The Book of Naruto

First Testament / In the Beginning

By HitokiriOTD

In the beginning, a bridge was built. It was a bridge called 'Hope', which lead to 'Courage.'

Courage led to the completion of the Great Naruto Bridge. Slowly, the Country of the Wave began to recover from many long years of oppression. Time passed and the country had begun to flourish as a center of commerce once more. All in all, this made Tazuna the bridge builder a very happy—and incidentally, very rich—man. In fact, he was so happy that he would often go out at night to drink at different bars, which were far livelier than they had been while Gatou had lived. Of course, he had often gone out for a drink—or ten—before Gatou had died, but now the sake was cheaper and the people more cheerful, so it was a completely different experience. At least, that's what he told his daughter Tsunami.

Tazuna was a connoisseur of alcoholic beverages, which meant that he often got drunk. He had once been a somber and somewhat mean drunk, snapping at and belittling any who dared to interrupt his appreciation of alcoholic beverages, but lately he had so much to be happy about that he had become quite talkative on his way to becoming quite unconscious. The old man always had an audience listening to his stories, due partly to the newfound respect that he commanded as the builder of the Great Naruto Bridge and partly to the riveting content of Tazuna's favorite story. His newfound popularity had nothing to do with the fact that he was very amusing after his third bottle of sake. His favorite story was the one where he tripped that one time and fell face first into the cleavage of a very beautiful—and, more importantly, very stacked—blond woman. According to Tazuna, she had the biggest bre—bust he had ever seen. Huge. Massive, even. There was a little pink pig dressed in a coat involved as well, but few dwelled on that. Had it been a flying pig that might have changed, but instead they would say, "Let's talk more about those breasts, instead…"

His second favorite story was a new one, a tale of courage, bravery, and high heroism. It told of dangerous missing-nin, incredibly evil businessmen, heroic ninja, and lots of bloody combat. The heroes, apart from Tazuna himself, were Konoha ninja. One name stood above the rest in Tazuna's drunken ramblings.

That name was Uzumaki Naruto.

And the Word spread from the Wave, slowly, creeping into the hearts and minds of men as it traveled.

Like all good stories, Tazuna's tale of Team 7's, and more importantly of Naruto's, courage began to spread. At first it traveled from bar to bar, spreading as far as the sake flowed. The story left the Wave, carried in the minds of merchants and travelers and between the curses of sailors. It entered ports and border towns, told over a few shots of sake. Slowly it began to leak into other parts of society. It took hold in Water's red light districts next. From there it began to spread into every part of the Country of Water. As with every story, it changed and grew with each telling, and a legend began to take shape.

"…to always carry a seal that can never be removed. A guy like you can never understand what it means!"

"No. I understand." Blue eyes sparked with emotion. The shadow of nine tails loomed. "And… so what?" In the stands, dozens of eyes tracked Naruto with intense interest. Though he did not know it, Naruto's words and actions were being watched very carefully, and not just by other shinobi. The power he exhibited left more than the Konoha shinobi who recognized it speechless. Later, after the invasion, stories of a great battle in the forests outside of Konoha began to filter through town. Accounts of a blond ninja battling a giant sand demon along side of a massive frog were dismissed by many in Konoha. There were very few blond Konoha-nin, and the one who could have been in the area could not have possibly done it. It was, however, taken with much more credulity in the outskirts of Konoha, in the lodging towns where most of Konoha's visitors stayed.

So the deeds of Naruto began to grow in number, and tales of his greatness spread…

Hyuuga Hinata stared at the babbling archeologist and the scroll laid out on the mahogany table. She was feeling rather confused. She, and the rest of her team, had come to the Country of the Wave on a C-rank mission. They were assigned to protect an archeologist named Asani Shindou as he made his way to a newly discovered dig site. They had arrived without trouble, and the archeologist had joined his team in the dig immediately. Team 8's last day on the mission had arrived without incident, but now there had apparently been a big discovery, at least if Shindou-san's behavior was any indication. The archeologist, Shindou-san, had struck her as a sensible, laid-back person—even if he did go to bars too often. But since he had finished reading the old scroll that he had found only hours ago, he had the look of a man experiencing a revelation. Shindou-san also seemed to have lost the ability to speak in coherent sentences, which made her wonder if maybe he had been infected with her timidity.

"Tch," Kiba made a disgusted noise. "This is boring, right Akamaru?" The small dog barked in reply. Is Akamaru getting bigger? Hinata wondered idly. His voice seemed deeper, somehow. "We're going outside," Kiba told his teammates. He paused at the door, "You want to come, Hinata?"

"No," Hinata shook her head. She wanted to know what was inside that scroll.

"Hinata," Shino's voice drew her attention. Once he saw that he had it, he nodded after Kiba.

"Ah, it's alright," she assured him. Shino nodded and followed after Kiba, no doubt in an effort to keep their hot-headed teammate out of trouble. It had taken her a while to be able to interpret Shino's non-vocal signals, but she was getting pretty good at it. Well, not that good, of course… but…

Shindou-san made a strange noise, snapping Hinata out of her thoughts. She looked at the middle-aged, sun-weathered archeologist, only to find him gazing at her with burning eyes. Hinata squeaked fearfully. "You're a Konoha ninja, right?"

"Y-yes," she stammered nervously, trying to hide her sudden confusion. She failed, just like she did at everything else.

"Do you know an Uzumaki Naruto?" It was as if her heart had stopped. It had been two months since Naruto-kun had left Konoha with Jiraiya-sama—an extremely long and depressing two months for Hyuuga Hinata. Unlike his previous departures, she knew that he would not be back for a whole two or three years, which made it so much more depressing. Naruto-kun had left to train and grow stronger, and Hinata couldn't begrudge him that. She knew how much the opportunity meant to him, just as she had seen how much his failure to bring back Sasuke had hurt him. Surely he would come back incredibly strong, stronger than anyone… He would be handsome too, and taller, and when he came back and saw how she had (hopefully) grown he would look at her and… Hinata flushed, scarlet infusing her cheeks. But… she hadn't even been able to say goodbye face-to-face… She hadn't been able to tell him…

"…inata? Hinata!" The girl blinked as Shindou-san's loud voice barged into her thoughts. Her blush grew deeper in embarrassment, as she realized that she had spaced out thinking about Naruto—again.

"I know Naruto-kun," she said softly, pushing her index fingers together. She wondered why Shindou-san would know that name. After a moment, Hinata remembered that Naruto was a celebrity in the Wave. He had come here for his first C-rank mission, and had apparently become a hero to the people of the Wave. It made her feel so proud of him, that he had been able to make so many people see his worth. Kiba had been incredulous, and even Shino's eyebrows had risen, but Hinata just knew that the stories they had heard were true. Hearing them gave her a warm, fuzzy feeling. Naruto-kun…

"Does he look like this?" Shindou asked intently, turning the scroll around to face her. Hinata blinked and looked down to study the picture. It was clearly old, and the colors had faded greatly. Still, it had been preserved remarkably well. The figure pictured on the scroll's faded leather was tall and strong looking. What caught her eye first was the spiky, wild hair. Faded blotches of yellow indicated that the figure was blond. The eyes seemed blue-looking to her. There were marks on the figure's cheeks. Did it look like Naruto-kun? Sort of. She pictured him in her mind, ten years older. Hinata flushed again.

"Mhmm…" Hinata's eyes opened, only to find Shindou looking at her strangely. "Eep!" was all she could vocalize once she realized the nature of the sound that had escaped her, in front of a complete stranger no less. "Yes," she blurted hastily, trying to divert the archeologist's attention. "It… kind of… looks like Naruto-kun."

The archeologist's eyes gleamed. "I see," he murmured. Finally, he smiled. "Sit down," he told the genin. "Let me tell you what this scroll says, and what I think it means."

The seeds of the Word had spilled forth, and they began to bear fruit. Tales of our Lord's glory had spread, and they paved the way for Word…

Naruto stared up at Hinata, almost tauntingly. Slowly, her lips grew closer… Hinata bit down. She chewed absently, staring down into the ramen bowl. It was incredibly nostalgic for her to eat at Ichiraku, despite the fact that she had never eaten there at the same time as Naruto. Nonetheless, when she ate there it was like she could feel Naruto's presence. It was nice; comforting. Comforting was just what she needed. Her thoughts had been even more scattered than usual since the mission to the Wave country. That had been three months ago, but doubts still plagued her. The contents of the scroll were just coincidence, right? There was no way that Naruto was… Naruto was…

Naruto-kun, Hinata sighed, happy thoughts filling her head. Abruptly, she shook her head almost violently, causing Ayame and Teuchi to look at her strangely. She didn't notice. I did it again, she thought. Hinata had daydreamed about Naruto for years, but ever since he had left it had become a more and more frequent occurrence for her. It was starting to become noticeable to others. She thought about the scroll again. Could it be true? Hinata wondered, for the thousandth time. Still, a part of her felt that it suited him. She liked the sound of it, really.

Hinata frowned at her empty bowl. Apparently she had eaten all of it on auto-pilot. Abruptly she felt tearful, staring at the empty ramen bowl. It was a metaphor, she decided. Naruto was gone, but Hinata had been left behind. She was like a bowl without ramen in it. Her life suddenly felt pointless. Hinata gripped the edges of the bowl tightly. I want to be by Naruto-kun's side. I want to eat ramen with Naruto-kun. Her shoulders shook. Tears fell down into the bowl. Naruto-kun. Naruto-kun. Naruto-kun!

"Hinata...?" Ayame's worried voice trailed off in disbelief. Hinata vaguely heard the sound of something metallic being dropped. She looked up, gazing through teary eyes at Teuchi and Ayame's gaping expressions. A smell drifted up to her noise and worked its way into her brain. Warm, she thought fuzzily. How something could smell warm, she didn't know, but it did. In fact, it smelled incredibly delicious. The smell alone made her hungry for whatever it was, despite the fact that she had just eaten. She looked down as her fingers reported a warm sensation. What…?

It was ramen; warm, tasty looking ramen. Chicken, her nose reported. A fishcake sat daintily on top, exactly center. She stared at it, bewildered. Hinata looked up. "Did you…?" Hinata began to ask, only to trail off. Father and daughter shook their heads.

"It just… appeared out of nowhere," Ayame breathed wonderingly. Teuchi nodded, still unable to speak. Hinata looked around, trying to spot anyone suspicious. She even activated her Byakugan to study her new bowl of soup. There was nothing. Hesitantly, she took her chopsticks and gathered some noodles. She took a bite. The taste seemed to course through her whole body. It was the most incredible thing she had ever eaten. It slid down her throat gently, and settled warmly in her stomach. She felt warm and comforted. Her tears dried and she began to eat eagerly, heartily. For some reason, the ramen reminded her of Naruto. She finished the bowl all too quickly. Hinata felt a pang of disappointment at the sight of the empty bowl, but then her suspicions came back to her.

It was another coincidence. But it felt connected. Naruto, the scroll, the mysterious ramen… they were all connected. Yet, it was impossible. She tried to remember what had happened when the bowl had filled itself. It can't be, she thought, but her trembling hands nonetheless came up and griped the bowl again. She closed her eyes and bowed her head. Naruto-kun! Hinata sat still for several long minutes, her hands on the bowl, thinking intensely. Teuchi and Ayame watched her, torn between concern and curiosity—and not a little trepidation on Teuchi's part. They too wanted to see the strange little miracle repeat itself. Hinata finally lifted her head, sighing in defeat. Ayame's amazed gasp brought Hinata's eyes back to the bowl almost instantly. She gasped as well as a liquid spiral of ramen broth drew itself on the bottom of the bowl. The spiral grew into a miniature whirlpool of broth, and then noodles and toppings began to flow out of the whirling center.

The three of them stared, completely stunned, at the steaming bowl of scrumptious ramen. Teuchi's mind raced through investment opportunities. If he played his cards right, he could conquer the ramen market! But Hinata was the most shocked, as her mind tried to comprehend the implications of the ramen in front of her.

And so He comforted Hinata and allowed her to taste His divine providence. Hinata tasted, and believed…

I'm going crazy, Naruto thought, absently rubbing his forearms. Lately he had been getting the strangest feelings. Sometimes he thought he could hear people talking in his head, only he couldn't hear what they were saying. His dreams were downright bizarre, he knew that much, but he couldn't remember exactly what they were when he woke up. It had been nearly eight months since he had left Konoha with Jiraiya, or rather ero-sennin, and he had been training hard. But things had started to get weird around four or five months ago, and not the mundane rain-of-frogs kind of weird either. Sure, he felt stronger, healthier, and more alive than he had ever felt in his life, but his head was breaking. He was cracking, going nuts, and it was probably ero-sennin's fault. Sure, the perverted toad hermit was a good teacher, but that was only when he bothered to teach at all. Jiraiya's favorite teaching strategy seemed to be 'sink or swim.' This often put meant putting Naruto into extremely perilous situations and then leaving to peek at women. Naruto had lost count of how many times he had faced death in the past eight months. Oh, he was learning, but it seemed like an extremely sadistic method of training.

