Chapter 25 Resolutions

Itachi's eyes shifted from a normal looking three tome Sharingan to a higher form, the Mangekyo Sharingan. "Tsukuyomi," he muttered as he caught Sakura in his illusion and he entered it to control it personally.

The landscape in Sakura's mind was not how Itachi had planned it to be. Instead of the black and red realm of the Tsukuyomi it was a mix of red, pink, white and black. He looked about for the mind of Sakura but was forced to jump back as a massive axe impacted the ground he had been a moment prior.

Holding the axe was a girl appearing in her late teens. The ANBU armor she wore over skintight pants showed off her curves well. The most shocking sight was the plain white mask over her face with a mass of pink hair spilling freely down her back. The girl wrenched the axe from the ground. The blade of it was easily the length of her torso and the haft inches across but she held it as lightly as one would a kodachi.

The follow up swing proved this insanely huge axe moved as quickly as a sword would. Itachi needed a chance to gain control here.

"So, who would you be? I was expecting little Sakura-chan here," Itachi said in his calmest voice.

"Sakura's not here right now," the girl replied. "But you can call me Ne-chan."

Ino grabbed Naruto and jumped back out of Itachi's hand to hand range with him. She saw he was in a genjutsu so she followed the standard procedure and pushed random amounts of chakra into his system. She found it harder than normal as the blonde boy had huge amounts in his coils. But she succeeded in waking him

"Up and at 'em Naruto. No zoning out on the battlefield," the girl joked as she looked back. Sakura and Itachi were both motionless looking at one another so she ran in and tried to wake Yuugao.

Itachi tried to catch this 'Ne-chan' in a genjutsu but her mask had reflective lenses over the eye holes and he could not make eye contact. He was forced to try something else. This girl could only be a second personality inside the girl's head. He would have to deal with this quickly as without complete control of the Tsukuyomi realm, real time was passing even if slowed.

"Aww, don't you want to play, Itachi-kun?" Ne-chan cooed before swinging her axe at him once more. The Uchiha ignored her attempt at distracting him and dodged once more.

"Ne?" he asked. "You are a creation of Danzo in the girl's mind?"

A chuckle sounded out from the girl but she never stopped in her assault. Itachi was forced to keep moving to keep from being cleaved by the axe.

"Nope, I've been here since long before that. I just borrowed the look. That old red dress imouto liked was not hardcore enough," Ne-chan said never relenting on her cycle of axe attacks.

"Multiple personality disorder then?" Itachi pressed for information still looking for a way to control this aspect of Sakura. But the realm itself slowed him down as the girl moved easily.

"Nope, just suppressed issues," Ne-chan said as she surprised Itachi by stepping in and hitting him with a hard kick to the chest. "Everything imouto is not quite ready to deal with yet gets focused down here to me. She never loses touch with them or me. She just is not mature enough to handle it all completely. Funny, if we were still as innocent as when Kakashi tested us months ago your first genjutsu would have worked. But too bad for you our life has been harsh enough to force us a bit further apart."

Itachi knew how bad a psychotic MPD ninja could be so he felt he should do something about this.

"So you are intent on becoming a separate personality then?" Itachi asked dodging another near miss that cut his cloak.

"Nope, insanity is not in the works. Speaking of insanity, you should be proud Itachi. You not only managed to destroy your clan but the only one you spared is such a basket case that he may never recover. You would have been kinder to Sasuke if you had killed him outright instead of what you did do to him." Ne-chan said with a laugh as she managed to shock Itachi enough to lose what little control he had of her mindscape.

Itachi was shocked again by the information but before he could do anything more he felt a pushing sensation. The mindscape shifted abruptly as Ne-chan retook full control. It changed to a colorful field full of flowers and training posts.

'NOW GET OUT!" she yelled as the Uchiha was forced out.

Ne-chan nodded as her head looked side to side to make sure things were as they should be in her realm and commented out loud to herself. "No insanity for me. I am already moving closer again as imouto matures enough to handle all the aspects of ninja life and recognizes her feelings. I figure after she gets a bit older, gets drunk a few times and gets laid a few times, my purpose will be gone and we'll just be Sakura. I can hardly wait."

