Here is the latest chapter everyone! Just to address a few concerns, Slade will have a story that fits into the Shinobi world, not his DC backstory or anything like that, so don't expect him to be talking about the teen titans or something cause that ain't part of this at all. Also, yes the Sohma's are a reference to Fruits Basket but that's about it. Not the same people either. Just felt that should be cleared up since a few people messaged me and asked about it.

So enjoy the new chapter and Happy (early) Valentines day!

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Chapter 16

The Hunt Begins

Tsunade was not happy. She had just been cleaned out by some young girl who had never been to a casino before. From there the girls' companion had ridiculed the blonde woman about how terrible of a gambler she had been. This wasn't new to Tsunade but something about the red headed boy had irritated the hell out of her.

So to ensure she didn't pulverize the boy she had left the table and visited the bar for something stronger than the sake she was being served earlier.

One thing she liked about this casino was the assortment of alcohol choices from other countries. Sake could only do so much for her at times.

But things had gotten worse when she was drinking some amber liquid she couldn't remember the name of when a familiar one eyed man sat beside her.

"Mind telling me why you're bothering me?" Tsunade about growled at the man.

She looked over at him and stared him in his one eye, an eye patch covering where his other eye would have been. She knew from experience though that there was nothing underneath.

"Now is that a way to treat an old friend?" Slade asked with a grin.

"You're going grey" Tsunade said as she took a drink, the familiar burn of the alcohol letting Tsunade know that it would be doing its job.

The man was indeed starting grey along the edges of his hair and his goatee.

"Not all of us are afraid of letting the years show Tsunade" Slade said as he waved at the bartender. He quickly ordered a drink for himself.

"Still looking for Orochimaru I take it?" Tsunade asked.

"My motives have not changed as of yet" the man said as he received his drink.

Tsunade glanced at the man again. "Nothing I can help you with Slade, haven't seen that snake in years."
Slade nodded. "I didn't think you had, I'm in the area because of his invasion."
This caught Tsunade's attention.

Slade noticed her reaction and leaned back. "You haven't heard have you…" it wasn't a question.

"Who did he invade?" Tsunade asked, knowing full well of what the answer was going to be.

"You're old village of course. Quiet a few casualties including a Kage from what my sources have told me."
Tsunade didn't seem shaken by the news at all. "So Sarutobi-sensei finally kicked the bucket…" she whispered as she finished off her drink. She signaled the bartender for another.

"I said a Kage, not the Hokage" Slade said as he took a sip of his own drink.

"Who then?" Tsunade asked a little quickly.

Slade smirked. "So you do care for your old sensei."

Tsunade shot him a dark look.

"Orochimaru had slipped into Konohagakure under the guise of the Kazekage. Once everything was said and done the Sand village began looking for their missing leader. My sources say that they'll find his body in a few days."
"You have sources now Slade?" Tsunade scoffed.

"I've changed quiet a bit since we first met Tsunade..."

Tsunade received her new drink from the bartender and quickly took a sip, grimacing a bit from the taste.

"Jiraiya filled me in a bit about what Orochimaru did to you the last time I ran into him."

Slade frowned at this. "I thought Jiraiya was a man of his word…"
"He is, but he had me analyze some samples of you to ensure there wasn't anything else that could happen to you. He made sure to let me know to keep my mouth shut about your new abilities."

"I appreciate that, few people know what I am now and I'd prefer to keep it that way" Slade spoke in a dark tone.

Slade was about to drink a bit more when he paused, his exposed eye narrowing. "That can't be right…" he whispered. He slowly turned around and stared at something. Tsunade didn't bother to look at what had grabbed his attention but she was surprised at Slade.

'He wasn't a sensor before… I don't think Jiraiya was telling me the whole truth about Slade and what he is…' she thought to herself.

"I hate to cut this short Tsunade, but something just came up…" Slade nearly growled out as he slammed his drink down on the bar counter. He quickly stood up and walked away, leaving Tsunade confused as to what Slade had just seen to cause him to lose composure. Only a few people could have that effect on him from what she remembered.

'Iwagakure Shinobi are odd…' Tsunade finally thought to herself as she grabbed her drink again.

Naruto had spotted the client almost immediately upon entering the casino with Kurenai and he quickly pointed her out.

"Good work Naruto" Kurenai had praised, although it wasn't hard to spot her as she was with a red headed boy who stood out amongst the people there.

Naruto grinned as they approached the pair.

"Tohru Honda?" Naruto asked as they approached the girl who was sitting at a cards table.

"Yes?" The girl asked as she turned to the two of them. Naruto had to admit she was a cute girl, but the red head beside her gave him an angry look which didn't sit well with Naruto. But since this was his first mission he was in charge of, he decided to contain his irritation.

"My name is Naruto Uzumaki and this is Kurenai. We're from Konohagakure" he introduced.

Tohru smiled at the two and stood up before bowing. "Ah thank you so much for coming. This is my bodyguard Kyo Sohma" she motioned to the red head. He was only a few years older than Naruto was. His eyes studied Kurenai briefly before moving to Naruto.

"You look familiar" he said to the blonde.

Naruto shrugged at this. "I don't think we've met before, but maybe I have one of those faces. So when do we leave?" Naruto asked.

"Right now is as good a time as any, Tohru just cleaned out some blonde lady a few minutes ago" Kyo said with a grin that almost reminded Naruto of a cat.

Kurenai was looking at the poker table with an odd look in her eye as Naruto glanced at her. 'What's up with her?'

"We have two others waiting outside the casino for us, do you guys need to grab anything before we leave town?" Naruto asked.

Tohru shook her head. "No need, Kyo has everything we need sealed in a scroll."

"Are you a shinobi?" Naruto asked the red head. He was surprised that a client was able to use fuinjutsu.

"No, but I've trained with shinobi and samurai so I know a few things" Kyo said with his cat like grin.

Naruto was surprised. He had heard of some civilians with a bit of shinobi training in the village but to meet someone who lived somewhere without a Shinobi militia who had some training, but to have samurai training as well was unheard of.

Even Kurenai looked surprised at this. 'An interesting kid...' she thought to herself.

"Well let's go and meet the others and then leave this town" Naruto said as he turned to leave.

Tohru gathered her winnings and followed Naruto and Kurenai with Kyo directly behind her.

Once outside of the casino Naruto let his disguise drop and Tohru gasped. "You're just a kid."