Ero-sennin had, at first, concentrated on honing Naruto's basic skills and having Naruto try to extract the Kyuubi's chakra at faster rates. The training had gone well until about four or five months ago, which was when Naruto began to lose his mind. Suddenly it was like there was barrier between Naruto and the Kyuubi that he could not breach. He could no longer contact the monster fox nor feel its chakra. Both teacher and student had been confused by this turn of events, and Naruto had nearly died three times before the idiot hermit was satisfied that the Kyuubi had somehow completely blocked himself off from Naruto. That was the only conclusion that seemed logical, since the seal was intact and Naruto was completely clueless. Naruto's training had then abruptly shifted gears into intensive stamina and chakra control training, and he had excelled at them with a speed that surprised him.

But while Naruto's training was going well, everything outside of training was not. He was losing his mind with only Jiraiya for company; or rather he was losing his mind because he only had Jiraiya for company. He missed Sakura-chan incredibly. Hell, he even missed Kakashi-sensei, the tardy pervert. Tsunade-obaachan, Iruka-sensei, Konohamaru, Teuchi-occhan, Ayame-neechan… the list went on. Ero-sennin was a precious person to him, sure, but he grated on the nerves after prolonged exposure—well, to fair, he grated on the nerves even without prolonged exposure. Although this probably stemmed more from his repeated attempts to murder Naruto than anything else. He calls that training, Naruto grumbled. Then he goes off to peek! Just thinking about it was irritating. But it wasn't just a matter of Naruto feeling homesick. For some reason, everywhere they went was struck by storms, tornados, and even small hurricanes. It was ridiculous, it was irritating, and it was baffling. It was as if storm systems were following Naruto around. Training with constant rain and gales may have boosted the effectiveness of his training routines, but it was also annoying as hell.

What really convinced Naruto that he was losing his mind was the fact that, for several weeks now, he had started getting some very odd impressions. It was certainly an urge he could relate with and one he felt should be encouraged whole-heartedly... but still, what the hell? Why did he suddenly feel like Hinata had some very strong cravings for ramen?

He gifted the faithful, and they multiplied…

As a shinobi village, it was important for Konohagakure to keep its ear to the ground, so to speak. Konoha, like all ninja villages, maintained an expansive information network and was rarely uninformed of events in neighboring countries. Needless to say, that information network was even more exceptional within the boundaries of the Fire nation itself. Thus, when whispers of a new religion began to come from their neighbors, it was noted in Konoha. When those whispers started to emerge within the Country of Fire, it made the intelligence specialists sit up and take notice. Teams were dispatched to gather information. What they came back with shocked the intelligence analysts and their supervisors to the core. It was decided that the matter was clearly critical, and passed on directly to the Hokage.

Tsunade stared at the report in utter silence. Nervously, the Ansatsu Senjutsu Tokushu Butai member shifted on the balls of his feet. None of the Hokage were known for blaming the messenger, but Tsunade's temper was as legendary as her strength and supremely bad gambling skills, though not quite as legendary as her… other assets. That brat, Tsunade thought without heat, even when he's not around he gives me headaches. She rubbed her temple absently. It seemed ridiculous. How could Naruto, of all people, have a religion spring up around him? But then, Tsunade realized, it makes an odd sort of sense. Naruto could get into the strangest situations. He could also get out of the strangest situations with what seemed like pure luck and lots of guts. He inspired people, and apparently he had done something so crazy that someone had decided that he was a god. It still seemed astoundingly stupid to Tsunade, but that was life.

Finally, she shrugged and set the report down. The gesture did interesting things to her chest, but the ANBU was too nervous to appreciate it like he normally would. One of the benefits of wearing a mask all of the time was that no one could tell exactly where your eyes were focused. "Thank you," she said absently, setting the report aside and fiddling with the papers on her desk. It was clearly a dismissal and the ANBU moved to leave. A thought occurred to Tsunade. "Just a moment," she said abruptly, causing her masked subordinate to freeze in place. "Have someone call Team 8 into my office," she ordered.

"I understand," the operative snapped to attention again before turning sharply and retreating through the door.

"You wished to see us, Hokage-sama?" Kurenai asked when Team 8 finally arrived in Tsunade's office.

"Yes. About your recent mission…" Tsunade conducted a thorough debriefing before dismissing the team. Once they were gone, the Godaime stared down at her interlaced fingers, her mouth twitching. Finally, she burst into laughter.

"Ano…" Tsunade's laughter cut off abruptly and she jerked her head up to stare at an uncertain Hyuuga Hinata.

Tsunade cleared her throat, doing her best to look dignified and composed. "Yes?"

"I was wondering…" Hinata trailed off and she began to push her index fingers together. Tsunade hadn't been Hokage for very long, and she wasn't familiar with many of her subordinates, but she could tell a nervous gesture when she saw one.

"You were wondering?" the first female Hokage prompted.

"I... that is…" Is she blushing? Tsunade wondered. "Do you…?" Even for Hinata, this was ridiculous. She visibly gathered herself. "Doyouthinkthatitcouldbetrue?"

Tsunade blinked. "What?" she asked blankly. First she can't get it out, and then when she does it comes out too fast, she thought in exasperation.

Hinata's blush darkened. "Do you think that it could be true?" she whispered.

"Could what…?" Now it was Tsunade's turn to trail off as realization hit her. "Naruto?" she exclaimed in disbelief. When Hinata nodded shyly, Tsunade could not contain herself. She snorted. She snickered. She giggled. She guffawed. She laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. She did all of this in a dignified manner, as befitting of the Hokage, of course. When she finally recovered, Hinata had faded from the doorway, presumably too embarrassed to stay and continue her conversation with the indisposed Sannin. Her desk had also been thoroughly smashed, though Tsunade was mystified as to why. As the Godaime contemplated the pile of tinder wood that had once been one of her drawers another visitor entered her office.

"Excuse me…?" Kurenai trailed off uncertainly. Tsunade's strength and temper were well known, and the fact that the Hokage had smashed her desk could be construed as a bad sign. "I'll come back another time," Kurenai said quickly, deciding that retreat was the better part of valor.

"Wait," Tsunade snapped. Kurenai froze in mortal terror. "What is it?" the Legendary Sucker continued more gently.

"I was just… I was wondering if you had a moment…?" Tsunade stared at the crimson-eyed woman. Did Hinata rub off on her, or did she rub off on Hinata? Until now, she had always assumed that it was the former, but then again she had never seen Kurenai display any traits that she shared with Hinata.

"I'm free," Tsunade sighed, looking at the broken remains of her polished desk. It was an antique too. What a waste. She could just imagine how much she could have pawned the desk for… back in her less responsible days, of course. She was the Hokage now, and she couldn't do things like pawn off the village's antiques or use Konoha's funds to pay off her debts, no matter how much she was tempted to at times. Besides, it would be impossible. Shizune watched her like a hawk.

"I wanted to ask for your advice," Kurenai said, no longer whimpering in terror.

"About…?" What was it with people making leading statements and not following up today? It was irritating to Tsunade.

"I think…" she trailed off again and Tsunade's subsequent glare was more than enough to unglue her jaw. "I think that Hinata has joined a cult!"

While Tsunade was more inclined to read the report and laugh, Danzou was anything but amused. He looked up, gazing at the Root operative with his only good eye. "This information is credible?"

"Yes, Danzou-sama." He frowned at the answer. This was not a situation that he had ever expected to deal with. How was he supposed to work with this development so that the Leaf came out on top? Danzou's frown deepened. No palatable course of action presented itself. Yet a move had to be made, and if he couldn't spin it in his favor then attacking seemed to be the best choice.

"Call a meeting," he told the 'Ne' member. "It's time for the Root to act, for the good of Konoha."

Or so I said, Danzou sighed wearily as he looked around the table. Konoha's 'Council,' and it was a term Danzou used very loosely despite their usefulness to him, was mostly made up of the rich and influential citizens of the village. They were mostly successful businessmen and they didn't understand anything about shinobi, which was why they were useful. Homura and Koharu represented the real power in Konoha, outside of himself and the Hokage, but they had become surprisingly tractable since the old monkey's death. Moreover, they didn't have a soft heart regarding the jinchuuriki, unlike the monkey and his female student. Honestly, a weapon should know its place. It's even more important that its wielders know its place. The handling of Konoha's jinchuuriki was just one of many items on Danzou's long list of grievances with the Hokage and her predecessor. They would go along with his plan, as long as he presented it properly. But he needed the backing of the so-called Council due to their influence.

"The Hokage clearly is not going to act on this matter," Danzou said quietly, looking at each man in turn. "But this is a critical matter that cannot be ignored, which is why I have come to you." They preened as he stroked their self-important egos. Danzou concealed a sneer. "This so-called religion," he spat the word 'religion' out as if it were a curse, "is a threat to Konoha's well-being. It must be stamped out." They nodded like the sheep they were. Their unreasoning hate for the jinchuuriki was incredibly obvious, and it made them all too easy to manipulate.

"Kill the demon brat!" one man cheered maliciously.


"Oh, yes!"

"Kill him!" Danzou rolled his eyes. Every time discussion of the jinchuuriki had come up in the presence of the Council it dissolved into a hateful orgy. Eventually they would start shouting and foaming at the mouth, caught in a mixture of rage at the jinchuuriki and ecstasy at the thought of beating him to death. Honestly, the way that normally intelligent and functional human beings could descend so far into stupidity at the mere mention of one boy's name was beyond pitiful. Someone moaned at a particularly graphic description of maiming the Uzumaki brat and Danzou grimaced. If he didn't stop them soon the meeting would either descend into a disturbingly homosexual mutual masturbation session—and Danzou was just not into that—or they would form a lynch mob, completely disregarding the fact that the jinchuuriki was in the care of Jiraiya and even the Root didn't know where he was. And that wasn't even considering the shouting. If things didn't calm down they would start shouting out their hate in all caps—"STUPID DEMON! HE DESERVES TO DIE!"—and that just wasn't pleasant. Too late. With forced calm, Danzou wiped off some spittle that had landed on his face with his voluminous sleeve.

His eyebrow ticked as the room erupted into shouting, just as he had predicted. What's the point of having a secret meeting, if any half-decent nin within a hundred yards will be able to hear what we are doing? It wasn't the first time he had grumbled about this. No, this happened every time. But that was fine. It was the price he had to pay, for the good of Konoha. Honestly, haven't they ever heard of the old monkey's law? How they survived all of these years while shouting 'DEMON!' is beyond me. He wasn't bitter about it at all. He had never even thought of tipping off the monkey's ANBU and watching their heads roll. "Ahem," he cleared his throat forcefully. They continued shouting. Danzou nearly growled in frustration. He slammed his only hand into the polished surface of the table, and the report from the impact was like a thunderclap. He smiled as the Council subsided into stunned silence.

I knew it would come in handy one day, the leader of 'Ne' thought triumphantly. When he had lost his arm, he had also lost his ability to clap. It had been a harsh blow to the young Danzou, since his sarcastic clap was infamous among his peers and served as a critical component of his sour, biting humor. Many, including the old monkey Sarutobi, had agreed that his witticisms just weren't the same without it. He had worked tirelessly in secret to discover a way to regain his lost pride and the ability to make a clapping noise. Eventually he had perfected a way to use chakra to simulate the noise. Unfortunately, the chakra-charged nature of his one-handed clap tended to be more booming than was appropriate for insincere applause. But finally… finally all of his hard work had shown results. So what if he couldn't clap? Being able to stun a room into submission just by slapping a nearby hard surface was way better.

"As I was saying, we need to take measures against this unpleasant trend. However, because it has become a relatively widespread cult, using force is not an intelligent option." Danzou paused and considered his audience. "Using force is not an option," he repeated, glaring at the council, several of whom had already pulled out their hooded masks. "Our goal is to stamp this so-called 'Narutoism' out, not create martyrs to fuel the fire. Thus, we must discredit the cult. The easiest way to do that is to discredit Uzumaki." Danzou looked around the table. "Does anyone have any ideas?" Several minutes of drooling idiocy followed, or at least that was what it seemed like to Danzou. It was amazing that the men around the table were successful businessmen and politicians when they could not even produce a half-way sane idea between them.

"…oke no Jutsu," Danzou blinked and looked up.

"What was that?"

The councilman blinked uncertainly and somewhat fearfully. "Oiroke no Jutsu?" he asked.

"Yes," Danzou had heard of Uzumaki's shameless technique, but it didn't seem to relate to the matter at hand. "What about it?"

"Well…" the councilman swallowed nervously, "I believe that was his first original technique. Someone whose first technique is so worthless and idiotic couldn't possibly be a god. So I was thinking… err, that we could use that angle to discredit him?" he finished hesitantly.

Danzou frowned thoughtfully. It seemed shaky at best, but there weren't any better ideas to be had at the moment. There was precious little to truly use to discredit the boy, other than the fact that he housed a bijuu, was a rather notorious prankster, and seemed to be rather stupid and incompetent. The first was the best angle to take, but it would also draw way too much attention from the Hokage and could end with heads rolling. He had to remind himself that that would be a bad thing. Danzou still had a use for them, after all. The second had little weight to it. That left the third option, which was to cast doubt on Uzumaki's suitability as an object of worship by assaulting his intelligence and demeanor. It would work as an opening salvo, Danzou decided. Even if it didn't do much damage at least it would cast doubt, and doing something was better than sitting still and doing nothing at all. "Alright," he said finally, "we will try that."

