No, I'm not dead. No, I'm not discontinuing Dichotomy, nor am I quitting writing, or ignoring you all, or any of that stuff.

As I'm quoted for elsewhwere, "Inspiration is a fickle bitch. Sometimes, she whispers the greatest things since sliced bread, and sometimes you gotta spank the whore until she gives it up."

I'm working on that second part at the moment for Dichotomy.

Regardless, I did manage to get this out of her. I've wanted to do a nukenin!Naruto fic for a long time...and without the normal emo undertones that most of them take. You know, like, 'Omg U hurt sasuke-kun, I kill j00 now!" and he runs away, or villagers beat him to a pulp and he runs away, or someone goes OOC and betrays him...sigh.

Too many good fictions are ruined by the victim-premise, or character-bashing by way of having those characters act totally OOC. Mind you, I'm guilty of that at some points, but I've at least learned my lesson.

So if you're looking for an emo 'Sakura hates Naruto' or 'Sakura betrays Naruto for Sasuke' or 'Everyone hates me I think I'll go cry my mascara off and cut myself' or anything like that...this isn't for you.

All that being said? I think I did a pretty good job with this thing. I could be wrong...but I don't think I am. I'm not really looking for mass-acceptance with this one, so much as I'm writing this one for me, and the few people who I respect the opinion of. I'm putting it out there for you guys, because some of you might like it. If you do, I'm glad, and feel free to tell me about it. If you don't...meh.

Regardless, enjoy. Or don't.

I don't own Naruto. I don't own Kisimoto. I don't own Japan. I don't own the world.


"Two pair."

"Full house."

"…straight flush."

Naruto smirked as the rest of the men at the table groaned, a few even going so far as to curse loudly.

He reached out and began gathering his chips, adding to his already enormous pile. "Hey, not my fault you guys don't know when to quit."

The old man…he could have sworn he had seen him here before…growled at him. "One of these days, you little shit, I'm gonna beat you!"

Naruto frowned at the old man, absently puffing on his cigar. "…not gonna happen old man. I'm the luckiest son of a bitch this side of Iwa, and everyone knows it." He quirked a smirk. "…and don't call me a little shit…I'm a big shit now."

The old man lit his own cigar, downing a small glass of scotch as the smoke billowed out of his mouth. "…that much is true, at least."

After a moment, the old man stood up, and began walking towards the exit. He stopped just short of it, turning around and raising his voice for Naruto to hear over the hum of the pub's patrons.

"But…everyone's luck runs out sometime."

Naruto frowned.

The wall behind him exploded.

The parlor, a place Naruto all but co-owned with his...partner...began to empty out, its patrons fleeing yelling and screaming for the exits.

Such incursions weren't exactly uncommon here…especially considering his fame, and current status...but, it still didn't pay to be here when shit went down.

Then again, it's not like Naruto ever actually lost a fight.

Turning around calmly, he spied three Shinobi emerging out of the dust from the wall. He absently noted that the old man had conveniently disappeared.

"…Uzumaki Naruto. Sorry, but…we have to kill you."

Naruto just kept puffing on his cigar, unruffled. His tall, moderately built physique, covered by a rather simple Konoha Jounin's outfit, minus the vest, leaned against the card table. "…Sorry? You're sorry you have to kill me? C'mon, at least be honest when you're assassinating someone."

The lead figure in the haze, which had begun to settle, laughed lightly. "Ah, Sorry. It usually makes the targets feel better if they think we don't want to kill them, but have to anyway. Duty is an opiate of sorts, you know."

He waved his hand dismissively, taking the cigar in his mouth, which was now a stub, and flinging it away to the side. He casually downed what was left of his cognac. "Eh, no problem. I'm not a 'usual' target, is all." He threw his empty glass to the other side of the room, waiting until he heard it shatter.

Naruto absently rubbed his chest. "Regardless…you guys…know who I am, right?"

The haze cleared, revealing three Ame Nin, dressed in the usual Jounin uniform, replete with re-breathers, goggles and tan jumpsuits. Each was fingering some sort of sharp object.

The lead Nin laughed again. "Uzumaki Naruto, age twenty, nukenin of Konoha, reputed to be the single strongest Shinobi in the elemental countries…nickname, the 'Ryuujin'. Yes, we know who you are. That's why there are three of us."

