Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
Five individuals had travelled from Kiri to Yuki in eight days and were now resting near the border. "Such a shame."
"You don't have to keep repeating it, Zabuza!" The shortest of the group pointed at the tallest. "Really, it's been years now."
The youngest of the group tapped his hunter-nin mask once to make it disappear. "Zabuza-sama, you should show respect to a former Kage."
"I'll show respect to whoever I want to, Haku." Zabuza respected Yagura all the same, anyway. The bandage-wearing Shinobi chuckled shortly before doing the same thing Haku did. After having removed his mask, he turned to the two remaining nin, who were sipping water from their flasks.
Two of his is old comrades, former members of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist; Ringo Ameyuri and Kuriarare Kushimaru.
"Just like old times."
Yagura, Zabuza, Ameyuri, Kushimaru and Haku formed a personal Intel Squad for the Mizukage and their identities had to remain hidden. Especially in Yagura's case, since the entirety of Kiri wanted him dead. Yagura was the one in command of the team, with Zabuza as second.
It had been about three years since the battle with the raging Sanbi in Kiri and it seemed the way the Three-Tail was sealed into Yagura was completely similar to the way Shukaku was sealed into Gaara. So Yagura had been alive all that time.
It was indeed a shame for Yagura, having been manipulated by Genjutsu through the Bloody Mist years. Without being able to do anything about it, he was now officially a hated man in his own country. "So, even if Naruto-kun said we should form our base of operations in Snow, how do we go about it?"
Yagura answered Haku's question. "Apparently it has already been messaged in. The one in charge of the lands is an acquaintance of Naruto's old squad. She owed them a favor and his old squad owed Naruto. It goes round."
Zabuza wore a weird grin. "Jiraiya-sama told me she was hot." He whispered to Kushimaru. "Don't tell the kids."
"I can hear you, you moron." Yagura grumbled. "And I ain't no kid."
A boy aged sixteen absentmindedly played with a lean sword strapped to his back as he walked through the streets of Konoha, followed by a young boy who kept on calling his name. As he walked he couldn't help but stare at the faces depicted on the mountain just outside of Konoha's Gates. Senju Hashirama, Tobirama Hashirama, Sarutobi Hiruzen, Namikaze Minato and Senju Tsunade. Just about a year ago, the last of the Senju became the fifth Hokage.
"Sasuke-nii! Teach me Kenjutsu!" The boy hollered. Sasuke inwardly scoffed at the scarf, which was far too long, wrapped around his neck. He chose to ignore the boy and continued his trek.
He had recently been promoted to Jounin and the Hokage had asked him if he wanted to instruct a team. He had started at the question, but rejected the offer promptly. He was still under guidance of Hatake Kakashi, somewhat. He wasn't ready to teach brats. Brats who were three years younger than him.
Sasuke now wore a Jounin outfit, but where most Jounin had long pants, the Uchiha wore dark short pants and he had short sleeves. He didn't have any scrolls in his pockets or pouches filled with weapons attached to his clothing. He only had his trusted sword on his back and tattoos on his arms, courtesy of his former teammate.
He had come across the blonde several times in the past and it seemed that Naruto had grown stronger every time he encountered him. Of course, the same could be said for him. During their encounters, Naruto taught Sasuke how to apply summoning tattoos to his body.
The Uchiha wasn't as proficient as Naruto in Fuuinjutsu, but now he at least knew how to make storage seals by usage of his own blood. It was a lot of work, but it sure beat the extra weight of pouches and whatnot.
Almost groaning, Sasuke turned to Konohamaru. "Leave me alone, I'm busy."
"You're off-duty today, though."
Sasuke sent an exasperated glare up to Kiba, who was on a rooftop overlooking the duo, while casually scratching Akamaru's back. The Inuzuka frowned at the Uchiha. "You're a Jounin now, why don't you act like one and teach kids a thing or two? Even I do stuff like that and I'm a Chuunin!"
"No one cares what you are." Sasuke replied stiffly, turning away from the young Sarutobi and Kiba. "I'm busy."
Kiba turned to Konohamaru and winked. "Keep on hassling him, he'll cave in eventually."
The younger of the two nodded and saluted, while running after the Uchiha.
"He reminds me of Naruto, somehow." Kiba murmured to Akamaru, who simply barked once.
Chapter 19: Stationary
"Fuuton, Menmen Danmaku!"
Jumping up and down and around on his bare feet, a serious expression etched on his face, it seemed as if Kankurou was dancing. In actuality, though, he was controlling iron and wooden puppets with his fingers and toes.
His opponent was Naruto, who was effortlessly releasing small Wind Blasts his and his puppets' way.
He had trained his fingers to the point where he could attach Chakra Strings powerful enough to control two Iron puppets with one finger. One puppet required many Chakra Strings already. He had just started training his toes; so far they could still only handle wooden puppets. The Kugutsu training actually made him a formidable Taijutsu brawler.
"Kujutsu, Dakitsu Doku!"
Naruto grinned as the clearing they were in turned completely purple because of the poisonous fumes one of Kankurou's puppets just released. 'Naruto' simply dispelled, greatly displeasing Kankurou. "Should have known…" Kankurou whined as he focused on his surroundings. "Kujutsu, Genni!"
Four of his metal puppets surrounded and protected him, while the remaining puppets remained where they stood.
"Fuuton, Nii Kuuatsu!"
Kankurou rolled his eyes at Naruto's grinding Wind Technique heading his way. "Kujutsu, Genni Gouitsu!" The four metal puppets linked together and seemed to become one around Kankurou, effectively creating a metal dome protecting Kankurou from any harm.
Naruto whistled in awe as the puppets not forming the dome around Kankurou immediately rushed towards him. "Nice, you can attack blindly now, too?"
"No." Came Kankurou's voice through one of the puppets who barely missed Naruto's right shoulder with a blade. "I'm sure you haven't noticed, but some of my puppets have a camera attached to their 'eyes', that's why my left eye is covered."
