Well, it was inevitable that I noticed at some point. Fanfiction seems to frown on the use of original characters, rather preferring the use of Naruto characters in pairings. So, I decided to try out a pairing of my own. Now, I've not done this before, so sorry if the characters turn out wrong. I never understood why people flamed Ino, wasn't she the most capable kunoichi in her academy class? Oh well, personal taste I guess. Anyway, I want this to be a 'real' story. Meaning I want it to be true to the Naruto world. So I hope I get that across. Anyway, enjoy

Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto or anything to do with it...shame really. Would be quite fun if I wrote the manga. Sasuke wouldn't be such an emo kid for starters.

A slight stirring of leaves and a gentle rush of air was all that indicated that shinobi were on the move. Dark, blurred shapes darted through the trees and sprung off the branches, making them shudder slightly before settling again; the movement carrying from the impact zone all the way to the narrowest branch at the end which waved about madly before returned to gentle swaying within seconds. The forest left no sign that the shinobi had passed through, and that was how it should be; almost untouched. Being undetected was important for these particular shinobi; they were in enemy territory.

Travelling the borders of any country is risky, border patrols are everywhere. But it is better to travel along the border until you can cut a safe pathway through into the heart of the country. If this country had strong ties with Konohagakure, most likely the jobs of these shinobi would be easier. Actually, their mission would be non-existent. But Iwagakure and Konohagakure shared a rocky relationship which had barely held together with the treaty after the Great Shinobi War. If Konoha shinobi were found hanging around on the borders without any contact with Iwagakure's authorities, there could be trouble.

The shinobi halted and dropped silently out of the trees and concealed themselves among the dense undergrowth at the approach of several chakra signatures. A swish of long blonde hair was the last motion before everything was still and not a trace of any human presence was left. Shortly, the gentle thumping of feet on wood could be heard getting nearer and soon the gentle swish of shinobi on the move drifted down to Nara Shikamaru and his team mates; Akimichi Chouji and Yamanaka Ino. The three shinobi suppressed their chakra completely and waited, holding their breath, praying that they wouldn't be detected. Avoiding a fight was essential. It was a must, their survival depended on it. The border patrol whizzed overhead and carried on. The three didn't let their guards down however, there may be more.

There was.

Another ninja hopped along slightly behind the others and settled on a branch above the Konoha shinobi. Ino cursed silently, furrowing her brow. Had they been detected? The enemy ninja straightened and yelled out to his team mates. Chouji shifted slightly next to Ino and she gritted her teeth and began to move into the open, into position. Once she'd got her aim right, she raised her hands and performed the ninjutsu technique.

'Shinranshin no Jutsu!' She thought as she focused her chakra. Her spirit quickly split and out fired a small portion into her target. For a moment, the shinobi was still in control, but then he succumbed and he reached down slowly into the pouch on his leg that all shinobi wore. His fellows were making their way back to him, hopping from branch to branch. A sudden, unexpected motion from the possessed shinobi and one of his teammates fell from the sky; clattering down through the branches and thumping to the floor, struck down by several shuriken. The shinobi halted, mouths agape.

"What are you doing?!"

"I don't know! I'm not in control!" Ino smirked and leaped back to cover. Shikamaru nodded once to her to say a job well done and she stuck her tongue out cheekily, pleased she'd succeeded.

"Good job, Ino. Let's go," Shikamaru said quietly before they dashed off, leaving the border patrol to fight amongst themselves whether they were willing to or not. Shikamaru led the way, having memorized Asuma's directions to the letter. Ino followed after and Chouji brought up the rear, keeping an eye out for potential dangers. Several times the trio had plummeted into the cover of the bushes spread out across the forest floor as border patrols passed through their location. It was as they had feared; Iwagakure knew they were here and had sent out more ninja to 'dispatch the intruders'.

