Now I'd like people to keep something in mind. This NOT, despite some things appearing otherwise at the beginning a 'powerless Naruto' fic. Not by a longshot. In any way. Also, people looking for Hinata pairing... Run. And never read any Naruto fic I write ever again. I don't like Hinata. I don't like the archetype of 'shy girl' in anime in general. But Hinata? Hinata is a living doormat. A stalking living doormat. Good person? Gentle, kind and all... Maybe. But a living doormat. And I don't care for that type of character in the slightest. I won't bash her, or anything like that, but she won't be be paired with Naruto either. In this, or in any of my fics. Sasuke and Sakura I also don't care much for. Just a warning.Also if you expect a goofy, likeable idiot Naruto? You can stop now. Will of fire and other such uselss, naive trash gets left behind as Naruto confronts the harshness of the world head on right from the start.

The Art of the Deal

Chapter 1

"No one starts on top of the world."


"...burnout, hence the dominant pathways of the..."

Sarutobi sighed, closing his eyes.

He had nothing against Hyuuga Kaoru as a person. She was a truly fantastic medic and a good nin. Not as good as Tsunade, her peer from the academy days, but very good. She was also most detail obsessed, nitpicking, bland and almost painfully accurate person he had ever met.

"Kaoru-san... As I am no medic nin, obviously... To the point, if you would?"

Kaoru blinked.

"As you wish, Hokage-dono." Her utterly bland, deadpan voice remained the same, and even all the years of interacting with her Sarutobi had no idea if she was offended or not.

'Probably not. This IS Kaoru, after all. The woman who instructed her would-be assassin on proper kunai technique with utter calm despite being stabbed in the shoulder.'

"The point, as you put it, is that the boy will never use chakra again." She stated bluntly.

Sarutobi raised an eyebrow sceptically, looking at the still faintly glowing body of the blond child lying on the cot.

"Well he seems to be using it just fine to me."

"Vestiges of the bijuu's chakra, Sarutobi-sama." Kaoru said calmly. "Once they fade, he will undergo a massive burnout from the power he had expelled. The energy still flows and coats his coils, keeping them together. Once it is gone, however-"

Sarutobi's eyes widened.

"Will he die?" He asked frantically.

"No." The Hyuuga medic shook her head. "But his chakra coils will lose roughly 97 of their channelling capability. Enough to live. Barely. Not enough to channell it in any meaningful way. I'd advise balanced diet rich in proteins and herbal cocktails. His body will be very weak after he wakes."

Sarutobi closed his eyes.

"And he had just entered the academy, too..." He sighed, before blinking. "97... But with since the bijuu IS so powerful... Three percent would still be more than enough if he can be trained in-"

"Hokage-sama, with all due respect." The Hyuuga said calmly. "But you are missing a point. It is not a question of chakra. It is the question of coils. When the boy was attacked, the stab must have introduced the incredible stress and panic and the boy used bijuu's chakra on a reflex. The chakra is highly toxic. It wreaked unimaginable damage to his still growing chakra system. And even if it wasn't, it was simply too much by far. It is like pumping ten liters of water into one liter container under extremely high pressure. He is lucky to be alive. But he won't be using chakra ever again. Neither his, and most assuredly, not his prisoner's. His body is simply incapable of it now. As I said, he has barely enough of chakra coils left to live."

Sarutobi nodded slowly.

"What of the regenerative powers the bijuu had shown? He had healed the stab, after all. Is there a possibility his chakra coils might be healed in time?" He asked hopefully.

"No." The Hyuuga healer said bluntly. "The regeneration had been done via the demonic chakra. Without the way to pump it into the body and distribute it, what you propose is impossible. And there is no known way to regenerate chakra coils with that level of damage. No, Hokage-sama. The boy will never be capable of using chakra again until the day he dies."

Sarutobi just looked at the blond sadly.

"I see." He said after a while. "Thank you, Kaoru-san. You may leave."

The woman bowed gracefully and left without looking back.

Sarutobi looked at Naruto's prone body for a long moment before taking a sheet of paper.

"I'm sorry, my boy." He whispered sadly. "More than you will ever know."

