"I think you had too much," Ino said, shaking his head. "You are drunk."

"You are drunk. I . . . I know . . . I know my limit, blob," Naruto mumbled, face flushed red, eyes drooping. She started to fall, but Ino was quick to hold her up. "I can-can drink three barrels."

Ino nodded his head in mock agreement.

Naruto pointed forcefully at her chest, poking her breast. "The guy in-inside . . . he vapo . . . he vapoli . . . he voporiles . . ."

"Vaporizes?" Ino suggested helpfully.

"No!" Naruto said indignantly and tried to push Ino away. Ino's stronger and sober body easily kept Naruto in place at his side. "I was thinking of vaporizes! Or-or . . . dishin . . . dishintuh . . ." Naruto shut her left eye, trying to focus her thoughts.

"Disintegrates?" Ino supplied.

"Evaporates!" Naruto retorted.

"You can't drink as much as you did, idiot. We're on a mission here. You getting plastered isn't a part of it and puts the entire thing at risk. Also, you're in my body, remember?"

Naruto poked Ino's nose playfully. "Pssh . . . you talk too much, SA – TO – SHI!"

Ino swatted Naruto's dainty hand away from his nose. "You're getting too loud."

"I think . . . I think I shhhhhhhhooooooooould . . . spend the night in Yukie-sama's room," Naruto stated with a drunk leer and tried pushing Ino away again.

"I don't think she'd like that," Ino replied calmly, keeping a tight hold on Naruto's smaller frame. He was glad he was in Naruto's body. Were they in their normal bodies, Ino doubted he could restrain a male drunken Naruto.

"She would if I were in your body," Naruto said and looked Ino up and down. "Daaaaaaaaamn . . . I am amazingly good lookin'." She ran a finger over Ino's chest invitingly. "Where're you sleepin' tonight?"

This time Ino grabbed Naruto's hand, removing it from his chest. "That's gross, Naruto, this is your body."

"So I'm a little . . . nar . . . narci . . . marcississ . . . nar . . ."

"Narcissistic," Ino finished tiredly.

"Naruto," she corrected matter-of-factly before giggling cutely. "It feels . . . goooooood in my pants. If you . . . know what I mean."

Ino looked down at Naruto, noticing the girl rubbing her legs together subconsciously. He blushed furiously and ground his teeth in frustration.

Naruto was blushing as well, a combination of alcohol and burning arousal. "I think we're finding out that . . . uh . . . um . . . what's my name?"

"Haruko Motou." Ino's patience was fading. The length of the castle's hallways was driving him crazy. He wasn't even sure if they'd gone the right direction. Their escorts, Ryouta and Ryou, had stayed behind to watch over the Princess, leaving Ino to deal with returning a very drunk Naruto to her room.

"That's right . . . Well, I think that-that when Haruko-chan drinks . . ." Naruto rested her head on Ino's shoulder, her hot breath tickling his ears as she whispered softly, "Ino-chan is a horny drunk."

"Pervert!" Ino snapped and let go of Naruto.

Naruto collapsed to the floor in a heap, giggling furiously. She curled into a ball, legs pressed together, face burning. She watched, stomach fluttering, as Ino marched down the hallway. Naruto counted how long it took Ino to walk down it, somehow finishing at 10 minutes. Her eyes narrowed as she realized that it was, in fact, a very long hallway. Though it had been a fast 10 minutes. Had time sped up? With the grace of a snail, Naruto pushed herself to her knees. The hallway began to spin and she placed a hand on the wall for balance. Was Ino still walking?

"Holy crap, I am drunk," Naruto stated bluntly and burped loudly, before tipping over and falling on her face.

Standing over Naruto, Ino frowned and sighed, crossing his arms. He had only walked a couple feet away before turning back.

"This carpet . . . is my new best friend," Naruto muttered into the floor.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, it belongs to Kishimoto. If I owned Naruto, I wouldn't be writing this fic.

"Right actions in the future are the best apologizes for bad actions in the past."
- Tryon Edwards

A Mind Bending Inconvenience
A Naruto Story
By Hawk

A/N: This fic takes place AFTER the Naruto series, AFTER Akatsuki has been defeated, and Sasuke is back in Konoha. Characters that aren't dead in the Manga at CHAPTER 356 (when I started this) may or may not appear in this fic, even if they die in the very next chapter. The Rookie Nine are all in their early 20's in this fic.

Chapter 7 – Party Crashers

Naruto woke in such agony she thought her insides had spilled out and on her bed.

'Wait, bed?' She rolled over, relishing in the cloud like comfort, despite the rest of her body aching and brain screaming bloody murder. Her stomach churned and she covered her mouth, feeling last night's dinner rising. Without thought, she flung herself from the bed, trampling everything in her path to the bathroom.

When she exited 10 minutes later, Ino was sitting in one of the large chairs, elbow on armrest, head resting in hand. "Feel better?"

"What happened?" Naruto groaned, falling back on her bed. She let the massive comforter engulf her.

"Well, we ate, we danced, you drank . . . and drank . . . and drank some more," Ino explained.

Naruto covered her eyes. "Why didn't you stop me?"

"I tried, but you kept telling me you could handle it, that it wasn't anything, that you never get drunk."

"The wine was very good," Naruto said simply. "You should've stopped me. I'm no good for the mission if I'm drunk."

"You don't say . . .?" Ino replied. "You put us both at risk. If we'd been attacked-"

"We would've been screwed, I know," Naruto finished. "But I only had three glasses of wine."

"Try six . . ."

"That's not so bad."

"Teen," Ino finished and stood.

"Oh . . . that's bad," Naruto grimaced.

"Of course, then you started hitting on every woman there."

"That's worse."

"I had to drag you from the dance floor and back to your room, which wasn't easy. This of course meant leaving Yukie-sama unguarded except for her personal guard," Ino explained and Naruto could hear the frustration building in his voice.

A ball of shame filled Naruto's gut, and she curled into a ball, holding her head. She'd never been drunk before; Kurama had always dissipated the alcohol in her body before it could take effect. In Ino's body, she had no control over it. The wine had kicked her ass without her even realizing it.

"Do you realize how bad this looks, Naruto? It wasn't easy taking care of you either, idiot," Ino said and looked away, a blush rising in his cheeks.

Naruto buried her face so deep in her comforter that she missed the expression.

The door to the room exploded open and Hayato Hiyashin, Spring Country's head of security, marched in, followed closely by a solemn Ryouta.

"What the fuck were you doing!?" Hayato roared. "Do you know the embarrassment you caused?"

Naruto rolled over and sat up on the bed, legs crossed. "My head's killing me, Hiyashin-san, can you cool it down."

"Your behavior last night was unacceptable as both a noble and a body guard! You put our princess at risk for your own pleasure!" Hayato continued unabashed, ignoring Naruto's request.

"It was an accident, it won't happen again," Ino said, trying to placate the furious guard.

"You're damn right it won't." Hayato pointed a finger at Naruto. "She is not to attend the party this evening."

"What!" Naruto exclaimed and grabbed her head as it struck back.

"Sir, I know what she did was stupid, but it'd be irresponsible to leave her on the outside," Ino said.

"She will not join the party. She will apologize and excuse herself before the princess. She can stand guard outside tonight," Hayato ordered. "Is that understood, Yamanaka-san?"

Ino turned and glared at Naruto, the fault having fallen on his name, not Naruto's.

"Is this understood?" Hayato repeated gruffly.

"It's understood, Hiyashin-san," Ino said, realizing Naruto wasn't going to speak. 'Since when were you a coward to authority,' he thought, still staring at Naruto.

"Then I expect tonight to go better than last," Hayato growled and left.

Ryouta remained behind, a frown on his face. He shook his head. "I expected better of you, Yamanaka-san."

That hurt Naruto more than all Hayato's yelling, but still she said nothing.

"Uzumaki-san, we'll be relying on you greatly tonight," Ryouta said and gave Ino a small nod of farewell and Ino returned the gesture. The large guard turned and silently exited, closing the door behind him.

