The New Naruto
"Naruto!" - Normal speaking
'What a dobe.' - Thinking
"Hello, I'm the Kyuubi." Demon speaking
'Hmmm the kit has promise.' - Demon Thinking
"For this jutsu…" - Writing
Chapter 17 – Denial and Acceptance
"Urgh I'm beat," Tenten complained as she slumped against a tree, "Where is this town you said we were getting close to Jiraiya-sama?"
"Yea come on you old perv, shouldn't we be there by now?" Naruto shouted as he stopped next to Tenten.
The trio had been walking for a solid two weeks, making camp for only one night in a single place and always packed before the sun rose. By now, they had travelled through seven towns around the outskirts of the Land of Fire where Tsunade was last heard from.
"It's getting close now. Come on kids, you think it would be easy finding "The Legendary Sucker"?" Jiraiya called back as he simply carried on walking. "The sun's not down yet, we've still got plenty of time.
A small stone bounced off the back of Jiraiya's head.
"Grr! What the hell?" Jiraiya clutched his head where the rock stuck and saw Naruto standing in a defiant pose.
"All this time we've spent moving from one place to another, just looking for this Tsunade woman when we could've been chasing up better leads or you could be doing some of the stuff you promised!""Naruto?…" Tenten said quietly, wondering what the blonde was talking about.
As if he read her mind, Naruto answered her question.
"You said you would teach me some of your techniques, that you would train me so I could get stronger." Naruto pointed defiantly at his "sensei". "I haven't learnt a thing from you since we started this trip besides how NOT to find an ex-leaf ninja! I could be back at Konoha training against Bushy Brow or Kiba, developing new techniques to take this Orochimaru bastard out and bring Sasuke back! Hell, the Fox is a better teacher than you!"
All three minds clicked at that moment.
Naruto had misspoke and he knew he'd messed up bad. He saw the look in Jiraiya's eyes as he just yelled out one of the leaf's biggest secrets. Right now, he daren't look at Tenten for fear she knew what he meant.
Jiraiya now knew for sure something was going on between Naruto and the Demon Fox sealed within him and he had to put a stop to it, but first, he had to disarm the situation.
"Geez Naruto, that hurts," he replied sarcastically. "Just because you learned how to survive in a forest from that overgrown fox you healed." He glanced over at Tenten and saw the young girl's eyebrows furrow in confusion. She'd probably ask Naruto about it later. Looking back over at the hyped-up blond, they both knew he'd just saved his ass.
"Alright then Naruto." Jiraiya dropped his backpack on the ground with a thud. "You wanna train so bad? Let's train! First, dodging!"
In a flash of movement, Jiraiya was in front of Naruto, his left arm low and a surge or chakra could be felt and seen rushing to it.
Both Naruto and Tenten's eyes widened at Jiraiya's speed, Naruto's instincts telling him to push himself back off his feet as a glowing blue ball missed his chest by inches.
"Rasengan!" Jiraiya shouted out, slamming the ball past Naruto and into a tree just off the track.
Pain was the first thing that came to Naruto's mind, even as a ninja, landing on your rear on a rocky road hurts.
Jiraiya simply smirked and stood upright again.
"You want training? How was that for starters; the Rasengan!"
Tenten helped Naruto up, the blond's jaw dropping when he saw the destruction Jiraiya had caused.
Behind the old sannin, a good chunk of tree was now missing, a deep spiral-like groove left in its place against the remaining bark.
"It's your new technique." Jiraiya's grin widened as Tenten's jaw dropped alongside the blonde's. "Do you not like it? Would the genin like a tamer one?" he taunted.
Tenten was about to howl abuse at "Lord Jiraiya" for his outrageous method of teaching before Naruto spoke up again.
"Hell no!" Naruto called back, running over to the tree and inspecting the damage more thoroughly. "That's just the thing I need!"
Both pumped up males turned towards their female accomplice.
"Just what kind of training do you call that?" Tenten shouted.
Jiraiya brought his arms up and wiggled his fingers as though pressing against something.
"Hands on" he replied perversely.
Dodging the second rock, this time from Tenten, Jiraiya decided to explain his…method.
"Knowing a jutsu, understanding a jutsu and performing a jutsu are all separate parts of the same entity." He began, a board and teaching stick appearing out of nowhere, "Simply by applying the first and last principals, one can perform a jutsu, but, only with proper understanding of a jutsu can it become a proper, more useful tool. Take your weapons for example." Jiraiya gestured to Tenten's scroll holders. "Any fool can pick up a sword, swing it and kill a man, but, it takes proper understanding of the blade to know how to wield it to it's potential. Knowing how your own jutsu react and feel can be the thing that either saves your life or ends it."
Naruto looked at the ground with a thoughtful expression on his face while Tenten responded.
"Take that Rasengan for example. That was just about forty percent of the power I can put into a Rasengan of that size. Now, if I used a Rasengan equal to that one on an enemy and they fell down unconscious right off the bat then I could either think he's a very weak ninja, or he is no where near to being defeated yet and take caution."
Jiraiya walked over to another tree.
"Underestimating your enemy is the most unwise action a ninja can take, it leads down a path of overconfidence and smugness, the kind the Uchiha exerted whenever he did something."
Tenten merely nodded, watching the Uchiha perform some basic throwing drills and act like he was the king of kunai when he hit the bulls eye mark.
"That Rasengan would merely blow an enemy away; a fully powered Rasengan will blow a chunk of enemy away." Jiraiya stated, forming a similar ball of blue chakra in the same hand.
He turned his attention towards the tree next to him and once again, slammed the ball into the trunk. A large scrapping and crunching noise could be heard in at least a good mile as the blue ball ate away at the bark.
When Jiraiya let the chakra dissipate, the tree had a good two feet's worth of height, length and width's worth of bark removed from it's two and a half foot diameter.
With a crack, what remained of the tree snapped and fell to the side as Tenten and Naruto could only watch in awe while Jiraiya gauged their expressions.
"…and that's a fully powered Rasengan class, get a ninja between a wall and one of these and they won't be getting up again…any questions?"
The genin's jaws simply dropped at the ease at which the sannin seemed to be performing what was obviously a high level jutsu.
"Right, well I think that's enough teaching for today." Jiraiya laughed, hitching up his pack, "Shall we off?" He asked before turning and walking along the road.
Gathering his wits, Naruto sucked in a deep breath to rid himself of the slight winding he'd received and hurried up to his sensei.
"Come on the you pervy sage, how do you do it?" Naruto asked, his previous anger gone and only excitement in his voice.
Tenten brought her hand to her face in frustration, if Jiraiya didn't relent and teach Naruto how to do it, she would have one major headache by the time they reached the next city.
"Don't worry, we'll have time for that later." Jiraiya laughed, catching Naruto's downtrodden look in his eye. "Even without your little hissy I would've been teaching it to you within the next hour or so, this place is great for training."
Tenten sighed, and hurried back up to the duo as Naruto questioned the sannin again.
"What place?" He asked, looking around and seeing nothing but trees and a small river running alongside the path.
Jiraiya chucked as he comically dashed up the last few strides to the top of the hill.
"Why this place of course!" Pointing at something over the ridge.
Naruto and Tenten quickly followed the white haired hermit up to the top and gazed at the sight before them.
Dusk was definitely here as the orange light captured the town's beauty perfectly. The hustle and bustle of shopping and good times could be heard as bars were packed and brothel's filled.
"Never doubt a wise hermit when he tells you "it's getting close"." Jiraiya chuckled at the pair before setting off down what remained of the path towards the town, the genin quickly on his heels.
The unique trio strolled through town, passing many drunk and rambunctious people on their way to where Jiraiya only knows.
"Oi, prevy sage, you better not be thinking about just dragging us here for the booze and women." Naruto said, giving a small glare at his now drooling sensei as they passed a particular brothel with Tenten nodding alongside him.
Shaking his head, the sannin quickly doubled his stride,
"Of course not, this place is key to finding Tsunade. As well as gathering other information."
"…and training of course." Jiraiya chuckled.
Another few minutes of walking before Jiraiya stopped outside a rather modern building; sleek black wood decorating its walls with a bright neon sign above reading "Work".
"What the hell is this place?" Naruto asked, trying to discern why the hermit would stop here.
"To check in and relax of course." Jiraiya answered, striding forward as if it was the end of a long, arduous journey.
Tenten and Naruto just glanced at each other, sharing a quick shrug before giving the hermit the benefit of the doubt, following him inside.
The interior design was slightly different from the outside only in the colour scheme.
Bright white, what Naruto could tell was teak, wood made up the walls with the overall theme being what could be called "fluffy" if the pillows on the sofas were anything to go by.
"The three of us for your finest spa room." Jiraiya's words floated to the ears of the two teens.
"Oi, prevy sage, whats the deal with this place?" Naruto called out, the two genin standing by his side.
Jiraiya slug his backpack down onto the floor before stretching his arms wide, a few pops and clicks coming from his aging bones.
"Can't you tell? I just gave you the biggest hint you could ask for."
"Well we can tell it's a spa Jiraiya-sensei, we just don't understand why we're here." Tenten replied, a tick mark suddenly growing on her head, "You better not have dragged us here to do this "research" I heard about."
Jiraiya waved his arms in front of himself defensively.
"No no, nothing like that. This will be our base for the next day or so." Jiraiya looked past the teens to an attractive woman beckoning them. He hoisted his bag onto one shoulder before nodding to the teens to move down the corridor. "This is one of the best hotel spas in all of fire country, really takes the edge off of training and anything else that troubles you."
The trio came to their room, the attractive attendant sliding the panel open for them.
Naruto and Tenten walked in and looked around the place while Jiraiya gave a cheeky nod and wink to the woman before entering.
The room wasn't overly large, it had enough room for at least a party of eight with a long dining table and plenty of cushions. There were also three sets of panels, two along the right wall and one at the front.
Naruto hurried over to the panel at the front, sliding it open to reveal a wide, steaming spring.
"Wow," Tenten hurried over to get a better look herself, "This is beautiful." Her eyes taking in the style of the spring and the surrounding rocks and exotic looking plants.
"Yea, I found it just after it first opened about fifteen years ago, it's now one of my favourite places to chill after a mission." Jiraiya said, opening another panel and dropping his bag inside the adjuring bedroom.
"Feel free to use that if you want, we have some time to kill before dinner." he called out.
After getting a last look at the spring, Naruto and Tenten turned back to Jiraiya as he settled himself at one end of the table, a comfy looking pillow beneath him.
"Wait…so what are we doing next Jiraiya-sensei?" Tenten asked.
"Well first we shall enjoy the comfort this place has to offer, then to prepare for tomorrow's training, I'll give you the theory behind your new techniques."
Naruto's eyes lit up while Tenten's retained a look of surprise.
"Techniques?" she asked, "What do you mean?"
"Well you didn't think I'd only train Naruto on this trip did you?" Jiraiya chuckled, plucking the menu off the table. "I think I've got the perfect technique for you too."
While Tenten wasn't as technique hungry as Naruto, she couldn't believe her luck when the legendary Jiraiya offered to train her.
"Ah-h…T-Thank you Jiraiya-sensei." Tenten bowed in respect.
Jiraiya just smiled while selecting his dish.
"Well, I dunno about you two but I'm gonna take a dip before we eat, you two gonna share a dip later?" Tossing the menu to Naruto whilst moving to the spring.
It took a moment to register with Tenten and Naruto what the sage just said.
"-The hell pervy sage?"
Plates of sesame dumplings, ramen and chicken graced the Konoha team's room soon after, disappearing almost as fast to the long-travelled shinobi.
