We were closing in on two years since I last updated this story. It's not dead, and the next update won't take a freaking year to get up! Seeing as it's been a while, and this is an AU universe, I encourage you all to read through the earlier parts of this story to bring you back up to speed!

Thanks to everyone who reviewed since last time: Darious Frost, saveme57, Konoha's Crimson Fox, mermaidangel123, Inner Self, RaiOokami, quiter11111, Those-carrots, water Type master, smile, Guest, TMariee, Joshin, AquaticSilver, ProphecyEngineAka Veeperz, meerastark

Now let's stop dilly-dallying. I don't own Naruto or else I would be filthy stinking rich, and would have all the free time in the world to ensure it doesn't take me almost two years to update one story! Review responses will follow the chapter from here on out.

Please do enjoy, Guardian - Chapter 18: The Old-Fashioned Way


Naruto ducked underneath a barrage of shuriken and quickly twisted to his side to dodge a swipe from the tanto of the masked man who had hoped to take him out with the aforementioned shrurikens. He kicked the man in the gut and followed it up with a knee to the face to knock the man to the ground. Naruto withdrew a kunai so he could take this man out and improve his odds against his foes, but a powerful stream of water forced Naruto to leap a few feet behind him.

So the fourth one's a water user… Naruto thought to himself.

This was not an ideal time for him to be fighting against multiple foes at once. His chakra was still acting up from Danzo's poison, and he had three people to protect… but this was part of a guardian's life. There was one positive to his current situation however; these masked men seemed to be after him and not any of the people he was protecting.

With his chakra fluctuating as it was, it was dangerous for him to enter sage mode right now. He didn't know who any of these men were, but they weren't interested in talking. He threw down a smoke bomb and burrowed underground. He needed some way to get the upper hand on these guys. He thought back to when they first attacked, trying to think of any small detail he or his clones may have caught that he could use to his advantage.

FLASHBACK - A few minutes earlier

Naruto started packing up the food as Sakura watched Ino and her new guardian disappear from the horizon line. He felt bad for Sakura. She was happy with him, he didn't doubt that for a second, but she seemed like a very social girl. While he doubted she would openly admit it, Naruto could tell that she was homesick. It had to really suck for her to get to spend a couple of days with her best friend from home only to say goodbye again.

"We'll visit Ino again once we get Tsunade and Jiraiya to the Guardian Academy, ok Sakura?"

Sakura smiled over her shoulder at her guardian. "I'd like that Naruto, thanks."

"Boss! Incoming!" One of Naruto's clones yelled. Naruto's eyes widened as he suddenly felt four chakra signatures rapidly approaching him.

"Shit! Sakura, go get in the tent with Tsunade! One, Two, get your asses down here! You're protecting everyone!"

"What about…"

"Now's not the time for questions Sakura. I'll be fine!"

Tsunade and Jiraiya motioned for Sakura to follow them, and the celesti did as commanded. Naruto felt a little better when two of his clones stood protectively around the tent.

"You guys found us pretty fast!" Naruto yelled out. He looked around and four masked men were approaching him from each direction.

"But you made a mistake in coming here! I'm going to kick all your asses!"

He flickered in front of the one approaching him head on.

"EAT THIS! RASENGAN!" Naruto formed a rasengan in his hand, intent on taking out this masked man before he could become a problem. Sadly, it was not meant to be. Naruto's chakra fluctuations messed up his balance and the rasengan dissipated before it could hit his mark.

The man said nothing, but he did pull out a tanto he used to take a stab at Naruto's neck with. The guardian ducked under the stab and leaped backwards just as a compressed wave of air shot right through where he was standing.

"Who the hell are you guys?"

Naruto felt movement behind him and did a backflip just as a taichi, which seemed to be secreting acid of all things, swung just under his feet. Naruto caught the wielder in the head with a quick jab as his body completed its flip.

"Not very talkative? No matter! Rasengan!" Naruto tried to use his rasengan again, this time against the taichi wielder, but it had the same result.

