As satisfying as it is getting used to my new and improved writing style, its actually more agonizing writing chapters lol. Maybe all the details are just driving me insane. I swear they're all getting longer to write every chapter. quality takes time y'know… .
I wonder if this is how other writers feel, after publishing their 30th chapter…. With the rate I'm going.. high school next year will be pure agony. I'll need all the time I can get.
But then I think of the ending.. And I think, maybe I'll pull through somehow…
"Listen to my story… This may be my last chance."
-Tidus (Final Fantasy X)
VII Feelings in the Snow
Everybody knows that I always wanted to be Hokage. In fact, I screamed it to the world. Literally. It's another one of the things that I share with my dobe mask. Because I do want to be Hokage. I want to be acknowledged, I want people to know me as me, and not what I am. But most of all, I want to protect them. I want to protect the façade they show to the world, and turn it into reality.
To turn the hell into a heaven. Hey, I can hope, can't I?
But I have a secret. I have another dream. One that I haven't told anyone, not even Kano. It's such a childish dream, really. I want to fly. I want to soar above the clouds, and look down at the world and laugh. The absolute rush of freedom as I crap on Neji's head. Ha, now that's fate. Wait, did I actually write that? Hmm, I must be tired.
The birds fly above me in the sky. And I can't help but think of angels. Holy people blessed with the white wings of a bird. Oji-san would always tell me about them. Angels were the souls of the dead. They lived high above the clouds and watched over us. He said that there was a kind of angel called a guardian angel, that would look over you, and protect you. They'll whisper in your ear to persuade onto the right path. He called them the good side of your 'consciousness.'
And as sappy as it sounds, I want to be an angel too. The guardian angel of Konoha.
But of course, I don't want to die.
A wolf howled at the full moon barely lit from the overcast sky, like something out of a cliché horror movie. Down below the clouds were small shadowy figures, jumping rapidly across the ground. Large stands of trees turned gradually into even terrain, and bamboo forests, forcing the figures to run on the ground, silent as ghosts.
Far at the back of the Squad, a slim figure trailed after the rest of the dark shadows, gradually falling to the back of the group as he pondered his thoughts. Sunkissed, spiky blonde hair flew around his mask and vision, visible only as a small yellow blur in the darkness. It was at times like these that Naruto cursed Konoha's wide territories. Despite their fast pace, it had taken days to get to Cloud country, and even now, they were still a few miles short. Everybody else seemed to feel the same way, although they didn't show it. Ookami especially, who appeared to be more on edge than usual. Just seeing him jumping on the branches a few feet in front of the squad, idly fingering a kunai in one hand, was enough to make them all feel subdued.
Naruto's shaky breathe came out as a crystallized mist in front of him, (he had taken off the red scarf a few hours back) before whipping off in the wind. He was just seriously considering taking another soldier pill when Ookami called a halt.
"After a few miles, we will officially be in Cloud. We'll drop here for the night before changing into our civilian henges, and head to the main road."
The Squad didn't need to be told twice. Dove and Eagle had already vanished into the mist to explore the perimeter of their camp, and set up traps. Squirrel and Cat were busy clearing the area while Hyena pulled out another pack of cards. Not really knowing what to do, Naruto scanned their 'camp.' The area was slightly higher than usual but not by much. The ground appeared to be the same level all around. There was this heavy feeling of detachment out here that Naruto couldn't shake off.
Snapping himself out of his thoughts, Naruto gave a new critical eye at the camp. While they do have the cover of darkness, and the overcast cloudy night, the ground was too level for people to not notice a sort of light or fire in the distance so he could scratch that idea…. No wait-
Naruto pressed a hand against the closest bamboo tree, and closed his eyes automatically as his clear blue eyes turned dark. It had become an automatic reaction, so that others wouldn't see the bloodline change. Absolutely useless during battle, though. On another note, maybe he could get tinted goggles to hide (most) of the change. He stored the idea in his mind for later.
Naruto sent a pulse of chakra through the tree, and it ran down the tree before vanishing off in the distance like a ripple on the water. It was the same 'echolocation' technique he used trying to find some Uchiha survivors. The concentration took a few minutes to perform it, though.
The effect was immediately. And Naruto could 'see' any humans in a few miles away. The reason he could see only humans was because they had the most complex chakra system, and so, was the easiest to spot. Animals and other wildlife were more harder as they had less chakra and most were smaller.
…There weren't any potential enemies out for a few miles. Meaning, making a fire was a good-to-go.
Slightly glad for something to do, Naruto busied himself with the kindling, breaking off numerous bamboo stands and heaping them in a small pile. Satisfied with the pile, he applied a low level kaiton jutsu, and there was soon a small fire burning cheerily in the camp.
Just then, Dove and Eagle, came in, and took one glance at the fire, before saluting Ookami.
"The forest for a few metres away seems the same as everything else for the past 2 days. The alarm traps surrounding the site has been secured, Taichou." Dove reported.
Ookami nodded and looked at Eagle for confirmation. Eagle smiled. And once again, Naruto wondered how everybody seemed to know he was doing it.
"Okay. Everybody settle in for the night. I'll take first wa-"
"Taichou!! I'll take first watch!"
Ookami turned to Squirrel and blinked. "Well, okay, then. Squirrel will take first watch and I'll take se-"
"I'll be second, sir." Hyena quipped.
"Third." Eagle said, raising a finger.
"Taichou, I'm fourth!" Cat volunteered enthusiastically.
Ookami paused, but there weren't any more volunteers. He sighed.
"Okay.. I'm tak-"
"Fifth… sir." Dove added, seeing his half hearted glare directed at her.
Ookami turned his glare towards Jaguar, the only one who hasn't said a thing since the entire conversation. The others turned expectant faces-er masks on him as well.
Naruto yawned. "Don't care who goes first, really."
Ookami rolled his eyes as well before heading towards the tent. "I'll be… sixth then. Switch around every hour."
The amount of personality on the ANBU actually scared Naruto at first. It completely destroyed the dark reputation the ANBU black ops had created. But he soon knew why it seemed different. Because it was different, from other Squads, anyway. Other teams had a sort of an acquaintance sort of relationship with their other members. They were expected to risk their lives for each other, but they were just comrades, nothing else. It was their job to look after each other, for the sake of the whole team's survival. Here, everybody actually willingly interacted with each other. They'd joke, make comments, and it gave the craziest illusion of a normal jounin mission.
Squad White had actually been together for a long time, longer than most squads. This had led to something more than comradeship. But of course, it had all started with Wolf, who had led them all to their survival with his guidance. And for that, the squad had a deep loyalty to their captain, deeper than most that Naruto knew. And if showing emotion and interacting with each other, willingly or not, will keep their Taichou away from insanity, they'll do it.
It was something that always amazed Naruto, how deep loyalty could run.
Despite the cold temperature, and the frost settling on the dirt ground and foliage, Naruto wasn't tired. He sat down next to the fire, his back propped up by a unusually thick bamboo tree. Settling into a comfortable spot, he repositioned his katana next to him for easy access, and just sat, staring at the fire.
But of course, Naruto being the 10 year old he really was, was easily distracted by a small something falling down from the sky and onto his gloved hand. Naruto stared at the tiny… snowflake -snowanindividualmassoficecrystalssnow- on his hand. The tiny dust bunny hasn't melted, as it had found a perfect place, a surface of cold leather.
Gradually, more of the… snowflakes fell down from the dark cloudy sky, tinted red from the red flames reflecting off the pure white. The things fell down gently, and landed on the cold ground. Naruto felt an odd disappointment seeing some of them melt near the fire.
