Birth of an Assassin: Heir to the Namikaze
Rebirth of the Namikaze
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Assassin's Creed or Naruto.
"Tailed Beast Speak"
It's time for the final chapter of Part I.
Later that night...
It was quiet in the Namikaze home as night descended. With the excitement of the previous day over with, there was a lull to follow it. If Naruto's plans continued to succeed, the compound might not stay so quiet. That was why he remained up that night, meditating in his room, to enjoy the solitude.
Soft steps outside signaled Dosu and Kin's patrol along the wood walkways that surrounded and intersected the large home. They were stubborn sometimes, but loyal. It seemed capturing them was the right thing to do after all.
'Is death really the only true answer?' That was something an assassin should never have had to struggle with, but there he was, defying some of the most core tenants of the Order.
Before he could contemplate further, there was a soft thud from outside. A few seconds later, there was another. From beneath his hood, Naruto's eyes watched as a shadow enveloped the paper thin door in front of him. Quietly, it slid open to reveal a large figure dressed in black robes.
"I had a feeling someone would visit me tonight." He said out loud to the intruder, motionless.
Behind them, Naruto could see Dosu and Kin on the ground. Surprisingly, they looked like they were still alive, just unconscious. Why did that person spare them?
"Do not worry yourself about the other two, they are merely asleep." The man spoke, his voice urged calm despite his intrusion.
"I'm afraid I have little to say to someone without any kind of respect to the Namikaze, or private property." Their eyes met, the deep red of a sharingan reflected in the moonlight.
"My apologies, but the Namikaze have been dead for quite some time. To pretend they exist now is wishful thinking, at best." Naruto gritted his teeth to the stranger's jab.
"As if the Uchiha are any more alive or mourned by the world." To their credit, the stranger did not flinch.
"Nor would I argue otherwise, for it was my doing that ensured their memory would quietly leave." Silence came over the two for a moment before the cloaked man spoke again. "I have something I'd like to speak with you about."
Naruto slowly got up from the floor, spreading his legs a bit. Recognizing the stance and pose, the stranger's eyes narrowed.
"Itachi Uchiha, don't think I know nothing of what you are. To come into the lion's den and expect to leave unharmed, you truly are a fool." Assuming the offensive stance of an assassin, Naruto readied himself.
Itachi stepped forward so that he was now completely illuminated by the moon. Shucking off the straw hat that had concealed his face, his sharingan twirled in annoyance.
"Seems like I have no choice but to force you, Namikaze Naruto."
In the underground labyrinths that make up the Oto village, there was fresh activity. Since being severely wounded in his battle with the Sandaime Hokage, Orochimaru had limited himself in how he lived in order to give longevity to his current body. That meant that as time went on, he left the safe haven of the village less and less on his usual escapades and many feared their master was dying.
Orochimaru had been gathering his servants to prepare for an auspicious occasion that would happen upon them soon. Constant planning had ensured that the date would not be missed, and that failure could not even be considered. While the present time was bleak, the future looked bright for Orochimaru.
Now, within his throne room in the underground complex he had gathered his closest, most prized servants to begin the final act of the plan. Tayuya and the rest of the sound four knelt before their master, waiting for him to give them orders. Kabuto flanked Orochimaru, ever present in his schemes as a strategic liaison. Lastly, Orochimaru had invited Karin on a whim to redeem herself by joining the operation.
It was a gamble, but no matter the cost the mission had to succeed.
The sannin let out a cackle as he found the group before him entertaining. So subservient, yet so deadly. If they knew how weak he really was, would they attack? The deception he had been able to pull over their eyes was so simple, it made him laugh that it actually worked.
"I have gathered you five here today for a mission of great importance." He paused to cough, careful to control his body lest he look too weak. "It is time for us to reap the seeds we so carefully sowed during the Chunin exam, and one of them has grown to be ripe for the taking."
Sakon looked up at him with resolute features. "Give us any order, Orochimaru-sama, and we will see it completed."
"Hm. Well said, Sakon." Orochimaru purred, his mouth curved in a devilish grin. "You see, failure today is not an option...for any of you." His eyes met theirs, message clear.
"Your objective is to bring Sasuke Uchiha safely to me, so that I may finally take the body I deserve."
"It will be done, Orochimaru-sama." They responded, pleasing their master.
"Good..Karin." Her body twitched in fear, but she was able to meet his gaze. "You will go with them and ensure the operation is a success. Watch for enemy shinobi and protect Sasuke with your life."
"Understood, Orochimaru-sama." Karin bowed her head.
In both Tayuya and Karin's minds, they wondered whether or not they would encounter that blonde assassin again. Both feared what the outcome would be should they dare to cross paths again—neither sure whether they would survive it.
"Kuh!" Hand roughly held to his back, Naruto was pushed to the ground in a difficult position of submission.
Above him was Itachi, barely shaking in his hold of Naruto's body. Around them, the room had been ransacked in their combat, but the fight had been relatively one sided. Despite Naruto's potential and natural ability, he had neither the experience or the leverage necessary to beat a skilled sharingan user.
"Now.." The older brother of Sasuke said with little change of tone. "You will listen to what I have to say."
Far from defeated, Naruto willed his free arm to move. With a single hand, he began to go through a small set of seals.
Itachi's eyes widened—Naruto had learned to use single hand seals? Sensing danger, he looked up and saw the room begin to light up with dozens of small paper tags. That was when he realized just how prepared Naruto had been for their encounter.
"Don't..flatter yourself." Naruto said through gritted teeth. "I will stop you, regardless of what happens to myself."
Willing to kill himself just to destroy his enemy? The willpower of the boy below him suddenly became clear to the Uchiha.
"That..is my duty as an assassin." He finished with confidence, ready to make the last hand sign.
Suddenly, the arms binding him fell loose. Though surprised, Naruto quickly got up and readied himself again to fight Itachi. When he looked at the older ninja though, he realized that fighting was not his intention.
