Hello, everyone, here's the final chapter of the "Ronin" story! Enjoy!

* Review response:
karthik9, Alphawolfy28, Darksnider05, jafr86, EternalKnight219, fanficreader71, Umbra8191, griffin blackwood, sh8ad8ow, ddcj1990, LbcLostKid, darwinsito, ryuhitsuguya93, Still Not Dead Yet, Akira Stridder, jh831, Elemental Dragon Swordman, BlackSkullDragon, bumike99, warriorx559, puma1sunfire, Vic dit vic, thank you for your reviews, folks!
Azurealkaze, FF13unleashed, Wyrtha, hehehe. nope, he won't.
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ogihcI ikasoruK, thanks, man!
BowTechsniper, Rixxell Stryfe, how 'bout Naruto versus Zabuza somewhere in the beginning of the sequel?
rescue 007, sorry, all out of citrus. =)

* Jutsu list:
Kage bushin - (A-rank) Shadow clone - creates solid chakra-made copy of user (to be destroyed shadow clone must get moderate damage). Shadow clones have perfect copy of user's mind and memory. When dispelled, shadow clones return experience of their 'life' to user. Shadow clones split user's chakra by clones number +1 (if you create 3 clones you'll have only 1/4 of chakra left (minus chakra needed to create clones)) that's why they are mostly used for information gathering.
Fuuton: shinkuu gyoku - (unknown rank) Wind style: vacuum sphere - User expels multiple penetrating wind bullets.
Ura shishou - (unknown rank, possibly S) Reverse four image seal - Upon activation, sucks everything within certain radius into the seal and seals it away permanently.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

Disclaimer: I DO NOT own Naruto or its characters. I do not own Rosario + Vampire II (First part too, actually), from where the name Akasha Chisen (Bloodriver) comes, either. And, of course, I don't own Red Eyes either - Naruto's nickname in the bingo books comes from this manga.

"speaking of the higher beings / jutsu / Naruto while using Kyuubi's yoki"
'thinking of the higher beings / Kyuubi and Akashi talking to Naruto in his mind'
written message

This chapter is not beta-read.

chapter 17: Naruto of the Hidden Mist

"So, what is your decision? Are you coming willingly, or do I have to take you by force?" Naruto asked as he appeared just outside the window of Zabuza's hut, approximately and hour after his clone paid a visit to the missing-nin. The said missing-nin, along with his associate Haku, was sitting in the living room and having some very late lunch, or, maybe, a very early dinner.

"We will come." Zabuza replied. The Kyuubi jinchuuriki was a bit surprised at how seemingly easy convincing the man to return to Kiri was. Most likely he had a plan to run away as soon as he let his attention wander away from him. Fat chance there.

"Very well." The cloaked swordsman replied. "Finish your meal and be ready for a marching to the docks. There is a ship waiting for us." And then he let his presence fade, though he still was there, watching the hut closely, so that the two wouldn't run away... Plus he needed to make some preparations for a plan of his own: their ship will be sailing rather close to the land of Whirlpools, so the Kyuubi jinchuuriki planned to send a reinforced kage bunshin to search the ruins for the valuables. He needed to plan the way to deliver those valuables to him, though, as the clone would not be able to do that without some help...

Half an hour later, Zabuza and Haku, having everything of a value sealed into the scrolls on them, opened the hut's door and walked out of it. As soon as they did it, Naruto practically materialized next to them.

"Let us be on our way." He said, telling the two to start walking towards the port, while he followed them closely behind – he wasn't stupid to give them even a chance to stab him in the back (both literally and figuratively).

The three shinobi soon reached the port, where a ship going to the Water country was waiting for them – the Kyuubi jinchuuriki had his clone talk to the captain earlier, so now they had no problems with getting on board... Three hours later, they already were in the open sea.

~/ *** \~

Naruto's enforced shadow clone stepped onto the solid ground, finally, after several hours of walking the not-so-calm sea. It looked around, surveying what was left from once mighty Uzushiogakure no Sato... Right now, though, nothing but ruins were there, ruins and wild trees growing on them... It didn't look like anything of any value could be found there, but the clone still had to search the place – that was its mission, after all.

