Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto, and Rosario+Vampire is the property of Akihisa Ikedha. I have to admit, I give Ikedha credit for managing to make a decent manga where vampires are sort of...well...living beings, and not dead, heh. Anyway, on with the chapter.
Chapter Ten: Of Vampires, Sages, and Sunflowers
Tsukune went flying out of the boy's bathroom before hitting the wall on the other side of the hallway. He got up and snarled, glaring at the one who had thrown him.
Naruto slowly stepped out of the bathroom, hands raised in front of him while he walked lightly on his feet, ready to move at a moment's notice, "Tsukune, I know you're still in there. If you can hear me, then-"
He was cut off as Tsukune ran towards the blond with reckless abandon. Naruto hopped back before catching him by the wrists and tripping him up and throwing him to the ground. Before he knew it, Tsukune was getting back to his feet, attempting to claw at at the ninja. The Jinchuuriki boy took a step back before kicking Tsukune in the jaw, knocking him onto his back. Blood was now on the floor, but Tsukune didn't seem to register the fact that his lip was bleeding. Once again he rose to his feet, but this time Naruto noticed he was not as fast as before.
Tsukune lunged towards the blond, who quickly sidestepped and gut checked the rampaging teen before spinning around him and kicking him in the back of the shoulder blades. Tsukune stumbled forward and groaned in pain while rubbing near the spots he had been struck.
"Looks like he hasn't completely lost all of his senses. He definitely felt that."
Naruto's thoughts were confirmed true as Tsukune looked up to Naruto, eyes red, but not glazed over in blind rage. Streaks of silver were starting to form within the brown hair, and his canines sharpened to a noticeable degree.
"A vampire?" Naruto thought aloud, "Damn...Moka's blood really does have an affect on Tsukune."
Tsukune's red irises suddenly seemed to focus more clearly, and he looked to Naruto in confusion, "Naruto? What's...?"
The blond lowered his guard a bit, "You were attacking me." He cautiously approached his fellow classmate, "Looks like Moka's blood seems to be wearing off a bit."
"Blood?" Tsukune repeated, "So, it wasn't just in my head..." He let out a groan before standing up, "I attacked you?"
"Yep," replied Naruto, "Moka said you may be a bit dangerous, so I was ready. I'm not sure what to make of it, but your appearance has changed a little. You kind of remind me of what Moka looks like when the seal's released."
Tsukune's eyes widened, and he quickly bolted into the bathroom. Naruto followed the distressed teen, who was now looking at his reflection in one of the bathroom mirrors, "I...how come she never told me this would happen?"
Naruto rubbed his chin, "She seemed a bit worried, but apparently the effects of vampire blood are almost immediate. My guess is that the blood spent most of its power on healing you after that incident with Kuyou, but those teeth, silver hair, and eyes may be some of the remaining power cycling through you."
"So...you mean, I became a vampire?"
Naruto shrugged, "Looks that way. I'm...sure it'll wear off with time."
"I sure hope so..." Tsukune stated as he pulled back his upper lips to reveal fangs, "At least my eyes aren't hurting with the light anymore...ugh..." Tsukune pinched his nose suddenly, "Someone really needs to clean this bathroom."
The shinobi raised an eyebrow at Tsukune's comment, and channeled a small amount of chakra to his nostrils before scrunching up his face, "Yeah, the stalls kind of stink."
"Damn...what are we going to do about this?" Tsukune inquired, tugging lightly at his now completely silver hair, "People will notice if I go out like this."
"Hmm..." Naruto leaned against the wall as he thought, "Kind of sucks that you can't use chakra to make a henge. I'd teach you what I could...but your coils are past the time where it's possible to begin chakra training. You've got enough going through you to live, maybe enough to possibly increase your physical strength and speed, but that's it."
Naruto blinked before laughing, "Sorry, ninja-speak. Don't mind me."
"Okay..." Tsukune frowned, "So, what do we do?"
Naruto's eyes lit up as an idea began forming within his mind, "Okay, here's what we're going to do..."
"Naruto...this isn't going to-"
"Tsukune, why did you go and die your hair like that? I mean, sure, silver is cool and whatnot, but I think you went a bit far." Naruto interrupted, his voice sounding like he was reading lines off a teleprompter very badly.
Tsukune sighed, giving into Naruto's idea, "I don't know, Naruto. You know how I am with my silly impulsive ideas."
The two turned around the corner to see the girls heading their way. Moka's eyes were the first to widen as she noted Tsukune's appearance. Before she could voice her concerns, Naruto spoke especially loud, "We should go and speak to the girls and see what can be done to get rid of that silver hair which clearly was done with hair dye and isn't naturally like that."
The girls, thankfully, caught on. Kurumu spoke first, "Wow, Tsukune, that's some interesting hair you got there." Then the Succubus noted the red irises of the transformed boy, "You also got some red contact lenses. Wow, are you trying to go for a new look?"
Tsukune laughed nervously, "Heheh, I guess I am. It's the latest fad...or...something."
Naruto leaned forward suddenly, his voice dropping to a whisper, "We need to get him looked at. Now."
Moka nodded, "I-I'll see what I can do. The blood's effect should wear off soon, though. Come on, Tsukune."
"I'll go with, too!" Yukari piped in, "I'm sure we can find a book in the library on why this happened."
Mizore and Kurumu were about to follow but stopped when the Yuki-onna noticed a gash running down Naruto's arm, "Ah, Naruto-kun. You're bleeding!"
The blond blinked in confusion before looking at his left arm. He raised it up to see a thin line of red running down his arm to his hands, "Huh...Tsukune must have nicked me. Didn't notice it." He waved off the two, who were trying to get a better look at the cut, "Don't worry about it. I've suffered worse and turned out alright."
"It could get infected." Kurumu protested.
"I'm pretty sure I've built up an immunity to almost everything that could get me sick. Trust me." The blond replied with a grin, "Go make sure that Moka and Yukari are alright. Tsukune's fine now, but he was attacking me earlier. We don't need another incident like that to happen."
The girls gave a nod and followed the three heading towards the library, Mizore stealing glances over her shoulder every so often, unsure if it was alright to leave Naruto by himself.
Once they were gone, Naruto let out a sigh, "Damn. That saved me some trouble..." He stretched a bit and looked to his wound once more, which had already started to close up, "Hm. That was a lot deeper than I thought. Looks like he got more of Moka's powers than I thought."
Naruto found his stomach growling, so he decided to head back to the lunch room and finish his meal. He was relieved to find it still there and untouched. He scarfed down what was left within ten minutes, and decided to sit and relax for the remainder of the period.
The rest of the day went by rather uneventfully, though he took note that Moka and Tsukune weren't in Math class. While he understood the circumstances, it was a pain for him nonetheless. Now he actually had to pay attention so he could take notes for them.
After the excruciating torture that was high school level algebra, the blond made his way home, having no classes for the rest of the day. He planned on taking a short break before heading over to the dojo to get a bit of practice in with Haji and the other members of the Karate Club.
About half way to the dorms, he felt the subtle presence of several individuals following him from a distance. If it weren't for the fact that they were trying to hide their presence, then maybe he wouldn't have gotten suspicious.
He looked behind him, not surprised in the least to see no one following. He yawned before continuing down the path lined with trees to the boys' dorms.
"Hm. Maybe they're expecting me to be prepared for an ambush? Guess they're more cautious than I thought."
He stopped short when four guys that stood a few inches taller than him walked out in front of his path. The ninja raised an eyebrow, and smirked upon recognizing the face of Saizou, the blundering behemoth of a monster that fought Naruto when he had just started becoming friends with Tsukune and Moka.
"Oh, hey there, Saizou. How are you doing?"
"Tch, cut the crap, Uzumaki. You should have known that I'd come back for you."
Naruto gave a mock frown, "Ouch. You cut me deep, Saizou-kun. I was hoping we could put the past behind us. Hell, if you want, the Karate Club's always looking for new recruits, and I know for a fact you could use some help with your fighting-"
The shinobi ducked suddenly as he felt a blade of some sort graze over the tips of his hairs. He spun around to trip up his ambusher, but they were apparently more agile than he thought. The mystery attacker jumped back and gave the blond a calm smile, "So, you're as skilled as they say, Uzumaki."
Naruto found himself now surrounded by five males that seemed eager to give him a beating. He didn't even feign concern though, instead facing towards the newcomer, "Alright, what's this all about? I don't take kindly to people trying to lob my head off." He gave a nod to the right arm of his attacker, which was shaped like a fleshy scythe of sorts. Naruto was betting that it was part of the guy's youkai powers.
"Ah, sorry, I guess I got a bit carried away there." The newcomer spoke, "I'm Kiria Yoshii, a member of ANTI-THESIS. According to what Saizou here says, you're a friend of Moka Akashiya and Tsukune Aono."
"That's old news. What's it to you?"
"Well, we've been given very reliable leads on those two. From what we've been told, both of them are vampires." Kiria replied in a calm voice, "Care to confirm that?"
Naruto kept his features schooled into a look of mild annoyance. They knew of Tsukune too? Well, then again, Tsukune did say he was a vampire to Saizou when he was being bullied by the delinquent. Were they going off that lead?
