Mass Effect 2: Naruto's Mission
Written by I.K.A. Valian
All characters and material from Naruto are the property of Masashi Kishimoto.
All characters and material from Mass Effect are the property of BioWare.
Chapter Eleven: Ninja World Intermission 2
Councilor Valern reveals that the Turian and Asari Councilors were kidnapped by the invading force. He reinstated Shepard as a SpecTRe and charged her with finding and rescuing the Councilors from whoever took them. In response to Naruto's request to open diplomatic ties, Valern says that if Naruto managed to assist in the rescue of the Council, they'd be more open to the possibility.
Kasumi Goto later revealed that the unknown intruders were part of the personal army of ninja clones grown and working for the Shadow Broker. Kasumi herself works for Liara T'soni and was asked to aid Shepard in her quest to save the Council. The crew comes to the startling conclusion that the Shadow Broker is in league with the Collectors, and thus, the Reapers.
Now, the crew sets off into the Galaxy to start the next leg of their quest. However, back on Naruto's home planet, things are progressing at a much different pace…
Hokage Tower, Konohagakure, Four months before the Summit
The scratching sound of a pen on paper didn't stop even as Kakashi waved the chunin into his office. He didn't acknowledge the other ninja as he put the pen down and read over what he'd written. Then he picked the pen up again and scribbled his name on the bottom. After that he dribbled some hot wax onto the page and pressed his seal into it.
With all of that done, Kakashi leaned back and looked at the brown haired chunin standing in front of him. One of the new ninja from after the war, young, idealistic, hard working. Perfect office worker to boot. It was why Kakashi had snapped Ken up before he could be put into the field after making Chunin.
When Ken noticed that Kakashi was now paying attention to him, he bowed and then stepped forward. He silently placed a large scroll atop the Hokage's desk, took a step back, and bowed again.
"I was digging through the archives on time travel, just as you'd requested, Hokage-sama," Ken reported. "I found many reports of rumors that had been reported since before the village was founded, but nothing conclusive. One even referenced Uzumaki Naruto. The account written was by the Fourth Hokage, but even though that report led nowhere, it did lead me to this. I found it hidden behind the shelving where the Fourth Hokage's reports were stored."
"I see…" Kakashi said. He reached out and lifted the large scroll up easily, turning the sealed shut roll of paper this way and that as he studied it. "So Naruto has traveled through time before. Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. It's too bad he left a few days ago. Maybe he would have remembered something. Why haven't you opened this scroll yet?"
"That's why I brought it to you, Hokage-sama," Ken said. He pointed at the far end of the scroll, the one side that Kakashi couldn't see from how he currently held it. "There's no instructions or obvious seal for releasing the scroll, but there are three names written on it."
Kakashi turned the scroll over and noted that, quite correctly, there were three names on the end. And his was one of them. Hatake Kakashi, Might Guy, Yūhi Kurenai. All written in the neat script of the Fourth Hokage.
"Well that's interesting," Kakashi muttered. He glanced at Ken and nodded. "Thank you Ken, you can go back to your search. I'll deal with this."
"Right away, Hokage-sama!" Ken bowed and quickly left.
When the room was empty, Kakashi said, "Bring me Gai and Kurenai please."
There were two soft woosh sounds. Five minutes later, there was another pair of woosh sounds, followed by Guy and Kurenai walking in the door. They both looked confused, but ready.
Guy, for all his proclamations of the power of Youth, was looking his age. Yes, he was a very fit man, but his gray hair made sure to reinforce the idea that he was a very fit, and very old, man. He even had the collection of wrinkles, all of them from smiles, to go with the scars he'd picked up from the war. Sadly, Kakashi still couldn't get the man to stop wearing that hideous green jumpsuit.
Sarutobi Kurenai, having taken Asuma's name after the war, aged well. She didn't espouse the glories of Youth, but she was still a good looking woman. Kakashi didn't really know if he could say he'd known any other woman who'd aged so gracefully, let alone a kunoichi (Tsunade did not count as he had no clue if he had ever seen her true looks in his entire life). Sadly, she'd essentially given up on being a ninja to raise her son, but a little birdie mentioned that she had found a protégé in one of Hinata's students, Nakamura Yoko. Only time would tell what would come from that.
"Kakashi, my Youthful rival!" Guy boomed. Kakashi winced. Guy just grinned and continued to bulldoze forward. "Ah, my apologies, I meant to say, Hokage-sama, my Youthful superior! For what reason have you summoned us?!"
Kakashi coughed into his hand and let the silence last a little bit longer than it might have needed. In truth, he was waiting for his ears to stop aching. It was when Kurenai's scowl deepened that he decided to speak.
"A scroll was found with our names on it hidden within the depths of the Hokage's Sealed Vault," Kakashi said. "Five minutes ago, in fact. I've been having a chunin go through the vault in search of anything pertaining to time travel in the hopes of understanding what happened to Naruto."
"You believe Naruto-kun traveled through time…" Kurenai tilted her head in thought. "I suppose it's possible. The amount of power said to have been unleashed in that final attack was immense."
"Yes, however, this scroll predates the war by a good seventeen years," Kakashi said. "I believe it was drawn up and sealed by the Fourth Hokage himself shortly before his death. He hid the scroll behind another one he'd written that referenced time travel as well. I can only conclude that this scroll is related somehow."
"Well then why haven't you opened it yet?" Kurenai asked as Guy picked up the scroll Kakashi had been making motions toward as he spoke. "Even if it has something important inside of it, why call us here. Why call me? I'm not an active ninja anymore, so if the contents are classified, I'm not cleared for something like this."
Kakashi arched one of his eyebrows and shifted his gazed from the slightly irate Kurenai to the clearly perplexed Guy. "Find something, Guy?"
"This scroll…" Guy said. "It looks sort of familiar. I feel like I've seen it before. What about you, Kurenai?" Kurenai looked to Kakashi one last time, asking for permission. Kakashi shrugged, classified secrets be damned, he wanted that scroll opened.
Kurenai took the offered scroll and started looking it over. She'd only been looking at it for several seconds before her eyes widened. She immediately flipped the scroll over to look at the end with the names on it. Her mouth opened and closed, but she couldn't find her words for several minutes.
"I… I remember this scroll," she said softly, once she'd figured out how to speak again. "I remember this scroll! I can't believe I forgot and now I remember. That's right! The Fourth Hokage wanted to keep whatever was in this scroll a secret and locked up tight in case something happened to it."
"Ah yes, now I remember," Guy said. He had a hand rubbing his chin while the other cupped his elbow. "The Yondaime wanted to insure that this scroll was only opened at the right time. When Kakashi is Hokage. It sure took a long time for that to happen! Hahaha!"
"But this doesn't make sense," Kurenai said. "Why would I forget? Why would Guy?"
"It was probably a memory seal that had specific requirements that had to be met," Kakashi said. "Once they were, the seal would release and you'd get your memories back. They used to be put on deep cover operatives as a way to prevent them from going local. I say 'used to' because the seals weren't always effective one hundred percent of the time. The results of using a faulty memory seal ranged from falling into a coma to going insane and gouging your own eyeballs out before trying to kill anything around you. For example, some agents reported the successful 'assassination' of inanimate objects."
"Oh… my… I…" Kurenai took a step back and looked down at her hands. "I… am I going to… to…"
"Hmm…" Kakashi studied the two in front of him for several seconds and then shook his head. "Nope. It would have happened by now. And let's not forget that the one who likely applied the seal was the Fourth. It's unlikely that a seal master of his caliber would apply the seal incorrectly." After a heavy moment of contemplation, Kakashi clapped his hands and used his most happy voice to ask, "Why don't we open the scroll then?"
Hokage Tower, Konohagakure, Two months before the Summit
"Hokage-sama, Lady Tsunade has arrived and is waiting for you in the ANBU Decryption Division."
