Chapter 35: … I'm sorry, I'm out of witty things to say at the moment.

I don't own Naruto, any of its characters, or any references in this story. If I did, horrible things would happen. I do own all OC's and new Jutsu in the story.

o. o. o.

In the gates of hell… AKA the Ōgakari clan training grounds:

"So Shikamaru, I hear that you're pretty smart…" Shadow grinned as she walked away from the collapsed meat heap that was once known as Shino Aburame towards the unnerved Nara.

It was near the end of the second week of training, and Shikamaru was honestly confused as all hell. Shadow's training was erratic and had almost no pattern to it at all. Some days she chased after Shikamaru and Shino with a whip (or two, with or without stinging poison) that she materialized out of nowhere and whipped them bloody for hours while they ran around the ridiculously huge compound and Zuzushi flew lazily overhead. Last time they had actually run PAST Gai and Lee in the process. Shikamaru was seriously considering his envy from clouds to dragons. They could lazily fly about, and kill anything that bugged them.

Yet other times, it was different. Those days the woman seemed to have a calmer and wiser demeanor, guiding the pair through various fighting techniques and strategies that seemed to match their styles perfectly. Both boys had been subjected to what Shadow's gauntlets were truly used for in Shino's training, and to say that he and Shino were impressed was a major understatement. He had seen Shadow give Shino various tactics on how to maneuver his kikaichū that worked incredibly well, tactics that both boys doubted came off the top of her head.

And then there was Shikamaru's training. Honestly, he couldn't understand what he was trying to do. His apparent 'special' training was simply meditating in the shadows of a small grove of trees, or in a small cave that Crypt made at some point in time. Supposedly, he was trying to connect himself to the shadows he was nearby and take command of them, but that was supposed to be impossible from his clan's understanding. Forcing another body to mimic his own via a shadow was one thing, changing shape and giving his own shadows physical capabilities was also possible, but to actually command the shadows of other objects to move and do his bidding was simply out of the question. To change and command the nature of a shadow that did not belong to the user without affecting the shadow's caster was simply unheard of. Not that Shikamaru didn't try to do what Shadow told him, but so far, his progress was non-existent.

…Which brings us back to Shadow walking to Shikamaru with a thoughtful look on her face.

"… hn? Yeah, I guess you could say that." Shikamaru replied in a tired tone that did not match with his unnerved demeanor. "But what does that have to do with my training?"

Shadow sighed before she went to a nearby rock and sat on it, motioning for the boy to do the same. As soon as Shikamaru sat down, Shadow stretched and looked up at the fake sky above her. "… If god had only one element… which one do you think he… or she would have?"

"Huh?" Shikamaru asked dumbfounded, not nearly expecting to be asked that sort of question.

"You heard me, kid." Shadow replied without turning her head. "God, as in the great creator or whatever the fuck you guys want to call it. What element do you think he/she would be if it could only be one element… and don't give me that crap about the Log right now, I'm being serious. Use that giant head of yours and think. Out of all the various elements that exist in the world, the galaxy, the universe… what element portrays his/her powers the best?"

Shikamaru blinked a few times before it registered that Shadow was being absolutely serious about her question. Sighing to himself and muttering under his breath, the Nara put his hands into his thinking position and pondered the rather random question. The air was quiet for half an hour as the pair sat there in silence.

Shadow smirked after the 45 minute mark had passed. She could tell that Shikamaru was on the right track, judging from the frown that was on his face. The woman got up and dusted her legs. "When you come up with your answer, come back to me and tell me your reasoning. 'Til then, I'll be torturing Shino…"

Shikamaru didn't say anything as Shadow walked away. He knew that Shadow knew he had an answer already. It was obvious she was talking about a dark/shadow element. What she was looking for instead was the reason why it would be that… and the more he thought about it, the more he realized that there was far more to his clan's techniques than he possibly would have guessed…

o. o. o.

In another part of the grounds:

"Aw, come on, Nai-chan!" Anko pleaded on her knees to her oldest friend and attempting to do the puppy dog eyes technique.

"You know that doesn't work on me, Anko." Kurenai scolded lightly. "… and I can still see some bloodlust in your eyes while you're doing it."

Anko groaned. "Kurenaiiiii. I really need you to help out with Ino with her genjutsu! I already covered most of the stuff that she would need to take down pinkie, but I still need someone to get her covered with advanced genjutsu! Please? I'll be your best friend…"

Kurenai's eyebrow twitched. "Anko, you already are my best friend. Besides, I can't work on Ino right now, I'm too busy helping Chōji prepare for his match as well…"

Anko's face lit up. "Even better! Train them both at the same time! I mean, it's obvious that Chōji has a crush on Ino, and it's not like they'll actually fight each other in the finals. Besides, they're already on the same team, so they're used to training with each other anyways."

Kurenai mentally kicked herself for walking into that trap. "Grr. Fine, I'll train Ino and see if I can do Chōji at the same time as well, but you owe me big time, Anko. You're paying for my bar tab for the rest of the year after the Exams end."

Anko shrugged. "Sure, you're a lightweight anyways."

Breathing heavily and resisting the urge to kill her friend, Kurenai pondered her current situation. "… Anko, I'm curious. Why are you so interested in Ino's training anyways? You never took much interest in it before…"

Anko pouted. "Isn't it obvious? Word is already around that Ino is like a younger version of me. How well she does in the Exams reflects on me to everyone watching! If she turns enough eyes, I might just get enough political sway to actually be considered for a jōnin promotion! … oh, and there's that whole… mentor… student… connection… thing too, I guess."

Kurenai sighed. "And here I thought you had actually started to turn into a reasonable human being."

Anko chuckled. "Haha. Oh Kurenai, you and your silly thinking thoughts."

Kurenai groaned and started to walk away in order to prevent herself from getting a headache. "Whatever. Just tell Ino to come by the lake near the entrance in half an hour."

Anko smiled and hugged Kurenai from behind. "Thanks Nai-chan!" The purple haired woman turned around. "Oi Ghost! Hana! Kinky Sex time in 30!"

From a fair distance away, Kurenai heard Ghost respond. "Woo! Kinky sex time!"

"What's the safe word?!" Hana's voice echoed from another direction.

"Hana, you pansy! There is no safe word!" Anko replied, completely ignoring the look that Kurenai was giving her.

"Just checking!" Hana answered.

Kurenai could only stare at Anko with righteous fury in her eyes. "I hate you so much right now." She growled.

Anko deadpanned. "Oh, don't give me that. Everyone knows that you've had the least to do down here since the training started, since Sakura's focusing on physical conditioning and there's only a couple of people that actually NEED training in genjutsu related fields for their matches. Besides, Asuma is in charge of Chōji's training for the most part, so you're gonna be spending time with him anyways. If it makes you feel any better, I'll threaten Ino with extra heavy training if she gives you a hard time."

Kurenai glared at Anko for a few seconds before slumping in defeat. "… Fine. But don't think for a second I won't keep quiet about this when I'm plastered, Anko."

The Snake Mistress smirked as she walked towards the exit of the grounds. "Keep telling yourself that lightweight. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to pick what to wear for my happy fun time in a few minutes. Thankfully, Ghost has a few leftovers in storage that supposedly belonged to other friends of the family's. Where some of those costumes come from I have no idea, but they are just so sexy! … Although now that I mention it, several of the smaller ones have been disappearing lately…" The two women paused in silence, not voicing what they were thinking in fear of what the other would say in response… although they both had a pretty good idea who the perpetrator was.

"Sensei's vow of silence?" Anko asked.

"Vow of silence." Kurenai stated in a dead tone.

"All I'll say is that I feel sorry for blondie when the girl finally gets out of her shell." Anko chuckled. "Kage-level stamina or not, he definitely won't be able to outlast…"

"VOW OF SILENCE!" Roared Kurenai.

o. o. o.

In another part of the grounds…

"Don't do anything stupid, Ero-Sennin. If Ero-nii catches you trying to peep on him, he'll kill you, then he'll let Hana-sensei and Anko-sensei have a shot. If you haven't noticed already, they like to play rough. Besides, no one is supposed to know you're here yet." Naruto deadpanned as he continued his physical exercises while a huge number of his clones each attempted to break down a boulder roughly 5 meters across in 10 minutes. By the end of his training, he should be able to do it in 5 seconds. Their progress varied wildly. While most of them had barely made at most 1/3rd of the stone disappear, there were a few that were almost completely done with their task. The goal by the end of the training was to be able to reduce the boulder to pebbles within a few seconds at the slowest, but Naruto was still pretty far from that at the moment.

Jiraiya pouted as he sat on the top of one of his medium sized toads and continued to write in a surprisingly non orange notepad. "Give me some credit, brat! That damn bastard beat the living shit out of me once already. I'm smart enough not to provoke him into giving a repeat performance…"

"Says the man that spied on the Yellow Flash during his private moments with his wife on his honeymoon. Says the man that spied on Baa-chan and was nearly killed. Says the man that went so nuts in that one place in Iwa during my training that…"

"Hey! You can't blame that one on me! The bastard at the bar spiked my drink with something when I wasn't looking!" Jiraiya countered with a red face.

"Sure he did. All I remember is running out of the country being chased by three villages worth of angry civilians and several chūnin after my head for some ODD reason… and you covered in lingerie and a condom blown like a balloon coming out of one of nostrils." Naruto growled. "Honestly, I'm still pretty pissed that no one told me that my fucking father was the Fourth, but then again, I was pretty stupid not to have seen it myself either. I mean honestly, I'm not a Yamanaka, but I have blonde hair and blue eyes. Who else in the Elemental Nations has those attributes?!" Naruto paused. "… that isn't related to one of your 'compatriots'." He added, looking at Jiraiya's blushing perverted face. (ED: There actually is some precedent for naturally blonde haired, blue eyed Japanese people. See the note at the end.)

Jiraiya sighed. "For the last time brat, I'm sorry, but we didn't think you were ready to know at the time, given how sporadic your personality was…" He was interrupted when a timer nearby buzzed.

