Okay, for those that read the Omake of the last Chapter (#24), you should KNOW that it was not how the battle ACTUALLY went, but more of a joke on how comedic the battle COULD HAVE gone while STILL producing the SAME EXACT results. The chapter itself was how the battle went and the Omake was just a joke.
Chapter 25: Theft of the Kick-Ass Princess!
Naruto hated the cold, though he had never felt it.
The worst winters of Konoha were pretty mild compared to the cold produced by the Land of Snow. However, he had other reasons to hate the cold. Like when he was a child in the Academy and in his first ever apartment, one which the windows were smashed out due to a few drunk villager. The apartment had been a good one to, but he had to move out because the landlord didn't want anymore trouble with his expenses, smashed windows and broken doors, and all… Still, Naruto had never felt more than slightly chilly on those cold winter nights. He had been more annoyed by the constant breeze than by the temperature. However, having those memories forced to the forefront of his mind made him feel like he knew what it was to be chilled right down to the bone. Recalling what the drunks had shouted as they threw rocks through the already busted windows, and how barely anyone had come to his aid when he curled up in a corner to avoid being hit by empty sake bottles which would burst into shards that stabbed into him.
Yes, those memories made him feel very cold, right in the pit of his stomach, and he was sure that whatever tragedies had made Yukie/Koyuki react the way she did out on the glacier, he could relate in some form…
"You knew about this, didn't you?" Sasuke began as he gazed sideways at Naruto, who was leaned back in his own chair next to him, "You knew that the actress was someone more than she appeared to be. And you knew, too, Sandayu."
Naruto didn't answer, his mind still working out other things as Sandayu bowed his head.
"Yes…" Sandayu replied morosely as he kept his head down. He was sure they would quit soon enough, and he didn't blame them..
"That was why you really wanted ninja protection, wasn't it?" Sakura chimed in with her own question as Sandayu nodded shamefully, "But then… you must have known what would happen. That the Snow ninja would be after her! Why didn't you warn us?" Sakura pressed on as Sandayu didn't even raise his head to answer them back while he spoke.
"I didn't know for certain that they would strike. I was hoping they had forgotten about her… thought her to be long gone…" Sandayu said, fidgeting nervously as he found their attention on his bowed head, "If I warned you, you might tell her I knew of her secret… and then, she would know. This was the only way I could get Princess Koyuki back to the country of her birth… back to face her destiny…"
"So her real name is Koyuki Kazahana?" Sakura asked curiously as Naruto finally sighed and leaned forward.
"Yes, Sakura. Yukie Fujikaze was only an impressive alias." Naruto said, his voice not wavering though slightly thoughtful, "From my information, it was given to her to keep her safe after her father was overthrown ten years ago, when she was only a child. But she was, and still is, the heiress of the Land of Snow."
"I haven't seen her in almost nine of those years…" Sandayu commented weakly, "I am not surprised she doesn't remember me… didn't remember me…"
Sasuke wrinkled his nose, something not quite right to him, "You're no ordinary manager, are you?"
"No. I am also from Snow Country. I served at the side of the previous ruler, Sosetsu Kazahana." Sandayu admitted somewhat lost in his memories already, "Back when things were peaceful… before… before the incident…" Sandayu shivered slightly as he thought back, "Sousetsu's younger brother, Doto, hired some mercenary missing-nin, revolted, and seized power."
"A Coup D'état?!" Sakura gasped in shock, having only read about such things, but never having met anyone who lived through one.
Sandayu only nodded as he continued to recall the dreadful day, "Against the Snow ninja and their special armor, the palace guards were helpless. The beautiful Kazahana castle was burnt to the ground… and we were certain we'd lost the Daimyo and the Princess both…"
"But you didn't." Kakashi said, speaking for the first time from where he stood leaning against the wall, "Princess Koyuki Kazahana, heir to the throne of the Snow Country ... wasn't killed in the fire, of course. She was rescued by a team of Leaf shinobi ..." he began, and let his own story unfold.
Rescued by Leaf shinobi… Leaf shinobi… Leaf… shinobi…
Naruto felt his eyes go wide for a moment while the world around him fell away and colors drained. His thoughtful blue eyes turned purple in a split second as he found his Kami-Daiougan activated.
"Oh no, not this again." Naruto said as he looked over where he was. Apparently he was speeding away from… a castle burning in the background!
It was true, wherever his latest vision had landed him had a castle set ablaze, the fire dancing in the falling snowflakes, casting an eerie, burnt orange glow over the landscape. Naruto turned in what appeared to be sled. However, the driver of said sled made him gasp as he vaguely recognized who it was.
It was Kakashi! As an Anbu ninja!
"Holy crap…" Naruto whispered in disbelief, even as his eyes settled on the man's determined face. He saw as the cold wind whipped at Kakashi's exposed face while the man drove the pack of wolves on, farther and farther away from the burning castle.
That's when it hit him. The vision he was witnessing must have been Koyuki's escape from the coup d'état against her father and those loyal to him throughout the Land of Snow.
"Keep your face hidden and your head down!" Kakashi shouted over his shoulder, making Naruto jump in surprise as he had been lost in thought. Gazing over his own shoulder, Naruto saw what must have been the young Princess Koyuki snuggled deeply into a thick wool blanket that covered her body, "They still may be coming after us!"
Naruto moved over to the little girl, seeing her eyes streaming with tears as she looked at the burning castle. He couldn't help but feel saddened for her. It was her home that was burning down, with her father in it. Naruto saw that as the young princess's hair whipped around her face, the burning castle faded into an orange glow which left nothing to the imagination of those who watched from afar. Everyone the girl must have known or loved in the burning castle was now de-
"FATHER!" little Koyuki screamed, wanting nothing more than for her father to be beside in escape.
"Naruto… Naruto. Naruto!" Naruto vaguely heard his name called as the world around him came back.
"Huh? What?" Naruto said, looking around to see all eyes on him in concern.
"You froze up there for a second." Sasuke said, "And you're eyes were purple with these little red things flapping in your pupils. It was there for a second, and then gone."
"Huh? Oh…" Naruto said not quite used to the visions still. He wondered if they were just triggered randomly or not…
"… we couldn't win against the Snow ninja back then, not with only a three-man ANBU-Black Op team." Kakashi said as though nothing had happened while Naruto silently thanked him for his tact, "We had to retreat. The life of the Princess was our mission. From there, I lost track of her. She'd only been one mission of many, after all." Kakashi said with a small shrug, "And she'd survived."
"Survived and did well for herself, I'd say." Sakura added while Sandayu silently cried, tears starting to stream down his cheeks as he remembered all the hardships he, the Princess, and the Snow Country had gone through.
"I found her when she was on the stage ... I recognized her instantly…" Sandayu said softly as something seemed to click to Sakura and Sasuke.
"Of course." Sakura said, her fist in hand as Sasuke sat forward, looking as though all the pieces fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle he could finally see the image for.
"You were the one who wrote and organized this whole movie venture." Sasuke said his brow arched highly, "The entire Unlucky Princess was merely a façade to lure this princess back to Snow Country without her realizing it." Sasuke said as Naruto nodded, seeing where his teammates were going with it all.
"You had planned to use her to incite a rebellion. All to finally overthrow this Doto Kazahana." Naruto said as his team nodded while the others in the meeting looked at Sandayu in shock for his clever sneakiness.
"You've been using us?!" the assistant director, Koijo, asked in righteous outrage, it being evident in his tone and stance. Beside him, the somewhat elderly director, Makino, didn't seem phased at all; none could truly tell what he was thinking. Perhaps he'd even been in on the plan with Sandayu…
"Yup, he would have used you all… and me as well…" came a voice from the door, and all eyes turned to see Princess Koyuki standing there, her expression dull and drained of emotion. Naruto's face fell into a frown at her lack of emotion. She had an entire breakdown on the glacier, and now here she was: sounding as though she could have been discussing the weather, rather than how casually she'd been manipulated by her personal assistant and so-called friend.
"This was all for the sake of Snow Country!" Sandayu replied quickly as Koyuki sighed heavily, having expected that.
"It would've been better if I'd died that day…" Koyuki said, not even bothering to hide her past anymore.
"Please don't say that, your highness!" Sandayu said, "To us, the fact that you are alive is our only hope!"
"The Princess you knew is long since dead." Koyuki replied, a bit coldly to say the least, "She died with her father. I shed my last tears for her years ago. And you, Sandayu." she added, her voice dropping in volume as the room grew tense, "You're worse than an evil bastard, Sandayu, you're an imbecile. You can't defeat Doto, and I will never help you in this foolish endeavor to get yourself killed. You can't win, so just give u—"
A palm came down on the table with enough force to make the whole room jump, or so it seemed when all eyes riveted to the normally well-tempered, spirited young Kage that was Naruto Namikaze Uzumaki. In his orange and black thermo-jumpsuit, it was Naruto's blue gloved hand that had slammed down onto the table and caused the cracks in it as he stood from his chair angrily. Everyone waited with baited breath and slivers of fear when Naruto's other hand clenched into a fist and shook violently in front of him.