"Man that was good." Naruto sighed, laying on his back as he contemplated the meal.
"Damn right kid, didn't I tell you I know what I'm doing." Jiraiya laughed, currently in the same position on the other side of the table.
Tenten neatly patted her mouth with her napkin.
"Well that was certainly filling Jiraiya-sensei, but I think I shall take my turn in the spring before either of you pigs recover."
The duo looked up at Tenten with confused eyes and smatterings of their favourite meal still round their mouths.
Tenten giggled at Naruto's cute look and simply ignored Jiraiya's. Before another word was shared between them, Tenten crossed to the spring, grabbing her bag from besides the panel and shut it behind her.
'Urgh finally' she thought, breathing deep the smell of the steaming water. Turning to her left, she spied the small, what could only be considered a cupboard much less a changing room. Moving to examine it, she passed through the thin cloth curtain and spied a board attached to the wall to sit and presumably change and rows of shelves full of towels individually divided for what Tenten guessed was to store her clothes.
Shrugging, the girl quickly set her bag down and picked out a towel.
"So what's the deal with you and her anyway Naruto?" Jiraiya asked as he stared at the ceiling.
"Tenten?…" Naruto asked slowly.
"No, the cute receptionist(!) Of course Tenten. I thought you had something going on with that girl Zabuza taught."
"I…uh, don't wanna talk about it." Naruto replied, hoping he could have put this topic away at least until he returned to the village.
"Aw come on Naruto, I mean, I am teaching you an A-Rank jutsu after all. The least you could do is satisfy my curiosityy for my student's wellbeing."
Naruto sat up and shot the sage a dirty look.
"Like you have the purest intentions at heart."
"Ouch Naruto, kick a man while he's down why don't ya." Jiraiya replied, sitting up himself now. "After all, you're talking to Master Jiraiya, famed womanizer of the land!"
"…you mean pervert don't you.""It's super pervert! And don't you forget it." Jiraiya winked.
Naruto growled before reaching for his bag.
"Exactly the reason I'll never talk to you about my problems."
"Ohhhh so there is some complications hmmm?" Jiraiya teased.
A pair of tick marks spawned on Naruto.
"Drop it pervy sage."
Jiraiya folded his arms, closed his eyes and stuck his nose up in the air like a snob.
"Fine, then maybe I won't give you my ultimate charming secrets."
"Fine by me." Naruto shrugged, preparing a change of clothes.
"…or teach you any jutsu."
He turned his heard slowly, his eyes narrowed at the white haired hermit.
Jiraiya cracked an eye open to see if his words stuck home…it seemed they had.
"I would" Jiraiya smirked.
Naruto's mind raced, trying to find a clever way to outwit the sannin.
"Fine…" He said slowly, "You teach me the rasengan first…then I will answer honestly…and that's a promise."
Jiraiya turned to look Naruto in the eyes across the table, knowing the boy was serious about keeping his word.
"Very well, but only if you answer my other questions now…" Jiraiya countered.
Naruto raised his eye brows as Jiraiya's look switched from one of teasing to strict seriousness.
"How long have you been talking to the nine tails?"
Naruto's eyes widened, watching Jiraiya closely for any move he made.
"Why do you even ca-"
"This doesn't concern your opinions Naruto." Jiraiya cut across sharply. "You should know how serious this is after you fought the one tail. The nine tails power is nothing to be sniffed at, it took the loss of a great man to protect the leaf by sealing the nine tails away…any sign that it could be breaking loose is more cause for alarm than you could imagine."
Naruto's eyes narrowed, both in anger and confusion.
"He helped me through my first "A" rank mission, the chunin exams and even to help save my friends when Konoha was attacked! You're wrong about him being a threat!"
"The nine tails' seal is weakening if you've been able to talk to him for this long. You will explain to me exactly what he has told you…he may be corrupting you and that is something I cannot allo-"
"Insolent shinobi! You speak with the knowledge of a child!"
Jiraiya jumped to his feet as Naruto's right eye became slitted and turned a deep red, the whiskers on his right cheek deepening.
Jiraiya glanced at the paper door that separated the pair from Tenten just on the other side. Naruto's new deep voice did nothing to penetrate the waters currently around Tenten's hair as she just let all her senses dull and relax, her ears resting underwater.
"You know nothing of our actions let alone our pain and suffering!"
"What is it you want beast?" Jiraiya asked, his voice carrying a stern bite to it.
"You simply do not know the facts of my imprisonment and make accusations against both me and the boy. I seek to correct your ignorance."
Jiraiya's hand rested near his kunai pouch, a suppressant seal, carefully crafted, laying inside.
"He's right Jiraiya-sensei." Jiraiya looked shocked as he heard Naruto's natural voice and gaze once again, seemly coming from his left side. "What do you actually know about the tailed beasts?"
"They are beings made of chakra, the nine tails especially with the power to level mountains with a single swipe of its tails.""Tsh, is that it?" The Kyūbi mocked, rolling Naruto's right eye.
"You are the embodiment of human malice when it has collected and festered. That's why you appeared in Konoha thirteen years ago."
The Kyūbi let out a low chuckle.
"You know nothing of my past, of my actions or my intentions."
"And what makes you think I could or would even believe anything you tell me?"
"Because I won't tell you…" Naruto's body moved itself, his right hand pressing against Jiraiya's forehead. "…I'll show you."
Jiraiya's hand faltered with the seal in hand as flashing images were forced into his head; the seal weakening, a woman's cries, a masked man, yellow flashes, the leaf in flames, the shinigami and finally the newborn Naruto.
Jiraiya was overwhelmed with thoughts as his brain tried to process this new information.
"We're not done yet…"
A second wave of memories was then passed into the sannin; incredible power, ultimate defeat, the great divide, the sage and the beasts before unrelenting loneliness.
The nine tails pulled Naruto's hand away from the sannin, jumping back a safe distance as the man collapsed onto the ground, his legs resting on his pillow.
Silence dominated the room while Jiraiya's brain focused all its power on deciphering these strange visions.
"I only hope that gave you some damn perspective on the things you speak of!"
Jiraiya coughed and spluttered as he pushed himself up on his arms, gazing at the floor while the images swam in his eyes, slowly receding with every few blinks.
"W-What was th…"
"Those were memories…specifically MY memories. I believe you'll find the true reason for my attack on your village in the eyes of the masked man…"
Jiraiya pushed himself back into a sitting position, pushing the palms of his hands into his eyes as if trying to force the memory to show up clearer.
"It seems the child is learning." The fox half of Naruto said, half a smug grin on his face. "You think we are beings of malice with no feelings other than the one to destroy. Tell me…what do you think of my creator?"
The Naruto half of the body gave a half questioning look to his other side as Jiraiya's knowledge wrestled with the memories, trying to find the truth of the matter.
"..."The sage?"...It can't be! He's just a myth!"
The fox scoffed.
"He is no more myth than you or me."
Naruto's ears caught the sound of water droplets falling and a relaxing sigh from the direction of the spring.
"I believe that's enough tutoring for today. Oi kit, isn't it your turn for the spring soon?" The fox grinned.
Without a moments more notice, the red in Naruto's eyes receded to its natural blue shade.
"Damnit fox, warn me when you're gonna do summin like that!" Naruto said to himself, knowing full well the fox could hear him. "Oi, pervy-sage, you ok?"
Jiraiya had now caught his breath, his vision and some of his wits.
"Naruto? Is it you again?"
"I never left pervy-sage. I told you, the fox isn't a threat…he's my friend."
Both the perv on the outside and the fox on the inside were stupefied by this declaration.
"…Your…friend? Naruto just how much about the fox do you even know?"
"Apparently more than you do that's for sure."
Jiraiya winced at that.
"Screw this, I'm gonna go soak." Naruto said, picking up his bag again.
"Naruto, wait!" Jiraiya called out as Naruto was a foot from the door. "Don't be too long, I expect you up nice and early for training tomorrow… and I'm gonna want more answers."
"Don't jump to conclusions and you may yet gain some understanding." The fox said from its cage.
"If you're willing to listen he's willing to talk." Naruto repeated for Jiraiya before opening and sliding the door shut with a bang.
Inside Jiraiya let out a breath, his head rolling back as his muscles gave out; relieved he'd made it through the situation intact.
Naruto looked up and saw Tenten's head floating in the water, her hair let down and wet with the slightest hint of shoulders being hidden by the steamy waters.
Naruto turned away.
"I'm sorry! I was mad at pervy-sage and walked out to soak."
"Look just go get changed. I'll be done in a second and we'll switch." Tenten said, annoyance and embarrassment present in her voice.
"Ok… Uh where do I…"
One of Tenten's hands poked out of the water and pointed over to the left hand side, where the wood wall connected with the stone one that was separating the private springs. What could only be described as a miniature changing room stood with a curtain that barely pulled all the way across.
"In there, get changed and put your stuff in one of the compartments."
Naruto just nodded while keeping his gaze averted and quickly hurried into the booth.
Tenten sighed and shook her head.
Tenten and Naruto traded places quickly as the former head inside in her nightwear. With his thoughts too caught up in the Kyūbi matter, Jiraiya didn't notice as Tenten walked past with her stuff, grabbing a remaining plate of food, and heading into her room.
By the time Naruto had enjoyed the hot spring goodness and head inside, the other two were already in their rooms.
"Guess that's it for excitement tonight." Naruto sighed in relief.
Shaking the cobwebs that were gathering in his head, Naruto head to the right and entered his and Jiraiya's room.
He walked over to the empty futon lain out for him and dropped his bag next to it before sitting in the middle.
He lay back and gazed up at the ceiling, his thoughts running free as he closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh.
"Keep it down kid..." Jiraiya grumbled from his futon, rolling onto his side away from Naruto. "Some of us have got training tomorrow."
The blonde chuckled before rolling back and slipping under the sheet.
With one arm propped under the pillow, Naruto's thoughts returned to the area and events around him.
One answer was all he needed before his mind would shut down for the night.
"Hey, old man?" Naruto whispered.
Jiraiya replied with a grunt.
"Why is this place called 'Work'?"
"Simple, when guys return from a nice day or weekend here without their wives permission, they can honestly reply "I was at 'Work'."
Naruto frowned, annoyed at what could very well be the truth of the place's name. Now wasn't the time to worry though, it was time to rest, ready for a nice long training session the next morning.
Morning came sooner than expected for the two genin.
Awoken to the sound of Jiraiya's shouts at a prompt seven am was not the best way to be woken.
"Urgh I can't believe I agreed to this…" Naruto groaned as he pushed open his door, hunched over and rubbing his blonde locks before letting out a long yawn.
"Me either." A grumpy voice said as she walked past.
Naruto's eyes shot wide open as a wall of brown hair walked past him.
"Uh Tenten? Is that you?"
Tenten stopped and turned to face Naruto.
Her hair, which was usually kept up in buns, and was hanging down by the small of her back last night, looked like it had splayed out, as though each strand tried to flee in the opposite direction of her head and now refused to let gravity or any other force move it.
Tenten herself looked as though she'd slept on a fluffy cloud that preserved her freshly cleaned and bright eyed look from last night.
"Yes, my hair just doesn't agree with me in the mornings."
She shook her head to iterate her point; the hair barely moved, acting more like a solid sheet before she turned and head out to the spring, needing to duck and open the doors wide to escape the room.
Jiraiya chuckled as she walked past.
"And I need chakra to use that jutsu."
She gave him a brief glare over her shoulder before yawning and heading out the doors, closing them behind her.