"Cool! I thought you just copied Dosu with his binocular sight! Since you can talk to me while inside that dome, I take it you have a microphone attached to all your puppets too?" Naruto easily evaded all the attacks Kankurou threw at him.
"Not all of them." Came the puppeteer's voice. "The microphone attached to me was actually surgically attached, as in, it's inside of my jaw."
"That's gross." Naruto managed to deadpan between two dodges. He then pivoted while holding his hands in a handseal. "Fuuton, Tsujikaze!" Three puppets around Naruto were blown away and blasted into pieces.
"That move looks too much like the Hyuga's Kaiten, but I'm sure you knew that." With ease, Kankurou, from inside the dome, reassembled all the puppets that had fallen apart because of Naruto's attack. His puppets were now made of the tiniest of parts.
"I don't understand how your Chakra Strings can still control your puppets from within that dome, though." The blonde frowned at the puppets surrounding him.
"It only looks like a dome, but it isn't, there are actually many openings." This time, Kankurou's voice came from a few puppets around him.
Kankurou didn't like the grin on Naruto's face.
Naruto vanished from the spot and Kankurou looked with dread from one of his puppets' sight how four of Naruto's Kage Bunshin surrounded his Metal Dome and yelled out the familiar "Shishi Enjin!"
"Oh boy…" Kankurou groaned as a fifth Naruto was inside the Purple Barrier he had just created.
"How's this then? Suiton, Furishikiru!"
The Shishi Enjin was suddenly filled with water.
A puppeteer does not enjoy swimming.
He was having a lot of fun dodging and jumping around his opponent. The fact that he was being pressured didn't faze him at all. A grin seemed to be stuck on his face as he jumped and jumped and jumped. He was faster, more agile and more experienced in the art of Taijutsu.
Taking in that fact, though, he was still being pressured because of the peculiar ability his adversary was using. It frightened him a bit, but it challenged him more. They were both learning, albeit a bit slowly.
His strikes were fast and precise, but they didn't do his opponent a whole lot of damage; he was getting predictable. Somersaulting away, he easily flicked the weights on his ankles off.
"Taijuu Kage Buyou!"
But his opponent seemed ready for his Multiple Shadow Dance Taijutsu move.
Lee grinned to himself as his speed allowed him to appear on all sides of his opponent, no matter where she turned. His Shunshin speed had grown to insane levels. Pulling out some kicks and punches, he only felt excitement as some were actually blocked.
He quickly had to retreat, though.
The punch she had sent his way would have taken him out instantly, that's how dangerous she had become.
"Excellent, Sakura-san. It seems you not only use your Chakra to strengthen your attacks, but also your defense! You are excellent!" He gave her his thumbs up.
The pink-haired Chuunin was panting, but grinning at him. "You're still too fast for me, Lee-san. But I'll hit you eventually."
"I've no doubt!" The green-spandex wearing Chuunin exclaimed. "Let us continue!"
Again, Sakura used her Chakra to shroud herself. Lee's attacks wouldn't be so cumbersome that way. She performed a few handseals and touched her lips with her fingers, storing a technique she could dish out later. Only Shinobi with excellent Chakra control could delay the execution of a Jutsu.
She was a Shinobi with excellent Chakra control.
Lee came running at her from three different directions, that's just how fast he was. But it didn't matter to Sakura as she plowed her fist into the ground, sending massive chunks of dirt all around her. Lee used Shunshin to easily bypass every piece of earth thrown at him and got into Sakura's personal space.
The promising medic-nin could still keep up with Lee's movements and managed to block most of his strikes. Taking hold of Lee's wrist in the midst of his attacks, she released "Katon, Tsuku no Jutsu!" without any usage of handseals, surprising Lee, who couldn't dodge anyway.
Sakura seemed to be spitting on Lee, only her spit was all flames. Small and harmless, but she was releasing a lot of them and Lee could do nothing but take all the attacks. While gritting his teeth and taking damage, the Taijutsu user threw Sakura over his shoulder and followed with single Kage Buyou.
Sakura, while being thrown over his shoulder and hovering in mid-air, wasn't fast enough to dodge Lee's kick from behind as he performed the Shadow Dance. She landed on one knee and one foot and quickly rolled away from Lee's follow-up attack.
Both were now panting, having taken considerable damage.
"Magnificent display, Sakura-san, Lee!"
Both Chuunin turned to Maito Gai, who had appeared out of seemingly nowhere. "I've come to fetch you two for a mission!"
"So, how is he? I haven't seen him in Konoha for a few months now. And that probably means no one else has seen him for at least a year, besides you and I."
Tsunade stamped her approval on one of the documents on her desk with great boredom as she pretended to be reading the next one. "He's bound to be back in no time, Kakashi. Jiraiya told me they were in Snow Country last month, helping them build up a Shinobi System. I really do wonder how that one's going to turn out. Their leader isn't a Shinobi, after all."
"Princess Yuki? No, hardly. But didn't you tell me they were in Snow Country last month as well? I would assume they're setting up something permanent over there."
"Could be." The Fifth shrugged. "Jiraiya's team can do whatever the hell they want." She turned to Kakashi with a serious gaze. "I pity anyone trying to take on even one member of that squad."
"Is that so? I wonder if I can have a crack at them." Kakashi sighed as he reached for his Icha. "I'm sure I'll be seeing him again soon. Minato-sensei's boy has really turned out greater than I imagined. Hell, Sasuke and Sakura turned out greater than I thought, but Naruto…"
"You're right. That little brat's always been too secretive and he's never really been pushed to his limits. Even Jiraiya can't do that…"
"… what?" Kakashi double checked Tsunade's expression, but it didn't lie. She was serious. "You mean he's… Jiraiya has…" He narrowed his eye. "Surely he hasn't gotten that far with his training?"
