Disclaimer: Masashi owns Naruto, not me.
This is a story that I thought up while playing Metal Gear Solid 3 and 4. While playing, I couldn't help but be fascinated by the character of the Boss, which if I may say is quite possibly one of the most badass characters in video game history considering her skill, her back story and everything that comes about as a result of her actions and philosophies. I am going to base my Naruko on her and try to make this the most in depth/awesome story I can. I will also make it the most believable I can.
Read on and see what I mean.
If you ask anyone in Konohagakure, the Village Hidden in the Leaves, they would have told you immediately and without hesitation that Uzumaki Naruko was, without a doubt one very strong child.
Of course, they would say this with a frown or an outright sneer at the mention of the girl's name but the fact remained that no one could deny that Uzumaki Naruko was strong. Now, when someone hears this, especially in a ninja village, they start to assume that this Naruko girl is a talented Genin or Chuunin. They would assume that she had been taken under the wing of a ninja of some renown or (And this is a secret mind you) that she received help from the demonic entity sealed within her chakra system. Whatever the background, they would assume that Uzumaki Naruko was a great up and coming ninja, probably with amazing chakra control, a horde of jutsu at her disposal, proficiency with at least a dozen different weapons and maybe even a talent for seals. They would probably picture her as the type that would capture a room the second she entered it, gave impassioned speeches to rouse the spirit and gave off an aura that made it almost impossible to dislike her when you got to know her.
This could not have been farther from the truth.
Naruko wasn't a Genin or Chuunin. Hell, she wasn't even in the academy and hadn't stepped foot inside the building once in her life. She had never spoke to any ninja of renown who might have been impressed with her enough to consider training her officially and had never met that which she contained nor did she know of it's existence. She held no particular desire to become a ninja and had never utilized her chakra in her life. She had never held a jutsu scroll or ninja weapon before, had no clue about seals whatsoever and she sure as hell never captured the attention of a room or gave off any such warm aura that made you fall in love with her within a few moments of meeting her.
Oh, Naruko was indeed strong. But she was none of these other things.
To even begin to understand the enigma that is Uzumaki Naruko, one would first have to understand her past.
Naruko was born in Konoha General Hospital, in room 331, just after 7 p.m. on October 10th 1590AF (That's 1,590 years after the Elemental Nations were founded, or AF for those who don't know). Naruko's birth had taken a little over eleven hours but luckily there were no complications to speak of. Unless of course, you count a hundred story tall ravenous demon attacking the village a complication. Sadly Naruko's mother, the lively Uzumaki Kushina, passed away shortly after giving birth to her daughter. The passionate redhead had discovered very early on in her pregnancy that she suffered from a medical condition which made giving birth to any child an almost suicidal endeavour because of the strain it would put on her body and as such the doctors had strongly advised that she terminate the pregnancy before it was too late to do so.
Those same doctors were later admitted into their own hospital for numerous injuries, mostly to the genitals, which ironically would make the act of conceiving a baby extremely painful.
Kushina had warned those doctors lucky enough to avoid becoming patients themselves that giving birth to a child of her own was her greatest dream and that if she would die bringing her baby into the world then she would go on to the afterlife with a smile on her face, content to watch her child from afar until (Many years from then) her little boy or girl joined her, hopefully with stories of grandbabies and great grandbabies to share. She kept her condition a secret, knowing that many would try to talk her out of her decision and when she gave birth to a healthy baby girl nine months later Uzumaki Kushina, after holding her child for three whole minutes, telling Naruko how much she loved her and how sorry she was that she wouldn't be there, passed on with a smile, her daughter in her arms.
In official records, Uzumaki Naruto's biological father is listed as 'Unknown'. Most just assumed that Kushina either lost her love to a mission or had decided that she wanted a baby but not a partner to share it with as many kunoichi do. It was known only to a select few that Naruko's father was in fact Namikaze Minato, the Yondaime Hokage himself, lest the small family become targets to those who wished revenge on the 'Yellow Flash of Konoha' after his actions in the Third Great Shinobi War.
It was nearly ten minutes after the redheaded mother's passing that her jackass of a husband who was too damn noble for his own good (As she would later call him, repeatedly, loudly and at length) heard word that his wife had passed on giving birth to a healthy baby girl. Minato immediately abandoned the front lines, leaving little instruction for his poor soldiers, to find his wife dead and his daughter crying loudly at the loud noises outside. Minato collapsed at his wife's side with tears steaming down his face and his daughter clutched to his chest. When he finally managed to collect himself, he hauled his tired body to his feet and carried himself and his daughter towards the Hokage Tower, steeling himself with all his considerable resolve for what he was about to do. He collected a special scroll from his library and, praying for his love and his child to one day forgive him, made his way towards the front lines.
Hours later, Minato's predecessor, now successor, Sarutobi Hiruzen, his master Jiraiya and the elders Homura, Koharu and Danzou sat in the dark Hokage's office with a sleeping Naruko lying in a cot on the table, the blanket moved aside to reveal a dark seal of amazing complexity on her chubby belly. They talked throughout the night about what should be done with the child. It was quickly established that Sarutobi could not take her into his house given the risk posed by assassins that would be out for the weakened village's old leader like sharks sensing bait. Jiraiya declined the offer as well, saying that he was the last person that should be left responsible of a child and that he would be constantly on the move keeping up with his information network leaving him with no time to raise her properly. They doubted that one of the clans would have her and Danzou's proposal to have the girl trained to utilise her new demonic chakra was immediately shot to hell by Sarutobi, Jiraiya and Koharu who knew that if she was given over to Danzou, the poor girl would be reduced to an emotionless husk by the time she was four. They argued back and forth for hours, none being able to come up with an idea that suited all parties until Sarutobi reluctantly agreed to place the baby in one of the village orphanages.
So that's what they did.
This, unfortunately, didn't put an end to Naruko's problems entirely.
Life at the orphanage was tolerable at best, unfailingly depressing at worst. The workers at the orphanage held true to the orders given to them by the Hokage when he dropped the girl off but did no more than they were ordered. They fed, clothed and housed the girl but beyond that, Naruko was on her own. If she was sad, no workers would try to cheer her up, if she was lonely, nobody would talk to her and if she was ever caught up to no good then she received the harshest punishments with no questions asked or answered given. While she was never beaten or starved and while bullying her was never encouraged, Naruko quickly grew tired of the prison she had grown up in and in her fourth year she simply packed her few belongings and left in the middle of the night.
That was that. That was the last time anyone had seen Naruko.
Of course, she didn't leave the village. It was a long step from leaving an orphanage to leaving what was essentially a four year old's entire world and the prospect of venturing outside the walls was something that she wasn't really ready for.
That was ten years ago now.
Now Naruko, aged fourteen, was living independently and free of the constraints she was forced to endure at the orphanage. She had her own place, took care of her own needs and had since grown into a fine young woman.
Naruto strolled down the street with an easy gait that was just fast enough as to not be considered slow. She took her time, as though there was nothing in the world that worried her, which was true. Her cool blue eyes stared forward and her face appeared relaxed and almost bored. The cool winds blew by, tugging slightly at the short ends of her hair as she made her way towards the fruit market near her house. She preferred the fresh product bought from crates packed onto carts in the square where every day, stall owners and hagglers bartered and traded. The market was the preferred place for fruit produce in the village since it reminded people of a simpler time and the cheep prices didn't hurt either.
The crowds parted before her as she walked but none looked her in the eye, their gazes passing over the girl as if she wasn't there. No one said anything if she jostled them in the bustle of the crowds and they didn't respond if she asked them to move, instead just stepping aside quietly, not meeting her eyes. She didn't care. She preferred it this way.
As she passed a small store, she caught her reflection in one of the tall mirrors that were on sale.
It was easy to tell that Naruko was beautiful and that her beauty would only grow as she got older. Soft, slightly spiky dark red hair was cut short, framing an fine, sculpted face, the only imperfections being three small lines on each cheek which greatly resembled an animal's whiskers. Above these, two perfectly almond shaped eyes of striking icy blue watched sharply but gave away absolutely nothing. Her face was impassive, as it always was. Smiles were a rare thing with Naruko. Not that she was depressed or anything, it was just the way she was. As cool and composed as a winter ice sculpture, that was Uzumaki Naruko.
A slender neck gracefully curved into deceptively delicate looking shoulders which in turn flowed into thin arms which were toned to near perfection. As many a pervert would gladly attest to, Naruko was rather…well developed for her age, gaining a smooth hourglass figure and bust that would render supermodels green with envy. Round hips dipped to form long, strong legs that lacked a hint of fat, being made of the same toned muscle that made up the rest of her body.
All of this was accentuated slightly by the black tank top she wore tucked into a pair of slightly baggy black pants which fell over a pair of small, sneaker covered feet. A short black jacket was left open to allow cool air to caress her body in the sweltering summer heat.
Yes, Naruko was beautiful but this didn't matter. Not to her.
While she had looks, her personality was less than sociable.
She had earned the title of 'Ice Queen' and wore it with pride and with such skill that even the famed Yuuhi Kurenai would be hard pressed to replicate it. The amount of times a smile had been seen on her face could be counted on one hand with plenty of digits left over and when she spoke it was with the same calm, calculated tone she had become famed for. For her, emotions were a rare thing and outbursts were non-existent. Self control was her lifeblood it seemed. She needed no one and wanted no one. Couple this with an extremely sharp mind, vast intelligence and a will you could bend chakra reinforced steel around and you had one strong girl.
Naruko blinked at her reflection and turned away, continuing onward towards the market. Her steps kicked up dust on the dirt streets as she turned into the ally that lead to the out of the way square where the market was set up and she could already see the crowds gathering. Naruko pushed passed the assembled groups of mothers chatting with their friends as their energetic children ran to and fro between the stalls, their high pitched laughed which mixed with the general roar of the marketplace. Packs of elderly women, decked out in their finest Sunday clothes, chatted about the latest weekly gossip while the stall owners bellowed out their deals, each trying to drown out the competition in terms of volume. A few fast food stands hissed and steamed as they served hot meals to the hungry masses, the smells creating a mouth watering aroma which wafted over the area. The smells and sounds and colours made the scene look like something straight out of a history book telling of the simpler times before modernisation destroyed the concept of a close knit community.