"I don't bother them about their true forms." Naruto replied, "Is that all? I have a club meeting in less than an hour and I don't like to be late."
Without warning, one of the five surrounding him lunged forward, his arms transforming into pincer-like claws. Naruto quickly jumped out of the way, and dealt a successful kick to the face of one of the other students. He made a break for it, deciding to try and lose them rather than engage directly.
He took to the trees, leaping as fast as he could, sensing the youki of his five pursuers growing steadily weaker. Eventually, Naruto halted on the bough of a tree and watched the ground below. About a minute passed and two of the members could be seen heading down the pathway leading to the boys' dorms.
"Gah, damn it! He got me right in the eye!" growled the taller of the two, who Naruto immediately recognized as Saizou. He bit down a chuckle, intending on keeping his location hidden.
"Maybe if you weren't so weak you would have stopped him, Saizou." grumbled his comrade. Saizou looked ready to retort, but bit his tongue. Obviously this guy held some kind of authority within their group.
"He's stronger than he looks, Midou. Hell, Kiria was interested the moment we mentioned the guy's name. Obviously Kiria knows something about him that we don't." Saizou replied, "It's like he's keeping us in the dark-"
"He's got his reasons!" Midou snarled, turning towards Saizou, "You'd be smart to keep your nose out of his business. We've got one goal anyway, so the sooner we get rid of all the pure-breeds, the better."
The two continued down the road, unaware that their quarry had been no more than fifteen feet above them in the foliage of the trees. After feeling that the coast was clear, Naruto continued onward to the dorms, sticking to the trees to avoid any further encounters with the monsters.
"ANTI-THESIS...sounds like these guys have something against pure-breed monsters." Naruto thought as he silently ran up the side of the dorm building before opening his window and slipping inside, "Looks like I'll have to up my patrol time for Youkai again."
Naruto was surprised to find that he had no further problems with the ragtag group of monsters. They either gave up or were looking for him somewhere else now. Hell, they could be waiting for him outside the dojo right now.
Still, Naruto had to give himself a pat on the back. About a year ago, he probably would have been a moron and tried to take on the five by himself. Sure, he would likely have beaten them in a fight, but there would have been repercussions for doing so. Students may have noticed, some may have even suspected him to be the Arashi-Ninja. He already had enough close calls as it was.
There was also the fact that by beating those five, more would have come after him. He didn't need that right now. Especially with exams around the corner.
Luckily, no one was waiting for him outside the gymnasium. He walked into the building, and headed towards the dojo, intent on getting some thorough practice in. After all, he was a first degree black belt now. He could not afford to be slacking off.
The Karate Club stood in mild awe as Naruto destroyed several concrete blocks with a single, well executed punch. Sure, they could do it as well if they summoned some of their true powers, and Haji was obviously able to break through seven cinder blocks without much difficulty...
...but Naruto had done this five times now and wasn't even complaining.
"Naruto, if I didn't know any better I'd swear you're not made of flesh and bone, heh." Haji commented as he shook his head, "You have got to be the only first year to do that in the entire history of our organization."
"Bah, you're just saying that." Naruto joked, earning a laugh from a few of the members, "I owe it all to you guys though. I never had a solid form of martial arts under my belt until now, no pun intended."
"Alright, well, that wraps up today's meeting. If we all keep improving at this rate, the other schools will stand no chance against us." Haji stated, "Great work everyone."
Naruto headed towards the exit, only to stop when he saw a flash of light purple and blue. A few of the members noticed this, and gave whistles upon seeing the blond looking to Mizore. He blinked before blushing, flipping his fellow club members the one-finger salute, and then grinned while turning to the Yuki-onna once more. Mizore returned the smile with one of her own, and met him halfway as he made his way to the doors.
"Did you have a good practice?" Mizore asked.
"It was pretty good. I guess Haji-senpai is considering giving me a roster position when we start actual meets."
The Yuki-onna nodded as she kept pace with her boyfriend, "I watched you breaking those cinder blocks. I'd say I'm surprised that you're that strong, but...well, I've seen much more than that already."
A few of the upperclassmen passing by chuckled, taking Mizore's statement out of context. Naruto tried to ignore the winks and thumbs up they gave him as they passed by, yet Mizore only seemed to make it worse with her giggling.
"Mizore..." Naruto began, "...watch what you say in front of the guys."
"It's true, though. You're very talented and have lots of stamina."
One of the third year students tripped over himself as he turned sharply to Mizore while a fellow first year smacked into a door.
Naruto's cheeks turned pink with embarrassment as he looked down. He felt Mizore's hand intertwine with his own, and looked to see her smiling, "Naruto, I'm sorry for teasing you."
The blond gave a small chuckle, "It's fine. I'll probably just have to deal with the other guys giving me a hard time in club for a little while."
"Hm. You're smiling, though."
"What can I say? I'm a lucky guy." Naruto answered, "I've got you for a girlfriend, I'm in the Karate Club..."
It was the Yuki-onna's turn to blush this time, gazing away as she spoke quietly, "Naruto-kun..."
Naruto squeezed the girl's hand gently, and she looked to face the blond, "It's true though. I'm glad you're my girlfriend."
"We've only started dating. You sure about that?"
"I'm a good judge of character." Naruto began, "Besides, a girl who can deal with me is a good person in my book, heheh."
The two continued towards the dorms, stopping once they reached the fork in the road where they would part. Mizore smiled before speaking, "Do think my hair would look good shorter?"
"This again? Mizore-chan, I think your hair would like fine long or short. You do what you want, I'll like it all the same."
Mizore frowned, "So...should I keep it long?"
"You know what? I think change is always a nice thing. Go ahead and shorten it if you want. Just don't ask me to cut your hair. I'd probably mess it up."
The Yuki-onna giggled, "I'll keep that in mind. Speaking of which..." She tugged gently on Naruto's bangs, "You could use a trim as well."
"H-hey, I just said you can do what you want with your hair. How come I need to get a haircut?"
"Because I won't be able to see your eyes before much longer."
Naruto looked at his bangs and pouted, "My hair's fine."
"We'll see what Kurumu can do. She's had a little experience working on hair with her mom, I guess." Mizore sighed as she ran a hand through Naruto's mane of golden hair, "Naruto-kun?"
"Hm?" Naruto asked quietly as Mizore's face neared his.
"If...well...do you think I'll still look beautiful when I get older?"
"Random question, but yes, I think so." Naruto replied, "If kids are supposed to take after their parents, I'd say I did that. I look a lot like my mom...though I got my dad's hair."
"I've never seen what your parents look like." Mizore smiled, "Do you have pictures?"
The blond gave a nod, "A couple. If you want, I can show you a few sometime. You can even see what I looked like when I was a kid."
"I'm sure you were a troublemaker." Mizore joked.
"One of the biggest ones there ever was."
"Heheh, not surprised."
The two stood in comfortable silence for a few moments before they shared a small kiss. Mizore couldn't help but find the way Naruto's cheeks flared up adorable as he began to stutter, "W-well, I better get going. I-I need to change and clean up, then get some reading done for language class tomorrow, heheh."
"Alright. Stop by later if you want."
"I think I might."
Mizore wrapped her arms around Naruto once more, and the young shinobi returned her embrace with a content sigh.
He liked this. He found himself becoming more and more addicted to the physical contact Mizore gave him. She was a rather quiet girl when you first met her, but after they became a couple, she was a rather open individual. She wasn't afraid to show how much she cared about him, and being who he was, the blond had received little physical affection outside of that from Tsunade back in Konohagakure. He had received pats on the head from Iruka and the Sandaime from time to time, the occasional congratulatory pat on the shoulder from Kakashi, and Jiraiya would give him a friendly punch on the arm or ruffling of hair when he did well, but...
Mizore was surprisingly warm for a being who claimed to have power over ice and snow.
As for the Yuki-onna, she could probably fall asleep leaning in Naruto's arms if she wanted. The muscles of his abs were easily felt underneath his karate uniform, and his arms gave her a feeling of warmth and contentment that she never had before. She took in a content breath, and her nose crinkled a bit.
"You smell." She commented.
"Heh, that's the smell of hard work." Naruto laughed, "Like I said, I need to shower."
The two eventually let go of each other, "I'd like you to stop over later. Maybe we can get Kurumu to cut your bangs."
"Again with the haircut," Naruto groaned, albeit with a small smile, "Alright...if it means that much, I can probably spare with an inch of lost hair."
"Then I'll see you later."
With that, the two went down their respective paths. Mizore watched Naruto as he made his way back to the dorms, and once he was a small speck near the entrance of the boys' dorms, she sighed.
She had almost done it again. She was going to question him about where he saw them as a couple years from now. At the last second she decided against it, knowing that the question would have probably scared him a bit. It was much too soon to ask such questions. The snow girl could not help it though; her race ingrained such thoughts at an early age. Procreation was a very necessary thing for them, since they had a limited time frame to have children.
Sooner rather than later she'd have to start thinking seriously about such things. Still, the fact that her mother knew she was dating a boy that was like Naruto was a good thing. The Snow Priestess back home would be pleased about such news, and would likely keep the girl from being paired up with some random stranger for a possible fiancé.
