Disclaimer: 'Naruto' is the property of Kishimoto-san and will never belong to me. I possess no talents in manga-drawing and as such could never be an artist capable of producing such a masterpiece. However, I am certain that the plotline is original and subsequently have not plagiarised an idea from any other author on any fanfiction site publishing 'Naruto' stories. Any similarities are by mere coincidence. Also, any non-canon techniques will either belong to me or will be the creations of other authors on this site – I will not be using one without prior permission and will give credit where it is due.
Rated: T (for mentions of suicide, some bad language and quite frequent violence)
Parings: Sasu/Saku, Naru/Hina, platonic Naru/Saku, other minor pairings.
Chapter 5: Prepare yourselves – Operation Break-in!
"Naruto-kun, how long?" the kunoichi whispered into a radio; there was a slight crackle as the blond adjusted his settings and responded equally quietly, "As soon as the guards have passed. Hey, Shino? Are you ready?"
A light flashed below, and instinctively Hinata shrank back into the tree-shadow. With a murmured, 'Byakugan!' she watched as three figures staggered up the path towards her. After analysing them as no threat she allowed the bulging veins around her eyes to recede, and as soon as they were out of sight she darted closer to the Hokage building, knowing that her movements would go unnoticed. She was thankful for the plain grey mask over her face. It would be dreadful if someone were to discover one of their identities on this 'mission'.
The transmitter at her throat crackled and her companion's voice came out, slightly distorted by the distance. "Hinata, now!"
Once again activating her kekkai genkai the kunoichi hopped onto the window ledge, fiddling with the latch. It refused to give, and with a slight frown she jabbed chakra into it- to no avail.
"It's not working. I can't open it from this side!"
Silent as a wraith Shino appeared beside her. "Are there any holes?" was all he asked, seemingly disinterested. She knew otherwise, and turned her eyes to examine the wall carefully. Finding a small gap in the mortar she pointed it out to her teammate, who immediately instructed his kikai bugs to enter through. A face appeared on the other side of the wall, a perfect bunshin of the Aburame boy, who dealt with the latch before disintegrating into a swarm of insects again. Thanking the real Shino, Hinata opened the window just enough for her to slip inside. Behind her the Aburame moved away again, keeping a lookout for any chuunin on night-duty. She felt somewhat alone without his presence nearby, though the little radio at her throat was a slight comfort.
She slunk over to the door, leaving the window open for an easy escape route if necessary. Checking for any security she whispered into the radio, "I'm in."
"Okay. The room we want is two floors up from here, third from the end on the right hand side. I'll meet you there." His voice shifted slightly before crackling out, and for a moment she worried that he had been caught already.
"N-Are you there?" She managed to prevent herself from saying his name just in time, remembering the importance of anonymity. When no response came she hung back slightly. Should she continue with this venture? Naruto-kun might still be all right and waiting for her, after all…
Deciding 'yes' she checked round the corners with her byakugan, then crept through the shadowed areas in the corridors, byukugan still activated. Once or twice she caught glimpses of people moving above and whenever she saw one, she would freeze and draw into the shadows even further. Her heart was hammering within her chest. She was convinced that someone would be able to hear her just from its drumming; when an alarm suddenly blared out it was all she could do not to scream in shock. Backing close to the wall she felt a door handle jab into her back and, her mouth dry with nervousness, she allowed a gloved hand to close around it while around her the sirens wailed. Her heartbeat was a noisy drumming against the inside of her chest, and as she stood petrified she allowed herself time for one thought.
'Naruto-kun, where are you?'
The blond pressed himself further into the shadows, blue eyes casting furtive glances to either side of him. 'How the hell am I supposed to keep calm, doing something like this?!' he thought desperately, remembering the location of that security camera from his last time breaking into the Hokage tower. 'Damn, I swear my respect for Shikamaru has just gone up. I don't know how he managed to keep that first mission as a chuunin going… and I can't do things as I would usually. Shino and Hinata are depending on me to act like a leader!'
He racked his brain for some solution, wishing he knew some sort of smokescreen technique so he could sneak past relatively unnoticed, but neither Kakashi-sensei nor Ero-sennin had taught him one and he only had a limited supply of smoke bombs with him. The blond jinchuuriki turned his thoughts to the techniques already in his arsenal. Which ones were the best to use in this situation?
Pausing to consider an option he started to play it through in his mind. Perhaps if he made a kage bunshin down the other end, out of the camera's range? He could imagine it working, but no. There was a control room down there; they would hear the sound of the bunshin as it materialised. Maybe as a prank, but it was unsuitable for a mission.
