Chapter 7: More Clan Business
Naruto's eyes narrowed as he passed through the gate of his clan's safe house. He could clearly hear the ringing of wind chimes from inside the building. He would admit that wind chimes ringing was far from a strange occurrence, but this time there were two things that placed this strongly in the 'strange' category. First, the wind was rather still tonight, and those chimes were consistently ringing like they were being whipped about in a light gale. Second, who would put wind chimes inside a building anyways, and if so, how were they even ringing? There wasn't any wind!
Normally, much to his own embarrassment, he wouldn't have picked up on such a thing, but after the whole Oni brothers puddle thing, he'd taken Kakashi-sensei's whole look "underneath the underneath" thing a lot more seriously.
Slowly, he held out his arm and blocked Haku's path, frowning slightly to let her knew something was wrong.
Instantly, Haku's stance shifted slightly as she all but transformed from the sweet, almost innocent girl who'd become his friend, to the dangerous and mysterious ice ninja who'd almost killed Sasuke on the bridge. Her serious eyes turned to him and she made a subtle gesture with her hand.
Naruto grinned in embarrassment and shrugged. He guessed that she'd been making ninja sign to him, probably asking him what it was. Problem was that first, he didn't know ninja sign. He'd been too busy toilet papering the ANBU barracks to attend class that day. Second, she was probably using Hidden Mist sign language, and he was from Hidden Leaf, so it wasn't like he'd have been able to understand it anyways.
Haku frowned. From the look on her face, Naruto knew that Sign Language lessons were to be found in his near future.
"What is it?" she whispered.
"I hear wind chimes from inside the building," he replied in an equally low voice.
"I don't hear anything," she said, still keeping her voice down.
Naruto shrugged. He'd always had more sensitive hearing than most. In fact, he'd bet that on the average he probably had the best all around senses of anyone in his graduating year. In all honesty, his sense rankings were the only thing in the academy he'd ever gotten straight As on. Sure, there were a few people who'd managed to get an S-rank on one or two senses, like Choji on taste, Sasuke and Hinata with vision, or Kiba on smell and hearing, but all around he was the best. Thinking about it though, it was probably all due to that damned fox in his stomach, right along with his fast healing and that strange red chakra he'd used to kick Haku's ass on the bridge.
Glancing to the girl next to him, he decided that this wasn't the time to go into that. He knew he'd have to spill the beans, eventually, and dreaded that moment, but this wasn't it. So for now, he just said, "Good ears."
She nodded, and asked, "You sure it's wind chimes?"
Immediately her posture relaxed slightly and she smiled. "Don't worry then."
Naruto blinked. "Huh?"
"Its a trick they do," she explained. "They use seals to set up a perimeter and if its crossed by anyone who they aren't told to ignore, they cause a wind chime to ring. After the scare you put us through earlier, they probably decided to get right to security."
Naruto blinked. He knew that you could put stuff in seals, like kunai, traveling supplies, and giant, rampaging fox demons. He also knew that you could make them explode, but he didn't know you could build an alarm system! "That's really cool!" Naruto exclaimed.
Haku smirked playfully. "Didn't think they had it in them, did you?"
Naruto frowned. No, he didn't. Everyone had always under estimated him, and now he was the one under estimating them. It made him feel like a jackass.
Slowly, shamefully, he shook his head.
"Good," Haku replied, "That's what they're going for."
Naruto blinked. "It is?"
"They're not very good at the conventional ninja arts, but they are highly skilled at injutsu and fuin jutsu," she paused for a moment, "They might act like three stooges, but they're actually highly capable ninja," She paused, and added "As long as you can keep them from bickering"
Naruto nodded. He'd always thought being a ninja was all about cool jutsu and kicking ass, but recent events had changed that. It hadn't been cool jutsu or ass kicking that beat the Kyubi, it had been seals, and they also could be made to explode, and he loved explosions. They also could carry heavy stuff for you, and it seemed like they could do lots of other stuff as well. Naruto had no problem accepting that even if they were not the best fighters that these three had the potential to be kick ass in their own way. He just didn't understand why they never told him this stuff in school. Seals sounded awesome!
He frowned and the knives of memory cut back. After a moment of thought, he did vaguely remember Iruka-sensei talking about the more subtle ninja arts, but he'd been too busy napping to pay much attention. Thinking about it, he could remember many occasions where Iruka had been telling him something that in retrospect could have been cool, but since it wasn't about kicking ass or jutsu, he'd just faded out, gone to sleep, or slipped out to cause some trouble.