"Don't you dare utter those accursed words in my presence!" Naruto roared with passion as every eye was on him, "Especially not when this old man is risking everything; including his life, for his- for your people and his dream! So don't you dare just standing there like some spoiled bitch and say that he should give up! I won't ever forgive you for something like that!"
Two sets of harsh glares with enough heat to melt glaciers met when Kage stared down Princess, neither wanting to back down. However, the latter quickly found her outmatched and outclassed as the young Kage's steely gaze burned into her with more emotion and passion than she would have liked to believe. She found herself further ousted when onxy and green locked on her from his two teammates, both who looked to understand his determination and outburst, but Koyuki saw that the young Uchiha had far more understanding in his eyes than the Haruno girl did.
However, it was to everyone's surprise when it was the director who ended the staring contest with his voice. He spoke up, powerfully and proudly while breaking the glares, "Because if you didn't give up, you'll be able to see a dream… Because if you're able to see a dream, the future will come!"
"Isn't that from one of those movies?" Sasuke asked, his arms crossed as he settled back in his chair.
"Yeah, it's from the final act, scene three." Sakura quoted as her teammates blinked at her ability to remember such insignificant things, "And it's from the end of the first movie."
A smile had spread across the wrinkled face of the director, being rather impressed by Sakura's memory, "This would make an interesting turn of events… It would be a shame not to take advantage of this. Just think about it… a real Princess for once! It's too great an opportunity to pass up! The movie Gods are smiling down on us for sure with this good fortune!"
Koyuki huffed and spun on her heel, beginning to stalk out of the room angrily at both the ongoing of the movie and at the director's abnormal attitude in the face of danger.
"It's just a stupid movie..." Koyuki muttered under her breath.
"You can't run and hide anymore, Yukie Fujikaze." Kakashi stated causally pushing off the wall as he deliberately used her false name to get a reaction.
He got it, alright as his words froze Koyuki in her steps. Despite the heavy blanket on her and his own once disheveled hair of the time those ten years ago, Koyuki could always recall a voice. And she recalled his. The voice of the man that had saved her from her burning home. The voice of the now former ANBU shinobi, who at the time had looked as handsome as a Knight while saving her.
"Doto knows you're alive, and probably always has. He'll hunt you down to the ends of the Earth and beyond if he has to. You've only one option now if you want to live." Kakashi continued just as casually while Koyuki stayed rooted to the spot.
"And that is…?" Koyuki asked quietly.
"Get him before he gets you." Kakashi answered with a shrug.
"In other words: we kick his ass!" Naruto added as Sasuke and Sakura nodded to the simpler example. Koyuki looked as though she was about to snap. Her mouth opened and closed, but in her shock and outrage she could think of no suitable argument for the option she was given. After a moment, her mouth finally snapped shut as she stormed out of the room.
"Damn divas…" Sasuke muttered as he and everyone else watched her go.
Hey, don't look at him like that! Itachi had killed his entire clan, but you didn't see him storming from rooms and refusing to fight the bastard if he ever came around! In fact, Sasuke planned to put Itachi in the ICU of Konoha's only hospital once the elder Uchiha came back to answer for his sins.
The ship had docked at the harbor farthest from the Land of Snow's capital palace while still being near their target location.
Team Seven had left the filming crew to organize their stuff, though Naruto's clones helped a bit with loading the things into the heavy trucks that would carry the equipment the rest of the way, when they took off in the late afternoon. By then, they'd hoped, the storm clouds overhead would have cleared, and the going would be easier, since any additional snowfall would have to be cleared from the roads. Hopefully by then they would all be well enough to travel.
In the end, Team Seven had agreed to complete the mission. They were going to do so anyway, but since technically, despite leaving out many of the facts, Sakura and Kakashi had pointed out that Sandayu hadn't strictly lied about the job or it's dangers. Naruto and Sasuke were the ones to point out, however, that now with them armored with more information; not just about their client but their enemy as well, they stood a better chance of success in their missions "subtext"; which was the protection of Princess Koyuki until her movie ended, by which she should be leader of the Land of Snow.
The caravan of vehicles set out sometime in the early afternoon. It was snowing lightly and a considerable nuisance, but the storm showed no signs of getting any better anytime soon, so they decided to press on rather than simply wait it out.
Fortunately, the going was relatively easy, with no snow slides or blizzards standing in their way. The plan was to truck halfway up the mountain passes along the roads, slip into a wide tunnel-like cave in the middle of their route, and reach the small encampment on the other side of the mountain where more of Sandayu's comrades were waiting with great hopes.
So far, it had been relatively safe. So with that said, the mission to get Princess Koyuki Kazahana safely to the capitol of the Land of Snow continued.
Though it had been funny when they had once again piled into the trucks, and Naruto found Kakashi next to him debating on whether or not to call in another team. Naruto had given him a look, and asked him of which he would have preferred.
"Well, if I had to choose, I'd say a support team." Kakashi answered as Naruto raised a brow.
"Why's that?" Naruto asked as Kakashi took out his orange book and began seeking his marked page.
"Well, it's because our own team's abilities are more for battles, both short and prolonged, as well as for direct attack. I'd liked another team in a support function to back us up or to corner our opponent whilst we don't waste chakra and could simply go in for the finishing blow. I think a team like Asuma and his Ino-Shika-Cho trio would do good." Kakashi said as Naruto gave him another deadpan look.
"Okay, but tell me: would you be willing to deal with Shikamaru's mutterings, Ino's whining, Choji's snacking, and Asuma's smoking next to you at the moment… and for the next few hours while we're again in this truck before a switch?" Naruto asked as Kakashi's eyes widened, then he cleared his throat and regained his composure before he politely and intelligently admitted that they could make due without the support if only to learn a lesson from the entire experience.
Naruto smirked as he knew he had won.
"I'm telling you, this woman has virtually no redeeming characteristics in her attitude." Sasuke muttered to Sakura as they sat behind Koyuki while he jabbed a thumb at the princess' back, "She's spoiled, selfish, cold, heartless, and overly emotional when it comes to her family."
Sakura gave Sasuke a blank look.
"What?" Sasuke asked, a bit taken back by Sakura's look. Did he have something on his face?
"Pot, meet Kettle. You're both black, now happy chatting." Sakura deadpanned as she gestured between Sasuke and Koyuki.
"Yeah, but at least I would never abandon you or Naruto." Sasuke said with a dismissive wave of his hand, "You two are practically family to me… I guess. More so than Itachi is at the moment, at least…" Sasuke mumbled as Sakura smiled.
"Too bad you're gonna run off to Orochimaru, huh?" Sakura said as Sasuke's eyes twitched.
"Stop saying that! Dammit, Naruto!"
There was virtually no danger as none of them sensed the enemy Snow ninja nearby.
"I would say to relax," Sandayu commented as he sat in front of Naruto and Kakashi, "but as ninja, I think I would get a lecture for suggesting such a thing on a mission, right?"
"Maybe from him." Naruto said, jabbing a thumb in Kakashi's direction, " As for me, however. I chose to relax until danger sprouts up, or the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end."
"Why that last one?" Sandayu asked as Naruto grimaced.
"Because they usually do right before the danger hits." Naruto said before giving a silly grin, "My hair is psychic and acts as my sixth sense."
"Yes, well… that's fine and good." Sandayu said politely, not knowing how to respond before he glanced out the window, but you may want to check this out. It's one of the wonders of the Land of Snow."
Naruto glanced out the window and so did Kakashi (once he set aside his book), both eyes widening as they took in the wonderful sight before them. The rock caves they were passing were frozen slick with ice from years of condensation and freezing temperatures, making it easy for them to refract and reflect the light from the trucks and trailers into a beautiful display of vivid color. Naruto spent most of the trip with his face pressed-up against the glass of the truck window, wanting to see the sight better while Kakashi had gone back to his book.
"It's amazing…" Naruto breathed, "But I have to ask; why are we traveling through the mountain? Wouldn't it be safer to travel above, ya know; in case of a cave in?"
"This place used to be a railway station." Sandayu replied as the truck moved through the cave. Naruto blinked in confusion.
"Rail…way?" Naruto asked, the word tasting funny on his tongue.
"Its old technology for the Land of Snow, but in most other places in the world, is fairly new." Kakashi explained, "Steam would propel a great engine train and whatever carts were behind it along a metal track… which must be below us."
Sandayu nodded, "It's frozen solid, I'm afraid, from the many years of neglect. The old Land of Snow used to benefit greatly from such technology. Our Daimyo and Princess Koyuki's father, Sosetsu Kazahana, was something of an expert on the subject. A scientist, if you will." Sandayu said, "He did a lot of research to advance the effects of machines and to improve them. And our country prospered because of it… Until… the incident, of course."
