The second ambush attempt didn't go nearly as well as the first.

In hindsight, they probably should have expected that. After all, it was just the three of them against a significantly larger group of ninja. Still the usually cool and collected Radiou could not be dissuaded from this course of action and as of a result Naruto was pulled in to the plan by default. Still he would have personally gone about it in a different manner. A distraction in the form of a plain out assault was certainly not the way to go.

And why am I the one who has to start it off? The blond internally complained as he whipped through a large set of seals at the double the speed than what he would have been able to accomplish just a few short months prior. It's his plan and he more than likely knows more ninjutsu than I do. Just because I have chakra to spare doesn't mean I like wasting it like this.

Sometimes he really hated his overly large chakra reserves. Still he had a job to do and would damn sure do it in the biggest way possible. Which was actually surprisingly big for someone his size and supposed skill level. Also: He was Uzumaki Naruto.

Which meant he gave zero fucks.

Fuuton: Atsugi! (Wind Release: Pressure Damage)

When Jiraiya had left the blond with a scroll of ninjutsu to practice in his spare time Naruto had internally cheered. Although he had matured quite a bit in the last few months he was still the same person at heart. And like all young ninjas he was greatly interested in the idea of being a ninjutsu specialist. The difference now being that he had the knowledge to go along with the ever growing chakra control necessary to obtain that goal. So naturally, when given access to new techniques, Naruto went to the far end of the spectrum and started there.

Which meant first focusing on the most destructive ninjutsu available.

The already powerful and rare wind technique was further enhanced by his potent chakra and natural affinity. A swirl of wind chakra so powerful it distorted the very air in front of the blond came in to existence a full three seconds before the ninjutsu fired off. There was a brief pause before the technique suddenly detonated in the form of a massive gale. Naruto grinned as he hunched on to all fours and used his chakra to root himself on to a tree branch. It was always fun to see the effects of his hard work put in to action.

"Damn it Uzumaki!" The irritated voice of Radiou attempted to yell out over the sudden raging winds. "I said scatter them! Not outright wipe them out!"

The blond resisted the urge to grin wider. If the man wanted it done a specific way he should have done it himself. Besides, he was sure that bitch of a teammate would never talk down about him again after this particular showing. No innate talent indeed. Let's see her pull something like this off without breaking a sweat.

Still Naruto's job had been done and the opening attack had gone to them. As the winds died down the blond took a moment to close his eyes and extend his chakra sensing skills. There had been a group of seven combatants rushing headlong towards them before he had unleashed his devastating technique. The information his second Uchiha teammate (because he was extra lucky in getting to put up with one of them again) had obtained detailed the reason for this sudden incursion by these Ame shinobi.

Apparently a group of ninja from the hidden rain, led by a man named Rukusho Aoi, had infiltrated the village with the help of a rouge faction from within hidden waterfall. The lack of patrols the leaf trio had encountered on their way in to Taki territory had been due to a simple fact: They were all dead. Killed in various ambushes set up with the knowledge given out by waterfall village traitors. With in-depth knowledge on the patrol routes and tactics made readily available it had been child's play for the invading Ame ninja to clear a path in to the waterfall village.

Their goal was simple; an exchange of mutual favors. The Ame shinobi were after the little known Hero Water, a substance Naruto knew well, which could temporarily give a massive increase in chakra to the user in exchange for personal health. Apparently the man in charge wanted to use the dangerous supplement in order to increase his own abilities. What for Akashi could not find but given the fact that Rukusho was a former leaf-ninja who had turned traitor it was clear that whatever it was wasn't good.

In return the traitors from Taki wanted something simple; an assassination. There was a person in Taki that they wanted dead. Someone who they had seemingly put up with enough to this point and where willing to do anything to get rid of. Even if that meant going against the orders of the village leadership and giving up a village secret in exchange for the deed.

In hindsight Naruto should have probably figured it out.

There were only so many people who could garner so much hatred. And the fact that they're own mission had been to deliver important information regarding a potential threat to the hidden waterfall village should have been enough of a tip off. It honestly hadn't occurred to him why the small village would need a warning until his teammate had successfully interrogated their capture. There was only one reason Taki had to be worried about an eventual attack by the Akatsuki and it was for the same reason Konoha was on edge.

A jinchuuriki.

The blond briefly wondered who it was. During his initial trip to hidden waterfall he hadn't come across anyone of his ilk. And he would have indeed noticed if someone had been treated with the same disgust he himself was subjected to day after day in the hidden leaf. Added to the fact that if Taki had a jinchuuriki of their own they would have more than likely deployed the weapon during that critical time led the young chunnin to come to the idea that the other bijuu vessel hadn't been present during his first trip to the hidden waterfall. A shame really as he was curious to see if he was the only sane demon host.

So far the other two that he knew of, one that he had personally met, hadn't set the bar too high.

But that was for another time.

The blond opened his eyes as a wave of senbon began to descended upon him. With a burst of chakra channeled through all four extremities the young chunnin back-flipped in to the air and out of the path of the projectiles. He landed on to the ground in a crouched skid as he looked up to see six figures slinking out of what remained of the surrounding forest. A half second later and the blond's own two teammates dropped in to place behind him.

"Uzumaki." Radiou's tense voice whispered from somewhere off to his right side. "How much chakra did you use in that ninjutsu?"

The blond had to resist the urge to roll his eyes at the hidden currents of frustration and worry audible in the man's tone. It wasn't like he could truly know just how much chakra the young chunnin was packing. Simple reports didn't do his unique situation any justice. You had to see it to even begin to believe it and even then he was sure most people struggled to comprehend it.

