Disclaimer: The truth is...I'm Naruto. This is my story. Unfortunately, I sold my soul to Aniplex. Heh, lose some, win some.
The two Leaf ninjas counted to three and followed the deserter from the sounds of her steps. Isaribi ran in a direct course toward the main entrance, figuring this would be the path to meet the most fleeting ninjas. Sound of distant battles echoed in the halls. She finally met a group of running scientists going the same way as her.
"What's going on?" she asked, feigning worries.
"Some kind of enemy attack. We have to free the other lab freaks like you. You'll lead them toward the main entrance since you're here and fight whoever attacked us. Make yourself useful for once!" he said with as much venom as possible in his voice.
Isaribi, having had a taste of what respect felt like from Naruto, couldn't help but to frown.
"What is it, freak? You're not starting to overestimate your position now, are you?" said another, grinning from ear to ear. He waited for the stammered apologies, which never came.
Isaribi jumped forward and turned back toward them, effectively blocking the way to the holding cells. The four scientists stopped, stunned.
"What do you think you're… hey! I can't move!"
"Me neither!" said the second trapped scientist.
"I can't either!" said the third.
'Stomp', made the four, falling face first on the floor. Naruto stood right behind him, his fist still raised.
He took the time to bind the man in steel wires before moving to another captive scientist and punching his light out.
"What…what treachery is this? Isaribi! Stop him! Attack! Find out how he's stopping us to move and make it go away!" said the first scientist, his panic making him sound like a ten years old. The man at his side was knocked out clean too, and the last one conscious was now in a trashing state of panic. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to move a muscle. Isaribi walked to him, took a deep breath and delivered the hardest punch she could deliver, right in between the eyes. The man fell on his knee, and slid not too gently in the world of dreams. Naruto moved toward the victim and bound him in turn. Shikamaru stepped out of the shadows.
"That was even easier than binding Ino alone…with the four of them. I wonder how many actual ninjas we will meet."
Naruto got back up and nodded toward Isaribi.
"You did well," he simply said. He turned toward the Nara and lifted an eyebrow.
"Your shadows are…darker than I remember, Shikamaru."
"Can't let you be the only one progressing," said the Nara, shrugging.
They left their captives there, exploring the halls in hope to find Amachi, the real target.
Asuma punched another weak thug, wondering if there was anyone of a challenge at all. Choji was inflated and used his tank form on anything moving that bore no Leaf headband. He made their way through the main gate, and numerous other doors inside. Ino simply took advantage of the distraction to take control of a random ninja and attack the unsuspecting enemies in the back. When she was found out, she simply slapped an explosive note on 'herself' and went back to her body before the note detonated. Even their explosive tags were weak and barely able to knock one or two down.
Looking back at his sole female student, Asuma saw a look of frustration cross her face each time she regained control of her body. She looked at Choji, joyfully rolling around, flattening the enemies in his path. He would have to talk to her later.
'At this rate, this Amachi guy isn't going to show himself. He's going to try and escape. Let's hope he come across Naruto and Shikamaru's path,' the sensei of Team Ten thought.
The medic ninja Amachi, loyal servant of Orochimaru, the snake Sanin, was running the hell away from the main entrance. How did they found them? They hid the entrance as much as possible and nobody was allowed to have any exterior contact. Only Isaribi… no. The little tramp! How dare she betray them! After all he did for her!
He would have the occasion to ask her since she came by, running in his direction from the underwater entrance. She stopped dead in her track, assuming a fighting stance as soon as she saw him.
"So, I was right," said Amachi quietly, as if speaking to himself. "You led the enemy in, destroying the only home you ever had! Betraying the only one that ever cared for you! Even if you survive this day, you'll end up dead! Dead because you'll have no one around to tell you what to do! Dead without a purpose! Dead without me to make sure your monstrous state doesn't degenerate! You're a walking corpse! You committed suicide and will rot standing if those that used you to get in here don't kill you first!" Amachi ranted on, spitting angrily.
He meant to strike her, but a blond ninja left an overly thick shadow to stand behind Isaribi. He held her loosely from behind, his arm resting on her belly and his head on her shoulder.
"Anyone caring about you wouldn't say that, even faced with betrayal. I care about you and will never let you down. I will make sure you live. I will help you find a purpose. I will introduce you to people that will make sure you'll stay healthy. Let's beat this remnant of your past down, together," he told Isaribi calmly, but looking straight at Amachi.
Isaribi had her eyes closed, losing herself in Naruto's embrace. She nodded once and her face was the very picture of resolve when she opened her eyes. Amachi took two steps back, turned around and ran. He passed a corner just as the ninja engaged pursuit. Following him, they met an empty corridor.