She made her way towards her dorm, deciding to put such thoughts aside for the time being. Right now she was going to concern herself with how much of her hair she should have cut. She'd have to consult the other girls about such a matter.
"Oi, boss, math's done."
Naruto looked up from his book, and grinned, "Awesome. Go ahead and dispel if you want."
The clone set down the notebook and dispersed in a cloud of smoke. Naruto closed his eyes and hummed, "Damn...those problems took a lot more work than I thought they would. Still..." He sighed while rubbing his left temple, "Stupid polynomials..."
With the clone's memories and the accompanying headache fresh in his mind, the blond closed his book. He was more or less done reading, and had just gone over a few pages a second time to make sure he got everything down. Language Arts was alright for him; not as fun as gym, and not as interesting as Home Economics, but it wasn't Math.
The blond looked at the clock, and was a bit surprised to see it was going onto nine in the evening. He would be leaving for Mizore's shortly, but he still wasn't keen on the idea of getting his hair cut.
"Maybe if I bring Tsukune along, he can provide me with backup."
Naruto exited his room, locking the door and walking down the hall towards Tsukune's room. He reached the door and knocked. The door opened to reveal Tsukune, toothbrush in hand, "Oh, Naruto, what's up?"
"Not much. I was going over to see Mizore, and I'm pretty sure the moment I get there the girls are going to try and gang up on me and make me get my hair trimmed."
Tsukune laughed, "I guess Moka wasn't the only one then, huh?"
"...so there was a conspiracy." Naruto joked, "What'd Moka say?"
"She said my hair is not too long, but it could use a trim on the sides and back." He frowned as he pulled on his sideburns, "Do you think it's too long?"
"Nope, not that it's really my place to worry about such things."
"I figured as much." Tsukune turned back to his dorm room, "Come on in. I was actually going to head over to work on an article with the girls in a few minutes."
"It's a trap." Naruto stated with a nod, "I guarantee it."
"Why are you worried? You can get out of a situation like that, can't you?"
"Sure, but I'm not too keen on facing the girls after I run off on them. Who knows what they'd do. Yukari seems like she's got a mean streak to her; I'd rather not test to see what she'd do with that wand of hers."
"Ah, good point."
After Tsukune had finished brushing his teeth, the two headed to the girls' dorms.
"So, Tsukune...how are things going with you and Moka?"
"Hm?" Tsukune looked to his friend before smiling, "Good, I guess. I mean, we've been hanging out quite a bit lately."
"So...have you asked her out yet?"
Tsukune laughed sheepishly, "No, I haven't."
"Well, why not? She's a pretty girl, she obviously likes you, and above all of that, you and her are close to each other already."
Tsukune raised an eyebrow, "You think she'd like to go out with me?"
"Tsukune, I'd slap you if you weren't such a nice guy." Tsukune gave Naruto a confused look, "Yes, she would most likely, almost one hundred percent, go out with you."
"Oh...well..." Tsukune scratched his cheek, "I guess I could ask her."
"There you go!" Naruto smiled widely, "Tsukune is finally growing up."
"H-hey, come on, Naruto, give me a break, will you?"
The blond laughed while giving Tsukune a half-hearted apology. They soon found themselves in front of the girls' dorms, "So...it's agreed that if they team up on us with hair trimming supplies that we leap out of the window, right?"
"Naruto, I'm not a ninja..."
Naruto blinked before grumbling, "Hm, I guess we could always just bolt out the door and make a break for it..."
They made their way up the steps to the floor where Moka and Mizore's rooms were. The two stood at the door of Moka's for a brief moment before Tsukune took in a deep breath and knocked. There was a rustling heard from within before the door opened a bit, pink hair and the cute face of Moka poking out from the crack, "Oh, Tsukune...and Naruto-kun!" She opened the door fully, "We weren't expecting you for awhile."
Naruto's eyebrow arched up, "You were expecting us both?"
"Moka, where is your barber kit again?"
Moka grinned while Tsukune and Naruto both gave her a hopeless look, "I said it's behind my dresses in the closet, Mizore!"
"I don't...oh, never mind, I found it!"
Moka turned back to her two friends and smiled warmly, "Want to come in?"
"I'm allergic to scissors."
Moka gave Naruto a rare flat look, "Naruto-kun, Mizore's right about your hair; it's getting long."
"Ah screw it, this was going to happen anyway."
As he entered, Naruto noted that the vampiress's dorm room was larger than either his room or Tsukune's. Upon walking into the dining area, he was greeted by Kurumu and Yukari, who were setting up two hair trimming spots, likely for Tsukune and himself.
"Their window's open..."
"Don't try it, Naruto." Tsukune said under his breath.
"Oh, Naruto-kun," spoke the voice of Mizore. Naruto turned to her and his voice caught in his throat, "I didn't think you'd stop here first. I was going to head to my room and see if you were there."
"O-oh, hey Mizore, um, yeah, Tsukune and I decided to go here together; he mentioned something about his hair getting cut too...so uh..." He stared at her for a moment before smiling, "I like what you did with your hair."
Mizore's hair had been trimmed to shoulder length. He noted that her it was poking out in a few different directions with the loss of length that would have held it down. He found himself liking the new look a lot.
Mizore noticed his gaze and smiled, blushing a little, "Thanks. Kurumu helped with it."
"That's right, and you're next in line, Naruto."
The ninja sighed in defeat as the Succubus held a pair of scissors in hand, "Fine, just don't take off too much."
Naruto brushed a hand over his now shortened hair. He smiled a bit before turning to Kurumu, handing her the mirror she had let him borrow "I like it!"
Kurumu rolled her eyes while laughing, "I told you that you would." She walked up to him, and looked him over, making sure his hair was even on either side of his head, "Hm...Mizore, what do you think?"
The Yuki-onna gave Naruto's new haircut a once over before nodding, "I think it's great." She turned to Moka, who was putting on some finishing touches with Tsukune's hair, "How's it going over there for you, Moka?"
"We've just finished." The vampire girl answered, pulling off the towel tied around Tsukune's neck, "Not too big of a change, but it's good enough."
After having a cup of tea made by Moka while the group discussed an article for the upcoming issue of the school newspaper, the boys prepared to leave. Naruto stopped at the door and looked back, "Oh, by the way, I figured you all should be aware of this. I was approached by a bunch of guys who say their from a group called ANTI-THESIS. That Saizou jerk is among them. They're a group of hybrids...whatever, I don't know the proper term, but they're not what I guess some would call 'pure-blooded'." He had adorned his 'business' tone now, "Just keep your eyes peeled...they seemed interested in you two." Naruto gestured to Tsukune and Moka, "I'll keep tabs on them as much as I can, but...I'm only one guy, even with my Shadow Clones."
"You mean they're after Tsukune-kun and Moka? Just like the Police Committee?" Kurumu asked, "Why?"
"No clue other than the fact that they asked about Tsukune's vampire-condition." He scratched his head while looking up, "Apparently they're following rumors, and Tsukune's lie that he told to Saizou at the time must have helped fuel this current problem of ours. My guess is that they're either out for revenge on Saizou's behalf, or they're just trying to make a statement. "
"Statement?" Yukari repeated, "In what way?"
"Simple; if they can take down two vampires, they can take on strong monsters." the blond answered, "Just be careful, I guess."
"What about you, Naruto?" Mizore questioned.
"Naruto's not doing anything. The Arashi-Ninja's taking care of all of this." Naruto replied, "For now, I'm going to lay low and see what develops. It looked like they were all of school age, so I'm certain that they're students here. Can't be too sure, but I'm willing to bet the vast majority of them are."
"What if they try to confront you again? Or Tsukune, or Moka?" Kurumu looked to Tsukune before returning to the blond, "The last thing we need is someone getting hurt."
Naruto's lips curled into a small smile, "I'm a shinobi. I can handle a few thugs if they attack me. After all, I'm in the Karate Club, so it wouldn't be that surprising if I manage to take them down in a scuffle."
"Maybe, but it's still-"
"Mizore-chan, trust me on this one. What you saw when I fought Kuyou was only a sample of what I can use that's at my disposal."
The others all went quiet, looking at Naruto with a mixture of disbelief and awe, "Y-you're serious?"
"Yes, Yukari-chan, I am." Naruto's voice was void of its usual cheerfulness, "The Kyuubi no Youko is a beast that has nearly limitless power."
"That's not...possible...all things have a limit." Yukari protested.
"Okay, so I guess it's not limitless...but it makes the youki of a vampire like Moka-chan seem like a speck of dust standing next to a mountain."
Moka looked down to her rosary, which shook a bit, "Um...Ura-chan says that she's not to be taken so lightly."
Naruto shrugged, "Just saying, Moka-chan...you're strong, but...Kyuubi is raw power incarnate. It's made from malice, hatred, and all the negative emotions you can think of, along with chakra." He sighed, "I think that's how Ero-Sennin put it for me once..."
"So...we just sit around and do nothing, then?" Kurumu asked, "Naruto, isn't that just like asking for them to attack?"
Naruto shook his head, "No, it means that you're acting like you're unaware of their plans. Faking ignorance can sometimes be an advantage."
The four youkai girls and Tsukune all seemed like they were not entirely for the plan, but they decided to not argue any further; after all, Naruto seemed to have been through stuff like this before. That, and who seriously wanted to argue with a ninja?
