Chapter 22: Stag's Choice, Slug's Fury

Jiraiya and Naruto walked throughout Tanzaku Gai, looking for the Sennin's teammate. Jiraiya had tried to get Naruto to open up again, but the junchuuriki wasn't in a talking mood. And after finding the reason, Jiraiya couldn't really blame him.

Finally in Tankzaku Gai, Naruto and Jiraiya stayed at the hotel, while a small army of Kage Bushin spread out, looking for clues. Jiraiya had tried to describe Tsunade as much as possible, but with his insistence on Tsunade's impressive bust, Naruto had to smack him quite a few times in order to get him serious. After Naruto's clones started dispersing, Naruto and Jiraiya left their room to look at any people the clones had found.

Tsunade was calmly drinking her sake, ignoring Shizune's protests about drinking. Suddenly, a shadow fell on her and an all-too-familiar voice caused her to almost spit her drink.

"May we sit her eh? Tsu-hime?"

Looking up, she saw the Super Pervert Jiraiya and a blonde gaki dressed like the Yondaime, only much darker. Tsunade shrugged and replied. "Do what you want. You'd do it anyway."

Jiraiya sat down, calling a few more bottles of sake. "Don't be so cold Tsu-hime..."

Tsunade humphed beforeemptaying her cup. "So, why are you here pervert?"

Jiraiya began making small talk with Tsunade while Naruto was angered more and more by her behaviour. It was one thing to mock Jiraiya, as Naruto did quite often, and a whole different thing trying to put everyone around her down. Not only did she insult Jiraiya more than necessary but she had the gall, the audacity to insult the Hokage.

Naruto abruptly stood up. "Let's go Ero-sennin. That is not Tsunade. That's just a bitter old coward that can't face life. Let's just go report failure to the old man. And to think he had such faith in her..." Naruto shook his head derisively.

Of course that didn't sit well with Tsunade. "What's your problem gaki? I can do what ever I-"

"You shut up. You're not worthy to be talking to anyone about anything."

Tsunade bristled. "What did you say?"

Naruto glared at her with such fury she actually was taken aback. "You have the audacity to include the Hokage. Your sensei. The person that believed the most in you when everyone else would forget you. You have the fucking gall to insult your own family and the things they died for. So don't you fucking dare talk to me you whiny old bitch. You don't have the right to. Right now, you have insulted not only the one person to believe in ME from the beggining, but also the very ideal, the very seat of the Hokage. So shut the fuck up and go die in a gutter. See how much I care. And I bet, apart from Jiraiya who still loves you, noone else would."

Tsunade was taken aback as she tried to formulate a responce. Coming up with none, she just harumphed. "What would you know of life gaki?"

Naruto snorted. "Obviously more than you. Come on Ero-sennin. She's not worthy of even a shallow grave. Much less someone's, anyone's love."

Tsunade leapt up, the sake taking control of her, already unstable emotions. "Oh yeah, well let's take it outside buster!"

Naruto snorted. "So when your mind can't come up with anything you resort to fists, having the retarded belief of 'might makes right'. Your forefathers must be turning in their graves from the shame. But very well. I shall play with you. Even if it's for a bit."

Tsunade more or less stomped her way outside. Once out, she just lifted her hand, one finger extended. Naruto blinked.

"One minute? A time limit until you faint from the sake or something?"

Tsunade smirked. "No. One finger. All I need for you."

Naruto sighed and shook his head. Jiraiya went up to her. "Tsunade, you may want to renege on that. Gaki's tough shit."

In responce Tsunade just laughed. "Maybe to you pervert. But for me, one finger is all it would take."

Naruto and Shizune didn't miss the hurt look in his face, even though it disappeared very quickly. Shizune counted down.

As soon as she counted to zero, Naruto vanished. Tsunade's eyes widened as she turned to look behind her. Naruto's kick was barely stopped by Tsunade's arm but before she had time to throw him away, a fist came from below as the kick disengaged. Tsunade's reduced and alcohol addled reflexes didn't have time to warn her, so the fist connected.


Tsunade's eyes widened as she was literally rocketed upwards from the uppercut. She felt several bones creak and just the instinctive appliance of chakra saved her jaw from shattering. The force of the punch was so great that Tsunade didn't have time to right herself before Naruto appeared over her and nailed her with a devastating heel drop.

Tsunade made a crater from her landing. She painfully got up, her wounds already healing as she didn't need handseals to heal such common injuries.

"Alright gaki, that's it. You pissed me off. I'm gonna take this seriously from now."

Tsunade expected Naruto to back off from the killing intent and her promise. That's why she was so surprised when Naruto smirked and nodded to Jiraiya.

Before anyone had time to wonder, Jiraiya went through several handseals and unleashed a burst of chakra. Tsunade blinked at him and shouted. "What did you do you pervert!"

Naruto just chuckled. "Oh nothing much, just covered an area around us with a genjutsu. After all, you're about to witness one of Konoha's top S-ranked secrets... me."

Tsunade looked back at him and stepped back in fear, disgust and scientific wonder. Naruto's form was mutating before her very eyes. He grew claws and his feet changed form. His eyes became slitted and bloodshot. Of course, she said the one thing in both Shizune's and her own mind. "What the fuck is that?"

Naruto chuckled, a deep, dark, almost mourning chuckle. "The price of power. I am no longer human Tsunade. I haven't been since I was eight. You can thank, or blame, your home village for this."


"Heh, do you even know my name Tsunade? My name is Uzumaki-Namikaze Naruto, son of the Yondaime Hokage and... jinchuuriki of the Kyubi no Yoko. Also, from what you can see, I'm no longer human. That privilege was stolen from me the very day I was born and banned from it when Konoha's fools tortured me."

"Wh-what are you talking about?"