"It's enough, Naruto-kun." The sudden change of tone and the adding of an honorific surprised the blonde. "The truth of why I came here was to ask for your help."
Unable to comprehend the sudden change, Naruto was left speechless. Itachi took advantage of that and continued with what he set out to say.
"You see, I've been a terrible big brother." A soft smile cracked his otherwise stone cold visage. "For my brother Sasuke, I've made his life hard. Too hard."
"Sasuke...?" Naruto muttered.
"I'm going to tell you the truth about the Uchiha. Whatever you have in your records, can finally be validated." His eyes narrowed. "And with that information, I want you to save my brother when the time is right."
Silence ensued, and not long after Itachi began to recite his tale of the Uchiha clan's final demise. Though he had mostly come to terms with it, it was still hard to say to an outsider.
Through it all, Naruto listened. And he began to understand the fate of the Uchiha.
At the same time, elsewhere in the village, a young shinobi was out at a late hour. On his back he wore a backpack filled with the last belongings he cared for, and they were few indeed. In front of him, the moon. It served as the compass that would lead him to his destiny.
Behind him was the village he had chosen to forsake. In order to become stronger, he needed more. Friends, family, love; they were all a farce, used by weaklings to explain their own shortcomings.
The truth was that to have power, one had to seek it out. To use it for yourself, you had to take it for yourself—you and you alone. There was no room for sharing or open handedness; the shinobi world was that of tough decisions.
Funny, Sasuke believed it to be the easiest one of them all to make.
'To avenge the Uchiha, I will do what I must.'
On a lamp post a ways behind Sasuke, a figure watched him leave through the north gate. They did not wait long to disappear, off to an unseen location. Whoever they were, the urgency behind reporting Sasuke's disappearance seemed to outweigh physically stopping him from leaving.
The next day...
"...and that is the situation. With Sasuke missing, we have no choice but to launch an operation in order to find and return him to the village."
Tsunade explained to the one person that joined her in the Hokage office. Terribly understaffed and, with the the suddenness of the news, she was only able to gather Naruto in time. Though Shikamaru was on his way, they could not afford to wait considering the circumstances.
"Understood." Seemingly unperturbed, Naruto acknowledged the order without complaint. "If he doesn't come willingly, to what extent should I force him?"
The Hokage's features hardened, and Naruto realized the answer to his question was self evident. With his kekkei genkai and the parties interested in obtaining it, they couldn't afford to let Sasuke escape alive. To prevent more conflict, Naruto might have to kill the Uchiha heir.
Though they could have never been considered close, or even friends for that matter, there was a level of respect the two had developed for each other during their time in Team 7. Comrades was the closest word he could find, but then it had been a matter of convenience. If nothing else, they had come to understand one another as the last of their kind, but the conclusions they came to on where to go from there differed greatly.
While Naruto had the Creed to steady him, what did Sasuke have? The memory of his family being killed before his eyes, the perpetrator his brother no less.
No, no matter how he tried, Naruto could not blame Sasuke for what path he had chosen.
"Bring him back, no matter what." She responded, the tone used enough to denote what she meant.
But there was always a consequence for the actions a person took. The Uchiha would receive his as long as he kept on the path of the avenger.
If it was Naruto's duty to dispense it, then so be it.
With little else to say, Naruto turned on his heel to leave. Before he could get out the door, Tsunade called out to him.
"Naruto, can you do this? If necessary, you might have to kill him." She knew his history with Team 7, but she didn't know him.
"Asking me that shames my family's name." He opened the door and stepped out without another word.
Tsunade's eyes narrowed, but she said nothing. With no one else to rely on, she would put her faith in Naruto. From all accounts he was one of the most capable shinobi she had on hand.
No, scratch that. He was the only capable assassin for the job.
Shikamaru sped down the hall in an uncharacteristic show of distress. After he had heard the news of Sasuke leaving, and that Naruto had already been briefed he knew he had to hurry. What the hell was going on? First an invasion, then the Uchiha up and leaves?
Things were getting too complicated in Konoha.
He saw Naruto step out of the Hokage's office and stopped in a huff. Running just wasn't his thing after all.
"Naruto..what the hell is going on?" The assassin turned to look at him, but he didn't seem interested.
"Sasuke has left the village. We are going to get him back." Naruto walked past Shikamaru in the direction of the exit, though he didn't seem concerned by the words he had just spoken.
Before Shikamaru could call out for a better explanation, Naruto spoke again. That time to give an order to the fellow chunin.
"Gather as many genin as you can at the north gate. We leave in fifteen minutes." After that, he was gone.
Confused, Shikamaru turned toward the Hokage's office. Rather than going in to get an explanation that would only waste his time, he decided to follow Naruto's advice. If they wanted to get Sasuke back, they couldn't waste time.
'What a drag...this is what I get for being the last one here!'
Naruto arrived at home right on time. He had only a little while before they had to return to join up with Shikamaru, but it would be enough. There was someone he had to collect first.
The sun was bright that day, the forest canopy cast the courtyard in a dark shadow. A gust of wind guided Naruto home, like a bird riding the breeze.
Anko was waiting at the front entrance, bowing to him as he marched past. She fell into step behind him as they entered the main home of the Namikaze. There, Dosu and Kin welcomed him as he entered through the first sliding door.
All four proceeded through the house to the armory where their last guest was. No, she couldn't be called that anymore. They had past the last threshold just a few nights ago.
The newest family member was finishing her preparations for the mission. Dosu and Kin no longer watched her with suspicion, no door was locked to her. She was Namikaze.
The large wooden door swung open with a loud crack. Naruto stood in the doorway and crossed his arms with pride as he watched the young girl slip on her gloves last. Tattooed proudly on her left ring finger was the Namikaze seal, signifying her place in the clan.