"Thank you, Himeko-chan," Kakashi said with a short wave to his secretary. Himeko smiled as she nodded and then left. Kakashi finished reading the report in his hand before he picked up a big stamp and smashed it down onto the paper. When he pulled the stamp back, the word "REJECTED" was sprawled obnoxiously across the page in large red Kanji. "As much as I would enjoy having Jiraiya-sama's famous Maid Cafe from Icha Icha actually built, I do not think it should be done with Konoha funds. I do hope they still build it, though…" With a sad sigh, Kakashi slipped the paper into the outbox on his desk.
Kakashi made his way from the tower to the hidden ANBU headquarters, right underneath Naruto's old apartment. Kakashi still got a kick out of the fact that Naruto never once realized how many high level ninja were coming and going at all hours of the day. Once inside, he quickly found his way down to the underground level that was home to the Decryption Division of ANBU. There, as expected, he found five rows of desks stretching from one side of the whole level to the other. Standing next to the door was none other than the woman he'd come to meet.
"Kakashi, I hope you've got a good reason for calling me back from the capitol," she said irritably. "We were in the middle of crafting a new trade agreement and you should know how important that is to the Land of Fire and its allies."
"Well then let's not waste any time then," Kakashi said. He immediately started forward into the room and stopped next to a desk upon which sat a computer. The computer had wires stretching out from the inside of it to a small bracelet of some sort. Next to the bracelet sat a small round disk.
Kakashi picked up the bracelet, detached the wires, and slipped it on. Kakashi flexed his arm and then reached over and touched the bracelet with one of his fingers. A small arch of electricity jumped the gap from Kakashi's finger to the bracelet. Almost immediately, the orange interface of an Omni-tool appeared over Kakashi's right arm.
"Kakashi!" Tsunade started. "That's… That's the same thing that Naruto had!"
Kakashi nodded. "Yes. I'll explain in a bit how I got my hands on this, but first I'd like to show you a message that we found right after starting it." Kakashi fiddled with the interface of the Omni-tool before a three dimensional image was projected in front of them.
"Your efforts have only succeeded in delaying the inevitable, Uzumaki Naruto…
Shinobi Congress, Land of Iron, Second day of the Summit
"I'd like to thank you, fellow Kage," Gaara said. "While I do believe in the vision we decided upon yesterday, I think it prudent to deal with the logistics of this as only Kage can. The manpower, the research staff, and the knowledge base for the Project will come from the Shinobi forces that we currently command and the civilians we currently protect." The other Kage who sat at the large round table all nodded. Hatake Kakashi was to Gaara's left. Chojuro was to his right. Across from Gaara sat Kurotsuchi and Killer B. "First, though, I noted yesterday that the decision to choose the ruins of Uzushiogakure as the site of our research base generated a diverse range or reactions in each of you, not all of them pleasant. I would like to hear your opinions on that matter, as there was no time given at the meeting to hear them."
"Uzushio used to be a den of evil," Chojuro said. "All of the legends, tales, stories, and myths I've heard of that place say only one thing. The people there delved into the dark arts, even by Shinobi standards. Who's to say that the land itself doesn't have some memory of the darkness that resided there? Who's to say the residents didn't craft one of the seals they were famous for to inflict their revenge upon anyone who treads their lands, decades after their demise. The Lands of Water do not support the decision to locate our allied headquarters in that damned placed."
"Come now," Kakashi said in his most pleasant manner. "I didn't think the people, let alone the Kage, of the Lands of Water would be this superstitious about a hidden village they wiped off the map several decades ago."
Rather than let his pride be insulted by the subtle jab by Kakashi, Chojuro let his head dip in shame. "It pains me to say it, but this is one thing where it is better to be paranoid than to be sorry. They were making deals with death gods before they were destroyed. Nothing good can come from that."
"I heard it was only the Uzumaki Clan who did those things," Kurotsuchi said. "It happened so long ago that I can only wonder what was going through their heads that would compel our ancestors to attack and destroy such a minor village."
"The reservations of the Mizukage are noted," Gaara said, "however, we're getting off topic. We're not here to ruminate about the decisions made by leaders of two generations ago. We're here to iron out any concerns and details regarding the establishment of the base in the ruins of Uzushio."
"If there is any voodoo left in Uzu, our Ninja Scouts will flush them out!" B said.
"Exactly," Kakashi said. "What the Raikage said."
"Frankly, I'm still not sure what he's saying half of the time," Kurotsuchi said while pressing one of her hands to the side of her head to ward off a headache.
"I believe," Kakashi said, "it would be prudent to put whoever is in charge of logistics in charge of basic construction and land management as well. They'll be on site after the initial scouts clear the ruins."
"But who will be in charge of Logistics?" Chojuro asked.
"At the risk of making all other ninja sound stupid," Kurotsuchi said, her mouth twisted with disgust as she spoke, "I believe a Nara should be the one in charge of Logistics. As much as Nara are hated in Iwa for being stalwart Konoha Shinobi, they're also well respected for their intelligence. In these more… peaceful times, I suppose it would be more palatable if we put aside our biases and put the people who can do these jobs the best into the places they need to be." Kurotsuchi fell silent after her speech, growing uncomfortable to the point that she growled at the other Kage.
"I concur," Gaara said. "Though, I am loath to nominate any particular Nara, I believe Nara Shikaku or Shikamaru are capable of the post. Both displayed their tactical genius on and off of the battlefield before, during, and after the war."
"Unfortunately, I've already assigned Shikamaru to the research division," Kakashi said. "He's currently deciphering the combat recordings stored on the omni-tool and working with a team to update our concept of combat."
"For what reason?" Chojuro asked. "Most of the veterans of the last war are still able bodied and young. I would think they could adapt fairly quickly to whatever they encounter. Shinobi aren't that weak."
"Overestimate us at your own peril," B said, "Going in unprepared means giving up to the devil."
"There were video recordings of some of the battles that Naruto was in on the Omni-tool," Kakashi said. "They depicted battles in space, without gravity. Battles between star ships as large as a village, some bigger than that. Mechanical beings that can think on their own. Alien planets with creatures that burst out of the ground and spit acid. And those are the benign examples. Don't ask about the Thresher Maw. Our forces are adaptable," Kakashi acknowledged, looking around the table at each of the other Kage. "But we're about to take a two thousand year leap forward in technology and warfare. Shikamaru is leading the effort to determine just how much the concept of combat has changed from what we know and how to adapt to those changes before we even arrive."
"I see your point," Chojuro conceded. "It's hard to imagine such a large leap in know-how can exist. Are we even capable of making such advancement?"
"The choice to accept this challenge or not is out of our hands," Gaara said. "The Reapers have already declared their intentions. We can either respond or die."
"Now, now," Kakashi said jovially, completely shattering the dark, somber atmosphere that had settled over the meeting. "Let's not get depressed about things we can't change. I believe that Shikaku is able to fill the position. So let's move on, shall we?"
"What about resources?" Kurotsuchi asked. "Where are we…"
At the same time, elsewhere in the Land of Iron…
The snowflakes fell gently. They always fell gently. In all his life and in all the times he'd traveled to the northern parts of the Land of Lightning and Iron, he always found snow and it was always falling gently.
"Omoi-Sensei!" cried out one of his students from behind him. Omoi turned his head slightly and looked past the hilt of his sword to the three fourteen year olds pushing their way through knee deep snow. Each of the teens was doing their best to move quickly, but it was clear that they were all freezing. "Sensei! Slow down and wait for us!"
"As I recall," Omoi said while tilting his head backward contemplatively, "the three of you requested in no uncertain terms a c-rank mission that would push your skills to their limit."
"But sensei," the only male, a brunette named Hiroshi, whined, "this is insane. I meant something like fighting a bunch of bandits or a group of rogue ninja, not walking through a blizzard in the middle of winter in the northern parts of the Land of Iron."
