Chapter 11: A New Horizon

Naruto wasted no time as he leapt at high speed across the war torn rooftops of Konoha. In his peripheral vision he could see widespread chaos and countless outbreaks of battle. He did not care though. His only priority right now was to find Sasuke no matter the cost.

He made it a considerable distance past the village walls towards the source of the large explosion he had recently witnessed. Several smaller ones followed it as he got closer. Part of him wondered if leaving the Hokage behind was the right thing to do, but he quickly pushed those thoughts aside, 'Who cares about the old man. He's on his own now.'

"I can't believe you're going after this Uchiha girl. What is the point behind all this? You do realize that you won't have another opportunity to kill Orochimaru for quite some time now?" Kyuubi sighed in disapproval.

'What makes you think I can't just kill him later?' the jinchuuriki asked.

"He is slippery and prefers to fight from the shadows. This was really your one chance to kill him out in the open. Now he's probably going to escape by the time you wrap up your little hero detour. I thought we worked past this already…what is your obsession with this girl?" Kyuubi grunted in annoyance.

'Don't worry Kyuubi, I haven't forgotten our talk. I have no false illusions of what this implies. I simply don't like the idea of that Gaara guy killing her. Did you see what was happening to him? That was not a bloodline or anything I've ever seen…he has something inside of him doesn't he?' Naruto responded reasonably.

Kyuubi seemed surprised but impressed by his observation, "Yes, I had put some thought into it and I believe you are dead on with your assumption. It was subtle at first, but there is no mistaking it now. He is the jinchuuriki of Ichibi."

The blonde pondered this for a moment, 'How long have you suspected this? I would have liked to have known sooner.'

"I wasn't entirely sure until just recently. Shukaku and I never really saw eye to eye. He is not very fond of me so that might be why I didn't recognize him right away," Kyuubi chuckled as he recalled some distant memory.

'At any rate, if your suspicions prove correct then we are better off pursuing this Gaara guy anyways,' Naruto noted.

"I can see why you would think that. Normally I would agree, but after what we just did to Orochimaru in front of his minions…I highly doubt that he's going to want to come near us again," Kyuubi sighed.

'How is that a bad thing though?' the blonde wondered.

Kyuubi seemed lost in his own thoughts, "It is one less headache I would prefer to not have looming over our heads. But alas, what's done is done now…hopefully the path you have chosen will play out in our favor."

'We'll see I suppose. Although what's the deal with this Orochimaru guy anyways? I mean he used to be a Sannin didn't he? What's his whole motive behind all of this?' Naruto asked.

Kyuubi huffed, "To hell if I know…to hell if I care."

'He's not going to want to fight me face to face now. I guess it's not really our problem anymore…but something else is bothering me. How in the world did he resurrect the Hokages? Hell was that even them?' Naruto inquired anxiously.

"I'm not really sure…but I was able to seize control of it," Kyuubi noted more to himself than Naruto.

The blonde shook his head as that scene replayed in his head, 'How exactly did you do that?' Naruto focused his gaze on his destination as he picked up speed.

Kyuubi answered with a hint of amusement, "Tobirama didn't take Mito as seriously as he should have."

'What the hell does Mito Uzumaki have to do with anything?! You say she was your first container?! What does that have to do with the second Hokage? Unless…how did they both die; how did my mother become your container?' Naruto asked incredulously.

"I promised I would answer your questions, kit, but now is not the time or place," Kyuubi responded sternly.

'Fair enough fox…but you and I really need to talk about this. I mean we're at the point now where there shouldn't be any more secrets between us,' Naruto replied calmly.

Kyuubi nodded in agreement with a light sigh, "We'll finish this conversation later."

Naruto felt a sense of relief hearing Kyuubi's agreement. Part of him was still a bit shaken up by the recent happenings between Kyuubi's control and the Hokage's words of truth.

'Yondaime is my father…' his mind trailed off as he bolted closer towards what appeared to be a large shell of sand.

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Sasuke panted heavily as she dodged a massive sand claw from the transforming Gaara. The longer they had been battling, the more bizarrely misshapen he had become. His eyes were that of an unnatural color and his body was under some sort of metamorphosis. The Suna Jinchuuriki was no joke in his current state.

The raven-haired Uchiha skillfully dodged wave after wave of sand attacks and desperately tried to think of a plan to take him down. Earlier she attempted to blow him up, but all it did was anger her foe even more.

Sasuke knew she was going to have to get completely serious if she was going to stand any chance against Gaara. She flashed through a series of hand seals as the red head rode a massive sand dune down to engulf her.

Upon finishing, she shouted, "Chidori Eiso!" (One Thousand Birds Sharp Spear) A long spear of lightning shot from her hand just in time to pierce through one of Gaara's massive sand claws. The jinchuuriki seemed surprised by this move and his eyes widened when a torrent of lightning shot through it causing his sand to shake apart and loose shape.

This move had been one of Sasuke's top secret ace moves that she was saving for Naruto, but right now her life was in danger.

Gaara instantly flipped away and raised his fists in the air causing most of the surrounding battlefield to lift off the ground and encapsulate Sasuke. He was rather surprised when she instantly sliced through the sand prison and dove towards him. She brought the lightning lance down in a low motion and jabbed as hard as she could in an attempt to impale Gaara.

Unfortunately, his ultimate defense stopped the attack short and caused Sasuke's arm to get stuck. Sand quickly spread up her arm in an attempt to ensnare her again. Much to Gaara's disbelief, her arm began to cackle with lightning and she quickly broke free.

Right now, Sasuke was under the impression that lightning would be more effective against Gaara's sand. From her brief analysis of his fighting style, she realized that speed and penetration were key in breaking through. Although that was becoming increasingly difficult with the more sand that he was creating.

It appeared to be manifesting out of nowhere causing Sasuke to question the nature of Gaara's powers even more. The Uchiha gracefully back-flipped away as she dusted the loose sand off her body. There was a brief silence between the two as they stared each other down. Gaara's eyes widened with malicious bloodlust, "WHY WON'T YOU DIE?!" he roared as multiple sand claws began to shoot out of the dune he stood upon.

There were thrice as many as before causing Sasuke to bite her lip concerned, 'It's getting harder and harder to keep up with this guy. He just doesn't know when to quit.'

She barely managed to dodge his brutal assault of sand before drawing her sword again. Lightning crackled over the blade as she swung it against an incoming sand claw. The blade carved through it like paper and the sand quickly collapsed into a dune around her.

Her success was short-lived as the sand beneath her feet began to swirl in an upwards spiral. It quickly twisted into a sand typhoon ensnaring her yet again. This time Sasuke found it much harder to move, let alone breathe. She grimaced in pain as Gaara's malicious glare turned into a sadistic, wide-eyed grin, "DIE!"

Thinking fast, she tried channeling another lightning cloak around her body. It seemed half effective as the sand vibrated and began to shake away. Sasuke channeled more, but much to her disbelief, Gaara began to add a colossal amount of sand to negate this.

She quickly gasped for air as the sand completely smothered her into a massive sphere-shaped sand coffin. The half-transformed Gaara let out a blood-curdling roar as he cracked both fists causing the sand to compress the prison.

