Chapter Eighty Five: Skyfall
(Orochimaru's Private Quarters, Ancor Vantian)
With all the chaos that was about to take place on the airborne fortress, Orochimaru was surprisingly serene at his workplace as he was recording and documenting everything regarding the success of "Project Star." Of course, his private writing session would have to wait, given that Orochimaru soon heard footsteps and a knock at his door. Without turning around from his work, he addressed the person present, "Good, you got my summons."
A male voice rang in Orochimaru's ears, "You better have a good reason for making me lug this guy all the way here, Boss."
"I can assure you, Yatagarasu," Orochimaru said, "my reasons will intrigue you quite a bit."
"Oh, how so?" Yatagarasu asked.
"Considering your particular actions against Konoha all those years ago, I would think that you of all people would enjoy mind games," Orochimaru replied.
"Get to the point," Yatagarasu retorted. Orochimaru chuckled, "That man you have there will serve as a sacrifice for my Edo Tensei. I'm going to play my own mind games with the group of Iwa-nin that are working together with the Konoha-nin."
The man whistled, "Damn, I almost feel bad for this guy."
"And I almost felt bad for you when I found out you went after Tsunade all those years ago," Orochimaru remarked, "But then I remembered that getting on her bad side is not a good idea, especially when you are so beneath her level."
"Watch it, Boss," Yatagarasu replied, "I almost had her."
"Even if you negated her super strength, she's still a Sannin for a reason," Orochimaru reminded him, "Just as I am a Sannin for a reason."
Orochimaru turned around and narrowed his eyes at the man, "Do not test me, Yatagarasu. Are we clear on that?"
"Of course," said Yatagarasu, "You saved my life, and I intend on repaying that debt to you to the best of my ability."
"Good," smirked the Sannin, who then pulled out and unraveled a scroll with mysterious markings on it, "Let the ritual commence."
Pulling out a vial of blood, he opened it and emptied its contents onto the scroll's markings. Out of curiosity, Yatagarasu decided to ask a few more questions. "So Boss, who exactly are we resurrecting today? A previous Tsuchikage?"
"Oh, I wish," scoffed Orochimaru, "Bringing back a previous Tsuchikage would certainly strike a nerve with Ōnoki on a personal level, given his personal friendships with the previous Tsuchikage. However, unlike the remains of the deceased Hokages, the remains of the Shodaime and Nidaime Tsuchikage are much more carefully guarded in comparison, locked away in a special tomb which can only be opened by a special key. And that key's location I have yet to discover. Anyway, the person I'm deciding to bring back is not of ancient history; in fact, this person had died not so long ago."
That detail piqued the mercenary's interest, "Oh, is that so?"
"Watch and learn, Yatagarasu," Orochimaru suggested, "Watch and learn."
After forming a few hand seals, Orochimaru struck the scroll, causing the blood to leak from the scroll and form a seal around the unfortunate victim, encasing him with ash and dust to form the appearance of the intended revived person.
After studying the revived person briefly, Yatagarasu smirked, "Oh, so it's her again. I haven't seen her in years since the two of us have last dueled."
(Location on Sora no Kuni)
"There are no enemies in front of us, however, there are patrols to the east and the west," Neji told Tenten with his Byakugan activated. Tenten nodded and unsealed several kunais with explosive tags on them. Never would she have guessed that she would need to use these on what was supposed to be a diplomatic mission.
Sighing, Tenten attributed this to being around Naruto. As good of a man as he was, Naruto was literally a magnet for trouble. Shaking those thoughts from her mind, Tenten prepared her ambush, "Neji, I want you to take half of these and attack the patrol to the west."
"And I take it you will attack the patrol to the east?" Neji inquired.
Tenten nodded and added, "Once we run out of exploding tags we will withdraw. We'll meet up south of here. You will go southeast, I will go southwest."
"Understood," Neji replied. Tenten prepared to leave, but something Neji said stopped her, "Tenten?"
"What is it, Neji?"
"Be careful," Neji advised. Tenten smirked at this, "Same to you. But remember, I'm not the one who came home with a hole in my chest last time."
Neji frowned at this, but nodded in agreement. With that, the two broke away from one another, explosive-laced kunai in hand. Tenten quickly found herself standing above a small squad of Sora nins. Quietly, she drew her explosive kunai, which numbered at around twelve. Grabbing four, Tenten threw each of them at high speeds, surrounding the Sora nins. They all gasped as kunai surrounded them.
"What the hell?" One spoke up.
Another noticed the exploding tags, "Watch out-"
Before he could finish the tags detonated, and the patrol seemingly disappeared into a ball of fire. Unfortunately, six out of the twelve shinobi managed to emerge from the ball of fire unharmed, having used their machine gliders as improvised shields. However, it was clear that the gliders themselves suffered at least some minor structural damage.
The shinobi who appeared be the team leader of the patrol survivors glared at Tenten, saying, "You'll pay for that, you wench, and you'll regret deciding to take on a squad all by yourself."
The six patrol members then proceeded to take to the skies with their gliders, proceeding to ruthlessly retaliate against Tenten with their mechanical bombs, along with the usual paper bombs.
'Shit! I should've been more thorough,' cursed Tenten as she kept moving across the roofs, dodging one explosion after another, 'I guess it's true when they told us at the academy that no plan survives first contact with the enemy.'
She eventually found a huge pile of debris to take cover at, pausing for several moments to evaluate her remaining resources while also planning her next move. While she was a bit frustrated that she no longer had Neji's Byakugan support to rely on, she had no room to complain. She was the one who had suggested they split up after all.
Explosions started to sound off in the west. That could only mean that Neji was doing his job. But what about the others?
"Never mind about that!" Tenten reminded herself, "They'll do just fine! I need to focus on the urgent problem in front of me right now!"
Remembering her backup plan, Tenten pulled out a familiar looking seal from her pocket; it was the special seal on Keisuke's arrow that she had been to trying to comprehend during her studies at Naruto's safe house.
'Well, this should come in handy,' she commented.
(In A Different Part Of Ancor Vatian)
Karin stood as she looked at the three before her. While she did not enjoy being near any of them for various reasons, they were still Orochimaru's loyal subordinates, so she had to put up with them if she wanted to continue remaining on Orochimaru's good side.
The first was Guren of the Crystal Release. A woman of average height with blue hair tied up in a ponytail. Karin simply couldn't stand how the woman seemed to treat Orochimaru like a god. Karin was well aware of how strong the man was and that he was their master, but never once did she believe him to be a god. To her, Guren was simply crazy.
Then, there was Juugo of the Scales. He was a muscular male in his mid teens with gravity defying orange hair. Karin was downright terrified of being near him. Why Orochimaru let him out of his cage to be a part of this operation was simply beyond her.
Finally there was the teen male Karin simply despised the most. His name was Suigetsu Hozuki, the so-called Second Coming of the Demon.
'Yeah right,' Karin thought, 'He's about as intimidating as a kitten. He's also as annoying as one.'
Suigetsu was a thin young teenager with shoulder length white hair and a fanged grin. Karin hated his stupid fanged grin. How he was always so snide and indifferent. But most of all, she hated how the man simply had no tact.
What was even worse was that she couldn't do anything about it. Suigetsu's status as a Hozuki gave him a rather unique body structure. He was completely made out of water and would regenerate from almost any attack. Dealing with Suigetsu always made Karin wish she knew some Raiton ninjutsu. That would certainly hurt him.
"So what's the situation, Karin?" Guren asked, "Orochimaru-sama wouldn't have brought us all together if it wasn't important."
"Isn't it obvious?" Karin pushed up her glasses, "The sounds of explosions outside should've made it clear. Sora no Kuni is under attack by an unknown enemy."
Suigetsu smirked at this, "Finally, some action, I was getting bored."
Juugo, however, seemed frantic upon hearing this and said, "Why did Orochimaru-sama send for me then? He knows I'll lose control if I go out there! And now that Kimimaro is gone…"
Juugo trailed off at this. He still couldn't believe that his closest friend, the one young man who could ever calm his rage, was dead.
"Kimimaro…," Juugo was close to crying, remembering his friend. Guren glared at Juugo and said sharply, "Enough, Juugo! Kimimaro is dead. That's all there is to it. You should be proud that he completed his final assignment for Orochimaru-sama."
Juugo narrowed his eyes at Guren. He desperately tried to stay calm. He managed to calm himself and retort to Guren, "You're just jealous that Orochimaru-sama picked Kimimaro as his next body instead of you," Juugo said lowly, "You have no right to speak ill of him out of jealousy."
"What was that?" Guren glared at Juugo
"Both of you be quiet!" Karin shouted.
"Oh no, let them fight, Karin," Suigetsu grinned, "If we're lucky they'll kill each other and rid us of them both."
