Chapter 7:

Naruto lay on the beach barely a stone's throw away from his client's, gazing into the sparkling heavens above. A lack of artificial light on this side of the island made the night sky light up even more beautifully than it did back in Konoha, a feat he knew not to be impossible, but rare, nonetheless.

In his career as a ninja, Naruto had seen many beautiful places. From the frosted peaks and valleys of Snow Country to the beautiful and abundant flora of Grass Country, he'd been sent all over the elemental nations and could claim that he'd pretty much seen it all.

One would now understand that claiming this small village as magnificent was no small compliment for the seasoned Ninja. Houses on a beach covered in soft white sand, a rich green jungle surrounding their village, a close-knit community that helped each other out and breathtaking sunsets that caused the ocean to look like an endless sea of glittering jewels.

Such a beautiful place should not be plagued with issues such as the like he was sent here for – it just wasn't right.

A loud splash interrupted Naruto from his silent musings as Sasuke plunged into the ocean he was trying to stand atop of.

"Water is not like the surface of a tree Sasuke." Naruto chided wearily without looking to the three struggling Genin. "Water is constantly moving, so your chakra application to your feet must constantly change to mirror its nature . . . otherwise, you'll just fall."

"How did you know it was Sasuke who fell?" Sakura asked with a frown as she struggled to remain above the surface of the water. She'd currently managed to stop sinking once the water reached her knees, but nothing better. "You're not even watching!"

Sasuke seemed equally annoyed by Naruto's continuing – and correct – assumption of him falling into the water. This wasn't the first time he'd called it right.

"I don't need to watch," he said nonchalantly. "I can tell exactly what's happening right now just by knowing the little I do about you."

"What are you - ?" Sakura began to ask only to be cut off by Naruto.

"Sakura has the best Chakra control, but the least reserves." Naruto began automatically as he held up a single finger for the Genin to see. "She'll be the first to master the technique, but once she does, she'll find she pretty much exhausts her reserves after fifteen to twenty minutes of constant use. Sounds fine, as most ninja fights don't last that long, but don't forget to take into account the other things you use Chakra for during a fight, and then it seems rather abysmal."

Sakura had nothing to say after the blunt and glaringly true assessment. She had almost mastered the exercise, but after only ten minutes of practise, she could already feel the first signs of exhaustion claiming her.

Naruto then held up a second finger before continuing. "Sasuke has the most reserves, which makes controlling Chakra the way it is necessary for this exercise hardest for him. He'll take the longest to tire, but he'll probably be the last to get it down unless he uses his Sharingan – which I forbid by the way. Don't even try it; it's not worth you getting your ass beat over."

The boy mentioned merely glared at the blonde as he steadily expelled chakra from his feet and begun the training anew.

Holding up a third finger, Naruto proceeded with the third and final assessment. "Finally, Hideaki may have a lower Chakra capacity than Sasuke, but he also has a fair bit more than Sakura. He'll find the control aspect of expelling Chakra into a constantly moving substance easier, and he'll take longer to tire. Therefore, he'll be the second to master the exercise, but the first to do so and be able to use it with any real efficiency . . . and down goes Sasuke again."

Surprised, Sakura and Hideaki watched as Sasuke wobbled uncontrollably before falling straight back into the water. Hideaki and Sakura then turned to their still star-gazing sensei with frowns.

"I hate it when he does that," Hideaki mumbled to an equally troubled Sakura.

She agreed. "There's something about him being right that just pisses me off."

"Maybe you should channel that temper into something more useful then?" Naruto asked as he sat up on his elbows and grinned. "Like training, perhaps? Just because you almost have the technique, doesn't mean you can slack – you shouldn't even slack when you have it down. The more you do it, the more your Chakra reserves will grow."

"Asshole," muttered the pink haired girl under her breath as she discreetly glared daggers at him.

Returning her focus back to the matter at hand – her feet and the chakra being expelled from them – Sakura missed the small seashell sailing in her direction until it was too late. Impacting with her rather large forehead, the girl shrieked in surprise before losing her concentration and falling into the water for the first time since starting the training exercise.