Deep inside the sand prison, Sasuke thought frantically for any possible solution to her current predicament. A risky idea crossed her mind as she flexed her muscles intensely. Sasuke channeled lightning in one hand and fire in the other.

In a move of desperation she charged as much of her body's chakra as possible into another armor. Only this time, it was half fire, and half lightning. The resulting product quickly blazed through the sand prison as random sparks shot out of the sides. Not even a second later the entire sphere was set ablaze.

Gaara seemed shocked by this display as the sphere then erupted into a storm of burning sand. The smell could only be compared to that of an erupting volcano. The jinchuuriki scanned the aftermath for any sign of Sasuke. He quickly spotted her leaning over and panting.

Sasuke glanced up at him worried, 'Damn, that took a lot more chakra than I wanted it to. How the hell am I supposed to fight this guy?! He just keeps coming!'

"Getting tired?" the monstrous hybrid Gaara asked with a deadly glare.

The Uchiha girl bit her lip before standing up tall and proud, "You wish…I'm just getting started."

Sasuke was bluffing sadly. She was in a bit of a rough spot. The girl honestly had no clue how to fight Gaara. All of her most powerful attacks, while effective, didn't seem to do that much to him. No matter how many times she would break through his defenses or break out of his grips…the boy would keep on coming. He also seemed to be regenerating somehow.

'If only my Sharingan were more powerful…' she thought as she locked death glares with Gaara once more.

"You have to die…you need to die…you deserve to die!" Gaara shouted incoherently as he unleashed another barrage of attacks.

However, before any of them could hit, a massive torrent of water intercepted his sand waves. It quickly turned the entire battlefield into a muddy mess. Both Gaara and Sasuke looked completely shocked to see ragged and feral looking Naruto.

He landed right next to Sasuke who didn't know whether to feel relieved or embarrassed. Gaara on the other hand was shocked that all of his sand was now a sludgy mud mess. He simply shook with anger as he stared at Naruto.

"So you're still alive huh, Uchiha?" Naruto asked in a carefree way.

She cracked a fist and bit her lip, "I can handle this…I don't need your help!"

Naruto quickly shot her a fierce look before shaking his head, "I beg to differ, little miss Uchiha. How do you expect to kill your brother if you can't even get past this guy?"

"I had this under control! Why the hell are you even here!?" she shot back.

"I imagine this is exactly how your fight with Itachi would end up wouldn't it? It's a shame too…you have so much potential in comparison to the rest of the drones around here," Naruto replied callously.

This comment quickly got her fired up, "How dare you say that to me! If this is about earlier than you can just forget it!"

"Oh I already have…I'm done being your doormat, Sasuke. To be honest, I'm not even here for you. I'm here for him," Naruto pointed towards Gaara.

Despite her brave appearance, Naruto's insult cut her deeply. Part of her had hoped that he was really here to save her. She couldn't help but blame herself for the way she reacted. However, to hide, her insecurity she quickly reverted to anger, "Why are you interfering in MY fight anyways?! I have this under control!"

"No you don't," Naruto replied simply with a careless shrug, "Gaara's not even at full power yet and you're over here falling apart."

Sasuke looked back over at Gaara before meeting Naruto's gaze again, "What do you mean, he's not at full power?! What the hell is he?!"

"He's somebody like me…this fight no longer concerns you, Sasuke. Get out of here," the blonde said almost casually.

She raised a brow, "Somebody like you?! So what? You're telling me you're some kind of monster too?!"

"Sasuke, get out of here!" he yelled.

She looked rather surprised by his aggressive tone. Gaara on the other hand was staring at him wide-eyed trying to absorb what he just said.

For some reason, Sasuke felt like she was a little girl again getting scolded by her father. In a moment of bitter disapproval she reared her hand back and slapped Naruto across the face.

He simply shot her a look of disbelief before she reared back to slap him again. This time he caught her wrist mid-swing and squeezed it as hard as possible. He made sure to apply pressure at the right points which quickly brought the girl to her knees.

Gaara simply stared at them as the two glared at each other in an unspoken silence. Sasuke tried to stand up again, but was quickly pushed to the ground. She could barely believe this was happening between her and Naruto as they both seemed to completely ignore the fact that Gaara was even there.

Finally, Naruto spoke again, "I said, get out of here!"

She quickly leapt to her feet and sent him a saddened look. Naruto could tell by her despairing look that she didn't have the will to argue with him at the moment.

"And go where?" Sasuke finally muttered. She could barely believe how weak she felt in this situation.

"Since when do you need my advice?" he answered with a condescending question. She looked away shamefully.

'I can't burn this bridge forever…Naruto's the only good thing that's happened in my life since I became a ninja,' Sasuke thought distantly. Naruto looked surprised when she gazed upon him with a saddened face, "I don't want to leave you…"

"What?!" he said bewildered by her change of heart.

"I've been so pathetic haven't I? You must think I'm a terrible person…" she trailed off.

Before Naruto could answer, he heard Gaara start laughing. "Hahahahahaha…he thinks he's like me. That's impossible…nobody could ever be like me!"

Naruto turned around and locked gazes with the mad genin, "Wait stop! You're a jinchuuriki aren't you?!"

The red head's maddened eyes only seemed to light up like an erupting volcano upon hearing his words. "Another one sent to kill me?! You'll die too!"

Gaara wasted no time creating more sand which appeared to be manifesting out of nowhere much to Naruto's surprise.

Sasuke on the other hand thought out loud, "Jinchuuriki? What is a jinchuuriki?"

She quickly shut up as she gasped at Gaara who appeared to be going through his full transformation. The jinchuuriki cackled madly as he flashed through several hand seals, "Tanuki Neiri no Jutsu!" (Feigning Sleep Technique)

Naruto looked rather surprised as the sand began to manifest into a beast like shape around Gaara. His waist up was sticking out of what appeared to be a massive sand beast's head. This monstrosity quickly caused him to gulp concerned, 'What the hell did he just do Kyuubi?!'

"That's not good…it looks as if he's trying to summon all of Shukaku's power. The kid put himself to sleep…Shukaku must have full control of him now," Kyuubi answered.

The blonde thought quickly for some way to reverse this. 'There's no way I'm going to be able to stop this guy if he's fully transformed. What should I do, Kyuubi?'

The fox chuckled at his tone, "You know Mokuton do you not? That was instrumental in restraining me. Try it against him."

'Hey do you think waking him up could reverse this?' Naruto asked.

Kyuubi thought for a brief moment, "It's a good idea. Though you may want to act fast before he attacks."

The fox's advice seemed almost ironic as Naruto felt himself get tackled just in time to dodge one of Shukaku's claws smashing against the ground.

Naruto quickly regained his composure and looked rather surprised to see Sasuke had just made an attempt to save him from danger. He didn't have time to think about this though as the two quickly leapt to their feet and dodged another flurry of smashes.

Sasuke looked worried as she glanced over at Naruto, "What the hell is he? You said he's like you? Exactly what is jinchuuriki?!"