Naruko slid between two men discussing restocking their stall, swerving to avoid the small child who had discovered the fun of spinning in one place until he fell down, then proceeded to make her way between the stalls, her sharp eyes critically analysing the wares, looking for the most ripe, juicy, succulent products available. The stall owners said nothing as she examined their stalls before moving on. They knew it was unwise to deny her service.
When Naruko had discovered this little marketplace a few years ago, she had attempted to buy fruit from one of the stalls, only to be rebuffed by it's owner; a rather robust man with a spectacular black moustache. The man had berated her loudly, gaining the attention of most of the market, telling her that she wasn't welcome and that she had better leave if she knew what was good for her. Calmly, Naruko had tried to reason with the man only for him to start raving, calling for Anbu. Naruko had just stared at him for a long minute before turning and walking out of the market. The man had smiled, thinking he was rid of her.
Oh, how wrong he was.
Naruko had returned a few hours later. She had procured a rather lavish cloaked hood from the washing line of one of Konoha's more well off homes (Which she fully intended to return, of course). With the cloak wrapped around her and the hood pulled over her face, Naruko had returned to the same stall she had been chased from earlier that day. The owned smiled hugely seeing the stylish cloak, thinking he had gained a particularly wealthy customer. His smile was replaced by a scowl as the figure lifted it's head just enough for him to see the face of the person under the hood. It was the Uzumaki brat he'd chased off earlier. He'd opened his mouth to berate her once more but was stopped short when she raised one hand before her, a bag of apples clutched in her fist which had a tear in the netting.
Before he could say anything, Naruko's voice spoke out loudly, gaining as much attention as his had earlier. "What's this!?" She bellowed, her voice disguised enough that it could pass for the voice of a young man entering his twenties. Before the stall owner could collect his wits, she pressed on. "I bought these from you earlier for my Lord's dinner which was attended by numerous figures of note! Imagine his surprise when one of the guests, a wealthy merchant no less, discovered a hole in one of these apples! When it was cut open we found a fully grown worm had eaten the core and it was still there! How do you explain this, merchant!?"
The man spluttered and choked, seeing the crowds giving him distrusting looks and placing the fruit they were going to buy back on the tables with looks of disgust. "I-I-but--"
"But what!?" Naruko barked, not giving him a chance to answer. "My Lord expected quality goods from one of Konoha's famed markets and instead you insult him with this trash!" She threw the apples into the man's arms, watching as he scrambled to catch them. "Be sure that my Lord will never allow himself to suffer this level of disgrace from you again! He may even go before the Hokage if this is the kind of service he can expect from Konoha!" With that, she spun on her heels and marched from the marketplace, her borrowed cloak billowing out behind her, making sure that no one saw her face. If they did then the plan would fall apart at the seams.
The damage was done. Word had spread of the confrontation and the stall's poor quality goods to every ear in the market and people avoided it like the plague. The stall's owner couldn't believe what happened. Within the space of ten minutes his business had gone from booming to non-existent. He tried to regain his customers, saying that it was the Uzumaki girl causing trouble as usual but no one believed him. Uzumaki couldn't afford a cloak of that quality and besides, the voice that spoke was the of a man so they ignored the panicked man and moved on. By then end of the week he was ruined. He was forced to sell his place in the market and move on, accepting a job cleaning rivers for Konoha Environmental Control. The other stall owners who had known him for many years actually believed him when he said that Uzumaki was involved and they realised that the confrontation was supposed to send a message to the other merchants, one which they heard loudly and clearly.
The message was: "Allow me to buy what I want without incident and I won't ruin you."
Naruko never faced any problems from that day forward.
She took full advantage of her well earned equality today, taking her time as she travelled from stall to stall, picking and choosing what she wanted. By the time an hour had passed, she had fresh apples, oranges, some carrots, a few spices, some onions, a stock of celery and a couple of potatoes. She had plans for soup tonight and it looked like it would be a good broth. She paid for her purchases, thanked the owners, ignored their silence and left the market, heading for home.
Checking the battered watched strapped to her wrist, she saw that it was only going onto 1p.m. She had an entire day to kill. Maybe she'd take a walk or see if she could find work for the day?
Her thoughts were broken when someone jostled her from behind, causing her to stumble slightly. Her hand immediately flew to her pocket, patting it down. Her wallet was gone. She spun, her eyes immediately locking onto the figure who was moving slightly faster than those around him, moving in the exact opposite direction of Naruko.
Tucking her bag of groceries securely under her arm, Naruko began to follow the figure, matching his pace. She moved easily through the crowds, not once bumping into anyone as her cold blue eyes kept locked onto her quarry. When the figure's head turned, their eyes locked. Her blue to his green. The boy looked to only be a little older than her if the acne dotting his face was any indication and seemed a little panicky. 'Probably his first time as a pickpocket.' She thought.
The second he met that icy blue stare, the boy lost his meagre composure and broke into a flat out run, knocking people to the ground in his haste.
Naruko ran after him. Her eyes never leaving the boy's back, she weaved between the confused and angry passers-by like a panther through the forest stalking it's prey. Her legs took long, quick strides, powering her towards the thief, her natural quick footedness and reflexes allowing her to dodge the people who were attempting to get to their feet after being knocked down by the fleeing teen. Angry shouts filled the air but Naruko paid them no heed, intent on getting her money back.
She saw him duck into an alley up ahead and she quickly followed, not once faltering in her pace. The other teen glanced over his shoulder, seeing the girl hot on his heels and gaining fast. He tipped a trash can as he passed it, hoping to slow her down but to his increasing dismay she simply leapt over it with cat like grace.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when two dogs suddenly burst from behind a pile of cardboard boxes, barking madly. He staggered but managed to pass them, barely avoiding one sinking it's teeth into his calf.
Naruto saw the dogs appear and altered her course slightly. She jumped into the air before landing on the lid of one of the trash cans and sprung over the mutts, ignoring their incessant barking. She burst from the alley to see the thief duck into another one further up the street. She knew that alley and what lay at the end of it.
The boy was officially freaking out. That girl somehow knew he was the one who took her wallet then proceeded to chase him through the streets and no matter what he did he couldn't lose her. She matched his speed easily and while he wasn't known for his speed he was faster than some but she kept up with him all the way. He'd hoped the dogs would have ended the chase but still ducked into another alley to get away only to find the damn place led to a dead end!
He spun, hoping he had enough time before she got passed the dogs only to stop cold. The girl had caught him.
Naruko ran flat out towards the thief, her face as calm as ever. As she came nearer, she drew one arm back and as soon as she was within range, swung forward with all her might.
The deafening blast reverberated through the alley and out into the streets as a large dust cloud erupted from blocked off end of the small back street.
When the rumble died, the smoke slowly cleared to reveal the thief huddled into a ball at the foot of the wall, shaking violently. As he heard the echo of the mini explosion die he slowly, hesitantly, opened his eyes only to flinch back from the artic gaze boring into his eyes. His head slowly turned to the side and his eyes widened and his jaw dropped in both astonishment and horror.
Barely a foot from where his head lay, Naruko's fist was implanted into the wall. Massive cracks surrounded a crater in the centre of the concrete partition a foot in diameter, nearly punching straight through into the building.
Naruto's fist, Naruko's thin, slender fist, had damn near punched through a nearly foot thick blockade of concrete and metal.
As the girl withdrew her hand from the building's new entrance, the boy's eyes widened even further if that was even possible. Her hand, apart from being a little dusty, didn't have a scratch on it. The flawless, creamy smooth skin was unblemished, not even a little red from the impact and by the look on her face she probably didn't even feel any pain.
Naruko blew the dust from her hand, rubbing the more stubborn particles off, before looking at the teen who flinched back wondering if she had simply missed and was preparing to take another swing. He gave a small whimper and shut his eyes tight as her hand started to reach towards him.
This was it. He was going to die at the hands of this young girl all because he needed a little extra cash. He didn't want to die!
'Huh?' He thought as he felt something being slid from his pocket. His eyes cracked open to see Naruko with her wallet in hand, going through it to make sure the money was all there. Every penny counted after all. After she determined that nothing had been taken, her eyes fell on the boy who suddenly looked like a cornered animal.
"Oh God, I'm sorry!" He practically screamed, holding his arms before him as if to shield himself from the girl who just stared at him impassively. "I'm sorry! I just needed cash! I didn't know it was going to be such a big problem! Please don't kill me!" He was near tears by the end.
Naruko stared at the shuddering teen for a few long moments before speaking. "Don't steal from me again." She turned from him, ignoring his frantic nodding and blubbering thanks. Readjusting the grocery bag under her arm, she slid her wallet into the inside breast pocket of her jacket and calmly walked out of the alley like it had never happened.
As she walked back through the crowds, some of whom where still trying to pick themselves up from the thief's desperate run, she checked her watch. 1:10p.m. She'd wasted ten minutes of her time with that boy.
Shaking her head, she continued on through the crowds, making her way towards her home.
Home for Uzumaki Naruko took the form of a rather ramshackle shack built on top of an apartment building in the more desolate parts of Konoha. The building's wide roof, coupled with the positioning of the buildings around it, meant that Naruko had plenty of space and was shielded from prying eyes. The Shack took up most of the apartment complex's wide roof so her home was also quite large.
She had stumbled on it completely by accident a few weeks after leaving the orphanage. The staircase that led to the roof of the building was located in a decrepit, trash strewn back garden located between the buildings. The only way into it was in the alley beside the apartments, through a small gap in the fence that concealed the garden, totally hidden unless you knew where to look for it. The windows that looked down on the garden were all covered in metal sheets, the back doors leading into the buildings replaced with heavy steel doors meant to keep possible squatters out.
Naruko grunted as she slid the makeshift door she had constructed herself aside. It was made of two corrugated sheets of iron connected by four small metal tubes set into their corners. Naruko had cut two sections out of the metal fence away from the hole before adding the sheets, creating a rather effective sliding door that blended perfectly with the fence. She stepped through and slid the door shut behind her, making sure no one saw her secret entrance.
She walked through the overgrown grass, stepping over the bottles, wrappers, steel wire, rubble and other discarded trash that littered the garden before reaching the crumbling stairs built into the back of one of the buildings, reaching up to the roof. She mounted the steps easily, making sure to avoid the weaker sections of the structure. When she reached the top, her face softened slightly as she gazed upon her home for the last ten years.