"He took a secret passage! He's heading for the underwater exit! We have to go back!" Isaribi said, turning around. Shikamaru followed Naruto and Isaribi until they started to cross enemies on their way. Once they reached the last tunnel leading to the exit, Shikamaru stopped running and turned his back to them.
"Keep on, you two. I'll take care of the thugs and make sure you're not disturbed in you fight," he said, making hand signs.
"We're counting on you!" said Naruto, not pausing to argue.
Shikamaru finished his technique and sidestepped in the shadows. As a thug passed by, a few seconds later, a fist left the darkness to pick him up right on the cheek. The man fell, dazed, on the ground. The fist disappeared and the scared thug almost peed himself, hearing an evil chuckle from the shadows surrounding him.
Naruto, as soon as they left the shadow-user, picked Isaribi, bridal style, and dashed forward. Isaribi's breath caught in her throat at the pure speed the blond ran, using the walls to turn corners, never slowing down. She could only imagine how fast he could go, without her to slow him down. They got in the cave they came from just as Amachi finished changing into a man-fish and dove in the water.
"Like me… he has the same modification as I…but without any traces on him in his human form. He could have helped me, cured me…" she said in a daze as Naruto put her down.
"That's one more reason to catch the bastard and bring him back. He's going to be the one strapped on an operation table and we will uncover his dirty secrets directly from his body. Think of all the others he experimented on, who can't even pretend to a life like the one you've got."
Naruto's word hit a cord in Isaribi and they jumped in the water without delay. Naruto swam his fastest but so did Isaribi, quickly leaving him behind. She had to catch Amachi and delay him long enough for Naruto to beat him up! She had no illusions of winning alone.
Amachi turned his head toward her and grinned. He slowed down enough for her to eventually catch up, but still going faster than Naruto. Isaribi figured he would try to kill her first before using his superior speed to get at Naruto. Amachi had one big advantage over her: he was a ninja. He could use technique underwater while she could not. It didn't matter to her. She would buy enough time, be a big enough distraction so that Naruto could make his move, no matter the cost.
Naruto, from where he was, came to the same conclusion as her, but was not as optimistic. He knew only a few water jutsus and none of them would have effects underwater. He could only beat him in close range, a distance that Orochimaru's servant would avoid at all cost. If only he could get out of his sight long enough for Amachi to forget him…just a few seconds…
Isaribi swam toward Amachi and tried hitting him in the head. He dodged and she simply swam passed him, intent on trying to kick him on her way back. Unfortunately, he managed to grab a leg and started swinging her around.
'What is he, an idiot?' she thought, letting him do so.
As they were not on the ground, and their fighting was taking place nowhere near the shore of the river, there was nothing to slam her against. If he threw her away, she would just take control of her 'fall' and use it to speed up. The guy had the form but moved underwater like an amateur…
Amachi realized his mistake shortly and let her fly. He spotted Naruto, trying to get around him and getting nearer by the seconds. The medic nin made seals, making seaweeds grow around the blond and tying his leg together. One even started to choke him. The blond ninja started trashing in the water, losing precious oxygen. No matter how he seems to pull on them, he could not get free. It didn't help that he currently had no ground under his feet to get leverage.
Isaribi left the medic ninja at once to go help her new friend. Amachi smiled madly and found the perfect way to extract his revenge. He pulled a short sword from a hidden sheath and swam at all speed right behind Isaribi, intent on ending things now.
Naruto kept on trashing on his supposed bounds, having long cut them enough to break free with a simple jerk. He was still tied on the ankles, but that was a minor inconvenient. Isaribi had to get to him first so he could make his move. Amachi was almost in his trap and followed her, prepared to get them both as he was supposed to be helpless.
Bad luck wanted Isaribi to hide Amachi partly from his view. Naruto's right hand gathered rotating chakra and finished severing the weed that held to his wrist. He had to push the technique harder as the water made it more difficult to move. Isaribi stopped before him, surprised to see him free and by the blue ball he had in his hand. Her surprise was even more total when she looked down, looking at the tip of the sword that impaled her from behind. She could only look, surprised, at the blood lightly escaping her body.
Naruto jerked out of his bounds, ripping the ones at the ankles with brute strength. Amachi looked from behind Isaribi, a cruel smile on his lips. He didn't have the time to pursue his torture plans as Naruto was on him, thrusting his rasengan in the face of the fish ninja. He let go of the ball of energy that sent the man flying out of the water, pushed in the head by strong, drilling chakra.
