- ナルト- 幻脅威宴
Chapter Eight: Kitsune Days – Midday Chapter
Sayuri Wikes Pwetty Jutsu!
Naruto felt awfully empty. Like a man who, after weeks of being lost in the desert, having run out of food and water, decides to just give up and wait for the sweet, cold embrace of death, Naruto was slumped down against a tree in yet another random training area of Konohagakure. Only his right leg was stretched and his left arm was resting on his left knee.
There seem to be a lot of those. Training areas, that is.
Mou…onii-chan…why didn't we have wamen? I thought we would have wamen.
"Haaa…" Naruto exhaled. "…didn't you like the…" His body shook as if jolted by an electrical spark. It was not electricity, though. It was just despair. "…teriyaki?"
Um! Sayuri nodded joyfully. It was good! But wamen's better!
"I know…" Naruto buried his face in his hands and sobbed. "I know."
He wondered if Kotonoha had already "disposed of" his kitchen's stock of instant ramen. "Damn those evil and crazy women…they can't watch over me forever!" With a defiant fist to the heavens, Naruto stoked the flames of his determination. "But…"
He sighed. Under the shade of the tree he was sitting against, he could not bask in the soothing, comfortable warmth of the early afternoon.
"What do I do now?" Naruto's face was unusually solemn. He seemed tired. "Kotonoha was a no-no. I only have nine days left before I have to fight that Neji!"
Fighting is bad. Naruto-nii-chan shouldn't fight. Naruto-nii-chan should be happy and pway with Sayuri!
"Pray? Ah, you mean, 'play'."
"Uh-huh. Anyway, this is kind of a very, very important thing, Sayuri. I cannot back down from this."
Muu…okay. I believe onii-chan.
"Haaa…thanks, I guess." Naruto sighed again. "But what am I supposed to do now? I had this whole month to become stronger, but now I feel like I've only wasted my time! I haven't even learned a single jutsu!"
Onii-chan can summon Kitsune.
"Well, yeah, but that wouldn't be fair." He paused. "Not that I really care about fairness, but the whole point of kicking Neji's ass is proving that I'm not a loser! I won't if I make a Kitsune beat him for me!"
Hmm…I don't get it.
"Of course you don't." Naruto rolled his eyes.
But, onii-chan…onii-chan only wants jutsu?
"Well, of course! I need new, cool stuff to beat that jerk!" He paused. "And what do you mean, 'only'?"
Waaah! That's easy! Easy-peachy! Sayuri knows jutsu! Sayuri can teach onii-chan jutsu!
Well, he cannot be blamed for that.
Um! Jutsu, jutsu! Sayuri will teach onii-chan really nice jutsu! Te-hee!
Sayuri is not really helping the case much.
"Didn't Kotonoha say you just randomly set people on fire?" He paused. Again. "…and why exactly am I complaining?"
The two boys shuddered together.
"The room's temperature just dropped, didn't it?"
"Yes, it did. In fact, it's killing my hive."
"Hmm…and it suddenly got kinda dark…"
"It seems there's an unpredicted partial eclipse."
Akamaru whined. The two boys and dog turned back to face the source of the new, unbridled terror that invaded them. Her lunch was left forgotten on a wooden tray in front of her. Her small hands gripped the sheets and threatened to tear them apart. Her short hair fell down her forehead, covering her bloodshot eyes.
"N-nee, Sadako-I mean, Hinata…"
"What…did…you…just…say…?" Hinata repeated; her voice frighteningly low-pitched and guttural. In all honesty, if she had suddenly spun her head 360 degrees, they would not have been surprised in the slightest.
"He said we met with Naruto on the way here. He was accompanied by the waitress from the ramen stand he frequents." Shino detailed.
As if his words somehow carried a mysterious power over her, Hinata suddenly relaxed. The sheets sighed in relief, the planetary bodies returned to their proper positions in the sky and the normal temperature was restored.
"A-Ayame…san?" Leave it to Hinata to know the name of the people in charge of Naruto's favorite place in the whole world.
"They seemed rather close. I must say it was surprising."
"Rather close?" Kiba gaped. "The chick was all ove-uagh!"
Kiba bent forward and fell on the clean hospital floor in a fetal position, grunting and groaning after Shino punched him in the gut.
"Ki-Kiba-kun!" Hinata hurriedly looked over the edge of her hospital bed, shooting a concerned glance at her fallen teammate. Akamaru was barking complaints at the bug user.
"Do not mind him." Shino explained. "He does not know what he is saying."
"Ah…oh…" Hinata nodded and eased back on the bed, looking still a bit uncertain. However, Shino's words possessed amazing dialectic powers.
Shino eased back the foot with which he kicked Kiba's right side. "Manners in front of the lady, Kiba."
Shino has always been a very perceptive person. "I am sure he has been very involved with his preparation for the finals. Neither Kiba nor I had seen him since the preliminaries until yesterday."
"Umm…um, yes. I guess…" Hinata muttered with a half-smile.
"You should finish your meal." Shino suggested.
"Umm…hai." Hinata nodded bashfully, picking the chopsticks…and dropping them again. "…Shino-kun?"
"What about the other woman?"
Silence. A crow cawed somewhere outside.
Kiba, still on the floor, snickered. "Hehehehe-ow!"
"Kiba-kun said Naruto-kun was accompanied by two women. Who was the second woman, Shino-kun?"
Shino released an exhalation. It was too quiet to be called a sigh. "I…do not know. It was not someone I can remember having seen before."
Hinata frowned. "Kiba-kun?"
"Believe me, I would remember those-OW! Damn it, Shino!"
"So she's an unknown?" Hinata voiced, her tone obviously one of worry. For a team specialized in recon, an unknown variable was always a worrisome thing. While a part of her –the weak, self-deprecating part of her– wanted to see a tempest in a glass of water, she forced herself to be objective. She would trust in the master of all things objective.
"Shino-kun…what can you tell us…about this woman?"
"She's skilled." Shino stated. "She noticed the insects I had planted on both her and on Ayame-san. I would also suppose that there is a reason she carries a katana with her. The fact that she wears a kimono with the weapon speaks of her skill…or at least of her confidence. What I do not get is the unusual instrument she held under her obi."
Shino looked down at his male teammate. "…you didn't see the backsaw, did you?"