The girl slowly trudged out of the ocean and made her way towards Naruto, fists clenched and teeth grinding like a chainsaw.

"Oops?" The Jounin replied insincerely without even looking up at her. "If you can't focus on two things at once, what use will the Water Walking technique be to you?"

Sakura closed her eyes, took several deep breaths to calm herself, before returning to the water and resuming her training.

She needed to get a lot stronger if she wanted to make good on the promise she had made herself back on the cruise ship.

The promise to beat the shit out of the insufferable blonde.

Needless to say, she had a long journey ahead of her.

"Looks like they're training hard," their client said softly as she approached the lounging Naruto and took a seat beside him. She watched as the Genin tried to stay afloat on the surface of the water in fascination while Naruto remained silent and allowed her to speak. "Are all children – I mean ninja their age taught techniques like this?"

"Pretty much." Naruto confirmed with an indifferent shrug. "Some older, some younger, it all depends on the ninja really. The technique becomes really useful when they're given missions where the battleground could just as easily be a lake, than it could be a forest."

"I see," the woman whispered quietly as she watched the Genin struggle. "My name is Hitomi, by the way. I'm sorry for not introducing myself earlier; you must think I'm rude . . ."

"I already knew your name from the mission report." Naruto dismissed the woman's distress casually. "I'd appreciate you tell me all you can about the mission – anything that you think will help."

The woman brought her legs up to her chest and hugged them tightly as she began to think. "Well, this isn't the first disappearance in the area. In fact, people have been suddenly disappearing for a long time now, but when the ninja come to investigate, they always say that nothing suspect happened, and they they'd just drowned out at sea."

"So the people going missing are only those that go out to sea?" Naruto asked curiously as he looked up at the troubled woman. "There've been no reported disappearances of people actually on the island?"

Hitomi considered it briefly before shaking her head in the negative. "No, we're a pretty tight community here. If somebody went missing, we'd instantly know about it. It seems that only those that go out to sea are going missing . . . actually . . ."

Seeing her pause, Naruto turned to her again with a raised brow. He said nothing though, and waiting for the woman to talk. He'd had experience with distraught women before during missions; it was never a smart idea to push them.

It was a rather annoying practise, especially considering that every second wasted, was a second they could have spent searching for their target, but there wasn't much he could do.

"Actually . . ." She finally began, her cheeks somewhat flushed as she looked down at the ground and drew circles in the sand. "You're probably going to think this is stupid, but . . . well, there's this rumour that Kika Island is cursed . . . my father-in-law would always tell Ryoshi and I every chance he got that the island was cursed, and to never go anywhere near it." She paused and looked down at Naruto, as if assessing whether she should continue or not.

Naruto very much doubted that any such 'curse' actually existed, that's not to say that the rumour held no value though. Nodding at her with an encouraging smile, she continued.

"One day . . . he went out fishing and never came back. Ninja from mist came to investigate, but they only reported that his disappearance was anything but nefarious." Here, she voice hitched slightly. Naruto got the feeling that she really loved and respected her father-in-law. "They said that he'd run off with another woman, and had shown us photographs to prove it . . ."

"You didn't believe them though," Naruto said in a moment of insight. "Even though you saw the photographs, you refused to believe it."

"Shiko – that was my father-in-law's name – he would never do something like that!" Hitomi denied vehemently. "I . . . I have no family of my own, I was an orphan," she whispered before locking eyes with Naruto once again. "He took me in; made sure I was always looked after. He loved his family, he loved me. There is no way he'd run off with another woman." She laughed bitterly as she shook her head, tears were now pooling in her eyes. "He didn't even have time to fool around. If he wasn't at home taking care of his family, he was out fishing to put food on the table."

"He was last sighted near Kika Island then?" Naruto asked quietly, urging the woman to get back on topic. It's not like he didn't feel bad for her, but he was here to rescue her husband, and tales about his father-in-law were just a waste of time unless they helped to quicken his rescue.