"You shut up too, Suigetsu!" Karin turned her anger on Suigetsu and punched him in the face. Karin's anger increased when she saw his head explode in water and then quickly reformed. Suigetsu's smirk grew at Karin's failed attempt to hurt him.
"Ow," he said mockingly.
"Anyway," Guren said after calming down, "what exactly are we going to do about these enemies of ours. If they intend to destroy all that Orochimaru-sama has worked for, I will kill them all myself."
"Get in line," Suigetsu interjected, "I haven't had any fun for a while now."
"Look," Karin was hoping to get things back on track, "We're Orochimaru-sama's elite here. He's depending on us, especially now that the Sound Five is defunct. We have no other plan other than just hunt down our enemy."
"The only exception to that rule is Juugo," Karin turned to Juugo, "I want you to stay outside at all times. When you lose control, we can replace buildings, but we can't replace what's inside the Ancor Vatian."
"I don't want to lose control, Karin," Juugo said.
"You don't have a choice," Guren glared at Juugo again, "If Orochimaru-sama had you brought here, then it's clear that he wants you to lose control."
"I don't want to hurt anyone!" Juugo said sharply, feeling his rage building up.
"Whoa, chill big guy, save it for outside this place," Suigetsu said, taking a step back.
"Juugo, go outside, now!" Karin ordered. Juugo reluctantly nodded, realizing that he would lose control soon thanks to Guren. He then left, feeling his anger building up. Karin looked at Guren.
"Okay, Guren," Karin said, "since you've clearly become the object of Juugo's anger, you will have to remain here and kill anyone who's lucky enough to get inside this base."
Guren narrowed her eyes at this.
"Such an assignment is not making good use of my talents," Guren told Karin, "I should be on the front lines fighting for Orochimaru-sama."
"You don't have a choice anymore," Karin reminded her, "you pissed off Juugo and if you go out there with him, he'll hunt you down and kill you."
Guren grumbled but agreed to what Karin said.
"And me, Karin?" Suigetsu smiled.
"You, I honestly don't care what you do," Karin said coldly, "Personally, I hope you die here. Just go out and find someone to kill."
"Your liquid body will protect you," Karin reminded him, "I wish it didn't, but it will."
Suigetsu scoffed, but left as well.
"And what are you going to do, Karin?" Guren inquired. To that inquiry, Karin replied, "I'm going to stay in here and direct operations inside the base. You guys are the muscles, I'm the brains."
'It's a good thing you have brains, because you can't fight for shit,' Guren thought disdainfully.
"Now get going," Karin ordered. Guren nodded and left. Karin took a deep breath, calming herself down.
"I'm going to stop those bastards," Karin told herself, "I will not let them take my new Uzumaki brethren away from me."
(At a Different Section of the Fortress)
Tsuchiko's group came across several strange cannons. Nobody needed to speak, so Kurotsuchi and Kitsuchi watched as Tsuchiko sped through several Hand Seals. "Raiton: Rakurai!"
Bolts of lightning shot out of Tsuchiko's hands and tore through the cannons, one by one. The three Iwa nins quickly fled as the cannons exploded. They could already hear the Sora nins gasping and shouting in surprise.
"Hey, Tou-san," Kurotsuchi spoke up, "is this really what we are going to do? Why didn't the Namikaze tell us much of his plan other than causing chaos for the Sora nins?"
Kitsuchi sighed at Kurotsuchi's paranoia and told her, "All we can do is trust Namikaze-san, Kurotsuchi. The boy has proven himself trustworthy so far."
"Yeah, but still…," Kurutsuchi argued.
"I'm sure Namikaze-san has thought further ahead," Kitsuchi added, "This is more of a rescue mission and an assassination mission than anything else."
Tsuchiko nodded in agreement at this,"Yeah, he's rescuing the orphans and in the middle of hunting down Orochimaru. Both are pretty tall orders when you really factor in all the variables."
Kitsuchi grunted at this, "Like I said, all we can do is trust in Namikaze-san…I can't believe I'm saying that."
"I think we all can agree with that, Kitsuchi-san." Tsuchiko admitted. As hard as it still was to believe for Tsuchiko, she had to admit that the Namikaze was quite genuine in what he claimed he wanted to do; namely to end the hatred between Iwa and Konoha.
'I can't believe I'm actually admitting this,' thought Tsuchiko, 'but Ryota couldn't have picked a better future husband.'
Gathering chakra in her palms as she hurled another bolt of lightning, Tsuchiko found both her thoughts and her projectile attack interrupted by a spear shaped from wind.
"That nature manipulation!" gasped Kurotsuchi, "No, it can't be!"
When the smoke cleared from the collision of the two projectiles, a figure emerged. She had long black hair, light purple eyes, and a very familiar face. But what was noticeable about this woman was her sclera taking on a grey coloring while the rest of her body showed cracks and other signs of decay.
"I'm so sorry, kōhai," mourned Niwaishi, who was currently in Edo Tensei form, "I don't want to have to fight you, but the jutsu that brought me back from the dead prevents me from resisting."
Tsuchiko, Kurotsuchi, Akatsuchi and the rest of the Iwa nins present there had looks of mortified shock and disbelief at who they were seeing in front of them. However they were more mortified that their deceased dear friend and colleague was revived from the dead to be forced to fight them against her will.
(Deeper Inside the Fortress)
Konan coldly walked through the corridor, with spots of blood staining her dark blue sleeveless shirt and black pants. As she was walking, next to her were the numerous corpses of Oto-nin, Sora-nin, and freelance mercenaries, who learned the hard way that one can indeed die from a paper cut.
Or more, accurately, from dozens of deep paper cuts aimed at the right places, ranging from the jugular vein to the femoral arteries.
'They all did deserve to die,' justified Konan, 'They were accomplices to Orochimaru's kidnapping of innocent children.'
Of course, Konan had other reasons for participating in the siege of the airborne fortress. Doing so would provide opportunities to search through Orochimaru's lab for more specific information on his activities, assuming that there was a lab in the first place.
(Meanwhile, in another location in Sora)
After finishing several hand seals, Gari punched the building in front of him. "Bakuton: Jiraiken!"
A blast of red energy completely obliterated the building in front of him and several other buildings as well. Ittan sighed at this, "If they didn't know we're here before, they certainly do now."
Akatsuchi giggled in this, "Gari-san really goes all out in what he does, huh?"
'When he does, he overdoes it,' Ittan thought.
"Gari, we need to hide," Ittan reminded his comrade.
Gari nodded at this, and the three vanished before the Sora and Oto Nin could recover from Gari's attack. With this, along with the many explosions caused by Tenten, Tsuchiko, and Neji, the battle of Sora no Kuni was officially underway, and the entire area was now on high alert.
(In A Different Area)
A squad of Sora nins ran through the steel halls, looking for their attackers. Their leader was clearly furious at being attacked.
"I want them found!" He shouted. "Do you hear me? We will make them pay for mocking Sora!"
"Hai, Taicho!" All of his men shouted in unison. Unbeknownst to this squad of twelve men, however, a certain shinobi had already struck before they could even go through with their intentions. The captain suddenly felt dizzy. As his vision started to blur, he managed to make out several bugs resting on his arm. His eyes widened when he realized what was happening. Several screams told him that the same thing was happening to his men. Before the captain could react, a swarm of bugs enveloped his body, along with the rest of his squad.
Shino Aburame watched this happen with grim satisfaction. Chouji shuddered slightly at the sight while Shikamaru looked indifferent. Shikamaru looked at his friend.
"I know it's troublesome, but it's part of the job," Shikamaru reminded him, "After what you did to that Oto Nin during the Retrieval Mission, I thought you would understand that."
"I do," Chouji replied, "you just never get used to it."
Chouji watched as the bugs left the incapacitated men and returned to Shino. Chouji than asked out loud,"I wonder how Naruto copes with killing."
"It's not our place to ask," Shino interjected, "Why you ask? Because everyone has different ways of coping. Keep in mind that Naruto-san has to cope with many things, and not just killing. Therefore, it is logical that how he copes is…different."
Shikamaru nodded, remembering the day where Naruto announced his burden to Konoha.
"Isn't that the truth," Shikamaru muttered.
Two squads of Oto Nin confronted Ōnoki, who had forgone subtlety after the explosions.
"He's just an old man!" One of the squad leaders shouted, "Kill him!"
Ōnoki frowned at this.
"Just an old man?" Ōnoki repeated, "You youngsters really aren't that well informed if you are unaware of my reputation."
Ōnoki sped through some hand seals. "Jinton: Genkai Hakuri no Jutsu!"
A cube with a sphere in the middle appeared. Ōnoki fired it at the two squads, who were all left wondering just what the technique was going to do. The cube then expanded and trapped both squads inside. The sphere then exploded, creating a controlled blast that was trapped inside the cube, killing both squads in one fell swoop.
