Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto

A/N: First update of the new year. Sorry it took a while. Hope you all enjoy.

Face Up

Suigetsu and his brother were orphans living in Kirigakure. They were the last of the Hozuki Clan, or so they assumed since never in their entire lives had they met anyone else like them, and everyday was a fight for survival.

Or at least everyday would have been if they hadn't lucked out a few years back.

It had all stemmed from a prank. His older brother told him one day that they'd be stealing one of the legendary swords possessed by the Seven Swordsman of Kirigakure. Suigetsu had been worried, afraid even, since his brother's sudden ambition went far beyond breaking into strangers' houses or stealing food from the marketplace. But he trusted his brother. All he had was his brother, so he trusted him.

It was a mistake Suigetsu often repeated and even more often he forgot that Mangetsu was a complete douchebag of an older brother who would abandon him at the first sign of trouble.

Such was how their first attempt to steal a sword went, setting up a poorly prepared ambush for Zabuza using a bucket, glue, and lots of water that ended up with him under the ninja swordsman's boot and Mangetsu making a hasty escape, leaving his little brother at the mercy of one of the most terrifying men in all of Kirigakure.

The way everything turned out in the end still befuddled Suigetsu to this day.

Zabuza hadn't ripped his head off his shoulders or impaled him with his sword (Suigetsu had forgotten that both prospects would not have mattered due to his bloodline in his fear of the situation, but that's neither here nor there) and instead sat the boy down and began pointing out the errors in his and his brother's ambush attempt out of all things. To Suigetsu's further shock, the man had proceeded to actually educate him on the proper ways to set a trap and even taught him a few fighting stances and techniques that would, in his words, "help you last longer if you're ever stupid enough to try and attack one of the Seven Swordsman again".

Against all rhyme and reason, Suigetsu had then decided to try pressing his astounding luck even further and asked Zabuza if he could give the Kubichikouro a few swings.

The boy had nearly broken into hysterics when the man handed him the hilt.

Anger immediately replaced the disbelief when the sword's weight literally tore his hands off when Zabuza handed it off to him. The swordsman laughed as Suigetsu's hands reconstituted, ignoring the boy's angry shouts.

That was when the woman with her green hair tied in braids showed up.

Suigetsu remembered being terrified by the look on the woman's face when Zabuza casually told her what he and his brother tried to attempt. Even though she had been smiling, there had been a heavy pressure in her gaze that made Suigetsu wish that he could've just disappeared on the spot. He had nearly screamed when the woman suddenly dropped Mangetsu in front of him. His brother's face had an odd purple shade to it, almost like he was choking on something. The woman, Mai, had then dragged both Hozuki brothers and forced them to clean up the Mizukage's tower under her surveillance. It had taken hours and they hadn't had an opportunity to escape, and Suigetsu was afraid of provoking a woman who had apparently found a way to catch Mangetsu despite his Kekkai Genkai. And after all was said and done, the woman had smiled a serene smile, handed them a bag of treats and casually told them where to find Zabuza if they ever decided they wanted to try something stupid again.

"Just try not to get caught, or you'll be punished like you were today."

That had been her parting comment before tossing both of them out the door. The brothers had sat motionless in front of the tower for several minutes until Mangetsu declared:

"Tomorrow, we go for Kisame's Sword."

And that was how the Hozuki brothers' daily sword stealing sprees started. In the beginning they were always caught and Mai would force them to do something mundane or labor intensive as punishment, but the routine was accepted in some strange way. There were days when they succeeded, others when they failed but for the past couple years it was how the Hozuki brothers lived day to day. On that day, Suigetsu was convinced that he and his brother had unbelievable luck. Or that their lives had a weird balance of some sort.

Which is why Suigetsu did not find it too hard to believe that after trying to steal food from some new arrivals in that formerly deserted clan district and being caught by some tall, intimidating teenager who could actually HURT him and his brother, not minutes afterward he was sitting in the kitchen of the house he tried to steal from, sitting across from an old guy with red hair who was smiling welcomingly at him.

"So… Suigetsu-kun?" Roshi smiled at the stiff boy. "Aren't you going to eat any of that?"

Oh yeah. The man talking to him had cooked up some fish and rice and had offered it to him. He wasn't sure if it was a trap or not. His life was crazy though. If he hadn't been sure before he was sure of it now, what with this surreal situation.

"You wanted food, right?" Roshi asked the boy, looking perplexed. "It's why you tried stealing from us, right? Doesn't this save you a lot of trouble?"

Suigetsu slowly turned his head towards Mai, who was leaning against the wall and looking quite amused by the whole situation.

"M-Mai-san…?" Suigetsu began shakily. "Is… is this some new form of weird torture you're trying out on me before trying it on rogue ninja?"

"Torture? Now see here, my food isn't that bad!" Roshi said in mock anger. "I am offended! Insulting my cooking is a more grievous crime than stealing! I'm not the chef Han-kun is, but I'm decent enough!"

Suigetsu jumped when he heard someone snort derisively from behind him. It came from the person who currently ranked as his Most Feared Person in the World now.

"You're feeding him." Han stated, rubbing his forehead in frustration as he tried and failed to remember how they had gotten to where they were. "You're feeding a thief. With our food that he was trying to steal."

Han was sure to emphasize his statement.

"Right, and he failed. So I'm giving him a compensation prize." Roshi smiled. "Grilled fish and rice isn't anything grand. It's simple. Simple enough for a loser who couldn't steal a few boxes of food properly."

Despite himself, Suigetsu felt a bit ticked off by that comment. Mai was having a hard time stifling her laughter. Han felt the urge to punch Roshi in his smiling face from earlier that morning return.

"This is unbelievable." Han growled, fed up with the entire situation. "I'm outta here."

Han made a move to leave the kitchen, but found his path blocked by a bandaged face. The Gobi jinchuriki glared at Zabuza who glared right back.

"You don't have permission to leave yet, Han-kun." Mai smiled softly. "The reason we came here was because we wanted to discuss your actions from earlier this morning."

Han only sneered at her in response, shoving past Zabuza and pausing at the door. "…I really am surprised though. I guess the waterboy brothers are proof that some rumors about this place really are exaggerated. After all, if those two little bastards are running around then all that stuff about the Purges was blown way out of proportion."

Letting his comment linger the Gobi jinchuriki took his leave, slamming the door behind him.

"…Kid's got a lot of nerve. Can't tell whether or not I like him." Zabuza smirked. "And he was the one I was supposed to look after?"

"…Are you saying you can't?" Mai asked quietly.

"If you don't mind me beating him into a bloody mess first. I can tell he won't let you put any sort of leash on him if he thinks that's the case." Zabuza replied. "He won't let anyone supervise him, and if I read the report right I doubt he'll need one."

"I see…"

While it was true Han hadn't reacted at all to his demon, that didn't mean he wouldn't in the future. And someone that apathetic and bloodthirsty couldn't be left alone. In an environment like Kirigakure, it would only provoke and encourage those who were looking for trouble. And Kiri was full of people waiting for an excuse to start a fight…

Mai nodded and smiled to herself. "Then other measures will have to be taken so that he at least learns to listen… and that there are certain issues he shouldn't make light of."

Zabuza chuckled a bit at that. The Gobi container had already dug his own grave now that he had gotten on Mai's bad side. Ao's too.

