Side Story 4: Alliances and Paybacks, Part 4
Deserted Village of Yugakure, Hot Water Country.
Inside a deserted bathhouse, Naruto cursed to himself for the sixth time that morning as he received the memories of the clone he had left at the Hot Water Capital.
The new Hot Water Damiyou had sold him out to the squad of Konoha Ninja that were heading this way in exchange for a hefty reward. Among the six-man squad of Jounin-level ANBU Black Ops, they were being led by Kakashi Hatake and backed up by the Inuzuka Matriarch and her son.
Naruto was in Hot Water Country with his Elite Guard for an overnight stay before heading over to Spring Country. He was smart enough not to trust the cocky young Damiyou, who had ascended to the position following the death of his father. Naruto had passed through the Hot Water Capital with his Elite Guards and had decided to check out the former ninja village of Yugakure, Hidan's former village. The village had became a tourist town, forcing Hidan to leave. When Hidan returned after joining Akatsuki, he had Kazuku in tow. Together, they put the entire village to the sword.
Only five survivors had escaped the village, and Yugakure was abandoned. The local people said that the city was cursed by the insane Jashin priest/ninja.
Now, Naruto was hiding out, waiting for the arrival of his former sensei and the two Inuzuka. He had ordered the Elite Guard to keep the ANBU occupied while he dealt with Kakashi and the Inuzuka. Naruto did not forget their reactions to his banishment. He did not forget the cold indifference of his former sensei, or the death threats that were directed to him from the Inuzukas. And he wasn't in a forgiving mood. His spy network inside Fire Country had proven their worth. Not that he already knew how the Konoha 11 fought, but that he kept up with his former teammates' progress ever since he established the Pekara Merchant House in Fire Country.
The Emperor had changed out of his casual attire and into his standard battle gear; mesh shirt, black combat pants, and boots. His black flak vest was the last item he regarded for a moment. Black like the Sound flak vests, but it was similar in design like Konoha, only there was no Whirlpool spiral on the back. It was his favorite. He slipped it on and checked his items for the upcoming battle.
'Scrolls...check. Standard kunai...check. Sword...check.'
The second clone that he had placed at the village gates had dispersed, Naruto gaining its knowledge. They were here. Placing his face mask over his face and his bandanna over his hair, Naruto secured the sword over his shoulder and stepped outside to face his former sensei and the Inuzuka.
At the Entrance...
The massive one-eyed dog with the missing ear sniffed the air. "He is close. Very close."
Tsume Inuzuka gave her pet a pat on the head. "Good, Kuromaru."
Kiba Inuzuka gave Akamaru a pat on the head to soothe its whining. "I know boy. I know. This place freaks me out too."
The team from Konoha were in a neighboring village when they received word from one of the Hot Water Damiyou's minions. The man they were looking for was in the capital, but was now headed in the direction of Yugakure. Several miles out from the city, the three Jounin and their ten-man team of ANBU Black Ops had encountered the Man In Black's bodyguards.
While the ANBU kept the bodyguards occupied, the Inuzuka and Kakashi headed for the deserted village, where they quarry awaited their arrival.
After seeing their fellow ninja brought back empty-handed, Tsume had been itching for a chance to take on the Man in Black. When word reached the Konoha ninja that the mystery man was in the vicinity, the Special Jounin immediately jumped at the chance. Kakashi, along with her son, who was also in training for becoming a Special Jounin, had tagged along.
"So this is Yugakure," Tsume quipped as the trio of Jounins walked through the gate. "Hidan's hometown, right?"
Kakashi nodded. "It was...until the village went from a hidden ninja village to a hidden springs resort. Hidan didn't take it very well and left. When he returned, he was a follower of Jashin and had Kazuku with him. What those two had done had made the Uchiha Massacre look like a backyard brawl. Out of a village of over three hundred, only five survived. I can see why our friend chose this village. The locals believe that it's cursed."
Tsume snorted. "Superstitious fools. Pretty smart for him to have his bodyguards keep the ANBU occupied."
"Divide, then conquer," Kiba seconded. "I can see why the others lost to him."
"They didn't have a Special Jounin and a master of the Sharingan along with them," Tsume said. "The others were careless."
"This is not a game, Inuzuka," Kakashi pointed out. "We have our orders. We have to bring him in for questioning."
Tsume started to reply to that before she spied movement. "There!" she shouted as she and Kiba charged forward...
...only to have Kakashi restrain the both of them. "Could be a trap," he said. Raising his hitai-ate, exposing his Sharingan. He created five shadow clones and sent them off in the last known direction of the person Tsume saw running into what used to be the village's inn.
Watching from his perch several buildings away, Naruto shook his head. "All too predictable, Hatake," he muttered to himself as the five clones chased after his own shadow clone.
A shadow clone loaded down with explosive tags.
"Five...four...three...two...one...and..." Naruto covered his ears.
The blast three the three ninja off their feet, while the two dogs threw themselves to the ground. Naruto chuckled softly. It was time to get reacquainted with his former sensei and the Inuzuka.
'I really hate being right,' Kakashi thought. The son of Sakumo Hatake rose to his feet, as did Tsume and Kiba. "You two okay?"
Tsume nodded. "Yeah."
Kiba grunted in response. "Looks like you called it right, Hatake. It was a trap."
Kakashi looked forward. "And there he is."
Tsume looked forward. Kiba did the same, as Kuromaru and Akamaru growled. Stepping through the fire, like a demon out of hell, was Naruto. Kakashi looked upon his opponent. Little did he know that the Man in Black was his former student, the same one he had written off as worthless years earlier when he was banished. Tsume and Kiba were elated. Here was the Man in Black, the same person who had killed Hidan and Kazuku and had gone through Danzou and his ROOT, both generations of the Ino-Shika-Cho trio, held his own against Itachi and Kisame, and had beaten down Team Gai.
Naruto cracked his knuckles, which was followed by him rotating his neck muscles. He was primed and ready to deliver some much needed payback upon these three.
'You did this to your teammate? You are worse than trash. You are scum.'
'My mom was right about you! You're nothing but a damn demon! I'll kill you the next time I see you again!'
This time around, his chakra control wasn't screwed up like it was during the Chuunin Exams. It was time for some get-even.
Kiba looked at the disguised Naruto. "This is what got Konoha riled up? He doesn't look like much."
"Don't underestimate him, Kiba," Kakashi warned. "He is labeled as an S-ranked ninja."
Tsume smiled. Oh, this was going to be fun.
Naruto watched as Kiba performed the Inuzuka's signature jutsu. "Beast Ninja Jutsu: Four Legs," Kiba shouted.
Had Naruto did have his mask on, Kakashi would have seen the evil smirk on his face as Kiba crouched down on all fours, his already feral features becoming even more feral, his chakra radiating from their bodies.
Naruto wondered why Tsume wasn't going feral alongside her son. Then it hit him. She was sizing him up, along with Kakashi.
"So..." Naruto began, his eyes the color of pure gold, "been looking for me?"
"Akamaru, stay back! He's mine!" Kiba shouted as he charged.
Naruto shifted his body to the side as Kiba reappeared, his elbow striking nothing but air.
"You missed, Kiba Inuzuka," Naruto deadpanned.
Kiba blinked. "You know me?"
That one distraction cost the male Inuzuka, as he did not see Naruto's fist on a course for his chin. It was a full-body swing too, came out of Konoha from where he was born, hooked a right through the ninja academy, picked up even more speed through the chuunin exams, and was forged in the fires of the Unification Wars.
Kakashi winced as the Uppercut from Hell caught Kiba square in the chin and launched the feral boy in the air and backwards. He landed on his back, and slid to a stop in front of his dog, Tsume, Kuromaru and Kakashi.
Kiba shook off the blow...but even he had to admit that it hurt like hell.
Naruto chuckled darkly. This reminded him of the first time he had fought the Inuzuka during the Chuunin Exams, when Kiba knocked him on his ass.
