Disclaimer: I do not own either Naruto or the Darkness nor their prospective characters. Both stories lie with their prospective copyright.
Well gang, here is the latest chapter. This is more or less when they leave the village. Hope you enjoy it. Thank you for all your support and patience so far.
Just to comment on some messages and reviews that everyone seems to be waiting on baited breath for Naruto to really get his hands dirty. I have always believed, in this story and in canon, that Naruto is someone who holds an ocean of resentment, and he is very much tempted to act on it, he just needs a little push. This is hopefully going to be apparent in the Land of Wave Arc.
Furthermore I realise that Kakashi was OOC in the last chapter, but I believe the situation he found Naruto would pose a problem for Sasuke. Naruto in this universe, as a way to catch up, has become an avid reader and inevitably the Uchiha Massacre would have come up. Bottom line, Naruto should have known better, and he did, he was just tricked.
Special thanks to my beta, ABitterPill and narutoasatard who actually came up with the crazy Darkness song and a basic outline of the fight scene.
"Hi"- "Talking normal"
Hi- Thinking normal
"Hi"- "Darklings talking"
Hi- Darkness Talking
Nami no Kuni –Land of Waves
Hi no Kuni- Land of Fire (Konoha)
Suiton: Futtousui no Chozousho - Water Style: Boiling reservoir
Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu – Fire Style: Great Fireball Technique
Suiton: Suijinheki – Water Style: Water Wall
Chapter 19: A Journey Begins
"Are we ready to go now?" Tazuna fumed. "Wait...who is the twerp?"
"...What?" The blonde genin's face remained impassive, apart from a slight twitch in his brow.
"Are you telling me we came all the way out here for this guy?" Tazuna huffed. "Barely looks like a ninja, looks more like a samurai."
"...What?" The glare that Naruto emitted was lost on the old man. "Why the hell does everyone say that?"
"You do look like a samurai, Naruto." Sakura spoke quietly. "Maybe you should change your attire." Naruto was keen to argue, but Sakura's tone was less teasing and more cold. It was apparent that she was not on the blonde's side. Then again I doubt she ever was on my side.
"He may not look like it, but he is strong. This team completed the D-rank record." Kakashi buffed his chest out.
"And that is supposed to mean something?" Tazuna's eyeballed the blonde with an upturned nose. This naturally spurred an already exasperated Naruto.
"Who is this jerk?" The team spun around to see a pair of small bandaged mummies trailing behind Naruto. Team 7 collectively sighed, they were afraid this would happen.
"This is our client, Tazuna-san. We are to escort him back home to complete a bridge." Kakashi gestured to the old man. "I would prefer if you don't try to hurt him."
"A whole night of work and this is our client? The Sandaime is a dick."
"Wait a minute, does scaring him into a heart attack count as 'hurting' him?"
"What are those things?" Tazuna glared, but the team learned that there was little that could actually scare the little creatures. In fact, they seemed to enjoy it.
"Xran and Frutz. They are called Darklings..." Naruto mumbled. "They're my summons."
"Nice to meet you old man." Frutz spoke in a 'friendly' tone, its mouth contorted into a smile. "Call us gremlins and we'll disembowel you. Slowly."
"Your summons are rude Naruto." Kakashi frowned. "Try and keep them in line in front of a client."
"You want to order them around sensei, be my guest." Naruto growled, throwing his hands in the air. "I've practically given up. They might listen to you more than me."
Everyone knew that last night was nothing short of a spectacular display of teamwork. However, Kakashi telling the Darklings to shut up would only provoke the situation further, and most likely result in some form of biting.
"Guys...keep it down alright." Naruto whispered under his breath. The two Darklings immediately backed down, it was obvious their master was upset.
"Alright, we'll be nice to the old fart, at least for now." Xran grunted, only to immediately perk up. "But hey, Frutz, we are going on a mission! Do you know what that means?"
"We finally get to kill something!" Xran hopped up and down in excitement. "About time!"
"YAY!" Frutz and Xran high-fived each other, much to Team Seven's worry.
Sakura sighed in frustration as they left the village. "Will those things ever shut up? It has been nearly half an hour."
"Don't provoke them Sakura." Sasuke's stone face contorted with rage. "If you show your irritation they will keep doing it."
"Those things are demons." Tazuna grumbled as he plowed forward. "I don't care if he is on your team as long as he and those Darkling-whatever's are far away from me."
Naruto trudged about sixty meters behind the rest of his team. He would like nothing better to walk beside them, but two issues prevented that. The first is that Sasuke is still murderously upset with him, and rightly so. Naruto knew, he himself would be upset if someone came along and said that they were using his parents death for personal benefit.