"Then perhaps in the future you'll think more about what you say before you say it, don't you agree?" Omoi responded as he rolled a lollipop around in his mouth.
"Sensei!" Omoi looked up from the panting Hiroshi at his other two students pulled up the rear, creating their own little canyons in the snow as they moved. "Sensei," said Rei, the black haired girl cried as she came to a stop, "the next time 'Roshi-baka gets the bright idea to ask for a harder mission, please let me beat him to a pulp first before you agree."
"Oh, I don't know," Omoi said with a slight hop in his step from his perch atop the snow. "It's turning out to be a wonderful stroll for me, up here in the mountains. We should take these delivery missions more often."
"Sensei is cruel," the last genin, Ai, said. She pulled her dark brown cloak tighter around her head, obscuring her short white locks further.
"Come now, it's not much farther, and you three aren't going to give up, are you?"
"No, sensei," all three said wearily at the same time.
"Come on, then," Omoi said as he took off at a light jog. It really was cruel in a way. Here he was, using chakra to walk atop the snow as if it were as solid as a rock, while his students had to slog through it the hard way. But he knew that in the long run, they'd benefit from it.
Behind Omoi, his three genin dropped their heads in frustration. "'Roshi-baka. I'm so going to kick your ass after we get back to Kumo!"
"Not happening," Hiroshi said as he took off at a quick pace. "We both know you'll only trip before you get anywhere near me! Sucker!" Hiroshi was just fast enough to outrun Rei as she screamed bloody murder in her attempt to catch and strangle him. That was before she tripped over something and fell face first into the snow. More screams could thus be heard from beneath the white blanket of ice crystals.
Ai took several seconds to catch her breath and wearily followed after her troublesome teammates.
Town in the middle of Tea Country, Two days after the summit…
"Hey, have you heard?"
"Huh?" asked the balding man selling fruit at the open air market. "Heard what?"
The customer, a plain looking man in a blue kimono looked back and forth several times before he leaned forward. The fruit seller leaned forward himself. The customer conspiratorially whispered "Rumor has it that the explosion in the north of Fire several months ago was actually a jutsu gone wrong. And that the one who caused it was none other than the Lost Hero, Uzumaki Naruto."
"What?!" The fruit seller shouted. "That's stupid. Everyone knows that guy is dead. He died in that stupid war ten years ago. There's no way that could be right."
"Hey man," the customer said, throwing his arms out. "I'm just telling you what I head. And it's totally legit. My info comes from a ninja out of Konoha! I'm serious. They're totally trying to keep under wraps that Uzumaki Naruto has returned! They say he's gotten really huge and powerful. More powerful than ever before. That explosion was just him testing out his weakest jutsu and he messed it up or something."
"Oh yeah?" the fruit seller asked incredulously. "If that's true, then where the hell has he been for the last ten years? What kind of Hero runs off at the climax of a war? Huh? Eh?"
"I don't know that!" the customer shouted back. "All I know is that he's back, and the weirdest part is that he's still the same age as when he died. Some are calling it the miracle resurrection. I've heard other say something similar happened in Konoha when the leader of Akatski attacked and killed everyone in the village with one attack. It happened before the war. Uzumaki Naruto is said to have come in to Konoha after it was flattened like a pancake, and then whoosh! All of the sudden, everyone who died came back to life again!"
"Hmph," the fruit seller said with his arms crossed. "I'll believe it when I see it."
Across the street, a lone customer sitting on a stool in front of an Ichiraku Ramen Bar slowly stirred the noodles inside of the piping hot bowl of ramen with their chopsticks. The cook looked up from cleaning one of his pots and blinked. Leaning forward, he called out, "Miss? Is everything okay?"
"Yes," the young woman said as she pulled down the hood of her cloak, releasing her long, thick red hair. She pushed her glasses further up her nose and wiped away the tears running down the cheek. "I'm sorry, it's just that… He's not dead."
"Huh?" The cook asked. "Who?"
"I knew it… I always knew it, but I never had any proof. But I do now," the young woman said, now more rambling to herself. "He's not dead. He's not dead. He's really not dead. He just can't be."
"Uh… okay then!" The ramen chef said. With a bright smile, he said, "That's great news! Congratulations!"
The young woman looked up and smiled back at the chef. "Thank you! And now that I know, I'm going to track down Uzumaki Naruto and torture him until he tells me where my Sasuke-kun is! Bye!"
The ramen chef lifted his hand to call out, "Wait, you still got to pay!" but by then the woman was gone. Groaning in misery, the chef reach over the counter to pick up the bowl and was surprised to find it empty of everything except for the correct amount of money to cover the cost of meal. His surprise gave way to annoyance when he found that the woman had brazenly carved something into the wooden counter beneath the blow. It was the shape of a heart with an arrow going through it and the names 'Karin & Sasuke-kun' carved inside.
Training Ground Three, Konohagakure, Four Days after the Summit…
"That's right, you three did so bad, you don't get to go back to the academy," he explained. "You're all so horrible that the world would probably be better off if you'd just go off in a ditch somewhere and cried about how horrible you each suck for the rest of your lives." The three young children in front of him, one whom was tied to a wooden post, glared daggers at him. Or he supposed that they would be if two of them weren't on the verge of tears. The third looked like he was just about to attack. "I mean, come on, you three didn't even get the point of the test. Kimiko, instead of hiding or looking for your teammates, you attacked me head on, which made it easy to knock you out. In the real world, you're dead in five seconds because of that stunt and now your team is down a member. Yasuo, this is your second attempt at this, you should know better than to ignore your teammates as if they're burdens. And Ichigo, you are not the most badass shinobi to be shat out of the ass of Kami since the invention of Ninjustu. You were just as bad as Kimiko when you rushed in head first."
All three of the genin hopefuls bowed their heads in shame. Slowly, though, Kimiko raised her head and peered at the man who was both deliverer and executioner. "But…," she said, barely restraining her whimper. "W-what's the real purpose of the test, then?" The other two looked up at the question and watched their sensei for a response.
Konohamaru sighed and palmed his face. "It's obviously teamwork," he said with no small amount of despondency. What are they teaching in the academy anymore?
"Teamwork!?" Ichigo shouted. "What the hell are you talking about teamwork?! This test was designed to drive us apart! You said that the one who doesn't get a bell fails and goes back to the academy! How can we work as a team when one of us is absolutely going to fail?!"
"Indeed," Konohamaru said. "This test was designed by my grandfather, the Third Hokage, to test teamwork. It's made to drive the team apart so that I can see whether you can put aside your individual desires in order to accomplish something as a team.
"The Sandaime used this test on the Three Legendary Ninja composed of Senju Tsunade, Orochimaru, and Jiraiya. Orochimaru and Auntie Tsunade were both at the top of the class, but believe it or not, Jiraiya was the dead last. Same thing happened when Jiraiya became a sensei and trained the Fourth Hokage, Namikaze Minato and his team. And then the Yondaime used this test on his team, which included Hatake Kakashi. And the Rokudaime used this test on Uzumaki Naruto, who also happened to be dead last himself and found himself, like Kimiko, tied to a post."
Having said his piece, Konohamaru surveyed his students. They were each looking down at the ground in different stages of despair. Dramatically slumping his shoulders, Konohamaru threw his hands into the air. "Alright, fine, you guys can have another chance."
"R-really, sensei?" Yasuo asked.
"Yeah, really," Konohamaru said rubbing his nose. "But first, you two eat lunch. Kimiko, since you're tied to the stump, you don't get to eat. That's the rules. Got it? I'll be back in a bit!" With a quick body-flicker, Konohamaru found himself in the branches of a tree overlooking the clearing that he'd just been standing in. Taking care not to groan as he leg muscles complained about the abuse he was putting on them just to sit on his haunches on top of such a thin branch, Konohamaru waited for the outcome of the test.