Naruto walked over to the table where Jiraiya was sat in the same seats from yesterday and sat down.
"I took the liberty of ordering breakfast last night. I didn't know what you guys liked so I got a few things, it should be along soon." Jiraiya explained.
Naruto nodded as he closed his eyes and rested his head on his arm, looking very tempting to Jiraiya to just knock his arm away and give him a wake-up call to remember.
A soft knock on the door prevented him making that choice as he rose and opened up.
"Room service." A young lady said, dressed in a typical fantasy maid outfit with piping hot breakfast on a tray.
"WHOA-HO-HO!" Jiraiya laughed, his eyes lighting up and his blood pressure rising. "Why thank you my dear, would you be so kind as to help me carry it all?"
"Hai, no problem sir." She replied politely, taking a tray and indicating the other to Jiraiya.
As she walked into the room, she took notice of the handsome blonde sitting at the table, his breathing deep as though he'd drifted off.
Being a young girl of fifteen, she often saw much older men pass through the town but this boy looked much closer to her age…maybe she could convince him to stay a while…he might be good boyfriend material, he certainly had the looks, and those strange markings on his face looked ever so cute.
Naruto's ears perked up at the sound of incoming food on trays though not enough to bring him out from a shallow doze.
"Um, here's your food." She said politely, setting the tray down directly in front of Naruto, leaning down to get closer to his face.
"Mmmmm, that was fast." Tenten called as she walked in, a towel wrapped around her head now containing her more manageable mane and stretching the sleep out of her arms. "What's for breakfast?"
As Tenten spoke, she spotted the girl currently leaning in towards Naruto, as though she was fascinated by him.
"SO What Are We Having?" Tenten asked, putting emphasis on her words to get the girl's attention.
The girl quickly pulled back and looked over at Tenten, taking note of her for the first time.
"Oh, sorry, I shall leave you to your meal now." Giving an annoyed scowl at Tenten for ruining her moment, she quickly turned and left, closing the door behind her.
The shutting of the door made Naruto jump awake, looking around quickly as he remembered where he was as Tenten sat down opposite him, he quickly spied breakfast in front of him.
Tenten pilfered a plate of toast from the tray, already buttered to a golden brown and cut into triangles.
"So what was that all about?" She asked.
"Hmmm?" Naruto grunted as his response.
"With the girl." Tenten continued.
"What girl?" Naruto asked, swallowing his mouthful of cinnamon roll.
Tenten's confused look turned to one of relief.
"Nothing Naruto." She said, taking a bite out of her toast and holding it between her teeth before reaching up and pulling the towel off her head, letting her hair cascade down her back once again.
Naruto looked up at her as she shook her head, brushing the few strands that had fallen forward behind her ears.
"Woah…" Naruto gazed, his mouth open and his newly poured cereal forgotten.
Tenten looked up, blushing a bit under Naruto's bright blue gaze.
"Uh…nothing." Naruto quickly cast his eyes back onto his food, his own cheeks hotting up. "You erm…you look nice." He said quietly.
Tenten's eyes looked over to the springs in embarrassment.
Silence hung between the two for a few seconds.
*scribble scribble scribble*
The two suddenly remembered the third wheel of their breakfast chat and turned towards him.
Jiraiya stood with a tray balanced in one hand, the other holding a pen against a notebook pinned to the wall, his eyes wide and a worrying (to Naruto and Tenten) grin on his face.
"Oi, what're you doing pervy sage!" Naruto shouted, knowing what that little notebook held.
"Why nothing my dear Naruto. I just had some early morning inspiration and had to get it down." He giggled perversely.
"What's the problem Naruto?" Tenten asked.
"You do remember what book series he's the author of don't you?"
Tenten tilted her head, racking the brain cells that were awake this morning before the answer was found.
Jiraiya found his head and neck covered in orange juice as his face just changed from one of glee to one of annoyance.
"Was that really necessary Tenten-chan?"
"Well then my little genin, let's get to work!"
Jiaraiya stood in the middle of a wooded clearing with Naruto and Tenten positioned in front of him.
"Jutsu I promised and jutsu you shall work for." He announced, stepping in front of Tenten.
"You, my fiery weapon wielder, will need a jutsu that compliments such an arsenal." Tenten nodded.
Jiraiya sidestepped to stand in front of Naruto. "And you want a strong jutsu, one capable of countering attacks such as the 'Chidori' yes?"
Naruto nodded as jiraiya began pacing before them.
"Very well, I already have a jutsu for you Naruto but you present a mystery to me." Jiraiya turned back to face Tenten.
"I hear from Guy that your jutsu mainly take the form of weapon based attacks. Tell me Tenten, can you perform any elemental jutsu?"
"No Jiraiya-sensei." She replied. "I've mainly focused on my weapons training and building up my chakra."
"Well then, I think it's about time we increased your range of justu, no?"
Jiraiya stood between the two teens now, one hand in his jacket pocket before pulling out two small pieces of paper.
"Now then, this is chakra paper, push some chakra into it and it'll reveal your elemental affinity." He handed one each to the duo. "If you are suited towards fire justu, the paper will burn. If electrical attacks are your thing, the paper will wrinkle. Wind will slice it in two, earth will crumble and water will make it damp. Clear on this class?"
The two nodded and complied, pushing some chakra through their finger tips and into the paper.
Naruto's split itself down the middle, the left side floating down to the ground.
Tenten's paper darkened before crumbling into a fine brown powder.
"Hmmm, so earth for Tenten and wind for Naruto." Jiraiya pondered, stroking his chin and gazing into the sky.
Naruto gave the old hermit a questionable look before...
"Aha! Yes, that one will be perfect!" He called out before reaching around to one of his back pouches, pulling out three scrolls; one red, one blue with the kanji for water on it, and a brown one with the kanji for earth on it.
Jiraiya plucked the earth scroll from between the other two he drew and replaced them in his pouch before biting his thumb, spreading some blood on the top, wooden part of the scroll before opening it on the floor.
Tenten gazed in amazement as Jiraiya unraveled more and more of the scroll. On it were multiple seals with more being revealed for every second, each with its own heading. Tenten caught a few of them which revealed they were jutsu seals.
"Uh…basic…advanced…weapons!" Jiraiya cried triumphantly, wiping some more blood over the seal, a small scroll 'poofed' into existence.
He picked it up and tossed it over to Tenten who caught it in both hands.
"With your skills in weapons I figure a jutsu that you can incorporate into your wielding style will come in handy."
Tenten looked down at the scroll and opened it, reading the opening paragraph which described the jutsu.
"It's called "Earth Shoot", allowing the user to pull a piece of ground or rock from the ground and launch it at opponents. Observe."
Tenten looked up as Jiraiya pulled a kunai from another pouch and knelt with one knee on the ground.
Sensing a demonstration, Naruto remembered an old trick he hadn't put to use in a while and pushed some chakra to the back of his eyes.
"If you're running towards an enemy, you could scrape your sword, kunai or whatever along the ground aaand…" Jiraiya ran his kunai along the earth before flicking it towards the tree. As the kunai left the earth, the ground tried to follow it as a head-sized piece of earth rose toward the kunai before blade and earth separated, allowing the earth to travel forward and slam into a tree, causing a loud crack, a large dent and allowing the chakra enhanced earth to wrap around it.
"Wow…" Tenten and Naruto looked on amazed at a simple but powerful display. Naruto's now red, slitted eyes had watched as Jiraiya's chakra flowed into the blade and into the earth beneath it, spreading out ever so slightly before pulling back, lifting the earth from that which wasn't touched by chakra.
"Of course, jutsu can be adapted. You might find new uses for it or create new jutsu using this as a base, who knows." Jiraiya chuckled, replacing his kunai as Naruto let the chakra recede from his eyes.
"So does that mean you're earth natured Jiraiya-sensei?" Naruto asked.
Being addressed with respect from Naruto meant he'd done something right.
"Well actually, if you look at my own chakra paper…" Jiraiya pulled another white sheet of chakra paper out of his pocket before it promptly burst into flames. "My affinity is in the passion of fire!" He declared proudly.
"The paper merely indicates what affinity is strongest within you. Most jonin have usually mastered two elements by the time they become said rank. Hell, Kakashi has managed three though that may be due to that eye of his." Jiraiya pondered.
"Awesome Jiraiya-sensei, though, wait, what do you need to make the rasengan?"
Jiraiya turned back to Naruto as Tenten began looking through the scroll.
"And for Nauto; the rasengan!"
Jiraiya tossed a small, colored balloon over to Naruto.
"Huh? What are you trying to pull?"
"Hehe take it easy Naruto. You'll need that to begin learning how to create the rasengan." Jiraiya waved him off, holding another balloon in one hand and a rasengan forming in the other. "As you can see, they're about the same size; this exercise will help you form the shape of the rasengan by letting your chakra flow around the water in this water balloon."
Naruto watched intently with his red eyes gathering watching the chakra stream from Jiraiya's hand into the balloon, swirling in every direction.
As Jiraiya spoke, the balloon in his hand tilted, wobbled and began spiking up in places before it burst, sending a small spray of water around his feet.
"With this water balloon, gather your chakra in your hand then release a steady stream of it into the water, pushing and churning the water inside until it pops."
Naruto looked down at his balloon, giving it weak try to get a feel for the amount of chakra needed and the control behind it.
When he looked up, only an outline of Jiraiya remained.
"I'll be back soon you guys, just make sure you don't get into any trouble while I'm away ok?" Jiraiya called back.
"Wait, pervy-sage! Why did you need to know my chakra affinity?" Naruto called out.
"I wanted to see what jutsu would be good for Tenten. As for you? I was just being nosey." Jiraiya laughed as he walked through fifty feet of trees to the back fence of their room and jumped over.
"Hmph, I'll have this down no problem before he gets back!" Naruto said proudly.
Tenten looked over from her scroll, smiling sweetly at Naruto's determination before her eyebrow rose.
'Were Naruto's eyes just red?'
An hour later and Naruto felt himself getting closer to bursting the balloon. His chakra was rotating, but he couldn't get it to move up and over itself, only a few directions at a time in a general direction like the hands on a clock, between 12 and 3 and everything in between but nothing from 3 to 11:59. It was frustrating and finally Naruto just rested against a tree to catch his breath.
"Man, this is hard, how did pervy-sage make it look so easy?"
A loud sigh was heard from across the clearing. Naruto watched as Tenten rested on the handle of her favorite shortsword, drawing several deep breaths.
"Hey Tenten, you ok?"
Tenten looked over at Naruto before releasing her sword, allowing herself to fall onto her backside, not caring about the slight pain.
"Urgh I just can't do it, the earth doesn't wanna move for me."
"Whadda'ya mean?" Naruto asked, pushing himself up and walking over to where Tenten sat with her scroll.
"Look here," Tenten pointed to certain bits of the scroll. "It says here to push your chakra into the earth, pull it back and flick your weapon but every time I do it, it barely moves."
Naruto looked down at the scroll, trying to remember how Jiraiya performed the jutsu.
"Can you show me? Maybe a fresh pair of eyes could help you out." Naruto asked.
Tenten took a deep breath and shrugged.
"Guess it couldn't hurt." She replied, rising to her feet and pulling her sword from the ground.
Naruto stood back and tugged his headband a little lower to shadow his eyes as the blue was overcome by red once again.
Tenten held her blade to the ground, letting her chakra flow into the hilt she grasped with both hands, letting it continue down the blade and into the ground. Once she figured she'd done enough, she started pulling her chakra back towards her and up the blade. Just before the last of it reached the tip, she flicked it, pulling a golf balls worth of dirt into a mound which disintegrated as it rolled a few centimeters.