The second more current issue was that the Darklings seemed excessively happy. As soon as they left the village, a handful of Darklings, who insisted they were bodyguards gathered around the blonde. They seem so set on being allowed to kill something they were actually singing (it was bad singing but still singing nonetheless). The Darklings skipped in a style that could be considered 'cheery' singing their rather disturbing non-sensical rhyme for the umpteenth time:
"Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!
It's off to killing we will go!
Gonna bloody my claws, we can get some ho's!
Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!
Human meat is such a treat!
Both to fuck and to eat!
Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!
In either order, it matters little so!
Because depravity is the way to go!
Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!"
Considering their client Tazuna (whose lack of respect or even proper courtesy greatly annoyed Naruto) was growing restless, the group quickened their pace as the Darklings took up the rear with their sing song march of death. Naruto obliged and hung back with his summons.
As the Darklings sung their rhyme again, he gazed into the sky as the sun was heading from late afternoon to early evening. It seemed that a lot of time had passed during Naruto's recuperation.
Still could have been out of commission if I didn't take the deal. Naruto thought. A whole week to get better. Considering what the fallout was, I should have taken my chances with a week in bed.
"Bloody hindsight." Naruto's mumbling was interrupted as he felt something tug on his pant leg. The blonde's gaze averted to the source; a diminutive Darkling, one who was not partaking in its comrades singing.
"What is it Gibbs?" Naruto murmured.
"Hey Boss, are you okay?" Gibbs' eyes gleamed through the bandages and excess clothes. "You look upset."
"I am in fact." Naruto's eyes hardened. "Backstabbed by own summons and left exposed. The irony is not lost to me."
"I'm sorry Boss." Gibbs twiddled its claws. "I made the suggestion, I thought you could handle it. If I knew it would hurt you, I never would have done it. I hope you can believe that."
"So do I." Naruto stared at the ground. "I can't go back in time, but I wish I could."
"Me too." Gibbs' ears drooped. "If it's is worth anything, Frutz was not too happy with my suggestion. I was disciplined for what happened."
"Really?" Naruto raised a brow. "How?"
"Let's put it this way;" Gibbs gently rubbed its backside as it reflected on its punishment. "Frutz has a VERY strong leg, and he knows how to use it."
"Guess we both got what we deserved." Naruto smirked. "Still, why didn't Frutz try and change my mind?"
"Because you are as stubborn as a mule, Boss." Frutz appeared on Naruto's other side. "Once you get an idea in your head, you have tunnel vision. Even when you were in agony, you still marched through it to the end." Frutz gestured its clawed hand menacingly at the flinching Gibbs. "And dipshit here should have known that by now."
Naruto's eyes narrowed. "Speaking of 'knowing', were you aware of what was happening?"
"Did you know that the Darkness planned to ruin whatever...friendship I have with the team? Did you lure me to the Uchiha compound? Did you know that the Darkness was going to keep me there until I was discovered?"
Frutz's eyes temporarily widened. "...Yeah, I knew. We knew the moment we found out about the Uchiha compound."
Naruto's glare turned an unpleasant shade of yellow. "You son of a bitch!" With all the rage in his body he slammed his foot directly into the chest of the small Darkling liaison. Frutz soared through the air like a soccer ball and landed in a nearby tree. This automatically cut the crazy singing of the crazy Darklings short.
"Boss I'm sorry!" Frutz slowly climbed out a shrub, clutching its chest in pain. "We had no choice!"
"Don't give me that! You could have told me." Naruto glared at his subordinates, who in turn flinched in regret. "A little bit of forewarning would have been helpful."
"But-" Gibbs attempted to speak.
"I don't want to hear a word out of you!" Naruto interrupted with a very hard smack across its face. "Not. One. Fucking. Word. All of you, either shut up or go away."
The remainder of Team Seven and their client turned at the sound of some rather angry shouting. They turned to see Naruto deliver a very impressive back-hand at a Darkling standing right beside him.
"I don't want to hear a word out of you!" Naruto cried.
"Yeesh." Tazuna cringed. "The brat looks very angry. What happened?"
"Those Darkling's get under everyone's skin, even Naruto's." Kakashi tilted his head. "He probably got sick of their singing."
" About time if you ask me." Their client huffed.
Sasuke grumbled in agreement. "...finally some quiet. I hope he won't be like that for the rest of the mission."
"Kakashi-sensei," Sakura piqued, "what criteria qualifies as a C-rank mission?"
Kakashi nodded. "Generally, C-rank is any mission that takes place beyond the confines of the borders of Konoha. That can mean anything to delivering a message, transporting cargo across generally unassailed terrain or even being a bodyguard - which is what we are doing."
"Anything we should be worried about for C-ranks?"
"Not really. C-ranks are usually limited to bandits and low level thugs. Nothing out of the ordinary."