"Somewhere under about a sixth." Naruto casually replied with a shrug of his shoulders even as he stood to full height with his eyes fixed on to the rapidly approaching enemy forces. "I held back some from what I usually did when practicing the technique."

It was the honest truth. The first time he had used the fuuton ninjutsu he had ended up blowing himself backward and in to the trunk of a tree. In the few weeks since he had worked hard to gain control of the devastating attack, having used his usual shadow clone training method to help expedite the process. He could make one much bigger if he absolutely had to do so. But it was far from necessary given the potency of his chakra and the strength of his wind affinity. After all, he had managed to carve deep gouges in to the surrounding area with little effort.

What use was using a mallet when a simple hammer would suffice?

A sharp intake of breath from over his left shoulder caused the blond to unfurl a smug grin. He knew that even without looking Radiou's expression more than likely mirrored that of his female teammate. He figured, from past experience, that by this point they were vehemently denying the truth of his words in their heads. They would think him making the numbers up until he showed more examples as irrefutable evidence. Only then would they even be able to start to understand the depths to his chakra reserves.

And they still would be off.

It always filled him with a sense of satisfaction to see people try to wrap their heads around the idea of his large chakra stores. Not that he could blame them for being caught unaware. It wasn't like he could afford to cut loose in the ninjutsu aspect during simple spars in the village. There were few people who could safely avoid or even counter his overwhelming gift of ninjutsu. And neither of these two fit in to the category. It just wouldn't be smart to unleash the full of effects of his techniques.

"I see..." Radiou said a moment later. "I'm beginning to understand that the reports on your chakra stores were seemingly accurate."

Naruto had to stop himself from snorting.

The man had no idea.

"Incoming!" The leaf kuniochi barked in warning as she moved to make space.

Naruto had begun to move before she had even finished her speaking, his chakra sensing skills having caught the build up of energy long before hand. The trio of leaf ninja jumped away at the same time as a jagged flare of lightning chakra ripped in to the area they had been just standing. Naruto landed and rolled to the left as he rapidly blinked his eyes in an attempt to clear his disrupted vision. His ears telling him how his instincts had served him well as a series of thuds signaled another missed projectile attack.

"Is that you Radiou?!" A voice filled with malice shouted out from somewhere in the grouping of enemy shinobi. It wouldn't have taken Naruto two guesses to figure out who was speaking. "Who would have thought I we'd run in to a place like this? We sure do live in interesting times!"

There was a few seconds pause before the leader of the leaf squad replied.

"Rukusho Aoi!" The commanding voice of the leaf tokubetsu jounin called out in return from somewhere in the trees to Naruto's right. "You are under arrest. Lay down your weapon and surrender!"

The reply came in the form of another flare of lighting chakra. Naruto squinted against the second blinding technique as his eyes trace a crescent arc of energy as it whipped past him and somewhere in to the surrounding foliage. A half second later and Radiou dropped back to the ground amidst a flash of light with his hands already forming seals.

Alright. Naruto thought to himself as a good size fireball roared overhead in return and illuminated the area enough for him to pick out possible targets. Game on.

With a heavy sigh the man shrugged his shoulders in an effort to relieve the tension coiled within his muscles. The sound of crashing waves smashing in to the hull matched the rocking of deck. To most it would be troubling and nauseating, this constant state of uneven movement produced by the mass of water that surrounded them. But for an experinced sailor like himself, who had been navigating the seas for years, it was nothing more than an annoyance.

Morikota Saichi grunted as he stood up from his chair in his personal quarters and limped across the room. With a rough tug the wooden door pulled open to reveal the brewing storm outside. The skys were grey and charged as lightning flashed above their heads. He frowned as he glanced around the horizion at the churning sea surronding them. Again what was usually a cause for concern was a simple annoyance to him. The seas in this part were always rough but he had noticed they had become even more so within the past few years. He knew the reason why of course. But that didn't mean he liked it.

"A fine day for sailing."

With another grunt Saichi turned his head slightly to the right. His aged eyes fixed on to the man casually leaning on to the wall of his cabin. Despite the cloak being used to shield away the coming weather Saichi could see the flare of red curls that made up the man's hair. His gaze sought the man's own underneath the hood but could not meet it. With a scowl Saichi instead opted to actually answer the man.

"As fine as any other near these parts." He returned. "Especially considering what time of the year it is."

Despite being unable to see his face Saichi was sure the normally cool and control man was smiling at him from beneath his cowl. "Ah yes. I'm sorry about this by the way."

Saichi waved it off. "Don't worry about it. I'm annoyed not mad." He paused here before turning his attention back the horizon. "Still I was surprised to even here from you. It's been so long I had thought the worse."

Uzumaki Juri finally turned his head to actually look at his old friend as he stood from his position. He raised his hands and slowly pulled the hood away from his face. His tired brown eyes traced the form of his old companion. The times they had shared with each other had created stories for a lifetime. It had honestly hurt the normally serious man to hear the words of his old and loyal companion.

"I'm sorry old friend but it was really important. Brother gave me orders and I folowed them. I just didn't expect for things to turn so quickly and by extension for things to take so long."

Saichi said nothing for a moment before he turned his attention back to the red haired shinobi. His coal black eyes met Juri's brown head on and the two stood in silence for a bead of time before Saichi sighed heavily.

"Things haven't been good with your people." He stated. "Tensions are becoming strain and personal agendas are being prioritized." He frowned here. "I hear things they don't mean for me to hear."

To his surprise Juri showed no surprise but rather met his gaze with resignation. "I know. We could see it coming long ago. Which is why what I had to do was so important."