Ōnoki smirked at the carnage he had just created. "I may be an old man, but I'm still Ōnoki of Both Scales."
Utilizing the stealth skills that his beloved Anko had taught him, Naruto effortlessly snuck inside the Ancor Vatian. Naruto had a determined look on his face as he moved through the shadows.
All of you hang on, Naruto thought, referring to the Gonin no Uzumaki, I promise I will save you all.
(Hokage Mansion, Konoha)
Tsunade took a sip of her sake and looked at her guest. She studied her, hard, looking for any changes from her old personality. Tsunade could certainly understand why. Nobody was the same after spending an extended period of time with Danzo and his flunkies.
"That about sums it up, Shiho." Tsunade told her.
While physically Shiho had been healed up by Tsunade, she was still mentally hurt, especially when Suzume of all people had tortured her. Because of her mental injuries, along with Tsunade's ludicrous idea, Shiho could not bring herself to respond to Tsunade.
"I understand if this is all overwhelming to you, believe me, I do. Everyone feels overwhelmed when they are dealing with Danzo. Sarutobi-sensei was always so frustrated after every meeting with him…"
'He almost always took it out on us,' Tsunade frowned at the memory of Hiruzen always upping the training regime after talking with Danzo.
"…But listen, Shiho," Tsunade continued, "You need to understand that I need an answer now. You may be officially dead, but I don't think Danzo will ever be fully convinced, even if one of his best operatives reported it."
Shiho nodded at this.
"I will repeat the offer," Tsunade said, "I will hand you over to Jiraiya, who will train you in spying, espionage, and information gathering. You are one of the best workers in the Cryptology Department Konoha has had in a long time. We can put those talents to better use by having you made Jiraiya's apprentice in his spy network."
Tsunade then heard Shiho spoke. "What was that?" Tsunade inquired.
"My parents," Shiho said, "what about my parents?"
Tsunade gave Shiho a sympathetic look. "I'm afraid they will have to believe you are dead as well, Shiho. I'm sorry, but we cannot risk involving them in this. If Danzo did ever catch wind of this, they may be at risk. As long as they believe that you are dead, they are safe, and Danzo will not have any leads."
Shiho wanted to cry, but she was almost completely broken. Too broken to cry. "Isn't Jiraiya-sama a…a…"
"A pervert? Hell yeah he is." Tsunade said. "But I've made that idiot promise that he'll tone it down when he's training you…and just about all the other times he's with you."
'A promise he'll probably forget and then break,' Tsunade thought, 'Oh well, gives me an excuse to beat the crap out of him.'
Tsunade looked at Shiho with a calculating gaze. "Now then, Shiho, do you accept the offer, or not?"
Shiho looked at Tsunade with sad eyes.
"I don't have a choice," she said softly, "If I say no, he'll find me for sure."
Tsunade nodded, angry at Danzo for his actions. If that bastard didn't cover his tracks so well, she would have dealt with him a long time ago, something Sarutobi-sensei never could.
"Very well," Tsunade said, "I'll contact Jiraiya and have him reverse summon himself back to Konoha."
Tsunade got up from her seat. "Now where was that damn messenger toad.
(Meanwhile In Naruto's Mindscape)
Kurama was still chained and nailed to Kushina with Minato standing between them, relatively speaking.
"Now, Kushina-chan, as I was saying," Minato said, "Kurama and I have been discussing in depth how past events and reports that so many in Konoha and other places were made to believe don't add up as we found discrepancies one after another."
"Minato-kun," Kushina replied, "I remember as clear as day what happened days before and less than a few hours after Naruto's birth. So should I explain first how I remember things?"
"Well," Minato said as he thought about it, "I have a much longer story to relate so I suppose it would be better to hear the shorter one first."
"Shorter?" Kushina retorted.
"You have been missing in action and in suspended animation for over thirteen to fourteen years Kushina-chan so it's only realistic to say that your story will be shorter."
"Whatever," Kushina replied before she went into detailed to explain her version of what she remembered. Minato and Kurama listen closely to her explanation as the giant fox found no loopholes or discrepancies in her explanation. Before long, Kushina was done explaining what she remembers, leaving a silent but meditative Minato contemplating on her story.
"I can't help but believe how your story adds up and makes more since than anything," Minato confessed, "I'm trying to figure out how I and so many others were made to believe something entirely different."
"Speak for yourself," Kurama retorted.
"What do you mean by that?" Minato asked.
"What I mean is that I wasn't affected by the jutsu that led you and everyone else to believe what you all believed before hearing the truth of Kushina's story," Kurama revealed.
"You mean you knew all this time!?" Minato asked in disbelief.
"Of course I knew," Kurama replied, "While sealed in here and watching what was taking place outside I knew something was completely off. I said nothing about this because I knew that neither you nor your brat son of yours would believe me...plus I hate you; and your wife even more."
"Nice to know your hate of us isn't held against Naruto," Minato remarked.
"Shut up," Kurama retorted. Ignoring the fox, Minato turned to Kushina and asked, "Kushina-chan, tell me everything you know about the Uzumaki, their history, their ties, whatever enemies they had, everything. Perhaps something from my memories might be triggered from your explanation."
Kushina nodded and replied, "I'll tell you everything I can remember."
Tenten looked down at the streets and surveyed the damage she had caused, from the dead and wounded Sora-nin, to the burning buildings.
Combining these seeker arrows with exploding tags was a stroke of genius on my part. If he wasn't such an asshole I'd thank that Keisuke for designing such a brilliant bow and arrow. Tenten thought.
Tenten leapt across several buildings, looking for new victims to strike down. However, she suddenly froze, her eyes widening. Sitting on the other end of the roof she was currently on was a young man with shoulder-length white hair and sharklike teeth. He was casually drinking a bottle of water.
Suigetsu Hōzuki noticed Tenten and frowned.
"Damn," he muttered, taking the straw out of his mouth, "and I wanted to enjoy this for a bit longer."
Suigetsu then noticed the headband on Tenten's forehead. He smirked. "A Leaf-nin? Well I'll be damned, never thought they'd come right to me."
"You're going to wish I hadn't!" Tenten shouted, taking out several kunai.
Tenten tossed the kunai at Suigetsu, who simply sat there and smirked at his opponent.
What the hell is going on? Why isn't he dodging? Tenten wondered. Tenten soon got her answer, and it made her worried. Tenten watched in shock as the kunai simply passed through Suigetsu's body. Her mouth gaped as the supposed wounds became water, water that quickly reformed.
"I'm a part of the Hōzuki Clan." Suigetsu explained. "We are able to liquefy our body at will. If that's all you can do, then I'm afraid that I am the worst possible enemy for you."
Yep, Tenten thought, I'm in deep shit.
Suigetsu stood and and gripped the hilt of his sword that was tied around his waist. He then retrieve his sword from his sheath, and swung it around a few times to get a feel for his weapon of choice.
"My older brother was a master swordsman," Suigetsu commented, "I'm seeking to follow in his footsteps in mastering the art of the swords and being a skilled killer. I think I'll start by taking your life."
Tenten took out a sword and released one of her katanas that was sealed inside of it.
"He's going to be a dangerous opponent," Tenten decuded in an undertone, "I'm going have to find a way of hurting this guy...If I can at all."
Suigetsu didn't wait a minute longer as he rushed at Tenten. Tenten retorted by charging forward with her kakana in hand.
"…I'll kill a man next…no a woman…no a man…no…"
In an alleyway was a hulking young boy. Marks were starting to form on his skin. Juugo clutched his head, desperately trying to keep himself from losing it. However, deep down, even Juugo knew that this was a losing battle. The chances of him stopping himself from losing control were near-zero, especially with Kimimaro now dead.
"…A man…," Juugo continued, "…No a woman…no a man…no…the next one I kill will definitely be a woman…"
Meanwhile, Shikamaru, Chouji and Shino leapt across the rooftops, looking for their next target. Unbeknownst to the trio, the alley Juugo was in was directly in their path. And their good fortune was about to do a complete one-eighty.
"…The next one I kill will be a man…," Juugo muttered.
Juugo suddenly looked up, hearing a sound. He managed to catch a glimpse of a man leaping across the rooftops. His gaze immediately turned crazed and murderous.
"They're dead," Juugo growled insanely.
When the Konoha trio reached the edge of the roof they heard the sound of something crashing onto the roof. They all turned around and their eyes widened. Juugo stood on the other end, his mind completely taken over by his insanity and his body completely taken over by his Curse Mark.
"I recognize that look." Chouji noted, recalling his earlier battle with Jirobo.
Shikamaru nodded and said, "This guy's got a Curse Mark like those Oto guys who escorted Sasuke during the failed retrieval mission."
"You're all dead!" Juugo shouted. "I'm gonna kill you!"
