Team 7: A Retelling
By: Tellemicus Sundance
#13: Nobunaga's Plot
Northeast Hi no Kuni
They were nearly fifty miles away from Rikuzentakata when they finally felt safe enough to stop running from any would-be pursuers and set up camp. The camp itself was the epitome of functional simplicity. A blanket apiece for each, using their weapon pouches for pillows which (though admittedly uncomfortable) also kept their weapons close at hand. They made no fire despite being well inside Hi no Kuni, one can never be too cautious even in their own homeland. Their evening meal was a mixture of foraged plants and berries with some small amounts of cooked food they had brought with them from Rikuzentakata.
In the morning and after breaking their camp, Sakura finally got down to some very important business. Thus far, she'd been unable to because of the need to escape the citadel and the samurai, running through the trees, and setting up camp. Now however, with no further distractions, she began enacting vicious and barbarically brutal vengeance upon Naruto.
"WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT NEVER TAKING ME FLYING AGAIN?!" she was screaming as she held the blonde by his hair and repeatedly punched him in his face with her free hand. Naruto had tried to put up a defense, but a surprise use of Hyouton had captured and restrained his arms and hands at their sides under thick rings of ice, preventing him from being able to raise a defense or form a handseal.
"But—!" Naruto tried answering before being cut off by another punch. "Sakura—!" Punch! "I didn't—!" Punch! "mean to—!" Kick! "make us fly!"
Elbowing him on the top of his head, Sakura sent him crashing to the ground and immediately began savagely kicking him anywhere her feet could reach. "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW CLOSE WE ALMOST DIED?!" Raising her foot, she started stomping upon the side of his head, trying to bury his face in the dirt. "NEVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT EVER AGAIN, YOU STUPID ASS!"
At this point, Naruto was no longer trying to reason with the rampaging kunoichi. He was only crying out and yelling in pain at his injuries.
From where he was perched upon a nearby tree branch to keep a lookout, Sasuke watched the bloody scene with a bored eye. Truth be told, he wasn't surprised it had taken this long for Sakura to recover from her trauma and start laying punishment into where it was most definitely most deserved. Still, he decided to let her have her fun. It was better than having her bottle it up inside herself after all.
Returning his attention to the three scrolls they'd managed to steal from the Shogun's vault, Sasuke felt his temptation to open and read them return with a vengeance. What was contained within these scrolls that the Hi Daimyo had wanted? Was it really worth almost getting them killed over? And what was going on at Rikuzentakata in the first place, with those many different weapons and scores of trained and aggressive samurai? These questions and more plagued his thoughts and the realization that the answers may be within his grasp (literally) only compounded his desire to read them.
Finally succumbing to his curiosity, Sasuke took hold of one scroll and carefully slid it open.
Takumi no Sato, Kawa no Kuni
Jiraiya of the Densetsu no Sannin was a very devious man.
As one of the students of the Sandaime Hokage, he was a genius ninja who, alongside his teammates, had achieved S-Rank status in every single modern bingo book before he had turned twenty-one. As the holder of the Toad-Summoning Contract, he was the first user of the esoteric art of Senjutsu in over a century. As an interpersonal genius, he had, within four years' time, set up the most extensive spy network in the history of the elemental continent for the benefit of his home village.
As such, it was a true testament to his skill as a shinobi that most people who had met the white-haired man thought that he was an utter blithering moron.
Take, for example, the current situation that the Gama-Sennin had found himself in.
To the unskilled observer, it would appear that, after deciding to (once again) go peep on the local hot springs somehow, despite being a Kage-level shinobi, Jiraiya had (once again) been caught by a bunch of untrained civilians during his escapade. Afterwards, these civilian women had (once again) chased him halfway around the village, and were now (once again) in the process of brutally beating the pervert to within an inch of his life.
Of course, a skilled observer would see something quite different.