'Damn it, think! What is there I can do?!'
"You seem to have forgotten one thing, kit…" Kyuubi chuckled darkly, waving his tails behind him. "You're this pitiful village's most surprising ninja. And you're well known for one thing…"
'Ha!' He realised what the bijuu meant after a moments deliberation and thought to the kitsune, 'If you weren't a homicidal psychopath I'd hug you for that. You've really helped me out there.'
Settling his hands into the familiar cross-shaped seal he whispered the technique name, ignoring the bijuu's disgusted mutterings. Seconds later a single bunshin appeared in the corridor. They shared foxy grins before the clone disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving a little spider in its place, and scuttled over the wall towards the camera.
"N-Are you there?" Hinata asked. She'd obviously heard him turning the transmitter around his neck off so he wouldn't get distracted while doing this. For a moment he felt guilty, realising that she might be assuming the worst.
'I'll be back in a moment, Hinata-chan. Wait for me,' he begged mentally, before casting another glance down the corridor. His bunshin had reached the end now, and was waiting for the signal. Taking a deep breath to calm himself Naruto assumed the mask of the prank-master Konoha knew before, and he grinned.
'Hope you appreciate this, Sasuke-teme!' He stepped out from around the corner, wearing the illusion of an Oto nin; his clone covered the camera lens upon seeing him, and Naruto sprinted down the corridor to a metal grille in the ceiling. He leapt up and pulled it aside, squeezing into the narrow gap; a second bunshin tucked the grille behind a row of ashes before dissipating into smoke.
The real Naruto waited a moment to make sure he had gone unheard, then carefully edged through the air vent. Still holding his henge he came to a halt over the guardroom, peering down into the room; the Oto hitai-ate over his head was surprisingly heavy, as if cursing him for his plan. With a wide grin he fished into a pocket and pulled out a couple of pellets. Dropping one through the grill he watched as it exploded, causing the two chuunin inside to leap up in surprise. Their hands flew to their weapons as a third and final bunshin burst through the doorway. The temporarily brown eyes widened in surprise as he swore, and readied for some sort of fight.
"Got the wrong door…"
The fight was fast, furious, and over within a minute. As instructed the clone disabled one of the two chuunin before allowing itself to be struck, at which point it performed a hasty kawarimi and escaped, but not before leaving a dropped Oto hitai-ate behind. After trying to revive his companion to no avail Kotetsu grabbed a radio and muttered into it words that the eavesdropper above could only hear brief snatches of: "…rogue Oto nin on the loose… Hagane's unconscious… no, I'm serious… all those not needed above required… emergency search now!"
Cursing softly – he hadn't thought of that possibility – Naruto backed up and dropped through the hole again, nodding to his bunshin before fleeing down the stairs. He took them two at a time, skidding to a halt at the bottom. There was a sudden rush of knowledge as his bunshin disappeared, and a clamour rose behind him. He was certain he just heard footsteps following him down the stairs now. Swearing again he ducked through a doorway, shutting it quietly behind him, then broke into a run again, counting off the doors on either side as he went.
Ahead he noticed Hinata backed up against the wall, slightly panicked; he grabbed her with a muttered apology and burst through the door she was leaning against. She looked at him as if seeing a stranger. Realising that he was still wearing his henge Naruto let it fall away and, removing his mask, gave her a grin.
"Guess I got a little carried away up there," he said, scratching the back of his head in embarrassment. He was convinced she would hit him or something – after all, that was what Sakura always did when she was mad at him – but she just stood there and offered him a shy smile, whispering, "It's okay, w-we all make mistakes."
Footsteps approached the door at a brisk walk, and the insects crawling underneath told them who it was before he entered. Shino shut it behind him; then, as if by some unspoken agreement, the two boys started to shift various items of furniture in front of the door to prevent people from entering. While they built the temporary barricade Hinata crossed over to the window and glanced down. Figures were silhouetted against the pavement, darting back and forth to relay instructions. She bit her lip nervously, knowing that there was little chance of escape through there; Naruto waved to her and she half turned to see what he was trying to communicate.
'He wants me to open a window?' The kunoichi took a couple of steps away from the window to avoid detection. When she asked why the blond just grinned, and even though she didn't understand his logic Hinata found herself believing in him.
Knowing that she would comply with his request Naruto turned to search the shelves. The silent Aburame removed his mask, knowing that he could trust the other two in the room, and as he took a pair of sunglasses from a pocket he asked, "What now?"