Naruto rolled his eyes as he stopped punching the training pole he was practicing on. "Time!" He yelled out, causing his small army of clones to stop training and stand up straight. "Anyone break down the entire boulder?" He called out curiously.

"I did!" Called out one of the clones that he couldn't see.

"Same here!" Another yelled.

Naruto listened as a few more clones claimed their progress before silence once again echoed throughout the area. "All right! Clones that did the entire boulder and ones that got at least 3/4ths of the way done, pop yourselves! The rest of you guys keep going! I want to at least reach the 3 minute mark by the time dinner happens!"

"Right!" The clones yelled out with renewed vigor as the memories of the dispelled clones traveled to each Naruto in the vicinity.

"Hey Ero-Sennin, could you make a few more boulders so some of the faster clones can still work after they finish with the ones they started?" Naruto asked as he turned to the sage.

Jiraiya groaned as he got up off the toad he was sitting on and jumped on the ground. The technique that Naruto was asking him to do wasn't that hard. Hell, a reasonably trained genin could make a few dozen before collapsing, but over 1000 boulders? That was taxing even for one of the legendary Sannin. He lazily formed the hand signs he needed before slamming his hands on the ground. "Earth-Style: Boulder Emergence!" He announced as the area in front of them sprouted countless training rocks like weeds.

Naruto nodded as he created 500 more clones. "Thanks Ero-Sennin. All right! Half of you do boulder duty, the other half start practicing the Underground Projection Fish Technique… you know what? The name for this technique is too long and stupid to use all the damn time. From now on, if we want to use it, we'll just call it the Fish Technique. All in favor?"

"Aye!" Roared the clones in agreement, causing Jiraiya to sweat drop.

"Well then, get going! Half on fish, the other half on boulders!" Naruto roared before turning back to his training post again, immune to the scuffle of his clones trying to find a place to train.

Naruto had managed to complete the first step of his earth composition training within a week and had since then been splitting his clones between completing the second step of earth composition training and learning the lower ranked earth techniques, since they did not require large or particularly focused amounts of earth chakra to perform. Right now, his 'Fish' technique was coming by quite well, but it would still be some time before he would be able to use it efficiently in a fight. From what Kakashi had explained to him, as soon as he could perform this technique adequately, it would take at most a day or two to completely master the incredibly useful Double Suicide Decapitation Technique, which was perfect for assassination missions or disabling opponents.

Unfortunately, because his first two opponents in the finals both had dōjutsu that could see chakra, several of his earth techniques would not be as effective as they would have been against… well, everyone else, but the moves were still useful none the less.

Jiraiya's presence was due to the fact that he actually knew Earth-Style: Earth Wall and Earth-Style: Earth Spear. The only reason why he didn't use them was because he wasn't really that good at smaller earth techniques, and he preferred to be on the offensive rather than defensive, which is why he's a bit slow when performing most of his defensive techniques aside from Hari Jizō. He was also there because obviously he could give Naruto a few tips about manipulating earth chakra.

Jiraiya chuckled as he looked around. "You know brat, I'm impressed. Given a decade or so, you might actually be as strong as me!"

Naruto snorted as he went through his break dancing steps. "Says the idiot pervert that can't even go into Sage Mode correctly."

Jiraiya frowned as the toad he was sitting on failed to hold back a deep chuckle. "I'm talking experience-wise, brat. Sure, you might have gone on a few high level missions and be as capable as me in a fight, but you still lack the insight to do everything in between. Talking to people, spying, detecting lies, traps, war; you have almost no experience in those subjects compared to me. As long as your ability to read everything in between the lines is dwarfed by mine, you won't be able to compare to me as a shinobi."

Naruto snorted. "Please. If you wanted to train me in that stuff, you would have actually done it instead of ditching me to train with half assed instructions while you go peeping. You could have at least told me that I get the memories of my clones when they dispel…"

Jiraiya stuttered. "Me? Tell you? Brat, I thought you already knew that the entire time! Hell, you were practically using the technique to clean up camp for the last year of our trip!"

"Don't blame me, you old fart! Every time I used that technique, I spammed the clones so much my head always got blurry since they normally all dispelled at nearly the same time! I thought that since it's a kinjutsu, that's what was supposed to happen!" Naruto countered.

"Well, I guess that's what you get for being a careless little midget!" Jiraiya roared in a childlike manner.

"Shameless old pervert!" Naruto countered with a massive vein coming out of his head.

"Loudmouthed little brat!" Jiraiya announced while pointing to the blonde.

"Wannabe Suna Kabuki dancer!" Naruto yelled.

Jiraiya gasped. "You take that back!"

Naruto held his ground. "Make me!"

Needless to say things, escalated from there and Naruto and Jiraiya ended up wailing on each other in a giant cloud of smoke. Several of the clones were glancing at the spectacle and groaning to themselves. It was if nothing had changed at all.

o. o. o.

In yet another part of the training grounds:

"Did you hear that?" Kakashi asked as he turned his head to a seemingly random direction.

"Hear what?" Asked Sasuke with a raised eyebrow.

"It sounded like two children fighting meaninglessly… I ought to write that down in case I need to use it later…" Kakashi took out a note pad and started to scribble in it before glancing at Sasuke with his free eye. "What? You don't honestly think I come up with all my excuses off the top of my head, do you?"

"Considering how bad most of them are… yes." Sasuke deadpanned. "So can we get on with my training now? I learned the Shadow Clone Technique, and showed that I can make about 10 clones for training without hurting myself, and I just finished my lightning element composition training yesterday..." Sasuke sulked for a moment while he dwelled on the fact that he wasn't a fire element like his family, but a lightning element that just so happens to have a strong secondary affinity to fire. "So what kind of training am I going to do today?"

Kakashi paused as he recollected the training that had occurred these past two weeks. Due to the extra training that Ghost had instilled in Sasuke, as well as his additional training in fire element composition, the young Uchiha had blazed through his training in learning the Shadow Clone Technique and his lightning element composition. While it did take some time for Sasuke to get used to making shadow clones and splitting his chakra, his significantly larger reserves and additional training had aided him greatly. In addition to that, Sasuke's occasional training with Gai and Lee had pretty much ensured that his taijutsu conditioning would be done within only a couple of days. Thinking back now, Kakashi remembered that it only took that much time for the boy to get Chidori down and a couple more to help him fine tune it to the point that he could use it twice in a day. With their given time frame, that should leave them with more than enough time for him to teach Sasuke the fire technique that Ghost had instructed him to teach the boy, as well as a few days to rest…

Sasuke, on the other hand, was getting impatient waiting for Kakashi to snap out of his delirium. He was told that this new technique he would be learning required him to access all of his chakra, so no shadow clones allowed. This infuriated the boy, since he was planning to use his clones to do some more hidden training while he practiced this new technique. It was one of the first things that came to his mind when he learned that he would be learning to make lightning chakra, and he wanted to see what the finished product would be. He would have attempted to use the Exploding Clone Technique since he had seen it with his Sharingan active during Naruto's match, but the comment Kakashi made about it being so chakra intensive that even Naruto had to use it sparingly echoed through his mind. He was curious yes, but not stupid.

"Kakashi…" Sasuke growled, getting his teacher's attention.

"Hm? Ah, right. Training." The cyclops chuckled, getting a twitch from his student before dropping back into a serious attitude and taking a deep breath. "Sasuke, what I'm about to teach you is my own personal technique. This is an A-class assassination technique and extremely dangerous… although not nearly as dangerous as War Scars, but you'll get the idea when you see it… watch carefully." Kakashi flipped through the three seals needed to perform the technique and focused his chakra to his right hand. Almost instantly, a loud series of chirps permeated the air as the silver haired man's hand glowed with blue electricity and chakra, causing Sasuke's eyes to widen as he watched with his Sharingan active. Kakashi held the technique up in front of his student's eyes for a few more seconds before he turned around and charged at a large boulder at full speed, his right hand creating a trench in the ground without even touching it. "CHIDORI!" The ex-ANBU yelled as he thrust his arm completely through the boulder, creating a massive hole in it at least 2 meters in radius before he erupted out the other side.

That was the first time that Sasuke would admit that Kakashi had actually impressed him. Silence reclaimed the area around them as Kakashi ended the technique. "… You're actually going to teach me that?" Sasuke asked skeptically.

Kakashi nodded. "Yes, I am, Sasuke. Despite how much you deny it, I can tell that you value your teammates dearly. So much so that you would do everything in your power to make sure that they are all right…" Kakashi's eyes dropped. "I… realized that too late… and it cost me my eye… and my best friend's life…" Sasuke's demeanor tensed as he registered that Kakashi was telling him something personal. "… This technique is to be used to protect your allies and your friends, Sasuke. Under no circumstances are you to use it against comrades…" He flared some killing intent to prove his point. Needless to say, Sasuke got it.

"But… why are you teaching me the technique in the first place, then?" Sasuke asked in a slightly nervous tone. "Shouldn't you be teaching me other techniques for the Exams, then? … Unless there's another reason why you're teaching me this…" He frowned. Since spending time with Naruto, learning of his secrets, and hearing the blonde's skepticism about his brother's attack on his family, Sasuke had become more analytical, if anything so he would stop being surprised by Naruto all the damn time.

"… they don't call you a genius for nothing, I suppose…" Kakashi sighed before becoming serious again. "You're right, Sasuke. There is something else that is going to happen during the Exams, something extremely big, but I can't tell you exactly what it is. All I can say is that you are more than likely one of the major targets when it happens, which is why I'm making sure that your ace in the hole will be enough to take down most opponents."

Sasuke frowned. "Who else knows?"

Kakashi looked at Sasuke. "Enough to make sure that things hopefully won't get too out of hand. And before you ask, yes, Naruto is one of them. In fact, he is another one of our key players when the shit hits the fan." He paused as he let his words sink in. "When everything goes down, you are to stay with the other rookie Konoha genin at all times, preferably Sakura, Hinata, and Shikamaru."

Sasuke pondered what Kakashi told him before speaking up again. "… does it have to do with Orochimaru and the Curse Seal he gave me?" He asked darkly.