"Tailed beast containers…he has the One-Tail and I have the Nine-Tails," Naruto answered quickly without looking at her. Shukaku sent Naruto a look of disapproval upon hearing this claim.

The bijou let out an amused shriek, "So, you're Kyuubi's host?! How the mighty have fallen…you're not so powerful now are you?"

Naruto could tell that Shukaku was directing his question towards Kyuubi. The blonde could hear the fox smashing his head against the bars of his cage, "Take him down now kit! I will not suffer insults from that fool!"

Sasuke's eyes went wide with utter shock as she eyed Naruto up and down, "You're a container for THE Kyuubi?! I thought the fourth defeated it though…"

He did not bother responding as he took several steps closer towards the One-Tail. The massive sand raccoon gave him a look that was somewhere between amusement and anger.

Naruto wasted no time channeling his red chakra cloak much to Sasuke's surprise. She witnessed this earlier, but it was only now that she fully understood what it was.

'So Naruto can control Kyuubi's power?!' she thought in disbelief. 'He's been holding back this entire time…'

Much to her continued disbelief, Naruto flashed through a series of hand seals, "Mokuton: Mokusatsu Shibari no Jutsu!" (Wood Release: Smothering Binding Technique)

Sasuke's jaw dropped with awe upon witnessing Naruto perform the legendary art of Mokuton. 'No way…just how powerful has he become?!'

The girl could barely believe her eyes as Naruto's enormous chakra pools created a massive binding restraint of wood to hold Shukaku down. The bijou bucked frantically in an attempt to break free which greatly strained Naruto as he channeled more chakra.

The blonde quickly turned his head towards Sasuke, "Wake Gaara up! It's the only way to stop him!"

She looked at him confused for a moment before understanding, 'That's right…he transformed after falling asleep.'

Naruto looked worried as Shukaku began to channel a tailed beast ball at him, 'Umm…Kyuubi, what the hell is he doing?!'

"You better do something fast! You're going to get fried if he hits you with that! Give me control and I can stop him!" the fox demanded.

'No…not with Sasuke here! I have another idea,' Naruto thought. He instantly ripped his arms free of the wooden prison around Shukaku and quickly channeled a massive Rasengan. Wasting no time, he charged forward and jabbed a hole through Shukaku just in time to avoid a super massive tailed beast ball obliterating the landscape behind him.

Meanwhile, Sasuke was able to ascend Shukaku from behind and made swift progress towards his head. The bijou quickly took notice and tried to grab her, but much to his surprise, Sasuke sliced his hand off with her lightning charged sword.

Only, this time, it had long extensions which clearly resulted in a lightning-sword whip. Shukaku's hand easily reformed and made another attempt to snatch the Uchiha. She narrowly avoided both of his claws as she ascended up Shukaku's neck and brought her sword down execution style.

The blade stuck into Shukaku's head and Sasuke charged the rest of her chakra into conducting a lightning current through it. This caused the thrashing beast to shake in an immobile state. Sasuke panted heavily as she continued to hold it. Much to her relief, Naruto quickly made his way up the beast and delivered a powerful punch towards Gaara's face waking him up.

The resulting aftermath caused Shukaku's form to completely dissipate into a massive sand dune with Gaara, Naruto, and Sasuke on top. The red head looked up dazed and disbelievingly as Naruto took a step over him.

"So, you really were the best…then I guess it's time for me to die," was all Gaara could say as his cold careless eyes met Naruto's.

"Why would I kill a fellow jinchuuriki?" he asked rhetorically.

The red head was barely conscious and simply stared at the sky, "So you're a jinchuuriki too, Naruto Uzumaki?"

Before Naruto or Sasuke could even say anything else, they heard the sound of footsteps. They quickly turned and spotted a defeated looking Kankuro and a grief-stricken Temari. They appeared to be in a state of disbelief that Gaara was defeated.

However, much to their surprise, Naruto picked Gaara up and carried him over to his siblings. The red head looked at him curiously, "You're not going to kill me?"

"There's only a few of us jinchuuriki in the world…we should look out for one another," Naruto answered.

Temari and Kankuro appeared to overhear this and both stared at him fearfully.

They quickly got into fighting stances as Naruto approached, but his lack of aggression caused them to back down upon getting there. He handed Gaara to Kankuro without saying a word. The puppet user and his sister both trades disbelieving glances before Temari spoke up, "Hey dude, wait!"

The blonde turned around curiously, "What?"

"Why are you doing this?" Temari began.

"He doesn't deserve to die…it's not his fault that he's a jinchuuriki. I understand his pain and would never wish death upon one of my own kind," Naruto replied.

Tears began to fall down her face as she hugged the blank faced Gaara. He seemed surprised by this action. Kankuro put a hand on Gaara and met his brother's curious gaze. No words were exchanged, but the look was one of relief.

"We attacked your village though…don't you want us dead?" Kankuro asked surprised.

"I am no longer a member of this village. You are not my enemy," Naruto spoke assuredly as he pulled off his headband. Sasuke, who had just now made it over to this scene, could barely believe her eyes when the blonde simply threw his Konoha headband to the ground.

Gaara's eyes went wide at the sight, "What is the meaning of this?"

Temari's jaw dropped as she glanced between the headband and Naruto, "You would turn against your own village? Why?"

"Do you honestly think I care about this village? I've been waiting for something like this to happen for a long time, so I could leave. So thanks," Naruto said distantly to the sand nin.

"You're not honestly going to spare them are you?" Sasuke asked.

Naruto glanced between them, "Just out of curiosity, why did you guys attack us? Just what is your connection with Orochimaru?"

Kankuro looked down shamefully as Temari narrowed her brow, "He tricked us…Orochimaru assassinated the Kazekage and has been masquerading as him this entire time. Our father is dead now and our forces have retreated," she answered.

Sasuke shook her head in disbelief, "You're the Kazekage's kids?"

The blonde completely ignored Sasuke as she continued to stare at Naruto, "If you're leaving this village, where will you go now?"

"Awfully curious aren't you pigtails? Sorry, but you can't come along," Naruto chuckled. He was hoping to change the depressing mood. It seemed to work as Temari crossed her arms and huffed, "Hey now don't get the wrong idea, bud…we're grateful and all for you getting Gaara under control, but don't go misunderstanding me."

"Who could misunderstand an exotic beauty such as you?" Naruto added. Everybody present gave him shocked looks. Sasuke in particular felt a tinge of jealousy at the fact that Naruto just flirted with the foreign ninja. She didn't say anything but a nasty look was sent Temari's way which didn't go unnoticed by the other girl.

"You three should go now…before Konoha nin get here," Sasuke stated sternly before anybody could say anything else.

Temari simply looked away with a shameful blush, "Yeah, we were just leaving…maybe we'll see you around, Naruto Uzumaki. If you're ever in Suna, come visit us."

Without another word, the sand siblings took off at high speed leaving Naruto and Sasuke alone.

"So you think she's beautiful?" Sasuke asked as she continued to look ahead.

"What? Oh no, I was just joking…not like it really concerns you anyways," he responded without looking at her.

They awkwardly met gazes and thought of ways to continue their somewhat intimate conversation from earlier.

