I don't own Naruto nor it's wonderfully diverse cast of characters, they belong to Kishimoto. I wish I owned Naruto though, or at least had permission to write for the filler arcs. Then I could get this story animated. I also didn't come up with the rather brilliant 'Team Eight'-verse, that was S'tarKan's doing.
A new mission takes Team Eight to the icy north, to the mysterious Snow Country, guarding an actress. But what secrets does she hide behind world-weary eyes? Why do the vicious Snow ninja desire her so greatly? And can three young ninja hold their own in a country that saps the life and spirit from any who venture there too long? Takes place sometime after the Sannin Arc and before the Konoha Five Arc. It is set about a year into the future of S'TarKan's 'Team Eight' story. Long story short, Naruto's three-man team was with Shino and Hinata under Kurenai. Some elements may evolve differently from their story, in which case that would make my story an AU of an AU. Rated PG-13 for action violence, cute romance, and some light cursing
Around lay devastation. It may have once been a beautiful landscape, full of beautiful, vibrant trees, long green grass, sparkling blue water... now it was a shadow of it's once former majesty. The wind howled amidst leafless, naked black trees, along ground that was dry and cold and lifeless. Worse still were the signs of conflict, the broken weapons and armor, the ground torn and chewed by booted foot and horses shoe, kunai imbedded into the trees and rocks, many stained with blood. Armored bodies lay strewn about as well, broken, battered, and very dead. For this was a battlefield, or it had been one recently
As the wind blew, a rain began to pick up, and the echo of thunder was heard on the horizon. A terrible storm was coming. A light drizzle began to fall on those four who still remained alive in the field of death.
"We won't be able to make it," said Tsukuyaku, leaning on his sword. "There just isn't a way."
Lying on his back, the will to fight drained, his comrade Shishimaru nodded weakly "this journey was hopeless from the start."
"We can go no father," added Brit, the drizzle making his war-paint begin to run down the sides of his face as he leaned his back against a tree for support. "Let's just give up," he said, turning to the fourth member of their party. Their leader.
Her long black tresses being caught up by the wind and left to float like a cloud, Princess Fuun grimly pushed herself to her feet, her strength tested but with plenty left in reserve, fueled by hope. "There is a way. We must believe in it... and we will find it."
"But... Princess..." started Tsukuyaku.
She whirled, the wind making her black hair snap like angry snakes as her beautiful features became visible. "Do not give up hope," she stated, almost angry her men... her friends... would suggest such a thing. And that simple statement was enough to inspire a man in even the darkest, deepest depression. They saw no fear in her eyes. Only hope, courage, and love.
However, just beyond her, they saw her nemesis, and black despair started to creep over the men again.
Wicked laughter filled the air, a dark, mirthless chuckle. It promised death and worse than death. On the hilltop, past a ruined building, stood their enemy, the sorcerer Mao, his white beard fluttering in the breeze as it began to pick up in intensity. His form was instantly recognizable, the dark robes, the ceremonial staff, the long white hair and twisted expression of anger and evil. So was his laughter. How often had it haunted them on this journey? Tormented them? Suddenly the innocent drizzle and the light breeze became a full force storm, and they realized it was not nature's doing, but Mao's.
"This is as far as you bastards will go!" he crowed, waving his staff in the air and slamming the butt end down for emphasis.
Strength lost to despair was now fueled by anger, and as one, Tsukuyaku, Shishimaru and Brit grabbed their weapons and made their way quickly to defend Princess Fuun. But Mao and the storm were not their only enemies. With a wave of his hand, the sorcerer brought to bear his dark powers, and decided to level the playing field a little. And of course to a dark sorcerer like Mao, level meant completely stacked in his favor.
An armored body, previously unnoticed (and why would one notice it, it was simply lying on the ground as corpses tended to do) suddenly rose, the sockets of its helmets filled with a crimson glow as it raised its blade to attack.
"Watch out Princess Fuun!"
With the grace of a dancer, the Princess spun out of the way as the blade whisked past, grabbing up her own ancient blade, unstained by the blood of her enemies (a magic inherent in the ore). Focusing her power, she thrust out the blade, and a wave of chakra shot out, shattering the armor of her enemy and blasting them to useless pieces.