Kiba tasted blood. He spat it on the ground.
"First time in a while since someone made me bleed," Kiba said as he retrieved two familiar-looking pills. "Looks like the rumors were right about you...but it's not enough! Akamaru!"
The dog barked as Kiba tossed one of the pills in his mouth, while he swallowed his own. When Akamaru's fur turned red, Naruto knew what was going to happen.
Tsume smiled as her son performed the Beast Clone Jutsu. 'It's over. Kiba has won.'
Kakashi did not share in Tsume's optimism as Akamaru transformed into a clone of Kiba.
"You can stop the macho act..." the real Kiba began.
"...and give up," the false Kiba finished. "You're finished."
"You think that, wouldn't you?" Naruto replied. "Defeat me first, then boast. Until then, less talking, more fighting."
Both Kibas charged. Much to their surprise, Naruto charged in as well, leaving only an afterimage of him standing before. Much to Tsume and Kakashi's surprise, Naruto was holding his own against Kiba and Akamaru.
"Amazing," Kakashi muttered as he tracked the action with his Sharingan. "Rock Lee said that this guy's taijutsu was flawless. He's keeping up with Kiba. Even more interesting is that he's not using his chakra to to it."
Tsume growled. She had taught her son better than this.
Meanwhile, Naruto was calmly blocking, dodging and weaving through the two Kiba's attacks. 'Let's see if I can provoke him into doing the Gatsuga,' Naruto thought. His Fox Eye knew which Kiba was the real one and which was Akamaru, tagging both of them with several blows of his own, enraging the dog lover when he failed to strike him. Ducking underneath their punches, Naruto knocked them both back with a power punch to the breastplate. Then he grabbed a handful of Kiba's flak vest, pulled him in and began to punch him in the face several times before let go of the dog ninja and ducked, just as the Kiba clone pounced, crashing into the real Kiba instead.
"Pitiful," Naruto sneered.
Kiba growled. He had not laid a single blow on this guy and he was moving just as fast. On top of that, his eye was swollen shut from the guy's rapid fire-style of punches. Pulling a smoke bomb out of his pouch, he had the false Akamaru keep him occupied when he flung the bomb at Naruto's feet. Upon hearing the coughing and hacking, Kiba saw that his much-needed opening had appeared.
"Akamaru, NOW!" Kiba shouted as they both charged into the smoke spinning into the Inuzuka signature technique. "GATSUGA!"
When the smoke cleared, both Kiba and Akamaru, who had reverted back into his original form, stood proud and tall over the still form of the Man in Black.
"Heh," Kiba breathed. "Told you...that you already lost."
Tsume let out a whoop of joy. "That's my boy! You showed him what the Inuzuka could do!"
Her and Kiba's elation was short-lived, as the body of the Man in Black vanished in a poof of smoke. Kakashi spied movement from above and looked up...
"KIBA! WATCH OUT!" Kakashi shouted, pointing upwards.
Kiba looked up, just in time to see Naruto sailing at him as he finished off several seals.
"Wind Release: Deadly Tempest!"
Kiba didn't know what hit him. All he felt was a blast of supercooled air that struck him with the force of a stampeding bull, which
"All too easy," Naruto replied as he rose to his full height.
'Impressive,' Kakashi thought. 'When Kiba threw that smoke pellet, he used a shadow clone while he escaped. I barely registered him jumping into the air. He masked his chakra while at the same time, using it to escape the Gatsuga. His mastery of battle tactics is on par with the Nara. And that jutsu...'
Tsume shook her head. "Kiba...you idiot."
As Akamaru reverted back to its original form, Kiba said one thing before losing consciousness. "Momma...I hurt."
"Kuromaru...ready?" Tsume asked as she rose to her height.
"As always," Kuromaru replied.
"My son may be Jounin, but he still has a lot to learn," Tsume said. She then activated the beast mimicry, followed by the beast clone, transforming Kuromaru into a clone of herself. "I am the Matriarch of the Inuzuka Clan, Special Jounin Tsume Inuzuka. You have proven to be a worthy adversary in your encounters with my fellow ninja. But it ends here."
"Then show me, Tsume Inuzuka," Naruto replied as he went into another stance (think Gouken's stance from SSF4). "Show me what a Special Jounin can do." There was no arrogance in his voice. His tone was casual, borderline cordial.
It then dawned on Kakashi. He was toying with them. "Tsume, STOP!"
Too late, Tsume and Kuromaru charged. Claws outstretched, the two Tsumes attacked. This time around, she didn't make it easy for Naruto. The Emperor took one step back in order to keep Tsume from clawing his face off, allowing the Tsume clone to catch him with a dropkick to the chest, causing him to stumble. Capitalizing on her advantage, Tsume pressed on the assault, succeeding in tearing a gash in Naruto's flak vest.
"I'll tear you apart piece by piece, if I have to," Tsume snarled.
"Trust me. It won't come to that," Naruto replied, right before unleashing his own counterattack.
Tsume felt the air rush out of her lungs when Naruto punched her hard in the stomach, followed by an elbow to the gut. The Tsume clone got a knee to the chin when it tried to sneak attack from behind.
It was at that moment that Kakashi realized that Kiba was gone.
Kiba had struck from behind when Naruto was distracted by Tsume. The impact of the blow had sent Naruto crashing through a wall.
"Catch me off guard, will he?" Kiba said as he took a knee, the Tsuga taking a lot out of him. "Never underestimate the Inuzuka Clan."
Tsume smirked as Kuromaru reverted back to his usual form. "Sorry, Hatake. Looks like you get to sit this one out. The honor of capturing the Man in Black is ours. Kuromaru, Akamaru...retrieve our prey."
Kuromaru and Akamaru barked in response and rushed in after Naruto. Kakashi could not shake off the feeling of dread that was creeping in his gut. 'That was too easy. Unless...'
His fears were verified when the unmistakable sound of a trap were sprung, the victims being the two dogs of the Inuzuka.
Naruto stepped out of the hole he had made, looking worse for the wear, but still able to fight. His flak vest and mesh shirt were shredded from Kiba's Tsuga. "That hurt...almost," he said as he discarded the shirt and vest, leaving him naked from the waist up. Kakashi took notice of the numerous scars on his chest and torso (think the smaller scars Kazuya has on his body), a sign of a battle-hardened warrior.
"Where's Akamaru and Kuromaru?" Tsume demanded.
"I didn't kill them," Naruto replied. "They're incapacitated, but alive."
"You were holding back all this time." The way Kakashi had said it was as if he was stating a fact.
"Of course," Naruto replied as he prepared himself for the upcoming assault. "No matter how random things are...I always have a plan. And half of that plan has been executed by removing those walking fur coats out of the equation. The second half...is simply beating you three down." Assuming his fighting stance he said, "So, who wants to dance?"
"Shut up! You talk to much!" Kiba shouted as he charged.
"Kiba! WAIT!" both Kakashi and Tsume shouted.
Too late. Kiba's hotheadedness had cost him.
Naruto's fist had broken Kiba's nose. As Kiba screamed in pain, Naruto swung his other fist with chakra-backed strength, catching Kiba on the jaw. The sickening CRACK that followed had verified that Kiba's jaw was broken. The male Inuzuka was sent flying before falling into a heap on the ground.
"KIBA!" Tsume screamed.
Naruto smirked evilly. Kiba was just too predictable. "One Inuzuka down. One to go."
This time, Kakashi joined the enraged Inuzuka clan head in attacking the Emperor, Kakashi armed himself with a pair of kunai. This time around, Naruto had stopped holding back. Summoning a chakra chain and stiffening it so that he could wield it as a staff, Naruto went on the attack. He slapped the kunai out of Kakashi's hands and swept him off his feet, the older man was forced to roll out of the way when the Emperor attempted a leaping overhead strike, causing him to miss.
