarked, "I'm interested in seeing you live up to that claim."Especially since it rivals Pein's reputation for never losing a fight.
Naruto looked at her carefully and replied, "For the sake of my five kidnapped friends, losing this fight is not an option here."
"Tsuchikage-sama?" Naruto inquired.
"Which additional elite people do you intend for us to work with during this mission?" Naruto asked. "I'm thinking that you already have an idea as to who you wish to be assigned to this mission, correct?"
The Tsuchikage nodded at this. "Well, as you already know, Onoki, Kurotsuchi, Akatsuchi, Tsuchiko are coming with us," said the Tsuchikage as he gestured to his entourage, "I also intend to assign three other elite shinobi of mine."
"And they are?"
"Kurotsuchi's father, Kitsuchi, a Jonin named Ittan, and a prominent member of our Explosion Corps, Gari."
"How strong are they?"
"Kitsuchi, in some ways, can literally move heaven and earth itself. Every now and then, he makes quite the sandwich," The Tsuchikage confidently told Naruto. "Ittan is one of our best when it comes to stealth and traps, and Gari is the strongest member of the Explosion Corps ever since…"
Everyone affiliated with Iwa went silent as the Tsuchikage trailed off. "Since Deidara, correct?" Naruto asked.
The Tsuchikage nodded. Onoki looked solemn. "Yes," The Tsuchikage said grimly, "Deidara."
Onoki then added, "Naruto-san, assuming that Ryota hasn't told you yet, Deidara's defection was the reason why I retired from the position of Sandaime Tsuchikage. His defection from Iwa was rather…explosive, putting me into a coma for quite some time."
"We have Tsuchiko here to thank for Onoki's continued survival," praised the Tsuchikage.
Tsuchiko bowed in response. "I appreciate your verbal affirmation, but frankly, it was a team effort, uncle."
"Anyway, I was but a substitute leader back then; once news of his awakening got to me, I was going to let Onoki resume his duties as the Sandaime," explained the Tsuchikage, "naturally, I was surprised when he formally announced his retirement."
Displaying an uncharacteristic moment of insecurity, Onoki continued, "Six of my best BOULDER Black Ops, along with many other casualties, needlessly died because of my weakness and failure to deal with Deidara. How could I possibly retake the position?"
Out of pity for Onoki, Naruto held a moment of silence before moving on to his next point. "I don't care if he is your greatest traitor," Naruto said. "Speaking his name should not be taboo."
"Besides," Naruto continued, "you won't have to worry about him much longer, because either Ryota will personally kill him, or I will do so for her! But, I digress at the moment."
Kurotsuchi's eyes widened at the thought of the Namikaze killing her Deidara-nii, someone she had looked up to, just as Ryota did all those years ago. But then again, killing him would remove a stain on Iwa, so she really didn't have any retorts in mind for Naruto.
"Now then, is there anything else that should be discussed?" Naruto inquired.
Shikamaru, Onoki, and the Tsuchikage all shook their heads at this. Naruto turned to Konan. "Konan-san, is there anything you would like to add?"
Konan shook her head. "I'm afraid that is everything, Namikaze-san."
Pein will not be happy with me not taking the Kyuubi Jinchuriki when I had the chance, but I doubt I would be able to do much, even if his guard is down. This boy did defeat Orochimaru after all. Konan thought.
Besides, she continued, this is our chance to remove that snake once and for all. I will not pass up that chance, even if it means losing a chance at the Kyuubi Jinchuriki.
Konan's were then interrupted by the Tsuchikage, who stated, "And finally, I, too, plan to personally participate in the siege of the airborne fortress."
This statement shocked almost everyone in the room, except for Konan, who remained stoic as ever.
After regaining her composure, Tsuchiko was the first one to make her opinion known. "You sure these years of paperwork haven't dulled your reflexes?" she teased.
"She's got a point," grinned Kurotsuchi, "We haven't seen you on the battlefield for quite some while."
