Disclaimer: I do not own. Please do not sue.

Opening A.N.: Two things to say about the pairings for this story. This will not be a NaruSaku story (nothing against it, just in this story they are going to be more like friends close enough to consider each other family) and it also will NOT be a NaruSasu story (check my profile to see why I don't read/write yaoi). That having been said, I'll save further notes for the end of the story and get to the story itself. Read and enjoy!

Edit: Pairing has been decided, but I'll don't want to spoil the surprise for all of you regarding what it is.

Last Chapter

'I can't quite shake the feeling there's something I've forgotten here... but it must just be that I haven't needed to do something like this in a very long time. The seal and handseals have been made perfectly, so everything should work just fine.' Kyuubi pondered

The whole room glowed with an eerie red light, coming from the seal and from the two tails of youkai that were coming out of Naruto's stomach, directly from the Shiki Fuuin. Those two tails seemed to stab into Tayuya, who merely winced in discomfort at the sensation. It was like being in a shower with the water just a tiny bit too hot for comfort. As the seal ran its course, the core of Tayuya's body began to glow with a bright light blinding Naruto so that he closed his eyes and forcing Tayuya herself to close her eyes if she didn't want to lose her eyesight.

In the Hidden Base of Otogakure no Sato

Orochimaru sat rigid for a moment, catching the attention of Kabuto, who was with him to make certain that he recovered from his recent switch of bodies as quickly as possible, as well as Sasuke and the jounin who was training him before Orochimaru recovered enough to do so personally.

"Is something the matter, Orochimaru-sama?" Kabuto asked, preparing to do a diagnostic jutsu to determine if something was going wrong with the new body.

Orochimaru waved away Kabuto's glowing green hand with a laugh. "Kukuku... it seems Tayuya-chan survived for longer than we thought. I just felt something forcefully break the curse seal I placed upon her. What's more... the only way that would work was if she willingly allowed someone to remove it from her. You know what to do, Kabuto."

"Hai, Orochimaru-sama." Kabuto left the room to inform the Oto special hunter nin unit that Tayuya was alive and had willingly broken her bonds with Otogakure no Sato. Such a high security risk member would require an immediate and violent extermination before she could go spreading the secrets of Orochimaru's.

Sasuke looked on, unsure of how to respond to the fact that he had just heard that it was, in fact, entirely possible to remove the curse seal. He was afraid someone might do so to him, stunting his power, but also found some hope that he could get it removed before Orochimaru could take his body over.

At the Great Naruto Bridge

Kanaye Yamamoto and his two partners arrived just in time to feel the wave of youkai radiating from Nami no Kuni. It gave them pause in their chase of their master's future puppet to feel the power of a biju. They had met up with each other when Yamamoto came back from following one of the false paths to the point of divergence. The woman had been able to figure out the true path the group they were following had taken, and Yamamoto had filled the two in on what had happened since he last saw them while they were chasing the group down.

Now realizing that there was either a biju in human form or a jinchuuriki involved, they decided to send Yamamoto to inform Sasori of the full depth of the situation as well as ask for help or orders for the now more complex problem. Seeing as he could literally fly to and back from Sasori-sama's location.

Chapter 4, Part 1

Naruto and Tayuya's Room at the Inn

As the brilliant burst of light faded, Naruto heard Tayuya's voice, "Get the hell over here and help me get these fucking splints off so I can move!" Naruto jumped to his feet at the same moment his eyes popped wide open.

"H-hai, Tayuya-chan!" Naruto moved down to Tayuya's ankles and began undoing the bindings on the splints from there while Tayuya was doing the splint's bindings closer to her body. He was concentrating on keeping his eyes near her ankles because he knew if he looked at her again, his voice would get lost in his throat and his brain would shut down. Between the bronze tone to her skin and her wilder hair, Tayuya had gone from 'cute tomboy' to 'beautiful...' in his mind, and he was still trying to process it.

" 'Beautiful...', huh? That's only about five levels below the 'dead sexy' you thought I was when you thought I couldn't hear your thoughts." The voice of Kyuubi teased in his mind.

Naruto was stuck between going pale with mortification or shining like a red beacon with embarassment. After a few seconds of struggling with his body's decision of how to react and thinking along the lines of 'at least it can't get much worse, right?', Naruto was made to realize he'd stopped moving at Kyuubi's words.

"Fuck nut? Any reason you stopped and your cheeks are on fire?" Tayuya's voice was accusing, and the next words out of her almost had a growl-like quality to them. "Not having perverted fantasies starring me, I hope?"

Naruto's head snapped up to meet her eyes, his own wide again. "NO! It's not like that!" 'Shit! What do I say? What do I- I got it!' Naruto gave a nervous laugh and scratched the back of his neck as he gathered himself. "Right before the seal did its work, Kyuubi said something was gnawing at the back of her mind, like something she forgot or something. Just now she said she wanted me tocheck the curse seal to be certain it's gone like it's supposed to be, and when I questioned her on her earlier certainty in that technique we just used, she said some... things that freaked me out, y'know?" 'Pleaseletherbuyitpleaseletherbuyitpleaseletherbuy it...'

At Tayuya's calming face, Naruto let out the breath he'd been holding. "Fine..." Turning her back to him, Naruto wondered what she was doing, until she let the top slide down halfway to her butt - and despite how much skin she was showing, all of Naruto's attention was focused on the bizarre seal now covering most of her back.

'What The Fuck? Kyuubi, are you seeing this?'

"Yeah. Now I remember what I forgot... and I know what it did, too." Kyuubi's voice was subdued, seeming a little depressed over it.

'Well?' Naruto's thoughts were on the angry side.

"I forgot about the supression seal over the curse seal and how it would react to the seal we were trying to perform," Kyuubi paused.

"What's fucking going on back there? I've heard corpses louder than you."

"Sorry," Naruto said, "I'm conversing with her about what's happened."

"What's happened?"

"Yeah. Apparently she forgot to factor the suppression seal over your cursed seal when she was making the seal array up, and now you've got this really big seal on your back and I'm waiting on her to tell me how this'll effect you."

Tayuya looked... pissed, Naruto decided. Her mouth was moving and no words were coming out.

"Actually, this seal will effect both of your lives..."

"WHAT?! How does this seal effect me too?" Tayuya looked at him strangely at the shout.

"Repeat what I say so you won't have to explain it to her later..."

"Alright..." Naruto paused for a minute before speaking again, "She says that because she didn't take the suppression seal into account when making our seal array, parts of the curse seal still exist in you. Kyuubi wants to know whether you want the good news or the bad news first, Tayuya-chan." Naruto stared at Tayuya, waiting for an answer.

Turning back to him, as she'd allready pulled her shirt back up and closed the front, Tayuya answered, "the good."

Naruto waited a moment before talking, "Orochimaru's bond with you and the seal is fully severed, the seal's corruption of your mind has stopped and will heal over time, and this seal won't burn through your energy like crazy." He paused before continuing, "the bad news is, the seal is now dependent on Kyuubi's energy and the only way for you to go on living is if we periodically refill its stores of the stuff. She said that you could go 'fully level two' if needed at the cost of burning through its stores of her youkai faster, thus needing a refill much sooner. She says if it's not pushed to level two, a full charge should let you go for about a week and a half before you'd have to get a refill. So it looks like we're stuck together from now on."

"Fuck me..." Tayuya's voice sounded small and broken, then she gave a hollow laugh. "That's probably what you did this for anyway."


"Well, isn't it?" Tears were moving down her face, and she screamed the words, "ISN'T IT? I thought you might be different, I thought... I was a fool."