Naruto didn't know if he was alive or not and didn't care at the moment. He grabbed Isaribi and pulled her to the shore, taking great care when pulling the sword out. He laid her down in the grass and opened the small medic kit he carried with him.
"Isa! Stay with me! Change back! Change back to your land form!" yelled Naruto, trying to get her passed the shock.
She recognized Naruto's voice and didn't have the strength to question him. She just obeyed. Her breathing got from impossible to labored and she coughed up some crimson red blood.
"Good, the changes were internal too. It probably repaired you ever so little and spread the damage at many smaller places instead than on one lethal wound. We need to find a medic nin to stabilize you," Naruto rambled on.
He looked at his options and didn't like them much. He bandaged her wound as much as he could and decided he would carry her to the Inn they were staying at. He shouted at one of the guards as he neared the city and told him to call the best doctor they had and to send him to them, ready to treat a sword wound. Reaching his room, he put her on his bed and stripped her out of her clothes. It was one of those occasions where embarrassment was but a thought and decency a forgotten concept. Naruto carefully put dry pants on her and pulled the cover up to her waist.
The doctor came in minutes later to see a young boy, clothes splattered with blood, caring for a paled faced young woman with the most unusual skin complexion.
"This girl was impaled by a short sword through her back. For reasons I can't reveal, the wound isn't straight from one side to the other. She changed states in order to slow the bleeding down. I did some first aid on her. Keep her alive until I get back with a medical ninja."
The man was about to protest about the dismissal of his own skills, but remembered they were talking about ninjas. Their world was shrouded in mystery. He got down to business as the boy left the room.
Naruto knew he couldn't do anything else to help Isaribi than to get competent help that might be far away right now. He dashed his way out of town and went back to where the battle took place. He found Amachi, barely alive, on the shore. His face was a mangled mess and Naruto felt a pang of regret seeing the state he put Amachi under his anger. It would be that harder to interrogate him, and there was no way now to force him to treat Isaribi. The man obviously lost a lot of blood, but it seemed to start to coagulate. Naruto pulled the groaning ninja from the shore. The man had the presence to change back in his human form. His face didn't get much better, but it allowed him to breath more easily by his mouth. Naruto forced a soldier pill in him.
"Swallow that and heal your head a bit," Naruto told him.
He had to repeat twice, and slowly, as the man probably suffered from shattered eardrums and had only one good eye left. An underwater rasengan used more power, but the momentum was harder to stop too. If it hadn't throw him out of the water, Naruto guessed there would be no more Amachi.
Shikamaru got out of the water at the moment Amachi managed to glue his hanging lips back on his face. Shika looked a bit sick at the mess the enemy leader became. He had to admit that, shadow master or not, the face Naruto had on right now scared the shit out of him too. Looking around, and failing to see the girl that was usually stuck after Naruto, he guessed the worst did happen.
"She's at the Inn, gravely wounded. I'm glad you're back as I have to do something. Tie this guy up and take him back to the base. We'll hand him to Ibiki once we get back to Konoha. I don't trust him to heal Isaribi."
Naruto took out a map he grabbed at the inn earlier, examined it for a few seconds and folded it back. He faced the river, looked far to the Interior Sea that could be seen downhill, about four miles away. He calculated an angle and faced it. Shikamaru's eyes widen when he felt the quantity of chakra building up, Naruto's contour blurring blue in a mist. Naruto crouched down like a track runner, the vein in his legs bulging out and his muscles showing with scary definition. The Nara managed to protect his eyes just in time to avoid being blinded as dust and dirt flew around, the spot Naruto was standing in now sporting a two feet deep crater.
Shikamaru looked toward the Interior Sea and saw a trail of dirt going straight for it. Then, a trail of water rose in the air as Naruto reached the water. The trail went even faster than on Earth, until it disappeared in the distance. Shikamaru sighed and threw a kunai right on Amachi pants' leg.
"Try and crawl away like that again and I'll finish Naruto's job. Got it?" he said, before whispering his favorite words.
Naruto's stare as he ran could have melted steel. What could anger more than an innocent's possible death? An innocent that had been tricked into committing crimes in exchange for drops of attention, only to be mortally wounded by her master, that's what. He wouldn't let her die. She had a chance to learn to live and be happy, a chance that was denied to him years ago. He wouldn't let anyone worthy of living die in sadness. Maybe that was why he saved Haku in the first place…
He still had a chance to help Isaribi. He just had to find a competent medic-nin and bring him back! He didn't trust Amachi to cure her. He would probably poison her from the inside, killing her to hide some of his secrets. Then, he'd shut his mouth for the glory of freaking Orochimaru.
