WARNING WARNING. Some nasty stuff is more than implied ahead. Not in a comedic light either.

Kyubed: Shinobi's Revenge on Naruto.

Part 44

The next assignment.

OooOOooOO

Naruto stood leaning against the Hokage's door frame with a casual air about him. His team was standing in front of her desk and standing at attention. He shook his head and chuckled at the expression on his rival's face.

A month had gone by since the attack on the Sound prisoners. Things had been quiet for the village, but not for his team. He'd not seen a single night of guard duty since, and had been out of the village five days out of each week. They hadn't met a single client in all that time, though they had left a few bodies in their wake, as well as keeping tabs on individuals, and lifting a few documents here and there. They hadn't been spotted once, and their opponents and targets had never even known they were there.

"Huh?" said Sasuke as he actually uncrossed his arms and let his jaw drop a little.

Tsunade smirked at him. "I said, you've been promoted. Congratulations." She handed him a new vest with a slightly slimmer cut and a few more pockets and hidden compartments to it. "You are now a Special Jounin."

The boy nodded and took it with a somewhat dumbstruck expression on his face. "I see. I suppose I should say thank you." He didn't look too certain about it.

Naruto put his face in his hand and gave a sigh.

The woman nodded and was a little amused by his reaction. "That will do."

"Great job, Sasuke!" chirped Sakura.

"Yeah. Awesome!" agreed Ino as she bounced next to him.

"I didn't do this on a whim you know." She folded her hands in front of her face and smiled at him. "You've shown the maturity needed, you've got a handle on elemental manipulation, and thus far, your service has been above and beyond what was expected of you. I expect you to keep it up." There was a little bit of threat to her tone.

The raven haired boy nodded as his expression became firm. "I won't fail."

She nodded. "I know. I wouldn't have done this if I expected it."

Naruto was as calm as ever. It was the first he'd heard of it. "Huh. I'd never have guessed," he thought to himself.

Tsunade noticed his silence. "Something to say, Naruto?"

The boy looked up at her and seemed cheerful. "I'll worry. He's still rough around the edges and bone headed. Though, I suppose I could say the same of most of the other Special Jounin I've met."

"Your team has impressed me Uzumaki. I've got a mission for Team Shadow, and I want to speak with you when you get back. Don't send one of the girls with the report this time. I don't mind, but we've got something to discuss." The woman laid a folder on top of her desk.

Sasuke picked it up and looked inside. It was a picture of an older man in rich looking scarlet robes. He was in his late forties at least, possibly a little older. "What do we want with him?"

The Hokage frowned a little. "He's to be eliminated. You can expect a lot of this kind of assignment in the future. You're a Special Jounin now, and your specialty is assassination, scouting, and infiltration."

The boy nodded. "What informatin do we have?"

"He's Moranu Ibatchi, a Lord of Fire serving under the Daimyo." The woman leaned back. "You'll find him in the capitol city. He frequents the sakura gardens in the early afternoons habitually, spends his evenings in his manor, and most of his days in his office. The office is off limits, you'll plan your strike elsewhere, in his home, or in the park are your best bets."

Naruto strolled forward. "Are we making it look accidental, or sending a message?"

Tsunade smiled at that in a dark manner. "The latter." She narrowed her eyes at the team leader. "There may be a girl with him, about nineteen. In front of her if possible, we'd like her to see it, but it's not required."

"That's all we need then," replied the Jounin. He turned away, "Unless you have anything else, we'll be on our way." His team moved to follow him.

"Not interested in what he did?" asked Tsunade.

"Does it matter?" replied Sasuke without looking back.

"If you want to tell us, I suppose we'll listen, but it doesn't change the mission does it?" commented Naruto.

The Hokage gave an approving nod. "Not really," The man had accosted and raped the Daimyo's daughter in his home when she was visiting his daughter. He paid for her silence, threatened her, and had nearly gotten away with it. The girl wasn't talking, and had kept her mouth shut. Unfortunately for him, he'd gotten her pregnant.

The Daimyo was understandably furious, and had ordered that the child's father be discerned through genetic matching. Ibatchi had no sons and his only brother was dead for more than ten years. There was no doubt of the culprit. His daughter was still terrified of the man, and had refused to name him. He was powerful and influential, and had thought himself above such measures even if discovered.

The appearance of just that was being given. He was to marry the girl in the near future, or so he thought. He was capable of carrying out his threats as well. Ibatchi didn't seem surprised that the Daimyo had given in to his suggestion of a marriage to uphold the girl's honor.

Naruto strolled out of the office and cocked his head. "Ibatchi, huh?"

Sasuke glanced towards him. "You know him?"

The blond shrugged. "I know of him. Never met him. He's not a minor target and considers himself a rival of the Daimyo with good reason. He's been plotting to kill him and take the seat for years. Never had an opportune moment, as the Daimyo has been on to him for just as long. He's got a lot of support in the National Council. His own little faction waiting for the tide of power to turn."

Sakura frowned at that. "You certainly keep your ears to the ground. I'd heard about him, but most of that is news to me. He's supposed to be a perverted jerk, and Tsunade sensei won't send any kunoichi in any duties relating to him from what I've heard."

Ino nodded. "Yeah. I heard Mitsukashi talking about him. She said she got stuck guarding him once as a diplomatic escort to Wind back when the Third was still in charge. He kept trying to get her into his room while she was supposed to be guarding his door and felt her up every chance he got."

The pink haired kunoichi chuckled. "I wish we could tell her about this. She'd be jealous."

Naruto scowled back at her. "You shouldn't take this so lightly. We're going to kill him."

The kunoichi flushed and hung her head a little. "You're right. Sorry."

Ino cocked her head. "I wonder why now though? I mean, if he's been trying to kill the Daimyo for years, why not get rid of him sooner?"

Sasuke spoke up. "He's useful. Politics, he's a strong member of the National Council, and despite that he's trying to stab him in the back, the Daimyo has been able to use him. They're not so dissimilar policy wise."

Naruto nodded at that. "He's right. It's not our business why anyway. Our job doesn't concern 'why'."

Sakura looked annoyed. "How do you know all that anyway?"

"I read the paper," replied Naruto.

Sasuke clicked his tongue. "I hate reading the paper. I do it anyway though, it's more useful than I'd thought."

"Told you," replied Naruto. "You two should start. You'd be surprised how often whats in there relates to what we do. In fact, haven't I told you this before?"

They both went quiet and sulked back a little.

"Yeah, yeah. Shat up." Sasuke looked annoyed. "I hate it when you're right about something, you don't let it go."

Naruto smirked at him. "Yeah, well you're second in command now. So you can expect me to be a little hard on you. It's my nature." He was already treating Sasuke that way to begin with. Sakura was training as a medic, and Ino was Ino.

They walked out of the gates and moved towards the Capitol into the shadows of the forest.

OooOOooOO

The City was bustling with life and stretched far into the distance. The four Shinobi stood on a rooftop overlooking the expanse of rooftops, residences, shops, and businesses. In the center of it all, was a large palace like building that housed the Fire Country Government. The city was called Kajishufu, and it was three miles in diameter, with a wall surrounding it and five large gates that allowed entrance.

Team Shadow was near the main Government building, the Daimyo's residence was a short distance off in the opposite direction. Below them was a long sprawling gardens. It was filled with cherry trees, but the sakura blossoms were in full bloom, filling the garden with the signature pink topped trees. It was a very well kept place, with wooden bridges crossing over small streams, and lots of patrolling guards to keep 'undesirables' out. It was a place for the rich and influential to relax, and while technically open to the public, the rules were well understood. You had better look like you belong, or you would be escorted out rather quickly.

The people walking about were wearing expensive clothes and kept their noses high. It was a place that could be mistaken for paradise.

The blond boy frowned and growled. "Damn."

Ino gave another sigh. "Them again?"

Their target was surrounded by ninja, five of them. Each wearing a forehead protector with a cloud etched into it.

Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "Anyone else think it's weird we keep running into them?"

Sakura scowled as she looked through a pair of binoculars at the scene. "Yeah. We've not left Fire Country for a mission in a while. Everywhere we go we see those jerks, what the hell are they doing here?"

Naruto leaned over his knee as he put his foot on the edge of the roof. "Their jobs. They're for hire as much as we are."

Sasuke cracked his neck. "So what? What difference does it make?"

The blond boy looked down at the scene as the man strolled through the park over a bridge with little concern for his surroundings. "None. We've still got a job to do." They had seen a lot of Kumo lately. "Armed to the teeth as usual."

Sasuke narrowed his eyes, his sharingan looking over the situation. "How much you want to bet one of them is a chakra sensor?"

Sakura seemed unconcerned. "A lot of good it will do them."

"There's that girl," commented Ino. "At least I think so. Hokage didn't tell us what this 'girl' is supposed to look like."

Naruto took note of it. She was pretty, with long dark hair and a slender face and body. Her skin was milky white and her eyes were held low. She tensed up as the old man put his arm across her shoulders, but didn't resist his touch. He knew her, but didn't think he'd met her before. "Recognize her?" he asked them.

Sasuke smirked. "That's the Daimyo's daughter, Inamori."

"Ah," replied Naruto as he realized it. "Thought I'd seen her someplace before."

"What do we do then?" asked Sakura.

"Observe for now," their leader stood on the edge of the roof. "I'm gonna go ask around a bit. Meet me at the south gate this evening."

"Right," replied Sasuke with a small scowl. The gardens had a few foxes running about the grounds. He'd taken to noticing them because of Naruto.

"Boy, it's pretty up here," commented Ino.

"Yeah, it is kind of nice," said Sakura as she continued to peer through the binoculars. It was getting later, and their target was moving back towards his office with the girl at his side. He had his arm around her waist and squeezed her rear as he ushered her along. "Gah. That pervert." The girl didn't seem to react though and continued to walk at his side.

"It's kind of romantic up here," said Ino as she slid a bit closer to Sasuke.

"We're supposed to be observing the target," He said without looking at her.

"I dunno. I do kind of see your point, but I'm not so sure plotting to kill someone is very romantic, Ino," said Sakura with a small frown.

The girl scowled a bit at her. "Well, not that part. Just the view, and the gardens are something aren't they? I've never been here before, it's bigger than I expected. It's really pretty with the sakura in bloom."

"What the hell?" muttered Sasuke. "What is he doing?"

"Huh?" said Sakura as she looked away from the lenses. "What do you mean?"

"Naruto, he's...walking up to the guy in plain sight."

Sakura blinked and got wide eyed, scanning the area with her binoculars.

"Is he joking?" muttered Ino with a dumbstruck expression.

"No. He's...well, sort of."

OooOOooOO

"That guy's a jerk. He chases us off and calls us rodents when he sees us. Always going on about how the Grounds Keeper should get rid of us."

"Yeah! We're canidaes! We eat rodents. Inamori has been hanging around him lately. She doesn't smile anymore like she used too."

"She's always been nice to us. If she doesn't finish her lunch, she used to toss it over to us. That jerk won't let her anymore though."

"So, he stops there every day?" asked Naruto as he looked at the three foxes sitting in front of him. He was in his fox form and peered over his shoulder

"Yes, Highness, he stops and feeds the koi for a few minutes. Unless it's raining or something." said one of them.

"Yeah. We hang out around here and wait for people to stop and feed the koi. It gets them close enough that they're easy to catch without getting too wet," chimed the other. "He's pretty reliable. We can't let him see us though."

