AN: Thanks for all the reviews. Here is the next chapter. I hope you all enjoy. Please R&R
A young girl with her dirty blonde hair in four pigtails struggled with the long piece of folded metal. Slowly she was able to lift it and open the fan, but she wasn't able to control how fast it opened and the fan crashed into the stone floor of the room she was in. The girl winced at the noise and waited for a moment before she tried to pick the fan up. While she was in the process of picking up the fan she didn't notice the brown haired figure of her mother walk into the room.
"Temari, what are you doing?"
The girl jumped in shock but she turned slowly with a look of determination on her face. "I was trying to train."
The woman shook her head and chuckled, "I think you should start with something easier."
Temari huffed and crossed her arms, "I'm the daughter of the Yondaime Kazekage and his wife, the best kunoichi of Sunagakure no Sato. I don't need to practice simple D-rank jutsu."
Karura smiled, "Well if that's your attitude you won't be a ninja anytime soon. You won't learn any higher level skills until you master the lower level ones."
The girl was about to protest but was stopped by her mother bending down and picking up her fan. "Tell me Temari, What are these?"
The girl looked at the purple circle on the fan's blade, "It's a circle."
Her mother shook her head, "They're moons. When our people first came to the desert they learned that the sun here was harsh, but the moon was forgiving and helpful. Since then many have seen the moon as a protecting and guiding force. When I was given this tessan I had moons placed on the folds to symbolize those that I protected and who protected me. This one is our friend Baki, your uncle, your father, and the ones on the other side are you, Kankurou, and this one will be your new brother or sister."
Temari questioned, "What if you have another baby?"
The woman smiled, "I'll just have to add more. When you get old enough I'll get you a fan and you can add your own moons."
Temari shrugged, "That's fine but I'm going to have you on my fan along with all the others on this one."
Karura smiled, "You'll already have as many as me. Then when you get married you can add some for your own family."
Temari stuck out her tongue, "Ewe! Boys are so gross! I'm not going to get married."
Karura laughed, "I thought the same thing once but you'll change your mind one day." In her head she sighed softly, 'I pray that you will have the freedom to find your own husband, and if that can't be I hope that you can eventually love him as deeply as I love your father.'
~Temari and Karura shortly after her pregnancy with Gaara was announced
Naruto sat fidgeting as Jiraiya examined his seal, "I don't see any problems with the seal now but we'll need to keep an eye on it. The more of the Kyuubi's chakra you use the more the seal will weaken. Anyway, you're fine for the moment so I'll leave so your friends can come in and see you."
"Do you think… I mean are they… scared of what I did? Of it?"
Jiraiya gave the boy a small smile, "Not really. They're more curious than anything. We can't really talk to them about it until you or the Hokage tell them for certain."
Naruto looked at the floor, "What should I do?"
Jiraiya placed a hand on the boy's shoulder, "Be yourself and tell the truth. They care about you kid and they're worried right now. Put their minds at ease and everything will be fine. Now make sure you have fun at that party tonight it's in your honor, Mr. Chuunin."
Naruto smiled slightly, "Are you going to be there?"
The man shrugged, "Maybe but I doubt it. I have a date with twins. I'm hoping for a ménage a trois and that can take time."
Naruto shrugged, "Well have fun Ero-sennin."
Jiraiya laughed deeply as he opened the door not caring that Naruto had used his nickname. Naruto watched nervously as all of his classmates, their teachers, Gai, and his team filed into the room.
"Hey guys! How's it going?"
His friends waved and then looked at each other hoping that someone would speak first. Kakashi made the first move however.
"You've done very well Naruto. A chuunin after only six months not many people can say that. The Yondaime himself was the first person to do so… in the exam era anyway."
Naruto smiled, "Yeah Ero-sennin was bragging about it earlier."
Kakashi chuckled at the man's new nickname, "He should. It's not easy to raise a genin team. I'm discovering that myself. I'm sorry for the way things turned out earlier in the exam. I underestimated you and I gave you someone that couldn't have helped you grow as much as possible. I'll try to do better from now on."
Naruto chuckled, "Don't be so down Kakashi-sensei. I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have acted the way I did, and besides things worked out in the end."
Kakashi smiled, "Arigatou Naruto. I don't mean to start lecturing so soon after your promotion but I do want to give you fair warning. Being a chuunin means a lot more than being a genin. In addition to going on more dangerous and higher ranking missions with several chuunin and being led by a jounin you will have to lead on lower ranking ones. This means that you will be in charge of not only your mission but your teammates also. It isn't something that should be taken lightly."
Naruto's eyes burned with determination, "I won't. I'll always do my best to complete the mission and make sure that everyone will come back alive, and if I can't do that… I'll make sure that they didn't die for nothing."
Kakashi nodded, "That's all any of us can do in the end. Don't worry too much too quickly though. When you first start out they usually place you on mid level missions and routine duties. You'll be grouped with other chuunin. They don't out rank you but it's important to work well with them and build bonds of trust while you learn from the older ones and they learn from you. Anyway I've taken enough of your time. They'll tell you all this later. I'll see you tonight at the party."
The silver haired man walked out with the other jounin leaving Naruto and all his friends in the infirmary. Every one kept silent for a moment as no one was sure where to start. Finally the silence was broken by the most unexpected person in the room.
Hinata walked up to Naruto and held out a small jar, "This balm is for bruises and cuts. I hope it will make you feel better."
Naruto reached out and took the jar, "Thanks Hinata…"
The girl bowed quickly and spoke softly, "I also want to congratulate you on your promotion, and tell you that… I don't care if you're a jinchuuriki. It has helped make you the person you are today and I think that the person you are is wonderful and I wouldn't change anything about you for anything in the world."