"I throw your words back at ya: I was too busy staring at her humongous-OW! FUCK YOU, SHINO! FUCK YOU! YOU KICKED MY FUCKIN' SPLEEN! OW! YOU DID IT AGAIN! AKAMARU, ATTACK!"
The little white dog only tilted his head and whined. Shino almost looked smug.
"Unlike you, Akamaru knows prudence. And he does learn from his mistakes." He turned to Hinata. "In any case, this woman is as perceptive as a highly skilled ninja, and it seems she can use bladed weapons. Also, as our partner here has so rudely tried to state, she is considerably beautiful. What I cannot make heads or tails of is her last statement."
"Excuse me?" Hinata inquired.
"She claimed to be 'Naruto's servant'. Whether this is something to be taken literally or it has a hidden meaning, I do not know."
Hinata blinked. "S-s-s-se-se-servant?"
For some reason, her mind conjured images of a tall, beautiful girl clad in a French maid costume feeding Naruto his favorite ramen. Her face went white…well, whiter. Then, as if triggering an inherent defense mechanism, her mind changed the hypothetical woman for Hinata herself.
Less than five seconds later, she was drooling like an imbecile.
"Ah? Eh! Ah! I-I'm listening! Really! I'm not imagining Naruto-kun bending me on top of a table or anything!" Hinata claimed in response to Shino's call, waving her arms in front of her as fast as she could.
"So…what are we gonna do?" Naruto was standing in the middle of a clearing, ready to try whatever Sayuri wanted to teach him. While he normally would be very excited at the prospect of learning a new technique, it was hard not to be a bit skeptical when his new teacher happened to be Higashiyama Sayuri.
Umm…well, onii-chan doesn't have tails, so…um! Got it! It's gotta be the Pwetty Beam!
The Pwetty Beam! It's a beam! And it's PWETTY!
"Umm, yeah, I had kinda figured that out already."
It's big! And shiny! And it goes whoosh! And then evwything goes white!
"Uhh…ok. So, how does this work?" Note to self: come up with new jutsu name as soon as possible.
Umm…okay…heheh, it's the first time Sayuri teaches! I'm Sayuri-sensei! Te-he!
"Cute. So, what do I do?"
Um! Well, onii-chan needs chakwa. Like, all over. Sayuri will help! Sayuri will give onii-chan an itty bit of chakwa!
With a pulse of chakra that traveled beyond the clearing and into the sea of trees, Naruto found himself enveloped in the fiery coat of nauseous orange chakra. The almost-physical pressure he still remembered from his experience inside the seal came back in full force, as the sheer power of Sayuri's mere existence threatened to push him down on his knees.
The foxgirl did stop, dispelling the uncomfortable feeling but leaving the awesome cloak of chakra at Naruto's disposal. Mugyuu?
"Damn it, you call that an 'itty bit'?"
Naruto growled. "Damn you and your nine tails."
"I hope nobody else felt that."
As if on cue, all bird nests in a fifty-meter radius fell off their places, the dead bodies of dozens of tiny winged creatures dragged down with them, their brains fried as if exposed to the world's largest cell phone.
Oh, it happened again.
Um! It happened all the time when I got mah nine tails. Yuria-nee-chan told me mah chakwa makes the birdies fall asleep. Isn't that gweat?
Naruto remained in stunned silence, coping with the painful, uncomfortable coldness in his heart at the raw, unbridled innocence in Sayuri's words.
"That 'Yuria-nee-chan' of yours…she's a really, really nice sister, isn't she?"
Um! Sayuri wuvs Yuria-nee-chan lots!
Naruto had to hold back tears. He did not know what saddened him the most: Sayuri's innocence or his sense of detachment when presented with the mass murder of innocent avian wildlife.
It was a good thing, though, that they were pretty far from inhabited Konoha. The pulse didn't travel that far, hence remained undetected. Naruto could, however, still see the face sculpted on the mountain just above the treeline.
"I…see. Okay, so I'll release my chakra, too, all over my body. Right?"
Taking a deep breath and relaxing both his muscles and posture, Naruto willed his chakra to flow. He had to give some credit to Jiraiya. Somehow that punch in the gut from the day they met had done wonders to his chakra control. Ever since he was taught about the chakra circulatory system during the prelims, he had a better idea of what exactly "chakra flow" meant. He could imagine his chakra flowing just like his blood, reaching every inch of his frame.
Moar chakwa, onii-chan!
"Got it, got it." It really humbled him. He knew he had good chakra reserves, but the amount of it he was currently releasing was probably nothing for the little foxgirl sealed in his belly. He opened the gates (not THOSE Gates) a bit further, allowing for a stronger "flow."
"Is this enough…?"
Hmm…maa, I guess. Could be betteh.
Naruto muttered curses under his breath. "Sure, keep rubbing it on my face, damn it. So, what now?"
"…you have no idea of what you're doing, have you?"
Sayuri knows! The Pwetty Beam! Sayuri just… never weally thought about HOW I did it…I just did it.
"I think I hate you more and more with every passing moment."
Mugyuu…onii-chan, you mweanie.
"Joking, joking. You know you're my best friend…as weird as that might be." Naruto chuckled amicably, to which Sayuri replied with a chuckle of her own. "Now, really, try to think a bit more. I can wait."
Ah! Um! Onii-chan, I wuv yuu! I'll do my best!
Therefore, Naruto was partial witness to the amazing spectacle of Sayuri doing something she was not really used to doing: thinking hard.
"Do you really have to make those weird noises?"
It's paht of my character concept.
Sayuri actually released a condescending sigh. Silly onii-chan. Let Sayuri think!
Hmm…so…like that…and then…mugyuu…thinking is hard.
"I want to laugh at that sentence, but for some reason I just can't."
Mugyuu…Sayuri doesn't get it, but onii-chan's being a mweanie.
"Ah, sorry." Naruto chuckled.
Maybe I can burn onii-chan's meanness.
A few minutes later, Sayuri claimed to have a plan. With her strangely warm chakra cloaking him, Naruto was starting to seriously sweat.
So…we need to make the pwetty bubbles!
"O-kaaaay. So, how do we make these bubbles?"
Well…you kinda…mugyuu…it's hard to expwain…you, like…let go of your chakwa…and then take it back.
"Uhh…I don't get it."