With a heavy heart, he wrote down a few lines of text, before marking it with his official seal.

He stared at it for a long while.

Few simple words. Just few lines that marked the death of a dream.

"DAMN THOSE SHORT SIGHTED BIGOTS!" The old man roared, sweeping the contents of his desk angrily.

The various documents swirled in the air, several scrolls impacted the wall with enough force for their frames to crack. One of them even struck the Yondaime's portrait, bringing it to the ground and breaking the glass that covered it.

Sarutobi looked at it, his breath ragged.

"And what are you smiling at, you goddamn brat?!" He hissed. "Happy now?! Well?! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?!"

The portrait kept smiling, and Sarutobi slid deeply into his chair, rubbing his temples.

"Fools... And I even more of one..." He whispered, feeling every day of his life weighting on his back like never before.

He sat there for a long while, his eyes looking forward, but seeing nothing, before he finally shook off his stupor.

"You might have lost your dream boy... But I won't let you lose anything else." He said, looking at Naruto with determined eyes.

'Now, how went that blasted procedure...?'


"...out of here, you fuckin' brat! OUT!"

Naruto didn't even bother to scream or curse the shopkeeper He just walked out, not bothering to look back.

One might think that people would start treating the blond differently, now that there was no risk of Kyuubi ever breaking out.

One would be wrong.

Naruto was a symbol. A living reminder of the lives lost, of the lives ruined. And, above all, he was a symbol of helplessness

Konoha citizens were a proud lot. Their village was 'the strongest'. They lived well. Protected by their shinobi, they had very little to fear. Even during the Great Shinobi Wars directs attacks on Konoha were rare. And the Leaf bred strong ninja, many of them like the mighty Uchiha or powerful Hyuuga, blessed with powerful blood limits that could lay scores of enemies low.

So Konoha citizens could be proud of themselves.

Then the Kyuubi came. Unstoppable, invincible and invulnerable engine of destruction that wreaked havoc, killed, ripped apart and laughed at the strongest jutsu.

Konoha had never forgotten. Nor had it forgiven. Nor would it ever.

And Naruto was the living reminder.

Sarutobi didn't let the blonde's state become public knowledge. At least he tried. But people knew. After all, how could anybody resist sharing such good news!

Once the news started spreading, there was no stopping it.

And Naruto's already shitty deal with life got even worse.

Not that he cared, really. He stopped caring months before.

At first it was just like a bad dream. He ignored it. He TRIED to ignore it. After all, they always told him he would never be the Hokage or amount to anything worthwhile, so he got good at ignoring.

But he knew.

Deep inside, deep under that cocky facade, he knew.

Because that strange feeling of warmth that was always there, that raw spike of... something - Something that he knew now was chakra - was gone.

He couldn't feel it coursing thhrough his body anymore.

And his henge, one he trained so diligently, one he turned into his Oiroke, his very own original technique...

Gone. Dead. As if it never existed.

Seals might as well be some funky hand gestures now.

And Iruka-sensei bared him from even coming near the academy after he tried to go to the classes regardless.

He was barely seven years old and he had lost everything that mattered.

The old man had explained it to him. About the Kyuubi. About hate. Fear. Power. The Yondaime Hokage...

Naruto looked at the monument.

His hero. Or rather his former hero.

'I hate you.' He thought out of habit.

But there was no real heat in that anymore. What was the point? The man was dead, anyway.

And Naruto couldn't even buy himself a new shirt.

'Great going, hero.' He scowled. 'Thanks. Really.'

He sighed.

There was one place he could always fall back on. The owner was a slime of a man and overcharged him several times over, but he'd sell him the shirt. Probably a low quality one, but a shirt none the less.


"WHAT?! Are you kidding me?!" Naruto screeched. "I don't believe you! And this isn't even my size!"

"Well if you're so picky go somewhere else." The owner shrugged. "I'm not making you buy it."

Naruto scowled.

'Why that...!'

"I can buy a whole outfit for that! And look at it... it's girly PINK!"

