"You're kidding me," the sharp toothed ex Mist nin said incredulously. "He's actually going to get Raiga to join us for this mission?"
Hoozuki Mangetsu was slightly taller than average, a bit more muscular than the average ninja though nothing at all out of place in the often strength focused Mist, and had hair the color of sea foam on a cloudy day. They were all on a small fisherman's vessel, one they had long ago appropriated and used for sailing around the coast and smaller islands of Wave. Let other ninjas treehop, Mist ninjas preferred ocean travel.
"Copy Nin Kakashi and a trio of ex ANBU? They took Haku down in less than a minute. Bad fucking news, Ge," Meizu replied to him.
That left the others pretty sober. Haku was as good or better than any of them present, despite most of them having more experience. Haku was fast and slippery and extremely difficult to pin down.
"Huh," Mangetsu muttered. "Well, this should be pretty fun. A big old ninja versus ninja battle? Sounds like a great time to be from the Bloody Mist."
There were grins and nods at that.
With the exception of Haku, Zabuza didn't take on people who didn't like to kill.
And everyone knew why Zabuza had taken in Haku. The Leaf ninja should have picked an entirely different target to take prisoner.
Of course, only one of them was actually tactless enough to say it.
"Man, those Leaf ninja should have known better than to kidnap Zabuza's catamite," Jian Guo mused. Jian was another muscular Mist ninja, much like Hoozuki in build, but with darker skin and features that suggested some Lightning country blood somewhere in his past. It wasn't that he was particularly foul mouthed, or rude, but even among Mist ninja he had a tendancy to call it like he saw it and leave the hints and wordplay to the others.
"We finally get to see Raiga's little fucktoy," Yuuna 'The Crab' commented, her voice echoing somewhat in her helmet in a near monotone. "I heard he was a little boy." She was one of two women in the group and cut an imposing figure in full articulated plate armor that was wider across the shoulders than even a big muscular man like Zabuza, though she was not particularly tall. Nicknamed for her immense hand strength, she was the only one with a doton affinity among the group, and preferred to harass from a distance with ninjutsu.
"I heard he was a midget, actually," Surume, the other girl commented. "The result of some sort of bloodlimit experimentation gone bad. I doubt Raiga has ever touched him, and I wouldn't imply that he has to his face, if you know what I'm saying. Raiga is about as balanced as half a shuriken." Surume was of average size and not as muscular as the boys, but she could wave her naginata around like a magic wand, and she was the oldest present, with deeply tanned skin weathered by sand, salt, and sun, and a number of small scars peppering her exposed flesh from an encounter with a particularly explosive jutsu in her genin exam.
"Yeah, Raiga didn't go missing nin so much as he wandered off and they took him off the books. Whatever that genjutsu was and whoever used it, I hope that never happens to me. Raiga used to be a hell of a Swordsman." That was Kani, tall, pale, and handsome, and also the default leader whenever Zabuza wasn't around. He wasn't the deadliest fighter of the group, but he usually got the most done.
"So when are you gonna get a catamite, Ge?" Ryota asked. He was the youngest, being barely sixteen and still somewhat gawky, though he'd filled out a lot in the past year and was probably going to be bigger than Zabuza.
"I'm not getting a catamite, punk," Hoozuki snarled and halfheartedly smacked at his younger friend. "I'd want some bitch, not a pretty little faggot.
"Huh?" Surume asked.
"It's required to be a Swordsman, Suru!" Ryota exclaimed, happy to have found someone else to tell his theory to. "I mean, look at all the others. Zabuza-sama has Haku, no question there, and Raiga has that midget kid. Kisame has that Uchiha that killed his family, and Kushimaru had Menchou, though I guess it's starting to fall apart there because you know Kushimaru was the uke in that relationship."
"Hey, Kushimaru is not gay," Kani said firmly. He'd studied under the now deceased swordsman some years previously.
Everyone looked at him.
"He is a little bitch, though," Kani admitted.
"Anyway, all I'm saying is that if Ge wants to take up one of the swords he's gonna have to man up and fuck some boys."
"What about me?" Surume asked. "Does that mean if I get a sword I'm gonna need a little girlfriend?"
The boys thought about that a moment and generally agreed that, yes, that was fair. Kani was especially approving since he and Surume were occasionally lovers.