The Shack was in far better condition that anyone would expect. Instead of a poorly constructed mass of wood and metal barely big enough to fit one person, the Shack was more like a cabin built onto the roof. While it was far from lavish, it was a godsend to a homeless orphan. The walls were skilfully built using any available material, mostly wood and corrugated iron, with one or two small windows of cracked glass. She didn't know who built the Shack or when it was built, she was just thankful that she found it. The view from the top of the building was great and on either side, boxing in the garden below, were the roofs of two more buildings, with another across the alley. One was used to hand her small amount of laundry and the other was a small kind of recreational area with no real purpose but was cluttered with junk.
Stepping up to the door, Naruko fished around in her coat pocket for a second before withdrawing a small, slightly twisted piece of metal. Inserting it into a crack in the door, she fumbled for a second before hearing a dull scraping sound as the metal bar inside the door fell away, undoing the primitive lock. Twisting the handle, Naruko stepped inside her house, closing the door behind her firmly.
The next day, Naruto left her house early for work.
While it wasn't possible for her to get any real jobs what with her age and the fact that she was 'the Uzumaki girl', she still managed to make a decent living doing odd jobs around the village. Her biggest clients were merchants who were only in the village for a few days before leaving again, thus not knowing of her reputation. She delivered goods, packed crates, filled in shipping orders to whatever else she could to make money. Employers were always willing to accept her help either for her sharp mind or for her physical strength which teetered on the fine line between being impressive and being monstrous.
Her job today was stacking crates for a local fishmonger. Not the most glamorous job but she never complained. Taguri-san was paying her good money for her help today.
She quickly made her way towards the warehouse district, making her way between the large structures and through groups of workers hauling their wares to the next destination. She made her way around the back of one building and rapped loudly on the door there. After a few minutes of waiting, the door was pulled open with a squeak and Naruko was admitted to the bustling warehouse which reeked of fish.
"Good, you're early." Taguri the foreman's gravely voice said as he closed the door behind the girl. He waved her over to where a dozen or so large crates sat, ready to be moved. "I need these moved into the freezers before they thaw completely. One of the idiots that work for me actually managed to break one of my forklifts so we're a little slow today. Think you can handle that?"
"I'll be done soon, Taguri-san." She assured him as she made her way over to the crates. The stocky fishmonger watched with a slight smirk as the guys watched the girl grasp one crate tightly and he laughed aloud at their faces as the daintily looking kid lifted the crate with little effort and manoeuvred it towards the freezers. He shook his head as he went back to his office. Despite the problems some of the guys had with the girl she sure as hell pulled her own weight.
Naruko grunted as she set the first crate down near the back of the freezer, her breath misting before her. Shrugging off the cold, she made her way back to the loading area for another crate.
Haruno Sakura huffed and puffed as she struggled to carry several heavy trays of dead, smelly fish over to the cooling chests they were supposed to be loaded into. Why the hell was she lugging around these gross things anyway? Oh yeah, it was their 'mission'. Since the summer was nearly upon them, many of Konoha's Genin were called up to help in the preparations for the many summer festivals. That meant plenty of food, drink, spices and other goods had to be stocked and ready. Teams 7, 8 and 10 had been ordered to help at Taguri's Fishmongers for the day. They'd only been at it for a half an hour so far and already she was tired, sweaty and reeked of fish. Oh God, what must she look like to Sasuke?
"Stop slacking off, Forehead, and actually pitch in for once." A voice said from behind her.
She turned to glare at the pretty blonde who had spoken. "If you had been paying attention, Piglet, you would have realised that I was taking a break. Plus I've piled more trays that you!"
Yamanaka Ino scoffed, tossing her long ponytail over her shoulder. Tilting her head, she gave the pinkette her most condescending look. "Sure you did. I suppose you're trying to start a new fad? Somehow I doubt sweat patches are going to catch on any time soon."
Sakura blushed, trying unsuccessfully to cover the dark stains on her dress as her glare increased tenfold. "Shut it, Piggy! I never noticed before how grey your bandages are. Weren't they white when we arrived?"
Ino growled at the slightly younger girl. "They still are, Sweat Patch! You just need to get your eyes checked. Maybe that massive ridge above them is putting too much pressure on them, Monkey Girl?"
"What did you say, Pig!?"
"You head me, Monkey!"
The others sighed at the squabbling teens, having been subjected to the same thing for well over a month now.
"Think we can pack them into one of these crates and have them shipped to some far off country before the sensei's come back?" Kiba whispered to his team mate, Tenten.
The bun haired brunette giggled and shook her head. "No. Kurenai-sensei and Asuma-sensei would notice before we managed to get them out of here."
"Maybe they won't care?" Kiba suggested with raised brows.
Tenten laughed, picking up another couple of trays. "I doubt it. Even if they didn't, the Hokage would have their heads for allowing their students to mail their team mates to some foreign land."
"Oh well, at least we can always dream." Kiba sighed regretfully as he too picked up more trays.
Tenten patted the Inuzuka on the shoulder as she hauled the heavy trays over to the cooling chests.
Tenten was one proud girl. Not only was she this year's top kunoichi but after checking, she discovered that she was also more skilled that any of the kunoichi in the year above her. If they were anything like her female classmates, however, she couldn't really count that as a victory. Out of all the girls in her class, she was the only one who really applied herself to her dream of becoming a strong kunoichi. Oh, Hinata tried of course but her lack of self-confidence always held her back from being truly strong. She was sure that if the shy Hyuuga one day managed to grow a backbone she'd be a force to be reckoned with. Ino and Sakura on the other hand…
To put it simply, they were little more than civilians with access to chakra. They didn't seem to even want to be ninja, instead they focused all their attentions on Tenten's other team mate: Uchiha Sasuke. Their every action revolved around getting the Uchiha survivor to notice them, usually ending with the two of them fighting and the others with painful headaches. She and they didn't really get along. It was probably because she had called them disgraces to the title of kunoichi. Or maybe because, unlike them and nearly every other girl in their age group, she didn't bow at the altar of the 'Great and Powerful' Uchiha Sasuke.
Okay, so he was strong, she would admit. He wouldn't be the Rookie of the Year if he wasn't. And she supposed he could be considered handsome by modern standards but she just couldn't see it. As far as she was concerned, he was her strong, moody, rather egotistical team mate. Strong? Yes. Potential to be great? Probably. Potential as a boyfriend? Not a chance.
She smiled at Kiba's little partner Akamaru as it jumped around her, yipping happily. She was a sucker for puppies and Akamaru was a little cutie despite being a 'strong and fearsome' nin-dog. "Having fun, boy?" She asked, smiling as the little pup barked his agreement. "It shouldn't be too long now then we can leave and get something to eat. Maybe you can get some more bacon if Kiba says yes." The little white dog's tail beat back and forth in his excitement and he shot off like the canine equivalent of a rocket, most likely off to plead his case to Kiba for their desperate need to buy bacon after their mission was over.
She glanced around. Ino and Sakura were still arguing, Kiba was listening to an exuberant Akamaru, the others were probably still outside and the sensei's were off doing whatever it was they did when the mission their team was performing was too boring for their tastes. Only a few trays remained to be loaded she saw. Just a little longer and--
"AHHHHH!" A high pitched scream cut through the air like a knife.
Tenten's head snapped around and she saw Sakura lying on the floor, the trays she was carrying scattered across the concrete. Ino stood off to one side, hands clasped over her mouth, and they watched in horror as one of the heavier wooden crates began to topple over from the top of the pile it was on.
"Sakura, look out!" Tenten screamed but for the life of her, she couldn't move. She could only watch, spellbound, as the heavy block of wood slipped over the edge, plummeting towards the still screaming girl below in slow motion.
Tenten shut her eyes, unable to do anything else. She knew that even if she could move, she wasn't strong enough to stop the crate or quick enough to get Sakura out before it crushed them both. Her heart pounding in her chest, she tried to will herself temporarily deaf, unable to bear the girl's terrified screams.
Suddenly there was a bang, a grunt and Sakura's screams cut off abruptly.
Trembling all over, Tenten slowly forced her eyes open fully expecting to see red creeping out from under a wrecked crate but what she did see took her breath away.
Standing above Sakura protectively, legs spread and braced to compensate for the great load, was a redheaded girl who had actually managed to catch the crate on her shoulders, her arms gripping the sides to keep it steady. The girl's face looked a little strained as she struggled to keep the heavy crate from tumbling from her grip and onto the pink haired teen who just stared at her saviour in dumbfounded amazement.
It was then the Tenten realised the redhead was shaking slightly. Looking at her feet, she realised what was wrong. The impact had knocked her stance wide and the weight of the crate was now forcing her legs apart even as the teen struggled to keep them together.
Snapping out of her stupor, Tenten rushed to the girl as did Kiba. Together, the two managed to manoeuvre the crate off the girl's shoulders and onto the ground just as the foreman came running over, followed by a few of his workers.
"What the hell happened!? Are you kids okay!?"
"We're fine, Taguri-san." Tenten assured him somewhat shakily after the incident.
Tenten turned to the pink haired girl. "Sakura? What happened?"
Sakura blinked and when she answered her voice was extremely uneven, as if she were ready to burst into tears at any moment. "I-I-I was talking to I-Ino when suddenly something smashed into the ground right beside me. It s-startled me and I fell over and that's when the crate tipped over. I thought I was going to die." As soon as the word left her mouth, she became overcome with tears. Ino sank to her former best friend's side and wrapped her into a hug. Just because they weren't as close as they used to be didn't mean she didn't still care.
"Taguri." One of the workers said, handing the beefy man something he picked up from the floor. Taguri peered at it, turning the twisted metal object over in his hands.
"It's a buckle from a restraint belt." He explained. He looked up and sure enough, the strap that held the crate to the pile had snapped. "Damn thing must have broken off and caused the crate to fall. I swear, I'm gonna tear those damn suppliers a new one over this!" He growled. Shaking his head, he looked at the kids. "What happened next?"
"The crate had just fallen over and was about to hit Sakura when she somehow managed to catch it." Tenten said, pointing to the strange redhead, unable to keep the disbelief out of her voice entirely.
"Heh, Uzumaki, you alright?" Taguri asked the girl, concerned.
