*I DON'T OWN NARUTO*
She slowly opened her eyes, but all she saw was darkness. She was bound from head to toe as she lay in a fetal position on the floor. The air was hot and humid; her hair clung to her sweating face as she panted heavily. Her labored breathing and the occasional drip of water was all she heard. Pain engulfed her entire body, but that was nothing compared to the hatred that coursed through her veins, it was like an acid. The burning intensified as she dwelled on memories still fresh in her mind. She loathed Uzumaki Naruto.
Her teeth clenched tightly together at the thought of him. His meddling in her affairs had led to the demise of her plans, and thanks to that she wasn't able to successfully complete the mission assigned to her, Sasuke wouldn't be pleased. A pitiful cry of despair escaped her throat. The thought of her beloved Sasuke being disappointed in her was Earth shattering. She lived to please him and her perfect opportunity to do so was ripped from her hands. All she wanted was to be in his good favor, but now that didn't seem possible. Fuyu was beyond furious.
Thoughts of revenge played through her mind as she desperately tried to break free, but it was impossible. Being completely bound was making even breathing difficult. She huffed in frustration. She needed a plan and fast. As much as he hated to admit it an escape was going to be hard to pull off, so she focused what energy she had left on gathering her bearings. She forced herself to relax so she could gain crucial information from her surroundings. The damp floor, dripping water, and the humid air led her to believe that she was in some sort of cave, which made no sense at all. The last thing she remembered was being defeated by Naruto and his female companion. Why would she be in a cave of all places? In all honesty, she was expecting to be in a new cell.
Her senses came on full alert as a bright light from in front of her pierced through the darkness. The ground below her started to move and she swore she could hear hushed voices coming from the light. Then the silhouette of a man began walking towards her. She tried to focus on the person approaching her but it was pointless. He was growing closer by the second and her heart raced with anticipation. She felt herself being lifted off the floor and onto her feet. She tried to steady herself but she was unable to due to her injuries. Her knees buckled and she braced herself for a hard fall, but it never came. Instead, the man who had brought her to her feet had caught her. He slowly stood her up once more and held her steady so that she could get use to standing.
Fuyu looked at the man next to her. Some of his features were now visible thanks to the new source of light, but she couldn't make out the lower part of his face, it was covered. His unruly hair was a striking shade of silver, a color she had never seen on anyone before, and his left eye was covered by his forehead protector.
"Oh, so you know who I am?"
"Everyone knows who you are, you're Konoha's famous Copy Shinobi. I must say it's an honor to be in your presences."
"You're making me blush."
"Oh believe me I'm nowhere near doing that, but I can if you want me too. All you have to do is untie me."
"Tempting, but I'm much more interested in who you really are Fuyu."
"So now you have nothing to say, that's quite interesting."
"I've already been interrogated by Konoha's apparent best. They got very little information from me, so you can just stop."
"Is that so?"
"Yes, you're just wasting your time."
"Time is something I don't mind wasting."
"You're an odd man Kakashi."
"You aren't the first, nor last, to say that," replied Kakashi as he helped Kuyu keep her balance.
After a few moments, he let her go and Fuyu was able to stand on her own, but an escape was still impossible.
"What do you want with me?"
"I told you I'm here to learn more about you."
"So you're still going to try? Tell me Kakashi, what do you plan to do that the interrogation team did not?"
"Our Hokage has decided that special measures should be taken when retrieving our desired information from you."
"Really, and what pray tell has Tsunade decided then? She doesn't seem like the type that would use torture as a means of interrogation. Then again I wouldn't mind that if you're the one doing it."
"Well then, today's your lucky day" replied Kakashi smoothly as he lifted his forehead protector from his left eye.
Fuyu inhaled deeply to protest, but it was too late, she was unable to move as both her eyes fixed onto Kakashi's Sharingan. Her body went numb as her eyes locked onto his. Soon he would know everything there was to know about her, but Fuyu didn't care, because in that instant his Sharingan reminded her of Sasuke's blood red eyes.
Beads of sweat collected on her forehead as she briskly walked towards Sakura's room. She wiped her brow with the sleeve her doctor's coat. The sound of her heels echoed throughout the hall and hospital staff stopped to show signs of respect as she quickly passed them by. She made a sharp right down another corridor when Shizune called out for her to slow down.
"What is it Shizune?" Asked Tsunade crisply.
"I've received word that Kakashi should be done interrogating the woman who was recaptured by Naruto."
"Good. Do you have any other news?"
"No,I'm afraid not."
"Once I speak to Naruto I'll be reporting to the council, after that we'll have more of an idea on what to do next."
"Yes of course."
Tsunade made another left and her apprentices room came into view. She slowed down and peered inside to find Sakura sound asleep. Ino was sitting in an armchair next to her bed with Naruto standing next to her. Kaito was sound asleep in his arms.
"Baa-chan," whispered Naruto.
"I'm glad you're still here. I was afraid you would have slipped out of here by now."
"I kept trying to leave, but that was easier said than done," said Naruto as he admired his son.
"I can only imagine," said Tsunade as she looked over at the tiny baby he held in his arms.
