"OK, Hidan, I've got the perimeter defenses mapped out, with a rough estimate of their patrol schedule. Did your reconnaissance turn up where the kid is in town?"
"No... All the women I talked to were eager to talk about the Ninetails for some reason, but none knew where he was... Stupid whores, trying to chat me up even after I told them I was a priest."
"Yeah, well, that's what you get for not wearing a shirt."
Hidan and Kakuzu were hiding outside the village, thanking the gods that Tobi hadn't seen fit to appear from nowhere and screw up their plans yet. Unfortunately, while Kakuzu was sure he could get in without alerting anyone, Hidan's recon had shown no sign of the Kyuubi brat. What an idiot… He hadn't even bothered with a disguise. He just took off his cloak, and wandered into town.
"Well, we just might have to wait a little longer- Hold on, people are coming!"
Both men, who had been standing beneath a tree branch talking, dove into nearby bushes, which somehow managed to completely hide them.
Only to be trampled upon by Naruto and friends returning from their rescue mission.
Sadly, the troupe of ninjas didn't even notice the two men they ran over in their haste to make it home.
A few minutes after they passed, a groan was heard.
"Fucking goddamn motherfuckers... I'm going to kill them so hard, that they'll cry blood out of their hair when Jashin takes them!"
"Well, now at least we know the Ninetails is in town... We just need an opportune moment."
The group returning to Konoha had been not-so-strangely silent during the trip back.
The revelation of Naruto's third-class-passenger was quite the doozy.
Sasuke, at first relieved that Itachi wasn't terrified of something lame like orange jumpsuits, terrible catch phrases or ramen, had then started thinking of the implications of Naruto's pet biju. It just wasn't fair! How can one compete with a guy who has a freaking energizer bunny keeping him charged up no matter what crazy jutsus he might attempt? Sasuke knew very well that the biju were beings of chakra, and if Naruto could draw upon the Kyuubi, it meant that Naruto could draw upon neigh unlimited chakra.
And that kind of advantage was just crazy. Sasuke conveniently forgot his own personal hax-ingan, but a proper Avenger never let the truth get in between him and his angsty brooding.
Hinata... Revelation had hit her like a hammer. This was why everyone ignored Naruto! This was why no one acknowledged him! If he could stand up, knowing everyone hated him for something that wasn't even an accident of birth, but merely really crappy luck... Why couldn't she stand up for what she believed in, too?
This was why she loved him! He was so unlike her, so much what she wished she could be... Heck, he was a hero from the day he was born! People in the village shouldn't be hating him... They should be loving him, cherishing him, thanking him.
And Hinata was willing to shoulder her share of that burden, no problem.
That thought, and the thought that it led to, caused Hinata to stumble into Sakura, who had herself hit upon a revelation.
Sakura knew Naruto. Out of all the many people that Naruto knew, few were as well versed in Narutology as she. She knew what he liked, his motivations, his passions... She knew him.
And she had never seen this coming.
Oh, sure, there were strange things about Naruto. He pulled off the absurd with ease, surprising everyone. But Sakura had just presumed that, like Sasuke, he had some sort of bloodline. Some secret bloodline of awesome that enabled him to pull off the crazy victories he had.
But to be a jinchuriki... To be like Gaara?
She didn't even know Jinchuuriki could be sane. After all, the only one she knew of repeatedly tried to kill her, while mumbling and moaning about gorging on her blood. That Naruto could have turned out in any way like the way Gaara had was disturbing.
But he hadn't. He could have been a monster, a monstrously monstrous monster of monster proportions, and no one would have been surprised. No one would have blamed him. Heck, its what most people probably expected, actually. It certainly explained a lot of the attitudes she'd seen directed towards him.
One of the most attractive points of Sasuke had been his angsty image, that he had some kind of dark past that made him be coldly angry. Sakura had always imagined that she could be the one to make him happy, to get him over his trauma and move him past the brooding angst. Everyone wants to be needed, and there was no denying that Sasuke needed help… just perhaps debate on who got to give him that help tended to annoy the boy more then was fair.
Suddenly, Naruto had shot out onto the scene, with other girls pointing out to her how attractive of a boyfriend he could be, how strong and how caring. And now? Now he had the ULTIMATE angsty background! Heck, the only way that could make it more depressing if it had been his own family member who had put the Kyuubi into him! Or if the Yondaime had presumed that the village would see him as a hero. Or if the presence of the beast caused an evil organization to hunt him down to steal it out of him for their own diabolical reasons...
