Chapter four

xxx

Naruto was sleeping, and he intended to stay that way for as long as possible. For two reasons. First, the pain of forcing Kyuubi's chakra into the new coils had finally hit and, as Kyuubi had said, it was like thousands of scorpions eating him from the inside out. Only worse. While he was asleep, he didn't feel the pain.

Second, he had dreamt himself up a kitchen and had made himself a personaly delicacy... Instant ramen boiled in fresh blood... it was delicious, but was difficult to make in real life because of the hassle of keeping his prey alive long enough to drain them into a pot. In his dreamscape, the blood was warm and rich and pure and wouldn't coagulate, so he could just lift one of the bottles out of the cupboard and pour it into the pot.

'Police Girl'

He'd already finished up the first pot, and was working on the second. Just a few minutes more and it would have cooled down enough to eat.

'Police Girl'

All in all, this was one of his better dreams.

'Police girl'

However, that was getting really annoying, really quickly.

'Police Girl!'

"Will you shut up already? I'd think that I could be alone in my dreams if I want."

'... You are not the Police Girl.'

"I'm not any kind of girl, most of the time anyway."

'So, the Police Girl has sired a childe... how unexpected. Hmm... and now that I can see, such an interesting childe indeed.'

"Now that what now?"

'If you had ignored me, I would have eventually had to leave. Now that you have acknowledged me, I can see who I'm speaking to... and if you would drop your illusions, you could see me.'

Naruto sighed and glanced longingly at the bubbling pot of red-stained noodles. With a wave of his hand it, and the kitchen, dispersed into nothingness, leavin him alone.

Or rather, almost alone.

The man in the red coat was grinning widely... maybe he hadn't thought Naruto would know how to control the dream.

'I have had many names,' he said, voice still retaining the odd, echoey quality it had had in the dream kitchen. 'But most recently, I have been known as Alucard. Greetings, childe of my childe.'

Great... another voice in his head. Like one wasn't enough.

Alucard erupted in laughter... oh, yes. An interesting childe indeed.

xxx

Naruto's eyes snapped open, the odd man... his grandsire's laughter still echoing in his ears. He considered getting up for a moment, then decided against it. Seras was clutching at him and drooling in her sleep, and he would have to wake her up to escape the bed. Knowing how grouchy she could get when woken prematurely, he resigned himself to several more hours as her living teddy bear.

Most humans would be shocked at how casually the two shared a bed, especially as their relationship was closer to a mother and child than anything else. For vampires, however, it wouldn't garner a second glance. Given the fact that out of a randomly selected group of one hundred thousand vampires, one or two might not be completely sterile, vampiric communities had next to no taboos. In a large gathering, it would be almost expected to see a couple or two that had been parent and child, or siblings, in life. The odds of them both being fertile were simply too astronomical to contemplate, and so wasn't. Apparent age differences, also, didn't garner a fuss, as what looked like a middle aged woman and a teenage man could really be a vampire that had been around for the last millenium and his newest thrall.

Appearances were very seldom the reality. For instance, the reason the two were sharing a bed was that at first, they'd only managed to scrape together enough money to buy a single bed. Once they'd gotten around to buying the next one, it had gone unused as, for whatever reason, the two had become more comfortable sleeping in the same bed than alone.

Naruto glanced at the ceiling. He could feel the sun rising, despite there being no clocks or windows nearby. One more perk of vampirism. He slowly began disentangling himself from his sire, despite the... unnatural feeling being awake during the day gave him. Technically, neither he nor Seras had to sleep, but during the daylight hours both would be extremely lethargic. A drawback of naturally being nocturnal.

He took a moment to dress himself, carefully making sure that not an inch of skin below his neck was exposed before adding his wide-brimmed hat. He'd had to have most of his outfit custom tailored, to fit his small frame, and the expense had made him almost glad that even Kyuubi wasn't able to make him grow much larger. He was able to stimulate the growth hormones that undeath usually made completely dormant, but only somewhat. At best, Naruto would grow another eight to ten inches, still leaving him very short. He groaned mentally... his height had always been a sore spot for him, and now he would have to deal with it for the rest of eternity.

That sucked.

