The gift of Truth.
I was reading FF's, as I do when I can't be bothered to do anything else and I came upon a fic called 'Consequences of an Honest Enemy' and it captured my imagination, as they say. I have asked for permission to post this, I hope to take it in a different direction.
I would like anyone reading this to look up Consequences of an Honest Enemy and also Rogue Fox. Newly my favourite fanfiction out there, overtaking People Lie because that died, but is being reborn... *Crowd goes 'Woo'* Nugar Ruelz! (look up People Lie too.)
In a cave, in the depths of the vast deserts of the country of Wind two men stood over the corpse of Sabaku no Gaara. Their black cloaks, adorned with clouds blended into the gloom of the cave.
Having just entered the Cave were three Konoha Ninja and one of the Elders of the Village hidden in the Sand. They had come to rescue Gaara but were too late, he was dead.
Uzumaki Naruto stared in horror at the still form of his friend, He wanted desperately to run over there and do something to save him, but he knew that he could do nothing to save him and he barely restrained his impulse to charge in, knowing that against such enemies it was generally a bad idea.
He looked meaningfully to the commander of their Cell, Hatake Kakashi. The man knew what Naruto wanted but he was at a loss, The Leaf had no intel on either of the criminals before them so he couldn't be sure who was best against who until suddenly the blond of the two created a giant bird and flew off with Gaara. Quickly he acted, knowing Naruto would want to charge off and retrieve his friend's body. "Naruto!"
Naruto stopped just as he was about to leap after the escapee. "You stay here, you're not suited to fight an aerial opponent. Don't worry, Sakura and I will retrieve Gaara."
Naruto struggled with his emotions for a moment before conceding. "Okay."
Without further ado Kakashi and their third teammate Haruno Sakura departed the cave in pursuit of the blond criminal and the body of the Wind Shadow, Gaara.
Now left alone Naruto focused his ire on the bulbous, hunched form of their opponent, who finally deemed fit to speak. "You're still alive I see, Grandma."
The old lady stiffened at his address. "You know this guy?" He scrutinised the two. "What's wrong with him anyway?"
The old lady, reunited with her grandson after twenty years cursed being left with the idiot of the team. "That is not his real appearance, it is a puppet shell. It has many traps and functions, if it even nicks your skin you will die from poisoning."
Naruto regarded the stoic puppet warily. "Poison..." He trailed off, feigning fright. The old lady suddenly burst into action, releasing a volley of knives from a cord and controlling their trajectory with movements of her finger tips.
Though he wasn't the brightest of people, Naruto connected her mention of puppets and the motions of her fingers to ascertain she was using some sort of puppetry technique. That meant she was a long-range fighter. Long range fighters worked best in conjunction with short-range fighters.
Naruto grinned ferally while making a cross sign with his hands. "Shadow Clone."
Twenty copies of him rushed forward, fanning out to surround their opponent. He left a clone in his position and entered the fray, expecting his enemy to assume he himself had stayed back.
The old lady's eyes widened, new plans forming in her mind with this new information on his abilities. "Boy, that Chakra Ball you used, If you hit Hiruko with that it will certainly destroy it."
None of the Naruto's answered but they all got the message.
Sasori's completely ignored the knives flying at him, merely shifting the position of his puppet so they hit armour rather than joints. The puppet's tail shot out a great metallic tip moving with undue speed flashed around his form, destroying clones left and right as they came in for attacks.
"Foolish, I see through your ploy." He announced as a hail of poisoned needles were launched towards the clone Naruto had left in his place.
As the clone was hit its form remained for a moment, shock etched on its features. Naruto smirked and quickly powered a Rasengan, before the clone exploded. As he had expected the Tail had stopped swinging, Sasori expected the clones to falter with the death of their 'master'. Naruto's attack struck true at the side of Sasori's puppet but before it had even reached a single needle was launched straight into his chest from beneath the red cloak.
As Naruto falterd and his clones exploded into nothing, his control over the Rasengan faltered also, the energy exploding outwards, shredding the puppet.
Naruto staggered for a few moments before falling to his knees. What looked like a teenager appeared unscathed from the wreckage of the destroyed puppet. "As I said, I saw through your ploy." He glanced apathetically at the remains of Hiruko. "I did not expect that you could so completely destroy Hiruko however, I should have heeded granny's words."
