Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, or any of the characters, places, or events from Naruto. This story is entirely fictitious, and unless specifically noted otherwise is in no way based on real persons, places, or events. Any similarity is unintentional.
Note: The sequel of the monster sized fan fiction New Blood, a next generation story depicting the Konoha Twelve and Suna Trio as the heads of their own Genin teams, this story picks up four years after that one leaves off, if you're a new reader the first chapter (this is the prologue) will contain more information on the setting itself.
Also, because it is relevant to many people, I will warn you ahead of time that this story contains the Shikamaru and Temari pairing, both Sasuke-Sakura and Sasuke-Karin will be hinted at, Neji-Tenten, Naruto-Hinata, Anko-Kakashi, Kankuro-OC, Ino-Chouji, and probably some I'm forgetting. If any of those are a problem tough because I will not change them, the story also contains a fairly large cast of Original Characters, you've been warned.
First Scroll: Recovery
Sasuke stood near the front of the ship, his black robes wrapped tightly around himself, his hood covering his oh so recognizable face.
The ship they sailed on had a small crew and a rather small storage capacity, below decks, where the majority of Sasuke's band of rebels hid, there was barely enough room for everyone.
Luckily it was just a short trip from the Land of Waves to the island chain that made up the Land of Waters, and the small secluded island to which the refugees of the Leaf Village had escaped when Konoha had been besieged and conquered four years ago.
With the blessings of the Mizukage and to a lesser degree the Lord of the Land of Waters the refugees had settled on one of the smaller islands in what was becoming known as the village exiled to shadows, rather than the village hidden in them. Konoha's survivors and refugees had been trying to rebuild their lives and plotting to retake their true home ever since.
Sasuke hadn't gone with them then, he hadn't been ready to admit defeat and retreat to the secret protection of one of Konoha's longtime rivals, and so with the help of Hijiri Hitomi he'd stayed on the mainland, seeking out any lost Konoha ninja, and he'd found quite a few all things considered.
The night before in fact, he'd found Neji, who had himself been plotting a way to get to the island, he had remained behind as well traveling with and protecting his cousin Hinata, but apparently Hinata had ordered him to report to Gaara and Shikamaru in the village exiled, she herself had taken refuge along with Hanabi in Kumogakure.
Sasuke assumed if Hinata and Hanabi were moving their proverbial pieces across the board the time to attack had to be close, and so he'd decided that he too would go to the village and with him his small band of outlaw ninja.
So they'd caught a ride with Ito Yoshi, general of the Land of Water and his family who were vacationing in the Wave Country. It had taken some negotiating but in the end the man had agreed he would take Sasuke's band to the village but Sasuke himself would be going to the Water Country's capital city to meet the Daimyo and Mizukage, which Sasuke had intended anyway.
Most of his ninja were below decks staying well out of the way of the small vessel's ten man crew, but Neji and wanted to come up and since Sasuke had no technical authority over him he hadn't argued the matter, Hitomi on the other hand couldn't be kept below decks, even though Sasuke did have authority over her.
To Sasuke, who'd been on boats before, and to the medic Endo Hayato who had grown up in Kirigakure the boat ride was kind of a big nothing, but for Hitomi, who had, it seemed, never actually been on the high seas before . . .
"Over the side! Over the side!" The ship's captain shouted.
Endo was leaning against the port rail casually whilst Sasuke's subordinate Hijiri Hitomi leaned over the side in misery.
"Had no idea you'd get seasick." The medic said with a slight smirk.
"I don't--ugh--usually." Hitomi grumbled, "Can't you do something--uck--about it?"
"Probably, but why bother? It's much more entertaining seeing you puke your guts out. Besides just think, you're feeding the fish." The Water Country doctor said, giving the Konoha ninja an affectionate pat on the back.
"I'll kill you in your sleep." Hitomi said crossly.
"At least you managed to say it without vomiting." Sasuke said with a smirk.
"We're being intercepted." Neji said, porting from the crows nest where he'd been observing their surroundings and appearing next to Sasuke.
Sasuke sighed. His small army of ninja, only eight strong apart from himself, Neji and Hitomi, were in poor shape to take on a dedicated enemy.