"Hmm," Surume mused, then smiled wickedly and looked at Yuuna. "Well, I guess I'd take Yuuna." She paused. "And a can opener."
Everyone laughed imaging the huge armored figure of Yuuna as Surume's 'little girlfriend', except Yuuna, who stood there in dignified silence, and Surume, who grinned. Unknown to the others, Yuuna was actually quailing inside the huge shell of her armor, because she actually was a pretty small girl inside the layers of padding, mesh, and steel that made her suit, and she knew Surume knew that. Yuuna liked to have some protection between her and the outside world, and about eight inches of armor sometimes didn't feel like enough.
With friends like these…
Less than half a kilometer away, but more than a hundred feet down, eyes tracked the movement of the ship carrying the missing nin. Considering how highly prized it was as a food fish, and how often they ended up at sushi bars and dinner tables, it was easy to forget that the tuna was a vicious, top level predator of the sea, capable of speeds as fast as any shark. So when, five hundred years ago, the fisherman Hoderi Urashima agreed to free a tuna princess in exchange for a summoning contract, he found the bargain invaluable, for tuna know how to herd other fish.
And when his Kiri hunter nin descendant, Ryu Urashima, needed to both follow a large group of recently spotted missing nin, kill his current target, and tell his superiors about the sighting, he found the contract invaluable as well.
It completely made up for the tendancy of the Urashima men to marry women who perform in bed like a dead fish.
Hinata dodged left, dodged right, jumped to avoid a spike of earth forming below her, and had time only for one single palm slap as a desperate move to avoid Kakashi's incoming attack.
Kakashi had his sharingan uncovered, which he'd been using off and on through various fights, and was able to easily avoid the blow. He even allowed himself the flourish of a spin kick, slamming his sandaled foot into Hinata's shoulders and sending her hurtling to the ground.
Hinata flared her chakra in the initial move of the kaiten, but without the spin to focus it, she still hit with bone jarring force. She was on her feet again in moments, but they both knew that, in a real fight, she'd have died then.
"You've been sparring with Naruto too much," Kakashi noted calmly. "It's reinforced the bad habits your family training has given you."
Hinata took deep breaths, but didn't protest, just thinking about his words for a moment. "I have not practiced jumping combat enough," she guessed.
"Symptom only," Kakashi disagreed. "Naruto likes big, rushing attacks, like a wave crashing onto a shore, and he uses a lot of clones, which dispel easily against a good defense. That's made your Hyuga tendancy to stand your ground become much more pronounced. Learning and practicing tree climbing the way you did, early and unsupervised, only made it worse. You've learned to anchor yourself to the ground with chakra to meet an attack. Practicing your kicks is a good idea, it shows that you're at least aware that you need to be more mobile, but you need more." He paused thoughtfully. "Naruto!"
"Clone work or do you want the real thing?" a kage bunshin asked, dropping down out of a tree.
"Clones are fine," Kakashi replied. "I want you to make five clones and throw sticks and rocks at Hinata while she jumps up and down. Add one clone every ten minutes until you get ten solid hits, but don't go any longer than three hours. We're still waiting to be attacked, after all."
"How high should I jump?" Hinata asked.
Kakashi shrugged. "Vary it. And try to perform any jutsu you know while you do it. Don't throw anything physical, but if you know any ranged jutsu, feel free to take out any clones you can."
"Yes, Sensei," Hinata agreed.
Kakashi disappeared, then reappeared moments later in another clearing, one scattered with Naruto clones. As he arrived, one wavered into insubstantiality and disappeared, leaving a puff of smoke behind.
"How's the brainsplodey?" Kakashi asked cheerfully.
"Well, my brain is about to explode," four nearby Narutos confessed, then looked at each other in confusion. As one, they all bopped themselves on the head. All four popped.
"That's… odd," every other Naruto, including the ones throwing rocks at Hinata, said at the same time. "By the numbers boys, who thinks they're the most real," one said, and dispelled himself.
The next one, though, found solid flesh, then looked around, startled. "Ow my brain," he complained, then looked at Kakashi. "Do I get to retire if I manage to cause enough brain damage?"
Kakashi shook his head. "No, sorry, we have to kill you and seal the Kyubi in someone else. Otherwise it could possess your body."
"Man, and I don't even get to use the dental," Naruto pouted.
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "Because your healing keeps your teeth healthy?"