Naruto turned and grinned at her. "Had to make myself look older or they may not have let us in."

"So are you the one in charge then?" Kyo asked Kurenai.

"No. This is Naruto's mission and I am just part of his team" she answered politely.

"Why though?" Kyo asked.

Naruto's fist tightened but he maintained his composure. "Because I was promoted to Chunin recently. This is my first mission in charge; Kurenai is here to evaluate me."
Kyo nodded. 'This kid is younger than I am but I'm supposed to leave Tohru's safety in his hands?'

"Don't worry, I've read Naruto's file, you will be fine." Kurenai assured the red head when she saw his reaction.

Kyo said nothing but was staring at Tohru with concern.

'He clearly cares a lot for the girl' Kurenai thought to herself.

Naruto continued forward until Lee and Ino came into sight.

"That was fast" Ino commented as they approached.

"What did you think would happen in there?" Naruto asked.

"I don't know, maybe you'd gamble or something, or piss off a bouncer and get into a fight" she teased.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence" Naruto sighed.

"Kyo, Tohru, this is the rest of my team. Rock Lee and Ino Yamanaka."

The two of them bowed to the clients. "Pleased to meet the two of you! I promise we shall protect you with our lives!" Lee saluted.

Kyo raised an eyebrow at the boy's behavior and the way he was dressed. 'Shinobi are weird…'

Tohru had a different reaction however. Her cheeks flushed red at the sight of the green clad boy.

Ino caught sight of this and grinned before nudging Naruto in the side.

"Check it out, looks like Lee has an admirer" she whispered to him.

Naruto looked at Tohru but couldn't see what she was talking about.

"How can you tell?" he whispered back.

Ino shook her head. "You can't tell? She's fallen for the guy!"

Naruto continued to look at her reaction to Lee.

'Her face is red… But that could mean anything' he thought to himself.

"Lee-san, it is an honor to have you with us" Tohru said.

Lee flashed her a smile. "With Naruto and myself here I can guarantee that you are as safe as can be!"

Kyo noticed Tohru's reaction and bit his tongue. 'Why is she reacting like this with this guy!?'

As they began their journey out of Tanzaku Town, Tohru had begun to ask Lee about himself.

"Well I mainly train with Gai-sensei when I am not out on a mission" he explained when she asked what he liked to do.

"If I cannot accomplish a goal I shall give myself a greater challenge to accomplish! That way I can become a great shinobi without the use of ninjutsu or Genjutsu!"

"Genjutsu?" Tohru asked.

Lee began to explain in detail what Genjutsu and Ninjutsu were to the girl who held on to every word he said.

Kyo walked closely behind the two, glaring daggers at the back of Lee's head.

Ino and Naruto walked in front of Lee and Tohru talking to each other about the situation.

"So you're saying that Kyo likes Tohru, but she likes Lee?" Naruto whispered to Ino.

She nodded. "Looks like it I mean can't you see it?"
Naruto shook his head. "No. I mean she's just asking about shinobi stuff is all, why does that mean she likes Lee?"

Ino scoffed at Naruto. "She's interested in him. No girl would ask about that boring stuff unless they were interested in the guy."

"I don't really get it, but how do you know Kyo likes Tohru?"

"Because of how he's looking at Lee right now. With all of her attention on Lee, Kyo is jealous."

Naruto looked behind them at the three individuals. "I just assumed he always looks like that."
Ino smacked her face. "You really can't see it can you…"

"Nope. But if you say so." Naruto muttered.

Ino glanced back as Tohru giggled at how excited Lee was as he talked about Taijutsu now.

'I wonder if Lee likes Tohru though…' Ino thought to herself.

"So the nine tails brat isn't here?" Kisame asked his partner as they walked through the leaf village.

"It looks like he left on a mission the other day and was headed towards Tanzaku town."

"I wonder if he was one of those people Samehade sensed the other day" Kisame pondered.

"It is likely" Itachi said. As they walked through the streets Itachi felt a wave of nostalgia.

"Place got pretty trashed thanks to Orochimaru" Kisame commented.

Itachi said nothing as they headed for the gates to leave the village.

"Something wrong Itachi? You're broodier than usual."
"No. Let's go and find Uzumaki." Itachi said softly.

Sasuke walked down the street towards Sakura's house. Kakashi had come back and had asked him to check on his teammate.

'Why can't he do it himself or wait for Naruto to come back to do it' Sasuke complained to himself. He narrowed his eyes and groaned. He was complaining a lot lately. He needed to stop hanging around Naruto so much.

While consumed with his thoughts he accidentally bumped into someone.

"Sorry" Sasuke muttered. He glanced at the large person he had just come into contact with. They were wearing a black cloak with red cloud patterns on it. A large hat concealed their face, but he did see a smile full of serrated teeth gleaming.

"No problem kid" the man said, sounding somewhat amused. On his back was something large wrapped in bandages with an odd hilt and a skull adorning the top of the hilt.

Overall the man caused Sasuke's skin to crawl for some reason.

Beside that man was an identically dressed man but much shorter. His face was also not visible but something seemed familiar about him to Sasuke.

Without another word Sasuke turned and continued walking, but that smile had unnerved him and the short man… There was something about him.

As Sasuke continued walking, he looked back to find that the two men had disappeared.

'Who the hell were they?'

Trying to forget the two mysteries men in cloaks he continued on to Sakura's house which wasn't far from where he was currently.

Upon reaching Sakura's house he found her sitting on the steps, a pair of crutches beside her.

"Good to see you're able to get around now" Sasuke said as he approached her.

"Sasuke-kun!" Sakura was surprised to see him at her home.

"Kakashi-sensei sent me to see how you're doing" he said as he stood in front of her.

"Better, another week or two with the healers and I'll be ready to start training again with you and Naruto."
Sasuke shifted at this. "I wouldn't say that would happen."

Sakura tilted her head. "What do you mean?"

"Naruto was promoted Sakura, meaning he's going to be taking missions with other Shinobi. What may happen is we might get a new team member." Sasuke said, his eyes narrowing at the thought of it. "Maybe I'm wrong though. I would prefer they keep our team together since we've got a good idea of each others abilities and we work well together."

Sakura nodded. "I see. Well I guess time will tell."

Sasuke turned to leave when Sakura called out to him.

