No I don't own Naruto. Although, if I ever write a book series that spans the hearts and minds of millions, I'll be sure to include an Amazon link in my profile. ;)

Warning! A semi-dark fic (at least at first). There will be blood, implied seduction, and innocent deaths!

Naruto x Cowboy Bebop Crossover!

Chapter Nine: Naruto the Space Cowboy!

In all his time as a ninja and Hokage, Sarutobi Hiruzen had never felt so helpless. Reinstated a mere few hours before, the elderly ninja was locked behind closed doors with his advisors, Jonin Commander, ANBU captain and the leadership of the Daimyo's court. The disaster of the Kyuubi's attack had swept across Konoha like a force of nature, and now he was left begging for resources to maintain the protections of his village from bureaucrats and civilians without a proper grounding in the realities of the ninja world. This latest demand only underlined their differences. "Daimyo-sama, I must protest! Uzumaki Naruto is not only just an innocent child in this disaster, but a true hero of the village! Without him, the Kyuubi would have continued until nothing was left but a smoking ruin! What you demand is too much!"

Adjusting his glasses, one of the Daimyo's head historians cleared his throat. "Forgive me, Hokage-sama, but everyone here knows that, unwitting though he may have been, Uzumaki Naruto is central to the attack. His very existence is the reason for the Kyuubi's release, after all. While Mito-sama, wife of the Shodai was able to bear a child safely, she was supported by the Moukton. As powerful as he may have been, Yondaime-sama was simply unable to contain the beast in the wake of his child's birth." That particular statement brought a deep scowl to the Hokage's face. The sealing chamber where Kushina had been giving birth was still being examined, and all signs pointed to a third party launching an attack. However, these stuffed shirts would not hear a word until the investigation was complete. By then it would be far too late to do any good.

Smirking at his silence, the bureaucrat continued as if his case was already won. "Another element to consider is that the previous two Jinchuuriki were both female and pure blood Uzumaki. While I completely agree that Namikaze Minato was exceptional, his chakra was only that of a mortal man. Most of his abilities stemmed from sealing knowledge and innovation, skills now lost to us with the exception of Jiraiya-sama. While the child might bear his predisposition towards the sealing arts, he could just as likely lack the needed patience and skill to master the discipline. In the end, we have a Jinchuuriki of exceptional potential as a ninja, but not necessarily the power to contain the beast properly. With the loss of Uzu, additional layers of containment are only practical."

Unable to handle the smug fool's tone any longer, the Sandaime slammed his hand on the table in frustration. "This is more than a mere additional layer of containment! You want to send a newborn into a medically induced coma until he reaches puberty, harvest his genetic material for multiple pregnancies, and reseal the beast into another container as soon as the best candidate is chosen! Not only are you spitting in the face of two of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, but you threaten us with the release of the Kyuubi! While I am still waiting for Jiraiya to return and evaluate the seal, from what we have been able to glean from the technique, it relies upon the containers willpower! An empty husk without the spirit to endure will end up possessed or dead from chakra poisoning within a few short years!"

Hearing a rustle of cloth, Sarutobi turned to his greatest ally and enemy. Danzou had officially retired years ago, but with his return to the Hokage's post, an alternative councilor had been needed. Regrettably, the old war hawk was the only one around with sufficient credentials to hold the position. "While I don't fully agree with the spirit of the Sandaime's decisions, I do agree that this plan is not only a potential danger to Konoha, but a waste of resources. Kumo already has two Jinchuuriki of exceptional skill, while Iwa is still said to be working on their own container's seals. Removing the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki from play completely could destabilize the tenuous balance of power between the villages and lead to war. With the recent tragedy, it would probably be a war we would lose." It was all Sarutobi could do not to sigh in relief. Thank goodness for Danzou's patriotism.

Frowning, his old teammate Koharu spoke up. "While the actions of both Kumo and Iwa are of great concern, this Jinchuuriki will not be a contributing factor to either problem for quite a while. It takes alot of time to train such a ninja, and we would be hard pressed to use a newborn as a deterrent regardless. While I believe that things will get very difficult in the near future, keeping Uzumaki Naruto in one piece would not really affect events in the grand scheme of things." Looking at his friend in shock, Sarutobi fought the urge to bang his head into the table. He needed Tsunade to come back, if only to check the council for signs of senility!

The Hokage's internal rant was interrupted by a swiftly closing fan. "That is quite enough." Turning, the Sandaime frowned at the annoyed look on the Daimyo's face. While a relatively good leader, he knew enough about the man to know he never contemplated such a situation would develop. The Land of Fire had grown strong under the protection of Konoha, and with that strength came quite a bit of arrogance. "We have heard the arguments of those assembled before us, and are most displeased, honored leaders of Konoha. Allowing a situation such as this to develop brings your very competence into question, as well as your ability to continue as our honored protectors." Hearing that, the old man cursed his students for leaving him with this thankless job, even as the assemblage burst into angry muttering. He was too old to deal with such shit!

Holding his hand up for silence, the leader of the Land of Fire continued. "However, we are not without some common sense. Konoha has stood firmly against those who would seek to disrupt our peace, and we could never disregard such ability. The attack of the Kyuubi was a terrible tragedy, but no more than a flood or a hurricane. So we will, of course, be making every effort to reinforce the strength of Konoha, until the honored Sandaime can bring it back to its previous glory." Despite hearing that statement, Sarutobi knew better than to celebrate. The Daimyo was known for his bold actions, and this stunk of one of the man's dramatic reveals.

Swiftly covering his face with his reopened fan, the Daimyo continued. "That being said, it is clear to me that some of your concerns have considerable weight. Mito-sama and Kushina-sama have established a very impressive precedent, and deviating from that path could spell disaster. Therefore, this is my decision. Uzumaki Naruto will be acknowledged by Konoha by the title "Guardian of the Kyuubi". Every single student of both ninja and civilian descent will know his name, and the nature of his heavy burden. He shall be remembered as a hero of both the Uzumaki and the Namikaze for his great sacrifice. In return, he shall be placed in a deep sleep with his body maintained by the greatest ninja healers that Konoha has avaiable while his mind will be developed by the Yamanaka. If there ever comes a time when the boy's power is needed to defend Konoha, he shall be elevated to his proper position. Otherwise, he shall live out his days in the strongest containment cell Konoha has to offer. On this topic, we have spoken." Hearing the fate of his good friend's legacy, the Sandaime kept his face blank with the ease of long practice. But on the inside, he cried countless tears for the fate of Uzumaki Naruto.

The Daimyo's decision was not well received by the populace of Konoha. In his infinite wisdom, their lord had decided that a number of secrets had to be released in order for the population to properly understand the level of debt owed to the young Uzumaki Naruto. So, not only did the people of the village have to work on rebuilding their lives, burying their dead, and trying to find peace with their new realities, but they also had to pour over a number of declassified documents that should never have seen the light of day. In all honesty, Sarutobi was not surprised that he was forced to call out the ANBU to quell the riots. Civilians were such simple creatures after all.

Konoha had always espoused their Will of Fire as a gospel, holding it with pride as something that all ninja should be. It was a concept that every Hokage had valued as central to their methods, and their followers absorbed such lessons easily. Yet, beyond talk of noble sacrifice and determination, the average citizen of the village found a welcome sense of moral superiority cloaked within the doctrine. Thanks to both their ability and their drive, Konoha had never needed to sink to the levels of depravity that most of the other five great ninja had required. Supported by superior techniques, clans and morals, the ninja of Konoha were a beacon in their world of darkness and despair. It gave them purpose and drive a level apart from the lesser ninja of the world, and that pride was sometimes all that allowed them to go forward.

But reviewing the details of the Uzumaki clan left many citizens of Konoha, both ninja and civilian, with a pit of ice in their stomachs. Never before had the average member of the village realized just what depths their leaders had needed to sink to preserve their peace. Jinchuuriki, weapons designed to unleash horrors upon the battle field, had originally been granted to their enemies by the Shodai to promote peace. Yet in the same breath, he had used his own wife as a final line of defense for the village itself. In addition to founding the village, the Senju had passed along forbidden techniques to preserve their creation and world. It was both humbling and terrifying, knowing that their very existence was due to the intervention of a foreign power, long since destroyed in the chaos of war.

It was like a safety net had been stripped from their lives without them even realizing. Without the Senju, the Uzumaki, and the last genius of the Namikaze, the village felt hollow. Some cried for the recalling of Tsunade, while others pushed themselves and their children to make up the gap. Yet, despite these oddities, the majority of those involved simply pushed along in a daze. If Konoha was a dream they aspiredto, how could they remain asleep in such hopeless times? For every individual who sought the answer in improving themselves, two or three would do so at the bottom of a bottle or the end of a needle.

However, despite this aura of darkness that enveloped the village, one fact was agreed upon by all. The Kyuubi attack would have wiped them all out if not for the supreme sacrifice of the Yondaime Hokage. He gave up his life, the life of his wife, and the freedom of his child to preserve their peace. For that, the blonde would be worshiped for the rest of the village's existence. His son would be well cared for, even in his righteous task, and hopefully dream away the rest of his life. After so much pain, all the people of Konoha truly wanted at this point were to find some measure of peace and a chance to lick their wounds. Sadly, the world was rarely so kind.