Mugyuu…it's like…you let go…but then you don't. You let go but don't weally let go.
"Ugh…I think I get what you're trying to say, but…can I do that?"
If I can do it, then surely onii-chan can too!
"For some reason that doesn't really make me feel more confident."
"But let's see if I can work something out!"
Naruto had loads and loads of chakra running through his body, plus a layer of supremely powerful chakra to the point that it coated his body in orange (which was AWESOME). Sayuri was asking him to release it all to the exterior without losing control over it; hence it wouldn't just disperse and be hopelessly lost. Naruto had absolutely no idea if that was even possible.
"Well, here goes nothing."
With a wordless battle cry, Naruto willed his chakra to move. The workings of chakra were beyond him; he only had instinct; feel. He did not know how it was for everyone else; he did not know if it was because of Sayuri, but he had a very strong feel of his chakra. It was the first time he really paid attention to it, but it was almost comforting how it felt almost like water running through and over his body. Yes, the feeling was kind of liquid.
"Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it." Naruto repeated himself like a mantra, for he was about to betray everything he thought he knew about chakra…which was not really much. "And…go!"
He willed his chakra to leave his body, to expand and disperse like any fluid released from its container. However…
Naruto could not possibly understand what happened. For a moment of perfect stillness, Naruto's last command struggled against the natural order of things. The tendrils of chakra eager to fade into the atmosphere froze like orange jelly icicles as the opposing forces, one physical and the other spiritual, tore them apart from the inside out. The opposing forces, away and towards Naruto's body, finally balanced each other out and canceled, leaving only centrifugal forces. The continuous "mass" of chakra broke apart into dozens of separate constructs that rotated around Naruto like satellites, all of them immediately reshaping itself into the most balanced shape they could conceive.
Waaaaai! Pwetty bubbles! Shiny!
It was certainly a beautiful show. The thin chakra structures reacted in strange ways under the sunlight, creating radiant displays of alien color and luster.
"That…that was surprisingly easy." Naruto muttered in disbelief.
Of course it was easy! It's mah jutsu!
Sayuri, possessor of far more chakra and far less control than Naruto, explained.
It made sense that the only jutsu she could pull off are those so pathetically easy that even Sayuri can do them. It was the negative consequence of becoming a nine-tails at the age of 101.
It makes one wonder why Sayuri of all people is the only being who has thought of releasing her chakra before shaping just to see what happens. Probably it is just that everybody assumes it would be nothing but a waste.
"That…somehow actually makes sense." Naruto agreed. "So, what now? We shoot these things?"
Nope! Onii-chan has to gather all the shiny bubbles to make the big shiny ball! That's kinda hard.
"Uh-huh. So, gather them."
Naruto soon realized why Sayuri said it was "kinda hard." The small chakra bubbles liked being bubbles, apparently. They just did not want to merge. At the same time he willed the smaller objects into the gathering, he had to exert "mental pressure" on the thing so that it would not explode on his face. He had the hunch Sayuri was actually somehow helping him. It was difficult, but far from impossible. He was sweating torrents by the time he was done, though. At some point, the whole thing had become an unnervingly pitch black.
"Well…ha…ha…it's done…huff. Now tell me what to do with it before I lose it."
Make it tiny!
Make it tiny, like the pwetty bubbles!
"…you're joking right?"
"…I can't do that!"
Mugya! Eh? Why not?
"I can barely keep it like this! No way in hell I can compress that thing-whoa!" Naruto re-focused on the chakra ball, which had been bloating dangerously due to his loss of concentration. "That was close."
Don't say that, onii-chan! I'm sure onii-chan can do it! I can do it! It doesn't weally have that much chakwa, it should be easy!
Naruto growled and cursed. "I'm only a human, you know."
Mou, onii-chan! Just do it!
"Okay, okay, sheesh…women…" Naruto grumbled before getting to it.
Yurimi was immersed in a bit of light reading, waiting for the call to lunch –it was a bit delayed, actually– when the sliding door to her bedroom opened, revealing the tall figure of her guardian-slash-maid.
"Thank you for the hard work."
She got nothing in response but a smack on the head.
"That's for not warning me this was going to happen, Yurimi-sama."
The two-tails muttered something inaudible. She couldn't help but take a look at the all too familiar sports bag.
"You really never let go of that thing, do you?"
"Of course not. Makoto-kun and I will be together until the end of our days."
Yurimi made an odd face. Doesn't she even realize his days were over a pretty long time ago?
"I think Naruto-sama and Makoto-kun will become good friends. It must be uncomfortable for Makoto-kun…being surrounded by nothing but females the whole time. Humans also need same-gendered friends, you know?"
Yurimi rolled her eyes. "Please refrain from trying to get them together. I don't want my Naruto-sama to be scarred for life."
"Yurimi-sama, that's rude. Makoto-kun and Naruto-sama got along just fine."
"They couldn't have gotten along in the slightest. The very act of getting along implies interaction."
"Yurimi-sama gets along with Makoto-kun…" Kotonoha pouted.
"As long as you keep it inside that bag."
"Him, Yurimi-sama. As long as you keep him."
Yurimi stared at her attendant for a long moment.
"…I need some fresh air."
Opening the door, she was stunned by meeting an overly familiar face, her nose not more than an inch from hers.
After the initial shock, the flustered Yurimi quickly escaped three steps away.
"Yu-Yu-Yuria!" She hissed. "Just what are you trying to do?"
"I live to please." The older sister was grinning maliciously. "Yo, Kotonoha."
"Yuria-sama." The taller woman bowed politely. "That's some fantastic tail power there."
"Ahaha, thanks." Yuria grinned widely, scratched the back of her head. That's when Yurimi noticed.
Yurimi was exactly ten centimeters taller than Yuria. There was no way her sister should be able to stand nose to nose with her.
To solve this apparent impossibility, Yuria resorted to standing on her long and surprisingly strong tails. Her feet weren't touching the floor in the slightest.
"That's…a curious trick you got there, sister." Yurimi stated as she, after regaining her composure, walked past her and outside her bedroom as originally intended. Yuria grinned some more and followed Yurimi, using her tails as some sort of pseudopodia.
"Yeah. You may call me Doc Yuria," the three-tails grinned. "Wouldn't want me to smack your face with one of this, huh?"