"Stupid weird poison…" Naruto muttered as he put some distance between himself and the swordsman. So far he knew a little bit about three of his opponents, but had no idea about the fourth one. Hell, he didn't even know where the fourth one went…

Naruto glanced over at the masked man he had first attacked and saw that the man had shuriken grasped in his hands.

FLASH IN

A twister of air barreled down the hole that Naruto had burrowed himself in, cutting his thinking time off. He burrowed a little out of the way and then shot up out of the ground. So far he seemed to be dealing with a weapon specialist, a swordsman with the ability to coat his sword in acid, a mid-ranged wind jutsu specialist, and a water jutsu specialist who attacked from the distance.

All in all, this wouldn't be the toughest fight of his life if his damn chakra was working normally. Unfortunately, his chakra was fluctuating too much for him to use any of his techniques that required any semblance of chakra control. Not that it mattered. This was definitely a fight he was going to win; losing simply wasn't an option.

Naruto withdrew another kunai so he now had one in each hand. Even without his powerful techniques, he was still strong. Chakra helped his speed, but he was still pretty fast without it. He was just going to have to take care of this the old-fashioned way.

"I'm going to give you assholes one chance to surrender. If you don't take it now, I'm going to kill every single one of you for being a threat to my charge."

The only response Naruto got was the taichi wielder pointing his sword in Naruto's direction.

"Kasei Encho." Acid suddenly extended in the shape of the blade towards Naruto. He weaved to the right, but not before the attack could just graze his arm. He gritted his teeth in pain as the acid burned through his chainmail mesh shirt.

This is some potent acid… He's making this with his chakra it seems. Naruto thought to himself as he quickly washed the acid away with a minor water jutsu before it could do any further damage. He must be able to create this because of some bloodline limit… So I'm facing at least one person with a kekkai genkai… great.

Naruto ducked underneath three shuriken, pivoted on his left foot and took a swipe directly behind him, catching the acid user who was trying to sneak up behind him off guard. To Naruto's disappointment, the acid-user was able to weave to the right so Naruto's kunai only tore throw his left arm. While Naruto was hoping for a killing blow to even the numbers up some, he was satisfied with the hiss of pain that came from his foe.

Naruto lunged forward to take advantage of the acid user's pain, but a water bullet forced him to leap backwards.

"Your arm doesn't look so good!" Naruto taunted, hoping to get some sort of rise out of his opponent. Instead of replying, the acid-user took his taichi in his right hand, now that his left arm was practically useless, and charged Naruto.

Naruto ran forward to meet the acid user's charge. He ducked underneath the first swipe of the taichi and caught the man in the gut with a quick knee. He raised his arm to deliver a killing stab to the acid-user's neck, but his movement was rewarded by three shuriken impacting his right arm. Naruto gritted his teeth and ignored the pain.

"Kasei encho!"

Naruto ducked underneath the extended acid blade and threw his kunai directly his opponent's exposed gut. The acid-user stumbled backwards, surprised. Naruto didn't waste another second and threw his second kunai straight into the man's throat. He fell backwards with a surprised gurgle.

One down… Only three to go. Naruto withdrew two more kunai to replace the ones he just used. There's the weapon user… but where are the wind and water guys?

As if to answer Naruto's thoughts, a powerful gust of wind knocked Naruto off his feet. He glanced up to see a barrage of shuriken coming down towards him. Without any time to dodge, Naruto deflected as many as he could, but some still embedded themselves in his shoulders.

Having shuriken embedded in his flesh didn't exactly feel great, but he had managed to keep them from hitting his vitals, so Naruto counted himself lucky. He ran towards the tree line where the wind blast came from. As he neared the tree line, a wave of water crashed into him, flooding the ground. He barely managed to remain standing and could only turn his back as more shuriken were launched at him.

He cried out as five shuriken embedded themselves in his back. It was getting more and more difficult to ignore the pain now. He had shuriken sticking out of his back, the back of his right hand, and a few sticking out of his shoulders as well. But he couldn't lose; Sakura, Tsunade and Jiraiya would be screwed if they had to take these guys on.

Gathering his strength, Naruto burst into the tree line. He weaved to dodge more shurikens, but grinned when he spotted the wind user.