"Don't see him much in the winter, but he'll be out here every day until it starts getting cool in the fall," agreed one of the others.

"No, he won't," replied Naruto. "Sorry, but you'll have to start relying on someone else for that soon. Thanks, I'll see ya."

"Sure thing, Highness." The animals got a little more cheerful at the implication that was being made. They all had rather wicked grins on their faces.

"Hey, that means Inamori will be free again," said one of them cheerfully.

"Great! She's a lot less stingy. He barely throws enough out to get more than a few of the Koi to surface," agreed one of the others.

"Come on, the humans are leaving, we need to get to that trash can by the east gate before the Grounds Keeper does. It's always got a few good things to eat in it." The third one trotted off with his companions following him.

Naruto shifted forms again, his chest bulging out and long blond hair flowing down his back. He moved with a pleasant smile on his face as he stepped out onto the path wearing an expensive looking black silk kimono with pink flowers etched into the fabric. She lowered her head and put her arms up in front of her with her hands in her sleeves. She put a bit more into her chest than before and bounced a bit as she strolled along in a formal and feminine manner.

True to form and reputation, Ibatchi took notice. He looked firm and stoic as he stopped walking and took his hand off the girl at his side's waist and stepped towards the path Naruto was taking. He turned his back to her and looked out over the trees. She walked by beside him, under the watchful eye of the ninja surrounding him.

"The cherry blossoms are lovely this year," said the man as she moved past.

The blond stopped and smiled. "Yes. It's quite a sight to see."

The man looked over his shoulder at her, the ninja closed in around Inamori blocking her from view. The girl stood silently and kept her head low. "I've not seen you before. Are you new to the city?"

Naruto nodded and kept her cheerful face. "It's impressive. Quite something I must say. The Gardens are as impressive as I'd heard."

"Yes, natural beauty is a rare thing in todays world," said the man as he turned to look at her. He didn't smile and kept a cool gaze on her body more than her face.

Naruto giggled a bit. "Natural? There's nothing natural about this place. The grass is kept short, the trees are in neat rows, and each flower is carefully selected for it's presence and beauty to be on display. Without someone keeping watch over it, it would become wild and overgrown. I prefer that kind of beauty, though I can appreciate this as well.."

"I am Moranu Ibatchi. You speak like a well cultured flower yourself. Tell me, what brings you to Kajishufu?" He moved up to her side and bowed.

"I'm here taking in the culture," she replied with a sweet smile. "I know of you of course, you're on the National Counsel. Quite an influential man as I understand it."

"Ah, beauty as well as intelligence, a rare combination." The man puffed his chest out and tried to look dignified. He had a lot of practice, and it had the desired effect.

Naruto turned her eyes towards the ninja. "I was curious what sort of man would have so much protection. Kumo ninja? Impressive. I do hope the Daimyo and Raikage are well."

The largest of them, a well muscled man with a mask and dark glasses nodded. "Well enough. Who are you?"

She forced her cheeks flushed. "Oh, forgive me. How rude of me. I am the Ruler of Shadow Realm..." The blond considered for a moment. "Yakokyuu." She bowed to them and smirked as her head went down. It vanished before she brought it back up.

"Shadow Realm?" said the wide eyed older man.

The girl behind the ninja actually gasped. The guards didn't seem very alarmed, but all of them were looking at her. They were on guard, but didn't seem to think of her as a threat. Though, they were watching her closely.

"Yes," replied the blond. "I haven't seen the Capitol in many years. It's grown quite a bit, and I can barely recognize it." She was hamming it up and letting her chest keep his attention. It was no accident that her top was a little loose, and filled with cleavage to boot. "I must admit that I'm surprised to find Kumo ninja in Kajishufu guarding an official. Though, not that much. I attended the Chunin exams not long ago, and they were rather impressive."

The man nodded at that. "Yes. They have impressive strength to be sure. It's not as unusual as you think." Naruto noticed he didn't smile and was trying to puff himself up to look impressive. "The Daimyo keeps his eyes over our shoulders enough as it is. He tends to find out about things if we use Leaf Ninja."

The blond noticed his tone become cautious. She knew what he said was a total lie. It was highly unusual for such a highly ranked official to have contracted ninja from outside the country for protection. It meant one of two things, the Daimyo was making him nervous, or he he suspected something from Konoha. They both could technically amount to the same thing she supposed. He was also right about it, not that it mattered much.

"Well, the streets just aren't as safe as they used to be I suppose. I was accosted by horrible little street urchins on my way here. I'm glad they have the good sense to keep such filth away from this place. Filthy disgusting things."

The man nodded. "Yes, there is no need to fear such things here."

Inamori scowled at her from behind the man's guards.

Ibatchi actually got a hint of a smile on his face. "Have you eaten? I was just on my way, and it's been a while since I've had an interesting conversation over a meal."

Naruto knew damn well that he'd already had lunch. He was playing right into her hands though. It annoyed him a little, but he couldn't say that the Kitsune he lived with never taught him anything useful. Thanks to them, he knew just how to play his role.

OooOOooOO

A short time later she was laughing and saying almost nasty things about lower class people. They were sitting around a table with a simmering pot in the middle eating beef sukiyaki. Inamori was at the far end of the table with her head hung in silence. The business was pretty empty as it was after the lunch rush.

Naruto, or 'Yakokyuu' was making small talk, keeping his interest with light political banter that was in line with his leanings, and using her figure to keep his attention. She turned and eyed down the table. "You are the Daimyo's daughter, Inamori?"

She kept her eyes down and nodded once. "Yes." She was disgusted with the woman. She didn't mind that Ibatchi was ignoring her, but she did not like the blond one bit.

"Yes. I recall hearing about your engagement. Congratulations." She eyed the girl with a smirk and looked over at the older man.

He flustered a little. "Yes. We are to be married soon."

"..but not yet, no?" asked the blond as she whispered into his ear.

He actually laughed a little at that. "No. Indeed not."

The ninja were standing around the table and weren't eating. Keeping their eyes on the area surrounding the trio with their arms crossed. There was one Kunoichi, and four burly men. A long range weapons user, a taijutsu expert, a genjutsu user who was probably a chakra sensor as well, a Ninjutsu expert, and the leader was a burly tank of a man who simply looked powerful and imposing. A jounin level shinobi. They'd seen several groups of Kumo ninja in their past few missions, but it had always been groups of Chunin.

Yakokyuu looked at the ninja. "My, they are impressive. I enjoyed my last visit to Kumogakure. It's quite a beautiful place."

Ibatchi nodded. "Yes. I will not speak ill of our own shinobi, but they are more than up to the task."

"Yes, these are trying times. Sound is making trouble for near everyone I hear. I doubt they are a real threat, but they do make things inconvenient. I hope someone manages to catch the nerve to wipe Rice Country from existence."

"Why not you?" asked Inamori. "You are the ruler of Shadow Realm, are you not?"

The man glared at her and she quickly put her head down.

"Were it so easy," replied the blond. "You are young yet, and I doubt you understand the nature of the political landscape. I've little doubt I could destroy the Land or Rice easily, but then I would have to deal with the aftermath. It would be incredibly dull and vultures from every corner of the five countries would come to pick the bones clean. Far more trouble than it's worth."

"Yes. A wise statement," replied Ibatchi. "She is still a child, but she will learn. It is in her blood after all. Such naivety fades with age and experience."

Naruto nodded. "Yes. It does. Still, I had heard she was more spirited. A woman should not lose such a noble quality."

Inamori looked up at her with wide eyes and frowned as she hung her head again.

The blond ate another piece of beef, wishing it was Ramen. He felt bad for the girl. He wanted to say something more encouraging, but keeping Ibatchi interested was more important.

The meal was finished after that. The man stood up and smiled. "Well, why don't we continue this conversation in my office?"

OooOOooOO

Naruto smirked as he sat in the hallway of the government offices. He was covered in golden fur, and a kitsune was keeping Ibatchi busy in his office. There were muffled moans and groans coming from inside and he chuckled to himself as he padded his way down the carpeted hallway. His nine tails wagging behind him as he strolled casually through the rich palace looking offices. "What a waste of money," he muttered as he glanced around.

There was a sharp gasp and he froze in place. "Hmmm. Inamori then? Good, I was hoping to speak to you."

"What?" The girl was standing behind him frozen in shock. The animal in front of her was huge, and it was talking to her.

Naruto tried to put on a cheerful face, but ended up showing his fangs a bit. "Hello. Is your father around? I'd like to speak to him as well."

"What do you want? Ibatchi..."

The animal changed into a blond woman with a smirk on her face. A very familiar woman. Her eyes grew wide and she staggered back against the wall. "Oh, don't worry about him. He's busy with one of my servants right now. He thinks it's me."

"Who are you? What do you want?" demanded the girl as her eyes grew hard and her tone grew firm.

The woman chuckled. "I told you already. I'm the ruler of Shadow Realm. We're allies of Fire, and I'm very interested in finding out why there are Kumo ninja in the National Counsel Chambers. It's unheard of." She walked up and leaned towards the older girl. "I'm sure your father wouldn't be pleased to find out his only daughter is in the care of foreign ninja, especially from a place like Kumogakure."

"They aren't guarding me," snapped the girl.

Naruto cheered up a little more. "There's the spirit I heard about. I noticed that by the way, even more reason to find it strange. Protecting him, yet leaving his fiancee, the Daimyo's daughter no less, with no protection?"

"You were singing their praises before. What do you want from me?" Inamori had calmed a bit, but still didn't trust her. She kept her cool and seemed calm, despite that she was terrified of the strange creature she'd found herself speaking to.

Yakokyuu cocked her head in a sweet and friendly looking gesture. "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar dear. I was buttering him up. What I want from you, is the reason he's so nervous that he's hired outside protection. Kumo has had quite a presence lately, and I find it odd. I'm curious as to why that is."

The girl balled up her fists. "My father isn't here. I can't get near him. I'm not just his betrothed, he's holding me hostage."

Naruto narrowed his eyes. "I see. If anything happens to him..."

"Those ninja with him have orders to kill me as well," she nodded. She took an uncomfortable step back and put her hand on her belly. It was a slight bulge, she wasn't very far along, but it was beyond the point that clothes would hide it. "He said that he knew my father has requested a ninja team to assassinate him."

The stranger scowled at that. "No one finds it strange that there are Kumo ninja here?"

The girl looked frustrated. "No one will say anything. Only his supporters are in this wing. The others do not know I am here. The shinobi keep me well hidden. They know of the engagement, and the only place I am seen with him is in the garden."

"Did he say how he found out about this supposed assassination?" asked the blond.

"What do you care?" snapped the girl. Tears were starting to fall down her cheeks. She was keeping her voice down. "I can't stay here long. If I'm gone for too long, his hired thugs will come for me."

The blond smiled at her. "Tell me, do you know where your father is now?"

She nodded. "He is at his home. I cannot run. One of them is a Chakra sensor, I would not make it out of the building before they dragged me back."

Yakukyuu chuckled at that. "Well, I think he can owe me a favor then," replied the blond as her form shifted.

Inamori gasped as she found herself looking at her own mirror image. "No! You fool! It won't work, a Bunshin will never..."

Naruto shook her head. "I'm a Kitsune. They won't know the difference, it's not a bunshin."

The girl gasped. "What? They'll know it's not my chakra!"