"Sakura, are you ready?" The girl turned around in full assassin attire, courtesy Anko who had created them specifically for her size.
Though her outfit was slimmed down a bit to better match a female's proportions, the general guise remained the same. The red and white attire changed Sakura's appearance from a young shinobi girl to a dangerous assassin with little effort. There was power behind the wardrobe.
With a shared smile, their eyes met. It was as if all the time they had spent together had gone by in a flash, replaced by that one moment of final consummation.
In one motion, Sakura lifted her hood over her head to mimic Naruto.
Pride stirred within him as she warmly responded.
Land of Fire
Away from the village, a group of Oto shinobi rested their bodies. Despite their considerable physical capabilities, the energy that was sapped by the curse mark made it almost impossible to use without succumbing to exhaustion. It was the other side of Orchimaru's double edged sword, embedded within each of them.
"That was close." Jirobo coughed, his large body felt it the worst.
"Too close." Sakon muttered, annoyed that they had to use their trump card early.
After picking up Sasuke, it had taken them until early morning to complete the ritual needed to seal him. By then, they had wasted too much time for their intelligence on Konoha patrols to be useful. Considering the tight time table, they had to risk it and move anyway. On the way, they ran into two jounin from the village and had a tough battle that took more energy than they would have liked.
They couldn't keep resting if they wanted to outpace any pursuers.
"Fuckin' idiots, we can't afford to stay here any longer." Tayuya picked herself up, yelling at the others to do the same.
"Why the hell are you so worried?" Sakon growled, slowly turning his lips into a grin. "Would have figured you'd like sitting on yer ass."
Her glare was as sharp as daggers, but she wasn't acting like the usual Tayuya. It was difficult to find something that could shake her to be uncomfortable or anxious. Something in Konoha scared her, and Sakon thought it had something to do with Karin too.
Since they started the mission, both of the girls had been spooked. It was subtle at first, and if he didn't know any better could have been passed of as simple paranoia. It got old fast, and he noticed that certain sounds or colors frightened them more than ever before.
'What's with them?' It didn't really matter though; Orochimaru would have their heads if they waited around any longer.
"Let's go, don't want to keep Orochimaru-sama waiting." With that, the rest of the group picked themselves up and leaped into the trees.
Though he didn't appreciate the pressure placed on him, Sakon was determined to complete his mission. If he happened to run into the boogeyman those two were so afraid of, it would be a fun experience destroying him.
He looked over and saw Jirobo holding the large barrel on his back. Inside, Sasuke was in the process of fully awakening his curse mark, putting him one step closer to synchronizing with Orochimaru. They had to make sure the ride remained smooth, no matter what.
"Karin!" The red head shook with surprise. "Quit spacing out and keep an eye out for the Leaf!"
That must have been the tenth time he caught her gazing into nothing. Her head had been bowed like she was staring at the bark of the tree branches.
"I-I got it!" She shouted back with a bit of strength, but not as much as usual.
Her thoughts were wandering back to the chunin exams, back to Konoha, back to Naruto. Had she been in a different situation, Karin would have leaped at the chance to stay with him. For both of their safety, she had no choice but to return to her master, to the man that held the guillotine above her head.
Not a day went by she didn't regret leaving the way she did, but there was nothing more she could do. She was sure that by now, Naruto had felt the sting of betrayal, his feelings for her (if there had been any to begin with) were gone. He wasn't something she deserved; a white knight like him killed for justice while she murdered for greed.
Greed, greed to stay alive. To please her master, that was all she could do. To protect him, she would stay away.
Not far behind, Naruto led his platoon through the forest outside of Konoha. It hadn't been hard to pick up on the familiar scent of Sasuke, which had in turn led him to another scent when his had disappeared. It was at that point he knew he would not be dealing with just any group of shinobi, considering Tayuya was a part of their group.
Not only that, but he thought he could discern one another. He shook it off as wishful thinking, but he had yet to be wrong.
To keep them out of trouble, Naruto had Dosu and Kin use a transformation jutsu on themselves. When asked who the two new chunin were, he explained that they were under the command of Anko, who would be joining them. The Nara was smart, smart enough not to direct any questions to Orochimaru's old apprentice.
Funny what making yourself a bit taller and wearing a flak jacket could do to convince people to look the other way. The way they would share occasional glances at one another meant they were pretty uncomfortable with the situation, but they would manage.
"We must be getting close, the scent is stronger than ever!" Kiba shouted with Akamaru barking in agreement.
He rubbed his sensitive nose as it itched from being overwhelmed. It was the hardest he had concentrated in a while, but it couldn't be helped.
"Yes, they are just up ahead." Neji said without missing a step, his eyebrows narrowed in tune with his focus. "Just up ahead of them is a clearing. We will land right on top of them."
"Pick up the pace!" Naruto ordered from the front, Sakura at his side.
It wasn't long before he could tell with more than just his nose where the enemy were. The area around them had been disturbed, and far out in the distance he could see their robes flapping in the wind. So close.
There was a blinding light not far ahead of them: the clearing Neji had told them about. Naruto held up a fist just as they neared the edge of the forest. The Konoha shinobi scattered and found cover while they waited for the order to attack. The genin were restless, but Naruto wasn't about to lead them into an ambush.
Their enemies had stopped in the clearing, clearly onto their pursuers. In a pentagon formation, they protected some sort of crate or barrel. On top of it there was someone sitting down, hands making some sort of seal. That was when he realized his earlier intuition had been correct after all, and he lamented on that fact.
She was one of the last people he wanted to see at that moment.
"Naruto?" Sakura whispered into his ear, concerned.
He had been sitting still for a long time. Anko and his retainers were the only ones to stay by his side, the rest of the Konoha shinobi were all around in the forest.
"Naruto-sama? What's wrong?" His caretaker asked, as she hadn't expected him to hesitate.
"...Let's go." He said, leaping down from the branch and walking into the field.