"Shut up, brat!" The man hissed. "You're bothering the customers!" He threw a quick glance around his shop, sighing with relief as he noticed only a blond man, obviously out of town, going though his collection of cloaks.

"But...but it's PINK! It's girly! And it doesn't fit! How am I supposed to..."

"Not my problem." The merchant said simply. "You wanted a shirt, I showed you the shirt. Don't like it? Don't buy it. That simple, brat."

"But I need a shirt!" The blond protested. "And I know you have others! Come on, I really need a shirt!"

"No. I only have this. Nothing else." He smirked. "You can always go somewhere else."

The blond glare and opened his mouth, but the man glared at him.

"One more damn screech, you fuckin' brat and I'll never let you buy anything here again! Got me? Now buy it or get lost, fox."

Naruto glared, grumbled and scowled. But paid anyway.

The man didn't even bother with packing the shirt, just throwing it to the boy.

"Now scram before some real customers see you."


Naruto scowled, looking at the shirt in his hands.

'Too wide, too big... and pink.' He hung his head. 'If anybody sees me in this... Goddammit! I'll look like some girl!'

He sighed mournfully.

'Maybe it'll wash out...?' He thought hopefully.

"...there is nothing more to say. You can take it or leave it." Asao's voice, screechy as always, interrupted Naruto's funk.

Naruto raised his head and looked at the source. Sure enough, there was the old weapon merchant, Asao. Rail thin, wrinkled and looking as if he just ate a sour lemon. In front of him stood a sandy blond young man.

'Hey... This guy is kinda familiar.' Naruto frowned 'RIGHT! This is the guy form the store! What is he doing?

"Come now, Asao-dono." The other voice was calm, smooth and very polite. "I'm sure that we can work something out. I know that times are hard, as I am something of a merchant myself, so I wouldn't dream of robbing you of your hard earned profits. But I'm not as successful as you are. Maybe we can come to some kind of agreement here?"

Naruto almost snorted.

Asao was known for his utter unwillingness to lower prices to anyone, unless they were nobility. That, and the fact that that he wasn't most pleasant of people meant he wasn't particularly liked. However, his shop was the only place one could buy high quality tags different than Katon explosive tags for a reasonable price meant he always had plenty of customers around.

Asao knew this, so he didn't bother with haggling.

And he didn't hesitate to inform the stranger of that.

"I don't haggle. You either take what I have at my price, or you don't take it at all." The old man scowled at the stranger.

"I'm not talking about haggling, Asao-dono. I know there is no sense of haggling with merchant as experienced as yourself." The stranger smiled placatingly. "I was thinking more along the lines of a... mutually beneficial deal. One that would allow us both to profit. You see..."


Naruto just stood, dumbfounded, watching as old Asao and the young stranger bowed to each other, the old man returning to his shop and the blond walking away, whistling a jaunty tune happily, a pack of tags in hand.

'I don't believe it...' Naruto thought dazedly. 'He... He haggled. With Asao. With old 'Tight Ass' Asao... And he even got a discount... Unreal...'

Dazedly, Naruto looked at his shirt.

Then at the stranger.

He twisted the shirt in his hands thoughtfully, as a glint entered his eye.


Shin looked at the young boy in tattered orange jumpsuit curiously.

"So let me get this straight." He said slowly. "You saw me deal with that merchant. And now want me to teach you how to... haggle?"

The blond kid nodded.

Shin cocked an eyebrow.

"And just why should I teach you?" He asked after a moment of silence. "I don't know you, my young friend. I have no reason to know you, much less teach you. So why should I?

The blond just looked at him, obviously at loss, before pulling out a frog like contraption that turned out to be a wallet.

Naruto looked at his precious wallet for a few seconds, and almost cringed as he extended it to the stranger.

"I'll... I'll pay you. This is everything I have, so... Please teach me!" He implored the blond man, looking at him with desperation in his eyes.

Shin looked a the blond for a long while. Finally, he cocked his head to the side.

"You are doing it wrong." He said finally. "Never let people know how much you want something. Never." He smiled. "Well, it seems you DO need some lessons."

He took the frog wallet and cocked an eyebrow, weighting it in hand, before opening it.