"Sasuke wait!"
He looked back at the pink haired girl.

"I uh… Thank you Sasuke-kun… For dropping by. Ino's the only other one that's visited me since I left the hospital."

Sasuke gave the girl an odd look before turning his head and continued to walk away.

Sakura didn't know what to expect to happen but she thought he'd say more.

"I'll drop by tomorrow when I get the chance" Sasuke said to her as he walked away.

Sakura stared after the raven haired boy, shocked at what he had just said. Sasuke was going to visit her tomorrow. Not because Kakashi had asked him to check on her or anything. Just to see her and that's all. It wasn't a date, but Sakura didn't care. Sasuke was beginning to acknowledge her at last.

Naruto had called for them to all stop as the sun began to descend towards the horizon.

It had been quiet some time since they had left Tanzaku Town and had made some good time from what Kurenai had told them despite only walking. Tohru had not left Rock Lee alone the entire time they had been traveling but that didn't seem to bother the green clad boy one bit as he enjoyed talking to the girl about his dreams and accomplishments.

Kyo on the other hand had been seething silently behind the two but had not made any attempts to break them apart.

Naruto had been surprised at how nice Ino had been thus far to him, not having been around her for long periods of time in the past and had found her to be a fun person to talk to. After getting past the subject of Tohru's affection for Lee, Naruto had been very interested in her knowledge of plants when she had spotted some exotic flowers on the path. She had seen them before in her shop but they didn't have many so Naruto had done her a favor and sealed the plant within a scroll for her to take home with her and see if she could produce some back in the village.

She had been very thankful for this and from there told Naruto about the varying applications of different flowers from shinobi tools to gifts and more.

Naruto was awed at how much she knew about botany and was somewhat envious of her passion. He didn't really have anything like that other than his dream to become a Hokage, and even then he hadn't really talked much about that dream lately with anyone. Not like he used to.

When he wasn't talking to Ino, he was focusing on sensing for anything unusual. There was a point where he sensed someone coming up the trail, but it was just a group of traders.

Kurenai had been extremely quiet and had been behind the entire group, watching them, Naruto in particular. It was the reason she was here after all.

So now here they were, setting up camp for the night. Naruto had quickly made some clones to fetch fire wood, the area being relatively free of bandits and any other known malicious activity to their knowledge.

As they were doing that, the real Naruto and everyone else began unpacking for the night.

Kyo unsealed a small tent for Tohru and a sleeping bag for himself and laying it beside the tent.

Naruto set his sleeping bag on the ground not far from where they were intending on building a fire. Lee followed suit and laid his bag beside the Uzumaki's.

"Naruto, would you perhaps enjoy a quick spar?" Lee asked the blonde.

Naruto was about to answer when Kyo spoke up. "I wouldn't mind sparring!"

Naruto remembered what Ino was saying about Kyo being jealous about Tohru's crush on Lee and was about to intervene when Lee took control of the situation.

"Kyo-san, I would very much enjoy sparring against you, but it does seem that would be unwise as you are the client we were hired to protect and if something were to go wrong we would not want you injured."

This only seemed to anger Kyo, but Lee continued on.

"However, once we have completed the mission, I would be more than willing to test my abilities against someone with samurai training! I believe it would be a rare opportunity!" Lee smiled and gave the boy a thumbs up.

Kyo seemed a little surprised at Lee's reaction but quickly smirked. "Sounds like a plan. Once it's all said and done we'll see who's stronger."

"Yosh! It will be a youthful battle between the two of us!" Lee declared. He clearly had forgotten about sparring with Naruto which was okay with him as Naruto wasn't really feeling like sparring at the moment.

Naruto looked over and saw Ino approaching Tohru. 'I'm surprised they didn't talk much yet.'

Tohru smiled as the blonde girl approached her.

"Ino right?" she asked.

"Yep. So what's up with you and Lee?" Ino asked in a low voice.

Tohru instantly went red at this. Ino didn't feel like beating around the bush with this situation, she had been talking to Naruto all day after all.

"W…well he's really sweet…" Tohru whispered as she glanced at the boy who was currently talking with Kyo about sparring.

"Wait until you see him fight, he's pretty amazing" Ino said as she sat on the ground beside the girl.

"He did say he trains a lot" Tohru said with a giggle.

"I don't doubt that after the show he put on at the Chunin exams." Ino said as she briefly remembered his fight.

"I've heard of those actually! My family was thinking about going this year but some things came up."

Ino chuckled. "It's best that you didn't show up actually, it got kind of hairy."

"How so?"

"One of the villages tried to start a war during one of the fights." Ino said.

"A war?" Tohru exclaimed.

Ino nodded. "Yeah it got pretty crazy. There were quiet a few casualties actually, but we were able to drive them out of the village."

"What happened exactly?" Tohru asked as she leaned forward.

"Uh well… Not sure on all the details actually, and some of it we aren't supposed to talk about, but what I can tell you is that the exams aren't usually like that." Ino chuckled. She couldn't tell this girl about Gaara, which was basically the only detail she knew about other than it was the Sand and Sound that had invaded them.

In the distance Kyo glanced over at Ino and Tohru talking.

"So you guys were in a war recently?" he asked Naruto.

Kurenai, who was currently writing something down looked up at the blonde.

"What happened?" Kyo asked.

"How did you know about that?" Naruto asked.

"I have pretty good hearing, and the blonde girl is talking to Tohru about it" he answered nonchalantly.

"Wow… That's some hearing you have" Naruto muttered as he strained his ears to try and hear Ino and Tohru.

"So what happened?" Kyo asked. He was intrigued about this aspect and how much of it these two Shinobi had seen.

"Well it's complicated…" Naruto muttered. He had been told to stay quiet about the details of Gaara and Orochimaru as it was all on a need to know basis.

"So you don't know anything about… Too bad." Kyo taunted the blonde. He was trying to get a rise out of the boy and have him slip up, but Naruto had made a promise to the Hokage not to say anything of import.

"I mean we were there and we did fight but why they invaded we don't really know" Naruto said to the red head, choosing his words carefully.

"So you killed a few people?" he asked.

"Yeah I guess" Naruto answered.

"What about you?" Kyo asked Lee.

"I did not fight too many people actually. I actually helped make sure Sakura-chan got to the shelter."

This was something Naruto had not known. "You helped Sakura get out of the hospital?"