"You know, most wind users fight up close and personal! That's what the element is really good for!" Naruto yelled. "So come down here and take me on!"

The wind user did not take Naruto's challenge, instead opting to leap away to put more distance between the two. But Naruto wasn't going to let him get away. He was fast even without the hirashin. He quickly caught up to the wind user and swiped at the man with his kunai. He ducked underneath a water bullet and deflected three shuriken.

Doing so left him open to attack from the man he was currently trying to take out, and Naruto was knocked off his feet as a wind bullet blasted into his body. He cried out when he landed on his back, jamming the shuriken embedded there deeper into him.

He didn't let his pain win however, and he instantly leaped to his feet. Naruto charged the wind user, weaved to the right to dodge another water bullet and lunged forward to stab the wind-user in the chest. Before the wind user could react, Naruto followed his attack up by quickly slashing the man's throat.

His muscles were starting to burn, and he was breathing heavy, but a grin was firmly set on his face. These bastards came at him with four, and he had already taken out two of them. He glanced over at the man who had been kind enough to stick a bunch of shuriken in him.

"You're next bastard!" Naruto ran forward, deflecting his opponent's shuriken. He jumped toward the man, but before he could reach him, a water dragon slammed into him, mercilessly knocking him against a tree which splintered and fell over from the force of the impact. The shuriken that had been embedded in his back were now completely submerged, which felt… unpleasant to say the least.

This would be so much easier if my chakra wasn't so out of whack… Naruto tiredly thought. It would also help if I could actually find this damn water user…

Naruto shook his head to clear the cob webs and charged at the enemy he could actually see. His opponent withdrew a tanto and met his charge. The ting of metal clashing against metal rang out through what had been a peaceful campsite not too long ago.

The man's ability with his tanto was impressive, and he managed to force Naruto back with his aggressive strikes, but Naruto had an ace up his sleeve. Just because he couldn't trust his chakra didn't mean he couldn't use it.

His chakra wasn't stable enough to maintain coating his kunai in wind chakra, but it would still work for a short burst. Naruto stabbed his kunai forward and smirked when his opponent raised his tanto to block it. Naruto coated his kunai in wind chakra, causing it to stab through his opponent's tanto like butter where it continued straight through his opponent's mask.

One more… Naruto thought to himself as his opponent's dead corpse fell backwards to the ground.

"Impressive. You're recovering from a poison that attacked your chakra, and yet you were still able to kill my squad." A deep voice called out.

"But not that impressive; they were weak. I was using this mission to test their worth, and they obviously failed. Now that they're out of the picture, I think it's time we finish this fight Naruto."

"Stop hiding if you want to end this fight so badly!"

"Gladly." A voice called directly behind Naruto. He twisted around in surprise to see his final opponent calmly standing before him.

Naruto tensed his muscles and willed himself to ignore the intense pain that was plaguing his body. He had a feeling this guy wasn't all talk…


Ino couldn't put a finger on it, but she felt extremely uneasy right now. There was no reason to be of course. She was with her new guardian, and he seemed to know what he was doing. She had tried to start conversations with him, but his responses just seemed… fake. She stared at the back of his head in thought. She was probably just feeling uneasy because she had a new guardian. A new sacrifice who would eventually give his life up for hers…

She shook that thought from her mind. Running into Sakura had helped restore a part of her that had quickly been locked away during her short, two years as a hunted celesti. Sakura's view of guardians was certainly the right view. They were incredibly brave and were willing to sacrifice their lives. It was only right for the celesti to treat them like actual people. Most likely, Ino would end up grieving Maso's death, but if he sacrificed himself for her, then he deserved it. Determined, Ino decided to try to strike up some conversation again.

"So Maso, what do you like doing for fun?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing? Oh come on! Surely there's something!"

"Nope."

"But…"

"Ino, please stop these useless distractions. I must remain completely focused on our surroundings in order to ensure your safety."

Ino let out a frustrated sigh. Maso's lack of willingness to have a conversation certainly wasn't helping her unease at all. She assumed all guardians secretly wanted to be acknowledged. Naruto certainly took a shining to Sakura, and Sai, who was practically a robot, was even intrigued by forming a real bond between a guardian and celesti before he… died.

