A/N: Sorry for taking so long for another update...at least it didn't take as long as the last one... I recently started a new story, Uzumaki Naruto: Master of the Elements. Check it out if you're interested. I'll try to spend my time equally writing for each of my three stories from now on. And as always: read, review, enjoy.

Reunion

Tayuya stepped away from the writhing body of a man whom she had just 'extracted' information from. It was surprising how easily someone's mental wall could be broken from a simple genjutsu...

From what intel she could get out of the Chuunin, her target had left several days prior, heading north. At least it gave her a start.

She walked away from the titanic walls that surrounded Konohagakure no Sato and ran as fast as possible as the sun set on her left into the purple horizon.

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Sakura woke up early and dressed in her usual red outfit. She ignored the picture of her team that lay by her dresser. It brought back too many bad memories of being left behind by her precious Sasuke. The pink haired kunoichi stared at the dirt road as she left her family's home and headed towards her usual training grounds.

The Hokage had given all of the remaining members of Team Seven a week or so to recuperate after what happened. Sakura figured that she had been inside her room crying too much recently and needed to get out of the house.

The girl was midway through with her shuriken training when her usually tardy sensei arrived on the clearing, orange book of porn in hand. She jumped slightly at the intrusion but settled down a second later.

"Hey, Kakashi-sensei. How are you doing...?"

Said man looked up from his novel and stared at his female student for a while. He played along, "Fine." Several seconds passed in which both nins were silent. Suddenly, Kakashi spoke, "I always thought Sasuke had the most potential...I just hoped he would be able to grow up and look past his quest for vengeance..." His eye darted back to the text after that.

"Hey, sensei...have you seen Naruto...? I've been meaning to apologize to him...I said some stuff that I didn't mean..."

"Didn't he tell you? He left on a training mission with Jiraiya-sama."

"He was serious about that!? I...thought he wouldn't leave...not like that..."

"Naruto was really hurt how he was abandoned, Sakura. To him, he lost a brother when Sasuke left. It was the closest thing he's ever had to a real friend. You need to see where he's coming from about this."

"..." Sakura stayed silent, trying to recall all she knew about him. Naruto was alone, with no one to tell him what to do. To any kid her age with overbearing parents, it seemed like a dream come true. At least, that's what she used to think. To him, it was like living through hell everyday with no one to love or care for you. How a single child managed to do that was unreal to her. She felt a strong pang of sadness in her heart knowing that she was responsible for adding more to his grief.

"I just came by to see how you're doing. Since we technically have only two people on our team for the time being, Hokage-sama decided to start sending me on solo missions again. She said something about a new training program for any shinobi with excellent chakra control if you're interested... It might be good for you to keep yourself busy for a while."

Sakura nodded her head, taking in maybe one third of what she just heard from her sensei. She'd look into it later when she could sit down and think.

"I'll see you around, Sakura." He waited for a moment before disappearing in a cloud of white smoke.

"Bye, Kakashi-sensei..." The young kunoichi went back to tossing shuriken half heartedly at a training post, all the while thinking about her two teammates...

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Jiraiya spared a glance towards his pupil. The boy was actually depressing to look at. His eyes no longer carried the glow of determination or confidence. His expression was weaker, displaying a lack of interest. His hair was covering his eyes, most likely to avoid looking at him. All in all, Naruto seemed completely different compared to when the two of them left Konoha.

In the distance, perhaps a mile or so away, sat a small village atop a hillside. 'Shuusoku's a decent town. It'll probably be best to rest and give him something to do. This trip is supposed to help make him stronger after all... Yeah, that's best. He still needs to work on his basics, namely chakra control...'

Once both the Konoha-nin entered the town and walked in front of a hotel, Jiraiya spoke. "We're going to spend some time here. My contacts in Kumo aren't expecting us for a while. That gives us some time to train. We've been traveling for the last six or seven days, so it's time to rest at a decent stop. After a while, we'll leave, okay?"

Jiraiya looked down at Naruto, expecting some type of visual reaction. Naruto kept his face down but nodded in acceptance.

They both entered the hotel quietly. Jiraiya paid for a room with two beds while Naruto stared out the window, a blank expression on his features. Both males unpacked their bags silently. Jiraiya was busy trying to figure out just what it was that kept Naruto so damn depressed. He knew what losing a friend felt like, he had gone through the same thing years before. If that's what was keeping him like this, then he knew what needed to be done.

"Naruto, what's wrong. I'm not spending all my time with some emo-wannabe just so you can get stronger. Now spill it."

Naruto looked up from his bags, eying his teacher. After several unbelievably long minutes of silence, he replied softly, "I failed my mission."