"I'm fine, Taguri-san." She grimaced a bit as she rolled her shoulder. "I probably bruised my shoulder but beyond that I'm okay."
'Just bruised her shoulder!? Something that heavy should have snapped her spine in half!' Tenten thought incuriously.
"Here, kid, take this and take the rest of the day off." Taguri said, breaking her out of her thoughts as he fished about in his pockets for something. He withdrew a wad of bills and the Genin's jaws dropped. That was as much money as all three Genin teams together were getting paid for this D-rank!
The girl took the money and gave it a quick once over before her face fell into a confused frown. "There must be some mistake, Taguri-san, this is double the price we agreed on. I can't take this."
The large fishmonger just waved off her protests. "You earned it. Not only did you finish early but you saved the girl's life. If she had died it could have put the company in jeopardy and put a lot of good people out of work. Hell, you even managed to keep the crate in one piece!" He laughed.
Naruko shrugged and stuffed the money into her pocket. If someone wanted to be generous, she wasn't about to refuse them. "Thank you, Taguri-san. Let me know if you need more work done." She gave a small bow then turned from the group to leave through the back when Sakura's shy voice spoke up.
"W-Wait." Naruko paused and glanced over her shoulder at the younger girl who looked up at her through tear filled eyes. "I-I just wanted…to thank you. You saved my life. Thank you."
"Don't mention it." Naruko said simply and then she was gone.
The Genin watched her leave and when she was out of sight, Taguri spoke up, getting the ninja's attention. "Why don't you kids take a break for a while? And don't worry about the trays that were dropped, it won't affect your pay." He said kindly.
"Thank you, Taguri-san, we appreciate it." Tenten said for them, giving the man a short bow of thanks. They walked over to a small corner which served as a small break area for the workers, consisting of nothing more than a few chairs around a makeshift table built from a small crate and a piece of wood. They each grabbed a seat, Ino keeping an arm wrapped around a still shaky Sakura's shoulders. Kiba, in a rare moment of understanding, fetched them each a glass of water from the water cooler and set them down on the table, receiving a nod of thanks from each girl.
They were silent for a while before Ino asked. "Are you okay, Sakura?"
The girl gave a nod and a sniffle. "Yeah but I can't stop shaking. I just can't get the image of that crate falling towards me out of my head. I was so sure that I was going to die." Her voice wavered and Ino gave her a reassuring squeeze.
"We're lucky that girl was here." Ino said.
"What I want to know was how the hell she managed to catch that crate." Tenten said, remembering how the crate seemed even heavier when she helped get it off the strange girl's shoulders and even then she was sure the mysterious redhead had borne most of the weight. "That thing should have crushed her!" Sakura gave a small sob and Tenten realised her mistake. "Crap! Sorry, Sakura."
The pink haired Genin just waved it off. "It's okay. I'm actually curious as well. She seemed way too strong to be a civilian but she wasn't wearing a hitai-ate and we're the only Genin teams working here today."
"Maybe she was a Chuunin who doesn't like to wear her hitai-ate?" Kiba offered. Akamaru barked in agreement.
Tenten shook her head. "No. She can't have been more than a year older than we are and I checked the scores from last year's graduates and none of the kunoichi had a chance of making Chuunin within a year of leaving the academy, if ever."
They fell silent for a long while, each lost in their own thoughts. They didn't know how long it was before a voice brought them back to earth.
"Why are you sitting down? Are you finished already?"
They looked up to see the sensei of Team 7, Hatake Kakashi, walking towards them, one hand in his pocket and the other clutching his favourite smut. Behind him were the other sensei's, Yuuhi Kurenai and Sarutobi Asuma as well as the other members of Teams 7 and 8 as well as Team 10.
"Kakashi-sensei." Tenten said, acknowledging her squad leader. "We were just taking a break. There was an accident."
"Accident?" Kurenai asked, one fine black eyebrow rising in confusion. "What kind of accident?"
"One of the restraint buckles holding a crate to the top of one of the piles snapped." Kiba told them. "The buckle nearly hit Sakura and she fell just as the crate tipped over the edge right above her."
"Are you okay?" Kurenai asked her student.
Sakura nodded. "Yes, Sensei. The crate was just about hit me when somebody stopped it."
"Somebody stopped the crate? One of those crates?" Asuma asked disbelievingly, pointing at the pile of large boxes. He doubted anyone below an elite Chuunin would have been able to stop something that heavy in a freefall and even then they'd have trouble, even with chakra.
The girl nodded. "Yeah, pretty easily too. The weird thing is I don't think she was even a ninja."
"Are you sure?" Kakashi asked, intrigued. "I doubt a civilian would have been strong enough to even lift something that heavy. What was this person's name?"
"Uh…Uzigake I think."
"No." Tenten shook her head. "Taguri-san called her Uzumaki."
The three Jounin did a double take at the name. "Did you say Uzumaki?" Kakashi asked, actually tucking his book away for once.
The Genin nodded.
Kakashi glanced at his colleagues who looked equally surprised at the news.
"Sensei? Something wrong?" Tenten asked, seeing their looks.
"No, nothing." Kakashi said absentmindedly. Turning his full attention back to the Genin, he asked, "This girl, what did she look like?"
Kiba took this one. "She had short red hair, high cheekbones, light blue eyes…uh, three weird marks on her cheeks, kinda like whiskers. Let's see…she was tall; about Shino's height I guess. Oh! She had a great figure and a huge pair of--"
"Kiba!" Snapped Kurenai, Tenten, Sakura and Ino, causing the young Inuzuka to flinch back, realising he'd said too much.
"Pervert." Tenten muttered, shaking her head at him.
During all of this, Kakashi had been in deep thought. By the sound of it, this was the same Uzumaki that the Kyuubi had been sealed into and the same girl who went missing from her orphanage ten years prior. When her disappearance was discovered, the Hokage had ordered a search for her but in a village the size of Konoha and the size of the child in question the search turned up nothing. The Sandaime couldn't have committed too many ninja to the search since it would have stretched their forces too much. There had been rumours of course but they were too sparse and spread out for anything definite. 'We should tell Hokage-sama about this.'
"Well," He said, getting everyone's attention. "We're almost done here. Let's get the rest of the supplies packed away then go back to the Hokage's office."
Grumbling slightly, the Genin got up to finish their 'mission'.
Naruko shut the door behind her, absentmindedly slipping the metal bar that made up the lock back into place, sealing the door. She slid off her hat and jacket and hung them on two of the bent nails that passed for coat hooks before kicking off her shoes, placing them beside the door then walking into her home.
For a derelict, handmade abode, the Shack was pretty well stocked. The bare wooden floors were covered by numerous different cuts from an assortment of different carpets, creating a sort of giant collage on her floor and the walls were bare wood but kept the cold out pretty well. The biggest room, the one she had just entered, was the living room. A old couch that had seen better days sat slouched in the middle of the room and behind that was a stack of shelves that she herself had made. It was stocked with a few books she managed to borrow from the library or had found as well as some of her very few trinkets. A small table she had found in the back garden served as a centrepiece for the room.
She didn't know who built the Shack or why but whoever did was knowledgeable. They had managed to divert power, gas and water from the apartments bellow her and redirect them to include the Shack; something invaluable to a homeless person, especially during the colder times of year.
In one corner of the living room was a small section which had been converted to serve as a kitchenette consisting of a fridge freezer and an oven with a few ramshackle cabinets and a counter. It had taken a lot of cleaning for them both to be considered usable and while she wasn't totally convinced that the oven wouldn't one day blow up in her face, it served it's purpose. One door led off to her bedroom and another opened into a small room that had been renovated as a bathroom. A single small window allowed light into the room and a bare bulb hung from the ceiling.
Her steps resounded off the floorboards as she walked across to door to the bathroom and she pushed it open. It was a little cramped but had a toilet, a sink and a shower so she didn't care.
She turned the tap in the shower and The Shack's old scavenged pipes gurgled loudly before a torrent of water erupted from the shower head, quickly filling the room with steam. She peeled off her tank top and slid out of her pants and underwear before standing, naked to the world.
Stepping under the spray, she grabbed the small bar of soap that was nearing the end of it's life and began to build up a good lather. She tilted her head back, allowing the spray to cascade over her face and down her neck as she rubbed the soap into her skin. The hot water was gently soothing the ache in her shoulder; a memento from the falling crate. Raising one arm, she slid her soapy hand down her side before sliding up and massaging into the curve of her neck, rubbing the stress of the day away. When she was done, she grabbed the shampoo (A cheap brand but one that had a scent that appealed to her) and gently began to rub it into her scalp, enjoying the soothing feeling. It wasn't long before that too was done and Naruko stayed under the pounding spray for a few more minutes, indulging in one of her few pleasures.
When she was finished, she cut off the spray and stepped out of the stall before grabbing a threadbare towel and rubbing off the moisture that coated her skin in a glistening sheen before walking to her room, unabashed in her state of undress. It wasn't like anyone was going to visit and walk in unannounced and see her.
A small, single person bed, a tiny bedside table, a battered cupboard and a chest-of-drawers made up her sleeping quarters, the only other window in the tiny home covered by a thin rag that made due as a curtain.
She pulled the squeaky doors of the cupboard open and reached in to gently pull out one of her very few treasures. A thin robe of dazzling blue silk slid through her fingers like water. Its ridiculously smooth material was painted in a beautiful depiction of rolling waves crashing before a snow topped mountain under a setting sun, it's rays blending from orange and yellow to the blue of the rest of the robe. While Naruko wasn't one for pretty things, the robe was by far her favourite and most expensive possession. She had received it after delivering a load of them to one of the stores in town. The owner, a newcomer to the village, had noticed that the supplier had sent her more than she had ordered and since she didn't need these extras nor did she need to pay for them, the kind woman had given one to Naruko as thanks for delivering the goods.
That same lady had been one of the few to have even been graced by Naruko's rare smile.
Naruko slid into the expensive garment and synched it at the waist with it's delicate belt before strolling into the living room. She picked one of her few books from the shelves (Silvered Mirrors by Sukara Himori) and settled into the sagging cushions of her sofa with a soft sigh.
Opening the slightly dog-eared book to where she had marked it last, Naruko began to read.
"So Naruko's still alive."