Either way, everything she had imagined (aside from straight up bishounen good looks) being attractive about Sasuke could be found in Naruto, solidifying in her mind her feelings about the boy. And she wouldn't have to do nearly the amount of work to get him to ALLOW her to help him as she would with Sasuke.
As Sakura paused at that, allowing Hinata to stumble into her, Tenten was pondering the same situation.
It was a lot to take in. Her boyfriend (or whatever he was) had the Kyuubi riding in his tummy? Trying to imagine it led her to nearly laugh aloud, imaging Naruto having a kangaroo-style pouch with a mini-Kyuubi head popping out.
Whatever it meant for Naruto, containing a biju... It didn't bother her. It didn't worry her. Naruto hadn't done anything that was psychotically evil yet, though he did have some rather odd personality quirks. If all she had to worry about was him obsessing over Ramen, then, well, it didn't really matter.
Naruto... He was just glad that it was finally out in the open.
"What... What happened?"
Eyes opening slowly, the world blurred into focus. Kisame was trying to remember where he was, what he was doing, what had happened-
Kisame frantically looked around the room, hoping this was some kind of horrible, horrible nightmare, that maybe his sword would be right where it should be, patting about the bed, frenzied movements hoping to find SOMETHING-
Kisame found a note placed right below his hand, and he prayed to all the fishy gods he held dear that it would be good news-
"No, the kid DOES have your sword. Too bad, eh?"
Three grunts had been moving boxes in a hallway near Kisame's room.
They weren't the only ones who heard him bellow.
They were, however, the first three who died as Kisame killed them almost absent-mindedly in his rush to the nearest exit.
They weren't the last.
"Naruto, didn't you just eat ramen? Not even counting the ramen you ate at the lake, but weren't you eating ramen before we left, too?"
"Tenten... I, I need to make sure everything is ok. If that bastard could taint Ramen once, who knows if he could do it again? I have to make sure!"
"Well, uhh, I mean, I guess if that's important to you, we could stop by-"
"Then afterward we can go look at shoes or something, and you can tell me about the different kinds, right?"
Tenten goggled a bit at that, because it seemed to be an odd thing to want to do. But her confusion slowly bloomed into a grin seeing Naruto's nervous smile, scratching the back of his head as if he wasn't sure if he had said the right thing. Sure, it seemed weird, but he was trying to reach out to do something else with her, something he thought she'd like.
'That's so sweet of him!'
The scene may have progressed further along those lines if the two had been alone.
But both Sakura and Hinata were there.
And while Hinata's face instantly flushed, and her expression swapped rapidly between mildly annoyed and blushing lightly (or, for more normal people, enraged and aroused), it was not her personality type to step forward on her own and fight for her man.
But Sakura had no such problems. She was in fact used to having to fight for her man, down to out and out catfights as the situation demanded.
And she was feeling more then a little upset over how this harpy was trying to seduce Naruto right in front of her!
Thus, with all the subtlety of a bright orange ninja jumpsuit, Sakura pushed forward and latched onto one of Naruto's arms.
"But Naruto, it's been so long since you've trained with your team. Don't you want to train with your team? We've been missing you so much, haven't we, Sasuke?"
Sasuke flinched, knowing that there was definitely a 'right' answer to this question, but he wasn't sure he could compromise his own manliness enough to give it.
"Not in the least, no. It's been incredibly peace- I mean, uhh, yes, Naruto. I have, uhh... Yeah. What she said."
'Damnit, it turns out I can.'
Sasuke shuddered again, once more picturing Sakura baring down on him with an oversized mallet, ready to dispense female justice for his failure to cooperate.
Though ecstatic, Naruto was getting a tad weirded out. Sakura was practically hugging him! But why? This behavior wasn't normal in the least.
Especially not for Sasuke. Then again, Naruto saw the glare Sakura leveled at him... It was a glare he himself was incredibly familiar with. The one that always made him think Sakura was planning on trying to uppercut him into low orbit.
This was not normal.
Hinata, seeing the competition moving to edge her out, gracefully shuffled forward to stand on his other side, lightly grasping his elbow and pulling his arm to her chest.
"But... Naruto-kun, you said y-you wanted to test the ramen... I still have my s-special ramen from before..."
Noodles poured into a vodka broth. Yum.
Again, Naruto looked at the lady talking to him. Again, this seemed awfully out of character. He'd 'known' Hinata for years... And she'd only talked to him like two or three times before. She always avoided him, and was always blushing and poking her fingers together.