Naruto knew no one could resist Ibiki's interrogation, but Amachi didn't know that. He might kill her just to spite them anyway. He had to find Rin. Kakashi said she went back home. Naruto's travel across the sea would make him cross many spots where she could have stopped with her floating home. Worst case scenario, he would ask for the direction at the same place he did the first time. They seemed to be fond of her and would know about her whereabouts.
Naruto ran at breakneck speed, all limits pulled but it was still not enough! The footing on the water is trickier as the substance you land on is liquid. At the speed he was going at, he didn't even bothered to concentrate to walk on it, but rather spread his chakra under his feet in order to have better propelling power. He had nothing to jump on to boost his speed either! Damn, damn, damn! He had to find an edge! Pushing chakra in his legs would only last for so long and he had to push even more down his feet to compensate his stand on the water! He may be a stamina monster, but even to him, a sprint at maximum speed of many, many hours long on the water could be dangerous.
Naruto noticeably slowed down, running from his strength alone, keeping from pushing additional chakra in his legs. This was so slow! He was almost crawling, dammit!
To an eventual observer, even a ninja one, his 'crawling' would have made their jaw drop and rub their eyes in disbelief. When your standard changes, so does your view on normality.
Naruto thought feverishly of a way to get faster before shutting his eyes hard and reopening them, his demeanor a lot calmer. He had to think out of the basket. If he could not get his footing better, if he could not get his muscles faster, he would change his environment to stop hindering his progress. He had to glide on the water, unopposed, to stop the very air to slow him down…
He blinked twice, a surprised look on his face. Of course! Why didn't he think about that before? Naruto concentrated hard on producing wind chakra. Instead of focusing it in his hand, he expelled it from all the tenketsu he could control. He forced it to stay close to him, like a bubble and, out of reflex, made it rotate all around him. The changes were instantaneous, so much he almost fell forward. Water dropped behind him, his passage not even disturbing the flow of air around him anymore. To the atmosphere, air pressure and wind, it was as if he wasn't there, and it was the same to him. His chakra cut him from the rest of the world. He felt as if he lost a good third of his weight.
Naruto tentatively pushed regular chakra in his leg, straining his concentration. If not of the exercise with the leaves, he would never be able to pull this off. His own vision, used to blurring speed, dimmed to a thin corridor in front of him. He breathed in and out regularly, synchronizing the mixing of chakra and his elemental chakra on it.
Rin was having a drink at the Inn, people cheering all around. She was downing a huge beer jug under the fisherman's shoot of 'chug, chug, chug'! She put the empty jug down, saved from some foam and exhaled loudly. Everybody laughed as she fanned herself, a faint pink gracing her cheek. Most of them would look worse off than her, after a fourth mug.
"Life is great and so is your beer, barkeep!"
The Innkeeper laughed loudly at this declaration. Seeing the young girl come back so full of life was a blessing. That trip back home lifted some unspeakable horror from her mind, memories of her past. He filled her mug once again, amazed at the resistance she had to the stuff. How could he know that as a young, talented medic-nin, she could control the alcohol effect on her brain? Her reflexes in battles would be piss poor, but she kept all her clarity. She raised her mug in the air, looking passed it, her sight lost in a point long gone in time.
"A toast, to Obito Uchiha. My Chunin teammate I lost back when I was fourteen, on a mission. He died rescuing me from enemies that kidnapped me. Today, I'm forever grateful to him for this chance at living he gave me."
The pub became dead silent. They all had a serious look now, seeing the tip of the iceberg that froze the life of this courageous girl for over a decade of her life.
"To Obito Uchiha!" said loudly the Innkeeper, lifting his own glass.
"To Obito Uchiha," chorused the rest of the room.
Rin took a sip from her beverage, leaving the mug almost full on the counter. Discussion resumed but died down as soon as the quiet voice of the medic ninja was heard. She was talking to her bartender friend, but didn't mind for everyone else to hear.
"He chose to disobey the team leader, you know. He said that the ones disobeying orders might be trash, but that those abandoning their friends were worse than trash. Kakashi told me so after… Kakashi lost an eye trying to save me too. In his last moment, Obito said he gave Kakashi the special eye he took so much time to unlock. I operated them, there, on the field, as Obito was dying, crushed under a boulder. It was a gift to Kakashi, he said…for becoming a Jonin that day. "
Her words were confused now, her speech losing coherence as the sadness and alcohol took over. She dropped her head on the counter, her sobbing sobering the room of awkward fisherman. The Innkeeper patted her on her shoulder clumsily, trying to figure out what to do.