Ino sighed, turning back to Naruto, his annoyance falling to confusion. Fists clenched so tight they'd turned white, Naruto's bowed her head, face shrouded by her falling, disheveled hair.

"Naruto? You alright?" Ino asked, stepping closer.

"Ino . . . I'm sorry," Naruto mumbled. "I screwed up. It won't happen again. I swear, I'll fix this."

"It's alright, Naruto," Ino started.

"It's not alright! Everyone's blaming you when it's my fault! It's not fair to you!" Naruto snapped and looked up at Ino through narrowed eyes. She ignored the throbbing of her head, focusing more on the burning in her eyes.

At first Ino thought Naruto's eyes were full of anger, but at second look, he saw the truth. Naruto was doing her best to hold back tears. Awkwardly, Ino reached out and put his hand on Naruto's head.

Naruto reacted quickly, swatting the hand away with a frustrated yell. She rubbed at her eyes, trying to banish the onslaught of tears. "I don't know why, but I can't help it. Why am I getting all emotional over this? Do you cry over this stuff too? Or am I just pathetic as a woman?"

"I don't know," Ino said shaking his head. "I haven't felt any different being a man, but . . . how would I know? I haven't been thinking about it. It's been five days. The switch might be starting to have an effect on our minds."

Naruto sniffled cutely and frowned. Again, she wiped the tears away and stood on the bed, pointing a determined finger at Ino. "I swear, I'm going to fix your reputation, we're going to switch back to our normal bodies, and I'm never going to cry in front of you again, believe it!"

"You promise?"

"Promise!" Naruto declared, smiling brightly, the last of her tears drying on her cheeks.

Ino crossed his arms, smiling smugly. "What if you break that promise? You owe me a lot after last night."

Naruto continued to smile too. "If I fail either of those three, I'll let you decide what my punishment is, but I'll tell you this now; Naruto Uzumaki doesn't fail."

"Except when he is me and gets drunk. Then you fail brilliantly."

"Yeah, but I learned something very important last night," Naruto said with a sagely nod.

"And what's that?" Ino asked, suddenly interested. Had she, in her drunken stupor, found a clue about Yukie-sama's assassins?

"You get really horny when you're drunk," Naruto stated before taking a large cushion to the head, knocking her uncharacteristically from the bed and to the floor in a messy pile of blankets and sheets.

"So you really don't remember anything from last night?" Ino asked suddenly. It was later in the day, the afternoon sun hanging high overhead. Despite that, there was a noticeable chill in the air, their breath visible to the eye. The two walked through the castle's massive courtyard, occasionally mingling with other nobles that had decided to do the same.

Naruto had apologized to many nobles already, a constant bow and honest embarrassment. Most had accepted her apology, while others ignored her completely. She really didn't care about them. It was Princess Yukie's forgiveness she sought most, but the almost Queen was nowhere in sight.

"Other than being really turned on . . ." Naruto tugged anxiously on her ear. "I remember nothing. Except . . ."

"Except . . .?" Ino followed, cheeks turning red. Things had happened that he really hoped Naruto would never remember. He didn't want to remember them.

"Something about blobs and the carpet in the hallway," Naruto finished with a shrug. "Did I throw up on it?"

"Something like that," Ino replied with a soft, relieved sigh.

Naruto looked around the yard. It sprawled over a hundred yards, the fresh greenery of Spring Country everywhere, but slowly dying from the growing cold. The vines covering the walls were almost bare, the potted plants were drooping, and the grass had turned a darker green. Small piles of snow dotted the walkways and servants worked to clear them away.

"The party's out here tonight?" Naruto asked and rubbed her arms. The chakra in her hands instantly warmed her. A useful, simple trick to help deal with cold missions.

"Yeah, seems like Spring Country wants to celebrate outside before this winter weather gets any worse," Ino said. Though both he and Naruto wore heavy, finely made, cloaks, the biting cold still prevailed.

Naruto looked around the wide court yard with reflective eyes. "I don't like it. Too much open space. Too many places for an attack to come from. The guards are just asking for an attack tonight."

They stopped beside one of the potted plants. "We'll be ready for them."

Naruto's hand disappeared inside her cloak. "You need to be ready for them. I won't be here if something goes wrong."

"You won't be far," Ino said, looking into Naruto's eyes.

Naruto nodded and the two started walking again. "I'll be far enough. At least four seconds away and that's more than enough time for an S-rank to hit their target. If you're not on your game, we're screwed."

"Just make sure you don't get distracted, or worse, drunk," Ino replied and winced.

Naruto winced as well, a twinge in her stomach. "I won't," she growled and they stopped next to another potted plant.

Ino reached out a hand, cupping the beautiful tulip that had bloomed. "Orange Emperor."

Naruto watched Ino as he admired the orange flower, always surprised when Ino showed her gentler side. The color of the tulip caught Naruto's eye as well. A soft yellow base, the top of the bulb was a warm orange. She couldn't help but smile as the cup shaped flower almost reminded her of herself. Well, of her male self.

"It's beautiful," Ino said softly and Naruto's eyes widened. "It's a very rare flower."

"What do they mean?" Naruto asked curiously then shook her head. "I mean, what do they stand for?"

"Well, tulips universally stand for 'perfect love'. You'd give to someone you consider your perfect love, but orange emperor tulips in particular stand for energy, enthusiasm, desire, and . . . passion," Ino explained, letting the tulip slip from his fingers. "Sound like anyone we know?"

Naruto stared blankly at the flower, lost in her thoughts. Ino had compared her to the flower, the very thing Naruto had thought a moment before. Slowly, she reached out and touched the tulip. Her eyes closed and she shook her head. This was no time to play with flowers. She moved on from the flower.

"It's pretty," she commented blandly.

Ino grinned at Naruto's back before stealing another glance at the orange emperor. It looked a little livelier than a second ago. It really was a beautiful flower, one of Ino's non-purple favorites. Looking at it really calmed his nerves.

"Come on, Satoshi-otouto!" Naruto called, snapping Ino out of his thoughts. She was already standing next to another potted plant. "Tell me about this one!"

Naruto's smile vanished as another noble stepped in front of her, bending to smell the flowers. They were small, white, and numerous, which Naruto didn't find nearly as nice as the orange emperors had been. When the noble stood, Naruto's good mood disappeared completely.

"The mock-orange," Takehiko Mino said, grinning handsomely at Naruto. "A tricky flower, really, but the sweet smell of oranges makes up for it, in my opinion."

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked.

"Despite its pleasant scent, the flower matches those of the common orange and lemon trees, but provides none. Therefore it is a liar," Takehiko explained coolly.

'Does he know what I am?' Naruto wondered, her heart suddenly fluttering as she studied the noble's face for any sign. For the first time she truly looked into Takehiko's eyes. They were simple and black, nothing overly special about them, but they felt almost familiar.

"I . . . am sad that you will not be at tonight's party, Haruko-chan," Takehiko continued, having not noticed Naruto's piercing gaze. "You're behavior last night was . . . refreshing. Quite humorous and wild."

Naruto closed her eyes, hoping to remember something. She covered her face with her hand, hiding her embarrassment. 'What the hell did I do?'

"I . . . ah, apologize for my behavior last night, Mino-san. It was . . . unbecoming of a lady of my house," she said, keeping her face hidden. 'Where the hell is Ino?'

"It's quite alright, Haruko-chan. My only regret is that I can't dance with you again tonight." Takehiko took Naruto's hand from her face and kissed it gently. "And please, call me Takehiko."

Naruto gaped in horror and disgust.

"Mino-san, I hope my sister has apologized for last night," Ino said as he approached the two. His eyes spied the hand being kissed.

"She did, and of course I accepted," Takehiko replied warmly. "I was just telling your sister about the mock-orange here, since last night she told me she enjoyed flowers."

"Are you interested in them as well, Mino-san?" Ino asked in pleasant surprise.