"Where are we going?" She asked, trying to keep her thoughts away from Sai's sacrifice for now.

"Somewhere safe."

"Yeah? Where?"

"It doesn't matter where Ino. What matters is your safety."

"You're just a barrel of laughs aren't you…" Ino groaned.

"I'm a guardian. We're supposed to focus solely on our charge's protection. So please, let me focus."

Ino let out an annoyed huff. This new guardian didn't seem to be anywhere near as friendly as he was back when he came to pick her up at Naruto and Sakura's camp earlier. If this was before she had met up with Sakura, she wouldn't be annoyed at the guardian's serious attitude. Really, she should feel safe with a guardian so focused on her protection. He seemed to be completely focused on her safety. The chances of a threat slipping past him seemed low.

So why did she have such a bad feeling about all of this?


Naruto was hunched over, sucking in air. Water dripped from his body, having been hit with so many water jutsus. This water jutsu user would be strong enough to keep him on his toes even if he could rely on his chakra. Now that the man had gotten serious, the water he wielded against Naruto was frigid cold. Pain wracked his body, and his limbs were beginning to feel numb… although he wasn't sure if that was due to the freezing cold water or his body's exhaustion.

"You're already winded? I expected more out of you, Naruto… given your heritage." His opponent said.

"You seem to know a lot about me." Naruto replied. "I don't suppose you care to tell me your name? You're strong. I'd like to know your name before I kill you."

"You're going to kill me?" The man chuckled. "Your legs are wobbling, and you can barely stand. Why don't you just give up? No use prolonging the inevitable."

"Don't underestimate me." Naruto willed his body to ignore the pain, numbness and exhaustion and rushed forward. He took a swipe at the masked man with the kunai in his right hand, but the man ducked underneath it, and quickly ran through some handsigns.

"Suiton: Suidan no Jutsu!"

Naruto leaped into the air and felt the air whoosh beneath his feet as the water bullet zoomed past. He quickly counter-attacked by flinging a kunai at his opponent. The man went to dodge, but wasn't fast enough to escape unscathed, and Naruto's kunai grazed his arm. Pressing his advantage, Naruto rushed his opponent. He feigned a punch to the right, but then quickly shifted his body and caught the man in the side with a quick kick. The kick didn't do a lot of damage, but it temporarily stunned his opponent, providing Naruto the opportunity he needed to finish the fight.

Naruto stabbed his kunai forward, coating it in wind chakra at the last second. The masked man tried to dodge, but his reaction time wasn't quick enough to deal with the extended length of the blade due to Naruto's wind chakra. Naruto's kunai tore straight through the man's right shoulder. The guardian took a swipe at the man's throat with his other kunai, hoping to deal the killing blow, but it wasn't meant to be.

TING!

The masked man met Naruto's blow with a kunai of his own. With his other hand, the man held his palm towards Naruto.

"Suiton: Suidan no Jutsu!" Naruto's eyes widened as a weakened water bullet blasted into his body, knocking him off his feet.

He just used a jutsu with only one hand! It was weaker than it would've been with both… But still… this guy really is no joke. Naruto thought to himself. His thoughts were quickly interrupted by a giant dragon made of water barreling down on his position. Naruto's entire body seemed to creak in protest as he forced himself to jump out of the way just before the water dragon crashed down against the earth.

Naruto reached down into his weapons pouch and withdrew another kunai so he was again holding a weapon in each hand. With all the punishment his body had endured in this fight, it was starting to get hard for him to focus. He desperately needed to find a way to end this fight soon, or else he would need to use his sacrificial technique before his body gave out on him.

"You're at your limit." The masked man noted. "You won't last long now."

"Dream…on…" Naruto wheezed out. "You're totally… screwed." I've gotta do this… I've gotta win for Sakura. I can't use my sacrificial technique yet. The self-reminder of what was on the line in this fight suddenly gave Naruto a second wind. The exhaustion, pain and rubbery limbs all faded away.