"What about other ninja?"
Their sensei shook their head. "If there was ninja, we would not be assigned. That is a B-rank mission. A-rank in the more extreme cases."
Sasuke let out a disappointed 'hmph'. They continued their pace past a small puddle on the road...
"Boss, I really-"
"Shut up, Frutz."
"That-puddle-in-the-road-looks-strange!" Frutz strung the sentence so quickly that Naruto had no choice but to listen.
"Puddle?" Naruto gazed at the surroundings and sure enough there was a small pool of water in the middle of road. Initially Naruto did not seem perturbed but he felt a stinging sensation in his eyes. Like that, there was a strange mirage hovering just above the ground, and where the 'puddle' was stood two individuals. They each had a rather unpleasant looking gloved hand that contained razor claws on their fingertips. They were similarly garbed and virtually the same in every way except for their Kirigakure Hitai-ate; one had a two horned 'devil' design while the other had one horn protruding from the middle like a rhinoceros. Both had a chain on their gauntlets linking them together.
"Uh...guys?" Naruto called out to the group ahead. Kakashi did a quick half turn in surprise. "There is something over here!"
The two strange individuals eyes widened in surprise, they obviously did not anticipate discovery at this stage. The body of water exploded in a spectacular display, erupting like a geyser over ten meters into the air. Naruto stood gobsmacked at the explosion.
"We've been discovered." The two horned man spoke as he rushed out of the explosion.
"No matter." The single horned counterpart, the calmer of the two gestured to attack. "Stick to the plan."
"Sakura, guard Tazuna." Kakashi withdrew a pair of kunai from his pouch. "Naruto! You're up!"
"Got it!" Naruto pulled out a rather big machete, a testament to his wood-chopping days. He did a side glance on his small demonic comrades. "Guys, don't screw me on this." He whispered. "You want to get back in my good graces then you help me."
"Got it!" Frutz cracked his knuckles. "Boys! Sharpen your claws!"
Like a pack of wild animals, the small entourage of mummified Darklings stampeded forward. If the small mass of knee-high creatures armed with sharp knives and classes did not distract the attackers, the curses the Darklings threw would have certainly got their attention.
"Oh great look a married couple...I didn't know homosexual marriage was granted...I have one question though why do you wear a mask?...You must be one ugly son of a bitch...I swear once I find your family tree...we will chop it down with a chainsaw...Guess what dipshits? I know what sign you were born under... The 'RED LIGHT DISTRICT'...Because your mom was a whore!...And your dad too!"
"What the-!" The devil horned man paused as the Darklings scrambled to his leg trying to claw his thigh muscle out. "AGH! Brother! Help me!"
"Hold on!" His comrade delivered a firm kick into the face of the closest Darkling.
"OW! If I don't kill you, I hope you die of testicular cancer!"
The horned man turned to deal with his brother's situation only to see Naruto coming at him with a rather ominous and large machete. He immediately preformed several hand seals in quick succession.
"Suiton: Futtousui no Chozousho!" Steam flew out from under his garbs and scattered in all directions sending the Darklings around him and his two-horned comrade flying in the air, cursing wildly.
The hot steam entered Naruto's nose, the heat brought tears to his eyes stopping him dead in his tracks. The ninjutsu did not dissipate quickly but instead hung in the air, giving their attackers time to recover. Naruto's vision readjusted just in time to see several dozen shuriken launched out of the mist with precision directly at his head.
"Get down!" Gibbs leapt and grabbed Naruto by the collar and flattened him on the ground with a loud 'oomph!'. Naruto could hear the 'fwoosh' sound of the deadly weapons flying above him.
Naruto heard Frutz taking charge of the situation. "Gibbs, get the Boss to safety."
"Right." Gibbs proceeded to grab Naruto and drag him as much as he could into the shadowy trees on the sides of the road.
"Gibbs, let go of me!" Naruto rustled in defiance. "The team needs me."
"Boss," Gibbs muttered under his breath, "you really need to shut it. Let us handle this."
"You missed, brother." The mist cleared to reveal a rather annoyed ninja scolding the other one.
"Sorry Gōzu, I was a little unprep- Gōzu, look out!" Both ninja spun around just in time to see the kunai held by the silver-haired jounin fly straight at them and then...past them?
Both attackers were surprised as the kunai ran between them and landed with a dull thump on the ground. "Pfft." Gōzu mused. "He's really a jounin?"
The devil horned ninja joined his brother in a chuckle, however Kakashi seemed unconcerned. "Sasuke. Do it." The Uchiha jumped forward and flashed a series of hand signs that were all too familiar to Team Seven.
"Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!" Sasuke expelled a massive fireball from the mouth. The searing heat soared forward like a rocket. The attackers attempted to sidestep the technique only to, to their great surprise, find themselves immobile. They glanced down to see the chain that bound them was pinned to the ground. Pinned by the very kunai that they dismissed as a lazy attack, if they glanced up, they would see a rather amused Kakashi.
"Brother!" The devil horned ninja pulled a small water canteen from his pouch and threw it to the ground. His brother nodded with approval.
"Got it." Preformed another set of seals and cried out another jutsu. "Suiton: Suijinheki!"
The water in the canteen soared like a bird in the air and wrapped around the ninja like folded wings. When the great ball of fire impacted the shield of water, there was an explosion of steam and heat.
"Good idea, Meizu." The single horned Gōzu nodded in compliment. Their relief it was short lived as they saw the masked jounin rush out of the steam like a phantom his fists aimed at their heads.
"Duck!" Meizu cried as they both acted on their prompts, sinking to their knees avoiding the attack. Kakashi did not look worried. They aren't going anywhere...unless of course they could separate from each other.
"Split!" Gōzu cried.
Chink. Chink. The chain that was holding the two brothers fell away.
Dammit. Kakashi frowned. I hate you hindsight.
"GO!" Both ninja cried as they scattered sideways, each sending a pair of shuriken to Kakashi who expertly dodged them . However due to the angle of the attacks he had to move forward instead of backwards, giving the assassins room to move towards Sasuke, Sakura...and Tazuna.
"Sakura look out!" Sasuke leapt into the path of the one called Meizu, kunai drawn. The ninja's surprise was brief and clashed with Sasuke with a rather unpleasant looking blade.
"Get the old man!" Meizu cried as he slowly began to overpower the raven-haired Uchiha. Sasuke's eyes hardened as he saw the other attacker fly past him.
"Got it!" Meizu's brother rushed past, the only thing blocking his way was the pink haired girl. His clawed hand reached forward and Sakura braced for impact.
"Get back Sakura!" A heavy cloaked Naruto ran out of the shrubs, spear tackling Gōzu. Both the attacker and the blonde veered off at an awkward angle.
"Oof!" Gōzu quickly recovered and plunged his clawed hand directly into Naruto's chest. Sakura's eyes widened in horror as she saw the claws bored through Naruto's back.
"Now you're dead brat!" Gōzu chuckled. "Was it worth it?" The assassin's smile vanished when he saw the expression of the genin's face consisted of mild surprise and eyes like red coals.
"Oh yeah." Dopplus looked down at the incapacitated twin. "Well buddy, looks you're fucked." Dopplus' form contorted briefly. The Darkling flexed its claws and placed it under the terrified assassins head at the base of the jaw. The assassin screamed something horrible. "Hey buddy, guess what?"
"W-what?" The assassin pleaded as he gazed into the menacing eyes of the creature. Sakura immediately grabbed the client and carted him off several meters down the road, she knew what happened next. Dopplus' grin mashed his face into a row of incredibly large and sharp teeth as he whispered two words.
"Kaboom, bitch." The Darkling detonated in large explosion, taking the would-be assassin with it.
"No! Gōzu!" The eyes of the other twin widened to the size of dinner plates. Sasuke quickly took the advantaged and delivered a very thorough hit to the side of his head with a flying roundhouse kick. With a solid 'crack', the remaining brother dropped like a rock to the ground.
"Sakura, Sasuke, are you alright?" Kakashi stepped forward, his revealed eye indicated that he was relieved.
"Yeah, we're fine." Sakura sighed.
"Geez." Tazuna seemed so tense he looked like was ready to jump out of his skin. "I take back what I said, you guys are very much ninja."
"You alright?" Sakura queried.
"Okay I guess." Tazuna placed a hand gingerly on his stomach. "I have not been this tense for years. I feel like I am going to be sick." He took a shaky hand to the spot where the Darkling exploded. "What was that?"
"That," Sasuke rubbed a hand through his hair as he pocketed his kunai, "was Dopplus. A Darkling clone, he has a tendency to explode."
"Apparently." Tazuna took in a deep breath as he began to calm down. "Where is the other one?"
Kakashi glanced around in surrounding forest. "Naruto!" He called. "Naruto where are you? It's over."
He could hear a rustle of movement and glanced at the source of a nearby shrub. "...did you hear him Gibbs? It's over! Get off me!" The team saw the real Naruto hobble out of the bushes, minus his coat and hat, with a rather small Darkling grabbing his leg trying to pull him back in.
"Boss, you don't know that for sure!"
"Quit babying me!" Naruto grunted. "Look! One guy is down, the other got blown to smithereens."
"Hey Emo-freak! Is he dead?" Gibbs called.
"Go to hell." Sasuke pulled his best 'I will kill you' glare' which Gibbs dismissed.