Staring out at the village before him, the Sandaime did his best to enjoy to peaceful evening. Only a few short weeks ago, Konoha had been full of life and hope, with celebrations spanning every corner of the streets. Long and difficult peace talks with Kumo had finally been concluded, and it seemed like the future would finally see the reboot that they had been searching for. How foolish he had been, wasting energy on such a stupid delusion! Now so many people, good people that he had helped raise and mould into the next generation, would have to pay the price for this mistake. His only meager comfort was that history would share the blame among more than his tired old bones.

As if summoned by his thoughts, a light knock sounded before his secretary revealed his latest guest. Senses, honed by years of molding and channeling chakra detected no genjutsu or ninjutsu at work. It was simply a mortal man who had already lost too much. Yet, thinking about the lives to be lost because of this individual, Sarutobi allowed himself the minor boon of being selfish this one time. "Please have a seat Hiashi. We have much to discuss." Dressed in mourning, the head of the Hyuga took his place without a word. The young Jonin was not stupid enough to question his leader when summoned in the middle of the night. It was his place to listen, and remain silent unless spoken to.

Deciding that any further melodrama would be excessively cruel, the Hokage turned to speak with his subordinate. "As you are no doubt aware, our arrangement with Kumo was concluded three days ago with the delivery of your brother's body. The messenger I sent was asked to remain so that the Raikage could deliver a response to our actions. That response, along with a terrified ninja both returned to the village an hour ago. Given the circumstances, I authorize you to review the contents. The specifics will most likely be all over the village within a day or two regardless."

As poised and controlled as his position required Hyuga Hiashi reached down to grab the document, wasting no time in reviewing its contents. A dark, twisted part of Hiruzen's soul took satisfaction from the increased pallor of his guest. "Hokage-sama, surely they cannot be serious. This must be some sick, demented joke that you are playing with me. There is no way this can be real!" In an almost surprising show of strength, the clan head stood quickly enough to throw his chair across the room. That did nothing for the man's growing hysteria. "Please tell me it isn't true! It has to be a lie!"

Taking a deep pull from his pipe out of habit, the old man shook his head. "That document has been reviewed and rechecked nearly a dozen times, Hiashi. Kumo is using the Caged Bird Seal as a sign you are unwilling to honor our agreement. Therefore, as of dawn tomorrow, Konoha will officially be going to war with Kumo due to the assassination of their diplomat and our poor faith in the peace negotiations. "All of this is happening because, in your pride and self-righteousness, you aimed to kill an intruder instead of capturing him." Any other man would have been shouting at the young fool before them, but the Sandaime could not find the energy. Such actions would serve no purpose at this point. Yet his calm pronunciation was dreadfully effective, practically breaking the man before him in despair.

Standing, the elderly leader of the village walked around the desk with a sigh. "Hiashi, as angry as I am I cannot completely find you at fault. The plan of that man is clear in hindsight, but that does us no good. Kumo and Iwa have been looking for an excuse to launch a proper attack since the Kyuubi, and this incident was simply the catalyst. However when the details of the incident come out, and believe me they will come out, someone will have to be held accountable for the severity of the situation. Because of the Hyuga clan, many Konoha ninja will be sent to their deaths. I must provide them with some figure to focus their rage upon."

Head still bowed in supplication, Hiashi whispered his reply without an ounce of his normal arrogance. "I will happily gut myself in the town square if it would lead to the end of this madness. I made the decision to launch that attack, and now my brother's life is spilled for nothing in the end. Truly, it is a sign that I am unworthy of my position, and I must make amends. All I would ask in my final moments is that you look after my daughter. Hinata is so small, and while she doesn't display much promise now, I hope that she will prove herself worthy of this sacrifice in the future."

Taking another absent puff of the dead pipe, the Hokage shook his head. "A moving speech and sentiment, but a little misguided. You are a fine Jonin level Hyuga, and the current Grandmaster of Jyuken in the village. I would be remiss in removing such a tactical assent from the upcoming war. I'm afraid that you don't get to run away that easily." Putting his hand on the fallen man's shoulder, the Sarutobi's voice turned to steel. "However, I am more than willing to punish the fools who thought the switch was a good idea in the first place. The Hyuga Elders will be expected to show proper remorse for their actions within three days, or face a public execution. In addition, since I cannot risk the Raikage decoding the Caged Bird Seal from Hizashi's presented head, you will remove it from every branch member to prevent possible sabotage. I need every ninja fighting at full capacity if we are to survive this." Seeing the man before him gather his courage, the Sandaime cursed his successor for once again leaving him with this mess.

Limping towards the Hokage's tower, Hatake Kakashi fought to maintain his pace. The war with Kumo had been raging for nearly two years now, and as an ANBU captain he had seen his fair share of combat. The enemy was strong, ruthless and itching for complete domination of the battlefield. It was only due to his exceptional ability and the teamwork of his comrades that they had not lost more ninja than they should have. But with this latest development, he knew he probably would not get to sleep an hour over the next three days. Things had gotten much worse, and it was only due to the quick thinking of that new guy Tenzou that he was even able to walk at this point.

Still, as leader of his cell, the Elite Jonin knew his responsibilities well. While his teammates went to the hospital for treatment, he would have to report the situation to the Hokage. The latest development would change the entire face of the war. Nodding to the leader's secretary, Kakashi waited for acknowledgment through the door. The Sarutobi was not known as the professor for nothing, and his chakra signature would probably signal the severity of the situation. "Come in Inu. I'm sure that your presence means we have much to talk about." Suppressing a sigh, the commander let himself in, body moving even when his mind was in turmoil.

Seeing the once mighty Sandaime stooped over a desk filled with war reports was still a shock. The man before him had led the village since his birth, but Kakashi knew that this latest war was probably too much for him. If only that blasted Kyuubi had not attacked, then maybe this whole situation could have been avoided! "Inu, reporting from the western flank. I'm sorry to say, Hokage-sama that a new front has opened in this war." Of course, that dry statement did not quite capture the image of boulders flying through the air as his comrades fought to remain standing due to artificial earthquakes. The entire mission had been a fiasco once they had entered enemy territory.

Leaning into his chair, the leader of Konoha took a deep pull from his ever present pipe. "So Jiraiya's information was accurate. It appears that Iwa has finally decided to enter the fray. Apparently, it took two years of being worn down by Kumo to make us acceptable targets. I'll need a full report later Inu, but in the meantime why don't you give me the bare bones of the situation? I cannot have one of my top operatives dying from blood loss due to pride after all." Wincing at the tone, Kakashi wondered if it would not have been better to get treatment before reporting the situation. Then the image of countless teams dying from a lack of information straightened his spine. If spending an extra week in the hospital with chakra exhaustion prevented that, then the little barb was worth it.

Forcing his mind to return to the events of a few days earlier, Kakashi began to rattle off facts as quickly as possible. "My squad was dispatched to the north west quadrant to check on rumors of a new supply base for the Kumo forces. As you are aware, such a base would have allowed them to launch attacks from three additional locations along the border, and as such it's destruction was a tactical necessity. We managed to confirm the location of the base, but when Tora did a recon sweep, we discovered that the forces manning it were mostly Iwa ninja with a couple of commanders from Kumo. Knowing that this information made our preparations mostly obsolete, we decided to withdraw and request further instructions via summoning. Unfortunately, that was when things began to go wrong."

Feeling a sharp pain in his side as a reminder, the ANBU did his best to continue. "Iwa apparently sent a powerful sensor of some sort, because before we could even attempt a withdrawal nearly a dozen Iwa ninja phased out of the ground to surround us. Luckily, their skill sets were Chunin at best, so we were able to escape and withdraw with minimal damage. However, Neko and I will probably be off active duty for about two weeks due to our injuries and chakra exhaustion. I'm sorry to state Hokage-sama that this mission was a failure." Not that he particularly cared. His comrades were still alive, and there would be future chances to kill the enemy. Losing them to a mission that could not have been accomplished was simply not worth it in his eyes.

Sighing, the Hokage stood. "I am pleased that you returned, Inu, but I'm afraid that your information will force me to do something that I have been putting off for far too long. You are to go to the hospital and get yourself treated, but I am afraid that I must pull you from the ANBU. There is a special mission that will require your direct input before too much longer. As such, you may remove your mask and retain it until I clear you for such duties in the future." Confused, the Jonin carefully removed the piece of porcelain, wondering what the Hokage could possibly need him for other than ANBU. Honestly, he hoped it would not take too long. He had spent so much time in this mask, that it was practically a part of him now. Bowing to the best of his ability, the Jonin left after taking the old man's silence as a dismissal.

Walking down the path before him, Inoichi fought to remain calm. There was always an element of danger to bringing someone new down to meet his current patient, and Kakashi's presence was making him uncomfortable. It had been three years since someone had been cleared for this level of access, and he was feeling oddly protective. While his professionalism allowed the man to remain detached from his patient, the part of him that was a father could not help but find some measure of pride in the child. Despite everything that he had gone through, Uzumaki Naruto had the potential to be a legend. Now, despite the circumstances involved, the Guardian of the Kyuubi would be given the chance to prove himself.

Other than his duties in the Torture and Interrogation Department, Uzumaki Naruto had been his only mission since the Kyuubi attack. It had taken a lot of effort to deal with his emotions on the matter, but in the end the boy had grown on him. Stimulating his mind enough to maintain sanity was a delicate process, but Minato and Kushina's genius bred true. Naruto had surpassed all expectations, and was now demonstrating a level of mental clarity and focus that was difficult for people five times his age to manage.