"I have a very large garden at my estate, so you might say I'm very interested."

Naruto looked up at Ino, frowning when she saw him smile excitedly.

"That's wonderful. I'm sure my sister would be delighted to see it one day," Ino said happily.

Naruto shoved her elbow into Ino's side. "I'm sure I wouldn't," she retorted, giving Takehiko a strained smile.

"Don't be shy, Haruko-ane."

Takehiko kept his eyes on Naruto. "She's just playing hard to get."

"More like 'never get', because it's never gonna happen, Mino-san," Naruto said with all the sweetness of a sour apple.

"Please excuse my sister and I, Mino-san. Her manners are always lacking," Ino said kindly and took Naruto's hand, dragging the small girl away.

"Took you long enough to get there. I was getting close to stabbing either him or myself with a kunai," Naruto grumbled.

"Did you have to act like such a brat?" Ino replied. "You're making me look bad."

"First of all, I'm not 'you', I'm Haruko Motou and once we're done with this mission, Haruko will cease to exist. Second, who cares? That guy is horrible. I don't like him."

"Well I think he's interesting."

Naruto threw her hands up in disgust. "What about that guy is 'interesting'!"

"He likes and seems to know a lot about flowers. And he's handsome and rich, what's not to like about that?" Ino said, crossing his arms.

"Is that all you care about? I didn't know you were so shallow," Naruto retorted and frowned, staring off to the side. "Besides, I know stuff about flowers."

Ino gave the back of Naruto's head an incredulous look. "What do you know about flowers?"

Naruto turned on Ino, chin held high. "The orange emperor stands for energy, enthusiasm, desire, and passion," she replied proudly.

"I just told you that a couple minutes ago," Ino deadpanned.

"Yeah, and I remembered it, so, Mino isn't the only one that knows something about flowers. Plus, I know that 'each flower has a different smell, a different purpose in the world. Different animals and bugs use the flowers, spread the pollen which helps other plants grow, in turn feeding us. It's co-evolution. Without flowers, we humans would be dead,'" Naruto said and turned away.

Ino blinked. Naruto had repeated, verbatim, everything he had said the night before. He had never known Naruto as a great listener, yet the chaotic ninja inside his body had just proven him wrong. Something about that threw Ino off. Naruto, despite being a hero, would always be known around Konoha as a prankster, someone who didn't take life outside of being a ninja seriously. When he wasn't saving the day, Naruto was living free, running around the city without a care, hitting on, and subsequently being beaten or made love to by a copious amount of women.

That's right, Ino had forgotten Naruto's player status among the Konoha women. Being a hero of the ninja world had its benefits, namely easy women who threw themselves at Naruto with abandon. And Naruto was always happy to comply, at least, so the rumors went.

And yet, here was a side Ino hadn't known existed. Naruto, the great listener? Was Naruto like this with all the women that came or was this something new?

"Why'd you remember all that?" Ino finally asked.

"Because you told me it," Naruto answered simply, as if there was no other reason.

Ino blinked, even more confused than before. He lowered his head and glanced to the side. "You almost sound jealous, spouting all this."

"I'm not jealous," Naruto muttered, crossing her arms. "I just hate that guy. You deserve a better guy than him."

"Just because he's handsome and rich and you're the opposite doesn't mean you have to hate him for it," Ino said reaching into his cloak.

Naruto snorted, a very unladylike moment. "You're just blind to it, stupid."

"Hey, I've been meaning to ask," Naruto started after the two had returned to Ino's room. Naruto's hands were moving in a blur, going through the motions: Boar, Bird, Boar, Dragon, Rat, Horse, Ram, Hare, Ox, Boar. "What happened to my dress last night? When I woke up this morning, I was in a nightgown, right?"

"Please don't ask about last night," Ino muttered from where he was doing shirtless sit-ups. Sheen of sweat coated his chest and face. He had lost count around 300.

Boar, Bird, Boar, Dragon, Rat. "Last thing I remember was you and I dancing and then . . ." Naruto stopped and pressed her pointer and middle finger to her forehead. "The floor and the bedroom, I think."

Ino stopped his exercise, lying flat on the floor so Naruto wouldn't see his blush. "You did something at the party . . ."

"What? Tell me!" Naruto complained.

Ino sighed. "You're not going to like this."

"Thank you, kind sir," Naruto said and gave the waiter a grand bow, spilling a little wine as she did. "Whoops. That should've gone in my mouth."

She leaned over to the nearest noble, an older man with a sharp pointed beard. "I like putting things in my mouth," she whispered and giggled. "Especially tasty things."

The nobleman turned away from her, shocked by the frivolous behavior. He hurried away, a blush rising in his pale cheeks.

"I wasn't talkin' 'bout that, perv!" Naruto called after him. She looked around the dance floor for Ino, but everyone had started blurring together. Instead of two people dancing, intermingled, colorful blobs floated across the floor.

Reaching over, she grabbed the nearest blob, pulling it close. "Hey, where's-where's my brother." She frowned with the blob didn't reply. "He's the tall, handsome, blonde? You seen 'im?"

Again, the blob didn't reply, so she gave it a little shake. "Hellooooo? You alive?" she asked and downed her glass of wine in one gulp. Her head swam, like a title wave had crashed into it and she tilted backwards.

"Ma'am, please leave the coat rack alone."

"Whoa, whoa, I'm-I'm sorry, rack-san. Though I must say, you have a . . . very nice rack . . . for a rack. Not as nice as mine though," Naruto said, letting go of the coat rack. She grabbed her breasts, while puffing out her chest as if to prove her point. Giggling again, she turned to the speaker. "I'm sorry, good sir, but might you point me in the direction of my devilishly handsome brother?"

"First of all, Motou-san, I'm a lady," the female servant replied. "And secondly, I think you should sit down."

"I will only sit down . . . if that person sits on my lap," Naruto said and pointed into the mass of fuzzy blobs.

The servant sighed loudly. "You're pointing at Lord Hatomi. One of the riches nobles here tonight and a happily married man."

"Oh, gross, no, no, no, I don't want that blob," Naruto said and moved her hand to point at another blob. "Then that one. Fetch me . . . that blob, fellow blob. Haruko Blob-san commands it!"

"How about I fetch your brother instead," the servant suggest patiently.

"Blobberful idea, blob. Go blob that," Naruto said. "And also . . . blob."

Naruto smiled blissfully, and tried crossing her arms over her chest. She failed and tried again, her arms failing to move the way she wanted. Finally, she put one on the back of her head and the other on her hip, hoping to strike a sexy pose.

"Oh yeah, I'm hot," she slurred, smiling widely at everything.


Naruto's smile grew even wider, teeth flashing. She looked like a hungry predator. "Satoshi-otouto," she purred and tried running a finger down Ino's chest. Her finger missed and she poked Ino in the cheek. Naruto's giggling grew louder.

"You didn't shave today, did you, Naruto-kun?" she whispered teasingly and giggled again. She ran her finger over Ino's cheek, feeling the stubble. "But then, I never showed you how to shave . . . not that you don't know how to . . . do it." She winked, or tried to and instead blinked both eyes at different times. "I've seen firsthand you know how . . . to shave. If you get what I'm sayin'."

Ino grabbed Naruto's wrist, forcefully pulling her hand away. "Alright, I think it's time we left. And that's eleven."

"Hey, hey, hey, hey, wait a second . . . hey, hey, hey," Naruto blubbered, tearing her hand from Ino's grasp. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your . . . extremely sexy friend here?" She turned to the nicely shaped blur standing beside Ino and squint her eyes.

The blur focused and became a very attractive face, one Naruto vaguely recognized. She shrugged and opened her arms wide, embracing the person.

"And that's when you kissed Yukie-sama," Ino said.

"I . . . what?!" Naruto exclaimed, hands falling to her sides, all thoughts of training forgot. "How . . . how bad?"