Saichi's gaze turned stony. "And just what did you have to do?" The idea that his old friend had also been taking part in what he had just spoken against caused a measure of disgust to rise from deep within. His family had faithfully served the Uzumaki for generations. They had suffered as the children of the spiral had suffered.

To see this great clan slowly tear it's self apart... It was near too much.

But if Juri felt any discontent from the tone of voice he never let it show. Instead a rare smile slowly split his face. The expression to Saichi off guard. A simple sailor he may be but when you serve ninja for nearly your entire life time you learn a few things. Sudden mood changes were a bad thing and uncharacteristic behavior worse.

"What I've been doing... Is saving us?" Juri half questioned-half responded.

"Saving?" Saichi barked as his anger began to mount. "Your saving your people?"

"Yes." Juri answered calmly. "I'm saving us."

"And how?" The old Sailor drawled. "Do you plan to do that?"

Juri's smile widened. "By giving them what they want most."

The sailor visage turned to instant confusion. His frown returned. "What?"


Saichi's eyes narrowed.

"Against the elemental countries?" The idea was a terrible one. "You'd be wiped out."

To his surprise Juri shook his head.

"It's not them we're after. At least not now. We've already been making moves for the past few years and now everything is coming to a head. My part to play in this was information. There were more factors in the destruction of our home than was originally known. One of them is a credible threat to us even now. We'll have to take him out before our name becomes known again."


"A dangerous shinobi with no one to check him." Juri replied lightly. "We have people on the inside of his organization but they couldn't get us what we needed to bring about his downfall. So brother had me make contact with someone who could potentially give us the information we desired."

"And did they?" Saichi's interest was certainly peaked. "Did you get what you need?"

"More or less. The person who I spoke to in place of the original target gave us more than what we expected but less than what we wanted."

"Is this the one Honoka has been scouting out?" He himself had ferried the young woman two and from their hideaway in the islands several times over the years. He knew from that alone that she had been routinely sent to check on someone. He just didn't know who. "A distant relative correct?"

Juri frowned. He'd have to talk to the girl about giving out too much information.

"Yes." The man finally admitted. "But again she sent someone else in her stead. I was a little worried at first but things appeared to work out fine. We got a wealth of information seemingly free of charge. Some things we already knew and somethings that helped us to solve several puzzles. It was a helpful endeavor."

"But you said you didn't get everything you wanted." Saichi pointed out.

"No, that was one of the reasons we had been willing to make contact with the original target. She would have been far enough removed from the situation to give us honest answers. Of course in the time since the offered was made things concerning her had drastically changed. In her place she sent a respected contact who's name even we would know. But in doing so she failed the second part of the little test."

"Second part? There was something beyond gathering information?"

"We also wanted to test her loyalties. She had a unique skill set that would be difficult to ignore and would have been helpful. But unfortunately she choose to re-affirm her commitment to her hidden village in the worst possible way imaginable."

"And that is?"

"She became their leader." Juri replied dryly. "It was really out of left field. But losing out of a potential alliance with her isn't the real kicker. What we wanted from her was the information she could have given us about her home. Specifically we wanted to see if she had any information on a particular person. A young shinobi who claims to bare our name."

Saichi's gaze became dark.

"Someone dares to use the family name?"

Juri nodded slowly in return.

"Yes. And from what brother believe it may not be without cause. But the one doing so certainly needs to be investigated. If he's using our clan name for his own gain..."

"Then he needs to be dealt with." Saichi finished as he crossed his arms. "I take it you might be sending one of the guard to eliminate him?"

"If need be. But first brother wants me to find more information. That will be for later though. For now our focus is getting rid of our current targets. Which is why I'm returning. It is almost time to move on to the next phase. We'll need all hands on deck for this part to work properly."

"I can imagine why." The old sailor declared. "People on the mainland still have conflicting reports on the situation in water country. Some even believe that monster of a Mizukage has already been dealt with. It's making it difficult to get a mood on how the other countries see the mist."

"We're aware of that." Juri responded tightly. "It's actually a good thing. It will help us get everything in order before we finally begin to move."

"And what will be the first part, if you don't mind me asking?"

Juri's eyes glinted in the low light.

"The first part will be to successfully choose our base of operations."

The man from the thought to be dead Uzumaki clan narrowed his eyes as visions of triumph passed by.

"After all, you can't start a war without an army to back you."

Naruto wanted no part of the right hook that came swinging from the corner of his vision.

The shorter blond shinobi evaded the strike with a fluid duck even as he drove his left shoulder forward with a push of his thigh muscles. The Ame shinobi grunted as the surprisingly powerful blond chunnin slammed in to his midsection and knocked him off the branch. Naruto followed the motion and tumbled after his opponent back towards the ground. The two sprang away mid-air and landed about the same time. The next instant saw the blond ninja tilting his head to the right to narrowly avoid a trio of shuriken even as his hands slapped together in to a snake seal.

Fuuton: Reppushou! (Wind Release: Gale Wind Palm)

The twin barreled wind ninjutsu ripped free of the chunnin's outstretched palms with the force of a charging bull. The blond gritted his teeth as a slight twinge of pain slid up his arms from the force of the chakra pushing through his tenketsu. The enemy shinobi had just enough time to tense in surprise before he was forced to bodily jump to his right. Even still the edges of the ninjutsu managed to clip the man mid air and send him spiraling off to the side.

Naruto scowled as he cut his technique, taking note of how it forcefully tore the bark and leaves from a number of trees in the surrounding area. Without hesitation the blond turned his body to the right and darted after his target. A hand reached down to pull a single kunai as he closed in on his opponent. Naruto waved the knife in front of him in a blur of motion as he deflected a second trio of metal starts from his still recovering enemy.