Naruto shrugged. "I guess, but mainly I've been seriously creeped out by dental tools since my days in T and I. I just brush really thoroughly."
Naruto's expression turned serious. "Is there ANY hint you can give me? Because I'm getting nothing. At first I thought that if I could just use all of my clone's chakra in some sort of jutsu, maybe I could keep the leftovers from returning. Then I thought that, maybe I have to actually transform the clone body into an explosion. I think I made a breakthrough on my other project, but not in the clone explosion technique. Now I've been trying to play with the dispel, but I've got nothing."
Kakashi shook his head. "No, I'd give you a hint if I could, but I only saw Bunshin Bakuha performed once, and not with the sharingan."
"Well can you at least tell me who did it? Maybe I can try to think like them. I've been at this for four days with no luck, I need SOMETHING." Kakashi had previously refused to tell Naruto where he'd seen the technique.
Kakashi mused that over, then decided it couldn't hurt to tell him. Much, anyway.
"It was an Uchiha," he allowed. "Itachi."
Naruto thought about that in silence for several moments. "Hmmm, how to get in Itachi's head… Right, I'm off to torture Sasuke into insanity. Be right back."
Kakashi slapped him in the head. "Don't be a smartass. Don't tell Sasuke where the technique came from or he'll obesses about trying to recreate it himself, and he's busy enough right now."
"Yes, Sensei," Naruto replied, rubbing his head. Kakashi hadn't pulled that one very much. He paused again. "Ooh, let me show you the breakthrough I had on my new taijutsu style!"
He squinted his eyes slightly in concentration, then extended his hand. His arm grew an extra two feet. "It still takes me too long to do it for it to be any use in combat, but I'd been thinking about it ever since I saw Chouji do it. Some sort of Akimichi clan technique, but I'm not interested in carrying it as far as they do. I just want to be able to instantly transform into a new shape or position in combat. I think I could even get around the sharingan's prediction if I'm not using muscle to move, so there would be no tells." He extended his arm a little bit more and patted the shoulder of a clone.
His hand sunk into the clone without dispelling it.
"Ahg!" the clone cried out, then dispelled.
Taking Naruto's hand off at the wrist.
"AHGHGHAHAGH! What the FUUUaaaarrrgh!" Naruto cried, trying to hold his wrist, but his arm was literally too long and misshapen for it to curl back. Blood spewed profusely from the severed stump, an there was a strange cloud of chakra that seemed to cling to it.
Kakashi stared at the scene, visible eye opened wide. "Well now, that's something I've never seen before," he admitted.
"Aaa ow ow ow …concentrate, concentrate-" Naruto transformed back into his regular body, which included both hands. "Whooo, that was unpleasant," he said, grabbing at his head with both hands for a moment before straightening and looking rueful.
"I'll bet. Your training is over for the day," Kakashi announced. "If you can't keep up with which one of you is real and you've actually managed to dispel part of your own body, you're not fit for anything. Go back to the house, and start dispeling your clones slowly. I'll get Hinata and meet Sasuke on the bridge."
"Yes, Sensei," Naruto said without argument, wincing.
Sasuke, meanwhile, spent his time on the bridge with Tazuna and the various men he'd managed to gather. Mostly he watched the men, since infiltrating as a noncombatant would be Team Lie's chosen method of assassination, but he was aware that attacks could come from any direction.
Kakashi seemed pretty sure that they could handle anything, though, and rotated them on guard duty so he could train the other two. Which was odd, since he'd completely refused their request to go take care of Gatou and his hired thugs.
What kind of ninja just sat and waited for an attack?
An ox masked ANBU wiped his katana clean with the shirt of a dead thug and slipped it back into its sheath, then looked up sharply as another Konoha ANBU, a woman with a few strands of purple hair visible on the very small section of exposed neck, came through the door. He relaxed when she gave a small sign of her identity.
"No one else in the building," she reported.
Only then did he allow himself to cough, and they both turned as the leader of their four man cell came in from another door.
"Gatou is dead, his safe opened, and the papers acquired," the leader confirmed. "Next target."
The first errant thugs brave enough to venture into the eerily silent headquarters of the former business empire found Gatou's head sitting on his desk in front of his body, and nearly thirty thousand ryo just sitting in the opened safe in the corner. Of course, being somewhat foolish, they let news of the money slip, and soon many others took their slice of the pie by force.
