A VERY NARUTO CHRISTMAS (2013)
I I I
Down in yon forest, ninjas live there
Hiding in darkness and leaves as they live
But in this season they act without care
Revelry and happiness of this holiday give
Beneath the mountain in that village where
Friends and family gathered for the season
All raising glass and taking feast in compare
To give their daily toil and work its true reason
Tenten raised her glass, singing the carol with Gai and Lee, and then drank down the eggnog with them as they finished singing the carol.
She sighed, setting the glass down, before smiling at her sensei and friend.
"I should probably get going." She admitted.
"Yosh!" Gai said, swinging his glass excitedly. Fortunately it was empty so there was nothing to slosh around. "Your youth is burning like a warm fire, to spend time with both friends and lover tonight!"
"Yosh!" Lee agreed. "We'll see you at the party later, right?" He asked.
Tenten had a fixed smile on her face from dealing with Gai. Even after all these years she wasn't sure if he was being a sincere dork or teasing her on a level only Kakashi could follow. Instead she opted to answer Lee's question.
"Yes." She said. "I'm going to meet up with Naruto and then we'll head over to the Hokage's tower for the end of the night."
"Burn brightly!" Lee cheered, as she shrugged on her coat.
"Yes, yes." She agreeably said. "See you later!" She closed the door with a cheerful wave as they cheered her on. She had no idea what their plans where for the rest of the evening.
She rubbed her hands together, breathing on them before sliding her gloves on. Her breath frosted into crystals in the freezing air. It was snowing gently, soft white flakes that fell over everything and blurred the outlines. The edges of buildings became soft, and the great trees growing everywhere became even more impressive, their bare winter branches weighted down with the bright snow, shining from lights illuminating the night.
She climbed a rickety staircase that had slowly evolved from a fire escape to a regular access. She tried the door once, grunting softy as it refused to open. Naruto wasn't home yet; he made a point of always unlocking all his doors when he was expecting visitors.
She fished out her key, hearing a satisfying click as the mechanism acted, and she opened the door, pulling it open and stepping inside, rubbing her shoulders in the chill and closing the door behind her.
The lights were all off, but there was a soft multi-colored glow from the tree in the other room.
There was a soft sound, like someone moving around.
"Naruto?" She called out. Her hand slid down to the pouch of kunai at her side out of habit, even as she walked towards the front room.
When she stepped around the hallway wall, she blinked.
Hunched over a large sack was a tall and rail-thin man. His full beard was pure white and hung down from his chin to spread out and cover his chest from shoulder to shoulder. He wore long robes of white with a red cape thrown over his shoulders.
He was frozen in place, setting a wrapped present under the tree as he looked up, silently meeting Tenten's eyes.
His skin was papery and pasty-white, with strange square patterns marching across it. His eyeballs were jet-black orbs. A battered black silk tophat sat on his head, and he radiated a foul chakra.
"Edo Tensei?" Tenten breathed, hand slipping out of her pouch with three kunai clenched between her fingers.
Without speaking, the man in red launched himself at her, fist extended in a strange taijutsu guard.
I I I
Outside, the snow gently fell. Warm lights from buildings shone out across the snow on a cold night. There was only a hint of the moon through the night clouds, and all was silent.
The side of an apartment building exploded outward, as a young lady wielding dozens of knives simultaneously engaged in fierce battle with an immortal zombie in a red cape who used an ancient and brutal style of martial arts that predated modern taijutsu.
Christmas time, in Konoha.
I I I
"Why, in my day, ninja knew how to respect tradition."
"Yeah, yeah." Naruto said, patting the man sitting next to him on the shoulder as he nursed his own cup of eggnog. His eyebrow was twitching.
"There was none of this fancy stuff you kids do today with the seals and all that." Danzo continued to complain, oblivious to Naruto's mounting impatience. "We just tried to obliterate each other with high-density assault jutsus, and damn the collateral damage." He downed another glass, holding it out for a Root agent to obediently refill it.
"Yeah, times were tough." Naruto agreed, not entirely keeping the sarcasm out of his voice. "I bet you had to go uphill through the snow both ways 'cause the doton users kept remodeling the battlefield."
"Darn Tootin." Danzo muttered.
Naruto glanced over to the clock on the wall and winced. "Listen, it's been a lot of fun, but I'm going to be late if I'm not out of here, like, five minutes ago, so I'll catch up with you later, okay?"
"Hmph." Danzo grunted, waving him away irritably. "Kids these days, always in a hurry." He sorrowfully took another long pull on his drink.
"And maybe slow down a little yourself, huh?" Naruto said, eyes flicking to the Root operative behind the bar, who nodded assiduously in response.
"Well, I'm out." Naruto announced.
"I'll see you to the door." Sai cheerfully said, kicking back from the bar on the far side of Danzo.
"Yeah, that's..." Naruto thought about the last time Sai and Tenten had interacted. "Just to the door is fine, I don't wanna take you away from your... this." Naruto said, gesturing around at the absolutely silent bar in a hidden bunker, populated with Root operatives who were all sitting stiffly with their masks on.
"It is a pretty big party." Sai agreed, eyes screwed up in that plastic smile.
Naruto glanced around again. One of the shinobi on the end raised his glass in a toast, only for kunoichi sitting next to him to elbow him furtively. He slowly lowered the glass.
"Yeah, it's a real madhouse." Naruto blithely agreed, shrugging his coat on as he went for the door.
