Chapter XXIV

A hooded figure silently slid into a bar. The establishment was packed with bandits and rouges alike, all wandering about. Most were exchanging tales of their recent pillages in minor villages whilst others settled for drinking themselves into a drunken stupor. The man slowly pushed his way through the heated mass of bodies and alcohol towards the back of the bar. It was there he came upon a table where his target sat.

He was a gruff looking man. His head was void of any hair, save for his thick eyebrows and the stubble of a beard that sprouted about his lower lace. He had piercing teal eyes and a scar that ran through the right one from his forehead down to his cheek. The scratched out Mist headband that hung around his neck was a clear indication that he was missing-nin. The man was flanked by two scantily dressed women that clung to him almost like a second skin, giggling as they meshed their bodies to his.

"I hope you didn't come here to cause trouble," the man said downing another cup of sake as he glanced at the mysterious figure before him.

"Quite the opposite actually," the man said holding up his hands defensively. "I've come looking for a man by the name of Shiro," he said.

"And what is your business with him?" The man asked as he propped his elbows on the table, wary of the person before him. Said person removed their hood to reveal a man with square-rimmed glasses and long brown hair that was drawn back into a ponytail. "My name is Kokuyō and I have a proposition for him." The bald man looked over the twig of a man before him. "I'm not particularly fond of propositions," he said dismissively as he down more sake.

Kokuyō only smirked. "How about one that promises as much money and women to you and your men's desire?" at this the man's eyebrow rose. "I'm listening…"

'How do I keep getting myself into these situations…' Naruto mentally questioned himself.

He found himself standing in the middle of a field that was completely sealed off by iron walls. There were a few random patches of grass here and there but it was mostly barren earth. Oh there was also a lone oak tree. He couldn't forget the lone oak tree. But none of this is what unnerved him. It was the horde of screeching women raising hell in the stands.

Naruto was standing in a stadium the middle of Nadeshiko with nearly every pair of eyes in the village set on him. 'So this is the Lion's Den…' Naruto thought solemnly to himself. He turned toward an elevated section in the stands. There in the private box he spotted his grandmother. She was giving him a look that said to just bear with it. He then spotted Tsuki who was staring at him with a determined expression, making him sigh. After she'd rose hell and wreaked terror all over the place in search of him, he'd been forced to tell her the truth. Of course, she was skeptical at first but Naminé was there to confirm his story. And that was when her age began to show as her imagination began to run wild at the prospect of being princess.

A slight squelching sound filled the air and Naruto turned to the person responsible for his current predicament. Yume stood in the press box with the other council members with a microphone in hand. Her voice echoed throughout the stadium due to the strategically placed speakers. "Sisters of Nadeshiko! On this day, you've all been gathered to witness a grand spectacle!" She spoke, eliciting a roar from the crowd. She turned her gaze toward the young blonde and leveled a glare at him. "I know there have been whispers floating around and I'm here to dispel all of them. This…boy who so claims to be of Namikaze blood thinks he can just waltz in and take over just because of an old birth right!"

Naruto would have thought her words to be borderline slander, but part of him actually believed it would be that easy. It was nothing more than a fleeting thought, but with his luck it wouldn't have surprised him. "I personally believe it's nothing more than a farce and some excuse for some man to get his grimy hands on our assets!" Yume said, earning an assault of affronts directed toward Naruto.

He actually frowned at that, picking up on the double meaning behind what she said. 'Someone obviously has issues with the male species. Surely I don't come off as a pervert…do I?'

"But Lady Naminé herself has vouched for the boy," Yume continued. "But even if he is Namikaze like he claims, how can we put our faith in some kid to lead over us, let alone protect our home?" she questioned, once again getting a rise out of the crowd. Tsuki let out a small growl and Naminé began to rub her temple in annoyance. 'Shizuka-chan has been the head of the village since she was 15…this woman will stop at nothing.' She cast a look toward her grandson and could sense the subtle killer intent he was letting off. 'Please Naruto-kun, don't do anything brash…'

"Well the truth is we can't! I can't expect some gaki to protect my home without knowing what he's capable of! And who better to put him in his place than our beloved leader herself!" As if on cue, Shizuka flashed into existence before Naruto, making the audience go wild. The two teen's eyes met as they stared at one another. Naruto tilted his head slightly as he looked her over. 'Yep…definitely her…' Shizuka only stood there in silence, watching him analytically.