Naruto glanced out the window for a few seconds and frowned as he looked down, but couldn't see anything more than reflecting ice, even with his amazing vision. It was a great pity, too, as these "metal tracks" sounded fascinating. He would have greatly liked to see one of these "trains" that Kakashi and Sandayu were discussing. The idea of some supposed great metal contraption moving faster than most ninja could by foot sounded downright amazing!
However, all too soon, their trip through the cave ended and they reached the other side.
Bundling up with cloaks, scarves, and gloves, Team Seven climbed out of the trucks as the filming crew began to set up for the day's recording, unfurling wires and setting up remote cameras and such in strategic positions. The movie had seemingly evolved since it started, now that the Director was in charge and they were all now made to work on the spur of the moment, something which the Director apparently excelled at. Right when Naruto felt it was a good time to check in on Konoha, a problem had arisen with the star of the film…
"Director! It's Yukie! She's done a runner again!"
Naruto slapped his forehead angrily as he raked the hand down his face. Honestly! Could the woman not try escaping from her destiny every ten minutes her feet hit the ground?! The spoiled, rotten, annoying…! Ugh!
Sakura was about to turn around and make all possible haste down the cave when Naruto came into view beside, holding up a hand.
"What is it, Naruto?" Sakura asked as he smirked.
"Don't worry," Naruto assured, "I thought the woman would try something like this after the skirmish on the glacier. I'm actually a little surprised she didn't try it earlier than now."
"What did you do?" Sakura asked as Sasuke and Kakashi came over.
"Oh… I just had her shadowed, and… nudged in the right direction." Naruto said as a fox-like grin spread across his face while Sakura gulped.
Because a grinning Naruto was never any good for those around him.
"Ogh… my ankle…" Koyuki moaned pitiful as she sat up in the snow from where she had taken a bad tumble. Looking up from where she fell, her eyes widened as that brat in black and orange poked his head over the side of the ridge.
"Oh my!" the brat exclaimed in a skimpily showy tone of false concern, "Miss Koyuki! Have you fallen from the ridge and now can't get up? Oh me, oh my!"
"Brat!" she yelled as he jumped down to her.
"What's wrong, Princess?" Naruto asked in a tighter tone as she glowered at him.
"It's my ankle." Koyuki conceded, "I think I sprained it."
"That all?" Naruto asked as she looked outraged.
"I can't walk with a sprained ankle, moron!" Koyuki yelled before gesturing to the snow behind her with her imprint in it, "And I was unconscious for who knows how look down here."
"Ten seconds." Naruto said as Koyuki blinked in confusion, her angry face falling, "You were unconscious for exactly ten seconds. And you want to know what?"
"What?" she asked, her expression anything but interested.
"Next time you waste my time by running off I break your ankle." Naruto said as Koyuki looked up at him, having been still sitting in the snow, while he glowered down darkly at her, "I have better things to do with my important time than to baby-sit some spoiled, egoistical princess-turned-actress. I have friends, comrades, and ramen waiting back home for me."
"So?" Koyuki asked as Naruto glared down at her, making her shrink back as those once warm blue orbs turned icy.
"So that means that I will break your ankle the next time you try a stunt like this. There are at least seventeen different things I could be doing back in Konoha right now, and dealing with your insipid stupidity is not one of them." Naruto simmered as Koyuki couldn't tear her gaze away from his as he bore down on her like a towering demon, "There are people back in my village that need my personal help far more than you do right now, and I'm glad I was here to see this idiocy, or else I would have never believed it myself. The point of this little rant is to get one thing across: you waste my time, I break your limbs. Got it?"
At that tone, Koyuki could only nod as he suddenly smiled at her, ruffling her hair gently.
"Good. Now then." Naruto said, and quick as a whip, he chopped her in the back of the neck and she went limb into his awaiting arms, "Don't need you doing anything stupider while I drag you back to the scene. The Boss ain't too happy right now, and that little rant was just my own annoyance with you."
The clone, however, paused as he looked down at the unconscious form of Princess Koyuki. It felt somewhat strange to see the normally cold and melancholy woman silenced so abruptly by his doing, even now. He had been so annoyed with his creation being the mere "watch, wait, follow, and act" routine at first, but now… Now seeing her like she was… Unconscious, vulnerable, helpless… He gently reached out with a hand and smoothed back a long black strand of hair out of her face. Now without all the angry sneers and scathing scowls, she looked peacefully. Angelic, even. He wondered, would she ever look that beautiful while she was conscious. So incredibly beautiful, like-
Footsteps falling in the snow were muffled but he heard them anyway. Quickly he snatched up Koyuki, and ran into the cave-like tunnel to get the princess back to the Boss.
"Damn him! The brat's everywhere." Fubuki muttered as she spread her glider-wings and took to where her team were waiting with Doto. So long as the boy was getting Princess Koyuki back, they'd have the perfect chance to strike at the others, and perhaps, if the boy was fast enough, to get the Hex Crystal from Princess Koyuki's pretty little neck as well just after the carnage.
Naruto carried Koyuki piggy-back as they made their way back to the tunnel, and ultimately, the film crew and his team. Some time with all his jogging back and bobbing movements did the bitc-… princess wake up and begin mumbling depressively in his ear. He supposed it was better than her yelling at him like Sakura and Iruka had done months ago, which felt like an entire lifetime ago now that he reflected back on it… Oh well, Koyuki was relatively loosened and unable to fight back (verbally at least) properly. Still, if worse came to worse, the clone knew he was a fast runner, and thus could get the spoiled princess-turned-actress-turned-back-to-princess to safety.
And if that failed, he'd just gut himself so that the Boss and his team could know what happened and where…
"Just leave me be…" Koyuki mumbled into his neck, apparently too weak to even argue much as she simply allowed Naruto to carry her off back toward the group.
"Unfortunately, I can't do that." the clone said, "It's my mission to watch over you."
"I thought you were gonna break my legs." Koyuki said dryly, "Why are you on this mission anyway? Why me? Why are you still here if I'm an annoyance and you have things you need to do back in your village?"
"Because I don't wanna see you get hurt." the clone said, "Besides, you made this all personal when you told Sandayu he was a fool for having hopes. You need to start owning up to your responsibilities and fulfill your destiny of taking up your rightful place as leader of this land."
"You would know all about responsibilities, huh?" Koyuki muttered into his back, giving a short somber laugh that nonplused the Naruto clone greatly.
"What's so funny?" the clone asked as Koyuki didn't answer, "Fine! Be that way. See if I care!"
"The reason I laughed was because it seems that no matter where I go, I can't escape my damn destiny." Koyuki said softly, though her bitter tone was not lost to him, and only served to piss him off.
"That is garbage." the clone spat angrily, "You make your own destiny in this world, but this situation is different. Normally I tell people they should never give up fighting for what they really want, no matter how tough it is. But this… I'm telling you that this destiny is one you need to embrace rather than change."
"Naruto Uzumaki… you watch too many movies…" Koyuki said softly as her gaze remained unfocused and reflective.
"How do you know who I am?" Naruto asked.
"I know a lot of things, kid." Koyuki said, "Not all of them as pleasant as you with your leg-breaking threats…"
"Whatever." the Naruto clone scoffed, but on the inside, he (much like the Boss) was actually worried about the security of his village if an actress was able to identify him. Honestly, he didn't know too many ninja from the other countries, but was Konoha so open that everyone simply knew them all by name and face, even the ninja that were supposed to be secretive…?
Naruto came to a dead stop, ears twitching slightly as his foot scraped against the icy stone ground beneath his sandals, "Do you hear that?" he asked, tilting his head to the side, bringing up a hand to cup at his ear.
"No, what?" Koyuki asked, still limp on his back.
"It's like a distant roar or something…" the clone said unsurely as he kept walking. In truth he could hear it clearly. The blow of steam. The roar of an engine. But it made no sense…
At least until he remembered what the Boss and the others had been talking about on the drive. The clone's eyes widened as his realization must have come a bit too late, what with the floor beginning to shimmer while a long series of metal lines stretched on from far to far. They must have been the tracks.
The train tracks.
"Oh crap!" the clone said as he began to hightail it onward. Whether the tracks had been concealed by genjutsu or truly hidden under the now melted ice, he couldn't tell and didn't care at the moment as they began to vibrate more and more under his running feet.
As he ran, the sounds only got louder and the vibrating stronger. He could also hear the distinct groan of metal now, and that rarely meant anything pleasant when he was concerned.
"It's the train…" Koyuki breathed in either shock or surprise as Naruto ran. She hadn't seen one since she'd been a little girl…
"Train? Crap!" Naruto's clone said as he began to further pick up pace. Wile running, he tried to glance back and see the distance between them and this train thing, but once he did he immediately regretted it as the train rounded the corner. It became visible, the light on it's front illuminating the entirety of the cavern and outlining the fearsome metal shape, twice as big as the whole caravan and much longer, too. Worse, it was barreling down on them with a speed reminiscent of the fastest of Konoha's horses. They'd be overtaken in moments if he didn't do something.