Juugo charged them and swung his fist downwards. The trio leapt out of the way and barely dodged the attack. Shikamaru then heard the sound of men approaching.
"Something happened on the rooftop!" A man shouted. "Let's move!"
Juugo noticed the men approaching and glared maniacally at them. He hissed, "More lambs to the slaughter!"
A Sora nin saw Juugo and gasped, "That's Juugo of the Scales!"
"Oh shit, you're right!" another shouted.
"Let's get out of here before he kills us!"
Most of the Sora nins ran.
"You fools!" The leader shouted, "Don't run! Our enemies are right there."
"I'm gonna kill you first!" Juugo roared. The leader turned around and gasped. Juugo grabbed him by the throat.
"What are you doing?" the Sora group leader wheezed.
"Die!" Juugo shouted, crushing his throat. The three Konoha Nin watched in stunned silence.
"He killed his own comrade," Chouji muttered in shock.
"It's clear that he's not alright mentally," remarked Shino who was disturbed by this.
"Kami," Shikamaru too, "what the hell did Orochimaru do to that poor guy?"
All three were broken out of their thoughts when Juugo leapt back onto the roof. They all leapt out of the way and dodged his next attack. Shikamaru quickly retaliated. "Kagemane no Jutsu!"
Before Juugo could react, he was fully ensnared. Shikamaru smirked in victory and declared, "Kagemane complete."
Juugo growled in anger when he realized he could not move. Roaring in anger he managed to move, and break Shikamaru's hold over him in the process.
Shikamaru's eyes widened at this. "No freaking way."
Juugo ran towards Shikamaru in anger and screamed, "Die!"
Chouji, however, intervened. He moved in between Shikamaru and Juugo and punched him with an enlarged fist
"You aren't touching Shikamaru!" Chouji shouted.
"Chouji," Shikamaru found himself having flashbacks to the Retrieval Mission.
"Continue the mission without me, Shikamaru." Chouji ordered.
"What, no!" Shikamaru shouted. "I'm not abandoning you again!"
"Your Kagemane is useless against this guy. He managed to break through it with nothing but sheer power," Chouji reminded his best friend, "Leave this to me, I can take him."
Before Shikamaru could respond, Shino stepped in and offered, "Allow me to fight by his side, Shikamaru .Why you ask? Because it is the least I can do after missing the Retrieval Mission."
Shikamaru did not want to abandon Chouji a second time. But Chouji did have a point. With his Shadow Possession Jutsu useless, Shikamaru could not do much against Juugo.
"Be careful you two." Shikamaru said, leaving before he could change his mind.
Juugo recovered from Chouji's fist and glared at him. "You're dead for that." Juugo growled.
"You ready for this Shino?" Chouji asked.
"Of course I am." Shino responded.
As the two charged Juugo, a saddened Shikamaru moved across the rooftops.
'Why do I always end up being so useless?' Shikamaru thought.
Naruto, looking to save time, bit his thumb and raced through a set of hand signs before slamming his hand to the ground.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" Naruto said before a burst of smoke appeared. When it cleared, two foxes stood in front of him.
"Tails, Rena; it's been a while," Naruto greeted.
"It sure has," Tails replied with his childish smile.
"What do you require of us?" Rena asked politely.
"We're presently in a flying battle fortress armed with advanced technology, weaponry and flying machines. I figured Tails would be best in studying and dismantling this fortress's systems and weapons, and hopefully find a way to destroy this fortress."
"Leave it to me!" Tails assured.
"Should you find a way to destroy this fortress," Naruto continued, "wait till I gave you the OK to do so as I have my comrades moving through this fortress looking for fighting the enemies responsible for the problems and kidnappings I'm dealing with in Iwagakure."
"Got it," Tails before he started spinning his two tails and flying off to search for the fortress's main systems. Turning to Rena, Naruto said, "I'll need you to track down where five of my young friends are being detained."
Naruto retrieved Tsukiiwa's white headband and allowed Rena to smell it. Once she memorized the scent, she nodded her head.
"I understand my mission," Rena said before running off to find the children. With the two foxes leaving to perform their tasks, Naruto took off to find Orochimaru. As he was running through the corridors and up a flight of stairs, he came into a large opening and was nearly impaled with a poison laced spear that he narrowly dodged.
"Impressive," a voice said, "Every other target I went after never saw that coming and died."
Naruto looked up to see a figure standing in the shadows on one of the platforms.
"Who are you?" Naruto asked cautiously.
"A person your mother Tsunade owes a huge debt to," the figure answered as he stepped out of the shadows, "A debt she will pay with your life."
"I'm afraid I don't follow," Naruto remarked.
"Your mother and I have an old score to settle," the man said, "And so that you know, I'm Yatagarasu."
"I heard of you from kaa-chan," Naruto recalled, "You're one of the people she fought a long time ago. Honestly, I thought she beat you to death."
"She almost killed me I admit," Yatagarasu said, "But thankfully I had allies in high places that didn't want to see me dead. And what better way to repay the Slug Princess than having her live with the fact that her only son was killed by the man she nearly killed."
"You lost to my kaa-chan in a one-on-one fight and now you seek revenge against her by seeking to kill me," Naruto stated coldly, "You're a true coward."
"Call me what you want but I'll have you dead before the end of the day," Yatagarasu replied.
"I won't be beaten so easily and I'll warn you once: step the hell out of my way or die," Naruto said while not wanting to waste time fighting the man.
"It's not like you have much of a choice but to fight me and die," Yatagarasu retorted before pulling out his sword and charging at Naruto. Naruto quickly summoned his narigata and rushed at Yatagarasu, engaging the man in fierce death dance as they clashed their respective weapons against each other.
Amidst the chaos, Shikamaru was making his way running across the rooftops of the fortress. He didn't like that he had to continue on without Chouji but his friend and teammate insisted that he kept going while he dealt with Juugo. So far Shikamaru avoided be detected as he was seeking to conserve as much chakra as possible.
"This diplomacy mission proved to be the most troublesome mission by far that I've ever willingly accepted," Shikamaru commented to himself, "I should have just stayed home and enjoyed my time cloud watching."
"That will be the last of your worries," a female voice stated. Shikamaru looked to find Karin approaching him.
"You were quite stupid coming here," Karin said, "But I won't let you and your friends have your way."
"Listen girl," Shikamaru replied, "I'm really in a hurry to leave so why not tell me where those five children are being held?"
"They're my new Uzumaki brothers and sisters," Karin said, "And like I said..."
Chakra chains started appearing out of Karin's body with each chain having a kunai attack to them. Shikamaru was caught off guard by Karin calling Tsukiiwa and the other four children her new Uzumaki siblings. But seeing the situation he was in he had little time to question Karin further on that topic.
"You won't have your way!" Karin yelled out as she launched one of her chains at Shikamaru.
"Why do I always get the crazy females to fight," Shikamaru groaned in dismay.
Konan passed the corpses of the Sora ninja she slayed with her paper release technique. Not a single one was spare from her wrath. At the same time though, she was still intrigued by the stories she heard about Naruto. Wanting to satisfy her curiosity and see N,'aruto in action for herself, To turned heels and made her way to find him.
'This will be my only chance to ascertain Itachi's story about the boy before we'll have to seal the Kyuubi that resides inside him,' Konan thought. Though she knew Itachi was a trusted member of the Akatsuki however, the fact that he engaged Naruto twice and on both occasions Naruto gave Itachi a good fight intrigued her considering how strong Itachi himself was. Added to her fascination of Naruto was that like Pain, he never lost a fight.
As she was making her way to find the ninja of interest, a young female in her late teens appeared in front of her. This teen wore a teal short kimono with a grey turtle neck and short sleeves with a jade-green rope belt around her waist, and red shorts, light purple wrist bands and navy blue sandals. Also, the strands of purple hair that framed her face were short.
"I'm Guren and I won't allow you to go further beyond this point," Guren stated. Konan looked at the young female with disinterest and replied, "I have neither the time nor patience with you child. Step out of my way or die."
"You and your team interfered with Orochimaru-sama's plans far enough," Guren added, "Now face me in combat!"
Konan was already taking steps to prepare to deal with the kunoichi in front of her. However, the older woman was surprised when she saw Guren crystallize a nearby pole at a molecular level and then causing it to shatter into crystalline dust as a result.
"I see," Konan realized with narrowed eyes despite her calm expression, "You possess the rare Crystal Release bloodline."
"And with it," Guren declared, "I'll use it to be rid of you and the rest of your team!"
"I have neither the time nor patience for you," Konan warned, "Step out of my way or suffer my wrath."
By using her crystal power, Guren summoned and freely manipulated her crystal constructs to create crushing walls around Konan. Not wanting to waste time fighting the young girl, Konan burst into a sea of flying paper, shocking Guren.
