Author Note

Hello and welcome to another Chapter of 'The path of the hunter-nin'.

Before the chapter, though, I'd like to take the moment and inform that I ended up making a little mistake in chapter 19. When Madara says that he and Pein would attend the Kage Summit, he contemplated that he had seven of the nine bijuus. However, Kirabi was captured by Akatsuki, hence why the Raikage summoned the other Kages. So, I've changed the end of Chapter 19. I'd advice, before reading this chapter, to go back and re-read the last part. With the change, I bet all of you will come to the same conclusion about Naruto's situation. What you don't know is what will happen to him now that he's the last one standing.

Well, check it out!


Chapter 21 – Caged Tiger

Beta: Kyuubi123


The five kages were startled to see the famous Akatsuki robes as if both individuals were considered plagues that needed to be extinguished once and for all. The majority of the kages, though, remained under control and listened to what the man with the orange swirling mask was about to say. The Yondaime Raikage, though, couldn't control himself and started emitting lightning energy all over his body. In no time at all, he landed a punch at Madara, only for him to pass right through the Uchiha founder like he wasn't even there in the first place. The Raikage gritted his teeth and focused his attack on the other member only for him to be sent flying once more, courtesy of Pein's attack.

"As I was saying, before we were rudely interrupted by the Raikage, I merely wish to talk with you all. It's quite rare to see such an occasion, I might add. In my time, this very thought would be a sign of weakness…I guess the times have changed"

Unsurprisingly, the comment only reached the grumpiest individuals in the room, namely the Tsushikage and the Raikage. Though none of them attacked this time and the Tsushikage considered the man's last phrase.

"It's quite rude of you to raise this much of animosity between our villages and not even introduce yourself. Am I to assume that a man who appears responsible for this madness doesn't have the courage to let the enemy know his identity?" The mocking laughter that followed managed to piss everyone at the lack of obvious respect this man had shown towards the Tsushikage. Even if the other shinobis had different alliances, belittling a kage just wasn't done without terrible repercussions. To do so, meant that either this man was a lunatic or had enough skills to face a kage level shinobi.

This wasn't surprising, considering that the group targets the tailed beasts.

"Doing so at this point Onooki would be quite counter-productive. You see, I came here in order to reveal to everyone about Akatsuki's plan, our goal, to be more precise. By the mention of my name, some of you will feel quite nostalgic, for as in my time, most of you weren't even born yet. My name is Uchiha Madara…" The sudden silence in the room was almost palpable as some even started trembling. Uchiha Madara was perhaps the strongest ninja of his time, next to the Shodaime Hokage, Senju Hashirama. And to believe that the same man is here amongst them right now was quite impossible to imagine. Tsunade, for her part, knew the man from her childhood, the man to whom her grandfather considered his friend and rival at the same time. He was responsible for the village's foundation and founder of the powerful Uchiha Clan.

Madara counted on this feeling before he revealed his ultimate plan.

"I can see that all of you trust my words to be authentic, as I don't have reasons to lie at this point. Now, it's time to reveal what the Akatsuki's main goal is." Madara managed the room's attention as he began his history lesson. "A long time ago, the Rikudou Sennin came to these lands, preaching about peace in the midst of chaos that ruled. As some of you know, though some consider the man to be only a legend, the Rikudou Sennin was the founder of the ninja arts we so proudly use. A certain time, he faced the almighty ten tailed beast called Juubi. Even to some as powerful as the Rikudou Sennin, killing the beast was next to impossible. Therefore, he used every available power he had and sealed the beast inside his own body. Fearing that with his death the beast would escape, the Rikudou Sennin decided to split the Juubi's power amongst nine parts, hence the creation of the tailed beasts we all know and fear."

He stopped a little bit so that the information was slowly being digested by everyone.

"Therefore, with the powers of the tailed beasts gathered together, it will be within my reach to bring the Juubi back to life and become its jinchuuriki. With it, I'll have the power to control everyone. In order words, everything will become one through me. Once I possess the Juubi's power, I'll have access to this world's most powerful genjutsu called Mugen Tsukyomi. With it, I plan to obtain total piece." Now that the truth was out in the open, people were too speechless to be asking questions, though some in the room had their doubts at the plan.

"Real peace is a dream many revolutionaries shared. So far, none of them managed it. What makes yours different?" It was Kakashi's voice that broke the silence.

"Quite true, Sharingan Kakashi. However where others failed, I'll succeed. As of right now, I declare the start of the Fourth Great Ninja War!" Said Madara, before he and Pein vanished from the vicinity.

Afterward, a good ten minutes of silence ruled as everyone started pondering of the implications behind such a declaration. Gaara was the one that voiced everyone's concern, though.

"It's imperative that we guard the only remaining Jinchuuriki, for it's the only thing separating Madara from achieving his plan…" Although it was an understatement, everyone in the room approved the motion, before the Raikage raised from his chair.