"Because you weren't there, my mother died at birth while my father gave up his very soul to seal the Kyubi in me, in a desperate attempt to save the village. Sandaime did his best, but he's an old man now, he's tired. So, Konoha's civilians, and many shinobi, considered me to be Kyubi himself. So, they sought to take out their anger and pain on me. For eight years I was tortured and beaten. Eight years until the seal finally broke and I became... this."

Naruto waived his arms around before continuing, enjoying the horror-struck look on Tsunade's face. "So, are we gonna do this or are you going to chicken out again Tsunade? Orochimaru at least forced me to go all out against him, both times. Itachi was pushed back. Kisame as well. What about you Tsunade?"

Shock etched on Tsunade's face she took a step back while Naruto stalked towards her. When he was finally close enough he spoke. "Without the will to protect, you cannot defeat me. Your heart is full of fear. Your mind is full of doubt. Until you recover your own will... you cannot hope to defeat me, or anyone for that matter. This fight... is meaningless. Good bye."

With that, Naruto reverted to his original form and walked away. Jiraiya just stayed there enough to drop the genjutsu and warn them against revealing Naruto's powers before he himself also left.

Tsunade slowly straightened up and looked at Shizune. Her thoughts were wrapped around a single thought: 'Am I really that pathetic?'

The next day, Tsunade got dressed quickly and left to spy on Naruto. She had to find the truth. She spied on Jiraiya's room and saw the chuunin leave to go outside the town. Once there, he went at an empty plot of land, filled with trees. A cross-shaped handseal later, the place was filled with clones of Naruto. In seconds, they were spread aroud each practicing his own. Some were trying to take tree climbing to new levels, others mastering water walking with added difficulties, while the rest were working on taijutsu, using a very animalistic form that required a lot of agility, speed and flexibility. Naruto himself just got down to finishing the Rasengan. After watching him practice for more than an hour, Tsunade gathered the courage to speak to him.

She made sure to make enough noise as she approached so as to not startle the boy. After all, even though she's a Sannin, a lucky shot is all that it would take.

"You seem to be working hard aren't ya gaki." Yup, a classic greeting from the alcohol addicted medic.

Naruto shrugged a bit as he let the chakra in his hand disperse. "It's not like I have much of a choice in the matter. With a bunch of S-ranked lunatics after me and Kyu, I have to. Besides, I have to protect them."

Tsunade sat on a rock, watching the clones practice. "Like hell you don't have a choice. If you have a bunch of S-ranked people, chances are you're not going to live for long. Might as well make the most of your time you know."

Naruto sighed in dismay. "I know. I know that. Hell, I could barely push back Itachi and I had the advantage. Next time they're gonna be prepared and I may not have Zabuza for backup. Heck maybe Hinata will be dragged into it. That's why I'm trying so hard. I have to get stronger. Strong enough that they will not even consider coming after us. Then... then I can enjoy what life I'm still entitled to."

Tsunade huffed audibly as she looked towards the morning sky. "So that's why you're trying to master that technique huh. I'd suggest drinking sake though. Less trouble, feels better and it wouldn't matter anyway."

"On the contrary... even if I were to fail... If I failed without doing my best, I wouldn't be able to rest. That's why I have to do this. I have to master the Rasengan. I have to complete the technique. I have to become as strong as I could possibly ever be. So that, even if I die, I can die diligently and with the knowledge that there was simply nothing else that could possibly be done."

Nothing else that could possibly be done... How many times had the Slug Sannin thought about that. What else could she have done? How much could she have changed if she had tried something else? Could she have saved Dan's life? Nawaki's? Her old comrades' lives? If she had... But no, she couldn't think about that. She needed sake, yes sake to drown the pain, make it go away... Sake and gambling to forget the hurt, the fear, the... the blood.

Even in the warm morning sun, Tsunade shivered and shuddered. In seconds she felt a fabric cover her shoulders. Shaken from her thoughts, she realized it was a trenchcoat. Naruto's trenchcoat.

"Oi gaki, what are you doing?"

Naruto just shrugged as he tried focusing his chakra on his hand again. "You shivered. Shivering means you feel cold. Feeling cold means you need clothing to keep warm. I do not... feel cold any more. So, I can spare the trenchcoat." Seeing Tsunade's surprised face, he gave a fake smile. "Well, it isn't like I don't have others with me."

Tsunade felt Naruto's warmth in that cloth. That damn gaki, even through such times he was so annoyingly empathic. As if he owed her anything, as if she were... worth anything. She made to speak when she heard the pop and another balloon blew up on Naruto's hand. Naruto just grumbled something inaudible and picked another.

"Hmph, if you're going to be like that, might as well make it more interesting." That had Naruto's attention. "You seem to have some time ahead of you before finishing the Rasengan. So, let's have a bet. You have one week to finish it. If you make it, I will admit you're right, you can be Hokage and I'll even give you this amulet as proof." Tsunade showed the pendant to the gennin who's eyes squinted at it before widening at the realization. "However, if you fail, you'll give me all your money and give up on being a ninja." She gave a smug smile at the other blonde.

"Heh, I see. That's how it is. Alright Tsunade, I'll take that bet. Just one thing; if, and when, I win, you're going to at least consider being Hokage. Old man... he's tired. He's had to suffer a lot, both mind and body. He's not like he used to be. So if not for me, at least consider it for the one person to believe you were still the fiery Slug Sennin Tsunade, master of the Healing Arts and... pretty much the only person to be able to keep Ero-sennin in check." Naruto grinned at the last part, managing to dispel the gloom that had settled on the pair.

Tsunade giggled a bit at the last declaration. "Alright gaki. I might come to actually stand you. Now, sorry but a jug of sake has my name on it."

Naruto laughed and bid her goodbye as he focused back into training his Rasengan. That day, Jiraiya would treat Naruto to ramen before helping him with his training.