On the Road from Konohagakure to Uzushiogakure, Five days after the summit…
'May you live in interesting times' was always one of those sayings that Hinata did not understand until after the Fourth Shinobi World War. As a child, she might be forgiven for believing it to be a blessing. Now that she had three young children to watch out for, she knew better. It was a curse of the highest order. And despite everything she and those around her had gone through since the world had changed ten years ago, she would be the first to admit that, yes, they did indeed live in interesting times.
"I still can't believe we actually found him! I mean, it was the Uzumaki Naruto! The man who could have become Hokage! The Chosen One! He ended the war! Oh man, I getting all fired up just thinking about fighting him!"
"Would you put a sock in it, Flame Brain!" Nakamura Yoko growled. She whipped around, her hair done up in a long braid snapping around her shoulders like an angry whip, and started walking backward so she could point her finger accusingly at her teammate. "It's been six months, Natsu! SIX MONTHS! Every day, without fail, you start shouting like a freaking fire obsessed monkey about how great Uzumaki Naruto is and how much you want to fight him. Every. Fucking. DAY!"
"Please!" Yamanaka Orihime pleaded, jumping between her teammates with her hands held up in the air. "Please don't fight! We're on a mission, remember. So why can't we get along?"
"We also wouldn't want to lose control of ourselves, would we Yoko?" Hinata asked from behind the trio. She didn't need the Byakugan to see the slight stiffening of Yoko's shoulders. It was pleasing to see the girl exert her self control and reign in her emotions as quickly as she did.
"No," Yoko said quietly as she turned to face forward again. "That would be unacceptable. Sensei, I'm going to walk on the other side of the wagon train."
"That's fine," Hinata said. She watched her student jog forward and slip between the two wagons that made up the train. When she looked back to her other two students, she found the blond Orihime attempting to console a sulking Natsu with soft pats on the back. Interesting times, indeed.
"It's okay, Natsu," Orihime said in her attempt to raise her teammate's spirits. "You know, I think it's incredible that we found Uzumaki-san too."
Natsu grinned a little and then he started laughing loudly with his head thrown back. "Hahaha, of course it was!" he shouted with confidence. "And the next time I see him, or any of the Kage, I'm going to challenge them to a fight and burn them to a crisp!"
"I'm sure you will, Natsu," Orihime said with a smile. Hinata watched this play out without stepping in, deciding it wasn't worth it to point out that Natsu had tried fighting the Hokage before he left for the summit, only to get a 'thousand years of death' as a reward for his efforts. It had been that way since he'd graduated as the dead last.
The boy was decent at taijutsu… well actually, no, if she were being honest in her assessment, Hinata would have to say that Natsu was barely passable at his taijutsu and fought more like a street brawler than a shinobi. The only genjutsu the boy knew was the Clone, and even that was barely passable. But Natsu's one saving grace was his Ninjutsu, specifically, fire nature chakra manipulation.
As an orphan, Natsu had no recorded family name and refused to take one when offered. It left open the possibility that Natsu had a kekkei genkai, which would explain Natsu's preternatural ability to manipulate fire nature chakra on the level he does without any apparent concentration. Not to mention, Natsu didn't ever burn himself with his own flames. To be sure, he was burned by other things, including fire started by others, but not fire natured chakra. It was either a kekkei genkai, or Hinata had an idiot savant on her hands. She'd make either situation work.
Hinata moved her gaze from her overconfident student to the one who always acted as the peace keeper. Yamanaka Orihime was a bit of a klutz. More like a lot of a klutz. She would be oblivious to a ninja sneaking up behind her but would easily pick up if someone was lying or in distress from the subtle variation in the way their voice sounds and the way their face moves. The girl was quite horrid at the Yamanaka clan techniques, but that didn't stop her. She was a true go getter, with a positive attitude, or a facade so thorough that there was no apparent difference.
Orihime's taijutsu was decidedly deadly, unlike her barely passing genjutsu and almost horrifyingly bad Ninjutsu. The girl was aiming to be a medic nin, after all, and had already memorized every chart or medical text she could get her hands on that detailed the inner workings of the human body. The girl was no Tsunade or Sakura, but give her a kunai or even a senbon needle, point he at someone that needed to die, and that person would usually be dead from that one kunai or senbon needle. She knew exactly what pressure points to push and exactly how much pressure to apply to get the result she desired, or so it seemed to Hinata. It was rather amusing to see the normally bubbly, happy, peacemaking Orihime put someone into a paralyzed state with one needle at the base of the neck; the look she got on her face when she was concentrating, half-lidded eyes and lips pushed into a flat line, was rather scary.
"Oh man," Natsu groaned, "not more weaklings!"
Ahead of the caravan stood a small cadre of men, twelve in all. All of them had swords or spears in their hands, pointed at the two wagon caravan and its ninja guardians. The men were all unshaven and though they were downwind, they clearly hadn't bathed in a while. Hinata's nose curled at the phantom smell.
"It's not every day a caravan as small as this is guarded by shinobi," the lead bandit called out. "That means you must be guarding something important! Give it to us and we'll let you live. If you decide to fight well… those two little girls could net us a lot of money down south."
Hinata's eye caught Natsu's fists curling into fists and his arms straining from how tightly they were being clenched. From the half-lidded expression worn by Orihime, Hinata could guess where her thoughts were going. No doubt Yoko was feeling emotions along similar lines. Slavers, of course, always made her blood boil as well. Perhaps these men didn't need to survive much longer.
"Team eight," Hinata called out, catching everyone's attention. "We only need one alive for intel, do with the rest as you see fit. Use formation two."
"So you're going to resist, eh?" the lead bandit asked with a smirk and a dangerous glint in his eye. "We'll have you know that we're all former shinobi, I'm a former chunin, there's no way you ca-AUUUGH!"
The 'chunin' leader went down with a senbon sticking out of his neck. There was surprisingly little blood coming out, but none of the other bandits noticed this, nor had the time to. Natsu had descended upon the whole group with flames bursting from his mouth. The man he'd landed on screamed as he was immolated to death.
With the battle joined, the other ten bandits scattered. Two ran toward Orihime. Six tried to jump Natsu. The last two ran toward Yoko, who had been standing off to the side with only a kunai in her hand.
Natsu, instead of retreating like a sensible ninja, used the burning corpse of his first victim like a springboard to launch himself at the three oncoming shinobi. "Katon: Explosion!" he shouted as his entire body became wreathed in flame. Shortly thereafter he bowled into the crowd of bandits. The flames then exploded off and away from Natsu's body. The force of the explosion sent all of the bandits flying backwards. Some of them had small patches of fire on them. Others had melted skin and third degree burns wherever their skin was exposed, mostly their face and arms. All of them were in serious pain as they pushed themselves to their feet.
Hinata glanced to her right at the battle that was supposed to be taking place between Orihime and the two bandits there, only it was already done. Orihime was dragging the two corpses to the side of the road, a trail of blood leaking from their slashed necks. Orihime had a disgusted look on her face as she dropped the two bodies on the roadside and moved to help Natsu in front of the caravan.
"Aren't you going to help them, Hyūga-sama?" asked the cart driver of the wagon she was sitting in.
Hinata smiled and faced the man with her eyes closed. "No, they've got, as my friend Lee would say, a lot of youthful energy to burn off. They've been far too cooped up lately. It's best to let off the steam now when they've got something worthy of taking it out on. Besides," and at this point the driver noticed the slightly bulging veins around Hinata's eyes, "I'm keeping an eye on them."
"Of course, Hyūga-sama," the driver said with a small bow of his head. It was foolish, after all, to doubt that Hyūga Hinata was ever going to let anything bad happen to her students. She was, after all, someone who always got what she wanted, one way or another. It was only her family and the few friends she drank with every so often that remembered how she used to be before the war.
"What's with these kids," growled one of the bandits. "They can't be genin! This is ridiculous!"