"Your concern for me is duly appreciated," noted the Tsuchikage, "However, these recent events have disturbed me greatly, forcing me to question myself about my competence as a Kage."
"Uncle, we talked about this already earlier; you did the best you could with your leadership," reassured Tsuchiko, "You shouldn't blame yourself-"
"And my best wasn't enough!" continued the Tsuchikage, "I couldn't stop Soujiro in time from tricking you and several others into going on a suicide mission which nearly triggered another Shinobi War with Konoha and Suna! And Niwaishi died while orphans after orphans got kidnapped and killed because I didn't have the foresight to notice Keisuke's treachery soon enough! How many more traitors in my ranks will keep arising before I pass the mantle of Tsuchikage to my successor? How many more people have to suffer because of my mistakes? It's shameful that the son of the late Yellow Flash our people hate most has done more for us than I have for my own people."
Naruto was in awe as he saw a more vulnerable side to the Tsuchikage. Clearly, the investigation holds as much of a weight on his conscience as it does to mine, he pondered, we have much more in common than I thought.
"My point being," said the Tsuchikage, "is that I want to take personal responsibility for this whole fiasco. I'm going with the task force, whether you like it or not."
He looked at Naruto, saying, "You can have Orochimaru's head, but I'd like to have the pleasure of punching a hole through him first before you finish him off."
"Alright then," Naruto spoke up, "time to go up to the sky."
(Meanwhile At The Airborne Fortress)
"Orochimaru-sama, did the plan to frame Naruto work?" Kabuto inquired.
"I managed to poke several holes in his investigation; but I didn't expect the Tsuchikage and his brat of a niece to get the better of me," Orochimaru explained, "Clearly, Naruto's ability to gain resourceful allies is going to be troublesome in the long run against us."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Kabuto replied and then asked, "By the way, how does your head feel?"
Gesturing to his neck, Orochimaru answered, "Decapitation of the soul is never a pleasant experience."
"I wouldn't imagine so," Kabuto agreed, "Thankfully, Naruto didn't expect for you to use the Blood Double backup plan," Kabuto sighed and pushed his glasses up a bit, "I knew what I had to do as soon as I saw Naruto deal the final blow to you."
Kabuto was referring to how he went back to Oto to get Orochimaru's DNA and a cursed seal prisoner to easily revive Orochimaru.
"Indeed he didn't," Orochimaru remarked before changing the subject, "Anyway, how goes the experiment?"
"We're waiting for you to join us for the finalization of Project Star," Yomi said as he entered the chamber Orochimaru and Kabuto were in, "Everything else has been done according to your specifications Orochimaru."
"In that case, let's proceed to finish things up," Orochimaru said with a toothy smile before the three of them made their way to the examination chamber where Tsukiiwa and her friends were being kept. Upon their arrival into the chamber, Orochimaru found the five children lying on examination beds unconscious.
"Well then, let's proceed," Orochimaru said.
The three men began examining the five children with careful precision and care. They were running a full series of tests and evaluations on them and found no ill-fated life threatening side effects to worry about. The children were completely healthy and in good shape. There were visible alterations with the children though. First was the change in their hair color going from their original dark brown, black and in Tsukiiwa's case silver to red, with Tsukiiwa's now red hair having streaks of her original silver flowing down her hair. The second change was that they all now have blue eyes.
The integration and fusion of Naruto's DNA combined with the chakra from the meteorite fragments, also caused the children to possess highly developed chakra coils capable of holding and maintaining massive amounts of chakra that was almost on par with Naruto. Tsukiiwa and her friends were permanently changed from being the ordinary orphans they used to be. Yomi's specialty jutsu along with Orochimaru and Kabuto's medical expertise made this possible.
"Our clients will be most pleased with the success of Project Star," Orochimaru smiled with satisfaction, "After much determined effort and sacrifices, we've finally succeeded in perfecting the project. Well done, all of you."
"I wish only to serve and please you Orochimaru-sama," Kabuto said.