The girl bowed once more and quickly made her way through her stunned friends and out the door. Naruto stared dumbly at how quickly the girl had left and tried to process what had just happened, but before he could think to hard Neji spoke in his calm monotone.
"I must escort Hinata-sama home but I must say something. A man shouldn't be blamed or hated for his fate but if he is and does not hate the world he should be praised."
Neji bowed and followed his cousin's path out of the room. Naruto responded softly, "Thanks Neji."
The older boy waved as he left the room. At that point Shikamaru sighed and took a chair at the foot of Naruto's bed.
"Usually finding out more about a person makes them less troublesome, but in your case it's the opposite. Not to say that it isn't interesting. How long have you known?"
"I found out the night I graduated."
Shikamaru nodded, "That explains a lot. I take it your seal is a lot different from what they used on Gaara. I mean the fox doesn't talk to you does it?"
Naruto shook his head. "I don't know about Gaara's seal. As for the Kyuubi I've only talked to it a few times when I drew on its chakra. It's trapped in a cell in a sewer and it was pissed about being there. Normally it has to give me its chakra but if I'm angry enough I can take it myself without asking. I did that on our mission to Wave and in the forest. I don't know what happened to make the cloak with the tale."
Everyone processed Naruto's words for a few moments. Finally Chouji spoke, "I don't care Naruto. I'm still your friend."
That started a flood of everyone else in the room stating the same thing to Naruto. After a few more minutes of his friends speaking support a knock came from the door and a medic poked his head in telling Naruto he was free to go. For a little while longer Naruto and his friends sat and talked about their days at the academy. Days that seemed much farther away than six months. They also discussed some of their adventures after their graduation.
Realizing that everyone needed to be getting a move on Ino spoke, "Well I guess we should probably go and get ready for the party. I'll see you all there."
Everyone slowly filed out of the room until only team seven remained. Sasuke spoke, "We'll have to have our match soon dobe… I'll see you two later."
Sakura spoke quickly, "I think we should show up as a team. We could meet at our bridge about a half hour before the party?"
Sasuke nodded and walked out the door leaving Naruto and Sakura alone. Naruto smiled at the girl and she smiled back, "Do you need some help Naruto?"
"No. I'm fine. I just need to get my stuff before I leave. Sakura… Do you think... never mind."
Sakura frowned, "What's the matter Naruto? We're friends and teammates. You can ask me whatever you want."
The boy nodded, "I know that. It can wait though and I know you probably need a lot of time to get ready for the party."
Sakura's eye twitched slightly, "I'll ignore your sexist comment and let you get on your way, but just know you can talk to me."
Naruto watched sadly as the girl walked from the room. He had done what he set out to do and gotten his promotion to chuunin and as happy as it made him he was still being bothered by something. It was a question that he hadn't thought about much since he was asked. As upset as Naruto was about the things Sakura's father had asked him he couldn't help but feel that the man had been justified in bringing those questions up. Now with all that happened with Gaara and his friends finding out about him he needed to find some answers for his own state of mind, and he needed to do this on his own.
Temari frowned at her hair in the mirror. It had never been very fine and the climate of Suna didn't help matters much. In the end she decided that she would leave it down and brush it out carefully. After she had decided on her hair she carefully applied a little makeup. After that she put on a fairly tight fitting black kimono with a blood red slash. The dress didn't go far past her knees and didn't limit her movements. Satisfied with her appearance Temari walked from the bathroom in her single room and made her way to the room that her teammates and her father occupied.
Baki wore his standard uniform but without the headgear revealing a short cut of light brown hair. Kankurou wore a beige colored version of his usual uniform without a hood. Gaara wore his standard fare but he still hadn't reformed his gourd. The redhead was looking down from the hotel's window at the hustle and bustle of the village below. Their father had on his robes of state. They all turned when Temari entered the room and all showed a measure of surprise at her appearance. She almost never wore makeup and they were surprised that she had put some on.
Kankurou questioned, "What's with the getup?"
Temari glared at her brother who flinched. She then smiled at her father, "I thought I could be the Yondaime Kazekage's escort for the party this evening."
Kanbei smiled at his daughter, "I can't imagine a lovelier one."
He held out his arm and Temari took it. The man then led his family to the door thinking as he did so.
'You've grown into a beautiful young woman Temari. You're not a little girl anymore. I hope that I can do right by you. You're so much like your mother and I wish she was here to guide the both of us to give you the best future possible.'
Ino stood at the punch bowl of a long table set up in the Hokage Mansion's large ball room. She was wearing a dress that matched her eyes perfectly and shoes that did the same. She had arrived with her parents who had broken off to speak with the Hokage and elders who were greeting people as they arrived.
Ino was impressed with all the work that had been put into the decorations. She was pulled from her musings by the arrival of her sensei and Kurenai. They were each without their gear. Asuma had on a thin blue jacket over a black t-shirt with a mesh shirt under that. Kurenai had on a wonderful red dress that showed off her figure quite well.
Ino smirked as the pair went through the greeting line. She hid by the edge of the doorway and waited for the two of them to make their way to the buffet line. The pair walked through and reached the punch bowl and Ino noticed that the pair had their pinkies intertwined for just a moment before they broke apart and grabbed some glasses.
The girl cleared her throat and approached the pair, "You two look good together."
Asuma jumped slightly and turned to his student, "We just met each other outside. You're here early Ino."
Ino shrugged, "My parents wanted to get here early. That's a wonderful dress Kurenai-sensei. Where did you get it?"
Kurenai smiled, "I can't remember. I got it a while ago and haven't even worn it out yet."
Ino turned to her teacher, "Asuma-sensei why aren't you taking Kurenai-sensei out more often? Look how gorgeous she is."
Kurenai blushed and Asuma grumbled to himself.