"Umm about what I said earlier, Naruto…I'm sorry," Sasuke apologized. He looked at her uncertainly not really sure if she was being serious. After a moment he simply sighed, "Yeah, it's okay I guess…you were right anyways."

"About what?" She exclaimed.

"You have been pathetic. I don't really know what your deal is, but you've made it pretty clear how you feel about us," he said calmly.

"So tell me, Naruto…how long were you going to keep this jinchuuriki thing a secret from me?" she asked.

He simply shrugged, "I had hoped indefinitely, but I figured you'd eventually find out. I guess it doesn't really matter though…since we're going our separate ways now. You don't seem as repulsed as most people get when they find out."

"I don't care about that crap. I want to know where are you going and why are you becoming a missing nin? Surely it has more to do than you being some kind of bijou prison," she questioned unhappily.

Naruto sighed, "It's personal stuff…this village destroyed the Uzumaki Clan. I'm going to find the survivors."

"What?! They destroyed your clan?!" she seemed almost as disgusted and angry as he was when she heard that news. Naruto nodded his head sadly, "Yeah, it's kind of a long story…a lot of it has to do with Kyuubi. You were smart to reject me, Sasuke…it was selfish of me to try and involve you in my chaotic life."

Sasuke quickly pulled her head band off and threw it to the ground right next to his, "I'm going with you."

"Eh? Why though? I thought you-" he started to speak, but was quickly interrupted as Sasuke locked lips with him. This one was much less aggressive than the previous one and far more passionate. Sasuke quickly forced her tongue into his mouth as the two kissed deeply.

After a moment, Naruto broke it and looked at her surprised, "What about all that stuff you said though?"

"I know I know…it's just really hard for me. You've been so patient and understanding through my fits. I've been a real bitch haven't I?" she sighed.

"Yeah, you sure have," he chuckled causing her to shoot him a disapproving glare.

She quickly lightened up, "Well I don't really know how these relationship things work…but so long as we're together I guess everything will be fine. I mean that is if you're okay with this?"

"I don't want you to feel pressured into this Sasuke. We'll just take things slow and see where it goes. We should probably keep things simple for now," he replied.

The Uchiha nodded her head in approval, "That seems reasonable to me. Hey, by the way…did you seriously use Mokuton earlier?!"

Her almost excited tone caused him to raise a brow, "Umm, yeah I did."

"So that's what all that secret training was huh? Jeez, got any other secrets I need to know about?" she asked.

Naruto simply shrugged, "Probably…but we should get out of here if we're going to have any chance of dodging patrols."

"Where are we going?" she asked curiously.

Naruto thought about the letter he received not too long ago, 'I wonder if I should go to one of these other ninja villages to find Uzumaki Clan members. The letter said a lot of them are in Iwa…'

"That might as well be a good place to start. I imagine they're scattered all over the place," Kyuubi laughed.

"Let's just head north for now, Sasuke…until I have some time to plot a course to Iwa. But first I need to swing by my apartment and get some stuff," Nartuo spoke assuredly.

The raven haired girl cocked her head, "Iwa? Why Iwa?"

"I'll explain it to you later…we need to get out of here before somebody shows up," the blonde explained.

He wasted no time taking off at high speed around the perimeter of the village. Several small scale battles were still under way between Konoha and Oto jounin, but the vast majority of it appeared to be over.

He didn't bother examining the aftermath as they made their way through the war-torn city as quickly and quietly as possible. Sasuke looked at him rather confused, "Why are we going through the village? Somebody will notice us without our headbands."

"I know, Sasuke, but there's something I have to get from my apartment," he responded.

She seemed confused, "What is it?"

"My clan's bloodline scroll," he answered as the two landed on his balcony. His shabby apartment building was relatively unscathed much to his amusement. Naruto couldn't help but find it ironic.

"What is your clan's bloodline?" Sasuke asked curiously as the blonde dug through his apartment for several different items. He quickly packed most of his apartment's spare clothes, money, and gear into a scroll before reaching underneath his own bed and pulling out a chest.

Sasuke watched interested as the blonde pulled the scroll out and handed it to her, "My clan's bloodlines are lava and boil."

She looked at the scroll for one second before glancing back up at him, "You can do this stuff too?!"

"Not all of it…I've only scratched the surface. Still, that scroll is an heirloom from my clan. I won't let it fall into anybody else's hands," he answered as Sasuke handed the scroll back to him. The blonde wasted no time packing it into his pouch.

"Where did you get it?" Sasuke asked as the two made their way to his apartment door.

"I'll fill you in later, we really need to get out of here now," Naruto changed the subject as he swung his front door open.

Much to his sheer and utter shock, there was somebody waiting outside of his apartment door. It was none other than the Hyuuga heiress herself, Hinata. The white-eyed girl looked at him concerned, "N-naruto-kun are you okay? E-e-every-b-body is l-looking f-for you."

She quickly took notice of Sasuke standing behind him and her eyes widened with disbelief. This only seemed to amplify once Hinata realized that neither one of them were wearing headbands and Naruto was packed with gear.

Before she had any time to react, Naruto quickly cupped a hand over her mouth and pulled her inside of his apartment. He swiftly closed the door and pulled his hand away, "Hinata, what are you doing here?!"

She seemed to flinch from this, and nervously twiddled her thumbs, "Umm…I-I'm s-sorry."

Sasuke didn't look all that pleased by the girl's presence, but Naruto managed to regain his composure and calmed down.

The girl appeared to be shaking as she looked down sadly, "Y-you're l-leaving?"

He and Sasuke both traded dreadful looks before Naruto let out a heavy sigh, "Yes, Hinata, we're leaving."

"I-I never t-thought y-you would leave, K-konoha…" she seemed visibly distressed by this scene. Before Naruto could even respond, tears began to flow down the Hyuuga's face.

This caused him to eye her confused, "What's wrong Hinata?"

"Why are you leaving now?" she sobbed with slightly more confidence.

"Naruto, we don't have time for this…knock her out so we can go," Sasuke sighed annoyed as she began to pace.

"Why are you upset, Hinata? Was the battle that scary for you. Hey you said everybody was looking for me? Why is that?" Naruto asked consecutively.

She looked up for the first time since she began crying and met his gaze, "I-I heard my father talking about you, Naruto…a-about your fight w-with Neji and with Orochimaru."

Naruto instantly knew what that meant, "So you know about Kyuubi then…yeah I'm sure the whole village must be after me for that by now."

"What happened exactly?" Sasuke cut in.

"I used Kyuubi's power and scared half the village or something," he answered.

"The Hokage is dead," Hinata said slowly.

Naruto gave her a shocked expression not really sure how to react to this news. Part of him did not care, but somehow it still came as a sickening feeling. Nevertheless, the blonde simply sighed, "That's not my problem anymore. Sasuke and I are out of here. I've got nothing against you or your clan Hinata, but I say to hell with Konoha."

The Hyuuga looked as if she had just seen a ghost and continued to cry sadly, "Y-you don't m-mean t-that…"

"We're leaving, Hinata…sorry I never got to know you better," Naruto said as he followed Sasuke towards his balcony ledge door.

