Naruto is owned by Masashi Kishimoto. Ranma 1/2 is owned by Rumiko Takahashi. All rights reserved.
Strangers in a Familiar Land
The Sound Four were beat.
Unexpectedly having to fight two Konoha jonin – and in their Level Two Curse forms, no less – was more exhausting that thought possible. Then again, had they not done so, they would have been defeated, killed even. They knew they were pressed for time. Orochimaru wanted Sasuke, and they were under an already tight schedule as it was. Their leader did not take kindly to tardiness, especially now at such a critical juncture.
However, they had to rest. They were in no condition to do more, even under threat of death. Peppering their trail with booby traps and tripwire, the four ninja laid up in a small clearing, quietly regaining their stamina.
They were only minutes into their rest when the air in front of them shimmered and warped, disgorging four bodies out onto the grass into a graceless pile.
"Goddammit, Naruto!" a redheaded girl with a Konoha headband-turned-skullcap barked from her prone position. "What the hell did you do?"
The spiky blond boy in the orange-trimmed dark blue jacket with hood and matching shorts, groaned as he sat up." I-I don't know!" He readjusted his Leaf headband hastily, which had slipped down his face. "All I did was hold it!"
"Naruto," a black-haired boy in a snug black jumpsuit and leather straps bound around his left arm spoke, coal eyes staring flatly at the blond. "You're getting as bad as our teacher."
A young man with black hair tied back in a long braid, shouted indignantly from his position as the other people's cushion. "Hey! I keep telling ya, that wasn't my fault!"
The Sound Four sprang to their feet, hands going for tools, when Tayuya, the redhead kunoichi of the group stopped, staring. The others paused as well, not because of her, but who they were staring at them.
"S-Sasuke sir?" Sakon spoke, eyes widening.
Sasuke looked away from Naruto to face the gray-haired boy. "Who're you?" he asked.
"Fuck that!" Tayuya screamed, jabbing her finger at another stranger. "Who the fuck is this bitch!"
Jirobo started to reprimand his teammate; after all ladies don't swear. He was rudely interrupted by the other redhead jumping up, shrieking back in rage. "'Bitch!' Who the hell are you, and what the hell are you doing with my face!"
"Your face! You got my—"
Kidomaru stared, his jaw growing slack.
"There's two of them…"
Jirobo gaped, looking from one to another. It was a nightmare coming true.
Two Tayuyas, each of them scowling the same way as they chewed each other out. If it wasn't for a difference in clothing – aside from similar combative shorts, the other Tayuya wore a blue short jacket with sleeves rolled up, over a white shirt, mesh dappling down to her forearms and a shuriken holster on her right thigh – even Kidomaru would have a hard time figuring out who's who.
"Willya guys get off me?" the man underneath the remaining boys grunted. They quickly took to their feet, allowing him to stand up, revealing his identity. Leaf-nin, wearing a red Konoha jonin vest, forehead protector bound around his neck like a bandanna. His hair, long and braided in the back, a long pigtail that swept past his shoulder blades. His face with crystal blue eyes, appeared guileless, too innocent to be that of a ninja. He didn't look past eighteen.
His eyes flicked over the Sound Four briefly, lingering a lot longer on the arguing Tayuyas, before settling on the blond. "All right, Ru," the pigtailed elite sighed, looking at him shake the orange hood of his jacket clean. "Whatcha do?"
The blond shrugged, holding a golden mirror in hand. "All I did was touch it. I… felt some chakra flow into it, and the next thing I know, we're here."
Sasuke made a face. "Next time, don't touch any magical devices."
"It wasn't my fault!"
He looked at the gray-haired effeminate boy, whose face was hardening. "Why do you keep calling me—"
Sakon threw a kunai at his head, forcing the boy to duck the blow. The other Sound ninja, galvanized by the action forgot their shock, even the arguing Tayuya, and took a more aggressive stance.
"I have no idea who you are, impostor, but you won't defeat us with a cheap trick," the boy intoned.
"Geez, I woulda left ya alone, too…" the pigtailed jonin sighed. "Ya guys're too pathetic to bother with." His hand seemingly acted on its own, snapping out to spear a shuriken on one finger. It spun on the digit for a moment before he whipped his arm around his body, sending it back in the direction of its origin without looking. A scurrying sound reached everyone's ears as the throwing star slammed into the tree trunk with much greater velocity.
"Ya have to do better than that, ya know…" he said boredly.
Sakon's eyes narrowed – so he detected Ukon hiding in the background. This was going to be rough…
"I hate to think we have to do this so soon, everyone…" Kidomaru grunted, coming to the same conclusion. Red swirls began looping across his face and arms.
"No kidding," Sakon grinned, his skin filling with splotchy blots. The second head reappeared on the back of his neck.
"That copycat bitch is mine," Tayuya snarled, jagged lines lacing her body.
"Tayuya, ladies don't swear," Jirobo commented, rows of triangles marring his features.
"Master Ranma?" Naruto looked up at the jonin, slightly wondering.
Ranma smiled, bemused. "Well, least they're gettin' stronger. That's nice… I hate easy workouts." He cracked his knuckles. "Flat diamond formation. Take 'em down fast."
Immediately, Naruto and Sasuke took oblique to jonin's side, the latter's eyes swirling red with three tomoe in each pupil, while the Leaf-nin Tayuya took the back line, a silver flute drawn and to her lips.
The battle ignited.
The white dog in Kiba's jacket began making funny sounds. The Inuzuki frowned, listening. Shikamaru was first to ask, "What is it?"
"Another blood zone up ahead. …nine combatants this time. A few…" Kiba listened, then frowned, perplexed. "What do you mean you smell Naruto?"
"What!" Naruto hissed.
"I… have no idea," Kiba admitted. "Akamaru was saying that he smelled something that smells just like you, but that doesn't make any sense. You're standing right here." He then glared. "Unless you sent out a shadow clone ahead of us."