"Don't call me that!" If he were of a more analytical mood at the moment, Naruto would wonder how such a small voice could speak in such a harsh and sharp tone without upping the volume.

"Fine, Tayuya... this isn't my fault. I just did what Kyuubi said, I didn't think..."

"Yeah. Neither of us thought, did we? We trusted a fucking kitsune..."

Both of them sat there, lost in thought for a few minutes before the lock on the door clicked off and Jiraiya stepped in.

"Hey." Jiraiya said it softer than he usually spoke, and combined with the knowledge of roughly when he left Tazuna's and how far he had to travel to get here, Naruto came to a quick conclusion.

"So how much did you eavesdrop on?"

Smiling a bit, and hoping to lighten the mood in the room, Jiraiya said, "Enough to hear her comment on your 'cheeks being on fire'. You know, for a girl who made it clear to me last night she had no romantic or sexual interest in you, she sure didn't hesitate to tell you she thinks your ass is hot."

The grin on Jiraiya's face as he said that was shit-eating, and the blushes on the other two's were nuclear, Tayuya's being more of anger and Naruto's of embarassment. "Ero-sennin!"

"You know," Tayuya grit out, "now that I can walk fine on my own maybe I should come over there and see how hard I have to kick 'em to make 'em fucking pop!"

Jiraiya grimaced, mentally clutching himself, before becoming serious again. "Naruto, there was a reason you should have had me here when you activated that seal. While I can't say for certain whether that wave of Kyuubi's energy could be felt in Konoha, I know any patrol between here and there did feel it. If I was here I could have slapped a containment seal on the room and a hunter-nin wouldn't have been able to sense the energy from right outside the door. Konoha now either knows where we're at, or they will soon."

Naruto looked about ready to panic. "So, we can just leave here before they arrive," Tayuya said.

"One small problem." Jiraiya pointed his thumb at Naruto. 'The gaki here made a promise that requires we be here in three weeks, and staying here in hiding would be way easier than leaving and having to sneak back in while they're searching for us." Jiraiya dropped his thumb and kept talking, "since you're in travelling condition, we can sleep outdoors in the dense woods on one of the nearby uninhabited islands. Both of you pack your stuff up and henge so you're like we were when we came in. Tayuya, that means injured and riding on Naruto's back until we're out of sight of the village. I'll go pick up Sakura. You two meet us in civilian travel about 100 meters south of the southern village entrance, just before the path forks. We'll wait for you before circumventing the village and going to an uninhabited island to the northeast of here by ninja travel. None of us speak again until we get there, okay?"

When both of them silently nodded, he made a single-handed handseal, and the room flashed green before he left through the door. Belatedly, both realized he had just removed a privacy seal. As both moved to pack their bags, they both realized that they hadn't caught when he set it.

As he began to make sure he had everything he could get into his pack and scrolls, Naruto felt that nagging doubt and distrust in the back of his mind and heart grow a bit. He knew who it was for.

Alongside the Road Leading to Nami no Kuni

A squad of four ANBU, one trailing behind, bearing the 'Ne' mark, was moving through the trees alongside the path that led from the middle of Hi no Kuni to Nami no Kuni. Two of those individuals were quietly conversing as they tree-hopped towards the source of a wave of youkai that they'd felt roughly ten minutes ago.

"So, why exactly are we headed this way again? Shouldn't we be heading towards the target's last known location to pick up a trail?"

"Were you paying attention when the captain briefed us?"

"Yeah. So?"

"The target was last seen with Kakashi, who was with Jiraiya and Sakura. Kakashi returned to the village without any of the three, so it's a good possibility the target is with Jiraiya. Follow so far?"


"Jiraiya was planning to meet up with the Kyuubi jinchuuriki, so if Jiraiya isn't in Nami right now, odds are he will be soon. And if he's there-"

"-the target probably will be, too. I get it."

"You two," the squad captain appeared behind them. "I thought I said we're moving in silence." Both members stiffened, then gave silent nods. The captain reappeared tree-hopping in front of them.

Cavern Beneath a Mountain

In the darkness of the depths, at first there was nothing but the air. Then, one or a two at a time, they materialized, until there was nine of them. All they were was shadows, silhouttes with eyes and voices, but they were shadows of the strongest missing nin throughout the elemental countries. At the head stood a shadow with rings around the pupils of his eyes. He spoke, "The first opportunity of the harvesting of the biju has passed. It will be at least three years before we can seal up any more biju into the container, so try not to draw any unneccesary attention to us during that timeframe. For now you may do as you please as long as it doesn't interfere with the plan, but when those three years are up, be prepared to catch all remaining biju within a two year timespan. Is the order clear?"

"Hai, Leader-sama," the rest of the group chorused.

"Then it shall be three years before we meet again. Three years from today you shall receive your final assignments in regards to the biju. Zetsu, stay behind a moment. The rest of you can do as you wish for now."

All shadows save two faded away, leaving 'Zetsu' with 'Leader-sama'. "Leader-sama?"

"During this break, stay up to date as well as you can on the status and location of all remaining biju and jinchuuriki. Especially pay mind to the location and status of the Kyuubi jinchuuriki, as he is no longer part of Konoha. All further information on him will have to come thru you as our spies in Konoha will no longer be of use to us in this regard."

"Hai, Leader-sama." 'Zetsu' seemed to absorb into the ground rather than fading away like the others, but when his waist passed below the rock of the cavern floor he also faded.

Finally the ring-eyed man, eyes much like an advanced form of Naruto's, faded from the empty cavern himself.

An isolated island near Nami's main island, an hour later

Jiraiya observed the scene around himself. They'd had Zabuza take them out to this uninhabited - by humans at least - island on his fishing boat that they'd met out on the water. According to Zabuza, there was a freshwater spring due north-northeast of the beach where he'd dropped them off - which he could actually smell from this distance - and wild animals did live on the somewhat triangular island. He thought he could hear a boar not too far into the semi-dense foilage that stretched all around this beach. Looking back away from the thick, Jiraiya saw Naruto hopping in place and waving wildly at Zabuza.

Just as he took a deep breath to call out to Zabuza in thanks, Naruto found Tayuya's hand over his mouth. Glaring daggers at her, and she could literally feel the scowl on his lips, he silently demanded an explanation.

"Hey, numbnuts, mind fucking ruining the idea of stealth just a little more. It's bad enough you're in fucking bright orange, waving wildly, now you want to make sure any of the fuckers we might have lost with the hellishly convoluted plan know exactly where the fuck we are by bellowing across the water like a shit-fucking foghorn?"

Naruto was then shown what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a real deathglare by a professional. Naruto felt the burning of shame inside, but did what he always did when confronted with that emotion, distract everyone by doing something childish.

"You did not just fucking lick my palm!"

Jiraiya sighed, and gave a strong clap of his palms to get everyone's attention on himself before an actual fight broke out between them. The sharp sound of the clap covered Sakura's frustrated sigh at Naruto's childishness showing up again.

A minute later, Jiraiya had the group of young ninja sitting in a semicircle before him. "What should we do first, Jiraiya-sensei?"

Jiraiya frowned and spoke, "Didn't you learn about this in survival classes? Since I've already checked that the camp is secure from attack or spies, what comes next?" Here he sent a pointed look at Sakura.

"Um... since we'll be using this place for a while rather than for a single night, I think we're supposed to scout out the surrounding land and find any sources of food, fresh water, and shelter."