Yurimi said nothing, but saw the wisdom in her sister's words. Physical attacks with those tails would surely carry a lot of power. Yurimi also knew for a fact that Yuria had been using chakra the whole morning for the "punishment" she inflicted upon Yuriyo.
"So…how was it, Kotonoha?"
Kotonoha, who was following Yurimi and the tail-walker from a distance, smiled gently. "Naruto-sama is a fine young man. Well-mannered…in a curiously rustic way. Very energetic. Very strong. Outstanding reflexes. Outstanding chakra capacity. I am still amazed by that Shadow Clone Technique."
"It is a fascinating technique, that one." Yurimi admitted.
"Huh? What's that about?" Yuria inquired.
"Naruto-sama has a ninja technique that allows him to create perfect corporeal duplicates of himself. They are extremely fragile, but, besides that, they are identical to the original."
"Oh…" The shortest girl mused. "…cool."
"So?" Yurimi insisted. "Can you get him ready to win his fight?"
Yurimi stopped (she wasn't even sure where she was going, anyway). She turned around to look at her guardian. "Explain."
"Yurimi-sama, I cannot correct years of deficient learning in a week. Kitsune Jutsu are out of the question, and so is my Kenjutsu. There is absolutely nothing I can teach that boy, especially not when he is lacking in so many areas."
"As he is right now, he doesn't stand a chance…unless he uses the easy way out."
Noticing the inquiring looks on the two sister's face (Yuria's far more obvious that Yurimi's), Kotonoha sought out a place to sit.
The Higashiyama shrine consisted of a complex of traditional wooden houses separated by zones of pristine greenery. To minimize stepping on the grass and flowers, cobbled stone paths connected the different houses, with the occasional stone bench every here and there. Kotonoha picked one of these. Yurimi claimed the one in front, across the two-feet-wide stone path. Yuria stood behind Yurimi's bench, leaning forward.
"Naruto-sama could easily summon me and ask me to defeat his opponent in his stead. It's a perfectly valid strategy, and it would guarantee his victory. There is no human that can avoid The Bloody Conclusion."
"I…do not think Naruto-sama wants to kill anyone." Yurimi stated. Kotonoha shrugged.
"In any case, summoned Kitsune would allow him to win very easily…but I am sure you know Naruto-sama will never do such a thing."
Yurimi didn't say anything.
"He did not say it himself, but I could tell. This fight is of personal significance to him." She chuckled. "He is in many ways like Yuria-sama. It is quite unsettling, Yurimi-sama."
"Shut up." Yurimi moaned. That was a thought she really wanted to avoid.
"I do remember the reports my sister sent on his development," Kotonoha explained. "Rock bottom, dead last of his class. Subpar Taijutsu, chakra control and throwing accuracy. The circumstances of his graduation still remain unknown. By all means, he should not have passed the shinobi academy. Quite sad if you ask me."
"Huh." Yuria had never paid attention to those reports. The only thing she had needed to know was that some human boy named Naruto had her little sister inside him, period.
"It is most unfortunate that my sister did not manage to get much on his growth after graduation." Kotonoha continued. "What we know is that he has somehow made it to the final step to rise to the next ninja rank. If I had to guess, I would say it's been a combination of decent teamwork, sheer determination and raw luck. But now he has to face a Hyuuga."
Knowing that neither of the lilies would understand what that meant, she further explained.
"The Hyuuga are the most prominent family in Konohagakure, and the closest thing to nobility Konoha currently has. Their reputation in combat comes from their unique eyes, the Byakugan, which allow them, among other things, to see in all directions and with very long range, and to see the flow of chakra within living beings. They have developed a very special Taijutsu style, Jyuuken, which uses their special eyes and their skillful chakra control to restrict the opponent's chakra flow and damage internal organs with even the lightest touch."
"From what I learned from Naruto-sama, I can infer that his opponent is a boy very skilled for his age. A young genius of the Hyuuga Clan, I would say, blessed with enviable talent and a particularly acute pair of Byakugan."
Yurimi clenched the hem of her yukata. She could feel the oppressive aura her sister released at the sound of that word.
"Naruto-sama wants to prove that his hard work and determination can defeat natural talent. He wants to prove that, if he wants to, he can do even what at first glance seems to be impossible. He wants to prove that nobody but himself determines whether he's a winner of a loser. And that's why he won't take the easy way out."
Silence permeated the air around them, charged with an intangible tension. Yurimi clenched her hands, gripping the fabric of her yukata. She was feeling more than a bit uncomfortable by Yuria's presence behind her. It was not the first time Yurimi had felt it, of course, but it was especially unnerving being that close.
"So…you're saying he's got no chance?" Yuria's voice was more a menacing growl. Aimed at Kotonoha, it felt like the swordswoman's life depended on her answer.
Kotonoha, in no way fazed by the younger Kitsune, returned Yuria's glare with her usual calm, collected face. "I said I cannot help him. That will not stop Naruto-sama from trying. He will do his best. We can only hope he finds an answer I could not give him."
The heavy silence persisted only until pierced by an external source.
"Yurimi-chan, Yuria-chan, Kotonoha-san, lunch is ready-hawa!"
Yuria had to sigh at that. "Hello to you too, Yurine."
"Hawawaan…owie." The second oldest of the lilies rubbed her sore head with her left hand; her five caramel tails sprawled all around her on the wooden floor. She was chuckling, taking the fall, like all of her frequent falls, with plenty of humor.
Yurine is unique in that she's the only one in her family whose dark brown fur is of a different color than her natural human hair. She had black hair that flowed freely down her back until the last seven or so centimeters, where the ends were tied into a single, thin tail. Two additional braids went down her front all the way until her waist, tied with white tape around halfway down. She had the traditional carmine eyes of her clan, too. They shone with joyful radiance.
The eyes of a woman with the soul of a child.
"You okay?" Yuria intervened, walking away from Yurimi and towards her elder sister, who had remained seated on the floor, her legs to the sides. She was wearing blue silk pants.
"Hawawa…I'm fine." Yurine smiled. It was a smile laced with sweetness nobody else Yuria knew could hope to match…except maybe her niece Chiyuri. Yurine looked down at her cleavage. "Yurine's breasts softened the fall."
"I can't believe you just said that."