"I know that's tough, but it happens. It's part of a ninja life. It happens to the best of us."

"That's not all. I...I failed my teammate. I failed my friends. I failed my village. I-I-I..." Naruto lowered his head in shame, inadvertently recalling the memories and pain his 'friend' had caused him.

"Naruto... I know where you're coming from..."

The younger blonde raised his eyes to look at his sensei, confusion obvious in his expression. "What...?"

"Long ago, the same thing happened to me. My teammates were Tsunade and Orochimaru. Sarutobi-sensei raised us to be the greatest team we could. He demanded much of us, but together we pulled through. I thought everything was perfect. I had good friends and a caring sensei. And then things got better when I became a Jounin and was allowed to take my own team. I took a group of Genin under my wing and raised them through the ranks. Those were some of the best times in my life. But when Sarutobi-sensei picked the Yondaime Hokage, he chose one of my students over his own. He said that "the Will of Fire burns brightly in Minato, he will become our best Hokage yet." I of course was thrilled to know that I helped craft a Hokage...but also upset because it meant that my best friend could no longer fulfill his dream. When he defected...I thought that I was trapped in a horrible nightmare. It was unimaginable that my friend and teammate that I had known since childhood would abandon everything just for power. But that is life, Naruto. Things happen. Bad things. The most we ninja can do is take it head on and hope to be able to move on. If not, we get lost in the tides of sorrow and the false reality of carrying out a vendetta. Naruto, no matter what happens to you, don't become like them. Don't give in; never surrender to the pain and darkness. The moment you do, you have forfeited any respect and honor you have gained in the past. But most of all, you will have truly failed everyone. It isn't worth it. Trust me."

Naruto stared at Jiraiya slack jawed at what he just heard. On one hand, it was a relief to be able to know someone who could help him through the problems he faced. On the other, he was shocked that Jiraiya could be so serious. It certainly was unsettling. His only response was to nod dumbly.

"Good, now that that's outta the way...I saw an onsen when we walked through town. I'm going to go research. See ya later."

If it weren't for the fact that Naruto was sitting on top of his bed, he would have fallen over at that comment. Instead he resorted to slamming his palm against his forehead.

'Damn pervert...Thanks...' For the first time in a while, Naruto smiled. It was weak, but it was still a smile.

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Tayuya ran outside of a large city, flute in hand. She had been investigating some information she received from her ever growing list of victims. The woman had said something about seeing an older looking man and a young blonde boy pass through several days beforehand. Now all she had to do was fine the little fucker.

The blonde was beginning to drive her crazy. Somehow he had evaded her for this long. She still had over six and a half weeks to complete her mission, but this was just annoying. There was nothing she hated more than worthless pieces of trash, but this one went so far as to make her go on a wild goose chase for this long. Oh how she would relish killing him.

Tayuya sighed to herself, forcing her anger to subside. The last thing she wanted was to be taken off guard because of her emotions... She pulled out a small scroll and unfurled it. Inside was a map of the surrounding area. Most of it was empty space with the occasional lodge or something. She doubted they would stop someplace like that. She looked carefully at the route she had taken, hitting every major town or village along the way.

She was getting closer. She just knew it. Maybe the next place would help her some. Some place named Shuusoku or whatever...

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Naruto let his eyes rest while his body soaked in the hot water of the onsen. Next to him was a fully grown man giggling like a school girl. Naruto shifted his weight and brought his arms up above the water level. He examined his hands. Both palms were burned from severe chakra usage. Even flexing the muscles in his arms made the flesh hurt more.

Jiraiya let loose another burst of perverted giggles.

The two had been staying in the tourist town for about a week. While the town was nice and peaceful, many residents were slightly on edge because of the presence of the two ninjas. While it wasn't uncommon for a shinobi to stay in a civilian town every once in a while whilst on a mission, the people knew that trouble usually followed those who stayed too long, even if their town was in the heart of the Land of Fire. At least here they didn't glare at him or belittle his very existence. The most they did was get a little uneasy when he walked into town covered in scratches and torn clothes. He had been training really hard recently after all.

Speaking of which, Jiraiya had only been teaching chakra control. That was it! There were no badass jutsus. No new taijutsu styles. Nothing more than chakra control. And quite frankly, he was tired of it. Who wouldn't be? That was like...Academy crap. He was Uzumaki Naruto, the most awesome ninja ever. Damn a huge ego felt good...

"Oi! Ero-sennin!" Naruto's voice was loud and obvious. Just the thing to force a pervert from continuing his lecherous deeds.