Kakashi paused as he looked at the mark on Sasuke's neck. Before any of the main training had started, before the Ōgakari clan had reformed the Hyūga clan in a single night, Sasuke was examined by Crypt, who was in one of his rare moments of complete sanity. Unfortunately for Sasuke, it required him to be bitten in the same place by Crypt so he could inject his own blood into Sasuke's bloodstream so he could get the most data on the seal. THAT took a while since Sasuke was EXTREMELY against ANYONE putting their mouths to his neck again (and many a fangirl subconsciously grew more depressed for some reason.), let alone a man that spoke in gibberish more than half the time.

Once the yelling and the holding down Sasuke part was finished, Crypt assumed a meditative position so he could focus on what was in Sasuke, only to almost instantly grow extremely pissed. Though few know this, Crypt takes his seal making jobs lethally serious. He can appreciate seals of all types, from torture, to healing, to sealing to whatever, as long as they were well made and planned well. This is why he had no problems working on the Caged Bird Seal. Even though it was a seal that enforced slavery, and it had a few mistakes here and there when it came to design, it was still a well-made seal, with its purpose and design put as a priority.

Orochimaru's Curse Seal, on the other hand, was blasphemy. It was like taking a work of art and purposefully drawing all the lines uneven, too thick, too thin, pissing on it, and then putting it in a paper-mache border. While the seal itself was impressive, using a combination of poison, chemicals and blood as a medium and including subliminal and body enhancing functions in addition to entwining itself to the owner's DNA, the features and parameters of various portions of the seal were so outlandishly over or under scaled that the efficiency of the entire thing was a mere fraction of what it should be. It was no wonder that only 10% of the people granted the seal died upon receiving it. It was like the man was purposefully trying to kill as many people as possible in the testing process with this thing!

Muttering several dark and violent curses, Crypt had set himself to work on Sasuke. He couldn't do anything about several of the body modification aspects of the seal yet, but he could at least reduce the physical impact of using the seal and excise the subliminal messaging part without any problem. He mentally giggled as the tiny part of Orochimaru's soul that was injected into Sasuke screamed as his own piece butchered it painfully. The process, however, left the Uchiha bedridden for a couple of days.

Since then, Crypt had been spending most of his spare (sane) time studying up on some more seals. He claimed that given a few weeks, he could not only reduce the effects of using the seal to almost negligible levels, but that he could adjust the seal to enable Sasuke to use the second level that he had found hidden underneath the extra layers of bullshit that Orochimaru had added to it... just not in those words… or language. Still, he advised… okay, practically threatened Sasuke to never use the seal if he wanted to live a long and remotely decent life. Needless to say, Sasuke agreed.

"… It's related to Orochimaru… yes." Kakashi admitted, not willing to say out loud that there was going to be an invasion in a few weeks.

Sasuke remained quiet for several moments as he let Kakashi's words register before walking past his teacher in a serious manner. "… Then what are we doing here wasting time? How do I focus my chakra for Chidori?"

o. o. o.

In Kumogakure:

Yugito Nii yawned as she walked through her home village. She had just taken a bath at the local onsen after completing an annoying A-rank mission that the Raikage had sent her on. Seriously, that man and his younger brother were so immature at times that it was a wonder how they were both so incredibly strong.

A Killer and Bee Killer, two of the most powerful shinobi on the planet, and complete idiots. The elder was always letting his temper get the best of him, and the younger one was a wannabe rapping moron. Sometimes she wondered how she, a clan-less orphan, had managed to get their respect, even if she did have the two-tailed cat sealed inside of her and could hence use the term cat fight literally to scare the shit out of any man that got on her bad side. It bugged her to no end that she was the person the secretaries called whenever one or both of the brothers proved to be too much to handle. Still, it gave the people more of a reason to respect her instead of fear her, and that was always a plus considering what she knew about the way most jinchūriki were treated.

Stretching lazily, the blonde haired woman walked back to her apartment, which was located near the Raikage's tower, and looked in her mailbox. She didn't have that much of a social life, so even if she left for a long period of time, there wouldn't be much to look at besides magazines, bills, and the occasional anonymous love letter that she never bothered to read.

"Bill, Bill, love letter, you may have already won 10,000,000 ryō, bill, weapons magazine, letter from Fenrir, bill, bi…" Yugito froze as she backed up a few letters and looked at the letter from Fenrir again… ignoring the obvious question of how a wolf could write a letter. Opening the envelope slowly in case it held any traps or explosives, the woman carefully took out the single piece of paper and read the short message.


It is time we talk with some allies. Come to the exams in the leaves. 1 and 9 will be waiting for you. It would be best to come alone, if possible. Look for my eyes and lightning.


Yugito froze. It had been over half a year since she was peeked on by the three legged wolf, and to be perfectly honest, she had all but completely forgotten about him since then. Sure, she had told Bee about the message and had looked up the group known as Akatsuki. It was a bit concerning that such a group existed - 9 individuals that are all S-class missing-nin? It was hard enough finding one! - , but to be honest, she had just forgotten with all the missions she had been assigned lately. Since Bee was still doing some major training at Unraikyō, she had been taking a fair share of his missions because she was the only other jinchūriki in Kumo.

Looking at the letter again, she froze when she saw how she was being addressed. 2. 1 and 9 will be waiting for you. Oh crap, that means that he was serious?! The containers of the 1 and 9 tails were already in on this thing?!

Yugito groaned as she felt another headache come up, usually a sign that the two tails wanted to say something. It was less noticeable during combat because normally she had enough adrenaline pumping through her veins at that point to kill a horse.

Interesting… Ichibi and Kyūbi are involved… The cat demon purred. Those two are not ones for… teamwork, as you humans put it…

'So you think that the letter is a fake, then? Or some kind of ruse to try and lure me to Konoha so they can capture me?' Yugito thought back.

Perhaps, kitten… however, it is not likely. Remember the power this Fenrir exerted that night, the look in his eyes. I do not believe that he would need to trick us if he truly wanted us to be captured. He has the means to find us and the power to take us down.

… I believe we should do as he says. If his previous warning still stands, then we had best know what we're up against and who our allies are. It's not every century that Kyūbi and Shukaku are willing to join forces…

Yugito frowned as she burned the letter, already memorizing it word for word. 'Ugh, yeah, but the Exams he's talking about are in Konoha of all places!'

It doesn't matter if they have a clan full of worthless mutts, kitten, you have a demon cat within you! Flair your fur for once! Nibi growled angrily, knowing how much Yugito also loathed the animals referred to as dogs, and hence wolves.

'Fine, I'll go! I needed a break from work anyways.' Yugito mentally grumbled as she started to go through her things to see what she had and what she needed to sort out. 'I'll just tell Raikage-sama that I'm going on vacation and ask him to give me a permit to get into Konoha so that I can see the Exams. It shouldn't be too hard to do. Hell, I remember that there have been some Konoha-nin that came here to see the Chūnin Exams if they're being held here, even though we don't send genin to each other's Exams anymore… not after that Hyūga fiasco.'

Your Fourth was caught in a moment of weakness. He had been in charge for less than a year when the meetings took place, and he was swayed by the more seedy members of your council. We almost went to war again, and he took the blame on our side. He did not make the same mistake again… Nibi growled, remembering the incident. Through some second-hand snooping, Yugito and Nibi had gone through the backgrounds of their village's council members in order to find out who was responsible for that predicament. Needless to say that the ones responsible for it were also the ones who caused the Hyūga incident. Within a year, several councilors had disappeared mysteriously, much to the saner member's, and the Raikage's delight.

'Let's just hope that none of the Hyūga still hold grudges… the last thing we need right now is for another international incident to occur…'

o. o. o.

Back at the compound:

Anko and Hana looked down at Ghost, who was clearly unconscious and face first in a pool of his own blood. The pair turned to Hinata and Neji curiously.

"What happened?" Hana asked curiously as she poked the man with a stick and two of her triplets sniffed his body curiously.

"Ghost-sensei bet us that he could knock himself unconscious by excessive bleeding without physically injuring himself or using chakra after we got into an argument during a lecture about what to do while being captured by an enemy." Hinata answered.

"We didn't believe him, but he apparently proved us wrong…" Neji added in, nudging Ghost's still body with his foot.

"How did he do it?" Anko asked curiously as Hana checked his body for any extra wounds.

Neji and Hinata looked at each other nervously. "Um… well, he first spread out his arms and legs to show that he wasn't doing anything to himself… then he just kind of screwed up his face for a moment, then he blushed… then all of a sudden he started to bleed extremely heavily from his nose, like it was a fire hose gone wrong or something. It lasted for about 10 seconds before he ended up flat on his face. We were wondering what to do when you guys showed up." Neji replied in an uncertain tone.

Hana and Anko just stared at Neji, then back down at Ghost. "… I knew he was a pervert… but damn…" Anko whistled. "I doubt even Jiraiya could pull something like that off."

"Jiraiya?" Hinata asked. "You mean the Sannin?"

Hana nodded as she picked Ghost's body up and slung it over her shoulder. "He's legendary among women for being a notorious peeper and a self-proclaimed super pervert. If you guys see a middle aged man with long spiky white hair and a forehead protector with the kanji for oil on it… and he's near the women's side of a bath house, do everyone a favor and give him a jūken strike in the 'nads for every women out there."

"And with that said, we shall now leave to perform unspeakable acts that are reserved for the period known as Kinky Sex Time." Anko said in an authoritative tone.

"Woo, kinky sex time…" Ghost quietly cheered out unconsciously despite his anemic condition.

Neji and Hinata just stared at the three as they walked away.

"So… Neji-nii-san, how are you faring now that the clan is now united…?" Hinata asked hesitantly, trying to ignore what she just saw.

Neji paused as he contemplated Hinata's question. He had often dreamed what it would be like if the Caged Bird Seal was banished. With the new seal, which looked like a sun inside a spiral design, aptly named the Outer Light Seal, the Caged Bird version was completely unnecessary. However, this did not end the inner conflict of the Hyūga clan as smoothly as he had hoped.

