Shadow and Wind: New legends

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Disclaimer: Everything that isn't Kishimoto's is mine. There's not a lot left, now is there? -_-'
The awesome cover pic is the work of Damatris! Many thanks to Zanros for Beta-reading

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46. The Fifth: The Sidequest

Time for some fun! And also get rid of a certain someone (maybe)

Shikamaru watched the walls of the Yamaguchi estate from the top of a nearby mansion and frowned in concentration. The number of guards doubled since yesterday and the patrols were both larger and more frequent. In other words, their targets were cautious and quite resourceful. It was, however, nothing the young genius hadn't planned for. In fact the Chunin had predicted everything to a tee. The extra guards were still a pain in the ass though. Shikamaru sighed and hid himself from view.

Sometimes he hated being right.

"So?" Shikamaru turned to his left where Naruto was crouching. From the other side he could feel Sasuke's stare.

"Nothing suggests the hired shinobi arrived yet," he stated. That was only good thing about the situation.

The blond shinobi nodded. "Good. Do you remember the plan?"

Shikamaru and the Uchiha nodded. He could tell the third member of their little strike force was quite reluctant to do so. Oh, well tough – it would do him good to have someone of equal standing bossing him around for once. Then again, if anyone had told him he'd one day have Naruto as squad leader he'd be quite suspicious too.

The mission was quite simple. They were to infiltrate the mansion in order to gather incriminating information on the Yamaguchi and use it for blackmail – crude, but it got the job done without too much exposure. And if the jerks were too cautious for their own good, the team would have to ask them to back off personally instead. This was nothing too hard as they were only dealing with civilians. Maybe that was the reason Shikamaru trusted Naruto to take lead. Jiraiya's little test was aimed at him after all, and as Chunin, Naruto and Sasuke would be asked to lead their own squads. He could have asked Sasuke if there was any doubt about his leadership skills, which there was actually – nothing that could affect this particular mission – but the guy had been touted as a genius so much that the lazy Chunin had to give him the benefit of doubt.

Add the wanted rogue shinobi into the mix however, and things got ugly. Thankfully, they were able to enlist Shizune's help to keep an eye out and intervene if there was a need. It also had helped Shikamaru break what he could only call the longest and most boring staring contest he ever witnessed. Seriously, the guy who invented those needed to be stabbed with a kunai – in the eye. Also, the Sannin needed to get a room – preferably after they were back in Konoha - so they could settle their dispute once and for all.

"Keep in mind the signal if you need my help," reminded the medic nin. Also to be noted was that if they did call her for anything less than... oh, let's say… Akatsuki, then they'd automatically fail the test.

How fun!

Shikamaru saw his friend nearly pout at that, but in the end the blond shrugged. Sasuke however, was more vocal about his dislike of the situation. "Why is she here?"

Surprisingly, Naruto answered before he could. "Insurance. Remember what Shikamaru said; this isn't about being powerful or flashy, this is about being 'efficient'." From his face, you'd think the word was made of lemons.

And that was quite ironic if you asked him. Here they were told the Chunin exams were about being the flashiest and getting the attention of the Daimyo and other important clients, when he got promoted by doing exactly the opposite. Well, probably more of that "looking underneath the underneath" Iruka loved to yap about.

"I don't like it anymore than you do," Naruto added, "but it's not like she was going to help us."

Shikamaru sighed. While Naruto's answer did silence the Uchiha, they were wasting valuable time here. Who knew when the Yamaguchi had scheduled their meeting with the foreign shinobi? According to his Bingo Book, they went by the nickname of 'Janin Brothers' – that was not the kind name given to pushovers. The sooner they moved the less risk they were taking.

"Are we done?" the other two gave him odd looks but he shrugged it off. "Let's just get this over with. I was supposed to back in Konoha three weeks ago. Naruto?" he said, waiting for their temporary leader to start this thing.

"Right!" Naruto grinned. "Team Awesome, move out!"

Both he and the Uchiha shared an annoyed grunt. Next time, he was coming up with name for their team.

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The plan was 'efficient' – the word left a bitter aftertaste even in his mind. Naruto wished he could have planned something more awesome, but his friend had pounded that keyword into his brain and then threatened to have Sasuke take lead if he goofed around.

Spoilsport.

Anyway, they would separate and infiltrate different parts of the residence to secure the blackmail material or even one of the Yamaguchi if need be. Sasuke, with is lightning affinity, would be crippling the security system as much as possible. According to Shikamaru, civilians favored technology above man power and so the business man could have video surveillance on top of his guards. Speaking of Shikamaru, his job was to distract the guards with one or more false alarms. This was a bit tricky because they wanted the men distracted just enough to take the bait without suspicion. This left him to infiltrate. Hopefully, either the information or the Yamaguchi themselves would be found quickly enough.