Naruto just blinked a few times.

And then laughed uproariously.

"…you think three…" he laughed more. "…three of you will be enough? Oh wow. That's awesome." He continued to guffaw. "…man, I don't think I've had someone actually say something like that with a straight face to me in…a long time. You made my day man."

Naruto couldn't see it past the re-breather, but he thought the lead Nin frowned. "Don't take us lightly, Uzumaki. The old man that hired us, hired us for a reason." He spread out his hands, as if revealing a showcase or something. "…we are the 'Amechisan'. Surely, you've heard of us."

Quite suddenly, Naruto's lax demeanor, and casual smile, morphed into something more befitting a Shinobi of his caliber. Calm, collected, but with a very hard edge.

His hair, free from a forehead protector, fell over his eyes as he leaned his head forward. "…the blood rain three, eh?"

The lead Nin once again laughed. "So you have heard of us. I'm honored that such a Nin as yourself has heard of our many exploits."

Naruto was silent. Seemingly, the entire pub, devoid of customers or patrons or call girls or anyone but the four Shinobi, became extremely quiet.

It was ever so slight, but the eldest of the blood rain three's smile dimmed.

"Yeah. I've heard of you."

The smile vanished.

Naruto stood up straight.

"…purported to have slaughtered three different villages on the orders of the Ame-Banshou…famous for killing your own parents at the age of ten. Helped the Mizukage secretly in the bloodline purges."

He started walking towards the three Shinobi in front of him.

"Said to have drowned an entire village hidden in the crook of a valley, just to kill one target."

Unsurely, all three brothers took a step back.

He stopped.

"…yeah, you could say I've heard of you."

Naruto's eyes came back up…crimson. Pupils slitted. Whisker marks enlarged.

All three froze on the spot, unable to move. The killing intent…the malice that filled the air…unreal…

The blonde haired nukenin took a small, unassuming katana hilt, sans guard, from a small pouch on his leg. It was red and black, with the fibers surrounding the hilt intertwining to form a double-helix of sorts.

From the top, formed a shimmering, tight, invisible blade of wind…nearly as long as he was tall and slightly curved. It looked almost like a daikatana.

Ever so slowly, one side of Naruto's mouth curved upwards.

"You three…are precisely the type of Nin I make a living of killing."


She saw him walking around from the back, a small spattering of blood adorning his outfit, and a cigarette lit in his mouth.

She frowned.

"Do you know how hard it is to get bloodstains out?" She threw her hands up and shook her head. "God, every freakin' time! I swear, you fuck up every single pair of clothes I get you!"

Naruto just smirked, that devilish roguish smirk that disarmed her every time. "Yeah, my bad. Cleaning it out will have to wait though."

She almost puckered. "Wait?!"

He just nodded, taking another puff on his cigarette. She noticed he was looking at a place behind her. She turned.

And then sighed.

"He hired them?

Naruto nodded.

She began walking away, towards her small harem of call girls. They needed some consoling anyway.

She raised her hand in both dismissal and exasperation. "Do what you have to. Just make sure to get enough out of his hide to fix the wall and anything else you broke."

He nodded again, a sly smirk ever present on his vulpine face. "Ever the miser, eh Tayuya?" He chuckled and began walking towards his prey, which was being held by three of his Kage Bunshin. "Don't worry; you'll get your money."

She huffed in the near distance.

Out of earshot, his countenance dimmed.

The old man, currently struggling, quite futilely, to get away, looked on with quite a bit of fear. "Uzumaki-sama! It was a misunderstanding! They –"

He waved his hand, and one of the Kage Bunshin put his hand over the man's mouth.

"Sure, misunderstanding. Happens all the time. Water under the bridge and all that shit."

The old man whimpered.

Naruto smirked wryly. "You didn't lose that much, man. Hell, buying the Amechisan probably cost at least half the total of your debts to the house combined, right?"

He sat down near the old man, leaning on the back of a park bench. The area was unassuming…forested, but lightly. It was nestled in a small nook in a village just outside of fire country, a very exclusive spot, and the spot Tayuya had set up her business. The village leaders both knew of the establishment and frequented it, but also fervently denied any of that to anyone that would ask.