She couldn't help but smile as well when she looked at the baby she had just delivered, but her moment of happiness was short lived. Her village and people were in great danger and her first priority was to make sure nothing happened to anything them. She needed to ensure that this new edition to Konoha remained safe at all costs.
"We need to talk Naruto."
"I know Baa-chan, I have a lot of new information to share with you. So where do you want to talk?"
"We're heading over to Shikamaru's room. He's in a more stable condition now, so he can take sitting up and talking with us for a few minutes. We're going to need him if we want to strategize a good plan. I also sent Neji and the others there as well. I saw them in the waiting room as I was making my way over here. I assumed you sent for them."
"I did," replied Naruto. "Come on we need to get going Ino."
"Right, of course, Naruto," said Ino.
She reached for the bassinet and pushed over towards Naruto. He gently placed Kaito inside as to not wake him. The infant moved around a little but before he could fuss Ino placed a small blue pacifier in his mouth. He quickly latched onto it and after a few moments his suckling slowed down as he felt back to sleep. Naruto and Ino watched until they were sure Kaito was settled. They both quietly left his bassinet behind as they approached Tsunade.
"Hanako-san isn't back from your apartment yet Naruto. Do you think I should stay behind with Sakura and the baby?"
"If I didn't require your help I'd say yes, but I'm going to need your telepathic linking techniques Ino. Besides, Sakura-chan and Kaito will be safe, Baa-chan already as that covered."
"As sharp as always Naruto," replied Tsunade.
She snapped her fingers and in a blink of an eye two Anbu members appear next to her. They kept still as they awaited their orders.
"This room is to be heavily guarded. Only hospital personnel who provide proper identification are allowed inside, with the exclusions of Uzumaki Sakura's mother Haruno Hanako."
"Good, now let's get going you two," said Tsunade as she motioned for Naruto and Ino to follow her.
Naruto and Ino wasted no time and they quickly followed Tsunade out of the room. Naruto looked back once more as he mentally said goodbye to his family.
"What in the hell happened in Suna Shikamaru? You look like shit," said Kiba.
"Hey I thought hospital guests were supposed to be concerned and polite towards the patients they're visiting," sighed Shikamaru.
"Hey, I'm just saying you look like crap."
"Yeah, I know."
"Are you going to be alright Shikamaru?" Asked Chouji.
"No worries I'm going to be alright, but I have no idea how long I'll be out of commission."
"You and me both Shikamaru," muttered Tenten as she looked at her broken ankle. "I can't believe everything has gone south so fast."
"Yeah well we can't afford for another attack to happen again. We are incredibly weak at the moment. If we lose the support of Suna we're done for," said Neji.
"There isn't anything else you can remember Shikamaru?" Asked Shino.
"I already told you guys what I know. Ino is the one that filled in some of the gaps, but we're just going to have to wait for Naruto to get here."
"Shit, I just can't stand waiting you know," muttered Kiba. "My girlfriend is out there and I have no way of knowing if she's okay."
"Kiba you and I know that Hinata can take care of herself. She's a strong kunoichi. I'm sure that when Naruto gets here he'll be able to tell us what happened to Hinata and the others," said Shino.
Before Kiba could say anything else the sound of several footsteps made their way towards them and shortly afterward the door swung open. Tsunade and Shizune walked inside with Naruto and Ino not far behind them.
"Good we're finally all together. The attack that occurred here earlier this morning caught us all off guard and sadly Suna was attacked as well. Now I know all of you want to know what happened to the team that was sent over there, along with news of the Kazekage, and his village, so I'll leave it to Naruto to fill us all in."
"Thanks, Baa-chan. Now look, guys, I'm not going to waste time telling you all what happened in Suna. Instead, I'm going to show you, with Ino's help that is," said Naruto as he motioned Ino closer to him.
"It would be my pleasure Naruto. Now everyone clear your minds and relax. I'm going to project Naruto's memories into your minds. Once I'm done with my technique we will all know exactly what happened in Suna. It will almost feel like we were there."
Everyone shared a few glances at one another but they each closed their eyes. Ino walked in front of Naruto and placed her hands on the sides of his head. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes.
"Alright, Naruto I just need you to focus on what you want me to show everyone. Let me know once you're ready so that I can project your thoughts into everyone else's minds."
"Okay Ino," replied Naruto.
He closed his eyes and focused on the memories his shadow clone had gathered for him. Once he had them he gave Ino the okay to begin.
"Here we go everyone," said Ino. "Just relax and try and empty your minds."
The room grew silent as everyone did as they were told. Ino relaxed her entire body and soon the feeling of weightless hit her. She felt herself begin to drift and sway as if she was a feather who had caught a light breeze. This was the sensation she always felt when going into someone's mind. Despite her reasons for using her techniques the time it took to actually connect with someone was peaceful and it helped her prepare for what awaited her once she was inside. Her feet touched the ground once she had made contact with Naruto, and then, like it always happened, she hunched over due to waves of emotional pain. Ino felt her hosts feelings as they rushed through her like a violent thunderstorm. Sometimes she felt sadness, anger, remorse, and fear. Those were the most common feelings her hosts had.