Finally seeing the main door, the Yamanaka formed hand signs out of habit before releasing a precise pulse of chakra into the door frame. Biting his thumb, the blonde then proceeded to trace a careful pattern into the locking mechanism before releasing a slightly different pulse. The Omega Vault had been in place before the Kyuubi attack, built directly underneath the Hokage's tower as a prison for SS-class enemies. But with the incarceration of its latest guest, security had been upgraded nearly three hundred percent. The only way someone was getting in here without an invitation was if they could modify time and space. With the death of the Yondaime, that was hardly much of a concern. Taking a well used tag, he finished the circuit traced earlier, releasing the final lock. With that, the door finally began to open.

Contained within an intricate seal matrix, a small five year old child slept. His skin was sallow from the limited light, and several additional seals were places along his form, centered on his abdomen. Several hydroponic farms were strategically placed to filter impurities out of the air, giving the entire cell a slightly tropical flavor. There was everything needed to ensure that Uzumaki Naruto would remain healthy and whole, even in his artificial coma. However, Inoichi had to suppress a smirk when Kakashi paused behind him. It was clear that the other inmate in their little piece of prison paradise was a bit of a shock. "Tsunade, what the hell are you doing here?"

The blonde and busty Sannin glared at the Jonin with traces of her legendary fire. "Who do you think the Daimyo meant when he called for the best medics available to tend to the Guardian of the Kyuubi? Sensei summoned me and Shizune back once the Omega Vault was retrofitted, and ordered us to secretly tend to the brat in return for clearing my debts. Its stuff like this that made me leave Konoha in the first place." Seeing her sallow glare and exhausted stance, Inoichi remembered just how much effort the medic had put into this project. For all her grumbling, it was clear that the Senju was willing to protect the last of her legacy. She just had too much pride to admit it.

Still, they had their orders and it was time to begin. "Tsunade-sama, by order of the Sandaime we are to initiate Code Legacy. You know what to do." Frowning, the blonde quickly formed hand signs before touching six key locations on the child's body. Feeling the boy's chakra slowly unwind from its customarily sealed position, Inoichi smiled happily. In his opinion, this action was long overdue. "Thank you Tsunade-sama for your efforts. As agreed, upon Uzumaki Naruto's full recovery you shall be granted the position of administrative head of the Hospital and allowed to establish the Combat Medic Core. Viable candidates will be screened and presented to you from the Academy within the week."

Nodding her agreement, the Sannin turned to Kakashi. "I know what your responsibility is here brat, and let me make one thing perfectly clear. If you do not train Naruto to his utmost potential, I will personally oversee a pineapple enema during your next checkup. Are we clear about that?" Feeling the normally unflappable ANBU shiver next to him, Inoichi felt his own ass cheeks clench in momentary fear. There were just some things that you did not threaten a man with!

Coughing, the Yamanaka began his own hand signs. "I'm sure that both you and Shizune will enjoy your new responsibilities, but in the meantime, it's time to wake our sleeping beauty. We have a lot of work ahead of ourselves." Feeling the scowls in his neck, Inoichi forced himself to continue the technique. It would not due to fry the boy's brain due to a loss of control. They needed him in one piece to prove his worth after all.

He drifted in the white expanse for what seemed like forever, but was probably only a few hours. Time meant nothing to him really, especially since he had never seen a day or a night. He was not even really sure what it meant to be known as a "he" to be honest. When he first became aware, he had no concept of gender or identity. That was before the other came and began to teach him. The one being who defined him as more than an odd collection of sensations and unresolved feelings and made him into a semi-coherent individual. Inoichi-sensei was the single constant in his life and he had no problems with that.

Oh, the man also saddled him with other titles and definitions, but he did not really care too much. In this endless world of white, there was only himself and the other. Names such as Naruto or Jinchuuriki were absolutely meaningless in such an arrangement. It was not like there were dozens of others to keep straight after all. Why bother with such a meaningless thing as a name? But Inoichi-sensei insisted, so when they spent time together he was known as Uzumaki Naruto. In the end, it honestly did not matter that much.

Feeling a familiar shift in the atmosphere of the space, he turned his attention to the focal point of the disturbance. There was Inoichi-sensei, a smudge of difference in the empty world. He had once asked about the difference, and received a short lecture on the nature of something called color. Honestly, it was more trouble than it was worth. "Hello Naruto-kun. I'm here today with a special surprise for you."

He never really needed to speak in this world. It was simply a reflection of his mind after all, so simple things such as vocabulary were unnecessary. He just transmitted his mild curiosity and interest to the figure before him directly in a much more efficient manner. In response, the other smiled. "Today, I am leading you to the outside world. There is much work to be done, and I need your help. Will you help me with this, Naruto-kun?"

The other had brought up issues like this before in the past. How, one day he might leave his own world and travel to this mysterious outside. He had never really thought about it happening, since Inoichi-sensei seemed to think it would be in response to something bad. Why would he want to go into a world where there were bad things? Here he was safe, secure, and relatively content. Leaving would serve no real purpose would it?

On the other hand, if he refused Inoichi-sensei might not come back. The idea of returning to the perfection of his own world alone stirred something foreign in his mind. He thought the word was fear of solitude. Being alone was his natural state of being. Returning to that state after spending time with another was oddly unpleasant. Perhaps entering the outside world would allow him to prevent such actions from happening? The idea of so many others, all there to interact with at will, filled him with an odd sense of longing. Perhaps he could give it a try and just come back if he did not like it. Focusing his thoughts, the world vibrated with his intent. In response he could actually feel the other's smile.

The change was immediate. His world began to shift and dissolve, turning into its opposite within minutes. Sensations he had never experienced before began to flood his consciousness, centering on an odd beat behind his mind. Confused, he sought out the previous light out of reflex, only to feel an unfamiliar movement. He would later discover that the action was known as blinking, the beat was a heartbeat, and the sensations were summed up by the phrase touch. Yet at that moment, all he could understand that the world had exploded into more colors than he had ever contemplated before.

Inoichi-sensei was the first thing he saw, but the difference was huge. While before the other had been some sort of blip on the horizon, nearly overwhelmed by the nature of his world, here the man was so much larger and real. He was surrounded by other figures, unfamiliar and looming, and he felt the first stirrings of a new sensation. Curious, he attempted to quantify it but could not comprehend the idea. Its true meaning would escape him for years to come.

His introspective moment was interrupted by the odd sensation of Inoichi-sensei projecting his intent directly. "I know that you are feeling confused at the moment, Naruto-kun, but we're all here to help you. The woman to my right is Tsunade, while the man to my left is Kakashi-sensei. Between the three of us, you will soon understand every single feeling that you are dealing with. Believe me, there is no time for us to waste. So we will bring you up to full speed as quickly as we can. For now, just rest and get used to your senses." Observing the others before him, a single stray thought focused in his mind. Did all creatures known as "female" have such big chests?

Dragging the fallen form of his best friend, Hagane Kotetsu did his best to hide behind the disintegrating stone barrier. Cursing at the horrible intelligence on the enemy stronghold, the Chunin fought to get his breath under control. He and Izumo had just been promoted to Chunin a year into the war, and the assignments were making him nostalgic for gate duty. The two had been working together ever since, and never failed to survive watching each other's backs. But now, after five years of close calls and fallen comrades, their luck had finally run out. Izumo was dead, neck broken by the Iwa ninja's technique, and he would probably die shortly. Lifting his mace, the Chunin said a brief prayer before flaring his chakra. He might end today, but he would make sure those bastards felt it!

But before the ninja could move to avenge his comrade, a wave of powerful chakra washed over the battlefield from behind his position. Looking up in alarm at the unfamiliar chakra signature, Kotetsu blinked in shock at what he saw. A boy, no more than seven or eight years old, was calmly walking through the battlefield. He wore a black bodysuit, covered by a coat of the deepest red, with a Konoha symbol as his belt. Seeing the blonde hair and blue eyes, with six distinct marks on his cheeks, the Chunin fought back his shock. There was no way this was real. He was dead and did not know it yet or something! Only one child could have those features and that level of chakra!

Ignoring his breakdown, the child continued to walk, passing his position before facing the Iwa stronghold. The rate of fire suddenly tripled, but the unknown figure did not even bother to react. In the one corner of his mind that was not bothering to go kaput at the sight before him, Kotetsu noticed that the enemy seemed to sacrifice accuracy for speed, as if they wanted to stamp this boy out of existence. Yet things took an even greater turn for the weird when the child formed a hand sign and called out a technique. "Multi-Shadow Clone Jutsu." With that small, dry pronouncement, the entire field was filled with blondes.

What followed was no more a battle than a slaughter. Unlike their progenitor, the clones were fast, using the launched stone projectiles as jumping boards through the sky. The Chunin watched in fascinated horror as each started launching wind techniques backed by exploding tags. The combination turned the solid stone fort into an oven, roasting the enemy ninja alive. Those that escaped using earth manipulation to move through the ground, were then targeted by the clones in their decent. With a combination of excessive numbers and ruthless efficiency, every Iwa ninja was dead within minutes of revealing themselves. The base that he had been attempting to crack for hours, and had lost his best friend over, had fallen at the hands of a child. There was only one possible explanation.