Kakashi, Kurenai and Asuma stood in the Hokage's office. Their teams had returned to collect their pay but the Jounin had stayed behind to inform their leader of what their students had told them. The Sandaime stood before the window now, his pipe smoking as he gazed out towards the village he spent his entire life protecting.
"It seems so." Kakashi said quietly.
Sarutobi was silent for a long while. "How did she look?"
"We didn't see her ourselves but Kiba ah…commented that she seemed healthy." Kurenai said, causing Kakashi and Asuma to chuckle at her skirting of Kiba's perverted comments.
Sarutobi gave a gravely 'hmm' of thought as he once more lapsed into silence. After a long time, he asked, "And you say she stopped a fully laden crate from crushing Sakura? By herself?"
Asuma nodded even if his dad couldn't see it. "Yeah. That's what the kids say."
"And did you sense…It's chakra at any time?"
The three Jounin shook their heads, each with a "No".
"I wasn't really looking but I would have sensed It's chakra if it was used. What about you two? Did you sense anything?" Kakashi asked his fellow teachers.
"No." Kurenai said.
"Me neither." Asuma piped up.
Sarutobi thought for a few minutes before asking, "Did you ask Taguri-san about her?"
"We did. Unofficially." Kakashi said cryptically.
"What did he say?" The Hokage asked, understanding that the fishmonger wanted digression with the topic.
"It seems that Naruko is quite famous with the merchants. She takes any old odd job available be it physical labour, a need for a courier or administrative work. Basically if someone needs some help, they go to Naruko. A lot of merchants have done business with her at one point or another." Kurenai informed her leader.
Taking a large puff of his pipe, Sarutobi slowly blew the smoke from his nostrils. He glanced towards the portraits of the past Hokage, settling on one in particular before sighing and lowering himself into his padded leather chair. He drummed his fingers on the table before his eyes settled on Kakashi. "You say two of your students saw Naruko with their own eyes?"
Sarutobi reached over to a pile of blank scrolls before pulling one out and grabbing his ornate fountain pen. He scribbled something down for a minute before grabbing his rubber stamp and applying his seal of approval with a dull bang. He then rolled up the scroll before tossing it to Kakashi who caught it easily. "I am assigning you and your team a mission. It's classed as D-rank but with C-rank pay. I want you to search the village and see if you can find Naruko again."
Kakashi looked at the scroll in his hand for a minute, seemingly in thought, before asking, "May I ask why you want us to find her, Sir?"
Sarutobi thought about it for a moment before deciding that disclosure would be best in this case. "There are things I need to talk to Naruko about. Matters pertaining to her safety."
"Her safety?" Asuma asked.
The Sarutobi Head leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest. "Jiraiya contacted me. As you may or may not know, he has established a network of information contacts throughout the different countries. He told me that a group calling themselves Akatsuki have been making discreet enquiries. They've been asking about the Bijuu; specifically their Jinchuuriki, who they are, where they can be found and what skills they possess. We don't know why they're asking about Jinchuuriki but neither of us believe it is just a case of natural curiosity. Jiraiya is looking for more information but it's been proving hard to come by. This Akatsuki is extremely careful about making sure they leave no traces of themselves behind. We haven't even gotten a description of any of their members. If I am correct and Akatsuki is going to try and capture the Jinchuuriki then we need to be prepared. Naruko needs to be prepared."
"But how?" Kurenai asked after a long stretch of silence. "Prepared in what way?"
"I have several options but I want to run them by Naruko before anything is decided." Sarutobi explained.
"Team 7 will find her, Hokage-sama." Kakashi said confidently as he tucked the scroll containing their orders into his vest pocket.
"Good. I want daily updates. Dismissed."
The next morning, Tenten sat on the railing of the bridge that served as Team 7's usual meeting spot, idly swinging her legs over the side, gazing down at her reflection in the water below as she waited for the rest of her team to arrive.
She didn't have to wait long before she saw Kiba coming along the road, Akamaru trotting along at his feet. He looked a little ruffled, as he always did in the mornings.
"M'rnin'." He tried to say through a jaw cracking yawn.
"Late night?" Tenten asked him as he crossed his arms on the railing, laying his head on them.
"Hana." Kiba grumbled, referring to his older sister. "She had a few of her friends over last night. They were drinking pretty hard and had the stereo on full blast most of the night. Didn't get to sleep until 5.a.m."
Tenten grimaced in sympathy. "Why didn't you ask your mom to tell her to keep it down?"
Kiba snorted. "Who'd you think supplied the booze? She was one of the loudest ones there."
Tenten burst out laughing at the disgruntled look on the teen's face and ruffled his hair, gaining an irritated huff from him. "One day you'll be hosting parties and being the noisy one in the family, Little Kiba."
"Little!?" Kiba asked incredulously but playfully. "I'll have you know, Panda-chan, that there is absolutely nothing little about me."
"I highly doubt that, dobe."
Kiba growled and spun just as their last team mate, Uchiha Sasuke, came strolling onto the bridge, his hands shoved deep in his pockets.
"What did you call me, you moody bastard!?" Kiba shouted, baring his fangs.
Sasuke just scoffed at the feral boy. "No wonder you're the dead last; you can't even understand Japanese."
Kiba growled. "I understand that you're begging for someone to kick your ass."
Sasuke smirked, further angering the other boy. "You couldn't in the academy. What makes you think you could now?"
"Guys, do we have to do this every day?" Tenten sighed. For the last month since they had become a team, the two boys had never said a civil thing to one another, instead bickering as much Sakura and Ino do. Well…almost as much…
Whatever the boys would have said was drowned out by a puff of smoke popping into existence right beside Tenten, nearly causing her to fall into the stream.
"Yo!" Kakashi greeted his team with a wave from where he was crouched on the railing.
"Don't do that!" Tenten screamed in frustration, one hand over her racing heart. Every day since they became a team her sensei like to appear right beside her in the morning, nearly causing her to jump out of her skin every time!
"Sorry." Kakashi apologised but the grin on his face told her that he was anything but.
Before his weapon wielding student could attempt to skin him alive, Kakashi pulled a scroll from his vest. "We have a mission." He told them, becoming slightly more serious. "This one comes straight from the Hokage. It's listed as D-rank but you'll receive C-rank pay upon it's completion."
"What's the mission?" Tenten asked intrigued. If the Hokage had authorised the mission himself and was paying them C-rank pay then it must be important.
"We need to find someone. Specifically, we need to find the girl you met at Taguri's Fishmongers yesterday."
"The one that saved Sakura?" Kiba asked, surprised. "Why."
"Her name's Uzumaki Naruko." Kakashi explained. "Ten years ago, she went missing from the orphanage she grew up in and has been off the radar since. The Hokage wants us to find her then report back to him."
"Why? What's so important about one homeless orphan girl?" Sasuke asked, confused.
Kakashi shrugged nonchalantly. "The reasons are personal but that doesn't matter. We've been ordered to find her for the Hokage. This was a direct order from our supreme commander and we have to comply."
"Okay, so what's first?" Kiba asked, ready to get on with it.
Kakashi fished a small notebook from his vest and opened it to a blank page. "First we need an image to go on. Tenten and Kiba, since you two actually talked with Naruko we need you to help with the sketch."
It took a little while but before too long they had an accurate picture of Naruko to go on. Kakashi had all three of them memorise it and when he was sure they wouldn't forget, he bit his thumb before running through a small chain of hand seals.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
There was another burst of smoke except this time three nin-dogs appeared before Kakashi, each wearing Konoha ninja paraphernalia.
"Yo, Kakashi, long time no see." The smallest dog, a little pug, said, it's paw raised in greeting.
"Hey, Pakkun." Kakashi nodded back. Turning to his students, he told them, "These are my summons. Guys, I want you to go with my students. We're trying to find a girl and your noses will be a big help. Do you think you can help me?"
"Sure." Pakkun nodded before walking over to Tenten. "Hey, name's Pakkun."
"Hello, Pakkun-san. Call me Tenten." She smiled back, a little bemused at talking with a dog.
The dog that went over to Kiba gave him a small yap of greetings but Akamaru didn't seem too approving of this newcomer muscling it's way into his territory. He seemed to calm slightly after the summon barked a few things to him and the dogs got on well from there on.
Sasuke accepted his companion without a word.
"Alright, intelligence we gained says that Naruko is well known by the merchants in the village. She performs any odd jobs that are going so she may be working today. You could also try the parks, markets, stores or places like that. Tenten said Naruko mentioned she hurt her shoulder yesterday so I'm going to check out the hospital and see if she went there at any point. If you find her, send your summon to come fetch me and keep on Naruko. We only need to find her so under no circumstances try to restrain her or bring her in. Other than that just be careful." Kakashi seemed to be looking at Sasuke as he mentioned the 'No Apprehending' rule.
The Uchiha child scoffed. "How dangerous can she be?"
"She did catch a half-ton crate by herself yesterday and with little effort I might add." Tenten pointed out.
Sasuke just 'hn-ed' and crossed his arms.
"Okay, we'll search for a few hours and if we don't find anything we'll call it a day and try again tomorrow. Dismissed." With that, Kakashi vanished in a burst of smoke as the three Genin and their animal companions split up to search the massive village for the wayward redhead.
The first day had been a bust. It seemed that no one had seen or heard from Naruko at all that day but there were those who had heard of her. Most were merchants who had only good things to say about the girl. While it seemed that they didn't know her from a personal standpoint, they did say that her work ethic was admirable and each spoke reverently of her strength. They were a little wary of the ninja looking for the quiet, hardworking girl and were hesitant to help, fearing they could land her in trouble.
Still, there were others, mostly civilians the Genin had asked during moments of frustration, who didn't seem to care too much for the illusive redhead. When questioned, the villager in question would frown, give a curt denial of knowing the girl and left without another word. The Genin thought this strange but didn't pursue it. They looked all over the village for any sign of the Uzumaki girl but found nothing.
It was a weary and tired group of teens that were dismissed from the Hokage's office later that night after giving their reports. They each split up without a word, each desiring nothing more that a hot meal and a comfy bed for the night.
Tomorrow the search would continue.
The next day Naruko was sitting outside a small convenience store with a ragged looking backpack sitting at her feet as she waited. It wasn't long before she saw the store's elderly owner shuffle out with a large pile of forms in his hands and she stood to meet him.
"Ah, Naruko-chan." The old man said when he saw her. He seemed lost for a moment before asking, "Why are you here again?"