Now she was getting into fights with Sakura, and inviting him over to her house? Not that he'd mind visiting Hiashi (He had to warn the man about the evil Tobi and his Ramen defiling ways!), but he knew eating at the Hyuuga mansion was something that people like him weren't customarily invited to do.
He'd known that recently, the girls around him hadn't been acting normal. But he had kept on putting off asking why.
Well, now seemed to be as good a time as any to figure out what was going on.
"Why is everyone acting so different lately?"
Enough. Was. Enough.
There was a time to peaceably work things out. There was a time to be polite and cordial, and there was a time to just sit back and do as you're told.
Now was no longer such a time.
Now was a time for killing. And maiming. Random death and destruction. Death-by-Chocolate Ice Cream.
Kisame's rampage had reached the exit of the building. The death toll had reached over 30, mainly aides and grunt workers but also some random rain ninja who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Waiting for him at the exit, though, were real adversaries. Kisame out and out ignored Pein and Konan on seeing the third person standing there with them. Even as Pein opened his mouth to rebuke, threaten, warn, just say something to Kisame, Kisame began to shout.
"YOU! THIS IS YOUR FAULT!"
Standing unconcerned, Tobi almost mockingly pointed at himself.
"Me? But I'm a good boy-urk!"
Now Pein was quieted not by someone shouting over him, but out of confusion. How the heck had Kisame even touched Tobi? That space-time ninjutsu of his should have stopped that, right?
"YOU LISTEN TO ME! IF I HAD MORE TIME RIGHT NOW, I'D KILL YOU! I'D KILL YOU SLOWLY! I'D CUT OFF YOUR LEGS AT THE SHIN! I'D FLAY THE SKIN OFF YOUR ARMS, THEN SLOW ROAST THEM OVER AN OPEN FIRE! I'D STAB OUT YOUR EYEBALLS AND USE THEM TO CHOKE YOU! I'D RIP OFF YOUR HEAD AND SHIT DOWN YOUR THROAT!"
All the while, he was shaking Tobi around by the neck like a rag doll. Tobi could do naught more then struggle fruitlessly in the crazy fish man's hands, unable to break out of his grip.
"BUT I DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO DRAW IT OUT THE WAY YOU DESERVE! I NEED TO GET MY SWORD BACK, AND I NEED IT NOW! MY... MY MOM IS GOING TO BE HERE ANY DAY NOW, AND IF I DON'T HAVE THAT DAMN SWORD, I'LL NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT! SO HELP ME GOD, IF I DON'T HAVE THAT SWORD HERE SAFE AND SOUND BY THE TIME SHE ARRIVES, I'M GOING TO 'TIME-SPACE' NINJUTSU BACK TO WHEN YOU WERE A LITTLE KID, AND I'LL KILL YOU! I'LL KILL YOUR PARENTS! HELL, I'LL EVEN KILL YOUR GODDAMN DOG!"
With that, Kisame hurled the supposed strongest ninja in the world to the side, and began his mad dash towards Konoha.
Tobi shakily stood back up, cracking his neck back and forth, and shuffled back to where the other two stood.
Konan had to ask. "Madara, how did he even touch you?"
Tobi sighed. He flexed his arms and shoulders again, cracking a few joints, as if to shake off what just happened to him. It wasn't that unfamiliar, to be honest. Heck, it was one of the reasons he'd gone so far with creating that untouchable jutsu of his. However, he'd been far too late in actually attempting to use it, and had grossly underestimated just how upset Kisame had been in the first place.
No, now that he thought about it, even if he had been prepared, he wouldn't have been able to avoid what had just happened.
"There are few things more powerful in this world then true righteous anger, Konan. It can let anything happen from a little girl drop-kicking a man into the stratosphere, to being able to kill even the strongest opponents."
It was a truly powerful force, one that had both aided and screwed him over in his many years. When he was younger, and far more passionate, he had been able to tap that inner core of angst and rage that most every Uchiha possessed. But as he got older and more cynical (and crazy), it seemed that more and more often he inspired that rage into other people without even trying.
Heck, it was one of the reasons he had gone so far with his 'Tobi' façade. It was harder to reach that level of pissed-off at the comedic relief, instead usually stalling out at merely slapstick levels of violence. And while that could send you into exaggerated violence as well, it was never really that painful, he had found.
Of course, as proven just now, even that didn't protect you if the person was provoked and pissed off enough.