It was more than a week since Naruto had left looking for Tsunade and the gang was practicing as hard as ever. That day however, things were different. Instead of waking up in their secret headquarters, working out like crazy until lunchtime and then having a battle royal in one of the Training Grounds (favourite amongst them being number 44), the team gathered around the headquarters. Zabuza, Anko and Kurenai, being the three most experienced Shinobi, had everyone gather around. Anko took a step forward, denoting herself as the leader.

"Alright everyone, I think it's time we got more people into the fold. Shino, front and center." Anko paused, letting the gennin take his place in front of the group. "A week ago you suggested that Shikamaru be initiated and join our group. Since then we have been watching and giving him and his team time to adapt and train, seeing as they got a very nasty wake up call. However, despite Kiba's, Lee's and Tenten's best efforts after the invasion, Team 10 hasn't changed all that much. So, we have a problem. If Shikamaru isn't motivated enough soon, then there will be no point in approaching him as, if such a case doesn't urge him to train more, nothing will. Here's where you come in. Despite your, impressive, skillset, you remain this team's weakest combat member. Of course, as you very well know, means nothing as your intellect more than make up for it. As you can undersrstand, Team 10 has to be tested. If all three of them cannot defeat you in a spar... there is no point in trying to help them. Shino, your task is to go challenge and test the skills of Team 10. We all know how good you are at reading people and their intentions. Also we know that you are capable of deeming someone worthy of this group. We know for a fact that Team 10 has a day off missions today and will be in Training Ground 10 practicing teamwork. You know your task, go, test them and see if they should join, either now or later on."

Shino nodded and walked away, but not before whispering an 'Itekimasu (I'll be off, usually used in families)' to Haku. Anko once again started talking. "As we know, Naruto's off to bring Senju Tsunade back to the village to act as Godaime means we're going to have our hands full. We have to bring her up to speed with facts through our point of view. We need to get as much dirt on these bastards of the council and discredit them. Thanks to the havoc caused by the invasion, and Sandaime-sama making strategical retreats when needed, the councils are bound to make a mistake. We need to root them out and expose them. In the meantime we have to work on projecting the proper image to the civilians. While most see us as part of the Konoha shinobi forces, and therefore beneficial, more than a few are reluctant to letting go of their hate and predispositions. Long story short, we need to find ways to make our group more secretive but less threatening, or at the very least abate the fears before they spread out. We all know how a single rumour can royally mess up even the best laid plans."

Anko took a step back, allowing Kurenai to step forward. "Kiba, Haku and Hinata, you three will be responcible for the dirt we can come up on the council, and the group's enemies. Hinata's Byakugan, Haku's mirror and Kiba's stealth should be invaluable. At the same time, Hinata, you have to research and discover all the loopholes the council may choose to use in order to escape or discredit us. As a Hyuga, your clan must have a suitably large repository of laws and relevant scrolls. We need a copy of them if not the exact so we can study them and prepare ourselves. Kiba, you are to learn of your clan's loyalties. Are they loyal to the Hokage or Konoha. The ideals or the advantages of the village. Knowing your clan's ferocity and passion, they could be the best of allies or the worst enemies, so we need to learn of them soon. Good job by the way with spreading rumours, Ino's doing a fantastic job of keeping us semi-hidden. Haku, since you often spend time in the hospital and check on retired shinobi, do what you can about them as well. If possible have them write down whatever tips they have to offer on scrolls and get them here. The occasional technique or info would also be appreciated. If they want to, they could also be payed by Naruto for this service."

Kurenai stepped back, allowing Zabuza to walk forward this time. "Tenten and Lee, as you know we've lost a good number of shinobi in the invasion. Though the village is mostly repaired, there has been a cut on the high ranking missions we are taking. This in turn cuts down on our money, something that we have to correct. From now on, you two, Shino and I will be attached on several different teams and help them in dangerous missions that, almost certainly, will involve fighting. Keep your guard up, your blades sharpened and your wit at hand. We'll be focusing on teamwork for now before getting on the tougher missions. Now, remember that while some of these missions will pay very well, we will have to share most of that money with the rest of the group that isn't taking missions for now. Last but not least, we'll have to approach the teams we'll be attached to and see what they have to offer. Buckle up and get ready for hell on earth kids."

Zabuza, having said his piece, stepped back as well, letting Anko give the team the signal to disperse and wait for Shino's return.

Quite a bit of distance away, Shino was approaching the gennin Team 10. Chouji was munching his chips, Shikamaru was cloud gazing and Ino was reading a magazine. Shino sighed. It wasn't that long ago that they had tried to motivate the team, but they simply seemed uncapable of working more than absolutely necessary...

Waiting for Asuma to go away, as Kurenai had gotten him to agree to the test, Shino tensed his muscles, quietly drew his dual kama and leapt from the shadows he was hidden to attack the three unprepared gennin.

Shikamaru suddenly found himself staring at Shino's sunglasses, the reflection of the dual kama next to his neck clearly depicted on the shiny surface.

Ino and Chouji, upon seeing the situtation, turned towards their downed teammate, trying to help him. An action that was halted immidiately as they saw Shino's hands twitch and the blades approach too close to Shikamaru's neck for comfort.

Ino, predictably, blew up. "Hey Shino! What the hell are you doing to Shikamaru!"

Shino's head moved to the side just enough to look at her. "I am attacking him, obviously. Why you ask? Because it is my goal. Should you not desire your team mate decapitated, I strongly suggest you take me seriously."

The cold, dismissive voice made Ino reel back in shock. Chouji was just staring at his attacked friend, not having a clue as to how to , Shikamaru was able to maintain a calm head and quickly made a handseal.

"Ninpou: Kagemane no Jutsu (Ninja Art: Shadow Bind Technique)."

