Hi all, super long time! I know, I know. Why the long wait? Let em tell you!

I've started and all girl gaming group that does Lets Play videos! We mainly play Minecraft, but I also post a non-minecraft game plays every Friday. I've been very, very busy with this project.

If at all physically possible we post a video every Monday. Now you know me by now, and you know how hard it is for me to keep a schedule. This project has consumed me, and my two friends, and grown, and I love it! It just hasn't left much time for writing.

I'll try to make the time, though, because I love Naruto too!

If you'd like to check our videos out go to youtube and look for the "Diamond Denizens" that's the name of our channel. Our minecraft video sires is called "Crafty Girls". We've gained over 150 subscribers in just 3 months, and we get new subscribers every day.

Having said that, and explained my absence this time, I now direct you onward to the next chapter...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the OCs in this story are not really OCs. They are characters from another show. BUT I'm not marking this as a crossover, because the characters them selves are trying to blend in. this will become important to the plot, but like way, way down the line. Many many chapters from now.

Still, let me know if you can figure out who these guys are. I think it's way, way obvious in the chapter, but many of you may not know the show I'm borrowing these guys from. (And that makes me feel old!)

Any way,on with the show!

YAYAYAYAYAYA!


Chapter 26: Angry Spirits


"It's getting dark fellas." Shou said, leaning against the window sill. "Yori should be back by now." His mind drifted back to when they had all arrived in the city not more than a full week ago, hot on the trail of some thing big, incorporeal and malevolent. The city was so unlike home, and the thing they had been tracking so clever, and dangerous that they had agreed to split up to make them selves less obvious as a team. They had ditched their normal cloths and donned the more traditional local ninja garb as soon as they had been able to find some. Still, they had all kept their two way radios with the hopes that if one of them found any information on their target they could contact each other.

Yori had gotten a message to them that he'd meet them at the tower, and then vanished. They assembled here, on the tower's steps after that call, and waited. Waited for hours. Then all of the available ninja had been called, and sent out, leaving them here in a mostly defenseless city, on the steps of HQ, looking for all the world like they were lost. One of the head ninja had spotted them and ordered them to take the desk guard position while the other ninja were away.

Shou, Osamu and Kouta had assembled as much equipment and resources as they could find, from where ever it was available, and combined it all in to one big box to be sorted latter. Now just happened to be latter.

Kouta looked up from where he was sorting scrolls. "I'm sure he's fine." He pulled a scroll out of the large box, and looked it over carefully. "He's probably making friends, or getting pizza."

"They don't have pizza here in this city." Osamu fiddled with his glasses. "Besides, he said he was going to talk to the locals about local ghost legends. Maybe he has found some thing." He bent down and rummaged through the box at Kouta's feet. "Do we have every thing we need for our next experiments?"

"I don't know." Kouta looked up from his scroll. "You are the mad scientist here. You tell me. I don't even know what experiments you want to preform."

"Conclusive ones." Osamu replied flatly.

"As if there were any other kind." Kouta smirked and tossed the scroll back into the box.

Shou turned from the window and shook his head with a frown. "No Yori and no ghosts." He stepped up to the other two. "And besides that, guys, I don't think the Hokage wants us to preform any more experiments." After the encounter with the Hyuga man Shou had seen how displeased the blond woman had been with them, though she did seem eager to know how they had made the trap.

Kouta grinned and tossed his arm around Shou's shoulders. "Here, young man, you forget who your boss is."

"The most powerful woman in this country, capable of killing entire ranks of men, with only one hand?" He asked innocently.

Kouta gave him a sideways look. "I'm your boss, dummy."

"Well, yeah but here. . ."

Kouta lifted a hand to shush him, cutting him off. "In what dimension have we ever been to have I not been your boss?"

Shou frowned, recalling a few. "Well, there was that one with the golden slime ducks that. . ." again he was interrupted when the main doors were slammed open.

All three turned to look upon the man who had arrived. With the sun setting behind him the light darkened what was already dark skin, and even darker eyes. His arms were out stretched, holding the doors open, and his hair, short and black and curly, was a glowing eerie orange-red halo.

"Who...?" Kouta asked, his arm tensing protectively around Shou's neck.

"Yori!" Shou tugged free and ran up to the dark skinned man. "You made it!" He clapped a hand on his team mate's back. "Oh boy were we ever worried!"

"Hey guys." He stepped in to the room and let his arms sag. The door swung shut behind him with a heavy click. "Am I ever glad to see you fellas again!"

Osamu stepped up to him and gave a thin smile. "Where have you been? It's been almost three days."

Yori made his way over to the desk and sank down in to the chair, Shou following close like a puppy. "Oh, here and there." He rubbed his eyes with one hand.

Kouta frowned and perched on the desk, his eyes narrow, focused. "You haven't been 'here', so that just leaves the 'there'."

Yori glanced up with a small angry scowl.

Shou looked up, worry knotting his stomach at how subdued his friend was. "You OK?"

The darker team mate waved his concern of. "Fine."

Osamu stepped in, his worry written clearly over his face. He fidgeted for a moment before looking at Kouta.

"OK, care to tell Dr. K all about it?" Kouta leaned in closer and smiled. "We waited here for so long we ended up with a job."

Yori turned up to glare at him. "A job?" He stabbed Kouta in the chest with a finger. "I spent two nights in a cold cell with a crazy man. Not to mention I happen to be a minority here."

"Oh Yori!" Shou shook his head sadly. "We had no idea. We wanted to go looking for you but we were assigned duty right here at the tower! We are the desk guards for the main lobby for the Hokage her self! Isn't that amazing?" The frown vanished, replaced by an eager smile. "Us. Lowly Ghost 'enthusiasts', guarding the most important woman in the city!"

"I'm sorry." Yori sighed. "I'm not mad at you guys. Just a little disappointed with my search." He looked up at Kouta. "And your search."

"Like Shou said, we got stuck here." Kouta folded his arms over his chest. "Besides, we all still have our 'two ways. You could have called us again."

"They took my gear." He retorted. "Who was I gonna' call with out my radio?"

"But you are OK, right?" Osamu asked, heading off the argument before it could heat up.

He shrugged a little. "It's just been a long couple of days."

"That it has." Shou agreed heartily. "You wouldn't believe the roller coaster of events we've witnessed here."

"Shou." Kouta lifted a hand, hushing him. "You still haven't told us where you were, buddy." he set a hand on Yori's shoulder. Worry reached into his eyes as well. "Start talking."

"I was at TnI." He admitted slowly.

"TnI?" Shou asked, puzzled. "Sounds like some sort of super market."

"Torture and investigation." Osamu said flatly. "Right?"

Yori nodded once, closing his eyes briefly.

"What?" Kouta jumped to knell in front of Yori. He reached up and grabbed both of the darker man's shoulders. "Tell me what they did to you! Tell me so I can take names and. . ."

"Nothing." He flashed a small reassuring smile. "I'm fine guys, really. I walked in to check out a lead. It's not like I was dragged in. There were some misunderstandings, be we sorted it all out. They let me go."

"Why on earth would you go in there?" Shou asked, sitting down on the desk.

"The people in this city are really tight lipped about things that spook them, especially when some one as, um..." he lifted his hands and looked at them. "... Different looking as I am starts asking those questions."

"Oh, Yori." Shou gave him a sad, sympathetic frown. He'd have hugged the man but Kouta was still there, kneeling before him. "I should have stayed with you!"

"Never mind that." Yori waved off the sympathy. "I followed a lead about a crazy man who was being locked up for trapping a couple of folks in nets out side of the city. Thing is he was tryin' to catch some spooks out there. Not our spook, doesn't fit the description, but he was after something."

"Do you believe him?" Osamu asked.

Yori nodded. "Most of the people in the joint there are nuts, man, real crazies. But the same story kept coming up. Apparently the ghost of the Third Hokage haunts the woods just out side of the city. Some said they have gotten lost and he helps them find their way back to the road, others say he's barred other ghosts from hurting them."