He took another puff on his cigarette, and exhaled through his nose.

After a somewhat long pregnant pause, Naruto flicked his cigarette away and rubbed his chest again.

"Tell you what, old man. I'll make you a deal."

The old man nodded furiously.

Naruto yawned. "In the long run of things, you did me a favor by setting me up with those three…their bounties are pretty high, and they're on my 'list' to boot." He turned lazily towards the now somewhat relaxed old man. "…but you still hired them to kill me, and more than that…you messed up Tayuya-Chan's place pretty bad…indirectly, but hey, you're responsible for the Nin you hire, y'know?"

Again, the old man nodded furiously.

He closed his eyes and propped his arms up on the backrest of the bench. His head leaned back. "So here's the deal. You pay for the damages and you settle your tab, plus twenty percent interest…and I'll let you off with a warning, so to speak."

The old man's eyes went as wide as saucers.

Naruto smiled cruelly.

He had helped with 'the books' in Tayuya's parlor of ill repute more than once. She had records on every poor sod that had ever come through her doors, including him…and she kept meticulous track of what those same poor sods owed her.

This particular sap owed something close to twenty five million ryo.

The only reason why Tayuya hadn't collected on it before is because he made a habit of losing money at the gambling tables, running up his debt even higher. She was taking her own gamble in that at some point, he would pay back to the house a lot of money…which would be one hell of a boon.

Naruto had told her, time after time, that the old man wouldn't ever pay…that his tab was a liquid asset at best…

But of course, since when had she ever listened to him?

Adding twenty percent to the tab, on top of the repair bill, would make his debt to the house far more than it was now. And would all but bankrupt him.

With another hand motion, the Kage Bunshin took his hand away from the man's mouth…and then all three dispelled, leaving the man to crumple to the ground pitifully.

"…bu…but…that's…that's…over thirty million ryo! You'll bankrupt me!"

He turned his ever widening cruel smile on the old man, satisfied as he saw the man's resolve and pride breaking. "…you really should have thought of that before you decided to try to kill me." He laughed, it coming out as cruel as his smile. "But, such is life, right? After all…"

His smile widened until he looked like some evil, twisted version of a Cheshire cat.

"…everyone's luck runs out sometime."


It had been four…maybe five years ago that she had met him.

It hadn't been a meeting of fate, or destiny, or anything like that.


He had tripped over her foot.

And fallen straight into her chest.

Where he had stayed for almost five seconds.

His head, apparently, still had scars from where she hit him. Mostly because, feeling slightly guilty, she had taken him back to her 'establishment' and cleaned the wound…but she didn't feel guilty enough to use a regular disinfectant. No, she used isopropyl.

That shit burned. Like, literally. Pouring isopropyl alcohol on an open wound was akin to using salt to disinfect a mosquito bite. Sure, it worked, but…

He'd stuck around for a few days, complaining about his wounds, and gambling his ass off, winning quite a bit, too. She'd hired him as one of the house dealers, and soon after, his table had started raking in profits.

After that, they had both fallen into a mutually beneficial relationship of sorts, both of them not quite sure what to make of the other. Tayuya was a Kunoichi cum parlor mistress, and Naruto was a Shinobi cum nukenin. Each played their role, and didn't bother the other.

Neither had trusted the other, either.

They probably still didn't, though if hard pressed, they'd throw that mutual distrust away in an instant.

At the time when they were first 'figuring each other out' so to speak, he had been morose, depressed, and utterly…defeated. After a month or so, he quite suddenly one night regaled her with the story of why he was on the run, and why he had left the village he had loved so dearly.

It had almost made her puke in disgust at his relative softness, considering he was a Shinobi.

But she was still sympathetic.

Apparently, some Nin, on assignment under orders of the Hokage, tried to defeat a member of Akatsuki…and failed, horribly. The man, named Sarutobi Asuma, had died a rather ignoble death at the hands of Hidan, an S-Ranked nukenin out of Amegakure…which had spurred a revenge-mission that ended in the Nukenin's death, or…something close to it. He had also, apparently, used a Jutsu of immense power to defeat Kakuzu, another member of Akatsuki.