Much to both of their surprise, the girl spoke up confidently, "Wait! I want to go with you."

Both Naruto and Sasuke turned around shocked. Naruto stared at her curiously, "Are you serious? Aren't you a clan heiress?"

Hinata seemed a bit fearful under Sasuke and Naruto's hard stares. She nervously shuffled back and forth as a blush crept across her face, "I would go for you, Naruto-kun."

Sasuke crossed her arms clearly in disapproval. Naruto on the other hand raised a brow, "You do realize that we're becoming missing nin right?"

"I know…and I don't care. I-I'm so t-tired of living like this. I-I'm so weak a-and n-nothing e-ever good happens in my life. I-I'm a disgrace to my clan and they wouldn't e-even miss me," Hinata looked extremely depressed upon admitting this aloud.

"You think following me is going to make your life any better?" he asked uncertainly.

Hinata nodded her head, "Y-yes! Would you please…would y-you please t-train me!" The girl's behavior and request greatly surprised Naruto.

He chuckled at her attitude, "When you ask me like that, I can't deny you anything."

The girl immediately went scarlet as she looked away embarrassed. However, much to Hinata and Sasuke's disbelief, the blonde walked over and gave her a quick bow, "You can come with us then Hinata."

Sasuke's jaw was agape, "You can't be serious…she'll slow us down!"

"She's got potential…plus, we're going to need all the allies we can get on the run. C'mon girls, let's go," Naruto said as he opened his balcony door.

Upon exiting, he felt a familiar chakra surge around his neck and could detect incoming ninjas. He quickly glanced back at his companions, "C'mon this way. Follow me!"

The trio made swift progress zigzagging through the village, dodging ninjas and civilians alike. Thankfully, the widespread chaos made it easy for them to slip through most people's notice.

Naruto felt a slight hint of relief wash over him as the three of them left the village gate. Unfortunately, Naruto quickly detected a chakra signature closing in fast to intercept them. He motioned for Sasuke and Hinata to stop as the three landed on a branch.

Across from them, a familiar purple-haired snake jounin landed. The sadistic Kunoichi gave Naruto an" amused glance, "Tsk, Tsk, Tsk…where do you think you're going kid?"

"Hey, I know you…you're that grader from the Chunin exams," Sasuke stated.

Anko licked her lips, "Ah yes, that would be me…none other than the infamous, Anko Mitarashi."

Hinata seemed nervous and quietly tried to hide behind Naruto which didn't go unnoticed by Anko. The snake mistress noticed Naruto and Sasuke's missing headbands and shook her head, "You kids are seriously leaving the village?"

"Don't try to stop me, woman…I'm pretty sure you saw what I did to Orochimaru," Naruto threatened her.

This only seemed to excite her, "Oh I love a tough guy…you're quite the little bad boy aren't you, Naru-chan?"

Sasuke quickly drew her sword and leered at the woman, "If he doesn't kill you, I will. We're leaving, Konoha. Don't try to stop us!"

The snake mistress sighed as she looked back at the devastated village behind them, "You know, I can't really blame you for leaving kid…I wouldn't want to support a village that destroyed my clan either." All three genin gave her surprised glances. Sasuke and Naruto were shocked that she knew, and Hinata was shocked by the news in general.

"N-naruto-kun, K-konoha destroyed y-your clan?" Hinata asked disbelievingly.

"How did you know?" Naruto asked bewildered.

The snake mistress frowned, "They told me when I went on that Anbu mission…honestly, I'm not here to stop you. I'm here to wish you well. Good luck on your journey…I'll cover your tracks."

"Umm, thanks," Naruto responded still recovering from the surprise. He quickly glanced between the Uchiha and Hyuuga girls, "We need to cover a lot of ground,"

Both nodded and before long the trio set out into the distance. Anko sighed as she examined their retreating figures, 'I wonder if I'll ever see them again.'

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As the three genin journeyed north, Naruto couldn't help but think about Hinata's unexpected arrival, 'I can't believe she wanted to leave the village with me. Hell I still can't believe Sasuke did either.'

"I certainly did not foresee this occurrence…the Hyuuga girl seems loyal and will prove most useful at your disposal, however promise me you will stay alert around the Uchiha girl…we can't forget about her seal."

'Yeah, we need to do something about that in the not too distant future,' Naruto noted.

The three genin had been traveling for the better part of a day straight. Naruto was rather surprised by Hinata's stamina. He assumed that she was going to tire much sooner than she actually did.

As the three finally stopped for the night, they set up camp in a small cave. There hadn't been much conversation in this journey so far. Naruto wasn't sure if it was from exhaustion, home-sickness, or awkwardness.

He was the first to break the long silence, "So, Hinata…I'm really surprised you chose to come with us. You said you wanted me to train you?"

The girl immediately nodded her head, "Y-yes, Naruto-kun. J-just s-s-so you know…I don't think y-you're a monster."

Her words greatly altered the atmosphere of the group as Naruto gave her a deep stare, "Thanks, Hinata…I didn't expect somebody normal like you to understand."

"Normal l-like me?" she repeated uncertainly. She began to feel her self-confidence drop at the prospect of Naruto not taking her seriously.

The blonde quickly noticed her dipping mood, "Not that I'm saying you aren't special or anything…you're just so calm and nice. Not at all what I'd expect a Hyuuga to be like. Let alone the heir to the clan. I'm surprised you don't act like that Neji guy."

Sasuke simply huffed in disapproval. She was clearly not happy about this other girl tagging along, but decided to keep it to herself much to Naruto's relief.

"Hey kit, just so you know, Iwa will try its best to take advantage of you…when we get there, don't associate with the village leaders or any high ranking ninjas. Just ask around for Uzumaki Clan members…don't forget that our ultimate goal is to gather the survivors."

Naruto did not bother responding to Kyuubi as he awaited Hinata's reply.

The shy, white-eyed girl frowned, "I-I've n-never been v-very confident. I-I'm not a-as talented as my cousins or my sister. N-nobody t-take me se-seriously."

"You better break her of that stuttering habit…I will not tolerate that forever," Kyuubi growled.

"Don't worry about it, Hinata…you're a good person. One of the few I've known. If you stick with Sasuke and me, then you're bound to get stronger and more confident," Naruto convinced.

The girl seemed to lighten up at his comment and looked away blushing madly. Sasuke let out a loud cough, "Ahem, anyways, you said you wanted to go to Iwa, Naruto? Why?"

"My clan has some survivors there. I want to gather them up," he answered.

"You want to rebuild your clan?" she asked interested. The blonde nodded.

Sasuke sighed as she glanced at the boy, "Just so you know…I have my own priorities out here too, Naruto. If I find out any news about Itachi, I'm going to have to follow up on it. With or without you…"

"Fair enough, Sasuke. It shouldn't be much of a problem for now though. We made some distance today, you girls should get some sleep, I'll take first watch," Naruto replied with a yawn.

They both curled up on their own sides of the cave around the fire. It wasn't long before both girls were fast asleep. 'I guess they were more tired than I thought,' Naruto laughed quietly to himself.