"I should go make my report to the Mizukage. Zabuza, since you won't have to deal with Han any longer finish patrolling the village for me, won't you? You're free to do what you want after that. And Roshi-san?"

"Yes, Mai-san?"

"Once you're finished with Suigetsu feel free to kick him out. I'll find him later."

Suigetsu shivered as Mai and Zabuza both left the building. Roshi chuckled a bit before turning back to observe the youngest Hozuki brother. Suigetsu sat motionless, staring down at the plate of food in front of him. Silence permeated the room.

"You feel uncomfortable around Mai-san?" Roshi asked the boy.

"Her and Ao." Suigetsu found himself replying to the strange man.

"Why is that? Compared to the swordsman, I would think that…"

"My older brother and I got used to the swordsman because of what we do. Sure, they can be scary, but we're not really intimidated by them anymore. Er, except for Kisame." Suigetsu added. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "But Mai is scary because she can hurt us, plus she's the head of T&I in Kirigakure. Ao is just… he can really raise his voice and when he gets serious… there is a reason why all the ninja in Kiri listen to him. Well, the loyal ones, anyway."

"Interesting…" Roshi smiled. "So the Mizukage's advisors must be pretty dependable people…"

"Um… who are you, exactly?" Suigetsu asked suddenly. "I've never seen you around before, or that guy who attack me and my brother. Are you from around here, or…?"

"Ah, ah, before that," Roshi grinned and gestured to the food in front of the boy. "Why don't you sample that first? Don't want to let it get cold, after all."

Tentatively accepting the surreal situation that he was in, Suigetsu took his chopstick and took one bite out of his meal. He chewed slowly, savored the taste, then swallowed. The boy was silent for a few more seconds.

"…It's good." Suigetsu said mildly.

Roshi smiled.

"I'm happy to hear that."

Suigetsu could only manage a weak chuckle in response.

Utakata didn't have a destination in mind after he had stormed out of the bar and away from his not-sensei and her student. His mind was covered in a red haze of anger that would not lift, furious because of Mei's invasion into private matters that should've been left alone. It had only been many couple months since his former sensei's betrayal of his trust, and Utakata had repressed the memory and buried the matter deep within himself, making himself believe that there was never a time when he had called anyone "sensei". He was alone, as he always had been. It was better that way.

The Rokubi's container clenched his fists in frustration when he thought of the swordswoman who had discussed the matter so flippantly, as if she had been talking about the weather instead of something that caused him pain every time it was brought up. And Utakata was an observant person. He saw the way Chojuro acted around Mei and how she teased him in return. Utakata scoffed angrily to himself. The relationship between master and student was a joke. The woman was treating the boy like a lackey, and he was too smitten with the woman to see that. He thought back to the days when he used to think his sensei could do no wrong… he had been just as foolish as Chojuro not too long ago.

As he thought about the swordswoman and her student, Utakata's mind began to drift as he thought of his situation as a whole. Training alongside the other jinchuriki to gain control of the bijuu that were sealed within each of them…

Unlike his fellow jinchuriki, he could easily find his way around Kirigakure because it was his home. It had been some time since he walked the streets of the ninja village, but he was still familiar with it. His growth throughout the years served as his mask to the populace, as none of the villagers recognized the teenager whom they had all mistreated and glared at when he was roaming the streets as a small boy. At least until his sensei had picked him up-

No, he wasn't thinking about that. He was thinking of the other jinchuriki, not him.

To be honest, the shock hadn't quite worn off yet. Completely unprecedented, the Mizukage recalls him to the village despite having no problem with him, the Rokubi container, roaming free throughout the Water country before. Somehow, someway, the Mizukage manages to gather the other seven jinchuriki, individuals who should be under heavy protection by their respective villages and their Kages, or so Utakata had always assumed, and brings them all here together. The Mizukage revealing that he himself is one of the nine jinchuriki, the Sanbi container to be precise, is the cherry on top of it all. And all of this is done in the space of a week…

"...This whole situation is just unbelievable. It's crazy." Utakata groaned as he rubbed his forehead in frustration. "Yet, I agreed to return here and go along with it. Does that make me crazy…?"

Well, initially he only came back to retrieve his bubble blower and confirm for himself that the Mizukage was a jinchuriki, but that was neither here nor there. And Utakata had no idea that he would ever meet any of the other jinchuriki. More surprising was that half of them were younger than him!

And Utakata was very skeptical about the Mizukage's motives. Did the man honestly expect any of them to believe he did all this out of the kindness of his heart? Utakata had been alive during the Kirigakure Civil War, and even though he had been a child at the time he had heard about the cruel, ruthless things Yagura had done during his rise to power. And why now all of sudden, did Yagura decide to help the other jinchuriki and grant them this boon? No, he must have ulterior motives of some kind. He was planning to use the other jinchuriki somehow, but for what…?

No, he'd have to watch his back. Be prepared for any traps and get the hell out of the village if he felt threatened. But at least part of the Mizukage's offer must be genuine if he succeeded in bringing all of them here, and he had even given them a comfortable place to live to boot. He wouldn't trust the man, but Utakata decided that he would stay, learn about how he could control the Rokubi before he-


The Rokubi container snapped out of thoughts when he heard someone call his named. Confused, the boy turned to find a vaguely familiar person making her way towards him.

"Yu… Yugito-san, was it?" Utakata asked as the smaller girl approached.

"Yes! I'm happy you remembered." Yugito smiled. The Nibi jinchuriki fell into step next to him, following alongside him as he walked through the village streets. "I'm also glad I was able to find you. I… I actually got a little lost…"

"Weren't you supposed to be with your sen- er, Ameyuri-san?"

"Ah, I was," Yugito trailed off, looking a little embarrassed. "But… well, Raiga-san wanted to train and I didn't want to be a distraction so I excused myself. Ameyuri-san offered to guide me back, but I declined because I thought I could find my way back to the district we're staying at by myself." The girl stuck her tongue out playfully. "Apparently I thought wrong…"

Yugito's hands came together, looking like they were trying to tie themselves in a knot before Yugito separated them. A nervous gesture, Utakata assumed. It went along with her uneasy expression.

"I hope you don't mind if I tag along with you? You are returning home, right?"

Utakata raised his eyebrows at the girl. She was pretty formal for a girl her age.

"I don't mind." Utakata shrugged. "Do what you want."

"Thank you."

Yugito smiled to herself as she and Utakata walked along the street. The two jinchuriki didn't say a word to each other, though Yugito would glance at the older boy every so often. Yugito fidgeted, wanting to end the uneasy silence. Or was she the only one who felt that way? Maybe Utakata was comfortable without exchanging words between the two of them. She really wanted to get along with the other jinchuriki, and Fu had been… well, Yugito would've liked to believe she was getting somewhere with her. Utakata didn't seem like the talkative type, but…

"Ameyuri-san was really nice." Yugito spoke up, trying to start a conversation. "I thought the Seven Swordsman of the Mist would be more intimidating or scary, but she was very friendly. Raiga-san too. Though Ameyuri-san kept on saying these terrible puns. You should have heard some of them! They were really awful…"

"Huh. That so?"

"Y-Yeah." Yugito faltered. That wasn't much of a response. "Um… what about your sensei? How was sh-"

"She is NOT my sensei." Utakata cut in sharply, making Yugito stiffen at the venom in his tone.

