Shinigami No Naruto
Part Two: Jinchuuriki Tails
Chapter One: Leavetakings
Naruto and Jiraiya stood before Tsunade, the blond Hokage finishing some paperwork, signing her approval with a flourish of her pen. Shuffling the papers slightly then picking them up and tapping them against the wood of the desk to straighten them out, Tsunade handed the packet to Shizune for filing or delivery. Once Shizune had departed, Tsunade settled her gaze on the two ninja, causing both to straighten into parade attention. Tsunade flipped a hand at the duo, a signal for them to relax. Jiraiya settled into a not-so-subtle leer at Tsunade's bosom as the briefing began. "Afternoon Naruto," Tsunade began. "How do you feel?"
Naruto absently rubbed the scar on the left side of his chest, all which was left of the bullet wound that Tenten had given him at the Valley of the End. "Better. I don't have any problem with the shortness of breath anymore. My burns have completely healed. And the needles around my heart are gone too."
"Very good," Tsunade replied, nodding in a satisfied manner. "Well then, I think that you are completely recovered and ready to return to active duty." That was the best news that Naruto had heard in a long time. Having to endure two weeks of forced inactivity had left him irritable and short tempered, even with Hinata and Tenten. So when Tsunade said he could finally return to active duty, happiness was a weak adjective to describe the emotion he felt. He trembled for a few seconds before he thrust a fist towards the ceiling followed by the rest of him. His cry of "YATTA!" was cut off midsyllable by Jiraiya's fist meeting the crown of his head.
"No need to get so excitable brat," Jiraiya growled, Naruto's exclamation giving new fuel to his hangover. Once Naruto shook the swirls from his eyes, he stood up and after glaring at Jiraiya he refocused on Tsunade.
"So why did you call me up here Granny? You could have told me in the hospital without this guy here"
"Very true. The real reason why I have called you here is because I am assigning you an A-rank mission. Naruto, with your mother's permission, I am officially apprenticing you to Jiraiya. You will be accompanying Jiraiya on his travels for the next two to three years. As you are well aware, the organization of nuke-nin calling themselves Akatsuki is after you. While you remain in Konoha, they can be sure where you are, and that makes you vulnerable. And that is absolutely unacceptable. With Jiraiya, you will have his undivided attention to train and protect you."
"Protect? I don't need protection!" The sharp crack of Tsunade's meaty palm coming into contact with the desk cut him off.
"Wrong Naruto. You have at least two, possibly as many as nine S-rank criminals after your head. I do not mean to insult you, but were you in the bingo book you would have a B-ranking at best. Against the kind of ninja that Akatsuki is made of, you stand no chance."
"What about my team?"
"Hinata and Tenten will remain here in Konoha. They will probably be split up to fill holes in other genin teams until you return." As soon as the words were out of her mouth Tenten and Hinata were through the door, a flustered Shizune hot on their heels.
"I'm sorry Tsunade-sama, I tried to keep them out but they wouldn't listen."
Tsunade silenced her apprentice with a curt look and focused on the two intruding kunoichi. "Good afternoon Tenten-san, Hinata-san. What, may I ask, do you need that is so important that it necessitates interrupting an A-rank mission briefing?"
"Hokage-sama. Forgive us for interrupting," Hinata began, slightly out of breath, "but we request to be added to the mission roster."
"And why would I do that? You are just genin. You are not qualified to be added to an A-rank mission." At this, Hinata stumbled. She couldn't say that the reason she and Tenten had was that they did not want to be separated from Naruto for several years. Glancing sideways to Tenten, Hinata hoped that Tenten had come up with something better than "because we would miss him." Tenten unfortunately looked as uncertain as she did. But as both girls looked at one another, trying to come up with anything that sounded like a remotely legitimate reason, Jiraiya, spoke.
"I wouldn't mind letting them come along. I can teach three genin just as ably as one."
Tsunade said nothing for several long seconds, staring her ninja. "Oh come on Tsunade-hime. You don't need a pair of genin that badly, and they can learn more from me than anyone else here, unless you are planning to take them under your wing? And it isn't like an extra pair of genin would make things that much more dangerous."
"Alright you two, I assume that you were listening to the whole briefing? Yes, well I hope that you are sure. There are at least two S-rank nuke-nin, probably as many as nine, after him. Were either of you two to stand between Naruto and Akatsuki, they would have no compunction against killing you."