"I promised you more answers, so let us speak of them, kit," Kyuubi began. Much to his surprise the fox seemed to be in a rather calm, relaxed mood. Naruto guessed it was probably because they were no longer in Konoha.

'Okay, Kyuubi how's about you tell me more about Mito Uzumaki,' Naruto began.

"You should come inside for this…" Kyuubi replied. Before long, Naruto found himself getting sucked into his own mindscape. He wasted no time darting through the maze like sewer until finally reached Kyuubi's cage.

"It's been many years since you last stood here…you were so weak back then, do you remember?" Kyuubi started.

Naruto nodded his head as he recalled the vivid memory, "It seems like another lifetime ago."

"Come into my cage, there's someone I want you to meet," Kyuubi continued.

Naruto gave the shadowy figure behind the massive cage a curious glance, "They can't come out here?"

"No…they're tied to me and I'm sealed behind this cage," Kyuubi explained. Naruto nodded his head as he fearlessly walked through the massive iron bars into the darkness on the other side. It was quickly lit up when two massive, red-glowing eyes appeared in front of him.

The entire cage was soon illuminated in blood red light and Naruto's eyes went wide with disbelief when he spotted an individual standing in front of Kyuubi. She had a chain of some sort that appeared to be streaming chakra between her and the massive fox.

Naruto took in her appearance with utter disbelief, "No way…"

"Kit, I want you to meet Mito Uzumaki," Kyuubi announced as one of his massive red tails pointed at the woman. Her eyes were blood red with slits and they seemed to have a strange malevolence about them.

"Kyuubi, what the hell is this?! What is she doing inside of your cage?" Naruto demanded.

The fox grinned, "This was a rather interesting side effect courtesy of Mito's sealing abilities."

"So let me get this straight…Mito sealed herself into you? How exactly? Is she even aware or alive?" Naruto asked incredulously as he glanced at the fiery-haired Kunoichi. The red head quickly eyed him up and down curiously, "So he's the one you spoke of Kyuubi? My descendant?"

The fox nodded his head, "Yes, he is the one…I have been molding him to reclaim the clan's legacy."

She examined Naruto interested, "So he's the one…Kushina's son. He's blonde huh? You don't look like a pure-blooded Uzumaki to me," Mito noted as she began to examine Naruto. She walked around the boy sizing him up.

Just then, Naruto heard a strange voice inside of his own head. It was weird since he was already in his own head and he wasn't sure of its source. Kyuubi and Mito didn't seem to hear it much to his surprise, "You have fallen victim to a terrible fate…to be a pawn in their schemes. You have no idea what they have in store for you."

He looked around the room curiously trying to examine the source of the voice. This did not go unnoticed by Mito, "What are you doing?"

"Is there somebody else in here?" Naruto asked carefully.

The red head quickly gave a kill gesture to Kyuubi signaling the fox to do something. Naruto was going to question it, but decided it was best to not say anything.

He took this time to fully take in Mito's appearance. The woman had a certain presence about her from what Naruto could surmise. Her regal attire and flawless stature clearly emphasized that she fancied herself some kind of royalty.

The woman's hair was different than Naruto remembered in the portrait. The buns were instead large flowing pigtails and her eyes were as blood red as Kyuubi's. Although that wasn't the only noticeable difference. She seemed much more feral as if she was almost a fox herself.

He quickly took notice of her fangs, and she also had similar whisker marks like him. As if she could read his mind the woman laughed, "Am I everything you thought I would be, kit?"

"You don't look the same as your portrait…" Naruto noted.

The woman laughed, "Hahaha, that portrait was done when I was still married."

"So…how exactly does this work, Kyuubi? Has she been here the entire time?" Naruto asked not really wanting to imagine all that it implied.

The fox shook his head, "Not exactly, the nature of her reverse seal keeps her inside of here. I'm her only contact to the outside world…well and I suppose you are as well now."

Something about this seemed wrong to Naruto. If Mito had been sealed in here this entire time, then what could she possibly have in store for him?

"What plans do you guys have for me?" Naruto questioned uncertainly.

Mito chuckled at his question, "You'll be rebuilding my clan of course. We're far too powerful to be wasted in a scattered mess. You need to gather up the rest of the survivors and rebuild Uzushio."

"So is this how you knew so much about ninja stuff, Kyuubi?" Naruto asked.

"Where else do you think I learned so much about you mortals from?"

"That's incredibly creepy…" Naruto noted as he examined the woman again.

She seemed amused by his thought process, "Does that make you uncomfortable?"

"So what about the second Hokage then? How did you control him Kyuubi? You said he underestimated Mito?" Naruto asked.

Mito answered, "It's just a side effect. It took almost all of his chakra to seal away Kyuubi into Kushina…but he didn't anticipate the little surprise I had for him, hahahahahaha!"

It didn't take long for Naruto to understand why people labeled Mito as a psychopath. The woman's very demeanor was eerie.

"Okay well I guess that all makes sense, but I just have one more question…what's your aim in all of this Mito?" Naruto asked.

The woman gave him a condescending look, "I would prefer it if you didn't address me so casually. I am after all your senior, kit."

"Just answer my question, Mito-hime," he responded. Kyuubi started to laugh at this and Mito crossed her arms annoyed, "Do not mock me, child…I was the greatest terror of my time. Queen of the eastern seas, Master of the Uzumaki Clan, and greatest of the jinchuuriki."

"So Mito-dono then? Mito-sama? Mito-san? Mi-chan?" Naruto replied slowly as he spoke with a hint of amusement.

She shook her head at him annoyed, "Cute…very cute. How do you deal with him, Kyuubi?"

"Hahahaha, the kit's entertaining and not half bad to talk to. You'll get used to him, Mi-chan," the fox laughed.

"Hey! Don't you dare start doing that too!" she demanded.

After a few moments of laughter, Kyuubi turned his massive head back towards Naruto, "So I suggest you go through with that letter. Go search around Iwa for clan members."

Mito nodded her head in approval, "Also, the leader Kyuubi mentioned in this letter sounds shady. That necklace you're wearing looks a lot like the ones my father used to make. Until you become more powerful, I would not recommend snooping around for this leader or his organization."

"Who was your father?" Naruto asked curiously.

Mito gave him a smug smile, "A warlord…his name is not one you would recognize."

"I don't care, tell me anyways," Naruto replied.

She leaned in closer and whispered in his ear, "You be a good boy and do what I say…and I'll reward you." Naruto shivered as her tongue licked his earlobe. He quickly pulled away and gave her a disapproving glare.

"What the hell could you possibly give me? You're stuck in here…" Naruto stated.

Mito simply shrugged, "I suppose it'll be a surprise then…"

"At any rate kit, you've been in here for a while. If you wish to speak to Mito again, ask me and I'll bring you back to the cage. You won't be able to directly speak with her like you do with me," Kyuubi explained.

'Thank the heavens for that…' Naruto thought to himself.

Without another word he returned back to his conscious body. He was surprised to see that there was already daylight outside when he opened his eyes.

'Have I been asleep all night?' he thought concerned.

He quickly leapt to his feet as if battle was about to start. This caught Hinata and Sasuke both by surprise who jerked in his direction.