"Do you think Asuma-sensei is alright?" They were resting in a small clearing not far from the edge of the forests. From here on in there would only be steep cliffs and deep valleys of brownish rock baked dry by the sun. Ino turned to gaze behind them into the now fairly well-spaced trees which had at one point be so dense it had been difficult to maneuver through. Chouji waited for someone to answer his question, but he didn't really expect one. None of them knew what had happened to him. One minute, they'd been moving together as a four-man cell just into the borders, the next they'd been ambushed, attacked by another group of Iwa ninjas.

In the confusion, several Iwa ninja's had been felled by Chouji and his techniques, more caught by Shikamaru. Ino was fighting up in the air with another ninja, metal clashing on metal. Then, a flare had been fired into the sky, rocketing up and exploding with a bright red light and a loud booming noise that had echoed for miles. Asuma knew they had seconds to get out of the area, and so he instructed his team to move on while he cleared up. The plan was for him to catch up to them while they headed on to Iwagakure. If he didn't make it back to them, they should assume him dead, and carry out their mission as planned. After a pause lasting several minutes, Shikamaru sighed and raised his head to stare at the tree canopy.

"Well, if he doesn't catch up to us by sunset, we should assume him dead, or at the very least captured. It might be the fact that he can't find us, which may appear to be a bad thing at first, but is actually a good thing. See, if he can't find us, and he knows what he's looking for, the enemy won't sniff us out for awhile yet. Being Konoha shinobi, hiding in the forest is second nature to us, but once we're on the plateau…" He trailed off and silence fell amongst them once more.

The plateau was a large stretch of completely barren rock, devoid of any life. For the most part it was flat, and completely open. But there were dotted clumps of rock, and from these Iwa shinobi would be keeping watch on the open spaces in between. It was doubtful they'd make it through unseen without using some sort of concealment. Their only chance was if they waited until night fell and sprinted as fat as they could down into one of the crevasses and followed it down to a valley. From there they could travel with mild ease. The Iwa shinobi weren't as vigilant in patrolling the sides of the valleys. If they could run along the sides with their chakra, they stood a chance of making it past any scouts in the bottom of the valley – and they cut out the plateau almost entirely. This had been Shikamaru's idea after consulting with Asuma about it.

"Once we're on the plateau," Ino continued. "We'll get down to the valleys and make it to Iwagakure just fine. But we should stay here until Asuma gets back to us. And if he doesn't by, say, one in the morning, perhaps? Then we should move on alone." He others murmured their agreement and Ino was relieved that that was sorted. She knew Shikamaru and Asuma were close, closer than her and Chouji were to him. She hadn't been sure whether he'd want to wait longer, but he knew that they couldn't wait any longer or else dawn would be upon them before they made it to the valley.

Ino watched her teammates with her pale blue eyes that complimented her blonde hair; unusual for those in Konoha. The only people who had light hair like hers in Konoha were of course her family, Naruto and the great Lady Tsunade herself. Her purple outfit was, for the most part, looking quite well considering they'd been in a skirmish and then spent a good deal of time falling through bushes to the fairly muddy floor. Now the grass was thinning out, leaving great patches of bare Earth. Ino settled down and closed her eyes, deciding to rest for the most part until Shikamaru said it was time for them to move. He was undoubtedly the leader of their cell now, at least, until Asuma returned.

It was many hours later until Ino was shaken awake by Chouji. She opened her eyes wearily and pushed herself up off the ground from where she'd fallen to the side in her sleep. Chouji leaned back and faced a grave looking Shikamaru. It took a few seconds for the meaning to sink in. "Is he-?" Shikamaru shook his head.

