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. But I'm proud to present it! So, without further adue, I present you with...

...THE NEXT CHAPTER OF FOXES AND TURTLES! Sorry for the long wait!

"All according to plan..."

~?!

Of Tears and Turtles

"Oh sh-

Uzumaki Naruto never did get to finish that sentence. Not as the Nanabi ripped through the clearing. There was no time for thought nor sentence, no time in which they might somehow produce a viable strategy against this massive monstrosity of chakra. One moment it had been nothing more than an imagined shadow flitting overhead. A distant thought that they'd plan against later while they made camp. The next; it was there-very alive, very real, ver present...

And very, very angry.

...away!"

The voice was suddenly everywhere in his head, blaring in his brain, blotting out everyone, everything, every thought. Tayuya. Kakashi. Shikamaru. Yamato. Shizune. Guren. Sakura. Hinata. Lee. Gai. Jiraiya. All of their names flittered through his head for but a mere moment before he was lost in a sursurus of shouts and screams, more powerful than ever before. It was as if a thousand voices were shouting at him simultaneously with only one intention, one purpose, one command:

"Go away go way go away go way GO AWAY!"

'Focus!' Kamehime was suddenly there like a lifeline, wrenching him out of the fog that muddled his mind. And not a moment too soon. It swept past with a shriek, sending the group scattering to evade its deadly horn and lashing tail.

"Yosh!" Lee cried! "Defeating this beast will be a most youthful challenge!"

"Indeed, my young pupil!" Gai seconded, flicking his former protege a thumbs up. "Lee, if we cannot seal this menace-then we shall run five thousand laps around Konoha upon our turn!" Naruto very nearly facepalmed at their exuberance in the face of such a threat. Well, at leas they weren't doing that damned sunset genjutsu of theirs...oh god. They were.

"Gai-sensei!"

"Lee!

"GAI-SENSEI~!"

"LEE~!"

"NOW IS NOT THE TIME!" Jiraiya hollered!

Guren shuddered. "Do they always do that...?"

"Well," Kakashi shrugged, "You get used to it after a while."

Despite the brief moment of levity, the fact remained that they had a very large and very irritated beetle bearing down on them. One they couldn't see, only hear.

"Scatter!"

Shikamaru barked out a command, the words all but unintelligible over the incessant droning of the beetle's beating wings. Even from here across the clearing he could see his old friend weaving signs; and he balked at what Shika was trying to do. Did he really think he could restrain a biju through shadow possesssion alone? Incrediby he did just that, his shadow swiftly linking up with the swooping creature and actually halted it for a tenth of a second. Tayuya laughed.

"Not bad, lazybones!"

"Hurry up, damnit!" the Nara roared! "I can't hold it for very long!"

"Alright, alright," she sighed, raising the flute to her lips. "Don't get yer panties in a twist."

She lowered her head in acquiesce, knowing that would be no advising the man. He was far too focused on the task at hand…and she was a stubborn girl. So without further ado, Tayuya retrieved her flute from its worn pouch, laid her lips upon it, and began to play.

Naruto never heard the melody over the din, but whatever it was, the genjutsu was more than enough to ruputure the beast's camoflauge thanks to Hinata's pinpointing. Shikamaru dropped his shadow possession with a gasp, causing the beast to shriek in triumph-

-until Gai moved in, shooting upward like a rocket. Lee was only seconds behind. Naruto could only guess at the number of gates they'd unlocked, but whatever number, it proved more than adequate to send the tailed beast crashing down to the like a star to earth the beast began to beat its wings almost immeidately, trying to secure a quick takeoff in spite of the forces harrassing it-

Yamato was suddenly there to assist, great blocks of interlocking wood shot up like weeds, entrapping the beast's wings. Guren raised towering spires of crystal to encumber it further still, forcing it to the earth. Jiraiya even dropped one of his massive summons down on the beetle to ensure it didn't rise again. Just like that, it was over. Naruto almost couldn't believe it. Kamehime remained oddly silent in his mind, electing not to say her part and refusing to materalize-no sage wisdom was offered in the wake of their victory.

"Well, that was...anticlimactic." Kakashi muttered.

"So...now what?" Sakura was the second to recover her voice.

Shizune rolled up a sleeve.

"Now we move in and seal-

"WE WILL NOT BE TAKEN!"

Naruto gasped at the sheer force of the mental assault behind the cry and doubled overs, a trickle of blood running down his nose. With an almost audible twang of a sound the beast roared; crushing the confines of its prison as though they were made of glass, shattering their brief semblance of their control. Too late the group remembered just how impossibly strong the tailed beast truly was; already more than twice the strength of the Three Tails and clearly thrice as violent.

"Oh hell," Jiraiya swore. "She's gonna get-

And then all hell broke loose.

In Naruto's mind, he heard the technique before it came to life.

"Hiden: Rinpungakure no Jutsu!"

Naruto flung an arm before his face as a blinding light burst before his retina his vision clearing just in time to see the massive shape of the Nanabi shooting into the sky and furiously hurtling towards them yet again its horn lowered with obvious intent to do more than simply sweep past. No time to think. Only react.