"We've got a bit of time before they find us," Naruto said, crouching down to study one of the thick files. "When we hear them at the door you and Hinata-chan go out those windows and make for the Uchiha compound, and I'll try and draw them off. I've got a few tricks I want to try out anyway, so it saves me having to pull a prank later!"
(Hinata was again grateful for the mask that she still wore. She could feel her cheeks warming at the suffix attached to her name.)
"W-what are you looking for, Naruto-kun?"
"The Uchiha files should be in here somewhere. I overheard Baa-chan saying something about it not too long back – all the records are kept in here, but they can't be accessed without a password or something." He grinned like somebody who had just won the lottery. "Of course, I couldn't let that knowledge go to waste. I typed it in as soon as I broke into this building. But I don't know the one to seal the room again, so Baa-chan's gonna have to sort that one out."
He took a sheaf of papers out and reached behind them, checking for anything that might have fallen down the back. Shino moved away silently and crossed the room, noticing a file that had already been removed. His kikai bugs buzzed in agitation at the sound of the sirens wailing outside the room, and he paused momentarily to calm them before picking the file up. It bore the name of some former clan of Konoha that had been wiped out fifteen years prior; flicking through its pages he made a mental note of the last face to stare up at him, matching it with the fourth of those stone heads that overlooked the village, before closing it and stepping into the aisle it had come from.
He found the hole where the file was supposed to be and slid it in, noticing the names of other famous clans staring out at him. The Aburame file was absent, of course; they stored their own file underneath their compound so that people were unable to find out their secrets. The size of the clan reflected in their thickness. The Hyuuga clan's was spread over five binders, there were so many of them, whereas that one he had just relocated took up only half a file. Famous enough to warrant a place in this aisle, yet obscure enough to have escaped notice by the historians – he had never heard of this clan before.
Naruto bumped into the other side of the shelves, and from about midway down on the furthest bookshelf a file tumbled out. With a minute sigh Shino bent to put it back into place, then noticed a dust-covered file stuffed right to the back. He pulled it out and wiped the dirt from the edge, reading the name with a hint of surprise. He began to flick through, checking whether it was the information they required; then there came a thump against the other side of the door and muffled curses as shinobi struggled to break it down.
"Window, now!" Naruto hissed, slits replacing his ordinary pupils and the scars on his face becoming more prominent. Hinata nodded mutely and once more donned the grey mask; Shino appeared from around the corner and held the file out for Naruto to see. The blond's eyes widened and he gave Shino a feral grin, whispering, "Take it with you – just go before they get in."
"Rejoin us soon," the bug-user replied softly, closing his eyes as he swapped the sunglasses for his own mask. Naruto looked slightly uncomfortable and leapt up onto a bookshelf, giving his companions a fox-like grin before he took on the countenance of that same Oto nin he had earlier. The two ninja from Team 8 disappeared from sight through the window Hinata had opened, the stolen file hidden underneath Shino's coat, and left Naruto alone in the chamber.
As if on cue there came a billowing cloud of smoke from outside, a distraction he'd had a bunshin set up before the break-in as a safety precaution. He grinned – he wasn't the prank-master for nothing. People generally refused to see the ingenuity that all of his pranks required, just focussing on the (usually) destructive/degrading nature of the end result. It was hardly his fault they hated him…
The door groaned, about to give way, and Naruto hurriedly laid a second henge over himself. He now looked like a rather large rat that had somehow managed to reach the top of a row of bookshelves, and the prankster part of his mind yelled in glee. This would be a good one – a humiliation that the ninja trying to break in would not forget in a long time. Short legs tensed and readied to leap onto the first head that entered through the doorway, preferably a female one. His rat-nose twitched in anticipation, his nerves at breaking point as he waited for the ninja to just break through the damn door!
He was not to be disappointed. At last the door flew open; the group of chuunin stumbled through. Their eyes instantly homed in on the open window and one man swore.
Naruto, with a mental yell of triumph, selected his victim and pounced.
The sudden shock of having a large rat land on your head didn't elicit a scream as the blond had hoped. Instead the man swore again and attempted to swat him away, and Naruto had to try and dodge the hand that swiped at him. Diving from the top of the man's head he scuttled under a bookcase, leaving the ninja to argue. The man he'd jumped on seemed convinced that he was a disguised enemy – 'too right you are there, mate,' Naruto thought grimly – but the others were uncertain. The debate grew more heated before one, the man he'd jumped on originally and the obvious leader, shouted something that made them all fall silent. Then a groping hand appeared under the edge, fingers reaching out to grab him before he could make an escape. The blond sighed in resignation, waited until the fingers were just near enough to catch him and bit down as hard as he could on the closest one. The man yelled in shock and pain and withdrew his hand, but Naruto kept hanging on for as long as he could, even though the man's blood tasted horrible (and he couldn't be certain just when this guy had last washed his hands).