Kotetsu, watched as the boy, not even winded from his extreme combinations of attacks, began to return from whence he came. The clones were still active in the background, breaking the fort down at a physical level while removing any and all traps safely, but the Chunin could not bring himself to care. Forcing his courage to the forefront, the Chunin stood before bowing to the boy as he walked by. "Thank you so much for your help, Uzumaki-sama. You have my eternal gratitude for avenging my friend and saving my life. One day, I hope to repay this debt to you."

Pausing at the use of the Uzumaki name, the child locked gazes with him for an instant. In the moment, Hagane Kotetsu was able to perceive just what had been done to the child before him to ensure their peace, and he felt both humbled and ashamed. Then the moment passed, and the blonde nodded his acknowledgement before continuing. Falling over from the strain, the Chunin grabbed his friend's body and began to return to the base camp. This battle was no longer some pointless skirmish in a war for survival. Now, he could brag on both his own and Izumo's behalf that they were there when the Guardian of the Kyuubi joined in the Fourth Great Ninja War. It would certainly earn him a few drinks for him and his buddy. Fighting back the sudden tears, the Chunin continued to move forward.

Strolling through the streets of Konoha, Uzumaki Naruto fought the urge to sigh in boredom. For some reason, Kakashi-sensei had ordered him to take today off without any training. Apparently, it was ten years to the day since the Kyuubi had been sealed within him and the Jonin thought that it would be a good day to relax as a result. He found the whole thing strange to be honest. Why would he want to celebrate a day he just happened to be born? It was not like it was really that big of a deal in the end.

Noticing the ANBU keeping an eye on him, the blonde wondered if he should lose his watchers for practice. However, remembering what happened the last time that he ignored Kakashi-sensei, he decided to allow things to remain as they were. Even if he could beat the four elite ninja guarding him, there was no reason to break a sweat over something so trivial. Besides he got enough exercise on the battlefield, why not save Konoha for activities that were a little more interesting? After all, there were only so many ways you could spill blood before it became routine.

Hearing the whispers from the various groups of civilians and ninja around, the blonde decided to focus his chakra to his ears. He did this occasionally, hoping for new information and experiences that would spark his interest. Unfortunately, there was nothing particularly new to be gathered today. The elderly civilians were fearful of the Kyuubi possessing him. The ninja were exchanging stories, both real and imaginary, of his actions during the war. The younger ninja and civilians were just looking at him with a mix of awe and terror. Honestly, it was the same thing every day since he had entered the other world.

It was not like the Kyuubi was that much of a problem. The additional sealing matrix he had been placed under had acted to suppress the beasts mind while filtering its chakra. As a result, despite his stunted muscle growth over the course of his coma nearly forty percent more of the demonic energy had been converted for his use. By the time Kakashi-sensei, Tsunade-sensei and Inoichi-sensei had finished conditioning him into something worthwhile, he had the power of nearly three Kage level ninja without the use of the Kyuubi's power. Over the course of his career, he had never even needed or felt the urge to harness it in the first place.

The accomplishments on the battlefield were just as mundane. Upon passing his qualifications and mastering some techniques, the Hokage had started sending him to key points in the enemy's defensive line in order to break any stalemates. As a result of his excessive chakra reserves, Naruto had managed to overwhelm the more experienced enemies with sheer numbers. Every battle made him stronger, and images of killing the opposition had dealt with any concerns about death fairly early on. His first kill left the boy a little squeamish, but in the end why should he care that much? He was himself, and the rest of the world either supported him or wanted his head. Honestly, getting worked up about it seemed like a waste of energy.

Then there were the younger members of the village. He had been told that the normal children of Konoha idolized him for his burden. They were raised to believe that he was the honored Guardian of the Kyuubi and legacy of the greatest ninja of the village. There were times, rare as they might be that he was interested in talking with these fans and understanding their interest. But the weaker children clamed up in his presence, while the stronger were blocked by his ANBU guards. Being admired from afar was all well and good, but given the difference in their abilities, it would probably be several more years before he could even talk to someone his age. It was a little disappointing, but nothing that he could not handle.

A sudden scent of gunpowder distracted the blonde from his musings. But the sight of fireworks put his mind at ease. Realizing that the village was about to hold a minor festival in honor of the death of his father, Naruto decided to head home. The celebration was always crowded with too many people, and he did not want to cause his watchers any trouble. Better he be out of sight than cause any undue complications. Walking down another side path to return to the Hokage's Tower, Naruto barely noticed the ramen stand he passed by.

Shifting in his robes, Uchiha Fugaku fought the urge to activate his Sharingan and be done with it. After nearly fifteen years of combat and loss, the Fourth Great Ninja War was finally at an end. So many lives lost, wasted because of the pride and manipulations of the men before him. Even with the traditional hatred of the Hyuga that all Uchiha embraced, he was not so foolish as to blame that commoner Hiashi. After all, Kumo could have as easily targeted his son Sasuke as the Hyuga heiress. They just happened to have superior security in their district.

But the war had cost everyone much. His own Heir Itachi had been lost in the operation to kill the Gobi Jinchuuriki. His predecessor the Sandaime had been killed successfully sealing the Hachibi Jinchuuriki. Danzou had been killed for colluding with Kumo for personal gain, while Homura and Koharu had been assassinated by a Kumo strike force. Hatake Kakashi was wiped out in a duel with the Nibi Jinchuuriki. Tsunade had been killed in a duel with the Sandaime Tsuchikage, taking the little dwarf with her. The only original instigator of the war left was the Yondaime Raikage, and he had lost an arm and a few ribs killing Jiraiya of the Sannin. In the aftermath of blood and tears, the whole war seemed so pointless. Although, breaking the Senju stranglehold on the leadership of the village was a nice little bonus.

Slamming his hand into the table, Kitsuchi the Yondaime Tsuchikage glared in his direction. "Iwa's final demand is that something be done about the spawn of the Yellow Flash! We refuse to stop fighting unless Uzumaki Naruto, Guardian of the Kyuubi is contained or killed to our specifications!" Quirking an eyebrow, the head of the Uchiha Clan noted the Raikage's interest at the statement. Honestly, it was something that he had also been concerned about in recent days.

Uzumaki Naruto, also known as the Guardian of the Kyuubi, the Red Claw, and the Blue Sage had become the strongest ninja in Konoha's history. Ever since his introduction into the Fourth Great Ninja War, no battle he was specifically involved with had ended in failure unless by design. Trained by some of the best and brightest in Konoha, the eighteen year old was established outside the normal protocols of the ninja forces, reporting directly to the Hokage. The only reason he was not named the Godaime himself, was because Fugaku was more social and better connected. Not to mention a distinct lack of interest.

Years of isolation and combat had left the blonde disassociated with normal life. It honestly reminded him a bit of Itachi before his death. Unfortunately, every year saw the man become smarter, stronger and more effective. While that was wonderful for Konoha in war time, once peace became a reality there was no telling what the boy might get up to. As galling as it was, he simply lacked the necessary connections and bonds required to control Naruto in day to day life. If the blonde ever decided to claim the title of Hokage, there was probably little he could do about it. The last thing the Uchiha wanted was a return of the Senju domination.

Thankfully, the Iwa idiot had given him an opening. "I admit that young Naruto-kun does tend to leave a bit of an impression. However, I am unwilling to remove such a vital resource without some additional compensation. Therefore, if you want Uzumaki Naruto to no longer be a threat, then I am afraid I must insist that Konoha is allowed to reclaim the Nibi and Yonbi from Kumo and Iwa respectively. After all, you did take our gifts and turn them against us in a vile and underhanded manner." Seeing the two Kages before him were preparing to launch another verbal assault, the Uchiha held up his hand. "Unless you would like to add another couple of S's to Naruto-kun's designation as he is sent against your villages directly?" With that thought in mind, the following negotiations went quite a bit smoother than before.

Narrowing his eyes at the Hokage's pronouncement, Nara Shikaku noted that any number of his fellow clan heads were unhappy with this decision. Despite some early concerns, Uzumaki Naruto was a hero of the village both through lineage and deed. Sending such a man into exile did not sit well with any of them. "Are you sure about this, Hokage-sama? Naruto has always demonstrated proper loyalty to Konoha and is singularly responsible for our survival during the war. Your plan effectively entombs him for the rest of his life like an attack dog we don't need any more. Somehow, I don't think that pissing off the Guardian of the Kyuubi would be in anyone's best interest."

Leaning back, the Godaime frowned. "I am not completely happy with the decision either, but what would you have me do? Iwa's hatred of the Namikaze has taken on fanatical elements beyond all logical understanding. Without such a concession, we would have to send the boy to completely destroy the other two villages and risk censure by the Daimyo. Konoha needs peace badly, and giving the man a suitable retirement is significantly better than killing him off." Left unspoken was the fact Uzumaki was a threat to the Uchiha's reign within the village. None of the assembled ninja dumb enough to ignore that little tidbit.

Buzzing, Aburame Shibi cleared his throat. "It is not like you can simply stick him back in the Omega Vault at this point. Not only is it holding those prisoners from Akatsuki, but Naruto is no fool. He would recognize what you are doing in an instant. How exactly do you plan to deal with the strongest ninja in the village in such a manner? It's not like he is some mindless beast that you can guide with scraps." Shikaku idly noted that over a decade of fighting and saving lives had earned the blonde significant support. Of course, people like Tsume and Shibi would step up since their own children and clansmen had been avenged by Naruto, but it all worked out in the end.

