Even though he had reached the desert a while ago Naruto kept running further out into the vast expanse of wind swept sand dunes. He truly wanted an all out spar with his fellow jinchuuriki, and while he didn't doubt his teammates' ability to protect themselves he did not want them getting caught up in the fight if things went to hell in a hand basket. Once he was far enough out into the desert that he could no longer see the trees or sense his teammates' chakra signatures Naruto came to a halt and turned around to await Gaara's arrival. However, a deep booming voice spoke up before the sand user could arrive.
'Care for a wager?' Kyuubi rumbled from within Naruto's mindscape. The deep voice was filled with mischief and what felt like excitement. Naruto had never heard the fox sound like this before so it was hard to place exactly what the fox was feeling. Whatever it was it couldn't be good.
'A wager of what sorts?' Naruto cautiously responded. In the past month he had worked on being able to talk to the fox without the need of life or death situations. So far he could talk to the fox if he was alone and in a quiet place, but if there was any sort of noise or other people around he couldn't keep the link open. Probably a good thing considering it would undoubtedly give away just how much interaction he had with the fox. While Naruto was certain Temari, Kakashi, Tsunade, and Gaara would understand and trust him he was not so certain everyone else would be so happy about him conversing with the fox.
'You are fixing to wage battle with the one tail host are you not?'
'Yes. What is it to you?'
'Well, I am simply proposing a wager as to whether or not you can beat the host of the one tail without me. Last time you needed my chakra twice. This time, no use of my chakra. Think you can do it?'
Instead of immediately answering Naruto paused and considered just how far he had come in the past two months. Sadly he hadn't really come too far. Aside from learning to split the leaf and his own little side projects all he had really learned in the past two months was that simple wind jutsu Kakashi had taught Temari. Not to mention his side projects were far from complete. They were both relatively battle ready, but they were far from being perfected or even mastered really. He just had a rudimentary use of each, and the one nearly killed him every time he used it, which meant if he did use it against Gaara it would have to be the last move of the battle so that he could get Kyuubi to heal him immediately afterwards. But then again last time he had fought Gaara he hadn't known the rasengan and had been exhausted from fighting Neji.
'So? Think you're up for it?'
Naruto crinkled his nose and snorted in annoyance at having his thoughts interrupted.
'Depends. What exactly are we wagering?'
'We can sort that out after the battle.'
'The hell!? You expect me to accept a bet without even knowing what I'm betting? You've got fur for brains.'
Kyuubi roared with laughter.
'No, no, no, I was simply thinking that the prizes depend on your performance in the battle. If the one tailed host thrashes you with no effort then I will get a heavy reward, but if he just barely manages to beat you then I will get a more modest prize. The same goes for if you beat him. If you trounce him without breaking a sweat then you'll get a greater reward than if you were to narrowly defeat him. Does that sound fair to you?'
'Mmmm I can't really say it's unfair, but it does sound like a bad idea.'
'Does that mean no?'
Naruto grinned and shook his head. "Temari-chan would kill me if she knew I agreed to this, but…"
'Why not? Besides I'll own Gaara anyways so it really doesn't matter. So sure I'll play your game fox!' Naruto confidently shouted at the fox.
And then his heart stopped.
The strength and energy that he always felt was stripped from his frame, and for a brief moment it felt as if he was but a husk of nothing but bones held together by loose twine. Then his flesh and blood came back into existence. Gasping and dropping to his knees Naruto fought to regain his breath. "The… hell is… this?" Naruto gasped out. His breathing was coming out in ragged burst and his vision was blurring.
Deep rumbling laughter answered him.
'This is what it feels like with all of my chakra drained from you. Normally you have trace amounts of my chakra in your system. For this battle I have totally withdrawn my chakra from you. I can only do it for short periods of time, but I should be able to manage until the end of this bout. Have fun.' Kyuubi rumbled out as he retreated to the recesses of Naruto's mind.
"Bastard fox…" Naruto growled out as he forced himself to stand up and tried to level out his breathing. As he stood up he noticed that despite the lack of energy he still thankfully had his enhanced sight.
"Do I want to ask what that little interchange was about?" Gaara's monotone called out from behind Naruto causing the blonde to whirl around.
"Nevermind. Are you ready?" Gaara asked.
Naruto opened his mouth to automatically shout his readiness, but breathing took precedence over a retort. Instead he shook his head and held up a hand.
"Not quite. Give me… a moment." Naruto panted out.
"Understood." Gaara said as he crossed his arms and assumed his signature pose. "However, I do question what you meant when you said 'all out'. Surely you do not mean the full use of my biju."
"Heck yes I do!"
Gaara narrowed his eyes.
"That is foolish."
"Why? I beat you last time."
"True, but just barely and I was not in a desert then. If I were to lose control here I could kill all of you. Shukaku is invincible in the desert."
Naruto actually paused at that. He knew he could beat Gaara, but the true force of Shukaku in the middle of a desert?
"Mmmm okay I see your point. Then how about using everything short of your forced sleep trick. You controlling Shukaku I ought to be able to handle. And if not then I can always summon Gamabunta." Naruto bluffed on the last. Without the fox's help he couldn't summon the boss toad, and using the fox was an absolute all has gone to hell last resort. But Gaara didn't need to know that.
Gaara paused for a moment before nodding.
"Understood. Now, I ask again are you ready?"
Naruto grinned and dropped into his fighting stance as he nodded his head.
Instead of getting a response Naruto watched as twin arms of sand rose up from the ground and launched themselves at him. Somersaulting backwards over the lunge of the first arm Naruto hurled a kunai at Gaara before spinning mid air to roll out of the way of the second arm. As soon as he touched down on the ground he kept jumping, ducking, and dodging the multiple sand arms that rose up to ensnare him. Not to mention the very sand he was walking on kept trying to stick to his feet so he was forced to keep moving lest he be immobilized. And anyone who saw Gaara fight Rock Lee knew that standing still was paramount to suicide in a fight with Gaara. As Naruto was jumping about the place he kept hurling kunai after kunai at Gaara. Each one was blocked by Gaara's absolute defense. Without even having to be guided the sand leapt up to intercept the incoming projectiles and move them to the ground in short order so that Gaara was always able to keep an eye on the rather elusive blonde target.
Naruto tossed one more kunai at Gaara before leaping as far away as possible and forming a single handseal.
"Kai!" Naruto shouted even as all the kunai that were scattered around Gaara glowed to life causing the red head's eyes to widen. As one the fifty or so exploding tags Naruto had wrapped around the handles of the kunai to keep them hidden from sight detonated. A huge ball of flame shot skywards along with a massive cloud of smoke. However, when it was all said and done the smoke blew away to reveal a dome of sand surrounding Gaara. Half of the dome collapsed to show a bored looking Gaara.
"That trick has been tried many times. I hope you have better."
Taking a page out of Gaara's book Naruto acted rather than responded. He moved his hands into his signature hand seal causing Gaara to tense in preparation for the impending onslaught of clones. However, instead of a veritable army of clones being brought into existence a single clone was created by the jutsu. The location of that one clone, however, was different than anything Gaara had expected. The clone popped into existence but a hair's breadth away from Gaara. Standing toe to toe with Gaara the clone was inside of Gaara's absolute defense, and grinning a rather predatory grin.
Without giving the red headed jinchuuriki time to react the clone slammed a vicious right uppercut into Gaara's jaw lifting the boy off the ground. Immediately the clone followed the attack up with a snap kick that launched the air borne Gaara out the back of his sand dome.
"Better?" Naruto questioned even as the remains of Gaara's sand dome tore the shadow clone apart.
Gaara pulled himself back up to his feet and glared at the blonde before him.
"What was that?"
"A shadow clone." Naruto replied smugly.
"I know that. But how did you create it inside my defense? You've never done that before."
"Never really thought about it before. But recently I have been toying with the shadow clone jutsu and figured out I can create clones almost anywhere I can see. Doesn't work through glass, but it does work behind a partial sand wall."
"I see. I shall remember this."
"Please do. And please offer me more of a challenge, or as you used to say 'let me prove my existence'"
Gaara growled. Instead of assuming his usual stance of crossed arms he actually brought his hand up to begin manipulating the sand himself.
"Gladly." The red headed jinchuuriki ground out as ten tendrils of sand shot up from the ground aimed at Naruto.
The blonde immediately leapt up and over the attacking tendrils. However, unlike before the tendrils changed direction and pursued Naruto up into the air. Instead of panicking as so many others had done Naruto simply formed the cross hand seal again. This time the clone popped into existence just beneath Naruto's feet allowing Naruto to jump off the air born clone's back and evade the oncoming attack. When the tendrils changed direction yet again Naruto simply smirked and repeated the process so that within moments it was as if Gaara were chasing a flying foe with sand.
Back on the ground Gaara grunted in frustration. He was in essence using sand to catch a foe as shifting as the sand he was using. It proved to be a very aggravating task.
Naruto smirked as he watched Gaara focus on trying to predict where he was going to leap next. As soon as he saw that Gaara was focused on his path and not actually on him Naruto hurled a kunai at Gaara. Sure enough Naruto watched as Gaara spared the kunai a glance to check for exploding tags and then stepped to the side so as to avoid his absolute defense impeding his vision. The instant the kunai was within range Naruto changed hand seals and substituted himself with the kunai putting himself right next to Gaara. Again the red head blinked in shock at Naruto suddenly appearing so close to him and left himself wide open. Naruto rained down blows and landed five or six quick jabs to Gaara's core before dropping into a crouch and sweeping the jinchuuriki off his feet. Naruto had intended to then follow it up by launching Gaara upwards, but the sand had other ideas. A tendril of sand snaked around Naruto's ankle and snatched Naruto up into the air before slamming him into the ground hard enough to send up a plume of dust. Sadly that was only the beginning of it as the tendril of sand then proceeded to slam, drag, hurl, and toss Naruto about. Thankfully Naruto managed to make a clone and substitute himself with it before the sand tore him to shreds.