"A textbook response, but this isn't a textbook situation." Jiraiya sighed. Sakura gave him a confused look. "Sakura, the next thing we should do is check what supplies we all have and pool some of them. Seeing as Tayuya was a prisoner, I doubt she has any supplies and needs to borrow a kunai at the very least. Also, I understand Naruto has a 'care package' in a storage scroll from Elder Koharu, and there may be some helpful supplies in it. Now's the best time to determine what all we have on hand."

Naruto scratched the back of his neck and chuckled nervously, "Eheheh... I sorta forgot about that." Pulling his backpack off and setting it down in front of him, an action that was copied by Sakura, Naruto started to pull storage scrolls out of his backpack. He was interrupted from opening any of them, however.

"EH?!" The other three looked at Sakura to see her holding a water balloon size stone in her hand, a bewildered look rapidly giving way to frustration. "I can't believe I forgot my backpack was filled with stones! Gah! I carried all the weight around for no reason!" Grabbing the pack on the sides near the bottom, she was about to up-end it when Jiraiya stopped her.

"I didn't say you were to stop using the weight, Sakura." Everyone looked at Jiraiya. "Your small chakra pool, low stamina, and lack of body strength and speed are all just as large a liability as being unable to think outside the box. The only time I want you to take off that pack is for sleep, taking a bath, or in a life-or-death situation. That's a direct order from your sensei, understand?"

"H-hai, sensei..." For a minute, the two sat staring at each other. When Jiraiya's stare turned to a disappointed glare, Sakura caught on to what he was waiting for her to do and slung her backpack back on.

"That's better." Sakura started pulling out the scrolls Jiraiya sealed her stuff in earlier as he continued. "Now, Tayuya-chan, do you have anything other than the clothes on your back?"

Tayuya grimaced. "Hell no, not even a fucking spare set of clothes or any fucking money."

"I thought not. We'll deal with that in a little bit. Now, I know without looking what all I have on me: two functioning telescopes, twenty-seven full outfits - seven of which are not everyday wear, a sizable variety of shinobi gear, a single-person all-weather tent, my sleeping mat, a week's supply of food and water emergency rations under preservation seals, a large amount of writing supplies, several copies of every book I've written so far, a number of maps, and all the money that isn't in my account right now."

Having unsealed everything Jiraiya sealed for her, Sakura went next. "I've got my sleeping bag, my two-person standard tent, a dozen outfits - only two not being everyday wear, some blank scrolls and writing stuff, a field-grade first-aid kit, six kunai, twenty shuriken, half a roll of standard ninja wire, thirty exploding tags, and my current life savings, about ten thousand ryo," she finished with a smile. Then with a clearing of her throat, she added, "and, ah, hygeine products."

'Sakura-chan brought soap and shampoo stuff, huh? Why'd she make a deal out of it?' Naruto thought.

"Naruto-san... I don't think that's what Sakura-san meant by hygeine products..." Kimimaro's voice popped into his head.

Realizing the others were looking at him expectantly while he was zoning out, Naruto decided to pretend he hadn't zoned out at all. "Without opening my 'care package', I've got all the furnishings and small applainces for an apartment, about thirty outfits, only two of which aren't my jumpsuits, a one-person tent, my sleeping bag, about a hundred each of kunai and shuriken-"

"What?!" Sakura barked. "What on earth possessed you to buy that many?"

"I didn't. Ever since I learned kage bunshin, I've had them go out once a week at night to the training grounds to gather anything left laying around by other ninja. Back to my stuff, I've got around twenty senbon, two kama, one big shuriken, a couple rolls worth of ninja wire, both standard and trip type, a lot of exploding tags, a couple stink and paint bombs that never got used in my pranks, and two or three smoke bombs. Plus my own life savings, roughly four thousand ryo." Naruto paused for a second, before saying, "oh yeah! Can't forget my ramen supply or cooking utensils." As Naruto said this, he patted the scroll labeled 'Food from Heaven', all the while a mega-watt grin dominated his face.

Jiraiya palmed his face, Sakura's eyebrows developed a twitch, and Tayuya stared incredulously at Naruto. 'Don't comment. We don't want to argue over the value of ramen all day.' Jiraiya thought. Out loud he said, "moving along, why don't you open the scroll from Koharu?"

"Ah... right." Naruto opened the scroll and rolled it out until five large seals and a line of kanji was visible. Underneath each seal was a label, and these five labels were 'Gear', 'Survival', 'Help', 'Train', and 'Knowledge'. The line of kanji said 'Open Knowledge first. It has a list of all the contents of this scroll.'

Reading the directions, Naruto slapped the seal labeled 'Knowledge' while shoving chakra through his hand. With a poof of chakra smoke and a light popping sound, under Naruto's hand there was now a small box and a scroll. Picking up the scroll first, Jiraiya opened it and began to read aloud.

Hello, Naruto.

This scroll is the contents scroll of the whole big storage scroll, so try not to lose it or destroy it, okay? And if you're feeling guilty that I put so much money towards you, don't. I charged it all to the village through some channels that only the Hokage, Homura, and myself are currently privy to.

In the Knowledge seal: this list (obviously), and a box with three scrolls in it. The scroll with the red trim in the box contains a list of contact information for people who act as middle men for wandering-nin looking to get missions so they can pay the bills. The scroll with the blue trim in the box contains a list of various people - and their last confirmed location - who help wandering-nin out with ninja supplies, i.e. smiths, forehead protectors/ANBU-style mask makers, shinobi suppliers, etc. The scroll with the green trim is a list of who was for and against you in the Council chambers, so that if you receive any contacts from Konoha, you can have an idea of who all you can trust.

In the Train seal: a set of scrolls on chakra control, form manipulation, and elemental manipulation exercises, a dozen elemental affinity papers (the instructions for these are in the elemental manipulation exercises scrolls), and several D-rank and C-rank jutsu scrolls. The reason I give you so many elemental affinity papers is two-fold. It's possible to gain secondary affinities later in life for one, and for the other reason, well, I've heard of how you seem to draw people to yourself. If they join paths with you, feel free to share the gift, eh?

The Help seal contains 5,600 Ryo. Use it wisely until you've managed to find ways to make an income.

In the Survival seal: a preservation storage scroll filled with a month's supply of various foods, a full canteen, and a standard three-person tent.

Finally, in the Gear seal: five standard ninja uniforms - one each for snow, forest, plains, rocky terrain, and urban nights; three rolls of ninja wire - one standard, one razor, and one trip; a full set of various ninja pills - food, blood repleneshing, chakra replenishing, and soldier; two standard-grade katana; a field-grade first-aid kit; and two ninja cloaks - one black and one a dark, almost-not-a-color, grey.

Well, that's everything. The only other thing I can give you are Homura's and my prayers for your safety and good fortune.


Closing the letter, Jiraiya looked at Naruto when he spoke. "Well, now we all know what we have as a group. Naruto, you'll be responsible for most of Tayuya's supplies, as she's your responsibility, but me and Sakura will worry about clothes for her, seeing as your jumpsuits will be too short." Naruto's face twitched at the comment about his height. "Although she'll probably be able to use you ninja uniforms, since Koharu probably got ones you'll be able to grow into so they'll be a few inches too big for you now. They should fit Tayuya just fine." Naruto's face twitched again, causing Tayuya to snicker.

Naruto shot a glare at Tayuya, to which she responded by rolling her eyes and saying, "get fucking over yourself, ya fucking runt. Until you grow a little, every fucking person is going to see you as the little short gaki."