Tenten let out another deep breath.
"See what I mean?"
Naruto did, walking back over to examine the scroll again.
"How much chakra are you keeping in the earth?" He asked, his eyes blue again, keeping the girl away from his chakra seeing power.
"Erm like this much?" Tenten clenched her fist and held it in front of her.
"Hmmm," Naruto pondered, "I think you're supposed to release a lot more of it into the ground first. Then when you begin pulling it back lift your sword kinda like dipping a spoon into soup and pulling it out."
Tenten focused on the image of Naruto was explaining to her, simply adding chakra into the equation.
"That way, when you pull it back, you'll get a much bigger pull even if your sword isn't touching the ground." Naruto smiled as he finished, thinking his reasons logical.
Tenten slowly nodded her head as it wrapped around the concept, placing her hands on her sword to try again.
This time, she let her chakra permeate deeper and wider into the ground, lifting her sword from the ground a second after she began pulling her chakra back. This time as she flicked her sword, a much larger chunk of earth pulled away from the ground, balling into a chunky ball-like shape before crumbling a few seconds later.
"Wow, it worked!" Tenten smiled at her progress before turning to Naruto who grinned in return. "Thanks Naruto!"
"Hehe, no sweat." He replied bashfully. "Just don't forget to use power to pull up more and faster."
"What about yours?" Tenten asked, "Do you know why you can't do it yet?"
Naruto nodded, "I just can't get my chakra flowing everywhere, it only goes one way and if I try to extend it, it just moves."
Tenten frowned in thought.
"Maybe if you showed me I could help you in return." She said as she visualized the chakra in the balloon.
"Er ok." Naruto said, picking his balloon back up and holding it out in front of him.
He pushed his chakra into the balloon, trying to swirl it all around but only managing a quarter of it at a time.
With a curious look on her face, Tenten placed her hand on top of the balloon, feeling the water and chakra swirl beneath her fingertips.
"What if…" She began, pushing her own chakra into the ball the direct opposite directions of Naruto's.
The ball began spiking almost viciously as water and chakra collided inside. With knowing looks on their faces, Naruto and Tenten both put more power into their swirling.
A few seconds later, the balloon burst, filling their hands with water briefly.
"Yes!" Naruto almost shouted as he watched the water flow between his fingers, looking up and smiling at Tenten as she returned the gesture.
They held that pose for just a few moments before the pair realized that without the balloon, they were now holding each other's hand.
The pair blushed and looked away from each other, Tenten at her blade and Naruto at a random tree…but neither wanted to be the first to move their hands…
As Naruto's eyes roamed over the area he spied a brown bag with something coloured poking out of it behind a tree they would pass on their way back to the room.
Naruto reluctantly pulled away from Tenten and went over to investigate. The bag was full of water balloons with a note lying on top.
"Naruto, if you managed to burst the water balloon once, heres a whole bunch to practise on before you bother me some more. Good Luck Kid." It featured a small Jiraiya on the bottom with a grin and fingers in a peace sign.
"Hmmm well at least it's something." Naruto muttered.
"What is it Naruto?"
"Just more balloons." Naruto called back, picking up the bag and bringing it closer to Tenten. "At least he thought this through."
The sun began to set as Naruto and Tenten head back into the spa, dragging their feet and barely leaping over the fence.
They passed the spring and opened the door to the main room, revealing Jiraiya scribbling away at a scroll with a box of white balls next to him.
With the opening of the door, Jiraiya glanced over to the pair before leaning back.
"Ah you're back, I was just gonna come give this to you Naruto."
"It's the next stage of your rasengan training, though from the look of you two, I guess you can start tomorrow."
Naruto's eyes lit up a little and gaining the next step in the rasengan but the little chakra left in his body didn't let his body celebrate with a cheer.
"Tenten, you're doing well so far, focus tomorrow on just hardening the earth with your chakra.
Tenten nodded but otherwise looked very ready for bed.
"Why are you telling us this now Jiraiya-sensei? Can't you just explain in the morning?"
Jiraiya chuckled, "I might not be here in the morning Naruto, I've got some key information I might need to follow-up on while we're out here. Nothing to concern yourselves with of course."
Tenten and Naruto gave each other a look before shrugging and agreeing with the sannin.
"Room service." A feminine voice called out from the hallway.
"Ah ha." Jiraiya jumped up in glee.
He opened the door and revealed the same girl from the morning carrying a tray of food. Her eyes were active, seeking the boy she almost met this morning and spied him half asleep again though this time he was at least awake. She also spied the "other" occupant too.
Tenten glared back.
"Very good Maid-chan, let me help you with such a burden." Jiraiya said, taking the tray from the girl's hands and balancing it on his head as well as plucking the remaining two from the serving cart and closing the door on her.
"Well then, shall we get eating?" Jiraiya announced, laying the trays on the table.
The trio quickly tucked into their food though the two genin with an expected lack of energy at this point.
"Oi, pervy sage?" Naruto called out halfway through the meal.
"Hmmm?" He replied, his bowl of rice and chopsticks close to his face at the time.
"Why were you so rude to that girl earlier? I thought you would've loved her serving us dinner." Naruto asked, a suspicious look on his face.
Tenten thought back to it too, this morning he'd even invited her in.
"Well she was slow serving, I need sustenance and so do you two for your continued training tomorrow." Jiraiya answered.
The look dropped from Naruto's face and he shrugged, the answer seemed logical.
Tenten however, gazed at the sannin, suspecting he was hiding the real answer.
As Naruto looked away, Jiraiya looked over to Tenten and gave her a wink.
Tenten's eyes widened a little before Jiraiya went back to his meal. That wink seemed a little too knowing…
Dinner was soon gone and Tenten decided to get an early night, partly due to training but mostly to spend some time with her thoughts.
Naruto hung back at Jiraiya's silent look when he said it was getting late.
"So what's the deal pervy sage?"
Jiraiya took a swig of his sake before looking Naruto in the eye.
"I think it's time for a little talk with your tenant if he's up for it." Jiraiya said, a seriousness present in his voice casting Naruto's thoughts back to last night.
"You rang?" The Kyūbi spoke as Naruto's right side darkened, his eye turning red and slitted.
"Hmmm, faster than I expected. Can you do that on your own or did you allow him to do that Naruto?" Jiraiya asked, remembering the seal in his pocket.
"I let him Jiraiya-sensei." Naruto replied, a harsher tone in his own voice.
"Very well then." Jiraiya decided to cut to the chase. "First thing I want to ask you…two is how does the chakra relationship work?"
"You mean does he take my chakra and I take his thing?" Naruto asked for clarity.
"Well more is he taking yours and can you use his?"
"I allow him to use a portion of my chakra at will, no chakra charge." The Kyūbi answered.
"When did this happen?"
"A few months ago, just before my mission to wave."
"Right, and since then, have you felt any different? Angrier, more annoyed, etcetera?" Jiraiya pressed.
Naruto thought for a moment.
"Actually, no. If anything, I feel much stronger and full of energy ever since."
Jiraiya pondered for a moment.
"Jinchuriki, a term reserved for those who contain one of the tailed beasts. These people are feared for their burden… and possibly feared for their potential." The Kyūbi began. "With Naruto containing one of the strongest tailed beasts, his potential is limitless, with or without him."
Both Naruto and Jiraiya looked confused.
"Ever wonder why Naruto is still alive? What with all the fear I have seen because of my actions? Why the village didn't just kill him or any other Jinchuriki and be rid of us for good?"
"You mean to say it that would actually happen?" Jiraiya asked.
"Not likely. We are constantly at war with our hosts…usually. When the host dies or is on the brink, their willpower fades, allowing us to break free regardless of our intent to or not. Even Naruto here would release me into the world should his health become too low. That is why he's still here, if he dies, I am released."
"Then what did you mean by-"
"That was the part about his potential without him. Regardless of his will, he could be used as a living…explosion tag or some variant. However…should he want to fulfil his potential, he could seek to exploit our bond in ways that we currently share."
Jiraiya looked intrigued.
"You know what happens when a tailed beast begins to take control of their host through the giving or taking of so much of their chakra…What happens when my chakra is not only given willingly, but with full peace between the tailed beast and their host, meaning no hostile takeover of body or mind."
Jiraiya's eyes widened.
"I'd heard rumors of such from Kumo but I thought them false."
"If they were about my brother, the eight tails, then yes, it seems he has made peace with his own host."
"You mean to tell me that Kumo now has a shinobi that can turn into the eight tailed beast at will and back again?"
"If full peace currently reigns between them then yes, I believe so. After the sufferings I have seen my own container go through, I believe he has the same potential if not greater to exceed my own power and will and use my gifts to live his dreams."
"Yea, to become Hokage!" Naruto declared proudly. "…and."
Jiraiya waited for Naruto to continue.
"And what?" Naruto asked as though Jiraiya had grown a second head.
Jiraiya shook his head, he must've misheard…or Naruto didn't want to tell him his other dream, one of the two.
"So you want Naruto to gain your powers?"
"In a manner of speaking. He has earned my respect and I wish to help him. He would not be gaining my powers so much as borrowing them, like lending a sword."
"So when I die of old age…you'll be free?" Naruto asked.
"More than likely. As a being of pure chakra, I cannot die. I have a form, yes, and I can be absorbed, drained and even used as energy but my form is carried within that energy and within my chakra, hence I would…respawn if you will."
"So what would you do then?" Jiraiya asked, his fears for the village still present. "Say you were to be freed whenever between now or fifty years from now."
Naruto's right eye closed for a moment in thought.
"As of right now, I do not know…should this vessel perish in a fight, I may even avenge him though it seems unlikely with his spirit and my power. Other than that…I do not know…it has been such a long time since I've been free…Enough of my lamenting! Have you any more questions or can I get some shut eye?"
Jiraiya thought for a moment. "Nothing that needs addressing right now but one last thing I wish to try out."
Jiraiya reached over into the box and plucked out a pair of the rubber balls, quickly tossing one to Naruto.
"Now that Naruto has finished the first stage of the rasengan, you can move onto the second which is power." Jiraiya explained. The ball in his own hand shaking violently before it exploded. "Power enough to make this rubber ball explode using the technique from the first stage."
The Naruto half looked at the ball in his left hand.
"So I just put more power into my first technique right?"
Jiraiya nodded. "It's a lot harder than it looks though, with no water, you have to do it using only your chakra to exert this force."
Naruto looked at the ball, focusing his chakra to both his hands before pushing it into the ball with his left and hitting it multiple times on the outside with his right, using his right chakra to knock his left chakra around. He couldn't yet do it with one hand like Jiraiya, but to make up for his lack of precise control, he'd divided the work between his hands just like what he and Tenten had done.
After multiple blows with his right, he stopped, the rubber ball wobbling and bulging every so often but not so much as to explode or even pop.
Naruto let out a long breath. "Urgh, don't have much chakra left." He moaned.
Jiraiya just nodded in reply.
"That's okay; you have tomorrow to try this out. Now if you don't mind, I'd like you to try the same thing again using the Kyūbi's chakra." Jiraiya requested.
Naruto gave him a questioning look before shrugging.
"If he doesn't mind."
"Take what you need." The Kyūbi offered, trying to keep the empathy for his worn out container out of his voice.
Naruto felt a little more energy return as he let the chakra from the Kyūbi flow through him and down to his arms.