Mercenaries who fail to get paid tend to take their financial woes out on the civilians around them, but when they're relatively flush, they tend to spend it all on booze and whores. By leaving the cash, the ANBU actually gave the economy a small boost.
The really valuable parts of the company, small local businesses and shipping interests scattered up and down the coast, found new owners and managers, people who owed Konoha new favors.
ANBU weren't generally used for client missions, being meant to insure the security of Konoha itself. However, the economic stability and intelligence gathering opportunities in Wave could be said to be a part of Konoha's security, if one were inclined to argue.
Meanwhile, Team Lie was learning the importance of staying on mission.
"Hey, Naruto," Sasuke said.
"Yeah?" Naruto asked, turning to look at Sasuke.
Instantly, the world seemed to grey out around him, and Sasuke rippled and expanded, growing eyes and mouths all over his body, his stomach collapsing and being sucked up into his chest, and even his chest shrinking as his insides crawled out through his face and began waving fanged cillia and ichor covered tentacles. "Tellikiliki –li!" he piped through a series of holes in his flesh.
"GAH!" Naruto said, and fell over backwards. He lay there for a moment, formed a seal, and said, "Kai."
The genjutsu broken, Naruto sat back up and gave Sasuke a longsuffering look. "Was there anything else?" he asked in a dry tone.
"Nah, that was it, thanks." Sasuke turned away.
"I'll quit falling for that one day," Naruto muttered.
While Hinata worked on her speed and agility and Naruto worked on his jutsu, Sasuke worked on sharingan genjutsu. Unfortunately, that meant that Naruto got more than his fair share of horrible visions, misdirections, and had even gotten lost once in the kitchen for nearly five minutes before he realized that his thinking was muddled.
They all already knew genjutsu, of course. Sasuke had learned half a dozen from the scrolls Hinata had read from afar. Naruto knew two himself, learned from Ibiki during his time spent as the mascot of T&I. Naruto had, of course, attempted to teach them to Hinata, but with mixed results.
The first, a basic genjutsu called Hell Viewing Technique, she was completely unable to use. It produced a vision of the user's choice as well as a suggestion in the victim's mind that the vision was truly horrific, so theoretically someone not afraid of, say, dogs, could be utterly freaked out by a vision of dogs provided by the Hell Viewing Technique. Hinata's attempts to use it on Naruto had produced a vague sense of unease and a weirdly distorted vision that was like a garish explosion of colors and movement. Distracting, yes, but not so much that it impaired him. Sadly, Naruto had no idea of how to help her improve since he was lackluster at the technique himself. Though the fear he produced was substantial, his vision was somehow lacking, making the victim realize it was a genjutsu immediately. Sasuke was, of course, quite adept once he learned it, but it was a weak technique at best.
The second was an unnamed torture technique. It was quite powerful in its way, but had sharp limits. It was a contact genjutsu, and relied on the user literally overpowering the chakra network of the victim to cause physical sensations of the user's choice. Ibiki used it on prisoners who's chakra network had been weakened by drugs and seals, or even shut off entirely by one of the Hyuga ANBU. Naruto just used it as normal, and had never had anyone able to resist. Hinata lacked the power to overwhelm Naruto when she practiced it on him, but she could shut off his chakra network herself, at least for short periods. Their first kiss, daringly initiated by Hinata, had been a sensory illusion she caused in him. Sasuke, without Naruto's immensely powerful chakra or Hinata's ability to shut off the chakra coils in the victim, hadn't been able to do it without Hinata's help, and had put nothing beyond the most cursory effort into learning it.
The answer of why Hinata had been able to use one and not the other had come from a brief conversation Sasuke had with Sakura. Sakura was in traning to be a genjutsu specialist, so naturally had knowledge the others had lacked. A little coaxing by Sasuke, at Naruto's insistence of course, had gotten all kinds of secrets from her.
Apparently, for vision genjutsu to work, you had to understand how your victim saw the world. A ninja with poor vision actually had an excellent chance of realizing that they were under a genjutsu because the vision they were confronted with was usually too sharp to be natural. The more intelligent animals, such as summons and ninja dogs, resisted most sensory illusions because their senses were wildly different from human's. Hyuga might briefly see an illusion, but they also saw the chakra behind it and the real world at more or less the same time, so had no trouble manipulating their chakra to neutralize any effect.