"I'm happy that Danzo-sama invited you." Sai said. "At this rate, you'll become the next leader of The Root without any problems."
Naruto paused, and then slowly slid his hands into his pockets as he started climbing the three story staircase to the surface. "Yeah, about that." He muttered. "Not that it's not great to be acknowledged, 'cause that's really awesome and all, but, uh..." he faltered, for once in his life at a loss for words.
But, like always, he bulled through. "Why is Danzo treating me like we're super best pals now?" He finally settled on. "I mean, I'm pretty good at the whole, making friends out of enemies thing, but, this is a little... much, even for me."
"Danzo-sama doesn't do anything by half-measures." Sai happily supplied, as if that completely explained everything.
"Yeah, that's definitely one way of putting it." Naruto agreed with a sigh. "It's just... confusing, I guess." He hated complicated things more than anything in the world.
Naruto reached out, and pulled the lever to activate the secret door. They clung to the wall as it spun around, switching them with a shelf of crappy books in a mediocre bookstore in the commercial district.
"I just wish he wasn't so... nutty about it." Naruto muttered, as they snuck out the back door and walked down the alley towards his apartment.
"What do you mean?" Sai asked, blinking innocently. "Danzo-sama is the most normal person I know."
Naruto turned in place, inspecting Sai's face with a suspicious look on his face. "You're probably not the most objective person to talk to about this." Naruto finally decided, turning back towards the front. "Maybe I should see what Iruka's doing next week."
Sai frowned. "What's that sound?"
A pitter-patter of feet, and sharp drumbeats like hail on a tin roof.
"Crap!" Naruto shouted, instantly recognizing the sounds of early-round ninja combat before the elemental stuff got pulled out.
Immediately, he jumped up, eyes darting around as he scanned the skyline, his attention darting around until he found the cause.
Tenten jumped from one roof to another in a backflip, using the instant when her body was turned away to hide the motion of drawing her kunai, launching them with pinpoint accuracy as she landed.
Her opponent, a zombie in a white gown with a red cape, took a powerful step forward, arms moving in stirring motions as he calmly struck each flying knife out of the sky with a heavy palm strike.
"Sai." Naruto ordered. "Go report to the Hokage."
"Yes!" Sai said, snapping to attention. "What should I report?"
"Edo Tensei." Naruto said the obvious part first, before he licked his lips. "It's Sinterklaas."
"Yes." Sai said, disappearing with shunshin.
Naruto dropped into a battle stance. "Let's go crazy!" He shouted, dragging the zombie's attention away so Tenten could pincer around.
The battle was joined.
I I I
"Rasengan!" Naruto slammed the spiral sphere into the side of their opponent, sending him spinning away even as it ripped open his side.
"What's the situation?" He asked, landing in a guard stance next to Tenten.
"He infiltrated your apartment." Tenten replied. "I moved to engage, but we haven't gotten past feeling out what kind of taijutsu we're each capable of." She shook her head. "He uses some kind of old-fashioned fighting style that relies on strong arms. I don't really recognize it, but he hasn't used any jutsus."
"Not yet." Naruto grunted tersely, watching as their opponent stood straight, ignoring the gaping hole in his chest that was slowly sealing itself shut as the false flesh recreated itself and papered the wound shut like a gift being wrapped.
The thin figure, Sinterklaas, seemed to make a decision, dropping into a fighting stance as his hands flickered through handseals.
"A summoning!" Naruto shouted, forming the cross-seal with his own fingers.
"Right!" Tenten said, hands moving quickly through her own seals before she slapped the ground.
It all happened at once.
The Sinterklaas figure stepped back, stomping sharply as he whipped his hands apart. The instant he did so, the shadows all around them flickered, as dozens of dark figures climbed out, pure-black outlines of armed soldiers. Each was like a silhouette of a different person, merely the outline of a jet-black figure holding diverse weapons.
Naruto flared his chakra, dozen of copies of himself springing into being and charging forward to engage the shadowy army in a chaotic melee, filling the air with his shouts as they clashed.
And a humongous toad with a sharp jacket appeared, curled up in a crouch under Tenten.
"Big sis?" The toad boomed, disoriented.
"Sorry, Gamakichi." She apologized. "But we've got a problem."
"Is it Naruto's fault again?" The toad asked with a suspicious scowl.
"HEY!" The annoyed cry rang out in unison from dozens of throats.
"That's a yes." The toad answered his own question, before shaking his head with a sigh, rolling one eye up to look at the girl perched on his head. "So what's the plan, big sis?"
"Keep your eye on the tall red one." She said. "When we get the chance, we'll flash fry him."
Their eyes tracked the tall figure, darting between the clash of orange-and-black, dealing decisive blows where he could while dodging knives and Rasengans in turn, probing for the real Naruto so he could end the battle.
Of course, the real Naruto wouldn't be among them.
"Now!" Tenten shouted.
"Right!" Gamakichi agreed, and then his cheeks bulged, and he sprayed high-pressure oil across the battle, tracing Sinterklaas.
Tenten breathed in, hands darting through handseals, and then added her own fire as she exhaled, the katon jutsu igniting the oil and sending up everything in a blaze.
"Ah, crap!" Naruto shouted, landing on Gamakichi's back in a crouch, hunched over and shivering. "Try to go easy on my Bunshins, at least! I get their memories!"
"Got him!" Gamakichi shouted in triumph, completely ignoring Naruto.