Forcing himself back up to his feet Naruto couldn't keep the grin on his face as he examined himself. Aside from the fact he had lost his jacket somewhere in the sand, and that his black t-shirt was a bit shredded up he was in perfect shape.
"You know we are evenly matched when we go through all that an neither of us has gotten a scratch or broken a sweat."
And sure enough neither of them were. Naruto was a bit dirty from being drug through the sand, but his body was so accustomed to being thrashed around that he had taken no serious damage from the assault. Gaara may have felt a bit of pain from Naruto's punches, but Gaara's sand armor took nearly all the damage for him. Only difference between the two was Naruto could repeat the process a thousand times over while Gaara might be able to do it ten more times.
"True, which means I no longer need to play gentle."
Naruto grinned and rushed forward.
"About bloody time!"
Kankuro landed in front of Sakura who was holding both of his puppets.
"Give those back." Kankuro demanded.
"You'll get one." Sakura responded as she tossed one back to Kankuro while still keeping the other firmly in her grips. "And I'll use the other."
"You challenge me to a duel and don't even have a puppet!?" Kankruro roared in frustration. He had had the opportunity to fight with Sasuke, or even Naruto, and yet he got stuck with this girl? How did that compute?
"Hey! No one is Suna would sell me a puppet and I didn't know how to make one. But I still wanted to test my skills so I am just gonna borrow yours."
"Ugh fine." Kankuro drawled out. He knew from dealing with Temari that when a woman made up her mind it was easier to just let them go through with it and find out the results of their own accord rather than try and persuade them to change their minds. He was just about to take to the trees to begin the fight when he saw that she was beginning to unwrap the puppet by hand. "NO NO NO!" He all but screamed as he scrambled forward to stop her from messing with the bindings. Luckily she stopped. "There is a trick to wrapping and unwrapping them so that you can do it quickly, and if you just start tugging you'll tangle the wraps up." Kankuro scolded as he took the puppet from her and showed her the small knot that was tucked under another layer. "Just tug this and it will get rid of the wraps."
"Oh, okay." Sakura mumbled as she lowered her head in shame. Lady Chiyo had not shown her that trick. Sure enough in one quick movement the bandages loosened and pooled on the ground. "I'm sorry."
"It's fine. Just be sure not to tangle them up." Kankuro retorted as he moved to take to the trees once more, however, he hesitated once again when he saw Sakura move Crow into a ready stance. Turning and facing her he puzzled her actions for a minute before realization dawned on him. It must have shown on his face because she immediately looked down and flushed.
"I can't move myself and the puppet at the same time yet!" Sakura quickly cried out in embarrassment before continuing quietly. "I never learned that." The pinkette mumbled out as she blushed profusely. She even moved Crow in front of her to try and hide herself from his gaze.
Kankuro's gut response was to laugh at her, but the absolutely defeated and humiliated look on her face told him that might not be the wisest course of action. So, swallowing his laughter and the exasperation he felt at the unfairness of the situation Kankuro sighed and nodded.
"Alright. Then we can just do a face-to-face duel. It's how we train puppeteers in Suna so don't worry about it." The fact most puppeteers could move themselves and their puppet simultaneously before they even graduated the academy was a fact he didn't think she needed to know. Though he couldn't help but notice that the blush she couldn't get rid of was rather cute.
Much to Sasuke's annoyance the massive battle fan Temari had pulled out in the beginning had stayed strapped to her back for the past half hour or so. Instead of the high impact blast-and-bash battle between fire and wind Sasuke had been expecting he had been given the chase of his life. The girl, who ought to be having trouble moving in the trees since her homeland had so few, was darting about the woods as if she were right at home in them. Several of her traps had nearly ensnared Sasuke causing the Uchiha to grow irate at being led on a wild goose chase. Luckily his sharingan had kept him ahead of any traps she might have laid. It was still immensely frustrating fighting such a crafty and conniving foe.
The girl had obviously been working with Naruto for far too long.
Sasuke's mental fuming cost him as a gust of wind slammed into him from below. As the gale of wind slammed into him he look down to see Temari on the ground, battle fan wide open, smirking up at him as her gale of wind blew him skywards. Since he had been jumping between trees when the attack caught him Sasuke had nothing to anchor himself to and the attack blew him out of range of any substitutes leaving with no choice but to be carried along by the wind.
The wind carried Sasuke far above the treetops until he was easily twice as far from the ground as the treetops themselves. Off in the distance he thought he saw a massive plume of dust rising up from the desert.
"Better focus little lady!" Temari shouted as she cleared the treetops herself. However, instead of launching another gale of wind or coming in close the wind mistress slid the fan onto her back and hurled a dozen kunai at Sasuke before snapping the fan back out and blasting the kunai with a gust of wind.
Sasuke cursed under his breath as he watched the dozen of kunai speed towards him. Had it just been the kunai he could have easily deflected them all thanks to his sharingan, or had she simply launched a wall of wind at him he could have turned it back on her with a fire jutsu. However, now he was in a bind. If he used a fire jutsu to counter the wind jutsu the kunai would tear him to shreds. On the other hand if he deflected the kunai and didn't worry about the wind jutsu then the jutsu would probably tear him to shreds.
'She has definitely been working with Naruto for too long.' Sasuke thought as he pulled out a kunai and strapped an exploding tag to it before throwing it forwards. The kunai only flew a dozen feet or so before he detonated it. The explosion knocked the kunai off course as well as disrupted the wind jutsu thus fully neutralizing Temari's attack. Sadly it also had the affect of blasting Sasuke back towards the ground. Hitting the ground with a grunt Sasuke rolled with the impact and got back to his feet as quickly as possible. Seeing that Temari was still up in the air gliding on her fan and observing him Sasuke grinned.
And with that Sasuke pulled out every smoke pellet he had and slammed them down unleashing a massive cloud of smoke that engulfed the forest in a white hazy smoke.
Seeing the mass of smoke Temari groaned and increased her elevation to get away from any possible surprise attacks. Her opening had been her best shot at getting the upper hand in the battle. She knew from past experiences that in direct combat there would be no way for her to overpower him. Surprise and sneak attacks were gonna be the safest way to compensate for the difference in power levels. Sadly the element of surprise was currently in Sasuke's hands not hers.
Shaking her head to rid herself of her disappointment at the turn of events Temari braced for the rest of the fight. That had just been the preliminaries.
Naruto grinned even as he continued his backwards somersaults over the sand dunes. He was just barely keeping away from a raging mass of hands that were attempting to ensnare him, but despite the looming death he couldn't help but grin. This, this life or death thrill, was more exhilarating than anything else he had ever done. Not even pranking had been as fun as this. It was probably a bit twisted to derive pleasure from a good fight, but it had been so long since he had fought against someone who could give him a run for his money Naruto couldn't help but enjoy the rush. Finishing his somersaults and seeing that the wall of sand was still bearing down on him Naruto simply stood still and hurled a dozen shuriken into the air. The sand was just bearing down on him when he substituted himself with one of the many shuriken placing himself high above the swirling mass of sand.
Now free and clear of the sand that had been constantly surrounding him Naruto scanned the sand dunes in search of his foe and was glad to spot him running about. Instead of the stationary target he had been Gaara had taken to dashing across sands, almost as if he were skating, as he pursued Naruto. The red head was no where near speedy or agile since his fighting style had been stationary for so long, but at least the minimal movement he was doing helped prevent Naruto from wailing on him. At least it was supposed to. Pulling out three of his remaining five kunai Naruto took aim and hurled them one by one at his mobile target.
Amusingly Gaara didn't let them get anywhere near him. As soon as the read head saw them he launched a single tendril of sand into the air and had it snake through the air catching all three of the kunai before hurling all of them far off into the desert.
"Ah Gaara. You're no fun!" Naruto whined even as he grinned down at his fellow jinchuuriki.
Garra gave a snort.
"When 'fun' is no longer defined as permitting you to trick me I shall become fun."
Naruto roared with laughter even as he created a seal-less clone beneath him to jump back into the air so as to keep his perpetual fall going.
"Well, sadly for you I like that definition." With that Naruto formed the full hand seal for the shadow clone jutsu causing Gaara to pause. He hadn't actually formed the seal in quite some time so it was expected Gaara would hesitate. Grinning at forcing Gaara to unknowingly stand still for the incoming attack Naruto created a chain of shadow clones that stretched from the ground up to his spot in the air. The chain of clones was built out of a simple tower of clones standing on each other's shoulders while grabbing the legs of the clone above them. Working like a living, breathing whip the chain of clones coiled back before snapping forward and slamming Naruto down on Gaara
Apparently Gaara had seen the incoming attack because he threw his arms up and created a solid dome of sand to protect himself.
Not that it would do any good.
As he barreled down on Gaara's dome of sand Naruto charged up a rasengan in his hand and slammed it onto the top of the dome easily tearing through the sand. However, Naruto had no intent on burying the rasengan into Gaara's head, so the blonde allowed the rasengan to prematurely detonate once it had torn through the dome of sand creating a weak explosion that widened the hole.
"Peek a bo!" Naruto shouted as he reached through the hole. As soon as he had a hold of Gaara the chain of shadow clones snatched the two of them back out of the dome and flung them both sky high. Keeping his hold on Gaara Naruto began to rain down blows even as they started to fall back to the earth. Ten rapid fire shots slammed straight into Gaara's face after easily breaking through the red head's weak block. Sadly with his sand armor still in tact Naruto's punches did little more than to inflict pain. No real damage was being done and they were beginning to lose altitude. Grunting in effort Naruto changed tactics. Ceasing his attack Naruto spun around and formed a shadow clone beneath his feet to give him grounding before throwing Gaara back up into the air. As soon as the red head was back up in the air Naruto launched himself off his clone and pursued Gaara back up into the skies.