Naruto shook his head no. "Maybe I should have done that… Hey, Shika—"
"Unless your clones have long-range communications, it's not even worth it," he responded flatly. Naruto drooped, disappointed.
"Anyway, they're all leaving the—" The dog whined, hiding itself in his jacket. Kiba's eyes widened. "Damn, they're heading this way!"
Shikamaru made the appropriate hand signals, and everyone took their plan to action. Neji had already set up his Byakugan sight, when he suddenly found a kunai pressed to the back of his head.
In the dead spot.
The others were similarly suppressed, sharp weaponry drawn, angled on kill points. Even Akamaru wasn't safe, the puppy finding its belly in dire straits.
"What the heck!" one of the captors shouted in surprise as his grip nearly slipped against Naruto's neck. The blue-eyed boy blinked, his eyes shifting up the length of the arm, then up to the face as close as he dared.
"Wh-wh-what the heck!" he gaped, his eyes lighted upon the face. "What are you doing with my face!"
"Your face!" the identical blond shouted, shocked. "I was born with this face! Get your own!"
"Well, well…" a startlingly familiar voice spoke. "There's another one of you, dunce."
All of the genin's eyes shifted towards the owner of the last voice. Even with death impending on him, Naruto couldn't help but shout in relief. "Sasuke!"
Beside Sasuke stood a girl with red hair and a Naruto dressed similar to, but differently from, the one with Shikamaru group. Beside them, a jonin with a red vest stood, blue eyes casting over their appearances. He chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Unbelievable. Two Narutos…"
Shikamaru glared critically. "Who are you guys?"
"Duh," the redhead said with a smirk. "We're Konoha shinobi."
"Somehow, I have my doubts," Shikamaru said. He opened his hands, and immediately, ten more followed suit, kunai blades dropping to ground in many cases.
"H-hey!" the shadow clones shouted.
"Shadow Possession Technique is a success," he smirked, walking backward, forcing everyone else to do likewise.
"Hey! No fair!" the Narutoes shouted as one.
"So, you used the moment of being captured to distract the clones and manipulate your shadow to catch us all," the pigtailed jonin said, his eyes looking at the thin shadow that had merged into his own from the shadows of the bushes.
Shikamaru nodded. "You're pretty sharp in hindsight."
"Well, I've been known to plan ahead, too." The jonin whistled, and four massive blurs shot past the group.
"See ya, losers!" the familiarly obnoxious voice shouted back in glee.
Shikamaru blinked. Then growled. "Shadow clones…"
Neji blinked moreso, his Byakugan sight on. They were right there, and somehow, his eyes… missed them?
"Ru," the now faux jonin said.
"Yes, Master Ranma?"
He grinned. "Blow this joint."
Loud bangs rippled behind them, and Naruto chuckled, an unconscious boy with silver hair and one with a huge bush of hair and six arms bound and slung across both shoulders. "Well, that was a blast."
"Feh," Sasuke commented, a large barrel in his arms. "Did we have to let them live?"
"Ya never know, they could be Konoha shinobi, too…" Ranma said, a bulky guy and another silverheaded boy – this one with beads around his neck – under his arms.
"So, what's the plan now?" Tayuya, carrying another redhead with her face. "What if that mirror screwed up and left us stranded somewhere else?"
"Then I guess we better figure out if this is the same place, then find another way to get back home," the pigtailed jonin said with a shrug.
"In other words, you don't have a plan."
"Ain't somethin' they teach in classes. Pop sure as hell didn't."
"Anyway, those boys should be gettin' their second breath back in a few minutes. Let's see if we can't beat them back to Konoha."
"Yes, sir!" the three under his command chorused, and they increased their speed.
"Everyone okay?" Neji asked, coughing.
Various sounds of affirmation responded back.
"Exploding clones…" Shikamaru shook his head. Had it not been for Neji's Byakugan, there was little doubt they would have probably have died. Still, the concussive force was more than enough to knock them out for a few minutes.
"Who were those guys?" Naruto groaned, rubbing his skull. "And why was that one looking like me?"
"I have no idea," Neji admitted, helping up a dazed Choji trying to clear his head. "Whoever they are, they were able to hide not several yards away from my sight." He frowned intensely. "That's disturbing…"
Kiba checked on Akamaru inside his jacket. "No kidding. I couldn't smell them till they came runnin' past, either."
The little white dog barked, making more sounds.
"Well, Akamaru said those were definitely the ones that left the blood zone. They were carrying the others from an earlier blood zone. Also…" He looked at Naruto squarely, his face serious. "That blond one was the one Akamaru smelled. The one that was like you, but… different. Getting a whiff of him myself, I kind of understand what he meant."
Naruto sweated. "Eh?"
"This is getting more and more troublesome…" the Nara commented, shaking his head. As much as he'd like to think otherwise, they had to pursue a whole new set of pursuers, this one heading back to their village. If nothing else, they had to notify the Hokage about this.
"Please say there are no more traps…" Naruto moaned. Their path of navigation led them slowly padding through trap-infested territory. However, going around was out of the question, as they had no idea what to expect.
Ranma checked out an area closely, adjusting his burdens slightly. "Doubt it. Looks like there was a battle here. The traps had extended out fairly regularly from where we fought these guys, till now. I don't think they started making traps till here."
"Finally!" Tayuya sighed. "We can finally—"
Ranma lunged forward, captives and all, slamming into the girl full steam. She squawked, losing her doppelganger in the process. Releasing his prisoners with his momentum, he spun around on one foot, preparing to face the next opposition. Naruto and Sasuke were already prepared, their cargo deposited.
"Tayuya, you're a disgrace to the former members of the Sound Five," the pale boy said in a calm, zenlike voice. He pulled a sword made completely of bone out of the spot the redhead had just been standing in.
"What's a Sound Five?" she asked dumbly.
The other Tayuya groaned slightly, but did not stir otherwise. The newcomer's eyes roamed down to see the prisoners on the ground. Then back to Tayuya's face.
