"Come on, Kurenai! Don't be such a stick in the mud!"

The crimson-eyed (and named) chuunin sighed in exasperation. "Anko, I have no intention of losing my shirt on one of your stupid get rich schemes. Again."

"What are you whining about, Kurenai? Losing your shirt right then got Asuma to look at you, didn't it?" pointed out Anko with a smirk. "Well, bits of you, anyway."

"Bits that I didn't want anyone to see quite that early in a relationship," Kurenai shot back.

Anko shrugged. "Now you see, that's why he dumped you."

"He didn't dump me! We're just, backing off for a while, to sort out our feelings for each other," Kurenai defended herself weakly.

"De Nile ain't just the river in River Country, you know," Anko said. "Beside, you know he'll never choose you over his cigarettes."

Kurenai rolled her eyes. "Well, yeah. So I basically got nothing out of that and you want me to go along with another of your schemes? I'm not the one in denial, Anko. Have any of your plans ever worked out like they were supposed to?"

"They usually work out though, in the end, right?" Anko protested. "Look, just hear me out, okay. This is different."

"If it involves selling snake oil medicines again, using me as a test subject, then you can go right to -"

"No, no - different! Something we haven't tried before," said Anko, grinning somewhat manically at the memory of that particular scheme. Sure, no one had been buying, but she'd got to rub all sorts of creams onto Kurenai, which was a win in her book. "Look, you know how good I am at poker, right?"

"I know how good you are at poking at me all the time," Kurenai groused.

"No, well, yes, but that's not what I mean. The card game - remember how I used to scam the other kids at the Academy out of their lunch money?"

"You'd loose your stake, wager your shirt and then win the money back when they were distracted staring at you." Kurenai replied. "If you want the money that bad, why don't you just get a job as a stripper?"

"Meanie. Look, there's a high stakes poker game once a week down at the barbeque place, hosted by the Akimichi clan. Half the Council attend and so does the Hokage. There's a minimum stake of a million ryou -"

"A million!" Kurenai exclaimed. "You're nuts. I don't have a million ryou and if I did then I'd not wager it on your poker skills, Anko!"

"Look, you've got two hundred thousand off that last mission, right?" Anko said. "Plus the two-fifty you set aside for a rainy day. And I've got five-fifty thousand I haven't managed to squander yet. That's a million. We go in, stake that. If it all goes wrong then I bet my coat, take the next pot for all I can while they're drooling and we quit."

"Give me one reason that I should go along with a crazy plan like that," Kurenai said. "Preferably a reason that won't leave us in the bad books of the wives of all the Clan Heads once they find out."

Anko raised one eyebrow and then moved closer to whisper into Kurenai's ear. The chuunin froze. After a moment, a trail of blood began to leak from one nostril.

"Heh," Anko said smugly. "Let's go get our stake out of the bank, Kurenai!" she declaimed and set off, towing the still glaze-eyed Kurenai behind her.


Several hours later, Uzumaki Naruto was on the run.

Not that this was anything new. Despite only being six years old, Naruto had managed to take up a position right at the top of Nara Shikaku's 'Troublesome People List' (although in all candor, Naruto wouldn't have managed to hang onto the position if Shikaku's wife Yoshino had gotten pregnant again and his position looked pretty shaky every month or so) for his pranking efforts. Less than two years after learning to walk, Naruto had learnt to run away from the agents of the Military Police with some degree of success, perhaps motivated by the fact that they wound up hunting him down every week or so in response to one outrageous prank or another.

In this particular case, the Military Police were hunting him down in civilian garb because their uniforms were... unavailable... as a result of today's prank. They could have worn them, admittedly, but the uniforms were still damp and had a distinctive aroma. They could only guess how much water the brat had had to drink in order to produce that much urine.

Unfortunately for Naruto, the crowds along Konoha's shopping district were beginning to die away at this late hour and three of the Military Police had managed to spot him.

"There he is!" "What... there! Get him!" "I swear I'm gonna kill the brat this time!" the three shinobi yelled as they barreled down the street, forgoing stealth in favour of righteous indignation. It was going to take them hours to get their uniforms clean and years to live down the rumours about the event. For some reason, lesser clans (like the Hyuuga) seemed to take a petty pleasure in every opportunity they got to insert verbal daggers into the back of the mighty Uchiha clan.

"Ohshit!" Naruto concluded and ran away as fast as he could. Unfortunately, being less than three feet tall at the moment, his legs weren't really up to all that much speed. With only a few yards to spare, Naruto rounded a corner and spotted an open doorway with two women going through it. A fraction of a second after his pursuers rounded the corner, Naruto darted between the two women just as they walked in.

"Where do you think you're going?" asked the ANBU at the door when the three Uchiha police officers tried to follow.

"Look, we're chasing the -"

"Nope, private Council meeting," the ANBU cut them off, not even looking up.

"We're with the Military Police!" protested the second Uchiha.

"Huh, so why no uniforms?" asked the ANBU.

The three Uchiha exchanged glances. Uchiha Fugaku would not be happy if they advertised exactly how the Kyuubi-brat had pranked them this time. "Look -"


"Uchiha Fugaku is in there, he's our clan head. We just need to tell him -"

"Unless it's about an imminent invasion by at least a hundred S-class nin, forget it." the ANBU said. "Private meeting. If you were really with the Military Police, you'd know that. Now go away or I'll hand you over to Ibiki to find out why you really want to sneak into a private Council Meeting."


The Hokage turned around to examine the small child hiding behind his robes. It was kind of tricky because Naruto kept moving around with him, staying 'behind' the Hokage regardless of whether or not he was visible from the door or not. Of course, given that the door was closed, that wasn't much of a problem for Naruto's stealth but after three complete spins, the old man was getting dizzy.

"Naruto-kun, what are you doing here?" he asked.

"Er..." Naruto stalled. Somehow the Hokage didn't always appreciate the essential humour and/or justice of Naruto's pranks... and there were a crowd of other old men, several of whom he recognised as sourpusses and meanies, that never appreciated the artistry of a good prank. "Following you!" he said brightly. "What are you doing here?"

Sarutobi sighed inwardly. "It's a little late, Naruto. Shouldn't you go home before the carers at the orphanage start to worry about you?"

Naruto blinked. "Oh, they never worry about me, Ji-Ji! But what are you doing here?"

"Yo, Hokage-sama!" called Anko from the table. "Are you gonna talk to your mascot all day or can we start the game?"

"It's a game!" Naruto shouted in amazement. "Ji-Ji, I never knew you could play games too! You always said you were too busy!" Before anyone thought to stop him, he darted over to the table and stood on a chair to look at the table. It was a large dining table usually used for the restaurant customers who came in large parties, but bought by Akimichi Chouza's grandfather specifically for the weekly poker games that had been running here for almost as long as Konoha had been a going concern. Legend had it that the Shodaime Hokage had lost the post of Hokage to his brother at the table only to win it back the same night and appoint his brother as his successor the next morning. Naruto stared at the long wooden surface, now covered with green cloth and at the stacks of cards and poker chips heaped up at in front of Chouza. "Wow! What sort of game is it?"