Recovering from the initial surprise faster than Naruto had anticipated, the chuunin started to shake his hand around in an attempt to dislodge the sharp teeth fastened in his finger. Unable to keep his grip for much longer Naruto felt his grip give way. Then he was flying through the air. He witnessed it in his mind as if watching it happen to another. The rat-body was sent arcing backwards, stubby legs clawing at the air desperately. The group in the door way watched in a state like some sick fascination as he collided with the wall, the thump offset by a cracking sound. The blond grimaced at the uncomfortable sensation of the first of the two illusions gave way; the pain in his back was nothing, already beginning to fade away. The shinobi were slightly shocked at the sight of an Oto nin but it soon turned to something else (Naruto was uncertain just what the feelings were, but knew it was bad news).
"Ibiki-san will be very happy," one said with a smirk, and Naruto glowered at him. His fingers were reaching for the smoke pellets again, but he had to keep them talking and distracted long enough for him to complete this stage of his plan.
"Yeah," another agreed, not taking his eyes off the window. "Too bad his companions got away, but one's better than none. Ibiki-sama will be entertaining again for the first time in weeks."
"Say that when you've caught me, fucking bastards," the henge-d Naruto spat and shifted position slightly. He kept his legs limp, as if his spine had been damaged when he struck the wall. "Acting so tough – you Konoha nin are all the same."
It was hard to act like this, degrading the village he loved. He was having to rely on Kyuubi's mutterings on the subject and the attitudes of the Oto nin he had had contact with in the past, but it seemed he'd said the right thing. The group ignored him, discussing among themselves what to do; then two started to walk towards him with identical smirks. Sneering in response Naruto flicked the smoke bombs out, relishing the looks of astonishment and anger on their faces as he darted away. There was a yell behind as them as the group set off in pursuit again, and the hunt was on.
Hinata took out the first ninja she came across with ease – a swift strike, no added chakra, to the base of the neck and he fell silently to the ground. She paused to drag him out of the way before checking that there were no more around. From there she ducked into a deserted alleyway and activated her byakugan once more, scanning for any sight of the other escapee from that building. Finding no traces nearby she waited for a moment, until the fear of discovery became too much to bear and she just had to get moving again. She had to get as far away as she could, to find a suitable hiding place somewhere.
Voices sounded from nearby; wide-eyed with panic Hinata shrank into a doorway until the people passed. The sky was black now save for the stars dotted across its surface, and she became aware that the thin clothing she wore was not enough to keep the chill at bay. The people passed feet away from where she hid, and the girl closed her eyes in a silent prayer that she would remain undiscovered. Her hand quivered slightly as she saw them come close to her position, the byakugan having activated of their own volition – a response to her overwhelming fear. She struggled to calm her breathing. Better ninja than her had been caught because people had heard their breathing before now, and if her actions were to be discovered she could be charged with treason. She was making a habit of it recently.
The people came into view, and with a sudden shock she recognised the figures as Inuzuka Tsume and the black wolf-like canine that accompanied her everywhere, Kuromaru. She knew that her situation was bad then, especially when the dog paused and sniffed the air, recognising her scent and possibly the slight smell of her fear on the air…
A/N: Cliff-hanger no Jutsu! But I've got an excuse – it sorta died at this point, so I'll give myself a little while to overcome the writers block and then back to business.
Yeah, I'm a bit of a Shino fangirl. Only a little bit, though. He, Kankuro and (dare I say it) Kabuto are some of my favourite guys on the show, ranging from 'stoic-but-good-hearted' to 'cowardly-but-kinda-brave-too' to 'downright evil-with-ulterior-motives'. My bro has to put up with my 24-7 lamenting – 'why are the pretty guys always evil?!' (Sasuke, Itachi, Orochimaru, Sasori, Deidara- are you seeing a recurring trend here? But those guys are far too shallow for me; and while Sasuke gets a little sympathy he ain't on my list.)
This might be the last chapter in a while – I'm off to university at the end of July and, once there, will have to fight 129 other kids for the use of the limited number of computers available. I will try and email what I can get typed up while there to my bro so he can piece it together, but I will definitely write it on paper at the least.
And, after much deliberation, I have decided to include the introduction to the first of my three main Original Characters for this fiction. You will find it below.OMAKE - OMAKE - OMAKE
Zaruno Hanaki lay awake, staring through a gap in the ceiling at the stars twinkling high above her. The teenage genin shifted slightly, but not enough to wake the slumbering girl beside her. Folding the blanket over her the kunoichi padded over to a rickety old ladder. She ignored it, perhaps out of the knowledge that it would probably wake the children below, and jumped up onto a jutting beam instead.