"You mean they would treat us like any other enemy combatant?" Tenten asked.
Tsunade opened her mouth to reply, but said nothing, unable to refute Tenten's logic. "Yes, they would treat you like an enemy combatant. Just as long as you are cognizant of the danger." They nodded in unison. "Far be it from me to deny true love. Well, Jiraiya, looks like you just got yourself a team. But if any of the characters in your next novel bear anything more than a passing resemblance to any of those three kids, I will be looking for a new spymaster." Long since having been inoculated against Tsunade's threats, Jiraiya's smile barely faltered. "Shizune, add Higurashi Tenten and Hyuuga Hinata to the roster as well." Shizune, who had been standing in the doorway during the discussion, voiced an affirmative and ducked out the doorway.
"When do you want to leave?"
Jiraiya thought about it for a few seconds. "I am sure that the kids will want some time to say goodbye, so tomorrow, I think. That should give me some time to finish up one or two things I need to tie up here as well. Nothing to do with my research," he assured the volatile Hokage.
"Alright then, dismissed. Saluting, the five ninja about-turned and left her office. The group stopped outside the main doors of the Tower and split up, Naruto and his teammates going home to start packing.
Tenten did not have many possessions, so it took her and Naruto less than an hour to pack all her stuff. Naruto had left to run a few errands, or so he said, so she had been left to her own devices for the time being. She left her apartment, locked the door behind her and started walking. It felt strange, to be leaving for so long. It was just two weeks shy of one full year since they had graduated the Academy and become fully fledged Konoha shinobi. If everything went according to plan, by the time she and her team returned, they would have been out of Konoha for longer than they had officially been ninja. She was still a little incredulous that the Hokage had caved into her and Hinata's request so easily. She had gone in fully expecting to have to fight tooth and nail for her and Hinata to be included in the mission. So when Tsunade acquiesced almost without any argument at all, she was surprised to say the least.
Still, she wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth. She was just glad to be going with Naruto and not be left behind.
As she walked, she noted teams of Naruto clones working on the reconstruction. It had been a little over a month since the invasion and the reconstruction was only now really getting going, although it was hastened quite a bit with two thousand-odd extra helpers. Most shinobi were out assisting, including the genin cells that were still taking missions. She and Hinata had been exempt from helping out, for the most part, since Naruto, the nominal leader of their team, had been put on bed rest, and that meant no training or physical labor. Of course, Naruto wasn't one for following rules when he could get away from it, hence the shadow clone reconstruction force.
Arriving at her destination, she opened the door, the familiar jingle of the bell sounding in her ears. The Higurashi Weapon Shop looked exactly the same as she remembered it, taking mostly superficial damage during the invasion. "Mom? Dad? Anyone here?"
Tenten heard feet pounding on the second floor, and then on the stairs. "Tenten-chan?" Chichi crouched down to look at Tenten from between the bars of the banister before hurrying all the way down. "How are you? Are you okay?"
"Yeah Mom, I'm fine. Is Dad around? I need to talk to you two about something."
"Yeah, he is uh... KOUSEKI! IT'S TENTEN!"
Kouseki emerged from the back room a few seconds later, wiping his hands on an already dirty cloth. "Tenten-chan, how are you?"
"I'm fine Dad. I just wanted to come over to let you know that I have been assigned a long-term mission, A-rank."
"At least two years, maybe longer." Kouseki and Chichi knew better than to ask for details about the mission. Had either one of them been shinobi, Tenten would have been able to be more forthcoming, but civilians were not issued security clearances.
"Do you know when you have to leave?" Kouseki asked the only question that Tenten would be able to answer.
"Do you need any equipment? Kunai, shuriken, wire, oil, whetstones?"
Tenten nodded her head. "Dad, can I get the molds you made for my ammunition and whatever gunpowder you have left?"
"Sure thing Tenten-chan. Do you need any ammunition made now?"
"No, I still have most of the last batch I made before the invasion. I just need the molds and gunpowder so I can make more when I need to."
"What about a forge?"
"Most towns have a smithy in them. I can rent one out when I need to. If I can't, it isn't like it would be hard to make a temporary forge somewhere else. It isn't like I need a full smithy."
"Alright then. You sure that is all you need?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
"Do you want your stuff sealed or just packed away."