Ne-chan smiled as her mask faded out of existence. She set the haft of the huge battleaxe across her shoulders as she walked toward a door that appeared. Through it could be seen a bedroom. The armor faded out of existence alone with the axe as she lay down on the bed.

"I can't wait for the real deal eventually.' Ne-chan thought as she returned to what she had been doing before Itachi's attacks.

Itachi shook his head as he was forced out of Sakura's mind. Nearly ten seconds had passed in reality but a lot can happen in a fight during that time. Ino was just waking Yuugao and Sakura pressed her attack not realizing time had paused for her. The pink haired girl managed to cut the trailing sleeve of the cloak as he moved in time. Itachi retaliated with a kick to Sakura's chest but she rolled with the blow and came up to her feet ready to continue her attack.

"Naruto hits harder than that, Itachi-chan," Sakura taunted.

Itachi frowned slightly at the nerve of this genin and stopped holding back his strength. He seemed to phase out and reappeared with his fist buried in Sakura's stomach and her bent over his arm from the blow. The hidden armor prevented the fist from penetrating her abdomen much to his dismay. Before he could follow that up he pulled back just in time to avoid a decapitating slash from Yuugao.

Ino retreated back to Naruto and Gaara once she had awakened Yuugao. She noticed Naruto still sitting on the sand rubbing his face.

"It won't come off. I can't get rid of it," he was muttering.

"Snap out of it, Naruto!" Ino said shaking the blond boy. She noticed his eyes still had a faraway look as if the genjutsu still had some effect on him. Frowning she took a more direct approach and slapped Naruto hard on the cheek.

The shock of the hit roused Naruto fully and he looked around blinking wildly.

"Focus Naruto!" Ino commanded. "We are in the middle of a fight here."

Naruto nodded briefly as his focus returned and his awareness sharpened as he recovered mentally from the genjutsu.

Hayate and Baki continued their own assault on Kisame but the swordsman ninja was easily up to the task of holding both at bay.

"Finally, a decent workout," he cheerfully said as he fought with little apparent effort. He kicked Hayate back and exchanged strokes with Baki. Then he kicked Baki away as Hayate returned to the fray. When Baki closed in once more, Kisame fought both to a standstill with a grin on his face.

Ino tried to get into the battle now that her initial assignment was completed. The blonde ran closer to the dueling swordsmen while the boys were pulling themselves together. She tried to use her clan's Mind Destruction jutsu on Kisame but Samehada absorbed the chakra of the attack before it could affect the missing ninja. The shark faced ninja gave a lazy backhanded swing at Ino and a mass of blue chakra left her body. Ino fell to her knees as her chakra was ripped away by the sword.

"Uh oh, little girls shouldn't try to play with the big boys. They might get hurt," he said leaping at Ino with his sword raised to strike the blonde girl down.

Ino had no chance to move before the blow would have struck but she was pulled down into the sand and vanished from view. Moments later, she rose out of it next to Gaara as Hayate and Baki renewed their battle with Kisame..

"Nice save Gaara," Naruto commented shakily as he was still bothered by the genjutsu he had been under.

Thank you, Naruto," Gaara replied with uncertainty in his voice. He made a shelter of sand and placed Ino in it as her chakra recovered. "Did you mean what you said before they attacked? That I am more than what I was months ago?"

"Of course, Gaara," Naruto said bringing out his smile for the red haired Sand ninja. "I don't know much about you but if Ino thinks of you as a friend and stuff, that means you are a good person and worth knowing. People called you a monster but how can they expect a kid to hold a real monster at bay with no help? Like with me, they confused the monster with the one holding it captive. But you grew and took control back from it. Now people acknowledge you for you. They see Gaara not just the thing you hold captive."

A shout from Yuugao drew Naruto's attention back to his team. Itachi had regained the upper hand in that fight and backhanded Yuugao away from him. Naruto called to Gaara, "I need to help them!" before rushing at the Uchiha.

Kisame pushed Hayate and Baki aside and rushed at the teens hanging back from the fight. "Well, I see a target and something I want is inside you so that means I have to take you along with it."