But victory was not so easily obtained. As they watched, more armored warriors appeared, rising up from the ground, wielding weapons of death and incapable of feeling fear, or mercy, or pain. Mao's army surrounded them, and the dark sorcerer gave another wicked laugh. "You should give up, you cannot win," he stated, pointing his staff at the Princess. "Beg for forgiveness, Princess Fuun. Beg!"
"I will never give up."
Mao's expression twisted from arrogance to surprise, even shock. Could she not see the odds she faced? The power she was up against? HIS power?!
"As long as I live, I will turn everything I have into strength," she replied, speaking as much to her comrades as to her enemy. "And I will show you I can cut a way open!"
An aura burned around Princess Fuun. Amidst the dark and gloomy wasteland and storm, it was light and fire and hope. It burned the seven colors of the rainbow.
"Princess Fuun is..."
"The Seven Color Chakra is burning!"
"Quickly, we must add our strength to hers!"
Princess Fuun's aura grew more intense, strengthened by her teammates word, and she grimly positioned herself, two fingers running along the length of her ancient blade. The metal channeled chakra, but she wasn't entirely sure if it was up to this... no, she decided. It would be up to the task. They could do this. Shishimaru and Tsukuyaku took up position to either side of her, with Brit in front, weapons upraised, and they too began to burn their chakra. A rainbow of colors coalesced into being around them, and it seemed the dark storm was losing it's intensity.
Meanwhile, Mao simply laughed. Pretty colors and worthless words were their weapons? He laughed, and swung up his staff, whirling it about over his head. As he did, the storm obeyed, and drew in close and tight, the power condensed into a dark hurricane, and with a swing of his weapon sent it hurtling down amongst Fuun and her pitiful defenders.
The dark energy hit and exploded, shattering, sending waves of black wind amongst the armored soldiers of Mao, who were cut down mercilessly. But where it struck the Seven Color Chakra, it broke, meeting an impenetrable barrier as sturdy as any shield. The power of Princess Fuun and her friends. They had come far together. They had been through the Abyss and back together. They had fought Mao before, and always before they had defeated him. Today would be no different. With a mighty cry, Princess Fuun focused all of her energy to the tip of her blade, and thrust it forward, unleashing it. It washed over Mao like a tidal wave, and the dark sorcerer was caught wholly unprepared, blasted clean off his feet by the sheer power of it, and sent hurtling off into the distance.
Still the chakra did not die, it burned and grew and glowed like a thousand suns, a ray of light that pierced the darkness and split the storm. And as Mao was defeated, his storm lost it's power, and it faded away, even the clouds dispersing. A seven color rainbow greeted them on the horizon, marking the way their journey would continue.
They had found a way.
"Yeah! Alright Princess Fuun! That's the way you do it!"
"Shhh, Naruto-kun," a voice whispered in the dark to his left. "The other patrons might get upset."
"Oh right silly me," replied the spiky-haired boy, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. He reluctantly settled down, arms folded across his chest. The third member of their party, to the first boy's right, simply stood impassively, eyes on the screen. At least, as far as they could tell, considering they were hidden behind a pair of dark glasses. He could've fallen asleep during the teasers and trailers in the beginning and they'd never have known.
So they settled in to watch the rest of the movie, although there wasn't a great deal left. Princess Fuun and her friends had defeated the evil Mao with the Seven Color Chakra, and after a dramatic speech about friendship and loyalty and courage they could stand dramatically and let the credits roll.
Naruto enjoyed the action, Hinata was in awe of the strong princess, and Shino appreciated the technical aspects required to film and edit such a masterpiece. All in all, a good, quiet outing for Team Eight. It was certainly a change from their usual trips to Ichiraku or Moritake's.
After the credits had finished and the patrons began to file out, Team Eight made their way instead outside the back of the theater, into a back lot. It was an area still under partial construction, supposedly going to be an extension of the theater in the days to come. This was where their sensei Kurenai had promised to meet them. It had actually been her suggestion the team all see the movie in the first place, and bought them first-rate tickets herself, though most of them had been making vague plans to see it anyway. The Adventures of Princess Fuun was a number one hit throughout Konoha and the Fire Country, and supposedly even the far away ninjas in Suna enjoyed her adventures. This was the second in a series, with a third supposedly in the works. And definitely some of the finest works that had been made in recent memory.