"There, there…It's going to be okay. It's…it's going to get better."
Rin took a napkin and blew her nose loudly. She wiped her eyes and took back some control over herself. A sad smile graced her lips.
"It's already getting better. I can finally mourn him! I can think about him! It might be painful as hell, but I'll be able to move on, someday. Already, I can remember the good times we had, the three of us on missions. That's more than I could hope for!"
She straightened back and turned toward the crowd.
"You know, Obito was always late on team meetings! He was such a klutz! Here's one of the best excuse he gave us! I swear it's all true! One morning, he said he had to help a poor lady cross the street but that a black cat crossed in front of them…"
It was long dark now, but a warm glow came from the windows of an Inn, and from people who didn't care for now that they had to wake up before the sun. Inside, Rin had goggles on her head and stood proudly in the middle of the room, telling off an imaginary sparring partner.
"You think you're always so cool but if I didn't have this sand going in my eyes despite my goggles, you wouldn't have landed a hand once on me! Less even the twenty-three other times!"
The crowd laughed as she put on a scarf across her head, her eyelid dropping half-way and taking a leisure pose.
"Make that twenty-four…but it's not surprising you didn't felt all those kick in the ass. It must be quite sore now…"
The fishermen had a theater troop stop once but this was so much better! Rin took her scarf off and was about to put the goggle back on when she froze. People stopped laughing immediately, seeing her eyebrow burrow in concentration. She turned toward the door and slowly made her way out. She heard some kind of whistling…high pitched sound that got nearer by the seconds.
The Leaf medic-nin was followed by the curious crowd who started to hear the sound that drilled her ears right now. They felt uneasy, wondering what could get the strongest warrior they knew so suspicious…and worried. The noise echoed over the water of the Interior Sea, coming from a bright, blue moving blur on the water. It rushed at them so fast they started to fear it would collide with the Inn! At such speed, whatever it was, nothing would be left of the building!
Rin didn't move but pushed some chakra in her eyes, narrowing her eyesight further away. It proved unnecessary since the form was on them by now. Reaching the land, a few hundred meters away, the whistling noise stopped to be replaced by the grinding one of something digging in the ground to slow down. The phenomenon stopped in a huge cloud of smoke. As it settled down, all that was left was a blond ninja that some of them recognized from his previous trip. He was breathing deeply, his hands shaking. Two trails started behind his feet only to end at the water line, over two hundred meters away, one foot deep all the way. He actually had to step out of them. He looked around, in a daze, looked back at the water line, at the docks, where Rin's house was and finally, turned toward the crowd. He scanned it for a good five seconds before spotting Rin looking at him in stupor. She got out of her shock and ran to him, fearing he would drop dead right there.
"Naruto-kun! What's happening? What was that?" she asked in quick succession, before biting her lips. It wasn't smart to hurl that many questions at an exhausted, confused person. Naruto was swaying back and forth now and she guessed what was coming. She grabbed him as he fell forward and hauled him on her shoulder. She turned toward the fishermen, an apologizing smile on her face.
"Sorry gentlemen! Duty call!"
She realized late that Naruto was too light to have his weight on, and was grateful for it. She ran to her home, where all her medical supply resided.
"Ha! That's ninja life for you!" said one of the villagers. The comment produced a few chuckles and the drinkers decided to call it a night.
Knowing the kind of prowess the blond was able of, and of his resident fox-bijuu, Rin wasn't worried about Naruto too much. Still, she worked to get him awake and lucid as soon as possible. The guy once crossed a part of the Sea in search for her with weight on his clothes just to put the mind of his sensei, and hers to peace, but it lacked the sense of urgency this maneuver had.
She used medical jutsu to heal the chakra burns and irritations he had all over his body. It looked like he strained the use of his tenketsus and had spiral looking cuts on his skin over each and every one of them. She could map his chakra circulatory system as well as a Hyuuga without the use of a Byakugan.
Running a few more diagnostics, she felt astonishment as her mind tried to get around a single fact: even if one have to mix the chakra when he needs it, he need to actually have the existing spiritual and physical energy. You can't truly see those two but you can guess the portion left in someone with some jutsu that prod differential rates of chakra production all over the body. This guy burned himself in the use of some very potent, chakra consuming and unrefined technique for an extended period of time and, despite using more than half his reserve, he was far from depleted.