The blond woman shook her head. "You're pregnant. That screws with chakra sensing abilities like you wouldn't believe. Now, I want you to leave and head straight for your father. I'll take care of things here, don't worry." She started walking back and gave her a gentle shove.

OooOOooOO

"Where the hell is he?" growled Ino as she balled up her fist and looked severely annoyed.

"Who the hell knows? It's not like him to be late though," replied Sakura with a small shrug.

"You don't sound worried," commented Sasuke as he leaned against the wall next to the gate where they were supposed to meet. There was a lot of traffic going in and out, and Konohagakure ninja standing about was not an unusual sight.

The pink haired girl arched her eyebrow. "Neither do you."

Ino glared around. "He's probably already here laughing at us. That jerk."

Sasuke shook his head. "Nah. We're on a mission. He's all business. Something has come up."

"What the hell was he thinking?" snapped Sakura in irritation.

The blond girl hung her head. "Man, I knew he was a pervert, but I had no idea it was that bad. I mean, he went out on a date with the guy!"

"...and back to his office," muttered Sakura as she looked a bit ill and put her hand on her stomach.

Sasuke didn't say anything. "No way, he wouldn't," he thought to himself. "Would he?"

Ino glanced over at him. "I doubt it's that bad. I mean, we are here to kill him. I don't think he would, even if he was that much of a pervert."

Sakura looked up at the sky. "It's getting late. We can't hang around here forever without looking suspicious."

Ino nodded. "You're right. I don't want to have to explain what we're doing here."

Sasuke scowled. They couldn't get caught, even though it was ordered by the Daimyo. It was still an assassination of a Fire Country official. He looked up at the sky and stood up, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Come on."

Ino looked at him. "Huh? Where are we going?"

The boy looked over his shoulder at her. "To get ready for tomorrow. If he's not here, we've got to go ahead without him."

The pink haired girl nodded. "He's right."

"Maybe he'll get in trouble?" said Ino. It didn't sound like something she thought of as unpleasant. "It would serve the jerk right."

"No. This is our mission, and it's up to him whether or not he helps us, remember" Her teammate sounded a bit annoyed.

"That is so unfair," grumbled the blond.

Sasuke glanced at them both. "It doesn't matter. We've got our orders."

OooOOooOO

Naruto was not in a happy place. Inamori had been allowed out of her cage to use the restroom when he'd run into her. He was currently in a lavish bedroom with the door locked. One of the Kumo ninja had questioned why she had stopped for so long in the hall. She was right about him being a chakra sensor.

He'd managed to sneak her out despite the ninja's abilities by claiming she'd bumped into one of the servants who kept the halls clean on the way back. The sensor was only looking for a single signature and his heading back to the room had been enough to keep him from getting too curious.

The now dark haired girl had managed to use Inamori's pregnancy to claim illness had stalled her. She mentioned feeling a bit queasy still and they shoved her into the room and locked the door.

He ended up poking about the room, going through drawers, and being generally nosy. He ended up in there for about an hour.

The sky had grown dark outside when the door opened. The largest ninja walked in and crossed his arms. "Come, Ibatchi wishes to speak with you."

The kitsune he'd used to keep him occupied was long since gone. The real him was sitting in the darkest corner of the room looking on as his Kage Bunshin followed the man out of the room and into the hall. No one knew he was there, his chakra was hidden and he narrowed his eyes as he looked out the window. "Great. I missed the meeting. Those idiots better take care of this." He briefly considered leaving the room and having a look about, but decided against it. He knew where the Kumo ninja were, and it was easy to keep an eye on them by remaining where he was.

OooOOooOO

'Inamori' had her head down as she was led into the room. She kept her quiet and reserved mood and kept watch of the others around her by watching their feet.

"Ah. Inamori, how good to see you. How are you feeling?" said the man in an almost pleasant tone.

"I am ill," she replied.

"Now, no need to be so rude. I shall be your husband soon, and once that happens, your father will be able to do little to stop me." The man had a cruel grin on his face.

"No. I am pregnant, it has made me ill," she replied without looking up at him.

The man arched his eyebrow. "Speaking so informally? Always before you were 'with child'. Now, Inamori, come here."

He moved up towards the man with a tentative caution. "What do you want from me?"

Ibatchi got a cold smirk on his face. "I think you know what I want. Why do you always question it so?"

"Were you not satisfied enough by that woman?" he asked in a slightly tense voice. "Oh, shit," said his mind.

"Satisfied? My dear, I am never satisfied. Are you jealous?" Naruto grunted as he found himself shoved into the desk. The man started pulling at Inamori's top, opening it up and reaching into it with his hands. "So lovely. The child has made you grow so."

The young dark haired girl tried to push his hands away. "I told you, I am ill. I do not wish..."

The man's face grew dark and angry. His hand snapped up around her throat. The young girl gasped and choked. "I do not care what you wish. You will satisfy me as my wife, and perform your womanly duties." He shoved her back roughly by the neck and let her go.

She rubbed her hand across where he'd grabbed her and struggled to stay on her feet against the side of the desk. "I was about to say, I do not wish to dirty your office if I become ill. I am not well this evening."

He scowled at her. "I'm sure." He turned her around and shoved her shoulders onto the desk. "If you mess up my desk you'll clean it up. If you turn to face me, I'll punish you. I don't want to get any of your puke on my clothes. Now shut up and do as you're told."

Naruto glared at the window, the curtains were open and he could see the city. His fist clenched the edge of the desk as he felt him pulling at the girl's skirt. There was a long needle like spear for notes in front of him. Within easy reach. He wanted very badly to kill him. He felt the man lifting his leg and squeezed his eyes shut. "Damn it," screamed his mind.

He had his orders, he couldn't kill him in his office, it was expressly forbidden. He couldn't reveal himself and endanger the mission. He could do nothing, but stay there and take it like a ninja.

OooOOooOO

An hour later Naruto slipped back into the shadows of the room as the door opened again. A lone slender figure was shoved back inside. She was gasping for breath and wide eyed. Her clothes were hanging off her loosely as if shoddily put back on. She wiped at her mouth and ran her tongue down the length of her arm as if to get something off of it.

The original looked on in confusion. "What the?"

His Kage Bunshin turned towards him with a rage in her eyes and punched him dead in the face. "Fix yourself up, I'm leaving now."

He almost didn't have time to alter his appearance and shift his chakra on as it vanished in a puff of smoke. His mind went horribly numb as the now dark haired girl slumped down to her knees and gasped for breath. Sweat started pouring down his face as he almost tumbled onto his face, but stopped himself with his extended arm. "What? No...no way!" He was absolutely horrified. "That...that son of a..." Before the words could leave his mouth he staggered over to the waste basket and threw up violently into it. It took a few times to get everything up.

When it was over he was pale and sweating while sprawled over the top of the wastebasket. The stench of his own vomit filled his senses, but he didn't care. He couldn't move, couldn't think, and could barely breathe.

He squeezed his eyes shut as he calmed himself down, controlling his breath. He rolled off the top of the trash can and leaned against the wall next to it, putting his hand up against his forehead. "Take it like a ninja."

He closed his eyes and felt his limbs relax. He forced his limbs to go limp and looked up at the ceiling. It was the worst thing that had ever happened to him.

He staggered to his feet and moved over to sit on the edge of the bed. His long dark hair hanging around his face. "How the hell long has this been going on?" He'd read about the engagement months ago. The boy closed his eyes as rage boiled within his gut. However bad he'd just had it, that girl had been suffering like that for months.

He flopped down on the mattress, knowing full well he wasn't getting any sleep that night. He was too upset, too angry, and he had to be patient. He turned his head and glanced out the window. "You guys had better not screw this up." That man was going to die, one way or the other. It was difficult to keep his temper under control and suppress his chakra, but he barely managed to do it.

OooOOooOO

Naruto scowled as he glared at the ground. He kept his eyes down, not wanting to look anyone in the face. He felt ashamed, horrible, disgusted, weak. It was early afternoon, and he was just looking at the pavement in the gardens, moving through the flowers and green grass. So much color surrounded him, but everything seemed so gray.

It had happened twice more. Once after breakfast, and again before they left for lunch. Each time he'd been violated he'd been tossed back into that room again. The Kumo ninja didn't care, it was just a job to them. He could do nothing but wait.

They approached the bridge where the koi swam about the artificial stream that ran through the gardens. He didn't care to look, cared nothing about his surroundings, and just glared down at the ground. His fist balled up hidden by the long sleeves of the Kimono he'd been given to wear for the outing. He presented it as a gift, as if she was his daughter. He actually seemed as if he thought she would be excited and pleased to receive it.

The ground under 'her' feet became wood as they strolled out onto the bridge. Ibatchi pulled a handful of bread crumbs from a bag in his pocket as he neared the center of the bridge.

Naruto's eyes grew dark and a cold smile formed on his face. He stopped and moved over to the railing, looking down into the water near the edge of the bridge.

Ibachi stepped onto the very center of the bridge. He was rigid and practiced in his movements. Always walking to the middle before turning to the railing and walking over to it to feed the koi. He never even got the chance to turn.

There was a metallic sliding sound as the bridge gave a slight vibration. Naruto caught a glimpse of the edge of a blade running across the width of the bridge from underneath from the corner of his eye.

Ibatchi staggered and gasped as the section of bridge he was standing on slammed downward into a steep ramp. He screamed as he half slid and half fell. The screams became more high pitched for a moment and then started to fade into a sickly sounding gurgle.

Naruto walked over and glared down at the bottom of the ramp. Ibatchi was impaled on no less than thirteen sharpened bamboo spears that were jutting from the water under the bridge. The shocked Kumo ninja could only look on with wide eyes at the resulting mess as the man died before them.

Inamori just glared down at him with a malevolent and dark looking grin as he looked up at her and reached for her with his hand. He looked half horrified and half confused at the expression on her face.

The dark haired girl spoke up without taking her eyes off her rapists body. "Well, he's dead. Aren't you supposed to kill me now?"

The Jounin shinobi pulled out a kunai knife and shoved it into her back. The clothes fell to the ground in a heap as the Kage Bunshin vanished. "What?"

The entire bridge became consumed in a huge explosion. Pieces of stone and splinters of wood rained down all across the garden. A few patrons were knocked about and given minor cuts and bruises by the fallout of the destroyed bridge. The entire underside had been plastered with explosive notes like wallpaper.

When it was over people were lying about on the ground and peering from around nearby cover in shock. There were a few screams of terror and assorted curses muttered.

Naruto was standing on the branch of a tree nearby looking on at the carnage. Two of the Kumo ninja had managed to escape. The Jounin, and the Kunoichi, the others were mixed in with pieces of the bridge. He had a serious looking scowl on his face and closed his eyes. Without a word, he turned away and left the scene.

OooOOooOO

In the middle of a rooftop near the north gate, Team Shadow stood around looking a bit worn, but overall pleased. The mission was successful, and they were past the danger of getting caught. Not that there was much to begin with. The Daimyo had made sure there were no patrols in the area for that part of town that day.

Naruto walked up to the trio looking worn out and tired. He glanced at Sasuke and gave a weak smile. "Hey. Good job, but a little overkill on the explosive notes. How many of those damn things did you bring anyway? Not very stealthy."

The raven haired boy crossed his arms and turned his head away. "They didn't see us did they?"

Ino giggled. "We all pooled our explosive notes together. Too bad two of them got away."