In the beginning, Jiraiya had, as he usually did, gone to the local hot springs in order to listen in on the gossiping civilian women. After all, a loudmouthed wife often hears the most interesting rumors and, to a man as skilled at understanding and organizing information as the Gama-Sennin, such rumors could translate into extremely important information on the current political and social climate in the area in which he was currently residing. After the white-haired man had decided that he was finished gathering information, he had, as per his usual modus operandi, allowed himself to be noticed by the bunch of furious, untrained civilian women. His reasons for allowing this were twofold:
One was, of course, the fact that it allowed Jiraiya to reinforce his idiot persona. After all, on the battlefield, almost every single time, the most underestimated shinobi was the one who lived the longest. In addition to this, it made gathering information that much easier. After all, while a man is careful of what he says in front of a genius, he does not regulate his words when speaking to a supposed idiot. And this was a fact that the Gama-Sennin took full advantage of.
The second reason was a bit less obvious, and was what led into the third action that the Jiraiya took. He allowed the women chasing him to capture him, and to administer their beat down. To any normal shinobi, a surprise kick in the balls by a civilian has just as much of an effect as it has on a normal person: the victim will usually go cross-eyed before collapsing to the ground, moaning in pain.
However, to a normal shinobi reinforcing his body with chakra, a kick in the family jewels from a civilian woman feels like nothing more than a slight tap on the leg. In other words, while he acted like he was in great pain when taking his usual 'beat down', Jiraiya felt very little actual agony from the strikes because he was constantly reinforcing his body with chakra.
And while the furious women continued to attack him, the perverted sage took every opportunity he could to cop a feel, or take a peek at their bodies. After all, while his idiocy may have been faked, his perversion was most certainly not.
Anyhow, this above point was the primary reason why Jiraiya was particularly annoyed when, in the midst of his latest bout of 'punishment', he felt the familiar tug of a reverse summoning as he was forcibly teleported to the top of Mount Myouboku. Quickly getting up from his position on the ground, the Gama-Sennin noticed both Fukasaku and Shima standing in front of him. Faced with two of the oldest sages on all of Mount Myouboku, the heirs of the Great Toad Sage, and his very own mentors in the arts of Senjutsu, Jiraiya did the natural thing.
He started whining.
"Maaaa! Paaaaa! Why did you call me here now? I was just getting to the good part!" he moaned.
"Jiraiya-chan" said Fukasaku, his face grave.
"I mean, just a few seconds longer and I would have gotten even more great peeks!" Jiraiya continued.
"Jiraiya-chan" said Shima, as veins popped out on both of the Great Sage Toads' heads.
"I mean really, Ma, Pa, you have the worst timing! There was that one woman…" Jiraiya's voice trailed off into a perverted giggle, while his hands grasped a pair of imaginary breasts.
"Jiraiya-chan!" both of the sages exclaimed, as they simultaneously kicked the Gama-Sennin in the head. "Listen to us!"
Looking up from his position on the ground, Jiraiya saw the serious expressions on the faces of the two great Sage Toads. He decided to stop playing around.
"Why did you call me?" he asked, schooling his emotions.
It was Shima who answered, "Jiraiya-chan, do you remember when you first came to these mountains, how the Great Toad Sage gave you a prophecy about your future?"
Jiraiya's face became grave. If this was about that prophecy, the prophecy of the Savior who would end the Cycle of Hatred, then what his mentors had to say was obviously very important. He nodded his head in affirmation.
"We called you here because Ojiji-sama has seen more visions relating to that prophecy."
Face grave, the Gama-Sennin spoke three words.
"Tell me everything."
The gates of Konoha were a welcome sight. Bekkou always felt relieved whenever he spotted them after returning home from an extended mission away. No matter just how incredible and beautiful the rest of the world may have been, there was truly no place like home. Passing through the gates went fairly quickly and he was soon making his way to the Hokage Tower to report in.