"Let this be this alliance's first mission together. Each one of us will assign one of our bodyguards to retrieve the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki and bring him here where we can later decide his protection arrangements"

Everyone nodded while Kakashi and Tsunade wondered how Naruto would react once he learned that once more he would have to be taken off active duty. In little less than five minutes, the five assembled shinobi stood outside the castle. Kakashi, knowing where Naruto was, or at least where he should be, was declared the leader followed by the Raikage's sensor-type ninja named Shii. Temari from the Sand and Kurotsuchi from the Rock also joined. Last but not least, Ao, the Mizukage's bodyguard, was behind them as he also was a sensor and a hunter ninja just like Naruto.


===With Naruto===

Not knowing about the decision made at the meeting, Naruto and Mangetsu marched towards a random location. The day was surprisingly cloudy today as if gray spider webs covered the sky.

While walking, Naruto was busy flipping over the pages of his bingo book, making relaxing noises with his throat, much to both Mangetsu and Kyuubi's irritation, since both tended to possess akin hearing senses. While flipping through pages, Naruto would get images of his fight against said missing-nin. Some were tough, others not so much. The book on his hand represented his career as a shinobi and how it progressed as he marked the pages with red X, meaning the criminal was either captured or killed. His focus landed on an interesting foe, before he was interrupted.

"So…Naruto" Mangetsu spoke, before Naruto took away his attention from the book and looked at his canine companion. "Did you choose who is next or are we just walking around?"

"I just found an interesting one to chase. Her name is most peculiar, considering her skills and crimes committed. Nagoyaka Kusabana (gentle flower) is an A-ranked criminal kunoichi with large experience in explosive seals and deadly traps. According to the bingo book, the woman used a simple escorting mission assigned by the Sandaime Hokage towards the Fire Capital as leverage to rob a bank. She had succeeded in her endeavor, but a few weeks later, she ran away when the Head of Torture and Interrogation Morino Ibiki unraveled the truth and came after her. Now, she is a freelancer kunoichi with just as dirty clients on her payroll." After the explanation, the conversation ended as Naruto, once more, returned to his relaxing tunes, while studying the woman's location.

According to his bingo book, Kusabana was usually spotted near Fang Country, at the capital city.

At times, he wondered how the Hunter-nin Commander managed to gather so much information about the missing-ninjas. But then again the man must have a spying network as good if not better than Jiraiya's, so it wasn't so surprising. He has never been to Fang Country before, but from his map, he calculated that he would need at least a day to get there. He didn't remember much about the country, though. Only that it didn't have a ninja village, so he shouldn't be concerned with someone spotting him. Not that he feared having to fight someone, but as a hunter ninja from Konohagakure, he couldn't simply march in the country and start asking questions. Besides, the bingo book had a very vivid description of the woman, who despite being in her forties, was quite the looker. Besides the vicious smirk on her face and the fact that the woman likes to blow things up for a living, Naruto would be hard pressed not to flirt with her.

He was taken, though. So, he would settle for her head, instead. Good looking or not, she was an A-ranked criminal.


===At Konoha===

Shikamaru and Shino could say that neither was on friendly terms with one another. They only hanged out together when the old class reunited and even that rarely happened anymore. Shikamaru was a jounin and now member of the second version of the Ino-Shika-Cho Team. Shino was an Anbu captain. It was safe to say that even co-op missions were a rare event. Despite it all, the two shared one bond, although temporary. Both were nominated by their classmates as the ones who would decide on Uchiha Sasuke's fate based on his transgressions.

The problem was that both were scheduled to give their answers to the Hokage almost two weeks ago and so far, no verdict was reached.

Shikamaru, despite being a seasoned jounin, still felt it was quite a troublesome task to think of stuff like this, while Shino wanted his classmates' consent to his choice. Shino ended up taking Naruto's words to heart and decided on sentencing Sasuke to death for his actions. Needless to say, he found a strong opposition mainly from the women department. Even though they considered Sasuke guilty, none of them were too comfortable with the idea of simply ending the Uchiha's life. Whether they didn't want to live with such conscience, Shino didn't know. All he knew, since his childhood to his time at the Anbu department, revolved around logic. In Sasuke's case, it was pure logic. He betrayed the hidden village in the leaves by siding with one of Konoha's most vicious criminals alive. That alone granted him an S-ranked bounty on his head. The death penalty was the only logical choice.

Still, he just wished that people would give him the go-ahead so that he could stop thinking about this manner and move on. Even to a stoic Aburame, it was becoming annoying.

"Troublesome…I'm actually starting to believe it was best if Naruto never captured that prick in the first place. That way, I wouldn't need to worry about this."