Tsume attempted a Tsuga of her own, but Naruto used the chain as a pole-vault, propelling himself into the air, just as Tsume spun past him. When she landed, she felt the chain-like staff strike her on the back of her skull, leaving her stunned. Kakashi tried to attack Naruto from behind, only to find himself in a reverse armbar, and getting his face punched in repeatedly, as did Kiba before him, right before throwing him towards Tsume. The Inuzuka Matriarch jumped over Kakashi and went on the attack. Naruto's fist bounced off her head, followed by the punch to her breastplate, which despite the flak vest, still hurt like crap. The roundhouse kick to the side of her head sent her spinning to the ground.
Kakashi retrieved his kunai and lunged forward, but Naruto elbowed him in the face, grabbed a handful of his hair and with one blow, ruptured his left eye socket. Twisting his former sensei's body so that he was bent and facing the ground, Naruto slammed his knee into his face before grabbing his jaw and flung him away.
Tsume recovered and caught Naruto, raking her nails across his torso. Naruto simply ignored the pain and continued to fight. Ducking under a claw swipe to the face, Naruto punched Tsume's torso with twenty blows in the space of three seconds, follwed by a right cross which busted her lip, and a kick to the chest, knocking her back.
Naruto turned to Kakashi, who was just finishing up a long string of seals.
'Now what?' Naruto thought as he looked at Kakashi, who was standing next to a lake. 'Monkey...bird..yang water...rat...boar...bird...' His eyes widened as he recognized the jutsu, as it was also used by Zabuza and Haku. 'Oh, crap.'
"Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet!" Kakashi shouted.
Naruto's reaction was instant. When the massive water dragon reached its apex, Naruto began his own set of hand seals. One thing about Naruto was his uncanny talent for battle tactics, which was honed during his years of fighting in the Unification Wars. As Kakashi and Tsume watched, Naruto countered Kakashi's jutsu with his own, just as the water dragon dove for him.
"Fire Release: Deadly Tempest!" Naruto bellowed.
The vortex of superheated air crashed into the water dragon, cancelling the other out. It also had the effect of blanketing the entire area with steam.
'He knows fire jutsu as well?' Kakashi wondered as he felt Tsume back up to him. 'Damn it. Asuma and the Aburame called it right. His eyes are blocking the Sharingan's ability to copy his jutsu!'
"Where is he?" Tsume demanded.
"I can't see anything! We have to wait until the steam clears."
Naruto, in the meantime, could see everything. Deciding to incapacitate Tsume first, he created a shadow clone to get her attention. The decoy worked, and Tsume went after it, ignoring Kakashi's yells for her to stop.
"TSUGA!" Tsume screamed as she drilled through the steam, striking the decoy in the back. Had she been paying attention, she would have saw that it was a clone. Once she landed, Naruto struck with brutal efficiency. Tsume spun around, and threw one clawed hand at Naruto...
...only to have the younger man grab her wrist. When she tried to attack him with her other hand, he did the same. Cocking his head back, Naruto smashed his skull into Tsume's face, breaking the cartilage in her face before letting her go. Interlocking his hands together, he delivered an upward hammer-blow which knocked her into the air, before slamming her back to the ground with a downward hammer blow. Tsume felt his foot in her back. Then she felt the two punches mid-torso, which was followed by the elbow into her shoulder, which broke her collarbone.
Kakashi heard the scream from the Inuzuka Matriarch and rushed to her last location. There, he found her, whimpering, holding her shoulder with her remaining hand, blood flowing freely from her nose. She would be of no use now.
By that time, the steam had cleared. Kakashi was alone. Tsume and Kiba were both down. All that remained was him and Naruto.
Naruto faced down his former sensei. All the memories of him favoring Sasuke over him came flooding back in an instant. The Wave Mission, in which he and the banshee were ordered to practice tree-climbing and chakra control while he trained his 'Precious Uchiha.' The Chuunin Exams, in which he had told Naruto that he was training Sasuke and not him. And that day when he was banished for simply doing his job, and Kakashi was one of many who had condemned him. So what Sasuke had been returned battered and bruised? The life of a ninja was full of risks. Kakashi didn't blink when he noticed the Chidori wound in his shoulder.
'Can't use the Sharingan,' Kakashi thought, hoping that his only memento of Obito was not damaged. 'Kiba and Tsume are down. I'm gonna have to use the Chidori when I get the chance.'
That was all Kakashi could think before Naruto was upon him. The ANBU Captain could do nothing but block as his (unknown to him) former enraged student unleashed nearly three years of pent-up frustration and anger upon him. Kakashi coughed up blood as he felt several of his ribs break from the onslaught. The Man in Black was unwavering in his assault upon him. Even more worse, whenever Kakashi tried to counterattack, it was as if the Man in Black was reading his every move, his counter-strikes were indeed brutal.
In desperation, Kakashi performed a substitution, appearing behind Naruto while he had punched out a log that took Kakashi's place.
Naruto wasn't going to fall for that again. "Imperial Style: Flash Step," he whispered.
Naruto had derived the Flash Step from the Hirashin. He already can move just as fast as Lee without the weights, but using chakra to boost his agility, he found he could move fast to the point that he would leave an afterimage without the signature yellow flash.
Something that Kakashi had found out the hard way, as he realized way too late that Naruto was behind him.
With a yell, Naruto nailed Kakashi with his final attack.
Naruto's revised version of the Thousand Years of Pain had met its mark, and sent Kakashi flying. The Jounin landed hard on his right side when he was sent crashing through a tree, the impact breaking his right arm and leg. Kakashi whimpered as he tried to get to his feet, but to no avail. Finally, Kakashi lost consciousness. Naruto took a moment to get himself under control. Looking around, he saw that all three Konoha jounin were out cold, but alive. When Yahiko and the rest of the Elite Guards had showed up after blowing past the ANBU, they found Naruto crouched over Kakashi. The reason being, Naruto remembered Kakashi having one of his father's Hirashin kunai in his possession. Said kunai was now in Naruto's hand, having pilfered it from Kakashi's effects.
"You of all people don't deserve this," Naruto said as he pocketed the kunai. "You, Kakashi Hatake abandoned me in favor of the Uchiha. I am not the scum you once proclaimed me to be. You are."
"Boss! Are you all right?" Yahiko asked.
Naruto nodded. "I'll live. Let me grab my things. It seems that Hot Water Country is not worthy of having a Pekara branch here. It's time for us to leave."
Once Naruto had gotten his belongings, he performed the Demons' Gate Jutsu. By the time the second squad of ANBU had arrived, all they found were two dogs in a net, and three broken Konoha Jounin.
Konoha Hospital - Konohagakure, two days later...
While taking their daughter for a routine checkup, Asuma and Kurenai Sarutobi decided to check in on Tsume Inuzuka.
The Inuzuka Matriarch was in her son's room. Tsume's arm was in a sling, her collarbone reset, as was her nose, as the bandage over that was any proof. Kiba was out cold. His jaw having to be rewired, his nose also reset. Akamaru and Kuromaru, who were on the ground resting, raised their heads, but calmed down once they saw that it was the Sarutobi clan head and his wife.
Asuma knew the Inuzuka clan head for many years, as did Kurenai, since they both were on the same team together back when they were younger, and despite everything, they remained friends. When Kiba had told Tsume that Kurenai was his jounin instructor, she approved of the decision.
"So how is he?" Kurenai asked of her former pupil while Asuma petted both Kuromaru and Akamaru.
"Not as better off as me," Tsume replied, subdued, gesturing to her sling. "The Godaime had to rewire his mouth shut. Looks like we'll both be out of action for the next couple of months in order to heal."
"So what happened?"
"We received word from the new damiyou in Hot Water Country," Tsume began. "Said that the Man in Black was in the area, heading for Yugakure. Kiba, Kakashi and I were close by. We waited for a backup of ANBU to show up before we gave chase. The man's bodyguards intercepted us, and the ANBU held them, allowing us to continue on. We found in Yugakure...and this is the result."