"Naruto, she's right. You've got to desensitize yourself to insults, or even insulting facts. If an opponent can rile you up, they can make you make a mistake. Those kind of mistakes get you and your friends killed. That's why a good shinobi doesn't show any weaknesses on a mission. I suggest you practice that while it's safe to do so, here, rather than out in the field. Naruto, set out what supplies you're giving to Tayuya from your own and from the scroll from Koharu. Sakura, see if you have a battledress or two you can stand to part with for now. Tayuya, come over here, I've got something to ask you to do."

As Naruto began pulling things out of storage scrolls to divy up and Sakura got a thoughtful look on her face as she considered parting with a few outfits, Tayuya walked over to the man, who had turned to face the other way. "What is it, ya fucking perverted goat-fucker? I ain't doing no fucking 'favours' for you, either."

"Nothing like that, Tayuya-chan," Jiraiya was practically whispering, and Tayuya found herself leaning in to hear. "I want you to push Naruto. Insult him until just before he's ready to blow and then back off, then repeat once he cools down. I don't want you to ease up on him until you can no longer seem to get a rise out of him. All kind of insult are fair play except one. Don't go near referring to him as being the same as what he contains." Seeing her raise an eyebrow, Jiraiya decided to explain. "He can deal with that from enemies or strangers, but from someone who already accepted him as himself, that would be the worst form of betrayal. You'd be lucky if he took the hatred for that to his grave. Given that you are somewhat dependent on him to live, you'd be signing your own death certificate with that line of insults."

Turning back to the group, they saw Naruto sitting cross-legged and with his arms crossed, sitting behind a few small, organized piles of stuff with a sour frown on his face. Sakura had added three of her regular outfits to the piles of stuff in front of Naruto. Looking at the piles, Tayuya counted forty-five kunai, fifty shuriken, twenty senbon, both his kuma, a small pile of exploding tags, a roll of standard ninja wire, a smoke bomb, the forest, plains, and urban night ninja uniforms, a katana, three of Sakura's outfits, the still-in-package three-person tent, and the black ninja cloak. "So, fucknut, this is my fucking stuff, huh?"

With a single nod, Naruto said, "yeah."

As she reached out to grab up the piles, Jiraiya spoke, "Naruto. Create about a hundred or so kage bunshin and have them scout this entire island for things like sources of fresh water, food, or any natural shelter they can find. All of us have things to discuss while they're looking around."

There was a huge poof of chakra smoke, followed by an army of orange splitting up to search the island. Looking at Tayuya, Naruto saw she had simply laid the piles of her stuff to the opposite side of her compared to him. Reaching into his pack, he pulled out an empty scroll and tossed it to her, saying, "for storage," when she looked at him questioningly.

"Right." Everyone's attention came back to Jiraiya, who continued as soon as he had all their attention. "We need to discuss your training schedules for the next three weeks while we're on this island. First, I need to ask Naruto to pull out two of his elamental affinity papers, for Sakura and Tayuya. I already know my affinities and Naruto's affinities are known - due to his eyes - to be all five and then some."

As Naruto went to unseal the 'Train' seal from Koharu's scroll, talk drifted between the four about what they needed or wanted to train in.

Middle of Nowhere, Tsuchi no Kuni

On top of a plateau in Tsuchi no Kuni, there was a sizeable house hidden under a very strong genjutsu that was kept up by a large fuuinjutsu, and there were only two reliable methods to see the house from outside the genjutsu. Either possess a powerful doujutsu capable of seeing through such illusions, or be one who bares the 'Enslaved Mind Seal' of the owner of this house - Akasuna no Sasori.

One such creature was gliding down to the ground in front of the house. It bore tremendous bat-like wings, the wingspan of which was three times greater than the length of its torso, which was close to six and a half feet long. The torso itself was similar to a dog's in shape, although with the wings replacing the forelegs and talons on the feet, presumambly so it swoop down and scoop up its prey. It's head was eyeless and streamlined, shaped almost like a beak made of flesh. All its skin was a discolored shade of tan mixed with green, blotches all over it.

Having landed, there was a flare of chakra, and a large cloud of chakra smoke surrounded the creature. Before the smoke disapated, the form of Yamamoto stepped out of it and began walking quickly towards the front door of the house. Smearing some blood across the handle so it would let him in without killing him with the traps, he hurried into the house to the room he knew his master favored most, the puppet workroom.

Yamamoto stopped outside the door to the workroom, and knocked twice. After hearing his master's "Enter.", he opened the door quietly and walked in about three feet.

"Sasori-sama." Yamamoto was down on his knee, face towards the ground behind Sasori's back.

Sasori didn't even bother looking up from his workbench to his loyal minion behind him. "Yamamoto. Why are you here so soon? Didn't you get the message I'd be there in a month?"

"Sasori-sama... there's been a few... complications with your plan."

"Oh?" Despite the emotionless face he bore, Sasori sounded like he was getting irritated.

"I apologize. The origin of these complications is entirely my fa- gh!"

Sasori had spun around and was crushing the throat of the larger man. "I don't care about your apologies. Quit beating around the bush and tell me what's wrong. You know I hate being kept waiting."

Yamamoto gasped for breath as Sasori dropped him and stared at him. "huh - The girl got taken - huh - ambushed by Sharingan - huh - no Kakashi - huh - and unknown individual - huh."

"So... you're telling me she's in Konoha now?"

"No... for whatever reason, when I tracked them down after they left me for dead - huh - they'd taken her to Jiraiya of the Sannin - huh - in the fields of Kome no Kuni (1), and I followed them - huh - to Nami no Kuni, waiting for an opening to get her back - huh - but we, the three of us, just found out... there's someone else in the group they're moving in... he or she is either a jinchuuriki or a biju in human form. We decided I needed to report to you to get further directions, since this complicates things. If it's a jinchuuriki and we kill it trying to get the girl, that'll cause you worse problems than not getting the girl at all. What shoul we do, Sasori-sama?" Yamamoto didn't mention what would happen to Sasori's three underlings if it was an actual biju in human form. It was obvious.

"This is a complicated situation. Leader-sama has just announced that we are to hold off on drawing attention to ourselves for the next three years and not harass the jinchuuriki or the biju in that time either... Simply keep an eye on this group, and if an opportunity to capture the girl without confronting the demon or the Sannin comes up, take it. In the meantime, observe the group's skills and avoid making contact with them. Keep notes, as I'll be expecting the report in three years. If you can figure out who it is, keep an extra close eye on this 'demon' and his or her capabilities so when it does come time for the catch we'll know what we're going into..."

Taking the silence that followed as an end to the order, Yamamoto turned to depart, changing back to the form of his winged beast-self. Taking off to head back to his partners, he left behind a contemplative puppet master. "Hmm... I should tell Leader-sama that he doesn't have to worry about watching whichever of the jinchuuriki or biju is in Nami..." Turning back to his workbench with his latest human puppet unfinished on it, Sasori decided talking to the Leader could wait a couple days.

Next Morning, Konohagakure no Sato, Office of the Hokage

Tsunade stared at the piles of paperwork stacked above her head on the Hokage's desk, and yet again she wondered why she was still here. "Tsunade-sama." Shizune drew her attention to where Shizune stood, next to her chair.

"What is it, Shizune?" While not always chipper in the morning, Tsunade's tone held a strong undertone of bitterness to it that Shizune had gotten used to hearing during their 'wandering days'.

Hoping to distract her mentor from her depressing thoughts, Shizune decided to ask a question that had an equal chance both to improve or deteriorate her mentor's mood. "What did Jiraiya's letter say?"