Furiously wiping some of her tears away, she gave a silent nod. "Someone at the docks told us they'd last seen him heading towards Kika. Nobody goes near there because of the rumours, so naturally, the fishing there is best. Around the time he disappeared, his sister got pregnant but didn't have the money to support herself; she had a no-good, dirt bag for a boyfriend too, so there was no way he'd have supported her . . ."

"You think he went out fishing near Kika for a little extra cash then?" Naruto asked the woman curiously. It was possible, of course, and it made sense given how the woman spoke of him, but the ninja she'd hired to investigate the matter had given her photos . . .

"I'm positive," she said resolutely. "There's no way my father-in-law would run off with another woman."

Naruto turned his head and watched as the Genin continued with the Water Walking exercise. Sakura seemed to have mastered the principals, standing above the water and moving around atop it flawlessly, as it if were the very ground. Her movements looked sluggish though – fatigue rearing its ugly face, most likely. Hideaki and Sasuke seemed to be fairly close to mastering the technique as well. It seemed his casual observations earlier had spurned them on in an effort to prove him wrong – not that he was complaining.

"Well, Hitomi – you don't mind if I call you that, right?" With a negative shake of the woman's head, he continued. "I have some good news, and I have some bad news – which would you like to hear first?"

"The good news," she admitted after little deliberation. She'd had enough bad news lately.

"Well, the good news is that your father-in-law most likely didn't run off with another woman," he said with a smile in her direction.

Her eyes were wide with shock. "H-How?"

"There's nothing cursed about Kika Island," Naruto informed her, making some air quotes when he mentioned the word 'cursed'. "Something nefarious is obviously happening on that island, and whoever is there doesn't like visitors."

Hitomi's mouth opened, a retort ready, before it died on her lips. She did this several more times, gaping like a fish before finally voicing the simplest of her thoughts. "T-The Mist ninja?"

"If you're to be believed about your father-in-law's character?" Naruto asked before shrugging nonchalantly. "There're lots of possibilities, one of which being they're the ones capturing people, and only investigated to save face."

"B-But, I hired some Mist ninja before hiring you!" the woman looked just as confused as she probably felt. "They disappeared, just like the others!"

Naruto shrugged again. "I don't know all the answers, but as I said, that's just a possibility . . . do you want to hear the bad news now?"

"I'm afraid to ask," she admitted with a slight grimace. "Your good news didn't exactly inspire much hope . . ."

Naruto didn't speak, waiting for her approval. With a weary sigh, realizing that he was waiting for her, she reluctantly nodded.

"I have no idea who is responsible for disappearances," Naruto admitted nonchalantly. "But of one thing you can be certain – they're definitely ninja."

"I . . ." Hitomi paused, unsure of how to respond to that. "I don't know what to say to that . . ."

"Just trust me," Naruto said with a smile. "Now, not to be rude or anything, but we have a little trip to make to Kika Island – the sooner the better."

"But, they look exhausted," Hitomi blurted out, her motherly instincts kicking in to defend the Genin – who were still mere children in her eyes. "They should at least get some rest . . . especially if going someplace dangerous like Kika Island!"

"They'll be fine," Naruto assured her as he reached into one of his pouches and pulled out three, spherical pills that resembled black marbles. "Oi, eat these!"

He tossed the pills towards Hideaki who handed one each to Sasuke and Sakura.

"Soldier pills?" Sakura asked in confusion, though eating the pill without hesitation. She felt a sudden and pleasant rush of energy soar through her body after the horrible taste left in her mouth from the pill died away, her Chakra reserves restored to full.

"You're giving us soldier pills so we can train longer?" Hideaki asked incredulously. "That's beyond stupid!"

Sighing and rubbing at his temples, Naruto smiled at Hitomi before turning back to his Genin. "No, I'm giving you soldier pills because we're continuing our mission and you'll need to be in top shape if you're to face ninja."

"Ninja?" Sasuke asked with interest. "Finally, a chance to test my Sharingan against a worthy opponent." His statement was finished with a superior smirk being sent towards an annoyed Hideaki.

Sakura looked ready to object, but Sasuke's eagerness stilled any protest she may have had to the situation.