"Seal it up please."
"Ok, be right back."
Chichi shifted uncomfortably once Kouseki had left, mirrored by Tenten. Hard words had been said, the last time they had spoken, and neither one knew how to take back what had been said. Silence reigned unbroken until Kouseki returned. Tenten took the proffered scroll and was pulled into a hug by her father when she did. "Be safe Tenten-chan. Write us when you can, please?"
"When I can," Tenten agreed.
"Good. We love you." Kouseki finally released his only daughter, and the three stood in awkward silence until Tenten gave a jerky farewell and left.
"You didn't say anything to her?"
"No," Chichi muttered. "I don't know what to say to make her listen."
"She is an adult now," Kouseki reminded Chichi.
"Hardly. She is thirteen."
"She is a shinobi. You can't judge her solely by her age anymore. The last few months alone prove that."
"Thirteen is too young for marriage, no matter what."
"You are going to have to accept that Tenten makes her own decisions now Chichi-chan. She has her own life that has nothing to do with us anymore. There are some lessons that she has to learn for herself, and this is one of them."
"I just don't want her to regret anything. That boy is tricking her, I know it."
"If he is, then she will figure it out sooner or later."
"I would rather she not have to figure it out at all."
"I know, Chichi-chan. I don't want her to get hurt either, but in her profession, it will be unavoidable."
"I still don't understand why you let her attend the Shinobi Academy in the first place."
Kouseki sighed. "It is in her blood. I don't think that she would have ever been truly happy otherwise."
"She would have been happy enough," Chichi replied. Turning away, she returned upstairs before Kouseki could say anything else. Shaking his head, Kouseki returned to the back room, the oddness of the conversation making him chuckle. It was remarkable how their positions had reversed, his and his wife's. When Tenten had fist graduated, he had been the one opposed to Tenten interacting with Naruto. Now he was defending her decision to accept Naruto's proposal. What differences time could make.
Hinata been home for twenty minutes when a senior Branch Hyuuga knelt in the doorway to their suite, he had to clear his throat three times to gain the pair's attention. Naruto looked at the pair of Branch servants for a moment when their motions slowed to a halt, then looked to the sitting room. Knocking on the end of the open door to get Hinata's attention, Naruto jerked his head back to where the other Hyuuga knelt in the doorway.
"How much you wanna bet that is your dad wanting to talk about the mission?" Naruto had long since given up his speculation as to how the hell Hiashi seemed to know as much as the Hokage almost as quickly. Hinata looked back over her shoulder to where the servant knelt, waiting to address them. Leaning forward over the large luggage scroll, she knelt beside, she placed her hands on the circular sealing array inscribed before her, twisted her hands slightly as she channeled the requisite chakra to her hands and watched as the bundle of clothes vanished in a puff of smoke. Rocking forward slightly, she pushed off her knees and stood up. Naruto stayed in the doorway as Hinata approached the servant.
"Hinata-sama, your father requests your and Naruto-sama's presence in his chambers, post-haste."
"Told you," Naruto muttered as they were escorted from their suite to Hiashi's outermost chamber. The servant and opened the sliding door front he pair, and then closed it behind them. The servant remained by the first door as the pair moved across the room. When everyone was properly seated Hiashi tucked the sheaf of paper he was perusing in to a drawer. Studying Naruto and Hinata for a few interminable seconds, Hiashi broke the silence in his usual manner when dealing with subordinates. That is to say, abruptly and without preamble.
"I am most concerned about the A-rank mission that the Hokage has assigned your squad Naruto-kun. I understand the reasoning behind your assignment. As Jiraiya-sama's apprentice and a Jinchuuriki, it would be foolhardy for you to remain in Konoha. However, Hinata's inclusion is troublesome. As a possessor of an unsealed Byakugan, your wellbeing is a concern. I can see no legitimate reason for you to be assigned to this mission."
"Well," Naruto replied in a smug manner, glad for an opportunity to one-up Hiashi, "that is not a decision for you to make. The Hokage saw fit to put her on the mission, so that should be good enough for you." They might have been allies of a sort, but they were far from friendly. Hiashi's flinty stare would have intimidated Naruto once, but not anymore.
"What I am wondering is exactly why my daughter and your other… teammate… have been included. Neither of them has been apprenticed to Jiraiya-sama, and while I do not doubt that Hinata-chan could benefit from his instruction, Jiraiya has not taken a student on in close to twenty years, not since your biological father. So forgive me if I fail to see why he would be amenable to taking a whole genin cell on now."
