A/N: I return once again! As I'm sure you've all noticed, I've been on one helluva updating spree as of late, let my imagination run wild as I see fit. Originally, I had intented to update this story much sooner, but my computer crashed and I lost EVERYTHING. Thus, I was forced to recreate this chapter from scratch as well as several others. My only regret is that I wasn't able to get it to ya'll sooner. That, and I haven't gotten all that many reviews for the latest chapter of "Vanguard of Shinobi." But hey, you win some and ya lose some! You didn't come here for that! You came for the next chapter! And I'm proud to present it! So, without further adue, I present you with...

...THE NEXT CHAPTER OF FOXES AND TURTLES!

"We shall serve no master!"

~Choumei!

Of Love and Turtles

"You shall not have us!"

Blue eyes burst open with a startled hiss, his body lurching upwards to kick at the covers in a furious flurry of motion, before he finally realized he'd been dreaming. He sat there for a moment, drenched in a cold sweat, trembling from head to toe as he the world slowly came back to him. He wasn't in that god-awful swamp anymore, but his room. The sounds of crickets greeted his ears, a glance at his window confirmed that the skies were just now beginning to brighten, tongues of fire scrawling their way across the horizon to signal the break of dawn.

Just a dream, he told himself for what must've been the upteenth time.

Slowly-tentatively-Uzumaki Naruto shrugged off the last vestiges of his nightmare, willing strength back into his numbed limbs. It felt as though everything had been plunged into icy cold water; forcing him to wait for a small eterinity before finally being able to move. That damned dream again. When would it end? What did it mean? He didn't know. It had plagued him for nearly a week now and still he hadn't been able to make heads nor tails of it. Whenever he closed his eyes at night its was there, speaking to him, communicating, tell him go away, to leave well enough alone...ugh. Resolving himself to wakefulness, the blond tossed his head back upon the pillows and began to ponder.

In hindsight, everyone had hoped that the month would last a little longer. But here it was, and there was nothing more they could do about it.

He had trained for this day as hard as he could, pushing his mind and body to their absolute limits. He'd even discovered a new jutsu with Jiraiya's help within the month. Rasenshuriken. Amazing what the application of a thousand shadow clones could help you learn in the span of a few days. Unbeknownst to the others-even to Tsunade and Sakura-the sannin had taught the blond something else something he'd only recently begun to get any sort of handle on. His mother's sealing techniques. Or to be more apt, Kushina's techniques. To know you had parents was one thing.

To actually have a name to put to a face was something else entirely, he thought staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom. Having woken early-unable to sleep more than four hours the night before-the blond found that he was almost...reluctant to start in on this mission. He had a bad feeling about this. A terrible, awful feeling that something was going to happen. But what? What could possibly go wrong, after having a full four weeks to prepare himself, thanks in part to Jiraiya?

The old pervert had only divulged his mother's however-if he knew who his father was, and the blond suspected he did, he wouldn't be coughing it up anytime soon. And, in the subtle arts of seals, Naruto was only sub-par to adequate at the very best. He could seal items into scrolls without any real sort of difficulty but when it came to sealing moving objects such as weapons or-kami forbid-people he could only do so with Isobu's aid and even then only for short periods of time. Entrapping actual elements such as fire and water and utilizing them during battle was out of the question; he either ended up sopping wet or on fire-much to the snickering bemusement of his godfather.

He could utilizie Kamehime's chakra shroud at will without suffering those...unfortunate side effects too often now. Even now he shuddered at the thought of it. They'd discovered the hard way that drawing upon Isobu's chakra shroud didn't just lend him her outward female body but in rare cases actually trapped him in that form until the biju'd exhausted her chakra. Jiraiya-pervert!-theorized it was some small amount of holdover that caused the unwanted transformation, a residual effect that would fade with time. Naruto certainly hoped so. Being trapped in a female body -even if he'd shortened that time to only a few minutes-was very...distressing to say the least.

But putting his techniques and training aside, he felt he was ready for this. He'd done all he said and could possibly do in the last month. He'd simply run out of time. Once more his mind drifted back to the mission only hours away, waiting for him with the rising of the sun. He knew his assigned task, he was there to help suppress the Nanabi should it get out control; evidently he'd been deemed the powerhouse for this assignment. A simple role to be sure, one he was certain he could fuill.