At the last second the blond skid to a halt as his chakra senses screamed bloody murder to him. With a curse of frustration the blond had been forced to abort his charge as one of the two traitors from Taki burst on to the scene with mid-leap with a whip of water swing down. A low powered body flicker took the blond backwards and out of range of the attack. His eyes narrowed in frustration as the Ame shinobi pulled himself up.

Great, now he had two of them to deal with.

This was not a good plan.

Regardless the blond was in the fire now and would do his best to not get burned. So in the instant it took for the two enemy shinobi to glance at one another Naruto slapped his hands together in a single familiar seal that lightened the pressure on his body. The young chunnin exhaled as the resistance seal loosened from around his muscles and allowed his chakra to circulate back at maximum capacity. In the next moment he was flipping through another set of hand seals before he reared his head back.

Suiton: Mizzurappa! (Water Release: Water Trumpet)

Both enemy shinobi tensed before they were forced to jump away in opposite directions as a stream of compressed water sliced through the space they had just been standing at. A single cross shaped seal later had two extra blond clones coming in to play before each took off after one opponent each.

Time to get the lay of the land. The blond thought as he ascended back in to the trees with a chakra infused leap.

The blond chunnin rose up high in to the trees before he began to pan around in search of his two squad mates. The fighting had been going on for several minutes already which meant he had no guarantee either of his two teammates had survived the initial encounters. Radiou had naturally taken the treacherous Aoi for himself along with two others. Two more had come rushing at the other leaf chunnin in hopes of dispatching her quickly. That had left Naruto with two of his own.

The first had died within a minute of their encounter. Having naturally underestimated the blond, like everyone did, he had attempted to overtake the younger shinobi with taijutsu. A mistake that became fatal when he over extended a punch. In a flash Naurto had pulled free a single kunai before he slammed it upward in to the man's rib cage. He sidestepped the falling body soon after and made to engage his second and much more wary opponent.

So where had the extra one come from?

Not good, if either of them has gone down already the other might be getting overwhelmed right now. Which means I'd be next.

It was a somber idea, but one that was not without merit. This was in fact the only true brush with combat since they had officially become a team. So far their brief mission history together had been uneventful and simple spars could only tell you so much about a person's combat capabilities. All he knew about their respective strengths came from reputation. Radiou was a well tenured tokubetsu jounin who had participated in the last great war, albeit in limited fashion.

The bitch named Akashi was apparently the typical Uchiha kuniochi. Not that Naruto knew much about that considering he had learned that, counting his former gennin teammate, there were a total of five Uchiha left in all of Konoha's ninja forces. From what he did know due to his limited experience with the Sharingan it seemed that the girl would be looking to make eye contact with her opponents in an effort to entrap them in a genjutsu so that she could finish them off quickly. How effective that truly was he could not say.

Than again. Naruto reasoned as one of his clones was dispatched after pitched taijutsu encounter. They're probably thinking the same things about me.

It was no use worrying about what he couldn't change. So with that in mind the blond chunnin leaped from his branch and over in to the foliage of another tree before he dropped down towards the ground in a hurry. The blond landed lightly behind the panting Taki shinobi before starting a chain of seals. By the time his target had turned around to face him Naruto had already completed his attack and was in the process of slapping his hands to the ground.

Doton: Ganchusho! (Earth Release: Rock Pillar Spear)

The Taki shinobi had just enough time to yelp in surprise before the ground at his feet suddenly surged upward. Five pointed shafts of stone impaled him through the chest with enough force to breach through his his rip cage. The man blinked in surprise before he coughed up a wad of blood and his body began to die.

One down. The blond thought grimly before he turned and sprinted towards the sound of his second clone doing battle. One to go.

Shimura Danzou was not pleased.

"Repeat that for me." The one-eyed warmonger calmly requested of his subordinate. "I must have misheard what you just said."

If the man kneeling at his feet sensed any sign of his master's irritation he did not show it. Instead he bowed his head and repeated his report.

"Orochimaru has begun to reach out to Iwa." The Ne agent repeated without emotion. "Our contacts have seen members of his personal guard, those present from the attack on the village, walking freely in the village. They appear to be in negotiations of some sort."

Danzou's lone visible eye narrowed.

"Do they have anything else to say? About Onoki's inclusion in these... Negotiations?"

"No lord Danzou." The man replied. "This was all the information that could be shared."

Danzou stared at his subordinate for a moment longer before he dismissed him with a terse word. The man stood and clasped a fist over his heart before he strode from the room. The leaf village elder waited for the door to fully close before he showed his displeasure by way of a grimace. Things were getting out of hand too quickly for his liking.

"I knew we should have pressed forward." The man muttered to himself as he leaned back in the chair of his underground office. "We should have wiped Iwa off the map before hand."

It was reasons like these that he preferred to deal with potential threats before they even fully developed. As it stood the leaf village was in a serious heap of trouble and it appeared that things would only be getting worse. Orochimaru was a cancer on the entirety of the elemental countries at it seemed that he had chosen Konoha as his first victim. It was only fair of course seeing as how the leaf village had made him in to the monster that he was today. A part that even Danzou himself had a hand in.

Still, to work with an old and hated enemy in such a manner...

Gaining Iwa's cooperation will be easy. The former shinobi mused to himself. The hidden stone still hasn't let the events in the last great war go. They won't hesitate to jump at the chance to end the leaf village.