Deciding that it had the best chance to find anything near the center of the village, the kage bunshin headed towards one of the few not completely destroyed houses – though it still was nothing more than wall fragments and a pile of rubble – that, supposedly, was the administrative building once upon a time. Since it had been given quite some chakra by the creator, the doppelganger decided to summon a couple of its own clones to speed up the process of searching the ruins...

...Several hours of hard work yielded almost no results: it appeared that the things that weren't destroyed during the fall of the village were already taken away either by the survivors or by those who raided the ruins in search for something valuable or was just lost to time... Still, the clones had recovered several golden buttons with the spiral emblem, a necklace of a dull-green stone (too with the Uzushio emblem on it), several coins and some patches of red and blue cloths – this was everything that the clones could find. Of course, there still were the houses on the edge of the village, but it was not likely that something of any value could be found there.

After some thinking, the (main) clone decided that everything but the cloths should be sent to their creator. So, taking out one of the scrolls that the real Naruto gave it, the clone sealed the findings and the other scrolls into it, before summoning a messenger bird to carry this scroll to Kiri... Once that was done and the bird had taken off, the clone dispelled itself.

~/ *** \~

Meanwhile, in Kumo the analytics finished studying the documents about the alliance with Hidden Mist that Naruto had brought there, and presented their results to the Raikage, so that he could make the final decision.

Even though A was not the brightest man, and got his position more for his battle prowess than for his political skills, he still never let anyone do any major decisions about the future of the village without him knowing all pros and cons of the act. So, right now he was studying the documents from Kiri, and what his analytics had written about them... It looked like the alliance was somewhat beneficial for Kumo, though, at the moment, Hidden Mist was getting more advantages from it than his village did.

After some thinking, the dark-skinned Raikage decided that he should add several clauses, that would allow Kumo to get more benefits from the alliance later on. And once he had ran the changes by his analytics (and Mabui before them, as she was his most trusted assistant), A sent the edited set of documents back to Kiri, to see and how much they wanted and needed this alliance, and how much they were willing to give in order to have an ally like Hidden Cloud village.

~/ *** \~

Mei had sent two of the Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū, Choujirou and Aoba, and a squad of ANBU to escort Zabuza and his apprentice from the Western port of the Water country 'back' to the Hidden Mist village. And Naruto was silently glad that she did that, as being constantly on alert around the former member of the Seven Swordsmen was tiring him out.

Of course, Zabuza was not in the best mood, seeing how many of potential enemies there were around him, but he hid that well, and so the convoy reached the gates of Kirigakure no Sato without any incidents four days after they had left the port town. At the gates, everyone's documents were checked (Choujirou had the temporary ones for Zabuza and Haku), before they were let it. And once they were inside the village walls, another ANBU cell joined the convoy as they took the missing-nin and his apprentice to the Mizukage's palace.

Mei had cleared her schedule for the whole day to have her talk with Zabuza, so when he was finally delivered there, she was already tired of waiting. The same could be said about the two more members of the Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū that were in her office. Naruto had personally tested Hitagi, so that he knew her to be one of the seven, the other, though – Noen Yamato, the new wielder of the Kabutowari – was just an elite jounin when he left Kiri to go to Kumo...

Knowing that her boyfriend must be tired from the mission, the red-haired Kage dismissed him once he had completed his oral report. Choujirou and Aoba and the ANBU cell that escorted Zabuza from the port were dismissed as well. The other cell was ordered to remain there for the duration of Mei's talk with the Kirigakure no Kijin...

"Now, that the formalities with the others are done, I'd like to officially welcome you back to the Hidden Mist village, Zabuza Momochi." The Fifth Mizukage said. "Knowing what you did during the early days of the bloodline purges..." Zabuza, though, decided to be 'rude', and, raising his hand, interrupted the red-haired village leader.

"I'm terribly sorry, ma'am, but as of yet, I'm not sure about rejoining the village: I've not seen what you are standing for. For all I know, you can be even worse than Yagura." Mei sent him her best glare – which actually made him shut up – but before the situation could escalate further, she recomposed herself.