Also, genjutsu were supposed to be subtle, easily overlooked things. Naruto overpowered his genjutsu like he did everything else. It worked for one designed to overpower, but not so much on the subtle ones. Hinata just didn't understand how normal people saw the world, so her efforts to mislead produced only odd visual effects. Naruto at first assumed that it was how she saw the world, but Sakura had shot that theory down. Hinata's genjutsu targeted coils in the eyes that normal people didn't have, so what he saw from her was really just a mishmash of signals.
So how, then, was Sasuke able to cast realistic genjutsu? Naruto was damned sure that Sasuke saw the world different from anyone else. Hell, he bragged about it.
The answer, it turned out, lay in the sharingan's ability to copy and mimic techniques, for the normal genjutsu, and in the sharigan's ability to bypass creative visions and go straight to hypnotic suggestion.
When Kakashi started teaching him the basics of how to ensnare the mind with nothing but a glance, Sasuke proved an apt student.
Still, even though he could make some powerful suggestions in Hinata's mind, Hinata literally saw the chakra involved in the process, and filtered it out. There was some speculation that it might work on a Hyuga who didn't have an activated byakugan, but they didn't have one of those so it was a moot point. Hinata's was still always on, and the hitai-ate that covered her eyes much of the time blocked chakra anyway.
Kakashi was too skilled to ever let his guard down.
Naruto fell for it every time. Especially since the horrors that Sasuke 'suggested' were ones Naruto had personally been eaten by. Sasuke smirked a lot. Naruto grumbled and called it the mindfuck.
Hinata wondered if she would ever be able to figure out how to reproduce the things she saw with her abyssal eyes in a normal person's vision, and what would happen to that person if she succeeded.
She was under a standing order/request from both Kakashi and her teammates to never find out using an ally.
"A report from Ryu, sir," the Mist hunter nin said, handing a sealed scroll to the Captain of the Mist ANBU before disappearing. It fairly reeked of fish.
Ao rolled his one visible eye and took the scroll, popping the chakra seal with a technique that was only supposed to belong to current and former ANBU, which really meant that probably no more than five or six people from all the other hidden villages knew it. It wasn't the most secure of communication channels but Mist had never produced any really exceptional seal masters, and they knew it.
Ao had been in the Mist ANBU since he was sixteen. Colder of emotion and thought than most of the rather hotheaded island ninja, he'd been fasttracked to a position of responsibility, running herd on the tempers and insanities of his comrades. Captain by the age of twenty six, he'd spent the past six years dealing with upheavals and bloodlimit clan survivors and the efforts of other ninja to pry loose the deathgrip control Mist had over the seas. He'd participated in a victorious war against Cloud and countless skirmishes against Leaf, Stone, Sand, and a host of minor villages. Most of his real challenges, however, had come from the antics of his own countrymen.
Always he'd surivived by being the best at planning and tactics. When he was overpowered in a fight, a rare but not unheard of occurance, he had escape routes and backup. He liked calling in favors and he loved being owed favors. His dislikes ran along the lines of a few specific people, mostly fellow Mist ninja, though he had a few spots of honor devoted to ninja from other countries, and he hated wasabi, which rendered a large number of common snack foods inedible.
Overall, he was a hard man with a hard job who remained successful enough to not lose his dry sense of humor, which was especially tickled every time he killed a Cloud ninja. Most days he never had to leave the village at all, and he liked it that way.
However, one thing was enough to make him stand up and bend over the outstretched scroll on the table, his hands clenching in sudden excitement.
Momichi Zabuza had been found. Kirigakure's most dangerous traitor.
Plenty of mist ninja had gone missing nin, noticably above the average for a hidden village, but most of them did it due to old family duties or squabbles with other mist nin. Even the various Swordsmen of the ninja village usually did little more than get themselves banned for killing a few people they shouldn't have, even the notorious Daimyo-killer Kisame. It wasn't like anyone had actually liked the Daimyo anyway, but there were formalities to observe.
Only one had ever led an organized coup against the rulers of Mist. Only one had divided the ranks, nearly succeeded, and most importantly, escaped to try it again.
Momichi Zabuza. Subject of over a dozen current longrunning projects to find and kill, and they'd stumbled across ninja headed to a meeting with him by accident.
Oh, this was a job for Kiri ANBU.
Smirking with a satisfied air, Ao started assembling his squads.