She fished for an IV needle from her reserve and plugged him to some simple nutriment and a slow-activating, liquid version of the soldier pill. She waited for most of an hour, massaging his feet, her hand glowing a soothing green. Then, she used strong salt and passed it under his nose. His reaction was instantaneous. He sneezed hard, battered away the offensive smell and opened his sapphire blue eyes. This time, they were as clear as a morning sky, unlike the veil look he had when getting to her. He looked around and relaxed in recognition of the place. Naruto put a hand on his face and groaned slightly at the sudden awakening.
"Okay. I guess I managed to find you before passing out. My luck hasn't run out yet! How much time was I unconscious?" he asked, worried he might have lost too much time.
"About an hour, right after you found me. I did my best to wake you up early," she said, pointing to the needle in his arm. He looked at the small tube and the liquid trickling in his vein.
"What is this?" he asked.
"Liquid soldier pills. Slower to act but the drawback is lessened too. I got the idea from a clan in Konoha who had special recipes."
"If you speed up its diffusion, I'll replenish my reserve faster, will I?" he asked without a pause.
"Yes. It can't have a result higher than a normal soldier pill, except if you tear the bag open and drown its content in two gulps. That could have you dying in a mild chakra explosion. Very gory."
"Experienced?" asked Naruto, raising an eyebrow.
"Spiked the drink of a nosy Mist ninja with it," she acknowledged.
Naruto winced at the image. He turned the switch controlling the liquid to speed it up and turned toward Rin, his business face on.
"I'm currently on a mission with Asuma-sensei and his team. We invested an enemy compound under Orochimaru's jurisdiction thanks to the help of one of their unwilling experiment subject. Isaribi-chan was brainwashed to believe she was a monster that everyone hated and that only Amachi, the medic-nin in charge of her, would give her the time of the day. In exchange for his 'caring', she had to sunk and sack transport ships thanks to her genetic enhancement. In the battle following the possession of their base, Amachi impaled her with a katana-type of sword. It's a fatal wound, even I know that. She changed back in her land form in order to slow down her internal bleeding and I left her with the best of what the city could offer in doctor. She might be on borrowed time. I need a competent medic nin I can trust."
Rin nodded. She got up, opened a cabinet and looked at the vials inside. She took a backpack and filled it with bandages, potions, pills, powder and medical tools that Naruto couldn't understand to imagine the use.
"You know I can't go nearly as fast as you just did, Naruto-kun," she stated.
"I'll carry you," he answered.
"I guessed you'd say that. You have insane recovery abilities. We'll leave in an hour. Let me prepare you for the trip," she said, taking a few vials to Naruto. "Adrenalin, distillate soldier pills and some bag of crushed ice," she said, handling him the stuff.
"To cool your head down. You're going to be a sweaty mass once we get there, believe me."
It was Ino's time to watch on Isaribi. She looked at the ash-colored face with sadness. She would not last long. No matter how great Naruto was, the closest friendly nin group was days away. They were weeks away of travel from Konoha, in another elemental country! It was almost a full day since he left, now. She didn't want to know how bad he would feel when he would realize he can't make it on time.
She sighed again until she started hearing some kind of…whistling. She got up and went to the windows. It came from the sea, at large, but couldn't point out where, the sun reflecting on it too brightly. Then it stopped in an explosion of sand and dust at the water line. It was going straight for the city! The cloud grew in a full storm and she closed the windows to stop the dust from getting to them. A rock grinding noise was heard and the ground under the Inn shook a bit. The ruckus finally died down right as it reached them.
"What the hell was that?" asked Ino, not expecting an answer but getting one nonetheless.
"Na…ruto…." mumbled Isaribi in her delirious sleep.
Ino turned toward her, the possibility dawning on her. She got out of the room and was about to climb down the stairs when an unknown ninja, wearing the Leaf headband, climbed them hurriedly.
"Where is the patient?" she asked, not bothering with presentations.
Ino pointed Naruto's room and the pretty medic nin went inside without another word. Ino followed her, Isaribi being her charge for now. The woman was already sitting on the edge of the bed, using a medical jutsu with a hand and opening a bag with the other.
"Do you need any help?" she asked tentatively, not wanting to bother her.
"Not for the moment. You all did good keeping her alive. I'll need all of my concentration now," she answered, not lifting an eye from her patient.
"Okay…I'll tell the others that," almost whispered Ino, closing the door.
She went downstairs to find an exhausted Naruto. Shikamaru, Asuma and Choji helped him on a chair as he pulled an I.V. needle from his arm. Despite his tiredness, he seemed alert and aware of his surroundings. Seeing the question marks in her eyes, he explained, already yawning.
"Adrenalin and modified soldier pills. Despite my current state, I'm probably going to physically shut down in less than two minutes."