Team seven arrived and met the greeting line. The Hokage grabbed Naruto and took him aside gently dismissing Sasuke and Sakura.
"I'm glad you're here so early Naruto-kun. Usually the winner stays in the greeting line… unless they're in the hospital. Just remember that many of these people could be clients or are our allies so try to be polite okay?
Naruto responded, "Sure thing Jiji."
The Hokage sighed loudly and shook his head.
Guests quickly made their way into the mansion and to the Hokage's relief Naruto was for the most part quiet and respectful, with the notable exception of his friends.
After being in the line for a while Naruto had begun to grow restless. The only thing that had kept him sane was his classmates coming through. He had begun to cast a sorrowful look at the buffet line and his stomach began to growl painfully. He was pulled from his longing by the arrival of Gaara and his family.
Gaara skipped everyone in the line and went straight toward Naruto.
Naruto smiled, "How're you doing Gaara? Still a little sore?"
Gaara replied in his monotone, "A little but it will probably be gone soon. I'm still healing fairly quickly."
"That's good. I'm still feeling it pretty hard, but I'll feel much better once I can leave this damn line and get some of that food."
Gaara nodded and stood still as his family approached.
Baki was the first to shake Naruto's hand, "Well done Uzumaki-san. I look forward to seeing how you develop."
Naruto replied cautiously, "Thanks. It was pretty hard going. Temari and Gaara fought pretty well."
The Kazekage shook Naruto's hand and answered for him, "They did indeed. Kankurou did as well. Baki did an excellent job. As did your teacher Kakashi."
Naruto shrugged, "Well Kakashi-sensei didn't train me for the finals. That was Ero-sennin… Jiraiya of the Sannin I guess."
The Kazekage flinched for a slight second that Temari caught.
The party from Suna then made their way from the line except for Gaara who lingered for a moment as Naruto was forced to greet more guests. Temari noticed and place a hand on her younger brother's shoulder, "Don't worry. We'll have time to talk once he's done with his duties."
Gaara turned slowly and followed his sister to the large hall where the food and most of the guests were assembled.
Yuura stumbled through the door and barred it behind him. He panted heavily while sweat poured down his face. He fumbled in his robe for the scroll the Kazekage had given him. He sat down at the desk in the communications tower and scrawled a message. He then opened the scroll the Kazekage had given him.
A small weasel appeared before him. The thin animal had black fur and a blue mask covering it's small face, "Hmm… who are you? Do you have an offering for me?"
Yuura held out the note he had written, "This is for the Kazekage. I'm sure he will pay your fee. This is extremely important. His life and his family are in extreme danger!"
The weasel's eyes narrowed, "That's all that needs to be said then."
The rodent took the letter and popped out of existence. Yuura let out a relieved sigh before he grabbed some more paper and began to scribble the code word that the Kazekage had given him. He then stood walked over to the various messenger hawks and began to equip them and send them off. After he had released five hawks he turned at the sound of someone trying to open the door. As he did so he lost his view of the window in the room.
He never saw the kunai fly into the room. The length of steel pierced the back of his neck severing his spinal cord. Yuura never had a chance to react. As his body feel to the floor the door busted open to reveal a man with dark eyes, green hair, and a painted face. From the window came a short bald man.
The two men quickly surveyed the scene and stared after the birds that had been released. The bald man cursed.
"Shit! He was able to send word. We have to send some men to stop those hawks!"
The man with black eyes shook his head, "We can't afford to remove the few men we have remaining in the city out. Besides he was very panicked, look he didn't get a chance to send the rest of these notes and he didn't have time to send a bird to Konoha. Those are all going to our border bases."
The bald man calmed some, "You're right… I can't believe that he was that foolish."
The other man smiled, "By the time those ninja get here the Kazekage will be dead and there will be no reason for them to fight."
Naruto was close to exploding with boredom and was having trouble hiding the fact. Luckily he could see the end of the guests coming and he also saw someone that he very much wanted to speak to.
Hinata wore a traditional Kimono that matched the color of her eyes. She was accompanied by her father and sister.
As Hinata made her way down the line and got closer to Naruto her heart began to speed up and her face began to redden. She fought off these symptoms as her father was right behind her though he was falling behind as many people wanted to speak to him. Finally at the end of the line Hinata bowed politely to Naruto.
"Con-Congratulations again Naruto-kun. This is my sister Hanabi."
The younger girl bowed while Naruto examined her, "I didn't know you had a sister Hinata. Do you have any other siblings?"
Hinata shook her head, "No. Just the two of us."
Naruto nodded, "Well it's good to meet you Hanabi. Listen Hinata I want to thank you for what you said earlier… it meant a lot to me."
Hinata's face became scarlet and she began to push her pointer fingers together and twirl them around each other and Naruto continued.
"At the academy you were always so quite and I didn't know about your family's eyes so I though you were weird, nice but weird. "
Hinata's face fell a little but Naruto continued without noticing. "I can tell that it's an honor for a kind person like you to think I'm worth so much… I'm glad that we can call each other friends."
Hinata's smile came back quick and even brighter than before.
The two girls had to move along from Naruto and Hinata glided as she moved away. Hanabi glanced suspiciously at Naruto and back to her sister.
Ino smirked as Hinata and Hanabi joined her and Sakura by Kurenai. The older woman smiled and welcomed the two new arrivals.
"You two look very pretty tonight."
The sisters smiled and thanked Kurenai. Hinata and her teacher talked while Hanabi introduced herself to Ino and Sakura who took to questioning to try and get to know the girl better.
Temari held a glass of wine in her hand and walked around the perimeter of the large banquet hall watching various groups. Shikamaru, Kiba, Shino, Chouji, Lee, and Tenten stood in a large circle talking and laughing.