"I'll take that as a 'yes'." Gibbs immediately let go of Naruto's leg.
"Thank you." Naruto turned to Sakura. "Sakura, you alright? Did Dopplus give you time to leave?"
"Yeah he did." Sakura straightened her long hair down. "Thanks."
Naruto gave a reproachful glance to the Uchiha. "Everything good, Sasuke?"
"Fine." He grunted. "I'm still pissed at you."
Naruto nodded in understanding but did not continue the subject. He turned to see Kakashi give him a solid nod. "Good work everyone."
"So what do we do now?"
"We'll have a little chat with our survivor here." The jounin tapped the ninja assassin with his foot.
"I don't know about you guys, but I think this is time for a celebration." Everyone turned to see Frutz waddle out of the forest. "We killed something!"
"First time in about three months!" Gibbs squeed.
Dren pulled out a small pocket calculator and began typing in numbers. "Actually three months, two weeks, four days-"
"Shut up, nerd." Xran smacked the smart Darkling upside the head. "The important part is that we killed someone. Do you want to know what the really good part is?"
"We have leftovers." The Darklings jeered as they swarmed over to the smouldering crater helping themselves to the remains.
"I take back what I said," Tazuna's pigment took an unpleasant shade of green as he watched as one Darkling smacked another away with a half burnt human leg. "I AM going to be sick."
"I think...I'll join you." Sakura took on a similar unpleasant shade her chest began contracting with the tell tale signs of nausea. Both the old man and the kunoichi ran off behind a nearby tree, the sounds of them heaving echoed in the forest.
"I call dibs on a leg...Up yours! I called it first... Fine! I didn't want his inferior calf muscle anyway!... Gimme!...Wait a minute, I can't find his head..I can't believe this... Come on, get off! ...This is a perfect waste of blood...Anyone bring a straw?... Gimme!...Did anyone see his head?...I am pretty sure it flew off in that direction...Pollock, go take a look...I call dibs on the heart... Son of a-...You know, this guys' spleen tastes pretty good..."
"Get them away from my brother!" The assassin cried. He was currently tied to a nearby tree, but he had a clear view of the remains of his brother's corpse and the Darklings that were eating it. Frutz sat calmly on the ninja's lap
"Not until you tell us something." Kakashi's soothing tone did little to reassure the frantic ninja. "Alright punk, why are you here?"
"Listen kid." Kakashi folded his arms. "Your brother is dead. I know that sucks but you started it first."
"I'm not telling you anything!"
"Really?" One of the Darklings smirked. "Hey Boss, let us go to work on him. He can still talk if he doesn't have any arms."
Naruto did a side glance to his sensei who shook his head. "Sorry guys no such luck. Have to stick with the dead guy."
"Awwwwwww." The Darklings' did their best attempt at being cute. "Pllllleeeeaaassssseeeeee!"
"No means no." Kakashi declared the situation closed. The Darklings' ears drooped and returned to the rest of the hoard that were busy eating.
"OH HELL YEAH!" Everyone spun around to see Xran wander back from the woods something very familiar.
"Gōzu!" The brother cried.
Xran held the relatively intact head of what used to be Gōzu in its claws, admiring the handiwork. "HAHA! His head popped off like a zit, it's a shame he wasn't more HEADstrong."
"Oh yes, it's PUN time!"
The two horned shinobi's chest began to rise and fall at a rapid rate. As he gazed at the remains of his brother, his skin looked deathly pale. "Oh look his brother is freaking out! HAHA! Hey this is not the time to lose one's HEAD."
"Alright kid. I'll make a deal." Kakashi nodded and knealt beside the remaining assassin's lap with amused his voice as smooth as silk. "Your brother is dead. I can't change that. However, if you answer me honestly and completely I will tell the Darklings to stop eating your brother and you will be able to give him a proper burial."
The Darklings immediately stopped eating and gazed in horror at the jounin. "WHAT?"
Kakashi continued. "However if you refuse to answer then there will be nothing left of your brother. He will be completely devoured."
"Hey dumbass killer!" Frutz waved his hands urgently in front of his face. "Don't tell us anything!"
"Naruto..." Kakashi glanced at Naruto for encouragement.
"They won't do anything so long as you cooperate." Naruto nodded. "You have my word."
"O...okay." The assassin's head flopped down to his chest.
"Whoa, you sold out pretty darn quick, that's not the way to get aHEAD in life."
"What's your name?" Kakashi's attempt at gaining the stunned shinobi's attention. Frutz promptly smacked the assassin back to reality. "Meizu isn't it?"
"Huh? Buh..." The assassin stared helplessly at the jounin, who could not help but feel pity for him, albeit briefly.