Osamu 'hmmed' while Kouta drew back and stood. "Third Hokage huh?"

"That's amazing!" Shou grinned. "Do you think we could find him?"

"Possibly. It could just be an urban legend. Besides, we have no way of tracking any entity that we can not see, hear or feel. None of us are sensor types."

"Actually, Osamu, I have some thing." Shou dove for the box. He'd forgotten, but while he'd been trying not to fall asleep at the desk during his turn, he'd played with some of the junk he had collected. He rummaged through the box until he found what he'd made. "Here!" He lifted it up and twirled it around in his hands.

"It's a radio." Kouta said, eying it over keenly. "I highly doubt we'll get to hear the 'Socks out here, buddy."

"No, no look!" He opened up the back and held it out for the other three to see. "I placed chakra charged paper strips here under this semiconductor. If the paper detects any chakra it will energize and send a pulse through the semiconductor. From there it'll trigger the speaker to make a sound."

"Clever." Osamu reached for it. "Is this the only one?"

Shou handed it over eagerly. "No, I made two of them. I have red one besides this green one."

"What else did you learn?" Kouta asked Yori.

"Well, other than the fact that I happen to be the only colored guy in a hundred miles, and that almost every one thinks the Third is haunting the woods, not much. Every one believes those woods are haunted, but nothing is definite. Not a lot of the stories match up."

"It could be base superstition coupled with the residual misplaced fear from a warrior culture taught to suppress their feelings, thus finding an outlet for their anxiety in folklore and ghost stories." Osamu speculated. "Or it could be harmless pranks preformed by low level ninja in order to bolster their stealth and genjitsu. Or..." He paused and fiddled with the open radio.

"Or?" Kouta asked. "And don't you keep us waiting. The suspense is killing me." He teased.

Osamu gave him a look. "Or we could be dealing with real entities as of yet fully explained, manifesting in the woods." He pushed his glasses up under his twisted blond hair.

Shou shivered with the excitement of what the last theory could mean. "Do you think we could really find the Third Hokage?"

"I should hope not. I have a hypothesis, however." Osamu fiddled with the radio. "May I alter this one?"

"Go for it." Shou said.

Osamu sat down cross legged near the box and started to dig through it with one hand, while still holding the opened up radio in the other. "Thank you."

"Your hypothesis?" Kouta asked a little impatiently.

"Right." He rummaged some more. "Every living creature in this world holds some degree of Chakra, be it large or small. According to my research. . ."

A nasal voice broke the sentence off. "Yori!" Shiori ran in and tossed her arms around the darker teammate, nearly knocking him over. "You're back!"

"Hey!" He hugged her with one hand. "Yeah, I'm back."

She let him go and stepped back to place a hand on her hip. "Did you find any thing out?" She asked eagerly.

"Not much." He smiled with a shrug. "OH, I did hear about a ghost dog." He scratched at the back of his neck. "Sounds silly, but some people were saying a dog got killed and now..."

"One DID get killed." Shou jumped up, eyes shimmering. "That ninja hound. Remember?"

"Hmm." Osamu stood and started to insert more items in to the radio. "That does fit my hypothesis."

"And that is?" Kouta asked, his patients wearing thin.

"When a person, or in this case an animal, dies, if the death is particularly violent, then residual chakra could manifest into an independent entity."

"Like the tailed monsters! Oh boy!" Shou slammed his fist in to the palm of his hand. "So that means that every death of every ninja on the battle field could create one of these ghosts!"

"I doubt that." Osamu narrowed his eyes on the modified radio, deep in thought. "If that were the case then this world would be over run with ghosts in very short order. It's more plausible to assume that a very special set of circumstances must be met in order to create such a creature."

"Like what, Osamu?" Shiori asked.

"I don't know, but with this," He held up the even more modified radio, "I think we can narrow down some possibilities."

"What did you do to it?" Shou asked and inched closer like a child eager to see a new toy.

"I added a diode that will glow according to the chakra fed in to it. It will glow white for a human's chakra, and green for an animals'"

"That's not how they look. . ." Shiori started.

"I know, but the diode is old, and those were the only options I could give it. Besides, it will be more clear what is what if there is mist or fog. Ambiguity could be dangerous if my hypothesis proves to be sound."

"That's cool man, real cool." Yori leaned forward and grinned, looking interested for the first time.

"I say we go do some camping!" Shou declared, pumping his fist. Then he pulled back. "If you are up to it, Yori."

Every one turned to the man with dark, dark skin. "Well..."

"I'd rather we all went, as this presents an amazing opportunity to investigate what could be the answer to many of the Hokage's problems regarding the fox."

"But you'll go alone?" Kouta asked, his eyebrows lifting. "We aren't getting payed for freelance work like this you know. It's one thing to mess around when we are on the clock but..."

Osamu interrupted him with a stern look. "If my calculations are correct, Kouta, then what we could offer is a permanent way to seal off any being that threatens this city. It is my civic and scientific duity to go."

"Help me out here guys. I don't want to go out in the woods in the dark looking for spooks we have no information on other than crazy old man stories." He looked pleadingly at Shou. "Say some thing."

"Terpanning." He folded his arms and glanced over at Osamu.

Kouta scowled. "That is the exact opposite of helping."

"Depends on who I'm looking out for." He smirked.

Kouta sighed, then forced an enormous grin to cover his face. He turned to Yori. "So, you going camping with the three of us? Spooky stories around the campfire. Marshmallows, and hot dogs, maybe keep Osamu in one whole chunk rather than a messy smear in the woods?"

The dark skin teammate grinned. "I wouldn't miss this opportunity for the world. But..." he looked around. "Who's going to keep a look out on the tower if we all go out there?"

First Kouta, then Osamu, then Shou turned and gave Shiori a sly look. Kouta stood and slid his hand around her shoulders. "We'll come right back if any thing happens. Cross my boy scout heart." He drew his finger lazily over the right side of his chest.

"You were never a boyscout!" She snapped. "And that's the wrong side any way."

"So I'm not a boy scout." He shrugged. "But I am your camp leader."

"I need sleep!" She glared, shoved his arm off, and stabbed her finger into his chest on the left side. "And I need a shower! My good looks don't just happen by them selves you know!"

"We won't be gone all night." He smiled a charming smile. "You can sleep in the shower when the next shift starts!"

"NO!"

Kouta turned and looked down at Osamu. "Any time with the convincing, buddy."

The blond man stood and fidgeted. "Um."

Shiori stepped up to Osamu and nearly pressed her chest in to his. "Tell me you aren't leaving me here alone! I can't guard the Hokage by my self! What if assassins try to get her? Oh Osamu! What'll I do if you aren't here to protect me? What could possibly be more important to you than my safety?"

The blond fiddled with his glasses, but did not look directly at her. "Ah, well, you see now that the Jinchiriki is back, and if my idea is true, then the daemon fox, see..." He cleared his throat. "That's enough anger to wipe out the whole city. And I don't know but if I do... I mean, it's possible. With our new seals, but only if I can confirm my hypothesis." He glanced any where but at her. "So, you see, we must, for science."

"For science?" She yelped.

Shou nodded. "Exactly. Just like he said."

Shiori turned and stabbed a finger at Yori. "Translate!"

"Hey, I stopped trying to understand him a long, long time ago." He shrugged.

"What he's trying to say is that we are going and if you don't do what we need you to do I'm docking your pay." Kouta said. "Right?" Ha asked, looking up at the blond.

"Not exactly."

"What Osamu is saying," Shou beamed, "Is that if he's right we can find ways to seal any chakra creature of any size with it's own chakra. See, it's like the seal is a non-Newtonian fluid and the chakra is force applied..."

Kouta patted him on the back. "That's enough. I want her to stay here awake, not brain dead."