"S-Sorry. I-I shouldn't have said…" Yugito mentally berated herself. "Do… do you not like Mei-san?"

Utakata's dark expression answered that question. Yugito fumbled around, trying to salvage the conversation as best she could.

"So, um, Kirigakure is a lot different than Kumogakure," Yugito smiled. "It was really crowded back in Kumo and people were always talking. We've also got a pretty large military, so you could always see ninja patrolling around the village. I had heard Kirigakure has a pretty strong military, but I've only seen a few walking around. And there aren't many people around either…"

"You've heard the rumors about this place, haven't you?" Utakata asked.

"Well, yes, but I don't really pay attention to rumors. Most turn out to be false or exaggerated." Yugito replied. "That stuff about the Mizukage and the Purges isn't all true… right?"

"Village of the Bloody Mist. That was the nickname Kirigakure got once Yagura became the fourth Mizukage." Utakata said. "Well, it had already been referred to as such during the Civil War but the name was set in stone after once Yagura took over. Just look around, what do you see?"

Yugito took a moment to glance around the area. When she compared it to Kumo the village looked to be of low quality. Buildings worn down, dirty streets, people with frantic, hunted expressions…

"People live comfortably so long as they keep to themselves, but I remember a time where people made a habit of using the Genjutsu Dissipation technique on the hour, just to make sure they were living in reality or confirming that they weren't being attacked." Utakata explained, impassive even while Yugito stared at him in shock. "That was back during the Civil War, and people only began to relax after Yagura took over. Even then, people still don't feel safe. You can tell just by looking at some of the villagers, can't you?"

"But, Yagura-san, the Mizukage-"

"The rumors you've heard aren't all exaggerations. Some may even be spot on."


"But you don't need to worry about it so much." Utakata shrugged. "I hear Ao, who's head of the Kirigakure ninja force, does a pretty good job of rooting out anyone who's really dangerous. And Kiri's fearsome reputation is intimidating enough to keep anyone from trying anything. Most people are scared of the Mizukage too…" Utakata sighed. "Look, Kirigakure is far from a safe place, but you'll be okay after getting used to the place. Just be careful."

Utakata fell silent after that. He continued his trek back to the clan district with the Nibi container walking beside him.

Yugito did not try to strike up conversation again.

Bee had to admit that Kirigakure was a pretty refreshing place to be. After saying goodbye to Jinpachi and thanking him for the meal he'd provided Bee had decided to explore the village. It was quieter than Kumo and the people were even more so, but Bee liked it. He was glad that no one knew about him here, but he was disappointed that no one knew him here.

There were two different ways people knew him. Here, there was a chance for people know him HOW he wanted them to know him rather than from the knowledge that he was a jinchuriki.

Happily humming a beat to himself while thinking of the best way to leave his mark on Kirigakure, Bee didn't notice the teenager running in his direction until the boy collided with him, sending both of them to the ground.

"Gah! What that hell?!"

"Hey, hey! Watch where you're running, man!" Bee snapped as he picked himself up off the ground. He blinked and glanced down at his suddenly damp shirt. Had something gotten spilled on it…?

"Ah? If someone is running down the road you make way, you don't stand there like a moron and let the guy crash into you!"

"And you couldn't just run around me?"

"And break my rhythm?"

Bee opened his mouth to retort, but closed it when he noticed the boy's features. He looked awfully familiar… like he had seen this guy earlier before…

"That's it!" Bee suddenly remembered. "You're one of the Hozuki brothers!"

"Heh. So you know me?" The teen smirked, standing up straight and flipping his white hair back in an arrogant gesture. "It's only natural. Everyone should be aware of my rising legend as I work my way up the ranks."

"Yeah! You're Suigetsu, right?"

"IT'S MANGETSU!" The oldest Hozuki brother bellowed. "Don't mix me up with my annoying twerp of a little brother! We look nothing alike!"

"Sorry, sorry! You are brothers, and you do look…"

"No, see, I'm way older than him. And more skilled. And better looking. And… and… we are completely different people!"

"Whatever you say, water guy." Bee grinned. He glanced around, searching for the little brother. "Say, where is your brother anyway?"

"He's… no longer with me."

Bee blinked when he heard that. Mangetsu turned away and bowed his head. He couldn't mean…

"He sacrificed himself so I could get away…" Mangetsu muttered.

"No way… one of the swordsman got him…?" Bee breathed.

"Nah. Some new guy with these steam powers. He could hurt us and when we tried to get away…" Mangetsu trailed off. "He's probably still in that guy's clutches, being tortured as we speak…"

"So he's still alive then?!" Bee exclaimed, grabbing Mangetsu by the shoulders. "You gotta save him!"

"Tch. You think it's that easy?" Mangetsu scoffed. "You should've seen this guy. He was huge! His face looked like it belonged to a demon. And his powers… alone I can't-"

"You ain't alone!"

Mangetsu's eyes widened at that. Bee stepped back and gestured to himself with a smirk.

"The great Killer Bee's got your back. I'm a hero known far a wide all over-!"

"I haven't heard to you."

"…Back where I come from!" Bee finished. "If I'm to spread my name here, rescuing your little brother seems like a good way to get started!"

"…You're really not from around here, are you? In Kirigakure everyone looks out for themselves. What are you planning? Do you get something out of helping me?" Mangetsu asked with raised eyebrows.

"What I'm planning is to help you rescue your sibling. And what do I get out of it?" Bee smirked and struck a pose. "Just givin' you the chance to see the Killer Bee's might in the fight!"

Mangetsu stared at the Hachibi jinchuriki for a few moments before smirking at him.

"Eh, what the hell. This'll make an interesting chapter what the legend of the greatest Mist Swordsman is written on paper." Mangetsu smirked.

Bee's eyes widened when Mangetsu extended his fist towards him.

"Alright then, Killer Bee." Mangetsu smirked. "Let us go and set my brother free."

With a smile that threatened to split his face in two, Bee returned the fist bump Mangetsu had offered him and the two set of on their epic adventure to rescue the youngest Hozuki sibling.

It had been one of the best ramen lunches he had ever had, Naruto decided. Not because it had been the tastiest ramen he'd ever had, because barring Han's breakfast ramen nothing compared to Ichiraku's, but because he had people to share it with.

Not too long after he and Kisame had sat down at the ramen stand Kisame had picked out, Gaara had suddenly popped up and took a seat next to him, looking like he had just seen a ghost and was on the verge of tears because it had scared him so bad. Not too long after that another swordsman, Jinin, Naruto remembered correctly, had joined in on their lunch, ordering several bowls of ramen for himself. The man was a big eater according to Kisame, but Naruto wouldn't be beat when it came to inhaling copious amounts of ramen.

Unfortunately, Naruto was forced to forfeit the match that hadn't been happening due to Kisame's mentioning that he'd only pay for one bowl.

Jinin offering to pay for two more bowls had assuaged him somewhat.

"Naruto, was it?" Jinin grinned as he pushed away his empty bowl. "So you say you want to become a ninja?"

"Yep!" Naruto beamed. Jinin was much more positive in response to his ambition than Kisame had been. "I've wanted to be a ninja for a long time now!"