Naruto had apparently considered the matter closed, until…

Until he'd found out that Asuma had a fiancé. A pregnant fiancé.

Soon after that revelation, he'd come to the decision that no one else should be sacrificed for his safety…regardless of if he fell into the hands of Akatsuki.

So, one evening, he'd written a note, packed up his things, and calmly ran away.

The rest, as they say, was history.

Naruto had stayed with her, at her parlor, for a good two or three months after that, hiding and planning, as well as surreptitiously contacting Jiraiya of the Sannin through the use of his summoning contract. Said Sannin had agreed to hide Naruto's location, as well as act as his liaison in Konoha, provided he kept Jiraiya up to date on his condition, his location, and most importantly, the state of 'the seal'.

He'd agreed.

Shortly thereafter, Naruto had been declared a Nukenin of Konoha, ranked S-Class, and then, apparently, promptly forgotten about.

No hunter Nin, no ANBU, no attempts to try and get him back. Nothing.

Tsunade of the Sannin had seen to that. Even at the demands of his former teammates and friends, she hadn't allowed anyone to go after him for any reason.

Of course, they'd both learned this second hand from Jiraiya.

And then, with basically no warning, Naruto had just…disappeared.

For a good year and a half, neither she, nor anyone she knew had heard, seen or so much as caught a whiff of him. It had been like he had dropped off the face of the world.

And then, again, with basically no warning, he'd come back.

And begun to changeeverything.

Including her.


During his travels, he'd once come upon an old man who sold, of all things, women's makeup and perfume.

He'd asked the man why he would sell, in his words, 'sissy shit'.

The man had smiled at him.

And then told him a heartbreaking story about his wife, and her passion for making perfumes and makeup and all sorts of 'sissy shit'.

He'd felt horrible.

The man had waved him off and shared a drink with him…before calmly telling him that the moral of his story…

Was that everyone needed a purpose.

His, was to continue his wife's dream, even after her death.

Naruto's…was completely uncertain.

Yes, he had a goal to get stronger. As strong as he could possibly be.

Yes, he had a goal to defeat Akatsuki and finally be strong enough to protect those precious to him.


Then what?

It had been something he'd thought on for almost a half of a year. What happened when he became stronger than everyone else? What happened when he finally defeated Akatsuki, when he finally got Sasuke back, when he finally got Sakura and…

He hadn't a clue.

In his rosy-red view of society, at the time, he had thought that by simply being the strongest, people would follow him…he could make not only Konoha, but the world a better place, simply by being stronger.

And then, quite without warning, he had gotten himself involved in a war.

It was…rather minor as far as wars go. Two moderately sized factions with old-fashioned samurai, going against each other for land and resources and…all those things people over the ages fought wars over.

Yet, everywhere he had turned; there had been some form of tragedy.

A son losing his mother…or father. A mother losing her son. A father losing his daughter. A woman sold into slavery to pay debts, or captured by the other army to be 'stress relief'.

Horrible, wicked things humans did to each other that they thought nothing of, simply because they were powerful, and those that they victimized were not.

He had come to a realization that would change his life.

Most of the time, when he saw powerful people, they were evil. Orochimaru was evil. Members of Akatsuki were evil. Even Konoha, for enough money, could be evil.

Money, power and the use thereof ruled the world.

Power corrupted, absolute power corrupted absolutely. Money compounded the problem.

So, he had very calmly one day, sat down, and hammered out a goal for himself, a mission that would take him his entire life to accomplish, and that he could die happy having fought for.

He could change people…he knew that much. But the question was…were some people innately evil?

The answer he had come to was a firm 'yes'.

And thusly, he had dedicated himself to absolutely wiping those that were evil from the face of the earth.

For seemingly the first time in history, someone with untold amounts of power, resolved to use that power for good.

When he had returned to civilization, after more than a year of the most grueling, hard fought and won training he had ever been through…

His first action had been to get the most up to date version of the bingo book available.

He had found what he was looking for in the Banshou of a small ninja village just outside of Suna. According to the book, the man was an S-Classed Nin, known for sacrificing the people of his country for small, petty wars, and selling children, women and the 'useless' into slavery on a whim.

