Standard disclaimer applies. I don't own anything from the canon, but everything not from the original material is all MINE.
The next three days were a fairly quiet affair by most standards.
Naruto and Athan chatted amongst themselves from time to time, mostly about what life was like in Konoha, seeing as she didn't know anything about the way people went about their lives in town aside from the information gathered by her people on Naruto and his friends. Naruto had spent much of that time telling her about Iruka and Kakashi and Teuchi and the Sandaime and Tsunade and Sakura. Curiously, Athan noted, he almost never broached the topic of Sasuke with her, though Sasuke's name was already in the bingo book. Part of her wondered if it was because for Naruto, losing the closest he had to a brother (other than Gaara, of course) was more than he was ready to deal with even after three years time.
Athan also found time to chat with Temari and Sakura and even Neji. Neji seemed wary of her, but remained polite nonetheless. She frowned behind her mask as she realized what he likely hid behind his Hitai-ate.
'That has to be dealt with when we get back to Konoha.' She thought to herself. 'There can be no more slavery in that clan.'
Sakura was likely tied with Shizune for the position of Konoha's second best medic Ninja, and was growing by leaps and bounds towards closing in on Tsunade's place at the top of the profession, but you wouldn't know it to talk to her, Athan decided. She studied her medical charts and scrolls as they went along, but she didn't do it to excess. And when she wasn't doing that, she was easily the most sociable girl in the group. Though her attempts at humor weren't the best.
Temari she got along with surprisingly well. The girl was funny, when she wanted to be, and she loved to poke fun in a non-antagonizing way about the fact that she shared the same room and tent with Naruto, even though she knew nothing sexual had gone on. (Though such insinuations still gave Athan a chill of fear she didn't want to dwell on.) She did note however, that Temari sometimes seemed a little bit...jealous?...of the fact that she had occupied the same room as Naruto, and that the two of them spoke the most to each other on their trip out of anyone.
Not to say that Naruto ignored anyone else in the group. Despite the seriousness of the task ahead, they were still days out from their objective and so they had time for idle discussion, and Naruto ignored nobody. He talked to everyone. Sakura had been hard pressed at one point to keep herself from belting the blonde when he started babbling on about...she wasn't entirely sure what he'd been talking about. But she knew it'd had something to do with Jiraiya. But it was the presence of his deadly swift vassal which kept her temper in check. Not that Sakura thought Athan would hurt her, as she was sure Naruto would put a kibosh on that extremely fast, but still, she didn't want to know what she might do if she thought her master was being threatened.
After all, everyone had heard what she'd pulled in the shop on Naruto's birthday by the time they'd departed from the village to undertake this mission. Nobody wanted to risk the silver hair's wrath.
Nobody, that is, except Hinata. The girl was amazingly confusing to Athan. Of all the people she had information about regarding Naruto's circle of friends, she knew her least of all. She knew that Hinata tended to follow Naruto around, watching him train, but beyond her possession of the Byakugan and the fact that she'd been pulped by her cousin during their first Chunin Exam, she knew almost nothing about her, other than the fact that she seemed to like glaring at her a lot, doing so mostly when she thought nobody was looking.
The Hyuuga Heiress was bitingly polite towards Athan, but never seemed to warm up to her. Even Kakashi, who was usually aloof towards strangers, had begun to accept her, seeing as she was now part of the team. But Hinata always kept herself coldly at a distance from her in any discussion if she could help it.
Naruto was confused as hell about it too. He knew Hinata to be a very shy girl, and had never seen her act like this towards anyone. The fact that it was Athan towards whom this darker side of Hinata had been directed made the blonde feel uncomfortable. He didn't know why Hinata didn't like Athan. Hinata was usually the type of person who was willing to find it in her heart to like just about anybody so long as they weren't an enemy. But what problem did she have with Athan?
Naruto, of course, is a very bright boy, but when it comes to girls, sometimes he can be denser than a jar of maiyonaise...or Akane Tendo, whichever has the lower IQ. So naturally, he chalked it up to something to do with the Kokugan, since it made the most sense. Neji had freaked out about it at the party and Hinata had mentioned she had known about it too. He wondered why something about that tickled at his mind. As if some part of him felt he was on the right track.
Kyuubi, meanwhile, aside from wondering how in Kami's name he wound up with such an incredibly stupid when it came to girls vessel he had, was occupied with other thoughts.
Okami was alive.
It was something he never thought would come up again in his life. He'd left Okami behind a long time ago. He'd pushed her out of his mind as much as was feasibly possible. And now here she was again. Not only alive, but having willingly become part of a human, creating a gestalt life form that had access to at least a portion of her power.
