Ophidias: I considered keeping Naruto as a true Bijuu, but I gave Naruto a secondary human form for one particular reason. There are several key parts of this story that couldn't happen if he didn't have a human form, most importantly, the ability to interact with human society. Without a human form, character interactions that Naruto has would be very limited and I'm not sure the plot could function as smoothly. I'm all for being unique, but if I feel the more important parts of the story are going to suffer, I have to make adjustments.
Yeah, it's been a while, right? I don't even know what to say about this story. It's like I have a perpetual funk when it comes to sitting down and writing it, which I don't get with my other stories. It's strange, I know what I want to do with it, but I can never find the words to actually write out this story. In hindsight, I probably published this story far too prematurely, before I could really know what I wanted out of it.
Chapter 12: Road to Kumo
Naruto slunk out into the night as the two Kumo shinobi left the building. He was planning on going to Iwa next, but that recent bit of information had made him rethink things, and he realized that Kumo might actually be his next course of action.
He slunk out of the bar without buying anything. He already knew that he wasn't really able to eat or drink anything that the humans made, nor did he need to.
The two Kumo shinobi were walking steadily down the street, laughing to each other. It looked like they were preparing to leave town, like they didn't have any more business here. Or maybe they were just getting ready to go back to their hotel room.
He followed them for a long while, slinking into the shadows in the alleyways and underneath the awning of the buildings. They didn't seem to notice him so far, even as they walked out of the entrance to the outpost and into the shrouded night of the forest.
Once they were out of the village, they followed along the pat for a few minutes, chatting to themselves as if nothing were wrong. Then, all of a sudden, they stopped in the middle of the road.
"Alright, come out!" the first one demanded.
Naruto had been following them from the bar, and was now hiding inside a tree that was behind them to the right. He scoffed lightly, even if they had noticed him, they were in for a big surprise.
They pulled out kunais defensively, but they seemed to be unprepared when Naruto slunk his way out of the tree like a lizard, planting his feet on the ground. He had discarded his disguise as he left the village, and it hung across his shoulder as he confronted the Kumo nin.
They were taken aback by his inhuman appearance, from the sharp teeth as he smiled at them, to the lizard-like eyes and claws that adorned his body. Still, with the likes of Hoshikage Kisame, these two ninjas were at least able to maintain their composure. They weren't civilians, who would no doubt panic at the creature in front of them.
"What the hell are you supposed to be?" the second Kumo-nin asked.
Naruto frowned at the two of them, and he emitted a low growl. If he exposed himself, he imagined he would be hearing a lot of that question from this point on. Well... that, or running in fear.
"That doesn't matter!" he growled in irritation. "I just have something I want to ask you two!" he pointed out, to which the two Kumo shinobi went on edge.
"Y-you must be a demon of some kind! Oh man, the mission didn't say that we would be fighting demons!"
Naruto looked at him.
"Maybe I am a demon..." he sighed wistfully. "But I have no intention of fighting. If I could get the information I need from you two, I will happily leave you alone and be on my merry way."
The second one, who seemed to be the calmer of the two, spoke with ease.
"I have a feeling we will not like these questions that you have for us. Someone like you wouldn't pursue us like this, and catch us alone if this wasn't about something very important, likely related to the security of our village..."
"Well, I don't know about that. You were talking about it in the bar not too long ago. Something about Yugito and Kirabi, your two Jinchuuriki?" he added casually, watching the shinobi tense up.
It wasn't exactly top-secret information that Kumogakure had Jinchuuriki, and Yugito and Kirabi were fairly well-known names throughout the shinobi world. But... something like this snooping around looking for information on them... it was very suspicious. And with the recent disappear of the Shukaku from Suna...
"What do you want with Yugito and Kirabi, you creature? Judging from your answer, we may have to take you into custody..." the second Kumo-nin said, his face a tone of seriousness that was clearly absent when they were in town earlier.
Naruto looked bored, studying his claws intently. They weren't going to reveal information so easily, but all he needed was to figure out what Bijuu they held. He needed to take a shot in the dark, and judging from their reactions, he'd be able to tell.