This time instead of attempting to break through the sand armor with punches Naruto resorted to kicks. Grabbing the air born Gaara by his heel and rotating in the air Naruto delivered a vicious mule kick to Gaara's jaw that sent dozens of cracks through Gaara's sand armor, but not truly dislodging the sand. Which sadly meant moments after the blow had been dealt the damage was repaired. Growling in frustration Naruto jerked on Gaara's ankle before releasing it and slamming a side kick into Gaara's ribs before spinning and delivering a follow up roundhouse kick that launched Gaara away.
However, Naruto wasn't letting him off that easy. Without even pausing to think about it Naruto created a shadow clone in Gaara's trajectory. The clone slammed a leg into Gaara's ribs once more that stopped the falling red head's momentum and as the red head's body was bent over the clone's leg Naruto was rewarded with the resounding crack of Gaara's sand armor finally breaking.
At least for a fleeting moment.
Apparently that was the last straw for Gaara as the now broken sand armor fell off his body before immediately reattaching and merging with the skin on both of Gaara's arms. As the sand merged with his skin it began to shift his arms into their demonic state of sand claws. Reinvigorated by the demonic chakra Gaara lashed out and snagged the clone by the ankle before using his demonic strength to hurl the clone back at Naruto who could only let out a startled yelp before his clone slammed into him. The clone dispelling only served to leave Naruto in a cloud of smoke long enough for Gaara to reach out with his sand limbs and grab a hold of Naruto. Reeling Naruto in through the use of his sand arms Gaara rammed a sledgehammer of a punch directly into Naruto's midriff that sent the blonde hurdling back to the ground.
Naruto grunted as he fought to get back to his feet. However, before he was even fully back to his feet the sand in front of him lurched upwards and slammed into his face laying him flat on his back once more. He was fixing to start fussing about the change of pace when he felt the sand beneath him begin to move again. Realizing Gaara's bloodlust was building momentum Naruto kicked back to his feet and leapt away just as the sand he had been laying on turned into dozens of jagged spikes.
"Sheesh! Can't take a beating?" Naruto teased even as he began to jump from dune to dune frantically to avoid being caught by the sand arms that were appearing everywhere as well as to dodge the many spikes of crystalized sand that were springing up randomly. Gaara seemed to be consciously controlling, but the spikes that were sprouting up appeared to be nothing more than a manifestation of Gaara's bloodlust as they were appearing at random intervals in random places that more often than not were too far from Naruto to be of any sort of threat. The fact Gaara was creating massive spikes of sand when he had only just begun to merge with his inner demon showed just how wise it had been to move so far away from the others. Sadly, the random nature of the attacks meant that within minutes of Naruto dashing about staying just one step ahead of the attacks the entire desert had become a field of jagged sand crystals.
At least until Naruto took to the air and rained down kamikaze shadow clones all detonating their exploding tags. In a shower of fire, smoke, and ash the acres of sand spike exploded leaving the desert a barren flatland once again. Setting back down on the ground Naruto grinned at the sight of Gaara.
The sand jinchuuriki had changed while Naruto had been hopping around the place.
When they had been in the air Gaara had had just enough sand to slightly morph his arms into sand claws. Now that they were back amongst the dunes and copious amounts of sand were present Gaara's upper body had changed in ways Naruto had never seen before. As in the forest battle the last time they had fought Gaara's upper body was entirely covered in sand and the sand had given Gaara a bestial face full of razor sharp teeth. However, that is where the similarities stopped. Instead of the massive sand claws Gaara now had two twin sand claws that were easily twice as long as Gaara's arms, but were only a bit thicker and were more clearly defined as arms rather than simply being globs of sand with claws at the end. These new arms were also several shades darker than the surrounding sand and judging by the pulsing blue veins that covered them these new arms were also far more powerful. The changes didn't stop there. At the tip of each of Gaara's shoulders were small spikes of sand that began at the tip of his shoulder blades and ran the length of his shoulders before moving down his back as if he had a spine of spikes. The final change was Gaara's torso. Instead of the massive glob of sand that had been present during the last transformation there was now thousands of micro layers of crystalized sand covering Gaara's chest making it seem as if there was a fine translucent chest of defined muscle covering Gaara's torso. The changes all acted to grant exponentially heightened levels of durability and strength without limiting motion in the slightest.
"That's a good look for you Gaara. You ought to wear it more often."
"Die!" Gaara roared before diving forwards into the sand.
Seeing his opponent vanish from sight Naruto immediately went on high alert. The instant the sand shifted into a claw and jutted up at him Naruto leapt backwards as high and far as possible. However, Gaara leapt out of the sand directly behind Naruto and swept a brutal right hook into the blonde's right side that sent Naruto sprawling across the ground. Grunting in pain even as he went with the roll and hopped back to his feet Naruto could only groan at the sight of Gaara diving back into the sand. This time when the claw of sand jutted out at him he leapt straight up and without even waiting for Gaara to appear Naruto created a shadow clone and leapt higher into the air just as Gaara tore through the shadow clone.
With a roar Gaara thrust his arm at Naruto and instead of his sand claw stretching out to catch the blonde the desert itself reached up from beneath Gaara and created a massive claw that shot up to ensnare Naruto.
"Hell!" Naruto shouted as he created another shadow clone and leapt out of the way of the looming sand claw. However, unlike before where he could simply jump out of the way this claw stopped the moment it passed him and a sand spike jutted out of the side of the claw. Once again Naruto managed to just barely use a shadow clone to move out of the way. What he was not able to avoid was Gaara who had seemingly caught a ride on the sand claw and spike as they had pursued Naruto up into the air. Before Naruto could even breath Gaara sprung from within the sand spike and with a bellow lashed out with both of his sand claws at Naruto. Acting as fast as he could Naruto crossed his arms over his chest to avoid the majority of the damage. However, the blow was still strong enough to hurdle him back to the ground even as the claws left gaping gashes on Naruto's forearms.
Despite having the wind knocked out of him and bleeding from his arms and mouth Naruto rolled back to his fee the moment he touched ground. Before the sand could even begin to shift about Naruto put as much distance between himself and Gaara before the other jinchuuriki could touch back down on the ground. Unlike in the last pause they had taken Naruto was now panting for breath and fighting against the pain in his arms even as they continued to bleed.
"What's the matter Uzumaki? Is this too much for you?"
"Ha! I'm letting you get a hit or two in now so you don't feel too bad later." Naruto retorted, though internally he was glad Gaara was still self aware enough to speak. At least, he hoped it was Gaara speaking. Cause frankly this was far harder than Naruto had anticipated. Even with the hundred extra explosive notes he had brought in preparation for this battle he only had five exploding tags left and they were his one sure fire way of penetrating Gaara's armor in this state.
"Ha! Then come! Prove your existence!" Gaara shouted even as he rushed Naruto once more. His transformation had apparently heightened his control over sand as with but a wave of his arm Gaara sent a wall of sand at Naruto.
Seeing the impending wall Naruto charged straight at it and created five shadow clones in quick succession to create a series of jump pads to launch himself over the wall. Only for him to be met by a grinning Gaara. Instead of taking a beating Naruto grinned himself as he finished a string of hand seals just as Gaara was reaching him. Wind Style: Drilling Air Bullet Naruto called out even as he blew a full powered air bullet directly into Gaara's face sending the sand jinchuuriki sprawling across the desert as Naruto had previously been doing.
Gaara roared as he came back to his feet. Slamming both his hand down on the ground Gaara lifted countless sand shuriken into the air before using a bellowing wind jutsu to launch them at Naruto.
Seeing the incoming attack Naruto sent out a mental thanks to Kakashi for teaching him the single wind justu. As soon as Naruto touched down on the ground he fired the wind jutsu once more and blew both Gaara's wind attack and sand shuriken away. Which only seemed to infuriate Gaara even more.
"No! You cannot match me." Gaara cried as he fired five quick wind blast in quick succession.
Grinning Naruto charged his hands with chakra and proceeded to tear through all of Gaara's wind attacks.
"Hate to break it to you, but your sister's wind attacks were a heck of a lot harder to tear through. If you are gonna do a wind justu at least do it right."
Snarling Gaara brought his sand claws together in front of him in a broad sweeping motion to create a hoop with his arms before jerking his intertwined fist over his head without disrupting the hoop he had created.
It confused Naruto for only a moment before the sand in a wide circle around him sprung up to mime Gaara's movements. The end result was a cavern of hardened sand trapping Naruto with no way out but through Gaara who was standing at the mouth of the cavern. And even as Gaara reeled back for a punch the walls of the sand cave turned into sand spikes and moved inwards aiming to skewer Naruto.
Sprinting forwards Naruto charged up a rasengan in his right hand and slammed it forward right as Gaara attempted to slam his sand claw into Naruto's face. The two forces collided for only a moment before the rasengan tore the sand claw to shreds revealing Gaara's true arm. Not even pausing to contemplate how close he had come to amputating Gaara's arm Naruto leapt over the sand jinchuuriki and out of the sand cavern. Taking a few more quick jumps before turning around Naruto watched as the sand from the desert quickly rebuilt Gaara's sand claw.
'Well, at least I now know the rasengan can tear through that sand armor. But how can I do it without killing him?'
Sadly Naruto didn't have the time to formulate an answer to that question as Gaara jabbed both his sand claws into the sand, which in turn created two massive sand claws easily the size of a house each. Despite the size of the claws they both moved with alarming speed towards Naruto. Charging up a rasengan in each hand and matching the attack blow for blow Naruto tore through the sand claws before grinning at Gaara.
"Is that it!? Two!? Ha! I can match that all day long!"
With a snarl Gaara ripped his hands back out of the sand before howling at the heavens as the desert floor moved up to form a massive sand tail.
Temari gazed out at the desert in worry. She was still hovering over the massive smoke cloud awaiting Sasuke's next move. However, the amount of demonic chakra her brother was exuding at the moment was beginning to worry her.