Rock Lee nodded. "I wanted to ensure that she was safe, I did make a promise to her after all."

Kyo grinned. "Sakura-chan? Is she your girlfriend?" He made sure to say the last part loudly.

Rock Lee did not show any embarrassment however. "She is not my girlfriend, but I did promise her that I would protect her with my life, and I never break a promise." At this point Lee had given Kyo a thumbs up.

'Wow… this guy is way too nice…' Kyo thought to himself.

Naruto was now happier than before with the face that Lee was on this mission. He was the type of person to go out of his way to keep a promise and keep his friends safe.

Kurenai smiled at the two young Shinobi. 'That's good… Naruto didn't let any confidential information leak out, he was careful when he was questioned by the client. Very good.'

Ino got up and told Tohru she was going to set up where she would be sleeping for the night. At this, Tohru began to search through a small bag from her tent for a moment before sighing.

"What's wrong Tohru?" Kyo asked as he approached her.

"We're out of tea…" Tohru said sadly. Kyo nodded. He had been with her for many years and knew one of the things that Tohru loved was tea. It wasn't just for the taste, but making and drinking tea was very therapeutic for the girl, and with the stress she must have been feeling since she was to inherit the Sohma Corporation she definitely would want that comfort.

"I'll see what I can do about that for you Tohru" Kyo said softly.

The girl smiled at her red headed companion. "You are so sweet to me Kyo, thank you."
Kyo nodded and decided to ask the others if they had any sort of tea on them, although he doubted they would.

After asking Kurenai and Ino first, he wasn't surprised to find that they hadn't brought any with them on the mission.

Kyo didn't think that Lee and Naruto would have any on them but when he asked Naruto he was surprised by his answer.

"No I don't, but we're in a forest, I'm sure we can find some sort of herbs we can find to use for tea."

Kyo smiled at the blonde. "You're smarter than you look kid."

Naruto frowned at this. "You're not much older than me…"

"That's what you take offense to?" Kyo joked with the boy.

"Let's just find something to make tea with…" Naruto muttered as he made a seal for his clone jutsu. Kyo was impressed when twelve clones popped into existence. It didn't take a genius to see that they were solid clones. 'For a new Chunin, that's pretty impressive' Kyo thought to himself.

Naruto quickly ordered for the clones to go out and find some sort of herbs to use for tea. The clones nodded silently before jumping off into the night.

Naruto smiled at his handiwork and turned to Kyo. "They'll find something soon I'm sure."
Kyo nodded. "Thank you Naruto, it'll mean a lot to Tohru."

Naruto glanced over Kyos shoulder and saw the girl pull out some kind of book and began jotting something down.

"Kyo, do you like Tohru?" Naruto decided to ask the boy.

Kyos face turned the same shade of red as his hair as he began to stutter. "W…w, well the thing is… I mean yes, but… no I can't it's… It's complicated and… Family and stuff."
Naruto grinned at the boy. He had found a way to torment the boy. At this point Naruto had to stop and think to himself though. Should he use this information for his own entertainment and watch Kyo awkwardly dance around, or should he help the boy?

This was a difficult choice for the blonde boy as it had been a long time since he had pulled any kind of prank large or small on someone, but this was his first mission he was in charge of and he didn't want to mess anything up.

He didn't have the chance to make a decision though when he heard Kyo sigh.

"It's… I shouldn't like her but I do. We were raised together… Her, myself and my brother… We're almost like siblings." Kyo explained.

"Her parents died when we were all about ten years old, but she was alone, so my older brother Shigure took her in."

Naruto and Lee knew a bit of the Sohmas history thanks to the mission scroll.

"My brother Yuki and I were supposed to take over the company when Shigure felt it was time, but we weren't in the least bit interested in books. Tohru however has always loved writing and reading. That's why Shigure is handing the company over to her."

'Looks like Ino was right… Kinda wish Tohru didn't have a thing for Lee now.' Naruto thought to himself. Their conversation was interrupted when a clone burst through the foliage.

"Found some stuff boss" it said as it held out a beautiful flower.

"Never seen a flower like that…" Naruto muttered as he examined it.

"Naruto drop that!" Ino's voice yelled out suddenly.

The clone threw it in the air in surprise before dispelling itself. The flower landed on the ground in a crumpled heap.

"What gives Ino? We were going to try and make tea out of it" Naruto snapped.

"Oh? You were going to use Angel's Trumpet to make some tea?" Ino asked as she scooped up the flower.

"If that's what the flower is then yeah" Naruto said.

"You idiot, Angel's Trumpet is toxic to humans and animals!" Ino snapped. Naruto stared at the flower for a moment, processing what Ino had just said.

"It is a good thing that Ino-chan is here to protect us!" Lee declared as Kyo began to shake Naruto.

"YOU COULD HAVE KILLED US YOU IDIOT!" Kyo yelled at the Chunin.

"YOU WERE THE ONE THAT ASKED FOR TEA!" Naruto snapped back. The two boys stood inches apart, glaring into each others eyes.

"Hey calm down you two!" Ino yelled at them. "Nobody got hurt but for now we go without any tea! It's not that big of a deal!"

Kyo glared at the blonde girl before storming away from them.

Kurenai watched this all and smirked. Even though Naruto had come far since the academy, he was still the same knuckleheaded kid.

Naruto looked back at the flower now in Ino's hands. "So… Angel's trumpet?"

Ino nodded. "It's pretty lethal, even a small amount could kill you. It has to be ingested of course so you're not going to die from holding it" she added when she saw the look of horror on Naruto's face.

As she ignored Kyo and Naruto as they began to ramble about the poisonous flower, she stared down at the flower. They didn't have this particular flower in Konohagakure… In fact it was odd that the flower was even in this region. It was plant normally found in Kumogakure and even then it was in the dense wilderness of Kumo from what she had read.

'That would mean someone planted it here… And it would require care in such a different climate from Kumo.'

She glanced over at the others. "Guys, we may have a problem…"
Naruto stopped his slight tirade and looked at the girl.

"What's wrong? Did you get poisoned?" Naruto paled at the thought. It was his first time in charge and Ino had already been poisoned!

"No… But this flower isn't native to the land of fire… It's from Kumo."
Kurenais eyes narrowed at this as she was about to say something when Naruto quickly stepped up.

"Start packing up, we need to get out of the area just to be safe. How far is our destination?" he asked Kyo.