'Quite a sum for a child...' He thought with surprise. 'Either he gets very good pocket money, which I doubt judging by his looks. Probably an orphan. Disliked, too, judging by the scene in the shop. So he must rely on himself Yet he managed to save money... Hmm. Interesting.'

"So, my young friend, what do they call you?" He looked at the child questioningly

"Naruto. Uzumaki Naruto." The boy said hopefully. "So you'll teach me?"

"Well, you paid me and I accepted the payment, didn't I?" The man smiled. Well then, Uzumaki Naruto, my name is Shin and I shall be your teacher in the Art of the Deal. Listen closely, pay attention and you just might learn something."

"YES!" The boy screamed. 'I'm gonna show them! I'm gonna show those morons! I'll buy EVERYTHING I want and I'm gonna get the discount, too!'

"First off, don't scream." Shin chided him. "Rising your voice during conversation often sparks hostility or dislike. Sometimes both."

The blond cocked his head.

"What's hostility?"

Shin sighed.

"It's when people don't like you and overprice stuff. Like that merchant in the clothing store." He explained.

"Ah." Naruto nodded. "Okay."

'Well, at least he is attentive. And eager.' Shin thought.

"Now, you must always keep in mind few major rules. Be polite. Whatever you think about people you are dealing with, keep it to yourself. Don't overdo it, be natural, but polite. Smile. It costs you nothing, but can earn you much."

"Like with ol' Asao!" Naruto grinned. "He's an asshole, but you were all polite and stuff!"

"Yes." Shin nodded. "But don't interrupt. It's not very polite."

Naruto shut up.

"Always do your best to keep your word and honor the deal. Reputation is the best coin a merchant has. If you have none, no one will deal with you. If you have it, it can often buy more than money alone." Shin raised his finger pointedly. "On the same token, you must both respect yourself and value your services. If you have no respect for yourself, or value your own skills poorly, don't expect others to value you highly."

Wide eyed, Naruto nodded, clearly spellbound.

"Also always, and I mean ALWAYS, strive to be the best. Standing still is taking two steps backwards. The world is turning and changing. You must adapt and change with it."

And so, the lesson continued.


Shin walked through the forests, Konoha left long behind him.

He calmly whistled a jaunty tune, not missing a step as two figures, one male, one female, both in Shinobi attire though without hitai-ate denoting the village of origin, swept down from the trees and knelt in front of him.

"Yukishiro-sama." The woman said, bowing her head. "I hope your excursion went well?"

"Oh DO stand up, Maya." He sighed. "You too, Kojiro. Honestly. Bodyguards or not, you are my friends. And yes, to your question." He cocked his head with a smile, thinking of certain blond urchin. "Why, it went even better than I could have imagined."

Maya, her delicate face nearly expressionless, raised an eyebrow.

"Why, I think I just made a very interesting deal." Shin said cheerfully "A very interesting deal, indeed."

Yukishiro Shin whistled a jaunty tune, followed by his two faithful, it tad bewildered bodyguards.


"Remember, my young friend: always know who to deal with first. Also, know when. Those are often as important as the deal itself.


Naruto might not be able to use chakra anymore, but he wasn't blind, deaf or stupid.

He couldn't deal with people in Konoha?


He watched, he looked, he observed until his eyes hurt.

The woman was young. Well, she was younger than Hokage-jiji. But then everyone was younger than Hokage-jiji, so it didn't say much.

She was cool. Loud. And he didn't like her coat. Too white for him. No happy color in sight.

But as she walked into t he shop, there was no mistaking it. It wasn't as raw, as potent or as blatant... But it was there.

Naruto dealt with cold eyes all his life. He was an expert, really.

So finding that cold, if muted look when she walked in or through some shops was easy.

And there was also something else. Something he saw in mothers that saw their children playing with him long ago, right before they snatched them away.

Fear. Cautious fear. Fear of the purple haired lady in the coat.

Naruto grinned.

So they didn't want to deal with him?


Then he'll find someone who will.


"Excuse me, Anko-san?"

Anko turned to the voice, frowning as she found a young boy in a fatigued orange jumpsuit and a large smile on his face.