He turned from the prone Naruto to the dumbstruck old lady. "You haven't aged a day since you left, twenty years ago. Have you even a shred of your humanity left, Sasori?"
Sasori shrugged and eyed Naruto for a moment. "He bears the marks of fox possession, is this the Host of the Nine Tails? My poison will not kill him for a while, time for us to settle our family dispute, no?"
Chiyo grimmaced and unsealed two puppets, readying herself for battle. "Do you remember these puppets, Sasori?"
His reply was cut off by a coughing sound from Naruto's position. They turned their attention to him, both aware of the effects of Sasori's poison, one being paralysis. They watched in stunned silence as he struggled to his knees, his eyes glowing faintly red, once up he began heaving until he coughed up a black substance.
Seemingly relieved at its expulsion, Naruto sat back, his eyes slowly fading back to their deep crystalline blue. "Damn, that's the worst poison I've ever had. Normally I just feel a bit sick."
They were both dumbstruck, neither having ever seen someone apparently survive Sasori's poisons.
Sasori was first to recover, connecting the red eyes with his theory that the boy was the Host of the Nine Tails. Quickly coming to the conclusion that his poison would not be enough to defeat this boy, regardless of dose Sasori dismissed his plans to play around with his grandmother and planned to battle his fullest. In mere moments he revealed a scroll and summoned a hundred puppets, quickly connecting himself with all of them through countless strings of Chakra, he also unsealed a single puppet which he directed at his grandmother.
"The Third Wind Shadow! It was you!" Sasori Ignored her, planning to deal with her once Naruto was incapacitated.
The puppet which was apparently made from the deceased Third Wind Shadow, advanced towards the old woman rapidly, streams of black sand began to flow from its body towards her. Quickly she retreated, dodging out of the way of the sand, keeping her puppets from being infected with it, as she knew it could easily disable them. She paused warily when the tendrils stopped their advance until too late she understood why. They began to expand, forming a barrier, she had been herded to the entrance of the cave and was trapped outside.
Deciding that breaking the barrier was too risky as Sasori could easily just attack her with the sand again, she decided to attempt to make her way around to the top of the cave where the blond criminal had escaped through.
Inside Naruto decided the daunted feeling he was experiencing was probably what a lot of his enemies felt when they fought him. Well, he hoped it was. "That's a lot of puppets, what? A hundred?"
Sasori indulged in banter, though at the same time he was preparing the various mechanisms on his puppets to be triggered. "Indeed, I once conquered a country with this."
Naruto's eyebrow rose. "A country? Seriously?"
Now prepared, Sasori ignored him and the entire army of puppets charged, dodging between each other as they fanned out.
"Crap! What happened to the conversation?!" He put his hands together again, two hundred Shadow Clones of himself burst into existence around him. Immediately they all charged. Naruto noticed that though outnumbered two to one the puppets were destroying his clones far more easily than they were being destroyed themselves. Rather than entering the fray as he usually would he stood as composed as he could manage.
Almost three years spent with one of the strongest Ninja known to the elemental nations and all they had done was physical training and various attempts at drawing on the power of the Kyuubi. The former only being included as Jiraiya had thought it would help with the second, an educated guess at best since he really had no knowledge or experience with drawing or utilising demonic Chakra. Naruto didn't think it helped at all, though his Shadow Clones certainly were more effective as a result.
After all that time Naruto had no more control over the Youki and its effects on his mentality than when he was younger, he merely was able to draw out more, something which scared him more than anything. One benefit was that he could more easily tap into that vast store of power to replenish his own sizeable reserves.
So while the two armies clashed, Sasori guided his puppets with skill and finesse greater than any puppeteer before him and Naruto centred himself while carefully siphoning the energies of the Nine Tails and pushing it straight into the Shadow Clone technique.
As a result, hoardes more Narutos came into existence around him, their appearance more feral than the original and their demeanour more violent, but that was okay, since violence was the aim of the game.
At first Sasori had been confident. He knew of the Shadow Clone technique, though he avoided it himself due to the ridiculous energy costs, something he had relatively low amounts of. His puppets had been cutting down the clones rapidly, taking minor damage. As part of an organisation devoted to capturing the Tailed beasts and their hosts, he knew that a host would gain improved Chakra reserves. He had been surprised when Naruto had summoned so many clones, that would cost more Chakra than even Kisame had, a man sometimes referred to as a Tailed Beast without a tail.