"What the!?" was all Guren could shout before Konan wasted no time in rushing to cocoon the young kunoichi. Making quick haste, Konan, while holding Guren in her paper cocoon, brutally slammed the girl several times into the steel pipes, wall and floor, effectively injuring the girl and knocking her unconscious. She then threw the unconscious girl out of her cocoon away from her like an unwanted pile of trash. Guren, bleeding from the head and mouth rolled on the floor a couple of times before coming to a complete stop while lying on her back. She had sustained a concussion, two broken ribs and a fractured left arm. Her crystal walls dissolved and melted away.
Konan then reassembled herself and continued on her way to find Naruto without giving Guren a second glance or word.
Rena was stealthily running through the fortress in search of the five orphans she was sent to find. The golden yellow fox managed to avoid being spotted and detected by the ninjas aboard the fortress as she was hot on the trail where the children were being detained. Soon, she came across a steal door where Tsukiiwa's scent originated.
"I finally found the source," Rena said in an undertone. Upon examining the door, she found that it was locked with a seal of some sort.
"Just what I need now," Rena remarked with annoyance before performing a hand seal, which resulted in a burst of white smoke to appear. When the smoke cleared, it revealed Tao standing before her.
"Tao-onee-sama," Rena politely greeted and bowed, "I'm in need of her your help and expertise. I've located the orphans Naruto-sama summoned me to find but they're locked away behind this sealed door of this flying fortress which I can't access."
"I understand," Tao said before walking over to the door and examining the seal paper on the door. Rena watched quietly as her older sister examined the level of the seal.
"It's a blood seal," Tao realized, "Orochimaru used blood to seal this door."
"Can you still override the seals," Rena asked.
"Only with the blood Orochimaru used," Tao stated, "However Orochimaru cleverly didn't use his blood to seal the door."
"Then whose blood did he use?" Rena inquired. Tao smelled the seal and after a brief moment of silence, Tao realized, "It's a combination of two Uzumaki, one male and the other female."
"I'm assuming that the male is Naruto, which lead us to wonder who's the female," Rena stated, "I thought the Uzumaki clan was wiped out with the exception of Kushina."
"From the smell that particular female is somewhere here in this fortress," Tao deduced, "We have to find and get a sample of both her blood and Naruto's."
Rena nodded and took off with her sister to find the girl and Naruto.
(In Part Of The Fortress)
Yatagarasu and Naruto clashed the blades of their respective weapons of choice against each other. Both ninja were going at it fiercely in their death battle. Yatagarasu found that Naruto wasn't as easy to fight as he had assumed he would be. True he heard stories of Naruto's exploits from Orochimaru himself but the older man still though Naruto wouldn't too much to handle on his own. So far he was finding out for himself why Naruto wasn't one to be crossed.
"Damn you!" Yatagarasu cursed, "Why won't you just die!?"
"I did that already after I killed Orochimaru the first time," Naruto remarked, "I just refused to stay dead like that snake bastard!"
"Then I'll give you an incentive as to why you would have been better off remaining in your grave," Yatagarasu replied.
'I'm losing time fighting this guy and he's hell bent on wanting to kill me instead of kaa-chan,' Naruto thought, as he got ready to retrieve his tri-pronged kunais, 'I'll just kill him now and be done with it.'
As Naruto was about to pull out his tri-pronged kunai, a loud explosion was heard that rocked the chamber he and Yatagarasu were in. A moment later, Kurotsuchi, Akatsuchi and Tsuchiko were blown through the metal wall of the chamber and slammed hard into Yatagarasu, effectively knocking the man to the ground unconscious. Naruto looked to see what it was that knocked the three Iwa ninjas along with Yatagarasu off their feet. It was the resurrected Niwaishi who leaped through the hole in the wall made from her last attack fired at them.
Ittan, Kitsuchi and his team hurried and arrived on the scene. And from their appearance, Naruto saw clearly that Niwaishi was giving them a hard time. But that was to be expected when fighting a resurrected ninja that seemingly can't die.
"I'm so sorry!" Niwaishi cried through she wasn't able to shed tears, "I don't wish to do any of this but I don't have control of any of myself!"
"We know Niwaishi," Kitsuchi assured, "This Orochimaru's doing not yours."
Naruto's eye's widened upon hearing that name spoken while realizing what was going.
'This is bringing back a lot of hurtful and painful memories,' Naruto thought as he felt and understood their dilemma, 'I don't know how they're going to stop the revived Niwaishi and I doubt any of them would like to resort to the method I last used.'
Tsuchiko, Kurutsuchi and Akatsuchi groaned in pain as they made the effort to stand back up after the vicious beat down Niwaishi inflicted on them.
"Niwaishi-senpai hasn't lost her edge," Kurotsuchi groaned.
"Even dead she's still a giving us a brutal ass kicking," Tsuchiko added.
"Considering that you've been ambushed and stabbed by reanimated dead people twice already Tsuchiko, I figured you out of all of us would be used to it," Akatsuchi remarked.
"Shut up!" Tsuchiko retorted while resisting the urge to smack him across the head.
"Under different circumstances Akatsuchi," Naruto commented, "I would have considered that dark humored remark comical."
Niwaishi looked to see the person who just spoke. Her eyes widened upon recognizing the person she was seeing.
"It's you!" Niwaishi said, "You're Namikaze Naruto-kun!"
"Naruto-kun!?" Kurotsuchi asked in disbelief at how Niwaishi addressed Naruto just now. The other Iwa ninjas were just as puzzled as they watched Niwaishi walk over to Naruto as if she forgotten they were in the chamber with her.
"Interesting way of addressing me with such familiarity," Naruto said, "Ryota-chan did the same thing when she first met me."
"Ryota-chan?" Niwaishi repeated after hearing how Naruto addressed the former Iwa Jounin, "So Tsuchiko was telling the truth about you after she related to me what happened in Nami no Kuni."
"What did she say?" Naruto asked.
"That you took one of our kunoichi to be your girlfriend in spite of the fact she was originally sent to deal with you," Niwaishi replied, "While I was alive, I found it amazing that you were willing to disregard Ryota's past and ties to Iwa and make her yours."
"It couldn't be helped," Naruto remarked with a blush, "Though I will admit that I actually offered her dinner and a movie the second time we fought each other if she agreed not to fight me and desert the mission she was originally sent on."
"Are you serious!?" Kurotsuchi asked with widened eyes and her mouth dropped wide open in disbelief.
"Her sadistic and violent temper along with that monstrous earth-summoned strength reminded me of my kaa-chan and my sensei Anko-chan," Naruto remarked, "If they both were fused as one person that is."
"You mean to say that despite the fact Ryota was sent after you that you really actually liked her and you offered Ryota a date if she abandoned her mission and deserted Iwa for Konoha!?" Kurotsuchi asked.
"So that's how Naruto influenced and charmed Ryota into deserting Iwa for Konoha!" Akatsuchi exclaimed at what he thought was a shocking revelation, "What an ingenious tactic!"
"It took one more fierce battle with me and some hidden sensual incentives before she decided to abandon her mission in order to stay and live with me instead," Naruto added.
"Are you for real?" Niwaishi asked quizzically.
"Is this bizarre situation we're seeing for real?" Kurotsuchi asked in confusion while watching and listen to the awkward conversation between Naruto and the resurrected Niwaishi.
"It got Niwaishi to temporarily stop fighting us," Kitsuchi stated, "What Naruto is doing should buy us some time to figure out a way to stop Niwaishi."
"Stop her?" Akatsuchi asked, "Niwaishi-senpai keeps regenerating regardless how hard we hit her! I even tried crushing her with my golems and she easily regenerated from that! This kinjutsu that was used to revive Niwaishi-senpai is worse than the one used to reanimate those dead orphan caretakers who repeatedly stabbed you Tsuchiko."
"Baka!" Tsuchiko retorted before she finally smacked him across his head, "Must you keep bringing that up!?"
"Tell me something Naruto-kun," Niwaishi asked, "There's something I always wanted to ask you personally: Aside from your comical way you see Ryota-chan, why were you willing to take a girl from a people who hated you and your father? What was it about Ryota that led you to like her to the point that you wanted to make her yours? How were you able to get her to fall for you?"
"For one thing," Naruto started off, "Ryota and I had something in common: We were both hated and scorned by Iwa for something that was never our fault. We were looked at as living reminders of two ninjas who your people hate; for me it's my father, but in Ryota's case, it was Deidara her former sensei turned traitor. But what disgusted me more is the fact that long before I killed Soujiro and exposed him to have sold all of Iwa out to Orochimaru, everyone in Iwa pardoned Soujiro for drugging and nearly raping Ryota, as if what he did and tried to do to a fellow comrade was of no concern all because of her past ties with Deidara!