Shikamaru would be the leader of course, being a chunin. Naruto didn't begrudge him that. One day, one day, he too would share that rank and then, then he'd be able to lead his own missions. But for Then there was Kakashi, Yamato, Shizune, Guren, Sakura, Hinata and himself. Tayuya made nine. Ten if you counted Isobu. So in reality, were basically going into this with three groups of three a part of it as well. If they had but two more they could've have a fourth group...but ah, well.

Tsking-the blond rose from his bed, berating himself for such thoughts. Time to rise and shine and rouse the old girl. At his own behest, and quite a bit of funding on Tsunade's part, he and Kamehime had moved into a much larger, two-bedroom apartment. No longer did they share a bed but rather, slept in separate rooms. The Biiju herself had become quite taken with the idea of human form over the last twenty-eight days now able to sustain and maintain her physical appearance for at least a solid week without the exhaustion to which she was so prone. And then someone decided it was a wise idea to have Tayuya move in. His apathy for her had cooled considerably by that point, but even so, he'd expected sharing an apartment with her would prove more...troublesome.

That, and Kamehime.

Naruto almost missed her nightly sojourns, but he had to admit, he slept much better without the thoughts of his lovely partner ever on his mind. Kurama was still a stain on his thoughts, but despite the drawbacks, he found himself much rather willing to risk embarassment by wielding Isobu's powers rather than the complete and utter carnage promised at the hands of his bloodthirsty kitsune. They'd have to deal with the old fox one of these days he was sure, but hestill liked to think said day was of reckoning was in the far and distant future.

Yes, our favorite jinchuuriki thought to himself as his hand closed around the door's handle leading to his tenant's room-things had been looking up since the biiju had entered his life. Knocking once, receiving a muffled assent and withou thinking, he swung it open. It was just second nature to him. He didn't even give a single thought as to what might lay beyond...

"The hell?!"

Aaaaaaand was nearly expelled from the room by the sheer force of his nosebleed.

Naruto's unusual relationship with Tayuya hadn't soured any over the last month-if anything, it had improved rapidly. They'd advanced rapidly, progressing from tentative steps toward actual friendship, to something more. But he wasn't the only one who'd gotten closer to the rehead. Now, as he looked on and struggled to staunch his bleeding nose, he was once more reminded...just how unpredictable his newest tenant could be when he left her alone. Under any other circumstance, he wouldn't have been all that surprised to see his tenant frolicking with the redhead; she seemed intent on drawing his fellow Uzumaki-who'd have thought?-out of her shell once and for all. But this...

...this crossed a line he hadn't even known to exist.

Tayuya's face was as red as her hair, perhaps moreso, her body squirming relentlessly against the bed and beneath the biju in a vain attempt to escape both the blonde's gaze and the girl entrapping her. That in and of itself wasn't too bad, nor was it all that damning. Kamehime was well known for her overenthusiastic displays of affection. When one considered their stark lack of clothing however, as well as the compromising position in which he'd found them well...one's imagination took over from there. It was like staring at paradise...

"I-Its not what it looks like, idiot!" the redhead sputtered! "She was just giving me a massage!"

"At six in the morning." Naruto's deadpann was barely concealed; the sheer incredulity of what he'd just witnessed causing his own discretion to momentarily overtaking his inner pervert. "With her lips?" He didn't know whether to laugh out loud or to die from blood loss. He was beginning to lean toward the latter. Idly he noticed that Kamehime had perfect her henge, she looked almost human now, with two eyes and the succinct lack of those three tails. Where it not for her silver-scarlet hair, and grey-colored eyes, he'd never have recognized her...

"I didn't ask her for this, I swear!"

"Ara, that's not what you said last night." Isobu purred, breaking the stalemate. "If I recall, you were practically begging me for-

Tayuya's squeak was possibly the most adorable thing he'd ever heard.

"U-Urusai!"