Blazing like a Christmas bonfire, a tall figure wreathed in flame jumped up and away, ignoring his own combustion as he leaped up onto the spire of a taller apartment building to stare down at them.
His hands came up, forming handseals.
Space distorted, and his transportation arrived in the opening swirl of space/time jutsu. It wasn't a sleigh, but rather, a huge steam-powered airship that emerged, with paddle-like propellers that droned as the iron-framed construct slid through the air behind them.
He crouched, jumping powerfully to land on the deck of the airship.
"Don't let him escape!" Tenten shouted.
"On it!" Gamakichi agreed, launching himself with the powerful legs of a toad, his tongue shooting out to wrap around the railing so he could pull himself and his two human passengers up towards the ship before it could disappear completely.
The toad had barely pulled himself on board, before a distortion of space/time swallowed the airship back up, intended and unintended passengers all.
I I I
"So what do we know?" Kakashi finally asked, his eye lazily fixed on the page of the book open under his nose.
Sasuke wasn't fooled. He hadn't changed pages even once since the meeting began. He was just using the book as a security blanket.
"Tenten was engaging an unknown combatant, animated with Edo Tensai, that had broken into Naruto's house. Naruto identified the combatant as 'Sinterklaas' and then moved to engage. I was ordered to report here." Sai recited in response to Kakashi's question.
"Witnesses reported that he created shadowy soldiers with a summoning jutsu, and then all of them disappeared aboard some kind of airship." Genma added, flicking the senbon in his mouth back and forth from one side to the other as he spoke.
Aoba grunted, adjusting his glasses. "I checked Naruto's apartment. He distributed presents just like Santa Claus, but they were all coal. I checked around. He visited several houses, but of every house we've identified, it was all coal without any exceptions."
"And what do we know about Sinterklaas." Tsunade broke in, still hunched over her desk with her fingers interlocked.
Raido shrugged. "It's an older version of Santa Claus from the Cloud country. Supposedly he travels there from Wave on his airship."
"Maybe he's a predecessor of the current Santa Claus." Aoba hazarded a guess.
"Then the real question is who brought him back, and why?" Genma replied, leaning back in his seat with a discontented sigh.
Sasuke stood up. He ignored it when everyone glanced over to him, turning and walking towards the door.
"Moving in haste will cause mistakes." Kakashi blandly admonished.
"This is a waste of time." Sasuke scornfully replied, stepping through the door before anyone could stop him.
Yes. Sasuke slowly nodded to himself as he walked through the dark halls. Trying to understand what was going through Naruto's head was pointless.
There was a better way to do things.
I I I
Konohamaru crept through the house.
He was careful to step smoothly and lightly with his whole foot so the floorboards underneath him wouldn't creak. He blended in with the shadows.
He came to a T-intersection in the hallway, and calmly checked both ways, before sliding around the corner.
He was one with the shadows.
He slid along the wall, even his breathing was soundless as he moved with fluid grace, his excellent sneaking the result of long practice.
He wasn't just one with the shadows, he practically was a shadow at this point.
And he would escape.
With a fierce smile tugging at his lips, he came out to the veranda, looking out across the moonlit garden at the center of the Hyuuga compound.
A dark and flat voice spoke behind him.
"Holy-!" Konohamaru bit out, before silencing himself, whirling in place, hands coming up to a taijutsu guard. No matter what, he wouldn't allow her to drag him back into her insanity!
His guard faltered, as his eyes met the singularly unimpressed gaze of Uchiha Sasuke staring down at him, shrouded in darkness. His sharingan was slowly turning, the wheel-like motion of his eyes laden with a certain inevitability.
"What the hell do you want?" Konohamaru whispered, turning back to scout the garden and make sure they weren't found. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm kinda in the middle of something here."
"I need you to summon a toad." Sasuke ignored Konohamaru's complaints to issue his command. "Naruto got involved in some stupid thing again. I want you to take me to the North Pole to nip this right in the bud."
"I don't want to help you or him." Konohamaru grunted without turning back. Yes, he was a shadow. He slid along the wall like a shadow, one with the shadows!
"Hmn." Sasuke grunted, clearly at a loss for how to proceed when direct orders failed.
"Konohamaru?" A tired but still cute voice called out.
His blood froze.
Hanabi rounded the corner, a simple nightie hanging from her still-budding body as she rubbed at her eyes with the back of her hand. "Come back to bed." She spoke in a cajoling voice, still half-asleep.
Tucked under her other arm was a teddy bear with a long scarf around its neck, and a ball-gag in its mouth.
That was only the tip of the crazy. Konohamaru knew the innocence was just a thin illusion. Under that virginal white nightgown was a leather harness with all kinds of strange zipper openings.
Sasuke made another annoyed grunt, turning around.
"Hey." He said in a commanding voice.
Hanabi's eyes drifted over to him with an uncertain expression, her gaze naturally going up to meet his.
"Sharingan." Sasuke announced, displaying the extremely blase approach to brainwashing appropriate for an Uchiha, and Konohamaru could feel the older boy's chakra speed up as he used a genjutsu.
Hanabi's eyes went flat and out of focus, and with mechanical motions, she turned and walked back the way she came.
Sasuke turned back with a peevish look on his face.
"So where did you need to go again, bro?" Konohamaru asked with a grin, rubbing his hands together to warm up his fingers for a jutsu. "The North Pole, right?"