"It's a game for grown-ups, Naruto-kun," the Hokage said, coming up behind him. "And there are some very strict rules on who can play."

"Awww..." Naruto whined. "But it looks like lots of fun, Ji-Ji. What do I have to do to play here?"

"It's the money, brat," Anko told him. "You have to stump up at least million ryou if you're gonna play this game." She pointed at the strongbox that Chouza was placing money inside of, exchanging it for stacks of poker chips to each player as they paid in."

"A million!" Naruto shouted. Then he paused and looked up at the Hokage. "Is that a lot?"

Sarutobi smiled benignly at the boy. He really couldn't imagine how anyone could see Naruto as anything but an innocent child when he was like this. "It really is, Naruto. Maybe one day, when you're older..."

Naruto pouted and rummaged around in his pockets, coming out with a slightly battered child's purse, obvious designed to look like a frog. In this case, a bulgingly rotund frog. Naruto causally opened up the purse and spilled out roll after roll of ryou onto the table. "I got lotsa money in Gama-chan!" he said, hugging the empty purse proudly. "Is that enough?"

Kurenai almost choked as she saw how much money the kid was carrying. Sure, it wasn't a million, but how could a six-year old have that much cash on hand? The Hokage reached down and ran his hand across the money, quickly counting it. It must be every single ryou he'd given Naruto over the years for an allowance... hadn't the boy spent anything?

Chouza chuckled suddenly. "What the hell, fellows," he said, nodding to Shikaku and Inoichi. "Why not let him play?"

"You mean it?" Naruto exclaimed. "Really?"

"Sure..." Chouza grinned, toothily. "It's your money so I guess you can do what you want with it. Just come over here with it and I'll count you out some chips to play with..." He saw Hyuuga Hiashi nod slightly in understanding and Uchiha Fugaku smile thinly as he caught on. He also saw the Hokage's eyes narrow and made a point of counting out Naruto's chips with more care than usual, giving the demon-brat exact value for his money and the Hokage no reason to complain.

Naruto sat down to the left of the Hokage, which placed him next to Anko as well (Kurenai sitting a little away from the table to show that she was not playing herself), and the old man began to quickly explain the rules of the game to the little boy.


The first few hands moved slowly. By mutual consent the pots were small, while they waited for the last few arrivals, which let Naruto get a feel for the rules without losing more than a few chips. The only real surprise was the arrival of Danzo, who wasn't exactly a regular at the game, but he fit in as seamlessly as ever after a couple of skeptical looks at Naruto and Chouza.

The pots began to rise towards their usual level, ten thousand ryou chips moving across the table. The play was fierce today and the Hokage had to look to his own cards, with only occasional attention to Naruto. No one had had any spectacular hands yet, nothing better than a pair or a three winning any hands. There was a moment's excitement when Hiashi and Naruto spent almost a minute staring at each other, gauging the their confidence in their hand. Hiashi folded on his pair of threes, which was a pity because Naruto was completely wrong about a five, seven, eight, ten and knave being worth anything when they were mixed hearts and spades. Hiashi made a mental note not to rely on the Gaki's confidence in his cards when he didn't actually know what the cards were worth; and Naruto raked in the biggest pot so far.

It didn't look as if he was doing all that well though, even with that pot he only had about as many chips as he'd started with. Sarutobi gave him a worried look. "Naruto, are you sure that you want to keep playing? After all, you've just had a big win..."

"No way!" Naruto yelled. "I'm gonna win way bigger than that!" he declared, seeing smiles on the faces of the other players and misreading their meanings.

Unknown to anyone, Naruto had been a bit careless with his chips. It wasn't really his fault - he was the smallest person at the table by two clear feet and had much less reach, despite being sat on several cushions. As a result, he'd managed to brush several chips off the table and onto his lap or the floor. If he had stacked those with the rest of his winnings it would be clear that he'd won rather significantly more than he'd lost - enough to be close to the usual minimum stake.

Anko, on the other hand, wasn't doing so well. The pile in front of her was barely half the size that it had been at the start of the game and Kurenai was beginning to get twitchy. We need a big pot, she thought. Then it's Plan B for the win and get out of here. She looked at her hand for the next game and resisted the urge to grin. Four diamonds looked back at her, starting at the seven and working down to the four. An eight, three or any diamond would make this the best hand that anyone had played tonight.

Chouza opened high - he'd been pushing the pots upwards since Danzo arrived - and there were two raises before the betting reached Anko. She raised again, putting around a third of the money remaining in front of the two kunoichi into the pot. Most of the table were still in and Chouza dealt out cards on request as player after player discarded one or more. Anko dropped her fifth card and had to restrain herself from laughing out loud as the Queen of Diamonds fit into her hand. A flush! I got a flush!

Players started to fold, narrowing the field down, but Danzo looked at his cards, having drawn two, and raised. Inoichi called, as did one of the Konoha weapon smiths, the Hokage folded and Naruto... squinted at his cards before raising again. Kurenai grit her teeth as Anko pushed the rest of their chips forwards to match the bet. This had better be good, Anko.

"It's so warm in here," Anko said, and stood to remove her coat, hanging it over her chair before sitting again, her upper body covered only in mesh. The temperature certainly seemed to be rising for the men in the room as several faces went noticeably red.

"Ne, ne," Naruto said cheerfully to her. "Isn't this fun, neechan?" He hadn't drawn anything at all this round.

"Oh yes," Kurenai said tightly. "Fun."

At the end of the round there were only six players left. Chouza drew three and from his frown it was clear that he'd be folding. Only Danzo drew anything out of the other players and he raised again, smirking at Anko. Inoichi folded, followed by the weapon smith. Naruto grinned at Kurenai and called - putting the last of his own chips into the pot.

All eyes went to Anko and the empty space in front of her. Kurenai bit her lip.

"Alright," Anko said breezily. "I'll throw in... me and Kurenai-chan as personal servants to the winner."

"Eep," said Kurenai, going white.

Danzo looked at them with what was clearly a leer. "That's... acceptable," he decided. "Uzumaki?"

The Hokage coughed. "I really don't..."

"It's up to those still playing to agree on what's acceptable," Danzo said reprovingly and the Hokage sighed, looking at Naruto.

The boy eyed the two women puzzledly. "Um... I dunno," he said. "Servants would mean you'd work for me, right?"

"Between their missions," the Hokage insisted. "Correct, Danzo?"

"Oh, certainly," the old ANBU agreed. Kurenai's fingers closed on Anko's shoulders. You'd really better win, Anko!