Naruto felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. Sure, some of the instructors had sabotaged him, he had no doubt about it, but he knew Iruka never would do such a thing. In that case he'd sabotaged himself. Sure, he'd tried to read it all on his own later as he found self study far more tolerable than boring classroom lecture, but he wasn't very good with Kanji, so he'd only been able to get bits and pieces.
He was left wondering, how many of his weaknesses were his own damned fault? It made him want to kick himself. When he got back home, he'd have to swallow his pride and ask Iruka to tutor him. Failing that, ask to borrow copies of the school scrolls and read them with Haku. He had a feeling she knew all the tough Kanji and complicated words he didn't know.
"Naruto-kun?" Haku asked seeing his hesitation, "What's wrong?"
Naruto smiled his patented 'I'm putting on a brave face but I'm actually hurting inside' smile. "Was just thinking, that's all."
Haku nodded in acknowledgment, but a small frown marring her lovely features gave away that she did not completely believe him. She could probably see through the smile, Naruto reflected. Considering her history, she probably had one of her very own.
The door slid open and one of the three, the one with the Sasuke-like duck butt hair cut, Rarii if he remembered correctly stood in the doorway looking a bit amused.
"You two coming in or what?"
Naruto smiled widely and scratched the back of his head feeling a bit embarrassed, following Rarii inside.
Inside Mou and Kaarii were sitting around the table, eating. This caught Naruto's attention immediately. It wasn't the fact that they were eating though, but rather what they were eating. In front of them, on the table, there were three bowls filled with broth and noodles. They were eating ramen.
Naruto's stomach groaned. While he'd just recently eaten, Kakashi-sensei had forbidden him from taking any instant ramen with him on the trip, claiming it was a poor field ration. He'd decided not to smuggle any due to the fact that it was 'only' a C ranked mission and couldn't last more than a few days to Wave and a few days back, with the chance to pick up a bowl of three to hold him over during the stopover in town. Even when things went south, he didn't think it was going to be a problem, after all, who doesn't have ramen?
Well, much to his displeasure he found out that the answer to that question would be 'Wave Country'. With their current level of poverty, they had a shortage of everything except 'misery'. That included the white flour and kansui needed to make the noodles as well as most of the more common fixing.
As such, it had been almost ten days without his favorite food and that time span was looking to stretch on for weeks if not months. Considering that before this, the longest he'd gone without eating ramen was a whole three days, this was about as close to his personal culinary hell as physically possible. That wasn't to say Tsunami's food wasn't good, she was a great cook actually, but still, it wasn't ramen.
Naruto's mouth opened into a shark like grin and he slipped away from Haku and all but crept up on the trio.
"Say," he said about as smoothly as he could manage. "You wouldn't happen to have any more ramen laying around would you?"
"Yeah boss," Mou said with a shrug. "We got a whole case in the kitchen."
Kaarii nodded. "Don't much like the stuff, but it keeps well."
Rarii nodded. "We needed to stock the pantry with things that were cheap and would last, and instant noodles were a good choice."
Naruto's jaw dropped. It was unthinkable, it was unspeakable. How could they? How was it possible? "You... don't like ramen?"
"What's wrong boss?" Kaarii asked, with a noodle hanging from his unappreciative chin, all but taunting Naruto with the fact that it was being consumed by this culinary philistine and not a true connoisseur such as himself.
"Wipe your mouth when ya talk to the boss, ya knuckle head!" Mou growled, smacking his brother causing him to bump his soup bowl. Naruto's bowels tightened as he saw the disturbed soup slosh around the unsteady bowl, threatening to spill in a tragic waste of precious broth and noodles.
Suddenly, all eyes in the room were turned on Naruto, who with clenched fists was unwittingly leaking a significant amount of killing intent, spurned on by his righteous noodly outrage.
"Stop that," he growled through gritted teeth. After a week without, the very idea of such a waste was unthinkable. How dare they taunt him with ramen and then threaten to spill it!
"Um," Mou gulped. "What's wrong boss?"
"You don't like ramen." This time it was a statement, not a question.
Rarii shrugged from there he was sitting. "I like ramen fine, just not too fond of the instant stuff."
Naruto relaxed, slightly. He could agree with that, somewhat. While he enjoyed all ramen, he would freely admit that the fresh stuff was far superior to instant. His eyes swept over the other two who nodded franticly in agreement.