Shino felt his body move against his will and push away from Shikamaru. He didn't resist the movement, instead allowed Shikamaru to perform it, before unleashing his insects in a dome around him, using them to eat the chakra of the technique. Shikamaru quickly realized that the insects would follow his chakra back to its source, so he quickly cancelled the jutsu and rolled away.

Team 8 stood in a triangle formation with Chouji at the front and Ino with Shikamaru at his flanks. Nodding to his team, the chubby shinobi dashed forward under cover of a few kunai, compliments of Ino. Shikamaru instead hung back, ready to use his shadow techniques in an instant.

To the amazement, and later fear, of Team Asuma, Shino didn't retreat or try to evade the charging Chouji. Instead he charged at him as well, Kama open and to the side. Just before getting within range of Chouji's punch, Shino leapt, surprising him, landed on Chouji's back and used him as a springboard to launch himeself towards a surprised Shikamaru. Ino tried to defend her teammate with shuriken, but Shino's insect allies warned him of the attacks and he used his kama to defend himself on air. Landing in front of his target, he had to quickly dodge out of the way of Shikamaru's advancing shadow.

Shikamaru grinned victoruously, but it was quickly wiped out as Shino used his speed against the shadow's sticky nature to outmanouevre it before slashing at the shadow user with his kama, leaving a few bleeding wounds. Almost immidiately, he had to leap away as Chouji's barelling form came in an attempt to squash him with his Ninpou: Baika no Jutsu (Ninja Art: Multisize Technique). Shino landed behind a surprised Ino that barely had the time to roll away from the worst of the attacks she would have suffered.

As she rolled away, she tried to throw some more shuriken, but Shino had anticipated something like that so he joined his kama at the bottom and spun the ,now staff-like, weapon in front of him and deflected the projectiles. Before the surprised team had time to attack Shino anew, he threw his weapon towards the still prone Ino. The kunoichi shrieked in fear before moving away. Shino noticed that Shikamaru's shadow had taken over for Ino, pulling her out of harm's way. The calm didn't last long though as the twirling weapon didn't suddenly changed direction, heading for Chouji, who was getting ready to charge again. The weapon struck him and dispelled his multisize technique, giving him a nasty gash on his chest at the same time.

Ino shrieked at the blood, while Shikamaru looked apalled. The cut wasn't deep or dangerous, but it sure looked nasty and put Chouji out of the fight due to potential blood loss. Shino's arm flexed and the weapon returned to its owner's hands. In an instant, the Mantis Blades had split up again and Shino was rushing towards the freaked out pair of gennin. Before Ino had time to react, Shino pounced on her and struck her with the grip of his right weapon on the head, dizzying her. The next instant, he had made a spin and struck her at the side of the head with his left weapon, causing her to black out for the rest of the fight.

Shikamaru took out a kunai to defend himself but, for all his intellect and strategic genius, he simply didn't have the resources available to defend against Shino. The Kama user dodged, parried and weaved through his attacks, even while, try as Shikamaru might, he evaded the shadow technique of the Nara heir. In the end, Shikamaru found a pair of blades at his neck while insects had already swarmed over his two team mates and were beggining to get him as well.

Shino sighed. It might have been a decent work out for him, but considering the purpose of the group, they had to get stronger, much stronger than that. Removing his blades from Shikamaru's neck, he took a few steps back and had his insect allies carry Chouji and Ino to Shikamaru.

As if on cue, Ino began waking up, since Shino didn't even hit her hard enough to put her out of combat for a longer time. As the kikaichu retreted back to their host, Team Asuma saw that a few large, red, ant-like insects had remained on Chouji's wound, using their larger pincers to hold the wound close. Even the bleeding had seemed to stop.

Shino looked at the team in front of him and sighed. "The insects on Akimichi-san will take care of that wound. Their saliva has enzymes that causes blood to clot along with several anti-bacterial properties. Their pincers will hold the wound so he does not aggravate it. Why, because this attack was a test, no reason to threaten a shinobi's life. On the other hand you have failed the purpose of this test. While you revealed admirable teamwork, your tactics are fixed and unflexible. While you are aware of each other's power that is merely due to the fact that you have not improved at all in all this time. Quite frankly I am disappointed. It is best that this be told before you continue further upon this path. Why? Because if you keep your growth stunted in this way, you shall, without fail, die before your time."

Shikamaru scowled at Shino's words before getting back up. "I don't care about all that Shino. I only care about one thing and that's my two team mates over here. So, take your troublesome opinions and shove them."

Of course that drew gasps of surprise from Ino and Chouji. Shino just smirked, turned on his heel and walked away. Shikamaru blinked, huffed something about 'troublesome people' and followed suit.

It didn't sit well with Ino though and she was quick to show her displeasure. "Oi Shika! Where are you going?"

Shikamaru looked back at her and Chouji and smiled sadly. "I'm going to a very troublesome place with very troublesome people. Take care you two."

Shikamaru and Shino vanished into the forest. A few minutes later, Shino guided Shikamaru at a small hill with several large rocks. He pulsed his chakra through a certain large boulder and it disappeared in a poof of smoke. Once the pair descended, Shikamaru saw his sensei to be, a large, muscular man with a huge Zanbatou. The sadistic smirk made Shikamaru reconsider his choice of actions. However, one last look at Shino convinced him of his choice.

Back in Tanzaku Gai, a week finally passed since the bet was made. Naruto had spent all that time trying to learn the Rasengan. He knew he could have finished it in a matter of days if he used the Kage Bunshin trick. However, he deeply respected both his father and Jiraiya's troubles. So, instead, he chose to master it the old-fashioned way; sheer amount of guts and dedication to a single thing until it's done.