Could it be… snowing?
A small part of him soared with sheer joy at witnessing snow. A part of him that he hasn't touched for a long time. Konoha was a naturally hot climate, with only 2 seasons: hot and rainy. It never snowed there, but apparently it did, in Cloud.
Despite himself, Naruto slowly held up a hand and gripped his mask. Some of the Squad appeared surprised at this, as both Hyena and Cat looked curiously in his direction. Naruto readjusted it to the side of his head, his blue eyes staring up at the sky.
Then, he smiled. And it was such a timid yet happy smile, something so unlike the Jaguar that the squad knew, that they were suddenly struck with how young their new member was. Because they knew there had to be a reason why they'd always worry more about him than anyone else. Why Hyena still called him rookie, practically out of sheer habit now. Why, despite his skills, the squad all felt the desire to both respect him and protect him at the same time. There was just something about him that seemed so…
"Santa's lap is always open, you know…" Hyena faltered, grinning suggestively at Jaguar.
Naruto laughed. "No thanks. I don't go for obese old men."
Hyena huffed with mock-annoyance. "You think you're funny, eh? Sorry, rookie. I'm a frickin' ball of sunshine! You'll hafta do better than that."
You know… I'm starting to really hate that guy.
/Huh… I think he's starting to grow on me./
Mistaking Naruto's sudden silence as first mission nerves, Hyena laughed again, to everybody's exasperation.
"Stop being such a noob, rookie. First missions are usually ridiculously easy. Nothing goes wrong." he said reassuringly(not.)
Naruto ignored him. "I'm going to take some zzz's. Wake me up when it's my call."
"'Kays, night Jaguar." Cat said with a yawn, stretching in a cat-like way. And people actually wondered why she picked that particular animal…
He grabbed his katana and slung it over his shoulder, before heading to the tent. Deliberately ignoring the other apparently sleeping forms, he practically collapsed on his own area. He stared up at the ceiling of the tent, a plain black with crisscrossing fibres for protection, for what felt like hours but really seconds. But eventually, his eyelids began to feel mercifully heavy, and Jaguar fell into a restless sleep.
~xXx~ VII Feelings in the Snow
Complete darkness. My eyes blink wearily but all I could see was black. Infinitely black. For some reason, that doesn't scare me like it should.
A wave of sleepiness hits me and I close my eyes. I feel… pleasantly warm. But something wet is falling on my cheeks. And as curious as I was, I couldn't find the will in me to open my eyes again. The wet… drops (?) run down my cheek.
The world was mute against my ears, yet I could hear a choking sound behind me. Was somebody dying? No… Whatever the noise was, it sounded really sad. Then it hit me. Was somebody crying? Desperate to know, I force my eyes open, but this time, I don't see the darkness. All I could see was blue. Like the sky.
And a voice -so quiet, so sad- breaks through the silence, a whisper in my ear.
"Good night, Naruto."
Ironic as that may be, Naruto's eyes snapped open. He blinked rapidly, looking warily around the unfamiliar surroundings. Then, the recent memories hit him like a jolt. Ah right, he was on an ANBU mission.
He rubbed his temples. That was probably the strangest dream he's ever had. And that voice sounded so familiar, it was at the tip of his tongue. Strangely enough, Kyuubi wasn't saying anything either. But hell, he's been strange the entire time he's been in ANBU so maybe the fox is just going through some weird fox phase. Or he was just sleeping. Whatever works.
Staring at his pillow, Naruto considered going back to sleep. After a few seconds, he shrugged and tugged on his boots before opening the tent flap and walking outside. It was still snowing, and the small crystal flakes woke him up properly. Either that or the scenery. Naruto couldn't help but stare at the raw beauty of nature at its fullest. The layer of newly fallen snow, draped over the ground and trees like the planet's own large fluffy blanket.
Small streaks of orange and blue raced along the clouds, the first sign of the sky in days. It was just sunrise, meaning that he had woken up just a few minutes before his guard watch, at 6:00a.m. Meaning, of course, that…
Naruto looked around the camp, before finally seeing what appeared to be a large spiky snow hill. It was amazing how a single white cloak could drastically help in camouflaging against the whiteness. Ookami was sitting propped up against a bamboo tree, his white cloak that represented him as an ANBU Captain wrapped around his shoulders which, combined with his silvery hair, creating an effective concealment in the snow.
Ookami was reading his orange book tucked away behind his knee because of its bright coloring. He didn't appear to notice when Naruto approached him, walking above the snow. (After all, ice is technically water particles, so snow walking is very similar to water walking)
Naruto had no idea why he approached the Wolf Captain. Maybe he was just that damn bored.
"Aren't you suppose to be like, y'know, looking out into the trees?" Naruto piped up from beside Ookami, his voice slightly muffled by his red scarf.
Flip. "Yes. Yes, I am."
Twitch. Naruto slids down onto the cold ground beside Ookami, not really knowing what else to do. His blue eyes began to wander, drinking in the beautiful scenery with revelling blue eyes.
"So, Jaguar, how is your wife?"
Naruto broke out of his gaze, his eyes snapping back to Ookami, who was still idly reading that mysterious orange book. Wife…? Well, he didn't know. It wasn't like h-WAIT WHAT?!
When you think you are ready, you may join ANBU. The man listed was for Pantera went off duty because his wife was pregnant. He doesn't exist, obviously.
(Burn the notes after you've done reading them)
------ FLASHBACK END
Naruto cursed in all the colourful languages he knew. (Japanese, English, and some Spanish)
/Oi… What's with the mouth, human?!/
Oh, NOW you're awake… I think I should've made myself look a bit older..
/Oh, so that's what happened. Better answer quick, before the Wolf gets suspicious, huhuhuhuhuhu./
"Oh, she's doing fine." Naruto answered as calmly as he could manage.
"Why are you even having a family, when most shinobi don't even consider it?"
What is this, 10 Questions?!
"B-because… I love…her.." Naruto answered awkwardly, fumbling over the words.
Flip. "…How did you fall in love with her?"
Now, Naruto was thoroughly confused. Was this an interrogation or something? Could Ookami already be suspicious of him? Dammit, he knew he should've gone for 26 instead of 18.… Those thoughts were quickly repressed as he went over the next problem: What the hell was he suppose to say now?!?
/Stop panicking, human! The water's getting really choppy in here. Okay, I have a plan. I'm going to tell you what to say, and you'll repeat it, got that human?!/
"It was the first glances, I guess…" Naruto began, his hand unthinkingly scratching the back of his head. "I would see her everyday, and it was a normal occurrence. But I'd always look forward to them, as if that glance was the climax of my entire day."
Naruto paused, coughing self consciously. "And… it would always confuse me," he began again, with a small laugh. "Why those memories would seem special. Why she would seem special."
Okay, that's enough of the sappy speech, fox!! I think he gets it now.
/No, he doesn't, human. Now, you would-/
Seriously, why can't I just say a simple sentence?!
/For an empath, you're really stupid. Wolf isn't being suspicious of you. Your Taichou obviously has some romance problems, human. That's why he's asking you, a supposedly newly wed husband./
Aww, I didn't know you were a romantic, fox. Hehe
/I'm reading it off a book. NOW CONTINUE/
"Go on…" Ookami drawled.
Naruto glanced at his Taichou. His eyes (or what he could see of them) were still fixed on his book, although he hasn't turned a page in a while. He actually was really listening to this… wow.