"Te-he!" Yurine lightly tapped her head with her knuckles. She fixed her white kimono shirt, making sure it did not show more cleavage than it was meant to. Satisfied with the result after smoothing a few wrinkles on her pants, she got back on her feet, towering twenty-five centimeters over little Yuria.
"Moooooom!" Another familiar voiced arrived, announcing itself somewhere far behind Yurine's back. "What's taking you so-geh."
Yuria titled her body to the left to look past her sister. "Hello to you too, Yuriyo."
"Stay away from me-eek!"
At a speed that astounded everyone present, one of Yuria's tails grew at least six times its length to tickle the skin under Yuriyo's chin.
"Ah, sorry, sorry. My tails sometimes act as if they had minds of their own. They seem to like you." Yuria smoothly commented while her tail retracted back to its original length.
"Bitch." Yurine's black-haired daughter spat under her breath.
"So..." Yurimi intervened before things went out of hand. "Lunchtime, I presume, Yurine-nee-sama?"
"Hmm! That's just right, Yurimi-chan!" Yurine turned her back to her younger sister to make her way back to the dining room. "Saa, let's go, let's go-hawa!"
Massive wincing ensued. Yuriyo sighed. "Mom…"
Yuria chuckled. "Don't worry, Riyo-chan. Her breasts soften the fall."
There was silence in the clearing. Naruto had his everything put into keeping the small chakra core stable. He had surprised himself by managing to downsize the original chakra sphere into an object the size of an eyeball. However, he could feel his veins throbbing under his forehead and the sweat trailing down his body. It was very demanding. Easy, but demanding.
"Hey, Sayuri, I've been wondering. This thing, it's black, right?"
Yup! It's pwetty! Shiny!
"Exactly! How can a black object be shiny?"
Mugyuu? Why not? It's shiny.
"That's the problem! It shouldn't be shiny!"
"But it shouldn't! Black objects do not reflect light, they absorb it! Well, unless it's some sort of metalized stuff or something…I think…but this isn't metal! Hell, it isn't even solid! IT ISN'T EVEN MATTER!"
He paused to take in oxygen.
"Even worse! For some reason this thing is all…pushing me down and stuff! Look, even the ground is cracking under my feet! It's like, some sort of, wacky anti-gravity pull!"
He paused again, this time to frown.
"AND SINCE WHEN DO I UNDERSTAND CRAZY-ASS PHYSICS? WHAT THE HELL AM I TALKING ABOUT? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?"
Onii-chan, the ball.
"Ah? Ah, fuck!" Naruto hurriedly returned to taking care of the chakra sphere. "Phew…that was close. Good call, Sayuri."
Onii-chan, you're weally weird sometimes.
"I know, I don't recognize myself anymore." Naruto rolled his eyes, in yet another out-of-character display of responsible mental development. "And you're the last person I will take that from. So…" He made a gesture with his head, pointing at the sphere. "What now?"
Silence. A flock of crows flew somewhere in the distance, cawing in a rather annoying manner.
Eat it. Sayuri plainly repeated.
"…no, I think I wasn't clear enough. What?"
Eeeek! Mugyuu…onii-chan scawed me…what's whong?
"WHAT'S WRONG?" Naruto cried back in furious exasperation. "You asked me to EAT this thing!"
Uh-huh. It's the next step.
"I CAN'T EAT THIS THING, SAYURI!"
Mu-nii? Why not?
"WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN IF I EAT IT?"
It gets big inside onii-chan and makes onii-chan big and wound! It will be funny!
"Funny? LETHAL FUNNY!" Naruto shouted. "IT WOULD KILL ME!"
No! Sayuri was shaking her head stubbornly. It doesn't huht Sayuri. Why would it huht onii-chan?
Naruto felt a very strong urge to bury his face in his palms. He forced himself to calm down. "I'm NOT eating that thing, Sayuri."
Eeeeh? Then how is onii-chan gonna make the Pwetty Beam?
Naruto sweatdropped. "Just…how does that work anyway?"
Well, I eat it and keep mah mouth weaaaaaally shut. When I open mah mouth, the Pwetty Beam comes out! It's pwetty!
"You say that word way too much." Naruto muttered in response. However, he got the idea. He could see how and why it would come out as a beam. "It's sorta…like a balloon?"
He stared at the chakra core. He had to replace his own body (the balloon) with something else to contain the sphere. A shadow clone would not work, for obvious reasons. The other obvious solution was chakra, but he needed a cover strong enough to contain the sphere and its growth.
"Sayuri, I need your chakra."
Mu-nii? Um, sure!
Much to Naruto's satisfaction, Sayuri did learn from previous experiences, better controlling her chakra release this time. Happy to know no more wildlife would be accidentally slain that day, Naruto got to work, directing Sayuri's –now his– chakra from his hands towards the tiny sphere floating in front of him. It amazed him how ridiculously easy to control this orange chakra was.
Sayuri's control is simply abysmal.
Naruto nodded in satisfaction when he had a sphere of orange chakra with diameter approximately equal to his own height plus a head. He did not know how big that tiny ball would get before he fired it, after all. It was a surprising display of forethought.
He's been making a lot of surprising displays these past two days.
"Alright, let's hope this thing works."
Waaaai! Pwetty Beam! Onii-chan, you're weally smart!
"…whoa. I'm fairly sure that was the very first time somebody said that to me. Let's hope it won't be the last!"
Taking a deep breath, Naruto focused on his two creations. He could actually hear the drum roll in his mind.
"Release control of the ball, open a hole in the shell. Release ball, open hole. Release. Open. Release. Open. Alright." Naruto slapped his cheeks.
"Ah, ahaha, sorry." Naruto refocused. "Alright, let's do this! Aaaaaaaaaaaaand…"
Mugyuu… Sayuri ignored the bit of pain on her own cheeks and focused on the matter at hand, too. Nee, nee, onii-chan! What are you gonna hit with the Pwetty Beam? Those fugly faces on the mountain?
"…GO! Wait, wha-?"
Unfortunately, his mind reacted to both Sayuri's words and his commands, releasing the high-density chakra sphere and opening a hole on the outer orange chakra shell…aimed straight at the Hokage Mountain.
That was as far as Naruto managed to say before the world became white. He managed to think a lot, though.
Ah! It came out.