His confidence evaporated however when he felt a surge of evil energy and another wave of blonde clones joined the fray, each sporting more feral features, it was easy to deduce they were a product of the Beast's energies.
Deciding to try and bide for time to make a plan, he could bring his Third Wind Shadow puppet into play but that might merely cause the boy to make more clones, he would need the advantage of surprise it could give to whatever plan he may come up with.
"An impressive technique, boy. It seems Jiraiya has prepared you well to fight me. I should expect nothing less of a fellow spy master."
Naruto's concentration faltered momentarily. "What do you mean?"
"I mean to counter my puppet army with your own veritable army, I had thought my puppet army still a secret." Sasori decided he would need to use his own body, to utilize the Chakra expensive Elemental Technique mechanisms, to do so he would need to get closer and then use the Wind Shadow to create a surprise and hopefully corner the boy. He began making his puppets jump higher to conceal his own forward movements. He removed the head of his puppet body and left it in his position, so his voice would emanate from there. "No Host that we have encountered yet has utilised their Beast's energy in such a way, they have all either used elemental attacks based on the Beast's nature or they have shrouded themselves and attacked in that form."
Naruto was wary of a trap, earlier the puppeteer hadn't been interested in talking, so he figured it was a diversion. He sent some of his clones to throw others up, and report back anything suspicious. But he kept up the conversation too. "He didn't, it's something I adapted myself, He's spent almost three years trying to teach me to draw and control it's Chakra."
Sasori frowned, even though his frown was some distance now from his main body. "You are lucky then, I am rather adept at seals and am prepared to disrupt such a form of attack." Sasori was cut off by a yell coming from above the battle field.
"His head's on its own on the floor! His body must be in there!" It pointed then dispelled. Sasori wondered at that, why bother announcing such intel when it would return to him anyway upon dispelling, unless he didn't know it could do so? Sasori decided it wouldn't be in his best interests to let his opponent know such. He had made it halfway through the fray, using his best puppets to keep his main body protected, he still needed to buy time. His army would easily last long enough at this rate. He begun moving the Wind Shadow puppet into position, ready.
Sasori continued to fish for information. "In three years Jiraiya has taught you nothing of use then?"
Naruto paused, he couldn't see the harm in bashing Jiraiya to someone, he had been frustrated by the approach and it felt gratifying that someone agreed, even if it was an enemy it was a powerful enemy. "Pretty much. He taught me summoning and the Rasengan but that was all before we left the Leaf village. I've gotten better at the Rasengan but even that is partially due to experimenting with the Nine Tails energies."
Sasori pondered that Naruto was unusually forthcoming with his combat abilities, he made a mental note to watch for the signs of a summoning and to react accordingly. The Rasengan he could do little but avoid. It was lucky the army of clones wasn't utilizing it as an attack, he wouldn't last long against that. He decided not to tempt fate by mentioning it. "In our studies we have found hosts can only reliably control the energies of their Beast with the Beast's consent, knowing of its nature I doubt you could come to an accord with the Nine Tails. A better approach would have been to develop the technique you currently utilize and expand the variety of techniques you can employ with it." Sasori was nearly there, he would strike mid-sentence as that was likely to catch his opponent further off guard. "Of course it is always beneficial to train the body, physical strength leads to Chakra strength and the ability to-"
At once he had the Wind Shadow puppet launch all of its sand at Naruto, spikes of iron sand splintered all around him, preventing movement from where he was lest he be skewered. Once they surrounded him they all begun to converge. Eyes closed, Naruto didn't notice the attack and the newest wave of clones was all but obliterated by the sand onslaught. Sasori's main body simultaneously launched its harpoon from its torso, a jet of fire to blanket Naruto's position and a jet of water straight for him, all in sync with the Black Sand attack and operating his army of puppets. As the fire cleared and the smoke faded, the poison on most of his black sand having been burnt off, Sasori recovered from the mental stress of doing so many things at once and the exhaustion from his Chakra expenditure, he waited in anticipation for Naruto's clones to dispel.
He was not disappointed, he spied the boy on the floor, mildly charred and bleeding, clutching his side whilst around him clones began dispersing bit by bit.