"But. . ."

"S'OK, buddy." Kouta patted him again. "Just let it go."

"Right." he let his hands fall lax at his sides.

She looked them over, growled, then shooed Yori out of the chair. "I want double over time for this, Dr. K!"

"What ever you say." He reached down and started loading up with things from the box. "Gear up guys, we got a ghost to catch!"

Shou dove in eagerly, glad to finally have some thing tangible to do. "Oh man, I'm so excited!"


Kiba leaned in to the stone pillar of the Inoichi's porch, eyes half lidded. If he didn't focus, or think to hard, he could almost feel Akamaru sitting next to him. Almost. A ghost of a feeling, really, but it was there. A part of him hoped it would always be there, but the rest of him knew he had to let go.

"How long before we go?" Udon asked from where he was sitting on the steps.

Kiba looked down at his newest team mate. Once more snot was dripping down his face. Akamaru had learned as a pup to keep his nose clean, he had to, smell was every thing. Kiba doubted Udon could smell onions if they were cut an inch away from his face. "Nose."

Udon swiped at it and blushed a little. "I have sinus problems you know." He sniffled.

"So fix them." Kiba shoved off the pillar and stepped down to stand next to the younger team mate. "Can you even feel it when it drips like that? It's disgusting."

Udon glared up at him. "No, I don't always feel it."

Kiba scowled a bit. "So wipe more frequently or some thing. Take pills"

Udon's glare turned darker, and a touch pouty. "Maybe I will." He rubbed at his nose again.

Kiba leaned closer and started at the youth. Small, thin, and messy looking he didn't look like he'd last more than a few minutes in any fight.

Udon leaned back away from Kiba's forceful gaze.

Kiba slumped against the pillar and folded his arms, huffing.

A long, long moment of silence stretched out after that. Udon started to fiddle around with the pockets of his dark vest, and pull out long forgotten weapons and items.

"I wonder who had these before we did." He pulled out a scrap of black cloth and unfolded it.

Curiosity scratched at Kiba's mind and he cautiously started to peek into his own pockets. In one he found a dark pair of sunglasses. He slipped them out and put them on. They felt a little big. "I don't know. If we live through our assignment we'll ask." He adjusted the glasses a couple of times, then examined him self in the side of a polished kuni. "These are keepers. Yes."

Udon paused for just a small moment, licked dry lips, then looked up brows all knit together in what looked like worry. "Kiba. . ."

"Look, I'm not, you know, it's dangerous, but I'll get us home. OK?" He tried to make his smile convincing.

"Yeah but..."

"Trust me, OK? I've been in some unfavorable situations. Some people may have died. But I didn't. My team didn't." Kiba slid the Kuni into it's holster. "I won't let the team down."

Udon stood and pulled the scrap of cloth over his head. "That's reassuring, it really is, but it's almost dark and. . ."

"I thought you weren't afraid of the dark."

"I'm not." He jabbed a finger towards Kiba's face. "Sunglasses." He waved his hand up and around at the sky. "Getting dark." He wiggled his fingers. "Do they help you see? Have powers?"

Kiba slid them down his nose and stared.

"Never mind." Udon turned away. "I'm not scared."

"You should be."

He looked at Kiba, eyes narrowing just a bit. "You just told me every thing will be OK."

"I said I'd try to make things OK. Doesn't mean you shouldn't be on the alert."

"I know that." He glanced again at the lowering sun.

"You haven't graduated yet. So that makes you a civilian." Kiba pulled the sunglasses off and fiddled with them. "So that means I'm going to treat you like a civilian."

"...OK." Udon said slowly. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I guess that's fair enough, but, you know I'm not, I've almost graduated. Another two weeks and I'd be passing my test."

Kiba rolled that information around in his mind for a moment, and chose his next words carefully. "No head band, no ninja."

Udon opened his mouth to say some thing else, but Ino exited the house, several items in her hands. "Here. I have medical kits for you guys." She handed one to Kiba.

Kiba took it and looked it over. It wasn't standered issue. "Any thing special about these we should know?"

She handed another to Udon. "This one has non drowsy sinus medication in it. And some tissues." She shrugged with one shoulder. "Might make you more comfortable, at least."

Udon took it and tucked it in to his vest. "Thanks."

"Yeah. No problem."

"Captain?" Kiba asked.

She turned and gave him a forced smile. "Headache medicine, and some chakra neutralizers just in case your connections start to flare up."

"Ah." He shoved it deep into his vest. "Thanks, I guess."

She gave a half hearted shrug. "So..."

"This is your mission. You give us the orders to march." Kiba waved his hand in the general direction of the gate.

"R-right!" She shook her self a little and glanced out over the street. "OK, yeah, lets go then." She descended the steps. "If you guys are ready."

"Ino."

"Sorry." She chewed her lip and fixed her gaze down the street. "OK, move out then."

Kiba tromped down the steps after her. "Yes ma'am!"

Udon followed a little more hesitantly. "So, um, what road are we taking?"

Ino stopped and turned to look back. "We are going through the tree tops."

"Oh." He shuffled his feet for a moment. "OK. Yeah, I can do that."

Kiba rolled his eyes at the younger team member and fingered his medical kit. He knew he'd be popping a headache pill before they left the border. "Just try not to fall to your death. Alright?"

Udon nodded with little enthusiasm.

Kiba glanced at Ino, who returned the look with a mix of disbelief and worry. "Right." She turned, casting one last, some what harder look at Udon, before moving on.

Kiba grabbed Udon by the back of the neck and shoved him forward. "You, stay where I can watch you."

"Yes sir."


Sakura approached the Hokage tower with slow, shuffling steps. Dressed in the largest cleaning lady out fit she could find, and keeping the setting sun to her back, she hoped she could hide with out having to use any chakra. Many of the ninja who normally guarded the Hokage tower were back from their emergency mission to find the Akatsuki, but she hoped that they hadn't been placed back on their shifts just yet. It hadn't been a full twenty four hours yet and some of the ninja were still returning. If she was lucky there would be very few sensor types guarding the Hokage, and even fewer guards than normal over all. Still, she wasn't about to take any chances. She kept low, let the wash bucket hang rattling behind her, and kept her eyes shaded by a shabby hat.

She was almost to the tower's court yard when four men came out the main door, all talking, joking, and sporting a strange assortment of what looked like junk. She ignored them and shuffled closer.

She did not want to give her existence away, not yet. And she contently didn't want any one to recognize her. As a living ninja that knew the jinchuriki she was a target. As a dead ninja she was a deadly weapon.

As the four men passed her the tall blond stopped to glance down at her. She ducked her head low and held her breath. They all passed, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Then she was at the doors.

She fingered the information still tucked away in her pocket, all of the data Orocimaru had collected over the years, and smiled just a little. She wasn't entirely sure what she wanted to do with it,though she knew she ought to turn it over. She didn't want to bribe, or force Tsunade in to doing any thing, but she knew if she just handed it over she'd be giving up all of her leverage.

She could bargain for Naruto's continued freedom, or she could demand out right that they all be classified as fully fledged shinobi, rather than just genin.

She rather liked that last idea. Under the cleaning lady outfit she had on her gray and black stolen sound uniform, and she wasn't inclined to give it up. She also was becoming fond of the boots. They felt solid, like they were weapons as much as they were cloths.

Yes, she tightened her hand around the data and set her mind on a promotion and more freedom to act independently when a crisis occurred.

Like the one when Kakashi had almost died.

She shoved that memory to the back of her mind and opened the door with just a little to much force for a supposed old woman to have. She quickly looked around, dreading being discovered, even by her own allies, and spotted only one person in the whole room. A fuming angry red headed woman. Sakura knew she'd never seen this woman before.

"Can I help you?" The woman asked, glancing at her for just a moment.

Sakura brought just a touch of chakra to her vocal chords to make her voice sound old and raspy. "I got sent here to clean while every one is out."