"We're ridiculous, huh?" Yoko asked in a calm, low voice. "Sure, we're shinobi. We're supposed to be out of the norm. But the ridiculous ones here are not us kids, but you ugly old fat men who sit on their asses all day and then expect to beat actual shinobi who spend all their time training hard." At hearing this declaration, the two men who'd gone after Yoko tightened their grips on the spears they each carried. Murder entered their eyes, but Yoko continued on heedless of it. "What's ridiculous is thinking you ever had a chance of defeating trained shinobi. What's ridiculous is thinking out of shape has-beens would even stand a chance against those who continue to serve and train hard for their people." Yoko snorted at the looks of pure murder and the waves of killing intent coming off of the two men in front of her. "Not to mention… that killing intent is so weak I could have fended it off as an infant. If you want to know what real killing intent feels like, how about… this."
While the two men were veterans of the Fourth Shinobi world war and had experienced killing intent that the likes of Biju gave off, what hit them next left them on the ground frothing at the mouth. These two men, former men of Iwagakure, had served on the front lines. They still had nightmares of the Zetsu Invasion. Both of them had watched comrades they thought were still alive turn and start killing their friends. Both had born witness to the devastating final clash between Uzumaki Naruto and his masked counterpart, and as a result, felt the terrifyingly huge chakra auras that had been put out on that day. Nothing in their lives since then had ever come close, nothing. It had allowed these two men the ability to cultivate killing intents that were so powerful, lesser men would actually die.
But this little brown haired girl that looked no more threatening than a mouse put out an aura that was so oppressive that it felt like they were suddenly drowning. No, it was worse. They'd seen demons fight, but now it was like they were watching the gates of hell opening. They could practically see the skeletal white hand reaching out from the gates toward their heads. And when they felt those bone fingers scrape against their skulls, their minds finally realized that this was real, they were going to hell, and the King of Hell was personally going to escort them.
From Hinata's point of view, the two men had run up to Yoko, paused for several seconds, and then promptly had simultaneous heart attacks from which they did not recover. Whatever Yoko had shown caused the two men to die from extreme fear. Judging from Yoko's mildly upset expression, it wasn't what she'd been attempting to do.
Hinata watched through her Byakugan as Yoko knelt down and said a small prayer over the two men while Natsu and Orihime finished putting down the other bandits. When it was finally over, and all of the corpses had been pushed to the side of the road, her three students gathered around her.
"Each of you did very well," Hinata said. Natsu was grinning widely, though she suspected it was an attempt to hide his furtive glances as the deeply brooding Yoko. Orihime meanwhile was smiling while not even trying to hide the concern she felt for her teammate. "Orihime, you were quick and efficient, as always. It was good that you were able to help Natsu, though perhaps next time you should be more aware and make sure everyone of the opponents are dead. That last one nearly got you."
"Yes sensei," the girl said contritely.
Hinata smiled from her seat. "Good, now go get that chunin you put into a near death state and load him onto one of the carts. Make sure to keep him in that state until we can hand him off to an interrogator." Orihime smiled, saluted, and ran off to do as told. "Natsu, you were reckless as usual."
"Whaaaaat?! But did you see how I took on six of them and totally kicked ass!? I was awesome out there!"
"You also nearly set the front cart on fire as well as the forest around us," Hinata deadpanned. Natsu chuckled and rubbed the back of his head, but didn't miss the glare Hinata was giving him.
"I'm sorry, sensei, it won't happen again," he said, dropping his head in shame.
"That's what you said the last time," Hinata said, thinking back to what was left of Training Ground Thirteen. It looked marginally better now that the Hokage had officially re-designated it as a wasteland training ground instead of a forested one. "I believe when we get back to the village, there will be more awareness training for you to do."
"Aw man! This sucks!" Natsu spun around and crossed his arms in front of him while throwing his head to the side. It was clear from the small flames dancing on his hair that he was angry.
"Are you complaining?" Hinata asked calmly, raising an eyebrow. The flames on Natsu's hair vanished and his head ducked. "Good. Go help Orihime move that body so we can get moving."
"I'm on it!" Natsu said with a thumbs-up. Then he ran off after Orihime.
"Yoko…" Hinata trailed off when Yoko looked up at her with tears threatening to break out of the corners of her eyes.
"I did it again, sensei! I… I lost control and… and they died." Yoko was breathing heavily at this point and trying mightily to stay in control. Hinata glanced at the driver and he nodded. As soon as the man had hopped off the cart and walked a short distance away, Yoko had thrown herself into Hinata's arms where she started crying uncontrollably. "I'm not even sure what they saw, but it was so terrifying that they died. I'm a monster. A horrible monster."
"Shh, Yoko, it's okay now," Hinata said. "You're not a monster."
"But I am!" Yoko protested.
"Now listen to me," Hinata said, grabbing a hold of Yoko's trembling shoulders and pushing her back so that she could look into the girls puffy red and wet eyes. "You are most certainly not a monster. And even if you were, that doesn't mean you're a bad person. You are a good person. I've seen the way you act when you care about others. And if you hadn't done what you did, those two men would still be dead. If I were in your position, I would have killed them myself. The true monsters in that fight were those bandits, not you."
"B-but sensei," Yoko said. She sniffed loudly and wiped her face with her sleeve. After a moment, she finally reined her emotions and stood with her shoulders squared and her back straight. "I lost control of my power again. Not even mother could control her powers, even after she defeated her inner demon. What if… what if I never gain control of them?" And then more quietly, Yoko asked, "What if it takes control of me?"
Hinata smiled and stroked her hand through Yoko's brown locks of hair. "Yoko, your mother was born with the same condition as you, that's true. It's used to be called the Kurama Clan Curse for a reason, but it's not really a curse. You said so yourself that you've begun to speak with the other voice. When you finally come to terms with it, you won't need to worry about which side is in control of your power, because it will be all you. There won't be two sides any longer."
"I… I'm scared, sensei," Yoko said. She hugged herself and shivered. "What if… what if I can't come to terms with it? What if it's just impossible?"
"Then I think you'll be okay then too," Hinata said.
"Wha-but how?" At the confused expression on Yoko's face, a face usually so stern and often confused for being angry, Hinata couldn't help but giggle.
"You'll be fine because you have the Will of Fire," Hinata said. "The desire to protect your friends with your very life. I have no doubt at all that if it's your friend's lives on the line, you'll do just fine."
"I…" Yoko looked away but remained silent. After a moment, she took a deep breath and faced Hinata. The old spark was now back in the girl's eyes, which gave Hinata a sense of comfort. "I don't know if that's true, but… but I don't want to let them down, so I' try."
Hinata nodded and then made a shooing motion as Orihime and Natsu dragged the much larger man toward the wagon.
Seven days after the summit, Two kilometers above the ruins of Uzushiogakure, Land of Whirlpools
Sai peered over the edge of his ink bird toward the ground below. With one hand he held a pair of binoculars to his eyes and with the other, he was pressing the transmit button on the radio secured around his neck.
"Twenty meters to your left, there appears to be another sealed trap. The soil around it has been disturbed in a pattern indicating that it is the explosive variety. Five meters between you and the trap I can see an old barrier line in the dirt, but it has since burned out."
"I see it."
"Be careful that you do not cross the barrier line, as you did last time."
"I'm going to disregard that request. You smell like an old wet dog, and I doubt you taste any better."
"Hah! I love this kid! Can I keep him as a pet?"
"No Kuromaru, you can't. Last one you brought home lodged a complaint with the Hokage, and we don't need any more of that. There." Sai watched as his teammates, led by the Inuzuka Tsume, cleared the last of the explosive traps in the area. This cleared the last of the trapped sectors blocking access between the ruins of Uzushio and the port by the coast. "This sector is clear. You get that Shikaku?"