Sakura scowled at him. "Where the hell were you anyway?"

The Jounin turned his eyes towards her. He didn't look upset with her, but seemed very serious. "I was trying to figure out where the hell all these Kumo ninja we keep running into are coming from. I knew you three could handle that on your own."

That caught her off guard. "Oh. Did...did you find anything out?"

He looked at the ground and nodded. "Yeah. Don't worry about it. I'm gonna have a talk with the Hokage about it later."

Ino narrowed her eyes a little. "Are...you all right?"

He tried to look cheerful and failed. "I'm fine. Good job by the way."

Sasuke turned away and put his hands into his pockets. "It's not like you to pass on a secondary objective. You replaced that girl?"

The boy shrugged. "I needed to get close to him to do some spying. It was more important than a secondary objective." He sat down on a chimney pipe. "Call it taking the time to 'see underneath the underneath'."

Sakura frowned at him. "You're acting weirder than normal. Are you sure you're okay?"

He nodded. "I'll be fine." He was always a bit standoffish and aloof, but he wasn't looking them in the eyes and seemed to shy away from them a little.

Ino pressed a little more. "Are you sure? You look a bit pale, and she's right, you're acting weird."

"I'm fine," he snapped.

The two girls jumped a bit and Sasuke frowned at him.

Naruto stood up and turned away. "Sorry. I...saw some things I wish I hadn't." He turned his head to look over his shoulder. "You guys go ahead and start back towards the village. I'll catch up. There's something I need to do before I leave."

Sakura frowned. "You're supposed to report to the Hokage. We can't do it for you, remember?"

The Jounin nodded. "I know. I'll catch up to you before you get there. Don't worry." He jumped off across the rooftops away from them and vanished a short distance away.

"What's with him all of a sudden?" muttered Sakura.

"Yeah. I've never seen him like that. I hope he's all right." Ino looked a little worried.

Sasuke started walking away. "He'll be fine. Come on. There's no point in hanging around here, unless you want to go looking for him?"

Both girls knew that would be pointless. Sakura took a bit longer to pull her eyes away from where he'd gone. "I hope he snaps out of it. I'm a bit worried now."

Ino nodded. "Yeah. Whatever it was must have been pretty bad."

OooOOooOO

Inamori was sobbing into her pillow. Her pillow, she was safe, at home. Her father had been moved to tears at her return, and embraced her. He could not believe her tale. It was early afternoon the day after her escape thanks to the strange creature she'd met in the halls of the Counsel Building. She could barely believe it herself, it was like something out of an ancient legend. It didn't feel that way to her though, the memories were still fresh and painful, the child still within her.

It was a mixture of sorrow and relief that she could have never comprehended before that moment when she finally found herself safe at home.

"That man...is dead."

The girl gasped as her eyes went wide. She sat up and pulled her pillow in front of herself. "What? You?"

"I didn't have anything to do with it. Turns out he was right, your father did have a contract on him." The golden nine tailed fox was sitting on the balcony of her room. It was looking at her and seemed very serene and peaceful. It padded towards her and shifted forms into the blond woman she'd met the day before. She had a sadness in her features that was not there before.

The woman sat down next to her and put her arm across her shoulders. "I'm sorry. I did not give you proper credit for your strength before."

The girl sniffled and relaxed, a smile forming despite her tears. "I'm so grateful for what you did for me. Any favor you wish, anything I can grant, is yours."

The woman didn't look at her and had a haunted look in her eyes. "The kitsune in the Garden told me you were kind to them. Please, continue to be kind."

Inamori hugged her pillow and nodded. "Yes. Of course. My father will be glad to express his gratitude."

The blond girl had a wistful smile on her face. "We've met before. I will see him again, and let's just say he owes me a favor. Tell him to remember what the Fox King asked of him in Konohagakure."

The girl started to get up. "I'll get him. I'm..."

The blond woman shook her head. "I am in no mood to speak with a man. I came here to see you."

The daimyo's daughter looked confused. "Huh? Me?"

The woman looked at her and smiled. "I took your place and remained behind so that he would not know that you had escaped until his assassination was completed." She put her arm around the girl and leaned her head against her shoulder. "I know how you suffered in that man's hands. I know what he did to you."

The girl gasped and looked at her with wide eyes. "What?"

The blond gave her a smile. "You're much stronger than I thought. Never forget that strength, and don't lose that spirit I saw when I talked to you before we switched."

The dark haired girl looked at her and started bawling grabbing her around her neck and sobbing into her shoulder.

After Inamori calmed down a bit, Yakokyuu stood up and caressed her cheek in her hand. "I have to go. Goodbye, and don't forget."

The girl nodded and settled down into her mattress. Within a few moments, she was fast asleep.

OooOOooOO

Naruto felt incredibly sappy, yet better somehow as well. He was not over what had happened to him. It still turned his stomach and shortened his temper. Still, he was now able to push past it, and seemed to be functioning more normally. He was a ninja, and he'd done his duty. He had made a sacrifice in order for the mission to succeed. The price was less than his life, but still made him feel a bit hollow somehow. As if he'd left a piece of himself back in that building that he could never get back. Even if it was just for that one day, it did make him feel better that it was him rather than her. He'd not done it in vain, and while it still weighed down on him, seeing her safe at home had lifted a great deal from his shoulders.

He met up with his team and seemed a little more zoned out than normal, but otherwise fine.

"Hey. Glad to see you're back to normal at least," commented Sakura.

"Yeah. What happened anyway?" asked Ino. "You had us all weirded out, even Sasuke a little."

The boy glanced at her. "Sorry. I'm not getting into that. I'm fine, just got a bit weirded out myself I guess. That guy was nastier than you think." It did bother him a little, but he'd actually enjoyed seeing him die.

Sasuke paused as he looked ahead. "Well, it looks like we're back."

Naruto scowled at him. "What the hell were you thinking with all those explosive notes anyway? We were supposed to let her watch, not blow her into tiny bits. You're lucky she wasn't on the bridge."

The Uchiha boy stopped. He glanced over his shoulder and frowned. "I figured out what happened to you." He shoved his hands into his pockets. "I knew she wasn't going to show up."

Naruto froze and looked at him. The window to the office had been open. "You..."

Sasuke frowned at him. "Yeah. I did. I figured out you replaced her. I saw her slip out of the building."

Ino was annoyed at being left out of the loop. "What are you talking about?"

The raven haired boy didn't look back at her. "Mind your own business. Naruto is a better spy than I thought, that's all."

The blond kunoichi calmed a bit, but still muttered under her breath. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Their leader nodded. Sasuke wasn't being smug or teasing him. The Special Jounin started towards the village. "Just forget about it. We're home, and we can put this mission to rest and be done with it."

Naruto turned his eyes away and nodded. "Yeah." He wasn't sure just how much Sasuke had seen, but he caught the hint that he knew about what had happened in the office that night.

Sakura gave a sigh. "We're home." She stretched her arms and walked through the gates of Konohagakure.

Their leader looked around. It felt good to be back again.

OooOOooOO

Naruto stood in the Hokage's office in a relaxed pose. "Everything went well, had to scrap the secondary objective. Didn't work out."

She nodded. "I know. I've heard a rather strange story from the Daimyo. I also know what he was doing to her."

The boy looked uncomfortable. "Yeah."

"You did well. You'd be surprised how many of us have made that kind of sacrifice in the past," she said as she eyed him. "Yes. I know what likely happened while you were covering for her while she escaped. I applaud your initiative, and your understanding of what was most important." She leaned forward. "No, she didn't tell on you. I know enough about what was happening to figure it out on my own."

"Well, aside from blowing up half the gardens, it went pretty smoothly." He stiffened up a little. "Sasuke handled it very well."

She nodded. "Yes. He did."

"We have a leak," said Naruto.

Tsunade nodded. "I know."

"Have there been others?" asked the boy. "We keep running into Kumogakure ninja on our missions. They seem to know we're coming. It hasn't been a problem, but..."

Tsunade shook her head. "No, it's just your team."

The blond boy looked confused. "Huh?"

The woman smiled at him. "Well, I'm the leak."

Naruto was wide eyed. "What?"

"Actually, technically, it would be me."

The boy whirled around and found himself staring at a familiar set of white eyes. Hiashi was standing in the doorway with his arms crossed and a serious expression on his face.

"Kumogakure has been sniffing around you. They're trying to capture or kill you and your team," replied Tsunade. "In fact, we have a spy in our midst. We've been feeding him information, some of it had to be reliable. Your team handled it as expected."

The boy's face fell a little. "Okay. So we've made them look bad. Now what?"

Hiashi walked up next to him. "I came to the Hokage when I discovered Kumo's ambassador was working as a spy. It's no real surprise, that's usually how it works anyway. Especially regarding Kumogakure." The man glanced down at him. "We're aware of him, and he's under control. So, we'll likely just leave him be aside from keeping a close eye on him in the future."

Tsunade looked up at him. "I've also noticed a few of your little 'side projects'. Like helping Tea hunt down those pirate bases. You provided information that pinpointed their location and they were all but wiped out."

Naruto shrugged. "Yeah. So? They were screwing with our shipping routes too. It's not like I attacked them for them or gave up Konohagakure secrets. It worked out for everyone."

The woman smiled and leaned forward a little more. "I also know you're bankrolling that little coupe that we've been contracted to help out with in Whirlpool." She moved back again. "I approved that by the way. I'll be sending a couple of teams out in a week or so to handle it. Still, I think you had your own reasons for that."

Naruto shrank back a little more. "She's family. I only gave her a loan and offered some advice."

Hiashi shook his head. "You miss the point. We are aware that you hold Shadow Realm's interests above Konoha's. Like how you used your other face to leverage a favor out of Fire Country's Daimyo for Shadow Realm. You could have just as easily done it on behalf of Konoha, but you did not."

He slumped his shoulders. "Well, I am King after all. I can't just ignore them."

Tsunade nodded. "Yes. That's exactly why I'm taking you off Team Shadow."

The boy looked at her with wide eyes. "Huh?"

"Sasuke will lead it, it's time to pull you back," said the Hokage. She didn't seem angry or upset.

Naruto seemed to consider that. "What about Sound?"

"What about them?" asked Tsunade.

"I'm directly involved." replied the boy in an equally calm tone.

The Hokage nodded. "Konoha has handled it's affairs in the past. This will be no different."

Naruto was frustrated, but didn't show it. "I see. Leaf and Shadow are allies in this. I don't want to get cut out of it."

The woman smirked at him in a calculating way. "I know. I've already been taking more risks with you than I should. I considered it necessary for your growth as a Shinobi, and you've proven yourself more than capable. You should have expected this, you're too important to risk. I can't put you in harms way so carelessly. I believe that you've learned from your experience, but I cannot risk you further. If something were to happen to you, our relationship with Shadow would suffer. You know that."

That caught the blond boy off guard. "I think I get it." Tsunade didn't trust him, he didn't think she thought he'd stab her in the back, but his outside deals for Shadow had come back to bite him. Not that he regretted any of them. He was also an important dignitary, and he doubted the Kitsune would care enough to keep supporting Konohagakure and Fire Country without him.

The woman sat back in her chair. "That's not the only reason. I'm also aware that you're trying to provoke a war with Sound. Consider this my way of slowing your efforts. We'll deal with them, but it's too soon, and that can't be rushed. I understand your position, but I've got my own people to look after as well. You won't be completely cut out. I'm just using you as an independent operative for a time, aside from your other duties."