Temari wished that she had a group of friends like that but she shook those thoughts from her mind as she had so many new paths opened to her.
Neji and Sasuke stood by Asuma, Kakashi, Gai and numerous other jounin, including Baki, who were all exchanging tales of their exploits.
Kankurou stood flirting with a couple of girls around Temari's age, merchants' daughters by their looks. Two were giggling at every other thing he said while a third was standing shyly by Gaara nervously trying to engage him in conversation. Gaara was answering her questions directly and simply with his standard dull look on his face.
Temari watched as Hinata's sister walked to meet her father, while Ino and Sakura joined Kurenai and Hinata in conversation. Hinata began to turn a dark red as the conversation went on and she was very curious about what was being said. Her attention was quickly drawn away by Naruto becoming free of his duties and rushing to the table with refreshments. The boy quickly grabbed a plate and filled it. Temari quickly drained her glass so she could have an excuse to meet Naruto at the table. She had to speak with the boy.
Sakura and Ino waved goodbye to Hanabi as she went to her beckoning father to be introduced to some foreign dignitary. When she was away Sakura and Ino quickly surrounded Hinata. Kurenai gave the girls a confused look that Ino waved off. The blonde girl then gave Hinata a sly smile.
"Sorry to interrupt Kurenai-sensei. I just wanted to tell Hinata how impressed I was with her bravery earlier today."
Hinata blushed while Kurenai's eyes shot up in surprise, "Oh? What happened?"
Hinata stuttered, "I- it was nothing. Nothing at all."
Ino grinned, "That's not true at all. Your confession to Naruto was very inspiring. It gave us all the courage to tell him what we thought."
Kurenai gave Hinata a sly smile, "Just what did you confess?"
Hinata shook her head, "Nothing! I just told him that I was very impressed with his work ethic and-"
Sakura joining in to the teasing spoke, "I think that the person you are is wonderful and I wouldn't change anything about you for anything in the world."
Hinata's face became as red as her teacher's eyes. Finally Kurenai took pity.
"It's alright Hinata. They're just having some fun. Don't be embarrassed. What you did was very important."
Hinata poked her finger together nervously, "If you say so. Did… Did he say anything about it afterword?"
Ino and Sakura shook their heads. Hinata let out a breath that was half way between relieved and sad.
Sakura spoke, "I could tell that he was very touched that you spoke out so passionately in support though."
Hinata brightened, "Really?"
Both girls nodded their heads vehemently. At that point Ino noticed Temari talking to and leading Naruto away from the group. She spoke in a scheming voice, "You know if I were you I'd follow up on the progress I'd made and strike while the iron was hot. Especially since someone else is making a move."
Sakura, Hinata, and Kurenai all shared a look. Hinata spoke, "W-what do you mean?"
Ino nodded her head toward the retreating figures of Temari and Naruto. "The Sand Princess has been stalking him all night and now she drags him off somewhere to be alone… she was very torn up about him during the exam… maybe now that he's safe she will show him how glad she is that he's okay."
Hinata began to worry about what she should do. Sakura scoffed but she was worried that Temari might still be spying for her father or brother. Kurenai though felt that there might have been some weight to the girl's words. She was to damn perceptive about this kind of thing.
Naruto followed beside Temari looking at all of the pictures that decorated the hall leading from the dining room into a very large parlor type room that was covered in even more photographs.
Temari's glass was filled to the brim. It would be her fourth. Her face felt flushed but it was also making the words she wanted to say to Naruto come much easier.
The older girl sat down on a small sofa and bid for Naruto to sit down next to her which he did.
Naruto fidgeted at being so close to the girl. He was not used to sitting this close to anyone.
Temari took a sip from her glass, "Thank you for walking with me. I wanted to speak to you earlier, but I felt that I needed to wait for a more… private setting. I just wanted to tell you… I'm sorry for being so hard on you and making so many assumptions about you."
Naruto spoke, "Hey don't worry about it. It's not a big deal."
Temari shook her head and place her hand on Naruto's face making the boy fall silent quickly.
"No it's not okay. Please let me say this. I didn't think that you could possibly understand what Gaara had suffered and that there was no way you could help him. I thought that you were far to naïve, dumb, and foolish to even comprehend his situation much less come up with a way to help him resolve it."
Naruto frowned at that description but Temari just smiled and kept talking, "That shows just how foolish and dumb I am. How a great many people are wrong when it comes to you. You're truly a remarkable person Naruto. You have strength in you that is so hard to describe. To be strong enough to change Gaara through sheer force of will is incredible. You're honest, honorable, and loyal to a fault. In the shinobi world people think that these traits are worthless, and at times I thought those people might have been right, but now I feel that if we all could more be like you then this world would be a much happier place. I admire you Naruto."
Naruto's face became very red and his eyes had begun to tear slightly. He scratched the back of his head and made to stand up, "Heh… That's nice of you to say but it wasn't-"
Temari reached out and grabbed the boy's hand giving him a look of steel, "It was a very big deal. You made your promise of a lifetime to me. I understand what that means to you. So allow me to try and be as strong as you. Let me make you my own kind of promise."
Temari reached into her hair and pulled out a long thing needle, "Before Suna was founded the various clans that occupied the deserts lived in various locations in the middle of nowhere. Water was extremely hard to come by. Even now we honor this struggle that our ancestors went through. We consider water to be sacred. As such we hold blood to the same standard."
Temari took the hand that had grabbed Naruto and drew the needle across the bottom of the palm then crossed it back to the top of the hand, and then straight across the top and finished by crossing it back down to the bottom. Naruto jumped at the action and tried to grab Temari's hands to stop the action but the girl finished and pulled the boy so that they were eye to eye.