"We need to go now or it'll be too late," Shikamaru said solemnly. Ino paused before nodding once and standing. Shikamaru and Chouji copied her. In the light of the Moon, Ino could clearly see the lack of expression on her teammates faces. But she knew that behind the mask they were as tense as she was, as anxious and worried for Asuma and themselves. This mission wasn't something to be laughed at. They shouldn't even have been sent on such a mission, it was only because of the lack of qualified ninja at the time. A-ranks were for jounin only, not chuunin. But Ino and Shikamaru had been singled out for this mission because of their unique yet vital abilities. Asuma had come along to add the experience and power of a jounin to the mission and Chouji worked well with Ino and Shikamaru and would be able to get them out of difficult situations using his brute strength. But Ino secretly doubted this would be enough to save Konoha's spy from Iwagakure's authorities. They didn't even know where to look, they didn't really know much about who they were looking for either as Asuma had had the documents. No, he still had the documents and he was on his way to them now.

"Right," Ino began heading out onto the plateau.

"Ino wait!" Shikamaru hissed quickly. Ino froze and turned to look at him.

"Wha-?" Ino whipped around as she heard the shuriken cut through the air. She leapt back as the impaled the ground where she'd been standing mere seconds before. As she leapt back, Ino realised that Chouji and Shikamaru were gone. With a neat flip she lightly touched the ground before darting for cover.

"Like that'll do you any good." Ino started at the voice and shot out of her hiding place as a Hidden Rock shinobi crashed down on it, his cruelly edged blade cutting deep into the earth. Twisting in the air, Ino launched first one handful of shuriken at the Iwa Nin, then another. He slashed at the first set with his blade then leapt over the second. Ino drew out a kunai as he approached her and the two clashed together, metal scraping against metal. They remained locked for a few seconds before they bounded apart and stood opposite eachother in the clearing. Ino held the kunai in front of her in the guard position, glaring at the other shinobi. The wind rustled through the leaves decorating the trees' many branches, scattering them down onto the two people far below.

"Who are you?" Ino asked.

"Is that really important now?" The Hidden Rock shinobi smirked. "Seems I'm the one who should be asking questions here." The shinobi was a man in his early years of being an adult and he had a shock of short blonde hair looking as though it had never seen a brush. His deep blue eyes seemed to be laughing at Ino and his arm with the blade was bare, the other covered by a long black sleeve. Over this garment, he wore the traditional flak jacket with the Hidden Rock symbol on the back. On his feet he wore the traditional ninja sandals and Ino spotted his headband tied around his upper right arm. Ino knew that, although it was uncommon in Konohagakure, blonde hair and blue eyes were the norm for Iwagakure due to it's predominance in the genes.

Ino gritted her teeth and waited for him to make his move. But he didn't make any movement whatsoever and at length he felt confident enough to relax and straighten rather than remain coiled for action. The young man stared at Ino for along time until; "If it wasn't for that Hidden leaf headband, you'd fit right in here. You look like any other of the Village girls. Not," He smirked, "that you'll ever see the Village."

"I wouldn't be so sure," Ino retorted, a smirk of her own playing about her lips. She still held the kunai, guarding her front, but Ino's free hand began to slowly move towards the off-white pouch in which were her ninja tools; shuriken, kunai, a coil of metal wire, exploding tags and smoke bombs, just the usual. Ino knew what she needed, knew what could stop this guy hopefully as quickly and silently as she needed. The flak jacket he was wearing meant he was at least a chuunin, like her. But his confidence could either suggest that he was a jounin and very skilled, or merely overconfident. Ino hoped that it was the second option.

"Oh…?" The man smirk formed into a twisted smile that so many Iwa ninja's wore. "We shall soon see…" At this, he lunged forwards, the blade of his katana glinting in the moonlight. As Ino jumped back and blocked once more with her kunai, her hand shot into the pouch and went to work.

Somersaulting high into the air, Ino first threw the kunai at the man. He merely took a step back to avoid injury, but then realised his mistake as the shuriken shot past his right side, shortly followed by one on his left. The wires tightened as Ino landed and tugged sharply upon the metal wire clutched in her hand. The wire cut into the man's flesh, especially into his exposed arm. He gritted his teeth and with a giant explosion of smoke, the bunshin vanished. Ino gasped in surprise as the wires fell to the floor, useless.