"Well, I like you're enthusiasm!" Jinin smiled. "If you work hard and train I'll bet you'd make a fine ninja!"

"Thanks!" Naruto grinned. A thought suddenly occurred to him. "Hey, how old do you have to be to enter the ninja academy in Kirigakure? If it was Konoha I could start going now but what's it like here?"

"Kirigakure doesn't have a ninja academy."

Naruto turned towards Kisame in shock. "You don't? Then how do you become a ninja?"

"Ao is head ninja around here. He organizes the military and trains the newbies who show up. Practically anyone can join in, they just have to show up at the lake a couple days a week to receive training. If someone stands up or feels confident enough, you take a test and receive a forehead protector if you pass. There's really not much more to it than that." Kisame said.

"It's similar in Sunagakure." Gaara spoke up from beside Naruto. "My… my uncle told me once that the village council drafts a certain amount of people who receive training that lasts a few months, and at the end of it all everyone takes a test and those who pass become ninja. Those who don't are just civilians."

"Not all the other villages are as prosperous as Konoha or Kumo, who can spare the resources to successfully run an academy to train aspiring ninja." Kisame went on. "Iwa is more similar to us in how they get ninja, and those with Kekkai Genkai get special treatment."

"Like the Blast Corps?" Jinin clarified. Kisame nodded at that.

"Really, if you want to be a ninja nothing's stopping you," Kisame chuckled darkly. "And in Kiri, it's way better than being a villager. Then again, you gotta make sure you're at least competent if you don't want to be treated like a civilian…"

"Is it… bad to be a villager?" Gaara asked.

"Ah, it's not bad!" Jinin cut in, glaring at Kisame who smirked in response. "It's just some of the ninja in Kiri are a little… rude to the villagers. Ao-san does his best to root out the thugs but we've got a few arrogant brats in our ranks that don't know the first thing about respect."

"That's one way to put it." Kisame laughed.

Naruto what the two swordsmen were saying both interesting and confusing. Back in Konoha, the villagers had always been the jerks while ninja were the nice ones. Well, some of them anyway. There were plenty of ninja who had attacked him, but then there was the Hokage at that ANBU that had helped him that one time, and the woman with the markings on her cheeks…

"Why do you want to be a ninja anyway, Naruto?" Jinin asked, quirking an eyebrow when Kisame laughed again.

"Because ninja can use all kinds of cool jutsu and walk on trees and other awesome stuff! Plus everyone respects them and they get to go on missions!" Naruto glanced at Kisame who was only smiling. Naruto narrowed his eyes at him for a moment before turning back to Jinin. "And the only way I can accomplish my dream is if I'm a ninja."

"A dream, eh? I think I remember you mentioning something like that earlier today." Jinin said. "What's this dream of yours, boy?"

Naruto grinned and puffed up a bit. His dream? That was obvious.

"My dream is to become the greatest Hokage ever!"

Naruto faltered when he heard Kisame laughing again. It was the laughing fit from before, but it was still incredulous and mocking. Naruto rounded on the blue man and glared at him.

"What's so funny now?!"

"Oh, nothing. Just though I should point this out," Kisame grinned. "You said you wanted to be the 'Hokage', right?"

"That's right!" Naruto paused. "…You don't think I can do it?"

"It's not that." Kisame shook his head in the negative, still smiling. "It's just I don't see how you're going to become the Hokage when you're here in Kirigakure. The leader around here is called the Mizukage."


Naruto actually thought about that statement. Kisame was right. He wasn't in Konoha anymore. That meant… that meant if he stayed he couldn't become the Hokage. And he didn't want to leave. Here he actually had people who understood him, and he had Gaara! His very first friend ever! And who knew how long it would take to become the Hokage…

"...Can I still be a ninja?" Naruto ventured in an uncertain tone.

"Of course you can!" Jinin shouted, making Gaara jump next to him. "Just because you can't become Hokage doesn't mean you should give up being a ninja!"

"And being a Kage isn't all that great." Kisame put in. "Zabuza and Mei might have different opinions on that, but it's way more fun just being a ninja. You won't be stuck in an office all day and you can actually doing something instead growing stagnant while filling out mountains of paperwork 'till you're old and gray."

"Then I'll be the best ninja in Kirigakure!" Naruto proclaimed. It hurt to admit he couldn't be Hokage anymore, but he could always go back to Konoha when he was older. Maybe he could be Hokage then? It wasn't like his Jiji was getting any younger.

The old man was probably the only person Naruto missed after leaving with Yagura. He wondered how the old Kage was holding up. Hopefully he wouldn't be missed too badly! He knew the old man got lonely sometimes.

"Wonderful!" Jinin bellowed. "And if a ninja is what you wish to be, then I can help grant you that! I can take you on as my apprentice next to Gaara here!"

"Eh? But I'm not-!" Gaara began, only to be cut off by his enthusiastic friend.

"Really?! That's great! Did you hear that, Gaara? We'll train together! We'll be like a real ninja squad!" Naruto said excitedly.

"Don't get your hopes up, kid." Kisame said. "Jinin is a forgetful geezer who can't teach anyone to save his life. He can take directions just fine, but he can't give them. I sooner ask a drunken Mei to teach me how to do a simple Transformation jutsu than ask Jinin. He'll likely just shout what he thinks are encouraging words and hope you pick things up on your own."

Gaara glanced at Kisame for a moment, then Jinin, then back to Kisame. Finally, the young jinchuriki turned towards Naruto with a serious expression.

"He's right."

"Gah! Where do you get off filling MY apprentice's head with these lies, Kisame?!" Jinin roared, slamming his hands on the counter. "I get no respect from you! Same with Kushimaru and Zabuza! None at all! I would make a wonderful teacher! If Ameyuri-chan and Mei-chan can do it then there's no reason I can't!"

"Yeah. Right." Kisame chuckled. The Samehada wielder stood up from his seat and paid for his bowl. "You don't mind if I leave Naruto to you, right? I've got other things to attend to so I'm leaving it up to you to safely get him back to wherever the Mizukage decided to put the jinchuriki. See you around."

"Wait, Kisame-sensei!" Naruto called after the man as he departed. "You're really not going to train me?"

"I'm not your sensei, kid. Like I said, I'm just supposed to check on you from time to time to make sure you ain't causing any trouble. Nothing more." Kisame replied with an annoyed scoff. He gave a small smirk as he added, almost as an afterthought, "And to be honest, I'm kind of a picky guy. I won't just teach any random kid my techniques. Well, I'll be seeing you around, I guess."

Raising his hand in a gesture of farewell, Kisame disappeared into the mist.

"Ah, don't mind him, Naruto." Jinin told the boy who looked very depressed. "That's just how Kisame is. And if he won't teach you anything, I'd be more than happy to!"

"But he said you're a terrible teacher…"

"A-And I insisted those were just lies! Don't tell me you believe that man over me?!"

"Is being a ninja really that important to you, Naruto?" Gaara asked.

"Well… yeah. I can't remember wanting to be anything else." Naruto replied with a smile. "Don't you want to be a ninja too, Gaara?"