The read head leaned forward and propped her head up with her hand, elbow on the desk. "Got any paper work to prove that?" She popped some gum in to her mouth. "This is the Hokage tower after all, not just any body gets to be here." She blew a bubble.

Sakura folded her hands together and started to weave a little genjitsu. She then approached the desk, and held out a rag, weaving just enough chakra into it to make it look and feel like paper. "My orders."

The woman glanced at the rag, shrugged, and waved her hand. "OK, looks fine."

Sakura sucked a breath in, and stared at the woman. "You didn't even look at them." She had expected the staff to be short, but to be this low, and of such low quality, was startling. She backed away, and added 'staffing concerns' to the list of things she was going to talk to Tsunade about.

She looked up, slowly, and starred in to Sakura's eyes. "Are you here to kill, maim, terrorize, trouble, seek vengeance on, destroy, sabotage, or in any way do harm to any one in this building?"

"No." Sakura shook her head a little.

The woman continued to stare. Long, deep, and hard. Then with a shrug she waved her hand again, dismissing Sakura. "What do you want from me? I've been here for three shifts in a row, haven't had a shower, haven't had lunch, dinner, or even a snack!" She leaned back and folded her arms. "I've quit better jobs than this!"

Sakura winced. "I'm sorry I asked."

"If you see the Hokage you tell her, as a woman, she needs to make sure there's more equality!" The red head blew another bubble.

"I'll do that." Sakura inched away from the red head with the deep, pricing green eyes, and as soon as she was out of the woman's line of sight she hurried up the steps and to the main office.

She took a moment here to calm her self, lower he chakra again, and make sure no one was there to recognize her. Dead. She had to play dead if she was going to maximize her usefulness to Naruto. No sane ninja would go looking for her ghost.

Satisfied she was alone she reached up and knocked lightly on the door. Fast, but measured. It sounded like a normal knock to untrained ears, but here she and Tsunade had developed a coed.

No one answered.

Frowning she pressed her palm to the door and unlocked the chakra lock, then quietly entered the room. It was empty, and bathed in hot golden light. Sakura stepped up to the window and looked out over the city. Faar down below she could see the four men she had passed making their way throgh the evening crowd, headed towards the main gate.

She turned away and sat, dissatisfied, in the over stuffed Hokage's chair. This put a large crimp in her ability to bargain. You couldn't strike a deal if the other person wasn't going to be decent enough to actually be there. Absentmindedly she began to open and close drawer. There, in the top drawer, where Tsunade kept her writing supplies and booze was a ragged looking scrap of paper.

Sakura picked it up and gazed at it, mildly curious. Then she noticed the writing and instantly recognized it as a report written by Kakashi. She sat up straight and read it, quickly, and discovered it was the report from their mission to Sand to save Garra, the mission that had lead to Kakashi nearly dieing, and Naruto getting a second beast.

Sakura flipped it over and glanced at the back, saw only standard statistics, and then read the front over again. She could understand that this report may have wight over many others, considering the situation they were now all in, but why Kakashi's only?

She shoved the report back in to the desk drawer and leaned back to think. Her team was special, and different, and more high priority than any other. Tsunade had to have a reason to keep this one report hidden with her personal stash of alcohol. Sakura considered reading it again, but unless the words had magically changed on their own she'd never be able to divine the answer just from that one scrap of paper.

It was like looking at a slandered X-ray, but not being told what to look for. She had to see the patient and get a list of symptoms before she could diagnose and then try to cure the ailment. And her team was ill. As a medical professional she could sense it, and this was just one more symptom.

She stood, slowly, and turned back to the window. She needed more. The sun was almost down, it would be night, and her ninja traing was calling, whispering to her to do what had to be done for the good of her team. She scooped the cleaning bucket up and turned to the door that lead to the file room.

A smile graced her lips. She strode up to the door, and pressed her palm to it. If she couldn't negotiate then she'd just have to take what she wanted.

The guard on the other side of the door startled and lifted his weapon. "Stop! Who are you?"

"I'm here to clean."

"Clean what?" He demanded.

She shuffled in and held up her bucket. "The floor, do some dusting."

He shoved his weapon closer to her face. "You had better get out of here, you old hag!"

Fast as lightning she dropped the bucket, snatched his writs and twisted it, then turned him around.

"HEY!"

"Sleep." She barked, and pressed her free hand in to his spine, then sent a shot of chakra down his spine. He slumped, limp as a rag. Carefully she dragged him over to the wall and propped him up against it.

"You are lucky I'm on your side, and medically trained, and a ninja." She rolled her eyes at her own word. "That's a load of contradiction." She loosened his boots and carefully folded his hands over his lap. "My job gets any more crazy I might start talking to my self."

She stood, satisfied the man would be out cold for at least an hour, and turned to start looking through the files. There had to be an answer.

Only she didn't know exactly what her question was.


"Oh, row row row your boat, gently down the steam!" Kouta sang. "Marily, mearily, mearlily, life is but a dream!" He tossed down the camping equipment they had managed to scrounge up, before grabbing hold of one tent and unfolding it. "Say, oh Tex, fill us lesser beings in on what, exactly, we are going to be doing tonight."

Shou and Yori looked up from where they were both working on a tent together. They both turned towards Osamu.

The blond looked up over his small round glasses and cleared his throat. "We are merely taking scans tonight, Kouta. However, in the event we do encounter an entity, we are to observe only."

"Suppose it attacks us!" Shou said, nearly dropping his fist full of tenting material.

"Yeah, what happens if we get a nasty?" Yori asked. "You have to have some soert of plan for that."

Kouta grinned and tossed his tent wide, fluffing and unfolding it. "We do, in fact, have a trap."

"A trap?" Yori gave Kouta a wide eyed stare. "But Osamu said. . ."

"We made our own." Osamu cut him off. "None of the equoment from home made it here, so I improvised on what we have at our disposal."

"You going to show me?" The darker man asked. He stuffed a tent poll in to it's sleeve.

"Perhaps we can demonstrate after camp has been set up." The blond nodded. He then turned away and started to wander in close circles around the camp aria with the modified radio in one hand, and his bundle of camp supplies in the other.

Kouta continued to watch him as he assembled his tent. He winced when at one point Osamu very nearly walked in to a tree, but the blond avoided it at the last moment.

Shou and Yori got their tent up after a few moments of struggle. It was a big tent, big enough for all four of them if they had to use it. Kouta wrestled with his tent polls, content to have a room to him self for the night. He managed to gethe the flimsy looking shelter up in only a few minutes more, and tossed his sleeping bag inside.

Osamu was still trekking around, the radio glowing softly now and then.

"You want to toss that tent up some time tonight?" He called after Osamu made another round. "Or are you just going to keep dancing?"

The blond looked up, eyes not entirely focused. "Oh." he glanced down at the bundle under his arms. "Hm."

Shou laughed and jogged up to him. "I'll set it up for you. Where do you want it?"

"Any where is fine." Osamu replied. "Thank you."

"Any time!"

Yori started to gather rocks for the fire pit. "Man it's been ages since I've been camping in the woods. My pop used to tell me the best ghost stories. Scared the pants right off of me."

"Ghost stories." Kouta scooped up some branches. "Why does that not surprise me?"

Shou looked up from his task. "We should tell..."

"No." Kouta lifted a finger. "No spooky stories while looking for spooks. It's bad luck. If we are going to tell stories they ought to be about the living."

Osamu appeared next to him, his hair taking on a strange radiance in the evening light. "I am going to have to agree with Kouta on this one, Shou. I'd rather not have him become jumpy in case we do find some thing."

Kouta stood and thrust out his lower lip in the best pout he could manage. "Awe, you don't believe in me."

Osamu only gave him a dry, humorless look in response.

"Ass." Kouta grinned.

"Well if ghost stories are out, what can we tell?" Yori asked. "Sports stories?"