Not smart people, that's for sure.
Before Naruto knew it, the break had started. He was relieved to have not encountered any other major problems while patrolling Youkai Academy as the Arashi-Ninja, and only had to deal with the usual upperclassmen bullying underclassmen, and other such cases. Even these were, however, becoming less common.
Mizore had left with the Newspaper Club, stating that the group was going to the human world to take a break and possibly write up a paper on the city-life of human beings. That had been about twenty minutes ago, and Naruto was now looking around to make sure that he was the only one within the area. After confirming with the dispelled memories of his Shadow clones that he was indeed alone, he made a few seals and placed a palm towards the ground. Soon he was standing on the top of Gamikichi's head, "Huh? Oh, Naruto! Hey, what's up?"
"I was just wondering if Fukasaku was ready for me to begin training with him." answered the blond, "I've got about two weeks to train, and if I get done early I'd like to visit Sakura, Kakashi, and Sai in Japan."
Gamakichi smirked, "Finally want to get out of here and cut loose, huh?" He gave a nod before making hand seals, "Give me a few minutes to inform Fukasaku-sama." He dispersed in a puff of smoke, leaving Naruto standing alone once more.
Five minutes passed before Naruto felt a sudden pull on his navel. He suddenly found himself within the world of the Toad Summons; Mount Myouboku.
"Naruto-chan, good to see you again, my boy."
Naruto looked down to see the familiar green toad elder, "Hi, Fukasaku-sama." He punched a fist into his open right palm, "I'm raring to go and get started with this Senjutsu training." He heard Gamakichi laugh as the larger orange toad made a comment sounding like 'typical' Naruto.
Fukasaku gave a toothless smile to the blond, "Right, right. Well, it's still light out. I suppose that it's best to start now rather than later." The green toad hopped off towards a mountain trail, "Well, let's get moving, Naruto-chan. We're going to begin with getting you acquainted with nature's energy."
"Nature's energy?" Naruto repeated before grinning, "You mean I'm going to be able to draw upon nature's powers?"
The three continued up the trail, Fukasaku and Gamakichi explaining together about the intricacies of Senjutsu. It made Naruto's head spin a little, but he understood it for the most part. He assumed this was due to the fact that he was a lot more accustomed to lectures ever since he had started being a student at the Youkai Academy.
Before long, the three stopped at a small fountain of sorts. Naruto noticed the water was an odd color, and there was a faint smell in the air. It smelled...almost like...
Fukasaku nodded to Naruto, "Yep! That's the sacred oil fountain where you'll start you're training. Now, it's going to be an odd experience at first, and there are risk involved with using the oil..."
"Risks?" Naruto repeated, "Like what?"
"For starters, you'd turn into a toad!" Gamakichi blurted out, receiving a sharp glare from Fukasaku.
"Toad?" Naruto took a step back from the oil fountain, "What do you mean?"
"Unfortunately, what Gamakichi says is true." the elder toad gestured to several gigantic stone statues of toads, "Those statues that you see over there are actually the petrified bodies of others who had attempted to reach the state of Sage as well, and failed."
"You're joking, right?"
"No, not in the least, Naruto." Fukasaku hopped over to the oil fountain and dipped a hand in, letting the liquid run through his webbed fingers, "This oil holds the power of nature in it, more or less, and is the quickest way to become adjusted to the power of nature. However, you must remain focused, and not lose that concentration when you meditate. Do so, and you'll become petrified as well."
"You're not making this Sage Mode sound very appealing." Naruto commented as he eyed the fountain, "How did Ero-Sennin manage to do this?"
"Don't worry about the whole statue thing, Naruto-chan." Fukasaku held up a stick that he seemed to have pulled out of nowhere, "This stick is going to help me keep you from transforming. If I notice you beginning to become like a toad, I'll knock the nature chakra right out of you by thwacking it over your head."
"...again, not helping sell this Sage Mode to me." Naruto frowned, "Maybe I-"
"Perhaps a demonstration is in order." Fukasaku suggested, " Naruto, try to lift up that statue right over there."
"Huh? Oh, well...alright." Naruto walked over to a fairly large stone statue, and took in a deep breath before crouching down and attempting to lift. After several strained seconds, he managed to do nothing more than waste his energy, "No use..."
"Right, now, watch me." Fukasaku hopped over to the very same statue, stopping before it and closing his eyes. A few seconds passed before he opened them, and crouched down to grip the bottom of the statue. With a mighty heave, he not only moved the statue, but also managed to lift it up off the ground, "See? With nature chakra, you're capable of doing amazing feats with just your own physical strength!" The elderly toad gently placed the toad statue back onto the ground, "So, what do you say?"
Naruto gave a grin, "Well, I guess I don't have any other choice, huh? After all, if I don't do it, who will?"
"That's the spirit!" Fukasaku laughed, "Alright, now remove your shirt and pants, you'll have to stay in your boxers for this, that way the oil can come into contact with as much of your body as possible."
Okay, so maybe this was still a bit more than Naruto had bargained for.
"Waaah, this place is beautiful!"
The Newspaper Club was currently standing before an expansive field of sunflowers. It was truly a breathtaking sight, especially to the young youkai girls. Aside from Moka, the girls had no real experience of being in the human world. Sure, Mizore's world bordered with that of the humans, and Kurumu's mother had taken her to human cities when she was but a little girl, but they never had really lived in such places before. So, it came as a bit of a surprise when they were greeted with such a beautiful scene when they took a look at their destination; the Witch's Ranch.
"So...why do they call it the 'Witch's Ranch', anyway?" Kurumu asked, "Yukari, do you have any idea why?"
The others looked to the youngest member of their group, waiting for an answer. She had been rather quiet for most of the time, and none of them could truly blame her for her silence. She was a nervous wreck, but she was masking it fairly well for a girl her age. No doubt it was her fear of what she would experience if she were to run into humans. The historical witch hunts weren't all just based on superstition, after all. Some witches, both innocent and guilty, were killed by burning at stakes, charged for murdering virgins, stealing souls, and so on.
"I...don't think I've ever heard of this place." Yukari stated after a few moments of continued silence, "I wouldn't be too surprised, though. Witches draw their power from nature, so this flower field may be a product of magic."
"Huh..." Tsukune was currently out of earshot, walking through the tall flowers and admiring the view from up close, "I wonder if Moka would like some of these."
"Perhaps you should give her one and find out."
"Gyaaah!" Tsukune jumped up in surprise before whirling around, "M-Mizore! Don't do that!"
"Bad habit. Sorry." Mizore apologized with an amused smile, "As I was saying, though, you should give her a flower. I'm sure she'd appreciate it."
"Yeah...yeah, that'd be...wait, no, I can already see what would happen as a result of that." He sighed, "Kurumu and Yukari would probably get jealous, and I'm sure you can connect the dots from there."
"Mm. So instead of telling the girl you care about how you feel, you're going to just let it be?" Mizore shook her head, "Tsukune, I expect better of you."
"Are you lecturing me?"
"Look, you know the situation I'm-"
"Excuses." Mizore stated, "If you're that worried about it, I'll drag Kurumu with me and we'll pick some flowers to make salted sunflower seeds for snacks later."
"You're right, Mizore." Tsukune let out a deep breath, "I'll do it!"
"Go get 'em, Tsukune." She cheered half-jokingly, "Don't falter, otherwise you'll just make it awkward."
"Not helping!" Tsukune grumbled as he chose a flower, and snapped it off the base.
He didn't, however, expect the plant to shake.
The brunet and Yuki-onna followed the scream of Kurumu, only to find her, Yukari, and Moka being attacked by...
Mizore frowned, "These aren't normal plants." She spun around suddenly, flicking an icicle kunai at a leafy mass, which let out a scream before falling over, flailing about in pain, "Tsukune, this field is full of man-eating plants! We have to get out of here!"
"Right!" Tsukune and Mizore sprinted through the sunflower field towards the others. Mizore summoned forth a blast of icy wind, freezing more of the ferocious plant-beasts that lunged out from the foliage, intent on consuming the teenagers.
"H-hey, where the hell do you think you're touching with that vine?" Kurumu screamed in anger before extending her claws and slashing the unfortunate creature.
Meanwhile, Moka, who still had her vampiric powers sealed away, was doing her best to defend herself from the predatory plants, which more or less consisted of kicking any that strayed too close. Despite her sealed powers, she still had above-normal strength on her side. As such, the occasional plant monster could be seen flying into the air before falling to the ground in a motionless heap. Unfortunately, she eventually found herself surrounded by the voracious monsters.
"Moka, hold on!" Tsukune shouted while sprinting to the vampire girl. He charged right into the first plant that managed to pin her down, and struggled to get back up as vines began to grab a hold of him as well.
"Graa-" Tsukune grit his teeth as the vines began cutting through skin. He attempted to pull himself free, but to no avail.
Then it happened.
Mizore was the first to notice the sudden youki that flooded the area. She turned to see several plants burst into messy chunks as Tsukune flung off part of a plant beasts body to the ground. His eyes were now crimson, and his hair was silver.
Tsukune dashed with speed that would have matched Moka in her unsealed form, and sent a fist straight through two of the savage beasts. Moka was eventually freed from her vine-ridden prison, but there were still more plants coming there way.