"Strange… there appears to be another Tayuya." He tipped his head slightly. "I will have to remedy that."
"How about we remedy you, buddy!" Naruto growled, his eyes flashing red.
"Easy, now, Naruto." Sasuke stepped slightly away from the barrel. His coal eyes blazed red with the three tomoe fusing into the irises. "This guy's a lot different than the others."
"Interesting," the stranger said, looking at each one of his opponents. "I see the Sound Four used the Black Coffin, but yet, you walk among us, Uchiha Sasuke."
"What, they were supposed to kill me?"
"In a way, according to Orochimaru's plans."
Ranma straightened up. "Snake-face's dead, dimbulb. Old Man Third killed him."
The passionless face twitched. Without warning, he whipped his hands at him.
"Master Ranma!" Sasuke shouted out.
Ranma was already in motion, ducking down. The air cracked overhead, a tree behind him being the recipient of the attack.
"Okay, so maybe dimbulb's too advanced a word for ya," Ranma commented, cracking his knuckles. "How about… dipstick?"
"You know nothing of what you speak, though even I must admit I, too, am late delivering the vessel."
They seemed to stare at each other for a long moment. Then Ranma spoke.
"Naruto, you, Sasuke, and Tayuya get that coffin and those prisoners back to Konoha. I'll deal with dipstick here."
Naruto blinked. "But, Master—"
He held up a hand, not taking his eyes off the pale opponent. "Not today, 'Ru. 'Sides, this is gonna get messy. Send a clone back there and tell the others to avoid this spot." He grinned cockily. "I'm gonna need room…"
Everyone sweated slightly. They remembered the last time he "needed room." In fact, the whole of the Land of Waves remembered the last time he "needed room."
"O-okay, Master!" He created six shadow clones, Five of which grabbed hold of one of unconscious prisoners, and one that ran past the combatants in a blaze of speed. The party then turned and fled as fast as they could go.
The stranger pointed at them, the tips of his fingers flying out after them blindingly fast. Only, they never hit their mark.
Ranma stood in their trajectory with an outstretched fist. Opening each finger slowly, he let ten bone bullets fall to the ground.
"Let's try this again, dipstick. I'm your opponent, okay?"
"Very well, then." The pale boy smoothly shifted stances. "It looks like I will have to kill you first."
Without a word, he launched into a flowing river of attacks, sharp bones extending from his palms in attempts to spear the red-vested jonin. Ranma dodged rapidly, his blue eyes taking in the movements. Narrowly ducking the bone blade extending from the boy's elbow, he smashed a foot into the pale boy's chest, forcing him backwards while sending himself in the opposite way. He immediately tucked himself into a small ball, using chakra to stick two fingers to the ground in order to sling himself into a right angle away from his predicted landing path.
Several bone bullets tore through the zone he would have landed at. Ranma smiled appraisingly. Dipstick wasted no movement, turning everything into an attack. Even breathing room.
"Nice…" He cracked his neck. "'Fore we really start, what's ya name?"
"Kimimaro Kaguya of Sound."
He nodded. "Well, Kimimaro, I'm Ranma Saotome, jonin elite of the Leaf, and master of the Anything Goes School of Fighting…" He slightly slumped forward, hold his hands up like a mourning specter. Even his eyes looked dead.
"…and I don't lose."
Shikamaru's group was only halfway when the shadow clone Naruto popped down in front of them. They all tensed, even as the doppelganger held up his hands.
"Hey, don't kill the messenger! I'm just here to warn you guys, you're going to want to loop around the battlefield up ahead."
Shikamaru glared. "And why would we want to do that?"
"Because you don't want to get caught up in Master Ranma's fight."
"Who's he fighting?" Naruto asked, more curious than angry.
The other Naruto shrugged. "Don't know. Some guy from Sound, I guess. He can shoot bones out of his fingertips, and has to be pretty dangerous if Master Ranma wants us to give him room."
"Look, I don't—" Shikamaru began. However, the entire forest shuddered, like a sudden vacuum had sucked out the air. Then there were explosions ahead.
"He's starting already," the clone said with a grin. "Last time he needed room, it was against six Kiri hunter-nin that Zabuza loser lured after Master Ranma. It was amazing the bridge remained in one piece, though…" he grinned sheepishly. "Well, we had to stay on and help rebuild it. Call it even for Tazuna lying to us about the mission."
Naruto's brows shot up. "No way, we had that mission!"
Everyone in the group stared at him. Naruto sweated a little.
"Well, we didn't have to deal with anyone other than Zabuza… and Haku." The last part came out more quietly.
There was another explosion, this one sounding closer. Several sounds of wood squelching. Ahead, it could be seen a few trees bowing and bending, falling.
"Annnnd that's my cue to go! Go around! A mile out should be fine!" The clone released itself, leaving everyone to wonder if any of this was real.
"Shikamaru?" Choji asked, his face blank with fear.
"Neji, can you see up ahead?"
He activated his sight. A few moments later, he turned it off, making a face.
"I think we better take the long way around."
Small spears of bone came whistling through the air, driving themselves into the earth several feet away from the group with heavy thunks. Everyone stared at them.
"Get down!" a clone shouted.
A hail of bone darts flying like arrows every which way, sending everyone dancing all over the place way. Two struck clones, dispelling them.
"What the hell was that!" Sasuke shouted, making certain the coffin was safe.
"Naruto?" Tayuya peeked around the tree she hid behind. She could see the blond was grieviously upset.
"I lost two of them!"
She looked further ahead. Impaled with the calcified weapons were the fat one and one of the silverheaded boys. One was almost assuredly dead, a bone dart jammed through his skull. The other one… well, it was harder to tell, though seeing how riddled the body was…
The coffin Sasuke was carrying began to smolder slightly. He turned on the Sharingan to inspect.
"I think we got a problem."
"What now?" Tayuya growled.