Gaara grabbed Ino and jumped back from the attack while Hayate and Baki tried to engage Kisame. Kisame paid them no attention as he kept going after Gaara. "Samehada liked his chakra and wants the rest of it," he said baiting the teens.

Gaara frowned and extended his hand. Sand rose up around the blue ninja but Kisame swiped the monstrous blade to clear his path. The massive shark toothed blade absorbed the chakra from the sand rendering it harmless. Ino tried throwing explosive tagged kunai but the sword pulled the chakra from them and they just fluttered in the breeze once the kunai impacted the ground. The Mist ninja then turned to Ino and ran straight at her again. Baki and Hayate gave chase but no one would reach the girl before Kisame would.

Gaara raised another sand wall between Ino and Kisame. The blue ninja just kept hacking it to pieces as fast as Gaara could construct it.

Sakura was in rough shape as she was still trying to breathe in gasps from that stomach blow. Yuugao was trying to regain her feet as Naruto drew close but Itachi turned to face the blond teen.

"It is your fault they are injured Naruto-kun," Itachi stated but Naruto just pulled his own sword and attacked while focusing his view on Itachi's chest.

"I didn't hurt them. You did, traitor," Naruto said while he pressed his attack at the Uchiha. Strangely, the robed ninja was slower than earlier as if he was wearing down. He could see fresh blood flow from a pair of grazing blows on Itachi.

Itachi frowned at his wounds and muttered, "Fine. I will end this then." Itachi seemed to grow more powerful after a moment before he pulled his own sword. Naruto immediately was forced into a desperate defense. The blonde's sword was knocked away but a follow up was once again diverted by Yuugao swinging her own blade into the gap Itachi's arm would have had to move to complete it. The missing ninja again pulled up his blow just in time and avoided any damage.

The Uchiha growled at facing so many opponents at once and his lack of progress in capturing Naruto.

Sakura tried a follow up but a solid slice from Itachi cut across her midsection. Only her hidden armor vest again prevented her from being disemboweled.

Naruto growled in anger and felt the power of the Kyuubi bubbling up in his anger. He remembered how it felt that night mere months ago. It had nearly consumed him then but he understood more now. His anger lessened his control so he had to rein in his emotions and keep both the red chakra and his anger under his control.

The released energy wrapped around the blond like a cloak while his eyes turned red and his fingernails grew to claws. His whole body took on a more feral cast as the foulness of the red energy affected him.

Itachi stepped back slightly as Naruto changed. This was not meant to happen. It was to be a simple snatch and run encounter not a full on battle. They had not prepared for this type of battle.

Kisame was enjoying himself. Gaara kept feeding chakra into sand which Samehada would absorb giving him more power to work with. Baki and Hayate were little more than nuisances now so he hit both with water jutsu knocking both out of the fight.

"Show me your best, kid. I'll take it all and feed you your own feet afterwards," Kisame taunted before he began to spew water from his mouth onto the desert floor. More water followed as it pooled on the surface and grew into a large bubble which engulfed both Gaara and himself.

Gaara found he was reaching his own limits. He would need to tap the power of the Shukaku to prevent being taken by this missing Mist ninja. His mental focus turned inward as he was engulfed by water.

Gaara stood in the rock caverns and passages of his mindscape. He looked at the bound form of the great beast within him.

"Let me free! Let me out to destroy him! I'll destroy everything!" the tailed beast cackled in madness.

"I only require your power, Shukaku. I will not grant you your freedom from this place any longer," Gaara stated calmly in his raspy voice.

"Set me free! They will destroy you of you do not!" it begged in a more whiny voice this time.

"And you will destroy me if I do. You are no longer the one in control, I am. I will remain that way. Your power can save us but you must trust me to use it. Keep it to yourself and we both die."

Noooo! I don't want to die! Set me free!" the creature begged now.

Gaara merely looked as the cavern seemed to flood with water to match the water Gaara was now suspended in back in reality.

Gaara reached out his hand and began to draw the energy of the tailed beast out but Shukaku resisted for a few moment before lowering its head.

"Take it," the bijuu whined in defeat. "Save us."