Sasuke opened his mouth with a confused frown on his face, before he closed it as his expression shifted towards uncertainty. "Uh, yes."
"Arrite!" Konohamaru cheered, jumping out into the garden to summon Gamatatsu to carry them along for a teleportation. "One Polar Express, coming up!"
I I I
"Oraaaa!" Naruto shouted, swinging on a severed wire like a pendulum as he whipped around in the cold desert sky, curving around and slamming into the side of the airship envelope, his Rasengan tearing a great hole in the side.
Tenten threw a clutch of kunai with each hand, pinning some of the shadow soldiers in place, and forming a handseal to activate the exploding seals.
Beside her, Gamakichi opened his mouth, spraying oil to create a slick coating on the deck of the airship.
A regenerated Sinterklaas weaved, stomping hard as he lunged forward with a swift punch, air rippling as a shockwave blasted out towards them.
"Look out!" Gamakichi shouted.
Tenten grimaced, crossing her arms to block the impact.
Naruto slammed into her from the side, knocking her out of the way as the vacuum blow hammered into him, collapsing his chest with a wet gasp.
"Naruto!" Tenten shouted in horror.
He burst into smoke.
"An opening!" Naruto shouted, slamming a Rasengan into Sinterklaas from behind.
The rippling sphere exploded, sending the red giant blasting forward.
Tenten quickly rolled out of the way, whipping three knives out in a throw mid-roll.
The brace hit Sinterklaas in the head, one in the throat, one in the eye, and one in the forehead.
She formed a handseal, and the exploding tags detonated.
The zombie-like Sinterklaas froze, half-standing half-crouching as his head was blown off, the black silk hat on his head curving away crazily as it was carried on a shockwave.
Sinterklaas didn't move.
"Did that get him?" Naruto said with an uncertain frown.
A toad the size of a hand popped into air. "Hey!" It said in a cheerful voice. "Big bro! Big sis! Little bro sent a message!"
A falling sensation set into Tenten's stomach, and she felt herself lift off the deck.
The airship was falling towards the ground.
"Looks like we got him." Tenten muttered, reaching out to grab the railing.
"What now?" Gamakichi asked, in an uncertain voice. As a summons, he could just pop away whenever he wanted.
"Hey, I know where we are." Naruto announced in a cheerful voice.
He scrabbled across the deck, hand-over-hand on the railing. "Hey Tenten, brace me, okay?"
"Right!" She shouted over the building roar of the wind, planting her feet on the floor and using her chakra to grab hold, wrapping her right arm around Naruto's waist and leaning in to pin him against the rail she was gripping with her other hand.
I I I
Gaara frowned up at the night sky, examine the huge airship structure hurtling down towards his village.
His fingers twitched, and the sand readied itself around him, to shield everyone with his powers.
But a huge gust of wind blasted out of the side of the airship, pushing it away from the village, slowly changing angles as it went until it was pointed straight down, slowing the hurtling dirigible's descent.
But with an almighty crash, it slammed into the desert out side the village, the boom of the impact rattling windows even from that far away.
"Let's go." He announced, disappearing in the swirl of a Suna shunshin.
I I I
"We're alive! We're alive! We're alive!" Naruto shouted in a sing-song voice, spinning around as he nimbly danced on the slowly burning wreckage.
He was holding Tenten aloft in his hands, twirling her around like they were dancing in a ball.
In the background was an indistinct boom from a secondary explosion as something in the superstructure detonated.
Naruto dipped down, curling in to plant a kiss on Tenten.
Someone cleared their throat.
Naruto ignored them, continuing to lean into the kiss with Tenten, until he regretfully let up when she tapped his shoulder with his hand.
"Whassup, Gaara?" He said cheerfully, addressing the leader of the Suna nin before he actually turned to look.
Kankuro, who had cleared his throat, turned to look to Gaara for guidance.
Gaara raised his eyebrow.
Naruto shrugged. "Yeah I don't really know what's going on either. Somebody summoned Sinterklaas with Edo Tensei or something and that turned into a big dustup at my place."
Gaara raised the other eyebrow with an expectant look.
"Of course not!" Naruto laughed uneasily. "I wasn't in control of the space/time justu so it's not like we brought this to your doorstep on purpose!" He turned to look to his companion for support. "Isn't that right, Tenten?"
"Right." She agreed, swiftly covering her own uncertainty.
Gaara's eyebrows went back down and his face settled into a more stern expression.
"Um." She began.
"Yeah, of course we're gonna go figure this out." Naruto smoothly intervened. "We've already got a solid lead, so you should be able to handle the cleanup, right? Thanks!" He proceeded swiftly from question to thanks without any pause, grabbing Tenten's hand as he adroitly walked off.
"Man, Gaara was pissed." Naruto muttered.
"How could you tell?" Tenten said with an uncertain expression.
"You mean you couldn't?" Naruto replied incredulously, faltering in place as he turned to look at her.
Naruto swiftly turned back to walking forward, putting his fingers in his lips to whistle sharply. "Gamakichi! Here boy!"
"I'm not a dog!" Gamakichi testily shouted, shoving aside a pile of wreckage that was piled on him. The metal screamed as it was bent around in place.
"Right, right. Whatever." Naruto easily agreed. "Time to go!"
I I I
The Village Hidden in the North Pole.
Marked by a spiral-painted red-and-white pole, the village itself was a huge series of interlocked catacombs and caves, lit by the glowing crystal spires that grew together from floor and ceiling alongside the walls of the caves.