"Oh, I just wanted to figure out the location of the Nibi's Jinchuuriki, and judging from the information I had, it seems to be one of yours. You wouldn't know where I could find them, do you?" he asked casually. It was a bluff, and one that Naruto hoped would pay off. There was only a chance that one of those Kumo Jinchuuriki was the Nibi Jinchuuriki, but if they reacted in the right way...
The Kumo-nin tensed up, and their stances were far too rigid for them to be unaffected. Bingo.
"What do you want with Yugito?" asked the first ninja. The second ninja slapped his hand to his forehead, exasperated over his partner's recklessness. The apparent enemy now knew the identity of his target.
"Yugito, huh? Thank you so much for the information!" Naruto said cheekily. The first Kumo ninja finally seemed to realize that he had been goaded into revealing that information, and he grimaced. His partner threw a kunai, which Naruto avoided deftly.
"Alright, it's very clear that you harbor nothing but ill will towards Kumogakure no Sato. As a Chuunin of the village and by order of the Raikage, I will now take you into custody for interrogation over your true motive. It would be best not to resist..."
Naruto sighed, slapping his forehead with a claw.
"You don't get it, do you? I've had enough of being controlled by humans, and I've had enough of thinking that I'm a weapon for your stupid villages. Your idiotic human squabbles between those villages don't interest me..."
"What is he talking about?" the second one ask, in a hushed whisper.
"Enough of your babbling! Come quietly, now!" the first one demanded, his kunai gleaming in the moonlight. Naruto flashed a predatory grin, but he winced slightly when he seemed to realize something.
"Unfortunately, I can't go go and reveal myself, especially with an outpost now too far from here. If I did that, I would without a doubt attracted a bunch of unwanted attention. So with that, it's time for me to make my escape!" he explained.
"Escape? Don't even try it! We'll-" the first one tried, but he was cut off as Naruto slowly slinked his way against a tree, his back touching it lightly as he grinned.
Like a chameleon, he blended into the rough brown background of the wooden bark. Such a thing wouldn't be sure to fool a competent ninja, but Naruto also blended in to his surroundings as he moved, and his footfalls were extremely light, essentially being a creature of chakra.
"Dammit!" the first ninja proclaimed, his eyes scanning the trees for any sign of movement. The creature may have just disappeared like that, but the Kumo-nin had the sneaking suspicion that it was a form of camouflage.
"Where did he go?" the other ninja asked suspiciously. The two ninja panned their eyes across the area, searching for any signs of the mysterious, demonic stranger.
"He hasn't disappeared... not yet. He's still around here somewhere, though it seems he's trying to sneak out of here undetected. He's gonna have to better than that to fool a Kumo-nin, though!"
The Chuunin dispatched two kunai from his weapons pouch, surveying the environment. When a quick flash entered his vision, he threw the kunai as hard as he could at a nearby tree where the demon was apparently blending in.
"There!" he shouted, but was appalled when the knives did nothing more than sink into the bark of the tree. No further movement was made in the vicinity, and the other Kumo-nin slapped his palm to his forehead.
"Great, he's gone... This is shameful to us and our village. We allowed a potentially dangerous presence to know important information on the Jinchuuriki of Kumogakure, and from the looks of things, it's going to do something unpleasant with that information."
"What do we do now?" the one who had thrown the kunai asked.
The more level-headed among them seemed to know exactly what to do, however.
"I'll tell you what we do. The only thing we can do in this situation. We abort the mission completely and head back to Kumo as soon as possible. Once there, we are to report the information to Raikage-sama and hope that we are not punished severely. That's really the best we can do in this situation..."
"Aw... I don't wanna get punished."
"That's just tough! There's gonna be a lot more at stake here than our punishment if we don't report back to the Raikage immediately!" the other one said, leaping into the trees without any hesitation. After a brief bit of pouting, the other Kumo-nin followed him, and the two of them were already well on their way back to Kumogakure.
With the information he got, Naruto felt it was unnecessary to head back into the outpost town. In fact, the human turned Bijuu reasoned that it might be better to avoid any and all humans until he reached Kumogakure, for his next target was in mind.
The Nibi was in Kumo, imprisoned within a Jinchuuriki named Yugito. That was pretty much all he knew about the situation, but he also knew that he couldn't just storm into the village in his Bijuu state and expect not to be captured.