"Erm, w-well.." Naruto choked. "I'd find my thoughts always straying to her. My heart would race…. And there would be this strange feeling in your chest that grows and grows until it's practically painful. When her happiness makes you smile…. When her pain is your pain…. That's when you know you love her, and…"
Naruto clamped his mouth shut for a few seconds. And there was only the sound of the crackling fire in the camp, and the strangest feeling at the back of Naruto's neck, as he felt Ookami's eyes staring at him.
"…..And… and your life was now hers." Naruto finished, unable to hold in a sheepish laugh.
Oh my god, fox. That was so beautifully sappy. What kind of book are you reading?!
/Twilight by Stephanie Meyer./
After Naruto's last sentence, he fell into silence. Ookami simple said nothing, and outwardly continued reading his book. But the seemingly peaceful moment was broken as Jaguar suddenly choked out a laugh before snapped a hand to his mouth under the mask. Ookami watched in silence as he slowly regained his composure.
"S-so…" Naruto choked out. "Why all the questions?"
Under the Wolf mask, Kakashi's eye formed into an upside down U. "No reason. You…. remind me of someone, that's all."
"Oh, okay.." Naruto said, not really knowing what to say. A sudden small vibration made Naruto look down, digging into his pockets and pulling out a watch. It was 6:00am.
"Hey Taichou, it's my time now."
Ookami gave a small tilt of his head in acknowledgement before standing up, and brushing snow off his shoulders. Naruto gave a small lazy wave as he passed him by before continuing to stare off in the snow laden bamboo forest.
God forbid if Naruto had the curiosity to see his Taichou's aura right now. It was a dizzying mass of black, silver, and blue. Ookami walked up slowly to the campfire, staring at it's flickering flames. The Wolf mask looked to be a fearsome sight in the glow of the fire, it accenting the expressionless slitted holes for eyes.
But behind the mask, a single eye was furrowed in a swirl of confusing emotions. The sickening feeling of déjà vu. It had to be coincidence, right? Only coincidence…
"Helloooo, Kakashi….?" A voice whined.
Kakashi blinked, breaking out of his thoughts. A hand was waving in front of his face. He grabbed it, before shooting an exasperated stare at Namikaze Minato, the soon to be Hokage, and his sensei.
"What is it, sensei?"
Minato scowled, and Kakashi rolled his eyes.
"Now is not the right time to daydream, Kakashi!!" Minato exclaimed, rustling Kakashi's spiky hair with one hand. Kakashi gave another half hearted glare at him under his now messier silver locks, and Minato grinned mischievously.
"Sensei….. What did you want to talk about?"
Suddenly, Minato's face fell, and he bit his lip. Not used to seeing such a withdrawn expression on the usually cheerful man, Kakashi immediately perked up, and looked up at him with a worried expression.
"I… I-I'm…" Minato's voice broke.
Suddenly, Minato grabbed Kakashi's shoulders with both hands and began shaking him repeatedly, ignoring his bewildered expression.
"Kakashi!!!! WHAT SHOULD I DO?!?" Minato howled, anime tears falling from his eyes.
"W-wait, wait!!" Kakashi exclaimed, trying valiantly to free himself from his distraught sensei's grip. "What happened?!"
Minato took a deep breathe to calm himself down, his fingers automatically twirling nervously between themselves. Kakashi was suddenly reminded of his various female academy classmates, who would avert their eyes and twirl their fingers, before confessing their apparent love. He hoped this was not the case.
"I'm… I'm going to ask Kushina to marry me!" Minato confessed anxiously.
Oh. Kakashi blinked. "Then why are asking guidance from a 13 year old?"
"Look…" Kakashi said, rolling his eyes again. "Do you love Kushina?"
"Well, y-yes…" Minato fumbled.
"How did you fall in love with her?"
Minato jumped at the question, but didn't hesitate to answer.
"She was my academy classmate, and sat in front of me…." he began nervously, his hand unthinkingly scratching the back of his head, a trait he always did when he was feeling awkward. "She was loud, enthusiastic, and the class prankster…"
"Go on…" Kakashi drawled, making a motioning gesture.
"I didn't really like her at first.. But her attitude eventually got to me. She was so determined to get stronger, and I'd always see her at the training grounds. We would spar often."
Minato soon got over his nervousness, and a small smile was playing on his lips.
"I guess we got closer like that. And then one day, I asked her why she wanted to become a shinobi. She said: 'She was going to show the entire world that girls could be as good as guys. That not all girls were destined to be medic nins, or genjutsu specialists.' Then she grinned at me before punching me in the face, knocking me to the ground. I was so surprised that I just looked at her with a dumb expression. She laughed at me and said, 'And since you're the class genius, I guess my dream is to kick your ass!!' "
Kakashi, having never heard the story before, laughed softly. Minato, however, was in another world, and closed his eyes. The content smile was still on his face, and right now, he wasn't a cold hearted murderer. He wasn't the man known to all as a seals master, the incredible genius born every generation, the soon-to-be Hokage, or even the Yellow Flash. He was just a love sick 23 year old.
"And I think that was the time I started to love her…." Minato faltered, opening his eyes and laughing sheepishly.
Kakashi shook his head in frustration. Sometimes, his sensei could be the most stupid person in the entire village. And considering Gai, his so called rival who Kakashi suspected to be suffering from a permanent, mind altering genjutsu, that was saying something.
"Sensei…." Kakashi said with a slight growl. Minato blinked owlishly as Kakashi grabbed his wrist and pulled him to his feet. He opened the door before turning back to his sensei.
"But I caaan't do it, Kakashiii…." Minato whined piteously, digging his feet into the ground as Kakashi forcefully pushed him out of his chair.
Both of them whirled around to the door to see a woman at the entrance, her hand just raised up to knock at the door. She wore the traditional jounin uniform with the hitai-ate attached to her arm and had long and straight red hair with bangs clipped to the side of her face. Her bright green eyes were narrowed suspiciously at the two.
Minato's face both paled and blushed furiously, if that was possible. "K-Kushina…."
Seeing Minato temporarily distracted, Kakashi, with a sudden burst of chakra, pushed Minato out with a violent shove. Kushina and Minato both yelped as he fell on top of her, leaving them in a very suggestive position on the ground.
"Well, I'll leave you two love birds alone, then." Kakashi said in amusement. He slammed the door.
A few minutes later, Kakashi heard a happy squeal from outside his apartment.
------ FLASHBACK END
Ookami sighed mentally. Only coincidence…
And there would be this strange feeling in your chest that grows and grows until it's practically painful. When her happiness makes you smile…. When her pain is your pain…. That's when you know you love her, and…
"And I think that was the time I started to love her…." Minato faltered, opening his eyes and laughing sheepishly.
Ookami pulled open his orange book, and flipped to the last page. Taped to the back of the book was a small photo of 4 people. The tallest one had bright, spiky blonde hair and was grinning at the camera, his eyes turned up in a U shape. His eyes strayed to the one on the left, a small boy with short black hair and orange-tinted goggles. And then there was him, both eyes glaring at the camera with a they-forced-me-so-laugh-and-I'll-kill-you look. His gravity defying silver hair barely tickled the chin of the blonde one.
Kakashi closed his eyes momentarily before looking to the last person on the picture. She had medium length brown hair and peculiar rectangular tattoos on both cheeks. The girl was smiling innocently at the camera.
The morning sun shone through the bamboo leaves as the Squad took off for the main road. After days of dodging through branches and leaves, it was a bit refreshing to be walking on an actual road, despite the slow pace.