Of the crew only Neji, Hitomi and Sasuke were Jounin, the rest were a mixture of Chuunin and Genin who'd survived not only the fall of Konoha, but the ninja hunters that had spent the last four years seeking out any ninja and anyone who might possibly be a ninja and dragging them off to Orochimaru to suffer who knew what kind of torments.
"This close to the village it's probably just one of Kirigakure's watch ships." Sasuke said.
"That doesn't concern you?" Neji asked.
"It's been worked out." Endo said calmly, "The Village Exiled would have been destroyed long ago if Mist weren't secretly their ally, Mist keeps its ships on watch to make sure that the Shogunate doesn't find their village. The Mizukage is really quite fond of you exiles. Their ship will come about next to ours, they'll see we have the Taisho with us, realize we're friendly and leave us to go about our business.
"Yes . . . If they're Water country soldiers that's exactly what they'll do." Sasuke said calmly, "but since they're more likely to be Mist village ninja . . . well they're far more likely to--"
"Now!" Hitomi shouted, leaping back from the edge and shoving Endo to the ground as something leapt out of the water near them.
It was a masked ninja from the village hidden in Mist, four more leapt onto the ship from the water, the one that had come aboard first hefted a massive sword, though Sasuke could tell he wasn't one of Mists's Swordsmen, just someone who favored the fighting style, probably a Chuunin since he was the first aboard, he was the most expendable.
He swung his sword, nearly cutting Hitomi in half but she leapt up, landed on the blade knocking it out of the ninja's hands.
Sasuke activated his Sharingan, Hitomi probably started using her Kekkei Genkai and he heard Neji snap "Byakugan!"
The head general of the Lands of Water, their escort for this journey, stepped up from below decks, bow in hand. "I see, I thought we'd be spotted about now. Now lads, I'm sure you realize just by looking into the eyes of these three how utterly doomed you are so what say we talk this out?"
Sasuke smirked when one of the ninja, a woman with long hair suddenly folded her arms and said "I knew it was Sasuke-kun from the start . . . I just wanted to see if he was on his toes."
"Karin . . ." Sasuke said with a slight sigh, "I'm surprised to see you here in Mist uniform."
"Hmm. Suigetsu's offer was better than Kabuto's, and I have total command of the dragnet around the forbidden island so I don't have to put up with his lordship in person, just the odd vague communiqué." Karin said simply.
Sasuke smirked. He recalled when he learned that Suigetsu had become Mizukage, that he'd expressed interest in recruiting Sasuke, having wanted to round up "the old team" again.
Sasuke had suspected Suigetsu must have found Juugo, but he'd assumed Karin would have thrown in with Sound again, especially with Orochimaru back in the flesh so to speak.
It was a relief of sorts to see she had not, and yet at the same time it was unsettling that she, someone whose loyalty might be somewhat questionable, would be given such an important rank and position.
"We'll guide your ship in," Karin said, "how many are disembarking?"
"Myself, three civilians and ten ninja, "Endo said calmly.
The bright red haired kunoichi raised an eyebrow, "That's impressive, three squads, a small army."
"Well you know, ninja don't grow on trees these days." Sasuke said calmly, "it was important to find as many as we could."
Karin shrugged, "I would have been helpful in that endeavor, you should have sought me out. I'd have taken a chance to work with you over a chance to work for Suigetsu anyday."
"We didn't exactly have time to plan who would and wouldn't come," Sasuke said evasively, "besides I didn't know where you were. You made yourself awfully scarce during the war."
"Didn't I though?" Karin smirked.
Sasuke glanced at Hitomi and said "We'll be arriving soon, get everyone ready."
"M-me?" Hitomi complained, "But what if I--"
"Take a bucket." Endo suggested and Sasuke nodded, indicating that that was indeed what Hitomi should do.
He didn't need his second in command making a fool of herself, not in front of Karin. He'd show this woman no weakness, and no trust.
Shikamaru eyed his opponent levelly, she'd already lost she just didn't realize it yet.
Or . . . knowing Temari she did realize it, and refused to admit it.
Either way it was fun watching her glare over the board and him and attempt to make a move that wouldn't benefit his grand scheme. Even so Shikamaru was able to keep his face impassive, and that, he knew, drove her absolutely crazy.