Once he passed the outpost town and went into the forest, it took him three days in his human form to reach a spot where he could see Kumogakure no Sato, located near the very tip of Kaminari no Kuni.
"Okay, so how am I going to do this?"
He had covered himself in a black cloak to hide his reptilian features. Most of the time, he avoided the main roads and traveled through the forest. But when it came time to interact with humans, he kept his hood up at all times. His face could not be seen by the locals, especially the ninja. Since he would likely have to enter through the front gate, it would better to make those shinobi believe he was actually a human.
He walked up the rocky mountain path, laying eyes on the terrain of the village. It was centered in the middle of a mountain range, some of the buildings actually built into the side of the mountains. The entrance to the village was very high up, and the only way to enter other than by the air was through a small mountain path that led to the front gate of the village.
"I know now..." Naruto thought, as images of Konoha popped into his head. It was the same setup as Konoha, two Chuunin guards that remained near the gate. He had to wonder whether they were as lax as the guards in Konoha, though.
As long as he had his hood up... and he used his camouflage.
The two Chuunin guards stationed at the gate were lazing around. They weren't really paying attention perse, which once again reminded Naruto that perhaps the ninja villages had more similarities than they thought.
Hopefully he could just walk in without a ruckus, and his camouflage would hold up in front of the guards. His plan clear, he walked as casually as he could through the gate, and winced when the guards turned their attention on him.
They were confused. He must've looked strange and suspicious to them.
Naruto turned to them, but was very careful to leave his face concealed, and his camouflage up.
"What's the matter?" the other guard asked his companion. Naruto almost growled, but didn't make even the slightest peep.
"Did you hear something?
When an awkward silence fell over the group, Naruto nonchalantly entered the village, the two Chuunin watching the spot where Naruto had just been. His footfalls were difficult to pick up on.
"It's probably nothing..."
It was past noon right now, so the sun hung high in the sky, and everybody from villagers to ninja were milling about their business around the village. Kumo had a dreary overcast atmosphere that reflected itself throughout its citizens. Similar to Kiri, but not quite to that extent. Compared to the sunny and vibrant Konoha, this was a much more melancholic village.
The large tower built into the side of the biggest mountain loomed ahead of him. If anything, that was probably where the Raikage was, but it didn't mean the Jinchuuriki of the Nibi was there.
This Nii Yugito, where was she?
Nii Yugito was a kunoichi that was generally respected by the whole of Kumogakure. Not that she didn't have to work for it or anything, after being chosen as the Nibi, or Matatabi if what it told her was true about its name.
She gained the respect of Kumo through her own ninja abilities, and the fact that she long ago managed to control the power of the Nibi. The method with which she managed to control the power of her Bijuu wasn't exactly pretty, but it was what it was.
But luckily for her, she remained one of the most stable vessels out there, and her relationship with her Bijuu was one of the strongest. Which meant that the connection they had often soured her perfectly normal day.
Like now, for instance.
As one of the premier ninja of the village, she was often called upon to go on the long missions. When she did get some time off, she usually enjoyed spending some time with her friend B and his team. The young Kumo kunoichi named Samui in particular looked up to her.
She was just about to go meet them right about now for training, but a strange hissing noise made her pause. It was coming from somewhere in her head, and that could only mean one thing.
"Hsssssssssss" it growled in her head.
"What is it, Matatabi..."
"Reibi... No, the new Ichibi!"
"Shukaku is gone..."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm sorry, Yugito-san. It's just... recent events have put me on edge. I'm afraid that a very real and dangerous enemy had just entered our midst..."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't particularly have the amount of time necessary to explain everything to you. It's... complicated, but let's just say that a certain entity has entered this village in search of you..."
Yugito wasn't particularly surprised. Years of being a cutthroat kunoichi and Jinchuuriki had made her numb to the idea of danger. It also wasn't surprising that someone was after her.
"Could be it yet another group of shinobi from an enemy village who want to capture me? To get to you?" Yugito asked.
"Yes and no... This is no shinobi, and you have to be more wary. This entity is not a human, he does not follow orders from any village, and he is not interested in you. What's after you right now is a Bijuu..."
Now Yugito was surprised and confused.