"So, you agree that it would be the honorable thing to do to repay a favor, and you agree that a fight would leave both of us unable to deal with the Leaf ninja, which would be the exact opposite of a favor, right?" Zabuza explained patiently to the too small boy sitting on a log by the campfire.
Why they even had to have a fire was a mystery to Zabuza, but Raiga insisted for Ranmaru's sake.
Ranmaru nodded seriously.
"Then can you please explain it to Raiga so I don't have to beat him into repaying the favor?" Zabuza asked, doing his best to contain his frustration. Raiga was a challenge to deal with on the best of days, and he didn't mean in combat.
Ranmaru cocked his head like a puzzled chicken.
Zabuza sighed and unconciously reached for the comfort of a sword that wasn't there. He'd commissioned an emergency replacement but neither blood nor money could instantly recreate his beloved kubikiri hocho. That bitch. When he got ahold of her he was going to pull her apart like a pig.
"I understand what you're saying," Ranmaru replied in his high, childlike voice. He really was tiny, like a young elfin midget. "But why should I? I don't owe you a favor."
Zabuza resisted the urge to crush the little boy's head in relief. The relief was because they'd both ended up on the same page, negotiating wise. The anger was because he hated negotiation and preferred to just kill his way to a solution. Still, headcase or not, Raiga was a dangerous opponent, and would definitely react badly if his little friend was hurt. He glanced sideways at the tall missing nin, who was completely absorbed in cooking some gruel for his and Ranmaru's supper.
"So I'll owe you a favor?" he hazarded.
"On your honor?" Ranmaru asked.
Zabuza shrugged his heavily muscled shoulders, which, compared to Ranmaru, looked like boulders moving around under skin. "I won't get very far not keeping my promises, so yeah. On my honor."
"Okay, then I will make sure he understands. But I want my favor returned immediately." He was such a ridiculously tiny little kid, yet he sounded serious.
Zabuza didn't quite roll his eyes. "Fine. What is it?"
"I want you to make sure Raiga-san survives your favor unhurt."
Zabuza frowned. "You mean like, unhurt unhurt, or like, not crippled unhurt? Because we're gonna be fighting some Leaf ninja and they're nasty bastards."
Ranmaru just held stared at him until Zabuza relented and looked him in the eye. "You know what I mean," he said quietly. "Raiga won't lose in a fair fight, but you'd better not send him off to die."
Zabuza scratched his chin. Damn. He had, actually entertained some thoughts of getting the crazy Mist missing nin killed. But oh well, maybe next time. "Sure, kid, fine. No sending him off against an army by himself. I won't ask him to do anything I wouldn't ask my Haku to do."
Ranmaru's eyes brightened. "Okay, that will work." He'd heard stories about Zabuza's friend, Haku. Of course, those stories had come from Raiga, who'd heard them from others, and who wasn't the most reliable source of information anyway.
Zabuza forced a smile onto his face, though it wasn't much of one and most of it was hidden by his wraps, but it got the point across as he gingerly shook Ranmaru's tiny hand to seal the deal. He briefly lost himself in thought as Ranmaru and Raiga talked quietly among themselves.
Raiga was a powerful ally, and Zabuza would prefer to use him as part of a flanking maneuver, assigning some of his minions to him and splitting his groups. However, Raiga was a few kunai short of a full pouch, and who knew what he'd get up to by himself. No, best to leave his other ninja under the command of Kani and work with Raiga himself. Kani was a good, hard ninja, not as talented as Haku, but no slouch. With luck and numbers, they could handle the subordinates while Zabuza and Raiga killed Sharigan Kakashi.
"Will I get to meet Haku?" Ranmaru asked.
The question shook Zabuza out of his thoughts. He frowned and shook his head. "Doubt it. I'm pretty sure he's dead." Zabuza tried for a neutral, matter of fact tone, but some anger still crept into his voice.
Ranmaru and Raiga exchanged a look.
"Finally figured it out?" Sasuke asked as Naruto carefully inked the strip of paper. He was sitting at the table, Inari watching him quietly.
"The last couple caused pretty severe destruction for about ten feet in all directions, but they didn't blow up like they usually do," Naruto admitted, turning red slitted eyes to Sasuke after he completed the final runes. "I have to use my other chakra, so I think what I'm doing is just releasing a tags worth of unfiltered destruction." He quirked his lips. "Silent, though."