It was a known fact amongst the two, who was responsible for both Sasuke and Itachi's capture. However, since only Shino and Shikamaru were nominated for the decision, the Hokage thought best only to tell them about it. Shino already knew, because Naruto himself told him, when they chatted a couple days ago. Shikamaru, though, wasn't surprised or at least found it too troublesome to act surprised. Nevertheless, his position was the same as Shino's. Although, he half considered sealing the one thing Sasuke was most proud of, his Sharingan Eyes.

"Be that as it may, we still have Sasuke's fate do decide. By this time, it's clear to both of us that a mutual consent will never be reached. At least, one of the girls will believe that Sasuke doesn't deserve it."

Shikamaru was considered the best tactician amongst his group, even rumoring to top his father, who was Konoha's Head of Strategy in times of war. However, he always knew that Shino wasn't far behind him. The logical way of thinking runs inside his veins, so it would be only logical to assume that Shino was just as good a tactician as Shikamaru was. As such, he already knew the answer to a suitable punishment for Sasuke. And as Shino said, at least one of the girls would believe that he didn't deserve it. He wouldn't be killed, though.

"I guess we can ask both Neji and Hinata to permanently shut his tenketsus as well as seal off his Sharingan for good. That way, he would no longer have access to his chakra or his Sharingan." Shino concurred.

"I guess it's the best thing to do, considering the circumstances. I bet Naruto would disagree, but seeing his latest achievements, I wouldn't be surprised if he did everything in his power to kill the Uchiha." Shikamaru smirked at the comment, as he remembered the comments amongst his fellow jounins. A hunter-nin was cleaning the bingo book, non-stop. Naruto's sensei Kakashi often spoke in private with Shikamaru about his blond student's exploits. And while some of them sounded a bit too rough, considering it was Naruto they were talking about, none could deny it was effective.

With the decision finally made, both marched towards the Hokage's Tower, in order to deliver their decision. It would be routine procedure to run the idea with the others first. However, both Shikamaru and Shino knew that it wouldn't solve anything and they would have to go back to square one. At least, with their choice, Sasuke can be free, after a few years in prison of course, without his usual power. Hell, Sasuke was one of the best in taijutsu; he could still become a shinobi with taijutsu alone. An amusing thought, Shikamaru considered. Imagining the last of the Uchiha Clan reduced to nothing but plain martial arts.


===At the Hokage's Office===

Jiraiya, contrary to what most everyone thought, often wondered how it was to seat behind the most powerful desk in Konohagakure. Both his sensei and his student often spoke the same thing. Just the thought of seating behind the desk and knowing that pretty much everyone in the village depended on the Hokage was maybe the most overwhelming feeling. Sending ninjas to death assignments, already knowing they would never return was only the tip of the iceberg in a Kage's duty. With all these expectations, Jiraiya wondered why none of them ever bitched about signing these damn release forms that now stood in front of him.

He remembered Tsunade always complaining about it, but in her case, pretty much everything irritated her. His sensei and his student were level headed individuals.

As soon as Shizune walked inside with new missions piles, she saw the man acting just like her master did upon her arrival with more paper. Often times, she wondered why Tsunade-sama and Jiraiya-sama weren't a couple yet. They even complained about the same thing. The only difference between the two, and Shizune thanked the heavens for it, was that with Jiraiya she never bothered to check for hidden bottles of sake beneath the desk or either hidden by a storage seal, located beneath the first cabinet. She left the papers next to the other mission assignments while Jiraiya started cursing Tsunade for picking him up for this, instead of maybe Hiashi or even Shikaku. A knock on the door alerted the two, before Shikamaru and Shino entered.

Jiraiya looked up and smirked, since he knew what these two wanted to talk about.

"So it took you two quite a bit of time to decide. You were supposed to give Tsunade the answer two weeks ago. May I inquire what punishment are you giving poor little Sasuke-kun?"

The two exchanged looks between each other, most to see who would be the one to say it. Shikamaru released a sigh in contempt and took a step forward.

"We decided on a five year imprisonment. Also, his chakra tenketsus would have to be sealed off permanently by an experienced Hyuuga"

Jiraiya instantly frowned at the answer, though that was just for intimidation purposes. Truth was that Tsunade never meant to kill the boy. Sure, he sided with Orochimaru for petty reasons such as revenge, but taking away his life seemed like a minor punishment compared to what these two came up with. He tried hiding the smirk, but he figured the same amusing thought as Shikamaru did. An Uchiha with no access to chakra whatsoever and no Sharingan eyes to gloat about; it would be quite humorous, that's for sure. Finally, he showed a smile on his face, which relaxed Shikamaru and Shino' stance a bit.

"Indeed, killing him would be nothing compared to what your devious minds conjured. I'll take care of the proper paperwork and, then, call for either Neji or Hiashi to perform the ceremony"

Seeing that their presence was no longer needed, Shikamaru and Shino turned and left, before Jiraiya started reading the mission assignments and remembering the ninjas at his disposal to be assigned.