His relief was short lived however as his main body was suddenly torn asunder, his heart piece going flying from its protective shell. The clones continued their attack, decimating the now lifeless puppets. Sasori knew he was defeated, he could not operate his army without his connection to his puppet body, though he could still operate what was left of that puppet itself.
"Wait!" his voice echoed across the cave from where he left his head. His heart piece was damaged, he would soon perish from blood loss, with nothing left Sasori decided he would leave a legacy behind, as well as hopefully exacting some vengeance against the organisation which led him to ruin.
Naruto stopped short of attacking the tube of flesh which had flown from the puppet, clearly the only part of it which possessed Chakra. He stayed ready, surrounding himself with clones. Across the cave his clones stood over broken or simply lifeless puppets, ready to retaliate if they moved.
"Outside my body, I can no longer operate my army, nor anything but my head, since the rest of it is destroyed." Naruto stayed on guard. "I would like to make a deal with you."
"What kind of deal?" Naruto asked, warily.
"My organisation, Red Dawn, has led me to ruin rather than the power promised. Were I to help you and you defeated them, I would consider it vengeance for myself as well."
"Help me? Why should I trust you? This could be a trick."
Sasori went to nod but his head merely fell over. "Do not worry, I will soon die of blood loss, I mean merely to give you information. Information is a Ninja's greatest asset, after all."
"What kind of information?"
Sasori continued on, ignoring the question. "I would also ask that you kill Orochimaru."
"Yes, he was once my partner in the organisation. Even missing a hand he cost me some of my favourite puppets in his escape."
"Okay, I can live with that. Anything else?"
"I would like it if you take up my art, become a puppeteer, or at least find someone suitable and lead them down the path."
"How am I going to do that? You said you were dying."
"I have prepared for this eventuality. I have left documentation on all of my techniques in detail as well as information on each of the members of my organisation and potential techniques I could not utilise, for various reasons. I also have a large store of poisoned weapons and poison, you have rather depleted my store of puppets however, that is now your problem."
"Uh, okay. Learn from your notes, got it. Where is all this stuff anyway?"
"It is all stored within the scroll laying near my head, which had contained my army." As Naruto went to investigate Sasori stopped him. "Wait, I have not much time and I have more to say."
"Your teachers: Jiraiya, from what you have said and Kakashi from my own investigations, it is clear they have neglected you severely. You have essentially reached this level on your own."
Naruto interrupted. "But they've taught me stuff, like..." But Sasori stopped him.
"They have taught you little but a few techniques, they have not taught you beyond that, not their applications, they have not helped you learn proper strategy, Chakra control, Elemental manipulation, there are many glaring holes in your skills as a Ninja, it is obvious you are mostly self taught. I too am mostly self-taught, and yet you defeated me. For that, you have my respect. I hope you will take this truth and learn from it and one day, if you defeat all your enemies, I would like you to announce me as your true teacher, but only if you believe it so."
"Uh, I guess I'll consider it, got a long way to go before then."
"Good. One thing I lacked as a Ninja was Chakra, I had many ideas I could not implement due to my lack thereof. Chakra is one thing you do have, almost endlessly. I would say that if I was capable of wielding an army of samurai, you can be capable of wielding an army of Ninja."
Naruto blinked. "Wow, really? Like, loads of Kakashi's?!"
"Indeed. Though not possessing his stolen blood inheritance."
"Without his Sharingan eye."
"Firstly, Did you know your Clones are capable of information transfer upon dispersion?"
"When they dispel, any new information can be transferred back to you if the clone deems it important."
"Yes that is their most basic function rather than as a combat technique. I would suggest you use your clones to train with Chakra techniques, specifically control techniques and elemental manipulation. I doubt they will be very useful in technique creation unless you are making something destructive."
"Right, got it!"
"Also, Itachi was capable of causing his clones to explode at will, I strongly suggest you replicate this technique."
"Wow, that would be awesome!"
"Finally, my greatest ambition as a child had be to wield puppets through which I channelled elemental chakra, making them similar in effectiveness to a melee focused ninja doing the same."
"Hand to hand or short range weaponry."
"This is what led me to making human puppets, as I did not possess the Chakra capacity on my own to do this, I compensated using the Chakra of my dead enemies."
"I became proficient in medical and sealing techniques, required to create human puppets, though I never learned elemental manipulation, so you will need to seek that information from another source. Do with my puppets as you will, I have one final request."
"I would have you bury my heart where it lies and my head with it before you leave."