"I guess he was feeling nostalgic," Naruto replied. "It was his idea to include Hinata-chan and Tenten-chan." Hiashi studied Naruto's too-wide smile for a few seconds while Hinata whispered at him furiously and Naruto made soothing noises back.
"Liar," Hiashi proclaimed while Naruto continued to smile.
"You're right," Naruto conceded without missing a beat. "But the reason why Hinata was included is immaterial. The only thing that matters is that she was included, by the Hokage no less and that should be enough for you. You should know now that I love Hinata-chan unconditionally, and I would do everything in my power to keep her safe. So you can stop worrying about her unsecured Byakugan because the only way anyone is getting their hands on her Byakugan is if I am dead. And as I have proven, I am not easy to kill. Besides, Hinata is no pushover herself. And we will have Ero-sennin with us too. So it is not like she will be without protection."
"Be that as it may, as powerful as Jiraiya is, he is only one man. And even Jiraiya can be defeated or even killed."
"However true that may be, the fact is that the Hokage personally put Hinata on this mission. But before you go to Granny Tsunade to complain, I would keep in mind that she is not the Old Man. Is there anything else you want to discuss, because Hinata and I need to keep packing?"
Hiashi gave Naruto a sharp look before answering. "Actually, yes, there is." Pulling a scroll about as long as Hinata's arm and only slightly thicker out from a drawer in his desk he handed the scroll to his daughter. Hinata gasped eyes wide as saucers when she held the scroll. "Fa-father, you…is this… I mean, it exists?"
"They do. That is a copy I had made for you recently. Open it up and look inside." Gently setting the scroll on the desk, she carefully unfurled the scroll. Quickly activating her Byakugan, she scanned the first part of the scroll.
Peering over Hinata's shoulder, Naruto scrunched his face in confusion. "I don't get it, the scroll is blank."
"To the eyes of normal humans, it would be. But to the enlightened eyes of a Hyuuga, that scroll filled with the deadliest hand-to-hand combat techniques in the world."
"What, are they some super-secret Jyuuken moves?"
"Of a sort," Hinata replied absently. "There are three levels of the Jyuuken commonly taught, the first two to all Hyuuga and the third reserved for the Main Branch. There is a quasi-mythical fourth tier that allows the user to kill with a single touch. This scroll has the nine forms of the Dim Mak, the Fist of Death, written down. Supposedly, the final form, the Soul Death, allows the user to rip the soul out of a living person with their bare hands."
"But I thought you could already do that with the normal Jyuuken."
"Contrary to popular belief, the Jyuuken is a fairly nonlethal taijutsu style, with only a handful of killing techniques. The Jyuuken can be used to kill, like all martial arts, but it is mostly centered on dealing temporary disabling damage, rather than lethal damage."
"Uh, okay, I guess."
Hinata sighed. "To put it simply, by and large, the Jyuuken does not kill. The Dim Mak, however, does nothing but kill."
"Well, I guess that makes sense. Being called the Fist of Death and all."
A moment after Naruto stopped speaking, Hinata's eyes leaped to her father. "Do I know it?" Hiashi asked before Hinata said anything. "No, I don't. The Dim Mak is something that was taught to the first Hyuuga by the Shinigami himself, or so the legend goes. But it was deemed too dangerous and was eventually forgotten by most. I had a feeling that something was going to happen soon, and had this made. I cannot say why, but I believe that you will have need of this before too long."
Hurriedly rolling the scroll back up, Hinata stood and bowed to Hiashi before scurrying out the door. "Well then, if there is nothing else, I think I will take my leave as well." Nodding to Hiashi, he had almost made it out the door before the Hyuuga Patron spoke again.
"Be careful, Naruto-san. There is a storm gathering on the horizon, and I believe that you will be at its center."
"Thanks for the warning," he replied seriously, and left.
Naruto found Hinata sitting on the futon staring at the scroll on her hands. "I can't believe my father gave me this," Hinata said when Naruto sat down next to her.
"Sounds pretty amazing, doesn't it?"
"Yeah, it kinda does. Every Hyuuga grows up on stories about the Dim Mak. The fighting style that uses the power of the Shinigami itself. I mean, I never actually thought it existed."