"Shikamaru…" Jiraiya screamed, getting the jounin's attention, before he threw an A-ranked mission scroll. The jounin caught and opened the scroll, as he began to read. "It's witness protection mission for your team. Your priority is the protection of a witness inside the Fire Lord's Castle. I bet you already knew what happened inside the castle two weeks ago. This man witnessed everything and agreed to testify at the Fire Lord's Courtroom. Problem is none of his samurai could be assigned to do it, so he asked us. The possible targets are all written on that scroll, good day…"

The Nara heir frowned at the mission, but nodded. He knew from his father that a higher official was murdered inside the Fire Lord's castle.

Probably this witness confided to the Fire Lord's personal assistant and the man convinced the Daimyou to arrange some protection until the witness could testify who the murderer was.

Still, Shikamaru at least now had an excuse to focus on something else other than Sasuke's punishment, in case Ino found out about the final choice.


===With Naruto===

Oblivious to the fact that his wish wouldn't be granted regarding Sasuke, Naruto was busy focusing on his next pray, as he conjured any available information there was to know about the missing-nin from the bingo book. While this was happening, Mangetsu was busy scratching herself in order to deal with a dog's worst enemy of all, flees. The female dog learned that when it came to hunting missing-ninjas, Naruto managed to transform it into an art of some sort. Everything was planned ahead and everything was accounted for. It was actually impressive, the level of dedication showed by the hunter-nin.

Mangetsu, though, was just happy to be by his side, helping him in every way possible, to rid Konoha of criminals.

When Naruto placed the bingo book inside his jacket, the dog looked at him, since it knew that Naruto already managed to think of a way to beat the A-ranked missing-nin traps expert. Suddenly, Naruto opened his map and looked at the horizon, in order to grasp the distance needed to cover, before they reached Fang Country. While pondering on the distance, Naruto also used part of his brain in order to think of the woman's weakness. The thing with traps was that they were almost deadly against a single enemy, however against an army, she would most certainly lose. She may hit five enemies, even ten, but she wouldn't have much artillery against say an entire platoon. Said weakness was only exploitable by a shinobi who had enough chakra to replicate himself multiple times and Naruto had that in spades. However, the Kage Bunshin, the Rasengan and the Kuchiyose no Jutsu were obvious techniques and anyone with a few knowledge on his past experiences, would find out his identity. He had to think of something else…

"Let's go Mangetsu, let's go fast until we reach the border of Fang Country. Afterward, we'll return to walking…"


===With Jiraiya===

After assigning the missions to the respective ninjas, Jiraiya figured he could already take care of Sasuke's punishment, thus alleviating Tsunade from another headache. Surprisingly so, with her gone, their sensei's old teammates had yet to show their faces. This meant that Jiraiya could carry on Sasuke's punishment without being interrupted, or even thinking about future consequences. It would be quite infuriating if he appeared in front of Sasuke's prison only for Homura to stop him with some pathetic excuse that the Uchiha blood must be preserved for the village's welfare.

As if Konoha wasn't considered the strongest village even after Itachi killed his clan.

Seeing as the coast was clear, he went to the Hyuuga Compound and conversed with Hiashi, regarding Sasuke's punishment. The perverted sannin was in search of a skilled clan member that would seal Sasuke's chakra without killing him. It may not seem difficult, but simply blocking one's chakra was a lot tougher than the usual jyuuken strike, meant to kill the enemy. The Hyuuga needed to find the right amount of tenketsus that were responsible for maintaining the chakra flow and disable them. That would only happen once the Hyuuga managed to study Sasuke's chakra network thoroughly. In the end, Hiashi gave the name of a Hyuuga kunoichi, named Tatsumi. She was considered the most perfectionist amongst the main branch members and was considered by the other members as a master in human anatomy. The only one that could rival her in precise jyuuken strikes was Neji, but he used it to incapacitate his opponents and she was a medic-nin.

So, Jiraiya and Tatsumi were now in front of Ibiki as they met in front of Sasuke's cell.

Even though the Hyuuga kunoichi was older than Neji and Hinata, her looks were enough to put every kunoichi half her age to shame. Her hair was the same color as Hinata's, but her body was perfect, Jiraiya could say as he checked the woman out maybe two or three times, giggling like a no good pervert he was. Contrary to other Hyuugas, Tatsumi was more similar to Anko Mitarashi in terms of thinking that the fewer clothes, the better. Her voluptuous breasts barely fitted inside her white jounin vest and a sleeveless fishnet top. Besides that, nothing much was there to notice except that she wore dark blue shorts that barely passed her knees.

"I see that those two finally reached a decision, Jiraiya-sama?" Ibiki asked, as he opened the door to Sasuke's cell. Jiraiya, for his part, nodded as he allowed the lady to enter first, before he got inside, closing the door right afterward.