Naruto seemed to approve. He'd grabbed up a spare metal rod that had been lying unused on the ground and was re-enacting some of Princess Fuun's legendary sword-fighting techniques. Hinata and Shino, more subdued in their reaction, were watching him, Shino with an unreadable expression, Hinata with a rare happy smile plastered all over her face.
After all, Hinata's team had just seen a wonderful movie, courtesy of Kurenai-sensei, and now supposedly in short order they'd be on a mission that would last them the better part of two weeks or so. Hinata had stopped listening to finer details after that point. Two weeks alone with her team, out of Konoha, was her idea of heaven. She would've happily (although maybe not cheerfully) gone along with such conditions and been sent to the Swamp Country for reconnaissance.
Naruto finished up one swing, but accidentally failed to take into account his surroundings, and it banged up against a steel support, making a loud clanging noise that set the rest of the team on edge. Vibrations forced him to drop his makeshift "sword" as he winced, rubbing his palms. Then turned to look sheepishly at the others.
"You really should be conserving your energy," remarked Shino quietly, taking a moment to adjust his ever-present shades. "Kurenai-sensei instructed us to be ready for our next mission as soon as the film was over and she came for us."
"Yeah, yeah," replied Naruto, waving his hand dismissively. He'd heard it before, after all. But Shino's comment did shake loose a nagging question he'd had ever since Kurenai had presented the tickets. "Hey, why do you think she insisted we see a movie together before the mission? And why this one?" he added, gesturing up at the poster stretched across the back wall of the theater, with a larger-than-life size image of Princess Fuun stretched across it.
To that, Shino had no answer, and his brows drew down as he frowned. "I do not know."
A definite mystery to ponder, but Naruto supposed his sensei knew best, and decided to let his mind wander a bit, even as his gaze began to wander as well, heading up along the poster to admire Fuun. There wasn't any doubt in his mind she was a beautiful woman, though he'd be hard pressed to say why. But what he really found enticing was her spirit. The way she spoke, the courage she showed. The only other women he'd known who acted remotely that self-confident were his sensei Kurenai, and the old hag Tsunade. And the Fifth was a drunken, gambling slob half the time. "I wonder if there are any real Princesses like Princess Fuun," he wondered aloud. "Any shinobi would be satisfied to fight for a Princess like that."
Though he hadn't meant his remark in a bad way, Hinata stiffened at it, her gaze wandering downwards toward her sandaled feet. Sometimes she wished she was a Princess like Fuun. Someone Naruto would be proud to fight for. But she wasn't. She was just plain ol' Hinata, the reject of the Hyuuga family, the failure, the one nobody wanted or neede... no, that wasn't quite true, she realized, banishing her dark thoughts as she glanced up at Naruto once more. Her blonde-haired teammate smiled, and she did as well. Her team needed her. They liked her. They wanted her around. That was enough.
"It's just a movie," remarked Shino quietly. "Still, most movies have at least some basis in fact, for inspiration if nothing else."
Hinata nodded thoughtfully at that. "Maybe there are real live Princesses somewhere out in the world," she added.
Naruto smiled at that, glad his theory hadn't been dismissed as a stupid idea or the like. At least, not completely. They were willing to accept that maybe, just maybe, he might be right. And that was almost as good as saying he was. After all, he planned to be Hokage someday. And it'd be easier to get there with two friends at his side than all by himself.
The clop of horse-steps interrupted their conversation however. A horse was coming, sounded like just the one, but it was coming right for them. As one, Team Eight leapt into position in case it was an attack, Shino with arms extended, Hinata sliding into a Jyuuken stance, Naruto with arms upraised in front, though they had no idea what to expect. Horses generally weren't seen traveling the streets of Konoha.
Then the horse leapt clear up over the fence, right into the lot they'd been gathered in. It was a white charger, but the horse itself instantly lost attention as the three of them focused completely on the rider.
Long, dark black hair of the same shade as Hinata's, delicate features, lightly covered in tasteful makeup. A green silk robe was wrapped around the woman's slender body, and underneath was a pair of comfortable silk pants of a shade closer to blue. She wore small shoes and had pushed the sleeves of her robes up so she could reach the reins, and barely paid the three gathered shinobi a second glance as she and her mount galloped past them.
It was shocking enough to see a horse go galloping by in the streets of Konoha. It was even more shocking to see a horse go galloping by ridden by Princess Fuun!
"No way!" said Naruto, his jaw having practically hit the ground.