"Well it does, and you have the proof right in your hands." Hinata didn't respond for a few seconds so Naruto took her chin in his fingers and turned her face so he could kiss her on the lips. Hinata closed her eyes and leaned into the kiss. When Naruto pulled back a few seconds later, Hinata hugged him, resting her head on his chest.
"Sorry about that."
"Nah, it's fine. Must be pretty unbelievable. You okay now?"
"Yeah. I'm just glad that he had this when you asked. My father does not like challenges to his authority. I am sure that my father will do something to pay you back for being so rude to him, even in private."
Naruto grinned. "Maybe so, but we are leaving tomorrow for at least two years, so whatever he plans will be put on hold until at least then, assuming he can hold a grudge over something that minor that long. And that is something I can deal with. And it isn't like I can't take care of myself."
"I know you can, but that doesn't stop me from worrying."
A light laugh came from Naruto's lips at that. "And that is just one more reason I love you." Hinata giggled and gave him a peck on the lips. Pushing herself to her feet, she went into Naruto's room, Naruto following her, leaning on the doorjamb and crossed his arms over his chest as Hinata unrolled the large luggage scroll. "Don't trust me to pack enough underwear?"
Hinata gave him a look over her shoulder that said exactly that. "Come on Hinata-chan, stop worrying about the mission," Naruto whispered in her ear from behind. "There will be time enough for that later. Anyways, it's almost dinnertime, and I'm hungry. Feel like going out?"
Hinata rolled her eyes. "Let me guess, Ichiraku's?"
Naruto shrugged, as if to say, what can I do? "Well, we are leaving for the next couple of years soon. And we haven't been there in forever."
"We were there Sunday."
"And it is Wednesday, two days is the next best thing to forever." Sighing, Hinata gave in. Naruto pumped a fist low and hissed out a "yes," drawing out the "s" sound. Grabbing his gama-chan wallet from the dresser, one of only a handful of things left that had not been packed away and slipping the baldric to his zanpakuto off the peg by the door, they left. Practically skipping as he held her hand on the way to his favorite restaurant, the only thought n his mind was which flavor of ramen to order first. Holding the privacy flaps to one side and letting Hinata enter first like a proper gentleman, he gave a cheery hello to the elderly proprietor of the best ramen bar in the world.
"Good evening Naruto-kun, Hinata-sama. Eating here or to go?"
"Eating in tonight Ayame-nee-chan."
"Alright then, what can I do for you tonight?"
Naruto didn't even bother to look at the menu printed on the large board hanging behind and above Ayame's head before ordering. "I will start off with a Hokage-sized beef ramen, then a miso, chicken shrimp and finish off with a Konoha Supreme."
"What about you Hinata-sama?"
"Medium chicken ramen, please."
"Alright then, one Hokage beef, one medium chicken coming right up." Hinata and Naruto waited in comfortable silence as they waited for their meal to arrive. Ayame had gone to the rear to give her father their order and there was no one else in the bar at the moment, so the silence was unbroken, except for the ambient sounds of the foot traffic filtering in from outside. Three minutes later, an elderly man with a spotted white apron and spotless white cap approached the counter, two steaming bowls in hand. Setting the food down on the counter in front of his customers, he pulled a pair of chopsticks from a pocked in his apron and set them across the downs. Ichiraku Teuchi let Naruto and Hinata break the chopsticks apart, give thanks and eat a few bites before saying anything.
"How've you been Naruto? Been a while since I have seen you."
"Fine. Been busy, what with finding Tsunade and helping out with the reconstruction and all. At least until tomorrow."
"What happens tomorrow."
"How long term?"
"Two or three years, not really sure." Ayame wanted to ask more, but knew better. Naruto would tell them all he was allowed to, and not a word more. "Gonna be spending it with Ero-sennin, training."
"Your whole team?"
"Yeah. Mom got sent off to the capitol, so the pervert is taking her place."
"That is quite an honor."
"Mixed blessing. When he and I went looking for Tsunade, he stole my money and spent most of it whoring and drinking. I will spend as much time trying to get him to train me as actually training, if not more. He is strong, no doubt about it, but he is a bum the rest of the time."