"You're a fool, Kakashi." Tsunade raised a brow at Kakashi's raised brow. "I witnessed him doing Senjutsu three years ago. I think he was already on par with Jiraiya back then and he was only thirteen! It's physically impossible to master the Art of Nature at that age, yet somehow he has managed it." She clenched her right fist. "Those two are keeping secrets. I was able to not care about it, but then this happened."
"Naruto had a run-in with the Akatsuki about a month ago. You've heard of the battle in Kusagakure, right? One Akatsuki Member changed the entire landscape with a single Jutsu. But then…"
Kakashi's Icha was still in his pocket.
"So did Naruto."
Throughout the many years, he had grown immensely, his repertoire of Jutsu and Fuuinjutsu growing to levels unseen of. He even had a moniker now, Konoha's Hedgehog. He felt it ill-deserved as Temari was more proficient in Fuuton Ninjutsu than him. The Fuuton defense he utilized however, wasn't something Temari could easily pull off, as it takes quite a bit of Chakra.
Currently he was surrounded by scrolls, some even wrapped around his body. He was mostly reading on how to improve upon his Fuuinjutsu but he had long surpassed most Fuuinjutsu users. Scrolls with recorded data on the art were outdated or filled with information he already knew.
He and Jiraiya had dived into Fuuinjutsu even further than the Toad Sage had ever done, going from country to country to learn new things. Unfortunately, it seemed that Konoha had the more talented users and there wasn't much recorded data on Uzushiogakure's uses. But the old Uzumaki archives in Konoha had given them the most information.
They had an idea on how to thwart the Akatsuki's plans, without even having to get rid of them. But a lot of research was needed and the only one who could help him was Jiraiya.
Perhaps it was time to confront the Bunshin implemented in the seal. Empowering it with Chakra could provide him with a lengthier conversation. Kurama had been easier to converse with, too, over the last few months.
Shoving a useless scroll based on basics of Fuuinjutsu from Iwagakure aside, he folded his arms over one another, annoyingly looking at the wall opposite of him. "I guess it is time…" He mumbled. "The Akatsuki has grown more aggressive over the years and they've grown in numbers as well. I can't postpone it any longer."
The blonde had already sensed Gaara before he even came close to the building he was in. While they were wearing special outfits equipped with Fuuin seals, his team could always sense one another.
"It's about Oto. Rumors are their grounds have grown even further. After they overtook Yugakure and Takigakure they've become a pain for Fire Country and now this..."
"There are rumors Orochimaru has been seen lurking around."
Naruto didn't seem too surprised at that sudden bit of information. "I figured as much. Anko and Tayuya… Their Curse Seal seemed filled with life energy, even if it was just a little. Orochimaru is known for his regeneration skills. One of our missions would be to kill every single individual carrying his Juinjutsu just to kill that snake."
Gaara didn't seem perturbed in the slightest at the amount of scrolls scattered all around Naruto. How the blonde could work in this chaos was beyond him. "The Akatsuki has taken over Sunagakura and Tanigakure, as we all know... Both Otogakure and Amegakure are considered great nations now, just like the other five."
Naruto nodded his head, having predicted the Akatsuki would expand. "Gaara. I think it's time we make a major move as well. I will talk to the remnants of my parents in the seal and see if they can teach me more or if they perhaps know of an easier way."
"I see. Are you sure you don't want to have a… more pleasant conversation? "
"That's why I'll take a special pill. With my Chakra raised beyond the limits I'm certain we can talk all we want. The only requirements are for Tsunade and several other high-ranked Shinobi to be present."
"So, we're going to be performing it in their place? Should I send the word for Kirabi and Yugito?" Gaara surmised easily.
The blonde shook his head. "Not yet. I think it's time we head back to Konoha and inform Tsunade of the entire plan first. If we are going to perform the Jutsu, we might as well be in our own village, being protected by as many Shinobi as possible. I, after all, will not be able to defend myself."
"So…" Gaara had his eyes narrowed. "Instead of them hunting for us, we are hunting for them."
"Yes. To be able to perform the Jutsu, we need to have something they have in their possession."
"The King of Hell Statue." Gaara whispered. "If what you say is true and it's protected by Fuuinjutsu, then the Akatsuki most likely have a Fuuinjutsu Expert in their midst."
"I could have summoned it otherwise." Naruto agreed. "It's already assigned to someone. Records state it had been in the possession of Uzushiogakure. That means someone knows about Uzushiogakure or was perhaps even from Uzu. And I can't help but think it can only be him."
Gaara nodded his head. "A difficult opponent… We had a lot of trouble with him the last time." The redhead was mulling over the possibilities. "But to break a bond between summon and summoner…"
"It's not necessary to break that bond. Just like with summoning contracts for animals, a summon can be assigned to several individuals, not just one. All I need is to fight with the statue and somehow form a link. I think I'll need Sasuke for this mission… If his Sharingan has evolved enough."
"So it's final, then. We are going to perform Genryuu Kyuu Fuujin on you." Gaara concluded.
"Yeah… We're going to attack Akatsuki." The blonde Konoha Jounin sighed.
"Are you serious?" Temari's expression was that of exasperation and exhaustion. "We've almost arrived back at base and we're already returning to Konoha?"
The former Suna-nin now Konoha Jounin bristled at Kankurou, who didn't seem scared to see his sister angry. "Hey, don't look at me. I think taichou's finally making his move. The plan he has been working on for years… It seems we can't afford to slack off anymore."
"Kumogakure seems quite restless as well. The growth of Otogakure has them on edge and there has been talk about Kumo and Konoha planning to take Oto down before they grow beyond control."
"A war, huh?" Temari responded to Dosu. "You know more about Oto, right?"
"Kabuto and Orochimaru." Dosu grimaced at the visual those names brought to him. "They know of a certain Kinjutsu that can bring back the dead. Kuchiyose: Edo Tensei."
"We all know of that Jutsu." The puppeteer of the trio mentioned casually. "Naruto-taichou can easily deal with the walking corpses by use of Fuuinjutsu."