He retried the exercise, pushing the chakra into the ball with his left. As he brought his right hand down and struck the first blow to the ball, it bulged well, the second blow which landed on the bulge was enough to send the internal chakra whizzing around the ball so fast it popped lightly before shredding itself to pieces.
Naruto looked down at the shredded rubber in fascination and a little fear.
"Seems I was right then…" Jiraiya muttered.
"What?" Naruto asked.
"The Kyūbi's chakra is hugely potent, even more so than your own."
"So I could learn the rasengan much faster if I used his chakra?" Naruto asked.
"In a way…it would also make it much stronger. I've never seen that reaction, especially on your second try.
Jiraiya reached over and tossed another rubber ball to Naruto.
"Try it again. I noticed you used both hands for this, are you providing with your left and manipulating with your right?" Naruto nodded, "Try doing it with only one hand this time."
"Fine but I'm going to bed after this, I'm running on fumes."
Naruto felt the chakra flow within his left once again, allowing it to build within the ball until he directed the chakra much slower than last time. He felt the ball rumble as the chakra knocked into itself, sending it wildly around inside the sphere. A few more seconds of rumbling before Naruto decided to push a little more chakra into the mix.
The rubber ball promptly exploded.
"Hey, I did it!" Naruto declared proudly as Jiraiya sat stunned.
At seeing the look on his face, the Kyūbi let out an amused chuckle.
"N…Naruto, just what were you doing the first time with your own chakra?" Jiraiya asked, his awe wearing off.
"Erm, I did it just like in the first step, I rotated the chakra around."
"Hmmm…" Jiraiya muttered cryptically. "I'll think more in the morning. Until then, we must rest."
"Sure thing Jiraiya-sensei." Naruto agreed.
"Finally." The Kyūbi muttered before laying down to rest in his cage.
"Thank you for your co-operation Naruto, Kyūbi." Jiraiya said as the pair walked into their room.
"I h..e a na.e yo. kn.w." Kyūbi replied from his cage sleepily.
'What was that?' Naruto asked in his mind, laying down on his futon.
"I said I have a name you know." The Kyūbi muttered again, annoyed.
'You never told me that.'
"You never asked." Kyūbi shot back.
'Well…uh, what is it?'
"It's Kurama, pleased to meet you at long last Naruto." Kurama huffed.
"Mmm? Something wrong Naruto?" Jiraiya asked from his own futon.
"The Kyūbi…he says his name is Kurama…"
Jiraiya's mind reeled, he never thought a tailed beast would have or even need a name…now he realized just how little he still knew about the world.
As the pair drifted to sleep, they didn't realize their words had also drifted. Drifted across the paper thin walls and over to someone who'd been awake and paying attention ever since Jiraiya demonstrated the second step.
Tenten's eyes were wide with fear, not daring to breathe and laying as still as a stone. Now she knew why everyone gave him those looks, why he was avoided in and out of the academy, why he always looked so sad by himself…
In the cold of night, the entrance to the spring opened and closed as silently as she could handle it.
Tenten was back in her training clothes and carried her battle scrolls and weapons in her pouches…just in case.
Quickly, she took off at a run and jumped over the fence and through the trees.
Branch by branch whizzed past her, putting more distance between her and her travelling companions. The further away she was from them, the easier she could think.
Her footing faltered and a branch shifted awkwardly, Tenten quickly pushed off and landed on a thicker branch, stopping for a rest, her breathing hard.
She'd nearly exhausted her chakra supply earlier; she'd barely rested before leaving to think.
With a few deep breaths to catch herself, she noticed her branch overhung a road. A few more breaths and a quick gaze around led her to notice the road head back into the town and that the branch she was kneeling on could support her laying down with no leaves above to block her view of the sky.
Leaning back, she lay down with less care than usual, more "flumping" down, worn out as she cast her sight skyward.
'What does this mean?…' She asked herself. 'Has…he always had that… thing inside him?'
Tenten's thoughts drifted to all the times she'd seen Naruto by himself, all the times she saw others avoid him and all the times when she avoided the boy. She didn't do it on purpose, she just didn't know what to do or say to him...
Tenten mentally slapped herself. That was a stupid reason, hindsight was a bitch. If she had spoken to him, she would've gotten to know this sweet, funny boy a whole lot sooner than she did... but then there was also the fox... but then Naruto hasn't shown any anger towards her at any point... but then he did scare her when he threatened Neji... but he'd almost killed Hinata, someone Naruto... likes... but... erm...argh!
Tenten lifted her head and purposely dropped it on the branch, the slight pain trying to knock some sense into her and her thoughts.
'I guess... even though he has that... thing inside him... Naruto is just...Naruto...' Tenten began to realise, a small smile gracing her previously frustrated face.
"Tsunade-sama, wait up!" a voice called out in the distance.
Tenten's ears perked up.
"Hurry up Shizune, it's not far now." Another voice called back, sounding a combination of tired, bored and annoyed.
Tenten's eyes lit up, as quietly as she could, she peered over the edge of her branch. Down below, she spied a pair of women approaching the town, one busty blonde with a green jacket and a brunette in a black gi clutching what appeared to be a heavy suitcase.
The blonde, she recognized as her idol Tsunade, groaned.
"Look, the gate's right down there, I can practically smell the sake already."
"Tsunade-sama, this is no time to think about drinking!" Her assistant, the one Tenten guessed was Shizune, called out.
Tenten rubbed her eyes and looked again as she noticed a little pig dressed in a vest and pearls trotting along beside Shizune.
She watched the trio walk towards the town as her star-struck senses returned.
'That's Tsunade-sama! Our next Hokage and leader! I should go tell her then we can go home.' She thought as she kicked off her branch, aiming to land some distance behind the pair. '…And it'll take my mind off…Naurto…' her smile faded slightly.
As soon as she landed, crouching from the distance, Shizune had dropped her suitcase, turned and had several strings between her fingers on one hand attached to several devices on the other arm while Tsunade stood in front of her, an angry look on her face with her fists raised.
"Ah! I'm sorry; I'm not here to hurt you!" Tenten stood, raising her arms above her head in surrender.
The pair eyed her suspiciously, taking in every aspect of the girl: tired, muddy, leaf headband, nervous look, no vest, scroll and kunai pouches.
"What are you doing here genin?" Tsunade asked cautiously in a calm but harsh voice, not lowering her guard.
"Ah, forgive me Tsunade-sama but I came looking for you."
"For me? Why? That god-damn village finally decided to do something about the "Lost Sannin"?"
Tenten waved her hands in front of herself, waving the accusation away.
"No, no, nothing like that Tsunade-sama."
The sannin merely glared at the genin, waiting for her to continue.
"Erm well we came to ask you to come back to the village… to become our new Hokage."
Tsunade's eyes widened before narrowing accusingly.
"What makes you think I would take that position? It's fit only for fools and people with a death wish." Tsunade replied, strangely conscious of the feel of her necklace. "I wouldn't take that position even if the Third- no, no the village got down on their knees and begged me to take it."
Tenten gasped before slowly reply.
"Ano…the Third Hokage is dead…"
Tsunade felt an odd clutch at her heart. Self-imposed exile or not, the Third was her sensei. She became a ninja by following his teachings and became strong enough to be marked as a Sannin by Hanzo with his help and guidance.
"Sensei is…Hmph, no matter." Tsunade shook her head to discard her emotions. "Like I said, for fools and those with a death wish. I believe you just proved my point."
Tenten grit her teeth.
"How can you be so heartless!"
Tsunade looked at the young genin with a puzzled look.
"Your sensei, our Hokage, is dead and that's all you say!" Tenten shouted, remembering her own training; the importance of comrades. "All this time you've been away from the village, gambling, drinking and who knows what else. Then when the time comes when your home is in its darkest hour, you simply ignore it."
Despite the careless look on her face, the sequence of her own actions in words hit her hard.
"Tsh, what would you know about my life?" Tsunade said in a cold voice.
"You're my hero Tsunade-sama!" Tenten shouted boldly. "My ninja career started because of you, because I dreamed to become a strong and powerful kunoichi just like Tsunade-sama of the sannin and show the world my worth… and now you refuse to help your fellow villagers when they need a strong, guiding leader? Would you stay out here drinking and gambling while leaf ninja and civilians suffered?"
Tsunade looked down at the genin standing before her.
"I do more good out here, helping the people of these villages with their injuries than I ever did healing ninja so they could go out and cause more pain and suffering. I do whatever I can to FORGET the "great" "Tsunade of the sannin". That life is behind me now, the legend is dead and she isn't coming back. You want me to become Hokage, and send you and countless others out on dangerous missions to your deaths? That is something no one should have to do. You don't want a leader, you want an executioner."
Tenten stared up at the legendary Sannin in shock. Hot tears making their way to her eyes as the weight of the day came crashing down around her.
Behind Tsunade, Shizune looked at the poor genin with considerate eyes. She knew both where Tsunade was coming from and where Tenten was coming from. Unfortunately, she saw no equal ground on which these two could begin to understand each other more... and Tsunade was not the "change my ways" kind of person.
"Shizune, we're leaving." Tsunade said, making to walk past Tenten, away from the village.
"Tsunade-sama? What about the vill-" Shizune began.
"We're leaving!" Tsunade said back to her assistant, more sternly this time.
Shizune walked after her teacher, trying and successfully catching eyes with Tenten, giving her an apologetic look as she passed.
Tenten stood stunned as she watched her idol walk away, her image of the Slug Princess shattered.
The world around Tenten was silent for the moment save for the footsteps of her former idol walking away and a few tears hitting the dusty earth.
An explosion shook the ground and sent a shockwave through the leaves.
Looking up, Tenten saw a huge black cloud begin rising from the town with orange flames licking the bottom of it.
"Shizune!" Tsunade shouted, taking off at a run towards the town, her keen ears already picking up the sounds of pain and distress.
"Hai!" Shizune followed, the suitcase appearing much lighter all of a sudden as she hurried along with it in one hand, the little pig trotting diligently after the pair.
The pain in her chest left as her ninja senses kicked in; someone was attacking the town and she had to help protect them and her teammates.
She jumped into motion, leaving her emotions behind for the time being and focusing solely on who to protect and who to attack, her sleeve quickly wiping the liquid from her eyes.
She quickly reached the gate and took to the rooftops, having a much clearer view of the town and the people from up there.
Another explosion a few blocks away shook the earth once again. Tenten shielded her eyes as the bright orange flames filled her vision.
Above it all, she could hear laughter.
This was the kind of laughter that belonged to someone who knows that they're reveling in other people's pain.
"That's it lads! Take it all! This town belongs to us now! Yahahahaha!" The voice belonging to the laughter called out.
Tenten spotted its owner, a dull grey hulk of a man standing well above her height and the height of most adults, his arms practically bursting with muscles and a dark silver ring in his chest.
Below, similar looking thugs were running amok in the streets, the same dull grey with various powers looting, destroying and maiming several civilians.
Tenten pulled a scroll, wrenched it open so it flowed in front of her facing the street and quickly hit several sections on the back of the scroll, pushing chakra into each of them.
Kunai, shuriken, daggers and a mace rained down towards the terrorists below. Of the fifteen she could see, she only hit three with the mace landing a brutal hit on a skull.
"Eh? A leaf ninja?"
Tenten jumped away, retracing her steps back to the spa where her teammates were.
The several of the grey thugs followed her onto the rooftops and were giving chase behind her. Mid-jump, she plucked a prepared exploding kunai from her pouch, wheeled and hurled it at her pursuers.
One jumped in front of the others, raising his right arm as it expanded into a makeshift round shield.