The oldest of the four below stirred. Opening her eyes she peered upwards, making out the shape of Hanaki silhouetted against the moon. "Nee-chan… wha'?"
"Just go back to sleep, Kairi." Her voice was warm and gentle, but the slate grey eyes highlighted by the moon seemed far too cold and distant for such a person.
Perhaps it went unnoticed. With the simple obedience of a child Kairi allowed her eyes to drift shut, and soon was lost to sleep again. Hanaki watched her for a moment more. Then, satisfied that she had done as instructed, the genin clambered onto the roof rather clumsily, lying back to get a closer view of those entrancing stars. A butterfly alighted on her finger, and with a tender glance she sent a probe of chakra out to connect with it.
"…Thank you. You can go now."
Lifting its wings in acknowledgement it flew away again, leaving her to absorb the information given her. Her gaze flickered towards the compound that dominated the east side of Kumogakure. A scowl creased her brow. How she hated that place! It was the home of her clan, the people she was ashamed to call family. Her fingers found the choker around her neck, the thing she was unable to take off without winning her freedom from them first.
Sometimes her thoughts drifted dangerously close to treason. She'd heard about Uchiha Itachi, of course; everyone had heard of the prodigy who massacred his clan at the age of thirteen. And at times she could find herself almost sympathising with him. If he'd been under similar pressure to her then it was understandable that he'd lash out. That was only sometimes, though. Most times she was in a rational enough state of mind to think logically about it all; and whenever she did that she always ended up condemning the actions of a man she didn't know and never would, so there was no chance that she could understand him. Still, hypothesising with the facts she did know was good enough for now.
She dreamed a lot. Dark dreams, filled with blood and screaming and people calling her a monster. Hanaki herself was no jinchuuriki, but her sensei was, and sometimes she imagined she could hear the soft purrs of Nekomata trying to lure her into Her trap. But she was no fool. Although… Sometimes she did find herself enjoying the nightmares. There were only two she wanted to kill in the clan, and she would often fantasise about their deaths. Call her obsessed, mad, even a traitor to her village; but she could not rest until she saw their cold and dead faces.
But sake always seemed to drown those terrible nightmares. It was a shame she was unable to obtain the liquor more easily, being considered underage by the vast majority of bars which sold it, but she knew ways and means of occasionally managing to get a bottle or two, usually from her sensei of course. She didn't particularly like the taste, but if it stopped the dreams then she was happy.
Hanaki only wanted to be an ordinary kunoichi, able to hang around with a crowd and laugh as if there was no possibility of death on some over-glorified battlefield. But she was born to be different. Hanaki – the unconventional flower of the clan where females were scorned. Kami, how she hated all of those men who thought she was weak just because she was a girl.
She sighed, secure in the knowledge that she was quite alone up here, and sat upright again. The horizon was tinged pink with the coming dawn. The sight confused her for a moment before she realised that yes, she had been up there all night and yes, she had spent yet another sleepless night mulling over hopeless dreams. She was a perpetual oxymoron, her nii-san had told her once; that description fit her well now with the two distinct halves of her personality, which were as different as night and day.
Her eyes softened as they welcomed the dawn, and when she heard her little group of orphans begin to wake below she cast the horizon one last longing glance. Then she stood and jumped, relishing the feel of wind rushing past her face for the few seconds it lasted, and landed gently beside the doorway. Coffee, then training, then possibly a mission, then sleep and be tormented by nightmares – life was just one long routine that she was fast tiring of, but thankfully the Chuunin exams were only a week or two away.
Under a veil of black hair she smiled slightly. She hoped that Yugito-sensei would deem them ready this time, but at the end of it all it was really down to their skills and whether they were ready to take on the challenge. And the Utare brothers knew that she'd make their lives a living hell if the trio lost this opportunity.OMAKE END - OMAKE END - OMAKE END
The boys will be introduced the next time I am able to update – they are the aforementioned Utare brothers, Kizuna and Seishin.
Reviews welcome, reviewers loved, and flames will be taken to a special room in the centre of my mind where the furnaces of passion burn. Oh God, I just sounded like Lee.
'…It seems illogical to suggest it… but it may be a possibility. It seems we have been caught in a web of intrigue without knowing it – now all we have to be concerned with is how to get out.' (Guess who? the metaphor gives it away, I think.)
'Underneath the Sixth Tatami of the Shrine'?