Because the original Main house was left completely out of the loop during the entire operation, there was much argument when word had finally spread that there was a new seal that would be placed on everyone in the clan. In their panic, several more conspirators stupidly made themselves known and attempted to kill Hiashi and members of his family. Luckily, Hinata's great increase in skill had caught many of the attackers off guard, and the rest were held down by members of the recently freed Branch house.

With aid from the Ōgakari clan, Hiashi and the elders that did not go behind his back organized the clan's members so that they would be able to calm everyone down… except for the occasional times when someone took their eyes off of Crypt and he ended up trying to eat another Hyūga's head. Oddly enough, the insane man's actions relieved some of the tension in the compound… sort of… more like replaced it, in all actuality.

Hanabi, on the other hand, was a whole spectrum of emotions. She was confused as to why things were changing, she was happy that the Branch house was being set free, she was scared about not knowing what was going to happen next, but most of all she was in awe of Waltz. As far as the girl was concerned, the entire thing had been Waltz's doing, considering she knew him the best and thought that since he was the elder of his clan, he was the one in charge of the whole operation. For the sake of not arguing with a little girl, everyone just let her believe it.

The transition from pseudo-servants to equals was not going as smoothly as some might have (to be frank, unrealistically) expected it to, of course. The first problem was driving home the concept that the former Main house members were not going to be waited on hand and foot by the ex-Branch house members. While many Main house members had undergone a shinobi style upbringing, a number had refrained from their clan's majority occupation in exchange for other professions, such as negotiators and representatives for the clan as a whole. There were also, unfortunately, some who were simply clueless when it came to tasks such as cleaning or cooking, something that all Branch house members were quite familiar with.

A good portion of the Main house members were simply relieved that the constant threat of the Caged Bird Seal was gone. It was an open secret in the family that several of the arrested elders had often used the threat of slapping the seal on any of the Main house members that rubbed them the wrong way.

On the other side, the ex-Branch house members were having troubles of their own. Freedom was something that they had all dreamed about at some point in their lives, but now that they had it, many honestly didn't know what to do. Even with the new seal, it was pretty stupid to just up and leave the clan, and many of the older members of the clan were content with continuing to do what they were doing before, whether it was cooking or guard duty or shinobi duties. They didn't have to answer to NEARLY as many obnoxious, stuck-up pricks in their family now, but all in all, it was life as usual for them, only easier.

On the clan council side, things were a bit hectic. Not absolutely chaotic and violent, just busy. With the Branch house freed and half of the original Hyūga elders taking turns visiting Ibiki on a continuous basis, seats had to be filled, and everyone (who got the joke) agreed that it would be a bright, sunny, and rainbow filled day in Otogakure before all those seats were filled with Main house members. Said chosen members were selected and elected by the Branch house exclusively. True, several of the remaining elders were less than anxious to see these changes occur within the clan, but they were not stupid enough to deny that the world was changing, and that they would need to adapt to ensure that their clan would survive with their honor intact.

There would have been more chaos and uncertainty in the clan during the time, had Ghost and Scabbard not informed all the elders that there was 'an impending threat to Konoha that was approaching soon'. The pair had told the elders enough to convey the message that something really big was going down, and that they should get EVERYONE in the clan prepared discretely to reduce casualties. That meant clan techniques were to be taught to everyone in the clan, preferably at once with mixed groups. After all, nothing brings people together better than impending doom from a mysterious enemy.

That being said though, Neji, Hinata, Hiashi, and the Ōgakari clan were all looked at with distinction by the Hyūga for their part in the great change… except for Crypt, but no one could blame them for that considering he's… well, Crypt. Since that night, the entire clan had treated the group with the utmost of respect and approval, much to most of the Ōgakari clan's annoyance, since formalities did not mix with them well.

The remaining elders had even gone so far as to apologize - in a Hyūga way mind you, but still apologize - to Hinata for their treatment of her. They gave all sorts of excuses for their behavior, but Hinata just brushed it aside and said that as long as they don't give a repeat performance, they could consider it all water under the bridge. To be honest, Hinata didn't want to bother with their excuses much either, knowing that they either didn't mean it or that the ones that were really responsible for her suffering were getting what they earned tenfold from Ibiki. Said scarred man was extremely happy due to the fact that he had always wanted to get his hands on some of the more arrogant members of the village's clan hierarchy.

o. o. o.

In a dark room somewhere in Konoha:

"I AM VERY HAPPY!" Stated an elated Ibiki as he continued to work on one of the more pompous and currently screaming Hyūga elders.


Let it be known that Ibiki was not one to hold in his emotions when he was 'working' without the task of obtaining information.

o. o. o.

Back to Neji and Hinata:

Neji sighed as he thought of all these events. "It's… an interesting experience, Hinata-sama… it will take some time for things to calm down… but I think I am beginning to finally feel as if I have a family again…"

Hinata looked at her cousin with a gentle smile. "That's good to hear, Neji-nii-san…"

Neji sighed as he turned to Hinata. "I should be more worried about you, Hinata-sama. You are going to fight up against Uzumaki-san in the finals… and your feelings for him are not exactly kept hidden…"

Hinata smiled at her cousin as she turned away from him. "… true, Nii-san. My feelings for Naruto-kun are not the best kept secret in the village…" Hinata stopped roughly a dozen meters from Neji before she started to spin rapidly, kicking up massive amounts of dust and erecting a Kaiten that just barely stopped short of impacting the stunned Neji. The barrier held firmly for well over 30 seconds before it started to recede, revealing the small girl's form again standing tall without a single flaw in her stance and breathing calmly inside a crater that was surprisingly deep for one made by a simple Kaiten… even though the size of the one she had just made was almost 6 times as big as the standard sized Kaiten. (A/N: Think of it this way. Judging from the manga, Neji's Kaiten reached a max distance of about 2 meters in radius.)

"… However, the exact range of my abilities is something that only a select few are aware of." She stated calmly before walking to her own area of the training grounds. "Do not worry about me, Nii-san. I am well aware of what Naruto-kun is capable of. More than that, he was my secret sparring partner before I joined Team 8. Your concern is comforting, but misplaced. If I were you, I would be still training for your match, Nii-san. Otherwise, Lee-kun might defeat you in front of the whole village before you can force him to open his gates…"

Neji stared at Hinata. "… to be perfectly honest Hinata, I would rather be defeated by him before he opens more than one gate than fight him with them open after what we saw in that match. Being a chūnin is pretty much worthless if every bone in my body is smashed and every organ is beaten to a pulp."

Hinata shook her head. "I'm surprised, Nii-san. Have you already forgotten what Gai-sensei's reaction was right before Lee-kun opened his gates? The technique was clearly forbidden, and the only reason why he even used it in the first place was because Ghost-sensei and Naruto-kun prompted him to use it, and even then he was unwilling to unleash it. Lee-kun would not use such a dangerous technique on you unless he was absolutely sure that there was no other way he would be able to win the match, Nii-san. Even then, you should have more faith in your teammate. Lee-kun would certainly know when to pull his punches should the need arises. He respects you greatly as his rival and his friend. Besides, I am actually interested in your match. It is, after all, the first match of the day. You two have a responsibility to start things off for the rest of us. You in particular will be representing the entire Hyūga clan. Not the Branch house, for those times are behind us, but our entire clan."

Neji stood in place as he contemplated Hinata's words while the girl walked away.

It wasn't until later that he realized that in addition to the massive crater, there were dozens of deep trenches and slash marks all around the initial hole that Hinata created, minus the small area that Neji had been standing in. The boy simply gaped as he analyzed the grounds in front of him. What he had at first assumed was a massive Kaiten was actually a combination of three separate attacks whose total effective range and lethality were enough to take down even a jōnin with ease if timed right, with a fairly large margin of error to boot.

During his spare time for the remainder of the month, Neji would ponder more than once about the oncoming match between Naruto and Hinata… and the odds of both of them coming out of the fight without being permanently crippled… or at least alive.

o. o. o.

In another part of the grounds:

"DODGE!" Roared Waltz as he punted another exploding soccer ball at Sakura, who barely managed to do just that as the flying projectile flew inches past her head before colliding with small boulder and blowing up spectacularly. Unfortunately, the girl didn't have time to marvel at the explosion as she had to jump out of the way of a falling Waltz, who shattered the earth effortlessly with a punch.

While this training was very similar to what the poor pink haired girl had gone through when she first trained with Tsunade, Waltz had decided to turn things up a notch and was constantly alternating between kicking explosives at the girl and surprise taijutsu attacks. It was easy to see that the old man was at least as powerful as her previous sensei, and just as fast despite the fact that he walked around in public with that wooden staff of his. She knew better than to fight back against the old man. The one time she tried to punch him, he countered it with his own.

He nearly shattered her arm when their fists met before her entire body was thrown almost 40 meters away. The old man had not even batted an eyelash from the collision. She would not make that mistake again.

Since she had started her training, her reflexes and chakra control had exploded, though she was still nowhere near her teammate's levels. With the old man's constant training, Ghost's previous conditioning, and her past memories restored, Sakura estimated that her reflexes, control, and form, were roughly 80% of what they were before the travel back in time. Her reserves were about 65%, but that was understandable considering she was still 13 and had not hit puberty yet. However, with her new training in genjutsu, she would almost hazard to say that she was even more dangerous as a whole than she was before.

Of course, that did nothing to save her from the giant of an old man that was constantly inches away from killing her for the sake of training.

"DODGE!" Yelled Waltz as he rushed towards the girl with surprising speed with an arm cocked back. Sakura wasted no time getting out of the old man's strike zone as he punched, but she missed the fact that he was holding his staff in his other hand and was hit hard when he swung his arm while she was focused on his punching arm. The girl went flying and hit another large boulder almost 20 yards away hard before landing on the ground. Sakura coughed heavily as she took note that her arm was at least fractured, most likely broken, when her nerves suddenly screamed at her claiming that danger was nearby. "DODGE!" Sakura did not bother to look as she kicked her protesting legs and propelled herself to the side just as the old man's frame fell through the air and crushed the ground beneath him.