Asuma winced. "Ouch. Looks like you three pissed our friend off."
Tsume chuckled bitterly. "You should see Hatake. He had the worst of it. Twelve broken ribs and both his right arm and leg broken. But that's not the worst of it. From what the Godaime has told me, not only will he be out of action for close to six months, but he won't be able to sit right for the next couple of weeks."
"Just what did he do to him?" Kurenai asked.
"Remember that joke jutsu that Kakashi likes to do?"
Asuma knew what Tsume was talking about. "The Thousand Years of Pain. What about it?"
"Looks like our friend did it to Kakashi, and he didn't use his fingers. He used his boot instead."
Asuma winced. "Ouch. Really hate to be him. Talk about the final indignity."
[Journal of the Emperor, Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze]
I was visiting the Imperial Consulate in Mist when at Yahiko's suggestion, I decided to check out the ruins of my mother's home village. I was surprised that the Whirlpool Ruins were located in the far end of Wave Country.
Wave Country was at least a few hours' travel by boat from here, and it has been a while since I've visited the old drunk and his family. And Yahiko did have an interesting point. I was always intrigued about the Whirpool Village from what he told me, so I decided to head for Wave once my business with Mist was completed. Who knows, I may find some of my mon's jutsu there.
Whirlpool was known for its seal masters. Mom was part of the ruling class which ran both the village and the island, while Yahiko's family was the military arm of the village, kinda like the Uchiha's military police before Itachi went nuts. It was because of their mastery over seals that Iwa had declared war and razed the town to the ground. Another reason to hate Iwa.
Arriving in Wave, I saw that the people have prospered since Gato was killed. Venturing into the town, I stopped when I saw a most welcoming sight.
Ichiraku's Ramen. Here in Wave! They had upgraded from a ramen stand to a small restaurant! Now it's Ichiraku's Ramen, Bar and Grill!
Say what you want about me, I still love ramen. So before heading over to Tazuma's home, I dropped by. Sure enough, working the kitchen, were Teuchi and Ayame. I may hate Konoha, but these two were one of the very few that did not see me as the fox reborn. For that, I will always be eternally grateful to them. They told me how they refused to see me as the fox, and that Haruno's mother organized a boycott of their business. In retaliation, they simply closed down and moved to Wave, where they called themselves Ichiraku's Ramen, Bar and Grill.
Ayame also told me some bad news. Iruka was dead. Tsunade had said that it was a suicide, that he felt an enormous amount of guilt for supporting the villagers in my banishment. The Uchiha had found the body.
As I stayed overnight at the Inn of the Waves, I broke down and cried. I cried for Iruka. Even though he sided with the civilians, he did not deserve his fate.
The following morning, after breakfast, I spoke with Tazuma and the Council of Wave. After an hour of chatting and setting up a trade alliance (thus establishing the Wave Branch of the Pekara Merchant House), it was off to Whirlpool, but not before leaving a clone in the town under a henge to make sure nothing funny happens while I was away. We arrived in the Whirlpool Ruins mid-afternoon. Afterwards, we began to search the ruins of anything useful, jutsu, relics, anything. Following Yahiko's directions, I came across the estate of my mother. It was still fairly intact. There, I found the mother lode. Mostly wind jutsu, including a very interesting item: a scroll detailing how to make chakra wind blades, designed in similar fasion to the Rasenshuriken. Oh, this could be quite useful.
Yahiko found some water jutsu and a couple of swords inside his ancestral home. I've seen him fight with the sword, and he is very impressive. So all in all, this little expedition turned out to be a success.
Then, I felt the clone disperse and I gained its knowledge. Konoha Ninja were closing in, and fast, consisting of Maito Gai, that psycho instructor from the Chuunin Exams, Anko Mitarashi, and Hiashi Hyuuga.
I warned the others that we will soon have company, and told Yahiko and Konan not to kill them. "Zero body count, maximum ego damage." Yahiko could get into that, as did Konan. So with the others properly warned, we continued our search into the ruins. We didn't have to wait long for the Konoha ninja to arrive. They surrounded us. Anko was busy giving Takuma the once-over. I think she likes him or something.
Hiashi must have heard me and the others talking while we searched the village. He respected the fact that I had noble blood, given my relationship to the former ruling family of Whirlpool, but I wonder how he would take it if I told him that my mother was Kushinna Uzumaki, wife to Minato Namikaze?
Then Hiashi made a big mistake. When Anko questioned him as to why Hinata was not here, he said that the reason why she was not here was that she was weak, a stain on the family name. Once Hannabi made Chuunin, he would arrange a marriage to Hinata to be married off to some nobleman so that the clan could gain more influence and power.
I think that's what pretty much set me off, since I punched Hiashi, initating the battle.
While the Elite Guards fought the ANBU, I summoned two clones while having the Fox Eye active. The two clones turned into virtual doppelgangers of Anko and Gai and attacked, while I dealt with the arrogant Hyuuga clan head.
Hiashi was harder than Neji, so I knew that I was going to be in for one rough night. But I had the advantage of knowing how the Jyuuken style works...as well as intimate knowledge of how the chakra circulation system works. So I countered Hiashi's attacks and struck him in his tenketsu points. Then I just beat the holy hell out of him for insulting Hinata.
The clone that was fighting Anko was almost out of chakra, so I had to make this quick. Hiashi was alreay defeated, on his knees, looking defiant, but after insulting Hinata, I had to get some payback. You would think he learned after seeing the end result of Neji insulting her back during the Chuunin Exams.
"The flaw of your own power is arrogance," I said. Then I punched his forehead four times. When he will come to, he will have the word JERK punched into his forehead.
With Hiashi out of the way, I turned my attention to Anko, who had finally succeeded in detroying the clone. She didn't see me coming. One punch to the head followed by me closing off her tenketsu points and she was down for the count. Takuma was holding his own against Maito Gai, until I told him to stand down and leave the older man to me. Takuma did a good job of delaying the boisterous jounin, but he was mine. I haven't forgotten him and Asuma booting me out of town, and I wanted to show him what I can do.
Ironically, he met the same fate as did his pupil: the Shadow Dancer.
So let's see...I fought the Ino-Shika-Cho trio, then Konoha sent out the original Ino-Shika-Cho trio, the one-eyed warhawk and twenty of his ROOT, Team Gai, Hatake and the Inuzuka, and now, the crazy snake jounin, Gai and the pompous Hyuuga clan head.
All had failed.
Konohagakure no Sato, several days later...
Tsunade's voice rang throughout the village. "YOU DID WHAT?"
Asana Haruno sniffed as she ignored the furious looks of the shinobi side of the council, while the civilians looked smug. "We voted to reactivate Sasuke Uchiha as an active ninja. As of this moment, his house arrest as been lifted."
Tsunade was furious. "I did not agree to this! Only I can lift his punishment!"
"If it's any consolation, most of the Shinobi half voted against it," Asana replied, "but the votebreaker came from Lord Hyuuga himself. Whether you like it or not, Sasuke Uchiha is now an active ninja of Konoha once again."
Tsunade growled. "Fine. Just to make sure he does not run off to Orochimaru, I will add a stipulation to this decision. I will assign Captain Hatake and Captain Mitarashi to his detail. If the Uchiha attempts to run to Orochimaru...if he even farts in Oto's general direction...he will be immediately executed."
"You can't do that!" Asana shouted.
"I just did," Tsunade replied, radiating killer intent over the council. "It's high time that you civilians remember who is running the show. This is a shinobi village, and no civilians should have no say in shinobi matters. This has gone on long enough."
"You seem to forget yourself, Senju," Asana replied with a smirk. "We can just as easily remove you from office. We have the wealthy and the men of quality in our ranks."