"Okay then," Naruto said. "So we're done betting then?"

"I believe so," Danzo said. "I believe that it is you who should begin, Mitarashi. Surely the addition of the two of you must count as a raise."

Anko laid out the cards one at a time. "Flush of diamonds," she said confidently. "Queen high."

Danzo gave her a long smile that was definitely a leer and started laying down spade after spade. His fifth card... was the king. "Flush of spades," he said. "King high."

Kurenai's hands began to move towards Anko's neck in a strangling motion. "Now, now, Yuuhi-chan," Danzo smirked. "No damaging the merchandise."

Naruto turned to the Hokage, "Ji-Ji, how does a pair of threes count against that?"

"It doesn't beat it," Sarutobi said sadly, watching two young Kunoichi and his successor's legacy getting cleaned out was a painful thing.

"What if I've got two pairs of threes?" Naruto asked.

The room went dead silent as Naruto turned his cards over for all to see.

Four threes looked back at the assembled players and Danzo's hands began to visibly shake before he took a hold of himself. "Well, congratulations, young man," he said somewhat grudgingly. "It would seem that you have a pair of matched pet kunoichi."

"Pets!?" Anko snapped. "That's not what I said!"

"'Servants', was the term," the Hokage agreed. "Although without specifying any other terms... for as long as Naruto wants you I suppose."

"Don't worry, neechan," Naruto reassured the trembling Kurenai. "I'll look after you."

Anko shrugged, causing almost two dozen eyes to track the resulting jiggle. "Fine, whatever, we're his slaves... I'll go pick up some chains and collars for us to wear later..." The Hokage collapsed to the floor, his nose practically exploding with an S-rank nosebleed.

"Anko! You will not!" Kurenai yelped, grabbing her friend by the front of her, well, fishnets. Anko fought back and the two squabbling kunoichi disappeared below the edge of the table with Naruto cheering on both sides of the cat fight. There were more casualties amongst the players until Chouza proposed a short break from play to get some drinks and let tempers cool. With all the commotion, it was little wonder that the Hokage was too distracted to see the Ino-Shiko-Cho trio engaged in a whispered conversation.

"I trust that the two of you have settled your differences?" Danzo asked mildly, as the players took their seats.

"Yeah," Anko drawled, putting a handful of chips onto the table. "No slave gear, just 'appropriate dress for servants who expect to be seen in public', okay, Kurenai-chan?"

"Uh, right," Kurenai said. "Where did you get those chips from, Anko?"

"They were on the floor. Guess I must have dropped them when I took my coat off."

Naruto blinked. "Oh, you dropped some too, Anko-neechan? I found all these under my chair," he said, point at his own heap of chips. There was a choked exclamation from Inuzuka Tsume at the sight of the stack, which was clearly the largest at the table.

"Wait," Inoichi interrupted. "Anko, you can't keep playing now."

Anko stared at him. "What the &$(#$ you talking about you turd! We're not broke yet!"

Danzo cleared his throat. "Inoichi is right - house rules say that only one member of any clan can play at a given time, to prevent abuse of authority. Obvious military ranks don't count for that otherwise the Hokage could bet any of us, or Fugaku could use Tsume -" He was cut off by a bark from beneath the table and Tsume had to restrain Kuromaru from taking a chunk out of the aged ANBU for even suggesting the possibility.

"But you're the Dem-" Chouza saw the look in the Hokage's eye and edited his words hastily. "Eh, now that you are the Gaki's toys, for you to play could give him an advantage since you're honour bound to do whatever he tells you."

"That's bull &()&...!" Anko exclaimed hotly, standing to bring her fists down on the table. "You think..."

Sarutobi coughed. "Anko, please. They do have a point and those really are the house rules. Perhaps the two of you would like to take seats behind Naruto-kun. And could one of you get him a glass of milk to drink? Don't look at me like that, Naruto, you're too young for anything alcoholic."

"Jeez, didn't think I'd be giving milk to a brat anytime," Anko muttered, standing to go over to the kitchen in search of milk for her new master.

"Of course," Danzo said smoothly. "That raises the question of whether it would be possible for us to win back Kurenai and Anko's freedom." If his expression when he looked at Kurenai was supposed to be charming then it failed, since Naruto was pretty much the only one who didn't recognise it as a leer - and he might have if he hadn't been wondering why the funny bandaged man thought that he'd bet away his new Neechans.

"Freedom?" Kurenai snorted. "I'm sure that that's what you were thinking of. Look all you want, but all you'll see is this," she finished, standing and heading for the kitchen to find out what was keeping Anko and the milk for 'Naruto-sama'. The chuunin made a point of rolling her hips as she walked, to remind Danzo of what he'd failed to get, a motion that all the men at the table watched with interest and in some cases with frustration.

"I - um - think that Anko and Kurenai's - hm - situation with regard to Naruto is - ah - a personal one," the Hokage managed.

"Perhaps more like a clan one," Hiashi suggested, sipping at a cup of rice wine. "Since he is technically the head of the Uzumaki clan?"

"Yes... yes, that seems reasonable, Hiashi," the Hokage mumbled.


"Hey, Kurenai... you're not mad are you?" Anko asked, with a laugh.

"Mad?" her friend asked sarcastically. "Now why would I be mad at you? You only sold us into SLAVERY!"

"Yeah, well," Anko shrugged. "At least it's just the Gaki. How much trouble will he be - he's only six or something. Not like that old fossil, Danzo. Or Chouza, that guy was definitely giving us the eye - looked like he wanted to eat us up... and you know what they say about the Akimichi..."

Kurenai snorted and opened the milk to pour into the glass that she'd found. "Anko, that cannibalism rumour is just that... a rumour! But I guess you're right. Short of Hokage-sama the kid's about the best one that could have won us... seems like just another little boy, other than his 'resident'..."

"Yeah," Anko shrugged. "Like he's the only one with some damn seal on him? Let's just make sure that he doesn't lose - we could still wind up with one of the old goats if he does."

"And I suppose that you have a master plan for that?" Kurenai asked. "Ignoring how well the last one wor-EEp! Anko!?" she yelped as Anko's hand cupped one of her buttocks. She whirled and found herself pinned against the refrigerator, the shorter woman pressing against her.

"Trust in my feminine wiles," Anko chirped, taking the glass from her friend and taking it out of the kitchen for their master.


Once the two kunoichi were back, Kurenai looked rather shocked by something, even more so than by the outcome of the previous hand, the game resumed. After the excitement of the last hand, play was conservative. Naruto was losing a little more than he won, but the bets were small enough that they didn't cause any serious depletion to the stack of chips in front of him. He was still making mistakes - twice folding despite having what could have been winning hands. Then the Hokage caught a slight nod from Chouza as he checked his newly dealt hand. It was almost certainly not a coincidence that Inoichi, who was opening for this hand, bet high, or that Shikaku not only called, but raised the stakes higher.