Dropping them, she tried to search for the Iwa Nin. A soft chuckling reached her ears from across the clearing. Ino's head jerked up at the sound with a start. There he sat, on a branch high above her, legs hanging casually off the side and head propped up by an arm which was placed on his knee. His expression was amused, jeering. Ino could tell he didn't think her much of a fight. And she supposed that in this situation she wasn't much use. She wasn't a close-range fighter; most of her ninjutsu were supplementary and her taijutsu wasn't exactly astounding. Against a man who obviously specialized in close-range fights, she was at a severe disadvantage. And the worst thing was he knew it. It had become apparent by her lack of skill in attacking back at him with her kunai. She'd only defended and kept moving back to gain ground. Effectively avoiding battle with him.

Ino wet her lips with her tongue. Sweat was beading on her forehead and slowly trickling down. Her long hair billowed slightly in the breeze before the wind stopped and allowed her hair to settle again, once more resting on her back. Ino kept on staring at the man, but she wasn't only looking at him. She could sense his bunshin everywhere. This was a popular trick amongst Hidden Rock shinobi, used to exhaust an enemy shinobi who'd been singled out and separated from their cell. A cloud blew across the sky, obscuring the moon for mere seconds, but it was then that Ino felt a sleeve slide past her face.

'A body flicker technique!' she thought as she saw that the shinobi was no longer on the tree and was now behind her. Ino had no time to react as his arm came at her from behind and clamped her in place. The other arm was drawn back, the katana poised, and swung forwards, aimed at Ino's unprotected abdomen. Ino screwed her eyes shut as the blade pierced into her. Her scream was cut off as the Iwa Nin recoiled and dropped the log he now held in place of Ino.

"A replacement technique?" He mused. Then he turned around to scan his surroundings. "Now when did you do that, little girl?"

Ino lay flat against the ground, concealed by the long grass surrounding her and the foliage of the bush she was hid under. She was a fair distance back into the forest; the Hidden Rock jounin was fairly small in size now. His back was turned to her, and Ino was debating on what she should do. She also wondered where on Earth Chouji and Shikamaru were. The forest revealed no signs of conflicts nearby. Perhaps they'd been taken out? No, impossible. Ino refused to even consider such a possibility. Perhaps they were close and watching her fight, deciding how to help her. Or they were caught up in their own fight out of her hearing range. Ino wasn't sure what was going on anymore.

Her adversary hadn't moved in awhile, and Ino began to get suspicious. Had he snuck away while she was watching him? How could he manage that? Well, there was one way to find out. Ino raised herself from the ground and switched to a kneeling position as quietly as she could.

The shuriken thudded into the man's back one after the other. He stayed motionless for a second and then his body hardened and the rock fell to the ground, forming a small pile of rubble. Ino cursed and cast wildly around. Where was he?

Ino spotted the shuriken flying towards her and smirked, stopping them in mid-air with her own. Then she released another handful at the man's hiding place, forcing him to drop from the tree to dodge the projectiles. As he fell, he flung several kunai at Ino and vanished into the bushes below. Ino saw the kunai ignite, or rather the tags attached to them. Her mind was awash with panic as she dived out of the way and dodged behind a tree. The tags exploded and Ino felt the heat on the other side of the tree. Ino began to run up the trunk of a tree opposite her under the cover of the thick, choking smoke. But she was met halfway by the man using the body flicker technique again.

Ino lashed out with her fist and the man caught it, swinging his katana towards her. Ino flipped up and, ignoring the strain in her wrist, twisted to land a kick to the man's jaw with her heel. He grunted as his head jerked back and his grip slackened on Ino's fist. Using her momentum, Ino quickly hit against the tree and propelled herself after the stunned man who was beginning to lose his grip on the smooth trunk. Her knee smashed into the back of his head and he rocketed to the ground where he lay still, dazed. Ino landed next to the man and kicked his sword away from him. Then she pulled out a kunai and flipped him over, bringing then kunai down into his chest.