So, in their wretched ignorance, the Shadows sought to strike at our Lord. Yet our Lord is powerful and wise, and all of their schemes would come to naught before His glory…

Reina was a very exceptional genin. She stood out from her peers for several reasons. One was that she was a genin at all. She was not particularly fast or strong. Her ninjutsu was nearly nonexistent, her genjutsu was awful, and she possessed no skill at taijutsu. She was also lacking in stamina. Many of her instructors and teammates had, at that point, gone "Aha!" in realization. Surely that meant she was super-intelligent, right? But Reina was gullible and no one had, once they had gotten to know her even slightly, ever accused her of being in any way intelligent. Well, some did, but it was usually said in conjunction with phrases like "as a doorknob" or "than a snail."

Yet Reina was a natural prodigy. She had excelled above all others in one aspect of shinobi—or more specifically, kunoichi—arts. She was a natural seductress. Even at a young age it had been clear that Reina had inherited better genes than most, and by the time most of her kunoichi classmates were starting to despair about the pace of their growth Reina could only be politely called a very healthy girl. Her very healthy natural assets had seemed almost unnaturally, hypnotically bouncy to the instructors of the Academy—which was perhaps the very reason why they marked her down with passing grades. Or at least it was the reason the male instructors did. The female instructors had little to complain about, aside from the stirrings of instinctive envy at the girl's developments. Reina excelled in seduction techniques, not only because of her genetics but also because of her natural talent in psychological warfare… against men. Her talents had only developed further as she grew older.

That was probably why she had been cornered in a dark alley. She wasn't all that bright, but she was aware of the attention her developments gathered and what men wanted to do with them. But these men had decided to take things by force and Reina was helpless to stop them. She was outnumbered, out-massed, and outclassed. Had they only been civilians, even an incompetent ninja like her could have worked something out. Unfortunately for her, her opponents were shinobi. Reina stared at the dark, blurry shadows that loomed around her with tearful eyes. She was hunched over, her hands crossed over chest in a futile attempt to conceal its ripe dimensions. She whimpered fearfully, fervently wishing that there was someone nearby to save her. The genin couldn't muster the courage to scream. Please, somebody…

They drew closer, and she could hear the ominous sound of a zipper being undone.


Cruel, lustful smirks twisted their faces. A kunai glittered in the dull light.

Kami-sama… please…

It hit her like a bolt of lightning. She had known about Uzumaki Naruto… nearly everyone in Konoha did. She was also just old enough to know about the secret he carried. Unlike most, she had never really thought about it. None of her family had been lost in the Kyuubi's rampage and she had no reason to bear a grudge against him. Mostly she just never thought about it. But recently there had been strange rumors swirling around the boy. Reina didn't dwell much on these either. At least, she hadn't until she had witnessed Hyuuga Hinata praying—or something—to "Naruto-kun" in training area 57 and seen her bowl miraculously fill itself with steaming ramen. Even Reina had known that she had just witnessed something exceptional.

Recently, there had been more rumors on top of rumors. Word of mouth carried tales of stupidity, ignorance, gross incompetence, and the Oiroke no Jutsu. It had actually calmed many people in Konoha down as the new rumors invalidated the old ones. Reina remembered the tales of the Oiroke no Jutsu the best, mostly since it coincided with her greatest talents. But now she realized what it really had been all along. Naruto-sama, she thought gratefully, thank you for your guidance! He had heard her desperate prayers and given her the inspiration she needed to get out of this situation. Resolve filled her. Had she been able to give it words, it would have gone something like, "When all routes of escape are cut off, the only option left is to break through." She had listened to the lectures at the Academy. Was it her fault that she didn't remember them very well?

Reina was not very skilled at Henge, but she didn't need to be. She had all of the weapons she needed onboard. But she formed the ram seal anyway. She needed the advantage of surprise for her gambit to work. Alarm etched across the features of her attackers as their docile prey seemed to prepare to fight back. Smoke burst around Reina. Slowly it began to disperse.

One of her attackers groaned aloud. The smoke had cleared enough to hint at Reina's bare curves without revealing anything too critical. Soon, however, the smoky cloud had turned into wisps that barely concealed her nipples and shadowed the junction between her thighs. Reina bent forward, bringing one arm up across her breasts, both for concealment and support. She looked at the bug-eyed man who had groaned and gave him her best sultry smile, which was very, very good. Reina gazed into his eyes, ignoring the nauseous feeling this brought to her stomach, and batted her long, dark eyelashes alluringly. "Ahn," she moaned softly, licking her full red lips. He stiffened in more ways than one and his eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head. A dark red flush spread across his face as he began to look dazed. The would-be rapist passed out and slumped to the ground, a trail of blood flowing from his nose.

She pouted at the sight of the unconscious man. "Ne," she purred, turning to the rest of the men and cocking a shapely hip out. "Weren't we going to have fun?" she drawled huskily. A chorus of dumb nods answered her. "Then let's do it," she murmured, licking her lips again in anticipation. Several pairs of glazed eyes tracked the movements her glistening, glossed lips made as she talked—not to mention the subtle ways her perky chest moved. Her bow-shaped mouth pursed as she continued, "To-" They leaned forward, "-ge-" her seductive whisper paused again, "-ther," she finished breathily.

Several explosive nosebleeds erupted as the men passed out simultaneously. Reina stared at the fallen bodies and the blood. Relief filled her, followed by thankfulness. She threw her head back, her long, wavy red hair flowing behind her, and smiled happily. "Naruto-sama…" she moaned in adulation. He saved me! Reina realized gleefully. She had been right! Those rumors were a sign! The nineteen year old genin looked down at the devastation she had wrought and her smile deepened. A quiver ran through her. "Naruto-sama…" she panted breathily. It was all so clear now. Reina glanced down at her body, all taut, toned muscles and soft, extravagant curves that served to drive men mad. He was her god, and she would worship him the best way she knew how… with her body.

In His great wisdom, our Lord gifted the weak with the strength to overcome the strong. It was thus that He struck down the scheme that tarnished His name and claimed a Bride. In the Land of Holy Fire, there was much rejoicing among believers as our Lord's benevolent hand showed itself among them.

Hinata sighed unhappily as she watched Shino and Kiba spar. Lately, it seemed that she had a lot to sigh about. She had become a chuunin along with Kiba, Shino, and most of the other rookies. That was good, since it meant that she was becoming stronger, but it was bad because a screw up on a mission carried greater consequences, due to their increased difficulty and importance. Her family and her father in particular were pleased with her promotion, which was great, but they also took it as a sign that she could stand to be trained harder… much harder. That was unpleasant, to say the least. Then there had been that debacle where rumors of Naruto's incompetence seemed to spike at an all-time high. Hinata had spent most of those weeks in a state of fury and despair as Naruto-kun's name was viciously slandered—more than usual—throughout the village. No one had noticed her anger, but she had been this close to ripping Kiba's head off if he started talking smack about Naruto even one more time…!

Hinata coughed lightly and took a deep, calming breath. It wouldn't do to harm her teammates. Really, Kiba-kun meant well, and he couldn't help the fact that he was an idiot. Besides, that incident had all been resolved. It was true that it had been resolved rather bizarrely, but it was finished nonetheless. So what if some jaw-droppingly gorgeous, huge-breasted sex kitten of a genin was walking—bouncing, really—around the village claiming to have been saved by Naruto? Hinata didn't care that she was going around calling herself "Naruto-sama's bride." Not at all. Really. Besides, the main thing was that the slander against Naruto had died down again, and that made Hinata happy enough to not go through with her violent fantasies of hunting down that busty witch and beating her within an inch of her life. Not that she thought that anyone was a witch or anything… Hinata would never intentionally hurt anyone without good cause.

But whatever the vapid trollop was raving about, it was having too much of an effect. How many pretty women had Hinata seen wearing an orange piece of jewelry lately? Far too many, that was for sure. She had found out, through completely accidental use of her Byakugan as she tailed the flouncing floozy, that women who wore a visible article of bright orange jewelry considered themselves to be followers of Naruto. They were not just any followers either. She still hadn't put together all of the pieces, but she had heard the words "Naruto-sama" and "seed" mentioned way too many times for her comfort. An extremely sinister plot was afoot and Hinata knew beyond a doubt that she needed to stop it as soon as possible… even if she had to use lethal force.

"Hinata," a soft voice sounded by her side, "are you alright?" The girl started and voiced a small exclamation of surprise—which was absolutely not a squeak, for a Hyuuga did notsqueak.

"Kurenai-sensei," Hinata greeted, absently fiddling with the bracelet she had taken to wearing. Despite the fact that Team 8's three genin had all advanced to chuunin, Kurenai remained in command of their squad. In fact, they rarely had missions that separated them. Lately, Kurenai had been acting odd towards Hinata. She paid far more attention to Hinata than normal, and she seemed worried constantly. Hinata might have gone as far as to say that Kurenai was suspicious of her, had she not known better. "I'm fine," she replied quietly.

"I see," the jounin smiled. Hinata quelled a sudden pang of envy. Kurenai was so pretty, and she had the sort of dangerous curves that made men drool. If I looked more like Kurenai-sensei… Surely Naruto-kun would pay more attention to her. Hinata knew it wasn't a fair comparison, since Kurenai was in her late twenties and had finished developing years ago, but that didn't make her feel any better. There was no guarantee that she would develop half as well as Kurenai had. She was a shy, dark weirdo, and the chances that she might become beautiful like Kurenai—Or like that slu-scarlet woman, Reina, whispered a treacherous part of her mind—seemed impossibly slim.

"I'm fine," Hinata repeated more forcefully, trying to convince herself of that. I'm fine just as I am, she thought, except in her heart she knew that she was lying to herself. She didn't feel fine as she was.

"Hinata," Kurenai began, her tone serious. Hinata turned her attention back to Kurenai. "You know…" she trailed off uncomfortably. "You know that you can come to me if you're having any… issues, right?"

Hinata blinked. "Yes," she agreed uncertainly.

"Are you having any… issues?" Kurenai's red gaze bore into Hinata. The girl flushed. Issues? Hinata asked mentally. Oh no! Hinata came to a horrific realization. Not that talk! I learned about that when I was eleven. I don't need to go through that again!

"I've already discussed it with someone," Hinata said quickly, trying to head off the impending "talk." She still got shivers every time she thought about it. Her father had brought out charts. Charts! And then there was that inflatable doll…

"You have?" Kurenai asked, startled. "Who?"

It's surprising? Hinata wondered. I'm nearly fourteen, not to mention the fact that I'm a kunoichi! "You wouldn't know them," Hinata assured her teacher. There was no way that she would say "my father." It had never happened!

Kurenai frowned. Her suspicions only seemed to be getting deeper. Is she talking about her recruitment? Her indoctrination? Kurenai nearly gasped. What if she's already recruiting others!? She knew then that she had to save Hinata before the girl plunged too far into the dark, seedy, unhinged world of cultism. "Hinata!" Kurenai barked.

The girl jumped, "Yes?" She tapped her fingers together nervously.

Kurenai placed her hands on Hinata's shoulders and looked down at her student earnestly. "It's okay," she said soothingly, "really. It's a normal thing for a young girl to go through." It wasn't really, but she needed to appear reassuring to Hinata. Hinata's mind dissolved into pure panic. I don't want to listen to it again! Never, ever! "I mean… I know how confusing it can be, when you're just starting to grow into a woman. I know the sudden flood of changes can be shocking, and maybe you want to turn to something that you shouldn't just to stem the tide." Hinata began to actively fight against her teacher's hold. Kurenai, thinking that Hinata's indoctrination had started to kick in and that her words must be getting through, clutched the girl tighter. "But you shouldn't! You can't just reach out to whatever is nearby or convenient to plug the gap! You need to talk about it and make an informed decision!"

Byakugan! Hinata's bloodline limit surged to life and the girl twisted desperately. Chakra shot violently from her pores as she began her rotation. Kurenai, recognizing the technique, leapt back just in time to avoid the swirling blue whirl of chakra. Kaiten! Dust and debris obscured her vision, and behind her Kurenai could hear Kiba and Shino stop their fight in surprise. When the dust cleared, the jounin saw that Hinata was gone. She frowned unhappily and a tight ball of emotion rose in her throat. She had worked too long and too hard to see Hinata, a girl with so much good in her heart, to fall prey to a bunch of wacko cultists! Determined, the jounin stalked towards the city, brushing off Kiba's confused queries. I need help to rehabilitate Hinata, Kurenai thought. I need someone familiar with indoctrination, someone who understands how a cult mastermind would think. Who did she know that fit the bill? The answer was quite quick in coming, and a sharp smile spread across Kurenai's face. I know just the person! Kurenai exulted. Just wait, Hinata, I'll help you. Soon you'll be free from the clutches of the evil freaks that polluted your mind!