'Why is he so... Ah. Right. The fox brat.'

"If you can't see, I'm kind eatin' here. So buzz off, brat." She waved him away.

"Sorry, sorry!" The blond grinned. "But I won't take much of your time, Anko-san! And hey, I'll pay for your dango as an apology!" He put enough coins for two trays of dango on the table and slid them to the cook. The man glared at him, but then looked at Anko, swallowed nervously at her gleeful gaze and took the money.

Anko slowed her eating a little to look at the blond child, before cocking her head and grinning.

"Heh heh... Forward little brat, ain't ya?" She teased a chuckle. "You've got guts, brat. All right. As long as there's dango, I'll listen to ya.." She smirked. "Unless I get bored, of course. Then I'll have to find something... Fun to do."

Naruto almost cringed. Her grin really creeped him out.

That was one SERIOUSLY scary lady.

For a moment he thought about looking for someone else, but he had already paid for her dango. He refused to waste the cash.

Besides, after so many days of observing people, she was the best option he had found.

Naruto smiled.

"Anko-san, can I ask you something...?"


Even long after many years went by, Anko never quite understood why had she listened to the blond urchin in a somewhat ragged orange jumpsuit.

Sure, there was dango, but...

It might have been pity. Maybe. The kid was a worse pariah than herself on any given day.

Sure, being an apprentice to the madman and traitor was bad. Sure, they called her slut. Sure, all kind of rumors how the snake sannin 'trained' her circulated around. 'Orochimaru's little fucktoy' was just one of many names she had heard in her youth. Some of them even stuck.

Ironic was the fact that Orochimaru, for all the time she had known him, was nearly asexual. He wasn't gay, like some suggested. He didn't, despite some claiming otherwise, have a taste for young boys.

With Orochimaru, it was all about power. It was his drug, his reason for existence, his God, his alpha and omega.

But it wasn't always this way. One day, every year, Orochimaru took care to place a small, modest bouquet made of various wildflowers on a certain grave. The name was impossible to read, cut and ripped from the grave's surface as if somebody slashed it with kunai in a fit of rage. Or mad grief.

This was also one day in the year that Orochimaru drank himself into stupor, something he usually thought beneath him.

But on that day, he did.

She never had the courage to ask, but from the few times Jiraya took him home to sleep off the alcohol she knew it was a woman. Jiraya always got a sad, faraway look in his eyes.

Orochimaru never spoke of her. Not once.

But each year, he diligently gathered the flowers, put them in a simple bouquet and left them on the nameless grave.

As selfish as it seemed, she liked it about him, back when he was her teacher.

It proved that he wasn't some unstoppable genius standing high on the pedestal, coated in his legend of invincibility, but a man. Man with his failings.

When he... left... She hated that. Hated it. Because he wasn't some kind of irredeemable monster.

She hated him for what he had done to her, for broken dreams, for betrayal, for his mad experiments when he could have been so much MORE. When SHE could have been the pupil of the sannin, of the great Orochimaru. Mitarashi Anko.

Genius shinobi.


Maybe even liked, who knew?

But somehow, over the chaos of Orochimaru's betrayal, people forgot about little Anko that graduated at ten with top marks. About little Anko that was chuunin before others even dreamed of genin. Little Anko that was loyal to her friends to a fault, loyal to her home beyond reproach. Little Anko that was labeled a slut, accomplice of Konoha's greatest and most deranged traitor until Uchiha Itachi. Mitarashi Anko who was jounin in all but name but would never get the rank. Mitarashi Anko that couldn't be trusted with anything of real importance.

Snake, you see. Snake's slut. Potential traitor. Mad one.

She would kill him, no mater the cost, yes. She hated him for that.

But making him... human.

Making him not some utterly mad monster beyond reason, but human, however deranged one... For that, she hated him the most.

But hey, she endured. Brash, strong, powerful. Who cared about rank? She was Mitarashi-fucking-Anko. Chuunin that had an A-class bingo book rating. Some jounin, supposedly all elite and shit, couldn't manage that. So the ANBU didn't want her? Fuck them. Their loss.