"I know that." Dosu responded just as casually. "But they can bring back legends, Shinobi who are just as strong as the average Kage. Perhaps they're even bringing back deceased Kage. I think that's why Oto has so easily taken over the other Villages." He snarled to no one in particular. "I would love to take down Orochimaru and Kabuto…" He held distinct resentment for the two as they had experimented on him. Now he had grown much under tutelage of Jiraiya and his peers. How he wished to take down Orochimaru himself.
No, he would love to kill Kabuto even more.
"Don't worry, Dosu. We first have to deal with what threatens taichou. The Akatsuki comes first." Temari gently tapped Dosu on the shoulder.
"Who knows? Perhaps the Akatsuki and Oto will kill each other. I heard the Akatsuki is also after Orochimaru." Kankurou grinned.
"The enemy of the enemy is our friend?" Dosu sarcastically let out. "No, we should take the opportunity to take both out at the same time. Neither the Akatsuki or Oto would fight alongside us."
"So, weak pile of rotting flesh."
Naruto chuckled as he approached the large Demon Fox. "You know what's coming, right?"
"The other Uzumaki, he might know what you're up to."
"Perhaps, but it's not like he can stop me. Besides… The way we finished our fight, it was weird."
"He acknowledged you as a fellow Uzumaki. But that doesn't mean he isn't your enemy still."
In Naruto's mindscape, you could see the blonde conversing with the Kyuubi with nothing between them. There was no cage, nothing. "When we perform the Genryuu Kyuu Fuujin without the King of Hell Statue, you'll be free, Kurama."
"And without the proper help, you will die afterwards."
"I am an Uzumaki. You saw how my mother survived your extraction, so I will be able to do the same!"
"Fool, you don't know that. Your mother was a full-blooded Uzumaki, you are half Namikaze, half Uzumaki. You might just die instantly."
"There will be high-ranked Iryou-nin present." Naruto declared confidently. "They'll patch me up."
Kurama bristled. "We've had this conversation before, I am in no mood for games. Why have you come now?"
"When you're free, the Akatsuki will still come for you. I want you to be able to summon me if you need my help."
"…" Kurama looked surprised, shocked even. "I don't need your help." He snorted with a short chuckle. "If anything, a weakling like yourself requires mine! Tcheh... Very well, I've been running with the silly thought long enough. ...I'll let you summon me, if you need my help!"
"It goes both ways, then! We'll summon each other whenever we need each other!"
"… Tcheh. I never thought I would be willing to do this, but…" Kurama's giant fist slammed into Naruto's petite body. He was slammed into the 'wall' behind him. "I have given you some of my Chakra, permanently." He smugly let out at the glare Naruto was sporting as the blonde dragged himself out of the wall. "You had better be grateful. This ensures your survival when I'm extracted from you. The small part of my Chakra allows certain uses."
Naruto looked surprised when Kurama held his fist out. "Bump my fist and envision giving me your Chakra. But not just your Chakra. I want you to envision giving me Chakra that is of great importance to you. Small, but in essence, you." Kurama grumbled at Naruto's look full of questions. "Chakra from your stupid, ugly shitheart, human! Don't make me say it again!"
The blonde, dazed and confused, did so. With a small smile.
When their fists bumped, Naruto realized what they had just done.
"Before you say anything, this is NOT like that stupid suggestion you made in the past! This is NOT Futagogakure no Jutsu!"
"I know… This is fusion, but it isn't. I assume the seal on my stomach will not vanish after the Genryuu Kyuu Fuujin, since the seal will actually be your Chakra that you will leave behind permanently?"
"Exactly." On the belly of the Fox, there was a sealing similar to the one on Naruto's stomach. "And you are the same to me as I am to you after the Genryuu Kyuu Fuujin. This also means our Chakra presences and existences have been permanently altered. Madara won't be able to summon me again."
"So when we summon one another, we'll be…"
"Each other's Jinchuuriki, yes. You humans have the expression 'bloodbrothers', I believe. Like that, we are Chakra Brothers."
"…Wait a minute, you hitting me like that was completely unnecessary!"
"True…" Kurama seemed to ponder it for a bit. "… But I felt like it."
A Chuunin aged twenty-one fell to his knees as six individuals passed him by on the street. The six Shinobi didn't do anything to him, it was just that their very presence was so heavy. But it only made sense. Even if their presence wasn't heavy, who wouldn't be amazed seeing these six in front of you?
The first one was Shodaime Raikage, electricity sizzling around his limbs as he walked.
To his left and right the Shodaime Mizukage and Shodaime Tsuchikage walked.
Behind the trio of Kage was Hatake Sakumo, walking by himself.
Behind Sakumo walked mother and son… Sarutobi Biwako and Sarutobi Kaien.
Otogakure had grown into a much bigger Village. Taking over Rice Field Country, Frost Country, the Country of Hot Springs and Waterfall Country, they could now rival the other great villages. Its leader was Orochimaru, who had been revived through a Curse Seal implemented in one of his experiments by Kabuto.
Kabuto had mastered the Edo Tensei and brought back many legendary Shinobi. Orochimaru had advanced on that mastery of Kabuto's Edo Tensei and realized some Revivals couldn't be completely controlled.
Senju Hashirama and Uchiha Madara were ABSOLUTE trump cards, trump cards he'd rather not play.
"I've managed to sort the Edo Tensei, Orochimaru-sama." Kabuto's slippery voice echoed through the dark corridor master and disciple were slithering through. "They didn't work that well when mixed with different nationalities."
"Kabuto, it's not a matter of them not working well. What is not working well is your control. But it can't be helped, your mind is very fragmented because of your upbringing. You have zero to no resolve in you." Orochimaru chuckled. "But I think that is a good thing. You are my most loyal soldier because of your lack of resolve."
Kabuto didn't seem insulted. "It can't be helped that the Edo Tensei links my mind to all the subjects."
"… Even though you having no resolve is a good thing for me… I think we should change that." Kabuto, for the first time, seemed confused.
"I have revived your mother, Kabuto. Nonou, The Walking Maiden."