"I think the Sasuke inside's about to come out."
"Goddammit, push him back in, then! We still got some running to do!"
"This isn't a baby!" He looked at the coffin lid. "I don't know how long it'll be, but it's going to be soon."
Tayuya shook her head. "Impatient prick, isn't he?"
"Yeah," Naruto said with a small smile. "Kind of like the original one here."
"I heard that, Naruto."
"Whatever. I'm sending the clones up ahead. Hope there's no other nasty surprises…" Quickly, Naruto created three more clones, two to grab the dead/dying bodies, and one to take point, in case there was a need to warn the original about upcoming traps. Red chakra filled them up, and they raced ahead like lightning.
"All right, then," Sasuke said, frowning. "Let's get this baby to mother."
"They're not here," Temari said with a frown.
There was plenty of evidence that someone was here; the telltale explosions and scattered weaponry – and don't forget the blood on the rocks – were ever present. However…
"Their trail indicated they went back towards Konoha," Kankuro mentioned.
"They already turned up victorious? What a drag…" The Suna kunoichi slapped her hand over her mouth. "Now, I'm starting to sound like that lazy boy…" she grumbled.
"Actually," Gaara examined the footprints closely. "This seemed to be made by someone else, about five-foot-nine, a hundred and fifty-six pounds, and a great deal of skill. Also, one of them is vain."
Kankuro blinked. "How do you know all that?"
"The sand distribution. Someone with a large foot, not a child, but the weight is so distributed that it wouldn't disturb grass if so desired."
"Okay, and the vanity part?"
The sand around Gaara's foot lifted up a half-buried, shattered gold mirror in response.
Lee stared wide-eyed from his vantage point in the trees. A great red blur slamming into something that suspiciously made him think of a bull, what with the way horns protruded from his back and the tail whiplashing behind him in his charges. It all looked cool in a sense, but highly disturbing, as it was the fact that the dark-colored ninja could, in fact, whip out his own bones and use them like weapons.
The pigtailed jonin seemed to have been having a rough time of it, judging from the way he suffered numerous cuts. He knew that the red vest must have been sturdy, as he took a full-on goring without being pierced through. Either that, or the man was made of steel himself, as he grabbed hold of his opponent and smashed him bodily through a thick tree.
The one Lee was just standing on.
Lee leapt clear, landing onto another tree limb, not certain what to do. He could see that the ninja in red was a member of the Leaf, which meant that he would assist him in any way he could. However, this guy moved at speeds like his own Master, and somehow, his opponent was managing to keep him at a distance.
The young genin winced as the powerful bone-man pulled out… his… spine… yeuch… and used it like a whip, trying to ensnare the pigtailed-nin. However, he dodged the first lash, then rocketed forward, exploding more blows into his face, all which was strangely shaken off.
Lee shook his head in wonder; he could feel the impacts in his own chest.
"Tough cookie, ain'tcha?" the jonin said, breaking off the fight. "Still, it don't matter, ya still gonna be dead like ol' Snake-face."
"I find it amusing that you still seek to anger me, Ranma Saotome. I told you, it's useless."
"Feh, like you're so special. A freakin' tool, that's all ya are. All ya Kaguyas are, anyway. Why doncha go out and do somethin' for yaself, other than be some stupid snake's boytoy?"
The Kaguya seemingly twitched and threw out his hands at the pigtailed boy. He dodged as something shot through the air, puncturing the trees behind him with terrifying force.
"Oh, what was that? Ya like bendin' over for ya boss? I didn't know ya were such a freak."
His eyes narrowed slightly. "You have no clue what you speak of…"
The pigtailed boy grinned. "Oh, yeah, I betcha get all hot and bothered thinkin' just how well Snake-face can curl that tongue of his around ya co –"
He almost lost his head, so sudden and fierce the attack was.
"Never speak of Lord Orochimaru like that!" Ranma's opponent bellowed, lashing out with the stiffened spinal weapon, which the pigtailed man frantically ducked and dodged, running backwards. "You have no idea!"
He was just running around in circles, Lee realized, shouting various things alluding to him being intimate with his "boss" and snakes, and physical acts that made Lee blush darkly, not only for the nature of it, but also the sheer impossibility of the body's ability to flex in certain ways. The genin frowned. Just what was all this leading up to, anyway?
The next thing Lee knew, he was suddenly grabbed by the collar, and yanked far, far away from the battle site in the blink of an eye. Several seconds later, he was deposited on his rump by the same red-vested jonin that was fight.
"Don't get in between grown-men's fights, kid," he said, looking around, then pointing sharply in the opposite way. "And start running that way. Quickly." The man suddenly disspelled, and Lee wonderd about the order.
Then he heard it.
Master Guy would want him to get in more exercise, he was certain.
Kakashi hated doing missions solo. It left him alone with his thoughts for too long, and he wasn't nearly so obliging to read as when he's supervising his genin team. Mostly because he had to be alert for himself.
Why Lady Hokage thought it would be best to do missions like these on his own, he had no real idea. However, everything was resolved; the annoying imp was put down, and now it was back to make his report to the Hokage, then pick up another mission.
He had to admit, the mission came at a precarious time in his young team's life. While he was reasonably certain Sasuke needed some time alone to get his head on straight, perhaps it wouldn't have hurt to supervise his state of mind from a distance. The last thing Konoha needed was another missing Uchiha devastating the village in some way again.
His senses detected the unusual force of chakra, and he immediately looked up.
The sky was growing darker and darker. The clouds funneled downwards, corkscrewing into the trees, building up mass and speed until…
"A hurricane?" His visible eye quirked in befuddlement. "On dry land?"
"What the hell was that?" Kankuro shouted, his hops slowed as he heard the death train wailing off in the distance.
"Amazing," Temari breathed, her sea green eyes taken with the way the sky darkened, the winds stirred with majestic power, and the ensuing explosions left behind.
"We'll find out soon," Gaara said blandly. "We're heading towards it."