"And then there's you Niwaishi, who I'm sorry to say, was betrayed, drugged and actually raped by a fellow Iwa shinobi before being murdered by Orochimaru. You were getting too close for Orochimaru's liking in your investigation of the kidnappings so he wanted you dealt with. I investigated your tragedy and exposed the truth to your Kage and people and I just wanted you to know that through the combined efforts of my team, myself along with the aid your fellow ninjas gave me, we completed your mission and found the kidnapped children while bringing your betrayer and rapist to justice and being properly punished. And as we speak we're dealing with Orochimaru and his minions aboard this fortress who kidnapped and experiment on five young orphans from Iwa who became like family to me just as Ryota-chan did!"
Niwaishi took in everything Naruto told her and meditated on it. The other Iwa ninjas stood there wondering what was going to happen next after hearing Naruto's speech. After a period of silence, it was soon broken by...
"You're son of the Yellow Flash, the man my people always hated. Yet we were betrayed, shamed and humiliated by our own ninjas and on both occasions the son of the Yellow Flash came our aid," Niwaishi said, "You're nothing like so many of my people believe you to be and truly we don't deserve the help and the self-sacrifice you've given us. You have a kind and understanding heart Naruto-kun, and now that I met you…"
Niwaishi paused for a moment. Everyone in the chamber waited for her next words which came a moment later when she said, "I'm happy that I was brought back and that I got to meet you Naruto-kun. I only wish that I was still alive and met you first before Ryota-chan."
Everyone understood the underlying meaning behind those words, which was surprising to say the least. The Iwa nins never expected that Niwaishi secretly had that kind of admiration and attraction to Naruto. Soon everyone started seeing Niwaishi's body turning paler before more cracks all around her body started forming. In the process, she started losing color all around her body which was now disintegrating into dried out mud and dirt particles.
"What's happening to her," Tsuchiko asked.
"Her body is falling apart," Kurotsuchi stated.
"Naruto-kun," Niwaishi thanked with a smile, "Thank you. Thank you for completing my mission and rescuing those children. Thank you for having justice for the crimes committed against me carried out. Thank you for not hating us as a people in spite of the fact that we as a people hated you. Thank you for loving Ryota-chan and those orphans. Thank you for letting me leave this world in peace."
Moments later her body completely disintegrated into a pile of dried out mud and dirt particles before revealing the missing nin used to be the host of Niwaishi's essence.
'So that's one way to dispel Edo Tensei,' Naruto carefully noted, 'I wish I knew this in advance before the invasion of Konoha happened. It would have saved me a great deal of grief.'
"You stopped Niwaishi-senpai and sent her away in peace without the use of your fists or any jutsu Naruto," Kurotsuchi said as she approached Naruto who snapped out of his train of thoughts after hearing her address him. Standing in front of him, Kurotsuchi gave a respectful and humble bow to Naruto.
"Naruto, I'm sorry for my rude behavior since the time you arrived in Iwa and thinking so poorly of you up to this point," Kurotuchi apologized, "You're a better ninja than any of us combined, Naruto. Please accept my most humble apology."
Akatsuchi came and followed Kurotsuchi's example and bowed humbly to Naruto.
"You may not be an Iwa ninja," Akatsuchi said, "But after today and what you did for Niwaishi-senpai, I'd be honored to call you my friend, Naruto."
Yatagarasu gradually stirred and opened his eyes to see that he was completely outnumbered by Iwa ninjas besides Naruto standing there.
'Not good,' Yatagarasu thought as he tried to devised a distraction of some sort to buy him some time to escape and rethink of a way to ambush Naruto. A moment later, an explosion rocked the flying vessel momentarily knocking everyone off their feet. Seeing his opportunity, Yatagarasu hurriedly got up and ran out of the chamber. Naruto saw this but decided that now wasn't the time to go after him.
"Naruto!" Tsuchiko suggested, "We'll deal with that guy that just ran out from here. You go find Orochimaru and your five friends."
Naruto nodded and said, "Got It!"
That being said, Naruto took off from the chamber to find his target and captured friends.
Rena and Tao were both running through the fortress in search of the female Uzumaki whose trail they were both hot on. Soon though, they found their target who was engaged in combat with Shikamaru. Currently he was hard pressed fighting against her chakra chains.
"We'll need to immobilize and knock her out quickly before she sees us," Tao advised, "Her chakra chains will give us serious problems if we're captured by them."
"Even Kurama-sama himself isn't a match against those Uzumaki chakra chains," Rena recalled.
"All the more reason to take her out fast," Tao stated, "We'll have to distract her long enough for one of us to knock her unconscious."
"I'll do it," Rena volunteered before she left Tao's side and stealthily made her way to where Karin was. The yellow fox moved through the shadows seemingly undetected when Karin sensed something approaching her without turning to where it was coming from. Without warning, she shot out chakra chains straight into Rena's direction.
"She's a sensor type!" Rena realized before narrowly evading getting captured by the chains. Rena jumped and flipped around through the chamber as the chains quickly followed and pursued her while almost catching her with every turn.
"If this keeps up I'm bound to get caught," Rena acknowledged only seconds before her tail was caught and held tightly by one of the chains.
"Damn it!" Rena growled as she tried futilely to free herself of the chains.
"You're not going anywhere," Karin said.
"Actually," Rena countered, "I was merely the distraction."
Karin wasn't able to process her words when Shikamaru quickly attached his shadow to hers. Seeing that Karin was standing next to a steel wall, Shikamaru rammed his head to his left while Karin's body imitated his moments which led Karin to unintentionally collide her head into the wall, effectively knocking her unconscious. She fell to the floor before her chakra chains dispelled and freed Rena. Tao went over to Karin and made a small cut on her finger before taking a sample of her blood with a seal paper. Shikamaru made his way over to the two fox summons.
"I take it that you both are reinforcements Naruto summoned," Shikamaru remarked.
"Yes," Tao said, "The kin and I located the children Naruto-sama seeks to rescued but the door to the chamber they're in is locked behind a blood seal that require the blood of a male and female Uzumaki to open it."
"Troublesome," Shikamaru commented, "And this crazy red-haired ninja is an Uzumaki. She said something earlier about those children becoming her new siblings, whatever that's supposed to mean."
"We'll find out more, later," Tao said, "Right now we have to find Naruto-sama and get a blood sample from him. But seeing that this girl is an Uzumaki like Naruto-sama we'll have to take her with us."
Tao made quick works in tying Karin up and putting seals around her to prevent her from utilizing her chakra. Putting Karin over her right shoulder, Tao, Rena and Shikamaru left to go find Naruto.
(Meanwhile In Konoha; Back In The Of Death)
Ryota and Haku were listening to Mito as she was explaining everything she knew and remembered about Kushina. The two kunoichis were surprised at how strong Kushina was and how she had taken down a good number of ninja in her prime. On hearing how Minato rescued and save Kushina from a team of Kumo ninjas, they could understand why Mito didn't object to Kushina and Minato seeing each other.
"Kushina was quite an exceptional ninja," Haku said, "I see now why Naruto-kun's father was so interested in her."
"The very fact he was able to track down and rescue Kushina because of her hair strands which she left behind to be found is rather remarkable," Ryota commented, "He truly did love her."
"And Kushina fell in love with him also," Mito said, "They were inseparable since."
Haku was about asked a question when the masked Honoka returned with some cooked for Ryota and Haku, with was friend fish with some fried breaded pork chops over rice and salad. She had a plate of food to each of the two guests with some cold drinks.
"Here you are," Honoka said, "I hope you two enjoy the meals."
The girls thanked the older female and started eating. Needless to say they found the found tasty and well-seasoned.
"This is really delicious Honoka-san," Haku complimented.
"Thank you," Honoka said appreciatively.
"Perhaps you can share this recipe with us," Ryota suggested, "Maybe I'll try making this and seeing if Naruto-kun would like it beside ramen."
"I'm pretty sure he'll appreciate some good food cooked by your hands," Honoka replied. Soon both Haku and Ryota were done with their meals and felt completely satisfied and replenished.
"Honoka," Ryota asked, "I've been meaning to ask you something, if you don't mind."
"What is it?" Honoka asked.
"How long have you been living here as Mito's gatekeeper?" Ryota asked.
"For over ten years," Honoka answered.
"Ten years!?" Ryota replied, "You've been living here for all this time? Does anyone else know you're here?"
"No," Honoka said, "Honestly, I don't know what's been happening outside the Forest of Death."
"Why?" Ryota inquired, "How can you still be unaware of the present day events and changes that have happened outside of the Forest of Death? Surely, Honoka, you're prudent enough to keep update with what's been happening over the years."
"There's a reason as to why I've been unable to find out all that's been happening outside the Forest of Death," Honoka said before she started explaining, "My story starts when I was six years old after my parents escaped with me from Uzu no Kuni when it was being attack by combined shinobi forces of from Kumo, Kiri and Iwa during the third Shinobi World War. Those three nations joined forces to with the Country of Jomae in an effort to wipe out the Uzumaki Clan in its entirety.