Sasuke opened his eyes and turned to the sudden noise created by the door. He frowned a bit, knowing that this day would come eventually. He was not ignorant to the fact that his act caused dire repercussions. He knew that something bad would happen to him, when he saw Jiraiya smiling the entire time. Sasuke was aware that killing was never their intention. He may be a traitor, but he'd never lifted a finger against a Konoha shinobi before, except Naruto, but that was because the blond wanted, desperately, to take him back to Konoha. He supposed it was only natural to assume that right now trusting him with any form of power would be outrageous. And the fact that he saw a Hyuuga alongside Jiraiya meant that in a little while, his chakra would cease to exist completely, meaning that his Sharingan would be non-existent as well.

Despite it all, he didn't dread the outcome of his punishment. Itachi was dead and all he could do after his chakra is sealed is to perfect his taijutsu, nothing more!

"I was hoping that the Hokage would be the one to deliver my punishment, not you" Sasuke heard stories about this Jiraiya from Orochimaru. The one man that always kept coming back, no matter what vile technique the snake used to beat him. In a way, Sasuke envisioned a lot of Naruto in this man, well at least how Naruto used to be. Jiraiya only smirked at the comment directed his way and he couldn't think of a better come back than prying on the Uchiha's never-ending pride, their Sharingan and how in about two minutes, it would cease to exist.

"Tsunade is busy with other affairs right now, so she asked me to take good care of you little Uchiha. I bet you're a smart kid so I don't need to explain what your punishment is going to be. My Hyuuga friend will take good care of your chakra system. Now miss Tatsumi, if you would" Sasuke landed his stoic raven eyes on her pupil-less eyes and like he remembered, her eyes were similar to all of her kind. Cold, menacing…even more so than the Sharingan eyes ever were. When the veins around her eyes expanded, Sasuke just closed his eyes, taking a minute to say goodbye to the one thing that never abandoned him, his Sharingan eyes, the pride of the Uchiha Clan.

As the jyuuken strikes began, Sasuke let out a violent scream at the pain he was feeling.


===One day later===

With great speed, Naruto and Mangetsu reached the border of Fang Country. From here, they were walking. The capital city was just a few miles away, so when he arrived, he could ask some questions. The scenery here was quite peculiar, he reasoned. A great load of fang looking mountains filled the horizon. Also, he could see a great load of rivers. By now, the once clouded sky opened a sizeable hole, allowing a nice bath of sunlight. Looking at Mangetsu, he realized that the dog was quite tired from their trip. In front of them, was a little stream where Mangetsu could drink some water, while Naruto prepared her lunch as he thought of his plan so far.

The bingo book didn't give much to work on, regarding her location. He knew, though, that the ones who hired her were from the black market.

It meant that his hopes would rise if he managed to interrogate someone and find out where her next mission will be. After Mangetsu returned by his side, they continued walking until the capital city appeared on the horizon. The city was covered by the same mountains that he saw upon crossing the border. A great load of rivers crossed the city and even some houses were built on top of it. Not wasting any more time, he walked inside the first bar, henged as some low life mercenary wearing a black eye-patch, which covered his right eye. His hair was black and his whisker marks gone. Even Mangetsu transformed, though no one would know her. At this time, it was almost lunch time, so the bar was quite crowded with civilians and even some low-level thugs screaming with each other and drinking like maniacs. Naruto walked through the crowded tables and took a sit right in front of the bar as he landed his sword right in front of the bartender. It had the desired effect as the man focused his attention on Naruto instantly.

"How can I help you foreigner?"

"Some sake, please" The bartender nodded as he grabbed a bottle of their finest from Earth Country and poured some for Naruto.

"I was looking for someone and I was hoping you could help me…" Naruto said, as he drank the entire glass like it was nothing.

The bartender poured some more as he looked at Naruto's henged face for a minute, as in trying to figure if perhaps Naruto wouldn't hesitate in killing him.

"Maybe I can help you. Do you have a name?" The bartender said, before showed him a picture.

"Her name is Nagoyaka Kusabana, A-ranked missing-nin from a village called Konohagakure."

As soon as Naruto said the name, unsurprisingly so, the entire bar was suddenly silent. Naruto figured it was routine, considering that anyone measuring up to Kakashi-sensei's level was threatening to say the least. Even the thugs that were enjoying themselves now looked at Naruto like he was the enemy. It all changed, though, when the blond narrowed his only visible eye and focused some chakra directed at them in a menacing manner. Immediately, they paid their bill and left the premises. Naruto turned to the bartender and waited for an answer. He could tell the subtle change in mood from the man, thus he knew that the man knew something about Kusabana.

"Okay old man, let's start talking…oh and more sake, it's quite tasty." Naruto's hand reached for his sword, before the bartender pleaded with him not to kill him.

"I don't know where to find her, but I know someone who does…"

"Any information would suffice."