"I will be very thankful if you do not compare me to that bastard." She hissed. "Or I may just kill you." Shaking her head, she resumed talking in a calm voice, reserved for the political discussions: "Now then, what I wanted to say is..." And so the negotiations began...

~/ *** \~

Since Naruto was already sleeping by the time Mei had finished the negotiations with Zabuza – somehow she was able to convince him to stay for the time being, which meant that most likely he will no be able to leave at all. Not with the sword, at least – the welcoming party for the Kyuubi jinchuuriki was postponed till tomorrow's morning.

That morning the blond swordsman woke up cuddled with his three loves. Mei was on his right side; Akasha, whom he 'let out' yesterday before going to bed, on the left; and Kagerou on top of him, and, apparently ready for some 'escapades', just as the two redheads... Good thing, it was a weekend. Needless to say that none of them left the bedroom till noon...

Still, eventually, the welcoming 'party' ended, and everyone (bar the vampiress, of course) had to return to their work, and for Mei that was deciding what will Kiri do with the upcoming chuunin exams in Konoha. Sure, it will be good to show everyone that the Hidden Mist was back and as strong as ever, but remembering what Naruto said about that village, she wasn't sure that sending her genin there would be a good idea. So, she did a rare thing and summoned the council to help her decide – unlike what was happening in the Hidden Leaf, the council of Kiri truly was just an advisory office, consisting of the four elders... As fast as they could, the four elders got to the meeting room on the ground floor of the Mizukage's palace, where Mei was already waiting for them.

"Good day, honorable elders of Kirigakure no Sato." The red-haired Kage greeted them. "We are here to discuss sending our best genin to the semi-annual chuunin exams that, this time, are held in Konoha." The elders nodded. "Your thoughts on this matter, please." She decided she will listen to what they have to say first.

"As we all no doubt know, chuunin exams are an important political event that shows everyone what the village's new generation can do." Elder Muramasa, a bald man in his late nineties, possibly the oldest ninja alive, said. While he never went past an average jounin in terms of strength, an now could barely walk even with a staff, he always possessed a sharp mind, which was why he was a village elder for the last twenty five years. "I believe that the participation of our village in these exams is a must. But knowing how things always seem to happen in the Leaf, we should be careful."

"I agree, we ought to show the world that Kiri is strong and ready, but we also should be careful not to lose our young talents in Konoha – they are still an enemy territory and who knows what can happen here." Elder Aoi, a short woman with watery gray hair in early eighties, and one of the few kunoichi in history to attain S-rank, spoke.

"And I'm against sending our teams to Konoha." The third elder, Tokawa, a man in late eighties, with mostly bald head (only some hair on the sides remained), said. "Orochimaru the sannin was said to be spotted in the Fire and Wind countries. He's planning something, and knowing his hate for his home village... We do not want to lose our young in the conflict of others." The fourth elder, a man by the name Okoro, who was Tokawa's teammate, just nodded in agreement.

"I thank you for your opinions, honorable elders." Mei said. "Now, let me propose a course of action for the given situation..." And she began explaining her plan that consisted of sending two teams of fresh chuunin (this way no one not from Kiri will know of their true rank), posing as genin. These six shinobi should be good enough to suffer no losses during the exam and have at least one of them reach the finals... And in case Orochimaru will attack Konoha, like elder Tokawa thought, the 'genin' will leave the area and will not interfere with the fight... After long and tiresome debates, the elders agreed to Mei's plan, and so the redhead now had to have the jounin commander form the teams to be sent to Konoha for the chuunin exams.

Meanwhile the four current members of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist were having a 'babysitting' mission. They were to be by Zabuza's side, while the man was walking around the village to see how it was under the rule of the Fifth Mizukage: he had agreed to rejoin the village, should he find the things to be to his liking... Of course, if that wasn't the case, the acting members of the Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū were ordered to eliminate him, but Zabuza didn't need to know that.