He knew from experience that the Sandaime Tsuchikage was a rather opportunistic man by nature. He didn't like creating war for the sake of war alone but was not above getting his hands dirty if it meant his village would prosper. Something that had gained the hidden village a dark reputation among the rest of the continent. That being said Danzou would not expect for the man to ally himself to a individual like Orochimaru, another person known for underhanded tactics, for a chance to destroy the leaf village. It would mean giving in to the demands of a mad man.

However, Orochimaru knew things that could easily turn things his way.

Primarily things about the Kyuubi's jinchuuriki.

A waste of talent if there ever was one. Danzou thought with a scowl. The son of a Kage and a second generation jinchuuriki from a prominent clan who is just now being seriously trained. The boy should have been given to me years ago. By now he would be the driving force in the leaf's military campaign.

Instead what they had was a simple chunnin. A surprisingly well trained one given his reports but nothing overly impressive to say the least. At least not compared to what the boy should have been capable of by this point. Not for the first time Danzou cursed Sarutobi's softness. If the man had been willing to do what he needed to the village would be a much safer place than it was now. With the might of the Kyuubi they could have dictated their terms to whomever they pleased.

Still, there was no use in crying over spilled milk. He would play the hand that he had been dealt to the best of his ability. If Iwa was going to join the cabal of Oto and Suna than all out war would be on the horizon. That meant that his forces in the other countries needed to get a move on if they were going to stop any others from joining in. War on the terms of others was something Danzou never wanted.

But nevertheless it was a war. And that was something the leaf village needed.

And this time. There will be no others left to challenge Konoha.

Of that he would make sure.

The blond gritted his teeth as he juked his body to the right, avoiding the downward slash that had been aimed towards splitting him in two. A flash of light so bright it nearly blinded him filled his vision as the lightning chakra empowered sword obliterated the tree he had been leaning against. Instincts now honed through constant combat forced Naruto to dive on to his belly, the hairs on his neck standing on end as another crescent shaped wave of lightning chakra flew somewhere over his head. The knowledge that even a glancing blow would be enough to end his life driving him to move with a purpose. He wouldn't be going out like that.

"Move!" A feminine voice barked at him. The blond followed the directions without a second thought, rolling his body to the right seconds before the sensation of heated air filled the space he had just been.

Naruto quickly blinked the stars from his eyes as he stood back on to his feet. His newly restored gaze shot up and off to his right where his Uchiha teammate was perched in a tree overlooking the newest battle site. Her hands were still in the horse seal and sweat poured down her face, a sign she had just expended quite a bit of her remaining chakra on to that large fire ninjutsu.

The widening of her Sharingan eyes a second later told him that it had not done her any good.

With a curse the blond jerked his head in the opposite direction. Indeed the jutsu did little to solve their problem. Also known as Rokushou Aoi with the Raijin no Ken.

When originally told of the plan Naruto had expressed his reservations about attacking a force of shinobi with only two other members despite knowing beforehand, from the genjutsu induced interrogation, that the incoming group would be small. He had argued that, although more than likely the superior in skill, the incoming group could still prove dangerous on sheer numbers alone.

Naturally his concerns went overlooked.

Raidou had assured the young chunnin that they would be more than enough to handle the enemy shinobi force. He reasoned that the group would be fast moving and more than likely pursued by shinobi dispatched from Taki. All they would have to do was hold them off until the reinforcements arrived. From there it would be a simple as cleaning up. Nothing too difficult for them to manage. Besides, it wasn't like there would be anyone of noteworthy skill among the group.

Well, he was half right. Naruto reasoned to himself with a frown. There indeed had been a group from Taki in pursuit. And the majority of the Ame infiltrators went down without much trouble.

It was just the part about no one of note that was the kicker.

From what he understood of the man, from Raidou's brief description, Rukushou Aoi was supposed to be of little consequence. A nominal leaf traitor who's only claim to fame was the weapon he had stolen when he fled the village. The man had been notoriously weak and a simple academy instructor. It was unlikely that too much had changed in the few years that he had been gone. He would be as simple as the rest to get rid of. Just overwhelm him and watch out for the sword.

Except a lot had changed.

Namely the man's skill level.

It was plain to see by now the Aoi had been hitting the gym. The man was most certainly more of a threat beyond just the famous sword of the Nidaime Hokage. As evident by the fact that five of the corpses in the area belonged to the pursuing shinobi from Takigakure. And the fact that Raidou himself had been wounded trying to match up with the man.

Which was how the blond had been put in to his current situation.

Why the hell am I always the one going head up against the guy I have no chance against?

It was a serious question. Zabuza, Orochimaru, bone asshole... Hell, even Kabuto. Not that he'd ever say that last one aloud. For once he would like to be the back up as opposed to the front-line fighter. Why was he the one who always drew the short straw and took the subsequent ass-kicking to follow? It was completely unfair.

Unfortunately for him Aoi didn't care.

At least I have something of a type advantage. The blond reasoned as Aoi stepped clear of the flames having somehow cut the fire ninjutsu directly down the center with the crackling yellow sword in his left hand, his forest green hair glinting in the light. If I use wind nature chakra flow I should be able to at least hold off the blade.

Although he knew that it would do him little good when you factored in Aoi's skill with the weapon. It was clear that he had the serious kenjutsu skills needed to utilize the overpowered weapon effectively. Added to the fact that the brief two minute clash with the man before hand had showed off the vast difference between the two of them in speed. Naruto knew that it would take drastic measures just to survive. Maybe even the nine-tails' corrosive chakra.

The idea alone made his stomach churn.

But first thing was first...

"You lot are annoying." Aoi growled as he glanced between the two young leaf chunnin. "First Raidou gets in the way and now you two. Why are you even here?"