Breathing heavily, Ino rose to her feet, staring at the body below her. She pushed away the feelings of guilt; he'd have done the same to her, and set off in search of her teammates. A minute or so after she'd gone, the body faded away and the original ninja stepped out of the shadows and stared after her.

"Time to alert the others, I guess." With that he took off onto the plateau, heading for the nearest clump of rocks which was where he'd come from in the first place.

"There you guys are! I was so worried; I thought you'd been dragged off somewhere." Ino landed in a crouched position next to the sitting Shikamaru and Chouji. Surrounding them were the signs of a battle; splintered bark on trees, various weaponry sticking out of the ground and plant life, blood splashed onto the floor. Although no bodes, like the one Ino had left behind. "They got away?"

"Yeah, how troublesome," Shikamaru sighed. "They'll have gone to tell the lookouts on the plateau. We need to move, now." He stood and Ino and Chouji copied.

"What happened to you two though?" Ino persisted. "One minute you were there, the next I'm fighting this dude with a giant blade who's trying to slice me apart!"

"We tried to warn you that we were surrounded by these three shinobi," Chouji said. "But they attacked when you stepped forwards, as you know, and while you were distracted-"

"They attacked us." Shikamaru finished. He glanced around at the dark shapes of the forest then back onto the plateau. "Man, this is bad."

"What is it?" Ino inquired, turning to face him along with Chouji. Shikamaru was still facing the plateau and he seemed to be in deep thought. "Shikamaru?"

"Those two that escaped us must have made it back by now. Can you see those shinobi? We don't have long 'til they find us. If we can move off in that direction we should be able to sprint into the valley without them seeing us, or at least without them catching us until we're into some trees again. So, you guys know where we're going right?"

"Where shall we meet up if we're split apart again?" Ino asked, her blue eyes fixed on Shikamaru. His dark eyes flicked to her face which was dimly lit up by the silvery moonlight. The air was cold, the night silent. Even the Hidden Rock shinobi were silent in their approach, or were they too far for them to hear yet?

"I guess at the end of the valley, Asuma will have to catch up to us later. If we make it through without being pursued, we'll wait there until dawn if we're split up. If we are followed in and they keep a good track on us, the best thing to do is to keep moving. In which case we'll meet up by Iwagakure."

"You want us to go straight to the Village?" Ino asked, amazed. "We can't do that! It's too dangerous to go alone."

"We don't have much choice, the south end of Iwagakure, about a mile from the walls. We'll meet there if we can't shake these troublesome guys. But try and stick together for as long as possible or until I give the signal to split, okay?"

"Okay," Ino nodded, worry etched into her features.

"Right," Chouji said, a grim expression on his.

"M'kay," Shikamaru mumbled. "Let's move out." The three shinobi vanished and moved into position so that they could commence their mad dash for safety in the enclosed spaces of the valley.

Flying across the solid rock surface, Team 10 dashed for the narrow opening into the crevasse which they'd follow into the valley. Their hearts pounded in their chests and their breaths came quickly in short, sharp gasps. Any moment, Ino expected the Earth to crumble beneath them, or for boulders to fly at them due to some ninjutsu. But nothing happened, and that was even more unnerving. Chouji and Shikamaru passed into the crevasse, Ino ducked in just before several kunai clattered of the rock surface inches above her head. Her hair snagged for a moment before the clean cut was made, taking off the ends. Ino darted after her teammates, and raced for the trees in the bottom of the valley.

Sounds of pursuit followed them down the narrow crevasse and when they broke out into the wider valley, Ino knew she had seconds to get out of the air and onto the ground where she was less of a target. Ino twisted in mid-air and with a flick of her wrists unleashed a volley of shuriken which peppered the crevasse's exit with metal. She heard curses as she hit the ground of ninja that had almost stepped on the sharp spikes and ninja who had scratched their arms on the ones embedded in the walls. Ino smirked and ran along the ground, keeping low.