"Yes," came the reply in a much deeper voice, though less gravely than Kuromaru's. "That was the last sector that needed to be cleared before we could start preliminary housekeeping. Our partners from Iwa say there's something funny with the dirt and the bedrock. Tsume, while that's being investigated, I need you to take your team and head into the village ruins. Keep your eyes in the sky just in case. Let me know if you find anything interesting. And keep your guard up. Even Konoha never knew everything about the seals that the clans in this village came up with."
"Copy Shikaku," Tsume said.
Then Kuromaru piped up and asked, "You hear that flyboy?"
"I did. Are you sure you can find the way, puppy?"
"He did not just say that," Kuromaru said. "Call me puppy, one more time, to my face. I dare you!"
Sai smiled and tilted his head just so. "But you don't have a face, mangy mutt."
"I changed my mind. I call first dibs on ripping his throat out."
"It's like a never ending circus with you three," another team member said. Sai's smile seemed to grow just a little bit further. It had become so much easier to fit into new social dynamics after ten years of practice. They seemed to be getting along real well now. It wasn't such a sure thing when they'd started out this morning.
Hokage Tower, Konohagakure, Nine days after summit…
Shikamaru leaned back in his chair and groaned into his hands. He'd accomplished his life's dream. He had a desk job and somehow managed to remain a chunin. He even had begun dating this plain, down to earth, village girl, Reishi. They'd even moved in together to see if they could make the domestic life work, and the signs were looking good from what he could tell.
Of course, it had taken nearly ten years to get to this point in his life. Not the best track record, but all things considered, recovering from a war that nearly ended the world in just ten years must have been a record. A personal record to be sure. It had been quite troublesome, indeed.
Now, just when his life was cruising down easy street and he could look forward to an early retirement, something happens. More specifically, a very troublesome blond that had a habit of screwing everyone's lives up whenever he poked his annoying, troublesome nose into it. Hell, Shikamaru hadn't been able to go cloud watching with Rei for over a month. He really missed those little getaways.
"Don't tell me it's too troublesome, Shikamaru."
Shikamaru opened one eye from behind his hand and saw Neji standing next to him with a bundle of papers in his hands and a calm facade. Calm was likely the last thing that the Hyūga prodigy was at this moment, but he was a strict follower in his families' old protocols. As such, he would never show anything but calm control in any situation.
Ever since the Hyūga Revolution a few years ago, most of the clan had set about updating their style and interpersonal etiquette was one of the things that most in the clan threw away, calling it outdated and obtrusive in everyday life. Shikamaru had to shrug at the feeling, since he'd never had a bunch of stuffy old shirts telling him how he was supposed to behave his whole life.
"Not the work," Shikamaru said. He forced himself to sit up straight for a moment, before he slumped forward and folded both of his hands in front of his mouth while leaning his elbows on his desk. "The whole situation. An entire race of robot space ships that number in the billions, if not trillions, that are hell bent on the utter obliteration of every organic civilization. Yeah, just try telling me that's not troublesome. I dare you."
Neji smirked and the barest of smiles graced his lips. "Oh sure, if you put it that way."
"So what brings you down to this dusty old place?" Shikamaru asked. "It's not like there's a party going on down here. Actually, I think everyone else has gone home for the day."
Neji nodded. "You've read the most material that has been recovered from the Omni-tool, so I wanted your opinion on a project that the Hospital director asked me head up." He handed over the stacks of papers to Shikamaru, who took them and began leafing through them. At first he thought they were more reports about the technology schematics found inside of the Omni-tool. His eyes widened slightly when he realized what they really were.
"These are plans for building new omni-tools with our current technology and skills, aren't they?" Shikamaru asked. He pushed the stack of papers back into order and looked back up at Neji, who was studying him carefully. No doubt trying to decipher his body language. Too bad he was good enough now that he never telegraphed his thoughts anymore. His father had gotten brutal at Shogi after the war, so he'd had to stop pulling his punches on all levels. It had worked out in the end, though. "Why is Shizune asking you to build more Omni-tools?"
"Well, the truth is," Neji said, "we don't actually have the ability to build them. Not really. Their processing power is at least a thousand years more advanced than what we currently have. What I came up with was a hybrid of current electronic technology, Fuinjutsu, and Genjutsu. The interface would be handled by the Fuinjutsu and Genjutsu, but the electronics would be used to link themselves wirelessly to a central server where all the recovered data has been stored."
Shikamaru turned the idea over in his head a few times before he nodded. He didn't really read much about the technology, his focus had been on military tactics and strategies. Wrapping his head around three dimensional combat in space where there was no up or down had taken him three days, and considering no one else had been able to do the same, he figured that was some sort of accomplishment.
"From everything I've read and seen referenced to in the data that I've gone over, this other place has some sort of giant, galaxy wide network of computers that they use to transmit data and communicate with nearly no lag time. So it certainly possible. But in order to get it to work, a lot of the underlying infrastructure would have to be developed alongside these sort-of-omni-tools." Neji nodded, prompting Shikamaru to mentally bash his head into a wall. Of course Neji had come to a similar conclusion. Neji hadn't come down here to ask Shikamaru if it was possible so much as if it would be plausible with their current schedule and economy. "Okay, fine. I'll throw in a good word when I see the Hokage next. Maybe he'll throw you a bone when you ask… or something."
Neji nodded and smiled fully this time. It wasn't a very predatory smile at all, despite how Shikamaru felt like he'd been had. Shizune and the hospital staff weren't the only ones begging for access to the data. Hell, being able to look at footage and read documents in someplace less stuffy than this pit, like say a hillside with a good view of the clouds, would have been a godsend for Shikamaru. And Neji must have known that putting something like that in front of him would have this effect. Smug bastard. "I thank you for your help in the matter. On another topic, are you going to the reunion? We're all meeting up at Ichiraku in an hour or so."
Shikamaru sighed and rubbed his hands through his hair. "Can't. I'm currently five hours behind deadline for a report that the Hokage wanted on updated combat tactics. Let the others know I'm sorry I couldn't be there."
"I'll be sure to pass the message on." Having said his piece, Neji bowed lightly and left Shikamaru alone on the abandoned floor. The nearest living person just happened to be the ANBU guarding the floor above, where the Omni-tool Data was being decoded twenty-four hours a day. At least until the new structures at Uzushio were completed.
"This is so damn troublesome."
"Those blasted idiots are going to get us all killed," blasted the bombastic voice of number three. "We're not even technologically on their radar and yet they're doing everything in their power get us all killed by them. Those so called "reapers". Damn them and damn that stupid fucking Uzumaki Naruto! He should have died long ago anyway. It shouldn't have gotten to the point where a war could take place, that demon should have been killed the moment he was born. And now look at what consorting with him has gotten us? Is this his so called peace? What utter garbage!"
"Calm yourself, number three," the much calmer and level voiced number four said. "Not everyone is as enlightened as us. If they were, we'd still be in power, wouldn't we?"
"I agree with number three," said the strong and very deep voice of number two. "Not that I could put it so virulently, but he has the right notion. This is all that Uzumaki's fault. Hell, the only reason we, the Independent Union exist is because of the reforms that little bastard inspired in the rest of the world. And after being pushed out of their little club house, being stomped on, spit on, insulted, and denied any access to their markets, let alone their territory, what else could those blowhards expect from us."
"Indeed," said the quiet voiced number ten. "We of the Union will not bend over and take it just so that we can have prosperity. Prosperity in this world has always belonged to those who have the might to take it. It is an indisputable fact that since the Warring States period, our world has always contained conflict and violence. Thrived on it. Thus it has always been that to the victor goes the spoils. The Federation would change this with their weak 'rights' and representatives. The attempt was as useless as it was futile."
"I would speak," said the deep gravelly voice of number one. The other nine numbers fell silent and turned to face the first. "We have long been in conflict with the Federation. But what have we to show for it? Nothing. Every day, we grow weaker. Every day, we lose ground. There is a cause. And we must cut that weakness away as soon as possible. Number five. Goodbye."