"What the hell?" Dosu muttered in bewilderment.
Was he going to give up their advantage just like that?
"Naruto!" Sakura shouted, leaping down to join him.
"Damn, come on." Anko ordered them to follow as they all entered the clearing in plain sight.
The two parties were still a fair distance away from one another when Naruto stopped. Dosu grabbed his shoulder and furiously whispered his thoughts.
"What the hell? We had the advantage when they couldn't see us." Naruto turned to look at the bandaged boy, his blue eyes boring into Dosu.
Without another word, he released the assassin and stepped back in his place. There was no way he would risk his own life just to point out a flaw in Naruto's actions, though his life was already being risked in the open like that.
"You were both part of Oto, so you should know better than anyone who that is." His finger indicated they look at the girl sitting on the barrel.
Their eyes widened in recognition soon after.
"When did she..."
They were speechless at the spy's presence. Clearly, the gravity of the situation was dawning on them.
"Her sensory abilities makes hiding useless." He whistled loudly, a flock of birds shook loose from the nearby forest as five shadows appeared behind him.
The Konoha shinobi had made themselves known.
Their enemies did not seem to be fazed by their overwhelming numbers. If anything, the men were frustrated that they had been delayed by another group. Considering their numbers, it would be a sizable delay too.
"Damn...Tayuya, get ready to-" Sakon shouted as he turned to look at the girl, but stopped when he realized she was frozen in place.
Her body was shaking as she looked at the enemy leader, the one in the white robes. That was the boogeyman that had them so scared?
Sakon looked behind his back to see Karin slowly opening her eyes from her jutsu. Her ability to sense the enemy from a distance had given them a bit of a heads up, but it hadn't been enough to get them an advantage. She wouldn't even look at the enemy, and that was when he knew it was bad.
"Tayuya!" He shouted, waking her from her stupor. "Take the barrel with Sasuke and get out of here. Get Karin too."
Afraid to move but even more anxious to leave, the red head didn't even think of a comeback before grabbing the barrel and running in the opposite direction of Naruto. There was no way she could fight him again without dying. It was suicide to stay.
Karin did hazard a glance toward the Konoha shinobi as she left, and almost found herself frozen in place. Naruto's sapphire eyes glowered right at her. All of his frustration and hatred, she could feel it in his aura. That familiar warmth she had come to enjoy in his visits to her hospital room had been replaced with burning anger.
If she wanted to live, she had to run far away.
Naruto watched Karin leave and felt a tinge of annoyance he couldn't give pursuit. It would be an unwieldy fight if they all stayed behind to finish off the Sound group, not to mention Sasuke could get away. Their best chance was to divide their forces.
"Shikamaru, you're in charge of the genin. You handle these guys." Naruto said without batting an eyelash, it was obvious he had some sort of plan.
He didn't even take his eyes off the enemy for a second to consult the rest of them. Despite Anko being a higher rank, she didn't seem to mind either. That was until she heard his next order.
"Anko, you stay as well. Watch over them."
"But-" The older ninja cut herself off before she said something she would regret.
With strangers watching, she couldn't afford to have an emotional outburst. Every fibre in her being urged her to protect Naruto, to stay by him. Her loyalty to him prevented her from going against his order, but she didn't have to like it.
"Fine brat, but watch your back." She said in perfect character, making Naruto manage a small grin.
Shikamaru wanted to argue with Naruto, but he couldn't see himself winning. He might not have liked it, but there was no way they could all stay behind and still catch Sasuke. To win, they would have to divide and conquer. Considering they had the numbers advantage, they also had the advantage in who to split up.
Naruto was banking on the genin being enough to win against the three weirdos. There was even a chance he was risking too much by leaving the experienced Anko behind, but it just meant he was worried about them.
So he would have to put his faith in someone else's strategy that time.
"Go, we can handle things here." Shikamaru told Naruto with confidence.
'Such a drag.'
Without another word Naruto, Sakura, and the ex-Oto ninja leaped forward. It looked like they would run right into Sakon and the others, but then with a leap they were over their heads.
"Oh no ya don't!" Kidomaru launched a net made of web to catch them, but was interrupted by a shower of kunai.
The remaining Sound team was forced to separate and dodge the ranged projectiles. Sakon growled and turned on his heel to go after Naruto, but stopped when he sensed someone right next to him. Arms up against his head, he barely blocked the kick sent by Anko, but she just about broke his arm with her strength.
In a flash they disconnected and fought each other in a flurry of melee. While she held the enemy leader off, Neji fought against Kidomaru and found himself to be the only one capable of cutting the chakra web. Kiba and Chouji worked together to bring Jirobo down, their strength and speed made a deadly combination.
Shikamaru remained in the back, preparing a strategy as his shadow jutsu gathered strength. They would win, it was only a matter of time.
The question was whether they would be able to make it back to the others in time.
Tayuya hadn't made it that far when she sensed more of them approach. Karin must have felt it long before her, but she was as quiet as a ghost too. They both knew what was coming but didn't want to face it.
What kind of a person could give off the aura that made a shinobi like her frightened?
'Only Orochimaru has made me feel like this...their strength is undeniable.'
Known as the second most powerful of the group, that title made Tayuya superior to more than the average ninja. How ironic it was to see herself shrink in the face of the robed one.
Her senses tingled again and she landed on the nearest tree branch, almost slipping. A throwing knife embedded itself in the tree, inches from her face. Tayuya turned to face Naruto and his followers, barely able to lift her own flute.
Karin was close too, frightened at what might happen to them next. There was no telling what Naruto was thinking. All she knew was the aura he was giving off was not friendly.
"Give up the barrel, and you might live." Naruto said without a hint of remorse or hesitation.
'Shit...' Tayuya knew it was bad, but could it get any worse?
Maybe if she could summon her doki to buy some time...
In a flash, a blade was at her throat before her lips could form a single note. He was faster than before, if that was even possible. Her eyes shook as she felt his eyes stab into her.