Snake slut? Unstable emotionally? Unstable because of the Cursed Seal? Fuck it. Fuck it and the horse it rode in. She was Mitarashi Anko. And she didn't give a FUCK.

On the day she realized that, she bought her undermesh. She put it on in the shop, uncaring of stares. Then she bought her coat.

And as she looked in the mirror, the slightly deranged giggle welling in her throat as the eyes of the saleslady she bullied to get a better price reflected in it. Part distaste, part indignation and lot's of fear...

She finally felt like herself.

And since she got promoted to Tokubetsu Jounin, she was obviously doing something right.

So yeah, her life wasn't exactly bed of roses. But the kid had it far worse.

As if being hated for the Kyuubi wasn't enough, he got his chakra system so fucked up he got thrown out of academy not even completing his first year.

Which was something of a record, really.

But the brat didn't break. Oh no. He was Naruto. Uzumaki-fucking-stubborn-Naruto.

Maybe that was why? Pity, respect? Mix of both? Maybe because she saw herself within the brat.


But he paid her with dango. Free dango... Well, almost free. But who complained? Not her.

Buy this, buy that... Like a D-class mission. Boring, boring, boring. But fast. And... DANGO!

Feeding her addiction was always nice.

And sometime during that, she got to know the kid. The kid, not the man. Because what the kid was, and what he showed... Heh.

She found that pretty quickly. After all, it takes one cripple to understand another, right?

And it's not like she had many people to hang out with. Not that she'd ever admit to 'hanging out' with the kid. No, when Kurenai asked...

"Well you know, I like to annoy him. He goes ballistic. And I can eat free dango!"

And that was that.

Until blondie dropped the exploding note on her. Or whole box of them.


C-class? You kiddin', right? More money than you have ever seen, brat. Or will ever see.


Hohoho... Cocky. Man, you're one amusing brat.

Sure, sure. Why not. You get the money, I got the time. Sure. Yeah, I promise.

Good morning, good morning. Yeah, whatever.



C-class, nah I...


Well fuck me sideways.

Sure I'll take it . No, I ain't feeling bad. No I ain't sick, Hokage-sama. Nope. Fine. Nope. So yeah. I take it. Yes, yes, yes. Who, the brat? Don't bother me none.

Yes, old man, I'll look after him. Yes, I won't swear in front of him.


Yeah, yeah. He's the client, yadda yadda and shit. Great. Fine.

YES I am fucking sure!


So... The mission?

And then they broke into that kitchen.


"What?" Anko looked at the kid incredulously "What the hell for? You want to poison him or something?"

"Poison him?" The blond blinked. "No. I want to cook him a great meal."

Anko looked at him for a long moment.

"You sure you haven't hit your head one time too many, brat?" She said, finally breaking the silence. "Why the hell would you have me breaking into a house belonging to some fat merchant just to cook a meal for him?"

Naruto grinned.


"Anko." She interrupted him with a scowl.

"Anko, then." He agreed. "What is the main food staple of the Wind country?"

"What kind of stupid question is that?" Anko snorted. "Rice, of course. Like everywhere else."

"Mhm." Naruto nodded non comittialy. "Now, where does the Wind country, who is near tropical at best, gets it's rice?"

Anko shrugged.

"Well, they can't grow it exactly. Import, I guess."

"Very good." Naruto nodded sagely. "Now, aside from rice, what do they eat?"

Anko blinked.

"Well... meat? Vegetables? Stuff like that?" She said unsurely. She had been to Wind country, true, but mainly in passing. She had never really paid any attention to the food there.

"Oh sure they do. Meat, however, is scarcer than in the Fire country. Vegetables? A near-luxury, save for those that grow in those conditions That's why..." Naruto threw her something grayish brown, smaller than her fist. She caught it deftly, rising an eyebrow curiously. It was obvious some kind of a plant, but..." We are going to give them this."

"...What the hell is it?" She muttered curiously.

Naruto's grin got wider, if that was even possible.

"That, my dear Anko, is the excellent source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and other such funny names, capable of being stored for up to several months without spoiling. They are called potatoes. And baked, fried or boiled... They taste simply delicious."