Hideaki looked ready to ask a question, but was stopped when Naruto raised his hand to silence him. "I'll explain on the way," he promised. "Get suited up and go find us a boat. Meet me at the closest pier in thirty minutes; I'll finish things up here."

Despite the Genin's opinions regarding their new Sensei, they knew an order when they heard one. Donning their gear once more, they quickly sped off to acquire a boat as Naruto led an emotionally exhausted Hitomi back to her house.

Anko sat on the floor in her apartment, clad in nothing but a pair of extremely short shorts, as Jiraiya examined her Curse Seal. The floor had a temporary and elaborate sealing array painted on it to help with the procedure.

"You know," the legendary ninja said casually. "It's kind of hard to concentrate on work with you dressed like that."

"You said you needed me naked." She sat hunched with her hands covering her exposed breasts. "This is as naked as I'm willing to get around you."

"Mhmm." Jiraiya didn't look or sound like he was paying attention. His inked brush swiftly and expertly painted new seals around Orochimaru's mark in a spiral pattern, moving further away from it as he progressed. "I suppose if I were thirty years younger, had blonde hair and a set of cute whisker marks, you'd be singing a different tune."

"I suppose if you were any of those, you'd come off as something other than an old, creepy pervert," Anko said in amusement. "Oh sorry, I mean super pervert."

"Now we're talking," Jiraiya agreed with a chuckle. "Now this addition to the original seal should, supposedly, reduce the amount of sway Orochimaru could have over you if he chose to force it. It'll also reduce the pain it causes you when you have negative thoughts."

"Is that so?" Anko turned her head and grinned at the older man. "Maybe you're not so useless after all."

"Nope, still incredibly useless, I'm afraid." He chuckled. "Naruto's the one who came up with this adjustment."

Anko frowned in disappointment. "Then why isn't he the one applying the seal?"

This time, Jiraiya actually laughed. "He didn't say, but I think you scared him off. You call me a creepy old pervert, but at least I don't scare my chosen partners away."

"He'll come around," Anko said in absolute certainty. "He probably already has, but just hasn't admitted it to himself yet. No man can resist my charms." She groped her covered breasts to emphasize her point. Jiraiya paused in his work, seeing her sexy smirk had him fighting the urge to drop the brush and start taking notes for his next book.

"Well, you're first mistake is comparing Naruto to regular men," Jiraiya advised her sagely. "Does he find you attractive? Obviously, or else he wouldn't turn into a blushing and stuttering little teenager whenever you try and seduce him. Is it having the desired effect though? If you're going for shock value, I suppose it is."

"What're you talking about?" Anko grouched as she tried to look at the older man without moving her neck. "Did he tell you that?"

"He doesn't have to," Jiraiya said in amusement. "I've known him for a fair while – I know how he thinks . . . well, regarding women anyway . . ."

The two sat in silence for several moments as Jiraiya's line of seals began to reach her lower back, he was almost done. Naruto really was a genius when it came to Sealing Techniques, just like his father. To be able to come up with constant countermeasures for the Curse Seal with absolutely nothing to work off of was nothing short of pure genius.

"You're his friend, right?" Anko asked in a much more subdued tone, surprising the legendary ninja greatly. "You got any pointers for me here?"

"If you read my books, you'd find I have hundreds of pointers for you," Jiraiya said lecherously. The room was dim, lit only by a few strategically placed candles around the Sealing Array, but Jiraiya was certain he saw the woman's eyes narrow. "But you weren't asking for pointers on seducing him, you were asking for pointers on befriending him, weren't you?"

Anko stiffened at his words, and Jiraiya was suddenly made aware that he'd hit the nail on the head.

"Unfortunately, I've got no sagely words of wisdom for you this time," he apologized nonchalantly. "However, if you do find out, you let me know. I'd love to know some pointers myself."

"Wait," Anko demanded as she swivelled around to face the older man, breasts – fortunately – still covered by her hands. "Are you telling me you're not friends with him?"

"Not for any lack of trying," he assured. "That boy hasn't got any friends – well, that's not true. He has one, the girl from the Ramen stand he's always eating at . . ."