So far, though, it looked like the ex-missing-nin – he was temporary removed from the bingo books – will be staying, as he looked quite pleased with the 'new' Kiri, despite his constant comment about how he thought the things should be done that the four of his minders had to listen to.

~/ *** \~

A week of 'relaxation' later, Naruto was given a new mission by Mei: he had to investigate a remote island just outside the Water country territory, as some suspicious activity was reported to be seen there. The Kyuubi jinchuuriki readily accepted this mission, and that evening was already on his way. It took him three days to get to the Northern port, and another week to get to the closest island to the target the captains were willing to sail to. From there he just water-walked to the island he was told to investigate.

Once he was on that island – a fairly large one, with an active volcano in the center – he began looking for anything suspicious, but almost as soon as he stepped on the island, he got attacked by a giant millipede, the one you'd expect to be a summon. Though, a well-aimed wind blade decapitating the beast revealed that this was not a summon – it didn't disappear upon its death. And that was troublesome...

'So, it appears that the rumors about the island where many beast used in summoning contracts live were true, after all.' The blond swordsman concluded. Well, from now on he had to be much more careful as he might get too much attention from the local creatures otherwise, and he didn't fancy fighting entire population of summons...

As he continued the exploration of the island, he could feel that something was not right, as he could see various beasts running away from the volcano part of the island. Summons didn't just avoid the territories for no reason. So fighting his own instincts to run away, the Kyuubi jinchuuriki headed towards the volcano. And just as he was approaching it, there was an explosion somewhere in it, and a type of explosion that was not a sign of volcano eruption: something was on this island, and it was being destroyed at the moment.

Seeing no apparent entrance on the sides of the volcano, Naruto ran up to the crater, and, looking down, saw a path leading into the mountain. And judging by sounds (mainly, screams and roars) something was happening inside... Running on the wall, the Kyuubi jinchuuriki reached the path, and followed it into what seemed to be a genetic laboratory. Inside, he could see a strange creature looking like a pupa with tentacles and small arms in process of eating the last of the scientists. An experiment gone wrong, the blond swordsman concluded, before drawing his sword and sending several wind blades towards the beast. Much to his surprise, the ninjustu seemed to have no effect on the creature, as it just absorbed the chakra out of the technique, canceling it.

"Dammit!" Naruto swore. "I'll need some serious firepower here. Kage busnhin!" A dozen of his shadow clones appeared, before charging at the beast, while the real blond was doing handseals for his own 'summoning' – this seemed to be a job just for Akasha... Unfortunately for the Kyuubi jinchuuriki his clones were destroyed too fast, and now, that it had finished its 'meal', the beast turned its attention to him. But the creature was moving too slowly to force Naruto cancel his technique to defend himself, so he managed to successfully summon the vampiress.

"And what do I have to do with this thing?" The redhead asked, as she observed the approaching beast. "It's a bit too big to handle it with bare hands..." The creature chose this moment to attack with the tentacles that formed around the mouth on its stomach. But both Naruto and Akasha were too fast for it, and it missed. "Oh well, looks like I have no choice." The vampiress concluded, before sprinting towards the beast... Naruto, on the other hand, jumped backwards, while throwing a handful of kunai with explosive tags attached at it.

"Eat this!" The Kyuubi jinchuuriki said loudly, as he detonated the tags, forcing the mutant creature to stumble back a bit. And while it was recovering, Akasha, whose hands were now covered with runic arrays of some sort, got close to it and threw a punch, which sent the beast flying backwards in the wall of the laboratory. It recovered pretty quickly, though, and spit some lightning balls towards its offenders from the mouth on its head.

"Fuuton: shinkuu gyoku!" Using his sword as a medium, Naruto sent a multitude of wind balls to counter the lightning technique of the beast. Then he switched to producing the jutsu with his mouth, while using a lighter to turn the wind balls into fireballs – those ought to do at least some damage to the creature they were fighting... Akasha too wasn't standing and doing nothing: the vampiress got a huge metal rod from somewhere, and threw it at the beast as if it was a spear... This attack was moderately successful as even a headshot didn't seem to be fatal to the abomination, it just slowed it down a bit.