Within a day, he had entered the country. Within a week, he had fought through nearly sixty percent of the countries army. Within a month, the S-Class Banshou had been dead at his feet.

Quite unintentionally, he had used a relic he had found earlier in his travels to perform the final deed…a sword not unlike the Raijin of the Nidame, in that it channeled elemental chakra. However, this sword seemed to be the precise opposite of the Raijin, in that it channeled wind natured chakra instead of lightning natured chakra.

He had, of course, named it the 'Fuujin'.

Seeing as how he had cut through so many troops, and even the Banshou of a small ninja village with a sword that made cleaner, sharper, more precise cuts than even Orochimaru's Kusanagi was known for…

He had been given the nickname of 'Ryuujin' by both the populace at large, and the bingo book. The flowing blade.

All in all, he liked the moniker.

It had come as no real surprise that his actions after the annihilation of a countries corrupt armies and leader were even more spectacular.

With the help of Jiraiya…though no one knew that at the time…he had defeated Painand Konan, sparing the latter, as she had been like Haku to Pain's Zabuza.

He'd learned that particular lesson the hard way.

Shortly thereafter, he had tracked down Zetsu, one of the last remaining members of the Akatsuki, and with the help of two of his fellow Jinchuuriki that should have been dead, defeated him.

He still owed Gaara one…and Yugito…

Last he heard, she was running her own version of Tayuya's 'entertainment parlor'.

One featuring men.

He had no real desire to visit there.

Regardless, with both Pain and Zetsu firmly dead and in the ground, that had only left Itachi…and the shadowy member behind the whole thing, someone who Jiraiya called Uchiha Madara.

In the past two and a half years, neither of them had surfaced…and neither had Sasuke. It was almost like all three of them had vanished off the face of the earth, much as he had during his second training trip.

They hadn't exactly been missed.

After defeating Zetsu, Jiraiya had asked him to return to Konoha, to reunite with his friends and allies once more.

In all honesty, Naruto had no reason not to. Most of his goals were accomplished…he was extremely strong…he had grown up, both mentally and physically, meaning he could probably have any woman he wanted…no, there hadn't been any reason for him not to return to Konoha.

Save for the fact that he simply didn't want to.

Freedom was addicting. The ability to guide one's own actions, intent and purpose was…both unique in the Shinobi world, and a luxury of the highest order. In truth, during his time spent away…he'd grown far happier than he'd ever been amongst the leaves. He'd grown stronger than he'd ever had the chance to be in Konoha.

He had identified with Sasuke.

This had both scared him, and reaffirmed his decision to stay away.

Officially, he was still a Nukenin, and would stay that way until he could defeat Uchiha Madara, Itachi and possibly even Sasuke.

Unofficially…he would be a nukenin for as long as he deemed it necessary. In other words, as long as he was still free.

To that end, he had made a 'list' of sorts, of some of the most ruthless, murderous, horrible bastards from the Bingo Book. This 'list' had been published along with the most recent edition of the book itself.

Unsurprisingly, many of the Nin on the list went into hiding.

Which didn't really preclude Naruto from finding them…it just made it more challenging…which was kind of his goal in the first place.

To date, he had decimated over twenty five percent of those on his list. Because of their bounties, and bounties he had collected from the Akatsuki members and the various Nin he slew cutting through the Banshou's troops…

Well, he wasn't exactly poor.

And that wasn't even counting his gambling gains. He never lost.

All of this meant that he had both the funds to finance himself, but also to finance his friends, and to make sure that the right pockets were greased.


All in all, life was good. He had a place to call home, for the most part, at Tayuya's parlor…


He had a reputation that rivaled or even surpassed his father's…

"Uzumaki fucking Naruto, I swear to god…"

And he was respected by all, admired by some, and fawned over by pretty much every female he came across.

"I hate you so much."

He absently turned his head towards Tayuya, who was glaring at him from across the way.

Well, almost every female.

He smiled lazily. "…sorry, what were you saying?"

For the umpteenth time, Tayuya hit him right on the scar on his head.

God that hurt.

"…but you only hurt the one's you love…"

Tayuya, hearing his absent external thinking, snorted and stomped away. "Dream on, dipshit!"

Oh, he would.


"…again? This is what…the fifth time this month?"