It was the final day and Naruto had gone to sleep only because Jiraiya ordered him to in order not to burn out his chakra system. It wasn't fear of crippling Naruto, rather it was logic,as it woudl take time for Naruto as it would force him to stay in recovery for far too long.

Naruto got up early that morning like always. Quickly he donned his clothes and got ready for some last-minute practice. He spared a glance at the empty bed of the Toad Sennin and huffed. The pervert probably chased tail last night. Then again, he had said he had contacts in this village so he might have gone to them instead. Either way, it mattered little to the blonde gennin, so he got ready to leave. As he was heading for the door, he heard frantic knocking. Opening it quickly he came across Shizune, Tsunade's old time companion and friend, with the pet pig Tonton in her arms. The poor pig was squealing, in an obvious attempt to let Naruto know of something urgent. Of course, Naruto didn't know how to communicate with such beings, so he grabbed Shizune from the arm, pulled the panting girl inside and had her sit on a chair.

"So, what's the fire Shizune-san?" Asked the blonde.

The girl took some time to catch her breath and restore order to her racing mind before answering. "Its Tsunade-sama, she's gone!"

Naruto just raised an eyebrow at that. "Well, forgive my ignorance, but doesn't she just up and leave whenever she wants? At least that's what I heard she did. I don't know how things work though, so it must be serious. The question is, why did you come here of all places?"

Shizune gulped and looked very guilty of what she was going to reveal. "Tsunade-sama... she's going to Orochimaru. He made her an offer a week ago and it seems she couldn't resist it..."

Just then a window flew open and a certain toad summoner collapsed inside, huffing and puffing as if he had just ran a mile long race. "Shizune's right. She left for Orochimaru." Jiraiya grunted as he tried to get up. "She also seems to have spiked my sake last night. Even with all I've done, I'm still not even at 15%..."

Naruto rushed towards the downed Sannin and helped him to his bed. He turned to Shizune. "Alright, let's get our jobs straight. Shizune, you tell me where the meeting is going to take place and then try to heal Ero-Sennin as much as possible. If Hebi-teme's there, I won't be able to defeat him on my own. I can however hold him back long enough for you to be of use. Now, speak, we have little time to waste."

Naruto's commanding tone made Shizune spill everything, including the deal offered to Tsunade and the assistant that was with Orochimaru last time. Running towards the opened window, Naruto started mutating bfore Shizune's surprised eyes. With a burst of chakra and a powerful leap, Naruto jumped out of the window before wings spread from his back, engulfed protectively by his trenchcoat, before speeding off. Shizune gawked for just a second befor her medic training took over and she, almost mechanically, started treating Jiraiya.

The pervert for his part just chuckled at her. "Don't ya worry Shizune. The gaki's too tough to die. Now, better focus on getting this poison off of me so we can assisst them." Shizune nodded in responce and redoubled her efforts.

Naruto soared over the village. As he flew, he ordered his eyes to shift into long-range mode, a mode he called Washi-gan (eagle eye), back when he was so much more naive than he was now. The improved eyesight he had borrowed from the mighty bird of prey helped him see the world in a different way. Focusing his sight towards the direction Shizune said the meeting would take place, he used the wind currents to speed up and quickly made his way.

Tsunade stood before Orochimaru and his lackey, a medic nin of at least some capability. The sick Snake user was taking his time with his mind games, trying to make her feel inferior, while at the same time extoling her medic skills. As Tsunade placed her hands on the snake summoner's own destroyed ones, the sound of a heavy item dropping at high velocity interrupted them. Both legendary shinobi had just enough time to leap away as something slammed into the ground between them, creating shockwaves and a dust cloud. A menacing form stood inside the dust cloud as it was blown away.

"Gaki? What the hell are you doing here?" Asked a very surprised Tsunade.

Meanwhile Orochimaru licked his lips and couldn't decide between being pleased with seeing Naruto again and being annoyed at the interruption. Kabuto however, made that choice for him. "Well well Naruto-kun, I didn't expect you here so soon."

Naruto just grunted and turned to Tsunade. "What the hell were you thinking Tsunade? Did you seriously agree to the plans of a maniac that has already disrespected your ancestors? Did you really think a human, powerful maybe but still a human would have the power to mess with life and death? Do you really want to associate yourself with a lowlife that enslaved the very souls of your grandfather and granduncle?"

Tsunade took a step back from the glare and force of the words. Orochimaru clicked his tongue in annoyance. "Naruto-kun, while you are strong, you are in way over your head. You cannot understand the forces at work here. You should retreat now and-"

Naruto growled at him in such a hostile way that Orochimaru had to consciously restrain his body's instincts to flee. "You shut up hebi-teme. Didn't I tell you when you tried to resurrect the Shodai and Nidaime? A body without a soul has no power to live, but a soul without a heart has no right to live. You might have pulled their souls, but not their hearts, not when you enslaved them and used them as nothing but mere marrionettes to destroy the very home and people they once gave their lives to protect. Besides, last time I checked, you were the one that got mauled Hebi-teme. Kabuto here shouldn't make too much of a difference against me and you know it."

Meanwhile, as Tsunade heard Naruto's words, a rage unfelt in a long time began to shimmer within the legendary medic. Orochimaru quickly caught on that fact and sought to end the fight before it began in earnest. After all, against Tsunade's legendary fury, not even he was safe. "Enough, Kabuto, you take care of Naruto-kun while I deal with Tsunade. After all, there are other ways I can restore my arms."

Kabuto nodded to his master and hopped away to the side in order to have a clear shot to Naruto and Tsunade. Naruto just chuckled. "Well Tsunade, seems that trouble follows us of broken pasts. Too bad it's not the first time and we can deal with all this crap huh? You take care of hebi-teme over there and I'll deal with Kabuto. Oh and, nice meeting the real Tsuande-hime."