Naruto had barely looked at his hand, but when the betting reached him he raised recklessly, pushing almost a million ryou into the pot. Chouza hesitated and checked his hand again. He'd not been winning himself tonight, but the Akimichi steeled himself and pushed half his remaining chips out to continue. Cards were discarded and dealt around to the players. A chill went through the Hokage as Naruto casually threw away four of his cards. Chouza almost choked himself laughing as he dealt the replacements - the boy had raised despite having nothing of worth in his hand? - and stood pat on the three knaves and pair of kings that he had been dealt.

Inoichi and Shikaku raised again, more conservatively this time. Kuroda (the weapon smith to the Hokage's right) hesitated and then placed the deed for his shop on the table as security for money he didn't have at hand. The Hokage folded and everyone looked at Naruto, who stood up in his chair and leaned forward precariously (only Kurenai's quick grab at the back of his T-shirt preventing the boy from falling face first onto the table as he pushed forwards everything he had in front of him. "Carefully," the Hokage said warningly. "That's a big bet Naruto."

It was Chouza's turn to pale. He couldn't match that in cash. He had the winning hand - the odds against anyone beating a full house were long, it was the best hand all night except for Naruto's set of four - but if he couldn't cover the bet then he'd have to fold. Thinking quickly, he reached into his wallet and pulled out the deeds to some food stalls that the Akimichi rented out in the market - all in prime locations. He'd been reviewing them earlier and simply dropped them into his wallet rather than taking them home before the game. "These should make up the difference," he offered, pushing forward the deeds and all his chips. The Hokage got up and checked the deeds before looking at each of the remaining players to check for approval. All of them nodded, Naruto clearly imitating Kuroda's sharp, decisive, nod.

"Full House," Chouza said with relief, turning his cards over. Inoichi and Shikaku discarded their hands calmly, knowing that their teammate would recompense them for pushing up the size of the pot without the cards to support their doing so. "Full House," the Akimichi clan head repeated, looking at the two remaining players.

Naruto grinned. "This beats that," he said proudly, "Right?" He laid down two Queens and a joker, then a pair of threes.

There was a chuckle from Kuroda, a deep belly laugh that did not seem to be at Naruto's expense. "Well played, youngster. It's a winning hand alright... but so is that." And he laid down a pair of threes, a pair of Queens... and a joker.

"Exactly equal hands," Fugaku whispered. "I've never seen it happen. Never."

"The brat loses," Chouza snapped. "Look at the suites... if the cards are the same value then the suites decide!"

"Don't split hairs," Kuroda snorted. "Call it even," he said to Naruto and reached out to divide the pot, leaving himself with the deed to his own shop and half the chips, pushing Chouza's deeds and the rest of the chips over to Naruto.

The Hokage smiled. Naruto had won more than money and property this round - he'd won someone's recognition as a fellow human being. But the game could go on for a long time and the stakes kept getting higher and higher...


"Huh, what are these?" Naruto asked as he looked at the rolled up deeds.

"Title to properties," Kurenai explained. "Whoever owns these papers owns the building or land that they describe. So that means that as long as you have them, you own..." she frowned as she leafed through the documents. "Seventeen spaces in Konoha market. Whoever runs the stalls in those spaces has to pay you for permission to have their stall there."

Naruto's eyes widened. "Wow! Could I give one to old man Teuchi? He's always saying he wished he could move Ichiraku's to the market and sell ramen to the people there! He'd be so happy if he could do that!"

Kurenai shrugged. "Maybe. It depends on the exact agreement that you have with the stalls that are there."

"Sort it out later, kid," Kuroda advised. "We're here to play cards - hell, you might not still have the stalls when the sun comes up, so why worry!"

"Right!" Naruto declared loudly. "Deal me some cards then!" he told Chouza who glared and passed the cards to the civilian sitting to his left.

"I'm sitting this hand out," the big jounin said, standing up. "Got to go get some more money to keep playing with." Shikaku and Inoichi both stood, indicating that they were in the same position, and left the table with their teammate.

The cards were dealt and Naruto held up his hand for examination, incidentally letting Kurenai and Anko get a look at them. As trained kunoichi the pair were too wily to let dismay cross their faces when they saw that Naruto didn't have anything at all to play with.

Sarutobi coughed as the betting reached him. "I don't think I want to run out of beer money," he said, eyeing his own modest heap of chips. "So how much would you say that permission for a child to enter the Academy a year early was worth?"

Fugaku eyed him warily. "I thought you didn't want any more prodigies appearing like Itachi did?" he asked sarcastically.

"So he can go as screwy as Maito or that Hatake boy?" Tsume snorted.

"The Yondaime didn't approve of children as young as three or four being entered," Sarutobi said firmly. "Having seen the effect on one of his own students. However, I'll stretch the point by a year, if anyone wins this slip off me," he said, jotting down a promise to that effect on a slip of paper.

"Write another and put the two of them in the pot for your call," Kuroda suggested. "I think there are quite a few kids out there who could benefit from starting a little early."

"Not all of us give out kunai as toys," grunted Tsume but she made no further protest as the two slips were pushed forwards and into the pot. Naruto absently put his own chips in without raising and discarded two cards at random. He didn't get anything better though and folded rather than keep betting. Tsume ended up winning and looked at the papers irritably. "What the hell am I going to do with these?" she muttered.

"You could give them to me!" Naruto chirped.

"Hell no, kid," Tsume snorted. "You want them, you gotta win them."

Anko gave the boy a worried look as Inoichi and Shikaku came back to the table. If his luck was running out then she'd be back in hot water (not that she'd never been there before) and taking Kurenai with her (more of a concern). Somehow she didn't have much faith that he'd quit wagering just because he wasn't doing so well.

"We've put some property up against an advance from the bank," Inoichi announced, stacking chips in front of himself. "We'll buy them back with the chips before we cash up whatever's left, alright? Chouza's put our names and the value in chips down."

"No problem," Kuroda grunted. "I'll go bank this then," he added, holding up his shop's deed.

"I think I'd better get out of the game," the Hokage admitted. "The luck's just against me tonight. I'll mind the bank for Chouza, so he can concentrate on his game."

As the Hokage walked past them, Kurenai moved aside to give him space, brushing up against Anko, who moved in closer and began to whisper a plan to keep Naruto from running through all his chips if he went onto a losing streak. Then she saw the fascinated gaze of some of the male players and instead simply whispered: "Play along with this," before beginning to nuzzle Kurenai's ear.

"An-kooo!" Kurenai tried to protested, her yelp turning into a soft moan.

"Are you okay, neechan?" Naruto asked, half-turning.

"W-we're fine," Kurenai managed, snaking one arm around Anko's hips to hold her close. "You enjoy the game."