The streets were mostly empty at this hour. The sun just starting to reach the peek over the distant horizon, casting its blinding morning light over the sleepy world. The only ones awake at this hour were night owls, ninja on grave shift duty, and early birds. As such, he reached the Hokage Tower much sooner than usual.
The old man was probably not going to arrive in his office until two or three hours later. Still, Bekkou was well-accustomed to the usual procedure of early arrivals like this. He entered the Tower and quickly grabbed a sheet of paper to write up his report for the old man. In his report, he made careful observations and elaborations on numerous parts that he'd seen of the young genin team he'd been assigned to. To the best of his memory, he described all that had taken place. From the team's arrival, scouting out the city and situation, tactics used to get the keys, their ensuing escape from the citadel, their journey away, and setting up camp before he'd left them to return home.
It should be noted that Bekkou was a Chuunin with no family, children, or genin team. He'd been a ninja of Konoha for close to thirty years and had long since forgotten what it was like to be an impulsive preteen and self-assured teenager. So he'd naturally assumed that the genin he'd left behind would report directly to the Daimyo and then return to Konoha once their mission was over now that they'd completed their objectives.
Once he'd finished, he left the report in the returned mission stack for the Hokage and his advisors to review. He left quickly afterwards, desiring to sleep in his own bed after a nice long shower.
Even if the shadowy ninja hadn't been skilled in stealth, Bekkou wouldn't have noticed the dark silhouette descend upon the mission report and quickly copy its contents. Its master had been especially interested in the outcome of this mission and what its results could mean for his plans for Konoha.
Northern Hi no Kuni
"Naruto, Sakura," Sasuke's sharp voice called out, instantly grabbing two's attentions. He'd spoken in that soft but sharp tone of his that was only used when he was very, very angry but was trying to restrain himself. "We've got a very big problem."
"What's the problem?" Sakura asked immediately before she noticed just what he was glaring at so hatefully. "Why are you reading those?! You know we're not supposed to! We'll get in trouble if anyone finds out!"
"It's a good thing I did," Sasuke answered in the same tone of voice. "I just figured out what the Shogun is planning to do with all of those weird weapons."
"What's going on?" Naruto asked as he picked himself off the ground carefully, his entire body was throbbing with pain from his recent beat down by Sakura.
Dropping to the ground from his perch on the tree, Sasuke laid out the three partially unrolled scrolls upon the ground. Just from a glance, they could see that the scrolls contained detailed, coded schematics and drawings of various things. One scroll held the sketched drawing of one of those flintlock muskets and a larger version called a cannon. Another held the design drawings of the same type of conical tank that the three of them had hijacked and subsequently smashed in their escape. And the third one seemed to be of the large machine they'd glimpsed in the warehouse. It was apparently an aquatic vehicle that seemed able to travel beneath the ocean surface, if they were able to decipher the designs correctly.
"While these are interesting, Sasuke-kun," Sakura said carefully as her mind raced at the implications such machines of war could have. "It doesn't explain why you're so angry."
"By themselves, they don't explain anything," Sasuke admitted. "But they are still pieces of a puzzle. Remember: look underneath the underneath." As he was gesturing to each of the scrolls, Sakura absentmindedly noted that he was holding a folded letter in his free hand. "Here are the musket and cannons. Weapons meant for infantry and basic foot soldiers, something we've seen in Rikuzentakata." Naruto and Sakura nodded in agreement as he moved to the next scroll. "A vehicle loaded with cannons and explosives. Something meant to mow down large numbers of enemies quickly." At the last scroll, he hesitated for a moment but continued nonetheless. "This is a vehicle capable of traveling underwater and probably for long periods of time. This thing would likely be quite dangerous out in the open sea and against a standard ship, especially if it's got some kind of underwater weapon system."