Naruto chuckled as he leapt away from Tsunade in order to stay away from the fight between her and Orochimaru. Kabuto just smirked arrogantly towards Naruto. "You know, you cannot defeat me Naruto-kun. With Orochimaru-sama's help, I have become as strong as the legendary Hatake Kakashi. An undertrained gennin like you, no matter how gifted, cannot defeat me. Your body however, will make a great test subject for my studies. After all, you have revealed several powerful abilities. Most interesting indeed." Without further ado, Kabuto pulled out one of his battle-oriented scalpels and charged Naruto. He expected the blonde to at least dodge, so he was quite surprised when he didn't even react to the attack. He quickly realized why as the scalpel came into contact with Naruto's skin and failed to pierce it in any significant amount.

Before Kabuto had time to recover from that surprise, Naruto's right hand rose up to meet Kabuto's face. Imagine the Oto-nin's surprise when he saw long claws come for his face. However, he was good enough to avoid the worst of that attack by leaning back and flipping away. Naruto squinted his eyes as he saw the wounds heal, much to Kabuto's glee. However, the medic-nin's smirk was wiped off quickly by Naruto's declaration.

"Now we're talking. Finally someone that doesn't die with a mere flesh wound. Kabuto-chan, do make sure not to die too fast. Been some time since I was able to cut loose!"

Kabuto blinked at Naruto's apparent joy. He quickly had to back off though, in order to avoid the claws that came for his face. Naruto looked positively giddy at the fight.

"Good reflexes too! Kami must love me to send me this gift!"

Kabuto tried to form some sort of witty responce but the randomness, bloodlust and sheer giddyness in Naruto made it impossible. At least in the time it took for Naruto to press him into defence. The medic nin quickly realized, amongst the laughter from Naruto, that he couldn't compete with the blonde powerhouse. So, he decided to take things seriously for once.

The white-haired medic threw his kunai at Naruto, who didn't even acknowledge them to be honest, and went through several handseals, as fast as possible. Before long, his hands were covered by a faint green aura, signifying his technique. Belief in his victory restored, Kabuto rushed towards Naruto. However, try as he might, Kabuto couldn't land a hit on his target. Spinal cord bending in unreal degrees, reflexes to the point of precognition and immense agility kept Kabuto's arms off for more than a bit of time. Eventually however, as Naruto backtracked a bit to avoid an attack to his eyes, Kabuto popped up behind him and touched his spinal cord twice before walking away with his back turned to Naruto. He expected many things, but not a laugh.

"Oi Kabuto-chan, where are you going? You didn't seriously thing that little lovetap took me down? I mean seriously, was it even supposed to do something?"

Kabuto blinked and took a step back in surprise. "What? Impossible! I cut your spinal cord in half! My chakra scalpels should have left you incapable of any motor function waist down!"

Naruto just laughed some more. "Kabuto-chan, I'm going to scold you!" Naruto waved his finger at Kabuto as if indeed he was scolding a child. "My bloodline gives me the ability to adapt to anything. So, do you know who my team mates are? I have to spar with them once in a while. Your little cute scalpels are nothing in front of Hinata's Raijin's Touch. Especially after the little stunt your master pulled. I made sure to practice lots with Anko's youkai. Chakra based attacks as simple as this don't even register on my pain threshold. Now, how about I take you serious? Hm?"

Kabuto had barely the time to consider his enemy's words and then question himself 'He wasn't taking me seriously?' before being repeatedly punched and kicked in various places. A simple grapple later and he was thrown away in a boneless heap. Right into Orochimaru.

Tsunade for herself was having a field day. Orochimaru was frantically trying to dodge her punches as, even getting grazed by them would unleash the chakra blast contained inside, which could prove to be problematic for the Hebi Sannin. Of course, were he at full power it wouldn't have been nearly as dangerous. However without any technique that required handseals, which were most of his repertoire, he could barely raise a noteable defence and counterattack. The fact that Tsunade's experience helped her fight him better was an added disadvantage.

The snake summoner was bending in unreal degrees in order to avoid being pulverized when he heard a cracking sound behind him. Before he had time to turn around or move away, Kabuto's body collided with him, sending him right into Tsunade's fist. A split second later, the tangled mass of the two nin were flying the other way.

Seeing that, Naruto made a seal-less Kage Bunshin and had it kick the incoming projectile in the air. Meanwhile, the real Naruto tensed his legs, readied to leap and winked at Tsunade. Seeing the wink, the slug summoner, readied her chakra and got ready to jump as well.

The clone kicked Orochimaru and Kabuto up in the air like an oversized ball. As soon as they were launched that way, Naruto and Tsunade leapt as well, appearing above their target. Orochimaru had barely the time to realize what the shadows that fell on him were before trying to reinforce himself for the incoming hit.

He wasn't dissapointed as he, and subsequently Kabuto, received two devastating heel drops, sending them careening into the ground and making a small crater.

Naruto landed next to Tsunade. "Now that's definitely gonna leave a mark eh Tsunade-hime?"

The legendary medic chuckled a bit. "Yeah I guess it will. You know, I think I like you kid, you're fun to be around."

Grunting, Orochimaru got up, followed by a relatively unharmed Kabuto. Relatively of course, as he had to expend an impressive amount of chakra to both shield himself from the hits and repair the damage he had suffered. "Damn you Tsunade. I will not be stopped here, not when I've come so close to fulfilling my ambitions. Not when I have almost become a god!"

Naruto sighed as he shook his head. "You're wrong Orochimaru. Take this from a fellow immortal; ambitions are made so we do not reach them. What do you think you will be doing even if you were to become immortal yourself and learn all techniques. What then? How will you spend the enless ages until the world dies? Ambitions, the driving force behind everyone's actions... they were never made to be achieved."