Choji's eyes opened wide and Shikamaru raised his eyes and arms to the sky, taking it as witness to Naruto's troublesome nature. Asuma simply shook his head, smiling.
"The mission finished about twenty hours ago, Naruto. I understand your desire to help and congratulate you on your success to making it to the other side of the Interior Sea and back in that time…"
Several gasps were heard from the two Genins, and a groan from the remaining Chunin.
"…but how should we explain this?" he asked, clearly amused. "Yes, I recognized Rin-san, which is why I know where you went."
Naruto yawned again and guessed he was running out of conscious time. Anyway, he knew he wasn't in real trouble. Asuma just humored him, fishing for his excuse as to why he did it in the first place. They had a report to fill when they got back after all!
"Well, as you said yourself, the mission was no longer in jeopardy. The shipment was saved, the tool of the attack switched to our side. Amachi was found and arrested and the remaining of the previously stolen cargo at our disposal. Choji, Ino and yourself seemed to be doing well on your end, if the lack of escaping ninjas was any indication. I figured that when Shikamaru left the complex to see how I was doing on my end. Isaribi, as one of Orochimaru's experiment, have to be examined to learn of his methods and objectives. As an innocent victim from a former Leaf ninja, it is also our responsibility to help her in any way at our disposal. I'm sure the current Hokages, especially Tsunade-hime who's a medic-nin herself, are going to agree with me."
Naruto let his back rest against his chair, his muscles relaxing from the lack of adrenaline. He closed his eyes as if blinking, but didn't open them back. His breathing deepened and his face rested with an air of satisfaction. He was asleep, and probably skipped the initial steps to fall in the deepest level of sleep.
Ino cooed a little, finding it utterly cute. Shikamaru snorted.
"Well, if you find him that cute, I'll give you the task to put him to bed. Tuck him in tight!" he said.
Asuma, Choji, Ino and Shikamaru helped the local to move the lost ships' cargo still in the hidden compound. They searched the place for any clues regarding Orochimaru's current location but found none. Still, it was the first time they could salvage anything from any of the Snake's lairs, except for the one he had back in Konoha, right before he departed. They terminated inhumane experiments and freed some prisoners after interrogation. They gathered a lot of files and some biochemical samples to show the Hokage. They moved it all to their H.Q. and packed their things.
Rin spent many hours at Isaribi's side until she declared her out of danger. She told Asuma it would take at least a week before she'd be able to leave her bed. She told to Naruto dismissively, while he was in his own bed, that she could be carried in about four days.
Naruto himself had been ordered to stick to his bed for at least the next two days.
"You are so troublesome, you knew that?" sighed Shikamaru, hearing that.
"From your perspective, life look like one big, annoying problem," grinned Naruto. "You should learn to make with what life throws at you. One day, you'll have no trouble at all, in retirement, and when watching the sky, no cloud will come to block the sun, what will you do then?"
Shikamaru's was taken aback by Naruto's philosophy. He ended up smiling, rubbing the back of his head.
"I guess you're right. Troublesome doesn't necessarily mean…boring," he admitted.
"That's the spirit! Go get them!" Naruto cheered him.
Shikamaru refrained to ask who he was supposed to get. Best to leave Naruto to his world. Team Asuma decided to leave early and to let Naruto get back on his own with Isaribi. They planned on making a chained Amachi carry all he could, preventing him from escaping at the same time. Right before leaving, Ino went to see Naruto, alone, in his room. Getting in quietly, she closed the door behind her. Naruto opened an eye, curious about what she wanted from him.
"Hi there, Ino-chan. Want a kiss good-bye?" he teased.
The tall blonde shook her head and went to Naruto's bedside. She bent forward in a very sexy pose, and kissed him on the cheek. It seemed all so natural to her…
"I planned on doing it anyway," she admitted, barely embarrassed. "What you did for that girl was impressive and… just sweet doesn't even start to cover it. You're a good man, Naruto," she said, taking a chair.
"Yeah, I know!" said Naruto, without an ounce of modesty. Ino snorted very un-lady like.
"I would normally say 'don't let it go to your head' but you're a long lost cause. Now, let's get to the heart of why I came to see you."
"You want to have some blond-to-blonde advice?" asked Naruto, wiggling his eyebrow.
"Something like that," said Ino, lifting up her chin. She looked at him very seriously.
"I want you to guide my training, Naruto. I'm in a crashing course right now. My family jutsu can't be relied on solely to achieve something. It's…not complete, or too final in its purpose. It's restraining and the thing is: I don't know how to make it evolve! Asuma-sensei is a great teacher but I feel that even he doesn't know what to do with me. I watched Ten-Ten fight at the Chunin exam. I saw the changes in Sakura. Ask whatever you want of me but please, train me," she asked, taking one of Naruto's hand in both of hers.