A crash from behind them alerted them just in time, and ninja instincts kicked in before they could think, yanking their bodies out of harm's way as the fence's gate swung open, narrowly missing Hinata before Naruto grabbed her up and pulled her out of danger. He joined Shino atop a pile of crates in the small yard as another horse went by, ridden by a bearded, bespeckled man. And behind him, yet more black horses, ridden by a series of warriors in very distinct black armor. It was the animated suits from the movie, the ones who'd been controlled by sorcerer Mao!
"What is going on?!" asked Naruto. Had they stumbled -into- the movie?
Naruto released Hinata and sprang up onto the nearby building, enhancing the chakra in his feet to cling to the side as he peered down the street, trying to guess what was happening. He couldn't see very well though, the horses were kicking up a lot of dust, and it looked like they'd changed directions a little ways down.
"We should pursue," stated Shino. "We will follow and try to ascertain what help is needed, if any."
Naruto nodded, reaching up to adjust his forehead protector.
Shinobi were trained from an early age to travel at high speed, and thus three of them barely a year out of the Academy could still move much faster than the riders, leaping to and from the overhanging roofs of the village of Konoha as easily as a child might hop-skip from one stone to another. Team Eight was particularly well versed at this, as a reconnaissance team, speed was always off the essence. They could run like the wind if the need struck them. And the need had struck them.
Princess Fuun, or whomever it was (even Shino thought the resemblance eerie) was definitely the one being pursued here, and not keen to let herself be caught as she plowed past the market district and kept on going, tossing aside a rug that had become caught on her charger by accident. Her pursuers, however, were relentless, and several broke off down another alley in an attempt to box her in with nets and sheer numbers. By this time, the members of Team Eight had decided to get involved, and they'd quickly come up with a plan.
By the time the net was thrown, it was intercepted in mid-flight by a flurry of shuriken, which sliced it to ribbons long before it hit the Princess. The armored riders glanced up, and just in time to see a green-clad, blonde-haired boy come bearing down upon them as his hand snapped into a seal.
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
And then suddenly it was -raining- blonde boys in green. If the armored riders had the advantage of numbers before, they'd completely lost it now, and instead the grinning Konoha ninja had come bearing down upon them, knocking them and their horses down and providing an exit for the Princess, who gratefully took off down another alleyway. Half the riders were taken out by Naruto alone, his clones helping to keep them restrained on the ground.
"Just like the movie," one of them remarked idly, then gave a solid whack to the helmet of one of the soldiers, making sure he stayed down. None of them were seriously hurt, just pinned, he'd want more answers later, but for now, they were definitely out of the fight.
It took them a good twenty minutes to catch the Princess, and about a dozen of the armored soldiers to do it, after having slipped up her horse. Right now they were bearing down to keep her from running as their commander, the bearded, bespeckled man, rode up to join his men and his new captive.
"Finally caught you, eh Princess?" he remarked casually, leaning forward in the saddle.
She frowned up at him faintly, though without a trace of anger or frustration, which didn't seem much like her at all. And Asama Sandayuu knew the little Princess better than anyone. So that was why, when she suddenly slid arms and hands out into a fighting stance, and then began to slip in and out of her enemies, throwing light handed taps (or so it seemed to him) that sent full-grown, armored men crashing to the ground, he was shocked, but not surprised.
"Correct," whispered a voice that was practically in his ear. A voice accompanied by a low buzzing noise.
As he looked up, Sandayuu could see they were surrounded. A small wall of glistening black insects had risen up around the ring of warriors, cutting off all means of escape as effectively as if they were a brick wall. And still more bugs were being added, flowing from the wide sleeves of a dark-haired boy with sunglasses standing calmly on the edge of the clearing. Sandayuu and his warriors had been led into a trap. He chuckled at that, which seemed to confuse them.
"I can't leave you two alone for a second, can I?" came a new voice.
Shino and Hinata glanced up, only mildly surprised to see Yuuhi Kurenai perched high atop one of the nearby tree branches, resting as casually as if she'd been there the whole time their little escapade had been going on. With a casual gesture to smooth black her gray locks, she discreetly motioned for her charges to stand down. They did so at once, a puff engulfing the "Princess" as she transformed from a tall, long-haired woman with blue eyes to a small, short-haired girl with white ones.