"Boy," Yume said, much to the blonde's annoyance. "Today you'll must face Shizuka-sama in combat. If by some stroke of luck or fate you win, then, and only then, will we acknowledge you as a true a Namikaze fit to lead Nadeshiko." She smirked. She was in turn met with a raised hand from the boy.

"Oh, did you want to forfeit? Well lucky for you there's still some time," Yume grinned. Naruto only responded with a question of his own. "So I just have to win right?" The whole stadium seemed to go quiet at his words. Yume could only stare in confusion. "What was that?"

"I mean the way you speak of me with such disdain is nothing short of slander. My presence here obviously offends you all, and I'm willing to bet it's something beyond my understanding," he began. "But that doesn't change the fact that I was invited here by my grandmother, one of your village elders an-"


All eyes turned toward the private box from where the outburst emanated. There stood Naminé leaning over the railing waving her fist. Even from a distance, he could spot the vein bulging from her forehead. "Uh…I mean seasoned?" he tried.

"DAMN RIGHT AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT!" Naminé barked as she returned to her seat.

Naruto could only stare at his elde…seasoned grandmother with a blank expression. She'd completely shattered his train of thought. 'Why are all the women in my life so…troublesome?' Naruto thought to himself, taking a page from the Nara Clan's book. And now he was supposed to rule a village full of man-eaters who had no respect for him. 'If I grab Tsuki now, I might be able to reach-'

"Are you done stalling?" a voice interrupted his thoughts. Naruto turned to see Shizuka staring at him impassively. Her expression was stoic but he could since the slightest hint of annoyance. "I'm sorry didn't catch that."

"If you're done fooling around, I would like to get this. The sooner I drive you into the ground, the faster you can leave my village," Shizuka said. Much to her ire, the younger blonde put his hands inside the pockets of his coat and continued to stare at her blankly with a bored expression. "You're more than welcome to try."

The moment the words left his mouth, Shizuka's whole body flickered. Naruto took a step back, just barely avoiding the attempt at his jugular. Shizuka seemed to phased into existence, clutching a kunai. 'She's fast I'll give her that.' Naruto found himself putting the late Orochimaru's training in evasion to use Shizuka began to lash out at him. The two seemed to dance across the arena floor, only the slightest slip up would result in the blonde's death. Shizuka lashed out with a roundhouse, which Naruto realized too late was a feint. This time, her kunai was successful at tearing into his throat. Only instead of a shower of blood, his body went up in a cloud of smoke.

A look of confusion crossed the young leader's features until she sensed movement behind her. She whipped her head around to spot an unharmed Naruto, his hand still jammed in his pockets. "You're not trying very hard," he said with the same bored expression.

Shizuka's eyes narrowed as she reached into her pouch and pulled out a handful of daggers. "Nadeshiko-style: Aerial Dance!" With extreme speed and precision, she launched the small knives at her opponent. Much to her annoyance, the blonde continued to evade her attacks, never once taking his hands out of his pockets. The kunoichi decided to take it up a notch. "Second Step: Spinning Waltz!"

Naruto watched in interest as Shizuka began to spin rapidly, her body blurring out of existence. A kunai zipped fast his face, just barely missing his whiskers. 'This can't be good…' Shizuka let loose a hail of kunai that rained down on Naruto's position at blinding speeds. Rather than remaining in one spot, Naruto began to backpedal. 'Not even Orochimaru threw kunai this fast! And that sadistic bastard actually tried to kill us!' Naruto thought as another dagger whizzed past his ear. Though judging from her obvious annoyance earlier and the village's spite toward the male species, he had a suspicion she didn't care much for his life.

After nearly being impaled in the shoulder, Naruto grew annoyed. He flipped sideways over another wave of kunai and began channeling chakra in his feet, more specifically the seal at the base of his sandals. When Naruto land, he seemed to glide over the gravel and out of harm's way.

"Oh that's so cool!" Tsuki gushed as she watched her brother skate around the arena, skillfully dodging all of Shizuka's daggers with ease.