Temari stared into the boy's eyes unblinking, "You saved my family. You saved the lives of my brothers, father, teacher, and myself. Gaara would have tried to kill us all one day and he would have killed many before dying himself. Even more than that you saved his soul and what's more is that you did it with no thought of reward. I swear on the water of my body, my blood, that as long as I live you shall have a friend to call upon whenever you need it. Even if the whole world should turn its back on you I shall be there to aid you. This small service is all I can offer as I can never truly repay you for all that you have done. I ask that you please accept this pledge I make with blood and water."
Temari held her bleeding hand over her wine glass and squeezed the blood into it. The needle had drawn plenty of blood but the scratch was thin and hard to see. Naruto staring into Temari's eyes couldn't say anything so he just nodded. His throat was dry and he was starting to feel very strange at how Temari was treating him. The lack of space between them and the way the girl had touched him wasn't helping matters.
Before either blonde could say anything else the door to the parlor opened. Temari and Naruto jumped from the motion but aside from that only Temari moved. She leaned back putting a bit of space between the two. Shikamaru and Chouji walked in and were surprised to see Naruto and Temari. Naruto smiled and greeted the two while Temari gave the boys death glares that only Shikamaru noticed.
Naruto questioned, "What are you two doing here?"
Shikamaru spoke, "That party was getting really loud so Chouji and I thought we would take a walk and look at the place."
Chouji was busy looking through the numerous pictures that adorned the room. Shikamaru examined Naruto and Temari trying to determine what had been going on. He didn't get much time however as Ino lead Sakura and the genin of team 8 into the room.
Kiba waved, "Yo! What are you guys up to?"
Shikamaru and Naruto shrugged, "Just hanging out… what about you guys?"
Temari huffed to herself and stood as Naruto joined Kiba, Shikamaru, and Shino. She made her way over to one of the many tables covered with photographs. There were some so old that they were black and white with the subjects frowning as the tradition used to be. There were also some that couldn't be that old. There was a photo that had one of the chuunin proctors on his genin team.
Ino slid beside Temari smiling at her, "How are you this evening?"
Temari raised her eyebrow, "I'm fine. You?"
Ino feigned staring at some of the photos, "I'm very good. Fun party don't you think?"
"It's not too bad. Defiantly better than most of the affairs my father has to go to."
Temari knew that Ino was up to something. She turned her head slightly and noticed that Sakura was standing beside Hinata and kept motioning to the girl to say something to Naruto. Temari turned her head back to the photos biting her lip. What were Ino and Sakura up too, and why did Hinata talking to Naruto bother her so much?
A weasel appeared at the foot of the Kazekage. Kanbei excused himself from the group he was speaking with and motioned for the weasel to follow him. When they were alone he nodded for the weasel to speak.
"Sir! I bring you word from you subordinate in Suna. He said it was a matter of life and death!"
The weasel held out a scroll which Kanbei opened. As he did so he threw the weasel a morsel of meat. The creature saluted and disappeared in a puff of smoke. Kanbei's face hardened. He looked out at the room and waved for the Hokage and Baki who quickly joined him. He handed the letter to Baki and spoke to the Hokage.
"One of my loyal council members discovered that one of my enemies disappeared. While I came back here he stayed behind and investigated. According to him my enemies have sent almost a quarter of our forces, those loyal to them, to Orochimaru to aid in the attack and they gave him vast amounts of money and supplies. Oto will be far stronger than we had planned for. What's more is that they have infiltrated the ANBU units I've brought with me. Luckily we have there names. However without any of my regular troops here… I'm sorry I've left you with a disadvantage."
The Hokage lit his pipe, "Don't beat yourself up. Take care of the traitors that are here. I'll issue new orders for my forces and initiate our civilian safety plan. The village will take more damage than we planned but in the end we will still be victorious."
The Kazekage nodded, "I'd like to send some messages via hawk to my border outposts. That would have been Yuura's next move but I should add my seal and make double sure that they are alerted."
The Hokage nodded, "Of course."
The Kazekage bowed, "Thank you. Baki I want you to go from ANBU team to ANBU team and interrogate those named. Luckily none of the captains or vice captains are named. They are to help."
Baki bowed, "Yes sir."
"Where are my children?"
"Gaara and Kankurou left with the other genin to explore sir. I believe they joined Temari in the parlor."
The Hokage place his hand on the Kazekage's shoulder, "I will inform my jounin and then I will show you the parlor."
Sakura exclaimed, "Look its Kakashi-sensei as a genin!"
All of the genin dashed to see the photo. They took in the team photo with him and his teammates.
Ino questioned, "I don't know the other two students. Where do you think they are?"
Sasuke answered, "Dead… at least the other boy is. He was one of my cousins. I remember his photo in one of my aunts' houses draped in black on the memorial of his death."
Naruto looked thoughtful, "I wonder if Kakashi-sensei's Sharingan is from him."
Kiba asked, "He wore a mask then to? Have you guys seen him without his mask?"
Team 7 sighed in unison and Sakura spoke, "We almost did once but Ino-pig and her team interrupted."
Ino was about to shoot off a retort when all of the genin's attention was drawn to the door. The Hokage and Kazekage were accompanied by Asuma and Kurenai as well as the councilors Kotaru and Homura.
The old leader smiled, "I'm glad to see you all enjoying some of our village's history. I see you found the Yondaime's old team photo."
The genin all nodded and started to mill around looking through all the photographs. Naruto found one and called out, "Hey is this you when you were younger?"
The Hokage walked over and laughed when he saw the photo, "Yes. That's me with Koharu and my wife Biwako. The most beautiful girls in the village."
The old woman spoke harshly but by the blush on her cheek it was easy to tell that she enjoyed the compliment, "Really Sarutobi."
The old man chuckled and began to show Naruto pictures of his genin team with the Shodai and Nidaime Hokages.
