Okay, no excuses. Sorry it took me so long, but it's here, it's a pretty long chapter, and it has some plot progression, so yeah.
Please enjoy, and tell me what you think in a review!
Chapter 12: How Not To Make A First Impression.
"Lord Hokage, Hiashi Hyuga would like to speak with you," the ANBU at Kakashi's office door announced, causing the man to look up from a pile of paperwork and let out a sigh of relief before his brain fully processed who was there.
At this point, he would be glad for almost any interruption, though as he heard that it was a Hyuga, a man whose family he had heard Sarutobi muttering curses at when he thought no one could hear him for years due to the difficulty in dealing with them, his happiness took a few kunai to the face. "Send him in," he decided, setting his pen to one side.
When the door opened to reveal the Hyuga main house leader, he didn't look terribly pleased, however he waited for the door to close silently behind him before he did anything. Slowly, he reached into the top of his brown robe, withdrawing a piece of crisp white paper with something drawn on it and placed it in front of the interim Hokage.
When Kakashi saw what was written on the paper, his good eye widened for just a moment, though he knew that was probably long enough to give him away, and his suspicion was confirmed when the Hyuga man asked, "Why were none of us informed that Haruno was also a demon vessel?"
Kakashi wanted to snap back instantly that she wasn't, for several reasons, but held his tongue for a moment and thought it through first. "Because," he explained, "the demon within her isn't a threat to the village."
Hiashi shook his head. "After what happened to the previous Hokage and the training grounds from the one-tails' release, I, and the rest of the clan, and likely village, would find that rather hard to believe."
Kakashi recognized the threat in those words. Though he hadn't been Hokage for very long, and a lot of the political niceties flew right over his head, that particular one was rather blatant, and he wondered why, before he noticed something in the other man's eyes. He wasn't actually making the threat in the way Kakashi had understood it, though it was still there. At the moment, the predominant emotion in the dark haired man's immeasurably hard to read face seemed to be curiosity.
"That's the whole point, isn't it?" the interim Hokage decided to respond. "We both know what's happened to Naruto Uzumaki over the years, and while what's sealed within Haruno's body is no threat to the village, I know that treatment like that Naruto has received would likely have us end up with a missing-min." He didn't add that she would likely still remember the torture session she'd already been put through, not wanting to admit a screw up of that magnitude had occurred when he was responsible for it.
The clan leader frowned. He could see the Hokage's point, if what he'd originally said was true, but something caught him as strange. He didn't ask, having learned better, but had to wonder precisely what was important about the girl, that the Hokage would be that worried about her leaving the village. Sakura Haruno had been on Kakashi's former genin team, Team 7, however the white eyed man doubted that anyone remotely competent in the post of Hokage would use just that as justification, and though reluctant, Kakashi had made a passable leader. "You're ordering my clan and I to be silent on this matter?" The man asked, more curious than anything else.
"Yes," Kakashi leaned back in his chair, attempting to make his statement seem casual. "Until we know more about exactly what is sealed within her, or she gives us reason to question her allegiance to the village, mentioning this can only harm her and the village's morale."
Hiashi nodded, before turning and heading for the door. He had to talk to some people, Neji high on the list.
Two kunai zipped through the air, whistling as they went until clanging into each other, deflecting off into the ground. "Hmm, you're getting better," Tenten said, withdrawing another blade and flipping it in one hand.
On the other side of the small training field, Sakura smiled slightly before taking up her own throwing stance. She knew that on some level, the other girl was humoring her, as she'd seen the weapons master throw much more quickly in their mutual spars with Lee, but then, that wasn't with live steel. Tensing up as she saw the other preparing to throw, she tried her hardest to calculate the trajectory of the blade, holding her own up to counter.
"So," Tenten asked, as she flicked her wrist. "What's been wrong with you for the last couple of days?"
Sakura blinked, missing her chance to counter the other girl's throw, and watching as the weapon smacked into a wooden post near her, where three others sat. "Nothing's wrong," the pink haired girl protested weakly, though as Tenten rolled her eyes in exasperation, she used the opportunity to pitch her own kunai.
The black haired girl smirked as she heard the weapon bury itself in the post near her, Sakura's first point of the training session. "You can't distract me with training, like you've been trying to do to yourself, you know," she said, getting another blade ready. "Most people who had just held their own in fights with Hyuga and had to recover from chakra coil damage wouldn't be out training again half a day after the battle, that's all, especially since you aren't even doing that weird stuff you usually do, but actually asked for assignments from Gai Sensei." Half way through her comment, Tenten released her kunai, and nodded approvingly as Sakura immediately threw to intercept, even while looking distinctly uncomfortable.