Seeing the metal behemoth behind him gave him a good reason to kick into high gear. He gave a shout as his eyes widened, running and kicking up a trail of snowy dust while flying down the tracks at breakneck speed.
His speed seemed inconsequently when the train approached his backside rapidly, unhindered by the icy pillars in the cave that it bashed down while bearing down on the Kage and the Princess. Even still, the clone picked up speed once again, keeping ahead of the giant monstrosity while grimly pushing on. Koyuki held onto him for dear life as he tried to make the best of being hampered by her awkward height and weight on his back. Though he could not deny it, he was slowly but surely being overtaken by the black metal behemoth behind them. And then, as if it had read their grim thoughts, the train blew a steamy whistle again, the sound ominous in the cavern as it reminded them that if he stopped or slowed down for even a moment, they would die.
"We're going to be flattened!" Koyuki screamed in despair as the Naruto clone glared ahead determinately.
"Not on my watch, lady!" the clone replied, using some of the Kyuubi chakra he shared with the Boss to further increase his speed.
"This is- It's impossible!" Koyuki screamed as the clone gritted his teeth.
"Oh yeah? Well tell that to the train!" the clone shouted, "Now shut the hell up!"
The train was gathering speed all the time, even as he struggled to keep ahead of it. The other end of the tunnel was their only option now; there was no way they could slip out of its way. He had to get to the end and dive out of the way.
Otherwise, they'd indeed be flattened into gooey road-kill. But it seemed so far off. So far away.
Sixty yards… It seemed impossible as the train blew another whistle, which the clone suspected would have been villainous laughter in the face of his determination.
Fifty yards… Still looking grim…
Thirty yards… They wouldn't make it as the clone could feel the train right on their tail.
Twenty yards… They couldn't make it, as the Naruto clone felt his sandal brush against the train before pulling ahead quickly in fear.
Fifteen yard… They had to make it! There was no dying now!
Ten yard… They would make it! Just a little longer…!
Ten meters! Yes, they would make!
Calling on one last burst of speed and praying to whatever Guardian would listen, the clone tapped into reserves he didn't know he even had as he flung himself forward and out of the cavern with Koyuki on his back giving one final scream as she shut her eyes for the death that would have surely awaited them. The Naruto clone launched himself out of the tunnel and plowed directly into the snow, rolling a short distance away from the tracks as the train raged passed them.
The clone released Koyuki, and the famous princess/actress went tumbling down after him, through the heavy snow which cushioned their fall. The clone rolled through the snow before finding his feet, skidding through the frozen mush as he regained his balance to find Koyuki near him, both panting heavily for breath as they thought it would be the end of them as they knew. The clone had always known his existence would seize to exist at some point soon after his creation, but to have always been ended with another being, and to have nearly died a human death…
It was so unreal and made him feel alive…! He collapsed back into the snow, his arms spread as he just lay there a moment with Koyuki while they caught their breath. He felt so alive! So free! So… complete!
"There they are!" a voice shouted as the clone and Koyuki ignored it while the real Naruto and Kakashi came charging over. Naruto seemed to disappear from existence for a moment before he rematerialized next to the two ragged people in his hurry with Kakashi and the other members of the team coming over in a sprint.
"You did good, I see." Naruto, the real Naruto, said as the clone smiled.
"Yeah…" the clone said before closing his eyes, "Now I think I wanna rest… For a long, long time…" the clone breathed his last as he disappeared in a plume of smoke while Naruto smiled, touching the spot the clone had lain as the memories assaulted his brain.
The clone had felt alive and complete… Naruto figured how that feeling the clone had, and the safety of Koyuki were all that mattered as the woman appeared uninjured, but just badly out of breath as she must have been in shock to still be alive. Naruto started laughing, though he didn't find anything truly funny, so he had no clue why he started. Neither did the Princess, it seemed as she opened her eyes to gaze up at him. She watched him in wide-eyed sheer disbelief, marveling at how such a young teen was able to able to carry her, outrun a speeding locomotive, and then find something funny about it as though he defied the impossible every chance he got.
In short, she felt just like Naruto's team did when they all saw him defy the impossible every time it came up. It was him and his near crazed determination which made them all believe in him. Made them believe that if they believed strongly enough, they could make the impossible completely possible under their own strength.
It was such a great feeling to have, Koyuki subconsciously realized, but when she thought this to herself, she squashed the feeling as her father had died by that sort of thinking.
The film people were keeping out of the way, for which Kakashi and Naruto were supremely thankful for, but that didn't stop either from being worried when they, Sasuke, and Sakura saw the back end of the locomotive open up.
Emerging from the tail end was a dark figure in a white robe. Some resemblance could be seen to Koyuki, like the dark straight hair or the icy blue eyes. But this was a man, his face stern and harsh with the unyielding quality of the winter ice itself. Deep lines furrowed under his eyes, the evidence of many sleepless nights and lost smiles.
When he announced himself as Lord Doto Kazahana, none were surprised as Sasuke even rolled his eyes. Naruto frowned at the man while Sakura helped Koyuki from the snow.
"So this bastard is Koyuki's uncle." Naruto commented rather than questioned as Kakashi nodded.
"And the killer of her father, Sosetsu Kazahana." Kakashi said glancing back as he saw the fright on Koyuki's face and how the color seemed to drain from her as she trembled, "Get the Princess to safety Sakura. We'll handle this."
"Rig-" but Sakura didn't get to finish as when she tried to move with the woman, Doto started speaking again and Koyuki froze solid at the voice.
"It has been such a long time, hasn't it, Koyuki?" Doto said pleasantly, his voice amplified by a microphone held in his hand, "Mmm... I think it is time you gave up and surrendered."
"The Snow ninja are here." Naruto said, his purple eyes gleaming in the little light of the day, "There! In Doto's shadow."
"I see." Kakashi growled toward the enemy, "That's Nadare, but I don't see any sign of the lumbering mount, Mizori, or that creepy girl, Fubuki."
"Well they can't be too far off." Sasuke said as he exchanged a look with Sakura, both moving to guard Koyuki from any threat, "After all, they always travel in packs like a bunch of wolves."
Kakashi frowned, his mind racing with options, and he hadn't many.
"Fight?" Naruto said, summoning up his chakra as the snow around him began to melt with the heated pressure of his energy. And though Kakashi hated to admit it, he was still recovering his own energy from his battle with Nadare. The bruises along his arms provided solid proof that those chakra armors were indeed much stronger than they were in years past. His chakra was still low, and his limbs felt like they were filled with wet noodles instead of firm muscles. He knew that Sasuke must have been feeling the same since he had combined jutsu with Naruto, who used much chakra in such powerful forms as fire element to make up for his lack of experience.
"Flee?" Sasuke asked behind him as Kakashi sighed.
"I doubt any of us truly have the strength to run, and then where to?" Kakashi said,
"We could try a diversion." Sakura suggested as Kakashi kept that in mid. Naruto's clones could henge into any of them and some into copies of the princess and move in any direction. The bad point was that the Snow ninja could probably do the same, and with that chakra armor, the clones would disperse immediately once they were too close as the clones were only masses of chakra given solid human form.
"We need to think of something quick." Naruto said, probably having came to the same thoughts as Kakashi, "The film people aren't exactly fighters, though at least they're keeping their distance and shoot the action out of harm's way."
"Speaking of the film people," Sakura said, narrowing her eyes as she scanned the area, "Where did Sandayu go?"
"That's it!" Naruto and Kakashi said in unison.
"What? The guy ran as soon as the train had appeared." Sasuke said, "He ran heading up the hillside, abandoning his princess."
"Remember where we were headed in the first place?" Naruto asked as Sasuke gave him a look.
"You never said." Sakura responded quickly before Sasuke could give a smart-alecky remark.
"Then get ready to be surprised." Naruto said, never turning to them as he stood ready for any attack.
Picking up his cue, Kakashi turned back to Doto, "Not going to happen!" Kakashi shouted, remembering that the man had made a request for them to surrender.
Dark eyebrows drew together as the self-proclaimed Lord of the Land of Snow frowned darkly in displeasure. His hand rose up, and instantly everyone tensed. In a moment he was going to order an attack and the Snow ninja were going to descend on them like wolves to prey in the hash winter. Kakashi quickly went through his ninjutsu arsenal, some quick misdirection might give his team a chance to recover, even though every second was going to crucial. Naruto wiped a hand to the side, and in a show of cherry blossoms, a gleaming sword was in hand as his face took on a look of grim determination to protect his friends and stick to the mission. Sasuke prepared to use his own jutsu while Sakura was looking for the quickest place to hide the princess and herself as the last defense.
Then they all stopped as they caught sight of… something. It was at their side, in the barest corner of their vision as Naruto gave a small smirk.
"The cavalry has arrived." Naruto quipped as he marginally relaxed.