"And I have an army of pissed-off, underpaid shinobi," Tsunade countered, slowly rising from her seat, glaring daggers at the arrogant Haruno, her voice rising in anger. "An army of pissed-off, underpaid shinobi who blame you and the civilian council for the mess that we are currently in. An army of pissed-off, underpaid and potentially munitious shinobi that at my command, will roast and eat your 'men of quality' in the ashes of the town square! I will say this only once. Cross me again, and the Uchiha Massacare will look like a village dance compared to what I will do. Furthermore, the civilian council and Hiashi Hyuuga are immediately suspended for the rest of the month without pay. Get the hell out of my sight!"
It was true. Ever since the Fire Damiyou had halved the finaicial aid following their attempt to make Jiraiya a missing ninja, the civilian clans have been living high off the hog while the ninja were resentful of the docked pay brought on by the civilian council's stupidity. Even Danzou, who orchestrated Naruto's banishment, was furious over the council's arrogance. The village teetered on the edge of civil war, all thanks to the civilian council. A civil war that the shinobi force can win hands down. And if the Fire Lord decided to get involved, he would easily side with the Shinobi. So peace, as shaky as it was, managed to continue inside the Leaf.
On the shinobi side of the council, the shinobi watched on with shocked looks as Asana, Hiashi, and the civilians hurried out of the chambers. Even Koharu and Honmura were shocked to see this side of Tsunade. Despite having taken part in Naruto's banishment, they were on the side of the shinobi council this time around, and thankful that they voted against reinstating Saskue.
"You were right, Shikaku," Chouza said. "Women can be scary."
"Given the choice of dealing with Tsunade or my wife and Tsume, I'll go with the latter," the lazy Nara said. "Very troublesome."
[From the journal of Naruto Uzuamki Namikaze]
The six months are over. Right now, I'm in Suna, having been personally invited by Gaara for the duration of the Chuunin Exams. The Elite Guards are staying at the Imperial Consulate, while I am at the Kazekage Tower. The Chuunin Exams in Suna were done in the same fashion as they were done back in Konoha. Only this time, instead of the Forest of Death, Gaara had used a deserted part of Suna for the scroll retrival assignment.
I had faith in Team Misfits. Although I really can't call them that anymore. But Maru, Moegi and Udon kept the nickname as a badge of honor. Sonshi, Okajima, Yamada and Chiba had trained them well. I had heard that they also breezed through the written exam in record time. But I knew that another confrontation with the Konoha ninja would soon be inevitable.
After witnessing the confrontation between Hinata and the Konoha ninja, Naruto departed for the Imperial Consulate. While walking through a side street, he met up with Yahiko and Konan. After explaining his intentions regarding Hinata, he asked Konan to tail Hinata for the next two days in order to get her schedule down. Once that was done, he would use one of the Imperial Courier Ninjas to summon Hinata to the Imperial Consulate.
With the prescence of the Konoha ninja (as well as that of the Iwa ninja), Naruto had to once again go incognito as he was clad in his longcoat, vest and boots, his Kage-style hat and face mask. Walking down a side street, Naruto, Konan and Yahiko headed in the direction of the Kazekage Tower to meet with Gaara. The ruler of Suna was very interested in meeting with the former Akatsuki founder and his lover, and Naruto was taking the both of them to him for a quick sit-down. So far, with the exception of Gaara himself, Fu and Yagura, the remaining Jinchuuriki were safe in his Empire, and the Akatsuki were none the wiser.
Naruto stopped in mid-step. Yahiko and Konan also stopped. "What is it?" Yahiko asked.
"We're not alone," Naruto calmly replied as he turned around, as did his two bodyguards.
Almost immediately, Yahiko drew out his swords, while Konan had her paper shurikens in between her fingers. Behind him were Kurenai Yuuhi, Sakura Haruno, Kiba Inuzuka, Kakashi Hatake. Anko Mitarashi, and Tenten.
Kiba had not forgotten the crushing defeat that he had given him, and was ready to attack. However, as Naruto calmly used a scroll to summon his sword, he relented.
"Kiba. You can't fight him here."
Stepping in between the Inuzuka and his giant dog, was the one person that Naruto wasn't expecting to see. Clad in the standard Jounin uniform with the Uchiha crest on the sleeves, hiltless katana over one shoulder, and Konoha hitai-ate on his head, was Sasuke Uchiha. Naruto felt his emotions rising, but immediately suppressed them.
If Sasuke was here, then that means Konoha was getting incredibly desperate in trying to bring him in.
Naruto chuckled inwardly. Unknown to his former teammates and sensei, Cell Seven was back again. Only this time, they were on opposing sides. "I already met Itachi...you must be Sasuke Uchiha," Naruto remarked dryly. "What do you want with me?"
"You fought against the Konoha Elite," Saskue replied calmly. "You even killed two S-class criminals and held your own against my brother. I want you to fight me."
Naruto considered this very carefully. This could earn him the closure he needed, to close the book on Konoha once and for all. Oh, if he could only be there when Saskue tells them that the man that they were chasing is the Emperor of the West. But Naruto wondered how Konoha would take it if they found out that the Emperor was the former container to the Nine-Tails.
"I accept your challenge, Uchiha," Naruto replied. "But not here. Once the Chuunin Tournament is completed, we will fight in the Suna Arena."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "Will Gaara allow it?"
Naruto smiled meanly. "Once I speak to him, he will. I hope you can give me a better challenge than your brother."
"Then you are a coward," Sakura sneered. "If you were a real man, then you would fight Sasuke now!"
"When I want your opinion, you pink-haired freak, I will ask for it," Naruto replied. "Until then, you can reattach your lips to the Uchiha's ass, fangirl."
Something inside Sakura snapped. With a yell, she charged, fist cocked back, ready to fly.
"Sakura! Stop!" the three senior Jounin shouted, but to no avail.
Naruto simply stood his ground as Sakura threw her punch. 'Predictable as always, Haruno,' he thought as he stopped her punch with one finger. Then he used a palm strike to the torso to knock Sakura back to Kakashi.
With Sakura dealt with, Naruto turned to Sasuke. "You have three days to prepare, Uchiha," as he turned on his heel and walked off, Konan and Yahiko trailing behind.
After that confrontation, I made my way to the Kazekage Tower and after Gaara had talked with Konan and Yahiko, told him of the challenge the Uchiha has thrown to me, and that I wished to fight him inside the Suna Arena once the Chuunin exams are over. Gaara didn't have no love for Sasuke, and agreed to my offer.
I retreated to the Imperial Consulate to not only prepare for the match, but to also make plans in contacting Hinata.
Took me two days, but I contacted Hinata. Right now, she is asleep, safe inside the Imperial Consulate. Her father had placed that damned seal on her - the same one that Neji had - and shoved her inside the branch family when she lost to Hannabi. I cemented Hinata's loyalty when I not only removed it, but also told her that I was the Emperor of the West.
Right now, Maru is the last member of Team Misfit to make it to the finals. Moegi and Udon ended up fighting one another. That match ended in a double knockout. Despite that, those three had made me proud. Gaara has taken me to the side and told me that he was very impressed with the results of their training, and despite how things may end, he will promote them to Chuunin.
I also received another shock. The last of the Jinchuuriki was waiting for me inside the Imperial Consulate, wishing for an audience with me. I remembered her from my days as a Konoha genin. Fu, the jinchuuriki of the Nanabi. She had heard about me retrieving the other containers and granting them asylum from the Akatsuki. Fearing the organization of S-class criminals, her village had chosen to exile her. When he found out that I was in Suna, she sought me out.
That was a first. But it did save me the trouble of tracking her down. We talked inside the Imperial Consulate. When I revealed my true identity to her, Fu was very surprised to see me again. I welcomed Fu into the ranks of the Empire, promsing to take her with me once the Chuunin Exams are completed.