The only thing Naruto was disappointed in was the fact that was that they were all wearing a henge. He had only seen the faces of Cat and Hyena, and it would be interesting to see everybody else's. But Ookami said that a henge was a lesser risk, since people could recognize them, or more specifically himself, in their real selves. Spiky white hair was a really uncommon hairstyle. So, everybody was disguised as normal looking people, with faces that would be easily forgettable, and wearing drab brown outfits that smelt like dirt and freshly cut wood.
Not that they were defenceless, as each had hidden a few weapons at various parts of their body, the ANBU were all paranoid like that. And even if somebody had discovered the knives, and various hidden weapons, it wasn't much of a big deal. It wasn't uncommon for travellers to carry weapons for self protection.
At that moment, Naruto was walking casually at the back of the group, chatting with the Kyuubi to pass the time.
….Well, that was a weird sentence. To be honest, he liked talking to him, as the demon lord had really interesting opinions about people. He still had to be wary though, as the Kyuubi sometimes slipped things into his sentences like:
/The next jutsu is a Suiton jutsu. All you have to do is focus on your hands in the water…. and maybegokillahumanandeatitsheart./
/Human, ramen is really not healthy. But you know, that little bird out the window looks a little tasty./
/Shuriken are lighter than kunai, so you have to adjust naturally to the weight as you switch from between them./
/Uh, what the hell was that?/
Whoa, it's a dead rabbit…. Ugh, there's blood everywhere…
Apart from those…. urges, Kyuubi was an okay guy. But he still wasn't sure whether the niceness was a façade to get his trust or not. The images from his first 'bargain' with him still ran shivers down his spine. Foxes were natural tricksters, so he had to
be careful. But right now, he was having a pointless chat with him on a topic that had no connection to the color red of any kind.
Ha, so even Taichou has romance problems…..
/He may be an ANBU captain, but he is human./
I know, but still…. It's weird.
/On another note, you did put a kage bunshin to replace your 10 year old self, right? It's Monday today, meaning you have class right now./
/You're joking, right?/
/For a self proclaimed hidden genius, you are an idiot./
~xXx~ Konoha Academy 8:00am ~xXx~
"Uchiha Sasuke." Iruka called out from his clipboard.
"EEEEKK!!!" screeched the fan girls. All of the guys recoiled from the noise.
Iruka barely flinched, accustomed to the near impossible high sound.
"Uzumaki Naruto." he called out.
There was the general chitchat from the class students, but no voice called out over the noise.
"Uzumaki Naruto…" Iruka repeated, a dangerous tone in his voice.
And, as if the entire class could feel the underlying tension radiating from their academy teacher, the students gradually faltered until an uneasy silence filled the room. Then, one by one, they all whirled their heads to the back of the classroom where a seat, normally occupied by the boisterous dead last, was vacant.
Iruka's face reddened drastically. "NARUTOOOO!!!!!"
Well, it's too late for that, right? :D
/Just hope he wouldn't burst into your room, human. The alarm seals could catch some unwanted attention./
The trip on the main road went without incident, and the Squad soon found themselves in the town. Despite the biting coldness and the snow, the town was pretty lively, as it was just made up of civilians and farmers. Everybody seemed to smile at each other and wave. The buildings were small but numerous, and lined up side by side in a colourful row. There were occasional sights of a Cloud hitai-ate in the crowd, but they were always too far away to tell.
Naruto, Hyena, and Dove were walking aimlessly around the town, their feet crunching through the snow. They were suppose to be looking for the 'Red Lions' Hotel, where they would meet and regroup. The Squad had split up into two teams. Naruto thought it was a smart move. A large group of people travelling together and looking around with the eye of one not used to the town was bound to catch suspicion.
"Found it." Dove said, breaking Naruto out of his thoughts.
Naruto eyed the building. The title 'Red Lions' seemed really appropriate. The entire building was painted in a deep rusty red with golden linings, and peeled in some places over the years. A large lion was painted over the entrance.
The three were about to enter when Naruto paused near the door.
"You do have some money with you, right?" Naruto enquired to both of them. "Because I didn't bring any."
Hyena shrugged casually. "Don't need any."
Naruto raised an eyebrow.
"You see," Dove explained, her voice still managing to stay soft despite her henge of a slightly old woman. "Hyena usually either pickpockets some, or persuades them to book a room."
"But I don't need to." Hyena interrupted with a reassuring grin. Or what Hyena thought was reassuring. It looked plain creepy on his disguise, a kind looking old man. Naruto had a sudden urge to punch him in the face.
"Why?" Naruto asked, his right hand twitching.
"Because," Hyena said, in a superior tone. "We have you, instead."
And with that, Hyena flipped Naruto's hood over his head.
"Release your henge." He ordered.
Naruto considered replying, but knew he wouldn't really get anywhere. So with a mental sigh, he released his henge carefully, so that there wouldn't be any smoke. He felt the familiar weight of his ANBU armour under his civilian clothes. The result was silent and took only a split second before Hyena took off the hood again, revealing his spiky blonde hair.
Naruto scowled momentarily at him, blowing his hair out from his face. The three entered the hotel, the bell above the door chiming softly.
"Play nice." Hyena whispered softly in his ear. He ignored him.
A teenaged girl with a brown ponytail looked up from the counter, and smiled politely at the two old couple (Dove and Hyena) before her eyes fell on the beautiful blonde in the middle of the group. There was an audible clatter as she dropped the pen she was holding. Naruto smiled nervously at her, and she was struck frozen by those deep, blue eyes, like a crystallized piece of the sky-
"Excuse me? Do you have a room open?" Naruto asked cheerfully, smiling softly and ignoring the rolling pen on the ground. His blue eyes scanned her shirt, and she blushed, before realizing he was reading her name tag. "Ano, Hana-san, right?"
The teenager, Hana stared dumbly at his smiling face before coming to her senses. "Y-yes. A room for 3..? Oh, let me check. E-excuse me…"
Her hands fumbled clumsily over the papers, and she blushed with embarrassment. On the other side of the counter, Naruto watched patiently as she flipped through the pages, oblivious to the fact that his staring was just making her more nervous.
"R-room 119 is open." Hana stammered, averting her eyes to the papers. Thus, she didn't see Naruto's winning smile or the 'old couple's' mischievous grins.
"That will be 300 ryo per night." Hana finished, managing to regain composure.
Naruto momentarily frowned. According to Hyena, he was suppose to distract her enough so that they'd supposedly get a near free room. All he had managed to do was embarrass the counter lady by smiling. Don't know how that happened. What was he suppose to do now?
/She has a small scar on her neck./
Well that was random, even for you, fox. What does that have to do with anything?
/Touch it and smile for kami's sake. Don't question me, human./
Naruto blinked before quickly reaching across the desk and gingerly touching the small scar on the lady's neck. Hana froze. Literally. Naruto could hear her heart skipping a few beats.
"That looks like a painful scar, Hana-san." Naruto commented.
Play nice. Play nice. Play nice.
With sudden inspiration, Naruto leaned over the counter, his face a few inches from Hana's face. He looked up at her reddening face with intense blue eyes, filled with concern.
Behind Naruto, the old man whistled softly, the sound so low it was barely heard, except for Naruto and Dove.
"Excuse me for asking, but what happened?" Naruto asked softly, his warm breathe tickling her chin.
"W-well…" Hana babbled, her heart fluttering in her chest. "The neighbours were playing catch outside in the backyard… and the ball accidentally crashed through my bedroom window…"
Naruto slowly withdrew his left hand to his back where Hyena silently dropped a piece of paper. He gripped the paper before slowly depositing the 5 ryo paper bill in her hand, which moved automatically and deposited it into the cash register and handed back a key. All of this he did as he smiled at Hana, seemingly attentive to her explanation.