"You hired me to deliver order forms to the merchants at the warehouses, Doka-san." Naruko reminded him, used to the old man's failing memory by now.
"Ah yes!" The man exclaimed. He handed her the forms. "I need you to deliver these to the merchants at the warehouses so I can get my new stock."
She tucked the forms into her backpack and zipped it shut. "I understand, Doka-san."
"Good, good." The shopkeeper nodded before his eyes scrunched in confusion as he peered at the girl. "Who're you again?"
"I'm Naruko, Doka-san. You hired me to deliver your order forms."
"Well, what are you still doing here?" He asked her, waving her away before shaking his head and shuffling back into his store muttering, "Kids these days. So lazy. Have to beat them with a stick to get them to do anything."
Naruko ignored the elderly man and turned to run down the street. She slipped between the milling villagers, swerving around stalls and the occasional carriage as she made her way through the village. She used her extensive knowledge of the village's back streets to cut down on her time. While she wasn't on the level of a ninja when it came to travelling, she had developed a habit of free running when she was in a hurry.
She easily scaled a chain fence before leaping off it and landing on a trashcan which she used to springboard herself out of the alley, neatly jumping over the wheelbarrow full of watermelons that had been in the way, before passing over a small fence that cordoned off one of Konoha's many parks. She cut between the trees, her feet kicking up a trail of leaves in her wake, the whishing sound of the passing trees filling her ears like the hissing of angry snakes. Skipping over a fallen tree, she broke the tree line and passed the joggers on the concrete path that wormed through the park, passing them with more speed than any civilian should possess.
As she approached the opposite fence to the other side of the village, she brought her hands forward and used them to flip herself over the railing before continuing on, never once faltering in her pace when she noticed a problem. The streets ahead of her were packed. It would take a while to get through there.
Suddenly her sharp eyes spotted a stack of crates piled up at the side of a low building. Making up her mind, she altered her course and ran up the stack before jumping and grabbing hold of the edge of the roof. She pulled herself up and took off once more. There were no gaps between the buildings and they were roughly the same height so it was no problem for the nimble civilian to traverse them.
As she leapt from the Post Office to Ruki's Curtains, she glanced over the skyline. Dominating the scene was the Hokage Monument, the Hokage Tower and the Hospital. In the distance she could see ninja pouncing from building to building, faster and farther than she could. She'd have to get down before they saw her. Civilians weren't allowed on the roofs.
She continued on for nearly ten minutes before the large warehouses came into sight and she dropped down from the roofs, crouching to absorb the impact. She slowed her pace, nodding to the guards at the gates before continuing on into the hustle and bustle of the warehouse district. Forklifts carried heavy loads between the buildings and dozens of workers lifted supplies out onto waiting carts, shouted instructions to each other or sat in a group, talking as they ate their lunches.
Naruko dropped off the first batch of order forms to Sarimo's Fruit Market before continuing on to stop at Taka Dairy, Taguri's Fishmongers and Old Hariku's Distillery. By the time they were all delivered it was well past noon. Naruko stopped at Doka's store to collect her pay (Which took a while thanks to the aging man's failing memory. Thankfully his wife was there to help).
"Thank you, Doka-san." She gave a small bow. "Call on me again if you need any help." She bought a few necessities like soap and shampoo with her newly earned cash and left. A few minutes later a raven haired teen with the Uchiha fan stitched onto the back of his shirt entered and asked the old owner if he'd ever seen anyone named Uzumaki Naruko.
Doka couldn't remember ever hearing that name and Uchiha Sasuke left the store, becoming rather agitated with this pointless mission.
Maito Gai sighed as he led two thirds of his team into the Hokage Tower after their latest mission. The objective was to lead their client from a small village near the border with Kusa and escort him and his family to the shoreline where they would board a ship to carry them across the water to Kumo. However while en route they were ambushed by a large gang of bandits. While ordinarily bandits were no match for ninja there was the matter that the single female element of their team didn't fully commit herself to training as much as her team mates. She ended up with some serious injuries from the battle and as a result they had to send for replacements to continue on with the mission while they got her back to Konoha to receive treatment. As a result they had forfeit their pay. The money was not too big of an issue but the idea of having to hand over their mission to someone else to complete was never something a ninja liked doing. He sighed again. He'd have to talk with the Hokage about yet another replacement.
"Hokage-sama will see you now, Gai-san." The young secretary said with a kind smile.
"Thank you, Miko-san." Gai gave a small bow of thanks and led his two healthy students passed the Anbu guards and into the spacious office of the greatest warrior in Fire Country.
"Gai." Sarutobi greeted as Team Gai stood at attention before his desk. "I hear one of your students was injured on your mission. What happened exactly?"
"We were three days into the mission when the caravan was attacked by a group of bandits just as we were passing the Maijin Mountains. With the numbers in the attack we believe they may have a base of operations in the area. They attacked simultaneously from either side of the road, leaping down from the trees, armed with spears, swords, clubs; the usual. We acted immediately with myself and Lee engaging them head on while Neji and Hisuka defended the client and his family. With his Byakugan and Jyuuken, Neji managed to keep most of the bandits at bay but Hisuka…" He sighed. "Sir, she panicked and one of the enemy managed to get behind her and wound her with his dagger which was coated in poison; a kind of arachnid venom if I'm not mistaken. Once the battle was over I cleaned the wound as best I could but she was delirious from fever and it was clear she would only become more ill if left untreated. I sent a messenger hawk back to the village with a request for someone to relieve us and we returned to get Hisuka medical attention." He stood silent when he finished his story.
Sarutobi sighed and leaned back in his chair as he took up his pipe. With a quick flick a match was lit and he held the flame to the dried leaves in the end of the pipe as he puffed before snuffing out the match and tossing it into the wastebasket. "I take it you want to suggest Hisuka be dropped from the program?"
Gai nodded, his face contrite. "I'm afraid so. She just doesn't seem to have what it takes to be a ninja."
Sarutobi nodded with a sigh. "What does that make it? Five replacements?"
Gai nodded, shamefaced.
"Don't beat yourself up about it, Gai, none of this is your fault. It's better that we drop them now than you having to visit their parents and explain how their child died on a mission. If they don't have what it takes then they should forget about being a ninja." He shook his head. "I'll visit Hisuka and her parents later on. Our biggest problem will be finding her replacement. The kunoichi scores from last year are among the lowest we've ever seen. At this rate we're going to have to start looking at students who passed in other years but are still waiting for placement. Go get some rest, all of you. I'll summon you when I've got something."
Gai nodded and led his team out of the Hokage Tower where he turned to them. "Go home and meet me tomorrow at our training grounds. It's about the only thing we can do without a fourth team mate."
"Hai, Gai-sensei." They said as they split off, each heading in different directions towards their homes.
With a sigh, Gai turned towards his own secluded training spot, feeling the need to work off some of his frustration. When, he wondered, would his team ever be complete?
"This is pointless." Sasuke finally said. He and his team were currently walking towards the warehouse district in search of any clue as to where they could find their target. It was currently the fourth consecutive day of searching and they had yet to find anything that would lead them to the girl. "We've been looking all over for this girl and we still haven't found anything. We should be training or going on a mission not looking for some lowlife."
"We are on a mission, Sasuke." Kakashi reminded him, not looking up from his book.
"I meant a real mission." Sasuke replied, annoyed.
"Hokage-sama issued it to us so that makes it a real mission. Enough whining, we need to be on the lookout for any sign of her." Said Kakashi. He tucked away his book and turned to his team. "I'm going to check in at the gatehouses and see if anyone matching Naruko's description left the village in the last few days. You three continue on towards the warehouse district and take another look around." With that he vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving his three students alone.
When they arrived at the warehouses, they began to go through the same routine they had for the last four days. They asked people if they knew Naruko, if they had seen her in the past few days, if they knew where she lived. Sadly no one seemed to know anything about Naruko other than that she was a good worker. Either that or they were being deliberately uncooperative in order to protect her, even when the ninja assured them that she was in no trouble.
"If you don't know where to find her then how do you call her when you have work for her?" Tenten challenged one foreman.
"The girl just knows when she's needed." He said cryptically and walked off.
Tenten groaned in annoyance and frustration and flopped down onto a pile of timber as Sasuke and Kiba walked up to her, equal looks of defeat on their faces. They plopped down beside her and they silently watched the workers filter by, each lost in their own thoughts.
Currently, Tenten was thinking about their target. 'How can it be so hard to find one person? Even in a village the size of Konoha someone must have seen her. Red is a pretty rare hair colour here and how many people have three whisker marks on each cheek? She's apparently well known by the merchants but no one will help us find her. ARGH! This is annoying the hell out of me! Where is this girl? She's not registered as renting any apartments, none of the other homeless know her and none of the shelters have ever seen her come in. Where would a homeless girl live where she's seen by no one? Does she even have a set place to sleep or does she just sleep where she lays down for the night? Wait, there are plenty of shady apartment buildings in this village and I'll bet that not all of them keep up to date records. She could even be living under a false name.' She mentally groaned. 'We'll never find her at this rate. Why does Hokage-sama care so much about finding this one person anyway?'
She sighed, rubbing her temples. "Lets go ask at the Military Police headquarters, maybe they have a file on her."
The other two grunted and followed her towards the main building of the city police force.
Sadly that too was a bust. The ninja at the front desk checked the database and they had never arrested anyone named Uzumaki Naruto nor had she ever been connected to a crime or filed any charges with them.
The Genin left the building, their hopes at an all time low.
Now they sat on a bench in one of Konoha's many parks, gazing out across the pond where many others congregated, enjoying the summer sun.
Tenten lazily tossed bits of a ration bar for the ducks while Kiba petted a snoozing Akamaru while the pup lay on his lap. Sasuke just sat staring into space.
Tenten sighed, her head lolling back to look up at the clear blue sky. "That's it. I give up. We'll never find her."
"We need to." Kiba grumbled. "It reflects badly on us to abandon a mission. We just have to keep looking."
Tenten covered her face with both hands and screamed with frustration before removing her hands and shouting to the sky, "Does anyone know where the hell we can find Uzumaki Naruko!?"
"Did you say Uzumaki?"