Kisame looked at the limp redhead floating in his water bubble and chuckled. 'All too easy' he thought. Without warning chakra bubbled out of the Sand ninja and surrounded him in a black aura and formed a single tail behind him.

Gaara felt even stronger than ever as he channeled to bijuu's full power. Spears of sand rose from the desert beneath the water bubble and began to draw it in. The mass shrank almost as fast as it had grown. A mass of sand resembling a tail rose from the sand and slapped down hard on the now smaller bubble and shattered it.

Kisame frowned as he regained his feet. He made a few hand signs and spat a new mass of water but the sand kept rising to suck it down into the depths of the desert. He stopped as his chakra began to dip and a shudder ran through his body.

He looked over at Itachi who nodded.

"Time to go, Kisame," Itachi said as he had begun to look ragged as well.

The Leaf and Sand ninja were surprised when the pair of missing ninja jumped away from each fight and made a hand sign commonly used to release or dispel a jutsu. The pair vanished into a mass of chakra smoke which quickly cleared. On the ground lay a pair of unknown ninja. Both gasped and died as the assembled group closed in.

Naruto sensed the danger had passed and stopped pulling chakra from his containment seal. Doing so made the red cloak slowly vanish. Gaara did the same with his own form as he pulled the energy back into his own seal. His practice at containing the Shukaku allowed him to do so faster than Naruto.

Baki and Hayate both looked to take control of the situation until Hayate deferred to the local jonin. Together they examined the bodies.

"It was some kind of puppet jutsu," Baki declared after a quick examination. The two here were just used up and the controllers had to back out or risk dying along with the puppets.

"So it was some kind of mind control along with a transformation?" Ino asked.

"'It was similar to one but more than just a simple transformation. Those abilities should not have been copied like that," Baki stated. "But I would guess the abilities could only work up to the strength of the ninja being controlled. I would guess from the headbands there were A Class missing ninja while the ones controlling them were well known as being S Class. None of us here would have lasted so long against a true S Class. When we pushed then too hard it ran their reserves dry and the real Itachi and Kisame left the husks behind. They could be a long way off as well.

"In spite of that, I think everyone here performed well," Yuugao said more for the benefit of her subordinates, Ino and Gaara than the jonin. "Naruto and Gaara learned a few new moves as well."

The blond and redhead both looked at each other. Naruto was grinning like a loon but Gaara remained stoic as ever before both nodded in agreement.

The group was stopped as a large cheer rose from nearby. They turned to see over one hundred Sand ninja on a dune over looking the battle site. They had come out to aid their own and it gave Gaara an unusual but not unwelcome feeling in his chest. The seven ninja were weary from battle but smiled at one another as they trudged back toward the village. The Sand ANBU took charge of the bodies and prepared to take them in for analysis.

The general nodded as the group gave a voluntary report on the battle. He had led the Sand forces away from Konoha's walls as their general but he still led their forces by default. He would not attain the title of Kazekage as he lacked the political finesse needed to hold the position. The other village leaders wanted someone more impressive to hold the title than a professional soldier.

"The ninja we faced were both from the Rain village. In spite of the slashed headbands we believe they were simply dupes of the ninja they served as puppets for," Baki stated.

The general merely nodded. "I will see what intelligence can find out from the bodies. Perhaps we can identify the means they were controlled and be able to detect the jutsu involved in the future. Until we have better information I will not speculate further."

The general's statement closed his discussion with the jonin and he looked over the four genin but more at Naruto and Sakura.

"I can see why old Sarutobi sent you two. He is an insightful leader and you being the couriers says much about his opinion of you. The required responses back to Konoha are ready," the general said handing the scrolls to Yuugao.

"The brawl in the marketplace should never have happened and I thank you for not making it into a bloodbath or a greater incident. But discipline must be maintained within the ranks, Please stop at the market tomorrow morning before you depart."

Team Yuugao simply nodded and left to return to the embassy and some needed rest after an eventful morning.