Naruto nodded solemnly. "Okay, Master Sasori."
Sasori's head smiled from its sideways position on the floor. "Thank you, my only student."
Once he buried Sasori as requested, Naruto retrieved the scroll Sasori mentioned. He had some of his clones begin searching through the cave for un-damaged puppets while he went to where the puppet of the Third Wind Shadow lay. He thought for a while and decided that it belonged to Suna, so he sealed it in a separate scroll for them. He also scavenged what pieces he could find of Sasori's puppet body and sealed those into a different scroll as proof, he had not marked where he buried Sasori so he hoped they wouldn't find him if they came to scavenge. He left the iron sand where it lay, they could get it if they wanted, he didn't know how to seal things as a group and he was NOT sealing it all piece by piece.
As he left the cave he spied a group of people on the floor in the distance. He stowed Sasori's scroll safely away and left to see what he had missed.
He arrived to find Gaara now alive and the old woman who hadn't really done much in his battle dead. Everyone was looking solemnly at her corpse except Kakashi who looked exhausted.
"Hey guys, what'd I miss?"
Everyone turned to him, having not noticed his approach apparently. Sakura was the most obvious in her surprise. "Naruto! You're alive! Chiyo said you were almost certainly dead, trapped in that cave with that guy." She ran to him and hugged him, a few tears falling down her cheeks.
"Aha, no worries Sakura, he could only use a hundred puppets at a time, they were pretty strong but a few hundred clones took them out."
Sakura stepped back and punched him on the shoulder lightly. "Idiot. So what happened when you trashed his puppets, did he run off?"
Naruto glared at her for just assuming he didn't win for no reason, especially with the knowledge that he had gained the upper hand. "No, Sakura. I killed him."
Sakura was stunned for a moment. Gaara was still groggy from having been dead not long before so Kakashi decided to comment. "Well done Naruto. I knew you had it in you."
Naruto turned his glare on Kakashi, Sasori's criticisms still fresh in his mind. "You did, did you? Funny, I didn't use the tree walking exercise once in that fight so I don't know why you look so smug."
Kakashi didn't look smug but was smiling, though that didn't last long once Naruto responded.
Sakura swung for him though he dodged it, his adrenalin still pumping from the fight. He felt his anger quickly dissipating, even though he had no reason to not be angry still. "What the hell are you on about? Kakashi was trying to be nice, he's injured you know, and what does tree walking have to do with anything?"
Naruto stared at her for a moment before rounding on Kakashi again. "You taught her other stuff too? You didn't just practice favouritism you specifically neglected me!"
Kakashi looked away and didn't respond. Sakura gaped at him for a moment. "Master Kakashi, is that true?" No response.
Naruto noticed a dust cloud rapidly approaching their position he easily discerned that it was one or more of team Gai homing in on their position. He quickly decided he didn't want to get wrapped up in their enthusiasm at the moment and thought of a way out. "Hey Gaara, you look pretty tired, fancy a lift back to your village?"
Gaara felt he would be able to travel on his own soon but noticed that Naruto felt uncomfortable so allowed it. "That would be acceptable."
Naruto grinned, he quickly hefted Gaara onto his back and set off. Naruto didn't speak for a while so Gaara spoke. "My village is a little further to your left."
"Oh, thanks." Naruto adjusted his run. "I'm sorry about running off like that, but I just wanted to get away."
"Hey Gaara, I got you a present." Gaara did not respond. "Eh, don't you want it?"
"That would depend."
Naruto exclaimed. "Gah, you're no fun." He dug out two scrolls, waved them so Gaara could see over his shoulder before putting them back. "Sasori of the red sands and the Third Wind Shadow, though they're both puppets now."
"You defeated Sasori? And he had made a puppet of our Third Wind Shadow?"
Naruto grinned. "Yup."
"You never cease to amaze me."
There was a pause before Gaara spoke again. "If you apply the surface climbing technique to the sand as your foot connects, it can cause the sand to clump, making a good surface to walk on. You must release the Chakra when you push off lest the sand go with it."
"Oh, uh, thanks, Gaara."
The rest of their trip to the Village Hidden in the Sand was spent with Naruto slowly learning how to sand walk.
When they returned there was a big celebration for Gaara being alive as well as for Sasori being dead. Naruto received special praise for this as well as retrieving the Third Wind Shadow's desecrated body for them.