Naruto chuckled, putting the scroll on the desk of the man he'd come to know better than almost anyone. "Sixth, actually. Three, this time. The Amechisan, to boot."

The man behind the counter whistled appreciatively. "The Amechisan…man, Amegakure's not gonna be happy. They brought in something like fifteen percent of their total GNP."

He lit up a cigarette and smiled roguishly. "Something like that. Who's the bounty payee?"

The man behind the counter motioned for Naruto to unseal the contents of the scroll, which he did swiftly. Three heads appeared neatly on three circles on the piece of paper. The man behind the counter didn't so much as flinch. He just nodded.

The man turned around and started writing something down. "The Payee is Iwa of all places. Apparently that village they drowned a year back was within their jurisdiction, and they weren't exactly happy. Almost went to war with Amegakure, if it weren't for you 'subtly' persuading them otherwise."

Naruto laughed lightly. "Amazing what threatening the Daimyo of Tsuchi no Kuni can get you." He took a puff on his cigarette, tapping off the ashes. "Well, that, and promising them that I'd eventually kill these three. Didn't know they were the bounty payers though."

The man behind the counter snorted. "Anyone else, they would have laughed your ass out of the country…but you…" The man chuckled and put his signature to the piece of paper he'd been writing on. "…you could say the sky was purple, and they'd believe you."

"Hah…I don't know if I'd go that far…but I suppose I hold some clout." He leaned up against the wall opposite the counter and crossed his legs to form a twist of sorts. "What's the total, Aniki?"

Naruto didn't know the guy's name…only that the man was involved in the local Yakuza. Hence, he called him 'Aniki'. Saved them both trouble.

Said 'Aniki' ripped off a receipt from his pad, absently flipping it to Naruto. "Three mil' each…so nine mil' total. You know the drill…there'll be a courier for you in a few weeks…we get a cut…all that shit."

He nodded. The standard operating procedure for collecting on bounties was to give proof of the bounty being fulfilled to a local bounty office, run privately, who would then inform the village that the bounty had been collected upon. They'd receive payment by proxy, take a five to ten percent cut, and then courier the rest to the bounty hunter himself.

He put out his cigarette in a rather conveniently placed ashtray and began walking towards the door. "Pleasure doing business with you, as always."

The man just raised his hand and shooed him off good naturedly.

Naruto, as he hit the street, couldn't help but sigh contentedly.

It was a bright, sunny day…the birds were chirping, the people were bustling…

It felt alive in so many ways that Konoha didn't.

The village closest to Tayuya's parlor, a place known simply as Taira, had become his unofficial home over the past few years. It was a mostly unremarkable city…population of a little over ten thousand, usual amenities, nothing too fancy, nothing too run down…place ran mostly off of agriculture and local crafts, with a small, mostly benevolent Yakuza presence…

It was just about perfect. It was normal. For whatever reason, Naruto adored normal.

One of the perks of being an S-Class nukenin, was that you didn't have to worry too much about hiding. Most nukenin had to hide out in secluded areas with little to no civilization to speak of, and they rarely if ever ventured outside of their territory, for fear of being hunted.

For S-Classes like Naruto though, there wasn't really a restriction like that. Bounty hunters pretty much stayed away from him, and enemy Nin were either usually too scared or too dead to go after him in his own turf.

There was the occasional young buck who thought he was hot shit, of course…but nine times out of ten, he just beat them easily and sent them on their way good naturedly.

The 'one' out of ten in that equation was usually a fellow Nukenin who made a living bounty hunting on the side, like him. Those times, he would finish up the fight quick and take the head to 'Aniki', usually before anyone knew that there was even an enemy amongst them.

There was another thing he loved about this place. He had become their unofficial guardian, their ward against malign presences and other unsavory types.

If a bandit camp got too close, he'd take it out. If some nukenin strolled into town and made trouble, he'd fuck them up and good.

It made him feel…wanted. Needed, even. Without him, they'd have far more trouble than they would otherwise. It felt damned good to feel useful, and to know that you were protecting people who actually appreciated your efforts.

In return for his services, as if he needed repayment, the people gave him space, leeway, respect, and even cordiality ninety nine percent of the time. There were still the hard-line hold outs who maintained that the only good Nukenin was a dead nukenin, but they were mostly old codgers who were half senile anyway.