"I used to play golf when I was in high school." Shou quipped.

Kouta shook his head. "Stories are supposed to keep us awake, buddy, not put us to sleep."

"I could reiterate my theory in more detail, ensuring we are all of one understanding." Osamu offered as he sat down.

Kouta settled in next to him. "What did I JUST say?" He stabbed a finger towards Osamu. "If we are going to make it through the night with out lots, and lots of coffee, then maybe we should hear some thing exciting."

"This is exciting." Osamu replied, keeping his face straight.

"I'll bite." Yori sat down and started to work on lighting the fire wood. "Give me the deep and dirty on these things."

Shou settled in opposite of Kouta. "You know I really wish we had some chips and hot dogs right about now. I love camp food. Makes hearing stories, or theories in this case, a lot more involved."

"I have ration bars." Osamu offered. He reached in to his vest and pulled one out.

Shou gave it a long, hard look. "Yeah, OK." He took it and peeled the wrapper back.

"I didn't know you were in to compressed cardboard." Kouta teased. Then his own stomach grumbled.

With out being asked Osamu shoved a ration bar on to Kouta's hands. "Yori?"

"No, thanks man, but if I get hungry I'll eat a dead squirrel or some thing."

Kouta took a bite and scowled. "You save some of that for me." He set the bar aside. "All right, entertain us."

"I will endeavor to educate you, Kouta." Osamu flashed him a small smile. "As much of a challenge as that will be." With the sun sinking down even farther his normally blond hair was looking almost fiery red.

Kouta tilted his head to the side and appreciated just how demonic it looked at the moment. "Hey, we graduated in the same year. From the same collage. I'm edu-ma-cated."

"Same calender year, not same scholastic year." He pushed his glasses up his nose, and cleared his throat.

There was a moment of silence in the still evening air where only the small crackle of flames, punctuated by the crinkle of cellophane could be heard. Then Osamu started.

"Chakra beings are. . ."

"And I'm board already." Kouta snatched up the radio and stood. "I'll scan while you talk, OK?"

Osamu reached up and carefully pulled the radio back. "Sit."

Kouta sighed and plopped back down. "Right." Distractedly he started to toy with his hair.

"Chakra beings are not, in fact, dead. Nor are they technically speaking alive either."

Kouta glanced at Osamu from behind his pulled down bangs. "So we can't really call them ghosts, can we?"

"I say we ought to." Yori prodded the flames. "Every one else does, no reason to confuse people, right?"

"I agree." Shou looked up from his half eaten ration bar. "Ghosts or demonic spirits. That's what I keep hearing."

"Like the Fox." Kouta pointed out. "In that blond guy."

"Guy." Osamu looked down, a frown crossing his features. "That 'guy' is a child of no more than sixteen years old."

Kouta sucked in a breath at that information. That was new, and unsettling. "Whoa, wait, time out. They stuck a daemon in side of a kid?"

"When he was an infant." Shou said around a bite. "But like, he's used to it or some thing."

"That's harsh, man." Yori shook his head and jabbed a little harder at the fire. "Couldn't they find another way?"

"We aren't here to judge them." Osamu pointed out. "And we may be able to assist them in finding another way."

"OK, I'll bite, how?" Kouta asked.

Osamu picked up the radio. "Chakra is energy, organic, and mindless. However if a strong enough emotional imprint is made into it it can retain that imprint."

"Like a Sunday funny in silly putty?" Shou asked.

"Some thing like that, yes." Osamu nodded. "If enough chakra gets a large enough imprint it may start to coalesce into a free roaming entity. Condensed, and imprinted on even further it could begin to form electric paths with in it's own nebulous body. Those paths would act as very primitive sensors, reacting to stimuli. Then if added too those sensor networks would link up, forming an even more active, and aware energy cloud. That cloud could be fed, and in fact grow to become a primitive life form like structure, say, on par with cordyceps. . ."

"OK, OK, we get it." Kouta waved his hand. "Slowly over time, with enough feelings and energy these things evolve. Right?"

"Yes." He shifted a little, and fussed with the hem of his shirt. "But as I was about to say the time in which it takes a chakra being to form depends not so much on time it's self, or even on the available emotional imprints, but on the volume of chakra available for compression."

Shou sat up straighter. "So, a lot of chakra all at once in the air could make for one or more of these ghosts quickly?"

"Yes." Osamu nodded, once. "And if a living being already possessed chakra, was killed, and releases all of it's chakra at once, that could trigger the formation of one of these free roaming life forms."

"But you said that was unlikely to happen." Kouta frowned. "So what gives?"

"Normally, with little chakra available, nothing could form, however. . ."

"However," Yori interjected, "this city is just crawling with chakra, thanks to that fox daemon."

Shou's eyes light up. "That would make this place a prime breeding ground for these sort of things!" He looked around at the quickly dimming forest, then leaned over the fire a little, closer to the group. "Boy, could you imagine what would happen if you had two of those tailed beasts? Every thing killed here in the city might turn into a ghost!"

Osamu frowned. "I had considered that, yes." He lifted the radio. "I also got strange readings."

"From where?" Kouta asked.

Osamu peered out past the group in to the woods. "From every where."

From some where not to distant a dog howled, long, hollow, and mournful.

...

Kiba shuddered. The sound of a lone howl froze him to the spot. It sounded like... like...

"Sir?" Ino asked.

He looked up, not able to focus on her entirely. "What?"

"Are you OK?" Udon asked.

Kiba glanced down at him, then nodded numbly.

"Sir." Ino said, firmly.

Kiba shook his head. "Yes, captain, sorry." He stepped forward and came abreast of her. "Lead on."

She cast him a long look, then quickly gently touched him on the arm. It was warm, light, and held a lot of chakra. She was checkng his systems.

"Yes sir."

She was comforting him.

He pulled back, but lifted his chin.

"Move out." She started to march on.

Kiba followed, but could not help but to glance back just once. This would be his first mission with out. . .

Udon passed him, and tossed up a concerned look.

Kiba let it go, and followed his appointed pack leader.


The dark was growing all around her, like ink, blotting out any presence of her light skin. She set her cleaning supplies aside and approached the filing cabinet that held all of the information on Kakashi. Silently she slid her fingers into the handle and pressed a little chakra into it. It clicked and sprung open an inch or so.

She could just see the white of the papers held within when a dark shadow flickered in her peripheral vision. She continued to open the drawer, acting as though she was ignorant of the presence. The shadow appeared again, closer, more solid. A hot breath drifted over the back of her neck.

Her fingers stilled over the edges of the paper, and she readied her self. There was a flat moment where nothing seemed to move, then with sudden speed the shadow leaped for her. She darted back, away from the papers, and tossed her disguise. "Show your ..."

A hand slammed into her throat and tightened, cutting her off. She gasped, and looked up, but in the dark she couldn't make out who was on her. The figure shoved, hard, and in an instant she was pinned down to the floor. A glitter of sharp mettle flashed before her eyes. Kunai! She watched as it's point rushed in and was thrust up into the flesh of her chin.

"Who are you?" A man asked coolly.

With effort she heaved in a breath under sticky cold fingers. Past the arm that trapped her down she could see his face more clearly. Defiantly she gazed into deep brown eyes. A familiar scar graced the man's nose.

Iruka. But he was different, some how, changed. She could feel his chakra needling unsteadily between them. His eyes were hollow, blank looking.

"I think some thing is wrong with Iruka sensei."

Sakura glanced up at the window on Tsunade's office and Naruto followed her gaze. The teacher was watching them with a blank stare.

"Well either choke me or cut me, make up your mind." She said with a huff.

His grip tightened, and he leaned in, just a little, eyes narrowing. "I asked you a question!"

She scowled. "It would be most effective to cut the carotid artery." She reached up and tapped her neck. "Just under the left ear."

"You are too brave to be a cleaning lady." He blinked and his chakra leveled out just a little.