"It's not important," the pink haired girl muttered quietly.
Tenten smiled at the younger girl, dropping her blade to her side. "If it weren't, you wouldn't let it bother you so much, right?" Sakura frowned darkly, throwing her kunai, and having it quickly intercepted by Tenten's, which had snapped up from a resting position to smack hers out of the air within a few seconds. "What's the matter?" The older girl asked, deciding to be a little more forcefull. "Your boyfriend stop talking to you or something?"
"Not my boyfriend," Sakura muttered, before she could stop herself, and Tenten's eyes widened. Seeing that the weapons master wasn't going to let this go, Sakura decided to tell part of the truth. "Naruto's off somewhere with Team 8, not that I'd ever want to talk to the knuckle head, and Sasuke disappeared yesterday, at least according to Ino, who only told me that after trying to attack me and yelling something about uselessness." The younger kunoichi yelled this, before withdrawing two kunai, throwing them one after another in a burst of irritation.
"Yeah, that would have to suck," Tenten agreed, only catching one of the blades, allowing the other to hit her post and bringing the score up to 2 to 4. She supposed it made sense, everyone was training, and the closest thing she had to friends when that happened were the members of her team. Thinking of that, she looked across the clearing where their training ground was set up to see Gai and Lee engaging in a round of motivational speaking nearby, and she had no idea where Neji was. "Okay, now you've made me depressed," she griped. "How about we stop training for a while and grab something to eat?"
Sakura nodded, relieved that the other girl had taken her first admission and stopped digging there. Somehow, she doubted it would be easy for her to explain that one of the voices in her head had stopped talking to her after the fight with Neji, though she had to admit that what she had said before was bothering her as well.
It seemed that Team 7 was now completely gone, despite that stupid speech Naruto had made long before about their team never giving up, and she had to wonder, just for a moment, where the heck the idiot had gone. "So, Ichiraku?" She asked, not knowing why she'd suggested it.
Kin Tsuchi was in a rather paradoxical state of mind as she walked down a side street in Konoha. On one hand, she was likely still on Orochimaru's "kill on sight" list, and thus justifiably queasy and paranoid, taking the occasional glance back, and ignoring the ANBU scurrying for cover, waiting for one of her team mates, or worse, one of the Sound Four or Orochimaru himself, to spring from the shadows and take her head off.
On the other hand, she was fantastically bored. Those two states may seem like a contradiction in terms, however as a Ninja, waiting for death to leap out at you was a rather every day occurrence, and at the moment, she would sort of prefer someone to attack her, as long as she could fight on a level playing field against them.
Unfortunately, she wasn't able to find herself any good opponents, as she was pretty weak from the hospital still, and her 'escort' seemed to get jittery every time she got near Konoha's training fields.
Hearing a loud smashing sound, the Sound Nin jumped about three feet, reaching for weapons that she knew had already been confiscated, before she heard the sound of someone grunting in pain, and another voice calling "Sorry, are you all right?" as she hit the ground.
Turning, she noted that there was a clearing in front of her, and laying in it was a short, red haired boy who she recognized. For a moment, she froze up in fear, however when she saw the Sand user laboriously climbing to his feet, her sense of self preservation briefly lost out to curiosity, and she approached.
"Still not used to this," she heard Gaara muttering, as he made it to his feet, wobbling there for a moment. "Again!"
"Are you sure about that?" Another boy's voice asked, concerned. As Gaara nodded, the former Sound Nin watched on in curiosity, noting what looked like another Ninja charging at him. She vaguely recognized the other as Kankuro, the puppet master.
She watched the two blur into close combat taijutsu, and much to her surprise, though Gaara was actually moving and fighting, rather than letting his sand block, Kankuro was actually measurably faster, and obviously winning. Within minutes, the younger of the two was caught with an attack that he couldn't block, flying backwards and making a long furrow in the earth before sliding to a stop.
As the boy hauled himself to his feet, Kin noticed that his body was covered in bruises and he didn't look so good. "What in the world?" She muttered, confused, before watching the entire spectacle again. As Gaara was getting up again, a flash of killing intent came from nearby, and the former sound ninja rolled to the side, only to feel wind blowing across one arm. Looking up, she saw Temari standing there, her giant fan in one hand.