"Not this time, Tayuya-san." She noticed him form a fist and cock his arm back.
Fearing for her life, she shut her eyes tightly and waited for the end. Instead, the blonde grabbed her flute and broke it in two with one hand. No more would she be a nuisance: now she was just another scared little girl.
Tayuya opened her eyes to see the two pieces of her flute fall to the forest floor. Before she could react, Naruto sent his boot into her stomach. She was sent flying into a tree, shattering it with the force of the attack.
Karin's mouth was agape, her red eyes unable to tear themselves away from Naruto. In one swift motion he had been able to disarm and defeat Tayuya. What chance did they have to escape now?
The musician groaned and tried to move her body, displaying that she was still alive. Blood escaped from her mouth and seemed to flow down her arms and legs—cut up from the tree's wooden shrapnel. She wouldn't be moving without any help for a while.
With the biggest threat taken care of, Naruto turned his attention to Karin. Their eyes met as Naruto made a hand motion to the others. Two shadows found themselves next to the red head, and she immediately recognized Kin and Dosu despite their transformation. They held her arms behind her back, and they knew that though she was crafty, she wouldn't be able to escape as long as they both held her.
"Naruto..." Tears started to flow from Karin's eyes, completely ignoring her captors.
The pain that she could see flash across his face when he looked at her—it broke her heart. To know that her actions didn't protect him but instead wounded him made it even harder to bear. She didn't know what to say. It was impossible for her to run or escape, because all the fight had been taken out of her the moment she knew Naruto would be the one after them.
"Naruto." Sakura appeared next to him, her small hand reaching for his.
There were no words shared between them, but Sakura's mere presence spoke volumes. With just a few seconds alone, the strength in Naruto's body returned full force. He looked at the barrel next to them and quickly understood it was sealed with some sort of jutsu. There was little doubt it had Sasuke inside.
"Okay, let's get this thing back to Konoha."
"What about them?" Dosu shouted, meaning the captured Sound ninja.
There was a moment of hesitation before Naruto answered.
"We bring them with us, grab the other one." He was an assassin, but there were advantages to keeping them alive long enough to interrogate.
Besides, he doubted his mind would be at ease if he struck them down there. He wanted answers.
Before they could move, a new presence was felt by Naruto. It was coming right at him, and Sakura. He pushed her out of the way and turned on his heel with his hidden blade ready. A flash of white came flying toward his face as his blade hit some sort of bone chain.
In a short battle of strength, Naruto and the new assailant fought against one another. The assassin had the advantage of speed though, and when he ducked the attack sailed over his head harmlessly. He sent a kick toward the enemy which made them leap back to the safety of a nearby branch.
The new one was taller than the rest, older too. He had long white hair that matched his sickly complexion. His body was weak and frail, but Naruto could not argue against his strength.
He looked at Tayuya, then at Karin. Obviously disgusted, the Oto-nin shook his head and began to release more of the bony blades from his body.
"Orochimaru-sama was mistaken in leaving the mission to you, Tayuya. You can't even handle this trash."
Kin and Dosu both knew who they were facing and suddenly the tables turned in who was shaking in fear. Kimimaro's reputation as the leader of the Sound Five was already bad enough, now was he was going to go all out against Naruto. They didn't know who would win between the two of them, so sure they were of their ex-compatriot's strength.
"Fuck...you." Tayuya managed to say before coughing up more blood.
She was still stuck in the tree, unable to escape. It seemed her 'comrade' was keen on leaving her in the dire circumstances, much more interested in the barrel that was next to Naruto.
With a wave of his arm, dozens of bone fragments were launched at Dosu and Kin like shuriken. They had to let go of Karin to dodge, who was also barely able to escape.
Naruto leaped forward to close the distance between them. He wouldn't let the new enemy gain the advantage, he was only one person. Whatever kekkei genkai he had wouldn't be enough to avoid an assassin's blade.
The assassin's arms crossed as his hands tucked behind them, reaching for something. A puff of smoke revealed Naruto's short swords, two tanto blades made of finely crafted steel. Lightning coursed through them as Naruto fed his chakra into them to fight against Kimimaro.
Blade met bone as the two began to duel. Naruto had the advantage of speed and was able to launch more attacks, but Kimimaro's strength and durability was undeniable. No matter how hard the strike, his weapons would not break against the pressure. They seemed to be evenly matched in the art of kenjutsu, so much so that Naruto realized it wouldn't be a fight he could win easily.
That was when he decided to cut his losses.
"Sakura, grab the barrel and go!" He yelled as he blocked a strike meant for his heart.
Conflicted, the pink head didn't want to leave him to fight against the Oto ninja. He was the most powerful one they had seen yet, and she knew Naruto was having trouble fighting him. Even if their mission was to rescue Sasuke no matter what, her feelings made sure her feet stayed anchored to the battlefield where Naruto was.
She wouldn't leave him.
"Run, Naruto!" An unfamiliar voice shouted that they realized was Karin.
She didn't escape when she had the chance?
"He's not someone you can beat. You have to run!" As if to accentuate her point, Kimimaro speared Naruto through the stomach.
Everyone froze as real blood emerged from his back—it was no clone or substitution. A lapse in his defense, Kimimaro saw through him when he was distracted by Karin. Even the strongest fell when the time was right.
Sakura screamed and leaped for her lover. Dosu and Kin were frozen, unable to tear their eyes from the scene. Karin could only watch as Naruto's chakra dimmed.
Naruto coughed up a bit of blood, spitting it from his mouth right into Kimimaro's eyes. With the distraction, he sent his blades cutting deep into the bone user's chest. With a roar, he let loose a massive amount of chakra that surged from his body into Kimimaro's, making even the zombie grunt in pain.
Despite his sacrifice, Naruto felt blood and strength leave his body. When he fell to one knee, Sakura was next to him with a healing elixir being shoved into his mouth.