The targets could have hired more shinobi without their knowledge so Naruto reduced the amount of chakra used to a minimum. To that end he climbed to the top of the Yamaguchi mansion using some rope and his kunai. As he reached the roof he could see his teammates at work. The first thing he noticed was the power outage. This had the guards scrambling for some technicians. Towards the east wing, a couple of men were investigating what they were thinking was the source of the problem. Closer to the main entrance a man looking to be one of the leaders was being dragged into the place – from the looks of things they probably though he was the one responsible for this. This made things almost too easy. He wasn't going to complain about it this time. There were plenty of chances to be flashy after he had made Chunin.

The boy looked for an entrance on the roof. Finding none, he used his rope to reach the highest window. It was locked from the inside by a simple locket. Naruto cursed and took out one of his chakra channeling kunai. A few swipes later and Naruto was able to finally enter the place with barely a sound. The empty but lavished room told him he was in one of guestrooms. Three Naruto clones emerged from the room stealthily scouting the place. Thanks to his natural talent and experience against the ANBU, the blond was able to avoid four different encounters either by judicious usage of the henge jutsu, the good old 'sticking to the walls thing', or simply dispelling a Shadow Clone; all that to learn neither target was on the top floor. Apprehensive, Naruto carefully dispelled the remaining clones and made his way down.

After a left turn, Naruto found a long corridor filled with doors. Patrols flickered between the crossing halls, raising the blonde's hope of finally finding what he was looking for. None of them looked the shinobi type, so Naruto took a gamble and crawled through the main path from the ceiling. At the end was a door guarded by two burly looking men. He waited for all the other patrols to be out of sight and dropped on the guards. Since he had chakra and the element of surprise, the skirmish was over in a little more than an instant. Still, it wouldn't do for people to find the two unconscious guards so he quickly opened the door they were guarding, threw them in before entering himself, taking care of leaving behind two clones Transformed into the tough looking ruffians.

Inside was a very well decorated study filled with polished wooden furniture. To the right, Ishida Yamaguchi had abruptly stood up from a beige sofa, the novel he was reading forgotten on the floor. A second, older man was starting at him incredulously from behind an oak desk. Naruto took note of the sealed scroll on said desk. From the looks of things, father and son had intended to meet the shinobi here – maybe that scroll contained the details of their employment.

"And who in the blazes are you?" said the man disdainfully. He looked so commending Naruto almost missed the trembling of his hands and the slight stutter in his voice.

The boy grin mischievously "Uh, Aya's bodyguard? That won't work anymore huh?"

'Funny how the man's glare eerily resembled that of Genta or even Hiashi. Also, did aristocrats have a sneering class he wasn't conscious of? At any rate, now he knew where Ishida got his death stare from. But this wouldn't do from the looks of things the man wasn't about to stay quiet, and yelling or stalling would only bring trouble. Before the man could protest or threaten him Naruto Body Flickered behind Ishida with a kunai pointed at his throat.

"Ah, ah, ah… we wouldn't want to do something stupid like alerting the other guards, would we?" Ishida's father froze. "Now listen carefully, you only move or speak if I tell you to. Otherwise… well I don't need any of you to do my job, really." the Yamaguchi paled in unison. Naruto's grin grew to become chilling. "I'm on a tight schedule so let make it quick, shall we? First things first; Mr. Yamaguchi, if you would be so kind as to come and join your son? And bring that scroll I saw on your desk with you."

The man moved with deliberate sluggishness, but Naruto didn't seem bothered. He used the time to bind his hostage's arms with his free hand – quite tricky. Once the businessman arrived he had him tie up his son and sat him on the couch, before Naruto did the same to him. He gagged them, and then sat between the two of them to take a look at the scroll. The boy whistled.

Jackpot.

"Um, Mr. Yamaguchi, you wouldn't mind if I borrowed this, right?" listening to nothing but angry grunts, Naruto stood up and headed for his desk. "Thanks! That's very kind of you, sir. What's this I hear? You're telling me I can help myself to whatever I should find in this room? Well, if you insist." He said chuckling kindly.

He pretended to sort through the library and grabbed anything worth looting at first sight. He found two more scrolls of interest behind a safe he easily cracked – really, the knob trick was even easier for him, who had his senses enhanced by both his shinobi training and the Kyubi. Once he was done he left by the same way he entered, careful to avoid any confrontation. He left whatever unnecessary loot he had carried on the guestroom bed and exited by the same window he entered in. At that moment, the clones he had left as fake guards dispatched, and informed him that the trio of runaway shinobi had arrived. Naruto quickly fled to meet his teammates at the same at the rendezvous point – the same spot they started their little operation from.

"So, got anything we can use?" asked Sasuke, still a bit miffed he didn't get to infiltrate the mansion.

"That's the good news," he answered, throwing them the scrolls he had found.

"Let me guess; the reinforcements arrived," grumbled Shikamaru.