She glared up at him, letting the light catch her eyes.

"Sakura?" He let go and moved back. The weapon was hastily with drawn and pushed back in to it's holster. "Are you trying to get killed?" He snapped.

She sat up and rubbed her throat. "I was simply trying to avoid a fight."

He stood and offered her a hand. "Why are you sneaking around in here?"

She took the hand and hauled her self up. "I'm supposed to be dead. I don't want to be seen if I can help it." She let his hand go and checked her neck. There was just a little blood. She made a deliberate motion of wiping it off, then pressing her hand to her neck to heal it.

No sympathy or guilt registered. She frowned, feeling unnerved by him. This was a total contrast from when she had seen him with Naruto. He seemed cold now, dry and disinterested. Before he'd been so loving.

"You should have told me, I'd have let you in." He glanced at the man slumped in the corner. "You could have avoided giving the intern a concussion."

For the last three years when Naruto had been gone they had worked together, her and Iruka. During that time she had come to know him as one of the most gentle, caring, honest people she had ever known. This...

"He's fine." She scooped up her disguise. "I put him to sleep without hitting his head."

This felt wrong.

Iruka frowned dully, but nodded. "I'll have to report this."

Sakura gave him a flat look. "You do that." She turned and pulled Kakashi's files out of the cabinet, then started to thumb through them.

Iruka came up close behind her, and she could feel his breath on her neck. She turned, looked up at him, and folded her arms. "If you would, I'd like to go about my business with out you hovering."

Iruka bristled, just a little. "That's Kakashi's file."

"It is." She stared.

"What are you planing to do with it?"

"Read it."

Iruka took a deep breath.

Sakura felt just a touch smug. "Shouldn't you be with Naruto?"

There, just for a moment, was a flicker of deep sorrow. "I left him with a clone."

Sakura backed down, a little, and fidgeted with her papers. "How is... how's he doing?"

Iruak backed up as well. He glanced about for a long moment, then looked down at his hands. "We need to talk, Sakura. There are things you need to know that aren't in those papers."

She could feel the sudden shift in his mood, the cool, dark ninja melted in to a man, exhausted and strung out. His pony tail was limp, and his eyes shimmered with deep pain.

"Yeah?" She asked.

He nodded. "Put the papers away. I'll take you out for supper. Some where where you won't be seen."

Reluctantly she replaced the stack of reports and closed the drawer. "After that I want you to let me back in."

He frowned. "You won't need those papers after I've filled you in."


The howl died out and left the world a darkening shade of red. The trees loomed up around them, spectral in the evening mist.

Kouta stood, made grasping motions for some thing, any thing to defend him self with. "All right, you mad scientist you, tell me that thing you had the Hyuga trapped with is here."

"The containment scroll." Osamu stood calmly and pulled one from his pocket. "They still need testing."

Shou already had the second radio out and was waving it around. "Oh boy! Look at this guys!" He held it up to show the group. "The paper is making all sorts of nifty shapes and turning all sorts of colors!"

"Not just white or blue?" Yori asked. He leaned in close and hung over Shou's shoulder. "I thought it could only turn two colors. Got any ideas, Osamu?"

The blond stated and shoved his glasses up his nose. "Well, to be precise, no."

Kouta glanced around. The forest seemed to be crawling now. Fantastic, why do we end up in these situations? He glanced over at Yori. And he just got back, too. "Any one think this is a bad idea? Yori?"

"Dude, you gotta see this! This thing's going nuts!"

Kouta scowled at how excited his darker team mate sounded. He turned and gave Osamu a pointed glare. "Tell me these things will work."

"On a living human they can work, but with afore mentioned draw backs..."

"Tex." Kouta growled.

Osamu sighed. "There's only one way to find out if my calculations were correct in regards to the inhuman manifestations."

"Guys!" Shou shoved his way in between them. "Look at this!"

All four sets of eyes turned to look down at the modified radio. Arcs of energy in all sorts of color were bouncing around. Little licks of flame, shards of stone, whispers of air, damp mist, and the sparks were all appearing and vanishing rapidly over the thin sheet of chakra paper.

"What in the world?" Yori wondered, awe struck.

"Physical manifestations." Osamu reached out for the modified radio, stopped him self from taking it from Shou, then retrieved his own. With in moments his own device was doing the same thing. He turned it on and keening shrieks, not quite human, erupted from the speakers.

"OK, count of hands, who thinks Osamu is right about ghosts?" Kouta asked, thrusting his own hand sky high.

Three more hands shot up along side his.

"Why is it doing this?" Yori asked. "I mean, blue or white..."

Shou frowned. "They worked OK this morning."

"Hmm." Osamu lowered his radio. "It's plausible it could be feeding off of our own chakra, and mixing with the growing ambient levels."

"So for now they are useless?" Shou asked.

"It would seem that way. I'll have to do further research to see if I can shield them from our influence." He sat down and took his radio apart.

Another howl sounded out, closer.

Kouta grimaced and started at where the sound was coming from. "Not to doubt your expet level at creating a device that can tell us if what we have is a human or not, Osamu buddy, but I think we got a wolf."

"Or that ghost dog." Yori offered. He grabbed one of the test scrolls and started to walk slowly back towards the road, and the source of the cries.

"I can't wait to try this new stuff out!" Shou snatched his scroll up and trotted after Yori.

"Are you guys crazy?" Kouta asked, but he was scooping his own scroll up as well. "I mean supose thins thing has eaten a lot of other ghosts and is bigger than a dog, or some thing?"

Shou's eyes lit up. "Wouldn't that be neat?"

"Not." Kouta said levelly, following them further from the fire. "My point."

"AH HA!" Osamu called from behind them. "I found a feed back lou... Guys?"

"Gear up, Tex, we're doing this." Kouta tossed over his shoulder.

The blond scrambled to collect his things and follow.

By the time he caught up they were all breaching the tree line, and hit the rode.

Osamu pulled his newly modified, modified radio out and scanned the aria. "Three human signatures for sure, very resent." He waved the radio again. "And one animal."

A low growl sounded out from all around them.

"Please tell me that was your stomach, Shou." Kouta looked at the rounder red headed team mate.

Shou was grinning. "Oh man, this is fantastic!"

"You can take that as a no." Yori offered.

Kouta sighed and rubbed the back of his head. "Right, so what's the plan?"

"We lure it out, then trap it." Osamu replied, mater-of-fact.

"We need bate." Yori added.

"So not it." Kouta stepped back towards the tree line and bumped rather sollidly in to some thing warm, short, and trembling. "Uh, guys?" The object growled.

The other thrree turned slowly, numbly, the scrols forgotten in their hands.

Shou's eyes widened and for a moment the excitement drained from his face. "Whoa!"

Kouta glanced up at the sky. It was black and a few stars were shining. "Why do you hate me?"

The snarl sounded again. Hot breath penetrated the back of Kouta's pant legs.

Kouta's head snapped back down. "New plan, guys. RUN FOR IT!"


Iruka pushed his eggs around sullenly. He could feel Sakura's eyes on him, waiting expectantly for answers.

He took a slow breath and rubbed his temple. He had a head ache starting up, and it was only going to get worse. At least he'd managed to clean him self up before he'd found Sakura lurking around in the dark, snooping.

He'd tried to catch up to Kakashi's dog, but the little beast had slipped down some thing dark and far to narrow for a human to pass through. After that Iruka had planed to check on the file room. If Udon had opened the locked file, the one set to explode, then it could have been left unstable. He didn't want any one killed on accident there. Plus he was worried about the boy.

Just one more problem in a long line. Udon was going to have to wait.

"Iruka." Sakura's voice drew out slowly. "Talk while you torture your food."

Iruka. No Iruka Sensei, no Iruka San, Just Iruka. He wondered when she had grown up.

"Forgive me, Sakura, it has been a long day." He set his utensils down. "A long few days."