The corners of Tsunade's mouth twitched upward as she said, "Three sentences. Naruto has the same eyes as the Rokudo Sennin, so he'll be training him as a service from the ninja nations to the family of the man who made them. That he has sent letters to the leaders of various countries regarding what has happened to Naruto due to the Council of the Leaf, mainly those that Naruto has had a profound impact on, but also the Great Five's leaders. And last of all... that he wished he could see the look on those 'Council bastard's' faces when I tell them all this." By the end of her statement, Tsunade wore a grin the devil would be proud of. "Which reminds me. Shizune, schedule a full council meeting for, oh say, two days from now, first thing in the morning."

"Why wait two days, Tsunade-sama?" Looking at her mentor's face, Shizune stumbled out a, "I-I m-mean, if you d-don't mind me as-asking?"

"By then, those letters should either have been received by their parties, or be well enough on their way that Danzo couldn't stop them from being received."

"Tsunade-sama..." Shizune looked worried at this. "What is being done about Danzo and ROOT?"

"Nothing can be done. We'd need hard evidence or to find their actual headquarters. We can't even have ninja be looking for their headquarters, because Danzo would just have the Council calling it 'a waste of valuable resources in a time of need'. So until we can get a break or some kind of solid lead, we'll just have to watch for an opening." Tsunade was once again down, glaring at the piles of incomplete paperwork that she swore grew at least two inches while she wasn't looking.

With Naruto's Group, Around the Same Time

Spread out in different areas of the island, Naruto and his friends were training under Jiraiya. On a tree near the middle of the island, Sakura, watched over by one of Jiraya's Kage Bunshin, was making her way slowly up a tree - hands flat against the trunk, body parallel to the ground, and her backpack full of stones held between her thighs. Sweat was already glistening on her body, even before the morning dew had any chance to evaporate, and for a brief moment, her knees dipped. Without saying anything, the clone of Jiraiya's picked up a decent sized rock and added it to her pack. Sakura scowled, though more at herself than the clone, for the price of a moment's weakness she was beginning to understand.

Meanwhile, on the sheer rock face nearby, another of Jiraiya's Kage Bunshin was sitting next to Tayuya, heckling her struggling form. "Come on, you weak pansy. Is that all you can do? Is this how far you can go?" The only thing that kept Tayuya from verbally lashing out at that moment, was that she needed all the air in her lungs for something else. Climbing a sheer rock face, not allowed to use her feet or any chakra, she never would have believed it was this 'fucking difficult' just to scale a 'hellishly tall piece of shit'. Her arm muscles twitched in protest as she continued to force herself to the next handhold, where her hand cramped into the tiny crevice.

In a small clearing on top of that same rock face, ten of Naruto's Kage Bunshin sat in a semi-circle in front of one of Jiraiya's, paying him rapt attention as he showed them the handseals for the Tsuchi Bunshin no Jutsu.

On three beaches around the island, there was a total of ninety more of Naruto's Kage Bunshin separated into groups of thirty, with two groups were a Kage Bunshin belonging to Jiraiya and the real Jiraiya was with the last group. Jiraiya and his Kage Bunshin were showing Naruto's Kage Bunshin how to mold earth elemental chakra and manipulate it to turn leaves into dust, the first stage of earth elemental manipulation.

Back at the group's campsite, Naruto sat with five pebbles and a kunai, still working on his next chakra control exercize. With a yelp, Naruto cursed Jiraiya for not letting him learn with six pebbles instead.

Mizu no Kuni Capital, Audience Room of the Diamyo of Mizu no Kuni

An old, thin woman sat in the wooden 'throne' of the diamyo on a dias, her aged gaze angled slightly downward at the younger woman at the base of the dias. The old woman's light gray hair hung in semi-limp ringlets, with a touch of frizz. Her robes were of fine, deep blue silk, but were worn and showing it in some spots. Unfortunately, after the last Mizukage started his bloodline purge war, the clan with six arms stopped using their spiders to provide the invaluable silk that offered such great protection and got the hell out of the country. Those that survived the initial purge, anyway.

The younger woman sat in a perfectly still half-lotus position, waiting for her diamyo to tell her why she was summoned. The blonde had been Mizukage for only six months, roughly the same amount of time the woman before her had been diamyo of the country, and was busy trying to restabilize Kirigakure no Sato from the recently ended civil war, just as the old woman before her had to do with the rest of their country. Both knew interruptions were unwelcome in an unstable time like this, so she wondered why her diamyo had called her here despite knowing this.

Around the room stood two dozen armed guards, all completely still and hyper aware of the slightest movement in the room. Four feet to either side and behind the young Mizukage stood three of the diamyo's honor guard, ninja who were pulled straight from the academy and raised and trained to believe the diamyo's safety was their purpose of existence. Two feet on the diamyo's left, three-quarters of the way up the dias, kneeled a young girl with a puppet leg, whose sole job was to carry items between the diamyo and her audience or to inform the room of what a document said. She was basically there so the diamyo never risked contact poisoning from a document or a trap going off in the diamyo's face when a chest was first opened.

On a silent signal from her diamyo, the girl stood and brought an unsealed scroll to the Mizukage.

Taking the scroll, the Mizukage turned her brown eyes to her diamyo.

"Tell me about this 'Six Paths Sage', and why we should allow this supposed descendant of his into our country like that scroll requests?"

The Mizukage's eyes widened momentarily before she could recompose herself, though only the old lady diamyo and the honor guards on the sides noticed it.

With Naruto's Group, Around the Same Time

Having just finished a silent lunch - everyone was hungry from training - Naruto and Jiraiya remade their Kage Bunshin and went to continue their tasks in training, although this time the real Jiraiya went with Sakura, as he'd need more chakra to use for her training. Naruto himself was frustrated at having made so little progress on his chakra control exercise, not even half a millimeter of true progress yet.

Jiraiya's Kage Bunshin that went with Tayuya had gone to a stream to sit near for the lesson he was about to give. As Tayuya and him sat cross-legged, the Kage Bunshin pulled a scroll labeled 'Forming Medically Attuned Chakra' from his back pouch. "So, Tayuya-chan, what do you know about medically attuned chakra?"

Tayuya's bit her tongue about the 'chan'. "I'd guess it's some kind of universal elemental chakra manipulation trick. I don't really fucking know much about it. Never planned to fucking learn it, and Oto had its share of hellish med-nin, so I didn't fucking need it before. Though I look forward to learning the chakra scalpels." This last was said with a wicked grin - and a glare at Jiraiya's crotch, for good warning.

Jiraiya winced, resisting the urge to go to cover with his hands, and frowned. "So you know nothing about it, then."

"Fuck, what?"

"First, chakra scalpels are a form manipulation jutsu. They require high chakra control and take very little chakra to maintain. The technique is used in combat by med-nin so much because it allows them to preserve more of their chakra for healing than flashier attack jutsu and they already would have the required chakra control anyway."

Tayuya shrugged and nodded. 'That makes sense, but I don't really care much besides the fact that I'll need more control to learn to use the chakra scalpels.'

"Second, forming medically attuned chakra is utterly different than both elemental nature manipulation or form manipulation. The difficult part of forming medically attuned chakra is that, while it can be gentle, it is never subtle. So, unlike genjutsu, the target's own chakra recognises its presence and will try to fight it. Correctly forming medically attuned chakra means making your chakra resonate in such a way that it convinces your target's chakra that its presence is a good thing, rather than something to be fought, resisted, and rejected every step of the way."

Catching the scroll Jiraiya tossed at her, Tayuya could only think, 'Well, fuck. This is going to be fucking difficult.'