"I heard you the first time…" Growled Sakura as she attempted to put some more space between her and the old man while healing her arm with medical ninjutsu.

"Could have fooled me." Waltz replied as he walked out slowly from the crater while leaning on his staff like a normal old man. "… you're still too easily distracted." He growled as his stone blue eyes met the girl's light green eyes. If a person had asked Sakura what had made her truly believe that the Ōgakari clan were all over 2000 years old, she would tell them that the look in their eyes when they were serious was what sealed the deal. There was an incredible power and presence that echoed through those eyes that simply could not be imitated.

And that feeling was triple when it came to Waltz. Those eyes spoke worlds about the man. Ghost may have had the most irregular eyes, but the old man definitely conveyed the strongest will. The pink haired girl would not have been surprised if the term 'set in stone' was originally talking about the old man's oculars.

"See the punch for what it is, a punch." The old man rumbled deeply. "Ignore how strong it is. Forget how strong I am, how old I am, how big my body is. When I punch at you, dodge where my attack's range is, where the arm will be, and while you are doing so, focus your eyes on my other limbs while keeping your nerves sharp to detect any potential trick that might happen near or behind you. The second you feel something is off, don't hesitate to move. It's better to be safe than dead. Keep your eyes open." Waltz lectured seriously.

Sakura frowned. "Well, excuse me for not having sensitive enough nerves yet. I'm still a genin physically, you know."

Waltz smirked. "True, however you have spent a fair amount of time undergoing Ghost's pranks and torment. Your reflexes are already far more developed than what they would be. Your training with me is to hone those senses further, to the point where you would instinctively react if a rogue kunai is thrown at you from behind on your off day, much less in the middle of a battle." He went silent for a moment before continuing. "Remember this, Sakura: among all the genin your age, you were among those that proved most useful in the future and showed the most progress with your enhanced strength and your exceptional medical skills. To be blunt about it, it's pretty much the ONLY reason why your memories were returned; otherwise we could have used the chain link you used for something else. Don't betray our expectations for you." Silence permeated the air as the old man let his words sink in to Sakura's head like a white hot nail. The girl had never outwardly admitted it, but she knew more than anyone else that before her training, she was absolutely useless as a shinobi in almost all aspects aside from making a few fast hand seals and being a living shinobi encyclopedia.

Waltz paused as he stood next to the boulder that Sakura had crashed into. Suddenly the man punched his free arm into it, causing his arm to stick in it temporarily before he lifted the entire thing with little to no effort above his head. Sakura gaped as she saw the sadistic grin on the old man's face as it was shadowed by the boulder over his head. "Let's continue our training now, shall we?"

o. o. o.

Several hours later, at the training grounds special recovery springs area:

"Ahhh!" Gai sighed as he relaxed in the springs next to his favorite student Lee. "These springs are most youthful, Lee! It makes training in this interesting area even more youthful and enjoyable than before! Nothing completes a great day of training than a relaxing bath in a hot springs!"

"Yes, Gai-sensei! These springs are most enjoyable!" Mini-Gai replied with conviction.

"Holy crap, so THAT's what you two look like when you're not wearing spandex." Chuckled Ghost as he and Crypt walked towards the springs with swimming trunks on. "I don't understand it. If you two wore almost anything else, and had a dresser do something about your hair and eyebrows, you two would be beating off women left and right!" He chuckled. Gai and Lee, on the other hand, were silent and momentarily freaked out due to the fact that they noted that Crypt had his arms free. Oh… and the fact that Ghost had a giant gaping hole on the right side of his chest. Ghost noted this as he saw the two staring at Crypt and himself. "Don't worry about Crypt; we managed to train him to not do anything while in bath houses and springs." He replied casually as if he was talking about a dog before getting in.

Gai recovered first as he noticed the smaller and more recent scratches on Ghost's body. The man smirked. While he would refrain from saying anything too… unyouthful, male banter was still going to be something that Lee would have to get used to as he got older. "I see you have several fresh marks on you, Ghost-san. Is that from your training, or from your… youthful time with Anko and Hana-san?"

Ghost smirked. "Take an unyouthful guess, Gai." The three elder males chuckled in their own way while Lee looked around in a confused manner. "It would be best if you waited a few years before you joined in on these conversations, Lee." Ghost laughed. "Lord knows you're impressionable enough already."

"They had sex…" Crypt whispered out loudly to Lee before Ghost punched the man hard in the face.

"So how is your instruction going, Ghost-san?" Gai asked curiously, also desperately trying to change the subject so Lee's mental scaring would be minimized. "I am curious to know about the improvements of the other students."

Ghost sighed as he stretched. Gai noted the details in the male's physique, as no one aside from Anko or Hana had actually gotten a detailed look at his body in action before. Most of the time that he was less-than-dressed, he was unconscious and being used as a guinea pig for medical training, meaning said body was maimed beyond all reason by Anko and Hana. It was a lean and solid body, not unlike ones found on dancers, built for extreme flexibility, agility and speed, but still fairly strong. That giant scar on his chest was concerning, though. Under most circumstances, a human with that sort of wound would either be dead, or would at least have trouble moving his right arm in certain directions. Ghost however, had no issues moving them in said directions, as he remembered several sparring sessions with the man where he performed acts of agility that even he had trouble following. Glancing at Crypt, Gai could tell that the man's body was an odd combination of flexibility and power. Even more odd were what he saw of the man's neck, back and jaw muscles. Those were CLEARLY the most developed of their kind he had ever seen on a human being. In addition to that, his arms were fairly taut and powerful, and his fingers had a claw like shape to them. "Let's see…" Ghost mused as he dropped his arms. "Hinata is still a monster. Her training these days is really just increasing her reserves and fine tuning her technique arsenal. She's also helping out Neji a bit, so he'll be able to put up a pretty good fight against you Lee, though anything above the First Gate would be inadvisable for the match…" He chuckled.

"I am still quite irritated that you convinced my student to use such a technique without my permission…" Growled Gai, seemingly ignoring Lee's look of shame next to him before he continued with a sigh. "… However, you did give Lee a good reason to do so. I did not enter him in the Exams until I knew he was at least chūnin material, and that means that I have to trust his judgment more. I cannot be there to instruct him when to and when to not use his final techniques, especially when he is unable to perform nin- and genjutsu. For that, Lee, I must apologize to you."

Lee started to cry. "Gai-sensei…"

"Guys, unless you want me AND Crypt to hug you again, you'll stop the sappy crap right now." Ghost stated bluntly, causing the two clones to shiver and Crypt to giggle. "Other than that, how is Lee's training been going so far?"

Gai managed to get his head back on straight and started to cough. "Yes, um. About that, I do not know what happened, but Lee's training has become more youthful than ever. Ever since we have begun training here, his overall ability has increased dramatically, as well as… well…"

"Something interesting happen?" Ghost asked curiously with an eyebrow raised. He almost missed the smirk that was on Crypt's face.

"I do not know why, but I am able to open the First Gate for much longer periods of time without suffering any side effects, aside from fatigue and minor muscle degeneration." Lee explained, getting an odd look from Ghost. "My training has become even more fulfilling, as I am somehow able to move at my best for longer periods of time as well. It is as if something happened to my body while I was recovering from my match against Naruto-kun…"

Ghost sighed as he moved towards Lee and examined his arms and body. He barely had to look at the boy before coming to the correct conclusion. "I should have known… you know, you should really start to ask people if they want their body's base genetic structure changed before you start working them, Crypt." The man groaned, much to the shock of Gai and Lee.

"What?!" The pair practically screamed while Crypt giggled darkly.

"He does this sometimes." Ghost sighed as he got back into his seat. "My guess is he did it the afternoon the spy tried to kill Naruto after the preliminaries. Crypt has a habit of… rewarding people that have gained his interest that don't piss him off. Only problem is that he often does it without getting permission first."

Lee remained speechless as he looked at his own body. Gai on the other hand looked like he was only a few seconds away from mutilating Crypt. "What has he done to my student?" Gai growled in a dead serious tone.

Ghost lazily put his hands up. "Whoa, whoa. Calm down, Gai. Lee is still 100% human. Crypt is insane, but the guy is also as cunning and tricky as the rest of the family. All he did was upgrade Lee's body to accommodate his fighting style more. His muscles can take in more oxygen, he has stronger organs, he can probably use more than 20% of his body's muscles naturally now, and from what you've told me, his muscles can probably naturally handle more strain than normal, which is why Lee can open the First Gate without much feedback now. If anything, you could probably say that Crypt just gave Lee a bloodline limit, albeit a small one. This isn't the first time he's done this to someone."

Gai and Lee froze at this information. "I… have a bloodline limit?" Lee stammered.

Ghost nodded. "In a very vague way, yes, you do. I don't know how your inability to sense chakra works, so I don't know if THAT is genetic, but what Crypt gave you is written into your very cells." The man shrugged. "You still have to practice taijutsu and train your body to become strong. In your case, your upper limits and average physical ability are potentially drastically higher than the average shinobi. Your recovery potency will be higher than a normal shinobi's as well, so you will be able to take more damage than most people would, although I would still advise you from doing anything too stupid. Other than that…" Ghost pondered as he made a mental checklist of Lee's skills. "I THINK, keyword here because I'm not too keen on testing this, but I think that if you ever become skilled enough to open all 8 Gates, you MIGHT be able survive afterwards… although I would absolutely recommend against doing so." He relaxed back into his seat. "Just make sure not to tell anyone about this. Crypt only gives upgrades to people that have gained his respect. Most people don't reach that point before they become a bloody mess on the floor."

Crypt chuckled, gaining the pair's attention. They shifted in unease as they noticed his blood red eyes focusing on them without wavering in the slightest. The spark of insanity was absent as the sight of a cold blooded fighter appeared before the two taijutsu experts. "Keep fighting, kid." Crypt growled. "… It's rare for someone like you to appear in our line of work and get this far. Consider what I gave you a reward for your achievements." His stained eyes flashed hungrily. "Put it to good use. I'm looking forward to what you will accomplish in the future…"

o. o. o.