"You're fortunate. In the same position, another ninja would have been expelled. Double dealing isn't something we can ignore." Hiashi looked down at the young Jounin. "I suppose you wouldn't be doing it if you weren't the ruler of your own people now. Still, a Leaf ninja must be loyal to Konohagakure and Fire Country above all else. You are not in a position where that is possible."

"Well, she did encourage it a bit," replied Naruto as he jerked his thumb at Tsunade.

The Hokage smirked at that. "I honestly didn't expect you to take it to heart quite so much. I can't really blame you. We don't want to make an enemy of Shadow, but I doubt you'll take this that way."

He nodded. "I have no intention of fighting Leaf. I'd leave first."

"Well, you're still wearing our symbol. You're one of my Jounin as far as I'm concerned still, and this is the start of your next assignment," replied Tsunade. She slid a folder across her desk and tapped it with her finger.

That confused him even more. He picked it up and opened it, looking carefully at the contents. "Oh...you have got to be kidding."

"I'm afraid not," said Tsunade.

Naruto looked up at Hiashi. "You're...okay with this? I mean..."

The man gave a small sigh and nodded. "I have learned from past mistakes. I am no fool. I have realized that it is time to accept what I cannot change. The Hyuuga must adapt, and I must work for the best interests of my clan. It is sooner than I expected, but I requested it personally. I've no doubt she can handle it. I've seen to it personally." He gave a somewhat forced smile. "I think you should be able to figure out my reasoning considering our past dealings."

"Aw man," grumbled Naruto as he hung his head. "Are you sure?" He looked at Tsunade. "I mean, I like Sasuke, he's got the potential to be a great ninja, but..."

"But?" asked Tsunade.

"I dunno. I mean, you put him in charge, and I'd worry he'll go charging off after Itachi the first chance he gets. I mean, I seriously think he needs supervision for now. It's not that I don't trust him, well, it is actually. I know what to expect from him. Once Itachi is taken care of, he'll be a lot more trustworthy I think. Until he is, he's going to be an obsessive butthole about it." Naruto looked completely serious.

The Hokage chuckled at that. "You're the one who's not trustworthy. You're working for your own ends. I understand, really. You've got outside responsibilities. You're not losing any rank, but you've got your fingers in too many pies for the sort of work Team Shadow is doing."

He looked annoyed at that. "Yeah. Well, I've not failed a mission yet either."

Tsunade nodded. "Yes. I suspect that if I leave you to your own devices, you'll keep doing what you did this time. Leave the team to deal with the mission, while you go off to work your own angle. It helped Fire Country this time, but I suspect you'll be trying to pull in something that works for Shadow Realm regularly as well." She leaned forward and smirked. "I don't trust you to pick Konohagakure if there's a conflict of interests."

Naruto scowled at that. She totally had him pegged. "Damnit." He took the folder and turned away.

"Good luck with your new assignment!" said Tsunade cheerfully.

Hiashi watched him go. "Neji as well."

"Really now? That's interesting," said Tsunade. "I knew about his little friend, but your nephew as well?"

The man nodded. "I'm certain. He is driven by his rivalry with Uzumaki. I suspect he will challenge him soon."

OooOOooOO

Neji was covered in sweat and dirt. He was flowing through a kata smoothly and quickly. Moving his arms and spinning around in quick knife handed blows and jabs with his fingers.

Tenten watched on a nearby tree stump in fascination. "Is it harder that way?"

"Huh?" asked the boy as he ended his kata and turned his head towards her. His eyes were covered by a strip of cloth.

Rock Lee smiled and put his thumb up, allowing his teeth to sparkle as he smiled. "Yes. I am pleased to see my teammate broadening horizons in the pursuit of self improvement."

"Whatever," grumbled the Hyuuga boy as he worked on tightening the wrappings on his hands.

"Well, you can see anyway right? I mean, is it something to train the Bayakugan or something?" asked the girl as she hopped off the tree stump and smiled at him. She waved her hand in front of his face.

"No. I am blind," he replied as he grabbed her hand and shoved it down. "Stop that."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Then how did you know I was doing that?"

"Air pressure, sound, smell..." replied the boy as he pulled the blindfold off his eyes.

Tenten scowled at him. "Smell? I do not stink!"

"I'm learning to recognize things most people ignore because they rely on their eyes," he replied simply as he ignored her irritation. "You don't have to stink to have a scent."

Rock Lee furrowed his mighty eyebrows. "I see. Perhaps I could benefit from such training as well?"

Neji just shrugged. "Maybe."

"Smell? What are you thinking of joining the Inuzuka clan or something?" Tenten was confused. "What's wrong with using your eyes anyway?"

The boy glanced at her. "Nothing, except against an opponent who can fool them."

Lee nodded. "I see the wisdom in this. I too shall partake in such training. It...sends shivers down my spine to think I have been exposed to such a difficult and insurmountable task! I shall train my hardest and through hard work and the spirit of youth I shall overcome this obstacle and forge a new path!"

Tenten rolled her eyes. "Fine. Boys are so weird."

Neji looked at the blindfold in his hand and gripped it in his fist. "I'm finished for today. See you later."

Lee was overcome with chargin. "Yes, and yet I have only begun!" He raised his fist into the air and rushed off to find himself a blindfold of his own. He was very excited just thinking about the endless hours of training and hardship it would supply.

OooOOooOO

Konohamaru had his feet up on top of a desk and a grin on his face. "Man. This is great."

"What's so great about it?" scowled the girl sitting beside him. She was about a year older and glared at the other two in the room with her. "I'm stuck with you, and that kid over there." She had shoulder length brown hair and a grumpy look about her. "The biggest slacker at the academy, and some kid." She was watching the door to the room intently and waiting. She had little in the way of a figure, and was very slim.

A young quiet girl was sitting a few rows down from them with her nose in a book. She hadn't said anything, and hadn't bothered to look at either one of them.

"What? Don't be like that Midori. You've got no idea how lucky you are!" said Konohamaru as he lifted his nose up. "Any minute now we're going to..."

"Going to what?"

"Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!" screamed the brunette girl as she jumped from her seat.

The girl at the front of the class gave a small jolt as well. She almost turned to look back at them, but kept her nose in her book.

Konohamaru looked up and found Naruto sitting on top of the desk behind him. "Hey. Bro. What's up?" He grinned at him and put his arms behind his head. "Come by to visit or something?"

"What the hell!?" cried the irritable girl as she grabbed her chest and started panting.

The blond ninja in a cloth face mask glanced over at her. "Excitable huh?"

The black haired boy nodded. "Yeah. Kind of. She's always so stressed out, and kind of a bitch."

The girl was the oldest in the room at about thirteen. "When? How? What?" she muttered as she looked about. There were no windows, and one door. She rushed over and opened the door. "There's no..." A cloud of dust formed around her head as the dirty chalkboard eraser landed on her skull. She blinked and got bloodshot eyes as she fumed. "How the hell did you get in here?" She whirled around and pointed at the blond boy. He didn't look more than two years older than her.

Naruto seemed pleased. "I'm very sneaky."

"What brings you, Bro? I can't really hang out today. We're waitin on..."

"What the hell are you doing here?" snapped the irritable girl. "You're not a student, so you shouldn't be here! It's against the rules! You're going to be in big trouble if you're still here when our sensei shows up!"

Naruto scratched his cheek with his finger. "Iruka went home for the day. There's no chance of that." He looked at Konohamaru. "Is she always like this?"

The boy nodded. "Yeah. Pretty much. I haven't known her that long though. I got moved up a couple of classes a few months ago."

Naruto nodded. "Oh. Big on rules and such?"

"Yeah. She's got a big mouth too." Konohamaru seemed very relaxed and at ease. "Maybe we can hang out tomorrow, Bro? I'll tell you about how it went without that noisy chick around."

"Noisy chick!? You brat!" snarled the girl as she jabbed her finger at him. She jumped at his desk and the boy hopped out of the way bouncing over several rows and out of reach.

The girl glared at him and jabbed her finger. "Just you wait! One of these days I'm going to catch you, and then you'll regret it!"

The smallest girl in the room ignored everything in favor of reading her text book. She had long dark hair, and that was all either of the other two kids knew of her.

Naruto seemed to cheer up. "Well, we should get going."

"What do you mean? We're supposed to wait here!" snapped the loud girl as she glared at him. "We were told to wait right here until Sensei shows up."

"Yeah, Bro. We can't leave." Konohamaru shrugged. "Kind of a pain I guess. I haven't seen you in a while and all."

Naruto scratched the back of his head. "It's not 'Bro' anymore. It's Sensei. I'm here to pick you three brats up."

The older girl's face dropped. "Huh?"

"I'm Uzumaki Naruto, your new Jounin Instructor."

The young girl at the front of the room looked just as surprised as the other two. Her head snapped up revealing two white eyes.

"Hey, cool Bro sensei," Konohamaru looked pleased. "I thought you were an ANBU or something though?"

Naruto shrugged. "Yeah. I sorta got transfered to instructor for a bit."

Midori's jaw dropped. "That guy is an ANBU? No way! He can't be much older than me!" She pointed her finger at him. "This isn't funny!"

Konohamaru chuckled. "You'd better not make Bro sensei mad. He's pretty sadistic."

The young girl stood up and bowed. "It's nice to meet you, sensei."

Naruto smiled at her. "No need to be quite so formal."

The angry excitable girl balled up her fists. "Look, you overachieving dipshit! This isn't funny. You can't just drag your friends in here to prank us like this! It's against the rules!"

Naruto rolled his eyes. "He's not kidding. Now come on. You've all got a test to take."

"Test?" said the three of them in unison.

Naruto nodded. "That's right. Out of the thirty six applicants, only nine are chosen as Genin. It's an incredibly difficult exam with a sixty six percent failure rate." He turned towards the door. "Daylights burning, time to go. Meet me on the balcony outside and we'll discuss the particulars."

OooOOooOO

Naruto smiled. "Well, tell me a little about yourselves, likes, dislikes, dreams, the usual crap." His smile was a bit forced, as he was not really into his new duty. Konohamaru he was fine with, the Hyuuga girl was quiet and seemed easy going. The loud brat was not amusing him. After finally getting Ino to shut the hell up he had to start from scratch. They also weren't training as ANBU, so he had a lot more limitations on what he could do to force her to shut the hell up.

"I'm Sarutobi Konohamaru! I like training and stuff, and I'm gonna be Hokage!" The boy seemed quite pleased with himself and puffed out his chest.

The irritable girl looked a bit miffed and crossed her arms. "Azawa Midori, and I don't like this one bit. What kind of Genin team is this anyway? What is she, nine?" She jerked her thumb towards the boy. "And this idiot is a lazy overachieving dork!"

Naruto nodded reflexively. She appeared to have the worst parts of Sakura and Ino's personalities all in one horrible flat chested brat.

The youngest girl stood up. "I am Hyuuga Hanabi." She sat back down.

Naruto nodded. "Good, good. That's a start. Well, we'll meet here tomorrow at nine o'clock in the morning. It's going to be pretty difficult, and you might get sick, so don't eat anything before." He turned and walked away waving over his shoulder at them. "See you then."

Midori scowled at that. "That jerk! He made us tell us all that stuff about ourselves, but then didn't tell us anything about him!"