"You were screwed the second you came after me." Naruto continued. "For me, failure is not an option. For me, sacrifice is not an option. The only option I have available to me is to kick your ass! I have someone who's counting on me to protect her and survive, and I refuse to let her down!"

"You're outclassed and outmatched." His opponent countered. "There is nothing you can do to beat me."

With an almost animalistic snarl, Naruto ran at the masked man. He ran faster than he had since he engaged the man one on one, now that his body was once again filled with energy. He tried to sweep the man's legs out from under him, but the man quickly jumped to dodge. But that was fine with Naruto, men were less mobile in the air. He flung a kunai with as much force as he could muster. His opponent tried to dodge it, but there was only so much he could do with his feet off the ground. Naruto grinned as the kunai lodged itself in his opponent's left shoulder.

Naruto leaned back on his haunches and then sprung forward, intending to finish this fight once and for all. He swung at the water user's throat with his remaining kunai, and the man made no effort to dodge. Just as Naruto's kunai was within inches of the man's throat, a weakened water bullet knocked Naruto backwards. Naruto staggered, but managed to stay on his feet. He tensed the muscles in his legs, preparing to spring at his attacker again, but the water user flickered in front of him before he had a chance to act. A powerful elbow to his gut knocked the wind right out of Naruto.

Even worse, that one blow seemed to knock all of the momentum out of his body. He was suddenly very aware that his body was, in fact, extremely sore and tired. He was very aware that he could barely feel his limbs. He was very aware that his lungs were burning for air. He was very aware that… he just might actually lose this fight. Sometimes, determination just wasn't enough.

Naruto looked up and saw his opponent weaving handsigns. Judging by the complexity and amount of the signs, his opponent was intending on finishing this fight with a powerful jutsu. Naruto tried to will his body to move, but he was just too exhausted. His willpower was only enough to get him to stumble forward and drop down to one knee.

"IT'S OVER!" His opponent yelled.

"Suiton…"

"Katon: Endan!" A bullet made of fire streaked across the landscape and singed the masked man. It created a cloud of smoke after connecting that temporarily obscured the water user from view.

Naruto looked over in surprise to see Jiraiya standing in the distance. It would appear the older guardian was not content to wait in the tent with Tsunade and Sakura.

"What are you doing Jiraiya?! You shouldn't be fighting!"

"I'll be fine." Jiraiya replied. "You look like you could use a hand. Now get up so we can finish this guy! There's way too much on the line for us to fail!"

Naruto took a deep breath and forced his shaking body to calm down. Jiraiya was right. Naruto once again reminded himself that neither failure nor sacrifice were an option. He withdrew his final kunai from his pouch and rushed towards the thinning smoke.

"I thought you were too injured to fight." The masked man's voice called from the smoke. "No matter."

A water dragon tore out of the smoke and barreled straight towards Jiraiya. Naruto paused his charge and looked at Jiraiya in panic. There was no way the old man could sustain that kind of hit. He started to run towards Jiraiya, but he knew he wouldn't arrive in time.

"Not a bad water dragon." Jiraiya calmly complimented, holding one hand in front of him as the powerful jutsu neared him. Both Naruto and the water user gasped in surprise when, instead of barreling into Jiraiya, the water dragon harmlessly dissipated the second it neared his outstretched hand.

Naruto wasn't sure what happened, but he wasn't going to waste any time trying to figure it out. He saw a golden opportunity, and he was going to take advantage of it – the masked man was distracted. Naruto pushed all of his strength into his legs and leaped at his opponent with the force of a wild cat. His opponent saw him coming at the last second, and leaped out of the way, but not before Naruto managed to slash a deep gash across his stomach.

"You little shit!" The masked man hissed. He shifted all of his attention to Naruto, intending on killing the exhausted guardian.

"Hari Jizō!"

Blood spattered against the ground. In placing all of his attention on Naruto, the masked man had opened himself up to another attack from Jiraiya. The older guardian had impaled the water user on his spiky, hardened hair.

"You came here to kill me, not the two celesti I'm traveling with… Why?" Naruto asked, hoping to get some information out of this man before he died.