"What?! But I-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggggghhhhhhh hhhhh!"
The other numbers watched in silence as number five's body burst into flames. The man who had formerly been of Suna was reduced to little more than ash in a few seconds. When it was all done, and the flames danced no more, the chair in which number five had been sitting lowered gently into the floor. A panel slide over the top of it once it had vanished.
"With that bit of business completed," number one said without a hitch in his voice from what he'd just caused, "let us move on." Several of the other numbers swallowed audibly but didn't make much other noise. "Number seven, please report on the status of Project Uzumaki?"
"The project is moving along as scheduled. Staff at the project site in Uzushio do not suspect our involvement at all. I cannot speak to the work number two has done to infiltrate the other parts of the Federation, but our work has thus far has gone unnoticed."
"That's good," number one said, though his gravelly voice barely lilted in any way that showed his elation. If there was any emotion in that man, he had thrown it away long ago. As he'd been trained. "Number eight, report."
"I managed to get one of ours onto the information recovery team in Konoha," number eight said. "The agent will be feeding us everything that the Federation learns, all of their technological breakthroughs, and so on, as they become available."
"It's good to know at least something good came of number five and his screw up," number three said.
"Indeed," number one said. "Very well, for now, we will proceed as planned with our current projects. There will be no action taken against the Federation. We will wait until they fall into a sense of security. Only once the time is right will we strike out against our foe and topple them in one swift stroke."
"Long live the Independent Shinobi Union," all of the numbers intoned at the same time as they stood and bowed to number one, who simply stood and watched impassively.
Main Lab, Research and Development, Uzushiogakure, Six months after Naruto left the Elemental Nations, Four months after the discovery of the Reaper Threat, Two months after the Summit…
"So you are sure this will work, right?" A asked. "I've seen way too many seals explode and cost lives when things were rushed."
"Yes, I'm sure," head researcher Yamamoto Aoi said with a nod. "I've been studying Space-Time Fuinjutsu for nearly my whole life. I'm willing to bet my life on it that this seal is one hundred percent safe, within context."
"Within context?!" A burst. "Damn it! This shit is the reason I hate dealing with lawyers and Fuinjutsu specialists."
Aoi for her part did not flinch at the Lightning Representatives outburst. She was from Kumo, after all, so she was used to dealing with A and his outbursts, as well as the current Raikage's eccentricities. Her legendary patience coupled with her ability with Space-Time was the reason she was put in charge of this particular project to begin with.
"Are we ready or is there another reason you called us all down here?" asked an increasingly impatient Tsunade. Aoi shivered slightly when she turned to face the Fire rep. Dealing with A was one thing. Tsunade, while she had a similar reputation as A in regards to putting holes in things, was far more temperamental despite her increasingly advanced age. She also had the ability to heal a person. Healing coupled with the ability to deal nearly unimaginable pain was a scary prospect for Aoi, and as such, she felt more than a little bit of fear when dealing with the Legendary Sucker than with the old Raikage.
"N-no, the seal is ready," Aoi said. "All it needs is for the item to be transported to be placed at the center of the seal and then we can begin."
From the gathering of shinobi in the, admittedly, small room, the Hokage strode forward and placed a small scroll that he pulled from inside of his official robes into the center of the sealing array that took up the entirety of the room's floor. Once he'd placed the scroll in the proper position, Kakashi retreated to the shinobi reps and other Kage. Silently, Aoi went about the room, making last minute adjustments to the seal and going over it again one last time.
Finally, Aoi looked to the Kage and Reps. "It's time," she said. "Please take the positions I showed you."
As seven people with the largest chakra reserves moved into position at equidistant positions along the perimeter of the seal, Aoi moved to a computer console along the very edge of the room where she began to initiate the program that would help guide the seal on the floor. Truly, Hyūga Neji was a genius for pioneering electronic chakra manipulation. Fuinjutsu as a field of study had never been this accessible, ever.
"I have a little bit of experience with Fuinjutsu," said Temari from her position at the side of the room, "I use Space-Time Fuinjutsu in summoning. Though I didn't write the seal itself, I became familiar enough with it to understand a little of what is written on the floor here. But this doesn't look anything like reverse summoning to another dimension. And why would it take so much chakra? Aren't all dimensions sort of like in the same space, just not visible to each other?"
"Essentially, you are correct, according to the annotated works of the Yondaime Hokage anyway," Aoi said. "However, we're not connecting to another dimension now, are we?"
"We're not?" Temari asked.
"You haven't been reading the reports, have you sister?" Gaara asked from his position in the array.
Temari blushed but remained silent. "It would appear," Aoi said, "that Uzumaki-san did not go off to another dimension. We followed the signal his tracker seal gave us across the galaxy and to another one entirely. Actually, that we got a signal back across that much space is the miraculous part in my opinion. Perhaps it has something to do with that device he has that enabled him to travel from there and back again. Or, who knows, it could just be some random wormhole that is conveniently helping us out. Whatever the cause, we know exactly where, and more importantly, when Uzumaki Naruto is."
"When?" Gaara asked. "That wasn't in the report."
"Ahh… ehehe…" Now it was Aoi's turn to blush. "That might have… slipped my mind in the report. While tracking Uzumaki-san, I discovered a weird distortion of time and space. Compensating for this distortion was actually a large part of finally getting a lock on his seal. Apparently, in this neighboring galaxy, time flows slower than it does here. I've worked it out to being approximately three time slower. So for ever second they experience, we would have experienced three. The real mind bender is that from the best I can tell, both that galaxy and this one have the same rate of time flow, meaning living there would feel the same way as living here. You simply wouldn't be able to consciously tell the difference."
"So you're saying even though we're moving through time faster than Naruto, he doesn't know it," Tsunade asked, rubbing her temples. "I hate seals. Gramps was always trying to get me to learn them but I'd just wanted to play cards and steal all his money. Looks like it's finally coming back to bite me in the ass."
"You don't need to understand it to accept it," Gaara said.
"Unfortunately," Kakashi said, "since this is the first we're finding out about this, we never got it into the message. And I assume it's too late to stop the seal from activating."
Aoi nodded. "Two minutes until the seal activates. There's no going back now."
"We'll just have to send word to him next time we open communications," A said. "He's probably off sleeping somewhere or getting into trouble."
"Knowing Naruto," Kakashi said, "He's probably getting into trouble and causing things to explode around him. Or eating his way through the Citadel's supply of Ramen."
"That's Naruto, for you," Tsunade said.
Note from the Author
Considering that at the time that Kakashi and Tsunade said those things, Naruto had just woken up from getting a missile to the face, blowing up a gunship, and saving Garrus' scaly hide, I'd say those two know Naruto really well! That said, all of you faithful followers of this story are probably asking one thing and it has nothing to do with what Kakashi or Tsunade think of Naruto. Where have I been for over a year and two months?
Answer: Work, Job Seeking, Family Gatherings, etc., etc. Oh, and also, this little thing called BioWare kept shooting thermonuclear missiles at my happy place. There's that too.
But, a reader might theoretically say, this chapter has nothing to do with BioWare or their Blue/Green/Red Epic Fail. So what gives?
Answer: I hate this chapter. No really, I hated this chapter. It refused to write, and my imagination kept jumping to the parts that would happen after it, or further along, or hell, something not even in this story. Every single time I tried to sit down and write this, I usually ended up reading someone else's fanfiction. Thus, my absolute loathing of this chapter. It. Is. Evil.
That said, I hope you enjoyed it and it was illuminating for you. I tried to explain some of the science (pseudo-science?) involved from the shinobi side of things. This may or may not answer some of your questions, though I'm going to guess it won't make sense to some of you. Let's just say, that the device Naruto uses is unique, not the norm. Anything more about that would be spoilers.