Kurenai and Asuma found pictures of themselves during and after the war showing them to everyone.
Temari had moved away from the crowd but she kept a close eye on Naruto taking every so often to cast a gaze at him. Her eyes swept over one of the numerous tables and stopped when she caught sight of the silver haired man that had trained Naruto for the Chuunin Exam. Jiraiya was much younger and he had a genin team. One member stood out. The future Yondaime Hokage. Temari had seen a photo of the man before. It was made on the signing of the peace treaty between Konoha and Suna. She had been there herself but she didn't remember that occasion all that well. In the picture she had seen the man was defined by his position and ceremonial importance of the treaty signing itself. The photo before her showed someone much different. His smile was small but very warm and it was easy to see how much he enjoyed being where he was. What really stood out to Temari though was his hair and eyes. The same hair and eyes that the man she had been watching all night had.
Temari glanced between Naruto and the photo in front of her. Her mind was spinning at the impossibility of what she was thinking and the wine that she had had wasn't helping matters.
After a little while of reminiscing about the first two Hokages Hiruzen noticed that Shikamaru's attention had been completely drawn in by the shogi board in front of the fireplace. He approached the boy.
"I see you've noticed the game. Tell me what you think of it."
Shikamaru was silent for a moment before speaking, "This is a close game… depending on silver's next move the whole game could end in a moment or go on even longer… Who are you playing? Not Asuma-sensei."
Hiruzen chuckled, "No. Not Asuma… My opponent was the Yondaime Hokage and the next move was his… We had been playing while I was teaching him the ins and outs of the job. We were very evenly matched… This game was to break our tie of ten to ten. He had stopped by the house to go over some papers and such. We started the game fairly late and he wanted to go home to… well we agreed to meet and finish the game a couple of days later. The next day the Kyuubi came… I've been wondering every day since then what his move would be. Would you like to play a game?"
Shikamaru's eyes widened in surprise, "I wouldn't want to disturb this board…"
The Hokage smiled, "It's alright I've memorized where all the pieces are, and I've written it down as well."
Shikamaru nodded, "Alright. I'd like a game."
Shikamaru and the Hokage took their seats and reset the board. Their actions drew the attention of everyone in the room and they formed a crowd around the game. The game was over fairly quick. Shikamaru was able to take a couple of pieces early but even he hadn't been able to fully grasp the Hokage's subtle strategy.
When it was over Shikamaru sat back stunned, "You're much better than Asuma-sensei."
Asuma huffed and the others laughed. The Hokage smiled and lit his pipe, "You've got great skill for someone so young Shikamaru but you shouldn't be afraid to take the offensive in some cases. You can be too timid… or lazy."
"So my mother tells me."
The Hokage smiled, "Still you're much better than your teacher… perhaps you might be a little wiser. Tell me, if all the people in Konoha were shogi pieces who would be the king?"
Kurenai turned a worried eye to Asuma. The man had told her about the arguments that the two had had in his youth, and the disappointment that his father had always shown at his answer to the current question.
To her surprise Asuma showed only curiosity in his eyes.
Shikamaru thought for a moment before answering, "The king is the most important piece so I would say the king is the Hokage."
Hiruzen stood and walked over to the fireplace smoking his pipe. He looked at the three large photos of the dead Hokage's up on the mantle. "I see. Let's see what Konoha's other finalist think the answer is."
The man turned to Sasuke, "What do you think Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke was silent then spoke in a firm tone, "I think the king is the strongest ninja. They can change and shape the village as they see fit."
Hiruzen spoke softly thinking of his rival Danzo, "A hard answer for a hard world. What do you think Tenten-chan?"
The girl responded quickly, "The king is the shinobi corps itself. They provide protection to the village as well as numerous other services such as health care and economic benefits."
The Hokage took another puff, "A broad answer that shows you value teamwork. Shino-kun?"
The boy adjusted his glasses, "The king is one's clan or family unit. It provides support until an individual is ready to add its own strength to the whole."
"An answer that many of the old clans would find true. What do you think Naruto?"
The boy scratched the back of his head nervously, "I don't know much about shogi, but… I do know that if you lose the king the game is over so you have to protect that with everything. So I would say for me that the king is the village itself… My friends, my teachers, the monument, and all the places I love, even you Jiji."
With his back to the crowd no one could see the surprised smile that grew on the old man's face,
'Naruto… you've grown so much in these past few months.'
His eyes moved to the large framed photos of the other Hokage's that rested above the mantle.
'Our will still burns brightly… Minato you would be so proud of your son.'
The Hokage turned back to the crowd, "That is a difficult path Naruto. It will never be easy and it will cost you dearly…"
Naruto stared back at the old man with a smile on his face, "It doesn't matter. I can't live my life any other way."
The Hokage nodded and chewed on his pipe, thinking, finally he spoke, "When you next report for duty seek out Nara Shikaku and follow his orders… learn from him."
The adults in the room all shared a glance.
The Hokage continued, "Now it's getting late. You all should head home and get some rest. You've earned it and in our profession it's not easy to find time to relax. You can never know when your next mission will present itself."
The genin and Naruto bid the older ninja a goodnight and began to file out. The Sand Siblings followed their father's orders and made for the entrance to wait for him. After they all left the Hokage spoke.
"Kazekage-dono I trust your operation is progressing smoothly?"
The man nodded, "Yes the purge is almost done and Baki was also able to get one of the traitors to reveal how they were to single their allies. We can use that to spring some ambushes. Now I must go and prepare my children for this evening."
The Hokage nodded and the Kazekage left the room. Hiruzen turned to his ninja.