She watched her breathing as best she could, the episodes usually didn't last that long, and so she did her best to relaxed as all of Naruto's emotions washed over her. Not all of his memories were sad, especially the ones he had with Sakura and his friends, but everyone knew Naruto had emotional scarring, but feeling it was overwhelming. Ino's heart ached, for once she had a small glimpse at how hard Naruto's life had been, and now that he finally obtained what he wanted his whole life Sasuke was ruining it. That name alone always gave her mixed feelings but this wasn't the time to dwell on them. Instead, Ino took in all of Naruto's happiness, love, anxiety, and fears.
After a few intense moments, it was all over and Ino slowly stood up. She took in a deep breath as she looked around her surroundings. At that moment she could not only see Naruto's memories and thoughts but she could also see all her friend's mental vibrations. Ino focused on the job at hand and she concentrated on Naruto's memories. Gaining access to specific memories was like opening a locked chest, but this time, it was far easier since Naruto was giving her access, a gesture she rarely saw as a Yamanaka. Once she gained access to his memories she and everyone else in the room saw the horror that Naruto's clone had witnessed. Within a few seconds, everyone knew exactly what they were facing. Their eyes fluttered opened as they all shared looks of dread and concern.
"Shit this is worse than I thought," whispered Shikamaru.
"I agree, the odds are stacked up against us, but I am not going to have Sasuke get anywhere near Konoha," replied Tsunade.
"What are we going to then?" Asked Ino.
"We need to find him and confront him before he gets here," answered Naruto.
"I agree," said Shikamaru. "We can't forget what happened when Pain paid us a visit. Our home was obliterated in a matter of moments when he attacked, and we even had extra protection seals placed over the entire village. They didn't even slow him down. If Sasuke makes it to Konoha we'll be wiped out."
"So how in the world are we supposed to find him?" Asked Chouji.
"We should look at surrounding villages like Koka. Sasuke said he was close and it doesn't get much closer than that," said Kiba.
"He could be there, but I don't think it fit's Sasuke's preferences. I'm sure he's in a highly wooded area with lots of mountain range. That sounds a lot more like his type."
"He's in Kumogakure," whispered Naruto.
"What did you just say?" Asked Tsunade.
"I said he's in Kumogakure."
"Is this just a guess or are you sure he's there?" Asked Shikamaru.
"No it's not a guess, I know for sure he's in Kumogakure."
"Leave it to you to keep important information from me," scolded Tsunade. "When in the world did you figure this out?"
"When I talked to Karin."
"Just when were you planning on sharing this with me Naruto?! You told me you talked to her but you never mentioned that she knew Sasuke's location!"
"Look Baa-chan I'm sorry I just remembered right now."
"You just remembered right now?! That is hardly what I call an explanation Naruto!"
"Would just please cut me some slack?!"
"I was attacked by Fuyu's freaks of nature right after I talked to Karin. I stayed by her bedside for two days without any sleep. Then after just a few hours rest Shikamaru shows up in critical condition, and then Sakura-chan arrives in labor! It's been one thing after another these past few hours, so please just give me a break," sighed Naruto as he rubbed his temples.
"I'm sorry I messed up okay, I've just been so scattered brained lately and when Shikamaru started describing where Sasuke could be my memory was jogged and I remembered."
"I apologize for being so rash."
"I know I shouldn't be lecturing you right now, we have more important things at hand."
"You're right we do, sorry again."
"It's alright Naruto, now then do you know exactly where in Kumogakure?"
"Yeah, Karin told me all about it. Sasuke's base is at the far corners of southern Kumogakure high up in the mountains. In those mountains, there's a large waterfall, behind it is a cave. His hideout where he and Kabuto have been conducting all these experiments with the virus is in there, but it's heavily laced with genjutsus."
"He was right under the Raikages nose the whole time. He is going to be furious when he learns about this," whispered Shizune.
"That's an understatement. That man is known for letting his anger get the best of him."
"So what are your orders then Tsunade-sama?" Asked Shizune.
"I agree with Shikamaru, we can't wait for Sasuke to attack us, that would be a fatal mistake. All shinobi that were out of commission have received the antidote. Thanks to that we no longer have to worry about Sasuke using his virus against us. We have all our shinobi ready to protect the village. Naruto's original retrieval team will be sent out to apprehend Sasuke. We just need to wait for Sai and the others that are still in Suna to get here."
"Should I implement emergency protocol procedures for the entire village then?"
"Yes, it's better to be safe than sorry. As soon as we are done here I want you to start the evacuation of the village."
"What's going to happen to Sakura-chan Baa-chan?"
"She and the rest of the patients will have to be evacuated to the secret tunnels behind the mountains with the rest of the villagers. The tunnels have been upgraded since Pain's attack. We now have a hospital in there along with other accommodations for villagers."
"What about the council Tsunade-sama?"
"I'll inform them that we are apprehending Sasuke. Nothing they can say will change my mind. Besides all they will be focused on is the safe evacuation of the village."
"What about supporting the rest of the alliance?"
"Our first priority was Suna. I wasn't able to send the antidote to anyone else."
"We can't cover all our bases," whispered Shizune.