Uzumaki Nagato was deep in thought as he looked over the massive Country that was now his to command. He had conquered Sunagakure, Tanigakure, Ishigakure and Kusagakure. Currently, Iwa wanted them obliterated after the Akatsuki had betrayed Iwa. Ishigakure was a subvillage to Iwagakure, after all.
He wasn't concerned however. They could handle Iwa and Oohnoki with their current power.
He was more worried about his nephew, Uzumaki Naruto. The words that were spoken during the fight those months ago. They were confusing him.
The Akatsuki had grown from ten members to well over a hundred. Granted, not all were S-ranked like the original ten, but they were still very powerful.
Nagato was very proud of the feats of the past. Amegakure had grown from a small village to a great country.
If only he didn't feel so bad every time he conversed with Tobi… His past actions and all the plundering and killing… Was it really all alright?
"This is not justice! This is a massacre, Nagato! And the both of us are part of it! Not because of you or me, but because of everyone!"
"Naruto… We need to have another battle of fists to reach comprehension. We have not settled things yet."
"Nagato? You called for me?"
"Konan." The red-haired Uzumaki considered his purple-haired friend with a calculating gaze. "Leave Akatsuki, Konan. Befriend the Uzumaki if you can, but seriously. Join his cause. If that is impossible, then do as you wish. You are my determination. On the battlefield, should you be there… it is you and only you who can make me reconsider everything."
"… Somehow, I am not surprised. You are punishing yourself. Now and in the future." Konan joined Nagato in looking over the Village. "Perhaps you've done things wrong, but you've never really did those things by your own choice."
Nagato nodded his head weakly. "Which is why I'm doing this, by my own choice. I was too weak to shape a path of my own. Perhaps I can rectify that weakness and create a road of clarity."
"What about me?"
Nagato smiled a genuine smile at his long-time friend. "It's your choice, Konan." He suddenly grabbed something from his pocket. "My nephew gave me this knowing I wouldn't betray family. But he remains my enemy as I stand in my own creation. I can never use this while in Akatsuki and even then, he would know and be ready for it. He is a fool with too much trust, but I won't be the one taking advantage of his naivety. "
Konan took the special Kunai Nagato gave at her. Throwing it at her probably wouldn't be wise right now. "When you're in trouble, throw this. Naruto will know an Akatsuki Member will have thrown it, so be ready to face him and his entourage when you do."
"Nagato, I never knew he…"
"Heh, I can't figure him out either. We decimated an entire country together, trying to kill each other. And yet he gave me his Kunai... If you do somehow manage to join his cause, do it truly. Forget about Akatsuki."
"I'll always be by your side, Nagato."
"… I know. Now go." He performed a few handseals and gathered a lot of Chakra. "This rain will cover our Country, Fire Country and Lighting Country. It will protect you and obscure you. Be safe."
The separation was full of sadness as the downpour around them began. "I won't let you down."
As he watched her go, Nagato deeply sighed. "You never will."
"Why are they always so early? Damn troublesome, energetic weirdos."
"Quit your whining, Nara."
Sakura considered the duo walking next to her and couldn't help but shake her head. "You guys never change." The trio were walking towards the gates leading outside of Konoha and they had already spotted Gai and Lee in the distance.
Shikamaru Nara had been promoted to Jounin and was put into a squad of Jounin and Chuunin. His superior was Sarutobi Asuma and his teammates Hagane Kotetsu and Kamizuki Izumo. He still had the same hairdo he always had, the only thing different about him was the stubble he now had on his chin.
Yamanaka Ino, a Chuunin now, was Mitarashi Anko's subordinate and had become one of Konoha's most proficient poison users and was close to catching up with her father with her Clan Techniques. Her hair had grown a bit longer and she wore make-up similar to Yuuhi Kurenai. She wore the green Chuunin Vest, but unlike the usual attire, she had a purple shirt and shorts.
Right now the two were assigned a mission with Haruno Sakura, Rock Lee and Maito Gai.
The blonde of the group sighed as they approached Maito Gai and Rock Lee. "Just get on with it. Being assigned with those two will always be a pain."
"They're not that bad." Sakura butted in between them. "They make for great motivators."
"… Who needs motivators?" Shikamaru responded as he walked past Ino and Sakura, greeted Gai and Lee and then jumped up to the Gate Tower to say hello to his usual teammates Kotetsu and Izumo, who were on guard duty.
"Sakura-san! Ino-san! Are you ready to beat another record!? We are going to reach Kumo in half a day!" Lee jumped and shouted around the two girls.
"… are going? Or are going to try?" Ino wanted to make sure she wasn't going to die on her way to Kumo. "Sakura?" She asked for some support.
"…" Sakura was spacing out though, staring in confusion and shock as Kotetsu and Izumo had opened the gates. "I-i… It's been almost two years…"
"Sakura…?" Ino turned around and was greeted with a group of individuals she hadn't seen in a very long time.
The first person who walked through the gates had his arms folded over one another while wearing a bored look on his face. He wore dark brown armor with a dark red shirt underneath. His gloves were black and he wore dark brown shorts and black sandals. Unmistakably, Ino recognized him instantly as Sabaku no Gaara. The way he carried himself let her know to stay out of his way or just be dead.
He was quickly followed by a brown-haired young man who carried a lot of scrolls on his back. He wore a black cloak that hid his hands and also had black sandals. Ino didn't recognize him. She did feel she had seen him before when she saw the purple markings on his face. His right eye was covered by something, though. A black cloth?
Next to the man with the purple markings, she immediately recognized Sabaku no Temari. Where before she had four small pigtails, she now wore her hair loose and just below her shoulders. Her bangs covered her eyebrows lazily. Her outfit was a mix of purple and white, with fishnet stocking underneath. Ino narrowed her eyes, Temari was a bombshell for sure. Seeing Temari meant the guy next to her was her brother, Kankurou.