Konohamaru shrugged at her. "Bro sensei is just like that. You get used to it."

OooOOooOO

Sasuke sat and smirked as he looked at the pair working in front of him. Kidomaru and Tayuya were digging up potatoes in a field. They were both rather relaxed and went about their work enjoying the fresh air. Neither one had been outside much in the past month.

"What the hell are you staring at?" growled Tayuya as she glanced over at him. The boy in the tiger mask was leaning against a nearby fence post. There were several other ANBU around the field keeping an eye on them.

The Konoha ninja shrugged. "It's my job today. You're lucky I volunteered for it, or you'd be sitting in that room staring at the wall still." The other guards were Chunin, and at least one Jounin had to be present. "Get used to it, you foul mouthed brat."

"Fuck you!" she snapped.

"Calm down and shut up would you? I'm sick of that cell." Kidomaru wiped his forehead.

"I feel like a damn Genin," she grumbled irritably.

"Yeah. Me too, but that's a lot better than feeling like a prisoner. I'll have enough of that dungeon crawling later." He scowled at her a little, but it wasn't very harsh.

"You should be used to it, you basement dwelling dork," she grumbled. "Quit looking at my ass you damn fucking pervert!" she shot back at Sasuke. "I hate this place."

Kidomaru nodded. "Yeah. Well they can't hold us forever."

The redhead narrowed her eyes at him. "What? Do you think they're just going to let us go? When they're finished with us, we'll be executed dumbass." She hung her head. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm sick of this fucking humiliation."

Her fellow prisoner looked about the field. "Well, unless you can use your powers, there's nothing we can do but enjoy the fact they let us out for a bit. Mine are sealed, or I'd have already tried."

Sasuke was supposed to tell them to shut up, but reading their lips was enough to keep him occupied. "Hey. You two."

They both looked at him.

"I don't mind you talking, but change the subject. You'll make me nervous, and I'll have to throw you back in your cells if you do."

The pair looked annoyed with him, but went quiet and started working again.

OooOOooOO

A short time later, they were back in their cells once again. The field had been finished, and while a little tiring, they both found it relaxing. They were right next to each other, in holding cells a floor above the interrogation area. The wall between them was thick concrete, but instead of a sealed up door, there were bars, which meant they could speak and keep each other company.

Not that they enjoyed that much. "Why did the bitch have to survive with me?" Kidomaru glared over at her. He'd never enjoyed talking with Tayuya much. Though, he didn't dislike her near as much as he used too. She had stood by him and saved his life. He owed her, and didn't complain or taunt her as much as he used to.

She was sitting against the wall muttering curses just loud enough for him to hear her. Their guard had annoyed her a great deal by watching them so closely. Not that she had tried to escape.

As if summoned, a familiar boy walked up to the bars. He had a smirk on his face and opened her cell door. "Hey. Get up."

She scowled and glared at him. Sasuke wasn't wearing his mask. Without a word, she stood up and put her hands forward, expecting to be chained. The boy shoved her hands down. "We're not going that far."

He stepped aside and she walked out of the cell. "What the fuck do you want?"

"Me?" He indicated the door to Kidomaru's cell. "You've got a visitor that wants to speak to you both. So I'm putting you in the same place. Just get in there and shut up would you?"

She did so and he closed the door on her.

Kidomaru frowned at it. "Huh? What are they putting you in here for?"

The redhead narrowed her eyes at him. "Don't sound so excited."

He frowned at that. "I'm nervous. It's bad enough just being next to you."

She shrugged. "That guy said we had a visitor."

"You do," replied a vaguely familiar voice. "Hello, Tayuya, Kidomaru."

"Dosu," said the male prisoner.

"Fucking traitorous trash," growled Tayuya. "What the hell do you want?"

The pair glared at the figure on the other side of the bars. His face was bandaged up, and his arms had his gauntlets on them again. "To discuss what's going to happen to you."

Sasuke was behind him looking relaxed and less than interested.

"What do you mean? We'll be executed of course." The redhead turned her eyes away. "We're not going to turn traitor like you."

"What? You think they're just going to let you go back? Even if you escape, they'll kill you if you return. Just like they did to my team." He shook his head. "No. I didn't betray anyone. I was betrayed by Orochimaru, and so were you. I heard about what happened with Kimmimaro. He didn't come here to rescue you two."

Kidomaru hung his head. "Yeah. Well, that's part of being a ninja. We failed, and I'm not so sure I'm glad I survived. Just wish the bastard had been quicker about it."

Dosu nodded. "I'd have died for Sound, but what Orochimaru did was unforgivable. He murdered my team to perform a fucking jutsu. Sacrificed them for a goddamn technique in a failed attempt to assassinate the Third Hokage. I hate him."

Tayuya spit between the bars. "I fucking hate you. You betrayed Sound, you trash!"

Dosu shifted out of the way. "He's going to get Sound destroyed, and Rice with it. Konohagakure is far stronger, and the Five Countries are starting to see things their way. It's just a matter of time. If we don't get rid of him, Sound and Rice will go down with him. Konohagakure would rather just get rid of him if they can. They've no interest in conquering Rice or destroying it if they don't need to."

Kidomaru chuckled. "We? So, you're one of them now are you? Leaf trash?"

Dosu nodded. "That's right. I am. What does it matter? Sound won't have me anymore than they'd have you. There's nothing you can do, you're exiles. You're not Sound ninja anymore, and they don't want you back. You're nothing but missing nin."

Tayuya ignored him and nodded at Sasuke. "What? This trash is singing your praises, Leaf trash. You're not going to reward him?"

"Yeah. Give the dog a biscuit," agreed Kidomaru.

Sasuke shrugged. "You two remind me of how I used to be. I hated everything, still don't like much. Then I figured out that it's best to not waste time hating more than the one who made me suffer. So now, I just hate him."

Tayuya pushed her cheeks against the bars with a mad eyed glare. "Did Orochimaru make you suffer?"

The raven haired boy smirked. "No. I'm not talking about him. I could give a shit about your boss."

Dosu nodded. "He's right. Don't think I haven't heard about you screaming curses at Sound down here. Leaf has you in that cell because you attacked them. We've talked about that before. Stop wasting time hating them."

Kidomaru hung his head. "What does it matter? We'll be killed regardless."

Dosu crossed his arms. "No, you idiots. This isn't Sound in case you've noticed. As long as you behave, they won't kill you. In fact, that's part of the reason I'm here."

The pair in the cell looked up at him in half disgusted half confused shock.

"It's going to be a while. You're not to be trusted, you'll always be under guard, and you won't be allowed to be ninja anymore. No weapons, your chakra will be sealed, and you'll have limited freedom, but...you're right that we can't keep you here forever." He raised his arm and pulled his sleeve down past his elbow. "As long as this war with Sound is going on, I'm not much better off." There was a tattoo on his elbow. "This is a tracking seal. It lets them know where I am at all times. I was allowed to keep my weapons and I can work as a Genin because I defected and provided information. There's nothing you two know we don't already, and you were captured as prisoners of war."

"What are you saying?" snapped Kidomaru.

"Call it work release," replied Dosu. "It's a few weeks away, so I won't get into the details. You won't be free, and you'll be under guard. You'll be given a job and a place to stay, and you won't be allowed anywhere else. You go to work, and then you go home."

"So I can expect to have this asshole glaring at my butt cheeks for the rest of my fucking life then?" Tayuya nodded at Sasuke. "No thanks. I'd rather stay in here and rot."

The ANBU chuckled. "No. The Police Force will be handling that. I'm an ANBU, and keeping track of prisoners isn't my job. I'm just here for today because Ibiki asked me to look after you so you could get out of the cells for a bit."

Dosu nodded. "You're lucky. The ANBU put in a good word for you. The fact that you helped get rid of Kimmimaro is the only reason they're doing this. Normally, they'd just send you to Kajishufu to spend the rest of your life in prison there, if you weren't executed that is."

Kidomaru hung his head. "Yeah. Lucky us."

Tayuya didn't look pleased and turned away from the bars. "Whatever. Don't expect us to be grateful."

Sasuke nodded. "Yeah. Well, see you around then. Learn to keep your mouth under control and keep your head down, and you might live through the war. If you handle it right, you can probably leave and do what you want when it's over."

Dosu turned away. "I'll be in touch. You don't have to pretend to like me, but it will go smoother if you can pretend to act civilized."

The ANBU opened the cell door and waved his hand at her. "Come on, back to your cell."

She shuffled out and jerked her shoulder away from his hand as he ushered her along. A moment later, the cell was closed and he walked out with Dosu.

The former Sound glanced at him. "It was kind of you to volunteer to keep an eye on them and get them out for a bit."

The ANBU shrugged and looked indifferent. "Guess I felt a little sorry for them, and she did help us out that night, even if it was for her own reasons. She looked out for her companion too, that counts for something around here."

Dosu nodded. "Yeah. This place is different than I'd heard. We were enemies, and I suppose they exaggerated things to make us hate Fire and Leaf more."

Sasuke smirked at that. "We're not all that good either."

The Genin nodded. "I know. Leaf ninja have it better than you think. Maybe they'll see it, maybe not. It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to escape and ended up getting sent to prison in Kajishufu anyway. Still, I understand them, and I have to try."

The ANBU turned away moving in a different direction as they exited the holding area. "Yeah. Well, I'll see you around. I've got a meeting to go to."

OooOOooOO

Within ten minutes he was in the Fox Den. He slumped down in a chair in front of Naruto's desk. Sakura and Ino were already there and standing around the room in relaxed poses along the walls. "Hey. What's up? I heard you wanted to talk to us."

Naruto had his feet on his desk and looked annoyed. "Yeah. I did."

"What's this about?" asked Sakura.

"Yeah. Is there another mission?" Ino leaned forward and grinned.

"Probably, but I won't be along," commented Naruto as he put his hands behind his head. Everyone looked confused for a moment. He looked at Sasuke. "I'm no longer a member of Team Shadow."

"What?" said Sakura in confusion.

Naruto shrugged. "I got fired, relieved of duty, whatever you want to call it. I'm no longer on your team."

They all gave him blank stares. Even Sasuke looked dumbfounded.

"Wh...what are you talking about?" muttered Ino finally.

Naruto looked at the ceiling. "Starting tomorrow, I've got a Genin team. I'll give them the 'test' of course, but they'll be passing it regardless. My team was hand selected for me by the Hokage, and I can't get out of it." He frowned a little and tossed a pencil into the ceiling boards. It stuck in place along side about fifteen others.

Ino cocked her head. "They're making you an instructor?"

Sakura seemed to think on that. "Those poor Genin."

Sasuke nodded. "I suppose we'll be getting a replacement then?"

Naruto nodded. "Probably. Make sure and get them up to speed. I doubt you'll be getting stuck with a Genin. You're ANBU so they'll probably stick you with a 'spare'." It was a common term used when Ninja were left without a team for various reasons. Anything from having team members die, to retired ninja leaving vacancies, or even reassignments leaving teams with too few members to operate normally. The remaining members were often either put together, or transfered to new teams with openings. "No idea who it will be."

Sakura frowned and hung her head. "So, you're not on our team anymore then?"

Ino looked pretty much the same. "Wow. I mean, it happens to every team sooner or later, but still. We'll miss you, I guess. It was going so well and I didn't expect it so soon."