"Drink it!" She ordered, her voice high pitched and desperate.
With a powerful yank, she pulled the bone sword loose. Not wasting a moment, she grabbed Naruto by the waist and jumped away to heal him. Sakura carefully laid him down on a nearby branch and removed his hood so she could see his eyes and make sure he was still with her.
"Hang on, Naruto. Hang on.." Her voice cracked in fear as she began to go through hand signs, green chakra glowing from her palms.
"Sakura.." He groaned, a smile on his face. "You've been practicing medical ninjutsu?"
"Shut up, idiot! Just let me heal you." It was clear she wouldn't take no for an answer, so Naruto let her work without interfering.
He could hear Kyuubi cursing as he too worked to heal Naruto's body. The beast couldn't afford for him to die so soon.
Kimimaro removed the two blades from his chest and leaped onto the branch with the barrel. He effortlessly grabbed the container and placed it on his back, but suddenly his body froze.
"That chakra..." Naruto's lightning chakra did more than just give him a nasty shock.
It was now interfering with his nervous system. He couldn't move a muscle.
"Dosu, now's our chance!" Kin shouted, readying a few explosive kunai in her hand.
"Right!" They launched their attack from a safe distance.
Though they were shocked into inaction at first, the need to protect Naruto and defeat Kimimaro was at the forefront of their minds now.
The explosions went off and made the branch the oto nin was standing on shatter from the pressure. They watched him fall to the forest floor, unmoving. A painful thud could be heard resounding through the forest as Kimimaro came to a forced rest.
"Did you kill him?" Naruto called out, flinching in pain as he did.
"Don't know, he isn't moving." Dosu said, still watching the enemy below.
"I said to stay quiet. Don't make me hit you, baka!" Sakura's commanding tone made him quiet again.
A fleeting thought made them wonder who was really in charge in their relationship.
"Hey..shitheads." Kin and Dosu looked over and saw Tayuya looking at them with a weak glare. "Help me outta here."
"Hmph. Why should we?" Kin asked, crossing her arms.
"Because yer boss said to..." She grunted before making a bloody grin. "and if ya don't, I'll kick yer asses myself."
Dosu and Kin shared a glance before the boy shrugged. It was true Naruto wanted her alive, so why not? With her flute gone, she wasn't much of a threat.
While they leaped down to help the girl get free, Karin leaped onto the same branch with Naruto. Sakura sensed her presence and turned to face her.
"Stay back!" She readied a kunai in her hand.
There was no way she would let anyone else hurt him. Not while she was alive.
"I don't want to hurt him. I can help." The red head lifted her sleeve and showed off the bite marks on her left arm, surprising them.
"One bite and even fatal wounds can be healed. Please.." She didn't want to watch him die when she could do something to help.
It was her fault he was like that. Karin wouldn't be able to stand by any longer.
"I said stay back! Why should I-" The healer got ready to attack, but hesitated when Naruto grabbed her arm.
"Sakura.." She looked down at him, incredulous. "It's okay."
"Naruto.." Reluctantly, Sakura lowered her weapon. "Fine, but I'm watching you."
The glare Sakura sent at her meant certain death if she made a wrong move. Karin steadied herself and walked over to Naruto. She knelt down so he could reach her arm, supporting his neck with her free hand.
They shared a glance before he bit down. A green glow enveloped Naruto as the healing chakra worked its magic, he was feeling much stronger than he was before. The pain was going away.
As the process went on, Karin got progressively weaker, but she wouldn't stop him until the wound was completely closed.
Sakura watched in awe at her ability. Was that why Naruto was so interested in her before?
Naruto let her arm go once he felt strong enough to move on his own. With some effort, and help from Sakura, he elevated his torso using his arms to support him.
Karin was visibly exhausted, panting over him.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
She could only nod, still weak. It was then that Karin felt someone new approaching. Curious, she looked around to see where it was coming from.
Dosu and Kin had Tayuya between them, her arms hung over their shoulders on a nearby branch. They heard the barrel below begin to break and realized that Sasuke was finally breaking free. The dark clouds that seeped out made them question whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.
They realized too late Kimimaro was no longer on the ground.
Sakura turned to see the kekkei genkai user on their branch, his bone attack aimed for Naruto. Without much time to react, she covered his body with her own.
Karin was frozen in place as Kimimaro closed on them, but then something amazing happened. A spear of sand hit Kimimaro in his chest, forcing him back. That wasn't all: more and more bursts of sand hit him until he was unable to move.
Naruto and the others turned their heads to see a familiar face. She wasn't someone he was expecting to see helping him, not since the last time they met.
Gaara was crouched on a block of sand. It gave her a great vantage point to launch her attacks accurately at the Oto ninja without hitting Naruto or the others.
Just like she was dressed in his vision, she wore assassin robes of the desert. It seemed something had changed since they last met after all.
With her arm out, Gaara forced Kimimaro up into the air with her sand. Everyone knew what was coming from Gaara's performance in the chunin exams.
"Sabaku Kyuu.." Her palm brought him higher and higher until he was almost touching the treetops.
Without a hint of remorse, her hand formed a fist. The sand immediately shifted in density and crushed what was inside; a sickening crack could be heard as the body became even more fragmented than it was.
"Sabaku Sōsō!" Her technique completed, the Suna jinchuuriki floated down toward the others.
They watched as the sand began to disperse and drop the broken body of Kimimaro onto the forest floor again. That time, it didn't look like he had much of a chance of survival.
The sand beneath Gaara began to disperse as she stepped onto the branch. Sakura still had her guard up, but again, Naruto's hand on her arm calmed her down with a small squeeze.
"Gaara.." He said, half a greeting, half statement.
"Naruto Uzumaki..I haven't forgotten you since we parted." Sakura and Karin's eyes widened, surprised to hear that.