"Rumors are this man is like an agent of sorts for criminals. Kusabana goes to him for missions." Naruto smiled and immediately went to thinking. By following this booking agent of sorts, he would eventually find Kusabana's location and fight her once and for all.

"Okay old man, you seem to know a lot about this man, so tell me what you know about him and where can I find him. Oh and while we're at it, do you serve any ramen here, I'm starving. After I'm satisfied, I'm leaving a very sizeable tip. That is, if I'm satisfied with the answer you supply me" The bartender nodded, before going to the back and handing Naruto's ramen order. He came back and served more sake, which Naruto greatly appreciated. Once Naruto ate his ramen, he left the bar and vanished within a shunshin together with Mangetsu.

According to the bartender, this agent guy always hung around a specific back alley close to the Daimyou's mansion. While the bartender didn't say his name, he gave his description. Spiky black hair, weird shaped head and wears a gray over-sized coat. Somehow, the description sounded familiar to Naruto, but he couldn't quite place it. He had to be fast, though, because the man usually sticks around maybe ten or twenty minutes for Kusabana to appear, if not, he leaves. As soon as he landed on the rooftop a couple meters from the location, he saw the man described by the bartender. He was just standing there doing nothing. From now on, he needed to wait. If he was there, then he was expecting Kusabana to arrive any minute now.

"May I suggest that you use something to hide your presence, Naruto. He may not realize you're spying on him, but no doubt one like Kakashi would."

It has been a while since Kyuubi spoke, hence why it spooked the hunter-nin a bit. Naruto, though, didn't know any genjutsu techniques. It's something that he planned on learning in the future. The way in which he was positioned could easily shadow his presence, but that would only happen if Kusabana came from the other side of the alley. However, any seasoned jounin would be aware of his presence, hence why the blond tried every bit of control he had into lowering his chakra capacity. This way, if the woman senses him, she will probably think that it's just some civilian or a genin shinobi.

Just like the bartender said, Naruto's target appeared soon afterward and like he suspected, wary of a foreign presence. After waiting a few more minutes, she backed out and started her conversation with the agent. Naruto knew that from his position, he couldn't hear anything. His plan was to identify the woman more in terms of determining her location. And if his eyes weren't playing tricks on him, the photo displayed inside the bingo book did the woman very little justice. She was even more beautiful with tight light blue shinobi wear that would top any woman Jiraiya could ever hope to describe in his novels. From what he could see, shinobi wise, she didn't appear like much. No visible weapons could be seen, however she could very well have hidden them within scrolls or something. Her presence stood out as peculiar in Naruto's opinion. It was like she knew someone was there watching her, if her eyes looking around were any indication.

After ten minutes, she left the place the same time Naruto left his position. He was fortunate that Mangetsu was near him, because now his companion memorized her scent. He told Mangetsu to stay put, before vanishing.

The agent decided to light a cigarette, confident that the job would be performed without drawbacks. Kusabana was as skilled as the money needed to hire her, thus this time it was guaranteed that the job would be complete. The man blinked once, which proved to be his last mistake. When he opened, his mind registered one big sword placed mere inches from his throat. Before he even knew what happened, a hand grabbed his hair forcefully. He realized with dread that whoever it was behind him began to slightly bend his neck towards the blade, causing the man to shiver in fear for his life.

"Do not scream; do not cry for help, for it will be your last breath here on Earth. I want to know what you told Kusabana. It was a job? I want to hear everything…" Naruto brought the sword a centimeter closer for him to realize Naruto was serious.

"Who are you and why are you after her?" Every second passed was like torment to this poor man, whose only job was to hire missing-ninjas for his clients.

"You let me worry about my intentions. You should worry about satisfying my curiosity; otherwise your throat will suffer because of your stupidity. What did you tell her?" After the forced question, Naruto even focused some chakra to scare the man into believing he'd actually do it. Still, it proved adequate as the man instantly begged for his life, before spilling everything he knew about Kusabana and her future location in four hours. According to the man, she was hired to assassinate the Daimyou's Head of Security. He was scheduled to arrive through the forest where Naruto came from at night. The blond wasn't much worried about the Daimyou's Head of Security, but he was about fighting the girl at night. It was risky to fight a traps expert without the aid of the sun. Nevertheless, Kusabana wasn't the type of person who would stick around after her job was done.

She would flee right afterward, which meant that he would have to stop this assassination from happening.


===Fang Country's Border===

After speeding a bit, Naruto and Mangetsu managed to reach the place where Kusabana would kill the country's head of security. So far, nothing of the sort was visible. The moonlight helped a bit, but they couldn't see much with it. Still, Naruto figured that Kusabana's target would have at least a couple of samurais tailing him for his safety. That meant that Naruto would, soon, hear horses approaching. He and Mangetsu began their travel once more, throughout the dense woods.

His brain started to wonder about the possible path, in order to foresee his actions as much as possible.