Sakura was sweating intensely and about ready to pass out, despite having spent very little time doing anything more physically intense than sitting since lunch. This was her third failure since Jiraiya started this 'strategy training'. She had finally gotten one of his clones, the earth clone, but only at the cost of all three of the clones he'd provided her. He'd originally formed six clones, two each of earth, water, and shadow, and assigned one of each to her command, while keeping the other three for his own.

Then he laid down the rules of the game - each of them would sit facing each other at 50 yard apart - the length of the longest inshore clearing on the island - and the only actions they would take would be to give instructions to their clones or look around without moving from their spot. The goal was for one of her clones to touch the real Jiraiya without letting any of his clones touch her.

The first failure, she ordered the Kage Bunshin to guard her and the other two to go for Jiraiya. Two of Jiraiya's clones engaged her two, and while the earth clones were evenly matched, it was Jiraiya's shadow clone that mowed down her water clone and kept coming. She reflexively ordered the Kage Bunshin near her to intercept Jiraiya's, and as soon as they were engaged, she felt Jiraiya's Mizu Bunshin touch the back of her neck. She had lost sight of it while focusing entirely on the two pairs fighting in front of her.

The second failure, she ordered all three to guard her. Then a staring contest from fifty yards away took place. After fifteen minutes, Sakura cracked under the pressure and ordered an all out assault. The two groups of clones wiped each other out.

This time, she had tried to micro-manage the Kage Bunshin while giving the other two clones general orders based on formations she remembered studying in her days as an academy student.

"Sakura..." Jiraiya sighed after her name. It sounded like frustration mixed with a touch of pain.

"H-hai, Jiraiya-sama?"

"I'm a bit insulted that you think I, or my clones, wouldn't be perfectly familiar with those formations. In case you forgot, I've lived through virtually every strategy in the Konoha books during the Second Great Shinobi War."

"What's the point of pitting myself against someone who knows every strategy I've ever read about?" Sakura sulked.

"To get you to come up with strategies not found in any books. Or did you forget that I'm trying to get you to think outside of the box you've made around yourself?"

"But how many enemies would know the same strategies I'm using?" Sakura looked frustrated now.

"Kumo, Iwa, and Oto-nin for certain. The first two because they remember from being on the other end of those strategies during said war, and the third one... well, who do you think was surviving all those strategies right alongside me?"

That brought Sakura's complaining attitude to a screeching halt.

"Uchiha Itachi was a prodigy, so he'd know all of them - even the ones only ANBU captain-level clearance will get you allowance to see. If he's given the information to his 'buddies', you can add the whole of Akatsuki to that list. Also add any country that fought alongside us only for the duration of the war and then went nuetral, any clans of wandering-nin who witnessed the strategies in action and laid low until we were past them, and add in any ninja, clans, or villages that the any of the groups listed before were or are allied with or might have sold the information to. Those books are historical references, not for use in modern strategies except against non-ninja targets. You can use pieces of them and widely vary from there, but using them in whole will get you and your team killed."

He let Sakura sit in silence for the next fifteen minutes to digest that, then summoned six more clones to begin the exercise again.

Nami no Sato, Namii no Kuni - Front Counter of the Fisherman's Inn, Mid-evening

"Two of those people sound familiar. An old man in kabuki style clothes was here earlier, but he was with a woman and two girls, no boys, and none of them had pink hair. They left to go to a friend who was a doctor in the country. The poor little redhead dear had a make-shift splint on each leg..." the older woman told the young lady who came in looking for her elderly uncle.

The young lady smiled brightly. "Ah! I know exactly where they're going, then. Thank you so much, I thought I lost track of them in the last village!" After bowing in gratitude to the hostess, she bounced happily out the door and around the side of the inn into an alleyway. Where she promptly dropped her bubbly persona and dissappeared.

Five seconds later, three other visitors in the village disappeared around corners and reappeared in a clearing not too far from the village, where the young lady was waiting for them, all of their ANBU masks, with the 'NE' mark, already in place.

"Report," said the leader.

"I had a positive on at least the sannin, with three travelling companions, passing through here. One injured girl, one other girl, and a woman. Could be the expected group under henge, plus one unknown."

"Boar, start searching for chakra trails from all the exits of the village with a road. If you cannot find a trail from them, start searching the less used exits. If you cannot find anything still, we have an alternate point intelligence information indicates we can check for better direction."

The ROOT ANBU with the boar mask moved back towards the village, the other three matching his movement.

With Naruto's Group, Around the Same Time

Since the aftternoon, Naruto's kage bunshin had been dispelled and replaced three times, and Naruto had made a millimeter's progress (literally) on his chakra control exercise. The group had also eaten dinner together, and the real Jiraiya had pulled both Sakura and Tayuya off for a supervised spar - which meant that he would keep the fight even by throwing in kunai, shuriken, or the odd jutsu whenever one of the girls was about to gain a win, forcing them off balance enough to pull back their attack.

The fight wasn't entirely even, as Tayuya had taken her training seriously from a young age, but was an indirect fighter who was used to either using her summons or genjutsu to fight. Tayuya being unable to use her strengths, the fight was just even enough that Sakura could stand her ground well enough to learn from it, while Tayuya also learned to hold back enough in a fight to avoid counter-attacks.

With Naruto's Group, Later that Night

After training, the girls had gone through their cooldown exercises, and then Sakura had passed out in her tent. Tayuya took the time to go for a brief dip in the freshwater spring before joining her in her own tent, leaving Naruto and Jiraiya the only ones awake.

"Gaki." Naruto started at Jiraiya's voice, having been losing himself in gazing at the night sky. "Something's been disturbing you. You've had less focus than usual for you when you're training. What's

eating at you?" Jiraiya crossed his arms and gave a look that said 'We can be here all night, if that's what it takes.'

Understanding the pose and look, Naruto gave a huff and crossed his arms. After a few minutes of silence where the two had a staring contest, Naruto sighed and looked away.

"It's the Kyuubi." Jiraiya stiffened, and his stare got sharper on Naruto; before he could say anything, Naruto waved his hands in front of him, "Not like that! It's just... Since what happened with Tayuya, I don't know if I can trust her. Given she's even admitted to altering my kekkei genkai, not trusting her even a little is a really big deal. I'm worried about it."

"So you don't trust a majorly important source of information? Welcome to the world of real shinobi concerns, gaki." Seeing Naruto's jaw drop in flabbergast, Jiraiya continued. "I run a major part of Konoha's spy network. I have to be careful about trusting information from even the most reliable sources, and always check my information from as many angles and sources as possible before reporting any of it back. Listen, I want you, before you go to sleep tonight, to go into your mindscape and talk to Kyuubi and your other guest. Try and determine how much you can trust what you've already been told and what you'll hear tonight. That's all a good shinobi can do in your situation."

"Do I have to talk to her tonight?" Naruto whined.

"Gaki! If this issue isn't at least partially resolved tomorrow morning, I'll stop training you at all untill it's fully resolved!"

"What?! Why?" Naruto looked shocked and devastated at Jiraiya.

Jiraiya gave him a look to show how serious he was. "With you being this distracted, my training of you would take longer than if I selected a random student in the academy and tried to bring them up to that same level of skill. Unless you can shake off or resolve some of these concerns, my time would be wasted training you at all. And I have two other people here who can use the extra training, and actually get something out of it - which you won't if you let this keep holding you back."

"Fine! I'll do it right now!" Naruto thumped down, facing away from Jiraiya with a scowl with his arms crossed and his legs likewise.

"This is for your own good gaki." Jiraiya ruffled Naruto's hair. "I'll take tonight's first watch while you meditate." Jiraiya faded into the shadowed undergrowth to start his part of the nighttime watch.