A number of heavy logs had come barreling down the snowy hillside, along with a great deal of said snow. Sasuke had no doubt that it must have been a trap which was previously setup specifically to stop the train should it come by. And now someone had set it off, but Sasuke's eyebrows furrowed as he thought of who could have done so. Looking back to the enemy, the young Uchiha could easily tell that this trap was sprung much to the annoyance and frustration of Doto and the man's Snow ninja.
Wait! There! Up high on the nearby hillside from where the trap had come!
"Who is that?" Sakura asked as she squinted her eyes.
It was someone, Sasuke guessed as he gazed up at the figure. The person was garbed in ceremonial armor, which looked oddly out of place against their gray hair and scholarly appearance.
Holy crap…! That was Sandayu!
And Sasuke's eyes widened a fraction more as he realized something.
Sandayu wasn't alone. No, the man was not alone.
He had brought friends.
At least a full fifty men with similar armor and armed with a variety of makeshift weapons were standing proudly with Sandayu. They bore banners with the emblem of what Sasuke figured to be the true ruling symbol of the Land of Snow. Sasuke had to begrudgingly admit that he was in fact surprised like Naruto said. He also had to admit that it seemed that Sandayu hadn't abandoned anyone.
Luckily, it looked like Sandayu wasn't the only one willing to fight against Doto for the sake of his country… oh, and for the bitch Koyuki, too. Sasuke wondered, very briefly, if Doto's treachery was similar to that which his family, the Uchiha clan, had planned against Konoha.
But, did that make his family the bad guys…?
"Our Princess, Koyuki, has returned to us!" Sandayu called out, as much to his enemies as to his own troops, "Victory will be ours!" then he pointed down at the dour dark-haired man which was Doto, "Doto Kazahana! We have waited long for this day… the day you are dethroned, false king! I am Sandayu Asama, representative of the 50th Brigade! Today," he continued, smoothly drawing his katana from the sheath at his side and holding it to the sky proudly, "we avenge the death of our noble lord, as well as avenge ten years of suffering you paid us! And we take that debt out on you!"
A cheer arose from the ranks that might as well have been a war cry, and even Team Seven could feel inspired by some of Sandayu's speech, new strength flowing into their bodies as they prepared to add their strength to the 50th Brigade and crush their enemy.
Doto, however, did not look worried nor impressed.
In fact, and on the complete contrary, he looked positively smug.
"There are still rebels to deal with?" Doto asked, more to himself than anyone as he turned slightly to his ninja, "Nadare, I thought we'd eliminated them all…?"
"My deepest apologies." Nadare replied, the pale-haired shinobi giving a slight bow of his head before he stepped forward, "Please, allow me. I will crush them-"
"No." Doto cut him off, blocking his path with a hand, "I want them to experience a truly... hopeless situation." he said, lowering his microphone and making a sweeping gesture with his arm, "Now!"
As the hillside swarmed with soldiers of the Snow Country, charging down towards Doto and his train, the main compartments began to unfold and open up, as Snow ninjas took their positions, arming them, the sides now resembling so much as a wide net full of small holes, barely big enough for smoke bombs. Their exact purpose couldn't be determined until it was almost too late, but Sasuke could see almost immediately that something sinister was about to happen. Kakashi gave a warning cry to Sandayu and his soldiers, but Sasuke grimly realized it was too late. Kakashi might as well have been trying to stop a tidal wave with his bare hands for all the effect he had done throwing himself forward at break neck speed.
Naruto, however, seemed rooted to the spot. Sasuke couldn't see his expression, with the young Kage's back being to him, but he saw the tension in Naruto's stance and shoulders.
Sasuke watched as Doto dropped his hand, another nonverbal signal. This signal, however, caused the Snow ninja to unleash hell upon the hillside. The machines fired off kunai, Sasuke saw with wide eyes. Not a single one each, not merely a handful, but hundreds. Hundreds of kunai being fired off, wave after wave of them in rapid order until it seemed like dark metal death was raining down upon the troops. The snow up front was lifted into the air for a moment before the first solider was struck down.
Sasuke watched as, in a horrified trance that he couldn't get out of, the soldiers were cut down in seconds, many of them, not even able to stand up to the sheer force of the assault. They were being cut to ribbons, their patriotic blood being splattered all over the snowy hillside, painting the white canvas a deep red of death, of suffering, of the shattering of hopes and dreams.
Even Kakashi, who had tried to fling himself forward to help stop the scene before them had fallen short. Naruto seemed to have lost the tense in his shoulders, but now Sasuke saw that he was shaking slightly. Mostly likely in rage, if Sasuke knew the blond Hokage any.
And that sick bastard Doto was laughing. Actually laughing! Sasuke felt his own body begin to tremble in rage as he saw the man's smug face.
After what seemed an eternity, the machines stopped, either out of kunai or, judging from the heavy steam rising up from them, having been overheated. They must've had a limit to their operation time. Not that it mattered, Sasuke though bitterly as his fists clenched at his sides under his cloak. With a single decisive sweep, six nameless Snow ninja had wiped out an entire brigade, save for-
"Sandayu!" Koyuki cried out.
The princess's guardian looked like total hell. His armor was ripped and torn, his glasses were broken, kunai were sticking from his body, but still… still the man stood. Sasuke saw with a budding new feeling that he couldn't readily place, that Sandayu would not back down, and would not stop until he was dead. The man grimly clutched his katana in his bloody hand, holding onto it as though it were the last shred of life in him.
"…For-Forgive me…" Sandayu wheezed, "…Princess…"
Doto frowned, and made a final gesture with his hand. Again, the machines fired again, a wave of kunai speeding towards Sandayu with all haste. But Sandayu didn't look afraid. In fact, he wasn't afraid. Sasuke saw something to the man's look as the winds shifted a bit. It was like the man had seen something, caught a glimpse of one thing or another which made his final expression one of the weariness like that of a traveler who was finally able to rest after his long journey. He'd caught a glimpse of his dream earlier today, and he'd died fighting for it. Not many could ask for a better way to leave this world than that. So it was he raised his katana in one last gesture of defiance against Doto.
Sasuke closed his eyes, as he held Sakura who buried her face into his chest. Neither could bare to see such an honorable man struck down by such a filthy tyrant.
But the clanging of metal made them open their eyes. It was a sound that rang out in echoes along the now silent snowy mountainside. And when they looked up, they saw what had made that sound.
It was Naruto, standing furious in front of Sandayu with a katana of his own out in his left hand. And the remains of the lone kunai meant to end the brave manager's life were lying on either side of the two. The sight of Naruto's enraged expression gave them all new hope as they found their limbs working while Kakashi gave a heavy sigh of relief.
But still, even as Sakura ran to join Naruto while Sasuke set his sights on the train, Sandayu fell.
Seeing the bold man fall, Doto smiled arrogantly as he thought about how the last of the rebels were defeated in a single stroke of his arm. It would be a tale to recount to his heir, should he have any. With that in mind and the rebels defeat still so gloriously fresh in his thoughts, Doto turned his attention to the meddlesome Leaf shinobi who had interfered with his plans and tried to save the rebel leader. This blond would be dealt with, Doto thought as he prepare to let Nadare and his team deal with them. To his surprise, however, his Snow ninja were already on the move, running up the hillside in chase of the pesky Konoha ninja. Doto smiled, glad that they took some initiative while knowing they were only doing so to have their own fun.
Sakura reached where Naruto was, skidding to a stop beside him as she could see just how tight a grip he had on his sword hilt. His hand was bleeding, but that didn't detract from the fury on his face as he glared at Doto and his racing Snow ninja. Even the snow beneath his feet was melting away, evaporating in the presence of his heated chakra as it came boiling to the surface.
"Help Sandayu." Naruto uttered and Sakura did not need telling twice as she dropped to her knees in the chilling snow and began using what she had been studying beforehand. Thankfully she had found the chapter on theoretical application boring and skipped directly to the practical application of dire/emergency stabilizations.
"I'll try…" Sakura muttered softly, never having tested any her abilities on anything but fish the whole time she practiced.
"Where did the little fire-starter go?" Fubuki asked with a lecherous grin as she licked her lips, "When this is all over, and if he's still alive, I think I'll keep him around. All that fire he's got could be put to better use by warming my bed each night."
"Do as you wish with the dark-haired boy, but Kakashi is mine to finish." Nadare sneered, taking too fond of Fubuki's tastes in younger men.
"The blond brat is mine!" Mizori yelled, charging ahead of them all as he set his sights on Naruto, who looked as intimidating as a demon. His sharpen canines were bared, snarling at his challenge as he finally spoke to the enemy.
"What you've done here today is unforgivable!" Naruto shouted before launching himself like a missile at the three opposing ninja.
Kakashi and the film crew watched on in shock as Naruto did battle with the three more experienced ninja. Not only was he fighting, but he was doing so on even ground as he stabbed and lunged at them, making up his moves in a continues combination of attacks as the Snow ninja could do nothing more than duck, dodge, and weave out of the way less their limbs be sliced away from their bodies. The large Snow ninja jumped back with his claw hand raised to grab at Naruto, but the blond disappeared in a sudden burst of speed before he was seen again with his body crouched in midair as the fat ninja started screaming. It wasn't long before they saw that his screams were coming from the large gash the man had running up the arm that held his metal claw.