I hate you. I hate you so much. So very much. So much my skin hurts. No, wait, that's my skin being fuckin' disintegrated!
Aburame Shino truly cared for his teammates. However, he was not one to play matchmaker. He did hope Hinata would one day find the guts to speak her mind, but he would not help her. She had asked him to keep tabs on Naruto and this "mysterious woman." He would do it, not for Hinata, but because it was his job: information gathering.
Also, there was just something about that woman that made both him and his hive feel uneasy.
It had nothing to do with her jaw-dropping bust.
This was one of those times in which he wished his insects could actually speak.
"So…what now?" Kiba, hands behind his head on puppy on top, wondered.
"Huh?" Kiba stared oddly at his partner. "Ino?"
"Why the hell?"
Shino was about to deign himself to answer.
The hive would not let him.
Like an icy arrow to the chest, the entire insect colony cried as one, for they were one.
"DUCK!" Shino yelled. It was the loudest he had ever spoken. It was loud enough to stun his partner…or more like worry him.
"Umm…no, Shino." Kiba pointed at the pet shop they were passing by. "Those are rabbits-"
In the blink of an eye, the white beam of pure, condensed chakra struck the right cheek of the First Hokage.
And the Village Hidden in the Leaves was cloaked in white.
Hundreds of villagers, both civilian and shinobi, cried in unison when they were struck both blind and deaf by the light and subsequent explosion.
About seventeen hundred meters west from the mountain, Naruto was blown backwards by Newton's Third Law, the intense heat released by the now-unstable chakra core searing his skin.
All windows in a six hundred meter radius shattered and rained upon the populace of Konohagakure. The most fragile houses in the vicinity of the mountain collapsed as an aftereffect of the concussive wave generated by the explosion.
The beam easily melted through the solid rock, boring through the Shodai Hokage's face with utmost ease. While the venerable face of the founder of Konoha cracked and fell apart (and upon the hapless village under), the Pwetty Beam followed with its ascending trip by trimming the spiky locks of the Nidaime. The quasi-pyramidal rocks joined the rain of debris caused by the total destruction of the Shodai's face. Fortunately, most of these larger rocks fell on the small forested area behind the administration building. Unfortunately, they fell close enough to scare the shit out of the Third Hokage and his employees, as well as drown them in a cloud of dust.
The next victim was the Sandaime's face. However, the weakened and unstable beam, instead of piercing through like it did with the other two, began to tilt and trace an irregular line on its surface. It managed to break the nose before giving away and ceasing its path of destruction with a mighty explosion that finished the job with the third face. The Yondaime was the only fortunate one, curiously enough.
It took a few seconds for every person to realize it was over. When it happened, there was chaos: a threnody of voices with mixed thoughts and words, all riddled with a single emotion.
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?"
"IT'S THE RUSSIANS! THE RUSSIANS ARE HERE!"
"WHAT THE HELL IS A RUSSIAN?"
"THE UCHIHA HAVE RISEN FROM THEIR GRAVES TO KILL US ALL! AND THEY HAVE LASERS! ZOMBIE LASER UCHIHAS!"
"IT'S GODZILLA! GODZILLA I TELL YOU!"
"MY EX HAS GONE INSANE! SHE'S GONNA KILL US ALL!"
"FINALLY! MY DARK SEXUAL RITUALS HAVE PAID OFF! GO, AZATOTH, RAZE THE WORLD TO ASHES! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
"HELP ME EIRIIIIIIIIIIIIN!"
Shino and Kiba were slowly getting back on their feet, their honed senses carefully looking for a threat that did not exist.
"KYUUBI HAS RETURNED TO FINISH THE JOB! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" A man to Shino's left screamed. The bug user almost sighed.
"Do you see a giant fox somewhere around here?"
The man desperately looked for the gigantic frame of the nine-tailed demon fox as he remembered. The awareness of its absence did not relieve him in the slightest. Shino actually frowned when the man's drooling face became a rictus of abject horror.
"OH MY GOD, KYUUBI IS INVISIBLE! THERE IS NO HOPE!"
"What the fuck was that?"
"What makes you think I know?" Shino responded to Kiba's low-voiced question. "Let's go. We have to find Kurenai-sensei. We'll have to help calm the civilian population. It is up to the ANBU to deal with whatever did this."
The two made to the rooftops and towards the first place they could think off, the administration building. Their eyes were on the cracking faces and the large chunks of rock raining down upon the village.
Ow, ow, pain, agony…
Naruto was buried face-down in a nearby formation of bush in the forest beyond the clearing where he had been training. Unburying his head from the greenery, his keen eyes easily noticed the disaster he had unleashed upon Konoha via the mountain-tall cloud of dust and debris and the unrecognizable features of the monument.
HOLY. FLYING. FUCK.
Buuu… Sayuri made her voice known again. See? Not enough chakwa.
Something within Naruto died a very horrible, violent death. Some would call it his innocence, but it really was not that.
If I had done it then it wouldn't have come out like that. Sayuri explained smugly…or as smugly as Sayuri can be. There would have been a weaaaaally big BOOOOOOM, and that's it.
And there would not be a mountain left. Or a village. And the forest would be on fire.
THAT'S NOT SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF!
Naruto suddenly reached a very important conclusion.
The Yondaime had done the entire world a very big favor.
But onii-chan weally got it! That's good, wight? Onii-chan learned the Pwetty Beam! Nee, onii-chan? The Pwetty Beam? Wasn't it gweat?
It wasn't great at all! Look at what it did! Oh God, I hope nobody got hurt…
Ayame idly patted her "father's" shoulder. He was on his knees, his face buried in his hands. He was crying inconsolably.
The girl's face was strangely solemn, as if trying to make something of the bizarre reality she was facing.
Their house; their pride, was in ruins; crushed by the Third Hokage's nose. Curiously enough, the ramen restaurant was mostly intact, it was the rooms beyond which had been reduced to broken debris.
She knew there was something hilarious in watching your home and almost everything that is important to you being crushed by a giant nose, but she guessed chuckling would be a very bad idea.
The customers who had been present when the tragedy occurred stepped closer to comfort the broken man. Meanwhile, a Kitsune's gears were turning fast.
The only reason she did not smile was because it would have been unsightly under the circumstances.
"I can work with this." She muttered only to herself. Within the deep recesses of the twofold mind, much to the true Ayame's fear, one Katsura Kokoro was cackling maniacally.