In Sunagakure:

"Good work, Baki…" The Kazekage droned from behind his blinds.

"There was a bit of trouble during the preliminaries, but Temari and Gaara have managed to safely advance to the finals. There should be no issues with the plan…" Baki stated with his head bowed down.

"Indeed…" The Kazekage said, clearly trying to hide his disappointment with his eldest son. "… Now, from here… I presume our deal with the Sound is still strong?"

Baki nodded slightly as he took out the scroll that Kabuto had given him and handed it to one of his leader's assistants. "Here's the plan from Sound."

The leader of Suna paused. "Then… we will be counting on the work of you and your team that the day…"

"… but Kazekage-sama, with only 4 members including me, can we not place troops around the border of Fire Country and call it a military exercise?" Baki asked, concerned about the entire situation.

"Konoha isn't stupid…" One of the advisors answered. "Their ANBU are already on the move. If we do that, we will draw too much attention to ourselves." He took out a registration form that was commonly used for enabling foreign ninja into other countries. "As expected, the forces we can bring into Konoha are severely restricted. That is why we sent Gaara and the others…"

Baki remained silent as his way of accepting the reasons for such little backup.

"Now… go." The Kazekage stated.

"As you command…" Baki stated as he shunshined out of the room.

Why? He thought to himself as he jumped over the buildings of his home town. Why had he not spoken up about Gaara's recent change in behavior? It was clear that the boy was hiding something from him, and he did not like what Kankurō and Temari had told him about the blonde talking to Gaara in such a familiar manner before the Exams. He REALLY didn't like it when he saw said blonde in action during the preliminaries. If his hunch was correct, then going through with the invasion plan was an extremely bad idea, regardless of what potential spoils could be obtained should they prove victorious. He could not help but think that Suna was getting taken advantage of in some way with this deal.

Baki was so caught up in his thoughts that he almost missed the person spying on him. The man stopped on the roof of a large building and turned around. "Who's there?! Show yourself!" Baki ordered out in a tone that betrayed none of his unease at the moment.

His expression however changed drastically as he heard a dry cackling from his pursuer as a shadow appeared in front of him.

"You! What are you of all people doing here?!"

o. o. o.

Back at the compound:

Scabbard stood silently over Tenten as the girl put the finishing touches on her new set of sealed kunai. The daggers were inscribed with a special lightning element seal that would let out a large electromagnetic pulse when triggered. They were near useless in an up front battle, but they do manage to disorient unaware opponents that are caught in the blast, among other things.

"There!" Tenten claimed as she breathed out a breath of relief. She had been working on these particular kunai for a while now and they were proving to be more challenging than she had first assumed.

"Impressive…" Scabbard mused. "I assumed that it would take you longer to finish the seals for this task."

Tenten chuckled. "This? Yeah, it was proving to be a bit difficult for me to make at first, but then when I thought about what it was supposed to do and the nature of its uses, it all fell into place after a while…"

"Indeed." Scab replied as he looked at the girl's collection of weapons to her side. "… I am intrigued. How can you wield such a wide variety of weapons so easily? I have seen you practice before with a good number of them, and I have yet to see a weapon in your hands that did not dance with less grace than a bird. You are too young to have trained thoroughly with each brand separately and still have the same level of skill as you do now."

Tenten blushed as she chuckled nervously. "I really don't know. Every time I pick up a weapon, it's like they're a part of me. Every time I see one, I can tell how it was made, the nature of each one… hell, sometimes I can practically see the past of some of the more used ones. Even my dad is confused by it sometimes… I mean, I still have to practice to get the kinks out of my form, but for the most part it's like all the training is stuck in me the second I pick the things up."

Scabbard had not taken his eyes off the girl as she explained her affinity with weapons. Something … intent had entered his eyes during her explanation. "… may I… ask you a few questions?" He asked hesitantly.

Tenten blinked. "Sure… I guess."

Scabbard sat down and continued to stare at the girl, unnerving her a bit. "Do you make all your weapons yourself?"

Tenten nodded. "Almost. My family owns a weapons shop and we deal with many blacksmiths, but we make a few ourselves as well. My folks never let me near the premade weapons when I was little, so I started to help my dad in the forge as the next best thing. Next thing I knew, I was making kunai and shuriken for my classes in the academy, then some tantō for the ANBU that drop by the shop. Pretty soon I was repairing and doing custom orders instead of my dad, since I was better at it than he was…"

Scabbard nodded, blinking slowly as he looked at the girl's weapons carefully, raising an eyebrow as he noticed a sword among the cluster of well-made blades. "… I see you have attempted to recreate the sword I made for your shop as a gift…" He picked the blade up and examined it with a critical eye, not paying attention to the blushing girl. "… Impressive work. It is not up to my level, but you seem to have the idea and feel of the blade down quite well. Do you replicate weapons often?"

Tenten kept her head down. "Yeah. It's how I got so good at smithing. I kept on seeing all these beautiful weapons passing by me while working in the shop, and I couldn't help myself. I would always think to myself, what if I had this sword? This axe? A lot of people seem to be able to tell how strong a person is or what they lived through just by looking at them. They wonder what it would be like to live like that, or be that person, to imitate them and try to be like them. I guess I do the same thing, only with weapons. Whenever I see a sword or a blade with a strong history, I get weak in the knees. I can practically feel what they went through, what purpose they held at some point even if I can't tell what it is at the moment…"

"These… fakes… do you make them often?" Scabbard asked, not noticing Tenten wincing at the word 'fake'.

"Y-yeah…" She mumbled. "They come out well, but they're never as good as the original…"

"And I assume that you use these fakes in combat?" Scabbard asked as his eyes brushed over the weapons in the girl's arsenal and seeing that she had a replica of Zabuza's executioner blade before he himself had tweaked it.

Tenten's temper was rising as the man continued to use the word 'fake' to describe her weapons. "Yeah, the ones that are good enough for combat…" She replied defiantly.

Waltz paused for a moment as he looked at the weapons, the nicks in the blades, the signs of use, blood and sweat. He only needed a little more information… "You prefer to use your fakes in combat rather than the originals… you feel as if they are more natural for you to use, yet the forms you take when you wield them are astonishingly similar to those used with the original weapons without even trying… correct?"

Tenten froze. She was about to ream the man a new dozen holes when he asked about her ability to naturally use weapons the way they were meant to be used. No one had ever discovered that hidden trait of hers, and she had made sure that she had never told anyone about it, either. "H-how…?" She stammered in confusion.

Reaching into his coat, Scabbard took out a small jeweled dagger and handed it to the girl, who eyed it skeptically. "…what can you tell me about this blade?"

Tenten remained quiet as she held the blade in her hands, shifting over and staring at the jewels. "This… isn't a normal dagger…" She started slowly. "There's a lot of blood on it… but it hasn't seen much battle… for sacrifices? It's taken something from its victims… and stores… I want to say chakra in its jewels, but that doesn't seem right…" She mused.

Scabbard nodded slowly. "What you have in your hands was a dagger used in rituals to steal the life energy of those who were stabbed. The energy could then be converted for a number of purposes that I will not go into detail. I will say that that blade in particular belonged to a rather disturbed and unbalanced group of individuals that my family took down many years ago." He reached out and took the dagger away from the shocked girl.

Tenten was deathly quiet. "W-why would you show me such a thing? Do you really expect me to try to recreate such a tool?"

Scabbard remained quiet as he had pondered what he had just discovered about the girl for several minutes. "… among all the people I have met in my travels… there was one man alone who I truly considered my brother in all but blood." He started off slowly. "… he was the only man I knew of that could create weapons as fast as I could… but in more variety, and lethality…" He let his words sink in to Tenten's head before he continued. "… and the oddest thing about him was that he was a Faker… like you." Tenten's eyes widened in shock. "All the weapons he created were temporary constructs, created by a technique that he used… and they were all copies of the originals that he had seen at some point in his life. The copies had all the powers, purpose, properties, and material compositions of the original, and held the same memories as well, enabling him to wield them expertly without exception, as if he was the one that brought the blade's name into the history books himself. The only flaw was that the quality of the weapons were always just short of the original… yet that did nothing to reduce how dangerous he was on the battlefield."

Tenten remained quiet as she gave Scabbard her full attention, as if she were listening to the greatest story she had ever heard in her entire life.

"We… parted ways a while back…" Scabbard sighed as he closed his eyes. "But I gained permission from him to make his final technique my own if I ever managed to pull it off… and until recently, it has been out of even my reach…" Tenten's eyes widened as the man stood up. "This is the final technique of the strongest blacksmith I have ever met. It can only be performed by those whose hearts belong to the forge, who look at weapons differently than others, who can see the true history of a warrior's greatest ally with the glimpse of an eye. Should you train hard enough, this technique will eventually be yours. Do not, however, think that you will be able to learn this before the Exams. For now, please keep this a secret. Even my family does not know that I have completed this technique…"

Tenten nodded shakily as she stared at the man in awe.

Scabbard took in a deep breath and started to mold his chakra while letting his mind conjure up the landscape of the technique.

A graveyard of blades, a sun the color of past blood…

o. o. o.

Later that day, at the Hokage's tower:

Sarutobi sighed from his desk as he looked down at the severely beaten and tied up bodies of Ghost and Crypt. "… am I going to be experiencing this frequently?" The Hokage asked in a tired voice.

"What?" Grumbled a semi-conscious Ghost. "Is it my fault that women in this town don't appreciate good music?"

Sarutobi frowned. "They don't when you are covered in the audience's unmentionables and you're standing on the rooftops overlooking the hot springs they are trying to bathe in."

"… or when a second suspicious male character starts singing in a female voice from the middle of the crowd, also covered in said unmentionables."

"Heheheh. I was the girl singer." Crypt giggled, remembering how he started his solo while dancing in the middle of the bath area with all his clothes on and panties on his head. He had scared the shit out of more than half of the women in the bath area without doing anything homicidal or intimidating at all. That took pure skill.