"Oi!" Temari shouted down at the forest hidden by smoke. "Should we go check on them?"
When the raven haired boy didn't reply immediately Temari thought he might be staying silent in an attempt to surprise her. However, a moment later she actually got a response.
"No. The dobe is too stupid to die."
Temari snorted and rolled her eyes despite knowing the raven haired boy couldn't see her.
"You haven't been seeing what I have. They have set the place ablaze twice now, and a moment ago I swore the entire desert was made of sand spikes. He might have been a match for Gaara in the forest, but out in the desert…." Temari trailed off letting her silence speak for her.
"Fine fine, we will go check on the two if it gets any worse. Though, if I were you I would be more concerned about your situation."
"Wha?" Was all Temari managed to get out before two fuma shuriken shot out of the smoke and hurdled towards her. Pulling up on one side of the fan as she pushed wind chakra out of it allowed her to barrel roll out of the way of the two whirling blades, but she was caught off-guard when the two blades suddenly doubled back and bound her and her fan in ninja wire. As she plummeted to the ground Temari cursed the Uchiha and his wire tricks. Twice now he had managed to tangle her with his infernal tricks. This time, however, he was not close enough to put the finishing blow right after capturing her. And that fatal flaw allowed Temari the time to perform a substitution before she hit the ground.
However, that still left her in the forest surrounded by a smoke screen she could not see through with no idea where her opponent was. And frankly since the Uchiha had not made a move in the past half hour Temari was growing weary of this game. Taking control back into her hands Temari unleashed a gale of wind that swept outwards in a perfect spiral blowing away the smoke.
This was exactly what Sasuke had been waiting on.
The moment Temari had swung her fan Sasuke had leapt out of his hiding place and taken full advantage of the time between fan swings to deliver a vicious jab into Temari's midriff. Before she could even stagger backwards he quickly threw in two more quick jabs and finished with a nasty roundhouse kick that sent her sliding back several paces. He moved to continue his barrage, but she apparently has far more battle hardy than he had anticipated because she immediately recovered and snapped her fan shut in order to block his incoming punch.
Temari grinned at seeing both shock and pain flit across the Uchiha's face. Shock that she had recovered so quickly, and pain at having his fist meet solid unyielding steel. His attacks had hurt, but Naruto had always hit a good deal harder. Thankfully that had prepped her for dealing with the pain from Sasuke's attacks. Sadly, however, it had not made her his equal in hand-to-hand combat. Within moments he was overpowering her and she was hard pressed to stay ahead of his attacks. More and more often his attacks were slipping through her guard, and she never had the time to get in her own blows meaning it would only be a matter of time before he wore her down. Gritting her teeth and letting a blow fully connect Temari bore with the pain and threw her momentum behind the punch so that it carried her far further than Sasuke had intended. While it didn't do much in terms of combat it did allow enough space for Temari to break away from Sasuke.
And Temari readily took that opportunity.
Snaking through the forest as fast as humanly possible Temari tried to put enough distance between her and the Uchiha to properly set the battle in her favor.
Sasuke grinned as he saw Temari taking off into the woods. Instead of pursuing her he made his way to a massive stump with a kunai embedded in the top of it. Sasuke pulled the kunai up and grinned at seeing the dozens of threads of ninja wire that were connected to the hilt of the kunai. He had not had enough wire to turn the entire forest into a spider's web, but he had had enough to lay his own signature trap. Running through a string of hand seals with the kunai wedged between his fingers Sasuke breathed out the name of his jutsu with glee. Fire Style: Grand Fireball Jutsu Instead of breathing out a massive inferno of fire Sasuke breathed the raging flames onto the many threads of ninja wire watching as the flames spread through the forest on the wires. However, that was far from the end of it. Since Sasuke had not had enough wire to turn the entire forest into a dense web he had instead placed various traps all along the wires. Every flash bang and exploding tag Sasuke had was strung out on the wires, and as the fire rushed past the tags they detonated sending the forest up in a shower of fire, ash, and smoke as the various tags went off.
Hearing a feminine shriek of pain Sasuke threw the kunai back into the stump and took off in the direction the sound had emanated from. It didn't take long for him to come across the sight of Temari slumped up against a tree clutching her leg. One of the explosions had caught her leaving her battle dress singed at the bottom and her leg had probably been burnt.
In other words, she was pretty much done for.
"You know, girly screams are easy to follow." Sasuke jeered even as he used his sharingan to make sure the damage wasn't too severe. .
"Really? You must have done it silently cause I missed it." Temari snapped heatedly. She knew he had technically owned her with that trap, but the pain in her leg made respecting him as an opponent rather difficult at the moment.
Sasuke stopped examining her leg to glare at her.
"Real funny. Ready to admit defeat?"
Temari gave a bark of laughter.
"Count to five and I'll be asking you that." Temari responded even as she held up a hand with all five fingers outstretched and began to clock down.
Sasuke watched as she dropped the first finger, and went to ask what she was talking about when he felt a massive surge of chakra usage right beside him. Blinking Sasuke jerked his head to the side only to come face-to-face with a second Temari with a wide open fan right as this new Temari unleashed a concentrated gale of wind blades. The attack slammed into Sasuke with enough force to not only knock him off his feet and into a tree, but actually through the tree leaving him battered, bruised, and covered in multiple lacerations of varying levels of severity.
"Ready to admit defeat?" Temari smugly questioned right as she finished counting down.
"How the hell do you know the shadow clone jutsu?" Sasuke ground out even as he rolled over onto his back in an effort to take the pressure of the large number of cuts covering his chest.
Temari grinned softly.
"Like you said, I have been training with him for too long to not pick up one or two things."
"But," Sasuke started before grunting and forcing himself back into sitting position. "The Shadow clone jutsu?"
"It works doesn't it? It takes nearly all my chakra to form just a single clone, but as you can see it is more than worth it to make one." Temari paused and took a breath before forcing herself back to her feet. "We calling it a tie? Or you ready for more?"
Sasuke chuckled and forced himself back to his feet. Despite the lacerations limiting his movements he knew he could still keep moving.
"Oh no, we are far from being over."
The two Temaris grinned and readied their battle fans. In a one to one match there was no way she could match him, but now that she had a shadow clone there might be a shot at beating him in direct combat.
"You do realize I can handle the dozens of clones Naruto sends at me right? Compared to his use of it yours will hardly slow me down."
"You could barely handle one of me last time."
"True, but then again last time you weren't my target. And last time I had to save this," Sasuke called out even as a chidori flared to life on his left hand. "for your brother."
Temari grit her teeth. She knew just how lethal that attack was. It cut through her brother's defense so it would just as easily cut through any of hers. Just like Naruto's rasengan had. Both her and her clone were ready though. So long as she clone kept throwing attack after attack and she kept Sasuke from dispelling the clone then they would be able to counter even this.
It would just be a long hard fight to the finish.
At least that was what they thought.
Before either Sasuke or Temari could make the next move a caustic tidal wave of demonic chakra so potent it snuffed out Sasuke's chidori tore through the forest. The two genin gaped in awe struck horror for a moment before both took off towards the desert in hopes of some how averting the apocalyptic situation.
Kankuro was mildly impressed. It seemed Sakura knew her taijutsu well enough that she could easily transfer it onto her puppet. Between her chakra control and her knowledge of the taijutsu style she was easily dominating him in straight fighting with the puppets. Which was odd considering how weak she was in hand-to-hand combat. It was probably simply a lack of physical prowess that kept her from being better than taijutsu than she was.
However, straight taijutsu fights between puppets was almost unheard of outside sparring. Meaning it was time to take it up a notch.
With but a thought and a twitch of his fingers Kankuro triggered the release mechanisms in Black Ant separating the various pieces into their individual parts. As soon as they had separated Kankuro launched them all at Sakura. Surprisingly the pinkette managed to separate Crow into its various pieces and knock his attacks off course.
Sakura grinned at seeing Kankuro's surprised face.
"Told you I wasn't hopeless." She called out before twitching her fingers and revealing the hidden blades stored within the various parts.
That killed Kankuro's sense of respect for the girl. Sighing he shook his head.
"Word of advice for if you ever get your own puppet. Keep the blades hidden until right before they slash the target because they are tipped with poison and if you expose them too early the poison will either oxidize and become worthless or dry out and not seep into the victims blood fast enough to be effective."
Sakura blinked at looked at the various blades she wielded around her with a new respect for them.
"Oh! Okay, thanks for the advice."
Kankuro grinned and shook his head.
"Another piece of advice, don't take your eyes off the opponents pieces." Kankuro said with a grin even as three of the pieces he had snuck underneath the tree branch they had been fighting on launched at Sakura.
Acting on instinct and trained habit Sakura leapt out of the way of the incoming attack. Sadly that meant she released her hold on the various pieces of Crow only for Kankuro to quickly latch his own chakra threads onto them and steal them away.
Sighing Kankuro shook his head.
"And lastly never, never, disconnect from your puppets in the middle of battle with another puppeteer." Once again Kankuro sighed at the let down this match had turned into. Even with as weak as he was at sensing chakra usage he could tell that the other two battles had been explosive. "And that is puppeteering 101. Game over." Kankuro drawled out even as he hurled the mass of parts at Sakura.
Oddly the girl didn't panic. Instead she merely stood her ground. Kankuro was just about ready to stop the puppets' attack when suddenly threads of chakra shot out from Sakura's fingers and latched onto all the various parts stopping them cold only a couple yards from her.
"I don't have the chakra to play long range stuff. Now short range I can do."
Kankuro couldn't help but to grin and shake his head.
"So you do. Too bad I have the chakra to overpower you." With a flick of his fingers and a touch more chakra Kankuro's control over the puppet parts began to override Sakura's and force the blades closer to her. However, as the parts got closer Sakura's control grew stronger.
The two of them probably would have reached a dead stalemate if it had not been for the titanic wave of chakra that crashed over them shattering their chakra strings.