"Y-Yeah. My name is...Meizu." The assassin tried to avoid making eye contact with his dead brother, but he felt drawn to the spectacle.
"Okay Meizu, why did you try to kill us?"
"I wasn't!" The assassin pleaded. "We weren't after you! It wasn't-"
"I know it wasn't your fault." A Darkling snatched the severed head and dangled it in plain view of Meizu. "Let me guess; you were HEADing in the wrong direction." Several Darklings sniggered.
"Naruto, try to keep them down." Kakashi glanced at the blonde genin.
"Okay sensei." Naruto wandered to the Darkling's trying to keep the quiet.
"We were not after you." Meizu jerked his head to where the old man was no longer throwing up but was still dry heaving. "We were after him!"
"Tazuna the bridge builder." Kakashi's eyes narrowed at their client. "I suspected as much." Their client's brief sickness was overcome by a chilling feeling as he felt his hair stick up at the back of his neck.
"Okay Meizu, you were hired by someone to kill our client." Kakashi returned his gaze to the assassin. "Who was your client?"
"I don't know. We were contracted by a middleman."
"It's okay guys." Kakashi sighed. "You can eat the corpse and when you're done, eat this guy."
"NO! WAIT!" Meizu pleaded. "I don't know who hired me we were contracted by Momochi Zabuza!"
"The Demon of the Hidden Mist?" Kakashi raised an eyebrow in surprise. Then realisation hit; this was one of the Seven Ninja Swordsman of Kiri. "You sure about that?"
"It is the truth." Meizu's eyes teared up "I swear it. Please...let me bury him." Kakashi's stern eye gazed at the incapacitated ninja; there were no lies behind his words.
"Naruto tell them to stop." Kakashi nodded. "Leave the body alone."
"WHAT! BULLSHIT!" The Darklings cried in objection.
"Okay guys, you heard him." Naruto commanded. "Drop everything! Do it now!"
"What a rip!" One Darkling cursed as he unceremoniously dropped a half eaten hand. "Hey we don't interrupt you when you drink your miso soup, leave us alone when we are eating Cyclops!"
Naruto delivered a swift boot up the objecting Darklings behind which quickly brought them into line. However, they seemed to draw the line when it came to leaving the severed head alone.
"We're not down with it yet!"
The jounin ignored the inane ramblings of the disturbed creatures. Much to his chagrin, he had seen worse."We'll send a message to Konoha." Kakashi stood and dusted himself down. "They'll arrest you, but they will prepare a funeral for your brother."
"Dammit." Naruto cursed. "Listen you idiots drop the friggin head! This is not funny!"
"HAHAHA!" a Darkling jeered. "Oh wait, I got one." The Darkling grabbed the severed head and held it right where its crotch would be. "Don't feel too bad for him, it looks like he gives good HEAD after all!"
When Naruto approached, the Darkling passed the severed head to another who held it over its bad like ears scratching the helmet. "I never understood the concept of a hat, the whole things goes over my HEAD!" The small entourage of Darklings howled with laughed poking fun at the rather stunned surviving brother who was close to passing out.
"Pollock!" The blonde reached for the mischievous Darkling who passed the head on to the diminutive Dren who handled it with glee. "Dren!"
"Last one Boss, last one!" Dren voice sounded just above the demonic chuckling of his colleagues. "Okay...He'll never be the HEAD of a major corporation."
The Darklings stared blankly at their intelligent counterpart. Apparently, they thought Dren's attempt at humour was greatly lacking.
"Oh fuck you." Dren slammed the head on the ground so hard, they could hear the crack of bone. "That was funny and I don't give a damn what you think!"
As the sensei finished his note to the ANBU, Kakashi turned to stare at the terrified Meizu who turned a deathly white. With their attempt at humour over, the Darklings slowly reshuffled themselves around a rather annoyed Naruto. Sasuke, who watched the display before them did little more than have a look of complete bewilderment and disgust.
"Sakura, Tazuna-san, I think the Darklings have had their...fun."
Two individuals stepped gingerly into the clearing. While Sakura faced her team, she could not help but steal a look at the carnage. Their client on the other hand refused to even look at any of them, instead he focused on the horizon where their destination was.
"We better head out." The masked jounin slowly shuffled the group forward. The jounin watched as the pink and raven haired Uchiha stayed close to their client. Naruto trailed slightly behind them, Darklings in tow.
He noticed the occasional back glances of Sakura, the object that got her attention was the spectacle of the dead ninja and his weeping brother.
"You shouldn't turn around Sakura." Kakashi spoke gently. "Let it be."
Sakura jumped at his voice. "But why sensei?"
"It may be harsh, but Naruto taught you a valuable lesson." Kakashi spoke aloud. "Ninjas fight ninjas, and people will die. That is how it has always been. Meizu and Gōzu knew the risks and unfortunately for them, they lost in this case."