Sasuke looked impressed. Even low powered raiton tags had a crackle to them.
"Hey, Sasuke, can you do me a favor?" Naruto asked as he started inking a new tag.
Sasuke shrugged. "Why not."
Sasuke stared at him for a while, until it became clear that Naruto wasn't going to speak again.
"Well, what is it you want?" Sasuke asked, irritated.
Naruto shrugged. "I'm not picky."
"Great news, kids," Kakashi announced from the doorway as he entered the room.
They all looked up at him.
"Gatou is dead and his business empire scattered!" Kakashi continued in a cheerful tone of voice.
Inari jumped to his feet. "But I was gonna kill him when I got older," he protested. "I called dibs and everything!"
"Yep, that you did. By the official rules of allied ninja kill stealing, that means I owe you a drink. Here you go, kid." He tossed a juicebox at Inari, who hadn't even seen him pull it out of a pocket.
The box bapped into Inari's face and fell onto the table, narrowly missing a porcelin tray of mixed blood and ink.
Inari stared at it in confusion. "Bananna cherry kiwi grape?" he said, too shocked by the news to really focus. "But…"
"Naruto, show him how to use the straw. And explain the rules of kill stealing to him." Kakashi disappeared.
Sasuke and Naruto exchanged a look. Kakashi hadn't been missing but around twenty minutes, so there was something going on they weren't aware of. Still, an order is an order.
Naruto resolutely began telling Inari about a ficticious set of rules for when someone you like kills the person you hate most before you get a chance to, stabbing the pointed straw through the weak spot of the juice box as he talked.
"Goddamn it, kai!" Naruto cursed as he realized that, yet again, he'd met Sasuke's eyes and been ensnared in a genjutsu. It was the work of a moment to break it-
And Sasuke's flying, outstretched foot caught him in the chest and sent him flying, cracking three ribs and knocking the wind out of him.
Naruto ignored the sharp pain, forming seals while he slid on his back, then melted into the ground as he slid.
Sasuke smirked, flipping four shuriken, each trailing wires, into curving paths across the ground where Naruto had disappeared. A seal and a burst of electrical chakra quickly followed, disrupting Naruto's jutsu.
It took a moment after the electricity had stopped for Naruto to climb back to the surface, his hair standing on end from residual charge but otherwise unhurt. The attack had, however, prevented him from making clones beneath the ground, and Sasuke knew it.
Naruto flung a kunai with a tag on it at Sasuke and triggered it in mid air, releasing the stored demonic chakra inside. Instead of exploding the way most exploding notes did, it simply formed a rapidly expanding cloud of chakra just potent enough to tint the air red, though of course it glowed quite obviously in Sasuke's vision. The grass immediately turned brown and died, then began flaking away, even the ground itself crumbling and turning ashy beneath.
Previous experiments had shown that the Kyubi's chakra was harmless to Naruto, and by extension Hinata and Sasuke, but anything else in contact would die or erode as if it was a highly acidic poison. Previous experiments had left little circles in the forest where nothing would ever grow again. It would also effectively block most of Sasuke's vision.
Naruto used the cover to quickly shapeshift into a new form, one with a left arm two feet longer than the right. He turned sideways to cover it, tracking Sasuke as he circled the cloud.
Then, smirking and staring boldly at his friend, he unleashed his newest technique.
"Hey, Sasuke, I've been meaning to tell you… Hinata watches you pee."
"Yeah, whatever," Sasuke dismissed. Then, despite his efforts to ignore it, the words penetrated his focus. "Wait, what?" His eyes flicked in the direction Hinata had taken along with some of Naruto's clones, then back to Naruto, who was staring at him with an evil little grin. "Lies," Sasuke spat, flinging more shuriken.
"But you can't be sure, can you?" Naruto pressed, easily dodging the attack. "Maybe she's trying to catch you masturbating. Maybe she's just a voyeur." Naruto flung a kunai at Sasuke.
Sasuke started to just deflect it, but something in Naruto's movements made him dodge instead. A good thing, too, since Naruto had thrown a pair of shuriken in the shadow of the larger kunai, and since they had been thrown faster they hit and deflected off the hilt of the dagger to spread out at the last moment. Sasuke, however, was no where near it, and was instead charging at him, sharingan spinning.