The kunai struck the hardened skin true but simply bounced off, with the guy catching it before it hit the ground.
"Heh, stupid bi-"
The rooftops lit up with an extraordinarily powerful explosion, scattering the thugs; some due to dodging, others due to the explosive force.
Tenten panted as she looked over her shoulder at the results.
'Well at least I got to field test my X-plosion tags.'
Tenten jumped to the gap in the buildings caused by the street below.
With a dull 'thud' she was pushed back and landed on her side as she crashed into the same grey thug from earlier with the ring on his chest.
"Well lookie what we got here!" He leered. "Seems this poor leaf genin has lost her team." He laughed darkly.
Tenten flipped back onto her feet and drew a scroll. Just as she opened it, a kunai caught the end and pinned it to the ground behind her.
"Now I don't think we'll be needing that." The grey thug chuckled, advancing towards her. Up close, Tenten could get a clear look at one of these thugs. His face was wide and tall with a horn sprouting from the center of his head with several smaller ones flowing down his spine, the edges of his mouth held open by two large tusks curving outward she daren't call teeth, the bones in his elbows protruding backwards into points and his kneecaps producing upwards to form something similar to knee guards, also ending in points and to cap it all off, a dark silver ring in his chest, the middle of which was pitch black.
Tenten glanced back over to her scroll, her other hand wandering to her kunai pouch.
"Heh, well if you insist…" The thug noticed her gaze and hands, if she didn't want to give up then she might just entertain him for a while.
The center of the ring began glowing orange with chakra.
Tenten's eyes widened as she leapt away.
The thug merely smiled and watched her flight path, predicting her landing. He took aim and released his chakra.
An orange sphere sped towards the roof Tenten was aiming to land on and reached it a few seconds before she did. As it connected…
Tenten threw up her arms to block what she could of the shockwave as it tossed her across the rooftops, slamming her back first into the side of an air conditioner unit.
"Yahahahaha, leaf ninja aren't so tough. The thug laughed, approaching his downed prey menacingly.
Tenten shook her head, pulling what senses she could back to herself as she flipped back over the unit to use as a shield.
"It's no use hiding my dear, my chakra can destroy anything!"
Tenten panted, she was already low on chakra before, now she just wanted to close her eyes and sleep. She shook her head again and reached into her pouch, pulling a small black soldier pill out and swallowing it. As soon as it hit her stomach, she could feel her strength returning.
Thinking quickly, she pulled her other scroll out and summoned.
"No place to hide, coward!" The thug called out, powering up his chest-cannon once again.
A streak of pink dashed away towards the right.
He judged the angle and interception in a flash and fired.
This time to shot flew and hit its mark directly.
"Yahahaha, game over." He chuckled.
As the flames from the explosion fled and the dust settled, he could make out the scorched form of an… iron manikin doll?
Blinding pain was his next thought.
Looking down, he saw the tip of something silver protruding where his heart was.
Huffing breaths behind him only cemented the fact he'd been tricked by a simple henge.
"Now… its game over…" Tenten huffed, pushing her serrated spear deeper into the thug.
He gasped for breath, bringing his left arm up to the wound and clutched the silver of the blade.
"Not for me…"
He turned quickly, lashing out with his right elbow, dragging the spike at the end across Tenten's cheek and right arm, drawing blood and knocking her to the ground.
Tenten rolled away and jumped back onto her feet, her arm now pulsing with bad blood flow.
The thug just turned to face her, smiling darkly as he pulled the rest of the spear through his heart, leaving the steel and wood a dark red.
"You have no idea just who you're facing do you?" The thug chuckled again. "I am Yardomo, Leader of the "Snake Separatists"!"
In a flash, he held the spear properly and hurled it at Tenten.
Her eyes widened as her own spear dug deep into her flesh, sending her hurtling backwards and off the roof.
She landed with a thud on her back on the ground. Opening her eyes, she looked down at her weapon. It had penetrated right through her side, the weapons itself stopping major blood loss.
She could hear people in the distance screaming and the sound of more explosions before a clear thud near her brought her back.
"With powers like ours, even the great hidden villages don't stand a chance." Yardomo laughed, slowing walking closer to Tenten after jumping down after her. "This pitiful village is just the start; it shall become our foothold in the world before we move onto bigger fish, and you, shall make an interesting plaything in the meantime. I do so enjoy a game of "Cat and Mouse" don't you?"
Gathering her strength, Tenten quickly sat up, ready to jump back when Yardomo's hand clutched the wood of her spear, turning it just a tad.
Tenten winced in pain.
"Ah ah ah, can't have my new toy running away now." He glared lecherously again, his other hand stretched out to grab her.
Tenten cowered back in fear as much as she could at this monster, clutching her fists in pain. Previous thoughts she had of her blond and his burden disappeared. He was no demon, this thing before her was a true demon!
'This is it…'
A streak of red light passed between the pair.
The half of the spear Yardomo was holding was now a very straight stick while his outstretched arm was now just a stump.
Tenten stumbled back but held her ground as another figure dropped in front of her, his yellow hair and trademark jumpsuit fluttering.
"Na…Naruto!" Tenten called out gratefully.
"Get back Tenten!" Naruto called back in a deep voice, raising his short sword, his eyes a deep red. He'd noticed her wound and quickly formed a plan to get her away from battle and to a healer.
By now, Yardomo had dropped the end of the spear and was clutching what was an arm in pain.
"You little brat! You'll pay for this!" Yardomo shouted, moving his arms to clear a path for his cannon which charged at a remarkable speed. "Die!"
Naruto quickly jumped back, put his arm around Tenten's shoulder and jumped.
The orange ball of chakra passed under the pair and flew into a shop a few doors down, making rubble of whatever stock was inside.
Naruto landed back atop the street roofs, backing away from the edge.
Yardomo followed, landing on the roof a little further down before powering up another shot.
"Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
A horde of Narutos surrounded Tenten and the real one.
Yardomo fired his chakra again, hitting the first of the Naru-clones and exploding in a great puff of smoke leaving no trace of either him or Tenten.
"It's no use running! I will find you!" Yardomo shouted to his prey.
Behind nearby rooftop water tower, Tenten knelt down in pain whilst Naruto tried to assess the situation.
"How badly are you injured Tenten?" He asked.
"Just my arm and my side. Nothing too serious." She winced as she finished.
Naruto grit his teeth.
"He'll pay for this, for hurting everyone! Especially you!" He said harshly.
While Tenten appreciated the sentiment, she couldn't help but notice Naruto's dark red eyes that had replaced his deep blue.
"I think I have an idea. What weapons do you still have?" Naruto asked quickly.
Tenten's mind flew through the list of items she had and had used.
"Only some sixteen kunai, twenty shuriken, three flash tags, four explosive tags, one smoke tag and two X-plosive tags."
"My own creation; they're about two to three times more powerful than regulars at my best test."
"Right, I think this could work." Naruto grinned. "Shadow Clone Jutsu!" Another three Naruto popped into existence before one nodded to his summoner and dispelled.
"Why did you-"
Before she could ask, another explosion rocked the foundation of the building.
"Come out, come out!" Yardomo's voice called across the rooftops.
Yardomo's severed hand was a problem. The healing factor they had allowed for extreme healing in both preventing fatal wounds and the speed at which all wounds healed. It could only heal with what he had attached though and with his left hand gone; it was never going to heal back.
He cast his gaze across the rooftops when the meddlesome duo had disappeared. There were a few entrances to the roof, air con units and even a water tank or two to take cover behind. Whichever piece they were behind would be there no longer he decided and had begun blasting across at the targets, picking randomly; they were here somewhere.
"Come out, come out!" Yardomo called out, blasting another air conditioner into oblivion.
"Oi! Ivory bait!"
Yardomo looked over as his blond prey was stood near the edge of the rooftops mocking his tusks, next to an entrance from below he guessed was his hiding place.
He charged and fired another shot, impacting below the blond's feet and sending him to hades!
"Yahahaha! One down!" He cheered triumphantly.
"Oh, I think not."
Yardomo turned to see another smirking blond on his right on the other side of the street, atop a street light.
Without pausing, he charged another shot and fired.
This blond jumped into the shot midway across the street, causing the explosion to detonate away from the buildings.
A shiver ran down Yardomo's spine. He quickly lashed out behind him as he jumped forward, a small chunk of his right elbow spike hit the ground as Naruto's blade separated it from its owner.
"GRRRR, you are one annoying punk!" Yardomo shouted, now safely out of range of another swing.
"And you're hurting innocent people! As future Hokage, I will not stand for cowards like you who prey upon innocents!" Naruto shouted back.
"Tsh, future Hokage? You're not even gonna make puberty!" Yardomo rushed forward, splitting his focus towards powering up his cannon and moving fast enough to hit the blond.
Naruto didn't have time to power up his blade at the speed Yardomo was moving.
Naruto ducked and slashed his blade across Yardomo's chest, the sword barely marking the skin and not marking the steel of the cannon at all. Moving under Yardomo's punch, Naruto brought his blade back to his chest, pushing and controlling as much of his chakra required for the blade to glow a light red and thrust down with both hands into the back of his right foot. It was tough, but the skin broke as the sword plunged in all the way through the bone and into the floor below.
"GAAAH!" Yardomo cried out in pain, swinging his arm back.
Naruto let go of his sword and jumped back without it to dodge the flail.
Behind Naruto, Tenten jumped out from behind the water tower.
With her good arm, she hurled a dozen kunai towards him. Naruto heard the signal and dropped to the ground.
As Yardomo finished his flailing turn, he prepared to fire at the blond behind him. Releasing his chakra; the orange ball began moving towards the boy when he dropped to the ground. Looking up, he spied the multiple kunai heading towards his chakra.
Among the dozen kunai was one wrapped in a smoke tag.
As the kunai and the explosive chakra met, a great blast of black smog erupted from the explosion, covering the rooftops and limiting eyesight.
Yardomo coughed loudly as the smoke filled his lungs.
Outside the range of the smog, Tenten listened carefully.
She hurled another kunai into the smoke.
It struck true and lodged itself into Yardomo's forehead.
"DAMN KIDS!" He yelled out.
The kunai in his forehead lit up brightly, impairing his already obscured vision.
Charging up another blast, he fired directly at where he guessed the kunai had come from.
Tenten jumped back behind the tower as the orange blast shot past and into the night air, exploding harmlessly over the village square.
Above the water tower, the last Naruto clone spotted the dull glare of the flash tag and spotted his real form jump back outside the smoke a good eighty feet away.
He leapt up into the air and hurled a kunai towards himself who snatched it out of the air.
With both Naruto clutching a kunai wrapped with a tag, they pounced towards the dull glare of the flash tag obscured by the smoke.
Inside the smoke, Yardomo listened carefully. Instinctively, he raised his free knee to shield and attack with his knee spike while pushing chakra into his spines, extending their size to puncture anything behind him.
The Naru-clone in front dodged round the rising knee whilst the real Naruto behind felt the spines catch his left arm as both thrust their kunai forward with great strength.
The Naruto clone thrust his kunai into Yardomo's chest, inside his cannon's loading space whilst the real Naruto thrust his kunai into the back of Yardomo's neck, narrowly missing the spine but made it through to his wind pipe.
"This is for all the people you've hurt today!" The Naru-clone said.
Struggling for breath, Yardomo took one last swing at the clone, his fist connecting before it burst into smoke.
"And this is for Tenten!" The Naruto behind him said, twisting his kunai ever so slightly, reaching down and pulling his sword out from Yardomo's foot.