"Naruto-kun," Haku cut in. "Calm down, this is ridiculous."
The three looked at each other and snorted as if she'd said some kind of joke.
"What?" Haku demanded.
Rarii grinned. "Sushi tastes like ass."
The temperature suddenly dropped by a full ten degrees and Haku started to storm towards the messy haired ninja, with her hands outstretched like she was ready to throttle the life out of him. "I'll kill you!" she screamed, taking on the most terrifying face Naruto had ever seen and releasing enough killing intent to curdle milk.
Naruto shuddered. "Scary!"
Rarii slowly backed away trying to stay out of her grasp. "Um, case in point, Haku-sama... I was just making an example. Sushi's great, really!"
She paused for a moment, and her eyes widened as she glanced around her, and shrunk down with a bright blush on her face, obviously humiliated by the display. "Um," she whispered in a small voice, "Maybe I shouldn't be one to talk, should I?"
The tree shook their heads in unison.
"Sorry, Naruto-sama," she whispered.
Naruto grinned. While sushi wasn't his thing, he could understand where she was coming from. He got pretty testy when Ramen was at stake "No problem!" He looked back at the brothers. "So, where's the stuff in the kitchen?"
"I don't think I'm hungry anymore," Kaarii said, pushing his bowl away. "You can have mine."
"I'm not hungry either," said Mou.
Rarii looked at the others and sighed. "I guess I'll go put some rice on."
Naruto smiled widely and sat at the table picking up one of the three bowls. "Thanks guys," he frowned slightly. The chimes were still going off. "Though think you could do something about the chimes."
Mou glanced at his brother. "Yeah, we gotta edit the master seal."
"What? Me? Why do I gotta do it," Kaarii demanded, indignantly.
"Because you're the one who made it, bonehead," Mou snapped.
"Relax, guys," Karii said, tiredly.
"Shuddup, you knucklehead."
"Mou, cut it out and fix the damned seal," Haku growled.
"Um, yeah, Haku-sama!"
Mou jumped to his feet and walked over to the closet. Inside was a simple wind chime with a piece of paper hanging from the bottom, which was writhing and twisting, causing the chimes to ring. Sighing, Mou went through a series of hand seals before touching the seal with a half hare sign. Immediately it came to a stop and Mou removed it from the chime.
Taking a deep breath he sat at the table and pulled out a writing kit along with a small bowl and a sharp senbon. Looking up to Naruto, he held out the senbon and bowl. "Okay, get to it."
Naruto blinked in confusion. "Get to what?"
"I need your blood."
Naruto grimaced and stepped back slightly. "You need my what?! Why?"
"So I can key you into the damned wards, you mor..." Mou paused and glanced over to Haku, who was hitting him with a not insignificant amount of killing intent. "Incredible genius ninja you," he finished.
"Better," Haku said cooly.
"How much do you need?" Naruto asked.
Mou shrugged. "Afew drops should do it, but if you fill the bottom of the bowl I can make up enough ink so we don't have to go through this every time we need to key you into something."
Naruto nodded and stuck himself in the finger. Slowly a line of blood made its way down the needle into the bowl. Slowly a small puddle of blood formed at the bottom.
Mou smiled and nodded. "That'll do it."
Naruto handed him back the bowl and needle which Mou accepted. He whiped off the fouled needle and placed it into small tube full of blue liquid. The contents of the bowl he poured into a small vial of black ink which he stoppered and shook vigorously. Once he was done he simply dabbed a brush into the ink and drew several symbols on the seal and made a monkey seal hand sign. The marks he drew flashed red for a moment and then all of the marked glowed white for a moment.
Naruto smiled. "That was awesome."
Mou grinned. "Yeah, I kick ass."
He stood up and walked over to the wind chimes and reattached the seal. Again he went through a series of seals, ending with the half hair and tapped the paper. Again it started to flutter causing the chimes to ring.
"Damn it," Mou growled, pulling a Kunai. "We have an intruder!"
Haku's eyes narrowed and he held up her hand. "Hold on. I have an idea."
She smiled darkly. "Tell me, how does everyone feel about bosintang for dinner tomorrow?" she growled, putting emphasis on the ' bosintang'.
Suddenly, almost miraculously, the chimes began to stop.
"That's odd," Naruto thought aloud. "It's stopped."
"Not really," Haku replied.
– – – –
Pakkun leaned back against the wall of a battered house and panted madly as he placed his paw over his pounding heart.