"Kid..." Jiraiya turned around to face his charge, "if you enjoy being able to talk, I'd suggest that you shut the hell up. I'm working right now. It just so happens that this book series is what's paying for this little training trip. So, if you don't mind keeping your voice down so that the lovely women on the other side of this wall here don't start wondering just why in Kami's name someone is being called a 'perverted hermit' just a few feet away from them, I'd appreciate it."

"Yeah, well...I'd appreciate you teaching me something cool for once. The only thing I've been doing is chakra control! It's so...boring!"

"Brat, I taught you Rasengan! The number of people who know that can be counted on one hand. Do you understand just how amazing that jutsu is?"

"That was like two months ago. I meant something on this trip. I wanna learn something awesome."

"You have piss-poor chakra control. I told you, master the Rasengan one handed, then I'll teach you something. Now then... shut up! I need to work..." The white haired Sannin returned to peeking through an eye sized hole in the wooden fence that divided the male and female sides of the onsen.

Naruto grumbled something about old men and perversion before focusing on his chakra. Then he realized his hands hurt less in the hot water. And since there was no one else in the men's onsen, he decided to train some. He held his palm flat, just under the surface of the water. With a deep breath, Naruto began to form a weak sphere of energy in his hand. The Rasengan was far from perfect. It had maybe 1/10 of the power of one made with his Kage Bunshin, but it was an improvement. At least he had the shape down. The ball fluctuated, but only slightly. Small ripples coursed over the surface of the water and Naruto's wounds began hurting again. But he kept pushing his chakra into his Rasengan. At this point, the energy was causing more prominent waves to move inwards, not unlike a small whirlpool. Naruto kept adding more power to his jutsu, trying to keep it stable. After five minutes of constantly maintaining his sphere of energy, Naruto forced more than enough chakra into it. Big mistake. Suddenly the ball exploded under the water.

Now for the last few moments, Jiraiya could tell that his student had made a mistake. And he was honestly going to tell him so, but when the brunette began a splashing fight with the large chested blonde in the next area, Jiraiya couldn't tear his eye away from that hole. But his shinobi senses kicked back in just when the chakra levels reached a dangerous point for his young pupil. He knew what would happen. It would most likely blow up and cause a scene. He couldn't have been more right.

When Naruto's Rasengan caused a loud, hollow explosion of water, the girls in the adjacent onsen began to freak out. They all jumped up and began rushing for their towels, which of course meant streaking to the building. All at once.

At that one moment, Jiraiya had never been so proud of his pupil.

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Naruto lay on the grass spread eagle. His arms hurt, his fingers burned, and his legs felt heavy. Chakra exhaustion. It was one of the most dangerous parts of training. It had something to do with overusing the body's available energies or something. All Naruto knew was that it was painful. And bad. He sometimes wished he had paid more attention to the lectures at the Academy. Sometimes those bits of info really came in handy in combat and such.

Naruto closed his eyes, trying not to think about the burning in his extremities. The wind picked up, pulling a little leaf over the ground in a lackadaisical fashion. It fluttered in the wind before landing on the blonde's forehead. The leaf sat there, on his face before being pulled away from its rest. It drifted down over his opened jacket and across the tight black shirt that was soaking with sweat. Spring had to be one of the best times of the year.

In the distance a tree rustled, scattering a plethora of various green over the empty clearing. To his south something barely audible rang out in the atmosphere. It sounded familiar. Like a stick breaking under the weight of someone's foot. Naruto's eyes shot open. His hand clutched at his gray bag that rested to his right. With the flick of a finger, two kunai spilled into his hand.

Naruto jumped up, ignoring the protest his body gave at the imperious movement. Both kunai sat in his hand. One blade was sticking straight up, the other pointing to the ground. Once more the wind picked up. Something moved again, this time very subtly. Naruto tensed, waiting for the mysterious figure to move so that he could accurately tell its location. It wasn't wise to haphazardly hurl kunai into the brush. He learned that after going through three sets of weapons a month during his early genin months. Those things got to be damn expensive after a while.

An eerie sound filled the clearing the second the wind stopped. It sounded familiar. Very familiar. Naruto threw one kunai into the brush, hoping to end the miserable tune. But it was too late. The sky grew darker and the clouds disappeared. Naruto fell onto the grass, his arms and legs bound. He tried pulling free but it was futile. The wire that held him in place cut deeply into his skin letting blood ooze through the cuts in his jacket. "Damn it...this is like... her jutsu. NO!" Naruto's expression changed drastically at the realization.

'You gotta help me, Kyuubi. Give me some chakra! Anything. I can't break this type of genjutsu. Do something.'

"So you got yourself trapped again, huh? Are you at least gonna fuck her again if I help you?"