Naruto seemed surprised. "Huh? I'm not dead or anything. Relax. I'll be seeing you around and all. I'm still an ANBU, I'm still running the Den, and you guy get everything but drinks free for life. You can handle missions without me. I'm to understand I'll be taking solo missions on occasion while I've got my Genin team."

The girls looked to be on the verge of tears, but kept themselves under control. They didn't seem too upset, but it was an emotional moment for them.

Sasuke sat back in his chair. "What happened anyway? I mean, there must have been a reason."

The blond kicked his feet off his desk and folded his hands on top of it with a sigh. "Hokage wants me to train more ninja like us. Those two lazy jerks that trained me won't do it, so now I'm stuck being an instructor."

"That's remarkably similar to what she said," replied a familiar voice from behind them.

Sakura and Sasuke both turned back quickly. Ino looked as well, but arched her eyebrow. "Kakashi sensei!" said the pink haired girl as she smiled at him.

The gray haired man seemed cheerful. "Hello. I was just looking for you."

Naruto stood up. "Hey. What's up?"

Kakashi looked over at him. "I'm your replacement. The Hokage decided to take your advice. I'll be taking over your team."

The blond smirked and nodded. "I see." He flopped down in his chair and kicked his feet up. "How did they drag you back into the ANBU?"

His former instructor chuckled. "Who said I left? You'll be back most likely. Jounin are independent operatives for the most part. We get rotated into teams for a time as well on occasion."

Sakura smiled at him. "So we'll be working with you again?"

He nodded. "That's right. Don't get too nostalgic. I'm not an instructor anymore. You should stop calling me Sensei. We're all ANBU now, though do I still outrank you."

Ino seemed to think about it. "That's right. You were their Jounin Instructor when we were all Genin, weren't you?"

The man nodded. "Yes. We all know each other pretty well. I'm sure we'll get along all right."

Sasuke seemed very relaxed. "Heh. I guess I'm not in charge then."

Kakashi glanced down at him. "Afraid not. Sorry."

The boy arched his eyebrow. "Are you kidding? That's great! I'd never be able to dodge these two if I was the leader."

Ino smiled at him. "Well, now you only have to dodge Sakura, because Naruto won't be around so much."

"Actually, I think he was talking about you and Naruto," commented Sakura.

Naruto smiled at Kakashi. "Get used to it."

The man dropped his head a little. "I...see."

Sasuke stood up. "I'm getting kind of used to tuning it out."

Sakura and Ino had their foreheads touching as they glared at each other. "I'm pretty sure he was talking about you."

"No way. He definitely meant you!"

Naruto felt better seeing it. "Hey. I don't have to put up with it anymore either way!"

The two girls glared at him for a moment, but seemed to relax in unison.

Ino seemed unsure of what to say. "I...I guess this is goodbye then."

Sakura puffed her chest out a bit. "You're a total jerk and a sadistic pervert...but...it was an honor serving with you anyway." She bowed to him.

Sasuke smirked at that. "Someday, I'm gonna kick your ass. You know that right?"

Naruto shrugged. "You'll certainly try. Don't be strangers. It's not like I've been banished or killed."

Kakashi nodded. "I'll look out for them."

The blond boy nodded. "They'll look out for you too."

The group left his office and he stayed behind his desk. Tomorrow was a new day, and he had to get up early so he could start tormenting those children.

OooOOooOO

Naruto yawned as he crawled out of bed. Kira, Masara, and Koruma were curled up on the mattress in the nude. He had on a pair of shorts and scratched his head as he blinked some of the sleep out of his eyes. It was early, the sky outside was orange as the sun rose. "Coffee," he grumbled as he worked his toes into the carpet and shuffled over to the kitchen.

He glanced over his shoulder at the kitsune and rubbed at his neck. He was still getting used to the new bed. He'd replaced his old single mattress with a king sized bed. They would all fit into it with room to spare, and they'd made full use of it. He turned back to what he was doing and started the coffee maker before going over to the fridge to start breakfast.

Kitsuma was starting to grunt and whimper a little. He wasn't awake yet, but his father could tell he would be soon.

Kira was the first to wake up and put her feet over the edge of the bed. She gave him a sleepy smile as her clothes appeared on her body. "Good morning, Highness."

The blond nodded and rubbed at his eyes while yawning. "Yeah. It is, sort of."

The violet haired kitsune was usually the first of the trio to rise in the mornings. He was usually up a bit before her. She cocked her head and pouted a little. "Huh? What do you mean?"

"I've got to start with that Genin team today," he replied simply.

She seemed pleased. "I'm sure you'll get into it once you get started."

He gave a half hearted smile at that. "Probably. It's still a little annoying though."

OooOOooOO

It was about eight thirty in the morning. Naruto was outside walking through the streets of the village. He was making his way towards the practice field where he was supposed to meet his Genin team at nine. He had no intention of making it on time, and was planning on meeting them at about ten. It would give them time to get frustrated and think about how they'd missed a meal.

"Naruto," called a familiar voice.

He turned and smiled as he noticed Iruka approaching. Classes were over until the end of the summer break. "Iruka, it's been a while."

"Yes, it has." His former instructor looked very pleased to see him. "I've heard of course. You're instructing a one of the Genin teams."

The blond nodded. "Yes. I'll be meeting with them later."

Iruka smirked at him. "Don't be too hard on them."

Naruto chuckled at that. "Well, I might have to muzzle one of them, but I think they'll do all right."

The man nodded. "Midori is a bit...spirited. She's a good kid though. She was ranked third in the class. She's got a good handle on Taijutsu and her Genjutsu skill isn't bad either. She could use a bit of work in Ninjutsu." He gave his former student a knowing smile. "I suspect you already know about Konohamaru. Ebisu is a good tutor, but I know you've been working with him. He was moved up two grades, and I have trouble telling if he's in class sometimes. I may not have noticed it with you, but now that I know what to look for it's kind of hard to miss."

The Jounin shrugged. "Yeah. I started working with him back when we met after my exams. I didn't expect to end up his Jounin instructor though. He used to think of us as rivals."

The academy teacher cocked his eyebrow a little. "He doesn't anymore?"

Naruto thought about it. "I'm not sure. I kind of doubt it. I'm never going to be Hokage. I sort of grew out of that I guess."

That caught his former teacher off guard. "Well, you can still dream, right?"

The boy smiled at him. "I've found other dreams. Though, that Hyuuga girl was a bit of a surprise."

Iruka seemed to agree. "Yeah. She passed the exams. She was home schooled though, so I don't know much about her. As I understand it, she's to be Hiashi's heir. He trained her personally. She was able to make a Bunshin easily, and her written exams scores were above average. Quite impressive for her age."

Naruto nodded and looked thoughtful. "I see. She seems confident, very formal though. Not that it's a bad thing, but she does seem a bit young."

The teacher shrugged at that. "It's not the first time someone as young as her has become a Genin."

The blond seemed to consider that. "I guess so. Still, that Midori girl is going to be a bit of a pain. I have to train her to shut up. I'm more concerned with her than either of the other two."

Iruka chuckled at that. "Well, don't forget they're just Genin. Try not to overdo it. You'll be fine, I'm sure."

Naruto smiled at him and turned away. "Well, I've got to go start torturing them. I'll see you later. I'll probably be around more now that I'm an Instructor."

The man waved at him. "All right then, don't be a stranger. I'll catch up to you again some time."

OooOOooOO

Naruto had just finished explaining the test to the three academy students. They looked up at him with rather blank expressions. He started the timer and crossed his arms. "All right now, you've got about two hours to get the bells away from me. Whoever doesn't have a bell when the timer goes off fails. If you don't go all out and use killing force, you'll fail for sure. Anytime you're ready we can begin. You may use kunai and any weapons you might have."

Hanabi jumped up and rushed at him without a word. It almost caught him off guard. The girl moved to attack with a blank expression on her face, poking at him with her palms open using her fingers to strike. Chakra flowed through her towards her hands and her strikes were carefully aimed.

Naruto countered the strikes and blocked easily, keeping her from striking his pressure points easily even on his blocking limbs. She was pretty skilled, but she wasn't Neji either. He had no difficulty holding her off and stayed in place as she rushed and jumped around him, looking for any opening she could find.

Konohamaru frowned at Midori. The girl was a bit shocked and wasn't quite sure what to do. "Wow, she just attacked him."

"Sorry, but only two of us can pass and all. She's way cuter than you are, I hope you understand." The boy ran towards the fray.

"Cute? You pervert!" snapped Midori in irritation. "That jerk, this is why he didn't want us to eat! I can't believe this stupid test!"

Konohamaru had a kunai in his hand as he jumped at Naruto from behind. The blond ninja spun around and kicked him in the gut. He put his hand on Hanabi's head and flipped over her. The girl gasped in surprise as she found herself with her fist in Konohamaru's belly.

"Ouch," grumbled the boy a little sourly. He didn't think anything of it, and she didn't seem to either as she ignored him and turned to attack again. The boy put his hand on her shoulder to stop her for a moment and she glared at him looking annoyed. "Hey, look. I'm gonna try to steal those bells while you keep him distracted. Help me, and I'll give you one. I'd rather end up with you than with that mouth with legs."

She scowled and turned her head towards Naruto without bothering to respond and dashed away as she charged him.

"Well, isn't she friendly?" grumbled the boy. He moved off looking for cover and trying to shift to Naruto's blind side. His former tutor turned instructor was wise to it though, and kept him in sight.

Midori screamed as she jumped at the older boy with both her feet aimed at the back of his head. The Jounin just shifted aside and extended his arm, clotheslining her as she sailed past him.

The blond squatted down next to her and narrowed his eyes. "Why are you screaming?"

She tried to punch him in the face and he hopped up out of the way. Hanabi missed trying to strike at his back as he went over her head and landed behind her, and she tripped over the fallen girl landing face first in the grass.

Naruto stuck his arm back behind him and put his palm against Konohamaru's head. The boy slashed at him with a kunai from behind and missed. The instructor looked back at him and smiled. "Hey. You've been practicing I see. I almost didn't notice you that time." He shoved and the boy ended up on his back.

OooOOooOO

About two hours later, Midori was tied to the wooden post and looked very annoyed. "That bastard. I'll kill him."

Konohamaru was eating one of the two meals that their Instructor had brought with him. "Huh? No way. You couldn't even kill him if he let you. Bro sensei is real strong."

Hanabi had the other meal and didn't say anything. She looked focused and was contemplating her next move. Her opponent was nearly impossible to hit, and she only had one more chance to get a bell.

Konohamaru gave a heavy sigh and offered the unfinished portion of his meal to Midori. "Here. Eat something would you?"

Hanabi frowned at him. "We're not supposed too. Sensei said..."

The boy frowned at her. "Hey. We all need strength. In case you haven't figured it out yet, we're going to have to work together to get those bells. None of us is going to get one unless all three of us are working together."

The white eyed girl gasped and got a little wide eyed. "But...you'll get in trouble."

Midori turned her nose up. "Just eat it. I..."

Konohamaru shoved it in her chest. "Shut up and eat. You're no good to us if you're weak from hunger. We're gonna have to come up with a plan. Besides, Bro sensei always told me that a ninja that doesn't look after their companions is lower than trash." He glanced over at the dark haired girl and narrowed his eyes a little. "Unless you really think you can take him by yourself?" He cut Midori's bindings and the brunette girl looked flushed and uncertain.