"Pretty bad. You got way up in there with your tongue before I pulled you off," Ino explained as he pulled on his shirt. "The only reason you weren't kicked out of the castle is because you're with me."

Naruto stood in silence, staring into space, her mind just as empty. After a minute of silence, she finally asked, "Did Yukie-sama say if she liked it?"

Ino buried his face in his hands. "Could you not think with your non-existent penis for a minute?"

Naruto chuckled nervously. "Sorry, can't help it, even if I'm in your body. I mean, hell, I think my nipples just got hard from the thought."

"Why would you tell me that?"

"Well, because technically they're your nipples. I thought you'd like to know what your nipples are up to."

"So should I tell you every time I get a boner? Because it's happened quite a bit."

"Don't you dare," Naruto threatened.

Ino winked. "From looking at guys."

Naruto covered her ears, horror flooding her mind. "Oh, God! You've forever tainted my body! My eyes are ruined with lust for other men!"

"You're the one that kissed another woman in front of a hundred very important people! Do you know how weird it is to see yourself kiss another person? Let alone a woman?! Imagine me kissing some guy in your body!"

Naruto fell to her knees. "Stop! No one wants to imagine that, no matter how good looking I am!"

"Are you done?" Ino growled.

"Who will marry me now!" she lamented, shouting at the ceiling. Exhaling, Naruto cracked her neck as if to reset herself. "Still doesn't answer my question: What happened to the dress?"

"When I was dragging you from the hall, you . . . started to take it off. When I stopped you, you started to tear it off."


"Yeah, it's ruined."

Naruto rubbed the back of her head, ashamed. She grinned weakly. "Well, no big deal, right? It wasn't really yours in the first place since I got it for Sakura-chan, right?"

"You're right." Naruto could tell Ino's smile was forced. "I'm going to take a shower. You keep practicing," he said briskly.

Naruto stood after Ino left the room. She listened to the sound of the shower starting, not even caring that Ino was naked with her body. With little thought, her hands started moving again; Boar, Bird, Boar, Dragon, Rat, Horse, Ram, Hare, Ox, Boar.

Again; Boar, Bird, Boar, Dragon, Rat, Horse, Ram, Hare, Ox, Boar.

Again; Boar, Bird, Boar, Dragon, Rat, Horse, Ram, Hare, Ox, Boar.

Again; Boar, Bird, Boar, Dragon, Rat, Horse . . . "Damnit."

"I am, from the deepest part of my heart, terribly sorry, Yukie-sama," Naruto said, bowing her head. "Last night was . . . completely unacceptable. I have never done something like that before and will never in the future. Please believe me when I say that your safety is the most important thing in the world to me right now."

Yukie shook her head. "What you did . . . were you not here as my protection and Naruto-kun's partner, I would have shipped you right out of my country. But Naruto-kun pleaded with me to keep you here."

Naruto stole a quick peek at Ino, who was trying hard not to look at her, lips pressed tight together. She was grateful Ino had fought on her behalf, but it probably had more to do with preserving Ino's own reputation, not keeping Naruto from reprimand. Had they been in their normal bodies, Naruto had little doubt Ino would have let Yukie carry out a punishment.

"You are aware of tonight's circumstances?" Yukie asked calmly and Naruto was reminded of when Tsunade-obaa-chan got serious.

"Yes, Yukie-sama, I've been informed."

"Understand this, Yamanaka-san," Yukie begin coldly. "If you do anything to disrupt this party, even think of crashing it, nothing Naruto-kun or your Hokage says will prevent severe punishment."

"You're not talking about a spanking, are you?"

"OUT!" Yukie roared and Naruto flinched, rushing from the room. The princess' attention moved to Ino, breath ragged, and Ino swallowed nervously. "Despite our history, Naruto-kun, that goes for you as well. My coronation is in two days, and if . . . something like that happens again, how can I expect you to protect me when you're busy taking care of that girl?"

"Please, Yukie-sama, it's just as Yamanaka-san said. Your safety is our top priority. Nothing will stop us from keeping you safe," Ino replied smoothly, hands nervously clenched at his sides. "Our mission won't be complete until we've found whoever's threatening you and put a stop to them."

Yukie moved into Ino's personal space, taking his hand. "When this is over, I may request you remain her for a couple more days."

"Y-you'd have to take that up with Tsunade-sama," Ino mumbled, staring pointedly at Yukie's hands that held his. "I wouldn't want to overstay my welcome."

"Your stay is always welcome," Yukie whispered.

It was happening again. The princess shut her eyes, lips slightly pursed. She emitted a soft purr as she pressed up against Ino's chest and he cast a furtive glance around the room for help. Sadly, the guards had vacated the room before Naruto's apology, and with Naruto's hurried exit, only he and Yukie remained. Ino really hoped her didn't become aroused, but he honestly had little control over the lower half of his body. He wondered how Naruto managed it on a day to day basis. Years of experience and practice, clearly something Ino didn't have.

Five days wouldn't cut it. Compared to Naruto, Ino felt like a teenage boy starting puberty, or at least what she thought a teenage boy would feel like. He took a step back from Yukie, focusing all of his concentration on other things. "Yukie-sama, this isn't the time or place."

Yukie placed a hand on Ino's cheek, gently brushing it. "You've become so serious, Naruto-kun. Has all the fighting . . . all the killing changed you this much?"

Ino closed his eyes, seeing Naruto, in his real body, smiling brightly. The cheerful ninja waved enthusiastically before sticking out his tongue and flipping the bird. Ino shook his head, grinning wryly. "No, Yukie-sama, it hasn't changed me one bit."

He nodded once, in farewell, and quickly departed. Once outside the room, he covered his fluttering heart. Whose fault was this, he wondered. He looked down and his groin twitched, followed by his eye. He knew whose fault that was.

'I hate that thing,' Ino thought, walking away with a slight hunch, hands stuffed in his pockets.

"If the economy in Wave Country continues its rise, well, I might have to buy twenty more ships for my company!"

Ino smiled kindly as the older nobleman continued talked. He owned a very lucrative shipping business; perhaps the richest in Wave Country, Ino hadn't really paid much attention to the conversation. The chilly air had numbed his hands, despite keeping them inside his cloak all night. Groups of nobles huddled around numerous fire pits for warmth.

This party was a less livelier affair than the previous nights.

"That's wonderful for you, Jokou-san," Ino said, taking a small sip of his drink. Haruto Jokou was a very slim and tall man, taller than Naruto's body. His smile was kind and the glasses he wore made his eyes appear three times bigger.

"Quite wonderful, quite wonderful! But of course, with more ships comes more pirates."

"Then it's a good thing Water Country has stabilized. They're protection of the Wave Country must be greatly appreciated." Ino scanned the courtyard as he spoke. Princess Yukie had been within ten feet the entire night. His eyes moved to the great balcony overlooking the party and spotted a shadowed figure.

Naruto. They had stationed her on the balcony, permitted no closer to the party. Ino tried not to frown, feeling sorry for the other ninja. It was short lived, Ino remembering the things Naruto had done the night before. He grated his teeth to fight off the rising blush. 'That idiot,' he thought.

"Very!" Lord Jokou blasted enthusiastically. "Without them, I honestly don't think my business would be so large." Jokou downed his entire glass of wine. "I've got the fastest ships in the sea, I do!"

"I would be interested in seeing that for myself one day, Jokou-san," Ino replied.

"I would be delighted! Not all of them are for business, after all!" Jokou crowed and adjusted his glasses.

Naruto sighed, wisps of her breath escaping into the night air. She was bundled under a heavy cloak, layers of clothing underneath. Unlike those gathered below, she hadn't dressed for the party. There was no need and she was honestly fine with that. With a casual move, she dragging her ponytail over her shoulder, letting it fall down her front. Her hands went to the hood of her cloak, pulling it over her head.

The cold started stinging her cheeks, but she ignored it. It had gotten even worse in only a matter of house. Naruto could only imagine how cold it was in the courtyard. Multiple fire pits had been lit to keep the area warm, but even still, the cold wind prevailed.