Hyuuga Hinata shivered in her room. Her breathing came quick and unsteady. Her index fingers tapped together rapidly even as her thumbs fiddled with her new bracelet. She waited five minutes before stopping the flow of chakra to her eyes. She's not coming after me, Hinata thought with profound relief as she allowed the Byakugan to fade. It had been a near thing, but she had successfully escaped from an unspeakable horror. I've grown strong, she smiled, proud of herself. Nobody saved me back then… no one helped me… but now I'm strong enough to save myself! Never again would the event that did not happen be repeated.

Her breathing stabilized. Hinata absently walked over to her closet and neatly discarded her jacket and her sandals. She knelt and rummaged around for several moments before withdrawing a ceramic bowl. It was a large bowl, nearly the same dimension as the standard bowls that could be found at Ichiraku's. Yet it was clearly of much higher quality—the glaze, the decorations, and the quality of the material all gave it away. It was almost like fine porcelain. Hinata ran her fingers delicately over the bowl, which was one of a pair. There were two such bowls in her closet, making up a matched set. She had made them with the intent of giving one as a gift to Naruto, so that they could eat ramen together. It had taken her nearly five months to successfully craft the two bowls, and there were boxes full of misshapen pottery that attested to her efforts. Some of her more successful pieces were put to use in the kitchen. But even after she had succeeded she had never found the courage to actually give him one of the bowls, so they had sat uselessly in her closet until recently. Lately she had been eating ramen with surprising regularity, so it had only made sense to put one of the bowls to use.

Hinata sat down next to the squat square table that dominated the center of her room. Gently, she set the bowl down. Her fingers traced the spiral decals that lined the rim. "Naruto-kun," she murmured quietly. A sense of peace filled her. Her communion with Naruto was always relaxing. Hinata closed her eyes and began to silently pray. She prayed that she would see him soon, that he would recognize her, that they could eat ramen together. She prayed for small things as well as big. It was sort of embarrassing, since she was praying to her crush about returning her crush, but Hinata knew that Naruto-kun wouldn't hold it against her. Maybe he would actually be touched by her devotion, and then he would take her out on dates and they would eat ramen together and they would get married and on their wedding night he would…

The shy Hyuuga girl blushed furiously. She really hoped that Naruto hadn't seen that particular montage dancing through her head. But it would never happen anyway. Self-doubt crept back into Hinata. She had seen Reina, and she knew that the older girl had her beat in every aspect of feminine charm. Naruto would never fall for her, not when there were girls like that chasing after him. She peeked down her shirt and felt her depression grow. Her breasts had gotten bigger since Naruto-kun had left, and she couldn't be accused of having a flat chest. But compared to Reina or even Kurenai, her breasts were still like bumps. She took a small amount of consolation in the fact that she was bustier than Sakura, or even Ino and Tenten, but not much. Naruto had feelings for Sakura, not for her. Sakura was blooming into a beautiful girl, even if she couldn't match Hinata's curves. Ino was far prettier and more feminine than Hinata, and even Tenten possessed a cuteness that Hinata couldn't match—plus her figure wasn't far behind.

I wish that I could be as pretty as Reina, she thought mournfully. Prettier, she added after a moment's consideration. Then Naruto-kun would definitely notice me! That was what she wanted more than anything: to have Naruto notice her. A familiar feeling of warmth enveloped her and Hinata opened her eyes to see a faint, glowing blue spiral draw itself into existence on the bottom of her bowl.

The door to her room slid open quietly. "Hinata-sama?" Neji asked quietly. "You didn't answer my knocks," he said apologetically when he saw the heiress sitting in the middle of the room. "Are you alright?" Neji asked in concern when Hinata did not acknowledge his presence. A bowl? Neji asked himself. "If you…" he trailed off as blue light shone from the bowl. Byakugan! Neji activated his bloodline limit and studied the bowl. He winced slightly. The bowl was glowing brightly with energy, but it was not chakra or anything Neji had ever seen before. What is this? A spiral of energy swirled at the bottom of the bowl. It's almost like a… maelstrom. Neji considered this development. He had heard the rumors, of course, but he had never put any stock in them. But he didn't know what to make of the sight he was witnessing. Abruptly the glow surged in size and brightness, forcing Neji to turn off the Byakugan or risk being blinded. He could hear the sound of swirling water and he opened his eyes to see broth and noodles rising out of the bottom of the bowl, forming a whirlpool of ramen. Hinata was still smiling eerily, her hands still holding the bowl.

"Naruto-kun," Hinata breathed in delight as the bowl finished filling. It's shrimp this time, she noted happily. She never got tired of seeing the miracle. It smells so good too!

"Hinata…sama," Neji said slowly, his eyes wide and his voice hoarse. Hinata turned in surprise.

"Neji-niisan?" He saw!

"What was…" he trailed off, unable to find the appropriate words. "That was… you said… Naruto?" Neji finally asked, bewildered.

"Umm… yes?" Her fingers tapped together rapidly.

"Then… the rumors… about…" he was still at a loss for words.

"Yes," Hinata said with more conviction. Neji stood there, dumbstruck. "Neji-niisan…?" But he didn't reply, and after several minutes Hinata finally pushed her still-steaming bowl of ramen towards him. "Try it," she said. Almost robotically, Neji shuffled over, sat down, and began to eat. He had mechanically, in silence, and when he finished he put the chopsticks down and clapped his hands together.

"Thank you for the meal," he murmured quietly, standing. He walked towards the door.

"Thank Naruto-kun," Hinata replied in a whisper, but Neji stopped as if he had heard her.

"…Yes." With that, he left. Hinata watched him go uneasily. After several moments of debate, she decided that Neji would deal with things in his own way. She picked up the bowl and went to wash it off. After all, she was still hungry and she wanted to see how Naruto's shrimp ramen tasted.

Hyuuga Hiashi stared at the boy before him, nonplussed. "You want to do what?" he asked finally. It wasn't often that he was surprised, but it did occasionally happen. Usually, it never meant anything good.

"I would like to leave and journey the Elemental Countries," Neji replied quietly. The newly minted jounin was already packed and dressed in his traveling clothes.

"…Why?" Neji's career had skyrocketed, and the boy had gone from genin to jounin in a year's time. He had become the pride of the Hyuuga clan. What could possibly make him want to leave now of all times?

"I'm still very inexperienced," Neji answered. "I've fully realized that now."

"Why do you say that? We can easily solve your inexperience by asking the Hokage to give you more missions."

"That's not what I meant." Neji paused, searching for words. "There are truths to this world that are beyond my comprehension," the young jounin said slowly. "That is what I learned today. I am very far from enlightenment, so I must journey and better myself." Hiashi opened his mouth to retort. "My spirit," Neji cut him off, "I must better my spirit and my mind, rather than my combat strength. I must travel to gain wisdom, so that one day I will be as enlightened as Hinata-sama."

"Hinata?" Hiashi wondered, shocked. "Enlightened?" Hinata had grown a lot since she had become a genin, but enlightened? It boggled the mind. Have they both gone mad?

"Thank you for everything you have done for me," Neji murmured and bowed. He rose to his feet, slipping on his pack as he did so. "I'll be going then," he told the clan head.

"Take care," Hiashi replied absently, still trying to work out exactly what was going on.

Neji nodded and slipped out of the room. He smiled faintly as he left the compound, enjoying the touch of warm sunlight on his face. He looked up at the sky. I understand what you are trying to tell me, Naruto. Neji began to walk towards the village gates. I'll never forget the lessons you taught me, and I'll carry that message to others in need of it. That's what your plan for me is, right?

And so our Lord's former enemy became his first great Disciple, and he would wander the earth to bring the light to those who could not see. His eyes could pierce through the deepest darkness, and he brought the light and the ramen of our Lord even unto the ends of the world.

"Mmm… Naruto-sama," Hinata moaned, before her mouth descended again to work its magic. Naruto groaned in bliss. From his vantage point he could see Hinata's incredible mounds pressing against his thighs. She really grew up, Naruto thought feverishly.

Two big, soft orbs pressed into his right side. "Ne," a husky, familiar voice whispered intimately into his ear. A tongue traced his earlobe for a moment. "Pay attention to me, Naruto."

Naruto turned his head. "Sakura-chan!" he yelped, though whether that was due to his surprise or the interesting thing Hinata had just done with her tongue, even he did not know. She was just as incredibly beautiful as Hinata, and she was packing some serious weaponry up top. Sakura-chan grew up too, Naruto thought fuzzily. There was something wrong about things, but he couldn't put his finger on what it was. Nor did he want to.

Glistening pink lips parted slight as they grew closer to his. "Naruto," Sakura breathed, "I've wanted to do this for so long."

"Me too, Sakura-chan," he panted. Wow, is that her throat? Naruto wondered in amazement. Who knew Hinata was so talented?



"I think that you're… brat…"

Naruto drew back, hurt. She thinks that I'm a brat? The feeling of ecstasy disappeared.



"You stupid brat! Wake-up!" His world dissolved. Naruto opened his eyes blearily, only to come face to face with the red-lined, somewhat wrinkled face of Jiraiya.

"Gah!" Naruto retreated, only to hit his head on the headboard of the bed.

"Hmph! You got what you deserved," Jiraiya scowled. "Didn't I tell you that we were leaving early today? Geeze, making me, the great Jiraiya, wake you up. Stop goofing off and get your ass out of bed!"

"Shut up, ero-sennin!" Naruto snapped back. He clambered out of bed, still nursing the bump on his head.

"Oho…" Jiraiya drawled. Naruto froze. That tone coming from Jiraiya never meant anything good, at least not for Naruto. "Having good dreams, I see," the Toad Hermit chuckled. "I guess there's hope for you after all."

Naruto's blood seemed to freeze in his veins and he looked down. The evidence of his dreams was still straining the front of his pants. Naruto yelped and fled, his face burning red with embarrassment. Jiraiya's laughter pursued him all of the way to the bathroom. He slammed the door shut behind him. "Stupid ero-sennin," he growled. He walked over to the sink, turned on the faucet, and splashed his face with cold water. It was humiliating. He had always accused Jiraiya of being a pervert, but now he was turning into one himself. Naruto had never had dreams like that before leaving with Jiraiya. They were getting worse too. At first, Sakura had been the star of his dreams, but gradually they were filling up with others like Hinata and Ino. There were plenty of girls he didn't know, either. He didn't know why his dreams seemed to have taken a perverted bent lately, but Naruto was sure that Jiraiya had something to do with it. That explained why the girls in his dreams seemed to be getting curvier and curvier.

It had all started with a very strange fantasy of dating Hinata, which had been quickly followed by marriage. The dream had quickly dissolved into a series of feverish sexual fantasies that Naruto had not known he was capable of imagining. Then again, he had never known that he harbored fantasies of marrying Hinata either. It had not been long before Hinata had begun to change. The shy, dark, and weird Hinata he knew—though she had looked strangely older than he remembered—had quickly morphed into a creature straight out of ero-sennin's, and apparently his own, fantasies. From that night onward, Naruto had been bombarded by a series of erotic dreams filled with excruciatingly beautiful women, all of which ended up with very… healthy attributes.

It was official: he was turning into a world class pervert, just like ero-sennin. In fact, it was probably all ero-sennin's fault. His tender, impressionable young mind was being corrupted by the perverted Sannin's vices. It wasn't enough for Jiraiya to drive him mad; the hermit was turning him into a raving pervert. He couldn't get the image of Sakura out of his head. Would Sakura start to look like that after training with Tsunade? Maybe the blond Sannin would teach her more than just medical techniques. Then there was Hinata, who had not only looked incredible but done incredible things to him… Naruto drooled thinking about it, and it didn't help his other problem either. Damn it, he cursed, shaking his head in an attempt to clear his mind. I need a cold shower.

One exceedingly cold shower later, Naruto was clear-headed and ready for to travel. Finally, it's time to leave this damn village! Naruto's latest stop in his training trip was not one he had enjoyed. The small village of Hanrui was nestled in River Country, which itself was wedged between the Country of Wind and the Country of Fire. Naruto's stay had not been pleasant. There was no ramen to be found in Hanrui, which had at first left Naruto completely flabbergasted and then filled him with a deep sense of irritation as the ramen-less days dragged on. There was also a well-appointed bathhouse and outdoor onsen in Hanrui, which meant that ero-sennin was around even less than usual; in fact there seemed to be a famous onsen or infamous bath house everywhere they stopped, and Naurto had some suspicions as to why. Naruto, never happy at missing any potential opportunity to learn new jutsu, grew even more annoyed. But Naruto's greatest source of exasperation stemmed from an inhabitant of the town—an utter jackass named Hikaru. His mother clearly had unreasonable expectations. "Light, my ass," he muttered.

Hikaru was a man in his early twenties, and just looking at him set Naruto's teeth on edge. He was a tall, dark, vaguely feminine pretty boy whose soft hands had never seen a day's work. The young man charmed women with ease, and his mother had spoiled him rotten, both of which served to give him an air of insufferable arrogance. He knew that he was better than everyone else, and he wasn't shy about talking down to Naruto. He disdained shinobi in general and Naruto in particular. Naruto's every action and word was twisted and mocked, and always, always those eyes looked down on him. He had endured those same eyes for years in Konoha, eyes that saw him as less than trash. It was a testament to Naruto's growing maturity that he had been able to refrain from murdering the sanctimonious bastard… so far.