Teuchi and Ayame looked shocked that Naruto would speak like that about one of the Legendary Three. Hinata just shrugged when they looked to her. "It's true, for the most part. When he isn't drinking, he is peeping, when he isn't peeping he's… in the red light district," she euphemized, unable to bring herself to actually say "whoring." "He is the author of Icha Icha, after all."
"Don't worry though. I have developed several techniques to combat his lazy lecherousness. 'Sides, if he ever tried to peep on either of my girls, I would pound him into next week, after they finished with him."
The rest of the meal was spent in silence as Naruto and Hinata finished their meal. Naruto told Teuchi when they were leaving the next day so they could see Team Nine off.
The silence was unbroken in the deserted Academy, classes having dismissed for the day, the only people still in the building were the teachers themselves. The silence was only emphasized by the soft, almost undetectable whispering of Hinata and Tenten's sandals and Naruto's geta. Opening the door to Iruka's classroom, Naruto walked in.
"Hello Naruto-kun, Tenten-chan, Hinata-sama."
"Afternoon Sensei," Naruto replied. "What are you doing right now?"
"Grading papers." Iruka set his pen down and leaned back in his chair. "Need something?"
"No, just wanted to come by to talk to you, that okay?"
"Yeah, I can spare a few minutes for my worst student."
"Hey, I will have you know that it was all an act!"
"All of it?"
"Well, almost all of it."
"Now that I could believe."
"Whatever. I am the Lightning Legion, what use have I of silly school grades?"
"Well, had your mother not taught you the Shadow Clone Technique, you would have had a lot of use for them because you need them to graduate."
"Grades are for people who don't have my built-in awesomeness to rely on."
Iruka rolled his eyes. "You are a fluke Naruto. A one in a million happenstance. Never happened before, never will happen again. You graduated because of the Kyuubi."
"Had it not been for the Kyuubi, I would have passed with flying colors. Not even the Nine Tails has enough anti-awesome to counter mine."
"There are so many flaws in that argument I don't even know where to start."
"You don't know where to start because there are no flaws."
Iruka facepalmed. "There is just no winning with you is there?"
"Nope." Naruto couldn't have been prouder. But his smile slid off his face as quickly as it had arrived. "But there was something that I wanted to talk to you about Iruka-sensei."
"Well, two things actually. The first is we are going to be leaving soon, for the next couple of years. I finally got officially apprenticed to Ero-sennin, and we are going to be leaving Konoha with him for training."
"Tenten-chan and Hinata-sama too?"
"Yep, all three of us."
"Well that is interesting. Been a while since he has taken a student, let alone three."
"I know. That kind of ties into the second reason I wanted to talk to you. Have you ever heard of an organization called Akatsuki?"
"No, can't say I have."
"We don't know much about them, but what we do know we are pretty sure of. There are nine members, each S-rank missing-nin. They have been operating as a mercenary force, bounty hunting and hiring themselves out as fighters. But most importantly, they seem to be after the Jinchuuriki, or more specifically, the Biju."
"That… that is bad."
"Yeah, no kidding. They have some pretty hardcore members too. I ran into Itachi Clan-killer and the Monster of the Mist, Hoshigaki Kisame."
Iruka paled under his tan. "And you made it out alive?"
"I wouldn't have, had it not been for Jiraiya. They fled pretty quickly after he turned up."
"Yeah, I would imagine."
"In any case, they blew their hand. Apparently, Ero-sennin has known about them for a while now, and while he won't tell me who is source is, he told me that they were not supposed to start making moves on the Jinchuuriki for another two years, at least. I think that we somehow managed to stumble on them while they were in the middle of a job and they decided to take a swing at me and missed."
"That… is pretty scary Naruto."
"Tell me about it," Naruto said, grimacing. "I was pretty damned lucky that Jiraiya happened to walk in on them as they made their move. Had Ero-sennin been two minutes later, I would have been gone. In any case I have been thinking about Akatsuki a lot lately, and how they are planning on gathering all the Biju. I want to use you as a sounding board for an idea of mine."
"Really, a barely trained, rookie chunin like you has a plan on how to deal with nine S-rank criminals? This ought to be interesting." Everyone looked up to where Jiraiya was hanging upside down, looking in through one of the opened windows.
"How long have you been there?" Naruto demanded.
"From the beginning, more or less." Jiraiya swung down through the window and leaned on the sill. "I got bored so I decided to follow you three around. You do tend to get into interesting situations when I am not around."
