"This is a breach of the contract!" a short port man said as Naruto's clones started to knock out the mercenaries hired by him.
"Sorry, but the old man has given up on you, your rule is over as of now," Jiraiya said as he walked towards the merchant who'd proclaimed himself the ruler of Nami no Kuni, "Any last words or a reason as to why I should spare your life?"
The port man looked to his right and left but as far as he could see all of his men were tied up, literally. At that moment he regretted that he hadn't hired a few more nuke-nin even though they were expensive. "Information, I can provide you with information,"
"What kind of information," Jiraiya questioned, his neutral mask in place. If the man didn't come straight out with what he knew then he would have to take the hard way he supposed.
Rapidly the port man went through everything he knew; sorting out what was most likely to catch the white-haired man's attention to spare him initially. He was one of the sannin, that much he knew, "Orochimaru!"
Involuntarily Jiraiya jerked his head up in attention at the mention of his old team-mate.
"Orochimaru of the sannin has left Akatsuki and created his own village, Otogakure he called it," This was all new information for Jiraiya, how the creation of a whole village had slipped past his spy network was something worthy of investigating.
"There's been some rumors regarding the coming chūnin examinations in Konoha, supposedly Iwa and Oto are allies, Suna is on the negotiation table for an attack upon Konoha during that time frame. My knowledge of these matters is due to an operation of that scale needs some people willing to sponsor the preparations," Gatō explained, before he could continue however Jiraiya raised a hand, signaling him to stop.
"Hana, knock him out and tie him up, we're leaving," before Gatō could protest a hand connected squarely and precisely against his neck, knocking him out.
"Where are we going Jiraiya-sensei?" Naruto asked as the team rushed out the building, Gatō slung over Jiraiya's shoulder.
"We're heading back to Konoha with haste, this guy is the gold mine of information it would seem. Naruto, you go and pick up Zabuza's companion since she falls under our jurisdiction, I trust you know how to get back to Konoha,"
"Roger that," Naruto said before he leapt away from the group, all in all the detour had him lagging behind his team an hour, and slowly the distance was increasing as Jiraiya was able to travel faster thanks to his summons.
"Take him to Ibiki then for further questioning, he'll be able to extort any useful information," Hiruzen said as he rubbed his temples. What he'd learned so far was no good, Orochimaru along with Iwa planning an attack against them, with Suna possibly being in the cahoots with them. Oto was one of the villages that had requested to be part of the exams, and they had been granted a few spots, he couldn't justify reverting the decision now lest he'd give away what he knew.
"What to do about this mess?" the old man wondered out loud, completely forgetting that he had yet to dismiss the team which had brought Gatō to him.
"Excuse me Hokage-sama," Kurenai's hesitant voice drew him out of his own little bubble, "But why not play along with their game, convert their trap into a trap of our own? What better way to crush our foes than to neutralize the threat as quickly as possible, prepare the village for the attack without arousing suspicion,"
"How do you propose we do that?" the Hokage asked, how the girl managed to see something he was not able to was unbelievable at best.
"Recall the people from Ten no Hi, make some minor changes in the village defense, do more evacuation drills to lessen the civilian casualties once they really need to know where to escape. Any long term hunting missions should temporarily be put on hold unless they are hot on the heels of their targets, prepare more traps surrounding the village to stop any major invasion force to break through, there's various ways to increase the chances of the village withstanding an attack,"
"Yeah, we can even claim that they're training seals and stuff made by someone training in the way of seals, I even got a nifty one that doesn't even look like an explosive note," Naruto's addition had surprised the entire room.
"When did you learn to be sneaky Naruto?" Hana voiced the one question everyone had,
"Always been, just don't feel like doing it usually," Naruto responded blowing a raspberry in her direction as he climbed through the window fully, Zabuza's companion slung over his shoulder.
"Back to the matter, Kurenai I'm fully aware that using their own trap upon them is probably the wisest choice, I'm however unsure just how to proceed that's all, however your idea of recalling the personnel at Ten no Hi is good and something I hadn't thought of. Now Naruto, who is that that you've brought with you?"
"This is Haku, she's from Kiri though she was never a ninja there so she isn't a nuke-nin, since she's got a kekkei genkai Mei-nee told me to bring her here since she wouldn't be treated well in Kiri,"
"Mei-nee?" Hiruzen asked Jiraiya, a quizzical look on his face,
"Terumī Mei, Hokage-sama, the jōnin-sensei of the Kiri team that accompanied us to Nami no Kuni," Jiraiya explained.