In lieu of replying the blond allowed his gaze to trail past the man where it focused on to the leader of his cell. Raidou had taken a rather nasty looking wound on the leg and was using the aide of a tree to keep himself upright. Naruto had interjected himself in to the fight not long after the man had taken the wound, his introduction by way of a wind style ninjutsu having prevented the treacherous former leaf chunnin from delivering the finishing blow.

"Don't I know you from somewhere?" The Ame shinobi suddenly inquired with narrowed grey eyes.

Probably. Naruto realized. Nearly everyone in the leaf village did.

"Does it matter?" He replied aloud in return.

The man sneered. "Probably not."

That appeared to be the end of the conversation.

In the next instant Aoi was blurring forward with his left arm crossed over his chest. Naruto ducked under the initial swipe, taking care not to glance in to the light, as his hands slapped together for five seals in quick succession before finally stopping on the snake seal. A split second later saw Aoi retreating the length of five steps in a single bound as the blond reared his head back.

Suiton: Teppodama! (Water Release: Gunshot)

The large glob of water raced from the blond's mouth with the force of a charging bull. Aoi gritted his teeth in annoyance as he quickly leaped to the right and out of the path of the technique. That was just fine for Naruto who only needed the jutsu to make space for a follow up. The blond took the time to leap backward himself as his hands came together in to a cross shaped seal that had become nearly a signature with him. The air was displaced on either side of him as two shadow clones came to life. The two copies immediately broke off and rushed towards the rouge leaf ninja, one forming hand seals as it's counter part pulled in front.

The lead clone exploded in to a body flicker enhanced charge that forced Aoi to sweep his weapon in front of him. The counter missed as the clone dropped it's body flicker and fell to it's knees, sliding past the outstretched weapon. It came to a halt and launched off a low sweep kick that the traitor leaf ninja hopped over with contemptuous ease. In a flash of motion the first clone was dispelled as Aoi switched the Rajin sword to his right hand before casually decapitating his attacker.

Naruto grimaced as the memories of the quick death came to him but continued his chain of seals in time to synchronize his attack with his second clone.

Doton: Ganchusho! (Earth Release: Rock Pillar Spear)

Suiton: Mizzurappa! (Water Release: Water Trumpet)

The earth ninjutsu from the shadow clone was the first to trigger, a corridor of spike rising up in rapid succession as they raced toward the enemy. Aoi rolled his eyes in irritation before he casually leaped to his left and right in to the path of Naruto's water ninjutsu. The stream of high powered water rushed across the open air and hit the man directly in the chest. Naruto narrowed his gaze as the seemingly easy to read maneuver made contact before realization hit him like a shovel over the head.

A one-seal kawamari saved the blond from instant death as the Raijin blade was suddenly stabbed directly through his back and out his chest. Aoi growled in frustration as the shadow clone that had been sacrificed for it's creator dispersed with a pop, his eyes hatefully snapping up as Naruto turned with three quick hand seals.

Fuuton: Daitoppa! (Wind Release: Great Breakthrough)

To the blond chunnin's utter dismay the former leaf ninja didn't bat an eye as a sudden gale of wind came rushing towards him. Instead Rukushou Aoi merely anchored his feet with chakra before swiping the mighty sword of the Nidaime Hokage vertically in front of him. There was another flash of bright light that forced the three leaf ninja present to avert their gaze as the lightning powered chakra battled with it's elemental weakness...

And won.

No fucking way. Naruto thought to himself with wide eyes as his technique was visibly discarded with only minimum effort, the only evidence Aoi had even noticed it's nature composition being the brighter glare from the sword and his narrowed eyes. That isn't fair.

"Wind techniques aren't going to help you." The traitor leaf ninja declared flatly. "Something as simple as the elemental advantage won't be able to stop the Raijin no ken."


"And now-" The green haired man cut of his sentence with a roll of his eyes before he blurred out of the path of a flurry of shuriken.

Naruto watched the man come out of body flicker on the same branch as his Uchiha teammates, the legendary sword mid-swing. But for all her faults the blond had to admit Akashi was far from a simple kuniochi and easily reacted to the man's sudden appearance, her Sharingan eyes allowing her to track his movement and the subsequent counter attack with ease. The blond leaf chunnin took this chance to make a single shadow clone that immediately rushed over to give the immobile Raidou a spot to lean on. With that done he moved his gaze back to the other two combatants.

The Sharingan really is an unfair advantage. The blond lamented again as he watched the older chunnin lazily move out of the path of a vertical swipe. Bitch was probably copying my ninjutsu too. Not that it would help her any. She could never manage the sheer power he put in to each technique. Not enough chakra or the correct affinity.

Speaking of ninjutsu though...

This isn't good. Naruto continued to think. If he can use that damned sword to casually bat aside even wind style ninjutsu we are in some serious shit. The only thing that could possibly be strong enough from distance is the pressure damage jutsu and I can't afford to use that with others around. Not to mention I still need to form too many seals to use it on the go.

It was true. Ninjutsu wise the boy had been relatively smart; sticking to techniques that matched his affinities and making sure to work on them until he was overly competent in their various usages before moving on to another. As it stood his jutsu count went as follows: four doton, four suiton, five fuuton, Kage Bushin, Kage Shuriken, and the Rasengan. He didn't count his few Shoton techniques in to this equation mainly because he liked to avoid using them until absolutely necessary.

Not that it would help him any here. He could tell that his usual crystal armor technique would be as useful as a cardboard box. Not only were lightning element techniques one of the few weaknesses for his crystal styled ninjutsu he knew for a fact that the concentrated chakra in the sword would cut through his techniques like butter.

Kabuto had showed him that the hard way.