"It brings me much pleasure knowing that we reached your desired goal before the deadline," Yomi added, "It's a pity that over seventy-five children were sacrificed before we found a way to perfect Project Star."
"Their sacrifice was not in vain," Orochimaru replied, "Each time we only grew closer in finding the missing pieces to the puzzle of this complicated task. But it was Naruto's genetic code that proved to be the essential central key to our accomplishment. And what better way to thank Naruto for his generous contribution than by turning his friends into full fledged Uzumakis related to him by blood, his blood."
"I could only imagine how Naruto will take the news," Yomi commented, "Didn't you say that these children went by a certain name Naruto gave them?"
"Gonin no Uzumaki," Orochimaru reminded, "We just made it official through his blood."
A moment later, there came a knock on the door.
"Yes?" Orochimaru asked before the door opened to reveal a young red-haired female entering the laboratory through he door.
"Ah, Karin, how nice of you to join us," Orochimaru greeted.
"I'm reporting as scheduled Orochimaru-sama," Karin said, "You said both you and Kabuto have news for me."
"We do indeed," Orochimaru said, "We have new Uzumaki brothers and sisters for you as promised."
"Really?!" Karin asked excitedly, "You really mean it!?"
"Oh yes, but you'll have to fight to keep them as one particular Konoha Elite Jounin will wanted to take them from you," Orochimaru replied.
"Not without a fight will I let that happen!" Karin declared, "That man will have to go through me first! I waited too long to have my Uzumaki brethren revived I won't let anyone take that from me!"
"In in that case," Orochimaru continued, "Summon Guren, Suigetsu and Juugo to help you see to the care of these children as I'm finished performing the required tests and examinations on them. And tell them to the check on all of my ninjas and make sure nothing is out of place."
Karin nodded her head and left to retrieve her three other colleagues. Before the door could close, it was stopped by a newcomer who entered the chamber and closed the door behind him. Orochimaru, Kabuto and Yomi took a look at the man who entered the chamber. That man was the captain and leader of the flying vessel.
"Shinno," Orochimaru greeted, "What do I owe the honor of your presence?"
"I overheard just a moment ago that you finally perfected Project Star," Shinno said, "You haven't forgotten our deal that my men and I get a generous percentage from the fruitage of this project considering that I'm allowing you and your minions to use my fortress?"
"You need not worry. I haven't forgotten," Orochimaru assured, "But be aware that Naruto will eventually find this place."
"Yes," Shinno replied, "Konoha's Second Flash, I heard many things about that ninja. I'll be sure to have him and his party dealt with should they attempt to attack this fortress. I trust you'll do your part in dealing with our enemies."
"That's being taken cared of as we speak Shinno," Orochimaru stated, "We didn't work this hard to have Konoha's treasured brat to ruin everything we worked for."
Shinno nodded his head and said, "Alright then."
Shinno turned to leave the chamber, closing the door behind him upon his departure.
(Ground Level Location underneath Sora no Kuni)
"We're ready, Naruto-sama." Said Neji.
Naruto nodded. He looked at Onoki, who was with Kurotsuchi, Akatsuchi, and Tsuchiko. Also, with them were Kitsuchi, Gari, and Ittan.
Kitsuchi was a large, physically imposing man with a nose nearly as large as Onoki's. Naruto could only guess that Onoki was Kitsuchi's father.
That sort of resemblance is almost as big as the resemblance I have to father, Naruto noted, smirking slightly.
Meanwhile, Kitsuchi was paying special attention to Kurotsuchi. "Ready for some father-daughter bonding time, pumpkin?"
Kurotsuchi groaned in response. "Enough with the mushy nicknames; I'm not a kid anymore, dad."
Naruto chuckled at the family drama he was seeing, before deciding to turn his attention towards Gari next.
Apparently, Gari was a tall, well-built man with spiky, gravity-defying hair. He seemed to have a confident grin permanently etched on his face.