And she was now offering her loyalty to Naruto. And him, by proxy.
He wasn't sure what about this entire situation pissed him off more.
By the time they were three days away from their destination, Hinata was broiling with jealous anger. Although she rationally knew that Athan had not been doing anything to encourage it, Naruto's eye was drawn to her more and more. And, strangely enough, towards Temari as well, as the three got along far easier than she would have ever suspected. Though perhaps this was because of her relationship with Gaara. In any case, she did not like it. Sakura was as much Naruto's teammate as she always was, and they joked and chatted like old friends.
But with Athan...
She didn't know when it had really started, but ever since their stopover in Ore town, Naruto had been spending more time talking to Athan than anyone else. There was something in his eyes she couldn't quite identify whenever he looked at the silver haired girl, and it made her reason fly away in a haze of tinted red.
And he looked at her quite a bit. Hinata hated that.
'What does he SEE in that little Shadow bitch?' she asked herself mentally for the hundredth time that day. 'She follows him like a lost puppy, and she never takes off that damned MASK!'
Indeed, none of the younger Ninja had seen what she looked like. She'd even beaten the opening door which had admitted Kakashi into their room in Ore town. (Or so Athan believed. If he had seen her face, he made no mention of it.) And this infuriated Hinata all the more. Granted, Kakashi never took his mask off either. But Kakashi wasn't the one trying to seduce HER Naruto.
She'd been agonizing over how to get the girl to back off. Maybe even to go back to Kage. But she couldn't think of anything. She was, however, still considering challenging Athan to a fight, just to show her who Naruto belonged to.
'No. That's not right. He doesn't belong TO me. He belongs WITH me.' Hinata thought to herself. Naruto was his own man and he would resent anyone thinking they owned him, and she didn't want to own hi, She just wanted for him to only look at her with eyes full of love, and nobody else. ...Well, maybe their children, if they had any. The thought brought a blush to her cheeks.
Over the last few days Neji had been giving her the evil eye. And it didn't take a genius to know the reason. Sakura had caught him when he was alone on watch their second night out past Ore town, and had told him of Hinata's troubling views towards Athan. Hinata had seen them discussing it from her tent, where she'd been using the Byakugan to make sure Athan didn't try anything with Naruto. Once she'd become certain the silver haired Kage girl and her love were sleeping and nothing more, she had been about to deactivate her doujutsu when she'd noticed the two of them outside talking, and using her training to lip read, had easily figured out the topic of discussion.
It just made her angrier. She understood, on a logical level why the two were concerned. Her current feelings were enough to frighten even her, and yet she still couldn't help what she was feeling. Bad enough Naruto was finally starting to look at girls as potential mates instead of just someone he might have an infatuation with, but out of nowhere comes this exotic girl whose face possibly not even he had seen, and he was spending almost all his time with her!
"Leave her alone, Hinata-sama." A voice behind her whispered softly. She spun in shock and found her cousin behind her, giving her a stern look. "I don't understand all the ins and outs of it, but that girl and Naruto have a special rapport. If it becomes something more is for the future to decide. But don't let your misplaced jealousy overcome you. This mission is our top priority. I'm sorry to say it, but had I known this would be your reaction to Athan's presence, I would have requested Hanabi accompany us instead."
Hinata was about to reply when he held up a hand. His eyes, though sympathetic, were firm. "You have feelings for Uzumaki. That's understandable. But instead of taking your frustrations on your inability to tell him how you feel on her, you should try channeling that anger into thinking up a way to finally tell him how you feel.
"B-But what if he wants her? I don't think I could handle that, Neji-niisan..." she mumbled, her feelings of inadequacy, both as a woman and as a Hyuuga flaring up again after so long. "I just want her to stop trying to seduce-"
"Oh grow up, Hinata." He interrupted her. "She's not trying to do that and you know it. She's technically his property Hinata. She's his servant. She's not trying to seduce him any more than anyone in the branch house is likely to try to seduce you. The only major difference between the branch house and Athan is that Athan seems to prefer her role as a slave."
She flinched. He may have stopped being so cold towards the main house, but he still resented the caged bird seal, still resented the fact that he was, in essence, a slave to the whim of anyone in the main house of the Hyuuga clan, and he never made any bones about it.
On day eight, Kakashi dropped the bomb.
"Say. That. Again?" Hinata and Naruto said simultaneously. Then glanced at one another. Their reactions were distinctly different, and their tones were also different. But then they turned their gaze to their commanding jounin.