"Right!" Naruto agreed, plumping himself down on the cushions. "I'm gonna win EVERYTHING!"

Normally, that statement would have elicited derision from the other players, but most of the men were too busy 'adjusting' their pants, to comment. Needless to say, they were having difficulty focusing on the game and the next hand - in which Tsume bet one of the slips - went to the Hokage's old teammate Koharu, who looked at it, shook her head and dropped it into her winnings so far.

"I'm gonna win the next one!" Naruto declared confidently and beckoned for Chouza to deal. The deal was sloppy, perhaps because Anko was nuzzling at the corner of Kurenai's jaw, and Tsume laughed out loud when Danzo dropped his cards face up and clutched at his nose, which was bleeding profusely. The leader of ROOT stalked out of the room, not even bothering to pick up the handful of chips remaining to him. Tsume bet the last permission slip and watched as Naruto managed to win the hand with a pair of tens.

"I really don't advise you to use that," she said as he clutched the slip of paper gleefully. "Ninja who start early tend to go a bit crazy - I'd never let my kids start the Academy before they were eight."

"I'm a bit crazy already," Naruto pointed out. "One of the ANBU-sans told me so last time they found me putting glue on the doorsteps of the Police building."

"That was you!?" Fugaku demanded, tearing his eyes away from Anko and Kurenai. "What was that in aid of!?"

"Eh," Naruto picked at his nose contemplatively. "Well, the police always chase me when I prank someone, so I thought that if their feet were glued to the ground then they wouldn't be able to."

Kurenai whimpered slightly as Anko's hand began to slid up the inside of her skirt. Homura, sitting next to Koharu, fell backwards out of his chair suffering from a nosebleed rivaling even that which the Hokage had suffered previously. "Would you stop that," Koharu asked the two kunoichi irascibly. "It's not that I mind you taking advantage of this bunch of perverted men, but some of them aren't young enough to keep up any more."

"Ne ne," Naruto asked. "What do you mean, obaasan? Are my neechan doing something naughty?"

Tsume started snickering out loud, earning glares from almost every man at the table. "Ya know, gaki, you're okay," she said. "Damned if I know how, but looks like you're turning out okay despite everything. Still, maybe you'd better take those girls of ours in hand..."

Naruto looked doubtful. "Uh, how do you mean?" he asked curiously.

"Well, sit on one of them," Tsume suggested with a grin. "That'll split them up and make them concentrate on you not causing trouble."

"I've got to keep them out of trouble?" Naruto asked. "I can't ever keep me out of trouble!"

"Not that you try very hard," Anko muttered.

The boy turned around and frowned at her. "If I'm gonna be in trouble it might as well be for something I did," he pointed out. Hopping out of his chair, he removed all the cushions. "Sit here, neechan. I gotta be responsible and keep you out of trouble."

The look on Anko's face was priceless and the Hokage would regret for the rest of his life that he couldn't see it as she obeyed and let Kurenai lift Naruto to sit in the chuunin's lap. Judging by the way Tsume fell out of her chair laughing, it must have been priceless. The look on Kuromaru's face when he jumped up, put his front paws on the table and looked over them at Naruto was almost as amusing. The Inuzuka dogs were certainly intelligent but they just didn't think much like humans did. In this case, the large hound certainly found something amusing in the sight of Naruto being tended by two women twice his size and more than thrice his age.

Then Naruto bounced the back of his head off Anko's chest and deemed her to be much more comfortable than the headrest on the chair was. Since the previous flirting had left Anko very, um, sensitive, the expression on her face at the impact was anything like as smug as she usually was.

The next few hands were rather quiet but no one dropped out. There was an electricity to the game and it was clear that sooner or later the stakes would be rising. Several players went over the Chouza and gave him IOUs for more chips, only Aburame Shibi resisting the temptation when he went bust. The hand after Shibi left went down to Koharu and Fugaku, with the former proving to have placed too much faith in two pairs when Fugaku played three queens, taking most of her remaining chips and the permission slip. It looked like Uchiha Sasuke would be starting the Academy a year earlier than anticipated as Fugaku rolled up the slip and put it away.

One of the civilians looked at his cards in the next hand and started raising the stakes. It was such an awful bluff that the shinobi were almost embarrassed to take advantage of it. Kuroda and Naruto were the only ones to fold straight away and therefore the only ones not to get burned when the merchant demonstrated that he'd been dealt a straight flush and hadn't been bluffing at all.

"You were lucky once, Yasuki," muttered Chouza. "But will you be lucky again?" He dealt the cards out and motioned for the merchant to start the betting this time. He opened high and player after player decided not to risk another big loss betting against him. Hiashi raised the stakes however, rather more than anyone had expected given how conservatively the Hyuuga Clan leader had been playing all night.

"Hiashi, are you feeling alright?" Fugaku asked snarkily. "That's more than you've bet in every hand so far tonight."

"I've got a good feeling about this hand," Hiashi said, staring at Yasuki rather blearily. Inoichi frowned and leant over to count up the empty bottles on the floor next to Hiashi. There were at least three and the rice wine Hiashi favoured was rather potent.

"I'm feeling good too!" Naruto declared on his turn and raised the stakes even higher, causing Kurenai to gulp.

"Yeah," Anko yelled. "Show 'em how it's done, Naruto-sama! You're gonna be rich rich rich!"

By the time that play reached Yasuki again, the merchant was looking nervous. Only Hiashi and Naruto were still in the game - both looking determined and Naruto having already been awfully lucky so far tonight. He shook his head and threw his cards down face up to display a pair of knaves. "Too rich for me," he said.

Hiashi turned his stare on Naruto. "Let's be men about this, Uzumaki," he said, perhaps a little unsteadily. "How much do I have to bet to have you put up everything you have on the table?"

"Hiashi," the Hokage said warningly. "You don't have as many chips left as Naruto, so he's got no reason to do that."

"Fine then," Hiashi said. He pushed forwards every chip he had. "I'll bet you all this and..." he said, waving a finger towards Naruto. "And two Hyuuga maidens to balance out those two commoners you won earlier."

There was a stunned silence and then, before anyone could stop him, Naruto pushed all of his chips forwards as well. "I'm not gonna bet away my neechans," he said strongly and Anko hugged him lightly in relief. "But if you want all this bet then I'm game."

"Right then," Hiashi declared, and slapped down his cards. "Two kings!" A moment later, he fell face forward on the table.

"Hot damn!" Inoichi said out loud. "He's put away at least seven bottles. I wouldn't want to be him in the morning."

"I wouldn't want to be him either," the Hokage said. "That isn't two kings. It isn't even two of a kind. He's got one king and the rest of his hand is nothing. He must have been seeing double. Naruto, if you have anything... anything at all, then you've beaten him."