"Why did they want to destroy Uzu no Kuni and the Uzumaki Clan?" Haku asked.
"The Uzumaki Clan was known for being a clan of unrivaled seal masters and grand seal masters," Honoka explained, "The country of Jomae sought to establish a rival status of having seal masters of their own. However they were never capable of matching or overpowering the Uzuamki. This was because our bloodline limit gave us massive chakra reserves, longevity and the ability to create unbreakable chakra chains. Some of my Uzumaki brethren even had the ability to heal themselves and others completely through the use of their chakra. All these factors made us both hated and feared by many shinobi nations, and we were especially hated by Jomae because of our attributes. So much so that Jomae moved the other shinobi nations to join forces with them to exterminate the Uzumaki Clan and destroy Uzu no Kuni completely.
"Many of my and Mito-sama's brethren were killed as those who were able to escape fled and scattered to different parts of the world. My parents and I were among the escapees but we weren't free from Kiri hunter-nins who chased us around the different countries. My parents fought off and killed the Kiri hunter-nins whenever they found us but eventually a group of ninjas from Jomae found us. My parents died fighting them but not before killing them in the process.
"I became an orphan at 13 but that wasn't the only problem I was plagued with. I later learned that I had tuberculosis and my Uzumaki genes were the only thing that was barely keeping me alive. I couldn't go to a hospital, lest I wanted to become a sitting duck for the Kumo hunter-nins that were still pursuing me. Therefore, I made a lengthy journey to the only place I knew to be safe for sure after learning about it from my parents before they died: the Uzumaki Mask Temple.
"I got to the temple first before the hunter-nins could find me. When I arrived at the temple, I made my way inside in hopes of attain some form of sanctuary and protection in my ancestral grounds. But when I got inside, I fell unconscious because I was too weak from my sickness and lack of food ration and medical attention. That was when I was found by Mito-sama. After she found me, she set up traps with her chakra chains and saved my life.
"After learning in deeper details my clan's history and heritage from Mito-sama, I gratefully pledged my life to Mito-sama, becoming the gatekeeper we know as of today. However, seven year ago, I was about to succumb to the tuberculosis, and there was only so much that my Uzumaki biology could accomplish on its own without medical attention. It was then that Mito-sama pulled a desperation move to save my life. She attached chakra chains between me and the temple itself; as it turned out, the temple is not just a mask storage vault; it's also a fountain of natural energy, where Hashirama-sama secretly practiced his Sage Mode during his prime. The senjutsu chakra which from the temple cured me of my disease, but it came with a heavy price: I'm now bound to the temple, becoming dependent on its natural energy just to stay alive.
"If I were to ever sever my chakra chains from the temple, I would exhibit withdrawal symptoms of my terminal illness returning. Therefore, I've been staying isolated at the temple all these years, fulfilling my duties as gatekeeper. I'm now in the same boat as Mito-sama: bound to the temple and cut off from the rest of the world."
"What a heavy price you carry," Ryota said sympathetically, "It's as though you're a prisoner in this very place even though this was never Mito-sama's intentions."
"I understood that she was trying to save my life and I wanted to live and be at Mito-sama's side as long as I could," Honoka said, "It was because I wasn't able to get my illness treated that forced Mito-sama to resort to attaching my life force to this temple."
"I'm sure if Tsunade-sama were to examine and treat your sickness you'd be as good as new and be free to leave he temple freely," Haku suggested, "After all, Tsunade-sama is the most renowned medic with Naruto-kun coming in at a close second when compared to her."
"So my granddaughter has become that skilled of a medic," Mito remarked with a smile of approval, "I've always known that girl had promises for great things," Mito smile then turned to a frown of disapproval, "other than gambling like my late husband Hashirama. I tell you that man used to spoil our granddaughter rotten and he passed down his bad gambling habits to Tsunade as well."
"I suppose you hearing that Tsunade passed down that same trait to Naruto-kun will sadden you," Ryota remarked, "The only difference is that he doesn't have her bad luck streak."
Mito sighed and shook her head, "Were Hashirama alive here to see that, he'd probably be moved to tears and laugh joyously before seeing me smack him across the head. But in any case, I'll need you be both to find and bring my granddaughter here to this location so she can examine and cure Honoka's illness. Plus she needs to hear everything Honoka and I explained to the both of you."
"It'll take some convincing to get Tsunade-sama to follow us here," Ryota commented, "We'll need proof of our story in order to convince her."
Mito nodded her head and turned to Honoka, "Honoka, retrieve and give of the temple mask to these two kunoichi. They'll use the mask as proof of their story."
"I understand," Honoka complied before quickly making her way to retrieve one of the masks.
(Back At Ancor Vantian)
Naruto was moving fast through the fortress after coming in contact with Tao and Sakuya. While on the way they, briefed him about Karin's ties with the Uzumaki clan, the people his birth mother is from. On hearing this, he had Rena take Karin back to his safe house to have her detained there for questioning later. He told Rena clearly to make sure nothing happens to Karin and to watch her until he returns. Rena made it was priority to make sure her mission was carried out.
Soon, Naruto, Shikamaru and the two fox summons arrived at the sealed door detaining Naruto's five friends. Tao retrieve the seal paper having a sample of Karin's blood and now Naruto's blood after he was told that his blood was also required in order to drop the seal over the door. Tao channeled chakra into the seal paper and pressed it onto the seals on the door. A glow of chakra appeared over the door and a force field of some sort dropped, granting access of the four standing in front of the door.
"Excellent!" Naruto said as he wasted no time opening the door. Upon entering the chamber, he and the others came across a sight they weren't at all expecting. It was an elaborate medical and experimentation chamber with equipment Naruto had never seen as a medic. There were test tubes, vials and other sophisticated electrical and electronic equipment abound in the chamber. What he saw next shocked him to the core: it was his five friends, all unconscious and lying on top of recovery bed with equipment monitoring their vitals and IV needles injected into their arms. What he and the others also saw was that all of their hair was now red with Tsukiiwa's now red hair having streaks of her original silver hair.
"Are you taking this all in, Naruto?" Orochimaru asked as the appeared behind the curtain that separated the chamber Naruto and his team were in from the examination section, "Your friends were bestowed with a special gift from yours truly."
"What have you done to them?" Naruto asked.
"I made them part of your family," Orochimaru replied, "Though it was done through medical and experimental means, they're now full-fledged Uzumakis related to you by blood. For a long time I've been working on perfecting this prized experiment of mine known as "Project Star." Seventy-five children were used before realizing that your very blood, your Uzumaki DNA, was the essential key needed in order to truly perfect "Project Star." That was why I had Kabuto acquire blood samples from you through the use of those reanimated mosquitoes that stung you several times.
"What?" Naruto replied after finding out why those mosquitoes stung him a few days earlier, "Now I see now why you asked me about my mosquito bites! You stole my DNA for your twisted experiment!"
"I had to keep a promise to a certain Uzumaki girl under my charge who so badly wanted Uzumaki siblings and I had to prove to be a man of my word who delivers what he promises," Orochimaru countered.
"You mean Karin," Naruto realized. Orochimaru smirked and said, "So you and your team came across her earlier. What became of her?"
"Don't worry about that Orochimaru," Naruto said as bloodlust starting leaking out of him, "You'll pay for what you did to my friends against their will."
"You ought to be thanking me and yourself for your generous contribution that completed my work," Orochimaru countered, "Your journeying to Iwagakure was a blessing in disguise for both myself and these fortunate orphans who owe their lives to you since it was your DNA genetic code that saved their lives since the chakra from the fallen star of Hoshigakure infused into their bodies would have proven too potent and dangerous for them to survive through. They're more than orphans now…they're Uzumakis with unknown potentials for greatness."
"You inconceivable bastard!" Naruto cursed with fangs grown after his once blue eyes turned red with black cat's eye slits in them. He got ready to fight the Snake Sannin, however Orochimaru retorted, "If you're smart, you'd focus on getting these new Uzumaki children as far from this flying vessel as possible. It would be a sad waste for them to die here after all the trouble I went through just to ensure their survival of "Project Star"."
Orochimaru turned and started walking off casually when Naruto was about to charge at him. The blonde Elite Jounin stopped when the Sannin turned half way to face him.
"My task here is done. Please take good care of these children Naruto. They'll need you," Orochimaru remarked with a twisted smile before bursting into a cloud of smoke.
"Troublesome," Shikamaru remarked, "He was a kage bunshin all along."