Naruto was able to gradually calm himself, and finally reached a point where he was calm enough to retreat to the point in his mind where he last saw Kimimaro and the Kyuubi.

Naruto's Mindscape

Naruto found himself in the passage of sewers once again, and he was quick to make his way towards her. She had a lot to answer to, and he had every intention of coming away from here with one of two things: all the answers to his questions or an absolute conviction that he could never trust her again.

In what seemed like no time at all, Naruto found himself in front of the cage. Looking to his left, he saw Kimimaro standing there waiting for him silently. Looking back forward, he saw the 'human' form of Kyuubi, her hair and fur dishevelled and her eyes rimmed with red.

"If you ever want me to trust you again, tell me this: what's the real reason you decided to 'upgrade' the rin'negan? What are your real motives?" Kyuubi looked flustered by this, so Naruto decided to push a bit to gaurantee she didn't try to throw together a deception. "I already saw that tiny hint that you were hiding something when you told me you were doing this just for 'a little bit of freedom', so if you're going to tell me another half-truth or a lie, save your breath and save me the time of listening to it."

Giving a defeated sigh, Kyuubi decided to go ahead and elaborate. "Alright, but since it won't make any sense if I jump straight to the main point, you'll have to bear with some background information."

"What's the main point of your reason?"

"The short version... is to save the world. The long version, is to save the world... from your father's half baked plan in regards to this seal." She knew insulting his father was probably one of the worse things to do, given she was trying to regain his trust, but she also knew holding back right now might make him think she was lying.

Naruto looked boiled. "WHAT?"

"Listen!" The Kyuubi was relieved when Naruto stopped what would have doubtless been a rant followed by him storming off and never wanting to talk to her again. Though his glare was still quite heated. "The seal was designed perfectly to do its job, and it does its job perfectly. The part he failed to consider in his rush to save the village he loved was the end results of it performing that job perfectly." She could see he had calmed down enough to be spoken to in greater detail, but was getting impatient. "There are two problem with his design of the seal in terms of the end results. The part of the seal that takes some of my chakra and uses it to increase your own capacity, and the speed at which it does so is based on the amount of chakra flowing through your coils. The problem with this, is there is no off switch. Most people's bodies have a 'maximum capacity' for chakra, where any more chakra than that would be dangerous to keep in them, so the coils of that person will stubbornly refuse to grow past that point. The seal overides that refusal, so your coils will grow and grow. By the time the seal finishes its job, between my regenerating rate of chakra and your natural chakra growth, your coils will be holding the equivelant to thirteen tails worth of chakra in a human body. Any spike in your your chakra greater than half-a-tail equivelant, and you'll explode like that 'exploding shadow clone' from back on the road." Naruto looked horrified now. "It gets worse."

"It can get worse?"

"Much. For starters, because when you blow up, rather than having maybe a quarter of a jounin's chakra reserves in it, like that 'exploding shadow clone' did, the explosion will be powered by more chakra than any of the biju have. The resulting explosion is likely to make a crater from the elemental countries, and the falling debris and force of winds moving outward from the explosion is likely to level what's left from the blast. Not only that, but the explosion will be enough to push the planet slightly out of orbit, so any survivors will be short-lived, as the planet will either move away from sunlight, killing all plants eventually, or into the sun, obliterating the world in flames. Then comes the other problem in the seal's design."

"There's more?!" Naruto looked like he was going to start hyperventilating soon.

"Yes. The other part of the seal that's a problem is this cage. It's formed from your chakra, specifically about nine tails equivelant that's stored in the seal. Once the seal finishes it's job, it will fade and those nine tails of chakra will surge into your coils. What did I say will happen if more than half a tail of chakra surged into you?"

Naruto didn't answer, just stood pale and trembling, his mouth opening and closing like a fish. Kyuubi waited patiently for everything she said to work its way down enough for him to think again. "Wait... if my bodies have the same amount of chakra as me..."

"I know what you're thinking. Unlike you, there is nothing on those bodies that will allow them to override their 'maximum capacity', so they will stop growing with you once they reach that point."

Naruto seemed to calm down at that, feeling relieved that his other bodies, if out when it happened, wouldn't make thing worse by exploding as well. Then he seemed to deflate significantly. "So how is what you're doing going to prevent this? You already told me you weren't going to look for full freedom from the seal, so it'll still run it's course if you don't get free..."

"My plan has three parts, the first to delay and buy time for the other two, and the second to make the third possible at all. The third will solve the problem without invoking Shinigami's wrath."

Naruto looked at her, his interest obvious on his face, then a thought occured to him. "You say 'buy time', which I take means there's already a serious time constraint to 'saving the world'. I also take that you know what the deadline is, since I doubt you would do this much if it would happen long after I was dead of old age..."

"Yes, I know what the time constraint we're working with here, although the first part of my plan is variable in how long it will delay it. If you choose not to follow my plan, you'll be a couple months past your twenty-third birthday when you explode. The longer it is before the first part is completed, the less of a difference it'll make. If you meet the requirement of fully mastering eight different bodies to do this in as little of time as possible, the soonest you should be able to do that will be in... five years or so. If you do it right then, you won't have to worry about exploding until well after your fiftieth birthday. By comparison, if you waited until your twenty-second birthday to do the first step, you wouldn't add a full month to your time left."

Naruto huffed. "Enough about this the time I have left, it would help if you could fill me in on what the plan is." He paused for a second. "And I mean the whole plan, not just the first part."

A sigh. "Alright. The first step requires the so-called 'twins' of the Sound Four that you got earlier..."

Kimimaro spoke up. "You mean Sakon and Ukon? What makes you say they aren't really twins?"

"I recognise the kekkei genkai he carries. The two can't handle being separated from each other for even a full day, can they?" After getting confirmation from Kimimaro, Kyuubi continued. "He might have two separate minds because there is two separate brains that keep the memories and thought processes of the bodies separate, but there is a single soul between them. Too long spent away from each other, and the soul will lose it's grip on the bodies, and he will die. Those with that kekkei genkai will always be born with a 'siamese twin' attached to them, but it's really just another body and mind for the users to have. I could go into detail of how this gift came about, but it'd be long-winded and irrelevant to explaining this plan. Maybe some other time. The important thing to understand is that those two are one in reality, which is why they'll only count as one body and one soul when you use your kekkei genkai to 'revive' them." Here she had gone back to addressing to Naruto. "Remember how I said my gift would allow you to gain properties of virtually any body you've mastered?"

Naruto nodded, and prompted her to continue with a gesture of his hand.

"Well, there's more to it than simply 'bam, I gained some awesome abilities.' Once the fourth ring appears in your eyes, you'll be able to use an ability that'll let you either partially or fully absorb the properties of any body you've mastered, within certain bounds. However, there are limits and restictions on this, as well as downsides. For starters, the main difference between a partial and a full absorption are the costs and benefits of each. A partial absorption takes a bit less than half the time of a full one, will put the body you used it on out of commision with chakra exhaustion that takes twice as long to heal compared to normal, but will grant you some of the lesser properties of that body, provided that those properties are not less potent than ones you either previously absorbed or that they are not in conflict with your Rin'negan itself. For example, if you did a partial absorption on Kimimaro's body, the main benefit would be that your bones would increase to a density close to that of steel, but you wouldn't gain his kekkei genkai. Your physical features would also very slightly change to resemble those you've absorbed some. A full absorption would permanently obliterate the body it's used on, but grant you most all of the benefits of the body you absorbed, provided they aren't lesser than ones you've already absorbed or in conflict with the properties of your rin'neggan. In Kimimaro's body's case, you would gain his full kekkei genkai, and the changes to your physical features would be more noticable."