"-om rushed me to the hospital, even though it was really just a small cut, and-"
Impatient, Hyena started hacking loudly, interrupting her. Naruto mentally rolled his eyes before rushing to the 'old man's' side and patting his back tenderly. Dove hid a small smirk behind her hand.
"Sorry, Hana-san. We have to go now." Pause. "Tou-san must be tired after his trip." Naruto said with an apologetic tone.
Hana nodded absentmindedly, clasping her mouth shut but watched the trio's retreating back with a small sigh.
The trio hurried up the stairs. Hyena waited until the three were alone in the stairway before laughing uproariously, numbing Naruto's eardrums. Nevertheless, Naruto ignored him, trying to figure out this new discovery. When he was talking to Hana, her aura had turned red, the same red as when he had first met Hinata. Maybe a little bit darker, though. He hasn't determined all of the colors yet, and red was a particular mystery.
"That was pure gold, rookie!" Hyena exclaimed, patting a disgrunted Naruto on the shoulder. "Pure gold. I knew you were a natural!"
"It's not a big deal. Anyone can smile." Naruto said flatly. "But hey, here's our room!" he added, changing the subject.
Naruto whipped out the key and opened the door. The two piece room was small but elegant and had an unsurprisingly red theme to it. The walls were painted a rich red with black borders. There were asian styled chairs with red cushions positioned around a basic black table and two twin beds with a black head frame on one wall with a basic kitchen on the other. Inside the door near the entrance was a small bathroom, complete with a shower, two sinks, and, to Naruto's amusement, a hair straightener. The bathroom had a slight nature theme with light brown walls, various plants on the counter and picture frames of wildlife. Overall, it had a distinct relaxed tone.
Hyena didn't seem to have the same admiration of the room, as he dumped his stuff on the nearest bed, before collapsing on it. Likewise, Dove double checked the room for cameras and such before giving a salute to Naruto. Said person wondered vaguely why she saluted to him and not Hyena as he was the more experienced member, but he shrugged.
Naruto unloaded his things on the table but kept the dagger in his boot, and the various weapon scrolls and seals in his pockets. With a quick motion, Naruto pressed a hand to the wall. His eyes turned a dark black, and the cross shaped pupil began whirring gently before they closed in concentration.
Having already known a vague amount of information on the kuroibaragan, (Jaguar had quickly explained it to the Squad beforehand) Dove and Hyena waited patiently as Naruto scanned the entire hotel.
Finally, his hand let go of the wall, and Naruto turned to the other members.
"The Red Lions hotel seems to be pretty popular, and they were almost booked solid, but I managed to get a lock on Ta-"
Naruto stopped suddenly, before throwing a paper silencing seal on the door.
"Anyway, I managed to get a lock on Taichou's location. He's above us in room 220. So, let's go, shall we?"
Dove and Hyena nodded and they left back out the door. Naruto hesitated as he closed the door, and whipped out 3 paper seals from his pocket and attached them to the door. They dissolved into the wood in a small blue flash. Basic alarm seals, just in case.
Naruto caught up to the group as they walked quickly up the stairs. Apart from Naruto, they were still wearing their henges of an old couple, and as such, they had to hobble up the stairs. It took an agonizing long time until they finally reached room 220.
Naruto came up to the door, and knocked three times before it opened, revealing a middle aged man. The man looked warily up at the trio before inviting them in with a small gesture.
The second the door closed, the trio felt four katana blades pressed menacingly at their throats. There was a puff of smoke, as all the seemingly harmless middle aged men turned back into 4 ominous but familiar Konoha ANBU: Squirrel, Cat, Eagle, and Ookami himself.
"Release your henge." Cat stated.
Naruto felt a distinct feeling of déjà vu as he released the henge of his civilian clothes. He soon both felt and saw the warm red scarf wrapped around his neck. Naruto also distinctly heard a pop as Hyena and Dove appeared in a puff of smoke behind him.
Cat immediately pressed a finger to each of their masks attached to their belt one by one. Naruto had to repress a sudden urge to whip his head around to see Dove's face, before Cat pressed a finger to his mask as well. Even though the Konoha symbol glowed briefly on the mask, the katanas remained at their necks.
"Question, Dove. What do the ANBU call me at headquarters?" Ookami stated.
Dove replied automatically. "We all call you Zapper, sir."
Ookami's mask turned to Naruto. "Jaguar. When you approached me last night to relieve me of guard duty, what was the first question you asked me?"
Naruto paused for a second before answering. "My exact words were: Aren't you suppose to be like, y'know, looking out into the trees?"
Seemingly satisfied, Ookami turned to Hyena but before he could ask a question, Hyena interrupted him.
"A few days ago, after my first spar with the rookie, you came with us to the hospital, apparently just coming back from a mission. You looked like shit, by the way." he added. "Then along the way, you bought 4 daffodils from the flower shop and ditched us before going to the ment-"
Hyena stopped abruptly when Ookami suddenly threw a shuriken and Naruto heard the thump of the metal imbedding in the wall.
"That's enough, Hyena." Ookami interrupted with amusement.
Naruto was surprised when he heard Hyena actually sound apologetic, and he chanced a glance behind him. The shuriken had missed Hyena by a hair, and dug halfway in the wall, crackling occasionally with electricity. Note to self, never interrupt the Taichou.
The katanas lowered, and Naruto quickly attached the ANBU mask. Glancing behind, he saw that Dove had already donned on her mask as well, to his slight disappointment. She gave him a strange look before turning to Hyena and holding a glowing green hand over his cheek. The superficial cut closed.
"Are you okay, Hyena?" Dove asked in mock concern.
Hyena grinned, before donning on his mask as well. "You kidding? I'm a frickin' ball of sunshine!"
The reply must've been said many times, because Cat whacked him on the head.
Dove turned to Ookami. "Are we going to meet with the informant, sir?"
Ookami waved a disk in his hand. "Already did. I taped him."
Everybody gathered around the small T.V set as Ookami popped the disk into the DVD player. He grabbed the remote and turned the T.V on, and the screen turned a deep blue before playing the video.
The video itself was in a surprisingly high quality for a spy camera, and, judging by the constant small movements and high view, was probably attached somewhere on the head, or on an ANBU mask.
The screen flickered before playing.
It was dark, and there was the general muttering of people in the background. The air was kind of hazy with smoke, and the camera was facing a large shelf of various colourful bottles. They were in a bar.
A man sat next to Ookami. He was scruffy looking, with a slight beer belly, a rough beard, and a cigar in his mouth. He wore a large cap that hid most of his face, but it didn't cover his eyes, which were darting through the room. Judging by his posture, the man was extremely edgy.
Ookami poured some sake into his cup before taking a long swig.
"Haven't seen you before." Ookami said to the man. "Traveller? I just came here myself, mostly to see the bamboo forests this season."
"No. Visiting my cousins." The man replied in a surprisingly calm voice. "Don't really like bamboo, though. I prefer cedar trees. Better for firewood."
"Here." Ookami offered, pouring the man some sake. He accepted it with a grunt.
"Do you have the information?" Ookami whispered in a low voice, too quiet for most to hear from a distance.
The man jumped slightly. "N-not so loud!" he hissed.
"I have my squad stationed around the bar. There's no chance for anyone to be listening in. Now, do you have the information?"
"Yeah. There were confirmed sightings of a large group meeting in another pub like this one, called 'Martin's Joint.' They meet there around every week, and unlike you and your squad, don't use those henges. Here are pictures I managed to take of them, you'll see they match most of the missing nins reported in the group."