There was a large funeral held in honour of the Elder Chiyo, who gave her life in exchange for Gaara's. Both team seven and team Gai stayed the night in the village before heading back the next day. The teams all stayed in paid for hotel rooms except for Naruto who was invited to stay with Gaara and his siblings for the night.
Naruto managed to avoid being alone with his team the entire day, entirely unprepared to deal with the consequences of his earlier outburst.
When he, Gaara, Temari and Kankurou returned to their residence a servant had already prepared a meal, including a portion for Naruto. At first it was a solemn affair as they had just left the Elder Chiyo's funeral. After a while however Kankurou couldn't hold it in.
"How, how did you do it? Sasori wasn't just an S class Ninja but he defeated the Third Wind Shadow in his prime when he was what, Fifteen?
Naruto smiled, eager to boast about how great he was, even though he was more and more conscious of his flaws. He really was lucky, as Sasori had said. "Eh well he had like a hundred puppets and he could control them all at once, as well as the puppet of the Third, but he used that to drive Chiyo off, so it was me versus a hundred puppets!"
Everyone had stopped eating in anticipation, to Temari and Kankurou who had no real knowledge of how Naruto fought, this sounded like impossible odds. "Well, it was a little unfair on my side because he got me before that with his poison when I broke his shell puppet, what was it called, Hiroko?"
"Hiruko." Kankurou supplied helpfully.
"Yea, that. Well poisons don't work too well on me, I guess it's because the Fox's energy is so toxic, i'm immune? Or maybe it doesn't like competition so gets rid of poisons? But anyway he had to beat me properly rather than poison me so he got out this army of puppets!"
Kankurou snapped. "Yes, but how did you beat them?!"
"Ah well, I figured that if he had a hundred puppets then two hundred Naruto's would work just fine against him." Both Temari stared blankly at him for a while, Gaara merely resumed eating. "Eh well, I know this technique called the Shadow Clone, so I made loads of them."
"Wait." Temari interrupted. "I know of that technique, doesn't it take a ridiculous amount of Chakra to use? How can you use two hundred?"
"Ah well, I have a ridiculous amount of Chakra, so it works out fine. But the puppets were really ripping through the clones, so I had to improvise, I channeled the fox's energy gently into the Shadow Clone technique and kept sending in waves of clones."
"Eh, you can do that?" Kankurou interrupted.
"Apparently, Sasori said I was the only Host who did it though, he was talking to buy time for his surprise attack, but I saw through that ploy, hah."
"What surprise attack?!"
"Eh well, as he was talking he left his head where he had been and moved his..."
"He did what?!"
"He was a puppet, so he left the head which made his speech where he was so I wouldn't think he moved and sent his body forwards for a surprise attack."
"Oh... of course."
Naruto nodded, oblivious to their shock. "But I became suspicious when he started talking since before he wasn't interested in talking, so I sent some clones into the air to scout and they saw his head, so I knew something was happening. So I hid underground and left a clone. I stayed there and kept making clones appear above ground so he thought the clone was me." Naruto paused for the genius of his ploy to sink in. "When he attacked, whoo, he got that iron sand to pin my clone in and he blasted it with fire and some weird water jet. I made a clone up above which Transformed into an injured and bleeding me and dispelled some of the others bit by bit. I sensed the Chakra use and moved to underneath him then burst up underneath him with a Rasengan, POW!" Naruto slapped the table, making Temari and Kankurou jump. "Nailed him!"
Naruto skipped out on the part where Sasori betrayed the Red Dawn and left Naruto his teachings, which Naruto had yet to look at. He did remember the things Sasori had said to him though, one had been that Information was the most important thing to Ninja, he could see that now. Kankurou happened to be a puppeteer, not to mention the rest of the puppeteers in the Sand, what would they do if they knew he had what had to be a gold mine of puppeteering knowledge in his jacket pocket rolled up nicely? Probably bad things for him.
They finished the meal soon after Naruto's dramatic retelling of his battle. He excused himself saying he was tired, though really he wanted to get a look at what Sasori had given him. Gaara followed him to the door of his room though, obviously wanting to discuss something in private.
"Thank you, Naruto, for your rescue."
Naruto decided not to mention how unsuccessful they had been. "Eh well you know, we gotta stick together, right?"