"Ah, very well," Hiruzen said as he took a deep puff from his pipe, "I'll have Ibiki go over her and from there we'll go over what can be done about her, Naruto take her to ANBU headquarters, they'll know what to do. The rest of you are dismissed," as the door was closed the elderly man sat there in a long silence, so many loose ends, he knew he soon would have to sort everything out or something big would come down on him. He had the feeling something was already working against him. "I'm too old for this," he muttered as he peered up that mountain side, more specifically his late successor, "You should be in this seat, not I,"
"This is boring, weren't there some bad guys that were supposed to threaten the old man?" Kiba wailed as he stood guard by the bridge along with the rest of his team.
"Father told me that Jiraiya-sama's team have already dealt with the situation, we just have to remain here until the bridge is complete and then we'll be able to leave," Miki said while she casually juggled a few kunai.
"Nee-chan took all the action from us? Kami-sama, first they take the welcome committee and then they take care of the whole thing not leaving a single scrap for us? That's bad!"
"Kiba, may I remind you that it was no child's play what they did. Considering their first opponents they should be glad they came out of that unscathed, at least the genin. That team is two years ahead of you, at the minimum. Their total experience is no laughing matter, possibly you three could defeat one of them in the state you are in; if you're really lucky," Kanae's words were somewhat harsh, but true. She had no visions of grandeur regarding her team. If she ever challenged team Chizuro on a team spar she had no doubt her team would be utterly crushed by the older genin.
"Kiba-kun, it's nothing to be sad about, intead we can use this time to train,"
"That's the spirit Hinata," Kanae said, flashing the young girl thumbs up as the white haired girl tried to console the now downtrodden boy.
"As troublesome as it is, we're here to relieve you guys," a voice interrupted any further conversation between the members of team eight. Standing there was the Ino-Shika-Cho trio along with their jōnin sensei Sarutobi Asuma.
"Sounds like you guys are aiming for the chūnin exams coming in the next few months in Konoha," the two teams perked their ears at that, they had heard nothing of a chūnin exam in the works. Judging from the look on Asuma's face he'd said too much.
"So there is an exam coming up back home, I knew it!"
"Yes Miki, but you didn't hear that from Asuma, rather it was your lazy father who had a drink or two too much and gave you that piece of information," Kanae said sweetly as she beckoned her team to follow her as she left the build site. "Now then, let's head back to Tazuna-san's home and begin your training, you're gonna ace that exam and be the best,"
"Hell yeah," though neither Hinata nor Miki were as vocal as their male counterpart they gave firm nods of agreement.
Two months later
"Is this good enough Naruto-san?" Miki asked her blond companion who stood above her. He'd been overseeing some special training that she'd requested from him to be done after her own team's training had been finished. It was probably the hundredth time that evening that she had done the same exercise, so far none had been approved by her "teacher".
Taking the still slightly wet note from Miki's hand Naruto inspected it; the writings were in the correct places, no faults with the seals. "Yupp, looks good to me, now you'll just have to apply chakra to it, do it only in small quantities though, so we can check if it really is correct, better to have the explosion with only a very small amount of chakra charged into it rather than a full scale explosive note, that way we can check how your ability to make a wide range of different notes is,"
After charging a small amount of chakra into the note Miki placed it against a tree and backed up a large distance, and waited for the explosion, just like designed the note exploded no less or more than 10 seconds after the second application of chakra to the secondary seal array acting as a safety.
"About the size of a firecracker, perfect, now time for some full scale ones," Naruto said with a grin. Just as he was about to set Miki to work with making another note Kakashi appeared at the corner. Apparently their secret training ground behind the Hokage tower had been discovered.
"Naruto, if you mind I'd like to have Miki back, she's got team training early tomorrow morning, and I think you too have training to do, best not to anger Chizuro by oversleeping, right?"
"Righteo," Naruto said, his complexion a few shades whiter than usual. He watched Kakashi along with Miki disappear into the night of Konoha, "Never figured him to be the one to wonder where his daughter is,"
"Ya know, if it had been my daughter and I knew she was hanging around with you I'd be worried kiddo," Chizuro's voice caught the blond by surprise, he'd become adept at sensing Chizuro's presence during the long time they trained, but somehow she had managed to elude him this time.