Once again Naruto responded positively. "So what do we do? There's no telling if they won't go after the Fukazawa family before we get to warn them."

"Let's just get back to our place. Our mission was to get the info; we got it, the rest Jiraiya can take care of."

This went against Naruto's desire to kick ass, but he remembered the name of the game. He nodded bitterly bidding his time until his promotion.

"Not so fast!"

The team plus Shizune looked at the three shinobi behind them. They had a mean air around them no wonder they were called the Evil Shinobi Brothers. The scrawniest and probably youngest had his tonfa drawn out, the second a shinobi was as large as any Akimichi, and the third looked their leader. Naruto grinned. Next to him Shikamaru cursed. Well… if they were so eager to receive their ass whooping, he could only do the right thing and provide his services – free of charge. That helping others was part of his nindo after all.

Without another lost moment, Naruto mouthed "B" to Shikamaru before throwing a smoke bomb. The noise grenade quickly followed, disorienting the criminals and giving Shikamaru the time he needed to put all of them under his control. Naruto moved to the side and used his Corkscrew Hurricane on the three at the same time, throwing them off the building. The maneuver was so quickly and well executed it amazed him. He ignored Sasuke's burning stare and looked down below to check on their opponents. He saw no bodies below, but those spots…

"Water…? Shit! These are Water Clones!"

"You'd be correct."

Naruto's face twitched. He seriously couldn't believe he, the clone user, had fallen for the clone trick. This was something Shikamaru would've mocked weren't it for the very real Janin brothers on the adjacent building. He was a bit surprised they had pursued him in the first place – he had just stolen some scrolls after all. So he asked cheekily.

"Can I help you with something?"

"How about you give us the scroll you stole and we don't spread the word about Konoha stooping to burglary."

Naruto threw an apologetic glance at Shikamaru, who was pinching his nose in frustration. The Chunin might not like it, but at this point a fight was inevitable since the rogue shinobi had recognized the Nara's signature move. The only worthwhile question was whether there would be fights or a big melee and he knew the answer: though Sasuke did want to work on combination attacks, they weren't nearly comfortable enough to really fight as a team against, what arguably could be real brothers. That left them with one obvious solution.

Once again Naruto threw down a smoke bomb, this time to hide their exit. The Rookies had to move fast. There was no question the Janin Brothers would catch up soon. The problem was their little robbery took place during the evening – the sun wasn't even setting yet. Infiltration in broad daylight was bold, but also unexpected, however, time was now playing against them; fighting here would definitely lead to casualties, which at best would be bad press for their village should they be identified. Should those shinobi come to escape and spread the tale…

Three teams of young men had fled from the smoke, leading the overconfident brothers to split up and give chase. Luckily, Shikamaru had given Naruto a good tip when planning a mission: always have a backup plan – a backup plan to your backup plan wouldn't hurt either. Because of this, the team had scouted the Stem Village and found a rather large abandoned warehouse near the Fukazawa where they would be able to fight without much trouble. Each of his teammates was with two transformed clones, and would be converging towards the building. He just hoped he'd have the boss after him – kicking the Boss' ass was another trademark of side missions after all.

"I don't know, what you're trying to do brat, but I can already tell you that it's useless."

A quick glimpse told him that the man after him looked like the oldest, therefore the most likely leader of the group. Naruto grinned the whole way to the spot he prepared.

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Shikamaru silently cursed the whole way to the warehouse. He was starting to wonder if Naruto's streak of bad luck in missions were a sort of cosmic counterbalance to his ridiculous luck – he still couldn't get over the fact he lost with loaded dice. The worst part was his friend would actually consider this good luck. The good part about being chased by high Chunin level Jonin still eluded him. He decided let go of that train of thought; after all he couldn't afford to jinx this mission more than it already was.

This specific building was designed to store wares greatly varying in sizes so it consisted of one large room with office, a WC and a cargo lift – a pulley system, really – somewhere on the sides. The makeshift team had planned to draw the Janin Brothers to a floor each. Shikamaru had asked for the bottom floor; as he found it was easier to control the light sources in there. The brother he had managed to lure was the bulky one and had, according to his Bingo Book, the ability to control magnetism. Also, he fought with a spiked ball a chain. Great, once again Shikamaru had the mid range to long range fighter to tackle; this was getting redundant.

At least the fight would be short.

They entered the room with a slight interval. This gave Shikamaru ample time to get into the position he had strategically devised to capture his opponent. So when a kunai flew straight for the lamp behind Shikamaru, he was quite aggravated. And if that wasn't bad enough, Jiga made sure take out the rest of the lights as well leaving them both in near-total darkness.

"You think because I'm fat, that I'm stupid, brat? There are few people around the shinobi nations that do not know of the Nara clan, and even less that live to learn about their mistake. I also happen to know the weakness to your technique," he said while pulling out and spinning his chained mace. "So, the only real question now is… how long can you last without your precious jutsu?"