Naruto then turned on heel, snarling like an un-caged animal as he used his sword to defend against Fubuki's swarm of icy-sharp snow-swallows. Then Fubuki herself descended down on Naruto with the speed of a bullet, but Naruto back-flipped out of the way as she swept up to stop herself from impacting the snow bank below her. She gave chase to Naruto as the young Kage continued his backward motion as though he were actually gliding over the snow and keeping ahead of Fubuki. Then he stopped, his feet descending to the ground as he skidded back and raised his sword high. Fubuki, not able to stop in time, found her left wing nearly sliced off as she spun past the blond, tucking her wings back into their backpack-compartment while she allowed Nadare to take over the battle.
And take over Nadare did as his hand shot up from behind Naruto, who jumped just in time, and the two kept going high into the air as they did battle; kunai against sword. Naruto's style was made up of long sweeping slashes which were meant to cleave limbs from the body or at least leave heavy gashes. The swipes were as fast as they were strong, and Nadare was glad that it seemed the boy was too enraged to put a greater deal of chakra behind his blows, or even elemental chakra as he continued the battle. Nadare spun his kunai in hand, holding it in a reverse-grip while he blocked and spun it back into a knife-grip as he stabbed at the furious blond, who held his sword at the diagonal to parry and move the blade away from his kidneys where Nadare had been aiming. Then Nadare threw a punch, and the surprise of sudden hand-to-hand combat tactics must have caught the enraged youth off-guard for a moment because the blow landed in the boy's right cheek just as Nadare thought he'd never hit the kid.
But that small victory was short lived as Nadare found the right side of his face bursting with incredible pain, the boy having planted the toe of his foot into side of the cheek with impressive strength. Nadare felt paralyzed for a moment as he went sailing back down to the ground, but was glad for small mercies when Fubuki came out of nowhere and caught him before he impacted the ground below while the boy did go crashing into the snow, kicking up a large amount as his body made a crater from the impact.
"Back to the train." Nadare snarled, the whole right side of his face burning with pain in the cold mountain air, "Our objective is the Princess, and fighting them isn't bringing us any closer to achieving that."
"Right." Fubuki agreed, not wanting her precious wings clipped just in case the boy got up from that powerful strike anytime soon.
Sasuke leapt down the mountainside as he raced to where Naruto had landed with a resounding crash into the snow. Skidding to a stop where the snow had kicked up, he scanned the vague outlines of the icy grounds for his friend. Luckily though, Sasuke found that he didn't have to search for long as the winds paused for a moment before they exploded outward while Sasuke protected his face from the onslaught of icy wind and snow. Standing in the crater was Naruto, though his sword was several meters away and the side of the blonde's mouth was bleeding. Naruto gave a fierce snarl as his glare followed the retreating form of the enemy ninja.
"They're retreating," Sasuke commented as he followed Naruto's line of sight. Sasuke scowled as his observation was met with silence. He glanced over to Naruto, seeing how the whisker marks along the blond's facial cheeks had broadened into more noticeable dark ones.
Suddenly, Naruto's eyes widened, letting Sasuke see the crimson orbs before they snapped shut while the young Hokage took in deep calming breaths, the exhaled air visible in the icy weather atop the mountain. When Naruto opened his eyes again, Sasuke saw that they had changed back into their normal cerulean color before Naruto once again closed them. Naruto raised a gloved hand, and Sasuke was slightly confused by the gesture before he saw Naruto's sword appear in the hand from a show of blossom petals. Sheathing the sword in a belt loop at the very back of his pants, Naruto turned away from the escaping Snow ninja.
"Come on, we need to get to Koyuki." Naruto said slowly. More like deliberately, Sasuke thought as he watched Naruto head up the mountain. "Our mission is to protect her, not stand around fighting these guys."
"Yeah…" Sasuke agreed as he followed Naruto, tugging his cloak closer to his body now that the warm heat of adrenaline was leaving him.
If Naruto thought him an idiot, then the blond obviously had some head trauma, that was especially if Naruto thought Sasuke had not noticed the drastic change in persona over the past few moments. Though Sasuke supposed that he could chalk those changes up to the Nine-Tailed Fox. He didn't know much about the demon, but it was glaringly obvious that the beast had to be the cause of Naruto's sudden animalistic behavior while enraged.
That led to Sasuke questioning why at some moments his friend's eyes would flicker or completely change to a purple color. Was that another influence from the Kyuubi, or did Naruto possess some latent trait?
However, Sasuke didn't ponder these inquiries for long as an explosion went off behind them as they reached the top of the mountainside where the wounded and dead soldiers were still scattered about in the snow just as they were slain. It sickened Sasuke some, as it was too much a reminder of how his clan members had been left the way they had died as well. Pushing this pitiful feeling down, Sasuke turned around to see the back half of the train going down along with the section of the tracks that were blown from the mountain. Sasuke frowned when he saw that the Snow ninja and Doto survived the attack, moving atop the train cars while the falling section was cut from the remainer.
They should have plummet to their pitiful deaths, but Sasuke narrowed his eyes as he thought that too good for them. No, they would experience the type of pain he hoped to inflict upon Itachi when they next met. Yes, then he and his team could end their filthy existences from the world.
"I see this has your name written all over it, aye Kakashi-sensei." Naruto said as he got up to where Kakashi was guarding Koyuki.
"Maybe," Kakashi said, pocketing his kunai as he and Naruto turned to where Sasuke had paused a few meters away. "The enemy will be retreating now, we should regroup and check the soliders. Some may have survived this… tragedy…"
"Yeah…" Naruto trailed off as he glanced around the mountainside. It was literally littered with lifeless bodies.
Taking a steadying breath, Naruto formed his familiar cross hand-seal as he summoned the charka to create as many clones as he saw fit. Creating a hundred clones in an instant was nothing for Naruto as they all knew what silent command they were given. The clones rushed about the mountainside, checking bodies and collecting them as Naruto turned his attention from the body gathering whilst the clones laid the bodies in rows and columns for accounting.
The recovery took no more than several minutes, and even less time to account for the living.
The only solider left alive was the only one being treated by a nervous yet determined Sakura Haruno as her jutsu quite literally kept the man tethered to the living world.
Naruto turned away as Koyuki gave up an images she was trying to keep in favor of dropping to her knees at Sandayu's dying side. The princess wept as she took the hand Sandayu was reaching for her with. She hugged the appendage close to her chest, as though her own heartbeat would help to breath life back into his.
As Sandayu gave his final words to Koyuki, Naruto glanced back to see Sakura still trying her best to keep the man alive. When he was about to tell her to withdraw and save her strengths- as he himself couldn't save the dying when it was all he wanted to do at the moment- Naruto saw Sasuke place a hand on Sakura's shoulder as the pink-haired girl looked up at him with unshed tears in her green eyes. The tears came fast and with sobs when the two friends locked eyes, but still Sakura did not stop her work. Her hands were still hovering over Sandayu's wounds, still glowing their medicinal green as charka seeped into the wounds and tried desperately to mend that which was beyond it's feeble mortal power.
As she saw the life fading from him, Sakura let her tears flow freely while pushing herself even harder. Kakashi knew it was a wasted effort, and with the way Naruto had turned from the dying man, Kakashi could see that Naruto knew as well. Sasuke glared down at his cloaked feet, his fists clenched tightly at his sides while Koyuki cried on the other side of Sandayu's dying side. As the brave man breathed his last, Kakashi bowed his head and despite himself, gave a small prayer that the man would meet with his teammates and sensei in the honorable and peace-filled next life.
The wind swept over the side of the mountain as their cloaks billowed in the harsh icy breeze. Taking a moment of silence within each of them, Sakura closed Sandayu's eyes and rested his hands atop his stomach while Koyuki kissed the man's cheek, hoping he found more peace than she ever gave him in the next life over.
A great gust of wind and noise filled the air as Naruto and the others snapped their attention back to the train, which had only moved a few dozen meters forward along it's tracks, near out of sight around the bend of the mountain. The members of Team Seven and Koyuki watched as the very back of the train, the final compartment which hadn't fallen to a drop of doom, underwent yet another transformation. Fully expecting another flurry of sharp weapons to descend upon them, they prepared themselves to unleash measures to keep themselves and their client alive. Instead, they were made to watch as a canvas broke out on top, and immediately expanded, filling with hot air and helium. A number of long, elegant metal wings extended from the sides to aid in the contraption's flight, because apparently that bastard Doto didn't just have a train and weapons of mass destruction, but also a damnable flying machine to boot!
Naruto glanced at Sasuke, who managed to neatly sum up the group' thoughts on the matter.