"How long have I been out?" Naruto asked.

"Just a few hours," Sasuke answered. Naruto did not like the notion of falling asleep on his night watch but quickly got over it as he looked between the girls, "We need to move."

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A long arduous week had passed as the three genin set out on their journey towards Iwa. Their endless traveling had greatly drained the three, but they were in good spirits as they traveled further northwest.

Naruto made sure for Hinata to ditch her headband along the way so that they wouldn't be recognized immediately as enemy ninja. Although he hadn't considered one fatal flaw in his logic until just now…Hinata would be easily noticeable as a Hyuuga due to her white eyes.

Nevertheless, he felt confident that he would be able to protect her in the worst case scenario that somebody would try something.

However, as they traveled Naruto felt a strange sensation. The chakra necklace he wore quickly began to glow and vibrate signaling an approaching presence. He could barely believe his eyes when two individuals stopped in front of them.

Hinata gasped fearfully and Naruto and Sasuke got into fighting stances. These newcomers were dressed in some kind of black robes that were adorned with red clouds. Sasuke shook her head in utter disbelief when she took notice of who was standing in front of them, "Itachi…"

"What?!" Naruto asked shocked as he turned back and met the older Uchiha's gaze. Itachi simply stared blankly at Naruto completely ignoring his sister, "Naruto Uzumaki…our leader wants to speak to you."

Kyuubi was on the verge of panic when he realized what was happening, "Kit, get out of here now…you are not strong enough to face these two!"

"So your leader sent that letter then…who the hell is your leader?!" Naruto demanded.

It didn't take long for him to quickly recognize that Itachi was the very same person who gave him the letter. The Uchiha seemed to notice his revelation, "Yes, I gave you the letter…that necklace you wear led us straight to you. Leader wants to talk to you in person."

"First of all, what the hell is this? I'm not agreeing to anything until I know what you guys want from me," Naruto explained.

Sasuke didn't say a word as she charged a chidori and tried to impale Itachi. He quickly caught her wrist and stopped her mid-charge, "Still weak I see…"

This remark only seemed to enrage her further as she tried to channel a lightning cloak. It didn't last long as Itachi grabbed her neck and stared into her eyes. Naruto looked on in horror as Sasuke's eyes seemed to go lifeless from Itachi's Sharingan staring into her.

"What the hell are you doing to her?!" he demanded.

"Kisame, get the nine-tails…" Itachi said calmly without even looking.

The shark nin eyed the blonde curiously before shifting his gaze back towards Hinata, "What about the other girl?"

"Leave her…I'm sure Iwa nin would love to get their hands on a Hyuuga from the main family," he noted.

Just then a blood red chakra cloak erupted around Naruto as his eyes turned red, "I'm not going down without a fight!"

Kisame seemed to beam with excitement as he lifted a massive weapon off of his back. Naruto eyed it uncertainly, 'What the hell is that?'

"Kit, you need to get out of here now! Those two are after me!" Kyuubi shouted.

Naruto instantly dove for Hinata and slung the girl over his shoulder much to her surprise. She turned her head fearfully to watch what was happening as Naruto stared his foes down, 'How am I going to get Sasuke though? Itachi still has her.'

"Leave her behind! They're after us!" Kyuubi roared again. Kisame seemed to be enjoying himself as he slowly closed in.

Itachi finally looked away from Sasuke causing the girl to collapse to the ground. She was barely conscious but managed to shout, "Run, Naruto!"

"You heard the bitch, get out of here!" Kyuubi ordered. Kisame wasted no time pursuing the blonde as he swung his massive weapon down. With Hinata slung over his shoulder he reluctantly took off as fast as he possibly could.

He briefly glanced back and could see Itachi and Kisame hot on his trail. "Get rid of that necklace…they're using it to track you! We need to find somewhere to hide!"

'Where though? And what about Sasuke? I can't just leave here like that,' He worried.

"You'll just have to meet up with her later. This leader clearly set up a trap for you here," Kyuubi answered.

Naruto ran as fast as he could for what seemed like hours before running into what could only be described as a miracle. Standing in front of him was a full Kumo patrol. They were fairly deep into Earth Country territory.

They quickly took notice of the boy and his Hyuuga passenger and all went wide-eyed. "Darui-sama, what do you make of that?" a random jounin asked. Naruto quickly took in this Darui's appearance; he was a tall, lean dark-skinned man with bleach colored hair.

Darui eyed the two of them curiously, "What are you kids doing out on the road by yourselves?"

Naruto looked unsure of what to say as more jounin began to arrive to the scene. It appeared to be an entire company of jounin judging by Naruto's estimate.

Thinking fast he spoke up confidently, "We're missing nin from Konoha…looking for somewhere to go."

The jounin all traded interested glances with each before examining Darui's reaction. The man quickly chuckled at this turn of events, "You two look like you're running from something…"

"Yeah, some guys with black robes and red clouds were after us. They attacked our friend," Naruto explained. The man nodded his head in understanding.

Hinata glanced around uncertainly. Her clan had a history with Kumo when they once tried to kidnap her. The Hyuuga felt very uneasy in this situation. Thankfully, at least Naruto was with her.

"Black robes and red clouds? Sounds like Akatsuki…you say they were after you?" Darui asked interested.

Naruto nodded his head. The man leaned in closer and examined Hinata, "Well you guys are never going to believe this…a main family Hyuuga just ran straight into our grasp."

"Don't even think about trying anything," Naruto threatened causing the man to eye him lazily.

"Relax, kid…if you guys are missing nin from Konoha, then maybe this want meant to be. How'd you like to join Kumo?" Darui asked.

Naruto and Hinata traded uncertain glances. Darui looked behind them and shrugged, "Or we could just leave you here for Akatsuki to collect…"

"Akatsuki…so that's what they're called. Those two could do some serious damage to this little crowd. I say you keep on moving," Kyuubi suggested.

'This seems like a good idea…think about it Kyuubi. That letter was sent by their leader. They're going to expect me to be looking for Uzumaki members. I should just lay low for a while until we think of something better to do,' the jinchuuriki explained. Kyuubi sighed with reluctant approval, "Very well, kit…though Mito is not going to like this."

'She doesn't have to know…what's the deal with you two anyways? I mean is there really any point in reporting to her?' Naruto asked. The whole concept was something that greatly confused him the moment he met Mito Uzumaki.

"What do you think, Hinata?" Naruto asked as he glanced at the fearful Hyuuga girl.

She looked at him and spoke softly, "W-whatever N-naruto-kun decides to do is f-fine with me."

Darui quickly took notice of the girl's blush and smiled before glancing at Naruto, "So kid, what'll it be?"

"I accept your offer," Naruto answered. The man nodded his head in approval as he let out a sharp whistle, "C'mon men, we're going home."

"Hey, wait! What about our friend?" Naruto asked thinking of Sasuke.

The man let out a heavy over-exaggerated sigh, "If Akatsuki got her…then she's already dead."

Naruto's eyes widened with shock, 'No…she can't be. I was standing right there!'

Darui quickly took notice of the blonde's dampening mood and tried to cheer him up, "Maybe not…but we were just on our way out of here. I can order a recon sweep for your friend when we get back."