Shikamaru frowned. This was getting better and better. The only things he was grateful for were his enhanced senses, and that it was still day outside. He couldn't see as well as he wanted, but his hearing more than made up for it. More importantly, his sharp reaction time saved him for the spiked ball hurled at an unnatural speed in his direction – probably thanks to the man's magnetism. The Chunin leaned and turned, letting the weapon wreck the various crate haphazardly left to rot, and go on to pierce the wall behind him. Shikamaru blinked – he did not want to even graze that thing.

Apparently, Jiga's vision was significantly impaired by the lack of light because his next shots missed as well; he probably had aimed so well because he remembered Shikamaru's position from before. Still, the man wasn't quite out of tricks yet.

"Well, if I can't see you, I'll just have to drag you here!"

Suddenly all the metal in the room and the walls gravitated towards and around Jiga. The various nails around the boxes and the wall were wrenched out of their places, yet Shikamaru wasn't moving an inch.

"You know," he drawled, "You're not the only one to know about your opponent. I read your profiles and I made sure I wasn't wearing anything metallic in the first place – except those."

'Those' were a bunch of tagged kunai. Shikamaru did not give the magnetic shinobi the chance to even identify the weapons and remotely triggered his explosives. These ones were like the one he used against Naruto, meaning one of them wasn't strong enough to kill or heavily injure a fully trained shinobi – especially one surrounded by metal. A dozen of those however… The concussive blasts were enough to give Jiga a severe beat down and even bring down part of the ceiling on top of him.

Interestingly enough, a defeated Ruiga had also fallen with the rubble – the body was still twitching. A few moments later Sasuke dropped through the ceiling, looked at the mess, and from what the Chunin could gather, tried to kill him with his stare.

Shikamaru sighed exasperatedly while rubbing his shoulder and muttered "Troublesome," and then louder "…what?"

"I was about to finish him off," he growled, marching towards him.

Huh. Knowing the Uchiha a bit better, he shouldn't be surprised by the glare. Naruto would have reacted the same way. He had nothing to say to that, so he shook his head in exasperation instead.

There was a crash coming from above and more rubble came falling down. The two teens had to move around to prevent being buried. They looked at each other before moving up to find their teammate.

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Man, I'm so glad I fought Kabuto.

With the amount of struggle and deadly jutsu he had experienced with the evil medic nin, Naruto was much more prepared to fight someone like Ruiga. The guy relied a bit too much on his fake-ice element jutsu – the techniques he used weren't even near as deadly as were Haku's demonic ice mirrors and the ice itself was not as hard or as versatile. Also, from the effort the man put in keeping Naruto at bay, he probably couldn't handle Naruto's melee attacks or his kodachi. He had to admit though, that solar beam technique of his was pretty awesome – He was lucky he had lured the man had in this secluded place or there would have been serious casualties.

What to do, what to do? The Genin as he moved around, his arms surrounded in visible gusts of wind. His clones had been dispatched earlier during the fight – taken out by that one shot actually. The rogue soldier had trouble guarding Naruto at bay with his ice element, but even with all the trouble Naruto knew that one false move against a jutsu of that magnitude would be fatal. He could have waited for the sun to set, but that was a couple of minutes too long for the hyperactive blond

He rushed suddenly. Almost taking his opponent off guard, but the experienced Jonin aimed for ground in front of Naruto, forcing the teen to jump in order to dodge the icicles coming his way. Both knew what was coming next. Thankfully Naruto had found a good way of dealing with the deadly beam attack – he only hoped the wire would hold.

As Ruiga charged the second shot of his jutsu, Naruto infused Wind Chakra into one of his chakra conducting kunai and threw it before the man could aim the deadly ice weapon in his direction. The good news was the ninja wire did withstand the strain – to the point he nearly dislocated his shoulder because of the kunai's kinetic force. The bad news was the explosion certainly did take care of the wire. Naruto joy nearly evaporated at the prospect of losing such a weapon. It was probably somewhere on the second… wait! He could make out the metallic weapon poking out of a pile of debris. Naruto let out a breath. It was too risky to use wires seeing he nearly lost one of his kunai on the first try. He sighed – back to the drawing board.

As for Ruiga, if the cut to his side from Naruto's kunai hadn't stopped him, the small explosion of the ice disk certainly did. It also took half of the building with it.

Well, no one had told him he couldn't blow up people indirectly.

"Efficient, Naruto, that's was the rule. Not overkill – even less 'Let's just destroy half of the damn building'."

Naruto groaned. Leave it to his friend to ignore his awesomeness – he feared he would be eternally misunderstood. "Aw come on, Shikamaru! It's his own damn fault the thing blew up on him, he just didn't have to aim it at me," he teased with a wolfish grin. "Anyway, this is the time when we usually get the hell away from the area before the authorities think we had something to do with it."