He sighed as he stepped out of the warehouse, the dim morning light washing over his leather-clad form. It was a couple more hours yet before his team was expected to meet, but he had an appointment with the old man.

xxx

Sarutobi paused for a moment in writing his paperwork as a large spot on his wall faded into shadow and Naruto stepped out of it. He set down his pen and steepled his fingers.

"I assume you have information for me?"

Few had come to the conclusion that Naruto was behind the sudden rash of murders among Konoha's... less savory underbelly. Of those few, none realized that it was the Sandaime himself that picked and chose his targets. Old Sarutobi had felt guilty at first about using the youngling in such a manner, but had gotten over it in true shinobi fashion by means of a week-long bender.

Besides... as long as he arranged to keep the boy and his 'guardian', as she was listed in official documents now, fed... they wouldn't be taking their hunger out on the more foolish, but relatively innocent townsfolk.

"You'll be interested to hear this old man... apparently that fat pimp was more than he seemed."

"Oh? Do tell."

"Heh... You'll love this. Orochimaru is planning something for the Chunnin exams in Konoha."

Sarutobi sat up straighter, even as his face lightly paled.

"Orochimaru...? Are you certain?"

"The information has been burned into my mind, old man. That pimp was one of the snake's favorite spies among this cities darker elements. He'd been sending him information on secret access routes to the village for the past year."

"... Do you have names of any other spies."

"Sadly, no. Orochimaru is paranoid... none of his spies know the names of any of the others. It was sheer chance to find this one."

He turned to the wall, but paused as the Hokage pointed at the door. Shrugging, he decided to humor the man, just this once. He paused, hand on the doorknob, as he turned back for a moment.

"Old man... I think it best for my team to begin taking C-ranks. We both know that I'm ready for the Chunnin exam, but they need more... experience."

The Sandaime nodded, still deep in thought, as Naruto left and dissolved into darkness in the empty hall.

A C-rank mission. Hmm... he glanced down at his paperwork. He had just the thing. Protect a bridge builder from thugs and low level criminals until his bridge is complete. Simple and easy, perfect practice for a genin squad with as much potential as Naruto's.

That settled, he moved on to the next most important thing... sifting through the newest stack of papers for the inevitable false forms that, with application of his signature, would hand over all his powers and responsibilities to the council. They'd been at it for years, and every day there would be at least another dozen tries. He had to give them points for persistence, at least.

xxx

Of course, Tazuna wasn't so happy with the selection of the team at all. Not at all. A shrimp in leather, two more squirts, and a woman. He and Kurenai didn't hit it off at all, by which one could interpret that he was drunk and kept hitting on her, she didn't like it and slapped him, and so they hated each other's guts at first sight. The two hadn't stopped arguing since then.

This was a bad thing, as it distracted Kurenai enough that she didn't notice the subtle Genjutsu over the puddles at the edge of the road as she passed. Only watching for civilian level bandits, none of her students were looking for ninja tricks and they completely missed the puddles that were where no puddles should be. Ino actually walked through them as she nattered on obliviously about 'her Sasuke-kun', being completely ignored by the male portion of her team.

The demon brothers rose slowly from the puddles, clutching at their aching heads. After a moment, they began communicating with silent hand signals.

Kill the girl first?

Definitely. But slowly... ruin her good looks, then leave her dying of the poison.

And the sensei?

Not combat specialist... we take her next, then the two brats, then the old man. Easy.

Lets go.

Naruto, at least, realized something was wrong the second he heard the slight sound of cloth against cloth behind them. Shino's bugs suddenly began buzzing angrily, warning of the attack. And Kurenai finally convinced Tazuna to shut up for long enough to realize that something was wrong. All three turned at the same time, prompting Ino to do the same, which she would later realize was a mistake. She should have realized that them looking back meant something dangerous was behind her, and run to hide behind them.

Instead, she turned just in time for sharp metal claws to rake across her face, spouting a splash of crimson life-fluid. Naruto felt his fangs growing at the sight, and the smell was so tempting... No. Now was not the time. He lunged at the ninja, followed only a second later by Shino, and, slightly less impulsively, Kurenai. Neither of them were in time to join the fight as, violently, Naruto grabbed the demon brothers by their heads and smashed them together.