Rasengan then? The blond questioned to himself as his teammate narrowly avoided another attack. But that would take getting in close.

In the end the blond came to the stark realization that he wouldn't be able to win this alone. Which meant he first needed to make sure his lone source of support wasn't outright murdered.

Alright then.

In the next instant the blond had palmed and flicked a wave of shuriken towards the two combatants. The tell tale whistle of the projectiles served their purpose and caught the attention of the two other ninja. Aoi bared his teeth as he was forced to move back to avoid the metal stars allowing the leaf kuniochi the opportunity to disengage and drop down to the forest floor. Naruto flipped through a trio of seals to ensure that her escape would be clean.

Fuuton: Reppoushou! (Wind Release: Gale Wind Palm)

The wind ninjutsu, quickly becoming one of his favorites, rushed towards the enemy Ame shinobi. Aoi glanced up to eye the surprisingly dense chakra empowered winds before he dropped off the branch and towards the ground. Naruto watched with worry as the man's left hand snapped out in to the open air and began to form patterns that he was familiar with. One-handed seals.

Ain't that about a bitch. Naruto hadn't seen anyone do that with such ease since Haku on the bridge battle so long ago.

Aoi reared his head back the moment his feet touched the ground.

Suiton: Dai Tsuiraku Nami! (Water Release: Great Crashing Wave)

From the Ame-nin's mouth a veritable flood erupted forward. The two leaf ninja barely had time to tense up in surprise before the oncoming wave of water nearly over took them. Naruto bit his lower lip as his body moved on pure instinct, the young chunnin darting to his left and behind a tree. He placed two hands on the bark and used his chakra to anchor himself to the ground as the wave of water rushed over him. A half second later the blond realized his mistake when a sharp crack filled the air.


With nary a second to spare the young chunnin forced chakra from the tenketsu at the bottom of his feet, the chakra empowered leap clearing him from the near waist height water with one push of his legs. Less than three seconds later the entirety of the flash flood was filled with the hum of lightning natured chakra.

Rukushou Aoi had forced the battle up in to the trees in less than a full minute.

That was actually pretty damn smart. The leaf chunnin reasoned as he latched on to the trunk of the tree like a gecko climbed a wall. The move would effectively eliminate the earth style techniques that he had already shown off and also served to keep them off balance. There would be no chance for them to regroup and form a plan of action. An effective and quickly executed strategy.

That Aoi was quick to capatlize on.

Katon: Ensho! (Fire Release: Heat Wave)

Naruto's head snapped upward as a red glow suddenly came in to view. With a curse the blond crouched on his position standing on the trunk of the tree before leaping off in to a back flip. A crescent shaped wave of fire chakra rushed down and on to his previous position. The blond landed on the trunk of another tree, his feet connecting on instinct, in time to see Aoi flash through another set of one handed seals before his chest swelled with compressed chakra.

Katon: Karyuu Endan! (Fire Release: Fire Dragon Flame Projectile)

The blond watched with mounting frustration as the man's ninjutsu assault continued, his eyes narrowing in the face of the oncoming blaze. Unbidden his hands came together in to five quick seals of his own. He didn't use this technique often, not having the kind of control he desired to use it more effectively without wasting chakra, but in this instance it was perfect for defense.

And Aoi had given him all the liquid he needed to make it work.

Digging deep the blond forced his chakra in to the water at the base of the tree just in time to prevent himself from burning to a crisp.

Suiton: Suijinheki! (Water Release: Water Encampment Wall)

The water leaped to his command, raising up to meet the oncoming flames in the nick of time. The blond gritted his teeth, his hands still forming the horse seal, as he forced his chakra to maintain a steady flow. The rising steam obscured the blond's vision as the flames were cancelled and a moment later a flash of yellow light forced him to drop the seal and lean to the left. A bolt of lightning chakra ripped through the space his head had been a second earlier, bring with it a clap of thunder and more blurred vision.

That was getting really annoying.

It was at that time Naruto's unhelpful back finally decided to reinsert herself in to the battle.

Katon: Dai Endan (Fire Release: Great Fireball)

Aoi rolled his eyes again in annoyance before calmly swiping the Raijin no ken to his left. A clap of thunder herald more lightning chakra that quickly split and overwhelmed the incoming fire ninjutsu. Still the the attack had done it's job and distracted the rouge leaf ninja enough for the young chunnin to make a counter of his own.

Suiton: Teppodama! (Water release: Water Bullet)

Aoi's eyes snapped back in time to watch the water at the base of his tree roll and tumble before it shot upward toward him in the form of a giant bullet of water. Naruto held the seal a moment longer, having put more chakra than he would usually use in order to increase the size and speed of the attack. He narrowed his gaze and tried to find the enemy shinobi through the remains of the technique.

"Look out!"

Naruto didn't hesitate to follow through with Raidou's sudden warning, instead choosing to leap free of his tree and over to another in time to avoid the spear of lightning chakra that had been intended to run him through. Aoi stepped back in to view from above his previous position, having attempted to end him while he was still focused on his previous ninjutsu.

"Your annoying." The man repeated with a suffering sigh as Raidou somehow managed to make it on to a nearby branch with the help of Naruto's earlier shadow clone. "Why won't any of you just die?"

Well fuck you too. The blond thought as he orientated his gaze on to the man. The casual arrogance was really starting to get to the blond. But the sad thing was there was nothing he could do about it. Rukushou Aoi was certainly above his level.

"Stop it girl!" The former leaf ninja sudden barked as his eyes snapped over to his right. "I'm done playing this game. Your sneak attack won't work."

Three seconds later Akashi dropped down on to a nearby branch from higher in the canopy, her hands still held in a seal as she readied herself to attack again.