The man inconspicuously handed Ookami a large and bulky envelope, who tucked it quickly into his jacket.
"Yeah. Most of them are around chunin level, but I know that there are at least 3 of them that used to be jounin. The group themselves count out to at least 8 people."
Ookami gave a small nod, before throwing a few coins on the counter. The camera fizzled into darkness.
"Any questions?" Ookami enquired, popping the disk out from the DVD player.
"He seems nervous." Naruto commented. "But I guess that's understandable."
"I've seen Martin's Joint before," Hyena added. "Cool place."
Everybody else nodded in agreement. Ookami, seeing that nobody else was going to say anything, broke the disk into several pieces before throwing it into the trash.
"So, what now?" Cat asked.
Ookami took out a large envelope and took out the contents, and arranged them on the table. There were various photos of the group. Naruto immediately recognized connected some of the faces to the list of missing nins from before. Most of them had cleverly disguised themselves with makeup, wigs, and had dyed their hair, but it was still unmistakable.
"Now. We're going to have to do some surveillance work and tail our targets." Ookami said, gesturing to the photos. "One of us is going to have to confirm that the group has been at Martin's Joint. I'm taking no chances, we'll have to be certain. The bar is our only lead where our targets have been so one of my nindogs, probably Pakkun, is going to have to come with that person, and sniff out for a group that's been there for repeated occasions."
"Right. Who will do that then?" Naruto asked.
Everybody stared back at him.
Naruto groaned. "You have go to be kidding."
"Nope." Ookami said cheerfully. "From what I've seen, you have the natural talent to get information. Also, you are one of the newest members, and as so, aren't well known yet. So Jaguar, your mission is to go to Martin's Joint with a nindog, and gather enough information to confirm that our targets have been there. Got that?"
"Yes sir." Naruto replied monotonously.
Hyena swung an arm casually over Naruto's shoulder.
"Come on, rookie. Chat with some people, show some skin, flirt, it ain't that hard." he exclaimed with a large grin.
Naruto looked up blankly at the pub. Assassinating people was one thing, but flirting…. That was a totally different area. What was with people and the color blue anyway? It's like, they take one look at his eyes and suddenly they start to bend to his every will. Maybe he should get contacts…
/snort. Just go, human. This should be entertaining…/
Shoving Kyuubi's voice out of his mind, Naruto glanced down to the 'nindog' that was suppose to follow him inside. The dog was small, a pug to be exact, and had the most bored expression on his face. As if it could feel his stare, the pug looked up at him.
"What is it, kid? You want to feel my paw?"
Naruto had no idea what the dog meant, and so, didn't bother to reply. Taking a deep breathe, he boldly strode across the sidewalk and opened the pub door.
…wait. Did that dog just talk?
The entire squad, except for Jaguar of course, was lounging about in the Red Lions hotel, in Room 220. They were all waiting for their newest member's return, because once he comes back, they were to set out and track down the targets.
They hadn't bothered to put back on their henge, and were back to their usually appearance as the ANBU black ops. Everybody had already prepared, and were armed to the teeth just for the sake of looking intimidating. Except for Hyena, who was playing with a deck of cards, and Eagle who was daydreaming, all of them were holding some sort of weapon. Cat was twirling a kunai with one finger, Dove was playing with a senbon needle, Squirrel was idly making some paper explosive notes, and Ookami was polishing his katana.
The only person who looked out of place was the informant, who was sitting at the very corner of the room. Technically he wasn't suppose to be there, but he was so nervous that the 'enemy shinobi will murder him in his sleep because of his information' that he had actually asked to stay with them until they finished their job. You gotta hand it to him, to be so desperate as to willingly share a room with 6 assasins. He looked tense, and was suspiciously eyeing the kunai Cat was twirling on her pinky.
Suddenly, Ookami sheathed his katana and the Squad simultaneously looked to the door as it opened.
Jaguar came in, his mask already donned, with Pakkun trailing behind him, a small smirk on his doggy face.
"I got the information. The targets were confirmed to be there." Naruto reported swiftly.
Hyena checked his watch and made a small whine in disappointment. "Well, that only took like 15 minutes. What the hell did you do in there?"
Naruto ignored him but Pakkun snorted in amusement.
"Many things." Pakkun replied with a slight grin. "Anyway, I got a fix. There were two separate groups that have been to that pub numerous times. Both suspected targets had around 8 people."
Ookami gave a nod before turning to address the squad.
"Listen, since there are two potential groups, we're going to have to separate into 2 teams and follow them. If your team finds the wrong target, retreat back and head to the other team's direction. If your team finds the right target, either wait for back up or go in and finish the mission. If there is an 80% chance or above that your team could finish the mission without back up, you have my permission to go on ahead."
"Yes, sir!" Everybody saluted.
"One more thing. Since we'll have to somehow contact each other to confirm if we have the targets or not, here are some earpieces. Once you confirm the target, press the side button and speak into it. It's not that complicated." Ookami handed out small headsets, which everybody immediately attached onto their ear.
Ookami turned back to Pakkun. "Do you know where the two trails were heading?"
Pakkun nodded. "Yeah. I believe that one went somewhere to the edge of a lake, on the east side of town, but I'm not entirely sure. The other trail went in the opposite direction, probably in that tall bright green apartment complex I saw from the distance."
"A tall bright green apartment complex?" Squirrel repeated in puzzlement.
Ookami sighed. "I knew we should've done a surveillance of the town. Does anyone know where this 'bright green apartment' is?"
There was silence. But suddenly, an unexpected voice piped up.
"Uh, I think I know what you're talking about. You're talking about the Lincoln's Gate Complex, right? It's a bright green apartment complex near the western edge of town." piped up the informant, nervously chewing on his cigar.
Everybody turned to him with a raised eyebrow.
Suddenly, Ookami clapped his hands together. "Okay, then! I'm changing the plan slightly. Pakkun has the general idea of where the lake is, and will go with Team 1 to find the group near the east. The informant here will go with Team 2, and lead them to the green apartment complex where the second group is."
The informant's face paled drastically but nobody cared, really.
"One more thing. Since we'll have to somehow contact each other to confirm if we have the targets or not, here are some earpieces. Once you confirm the target, press the side button and speak into it. It's not that complicated." Ookami handed out small headsets, which everybody immediately attached onto their ear.
"We leave now. Once again, Team 1 will be Squirrel, Cat, Eagle, and Pakkun. They will search the lake area with Pakkun. Team 2 will be Hyena, Dove, and myself. We will search the green apartment with the informant. I'm not going to repeat myself again. Any questions?"
Everybody was silent, even the informant, who was gaping in terror.
"Good, now let's-"
"Oi." Everybody looked at Jaguar, who was half raising his hand in surprise. This was a first, the rookie was usually silent and/or moody, and he had a healthy respect of the Taichou so it wasn't often that he would interrupt the Captain.
"Yes?" Ookami asked calmly.
"I know that you're not all used to the idea of a new member yet, and I understand that." Jaguar said in an mock-endearing tone. Hyena snorted under his breathe. "But what team am I going to be in exactly?"
There was a brief awkward moment of silence as the entire Squad finally realized that they had completely forgotten him.
"Whoops." Ookami admitted, with no tone of regret in his voice. Naruto had a sudden urge to either throw something or burst out laughing. He did neither. "Jaguar, you will be in Team 2 with Hyena, and Dove with the informant. I'll go with Team 1-"
"Wait, what?!" The entire squad tensed. It was bad enough that Taichou had been interrupted. It was worse that he has been interrupted three times in a row. And considering the many times he's been interrupted during their journey here, it must be a new record. Ookami turned slowly to the informant -for who else would it have been?- and the temperature got knocked down a few more degrees.