The overwhelming wave of chakra came with a bloodlust unlike anything Sakura had ever felt. It was mind numbing. Fear froze her blood and soul freezing her in place despite the animalistic panic that was urging her to flee. Kankuro on the other hand knew exactly what, and more specifically who, this bloodlust was and what it meant. It meant Naruto had pushed Gaara beyond the point of no return and was now as good as dead. Kankuro was about to take off in the opposite direction when he felt his sister's chakra signature moving towards the source of the demonic chakra. Worse still the Uchiha was leading her.
"The hell are those two doing!?" Kankuro seethed even as he reassembled his puppets and put them back on his back. "Now I have to go help." Kankuro sighed out before turning and snapping his fingers and Sakura. "Hey, snap out of it. We need to go either save your idiot teammate or recover his remains." The snapping apparently brought her back to reality because Kankuro watched as conscious thought entered her eyes again.
"Wait, you mean go towards…. That?"
"Yes towards that. I agree we need to be going the other way, but my sister and your brooding teammate are headed towards it so we need to go either get them out of there or try and help them with whatever idiotic stunt they are trying to pull. Now hurry up!" Without waiting for her Kankuro reconnected his chakra strings to his puppets and placed the pair back on his back before taking off into the woods. He was glad to see that not two steps behind him was the pink haired girl and her silver haired sensei who had seemingly materialized out of nowhere.
For some reason despite having the jounin there Kankuro didn't feel any better about the situation.
Naruto couldn't help but groan in frustration as he saw Gaara's tail form. The sand from the desert surged upwards coating what little remained of Gaara's waist and stomach before moving backwards to create a massive tail easily twice the size of Gaara. Unlike the other aspects of Gaara's transformation, which had all changed, this part had blessedly remained the same. However, it still meant that Gaara was but one step away from unleashing all hell.
With that Gaara's transformation was all but perfect. From head to waist Gaara was covered by that same diamond hard layer of sand that had taken a full-blown rasengan to tear through. Breaking through that defense without flat out killing Gaara was going to be the challenge. If he could force Gaara to summon the full form of Shukaku then it would remove Gaara from his defenses, not counting the hulking form of Shukaku. But then it would just be a matter of disconnecting Gaara from his sand rather than having to break through the armor. Only question was, with as far as Gaara had transformed how could Naruto push him further without actually killing him?
"Handle this Uzumaki!" Gaara roared as his tail jabbed into the sand and he launched his two arms forwards. As the two hands shot forward the tail reemerged from the sand in five different spots creating a seven pronged full frontal attack.
Reacting on instinct Naruto created seven shadow clones who all slammed rasengans into the incoming attacks. Sadly all that did was slow the attacks down. Since Gaara had a limitless supply of sand, even as the rasengans tore through the sand, more and more came until eventually the sand tore through the rasengans and clones before continuing on their path towards Naruto. Once again Naruto created a batch of seven clones and sent them rushing the oncoming attack with him trailing directly behind the center clone. Pulling out one of his last two kunai Naruto waited until right as the sand claw slammed into the shadow clone in front of him before dropping to his knees and hurling a kunai between his clones legs so that the kunai landed right between Gaara's feet as the exploding tag detonated. Sadly the explosion only had enough impact to disrupt Gaara's connection to the sand and failed in launching Gaara into the air as Naruto had hoped. Luckily, however, the disruption was enough time for Naruto to create three shadow clones beneath Gaara.
They didn't fail. Acting as one the three clones blasted Gaara sky with three perfectly timed Drilling Air Bullets.
Grinning and quickly creating five other shadow clones in the air around Gaara Naruto sat back and watched his handiwork. Without even having to lift a finger Naruto watched as his clones blasted Gaara time and time again bouncing him around in the air as if he were the volleyball in an airborne game of beach ball. And even from where he was standing on the ground Naruto could see the sand that was beginning to fall off Gaara in clumps. With the constant barrage of attacks Gaara couldn't reconnect with the sand below to replenish his armor, and the sand was beginning to peel off in layers. Within moments nearly all of Gaara's armor had been stripped off and the wind blasts began to leave gashes across Gaara's skin.
Smirking in victory Naruto waved his hands at the airborne clones and watched as Gaara fell to the earth in a lump.
"Ha!" Naruto shouted out even as he slumped over in exhaustion. He had easily created over two or three hundred shadow clones in this match, and between all those shadow clones and the various other jutsu he had needed to use he was beat. He still had plenty to run back to the village, but that had still been the most tiring match he had had in a long time. "No fox needed this time, eh Gaara?" Naruto called out even as he began to walk towards his friend. "Gaara?" He called out louder when he got no response. "Oi! You black out that easy?!" He shouted when he again got no response. Only, this time his shouting got a response of a different sort.
The desert itself responded.
Pulsing blue lines of chakra surged outwards from Gaara's stationary body in a surge of chakra that left even Naruto gasping for air. The sinister lines spread out further than Naruto could see turning the entire desert into a maze of darkened sand and jagged lines of deep blue pulsing chakra. Before Naruto had time to do anything about the development the pulsing lines of chakra began to move, though not in the way Naruto had wanted. Instead of the lines of pulsing chakra moving back towards Gaara, the lines actually began to move outwards and upwards. At some point in the distance the lines had apparently reached their intended range and had begun to snake up into the sky taking half the desert with them. In moments a massive dome of sand easily the size of the Hokage Mountains had sprung up around Gaara. And Naruto was standing smack dab in the middle of it.
"Well this is new." Naruto said aloud to no one in particular. As he took in the insides of the dome he couldn't help but appreciate just how marvelous his improved eyesight was. The only light within the cavernous dome came from the dimly pulsing blue lines of chakra on the walls of the dome; however, the sheer enormity of the dome would have made what feeble light they provided useless had it not been for his improved night vision.
Shrugging at seeing nothing interesting about the dome Naruto lifted his foot to start walking towards the unconscious Gaara only to immediately freeze as thousands of eyes sprung open on the walls. Hundreds upon hundreds of eyes glared down at Naruto as the walls of the dome was filled with eyes.
'Kit do not move!' Kyuubi warned to which Naruto rolled his eyes.
'Gee thanks for the advice I didn't think of that. And here I was thinking I should take a stroll.'
'Were the situation not so grievous I would thrash you for your insolence, however, that will have to wait. Kit, do you even realize how much danger you are in?'
'Judging by the crap ton of eyes I would say a lot. But, so long as I don't move I should be fine no?'
'No. Doesn't this dome look familiar?'
'Not really. I've never seen Gaara do anything like this before. Well, he did make a small sphere back in the chunin exams to begin merging with Shukaku, but that was no where near as large as this.'
'And that sphere was constructed for the exact same reason this one has been. This sphere is Shukaku's birth place.'
'Hold up! Sphere!? This is just a dome!'
'No, this is a sphere that extends as far downwards as it does upwards. The manifestation of Shukaku you faced previously was a miniature version of its true form. And when Shukaku manifests this time it will take up the entire space of this sphere. Including where you stand.'
'The hell!? But how do I get out of here? With a solid wall I can't use the shadow clone trick to get out of here!'
Kyuubi merely rumbled with laughter.
'Then it looks like you truly will need my help to stay alive. Ah well, we shall have to see. Good luck.'
'WHAT!?' Naruto mentally screamed at the fox only to receive silence. "That good for nothing worthless bundle of fluff is just tryin to psyche me out. I can, and will, get out of here without using his help." His resolve lasted right until he saw that the thousands of eyes were still trained on him, and were showing no signs of ever looking away. Gritting his teeth Naruto willed a clone to pop into existence on the other side of the clearing while he watched the eyes to see how they responded. Oddly they didn't even seem to notice the sudden appearance of the clone. "Ha!" Naruto shouted in victory only for his sense of pride to die the moment the clone moved jagged spikes of crystalized sand shot up and pierced the clone through the chest. "Well crud. So they can't detect the clone being created, but they can detect motion." He blinked at that. "Why can't they tell a clone was created? I mean it's kind of hard to miss. Unless they can't pick up on chakra." As realization dawned on Naruto a mischievous smirk formed on his face. "Now this I can play with."
Kankuro, Sakura, and Kakashi reached the tree line and froze.
Standing before them was a veritable mountain of sand that had seemingly sprung up out of nowhere. The mountainous dome of sand was easily the size of the hokage monument and was covered in sinister looking blue lines of chakra that seemed to be pulsing. Those very same lines of chakra were making it impossible to tell where Naruto was with all the chakra they were emitting. Normally, it would have been a simple matter to pick Naruto's chakra signature out in the desert. However, attempting to sense anything more than a foot away was an exercise in futility with that mountain of chakra sending out wave after wave of caustic chakra.
Sight on the other hand was still working fine, so when Sasuke and Temari popped out of the tree line a moment later the two groups easily spotted one another and met up.
"What the hell is that?" Sakura asked echoing the thoughts of the other two leaf ninja who were far too reserved to ask the question.
"That, is Suna's trump card in action." Temari replied despondently. The last time her brother had gone this far in the desert Temari had hardly been seven or eight years old and only remembered being ushered inside while her father had gone out to tend to some horrible noise. What she did get to see, however, was the catastrophic amounts of damage her brother had wrought. Entire city blocks had been buried under mounds of sand. And according to the ninja she had overhead her brother had only cut loose for a moment or two before her father had restrained the beast.
"You mean that is what Naruto and Sasuke went up against?"
"No." Sasuke spoke out. "That is what Naruto went up against."
"Actually," Kakashi cut in without looking up from his book. "that is something none of you have seen before. What you saw Naruto fight against before was a mini version of what you are about to see. Pay attention now cause here comes the grand finale."
Before any of the genin could ask what Kakashi meant they all felt Naruto's chakra flare momentarily in a monumental surge of chakra that emanated from inside the dome of chakra. Though, nothing happened. At least not immediately. The pulsing lines of chakra that covered the dome of sand began to flare brighter and pulse more rapidly until the dome of sand began to shine from all the chakra being released.