"Ah, well, that's…"

Gaara hadn't really given it much thought. He was the Kazekage's son, but he had never had any formal training. His sand was capable of blocking anything so training never seemed high on his priorities, let alone becoming a ninja. But now with his seal fixed up by the Mizukage, the sand didn't follow him anymore. He didn't have any of his father's men trying to assassinate him anymore. There was no reason to try and be a ninja, but there was no reason not to try either. Still…

"...I guess I could be a ninja, maybe?" Gaara said it like he was asking for permission.

"Yeah! We'll both be ninja!" Naruto smiled at his friend. "We'll become the best ninja ever, and everyone will like us!"

"Everyone… will like us?"

That… that actually sounded really nice…


"Yeah. Why? You know this place?"

Bee was staring at the front of the entrance to the district he and the other jinchuriki were staying at. And Mangetsu claimed that his brother was being held captive by someone here? Was it one of the other jinchuriki? Why had Mangetsu and Suigetsu been here in the first place?

Well, now wasn't the time to think about it. Bee told Mangetsu he would help him rescue his brother so that's what he was going to do.

"Yeah, I know about it." Bee replied. "Here, let's go around. We can sneak in that way."


The duo went around the district and climbed the wall. Landing in the underbrush of the backyard, the two teens used a minor Veil technique to hide their presence. Slowly slinking through the grass, they came in to face the back of the main house.

"We can get in through the back door here." Bee said quietly, gesturing to the sliding door.

"Great. How are we gonna do this?" Mangetsu whispered back.

"Well, we want to avoid whoever caught your brother for starters."

"Oh yeah, definitely. He catches us and I'm a goner."

"So we'll stay hidden. That way we can avoid him."

"Sounds good. Who are we avoiding?"

"Huh? You mean you don't know? You just said we can't let him catch us."

"Eh? I didn't say that…"

Bee and Mangetsu froze and turned their heads to the side.

Roshi smiled at the two of them from where he hid next to them.

"How's it going?"

Both Bee and Mangetsu's screams scattered crows into the air while the setting sun cast down upon them.

After spending the entire afternoon with the Nanabi jinchuriki, Kushimaru decided that he really was no good with kids. He had gotten carried away with his sewing and had been engrossed to the point where Fu had wandered off without him noticing. After an hour of searching he had spotted her close by the marketplace, staring at the food stands with desire in her eyes. He had bought her a snack, but the girl hadn't thanked him or seemed very satisfied with the dango he had gotten her. After several more failed attempts at conversation, the swordsman had decided to take Fu home. The sun was setting by the time he dropped her off, but Kushimaru was surprised by what he saw when he got to the district.

Mangetsu and Suigetsu stood at the entrance, staring up at the tall swordsman.

Kushimaru stared back.

"…What are you two doing here?" Kushimaru asked the two Hozuki brothers after a few moments of silence.

Mangetsu's face seemed to pale while Suigetsu kept a weird expression on his face. The older Hozuki brother shook his head before giving the man a tired half smile.

"Just… getting to know the new guys…" Mangetsu drawled. "Didn't know anyone was staying here until today. Who are they, anyway?"

"Associates of the Mizukage. Nothing more."

"Uh-huh…" Mangetsu didn't sound like he believed that, but gave a light shrug as if dismissing the importance of the matter.


Both Mangetsu and Suigetsu seemed to stiffen at the Yonbi container's jovial voice as the man approached them. Roshi squatted down and smiled at Fu who stood by Kushimaru's side. The girl glared at him.

"Did you have fun with Kushimaru-san, Fu-chan?" Roshi asked with a grin.


Kushimaru gave a dry, empty chuckle at the girl's quick and blunt answer. He really was no good with kids…

"Ahaha… that's a shame then!" Roshi laughed, reaching forward to ruffle the small girl's hair before she batted his hand away. Not letting it bother him, Roshi continued to smile. "Yugito-chan and I already started cooking dinner. She, Bee and Utakata-kun have already returned. Why don't you join them in the kitchen?"

"…Why should I?"

"Don't you want any food?"

The way the girl's eyes lit up and the way she took off towards the main building could probably be translated as a yes. Roshi stood back up and glanced up at the taller man before him.

"Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to take care of her."

"I'll check up on her when I can," Kushimaru said with a resigned sigh. "But keep in mind the swordsman won't always have free time. I'm sure most of you can take care of yourselves, but if we're not around then-"

"Ah, don't worry about that!" Roshi grinned, reaching up and patting the swordsman on the shoulder. "We're guests here! I'll make sure they don't cause too much trouble."

The expressionless mask Kushimaru wore didn't give anything away, but the man nodded regardless and disappeared in a puff of smoke. As soon as the man left, another familiar voice came from down the street.


The older jinchuriki smiled when he saw a shock of blond hair racing down the street towards him. He also noticed another smaller figure with red hair being tugged along by the exuberant Kyuubi jinchuriki. And not too far behind them was Jinin, huffing and puffing as he struggled to keep up with the two children. Naruto stopped and smiled up at the Yonbi container, opening his mouth to speak but paused when Roshi held up a finger.

"Why don't we talk over dinner? I'm sure the others will want to hear about your day too." Roshi smiled.

"Okay! C'mon Gaara!"

Gaara yelped as he was pulled along by his friend while Jinin stopped at the entrance, placing his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath.

"Huff… huff… haaa… these kids got a lot of energy," Jinin puffed. "And I'm not the best runner either…"

"And you'll be dealing with them for a while, I'm sure." Roshi grinned. "Don't get too in over your head. I suppose it's a benefit that we're all stamina freaks given our condition, but it might make it hard for others to keep up with us."

"Tch. Don't be so sure." Jinin scoffed, standing upright and smirking confidently. "Age can be more of benefit than youth, Roshi-san. And I've got plenty to teach these kids if they want to become ninja!"


"That's right! It's heartening to see a kid as young as him with a goal in mind and the will to pursue it." Jinin grinned. "And if Kisame will not guide him, then I must do so instead!"

"You're referring to Naruto?"

"And Gaara. Both will make fine ninjas if they work at it." Jinin sighed and looked up at the sky. "Still, it's best if I take my leave. I have a few reports to make and things to discuss with the other swordsmen. Good night, Roshi-san."

Roshi watched Jinin depart before arching an eyebrow at the two other children who hadn't moved from their spot just beyond the gate to the district.

"You two are still here?"

Mangetsu and Suigetsu both glared at Roshi for the offhand way he said it. Mangetsu would have commented on the flippant remark if someone else hadn't interrupted him first.

"Yo, Mangetsu!"

Suigetsu glanced at his brother to see the teen grin as the strange guy who had shown up with him earlier approached them. Bee smiled at the older Hozuki brother.

"You guys aren't gonna stay for dinner."

"Nah. I'd say the haul we got is pretty good." Mangetsu replied, gesturing to the bags of food he was carrying. He had been "rewarded" the same way Suigetsu had been for his failed ambush. He had already accepted the situation for what it was and moved past it much faster than his little brother had. The events following Roshi sneaking up on him and Bee had been… interesting, but he had gotten food for it as was his original goal for looting the place anyway. "Besides, I wanna get out of here before that guy from before gets back."

"You mean Han?" Bee asked.

"Tall, dark and scary? Yeah."

Roshi chuckled at Mangetsu's fitting description of Han. Indeed, the Gobi container had yet to return. And it was probably best for the Hozuki brothers disappeared before he reappeared.

"So, you guys all live here, huh?" Mangetsu asked, glancing behind be to observe the district and impressive main building.