On the ground, elves walked back and forth, mechanically carrying sacks to and from the great bay where they were summoned to the side of the Great Elf Himself.
Near the ceiling, skeletal catwalks snaked back and forth, connecting the rooms and providing access to the top surface for maintenance.
Skulking along those catwalks were two ninjas, sneaking along as they examined the room below them.
"Hey." Konohamaru whispered, staring down. "Is it just me, or are all those Elves also Edo Tensei zombies, too?"
"Hn." Sasuke grunted. He didn't need to look. He already knew that was the case. Each of the elves below them, expressionlessly carrying out their duties like robots, had the artificial complexion of the zombies of the False World Resurrection. And each was wearing one of those strange black top-hats, rather than the sock-like caps that Elves usually favored.
"We need more information." Konohamaru sourly said, shaking his head.
"Just focus on getting to the main chamber." Sasuke impatiently chided.
"Okay, sheesh." Konohamaru replied in annoyance, speeding up to a jog as he nimbly darted along the catwalk.
They twisted around a corner, coming towards the center room, where the Perceiver Jutsu was used to judge all children as Naughty or Nice.
Santa Claus was there.
Sitting cross-legged, hunched over in place, hands out to his sides.
He was wrapped in chains and seals. Heavy irons strapped him in place, manacles forcing his hands apart and clamping him to the ground, preventing him from moving or forming handseals.
And paper squares marked with the sealing arts were affixed on his limbs, preventing him from molding chakra.
Sasuke jumped down without hesitation, landing in a crouch before Santa Claus without even a whisper.
Even so, the jolly old elf sensed him, cracking an eye open at the approach of the Uchiha.
"Behind you." Santa warned.
Sasuke turned to look over his shoulder, but the sword already pierced through his body, emerging from his chest.
"Ku ku ku." A hunched-over figure laughed, features obscured by heavy robes. "Still too immature."
"Sasuke!" Konohamaru shouted in dismay, landing beside him.
Sasuke's gaze went from the sword to the figure holding it, and his lips tightened.
He burst into crows.
They cawed and cried manically as they spiraled around, twisting in place. With an uncertain shake of his head as he looked back and forth, the cowled figure jumped back and to the side.
His spine twisted unnaturally as he bent his body sideways, dodging the electric scream that wreathed Sasuke's extended hand.
Sasuke grunted in annoyance and relaxed his spear-hand, the crows dissipating into nothingness as he turned to examine the cowled figure. He wished he'd remembered to grab his sword before he'd left.
"Maybe I was a little too dismissive." The cowled figure said with an easy laugh. "You've developed excellently, Sasuke-kun."
"Tch." Sasuke clicked his teeth. "Wait until you've won to gloat." He said with the callously dismissive tone who thought that was completely impossible.
"Now now." The cowled figure said, shaking his head as he raised a scaled hand to wave a finger. "Where's the fun in that?" He said with a laugh. "After all, nothing could stop me now!"
With a fierce roar, an orange figure descended like a meteor, a blue spiral crashing into the ground and grinding up everything its path.
"Oh my!" The cowled figure said with a laugh. "So impatient, Naruto-kun!"
"Yeah," Naruto said, brushing his hands off as he jumped out of the crater to stand next to Sasuke, "but that 'nothing could stop me now' like was like, the perfect cue, it was just beautiful." He shrugged his neck, smiling with a chuckle. "I couldn't resist such a great setup."
"Hn." Sasuke grunted again, flexing his fingers. "Let's just get this over with."
"Why are you in a hurry?" Naruto said with a scowl. "Is Sakura-chan waiting for you or something?"
"..." Sasuke didn't say anything, but his eyes narrowed dangerously.
"Okay, okay." Naruto said, waving his hands. "We're cool."
"Are you quite done?" The cowled figure said dryly.
"Konohamaru?" Naruto said, turning to the third member of the group. "You got anything to say?"
"Nah, I'm cool too." Konohamaru easily replied.
"Right, let's get this over with." Naruto said. "Orochimaru!"
"Naruto," Konohamaru said, "that's, uh, not Orochimaru."
"Nah." Naruto easily blew him off.
"That's right!" The hunched-over figure said, reaching up with his hands to take hold of his cowl, throwing it back dramatically. "It's me, Kabuto!"
"Who?" Naruto replied with his eyebrows scrunched together.
I I I
"Kabuto, Orochimaru's lackey." Konohamaru explained. "Remember him? He pretended to be a sucky genin for like a decade, and then was like Orochimaru Lite after that?"
"Oh yeah!" Naruto said, triumphantly slamming his fist into his palm, before studying the figure more closely. "The goat horns are new, though."
"Indeed!" Kabuto said, face strained as he struggled to keep an easy smile on his face. "This is a mere side effect of the power I gained by absorbing Krampus!"
"Who?" Konohamaru asked, with a confused expression.
"I dunno." Naruto said with an easy dismissal. "It's probably not important."
"That huge goat monster that attacked Konoha two Christmases ago." Sasuke impatiently added. "Do you have the memories of goldfish?"
"See?" Naruto replied to Konohamaru instead. "Not important."
"You guys!" Kabuto said, stamping the ground with a scowl. "I don't think you understand how much trouble you're in!"
"Seriously," Sasuke said with an annoyed huff, "at least keep track of the recurring villains."
Konohamaru and Naruto traded a long look. Konohamaru made a waving gesture with his hand, and Naruto sighed in resignation.