"Ten minutes, Sasuke!" the redhead shouted. "Just ten more minutes!"
"He's not going to hold for ten more seconds!" Sasuke shouted, a curse word snapped off before escaping past his lips. He took to ground, placing the barrel down in the middle of the clearing. The others came with him reluctantly.
"What do we do with the you inside there?" Naruto asked, wondering.
"Beats me," Sasuke replied.
The sealed lid rapidly boiled and bubbled, the fudo strips that secured it starting to tear, shred into pieces. They watched as the lid was reduced to dark chakra, exploding away along with acrid smells and smoke as the barrel violently expunged its contents. Once the smoke cleared away, they could see the back of a blue shirt bearing the Uchiha fan crest. The next thing seen was a huge mane of gray and sickly violet-gray skin, all which began to recede instantly, returning to normal short black hair and alabaster complexion. The figure looked at his hands, then began chuckling. Laughing.
"Sasuke, your alternate self's gone cuckoo," Naruto said worriedly. Tayuya nodded in agreement.
Sasuke could only shake his head sadly. "Poor bastard."
The escaped Sasuke turned around, looking at the three of them on the roadway. They all arched an eyebrow at the red flames caressing half his face and his inverted red eye. The eye color forcibly reverted to normal, the flames pulled back into the curse seal as he stared at the Sasuke in black across the drum.
"Hey, loser." he smirked back. "What did you do to yourself this time?"
In response, the Sasuke in blue attacked.
"I don't hear anything," Kiba admitted. "Akamaru's not scared spitless, anymore, either."
Shikamaru shook his head. Just what kind of insanity was going on today? First Sasuke runs away from the village, they meet what appeared to be Naruto with another team, despite he was also with them at the same time, and now, a gargantuan battle that involved freaks of nature throwing however many spears of bone without care as to whoever he killed with them with an incredible amount of distance and power.
Not even twenty-four hours as a chunin, and already, he wanted to retire.
The small dog in Kiba's jacket began to whine again. Shikamaru was starting to hate the dog. Kiba listened for a few moments before his eyes widened. Again.
"Another blood zone."
"Ten minutes from Konoha, I'd wager."
The Nara knew he was going to regret the question, but he asked anyway. "Any idea who it is?"
Akamaru made a few more whines, and growled slightly.
"The other Naruto and his… team, I guess, and I think our Sasuke. Only… more powerful."
He resisted the urge to sigh. "Okay, let's go and offer up any assistance if possible."
"To who?" Choji asked.
"At this point, I have no idea."
"Gotta admit, ya were pretty good," Ranma said between popping a soldier pill and forcing the now-spread-about chakra into his wounds, making them to heal faster than they were already doing. He took his vest and shirt off.
Kimimaro didn't respond, only stare silently at him.
"Whoda thought there'd still be guys like ya in this world?"
Still no response. Ranma wound tape around his ribs, hoping to stanch some of the more grievous wounds for the time being. Oh… definitely a few cracked ribs… If they weren't healed by tomorrow, he'd go see a medic-nin.
"Anyway, ya didja clan proud. I was startin' to wonder if I was gonna have to use that technique after that whole powerin' up thing." He shivered, throwing his clothes back on, making certain everything was fastened on right. He paused. "Oh, and that Bracken Dance thing… Whatta counter… Hope that kid didn't get caught up in it."
Kimimaro still made no move to respond.
"Anyway, I guess everyone'll wanna see whatcha got in ya, so, sorry 'bout this..." With that, Ranma picked up Kimimaro's severed head and his mangled, pierced and punctured body from among the shattered valley of bones and gnarled, splintered, and uprooted trees their fight created, unfurled a scroll and sealed the remains inside it.
Just as he finished putting away the scroll, he looked up to see three Suna-nin arriving on the premises.
Ranma groaned inwardly, his body automatically dropping into whatever stance would end this job the quickest. Another day, another fight…
"Dammit!" Black-Sasuke kicked his possessed other self in the face. The blow slid off of him, and he grabbed full hold of his ankle, propelling him into a tree.
The body burst into crows.
Instinctively, Cursed-Sasuke ducked a fist coming in from behind, and attacked Naruto's unprotected back.
He burst into smoke.
Growling, he attacked Tayuya who was sneaking up on him, kunai in hand.
She exploded, slamming Sasuke across the ground from the concussive blast.
"Give up already," the otherworldly Sasuke said, smirking at his fallen counterpart several feet away with the rest of his teammates. "You don't have what it takes to beat us."
"Shut up, impostor…" Sasuke growled, the red firemarks spreading across his face. The Sharingan eyes were wide awake. "I will go to Orochimaru and gain the power to kill my brother…"
"Maybe you should put revenge away and restore your clan first," Tayuya responded, a leer crossing her features. "I hear that's the more fun part, anyway."
Naruto blushed in shock. "T-Tayuya-chan!"
"Don't call me that!" She whacked him on the head, the bridge of her nose and cheeks a light pink.
Sasuke decided to ignore his teammates as well, warmth spreading itself thinly across his face. He turned his focus on the version of himself scowling, the flames of his curse mark starting to change him. "Look, why don't you just go home and rethink things? Make something better of your life. Revenge doesn't work."
"Like you know anything!" his counterpart snarled, his skin taking on the gray tone, his hair growing out wild and thick.
Sasuke in black shook his head. "You're dumber than even Naruto."
Cursed-Sasuke's widened in near-rage. "What did you say!"
"I nearly lost everything fighting my brother a month ago," the other Sasuke commented, ignoring his counterpart's outrage. "It took the near-death of my friends to make me realize there are worse things than being betrayed."
He cocked his head to one side. "As much as I thought hate would make me stronger, love was the only thing that let me defeat him. Love for my friends, my new family…"
"A certain girl with—" Tayuya started, only for Naruto to cover her mouth quickly. She bit his hand, eliciting a yelp.