"Hm…Interesting…" Yahan observed. Naminé too was intrigued by her grandson's technique. "Yes, Naruto-kun is rather graceful. But he can't run from Shizuka-chan forever," she stated. Unlike the rest of her village, she was actually rooting for grandson. 'Come on Naruto-kun, prove them all wrong. Show them what the Namikaze can do!"

Shizuka used the last of her kunai and unleashed a shotgun blast at the blonde. Naruto flipped high into the air over the knives and slid to a halt. Shizuka glared at the younger ninja. He was dodging her attacks as if it were mere child's play. And to add insult to injury, not once had he removed his hands from his pockets. "Who do you think you are?" she snarled.

"I acquainted myself with you yesterday Milady," Naruto spoke tonelessly.

"What game are you playing? Why are you here?" Shizuka questioned. That lax stance of his was irking her more and more with each passing second.

"I've stated my reasoning yesterday Milady. I was invited."

Shizuka's eyes narrowed. Even if Lady Naminé believed this boy to be her grandson, she wasn't convinced. 'That was just a cheap mimicry yesterday. Nothing more than a sick bastardized attempt of the Flying Thunder God. I'll expose him for the imposter that he is!'

"Flattery will get you nowhere boy. You're no Namikaze. You're just a coward. A real Namikaze would never run from a battle in the way that you are now," Shizuka spat. Naruto's eyebrow twitched in annoyance. "Will all due respect Milady, this isn't much of a battle. With the way Yume-baa-san spoke so highly of you, I'd expected ore of you. Tsuki-chan put up a better fight than this." Naruto's statement earned a collective gasp from all of the bystanders.

'Why that little…I am NOT old!' Yume mentally raged.

"Oh no…" Yahan said grimly.

"Now you've done it Naruto-kun…" Naminé sighed. She'd seen that look in Shizuka's eyes many a times before.

The older Kunoichi only stared at the blonde blankly. Naruto noticed the slight twitch in her eye and began to think he might've went too far. He hated being written off and talked down to. She even had the nerve to insult his family name. He could, no would not let that go unchecked. But the silent kunoichi before him with a blank expression was more unnerving than when she was scowling and throwing kunai at him.

"Gale Fan!" Before Naruto could reacted, he was blasted off his feet and slammed into the circular wall circumscribing the field. This earned a roar of approval from the audience as the blonde pried himself loose and gathered his bearings. 'That attack had the strength of my Unrelenting Force and the range of Great Breakthrough. If I had to guess, her prowess with wind manipulation is on par, if not better than my own…' he thought.

"I'm going to kill you," Shizuka said menacingly as she walked forward. Her approach was halted when she saw Naruto take his hand out of his pockets. She immediately became weary of the subtle movement. 'He's been on the defensive until now. I'll have to be careful,' she thought. She had to give him credit that his speed and evasion were amazing to have been able to dodge her attacks as long as he did. She would not give him the chance to test his offense.

Shizuka disappeared in a burst of speed that surprised the blond, only to appear above him. Her leg was humming with wind chakra and poised to strike. "Nadeshiko-Style: Roaring Hurricane Kick!" With no time to dodge this time, Naruto brought his arms up defensively. As the name implied, the force behind the attack was devastating. So much in fact that it completely shattered Naruto's guard and Shizuka foot drove him into the ground. Hard. She smirked when she saw his unmoving, limp form. It quickly disappeared when he burst in a cloud of smoke.

"Fine…" a voice spoke behind her, catching her attention. Shizuka turned on a dime to see Naruto leaning against the lone tree in the arena. His eyes were closed and his arms were folded across his chest. "I'll play your game," Naruto said. The blonde soon vanished from sight. An alarm went off in Shizuka's head and she ducked, just out of reach of an axe kick that would've taken her head clean off. She quickly somersaulted, only for Naruto to reappear right before her.

This set off an intense bought of taijutsu between the two. Naruto continued to pound away at her defenses while Shizuka threw a counter every chance she could. She did not however have a counter for the blonde's next move. After raising his leg to evade a low kick, Naruto brought it back down with extreme force. It was enough to make the whole stadium shake and for Shizuka's focus to slip in order to keep her footing.