The jinchuurki visibly frowned, "I shouldn't have left her behind like that…"

"N-Naruto-kun, it w-wasn't your fault…" was all Hinata managed to say as she timidly avoided eye contact with everyone.

"C'mon kids, let's get out of here. Maybe your friend can join us later too if we find her," Darui stated calmly. His suggestion slightly lifted Naruto's morale, but the blonde still felt extremely guilty for not being able to save Sasuke from Itachi.

As the party of Kumo nin departed with Naruto and Hinata, two figures stood silently watching in the shadows.

"I did not expect this…" Itachi sighed as he glanced over at Kisame stoically.

"Tell me why we can't kill them all again?" Kisame complained.

Itachi sent the swordsman a sharp glare, "Kumo is our biggest enemy…they would draw a lot of unwanted attention towards Akatsuki if we attacked one of their jounin regiments.

"So now what?" Kisame asked annoyed.

Itachi shrugged, "It seems we'll have to wait for now. I don't know how leader will react to this."

"What about the other girl?" Kisame asked curiously.

"Sasuke will do what she's always done…survive," Itachi said calmly as the two began to walk away.

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The raven haired Sasuke awoke to find herself in a strange place. She looked around hazily trying to recollect her thoughts. "Ugh…where am I?"

"Ah, Sasuke-hime, good to see you're finally awake…" a sinister voice hissed. The girl's eyes shot open in complete fear as she looked around in horror, "Where's Naruto? Where am I?"

"You're in Kusagakure…and Naruto is no longer within your reach," the voice hissed sadistically.

His cruel malicious tone caused her to shiver as his ghostly pale face came into view. It was none other than Orochimaru, the man that bit her in the Forest of Death. For some reason this memory caused her great distress and fear as she took in his appearance.

"What happened to Itachi? How long have I been out?" she continued to question.

"Shhhh…you are still so weak in comparison to Itachi are you not? Poor poor, girl. Perhaps I can offer you more power to kill him," Orochimaru said darkly.

Before Sasuke knew what was happening, her cursed seal activated. "Of course that wasn't really a request anyways Hahahaha!"

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Close to a week had passed, before Naruto and Hinata were finally at Kumo. Lightning Country in general had a great aesthetic beauty, and Naruto couldn't help but admire the village as he approached. Darui quickly took notice of his demeanor, "Ah yeah I forget you kids have never seen a real ninja village before."

Despite all the terrible things they had ever heard about Kumogakure and Kumo nin in general, Naruto couldn't help but admire the decency of several of them. Darui seemed like a laid back guy and Naruto hoped that the rest of the villagers would be as cool as him.

Part of him almost couldn't believe that he was joining another ninja village. It seemed strange that after all this time he spent getting away from society, that he chose to join another one. He wasn't really sure how long he intended to stay in Kumo, but he figured it would be the best course of action for now.

Hinata hadn't spoken much to the foreign ninjas, but she seemed slightly fearful due to her previous experiences as a child.

Naruto made sure to reassure her as often as possible and promised to train her once the two of them got settled in. As they approached the gate, they walked inside and met with the beautiful sight of Kumogakure. The high elevation was still something to get used to, but Naruto was really starting to enjoy it. He couldn't wait to start training up here.

As Darui led them down the street towards the Raikage's mountain tower, many on-looking villagers began to gasp and point at the sight of Naruto and Hinata. The Hyuuga girl in particular was drawing a lot of attention which caused her to lower her head uncomfortably.

Thankfully, Darui waved the crowds off as he led the two genin inside the Raikage tower. Naruto and Hinata traded uncertain glances as a blonde haired young man with dark eyes spoke up, "Oh who are these people Darui?"

"Sup, C…I found these kids over in Earth Country running from Akatsuki. Apparently they're Konoha missing nin," the jounin stated.

C looked surprised by this news, "You two look awfully young to be missing nins…hey that girl is a Hyuuga?!"

Darui nodded his head, "Yeah we were kind of surprised too…but get this, they want to join Kumo. How do you think boss would take this?"

As if being summoned a burly, muscular man came walking down the stairs and eyed Darui up and down, "Take what? Who are these kids?"

His stern, rigid tone greatly intimidated Hinata. Even Naruto felt a certain uneasiness around this colossal man.

The Raikage's eyes widened when he looked at Naruto, "Wait, I know this one…I've seen your likeness all over the place. You're that Konoha super genin. Am I right boy?"

Naruto slowly nodded his head not really sure how to react. Darui eyed the Raikage curiously, "Super genin? What are you talking about boss?"

The Raikage glanced between Naruto and Hinata skeptically, "So tell me kids…why are you in my village?"

"Darui said that we could become Kumo nin," Naruto answered.

The burly man crossed his arms before shooting a disapproving look towards Darui, "Why did you go promising that to kids? Do you have any idea who this boy is?"

"Umm…no, sorry," Darui apologized.

Thinking fast, Naruto cut in, "I'm part of the Uzumaki Clan. Konoha destroyed my clan and has been lying to me ever since."

The Raikage examined Naruto's whisker marks and chuckled, "I'll just bet they have…tell me kid, what possible benefit would you be to my village?"

Much to everybody's complete and utter shock, Naruto flashed through several hand seals, "Mokuton: Daijurin no Jutsu!" (Wood Release: Great Forest Technique) His arm transformed into a giant tree like branch which quickly smashed through a nearby wall.

The Raikage's eyes went wide with disbelief as Naruto turned to face the opening, "Yoton: Yokai no Jutsu!" (Lava Release: Melting Apparition Technique) A surge of lava launched from his mouth out the smashed wall and blanketed the landscape on the other side.

A simply looked astounded by this display and didn't say a word. C on the other hand shook his head frantically, "What did you just do to the wall?"

"So, I guess we're keeping him then?" Darui chuckled as he glanced over at the Raikage. The man simply nodded his head, "Welcome to Kumogakure, Naruto Uzumaki. You and your Hyuuga friend will be assigned a squad as soon as I finish the paperwork."

C looked dumbfounded, "I can't believe he didn't lose his mind over that…"

"Well then it's official…welcome to Kumo. Here are your headbands," Darui said as he handed Hinata and Naruto their new forehead protectors.

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Yeah, Happy New Year readers! In honor of all my loyal, loving, and faithful fans I present to you chapter 11. How did you like it? Some serious shit went down didn't it? I spent my entire day off writing this for you guys Love me for it. Haha jk, but I hoped you enjoyed it.

I'm sure a lot of you were probably super surprised when Hinata jumped into a main character role this chapter. I know she didn't have as much dialogue during their journey…but that will change the more she opens up. Was it out of character? Yeah probably. Do I care? Not really.

Ah, poor Sasu-chan got captured by Orochimaru? But how was he out there? Unless he was tipped off?!

Kumo was a rather unexpected twist wasn't it? You were all thinking Iwa, but then Bam! Akatsuki shows up. I'm sure it may seem strange, but these things end up making more sense several chapters later.

Well alas, I hope that it lived up to your expectations. Thanks again for reading!