"Go…to…hell."

"After you…" Naruto replied, his eyes hardening. He walked up to the man and slashed his throat, mercifully ending his existence. Jiraiya released his jutsu, and his hair returned to normal.

"How did you... survive that water dragon?" Naruto asked. Now that the fight was over, his body was working hard to remind him that it had gone beyond its limit. He walked towards the older guardian on extremely wobbly legs.

"Seals can be pretty useful." Jiraiya grinned, holding up a small, rectangular piece of paper with some kanjis on it. "This one specifically can completely nullify the chakra of one attack. The only problem with it is that it takes about half of my total chakra to make one. So I can't make too many of them. Luckily, I had a few of these ready though."

"Can you… can you teach me how to make them?" Naruto asked. Those would be very useful to make and give to Sakura.

"Of course! That is, if Tsunade lets me. She might not let me teach you until you've studied up on your geography. And I wouldn't…" Jiraiya suddenly lurched forward and starting coughing. He grabbed his ribs and winced in pain until his fit ended.

"You shouldn't have fought…" Naruto muttered. "You could've died."

"And you probably would have died if I hadn't." Jiraiya countered. "Speaking of…"

Jiraiya turned towards the tent where the two celestis were waiting. Naruto's clones had poofed out of existence during the fight.

"You can come out now! The fight is over."

Sakura came sprinting out of the tent straight towards Naruto. Judging by the look on her face, Naruto guessed that not being able to see the fight did not reduce the amount of worrying she did.

"Naruto!"

"I'm fine Sakura." Naruto lied. He did his best to act strong in front of his charge.

"Liar." Sakura wasn't fooled in the slightest. "You idiot! You can barely stand! Sit down and let me heal you."

"Whatever you say Sakura." Naruto didn't even notice that Sakura gave him a command, because he was all too happy to obey it.

"Jeez Naruto… you really overdid it." Sakura fussed. She picked the shurikens off his right hand and arm, then picked the ones off that were stuck deep in his shoulders. "Holy shit, there's some that have submerged completely into your back!"

"Yeah… they don't feel that great." Naruto muttered.

"You're lucky one didn't paralyze you!" Sakura muttered. "This is going to hurt, but I have to get them out, ok?"

"I'm ready."

Naruto hissed as Sakura stuck her fingers into his open wounds to pull out the shuriken out, one by one. He had never been so relieved when she pulled out the final one.

"Don't pass out on me now. You're really bleeding a lot." Sakura said in a worried tone.

"I won't."

Naruto sighed in relief as Sakura's soothing chakra poured over his body, knitting together flesh that had been torn and sliced open in battle. She went over his body and closed up any open wounds first to stop bleeding. Once his outside was taken care of, she focused on the internal damage.

"Holy crap… It must hurt a lot for you to breathe. You have eight broken ribs."

"That explains it." Naruto mumbled. He closed his eyes as Sakura's healing chakra went to work on his ribs. "You're getting really good at this Sakura-chan."

"Well it helps now that I have a better understanding of how your body works." Sakura replied. It ended up taking her 15 minutes of intensive healing to restore the damage done to his body, but by the time she was finished, Naruto felt good as new (minus the part where his chakra was still fluctuating thanks to the poison).

"You're the best Sakura." Naruto said, smiling at his beautiful charge.

"I'm just glad you're ok now." Sakura replied. She had to use a lot of chakra to heal him, and was now feeling pretty exhausted herself as a result. She leaned against her guardian, thankful that he survived another battle. Her eyes suddenly widened and she looked over at Jiraiya, who had Tsunade fussing over him.

"I almost forgot to ask! Are you ok Jiraiya?" Sakura asked.

"He's fine. He fought from a distance, and he didn't have to move around much since Naruto kept that guy occupied." Tsunade replied, answering for her guardian.

"Pah! I would've been fine either way! As if some weakling like that could hurt the great and gallant Jiraiya!"

Naruto chuckled at the old man's antics. "Hey Jiraiya… thanks. I'm not sure what I would've done if you hadn't gotten involved."