"Homura and Kotaru… I want the two of you to go ahead and proceed to the shelters and oversee the evacuation of the civilians and the genin. Asuma I want you to meet up with Gai at the Tower and be ready to join the response teams if some of our foes are able to pierce our first defense line. Kurenai I want you to join Kakashi at the main gate and join his ambush squads and when he leaves to join the main attack squads I want you to take over and lead our ambush forces back into the walls."
Everyone nodded and Kotaru spoke, "Where will you be?"
"I will be on the top of the tower with the Kazekage waiting for Orochimaru to show himself."
Asuma spoke loudly, "You can't seriously be expecting to fight him! There's no way you can take him!"
"Humph. It's hearting to know how much faith my ninja place in my abilities."
Asuma returned, "We all know that there are only a handful of ninja who would be able to beat you, but Orochimaru is at the top of that list!"
The Hokage shook his head, "No. He is at the very bottom of that list. He is nothing more than a rabid dog only concerned about his own well being. I would never lose to a creature like him. Besides if it makes you feel better the Kazekage will be with me and Jiraiya is around as well."
Asuma responded, "In that case there's no need for you to put yourself in the line of fire Jiraiya-sama can deal with Orochimaru."
The old man sighed, "Asuma… Please understand. You have students of your own now. Could you ever allow a situation to play out where one of them would be responsible for the others death? Jiraiya would kill Orochimaru immediately if he had the chance, but in his heart of hearts he would always hate himself. He already blames himself for to much."
"And yourself? What about your heart? Are you so eager to add more regret to your own soul?"
The old man shook his head, "Of course not but I would prefer it be my burden than anyone else's. Like Naruto I can't live any other way."
The Hokage made for the door but he stopped as Asuma called out, "Speaking of Naruto why did you tell him to join Shikaku when he reported to duty knowing that would be tonight? He's just a rookie and he should be with the genin in the shelter. Wouldn't you regret that knowing that it could be avoided?"
Hiruzen turned to his son with a smile on his face, "It would be a terrible blow… However I know Naruto and I know he wouldn't hide in a cave when the village is being threatened. So I've sent him to someone who will help him grow and I have faith he will come through this even stronger. I have faith that the village itself will be made stronger through tonight's events."
Hiruzen left the room in silence.
Temari sat with her brothers in silence contemplating what their father had told them of the coming attack on the leaf and civil war in the sand.
Kanbei continued, "I understand this is a lot to take so while you wait for the signal to evacuate I suggest you get some rest and try to calm your minds. When the time comes follow the civilians to the shelters. Once you get there join the other genin and follow the orders that the chuunin there give you. Do you understand? "
Kankurou spoke up, "Why can't we fight?"
The Kazekage sighed, "I understand that sitting in the background isn't easy. However we have already come up with plans to deal with this attack and they have no place for you in them. Don't worry though. You will be needed once we return home. Now get some rest."
As the kage turned to leave Temari spoke to her brothers, "I'm going to my room." She then followed her father into the hall.
"Father I saw a photo in the mansion."
The man stopped, "And?"
Temari bit her lip, "Did you have me spy on Naruto because you believed he might be related to the Yondaime Hokage?"
Her father faced her, "What makes you say that?"
"They… have the same features and Jiraiya of the Sannin choose to teach him for the exam… something he hasn't done since the Yondaime died…"
The man stared at his daughter for a long time before he made his way for the door, "If you value your friend's life Temari keep that theory to yourself. Don't even mention it to him. You have nothing solid to back it up and there are those that even the memory of Namikaze is enough to inspire fear and terror."
Temari watched her father leave in silence. She walked into her room and sat at the foot of her bed. After several moments in silence she took a sheet of paper and wrote out a note to her brothers. Then she changed into her standard mission attire. She then made her way to the rooftops from her window.
Naruto sat in silence eating some of his instant ramen. Despite the food present at the party he was still hungry and had decided to reward himself for his promotion with his best instant ramen. The broth warmed his stomach and made him feel like he was back to one hundred percent. He actually was fairly close to being that. His bruises were gone and his bones no longer ached. His chakra had recovered to about seventy percent.
As he finished his bowl he laid it in his sink with a fairly large pile of dirty dishes and made his way for his bed. He was stopped by rapid knocking at his door. He made his way to answer the rapping and found Temari standing in his doorway wearing her usual clothes. He felt his face heat up.
What the girl had said to him earlier had made him extremely uncomfortable in ways that he couldn't really explain, and it confused him to know end.
"Temari? What are you doing here?"
The girl looked unsure as she stepped through the door, "I'm sorry for coming so late but I had to speak with you."
"Okay… what about?"
Temari shifted her feet nervously unsure of whether she should just come out and voice her suspicions, "You trained with Jiraiya for the exams right?" Naruto nodded. "You didn't train with him before did you? Had you met him before?"
Naruto was confused, "No. I just met him when we began training for the finals we crossed paths and got into a conversation and he found out who I was. He knew what I was and decided to train me. Why?"
Temari nodded and took a deep breath, "When we were at the party I saw a photo of Jiraiya and his genin team. The-"
The girl was cut off by a high pitched alarm. Both genin grabbed their ears and Temari yelled, "What is that sound!"
Naruto ran to his bed and grabbed his new vest and pair of dark blue pants. He the bolted for his rest room yelling, "It's the level one evacuation alarm. It means that all ninja below the rank of jounin are to help civilians evacuate to the shelters. Genin then are organized as a final line of defense. Chuunin then report to their divisions' commanding officers."
He emerged with his new vest ready for duty. He then led Temari out into his apartment's hallway into a mass of civilians. An ancient woman was waddling down the hall.
Naruto picked her up and quickly made his way down the stairs with Temari in hot pursuit. Naruto was yelling, "Remember the blocks go in order everyone on the Maple block goes to Bunker C2, Holly C3, and Redwood to C4. Keep calm if anyone needs help carrying your emergency kit, small children, or elderly let me know and we'll help."