"Whatever. Anyways, as I was saying, whatever Akatsuki wants with the Biju, it is bad. I want to go to the other Jinchuuriki and we form our own organization, one to counter them. I already know the Sanbi's host pretty well. We teamed up during the second stage of the Chunin Exams and we both passed. I think she would be willing to at least hear me out on this. I don't know how much resistance I could run into with the others, but with Sora's agreement, I think it is possible to at least get everyone to meet. Worst comes to worst, at least they will be warned."
The silence stretched for what seemed to be an eternity as the others tried to wrap their brains around what Naruto was suggesting. "Naruto," Iruka began in carefully measured tones, but cut himself off when Jiraiya leaned forward.
"Naruto," Jiraiya began again, "what you are saying you want to do is… monumental. I don't think you realize exactly what you are undertaking here, what an effort this Jinchuuriki alliance would be. And there are any number of problems with the concept itself. First of all, were you to succeed with your plan, you would have accomplished what a century of negotiations would have failed to do. The 'treaty' standing between the five Elemental Countries is little more than a simple nonaggression pact, and that is barely worth the paper it is on. There is no mutual defense clause if someone were to attack, and no way to embargo another country. Second, I don't think you realize how little freedom most Jinchuuriki have. The Jinchuuriki are the ultimate weapons, the ace in the hole for any country that has one. Their movement is carefully monitored, every step outside their home village scrutinized. At the end of the last war, there are agreements as strong as laws made forbidding another country to send its Jinchuuriki into another Jinchuuriki-possessing nation. You would have to go to the Daimyo and receive permission to even approach one of the other Jinchuuriki-possessing nations."
"What about the mission to Kirigakure? I was on that mission."
Jiraiya sighed, already knowing that this was going to be a headache. "That is because your team was requested specifically."
"They can do that?"
"To a certain extent," Iruka replied. "Any client requesting a specific individual or team is subjected to intense scrutiny. I don't have to tell you that we shinobi make enemies all the time, so when someone wants a particular person sent, we have to make sure that it is not an ambush."
"Okay, but that does not explain the mission to Kiri. How could we have been requested when they did not know we were coming?"
"Sarutobi and the Mizukage had been in contact prior to your mission, and you were sent to deliver the formal invitation."
"So the mission was a sham?"
"No Naruto. Your mission served a purpose, even if you cannot understand it right now. In any case, we seem to have drifted from our original subject. Drop it Naruto," Jiraiya told the chunin when it looked like he was going to protest. "In any case, I hope that you appreciate the amount of work that this is going to entail. If you are serious about this, then I will support you when you go to Tsunade."
"I am. Akatsuki has already tried to take me once. I don't know what they want with us, but whatever it is, I doubt that it will be anything good. The fact that they want the Biju is grounds enough to want to stop them. You said it yourself Jiraiya-sensei. We Jinchuuriki are the ultimate weapons. The time is coming for Akatsuki to learn just what that means."
Jiraiya smiled at the determination in Naruto's expression. "And I wouldn't expect anything less from my student. Assuming that Tsunade allows you to go forward with your plan, the first thing we will need to do is get the diplomatic and traveling papers you are going to need. I have contacts within the Daimyo's court and your marriage to Hinata should make that somewhat easier."
Hinata brightened when she realized what Jiraiya was talking about. "All senior members of the Bloodline Clans in Konoha are automatically granted a lordship equivalent to a royal Minister when they come of age."
"Exactly," Jiraiya said. "Otherwise you would have to be established at court first."
"Well, at least my marriage has finally done some good." Naruto winced as soon as the words were out of his mouth, raising his hands defensively and turning to Hinata to apologize.
Hinata silenced him by putting a finger to his lips and offering a small smile. "Relax Naruto-kun. I know what you meant."
Naruto took her hands in his and kissed her knuckles before turning to Jiraiya. "So where do we start?"
The group waited with bated breath an hour later as Tsunade leaned back in her chair behind her expansive desk, fingers steepled as she considered Naruto's absurd idea. After almost two full minutes of silence, the Hokage swiveled around to face Naruto and spoke. "Naruto, as altruistic as your plan is, there are some things that I must know before I can okay this. First, do you have any idea as to where your organization will be based?