"Get away from me, you fugly monsters! Yaaaaah!"
Several cards sliced clean through the few monsters that dared attack the witch girl. Yukari prided herself in her card magic, and made sure to give her attackers a thorough presentation on why you shouldn't attack little witches that wield cute, heart-shaped wands.
The results tend to be bad for one's immediate health.
"Waah! Yukari, watch where your flinging those cards!" Kurumu cried out as one of the cards cut a few strands of her hair off, "You almost scalped me right there!"
"Oops, sorry!" Yukari apologized sheepishly as she finished off the last of the plant beasts.
The Newspaper Club now stood amongst a mass of dead plant beasts, a bit haggard and cut up, but otherwise unharmed. Mizore idly kicked a frozen chunk of plant beast as she spoke, "These plant monsters are definitely from the youkai realm..." She chewed on her sucker stick before pulling it out of her mouth and letting out a thoughtful hum, "I've never seen anything like these before, though."
Kurumu shook some of the excess plant guts off her hands while her nails retracted, "I was thinking the same thing. It's like someone just used some witchcraft on some plants and-oh, Yukari, I didn't mean to..." The Succubus sighed as Yukari stormed off, "Yukari-chan, I didn't mean to say it was witches that did it!" The Succubus followed after the witch while calling her name.
"I bet that this is the reason why she was against coming to the human world." Moka murmured as she attempted to fix her skirt, "Yukari-chan's had to deal with problems at school, and she probably thinks that humans are just as bad."
"Well, I'm sure if someone actually got to know Yukari, they'd see that she's a really nice girl. I mean, I'm human, and I think she's alright."
The pink haired vampiress turned to Tsukune, who had regressed back to his normal state, and smiled, "That's right, Tsukune...but..." She waved a hand towards the dead plant creatures, "...I'm still curious as to why we have these monsters in the human realm. If not witches, than what made them?"
"Something definitely brought these here...or created them artificially." Mizore said while poking at one of odd beasts with a stick she had found, "I wish Naruto was here."
"We'll be alright." Moka said, attempting to quell the Yuki-onna's insecurities. She then turned to face the boy, "Tsukune...are you alright?"
"Huh? Oh...y-yeah, I'm fine. A little winded, but that's it." He flexed his fingers a bit, "I guess your blood's still running through me."
Moka gave no reply, but a small frown was now present on her features. This was the second time he had transformed, but this time it was as though he had willed the power to surface. It worried her. She made a mental note to keep a closer eye on the human boy.
Meanwhile, Kurumu was attempting to catch up with the young witch. She eventually reached the edge of a nearby woods, and saw a flash of yellow from the girl's bow tie.
Kurumu sighed inwardly. The poor girl was intelligent, but she was still only eleven years old. As such, she tended to behave rather stubbornly from time to time, which was rather typical for a girl her age.
"Yukari-chan, I'm sorry for saying those things. They...slipped, I guess." She shook her head, "Okay, I'll admit that I've had my own impressions about witches too, but I've learned that it's not fair to think that way." She slowly knelt down by the crying witch, who was huddled against a tree trunk, "I can't imagine how hard it must be for you, being in the human world."
Yukari's slightly puffy eyes looked to the Succubus, "It sucks."
Kurumu bit down a laugh; despite how upset Yukari was, she still managed to look adorable, "Well, you know what?"
A sniffle, "What?"
"I think if we give this place a shot, we can learn to like the human world. There was an ice cream shoppe down the road, and if you want, I'll treat you."
Kurumu grinned, "We're friends. I don't want you feeling alone and scared when we're supposed to be on a break."
Yukari's lips trembled a bit before she began crying with renewed vigor, glomping the Succubus around her bosom. Kurumu, while slightly embarrassed, smiled and hugged her friend back.
A few moments passed before Yukari eventually calmed down, "Sorry about that."
"Don't worry about it." Kurumu laughed, "So, you feel better now?"
"Mmhmm." Yukari smiled, "Sorry for being such a drama queen to you guys."
"For once, I think I can give you a pass on that. You've got your reasons, after all." She helped the little witch to her feet, "You ready to get back with the others?"
"Don't worry about it."
As the two headed back towards the other Newspaper Club members, a single pair of violet colored eyes watched the young witch's back from the cover of the forest nearby.
"...I've finally found another one like us..."
It had been two days since Naruto had started his Sage training. While his start had been rather rocky, he had managed to grasp the feel of nature chakra, and was able to gather it on his own by the beginning of the third day.
Now Naruto was currently balancing on a tile that was in turn situated on a protruding spike of earth. He was the perfect image of calm, and if one took his vitals, they would have been amazed to see how slow his heart rate and breathing were.
"Heeey, Naruto! Dinner's ready!"
Naruto plummeted to the ground, breaking several of the earthen spikes upon landing. He grumbled in annoyance before dusting himself off, "Thanks, Gamakichi."
"Hey, not my fault. You're the one harnessing nature's chakra. You should have sensed me much earlier."
"...fair enough." Naruto slipped his mesh shirt back on, and looked up to the toad.
Naruto's eyes were currently yellow irises with horizontal pupils. Aside from that, the only other noticeable change in his features was the dark orange pigmentation surrounding his eyes.
They were the marks of a true Sage. Well, at least a Sage that had overcome the need for oil. However, the fact was that he had sustained little, if any damage. After plummeting off a towering, spiked projection of earth and crashing into several smaller ones, Naruto looked relatively unharmed. This was another benefit of Sage Mode; greatly enhanced durability and strength.
"Good thing you were in Sage Mode, huh?" Gamakichi laughed, "Otherwise you'd be dead! Hahaha...oi, I was only kidding, Naruto."
The blond's withering glare lessened, "So, what's on the menu today?"
"Bettle grubs and bee larvae. Nothing fancy."
"Great. Maybe I'll be able to keep most of it down tonight." The blond grumbled as he walked towards the toad elders' home.
After forcing the various insect larvae down his throat, Naruto excused himself to continue training, even after numerous objections from both Fukasaku and his wife, Shima. He had to get stronger so he'd be able to not only defeat Akatsuki when that time came, but also stop any further problems from happening at Youkai. He doubted he'd need to go as far as Sage Mode against most of the dangers he would face at the school, but it was always better to assume that there was a super powerful monster among the numerous weaker ones.
It was nearly midnight when Naruto decided to call it a night. He took in a few deep breaths, smiling as he plopped down on the grassy fields of the Toads' realm. His technique, the Rasenshuriken, was still incomplete, and far from perfect, but he had finally managed to get the base results of what he had been hoping for.
The wind-based jutsu was a destructive one, that couldn't be denied. However, its one major drawback—which it shared with the Rasengan, it's parent jutsu—was that it was short ranged. He had been working on changing that. Tonight had proven that it could be done.
He didn't initially think he'd have enough control to throw the disc of high-powered wind chakra, let alone maintain it with just a single clone, but he had done it. Senjutsu chakra was used to encase the technique, and he had somehow managed to pump the jutsu with both wind chakra as well as his own natural chakra. The single clone he summoned was used to help shape the technique. He had improved by leaps and bounds since the last time he had used the technique. That and with the addition of the wind jutsu being thrown, he took out the factor of receiving damage as well.
"It's going to take a bit more work, but we've got it down to a few simple things that need to be tweaked." Naruto's clone said, "We should get to sleep, though. Fukasaku's going to be waking us up right around sunrise."
"Good point." Naruto dispelled his clone before stretching his arms out and yawning. He then retired to the cot he had placed on the ground nearby.
Two amphibian eyes watched the boy as he dozed off to a peaceful sleep, "You were right about him, Jiraiya-chan...he truly is the Child of the Prophecy..."
"Do you believe that, Fukasaku-sama?"
Fukasaku looked behind him before chuckling to the newcomer, "Tenmei Mikogami, am I correct?"
The Headmaster of Youkai Academy gave a bow to the toad, "I'm honored that my name has reached this far. I assume Jiraiya had informed you about me?"
"Mm. Yes, Jiraiya-chan mentioned that a man with an unnatural aura would likely see me in the case of him dying. He said you'd be able to provide Naruto-chan with a safe haven, which it seems you've managed to do. Thank you."
Mikogami gave a nod, "Jiraiya was a truly gifted man, and he helped me in developing some of my sealing skills. In fact, if it weren't for him, I'm certain that I wouldn't be able to maintain Youkai Academy as well as I am."
Fukasaku smiled a bit at the mention of Jiraiya's teachings helping the mysterious man. The toad then turned back to the Jinchuuriki boy, "He hasn't really shared much about his time at Youkai. I hope he's doing alright there."
Mikogami laughed quietly, "The boy's more gifted than I had assumed a student of Jiraiya would be. He's become a vigilante for Youkai, and has been making the place safer for students as a result."
"Yes. He goes by the alias 'Arashi-Ninja', and as far as I can tell, he's a sort of hero to the vast majority of students. That and he's managed to make friends with some of the more powerful students in his class, among them being a daughter of the Shuzen family."
Fukasaku's eyebrows rose slightly, "Vampires?" He shook his head, "That boy...I wonder if he'll cease to amaze me. I hardly know him, yet I feel like he can truly change the world."