Ahead of her, Chouji and Shikamaru leapt into the trees and looked back for her. She jumped up after them and caught up so that they were more or less level on their way through the trees.

"Did you get any?" Shikamaru asked as he rose up next to Ino before landing back on the branch.

"No, I wasn't aiming for them; they weren't in sight. I just tried to delay them, or give them a few injuries. I think a few got scratched."

"Did they have poison on? I know you were debating about it one training session with Asuma."

"A few did, but not all."

"Well, we've been relatively lucky so far." Shikamaru said lazily as he jumped ahead of the dumbfounded Ino.

"Lucky?" She asked in disbelief. "I fail to see how we've been lucky."

"We're not dead yet, Ino." Chouji said as he overtook her too. Ino gritted her teeth and followed the two onwards to Iwagakure. The pursuit lasted along time, and it was only grudgingly that Shikamaru gave the signal to split up. Ino and Chouji darted off as Shikamaru began to put his plan, if he had one, into action.

Ino hid her chakra as best she could, suppressing it just like Asuma had taught her. She felt tears well up at the thought of Asuma, but she forced them back. Shinobi never showed their tears, it was a rule. One she so desperately wanted to follow, but her worry was gnawing at her insides, distracting her. Ino sensed the chakra of two ninja following her. So, it would be a two-on-one confrontation if she couldn't shake them. Well, she'd try her best to avoid conflict. Ino sped up, but not before she planted explosive tags onto the branch that she'd just been on.

With a giant booming noise, they exploded. Ino risked a quick glance behind her and saw the ninja appear through the smoke. She dodged the projectiles thrown at her and carried on. She was running out of shuriken and kunai, she knew she'd have to spare a kunai for close-combat, and save a few shuriken for emergencies. She was also being too liberal with her explosive tags, her metal wire was mostly used up as well. Hopping from branch to branch, the forest speeding past her. No felt the wind in her face and couldn't help but feel exhilarated by the chase. She knew she was in danger, but she was still pumped full of adrenaline. And that's when something caught her eye.

A figure of a man was sitting on a large branch of a tree not far from Ino's path. Ino stared at the man, was he friend or foe, or merely an indifferent stranger? He was wearing traditional Stone Country travel wear. A brown cloak wrapped around the shoulders and a conical straw hat obscuring his face. He wore ninja sandals, but most travelers did nowadays. His clothes were plain, normal trousers fitting for travel and easy movement, and a long yukata styled top, open at the front and loosely tied about his waste with a plain sash. He appeared to be asleep, and Ino sensed no chakra from the man, meaning he must be a civilian. But he was damn high in the tree for one of them.

Ino turned back to watch where she was going, but she was too late. She shot into the net suspended from the tree canopy. As she hit the thin metal wires that made up the net, the entrance closed behind her, making it impossible to find her way out. In a flash, Ino has her kunai out and was hacking away valiantly at the wire, but it was no use. The wire was specially treated to improve its tensile strength; she couldn't cut through it. She began to flail about in the net as it seemed to close in before regaining her senses and stop moving. The Iwagakure ninjas were almost upon her now. They drew their weapons and leapt into the air, fully intent on thrusting their blades through the net and into her. She didn't stand a chance.

Ino screwed her eyes shut, too scared to watch her death come ever closer. Then, she felt an impossible surge of chakra. She opened her eyes to find the traveler man stood on the branch just before where the net's entrance has been situated. He'd moved so fast that the two Rock shinobi had no time to stop or redirect their route. The man let them pass him by no more than an inch before his hands shot out to the side, locking onto the wrists of the ninja. Ino watched as the man crushed the wrist of the man on his right by clenching his hand on the correct joint and tossed the man on his left to the side with relative ease. Both men cried out in pain as the traveling shinobi yanked back on the arm of the man on the right and positioned him for a rib breaking kick that sent him rocketing into the trunk of a nearby tree. The shinobi side-stepped an attack by the man whom had merely been thrown and blocked a punch aimed for his head. He snapped this man's wrist too and ducked under a desperate kick. Ino watched the other man rise to his feet and leap at her savior who was still locked in combat with the second Iwa Nin.