She was used to opponents who gave things away with their expressions, Shikamaru used to lure her into traps by using false expressions but she'd gotten wise to it and so he'd just stopped showing any outward reaction whatsoever to whatever move she made, and so far it was working rather well.
Temari glared at the board and said "Y'know it's a good thing you've got so much time to play board games. I mean it isn't like we're stranded on some island with a massive empire surrounding us waiting to move in and wipe us out."
"Says the woman also playing a board game." Shikamaru said simply.
"I'm just a soldier, not the chief strategist." Temari said with a shrug, "Gaara is depending on you, we all are, and yet here you are playing games with your wife."
Shikamaru yawned, "It helps me focus. Orochimaru had years to plan his strategy to take over the world, and just because I'm smart doesn't mean I'm the smartest person in the world, for all we know Orochimaru might still be smarter."
"That's not even funny." Temari said grimly, "We can't afford that, if Konoha and Suna are going to be rebuilt and the five nations restored you need to be smarter than Kabuto and Orochimaru together, you need to help us defeat them."
Shikamaru shook his head slowly, "Yeah, and you need to make a move."
Temari sighed, "What are you going to do, wait for Orochimaru and Kabuto to die of old age?" Temari scoffed.
Shikamaru was curious as to what Temari meant to accomplish with this conversation.
She was probably stalling for time, so he decided to humor her whilst glancing at the board and very noticeably averting his eyes from particular piece he wanted her to move in a subtle attempt to draw her attention to it.
"What can I possibly do against the Shogun and the Emperor? They have resources I don't, numbers, and worst of all faith. Orochimaru is revered as a god, what can I do to a man who commands that level of loyalty? His followers would throw their lives away for him."
"Well if Sand and Leaf can't stop him who can? Are we supposed to just give up? We have over a hundred ninja here, that's got to count for something." Temari said.
Shikamaru shrugged, "One hundred forty nine to be precise, and we'll have about eighteen more Genin if we graduate the entire class."
"So do it." Temari said with a shrug, "Genin aren't to be underestimated, they could be the difference between victory and defeat."
Shikamaru shook his head, "On top of that every man in the village is a member of Taisho Akira's militia, but that just means that if we're attacked they're capable of defending the village, less than a third of them would actually be able to march if we launched an invasion."
"So don't count on them," Temari shrugged, "this should be a ninja affair anyway, soldiers would just get in our way."
Shikamaru shrugged, "Perhaps most importantly, Naruto hasn't returned yet."
Temari scowled, "He's one man, you can't just stand around waiting for him. Wouldn't it be better to defeat Orochimaru now and . . . when Naruto comes back the world will be proper again."
Shikamaru noted the way Temari had paused, she'd had to remind herself to say "when" instead of "if" Naruto came back.
Konoha's Twelve ninja were somewhat scattered. Kiba had gone missing during the evacuation of Konoha, Shino and Sai had gone out to find him and hadn't reported back in three months, all three of them were presumed killed in action, though Shikamaru doubted the enemy would be able to keep quiet about something that major.
Sasuke had run off to wage his own war on Orochimaru when Konoha fell, Tenten, Neji and Hinata had ended up in Kumogakure with Hanabi, which meant that Naruto might be there too, but it was doubtful.
Since both the Raikage and Orochimaru wanted the nine tails chakra Naruto wouldn't be safe in Kumo or anywhere else since everywhere else was now Sound Country.
Lee, Ino, Chouji and Sakura were in the village along with Shikamaru. Half of the Konoha Twelve were present and ready to do Kabuto some damage when the time came and the time was rapidly coming.
Regardless of what he told Temari Shikamaru had finalized his initial plans.
He'd spoken with Nao's sister Emiko, and she guessed that soon some of the things he needed before he could move would arrive.
And that's exactly when his daughter Sumiko came running up the dirt road to their small home.
"Boat!" She shouted as she came into earshot.
"What boat?" Temari asked.
"Boat . . . Taisho . . . Ito . . ." Sumiko panted, holding her side.
Temari sighed, Shikamaru said "I guess we'd better get to the docks to welcome such an illustrious visitor."
Temari scoffed, "Stand up and you admit defeat in this game."
Shikamaru smirked at her and stood up, "I forfeit. Time to start playing with real armies, my dear."
"Thank heaven." Temari sighed, and stood up, "Alright let's go."
To Be Continued . . .