Naruto shrugged and laid down his cards. Three of spades, five of hearts, seven of diamonds, nine of clubs... and the ace of spades.

There was a single, solitary whistle from the Shiranui clan head, who simply stood and walked away to cash in the chips remaining to him. He'd lost enough already and he'd have a tale to tell his son Genma in the morning about the kid who'd bet a fortune with nothing at all in his hands.


Fugaku reached over and picked up the half-empty bottle by Hiashi's place, pouring a measure of the wine and taking a sip. "Good stuff," he noted, refilling the cup again. "He'd better have his hangover wear off before he goes home - the Hyuuga Elders are pretty shrill at the best of times they're going to be in a shrieking fury unless Hiashi can win back that promise of two Hyuuga maidens." Somehow, that didn't sound all that sympathetic towards the only clan that rivaled the power of Fugaku's clan.

"Pass the bottle around," Kuroda told him and the Uchiha passed the bottle to Inoichi, who filled his own cup from it before passing it on to the weapon smith.

Two of the civilians picked Hiashi up by shoulders and carried him away from the table. "If you can wake him, there's coffee in the kitchen," Chouza said, not looking up. "And get some water down his throat - I'd not wish facing those whinging old women hung over on the d- on anyone."

Shikaku took the next couple of hands, despite Tsume and Inoichi having decent hands. Then Naruto won another hand, but Shikaku took the next three hands. "Looks like you're on a roll," Inoichi said and cracked open another bottle of wine.

However, the Nara folded quickly on the next hand and the other players followed, leaving only Naruto and Tsume staring at each other over their cards. "I'll raise you -" Tsume began and then paused as Kuromaru bounded half up onto the table and started to yip at her. "You sure?" she asked the ninken and heads turned around the table. What was going on? Had Kuromaru spotted someone cheating or something?

"But..." Another bark from the ninken cut Tsume off. "Are you sure, Kuromaru?" More barking. "You have a feeling?" She looked up and gave Naruto a searching look. "Well, gaki, Kuromaru seems to think you'd give it a good home if you've got the cards to take this hand, so... I'll raise your bet by the pick of the last litter from Kuromaru's mate."

Several jaws dropped. In some ways it was easier to believe that Hiashi would bet away members of his clan than that the Inuzuka would part with one of their precious dogs.

"Of course, if you don't look after the pup," Tsume added, "I'll cut you up and feed you to Kuromaru. Are we clear?"

Naruto blinked. "Um, I guess so. So, are we going to look at cards now?" He turned over his cards, displaying three threes and a joker, setting aside the single knave in his hands. "That's four of a kind, isn't it, neechan?"

"Damn right," Anko agreed. "Whatcha got, Tsume?"

The jounin groaned and threw her cards down. "Full house," she said. "Queens over twos. Fuck this for a game of shinobi. I'm gonna quit for the night. Come by sometime, brat, and we can pick you out a puppy." Standing, she walked over to the kitchen and a few minutes later, as Inoichi was busy losing another hand based off overconfidence in a pair of fives, the sound of someone's head being dunked in a bucket of water could be heard.

"Dammit, Inuzuka!" shouted Hiashi from the kitchen and chuckles went around the room.

"I think Hyuuga-sama has awoken," the Hokage observed mildly. There was a muffled groan and more splashing. "And Tsume just told him what he lost on the last hand."

"How can you tell, Ji-Ji?" Naruto asked curiously, raking in the handful of chips in the pot.

"He just tried to drown himself the bucket of water, Naruto-kun," the Hokage explained.

Naruto shook his head. "You can't tell that from here," he said confidently. "I'm going to go see for myself." He hopped down from Anko's lap and grabbed Kurenai's hand. "Come on Neechan. You play for me," he threw back over his shoulder at Anko who had a somewhat manic look in her eyes as she looked at the mountain of chips that was at her disposal.

A minute later, Naruto's voice could be heard in the kitchen. "How can he breathe when his face is covered in water like that?"

"He can't," Kurenai replied. There was a slight cheer from the table that had nothing to do with her words and everything to do with Anko losing another hand.

"Shouldn't we do something?"

"He's a grown man," Tsume said. "If he wants to kill himself, it's up to him."

There was a loud clatter, a splash and then the sound of Hiashi cursing as Naruto intervened to save the crazy man's life. "Hah, now you don't just owe me two maidens!" Naruto said loudly. "You owe me your life as well!" Pause. "What's a maiden anyway?"


Naruto was looking a little sleepy, Sarutobi noted, as he and Hiashi left the kitchen, and indeed he yawned widely as he reclaimed his place on Anko's lap. The kunoichi looked nervous but it apparently didn't occur to the boy to see how well (or in this case, how poorly) Anko had played on his behalf.

"Perhaps you should call it a night if you're tired, Naruto-kun," the old man suggested. "You've done very well, after all."

"Aw, come on," Chouza said ebulliently. "Hiashi's just back in the game, you've just got to give him a chance to win back all he's lost."

"What does he have left to bet?" Tsume snorted. "He bet everything on his last hand, remember?"

"Not quite everything," Hiashi said, and scribbled a note, passing it to Chouza. "Fair enough?"

The Akimichi read the note with exaggerated care and then put it away in the strong box, presenting Hiashi with several stacks of chips. "Don't spend it all in one place," he chuckled.

"I'll just play one more hand, Ji-Ji," Naruto declared. "I gotta give them a chance... but only one."

The Hokage shrugged and watched impassively as Chouza dealt the cards out. To a trained observer it was clear that quite a few players saw promise in their hands. Fugaku was first to bet, pushing out a hefty number of chips with the trademark Uchiha smirk on his face. Evidently there was going to be a lot of action on this hand.

Round the table the betting went out, nobody folding and most players raising. Given the number of chips that most had left, the pile in the centre soon had more chips than anyone except Naruto. Chouza dealt out more cards to those who wanted them and several of the more sober players shivered as Naruto actually discarded a pair of knaves. Discarded a pair!

Fugaku raised the stakes and was followed by the merchant to his left. Shikaku shook his head and dropped his hand. Hiashi put in even more of his chips and the game went around again. It was clear that there weren't enough chips for everyone to stay in the game, and the numbers weren't low enough to call a halt. Inoichi eyed his hand. "I'll throw in my Icha Icha collection," he offered, seeing that he didn't have enough chips to keep up. "All the special collectors editions in full colour."

"You must have quite a hand," Kuroda muttered. "Okay then, that's good with me." He examined his own cards and then counted his chips. "I think I'll keep a few chips back for the next time around," he said. "I'll throw in a full field kit of my best kunai, shuriken and senbon though, is that good with you lot?" There were nods around the table and he pushed forwards as many chips as Inoichi had, along with a note confirming the promise of weapons.