She formed the hand seals and for the second time that night used her Shinranshin no Jutsu, projecting a confusing force at the attacking man. He doubled up in the air and dropped from sight, only to appear on the other side of the branch and grab the man from the traveler and fling him away. Then he chased after him. The traveler watched in mild shock, confusion evident in his body language., as his previous enemies fought one another. The one Ino had been controlled forced the other man down and stabbed him. Quick as a flash, the traveler flicked his wrist and a kunai appeared seconds later in the jugular vein of the winner. Slowly, he collapsed and silence reigned once more. The man turned to face Ino who was hanging in the net on about his level.

"Did you do that, hmm?" He asked. His voice was deep, masculine, assertive. Ino knew he was strong, even though after the first initial wave his chakra had vanished again. He was entirely composed as he stared at Ino from under his hat, waiting for her answer. Ino nodded. "I see. That's quite some technique, hmm. Useful, but I'm sure I've heard of it." Ino noted the apparent speech habit of adding a strange mumble-grunt to the end of his sentences.

"Thanks, for saving me I mean." She said at last. Her voice seemed to break the man out of his reverie.

"Oh? But are you really saved? How do you know that? I could be worse than these two, hmm." Ino was sure that she could hear a vague note of humor in his voice. This made her think he was joking with her. Ino decided to be friendly towards him.

"Could you please let me out, sir? I'm sorry for troubling you."

"Oh not at all, not everyday you catch a Konoha shinobi, hmm." Ino froze, "Especially when she's a helpless individual from the Yamanaka clan. Heh, I knew I recognised that technique. I was warned about it many years back, but I doubt they were referring to you back then, hmm."

Silence fell between them, Ino was unsure what she should do. He had already figured out who she was, and of he had access to that sort of information, he must have been a high-ranking ninja. But, why had he killed those ninja when he was obviously a Rock shinobi too? Was he a missing-nin, a deserter? That made him even more dangerous.

"Well, what are you going to do with me? Kill me?"

"Oh no, what gave you that idea?" The man seemed highly amused. "Why would I kill off someone who's going to be of great use to me?"

"What makes you think I'll help you?" Ino asked fiercely.

"What makes you think you have the right to even think of refusing what I ask, hmm? Do you want to die in a net? How shameful." He chuckled to himself at the very idea. Ino bit back the retort she was dieing to utter; mouthing off wouldn't help her here. She should just here what he had to say to her. "Nothing else to throw at me, hmm? Going to hold your tongue? Good, at least you're intelligent. Now, if I let you go, will you help me?"

"Who are you, first off?" Ino asked. "Are you a missing-nin?"

"Yes, I am."

Ino gulped. "From Iwagakure?"

"Yes, yes," He said impatiently, "Hurry up, hmm."

"Fine! What do you want me to do?" Ino asked, defeated. A missing-nin, oh God. What was she going to do? She doubted she was strong enough to fight him.

"As you know, Iwagakure is my home village. Been about three years since I deserted, hmm. And I left something behind that'd I'd very much like back. You can help me there. And, if getting you out of this net isn't leverage enough for you, I can take you to where they've taken your sensei, hmm."

"W-what?" Ino stammered.

"Bet you were wondering why he didn't come back, weren't you, hmm? Well, I saw his fight, but he was overpowered. Seeing as they didn't kill him and carried him off, I can safely presume that they've taken him to Iwagakure's cave system where they keep the rest of the prisoners. You help me, I'll help you, hmm."