"We're gonna be sticking around here for a while, yeah." Bee said.

"Well, you guys sure got the VIP treatment. I hear that place used to belong to some pretty esteemed clan before they were all knocked off. It looked good before, but now that it's all refurbished it looks even better." Mangetsu said.

"Really? What clan did it belong to?"

"Dunno. Not point in keeping track of what belonged to the dead." Mangetsu shrugged. "So, what'd you name it?"

"Name what?"

"The district." Mangetsu pointed out. "Now that it's just you guys living here, doesn't it need a new name?"

"Hm…" Bee rubbed his chin as he thought about it. "You think so?"


Bee and Mangetsu both turned towards Roshi when he said the word. Mangetsu gave Roshi an odd look. "Kubu? That's what you're naming it?"

"Why not?" Roshi grinned. "It's short, simple and fits well with those who live here."

"Whatever." Mangetsu shook his head and grinned at Bee. "Well, we're gonna head out. See you around, Bee."

"Yeah… yeah!" Bee smiled widely at the other boy. "See you around, partner!"

Mangetsu chuckled to himself before he and his brother headed down the street. Roshi smiled at Bee's happy expression.

"Make a new friend already?"

"I think so…" Bee said, frowning once before pulling a smile back onto his face. "Kirigakure ain't so bad if it's got funny guys like those two roaming around."

"They certainly showed us how entertaining things can be." Roshi grinned.

Of course, while Roshi could agree that Kirigakure had some good points it was only their first day. It didn't hurt to be optimistic, but this was still the "Village of the Bloody Mist". Roshi wondered just how many rumors they would find to be true during their stay here…

"Hey, Roshi?"


"I just realized why you named the district Kubu." Bee smiled. "It means nine parts. Pretty fitting, like you said."

"I'm glad you think so too, Bee-kun." Roshi chuckled. "Now come on. We had better get inside before Naruto or Fu decide they don't want to wait for us and take our plates for themselves.

"Ha! You got that right!"

Roshi sighed wistfully to himself and Bee ran off back into the main house. The older container was left alone to organize his thoughts. He was happy, no doubt about that. This was quite possibly the greatest thing that he could've ever hoped to happen to him. Leaving his country to start fresh, cooperating and associating with the Mizukage, meeting all of the other jinchuriki… who would've thought? From a tragic childhood, strained teenage years, then wasting away his time as an early adult before waking up and accepting reality for what it was… to be given a second chance like this was almost to good to be true. Not only that, but for the first time Roshi finally felt like he was among those who could understand him. The other eight knew what it was like. There would be no reason to keep secrets anymore, right?

But a part of him was suspicious, almost hesitant to embrace these new circumstances. The cynical, broken part of his mind kept telling him that he was being deceived, that he couldn't live with the other jinchuriki, that he and the others were a lost cause, that hoping to turn their group into something like a "family" Roshi had always dreamed of being a part of was stupid and naïve. That cold side of him that had been created as a means to cope with the torment and abuse that came with being a jinchuriki kept telling him that this was all a lie. A trap. It was unfathomable that a jinchuriki could ever really be happy.

Roshi shook his head at those thoughts. It might take time for him and the others to adjust, but couldn't he be confident that this was the one time someone did something for them out of the kindness of their heart? Couldn't he believe Yagura did what he did because he understood them? Even so…

"Hah… I wonder how long this will last…?" Roshi wondered. "This is such a massive change. All our lives we've been faced with hate and prejudice from those around us. I'm probably not the only one who thinks this is too good to be true."

It may have seemed like a strange thing to get used to, but the world had made him quite jaded. He was sure it would take time for some of the others, especially Han or Fu, to get used to the idea that they didn't have to put on a front or feel like the entire world was antagonizing them anymore.

He had already learned all about the other jinchuriki from Yagura. There wasn't a thing Yagura knew about the other seven that Roshi himself did not. He knew about Gaara's relationship with his father and the assassination attempts he had been victim to, the most recent before his arrival here from his own dear uncle. He knew about Yugito and Bee's treatment in Kumogakure and how much pressure the Raikage put on them, Bee most of all. He knew about Fu's distrust and hate of those around her from living her life on the streets and that she was a small girl ignorant of what most would consider common knowledge. He knew not to mention the word "sensei" around Utakata so as not to anger or remind him of the betrayal he had been faced with months ago. He knew about Han's absolute loathing and hatred for humanity as a whole and how strong and bloodthirsty the teen could be, so much so that he found pleasure in making those around him feel helpless or intimidated. And he knew about Naruto and how he had grown up as the pariah of Konohagakure, hated by every villager and provided with little to no protection from the Hokage despite the man's good intentions.

Roshi suddenly realized in his moment of reflection that Yagura had neglected to tell him anything about himself while Roshi had given him his entire backstory. He'd have to fix that sometime in the future since he was quite curious about the young Mizukage…

And there was more to them than just their flaws or their status as jinchuriki. Bee was a amicable lad who enjoyed a strange way of speech and song, Yugito was a young girl too polite for her own good, Fu was a VERY big eater despite her small, thin frame, and Naruto was the happiest boy Roshi had ever met. He hadn't nailed down Gaara, Utakata, or Han's quirks quite yet, but he would find out more about them and find out even more about the others in the coming days.

But it was these traits that proved they were just as human as anyone else. Despite housing demons in their bodies, they all had habits, personalities and feelings of their own.

Roshi smiled to himself as he made his way back to the main house. Admittedly, he was a bit worried. Though at the same time he was hopeful. Finally, this was the chance to find his place in life. To feel at home and at ease without being hated by anyone.

He just hoped the other jinchuriki would get used to him and each other quickly.

Han yawned as he made his way through the forest. Nighttime had fallen on Kirigakure as a thin mist had settled onto the forest. Growing up in a dry environment for most of his life Han knew it would take time to get used to the damp atmosphere and constant mist that Kirigakure was known for. It wasn't like he was bothered too much by it, but it was just different.

After exploring most of the village for the afternoon and memorizing its layout, he had spent the rest of the day exploring the area surrounding the village. Thick forests surrounded most of the north and west borders of the village while marshes and swamps were located in the south. The east area was much more clean and open by comparison, and Han assumed that the trails he had found would lead to the ocean or smaller port villages near the coast. He would have to venture down there a take a look around for himself one of these days. But he had done nothing but walk around all day so he was fine turning in for now.

Han frowned as he thought about returning to the district. Part of him had debated camping outside like he was used to rather than return to the house where all the other jinchuriki were. He really didn't want to live with any of them for more than a week, but he wasn't going to sacrifice a chance to sleep in a comfortable, cook good meals, relax in hot springs and work on his armor in peace just because he didn't want to deal with the annoying ones.

He was thinking about Bee, Roshi and Naruto in particular.

The Gobi jinchuriki stopped and grumbled to himself in annoyance. He turned his head and glared at a collection of trees for a few moments before a feminine voice chuckled from behind them.

"My, my… so you noticed me?"

Han sneered as Mai stepped out from behind the trees he was glaring at. "If that's your attempt to stay hidden you really are a terrible ninja. The Mizukage can't find good help to save his life."

The woman frowned at Han's mocking tone. The boy didn't show any respect, no matter who the person was. Mai opened her mouth to speak, but Han beat her to it.