"No, we can't, but on a good note the other villages weren't as affected as Suna was. They should be alright. I will have another meeting telecast with the other Kages as soon as I'm done with the council."
"Alright, now the rest of you need to get prepared as well. Some of you will be going with Naruto while the rest of you help evacuate the village."
"Yes Tsunade-sama," replied everyone.
Naruto's senses perked up before a soft knock from the opposite side of the room caught everyone else's attention.
"I see that you're wrapping things up here Tsunade-sama," replied Kakashi as he peeked his head through the hospital window.
"Do you ever use the door Kakashi-sensei," sighed Naruto.
"Occasionally I do, and why are you even getting on me? You're a worse offender than I am when it comes to this."
"Kakashi, did you finish with the interrogation?"
"Yes and I learn a great deal as well."
"Well then what is it?"
"Just like you thought Tsunade-sama Fuyu's mind was sealed. Only someone with a Sharingan could unlock it. Luckily for me, that wasn't a problem and so I was able to gain access to those sealed off memories. It turns out that inside those locked recesses of her mind are Sasuke's whereabouts."
"I could only see bits and pieces of the terrain. However, I'm pretty sure that he's near the southern mountains by Kumogakure."
"There's, even more, confirmation that Naruto's source is correct," said Shikamaru.
"Oh, so you all already knew about Kumogakure?"
"Naruto just shared some information with us that he gathered from Karin."
"I see," said Kakashi.
"Yes, and now with the information that you've just provided, I can say without a doubt that we know where Sasuke's hideout is. Do you think he's still there Kakashi?" Asked Tsunade.
"Well, I would think so. If he wasn't why would he bother sealing Fuyu's memories?"
"It would have worked, but he forgot about Karin."
"Well, we all know why he did Naruto. He wasn't planning on her surviving."
"Why didn't Sasuke just erase this woman's memories if they were so important? Asked Kiba.
"Well in most cases that would be the best thing to do, but this young woman has a very delicate psyche. Erasing any memories could have made things problematic, and she is far too valuable to Sasuke."
"Yes, she's a Kekkei Genkai user Naruto. "
"That explains the techniques she used when I was fighting her, she can manipulate metal and earth," said Tenten.
"Kekkei Genkai users are extremely rare and there's no way Sasuke would risk losing her."
"I remember Fuyu saying she was meant to be captured. If that was true Sasuke should have known that you could get those memories from her," said Ino.
"Yes, but Sasuke was relying on our methods of interrogation. He knew that Tsunade-sama wouldn't ask me to use my Sharingan . Some consider using it to interrogate someone is barbaric, and in the past it has been used not only as an interrogation tool but also as a torture method."
"Well, Sasuke was wrong. If the sake of my village and people is threatened I will do whatever it takes to ensure everyone's safety," said Tsunade. "Now I need those of you who aren't hurt to get prepared. I will be summoning you all with your tasks as soon as I am done with informing the council and the rest of the alliance. Let's get going Shizune, the faster we can deal with the council, the better."
With that said Tsunade quickly turned around and left the room with Shizune not far behind. It was clear to everyone that their Hokage was annoyed at what she had to do next. Speaking and dealing with the council was Tsunade's least favorite thing to do as Hokage, that and the mounds of endless paperwork that always littered her desk. Naruto couldn't help but gulp nervously, knowing his luck the two council members Koharu and Homura would still be alive to boss him around once Tsunade retired.
He sighed as he listened to his friends hushed murmurs. Everyone was talking about what was to come and how they were going to handle things. The only one who wasn't participating was Kakashi. Instead, the silver haired Jounin approached Naruto. A smile could be seen through the mask that covered his face. He stopped in front of his former student and placed his hand on his shoulder.
"Congratulations on the birth of your son Naruto."
"What?! Your kid was born?!" Blurred out Kiba.
"I told you Sakura was rushed to the hospital didn't I?" Sighed Neji.
"Well yeah you did, but I thought the doctors were going to stop her labor. Her due date is a few months away isn't it?"
"Oh, shit is she alright Naruto?"
"Well, what happened?" Asked Tenten.
"Sakura-chan was taken into surgery. She and the baby are alright, though, they're both resting in her room."
Everyone was silent, the feverish whispering had stopped. Ino looked around as everyone took in the news. She couldn't hold her excitement any longer and so she was the first to break the silence.
"Oh my god you guys the baby is adorable. Look I took a picture of him with my phone."
Ino wasted no time in passing it around.
"Jeez Ino you weren't joking he does look like Naruto," squealed Tenten as she looked at the photo Ino had taken.
After she got her dose of adorableness from the photo she passed Ino's phone around and everyone began to congratulate Naruto all at once. It was an odd feeling, and Naruto wasn't sure how to respond. Part of him wanted to celebrate with his friends, but was this really the time? He knew the answer was yes, it was only natural to do so, but he couldn't help but feel guilty.
"Thank you guys."
"You're welcome Naruto, and please don't over think things. You aren't alone in this," said Kakashi as he made his way out of the room. "The rest of you should get prepared like Tsunade-sama said."
"Kakashi-sensei is right, we should all head out," said Neji.
"Well, can you at least take me back to my room Mister Serious?" Teased Tenten.