They splattered like overripe watermelons.

Shino and Kurenai paused to stare at the grotesque display as Naruto moved swiftly to check Ino. She was jerking in a seizure, and a small amound of green foam had collected at the corner of her mouth. Shit.. Poison. That was bad... compared to that the maiming, and obviously painful, loss of her left eye was a secondary concern.

"Shino, my pack, the med kit, the blue syringe. Antivenom, NOW!"

Shino obeyed without blinking, and had the requested item in seconds. Naruto snatched it out of his hands, pulling the rubber plug off the tip and depressing the plunger just enough to get the air bubble out.

"Quickly, put somethin hard in her mouth, or she might bite through her tongue. As fast as this poison is progressing, I'll have to inject directly into her heart for the antivenom to be spread fast enough to counter it. Move it. And hold her still... if I miss the heart, the poison will kill her."

Tazuna stumbled up, pale, and gently crammed a thick bit of wood in the girl's mouth, and stepped back as Shino removed his jacket, stuffing it under Ino's head to protect her from the rocks she was dangerously close to smashing it against, then held her shoulders down. Naruto removed a kunai from his own coat as he sat on the girl's stomach, and used it to carefully slice open her dress, revealling the pale flesh of her ribs. He took a moment to aim properly, then injected the entire content of the syringe into her heart.

Almost immediately the thrashes had slowed, then came to a halt as she passed out from the pain. The entire procedure had lasted perhaps thirty seconds, and Kurenai had been paralyzed with shock for most of them. She had only just made Jounin, and to see a child kill so casually...

It was horrifying to her.

She shook herself and forced herself to move, dimly realizing that had her student's fate rested in her managing to do what Naruto had just did, she would be less one student. That thought too, scared her.

"Kurenai-sensei! Can you use Shunshin?"

She nodded at Naruto's question, not seeing the point at first, but realizing it had to be pertinent. She was correct.

"Then take Shino and Ino back to Konoha. Shino will take her to the hospital... The poison should be mostly taken care of, but I think she's going into shock and she needs to have her face looked at by a skilled healer. You go to the Hokage, and let him know that I said, and I quote... 'until eternal silence'. He'll know what it means."

Kurenai obviously had no idea what it meant but, despite the bad taste taking orders from her subordinate gave her, she saw the neccessity behind them and, with a swirl of leaves, the three were gone. Naruto turned to the pale Tazuna, layering his voice with vampiric hypnosis.

"You will tell me everything I need to know."

"I will tell you everything you need to know."

And he did.

xxx

Meanwhile, Kurenai had left Ino with the bug user,as he spared only a moment to put his coat back on before lifting her limp and bleeding form and dashing to the hospital. She herself headed to the Hokage's office, still slightly confused as to why she was obeying the orders of one of her genin.

Sarutobi himself was surprised when Kurenai barged into his office, as he had sent her and her team off that morning on a mission that he had known would last the better part of a month.

"Hokage-sama... there was a disturbance as the mission began. Two Chunnin-level ninja attacked at a point several miles out of Konoha, and managed to severely injure and poison one of my genin before being eliminated."

The Sandaime was immediately at attention, in full business mode.

"Which one, and how were they eliminated. Tell me everything."

She recounted the entire incident, from their attack, catching them off guard, to Naruto's brutal offense, which Sarutobi seemed to be slightly surprised by but really wasn't, and finishing with the way that Naruto had worked quickly to save his teammate's life. That, Sarutobi was slightly surprised about, but acted like he wasn't.

"Also, Hokage-sama, Naruto asked me to tell you... 'until eternal silence'. He said you'd know what he meant... Hokage-sama?"

The old man had gone pale and slumped back into his seat, mumbling to himself.

"Dear lord... would he really?... I suppose he would have reason... but would... of course he would."

"Hokage-sama? That phrase upsets you... what does it mean?"

Sarutobi sighed and took a deep drag of his pipe before explaining.

"That phrase came from the boy's guardian... an incredibly dangerous woman. What it means is... he's going to kill them. All of them, everyone who had a part in causing Ino's injuries. But before they die he's going to maim, mutilate, and horribly disfigure them, as a warning to others."