"Uh... Matatabi. If there were a Bijuu around here, wouldn't everyone be able to see it. The village would go on lockdown if such a thing were to occur."
The Nibi hissed at her.
"He's disguising himself well. He knows how to blend in as a human, I'll bet. But, this chakra... I'd never mistake the chakra of another Bijuu, and I know exactly why he's here!"
Matatabi trailed off for a moment.
"He's here to absorb me, to add my power to his own. And I can't take it anymore! I need to get to him! I also want his power for myself!" The normally calm Nibi was raving at this point.
Yugito clutched her head in pain as Matatabi seemed to begin rampaging out of nowhere.
Time seemed to grind to a halt as she felt the chakra signature. Whoever this was must have been disguising it, for as talented as she was, she only noticed it when it was right on top of her.
"Matatabi! I think I may have to meet my friends some other time..."
"Get him! GET HIM NOW!"
Yet, when Yugito turned towards her surroundings, nothing was there to greet her. Even stranger still, the chakra signature that she was sensing vanished, no longer smothering her.
"No. He's gone..."
"NO, HE'S NOT! HE'S STILL HERE! HE'S STILL HERE!" Matatabi shouted at her. It was clear that she was not going to be any help to her in this state.
Jinchuuriki and Bijuu matters were a subject she often conversed about with her comrade and fellow Jinchuuriki, Kirabi. But the Hachibi Jinchuuriki was currently not in the village, and neither was the Raikage. Kirabi was acting as his brother's escort on a very important diplomatic mission to Kiri.
Yugito was still on guard, but there was no indication that the presence was still there. Regardless, if Matatabi told her it was, she would probably have to listen. For now, she would act like nothing was wrong, to avoid stirring up chaos in the village, and continue on to meet her friends/de-facto students.
Training ground five was the area where Kirabi's student usually spent their time together; they generally weren't one for relaxing around the village eating lunch at this hour.
Nothing seemed particularly out of order as she exited out of the west gate of the village and onto the mountain path that led to the training ground. The strong chakra signature hadn't come back.
Even still, she was on guard. She was always on guard.
Naruto remained camouflaged even as the time went on. None of the villagers seemed to be able to pick up on his presence, but he was scanning the area with a great amount of focus.
Nii Yugito, he didn't even know if she were out in the open at this time. He opened his senses, and paused when he felt an enormous chakra signature radiate from the central plaza.
"What? That ain't a human's chakra signature. I'd recognize this type of chakra anywhere... there's much more power mixed into it, and it's definitely not human..."
"And it's coming from..."
Still camouflaged, he whipped his head around quickly towards the central plaza. His mind sifted through all the other chakra signatures, the weak ones, and he was focusing solely on the one he had pinpointed before.
He saw her. The chakra signature pointed to her as the Jinchuuriki he was after. A young blonde woman walking through a crowd of civilians; she was clearly a kunoichi from her attire. And he could see the Jinchuuriki-esque features. Cat-like eyes and a very lithe body that almost seemed feline.
"Does she notice me?" he asked himself. Although he was camouflaging himself well and suppressing his chakra signature so even a highly trained ninja couldn't detect him, one thing he couldn't eliminate was the fact that the Nibi knew he was here by now. Whether she had alerted her vessel about him was another matter entirely.
Yugito was looking around at this point, and was clearly on guard, so that seemed to be a "yes" as far as he was concerned. He needed to reel it in a little for now.
As all detectable signs of him disappeared, he watched the woman take on a look of confusion. So, she did know that he was lurking around, waiting for his chance to strike.
He wasn't stupid enough to believe she wasn't going to be on guard for a while, but if he used his camouflage and didn't make any sudden noises, he should be fine. What he needed now was to find a place where he could strike without an invasion force or worse, the Raikage jumping in on the fun.
"What's this?" Naruto thought to himself, as Yugito was on the move. In fact, she was headed somewhere towards the western gate, seemingly on route towards out of the village.
Silently, Naruto stalked after her, making sure to keep her in his sight. If he could just get her out of the village far enough, without her noticing within the village, maybe he could start.
Yugito stumbled into the training ground after an uneventful hike through the mountain path. Much to her surprise, that chakra signature didn't come back, though Matatabi was still screaming incoherently at her, but she couldn't decipher what she meant. Throughout all of her life, she had never seen Matatabi act this odd.