Gaara nodded. "Indeed." He paused for a moment before continuing, almost seeming unsure, though Gaara was never unsure. "I have one more request."
"I would like you consider making romantic advances towards my sister."
Naruto stared at him blankly for a few moments until comprehension began to dawn. "Wait, you want me to..."
"I believe she would be receptive, I can think of no one more suitable."
Naruto floundered for an excuse of some sort so as to not offend Gaara. "Ah, I, But..."
"I merely ask that you consider it, I believe she would make a better spouse than your pink haired team mate for instance, the one who is violent to you still, even though she owes you her life."
Naruto was about to defend Sakura but he had faced enough disillusionment that day that he couldn't summon the blind faith to do so. "Uh, yeah, I'll think about it."
Gaara nodded and walked off.
Naruto quickly entered his room for the night and locked the door. First thing first, he made two clones and turned away while they played rock paper scissors. The match went to Naruto, scissors beating paper. The clones dispelled and immediately Naruto burst out into joy. "Yes! Scissors beats Paper, sucker!"
Now more confident in the things Sasori had told him he set got out the scroll and unsealed everything text based. There were journals of spy activity, recipies for poisons and antidotes, teachings on seals, spy making with seals, medicine, medical chakra techniques, chakra strings, chakra in general, puppet use, puppet making, human puppet making, ideas and projects and something called an upgraded bingo book.
Oblivious to any ramifications Naruto made a clone per text and sat down personally with the upgraded bingo book. It was larger than any he had seen before, upon closer inspection it seemed to only contain A and S ranked ninja, along with detailed dossiers on each including detailed strategies for combat against them. Naruto skipped through it, looking at who it contained. At the end was a section which really caught his attention, it started with Gaara, then some blonde girl from the Village Hidden in the Clouds, then a big three tailed turtle, it was all the hosts and Tailed Beats!
Naruto skipped a few pages to his own entry, he was sorely disappointed. Sasori knew of his Shadow clone technique, though had written it off as overly chakra intensive and the Rasengan was written off as easily avoided due to Naruto's low physical speed. It then detailed a method of applying a seal, referencing a page in the sealing text, which would suppress the Nine Tails' energies should they emerge.
Naruto sighed. It had worked out in his favour, if Sasori had known more about him he would likely be dead or captured, soon to be dead.
There were more pages after that, a quick look revealed a detailed dossier on other members of the Red Dawn. Naruto eagerly began reading. He would have to give this to Tsunade, it was too valuable to not do so. He would have to come up with a cover story of some sort, perhaps one of his clones would read something that would help. He continued reading, awed at the abilities of each of the members, how in the hell was he supposed to beat these people? Well, at least he would be prepared, as Sasori said, Information was the most important thing.
When he reached Itachi he was shocked, the three Elders had ordered Itachi to kill his clan, they were why Sasuke had run off! "Oh my god!" His clones stopped what they were doing and looked at him. "The elders made Itachi kill his clan!" A clone looked over his shoulder in curiosity. "Ahh." Naruto suddenly clutched his head. "Damn, hate that."
The clone looked confused. "Says here it was because they were going to try to take over, and it says that the Old Man was in on it too."
Naruto turned to look at him for a moment. "Ahh, damn headache." He then turned to look at the book. "Oh yeah, says they were going to try a coup, what's a coup?" The clones ignored him, looking at each other worried.
The one still looking over his shoulder asked him. "Hey, who did you say ordered it? Read it out again."
"Ugh." Naruto looked. "It says here the village elders Danzo Homura and Koharu... Ugh my head... ordered Uchiha Itachi to kill his clan to prevent a coup d'etait."
The clones looked at each other, Naruto was confused. "What?"
"Maybe he's got a memory seal or something, stop's him remembering certain stuff, has it all here in the spy making book."
"Hey wait, what?! A seal on my head?!" Naruto quickly made a clone. "Search me for seals, that I don't know about."
"Look on his head under the hair." The clone reading about spy making supplied helpfully.
After a few tense moments the clone stopped ridling through Naruto's sunny blond locks. "Well, he's got lots of moles on his head, is that normal? There's none anywhere else."
"They can be hidden as moles!"
"Oh... crap..." Naruto sulked. "So what kind of thing am I missing?"
"Well it's blocking you from remembering someone important that you like did something bad, if there's lots of them, who knows what they do?"