"I am watching you peeee!" Naruto cried gleefuly using Hinata's voice.
Sasuke gritted his teeth, but almost of their own accord his eyes slid to one side in embarassment and wouldn't meet Naruto's own. Of course, he was still capable of beating Naruto down the old fashioned way.
Naruto's chakra suddenly flared red and reached out, more or less under it's own accord, and swatted Sasuke across the clearing faster than he could react. He slammed into a tree with enough force to knock off bark, bouncing off and flopping to the ground bonelessly.
"Oh shit, Sasuke! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that!" Naruto cried in sudden alarm, the tone of his voice totally at odds with the suddenly malevolent aura around him. He focused to resume his normal body and hurried to Sasuke's side, putting up his weapons as he did so.
"Unngh, what the hell was that," Sasuke groaned, attempting to sit up.
"Sakura summoned some of my chakra to smash something," Naruto answered. "I can usually suppress the reaction but Neji did it earlier today and it's hard to keep it calm when we're fighting." He wiped his hand through a spot of blood on Sasuke's arm, then grabbed his wrist and concentrated, sending chakra into the Uchiha.
The demonic chakra couldn't be said to be actually healthy, but it did do a great job of patching the body up, and Sasuke was able to stand up without pain moments later. His white tomoe sharingan spun with the rush he always got from the extremely potent chakra. Slowly, he felt his eyes getting wetter, as if with unshed tears, and quickly dashed blood out of his eyes.
"They been doing that a lot?" Sasuke asked.
Naruto shrugged. "Off and on. Sakura more often than Neji. I think she wants the strength to impress Shino and Kiba."
Sasuke shrugged. "Well, as long as it doesn't cause you to randomly kill me I don't really care." He stared at Naruto.
Naruto raised one eyebrow, looking back, then flinched and raised both hands into a guard position as he realized that he was staring into the sharingan.
Naruto blinked and lowered his arms. Looked at Sasuke.
Sasuke's sharingan was spinning wildly, almost forming a solid white circle instead of discrete tomoe. Nothing crawled out of his skin, the world didn't disappear, copies of himself didn't swarm him from the sides, nothing. A few drops of blood leaked from the corners. That was it.
Sasuke frowned. "I can't seem to use genjutsu."
"I feel the chakra, but it's just not flowing right," Sasuke muttered, concentrating. "I thought the chakra was supposed to give me an advantage, not mess things up."
Naruto winced. "You still haven't figured out what the white tomoe do, huh?"
"Well apparently they prevent me from using genjutsu," Sasuke snapped back.
"No need to cry about it, sheesh," Naruto replied as Sasuke wiped his eyes again. "Are you sure it's all genjutsu?"
Sasuke frowned, concentrated, then formed seals the old fashioned way.
A mob of about a dozen fangirls, all former classmates and a few older girls, rushed Naruto from all sides, screaming their devotion.
"Gah! Ewww," Naruto complained, jumping in surprise at being hit by the Hell Viewing Technique and quickly breaking it with a kai. "Looks like your jutsu are unaffected. Maybe it's because you haven't learned how to use your new sharingan yet? I mean, look at all the weird things Hinata had to put up with out of hers."
"Bleeding out of my eyes isn't enough?" Sasuke growled, flinging fresh blood off his finger. "I was basing my new fighting style off of sharingan genjutsu!"
Naruto shrugged. "So don't get over reliant. Or maybe there's a workaround. You haven't been using my chakra much anyway. I mean, Hinata basically summons it every morning."
"Hinata is insane and doesn't bleed out her eyes," Sasuke replied irritably. "I'm gonna go find Sensei. Maybe he has a suggestion."
AL: Enh, my production rate has dropped to somewhat low levels, but I ain't dead. And while it's possible I will eventually give up completely on this little side story, I've got some hilarious stuff in mind for the chunin exams and I'm not willing to give up until I get that done. It's not like this is the fanfiction equivilent of War and Peace. AMNQ is just a comedy bit, not something you're supposed to take seriously. As for the other fics, I've got partial chapters done on a lot of stuff, I just haven't managed to complete anything yet. Oh well. Eventually, I promise.
Also it has come to my attention that people have sent me messages through fanfictionnet and I never got them. I don't know, I guess it wasn't forwarding personal messages to my email address? Anyway, now I look like an asshole for ignoring everyone so I'm gonna start sending out some replies...