In this chapter, several old favorites are revisited, and it becomes clear that this future is an AU from the Manga. Most obviously because Neji is still kicking (or poking… or whatever it is he does). I've also introduced several new OCs, specifically, if anyone of you is sharp enough to notice, are expies of their counterparts in other manga/anime. No, I am no crossing this story over with anything beyond Naruto/Mass Effect. They are, strictly, expies. They won't be exhibiting magical abilities that defy this universe's set examples (specifically, Chakra and Eezo). The most you can expect are similar character traits, catch phrases, and equivalent abilities where applicable (Natsu causing an explosion by itself is, obviously, not something he can do in Earthland. Ninja Natsu, though, can. Thus it is debatable who is more destructive…).
Edboy4926 and MEleeSmasher both brought up the Leviathans… over a year ago (as if I needed another reminder about how long this chapter took). The Leviathans are an enigmatic group at best. Their motives are often portrayed as not that much better than the Reapers or the Intelligence. After all, it was the Leviathan's ancestors who created the Intelligence to begin with. And from Shepard's encounter with them in the ME3, I'm not inclined to believe they're all that sorry about the way things have turned out. True, they have been run off to the darkest corners of the galaxy and I have no doubt they're annoyed by that. But at the same time, they are defending the Intelligences' solution to the problem of the Cycle right from the beginning of their little interaction with Shepard. Their goals, in ME3, may have been the same as Shepard in so far as stopping the Intelligences' current solution but beyond that they haven't indicated where they would go. Hell, they may have only helped Shepard against the Reapers and the Intelligence just so they could take over the galaxy again. And now that I've introduced the idea into the ME 'verse that other galaxies have intelligent life too, no doubt they'd try to take over there too. So, do I intend to involve the Leviathans in my story? I can't afford not to, but really, the appropriate question is: Do they intend to involve themselves in the affairs of Shinobi?
Quathis, Wonijs, Puffdadder, and to a greater extent IMS all told me that if I don't like the ending of ME3, that I should change it. This is fanfiction after all. And you know what, they're right. I hate the ending of ME3, extended or not. It's still all RED/GREEN/BLUE space magic to me. So… without giving too much away, if the Reapers, and by extent the Intelligence thinks that there's no way organics of any cycle can defeat them in conventional warfare, they're in for a rude awakening. Main reason: Shinobi are anything but conventional. Plus: Uzumaki Fucking Naruto, the King of Luck.
Haha, just thought of a joke. Reapers arrive in the galaxy, they're getting ready to go into all out war and 'ascend' the lesser races. Only, they arrive on the scene and find… the galaxy has already been completely cleansed. There is, in fact, only one sentient being still standing on the citadel. He's got 13 badges and the Reapers curse his name as they fly back out into dark space. Gary Motherfucking Oak. Some of you will either find this hilarious or confusing. If it is the former, internet points for you. If the later, then I point you toward Pokémon on TV Tropes (Also, Welcome to the Internet!).
IMS asked, "Who is [Naruto] now than just a random incarnation of the same face that happens to be not evil?" That, sir, is the question that Naruto will be coming face to, err, face in the near future. At least now Naruto can get away with saying it was his evil twin that did it, ne? Don't think that will work on the scale that Naruto's got to deal with, but still, the point stands.
Blinded in a bolthole couldn't help but hope for a redeemed clone, like Grunt. Grunt, after all, is an example of one and it should be possible for a Naruto clone to choose the same. There are differences though. Yes, Grunt and the Shadow Broker's pet army were both created with similar technology, but toward different ends. Warlord Okeer was looking for a way to create a perfect Krogan. All the Shadow Broker cared about was customizing the Naruto DNA he had to make perfect Super Ninja Soldiers. That said, keep a look out anyway. Who knows what the future will hold.
Blind also pointed out that Orochimaru would also be capable of doing the same thing as the Shadow Broker, only with Fuinjutsu and Chakra manipulation. This is true, but to an extent. I don't believe that Orochimaru was as adept at manipulating DNA as everyone might think he was. It's true, he knew how to manipulate bloodlines and integrate them together. But this knowledge came from the brute force method of experimentation, that is, he began putting things together in whatever way he could until he found a way that worked, and then refined it from there. Orochimaru and the shinobi world obviously know what DNA is, but they don't seem to understand it completely, like the ME universe does. Put plainly, the shinobi don't have the human genome, just the theory that states it's there. Would Orochimaru have been able to do the same thing as the Shadow Broker? No doubt, he could have, after several years of attempting to do so with many, many, many, failures. Shadow Broker, meanwhile, walks up to a computer, punches in what he wants, and out pops a fully grown Super Naruto Clone. Same result, different methods. I guess it really just goes to show how despicable Orochimaru is, when even the Shadow Broker appears less a monster in comparison (ironic because Yahg are fairly monstrous in appearance).
Also, Blind, I'm glad you and others like my inclusion of a Naruto Clone Army. You're right, it does kind of act like a balance against Naruto, who can reshape the landscape on his own (and destroy the Citadel too, apparently). Not to mention Sasuke and Sakura, capable shinobi in their own right, are also out there to be dealt with.
So, Puffdadder, you think you know who Shepard's final pairing will be, eh? Well too bad, I'm not telling, but I can confirm who it isn't. No, it will not be Shepard/Sasuke. What kind of ship would that be anyway? Shepuske? Saspard? The names are hilarious enough on their own without trying to add Broody McBrood to Badass-Chosen-One. That is crack pairing, my friend. One even I am not up to writing. Though if anyone else wishes to one-shot it, just tag my story and name to it and go nuts. Hehe, and AU of an AU.
Hermes Tonsil. I am thrilled you are engrossed in my story. And you're welcome very much.
Anseloth, I'm sorry, but I won't be letting anyone else write this story, or ghostwrite, or anything like that. It would take too long to get anyone else up to date with everything I've come up with concept wise and plus, I'd lose creative license. That said, when ME3 time rolls around, there will be plenty of room for others to join if they so wish. Just as ME3 supplements the main story with the Multiplayer, where everyone playing creates a side narrative of other characters fighting the Reapers/Geth/Cerberus/Collectors, so too are there going to be multiple fronts and battles going on in the Reaper War in this version. Only it's not now, it's later when the main war is going on. However, I don't want to be a downer or anything. If you feel strongly enough about a direction I didn't take, then feel free to write it. This is, as has been so fluently pointed out to me, Fanfiction. So, fanfiction my fanfiction if it fits your fancy. Just be sure to note your stories connection to this one and credit me as the originating author for the version of the 'verse you're using (cause otherwise it'd just be an original fanfiction… err, is that even possible?)
A guest reviewer asked if I was a professional writer. They noted that everything I wrote fit together very well. The truth, no, I'm not a professional writer, but it's been said (and I forget who, I think Mark Twain) that authors are never experts in their craft. I forget the saying, but that is the gist of it. So, no, I'm not a professional writer, but I do enjoy writing. It's an obsessive hobby of mine. If one day I write an original story (or an extended universe Star Wars book) and have it published, I guess that I would then become professional, maybe. Still, it makes me kind of warm inside to think someone thinks so highly of my work. Thank you.
Have a Little Feith points out that the boxer scene at the end of chapter 10 is completely unrealistic. And he's right. It is, but it's not meant to be completely realistic. It's more of a pick me up/gag/omake moment than a serious part of the plot. Both Naruto and ME have gag moments like that, so while it was unrealistic, I felt it was at least a good attempt at blending the two universes. But, everyone's got their own preferences, and I can't win all my battles. In any case, thanks for your input.
To the rest of you dear readers who have reviewed, faved, alerted, and waited these many months patiently, thank you very very much. And all of the rest of you readers are just as awesome. Thanks for reading chapter eleven of Mass Effect 2: Naruto's Mission. Hope it lived up to your expectations.