The three Genin spun in their seats to see a large man with a black moustache wearing the dark green jumpsuit that all Environmental Control workers had to wear, luminescent silver strips running around their wrists and chests so that people could see them if they were ever working at night or in the sewers.
"Yes, we're looking for her. Do you know where we can find her?" Tenten asked, barely able to keep her excitement in check. After days of fruitless searching they might finally have a lead!
"No." The man shook his head.
The Genin sagged over the bench. They didn't know whether to cry or scream. It was hopeless.
"But I know where she'll be."
Or maybe not. The ninja looked up at the man, their looks half curious half pleading. "Where?" Sasuke all but demanded.
"Why are you looking for her?" The man asked, folding his arms across his chest.
"Please, sir, the Hokage himself issued us with a mission to find Uzumaki Naruko. We've been looking for days and still can't find her." Tenten said diplomatically, seeing that Kiba was ready to tear into the man.
"Hmph!" The man snorted. "Maybe the Hokage will finally do something about that wretched little menace."
"Menace?" Tenten asked. 'Nobody ever said anything about that.'
"Yeah, menace. That girl is nothing but trouble. I should know. The little bitch ruined my life."
"What do you mean?" Kiba asked.
"I used to own a stall in the fruit market; a pretty successful one too. My goods were some of the best money could buy. One day I was minding my own business when all of a sudden someone wearing a pretty fancy cloak shows up. Here's me thinking "Lookie here! A brand new rich customer all for me!". I was about to make a sales pitch when the person underneath the cloak looked up at me and wouldn't you know it, it's that damn Uzumaki bitch! Then the little slip of a girl holds up one of my own bags of apples and there was a rip in the netting! Before I could tear her a new one, she starts ranting and raving for all the market to hear, saying that she was a servant from some noble's house and that she bought the apples from me earlier that day for a dinner party and that one of the guests found a fully grown worm in one of the apple cores. Utter shit! She tosses the bag and me, turns around and leaves leaving me standing there with a half empty bag of apples and a stall full of fruit that no one will buy! By the end of the week word had spread and suddenly everyone acted like my stall was invisible. I had to sell my space, toss perfectly good stock in the trash and take this crappy job. In five minutes I went from one of the most successful stall owners in the market to a fucking river cleaner all because of Uzumaki Naruko!" The man was pacing by the end of his rant, his face an angry red.
"Wait, why would she do that?" Tenten asked, confused.
"Because she's been nothing but trouble since the day she was born." The man said irritably. "I swear, no wonder she's an orphan. Her parents probably knew what a little monster she was and just tossed her into the streets. I wouldn't blame them if they did."
Tenten frowned at that. There were things that didn't add up but she chose not to pursue it for now. "Can you tell us where to find her, sir?"
The man looked irritated. "I just did. The market, every week like clockwork. Trust me, she'll be there."
"Thank you, sir, you've been a big help." Tenten thanked him and they watched as the man lumbered off across the park.
"Alright!" Kiba exclaimed in excitement. "The marketplace! What day is it open again?"
"Sunday." Tenten told him. "My mom usually goes there and she used to take me with her when I was little."
"We should tell Kakashi." Sasuke said as he stood from the bench. "It's Saturday today so we tell him what we've found, go get the girl tomorrow and then we can finally end this pointless mission."
The other two shrugged and followed their team mate towards the gates to fetch their teacher.
When Sunday finally arrived, Team 7 sat perched on the roofs surrounding the market, watching for the telltale shock of red hair of their target. They were each equipped with a headset for easy communication and even Akamaru had a nin-dog variation of the technology developed by the Inuzuka clan. Kakashi sat on top of a water tower while Tenten was hidden behind some crates on the building across from him. Sasuke was sat between vents in the roof of the building to his right and Kiba and Akamaru were lying on the flat roof to his left, theirs being the only building with no cover. All four sides of the square were covered.
"Do you see anything yet?" Kakashi asked his students as his one visible eye scanned the crowd below him.
"Nothing here." Came Tenten's reply over the headset.
"I don't see her." Sasuke's cool voice spoke back.
"I don't see her either." Kiba grumbled. They'd been here since the market opened at 4.a.m! "That old man had better not have been lying to us."
"I doubt he did." Tenten said back. "He seemed pretty agitated when we mentioned her name plus he had no reason to lie."
"Yeah well all I know is my legs are beginning to fall asleep and we've yet to catch a glimpse of any redheads." The boy replied as he fidgeted, trying to increase the circulation in his legs. He sighed in frustration. "When the hell is that girl--wait! I think I see her! The entrance nearest the burger stand!"
Kakashi leaned forward to get a better look. He could see the red hair moving through the crowds but couldn't see the face clearly. "I can't see her face from here. Kiba, Tenten, is that our girl?"
Tenten peered closer as she tried to see but the person turned slightly which allowed her to see their face. "Kakashi-sensei, that's her! That's definitely Uzumaki Naruko."
"Are you sure?" Kakashi asked, still trying to see her face.
"Positive. She has the same short red hair and she's got the whisker marks too."
"Tenten's right." Kiba said. "That's her." Akamaru gave a yip of agreement beside him.
"I'd know whether to agree or not if I could just see--" Kakashi let out an inaudible gasp as the crowds parted enough to catch a glimpse of the person's face. 'My God. Her face is a little more angular but she looks just like her mother.'
It was true. Looking at her now it was easy to see who her parents were. While Kushina's eyes had been large pools of ocean blue and Minato's had been narrowed and more of a darker blue, Naruko's looked like a perfect blend of the two, giving her a very feline look. Coupled with the smooth lines of her jaw, high cheekbones, slim neck, thin eyebrows and the famed Uzumaki red hair, Naruko was already a rare beauty. If this was an indication of things to come then men from all over Fire Country and maybe even beyond would be falling over themselves for a chance to court the young lady.
"That's definitely her. There's no mistaking it." Kakashi muttered.
"Huh? What do you mean, Kakashi-sensei?" Tenten asked, confused.
Kakashi realised his mistake. "Nothing, Tenten. Keep your eyes on her at all times and make sure to stay out of sight. We don't want to scare her. Our orders are to shadow her only." Kakashi discretely bit his thumb and reached down to his side where he summoned Pakkun. He turned to the little pug. "Pakkun, I need you to go to the Hokage and tell him we've found Naruko."
"Sure thing." The dog nodded before racing away across the rooftops.
Kakashi turned back to the market where Naruto was going from stall to stall, examining each of the wares in turn with the look of someone who knew what they wanted and would accept no substitute. She picked up some of the foodstuffs, looking at it closely and if it passed her rigorous screening process, she then bought it and moved on, never buying more than one thing from any one stall.
As she went about her business, Kakashi couldn't help but notice the way she moved. No, not in a perverted way. Naruko's entire demeanour simply screamed "self-control". Her every twitch seemed to be carefully thought out and perfectly executed and she seemed aware of all everything within her immediate vicinity. Kakashi found this fascinating. Such behaviour was usually only seen in the most experienced of Jounin or sometimes in veteran samurai. For a civilian to be able to carry themselves with such complete control was amazing. What was even more amazing was the fact that he couldn't read her at all. Usually he could tell what people were thinking or feeling by the subtle twitched in their face or their body or their eyes but Naruko gave away nothing. Her face was completely calm and controlled. The closest thing to an emotion she showed was the very slight downturn at the corners of her mouth, not enough to be a full frown but enough to show that she wasn't the pleasant or friendly type of calm. She was the "Just get out of my way and leave me alone" calm.
"Guys, stay on her but don't let her know you're following her." Kakashi ordered as Naruko finished up her shopping and headed towards the exit. The four ninja leapt from rooftop to rooftop, their eyes locked on the beautiful redhead making her way through the throngs of people. The Genin in particular seemed to be watching her closer than was necessary. They'd been searching high and low for this girl for the better part of a week and they weren't about to loose her now!
They followed her through the village, the surroundings becoming more and more run down as they approached the less well off sections of the village. This place had more litter, a few boarded up windows and even some shops of questionable innocence.
Suddenly, Naruko turned off the main road and into a little side street mostly filled with boxes except for a little café called Nemu's Café. It was tiny and not the cleanest place but seemed nice enough. The ninja actually had to drop down from the rooftops and take shelter in the alley across the street from the café where they could see through the window without giving themselves away.
Naruko walked up to the counter where a teenage girl who looked to be a few years older than her sat on a stool, reading a magazine as she absently blew her bubblegum. She looked up as Naruko approached.
"A roll and scone, please." Naruko asked politely. The slightly older teen nodded and went to put her order together as Naruko took a seat at one of the small tables, setting her bag of groceries down at her side. She idly tapped her fingers on the wood as she waited. About five minutes later, the waitress arrived with her order, which she took with a nod of thanks before digging in.
It was particularly tasty, Naruko thought. It was one of the reasons she liked this place, other than it being quiet, out of the way and tolerant of the fact that she ate there. As was her custom, she covered the scone in hot sauce. She always did have a taste for spicy things, the spicier the better.
When she finished, she had just got up to the counter to pay when the door was kicked open. Three burly men charged in, their faces covered by balaclavas and in their hands were clutched wicked looking knives. They spread out, with two covering the two or three patrons and the third heading straight for the counter where the waitress was huddled, terrified.
"Open that till and give us all the money, now!" He barked, brandishing his knife at her. The near hysterical girl scrambled to comply, her fingers shaking madly as she attempted to work the buttons on the register. After a few tries she finally managed to succeed and shoved the few notes that had been inside towards the robber who stuffed them inside his coat pocket.
The other two had been going for the customers, ordering them to empty their watches, wallets and jewellery into the bags they carried.
"Oho!" One exclaimed when he reached Naruko, his eyes raking up and down her body. "Look what we have here. A cute little redhead all by her lonesome. How about it, baby, put your money in the bag like a nice little girl?" He asked, a smirk evident in his voice as he proffered the bag towards her.
The other one who had been harassing the customers snorted from across the room. "Look at her clothes, idiot. I doubt she even has enough to pay for whatever it is she ate here."
"That's no problem." The man smirked as he sauntered up to Naruko, who just stared at him impassively. Wrapping one arm around her tiny waist, he pulled her close, his knife teasing the tight fabric of her shirt that stretched between her breasts. "I'm sure we can work out some other kind of payment, can't we, sugar?"
"I suggest you let me go." Naruko advised calmly, as if this were an everyday occurrence.