And then the rumbling began. It started out as a low rumble that was almost imperceptible, but within moments it had grown to a resounding cacophony that drowned out all conversation as it grew into a roar that transformed the entire desert into a rumbling mass of sand. Mounds of sand began to level off as the rumbling caused the sand to quiver and tremble changing the sand dune covered desert into a flat expanse of nothingness apart from the dome.
That dome wasn't going to be there for long either based on the fact the lines of chakra were beginning to fade out leaving behind gaping cracks in the dome. In a shower of smoke and sand two monstrous figures emerged from within the dome. The first, and by far the largest, was none of than Shukaku itself. Looking exactly as Sasuke, Kankuro, Temari, and Kakashi remembered Shukaku stood in the middle of the now flattened desert. The last time Shukaku had manifested it had been immense, easily the size of a small mountain. This time it was on an entirely different scale of enormity. Sakura fell to her knees as Kankuro fell backwards landing on his rear. The crushing pressure of Shukaku's chakra and bloodlust combined with the sheer enormity behind it left the both of them paralyzed with fear. Sasuke and Temari were only fairing slight better in that they were standing upright, Sasuke through stubbornness and Temari through the use of her fan as a prop.
"It has been ages since I have seen a fully manifested biju."
"This is no laughing matter!" Baki called out as he emerged from the forest. "How are we to stop Gaara now that he has gone berserk? Suna is close enough he could reach it before he ran out of chakra. What then?" Baki demanded obviously offended by Kakashi's lackadaisical attitude.
"Hmmm?" Kakashi hummed out as he turned his head slightly to look at Baki out the corner of his eye. Seeing the intense look on Baki's face Kakashi merely waved his hand dismissively. "Oh don't worry about it. We aren't going to stop him." Turning back to face the desert Kakashi pointed past the hulking figure of Shukaku to a smaller figure that was just now getting back to its feet. "He is."
From the smoke of the figure rising back to its feet came a massive one tailed fox with golden yellow fur and shimmering blue eyes.
"What!? He can summon foxes too?" Sasuke shouted out in rage only to pause when his rage activated his sharingan and showed him the truth.
"You see it don't you?" Kakashi asked even as he pulled his own headband up.
"See what? Mind filling us people without fancy eyes in on where that blonde fox came from?" Kankuro sneered in annoyance. It always grated on his nerves when those blessed from birth with an advantage took it for granted.
"It isn't a fox. At least not in the sense you are thinking." Kakashi responded before elaborating. "The beast you see is actually two or three thousand shadow clones all combined in a mass transformation jutsu."
"That's impossible." Kankuro retorted automatically. "You can't make a living breathing creature of that size with the transformation jutsu. You would have to stretch the chakra too thin to hold the image. Not to mention a transformation would be useless in battle."
"Unless it's Naruto's perfected transformation." Temari muttered without thinking as her mind figured it all out. "If you had two or three thousand people stacked in a rough shape of a fox, and then had them all initiate a mass solid transformation jutsu then it could work."
"But two thousand people can't think alike like that. They would all have to think exactly alike." Kankuro responded.
"As if they were clones?" Temari simply questioned with a smirk on her face. She was about to rub it in further when Kakashi cut in.
"Enough you two. Besides, you're fixing to miss the show."
Naruto panted for air from his perch atop his newly created golden yellow fox. It had taken almost everything he had to make enough clones to form the outline for this fox. He only had enough chakra for maybe a dozen or so clones more, or one good jutsu. Any thing else and he would have to start pulling on Kyuubi for chakra. But that was all beside the point. Now that he had created the bloody thing the fox was self-sustaining. The clones within the fox would keep the transformation going, and could create more clones to re-strengthen the construct if it were to take too much damage. Not to mention the best part. Every clone within the construct could cast jutsu.
Tiredly hanging on to the golden yellow fur with one hand and pointing at Shukaku's head in the distance with the other Naruto gave a shout.
"Fire!" Naruto shouted as he gestured at Shukaku's head. Not a moment later the fox's tail snapped forward unleashing a dozen Drilling Air Bullets that careened across the desert before slamming into Shukaku's right shoulder. "Hmmm aim is off." Naruto mused to himself. However, his musings were cut short as the fox beneath him began to sprint across the desert. Hanging on for dear life and letting his clones do the work Naruto tiredly watched the fight play out.
Awe was written across all faces. Even Kakashi was impressed with Naruto's creation. The fox was dashing about the desert unleashing round after round of air bullets. Shukaku, which was now obviously still under Gaara's control, was stuck standing in place deflecting the bullets with its arms. Whenever Gaara did have a moment to attack he would send immense tidal waves of sand hurdling towards Naruto's fox only for the fox to either jump over it or blow the wall of sand apart with gouts of wind.
"Naruto is lucky Gaara retained enough control to not give Shukaku control." Kakashi mumbled as he watched Gaara chase the golden fox with a roughly formed claw of sand.
"That is for certain." Baki echoed. "Shukaku would have caught the boy in an instant, and killed him a moment later."
"Then why doesn't Gaara?" Sasuke asked without taking his eyes off the battle. Something about the whole thing was bugging him.
"Because Gaara is not accustomed to manipulating such massive amounts of sand or chakra. Right now Gaara finds himself in control of an entire desert spanning thousands of miles, and is trying to pin point one specific point in that desert. Not to mention that one point is constantly changing and moving around while launching massive gales of wind. He has neither the control nor the focus to force the sand beneath the fox's feet to grab the fox from this distance, and he is too unfamiliar with wielding this much chakra to know how to move Shukaku. In other words, so long as Naruto keeps it a long range battle he has nothing to worry about. He can merely wear Gaara out of chakra."
"Not this time." Sasuke said as he finally figured out what was bugging him. "Naruto is out of chakra."
"What!?" Temari asked out of shock. She had never, never, seen Naruto run out of chakra. He had created thousands of clones a dozen times in a row before and never run fully out of chakra before. He had been exhausted, but never truly empty. "That can't be. If he had blown through that much chakra we would have felt it long before now. Aside from that one burst of chakra we felt to create that fox we haven't felt anything. And two or three thousand clones wouldn't leave him that tired."
"That is what I am trying to figure out. I know the dobe has more chakra than this, but for whatever reasons he is flat out of chakra. I can see him, and he is just lying on the fox's head hanging on while the clones within the fox do all the work."
Temari opened her mouth to respond when she, along with the other genin, were suddenly snatched up by Kakashi and shushined up to the tops of a nearby tree. Blinking in disorientation for a moment Temari looked back at where she had been standing only to pale.
Gaara had apparently figured out how to launch his own long range wind attacks because one had just torn through the area they had been standing. Now all that was left was a vicious trench wide enough to fit a city block and easily half a mile long.
"He nearly killed us." Temari mumbled out in shock at how close she had just been to death.
"Not on purpose." Baki replied solemnly. "At the ranges they are firing I doubt they can see us. And all the chakra they are putting out makes us blind to them, so for all intent and purposes we might as well not exist to them."
"Not true." Kakashi corrected even as he pulled his head band back over his sharingan eye. He had seen all he needed to see. No need to waste chakra. "Naruto sees us. I don't know how he can see us at these ranges but he sees us. There have been three times when he has smacked the fox on the head to stop it from firing in our direction. He and I will definitely have a good long talk when we get back to the village."
Temari frowned at that. She knew the reasons behind Naruto being able to see them. She also knew the answers to Kakashi's other questions. What she didn't know was how Naruto would react to having to tell those secrets.
A snap, a crack, and the battle suddenly ended. Blinking and whirling back to the battle Temari just caught sight of Gaara as he was ejected out of the back of Shukaku's head and launched across the desert with enough speed to roll a dozen or so times before coming to a halt. The Shukaku construct collapsed under its own weight since Gaara was no longer able to maintain it. The golden yellow fox went up in a massive plume of smoke. And there, falling along side the sand that had given Shukaku form, was Naruto.
"The hell just happened?!" Temari demanded only to be met by several dumbfounded looks. "Gah whatever!" Temari cried in frustration before dashing out across the desert.
Based on sound alone she knew the rest of them had followed her out.
He couldn't figure it out. He knew that there was no way anyone but him had caught it, but he still couldn't figure it out. He and Kakashi were the only two with good enough eyes to catch what had happened. And Kakashi had covered his sharingan eye up after watching the battle for a moment, so Sasuke was the only one who had seen that concluding moment of the battle.
Naruto had either recovered some energy, or had simply grown tired of watching the same thing happen time and time again. Either way the blonde had acted. Instead of casting any jutsu the blonde had simply moved to the tip of the fox's tail. Apparently he had communicated with the clones that were controlling the fox because as soon as he had situated himself on the fox's tail the fox took a dozen massive leaps away from Gaara to put as much distance as possible between them. Then began the confusing part. The entire time Sasuke had been watching the battle the fox had just been using a large scale versions of one particular jutsu. However, whatever they charged up when Naruto was on the tip of the tail was something else entirely. The jutsu began to collect momentum and chakra at the paws of the fox and had moved up through the rest of the fox gaining more and more chakra from the clones as they had all combined their efforts into the jutsu. The jutsu had started out looking exactly like the ones the fox had been throwing about earlier, but at some point as it had gained and gathered energy along the way it had morphed into something else. The way the chakra was molded and focused changed so that by the time it had reached the tip of the tail, which was now pointed directly at Gaara, it was an entirely different jutsu. Naruto had apparently not caught the difference in the jutsu because he had not changed his stance. He had remained perfectly stationary on the tip of the tail glaring straight ahead while creating some odd swirling ball of chakra in his right hand.
When the new attack had finally reached the tip of the tail it exploded with a resounding crack even as it created a small shockwave so potent it was actually visible in the form of a translucent white wave that cut clear through the golden yellow fox, and even cut several feet into the sand below. However, by the time the shockwave had reached the ground Naruto had already flown clear across the desert.