He should have known better than to stick around when those chimes started going off. He'd been correct to assume that Naruto was setting them off too, but he should have left when they started editing the damned things. But no, he'd done the stupid thing and stayed put. Now that ice bitch was out to make soup out of him! Kakashi better appreciate this. If he didn't get those damned bones, he was complaining to Tsume-sama!
He sighed deeply and kept panting. He needed a few minutes to catch his breath because once she'd mentioned 'that' soup, he'd run as fast as his little legs could carry him. That girl was insane. She just had to be! She was going to give him nightmares, he knew it! He just hoped she wasn't hunting him, looking to turn him into soup and feast upon his flesh.
He shuddered. Oh yeah. He'd have nightmare about this, no doubt about it.
Falling back onto his paws he shuddered and scampered off. There was no way he was sticking around with her in the area. That girl was evil, and he didn't want to end up in a bowl. He could relax once he'd banished himself back to Kakashi's nice, safe, and distant apartment where the only thing he needed to worry about was the creepy snake lady in the next building.
Within minutes he was back to Tazuna's house. Pulling back he jumped the the wall and scampered through Kakashi's window.
Glancing over, the lazy jonin's eyebrow rose. "Back so soon?"
"They had an alarm," he replied. "Seems that the other three ninja are skilled in sealing. By the time Haku and Naruto arrived they'd set up a detection network."
Kakashi nodded. "Huh. Seal masters, huh? That explains it."
Pakkun blinked. "Explains what?"
"When Zabuza tried to kill the Yondaime Mizukage, he somehow destabilized the seal on the Sanbi, weakening Yagura's control of the beast, and eventually allowing it to break free and destroy its host."
Pakkun grimaced. "Then isn't it dangerous letting them near Naruto?"
"No. I've seen smuggled diagrams of Yagura's seal. Naruto's is much more powerful than the one contained the three tails. It's something to look into, but I doubt its an immediate threat." Kakashi looked down. "Anything else?"
"Um, she said their conventional ninja skills are sub par but claimed they're really good at Injutsu."
Kakashi nodded. That much was obvious. They really didn't move like especially capable ninja, and Zabuza wouldn't have had them on spying duty unless they were better utilized in a non combat role.
Kakashi nodded, motioning for him to continue.
"Haku has a really scary obsession with sushi?"
Kakshi frowned. "That's it?"
"I was found out," Pakkun admitted. "After they Naruto keyed into the detection seals and realized they had an intruder, I ran."
"Did they see you?" Kakashi asked.
"No," Pakkun replied, "But I'm pretty sure Haku knows it was me."
Kakashi made his eye-smile and waved it off. "Then its fine. If they didn't see you, they can't bring it up with the council."
– – –
Haku frowned slightly as she watched her liege slurp down instant ramen at an almost freakish pace. While the trio could stand the stuff, she found it to be utterly revolting, but she now knew better than to bring that up with Naruto. He seemed to enjoy it, and while she could accept that, she'd never understand it. It tasted awful, was full of salt, and was totally processed and artificial, completely unlike sushi, which was wonderfully natural, with the freshest fish, lovingly prepared vinegar rice, crisp sea weed, and sometimes just a bit of wasabi for a touch of kick to remind you that you were alive.
She smiled. Yeah, that was real food, not this instant processed crap. She knew he'd be taking her with him for ramen, probably many times in the future, and she could stand that. She was not a big noodle soup fan, but as long as it was fresh and well made she could enjoy it.
Instant on the other hand, she'd had enough of that vile crap when she lived on the streets as it was often the only thing she could afford to actually buy for herself with the pittance she could beg, find, or steal, and even then she was more often than not forced to eat it without cooking, like some kind of god awful salty cookie. Just the memory of it nauseated her. She'd rather starve than force that MSG laced swill down her gullet ever again.
"Ah," Naruto sighed, as he finished the last bowl. "I needed that."
He look a deep breath and glanced over to Haku with a big, happy smile on his face. "So, why didn't you think it was odd?"
"Your sensei had one of his ninken follow us into town," she replied, "I caught him and told him if I caught him again I was going to turn him into bosintang."
Naruto blinked. "What's bosintang?"
Naruto grimaced. "Ewe."
Haku nodded. She'd never had the stuff, but in all actuality it sounded even more gross than instant ramen, a feat if there ever was one. Still, it was a good threat and that annoying pug seemed to believe she was serious.
"I guess I'm going to have to talk to Kakashi-sensei," Naruto said with a scowl.