Kurenai's eyes widened.

"Hokage-sama, those two were Chunnin! How did he..."

"That's classified."

"But..."

"It. Is. Classified. As is much more about Naruto."

Kurenai slowly settled down, not liking the answer, but accepting it.

xxx

The bridge builder knew a great deal that he had failed to tell the ninja squad. He seemed to have a reason, but Naruto still held a fierce mental debate over whether or not to kill the old man for indirectly causing the entire fiasco. At length, however, he had grudgingly decided to let him live. After all, there was a great many more people just waiting for him to kill.

He easily found the first two only a few more miles down the road. A large, eyebrowless man, face wrapped in bandages, and a boy wearing a Kiri Hunter-nin mask. It was an obvious deception, as neither of them were trying to kill each other as they waited patiently for the arrival of his team.

He flowed back down through the ground until he was out of sight of the duo, then slashed his wrist open to create five Chishio bunshins. A normal human only had enough blood to spare to create one at a time, but vampire physiology was different, and the fat pimp that had been his last target had hired half a dozen Yakuza-wannabe rabble as bodyguards. He'd drained every one dry, and the bunshin barely made a dip in his internal blood stores.

Without a word they altered their appearance, and he nodded at the perfect rendition of his team and the bridge builder. Tazuna even reeked of cheap sake. Without a word to him, they continued on the road, directly towards the ambush, acting exactly as they had before the first attack. Bunshin-Ino was nattering on about Sasuke, Bunshin-Kurenai and Tazuna were arguing about something, and Bunshin Shino and Naruto were ignoring them both. The real Naruto merged with the shadows beneath the trees and followed them.

Bandage-man opened the ambush impressively by hurling his ridiculously large sword at them just as the sun began to dip over the horizon. And then stared in shock as none of the clones bothered to dodge, but just stood there, grinning, as they were mowed down.

Normal blood clones would erupt into a gout of blood when destroyed. With some experimentation, though, he had managed to merge just a touch of vampiric energies into the clones, rendering them more... versatile. The 'dead' clones began moaning, and dragging themselves along the ground towards bandage-man, even as the trails of blood began to solidify into tendrils, waving in the air as though seeking him out. Bandage-man was frozen, horrified, and muttering to himself.

"Genjutsu... it has to be genjutsu. Kai... KAI!"

With a dull throb of fear, he realized that the genjutsu wasn't dispelling, and he tore his sword out of the tree, to begin wildly swinging it at the monsters. Masked boy jumped out of his tree to help by throwing needles at the false ghouls, for all the good it did. As they surrounded him, bandage-man tried to leap out of the circle, only for his foot to be caught by a flailing tendril of blood, and slammed him into the ground, where the false ghouls pounced on him, biting and flailing at him with sharp teeth and nails.

"ZABUZA-SAMA!" Mask-boy screamed, as he made hand symbols and literally froze the false ghouls in their position. They cracked and splintered as the bandaged man, Zabuza, slowly rose to his feet, facing away from his masked accomplice.

"Zabuza-sama... thank kami, I thought... Zabuza-sama?"

Zabuza had begun to moan in a deep, low voice as he turned slowly around, feet shuffling against the dirt and blood. The first thing the masked boy noticed was the eyes, empty and dead. The second was the deep wounds to his torso and stomach, where his intestines and innards were poking out. The third was that he was swinging his sword up, in preperation for an overhand chop, completely ignoring the way the motion tore at his flesh and caused his guts to spill out all over the dirt road.

"ZABUZA-SAMA!"

xxx

Naruto grinned at the success of his plan. Not only did the clone-ghouls perform perfectly, there was the added, and unexpected, benefit of them actually being able to turn the people they killed into real ghouls. That had shaken up his plan somewhat, as he'd intended to finish the two off personally, but it had all worked out in the end. He sent a pulse of dark energy to the ghoul and watched as it slumped to the ground next to a neatly bisected corpse as its heart exploded.

Now on to the final phase of the job... go back to wake up the drunk, have him smuggle him into the land of waves, rest for the day, then find and kill this Gato and all of his thugs. The anticipation of the carnage ahead made him quiver with bloodlust... by tomorrow night, with the loss of blood the clones had cost him, he would be prepared to unleash a berserk frenzy of hunger.