"We're not dating!" Black-Sasuke snapped off, though he dusted a little pinker across his nose, a thin smile instinctively tugging on his lips.
The native Sasuke gaped at his other self smiling – happy! His eyes hardened.
"What the hell do you think you're rambling on about! Love can't do a damn thing but hurt you! Destroy you! I don't need love when hate'll get the job done!"
Sharingan eyes flicked back towards him. "Think so?"
Cursed Sasuke growled in response.
The other Sasuke shook his head, eyes closed. "Then, in that case…" His eyes opened.
Cursed Sasuke found himself in a world of black, the only light being that of the blood red moon hanging low overhead. He was no longer transformed, instead standing alone in the red-rimmed void. Sweat ran down his face, this sickeningly familiar sight.
"How'd you learn his jutsu!" the ensnared Sasuke bellowed into the nothing, his mind already cracking into hysterics. "How!"
"Does it matter right now?"
He spun around, the other Sasuke in black standing behind him, hands in his pockets.
"Since you're so insistent on gaining power, let me show you what that will mean…"
"Your life, as you continue down this path of destruction. You're going to be seeing it for the next twenty-four hours. Enjoy."
Suddenly images began flashing in front of the captive. Killing. The bloodshed. Death. Cravenness. Humiliation as he dies. Again. Again. And again.
Sasuke stared at the imagery, trying to shut his eyes, screaming, "Stop it! Stop it!"
The other Sasuke didn't, and he screamed inarticulately, reliving those times over and over and over.
The alternate Sasuke fell to his knees, sweat pouring down his face, panting jerkily. Immediately, Naruto and Tayuya were at his side, supporting him. The other Sasuke screamed and writhed on the ground, his body rapidly forced back to normal.
Naruto growled. "You used that technique? And didn't say anything!"
"And you call Naruto an idiot…" Tayuya responded with a glare at the Uchiha.
"Had to…" Sasuke breathed shallowly, trying to gulp up as much air his body would allow. "Had to… knock sense into him…"
The three displaced ninja only had a few moments to observe the Uchiha handiwork before having to shoot themselves backwards, avoiding the spherical deathblow at the hands of the native Naruto. His features had shifted to feral – hair gone wild, eyes blood red, canines elongated, red chakra flowing around his form. Behind him the other members of Shikamaru's squad, poised to fight.
"Dammit, this doesn't look good…" the redhead commented, looking at their worn teammate.
"No kidding, Tayuya-chan."
"So, what now?"
He looked at her, worried; she didn't hit him for the "-chan" suffix. "I only got the fox and that one move."
Tayuya looked at him like he lost his mind. He tried to appear like he knew what he was doing, but quickly gave that up with a sigh.
"Okay, so I don't, okay?"
"Jump," Sasuke muttered weakly.
The two did so without stopping to wonder why. They saw the long thin shadows receding from their position. Two human-like drills came after them, forcing Naruto to hand over Sasuke to his redheaded teammate, as they were split apart.
Just like the other group planned it.
The two Kibas were already on Tayuya and Sasuke with Choji as back up, while Naruto was stuck facing Neji, his counterpart, and Shikamaru. While he was confident he could at least escape being paralyzed by Shikamaru, he was stuck with a Hyuga – the best that he could recall – and himself, who most likely could do Shadow Clones as well. Oh, yeah, had access to the fox's chakra, too.
He groaned. Tayuya-chan was going to kill for this…
He slid one foot back, and drew his hands into a fighting stance. "All right, now, I'm warning you, you guys better lay off or it's going to get ugly!"
"Naruto, don't you dare—" The redhead and Sasuke split apart even more in the face of the two Kibas. Sasuke took a tackling hit from the hefty nin, and Naruto gritted his teeth; his teammate was clearly in no condition to fight.
"No choice!" He started to snap his hands through seals, only to find that he was unable to.
"Shadow Possession is a success," Shikamaru grinned, pulling his hands apart, forcing Naruto to do likewise. "Now—"
The earth suddenly ruptured beneath their feet. Sand poured out, flowing up into walls separating all the combatants from each other.
"Got here in time, I see," Ranma commented cheerily as Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro came down from the trees with him.
"It was positively amazing, Master Kakashi!" Lee yammered on as the two raced through the woods. "The way he fought against the bone-nin!"
Kakashi shook his head, slightly more than annoyed. Lady Tsunade, of all people, sending out a genin team to retrieve Sasuke from Orochimaru's henchmen… It was completely irresponsible. Certainly, the village was frightfully low on personnel, but at the very least, she could have retained someone with more experience! Especially when Orochimaru was involved. It was akin to making lambs fight off hungry lions.
Luckily, he ran into Lee as he was investigating the battle site. He sent forth his ninja hounds in search of his wayward students. His mind turned back towards the other thing that bothered him: the red-vested jonin.
This mysterious jonin of the Leaf was more troublesome. Kakashi had the rare distinction of knowing every jonin, special jonin, and chunin by both name and face, ANBU or otherwise. This guy matched no one he knew of. For starters, the red vest isn't something freely given over to a promoted ninja. In fact, it would have to be specially-made, since all vests were green. Also, there were very, very few ninja that had speed like Guy, in the past or now.
"Are you certain he was a Leaf jonin?" The one-eyed nin asked warily.
"Yes! The other one said his name was Ranma Saotome-san and—"
The silver-haired jonin stopped listening, staring at the Guy lookalike. "Did you say… Saotome?"
"Whaddaya mean, ya used the Magekyo?" Ranma asked heatedly.
The orange Naruto glared at the black-dressed Sasuke as he and a shadow clone carried the unconscious one down the path leading up to the front gates of Konoha. The rest of the group, including Gaara and his siblings, had formed a loose circle around Ranma's cell. For the time being, it wasn't argued; clearly, there was no trust between them.