Shikamaru snorted. "I suppose you have experience in the domain."

Naruto thumbed his torso with pride. "The number one prankster of Konoha, don't you forget it!"

Sasuke shook his head in exasperation. "So… back to Jiraiya?"

The two other teens gave each other startled looks, to his great annoyance. Naruto coughed to regain his composure. "Well actually, since the Janin Brothers are taken care of, we can probably finish this mission by ourselves, right?"

His partners agreed. The next moment they left for the Fukazawa mansion. Shizune caught up to them after making sure the Janin brothers wouldn't cause trouble for the local authorities – they certainly wouldn't, as she found they were all dead – and they all arrived at about the same time. The group of shinobi simply waltzed in, completely bypassing the guards there.

The look on the face of Fukazawa when he saw the young shinobi again was something to see, but not as much as his expression when he read his own death warrant – that one was priceless. Naruto snorted at the disgusting change of attitude the man went through though – from cold and spiteful to… oily and calculating. He wondered if they hadn't mistakenly given ideas to the man. Well they certainly were not going to be the one to dirty their hands for him. That aside Naruto felt especially vindicated when the man kneeled in gratitude and apology. Then came the part the blond was waiting for all along. Now was the opportunity for sweet revenge.

"I can't fathom what would drive you to go this far to help me considering my… earlier manners," said the Mr. Fukazawa.

"Think of it as the Nara way of looking after our business partner," said Shikamaru, ever the tactful young man – when he wanted to. However Naruto had his own two ryo to put in.

"Oh, don't be shy Shikamaru you can tell Fukazawa the truth." Everyone looked at him. He approached Aya's father and in a fake whisper said, "See, he seems he fell under the charm of your lovely daughter while we were traveling and had to help when he heard of her troubles."

"WHAT?"

Two people shouted in unison. The first was obviously Shikamaru, while the second was Aya herself who had been there all along, and was now having a nosebleed. The young Chunin saw it and took a cautious step back while promising a long, dragged out, and ridiculously painful death to a certain blond with his eyes.

"Oh Shika! Risking your life for me! You shouldn't have!" She was grabbing her hands in a swooning gesture, but for some strange reason, she looked more like a predator ready to pounce.

"…Is that so?" Naruto shivered when he heard that voice, and had to remind himself that this voice belong to a civilian – a civilian who was now leaking killer intent.

Shikamaru took a deep breath and another step back. "Whatever my feelings are on the matter, we should be going. We have pressing matters to attend to," he said while looking at Naruto, who was rolling on the floor.

"Yes, you should," agreed the father.

Shikamaru barely waited for the dismissal before vanishing. Naruto was finding it hard to breathe, Shizune was giggling, and even Sasuke was having trouble keeping his air of stuck up-ness. As for Aya, she was pouting, until she remembered Naruto was in the room. And that was cue for Naruto to escape as well.

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Meanwhile, Jiraiya was in a bar of questionable reputation drinking sake and being entertained by some glamorous women. He found no research material at his various spots, so his novel was put on hold for the moment. Big deal! This had his own set of advantages, and at the rate things were going he might have some hands on experience for inspiration – for free at that. The best part was the brat and his friends were out of the way and Shizune was keeping an eye on them. Since anyone who could actually care was gone, it was the perfect time for some fun – hell only knew if he'd get that leisure back in Konoha.

The brunette next to him was whispering an address into his ear when she suddenly stopped. Jiraiya groaned – he hadn't heard the street name right. He turned to ask the hot woman for clarification, but by the paleness of her face, he probably wouldn't get an answer. The Sannin was internally fuming. That was the second time someone had pulled off the killing intent thing right when he was getting to the good part – next time ally or not, the bastard would get a kunai stuck in their neither regions. For now, he had to admit he was curious. The killing intent was familiar, and yet there was something… off. He realized the reason was the suffocating pressure was targeting someone else – or rather at everyone but him; that was strange usually Princess—

…Oh.

Just like that, Jiraiya's already bad mood plummeted into the nearest abyss. Considering the kind of place this establishment attracted, it was clear what her reason for coming was. He decided he should leave before things got out of hand. It would be a real shame to wreck this place – the bar had the hottest ladies working for them.

"Oi, Jiraiya! Come and drink with me!"

And there went his exit. It's not like he was a coward or polite or anything, but he remembered crashing her drinking pity party a week ago or so – he guessed this was her way of getting even. Who knew what would happen if he simply left this time. She might even interrupt one of his research sessions. Not to mention the shitload of trouble he'd been in if she did take the Hokage's hat. And so the lecherous sage got up and sat near his ex-teammate, grumbling all the way.

"What do you want Tsunade?"

"We hadn't finished talking when you left."

Jiraiya snorted. If that what was she wanted to call their confrontation… "Maybe you hadn't, but I said everything I needed, and I don't need to hear what you have to say." He drank his cup like it was juice.