The forest he was now in was very dense and didn't allow a carriage to pass by so easily. Actually, there was only one path available and that would be the one he was looking down upon. With that, he was now able to narrow down the possible locations for the attack. Kusabana wouldn't attack the man close to the border, since it would attract the border guard's attention. As a shinobi, she would be obligated to deal with the country's head of security before the carriage appeared at the border guard's line of sight. Looking at Mangetsu, he saw that it was sniffing around. Naruto figured that it wouldn't take much time before Kusabana's position was found.

"Naruto, I found her scent. A couple of meters to our right." The blond nodded, before they vanished once more via shunshin.

When they appeared once more, Naruto started hiding behind a thick tree as he spotted his target placing what appeared to be exploding tags on specific parts of the forest. That was precisely her expertise; he thought as he remembered what the bingo book said about her. It would be an easy kill and easier exit strategy. When the target appeared within range, she would activate the exploding tags from a reasonable distance. Both the explosion and the three remnants would crush the samurais to death as well as the carriage with the head of security inside. Also, since none of them are ninja, she could just flee the scene from the trees and vanish without anyone knowing what happened. Such an attack was useless against shinobi, hence why Kusabana limited her attacks to countries without ninja support.

He figured that now was a good time to strike when she was busy.

Kusabana finished planting the last exploding tag, before her danger sense warned her to get away from there. Her senses proved correct as a dozen of kunais and shurikens flew towards her out of the blue. So engrossed in her target she was, that she forgot to cover her tracks. She didn't finish her train of thought as a man with black clothes and a hunter-nin mask appeared out of a sudden with a katana strike, ready to slice her in two. Quickly grabbing a ninjato, which was hidden inside a seal imprinted on her wrist, she managed to block Naruto's strike. However, the hunter's attack carried such strength that she was sent flying. Immediately, Naruto picked a couple more shurikens and kunais and threw at her, before going through hand seals.

Fuuton Reppushou (Wind Release: Gale Wind Palm Technique)

The wind technique propelled the projectiles towards Kusabana, who still in midair, couldn't dodge in time. When Naruto saw a pierced log in her place, his eyes began scanning the place for her whereabouts. Suddenly, three kunais flew at him from his blind spot, carrying seals along with it. Naruto instantly jumped away from the kunais, assuming that the seals were exploding tags. However, when Kusabana activated them, he saw his mistake as a powerful sound reached his ears, forcing him to use his hands in a pathetic attempt to stop his ears from hurting so much. Even though the pain was unbearable, the blond took the time to berate himself from assuming things against a person of her level. An exploding tag would alert the samurais and would endanger her mission. Despite the pain, he could see the woman on the verge of killing him, before Naruto focused enough wind chakra that he created a vacuum around his body.

With it, he managed a few seconds more to get over his bearings, as Kusabana was stopped by the force of wind. Naruto managed to land a fierce kick on her stomach and was about to continue the sequence, but had to block a fast sequence of punches, all of it aimed at his face. As he blocked, he could feel that the woman was adding chakra to the attacks. Quickly blocking the last punch, he used brute strength and grabbed her clothes, before throwing the woman a few inches. Afterwards, he grabbed his katana and charged once more. Kusabana, though, managed to land on a tree with enough time to get her bearings, before Naruto appeared.

The noise of swords continued, until both spotted upon hearing horses approaching.

Kusabana cursed the hunter-nin's existence, before throwing some smoke bombs on the ground. Naruto was caught by surprise, but Mangetsu was close by and stopped Kusabana from fleeing, using the Tsuuga technique. The tornado also served to expel the smoke bomb, allowing Naruto to attack her once more, as he started a sequence of hand seals.

Fuuton Eatama no Jutsu (Wind Release: Air Bullet Technique)

Kusabana managed to dodge the deadly technique in time, by hiding behind a tree, but upon inspecting the damage, she realized how close to death she was. By now, her target already was already inside Fang Country, which meant that she failed her mission. Right now, though, her life was more important. The hunter-nin was good, but so were the others who thought they could mess with her, just because she was a woman. While hiding and knowing that the hunter-nin was about to strike, she began her own series of hand seals, before gathering water inside her lungs.

Suiton Taihoudan (Water Release: Large Projectile Technique)

Naruto was caught dead on and was sent flying. Using the opportunity, Kusabana began molding her chakra for her most powerful technique. This hunter-nin was good, no doubt about that. But no one survived against said technique. She saw that the hunter-nin managed to escape her water jutsu, but her plan accounted such a possibility. She just wanted a couple of seconds to mold her chakra the way it was supposed to. As soon as Naruto escaped from the water projectile, he froze on top of a tree log as in front of him, was Kusabana. Except that right now, she was naked and every hormone inside his body was begging him to go and have his way with her. His body started trembling in excitement. He didn't know what happened to him, but every cell inside his body was carving for a piece of her flesh. Her body was exceptional. Without knowing, he placed one foot in front of the other, like he was hypnotized by the enemy.