"Oh well, time for some dirty work." The redhead said with a sigh, before covering her body with a protective layer of chakra – she was quite aware that her body was just an energy construct, so touching the beast directly would be a suicide for her... Even with this protection, she won't have much time for the contact. Running up to the beast, she punched it, again sending it into the wall. Then she jumped up, before doing a heel-drop on its head... This didn't seem to do much good, but Akasha just shrugged it off and continued her assault. Doing a hand-stand, she ripped off a part of the beast's head, before having to jump away as her protection was almost gone. "This thing is really tough." She said, and Naruto could only nod in agreement.

"Any ideas on how to defeat this thing?" The Kyuubi jinchuuriki asked as they dodged another attempt of the beast to catch them with its tentacles.

"We can throw it into lava of the volcano." Akasha replied. "Or you can try using ura shoshou seal on it... Or just stuff it with explosives. That should work as well." Naruto nodded, and prepared another pack of explosive tags, attaching them to a kunai of his. But before he could throw it, the beast attacked, sending a powerful gust of cutting wind in his direction, forcing him to dodge. Then it switched its attention to the vampiress, throwing several lightning balls into her, making her cancel whatever she was doing with runic arrays at the moment and evade the attack.

"Here we go." Naruto whispered under his breath, as he threw the kunai with explosive tags into the beast's (lower) mouth. "Boom." He detonated the explosives just as the knife lodged itself into the target's flesh... There was a loud explosion that tore half of the abomination's body, but that didn't seem to bother the creature much – only made it stop its advance for a couple of seconds. "Damn! Is this thing even killable?"

"Of course it is!" The red-haired vampiress replied, while scoring the second headshot with what looked like a long piece of rail. "Keep it busy for me." Nodding, Naruto began spamming the beast with various ninjutsu, even if those seemed to be useless against it, while Akasha got close to it with another rail. Hitting the back of the beast's head with it, she sent it face first into the ground, and while it was trying to get up, using one the rails she had put through its head as a handle, the vampiress lifted the abomination, and threw it in the direction of the exit from the lab and towards the lava... Unfortunately she was strong enough in this body to throw it that far, so the beast landed just by the lab entrance.

As the thing was trying to get up, the Kyuubi jinchuuriki threw the kunai with the ura shoshou seal to its head, and activated the array just as soon as the throwing blade touched the hide of the beast. A black sphere appeared, covering most of the abomination, and then it collapsed onto itself, sealing everything that was in it away. Permanently. Then Akasha speared what was remaining of the beast with a rail and threw it into the lava. Just in case, so it would not regenerate.

"Damn, that thing was tough." The vampiress concluded. Naruto nodded in agreement. "Let's hope we don't have to face any more of these things." The blond shinobi nodded again, before turning around and heading back into the laboratory: he still needed to investigate what was going on here...

As it turned out, someone was trying to create the ultimate summoning animal here. And they almost succeeded, as their creation was really a tough thing to kill – he had just battled it, and it was possibly the hardest fight in ages – but it was uncontrollable... Another interesting thing, while there were lots of data on how the beast was created, Naruto couldn't find single word about who was funding this research: that shinobi, when mentioned, was always called just 'he' or 'the client'.

After some thinking, the blond shinobi had decided that leaving the research notes was too dangerous, so he collected them all, sealed into the scroll and threw into lava. Then, using remaining explosive tags (most of them being the overpowered ones, filled with Kyuubi's yoki instead of just human chakra), he mined the laboratory and set a one hour timer.

"Let's go." He said to Akasha once he was done with the preparations. She just nodded and the two of them let the laboratory. Once they were out of the volcano, there was a surprise waiting for them: the local 'fauna' came out of the forest, and the various summoning animals seemed to be ...grateful? Well, from the notes he had seen, Naruto knew that some of these animals were fed to that abomination to let it absorb their abilities, so it was possible that now the summons were grateful to them for offing that beast... A huge bird offered hi and Akasha its back, and, after some seconds of hesitation, the two climbed here. The bird then took off and headed towards the nearest human settlement it knew, while the rest of the summoning animals were returning to their territories on the island...