Naruto was ginning broadly as he pushed forwards enough chips to stay in, although he didn't raise, which caught the attention of the other players. Naruto had been raising more often than not, so perhaps he wasn't feeling as confident now for some reason?

"Make sure that Naruto doesn't cut himself playing with kunai if he wins them," the Hokage said quietly to Kurenai.

"I'm more worried about Anko playing with them," Kurenai replied under her breath.

No one wanted any more cards and Fugaku drained the cup of wine by him before he started the next round of betting. "Since we're all being so creative with our bets," he said thickly. "I'll wager my heir Sasuke and Itachi!"

"I thought that Itachi was the oldest one," a merchant said. "Isn't he the heir?"

"Maybe Itachi's actually a girl," Kuroda said. "I always thought he was a bit too bishonen."

"Wouldn't that make him - her - a trap?" Anko asked slyly. "Maybe Naruto-sama's gonna win another maid."

"Naw, a trap's the other way round, like if you were secretly a man," Tsume told the younger kunoichi.

Fugaku pounded his fist on the table. "They're my boys!" he said loudly. "Boys, both of 'em!"

"In the- the cla-ssic-hal sensh," Hiashi declared, "Y-you can't bet your sons, cause they're not pro-operty like your wife n' daughters."

"Oh, that is so getting back to your wives," Tsume snorted as she watched the men at the table nod solemnly. Kurenai, Anko and the handful of other players who were of the fairer (and deadlier) sex, were also taking note.

Naruto snuggled back against Anko's chest. "Eh, Neechan? Why're girls property and boys aren't? I never heard anything about that."

"It's a bunch of chauvinistic rubbish," Kurenai said. "They figure that they're big macho men and that women can't get along without them, but it's them who can't cook or clean for themselves."

"Y-you say all that," Hiashi declared. "But how many Hokages were women, eh? Gotcha there, haven't I lil' lady?"

"That's stupid," Naruto proclaimed. "My neechans are much better than this Chavinist guy, they can kick his butt!"

"Aw!" Kurenai said, and knelt to hug him, pressing Naruto's head between her breasts and Anko's. Sarutobi felt a sudden urge to sit down, and perhaps to take a cold shower. A freezing cold shower. Before he... There was a spurt of blood from his already injured nostrils and he stretched out on the floor for a little nap.

"Alright!" declared Fugaku. "If I can't bet my sons then I'll bet my wife! Is that okay with you, Hiashi?"

"Oi, Fugaku," Tsume snorted. "You really don't want to do that. Sh-"

"I bloody well do!" Fugaku said angrily, cutting off the rest of Tsume's warning (which was a pity, since the reminder that before she was his wife, Uchiha Mikoto had been a jounin-ranked member of the Uchiha Military Police and one of Konoha's best sword masters, quite capable of rendering a man not strictly speaking a man with a single cut, might have inspired some caution on his part). He didn't bother to check his cards - there was no doubt that this was just Tsume taking the brat's side and trying to shake his confidence. "In fact, I'll raise the stakes higher! I'll bet the Secret!"

Chouza fell out of his chair. "THE Secret?" he asked, struggling to his feet. "Y-you mean THAT secret? The one that... THAT secret?"

Fugaku nodded.

With trembling hands, Chouza reached out and pushed the chips Fugaku had wagered back to the man. "Betting Mikoto-san and The Secret is enough, Fugaku," he said. "No one could raise to match your bet if you put cash in as well."

There were nods from around the table, except from Naruto. "Eh, what's the secret that you're talking about?" he asked. "Is it a good secret? What is it?"

Chouza sat down and stared at his cards, weighing their chances. "Well..." The Akimichi sighed reverently. "It's a great secret... the true power behind the Uchiha Clan..." It didn't matter what his cards were, he realised. If there was any chance at all of winning The Secret then he had to take that chance.

"Men have killed to try to possess it," Inoichi agreed solemnly.

Hiashi hiccupped. "The Uchiha's...acccepsths...no...forutnste... for itsh..." he said, methodically counting out his chips to see if he could afford to stay in the game. It wasn't looking good.

"They say it has even brought each and every Hokage to their knees at one point or another... It is the sweetness of pure power, intoxicating in its full effect. Truly The Secret is the ultimate prize..." Chouza continued.

"Wow!" Naruto exclaimed. "I've gotta win that! It'll help me become the best Hokage ever!"

"I don't have suff- suffixie- enough chips," Hiashi announced, looking up from the table. "I'll bet something else... uh... aha! Uzuzuzmaki Naruto! If you promise me that you will bet the promise of two Hyuuga Maidens, a promise between men, then I shall... I shall bet the Hyuuga Mansion!"

Naruto nodded. "Okay! It's a promise!"

"Fine, someone get me a piece of paper," Hiashi demanded. Tsume complied and watched as Hiashi wrestled with ink and brush before signing a document that bore little resemblance to the Hyuuga's usual careful penmanship. He pushed the chips and the title to the Hyuuga Mansion over into the middle of the table.

Two merchants dropped out, unable to think of anything else to wager. A third offered a package holiday to the beaches of southern Fire Country - travel, accommodation and food all included - to the winner and his family.

Inoichi eyed his own cards. He didn't have anything left to bet... but it was The Secret and his hand wasn't too bad... "I'll bet my daughter!" he said impulsively. His little princess, she was so precious... but she'd understand that it was The Secret. He could almost see her smiling face when he brought it home...

The other players tried to ignore Inoichi's drunken giggling, looking at Kuroda. "That's a good idea!" he said brightly. "I'll bet my daughter as well!"

"How much have you two had to drink?" Tsume snorted.

"Lots and lots," the weapon smith declared proudly. "We can hold our liquor, can't we Inosshi? Inosshi?" Yamanaka Inoichi was face down on the table, ponytail bobbing as he snored.

"Are his cards face up or face down?" Chouza asked carefully. Face up would mean that Inoichi had dropped out of the game... and after his last bet that would be inadvisable to say the least.

"Face down," Kuroda reported after examining the other man for a moment.

"That's alright then," Chouza said. "We can wake him in a minute. Well, brat? It's your turn to bet."

Naruto nodded. "I'm betting the two Maidens like I promised," he said. "They're betting one girl each, so that's fair isn't it?"

Chouza's face went red as he realised that accepting the girls as bets had meant that Naruto wouldn't have to wager any more of his chips. "Fine then," he said sulkily. "I'll bet all this then," he added and pushed forwards all his remaining chips.

"I don't think that that's quite enough," Anko pointed out, looking at the number of chips. "Come on, with all the bets being made you don't really think that Inoichi's little girl is only worth that pittance?"

"I'll throw in a feast, prepared by my entire clan, for the winner and his family," Chouza said without hesitation. "All the dango and ramen they can eat!"

"Deal!" Naruto and Anko shouted in unison.