The man tilted his head as if contemplating it before shaking his head. The hand around her waist slithered up until it cupped her breast through her thin t-shirt which the robber enjoyed all the more when he realised she wasn't wearing a bra. "Nah. We're gonna have some fun tonight, Red."
Naruko sighed resignedly.
Her hand flashed up to wrap around the hand holding the knife and she twisted under his arm. The man cried out as his face impacted the solid wood of the table with a loud thud, causing him to see stars as his arm was jerked so far behind his back that he feared it would be ripped out of its socket. He screamed in pain as Naruko grabbed his hair and pulled his head back so she could speak into his ear.
"I did warn you."
She slammed his head against the table, breaking his nose and knocking him out at the same time.
Naruko looked up to see the other robber coming at her. She grabbed the empty sauce bottle from the table and launched it right at him, shattering the thick glass against his face. The man's legs flew out from underneath him and he fell to the floor, unconscious just as the third criminal came running forward from the counter.
Naruko let go of the man she had pinned to the table and turned to meet the attack head on as the large man brought his knife down in a reverse grip. In one fluent motion, Naruko's two hands wrapped around his wrist and she pulled him over into a perfect hip toss, slamming him into the tiled floor with enough force to make the entire café shake.
Naruko brushed a strand of red hair behind her ear, turning to the young waitress who was peeking over the counter, tear streaks running down her face. "You should call ninja in to apprehend these three." She laid her money on the counter, grabbed her groceries and left the café, not noticing the four ninja in the shadow of the alley across the street.
Kakashi let go of Tenten and Kiba's arms. The two young ninja had attempted to rush the café when the three robbers started raiding the place. Technically, they should have acted the second the criminals started brandishing the knives but Kakashi had wanted to see how Naruko could handle herself. If he was needed, he could have been in that café and laid out those three lowlifes in a second but it appeared that his interference wasn't required. He thought so. A girl as good looking as Naruko had to have learned to take care of herself living on the streets. And she took care of herself very well it seemed, he noted with pride in his sensei's daughter.
"Let's go." He told them, directing them towards the path Naruko took.
"But what about those three?" Kiba asked, looking back at the café, talking about the criminals within.
Poof! A clone appeared beside Kakashi and headed for the cafe. "Don't worry about them. Our mission is to shadow Naruko. C'mon." They took to the roofs as they continued to follow Naruko into further into the run down section of the village.
"Hey, Kakashi-sensei." Tenten called as they flew across the rooftops. "What happens next? Do we talk with this girl or what?"
"Hokage-sama only ordered us to follow her, not engage her in any way." Kakashi answered, his eye not leaving Naruko's back.
"So our mission is just to stalk this girl through the village?" Sasuke asked, quite annoyed. He hadn't been searching all over the village and talked with what had to be every single person in the village only to not meet the girl who demanded so much attention.
"Your mission was to find her so that I may talk to her, Sasuke." The four ninja stumbled ungracefully to a stop and turned to see Sarutobi Hiruzen standing atop a pole near them. The old man leapt off the pole and onto their roof silently.
"Hokage-sama!" Kakashi exclaimed, surprised. "I didn't even sense you coming."
"Well I do have some experience with sneaking around, Kakashi." Sarutobi replied with a smirk as the veteran Jounin blushed, scratching the back of his head, embarrassed.
"Of course, sir. I suppose you're here to talk with her?"
Sarutobi nodded, surprising the Genin. Usually if someone as important as the Hokage wanted to talk with someone he'd summon them to his office. If he was taking time out of his busy schedule to come and meet someone at their home (Or wherever it was that this homeless girl lived) it must have been important.
"What are we waiting for then?" Kiba asked as he prepared to take off after Naruko again. The Hokage's hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Sorry, Kiba, but this conversation is both extremely personal and classified." Sarutobi told the young Inuzuka with a smile.
That surprised the three Genin a great deal. What was so secret that the Hokage needed to talk about with a civilian that but was too important for ninja to hear? The mystery surrounding Uzumaki just became a whole lot more intriguing.
"What? So we turn this village over searching for this girl and we don't even get to see how this whole thing ends!?" Sasuke asked incredulously.
"Sasuke!" Kakashi barked but stopped when Sarutobi raised a hand, cutting him off. The older ninja turned to the last loyal Uchiha in the village.
"Sasuke, there are many times when a mission doesn't go the way you want it to go. Sometimes it is simply an order to pull back, to let a suspect go, or even when orders to attack a target are given. This is one of those times. The things I need to talk to Naruko about are not only very personal but classified too. Plus I don't think she'd appreciate it much if she found out that ninja have been going around asking questions about her then following her home. The questions alone may hurt her chances of finding work given what she does for a living. Approaching her by myself would be best." Sarutobi said kindly but sternly; a leader giving his soldier an order.
Sasuke backed down but the scowl on his face told them he wasn't happy about it.
Sarutobi looked at Kakashi. "Come to my office tomorrow for the debriefing. I'd better catch up to Naruko before we lose her again." With that he vanished from the roof, leaving behind Kakashi with some rather let down students.
"Don't let it upset you. This is our job and you did it wonderfully. I think it's easy to say that this mission is a success." He said with a smile, trying to cheer them up.
"Yeah, we did kick ass with this mission, didn't we?" Kiba said with a chuckle, his boasting breaking the mood like he intended.
Tenten chuckled and smacked his shoulder lightly. "Learn some modesty, you braggart."
"Ain't bragging if it's true, babe." He grinned, buffing his nails on his jacket.
Kakashi shook his head with a fond smile at his two students. "Let's break up for the day. We'll get in some training before the debriefing tomorrow then get another mission."
The team parted ways but even though they had been a little appeased with not being able to see the mission through to the very end, they each had one question running through their minds.
What was the mystery behind Uzumaki Naruko?
Sarutobi shadowed the young redhead through the bad part of town, noting that she seemed completely at ease amidst the rougher edges of society. She eventually paused outside an alley beside an abandoned apartment building and glanced around to make sure no one was watching. Sarutobi actually had to scramble to hid when her eyes snapped up to the rooftops, not thinking a civilian would have mind enough to watch for ninja on the roofs.
He had a moment of shock when she looked directly at the group of shadows he hid amongst, her icy eyes narrowing as she scrutinized the rooftop. Seemingly finding nothing out of the ordinary, she turned and vanished into the alley where she slid open a camouflaged door in the fence and disappeared into the courtyard behind the apartments, vanishing from his line of sight. Sarutobi leapt to an adjacent building where he saw something surprising.
A shack was built atop the middle apartment and he hadn't even noticed it before. Its positioning on the roof hid it from prying eyes from below and it appeared to blend in with the tarnished properties around it, camouflaging it from prying eyes on the roofs around it. This place had been built by a ninja, it was obvious but by the look of ware on the wood that made up the home said that it had been there for years before Naruko was born.
He watched as Naruko ascended a set of rickety concrete stairs behind the buildings before disappearing into the old shack, closing the door behind her.
Naruko placed her groceries on the coffee table, taking out the frozen goods and placing them in the freezer lest they thaw. Stretching, she rolled her shoulder, feeling the pain from a few days ago gone. She fished around in her back pocket for a moment before withdrawing a very dog-eared little black book. Flipping it open, she flicked the pages until she came to the most recently used page. The book was filled with names, places, phone numbers, dates, times, prices and small comments on each of the jobs she had taken that entire year, with small ticks next to the ones she had completed while a few more jobs were left unmarked. Looking, she noted that her next client was Mrs. Hashimako Uzumi, the owner of a small diner. Uzumi-san wanted Naruko to help her set up a new set of hotplates as well as building a counter to set them up. The pay would be generous and would see her living comfortably for the next month or two. The only problem, she saw in her notes, was that Uzumi-san had no tools which she could borrow. That was okay, she had her own set. It was one of the first things she bought when she started taking these jobs.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
Naruko froze. In the ten years she had called this place home, that door had never once been knocked. One of the most crucial things she ever did was make sure that no one knew where she lived. If a client wanted to talk to her, she went to them and of one of her current clients knew someone who might have work for her, she went to meet them. She had no friends that she could invite over and she had never even given romance a thought so that explanation was out. She was the only person who knew where she lived and no one knew about the Shack.
Meaning her door should never be knocked.
The question now was what would she do. Would she open it? Who could it be? What would they want? Despite her cool composure, she couldn't help but feel a little sliver of anger and unease. The Shack was her home, her sanctuary and had been since she was a little girl. She didn't like the idea of strangers invading the one place she called her own. Here she could do what she wanted, say what she wanted and be who she wanted to be, away from the eyes of the village.
Slowly and silently, she went to her kitchen and withdrew from a drawer an old but very sharp knife. Holding it in a reverse grip behind her back, she inched towards the door, her bare feet pattering silently on the threadbare carpets that covered her floor, inching around the spots she knew were creaky, and took hold of the door handle, gathering her nerves. She redoubled her grip on her knife. Took a few deep breaths. Then jerked the door open.
She stopped short, her eyes widened in an expression that would have been comical if you'd known her long enough, as she stared dumbly at the person in front of her. She didn't recognise the face but she recognised the robes. You'd have to be blind not to.
After a few long moments she finally managed a simple, "Hello, Hokage-sama."
A/N: There you go. I'm actually rather excited about this story and was surprised by how much just seemed to flow from my head, into the keyboard and onto the screen.
Just a few things I'll comment on. Tenten is one year younger than cannon just as Naruko is one year older than cannon, meaning the Kyuubi attack took place a year earlier too.
Naruko never attended the academy but if she did she would have graduated in Lee and Neji's class the year before this story is set.
Her freakish strength is NOTthrough chakra manipulation; it is all her. Her strength is one of the very few exaggerations I will use in this story. It will be one of her key characteristics, just like Tsunade's strength and Lee and Gai's speed.
Tenten is on Team 7 as is Kiba (Obviously). She and Sasuke were the top students in their class with Kiba being the one with the lowest scores.
The Military Police, after the Uchiha Massacre, was taken over by other ninja to police the village.
The village is more of a military base than a village with ninja and the ninja system has a more military personae.
Well, that's all for now. The next chapter may be a while what with my other updates and the size of the chapters. Then again, it may be only a week. Who knows?
Please review and tell me what you think.