Naruto and Akasha, who still hadn't dispelled herself, were quite some distance away from the island, when the explosive tags left behind went off in a large explosion that almost destroyed a side of the volcano... Just from how big it was, it was safe to say that the lab was destroyed completely. Good, as no one needed another such abomination let loose on the world...

~/ *** \~

Eleven days later Naruto was back in Kiri and reporting the results of his mission to Mei, who, for some reason, seemed to be unusually nervous around him... Oh well, it was not like he could just understand what was going on in her head - if this was important and she wanted to share it, she'll tell him.

"...And so that I what had happened." The Kyuubi jinchuuriki finished his oral report. "I write the detailed version sometime later today." Mei nodded. She seemed to want to say something, but as she hadn't even opened her mouth, yet, the blond shinobi decided that he had his right to ask a question of his own: "What about Zabuza? When I left for this mission, he was walking around the village, ...studying it." The redhead froze for a moment as, apparently, Naruto's question caught her off guard, but she quickly recomposed herself.

"He came to a conclusion that the situation in Kiri is 'satisfactory', so he and his apprentice will stay. I put them both on three months probation with Haku Yuki being given the rank of chuunin... Zabuza will also rejoin the Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū once his probation is over." The red-eyed swordsman nodded.

"And what about the chuunin exams? I remember you organizing a couple of teams to send there." He asked then, just out of curiosity. Mei once again seemed to be thinking about something else entirely, but she still gave her answer quickly:

"They've successfully passed the first test which was information gathering and mental stability and determination, and are going through the survival test right now. But it appears that elder Tokawa was right: the jounin I sent report that Konoha suddenly tightened the security a couple of hours after the second test began. There also rumors about Orochimaru being seen in the village." She said. Naruto nodded. Deciding that he was satisfied with that information for now, the Kyuubi jinchuuriki now wanted to know what was wrong with his hime. Of course, he knew that asking her directly might not yield him the desired answers, but he still tried.

"Something wrong, Mei-chan?" The response he got was not something he expected: the redhead made a sign telling the hidden ANBU in her office to leave. And once they were out, she activated the privacy seals – yep, whatever was bothering her was really important.

"Naruto-kun..." She looked downwards and to the side. "We're are going to be parents." It took Naruto a couple of seconds to process what she said.

"What?" Was all that he managed to say. Somehow, though, the redhead wasn't offended by this – then again, what she else could have expected from dropping such a bombshell on him? – and elaborated instead.

"I'm pregnant, Naru-chan. On the fourth week..." The Kyuubi jinchuuriki just started at her for long seconds. Then he somehow got around the table before she could see that, appearing behind her, and hugged her.

"Isn't that great? We always wanted a family, Mei-chan." He said, making the red-haired Kage relax a bit.

"Yes, that's great." She agreed. "But... We need to marry if we want the best future for our child. And for that we need to both be a part of the village officially." By the documents Naruto was still a ronin, and, thus, not eligible for any kunoichi of Kiri, even for the Mizukage herself, to marry.

"For you, Mei-chan... I will do anything." Yes, the blond swordsman was still not over his dislike for the Hidden villages that he got after that incident in Konoha over seven years ago, but for his hime he indeed was ready to put the shackles of being a part of the village back on.

"Thank you." The redhead whispered, before turning her head around to give him a kiss. "But... You are the special case, so I myself am not enough to enter you into the village. You'll have to get the approval of the elders too." Naruto nodded: while he himself had yet to have a pleasure of speaking with them, he knew a lot of things, most of them not exactly pleasant, about them. "I'll try to organize a meeting with them for you as soon as possible, but... It will take some time. And you can't tell them the real reason of why you're joining the village – no one but us and, maybe, Kagerou-chan, should know about my pregnancy for now." The red-eyed swordsman nodded.

"Of course, Mei-chan." She nodded and released the privacy seals.

"We will talk about this more at home." He nodded again, before giving his hime one more kiss.

~/ *** \~

Elders didn't even bother Naruto with their examination too much. Maybe it was the fact that he was an S-rank ninja and a jinchuuriki of the strongest of current bijuu that helped him much. Or maybe it was the fact that he had a clean history as he had never worked for another village and was among those who brought Yagura's reign to end.