"I didn't have much of a choice. He wouldn't listen to anything short of death." The displaced Uchiha glanced at his other self. "I could imagine what he was thinking of. Just focused on getting revenge against Itachi. Willing to do anything for power…"
"So you do the same thing he did to him, is that is?"
The blue-dressed Naruto glared at his doppelganger. Sasuke shook his head at him.
"You were like his best friend weren't you?"
The native Naruto blinked. "I…" He shrugged, unable to speak.
"If you were who he thought of as his best friend, be thankful he's unable to do anything."
"Sasuke." Ranma looked at him, then the orange-clad boy with a carefully neutral eye. "Ya ain't gonna tell him 'bout it."
He observed his teacher carefully. The jonin sighed.
"Look, I ain't gonna lie. This situation's pretty messed up enough as it is. Thing's ain't the same, and there's no tellin' if it's even done the same way here." He scratched the back of his head. "Let's just get inside the village, and we'll deal with the Old Man on this."
"'Old Man?'" Naruto spoke up, his eyes looking haunted.
"Yeah, Old Man Third," the other Naruto piped up, grinning. "I'm gonna take over his job one day, believe it!"
"That'll be impossible," Shikamaru grimaced, beside himself.
"Shut up! You think you're so damn smart, that I'm some stupid—"
"The Third Hokage Hiruzen Sarutobi died during the Sound-Sand Invasion over a month ago."
Ranma's entire group stopped walking, stunned by the news. The jonin was first to ask.
"Who killed him?"
"Orochimaru," the Nara boy replied, not looking at their faces.
The blue-dressed Naruto looked stricken. The Sasuke in their group gaped openly. Ranma's face was scrunched up, pained. Tayuya was blank for moments.
"He killed our father," Temari said. "He took his place and—"
The redhead snatched Shikamaru by his vest, shaking him angrily. "You liar!"
"Tayuya!" The pigtailed man tried to yank her back, but her grip wouldn't relent.
"You fucking, shitfaced liar!" she spat, shaking the wide-eyed Nara with increasing violence as he thrashed about, trying to set himself free. "You expect me to fucking believe some maggoty-assed snake shit could even begin to compare to the greatest shinobi to ever walk this fucking planet! Do you! DO YOU!"
"TAYUYA-CHAN!" It took the combined efforts of the other three males to pull her off of the frightened chunin.
"Let me go! Goddammit! Let me go!" She thrashed and flailed against her team, tears splashing down her face as her face twisted in crazed vengeance. "He's fucking lying!"
"Tayuya! This ain't our world!"
"I don't give a fuck! He said! He said!"
Her head snapped back, stunned from the slap. Ranma lowered his hand, then took her by the jaw, making her look at him squarely.
"Their Old Man ain't our Old Man. Ours is perfectly fine. Ain't no Snake-face there, so stop actin' like ya five and getcha head on."
Her whole body shook with poorly suppressed sobs, face scrunching up. "But—"
"Ya hear me?" The air chilled under his frosty tone.
She rapidly nodded, still trembling with unshed tears.
"Deep breaths. Let it go."
She bit her lower lip, trying hard to calm herself with taking deep breaths.
"What the heck happened?" the native Naruto asked in puzzlement as every other genin relaxed.
"Long story." The jonin looked behind them. Kakashi and the kid that was watching his fight earlier. "Bound to get longer."
"Say that again."
Shizune exhaled. This was the third time. "Five Naruto clones came in with the ones presumably responsible for the abduction of Sasuke Uchiha. Two of them dead from sustained injuries. None of the clones knew who I was."
Tsunade frowned. That was unusual. Naruto would have at least called her assistant some kind of affectionate title. "So, are you certain—"
"Yes, I'm quite certain," she snapped before looking ashamed. "It was definitely Naruto, but… something was just not him at the same time."
"Okay, and as for Sasuke?"
"I'm not certain. The clones kept saying something about Sasuke bringing himself back or something, just in case of something happening." Shizune shook her head. "I didn't understand, though, before they dispelled themselves."
Not even twenty-four hours on the job, and already she wanted to retire as Hokage. That brat was making things troubling for her again…
"At the very least—"
There was a rapid knocking at her door.
Kakashi entered the room, along with Shikamaru. The blonde woman smiled at both.
"Well, I'm glad to see you both. I take it—"
"Lady Hokage, we have a situation."
Not even twenty-four hours…
The Queen of Slugs frowned, looking at the ninja in her office. Shizune stared at one of them, her face a mix of bewilderment and confusion. The standing ninja didn't look at anything other than the buxom blonde before them.
"So, you're the one that replace the Old Man?" Ranma spoke up after a lot bout of silence.
"If you mean The Third Hokage, you're correct."
Tayuya sighed in disappointment.
"And you claim to be the son of Genma Saotome?"
"Yeah… though it's a long story."
"I have plenty of time. Begin."
Ranma looked down the line of his students, then Kakashi and Shikamaru. He quirked his lips into a wistful expression before letting his face fall into a line.
"Well, first off, we don't originate from this Konoha… where we come from, the Old Man had just assigned us a retrieval mission, and…"
"I… understand, in a sense." The Fifth Hokage looked the young man over carefully. "What became of the mirror?"
The boy in blue shifted. "Uh, it got smashed, lady…" he said, embarrassedly.
Tsunade quirked an eyebrow. Had it been her Naruto, he would have called her "Granny." Perhaps there was some truth in the jonin's words after all.
"The Sand-nin had retrieved such a thing," Kakashi interjected, reaching into his supply pouch on his hip. He produced a wrapped object. "For some reason, one of them thought it should be brought back for study."
Sasuke's eyes studied the shape and size of the object, then shifted red. Kakashi gave him a questioning look, but the eyes reverted to normal just as fast as it changed.
"That's the one," the Uchiha said. "It's broken, but seems to be… active still."
"It wasn't when we dumped it," Tayuya spoke.
"Something probably changed it."
The copy-nin set the object on the massive office desk carefully. "Perhaps, there's a correlation. Gaara of the Sand was the one that made the discovery."