He'd actually become something of a hero to the younger generation, a positive role model that many young boys attempted to emulate. He was the fierce, loyal, cordial and honorable protector of the weak, to them at least…and they took that mantle on themselves, absorbing the virtues of protecting those precious to you, and becoming strong for their sake.

He couldn't count the number of times he'd seen kids practicing with wooden swords, playing 'Ninja' and vanquishing the evil men come to destroy their town. The hero of their play-scenarios was even usually referred to as 'Ryuujin'.

It was hard to describe how awesome that made him feel.

As he walked down the street, hands in his pockets and smile firmly planted on his face, he noticed people giving him warm, happy smiles, admiring grins, and amorous glances from the females.

And even some of the males…

Though he ignored those.

To be honest…

It was everything he had ever hoped to have in Konoha.

A people that loved and respected him…precious people to protect…and a city that thrived around him with no ill will towards him whatsoever.

His smile grew.

It was freedom.

And it felt better than he'd ever imagined.


Aside from being her highest-paid house dealer and de facto bouncer, Naruto was also Tayuya's unofficial 'enforcer'.

Meaning that when there was an unpaid debt, or a threat to her establishment or girls, he was usually the one to 'take care of it'.

Hence why he was standing in her 'office', looking at the invoice she had written up regarding the bastard from yesterday's debt.

She took a drag from her long-stemmed pipe, filled with exotic tobacco from Kusa no Kuni. "The usual carpenters quoted me at around twenty five thousand, forty thousand if I made it a rush job." She exhaled her smoke. "Needless to say, it's a rush job."

Naruto nodded, folding the invoice and sticking it in his pocket. "Of course." He rubbed his chest absently, stifling a yawn. It was a subconscious tic of his that usually meant he was thinking.

Being around the guy for a few years had her able to discern his every motion and what it related to. Rubbing his chest meant he was thinking and yawning meant he was acutely focused.

In fact, pretty much everything he did outwardly was the opposite of what he was actually feeling or thinking. Unless you happened to catch him in one of his rare moments of complete openness, which only really happened when he was feeling particularly contented or relaxed.

She stood up from her plush chair behind her mahogany desk, walking over to an armoire that contained a small smattering of exotic clothes she had custom tailored. They ranged anywhere from formal, traditional kimono's to almost-see-through lingerie and skimpy beachwear.

She absently untied the sash around her waist. "Remember, no flashy shit. Just in, get what you came for, and get out. With your reputation, any resistance should flee the moment you get there." She took off her red casual housecoat of sorts, not really caring that it revealed her in her bra and panties to Naruto.

He'd seen her in less. Not during any coital moments, but they were just that comfortable around each other.

From behind her, close to the door, she heard a mostly fake whine. "Damn it, I wanted a good fight. Spoilsport."

She couldn't help the small smirk that formed on her face as she picked out a loose green kimono with a white slip. "You haven't had a good fight in a long time, and you know it. If you really wanted a good fight, you wouldn't be spending your time here."

Naruto huffed. "I just want the competition to come to me, not the other way around. I'm a lazy bastard, and you know it."

Tayuya chuckled. "Or at least, that's how you want to be seen."

Silence for a moment.

She froze as she felt hands cup her breasts lightly.

"Oh…I think they've grown!"

Turning around more quickly than anyone had a right to, she hit Naruto right on the scar on his head.

Unsurprisingly, the clone gave her a smirk as he vanished.

She cursed…then sighed.

Tying off her sash and tapping the ash out of her still-lit pipe, she resolved to beat the shit out of him when he got back.

Her expression softened.

She shook her head, almost in resignation, as she stepped out of her office and into her girls' collective antechamber.

One of these days, he'd take it further than just puerile groping.

One of these days.


His expression softened as he received the memories from his Kage Bunshin.

Tayuya was worried about him, even if she didn't show it.

Flying through the sparsely populated forest as quickly as the fastest of Nin, he chuckled slightly. One of these days…they'd really have to sit down and have a heart to heart.

It would end with him either beaten to a pulp, or in bed without any clothes on.

Or both.

Tayuya was kinky like that.