"So how does this fit into the plan, and what's the 'twin' guy got to do with it?" Naruto asked.

Kyuubi smirked. "The first part of the plan is that you'll fully absorb his 'body', gaining his kekkei genkai. This will cause a second body to form in you. Since you do not truly possess multiple minds, my mind will be able to move into the body, and since our souls are bound there won't be a conflict with how the kekkei genkai was meant to work."


"SILENCE!" Naruto was stunned by her anger, so she continued before he got his wits back, "I won't be truly free. Not only that, but virtually all my power would remain locked behind this seal, and what power I do have would be less than yours. My body, since it would be formed from yours, will be human and have human chakra. What little influence I have in its development will be used to guarantee it's my gender and looks like me, rather than being a carbon copy of you. On top of that, I'm used to using my kind of energy and a completely different kind of jutsu system, neither of which will work while I use this new body. I'll be forced to learn to do everything you already can, no matter what I'll always have less power than you, and I'll need to reenter your body periodically to survive. Also... I have a good reason for suggesting this, not just me being free."

"Yeah? Well, let's hear it then!" Naruto was scowling at her with his arms crossed.

"The part of the seal that siphons of my energy to increase the size of your chakra coils... it only keeps going while there's a consciousness inside the seal. Every time I 'step out' with that body, that part of the seal will grind to a halt, and the longer I spend outside, the longer it will take to get back to its previous speed once I come back in. Once I reach the point where I can spend a full twenty-four hours outside your body before I need to come back in to sleep for another eight, that part of the seal won't even be able to get back to full running power before I get back out again. Also... if I time it right, and 'step out' of the seal at the last second, when it finishes its job, I'll get to stay on with you in that second body instead of having my mind and soul ceasing to be."

"All right, I guess I can buy that..." Naruto's scowl lessened until it became a nuetral expression, but he kept his arms crossed when he asked, "So what's the second part of your plan?"

"The second part can actually be done one of two ways, but it relies on a clan living in a remote part of Kyoukai no Kuni. You can either convince them to help or use one of their bodies for this, but the first would be better for several reasons." Here she paused and looked at Naruto for a minute, waiting until he was about to lose his patience before speaking again. "This clan has a closely guarded gift: they can summon and command any summonable creature if they have a sample of life energy from either the same type of creature or the creature itself. Not only that, but if that type of creature doesn't exist on the summons plane, it will be pulled into existence. Because a number of summon clans owe their existence to this clan, all summons hold a deep reverence for the clan. The summon contracts were even created by them so others could summon the creatures. Upseting them by taking a corpse of a clan member without permission could a number of large reprecussions, among which would be the toads - and virtually every other summon - turning against you, not to mention the manhunt the clan would perpetrate against you."

"Okay, okay. I get it. Ask nicely for their help first and foremost, ask for a corpse as a second-to-last resort." Naruto waved his one of his hands impatiently, as though motioning the conversation forward. "While the clan is impressive and all, what do we need them for?"

"For the third part of the plan you'll need a special body - one that they'll hopefully willingly summon for you. Mine." Naruto started to sputter and choke at this announcement. "We'll allow them to have a tiny piece of my energy, and they'll be able to summon my corpse, which should be perfectly preserved as the body of a biju never decays. Then you just lift the eyelid and look into 'my' eyes, and you'll be able to add my body to your collection."

Naruto stood, speechless staring and perfectly still, as his mind tried to comprehend what Kyuubi was implying.

"Bear in mind, as my body is a true shapeshifter, and you definitely see yourself as a guy, my body will be male when you get it. Also, the 'only slightly better than your original body' rule applies to this body as well, and it'll be a good long while before my former body will have enough power to assume my massive kitsune form. And this body will have no human chakra, just youkai."

"Alright, hold up. Just why do I need your body?"

"Naruto, can't you connect the dots of the picture I've given you?"

Naruto just gave Kyuubi a confused look. Kimimaro seemed to catch on the instant Kyuubi mentioned needing her body, however.

"Naruto-san." Naruto looked at him. "Kyuubi's established that you will explode because no human body can contain so much chakra. She's made it clear that you can absorb valuable attributes from bodies you've mastered using her addition to your Rin'negan, and that this addition was vital to preventing your explosion of chakra. Most importantly of all, she's made it clear that you'll need her body to live. Laid out like this, can you see what is the end solution will be?"

Naruto paled as the thought process kicked in. A moment later, his finger was pointing at Kyuubi while his face was red and his lips were in a snarl. "You want me... to become a demon!?"

"Half, actually. Both our bodies will become hanyou when you absorb my old body." Seeing Naruto about to protest, Kyuubi shot him a glare. "If you've got another solution, then let's hear it, gaki. Otherwise, accept your choices and make them. Give up being human, or be responsible for all that death and the destruction of this whole world, something only the worst of demons would love to brag about having accomplished."

Naruto's fists were clenched tight, and his eyes were directed at his feet, the memories of all those people - looking at him, thinking of him, speaking of him as 'the demon brat' - warring with his desire to protect others from unecessary pain, as well as his own desire to live. Despite the inner war, all three present knew which side would win, and the tiny 'fine' from Naruto before he turned and left this part of his mindscape was hardly needed to confirm it.

Kyuubi fealt a tearing in her chest as she watched him hurry away, knowing that while she had his trust, she kept causing him pain every time she tried to help him. Healing him from his wounds in front of the villagers eyes - convincing them even further of what he was - damaging him with too much youkai in times of his stress, almost destroying his chances for even friendship with Tayuya because Tayuya now saw herself as being dependant on Naruto rather than an equal because she failed to consider the supression seal, and now this, forcing him to choose to become the thing he had always been accused of being. Her only comfort in this was knowing that it was for the best for him.

(1) = Kome no Kuni - Rice Country...

Closeing A.N.: What will happen with ROOT, Oto, and Sasori's underling trio all closing in on Naruto's island hideaway? How will the rest of the world react to Konoa's treatment of Naruto? What were Kyuubi's upgrades to the Rin'neggan, and what were her true motives for doing so? All these questions and more will show their answers in the next part of chapter 4 of 'Banished with a Bloodline'. Please Read and Review... and your suggestions are appreciated, even if I choose not to use them they can still inspire other ideas in my head.

For those who were waiting, sorry for the extreme delay in posting this. There's a long list of things that went wrong and held me back on getting this up, and even then, this is only part one of chapter 4. A part of that is this is my fourth rewrite of the chapter meant to cover three weeks... I decided to cut my losses, and post this now rather than make people wait even longer while I finish rewriting the rest of chapter 4.

On other notes, in response to a couple reviews and PMs, I have this to say: ROOT is sneaky. That's a big part of what they do, even the symbol 'Ne', which is supposed to stand for 'Non-existant', reflects this. Danzo had them under his command for at least a sizeable portion of the Third's reign, and even though he may have known about them, he never proved Danzo didn't follow his instructions to disband them. They're so sneaky that they've been operating inside a major ninja village for decades undetected, a village with Hyuuga with 360 x-ray vision and Inuzuka who can track by scent. So, yeah, they can sneak around Tsunade and Kakashi, neither of whom are anti-espionage experts.

Some were also confused about the number of bodies Naruto can have, so I'll simplify what was said in story for everyone. Naruto can and will get more than six bodies, but can only have six out at any one given time. And since he can summon them out by group, no group can be larger than six bodies. And no two bodies he has out at the same time can be connected to the same 'skill' or the same 'element'. And no two bodies he gets can have both the same 'skill' and 'element'.