Tsunade blinked at Naruto while Orochimaru bristled with fury. How dare that damned brat, reminder of his failings, talk to him like that. How dare that insolent child patronize him? And yet, for all his fury, for all his misdirected, though still great, intelligence, for all his conviction and dedication to his goal, Orochimaru couldn't deny a very simple thing; Naruto was right. In his fervor to learn every technique and become immortal, Orochimaru had lost sight of his own path, turned his goal into his obsession, the only thing to matter in his mind.

Of course, the snake summoner couldn't accept it. He couldn't, no, he wouldn't, admit the fact that he had been wrong. He would never acknowledge it! To have been wrong, is impossible!

'Then why does it hurt so much? Why does it sting so much? Why isn't it forgotten?'

That annoying presence, always in the back of his head, rearing its existence seeking, trying, desperately to separate itself from Orochimaru. The last shreds of Orochimaru's humanity some would call it, others would say it's the remnants of the child he once was, others would just call him insane. None would be wrong, yet none would be right. The schizm, the divide, the distinction became paifull, but troubled the legendary shinobi's mind for but a second before he drowned the upstart voice in wave after wave of zealous hate and anger.

On the outside, Orochimaru just narrowed his eyes and glared at the blonde shapeshifter. He had to finish the fight soon before the Toad Sannin got there as well. While sure he could defeat Tsunade and Naruto, the Gama Sennin would be too much for him to handle, especially without his ninjutsu. Kabuto may be strong, but he was obviously no match for the blonde troublemaker. Gritting his teeth, he got ready to finish the fight. Kabuto quickly saw the signal sent to him by his master. With a fluid motion, he retrieved a combat scalpel from his belt pouch and cut his palm. The red life-giving essense flowed out from the wound and dripped to the ground.

Naruto was confused as to why Kabuto would choose to do something as... pointless as that, and was even more surprised when he noticed Tsunade's reaction. The legendary kunoichi and medic had frozen completely at the sight of blood. 'Haemophobia?' he wondered. He got his answer rather quickly as Kabuto flicked his palm towards Tsunade, sending some red droplets towards the Slug Summoner's face, causing her to retreat even further into her own mind.

Orochimaru retrieved his legendary sword, Kusanagi, from his stomach and, holding it in his mouth, attacked the stunned Tsunade. Naruto rushed in front of her, ready to take the blow, but just before the blade pierced him, a large object collided with the incoming nin, knocking him of course. That object was quickly revealed to be Jiraiya. Growling, Orochimaru attacked his former team mate in a frenzy, seeking to kill him as soon as possible. It was a hard thing to do however, seeing as he only had his kenjutsu and part of his taijutsu to fall back on. He was very lucky that Jiraiya could barely use his chakra, as the white-haired shinobi could have very easily destroyed him if he was at full power.

Meanwhile, Kabuto, being fed up with Tsunade, while also knowing the danger she could represent if she were to snap out of shock, reactivated his chakra scalpels and charged her. In his single minded attack, he failed to notice one thing; a hand reaching for his own.

Naruto quickly realized that Tsunade was completely defenceless, thusly making her protection a prime objective. He could only hope his perverted godfather would last long enough for him to kill the lackey and aid provide support. Knowing full well that Tsunade wouldn't survive a chakra scalpel like he could, Naruto lashed out with his hand and grabbed Kabuto's arm with his own left hand.

"That's enough Kabuto-teme. You're pissing me off. Now BUZZ OFF!" And with an insanely powerful punch, Naruto launched the enemy medic on a huge rock, causing it to explode from the force.

Behind the blonde powerhouse, Shizune rushed to her mistress, looking for any wounds she would have to treat. Seeing the blood however and realizing that's what caused the legendary kunoichi to freeze, she started wiping it off her face while whispering kind words to calm her down.

Naruto's voice came to them and caused them both to look at him. "Open your eyes Tsunade and look good. This is the power of a future Hokage."

As the two women looked at Naruto, they noticed that Kabuto was walking out of the dust cloud that had been caused by his collision with the rock. He seemed to pant a bit, but even that went away as he took a pill. Kabuto's self-centered smirk was quickly wiped off when he saw Naruto charge him at full speed. Meanwhile, Tsunade and Shizune blinked at the speed with which Naruto moved and almost missed a glowing ball of blue energy resting in his hand.

Naruto collided with Kabuto before planting the orb he held in his hand firmly into Kabuto's stomach. "RASENGAN! (Spiral Sphere!)"

Tsunade blinked, her mind having a single thought; he did it, the kid actually did it. Her happiness was quickly wiped out as she saw Naruto cough once and fall to his knees, clutching his chest. Eyes widening, she startled her caretaker as she rushed towards the blonde.

Naruto was in pain. That prick Kabuto did something to him, in that last second he injected him with something. He could feel it, like poison coursing through him, but it was no ordinary poison. Whatever that thing was, it was hurting him. A shadow fell upon him and he felt a pair of soft hands grab him from the shoulders and force him to lie on the ground. Tsunade's frantic face came into Naruto's vision as she looked for a way to identify what was wrong with the gennin that had defended her.

Imagine her surprise as she saw the ease with which Naruto was dealing with the poison he had been injected with. Her scans showed it to be a mixture of viral strains, destructive bacteria and neurotoxins that should turn the target's muscles to mush. Worse even, the mixture should be affecting the target's chakra system so, no matter how little time it went untreated, the target would suffer for a long time. For Naruto to be able to adapt to even that monstrocity of a poison, it spoke volumes of his power and resilience. Tsunade was further stunned as she saw how Naruto's body worked, a miracle for healers, above and beyond what a human's limits would be.