Sighing, the Uchiha held up a scroll. "The Sandaime might have had his moments, but the man was no fool. He made sure to retain the specifics of the Omega Vault's construction for any future leaders. A new, higher quality version is currently being worked on by our Research and Development department. It will have everything that Uzumaki Naruto would need to be content and strong, on the off chance that we will need his power at a later date. Besides, it's not like he would really care that much. In all his years as a ninja, Naruto has formed very few bonds with his comrades. Regrettably, every single individual that shared strong ties with him died in the war." Turning to see a nervous Ino-chan where one of his best friends used to sit, Nara gave Fugaku the point.

Despite the efforts of himself and several other councilors, Uzumaki Naruto's fate was sealed. In five days, the blonde would be directed into a new prison, where he would stay for the remainder of his natural life, or if another war broke out. To keep up the facade, any number of training scrolls and delicacies would be made available, up to and including gardens, special meats, and high quality alcohol. All food that would not be grown would come from a special storage seal matrix that could be renewed once every five years from the outside. Every possible stimulus would be provided in an effort to distract him, including his guards.

Despite some objections from the Yamanaka and the Hyuga, three kunoichi were chosen to be his live in guardians. Their purpose was to distract Naruto with their physical wiles, or incapacitate him if he attempted to escape. The Godaime was very strict on this point, stating that the bloodline of the Uzumaki, Namikaze and Senju must live on, to ensure that another guardian could be produced from their descendants. While the boy had been a little slow in demonstrating such interests, his physicals indicated he was a healthy, heterosexual male. Given the time and beauties involved, coupling seemed to be a foregone conclusion. Only the best of the best could be expected to keep the blondes interest for any notable amount of time.

While the idea itself had merit, the candidates chosen were a bit on the surprising side. Haruno Sakura was the rising star of the Combat Medic Core, trained by Tsuande-sama and Shizune-san in the earliest days of the program. The loss of both her parents to a Kumo raid had pushed the brilliant girl to heights only previously reached by the Sannin herself. Hyuga Hinata was an exceptional herbalist, and considered a master of a new form of the Jyuken designed for kunoichi. After the death of her teammates, the shy girl had become one of the most effective assassins and bodyguards in the village, rising to Jonin status by the tender age of sixteen. Tenten the Weapons Mistress of Konoha was a heavy combat specialist and Seal Master, known for her battlefield tactics. Her biggest claim to fame was wiping out nearly three hundred Iwa ninja in a battle that took the lives of both her teammates and her Sensei.

All three kunoichi were a high A-rank in the rosters and perfect for the mission at hand. But Shikaku could not help but wonder if there might be other reasons for their inclusion. Sakura was closely affiliated with the Senju Medical Genius, and said to be sniffing around Uchiha Sasuke, the new heir of the clan. Hinata was the heiress of the Hyuga clan who, with her removal, would be replaced by the less established and political Hanabi, who was five years her junior. Tenten was simply someone without the necessary ties to protect herself, and the skills to carry out the mission. While all three could accomplish their objective, removing them from play would also allow the Uchiha a greater stranglehold over Konoha's politics.

Still, in the end there was nothing else to do. Any other candidates were either too old, or were too connected to risk in such a fashion. While he knew that Inoichi would have fought the proposal, the Nara understood it was for the best. Besides, at least this would keep the boy safe from any revenge hungry pricks from Iwa or Kumo. Signing the authorization papers, the Nara wondered if his son would be up for another round of Shougi. Ever since Asuma's death, the poor boy had been somewhat more difficult to lure into a game.

Shifting around in her Chinese style dress, Tenten wondered how her career had evolved into this. After being acknowledged as one of the best and brightest of her generation, the Hokage turned around and spat in her face. Instead of being promoted to Elite Jonin, getting her own students to train, and bringing the Will of Fire to new heights, she was instead going to be some combination bribe and jail guard for the rest of her life. This was hardly the life she imagined back during the Ninja Academy.

Years ago, she probably would have started throwing kunai at the Hokage's ass for pulling such a stunt, but war had changed her. Constant combat coupled with so many dead comrades had taken most of the shine off of her occupation. While she specialized in combat, Tenten had been sent on the odd seduction mission over the years. Sometimes they could even be relaxing, allowing her to let her hair down so to speak. The actual practice of sex and seduction was a little messy in places, but everyone found their own ways of de-stressing. The day she realized that taking lives did nothing to her anymore, was the day she decided to change her own. It was too bad that no one had managed to keep up with Lee's stamina since that incident three years back. Well, there was Anko, but that required more alcohol than she was willing to drink on a regular basis.

Observing her company, the kunoichi thanked her lucky stars she was not locked up with a couple of fan girls. Everyone in her generation knew about Haruno Sakura. The best medic to come out of Konoha since Tsunade herself, the pink haired girl should have been training medics and finding a strong partner to enjoy her new career. Supposedly, before this mission was announced, the medic was slated to become assistant director of the Combat Medic Core under Shizune. From the tales Tenten had heard about her prowess, the slightly younger girl had more than earned her position. Now she was regulated as eye candy to keep a Jinchuuriki from freaking out. At least she looked good in the white and pink Kimono.

The other girl was just as notorious, if not exactly for the same reasons. Hyuga Hinata was seen by some as bad luck, since her kidnapping touched off the war in the first place. That was later compounded by the death of her Sensei and teammates, both of which had been clan heirs. While Tenten did not think herself particularly superstitious, that sort of track record did tend to make someone stick out. Although her track record was pretty impressive in the later years, the stink of early failure was just difficult to throw off. At least, with that figure, it would be more likely that she would be the first to be ravaged.

Each girl had only been given a day before the mission had started. None had been allowed to tell their friends or family about it, and all three would be listed as killed in action within the month. At least the prison was fairly nice. There were gardens, a scroll library, rooms for all four of them and more, assuming that children actually resulted from this perverted plan, and everything else they could ever want. They had been stuck here all morning, supposedly to familiarize themselves with the layout, but more likely to prevent any sort of last minute defection. Honestly, just sitting around, waiting for someone to break the silence was annoying, but not enough for her to take the first move. It was not the life she pictured, but in the end it would have to do.

The weapons mistress's thoughts were disrupted by the sound of the door opening. Glancing over to the entrance, she had a quick image of the exterior of the chamber before it closed again. She could almost picture the seals outside charging up their security procedures, ensuring that no one would ever be able to rescue them from this nightmare. Resigning herself to fate, the girl stood to address their fellow prisoner, noting the other two Kunoichi rising as well. Then the sight before her made it difficult to breathe.

Of course she had heard all about the Guardian of the Kyuubi growing up. He was the poor boy sacrificed in the defense of Konoha, just as his mother and great second cousin had before him. That reputation had only grown when the man had entered the war, sweeping across the battlefield like a force of nature. But now, faced with the lean and fit body of the actual guardian, all of Tenten's bravado left her in a rush. This was the man who held back the most powerful demon the world had ever seen. This man had practically destroyed the combined forces of two hidden villages all by himself. This man had the most delicious looking muscles underneath his coat, and eyes you could just lose yourself in. Even with the rumors of him being a cold fish, this might not be such a bad assignment after all.

Approaching the border of the Land of Fire, Nii Yugito contemplated her fate. As Jinchuuriki of the Nibi, she had been central in dozens of victories over the last few years. Her command of the demonic chakra was only second to the late Killer Bee, wiping out such illustrious names as Kakashi of the Sharingan and Body-Flicker Shisui without retaining a scratch. As an Elite Jonin, she was due each and every possible honor due to her actions in the war. Unfortunately, that was not what happened in the end.

She knew her escort was not happy with the situation. Omoi, Karui and Samui had been students of the late Hachibi Jinchuuriki, and as such only held her in the highest regard. Shii, personal medic to the Raikage, had also demonstrated a history of professionalism that some of her colleagues lacked. Yet, Yugito herself could not find the energy to curse her fate. As a ninja of Kumo, she knew that death could come at any time. If her sacrifice could prevent an attack by the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki, then she would gladly throw herself onto a poisoned kunai. Her comrades were proud and powerful, so she had no doubt that the Nibi would find its way back to Kumo before too much longer. Then who would have the last laugh?

Her musing was interrupted by a cry from Shii. Feeling instincts honed in countless battles screaming for motion, the blonde kunoichi pushed a startled Karui to the side before falling to the ground. Unfortunately, both Omoi and Samui were too slow to react. Before her horrified stare, a three bladed scythe flew through the air, cutting through the busty blonde only to impale into the swordsman's side. Before Shii could even attempt treatment her two comrades bled out in seconds.

Feeling a familiar fury, the Jinchuuriki prepared to meet her attacker when an unfamiliar whisper broke through the tension. "Atsugai." In response to this mild chant, an insane beam of solid wind chakra crushed Shii into paste, splattering her with gore. Trying to grab Karui and get out of range, Yugito was shocked by an attack of black threads launching from the ground. While she managed to dodge the strike, Karui was not so lucky. Before the brash girl could even draw her blade, her abdomen was covered with the insidious threads. Watching the fire die in her eyes, Yugito swallowed heavily. The entire ambush lasted less than five minutes.