Neji sighed if it wasn't Lee who was giving him a hard time it was Tenten, but he appreciated how she was trying to lighten up the mood. He grabbed the handlebars of her wheelchair and pushed her out of the room. Chouji gave Ino her phone back and together they made their way back towards Shikamaru's bedside while everyone else left. Naruto received a few more whispered congratulations and pats on the back as everyone passed him by, but there was one person who hadn't left yet. It was Kiba. He slowly approached Naruto and as he drew closer Naruto could sense his nervousness.
"Look Naruto…" said Kiba nervously.
"You never what?"
"Dammit Naruto, why do you have to make this harder than it is?" Groaned Kiba.
He was blushing profusely but he didn't let the embarrassment he was feeling get the better of him.
"I said I'm sorry Naruto."
"I never apologized for all that crap that happened between us at the party. It's always bothered me you know. I felt utterly worthless because I couldn't muster the courage to claim responsibility for my actions that night. Instead, you and I kind of had a silence truce after the day you broke my jaw."
"Yeah, you know I'm sorry for that too right?"
"It's all good. I honestly tried to apologize several times after that but every time I tried to talk to you or Sakura I'd chicken out at the last minute. Then I was assigned to your team, and things between us have been pretty cool, but now with all this crap with Sasuke going on I have to come clean."
Kiba took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
"My actions were uncalled for that night,I let my personal problems with Hinata get the best of me, and I hurt Sakura. I'm sorry."
"You know I'm not very good at this stuff Naruto…"
"Neither am I," replied Naruto as he nervously chuckled.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is that you can count on me. I won't let anything happen to Sakura or your son."
"Thanks, Kiba, I appreciate that."
"Sorry again for the wait, but it's better than nothing right?"
"Heh, yeah it is."
Kiba lightly chuckled as he left the hospital room. He patted Naruto on the shoulder as he walked out. Naruto watched as Kiba left. It took a lot of guts to do what he did, and Naruto gave him kudos for doing so.
"Naruto?" Asked Ino.
"Yeah what's going on?" Asked Naruto as he approached his friend.
"Now that I know Shikamaru is alright I think I should go back to Sakura's room and watch over her. If I know her she's going to freak when she see's that all she has as company are two ANBU shinobi. Plus we can't forget that Hanako-san is going to be a little alarmed when she gets back too."
"I guess you're right, thanks, Ino."
"It's no problem. So what are you going to do now?"
"As soon as Hanako-san comes back I'm getting dressed and awaiting orders from Baa-chan. Until then I'm going to stay here for a while and talk to Shikamaru."
"Okay sounds good."
"Thanks again Ino. Let Sakura-chan know what's going on as well when she wakes up."
"Alright, I will."
"Do you need me to get you anything Ino?" Asked Chouji.
"Actually I do. I need to get my clothes and gear, as you can see Naruto and I haven't had a chance to get out of our pajamas. All of my stuff is at my place. I always have a bag that is prepacked, it's in my closet. If you could get it for me that would be great. I could stay here with Sakura and just get dressed in her room," said Ino as she handed Chouji her apartment key.
"Of course Ino I can do that. I'll head over there right now. How about you Shikamaru, do you need anything while I'm at your place?"
"Naw I'm good Chouji, thanks though."
"Thanks again Chouji," said Ino as she hugged him.
Chouji hugged her back and after a few moments, they let go of one another. Ino then walked over towards Shikamaru, leaned over his bed, and planted a kiss on his lips.
"Don't push yourself Shikamaru."
"I won't Ino."
With that said left she left to watch over her best friend.
"I guess I better get going then too. Take it easy Shikamaru. I'll come back as soon as I'm done getting ready."
"Sounds good Chouji, see you later," replied Shikamaru.
"Oh and congratulations again Naruto."
"Thanks, Chouji," said Naruto as he waved goodbye to his friend as he left the room. The young shinobi sat down in the chair next to Shikamaru's bed.
"What a shitty situation," muttered Shikamaru.
"You're telling me," signed Naruto as he leaned back in the chair.
"At least your kid and Sakura are alright, I know you've heard this a million times by now, but congrats."
"I wish circumstances were different. The birth of your son shouldn't be drowned out by all this bullshit."
"I know, it's a pretty crappy situation."
"I know, and wish it wasn't."
"I still can't believe Sasuke attacked Suna. I was suspicious of an attack the entire time we were there, you know I'm always thinking about worst case scenarios, but even though I had anticipated something it was still overwhelming when it actually happened. I just happened to be at the place at the wrong time," sighed Shikamaru as she placed his hand on his bandaged wound. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect Sakura Naruto."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Look at me, I was taken out right away. Me, the leader of the group. I left everyone when they needed me most."
"Shikamaru we can't always have things go according to plan. You of all people should know that."
"I know, but it drives me insane when things like this happen. Everyone was depending on me and I wasn't able to be there for them."
"Hey don't be so hard on yourself. Besides, you did protect Sakura-chan. You knew something was going down and because of that, you sent her to the far end of the village. You saved her with that decision Shikamaru, and for that, I will be forever grateful."
"So how are you feeling?"
"Fine I guess, but I won't lie this injury is a pain in the ass."