The one who had greeted her was Samui, the big breasted blonde kuniochi who admired Yugito greatly. Not that she needed to of course; Samui was a fine ninja in her own right. And to be frank, there were... things that Yugito envied about the girl... two really big things.
Karui and Omoi hung back. They were friends with Yugito just like Samui, but they didn't really admire her in the way like she did, and both of them had a much more casual approach to someone who was technically their superior.
"Good afternoon, Karui... Omoi," she greeted politely. Omoi raised a lazy hand in a wave, while Karui casually nodded at her.
"Yugito-san..." Omoi began. "You seem a little bit... different today."
Samui also seemed to notice that something was off, and she also voiced her opinion.
"Yugito-san, is there something bothering you?"
Yugito considered telling the group about Matatabi's strange behavior, but with neither Kirabi nor the Raikage here, there probably wasn't anything these three could do about that. Nor about the Bijuu-like chakra signature.
She was cut off in the middle of her sentence.
The inhuman chakra signature was back in full force, and honestly, Yugito was glad that it was out here rather than in the village. Without the Raikage or Kirabi, she was among the strongest ninjas in the entire village, and she didn't want a Bijuu or something akin to a Bijuu rampaging around the village, even if she still hadn't figured out how it had managed to keep itself concealed.
"Yugito-san! What is this?!"
Yugito grit her teeth when she heard Samui's voice. She would have preferred to take care of this alone, but she supposed she had to drag Kirabi's team into the mix as well.
"Alright! Enough is enough! Stop hiding and show yourself!"
Yugito was shouting directly behind herself, but at first it didn't seem as if her words were liable to bring anyone out of hiding. But then, a sort of hazy mist fell over the area as Yugito and Team Samui focused in.
"What... is... that?" Karui pointed out.
"So, that's how this thing was able to do it..." Yugito whispered to herself. She almost wanted to kick herself for not picking up on this thing's movements, but clearly there wasn't any time for that.
The figure's camouflage was down completely now, and Naruto stepped out into the light, appearing as a cloaked figure to the team of four Kumo-nin. Yet, even with the hood concealing his face, he knew they could tell he wasn't completely human.
Yugito just stood there, but the three members of Team Samui seemed almost synchronic as they pulled kunais from various places, dropping into a fighting stance as they did so.
"Oh! Stop kidding yourselves; I didn't come all the way here for you guys!" Naruto snarled, pulling the hood down from his face and surprising the three ninja. They saw his reptilian features on a humanoid body, and even they couldn't hide the fact that they were slightly intimidated.
"Stand down, you three. This guy's here for me!" Yugito said seriously, standing her ground between Naruto and Team Samui. Naruto didn't smile at her.
"He's after Matatabi!"
"It took you that long to figure that out. I thought Nibi would've been yelling at you for the last couple hours what I am. You do know what I am, right?" Naruto asked.
Yugito was silent.
"Matatabi's been pretty crazy lately. She keeps yelling at me about a Bijuu coming and attacking, but you don't look like any Bijuu I've ever seen. I'm still puzzled as to the meaning of this..."
"You don't get it, do you? You can't honestly take one look at me and actually think I'm a human. Guess what, Nii Yugito, I am a Bijuu! My real name isn't important, but if you really want to call me something, it's Reibi. Well, I guess technically its Ichibi now, so call me what you want. I'm not interested in the human container. Tell Nibi to get her fat butt out here now!"
Yugito glared at him.
"Honestly, she's been itching to do that for a while now. She won't stop screaming at me! But, it's not like you look all that intimidating to me. I should easily be able to handle you on my own. If you want to get to Matatabi, you'll have to go through me!"
Naruto crackled with his golden chakra.
"Big mistake, human. You think just because I look like a human you can challenge me, but there's no way a human like you could ever be able to beat a Bijuu like me..."
Yugito swirled with her own chakra, though on the inside she was uncomfortable. That golden chakra was strange, even for a Bijuu's chakra.
She didn't really have time to ponder it though, because Naruto was already attacking.
Look, I don't even want to say anything. This chapter's just long overdue, so I'll leave it there.