"Yes?" He said in that same cheerful tone. For some reason, that happy tone was more intimidating than anything else Naruto has ever heard.
The informant (Naruto really has to learn his name one day) paused, but seemed to gather up his courage. "Yo-you are sending me into dangerous territory! The Captain of this squad has to at least…"
Ookami cocked his head towards him. "Are you implying that my team isn't good enough for your protection?" he asked with a sudden growl. The temperature dropped to sub-zero, and the entire squad was frozen, watching the exchange.
"I-I… no I'm just.."
"You done? All you're going to do is guide Team 2 to their destination. Nothing dangerous about that." Ookami said matter of factly. He turned back to the Squad, who immediately looked up. "You all have your orders, Squad White. Let's go."
Ookami, Cat, Squirrel, and Eagle left quickly out the window, with Pakkun trailing after their heels. This left the rest of the Squad alone in the room with the sweating informant.
"Well, that was interesting." Dove commented.
Narut turned to the rest of the group. "We should get going, y'know." With a small puff of smoke, he made a kage bunshin, who quickly picked up the informant, who didn't even protest as he slung him along the back. The clone gave a sort of glare at Naruto as he walked past him to the window.
"Get used to it." Naruto said with a slight grimace. Yeah, sorry clone, I don't like touching sweaty skin neither. Not really knowing what to say, Dove and Hyena ran after the kage bunshin and jumped out the window. Naruto took one last glance at the room before following them.
Naruto hasn't noticed this before, but night has fallen already, and the cold clawed at his skin and causing goose bumps to run along his arms. The moon shone brightly in the cloudless sky, illuminating the blanket of snow covering the town. If somebody looked up at that moment, they would see shadowy figures jumping out in the rooftops but they were gone so quickly, one wouldn't dismissed it as a trick on the eye.
Team 2 travelled silently through the rooftops, being careful not to disturb the snow. Naruto hasn't seen a single green apartment so far but he wasn't surprised. The apartment itself was suppose to be at the near west edge of town, and besides, who actually has the stupidity to paint an apartment bright green? It probably looked ridiculous.
/Says the one who wears bright orange…/
True. Orange would look worse on a building.
Naruto was suddenly aware of the thumping of his heart, which was pounding loudly in his head. Was he nervous? Or maybe he was just picking up the informant's anxiousness. Even still, this was his first mission after all. His fist closed around the handle of his katana, slung over his shoulders. There was a bubbling feeling in his stomach, like dread, only in a good way…. if that made sense.
"Scared, rookie?" Hyena asked from behind him. He didn't answer. Strangely enough, it never occurred to Naruto to be scared. Queasy? Yes. He hasn't killed someone in his entire 10 year old life. Something in his mind was screaming at him to back away, and just leave. That this wasn't worth it, even for power, even for his dream. But then, what would he have left, if he didn't have his dream? For his entire afterlife, (the title he dubbed after that night's incident, when everything changed.) all he has done was training. This was no different, except that the danger was real, that's all.
The queasy feeling in his stomach doubled, and Naruto had to fight down the urge to retch. Hell, they haven't even arrived yet. Where the hell was this feeling coming from?!
"A bit farther, p-past the butcher shop.." the informant stammered. Whether from the cold or nerves, Naruto didn't know. The man was practically radiating despair. How pessimistic could one get? Nevertheless, they quickened their pace.
Soon, they arrived at their destination. Scratch what he said before, bright green didn't make the building look ridiculous. The 3 story complex loomed over the group in a twisted creepy way that made your skin crawl. The same feeling you get when a clown passionately kisses your mom, or if you saw your dog humping your neighbour's cat from out the window.
…. Whoa. I think Kano's rubbing of on me.
/Sharpen up, human, I'm getting a bad feeling about this./
Gee, I wonder why. The full moon is out, it's cold as hell, I'm carrying a slobbering man over my shoulder, and we're about to enter the sausage factory.
/The… sausage factory..?/
Numerous lights were on in random windows, and Naruto could distinctly hear the sounds of laughter coming from one of the rooms. Naruto released his kage bunshin, and with a small yelp, the informant fell heavily onto the snow. He took one frightened look at the 3 before hurrying off. They all ignored him.
As forbidding as it seemed, they still had no idea how to check if their targets were in there or not. But before any of them could ponder the problem, the voice of Ookami rang out from their earpieces.
=/The target is not at the lakeside. I repeat, the target is not at the lakeside. Team 2, you have my permission to head in, over/=
=/Yes, sir. Over and out./= Naruto said, slightly amused. Truthfully, it felt kind of cool talking in 'radiospeak.'
"You sure that they're in there?" Hyena questioned out loud. Only after a while did Naruto realize he was addressing him.
"Do you see any other green apartment buildings?" Naruto retorted.
There was a pause of silence. Naruto took a deep breathe before continuing. "We'll have to do this quickly and silently. Taichou said that we can't leave any kind of hint that Konoha ninjas have been here. We'll have to take down all the residents, so nobody would know that somebody has been here for a specific target. Cloud will be less suspicious that way."
Dove and Hyena stared at him. "What?" he said.
"Nothing…" Dove said vaguely, reminding Naruto of Eagle. She withdrew two daggers from her belt, and Naruto realized then that she hasn't brought a katana with her, but 2 identical butterfly knives, which she held skilfully. Likewise, Hyena dramatically unsheathed his katana.
"You just sounded like Taichou for a second, rookie." Hyena commented with a small smirk, answering his question. Naruto blinked, not entirely sure if that was a compliment or not, before also unsheathing his katana.
"There are 3 floors. We'll each have to take one. If you find the group, make a signal, and try not to do any moves that'll hint to Konoha. I'll take the third floor, Dove you take second, and Hyena, you take the bottom floor." Naruto had no idea why he was acting for leader or even why the other two were listening to him. But right now wasn't the time to ponder on that.
The three ANBU vanished in a blur.
Seeing as he was taking the third floor, Naruto ran across the rooftops before taking a wide jump, and landing on the side of the building with a small thump. He walked quickly up the third floor, before pushing open the window. Luckily, it was unlocked and Naruto soon found himself in a narrow hallway.
Kyuubi…. Naruto pleaded in his mind, his despair evident in his voice.
The fox closed his eyes. /Just this once, human. But next time, I'm going to expect more from my host./
Naruto closed his eyes, but it snapped open a second later. The blood red eyes of the nine tailed fox glowed in the dimly lit hallway. Naruto's hands formed into the seal of the tiger, glowing with a red chakra.
Nehan Shoja no Jutsu (Temple of Nirvana Technique)
The effect was immediate. A large scatter of white feathers fell down from the ceiling, raining down on the entire floor. Soon, only the light breathing was heard on the floor. Naruto stumbled, but held himself upright by a hand onto the wall, his eyes turning back into it's original blue color.
Naruto regained his composure, letting out a small exhale before disappearing in another blur.
The rest of it was a haze of blood. Naruto had found entire families slumped on the floor around the dinner table, elderly couples lying side by side in their bed, teenagers unconscious next to the T.V, newly wed couples on their honeymoon…. All it took was a single throw of a kunai, a slit on their throats, or a simple snap of their necks and their lives would end, just like that. Somehow, Naruto regretted doing the sleeping jutsu in the first place. It was so easy to kill… Maybe he wouldn't feel so horrible if they had fought back, a small cut, a broken mask, anything.