Naruto and Jiraiya set out on the main road, just outside the inn they had been staying at. Jiraiya was apparently distracted or in deep thought, for he had only teased Naruto for another few minutes before falling silent. Normally, the childish 50 year old wouldn't shut up about such an occurrence for days. They began to walk out of town, heading northwest. The Toad Hermit occasionally darted off to say goodbye to various pretty girls, delaying their departure significantly. Naruto watched with his characteristic disgust as his teacher flirted and made a spectacle out of himself. It was amazing to Naruto that so many women seemed to fall for Jiraiya's tricks, but he supposed the man hadn't been a super pervert for most of his life without learning a thing or two. But for every woman that seemed flattered by his attention there was another all too willing to slap the old man in the face.

It took them far longer than it should have, but eventually Jiraiya and Naruto made it to the western gates. Naruto's nose crinkled in disgust. Leaning casually against a wall near the gate was Hikaru. "You're finally leaving, loser?" Hikaru asked casually. Naruto's eyebrow ticked. He hated the older man so very, very much. The fact that Hikaru hadn't been able to resist coming to taunt him one last time showed that the feeling was mutual. Ignore him, Naruto told himself firmly and kept walking. "What's wrong?" Hikaru mocked. "You're not going to say goodbye?" Keep walking! "Hmph," the bishounen scoffed. "Coward."

Naruto stopped walking. "Naruto," Jiraiya warned in a low voice.

Hikaru's smirk grew as he saw that he had finally drawn a reaction from the orange-clad genin. "You won't even respond to me," he drawled. "It's no wonder you couldn't save your friend." In a flash, Naruto was in front of him. "What-?!" Hikaru flinched backwards. Naruto grabbed the taller man and slammed him against the nearby wall—gently, of course; otherwise Naruto would have shattered the wall and dozens of Hikaru's weak bones, and the wall had done nothing to him to elicit such treatment.

"How do you know about that?" Naruto growled, his eyes flashing with rage.

"I… I…" Hikaru stuttered, losing control of his bowels at the sight of Naruto's furious eyes.

"Naruto!" Jiraiya's roar pierced through Naruto's rage. The boy quickly regained control over himself and forced his body to relax. He let go of Hikaru and forced his rage back down. Naruto turned and began to walk away again. Hikaru shivered, but he was not the type to let a humiliation pass by, especially since it had been witnessed by scores of townsfolk who had all stopped to watch the spectacle.

"That's right," he muttered, just loud enough for his voice to carry, "walk back to your master's side, little dog."

Naruto stopped again, his fists clenching convulsively. Jiraiya prepared to restrain his student when Naruto let out a deep sigh. The tension flowed out of Naruto. He turned to face his tormentor. "You know what?" he asked Hikaru.

Hikaru tensed fearfully. "What?"

Naruto's arm snapped up quickly to point directly at Hikaru. "People like you… I really hate people like you!"

The man relaxed slightly. "Is that all?" he sneered.

Naruto scowled back. "Jackasses like you get punished by heaven!" Naruto declared and did an abrupt turn. He stalked off down the road. Jiraiya followed his seething student, chuckling lightly. You're growing up, Naruto, Jiraiya thought proudly.

Once Naruto drew out of earshot, Hikaru forced a laugh. "What an idiot!" Quickly he made for home, hoping that no one noticed the accident he had made in his pants. He stumbled abruptly and cried out, his foot caught in a pothole. Was that there before? Hikaru wondered in irritation. Annoyance spread into panic when he saw than many villagers were now looking his way. They'll see! A sharp cracking noise rent through the air, and the sound of splintering wood filled Hikaru's ears. An ominous groan issued forth from nearby. Hikaru turned apprehensively as a shadow loomed above him. He shrieked in terror as the tall wooden telephone pole descended.

It was an incident that dominated the discussion of Hanrui for months. Apparently the wood of the telephone pole had been rotten and Hikaru had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The poor man had been paralyzed from the waist down and rendered mute besides. He would never charm girls or mock others again. Still, a few people remembered the young blond ninja's words about heavenly punishment and wondered. When a pale-eyed, dark-haired man came to town a month later, he overheard the story. Neji knew then, without a doubt, what his fate was. That night he gathered as many people as would listen into the town square. With burning conviction and eyes that others would later describe as "on fire," Hyuuga Neji began to preach.

Our Lord's wrath is swift and unstoppable, yet always just. The man who mocked the divine was struck down by Heaven, and the first of the great Disciples began his ministry at the site of our Lord's chastisement. Let the sinners, the blasphemers, and the unjust beware…

"So what do you make of it?" Temari asked.

Kankurou shrugged, "A freak weather pattern."

"But it's unheard of! How does a desert that gets less than ten inches of rain a year have a slow moving, localized storm appear out of nowhere? Plus, it's tiny! It's self-contained! It's impossible!" Temari panted, red-faced.

"Like I said, a freak weather pattern," Kankurou said.

"Gaara!" Temari complained. The youngest Sand Sibling sat behind his large desk silently, his eyes skimming the dispatch for the fifth time despite the fact that he had memorized it after the second. He had no interest in getting himself involved in Kankurou and Temari's quarrel. Suddenly, he looked up from the dispatch, his green eyes narrowing.

"Kazekage-sama, there's a visitor who wishes to see you," Baki's gravelly voice announced.

"A visitor?" Kankurou frowned. It wasn't like visitors could just walk in and speak to the Kazekage. What is Baki playing at?

"A Konoha-nin," Baki supplied helpfully.

Kankurou's frown deepened. As far as he knew, there were no scheduled visitors from Konoha. A messenger? he wondered. The middle child of the Yondaime Kazekage turned to look at his older sister questioningly. Temari handled business with Konoha more than he did. She shook her head at his unspoken question. "Who is it?" Temari asked.

"Hyuuga Neji." A hairless brow quirked up in interest and Kankurou groaned silently to himself in trepidation. A lifetime of habit—a lifetime of cowering in terror at everything his little brother did, just in case it might end up in his own gruesome demise—told him that nothing good came from Gaara's interest. A much more recent, reasonable—and, it should be noted, much smaller—side of Kankurou told him that Gaara had gotten over that stage in his life. After all, the reasonable side pointed out, Gaara hadn't killed anyone in over a month—though whether that was due to intent or just a side-effect of being trapped behind a desk all day was debatable—and didn't the doctor say his therapy was going much better now? Kankurou's finely cultivated survival instincts promptly told his reasonable side where to stuff it.

"Kankurou," the puppet-user in question nearly jumped when Gaara addressed him. "Temari." The command, "Get out," hovered unsaid. Gaara's older siblings nonetheless understood the unsaid message and left his office. As they were leaving, Kankurou could hear one last comment before the door slid shut behind him. "Bring him in," Gaara calmly commanded Baki.

Kankurou and Temari waffled around outside the Kazekage's office without looking like they were waffling around outside the Kazekage's office. It was a skill they had learned young, while their father was still alive, and it served them in good stead when another family member assumed the mantle. They certainly weren't going to be far away when Gaara and the Hyuuga prodigy had their meeting. A few minutes passed before a clinking sound was heard from down the hallway. The siblings looked down the hall to see the tall, broad-shouldered form of Baki walking down the hall, followed by a much shorter, dark-haired form. Kankurou almost didn't recognize the teen following Baki as Neji.

"He looks like he hasn't combed his hair in months," Kankurou muttered discretely to his sister. She nodded, a small smirk playing across her lips. The younger boy's previously long, shiny hair now looked tangled and knotted, more like a bird's nest than a noble's hair. Nor had Neji taken the time to shave, and the young teen's uneven stubble sprouted in dark, bristly patches across his feminine face.

"And that robe…" Temari observed. Rather than Neji's shinobi clothing or traditional Hyuuga robes, he was clothed in a ratty brown robe that looked like it had seen better days—a decade ago. Kankurou could see Temari visibly wince from the corner of his eye. "That belt," she muttered to herself when she caught sight of the bright, pristine orange belt that was knotted at Neji's waist.

"The only thing he bothered to clean is his hitai-ate," the middle Sand Sibling snickered quietly, falling silent just before Neji moved into hearing range. Kankurou stepped in front of the office door, causing Baki and Neji to halt. "You can't take weapons in," Kankurou told the Konoha jounin.

"I disarmed him," Baki assured him.

Kankurou blinked. "The staff," he pointed out, annoyed.

"This?" Neji asked, shaking the tall wooden staff lightly. Metal rings mounted on the head jangled in protest. Kankurou eyed the staff distrustfully. It was a very odd staff. It looked like a rather traditional priestly staff, except for the fact that there was a ceramic bowl mounted on the brass loop that crowned the staff. The decorative orange spirals clashed horribly with the dark polish of the wood. It was a madman's staff, and if Neji was insane then only bad things could result from letting him meet Gaara. "It isn't a weapon," Neji said quietly.

"What is it?" Temari asked, unable to keep the morbid fascination out of her voice. Neji's new sense of incredibly awful fashion was clashing with her admittedly subdued female sensibilities.

"It's a religious symbol," Neji said proudly. The older Sand Siblings traded looks. That's it. I'm not getting involved in this, Kankurou thought. There was no way he wanted to deal with something like this. Gaara was the Kazekage anyway. It should be him dealing with the headaches, not Kankurou. And if it ended up in a bloodbath… well, Gaara could take care of himself and the cleaning staff had grown quite adept at cleaning out the bloodstains. Kankurou stepped aside and Neji marched through the door to the Kazekage's office.

The minutes ticked by. Kankurou and Temari waited outside their brother's office, straining to make out the muffled words that filtered through the door. Unfortunately, the Kazekage's office was designed so that eavesdroppers would not have an easy time of it and the curious duo was left unsatisfied. More than an hour passed before the door slid open. Neji walked out, alive and unharmed, a curious smile adorning his unshaven face. He nodded amiably to them. "May your path lead you to the Ramen," Neji intoned, and Kankurou could practically hear the capital 'R' thudding into place.

"Err..." What a nut-job, "you too?" Apparently, this satisfied Neji, for the teen nodded and walked away. For some reason, this left Kankurou and Temari with a feeling of profound relief. Pushing it out of his mind, Kankurou followed Temari into Gaara's office. The Kazekage sat behind his desk, his hands folded together in thought. A ceramic bowl sat on the center of his desk, and it was emitting steam.

"Gaara?" Temari asked hesitantly. The leader of Suna did not respond, instead choosing to stare at the bowl as if it held the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

"Is that… ramen?" Kankurou asked, sniffing. He looked at the bowl filled with steaming—and quite delicious smelling—ramen. Okay, this is getting bizarre. "No, wait. Forget I asked." I'm not getting involved in this one. No way. Kankurou turned to leave. Temari could deal with their younger brother. Gaara liked her more, anyway… probably. Just as he opened the door, there was a rustling of cloth behind him as Gaara stood up. Kankurou froze.

"Temari… Kankurou… call a meeting," Gaara said in his usual monotone.

"A meeting?" Temari ventured.


Kankurou cleared his throat. "What for?" he asked nervously.

"I've seen the Ramen," Gaara informed them tonelessly. His siblings traded incredulous looks. "We're going to build a church."

There was silence. "Oh," Kankurou said finally before walking out the door. Temari quickly followed. I didn't want to get involved! He continued to despair in his thoughts until something occurred to him. He stopped suddenly.

"What is it?" Temari asked.

"What's a church?"

Temari blinked. "It's a…" she searched for words. Finally, she shrugged, "I don't know."

"Oh." With that, they continued walking.

Naruto stared glumly at the cheerful festivities going on below him. He was sitting beneath the thick, sheltering boughs of an oak tree atop a small hill outside the city of Mochi. A thunderstorm raged above him, but that put no damper on the festival going on below. Indulgent parents played with happy children, and the smell of fresh food and the sound of laughter reached him despite the storm. Events like this always depressed him. A sense of wistful melancholy gripped his heart, and he couldn't help but feel envious at the happy families he saw.

"So that's where you've been," Jiraiya's voice materialized behind Naruto. The boy did not acknowledge his teacher's presence aside from a grunt. "Sulking again, huh?" the big, white-haired man smirked, but his mild barb brought no reaction. The Toad Hermit sighed. I hate it when he gets like this. Naruto's family issues were a deep and bitter and utilizing tact in such dealings always gave Jiraiya indigestion. He sat down next to his pupil on the damp grass and gazed at the lit-up city in silence.

"Ero-sennin…" Naruto's voice was subdued.

Jiraiya blinked. He had expected Naruto's stubborn silence to persist for quite a while longer. "Hmm…?"

"Did you know my parents?"

"Ah…" Jiraiya paused thoughtfully. "Yes," he said finally.

Naruto rounded on him quickly. "You did!?" Clearly, the boy hadn't expected that answer. Jiraiya cursed inwardly. Apparently he could have avoided the whole mess if he had lied or kept his mouth shut.

"Yes, I knew them." Naruto lapsed into silence.

"What were they like?" the lonely boy asked finally.

"Well…" Jiraiya wondered how to best approach the issue. "Your father's name was Arashi…" he trailed off and scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Or was it Minato…? Well, he had a name, and he was a great man."