Behind Temari and Kankurou, she spotted… a mummy walking? She didn't know who that was at all. He wore a big partly fur… coat… around his mummy outfit and… metal shoes? How weird… She checked to see… yeah, metal gauntlets as well.
Next to the mummy was a red-haired young woman. Her hair reached her waist and maybe even below, with a few bangs hovering in front of her face. While she was no mummy, she too seemed to carry a lot of bandages around her limbs. She was mostly covered by a dark green cloak that reached her elbows and her knees. Ino raised her left eyebrow in slight annoyance. Another hot chick…
Behind the unknown duo, though she felt like she should know them, she could see the Toad Sage Jiraiya scribbling in a small notebook.
Wait a minute…
If Jiraiya-sama was back, that meant…
Sure enough, behind Jiraiya, there were two people left walking and talking to each other in casual fashion. She definitely didn't know the girl. She wore white armor across her upper body, tightened with a red backpack, which seemed to carry a big scroll. In fact, the entire backpack seemed to be the big scroll. Just like with Temari, she had fishnet stockings underneath. Her hair was mint green and reached just above her chest. She was also pretty, which irked Ino a fair bit.
But next to her was the bigger surprise. Uzumaki Naruto! And he looked so mature!
He wore black armor with a lot of bindings around it. The bindings were dark red and there seemed to be endless pockets made into them. Underneath the black armor was a dark brown hoodie, with the hood sticking out of the armor and covering his neck. He wore dark brown shorts and black sandals. The most surprising part though, was his hair. It was long… As long as Temari's! And he had a stubble!
With his hands in his pockets while talking to the girl next to him, Ino felt like she was staring at a whole other guy!
A fine young man!
"Heh, if it isn't Naruto and his gang…" Shikamaru drawled out lazily as he landed next to Ino. "Can't sense them at all, huh?"
Blinking, Ino tried to sense how much Chakra they all had, as she was a sensor-nin, and realized Shikamaru was right. It was like they weren't all slowly approaching them. It was like they weren't there at all!
Rock Lee was shaking in excitement as he saw all the newcomers enter Konoha. "Yoshaaa!"
His teacher put a hand on his shoulder and chuckled wildly. "Looks like we're in for some fun when we get back! It is a shame we have a mission to accomplish!"
"Naruto….?" Was all Sakura managed to let out as she was shocked at his new appearance. To her, though, the thing that changed the most was his eyes. They seemed to be full of… burden?
"Wait up, guys!" Naruto yelled at his squad. "Looks like we have some familiar faces to greet!" His grin was very infectious.
Gaara frowned at the group that seemed about to embark on a mission. "You are... Rock Lee?"
Lee perked up at that. "Hoooaa! So you remember! You owe me a real match, Gaara-san!"
"…I owe you a real match? How do you figure?" The redhead unfolded his arms. "I do not recall ever having fought you."
"Exactly! Our match during the Chuunin Exams! We never rescheduled!" Lee was jumped excitedly around Gaara, who seemed to get more confused by the second. No one was helping.
"I see. Then we should reschedule." He chose to utter.
"Finally! You are someone I have wanted to face for a long time! I will seek you out when we return from our mission!"
"You seem to like yelling." Gaara tilted his head slightly as he regarded the young man in front of him. "But very well. I look forward to our real match, Lee-san."
"Lee, leave him alone. Gaara's a busy guy."
"I am not."
Naruto snickered as he and Lee bumped fists. "It's good to see you! You've grown strong, huh?"
"And stronger I shall grow!" The Taijutsu expert bowed once to Naruto. "You are the leader of your squad, Naruto-kun?"
The blonde lazily nodded his head, but you could see he wasn't lazy about it. "I am."
"So, if I defeat Gaara-san, I can challenge you?" He was getting more excited by the second.
That was, until someone bumped him over the head. "Lee, stop challenging everyone!" In amusement, Naruto watched as Ino pushed Lee to the side and walked up to him. "So, Naruto… You sure have changed." Naruto frowned in confusion as the other blonde grabbed some of his long hair. "It suits you, this long hair. I might just ask you out for a date!"
In slight alarm, Naruto stepped back one step. "Wait, what? Yamanaka Ino? Weren't you the girl who always yelled at me?"
Ino shrugged a bit embarrassedly. "Times change?"
She was abruptly pushed to the side as Sakura entered the scenery. "Stop hassling him, Ino-pig!"
In the back, Shikamaru face-palmed. "Can't we go already, Gai-sensei?"
"Nonsense, this is a pleasant reunion we can't interrupt just yet, young Nara!" The tall Jounin cheered with a turn, flashing Shikamaru with a flashing grin. The Nara had his eyes closed, however.
"Sakura, long time no see!" Naruto patted Sakura on the head, as he was now a head and a bit taller than her. "Your hair has grown long, huh?"
Blushing slightly at the weird contact, Sakura fingered her long locks. "Y-yeah, Ino-pig has been teaching me hair techniques." Naruto had also noticed that Ino's hair was a lot longer than before. He guessed they could keep it all out of the way in a fight by usage of excellent Chakra Control.
Naruto chuckled at that almost instantly and turned to Jiraiya. "Hey, maybe you can help them out, huh, Jiraiya-sama?"
"Oh absolutely! I always have time for young women working hard to learn my special techniques!" During his answer, the notebook he was writing in had mysteriously vanished. "The great Toad Sage-"
As Jiraiya started yelling out something, Temari stepped forward. "Taichou, we should report to the Hokage." She sent a weird glance at the girls in front of Naruto. "Word should be sent to Kumo quickly, too."
"Hoooaaaaa! They're calling you taichou! Taichou! TAICHOU! That is amazing, Naruto-ku-"
Everyone tuned Lee out. "Naruto, you've been gone for so long. How have you been?" Sakura asked as she stood in front of her former teammate. Now that he was here, she realized she actually missed him a lot. "You sure do look different."