She exhaled again, a long stream of misty breath pouring from her lips and folded them back for warmth.

"Ah, Motou-san?" a soft voice asked and Naruto turned to look at the speaker.

A male servant, a little taller than her, stood at the entrance to the balcony. He had short blonde hair and a nervous smile.

"Yeah? What is it?" Naruto asked simply. No need formalities.

"Hayato-san has requested your presence," the servant said, bowing his head.

"What? Why?" Naruto's forehead creased, eyes narrowing. To pull her away from her post was suspect. From her current vantage point, Naruto could observe the entire courtyard. Leaving it now would be stupid.

The servant simply shook his head and shrugged. "He said it was an emergency and you were needed immediately."

'Emergency?' Naruto thought. 'Now something's definitely wrong.'

"How are you finding things tonight, Motou-san?"

Ino turned to Yukie, a calm expression on his face. Inside, his nerves were rattling. The cold air and quite atmosphere made everything feel wrong. "It's much calmer than last night," he said and glanced around the courtyard. "No one dancing, very little interaction between guests."

"This weather is unfortunate," Yukie agreed. "Really puts a damper on the mood."

"It really does, though I'm okay with not having to dance." Glancing to the balcony, Ino's eyes narrowed. 'Where the hell is Naruto?'

"But it was so much fun," Yukie pouted cutely. "Instead, I've had Hayato-san pestering me all night."

"Huh?" Ino turned back to Yukie. "What about Hayato-san?"

"He's barely left my side all night, it's gotten very frustrating," Yukie explained and pointed to where Hayato was standing, not ten yards away.

Ino put a hand over his chest. Something felt wrong.

Naruto, hood pulled off, walked down one of the castle's long hallways, the servant trailing close behind. Something had happened, or was going to happen, but what it was, Naruto had no clue. She wanted to hurry there, but knew she'd get lost inside the castle without the servant. In her distraction, Naruto bumped into a beautiful side table, rocking the vase. The servant quickly held it, placing it back in its spot.

"Please be careful, Motou-san," the servant said gently.

"Sorry, sorry, you said Hayato-san is up ahead, right?" Naruto asked.

"In the room around the corner," the servant replied.

"Thanks," Naruto turned and grunted. She looked down, finding a blade of ice jutting out from her chest. A line of blood oozed from the side of her lips. "Oh, so that's what that was."

Before the servant could pull the blade out, Naruto's body exploded in a cloud of smoke.

"Who are you?"

The servant spun around, beautiful side table impaled on his arm, which had been covered by a sharp and wide blade of ice. His eyes narrowed, the once gentle face turning dark. "Would've liked this to be over with, but I guess that's too much to ask."

Naruto removed her cloak, revealing full ninja garb. "Who are you?" she repeated. "Are you the only assassin?"

The servant smashed the table against the wall, shattering it and freeing his frozen arm. "My name is Kori," he said and his left arm quickly covered with ice, smoothing into another blade. "Who might you be, Motou-san?"

Naruto's fingers curled around the weapons at her waist. "Are you the one making Spring Country cold?"

"You didn't answer my question," Kori replied, his grin turning into a sneer. He leapt at her, arms swinging and tearing open the walls.

Naruto threw her kunai, and they stuck in the ice. She flipped away as Kori drew closer, arms still slashing. As she was upside down, she flung a couple more kunai, but they were swatted away. She ducked under a stab and spun to the side. The hallway was too narrow to easily pass Kori, whose arms continued to swipe and strike the area around him. With a simple hop, Naruto planted her feet on the wall and ran up it jumping through Kori's swinging arms, and flipped back to the floor.

Kori spun around, ice blades cutting the walls to shreds and gave chase. He swung his arms as Naruto jumped and twisted in the air, bouncing off the opposite wall before running along the ceiling and over his head. His blades swiped above his head slicing through the ceiling and missing the nimble ninja.

Naruto cartwheeled backwards, narrowly dodging Kori's strikes. She planted her hands and spun on the floor, kicking at Kori. Her foot connected with his frozen arms and there was an audible crack as the ice splintered. She pushed up, throwing herself at the ceiling, landing in an upside down crouch, Kori's undamaged arm struck below her head. Dropping down, she kicked at his head, landing a blow on his temple.

The ice user stumbled, shielding his bleeding head. He yelled in frustration, swiping an arm across his face. A mask of ice appeared, stopping the blood, and Kori dove at Naruto again.

"What's wrong, Naruto-kun," Yukie asked so only Ino could hear.

"Ah . . . Ino hasn't returned to the balcony," Ino said and scratched at his chin in thought. "I'm wondering where she went."

"You don't think she's come down here, do you?" Yukie looked around the crowd, hoping to catch the other ninja party crashing.

"No, she wouldn't do that unless there was an emergency, but she also wouldn't just leave her post," Ino reasoned. "Stay by my side, Yukie-sama. I have a bad feeling."

'Where'd you go, Naruto?' Ino thought anxiously.

Naruto charged Kori, running along the wall. A dozen kunai flew through the hall, clashing with Kori's ice encased arms. She hopped over the window before stepping to the right and rushing down the ceiling. With the grace of a cat, she launched herself over Kori's head, twisting her body to slide through his wildly swaying arms.

Kori's ice blades again sliced the ceiling, showering bits of fine marble across the hall. "How long are you going to run, coward!" he sneered and as he spun around, his blades shredded everything around him.

Naruto chuckled. "I'm going really easy on you. Trying not to ruin the party for those fine folks down below."

"I could say the same. I'm trying to kill you quietly, after all," Kori retorted. The ice on his arms grew longer, touching the floor by his feet. "That's why I need to cut you to pieces right here."

"And here I was worried it was gonna be a boring night," Naruto said, grinning happily. She pulled out a single kunai.

"Really? More of those? They haven't worked," Kori said. Speaking through the ice mask, his voice sounded deeper.

"I guess you'll be surprised when I kill you with this one then," Naruto replied darkly, eyes narrowing.

Ino put a hand in the air, the cold air prickling his fingertips. He poured a little chakra into it, warming it quickly. His eyes found Ryouta and waved him over.

Ryouta briskly made his way over to Ino and Yukie. "What's wrong? You calling me over here like this-"

Ino cut him off. "Something's wrong. Ino isn't at her post and hasn't been for over 10 minutes."

Ryouta glanced at the balcony. "Are you asking me to go check on her?"

Ino shook his head. "No, she can take care of herself. If she isn't being attacked, then someone's going to come after Yukie-sama. Tell your guards to be on alert."

"Understood." Ryouta hurried away.

"Naruto-kun?" Yukie said softly, looking at Ino with pleading eyes.

"Whatever happens, I won't let you be hurt," Ino replied as he reached inside his cloak. An attack was coming, but when and from where.

His arms exploded from his cloak, knocking it off his shoulders. His knuckles were full of kunai and shuriken. They flew from his hands and to his sides, colliding with a dozen kunai flying in his direction, knocking them out of the air. His hand came back and grabbed the top of Yukie's head, pushing her down before deflecting three shuriken with a new kunai in his free hand.

From three different directions they came, dressed to kill. The crowd was already in an uproar, screaming and running in all directions. Ino quickly looked at the three party crashers.

The first appeared normal enough, all black ninja garb, face masked. The only thing different about him was the number of armaments he carried. Strapped to his body, from head to toe, were dozens kunai, shuriken, and other sharp weapons. On his back, two scythe shaped blades.

The second stood the same height as Naruto's body, thin as a stick. His arms were particularly long, reaching down to his ankles, but just as skinny as the rest of his body. His form shivered as the nobles around him ran past. He ignored them all, focus on Ino and Yukie.

The last clung to the dead vines on the surrounding wall. Short like a child, his outfit was literally made of explosive tags. Hundreds of explosive balls dangled from his body, and despite the screaming crowd, Ino could very easily hear them clinking together like wine glasses.