"Eventually, you will all face an enemy that you will not stand a chance against. Or he or she will have a trick up their sleeve that you will not anticipate. This is where I come in, I am here to help you become stronger, become smarter or even both. It is up to you as to which avenue will choose."
"It just seems like a horrible way to go." Sakura heard the sound of Naruto 'hmph' and she glanced apologetically.
"Welcome to the ninja world Sakura. This is the life we lead." Kakashi patted her gently on the head. "If you don't like it...well I guess you should call it quits. I am not trying to be harsh, it is just the truth."
Sakura tilted her head downward as she thought about the tough decisions that are yet to come. "I understand. Thanks sensei."
"No problem." Kakashi's eyes changed form kind to tutor to harsh ninja as he gazed at their client. "Speaking of truth Tazuna-san, I would say you are not being entirely honest with us."
"Save it, Tazuna-san. You lied, and because of that you put my students and myself in jeopardy. I'm going to give you a chance to put your thoughts in order until we reach the shore. Then you are going to give me the complete and honest truth."
"Psst...Cyclops?" Kakashi glanced down to see a Darkling (most likely Frutz). "Can we kill the old fart too?" Tazuna did not turn, but Team Seven noticed several hairs on his neck stand up straight.
"Maybe." Kakashi had no intention of hurting the old man, regardless of what he had done. But it never hurt to put the fear of Kami into a client. "It all depends if I am happy with the truth, if he gives it."
"You know what Kakashi? We like you."
Gazing across the large body of water separating Nami no Kuni from Hi no Kuni was like gazing at another world. Hi had clear skies and forests full of animals of all kinds, Nami was quiet and desolate enshrouded by an ominous mist. Team Seven could make the outline of a large yet incomplete bridge. Tazuna guided them far from the main transport lanes near a small desolated part of the border.
Kaji, an old friend of Tazuna waited by the bank constantly peering over his shoulder. It was only until all of Team Seven and Tazuna came on board did he seem to relax. However, the Darklings made short work of that. While Frutz, Xran and Dren sat next to Naruto in the cramped boat, the remaining Darkling company swam like sharks around wooden island.
"We don't want to get caught so we'll have to do this the old fashioned way." Taji whispered as he picked up a wooden oar. "It'll take us a few minutes to get across. So long as we follow the bridge we'll reach Nami."
"Thanks Taji." Tazuna turned away from his colleague to face the inquisition.
"Before we get to the other side there are some questions we need to ask you Tazuna-san. I think you should tell us what is going on, namely who is after you and why."
Tazuna briefly let his defences down and the masked jounin saw the old man hiding behind the facade of strength.
"Or we can call off this mission the moment we hit shore. After that you are on your own."
The deafening silence was interrupted only by the occasional splashing of a nearby Darkling. "Well," Tazuna sighed, "it seems I have to tell you the real story."
"No shit." Frutz whispered.
"I mean, I would like you to hear my story."
"Ugh." Xran groaned. "Great, another long winded speech designed to appeal to the masses."
"As you said, I did lie on my initial application." Tazuna sulked. "An extremely terrible man is after my life."
"And that would be?"
"I am sure you have heard of the businessman Gatō."
"Gatō?" Kakashi's visible eyes became as wide as a dinner plate. "As in one of the richest men in the known world, Gatō? The man who founded the Gatō Corporation? That Gatō?"
"Yes. On the surface he runs a legitimate marine transportation business. But underground, he uses gangs and ninjas to smuggle drugs and contraband goods. He also uses his influence to take over other corporations and even countries. He came to our lands a year ago and began taking over our sea traffic and transportation effectively severing us from the outside world."
"As such he effectively controls the entire land and has placed a stranglehold on the people. He has blocked imports and exports, we cannot get product out, and we cannot get food in." Tazuna smirked. "He does fear however one thing, my bridge. It has been under construction for a while and Gatō has been trying to undermine me in every way he knows how. If it is completed then his entire grip on this country fades to dust."
"This is easy." Frutz placed a thoughtful claw under its chin. "If we kill this Gatō, then boom; mission complete."
"Oh please!" Tazuna chuffed. "He is guarded by an army of soldiers."
"Okay." Frutz's ear twitched. "So we kill them and then we kill Gatō."
"It's not that simple," Kakashi turned to Frutz, "we still have a problem."
"Am I the only one who believes, this problem can be solved by killing it?"
"This is not a joke Frutz. If Meizu told the truth, then we will have to deal with Momochi Zabuza, the Demon of the Hidden Mist." Kakashi spoke the words with a tone that sent shivers down all the spines of Team Seven. The Darklings seemed less than impressed.