"This is a serious breach of our privacy," Haku replied. Honestly that one eyed scarecrow pervert was really starting to piss her off. If he kept it up, he'd probably make it onto the very small list of people she actually hated, along with the late Yondaime Mizukage, may his genocidal soul rot in the deepest pits of hell, and that big titted whore who dared to steal Zabuza's place as Godaime Mizukage.
Naruto shrugged. "I think he's just trying to protect me."
Haku started to protest but she was cut off. "Haku-chan, if he does it again I'm going to complain to the Old Man, but he's still my sensei, even if he is being a dumbass."
Haku did not agree, but she acquiesced. Naruto's was the final word on the matter, no matter how much she might personally disagree. If he said that they should warn Kakashi against further action, they would warn him against further action.
"So, what was that business you guys said was so important?" Naruto asked the trio.
They looked at each other and grinned, pulling out a number of scrolls.
"Well, ya see boss," Mou began, "Zabuza-sensei ordered us to keep an eye on Gato and if the opportunity presented itself, to loot his office."
Haku smiled. So that was what they were going on about. In lack of anything better to do, they completed their ultimate mission, the entire reason they'd been sitting on the side lines and not helping in the fight. Ironic that, because if they'd been helping, they'd have been more enough to place the odds firmly in Zabuza's favor.
She would not speak of it though, because it was never a good thing to dwell on the mistakes of the past. While his loss was extremely painful, their victory on the bridge would have probably meant Naruto's death, and now that he was her lord and her precious friend as well, she would not allow herself to regret that he still lived. It was not only inappropriate, but it could be considered treasonous. Rather she'd regret that she'd been unable to save them both. Naruto was loud, and he was naive, but she knew that he and Zabuza would have gotten along wonderfully. It was a shame that they'd never have the chance.
"But didn't he hire you?" Naruto blinked. "Why were you stealing from him?"
Haku sighed. She liked Naruto, he was a sweet and honest person, but he didn't get politics. "Naruto-kun, Zabuza-san found Gato to be just as detestable as you did. His ultimate plan was to get into his confidence, get the measure of his assets, and then assassinate him and usurp control of his organization. He was then going to present his holdings to the Daimyo in exchange for the right to build a Hidden Village in Wave to serve as a power base for an eventual return to the Kiri and his rightful ascendance to the position of Mizukage."
Naruto blinked and frowned. "Then why didn't he just say so! That isn't so bad? Why was he going after Tazuna-san then?"
"Tazuna-san was as great a threat to Zabuza-san's plans as it was to Gato's power base. If he completed the bridge, than Gato's shipping assets would be severely devalued. He needed to stop the bridge to keep Gato's power base valuable, so it would be worth something when he stole it and handed it to the Daimyo."
"Oh," Naruto said, understanding what she was saying. "So what's in the scrolls?"
Haku sighed. Oblivious.
Mou grinned. "Most of Gato's documents and some cash he had stashed away as a contingency."
Kaarii nodded. "Yeah, we got into the payroll safe, but his employees had already emptied it."
Mou smacked his brother up the back of the head. "You didn't have to mention that, now the new boss thinks we're incompetent!"
"Just was being thorough," Kaarii whined. "Besides, we still got a whole lot of money!"
"Oh, I'll show you thorough!" Mou growled.
"Quit it!" Naruto snapped. "I don't think you're incompetent. How much money did you find?"
"'Bout two hundred and fifty mil, boss," Kaarii said with a massive grin.
Haku's eyes went comically wide. Zabuza had impressed upon her the need to keep some escape money hidden at all times in case you need to make a break for it. This house had about a two hundred thousand hidden away. Not a huge amount, but more than enough to keep you fed, housed, and in bribe money long enough to get clear. A quarter billion on the other hand, that was probably enough money to pay for an S-ranked mission!
"That's a lot of money," Naruto muttered, just as bug eyed as she was.
Rarii laughed. "Yeah, with all these papers we might be able to take over part of what's left of Gato's business. So, what are you going to do with it, fearless leader?"
Naruto frowned and furrowed his his brow. With almost a flourish he sat down and crossed his legs and arms, looking intently at his empty soup bowl as if he expected it to give up some great truth. For several minutes he glared at the china before breathing in deeply and letting out a sigh, slumping his shoulders in defeat.
"I have no idea," Naruto said finally.
"Eh, don't worry about it boss. You should probably sleep on it anyways."