Naruto-kun, you've just got yourself a roommate!
But…it was onii-chan who aimed that way.
But I didn't want to!
I hate my life. Naruto shook his head. Anyway, I can't use that against Neji!
Are you really asking? Naruto's mind voice exclaimed. I don't want to blast away my village in the process! Or Neji!
Ah…then why did onii-chan ask Sayuri to teach him jutsu? Sayuri only knows jutsu that make things expwode. Or people. Or set them on fire.
Naruto twitched. What do you…? He paused. Okay, I set that one upon myself.
His danger sense warned him of an incoming threat in time for him to hide in the bushes right before a squadron of four ANBU arrived on the scene.
It was not very hard for them to find the place. They only had to follow the direction the white beam came from until they found a smoking crater. While they made an initial examination of the clearing, Naruto's eyes narrowed.
Alright, they're ANBU. I can get away from these guys, I've done it before.
Two more figures showed up in the clearing, one clearly smaller than the other.
Aw, I'm so completely and utterly fucked.
Gyaaaaaaah! DOGS! They must-
YOU'RE NOT BURNING ANYONE!
Inuzuka Tsume and Kuromaru sniffed the air together, which only led to the two of them frowning pronouncedly….or at least what passes for frowning on a dog.
"Yes, me too."
"What is it?" A tiger-masked ANBU, apparently the one in charge of the team of four, inquired. The Inuzuka Jounin stared down at her canine partner.
"We have nothing. We have our own scent, and those of you four, as well as the smoke here. We can barely feel anything besides that." Kuromaru explained, looking up at Tsume, who nodded in agreement.
"Either something here is somehow dampening our senses of smell…" Tsume continued. "…or whoever did this managed to eliminate all traces of himself…and everything around us, for that matter."
In the distance, Naruto was worried. They should have found me by now. What are they talking about?
What Naruto did not know was that the Pretty Beam destroys everything in its way. Everything means everything. That includes any and all volatile odorant molecules in the air. The higher concentration in the firing point further extends this effect for a short period of time after firing.
Talk about a convenient jutsu.
What Naruto did know is that, if he had not been found, then he had a chance. Grinning to himself and praising his intermittently superb stealth skills, Naruto made his way around the perimeter of Konoha.
However, he was not stupid…well, not so stupid so as to not keep in mind that it would be a matter of time before someone showed up before him to ask him question. After all, he was the number one suspect of anything and everything wrong that happened in his village (the Hokage would replace him with Orochimaru, given the current developments, but Naruto does not know that).
He needed an alibi. He called it an excuse, of course, as he does not know the word 'alibi'.
Waaaaai! I did it!
…what the hell was that?
Sayuri burned the scene bweakline! Waaaaai!
The what? Wait, you know what? Forget it. Let's just go.
Whatever you're doing, stop it!
After it became clear that they were dealing with an isolated event instead of a full-scale attack, the shinobi's job became considerably easier. Still, dispelling the atmosphere of fear that permeated the streets of Konoha was not something that could be done in an hour or two, much less half.
"So…what now?" Inuzuka Kiba inquired. They had barely spoken with Kurenai long enough for her to give them the obvious instructions and disappear via Shunshin.
Shino did not respond, for his eyes were following the incoming path of the two male members of Team 10. He noticed they were coming from the main disaster area; the foot of the Hokage Mountain. He only opened his mouth when Shikamaru and Chouji stopped on the same rooftop as him and his teammate.
Shikamaru shrugged. "We were supposed to help clear the debris over there." Shino did not need to inquire to get further explanation. "Nothing much we can do, really. Civilian volunteers directed by the ADC are handling it…and there's a horde of Naruto clones helping. I swear I saw like a hundred."
From the opposite direction came the two currently-healthy females amongst the Rookie Nine. Ignored by her Jounin teacher and forgotten by her teammates, Haruno Sakura found herself with a sudden increase in her free time. Not having anything better to do, she seized the chance to rekindle her old friendship with Yamanaka Ino. The "attack" had caught them by the counter of the Yamanaka Flower shop, putting a loud, messy end to their girl-talk.
"What's up, Shino-kun?" Ino heartily greeted the bug user, her full-toothed smile almost blinding in its radiance.
'Shino-kun?' These were the thoughts of everyone present.
"Hnnd." Shino made a wordless noise and pointed behind him at the remains of the Hokage Mountain, with two of its faces utterly destroyed and another getting an army haircut.
"Yeah, we kinda noticed that already." Ino turned to her lazy partner. "Did you meet with Asuma-sensei?"
"Yeah." Shikamaru responded caustically, rolling his eyes. "What took you so long to show up anyway? Sensei wasn't happy."
"Well, what do you think?" Ino stubbornly placed her hands on her hips. "The explosion made the shop a big mess! There was nothing but dirt and broken pottery and flowers spilled everywhere!"
"And then we had to calm down the neighbors." Sakura intervened.
"Yeah, that too. Sheesh, going off with silly crap about Kyuubi's return or something."
"Well…" Chouji made quick work of a potato chip. "…that was no ordinary jutsu, that's for sure."
"I know that, but, really, do you see a bigass fox of DOOM somewhere out here?" Ino insisted.
Kiba chuckled. "Maybe he's invisible." He mouthed so that only Shino noticed.
"Anyway," Shikamaru continued. "Sensei asked us to help clean up the debris, but that job's pretty much taken by Naruto and the ADC."
"Naruto?" Sakura exclaimed. "He is…?" Her surprised expression soon changed to unexplainable anger. "That little…argh!"
"What?" Ino honestly wondered.
"What do you mean 'what'?" Sakura barked back. "I haven't seen the little idiot this entire month! And now he shows up like that!"
Ino frowned. "So…what? I'd say the guy's been busy. He has to fight that Hyuuga Neji, right?"
"And now he's come back from his training to help Konoha." Shino continued. "Which, I may add, is what we should be doing."
"Heeeh…" Kiba grinned. "…that's kinda cool from the idiot, huh."
Akamaru nodded in agreement. Ino turned from Kiba to Chouji, who, she noticed, was about to speak, as he had stopped emptying his current bag of chips.
"Especially since the civilians are blaming him for that…" Munch. "For some reason."