"Not to add pressure to that statement, but he may very well do that for our world. Humans for the most part don't know of our existence, but relations between our kind and theirs are rarely friendly. Naruto's human, but his personality and ability to befriend almost anyone he meets may be needed in the years to come if monsters and humans wish to try and coexist."
Fukasaku frowned a bit at that, "You don't plan on using the boy, I hope."
"Of course not. Although, if he continues to work his miracles the way he does, I may have to start helping the boy for his own safety. Rumors have already spread to the outer world about a young ninja with skills unseen in ages. The Wong family has been asking me questions lately, and I'm afraid I'll only be able to keep my old friend Fuhai from looking into the matter personally for so long."
"Naruto-chan isn't some hit man, Mikogami."
"I'm well aware of that, Fukasaku. He's too kind of a person, which is a bit of an enigma, seeing that he's been raised in a society of ninja."
"He's only a child."
"So was Jiraiya." Mikogami stated, "Yet I saw him kill vampires on his own without flinching when he was Naruto's age." The Exorcist took a few steps forward so he was beside the elderly toad, "Jiraiya didn't notice it when he had first fought them, but we had run into a large group of ninja from what I believe is currently known as Kusagakure. I had been with him at the time, traveling and learning a little about his world. While I was able to fight, Jiraiya had taken care of most of them. I noticed that a few of the ninja attacking us were giving off the youki of vampires. After that incident, I was convinced that the humans of his world and the humans of the other world are not exactly the same. Hardly any humans from the world bordering Youkai would be able to do what the ninja of the Elemental Nations can do, let alone fight vampires on nearly equal grounds."
"What?" Fukasaku repeated, "Vampires? How?"
Mikogami smiled eerily, "Jiraiya and I weren't the only ones that had knowledge of the Elemental Nations' existence. Some monsters sought a new life for one reason or another, and joined ninja villages, claiming their powers to be one kekkai genkai or another. In some instances, this actually was the truth; a few ninja and monsters knowingly married one another, and raised children with exceptional skills."
"Perhaps, but none of these cases were extraordinary. Most of these inherited powers resulted in sensors, Genjutsu masters, or ninja with rapid healing powers."
"Yes. I'll be the first to admit that the Sharingan and Byakugan, while powerful, were not among the bloodlines that can be traced back to a monster parent. Though, there were a few half-monster children who gained these powers." Mikogami sighed, "If only the human world paralleling mine was as accepting of youkai as the Elemental Nations."
Fukasaku gave a nod, "Perhaps that day will come soon. For now, though, Naruto's focus is on keeping himself alive and training so that he can defeat Akatsuki."
"Of course; I'd be worried if he were slacking in his training when such a large threat is existent to him and the ninja world. I just hope he doesn't get sucked into any other problems in the meantime. If he angers the wrong people, he could have a bounty on his head."
The two were silent for a few moments before the toad spoke, "Naruto's coming along nicely with his Senjutsu training. He'll be done by the end of the week if he continues at this rate. Afterwards, he mentioned wanting to go to Japan and visiting his new family."
"Ah, that's right, Kakashi Hatake's his legal guardian now. Yes, I suppose it'd be best to let the boy visit his family. Does he know how to travel between bordering worlds yet?"
"He mentioned in passing that he has the Fuuinjutsu seals memorized for traveling between worlds, but he hasn't gotten much of a chance to use them. I'll make sure he knows what he's doing before we leave, and worse case scenario we'll send a toad to your office and you can get a portal open for us to use."
"Very well. So, if I don't hear from you sooner, I guess I'll see Naruto in two weeks' time then."
The two gave a respective bow to each other, and Mikogami began walking towards the grassy field before vanishing in a sudden burst of light.
Fukasaku remained for a few moments longer before deciding to head back to his home for some sleep as well. He gave one final glance to the sleeping blond before grinning to himself, "I guess I'll go easy on the boy and wake him up an hour later tomorrow."
Another three days had passed, and Fukasaku had deemed Naruto adept enough to use Senjutsu outside of Mount Myouboku. The blond was now standing over a seal he had engraved into the dirt, looking at it with a scrutinizing eye.
"I...I think it's going to work..." the blond said to himself with a hint of uncertainty, "I mean, I'm not a Seal Master, but the design looks logical enough."
"That's good, because that's exactly how it should look."
Naruto whirled around to see Fukasaku and Shima heading towards him, "Oh, hey, Fukasaku, Shima." He turned back to the seal, "So, you think it's ready then?"
Fukasaku looked over the seal a bit before nodding, "I think you doubt yourself a bit much, Naruto-chan. You're understanding of seals is evident with this one right here. Now, all you need to do is go through the proper chakra channeling and you'll be in Japan before you know it."
"Hm. I...I guess this is goodbye. At least for a little while."
Shima had a small bundle in her hands, "Here, Naruto-chan. It's not much, but we figured that you'd appreciate it."
The blond took the bundle from Shima before unwrapping it from the cloth containing it. He let out a small gasp as he looked at it's contents, "I-is this...?"
"Yep. One of the few remaining ones." Fukasaku replied.
There, in Naruto's hands, was a three-pronged kunai, best noted for its use in the Fourth Hokage's Hiraishin no Jutsu. The blond gripped it tightly and gave a stifled laugh, "Wow...how did you find this?"
"Oh, Minato-chan was such a nice boy. He told us that if anything ever happened, all we would need to do is throw this kunai and it would signal to him to warp to our location. We never needed to use it, thankfully, but we kept it around anyway." Shima answered, "Although, it was mostly thanks to your mother, Kushina, that he was able to master this technique. We know you probably have an inventory of your parents' techniques in one of those scrolls from Jiraiya-chan and Tsunade, but it would be nice for you to actually have a kunai to hold onto just in case you need an example to look off of when you apply your own style to the technique."
Naruto grinned before pocketing the kunai, "Thank you. I promise to stop by again. Maybe I can bring my friends here next time?"
Fukasaku and Shima looked to each other before smiling, "I don't see why that would be a problem. It wouldn't be the first time monsters have come into contact with us."
Naruto blinked, but decided not to question further, "Well, I better get going. Take care."
"Be good now! Make sure to eat your veggies! You won't grow any stronger if you don't!"
"Bah, Ma, you're embarrassing the boy!"
"I'm just telling him what's good for him. The boy's eating alright, but he hardly touched his grub-stew two nights ago when-"
Naruto smiled while going through the hand seals as he stepped into the seal. He felt a brief pull on his chest before his vision went white. It was like he was gliding through the air, like a bird would in a powerful gust of air.
Then, he felt his feet touch ground once more. He blinked several times to adjust his eyes before taking in his surroundings. He tapped his sandaled feet on what appeared to be on a paved walkway of sorts. To the left of the walkway was a road made of black, gravel like material with two yellow lines running down the middle. There were a few small houses every so many yards lining either side of the road, but the area itself seemed to be rather sparse in human activity at the moment.
After a few minutes of looking at the houses, he finally figured out which direction to take to find Kakashi, Sakura, and Sai. He eventually found himself standing in front of a quaint little two story building with the oddest sign in the front yard depicting a wild haired man who reminded Naruto strangely of Jiraiya.
"Huh..." Naruto looked at the paper slip with the address in his hands, then to the sign, "Well, I do approve of the name.
Ninja Oddities was what one would consider to be an atypical local business that was just starting up. The residents knew only a few things about it. It sold comics, manga, anime, art kits, off-the-counter medicine, natural herbs, and, strangely enough, guitars, among numerous other 'oddities'. The owner was a man that many believed at first to be a former biker gang member, but this was later proven false when his lovely employee explained that he had suffered from a chemical burn accident back in his high school days in chemistry, and wore the mask as a safety precaution.
Another well-known fact in the community, namely among the teenage boys, was that the 'adult' section in the store was strictly prohibited to minors. No exceptions.
"I believe I told you three just the other day that minors are not allowed back here."
Three boys froze in place before turning around and looking into the emerald eyes of Sakura Haruno.
"S-Sakura-san! Wha-what are you doing here?"
"I work here." Sakura replied sweetly, "Now, why don't you put down that smutty magazine before I break the hand holding it?"
"You can't do-"
Sakura took a nearby kendo stick on sale and snapped it between her index and middle finger, "Don't test me. I didn't get my coffee this morning."
The three boys bolted out of the shop, the magazines falling to the ground as they exited the doors. Sakura sighed as she picked up the magazine (and paged through it a bit) before setting it back on the shelf.
"Mah, Sakura, I can't afford to have my customers scared off like that."
Sakura rolled her eyes before turning to face Kakashi, "Please, like they would have bought anything here."
"Well, they'll be great future clients for me when they're old enough." the masked ninja defended, "Besides, you're supposed to be my sweet and cheery cashier, remember?"
"If you actually helped out with running this place, maybe I would be."
"Hey, hey, I'm the manager. I have to take care of the numbers, remember?"
"You mean sit in your office and read the manuscripts Naruto sends you for Icha Icha?"
"If you mean the very same ones you keep stealing and looking over as well, then yes." Kakashi replied with a smile, "So, how are things going so far?"