"Wait, I thought he was all 'buddy-buddy' with you and the Hokage," Anko said in confusion. "I've caught you three stooges peeking on the girl's bath houses together!"

"Well, we kinda roped him into that one," Jiraiya admitted reluctantly. "We wanted to try and get him to open up, but in the end, all we got – all I got – was a royal beat down by a good majority of the village's female ninja."

"Good times," Anko reminisced fondly. "So you're trying to tell me that his only one friend is the Ramen chick? What about the Uchiha woman?"

Jiraiya seemed to consider her words. "Maybe," he relented. "They may be close, but I always got the feeling that Naruto hung around due to some false sense of obligation or something – not that he doesn't like her, mind you. I just dunno if you could call them 'friends' by definition."

"That's . . ." Anko paused as she struggled to find the right words. "That's actually pretty sad."

"That's life," Jiraiya said with a shrug. "Kid's never been the same since the Uchiha massacre, then that other teammate of his ran off with some douchebag, chauvinistic asshole."

Anko sent the older man an amused look as he shrugged.

"His words, not mine," he admitted. "Anyway, ever since then, the kid's pretty much shut himself out, well, there was that one other girl, but if you ever want to have a pleasant conversation with him, I'd advise not mentioning her."

"Which girl?" Anko asked curiously. She'd never heard of another girl in Naruto's life, only Yugao.

"The Inuzuka girl," Jiraiya answered curtly. "Right foul bitch, that one. The kid was head over heels for her, and to do what she did to him . . ." Jiraiya paused and shook his head ruefully. "Well, let's just say that it cut him pretty deep."

"Inuzuka Hana?" Anko asked incredulously as she ran through every known Inuzuka she knew of. The girl was both a hunter-nin and a vet for her family's nin-dog partners. "What'd she do?"

"I'm not one hundred percent sure," Jiraiya shrugged. "But I got the feeling that she cheated on him, after they'd been going out for almost a year. Don't ask me for the details, because I've got no idea. You might want to ask that Ramen girl though if you insist on finding out as much about Naruto as possible . . ."

"I'm not -!" Anko began to retort before sighing. "Whatever pervert, just finish up already."

Grinning, Jiraiya made sure the ink on her body was dry before placing his palm on her Curse Seal. With a liberal application of Chakra, the seals covering her body sprang to life, spiralling inwards towards Orochimaru's mark in an almost hypnotic fashion until, finally, they all disappeared. The Curse Seal glowed a sickly purple for several moments before dying down and returning to normal.

"Are we done?" Anko asked tentatively, surprised by the lack of pain during the procedure. She reached up to her shoulder and gently traced the outline of her Curse Seal, making sure to cover herself with her free arm.

"I guess," Jiraiya shrugged. "Unfortunately, the only way we know it'll work is if Orochimaru tries using it against you sometime in the future, or if you start brooding again. Either way, I performed it as per Naruto's instructions, so any problems you may have should be taken up with him."

"Afraid I'll come after you if I found that you screwed up?" Anko taunted as she covered herself with a baggy t-shirt.

"I like my testes hanging where they are, thank you very much," Jiraiya said, unwilling to incur the wrath of a woman whose temper tantrums were a thing of legend. Though, he wasn't ashamed to admit that it was during these temper tantrums that the woman was at her absolute sexiest. "Until next time I suppose."

"Yeah, whatever," Anko said, dismissing Jiraiya as he disappeared out her front door. "Inuzuka Hana, huh?" Anko mused as she rubbed at the Seal on her neck. "This just got a hell of a lot more interesting . . ."

"I can't believe you actually stole a boat," Hideaki sighed as he continued to row. "This probably belonged to some poor fisherman who struggles to make ends meet – have you no shame?"

"Commandeered!" Naruto corrected the Fire Lord's son with a grin. "I commandeered this vessel with every intention of returning it. We're on a ship now children, remember to use nautical terms!"

"This thing is hardly a ship," Sasuke drawled, sour from being forced into rowing duty alongside Hideaki as their Sensei lounged against the tip of the rickety old boat. "It barely even floats."

