A/N: GOSH I AM MAD UPDATING ON MONDAY XDDDDDD

-ahem-

Well I love this fic so much I really couldn't ignore it any longer! -pats-

xD

Hope you enjoy!

And hope the quality's up to standard. It was written by a sleep-deprived rakku at 11++++pm, after all... xD

Do review more! It was a review that made me decide to just 'argh! to hell with it!' and finish this chappie. x)

-uber huge hint-

Enjoy!


A few hours before "The next day":

Naruto blinked awake. The Kage Bunshin he had left to hunt for Sasuke had long since dispersed, and their memories had settled into his brain while he slept. Sleeping on it was probably the best way to deal with large influxes of information from dispersed clones, as it was perfectly migraine-less. That was why he liked to take very short naps, usually lasting about fifteen to thirty minutes when he trained using the Tajuu Kage Bunshin method.

He rubbed his eyes blearily. "What time is it?"

"One past midnight."

"Oh."

Then he frowned. "Wasn't I supposed to take second watch?"

Jiraiya shrugged, and somehow Naruto was unsurprised that his teacher had let him sleep through what should have been the beginning of his shift.

"Weren't you supposed to be hunting down Sasuke again anyway?" Jiraiya remarked wryly.

"..." he grimaced.

"Mission failed," Naruto said shortly. "He was gone before we could get there. Uchiha Itachi is dead, too."

Jiraiya raised a calm, sarcastic eyebrow (and how he managed to do so, Naruto had absolutely no idea). "Do elaborate. And while you're at it, maybe you can explain just why and how you got here."

"Right." he sighed. "I don't feel like sleeping now, anyway. So, well... I, uhm, actually keep a few Kage Bunshin in the village when I go out on missions that are not too long...? Mostly to keep an eye on stuff, you know, like my potted plants - " He ignored Jiraiya second sarcastic eyebrow and his incredulous "You use Kage Bunshin just to look after plants?" and continued, "As well as experiment a bit and find out how long they can last. More recently, I've been using them to train, and Henge into random stuff to acquire information."

Naruto grinned cheekily. "I am the student of Konoha's Spymaster after all, even if you did not teach me that much about infiltration and espionage, hmph."

"I... see. I think I can vaguely see where this is going?"

"So I left a number of Kage Bunshin in Konoha before I left on that mission, and, well, I may have overheard stuff here and there?"

Jiraiya stared at him. "How much do you know?"

Naruto shrugged his right shoulder, absently rubbing his previously-injured left arm. "Let's see: I already had a vague idea that you have some info on Akatsuki, and thanks to my Kage Bunshins I knew that the leader of Akatsuki is in Ame no Kuni. I also knew that you were going after him, and that you were not quite so sure you'd come back." His eyes glinted with that mad amusement of which his teacher had developed a healthy and reasonable amount of wariness. "But I gave you a niiiiiice little bit of privacy when you were saying your sweet farewells to Baa-chan."

Naruto dodged, grinning broadly, as Jiraiya swatted at him. "I'd hate to admit it, but I think you actually impressed her with your cool act and all and - ow! Oww!!! Is this the way to treat your poor apprentice?" He flailed indignantly.

"Curiosity killed the cat, gaki," his teacher growled, disgruntled (and faintly embarrassed, Naruto insisted to himself).

"Do I look like a cat to you?"

"..."

Damn the sarcastic eyebrows.

"Shuddup."

"You are a rude, overly curious apprentice with a whiskered face. Live with it!" Came the cheerful reply.

Scowling, he pointed crossly at Jiraiya's face. "Just shuddup."

"Fine, fine, continue... Whiskers."

Naruto glared at him.

"Stupid Ero-Sennin. So anyway... two of my Kage Bunshin went with you into Ame no Kuni - under Henge, of course. We followed you around. Everywhere." He grinned slightly.

"I am sure I would have noticed two stalkers," His teacher replied, surprised. He blinked, and added slowly, "Unless... your Kage Bunshin did not Henge into people - "

"Yep! They transformed into pretty much anything, really! No one would actually notice two happy-happy-happy cute little hitchhiking ants, now, would they? Hmm?"

Jiraiya snorted. "Your puppy-eyes are a little too innocent to be convincing."

"Ah, but exaggeration is an art too."

"Never heard of it."

Rather peeved, Naruto ignored him and went on. "The two of them stayed hidden while you did a lovely bit of reconnaissance, then followed you and kept out of the way while you were fighting Pain. By the way," He added. "You really need to tell me more about the Rinnegan and stuff. It has something to do with your former students... right? You told me a... bit, last time." Naruto raised his eyebrows mildly. "If I remember correctly. And I'm quite sure I do."

The older man nodded shortly. "We'll talk about the Rinnegan later. You've explained how you knew about this mission and how your Kage Bunshin followed me here, but what about yourself? How did you get here?" Jiraiya paused, frowning. "Wait a minute..." he said slowly. "You... no way... you didn't use that, did you? You know you're not supposed to use it! I made the reasons quite clear, several times, about just why I do not allow you to use - "

"Yes yes yes yes yes, I know that! My lack of full understanding of and mastery over the jutsu, the high risk of injury, how one small mistake can be fatal, lalala, lalala~" He waved a hand airily, then let his expression change into something more indignant. "But I was pretty sure you won't use that to get me as backup even if you are in deep shit - which you were!!! - so I took matters into my own hands. That's all. And you can stop flailing in extremely delayed panic, because I did not use Hiraishin no Jutsu. I used something else that was based on it."

Jiraiya leaned back against the cave wall with some amount of annoyed relief and interest. "Hmm. Self-summoning, then?"