"Oh this?" He ruffled his own long hair a bit. "I just got lazy about it and I don't mind. More importantly, how have you been? How is everyone? Hey, is that you, Shika? What are you doing hiding back there, you lazy bastard!"
"Troublesome…" The Nara stepped forward and bumped fists with Naruto once. "Konoha was very nice and quiet but I'm sure that will change now. It's good to see you back… though."
"Yeah, nice to see you too." Naruto dryly responded.
"Shikamaru is a Jounin now, you know." Sakura interrupted. "Sasuke-kun too! Of all the rookies they, Shino and Neji have been promoted to Jounin! I… I'm still a Chuunin, though."
Naruto patted her head again, which made Sakura really feel like a small child. "You'll be Jounin in no time, Sakura. I mean, even I am Jounin now."
"You… you are?"
"Of course! I turned Chuunin earlier than all of us, right?"
Now that she thought about it, it wasn't surprising at all… and this feeling she had as he was standing in front of her… It was as if Naruto had changed into a super confident Shinobi, but also… a very powerful one. It wasn't even like when Kakashi-sensei was standing in front of her. She just knew… Naruto had surpassed Kakashi. "C-congratulations, Naruto!"
He didn't expect the hug, but went along with it. "Sakura, congratulations to you too." Again, Sakura felt Naruto's hand on her head and she didn't mind at all.
"Hey I got promoted to Chuunin too, you know?"
Naruto slightly turned away from Sakura and smiled at Ino. "Ah, congratulation to you too, Ino!"
"Yeah, yeah. Now what about MY hug?"
"You've gotten troublesome, Naruto." But the Nara's thoughts were elsewhere. 'This entire squad of his is fishy. After the invasion those years ago, this squad got together and just traveled away from Konoha. But they're all not originally from Konoha. And then there's Naruto. The class clown completely wiped the floor with Sasuke and then got an entire squad assigned to him. Was he holding back this power all that time?'
"Uzumaki-taichou! We should really get going now!" It was the red-haired girl this time who insisted. "Have your reunion when we're actually off the clock, ok?"
"Tayuya's right. We really should report to Hokage-sama. Let's hang out when you get back. We're staying in Konoha for at least a month." The blonde let out as Sakura joined Lee, Gai and Shikamaru. Ino had her arms folded over one another as she, too, joined her squad.
"Good luck on your mission, guys!" With a wave, all of them vanished with a Shunshin.
"Man, those guys all look bad-ass…" Ino uttered after a second.
"I wouldn't want to fight any of those guys…" The laziest of the group let out off-handedly. "Especially not that energetic Naruto."
"I want to fight Naruto-kun! He seems to be a formidable Shinobi!" Lee, ever the enthusiast, jumped once.
'Uzumaki Naruto… I couldn't read his stance at all…' Gai mused as his temporary team talked.
"He owes me a hug!"
"Ino-pig stop messing around!"
"Ah, yeah? That's me?"
"You have a lot to explain, brat."
The blonde tried to disarm the hostile gaze Tsunade was wearing with a smile to no avail. "W-well, what do you want to know?" The blonde's squad behind him amusedly observed.
"I want to know how you managed to put a stop between a fully transformed Gobi and a Rinnegan user who seems to be the leader of the Akatsuki." She threw one meaningful gaze towards Fu, who eeped shortly as she jumped behind Naruto. "I know all about Fu and how she escaped to Kusagakure after Takigakure was taken over by Oto. You have a knack for adding people to your squad who aren't from Konoha."
She turned back to Naruto. "But you need to explain how you can do the things you do." She abruptly pointed to the oldest man in the room. "Jiraiya can keep secrets, but you forgot one thing." The blonde Hokage smirked at Naruto. "I know when this old lecher is lying."
The Toad Sage was ignored.
"I asked him if the two of you had gone all out against each other and he said he could still kick you around."
Jiraiya's head dropped and Naruto seemed puzzled.
"That was a blatant lie." Her gaze never left Naruto. "… wasn't it?"
"Alright, first of all…" he performed a few handseals. "Kenpou; Maton: Zettai Fugen." The blonde Jounin had created a Sound Barrier in Tsunade's office. "So, here's the thing. Did you know that a combination of Fuuinjutsu and Iryou Ninjutsu can lead to very interesting results?"
Tsunade shook her head and shoulders in a fashion showing she didn't really care.
With a hand on his shoulder, Jiraiya chose to back him up. "Time-travel, hime."
The Fifth looked unimpressed… more than before.
"I can finally explain why I did what I did to you and Shizune…" Naruto added.
Now she looked angry and unimpressed.
'And I can finally get to the real training Namikaze-sensei told me about.' Naruto gulped once at Tsunade's angry stare. "Here's the story…"
As Naruto's squad left her office, Tsunade had a lot of things to ponder over. With Jiraiya backing him up like that, she could safely assume Naruto's wasn't spouting out lies. So he really DID get a visit from his future self. And he came from a future where Konoha did not exist.
That was rather unsettling news.
But the time-traveler died delivering the message. That must have been horrible for Naruto, seeing himself die like that.
The results of the usage of the pill he had given her in the past had always brought questions, but now she had the answer. They were meant for Jinchuuriki. But that didn't mean they were any less lethal to them.
Apparently, the pill reached into the Chakra Reserves and decupled the amount present. A very dangerous pill. It's like living ten days in one day and that was very lethal to the human body. For a Jinchuuriki, this was less harmful than for an ordinary Shinobi.
When Shizune fell victim to the pill, after having pushed her to her extreme limits, she had noticed these symptoms somewhat and realized she needed to replenish her Chakra Reserve by a great deal. Thankfully she had soldier pills on hand, ones she definitely couldn't use on Shizune at the time.
No, she had to swallow the soldier pill herself to create a whole new Jutsu she had invented on the spot.
Nurturing Chakra Reserve Transfer Technique…
She really sucked at naming Jutsu.