"I feel ya Shikamaru, believe me, I do," said Naruto as he touched his bandaged head.
"So be honest with me Naruto. Are you going to be able to take out Sasuke?"
"I wish I could say yes, but I never got to fight him during the war since he gave us the slip. I've continued to train since that day and I know for a fact that Sasuke has as well. It's going to be tough Shikamaru, I'm not going to be able to do this alone."
"Well that's understandable, but you do know that sending anyone other than you to fight Sasuke is just sentencing them to death right?"
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news Naruto but, you and Sasuke's strength and skills are on a whole other level. It's like your gods for crying out loud."
"I know and that's what scares me. Anywhere we fight is going to be a warzone. I need to be sure we corner Sasuke in the woods where his hideout is. If the fight moves closer towards Kumogakure or if he makes a break for Konoha I can't put all my attention on fighting him. I'll be focusing on causing as little damage as possible, we can't afford to have any casualties."
"You got a point there."
"Another thing that bothers me is that once I leave to pursue him the village will be vulnerable. It's going to be up to all the shinobi we have to keep Konoha safe. I don't know what I'd do if I came back to find our home destroyed again. I'll never forget how I felt when I saw that Pain did while I was gone. You know I've never told anyone this, but, that's one of my worst fears Shikamaru."
"That's an understandable fear Naruto. You have a lot on your plate, more than anyone can imagine," sighed Shikamaru.
"You're telling me," replied Naruto as he ran his fingers through his hair. "So come on Shikamaru you gotta have a plan for protecting the village right?"
"Your faith in me is unbelieve you know that?"
"I'm being serious Shikamaru."
"I know, I am too."
"So what, are you telling me that you don't know what we should?!"
"Is that so far-fetched to believe?"
"Well yeah, it is Shikamaru. You always know what we should. Hearing you say that you have no idea what to do scares the crap out me."
"Alright alright calm down, you don't want to hurt yourself. Now let me think things through."
The room grew silent as both Naruto and Shikamaru focused on a plan. Neither one of them thought things could get this bad, but then again when dealing with Sasuke the worst always seemed to occur.
"Our biggest problem is that we need more powerful forces on our side. We're vulnerable with you leaving , but we aren't as exposed as the rest of the shinobi villages. If Sasuke takes them down we're screwed too."
"Agreed, so what should we do?"
"Well we need to look at the hand we were dealt and we gotta make due with what we have."
"That's easier said than done," muttered Naruto.
"It is, believe me, I know, but trust me when I say I'll make it work. All I need is a little time to think things over. In the meantime, you should be with Sakura."
"I know, I just feel like I should be doing more."
"Everything that can be done is getting done Naruto. You need to be with your family while you can. Tsunade-sama is going to be sending your team out as soon as she's done informing every one of our current situation."
"I guess you're right."
"Of course I am," replied Shikamaru.
"Well, I guess I'll be heading over back to Sakura-chan's room."
"Okay, make sure to let Ino know that I'm alright. She tends to over think things especially when it comes to my feelings."
"Well you got that right, she is worried about you."
"Yeah well, even I can admit that I just have a bruised ego. You know I don't take my responsibilities as team captain lightly. Having something like this happen on my watch does get to me, but you and I both know we can't afford to waste time, and I'm sure as hell not going to sulk because my mission didn't go as planned."
"That's the spirit Shikamaru," said Naruto as he slapped his friend on the back.
Shikamaru's body stiffened and he shot Naruto a painful glance.
"Oh right, my bad Shikamaru," replied Naruto.
"Jeez Naruto," said Shikamaru through clenched teeth.
"I'm sorry, really I am," chuckled Naruto.
"Why do I get the feeling that you're more amused than sorry."
"No Shikamaru I really am sorry, it's just that, your face was priceless."
"Well forgive me, for not sharing in your laughter," muttered Shikamaru as he gently leaned back into bed.
"I'm just happy that you're okay Shikamaru. If something would have happened to you I don't know what I'd do. For a minute there it felt like things were normal. I know that sounds crazy, but that's what I felt when you gave me that look. You're alive, and even though you may not be happy with me right now I'm just happy to know I still have my best friend."
"Now you're getting all sentimental on me."
"Yeah I am."
"You know I can't die Naruto, especially if you're going to be Hokage. Do you honestly think I'd let you be in charge of the village alone? Without me as your advisor who knows what kind of a mess you'd get yourself into."
"You know me all too well Shikamaru."
"Yeah I do."
Just then a young nurse walked into the room. She was carrying a tray that had what appeared to be pills in a small paper cup.
"It's time for Shikamaru to get some rest Naruto. You can come by and visit again in a few hours if you'd like."
"Okay," replied Naruto. "Let me know as soon as you have a plan," whispered Naruto as he rose from his seat.
"I always do," replied Shikamaru as he gave Naruto a lazy smile.
The hospital was bit busier than it had been when Naruto first arrived. Now the halls had more nurses, doctors, and villagers walking through them. Naruto reminded deep in thought as he walked down the hospital wing that eventually lead to Sakura's room. He was still mentally beating himself up about the whole Karin fiasco. He never thought he could overlook something like Sasuke's location slip his mind, then again Naruto wasn't one for little details.