It used to be cool to see somebody coming out of a fight, completely unharmed, with not a single speck of dirt or blood on his clothes. But as the last kunai flew, and the body's heart stopped, Naruto took one look at himself in the mirror, barely out of breathe, and completely emotionless…..
He threw up in the corner.
Ookami took one last look at the lake. No, there was definitely no evidence of anyone being here for the past month. The target had to be at Team 2's location, yet what was this nagging feeling at the back of his mind?
Suddenly, his eyes widened. "Scatter!" he yelled. Team 1 jumped up into the trees just in time as numerous kunai rained down from the sky, hitting the same spot they were all in previously.
As Ookami began doing numerous hand seals in midair, his mind was digesting everything at a fast pace. There was no possible way the enemies couldn't covered their tracks that fast. Meaning that they were waiting for them.. But how could they have known that they were being tracked?
Ookami caught a sudden sight of one of them, and his eyes narrowed before he expertly blocked a sudden hail of shuriken from behind with a kunai. The enemies… weren't his targets. The missing nins were all chunin and above, and these people had mediocre chakra coils, poor stances, and the shuriken were thrown clumsily, as if they really didn't know what they were doing. In short, they were doing a laughable imitation of a shinobi attack.
These weren't ninja, they were mercenaries, or even travelling robbers. Ookami almost rolled his eyes. They had probably spotted them and decided to try their luck. One thing was puzzling him though, they had thrown hail after hail of shuriken, and as clumsily thrown as they were, they had successfully forced the entire team back into the trees, away from the town. At first, he thought they were headed into a trap, but it wasn't so.
Everybody shared invisible looks of confusion as they dodged the projectiles, and retreating through the bamboo trees. When they came through the trees, nothing happened. Not one single trap.
These 'mercenaries' weren't gaining anything by making them lose ground. What could they possibl-
Ookami hastily pressed a finger to his earpiece. Nothing. Static. They were out of range from the other group.
"Team, regroup. Formation D. We have to break through their ranks." Ookami ordered.
After a few seconds, Naruto was finally aware of loud scuffle from below him, at the lower floors. Ah, no wonder everybody on the third floor was asleep, none of them were the targets. They had to be in either Dove's or Hyenas. Suddenly, he heard somebody swear loudly. So it was the bottom floor then.
Naruto staggered upright. Right now was not the time for a breakdown. Forcing the sick feeling in his stomach into the deepest corner of his mind, Naruto hurried out the door and flew down the stairs.
Dove and Hyena were battling 5 enemies, and were apparently evenly matched. While the enemies lacked in experience and power, they made up in numbers, and attacked them with a sort of desperation. Naruto joined the fray, and took advantage of their surprise by stabbing the nearest one in the gut before kicking him off with a boot. He collided into the wall with a loud crash.
"Took you long enough, rookie!!!" Hyena yelled, in a midst of a fierce sword battle with another one. "We nearly got all of them already!"
With the sudden turn around, the enemy nins were quickly suppressed, and when Dove sliced off the head of one of the last 2, the last one seemed to panic, running into one of the rooms to escape.
Hyena started after him with a growl, with Dove at his heels. Naruto was about to follow them when he noticed a small girl from the corner of his eye, pushing herself off from the floor. She was sobbing loudly and making a beeline for the door.
Naruto had the sudden urge to let her go but knew that he couldn't do that. With a heavy heart, he took off after her. The girl was running with the strength of desperation, and by the time Naruto reached the door, she was already at the other side of the street, running towards the trees. Why she was running to the trees and not the town was a mystery, but Naruto chalked it up to panic.
Naruto grabbed a single shuriken from his holster, and threw it skilfully. It flew through the air before landing at the back of her skull. She collapsed on the ground with an audible thump.
Hyena and Dove ran after the enemy with a breakneck speed. If even one of their targets escaped, the mission would be considered a failure, and Hyena knew for sure he could never look Taichou in the eye again for at least a week. With that thought, he pushed another wave of chakra into his legs, making a sudden leap for him.
The man had just entered the room when, with a snarl, Hyena whipped out a kunai and dug it into the man's back who let out a bloodcurdling scream before collapsing on the ground. Hyena was just staring down at the body with a look of satisfaction when Dove came into the room.
"You done? I guess the mission is a success then." Dove said, coming up to him.
Just then, the door slammed shut behind them. Their heads shot up in unison, and Dove came up, trying to open it. It stayed lock.
"What the hell…?" Dove swore, a rare moment.
Hyena snarled again. "Give me some room." Dove retreated to the other side of the wall.
"Tsuuga" Hyena yelled, before beginning to spin at a ferocious speed, turning into a sort of large tunnelling tornado. He rammed into the wall, but to both of their shock, didn't break through. Behind the concrete was a thick metal wall, like steel.
Dove looked around with sudden panic. The room was windowless, and apart from a partially destroyed couch and the bleeding corpse on the floor, it was completely bare.
"No wonder the guy went to this specific room!" Hyena growled, banging his hands repeatedly against the metal with large clanging sounds. "IT WAS A FUCKING TRAP!"
Dove collapsed onto the couch. "We should've seen this coming… The stupid informant must've been on this too. Did you see how nervous he was when Taichou changed into Team 1? He must've thought for sure that Taichou would've been in team 2, since he always did go into team 2, but never considered that we would have a new member. Taichou has a lot of ryo on his head… Crap, this entire thing was for his capture then."
Hyena stared at her. "I've never seen you talk this much before." he said.
Just as he said that, white smoke began filtering from the corners, quickly enveloping the entire room.
Knock out gas. Hyena thought, covering his mouth. Suddenly, a dreadful thought came to him. If the two of them were captured here… then what about the rookie?!
Hyena yelled into his earpiece, before both he and Dove fell into blissful consciousness.
Naruto stared at the body of the girl with a numb look before walking forward. The body was lying spread eagled on the ground, a look of terror on her face. A puddle of blood was rapidly growing from under her body, staining the snow a pure blood red. Naruto took a breathe, before grabbing the shuriken and pulled. It came out easily, and he wiped the blood off quickly on the grass before placing it back into his holster.
Suddenly, Naruto was aware of a large banging sound coming from the apartment, like somebody hammering against something metal. Before he could ponder that, a loud voice screamed at him from the earpiece, making his blood run cold.
=/DAMMIT, ROOKIE. GET OUT OF THERE!!!!/=
*collapses on top of the keyboard*
I'm done.. I'M DONE!!!! This chapter anyway. 13,731 words. wow.
I'm sorry readers. I couldn't help but do a cliffhanger. XD I could only avoid them for so long
But that… was exhausting. Yet totally satisfying. Dammit, I need coffee…
Anyway, hope you guys liked this chapter. It took roughly 40 hours. (I get distracted finding battle music on youtube, and then end up watching fluffee talks) Some squirrel was messing up with the internet cables, so the chapter was posted a bit later than I originally intended to.
I think I have a new hate for battle scenes. Takes 3x as much effort than anything else trying to make it sound interesting so people wouldn't just scrolling past them. God forbid the time I reach the chunin exams. I planned a few fights that I KNOW I'm going to have to do in detail. .
Okay. I'm having an inner conflict on if this particular character dies or not. Because his/her boy/girlfriend ain't going to be happy if she/he dies. But it increases drama and character development. And makes Naruto look uber cool. Sigh, it's a hard decision. Why am I telling you this? Let's just say the A/N at the bottom of the chapters is now my personal rant section.
On a side note, I'm really starting to hate River Flows in You by Yiruma, just for the sole reason of Twilight fanatics believing it to be bella's lullaby and posting twilight-related comments under the video. Pisses me off like nothing else…
-black panda OTL