"Sasuke," he explained with an extremely patient tone, "Kabuto has self-esteem problems, so Konohamaru and I were attacking him psychologically."
"It didn't work!" Kabuto denied with a desperate tone.
"My only question is why." Konohamaru said with a confused expression.
Sasuke turned to scold him for dragging his out, but Naruto caught his eye, jerking his head towards Kabuto with an exasperated expression like Sasuke was a slow learner.
Oh. Sasuke realized, although he grunted sourly because this would just be another hassle.
"Excellent question, Konohamaru-kun!" Kabuto said, laughing more confidently as he prepared to expound on his villainous plan.
He sighed, shaking his head mournfully. "Isn't Christmas a little sad?" He said.
"Lay it on me." Naruto said, rolling his eyes.
"There are many children in difficult situations." Kabuto said with a tutting expression. "In Hidden Sound, or even in Hidden Leaf, who is Santa Claus to pass judgement on whether children have been naughty or nice? That's just oppression that doesn't account for difficult circumstances. On the outside looking in on their experiences, who is Santa Claus to judge them so easily?"
"You were on the Naughtly List, weren't you?" Naruto said with the knowing and disinterested tone of someone who could accurately predict the whole movie from just the first ten minutes, cutting Kabuto off.
"What? No!" Kabuto sputtered.
"Yeah, I mean, don't kids always get Christmas presents no matter what?" Konohamaru said, tilting his head to the side. "I mean, granted there's differences because of income inequality, but that's more of an overarching socioeconomic problem, you know?"
Sasuke stepped forward, eyes narrowed as he grunted with the same sour expression. Since it was Naruto, he supposed he should participate at least a little bit.
"Pathetic." He judged with absolute contempt, scowling down his nose at Kabuto.
"Guh!" Kabuto said, stumbling back and clutching at his chest like he had taken critical damage.
"Whatever." Naruto said, rolling his eyes. "Let's just use the Jet Stream Attack and get this over with."
"Right!" Konohamaru said, clenching a fist in front of himself with a solemn expression.
"The what?" Sasuke asked.
"The Jet Stream Attack." Naruto said, glancing at Sasuke with an odd look on his face. "You know, like the Black Tri-Stars?"
"The who?" Sasuke asked with a suspicious expression. "Are they from Hoshigakure?"
Konohamaru and Naruto traded an amazed expression.
"Even I know what they're talking about, Sasuke-kun." Kabuto said with an amazed and consoling smile.
"All right." Naruto said. "I've decided. You're getting Gundam for Christmas." Naruto solemnly nodded. "On Blue Ray."
"I don't think Sasuke has a Blue Ray player." Konohamaru murmured his objection.
Sasuke sighed as he let go of his frustrations. "I'm going to attack now." He announced, stepping forward.
"Ha ha ha!" Kabuto said. "That volunteer spirit is admirable, but unfortunately, I still have one more trick up my sleeve!"
He flicked through hand seals, and a stone coffin erupted from the ground, blocking the shurinkan that spun out from Sasuke's hand.
"Behold!" Kabuto announced.
The cover of the stone coffin ominously slid open, and a dead man stepped out.
Short and thin, with slumped over shoulders and a short, curly beard, the zombie that emerged had the same artificial complexion as any other Edo Tensei summoning.
In white robes cinched with a rope around his waist, and a long blue shawl marked with crosses over his shoulders, and a battered black silk top hat on his head, the figure that stepped out didn't have an impressive body, but his chakra was heavy and oppressive.
"No sacrifices?" Sasuke said, eyes narrowing as the sharingan spun faster. "That hat..." Yes, Sasuke believed that black top hat, radiating that foul chakra completely separate from the zombie, was the secret of the sacrifice-free summoning.
"Oh no." Naruto groaned. "Is that...?"
"It is!" Kabuto said with a delightful smile as he regained his equilibrium as the Final Boss.
"Nikolaos of Myra." Naruto said with a distraught sigh.
"Saint Nikolaos of-" Kabuto began, trailing off because Naruto had cut him off just like that.
I I I
A blaze of blue-white flared upwards bright as the sun, a cross-shaped explosion of light that burned upwards from the epicenter, a hot blast of air expanding out from around it as it expanded outwards.
"Holy mackerel!" Konohamaru screamed, flung head-over-heels by the blast wave.
Naruto slumped down, standing in a deep crouch with a his teeth clenched as he leaned against the wind. His eyes darted over to where Santa Claus was still chained down, nodding when he met the jolly old elf's eye, before turning his attention back to the challenge in front of them.
Sasuke darted around, arm blazing with the Chidori as he darted in, stabbing forward to pierce the Saint Bishop of Myra.
But the zombie's gaze turned, and Sasuke desperately threw himself to the side to avoid another blazing pillar of light that flared up.
No handseals. Not even any preparation time. Just glance and bam, gigaflare.
"So broken." Naruto muttered. "Right!" He shouted. "Konohamaru!" He pointed. "Just charge in!"
Konohamaru gave him a look like he was crazy, but with a resigned expression shook himself and charged forward.
"Rasengan!" He shouted, charging forward with the spiral sphere in front of him.
"Sasuke!" Naruto shouted. "Prep a ranged attack behind me!" Without looking to see whether he would follow, Naruto charged, falling in behind Konohamaru.
Konohamaru screamed in defiance, leaping forward with the Rasengan in front of him.