"Either that wasn't aimed to kill me or you've got very bad aim," the black haired girl observed, standing.
Temari shrugged, slinging her fan over her shoulder. "What are you doing here?" She demanded, shortly. Kin wasn't really sure why she was here, herself, so she merely shrugged back. The Sand Nin shook her head. "Then I would leave if I were you," she said, her eyes going back to her brothers, as Gaara flew back again, though this time one of the other's arms was missing, showing that Kankuro was fighting with one of his puppets.
Kin considered following the blonde's advice, especially since she was in no condition to fight if the other girl got serious, but then recalled the ANBU member behind her. "What's going on here," she finally decided to ask. "Why isn't your brother just using his sand to block?"
Temari's eyebrow rose, the wind user not sure if she wanted to believe that the other didn't know anything. "That isn't any of your concern."
Kin thought of pushing that statement, but seeing the rather dangerous glare Temari was giving her, she instead nodded, turning away and starting down the street. This village, she decided, was far too confusing for her to figure out, at least until she got her strength back and the ANBU stopped following her around. As she turned a corner, and threw a look back to the others, she saw Gaara crash to the ground again, and shook her head in bemusement.
"I can't believe this," Kurenai said, for the fourth time, as she and two of her students stood on the edge of a flat, open field, watching as Naruto faced off against a rather top heavy blonde woman in a grey Kimono top and blue pants.
"Believe it," Shino said levelly, studying the two combatants before him. "Uzumaki's doomed."
Noting Hinata flinching at that pronouncement, the team leader still couldn't help but agree, and the hell of it was, this fiasco was mostly her fault. She'd been trying to teach the boy to tell the difference between reality and an illusion, using minor, typical errors in the latter as a clue ever since the new Team 8 had started their tracking mission, and the boy had been picking up on that for the last few days.
In fact, he'd been making very good progress once he figured out the game, and had even learned one or two illusion based jutsu, but what she hadn't expected was for the boy to decide she was still testing him when they ran across their target, only with two… very large… discrepancies from the picture they'd been given.
Privately, Kurenai couldn't really blame Naruto. The woman's chest looked ridiculous, but trying to dispel her breasts with a Chakra pulse and calling her out as a fake had probably been the wrong way for Naruto to go about such a sensitive situation… especially since their target had apparently been drunk off her ass at the time. "Why do I always have to put up with the drunk and the stupid?" The illusion mistress muttered, too softly for her students to hear. Much to her surprise, nearby she heard a grunt and sigh that both sounded to be in agreement with her statement.
Turning, she saw a dark haired woman in a black Kimono standing next to what appeared to be a pig in a tutu. "Um, maybe Naruto was right about the genjutsu," she muttered, blinking.
The woman was apparently about to respond to that, when two shouts were heard from nearby, and all of the spectators turned to watch the beginning of the fight between Tsunade and Naruto. Surprisingly, the Sannin member didn't immediately incapacitate the Uzumaki boy, though she tried, getting into close range combat with him and hitting him in the chest, immediately dispelling a shadow clone in a puff of white smoke. Wheeling around and extending a foot, she connected with the real Naruto who was coming in for an ax kick behind her, sending him bouncing and rolling across the ground.
Hinata gasped when she saw the orange clad boy take such a violent hit, though Kurenai just shook her head, watching as he managed to get back to his feet, immediately charging back at the older woman, preceded by a hand full of throwing stars. Tsunade just snorted, jumping over the projectiles and coming down with both feet on the Konoha-nin's head, causing him to fall forward into the dirt. "Just give up and apologize," the spectators heard her yell, stepping off of the boy's head with one foot and using the other to grind it into the ground.
"Thank goodness she's still holding back," The woman in the dark kimono said, as Naruto rolled out from under the sannin's foot, yelling something about the Hokage.
"She's holding back?" Hinata asked, confused. "But she's beating Naruto-kun so easily."
"Yes, and if she wasn't, that last attack would have crushed his skull," the newcomer said, calmly. As her students' eyes widened, even Shino's, behind his glasses, Kurenai nodded.
"So that's true…" She muttered, getting a nod.
"How do you know Naruto-kun can't win? Maybe she's not holding back and he's just tough enough to stand up to her?" Hinata suddenly burst out, surprising her teammates.
The older dark haired woman shook her head. "My name is Shizune, I am lady Tsunade's apprentice, and I have seen her fight many times."