"If you don't mind running or taking to the trees it would take us maybe four or five hours" he said.

Naruto nodded. It was a good thing that Kyo had some Shinobi experience.

"Lee can carry Tohru that way she won't slow us down" Naruto said however the look on Kyos face made Naruto question his quick decision.

"Tohru will be fine" he said as he began sealing away everything he had unsealed not half an hour ago.

"Can she jump through trees?" Naruto asked as he glanced at the girl. She didn't look like she could; she looked like a normal civilian.

"No, but my summons can carry her so there's no need to keep a ninja bogged down. Besides, we may need Lee to fight."

Ino smirked at Kyos reasoning. It made sense, but it was mainly motivated by jealousy.

As Kyo finished sealing away his things as Naruto did the same, he quickly bit his thumb drawing the necessary blood for a summoning jutsu.

As he ran through the hand seals, Naruto glanced over at the boy, curious about what he could summon and if it could compare to his toads. He doubted it but he was still curious.

As the smoke from the jutsu erupted, they all heard a low rumbling growl that cause their hearts to all skip a beat in fear.

Kurenai had to admit, for a boy that claimed he had a bit of shinobi training, having this summon was impressive.

The smoke cleared to reveal a large and majestic orange and black tiger, its head held low as it saw the present company.

"What's with the shinobi Kyo?" It asked immediately as its eyes darted from Naruto to Lee before glancing at Ino and Kurenai.

"They're our bodyguards so don't attack them, but we need you to carry Tohru, we may be in a dangerous area and we need to leave quickly" Kyo explained. The Tiger sniffed the air a bit before emitting another low growl.

"Why couldn't you just carry her yourselves?" It asked as it turned its attention on Naruto, its eyes boring into his.

Naruto gulped, wondering why the Tiger was staring at him of all people.

Kyo noticed this as well but said nothing as there were more important things at the moment.

"We may need to fight" Kyo said as he stepped towards the summon.

The Tiger kept its eyes on Naruto without saying a word.

"Please Tigra" Tohru asked. "I do not wish to be a burden on anyone but this is very important."

'Tigra? Not a very original name for a tiger' Ino thought to herself, suppressing a smirk.

"Very well, for you Tohru" Tigra said as its eyes tore away from Naruto.

The boy breathed a sigh of relief. It was like Tora all over again, cats just did not like him regardless of the size.

Tohru hopped onto the tiger summons back as Naruto suddenly felt a chakra signature.

"We've got to go" he said as he finished sealing his own stuff away. The others were already done and ready to go as they all leapt into the trees and ran off.

As they jumped from tree to tree, Lee decided to ask Ino something.

"Ino-san, why do you still have that flower?" Naruto glanced over at the blonde girl and saw that she did in fact still have the Angel's Trumpet with her, holding it gingerly.

"I want to take it back to Konoha so that we can reproduce it and make some new poisons with it."

Naruto raised an eyebrow at this as Kurenai spoke up. "That would be beneficial to the village Ino."

"You make poisons?" Naruto asked his charge.

Ino shook her head. "No, but my father does help with the production of poisons when he isn't busy with the interrogation unit."

Naruto's eyes widened. "You're dad sounds awesome!"

Ino giggled at this. "He is pretty cool when I think about it."

As they continued forward, Naruto sensed a few more chakra signatures not far from their current location, and they were headed towards them quickly.

"They know where we are, and somehow they're gaining on us!" Naruto warned.

"How many are there?" Kyo asked as he kept an eye on the tiger that charged through the trees ahead of them, Tohru pressed against its back.

"I'd say seven or eight of them" he said. At the rate they were advancing on them, they were must have been very fast shinobi.

"They must have a sensor with them" Lee said. Naruto nodded. "If so, then we need to stop and face them, otherwise they're going to overtake us."

They continued a little further until Naruto spotted a clearing.

"Let's stop here" he said. Dropping down he quickly formed a few clones.

The others followed his lead and dropped into the clearing with him.

"Tigra, you should hide in the trees with Tohru, if things get messy get her out of here."
The tiger nodded before shooting a look at the blonde Chunin once again. Naruto didn't care at the moment as in the next thirty seconds they would have company. The tiger silently leapt into the foliage above them and crouched on a large branch, its eyes gleaming in the dark. Tohru watched silently from the tigers back, hoping that everything would be fine.

The clones quickly scattered into the hiding right before four horses galloped into the clearing, a rider on each of them and from their attire they were mere bandits.

'That explains why they were so fast…' Naruto thought to himself as they slowed to a halt a fair distance from the shinobi.

"Looks like you were right the smallest rider said to one of the others. All four of them were garbed in ragged clothing and leather armor, a katana at each of their sides, sheathed but easily accessible.

One of the riders smiled a toothless smile. "I could sense their chakras pretty clearly."

Naruto's eye twitched from the mans speech. He clearly wasn't that intelligent, but then again Naruto hadn't been the sharpest tool in the shed not long ago.

"What do you four want?" Naruto decided to ask.

The men seemed to chuckle at this. "Well looks like the kid here thinks he's a tough guy!" the small one laughed. The others chuckled as well.

"Well for one, you're trespassing, and it looks like you're also stealing" the toothless one said as he pointed at Ino who was carrying the flower still.

"Didn't know that this area was private property" Naruto said. "And since when did picking flowers become stealing?"

"Our boss owns the area! And his rules are if you take from us you die. Too bad he can't be here to enjoy this" the toothless one sneered.

"There are more of you nearby?" Kyo asked.

"Tons of us!" the small one said to the red head.

"Well why aren't they all here?" Naruto asked, hoping that they didn't have reinforcements on their way.

"We were just out hunting when we came across you guys" the small one explained in a matter of fact tone.

"So no one else knows that we're here?" Naruto asked just to be sure.

"Well no, just that we're hunting…" The small one realized where this was going.

The toothless one seemed to realize this as well as he shut his eyes to concentrate before yelling out but at that point it was too late.

Four clones had emerged from the trees onto the horses, kunai in hand.

The small one didn't realize what was happening until the blade from a clone had been jammed into his throat, blood gushing from where the point had emerged.

The two that hadn't said a word had noticed the clones as they were descending and tried to pull out their swords but didn't have the chance as the clones tackled them off the horses and slit their throats quickly.