"You made it just in time, but why are you here?" Naruto was very curious why she bothered to save them, but also why she was even there.
"Your Hokage sent my village a request for assistance." A simple answer with the same bored tone.
"Are you here to kill me?" He asked, trying to get a more active response.
Gaara seemed struggle with herself for a second before her shoulders slouched. She undid her hood and knelt down so she was inches away from Naruto's face.
"Thanks to you, I finally woke up. I made friends and built bonds, like you did." The connection between the two jinchuuriki seemed stronger than ever before.
"I'm here to thank you." She said before leaning forward and kissing Naruto on the lips.
Flabbergasted, those in attendance were unable to respond to Gaara's sudden and direct action. Not even the overprotective Sakura could raise her voice to object, too bewildered to think of something to say.
Gaara removed her lips from his and smiled. It was the same smile she gave him after he spared her the last time they fought.
"Gaara..." Naruto didn't know what to say.
It seemed that was all Gaara thought to do either, as she didn't say anything for a while.
"My sister said I should be honest about my feelings..and when I saw you, I felt like doing that." Somehow, her ignorance didn't translate to innocence.
There was more than instinct in her actions.
"Naruto! Sasuke's loose!" A call from Dosu awoke them from their stupor.
They turned their heads to see Dosu pointing behind him. A flash of black, and Sasuke was gone. Their objective was escaping without a fight.
Naruto willed his body to move, but he still wasn't completely ready. Despite that, they couldn't let him get away.
"Sakura, go after him. You have to stop him." Naruto told her.
"Naruto, are you sure?" Sakura thought he didn't want her fighting unless she had to.
"I don't want you to go, but we don't have a choice. Just hold him long enough for me to catch up, it won't be long." If she could just distract him for a little bit, then Naruto would be able to help her.
"Dosu, Kin!" Naruto shouted, grabbing the attention of his subordinates. "Leave Tayuya there and help Sakura catch Sasuke!"
They didn't hesitate at his order and quickly laid Tayuya down onto the branch. She cursed them for leaving her like that, but they ignored her loud mouth. Together with a reluctant Sakura, they gave chase to the Uchiha.
Karin went over to check on Tayuya with Naruto's permission. They weren't the best of friends, but she didn't want the other girl to die.
Gaara had promised to stay behind and look after Naruto. With a moment to themselves, Naruto decided to ask her the most burning question.
"What happened to you after we parted?" Gaara shrugged, as if it wasn't anything important.
"With the war over, the village recovered. When I returned, I discovered my father's heirlooms and realized that he had intended for us to become like you. Since then, we have been training for a situation like this."
"We?" Naruto asked.
Gaara nodded, angling her head back toward the way they first came.
"Temari and Kankuro. They came too, to help." They must have gone back to help Anko and Shikamaru.
"Well, thanks for coming."
"We came because we wanted to, not just because we were ordered. Your thanks isn't necessary."
Hmph. That sounded like Gaara, unwilling to accept appreciation. They shared a moment of comfortable silence until Naruto heard a snap.
His eyes turned to see Kimimaro flying down toward them. All of his body had turned a dark brown from the curse mark, supplementing his failing health. How was he still moving after the last attack? His arm formed a drill, aimed straight at Gaara.
The sand barrier forming wasn't fast enough, nor strong enough to completely block the attack. Her aquamarine eyes widened in surprise, unable to react. Would she die? Time seemed to slow as the attack closed on her.
White robes appeared between her and the attack. With a roar of defiance, Naruto grabbed Kimimaro's drill arm and held it tight under his armpit. It grazed his side, but the attack was stopped cold.
In his free hand, Naruto built up wind chakra in the shape of a cutting blade.
"Why won't you die already?!" His arm made a cutting motion right for Kimimaro's neck.
With a single slice, the Sound Five's leader was finished off. The body sagged and fell to the ground for the final time. His face was twisted into a relieved grin, so it seemed death was a welcome sight for Kimimaro.
"Naruto!" Karin shouted as she watched him stumble back, only to be caught by a concerned Gaara.
"Why did you block it? When you were already hurt..." He blocked it for her.
"Because, we're friends." He winked reassuringly, though he grunted in pain shortly after.
Gaara's eyes widened in surprise, did he mean that? Friends, after what she did to him? What he had done to her?
"Come on, we have to help Sakura." He unsteadily leaped to the next branch.
His eyes locked on Karin and Tayuya; neither of them looked like they were capable of doing any damage. Neither seemed like they were ready to leave either.
"Do I need to stay here and make sure neither of you leave?" Naruto asked, rhetorically.
"Does it look like I'm going anywhere?" Tayuya growled, rolling her eyes. "Fuckin' idiot."
"We'll surrender to the Konoha shinobi if they come, otherwise we'll wait here." Naruto nodded and started to head off, Gaara close behind.
"Well aren't you nice and docile." Tayuya mocked her after the assassins left.
"Shut up unless you want to die." Karin responded, adjusting her glasses.
It had begun to rain when Naruto finally found Sakura and the others. They had chased Sasuke all the way to the Valley of the End. The great waterfall created from the battle between Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha; their statues watched over the site of their old battlegrounds.
Sakura, Dosu, and Kin were all lying on the ground bloody and defeated. Cursing, Naruto ran over to Sakura and held her in his arms, trying to find a pulse. He was relieved to find she was alive, despite her wounds.
He looked around but couldn't find Sasuke. It seemed as if he was able to escape after beating his pursuers. But why didn't he kill them?
Carefully, he set Sakura down and checked on the other two. Alive and breathing, it was almost a miracle.
Gaara stayed back, her hood up to protect from the rain. She kept her eyes open in case someone unwanted tried to interfere.
A glint of metal caught Naruto's eye and he wandered over to the edge of the cliff that led down to the bottom of the waterfall. It was Sasuke's headband, the symbol had been scratched out. It was then that Naruto realized why Sasuke had spared the others.