"What are you doing here sensei?"
"What do you think Naruto?"
"Um, visiting your awesome student?" he asked with a smile.
"Not right, you're not my awesome student; I have three excellent students though, and you may just be one of them, and I now have an assignment for you,"
"Well, let's move then Hikari, Yami!" Kurenai only saw a blur as her opponent and her companions moved after Chizuro had thrusted her hands downwards, signaling the start of the spar. A cool wind drew in over the training field, sending a chill down her spine; spring hadn't really come in force just yet.
"Where are they?" she muttered out loud. It didn't take that long before the first dog attacked from her left, a quick sidestep and the threat was avoided. 'below,' she jumped into a tree and just narrowly avoided Hana grabbing her legs.
"That's only worked once Hana, just give it up!"
"Never hurts to try, Naruto has fallen for it several times,"
"Hey, doesn't count since it wasn't during spars!" Naruto called out from the sidelines, the movement enough to shake his concentration as the wind he manipulated around him stopped to work, resulting in a hard impact between the ground and his back.
"Gaki, concentrate on your wind meditation instead of what they say about you, we all know you're the easiest to trick here," Chizuro said as she attempted to stifle her laughter.
"Wouldn't be a sport to spar you guys otherwise, I'm just too awesome in combat for this team!" Naruto said brashly.
"Kurenai, keep mind on your spar instead of what Naruto and I say," Chizuro yelled out just in time for the red eyed girl to react, instead of a solid punch to her chest the closed hand of her opponent struck her right arm.
The fight seemed to drag out, as Kuranai simply stayed on the defensive, moving out from any attacks Hana and her dogs sent her way.
"Boring," Chizuro exclaimed after watching the two kunoichi fight for half an hour without any sign of a coming victor, "Team spar begin!"
As the words left Chizuro's lips Kurenai released the jutsu she had been planned for since the beginning of the spar.
Hana's vision was reduced to zero as a sudden darkness encroached around her, and she felt something akin to water traveling up her body. As she tried to breathe she found herself unable to do so, quickly her panic started to mount up as whatever she tried didn't help. It was with an intense relief her entire world went white, accompanied by the sound of loud bangs.
"Victor…" Chizuro started to proclaim, both Hana and Kurenai were on the ground, a few clones belonging to Naruto pinning them there. She was stopped however when to her great surprise both Kurenai and Hana appeared from the ground, both delivering solid hits to the boy, knocking him out and thus erasing the clones from existence.
"I give," Hana said as she dropped on the ground, her breathing labored.
"Kurenai it seems," Chizuro scowled. Kurenai just gave her a grin, it hadn't been hard to see through their teacher's thinking, let Hana and herself tire themselves out against each other and then send in Naruto in to mop the floor with them; it was just her style.
"Get up Naruto!" Chizuro said as she walked over to the downed blond, giving him a sharp kick in the ribs for good measure, "you just cost me a bet with the girls, so you're paying for the lunch today,"
Grumpily and rubbing the sore spots on his body, courtesy to his female team members, he slowly stood up as they started to walk towards the center of Konoha, he attempted to steer them towards Ichiraku, but the attempt was foiled as he passed by a bbq restaurant that Chizuro had heard one of her fellow jōnin recommend.
"We're eating here!" the strawberry-blonde declared before marching inside.
"Hokage-sama, it happened again," the matter of discussion was highly disturbing, amidst their ranks they had a spy with access to highly classified files, and now another file had disappeared.
"Which file was it this time?" the tired Hokage asked. The spy managed to evade all of the traps set up to protect those files, and circumvent the seal system protecting them once the traps had been disabled.
"Project Yuki, the entire original file is gone,"
"What is it they are after?" the ANBU commander asked, the files that had been stolen so far were not related to the village's defenses nor directly connected to secret techniques that Konoha held in the secret files.
"I'm not sure, but we need to tighten security even more it seems. Along with that line, it may be time deal with any other loose ends; I trust you have all that is needed for project Yuki already Sugabe?" the Hokage asked the director of Konoha's military research institute.
"Yes, we have all we need," the man responded, "There's nothing more to be gained from additional tests. The additional data from project Arishihi has been recompiled again, so we have all we need from there as well,"
"Well then, clean out all the unnecessary 'material' then, Tengu will see to it I trust?"