His last glance was to the balcony. His expression hardened.

Naruto's kunai clashed with Kori's left forearm, chipping the ice. She pushed off, avoiding an upward slash from Kori's right arm. Her long ponytail twirled around her like a gymnast's ribbon as she spun through the air. She landed on all fours and pushed off the floor, flipping to attach to the ceiling.

Kori's flinched as two shuriken smacked off his ice mask, not hard enough to do damage, but enough to be an annoyance. He stabbed up at Naruto, but she danced out of the way. His frustration grew as the ninja woman continued run up and down the walls and over the ceiling, hopping around him like a wild animal. He had believed the narrow corridor would work more to his advantage, but it had proven the complete opposite.

Naruto dropped to the floor and winked playfully at Kori. She knew he was frustrated. As sharp as his blades were, they weren't too hard to dodge. They had done more damage to the walls and ceiling than to anything else.

"All you can do is run away. I've done more damage to you than you me, little girl," Kori mocked.

Naruto ran a finger over her cheek. A small cut, nothing major. "Yeesh, she's gonna kill me for that," she mumbled. "Getting her face damaged."

"What're you muttering about, coward!" Kori snapped. He swung his right are to the side, cutting a huge chunk from the wall.

"None of your business, you stupid icepick!" Naruto exclaimed and pointed a finger at Kori dramatically. "Get ready, because now I'm running right at you!"

Kori brought his arms to his sides, grin threatening to cover the lower half of his face. "I'm going to enjoy impaling you again."

Naruto spun the kunai around in her hand and charged, running straight for Kori. Her feet pounded the floor as hard as her heart. She'd have one chance and she wasn't sure if she'd be able to pull it off in the first place. Before she got too close, her head fell back, followed by the rest of her body. She landed on her back and slid forward on the floor. As Kori adjusted his aim, Naruto kicked out her legs to the sides as hard and far as she could. Her feet hit the walls, completely stopping her momentum as she performed a perfect split.

Kori blinked in amazement as his blades pierced the floor inches from Naruto's crotch. He watched as she brought her legs together and rolled onto her shoulders. She pushed off with her hands, feet pressed together.

Naruto put every bit of chakra into her heels as they smashed into Kori's chin, completely shattering his ice mask and throwing him down the hallway. He landed unceremoniously, the ice on his arms melting away and soaking into the floor.

Rising to her feet, Naruto felt between her legs and nodded in approval. "Nice, didn't think Ino was so flexible. I didn't even pull a muscle. Good thing I wasn't in my body, I think I would've ruined myself," she said to herself and walked over to where Kori lay.

"We need to keep that one away from Yukie!" Ino screamed and pointed at the bomb covered ninja. No doubt about it, that was the most dangerous of the three.

Ryouta and a number of guards had moved to intercept the first ninja, clashing with his armada of weapons. Two guards had already fallen while Ryouta did his best with a single sword.

At the same time, Ryou had run at the paper thin ninja. While full of energy, the younger brother's attacks did nothing, and the paper man barely moved. His body would shimmer and Ryou's sword would miss. Other guards ran to join the fray, yelling wildly.

The courtyard was still in chaos. The nobles didn't seem to know which was to run. The human bomb had sprinted across the wall shedding explosive notes as he did. Two of the main exits had already been destroyed as Hayato did his best to chase him down.

Ino stood at Yukie's side. He'd taken his cloak, laced with protective metal, and draped it over the princess. If any of the three broke free from the guards, Ino had to stop them. While the human bomb ran around the courtyard, and the ninja covered in weapons deftly parried the attacks of the guards, jumping and hopping about, the paper man seemed the least mobile, but the hardest to actually hit.

The paper man shimmered again and Ino swiped a kunai around him. It swept through the paper man's body but didn't cut him. The paper man's long arms reached out and Ino tried again to cut him, but the kunai passed through his wrists.

Ino swept the princess and his cloak into his arms and jumped away, tossing an explosive note at the paper man. It exploded, destroying the fire pit with it, spewing fire around the area. When the smoke cleared the paper man had vanished. He started to put the princess down, but leapt away again as the ninja covered in weapons tossed a dozen shuriken.

The blade ninja landed and pulled one of the scythes from his back, swinging it around at Ino.

Ino deftly hopped over it, throwing a kunai at the ninja's face. The weapon ninja caught it and swiftly placed in one of his many holsters for later use.

"What?" Ino landed and threw three shuriken, all of which were plucked from the air and attached to the weapon ninja's body. "Shit!"

Ino gritted his teeth and vaulted straight back, narrowly avoiding the paper man's arms. He skidded to a stop, bumping into a noble and knocking them over. The human bomb had stopped his running and started tossing explosive pouches at the guards. Ryouta had reengaged the weapon ninja along with his brother.

There was no sign of Hayato. His eyes once again went to the balcony. 'Naruto, where the hell are you?'

Kori groaned weakly, eyes fluttering. He felt his body being moved and propped against a wall. When his eyes focused, Naruto was kneeling beside him, kunai held to his throat.

"Try anything and you die," Naruto ordered.

Kori swallowed against the kunai. "Wouldn't dream of it."

"So then, you wanna tell me who're you working for? Someone's obviously paying," Naruto said calmly, pushing her kunai against the soft flesh of Kori's neck.

Kori grinned weakly. "Sorry, can't say . . . boss would kill me."

"I'm going to kill you," Naruto stated.

"Then what's the difference."

"I'll do it slowly."

"So would the boss, only ten times worse than you ever could," Kori said and chuckled. He stopped when the kunai pressed into his neck harder. "Just kill me," he gasped.

"Who's your boss?" Naruto growled.

"You'll know him when you see him. I can feel it, my purpose has been served," he breathed and blood poured from his lips.

Naruto backed away and looked down. Kori had reformed an ice blade and impaled himself in his stomach. He coughed and sputtered, spitting blood over his chest.

Ino rushed across the courtyard, hopping over an explosive tag. It exploded behind his back, throwing him in the air. His clothes burned and his back felt hot, but the damage wasn't bad. It disappeared seconds later. The bundle in his arms had become a burden, but he couldn't let it go, so he kept it cradled in his arm. Yukie's life depended on it. He was glad Naruto's arm could hold it, leaving him with one free. It wasn't much, but it was better than having no arms at all.

He hadn't realized how hard it would be to fight in Naruto's body. They had completely different elemental chakra. While water release suited Ino's body, Naruto's had always been a wind release user. Ino had no idea how to use Naruto's jutsu's.

All Ino could rely on were basic skills and tricks.

He grimaced at the paper man fell from above, shimmering in the night air. Twisting in the air, Ino slipped by the arms but took a kunai to his forearm. Wincing, he clutched the bundled cloak tighter. Most of the guards had fallen. Ryouta and Ryou were still fighting, but their attacks were even more ineffective than Ino's.

A sudden blast of cold air caught Ino's attention. He wasn't the only one that noticed. The three ninja's tensed and landed, ceasing their fighting. Ino touched down and pulled the kunai from his arm. It dripped with blood but his wound started healing immediately.

"The boss is tired of this. Let's finish this," the weapon ninja announced to his comrades. He spread his arms out, and kunai hung from them like bird wings. He flapped his arms and all the kunai shot free, launching at Ino like a wall of steel. The paper man shimmered appearing in the middle of the metal storm, but none of the blades touched him. The human bomb rushed behind it all, hands tearing explosive notes from his body.

"Sorry, Yukie-sama," Ino muttered. He flung the cloak in the path of the approaching kunai, revealing no princess, but sides laced with explosive tags.

"Get back!" the weapon ninja roared.

The paper man shimmered. The human bomb halted his momentum. The cloak hit the kunai and a great explosion rocked the courtyard. It shook the ground, leaving a massive crater in its wake, a giant ball of fire lighting the night sky. The explosion engulfed the wall of kunai, the paper man had vanished, and the human bomb lay unmoving.