"You're right," Naruto said before eyeing Sakura shrewdly. "You really should lose a few pounds; See? You're making our vessel sink!"

Sakura closed her eyes and thought of three good reasons why she shouldn't attack her Sensei. It took her a good few minutes, and they were weak excuses at best. Naruto amused himself by watching the vein pulsing on her forehead.

"So you think there're ninja operating on this Island?" Sakura finally asked, after calming down. "You think they're responsible for this latest disappearance and the ones before it?"

"Probably," Naruto said with an indifferent shrug. "There's only one way to find out, I suppose."

"Right, whatever," Sakura replied with a sigh as the four ninja lapsed into a tense silence with only the sounds ores breaking the surface of the water audible for miles. Naruto had briefed them on the situation back on the pier before setting sail. There was no need for talk now, especially when looking for ninja. Even the slightest of unnecessary whispers could tip their enemies off and get them killed.

A quiet splash off to their right caused the three Genin's heads to snap in the direction of the foreign noise.

"Fish?" Sakura asked her teammates quietly as they tried to assess where the sound had come from.

"Possibly," agreed Hideaki with a troubled expression.

"Regardless, we should keep our guards up," said Sasuke grimly.

"Really?" Naruto drawled causing the Genin to spin around and gasp in shock. Standing atop the water with a long, scaly and spike tipped tail held tightly in his grip was a bemused Naruto. "You guys keep saying you're ninja, but to be fooled by a trick as simple as this?"

The Genin couldn't really say anything to that, they were more focused on the tail wriggling and trying to break free from Naruto's grip anyway

Another appendage broke the surface of the water, this time a scaly arm with a webbed hand and razor sharp claws. Quickly sidestepping the desperate swipe from the monster below, Naruto whipped out a kunai and gave the tough skin of the tail a stab before swiftly pocketing the kunai and fishing around in his pouch for something important.

"Keep going," Naruto urged them with clenched teeth, finally finding what he'd been searching for. "I'll keep fish-man busy here, you guys investigate the island."

"What's the matter, are you hurt?" Hideaki asked with concern as Naruto struggled with the tail.

"Hurt? Me?" Naruto forced a laugh. "No, this bastard is putting up a fight though, I feel like I'm a championship fisher here," Naruto said, laughing at his own joke despite the less than amusing situation. "I won't be able to hold on forever, and you guys still can't do the Water Walking technique, so get to shore and explore the island." Here, Naruto used one of his feet to kick away another of the beast's appendages. "That's an order. I've got things here, trust me."

The Genin each shared a troubled look before nodding grimly. Sasuke and Hideaki retook the ores and doubled their efforts, rowing with all their might. Sakura, having an idea, utilized her new Water Walking technique to jump out onto the ocean. Running to the back of the boat, she propped herself against the rickety vessel and began to push, helping to drive the boat forward.

Satisfied that the Genin were a sufficient distance away, Naruto immediately let go and leapt backwards, and out of the flailing tail's range. All was silent in the immediate area once again as the beast's tail was submerged once again, and out of sight. The water, a murky black, was too dark to see through, and Naruto very much doubted he'd see more than a shadow even if he tried.

Seeing the ripples in the water before any actual movement, Naruto was able to sidestep as the beast's tail whipped out of the water and tried to pierce his stomach. Narrowly missing the tail as it passed by, Naruto cursed as he began to form a rapid series of hand seals.

"Fine, you wanna play hide and go seek?" Naruto mumbled to himself as his hands paused on a rat seal. "I always hated that game!"

He saw the ripples again, moments before the sea-beast attempted to strike. Just as the tail resurfaced, Naruto leapt back, inhaled deeply, and released a series of small, mud missiles from his mouth. Each missile impacted with the surface of the water with the force of a small bomb, sending torrents of seawater in every direction from the resulting splashes.

Naruto wasn't sure if his attack had struck true, but that wasn't really his goal anyway.