Despite the old woman's muttered protests she didn't resist Naruto carrying her. Several people with small children asked for aid in carrying their kits. Naruto handed the old woman off to Temari and summoned about twenty shadow clones, and led the group toward the village's bunkers. As they got closer they began to merge into other groups making their own way into the bunkers. There were several ninja escorting them including Tenten who was also helping Rock Lee. The foursome made their way through the street and finally reached the bunkers' entrances. Tenten, Naruto, and Lee watched as their charges made their way inside. Temari was drawn away by her brothers. Gaara wore his usual look but Kankurou was red faced and yelled at his sister.
"What the hell were you thinking? You should have told us you were leaving! Instead you just leave a note!"
Temari slapped the back of his head, "Keep your voice down. I had to take a walk. I drank way to much wine at the party. I just made my way down to the bunkers a little early. I ran into Naruto and some of the others escorting people down and joined in. It's no big deal."
Kankurou responded, "It could have been though, what if-"
Gaara cut him off, "It wasn't though. Let's just drop it we're all safe for the moment and that should be enough."
Kankurou looked like he wanted to complain but in the end swallowed his complaints and nodded. The Suna team then noticed the ever growing queue of genin around a small group of chuunin and made their way over to join it.
Iruka let out a silent sigh as he confirmed all his current students had reached their particular bunkers. He now turned his attention to his recent graduates. Team ten and eight had arrived. Sasuke and Naruto had both arrived and were in the middle of conversation with Neji. Sakura would probably be along shortly. Her home was a decent distance from the shelters and she was probably staying close to her parents. After a lot of pleading and cajoling Tenten and Neji had convinced him to allow Lee to stay with the other genin in their bunker. He was drawn from watching his former charges by the arrival of Izumo and Shiranui Genma.
Genma reported, "We have ninety percent checked in and judging from the people waiting to enter we have about ninety-eight percent here."
Izumo spoke next, "The orphanage and hospital have been evacuated and we have moved almost all the emergency stocks to the bunkers and our various command outposts."
Iruka nodded, "Alright, I'll stay here and organize the genin for the last line of defense. You two should tell the others to complete their duties here and proceed to their defensive assignments.
The two nodded and moved away while Iruka was joined by Kotetsu. Iruka called the genin over to join them.
"Alright listen up! Your job during the course of this operation is to man the defenses of the shelter complex until we receive the all clear single. Your jobs will be to patrol the tunnels for trouble, set up traps, check points, and relay messages between the command center and the chuunin in charge of the various operation centers. Any questions?"
A genin about the age of 13 with brown hair spoke, "Is this a drill?"
Iruka shook his head, "No. This is the real deal and the city is under martial law. All civilians are under your direct supervision and protection their safety is your highest priority."
The young ninja all looked around at each other nervously. Naruto cleared his throat and questioned, "Where is Nara Shikakau?"
Shikamaru's eyebrows shot up and Iruka and Kotetsu shared a look before Iruka questioned, "Why do you need to know that?"
Naruto responded, "Jiji told me to report to him when I was next on duty. I'm on duty so where is he?"
Kotetsu shrugged, "He's at the command center for the market distract. On the roof of-"
Iruka cut him off, "Naruto I don't think the Hokage meant for you to find Nara-sama so soon. I'm sure he meant after your time off."
"No. He said the "next time" I report to duty. I'm pretty sure he knew this was coming."
Iruka frowned while Kotetsu nodded, "The kid's right. Look over by the second gate and find Yi-san he is stationed with Shikaku and he'll show you the way."
As Naruto tuned to leave Iruka spoke, "Naruto, I know you want to prove your new rank right away but no one will hold it against you if you hold off. You haven't been given your official paper work confirming your promotion or been officially assigned somewhere."
Naruto smiled at his teacher, "I would hold it against myself. Don't worry Iruka-sensei I'll be alright."
Naruto left the group with a wave to his friends. As he got toward the back of the large group of genin he stopped by Gaara and his siblings.
Naruto stared into Gaara's eyes and smiled, "I hate to ask you for such a big favor Gaara but could you look after things here?"
Gaara nodded, "Don't worry. Just watch yourself."
Naruto nodded, "Don't worry."
He then made his way into the city. Temari could do nothing but frown in worry.
Orochimaru stood before his Sound Four cloaked in darkness.
"Soon the forces from Suna and the rouge ninja I've hired will be launching an all out assault with a token number of our Oto nin. Once my serpents pierce the city walls you four will create a barrier cutting off the gate from the rest of the city and the outside. Once that happens the forces deeper inside the city will make their way to the barrier to try and dispel it. Once they get closer to the wall I will summon Manda himself to have him rampage and destroy as many enemies as he can. While that is going on I will make my appearance before my sensei and the Kazekage. Once they are dead I will send the fallback single and you four will retreat back to Oto."
The large hulking figure of Jirobo questioned, "I thought the plan was to destroy the entire village?"
Orochimaru smirked bitterly, "That was my original goal but since I was unable to gain all of Suna's forces that has become unfeasible. However as long as I get rid of the old man Konoha will still fall, and it will be a slow painful thing. Despite what that grasping old ghoul Danzo thinks he does not have the ability to lead this village there is no ninja here that can take over for the Hokage. It makes it so funny that Danzo has laid this path open to me."
AN: Hello all! Sorry it's been so long. Originally this chapter was much longer but as the Kazekage's fighting style has been shown I've had to rewrite a lot and I'm ready to get this chapter out. I still have a few reviews to answer from the last chapter but I will get them. Anyway I hope you all enjoy this one and review it happily. Please ask if you have questions. Thanks ahead of time.