"If the next words out of your mouth are sound something like, "is that any way to speak about the person who helped you" I don't want to hear it."

Mai's eyebrow twitched. No respect at all.

Maybe Kisame should've been assigned to look after this one instead…

"So what do you want?" Han asked, arching an eyebrow at the woman. "Sneaking up on me in the dead of night like this… did my comments from earlier really bother you that much?"

"You shouldn't speak about such matters lightly when you don't understand them." Mai insisted with a glare of her own. "The Mizukage did what he did for the sake of Kirigakure, and you should be more appreciative about what he's doing. Have you any right to complain after what he's provided you and the others with?"

"Yeah, I'm sure." Han scoffed, rolling his eyes as he said so. "Hey, don't get me wrong. Coming here definitely got the Iwa ninja off my back and I doubt any of them would be stubborn enough to follow me here, but do you honestly expect me to believe your Mizukage has no ulterior motives for gathering all of us up?"

"He doesn't." Mai replied. "He did this not for his benefit but because he wants to help-"

"Is this really all you came to do? To preach about your precious Mizukage's goodwill and tell me to stop bringing up points about Kirigakure's past that can be looked up in a history book?" Han gave a derisive snort at that. "Then you should know I don't give two shits about anything you have to say, woman. I understand the situation perfectly. I know the Mizukage brought us all here for a reason. Somehow, he's doing this for his own benefit. At least I can come clean and say I only came here for my own benefit, not because I feel indebted to the Mizukage for "saving me"," Han raised his fingers in quotation. "I came here because I can work in relative peace. As soon as my armor's done I'm outta here. And if the Mizukage thinks he can use me for whatever he's planning, you run back to him and tell him he can take his goodwill and shove it. I'll listen to him if I want, but I won't take orders from you, the swordsmen or anyone else."

Mai's expression was hard and her glare was piercing. When she spoke, her words were cool as ice. "Disrespecting me and the swordsmen is one thing… I will not tolerate disrespect towards the Mizukage."

"Oh yeah?" Han smirked. "And what are you going to do about it, bitch?"

Han's smirk grew when he heard the sound of metal cutting through the air towards him. The Gobi jinchuriki ducked as the four shuriken thrown flew over his head. He kept low to the ground and charged forward, swinging his arm in a sweeping motion to take Mai's legs out from under her. She jumped back to avoid the attack, causing Han's smirk to become feral when she did exactly as he had anticipated. Using the momentum from his charge, Han kicked up and swept two long steps forward, driving his shoulder into the woman's stomach.

Mai gasped and coughed and the wind was driven out of her stomach, her eyes wide at the speed at which Han moved and how quickly he had followed up his attack. She realized in that moment that she had been wrong to think the reports from those who had survived encounters with the Gobi container were exaggerated. She had already finished making the necessary hand seals for a Replacement jutsu as Han's fist smashed into her neck.

Han clicked his tongue in annoyance when Mai disappeared in a puff of smoke, rendering the attack that should have caved in her throat ineffective. He stepped back to avoid a hail of kunai that came down on him from above, raising his hand at the same time to ward off the attack that followed. Mai's wakizashi missed its mark as Han batted away the wrist the held it, though Han had to jump back to avoid the two water clones that followed up the attack with their own swords. Han grimaced as he avoided the sword thrusts and sweeps that came in pairs of three. They were fast, but Han saw his opportunity when one of the clones lined up in front of him. Almost like a rocket had been launched Han's foot shot forward, a burst of steam left in the place where his leg had once been, kicking through the water clone and dispersing it. At the same time Han grabbed onto the face of the second water clone, smashing its face into the ground and dispelling it as well. Grabbing a fistful of mud that had been produced from the water clone's remains mixing with dirt, Han flung it at Mai's face. The woman yelped in surprise at the dirty tactic, the moist dirt completely covering her face as Han grinned manically and drove his fist forward.

His eyes widened when the woman exploded into water. That hadn't been the real one.

Han growled and swung his leg in an arc, warding off Mai who had crept up from behind him. Using his special jutsu, Han gathered pressure in his fist and released it in one burst upon striking forward. A blast of hot air slammed into Mai, throwing her off balance. Reacting quickly before she could be caught in another charge, Mai threw the senbon she had been holding onto. Han stepped to the side, letting the sharp needles pepper the tree behind him. Suspicious, he gently plucked one out of the bark and inspected the tip.

"Poison…" Han grinned, tossing the needle aside. "Trying to kill me?"

"You're one to talk. Several of your strikes would have been killing blows." Mai said, causing Han eliciting a bark of laughter from the Gobi container. "This is only punishment. A lesson, if you prefer. I'm only trying to incapacitate you."

"That makes me feel so much better." Han replied sarcastically before moving forward again.

It was nothing but melee combat from that point. Han pressed his advantages in height and power, trying to drive Mai into a corner but the woman was nimble and kept dodging, striking at him with poisoned senbon she held between her fingers like claws. Han was very careful to avoid them. Han's leg struck out and as Mai moved to avoid it he threw his body forward, catching the woman and bringing her to the ground. Han grabbed a rock from nearby, clutching it in his fist and swung down the improvised weapon on Mai's face.

Han gave a frustrated shout when the clone collapsed into a puddle of water. Snarling, he made a few a hand signs before several senbon buried themselves into his back. In a puff of smoke, a log with several senbon needles piercing the bark was left in Han's place.

Mai's eyebrows went up when she saw Han disappear. She shouldn't have been surprised that he was capable of more than just the steam techniques she'd seen him exhibit but it was still odd to see for some reason. Even so, Mai couldn't help but give her compliments to him. He was efficient and brutal in a fight, no doubt the skills he had were tested and honed on those that had come after him in the past. Mai stood still behind the tree she hid behind, careful not to make a sound. Where did he go…?


Mai only had enough time to turn around before a strong arm caught her by the throat and slammed her against the tree she had been hiding behind. Her feet dangled an inch or two off the ground as Han's arm kept her pressed against the tree. Han's dark eyes bored into Mai's hazel ones. The woman smirked slightly even as Han pressed on her throat.

"Not bad…" Mai wheezed. "You are adaptable and cunning… plus you fight dirty. No wonder you were able to survive so long…"

"Bitch, please. Don't preach to me about that too." Han smirked. Mai winced as he pressed harder against her throat. "We're ninja! There's no such thing as fighting fair. Those guys in Konoha and Kumo and some back in Iwa may go on about honor in battle but I didn't think Kiri had anyone who thought like that! Honor and fairness means nothing if you want to survive in this world. You humans are idiots to think anything different."

Han's eyes narrowed when he heard Mai croak a laugh in response. He eased his grip a bit so she could speak.

"What's so funny?"

"The way you said humans…" Mai replied with a smile. "You make it sound like you're not one yourself."

"I'm not."

"Then what would you call yourself?"

"I am what the world sees me as." Han smirked. "Just a demon. A beast hunting down prey to survive. That's who I am. It's how I've lived my life. So I'm not human."

Mai closed her eyes when she heard his answer. Was that warped attitude some sort of acceptance he had come to because of his jinchuriki status? Han claimed not to be human, but to be a beast who killed humans, prey, in order to survive.

Well, he certainly fought like a beast…

"I learned something interesting about you tonight." Mai smiled. "I can't wait to see what else I'll find out during your stay here."