"Damn him!" Naruto roared angrily seeing how Orochimaru outwitted him. Naruto had to take a moment to calm himself down before he went to check on his five young friends turned Uzumaki. Making four other clones, he dispatched them to check on the others when he went over to Tsukiiwa. While examining her, he found nothing life threatening or alarming to be concerned with. Soon though, Tsukiiwa opened her eyes with her vision gradually returning. When it came to, she smile happily when Naruto was the first person she saw.
"Naruto-niichan!" Tsukiiwa said happily with a few tears running down her face, "You came! I knew you would rescue us. We never lost faith in you."
"I'm going to get you guys out of here!" Naruto said with a determined voice before he summoned another clone and had the clone scoot and carrying Tsukiiwa into his arms while the other clones did likewise with the other orphans.
"Bring them back to the safe house while I and the others finish things off here," Naruto instructed, "Run a full examination on all of them before I return."
The five clones nodded their heads before teleporting with the children to the safe house. Naruto then turned to Shikamaru, Sakuya and Tao. He was about to say something when Tails suddenly appeared in front of Naruto and the others via shunshin. However Tails fell to his hands and knees as he was bleeding from both ends of his mouth and that he multiple bleeding injuries.
"Tails!" Tao and Sakuya cried out as they along with Naruto and Shikamaru quickly went to his aid.
"…Naruto-sama," Tails said weakly as Sakuya lift and carried him into her arms, "I'm sorry I wasn't able to wait for your signal…"
"What happened!?" Naruto asked worriedly.
"Orochimaru summoned three large snakes that found and attacked me while I was disabling the vessel's main control systems," Tails explained through a strained tone, "I fought the snakes but they managed to keep with my pace and in time they overpowered me…they almost killed me too. But I managed to stunned and immobilize them long enough to allow me to quickly shut down and crash the central cooling units. The vessel's system core is overheating fast to dangerous levels. At any minute now it'll-"
Tails was cut off when the flying vessel suddenly shook violently with a series of explosions that suddenly occurred Naruto and the others managed to keep themselves from falling to the flying when alarms, sirens and the alert systems throughout the flying fortress went into motion:
"WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! SYSTEM CORE CRITICAL FAILURE! SYSTEM CORE CRITICAL FAILURE! T-MINUS TEN MINUTES UNTIL IMMINENT SYSTEM CORE MELTDOWN! PLEASE ABANDON SHIP THROUGH THE NEAREST ESCAPE HATCHES! I REPEAT: SYSTEM CORE CRITICAL FAILURE! T-MINUS TEN MINUTES UNTIL IMMINENT SYSTEM CORE MELTDOWN! PLEASE ABANDON SHIP THROUGH THE NEAREST ESCAPE HATCHES!"
"You did what you had to, my five young friends were found and rescued and you've returned back to us safely; so I say mission accomplished," Naruto assured before another explosion rocked the vessel violently.
"We haven't much time Naruto-sama," Tao informed while stating the obvious, "We best make haste to regroup with the others."
"They're scattered all throughout this colossal flying fortress," Tails reminded, "How will we regroup with everybody before this entire vessel blows up?"
"Like this," Naruto said before Shikamaru, Sakuya who was still holding Tails and Tao held onto Naruto. Through the use of Hiraishin, Naruto teleported with the four of them and reappeared in an instant in front of worn out and beaten up Chouji who clearly had seen better days as his body size shrunk down to a considerable smaller and leaner size.
"Chouji!" Naruto called out as he ran to his aid, "Are you alright!?"
"Behind you!" Chouji warned when Juugo rushed from behind them in an attempt to ambush and kill them. Naruto however suddenly turned on his feet and delivered a solid monstrous strength induced punch to Juugo that sent him flying through the iron walls of the fortress one after another. It was anyone's guess how far Juugo was sent flying or if Juugo survived that attack that carried the force of a freight train.
"Could have saved me the trouble dealing with him if you were here fighting him instead," Chouji remarked humorously despite his injuries.
"Save what strength you have left," Naruto advised as Shikamaru went to Chouji's aid and pulled him up off the ground while giving his support by having Chouji's left arm wrapped over his shoulders. Naruto encased the group in a wind manipulated air bubble and while holding it, he used Hiraishin again and this time he reappeared in front of Team 9, Kiba and Shino. At the opposite end of the chamber was the unconscious Juugo who crashed directly into Suigetsu who took the full brunt of the impact that resulted from Naruto's punch. Suigetsu, never seeing the collision coming, was knocked unconscious alongside Juugo.
"Your timing is as impeccable as ever Naruto-sama," Tenten remarked while not realizing the honorific she reflexively used with Naruto's name.
"Thank me later!" Naruto replied, "We have to go, now!"
After gathering the remaining Genin into his air bubble, Naruto teleported to where Ōnoki and the rest of the Iwa ninjas were and found that their Tsuchikage was badly wounded and unconscious with the captain of the flying vessel lying on the ground dead at their feet. Tsuchiko was doing everything she could to save her uncle.
"What happened here?" Naruto asked worriedly.
"Orochimaru is what happened!" Tsuchiko answered with anger and hate in her tone, "He and my uncle battled each other and that reptilian coward had his summoned pythons ambush him!"
"Like my small fox friend here," Naruto said, "But we can't treat their wounds here! This vessel is going down-"
"And clearly the captain went down before it did after Orochimaru double-crossed and killed him," Kurotsuchi remarked while pointing to the dead leader of the Sora ninjas.
"What did you expect after he made a pact with a deadly viper? But that's beside the point. Let's go!" Naruto advised before large explosions started tearing through the fortress, destroying everything and killing everyone caught by them. Encasing the Iwa ninjas in another air bubble, Naruto was about to leave with them when Ōnoki realized someone was missing.
"Where's Konan?" Ōnoki asked. Just then, Konan appeared in front of them.
"Forgive my lateness," Konan requested after joining the Iwa ninjas.
"How did you know where to find us?" Tsuchiko asked.
"I have my methods," Konan replied, "But we need not worry about that."
Nothing further was said before Naruto while holding both air bubbles used Hiraishin to teleport himself and everyone off the self-destructing fortress. In an instant, everyone was back in Iwagakure in front of the hospital.
"We're back in the village that fast!?" Kurotsuchi marveled.
"Naruto used his father's Hiraishin as our salvation and not as our damnation," Akatsuchi remarked.
"I'll take that as your way of saying "thank you"," Naruto replied.
"Tsuchikage-sama!" a team of medic nins called out as they rushed out of the hospital and quickly went to the aid of their Tsuchikage and fellow Iwa nins who were also wounded.
"Help Naruto's friends also!" Tsuchiko sternly instructed and then warned, "And so help me if I find out that any of you did little to nothing to help Naruto's friends or that any sort of medical malpractice was done on them, I will personally kill you!"
The medics knew not to take Tsuchiko's warning threat lightly and made it their aim to help them to the best of their power as they also went to aid Naruto's team.
"Thanks," Naruto said.
"After everything you've done, I'm no mood for any bullshit from my people," Tsuchiko commented, "More than enough of my own people betrayed us and Iwa, and honestly I have more reasons to trust you than anyone else. By the way, how will we know that Sora no Kuni is destroyed?"
"I have clones watching its destruction from the surface as we speak," Naruto assured, "They'll be sure to kill whoever survives."
Ōnoki turned and found that Konan was nowhere in sight.
"Your mercenary is gone," Naruto said.
"She aided us in our battle and saved your female teammate's life," Ōnoki countered, "What reasons do you have not to trust her?"
"I'm grateful for her help and saving Tenten's life," Naruto retorted, "I'm just disturbed by her immediate desertion after our return."
Naruto said nothing further as he followed his team and the rest of the Iwa ninjas into the hospital. While on their way inside…
"Naruto?" Tsuchiko realized with worry, "What about the orphans we were supposed to rescue and bring back?"
"They're someplace safe," Naruto assured, "I found and sent them to a safe haven before the vessel's destruction. Orochimaru experimented on them using with the use of my DNA, permanently altering their genetic makeup. I'll explain more inside."
Tsuchiko nodded her head and followed Naruto into the hospital. In the back of Naruto's mind however, he wondered why Orochimaru so willingly and freely allowed Naruto to take his five friends with him instead of putting up a fight to keep them as his personal soldiers considering the amount of work Orochimaru put into turning them into Uzumakis. There were still many questions left unanswered…
Naruto's five friends were found, and Orochimaru's base along with Sora no Kuni were completely destroyed. What will happen next in the conclusion of this long arc and what will become of Karin and the five orphans who were turned into Uzumaki children infused with the chakra of the meteor of Hoshigakure and Naruto's DNA?
Will the Tsuchikage survive and awake from his injuries and where did Konan run off to in such a hurry? What will become of Honoka and what happened that caused Minato and countless others to believe what he discovered were false memories that evidently Kurama knew about all along?
A/N: I want to thank Ryuzaki and ND2014 in helping me in the making of this chapter.