"But… how could they possibly hate Cuban Pete? I'm the king of the Ramba beat! When I play the Maracas I go…" Ghost's build into song again was interrupted via several pissed female ANBU materialized out of nowhere with blades to his throat. "… everybody's a critic these days." He grumbled. "From their reaction you would have thought I freaking Rick-Rolled them…" (A/N: Thank you NightDranzer for reminding me of the awesomeness of Cuban Pete.)

Sarutobi sighed. "Ghost, if you are done fooling around, I have some information that I want to share with you."

Ghost pouted as the ANBU took their blades away from his neck. "Fine." He seemingly instantly sprung free of his bindings and sat on a chair, the ropes laying in a neat coil by his feet. Crypt… was rolling on the ground still.

Sarutobi's demeanor darkened as he made a signal for his ANBU to exit the room and set up the privacy seals. "Things have become more… complicated recently." He reached into his pocket and gave Ghost a scroll.

Opening it up and reading the contents, the immortal's face portrayed curiosity. "Interesting… so you and Ōnoki once went to a bar during the Second War when you were trying to negotiate a peace treaty and…"

"NOT THAT PART!" Sarutobi roared with a red face. "The other bit!"

Ghost chuckled as he continued to read the scroll. "… so the Oompa Loompa of Iwa is gonna be watching the show, eh? That is a bit concerning." He muttered, scanning the paper briefly before stopping at a single name. "Wait… Rōshi?" Ghost looked up at Sarutobi. "Please don't tell me that he's referring to…"

Sarutobi nodded. "Yes. Ōnoki's old teammate from his childhood is indeed the current container for the four tails… and he is also an old drinking compatriot of mine… although last I heard, he and Ōnoki had a falling out after a major argument a few years ago."

Ghost groaned as he rubbed his forehead. "Ugh. It's true. ALL old people know each other." He took a deep breath. "So let me get this straight: the Tsuchikage is coming over to Konoha to watch the Chūnin Exams, more than likely as an excuse to get a better look at blondie, and he is also bringing with him the container of the four tailed monkey, both completely unaware that there is going to be an invasion on said day… ugh, this is going to be a pain in the ass to work around."

Sarutobi nodded. "Indeed, and with the presence of three jinchūriki, the odds of Akatsuki making a radical move become more likely…" He stopped as he saw Ghost sweating nervously. "… there ARE going to be three at the most… right?" He asked hopefully, mentally praying and screaming that the Ōgakari didn't do something so stupid as to lure more of the containers to his village during the Exams.

Ghost chuckled nervously. That was not a good sign.

"Um… well, funny thing about that. You see… when Scab first arrived in this world, he sort of established a connection with… the container of the… two tails… and he recently… perhaps… sent her a message to come… see the Exams?"

Sarutobi looked long and hard at Ghost with a stern gaze that betrayed little of the thoughts going through his head. After several moments of silence (Crypt's random giggles don't count.), the leader spoke again. "… I am unaware of the identities and locations of most of the jinchūriki. What village is she from?" He asked sternly in a tone that would not accept a half assed answer.

Ghost nodded lightly, knowing that dicking around was not the right move to make at the moment. "Her name is Yugito Nii. She's in her mid 20's right now, if my info is right. She's a Kumo jōnin."

Sarutobi frowned. "Kumo? You do realize that if I allow her to enter the village, there will be much complaining from several council members, especially from the Hyūga…"

Ghost frowned as well. "Well, it sucks to be them. Kumo has two jinchūriki at the moment, and I'm pretty sure there's no way in hell the Raikage will let his BROTHER of all people go outside of his country's borders just to see the Chūnin Exams in Konoha, no matter how interesting it might seem." Sarutobi's eyes narrowed at the revelation that the brother of the current Raikage was a jinchūriki. "From what I know, Yugito and Bee are pretty close, or at least close enough that they listen when the other speaks. You get one in on the plan, you get them both. If Hiashi has a cow about letting a few Kumo-nin into the village, take him aside and tell him that the Ōgakari clan PERSONALLY asked for those individuals to be let in, and if he still feels uncomfortable, remind him about our seal and that he could always beef up security around the compound until you get word that they've all left."

Sarutobi sighed. "Fine, but if something goes wrong, it's on your head."

"When isn't it?" Ghost replied tiredly. "Did you get Kuma to send the message?"

Sarutobi nodded. "Yes. Luckily, his students were not the ones that Orochimaru impersonated in the Exams, but he did notice that something wasn't right."

Ghost shook his head. "It doesn't matter anyways. Kusa is still an ally of Konoha, and as long as they send a few jōnin here and there for the invasion, things will work out even better. Trade between our two countries will increase, and relationships will be stronger than before, which is what we want when Madara shows his face again… sort of."

"Indeed." Grumbled the Hokage. "Just make sure that everyone involved knows about this recent development so we don't step on any new toes by accident."

"I wonder what kind of jam these toes have…" Crypt pondered to himself

"Done and done." Ghost nodded. "I'm gonna have Kurenai go over some dispelling techniques again with the kids 'just in case' in a few days, so none of them should be caught off guard when the genjutsu hits the arena. Scab is going to continue his upgrades to the place as well in order to rake in a few bucks for the village as a whole." He paused as Sarutobi stared at him incredulously. "What? We give the people a good show and even if there's an invasion, the next time the Exams hit the village, the turnout will be even bigger, and hence make more money for the village, and hence we get to piss off the civilian council even more by giving them another reason to keep us here. Telling them that us knowing how to throw better parties than they do is a reason for us to stay is roughly the same as telling them that Gai's spandex training suit is a better fashion statement than their current attire."

"Your logic never ceases to amaze me…" Grumbled the old man in a sarcastic tone. "I like the part about pissing off the civilian council members, though. They've been getting restless about the Exams lately, and they've been trying to sneak in their own demands into other paperwork. It's a lot easier with shadow clones examining multiple papers at once so I don't have to rush through anything anymore."

Ghost nodded. "You remember to note down any names related to the slipped in stuff?"

"Of course. It's a great way to shut them up whenever they bug me about something miniscule." Sarutobi chuckled.

Ghost sighed as he turned to the doorway. "… we still on for that little sparring session later this week?"

Sarutobi gave Ghost a confident and mischievous look. "Of course. I have to make sure that I'm in peak condition in time for the invasion, after all. Plus, it's very therapeutic trying to kill you and everything."

Ghost laughed lightly. "You'd be surprised how many people say that. Just feel lucky that I don't feel guilty about beating the crap out of old people or you would have to find someone else to spar against that can fight on our level yet still hold back. Come on Crypt, I gotta train some brats."

"Yay! I'm gonna see strawberry ice cream boy again!" Crypt cheered as he followed Ghost through the doorway with a skip, somehow escaping from his bonds in the middle of the conversation.

"Who the hell are you calling old?" Grumbled Sarutobi as the door closed behind the pair.

As the two walked through the streets of Konoha, Crypt's skip slowly disappeared and gave way to a steady pace. "… what did you hide from the old man?" Crypt growled anxiously.

Ghost smirked. "Why brother, I have no idea what you are talking about."

"You never denied that there wouldn't be more hosts at the exams…" The man chuckled deeply. The pair had decided to turn down one of the less-traveled streets of the village in order to dodge the late afternoon traffic.

Ghost sighed. "I guess it must have slipped my mind…" He paused as he noted the look Crypt was giving him. "Okay, fine. I MAY have asked one of the jōnin-sensei of the Waterfall teams to deliver a message to Fū right before they left after their teams failed the Exams." Ghost grumbled.

Crypt was about to reply when both males noticed a decently sized group of individuals blocking their path on the road. It should be noted that the three in front were all Hyūga.

"You…" Growled the leading Hyūga as he glared at the pair of men. "You have doomed our clan! Embarrassed us! Made us weak! Framed us of crimes that are below us!"

"Huh?" Ghost replied intelligently.

"Oooh. More ice cream people!" Crypt bounced eagerly, already back into his insane persona.

"You have ruined the Hyūga clan and done us a great injustice." Spoke up another of the Hyūga. "Our standing is tarnished, and many of us have been forced to abandon our homes. We will not stand for this."

"Oh, I know who these guys are…" Ghost replied absentmindedly, seemingly not paying attention to the fact that they were being surrounded by the mercenaries slowly. "You three were those Main house guys Hiashi was looking for that managed to run away during the change! The ones that the Branch house women said were sexual deviants and often looted the clan's treasury… that explains all the cannon fodder…" He paused as Crypt gave him a confused look. "They're bad ice cream, Crypt."

Crypt's eyes widened. "Bad ice cream? How is that possible?!"

Ghost crossed his arms, completely ignoring the dangerous men closing in on them, especially the twitching Hyūga. "Well, Crypt, because ice cream has milk in it, depending on how the ingredients are mixed, it is possible that either A. it is left alone for too long and curdles, or B. someone mixed the ice cream the wrong way and it ends up more like whipped cream… bad whipped cream…"

"Those monsters!" Crypt shouted.

"I've had enough of this." Growled the third member as he assumed a Jūken stance. "I will end this here. You are in the range of my divination…" He glared at Crypt.

"Um. I wouldn't point at Crypt if I were you… fingers have been lost that way…" Ghost warned casually.

"I think they used the money they stole to pay for these weaklings." Crypt whispered loudly, causing the thugs to glare at him with rage.

The man smirked as he suddenly turned and rushed at the speaker. "8 Trigrams: 64 Palms!" He shouted, about to strike at Ghost.

What happened next could only be seen clearly by those who had been in high level fights before. Just as the man's strikes were about to hit Ghost, Ghost whipped out one of his hands and grabbed onto his attacker's outstretched fingers and effectively broke them with a flick of his wrist. Immediately afterwards, his opposite leg kicked out, nailing the man in the jewels before Ghost jumped up with his other leg, grabbed the Hyūga's head, and kneed him in the face while using the first kick's momentum to quickly spin at blurring speed. The combination of sudden, unexpected pain and extreme acceleration knocked the Hyūga out so quickly that he later wouldn't remember anything after his charge. As Ghost landed, the Hyūga lazily spun through the air until he hit a wall, where he limply fell to the ground.