The Gobi container blinked in confusion at the woman's words. He had her at his mercy, in a position where she would be killed. She really didn't think he'd let her go, did she?

Unfortunately, Han had forgotten he had loosened his grip on the woman and it only took a second for him to remember. It took two seconds for Mai to lean her face towards his and another three seconds before Han realized what the sensation he felt. Giving a strangled cry, Han jumped away from Mai, separating their lips from each other and scrambling across the ground to get away from her.

"W-W-W-W-WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!" Han screamed before spitting and rubbing his lips furiously enough to peel the skin.

"Fighting dirty." Mai said cheerfully as she tenderly rubbed her neck. She giggled at Han's over the top reaction to her "attack". "You know, for someone who calls himself a beast you seem quite shy about a small kiss…"

"More like disgusted!" Han spat. "Seriously, what the FUCK?!"

"Oh, stop it. You were the one throwing mud and rocks during a fight. What was that you said about no honor?"

"That has nothing to do with this! That was just-?!"

Han gasped as pain overwhelmed his senses. It felt like his bones and organ were being ripped and torn by hundreds of tiny knives, and the pain was enough to bring him to his knees. Han clutched at his chest as his breathing became ragged and harsh. His pain could not be measured in degrees and it was unlike anything he had felt before. He couldn't even channel chakra or bring himself to move.

"You know, most poisons wouldn't work on jinchuriki."

Han felt both anger and dread when he heard Mai speak.

"Dammit…! What did… you do to me…?!"

Mai ignored him and continued her speech.

"Normally, your bijuu's chakra would react to any foreign presence in your body. The bijous chakra is capable of searching for and destroying any harmful substances in your body that would kill anyone else." Mai explained. "Trust me, it took time. Years even. But Yagura was cautious and more than willing to be a test subject to find a poison capable of stopping a jinchuriki. He wanted to find a way to limit his demon, fight against it whenever it tried to exert control." Mai smiled to herself. "To this day I'm flattered by the trust Yagura-kun put in me when he asked me to create a poison capable of killing him."

She spoke calmly and elegantly, as if she had the entire confrontation under control from the beginning and that he had walked into her trap.

Han hated it.

"Mai Gekidoku. That is my full name, in case you forgot." Mai went on. "It means "Deadly Poison", and it belonged to my extinct clan. I'm the only survivor."

"Heh… so even if you're a victim of the Purges you'd still serve the man responsible for them?" Han chuckled, only for his laughter to turn into a pained shout when the pain increased. He heard Mai give a dry laugh.

"Please. The clan itself along with the Civil War saw to the Gekidoku's extinction. The Blood Purges had nothing to do with it. Like I said, do not speak of things you don't understand." Mai said coolly. "My clan's blood is the perfect poison, not only capable of neutralizing any poison we ingest, but we can produce antibodies and bacteria that would act as a copy to the poison in a normal human's body. My blood is almost a living poison, capable of mixing and producing all kinds of different poisons so long as the materials are consumed. Maybe you can smell it?"

She leaned down and breathed softly on Han's face. Even in his haze of pain, Han could smell a multitude of chemicals on her breath. He was familiar with poisons, so he knew what the smell was like, but this was insane! She was like a walking chemical plant!

Han's eyes widened when he realized what she had done.

"You…! That kiss…!"

"You catch on quick. You really are a formidable person, Han-kun." Mai complimented as she stood back up. "I couldn't catch you with my senbon, so I improvised. If I want, even my saliva can produce the same effect my blood can. But that doesn't explain the special poison that's present within your body now, does it?"

Even as he convulsed on the ground, Han glared hatefully at the woman in front of him. She only smiled in response.

"My poison is like cancer in your body now, reproducing at an even faster rate than your demon's chakra can take it out. It cannot be reproduced and it cannot be cured by anyone other than me. Yagura made sure of that when I made it." Mai explained. "However, what makes this poison special is that it is like a light switch. I can turn it off…"

The pain ceased almost in an instant. As Han quickly stood up and ran towards the woman, a furious expression on his face, the Gobi container was brought to his knees as insurmountable pain assailed him once again.

"…Or I can turn it on. I can put the bacterium that is my poison to sleep, and it will hide itself by flowing in your blood systems like natural cells. The Gobi's chakra will not recognize it as a threat and it will stay in your body. The poison reacts at my command, just like any jutsu, making it the perfect tool against even someone like you."

"You… bitch…!"

Han choked and writhed on the ground as the pain continued to increase, and just when it felt like the pain couldn't get any worse it was gone. Han was left panting on the ground, unable to move as his body recovered from the sensation.

Han could only lie on the ground and listen to Mai as she spoke.

"Believe me, I didn't want to resort to this. However, your behavior towards the Mizukage and those around you warranted this punishment. I'm perfectly willing to remove the poison from your body, but only after you've proven to me that you can be trusted." Mai gave a remorseful sigh as she turned away from the exhausted jinchuriki. "We never intended to leash you, but you brought this on yourself. Take some time to reflect on your actions, interact with the other jinchuriki, and I'll decide whether or not to lift your punishment. I don't expect you to change your personality or way of thinking… but I won't let you abuse the Mizukage's kindness any further."

Mai disappeared in a puff of smoke, her parting words echoing in Han's ears.

"Good night, Han-kun."

The Gobi container spent minutes just looking up through the mist at the dark night sky. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt so helpless or had been defeated so thoroughly. That woman was a beast.

Han sat up and resumed his trek towards the clan district. He took a few steps before giving a frustrated shout and punched a tree with all his anger and hate towards the woman who had bested him behind it, splintering the bark and shaking the tree to its roots.

Even if it was like this, he would not bow to these people. He would cooperate with them, but only until that woman thought she was safe enough to cure him. Then he would get back at her. He should've snapped her neck when he had the chance. He wouldn't make the same mistake again. Next time… next time he'd kill her.

But for now, he'd have to play nice. He couldn't ignore every order or turn away from the other containers. Han grumbled in distaste as he thought of actually holding a conversation with the other jinchuriki…

Roshi's drinking and smartass remarks, Bee's rapping, that shy Gaara kid, that brat Fu… Yugito and Utakata he might tolerate, but Naruto…?

Han sighed miserably to himself as he trudged back to the village.

"Fuck my life…"

A/N: Hm. This chapter was hard to write for some reason so I'm glad I finally got past it. It came out good, though I'm still a bit dissatisfied. Maybe it's because the jinchuriki's first day in Kiri took two chapters instead of one. Ignore any grammer mistakes, I'll fix them later.

So, explaining more how Kirigakure runs and still establishing the characters and their relationships somewhat. As you can see, tensions are starting to rise and not everyone will get along right away. That Bee and Mangetsu duo will be sticking around. There's still plenty of interaction to come as this is more of an "Adjustment Arc" since the jinchuriki are warming up to each other and those around them while getting used to the idea that they won't be persecuted. I'm having fun though, creating personality for Han, Roshi, Ameyuri, etc. since they weren't seen practically at all…

And an important thing to remember is that THIS IS AU so that means CANON EVENTS ARE IRRELEVANT TO THIS FIC just for those who forgot. Anyway, I appreciate it if anyone could give me thoughts and opinions on the new chapter.