Suddenly depressed Naruto decided he didn't really feel like reading anymore that night.
"Hey why didn't they make one to erase knowledge about themselves?"
Naruto shrugged dejectedly. "I don't know, I'm going to bed, I don't feel like reading anymore. You guys seal that stuff away and dispel."
A minute later as the room was filled with the sound of clones dispelling Naruto was hit with an intense burst of information, as well as certain memories the clones had gained being removed as they were repeatedly formed, he felt a moment of severe pain in his head before passing out.
The next morning Naruto awoke with the sun completely refreshed, as usual. It took a few moments for him to remember the night before. Carefully he tried to see if he could remember reading any of the other books Sasori had left, he could remember the beginnings of all of them, though he couldn't remember lots of those since he plain didn't understand some of it and it was thus forgotten. This would take work.
Naruto decided he would think on the seal situation as they returned back to the Leaf. He said goodbye to Gaara, Temari and Kankurou, he found it hard to look at Temari that morning after what Gaara had said. Sure she was very pretty and smart but he would hardly ever see her, he'd think about it, he promised and he never broke his promises.
He met his team and Team Gai at the gate and they set off, Gai was carrying Kakashi, which relieved Naruto, now he just had to deal with their general weirdness. Mercifully Sakura didn't mention what he'd said the day before.
On the way back he decided he needed to talk to someone who knew about seals and also whom he could trust. As he was feeling disillusioned with Kakashi and Jiraiya still he decided to talk to Tsunade, his granny, in spirit at least. She had a seal on her forehead, which she made herself so she must know something about them. He also remembered the piece of advice he had read... somewhere in Sasori's notes: 'a piece of truth is better than a lie to cover something up'.
He decided to kill two birds with one stone, he'd say he found the upgraded bingo book in Sasori's scroll and give it to Tsunade, he could then tell her about how he found out about the seals on his head.
The journey back took them three days at full speed. Though Gai returned with Kakashi on his back well before that. Naruto spent most of his spare time hiding away in his tent reading through the upgraded bingo book, memorising as much about Red Dawn and the Tailed Beasts as possible.
The one who scared Naruto the most was Kakuzu, the only member of the Red Dawn who Sasori had never devised a strategy to fight against. Mostly Sasori's strategies consisted of lures and ploys and traps which ended in the opponent being poisoned with his special poison. He truly was over reliant on that, but not without reason, he had devised ways to kill everyone else in the Red Dawn with it. Except Kakuzu who Sasori postulated would simply harden his skin and fire massive elemental attacks, making himself impervious to poisoned bladed weapoms and decimating Sasori's army at the same time.
How the hell was Naruto going to beat someone like That? Well, Naruto had a long way to go before he could beat any of them so there was no real reason to focus all of his fear on just the one.
The entire trip Sakura had been uncommonly quiet. Naruto figured she was thinking about something, either Sasuke or what he had said to Kakashi, he wasn't sure which.
He found out on the last night before they returned when Sakura knocked on the flap to his tent. Naruto only noticed because of how quiet it was since there was no knock, more of a pointed rustling. "Sakura?"
"Can I come in for a moment?" She whispered.
"Uh, sure." Naruto whispered back, even though he didn't know why he was doing it he felt compelled to whisper in return.
Sakura clambered into his small one man tent, Naruto was sat at one end so she situated herself at the other. Saukura waited for a moment for Naruto to ask why she was there, when he didn't she decided to just get on with it. "Is it true, what you said to Kakashi before?"
Naruto shrugged lightly before responding. "Do you think I lied?"
"Well no but... It's so hard to believe, why would he do that?"
Naruto thought about it, he was under the impression she knew about the Nine Tails, he didn't fancy telling her if she didn't, so he thought of a way to tell her without giving it away. Wordlessly he pointed to his stomach.
Sakura followed his hand and was confused for a moment before her eyes widened in realisation. "What, but, because of... That's so unfair!"
Naruto shrugged. "Ninja don't play fair, Sakura."
"Against enemies, Naruto, not against comrades!" She hissed back, as if it were his fault.
"Well maybe I'm considered an enemy, Sakura!" He hissed in return.
When she couldn't think of anything to say in return, despite obviously trying to think of something, Naruto sighed heavily. "It's late, let's get some sleep, eh?"
She smiled lightly. "Okay, g'night Naruto."