With his movement free, the smoke was clearing and the flash tag wearing off, Yardomo turned to face the pain-in-the-neck blond.
"Tenten!" Naruto called out.
Behind the water tower, Tenten heard Naruto's shout and formed the ram sign with her good hand.
Naruto kept jumping back as soon as he landed, quickly reaching over 100ft from Yardomo and counting.
As he jumped again, the tags in his chest and neck lit up for a brief second before letting out a pair of powerful explosions.
Naruto shielded his eyes and Tenten hers as the houses shook again from the force.
As the smoke cleared, Naruto stared into several rooms of the houses below them. The rubble maybe hiding a lot of broken possessions but the people that were inside were not buried with them. Naruto received another piece of intelligence as the clones he created to evacuate the make-shift battle zone had managed to get everyone to safety outside the town.
Looking down into the rubble, he also spied what used to be a shoulder of Yardomo. The grey skin faded to dark pink as three black, circular marks appeared on the flesh.
Tenten was clutching her wound as she walked over to the hole.
Naruto quickly jumped over to the over side, holding Tenten at arm's length before easing her into a hug, making sure not to touch her wounds.
Tenten herself, let herself be hugged, not risking use of either of her arms lest she experience more pain.
"Where the hell were you!" Naruto asked, a pleading tone in his voice as he hugged a little tighter before releasing her, his arms still on her shoulders.
Tenten eyes met his; they had returned to their deep blue.
Between his gaze, Naruto's concern and his uncomfortable question for her, Tenten could only blush and turn away in both appreciation and shame.
A quick gas graced her lips as she noticed the deep bloody gash on Naruto's left arm, she could almost swear she saw a hint of white.
Just before Naruto could press the question again, several thuds landed behind him.
"Blown to bits…"
"Grrr, these brats will pay!"
Naruto turned round, his hands pulsing as he readied his chakra claws.
Three more dull grey brutes stood before the pair, each as tall and menacing as Yardomo before them.
"I call the girl." The one on the right called to the others, his bondy hunched over as his right arm and left leg muscles were clearly five times bigger than their opposites. His eyes were busy undressing Tenten's form as much as he could from behind Naruto.
"I'll kill you before you touch her!" Naruto shouted back, his anger and chakra both rising.
"Look at the kid, he thinks he has a chance." The one in the middle chuckled standing with his arms folded in a "dignified" pose, a pair of katana resting one each side of his hips.
"Don't underestimate him, just ask the late Yardomo-sama" The one on the left cautioned, black sunglasses hiding his eyes with several belts strapped across his body, supporting many weapon pouches.
"Tsh, lucky break I say, they're mine! Gehihihihi" The one on the right laughed his madness evident.
Before the other two could retort, the one on the right jumped high into the sky, aiming to land on the pair of leaf genin.
"Shadow clone jutsu!" Naruto called out.
Another fifty copies popped into existence. A chunk swarmed Tenten and pulled her back from the group, the other thirty eight stood between the two other thugs and the real Naruto while the last two grabbed onto the real Naruto's arms, his hands now sporting blood red claws. In a moment, they pulled him back and hurled him skyward with their combined strength, his eyes watering at the speed.
"Geha!" The airborne thug thrust his giant fist forward, the blond centered in his sights.
As they drew closer together, Naruto slashed out with his right claw, the five red lights of the chakra passing straight through the giant arm before Naruto spun to the left, slashing horizontally with his left.
The thug could only watch for a few brief seconds with blinding pain as he saw five segments of his giant arm begin to fall away before the same red light that caused that damage also passed through his eyes and brain.
As Naruto hovered in midair as he reached the end of his skyward climb, he saw the thug that threatened his precious person collapse to the rooftops, his body in multiple chunks with his brain and spine being severed into at least two pieces.
The pair that remained watched as he fell back to earth, landing in the center of his Naruto pack before walking to the front.
"You wanna go next?" His voice was deep and his blood red eyes promised pain.
The pair looked a bit fearful; their cohort cut down in two strikes would do that to a guy.
"Body Pathway Derangement!"
From behind, the one on the right felt a grinding pain in what used to be his spine while the one on the left felt a sharp strike before his legs gave out, collapsing to the ground.
"Jeez kid, all the flunkies you couldda gone after and you chose the leaders?" Jiraiya chuckled as he stood over the body of the rasengan victim.
"I didn't choose, I saw a bad guy I took him out, simple." Naruto shot back.
Jiraiya chuckled as Naruto noticed the new comer who'd taken out the other guy.
"Who's the old lady?" He asked.
Tsunade had one foot on the neck of her own jutsu receiver, who was twitching madly as his nerve system tried to figure out which nerve control what body part. As she heard Naruto's comment however, the thug felt the pressure on his neck increase.
"Who the hell you callin' old ya punk!"
Jiraiya just laughed at the situation. Normally they'd both be on their ass but due to the attack, he knew the village needed all possible defenders in as best health as possible, hence the aborted beatings.
"Seems not only have we got some on-the-job training complete but we've finished our mission too. Naruto, this, is Tsunade, our future Hokage."
Naruto's jaw dropped as Tsunade turned her deadly gaze onto Jiraiya.
"I've already had a word with your other genin about that, the short answer is no."
"They'll be plenty of time to reacquaint ourselves after we round up the rest, perhaps we can go get some saki? Your treat?" Jiraiya joked.
Naruto called out as two grey figures jumped up behind the sannin pair, aiming to take them out with their backs turned.
Before the sound of Naruto's short reached their ears, the sannn's instincts had already kicked in, turning away from each other and slamming their fists into their would-be assailants heads who then stuck each other hard and finally collapsing to the street below.
"In your dreams." Tsunade retorted as though nothing happened.
Behind the trio, Tenten watched as her former idol beat down the thugs like mere genin.
"Well, that should be the last of them." Jiraiya stated, "Tsunade, mind taking my genin back to the headquarters while I help round up the last of the evil and the injured?"
"What part of "In your dreams" don't you g-"
"Cheers." Jiraiya said, tossing her a set of keys before disappearing in a whirl of leaves.
Tsunade looked at the spot her team mate had left.
'That inconsiderate prick!'
"Erm Tsunade?" Turning her head slowly, she looked at the blond with a dull look on her face.
"We can take ourselves back to the room. If you want to meet us there after I'm done with these guys just give Tenten the keys." Naruto said, pointing over his shoulder to where a clone was helping Tenten walk back to them under her own orders.
"This is no place for genin like yourselves. You'll take her," Tsunade gestured to Tenten, "back to wherever you are based and wait for Jiraiya there, I won't be meeting you there or back in the leaf village."
"Hai…" Tenten looked down at the floor; her image of the great healer was crushed to pieces by now.
Naruto noticed Tenten's down trodden look and pieced together that with the fact that Tsunade already wanted to talk with Jiraiya about becoming Hokage.
"Pfft, No way, there's no way I trust you enough to take care of yourself let alone the leaf village you old granny." Naruto shot back, his respectful tone now gone, "Once I take care of Tenten, I'm finishing the rest of these guys off while you go have a nap."
Tsunade's eyes narrowed at Naruto's declaration.
"And what makes you think a runt like you would do a better job than me?"
"Because I'm the future Hokage!" Naruto replied proudly, "It's not a case of if; it's a case of when. WHEN I become Hokage just depends on whether the current one wants to admit defeat and gimme the hat!"
Tsunade visibly stiffened.
'This boy…he's just like…'
Tenten shifted her weight as one of her feet grew num. As she did, she winced and sucked in a breath as her spear wound felt the pressure.
Tsunade's focus returned as she noticed the injury Tenten was trying to hide.
"You're injured." She stated, walking swiftly over to the girl, her hands glowing green with healing chakra.
Tenten just looked down and released the pressure on her wound as Tsunade put her hands to it.
Tenten had removed the wood of her spear, leaving the metal blade in her side; it hurt too much to remove and she was pretty sure it would only injure her more to do so by herself.
Tsunade herself was looking at the wound in shock not because of its seriousness, but because of the red substance slowly dripping out of it. She closed her eyes for a moment to focus her chakra and her mind, picturing the red blood as pink skin. When she opened her eyes, all she could see was a silver blade and the pink wound on the young genin's body, not a drop of blood in sight.
"This is going to hurt…" Tsunade warned, her glowing fingertips grabbing the end of the blade, ready to pull it out, her other hand ready to heal the injury right away. Tenten braced herself for the pain.
"1, 2, 3!" Tenten clenched her teeth, eyes and fist in pain but forbid herself from showing anymore weakness in front of her or Naruto as the steel cluttered to the floor at her feet.
Naruto watched as his team mate and friend suffered from her own weapons being turned against her, one of the risks of being a weapons master; once disarmed, the weapon was free-for-all.
"I'll take you back and heal your injuries." Tsunade relented. "But then, you are staying in the room while Jiraiya and I take care of the rest."
Naruto opened his mouth to tell them he was going to help too but another wince from Tenten held him back.
Tsunade expected another reply from him, despite noticing his hesitation, she thought better to at least explain to the pair why this time.
"We are sannin, and you are genin. No matter which way you cut it, this would easily be an A class rescue mission at least, not something you should be dealing with. It is up to us higher leveled ninja to protect you so you can return the favor for us one day."
Naruto and Tenten looked at each other before nodding slowly.
Tusnade's hand lost its green glow as she stopped her technique.
"There, that should help until we get you back." She said, lowering Tenten's shirt.
Tenten felt better, her spear wound had mostly closed and she wasn't bleeding anymore. It still felt sore but this was only a patch job. She still felt admiration for the sannin's healing skills even after the tongue lashing she'd received earlier.
"Let's go." Tsunade called out, leaping away.
Naruto and Tenten followed, jumping across to the next building where they had to stop again.
Tenten landed as she normally would but the pressure on her side forced her nerves to seize, letting her crumple to her hands and knees as she breathed heavily.
Naruto placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, rubbing it slightly before asking,
"You want me to carry you?"
Tenten looked away in a blush with slight tears still in her eyes before nodding.
In a few moments she was wrapped around Naruto's back, his hands under her thighs and her hands wrapped around his shoulders with her head just over his shoulders.
Naruto jumped again, catching up to Tsunade on the following building who was waiting for their little exchange to be over.
Tenten felt embarrassed once again, she felt so weak in the eyes of her idol and the boy she liked…the boy who'd protected her with his life…the boy she'd thought would harm her not a few hours earlier…
Her disappointment with herself knew no bounds right now…she swore, as she jostled behind Naruto as he landed and took off again, that she would make it up to him anyway she could.
The majority of the excitement was over for the night: few more buildings were damaged, only a couple of thugs remained on the loose and the townsfolk were beginning to get organized now a majority knew the situation.
Naruto, Tenten and Tsunade landed in the spring area of the genin's current resting position otherwise known as the "Work Spa".
Naruto, still maintaining his grip of Tenten, quickly hurried over to her room to lay her on the futon inside, kicking the doors aside when he encountered them.
'Trust that pervert to bring them to someplace like this…' Tsunade thought with a sigh as she observed the central area, following Naruto.
"Are you OK?" Naruto asked Tenten as she eased down onto her back, his hands holding her scroll and weapon pouches after she'd taken them off.
"Yea, I'm fine thanks Naruto." She replied, still not quite meeting his eyes.
Tsunade's shadow blocked the light from the living area before she turned Tenten's light on, Naruto turning to her presence.
"It'll be better if you wait outside; you're not going anywhere anyway." She said calmly.
Naruto just nodded and turned back to Tenten one last time, giving her a small smile before placing her pouches next to her.