If that thing hit the forest...

Naruto lunged forward and thrust Kakashi out of the way, flung his hands outward, wrapped himself in the Sanbi's chakra shroud, and hoped for the best. Bad idea. Horrible idea. But how was he to know it would result in utter catastrophe?

Unthinkingly, he met the creature's horns and clamped down with both hand. Hard. The earth burst beneath them; cratering by the forces warring against and within. That was when he felt it.

Why?

Blinking, he tried to shake it off. But it came on again, stronger than before.

Why do they hate me? Why why why why whywhywhywhwywhywhwy...

The blond was immediately shaken by what he found there. He felt the host's memories as though they were his own, 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 anymore. She was lost to herself. Truly, utterly, hopelessly lost. And still he struggled to maintain his grip. Still he struggled, despite pushing feet against the ground, digging deep furrows into the earth.

Naruto took his rage and turned it outward.

"Knock it off, damnit!" 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 tried to take to the skies.

Naruto raised his hands, still clutching the Nanabi's tail, and brought them down with a mighty yank. It screamed.

The sheer power 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, ploughing through the forest like a javelin hurtled from heaven to the earth below. He would've appreciated the symbolity had he not been so focused on putting the beast down. In a single bound, he leapt after it, landing squarely on Seven Tails chin. Almost immediately, the jaws of the Nanabi clacked open with a soft click. Naruto didn't like the sound of that. Not one bit.

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

Oh.

Crap.

He 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 bodies spiraling towards the ground limply.

Grimacing at the already regenerating skin, on his chest and arms he managed to latch onto the beast again. It keened furiously at him.

"LEAVE US ALONE!"

And in that instant, he saw something.

"Sonuva-

Cold fury burned the world white.


When his vision finally returned, the last Uzumaki found himself sitting in a sea of blackness. There was no light to speak of, only the inky void surrounding him. His eyes darted this way and that. For a terrifying instant he nearly panicked, almost yelped and cried out. But cooler heads prevailed and instead of freaking out as a green genine might he willed himself to be calm and closed his eyes for the peace that so eluded him. He was distressed. He needed to be calm. Cool. Collected. He wasn't alone. He'd never been alone. He had an ally here, in the dark.

"I knew I picked the right person." When his eyes re-opened, Kamehime was standing across from him, arms crossed behind her back, smiling in the black. When she offered a hand he readily accepted, but not without noticing how the void seemed to shrink away from the two of them, creating a tiny patch of white in the sea of sorrow. She embraced him readily.

"Thank goodness you're alright. I thought I'd lost you in here."

Still in his state of shock, it took Naruto a moment to react and place his own arms around the thin waist of his tenant. He buried his face in her neck, enjoying the warmth of her pale skin on his cheeks and the smell of her hair in his nostrils. He felt her arms tighten around him and her breathing quickened, her breasts heaving up and down against his chest.

"Where is here, anyway?"

"Probably somewhere in the jinchuuriki's subconcsious." her lone eye left his as she pulled away, turning to roam the darkness. "What's left of it. You must've triggered something when you grabbed onto Choumei." The tone of her voice was unusually solemn. Stern, even. "We shouldn't be here. This is deeply personal for a jinchuuriki...I doubt our prescence here will be taken lightly."

Blue eyes roamed the black.

"Why?" a tiny voice-that of a little girl-asked of him. "Why do they hate me?"

Willing himself into calmness, the Uzumaki shook his head.

"Is she still alive?" he asked, following.

"That is...hard to say." she touched something in the dark, and they heard soft sobs. "Perhaps?" the biju shrugged. "If she is, then maybe-

"Leave." A furious voice hissed at them from the nothingness. "You are like the girl. Weak. Frail. Fragile. Easily molded. You are not welcome here. We do not want you. We reject you."

"We're not here to hurt you, sister."

"Lies."

A crackle of lightning lit the darkness and suddenly she stood before them in the light.

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 and sheltered her long, ebon hair, 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. Perhaps she was just that. Feral. Unable to be controlled, unwilling, to listen.

"He is not our master! No one is our master! Not him! Not the Akatsuki! Not anyone!" her eyes locked on him, slitted and wild. "None! We would kill you before we allow ourselves to be controlled once more!"

"But-

"No more! He dies now!"

Her arm cut down mercilessly!

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? WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT CHAPTER?! We shall see! The battle will continue chapter!

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

...Review...Would Ya Kindly? And of course, enjoy the preview! Shit's about to hit the fan, folks!

(Preview)

Naruto sputtered in surprise, gawping down at the severed stump that had once been his right hand. His mind refused to comprehend the sudden loss of his limb, instea gawping at the spurting wrist. When the strange black rod lashed out again, he only barely dodged aside, shivering as its cold edge grazed his shoulder.

He found himself staring at deep rimmed violet eyes, set in a pale face adourned with black piercings and orange hair. When the stranger spoke, his voice evoked a subtle shudder of dread.

"You'll be coming with us, Uzumaki Naruto."

R&R! =D