"You heard me. Because of the fact that these Ninja have been on alert lately and attacking more and more often, we need to go undercover, and this village we'll be aiding is part of a country where slavery of various types, from indentured servitude to sexual slavery- which sometimes walk hand in glove here- is very much the rule of the day, we need to go undercover. I received this information from Hokage-sama herself, but she requested I keep it under wraps until we got about a day or so out from it. Generally, older men, such as myself, are considered to be passable as elderly men of state, due to the fact that Ninja themselves are rare in this part of the world, and none are younger than twenty two. Anyone younger than that who comes this way is usually a wealthy young traveler. Again, these travelers usually have servants or slaves. Sometimes both. Although seeing such people being able to fight isn't uncommon, what is more common is a traveler with bodyguards." He said, running through his explanation again.
"Naruto will play the part of such a wealthy young traveler. Athan will be his personal right hand slave-slash-Bodyguard, two of you will join her in this post as recently hired bodyguards who happen to be free women, and the third will simply be a mutual acquaintance of myself and Naruto's who is hanging out with me as she's on vacation. I will play the role of a Ninja who is also on vacation, who is helping out Naruto, who is a friend of the family, on his journey since I have nothing better to do."
"Exactly where am I supposed to be 'journeying' to, Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto asked, a brow raised, and then snorted. "And what about Neji? How do we explain him away?"
"Neji will be playing the role of a traveling martial artist searching to improve his skills in Taijutsu." Kakashi replied. "As for yourself, Naruto, you're a wealthy traveler. Basically you're going to be going wherever the hell you damned well please, because you can afford it."
"But I can't afford itKakashi-sensei! How am I supposed to play myself off as some rich guy, when I don't have the money to back it up!?"
Kakashi just stared at him in amusement, and then began laughing. Neji joined in on it.
"OI! What the hell is so funny?!" Naruto demanded, huffing, arms crossed over his chest.
"You have access to the entire estate of your parents Naruto. This INCLUDES their bank accounts. Sandaime-sama and Tsunade-sama kept it open for you, as well as keeping anyone from buying the land. As a result, you are indeed a very, VERY rich young man who can do just about anything he wants to now." Kakashi said with a chuckle at Naruto's expression. "Furthermore, once Tsunade-sama had placed the estate in your name, she added your own account into theirs. Trust me Naruto. for you, money is no longer a problem, and likely never will be again. You have several hundred million ryou to your name. You could probably buy out half the village real estate back home and not even put a scratch in your account. And beyond that, there's also that necklace Tsunade-sama gave you, which happens to be enough to buy three mountains if you wanted. Obviously you wouldn't be selling that off, given it's sentimental value to the both of you. But to put it frankly Naruto? You are LOADED." The Copy Ninja finished.
Naruto promptly fainted.
"He took that better than I thought he would."
After about an hour, at which point everyone was sure Naruto wasn't going to pull another gulliver on them at being told that no, what Kakashi had told him was not a hallucination and he really did have access to such a sizable fortune, they stopped in the next town on their way to their target destination. Here, everyone shed their Hitai-ate, save for Kakashi, who was going to be 'hiding in plain sight' as Naruto's old friend and travel companion. Athan had ducked out of sight and come back out wearing a more civilian type headband, covering the upper half of her face just as well as her Hitai-ate had, of course her eyes being exposed as always. Neji wore something similar to hide the caged bird curse seal. The rest of Athan's gear, she was told, would work fine for her role as bodyguard/slave. Though she would have to also be equipped with a few other items.
"What kind of items?" She asked as this was brought up.
"Well, considering that even with the armor, anyone who can look underneath the underneath would expect you to be a fairly attractive looking girl. Most female slaves are supposed to be, and seeing an unattractive slavegirl is a true rarity anywhere in the world where it's practiced. However most slaves usually bear a collar, and the majority of slave owners usually have at least one other purpose in mind for female slaves, even those strong enough to be bodyguards. We're here now because Naruto has to buy all this stuff. The only thing he doesn't have to buy is the collar." Kakashi replied, pulling one out of his backpack. The collar was fairly typical bondage fetish fare, with a small plate engraved with the words 'property of Uzumaki Naruto' on the very front of it, and a d-ring looped in front of that at the bottom of the collar.
Athan's eyes went wide and she seemed to go pale, from all anyone could see of her flesh , which was precious little. (They had to go by the sudden whitening of her hands and ears to even notice it). But she recovered quickly, and nodded stiffly. Then took the item from Kakashi, who was giving her a very piercing gaze, and slipped it around her neck.