Anko frowned.

"If you say so." She said dubiously.

"I not only say so, I can prove it once we break camp." He smiled. "I found about those little buggers in Konoha's library after I came up across them when I wandered countryside near Konoha. Some old lady made them, they were a gift from her son, who is a farmer up north."

Naruto chuckled.

"She had no idea what they were and she made them wrong, without peeling them first. But the insides still tasted well. So I got around to thinking, snooped around, and viola Potatoes."

The blond grinned.

"Now, imagine, Anko. Just imagine. The rice, the staple food, is rather expensive in Wind country. Vegetables even more so. And contrary to rice, that can be stored for a long time, they spoil extremely fast. Now this little bugger," He pointed at the potato in her hand. "can be stored without problems and tastes fresh for months, if kept properly. Now imagine the value of that kind of vegetable to the, say, Shinobi Village of the Sand."

Anko's eyes widened.

"See?" Naruto said, clearly pleased with himself. "And one good thing is, that across shinobi nations? This nice little plant is all but unknown. Since rice is so popular, the only farmers that cultivate it are here, in the Fire Country. And even then it is mostly for themselves. However, they DO have some nice reserves. And they can be persuaded. IF the right middle man is found." He smiled slyly. "Of course, there is a question of buyers. We can't exactly sell this to the Village of the Sand. Not by ourselves. So we need a local merchant to make things easier for us. Somebody with reputation, an honest man. Wealthy, but not rich. Problem is, that kind of people are... well, cautious. And conservative. So to introduce my idea to him, we need some... creative methods."

Anko grinned slowly.

"Like breaking into his kitchen and feeding him some potato wonders?" The woman raised an eyebrow.

"See? See?" Naruto nodded sagely. "I knew I found myself a good partner Great minds think alike!"

Mitarashi Anko threw her head back and laughed.

They broke to the residence a week later.


Saito Nagi, that was all Naruto. It was his idea.

People wouldn't deal with the kid, he knew. He understood that. Adults, responsibility, image. Shin explained it to him.

One of the reasons Anko was oh so important for his whole caper to work.

After all, genjutsu wouldn't cast itself.

Uzumaki Naruto, little bit over eight years old? Nobody would take him seriously.

Saito Nagi? The young, but still adult, merchant?

Well, a little young but... Hey... If he's so young, he's inexperienced!

Cash cow!


Heh Heh.

So, Saito Nagi. Little bit short, young, tad nervous. Sandy blond. That he got from Shin. Greenhorn.

Yes. That was all Naruto, down to the slight, youthful stubble during the first meeting.

He helped Anko with Setsuna. Well, with Setsuna's looks, anyway. Darker skin, Amber eyes, brighter hair...

But crazy sex-kitten-with-a-blade... Now that, was all Anko.

Anko was the brash, in-your-face fighter type.

Setsuna was well dressed, beautiful femme fatale. And crazy. Not at the first glance, but the purple haired tokubetsu jounin could pull that 'faintly glimmering violence and madness' thing in her eyes well. Scarily overprotective, too.

Anko found Setsuna too amusing for words.

Jin was also Anko's idea.

Not totally, not exactly, but he was her creation in the end.

It was always good to have the 'boss' that one worked for.

Relentless, unreasonable, powerful man. Nobody knows what, who, when...

But Jin IS. Jin CAN. Jin WILL.

And poor Saito Nagi, burdened with troublesome assistant/bodyguard/sex kitten - take your pick, must run around the world as an errand boy.

Please, sir. Do have pity on a poor downtrodden young merchant.

Anko was damn proud of her creation.

And it took all the self control she had not to burst out laughing after hearing a serious talk between Asuma, Gai, Kakashi and Kurenai few years later about Jin-san and his long reach.

Yeah, it all started with that kitchen.

Anko was proud of herself.

Naruto even more so.

They kept eating potatoes every year on the anniversary of that day.

The day when the Ginsen was born.

And the name was Anko's.

Naruto, as she quickly found out, was utterly useless when it came to naming anything.