The toothless man had been somewhat smarter and had jumped off of his horse to avoid the clone. He had quickly produced a rusty dagger and was flailing it in front of him to keep the clones at bay.

That didn't work for more than a second as clone merely caught the mans wrist and twisted it, forcing the man to drop the blade while another clone appeared behind him and twisted his head around with a loud snap.

It had all happened so quickly that the horses barely had time to react to it all but when the bodies hit the ground they began to neigh loudly at the sudden and startling entrance of the clones. The horses began to bolt and Naruto let them, not seeing an animal like a horse as a current threat.

Ino was shocked at what had just happened. Naruto had single handedly killed four bandits without so much as blinking.

Naruto focused to ensure that there were no other chakra signatures nearby and thankfully he didn't sense any other than the retreating horses.

"We should get going. Their friends may start looking if they don't come back soon" Naruto said as his clones dispelled.

"Naruto, you just, killed those guys" Ino said, he eyes staring at the four fresh corpses.

Naruto didn't respond immediately. "They had a sensor with them, better to be safe than sorry. Besides they would have killed us" Naruto said. He didn't like the fact, but he understood now that sometimes killing was necessary and if he had let those men live, they would have just tried to get reinforcements and come after them.

"Still… You killed them" Ino said again.

"Isn't killing kind of part of your job?" Kyo asked the blonde girl. "I mean, you guys have killed before right?"

Lee, Naruto and Kurenai all said yes to this, all clearly not proud of the fact but that didn't change that they had taken lives.

"I haven't…" Ino muttered as she stared at the corpses.

"You will" Lee said, sounding oddly somber. "It is not something to look forward to Ino-san; however you must prepare yourself as it will happen."

Naruto nodded. "It'll take you some time to adjust to that." God knows that it took him a lot of adjusting but he had finally accepted it.

"Enough mourning over some bandits, we must leave before more arrive" Tigra said as it leapt down from its hiding spot.

Naruto nodded. "Come on Ino, we've gotta go."
Ino tore her eyes from the corpses and took a deep breath. She'd have to ignore the feeling in her gut for the time being, they were right. They needed to leave sooner rather than later.

The bandit leader known as Silas sat in his tent, whittling away at some wood with an old kunai. He liked this particular kunai not due to its edge or how it handled, but because of how he had obtained it.

Six years ago he had come across a group of Shinobi from Kumogakure that had apparently defected and had taken to living in the current area. Unfortunate for them, they had not been the best of Shinobi as they were quickly over run with his force of bandits.

They were going to leave the area when one of the shinobi that had been playing possum had attempted to kill Silas with this particular kunai.

The boy had injured Silas which had certainly been an embarrassment for him, but he had quickly turned it into a shining moment. He had been so enraged that he had inadvertently used chakra for the first time and had nearly twisted the boy's head around a full 360 degrees. From there he had kept the kunai with him as a trophy for what he had been able to since then with chakra.

Not to mention they had found a nice garden of Angel's Trumpet to sell. From there he had used the flowers to suite his needs. Whenever someone had something he wanted, he would simply poison them with the flower and take what was his. After that, he had found people to join him in his ventures and train him in using his chakra.

Everything was going great for Silas the bandit. Until that very moment of course.

Voices began yelling in the distance about a lone intruder on their land. This wasn't the first time something like this had happened and usually his men would handle the threat and gain something from it. On occasion quiet a few men would fall before taking down the intruder. So when the screams began he wasn't nervous, but rather intrigued by what was happening.

"It's been some time since someone was able to put up a fight" he said with a smirk as he pocketed the kunai and picked up his sword that lay beside him.

As he pulled back the flaps to his tent, the screams began to get closer.

'Definitely a shinobi of some skill' he thought with narrowed eyes. Knowing that a frontal assault against a shinobi would be useless he decided to try and sneak up on whatever was currently attacking his men. He ducked down and ran to the trees and began circling around the encampment.

He still wasn't worried as the screaming and yelling continued, once in a while it would be a close call but nothing he couldn't handle in the end.

Then he saw the earth shift not far from his position before the sound of a small explosion rang out.

He stopped in his tracks and stared at the camp as the screams continued.

"Get him!" a yell rang out rather close by.

He couldn't see his assailant but he could see his forces running amok at the moment.

He stayed perfectly still, hidden in the forest from everyone in the camp.

He thanked the lords above for the cover of night at the moment as the screaming seemed to suddenly stop. He strained his eyes, trying to see if he could see anything from where he was, but there didn't seem to be any movement.

He tried to control his breathing to be as quiet as possible as the feeling of being watched crept over him, causing his heart to pound. Maybe he was just being paranoid, but the important thing was that he was safe at the moment.

"Hiding while your men are being slaughtered, coward" a voice whispered from behind him.

Silas spun around swinging his sword only to hit nothing. Whoever this was, they were clearly playing games with Silas at this point.

'Screw this, I'm out of here!' was his immediate thought.

He bolted towards camp, knowing that the forest provided too much cover for the assailant.

As Silas ran through camp, he saw what had happened to his men. Each and every one of them had been cut down with a blade, limbs scattered about. He jumped over a corpse here and there as he tore through camp, hoping he could get away from his attacker when he saw a flash of metal in front of him, separating his arm from his body before he realized what had happened.

Blood sprayed everywhere as the pain washed over him and he screamed in agony.

"I would have been quicker if you had been out here fighting with your men, but to cower away in the woods… Tsk tsk" the voice chastised from behind Silas.

He looked over his shoulder to see that no one was there, however when he looked ahead of him, a mask, half black and half orange was the last thing he saw before death.

Slade stood up after pulling his sword out of the man's eye, wiping the blade down with some fabric he had torn from a mans shirt.

"To think that these bandits have been able to kill wandering shinobi" he said as he shook his head before sheathing the blade on his back. His other blade sat on his back, unused as it was not need to kill these vermin.

"Now then, to go back to following those Konohagakure shinobi" he muttered before disappearing, leaving behind nothing but the remains of the bandits that had secretly plagued the area.

As the sun began to rise over Konohagakure, everything seemed peaceful despite the state of the village. However the progress was beginning to show more as the walls were being rebuilt now that the rubble from the breach points were now taken care of.

This was what Jiraiya was thinking as he looked out over the village from a top one of the taller buildings in the village. There was very little that could ruin the mood he was in today, especially since he was to be leaving the village in a few days for reasons unrelated to Shinobi business.