"That seems fair, I guess. But why should I trust you?" Ino asked.

"Like you have a choice, hmm." She could hear the contempt in his voice. "Besides, looking at you, you'll fit in fine, hmm. Blonde hair, blue eyes….yeah, if you lose the headband you'll fit in fine. So, do you want me to let you out of the net or to tell you first?"

"Let me out now, thanks." Ino said, "Why would I want to stay here any longer than need be?"

"Hey, you're a Konoha Nin miles from home in enemy territory, who knows what you want, hmm?" The man was most likely smirking. "Out you get then."

The man swiped at the net with something glowing blue, most likely a sword that you could infuse with chakra. Ino's heart skipped a beat as the net opened up above her but at the same time plummeted to the ground. With nothing to push off to jump clear of the net, Ino fought against the billowing folds until she thudded to the ground. Winded, she shakily began to rise, using her elbows to prop herself up. The man landed beside her and knelt quickly. Ino stopped in surprise as he gently held her head still with one hand and brushed his other hand through her hair. It was only after the initial shock that she realised that something was moving in her hair. The man stood up without offering to help her, and Ino copied him.

Reaching up to her head to remove what was crawling on it, Ino recoiled as something pinched the skin of her index finger, hard. Ino winced as she looked at her bleeding finger.

"Yeah, I don't recommend that, hmm." The man said, looking at her.

"What is it? It's not a bug is it?" She added quickly.

"Of sorts, yes," The man said casually. "It's one of these, hmm." He opened his hand and Ino was disgusted to find that a mouth was grinning at her, saliva oozing out of it and it's tongue waggling about happily, almost as if it were waving at her. Then, Ino saw a white creature crawl up from the underside of the man's hand.

"Is that," A pause. "A butterfly?" Ino asked, doubtfully.

"A clay one," he man said. "And just like the one in your hair, it can move and defend itself as you've already found out."

"Why is it in my hair though?" Ino asked angrily.

"Because, I don't want you to betray me, of course."

"And how's a butterfly going to stop me?" Ino questioned, raising her eyebrow to fix the man with a skeptical gaze.

"Because it's a remote bomb that I can detonate at any time, hmm. And believe me, if you even breathe a word of me to anyone, I'll get rid of you in a second." In the pale light from the moon, Ino could see the expression on the man's face. Well, only his mouth, but the twisted grin on his lips was enough to tell Ino that he meant what he said. This man was dangerous, and he had to have an Iwagakure bloodline limit, who knew what he was capable of? "I'll let it stay in your hair, think of it as a decorative clip if you must, hmm. But don't forget what it really is. After all, that could be fatal." He chuckled to himself. Ino glared at the missing-nin. So, he was a traitor and a deserter, and now he had her in his power, a place she didn't want to be.

"So, what do you need me to do?"

"First off, you're going to have to get to Iwagakure, hmm. So go there with your teammates, if they haven't been captured of course, and on your second night there go to the western end of the Village. There are some pretty step cliffs there, hmm. No-one bothers going there for guard patrol because it's so steep. So go there and I'll meet you at the top, then we can talk."

"And you'll help me?"

"Get your teammates and sensei back? Sure, that's what I said, wasn't it?"

"But you're a missing-nin, why should I-"

"Believe me? You'd be surprised how many times that topic comes up in conversation with me, hmm. And the answer's always the same, you can't. But, do you have a better option?"

"No, I-"

"There you go then, it's settled, hmm. Western end, second night, on top of the cliffs. Don't bring anyone with you, and don't tell them where you're going, hmm." He said lazily. "Or else I'll blow you to pieces."

So? How was it? Hope you enjoyed reading, and the next chapter should be out soon. Reviews are very much appreciated, flames even more so because some of them are in such appalling English that you can quite happily spend several hours trying to decipher them then give up in the end anyway wondering whether they gave up on typing and instead smashed their faces into the keyboard repeatedly. Guess you can never know with those people.