This was Kusabana's most powerful technique. Almost no man could resist her genjutsu. With her chakra, she could invade the enemy's chakra system and increase the level of pheromones. And placing an image inside the man's brain of her naked form was enough to control every man. That's why no hunter-nin ever managed to escape from her grasp. And this hunter-nin, although proficient in tai, nin and kenjutsu, wasn't skilled enough to dispel A-ranked illusions. The only man whoever managed to break her illusion was Uchiha Itachi, though at the time, she just used it in order to get in bed with him.

Quickly unleashing her ninjato, she charged at the hypnotized hunter-nin.

"Naruto, you imbecile; she's trapped you in a genjutsu, wake the hell up" Kyuubi's voice roared inside his mind with such ferocity that the blond opened his eyes instantly, before dispelling the genjutsu just as Kusabana's sword came inches of his body. However, Mangetsu came to the rescue, aiming another Tsuuga at both Naruto and Kusabana. With it, she managed to save Naruto, who was still suffering the after effects of an A-ranked genjutsu. Looking at the woman, he was battling hard in order to erase the sexy images inside his mind.

"How the hell were you able to dispel my genjutsu? You looked like a marionette a few seconds ago." Her shout was the catalyst to waking him up as he looked at her now fully dressed.

"I'm not here to discuss techniques with you. You're a criminal and will perish by my sword."

Kyuubi, give me your power, with it I won't be influenced by her genjutsu…

The woman noticed the spike in chakra capacity as well as the malice coming from the hunter-nin. She saw, with a knowing dread, the red aura that surrounded the blond. She knew from memory this feeling. At the time, she was only a genin under the Yondaime Hokage. However, anyone would vouch for her that a power as vile as the Kyuubi no Yoko would be forever imprinted in her memory. She now remembered how the Yondaime Hokage saved the village by sealing the fox inside a baby. Now, standing in front of her, was the man who housed the power of the strongest bijuu in existence.

"You're the Jinchuuriki, aren't you?"

The question surprised Naruto, but he guessed that the woman must have been old enough to remember that fateful day. Nevertheless, she continued talking and Naruto could feel some trepidation on her voice "you are the one the Yondaime sealed the beast inside. I remember you, now. You were that boy who would always get into trouble for the pranks. I wouldn't imagine that you managed to harvest the fox's chakra" That feeling of malice retuned tenfold and the nightmares that stopped a long time ago resurfaced. She heard shouts of her friends being killed by the beast's chakra alone. She heard her father being violently murdered by the beast's claws, while its laughter echoed insider her brain. By now, she feared for her life. She tried backing away as Naruto stepped forward, while grabbing his sword and igniting it on fire.

The woman was scared shitless right now. He could see her pupils dilating at the prospect of being killed by the Kyuubi no Yoko. A long time ago, he accepted the fact that he was the fox's jinchuuriki. He accepted the burden of keeping the one responsible for murdering half of the village's population inside his stomach. The woman was now on the ground as she crawled towards a tree, feeling cornered like a dead prey. The blond wondered why she was feeling this way. It was like the woman was having a mental breakdown in front of him. He sighed in dismay and realized that this battle was over. With a swift swing from his flaming sword, he decapitated Kusabana as her blood was splattered all over his clothes.

This was the scene that Kakashi's co-op team saw upon arriving. Kumo's sensor ninja felt the demon chakra and guided them towards the location. Temari, for her part upon looking at Naruto, instantly remembered the guy who helped Suna against a missing ninja. Never in a million years, would she guess that Naruto was the hunter-nin. To believe that she even fantazied about the man. Naruto was instantly alerted, before he saw Kakashi in front of a group of shinobis from the other hidden villages. Last time he saw the man, he was guarding the Hokage towards Iron Country.

"What are you doing here, Kakashi? And why there are ninjas from other villages with you?"

"I'll give you all the answers Naruto, but I'm afraid you must come with us…Hokage's orders."

Looking at each one of the group, Naruto knew that it would be quite stupid of him to do otherwise. As he went through the procedure of sealing Kusabana's head and burning the body, he knew that once more his freedom would be taken away from him.


Author Note

Ok that's it for now. If someone is curious about the theory behind the Rikudou Sennin's sons, I figured it would be useless, seeing as Sasuke's Sharingan is right now sealed. Now, Naruto will be protected as right now, he is the only one standing between Madara and his goal to revive the Juubi. How will he take it, being caged once more? Check it out next chapter.

I want to take this opportunity and thank everyone for reviewing my stories. Believe it or not, all of you helped me with the excellent ideas and the helpful criticism. I also wanted to say thank you to my beta Kyuubi123 for doing this amazing favor of reviewing my stories.

Thank you all so much.