"Wait, what?" Surprisingly enough, this was Ino.
"Yup." Shikamaru nodded. "Pretty nasty words they were throwing at him back there. And rocks, too. Troublesome stuff. I don't think the real Naruto was there, though. Only clones. The ADC got rid of the nastier guys. Naruto's pretty much cleaning the whole damn thing by himself."
Ino gasped in outrage. "Are they stupid? I know Naruto's done his share of pranks, but, really, you'd need some serious firepower to do THAT!" She debated, pointing at the damaged monument.
"So, what did he do?" Kiba asked.
"Ah, you know, the usual." Shikamaru replied. "Forced laughter, stupid grin, back to job. Pretty mature if you ask me."
Realizing she did not have any support in her latest temper tantrum, Sakura wisely chose to shut up. She still was unreasonably angry at Naruto, though.
The following minutes were a discussion of what the rookies should do. Their Jounin teachers were busy meeting with the Hokage and his advisors, discussing the plans for the aftermath of this mysterious event. Aid would have to be provided to those who lost their homes and/or workplaces. Communication would be crucial to calm down the scared citizens and ensure that, no, Invisible Kyuubi had not returned with a vengeance. Plans had to be made to restore the monument. While at first glance it seems a…well, monumental waste of money, the fact remained that the mountain was the symbol of Konohagakure and its banner of strength. The symbolic significance of the destruction of the faces was a blow to the people's morale.
The only thing comparable would be, like, kidnapping all of Konoha's messenger birds and make them crash on the Hokage Tower until it toppled down…or something.
The point is, the attack made Konoha seem vulnerable. It was an insult to its pride and history. Hence, it had to be corrected.
Unfortunately, it was obvious to anyone that the faces could never be restored in time for the Chuunin Finals. The honored dignitaries would be welcomed by two inexistent faces and G.!Nidaime. The exams could not be postponed or canceled, so this would be a blow Konoha would have to face. Sarutobi knew he would be the target of many taunts and sneers very soon.
The most the rookies could do was to deal with any outbursts of civilian unrest and wait for further instructions.
"Hey…did you say the ADC?" Ino suddenly wondered. Shikamaru nodded.
"Well, if they know how to blow shit up, they surely must know how to clean up the mess afterwards."
"Hmm…" Ino nodded, satisfied. "Makes sense. So…if Naruto…the real one, I mean. If Naruto isn't there with them, then where is he?"
Shikamaru shrugged. "Hey, I just said I think he's not there. It's not like I can distinguish the clones from the real one."
"Not even my beetles can." Shino interjected. "It is an impressive technique."
"Hmmm…" Kiba released a naughty grin. "Maybe he's still with the hot chick."
Shino slowly, very slowly, clenched and flexed his hands, doing the inhumanly possible not to close them around his teammate's neck. They were supposed to wait until they were alone with Ino!
Sakura blinked. "…what?"
Naruto nodded to himself as yet another shadow clone dispersed. It was a good idea to send those to help clear up the mess. As expected, more than a few people were blaming the "Demon Brat" for this latest event. It was mildly amusing to know that, for once, they were right.
It had been a devastating sight. He would have to make it up in some way to those that got hurt. It was somehow relieving that there were no casualties reported so far. Lots of property damage, though.
In yet ANOTHER training area, this one as far from "Ground Zero" as topologically possible, Naruto pondered his next move. He had learned a new jutsu which, for very obvious reasons, he could not use. Needless to say, he would save it for whenever he needed to obliterate a few acres of land. Or a REALLY big enemy.
Kotonoha's concluding remarks resounded in his tormented mind.
"My most profound apologies, Naruto-sama, but, as you are right now, there is nothing I can do for you. Not only are your skills lacking; Yurimi-sama has obviously overestimated my own. Nothing I know I can teach you in time for you to use it at your upcoming fight."
Naruto admired, and appreciated, Kotonoha's humility and honesty. He really did. But that did not change the fact that it sucked.
O-Onii-chan! B-Be happy! I…I don't wike it when onii-chan's all sad. It makes Sayuri sad!
Sayuri…I have nothing… Naruto went emo for an instant there. Kotonoha-san pretty much said I can't beat Neji; she said I suck!
Sa-Sayuri doesn't care if onii-chan's bad at fighting; Sayuri still wuvs onii-chan lots!
Naruto twitched. Thank you, Sayuri. I feel much better now.
"Haaa…what do I do now?"
He didn't regret leaving Jiraiya. Because, really, the cliff thing was just wrong. But he was simply out of ideas. Who could teach him cool techniques to beat Neji with only eight days left?
"Our tails are the channels through which we direct out chakra. Without tails, I simply cannot teach you even the simplest energy technique all Kitsune know: the Kitsune Fire. You clearly say you know no other techniques, from which I infer you have to skill with ninja illusory techniques. Without even that, it's pointless to try to teach our Kitsune Illusory Arts. Enchantments are simply out of the question. The only other thing I know is Kenjutsu, and that cannot be taught in a week."
"Is there…really nothing I can do?"
Maybe I can turn onii-chan into a Kitsune!
"Please don't." Naruto immediately responded in a deadpan tone.
"But…there has to be a way…" Naruto returned to his musing. "I must become stronger!"
Ummm…why not try summoning?
Yeah! Like, summon Kitsune until we find one that can teach onii-chan cool things!
Naruto was about to retort, but he found himself making a pause. "That…that's actually a pretty good idea."
No, it is not.
Waaaaai, Sayuri helped onii-chan! Te-he!
Of course, they failed to realize that so far Naruto had only summoned "friendly" Kitsune, who were actually on their side. Even then, Naruto still almost got killed.
What if the next Kitsune he summoned was not as nice? What if the next Kitsune could not care less about Naruto? What if he or she tried to manipulate Naruto, like, you know, Kitsune often do?
Then again, it is Naruto. And Sayuri. That does not make things much better. In fact, she probably makes things worse.
"Yosh! Let's do it!"
Waaaaai! Summon a new fwiend!
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
The cloud of smoke that emerged was surprisingly small. So was the silhouette Naruto managed to see within the smoke. He at least got a gender when the one hidden in smoke spoke. It was a clearly feminine voice. For an instant, he wondered just where all the male Kitsune were.
Then there were her words.
CHAPTER 08 END