Maru faced off against Hannabi Hyuuga in the final match the following day. Hiashi was in the audience. Gaara told me that my little stunt with Hinata has left him pissed off, as he had the main branch ninja comb Suna looking for Hinata. But she was safely tucked away inside the Imperial Consulate. Several of them had picked a fight with the consulate's guards when they tried to enter the consulate, and were soundly trounced. When Gaara threatned to place the Hyuugas into his Sand Coffins, they finally backed off.
As for the final match, it kinda mirrored my match with Neji back in Konoha. Only difference was that Hannabi wasn't sprouting that fate bullshit, but she was acting like her shit didn't stink. Typical Hyuuga Superiority Complex. But what she didn't know was that I taught Maru how to counter the Jyuuken style when it became clear to me that he was going to fight her. Or the fact that Maru had signed his grandfather's summoning scroll and summoned the Monkey King, and used its staff form to soundly trounce her. Hannabi never stood a chance.
Hannabi was knocked out cold. When I appeared on the stadium grounds, applauding Maru and congratulating him on his victory, I think Hiashi found out that I was one of his trainers. He had came to Suna to see his heiress clean house, and as Hinata had told me, to show her just how worthless she was when Hannabi had won. I think Hiashi was furious to the point that Old Man Sarutobi's grandson had trounced his precious heiress. He got a boot to the head for his troubles when he tried to attack me once again.
Good thing I was dressed for battle, since Sasuke appeared. I ushered Maru out of the way as I faced down my former teammate. If I was angry when I fought Hatake, I was absolutely furious with the teme. Hinata had filled me in, that he was pardoned by the civilian council, placing the blame on both me and that hickey Orochimaru gave him, but Tsunade had him placed under house arrest, which was later lifted by the civilian council in order for him to come and face me in Suna. The shinobi council and the majority of the shinobi don't trust him ever since his attempted defection, whereas Sakura still worships the ground he walks on.
Gaara himself gave the order to begin.
Sasuke has improved during my absence, but I had fought and trained long and hard over the years. That title of Emperor wasn't just for show. But honestly, out of all of the Konoha ninja I had fought, Sasuke was the toughest. We fought for at least thirty minutes, until I finally gained the upper hand. Before I knocked him out, I told Sasuke that I was the Emperor of the West.
Maybe now that would get Konoha off my back. After the match, I returned to the Imperial Consulate, and waited for the town to clear of the visiting ninja. Once they were gone, I said my goodbyes to Gaara and used the Demons' Gate Jutsu to return to Kimon City...with Hinata, and the last of the Jinchuuriki.
Sonshi was right. I had to face my demons and to free myself of my past. Beating down the Konoha Elite pretty much did it for me.
Now, I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I can finally focus on the future of my Empire. I can focus on Hinata.
Konohagakure no Sato, following the conclusion of the Chuunin Exams.
The civilian council had placed all their hopes on Sasuke, hoping that the Uchiha Elite could defeat the Man in Black and bring him to Konoha, after the mystery man had given the Leaf black eye after black eye after black eye.
Their hopes were dashed when they saw the ninja that were sent to Suna return...
...without the Man in Black.
Despite his injuries, Saskue had a report to make. Ignoring the guards at the gate, Sasuke and Kakashi headed for the Hokage Tower.
Inside the council chambers...
This time, the outburst didn't come from Tsunade. It came from Asana Haruno. Even the shinobi side of the council was very concerned at the change in events. Sasuke had just told them the identity of the mystery man. Several high-ranking Jounin also sat in on this meeting, as they were curious as to who the mystery man was.
"I said he is the Emperor of the Western Empire," the Uchiha confirmed. "He told me before knocking me out. The Kazekage had all but confirmed it."
On the shinobi side, shock was the evident reaction, while disbelief reigned on the Shinobi side. Even the normally arrogant Danzou was shocked. The mystery man was the infamous Emperor that has been making waves back in the West!
"This definitely complicates things," Asuma said.
"This one agrees," Tsume seconded. "At least I feel a whole lot better about losing."
"Troublesome," Shikaku muttered. "Very troublesome. We almost pissed off the Western Empire by attempting to kidnap their ruler."
Inochi and Chouza who were seated next to their teammate, also agreed. Danzou was thinking along the same lines.
"From what I managed to get out of Gaara," Sasuke continued, "he is accompanied by his Elite Guard, eight chosen warriors whose main objective is to protect the Emperor from any and all threats."
"So what was the Emperor doing in Suna, of all places?" Asana demanded.
"He seems to be pretty chummy with the Godaime Kazekage," Kakashi said. "We noticed an Imperial Consulate in the city. Gaara's also mentioned that he had sent Sarutobi and his team to personally train under the Emperor himself. Given their performance in the Chuunin Exams, The Emperor has succeeded. I have to admit that those three
Asuma smiled at that. Had Maru stayed in Konoha, he would have made a fine Chuunin.
"It could be a trick," Asana shot out. "As much as I would like to believe Captain Hatake and Jounin Uchiha, we need more proof. Those merchant houses that has surfaced, the Pekara Merchant House...they came from the West."
Tsunade knew what Asana's intentions were. "There's a travelling merchant from the Pekara House in the market. I will summon her to appear before the council."
The merchant in question was a former Special Jounin-level kunoichi named Makie Asahina. Following the Unification War, she had left her unit at the age of twenty-seven and had signed on to the Western Empire's Intelligence Division, which ultimately led her to the East, her assignment being Fire County. Her cover was that of a kunoichi-turned-travelling merchant working for the Pekara Merchant House's Fire Country Branch, located within the Imperial Consulate inside the Fire Capital (Tsunade found it strange that the Emperor had refused to allow a Fire Consulate inside his Empire).
She also had a paltry bounty of 25 million ryo placed on her head, given her role in killing a group of bandits who had tried to raid the Pekara Merchant caravan while on the road to the Fire Capital. Twice a week, she and her entourage of Pekara Merchants would travel to Konoha. She was also loyal to her Emperor to the point that she nearly blew her cover when she ended up arriving on the anniversary of Naruto's banishment. Fortunately, her co-workers had managed to calm her down.
So imagine her surprise while packing up the stand and preparing for the trip back to the Fire Capital she was summoned to the Hokage Tower by three members of the ANBU to face the Konoha Council.
Tsunade looked at the former kunoichi, easily identified by her crimson flak vest and her ninjato, which was strapped to her back. Makie looked back at her with a bored, yet curious expression. The Slug Sage cleared her throat. "First off, thank you for coming to this meeting. You are not in trouble of any kind. We just have some questions we would like to ask of you."
Makie shrugged her shoulders. "Shoot."
"First off, what't your name?" Tsunade asked.
"Makie Asahina. Former Captain of the Imperial Defence Forces, Third Batallion, Seventh Division, First Squad. Now, I'm a merchant with the Pekara Merchant House," Makie replied.
"A merchant, yet you are armed and wear the flak vest of a ninja," Koharu pointed out.
"I wear this as a badge of honor. To remind myself that eventhough I am a merchant, I will always be a ninja," Makie replied. "The katana is for merely self-defense."
The shinobi could respect that, Danzou included.
An ANBU handed her the picture of the disguised Naruto. "Can you identify this man?" Tsunade asked.
"Of course," Makie replied. "That's His Imperial Majesty, the Crimson Fury of the Empire. In other words, he is the Emperor of the West."
Whispers and mumurs were heard throughout the council chambers.
"Does he have a name?" Danzou asked.
"He does, but I am under orders not to say it. The Emperor has many enemies, and there are those in the East who wish to make a name for themselves by eliminating His Imperial Majesty and take his throne. His clan is virtually the richest out of all of the clans in the West."
That was understandable to the gathered Shinobi.
"That's not good enough," Asana Haruno snapped. "Tell us his name."
Makie turned to the civilian council member. "You don't like that? Tough shit. I answer to the Emperor, not you."
"How dare you!" Asana shouted, rising to her feet. "You will tell us the name of the Emperor, or else you will pay a visit to Ibiki!"