Then Naruto had done something even more mysterious. As soon as he was within range of Gaara he stuck his right hand out and the swirling ball of chakra he had been holding shrunk in size until it was no bigger than an egg. And then it had exploded. However, instead of merely exploding in a blast of chakra that went in all directions it exploded forwards in a massive swirling cone of chakra with enough force behind it to not only launch Gaara out the back of Shukaku's head, but to even cave in the entire face of Shukaku leaving a perfect swirl pattern carved into the sand. The blast had also had enough force to stop Naruto mid air despite all the momentum he had had when the fox had launched him.
And, despite having seen all that Sasuke was still baffled by it all. What had the jutsu morphed into, and how and why had it suddenly changed? Had Naruto intended for it to change like that? And what was with that swirling ball of chakra?
These were all questions that needed to be answered. And soon.
Temari, Sakura, Sasuke, and Kankruo all rushed up to where Naruto was lying and froze. Naruto was unconscious atop the massive pile of sand that had once been Shukaku, and all the sand around him was stained red from the blood that was gushing from Naruto's right arm. The wound on the arm was quite and unusual one. Starting an inch up from Naruto's wrist five perfectly cut gashes worked their way up Naruto's forearm in a tightly wound counterclockwise spiral. Sakura and Kankuro froze at the sight of the wound and the massive amounts of blood loss. Sasuke paused and took a step back to go fetch Kakashi in hopes the jounin knew at least a few medical ninjutsu. Temari on the other hand sprinted forward and straddled Naruto. Buried her knees deep in blood soaked sand.
And began to beat the snot out of Naruto. In rapid fire strikes Temari slapped the unconscious boy five or six times before Sasuke grabbed her arm.
"What the hell are you doing?" Sasuke demanded and he attempted to haul the girl off him only for her to jerk free of his grasp.
"Waking him up." Temari snapped back before slapping Naruto again. "Oi! Wake up!" Temari shouted in Naruto's ear before slapping him once more.
"Enough! He needs a doctor. Not to be slapped!" Sasuke ordered.
Without paying the Uchiha any more concern Temari slapped Naruto once more before quickly jumping back when she saw his cerulean blue eyes snap open. The moment he was awake he gave a roar and unleashed a gush of orange chakra that swelled over his body bathing him in a fire of the caustic chakra.
The four genin watched as Naruto struggled back to his feet while the orange chakra blazed brighter and higher until it forced the four to take several steps backwards in order to avoid being burnt by it. The wounds on Naruto's arm, which had been oozing blood the entire time, stopped bleeding and were actually beginning to slowly heal. Apparently, however, it wasn't enough chakra because the orange chakra grew and grew even as it shifted from a chaotically blazing inferno to a rough silhouette of a one tailed fox. The raging flames then began to shrink until they had wrapped tightly around Naruto's entire frame except for his head and his rear. On his head the flame had shifted to give the blonde two pointed ears that stretched a full foot above the crown of Naruto's head. At his rear the burning chakra elongated downwards and outwards until a sinister looking orange tail of condensed chakra had formed.
Now standing in front of the four baffled genin was a Naruto enshrouded by a one tailed cloak of blazing orange chakra.
And the wound, which had looked debilitating but moments ago now was all but healed. Only the faintest traces of the wound still remained. As those last few patches of skin knit themselves shut a small glob of blood leaked out. However, instead of dribbling down Naruto's arm it worked its way up his arms clearly saying to hell with all laws of gravity. Moving as if driven by some sentient will the glob of blood moved up Naruto's arm and onto his chest just above his right pectoral before rearranging itself into some incomprehensible symbol. Once it had formed into the alien symbol it flashed a brilliant red for a split second before burning itself into Naruto's skin. Hissing in pain Naruto scrunched up his face in displeasure to contain his shout. Luckily the mark had etched itself into his skin in moments. Once done Naruto's healing factor kicked in once more and new skin grew over the mark making it impossible to tell it was even there.
With everything healed and sealed Naruto's eyes opened once more. While the cerulean eyes that greeted the four genin appeared normal to Sakura, Sasuke, and Kankuro they were as foreign to Temari as the mark that had just formed. Naruto was obviously using massive amounts of the fox's chakra, yet his eyes were still perfectly blue. That was new.
"Evening guys." Naruto growled out as he let the chakra cloak dissipate. "Is Gaara okay?" Naruto questioned as he began to walk towards the other four. "I have never used that on anyone before so I don't know how much punch it has."
"It has a hell of a punch, but Gaara is fine." Kakashi replied as he and Baki joined the group. Gaara was slung over Baki's shoulder.
"You sure? That doesn't look fine to me." Kankuro retorted. Worry giving his voice an edge he hadn't intended.
Kakashi quirked an eyebrow at the boy but couldn't help but smile beneath his mask. It was nice to know the cat-man had gotten over his fear of his brother enough to worry.
"I'm certain. The attack merely knocked him unconscious. Though, what exactly was that attack?" The last was aimed at Naruto who scratched the back of his head nervously.
"Hehe," Naruto nervously chuckled as he scratched the back of his head while smiling sheepishly. "That would be the new jutsu I told you about. It takes the rasengan and turns it into a midrange attack. Though using it kind of tears my arms to shreds since I haven't quite mastered it yet, so I try not to use it all that much."
"Rasengan?" Sasuke asked to which Naruto nodded.
"Yeah, it is a trick I learned from pervy sage." Holding out his right hand with the palm facing up Naruto charged up a rasengan so Sasuke could see it. "Tada! And then all I really did was learn how to make it blow up in the direction I want."
"It looks similar to the chidori." Sasuke ground out. He was doing his best to not let his jealously shine through.
Sadly it was painfully obvious. Even to Naruto.
Luckily the awkwardness was avoided by Baki.
"Well, now that questions have been answered can we please go our separate ways? I would like to get back to Suna before night falls, not to mention have Gaara checked out to ensure there was no internal damage done."
"That is probably a good idea. Well then Sasuke, Temari, and Naruto shall we head on back to the village?" Kakashi asked to which he got two cheers and one grunt.
"Sasuke, you can head on home for the night. I will hand in the mission report." Kakashi said to Sasuke once they had all signed back into the village. Then he turned to face Temari and Naruto who were attempting to tip-toe away "You two, on the other hand, obviously have some explaining to do."
Naruto sighed in defeat and nodded.
"Alright, well we can talk back at my place no?"
"So your place is secure enough to discuss this, but the middle of a desert with no one around for miles isn't?" Kakashi drawled out.
Naruto nodded vigorously with a massive grin.
"Yep!" Naruto shouted even as he began to walk towards his house. Temari fell into step beside him giving Kakashi no option but to follow along. "Plus," Naruto continued. "you haven't seen the place since I started to remodel it have you?"
"Yep! Namikaze-san bought the place for me and his girls and told me to fix the place up."
Kakashi had frozen several steps back.
"What did you just say?"
"I said Namikaze-san bought…
"How do you know that name?"
"Hmmm? He is the Fourth's son."
Kakashi's eye narrowed as rage began to fill him. Someone aside from the true heir to the Namikaze clan dared to pose as the son of his sensei? He had seen the fliers and heard the rumors that a supposed heir to the Namikaze clan was going to make an appearance. But that was preposterous. Naruto was the only heir to the clan. That was the entire reason Kakashi had tailed them all the way to the desert this time. He had wanted to ensure that Naruto was where Naruto was supposed to be, and that no one attempted to assassinate him in order to post their own man as the heir in order to get the Namikaze wealth. Yet, Naruto himself was acting as if this man was the true heir.
"Kakashi!" Temari called out snapping Kakashi out of his stupor. "You really ought to see the place. It's awesome what Naruto has been able to do to the place. Besides, once there you can always just ask the girls where Namikaze-san is. They always seem to know where he is."
Kakashi narrowed his eye at the girl. The amount of intel this girl had on Naruto, Konoha, and the ongoings of the city was disturbing. She was a foreigner here, yet she seemed to know everything about what was going on around and with Naruto as of late. Making a mental note to keep a closer eye on her Kakashi nodded and motioned for them to keep walking.
The two genin looked at Kakashi for a moment before both shrugged and kept on walking. An easy silence falling between the two that was only interrupted when one or the other would point out something. Such as when Naruto pointed out that a soup shop Temari apparently liked was having a special later on in the week for those who bought a voucher and full meal today. From there conversation easily stretched between the two ranging from what each one wanted to eat the rest of the week.
"You know we can't eat out every night right?" Temari questioned.
"Oh come on!" Naruto whined. "Do we really have to go grocery shopping again? We just went last week!"
"Shopping is a weekly thing!" Temari fussed as she rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Honestly with just the two of us we could just shop daily for what we want."
"Yes daily." Temari patronized. "You are just make it into such a production that shopping weekly is less of a headache."
Naruto snorted in defiance. "I do not make it that difficult."
"Good," Temari chirped. "then we can go shopping after we get dinner."
Naruto froze and gaped at Temari. For her part Temari merely giggled and smirked at the stunned boy.
"Something the matter?"
Naruto growled at her while narrowing his eyes.
"Diabolical womanly wiles."
"Ah how cute! He is beginning to use big words!" Temari teased with a wink.
With a roar Naruto attempted to tackle the girl only for her to substitute herself with Kakashi who had been too entertained with the whole ordeal to brace for it.
The end result was Naruto and Kakashi sprawled out in the middle of the street with Naruto lying across Kakashi. Temari couldn't help but bust out laughing.
Narrowing his eyes at being had Kakashi quickly substituted himself with the still laughing girl leaving her and Naruto in a tangled mess instead.
Laughter died immediately as the two tried to quickly untangle themselves only to end up falling back to the ground as they tripped over each other as they tried to help each other up. Eventually the two teens got back to their feet with immense blushes on their faces. After that conversation was nonexistence until they finally reached Naruto's apartment.