Kurenai leapt down lightly from the tree as her charges moved away from the armored warriors. "I'm so very sorry about this," she stated, bowing low before Sandayuu, and discreetly motioning for Hinata and Shino to do the same. Sandayuu was still laughing, so hard he nearly cried. They'd been completely outmaneuvered by two boys and a girl who couldn't have been more than thirteen.
"Quite alright I assure you," he said, finally managing to get himself under control, and returned the bow to the three of them.
Kurenai turned to her team, her ruby eyes flashing, though with anger or amusement, they couldn't quite tell. "This person is the client for your mission," she said.
Some confusion (and many apologies) later, all the members of Team Eight had been reunited on the studio set of Ninja Pictures Inc., the company which made and distributed the Adventures of Princess Fuun, properly meeting with their client, who was the manager for the actress Fujikaze Yukie, who played Princess Fuun in the movies. This explained some of the obvious confusion that had erupted when she'd tried to escape in full costume. Perhaps she'd even been counting on it, for she seemed to have thoroughly given them all the slip, vanishing into the woodwork of Konoha as silently as a ninja herself.
Beyond that (confident they'd be able to locate Yukie later), Sandayuu and the Director were quite pleased by Team Eight's performance, as they'd thoroughly taken down or incapacitated all the other bodyguard/stunt actors that had been hired in a matter of minutes.
"Obviously you train this team very well," the elderly director said respectfully to Kurenai, who had the good grace to blush faintly at the praise. Hinata did much the same, though partially from shame. Team Eight had acted without orders and attacked their own client, of all things. If her father ever found out...
... she felt her soul shrivel at the very thought of it.
"So our mission is to protect Princess Fuun?" asked Naruto.
"Fujikaze Yukie," corrected Shino, sitting to the side. He loved the film industry (a secret interest even his parents knew little about) but he was very practical when it came to a mission, and he was very specific about how he thought about people. Minimum of nicknames, no titles, just who they were. Fujikaze Yukie, the actress, was the one they needed to keep safe for the mission.
"Protect is a strong word," said Sandayuu lightly, adjusting his glasses. "Might be better to say it's more... escorting her."
"This is the first time the Unlucky Princess will be filmed oversees," stated the assistant director, a carrot-topped man with bushy eyebrows that made Naruto curious if he was a relative of the infamous Green Beasts of Konoha. But he decided politely not to ask. "Fujikaze Yukie plays the most critical role... we simply can't do it without her."
"It's a long way to the Snow Country," remarked Kurenai, arms folded across her chest. "Why does the film need to be made there?"
"We're going to make use of some of the natural landscape as part of it," explained the assistant director, who tapped one of the pictures on a nearby wall. Amongst them were a number of images of costumes and sets, actresses and actors, former movies and the like. But the one he indicated was a breath-taking view of some cliffs that seemed arranged like a series of standing stones.
"They're called the Rainbow Glaciers. Sandayuu was the one who suggested we use them for the final scene in the movie. It's said during the spring the glaciers light up with the seven colors of the rainbow."
"I am just glad to be of help," Sandayuu replied with a short bow, a pleasant smile on his face.
"Clever," remarked Shino. "Film that and you save having to edit it in later with special effects."
The director chuckled at that. "Good work, boy... you obviously do your homework"
Kurenai's expression didn't change, her body didn't quiver, but she felt a chill run down her spine. Something was wrong here. She could sense it. A genjutsu specialist learned not only to trust their five senses, but also when -not- to trust their five senses, and rely on a sixth sense. On instinct. And right now, her instincts told her something was up. She'd be keeping a wary eye on Sandayuu, that was certain.
There was something else bugging her as well. She'd been to the Snow Country before. And it didn't hold pleasant memories for her. Grimly, she pushed them aside, and did her best to focus on what was being said for the mission. To her relief, she saw Naruto, Shino, and Hinata were doing the same as they listened to the directors and fellow actors describe the person they'd be guarding for the next few days. The spoiled, unmotivated Yukie, who was a surprising contrast to the selfless, never-back-down Fuun she portrayed.
Then again, she wouldn't be much of an actress if she couldn't pretend to be someone else, Kurenai mused. She could relate.
Written with more than a few tweaks to the main storyline, obviously given the new team involved in the mission. Some is filling in the blanks, some is obviously re-writing history a bit. I hope to stay at least close to continuity as possible, but I make no promises.