Naruto gave her a very hard look from the side. Temari was also scrutinizing the silver haired girl.
"I'll volunteer to be one of Naruto's other bodyguards." The Sand jounin said. The rest of the group looked at her in surprise. Nobody argued the matter though.
"Seeing as I've been Naruto's teammate since the word go, I think I should take up the other bodyguard role." Sakura said, beating Hinata to the punch, as she'd opened her mouth to do so. She closed it, a look of disappointment on her pretty features, caught by Kakashi. But he dismissed it. He knew how she felt about Naruto, almost anyone with half a brain who knew the two long enough knew it. Which probably explains why NARUTO doesn't know. Kakashi thought to himself humorously, unknowingly repeating in his mind the very exact same words Sakura had said to Hinata a few days back. Not that he thought Naruto was stupid. Just dense when it came to girls. Though his recent reactions to Athan had proven that he was starting to come out of that phase, and he suspected some of that had to do with Jiraiya.
"Well, Hinata, I guess that leaves you to play the role of the mutual acquaintance that ties us all together. Since you and Neji have the same eyes, it's safe to play you off as family, which we would have had to do in all likelihood anyway. This actually works in our favor, as I had actually forgotten about that minor detail. We can modify the cover to that of you knowing all three of us and having only vague interactions with Temari, Sakura, and Athan. Now, we need to get the rest of the gear for Athan."
That said, they went shopping. Athan traveled at Naruto's side as a slave would, which is to say, she wasn't acting all that differently from her Vassal behaviors, other than showing a much more submissive streak. Kakashi prayed that this was just her putting on a really good show, and not her acting like this due to past experience. That would be beyond heartbreaking.
After gathering a large amount of slave gear (and some stuff that a wealthy slave owner with an attractive girl to call his personal property would be expected to own for use in the bedroom- again Athan had gone pale when hearing this explanation for why it was needed.) and some weapons and clothes, the group changed into new attire bought for the purposes of the trip, save for Kakashi. As they traveled, they discussed their cover a bit more. Nobody was particularly happy with the idea of a slave town, but they figured beggars couldn't be choosers.
Finally, they arrived at the place where they were to meet their contact. He turned out to be a civilian member of the village who had hired them. He looked the girls over and nodded appreciatively. His eyes came to rest on the collar Athan wore now and then looked askance at the men.
"Which of you is Uzumaki?" He asked. Naruto raised his hand with a cheery laugh. The man looked them over, eyes resting on each in turn, and then blinking at Athan's collar and smiling, before his look turned into a somewhat perverted leer. "She's your slave?" he asked. Athan flinched, but Naruto just gave him a hard look, and nodded.
"Yeah, she is. And I'll thank you to keep away from her." The blond snapped. "After all, I didn't buy her just for someone else to go pawing all over her or giving her that kind of look." Inwardly, Naruto was disgusted with himself for what he was saying, but he knew that playing the role half assed was going to lead to blown cover. As such, he threw himself all in. "Of course, if you're stupid enough to try to put your hands on her anyway...well, she IS a trained killer, and would break your back in fifteen different places before you hit the ground with my permission."
This seemed to be the reaction their contact was looking for. He nodded, and turned to Kakashi and smirked, then motioned with his head to follow him. They did.
After another day's travel, they arrived in their target destination: Hedon City. Easily thrice the size of Konoha, the place was different only in the fact that it appeared to have no Shinobi to call it's own, and the youngest Shinobi there aside from themselves was about Kakashi's age. As he had said, there were few of them there, none younger than twenty two years of age. And, sadly enough, it seems slavery was very much in vogue here. Some men had two or three to their name. Naruto sighed, still holding the leash attached to Athan's collar.
'Kami above, I want to beat these people's heads in.' The blonde thought to himself.
"I dunno, I could get to like it." Kyuubi responded in his mind.
'For the sake of my sanity, I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear that'
The group went and got themselves checked into the fanciest place in town. Naruto, having a large entourage with him, got one of the suites, which was in itself a small mini-hotel within the hotel, enough to house at least four times their number. Much to his displeasure, the suite also included a place for slaves to be...used...in what appeared to be a variety of ways.
"These people are sick." he muttered to himself.
"Amen." Athan had whispered hoarsely.
"Be that as it may," Kakashi said once the group had toured the place. "You're going to need to make some use of this place, I'm sorry to say. Part of the cover." He also looked as though the place left a bad taste in his mouth though. Reading about it in Icha Icha Paradise where it was consensual on both sides was one thing. But a city where it was legal, in some cases practically MANDATORY, and enforceable by law?