"That it has." She granted with a nod. "Lets start with the obvious. I haven't heard from or seen Naruto sense this morning. He at your place?"

"He's at Lady Shizune's right now." Iruak toyed with his napkin, unable to keep his hands still for long.

"He said he wanted to go home." Sakura took a bite. "Some thing wrong? He isn't becoming septic again, is he?" She swallowed, then stabbed a bean bun. "I thought I pulled all of the trash out of him."

"He tried to go home, but..." Iruka leaned back, his appetite gone. "His apartment was broken into. It was trashed."

She turned and looked up at him with a hot, angry glare. "Trashed? What do you mean by that?"

He closed his eyes, trying to shut out the memory, but it only brought the images closer, made them more vivid. "They ruined every thing they could get their hands on, and wrote derogatory things all over the walls." He opened his eyes again and found no relief from the ghost like memories haunting his vision.

Sakura scowled down at her food. "Do you know who did it?"

"Sloppy peasant work." Iruka picked up a chopstick and shoved his eggs around some more. "They'll be easy to track. But Naruto..." He shook his head. "After what happened between him and Kakashi. . ."

Kakashi!" Sakura looked up and twisted all the way around in her seat to face him. She leaned forward. "Tell me about him. Is he alright? I haven't gone to see him yet."

Iruka leaned away from her, dreading what he was about to do. Team Seven, why was it always Team Seven? A part of him suddenly wished fervently that Sakura had been killed. It would be so much easier that way. "Kakashi is..." He fought to find the right words. "When he learned you two were dead he lost it."

He watched her, watched as her eyes took on a sharper, colder look. "But he's OK now, right?"

All Iruka could do was shake his head. "He rejected Naruto."

Sakura didn't look away, she didn't even flinch. "Then what?"

Irula was taken aback by her steely attitude. She'd been strong, but the lack of concern for the news of her teacher was different. "N-Naruto went home, found his apartment in ruins..." Iruka winced inwardly as anew wash of memories entered his mind. Naruto, sobbing in the street like a lost child, it tore his heart up. "I found him, crying, and took him to Shizune's place."

Sakura's eyes narrowed. "I see." She turned back to her food and continued eating, stabbing the food angerly. Slowly hot tears began to fall. "I'll go to Kakashi right away." She slammed her chopstick in to a pile of rice. "Naruto was in shock after every thing. I can't imagine the conversation the two of them had would have been particularly articulate." She stabbed the rice again and the stick broke.

He wanted to reach out and comfort her like had had with Naruto, but she wasn't his. She belonged to the Hokage, and as such he knew she'd get in the way of the plans. She'd pull Naruto right back to Kakashi, and the blond would fall apart.

The city would fall for sure.

There was no help for it, Irula realized, Sakura was going to have to be eliminated as an obstacle. Shaking, Iruka forced him self to take a slow, deliberate bite. "Maybe you'll have more luck than Naruto did."

"Luck." She snorted. "Luck isn't what this team needs or has, Iruka." She looked up and jabbed the broken chopstick at him in the air. "What we got is one undefinable, unstoppable, Jinchuriki who never. Ever. Gives up. Naruto isn't luck, he's a damned miracle. And that's exactly when this team needs when I pull us all in to the same room tomorrow." She lowered the chopstick. "So long as Naruto is alive I have hope. That's my ninja way, you know, never give up hope." She turned back to her food, tossed the broken chopstick aside, and scooped the rest of it up with her fingers.

Iruka absorbed the words with a bitter sweet feeling. She was every thing he had hoped she'd become. But that every thing, that passion and that determination, was what now painted her as his target. He set his utensils aside and swallowed the bitter taste creeping up his throat. "Sakura."

"Yeah?" She glanced up.

"You know some times hope isn't enough."

"Miracle blond." She said through her bite. "We covered this."

Iruka chuckled sadly. "That he is, isn't he?"

She nodded, swallowed,and wiped her hands off. "I'll be by first thing in the morning to talk to him. Then he and I are tracking down Kakashi. You want to help?"

Iruka nearly choked, and managed to shake his head 'no'.

She shrugged. "Fine. It's Team Seven business any way." She stood, crumpled he napkin, and dropped it on tot he plate. "If you change your mind though it might be nice to have you there as the calm head to moderate."

"I haven't been too calm in the head lately, Sakura."

She looked down at him and frowned. "It has been a long few days." She set her hand on his and smiled a little. "We gotta believe in Naruto. Seems like that's what the whole world is counting on."

At that he laughed shakily. "Yeah, yeah that's true."

She squeezed his hand, then left. "Thank you for the meal and the intell, Sensei." She tossed casually over her shoulder.

Iruak watched her go, and started after where she had been long after she vanished from view. He could kill Kakashi, he could, but nothing in him could make him self kill her. Not her, not one of his students.

Still, he had to keep her out of the way. Her and Tsunade together would bring the whole operation down. He couldn't have that. He couldn't let Naruto be caged.

He sank back, buried his face in his hands, and groaned. Kakashi... and now Sakura. He just wished they were both dead already.

Both dead. He lifted his head, just a little, and wondered if he could find away for the two to take each other out. Kaksahi was insane enough,and he'd already killed a team mate before. Not only was it plausible, but Iruka knew that if he pushed the information just right he could convince the Copy Cat Ninja that Sakura was some sort of brainwashed agent after being captive in Sand.

Kakashi would have no choice but to kill her.

The only problem was convincing Tsunade that Sakura was such an agent. Coldly, he realized that if he got Inoichi involved then it was very possible to shift the truth just enough to get it done.

With a new plan in place he stood, pulled out his money, and set it down on the table. As he set down the payment he noticed his hands. They were still shaking.


Kiba heard a cry, behind them, hound like. Familiar. His steps faltered and he stopped. Every chakra connection that Ino had silenced tingled.

The other two stopped and looked back.

Ino looked Kiba over and frowned. "M-maybe we should wait till day time."

Kiba clenched his fists, closed his eyes and willed the lingering, dying connections to fall silent. Far in the distance, near the gates, a dog was howling. Long, low, but not his. Never his. "NO!"

The other two flinched. "No more stalling!" He looked up at the blond, then marched past her. "Sorry, captain, but if you can't lead us out then I will." He started to walk.

"Kiba?"

He glared back. "Call me sir." He snapped. "Now move out!"

Ino and Udon shared worried looks, but then hurried to catch up. "Yes sir!" Ino managed.

Kiba leaped in to the trees. And didn't look back to see if he was being followed. Not by his team.

Not by the ghosts that lingered in the back of his mind.


Kouta looked back to see if he was being followed. By his team, or by the ghost that was nothing like what he'd imagined in his mind.

It wasn't a twelve foot tall green monster with razor sharp teeth and glowing eyes. It was a dog sized black and white monster with razor sharp teeth and glowing eyes. It hat two kunai sticking out of it's vaporal body.

It was also the only thing chasing him.

"YOU GUYS!" He cried. "Some friends you are!"

"That's it, Kouta, keep it occupied!" Yori called back.

"I'm never going camping with you again!" Kouta screamed, then his foot slammed into an obtrusive tree root, and he tripped. He pitched forward, flailed trying to catch him self, but hit the ground any way.

"KOUTA!" Osamu shouted, fear finally tinting his voice.

Kouta rolled to his back in time to see the energy beast sailing for him. It slammed in to his chest and knocked the wind out of his lungs. He struggled, but it pinned him down limb for limb.

"Do some thing!" Yori cried.

"The scrolls aren't working!" Osamu replied.

"OH, KOUTA! I can't watch!" Shou wailed.

Kouta thrashed, pulled one arm free, and held it up between his face and the fangs. "OK, good boy, get off Doctor K. now, all right? "I'll give you my ration bar."

The hound snarled and leaned in closer. Kouta could see one of the Kunai burried up to it's hilt in the anima's chest. It looked solid, cruel.