"Come now, there's nothing to be ashamed of." Kamehime merely laughed and snuggled ever closer to her second-favorite Uzumaki. In the last month the three of them had grown incredibly close...but this...this was a new low, even for the Sanbi. In ways even he hadn't expected. That still didn't make it any easier to stop staring when he walked in on them, however!

"Yeah," the blonde drawled, "I'm probably going to regret this, but I think Imma just turn around, and walk away now...

"Ara?" the voice at his back sent silent chills shooting up his spine. "You're welcome to join us, Naruto-sama. I'm sure Tayuya-chan wouldn't mind."

"H-Hey!"

Despite the ever-increasing temptation, Naruto shook his head.

"No, thank you-

"He's ignoring us, isn't he?" Tayuya's voice froze him in his tracks, her offended tone rooting him in place. Naruto didn't understand the reason for this sudden shift, but, he immediately recognized that the conversation had taken an unpleasant turn. One he'd been hoping to avoid. "What's the matter, dumbass? Are we still not good enough for you?" Naruto opened his mouth to reply-

Apparent, the Sanbi decided now was a good time to broach the subject. "Are you being stubborn?"

"No," Naruto inched backwards, knowing this fight was futile, yet struggling all the same. "I'm not. Its just, now isn't the best time and we have a mission at sunrise...

"He is being stubborn." Kamehime decided, ignoring his protests.

"Can't have that now, can we?" Tayuya agreed with a devious look.

"No, we can't." The biju rose to make room for the redhead.

"Ladies, please...I just woke up-

He was cut off as Tayuya's mouth struck his, her lips connecting with his ferociously.

Perhaps it was the stress. Perhaps it was the fact that he had two naked women in front of him. Perhaps it was her one hand on the back of his neck, pulling his mouth closer to hers, while the other started undoing his belt. Whatever the reason, Uzumaki Naruto forgot about why he shouldn't be doing this completely as Tayuya grabbed hold of him underneath his pants.

Her gasp of surprise certainly did not dissuade him either.

"Now now, Tayuya-chan," Isobu's voice chided from somewhere behind them, "That's not fair, hogging Naruto-sama like that."

A pair of hands grabbed him from behind, cutting off whatever he might've said...

...before dragging him back to the bed.


Naruto was still flushing when they finally reached the gates nearly an hour later. Although, he wasn't nearly so crimson as Tayuya. It was almost perversely pleasing to know he wasn't the only one still startled by that legendary Uzumaki stamina. It had been enlightening to say the least or it would've been if it hadn't been their first time. One could not expect to share an apartment with two redheads and hold onto one's virginity for very long. Still, who would've thought Isobu could prove so...flexible? Or Tayuya so submissive when it came to sex, instead of outright demanding? If the last month with Ero-senin hadn't already corrupted his naivete, then these two were making short work of his residual resitance.

It certainly didn't help that the latter was still clinging

"Mmhmm," Kamehime murmurred as she kissed his neck gently whilst they walked, slowly working her way up to his ear. She brought her mouth up there whispered softly, her voice little more than a seductive caress upon his outer lobe, "You're getting better at this, Naruto-sama, that you are."

"Hey!" Tauya tugged her back towards her. "No fair! We agreed to share, remember?"

"And we are sharing." the biju said pointedly. "You have one arm, I have the other. I'd say that's quite fair."

Naruto growled. "Will the two of you cut it out?"

Ironically, they were not the first to arrive.

Nay, there was someone already there waiting for them-his bright, green spandex suit identifying him almost before they were even within earshot. Despite himself and the soreness he still felt from the "ministrations" of both girls, a small smile broke out onto his face at the sight of an old friend.

"What're you doing here, bushy brow?"

"I am here to assist you on your youthful endeavor, Naruto-kun!" the taijutsu user flashed a thumbs up when they finally reached him.

"Huh?" Naruto blinked. "Since when?"

"Tsunade-sama deemed that nine shinobi were not enough, and that three more were neccessary." Lee explained. "Gai-sensei and myself comprise the first two, but as for the third-

His words died away when he saw Tayuya.

"Oh?" He blinked those large orbs at the redead, seemingly oblivious to her ever-increasing ire. "Who is this? Might she be the one Sakura-chan told me about? Your...?" he made a pointed motion with his fingerstips, a gsture Naruto knew quite well. He didn't expect his youthfull ally to know that one.