Naruto's eyes widened. He had always wondered what his parents were like, and in his secret fantasies he had always imagined that they had been great people, but to have it confirmed was a dream come true. "A great man?" Naruto prompted eagerly, disregarding the fact that Jiraiya couldn't even remember his father's name properly.

"Yes," Jiraiya nodded. "He was the strongest, toughest man I'd ever met—besides myself—and that's saying something." Naruto's jaw dropped in awe. Naruto knew Jiraiya's strength, and he knew that Jiraiya's respect meant a lot. That the Sannin would rate his father to be that strong… "You might even say that your old man was a legend."

"Legendary," Naruto repeated with something like bliss.

"Yup. No matter how tough things got, no matter how vile or putrid his mission became, he never stopped moving forward. Lesser men would have dropped like flies at being exposed to some of the things your dad did, but he always did his job, and he was the best at it." Naruto's eyes were shining.

"Who was he? What did he do?" Naruto demanded eagerly.

Jiraiya stared up at the dark, cloudy sky in reminiscence. "He was Kazama Uzumaki Arashi," Jiraiya murmured.

"Kazama… Uzumaki?"

"No, wait… that's not right," Jiraiya muttered. "Namikaze Minaho? Minato Nami? Hmm…"

"Ero-sennin," Naruto growled impatiently.

Jiraiya shrugged and cleared his throat, trying to reclaim the mood, "He was Konoha's, and some say the world's, greatest sanitation engineer."

"Wow," Naruto sighed in awe at the awesome legacy he bore. "Wait… what?"

"Without him, Konohagakure as you know it wouldn't exist. He fought a never-ending battle, yet he never gave up and he never admitted defeat. Indeed, it took the Kyuubi to finally bring your father down."

Naruto felt dread tugging at his mind. "What's a sanitation engineer?" Naruto asked slowly, ignoring the screaming in the back of his head that said he didn't want to know. It must be something really great, right? I mean, ero-sennin said all of those things… He tried to banish his doubts.

"Your father was the leader…" Jiraiya trailed off dramatically.

"The leader…?"

"He was the leader of Konohagakure…" Just before Naruto was about to leap in the air and scream with glee, Jiraiya continued, "no Sato's Sanitation Department."


"His leadership ensured that everything got to the city dump on time, that the streets were kept clean, that the sewers were maintained, the whole nine yards." Jiraiya sighed nostalgically. "He really was a great man. Arashi wasn't a man afraid to get his hands dirty either. Sometimes he'd go out, roll up his sleeves, and dive right in to fix the problem. Hell, he had more guts than all of the Hokage put together. What a guy…"

Naruto felt like crying. Another one of his precious dreams had been stamped into the mud—not to mention jumped on, beaten with a steel rod, and pissed on. "What about my mom?" Naruto asked hoarsely. Please, let my mom be a princess or a ninja or something!

"Ah… your mom," Jiraiya sighed nostalgically once again, but this time there was a perverted look in his eyes. "It's amazing, really. No one in their right minds would have expected a man like your father to land a woman like your mother. Most people thought your dad would have to marry a leather tanner or a fisherwoman, just so their native odors could cancel each other out." Naruto's eyebrow twitched. "But for him to land such a high class girl… it shocked me, really."

Naruto's hopes soared. High class is good, he thought, his eagerness returning.

"Never in a million years would I have expected your father to be able to put together that kind of money," Jiraiya continued. "It just goes to show what a real man your dad was."

Naruto blinked uncertainly. "Money?" he asked.

"Yeah… to be able to afford a girl like…"

"Like…?" Naruto demanded impatiently as the silence stretched.

"What was her name again…?" Jiraiya asked. "Kuchima? Kushima? No, no, that's not it…" he shook his head slowly, his eyes distant. "Kirima? Kirishima? Kiriko?"

"Ero-sennin!" Naruto interrupted, too impatient to sit through Jiraiya's recitation of every name that started with a 'K' that the man could think of.

Jiraiya cleared his throat, "Anyway, to afford a girl like your mom on his salary—even if he was the chief sanitation engineer—it's pretty amazing." Jiraiya blushed, his perverted grin widening. "I don't blame him though. If I had been in the village, who knows… I probably would have taken my checkbook out and…" he trailed off abruptly, turning to look at Naruto. Jiraiya coughed awkwardly. "Umm…"

Naruto's eyes had narrowed into slits. "Afford?" he asked flatly.

Jiraiya nodded. "She was a legend in the red light districts of Fire Country… Supposedly, she had the most incredible Jade Gate…"

"Jade Gate?" Where had he heard that before?

Jiraiya coughed again. "Err…"

"What did my mom do?" Naruto asked, suspicion and horror coloring his voice. He dreaded the answer, but he had to know.

"Your mom…" Jiraiya stood and assumed one of his funky, Kabuki-play stances. "Your mom was the greatest," Jiraiya sang, hopping to the left. "The greatest in the Country of Fire…" He hopped to the right and twisted his head sharply, causing his hair to fly around wildly. Jiraiya froze and threw out his hand dramatically. "Your mom was the greatest whore to ever grace Konoha!" the pervert cried.

Naruto slumped numbly. Damn it, he thought without heat. He couldn't feel anything anymore. But so what if his parents were… his parents were… those things! He would be Hokage anyway! It didn't matter if his dad was a… if his mom was a… Naruto buried his face into his hands and wept.

Jiraiya stared down at his broken apprentice. Did I overdo it? Jiraiya wondered. "Oi," he poked his apprentice in the shoulder. "Oi," he repeated. "Naruto!"

"What?" Naruto mumbled, staring up at him with blank eyes. Oops, Jiraiya thought. He frantically thought for methods of damage control.

"It was a joke!" Jiraiya exclaimed.


"I have no idea who your parents are! I made that all up because you were being such a whiny baby about this whole festival thing!"

Naruto stared. "…You what?" he asked finally.

"I…" Jiraiya trailed off, his mouth twitching. "You were so…" he stopped again, snickering.

"Ero-sennin," Naruto said slowly, "what did you do?"

"I just…" Jiraiya wheezed as full blown laughter erupted. He slapped his knee gleefully, "The look on your face…!"

Naruto stared at Jiraiya as the old man collapsed in on himself, clutching his sides as he laughed heartily. "I hate you," Naruto said quietly. "I hate you so much." Lightning flashed across the sky. Thunder rumbled ominously and the ground trembled. Jiraiya cackled, rolling around in the wet grass as tears leaked from his eyes.

"Oh, that was great!" Jiraiya grinned, disheveled but bright-eyed. An extremely sour Naruto sat sulking beside him. Two hundred meters away, a stall full of toad masks burst on fire. Luckily, the stall owner was able to escape with his life, and later started a successful career as a fire-safety consultant. "What?" Jiraiya turned. A big, white-haired old man was nearly killed when, while returning home from the hostess club, lightning smote a tree just three meters away. When the old man regained consciousness, his gaze fell upon some blackened wood chips on the ground nearby, which miraculously spelled out: I HATE PERVERTED OLD MEN. Terrified, the old man fled the city and joined a monastery, where he would later invent an extremely useful device: a lightning proof suit. He was promptly assassinated by Kumo-nin. "Don't tell me you're sulking again!" Jiraiya threw his hands up in the air, exasperated. Kids these days, Jiraiya thought despairingly, you take the time to tell them about their parents, and what do they do?

The origins of our Lord are shrouded in mystery. When asked, our Lord would later say, "I have no mother. I have no father. I am the first and only..."

Water dripped in a slow, steady rhythm. Kurenai glanced nervously at her surroundings. The dank, grey corridors of the Interrogation Division's underground facilities always made her a bit jumpy. It was an unpleasant place to be. "Ibiki-san is in here," the grey-uniformed chuunin informed her.

She nodded, "Thank you." Nodding, the chuunin went back to his business. Kurenai knocked.

"Come in," Ibiki's gravelly voice came from beyond the door. Kurenai entered. "Kurenai," Ibiki greeted, mildly surprised to see her. "Is there something you need?"

The jounin-sensei nodded. "One of my students has joined a cult," Kurenai began, going straight to the heart of the matter. Ibiki's eyebrows rose in surprise. He certainly hadn't expected that. "I was hoping you could help."

"What were you expecting me to do?"

Kurenai frowned. "You're an expert on psychology, aren't you? You should be able to do something."

Ibiki sighed. "I break people," he pointed out, "I don't rehabilitate them."

"Do you know who could help, then?" Kurenai scowled, folding her arms. She had been hoping that he could help. Now what was she supposed to do?

"A therapist?" Kurenai glared. The special jounin shrugged. "I'm serious. But, if you don't think that's a good idea, then why don't you just let their family handle it? All of your students come from large clans, so it's not like you're the only one responsible for them."

She snorted, "The Hyuuga are practically a cult themselves."

"Maybe that's the problem, then."

"Fine," she sighed. "I'll just keep looking."

"Sorry I couldn't be of any use." Ibiki watched as the rookie jounin turned to leave. "Wait," he said. "Can I ask which cult your student has joined?"

"I'm not sure," Kurenai replied. She looked at the floor, biting her lip, "If I had to guess, I'd say… that one that worships Naruto." It was embarrassing to actually say out loud. She waited a moment to see if he had any response to that. Ibiki kept his face impassive, and after a moment Kurenai stalked out. He picked up his pen, staring down at the papers before him.

"Narutoism, is it?" Ibiki said thoughtfully. He smirked. "I was right. That kid is interesting." This bears further investigation.

Kurenai was ready to pull her hair and scream. "Therapists," she spat, her voice filled with loathing. She had spent the week trying to find a therapist that could help Hinata, or at least point her to someone who could. Apparently, cults and religious indoctrination were not things that Konoha's psychiatric field was used to dealing with. Nobody could offer any helpful advice. In fact, trying their tactics only seemed to make Hinata avoid her further. The shy girl seemed terrified of her now.

That was why she was angrily marching through Konoha, on her way to a bar. She felt an inexplicable need to get hammered, and the wine she had at home just wasn't cutting it. When she got there and walked in the doors, she was hit with a cloud of smoke so thick she could practically cut it with a kunai. Kurenai coughed, scowling. She hated cigarette smoke, which just made her friendship with Asuma all the more bewildering. Nonetheless, she went over to the bar and plopped down on the stool. "The house sake," she ordered tersely.

"Oh...? Kurenai, what are you doing here?" a familiar voice drawled from her left. She turned.

"Anko?" she asked, startled. She shouldn't have been surprised. It was Anko who had introduced her to the bar in the first place. The younger woman knew a lot of bars.

"It's rare to see you in a bar," Anko observed. She grinned, "Here to pick up some guys?"

"No!" Kurenai blushed.

"Some girls?"

"Anko!" Kurenai scowled, glaring at the special jounin. "I'm just here for a drink," she said firmly.

"Okay, okay," the skimpily-clad woman said, still grinning cheerfully. They sat in silence for a moment. "So… what are you drinking for?"

Kurenai opened her mouth to snap back, only to sigh a moment later. Her shoulders sagged. Her drink arrived, which she promptly downed in a single gulp. She refilled the saucer and took another drink. "Hinata," she said finally.

"Hinata drove you to drink?" Anko asked incredulously.

"She's… she's… she's joined a cult!" Kurenai burst out. She grasped the sake bottle, brought it to her mouth, and tilted it back. Liquor poured down her gullet.

Anko watched her normally restrained friend drink in amazement. "A cult?" she wondered. "Hinata!?"

"Yeah…" Kurenai slurred. She slumped, depressed. "Where did I… where did I go wrong?" she wondered tearfully.

"I'm shure… I'm sure it's not your fault," Anko clumsily patted Kurenai on the back, trying to comfort her friend. It was a struggle to keep a straight face. Hinata, in a cult? I guess it's true what they say about the quiet ones!

"But… If only I had…" Kurenai trailed off. "Damn that bastard! Stupid Ibiki…" Kurenai paused again. Anko could almost see the gears starting to turn in her head. The light bulb flickered to life. She turned to look at Anko.

"What?" Anko asked. She didn't like the look in the jounin's eyes.

"Orochimaru… was kind of like a cult mastermind, right?"

"Hah!?" she exhaled in disbelief, her previous amusement evaporating quicker than the morning mist at the sound of that hated name. Oh, she definitely didn't like where this was going.

"Yeah… that fits. And since he was a cult mastermind… that makes you a reformed cultist, right?"

"What are you talking about?" Anko demanded angrily. Who did Kurenai think she was, bringing up Orochimaru like that? She called me a cultist!

"Anko!" Kurenai stood quickly. She stumbled, falling forward, and caught herself on her friend's shoulders. Anko drew back as Kurenai's alcohol laden breath puffed in her face. "You have to help me!"

"Why?" Anko demanded. She certainly wasn't feeling very charitable toward Kurenai at the moment.

Kurenai ignored her. "Come on," she slurred, "let's go save Hinata!"

"What-? Hey!" Anko protested as Kurenai began to bodily drag her from the bar.

The bartender stared glumly as the two elite shinobi departed. "They didn't pay!" he realized angrily. "Hey, come back!"