"You'll get in trouble if you get caught helping me. He told us that if you give me any food, you fail." Her tone was actually a little subdued. She was very hungry, but didn't want to cause them both to fail with her. It was obvious to her that she wouldn't pass the exam. It left her feeling a little depressed and she didn't look at either of them. Hanabi had stood against the Jounin better than she had, and Konohamaru had come closer than either of them to landing a blow several times.

Hanabi hung her head and offered her lunch to Midori as well. "He's right. We're going to have to think of something. He's already been trying to sneak up on him while he's been distracted by the two of us, and he's come closer than either of us. It might work if we're both working together to keep his attention."

"Well, that's a good plan. It wouldn't work as well as you're hoping, but it's nice to know you can think things through."

The trio all gasped and turned their heads up. Naruto was sitting on one of the branches in the trees above them. He was lounging in a very relaxed position, and had in fact been there the whole time. The trio had been fighting one of his clones.

Konohamaru blinked and worked his mouth open and closed. "I uh..."

Hanabi almost dropped her food, but Midori caught it. The brunette girl started eating, figuring they'd been caught red handed anyway.

The blond ninja looked up at the leaves above his head. "You all pass by the way. Konohamaru is right. As a ninja team, you've got to be able to count on each other." He sat up and turned with his legs hanging off the branch and looked down at them. "A ninja who is only out for themselves is worthless. A danger to their team, and their mission. He was the only one who saw more than just a bell for himself in that fight. You two girls were focused on getting one of your own. It was easy to deal with you. He was using you as a distraction, but he also tried to help you both out. Striking when it gave you both an advantage in the hope that at least one of you might be able to get a strike in and steal one of the bells."

The two girls both looked towards the dark haired boy in surprise. He looked back at them and shrugged. "I figured I'd end up with at least one of you anyway."

Midori scowled at him. "Don't put it that way!"

He shrugged at her. "Sorry, Hanabi is much cuter and less annoying. That's why I helped her out more."

The Hyuuga girl ignored him. "Sensei, this was all a deception then?"

The blond nodded. "Of course, more than you think in fact. We're ninja after all. If you're in a fair fight, you've already failed."

Another Naruto spoke up from behind them. "Even if you'd managed to beat me, you still wouldn't have gotten a bell from me."

The two girls looked surprised.

Konohamaru scowled. "What? You mean we've been fighting a stupid clone?"

"Th-that's dirty!" cried Midori.

"Not very honorable," muttered Hanabi as she looked annoyed as well.

"Thank you. If you wanted honor, you should have become a samurai." Naruto reached up and pulled down. Another Konohamaru landed on the ground next to himself causing both girls to jump back.

"Rats," grumbled the boy as he scratched his head in stereo. "I didn't think you noticed me."

Naruto chuckled. "You've gotten pretty good at playing dumb, Konohamaru."

"Huh? Two of him?" muttered Midori in confusion. "Wait a minute..." Her eyes went wide and she gasped. "That time...and then...that other time...and..." She whirled around and glared at him. "I knew it! You asshole! I'll kill you!"

Naruto landed between them as the two clones vanished. He put his hands on her shoulders. "Now, you can get him back later. For now, you should celebrate passing your exam. Starting tomorrow, we start taking missions as a Genin team."

She calmed and looked up at him. "So, we all pass then?"

"Father will be pleased," said Hanabi without smiling.

"That was easier than I though," said Konohamaru as he crossed his arms. "I already had a plan worked out and everything though. Oh well."

Naruto released the girl as she seemed to have calmed. "Yes, well. Don't expect anything terribly exciting for a while. You're ninja, but you're still Genin. We'll probably be doing D ranked missions for a long time. All right, we're done for today. Meet me here tomorrow at nine, and we'll get started on your first assignment."

The children all rushed away, leaving him standing in the field where he'd become a Genin by himself. "Well, that was all the excitement I'm likely to see for a while."

OooOOooOO

"That damn cat again?" grumbled Naruto.

"That's right," replied Tsunade as she smirked at him. "The Daimyo's Wife's cat has run off again."

"Run off?" he replied. "I'm starting to think she lets it go just so the Genin can catch it. This happens every time they come to Konoha."

The Hokage ignored him. "He'd like to speak with you this evening."

The boy nodded. "I see. You've made arrangements I take it?"

She nodded and smiled. "Yes. You'll meet with him in the executive quarters. Stop by my office once the mission is complete and I'll bring you by."

He nodded and turned away. "All right then. I should go and collect my team then." He gave a small sigh as he left the office. If the Hokage's wife wasn't such a nice woman, he'd consider turning into a fox and eating the damn cat. "Oh well. At least it's not me this time."

OooOOooOO

"He's late," grumbled Midori. She scratched at her forehead under her forehead protector. It itched a little and she wasn't used to wearing it yet.

"Sensei isn't very punctual," commented Hanabi. She didn't look near as annoyed as the older girl.

Konohamaru seemed pretty relaxed and nodded. "I guess. It's no big deal, we get our first mission today. I wonder what it will be?"

"Don't get too excited," said Naruto as he walked up to the group. "You'll only be disappointed."

"You're late!" snapped Midori.

"I got lost on the road of life," said the Jounin as he only half payed attention to her.

"So what's the mission, Bro sensei?" said Konohamaru as he puffed his chest out.

The blond pulled a photo out of his shirt and held it out to them.

"A cat?" asked Hanabi.

"That's right," said their instructor. "We're to find and capture this cat. It belongs to the Daimyo's wife, and it's to be returned to her safely."

Konohamaru cocked his head. "That's it?"

Midori scowled. "That's...lame."

"I shall do my best," said Hanabi firmly.

The blond nodded at the trio. "Get used to it. This is probably the most excitement you'll see for a while. Come on."

OooOOooOO

It took about three hours to find and capture the cat. Hanabi was the one who eventually managed to nab it. She paralyzed it with a strike to a pressure point on it's back, but it was unharmed.

The Genin brought it back and it was returned to it's owner. She was a large woman who always had a bubbly cheerfulness. She doted over the Genin and praised them when they gave it back to her. Naruto hadn't done anything to help them. Konohamaru had been the one to track it down, Midori had shown a surprising ability to move through the brush and thick forest unhindered but hadn't been able to get her hands on it, and Hanabi had been the one to finally corner and capture it.

Naruto looked on as the woman fawned over the young ninja and gave them all cookies. Konohamaru was a bit annoyed by the attention, Midori looked quite proud of herself, and Hanabi was quiet and reserved, but seemed to enjoy the attention. The woman never noticed Naruto was there.

They all left and Naruto spoke to them once they were on the street again. "All right. That's all for today. I'll meet you again tomorrow with our next mission." It would probably be babysitting, helping with some sort of harvest, or repairs or cleaning in the village.

"Bye, sensei," said Hanabi as she bowed.

"Later Bro sensei," commented Konohamaru as he put his hands behind his head and grinned.

Midori gave a small sigh and nodded. "Yeah. Later I guess, sensei." She was still a little reluctant to call him her teacher.

The Genin all walked off and he started towards the Hokage's office.

OooOOooOO

It was about ten minutes later when he arrived. "Well, they did pretty well I'd say."

Tsunade smiled at him. "That's good. They get along well?"

"Konohamaru and Midori are at each other's throats. Hanabi is pretty quiet and well behaved. A little too much if you ask me. Otherwise, yeah. Pretty much."

The Hokage sat back in her chair and put her fingers together. "Three hours isn't bad for this mission. How did they manage to catch her?"

Naruto seemed a bit surprised at that. "Well, Konohamaru tracked her down. He was the one who noticed her tracks and found some fur on some of the bushes. Midori chased her around a bit, and ended up driving her to Hanabi, who incapacitated her and caught her."

The woman chuckled. "I see. Have you figured out why I put that girl on your team yet?"

"Which one?" asked Naruto.

"I'll take that as a no then," replied the woman cryptically. "It's not important right now. We've got a meeting to go to."

The blond frowned a little, but didn't bother asking. "Midori huh?" He thought to himself. He had her figured for a wild card. Now he was going to have to pay more attention and figure out what Tsunade was talking about.

OooOOooOO

Within five minutes he was sitting in front of the Daimyo covered in golden fur with nine tails wagging behind him. "Hello again. It's been a while."

The man smiled at him. "Yes. I hope you're well. You should have stopped by to see me while you were in the capitol."

The kitsune cocked his head. "Well, I didn't want to intrude. I was there on business."

The man nodded. "What business did you have in Kajishufu?" His tone was friendly and he didn't seem to be prying.

The animal shrugged. "I have people of my own to keep tabs on."

A large and familiar woman walked into the room with tea in her hands. "Oh! Oh my!" she gasped as she noticed the creature.

"Ah. You've not met my wife have you?" said the Daimyo as he introduced her.

The cat his team had just brought back was rubbing at her legs and froze at the sight of the larger animal in the room. It arched it's back and skittered behind her legs.

"No. I don't believe I have. It's a pleasure," he replied.

The woman stared at him with wide eyes and nodded. "I...I didn't believe it." She bowed deeply. "My family is in your debt."

Naruto wagged his tails. "It was no trouble. She's a nice girl, my friends in the garden told me that she is very kind to them. A very spirited human."

The Daimyo nodded and hung his head a little. "Yes. It was quite an ordeal for all of us."

The creature gave a grave looking nod. "I hope she is well?"

The man nodded as his wife set out tea. "She is recovering. I fear you may have saved her life. I am to understand that those thugs he hired were meant to kill her."

Naruto nodded. The man's tone implied that he already knew of that when he ordered his death. "That's what she told me. I'm afraid I just stumbled across it while I was in the garden. The kitsune there seemed displeased with what happened to her." They were, sort of. Not for reasons a human would easily understand though. Kitsune usually related things to food, mating, or a good laugh. Little else was very important to them. "I decided to look into it, and helped her escape. I'm to understand he was assassinated the next day. I don't really know anything about that."

The man nodded. "Yes. My family is in Shadow Realm's debt. Thanks to you, my daughter is safe again. Anything you would ask..."

The golden haired best perked it's ears up. "You already know what I want."

The Daimyo nodded. "I see. Very well, I shall put forth an executive order. No Foxes are to be harmed in Fire Country, and hunting them shall be illegal."

Naruto bowed his head a little. "You have my gratitude."

The man smiled. "I do hope we continue to have pleasant relations in the future."

"As do I," replied the fox.

The Daimyo's wife smiled a little nervously at the thing. "Would you like some tea?"

Naruto thought about it for a moment. "That would be nice." He shifted forms into the young buxom blond woman again.

The woman was wide eyed and shook a little as she poured the cup. "Oh my. I really didn't believe it."

They sat around and had pleasant small talk for another hour. After that, they parted and Naruto walked out into the hall again.

He gave a smirk as he noticed the guards turn their heads and watch her walk out. They seemed a bit confused, but didn't leave their posts or question her. Once out of sight she changed back into her male form and walked out into the streets of Konohagakure.

He headed for his home. It was still light out, and he could spend some time with his son and get some sleep. He had to be up early the next day and go on a mission with his Genin team.

OooOOooOO

TBC...

Next Time: The Whirlpool mission.

Before anyone asks, Team Shadow is not being written out of the story. We'll be seeing a lot of them, as potato digging and babysitting is boring to read about. Neither is Naruto for that matter, he's still got tons of shit that will be pouring down on his head soon enough.