"Man, what a bunch of weaklings! They weren't even good enough for a warm up. Jashin-sama will be so disappointed to drink their blood." Forcing herself to remain calm, the kunoichi turned to face the speaker. Two figures had her flanked on either side of the road. The silver haired moron who had spoken was shirtless, with an odd medallion his only ornament. At his side was a massive three bladed scythe, still dripping with her comrade's blood. The other was much taller, with only his piercing green eyes uncovered and a suitcase of all things in his hand. But when she saw that both wore the cloaks of Akatsuki, Yugito knew that things had become much more difficult.

Ignoring his partner's rant, the taller operative pointed his hand in her direction. "Normally, I might allow my partner to vent some of his stupid religion to get it out of the way, but we're on a deadline. Nii Yugito, Nibi Jinchuuriki, you are our target. Please give us a better fight than your comrades, because I could use the reimbursement after missing out on your bounty." With that statement, the blonde's control was shattered, as a wave of blue fire was sent flying at her enemy.

If he had suddenly developed extra sensory perception, Roushi of the Yonbi might have been intrigued at the parallels between his own situation and his sister Jinchuuriki from Kumo. At it stood, only his life time of battle experience had allowed him to dodge his unknown assailant. Unfortunately, Kurotsuchi-chan was not so fortunate. Before she could launch a single attack, nearly a dozen snakes had encased the girl before crushing her. Akastuchi-kun attempted to form a protective golem to retaliate, but the snakes were too fast and their poison too ferocious. The oldest living Jinchuuriki had just managed a single stream of fire before the boy died at his feet. Seeing the crushed and deformed bodies of his honor guard, all the red headed Iwa ninja could do was thank fate there had not been more people around. Bonds of blood meant little to the man, but the world would be a darker place without such rising stars of the next generation.

Cursing himself for his distraction, Roushi looked up the cliff only to see the familiar black and red robes of the Akatsuki organization. Noticing the pale skin and long hair of his assailant, the Jinchuuriki growled in rage. "Orochimaru you traitor! What the hell is the meaning of this? Your group was supposed to be on our side!"

Smirking in a gesture that took up way too much of his face, the last of the living Sannin appeared to vomit up a sword. "Now, now Roushi-kun, don't be like that! We of the Akatsuki only have one sort of comrade. That is, other members of the Akatsuki! I'm just afraid that our leader has a vested interest in you and is absolutely desperate for a meeting. Regrettably, I simply don't have much time to chat at the moment, so if you would be so kind as to come with me? It really would make things so much easier in the end." Hearing the smarmy self confidence oozing of the figure, Roushi saw red. Sannin or not, there was no way he would lose to this bastard!

Channeling his demonic chakra, the red head felt the familiar transformation take over. While his power had never been enough to transform fully into his Biju's form for an extended period of time, two tails should be more than enough to handle this jerk. Feeling the outline of an ape encircle his body like a shield, Roushi prepared to launch into the air to begin an epic battle not seen since the last clash of the war! So you could imagine his surprise when an attack from behind drained all his energy like a sponge.

Gasping at the sudden strain, Roushi leapt to the side of the pass to meet his new enemy. Between the spiky blue hair, obvious gills, and squirming package on his back, there was no doubt who the enemy was. Hoshigaki Kisame, missing ninja of Kiri and one of the Seven Swordsmen was his opponent. Grinning with too many sharp teeth, the deformed ninja chuckled. "Well now, for such an old coot your chakra is pretty tasty. Samehada hasn't been this energized since we passed a battle with the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki involved." Seeing the black soulless eyes pierce him like a gaping fish, the Jinchuuriki knew things had just gotten much worse.

To his right was a ninja capable of stealing his chakra with a single sword strike. To his left was an enemy who had killed two Iwa Jonin in seconds and had who knows how many techniques in his twisted brain. Each was more than capable of taking out a Kage level ninja, and seemed very interested in taking him prisoner. In short, he was totally screwed. Griping his kunai, the old ninja smirked. While it was not the sort of final battle he had dreamed of, at least he could go down swinging!

Forming a dome out of sand, Gaara attempted to launch a barrage of sand bullets at the flying opponent. Unfortunately, just like his previous six attempts, the enemy directed his clay construct to gain altitude. Gritting his teeth in annoyance, the Ichibi Jinchuuriki considered unleashing his prisoner to deal with the pest. However, remembering the speed and maneuverability of his blonde opponent, he decided against it. Even he could be worn down, and releasing total control this close to Suna would probably damage the village significantly. He just could not take the risk.

He had just been returning from the border as a sign of good faith, when the enemy launched a surprise attack from the sky. While his automatic defense prevented any major injuries, the amount of dust made breathing and sighting the enemy difficult. Launching himself into the sky on a platform of sand had failed when he had been targeted by high speed explosives. Attempts to burrow underground had met with disaster, when a high yield mine field had started going off. Three attempts at moving in closer had been countered by puppet-like clay constructs with high level taijutsu. After nearly an hour of fighting this bastard, Gaara knew one thing with absolute certainty. When he got his claws on this guy, a sand spike was going where the sun did not shine!

Reaching his boiling point, Gaara started channeling more and more chakra into the ground. Normally, such a technique required a full transformation, but between his temper and the decreasing number of explosives coming his way, the Jinchuuriki was sure he could pull it off. As his command, two one hundred feet tall claws launched from the sand, aiming at the flying demolitions expert. The strain was immense, but the red head held on, determined to end this threat once and for all. He was so close that victory was almost in his grasp! That was when a poison cloud started to move in his direction.

Cursing, Gaara dropped his technique before launching himself through the sand banks. Much to his dismay, not only did the cloud begin to saturate the sand, making it much more difficult to manipulate, but the crazy bomber bastard caught his second wind. Between the poison and the explosions, it was only a matter of time before someone slipped up. Unfortunately, it was him zigging when he should have zagged, leading to a successful combination attack. The resulting backlash sent him flying.

Fighting to remain conscious, the Ichibi Jinchuuriki finally caught view of his enemies. The poison user was hunched over, giving off the odd clicking sound with every other movement. The bomber had a long blonde ponytail and an evil smirk. Seeing the familiar cloaks, Gaara realized just what he was dealing with and felt fear. These were men capable of taking out the Biju for their own profit, answering only to themselves. He had been captured by Akatsuki, and there was no one in Suna able or willing to rescue him. Falling into despair, Gaara's last thought before the hunched figure put a seal on his head, was whether or not Naruto-sempai would have won where he failed. Then there was only darkness and demonic howls of pain.

The Godaime Hokage's first indication of trouble was a massive explosion focused in the middle of the village. He had been working on the necessary paperwork to support his cover story for the Guardian of the Kyuubi's absence, when the ground shook with the impact. It was the work of moments to get to the top of the tower to get a better perspective on the situation. What he saw made his blood run cold. His village, the home of his family, clan and comrades for generations, was being obliterated!

In one corner, a set of unknown boss summons were tearing apart the hospital and Academy sectors. In another area, giant explosions and screams of pain filled the air. Yet a third section was being blasted apart by some sort of wind technique he did not recognize. It was an absolute slaughter never before seen within the confines of the village. Even over a decade of wartime combat had not prepared the leader of the village for such as sight. It was as if Konoha was disintegrating like a sand castle at the beach!

Shaking himself out of the paralyzing horror before him, the Hokage called for his forces. "Inu, Tora, Neko, attend me! We must act to protect our village!" The three ANBU operatives were among the best of the best, and as such were assigned to his personal guard. Such a call should have resulted in an immediate response, allowing him to dispatch his forces quickly to counter threats to Konoha. So imagine his surprise when no one reacted to his cry.

"Oh dear, that is a shame. I hope you don't mind Fugaku-kun, but your subordinates were rather rude. I just tired to teach them a few matters, and well, they just seemed to break to little pieces." Turning at the unknown voice, the Godaime activated his Sharingan to face the interloper. Perched on one of the towers turrets was a figure draped in black with red clouds, an orange mask on his face. His chakra was a mystery to the Hokage, but one thing was immediately clear. In the single hole the mask sported, his enemy displayed a Sharingan. What was this outrage! Had someone copied Hatake's grave robbing ways?

Leaping down to meet him, the Akatsuki member seemed to smile behind his mask. "You know, Fugaku-kun, you really should be thanking me. If not for my intervention, the Yondaime might still be in charge of Konoha. Thanks to the war I helped instigate that night, you rose to power, and broke the back of the Senju domination of Konoha. Really, for a bunch of traitors, your clan has done quite well for itself." Suddenly, the air seemed to freeze from the force of the Killing Intent being released. "Unfortunately, you've managed to cage my old pet, and I really do need it back. So would you be a nice little boy and lead me to the Kyuubi?"

Grunting, the Hokage threw off his robes, revealing his battle gear underneath. Channeling more chakra to his eyes, the head of the Uchiha clan prepared himself for the battle ahead. "I don't know who you think you are, but never disparage the name of Uchiha in front of me. Our clan is one of the pillars of Konoha, and I will not have it spoken off with such disrespect! Who are you to act so superior? As Hokage of this village, I will crush you to protect those under my protection, be they comrade or innocent!"

Tilting his head to the side, the figure removed his mask. "I dare, because the Uchiha owe everything they are to me and my efforts. For I am Uchiha Madara, bearer of the Mangekyo Sharingan. I am the past, present, and future of the clan. Too bad you won't be around long enough to enjoy the fruits of my latest labor." Hearing the name of such a hated and terrifying ghost, Fugaku launched himself forward without hesitation.