The blonde pretended not to hear that last statement. "What you said back there gave me a lot to think about." Jiraiya did not react other than grabbing the bottle of sake he had ordered and pouring himself another cup. "But I'm not going to discuss that with you. I am going to go on a limb and say that wasn't the only reason you were so pissed at me. If that's the case then we're going to have to settle it – sometime before setting foot in the village."

"Unlike you, I'm perfectly able to put aside my personal issues in order to do a job." The woman gave him a look. "The parameters for this mission were to bring you back to in shape to take the position of Hokage. I don't have to settle anything with you to bring you back – I don't even have to settle anything with you to work for you."

Wood splintered. "Tell me Jiraiya, why is it that you can't answer a single fucking question?"

"What's it to you anyway?" Jiraiya was annoyed by Tsunade's sudden interest in his resentment, but decided he didn't want a repeat of that day he nearly died. "Tell you what - you answer my question and I'll answer yours."

Tsunade paused. It took her a moment to remember the last words they exchanged. "Why I am going back? Because Konoha needs me." A snort. "Because you need a new Hokage and I want to repay Sarutobi for what he did for me." A louder snort. "Fine! Because I met a little brat annoying enough that I want to throttle him. But the things he says and the things he does, they made me realize what being Hokage is about. Knowing this, I don't if I could look my old folks in the eyes if I didn't try to protect what they gave their lives to build. At least until a proper one is found." This time, Jiraiya remained silent. It seemed Tsunade also thought Naruto would make a good leader some day. "…So? What the hell is wrong with you?"

He sighed. Trying to say everything without saying anything, he answered, "In the space of half a year I met all of my teammates again – that's what happened."

Tsunade blinked. "I don't remember pissing you off enough that you'd hold a grudge against like you have for Orochimaru. Hell I didn't even know you were so pissed at the old man."

"Of course you wouldn't – you weren't there." You were never there. You, Orochimaru, even the old man… my team, my supposed family and you guys were never there – every single fucking time. "I guess I was lashing out. Sorry about that."

Tsunade gave him a look. Something flickered in her eyes that Jiraiya couldn't recognize. "I'll save that discussion for another time, Jiraiya." The medic took a pause to collect her thoughts while he pondered why the woman even cared about what he thought of her when she hadn't for years. "So, what am I up against back home?" she asked putting the topic at rest.

"Your problems are two-fold. First, you have Danzo, who's under the impression that you and Orochimaru were allies." Tsunade snorted at the way he had phrased that. "Now if it was anyone but you, that would be enough to prevent you from even setting foot back into Konoha. As it is, he'll probably use that information to blackmail you into doing him some favors. And then you have Genta to worry about."

The Slug Sage looked thoughtful. "Genta? Who's he?"

"…Right. I forgot you were out of the loop for a while. Let's just say he's the head of the shinobi council and leave it at that."

"Wait, we have a shinobi council now?"

Jiraiya grumbled something inaudible. He didn't have time for this shit. He had places to be, women to seduce, women baths to research… Luckily Tsunade picked up on his impatience and stuck to the essential.

"So? Is he after the Hat as well?"

And that's the real problem, thought the old spy before he answered, "…No, and I'll leave it at that." He deliberately ignored Tsunade's frown. He was truly glad he wouldn't be fully involved in all that mess – the simple thought of the situation was giving him a headache. "Well, you should be alright princess, you're royalty after all."

His answer set the medic's bells ringing. "You're telling me this as if it doesn't concern you."

"You're right. It doesn't – I hate politics." If he didn't wouldn't he be the Hokage already? "Well you have enough to think of something. And I can always vouch for you if you need me to."

And with that, he had told her all she needed to know. And so he set out to find another spot to occupy his thoughts. Thankfully the night was still young.

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The trip back was uneventful and relatively quick considering they didn't have a certain someone weighing them down. A little less than a full day and the team could already recognize the familiar trees and scents surrounding their village. The feelings of the travelers were mixed for the most part. Almost half of them had had their first conscious kill during the mission. None of them took it well, but none of them took it particularly bad either.

Once they reached the building, the teenagers left to do their own thing – surely the Sannin would be able to debrief and do whatever succession procedures they needed to do. Sasuke left for his training grounds. Shikamaru went to gather his team to catch up, and Naruto… was trying very hard to think through is next move and steam was leaking from his ears by the intensity of his pondering. He knew he wanted to train – obviously! And he had so many ways of improving. Did he pester Shizune for some training on the famous mystical palm jutsu? Did he train his base speed and reflexes? Did he ask Asuma some pointers for his kunai? Should he focus on mastering his kodachi instead? Did he try coming up with new wind jutsu? Should he begin to learn about seals? So many possibilities to grow stronger, meanwhile they all required effort. The task seemed difficult – even with the help of his clones.