The team spent their afternoon shopping once more and pretended not to notice the Sand ANBU on the roof eaves near them the entire time. There would be no repeat of the fight the day before. Naruto picked up a few pound of the habanero peppers to take home with him while Sakura had her shirt repaired by a local tailor. The sword cuts were too big for her to even hope for a temporary fix with her meager sewing skills. After she paid the bill, she reminded herself mentally to always pack an extra uniform on long missions.

The team set out early to get moving before the heat of the day made traveling too uncomfortable. As requested they stopped at the marketplace only to find a large crowd waiting. As they approached a group of chunin and genin lined up and stood at attention.

The genin that started the incident stepped forward and bowed to Naruto and Sakura.

"The incident here in this marketplace was entirely my fault. For that, I must apologize," he said in a tight voice. It was easy to tell he did not wish to offer up anything to Leaf ninja but he had his orders.

"Apology accepted," Naruto replied and waited.

The Sand genin bowed just enough to not be rude and the other involved in the fight followed suit. Naruto and Sakura bowed back equally and then turned and left the marketplace. They wanted to leave before anything else happened on this trip.

Near the gate, Ino waited with Gaara. The blonde hugged Sakura and smirked at Naruto before stepping back. Gaara fixed Naruto in a steady gaze and nodded his head. Naruto nodded back and the team walked out of the fate with Yuugao and Hayate.

Leaving the Land of Wind went faster than coming in. They were able to travel full speed once they left the village where they had to walk on approaching it. They slowed as the day grew hot but did not slack off much. The mission was now running long. They had stayed in Suna three full days so they needed to return to Konoha without delay.

The team camped out by a small stream in the Land of Rivers after pushing on into the late evening to exit the Land of Wind. Yuugao was pleased with their progress and maturity on the mission and it finalized her decision on a course of action when they reported back to the Hokage. Naruto sat his watch thinking a bout the events in Suna and did not sleep well when he had the chance.

The second day of travel went as easy as the first but another late evening took them into the southern part of the Land of Fire before stopping. They could travel easier on the last day and still be back in Konoha in mid-afternoon. Naruto did not sleep well that night once again.

The morning of last day turned out to be foggy so Yuugao had them keep to the roads. It slowed them some but not by much. They avoided traffic by going around. Naruto frowned at seeing the Legion outpost from several months prior but said nothing. Sakura took note of his changed mood but said nothing as well. But his distraction led to another incident.

Naruto was running point and did not see or sense anyone ahead until it as too late. He ran into a woman while in full sprint and they knocked heads. Naruto was stunned by the impact and bowled the woman over landing on top of her. More specifically, he landed with his face nestled between the woman's enormous breasts.

Next Chapter: Enter the Sannin (for real this time)

End Notes: I was not entirely pleased with this chapter because I was trying to keep it from wandering off into an ensemble story. It is a Naruto and Sakura centric story so I am not adding in the detailed back story and motivations of everyone they meet. I only go as far as needed to explain action within the story. It is also about one thousand words below my chapter target as I edited a lot out a lot of irrelevant or rant items on proof reads. Well the next arc begins in the final paragraph, I hope it goes better.

Story Notes: Ne-chan [or Inner Sakura] name is a pun as well. The spelling is the commonly used word for Danzo's Root but is used in place of nee-chan whose common usage meaning big sister. I had a few pictures on my Deviantart page to help get a feel for Ne-chan's look along with my own [pitiful] sketch for Sakura's look. The axe she wields is the one drawn on a manga cover and later featured in a number of fan arts.

As I noted a month ago regarding 'Captured' in my profile, Vegeta looked at the hit scouter and shouted "It's over nine [hundred] thousand!" My thanks to everyone who has read and is still with me after over 4 years of writing this tale.

Soapbox: I have had a few complaints recently [within the last year] about my story and some claimed they could do it better. So, I invite anyone who thinks they can to do so. Call it a challenge or whatever but as long as you let the readers know who started the concept.

I only have a few requirements and it gets my blessing

1- Naruto gets caught trying to steal the scroll.
2- Team 7 fails without Naruto a part of it and it is broken up.
3- Someone shows an interest in properly training Naruto after he is caught. Training can include Sakura or Sasuke but not both as that violates Rule 2

Pretty simple really. I even left off some planned requirements that are part of my pet peeves list.