He glanced over to see a raven haired boy the same age as his new student up bright and early jumping from building to building towards the training grounds.

Jiraiya was surprised to see the Uchiha boy awake this early in the day of his own accord.

'Naruto's team mate and Orochimaru's next target… Interesting kid' the Sannin thought to himself. He smirked to himself as he began to follow the boy, keeping himself hidden from him to ensure Sasuke didn't know.

'May as well see what kind of kid Sasuke Uchiha is' was Jiraiya's thought.

Sasuke had not slept well last night. He had the dream again. The dream where he relived the night Itachi had defected. Where Sasuke's world was torn apart and his path had been set.

He hadn't had that dream for quite some time but it did serve one purpose today. It got him out of bed early to train. By the time the next exams came around, he wanted to be ready to advance like Naruto had. Even if that meant having to ask his team mate for help when he returned from his mission.

As he prepared for his training, he heard something in the trees behind him.

Instinctively he activated his Sharingan before unleashing a barrage of shuriken at where he had heard movement. The dull thuds of his throwing stars came to him, confirming that they had hit the tree and nothing else.

Sasuke stood still, staring at where he had sworn he'd heard a noise but nothing else seemed to happen.

Jiraiya would have been impressed if it hadn't been for a mistake on his end that led to tipping Sasuke off. His notepad with all of his research had fallen from his pocket and he had to dive to grab it before using his superior speed and stealth to disappear.

Sasuke had thrown his shuriken at the spot where his notepad had hit the branch before falling to the ground.

Jiraiya watched as the Uchiha decided to leave the area and find a more secluded spot to train. Jiraiya thought about maybe following him to see more from the boy but felt movement nearby.

"Yo" Kakashi's voice said behind him.

Jiraiya turned and grinned at the fan of his literary works.

"Hello to you as well Kakashi."

"Looking to train another of my adorable charges?" Kakashi joked to Jiraiya.

The man chuckled at the thought. "The Uchiha isn't really my style; clan status just isn't for me."
Kakashi shrugged. "Maybe help my other student with some Genjutsu theory?"

Jiraiya laughed at this point. "Genjutsu definitely isn't my territory. In fact, my team wasn't much for the art of illusions."

Kakashi nodded. The Sannin were known for their strength with Ninjutsu thanks to both Jiraiya and Orochimaru while Tsunade was the legendary medic with quiet a punch. Not to mention strength that was said to rival the past two Raikage, if the rumors were to be believed of course.

"I just wanted to see what the big deal was about Itachis younger sibling" Jiraiya muttered.

"Any word on his where abouts?" Kakashi asked as he pulled out a copy of Icha Icha Violence.

Jiraiya didn't answer right away. "Yes and no."

Kakashi pretended to be reading but was clearly listening to the older man.

"It seems that he has joined an organization of sorts" Jiraiya started.

"I'm surprised any club would want him as a member after what he did to his own family" Kakashi joked as he turned a page.

"Whoever they are, they let Orochimaru join as well" Jiraiya said with a grim smile.

This caught Kakashi off guard. "Orochimaru and Itachi in the same group? Was this rogue ninjas anonymous?"

Jiraiya ignored the frankly terrible joke. "They're called the Akatsuki. Their motives are unclear for the most part, but there are nine things they are after."

Kakashi understood what he meant by this. "So that's why Orochimaru kidnapped that Gaara boy?"

Jiraiya shook his head. "No that's the thing. Orochimaru isn't a part of this group any longer. They kicked him out, the details are scarce unfortunately."

"I'm sure he didn't like having someone break up with him" Kakashi said as he stared at his book.

"It's Orochimaru, he doesn't take rejection well" Jiraiya joked back. "What worries me is that this group was actually able to get rid of Orochimaru by force from what I've learned. I knew Itachi was strong but strong enough to get rid of Orochimaru…" Jiraiya didn't finish.

"Anyone else of significance in this group?" Kakashi asked as he snapped his book shut.

Jiraiya shrugged. "I know they have about nine members, possibly a few more. Other than that I'm not sure of all of the members or where they operate from."
Both of them were silent for some time at this point as they watched the sun slowly rise in the sky further and further.

"So when are you going to take him?" Kakashi finally asked after about ten minutes of silence.

"I'll give it sometime; I have a few things I need to attend to before I take the kid. I'm sure he won't be too thrilled about leaving the village but there are things he needs to learn and see."

Kakashi nodded. "It'll be odd to not have Naruto here, whether it's pulling pranks or training."
Jiraiya sighed. "The more things change…"

Ino yawned as they ran through up the trail. Kyos summon had told them they could take it from there, so Kyo was currently carrying Tohru on his back as she slept.

'That cannot be comfortable' Ino thought to herself as they jumped through the trees, the sun beginning to shine down on the team.

"We're here guys" Kyo finally said as he jumped down, the rest of them following.

"So what's the place called?" Naruto asked, that bit of information had not been in the mission scroll.

Kyo grinned. "It's called Hanmoto."

Ino laughed at this. "So your town is called publisher?"

Kyo nodded. "The Sohma Corporation founded this town and rather than name it Sohma like some people suggested, they figured that Hanmoto would be a better option. It's our main source of income here after all."

As they emerged from the forest they found a large city awaiting them, causing the three Genin to stare in awe. The buildings were definitely taller than those from Konohagakure. The smallest one they could see was the size of the Hokage tower.

"I take it that the publishing industry is booming" Lee said as he stared at the buildings.

Kyo nodded. "We're the biggest publishing corporation in the elemental nations for certain. Not only that but we handle the production of paper products as well as sealing material for the shinobi nations."

This impressed them all, Kurenai included as she had not been aware of that.

"Also, I'd suggest maybe concealing the fact that you're ninja" Kyo said as he shook Tohru awake. "It'll cause a lot of unwanted attention from people if they know you're shinobi."

Naruto nodded as he took off his hitai-ate as well as his shuriken and kunai pouches before sealing them in a scroll. The others followed suit by either sealing their items away or stowing them in their packs.

As they walked into town, they found quiet a few horse drawn carriages in the streets.

"We don't have these in Konoha" Naruto said as he tried counting the amount of the carriages he could currently see.

"It's a big city, so we have ways of getting around quickly for a relatively cheap price" Kyo explained as he stood aside and waved for a carriages attention. "Some people own their own however most of them are public transportation."