But then, as much as he was thinking of getting stronger he knew the real question was what he was going to do before training – namely that mysterious third-party in his mind. He had always thought it was the Kyubi who took control when he lost it. Apparently he was wrong, and that kind of mistake could prove deadly. In other words this couldn't wait until the next mission. The question then was – how long would it take him to find the problem and fix it? Would he be able to? At least he now had a less painful way of entering his mind. He had asked Jiraiya and the Toad Sage had given him what he dubbed 'focus tags' that would help him to reach the state of semi-unconsciousness needed to enter the depths of his mind. Naruto sighed and headed to his apartment – might as well get it over with.

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Inside his mind, Naruto quickly strayed from the path leading to the Nine Tails and found himself in a dull and depressing version of the Konoha market. He hastened his pace; as much as he hated the real version the place for the way the merchants had treated him through the years, he hated this twisted copy even more. This place could give any ghost town a run for its money in sheer creepiness.

He neared the Fancy Futabe clothes shop, and stopped. …There! Unless his mind was playing tricks on him he could see… color. Considering the only thing in color that didn't repulse him his mindscape so far was a big bad fur ball of chakra, Naruto approached cautiously. He was pleasantly surprised to learn the color belonged to his favorite banner: Ichiraku's.

But it wasn't only the banner: the stools, the counter… as he got closer Naruto could swear he could even smell the delectable aroma of ramen. When he arrived he was a bit disappointed. Teuchi and Ayame weren't there – instead statues made to look like them were striking a pose that made him smile. The old ramen Chef's statue had captured his best cooking pose, while Ayame's was serving an invisible customer. And from the position of the bowl, Naruto could see it was him they were serving – or at least this would be the stool he'd be sitting at if this were real. As touching as it all was, this only served to make Naruto's stomach grumble.

When I'm done here I'm so eating my weight in ramen.

Still this little ordeal served to highlight new information. If he wanted to find his mystery mind controller, he should head to the places most significant to him. The good news was, he exactly the place that could fit the bill. Now, if only he didn't hate the place even more than the market place. He hesitated for a moment, but curiosity pushed him and he started walking only to stop in front a familiar rundown neighborhood.

Well, here I am, I guess.

He thought the place would look worse in his mind, but as he got closer to the building he felt it was downright nightmarish. Naruto seriously wondered if he shouldn't just backtrack and try another day, heck, maybe he could hang around the Hokage faces for a while and find something there. A second look at the building and he set his mind – Yep, he was definitely getting the hell out of here. He turned around a jumped back. Facing him was none other than… himself?

"And here I thought I'd never get to meet you."

"Damn, man! You nearly scared the shit out of me!" Naruto wheezed as he clutched his heart. He observed and circled his other self, who apart from his eyes – black sclera, red irises, real scary – was his carbon copy. Once he had he concluded, "Man I don't want to sound vain, but you look awesome, if I do say so myself."

The clone grinned, showing a fang. "I know right! I was born that way, you know! I must admit you're not so bad looking yourself."

Naruto hid a fake blush "Stop it, I'm blushing here!"

They went back and forth commenting on their mutual awesomeness for a good five minutes. Then Naruto finally got around to enquiring about more pressing matters. Namely:

"So… are you like, my mindscape 'me', 'cause I thought I was that, you know?"

"Nah, I'm not you exactly – I'm part of you."

Naruto perked up, interested. "Oh? Which part? The scary badass part?"

His other self chuckled. "Not quite; I'm your deep dark hidden side."

Naruto's smile faltered a bit. Now that wasn't so cool. He gave his dark self another look and sat that down, pondering. That didn't really make sense. What did dark and hidden mean? Wouldn't anger, hatred, sadness grief and depression count for dark emotions? He felt those things all the time. Like when Jiraiya told him about his father. Heck, he felt plenty of hatred and anger towards that Bastard Sasuke and that was on a daily basis.

"Ah, but you don't really hate Sasuke, do you?" Supplied dark… evil…? How was he supposed to call him? Naruto 2? "I prefer 'Nega-Naruto', myself – sounds badass. And no, I can't read your mind, but I know what you think – I am part of you, you know."

Naruto closed his opened mouth, tried to open it again in order to say something that didn't make him look cooler than his counterpart. This process repeated two or three times until he pouted.

"This sucks! You're not supposed to sound cooler and more badass than me! And how come I don't know what you're thinking, huh?" He ignored the shrug of his counterpart and pushed the issue at hand. "So you're saying I don't really hate anyone?"

Nega-Naruto's smile grew even more feral than Naruto's. "Oh, you hate some of them alright – the village for the most part, some of your old classmates. Even the Bastard and her blind fangirl, but in their case it's more like anger and resentment more than hatred. Still, you just don't show it. And don't you find it odd how quickly you got over that whole ordeal with our dad being the Fourth? That's why I'm here, you know?"