"Haruno...sit down," Tsunade ordered. Leave it to the hotheaded Haruno to antagonize their guest.
"But..." Asana sputtered.
"Shut up and sit down!" the Godaime bellowed, the sheer will alone made Asana collapse into her seat. Once Asana was properly humbled, Tsunade turned back to Makie. "I
apologize for Representative Haruno's behavior."
"Apology accepted, Lady Hokage," Makie replied. "I take it you want to know more about The Boss?"
"The Boss?" Tsunade repeated.
"It's a nickname we have for The Emperor," Makie explained. "It goes back during the days of the Unification War."
"To answer your question, yes," Tsunade replied. "We would like to know more."
"He's tall. Six feet even, reddish-blond hair, blue eyes. But when he uses his bloodline, they turn to gold. Likes to wear black, which earned him the nickname 'The Man in Black.' I fought alongside him in the Unification War, back when he was a teenager."
"You mean..." Shikaku began.
Makie nodded. "He unified the lands and became Emperor when he was fifteen years old. That was three years ago. Quite an amazing feat for a kid."
Asana snorted at that, but kept silent. Danzou, on the other hand, was pretty impressed.
"YOSH! The Emperor is truly a youthful opponent!" Rock Lee shouted. "To have unified the West in such a short time!"
"Indeed, my most youthful student!" Gai said.
Tenten brought the dreaded jutsu to a halt by knocking both men out. The shinobi side breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank you, Tenten," Tsunade said, thus sparing the council the dreaded 'Flames of Youth' jutsu. "Continue, Captain Asahina."
"He has that charisma, that strength. He can make you believe in him," Makie continued. "He fights alongside his soldiers. Even when we were on campaign, he would do his share of the work around the camp, and still have time to conduct a war. He was trained in both the shinobi arts and the way of the samurai. I would die in a second for him. We all would."
"Loyalty," Inochi Yamanaka said. "A powerful weapon for any leader to have."
Makie nodded. "Yes. He is loyal to his soldiers and to the people, and vice versa."
"What can you tell us about his armed forces?" Danzou asked, getting a nasty glare from Tsunade.
"Sorry. I can't divulge that information. Will that be all, Lady Hokage?"
Tsunade nodded. "Yes. You may go."
Makie bowed and departed from the chambers. Once she was gone, another round of talks began.
"I say she is lying," Asana said. "We should take her to Ibiki and see if he can loosen that tongue of hers!"
Danzou was thinking along the same lines. Only difference was that he was considering kidnapping Makie and converting her to his ROOT. But he quickly dismissed that idea. If she was tough enough to have a bounty on her head, then sending ROOT ANBU after her would be a bad idea.
"She was not lying," Inochi rebuked. "I checked her mental patterns while we talked. She was very truthful and open. And from the look of things, she can still fight, eventhough she is no longer a ninja. We don't know what the ninja from the Western Empire are capable of. If the Emperor himself is a skilled fighter, what does that say about his forces?"
Tsunade sighed. Inochi did have a point. "As of this moment...The Emperor is to be left alone. I will not have Konoha wiped out over a misunderstanding."
The council nodded.
The Godaime turned to the injured Uchiha. "Uchiha, get your injuries taken care of. This meeting is adjourned."
Hyuuga Compound, the following day.
Hiashi and Hannabi Hyuuga faced the council of elders. Hannabi was still bruised from her match with Maru Sarutobi, while Hiashi sported a fresh bruise from trying to attack the Emperor while in Suna, as well as an angry red handprint from where Kurenai had slapped him. Both the clan head and his designated heir did not look very happy. The reason being was not that Hannabi had made the grade to Chuunin, as she was defeated by Maru Sarutobi. The reason was that earlier that day, a courier ninja had dropped off Hinata's hitai-ate and a scroll addressed to Hiashi and Hannabi.
The scroll had all but verified it. Hinata had defected from the clan, and the village.
Hinata had disappeared the night before the Emperor had fought Sasuke Uchiha in the finals. Hiashi had the main and branch clan members comb Suna looking for her, but to no avail.
Until that morning, when he received Hinata's hitai-ate and the scroll. The scroll was simple and to the point, and it was from the Emperor of the West.
To Lord Hiashi Hyuuga and Hannabi Hyuuga, heir apparent of the Hyuuga Clan:
As of this moment, Hinata Hyuuga has been granted political asylum. She is no longer a chuunin in the Konohagakure Shinobi Forces, nor is she no longer a citizen of Konohagakure no Sato, as she is under my protection. I have personally removed the Caged Bird Seal from her, thus freeing her from any and all obligations owed to the Hyuuga Clan.
Sincerely, the Emperor of the Unified West
It was after he had received the letter that he tracked down Kurenai Sarutobi. She was out with her husband and their daughter, as well as with the Ino-Shika-Cho trio.
Earlier that day...
Hiashi, along with Hannabi found Kurenai Sarutobi in the middle of lunch. Said ninja was with her husband and daughter inside a restaurant. Also tagging along was Asuma's former students, Shikamaru Nara, Chouji Akamichi and Ino Yamanaka.
"Do you know where my daughter is, Sarutobi?" Hiashi demanded, his voice laced with anger.
The patrons in the meantime, had decided to clear out of the restaurant from the impending explosion that was soon to follow. Asuma had handed Hitomi to both Ino and Chouji, and sent her outside as well.
Kurenai looked back at the arrogant clan head with no fear. "Which daughter? The one you pushed aside and branded? Or your precious little heir?"
Hiashi's response to that was to slam down the scroll on the table. "You know damn well which one I am talking about! Hinata was your responsibility during the Chuunin Exams! And you let her escape!"
Now Kurenai was getting angry. "Don't you blame this on me, Hyuuga," the red-eyed genjutsu mistress shot back. "Whose idea was it to send her to Suna so she could witness Hannabi's triumph? That was your idea, not mine. By the way...how did Hannabi do in the exams? I see that she is not wearing a Chuunin vest."
Asuma, in the meantime, was reading the scroll, with Shikamaru looking over his shoulder. "Is this for real?" the chain-smoking clan head asked.
"Very," Hannabi replied. "Just so you know, we are going to hold your wife responsible for this, Captain Sarutobi."
"My wife is not to blame," Asuma replied flatly. "Your father was the ones who placed Hinata under virtual house arrest after branding her with that damned seal. And I have to agree with my wife. You sent her to Suna, and you underestimated her."
"Hinata is gone, and I hold you responsible," Hiashi sneered. "I hope you're happy, Kurenai Sarutobi. She is gone, to be a whore to that upstart of an Emperor."
In a flash, Kurenai was standing in front of the Hyuuga clan leader. Said leader now had a red handprint on his face, the end result of Kurenai slapping him in full view of his daughter, Asuma and Shikamaru. Hannabi rushed in to intervene, but was stopped in her tracks by Shikamaru's Kagemane.
"You are a damn fool, Hyuuga," Kurenai spat out. "You placed that damned seal on her when she wasn't the perfect little heiress you wanted. Both the main and cadet branch treated her like garbage because of her support towards Naruto. At least with the Emperor, she can be happy for once in her life."
At the loss of face, both from his daughter leaving and being physically and verbally berated by the genjutsu master, Hiashi was ready to attack. However, a trench knife to the throat stayed his hand. He hadn't seen Asuma move that fast since...ever.
"Touch my wife, Hyuuga," Asuma deadpanned, "and I'll gut you where you stand."
Before a brawl could ensue, a squad of ANBU Black Ops, led by Kakashi, intervened.
In the end, Hiashi and Hannabi were reprimanded. Kurenai was cleared of any wrongdoing, but it was a bittersweet victory. Tsunade had to follow the rules of the Konoha Charter and Hinata was placed in the Bingo Book as a A-ranked missing-ninja with orders to retrieve on sight.
Now, the clan head and his heir was in a meeting with the Hyuuga Council.