"Depends on what she told you, shithead." Tayuya growled, anger evident.

Naruto felt himself flush.

"...guess you could say that."

There was a silence. Rock Lee stood there, a frown transfixed upon his youthful face.

"Oi?" Naruto waved a hand before his friend's face, his eyes closed face contorted in thoughtful confusion. "Lee? Earth to Lee?"

"I can see that you are all in the springtime of your...YOUTH!" Lee shouted, opening his eyes and declaring the words with such force, that the trio actually jumped backwards. "To honor your Youthfulness, I will run four hundred laps around the village in the next two minutes before our mission! If I cannot do that, I will do five thousand push-ups with my hands tied together! And if I cannot do that, I will do sixty thousand laps around the planet on my hands while blindfolded! And if I cannot do that, I will—"

"Okay, we get the point! We really do! Please stop that now!" Naruto begged him while he was in mid-tirade. He was half-afraid that his fellow rookie would actually do those things if he let him continue. Where in the hell was everyone else?!

"Well," a familiar voice interjected, "this is new. You're actually early for once, gaki?"

"Ero-senin?!"

Sure enough the Toad Hermit himself had arrived.

Within the hour the others arrived, trickling in one by one, sometimes in pairs. It wasn't long before the entire group had gathered. Sakura's disbelieving stare bored into his back like a drill, he could practically taste all the pinkette's emotions thanks to Isobu's telempathy. He could sense her shock clear as day, her disbelief...and just a touch of sorrow? He shook it off without a thought, having reconciled her lack of feelings for him. It wasn't any of her damned business what he did with his free time. Or his recent love life, for that matter. Strange though, why did he get the same sensation from Hinata...

'It seems you've got an admirer.' Isobu offered from within his mind.

'What?'

'Oh nothing...

Returning

Everyone else regarded him with varying looks of confusion, or in Shizune and Guren's case subtle amusement. That made him more than a touch nervurous. The blond swiftly shut himself off from those feelings before his curiosity got the better of him. Best not to pry. Becoming aware of the inreased attention, Tayuya and Isobu disentangled themselves from him, but not before Might Guy got a word in edgewise. Actually, more than a few. Way more.

"YOSH, KAKASHI!" he declared, his outburst butting Lee's to shame. "I see your student is exceptionally youthful today! As expected from my rival! But Lee will not lose! Isn't that right, Lee?!

"Yessir!

Everyone sweatdropped...

Oi oi oi...

Clearing his throat, Shikamaru finally spoke up.

"Seems like everyone's here..." his gaze roamed all those assembled. "You already know our mission...

Naruto barely even registered those words. His mind was already on the future...


The air grew progressively damp as they trekked northward, becoming more and more muggy, the earth spongy as they neared their destination. The countryside gave way to vast, open plains, before the latter finally succumbed to the dense foliage of Waterfall Country. No conversation was attempted, though Naruto could hear his mentor scribbling incessantly in that infernal notebook of his. Taking notes, no doubt! Between them, he secretly suspected the sanin had something to do with the foisting of Tayuya on him, but with no proof, he could only stare at the pervy sage. And the irony of it all...he was actually grateful.

"What?" Jiraiya caught him staring and decided to make a point of it.

"Nothing." the blond suppressed a small smile. "Nothing at all."

Go away.

Naruto was suddenly all too aware of the hair sticking up on his neck with every breath, and not just because of the tension. Go away. Leave me alone. Did anyone else hear these voices? They rose now in the backs of his mind, a littany of endless words, a cacophony of voices badgering down at his concsiousness, threatening to overwhelm him.

Go away go way go away go way GO AWAY-

A hand closed around his wrist, and abruptly, the voices were gone.

Kamehime stared back at him gravelly, her single eyes narrowed.

"We're getting close." was all she would say. "Be on your guard."

Naruto gulped, trying not to show just how affected he was by the prospect of facing a biju more than twice Isobu's strength.

"Sure, Its not as if-

"Heads up!"