And so our Lord's will guided the faithful, and the time came for the great pillars of the church to join and uplift the roof of our Lord's house

The long walk to the Hyuuga district allowed Kurenai a chance to regain some of her dignity and sense of balance, though she wasn't quite sober by the time they reached the main gate. Two pale-eyed guards watched them approach impassively. Anko scowled, looking at her feet in disgust. They were clean now—she had forced the drunken woman to stop while she found a place to wash her feet—but not long ago they had been covered with vomit. Kurenai still can't hold her liquor, Anko thought snidely. It was odd, considering how much she loved wine.

"What is your business here?" one of the guards asked.

"We're here to see Hyuuga Hinata," Kurenai said clearly, doing an admirable job of concealing her inebriation. "I'm her jounin sensei," she added, in case they didn't recognize her. They hesitated, glancing at each other. Anko scowled, annoyed. Here she was, half-sober, with a pounding headache and feet that smelled like vomit, standing in front of the stuffiest house in Konoha. What for? To help a colleague—there was no way she was going to call Kurenai her friend, not after she had interrupted her drinking time, called her a cultist, vomited on her feet, and dragged her out here to do some charity work—who apparently couldn't even teach her own students properly.

Damn, this is irritating. Wordlessly, Anko began to fiddle with a kunai. She was never going to ask Kurenai for another favor ever again. If this was what it brought her, then it just wasn't worth it. Although she would miss having someone bring her dango when she asked for it… Maybe I should start looking for a boyfriend? The big wooden doors groaned in protest as they swung open. "You may go in," the other guard said.

Kurenai staggered through the doorway. Anko rolled her eyes and followed the other jounin in.

Birds chirped merrily. The soothing sound of running water filled the courtyard. A gentle breeze passed through, leaving the sighs of many plants in its wake. Hyuuga Hiashi calmly sipped at his fine green tea, which was as meticulously prepared as always. He considered the garden as if searching for answers. Answers to questions such as, "Why has my nephew run away from home in search of enlightenment?" and, "Why does my eldest daughter pray to a bowl of soup?" and even, "What does 42 really mean, anyway?" Unfortunately, it gave him none. He sighed, wondering what was to become of the Hyuuga family. How could it possibly survive, if the next generation was as cracked in the head as it seemed to be? Thank the heavens that Hanabi seemed to be stable… but then, so had Neji until just a while ago. There was even some raving loon in the west that people were calling a prophet that some claimed was a Hyuuga. It was preposterous, of course, but it was a blow to Hyuuga prestige nonetheless. The times were changing, and Hiashi could only pray that the Hyuuga would be able to adapt.

He took another sip of tea. "What is it?" he asked the empty air.

A shadow shifted, "Yuuhi Kurenai and Mitarashi Anko are requesting entry, Hiashi-sama."

Dark eyebrows rose in surprise. "Those two? What is their business here?"

"They wish to speak with Hinata-sama, Hiashi-sama."

"I see." Silence followed. "They may enter," he said finally.

"As you command."

Hiashi looked up to contemplate the clouds, determined to enjoy what little peace he had left.

Hinata squeaked fearfully, "Ku-Kurenai-sensei!" The woman squinted. Hinata shrank back. What is she glaring at me for? Hinata wondered nervously.

"Hinata," Kurenai identified her. She was feeling a bit dizzy and her eyes had trouble focusing and… It's really hot in here, she groused mentally. Sometimes she wondered how Hinata could wear that coat so often. That was another thing she would have to bring up. It wasn't healthy for young girls to sit in a sauna-like room for hours at a time. Could dehydration be behind Hinata's erratic behavior? Then she considered the opposite. Is it something in the water?

While Kurenai pondered, Anko plodded into the room and threw herself down on a sitting cushion. Hinata whimpered. She had not been expecting the bloodthirsty woman from her first Chuunin Exam to barge into her room. Frantically, Hinata tried to think of why that woman would be in her room. "Oi, Kurenai," Anko glared, "stop daydreaming and let's get this thing over with."

Abruptly, Kurenai's stomach seemed to twist itself into knots. She gulped, clutching her midsection. "Hinata! Toilet!" The girl pointed and her teacher dashed off. Anko watched her go with vindictive amusement. No one's going to hold your hair up for you this time, Kurenai-chan. You shouldn't have drank so much on an empty stomach.

"Kurenai tells me you've joined a cult," Anko said bluntly. Hinata squeaked again as she recalled the special jounin's presence.

"A cult?" she asked nervously, her fingers instinctively seeking each other out.

"Don't play dumb with me, girl," Anko growled. "Right now, I'm really pissed off, so don't lie."

"But… I'm not in a cult!" Hinata protested.

"Uh huh," Anko grunted, unconvinced. "Kurenai told me about your little prayer sessions."

Hinata flushed. Kurenai-sensei heard that? She was mortified. Who knows what Kurenai had heard her say? "That's… that's just…"

"What?" Orochimaru's first apprentice—that survived—prompted.

"Naruto-kun is…" Her blush deepened. Hinata's index fingers began to tap out a frantic rhythm.

"Naruto-kun is…" Anko mocked, "what? Weak? Stupid? Short and ugly? A loser?"

"No!" Anko leaned back, surprised by the girl's vehemence. Apparently, Hinata was too, given by how shocked she looked at her own outburst. The Hyuuga looked down at the table. "That's wrong," she whispered. Hinata looked up, meeting Anko's gaze. "You don't know anything about Naruto-kun," she continued, her voice slightly stronger.

"I know enough to know that a kid like that couldn't possibly be someone worthy of worship," the woman shot back. She broke eye-contact. "There are no gods," she murmured, more to herself than to Hinata.

"You're wrong," Hinata said.


She nodded. "You're definitely wrong," Hinata asserted again, her voice still soft and meek. But those who knew her well would know that Hinata had reached the limit of her tolerance. She was a girl that rarely got angry, due to her compassionate nature and her own poor sense of self-worth. But to insult her idol, her inspiration, her crush… her god… that made her truly angry.

Anko smirked. "Prove it to me," she taunted, her voice thick with scorn.

Hinata said nothing. Instead, she reached for the bowl that acted as a centerpiece for the table.

A minute later, Anko sniffed cautiously, inhaling the tantalizing aroma. Chopsticks darted into the bowl. "Damn, I'm impressed," she commented as she chewed. She had never had better ramen in her life. Finally, she set the utensils down and burped contentedly, delighting in the slight grimace on Hinata's face at her unladylike gesture. "Kurenai never said you were that good at genjutsu."

Hinata's eyes widened, "Wh-what?"

Anko rolled her eyes. "Come on. You're Kurenai's student. You think I'll be convinced by that?"

"But I… but she's never…"

"Hmm… a god should be omniscient, right? Or at least, a god should know a lot of things."

Caught off guard, Hinata could only stammer, "I guess."

Anko smiled slyly. "Right, so," she leaned in, "where can I get some free booze?"

"Umm… I don't know?"

"But I'm not asking you," Anko said. "If this Naruto kid is a god, then he should be able to tell me where to get free alcohol." Hinata gaped. "Oh, and dango too," Anko added, "or at the very least cake. Delicious cake." She didn't really like cake, but she'd bet it would go great in her tea ceremonies.

"I-I don't think it works like that," Hinata pointed out, her index fingers still continuing their futile, eternal battle against each other.

"Well then," Anko stood, smirking in satisfaction. Hinata's fists clenched. She could not let this woman walk away after all she had said about Naruto-kun.

"Please, wait!" Anko stopped walking towards the door.

"What?" she asked, irritated. Her job was over, wasn't it?

Hinata shyly met her demanding gaze. "I'll ask," she whispered.

Naruto sneezed wetly and frowned, looking around at the woods around him. Seeing that there was nothing there, he shrugged and jogged after his sensei. Besides, it wasn't like Hinata would really show up out of the blue to ask him where the free booze was. At least, he really hoped that was the case. Was Hinata an alcoholic? It would explain quite a bit about her strange behavior. Still, she didn't seem like the drinking type. If she was, though… Naruto's brow furrowed. He would have to cut off contact from her. She was a minor, just like he was, but if she drank than she would be a morally corrupting influence, and he got enough of that from Ero-sennin. He didn't approve of underage drinking… sort of like he didn't approve of perversion. Naruto scowled. Ero-sennin had called him a girl when Naruto had made it clear that he strongly disapproved of the toad hermit's habits.

Really though, Hinata shouldn't have been drinking alcohol. He made a mental note to confront her about it when he got back.

It was a strange sight. Anko had never been to a séance before, but she imagined that it would be nothing like what she was witnessing now. Hinata stared into the depths of the steaming ramen as if it would yield the answers to her questions. Occasionally, she would mumble incoherently, but that was normal. Hinata, meanwhile, was starting to feel rather dizzy. The pink swirl at the center of the white fishcake drew her eye in, tempting her eyes with its… swirly-ness. She tried to focus. Where can I find free alcohol? Hinata asked her lord, paraphrasing Anko's request.

The bowl quivered. Anko sat up warily. Hinata closed her eyes and bit her lip. There was a sizzling noise and Hinata shrieked, jerking her hands away from the bowl. Broth spilled across the table. The fishcake flew through the air, before landing with a wet smack on Anko's head. Grimacing, the tokubetsu jounin reached up and plucked it out of her hair, but it was slick and hot. She yelped and it quickly slipped through her fingers, sliding down the back of her head. It landed with yet another wet, unpleasant smack on the back of her neck—slightly to the left. Anko scowled and reached up to rip the unpleasant topping from her neck when, abruptly, a burning sensation coursed through her. "Wha-?" she wheezed as the strength was sucked from her limbs, replaced instead by blinding pain. She clutched her neck, inadvertently pressing her hand over both the curse seal and the fishcake. A sizzling noise hissed through the room and Anko silently screamed, toppling to the ground.

The acrid smell of burning flesh wafted to Hinata's nose. She sat, stunned and horrified as she watched the woman write in agony on the ground. Hinata gasped as she noticed that Anko's right hand was smoking. Quickly, she reached out and ripped Anko's hand away. Immediately, the special jounin went limp. She dragged in a harsh, gasping breath. For a while she simply laid on the ground, trying to recover. After a few minutes, she pushed herself upright. Anko bit back a cry of pain as her right hand screamed in agony. Gingerly, she lifted it for inspection. The fishcake sat innocently on the center of her palm. Anko stared at it for a moment, baffled. She reached with her other hand and slowly, painfully peeled the naruto from her palm. For several long moments, she considered the outline of the fishcake—complete with a spiral in the center—that was now branded into her flesh.

"Anko-san?" Hinata's quivering voice broke her out of her thoughts.

"I'm okay," she grunted, waving off the girl's concern. There was something off… She reached for her shoulder again, reflexively. "The pain," she murmured.

"What?" Hinata was lost.

Anko looked at Hinata, a wondering smile on her face. "It's gone!" She leapt to her feet and rushed over to the nearby full-length mirror. She yanked the collar of her coat down and peered at her shoulder. Orochimaru's cursed brand, the Heaven Seal, was gone. In its place, the outline of a fishcake was inked on her neck, a perfect counterpart to the brand on her palm. "This is…" She blinked and uncurled her left hand, realizing that the ramen topping still clung to her palm. Anko stared at the naruto, and then back at her reflection in the mirror. After a moment, she brought it to her mouth and took a dainty bite. Her eyes widened as the taste filled her mouth. This tastes like… Junmai Daiginjo-shu! It would take nearly of year of her average pay to buy a bottle of sake of that level, yet here it was, in a fishcake. She ate the rest of it, reveling in the taste. Anko looked at Hinata, who sat wide-eyed and uncertain near the table. "This cake," Anko pronounced deliberately, licking her fingertips, "is delicious."


Anko grinned and sat back down at the table. "Right! How do we do this?"


"Well, are there secret handshakes, or weekly meetings, or some sort of ritual we have to do? What are the rules? Quick, before Kurenai finishes getting the puke out of her hair!"

"Er… ano… What?" Hinata finally managed to ask, bewildered.

"Well, he gave me free booze and delicious cake, all at once," Anko pointed out. "I'm convinced. Where do I sign up?"

The Kyuubi no Youko was angry. Contrary to popular belief, this was not a common occurrence. He, and it was a 'he'—though theoretically 'it' might be more appropriate, since the Kyuubi was a demon above all else, but everyone who had ever heard 'it' speak agreed that 'it' sounded very much like a 'he,' so 'it' became a 'he'—, had lived for eons, and the sheer vastness of his experiences left him too jaded to get truly angry at much. Besides, getting angry took effort, and the Kyuubi didn't like doing things that required any degree of effort on his part without adequate reason. The Kyuubi was rather lazy—why else would a being with nearly infinite energy spend centuries asleep other than sloth? Oh, sure, occasionally he woke up and stepped on a bunch of puny ants—humans—but that was the exception rather than the rule. Besides, it was great fun.