"Oh goddamnit, enough of this bullshit…!" Sasuke muttered in annoyance under his breath as Naruto and the others mentally agreed while preparing for any tricks the evil bastard might have.
Yet and still, they were caught off-guard as an armored hand shot from behind them just as the flying contraption was clearing the hillside. Naruto didn't even bother to fight down the growl in his throat as he saw the fat Snow ninja boarding toward the flying machine with the back of Koyuki's robes gripped in his mechanized hand, which was on a long extension wire. Naruto sprang forward like a powerful boaster as he raced to where the fat ninja planned to jump onto the passing hovering vehicle. He was vaguely aware of Kakashi calling for him to come back, but didn't bother with it as he surged forward with his face alit in barely suppressed fury. Koyuki gave a sharp scream as Naruto caught up with her speedily dragged form, grabbing her leg as he allowed himself to be dragged through the snow with her as the fat ninja, Mizori, finally jumped into the flying machine. Naruto and Koyuki both were hauled through up and into the sky by the brute Mizori and his grapple, heading towards Doto's airship.
Sasuke grunted as he too charged up the hillside, ignoring Kakashi's barking orders. And as he was about to go after his idiotic best friend and their royal client, another problem presented itself in the form of a pink-haired sadistic glider. Cackling overhead with a widespread grin, Fubuki swooped underneath the airship, tossing down exploding kunai to and fro amidst them as Sasuke stopped a short dozen meters from the remainder of his team. What he noticed was that while these exploding kunai held no tags as they dropped from the skies amidst his dodging, the kunai did hold some strange blue crystals on the ringed end. When a kunai hit the ground, it exploded in a flurry of heavy ice that grew at an impossible speed, hard and sharp as metal, in every direction Sasuke found as a expanding branch of the ice nicked his cheek.
These Snow ninja had some pretty dangerous weapons at their disposal.
Quickly deciding that retreat wasn't an option or luxury, Kakashi instead sprang forward, ducking underneath the attacks and skidding down the mountainside awkwardly toward the tracks while barely avoiding being hit by the sharp branches of ice that were as long and deadly as spears. Sasuke, who he had moved ahead of, was now right behind him, following his movements through the use of Sharingan as they leapt and twisted gratefully out of the way of the exploding ice. Sakura was only doing slightly worse as she came down more in a slide than a way of grace as she landed beside him.
Looking up, Kakashi saw that Naruto was now determinedly dangling from the back of the airship by a rope and a thrown kunai, improvising by use of his own grapple as Mizori must have dislodged him sometime ago. Naruto's pale cloak billowed wildly in the open air as his orange and black jacket, fully unzipped, fluttered about in the wind as he grimly hung on for all he was worth. As Kakashi watched, Naruto was already steadily pulling himself further along up the rope whilst the ship gained altitude. Kakashi sighed as the kunai stopped raining down at them. There was no way he or the others would be able to get up that high in time to assist Naruto. Kakashi found that he could only hope Naruto would be able to hold his own once again against the challenge that were the Snow ninja and their charka-armor.
Now up on the airship, Naruto hulled himself into the mechanical beast as he leapt to his feet the moment he was inside.
Because it was at that moment which he found his hands full with the brute known as Mizori.
The moment Naruto came into sight, Mizori the fat ninja had tossed aside the unconscious Princess in haste to get in another shot at the brat who had cut up his arm. Luckily he had an emergency brace and cast for the limb, so Mizori was upon Naruto the moment the youth dropped into a ready stance. Keeping the brat from pulling his sword, Mizori used his experience with small-quarters fighting as he went for forward straight shots with roundhouse kicks and jabs while Naruto moved his body to dodge by bracing his hands against the side of the blows, taking full advantage of his opponent's much slower and larger form. Seeing an opening, Naruto used his left hand to direct the larger ninja's jab into a missed uppercut while slipping in-between and under the man's legs to appear behind the big lug.
Mizori seemed temporarily confused by the sudden action of the boy sliding under him, and that was all the elapsed time Naruto needed as he freed his sword from horizontal over his hips and held it to stab the big man in the back. Naruto brought the sword down hard and fast toward Mizori's back, but found his hands bound with ninja-wire as he tried to finish the act before the big man finally turned.
"Sorry, brat, not today." Nadare sneered as he held fast to the ninja-wire which cut into the thick gloves on his hands. He couldn't have his teammate dead if he could help it. Mizori was a giant dumbass, but he was submissive and followed orders without question. Nadare needed pawns like him, and Fubuki needed someone to bicker with insistently.
The skirmish was fast becoming a two-on-one fight as Naruto fought himself flipping through the air to get away from the heavy-handed fist s Mizori brought down in an attempt to cave his skull into his chest.
Mizori ducked under the kick Naruto had sent flying toward his head, retaliating with a vicious left hook that nearly caught the Kage by surprise when Nadare tugged back on the wire he still had wrapped around Naruto's blade. Naruto jumped back away from Mizori, but only fought Nadare ready with another tug, though this time the man had pulled Naruto to the floor and tried to stomp his head in like a melon. Naruto rolled to his feet and dodged the stomp as he sent his blade flashing upward at Nadare's chest. Nadare blocked the blade with his arm-guard while Mizori came stampeding toward them like a wild boar.
"We're ready for you this time, you little freak!" Mizori shouted, as Nadare pulled hard on the wire once again. This time though, Naruto didn't even bother holding onto the sword as the lead Snow ninja's eyes widened in surprise that the boy would abandon his weapon of choice. Though when Naruto's foot collided with the side of Mizori's face and sent the enormous man into the wall, Nadare knew they needed to hastily switch tactics.
"Now, Fubuki!" Nadare shouted as Naruto dropped into a fighting stance as he was prepared for anything.
And sure enough, he saw Fubuki spring forth from the shadows with her fist cocked back. Blocking the blow and redirecting it upward with an open palm, Naruto was more than a bit surprised when he felt his arm spasm and go limb. Looking down at the purple-haired kunoichi, Naruto saw the woman grinning sadistically while his eyes trailed up to where her fist was still raised.
There, just barely poking out from her sleeve was a needle dripping with some dark violet liquid. Naruto narrowed his eyes as he hopped back from the grinning woman, his arm still limb and now going somewhat numb.
"It's a paralysis, one of our greatest…" Nadare said with his own feral grin, "Reserved only for our greatest of enemies… Naruto Uzumaki…"
Naruto said nothing, but the harsh glare he threw them spoke more so than any words could.
"You're probably wondering how I know that name." Nadare went on as Naruto began to feel the numbness wane, "Well, it's actually because of these last few battles that I figured it out. Mostly the use of your clones to gather all those pitiful dead soldiers. There has only been one said to create so many. The defeater of the One-Tailed Jinchuriki, and of the Konoha Hyuga clan prodigy."
"I see my reputation proceeds me," Naruto spat as he felt his fingers twinge.
"That's not all that proceeds you, Hokage-sama." Fubuki said with her grin growing as Naruto's eyes widened.
"Yes, we know of your recently obtained rank." Nadare said, smoothly bringing focus back onto him. "How could we not have when someone so young and newly famed is made leader of one of the Five Great Ninja Villages?"
"And now we're gonna have a lot of kinky fun with you, kid." Fubuki said with a wink as Nadare's grin grew as well.
"Now, Mizori!" Nadare ordered as Naruto's eyes widened, seeing the downed opponent he had kicked into unconsciousness shatter like a glass window.
"Ice Clone?" Naruto questioned in thought as his mental processes ran at miles per second, "But how? When?"
Deciding that he could worry later about the use of abilities only the deceased Haku had, Naruto knew the only place his opponent could be was at his blind spot. Spinning quickly on his heel, Naruto hopped back just in time to avoid a fist to his face while the overly large Snow ninja appeared on the spot.
That however, didn't account for the grin he saw Nadare have when the man and Fubuki appeared at his sides aiming for him with kunai in their hands. Reaching into his pouch, Naruto quickly blocked the two with two kunai of his own.
"Just perfect." Nadare said with his grin never leaving his face, "Just as planned."
"Wh-What plan?" Naruto asked while holding off the two weapons that were aimed at his vitals.
"This plan." Nadare said, then cast a significant glance at Mizori. "Now, you lumbering oaf!"
"Oh, right!" Mizori said as he took something out from his weapon pouch whilst he charged at Naruto.
And just as Naruto was about to do something- anything to stop whatever they had planned- whatever the enormous Snow ninja held collided with Naruto's middle and knocked him clear off his feet, sending the young Kage tumbling back along the hardwood floor of the airship until he slammed into the wall.
"Well, that was much easier than I would have thought." Nadare said as he put away his kunai.
"It's not over yet…" Naruto said through gritted teeth as he clamored weakly to his feet, using a nearby seat for support.
