Chapter Two, Part One

Naruto took off after Ash as she leapt from rooftop to rooftop. She continued on until she reached the outskirts of Konoha, and subsequently the waterfall. She turned and looked around before unwrapping her cloak from around her and draping it over a tree branch.

Naruto stopped a ways back and sat on a branch, settling himself so that he could see and remain unseen. He couldn't help but stare as she moved to take her shirt off, slightly relieved and worried when he noticed that her entire torso and right arm, previously covered by the sleeve, were covered in white bandages.

He noticed the scabbard resting on her hip and realized that it must have been what was in the long package she had picked up earlier. Her hand drifted to the hilt of the sword, gripped it, and slowly pulled it from the scabbard. The gems on it glinted in the shining moonlight, firestones dancing in time to the waterfall, the water reflecting the light into them in complex patterns. The redhead bowed her head and brushed her free hand over the flat side of the weapon. Naruto blinked, seeing a small drop land on the blade's dark surface.

"Raki…" She whispered. It was so soft that Naruto barely caught it, leaning forward instinctively in case further words were spoken.

The sword lifted over her head and suddenly a dark red aura seemed to form around it.

"Chakra? It's an odd color though…Like the kyuubi's? But…" Naruto thought, confused.

'That chakra isn't demonic, boy. But the sword, however…well that belonged to another demon, stronger than me.' The sound of the demon's voice entered his head, the tone dripping with loathing.

"Hey, who asked you?" The blonde retorted mentally.

'No one, but that doesn't mean I can't say anything.' Kyuubi scoffed.

"Whatever. But…wait. You said a demon stronger than you? I thought you were the strongest." Naruto said, even more confused than before.

'Ha! You humans in this area had the nine lower demons to annoy you. Further north, the queen of all tailed beasts terrorized the villages.' The kyuubi explained rather scornfully. Naruto blinked.

"But how do you think she got that sword? And what 'queen of all tailed beasts' are you talking about? It's female?" Naruto questioned, watching as Ash began to slash out with the blade, twisting her body for greater reach.

'Well, going backwords, yes. She's a female. And the she-demon is the Ten Tailed Tigress. As for your final question…no one but the tiger demon has the power to wield that sword.'

"Wouldn't that mean…she's..?" Naruto stared in disbelief at the kunoichi.

'The jichurrinki of the she-demon. That's really the only possible explanation. I can sense a black demonic aura at any rate. I'm sure it belongs to that tigress.' The demon confirmed the boy's suspicions.

Naruto thought for a moment. It seemed that she was like him; she had her own literal demon to put up with. He wondered why she had come to Konoha, in that case. Villages usually fought tooth and nail to keep a demon confined within their boundaries, yet here she was. Maybe she had run from her former home to seek refuge elsewhere?

He continued to watch as the girl fluidly cut through the air with the weapon, occasionally sweeping the black metal so low to the water that he could see small ripples form, but no splash of water to indicate contact. When she finally came to a rest, he noticed that she seemed out of breath and rather exhausted.

'That sword must feed off of her chakra.' The fox demon observed.

"What! Why?" Naruto leaned against the tree trunk, keeping his eyes on the redhead.

'Well, it is a demonic weapon, after all. It must require some form of payment for its power.'

At the waterfall, Ash slipped into the water, which reached about to her waist. "Damn demon…making use that stupid sword. Oh shut up!" She glared down at her stomach. She rolled her eyes and unbuckled the sword from her belt and placing it on the rock she had just been on. "Damnit stop nagging already! …What?" He eyes suddenly turned to where Naruto was crouched in the trees, causing him to freeze like a statue. She continued to stare for a moment before shrugging. "I don't see anyone." She finally said, turning around to look at the waterfall.

"Why is she talking out loud if she's talking to the demon?" Naruto asked after he was sure the girl's attention wasn't on him.

"Maybe she doesn't want that she-demon in her thoughts?" The kyuubi chuckled. "It actually is possible for you to block a demon's view of your thoughts by talking out loud and concentrating on those words." Naruto scowled.

"Why didn't you tell me!" He snapped, crossing his arms and silently fuming over the revelation.

This only served to amuse the fox demon further. "Your thoughts are very entertaining. Sometimes even cute. Like right know; I'm getting some that sound like you have a little crush on the girl." The kyuubi burst out laughing as Naruto turned beet-red, suddenly glad that the voice was only in his head.

"Bastard fox…" He mumbled, receiving another roar of laughter from the creature trapped inside him.

"Shit! Not tonight…" Ash was staring at the moon with a look of frustration on her face. In a quick motion she was out of the water, reaching for her cloak and pulling it around her before dashing back to the rocks to gather up her sword and shirt. Naruto took a moment to glance upwards and find that the moon was glowing full and bright that night.

He blinked, confused by her sudden outburst. "What's she doing?" He wondered aloud quietly, following her movement with his eyes and she dashed towards the trees. After a moment of consideration he followed, keeping to the trees trying to avoid detection. He stopped in his tracks as Ash slowed and let herself fall against a tree.

"Don't do it boy. You don't know what you might be getting into and neither do I." Kyuubi warned a second before Naruto was prepared to abandon his cover.

"Damn it." He cursed, not letting his body relax as he continued to hide in the branches.

Ash gasped and groaned, showing obvious signs of strain with no obvious cause. "Why…the hell couldn't you wait…ugh…" Her red chakra began to swirl around her and she slid sideways from the tree, landing on her side with a loud thump. Naruto gritted his teeth as the girl tried to prop herself up on her arms. She nearly succeeded, but a violent fit of coughing seemed to cause what little strength she had to leave her collapsed on the ground, her cloak wrapped around her ailing body like a blanket. She curled up into a ball beneath it as a black chakra replaced her own.

She stilled for several minutes, but Naruto stayed hidden until the black aura dissipated into the air around her. He noticed that her body seemed to relax, but he could tell by the irregular up and down movement of her upper body under the cloak that she was still breathing.

"Alright, go ahead. She's passed out." At 'alright' Naruto was already on the ground and by the mysterious girl's side.

He gently turned her only her black, and as he did so the cloak fell to the side. Naruto gasped as what he saw beneath sank in. Cuts and bruises seemed to be everywhere they hadn't been before. It seemed like not a single centimeter of skin was left untouched by whatever strange force has ransacked her body.

"What the hell?" His eyes widened in surprise for a moment before narrowing in anger.

"Don't ask me. Ask the girl." Kyuubi stated. "But first I recommend you find someone to heal those nasty things. It's hard to ask a dead person a question, after all."

Naruto would have liked to punch the oversized fox in the jaw right at that moment, but instead he gently wrapped the cloak about the girl's frail seeming form and picked her up. In silence he exited the wood and entered the residential area of Konoha, trying to remember his pink-haired teammate's home address.