He wanted to send Naruto a message.
I'm not coming back without a real fight.
He was trying to mock him, but it wouldn't work. Today he had lost Sasuke, but he had gained something more. A new friendship with an old nemesis, two of the most powerful kunoichi in Orochimaru's army, and a safe return home with the one he loved. That was enough for him.
"Kage Bunshin." Using a few clones, Naruto recovered his friends safely to take them back.
He walked back over to Gaara, her eyes closed in concentration. When they opened again, her face seemed to light up.
"Our friends are coming."
"Good, it's time to go home."
Some time later...
"Oi, gimme your rice if you ain't gonna eat it."
"I'm eating it, I just don't stuff my face like a pig."
"What did you say, bitch?"
Before Karin and Tayuya could climb out of their beds to kill each other, Natsuhi entered the room. In her arms was a second helping of food. Much relieved, they accepted it graciously, or at least Karin did. Tayuya mumbled thanks before digging in.
Natsuhi smiled. Since her recovery, she had joined the Namikaze in living in the compound. When she assured Naruto she was capable of cooking for all of them, he entrusted her with the meals. It was the least she could do to repay him for saving her life.
When she turned to leave, she noticed Sakura and Naruto ready to enter. Natsuhi bowed before excusing herself for her daily training exercises. She still had to recover from being bedridden for so long.
The two red heads confined to bed stopped eating when the two entered their room. It was time for their checkup and medicine, to ensure they would make a healthy recovery. Tayuya had suffered grievous wounds from Naruto's attack, and Karin had experienced a second wave of chakra exhaustion from healing Naruto. Sakura had been taking care of them since she herself recovered from her own wounds.
It had taken some work to ensure the Hokage and her ANBU didn't get their hands on the captured Oto ninja. Anko had done a good job of sneaking them away. There was a chance Tsunade knew what had really happened, but for whatever reason had chosen to ignore it. It was thanks to Naruto they captured them to begin with; if he wanted them, then there must have been something he could get from them.
"Here's your medicine, Tayuya." Sakura handed a pink vial to the older girl, who did not look happy to receive it.
By then, she knew the drill and drank it down without much of an argument.
"God, this tastes like shit!" It didn't stop her from complaining though.
Sakura, in a sign of maturity, held her tongue and checked on Karin who was much more pleasant. Things had been tense at first between them, but after Naruto proved that he wasn't going to hurt them, they settled in like Dosu and Kin. Those two had also been helpful in urging them to accept Naruto's hospitality for what it was.
Everyday, he was there with Sakura to check up on them. At first they thought it was because he didn't trust them alone with his 'girlfriend', but apparently it was because he was concerned about their health.
"Tayuya, Karin." The two girls looked at Naruto, immediately becoming silent.
They learned early on he wasn't one to go against. Tayuya got her shots in when it came to Sakura, but she steered clear of Naruto's ire whatever it took. She was on her second life and didn't want to push it.
Karin was tired of running from Naruto. She could no longer escape him, nor did she want to. For better or worse, she was going to stay by Naruto's side.
"I have a proposition for the both of you." Sakura sent Naruto an encouraging nod, since she knew how hard he had been thinking about what he was about to say.
It took some doing from her part, as well as Anko's, but they were finally able to convince him he was making the right decision.
"What is it, Naruto-kun?" Karin asked.
Tayuya waited for him to answer rather than say something she would regret.
"I want you to join me, as a part of the Namikaze."
The red heads were unable to think of anything to say. They looked at Naruto, then Sakura, and then finally each other.
"Wh-what do you mean?" Karin asked.
"I'm asking to let me train you, so that you can join my family. We need powerful shinobi like you to rebuild the clan."
"Are you a fuckin' idiot-" Tayuya caught herself before she could finish the sentence, but the damage was done.
"I thought the same." Naruto said without missing a beat from Tayuya's response. "but Sakura and Anko both said I should follow my instincts and trust you. Neither of you seem like you want Orochimaru as your master, so why not stay here?"
It was so sudden, they weren't sure how to respond. He trusted them? Why?
"I'm not sure what to say.." Karin said, adjusting her glasses.
"I suggest you accept the offer, you two." Sakura winked.
They had no idea how lucky they were to get to stay there, for free. He offered them shelter, food, safety and only asked for their loyalty in return.
"And if we don't?" Tayuya figured she would go for broke.
"I let you go in the middle of the forest to fend for yourself." Naruto deadpanned—he did not disappoint her expectations.
"Fuckin' hell." Tayuya groaned. "You drive a hard bargain, blondie."
"The closer you are to me, the better I can keep an eye on you." So, his intentions weren't so naïve after all.
"I'll accept." Karin said after a short pause. "You're right, I don't want to go back to Orochimaru. I'd rather stay here, with you."
Sakura smiled and Naruto seemed to stand a little taller after that. Tayuya looked at her like she was a traitor, but she realized there really wasn't another option.
"Fuck..fine, fuck it. Sure, let's just all live together like a fuckin happy family. This'll go so well..shithead." She crossed her arms in a pout, spouting off another list of profanity.
"Good, we start tomorrow." Naruto turned on his heel and walked out, not willing to hear a word of protest.
"What?!" Tayuya and Sakura shouted at the same time.
"Naruto, they are still resting! Naruto!" Sakura ran out of the room, calling after him.
"You gotta be fuckin' kidding me." Tayuya leaned back into her pillow, clearly not happy.
"It could be worse, Tayuya. We could be dead." Karin chided, giggling to herself.
"Shut. The. Fuck. Up." Was the last thing the foul mouthed girl said before rolling over to try and sleep away her problems.
However long they were going to be training, it was going to be annoying as hell to wait for it to end.
Searching for relevant genetic data..
Match found: Loading Sequence.
So glad to get this done, long awaited end to Part I. Hopefully you enjoyed. Be sure to leave a review.