Failing to hide the blush on her face, Sakura turned her attention to the counter, "Well, Tamiko-obaa-san came in and got her newspaper for the day...uh..." Sakura looked around as though trying to recall something before nodding, "Oh, that one guy came in asking if you got the um...Gibson Les Paul...yeah, that one guitar...he was wondering when that would be in by."
"Oh, you mean, Kichirou? Tell him that he can stop by next week Thursday for it if you see him again. It should be here by then."
"Okay. It's been a slow day, so not much else has happened."
Sakura walked over to the rack of DVDs, limping slightly while leaning on her cane as she did so. Kakashi couldn't help but wince as he watched her move. She had recovered stupendously according to what the doctors had told him, and he had been elated when they said she had almost seventy-nine percent of her mobility back. However, that missing twenty-one percent meant she would probably never be able to run quite as fast as she used to—so she'd probably only have the speed of an experienced Genin or rookie Chuunin at best. Still, her chakra control was as great as it had ever been, and her attitude had improved greatly since she regained her ability to walk.
She wouldn't need the cane permanently, but for now it was more for support than anything else. Besides, she enjoyed having an extra bit of metal in her hands when Kakashi was giggling too loudly while reading his books.
The sound of bells jingling alerted the two that a customer had entered the building. Sakura immediately put on a smile, putting on her 'cheery employee' face, "Hello! Welcome to Ninja Oddi..."
There, in the doorway, stood Naruto, that all-too-familiar grin on his face as he gave a wave, "Hi, Sakura-chan."
Sakura blinked once before her lips broke into a true smile, "Naruto-kun!"
The blond was tackled to the ground and felt to two slim yet powerful arms wrap around his torso, "H-hey, Sakura-chan, heheh. It's good to see you, too."
Sakura laughed a bit, blushing slightly while getting off of her teammate and adoptive brother, "Sorry, heh. I was...just hoping you'd show up." She slowly got to her feet before helping the blond up, "Did you get here alright?"
"Yeah, the warping seals were a lot simpler to use than I thought." Naruto replied before turning to Kakashi, "Hey, Kakashi. Glad to see the business is up and running...although...Sakura-chan, I thought you were working at a comic book store or something."
Sakura sighed, "That was my initial plan, but they decided to not hire me after I claimed I had no real knowledge in comics, and that my organizational skills alone weren't enough for the job. So, Kakashi decided to expand our store to cover...well..." She waved a hand around the store to fill in her silence.
"A little bit of everything. Our motto is 'We got it all, and more.', so we figured we may as well stick to it. I'm even thinking of opening a small grocery section if things start picking up. Nothing perishable, of course."
Sakura shook her head, "Kakashi, we shouldn't be jumping too far ahead of ourselves right now. We're already a music, book, and health products store. Why don't we wait a bit?"
The silver haired Jounin gave a shrug, "Fair enough. We're co-owners, after all."
Naruto followed the two to the back of the store after Kakashi placed the 'closed' sign on the door. There was a small room which appeared to be the office, as well as a storage room that was about as large as Naruto's current dorm room back in Youkai. He saw a flight of stairs leading up to the second floor, which he assumed to be their bedrooms.
"So, where's Sai?"
"Ah, well, you'll be happy to know that Sai is taking graphic art classes at the public library. One of the colleges in town offers classes four times a week for four months, and Sai figured it would be worth looking into." Kakashi laughed, "Needless to say, he's picked up on it quickly. He's got a real talent."
"Really? That's great!" Naruto beamed, "So, anything else big that I should know about?"
"Well...let's see..." Sakura nudged Kakashi in the ribs gently, and he looked to her before she gave him a look, "Oh! Right, Naruto, stay right there."
Kakashi walked up the steps without another word. Naruto gave Sakura an inquisitive look, but she merely grinned and made a zipping motion over her lips, causing the blond to pout.
"Sorry, Naruto-kun, my lips are sealed."
The blond raised an eyebrow, "What's with you calling me that, Sakura?"
"You've been calling me Naruto-kun since I arrived. You never used to call me that. What's up?"
Sakura looked away momentarily while clearing her throat and stammering, "W-well...you're my younger brother, and it's only proper that I refer to you as such. Calling you Naruto-niichan is a bit much, though."
"Heheh, yeah, I guess that's true." Naruto scratched the back of his neck, "I guess it's a little odd coming from you, but...I kind of like hearing it."
Sakura could only smile while her cheeks reddened further.
"So...are you guys doing alright with money?"
Sakura blinked before smiling, "Yes, we're doing fine, Naruto."
"You sure? I've got enough, and Youkai can convert it over to yen really easily so that I can send-"
Sakura placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, "Naruto, I promise you that we're doing fine. We're a small business, but we're living a rather frugal lifestyle. The town has a recycling system, and we don't waste a lot of food or products that we buy, either. Kakashi's thinking of having these weird panel things installed on our roof someday soon. They would use the sun to power our house. The weather here's really nice, and it can help us save money on our energy bill, too."
"...okay...just know that if you three ever need money for-"
Sakura gave Naruto a light conk on the head with the cane in her hand, trying more to quiet him down that actually hurt him, "Baka, enough. You already have that book of yours in the works so we can be set for the future when it's published. That action by itself is enough in my opinion, especially since you're the one in school right now."
"What about you, Sakura-chan? Are you going to attend any school?"
"I could, if I really wanted. Truth is, I was informed back in Youkai by one of the nurses that I was more than qualified to be a private practitioner of medicine and physical therapy if I really wished to. Someday I may do that, but for now, I think I'm enjoying this quiet life."
Naruto could understand where she was coming from. Being a ninja forced you to always have the mentality that something bad could happen. Even with the less dangerous life they were both leading, they still had that bit of alertness to them. Sakura noticed Naruto had his kunai holster around his right leg, and the blond saw that Sakura had several senbon needles hiding within the sleeves of the civilian shirt she wore. He also noticed she had a pouch around the back of her waist that he recognized as her medicine pack.
"Some things never change," Naruto thought to himself.
Kakashi eventually came back down the steps, holding a medium-sized package wrapped in paper of some sort. The item, whatever it was, appeared to be long and clearly larger on one end. The way Kakashi was smiling meant that either it was something perverted, or that he had bought the gift hoping Naruto liked it. It could even be both.
"I figured you'd like this. It's nothing fancy, but Sakura, Sai, and I all thought that you'd enjoy it."
Naruto took the package, holding it by the slimmer end. He felt it and his eyes widened, "You...you got me...?"
"Don't say anything until you open it." Sakura laughed, "Now go on and open it already!"
Naruto tore away the paper, and his breath caught as he held the object within his hands.
"Y-you guys...got me a mandolin?"
Naruto had seen one back when he had journeyed with Jiraiya across the Elemental Nations. They had briefly traveled along the coast near Lightning Country, and he had seen a man playing it at a pub. The instrument had a sound that could be light and upbeat, but at the same time romantic and beautiful to the ears. He had secretly wanted one since laying eyes upon it, but never got the chance.
"How...how did you guys...?"
"I remember you telling me about them once. We looked on the Internet, and ran across a site that sold stringed instruments." Sakura said with a grin, clearly pleased with Naruto's reaction, "So, now you can start playing it and wooing the girls back at Youkai with your amazing skills, heheh."
Naruto felt his throat tighten, "You didn't have to get me anything."
Kakashi ruffled Naruto's hair, "Sure we do. It's almost your birthday, after all."
Naruto's eyes widened before he opened his mouth, "O-oh yeah. Huh...I almost forgot."
Sakura and Kakashi said nothing about that, instead urging Naruto to play. The blond strummed a hand over the strings, wincing a bit at how off-tune they were. He tweaked the tightness of the strings a bit, and in a few minutes had what he believed to be a slightly better sound.
"I can probably find lessons on how to play it on a website or a book. Not sure how good I can get, but it's still a great gift!"
"Glad you like it, Naruto." Sakura said, "Besides, you can use your Shadow Clones to learn faster, can't you?"
"Huh. Yeah, I guess I can. Well, no, I only have one mandolin."
"Not necessarily." Kakashi took the mandolin from Naruto with one hand. He studied the wooden instrument for several moments before nodding while making seals with his free hand, "Mandolin Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
Kakashi's was now holding a perfect replica of the mandolin in his other hand. He handed the copy to Naruto and nodded for him to play. Naruto slowly ran a hand over the strings, which created the same sound as his original did.
"Awesome! Haha! This is great!" Naruto made a Shadow Clone, and handed it the cloned mandolin before telling him to go practice on the roof of the house for two hours to get familiar with the instrument.
"Typical Naruto." Sakura said with a laugh.
Naruto could only scratch his head and chuckle.
"Yukari! Where are you?"
The Newspaper Club was currently running down one of the streets of the town near Witch's Ranch. They had been making their way back to the hotel that their group was staying at when a flock of ravens had appeared out of nowhere and began attacking them. In the midst of the chaos, Yukari had gone missing. As soon as the group had lost her, the black feathered birds flew off.
Mizore and Kurumu had split off in one direction while Moka and Tsukune had gone off in another. After a half hour of searching, they came back to the spot where the incident had occurred with no luck in finding the young witch.
"She couldn't have gone too far, right?" Kurumu said uncertainly, "I mean, she was right next to us..."