Speaking of ants… What is that meatbag doing? The Kyuubi frowned, or at least tried to. The facial structure of a fox, even a demon fox, was not conducive to human expressions. What is that brat doing? Kyuubi corrected himself. Calling the whiney brat a meatbag was an insult to bags of meat. At least the latter served a viable purpose, one the Kyuubi wholeheartedly approved of, but the former? As far as the giant fox-like being could tell, the creature known as Naruto served no rational purpose. Had the little ant ever done anything remotely constructive in its pitiful little life? Not as far as the Kyuubi could tell. Then again, he had a sneaking suspicion that the brat's purpose was to annoy the Kyuubi. It was one of those things humans did to try and correct bad behavior… what was it again? Punishment, the Kyuubi recalled. It was a ridiculous concept, really. If someone wronged you, you killed them. That took care of the problem, and you got something to eat of the deal too. But humans were ridiculous creatures, and thus prone to not seeing common sense. The brat existed as some sort of twisted punishment for the Kyuubi that the cursed blond sewer-rat with the funky hat had cooked up.

The giant, many-tailed fox forced his thoughts away from the rat in the hat. If he thought about it too long he might start to get angry, and if he got angry he'd want to kill, maim, and destroy. Normally, that was a very healthy, constructive thing for a demon to do in order to work off anger and stave off hypertension later in life. However, the Kyuubi no Youko was stuck in a very solid, very small—relatively speaking, that is—cage, with nothing to kill or maim. There wasn't even a tiny little piece of loose stone that he could incinerate in anger. Once he got angry, the only thing he could do in his cage was stew, or pace in circles. Stewing was really the only option, since he had discovered quite early on that pacing in circles tended to lead to him chasing his own tails, an endeavor that ended quickly and painfully once he caught up to them. His nine beautiful—and gorgeous, spectacular, or perhaps even sublime… no, divine… no, wait… divinely demonic—tails represented an amount of power unmatched in the entire world. With them, he could crush mountains, split the seas, and drive all the winds of the earth before him. Also, the Kyuubi thought that they made him look very regal and dashing, which was almost as important as the mighty power they represented. However, they happened to be extremely long, which meant that the giant demon fox had no trouble whatsoever in catching up to his tails once he starting chasing them. Since the Kyuubi's teeth were so very large, sharp, and terrifying to behold, it made for a rather… unpleasant conclusion to the chase.

Massive, malevolent eyes closed tightly for a moment, as if pained. It was as close to a wince as his canine features could produce. Similarly gigantic ears, more akin to a rabbit's than a fox's, twitched. The Kyuubi's ears twitched again in response to his inadvertent comparison. That same conclusion by others had that led to some embarrassing nicknames when he was younger and less capable of utterly destroying those who mocked him. Incisors the size of small trees were bared in unconscious irritation, and not a little satisfaction. He'd like to hear someone call him 'Bunny foo-foo' again. The satisfaction he would get when they realized that they'd insulted a demon larger than any creature had any right to be and lost control of their bladders would be immense. Then he'd step on them and receive even more satisfaction from the tiny little crunching noises and the wet splat that came as his detractors were ground beneath his vast, earth-shaking paws. Ah… delicious. That was bliss.

What was he thinking about again…?

Ah, yes, the mea- the brat.

Several months ago, things had been going well for the Kyuubi, or at least as well as they could while he was imprisoned in the belly of the most annoying creature to ever exist on earth—except perhaps for that rat in the hat. It was hard for him to decide which one he hated more. But things had been going somewhat well. The nuisance had begun to call upon the Kyuubi's awesome strength to fight his battles with increasing frequency, which meant that he could worm more and more chakra into the loud insect and erode the accursed seal. It had been working too. Then a wall of… something had slammed down, surrounding the bars and filling the space in-between as well. Whatever it was, it was strong. It was also very bright, it hurt the Kyuubi's eyes, and made it hard for him to take a decent nap. All in all, he had to say that it was an incredibly annoying turn of events. But then he found out that the glowing wall prevented his chakra from flowing into the brat's system, thus ruining his grand escape plan. That really, really, really pissed him off. Even pacing the cage restlessly—and biting all nine of his tails after he had started to instinctively chase them—hadn't forced him to calm down. There were few things that could make the Kyuubi no Kitsune truly angry. Stealing his ticket out of the crappy hell-hole he was in was one of them.

It was clear to all that when the Kyuubi was angry, he tended to destroy, kill, maim, and eat things—in that order. Those things tended to be living creatures. Since humans were extremely abundant, very much alive, and made such delightful sounds when he took his anger out on them, they tended to be the main recipients of his wrath. Anything smaller than humans and he couldn't be bothered, though occasionally he sat back and basked in the knowledge that untold millions—nay, billions of living creatures that he couldn't see had been killed or maimed by his actions. It sent a delightful shiver up his spine just thinking about it.

He shook his great head. It would do him no good to get sidetracked. His brilliant escape plan had been foiled. That was not pleasing. In fact, the Kyuubi was very mad, and he wanted to kill. All he needed was a target and the means to communicate his unhappiness, preferably in the most brutal way imaginable.

Really, there was only one logical conclusion. The brat was the bane of his existence. Something had foiled his attempt to escape from the little insect's putrid belly. A + B equals C. It was obviously all the brat's fault. Thus, he would make the puny squeaker shriek in agony, escape from his cell, and wreck havoc across the world in order to work the stress out of his system. Not necessarily in that order. And he'd eat the brat too, because it'd be funny as hell and he knew that revenge would taste sweet indeed.

The only thing left to do was to figure out a way to exert his influence on the world again.

The Great Enemy is cunning. His might is vast beyond imagining. Beware, for the Adversary ever seeks to consume our Lord and his followers. Be of steadfast heart, ye faithful, for only your belief shall save you from the belly of the Beast.


By Kinoth

Anko still couldn't figure out exactly how Kurenai had talked her into doing 'cult counseling' for the shy, stuttering Hyuuga in front of her. She had been too drunk to really undersand what the woman was talking about- something about how Orochimaru had treated her and having experience with brainwashing. The special jounin had been ready to argue that there wasn't any brainwashing involved, just the perverted sadist branding seals onto her, but that eighth bottle of sake had stolen her ability to speak.

That left the trenchcoat-clad kunoichi facing a blushing chunnin who had apparently been found worshipping a ramen bowl and muttering some sort of prayer to the fox-brat that was off with the Toad Hermit. Slumping down into the chair a little farther, she crossed her arms and gave the girl the hardest look she could muster through the pounding headache. "So why don't you tell me about the last time you got in a fight, because apparently someone knocked all your shit loose if you think that Uzumaki kid's a kami."

Five minutes later, Orochimaru's former student was staring in surprise at a steaming bowl of miso ramen. She had just watched the white-eyed girl say a prayer over the ceramic bowl, and a minute and a half later a reverse-whirlpool spouted from the bottom of the bowl, quickly filling it with noodles and broth. After it finished, a large fishcake had bobbed to the top. Even though she was still hungover, Anko was sure that the girl hadn't used her chakra, she had attempted to dispel any genjutsu that might have been used, and she had already checked the bowl and table for hidden tubes. It honestly seemed like a (minor) miracle. "How in the hell did you figure out how to do that?"

Another ten minutes later, after suffering through Hinata's halting explanation of a mission in Wave and a chance meeting with a chick named Tsunami on the Great Naruto Bridge, Anko was halfway through the incredibly delicious meal that had cured her hangover and left her brimming with energy. "I don't even like ramen and this is some good shit!" she mumbled around another mouthful. "So this Naruto kid might really be a kami after all. What kinda kami is he? What's he believe in?"

The Hyuuga tapped her index fingers together a few times before she could begin. "H-he believes in t-t-training hard, never giving up, um..." Hinata looked down in thought. "..he believes in... ano..."

"Anal!?" Anko roared. "A god of kinky shit! Sign me up!"

By Windfalcon

While Deidara is doing some harmless sculpting, Kisame walks up to him with confusion plain on his features. "Hey Deidara"

"Hn? What is it Kisame?" Deidara asked as he looked up from his Sanbi sculpture.

"Is it just me, or is Tobi's mask more.. orange than usual?"

Thinking for a moment, Deidara glances over to where Tobi is sitting with Itachi, both calmly eating lunch. "Oh... Tobi said he found a new religion, un. Don't let Hidan know."

"Really? What is it?" the shark-man asked, intrigued. By this time Itachi's attention is caught and he idly looks up at Tobi, who had been sitting there calmly as he waited for his cup ramen to finish cooking.

"Not too sure, un... He was told about it in Wave and he joined right up for some reason. He's also taken to eating ramen, un." Deidara commented. "Hmm.. it seems to be beef this time, unless I got my colors wrong, un"

"Orange... and ramen?" Kisame suddenly had a bad feeling build within him, while Itachi, in his first show of emotion in a while, arched a brow.

"He's also picked up a wierd way of talking, un."

"What do you mean?" Like you're one to talk

"Tobi is a good boy-ttebayo! I-ta-da-ki-ma-su!" exclaimed the masked member of Akatsuki as he broke his chopsticks apart enthusiastically.

"See what I mean? Kisame? Kisame?!" Glancing over at the ex-member of the Seven Swordsmen, Deidara was shocked to find Kisame was out cold. "HEY! ITACHI! Your partner fainted and is frothing at the mouth, un!"

Unfortunately, Itachi was in too much shock... hearing that there was a religion based on his target was one thing... but the moment he blinked, Tobi had lifted his mask, slurped all his ramen, and put it back on properly before Itachi could catch it!

At least Hidan didn't hear about this...

By Windfalcon (again)

Sakura, Ino and Tenten looked wide-eyed in disbelief as Hinata, practically naked save for a sheer lavender robe that left nothing to the imagination, stood next to a rather confused looking Naruto. Naruto himself was practically bare, save for a pair of orange shorts and the necklace Tsunade gave him, allowing the swarm of girls which surrounded him to admire his body. All three of the girls were bound tightly, hog-tied to prevent escape and gagged to keep them from saying anything unnecessary. Giving a most Un-Hinata-like grin, the Hyuuga heir and First Bride leaned down, placing her hands on both of Naruto's shoulders.

"Look, Naruto-sama... these are all that are left who worship the Dark One. Save for Tenten, the others still carry deep desires for the Devil... whilst the last has yet to experience your light. By your permission Naruto-sama, may we punish them?"

All three girls swallowed and began to sweat nervously as the women that surrounded them all seemed to gain nearly identical looks of hunger.

"P-P-Punish? How're you gonna punish them Hinata-chan?"

Taking a moment to shiver at the sound of her Lord's voice calling her 'Hinata-chan', the pale-eyed ninja gave an eager grin as she turned to look at the three prisoners.

"Well Naruto-sama... you must spank them. Only then may they be purged of the sin that is being an Uchiha Fangirl and introduce your holy power to them." The bound girls, upon hearing the word 'spank'. instantly began to squirm and let out muffled cries in a futile attempt to escape. "And then.. you must spank me too... for I need to feel your holy power as well."

All around Naruto, he heard a chorus of voices crying out to be spanked as well.

Giggling, Hinata lightly ran her fingers through her Lord's golden hair. "Yes. Yes, you must spank us ALL... and then after the spanking.. the oral sex."

Taking one look at the bound prisoners, then all around at the surrounding Brides of Naruto... he could only say one thing.

"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu."

And thus, three more had joined the Brides of Naruto, and all within the order felt their faith rewarded and renewed.

Inspired by Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Author's Notes

Junmai Daiginjo-shu is a class of sake that is brewed with very highly polished rice. It's basically at the pinnacle of sake types (correct me if I'm wrong). The 'Junmai' designation means that it's brewed without any added alcohol – the same grade of sake brewed with some added alcohol would be referred to as Daiginjo-shu.

Well, here it is, my newest project. Just to clear things up, this is my second priority, with Tempered in Water remaining my main story. Since I write TBoN so sporadically, it doesn't really take away time from TiW—meaning that any delays to the latter aren't the fault of this story. This story is an experiment on my part, since I've never really tried to write a light piece before. It may be rough in some parts, since I'm sort of playing around and trying different things. This is a very different fish from TiW, as you can probably tell if you've made it this far. It's mostly a crack-fic, combined with parody and other elements of humor, but it's also part action-adventure, part drama, and maybe even part romance... but it's mostly crack and parody, so don't take it too seriously. Since this is a learning experience for me, I'd appreciate any advice anyone has on refining this story and the way I write humor. Obviously, since this is primarily a humor story, I can't please everyone (different strokes for different folks, and all that), but I will try to make this piece a generally enjoyable one.

I'd like to thank Rift120 for coming up with the original concept and for all of the people at TFF who read and commented on TBoN. Without them, this story would never have emerged (so if you think it sucks, blame them ;).

Also, many thanks to Kinoth, Windfalcon, and others who have written snippets on this idea (Kinoth's actually predates my story). I hope you enjoyed the omake. I have more available, but I figured three was enough for now (plus, so far only those two have given me permission to use their work as omake). If anyone wants something included, PM me about it and we'll work something out.

Check out The Book of Naruto's forum at www. fanfiction. net/ft/51642/31433/1/ (remove the spaces) for discussion, review responses, progress updates, and... stuff.

Once again, I have to thank Duke Bonez, for putting up with my many delays, serving as my sounding board, and suffering through proofreading my work. Thanks!

If you see any errors or inconsistencies, please let me know. Other than that, comments are always welcome. If you are going to criticize, all I ask is that it is constructive (again, tell me what is wrong and why it is wrong, otherwise it does me no good).

Thank you for reading The Book of Naruto!