Naruto got up, harder than he expected as both Tsunade and Shizune were trying to hold him down. However they were forced to let him go as, Orochimaru, angered by Jiraiya as he was, had summoned the snake boss, Manda. Tsunade and Jiraiya also flew by several handseals before they too called for backup, in the form of the toad boss, Gamabunta, and the slug boss, Katsuyu. Naruto quickly grabbed Shizune, who 'eeped' at the contact, before leaping away to make sure she'd be away from the battlefield.

As the three Sannin faced each other, they failed to notice a single boy rush around behind Manda until it was too late. Absorbed by the fight, Manda didn't realize he had made a mistake, until he tried to go underground to avoid becoming roasted. However, it's hard to do something like that when someone holds your tail. Before the surprised snake boss had time to disagree with his predicament, Naruto and a few of his clones pulled him from underground and started swinging him around over their heads.

Gamabunta raised his non-existent eyebrow as he watched his worst enemy whirl round and round. Katsuyu's feelings were better expressed through her summoner, as Tsunade seemed to have broken down in laughter due to the surprised face Manda had made.

Deeming the speed high enough, Naruto and his clones made a grunt as they simoultaneously let go of the tail, sending Manda and his unlucky passengers to roll around the ground painfully. Deciding to cut his losses, Orochimaru dispelled his summon, grabbed his semi-conscious servant and fled by melding with the earth.

A few moments of regrouping later, Tsunade, Shizune, Jiraiya, Naruto and Tonton were walking back to Tanzaku Gai, discussing their fight and what they had gleamed about Orochimaru from it. A little way before the city, Tsunade suddenly stopped and looked at Naruto.

"Well brat, I have to admit it, you surprised me there and made a perfect Rasengan. So I guess you win the bet. Close your eyes."

Naruto closed his eyes and felt the pendant fall into place. A second later he felt a pair of lips touch his forehead as Tsunade whispered to him. "Become a great Hokage Naruto."

It was a tender moment, but one that was unfortunately ruined as Jiraiya had apparently found some inspiration and was writing furiously on his notepad. Too bad he'd never get to finish that as Naruto and Tsunade moved as one, the boy sending a knee to Jiraiya's family jewels as Tsunade gave him one of her legendary punches, launching him into the air.

Shizune and Tonton sweatdropped, thinking 'there's two of them!'. Tsunade on the other hand, smirked, placed an arm on Naruto shoulder and spoke cheerfully. "You know gaki, I think this is the beginning of a very productive relationship."

Ignoring Jiraiya's howl of pain as he disappeared into the horizon, Naruto looked at Tsunade and smiled back at her. "You know, for being a baa-chan, you're not that bad yourself!"

It took but a second for Tsunade to realize Naruto had called her an old lady before she retracted her arm and tried to slug him. Of course, Naruto knew that staying there would be hazardous to his health so he ran off laughing.

Shizune had to smile, it had been a long time since Tsunade had been that happy and relaxed. So, she whistled a happy tune as she walked towards the hotel room, Tsunade's cries of 'Get back her you brat!' and 'I'll show you calling me old!' echoing in the distance. Yes, it was a very good thing coming to that village. A very good thing indeed.

A/N: Sorry for the delay, but unfortunately, life tends to take presedence... As always read and review. It keeps me going. Also, I'll be closing my poll now.

On another note, happy birthday to me and happy reading to you :D

Some people may wonder how I managed to fit sealing things within a sealed space. I will use Sandaime's armor as an explanation as to exactly why it's immensely difficult to do. The storage seals consist of a master seal and a set of slave seals. The entirety of the armor, including the weaponry, each and every bit of it, are stored inside the same space. However, by using the master seal, which is placed on the amulet Sandaime wears, will only unseal the bodysuit and the armor on top of it via delay seals. At the same time, it will enable the slave seals to be activated. Now, think of the storage space. Instead of being a warehouse-like place, it's made of hubs and chambers. Each slave seal is linked to the hub (the armor) and each leads to a chamber. By activating a slave seal, you only unseal an item from the chamber it's dedicated to. So, in the end, it's not a matter creating a storage space within a storage space, but of hierarchy and proper linking. Due to the complexity of the seals and theories behind this (let's face it, not everyone can keep every little detail of every little seal in his mind), only seal masters could hope to do it. It's also the reason an item with such storage seals needs to be prepared specifically for this purpose.

Some may wonder if Tsunade, Jiraiya and Orochimaru are insane. They are correct. They fought one of the hardest, bloodiest, wars in the Ninja World, which meant that, due to the numbers we have on how many Yondie killed, means that each of them must have killed more than a few hundred enemy soldiers. The mental and emotional backlash from such a hideous, yet necessary, act, must have far-reaching concequences. Add personal tragedies like seeing the student you consider a son die, or your own fiance bleed away in your arms and suddenly, sanity became more and more overrated. Yes, Tsunade, Jiraiya and Orochimaru all have a lot of mental and emotional luggage. Neither is without their self-doubts. So, when someone as capable at influencing people as Naruto shows up, he brings these doubts out to the surface. So yes, Tsunade does doubt herself and her skills as a medic. After all, she wasn't able to save her fiance and little brother. Jiraiya doubts his skills as a teacher, since his first students are dead (he doesn't know how they ended up), his next student sold his soul to the Shinigami and his current student is a fucking mutant with a demon in his gut. Orochimaru? He's smart, he knows philosophy and he sure as hell knows how messed up his views are. However, by refusing to accept the fact that he made a mistake, his own mind shudders and trembles when presented with the truth. After all, the truth that Naruto showed him is an impossibility, yet a reality, causing his entire belief system to shake and deteriorate.

Today, on this 9/6/2012, I, Soulblazer87, do hereby leave this site, possibly forever.

I shall not update this, or any other story.

I shall leave them on, however. Should you desire to follow my stories, do so in my new site of residence: www dot yourfanfiction dot com.