"I'd say we're even kid." Jiraiya smiled. "Considering everything you've done for Tsunade and me, it was the least I could do. Now let's say you and I take a look at those bodies and see if we can figure out who those guys were."

"Good call. Why don't you go hang out with Tsunade, Sakura. You probably don't want to have to look too carefully at this bodies."

"I won't argue with that." Sakura replied. During her short time as a celesti, she had already seen some gruesome things. Hell, she watched Naruto slash a man's throat within minutes of meeting him. But that didn't mean she was a fan of such things. She liked to avoid gory things when she could. Sakura walked over to Tsunade, perfectly content with letting Naruto and Jiraiya be the ones who inspected the bodies.


BOOM!

The sound of an explosion rocking a section of the Guardian Academy was all the proof needed that the battle between Danzo's ROOT and the Guardian forces was officially underway. With Tenzo's help, Hiruzun was able to stymie most of Danzo's moves so far. Every one of Danzo's attempts at subterfuge was met and countered. Danzo's forces were more accustomed to fighting in the shadows than his, and it was crucial Hiruzen make sure the fighting remained in the open where his forces could fight on equal ground.

"Hokage-sama! Danzo's forces are attacking the northwest wing!"

"Send reinforcements immediately." Hiruzen replied. "We will give no ground to that traitor."

"Hai!" The solider ran off to rally some troops to go and reinforce the northwest wing.

"Hokage-sama, it appears Danzo is tired of trying to fight in the shadows." Tenzo pointed out.

"Yes Tenzo; the real battle starts now. The first few skirmishes we initiated with Danzo's forces will be nothing compared to these."

To Hiruzen's dismay, his scouts couldn't identify chinks in ROOT's armor. Danzo was proficient in training his forces. He appeared to have plenty of ranged squads, and Hiruzen was already finding out that he had plenty of close-ranged squads.

From the initial reports, many of Danzo's ROOT forces were more disturbing than anyone not involved with them had realized. They were like mindless machines who didn't even acknowledge pain. Tenzo told Hiruzen that Danzo trained his forces to completely ignore pain. Those that were acknowledging the pain on the battlefield would likely be punished severely if they survived.

This is what made them so dangerous. There were already more reports than he could count of a ROOT member receiving a fatal blow, and then calmly using a sacrificial jutsu to take out Order forces. The guards were at a disadvantage there. They were human. If they received a fatal blow, they would stumble back in shock, as is the natural reaction. Not many of them would have the clarity of mind in that situation to calmly use a sacrificial jutsu.

Hiruzen gritted his teeth. What Danzo had done to his ROOT members was unforgivable. What Danzo was doing to the Guardian Order was unforgivable. He should have picked up on the man's true intentions earlier. He shouldn't have let his lifelong friendship with the man cloud his judgment. But that was in the past now. All lives were filled with shoulds, should haves, woulds and would haves. Reflecting on them never did anyone any good.

Danzo's forces were fearsome, but the Guardian forces would not falter. They would find a way to end this war before any of their enemies had a chance to pay a visit while the Guardian Order was distracted…


"Here we go, found something interesting kid!" Jiraiya called out. Naruto walked over to the elder guardian to find him hunched over the body of the wind-user. Jiraiya had the man's mouth propped open. "Look at his tongue."

Naruto glanced at the man's tongue and saw what appeared to be some kind of seal.

"What is that?"

"It's a sort of suppression seal. It prevents the victim from saying anything the one who places the seal doesn't want him to say. This seal also happens to be a trademark of an old friend of ours."

"An old friend?"

"Danzo. He places these seals on all of his ROOT members. It would appear he sent a squad of his ROOT members to kill you."

"That bastard…" Naruto muttered. "So he found out Sai didn't succeed in killing me and sent an entire squad after me?"

"Looks that way." Jiraiya walked over to the body of the leader of the squad, the water user. He peered closely at the man's body, before touching a patch of skin on the top of the man's wrist. To Naruto's surprise, a seal appeared.

"A hidden storage seal. We might find out a little more by opening this."

"How did you know that was there?"