Naruto looked down at the thing that he had been hit with. At first glance he thought they had slugged him with a piece of chakra armor. But as he looked closer, he noticed some differences from the thing over his stomach and their chakra armor. Whereas their armor was blue and white, the device attached to him was a dark crimson and deep cerulean. It also held a yin-yang symbol, and was covered in wicked sharp tubules that had already sunk themselves down into his clothes. Naruto could even feel the thing digging it's hooks into his skin, and was nearly sent back to his knees when sharp pains, like needles, stabbed into his lower abdomen. Then he felt himself grow weak, and with the sudden bout of weakness came pain like never before as Naruto cried out when it raced through his body in one shocking wave.
Nadare, however, was still grinning, and was grinning even larger when he heard Naruto's single cry of agony.
"It's a Chakra Nullifier, and helps we normal ninja even the playing field a little bit against Kage-level fighters like you. With that on, you can't even use the most rudimentary chakra techniques." Nadare explained as Fubuki and Mizori began to laugh, as though they found something funny. "It was actually created so we could take defeat the Raikage and his Cloud-ninja to the east of us."
"In other words, you're helpless now, Hokage~sama." Fubuki sang sweetly as her grin promised anything but kindness while Mizori strode forward, the deck shaking under his heavy footsteps.
"I'm gonna enjoy this, you brat." the fat ninja said as he chuckled darkly while cracking his knuckles.
Naruto looked up through bleary eyes. He couldn't fight them as he was. He could barely stand, let alone fight with no chakra going through him. However, he could feel it. Slowly but surely leaking from the dam that was the device on his stomach. If he could just hold on for maybe an hour or two…
"Enough," a voice behind them all said calmly as Naruto felt the shaking of the floor stop when Mizori paused whilst looming above him.
"But sir-" the large ninja began, but he stopped.
"He is of little consequence to us at the moment." the voice, Doto, Naruto figured with bubbling anger, said as though Naruto weren't worth scrap. "We have the princess, and having a live Kage to keep around is better. He could be used for ransom, or beating secret information out of. Even for our scientists' experimentation on human-chakra chemistry."
"I have spoken." Doto said firmly, and the way Mizori had backed up gave Naruto the impression that Doto was one who did not like to be questioned when he was in command. "Now, when we reach the castle, lock him away. Give him a cell right across from our dear princess. That way, they'll know the despair of status together."
"As you wish," this voice, Nadare, said quickly while Mizori glared down at the defiant Naruto, who even though he was sweating with the effort to stay awake in his exhausted state, did not give into rest willingly.
Then a pair of softer footsteps came forward and Naruto's glare intensified as he found the seductive grin of Fubuki down upon him.
"Aww, what's with that face, hmm, little Kage?" the wicked woman purred as she lifted Naruto's weak body from the ground. It was only then that Naruto noticed how the paralyzing poison had come back to take effect when he fell to the ground and his chakra drained. "Well, you don't have to make that face anymore. Mistress Fubuki is here to take good care of you."
And then the woman kissed him deeply on the lips before Naruto felt a sharp pain in his abdomen. Glancing down in panic, Naruto found yet another needle within him, this one dripping with a green liquid as he collapsed to the floor. Looking up at them, he saw only Fubuki and her twisted grin gazing down at him as he silently promised himself he would wipe the grin from her face.
They would not… get away with this…
He… swore it…
The Omake Strikes Back… Again!:
The Fresh Prince… of Ninja!:
"Hey, good people!" Naruto exclaimed as he got in the camera's face with his own face. "I've something I've been meaning to do for awhile now."
"Naruto, don't." Sakura warned as Naruto turned to her, gripping the camera by both sides of its frame.
"Oh shut up. This is goin' straight to YouTube! It'll be an instant hit!" Naruto declared before he stuck his tongue out at Sakura, who gaped in shock at his actions before she huffed and began to walk away.
"Fine! Go ahead and make a fool out of yourself! Become the laughing stock of the internet!" Sakura yelled as Naruto blew a raspberry at her while pulling down his eyelid.
"That's the plan, dumbass!" Naruto shot back as Sakura groaned in frustration before stalking out of the recording room.
"Now then, let's get this start!" Naruto said, hoping back from the camera as he pointed up at the ceiling. "Shino! Hit it!"
The lights went out, but when they came back on moments later, Naruto was dressed in his Kage robes with his Kage hat tilted to overshadow his face while seated atop a throne like chair. Then a funky fresh beat began to play as Sasuke came out from the side wearing shades and a dark blue hoodie.
"Alright, lets start this!" Sasuke said as Naruto looked up, hopping from his throne as he and Sasuke used hand-seals like gang signs.
"Now this is the theory all about why," Naruto began as Sasuke stepped in and sang, "Our lives are fucked up, and that's no lie."
"If this were television, it'd take more than a few seasons," Naruto rapped while Sasuke bobbed his dark blue-hooded head, "So if ya wanna hear everything, don't you dare be leavin'."
"It- starts- with…" Sasuke began before the beat got louder, "Konohagakure, where we were born and raised."
"On the play ground is where I spent most of my lonely days," Naruto came in as Sasuke stepped.
"Just silent, glaring, being emo-cool," Sasuke said as he struck a pose.
"Playing with your kunai all day after school?" Naruto asked, waggling his eyebrows as Sasuke shot him a disgusted look, shoving the blond away from him.
"That's when a couple guys got up to no good, all 'cause they weren't emo-cool." Sasuke sang as Naruto shot him a confused look.
"Actually, it was just Mizuki-sensei being a tool," Naruto said as Sasuke's eyebrow twitched.
"Fine! Mizuki, he was kinda being an ass." Sasuke relented as Naruto grinned.
"That's when I had my Shadow Clone army kick his ass!" Naruto declared happily as Sasuke smirked.
"So you beat a few chumps, and passed some stupid tests," Sasuke shrugged as Naruto grinned again.
"Oh, is that is that how I got the title of Fire Country's best?" Naruto asked as Sasuke growled in annoyance at him.
"He- was- then assigned to Team Seven's sad ass group!" Kiba burst in with Shikamaru and Rock Lee in tow, all wearing sunglasses like Sasuke.
"It was Naruto, the fan-girl, and Sasuke here as the emo-douche," Neji rapped as he shot Sasuke a smug look, the Uchiha growling at him.
"Yeah! Our sensei's David Bowie with his gravity defying silver hair!" Naruto exclaimed as Kakashi's eye twitched in the middle of his meal. He had a feeling that Naruto had once again refused to call him Kakashi in favor of labeling David Bowie again.
He'd get that kid someday…
"Orochimaru in the house!" came the voice of the snake man as he slid into view with Kabuto in tow.
"Holy shit, it's that snake freak!" Kiba pointed as Orochimaru glared at him with his snake-like yellow eyes.
"And look! He came with a geek!" Rock Lee said, his voice deep as Kabuto looked offended.
"Well, our time's about done, and that's really all we got."
"Not if our next video is Orochimaru getting' shot." Sasuke said, him and his crew- which now consisted of Neji, Kiba, and Rock Lee- all cocked their guns. Orochimaru grew pale…er as he ran out of the recording booth while leaving Kabuto, who was thoroughly ignored as the gang went to chase down the freaky snake dude.
"I guess we can't finish the rap this time." Naruto said as he watched his friends run out of the room. Kabuto tapped his shoulder, and when Naruto looked back, Kabuto was smiling timidly.
"Do you mind if I give the rap game a try?" Kabuto asked as Naruto shrugged, the beat ending as Shino cocked his own pistol and went to join the snake hunt.
"No problem dude, but get out of here before ya die." Naruto said, waving a hand over his head as he left the recording room.
Starting his own beat, Kabuto took up a pair of headphones and an abandoned pair of shades.
"Kabuto in the place, are we ready to go?" Kabuto started, bobbing his head to his beat as he began to feel the music. Just as he was about to spit so hot rhymes, the door to the recording booth burst open and a pissed off Ino came in with Tenten and Choji not far behind.
"Sorry, chump, but you're not getting more screen time than us! Even if it is for one of these stupid little comedy bits." Ino declared as Choji grabbed Kabuto.
"Come on, let's go." Choji said as Tenten stood next to Ino, both women with their hands on their hips.
"But the three of you are main characters!" Kabuto declared as Tenten scoffed.
"Main characters? Bitch, I don't even have a last name in this damn series!" Tenten snapped as Kabuto recoiled.
"Oh… right…" Kabuto said, hanging his head as Ino stomped up to him and tore off his purple hoodie and his shades. Tenten retched the headphones from his ears, smirking as she crushed them in her hand.
"I'll say this once Kabuto, and I hope I'm understood." Tenten said as he leaned in close, whispering in the med-ninja's ear, "Get your boyfriend Orochimaru, and get the fuck outta my neighborhood."
"Ye-Yes, Ma'am…!" Kabuto said, startled as Choji let him go. The three watched as Kabuto ran for the hills, knowing that he wouldn't be back anytime soon.
"Next on our list… Hinata!"
Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged Series by LittleKuribo
Naruto Abridge Series by Ninjabridge
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Next OMAKE: A Day In the Life of Hinata Hyuga or Why No One Questions Hinata's Sanity