"So the mutt finally apologized, I didn't think he had it in him."
"You need to stop stressing Naruto, it's getting annoying."
"That's all you have to say to me?!"
"Among other things, yes."
"God I don't need this right now!"
Where have you been this whole time?!"
"Where else would I be Naruto?"
"You know what I mean!"
"Stop shouting, people are beginning to look at you like you're a lunatic."
Naruto froze, he slowly looked around the hallway and sure enough, a pair of nurses were whispering and pointing at him. He had completely forgotten to respond mentally, and instead, he had screamed out loud. The blonde haired shinobi blushed profusely and before they could approach him he ran down the hall. No doubt they were convinced he was running a fever which was causing him to talk to himself.
"I'm not done talking to you," whispered Naruto as he ran.
All he got in response was a snorting noise and he knew the Kyuubi was settling down for a nap. Naruto stopped running once he knew he was far enough from the two nurses. He decided that it was best not to speak out loud to the Kyuubi, this wasn't the place to do it, but before he continued his conversation with is demon counterpart he reached Sakura's room. The outside of it was guarded by the two Anbu Tsunade had left behind. Naruto nodded in their direction and they both acknowledge his presence and he quietly made his way inside. Sakura and Kaito were still asleep, and Ino sat quietly by Sakura's bedside reading a magazine. She looked away from her reading material when Naruto's presence caught her attention.
"So how did everything go?" Whispered Ino as she closed the magazine.
"Alright for the most part. Shikamaru is still thinking things through, but I left so he could get some rest. I decided to check in on Sakura-chan before I have to go," whispered Naruto as he quietly made his way towards Sakura and Kaito. "I'll be leaving as soon as Baa-chan gives the official order. How have things been here?"
"Quite, but I'm sure Kaito will be waking up soon. He needs to eat, but this little nap is a god sent to Sakura. She needs to get all the rest she can get."
"Yeah she does," said Naruto as he admired his sleeping wife.
"Is Hanako-san back yet? I really need to get dressed."
"Yeah she came back with your clothes a few minutes ago, she left them in the restroom."
"Where is she now?"
"Some of Sakura's family was on their way here and she decided to meet them in the waiting room. I'm pretty sure she's trying to prepare her relatives for the ANBU that are on guard outside the room. You have to admit catching everyone up on all this drama is one hell of a task."
"Yeah I'd figure the Anbu's presence would freak her out a little bit, but right now it's better to be safe than sorry."
"I couldn't agree more."
"Well I better hurry up and get dressed," said Naruto.
"Alright then," said Ino as she opened her reading material once more and began to flip through pages.
Naruto made his way towards the restroom that was inside Sakura's room. He walked in and closed the door behind him. He leaned up against the wall and sighed. He relaxed as he focused on picking up his conversation with the Kyuubi mentally. After a few moments of controlled breathing and relaxation, Naruto found himself in the boiler room that was flooded with water. In front of him, behind its cage, was the Kyuubi. Its muzzle was close to the bars and Naruto wasn't sure if it was asleep or just ignoring his presence.
"Again, why the hell have you been so quiet?"
"I figured you could handle things without me."
"That's flattering, but I've had a lot on my plate, and I could really use the extra help."
"It seems you're right, it's been a while since I've seen you so agitated."
"That's one hell of an understatement," sighed Naruto.
The Kyuubi opened one eye so it could get a better look at Naruto. His young host held his head low as he stood in front of its cage. The Kyuubi sighed heavily as it stuck its muzzle between the steel bars. He nudged Naruto with his nose to get his attention. Naruto jumped to see the Kyuubi so close to him. He watched intently as the demon in front of him spoke.
"Protection is what all the shinobi villages need right now, is it not?"
"I might have the solution you're looking for. However I'm not sure it will work, but it's better than nothing."
"Alright, you got my attention."
"It may be possible to get help from the other eight Bijju, but I can't guarantee their corporation."
"The other Bijuu?"
"How would that work?"
"Essentially all the Bijuu were once one, because of that, we're all mentally linked. I can try and get into contact with my brothers and sister using your mind."
"You really think they'll help us out?"
"They all owe you their lives, but it's hard to say if they come to our aid. You have to remember that I don't always see eye to eye with some of them."
"So how do we do this?"
"You must travel deep into my subconscious, once inside I can link with the other Bijuu."
"If we pull this off we can have the other Bijuu help protect the other villages, and maybe we can have them as a backup for when we face Sasuke."
"We don't need them for that, unlike you I don't have doubts about destroying that Uchiha brat on our own."
"When are you going to accept the fact that you overpower him? You still have this twisted mental image that he is still better than you. I thought you'd grown a backbone by now, especially after everything we've been though."
"Hey watch it," snapped Naruto, but before he could retaliate with a witty comeback he paused. As much as it hurt Naruto to admit it the Kyuubi was right.
"Can you finally see what I'm getting at? You are stronger than Sasuke. If you keep doubting yourself then he will win. You can't let him beat you before the real fight has begun!"
"I know, you're right but this is just so freaking frustrating."
"Try to imagine how I feel with all your constant worrying and nagging."