Let's just hope he can back up that confidence, Naruto thought, Father used to talk about the Explosion Corps and what a pain they were to his comrades…of course, they were no problem for him.
"You're Namikaze Naruto, right?" asked Gari.
"In the flesh," shrugged Naruto, "Is there anything you have to say to me?"
"Not all of us in Iwa hated your father on a personal level," said the explosives specialist, "My uncle, for instance, considered Minato to be a worthy opponent on the battlefield, and it was his dying wish that I continue the rivalry with Minato's next-of-kin."
"What about your own personal feelings towards my father and I?" inquired Naruto, "You've only talked about your uncle's rivalry with my father so far, so I'd like to hear your side of the story."
"I for one, have respect for what you did for Iwa recently," explained Gari, "Progress in the kidnapping investigation was nonexistent until you showed up and decided to take initiative."
"I try my best," replied Naruto, "Those orphans needed help and something needed to be done about that."
"Your prowess as a detective astounds us all," complimented Gari, "A few of my colleagues are quite relieved that you're not the heartless killing machine they imagined you to be."
"I'm quite excited on the other hand. When our mission is done and you have leisure time in the future, perhaps we could reconvene for a spar?"
"Friendly spar, right?" warned Naruto.
"I'm talking about continuing the friendly competition started by your father and my uncle, not the grudge that Iwa holds against your family," insisted Gari, "Those are two very different things."
"I would hope so."
"I'm guessing that your past skirmish with Soujiro hasn't left you a positive impression of us Iwa shinobi, but please hear me out," begged Gari, "I've been looking for a good fight for quite some while, really. Sparring against my comrades is no fun at all these days, and the missions list for the Explosion Corps is getting shorter each day."
"Fighting for the sake of fighting isn't exactly a healthy motivation," commented the Namikaze.
"Hey, it makes for good exercise and a creative outlet," justified Gari, "But anyway, will you agree to a spar or not?"
Naruto paused for a moment before smiling and saying, "We'll have our friendly spar sometime later; you have my word."
"Wonderful, now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to talk to Onoki-san about the mission details."
It was then that Naruto turned his attention to Ittan. Apparently, Ittan was a well-built man with lightly colored, spiky hair and a dark colored beard. He was probably the most stoic member of the group besides the Tsuchikage himself.
Stoicism is a good trait for a master of stealth, Naruto noted, he will do just fine.
Naruto went through the appropriate hand seals, causing a wind dome to start kicking up around the Konoha team, lifting them all into the air. "Are you ready, Onoki-san?" Naruto asked.
Onoki nodded and went through his own hand seals, tapping several of his colleagues on the shoulder along the way. Akatsuchi childishly cheered as Onoki's gravity based ninjutsu then came into play, letting the Iwa group suddenly levitate.
Konan, meanwhile, split her body into hundreds of sheets of paper. Naruto watched this feat in amazement.
So that's the Jutsu she mentioned, Naruto thought, no wonder she figured things out so quickly. Imagine the possibilities of spreading out like that, gathering information must be so easy for her.
Naruto looked up at the sky and watched as the invading force broke through the clouds. His eyes widened in surprise as he came face to face with an enormous landmass.
Konan noticed the look of surprise on Naruto's face. "Welcome to Sora no Kuni, Namikaze-san."
Onoki shook his head in disbelief. "Unbelievable," he said, mostly to himself, "I can't believe this place still exists."
"It probably isn't my place to say, considering I wasn't alive at the time, Onoki-san." Naruto spoke up. "But if Sora really was a threat, then you all should've been more thorough."
Onoki could not argue with this, so he simply nodded. "As true is that is, boy, keep in mind that it was your village that spearheaded the effort to eradicate Sora."
Naruto sighed. "Indeed," he said, "and if Sora truly was and still is a threat to my village, then I will have no choice but to rectify my predecessors' mistake and finish what they started."