The entire thing took less than 1.25 seconds.

Ghost simply yawned and stretched without a care in the world. "What? You should have assumed that we have some decent moves. I mean, it's not like no one's heard of my assassination record already."

"Kill them!" Roared one of the remaining Hyūga, prompting a chain reaction from the other men and causing a mad rush towards the pair.

Not one of the poor bastards had noticed the entire time he was giggling, Crypt had been biting his lips with his long fangs, causing them to bleed…

o. o. o.

Somewhere in the Land of Rice Paddies:

Orochimaru chuckled darkly as he went over the list of forces that he would be sending to Konoha. As he skimmed over the list, he couldn't help but muse over his latest additions.

Due to Danzō's requests, he had been forced to include some… temperamental warriors to the plan. Under most circumstances, he would refrain from using such… resources. They were too unstable, difficult to manage in the field, and he personally didn't want anyone to know of his successful experiments yet. However, his single experience with the Ōgakari had revealed to him that they were not to be underestimated by any margin. Besides, what was the worst that could happen, the units going berserk and destroying more of Konoha? To be perfectly honest, this was the safest situation that he could unleash them to their full potential and see the results of his work.

Looking to his side, his eyes narrowed as he gazed upon the unconscious forms of Zaku and Kin. The two pawns had been utter disappointments in the grand scheme of things, not even being able to make it to the third round of the Chūnin Exams. Dosu even more so. The poor deluded fool actually believed he could stand up to Gaara, and tried to kill him to ensure that Sasuke or Naruto would make it to the finals and got killed in the process. Oh well. They were pawns in the beginning, so their failure was not a real blow to the plan. The pair in front of him could still serve their purpose as sacrifices for the Edo Tensei Technique.

Orochimaru marveled at one of his greatest accomplishments so far. The technique required the DNA of the soul that was to be brought back, an incredibly large and complicated array of seals, and a living body to serve as a medium. To be perfectly honest, the technique didn't actually require a sacrifice, as the medium's life force was used to power the recovered soul and the jutsu they performed. In theory, if the caster used a strong medium or summoned a weak soul, the medium could survive the ordeal. However, the recovered souls that Orochimaru used were normally so disproportionally stronger than their mediums that it was more appropriate to use the term sacrifices for the positions the two children were occupying. The only reason why the possessed bodies last so long is because Orochimaru modified the Edo Tensei seals to force the medium's body to open all 8 Gates upon activation. What was even greater was that because the mediums were supplying the souls with power, the technique did almost nothing to his reserves aside from the initial summoning of the bodies. That being said, in theory he COULD be able to skip using mediums for the technique entirely and use his own chakra to power the bodies, however the constant drain required to power even one of the past Hokage was far more taxing than he would like. He had gone through several hundred test subjects to get it right, but the results were well worth it in his opinion.

His musings were cut short by a knock on the door. "Orochimaru-sama, we have confirmation from Suna for the plan. They will follow our instructions and join in on the invasion…"

"Kukuku…" Orochimaru chuckled. "Good, Kabuto. I assume that the Kazekage will be moving to Konoha within the next two weeks?"

Kabuto nodded as he walked in through the door. "That is correct, Orochimaru-sama. He has even been kind enough to inform us of the route he will take to get there in case we need to inform him of something at the last second…"

"How thoughtful of them…" The Sannin chuckled evilly. "Has there been any word from our remaining spies in Konoha?"

Kabuto shook his head. "Nothing that we have not heard already Orochimaru-sama. Sasuke-kun and the other Konoha genin are still training in the Ōgakari clan compound, which is surprisingly well protected, with hidden traps and seals that would trick or deter most shinobi. Hokage-sama has been giving out secret orders to prepare for the worst in the Exams, of course… however, I would like to inform you of something rather interesting regarding the Hyūga…"

"Oh?" Orochimaru asked curiously. "Did the Ōgakari somehow manage to unify the clan and give them a seal that protects their bloodline more efficiently?"

Kabuto sweated nervously, knowing that his leader was joking. "Um… yes?"

The Sannin's eyes flashed momentarily before narrowing. "… care to repeat that, Kabuto-kun?"

Kabuto gulped as he got on one knee and took out a scroll. "Y-yes, Orochimaru-sama. Several days ago, the Ōgakari clan entered the Hyūga clan's compound under the impression that there was some business to be done. A good portion of the incident was kept under wraps, but the bulk of the story was that the clan, with the approval and support of Hiashi Hyūga, his daughter Hinata, and his nephew Neji, managed to in one fell swoop remove and replace the Caged Bird Seals on all the Branch house members with what is being called an Outer Light Seal. In addition to that, they have also unveiled a conspiracy within the clan to overthrow the current head by clan members that are obsessed with more traditional ways of thinking…"

Orochimaru tuned Kabuto out as he continued on his explanation of the conspiracy. The Caged Bird Seal was something that had taken up more than a fair share of his time while he was experimenting in Konoha. Unraveling the technique's secrets was something of a test for the man, as the seal represented a level of the sealing arts that he had not achieved yet, and as such mocked him in a way. Not only that, but he believed he could unlock the secrets of almost any bloodline limit by analyzing the seal and seeing how it interfaced with the host. He had spent years on the few kidnapped Branch house Hyūga that he had managed to get his hands on; analyzing the seal, poking and prodding it carefully in almost every physical and theoretical way he could possibly conceive, but he could not crack the stupid tattoo's secrets.

… But the Ōgakari managed to pull it off within at most a year and a half. Not only that, but they managed to do that AND produce a better seal within the same time frame. Such things should not be possible, even if they were given the schematics for the seals and their blood. The process and meticulous measurements to make sure that there were no issues with such a seal would require even HIM at least 5 years before he came up with a solid result… that gave a good chance of survival, of course.

If they could perform such an act with the Caged Bird Seal, then if they had access to his Curse Seal…

"Kabuto!" Orochimaru said sternly, snapping his unnerved right hand out from his explanation of the Hyūga clan affairs.

"Yes, Orochimaru-sama?" Kabuto asked nervously.

The Sannin's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I believe there will be a slight change of plans during the invasion. We will have to get our hands on Sasuke-kun earlier than anticipated…"

o. o. o.


Ugh. School. Evil.

So. I managed to finish this chapter. Huzzah. Sorry if there's more of my OC's than most people would like here, but it just sort of happened this time. I'll try to tone it down a bit next chapter.

If you guys know what Scabbard is going to teach Tenten, don't freak out and start complaining about the difference is between magical power and chakra. Scabbard isn't using the original technique, he's using a bastardized version that he created via chakra and ninjutsu. Tenten won't be using that move any time soon

Crypt's real personality came out a lot more than I realized this chapter. I wasn't trying to make that happen, but it did. Just don't get used to it.

Also, expect a DCD fiasco to happen after the invasion (insert maniacal laughter).

This is to anyone who feels like it:

I am trying to think of Omake to stick into the story, but I am falling drastically short of my quota since almost anything I think up of goes into the main story. If you guys think of any short skit-like incident that would occur in my story, and you think it's actually good and fits into the storyline, don't hesitate to send it to me. I will post it up on the bottom of the next chapter, stick your writer's name on top of it, and praise your name since it lets me type less for the chapter. Remember, keep it reasonably short-ish and make sure that everyone stay's in character (for what it's worth).

So... yeah, art, in case anyone's forgotten. My sis gave me a new pic of Shadow and it's on my profile, so check it out if you want.

May the Log be with you, and may Kishimoto finally stop writing about Sasuke already. 'Til next time, folks.

Editor's note: There actually is some precedent for naturally blonde haired, blue eyed Japanese people.

Typically, these people were produced by the couplings of Japanese prostitutes and Dutch traders, who for a few centuries were the only European foreigners legally allowed in Japan, after Japanese Christians were persecuted after they attempted, but failed, to topple the Shogunate.

(Shimabara Uprising, 1637. Wasn't just Christians, though their frequent persecution definitely added to the discontent. The Daimyō of the region at the time (Matsukura Katsuie) raised taxes horrendously in order to recover financially after he built a new castle. There was a peasant rebellion, due to this and other grievances. It was put down by the Shogunate. Because one of the rebel leaders, Amakusa Shirō, was Catholic, Catholics in general received quite a bit of blame. On the other hand, the Daimyō was found guilty of misrule and beheaded. So, at least something positive came of it.)

As a result of the rebellion (debatably, though in my experience, you can find a historian ready to debate just about anything), Christianity was officially banned, Christians were hunted down and legally tortured until they renounced their religion, and any Christian nation that formerly had rights to trade with Japan were formally barred, leaving a Dutch monopoly.

Since only one port allowed Dutch traders to dock (Dejima, in modern Nagasaki Prefecture), one of the first things that sailors wanted after months cooped up on a ship were alcohol, women, and preferably quite a bit of both, and birth control wasn't really a thing back then, the brothels of this port town did quite a bit of business. As can be expected, nature ensued, and some of the children carried more of their father's features than Japanese culture was comfortable with.

Such offspring, or at least the ones that were visibly 'un-Japanese', were stigmatized for two reasons: for being the descendants of 'barbarians' (foreigners), and for being the descendants of prostitutes. Thus, they could have quite a difficult time finding legal work. Prostitution was not uncommon, because that's an occupation where exotic looks are considered an asset. The recursion continued.

Thus making Naruto's comment above eminently possible, and raising interesting questions about the parentage of Kumo's dark-skinned, light-haired population (who will never come close to touching the greatness that is Bobobo Bobobobo, no matter how much Bee may (unintentionally) try). And Minato, the Uzumaki, and the Yamanaka, I guess. And since the whole story takes place on one continent and gives little to no information about the entire rest of the world, we have no clue where these traits could've come from.

Then again, this could just be Anime Hair, where a black hair and a blonde hair could end up making a florescent pink haired baby, so what-the-hell-ever.

So, now you know.

And knowing is half the ba-*Is shot!*

(Thinking on it, that joke is older than I am. The internet is a strange place.)