Looking up at his teammates and friends, he said, "All of this is armament for a quickly trained and easily replaceable army. It takes a ninja years to become effective killing machines. But with these weapons, it'd probably only take a matter of months for a common man to become deadly in his own right. These are weapons meant to make ninja obsolete and worthless. Can you imagine the devastation that could happen if so many people could become so 'strong' in so short a time?" Holding up the folded letter, his grim expression deepened considerably as he glared at it. "But the real kicker is this!"
Taking the letter from Sasuke, Sakura read aloud, "'I am pleased that progress is going according to plan and that you will be ready to launch the offensive within two weeks, sooner if all goes well. Tell your men that they shall be playing a key role in the battle to restore the samurai honor. Make sure my army shall be ready.'…What is this?" Although she said that, a deep feeling of fear had settled into the pit of her stomach as her intellectual side told her the obvious. The letter hadn't been signed, but it was clear that someone of considerable power had written it.
"Check the date," Sasuke said, lightly tapping that section of the letter. "It's been almost two weeks since then."
"Wait a minute!" Naruto piped up, an uncharacteristic look of horrified realization. "If that's true, then that means that the bastard's probably already on the march, right?! But then, what's he targeting?"
"More like 'who' is he targeting?" Sasuke corrected as he sat down and crossed his arms to think carefully aloud. "There must be some clues here that we've overlooked. What did the letter say? 'They shall be restoring the samurai honor'? What could have happened to cause the samurai to 'lose their honor' in the first place?"
As they began thinking back on what they'd seen in Rikuzentakata, an idea began to form slowly like the rising of the tides. "Ninja," Sakura said in a soft, almost disbelieving voice. "Samurai and ninja have always been at odds. When the villages were formed and the ninja clans stopped fighting each other, the Daimyo of the lands began to hire them more regularly. And while the ninja grew in strength, the samurai began to fade away, either of old age or becoming ninja themselves."
"Which means," Sasuke continued, picking up on her thought process instantly. "That to 'restore their honor', they are going to either prove they're still a force to be reckoned with or they're going to remove the one 'responsible' for their decline."
"The Daimyo?!" Naruto and Sakura gasped, realizing the full implications of such a move instantly. But then Sakura remembered something else, turning to look down at the letter again in curiosity. "But it doesn't seem like it's the samurai, or even the Shogun himself, who's behind this plot. It's whoever wrote this letter and got the Shogun to support him or her. They are probably the one who's got the most to gain, but who is it?"
"It'd probably be a shorter list to name those who wouldn't be interested in taking a Daimyo's life," Naruto pointed out forlornly.
"What are we gonna do?" Sakura asked nervously. "We're still three days away from Konoha or the Daimyo's palace. There's no telling just who's involved in this plot. And there's no way we could call or receive help in time to put a stop to this!" Naruto and Sasuke glanced at each other, both mirroring thoughts similar to those that Sakura had just voiced.
Turning serious immediately, Sasuke stood up and turned to his friends. "We're going back. Back to Rikuzentakata and putting a stop to this ourselves."
"Sounds fun," Naruto grinned in response. "I'm in!"
"This is really a bad idea," Sakura pointed out, staring at the ground in remorse at her idiotic and battle-hungry teammates. Then, she instantly brightened and raised her head, smiling at the thought of finally getting to test out her strength against some actual enemies. "But I guess we don't have a choice in the matter. And you're not going anywhere without me!"
Taking the scrolls, Sasuke turned and hurled them into the air. Immediately afterwards, he launched a Goukakyuu at them and incinerated them without pause or remorse. Slipping the letter into his equipment pouch as he glanced at his surprised friends, he grunted out, "That was knowledge too dangerous to be left in the hands of men."
Naruto shrugged in response and Sakura sighed, shaking her head. It was already done, so no point in mourning the deed.
Gates of Rikuzentakata
They were dressed in common civilian garb, no weapons or sealing scrolls in sight. They acted like normal people, unrestrained and undisciplined (which they usually were anyways). All they had on their person was the traveling equipment of nomads, rucksacks filled with camping and cooking supplies. There were only two things that really stood out about them. One of those reasons was the interactions between two of the three travelers.