Before Naruto could speak, Jiraiya answered. "As you know the Land of Iron is the only truly neutral country, having served for the location for any number of shinobi summits in the past. I know the man who leads it, a man named Mifune. As you know, the Land of Iron has suffered in the past at the hands of ninja, both during the Secret Wars and during peace time. I am sure he would support any initiative that would increase good will among the Elemental Countries. Assuming we can get this past the Daimyo, that will be one of the first stops we will make."
"Okay, I can accept that for now. What kind of leadership is there going to be? Who will be in charge of this group? And what about funds?"
"Honestly, at this point, I can't say. Right now, all I am aiming for is for getting everyone to just meet. Everything else can be worked out once I get everyone to sit at the same table."
Tsunade considered what he said for a few seconds before responding. "Alright Naruto. I will back you on this, with conditions. First I want oversight. Any action your group takes has to be approved by me. Second, I want someone there to represent Konoha. Third, any intelligence you receive is passed straight on to me. Lastly, any charter your group adopts must have a clause preventing any member of your group from gaining access to any material or intelligence resources within Konoha."
Naruto was shaking his head before Tsunade had finished. "Your first two conditions are unacceptable. I trust you Granny, but I am not going to risk having my group fall under the Council's influence. If that were to happen, that would be the end of anything I try to do. You know the Council would have absolutely no qualms about doing whatever they think is necessary to gain an edge over another country. As for your second condition, Konoha can have a representative, but only in a strictly observatory role. The only reason my plan has a wisp of a chance of success is because me and my fellow Jinchuuriki are Jinchuuriki, and have a vested interest in seeing Akatsuki eradicated. I am not going to see my group hijacked and destroyed to further some politician's agenda. The only people, and I mean only, who will have any say in anything my group does are those directly involved. I will share any intelligence I receive with you as a matter of course, but I will not go hunting for secrets for you."
Several seconds passed as Naruto and Tsunade matched wills. Suddenly, Tsunade leaned back and grinned. The sudden change in demeanor seemed to throw Naruto for a moment. "Good Naruto. I hoped that you would object to my conditions. If you could not stand up to me, I would have withdrawn my support. To make this idea of yours work, you are going to have to stand up against a lot of powerful people, people who are going to want to use you to fulfill their agendas. Be sure to keep in contact. I will try to help as much as I can. Let me know if you ever need anything. People, material, funds, I will do what I can for you."
Naruto offered a grin to match hers. Thanks a lot Granny. You don't know what it means to me."
"Yeah, yeah. Now get the hell out of my office before I start crying." Showing teeth, Naruto led the exodus from Tsunade's office and out onto the street. Naruto turned to the group and spread his arms in an expansive gesture, taking in everyone in front of him. "So how about a celebration for getting my plan approved?"
Iruka opened his mouth to agree, but Jiraiya cut across his words. "Sorry, but we can't. We grown-ups have to discuss some things about your upcoming mission." Before Iruka could disagree, Jiraiya clamped his hand down on Iruka's shoulder and vanished in a Body Flicker. The three teens looked at one another uncertainly, blinking in surprise at the hasty exit.
"Well, that was weird, even for Ero-sennin." As one, Hinata and Tenten agreed. As it seems we have some time alone, what do you want to do?" Grinning mischievously, the two women grabbed Naruto's arms and jumped to the roofs.
The next morning, Naruto stood yawning and fiddling with his chunin flak jacket. Even after two weeks, he still wasn't used to wearing it. The thing wasn't particularly bulky or heavy, but it did restrict his movements a little. He had to get his trench coat altered to fit over it. Hinata and Tenten had arrived at the gate with him, but Jiraiya, Tsunade and the Ichiraku's were still absent. Most of the other three teams of the Genin Twelve had arrived, the last few stragglers arriving. Tenten and Hinata were speaking to Ino and Sakura while Naruto conversed with Shikamaru. Apparently, Tsunade was already planning ahead, and had assigned Shikamaru as Konoha's liaison to Naruto's group. Shikamaru had accepted the assignment with his usual grace; but was planning logistics with Naruto readily enough. It had already been agreed that Naruto would contact Shikamaru via the toads when he had something to report. Shikamaru would in turn pass the information onto Tsunade.
Eventually, the two Sannin arrived and it was time to depart. Hugs were exchanged, hands were shaken and promises were given. The next time Naruto returned home, it would be at the head of an organization powerful enough to rival anyone but the Hidden Villages themselves.