Tenten's tired but quick eyes didn't miss a thing, only smiling in return as Naruto put her pouches down and left the room, shutting the door behind him.
An awkward silence hung in the air as Tenten didn't want to look at Tsunade whilst the healer moved closer before kneeling down next to her.
"Where else are you hurt?" She asked, her voice carrying a very business-like tone to it.
"Just my side and arm." She replied, moving her injured arm to indicate which one.
The sound of Tsunade's chakra enhanced palms met her ears as the warming sensation returned to her side.
"You're lucky; the weapon only scratched your liver. You'll be sore for a day or so but nothing more than some odd twinges if you don't put any stress on it."
Tenten was relieved. She'd lied to Naruto earlier when she said the wounds were nothing serious, she'd felt like collapsing when Naruto had jumped to the roof with her to escape.
"Your other injuries," Tsunade examined the kunoichi's arm and observed her cheek, "Are nothing serious, although, if he had poisoned that spear you would've been in more trouble."
"I don't poison my weapons…" Tenten replied softly.
"Any particular reason?"
"Ano…I'm not a medical ninja, I wanted to know how to cure poisons before I made them."
"I see." Tsunade said simply, remembering Tenten's earlier confession about her dream.
With her healing and analysis done, Tsunade lent back on her knees and let out a deep sigh as she gazed at the ceiling.
"I think that's how I began…"
The young genin looked over.
The sannin's head rolled forward and looked down at her before standing up.
"Just…try not to die before we meet again kid…"
Tenten's breath caught in her throat.
"Thank you…Lady Tsunade."
Said sannin, with a little smile on her face, reached up to open the door.
As she looked down at her hand, she realized her fingers had smearing of blood on them. Her body froze and her breaths became shallower, the focus on her mind's illusion had faded.
"Lady Tsunade?" Tenten called over. She pushed herself up onto her elbows and looked over at her healer, noting her wide eyed look and shallow breath.
"Naruto!" She called out.
Tenten's voice was enough to snap some sense into Tsunade's head and with great force of will, dropped her hands to her side just before Naruto opened the door.
"What is it? What's wrong?" He asked quickly.
"-Needs a wash cloth." Tsunade finished, her breathing beginning to return to normal as she strode past Naruto, looking around as much as she could without looking at her clothes.
She spied several napkins on the table before looking away to grab it and quickly clean her hands.
Naruto looked over in fascination.
"Do I have any more red on me?" Tsunade asked, turning to face Naruto.
"Erm…no?" He replied. None of Tsunade's cloths had received and splatterings during her fights or when she'd healed the injured. Remembering his own injury from earlier that he knew was bleeding, he turned to hide his arm from view.
"Good." She replied, releasing a breath before looking down at Naruto again. "Right, I'm leaving to go help, you two are to stay here until Jiraiya returns."
Silent agreement was Tenten's answer whilst Naruto replied with a small nod and a smirk.
Tsunade didn't like the looks of it but felt that the genin were now going to obey her orders.
With a clang of metal on wood as she dropped the keys to the room on the table, she walked outside before turning to jump away back to the injured townsfolk.
She stopped as she noticed something amiss as she turned back around. She could see the inside of the room, the table she dropped the keys on and the oddly smirking Naruto standing by Tenten's room. She could also see two identical clones of Naruto standing either side of the doors that led into the room, as though they were guarding the place.
Tsunade shook her head, telling herself he'd done it for their own protection before leaping into the city.
Little did she know she only saw two of the many clones that were already among the population. The rest, created with a pilfered soldier pill pinched from Tenten's pouch, were already hunting down any remaining thugs and leading the injured to the town's medical building.
Dawn broke on the battered city. It now supported many broken buildings, holes in the road and injured or mourning citizens.
Among the debris and pain was a pair of women, one blonde and one black haired, their hands green as they focused on healing injuries as much as they could to take the "Danger" patients out of the red zone before healing everyone up properly. A white haired old man was doing his part too, bandaging wounds that didn't need immediate healing whilst organizing those who needed immediate help. A group of men stood in the town square, armed with weapons whilst standing around the beaten and battered thugs from the night before, chakra suppressant and sleep seals applied to each courtesy of the white haired sannin. This group stood guard under his orders, most of them begging for just one to wake up and try to escape, their knuckles white whilst holding their weapons. Everyone else was doing their part to either assist with the healing or searching for survivors among the debris. Luckily there were only a few discoveries before the towns people were all accounted for either alive…or not.
Night was just about falling as the tall blond walked into a bar. She pulled up a stool and waited for the barkeep with her head resting on a tired hand.
This was a more troublesome trip to the village than she'd ever planned. After staying up all night and day healing the injured, she just wanted some sauce and some sleep.
Soon the barkeep came out from the back and provided her with a bottle of saki, at regular price despite the damaged top.
Tsunade threw her head back as she gulped down the burning liquid like simple water before letting out a deep breath.
Before long, she'd repeated the process another three times before sipping her fifth more slowly, the immediate urge sated for now.
The ruined bar doors opened again. This time, they parted for a white haired old man who took a seat at the bar next to the blonde and asked for his own bottle and saucer.
After he'd taken a long gulp from his own bottle and poured himself a cup did the questioning began.
"Why don't you want it?"
"Same reasons I told you before I left about those who wish to be Hokage."
"Ah right… still stuck in the past I see."
Tsunade had nothing to say to that.
"The kid's fierce, a lot like his old man, don't ya think?"
"I don't care." Tsunade lied, "He had a death wish and he got his answer and look what he left behind; a blond with an ego disorder."
"Oi oi, Naruto's loud but I have great faith in him."
"Like you had great faith in that red haired kid?"
Now it was Jiraiya's turn to be silent but not for as long as Tsunade.
"He was… an undignified loss which will stay with me to the end of my days…but I believe Naruto is different."
"Now who's living in the past. That dream of yours will be nothing more than that."
"Au contraire my sweet Tsunade, he will bring about a new age and I will help give him the tools to do it. Naruto will become the greatest Hokage our village has ever known, even greater than sensei…" Jiraiya trailed off.
Awkwardness hung thick in the air.
"How'd it happen…?" Tsunade asked.
"How did… he die?"
Jiraiya took a long swig from the bottle, emptying what was left before letting out a long sigh.
"…Orochimaru." He replied simply.
Tsunade's bottle shattered in her hand. Jiraiya didn't react and kept his gaze locked on the bottles behind the bar.
"It was all for him…the invasion." Jiraiya spoke up. "The whole plan was all to kill the Third. All those that died that day; sand, sound and leaf shinobi… they all died because of his madness…" Jiraiya motioned to the barkeep for another two bottles of sake. "…because of him, Naruto, Tenten and all the others took up arms to defend their home, protecting the people. Even here they did it again, protecting the people from Orochimaru's curse mark's work… If it weren't for them and all the others, a lot more people might have lost their "Dan" or "Nawa-"
Tsunade's eyes were wide.
Before Jiraiya could react, he had been sent flying through the wall and into the one outside.
Shaking his head he looked up to the hole he'd made, seeing Tsunade walking through it towards him.
He didn't bother to move, he knew what was coming. But he also knew Tsunade needed to hear it.
He felt her hands reach down and pull him up by his jacket, pulling their faces almost together.
"Don't you EVER say their names like that again!"
Jiraiya braced himself for the inevitable impact…which didn't come.
He opened his eyes to see Tsunade starring at the floor, tears dripping from her face into the dirt below.
Her arms still holding him up, Jiraiya reached out with his own and wrapped them around Tsunade. Her strength relented as Jiraiya pulled her into a hug, her head resting against his chest.
With Jiraiya being lifted off the floor and Tsunade's shift from holding her fellow sannin to being hugged by him, they fell to the floor, Jiraiya still holding Tsunade close.
"No matter what has happened, all we can do is try to move forward and continue to protect what we can." Jiraiya said softly. "Naruto's dream is to protect all those precious to him, much like you wished to. I have no doubts that he will one day become Hokage…and will hopefully bring peace to this cursed world."
Tsunade's ears perked up.
"You… really think he's…the…"
"Hai, Tsunade-hime, he is the one that will bring peace to the world… I just hope we're both around to see it." He continued. "Until such a time as Naruto can don the Hokage's hat, someone has to hold the place for him, keep the chair warm etc. Hell, they might even be able to shake up a few things in the council and clans for the better with the Hokage's power under the right hands…"
Tsunade looked up and saw Jiraiya serious face.
"Naruto will become Hokage, he will bring about the age of peace and I will do everything in my power to make sure he achieves it! Now I'm asking you, Tsunade, to help an old fool try to achieve his dream one last time…and to guide the younger ones to achieve theirs…" Jiraiya spoke, his voice full of passion.
Her mind brought forth memories of the past, a time when Jiraiya had this same passion in his voice. Over time and many mistakes, it slowly faded. To see one boy rekindle his flame…
"…I'll do it… on some conditions…"
Naruto shook the sleep out of his eyes to greet the morning sun as it stretched through his curtains and along his bed. Bringing his paws to his eyes, he rubbed the remaining sleepy-dust out of…wait paws?
Naruto was now wide awake, staring at his new paws, seeing his arms covered in thick red fur.
"What the…Kyūbi! What are you doing?" Naruto yelled out, lifting his shirt as he watched blond fur sprout and slowly cover his chest and work its way down to his belly.
"Oh yea, sometimes this happens. You must've used too much of my chakra too quickly." Kurama replied from his cage.
"Gah! This can't be happening! I'm turning into you?" Naruto shouted at his tenant.
Several knocks at Naruto's door alerted him to guests.
"We've brought breakfast."
"Are you up yet?" Hinata, Tenten and Haku called through his apartment.
Naruto watched as the last of his skin disappeared beneath the fur and a sharp pain made its presence known in his backside.
The door handle jiggled.
"Are you in here?" Hinata peered into the room, searching for her not-so-secret crush. As she scanned, she spied a medium sized blond fox perched on Naruto's bed, complete with nightwear.
Naruto remained perfectly still.
"Kawaii!" Tenten yelled out, as she spotted the fox over Hinata's shoulder and nudging past her only to collapse onto the bed, glomping the blond fox in the process.
"Huh? what is- Kawaii!" Haku repeated in full, landing next to Tenten and trying to cuddle as close to her as she could.
Hinata meanwhile just walked over to the bed, reached out and started stroking the fox's head.
"I wonder where Naruto got it from." She pondered out loud.
The fox could barely make choking noises with the three girls combined efforts to cuddle him to death.
In his cage, Kurama just chuckled darkly.
"I love transformation jutsu."
A/N: I KNOW! I am well and truly overdue on this chapter. Multiple things happened yadda yadda and it just never ended up getting finished, more likely completed in drips and drabs. Thanks to all those that are still reading this that have stuck with me on alert for the past…over half a year *nervous laugh*. Just to let you know, I will never be abandoning this story and you can ALWAYS reach me through a PM or review, I read them all and reply to any that ask a question or put more than a few words e.g. "Cool chapter.", "More please." "Etc."
PLEASE do review, it's always nice to get feedback whether its questions about the story, characters, my updates or anything.
For those struggling with their own stories or certain problems in life, take a leaf out of Tenten's book. If something's too scary up close, back away for a while, analyze the situation and it will suddenly be a lot less scary and you'll see much clearer and make better, more informed decisions.
I know I made Tsunade seem a bit cold and unlikable in this chapter and I had difficulty trying to see if I could gleam some nice out of the conversation with Tenten but it didn't work realistically to me. I'll try and make up for it in the next chapter J.
Until then, keep reading!