Everyone's eyes widened at Naruto's declaration. The group was soon at the edge of the landmass. This edge was unseen and unguarded by Oto or Sora Nin alike, serving as a blind spot of sorts; the group was thankful that Konan's scouting had paid off.
"Excellent location, Konan-san." Naruto complimented.
Konan nodded. "Arigato, Namikaze-san."
Shikamaru looked at Naruto and Onoki. "They can't know we're here yet," Shikamaru told them, "Naruto, we should spread out and begin our assault on several different fronts."
Naruto nodded. "I agree for the most part, however, I do think for our own safety, most of us should be in teams. Wouldn't you agree, Onoki-san?"
Onoki nodded. "That is an excellent precaution," he said, "although, if you don't mind, I will go alone. My powers don't exactly judge between friend and foe."
"That is reasonable," Naruto said, "I will also go alone."
Nobody argued with that, they all knew the reasons why Naruto was separating from everyone else.
Konan then surprised everyone when she spoke up as well. "I will go alone as well."
Naruto was surprised by this. "A mercenary going alone?"
"I can vouch for Konan-san's abilities, Namikaze." Onoki defended the secret Akatsuki member.
"As for the rest of us," Onoki continued, "I want Gari, Ittan, and Akatsuchi to pair up. Kurotsuchi, Tsuchiko, and Kitsuchi will also be a team as well."
"Interesting choices, are there reasons?" Naruto inquired.
"Tsuchiko's use of Lightning Release and Gari's use of Explosion Release will be useful in causing chaos, it made sense to keep them separated. Meanwhile, Akatsuchi, Ittan, Kurotsuchi, and Kitsuchi will provide the muscle."
Onoki turned to his Ninja. "Is that a problem?" He inquired.
Kitsuchi spoke for everyone. "Of course not, father."
"Very well than," Naruto said, "I have my teams picked out."
"Neji, Tenten." Naruto turned to the two members of Team Gai. "I want you both as a team. Neji's Byakugan will serve as a guide while Tenten's explosive tags will cause chaos for the airborne enemies."
"Understood, Naruto-sama." Said Neji.
"As for the rest of you," Naruto turned to the other five, "your assignments are to simply remain hidden and pick off any Sora-nin you come across."
"You will be split up into two teams to cover more ground," Naruto continued, "the first team will be Shikamaru, Choji, and Shino. Shino will be the tracker and Shikamaru and Choji's teamwork will serve this group well. The other team, of course, will be Kiba, Akamaru, and Lee. You are among the best at Taijutsu here. However, let me remind you in particular that you need to be silent."
Naruto glared at Lee. "That means nothing comes out of your mouth about the flames of youth, Lee."
"Yosh!" Lee shouted. "If I cannot stay quiet during this mission than I will run around Konoha on my hands 500 times!"
Everyone sweat-dropped at this. He's already failed, they thought.
"As for you, Kiba, I understand that is in your nature to charge in head-on, but I need you to tap into your inner wolf and be a silent, stealthy predator."
"I'm going to ignore that jab at my animal instincts, Naruto." Kiba deadpanned.
"Does everyone know their assignments?" Naruto asked his invasion force.
The entire task force nodded at this.
"Then good hunting, everyone." Naruto told them.
For the first time, Konoha and Iwa join forces to fight a common enemy they both have a history with. Naruto and the Tsuchikage leads their mixed team of Konoha and Iwa ninjas, new dangers awaits them.
Will they be able to stop Orochimaru and his new allies? Will Naruto get to his five friends and rescue them from Orochimaru? How will Naruto react to and deal with Karin, a fellow Uzumaki working for Orochimaru? Why can't Minato correctly remember what happened when Kyuubi attack Konoha? With Kushina now freed, what secrets will be learned? Dark truths about the Namikaze clan is being revealed by Mito and what more they Ryota and Haku discover? And what will Tsunade do when Shiho gets to her and explain what happened to her?
Find out next time.
I want to thank Ryuzaki 007 and ND2014 for helping me write and put together this chapter and for their inspirational input.