"Yeah, that's what Hiraishin basically is. This is quite simple, really. My Kage Bunshins discovered that you were having some trouble, so one of them dispelled to inform me and I created and dispelled another Kage Bunshin on my end to tell the remaining one on your side to summon me here." He paused and blinked. That had sounded a bit more complicated than it was supposed to be. "It's a bit like Reverse Kuchiyose, really, but technically it falls under the category of self-summoning, I guess." Naruto rummaged through his bag with his left hand, trying to find something.

"Because your own Kage Bunshin is summoning you to where he is located."

"Yep. Maybe I can call it Bunshin Kuchiyose? Hmm... Doesn't sound too bad either..."

Jiraiya sighed. Naruto liked to digress and spend quite an amount of time pondering anything that had to do with new jutsu.

"When did you actually arrive? I didn't see you at all." He abruptly brought the conversation back to something closer to their original topic.

"About a while before the two Sages cast the genjutsu. Grah! Stupid bag!" He started emptying the contents into his lap, exasperated.

Ignoring his student's antics (for he had gotten used to them a very long time ago), Jiraiya asked, "How come none of us sensed your chakra?"

"Maybe I just got better at hiding my presence!" Naruto said cheerily. "Aha!" He took out two apples, and tossed one to Jiraiya. "Sheesh... Since when were apples this hard to find?"

"I was not wrong when I said you have the best survival instincts I've ever known of," Jiraiya remarked wryly. 'But I should have been able to sense him in Sage mode. He must have found new ways to stay undetected...' He smiled, amused. 'You never fail to live up to your nickname of the Most Surprising and Unpredictable Shinobi, eh?' Aloud he added, "Yet you still purposefully make yourself the loudest ninja in the whole world."

Naruto gave a surprisingly good imitation of the Sarcastic Eyebrows. "Digressing much?"

"You're changing the subject."

"Am not."

"You're stubborn as a mule."

"Guilty as charged."

"..." They lapsed into a comfortable almost-silence as Naruto cheerfully chomped on his apple.

"Is your arm okay now?" Jiraiya asked suddenly.

His student shrugged lopsidedly. "Guess so. Useable."

"How exactly did you know how to... reconnect it?"

"Uhm. I didn't feel like being armless, so I just grabbed the arm and let Kyuubi's chakra do the rest."

"What about the half-seals you used? What were they for?"

"To gather the chakra I stored in some seals on my shoulders. I sealed away some chakra for emergency healing and regeneration. The chakra is mostly Kyuubi's, but I mixed in a small amount of mine as well. It has negated some of the more... unpleasant... effects of Kyuubi's youki," He paused, wincing. "and purified it a bit, so I only use it to heal. Came up with the idea after the first Four-Tailed incident," Naruto scowled fiercely. "And I finally completed it sometime after the second Four-Tailed incident."

"I... see."

"You know, there's one question you haven't answered yet," Jiraiya remarked, breaking Naruto out of his gloomy cloud of guilt.

"Huh? I've done nothing but answer questions. You know I hate giving long and tiresome explanations..." the boy grumbled.

He raised his eyebrows, faintly surprised, but refused to go along with the subtle attempt to change the topic. "You've told me how you knew the situation in this mission and how you got here. What I still want to know is why."

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked carefully.

Silence.

He scowled. "Fine, fine... I know exactly what you mean, and I'm supposed to stop steering this conversation off-track."

"Well," he paused awkwardly.

"..."

"Well, you're my sensei, aren't you? You've dragged me out from all kinds of messes I got myself into, and I figured I should keep an eye out for you as well. I'm not an ungrateful bastard."

'Not like Sasuke.'

"You've taught me for almost three whole years. You showed that you actually care - even after throwing me off that damn cliff - and somehow you ended up right up there in the list of people I care about. There is no way in hell I'm going to lose anyone to Akatsuki! Especially not a perverted old hermit who's taught me practically everything I know, whom I owe my life to, many times over..." He grinned crookedly. "...and somehow manages to turn simple missions into confrontations with missing-nin - especially Akatsuki members."

(Itachi, Kisame, Orochimaru and the weird "Pain" persons, to name a few...)

After a short pause, during which Naruto looked both extremely embarrassed and extremely annoyed at his embarrassment, Jiraiya spoke up again."How's progress on Hiraishin?"

"Not nearly there yet, but I'm working on it." Naruto tossed the apple core into a random and obscure corner of the cave, hugely relieved at the change of topic to something much less awkward.

"Won't that attract ants?"

His student's palm met forehead, and he gave Jiraiya an incredulous, what-the-heck-are-you-talking-today stare. "We are in a friggin' cave. And I. Don't. Care. Anyway." Naruto sighed in exaggerated frustration. "Seriously! How many more random questions are you going to ask?" His sensei grinned, rubbing his hands in a more-than-familiar 'I'm a super pervert, muahahaha!' way.

"As many as I can think of, unless you can help get me some lovely inspiration for another book... Ahaha..."

Jiraiya could not help but chuckle at the long-suffering sigh he received in response.

"Typical Ero-Sennin..."

"Stop calling me that you rude gaki!"

"No way in hell!"

Jiraiya's large hand ruffled his godson's wild blonde hair affectionately, and the boy gave him a cheerful, mischievous grin.

"Come on! Let's go HOME!!! WHOO!"

...

"Oh, and eat your damn apple already..."


Please review! (: (: (: make me feel good about my favourite fic (this fic ties for first with DWB ;DD)

I shall now go and get some sorely-needed zzzs...

I'll try to update again soon, k? ^^

And happy super-belated new year! xDDD