Scarce had someone spoken than a shadow fell over them. A great, hulking shadow. Pursued by a loathsome chakra, comparible to the Kyuubi's. Its prescence lingered in the air like a foul odor, leaving the air rich with a strange musk. There was time for only this sensation and this sensation alone and then it was past, hurtling over their heads and into the distance. For a moment, they dared to hope it hadn't seen then. An explosion of sound shattered those fragile hopes like glass; just as the beast came hurtling back in their direction, gouging out a huge section of the forest.

Yamato gawped at the clearing in which the massive creature had landed.

"Already?"

Kakashi turned his head toward the sound, lone eye narrowing.

"There's no mistaking it...

Kamehime nodded, all business.

"The Nanabi."

A/N: And there we have it. Shits about to get real, in more ways than one. Everyone versus Choumei next chapter! But is Fuu alive or not?! You'll have to let me know in your reviews! We see that a major difference has occurred since the month timeskip last chapter; thanks to Isobu and Jiraiya, Naruto is beginning to show genuine interest in women. But who else could he possibly be even remotely interested in? I've already hinted at Shizune and Guren, and we already know Isobu and Tayuya, but who else? To be perfectly honest, I'm not quite sure about putting Hinata in the pairing this time. And definitly not Sakura. She just wouldn't fit. But the battle begins next chapter!

So...in the immortal words of Atlas...

...Review...Would Ya Kindly? And of course, enjoy the preview!

(Preview)

"Hiden: Rinpungakure no Jutsu!"

Naruto flung an arm before his face as a blinding light burst before his retina, just in time to see the massive shape of the Nanabi hurtling towards him.

If that thing hit the forest...

Naruto flung his hands forward and hoped for the best. They met the creature's horn and clamped down. Hard. The earth burst beneath them; cratering by the forces warring against and within. The blonde was barely immediately shaken. He felt the host's memories, trickling up through the blackness of her misery. A misery that had allowed the Nanabi too much control over her life; just as it ruled over her now. Whomever this girl was, she was so utterly consumed by despair that he didn't know what to make of her. She was lost to herself. Truly, utterly, hopelessly lost. And still tthe struggled to maintain his grip. Still his struggle , pushing feet

Naruto took his rage and turned it outward.

"Yield!" He demanded, claws of chakra closing around the Nanabi's throat, wresting it down. Dislodged from its camoflauge, the beast pitched backward with a squeal. Naruto leapt after it, eyes narrowed into bloody slits, hands curled into vicious claws. They closed around her tail and pulled. Not gently. Shrieking its fury, the kabutomushi spread its massive wingspan six wings in all, and beat at the ground, summoning a mighty gust as it took to the skies.

Naruto raised his hands and brought them down.

The sheer might of the attack acted like a giant fly-swatter. Struck from the sky, the Seven-Tailed beetle sank like a stone and careened into the ground.

The jaws of the Nanabi clacked open with a soft click.

A sonorous roar built at the back of its throat, swelling into an overwhelming tide of black and white.

Naruto had only an instant to comprehend it before the Bijudama blew up in his face.

The strange sphere roared forward and tore against Naruto's body. The attack had been too close for him to block, much less avoid; he had no choice but to retaliate with one of his own, lest he take the impact directly to his chest. There was an explosion, massive in size and scale. Both boy and biju flew back in agony as the dark wave ripped at them, their faces and chest, their skin burning away from his flesh. The blast seemed to last for eons before blowing past as gravity took over, their body spiraling towards the ground limply.

And in that instant, he saw something.

"Sonuva-


Choumei and Isobu couldn't have been more different in human form.

Whereas Isobu was short and curvy Choumei was tall; almost slender in appearance. Both her eyes were visible, each possibly the most startling shade of safrron Naruto had ever seen. Her skin was a beautiful bronze, as though she'd spent years in the warm climate of Kumogakure and not the jungles of Takigakure. Six wings buffeted the air behind her, complimenting the single tail at her back. A crown-like headpiece adjourned her forehead, a silent hearkening back to the royal "we" with which she spoke.

"Onee-sama, if you'd just listen to master-

Chomei bared her fangs in a feral hiss.

"He is not our master! No one is our master! Not him! Not the Akatsuki! Not anyone!"

R&R! =D