"When you've studied seals as much as I have, you tend to get good at spotting them, no matter how hidden they are." Jiraiya grinned. "Now let's get this open…"

Jiraiya pressed a finger against the seal, creating a poof of smoke. The smoke cleared to reveal a small scroll, which Jiraiya picked up and read.

"Shit… you're not going to like this kid."

"What? What's wrong?"

"Here, read it."

Naruto took the scroll from the older guardian and quickly swore.

"Shit shit shit!"

"Is your chakra stable enough to use harashin?"

"I don't think so…" Naruto groaned. "But I might have to try it anyways…"

He glanced down at the scroll again.

Mission objectives:

Primary objective – eliminate the guardian, Naruto. Prior to elimination, separate the celesti, Ino Yamanaka from him.

Secondary objective – take all the celestis to Orochimaru so he can continue his research.

-D

Naruto closed his eyes and focused on the three-pronged kunai he gave Ino. He needed this to work, because she was in serious danger. He couldn't believe he let himself get fooled by Maso. Sai sacrificed his life to protect Naruto and his charge, and how did Naruto repay him? By letting his charge get taken by a ROOT member who intended to hand her over to Orochimaru.

Please work… Naruto mentally prayed.

"Jiraiya… tell Sakura not to worry. I'll be right back."

"Good luck kid."

Naruto nodded, and disappeared in a flash.


FIN! Let me know your thoughts via that handy review button. I apologize for leaving it at a bit of a cliffhanger, but you won't have to wait two years for this next update! This chapter mostly focused on the fight, and next chapter will focus on Naruto saving Ino... but we'll start seeing more about the Guardian civil war soon! Until next time! -ND

Jutsu List:

Kasei Encho – Caustic Extension: the user uses his sword as a focusing point to channel his chakra, which he then uses to create acid. The user then utilizes the sword's point to help control the acid he's creating and keep it from going everywhere when he extends it outwards. A useful assassination technique. As Naruto thought in the fight, this appears to be related to a kekkai genkai, as acid isn't something that one can so easily form with chakra.

Suiton: Suidan no Jutsu – Water Release: Water Bullet.

Hari Jizō – Ninja art: Needle Jutsu

Review Responses

Darious Frost: Itachi is a complex character in the manga, and he's a complex character here. But he certainly does plenty of bad things! As for Jiraiya and Nagato, they would have met while Jiraiya was teaching at the academy. And you and me both with Ino! She doesn't deserve to get experimented on by Orochimaru!

saveme57: As you saw with this chapter, though he was fully rested, his chakra was still feeling the aftereffects of Danzo's poison, which gave that ROOT squad a fighting chance! Hopefully Naruto is able to catch up with Maso before it's too late.

Konoha's Crimson Fox: Speaking of not updating for a while... *cough* The civil war line took a backseat this chapter, but rest assured. Shit is about to go down!

mermaidangel123: Sorry to make you wait so long for it!

Inner Self: I can say, with 100 percent certainty, that Sakura has no interest in Itachi whatsoever. She's smitten with Naruto, and he's smitten with her.

RaiOokami: He really did go out in a blaze of glory. There wasn't much of a body left to set off like that, nor did he have very many belongings as a guardian.

quiter11111: Hola! (I dont' know how to do the upside-down exclamation mark). Thanks for the kind words, and I'm pulling for Ino to make it out of this unscathed too! Naruto's last name is certainly going to be big to this story, but he has to escort everyone to the Academy (where a civil war is currently going on) before he can start digging into it! And Danzo is definitely the worst. Hopefully he gets his...eventually.

Those-carrots: =)

water Type master: Thanks for the kind words!

smile: Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoy the story!

Guest: Thanks for the kind words! I'm partial to the Kaze no Bakuhatsu myself!

TMariee: I'm continuing! Glad you enjoy the story.

Joshin: Thanks! Hope you enjoyed the chapter.

AquaticSilver: Glad you enjoy the story!

ProphecyEngineAka Veeperz: Thanks for the kind words!

meerastark: You are actually the one reviewer who I can say that I did in fact update it soon to! Thanks for the kind words, and I hope you enjoyed the chapter.