Launching forward another kick, the Hell Realm of Pain watched as his latest opponent fell. While his Animal, Deva and Asura Realms unleashed their combined attacks upon the village as a whole, Madara had a special assignment for his remaining paths. His Human Realm was sent to the various clan houses, seeking our valuable techniques and secrets of the village, accompanied by a Paper clone of his partner Konan. His Hungry Ghost and Hell Realms, on the other hand, were supposed to test the viability of the Uchiha clan. Madara wanted to capture the strongest members of the clan for his own purposes, while the eyes of the weak were preserved as potential weapons. So far, only seven of the one hundred and fifteen clansmen and women he had tested had succeeded. The Uchiha should have felt honored the numbers were so high. Lasting against two of the Paths of Pain for five minutes straight was no minor feat.

Hearing a familiar crackle of fire chakra, the Hell Realm did not even bother to move out of the way of the attack. As expected, Hungry Ghost Realm jumped in the way of the technique, absorbing its power with barely a flinch. Turning to face the new threat, the Path of Pain noted the Jonin vest and similar features to his previous opponent. It appeared that knocking out the wife of the Hokage was enough to lure out their heir. Now it was time to see if Fugaku's remaining son was worthy of life, or just spare parts.

The furious young man did not bother with witty banter. He struck hard and fast, with Taijutsu of surprising quality. Hell Realm matched him blow for blow, but found the force of the boy's strikes were more than he bargained for. One particularly vicious combination launched him into the air and out of control. In a normal fight, it might have even been enough to kill him. Unfortunately for the young Uchiha, this was not a normal fight in the least.

Acting within the specifics of his design, the Hungry Ghost Realm disrupted the attack with its own body. Hell Realm took that opportunity to use the fat form as a springboard, gaining altitude before launching a devastating attack at the boy's shoulder blade. With his Sharingan blazing, the boy was able to shift out of the way in midflight, only to have the Hungry Ghost Realm grab his feet. Hell Realm did not hesitate for an instant, launching a haymaker that broke the enemy's nose in its fury. Unconscious, the heir of the clan fell to the ground in a pile of limbs.

Landing on his own feet, the Hell Realm started speaking. "After initiating combat, subjects Uchiha Mikoto and Uchiha Sasuke have both passed the preliminary test. Take them to the base and prepare them for the next phase of the plan. In the meantime, we will secure all the children too young to fight for Plan B. Otherwise, send your clones to gather the fallen for their eyes."

Phasing through the ground, the multicolored body of Zetsu seemed to smile. "It shall be as you command, Leader-sama. Oh, and the clones I set up are located in the base of the Hokage's tower. Please let me know when it would be appropriate to retrieve them. I so hate leaving parts of myself lying around." Nodding his acknowledgement, Hell Realm quickly analyzed the information retrieved by Human Realm before going to his next target, Hungry Ghost Realm in his shadow.

Ignoring the countless bodies littering the chamber, the Deva Path of Pain examined the prison of the Kyuubi. Despite his own hatred of Konoha, the leader of Ame had to admit their Seal Masters had really outdone themselves. With the number of suppression and stability seals present on this thing, it was likely that the Jinchuuriki was completely unaware of the situation befalling Konoha. It was almost poetic that Uchiha political maneuvering had led to the removal of their greatest weapon from play. "So this is the tomb of the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki. How fitting that they place you behind the head of the Yondaime Hokage. I didn't know that the clan council had such a sense of humor."

"Actually, it was just the most readily available location to plant the thing without raising suspicion. These used to be the escape tunnels for civilians in case of attack. From what I was able to learn from their leader, the old ROOT headquarters was being converted to fill that role next week. It's such a shame too." Looking up, Pain mentally sighed at the sight of his hidden partner. Madara was strolling along, uncaring for the blood splatter spreading from the package in his hand. Personally, the Rinnegan user thought that the old Uchiha had too much flair for the dramatic. Carrying around the head of the Godaime Hokage was completely unnecessary.

Returning his attention to the prison before them, Pain concentrated on the seal matrix. "I believe that I can unlock this prison at will, but that would be premature. The Gobi will probably not reform for another year and the Hachibi for another three. Since the Kyuubi needs to be sealed last, then alerting the Jinchuuriki would be more trouble than it's worth. We should make plans to relocate the prison to Ame to save time."

Shaking his head, the Uchiha sighed. "Pain, you truly lack proper imagination! We have destroyed Konoha, and according to Zetsu, each of our Jinchuuriki raids went without a hitch. We'll be far too busy sealing the Ichibi, Nibi, and Yonbi to deal with a prison of this complexity. It won't take Suna, Kumo or Iwa long to realize what we've done, and dealing with their combined forces would just distract us from completing our goal. What we need is a distraction, and it's right before us on a silver platter!" Focusing his attention on Madara, Nagato idly wondered if the lesser doujutsu drove people insane.

Putting his hand on the metal shell before them, the elderly ninja seemed to grin from behind his mask. "Every nation in the Elemental Countries knows that our goals are to capture the Biju. However, without any Jinchuuriki to protect, all of our enemies are free to launch attacks upon us before the grand plan can be realized. Therefore, if we give them some sign of hope, they'll waste time and energy in an effort to reclaim a secret weapon! We just need to launch this someplace that only we can reach, but that our opposition can observe. After all, it's not like this has never been done before."

Realizing what Madara was suggesting, Pain weighed his options. Agreeing with this sort of plan would put him at risk, leaving him open to an attack by the bastard before him. On the other hand, his plan would accomplish such actions, and had the benefit of putting the Kyuubi out of play for years. Even if the creature was killed in the attempt, the resonance of the other Biju would guide the malignant chakra back under their control. It was a plan only a god could manage after all, and one that no mere mortal could defeat.

Nodding his acceptance, the Deva Realm leapt upwards, blasting a small hole in the top of the mountain. Looking over the ruins of Konoha, he allowed himself a slight moment of peace at the sight. No matter what happened from now on, at least his parents had been avenged. Smacking his hands together, the god unleashed a ball of pure darkness towards the heavens. "Chibaku Tensei!" Almost at once, the village of Konoha was removed utterly, sacrificed to form the shell of a new moon. The Hokage monument, guardian of the Will of Fire for generations, was close behind.

Keeping a close eye on the situation, Nagato noticed that the holding capsule was among the elements forming the technique. Noticing that the chakra within was beginning to flex and flow at greater speeds, the Akatsuki member wasted no time in launching a Shinra Tensei at the mass. With that act, the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki was launched into space, safely out of sight until the final sealing would be required. Turning his back on the ruined crater that was once Konoha, the Deva Realm moved to complete its next objective.

Hinata's first indication that something was wrong was when the prison had begun to shake. Given the number of suppression and stabilization seals she had seen on the outside of the unit that literally should not be possible. Activating her Byakugan out of reflex, the kunoichi started. "Something has damaged the seals on the outer hull! We're being crushed!"

Standing from where Tenten had been flirting with him, Uzumaki-sama sat cross-legged in the center of the chamber. Hinata felt her mouth go dry as the blonde man, no, GOD before her began channeling chakra so pure and immense it nearly brought her to tears. She had dealt with powerful ninja her whole life, but the causal ease that the blonde harnessed such chakra took her breath away. "We are currently being launched skyward by a technique I don't recognize used by an individual of Kage level chakra. The seals on the hull are good, but they weren't designed to handle such strain. If we don't act, the pressure will kill us." Hearing their situation recited so calmly made Hinata want to hyperventilate. However, she doubted even Uzumaki-sama would remain so calm in the face of such danger if he had no plan.

With a slight application of chakra, the sitting figure formed three Shadow Clones. "Haruno-san, I believe that you are an Earth Element in addition to your chakra control. Take the chakra from this clone, and focus on reinforcing the materials of the hull. Hyuga-san, you are listed as a powerful Water Element in addition to your skills with the Jyuken. Please perform a combination technique with my clone's Wind Type Chakra and allow him to control the manipulation in an effort to cool the structure down. Tenten-san, you are listed as a Lightning Element, so please work with my clone to stabilize the sealing matrix and wiring within the shell. At our rate of ascension, we're going to need every bit of power you can manage. Now, please commence the operation."

Swallowing at the orders provided, Hinata formed a few hand seals, forcing herself to concentrate on the technique. The blonde clone matched her perfectly, allowing the combined elemental chakra to fuse into the stone beneath their feet. With her Byakugan still functioning, she could observe both Sakura and Tenten working together with their own clones. In the small corner of her mind not focused upon their task, she wondered how the blonde had managed to make clones that coordinated so well with their smaller chakra reserves. The idea that he had been able to match them with a simple scan from his sensing technique was just too terrifying to contemplate.

Still, the plan appeared to be working. The shaking stopped, as the seals on the exterior and interior were reinforced with Tenten's Lightning Chakra. Sakura's Earth Chakra was also effective, retaining the form of the hull with few issues, a Jinchuuriki-level of chakra just there for the asking. Her task was slightly complicated by the balance she needed to retain. If she made the hull too hot or cold, it could weaken the integrity of the structure even further. But by some miracle, all of them appeared to be fine.

Then disaster struck. They had just stopped shaking, when the entire structure was twisted upside down. She barely managed to stay on her feet using chakra, but both she and Sakura lost control of their elemental abilities. In that brief moment in time, she was barely able to perceive a flux of foreign energy striking the outer hull before impact. Then all the Hyuga sensed, was a pair of strong arms, and an earthquake beyond her understanding.