Naruto looked at her seriously before looking around, especially out of the open window.
"What are you doing?" asked Ino at the strange reaction.
"Just checking that a certain Hermit didn't heard that one. Okay. My training schedule is already full but I'll try to make some room for you on my time off. First thing: we're going on a date when we get back in Konoha," he finished with a grin.
Ino blushed and straightened back hearing him state it, instead of asking. She hoped he wasn't taking what she said too seriously…
"Why for?" she asked.
"Do you think I will do this for free? You'd better show me a great time! Oh, and don't tell Ten-Ten-chan, I still owe her a date for the help I already gave her with her training!"
Ino was about to shout she wasn't some kind of easy bimbo but realized he never implied anything like that. He was totally honest with his intention of going on a date with Ten-Ten, and that both her and Ten-Ten's dates were in exchange of training services. She grinned. She'd show him the best, romantic and sexiest date he ever could dream of! Then he would have to put the equivalent efforts in her training…
"Okay. You'd better rest well because the Saturday in three weeks time, you're coming to pick me up at my house at eight, in yukata."
Naruto chuckled, rubbing his hands together as if planning some perverted stuff. Ino rolled her eyes but couldn't help to put an extra sway in her hips as she left Naruto's room. The blond Chunin fell back down on his bed, thanking his lucky star for putting so many pretty girls in his way. Talking about pretty girls…
Naruto listened carefully before throwing back the cover from over him. He took both his pillows and rolled them in his blanket. He took the light bundle under his arm and walked unsteadily to the door. Opening it, he found the frame partially filled with a frowning medic nin. Naruto put a hand behind his head and laughed nervously.
"Could you tell me just where you were going?" asked Rin seriously.
"I was getting lonely," he said, looking down and to the side, but smirking.
He was looking both cute and devious. Rin could not help a small smile to flash on her lips, and rubbed a hand on her face. Before she could object, Naruto played his major card.
"I bet Isaribi-chan is bored and worried too, not having seen me since the accident at the river, and surrounded by strangers…" he said quietly.
Rin growled before stomping away.
"Why don't you just go and do what you want, don't you? I'm done here! Just make sure she takes her medication!" she said, her back to him.
"Thank you, onee-san! I'll tell sensei you send your naughtiest salutations!"
Rin stumbled hearing that, holding the railing of the stairs not to fall. She shouted a few insults before hastily retreating, afraid to give more ground to Naruto to tease her. Naruto chuckled some more and wobbled all the way to Isaribi's room, formerly his own. The innkeeper must be doing golden business these days!
Under Isaribi's very awake stare, he opened the door and closed it behind him. Humming to himself, he opened a closet and managed to get a spare futon out. He put his blanket and pillow on it and made himself comfortable. Finally lying back on it, he sighed, exhausted. His legs had more than enough exercise for the day. He turned his head toward Isaribi who looked at him from the edge of her bed.
Isaribi never thought she could laugh so much. Naruto was such a clown when he wanted! He spoke of his life and training with his brother and the problems they had with the 'fangirls' at the ninja Academy. Finding out some of their abilities made her feel a lot less like a monster. Asking Naruto about his parents and siblings, since he never mentioned them, got her an unexpected answer.
"I rather not talk about that right now. Maybe some other times…" he said, his smile becoming a lot more rigid. He stayed silent a while before covering himself whole, from head to toe, with his blanket. Isaribi feared she just hurt or angered him, until the blanket started to wave. It started slowly, as if there was some blowing wind under it. Then it lifted from Naruto, higher and higher, passed the level of her mattress and reached the ceiling. She felt the wind moving the air in the whole room. Naruto's sleeping attire, whole with a hat that seemed to bit his head, was what waved the most. Naruto had his hand crossed behind his head and looked at the blanket.
"Neat, isn't it? It's a new trick I learned when I went to fetch Rin. It opens up a lot of opportunity."
Isaribi looked at the floating blanket getting back down.
"Can you keep it up for a few more seconds?" she suddenly asked.
Naruto raised an eyebrow but complied. Isaribi crawled out of her bed to lay beside Naruto, wincing lightly now and then.
"Okay, you can let it drop," she said, blushing, cuddling against him.
Naruto smiled, got an arm around the girl searching for some human comfort, and let the cover drop over them. Yes, it definitely opened a lot of opportunities.
That's more like my Naruto! I'll make Jiraiya look like a shy virgin before all of this is over!