Anyway, it was surprisingly easy for the red-eyed swordsman to get the elder's approval. So just a week after this all began, Mei had already all of the needed documents approved and filed into archives... The ceremony of Naruto becoming the elite jounin of the Kirigakure no Sato was a private one and more symbolic than anything: everybody in the village already knew that he was working for Kiri anyway. He didn't even have to go through the probation (this irritated Zabuza to no end, but there was nothing he could do about that)...

And since the blond shinobi wasn't forced to go through probation, Naruto and Mei played their wedding almost as soon as he became the official ninja of the Hidden Mist village. The wedding too was a private one, though, thanks to the rumor mill, a week later everyone in Kiri knew that their Mizukage was no longer single. Of course, people were speculating about the reasons for this marriage, those that had guessed the truth weren't believed in much – which suited the pair just fine.

Soon, though, the village had another thing to talk about: the teams sent to Konoha for chuunin exams had returned, both having failed the second test. One of the teams could find the second scroll they needed to pass the test in time, while the the other lost two of its members in a run-in with a Suna team that had an unstable jinchuuriki among them.

And since there were more rumors about Orochimaru lurking in the dark corners of the Hidden Leaf village, it looked like elder Tokawa was right, and something was going on there. Something that Kiri didn't want to be a part of. Like a war or whatever the snake sannin had in plans for Konoha.

~/ *** \~

It was about a week before the finals of the chuunin exams in Konoha, when a delegation from Kumo (the Hidden Cloud was not participation, due to the tension between the villages), consisting of the Raikage himself, Mabui, Kiraabi and a group of jounin Naruto didn't knew arrived to Kiri to finalize the alliance.

Naruto himself, along with the five of the acting Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū and Zabuza, were meeting the Kumo delegation at the village gates. Kiraabi, being his usual self, though, didn't let the official atmosphere last, as he approached his fellow jinchuuriki with his customary greeting, that the red-eyed swordsman surely returned... While Raikage was busy scolding his brother for inappropriate behavior, Mabui gave Naruto a friendly hug (this will cause some of the members of the Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū to tease their unofficial leader quite a bit later on, while not listening to him telling that they were a distant cousins).

Eventually, the order was restored, and the procession headed towards the Mizukage's palace. When they got there, one of the chuunin gave Naruto a small scroll, which the blond immediately opened and read.

"Mizukage-sama is going to see you now in the banquet hall." He said then. Everyone nodded, before following the Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū into the palace.

"Let's see, what Terumi-dono has in store for us." Mabui, who was walking next to Naruto, said. 'The Genocide' smiled, before correcting her:

"That would be Uzumaki now." The white-haired kunoichi raised her eyebrow, silently asking him to elaborate, even if she had a pretty good idea of what had happened. "We are married now."

"Congratulations then, Naruto-kun." Mabui said. "I'm sure you are an excellent pair." Naruto was about to reply something, but Choujioru chose this moment to announce that they had reached the banquet hall.

Inside, all tables but two were temporary removed. The one of the two tables remaining was in the center of the room with two ornate armchairs across from each other. Mei was standing next to one of these, while the other was reserved for the Raikage... The other table was for the four elders of Kirigakure no Sato as they were too old to stand through the ceremony.

Naruto took his place behind his wife, while Mabui and Kiraabi were standing behind A, who took his seat. The Kumo jounin and the members of the Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū were standing by the walls behind their village's leaders.

'Let the negotiations begin.' The Kyuubi jinchuuriki thought. And a second later Mei-chan began her speech...

That's all, folks!
Read and Review!

To everyone wondering, there will be a sequel to this story. But not just yet.
In the late spring 2012 most likely, so wait patiently for it to come.

Also, while I'm collecting the inspiration for the sequel for the "Ronin", I'm announcing another story that I will publish in the meantime.
It will be a "Naruto"/"Freezing" crossover. The title is finalized as "Antifreeze fox". First chapter will be published just after the New Year.