"Look I'm sorry alright, it's just that so much is at stake here and I'm nervous as hell. I can't help but think about how things use to be between Sasuke and I. He was always one step ahead of him, but you're right. I have to remember that things have changed. Sasuke doesn't have what we have, and he never will. You and I are unstoppable."
"Now that's the Naruto I know," chuckled the Kyuubi.
"Alright, then how do we do this?"
"You need to get into a deep meditative state, being outdoors is preferable, but there's something else I wanted to share with you."
"What is is?" Asked Naruto as he began to get dressed.
"I know of a scroll that contains very powerful sealing Jutsu. With it, you could gain the upper hand on Sasuke."
"Awesome where's this scroll at?"
"In the old Uzumaki ruins."
"Uzumaki ruins? Where the hell is that?"
"It's not far from here, just a few miles outside the village."
"Wait how can that be? I've never heard of any ruins being close to here."
"Of course you wouldn't, you were never meant to know of its existence. When your parents died your identity was to remain a secret. As an extra precaution, you never told of the ruins."
"Where exactly is this place?"
"Behind the Forest of Death. The Uzumaki made sure to always hide their locations. Even though they were on good terms with Konoha they couldn't help but make it hard to reach their settlement. The forest was a form of protection. Those who step foot would fall prey to the arsenal of traps that were hidden inside. Once the Uzumaki were exterminated Konoha still used the forest as a training area, however, it wasn't as dangerous as the Uzumaki originally had it."
"Alright then I'll head over there," said Naruto as he carefully tightened his forehead protector. His wound on his temple was still tender.
"Wait, there's one other thing."
"What is it now?"
"In order to gain access to these scrolls, two Uzumaki are required."
"Two? Where the hell am I supposed to get another one?"
"Isn't it obvious?
"Wait, you mean I have to take my son?!"
"No you idiot, we need Karin."
"Karin? Oh man, that's right, she's an Uzumaki, but wait why are two people required?"
"I'll explain as soon as we get to the ruins now come on get moving."
"Right," said Naruto as he made his way out of the restroom.
Nothing had changed in Sakura's room. She and Kaito were still fast asleep. Naruto quietly made his way towards Ino and told her he'd be back soon. The young kunoichi didn't bother asking questions. She knew Naruto wasn't about to sneak off to get some ramen. He thanked her again for staying with his family, and Ino told him it was her pleasure. She reassured Naruto that she'd hold down the fort and with that said he left.
Naruto found Karin's room in no time and he was pleasantly surprised to see that there weren't any guards outside of it. Naruto looked to his left and to his right, there was no sign of any hospital personnel nearby. He casually opened the door and closed quietly behind him.
"Naruto? What are you doing in here?" Asked Karin as she gave him a questionable look.
Naruto looked over at her and he was surprised at what he saw. Karin was looking far better than she had the last time Naruto had seen her. She was wearing long sleeve cotton pajamas instead of a hospital gown and she had a book on her lap.
"Good you're awake," said Naruto as he ran towards her window. "Wow you're looking a lot better Karin, I swear you look almost fully healed."
"I have heightened recuperative powers Naruto, you know that."
"Oh yeah I forgot, you got some crazy chakra," said Naruto as he peered out the window.
"It's not that different from yours you know, now what are you doing here?"
"There really isn't time for me to explain, come on we gotta go now," said Naruto as he made his way towards her bedside.
He quickly pulled her blanket covers over her and began to pick her up bridal style. Karin responded by hitting him on the head with her book repeatedly as her other hand pulled at Naruto's hair.
"Just what the hell do you think you're doing you idiot!? Get your hands off of me!"
"Shhh be quiet Kairn?"
"God please stop hitting me."
"You honestly expect me to stay perfectly still while you take me against my will," huffed Karin as she smacked Naruto even harder with her book.
"That would be great, thanks, Karin," said Naruto as he scooped her into his arms.
Karin gasped as Naruto picked her up. She dropped her book due to her clinging to his jacket.
"That's not what I meant you, moron! Wait a minute, why are you heading towards the window!?"
"Look, Karin, there isn't an easy way for me to explain all of this, but, I need you to come with me to the Uzumaki ruins."
"What Uzumaki ruins? Is this some kind of joke?"
"No, it's not, look just trust me okay."
"Please, it's important."
"You're crazy you know that," sighed Karin. "Fine I'll go with you, but you're claiming full responsibility for this. I'm not going to get in trouble because you decided to kidnap me."
"I'll bring you right back, I swear."
"Whatever, just be careful with me, I may be able to recover quickly but I'm still in the hospital for a reason."
"No worries Karin you're in good hands, now hold on tight."
Karin did as she was told and she wrapped her arms around Naruto's neck. The crisp November air blew made her shiver, but Naruto's warm body made the shock in temperature a bearable. She inhaled deeply as Naruto prepared to leap out of the open window. Her stomach rose up to her throat as they both fell towards the ground. Naruto landed nimbly and without haste he quickly ran away from the hospital. Karin was beyond confused, but curious at the same time. She looked over at the whiskered man carrying her and despite everything she just couldn't help but feel a sense of excitement.