But she understood why this pill was created. It could make an ordinary Shinobi fight toe to toe with a Jinchuuriki. And it could make a Jinchuuriki fight a Bijuu on par…
She leaned back in her chair and released a long sigh. "What am I going to do with you, Naruto?" She murmured. 'A sixteen year old boy has surpassed Jiraiya and I…' She then thought of the team he had. 'Perhaps I should just make them Konoha's Bounty Hunters…' She chuckled. "I could always use extra money."
"I can't believe you managed it."
"Raikage-sama suggested it before I was able to speak."
A blonde Kumo Jounin frowned at the woman walking next to her. "A-sama did? I find that hard to believe."
"You were on a mission during the Chuunin Exams in Kumo. So you don-"
"I know! During the Akatsuki Invasion I wasn't here to protect my Village! You don't have to remind me all the time!" Yugito interrupted.
Samui raised a brow in apathy. "No one ever reminds you of that… In fact, I think no one has ever mentioned that."
But Yugito had already entered a stage of rants of insufficiency. Samui sighed sadly at the proud Jounin. "Don't bother when she gets like that." Darui, who was walking in front of the two women and next to Kirabi, spoke disinterestedly. "Although it's a surprise to me too, that you got assigned this mission with me instead of Shi. Usually it's Shi and I who go on missions with Kirabi."
"Samui's in it for a reason, and now's the season! All the months went by without a single butterfly! But now she can see, Naruto-boy she might-"
"Kirabi." Like her name, she spoke. "That is not the reason."
"Ah, I must be wrong, I'll sing a different song! Samui's in it for a-"
"It looks good on my records." Samui spoke to Darui, ignore the rapping Jinchuuriki in front of her and the rambling one next to her. "And perhaps I have some unfinished business, yes. But don't worry… it will all be cool."
And so the four elite Kumo-nin made their way to Konoha.
"Yagura's squad has set up living quarters in Yukigakure. They meet up with Jiraiya-sama's squad as they are also stationed there at times." Ao frowned at the note in his hands. "Oh, I read wrong. Yagura never was very talented in writing reports… Jiraiya-sama works separately again. Apparently, it is Naruto-san's squad. "
"That is old news, Ao. The squad had always been Naruto's. I assume Jiraiya was always a safety measure because all of Naruto's subordinates aren't Konoha-nin from origin. And also, because Naruto is the Jinchuuriki for the Kyuubi." The Mizukage laid out bluntly. "It's a very peculiar squad with three Jinchuuriki…"
The battle with the Sanbi three years ago was over before it started.
Mei could still remember the feeling of the raw power in the air that day. Something was unleashed that day that rattled her bones. And for the life of her she couldn't figure out what it was. But it sure wasn't the Sanbi.
It was really too bad that Tsunade, Jiraiya, Naruto and Gaara all had rushed towards the Sanbi, intercepted it at sea and dealt with it in just under a minute.
She wasn't able to see who had done what, but she did see one thing.
Naruto had the Contract for the Birds of Prey. And that meant that the boy would become a very powerful Shinobi one day.
"Yagura states here in the letter that Naruto-san has requested his presence in Konoha within the month. Heh, he says he won't travel to Konoha without your permission, Mizukage-sama."
Mei put both her hands under her chin and leaned on her desk. "Send a letter to Hokage-dono… We're going to Konoha, too, Ao. Tell Choujuuro we leave in a week and tell Yagura the same in a letter. Tell him he must take his entire squad with him. The Akatsuki will not have him."
"Facing Kage Henge no Jutsu is always so weird."
As he watched his opponent mutter complacently, he couldn't help but be amused. "It helps to disorient the opponent. Especially if you're transformed into someone familiar to your opponent."
Jiraiya simply wore a frown as he was facing two of Naruto's Kage Henge; Tsunade and Orochimaru.
"Of course, I can also do this!" With a flick of his wrist, Namikaze Minato and Uzumaki Kushina stood grinning at the Toad Sage.
"It's bothersome because you know exactly what type of Chakra Presence you need to create thanks to your Sage Mode." Jiraiya seemed unfazed to see Minato and Kushina like this, but it actually kinda hurt to see them.
"… You know, Naruto."
The second he saw jiraiya's serious face, the blonde knew what was coming. "I know, Jiraiya-sama. The enemy may very well have revived my mother. I'll be ready for that. The enemy might just do me a favour…" Naruto unclenched his fists as anger at the thought of his mother being used like that came to the surface. "My sealing skills will save her."
Jiraiya dropped the matter and settled for a stance. "Ok, kid. Now, let's do this!"
Naruto considered his godfather with a beaming smile. "Yeah, let's go! Godpervert!"
Jiraiya backpedalled as Naruto, Kushino, Minato, Orochimaru and Tsunade all headed for him. "Katon, Karyuu Endan!"
A small distance away, Gaara and Fu were eating lunch while observing the spar between Jiraiya and Naruto. "They always exaggerate." Gaara whispered between bites as Jiraiya released a massive stream of fire at Naruto's advanced transformations. "But it makes me want to crush them both with excessive sand, too."
"Then let's go!" Fu jumped up. "Hehe, let's sneak up on them while I blind them!"
Gaara nodded his head and stared impassively. "Excellent."
Samui means cold.
(Konoha) Genin: Fu
(Konoha) Chuunin: Sakura, Kiba, Lee, Ten-Ten, Chouji, Tayuya, Hinata, Ino, Gaara, Kankurou, Temari, Dosu and Tayuya. (The latter 5 simply because they haven't been Konoha-nin for long)
(Konoha) Jounin: Naruto, Sasuke, Shikamaru, Shino, Neji.
Fuuton, Menmen Danmaku
Wind Technique – Endless Barrage
Wind Technique – Whirlwind
Kujutsu, Dakitsu Doku
Puppet Technique – Poison Embrace
Puppet Technique – Fortify
Kujutsu, Genni Gouitsu
Puppet Technique – Fortify Union
Water Technique - Downpour
The Genryuu Kyuu Fuujin is not a new Jutsu, it 's in canon; the Bijuu extraction jutsu.