"Yes, Hokage-sama," the ANBU commander said as he walked towards the office door.
"Oh, and see to that the little failures from Orochimaru's experiment is removed as well," the Hokage said, stopping the ANBU for a moment before the man nodded and walked out.
"Well then Hokage-sama, I hope we find the culprit soon,"
"So do I Sugabe, if there was nothing else I bid you a good night,"
"Hurry up with it Kame, we need to get out here ASAP to meet up with Ōkami, Ahoudori and squad eight" the ANBU with a rat mask said to her companion who carried their captive.
"Jeez, it's not like someone's gonna come here and interrupt us, besides we got squad twenty-three and fourteen to cover the entrances to this place, you're way too concerned about non-existing threats Nezumi,"
"The commander said to be careful, the most logical suspect would be within our own ranks since they have infiltrated the archives protected within the ANBU headquarters!"
"Well, then…" their conversation came to a halt as they entered the chamber where they were to meet up with their two squadmates. The floor had a neat amount of blood still running out from the bodies of their comrades, sitting on their knees in the middle of the small ring of dead ANBU surrounding them, still wearing the blindfolds they had been given when they were taken to the execution chamber.
Kame unceremoniously dropped the girl on his back while he withdrew his ninja-to. He may not have a clue as to why the people in the room were to be killed, but the commander had told him it was a matter of village security. He was about to slice into the girl, but a mere moment before the blade would connect three shuriken hit his arm, rendering it useless, his hand dropping the blade before it could deal the killing blow, only inflicting a minor cut on the girl's left arm.
Nezumi moved in the direction from where the projectiles had come from, she wasn't disappointed as just a mere moments later she saw several glimmering objects head towards her, with a quick seal sequence she unleashed a great ball of fire, neutralizing the metal objects. She saw someone move in the light of the fireball, narrowly avoiding being incinerated. She was just about to follow up the technique with another fireball, but an incredible pain erupted from her lower abdomen. Looking down she could see her teammate's ninja-to, now in the hands of a stranger. Once more pain flared through her as the blade was jerked out, as she fell she could see as Kame was decapitated while her own vision deteriorated as the weakness was spreading throughout her body.
"Why?" she weakly asked the attacker.
"It's sad that it's come to this, but it's time for some change here. I'd rather not have to kill you guys, but is is necessary for the change to happen since you're aware of these guys' identities, and we can't have that. You were just in the wrong place ANBU-chan," the mysterious attacker said before making a single handseal, several kage bunshin appearing and helping to move the should-be executed prisoners.
"How'd this happen Tengu?" the Hokage asked as he surveyed the scene where eight of his ANBU had died.
"I'm afraid I don't know Hokage-sama, we had two teams covering the entrances to this place, so how they managed to get inside is unfathomable," the ANBU commander responded, still in shock.
"None my lord, the perpetrators have managed to get rid of any tracks, only used the ANBU's own weapons to kill them as well,"
"So we have several liabilities at large now?" the Hokage questioned. This could be some heavy political leverage if it was one of his enemies that got aware of what the people rescued knew.
"Have any evidence of this erased, I'll take care of the paperwork and have them listed as killed/missing in a S-class mission, their bodies were never found," Hiruzen said before he walked out of the chamber, the spy seemed to have much more knowledge than he would have liked. Not only did he have to worry about what Ibiki had found out from Gatō, but now this as well. He knew he had to take an unorthodox method to help turn the coming exams in Konoha's favor if the information extracted was true.
"So, do you accept the mission?"
"Yes, as long as we receive the pay of a Konoha A-rank mission,"
"It'll be sorted, now go and inform the team in that case, the mission starts in a month, more information will be provided at a later date,"
The only sign of the meeting was the crumpling burning piece of paper on the ground; 'Konoha Chūnin exam infiltration and elimination of viable targets,' was the only text that remained before that too was eaten by the red flames, turning it to ash.
A/N: Long time eh? Haven't had so much time for writing with the new work taking up much of my time and energy, but at least here's a new chapter. I've had a hard time coming up with a way to formulate my way towards the Chūnin exams, but hopefully I'm starting to get up a decent pace on the writing again soon.
As always, please leave a review, constructive criticism is always appreciated. (Just saying you like the story is fine as well, some motivation is always nice.) :)