Forcing his eyes to open, Naruto looked over his companions. Seeing that all of his comrades appeared to be unhurt, he took the precaution of activating Sage Mode just to be sure. Seeing that their chakra was simply exhausted by the effort of maintaining the stability of their containment unit, he allowed the technique to end. He had plenty of chakra, and there was no reason to waste the energy on such a move for longer than needed.

He had known that this was his new prison, almost before the Godaime had finished his speech. The only reason that the man had gone along with the situation, was the fact he was tired of the outside world. Long ago, when Inoichi-sensei had first woken him, Naruto had promised himself that if he was disappointed with the outside, he would return to his mind and solitude. Doing nothing but fighting for years had firmly sold him on this plan. Konoha was simply not worth the effort, and none of those living there were interesting enough to have as a comrade. A simple piece of metal with a symbol carved into its face did not a true friend make.

Seeing the three girls before him had honestly sold him on the idea. Even if he broke out of the prison, these kunoichi would still be sacrificed in an attempt to contain him. One of the first things Jiraiya-sensei had taught him was that a true man never left a woman to cry. He did not completely understand all the lessons the old man had attempted to teach him on the subject, but Naruto would be damned to wipe out an innocent just for a temper tantrum. Besides, having some people to share his solitude might not be so bad. At least, that was his thoughts before the Godaime apparently attempted to kill them all.

Using Sage Mode and his own elemental chakra control had retained the form of the prison, but something was off. Right before they crashed back to the ground, and judging from what his senses were blaring before they impact it was quite a significant height, he had sensed an amazing amount of energy beyond his understanding. The power seemed to synch with the combination of Sage and Demonic chakra in his system before targeting him like a lightning bolt. The impact had caused his companions to black out, while even he was rendered unconscious before the event had ended.

Forming another set of Shadow Clones, the Jinchuuriki began to evaluate their habitation. Luckily, nothing appeared to be unsalvageable, including the planters. They had plenty of food, water, and scrolls for their use. Still, he knew that logistical elements such as this were not his strong point. That was what his support staff was for. "Haruno-san, are you stable? If so, I believe we could all use an evaluation."

Groaning, the pink haired medic stood from where his clone was checking her over. Meeting his gaze with her sharp green eyes, Sakura broke off with a blush. "I understand, Uzumaki-sama. Just give me a moment to get situated." Leaving his clone to support the girl, Naruto went to check on the other two. His support clones dispersed when he was knocked out, and wasting chakra on additional clones when walking would suffice was just plain stupid. They were better suited to making sure none of the internal seal matrixes exploded or broke down anyways.

Luckily, both of the other Kunoichi appeared to be fine. Hinata was curled next to a downed couch, her head and other vital organs shielded out of instinct. Tenten was propped underneath a set of chairs, pinned but stable due to their weight. Noting some discoloration around the upper arm, Naruto frowned. Hopefully it was just a bruise, because they did not really have the time to waste on broken bones.

Satisfied with the safety of his new teammates, the blonde headed towards the opening of the capsule. Normally, he might have allowed one of the other girls to take point, if only to maintain the illusion that he was safely contained. No reason to get them in trouble after all. But with two still out like lights and the third stuck on medic duty, it was probably safe to get a bit of fresh air. Plus, if the Hokage thought that little attack was enough to kill him, then he clearly needed to talk with the Uchiha about his suitability for the hat. Reactivating Sage Mode, the Jinchuuriki prepared for a fight.

Exiting the hatch, Naruto blinked in the painfully bright light. His first inclination was that they had been launched all the way to Suna. However, despite a mild interest in meeting with Gaara-kun again, the blonde knew that could not be true. As a Sage, he was aware of nature on a very detailed level. The very chakra of the planet sang to him in ways that were both glorious and humbling, hence the reason he did not use the technique lightly. It was like looking into the heart of the sun, and could burn your eyes out if you were not careful.

Yet, the planet before him felt both wrong and alien. The very soil cried out in constant pain, hammered by some sort of shrapnel. The air was dry and poisoned, tainted by odd chemicals and metals. To one in tune with nature, it was like the very sky was screaming. Given the age of the damage, there was no way they were still in the Elemental Nations. Even stasis seals could not keep someone under safely and in such good condition for decades!

Feeling a foreign energy, Naruto turned just in time to deflect a perceived attack. What he got instead was a bitten arm. Quirking an eyebrow, he looked over the assailant. The figure was short and thin, wearing an oversized white tee-shirt and black short pants. A dog of some unknown breed appeared beneath his feet, barking in his face. Seeing the eyes full of guile and open curiosity through the mop of red hair, Naruto just knew this was going to be one of those days.

Whoa, so that's what it's like to write a Dark-fic opening. It's rather cathartic...*evil grins*

I bet that you each have a number of big questions, so I'll try to answer those I can perceive right off the bat.

1.) Did anyone survive the leveling of Konoha?

Yes, there are four official survivors; Uzumaki Naruto, Hyuga Hinata, Tenten, and Haruno Sakura. Anyone who didn't get flattened in the initial attack, or the whole "turning Konoha into another moon" thing, is probably going to be wiped out after the various intelligence operations of Kumo, Iwa, Suna, Kiri, and Akatsuki get done with them.

2.) What did Madara do with those last eight Uchiha that Pain didn't kill? (Oh and the unknown number of Uchiha children?)

Oh, he has a fairly sick plan involved there. I might even show it to you if I'm feeling twisted. Hopefully, you will figure out parts of it from the little hints I dropped. Although, by the time he's done with them, none of the Uchiha survivors will think that they are from Konoha anymore.

3.) Will Naruto come back to save the day?

Nope. This Naruto is much more pragmatic than Cannon, and believes the whole thing to be an assassination attempt by the Hokage. With each and every ninja of Konoha he once cared about in some fashion dead, there really isn't any reason to want to go back especially once he figures out they sre on a completely different planet.

The three kunoichi share his viewpoint, and honestly don't have much of a reason to return either after such treatment. Sakura's family is gone, Hinata's treats her like shit, and Tenten has no loyalty to a place willing to throw her away so easily. So they are quite happy to stick around a new world with new opportunities.

4.) Was that figure who I think it is?

Yes, that's Ed. The time line is about twenty four hours after the last shot we saw after she left the Bebop. I have plans for those Bounty Hunters, and they will make an appearance. So no, wandering around with daddy issues for this little hacking genius!

5.) Is this going to be an Ed/Naruto pairing?

No, that is not the plan at all. The closest those two will get will be as older brother younger sister, and I am not a member of CLAMP. So no loliconing here!

Naruto's relationship with his teammates will be a little complex, but remember that they're battle hardened ninja fresh from a war. A little physical venting is seen as normal in this group, and jealousy won't be a major issue, at least at first. If I actually ever attempt to write a polygamous relationship, this will probably be my biggest attempt at making it believable. But that's in the future. (Maybe)

6.) How the F*^K did those guys end up in the Bebop Universe anyways?

Cowboy Bebop has shown several instances of the Gates between worlds having issues and quirks. The exact mechanics will be of minimal interest to the team, so I don't plan on wasting much energy on them either. In the end, let's just say that Naruto's chakra signature, coupled with the stabilization seals managed to phase them into such a gate and out around the moon. For convenience sake, they're in the same universe as cowboy Bebop, just a different planetary system.

7.) You've hinted that this is Super!Naruto. Just how badass is he anyways?

Well let's see. This Naruto has mastered elemental charka training for both Wind and Lightning. He knows the Rasengan, but was never inclined to continue its development due to a lack of need or desire. Therefore, he does not currently know the Rasenshuriken. Jiraiya taught him Sage Mode and Toad Summoning, but given the distances involved, the toads believe him to be dead. He attempts to summon a toad once, but after the chakra drain becomes unreasonable, he quickly decides never to attempt it again. They were just another tool after all, not comrades.

As to mastering the Kyuubi, between the extra absorption during his youth and his own mental development, Naruto's sense of self is sufficient to rip the chakra from the beast in his sleep. Once Jiraiya's allows him to attempt this, he tears the power from the beast without any problems. He still has the meetings with both the Yondaime and Kushina, but doesn't know how to deal with either. Oh, some part of him is touched, and both parents manage to get through to him, if briefly, but it's simply another element of his personality he cannot quite comprehend.

So yes it's a Super!Naruto in a ninja world. However, adapting all of those skills in a world fueled by unfamiliar technology and guns might be a bit of a challenge.

8.) Why did you have to kill "_"

I killed them because it was always the plan to leave the Elemental Nations to pull this off. Leaving a bunch of comrades he abandons just strikes me as wrong, so I had them leave first.

9.) How many Biju do the Akatsuki have anyways?

The Akatsuki have all the Biju besides the Gobi, Hachibi, and Kyuubi. The Gobi and Hachibi both died in battle during the war, and the Kyuubi is out of their reach forever. Or at least until Naruto dies, which will probably not be for a while.

10.) How is this a proper Cowboy Bebop Crossover, if the entire thing involved the Elemental Nations except for one scene?

Well that's simple enough. I was styling a Naruto whose past took on overtones of Vicious. Whether or not he becomes as big a bastard is completely up to his Kunoichi teammates and Ed. But we'll see how things develop ne? ;)

Thanks for the read, and here's hoping that this gets even better reception than "A Different Shade of Blonde!"