Sorry if the updates for my stories are so few and far between. My new job has me working my ass off, so I'll update when I can, or at least, when time allows, should I be able to get that new labtop I'm pining for. Anyways, enough of my babbling, enjoy the story peoplz!

R&R!

Understanding! Naruto's disbelief and irritation!

When all was said and done, the two assassins were either dead, or on the verge of it, their faces little more than one big bruise. With a loud poof, the clones, vanished into a plume of smoke, leaving a slightly out of breath Naruto and a speechless Lurichiyo alone in the clearing.

"You're a jinchuuriki, aren't you?"

Naruto stiffened, eyes widening to the point of extrication, then narrowing dangerously as he stepped towards her. His appearance still hadn't changed, and for a moment, just a moment, Lurichiyo was afraid that he might go after her next.

His fierce gaze found her, and for anothermoment, Lurichiyo couldn't breathe. It was as if she were staring kami in the face, and anything she could've said, would've said, was already rendered meaningless.

But then Naruto sighed, and clenched his claws into a fist. When he opened his eyes, they were sapphire again. The claws, fangs, and everything else were gone, leaving him an ordinary chunin once more.

"Yeah." He sighed, sapphire eyes filled with a lifetime of hurt and sorrow. "I am."

Lurichiyo said nothing.

"We understand."

"H-Huh?" Naruto jerked his head head towards her.

Several things happened at once.

Lurichiyo took a small, hesitant step towards him.

"We-

And at the same time, one the supposedly 'unconcious' attackers, twiwtched, his fingers curling about the hilt of his katana. Naruto had less than a second to blink, then throw himself over Lurichiyo, then the blade plunged through his stomach, its steely grey tip erupting out of his gut in an explosion.

Blood flecked his lips and her cheek.

"NO!" Lurichiyo's shriek filled the air, and Naruto watched in awe as the her own shadow leapt upon the attacker, constricting about this throat like an invisible noose. The assasin had less than a second to gurgle in surprise, then the shadow viper broke his neck with a loud, audible pop.

Before his comrade could try to flee, her shadow struck, coiling around his arms and legs with such force, that the bones snapped like dry, brittle timber. Bound and cowed by the specter, the assassin crumpled to the ground, cowering in fear as the princess stood over him.

"We are Lurichiyo Kasumioji." She intoned with authority, glaring daggers at the remaining assasin, who shifted his head deeper into his chest as a sign of fear and respect. "You will tell us why Gyokkaku Kumoi wants us dead, and you will do so now, before we break you in half!"

The man gave a keening wail.

"U-Understood!"

"H-He listened?" Naruto gaped.

"Of course he did." Lurichiyo smirked and made a show of flicking her hair to one side. "We are his princess, and we have just reminded him of this. He will do whatever we say. Now" Lurichiyo glared at the trembling man. "We demand that you fetch Naruto new clothes to replace the one's you have ruined!"

zzzz

(Meanwhile)

A loud crash revealed that everyone's suspicions about Naruto's location had been correct, and the litany of swearwords confirmed that Naruto was none too happy about whatever was going on behind the cover of the the trees. The reason for this soon became apparent, as everyone turned to see Naruto emerging from the clearing with a smug Lurichiyo sitting upon his left shoulder.

Jiraiya felt a sly smirk creeping across his face.

"Well well, what do we have here?"

Naruto now sported a black turtleneck and black pants with bandage bindings around his ankles. However, accenting it was strips of a dark red-orange running down the sides of his sleeves, his shirt, and his pants. And completing the setup were the ribbons of course, and the chunin vest. Without realising it, Naruto had actually dressed in a style similar to that of the Uzumaki clan, save for the fact that it was red, instead of orange. Added with the fact of his physical features, he was becoming more and more like his father.

But before anyone could hope to comment on Naruto's new getup, a new voice beat them to it.

"My my, isn't this a sight?"

"So," Jiraiya didn't so much as glance toward the tree from which the voice had come. "You were the one following us, hmm?"

He was a lean man, muscular under the black kimono. His chestnut brown eyes narrowed slightly at Jiraiya's approach, only to soften as he noticed Lurichiyo bringing up the rear. Quietly, he thumbed at hilts of the two swords he kept belted at his hip. He summarily ignored Jiraiya.

"Well well, its been awhile, hasn't it, Lurichi?"

Lurichiyo looked, looked again, and nearly choked on her own spit.

"Y-You?" She sputtered incredulously, jabbing a finger towards the man, who gave a bow in reply, nearly losing his strawhat in the process of doing so. "Where were you? We did not know where you went?"

"Eh?" Naruto squinted his eyes, much like a fox. "Who is this guy?"

Spitting out the toothpick, the ex-death nin rewarded Naruto with a sly grin, bordering on arrogance. He radiated confidence, charisma, and raw power with his very being. With a lazy hop, if such a thing could be called lazy, the man drifted from his perch on the branch, to the ground.

Despite himself, Naruto took a small step back when the stranger landed less than a foot from him.

"You're a lot like you're uncle, aintcha, gaki? You're always squinting your eyes."

Naruto felt the blood leave his face.

"U-Uncle? You mean I have f-family?"

"And you are?" Benihime regarded the stranger coolly.

"Course ya do." The man glanced at the crimson godess for a moment, flashed a charming smile, and pulled back his cloak to reveal a worn, chiseled face. "In fact, I hear he's in Kumogakure right now. What say we got and meet him together, my darling?"

Benihime arched an eyebrow.

"And why, would I deign to go anywhere with you, shinigami?"

At the mention of that term, Jiraiya frowned.

"Hold it." His now unusually stern voice cut into the conversation, earning an irritated whine from his protege in the process. "You still haven't answered his question, and I sure as hell hope that I just heard wrong. Who the devil are you?"

The missing nin shrugged, and brought his gaze back to bear on Naruto.

"Like she just said. Name's Shunsui Kyoraku, former Shikage, current missing nin. Nice ta meetcha, kid."

Hmm...what Bleach character always squints their eyes?

Next time: Blessings and Curses, Oh my!