He was looking forward to it.

xxx

Naruto had been right... the effects of the poison, even though it had been neutralized in time, had been just enough to send Ino's system into shock. Fortunately, they had gotten her to a hospital, and experienced med-nin fast enough to keep her from slipping into a coma, but now she was simply drifting in a half-awake, half aware state. Every so often, her hand would drift up to touch the long, rough scars on her face, then drop back down to her side as her eyes glazed slightly.

It was as though she couldn't accept what had happened, was refusing to believe it, and was attempting to use every ounce of her formidable mental power to change the reality.

After a night of doctors slowly monitoring the process, they had ended up having to bring in Ino's father and have him enter her mind. After several hours, he had left the room and calmly declared that there was nothing to do but wait for her to get over it on her own. Thruth be told, he was somewhat disturbed at the discovery that his previously sensible daughter was more worried about her good looks being marred than that she had almost died, and almost as disturbed that it had been the demonspawn, of all the available people, that had immediately stepped forward to save her life.

But on the plus side, with any luck she'd give up on that arrogant Uchiha brat now. It was obvious to every ninja above Chunnin rank that the Uchiha would be more than happy to betray Konoha, and everyone in it, the first time he got the chance and had a reason, logical or not. The idiots on the council seemed to think that giving him everything he wanted would keep him complacent, but what that really did was ensure that he was spoiled, and the first time he was denied anything he wanted, the chances of him turning traitor would increase instead. He believed it would be easier for her if, when the Uchiha brat finally went out of his way to deny her advances in a way that couldn't possibly be misinterpreted, he did it because she wasn't the prettiest of his hangers-on anymore rather than because he was backstabbing everyone in town. With luck, she'd get over it faster, and it would hopefully make her realize what a pretty louse the Uchiha really is.

He couldn't help but scowl as he recalled the tiny crush he'd seen blossoming towards the demonspawn. He liked that almost as little as he liked her crush on the Uchiha, and he was outright disgusted with the fact that he would likely be his precious daughter's 'rebound'. He consoled himself with the fact that the demonspawn didn't seem to be interested in her, then mentally kicked himself as he realized that would ensure she latched onto him the same way she had on Sasuke. It was a lose-lose situation. He locked the door behind him as he made it home and began to drink himself into a stupor.

Her second night in the hospital began much the same as the first, but at about midnight she finally seemed to snap into an aware state... only to touch her face, feel the scars, and break down sobbing. After a few hours of that she fell asleep on her soaked pillow, and didn't wake up until nearly noon. Fortunately, both Shino and her sensei were waiting by her bed as she woke, staving off another onslaught of tears. Although she noticed something immediately, even as the three ignored the sudden fuss the nurses were raising outside.

"Sensei? Where's... Naruto?"

Kurenai frowned before opening her mouth to answer, even as the door slid open to admit a blood-drenched, fiercely grinning Naruto.

"Mission complete, sensei. All hostiles have been eternally silenced."

xxx

A.N. For the people who think Naruto is becoming an 'empty shell' or too much like Alucard, I'd like to explain what I'm doing. This will become clearer as time goes on, but Alucard is something like the epitome of all things vampiric, and once I begin focusing more time on Seras, it will become obvious that her personality has shifted a great deal towards his as well. What I'm working towards is an even blending of a canon Naruto with a new vampiric nature. Hence dreaming about ramen and blood, as I believe that vampires could eat normal food if they wanted to, it just wouldn't nourish them in the same way blood does.

Also, I know you're going to hate me for this, but I've been planning something to make Ino take being a Kunoichi more seriously, and to get her to shut up about Sasuke-kun. The scars will just be the first part in that plan. If you have to know what she looks like now, imagine three gentle white lines trailing down the left side of her face. She may start wearing an eyepatch later as well, or wearing a headband a la Kakashi, or I may decide to go all the way and get her an 'implant'. X-ray vision? Mwuahahaha. Have to think up a name for it though, because I don't want to use the byakugan. But using X-ray vision to look through a wall and then following it up with telekinesis would be awesome.