Naruto focused on that last part. "So what? Does that mean you're stuck here or something?" If that was true, and Nega-Naruto truly was part of him… then that really sucked. This place was pretty much the manifestation of all he hated about his life!

"Pretty much," nodded his other self. "And you're right – it does suck. You have no idea how much I hate this place! There's no one here but me, and the only thing I do all day is think about how weak you are to let them walk all over you and leave with all that dark depressing shit to deal with." Naruto winced – that did not sound pleasant. Nega-Naruto sighed. "The only times I get a bit of freedom is when you lose it."

Naruto's blood ran cold. "Wait! You're the one who's taking control of my body? Not the Kyubi?" Suddenly he remembered what the Nine Tails said about his weak will – it now made a frightening amount of sense.

The other teen snorted. "Heh, took you long enough to figure out that part, did ya? Actually it's more of a joint effort. The Nine Tails told me how to do it – in exchange I had to take part of its consciousness with me. But if that Fur ball thinks I'm not into his little plot of his, it's got another thing coming."

So, even his dark self and the Kyubi didn't quite get along.

"Get along!? You and I hate that thing as much as we hate the village," he sneered. But Nega-Naruto quickly stopped his little outburst and grinned once again. "But I have to thank you, boss. Thanks to your deal with Jiraiya, I can get out without giving an inch to the Fox Bastard. And once I kick your ass here, it'll be super fun happy time, all the time. Oh I can't wait to give those self-righteous bitches what's coming to them! The look on fear and desperation on their faces… I'm giddy with anticipation."

Naruto rolled into a back flip from where he sat, and landed in a defensive stance. "If you think I'm just going to let you walk out of here after spouting things like that, you got another thing coming, you know!"

As for his new opponent, he let out an absurd amount of bluish chakra that cloaked him in a way eerily similar to that of the Kyubi. "I was hoping you'd say that. Try to make this fun for me, Boss!"

It's Naruto vs. Naruto! May the best Naruto win! …Naruto!

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A/N: So… I'm back -_-'. Anyways… thanks for the 1k guys! Really appreciate it. I might update again before the end of the year, but as usual, I make no promises. Sorry for another cliffhanger. You have to admit the chapter ended at the right moment though.

Anyways, The arc is ending soon, you'll finally see a glimpse of what I have in store politically wise, and maybe people will stop yapping about the civilian council, since we haven't even seen it yet – if ever. Also, I find it funny how people rant by asking sarcastic questions – especially when if they actually thought through those questions they would have found their answers.

Well, that's about it. Next up: end terms -_-'. Leave a review won't ya? It'll ease the stress of those dreaded last minute cram sessions.

You know where the R&R is. And on that note…

Snippet

Rev: "Fine"? "FINE"?! Which part is "FINE", SHIKA?! Don't you DARE let Naruto GO! Is your bond that weak with him to let him go easily?! DAMN YOU! #shook Shika nonstop
Shika: *shaken* Hey… wait… need… breathing…
SShun: huh, I think you're misunderstanding something. Either Naruto becomes a Chunin OR Jiraiya take him on his three-four year thing.
Naru: So really Shikamaru was fine with doing the mission so Jiraiya could accept me as a Chunin.
SShun: …You OK there Shikamaru?
Shika: *crumples on the floor* I… hate… you…

R_: Please Continue...! #puppy-eyes-ing
SShun: Well, as long as I you realize I'm immune to puppy-eyes and that you didn't specify a time range (meaning I get to procrastinate as long as I want) it's all fine
Naru & Shika & Aya:

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Rev: Aya is hilarious and Genta I think he was called is a pretty unique villain. Most of the time it is Danzo or a civilian council calling the shots. The fact that you just have a shinobi council and this guy got to the top shows he isn't the type of villain Naruto could cope with without Shikamaru.
SShun: …You actually got it! I'm sorry but people have mentioned the civilian council so many times I was starting to worry I had wrote something to that effect somewhere. And you're right of course – Genta is on another level.
Shika: You'd think people would notice these kinds of details before accusing Shun. I bet they didn't even notice one important character hasn't got a last name yet…

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Rev: I wonder what Hinata would say if she ever met Aya…
SShun: Oh, you don't have to wonder. That encounter is definitely coming.
Naru: Oh, oh! Is she going to hit her with her Gentle Fist?
Aya: Naru! That's mean!
SShun: …Yeah that's kind of cruel.
Naru: *bows head in shame*
SShun: Not to say that meeting won't be painful though.
Aya: … eh?

R_: Damn it Naruto! You'll never live up to your mentors if you keep shying away from women. What a baby!
SShun & Shika: *Nods*
Naru: Oh screw you guys! You all know it's nothing about shying from women and all about shying from Aya.
Aya: Hey are you saying I'm not a woman?!
Naru & Shika: Of course I/he am/is!
Aya: *Goes to cry in the corner* You guys suck!
SShun:

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