"This day has been a complete cluster-fuck." The green haired rouge leaf ninja continued casually. "Nothing has gone like I planned. First one of those idiots nearly got caught trying to get the water for payment. Then that little bijuu bitch refused to just roll over and die-"

The man cut off here and snapped his attention back over to Naruto. The blond resisted the urge to grimace as the man's face showed his sudden realization.

"I know you now. Your the Kyuubi boy." He declared with a snap of his left hand. "Well look at you. Chunnin already?"

Naruto had to forcefully keep himself from reacting to the taunt. His eyes taking in to account how the older leaf chunnin suddenly narrowed her eyes in confusion. It was apparent that she hadn't known the big secret. What a way to be welcomed to the club of the worst kept secret in the leaf village.

"Two of your kind in the same day. What are the odds. Of course your a lot better off than that little bitch from Taki. Did nothing but shout and curse. I bet they're having a hard time making sure she doesn't kill anyone with her little temper tantrum."

So that's what happened. Naruto pieced together. The Taki forces must be stuck behind trying to contain their jinchuuriki.

He could imagine from his own experience how difficult it had to be.

"You really shouldn't be getting in my way boy. Hell, I'm doing you a favor. Dying on the end of this blade is far more of mercy than what's in store for you."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Raidou interjected through gritted teeth, trying to draw the rouge leaf shinobi's attention away from Naruto.

"You guys don't know?" The man seemed to delight in having something to hold over their heads. "I'd imagine not. But you'll find out soon enough. They'll get the boy and he'll die screaming. That's what happened to the other one. They caught one of his kind from Iwa. Rumor was you could hear the screams echoing for nights."

They who?

Wait a minute...

"Your talking about Akatsuki." Naruto responded on a hunch. "Black cloak bastards."

Aoi's sudden grin was more than proof enough.

"So you do know." The man continued despite the confusion one of the leaf ninja showed. "I'm surprised. They didn't get you yet?"

"They tried." Naruto replied coldly, seeing no reason to lie. "What do you know about them?"

The leaf traitor's grin dropped away in a hurry.

"That bastard is one of them." He announced with sudden vitriol that caught the three leaf ninja off guard. "That bastard Pein."


Aoi continued his sudden rant. "Hanzou was a great man! He took me in and saw the potential in me the leaf didn't. He trained me himself and gave me purpose as one of his own personal guard! I won't let his death go unpunished! I'll fight in his name and kill that bastard who thought he was good enough to replace him!"

Naruto didn't hear the last part. He was still reeling over the other tidbit.

Hazou of the Salamander was dead?

He had knew of the man from reputation. The Sandaime had mentioned him several times over the course of their training and Tsunade and Jiraiya had both recounted their encounter with the famed Ame shinobi during the second great shinobi war. The man was supposedly one of the greatest close combat specialist to have ever lived and had nearly single-handedly kept Ame and it's surrounding territories clear of foreign influence for over three decades.

And this Pein guy had somehow killed him?

And this guy is apart of the Akatsuki? The idea alone sent a shiver down the blond's spine. I'm going to have to go up against someone like that one day?

As if Uchiha Itachi and the man nicknamed the 'Monster of the Mist' wasn't bad enough.

"I'm going to use the water." Aoi's eyes were wild and unfocused as he continued his tirade. "I'll kill that bastard and his so called 'Angel'. And then Hanzou can rest in peace!"

So that was his big plan? Use the hero water to give him the power to match one of the Akatsuki?

That actually didn't sound too bad...

It would kill two birds with one stone. Naruto mused to himself. Aoi would die afterwards from effects. If he managed to actually get rid of one of those bastards...

Unfortunately for the blond Raidou was not of the same mindset.

"You won't be doing anything traitor." The special jounin from the leaf callously cut in. "A deserter like you is only fit to die."

The rage seemed to flee from Aoi's eyes all at once. The man's face arranged to show off a heartless smirk, cruelty shining in his grey eyes.

"And your going to manage that Raidou?" The man sneered in return. "You can't even stand on your own."

The tokubetsu jounin from the leaf narrowed his gaze at the man. "Maybe not. But unlike you I have back up. And teamwork was something you never seemed to comprehend." The declaration was delivered with passion the normally composed leaf shinobi usually didn't show. Naruto was surprised and let it show. A 'you tell 'em' echoing in the back of his head.

Unfortunately for them, Aoi's retort wasn't what any of them had been expecting.

"That's where your wrong." The man intoned darkly.

It was the only warning they received before their entire world was turned upside down. A sudden surge of chakra, far greater than what could have possibly been expected, took the blond chunnin off guard. Naruto's gaze snapped to his left in time to see the sudden wave of chakra induced water rise up over the treetops. The young blond watched with wide eyes as the surprise tidal wave barreled towards them, knocking over small trees in it's wake.

"What?" It was all the blond could muster before the wave of water overtook him, driving the air from his lungs as the force of the wave knocked him free of the tree he had been sticking on to. Somewhere in the distance the young chunnin could hear Aoi's laughter, filled with contempt and a promise of pain. But Naruto couldn't focus on that. Right now he had more important things to worry about; namely swimming his way to the surface.

Damn It! The young leaf ninja thought as he was forcefully slammed in to the trunk of another tree, his body struggling to move against the strength of the waves. Why do things never go right for me?!

In response the young jinchuuriki was suddenly introduced to a surprising sight. The mouth of the large creature that had suddenly appeared before his sight.

Oh, this is some bullshit! Naruto managed to reason just before the jaws of the large creature closed shut around his entire form.

And through it all he could still hear the sound of Aoi's laughter.