The Hokage pinched the bridge of her nose. "Shikamaru, can you give me your report later? I have a feeling this is going to take a lot longer than anticipated."
The Nara breathed in carefully hidden relief. "Sure." He took his leave, closing the office door behind him.
After a minute of silence, Tsunade's brown eyes took in the strangers. "I assume…"
"I found out when Mizuki revealed it to Naruto six months ago," Tayuya spoke, looking at the blond boy in blue as he scratched his head, a little embarrassed.
"He told me two weeks ago," Sasuke responded.
"Very well, then. The name, 'Gaara of the Sand' means nothing to you, then?"
The three genin shook their heads. Ranma scratched his chin.
"Wasn't he in the Chunin Exam?"
"We wouldn't know," Sasuke said flatly. "We never got to take them…"
Naruto and Tayuya glared at their teacher as well. Ranma grimaced.
"Like I knew that cargo we were escortin' was gonna be hit by a buncha rogue ninja."
"Yeah, right, sure…" the Uchiha deadpanned.
"Well, at least Master got a girlfriend out of it," the blond smirked.
"She's not my girlfriend!"
"Aw, I think you and Yugi-chan are pretty cute together…" came Tayuya's sinister grin. "Can I babysit the kids?"
The pigtailed boy slapped a hand over his forehead in exasperation. "Why was I given such ungrateful students…?"
"It seems that Orochimaru's plans have been thwarted after all," the Zetsu shadow spoke with the others at the meeting. "However, we seem to have… complications."
"What kind of 'complications'?" the Pain shadow asked simply.
"It seems there are now two nine-tailed jinchuriki."
"The fuck?" Hidan's tall shadow snapped off.
"Along with another Sasuke Uchiha, one of Orochimaru's servants, and an unfamiliar name…"
The Itachi shadow regarded Zetsu. "Another Sasuke…"
"He has eyes like yours."
Itachi did not respond. He turned his attention towards Pain.
"This unfamiliar name…" Konan's shadow spoke. "What is it?"
"Saotome. A Ranma Saotome."
"Saotome…" Pain seemed to reflect.
"A familiar name, Leader?" Kisame's shadow spoke after looking away from Itachi's silent form.
His ringed eyes stared back impassively. "A dead relic of the past. Meaningless now."
None questioned that.
Deidara's shadow turned to Pain. "So, the two jinchuriki, hmm?"
"One is sufficient. The other…" Pain's eyes lighted upon everyone.
End (for now)
AN:The one thing I wanted to do was write a fight scene. That was it. When I started this story several months ago, all I aimed for was massive fight that just kicked ass.
Don't know if I succeeded in that, but it was fun writing it.
There's actually a story and everything to this that I've been tinkering with; however, I didn' really want to commit that deeply, as I hate doing canon rewrites, and my biggest fear is starting something like this, only to never finish it because I was either transcribing canon with a minor tweak or two, ala The Lazy Uchiha or just the opposite way that I encountered in a Ranma/Rosario+Vampire fic I was drafting, and creating my own pat leads to either over powering, or just falls flat and loses the attraction.
So, Ranma... I've been trying to write a crossover with him in the Naruto universe (and one that took elements from the Naruto Universe, but was more Ranma/Sailor Moon. This time around, though, I decided not to make him the center of attention, mostly because I wanted to get involved with the Naruto characters more. Thusly, the original story I have in shop centers on Tayuya as the main character. A much different one, which becomes clear from the first paragraphs. Sure, Ranma plays his role, but he's not someone that'll overshadow the rest of the cast. At least not on purpose, though I did my best to edit his abilities. Still ridiculously powerful, but you don't need to know the full extent of said powers, as his students show marked improvements over the canon line in some ways, but fall short in other areas. Their base personalities are still the same, though, so Naruto isn't an Einstein mass of perfection.
And I get to avoid using an OC. And avoid rearranging the students/teachers around.
What seems to help a lot is that I'm not trying to meld the two worlds together, as I did in my first attempts. I still have the first story I did on this, and as much as it horrifies me, I learned quite a bit from reading the old draft. What inspired me to do things this way was the fact that there seems to be a lot of Ranma elements in the story as it is. Ayame = Ukyo. Kabuto = younger Tofu. The Eight-Tailed Bull = Pantyhose Taro sans wings.
So, outfits... I gave Ranma a red vest because it's the most synonymous color for him. That and green would look... wrong or something. Red sleeves to match, and black pants. For some reason, I never put his forehead protector on his forehead. Being the untamable, I hung it around his neck, like he chooses to do this, but it can easily disappear. On the forehead shows you're dedicated to the cause, and that's completely not him. He chooses to help because it's the proper thing for a ninja to do, a derivative of his martial arts roots: a ninja's duty is to protect the weak.
Naruto's outfit, I was basically thinking Kingdom Hearts Sora and changed it to orange on blue. I think orange on blue is cooler than just repeating the same uniform pattern with a different style. So many things I didn't go over here...
Sasuke's is just a repeat of his Tournament outfit, which is indicative of his maturity in a sense. He wore that until after getting comatosed by Itachi, then he reverts to his boyish shorts and shirt when he first graduated the Academy, making him even more immature than before. Interesting...
And Tayuya's outfit... :D It's just a simplified version of what she'd likely wear without that big ass bow and sloppy shirt. I just added a short jacket ala Aeris and turned her forehead protector into a skullie. Surprisingly, she wasn't so hard to write, mostly because the back story puts her in the spotlight (canon Sasuke, I find a lot harder to write, primarily because he's kind of flat and boring).
Not that I'm going to spoil it all the way through for you here. I might just write it all and post it a chapter at a time, cover everything that happens from the time Tayuya's... well, you'll seriously have to wait for that. I think her outburst at Shikamaru explains her character and history pretty well, though.
It's a oneshot, for now at least. I'll see how things are holding up on the reception, then decide if they'll be other work.