The last of the merchants pushed his own chips, along with an IOU for a complete outfit for the entire household of the winner and Fugaku nodded. "I don't think we want to have more betting," he said with a smug expression on his face. "So let's just see who's got the best cards, shall we?"

Hiashi had a superior smirk as he laid down his cards. All diamonds, the highest a nine. "A flush," he said confidently. "What are the odds, eh?"

"Pretty good," said Chouza in relief and laid down his own flush, this one of clubs. His highest card was a knave. "Don't worry, Hiashi. I'll let you buy your mansion back when you've got the cash."

"Uh-uh," Inoichi disagreed, shaking his head.

"Uh, yeah," Chouza said. "I've already got a house, Inoichi. I didn't bet that."

"Uh-uh," said Inoichi, waving a finger at Chouza. With his other hand he laid out his cards. "I got a flush too - knave high and my second hic-highest card is a ten!"

Chouza groaned. After his knave, the next best card he had was only a seven. "You've got a house as well, Inoichi. Why'd you want Hiashi's?"

"Lil' Ino wants a doll house for her birthday," Inoichi explained. "I'm gonna give her whole Hyuuga Mansion as a doll house, and two Hyuuga Maidens as her dollies."

Hiashi exited the conversation at this time, beating his head against the table in frustration. "I'm a dead man," he said. "Dead, dead, dead. And when I'm dead, Hizashi is going to kill me all over again!"

"Stop shaking the table," Shikaku told him pragmatically. "We'll talk to Inoichi once he's sobered up."

"You needn't bother," Fugaku smirked. "You see, I've got a Knave and a Ten as well," he explained, laying down a Knave of Hearts and a Ten of Diamonds.

"That's not worth anything on it's own," Kuroda said, discarding his own hand, which couldn't beat anything on the table so far.

"How about another ten?" the Uchiha clan head asked. "Flanked by the knave's twin brothers?" Sure enough, he had two Knaves and a Ten of Spades to lay beside all the other cards on the table. "Sorry, Hiashi," he added in an insincere voice. "I'd let you buy your mansion back, but we've been looking for some land to build a new prison complex on, and the Hyuuga Mansion should be just about large enough. Plus, with those two Hyuuga Maidens I just won, we won't have to pay for the cleaners! Hah ha! That's what you get for betting against an Uchiha when The Secret is on the line! I couldn't lose!"

There was a snicker from Anko, followed by high pitched giggling as she looked at Fugaku. "Are you sure about that, teme?" she asked between giggles. "Really, really sure?"

"What do you have Naruto-sama?" Kurenai asked, moving around to see what her friend had just seen in their owner's hand. She frowned. "I don't know, is that better than a Full House?"

Naruto shrugged. "I forget," he said. "Hey, teme," he asked Fugaku. "What's best? Your full house or my four of a kind?" He laid down four identical cards, each a Four of Hearts.

Hiashi started to cry as Fugaku's face went purple. "You little bastard!" he snapped, rising from his chair. "You cheated! You must have -"

Sarutobi coughed meaningfully, from behind the Uchiha, where no one had been standing a moment ago. "Uchiha Fugaku," he said smoothly. "I'm sure that you aren't suggesting that a six year old could cheat without being spotted by any of the accomplished ninja at this table. Besides," he added, patting Fugaku firmly on the shoulder. "Don't you have more pressing concerns, given the nature of your losses...?"

All the colour went out of Fugaku's face and he fell backwards into his chair.

"Hey, kid," Tsume asked in an amused voice. "What are you gonna do with Hiashi's Mansion?"

The boy gave her a puzzled look. "I'm gonna live in it, of course," he told her. "I don't have to stay in the orphanage now I've got a house of my own." He looked at the crying Hiashi and then hopped down from Anko's lap and trotted around the table to him. "Don't worry, ji-san, I won't make you leave unless you're naughty."


Sarutobi left Chouza, who was moving as if in deep shock, to start opening up the bank to cash the players out and walked over to the sleepy, yet victorious, Naruto. "You did very well, Naruto-kun," he said, patting the boy on his head. "Why don't you go sit with your neechans while we get packed up."

Naruto yawned and wandered back around the table. Before he was halfway around, Kurenai intercepted him and scooped him up in a hug. "Well done, Naruto-sama." The boy received several jealous looks from the men at the table as he yawned again and rested his head sleepily against Kurenai's bosom.

Chouza heaped the piles of deeds and ryou up on the table and then counted looked down at the bare table where his chips had been. With a sigh he pulled out half-a-dozen deeds out of the heap and set them aside. "Right, first things first. Who wants to buy back their deeds first? Hiashi, you put the Hot Springs up for half a million ryou... oh," he realised, looking at the paltry chips remaining in front of Hiashi.

Tears continued to run down Hiashi's face as he simply pushed over his remaining chips, accepting their value in cash. After counting it carefully he walked over to the bar. "I guess there's enough to get me drunk," he muttered. "With any luck, drunk enough to forget all about tonight."

Panic began to spread amongst the remaining players as they checked their chips against what it would cost to reclaim their property. Almost all of them were coming up short. Chouza was in the worst position, as he tallied up the stacks of that were in the bank and tried to measure that against the small mountain of chips in front of Naruto. He was terribly tempted to just go over to the bar and join Hiashi... except that he probably couldn't afford to pay for a bender... hell, he didn't have enough cash left to pay for a small shandy!

"Hokage-sama," he said unsteadily, waving for Sarutobi to come back. When the Hokage had arrived, Chouza whispered, "Hokage-sama, the... um, Uzumaki-san has broken the bank. There isn't enough money to redeem all of his chips."

"Well I suppose that he'll have to take some of the property then," the Hokage decided. "Would anyone who can afford to redeem their property come over first," he said out loud. "Those who can't will have to work something out with Naruto-kun..." He looked at the stack of deeds and then at the chips in front of the yawning Naruto. "Tomorrow, perhaps. Chouza, cash Naruto out a million ryou for now - Anko, give him the chips. Then you and Kurenai can take him home for some sleep - Kurenai, your apartment is near here, isn't it? - and I'll sort this out. We can meet at the Hyuuga Mansion tomorrow afternoon to sort things out."

"Fine," Chouza muttered. He watched sullenly as Anko tucked a sheaf of bank notes into Naruto's frog wallet and then added the IOUs for all the 'assets' that had been lost to the brat. "This is gonna be a nightmare," he groaned, envisaging the likely reaction of his family at losing their control of the stall spaces and probably half-a-dozen restaurants to boot, depending on how much cash he could scrape together to buy them out of the bank.

"You see, Kurenai?" Anko asked as the three of them walked out of the restaurant, or to be more precisely, as Kurenai and Anko walked, for Naruto was sleeping peacefully in the crimson-eyed chuunin's arms as the sun rose ahead of them. "I told you that it would all work out in the end. And look! We're gonna be living in a mansion!"