Ino groaned and pushed himself up, coughing from the smoke and cloud of dust. Well, their secret was revealed.

"Where is she?!" the weapon ninja roared and rushed at Ino. The nobles still trapped inside the courtyard huddled in fear. With most of the exits destroyed, few dared to cross to the other side. The human bomb was slowly starting to rouse.

The weapon ninja was crossing the crater. "Where'd you hide her?!"

'Naruto, where are you!' Ino thought anxiously.

The window three stories above Ino's head exploded. He looked up, a body flying out, blood pouring from the stomach.

The weapon ninja stopped his run and hopped back.

Naruto appeared in the broken window, smiling brightly. "Sorry!" she cried as she leapt from the frame. "But I'm crashing this party!"

The dead body continued to fall and Naruto pressed her body together, speeding her descent. She flipped in the air, planting her feet on Kori's back and used it as a springboard, launching herself at the weapon ninja. Kori's corpse slammed into the ground from the force and Naruto met with the surprised ninja's face, blowing him off his feet.

The weapon ninja crashed into the vine covered wall, splintering the stone behind his back.

Naruto rolled to her feet and turned on Ino. "Don't just stand there, idiot!" she shouted.

Nodding, Ino leapt forward. The human bomb still lived and he doubted the paper man had died in the explosion either. His suspicion proved true when he noticed the shimmer appear behind Naruto. "Behind you!" he yelled.

Naruto spun around, noticing the paper man for the first time. She leaned back, avoiding his reaching hands. She stabbed at him with her kunai, but again, it passed through his body. With a look of confusion, she flipped away. "What's with this guy?"

"I have no clue!" Ino shouted as he ran at the human bomb, pulling kunai from the inside of what remained of his coat. The human bomb ran at Naruto, noticeably slower than before. Ino threw his kunai, hitting the human bomb in the leg.

He dropped but still threw his explosive notes. They fluttered in the air a moment before exploding around Naruto, engulfing her in flames. The paper man vanished again.

Ino stared in horror. Until he felt a weight on his back and he twisted his neck to look. Naruto, grinning happily, rested there.

"That was close," she said weakly and slid off Ino's back.

"How?" Ino muttered.

Naruto shrugged. "I'm me. I'm brilliant. Did you really expect me to blow up?" She licked her lips. "It's not easy fighting."

"Yeah, I noticed that myself. I feel pretty useless since I can't use any of your jutsu's, and I can't use any of mine."

"The fight's not over yet, but we prepared for this, and now that it's the two of us, we can handle these guys, no problem," Naruto boasted, clenching a fist. "The weapon freak isn't down for the count, and neither is explode-o, but they're hurt."

"It's that thin guy we have to worry about. Haven't been able to land a single blow on him."

"But has he hit you? Or anyone?" Naruto asked. "Or is just a scare tactic?"

"Whatever it is, it's working. Every time there's an explosion, he disappears for a bit though, so that might be something," Ino said.

"That'll help." Naruto scratched her cheek, wincing when she hit the cut. "You know, this is the first time in a long time that you and I have fought together like this."

"Technically, this is the first time we've ever fought together 'like this'," Ino said motioning to his male body and grinned at Naruto.

"Alright, so here's the plan," Naruto started.

The human bomb had pulled the kunai from his leg and hopped to the weapon ninja on his one good leg. The weapon ninja had pushed out from the wall, steadying his balance. He rubbed his jaw and cracked his neck.

"You alright?" the human bomb asked.

"Bitch can punch," the weapon ninja replied. "The boss ain't gonna be happy about this."

"Our lives are forfeit already. Succeed or die, there is no alternative." The human bomb plucked an explosive note from his chest. "Here they come."

With Ino's help, Naruto launched herself high into the air. She reared back and threw three kunai at the two assassins. They jumped apart, but the explosive note attached to the middle kunai exploded, forcing them further away. Spinning in the air, Naruto fell toward the human bomb, throwing another explosive kunai.

It hit the ground and exploded, forcing the human bomb to jump away again. Naruto landed in a crouch. "I've already figured you out. You're not here to kill Yukie-sama. If that were the case, you would've just blown yourself up by now. You're covered with enough explosive notes to blow up this entire courtyard."

Naruto held up another explosive kunai and grinned maniacally. "So, how 'bout we talk for a minute."

Ino rushed the weapon ninja, throwing shuriken and kunai at rapid speeds. He wasn't surprised with they were harmlessly plucked from the air.

"Still trying that?" the weapon ninja taunted.

"You're overconfident," Ino retorted. "So you can catch some kunai thrown at you, big whoop."

"I suppose that's not much to brag about," the weapon ninja agreed and pulled the twin scythes from his back. He held them in at his sides. "So I'll show you what I'm really capable of."

Ino hopped back, barely dodging the first attack. The length of the scythes had grown, at least eight yards long. It swept through the yard, tearing up the ground from the force. Ino began counting.


"You must be running out of weapons," the weapon ninja goaded, giving chase.


"Yeah, this is my last," Ino said simply, holding up a single kunai as he danced away from the scythes. He dove to the left, drawing the weapon ninja in a new direction.


"You can't beat me by running!"


"You've never played shogi before, have you?" Ino asked in return. "You see, I have a friend named Shikamaru. He's obsessed with the game." He rolled under a scythe before pouncing in the air. "It's all about patience, and making the right moves."


Chakra had built up on the scythes' blades; a wind release. The courtyard torn apart with each swing.


"It's really annoying playing him, because I just can't win," Ino continued. "He's always ten steps ahead of me."


"What are you blabbering about!" the weapon ninja roared.


"You don't think very far ahead," Ino concluded and he threw his last kunai.


The weapon ninja ignored it, watching as it missed him completely, stabbing into the potted plant at his side.


"With your last kunai, you missed," the weapon ninja mocked. The pot cracked and its side fell open, littering the ground around his feet with dozens of exploding pouches. He looked down, forehead creased in surprise.

"Check mate," Ino said as the pouches lit and exploded. The explosion engulfed the weapon ninja in a ball of flames.

Naruto ignored the sudden blast, attention focused on the human bomb. She twirled the explosive kunai around her finger. "You should give up now."

"Can't do that, I'm afraid," the human bomb replied. "As of this moment, I am already dead."

"Then we can protect you. You just have to provide us with information," Naruto tried.

"My survival tonight has already been decided. The moment Yukie-sama left our sight, we were dead. All we have left is to give our lives."

"And yet, you won't blow yourself up because you need Yukie-sama alive, what a conundrum for you."

"We don't need you alive," the human bomb replied and charged, tearing explosive notes from his sides.

Naruto leapt in the air, away from the paper man's grasp. The human bomb jumped to follow Naruto, tossing his explosive notes in the air. She winced as they erupted around her.

The paper man shimmered, appearing above Naruto, long arms reaching.

Ino lowered his arm, peering over his fingers at the spot the weapon ninja had been standing. Nothing remained but a number of charred and smoking kunai and shuriken. Burnt blood splatters stained the surrounding area and Ino winced in disgust.

"Waste not, want not," he said and hurried to grab a few of the usable kunai. His attention moved to Naruto, finding the woman high in the air, explosions all around her. 'Can't leave her alone for a minute,' he thought before his eyes widened and a smile threatened to split his face.

Naruto landed for only a second before leaping away again, a trio of explosive notes fluttering around her. The paper man followed behind them, but she ignored him. Every time an explosive note went off, he disappeared. Other than corralling, the paper man was useless in the fight.

She landed on top of a potted plant and jammed her hand inside the dirt. When she withdrew it, a long string of shuriken followed. Yanking it back, she cracked it like a whip and the shuriken broke free. She watched as the human bomb tried to dodge them, but a few nicked his arms, cutting the explosive notes.

The human bomb grimaced and shed the notes, hurrying away before they erupted. As he leapt high in the air, his hands pulled at the explosive pouches attached to his hip.

"Heads up," Naruto shouted from the ground.