'Naruto's right. These people ARE sick...or are they actually more sane than we are? We send people out at Kami knows how old to become KILLERS. These people simply make sex a part of everyday life, and all it takes is a collar around the neck, same as a Ninja only needs a headband to be part of a legal network of assassins...'
Needless to say, this thought did not bring the Copy Ninja any comfort.
"In fact, my sources say that the first things slave owners in these territories do when they settle into a place for the night is...uhm...well, I think you can guess. Appears to be some kind of tradition. If a slave isn't used in a place like this when they rolled out the red carpet for you...they kinda take it as an insult..." he continued. "So...uhm...well, I guess Neji and Hinata and I will scoot off to our rooms elsewhere in the suite...and I suppose Temari and Sakura will have to keep nearby but..."
"I really don't think they'd want to see this, Kakashi-sensei." Muttered the blonde Chunin.
Temari had raised a brow that seemed to indicate otherwise. "We are supposed to be your bodyguards, Naruto...we should probably just stay outside the door while you ...uhmm...make use of your.." she cleared her throat and blushed. "Slave..." Truthfully, part of her was repulsed by the concept, yet somehow, it also intrigued her.
It didn't hurt matters that what she'd seen had lead her to believe Athan was hot.
Yes, the Blonde Kunoichi of Suna was Bi. She just didn't like to admit this fact to people. Mostly because there were so few girls in Suna that had caught her eye.
After a few minutes in which everyone went their separate ways in the suite (Hinata redder than the dwarf sun of Krypton and having to be all but dragged away by Kakashi and Neji), The Jinchuuriki and the Sentojita were left, in essence, alone, save for a peeking Temari who was indulging her inner pervert for once, and doing her utmost to hide her presence from the two.
"Uhm...so..." Naruto started, blushing hotly. Athan just looked around at pretty much anything other than her lord and master, also extremely flushed looking.
Two minutes passed.
At the ten minute mark, Temari was starting to wonder if the two had petrified.
Finally, Naruto decided it would be best to just get it over with.
She looked at Naruto out of the corner of one of her jet black eyes.
"Take off the armor..."
Athan shivered, but nodded in compliance.
"H-Hai, Uzumaki-dono..." she stammered, beginning to remove her armor. Naruto watched, trying to seem dispassionate about this entire situation. But after several days of talking with Athan (though he'd been careful not to pry into her past, and had instead kept the discussion on what he considered safer topics), and nights filled with sexual images inserted into his mind by Kyuubi, both gentle and somewhat more brutal, Naruto figured that there was little better way to deal with this situation than to play the role to the hilt, and hopefully, this would get the fox to back the fuck off about this. Soon enough she was free of the armor, and clad only in her clothes, and she seemed reticent about removing anything more. Naruto could understand that. Too bad it seemed he would have to order her to strip naked...even if a large part of his psyche (not counting Kyuubi himself) did want to see her stark naked.
But then...a grin spread across his face.
'Kakashi-sensei said I had to make USE of Athan. He never said that that necessarily meant sex.'
Clapping his hands together, he laughed. "Okay! Now that you've got that out of the way, we can do some training!"
Athan, Sakura, and Temari collectively facefaulted from their respective positions.
"He's got to be kidding!" Temari whispered to herself, feeling a bit let down by this turn of events. Sakura just grinned.
"That's Naruto for you." she said, then smirked. "Pervert." she added, playfully.
Temari had the good sense to blush.
The Unenviable Author's post-notes!
Ha! Gotcha didn't I? Yes, there will be lemon in this fic. That's a given, but even though he's a touch perverted from his time alone with Jiraiya on that training trip, Naruto's not really sure he's ready for that yet. He just turned sixteen, after all. But yes, a lemon or two is on the way. When? You'll have to wait and see.
Next chapter: Things get under way as the mission begins, and we get to see something people have doubtlessly been interested about since this little adventure began.
Hinata vs. Athan
I'm still waiting on some entrants for the contest folks. Due to the lack of them, (there hasn't been a single entrant yet) once the contest closes, any future work will be enjoyed, but in all likelihood isn't going to be official. Get in on the contest now while you can. Refer back to chapter five's author notes to see what to do.
Furthermore, like so many others, I have come up with a forum for my fic!
http:// www . fanfiction . net /forum/TheShadowsoftheLeaf/37141/ (just remove the spaces.)