A blazing pillar erupted, blowing him of course and knocking him away.
Naruto followed, getting closer, holding own attack in front of him like a combined spear and shield. "Oodama Rasengan!" He screamed.
He held his ground, gripping his sphere and gritting his teeth as he used it to wrestle with the blazing light that ignited in front of him.
He could feel Sasuke charging up in the blind spot he'd created, so he relaxed, letting the spiral carry him around and fling him out of the way.
Stepping into the gap right next to the zombie, Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "Chidori Nagashi."
Like thousands of arcing needles, the lightning jumped out from him and converged, stabbing into the false copy of Nikolaos and frying him with a thousand currents.
"Ha ha ha!" Kabuto said with a hearty laugh. "It was impressive you managed a Jet Stream Attack under these conditions, but even that isn't enough to defeat the original Saint of Gift Giving!"
"It's you who didn't look deep enough!" Naruto said. "Because, that was just to create an opening!" He triumphantly shouted, pointing at the electrocuted zombie.
Everyone froze, turning to look. Slowly, Nikolaos of Myra stood straight, regenerating as the damage repaired itself due to the implacable nature of those returned by the Edo Tensei.
The zombie turned, facing towards them.
"Are we still waiting for something?" Konohamaru stage-whispered.
"That would have been a really good time for it to work." Naruto admitted with a despondent sigh.
"Hm hm hm!" Kabuto chuckled. "Unfortunately, your attempts to buy time only play into my hands! Like this, the unfair judgement of Christmas will not occur, and every children will receive coal and coal only!"
The ground erupted behind Saint Nikolaos, as he spun in place.
A Naruto jumped from the hole, almost on top of the zombie as he reached out, and batted the top hat off the head of Saint Nikolaos.
Like a puppet with his strings cut, the zombie collapsed to the ground, the hat skittering down to roll around the ground and slowly come to a stop.
"Um." Kabuto replied.
"What the hell!" Naruto shouted, pointing at the one that was standing over the collapsed zombie. "You totally missed your cue!"
"It wasn't my fault!" The other Naruto roared, thrusting his own accusing pointer finger at his counterpart. "I was digging as fast as I could! It's your fault for not giving me enough time to tunnel!"
"Well." Kabuto said, bringing his hands together as he struggled to gain control of the battle. "That is still not the end of my ambition!"
"Yes, it is."
Kabuto tensed as he turned and jumped away, but he was simply too slow.
Hands whipped out, striking at vital points on his torso with savage blows, knocking him back as blood sprayed from his mouth.
"Santa!?" Kabuto rasped. "How!?" His eyes darted over to where Santa had been chained down.
Smiling brightly, Tenten held up the chakra-containing seals she had pulled off Santa Claus.
"Good job honey!" Naruto praised.
"Ho ho ho." Santa laughed darkly, advancing towards Kabuto, cracking his knuckles. "So you thought to replace me, to supplant old Saint Nick. But now you should clearly see, the limits of your petty trick."
Santa Claus glowered down as Kabuto struggled to stand up. "Tell me." He commanded. "Suppressing kindness in the season of giving? Are you really that thick?"
"I can still win!" Kabuto growled.
"No." Santa shook his head and turned away. "You can't even tick."
"What?" Kabuto said, eyes widening as he looked down at his body. "No!" He screamed.
The delayed effect of the Fist of the North Star took effect, and the vital points erupted as Kabuto was destroyed from the inside.
A thin and ghost-like presence emerged, a pale and thin thing like a shadow. "Next time..." it whispered in Kabuto's voice, escaping into the air.
"Hey." Konohamaru said. "Think we should chase after it?"
Naruto rubbed his chin. "I dunno. Near the end I kind of... started feeling sorry for him, you know?"
Sasuke grunted. "That's because you insisted on spending the whole time picking on him instead of just winning properly and getting it over with."
"Oh man," Naruto groaned, "you're starting to sound like Danzo."
Sasuke glared at him, before turning away. "So what now?"
"Well," Naruto began, "I'm probably gonna have to help Santa catch up on deliveries AGAIN," he began, "so I guess you can hitch a ride back with Konohamaru?"
Sasuke glanced back, noting that Naruto was already holding hands with Tenten.
"Whatever." He said with a sigh.
"Konohamaru." Naruto shouted mysteriously. "When the time comes, you'll know what to do."
"I don't get it but okay!" Konohamaru replied without looking over his shoulder, from where he was poking at the top hat with an expression like a child investigating a weird bug.
He wiped his hands off, standing up.
"Okay!" He shouted. "Guess it's a round trip on the Polar Express!"
Sasuke stepped forward as Konohamaru began the handseals.
I I I
The Toad appeared midair in a swirl of space/time jutsu, and landed gamely as it fell the short distance to the flat roof of the building beneath it.
It mouth opened, and Konohamaru hopped out, followed by Sasuke, who had a look of disgust as he wiped away the Toad Spit that coated his sleeves.
"Home sweet home!" Konohamaru shouted.
"Hey." Kakashi said, leaning against the railing on the edge of the roof.
"Sensei." Sasuke replied curtly.
"We fixed everything." Konohamaru said casually.
"Did you now." Kakashi replied casually himself, his one visible eyebrow hitching up slightly as he considered those words. "You know, the Hokage and the jounin council are gonna need a full report."