Kakashi couldn't help but gawk at the renovations being done. The bottom three floors had been gutted altogether. All walls had been torn out, and even the floors of the second and third floors had been torn out leaving nothing but a maze of structural pillars and crossbeams that held the suspended fourth floor aloft. The fourth floor, the one where Naruto resided, had only undergone minor changes. The wall that had been blown out by Naruto during the refrigerator fiasco had been repaired, and a new navy blue coat of pain had been applied.
"What in the world…" Kakashi trailed off as he gazed in wonder at what had happened to the apartment building.
"See what I mean!" Naruto proudly shouted as he hopped in front of the house and twirled around to face Kakashi with a massive grin and arms spread wide. "Check out all the progress I've already made. I already took out everything we didn't want, so now all I have to do is rebuild it. The huge bottom floor is going to be converted into two separate floors where the girls will work, and above those two floors will be the living quarters for the girls and for the kids. And my favorite part," With a grunt Naruto launched himself up and through the air in a backflip that brought him to land on his launch pad looking balcony. "Only ninja can reach my apartment! I won't put a single staircase to my apartment."
"So no more stupid civilians rigging the place." Temari echoed as she leapt up to the balcony as well. "Coming?" Temari called back to Kakashi who was still on the ground.
Without responding Kakashi jumped up to join the two teens.
Naruto waited until all three of them had moved through the door before grinning. With a wave of his hand two seal less clones popped into existence on the sofa. One of the two immediately transformed into Temari.
The moment the shadow cloned had copied her image Temari gave Naruto a wave before walking forwards. The moment her sandal clad foot passed over the threshold there was a flash of chakra that resulted in Temari vanishing from sight.
Before Kakashi could even begin to speculate what had happened the two clones on the couch began to move.
"I get dibs on the shower!" The 'Temari' called out as 'she' began to walk to the bedroom only to be tackled by 'Naruto'.
"Why the hell do you get dibs? You got dibs last time!" 'Naruto shouted as he attempted to crawl to the bedroom before 'Temari' get back up. Sadly 'Temari' merely waited until he was at the bedroom door before substituting herself with him thus leaving him on the ground and her at the door.
"Ladies first of course." 'Temari' teased as she slipped through the door.
Naruto and Kakashi merely stared at the two clones for a moment before Naruto sighed and sagged his shoulders in defeat.
"Why can't my clones be normal?"
"Because copying abnormal can only create abnormality?" 'Naruto' offered with a smirk causing Naruto to glare at his own clone.
"Whatever!" Naruto huffed before turning to Kakashi and motioning him forward. "Well, shall we go Kaka-sensi?"
Kakashi narrowed his eye in suspicion.
"To meet Namikaze-san."
That was obviously enough for Kakashi as he narrowed his eye further before marching forward. As with Temari the moment Kakashi's foot moved over the threshold Kakashi vanished.
Naruto grinned and followed suit.
Temari shook her head to rid herself of the dizzy spell from the transport. Turning and facing the stone platform she had just stepped off of Temari grinned as she watched Kakashi walk through and freeze in shock. A moment later a grinning Naruto appeared along side Kakashi. Temari grinned as she watched Kakashi take in the place in a state of wonderment.
And he was right to do so. The place was a work of skill so grand it ought to be hailed as art.
The three of them were currently standing in a large spherical stone chamber deep under ground. All along the wall were twelve or so circular platforms that were each about ten feet in diameter. Three of the twelve, including the one Temari, Kakashi, and Naruto had just stepped through, had complex seal arrays inscribed on the ground. In the middle of the room was a large wide-open space with a solitary and rickety looking wooden table in the middle of it with dozens of scrolls coverin the top of it. On the ceiling of the cavernous room were three different seals that were all glowing. Two were glowing a soft blue while the third was glowing a vibrant yellow that bathed the room in light.
"What in the world…" Kakashi questioned breathlessly as he took in the scene.
"This," Naruto exclaimed as he leapt to the middle of the room to stand by the table. "is the work of my father and mother. Minato and Kushina Namikaze."
Kakashi's gaze snapped back to Naruto.
"Yeah. Pervy-sage and Ba-chan told me about it a month ago. Turns out my old man left behind a will that stated I was not to be told about my inheritance until I reached jounin, turned eighteen, or got married. And, since the council went ahead and married me off Ba-chan got to tell me about it early. She also got to give me the keys to the mansion and access to my inheritance."
"Then this 'Namikaze-san' is"
"He would be me. But since the council would probably throw a fit about what I have planned I created his persona. Cause they can't touch him while they can touch me." Naruto scratched the back of his head. "Though, that was all Temari-chan's idea."
At this Kakashi's eyebrows attempted to mimic his hair and defy gravity.
Temari laughed nervously and nodded.
"Based on how the town's people acted I guessed the council would be opposed to most any motion Naruto put forth. However, an unknown and unreacheable character could put forth motions and only receive regular resistance rather than heavy resistance due to who he is. How Naruto pulled the illusion off, however, was all him."
Kakashi nodded and slowly the look of awe fell of his face as he withdrew to analyze all that he had learned.
"So then, where is this place exactly? And how are we breathing?" Kakashi asked after a moment of thought.
Temari and Naruto looked at one another before collectively shrugging.
"We have no idea!" The two answered in unison.
"What do you mean you have no idea?"
"We don't!" Naruto responded as he began to explain. "We were exploring the mansion and came across a room that looked like a massive storage room. As we looked through stuff and shifted boxes around we came across a mark on the ground. The moment I stepped on it I was teleported here. After freaking out for a good twenty minutes I managed to get back to the house and track Temari down. After that we fiddled with it and managed to re-create the seal in my house so that we can jump from my house to here without being seen. I leave behind two shadow clones and no one will suspect a thing. And this place is perfectly secure, so any question you have can be answered here with no worries about prying ears."
"Ah I see, well then the first question is how did you vanish in the desert and where did you vanish to? I followed you from the village out and you never once had an opportunity to substitute yourself with a clone."
"Unless it was a clone that left the village."
"That can't be? I saw you use the Kyuubi's chakra to burn of the traces of blood." Kakashi retorted.
"My clones can use Kyuubi's chakra. They are much more likely to lose control but they can his chakra. I sent a clone with the group because I had to stay behind and create the Namikaze. See, Namikaze is just a shadow clone tapping into Kyuubi's chakra with a concealing jutsu in place. When they dispel the concealing jutsu hides the puff of smoke so it looks like they just vanish from existence. I had to stick around to make the one for the show and the one for the council meeting."
"Mmmm I see. Well then care to explain how you managed to see us from across the desert?"
"I recently cut a deal with the fox that allows me to access more of his chakra whenever I want in exchange for giving him a view of the world. He wanted a high-def view so he improved my eyesight. Drastically. And don't worry about the seal I already had Pervy-sage take a look at it."
"Is that what that massive flare of Kyuubi's chakra was in the desert?"
"No it wasn't." A fourth voice cut in causing all Kakashi, Naruto, and Temari to jump in shock.
Seemingly emerging from the very stone the room was carved from was Jiraiya.
"Pervy-sage!? How did you get here!? Only I can turn the seals on!" The absolute shock in Naruto's voice made Jiraiya smirk and shake his head.
"Kid, I'll admit this little charade you've got going is pretty seamless, but when you start assuming something is impregnable you are gonna start screwing things up. Nothing is impregnable or absolutely secure. Nothing. There aren't many of us left, but there are still several seal masters out there who could crack the seals to infiltrate this place. And there are others who could track your chakra signature here and then tunnel downwards. Again nothing and nowhere is totally secure. Not even the Hokage's office is beyond being broken into. I heard many stories from the old man about how you yourself have proven that. Now, before we get into all that you need to explain what exactly happened in the desert that made you draw a full tail's worth of chakra from the fox."
"How did you know I drew on that much?"
In answer Jiraiya held up his palm which had the kanji for 'one' inscribed on it.
In a way I am tied to that seal on your stomach. Whenever you first reach another level of the fox's chakra I get a heads up. So whenever you reach two tail's I'll know it the instant you do it. Now, let me see you draw a full tail. And ditch your shirt so I can see how the seal responds to it in case whatever deal you cut with the fox has made any changes."
Nodding and doing as he was told Naruto quickly ditched his shirt and jacket before closing his eyes and focusing. In an instant a blazing orange chakra erupt from every pore of his body and coated him in chakra.
As the chakra grew higher and hotter Temari kept an eye on Naruto's chest. Not on the seal, but on the spot where she had seen that odd mark in the desert. Oddly even as the fox cloak began to reform the odd mark did not reappear. And when the cloak was complete and Naruto had opened his eyes they were a crimson red. Even stranger were the changes to Naruto's facial features. His whisker marks had darkened and thickened until they were as impossible to miss as the fact that Naruto's lips had turned a sinister looking black.
"That…good?" Naruto managed to growl out as apparently the transformation had limited Naruto's ability to speak.
Jiraiya moved closer and examined the seal for a moment before sticking his palm out. A blue aura of chakra enshrouded Jiraiya's hand allowing him to reach through the molten red chakra and actually touch the seal. After another moment Jiraiya removed his hand and nodded.
"That is good. Now let it drop."
Naruto nodded, however, it was not instantaneous. Instead little by little the chakra dissipated and the fox cloak more fell apart rather than actually dissipating. Even after the chakra had fallen away from Naruto the room was still filled with the oppressive aura of the Kyuubi.
"Heh, told ya it would get harder the more of it you drew on."
"Yeah," Naruto panted out as he shrugged back on his shirt and jacket. "I see what you mean."
"Now," Jiraiya began as he leaned back against the wooden table and crossed his arms while leveling a stern glare on Naruto that left no room for debate. "Namikaze-san, how about you explain these mysterious plans the whole village is wondering about. And be sure to not leave out any of the details."