"This is most disturbing news, Hiashi," one of the council members said. "Not only did Hinata had defected from the clan and from Konoha, but the Emperor was able to remove the Caged Bird Seal."
"Impossible!" a female Hyuuga main branch member said. "That seal was designed to be permanent! How can the Emperor remove it?"
"Either way, no one from the branch clan must not know about this," the first member said. "If they find out that the Caged Bird Seal can be removed, then we are looking at a civil war!"
"I agree," Hannabi said. "Hinata is gone, and the Bykaugan is in the hands of the Empire. That is unfortunate. But the Emperor cannot protect Hinata all the time. She is as my father has told me and it has already been proven, weak. All we have to do is bide our time. Hinata will return to the East. And when she does, we will strike. Furthermore, if it pleases my father and the honorable Hyuuga Council, I propose an...incentive to get Hinata back."
"Such as?" a third council member asked.
"A bounty contract on Hinata," Hannabi replied. "Twenty million ryo to anyone who brings Hinata back alive to face justice."
"A reasonable incentive," Hiashi said.
After talking it over, the three council members turned to Hiashi and Hannabi. "Your proposal is acceptable. Make it so."
Several hours later...
Shikamaru Nara was currently enjoying his favorite pastime: cloud watching. Or at least he was when the form of Sasuke Uchiha blocked out the clouds and the sun.
"So is it true then?" Shikamaru asked, not moving from his perch. "The Man in Black is the Emperor?"
"It is," the Uchiha replied.
"This complicates things. What do you want with me?"
"A word, with you and your father," Saskue said before walking off in the direction of the Nara home.
The lazy Chuunin groaned. "Damn. This is very troublesome."
Nara Ranch, later on...
Shikaku Nara played host to Sasuke Uchiha. The clan head/deer herder and his heir sat at a table with the Uchiha. Yoshino had served the three men drinks, stopping only to give her husband and the last Uchiha a nasty look each before retreating into the kitchen. Apparently, even the hotheaded wife of Shikaku disliked playing hostess to even Sasuke Uchiha.
"To what we owe the honor of your visit, Sasuke Uchiha?" Shikaku asked as he took a sip of his tea.
"The Emperor of the West," Saskue replied. "We all fought against him. We all lost."
"You want to trade notes," Shikaku surmised. "Not much to tell about him, only that for a kid, he's pretty damn tough. I always thought that he would be older. But still, to unify the west in only two years...very impressive. Fighting-wise, we got off light. Can't say the same for Hatake, the Inuzuka and the Hyuuga. He's a hard person to analyze, his fighting style ranging from direct and brutal to smooth and fluid."
"I saw that as well," Sasuke said. "His Taijutsu and Ninjitsu are top-notch. Add the fact that his bloodline pretty much blocks the Sharingan's ability to copy jutsu, he is indeed a formidable fighter."
"Given his skills and abililties," Shikamaru began, "he could easily make SS-ranking in the Bingo Book. Danzou's taken an interest in him."
"Pretty obvious," Sasuke said. "I think he's given up on me joining his side. But you got to admit that it's strange. The Emperor knew exactly how to fight each and every one of us. He knew our strengths and our weaknesses and exploited them to his advantage. He broke your Kagemane before Ino could posess him with her mind jutsu, and repeated the feat with your father. He knew how to counter and explot the weakness of the Hyuuga's Jyuuken. Rock Lee respects him, despite losing to him, as does Gai. Tenten is pretty much obsessed with that sword of his."
"But that beatdown he gave to the Inuzuka and Captain Hatake..." Shikaku shuddered. "Very troublesome."
Sasuke nodded. "Indeed. And look what happened to Hatake. And he and his Elite Guards took apart Danzou and his ROOT, as well as two seperate squads of ANBU Black Ops.
Captain Mitarashi wants a rematch against him. There's a lot more to this guy than he appears."
"You think that, wouldn't you?" Shikaku responded.
"Hatake may have been an idiot for a sensei, but he did teach one valuable lesson. 'Look underneath the underneath,'" the Uchiha replied. "Gaara seems to know him. Why else would he attend the Suna exams?"
"You're thinking that he could be allied with Suna?" Shikamaru asked.
Sasuke shrugged his shoulders. "Could be. I noticed an Imperial Consulate in the city. And Gaara was more than willing to allow the Emperor and myself to fight in the Suna arena once the tournament was completed. So yeah, an alliance with Suna is pretty feasible."
"Hard to believe that he unified the West while most of us made Chuunin," Shikamaru drawled. "And he survived a confrontation with Itachi and his shark-faced buddy, a feat in itself."
"And the fact that he has intercepted most of the Jinchuuriki from the Akatsuki..." Saskue trailed off. "Do you think that he can be among them?"
Shikaku and Shikamaru stiffened slightly. They knew that Sasuke was talking about Naruto. While the remaining members of Cell Seven were indifferent in regards to his banishment, Sasuke showed general remorse in seeing his former teammate banished. Shikamaru had even overheard him at his cousin Obito's grave one day, saying that Naruto may had been a knucklehead and a dead-last, but he was loyal and that the council should not have banished him.
But ever since Sasuke had released the details of the planned Uchiha Revolt, as well as of the circumstances of the Nine-Tails' attack on Konoha, he has gained even more of the shinobi population's mistrust. The civilian council continued to kiss his ass.
Sasuke downed the rest of the tea and placed the cup back on the tray. "Either way, I hope he is still alive and happy, regardless of his banishment. Thank you for your time, Lord Nara...Shikamaru. I think I can find my way out."
Once Sasuke was gone, Shikaku looked pensive for the first time in a while. "So what do you think?" he asked Shikamaru.
"Uchiha has a point," Shikamaru said. "Deception's always been part of our way of life. The Emperor is a wild card at best. A highly-skilled wild card, but a wild card nonetheless. Despite everything that has happened, he did save Asuma-sensei from Hidan."
Shikaku wasn't convinced. "What do you really think, son?"
Now that Saskue was gone, Shikamaru could speak freely. "That the Emperor could have spies and informants in the East. Maybe inside the Fire Capital, or even Konoha. Worse-case scenario is that the Emperor is connected to Konoha in some way, and knows how each of us fight, and counter our signature techniques. And the way he had
beaten down Neji and Lord Hyuuga, not to mention how he brutally beaten Captain Hatake, the Inuzuka Matriarch and Kiba...shows that those five had slighted him in some
way. Everyone else just got lucky. And the Emperor has been intercepting the Jinchuuriki...Sasuke did make a valid point. Uzumaki could be among them."
"You still think that he is the Nine-Tails reborn?"
Shikamaru thought about it for a moment. "When he was banished, yes. But now that I think about it...if he was the Kyuubi, then he would have long since razed this place to the ground. I think he really is the jailer. But more importantly, he will probably never forgive us for favoring Uchiha over him."
The elder Nara nodded. He then made a decision. "Shikamaru...what I am about to tell you must not be uttered outside these walls. No one, not even Asuma, or Chouji, or Ino or the Hokage herself must not know. Promise me."
Shikamaru nodded. "Is this a troublesome secret?"
"Troublesome does not even begin to describe it," Shikaku replied. "It concerns the circumstances of Uzumaki's banishment. Swear it to me, on your honor as a member of the Nara clan."
Shikamaru sighed. "I swear on the honor of the Nara clan. I will tell no one."
And Shikaku told him. Once he was finished, he stood up. "Feel free to throw up. I know I did."
Once Shikaku was out of the room, that was what Shikamaru had did. He made a beeline to the bathroom and emptied the contents of his stomach. His dad was right. Troublesome did not even begin to describe what has happened to Uzumaki.
'My God...what have we done...?' was the last thought that Shikamaru had before he puked again.
Snafu's Notes: This completes Naruto's side stories. Next will chronicle Hinata's side as she trains under Kiyomi, getting closer to Naruto, and will ultimately lead to the Akatsuki Invasion of Suna.