Tsukune sighed, "I don't think she would intentionally run off on us, especially in a human city."
Mizore chewed on her sucker stick while looking up to the sky, "Those ravens were behaving weird. Why would wild animals randomly attack us in a city? I could understand if we were near a nest of theirs, but...I don't see any signs of that around here."
Moka held up a feather from one of the ravens that had attacked, "We tried following a trail of feathers, but they only brought us a few blocks west of here. As far as we can guess, they could be anywhere."
"Do you...do you think they were a distraction someone was using to get Yukari?"
The group looked to Mizore before Tsukune spoke, "What do you mean?"
"Well...maybe someone was controlling those birds. That, or maybe those birds were just an illusion." She took the feather from Moka and twirled it between her fingers, "Hm...never mind, I think they were real. If this were an illusion, I imagine it would have vanished shortly after those birds flew off."
"We should get in contact with Nekonome-sensei. She can help us." Moka suggested. The group agreed with the vampire girl's thinking, and made their way back to the hotel, hoping to find a way to locate the youngest member of their group of friends.
Sai was quite surprised when he found Naruto and Sakura cooking in the kitchen when he got home from his classes. He and the blond exchanged greetings, Sai commenting on how Naruto seemed to be carrying himself differently, though he couldn't pinpoint the change. Naruto just laughed and said he was still the same guy that belonged to Team Kakashi, and returned to helping Sakura prepare dinner.
The four sat down at the small table in their small dining room, enjoying a simple meal of udon and chicken tempura. About half way through the meal, the phone rang.
"Hm." Kakashi looked to the clock, "Who would call at this hour of the day?" He got up from his spot at the table and answered the phone, "Hatake residence...yes, this is him...ah, Mikogami-san, good to hear from- I'm sorry? Yukari...hm...I don't know if I met her in person, but go on...really? Today?" Kakashi's face hardened slightly behind his mask, "Are they alright? Good...yes...how far away? Okay...that would take us about...an hour at most on foot...mmhmm...yes...sure, I should be able to find that place...I'm sure they'll be willing to help...yes, he's here...alright, thank you. Yep, have a good evening, Mikogami-san." Kakashi hung up the phone before turning to his three adoptive children, "Alright, you three. Looks like Team Kakashi's got their first mission request in Japan."
Naruto had been listening, and he didn't like the sound of Kakashi's voice, "What's wrong with Yukari?"
"I'll explain on the way, but from what I can understand, she's gone missing."
"Missing?" Sakura set down her chopsticks, "When?"
"Some time earlier today. Mikogami got a call from Shizuka Nekonome just a few moments ago. We've been asked on behalf of Youkai Academy to assist the Newspaper Club in finding Yukari Sendo."
"How far away are they?" Sai inquired.
"About an hour's sprint southwest of us." Kakashi replied, "We'll have to go on foot, seeing as I don't have a car or a license yet."
"What if someone sees us while we're leaping over buildings and trees?" Sakura asked.
"Mikogami stated that a mild Genjutsu should be enough for us to keep ourselves concealed from human eyes." Kakashi looked to the dinner, "I guess we'll just have to wait to finish this meal later. Sai, want to help me put the leftovers in the fridge?"
The four had cleaned the dining area, dressed into more fitting attire for the task at hand, and were now standing outside the entrance to Ninja Oddities, "Alright, Team. Mikogami informed me that Yukari's likely at a place called Witch's Ranch. It's a small area outside of the town where the Newspaper Club is currently located."
"What dangers are there with this mission?" Sakura asked.
Kakashi nodded, "Not much is known about the place, but it's rumored that there is indeed at least one witch residing in a small house on top of a hill. The area is surrounded by a sunflower field. To make matters worse, this sunflower field is believed to be home to hundreds of man-eating plants."
Naruto blinked, "Man-eating plants?"
Kakashi shrugged, "I just report what I hear."
"...I should be more bothered by this..." Naruto grumbled as he adjusted the arm guards on his ANBU outfit, "Let's get moving."
Kakashi gave one final nod to the group, who returned it in kind.
"Right. Team Kakashi, move out!"
The four burst off the ground, leaping on into the dwindling sunset.
Youkai Academy Student Newspaper
For the Students, by the Students.
Revisiting the Masked Vigilante- A Second Interview with the Arashi-Ninja
By Mizore Shirayuki
I had never expected that the Arashi-Ninja would appear to me on my way back from club late one evening, asking if I'd be interested in a second interview with him. Of course I was happy to oblige. Since the fiasco with the Student Police and the removal of the vast majority of its officers by the Academy, I was curious as to what further things the young ninja was willing to talk to me about. His powers that he demonstrated, which I witnessed personally, during his fight against Kuyou of the Student Police, were overwhelming.
Student News: Hello, Ninja-san. It's wonderful to speak to you again so soon.
Arashi-Ninja: Thank you, Mizore-san. The pleasure is mine.
SN: I suppose I'll cut right to the chase; what prompted you to take on Kuyou and the Public Safety Committee?
A: Well, they were abusing their power, and I've heard plenty of rumors fly about what they do to students here in Youkai.
SN: I see. So this wasn't a spur of the moment decision for you, then?
A: Well, I planned on looking further into the matter. Turns out I didn't have to dig to hard to find something to give me reason to take action. That's all.
SN: I must admit, you really showed some amazing abilities in that fight against Kuyou. On behalf of the Student Newspaper, I want to thank you for rescuing our members, as well as liberating the many students being wrongfully imprisoned.
A: (laughs) No need to thank me. I'm happy to just be helping the students feel safer while attending Youkai Academy.
SN: How did you go about gaining these abilities?
A: All I can say is that my power is something that require years and years of hard work to obtain. I don't believe in half-ass work, and I apply that belief to my training.
SN: Do you mind sharing a little bit of information on your powers?
A: I'm afraid I'll have to decline sharing that information.
SN: Understandable. I respect your wish to keep that a secret.
A: Thank you.
SN: Do you mind if I ask you a more personal question, Ninja-san?
A: You may, but I might not answer it.
SN: Very well. So, my question is this: Are you single?
A: (laughs) No comment.
SN: Not even a yes or no?
A: No comment.
SN: I should inform you that students of both sexes have requested that I ask this question if I should meet you again. You've become quite a desirable catch.
A: Really? Well, I suppose I'll leave your question a mystery, then. Makes me more attractive, wouldn't you agree?
SN: Yes, I would agree with that.
A: Good. That means I'm doing something right, then.
SN: Yes, I can't argue with that, either.
I was unable to ask any more questions to the ninja-vigilante, seeing as he had to continue his patrol of the campus grounds. He asked that I tell all students that he greatly appreciates the support from the student body. He will continue to do all that he can to insure our safety, and warns any who wish to cause trouble that they should think twice before committing any crimes.
With that, I'd also like to extend a personal thanks to the students who continue to give this selfless individual, whoever he is, their support. It's because of all of you that the Arashi-Ninja continues to protect us when the need arises.
On a final note, the new Student Police Committee will be forming this coming semester. There will be thorough background checks on all members, and selections will be made based on the judgment of faculty and student government. If any are interested in keeping our campus safe, please submit applications. Self-defense experience, while helpful, is not required, and training will be given to all who are chosen. Please submit entries before the end of December. Thank you!
End of Chapter Ten: Phew, this took longer to get done than I had initially thought it would. Story of my life, I guess. Yeah, I skipped a lot of Naruto's Sage Training, but I figured enough of you fine readers are familiar with Naruto's Senjutsu training. If not, well, Narutopedia can help explain the details.
Next, I'd like to thank all of you who have been reviewing this story here. The support helps more than you may think. My update speed is slower than other authors on this site, I won't argue that. College unfortunately limits the time I can dedicate to fanfiction. Though, I will admit that my Creative Writing minor has helped me with writing a LOT. So, to all of you have stuck with me through this story (as previous works), I sincerely thank you.
Lastly, I would (once again) like to thank my equally skilled, if not more so, beta-reader and fellow brainstormer, Paradox Jast. The guy's definitely patient when it comes with me and my updating speed, though I suppose we're both professional procrastinators in nature. Needless to say, he's helped me really flesh out some of the aspects of this story, as well as other works. In short, he rocks.
Hmm, I suppose I could answer a few quick questions and comments:
As for me killing off Konoha ninja like Shikamaru and Hinata, and destroying Konoha...well, let's face it. If Naruto had not been there, Pain would have won that battle. Don't get me wrong; Shikamaru and Hinata are both great ninja...but the ninja world doesn't work on such terms all the time. Good ninja die. Simple as that. I'll be revisiting the Elemental Countries soon, and show the reaction the other villages are giving to the destruction of Hidden Leaf.
As for pairings, I guess Naruto and Mizore is a blatant one. As for other pairings...well, you'll have to wait and see.
As for Tsukune and his transformation, I'm putting a twist on it. He's not a ghoul, but he's also not a true vampire.
Oh, and yes, that song Naruto sang in chapter 10 was from Trigun. Guess I made it a little obvious. Oh well, it's a good anime as well, and the song makes me chuckle. Creepy, huh?
Okay, enough of my rambling for now. Thanks for reading, as always, and keep your eyes open for a future update!