The last thing the human bomb managed to do was blink. As the scythe passed through his neck, severing it from his body, dozens of explosive notes fell free, fluttering in the air. His body and head hit the ground together, a wet smack, blood pouring over the courtyard.

Ino landed heavily, scythe resting over his shoulder. "This thing's heavier than I thought," he said, the curved blade dripping with blood.

"I wish I had a great one-liner prepared, but I can't think of one off the top of my head," Naruto replied and smiled mirthfully. She blinked as an explosive note fluttered in front of her face. "Ah, shit."

A kunai flew past her face, catching the note and carrying it away moments before it exploded. Naruto shielded the side of her face, surprised. "Was that you?" she asked Ino, who shook his head in denial.

"Sorry, Haruko-chan, that was me."

Naruto fought back a grimace before turning to look at Takehiko. "You threw that kunai?"

The young noble nodded. "I have a little training. Part of being a noble, after all."

"Thanks, was a good throw," Naruto complimented.

"Wouldn't want your pretty face getting damaged," Takehiko said.

Naruto sighed, shoulders slumping in displeasure.

"It's over! Come out!" Ino shouted to the night sky, walking to Naruto's side. "You can't beat us alone."

After a moment, he appeared, an elderly man, worn and tired looking. He sat, cross-legged, at the edge of the giant crater. With a deep sigh, the old man gave the two Konoha ninja a weary smile.

"Not going to run?" Ino asked.

"What reason does a dead man have for running?" the old man replied. "Kill me and be done with it."

"I think we'll keep you as a prisoner, make you answer some questions we have," Naruto replied.

"The plan is already in motion. This is only the beginning. I'm nothing but a single cog in the plot," the old man muttered, shaking his head. "In time, all will be revealed, but it's already too late to stop it."

"What're you talking about, you old fart?" Naruto growled.

The old man reached into his vest and pulled out a knife. Without a word, he shoved it into his throat. He fell forward, blood pouring from his neck, pooling around his head.

"Well, I think our cover's blown," Ino said and glanced back at the huddled nobles, now slowly breaking free from their fear.

"Since you're better at medical stuff, you check the guards and nobles injuries, I'll check the bodies for any information," Naruto suggested, nodding at the dead old man. After walking to the corpse, Naruto lifted the old man's head, blood flowing out slower now. She laid him on his back and began searching his body for any clan markings. Finding nothing, she moved to the decapitated man and started checking him.

"Find anything?" Ino asked after some time had passed.

"Absolutely nothing," Naruto replied and released the body, letting it slump back to the ground. "Nothing that would tell us who they're working for or even what country they're from."

"You got a little something," Ino said, pointing to his chin.

"Huh?" Naruto rubbed her chin, smearing the blood on her fingers across it.

"Idiot," Ino muttered.

"What?" Naruto asked simply.

"There's something on your forehead too."

Naruto ran her bloody fingers over her forehead. "Did I get it?"

"Yeah, it's all gone."

"How are the guards? Did you find Hayato-san?"

"Eight guards dead. Ryouta and Ryou are alive, but both have some wounds. Nothing a little Shousen chakra can't fix." Ino scratched the back of his neck. "No sign of Hayato. I'm worried he might've been blown up while chasing this guy around."

"Where's Yukie-sama?" Naruto asked, looking around the demolished courtyard.

"I'm here," Yukie said, stepping out from the nobles. "I'm safe."

"Your highness, I'm afraid that Naruto and I will have to stay with you tonight, to ensure your safety. Ryouta!" Naruto shouted and the guard sprinted to them, holding his injured arm.

"Hayato's missing, that puts you in charge, right?"

Ryouta nodded, wincing slightly. "What can I do, Yamanaka-san?"

The cat was out of the bag now, didn't matter who knew the truth anymore. "Gather up as many guards as you can. Every noble will be afraid tonight, some may even request to leave. You need to do everything to accommodate and protect them. We need some semblance of order back in this castle."

"Yamanaka-san, I'm impressed," Yukie said softly, appraising Naruto in a new light. "I truly thought you weren't good for anything."

Naruto frowned. "Well, I'm happy to prove you wrong."

"So you are Naruto Uzumaki?"

Ino turned to the speaker. "Ah, yes, I am, Mino-san."

Takehiko beamed at him, extending a hand. "It's an honor to meet such a hero!"

Ino took the hand and shook it once. "Thank you, Mino-san," he replied with a small tilt of the head.

"Who is your partner?" Takehiko asked, turning to Naruto. "Since your name clearly isn't Haruko Motou.

"Ino Yamanaka," Ino introduced Naruto, who was pointedly looking in another direction.

"Even with blood on her face, you're splendid looking, Yamanaka-san," Takehiko complimented.

"Ah, thanks?" Naruto mumbled uncomfortably. "And thanks again for earlier. Really saved my ass."

"Yes, thank you very much, Mino-san," Ino stated, giving Naruto a dirty glare.

"Happy to have been of some help," Takehiko said cheerfully. "It would've saddened me to see damage done to your beautiful body, Yamanaka-san."

"Asshole." Blushing in embarrassment, Naruto grabbed Yukie's wrist, pulling the princess away.

"What a woman," Takahiko said to no one in particular.

Ino couldn't help but nod. "She's something else alright."

"So how was that?"

The air turned bitter cold, bits of ice crystals forming in the sky. "Informative. Something's not right with Uzumaki."

"I've noticed that as well. But the plan is in motion now, there's no stopping it. The Yamanaka girl won't hinder things, will she?"

"No," the air crack audibly. "Actually, she looks like she might be of use. Prepare yourself, we may move earlier than planned."

"This isn't good, Ino, we need to switch back now," Naruto said. They stood outside of Yukie's royal bedroom. They had stationed a few guards inside while Naruto and Ino discussed matters outside. "We barely managed against those three as we are. If, and when, someone stronger comes, we'll be in deep shit."

"That all depends on you," Ino replied. "Just remember, the further from the target, the harder to hit, just like throwing a kunai. You miss, and your mind may fly off into the sky and never come back."

Naruto bit her lower lip. "That's why we need to do it now, while we're alone and standing right next to each other. We may not get another chance like this."

"Give it your best shot," Ino said and Naruto nodded. "Concentrate on me."

Naruto closed her eyes and inhaled lightly. When she exhaled, she stared up at Ino. Their gazes met and held. Naruto's hands moved

Boar, Bird, Boar, Dragon, Rat, Horse, Ram, Hare, Ox, Boar.

A moment of silence.

"I still have no penis."

"I still have your penis."

Naruto sighed. "At least I have your breasts to comfort me," she said, cupping her chest.

"That's twelve," Ino warned.

"You know, I'm really starting to look forward to this beating," Naruto replied, grinning slyly.

There was a light cough and Naruto and Ino snapped to attention. A servant, with sharp blue eyes, stood a few feet away, holding a silver platter, food covered by a round lid. "This is for Yukie-sama," he said softly, eyes giving Ino a once over.

"Ah, thanks," Ino replied nervously, taking the tray from the servant's hands. The servant gave a short bow and hurried away.

"Wasn't that the servant that was checking you out last night?" Naruto asked, tapping her chin. "Must've wanted another glance at my sexy bod."

Ino stared after the servant, a strange prick rising in his chest.

Next Time: Chapter 8 – Moving Mountains

The plan is motion. Nothing can stop it. Naruto and Ino are at their most vulnerable when they face an enemy they have no chance of beating the way they are.

A/N: Uh . . . Yeah, so this chapter is done. Way longer than I planned, probably two times what I thought which seems to be what's happening of late. Longest chapter of this fic, actually. I hadn't been writing my fics, been working on actual novel stuff, so I finally sat down and churned this out in about 5 days. Lemme know if you liked it! Or if it sucked! Also took the time to reformat the previous chapters to normal standards, so they're not all funky.

I'm sure there are some typos or grammar mistakes. If you see any, feel free to point them out so I can fix them. Thanks for reading, sorry for the wait!