One of the drivers had seen Kyo flag them down and had slowed his horse as he approached them.

"Don't think I can fit all of you in here" the man said with a gleaming smile. He was dressed like a typical civilian as were most people there at the moment.

"Not a problem" Naruto said. "Tohru, Ino and Kurenai can go in this carriage while the rest of us take another carriage." Kurenai didn't seem to approve of splitting them all apart but said nothing, surely this was going to make it into the report to the Hokage but Naruto didn't notice otherwise.

The three ladies climbed into a carriage together, Tohru telling the carriage driver where they were headed.

As the carriage took off, Naruto discreetly made a clone to follow it under a henge to ensure nothing happened.

"I'm sure they'll be fine, but just to be safe if something does happen my clone will let me know" he explained at the look Kyo gave him.

Not a minute later, Kyo flagged down yet another carriage which they all climbed into.

"Where to lads?" the middle aged driver asked.

"The Sohma Corporation zone 1 please" Kyo said. The driver grunted in acknowledgement as the carriage lurched forward.

Naruto sat back in the cramped cabin with the other two males. "So what kind of party is this going to be?" Naruto finally asked.

Kyo made a disgruntled noise. "A lot of people throwing their status around trying to impress one another. All very proper and boring to be honest."

Naruto sighed. It seemed like it was going to be pretty stale for a mission from here on out. He hoped to maybe have a fun time at this party. "How's the food usually?" he asked, reminding himself of a portly Akimichi.

Kyo shrugged. "Depends on who's catering the event. It can vary, I'm sure it'll be alright at the very least." Naruto at least had some interesting foods to look forward to. For a first mission, he felt it wasn't going terribly thus far.

Then again, the two C ranked missions he had taken before had ended up being upgraded so maybe this one would as well.

Lee was not listening to the two others in the carriage as he stared out the window at the many different types of people he could see. It always fascinated him to see places without Shinobi forces and how odd he found it to be. It didn't seem natural to him but at the same time he found it exhilarating as it provided for new experiences.

"Yosh, I believe this party you spoke of earlier will be a great one indeed!"

Naruto glanced over at Lee, knowing that he hadn't been listening since Kyo had clearly said it would be boring.

'Maybe Lee will make it exciting' he thought with a smirk as he imagined Lee challenging some random business man to some physical contest that would end with the loser doing more demanding physical tasks. He chuckled at the thought and didn't elaborate when Kyo gave him an odd look.

After about ten minutes and a clones memories that the ladies had gotten there safely, the carriage came to a stop. "Here we are lads, the Sohma Corporation!" Kyo pulled out some money from his pocket and climbed out of the carriage before handing it to the driver. Naruto and Lee followed them to find themselves in front of a large gate with two men flanking the sides.

"This is the Sohma Corporation?" Naruto asked. It looked like a gate to an estate of some sort."

Kyo shook his head. "Not really. The actual corporation is actually a few minutes by carriage east of here, this is just our home."
The red head walked up to the gate as one of the guards silently nodded his head before opening the large gate. As the doors swung open Kyo led Naruto and Lee through them only to find themselves in a beautiful garden.

"Wow, this is a magnificent view Kyo-kun!" Lee exclaimed. Even Naruto had to admit that it was pretty mesmerizing. Different kinds of trees and flowers were everywhere. Whoever had planted them had a great eye for how they would grow as they seemed to be color coordinated.

"Stop staring and follow me" Kyo said to the two of them.

They continued forward through the garden towards the estate.


Danzo walked through the streets of Tanzaku Town, intending on finding the man that had killed Orochimaru's informant.

The Sandaime Hokage had requested that Danzo take a squadron of ANBU with him and make contact with Slade before he left town. Unfortunately they only came across a corpse that Danzo knew to be an Iwagakure spy for Orochimaru.

'So Slade has probably already left Tanzaku' he thought to himself. He knew that Orochimaru wasn't in any sort of danger as the spy wouldn't even know where to look for the Sannin at the moment and therefore couldn't give Slade any relevant information. This also meant that Danzos secrets were safe for the time being. If it wasn't for the eye he had obtained from Shisui Uchiha, he would have been found out sooner by Hiruzen, Koharu and Homura.

As they continued through the town an ANBU appeared before him.

"Danzo-sama, we have found out some information about the target."
Danzo said nothing as he looked down at the ANBU with distaste. His own shinobi from ROOT were much more preferable to this run of the mill shinobi, but he couldn't risk exposing that ROOT was still active to Sarutobi, not after so much work had been put into keeping it a secret from an entire village.

He nodded to the ANBU to continue. "It seems that the target made contact with Tsunade Senju."

Danzo wasn't surprised that Tsunade was in a town such as Tanzaku, but for Slade to have made contact with Tsunade meant that he trusted the medic to some degree.

"Why would he have done that?" Danzo asked the ANBU.

"I am unsure Danzo-sama; perhaps they met when Jiraiya helped him in the past."

Danzo hated that Jiraiya had helped an Iwagakure shinobi when he had been found. If it wasn't for Slade being left alive, Orochimaru may have never been found out.

"I see, and have you located Tsunade-hime?" Danzo asked.

The ANBU shook his head.

"Then disregard her, if she has not been found then we will not find her in the near future, continue your search for Slade."

Too think that an Iwagakure ninja would be so elusive in Hi no Kuni.

And there it is folks. Clearly things will be building more as this continues onwards. Slade is clearly from Iwa and has connections to Jiraiya. Now is he following Naruto for good or bad reasons. Will Danzo find out?! Itachi and Kisame seem to be on the case as well. So many people all circling each other!

So if you have any questions/comments/complaints, feel free to message me (I actually do reply) or review. Which ever floats your boat.

Until next time, which is hopefully sooner than later.

With Love,

Luke AKA Zukara

PS Also, if any of you are interested, I have a comic being published later this month, more information to follow on my authors page and the next chapter. And if you like Call of duty at all, (for some reason) take a look at a youtube channel The Mightiest Penguin. It's a channel for stupid things we do in COD Ghosts, yes I'm in some of the videos... For some reason. Not my channel though its my coworkers but check it out if you want. But seriously, you should totally be on the look out for news on my new comic. More information to come. Yes I know, shameless plugging... Kinda tacky but oh well... :P