"Oh," Hinata said, back to her usual small voice, as she made several hand seals. A second later the veins around her eyes began to bulge, and the Byakugan activated. As she looked at the fight this time, her eyes widened, and a gulp could be heard. "…All that chakra?" She gasped, quietly.
Shizune only nodded in response, as Naruto went flying again, staggering to his feet with a small trail of blood leaking from his mouth. "That's it," the boy said, trying to keep himself upright. "Okay, I get it, you're strong," he panted, causing the blonde woman across from him to smirk.
"Ready to admit you're wrong, kid?" She demanded.
"Not yet," Naruto exclaimed, suddenly making several hand seals in a row. Kurenai's eyes widened as she recognized some of the patterns, but definitely not others. Suddenly, a huge cloud of smoke obscured the battle field, and when it cleared, several dozen shadow clones were surrounding the Sannin.
"What's he playing at?" Shino mumbled. "With that many, she's going to know they're clones, and he can't overwhelm her with numbers."
Apparently, the bug keeper's analysis was flawed, as Tsunade's eyes widened, and she leapt upwards, dodging something the others couldn't see. "So, you're playing for keeps now, huh?" She asked, and a smirk grew on her face as she descended, throwing several Kunai she'd pulled from nowhere into the dirt. Several seconds later, she raised her arms to block something invisible, and Kurenai's eyes widened just as the Blonde yelled "Wait a minute… a genjutsu?"
"Good try, Naruto," The illusion mistress complimented, as a chakra pulse washed over the area, and Tsunade apparently surveyed the ring of Shadow clones.
"You're better than I thought," she admitted, before bringing her hand up to block yet another invisible attack.
"What's happening?" Shizune asked, as her teacher began shadow boxing once more, before another pulse of Chakra washed out from her, and another. As she watched, Kurenai noticed one shadow clone disappearing every time an illusion was dispelled.
"Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?" She asked, turning to Hinata, who still had her Byakugan active, and whose eyes were wide in shock.
"It's beautiful..." She muttered, seeing something that the others could not.
As the tenth illusion fell, and the tenth clone disappeared, all of the Naruto seemed to flinch in unison, and Tsunade blinked, as Kurenai guessed that she got a small glimpse of reality before Naruto could regenerate the jutsu. "You little…" The older woman muttered, before dashing forward, out of the ring of clones and towards a rock in the middle of the field. Grabbing the rock, which looked to weigh several tons, she turned with little apparent effort and pitched it into the mass of shadow clones, dispelling several at once.
This seemed to have a profound impact on Naruto, as the remainder of the clones popped out of existence, and the boy screamed in agony before falling to the ground, his hands on his head.
"All right, so you want to kill your brother because he destroyed your clan," Jiraiya said, leaning in a casual pose as he read his book, making corrections with a yellow highlighter. "And you want to train with me to get stronger, because you saw how awesome I am."
Sasuke grimaced, but didn't comment.
"Well you did get me what I asked for, so I guess I can train you, but I've got to ask you something first," The sannin asked, before turning a page and frowning. "What was I thinking with this part?" He grumbled, tearing the page out and throwing it over his shoulder.
"What is it?" Sasuke asked, beginning to regret his decision to pursue training with the white haired man already.
"You're supposed to be hunting your brother down, but you also promised to rebuild your clan, right? Why the heck aren't you going after any girls?" Jiraiya's question was only answered by a disbelieving stare from the Uchiha, so he continued rapidly. "Look, I'm a dirty old man, even I admit that," He muttered too low for Sasuke to hear 'When I have to,' and then continued. "But you're just coming into being a teenager, you've got permission to be as horny as you want for the next seven years or so, and you're wasting it!"
"Hn," Sasuke muttered, giving his sensei a rather dubious look.
"Hey, it was just a suggestion," The older man said. "But you should think about it. After all, if you get killed fighting your brother, or if you BOTH die, how's the Uchiha clan going to come back?"
Sasuke stopped for a moment before he shook his head. "Never mind that," he said, gruffly. "I did what you want, so can we get started?"
Jiraiya nodded. He knew that he'd convinced the Uchiha boy of at least something, and anything to stop him from focusing on vengeance and anger would help, especially with the seal on his neck working tirelessly to destroy any positive feelings he had. "All right, I've got a few basic techniques that could help immeasurably," He decided, turning to wise sensei mode.
Sasuke nodded in satisfaction, as the two ninja settled down across from each other, and the toad sage began talking.