Konohamaru considered that, before nodding. "Well, actually, Sasuke fixed everything, Tatsu and I were just the bus that gave him a ride." He nodded seriously, before throwing something up. "Have some candy, Tatsu!"
"Candy!" The huge toad cheered, and then his tongue lashed out like a cannon to pluck the spinning piece of chocolate out of the air and slurp it back into his mouth.
When their eyes came down from unconsciously tracking the treat, the two sharingan users saw that Konohamaru was already halfway to the next block in the street below them, brazenly running away.
"I guess it's up to you to give the report, then!" Kakashi said, visible eye curling shut in the only indication of his smile.
Sasuke remembered Naruto's parting words to Konohamaru.
Naruto had set Sasuke up.
'Damn you, Naruto.' Sasuke thought, mouth cinching shut.
Kakashi had pushed off the railing and was already ambling away. "By the way, we got a message from Gaara, so you'll probably have to report on that whole business, too."
"...What?" Sasuke finally asked with a dead voice.
I I I
Naruto sneezed, rubbing his nose as he leaned back against the huge sack of presents in the back of the sleigh.
"Are you okay?" Tenten asked, frowning. "I told you to wear a heavier jacket when it's this cold out."
"Nah, that was probably something else." He agreed easily, adjusting the coat under discussion. It was a bright red, matching the color of his auxiliary red-and-white jumpsuit perfectly, before he reached up to push the brim of his Santa hat again.
"Finally." He muttered, eyes narrowing even as his grin widened. "The best part of Christmas."
"Don't do anything crazy this year." Santa warned.
There was no response.
Santa glanced over his shoulder, eyes sweeping across the back of his sleigh.
They were both gone.
So was the sack of presents.
"Oh no." Santa muttered.
I I I
Cackling madly, Naruto plunged through the sky, cartwheeling crazily around the huge bag he had clutched over his shoulder as they fell towards Hidden Rock.
"You have a plan, right!" Tenten shouted, spinning through the air beside him.
"I'll always catch you, Tenten!" He shouted back.
Hundreds of Kage Bunshin appeared in a column beneath them, catching them individually and slowing their fall, reaching out to throw them upwards.
Individually the Kage Bunshin crashed into the ground or burst into smoke in the sky, like some kind of insane bombardment.
Naruto created a Rasengan to handle the final leg of the descent, and a muffled boom echoed across the whole village as they came to rest.
Then platoons of Kage Bunshin erupted from the crater, leaping outwards in every direction like locusts.
In the historical annals of Hidden Rock, the Second Christmas Invasion had begun.
I I I
Konohamaru whistled a jaunty tune, skipping as he meandered home.
He paused, feeling something watching him.
He glanced around, and shook off the feeling of unease when he didn't see anything.
He picked up the tune again, smiling as the snow began falling around him.
He froze, head slowly turning in place as his neck creaked. "Hanabi." He said. "Hi."
She stepped forward, hair hanging down in front of her eyes in a tangled mass. "It wasn't very nice to run off like that."
"Something important came up." He defended himself, casting around for someone to blame. "Sasuke needed my help."
"It was naughty to leave me alone." Hanabi added in the same dead voice, stepping forward.
"There's one more thing you should know." Konohamaru added.
"Oh?" Hanabi said, head tilting to the side at exactly fifteen degrees.
"Yeah, this." Konohamaru said, as his hands formed a handseal.
The kage bunshin of Konohamaru vanished in a puff of smoke as it cancelled itself.
I I I
"Are you okay, Konohamaru?" Kurenai asked with a concerned look.
"Nah, it's nothing." He said, shaking his head as his eyes focused on his little cousin, smiling broadly. The baby smiled hesitantly back. "I was just thinking I should get Boss something good for Christmas."
"It's a little late for that." She replied dryly, setting a cup of hot cocoa down on the table.
"Um." Hinata spoke up, shifting in place on the couch, "what do you think he would like?"
Konohamaru frowned. "You know, I dunno. Maybe a Gundam model kit, actually?" He shook his head, reaching for a rattle. "I would have thought that Kiba and Shino would be here."
Kurenai shook her head with a look of mild disapproval. "They're still drinking with the Hokage over in the tower."
Konohamaru chuckled, jangling the rattle in front of the baby. "Well, they should have their fun, right? There will be plenty of time to catch up during the big dinner tomorrow."
"I suppose that's true." Kurenai agreed with a smile.
"Do you think Naruto would like to come to that?" Hinata asked.
"Nah," Konohamaru shook his head as the baby grabbed the rattle from him, so he let it go. "He already said he was gonna go to that big potluck the metalworkers run with Tenten and her dad."
The door swung open.
"Tis the season to be jolly!" Kiba announced, stumbling in the door with his hand over Shino's shoulder.
"Falalala la. Lala la. La." Shino added, painfully out of key.
"Camoflage the halls with bits of holly!" Kiba continued, as the two swayed forward.
"Falalalalalla la." Shino continued, frowning as he lost his place. "La la?"
"You two." Kurenai said with an exasperated smile.
"Merry Christmas to all!" Kiba roared.
"Good night." Shino added, collapsing out from under Kiba's shoulder and onto the floor.
Lacking his support, Kiba stumbled towards that side until he found the wall, nearly falling himself when he tripped over Shino. "And to all." He said, before frowning. "Wait, Shino. We got the timing wrong."
"Hey, Shino." Kiba said, leaning down to shake his teammate's shoulder. "You can't let it end like that. Come on."
I I I