"The thing, though, is that 'true righteous anger' is something incredibly subjective. For one person, it could be over something as complex as recovering the object of your families heritage before your mother found out you lost it and nagged and guilt-tripped you about it forever. For others, it could be something as simple as some pervert peeping on you in the baths. Heck, if you felt strongly enough about it, you could probably destroy the world over, like Kisame said, someone killing your dog."
Konan sighed and Tobi looked on confused, as the Great Pein, bearer of the Rinnigan and all-around scary badass, broke out in emo, emo tears.
"I mean, I don't mind that everyone seems to like me more, but what the heck is going on?"
All 3 girls stared in almost disbelief at Naruto. He couldn't be THAT dense, could he?
Sakura shook her head. Of course he could. It was part of his charm.
"Well, Naruto, after you, ahem, starting being with me, these girls realized what they had missed out on, realized how special you were, and belatedly began putting the moves on you."
Tenten tried to be delicate about it. She realized that Sakura was Naruto's friend as much as Hinata was his stalker. He cared about them, and didn't want to make it seem as if she didn't like them herself. Making a guy chose between you and their friends was always a bad idea, the soap operas she'd seen had taught her. Even if those 'friends' were trying to mac on her man.
"You mean when you began seducing him, you skank! I don't know what you did to try to take Naruto for yourself, but he was in love with me long before you ever came around!"
"P-Please, Sakura... You always hated him for years, treating Naruto-kun so poorly. I've lo-liked him for years, even while you were infatuated with Uchiha-san. I've cared longer then you ever have."
"Look, girls, whatever the past may have been, its over and done with. You had your chance, and Naruto made his own choices. If you liked him as much as you say you do, you'd go along with what he wants!"
Naruto stood in the middle of the three girls, at the center of a triangle of imminent violence. Naruto stood confused out of his mind, in the center of what could turn out to be a fight of epic clothes-ripping proportions.
He had no clue what to do.
But Sasuke did. He knew exactly what to do in a situation like this.
He ran the fuck out of there. And after turning three corners, he leaped to the roof-tops, and hid up on a nearby building to watch the ensuing girl-on-girl violence. But intelligently, his first thoughts were to get the fuck out of dodge.
All three girls paused a moment to stare at the literal dust cloud that was all that remained of the supposed best genin of his class.
And in that moment of distraction, Jiraiya swooped in, grabbed, Naruto, and teleported out with him.
The standoff wavered, with all three girls looking more confused then angry at what had just happened. Then a voice, suspiciously sounding like Jiraiya, wafted down from above.
"Well, are you just going to take what she just said? Really? Go down without a fight?"
Tenten bristled a bit, assuming that whatever voyeur was watching was referring what she said.
Unfortunately for her, that's what Hinata assumed the person meant, too.
And unfortunately for Hinata, Sakura assumed it was referring to what Hinata had just said about her.
"Mind your own business, jerk-urk!"
Before Tenten could finish yelling at whoever, both Hinata and Sakura defaulted back to their previous cat fighting mindset, and pounced.
"OK, Hidan, it's nearly time for the guard shift to change. Three minutes after the patrol passes this location, we can take the chakra suppressant pills to temporarily hide our presence, sneak in under the wall, and get to the safe house you mapped out earlier. Then we can- Hold it, someone's coming through again."
This time, to avoid being trampled on, both ninja hopped up into the dense foliage of the tree they were standing beneath, confident that they would both not been, and would not be stepped on.
They did not count on the fact that Kisame in a rage stopped for no man.
Kisame was literally just mowing through whatever got in his way, be it tree or otherwise, and tossing it to the side if he didn't destroy it outright.
And let me tell you, being stuck in a tree that was being slammed into and through a wall was NOT fun.
"Screw actually trying to plan this out, apparently ninja's these days don't even need to bother with stealth or anything!"
"Well, we at least don't need to wait for shift change now, do we?"
Author's Notes: If you are confused about Pein's crying, I refer you to the chapters of Pein's backstory where he flat out tells us the final straw that made him decide to go all DESTROYER on the world was because his little dog got killed because he decided to bring it next to a battlefield. If you want a time frame for when I wrote most of this, that chapter had just come out, so this has been sitting around for a while.
It's been a damn long time. I truly didn't think I'd ever post more of this, and had actually forgotten for a long time that I had written most of this chapter at all until I was scrolling though my documents and saw it.
I dunno if the next chapter will come out soon. The next chapter will probably be the last, or maybe there will be one more chapter after that. I dunno. I shoulda actually story boarded this out instead of half assing it.
I hope it came out decent, at least.