She rarely showed her emotions, actually. It wasn't as if she didn't have them…she was just…crusty. She had this emotional scab over a wound that hadn't quite healed since her time in Oto, and even before.

Giving everything she had to Orochimaru, and then being tossed away as a sacrifice to secure his new body…had hurt her more than she cared to admit. Hell, she'd only survived due to the fact that a wandering merchant couple had found her and very slowly and carefully nursed her back to health. It had been a stroke of luck that was uncommon to the woman.

Though, because of her defeat at the combined hands of Shikamaru and Temari, she still couldn't use chakra. The tree that fell on her had crushed her coils beyond anything anyone other than Tsunade could heal.

She was still strong, though. He made no mistake about that. She had trained her body to the point of collapse over the course of a few years, working to overcome her chakra limitation, much the same as Lee. Because of that, she was faster and stronger than most Jounin Shinobi he knew of.

Hell, with the various seals that covered her body activated, ones that he had made, actually, she could probably give him a run for his money, at least in the strength department.

Though, she couldn't hold a candle to him if he was serious. Very few people could.

Because he was easily the fastest man alive.

He had figured out, rather early in his training, that speed plus momentum was a greater force than raw strength could ever be. A punch from a static position, enhanced with chakra, could be extremely powerful…but a punch with speed and momentum behind it, even without chakra enhancement, was far stronger.

So he had worked on speed, far more than anything else. He had even created his own version of Shunshin in the process, a Jutsu that, he had been told at least, was extremely ingenious…as well as unique to him.

Mostly because it used an ungodly amount of chakra.

Which, to him, wasn't actually that much.

The basic principle behind it was the same principle behind all Shunshin variations, transport version, battle version, or otherwise. You ride a 'wrinkle' in space-time and just…shift. It sounded far harder than it actually was.

Shunshin had been explained to him once, as 'traversing the sine wave'. The old, weathered Shinobi that had taught him a little about it had said that you had to think of space-time as one big, never ending sine wave. You had peaks, you had valleys, and you had everything in between. Shunshin was a Jutsu specifically meant to traverse that sine wave, shifting from one point on that wave to another by tightening the wave itself, or in other words, increasing the frequency. If the valleys and peaks were closer together, that is to say, if the frequency was higher, you could get from one point to another far more easily than if the waves were far apart.

The difference between the various versions of Shunshin was in the details, the frequency, and the focus.

For example, if you focused harder, and if your control was good enough, you could tighten the wave far more than if you didn't have that focus and control. If you had a definite idea of where exactly on that wave you were standing, you could then more easily shift to another point.

Naruto, of course, had completely fucked that premise up. To the inordinate surprise of the old man, he had turned the very concept of one of the oldest Jutsu in existence on its head, seemingly creating a new variation that worked far better than the original…at least, for him.

Instead of riding 'the' sine wave…he had ridden 'a' sine wave.

One that he created with his own chakra. One that was directly inverse to the original sine wave…that is to say, one that was parallel to, but opposite of the original.

The old man had said he had added a 'third dimension' to the Jutsu, or something like that. He was apparently not shifting forwards or backwards or even up and down…he was shifting side to side, from one space-time to another, at intersecting points that he controlled. This was because he wasn't just tightening one sine wave, he was tighteningboth. This meant he could ride one sine wave irrespective of the second, and intersect the second wherever he wanted, far more quickly and far more stealthily.

Because…and this was the beauty of the variation, apparently…

No one could feel him coming.

Technically, because he didn't exist in space-time until he warped back into it, his chakra signature was completely gone until he was right behind you.

And by then, of course, it was far too late to do anything about it.

All of this took an absolutely insane amount of chakra…roughly half of what it took to perform a Rasenshuriken every time he used it.

Which, again…wasn't that much to him. His reserves dwarfed even the most massive of 'normal' chakra reserves.

Absently, still in his thoughts, he noticed that he'd arrived at the almost-mansion of the old man from the day before.

He slowed his pace and landed on a grassy knoll in front of the impromptu 'gates', that was really just some wood built into a low fence, and began walking towards the entrance.

A/N: Twenty points to anyone who recognizes where I got my explanation from for Shunshin.

Anyway, good, bad? Indifferent? Meh. Let me know.