"That's how you died, isn't it?" Kouta looked up at the blank, rage filled eyes. He lowere his hand from his face and carefully wrapped his fingers around the blade's handle. He could hear his tema yelling, telling him to hang on, to give them only a moment, to wait.

He was done waiting on Osamu's science and Shou's eager hope. "Easy now, no bitting my head off, OK?" He was done waiting for Yori to simply show up.

"One."

The fangs inched towards his throat.

"Two." He tightened his grip.

A low growl rumbled from the dog.

"THREE!" Kouta yanked the blade free and rolled. The dog shrieked and thrashed, drool and blood splattered every where. Kouta scrambled to his knees while the undead monstrosity shook, but could not get far enough away from it before it jumped him again. This time he was pinned down on his side.

From the road side his friends were clearly panicking. And clearly still not helping matters. The mongrel bit down hard on Kouta's arm. He felt ivory crunch in to bone and made his own pained howl.

"KOUTA!" Shou screamed. "Get rid of the weapon!" There was a desperate tone to his voice. "It's after the weapon!"

Kouta gave it what toss he could, and it clattered to the ground not far away. Then it vanished in a puff of mist.

The dog calmed a little and lessened it's grip.

"Pull the other one out!" Yori shouted.

With nothing else to do or try Kouta did as he was told. He reached with his free arm up, and over to the Kunai buried in the hound's side. He grabbed it and braced him self, then pulled. It slid out with little effort. In a moment it to evaporated from existence.

For several moments nothing happened. Then the hound let go of his arm.

"Kouta?" Osamu called, fear in every letter.

Kouta opened one eye and peered up at his attacker. It was standing still, head up. The blood was vanishing from it's fur, like the blades had vanished.

It was still dead.

"Good dog?" Kouta wiggled a little. "Off?"

The mongrel looked down, in to his eyes. The rage was fadding.

"Off?" Kouta asked again.

The dog tilted it's head, and it's tail wagged just a little.

"Off!" Kouta shoved, but it wouldn't budge.

A long, wet, slimy pink tongue appeared...

"No! NO!"

...and was roughly dragged from chin to hair line.

Three sets of boots thundered up to him, stopped short by a few feet, and held still. Kouta could see Osamu playing with his radio again. Shou stepped up and leaned over the dog, grinning once more. "Oh NEAT-O!" He reached down and started to scratch the undead beast's ears. "You reversed it's insanity!"

"I am a psychiatrist." Kouta winced and rubbed at the very real wounds on his arm. "Uh, a little help?"

"Sorry!" Shou tugged the ghost dog off and pulled him to the center of the group. "He sure is friendly." He leaned in tot he white fur. "Man I always wanted a dog!"

"No." Kouta struggled to sit up. Yori jumped in and haled him to his feet.

"It's power reading has stabilized. It could be a valuable study aid."

"No!" Kouta hissed and peeled his sleeve away.

Yori pulled out first aid. "Could be nice to have a hound around." He looked down at the creature. "They can be taught all sorts of neat tricks. Could be good for fetching slippers, or ratting out other spooks!"

Kouta snatched the first aid kit from Yori. "We are not keeping the dog. It BIT me!"

Osamu knelt down and started petting it. "I'm sure this is the one that was killed a few days ago."

Kouta sighed and pulled the disinfectant out. "No one is listening to me."

Yori knelt as well and added his own hands to the mix. "Awe, what a good boy!"

Kouta sighed, wrapped his arm, then, after another quick glare up at the stars, knelt down too. He grabbed the dog's ruff and turned the beast to face him. "No."

It whined and tried to lick his chin.

"No, we don't need..."

It sat down, lifted both paws in a begging gesture and whimpered. It gave him wide, dark, puppy eyes.

Kouta looked away, any way, that wasn't into it's eyes. "How do they do that?"

The other three were still petting it. Looking at him. The same sort of pleading clear in their eyes.

"He's so fluffy." Shou buried his face in the ethereal fur.

"FINE!" Kouta stood and marched back towards the camp. "Fine. But no barking. No Growling." Suddenly the dog was at his side, pressing in, nuzzling his hand. "No eating of my food. No sliming my food!" The undead mutt licked his fingers. "No sleeping in my bed, or playing my music." The dog's tail wagged, thumping roughly against the back of his knee. "No crotch sniffing, toilet drinking then face kissing!"

The dog passed him then stood in front of him, blocking his way. He panted, open mouth. It looked like a smile.

Kouta looked down, frowning. "What?"

The dog reached up with one paw and made primitive grabbing motions at Kouta's injured arm. It then pulled the same paw over it's eyes, and looked away.

"I think he's apologizing, Kouta." Shou said with a smile his own.

"Dogs aren't that smart." Kouta patted it's head any way. "But what ever. I don't think he'll do it again." He turned to Osamu. "Right? He's fixed now?"

Osamu rubbed his chin for a moment. "This is fascinating."

"That's not a yes or no." Kouta pointed out.

"It was enraged at death, from an apparent fight." The blond let his chin go. "Anger is the last thing it felt, obviously. I'd need more data, but it appears what ever emotion is strongest at death defines what the chakra energy's attitude will be."

"But he fixed it." Yori said. "It didn't stay angry."

"This is a base animal." Osamu pointed out. "It's problems were obvious, and once removed it had no reason to be angry. A human ghost won't be so easy to fix." His eyes darkened. "Should anyone of the ninja of this village, with any mental health problems, die then we could be in serious trouble."

Kouta turned and looked down at the slightly glowing muzzle resting in his hand. "I got a bad feeling about this city."

Dark brown puppy eyes looked up at him, as if in agreement.


Sakura stood, stiff with silent burning rage, as she eyed what remained of Naruto's apartment. She'd wanted to hunt for Kakashi straight away, but she had found her self here, needing to know just how bad the damage was.

There was nothing left unbroken. Plates, pots, windows, decorations, pictures: all of it had been systematically smashed.

Even his fern lay dead.

After every thing that had happened Naruto did not need this.

Team Seven did not need this.

"Of all the wretched, horrible, immoral things..." She took a deep, angry, breath, and turned burning angry eyes towards the anti Jinchuriki graffiti scrawled all over the walls. The messy, vibrant words hailed the death of the Nine Tailed Fox as a blessing, and a sign of peace for the village.

She clenched her fist, eager to pulverize the dried paint off the walls, but she held back and swallowed the rage. Instead she tried to focus her mind on healing, rather than harming. She looked the damaged walls and suport beams over with the eye of a bone setter, and smiled a little. Most of the damage was superficial, and could easily be repaired. Very little looked as though it had to be replaced.

Her mind drifted back to Captain Yamato. His skills would quickly heal the damage here with his wood technique. If she could find him. She sighed and put that chore at the end of a growing to-do list. Her first, and foremost priority was Naruto. With two tailed beasts the blond teen was immensely powerful, and incredibly dangerous. While Yamato had been able to trap Naruto in the wood technique the house so dearly needed now Sakura doubted the man could keep Naruto bound indefinitely.

Really the only hope of keeping the city safe now if Naruto lost his temper was a Shaengan. And the only one who possessed that was Kakashi. Every thing seems to be coming back to him now. Him and Naruto.

She frowned and felt a familiar burn in the back of her throat. Kakashi had to be hurting incredibly bad now, to have rejected Naruto the way he had. Hurt and angry. As he was he could not help the blond. Sakura knew that with out some sort of intervention the two were destined to clash again, and again, until one of them broke the other.

If Naruto broke then the city would be obliterated off the map.

If Kakashi broke he'd die, she was sure of it, and that would in turn rip Naruto apart.

There was no help for it. Sakura had to go after the Copy Cat ninja her self and bring him back. Sedated and bound if she had to. If Naruto couldn't get through to him then maybe she could.

Because she was afraid he was going to die a painful, angry death if she didn't.