The sea-beast made several more passes at Naruto, while the blonde stubbornly countered with his own mud missiles. There was one thing Naruto was sure of, however, and that was whatever this thing was, it was incredibly fast.

After his eighth mud missile bombardment, Naruto smirked when the attacks seemed to halt. From a bird's eye view, the water surrounding Naruto for a good twenty meters in each direction was darkened further by the excess amounts of mud he had shot into it, rending the immediate area a virtual swamp-lake in the middle of the ocean.

As long as he stood atop the muddy water, whatever was attacking him from below wouldn't be able to see him, just as he couldn't see it.

A splash at his rear alerted Naruto to the beast's presence as he turned to see a large, sphere of water rocketing in his direction. Eyes widening in surprise, he flashed through several more hand seals as a wall of water rose to defend him. As the large, spherical water missile impacted with his wall, the beast leapt out of the water with its claws extended, spinning like a drill.

Fortunately, it had done so several feet to his right. Missing him completely, the human-shaped sea beast submerged itself once more after its failed attack. It had expected him to dodge the missile so he could skewer it.

"He still can't see," Naruto mused to the silence of the night. "He's trying to predict my movements."

Three more splashes, one slowly following the other, and three more speeding water missiles were sent in his direction.

"Okay, so he's really fast," Naruto said as the projectiles closed in on his position. Setting his hands into a ram seal, Naruto focused his Chakra into the water beneath his feet and, like a whale's blow hole, the water erupted and sent him sailing safely up and over the attacks. Turning mid-air, Naruto grinned triumphantly when he noticed his technique had sent the beast from below sailing right behind him.

His grin immediately slipped when he got a proper look at said 'beast'. His skin was grey and scaled, yes, but whatever this creature was, it was definitely a ninja, dressed in ninja attire with human-like features, despite the colour and texture of its skin. The forehead protector with a musical note engraved in the metal was evidence enough of his profession.

"You've got to be kidd -!" Naruto was cut off as the 'beast' screamed.

"Bad move, punk!" The fish-like ninja screamed as he inhaled, his chest expanding almost comically, before spewing out another of those large water missiles.

Frowning, Naruto flashed through another rapid series of hand seals as the very ocean thundered beneath them.

Shooting out of the surface of the water like a rocket, a large dragon made entirely of what looked to be mud slammed into the back of the enemy ninja before moving past him and swallowing the large globe of water whole, destroying the attack as if it were a mere droplet of rain.

Safely landing on the surface of the water as chunks of mud fell around him in droves, Naruto scanned the immediate area before grunting in annoyance. Closing his eyes to concentrate, he felt his enemy's presence quickly retreating towards Kika Island as he let out a weary sigh.

"Why is it that everything evil happening on this continent has Orochimaru's hand in it?" He stretched out a few kinks in his back before swallowing two more of his prescribed pills.

Before he began the short trip towards Kika Island by foot, he let a weary frown mar his features.

That chakra he'd sensed flowing from the enemy ninja was definitely vile. Vile and disturbingly familiar.

A/N: Kinda rushed through this chapter between homework assignments. I'm kind of annoyed with myself. I wrote myself into a corner regarding that fight. It was kind of one dimensional and completely reaction based on Naruto's part since all he could do was respond to the creepy sea-beast's attacks from underwater.

I've also had the massive urge to write either an AU Dynasty Warriors/ Three Kingdoms fic or that HP one up on my profile in between chapters for Tuebor. PM me if you wanna know my idea on the DW/TK one, it's gonna be mostly AU with a 'fourth' kingdom started by an AU who 'tames' Lubu to be one of his generals during the whole Dong Zhuo fiasco. I've had a massive urge to write this every since I started rereading and replaying The Art of War (I bought one with a fancy red cover!) and Dynasty Warriors 6 (the taming idea coming from Diao Chan's Musou Mode. Have the woman be Lubu's reason for fighting, and have the woman extremely loyal to the OC.)

I'm also gonna request another Beta again, as much as I don't want to. I usually like working with only one person, but my current Beta seems really busy. I'm only interesting in someone who's a completely grammar nazi though, and knows what they're talking about. PM me if you're that person.