'You've got to be kidding me! I'm being held hostage, moments away from my death and you are only concerned with me getting laid... HELP ME GODDAMMIT!'

"My aren't we the angry one today. Not that I can I blame her though, you technically did rape her..."

'I didn't want to. You fucked with my head. One minute I'm fighting her, the next I'm straddling her and clawing at her clothes. You made me rape her.'

"I merely made your more...animalistic qualities more dominant... Inside you know you liked it. You did let her live after all."

'I don't have time for this, give me the damn chakra!'

The fox consented, allowing his malevolent energy to overtake the boy. And just like before, the genjutsu was broken. Naruto stood, no longer feeling any pain coursing throughout his limbs and turned to stare at the tree.

"Why don't you die already!? I mean for Kami's sake, just once let that attack work...!" Tayuya screamed as she dropped to the ground several meters away from Naruto. "But that doesn't matter now. You will pay for what you did to me you fucking prick! You'll pay for raping me like that! I swear it! YOU WILL DIE!" The redhead brought her weapon of sound to her lips, casting another dreadful melody in the clearing. This one just promised pain. Naruto could just tell.

Naruto bent lower, allowing the Kyuubi's chakra to accumulate in his legs. He needed to escape the range of that jutsu. Or at least drown out that sound. He jumped a good fifty feet in the air before unleashing a barrage of kunai down at his opponent. The girl didn't move. Instead she looked up and smirked. When the kunai passed right through her, Naruto began to panic. He was already in a genjutsu.

Around him three large demon like monsters appeared, ready to strike the young blonde. He was trapped in the air. The was nothing he could do. So he brought in his arms to block the blow he was sure was about to hit him. Instead, the area around him fazed out of existence.

"Naruto, stay right there."

Said boy merely looked around for the origin of the stern voice. He found it: Jiraiya. The Sannin was staring across the field at Tayuya. She was sprawled out on the ground, lying very still.

" Are you okay?"

"Yeah...I think so... What happened?"

"She jumped you. I felt that chakra flare up and came as quickly as I could. She's pretty good, entrapping your mind inside two genjutsus consecutively like that.. I'm guessing one was a distraction to get you caught up in the second," Jiraiya replied while keeping his focus squarely on Tayuya. "Maybe only keeping the Kyuubi's chakra at a constant high keeps back genjutsu..."

"What do you mean?"

"From what I've seen, your chakra spikes when you call upon more of your secondary chakra. When that happens, it almost immediately stabilizes to a more manageable level. But given enough chakra, and any genjutsu can be broken. I guess once you reach that point, only the initial rush can deactivate it. She's pretty smart to have figured that out." Jiraiya glanced back at Naruto before heading over to the fallen form of Tayuya. "Now the question is: why is there only one opponent? From what I know about Otogakure, they send teams of four and five ninjas. Only their higher ups handle missions single handedly. But she...she can't be more than Chunnin. Albeit a highly skilled Chunnin, but still."

"I've fought her before. She specializes in genjutsu. She also fights long range and tries to stay away from close combat. Y-you didn't kill her, did you?"

"No...I just disabled her with a pressure point. At the very least she can give us some intel about Oto. She does look familiar though."

"She's the one I fought before...before I fought Sasuke."

"No, that's not it. I think she's part of Orochimaru's Sound Four or something. I could have sworn I saw her at the Chuunin exams... Something's not right here." Jiraiya knelt down and pulled one of his scroll pockets. He opened one and wrote something in a small font in the center of the diagram. Out popped two pieces of what looked like rope.

"What's that?"

"A type of chakra binding seal. If she wakes up, it'll zap away her chakra," he said while tying up her ankles and wrists. "It's probably not best to head back into town with a bound girl... I think there's a cave just north of here. Get your stuff, we're leaving."

"What about her?"

Jiraiya hoisted the Oto-nin over his shoulder. "I have some questions I'd like answered."

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A/N: Anyway, I was told in a review that I overdid it with the whole Sakura thing... Well, you have to take into account that Sakura is twelve years old. She thinks that she loves Sasuke and then is told that Naruto would also be leaving. That would piss her off a bit. Besides, she normally mentally attacks Naruto, never to that degree, but still. She doubted he was serious, and she needed to vent her anger. It was just a little outburst to her. She didn't mean it...much. Sorry about that, it's just difficult for me to capture the anger from a hormonal preteen kunoichi...

So, how did you like this chapter? Let me know in a review, and if you have any questions, ask. Oh, and sorry for it being a bit slow. I had some serious writer's block on this chapter but soon I'll be back on track as to where I want this story to go. It's going to be different...