"He'll be fine in a day or two," Hinata sighed in relief as Tsunade leaned back from Naruto's unconscious body, her hands fading from the chakra infused glow that had enveloped them for the past five minutes. "That was the most idiotic thing I've ever seen someone do… even if it worked."
"Thank you for healing Naruto-kun," The Hyuga of the group said, bowing slightly before standing.
"Yeah, well, it was half my fault he got this way in the first place," the sannin admitted. "I really shouldn't let loud mouthed brats get me so pissed off."
"What happened to him?" Kurenai asked, kneeling down to examine the boy. "He didn't get hit by that rock."
"It's actually mental over-exertion, probably," Tsunade replied. "Having a genjutsu broken isn't a very pleasant experience, especially for a novice, that's why it disrupted the clone that performed it when I broke each one, but the backlash was spread across all of the other shadow clones…"
"Until you destroyed enough to make the memory of all of the backlash too strong," Hinata realized, her hands wringing in worry.
"Yeah, pretty much," The sanin said, smiling at the girl. Normally, she didn't like Hyuga healers, since they liked to pretend that their eyes made them god's gift to medicine, which tended to piss her off immeasurably, but the girl seemed to have some brains in her head and a lot less ego than usual. "Can you watch him and tell me if he wakes up?"
Hinata nodded quickly, and Tsundade stood along with Kurenai. "So," She said, once she was out of earshot of both the students and her apprentice, who was watching over Naruto along with Hinata. "You're from the Leaf, so you're not here to collect a debt, what's happening?"
The junin quirked an eyebrow at the debt comment, before nodding. "We're here to recover you or Jiraiya Sennin," She explained. "It was apparently one of the Third Hokage's orders, before he died."
Tsunade gasped. "Sarutobi-sensei's… dead?" The bottom seemed to drop out of her stomach as she heard this news, though she did her best not to show it. "How did it happen?"
"One of the tailed demons attacked the village," Kurenai explained. "He died sealing it."
"That'd explain why the kid was going on about the Hokage," Tsunade muttered. "Guess even he couldn't escape the curse." At the Junin's strange look, the older woman shook her head. "I don't really know why he'd want us back," She was, of course, lying through her teeth, but didn't want to admit that she was pretty much walking into a trap. "But a last request's pretty damned serious, let's go."
Kurenai nodded, resisting the urge to sigh in relief. When Naruto had started quite possibly the biggest diplomatic gaff she'd ever seen, she'd feared that the mission was a failure, but apparently she was wrong. As she thought about the success of the mission, she slapped her forehead. "How am I going to write this up without making myself and Naruto look like complete idiots?" She muttered, though apparently loudly enough for the sannin to hear.
Tsunade snickered. "I'll help you with the report," she offered. "I've made drinking binges into heroic chases for missing-nin we accidentally found at the bar before, I can probably do it again."
Kurenai wanted to ask about that, but decided it wasn't a terribly good idea, as the incredibly powerful medic-nin was cooperating, and she didn't like to push her luck. "Um, thank you," She said instead.
The village hidden in the sand was a relatively peaceful place at the moment, especially since the demon container had left, and the village's ninja population was busy preparing for something. Most of the civilians thought this was a good thing, a reprieve from the usual harshness of the desert, though others were even more on guard due to it, as they had heard the term 'The calm before the storm,' and didn't want to be hit in the face with whatever was coming.
It was no surprise to this second group, therefore, when a Ninja staggered down the path to the front gates of the village, a rather prominent wound gushing blood from his side, his grey hair matted to his scalp, and a pair of broken glasses dangling from one ear.
As it had been a rather lazy day so far, the village guards didn't see the man until he was only a hundred feet or so from the gate, and were only half way through their threat evaluation process when he collapsed, one hand reaching desperately for the opening before him.
Immediately, one of the guards leapt down to the obviously wounded man, gently rolling him over. "Are you all right?" He asked, reaching for a walkie-talkie to call in a medic team.
"Tell the council," The grey haired man managed to croak out. "Konoha… They killed them all…" As the guard's eyes widened, Kabuto struggled to hide a smirk, using his extensive medical knowledge to fake passing out, and listening as the guard made a frantic call to the village's leaders.
You can skip this one if you want, but I figured I should tell you. I haven't been nearly as long without updates as some of you may think. I've been working on that other project I mentioned a few chapters back, among other things, on a cooperative account called "Jonabee." Yes, this is a shameless plug. Thank you, and hope you enjoyed the chapter.