"Spooky." Frutz mused. "Actual demons versus a human pretending to be one, I am so scared."
"He is a heavy hitter. He has a significant bounty attached to him and appears in my own Bingo Book." Kakashi turned to face Tazuna. "Tazuna-san this is serious. Why did you hide these facts when you came to us?"
"We are an incredibly poor people. Even the feudal lord does not have that much money. We don't have the money to request for an expensive B-rank or above mission." Tazuna shuffled a little in his seat as he tensed his body. "If you quit your mission after I land, I'll be killed for sure on my way home."
You sneaky little bastard. Kakashi cursed as he saw his argument come together. Playing the guilt card after you lied to us.
"But there's no need to blame yourselves. My death will only cause my cute eight year old grandson to cry and cry and cry some more! And my daughter will just hold a grudge against Konoha ninja and live a lonely life! But it's not your fault!"
Jerk. Kakashi groaned as he gazed at the members of Team Seven. All of them looked incredibly flustered, their faces racked with guilt, even the stoic Sasuke. All of us agreed to help you the moment you said you would be killed on the way home.
"Don't worry old man. We won't let that happen." Frutz waddled across the boat and placed a gentle hand on their client knee. Needless to say everyone on the boat was surprised, a Darkling showing empathy? Sasuke looked like he was about to have a stroke.
Naruto was not so convinced. "Frutz..."
"Really?" Tazuna cheered up. "You won't let that happen?"
"Of course old man, because we're going to gut you long before his people can."
"I knew it." Naruto immediately leaned forward and grabbed Frutz by the tip of his long bat like ear and pulled him to his side of the boat.
"Wait guys." Dren popped up. "If we kill him, then the mission is over. We could get a much higher kill ratio if we keep him alive."
"Nerd has a point, but that is theoretical as opposed to virtual certainty. I vote we kill him! All in favour say 'I'!" Frutz cried. A series of Darklings responded.
"I!...I!...I!...I!...Ow! My eye!" Tazuna's eyes widened in horror as the little creatures around the water gazed at him expectantly.
"But my family-"
"The dead guy raises a good point, what do we do with the family?" Xran smiled.
"That's easy; kill them." The snake like Goldbrick peered over the boat. "Hey old man, before you die a horrible death would you kindly give us directions to your house? It would suck not to put your family out of their misery. That is just cruel."
"But what about the people?"
"They can go fuck themselves!" Jeered a Darkling. "With a jug of whipped cream and honey!"
"You know, we haven't killed a whole country in a while..."
"Relax Tazuna-san, they won't hurt you. Right Naruto?"
Kakashi turned to see Naruto attempting to bear hug several squirming Darklings from trying to launch themselves at their client. "Yeah. Enough Xran! Don't make me hit you again."
"But Kakashi-sensei said we could." The bandaged Xran turned to the masked jounin. "Isn't that right Kakashi?"
"I meant it in jest!" Kakashi did his best to dismiss the old man's wounded stare. "Even if I did, he gave me a sufficient explanation."
"...I take it back, we don't like you Cyclops." With that Xran flopped himself on the boat and crossed his arms. Several other Darklings cursed as the proceeded to turn about in the water in frustration.
"Relax Tazuna-san...I guess it can't be helped. We will continue escorting you."
Tazuna's shoulders drooped in relief, both from not being killed at that his guilt trip paid off.
"I knew it." Sasuke muttered. "You Darklings are idiots."
"Hey Emo-freak, how about you tell us that knee slapper about your fam-MMMPHF!" The sound of Frutz's cruel statement which would have no doubt have sent an already angry Uchiha over the edge was quickly silenced by a quick hand gagging it.
"Frutz, I swear I will kick you back to Konoha if you keep this up."
"...yeah...I would rather avoid that." Frutz quickly went limp and Naruto gently placed him next to Xran.
"But wait though...I can't believe it." Xran's ears extended to their full height.
"What?" Frutz pouted.
"Gatō is the founder of a corporation!"
"Don't you get it? Dren's pun earlier actually fits. Dren is now funny!"
Frutz's eyes widened in realisation "Woah! You're actually right. Dren! You're funny now! Congratulations!" The lead Darkling delivered a hard slap across the back of their intellectual colleague, several Darklings cheered in support. "It only took six thousand years!"
"I hate you guys...But thanks." Dren's smile perked up. "While we're at it what do you say we-"
"Dren, you are funny now..." Frutz patted the Darkling on the head. "Don't ruin the moment. Just appreciate it."
A/N: Well guys there you go. I always thought that the Demon Brothers, who are chunin, got flattened so quickly in the canon series. So I decided to put a little fight in them.
I know this chapter is a little on the short side. Things will be picking up quickly in the next chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. Review and PM as always.