"Man, you know that this isn't going to work, right?" Omoi asked, rolling the sucker in his mouth to relieve some stress. "They're going to notice us. Then Karui's going to fly off the handle, get us arrested, and then they're going to invade Kaminari no Kuni in vengeance."
"Will you shut up already, Omoi!" Karui all but shrieked as she glared at her pessimistic teammate. "This was your idea! So, if it goes wrong, it's going to be entirely your fault!"
"I rest my case," Omoi remarked candidly. "We're doomed."
"Quiet," Samui ordered quietly. "It's our turn."
It was Samui who was the second reason that they stood out when compared to normal travelers. Her aloof expression contrasted sharply with her bright blonde hair and marvelous body figure, which she had apparently no qualms against showing off. Indeed, more than half of the stares they were attracting in the long line of merchants and travelers who were lined up outside the gates of the citadel were caused by the sizeable amount of cleavage she was showing and the way her clothes were hugging her shapely thighs.
Before Karui could say anything else, the gates before them opened to show an annoyed looking samurai with short, black hair that spiked a little at the back, dark eyes, and a perpetual frown.
"All three of you, show your identification," the samurai said, glaring around at them, "If it is verified, you will be given a visa that allows traverse within the civilian sector of Rikuzentakata. You all have a room at one of the inns here, and you will be permitted to travel within the civilian sectors until your departure. Failure to comply with these regulations, and you will be arrested and imprisoned until further notice."
Omoi took in this information, feeling strange. There weren't many places that had permits or anything else like that before. While Omoi hadn't paid any more attention to Hi no Kuni's laws or rulings than any other Academy child, he had never heard of a civilian sector or anything else like what the samurai was talking about. This was all new to him.
The check was highly humiliating. They were lined up, asked to produce their passports, and looked at suspiciously for about three minutes. Karui was very impatient when Omoi's turn came.
"Oh, come on," she grumbled, "He's just here to annoy me. How suspicious can he be? I mean he's deathly afraid of weapons, squeamish, and can't manipulate chakra to save his life. Let's get a move on!"
The samurai gave her a bored look and continued, moving slightly slower, probably just to spite her. When they left, Omoi waved cheerfully back at the samurai and called "You're gonna wish you didn't do that tomorrow!"
Though he didn't know it, Omoi had just more or less completely read Karui's mind for she was already planning on ways to humiliate the samurai in the near- to immediate-future.
"That's enough," Samui ordered once they were safely inside without incident. "We've got a mission to do. Let's get to it."
"Hai," Karui and Omoi agreed, already looking forward to finishing this tiresome mission.
Takumi no Sato, Kawa no Kuni
The next day, morning…
Jiraiya was returned to the middle of the street from which he had been summoned. He immediately dashed to the hotel in which he was staying and began to pack.
"I see an approaching storm that will herald in a great change to the world, shaking it to its very foundations," the Great Toad Sage's voice echoed in his head, "Led by the fierce tiger, aided by the cunning fox, shielded by a protective wolf, and guided by a loyal dog, these four will be the center and cause of many battles. But should they fall to the cripple who is not, the young man with strong eyes will finish the work of his forefather."
(Author's Note) Heheheh, I bet a lot of you thought that we'd seen the last of Rikuzentakata after the last chapter, eh? Nope, it's a central location to this arc, which still has at least two more chapters to play in (assuming the chapter length is as I want them to be). To be honest, I expected this chapter to be at least 3,000+ words longer, but then I realized it's mostly a filler chapter to reach the next substantial part of the arc.
Big time shout-out to animefan29 for beta-reviewing and AQZT who let me borrow his scene with Jiraiya. For those you who don't know, that scene was from his The Brothers Namikaze fanfic. Great story, too bad it hasn't been updated in forever.
Kawa no Kuni—Land of Rivers, located between the Lands of Fire and Wind