In one swift motion, Naruto swept the distracted kunoichi off of her feet and took hold of her ankles. Just like he'd done to Hidan weeks before, he slammed Shizuka into the ground before launching her toward the heavens. He then sent a kunai after the skyward bound kunoichi. Shizuka shook the dizziness that consumed her away, just in time to elude a stray kunai. However, she did not expect said kunai transform in Naruto and lash out with another kunai. She easily slipped past his attacked and disarmed him. She drove his own weapon into the blonde's chest. He dispelled with a pop, revealing it to be yet another shadow clone.

Shizuka spotted her real opponent on the ground and began freefalling. Once she reached terminal velocity, she began manipulating the air around her to speed up her descent. Naruto glanced towards the sky to see Shizuka diving straight at him. He also noticed she was gather chakra, and a lot of it. 'That looks…troublesome…'

"Nadeshiko-Style: Roaring Gale Fist!"

Shizuka came crashing down in the stadium, driving her fist into the ground with an earth-shattering impact. Her attack made the entire stadium shake once more. Fissures began to erupt throughout the field and now Naruto was struggling to keep his footing. His momentary lapse in concentration was enough for Shizuka to knock him of his feet with a sliding tackle. She continued her assault by pushing off the ground with her hands and delivered a crushing roundhouse that sent her opponent spiraling.

Naruto quickly spun in mid-air to recover and nimble landed on the wall of the arena. A gust of wind erupted around him from the sheer momentum of his flight. 'That one actually hurt. It's time to end this…' He thought as he gracefully dropped to the dirt. Naruto quickly weaved three hand signs.

"Wind Style: Unrelent-"

His attack was interrupted when the ground burst beneath Shizuka's feet, a smokescreen of dust spreading throughout the area. The dirt cleared away to reveal a metallic humanoid constructed that was clutching the village leader with a massive hand. Naruto turned at the sound of laughter to spot a man emerge from nowhere. "Finally! You're finally mine Shizuka-chan, as is all of Nadeshiko!" he cackled. Naruto immediately recognized him as the puppeteer from the day prior. 'Not this clown again…"

At the sight of seeing their leader captured, and in middle of the village no less, the proud kunoichi of Nadeshiko were enraged. But no one dared to make a move lest they risk their leader's life. Well, almost no one.

"That bastard!" Tokiwa snarled as her hand went to the handle of her katana. She was about to jump down to free her mistress when a hand stopped her. She turned and glared at it's owner, Yahan, for stopping her.

"Wait," Naminé spoke before she could. "I want to see how Naruto-kun handles the situation," she said calmly.

"Are you crazy?!" Yume barked. "Shizuka-sama's life is at stake and you want us to leave it in the hands of that boy? He can't be trusted!"

"That boy is my grandson," Naminé said icily, silencing the councilwoman. "And how do you know that if we never give him a chance?" she questioned. No one came forth to break the silence. "As I thought." She had complete unwavering faith in the blonde. 'Come on Naruto-kun…don't let us down…"

Back in the arena, Shizuka was steadily trying to wiggle her way out of the construct's hand, but its grip remained firm. "Give in Shizuka-chan! Don't make this harder than it has to be," Kokuyō laughed.

"Hey, you with the saggy face," a voice called out.

The puppeteer turned his gaze to catch sight of a blonde teenager standing on the other side of the field. His eyes narrowed when he recognized the boy as the one who ruined his plans yesterday. "You will not stand in my way this time!" he spat. Naruto only smirked as he drew his sword with a flourish before returning it to its sheathe. "Sure about that?" Kokuyō nearly laughed at the boy's idiocy until he felt the chakra running from his fingers go slack. What he didn't notice was the blade of wind Naruto shot off that easily tore through his chakra strings.

With the connection to its master severed, Shizuka was able to pry herself loose from the puppet's clutches. She channeled wind chakra into her feet and drove them straight into the puppet's face. She quickly jumped away before it exploded and landed next to Naruto. Shizuka glared at the foul man before her. "You've been a thorn in my side for far too long. I'm going to put an end to you once and for all!"

A grin split Kokuyō's features. "Is that right?" unbeknownst to the kunoichi, a red seal matrix began to form on her abdomen. Naruto and majority of the bystanders watching flinched when a bloodcurdling scream escaped Shizuka. Her body slumped to the ground as she convulsed in pain. Naruto bent down to help her in any way possible. But before he could, Shizuka was snatched off the ground by an invisible force. Within seconds, her body was hovering just in front of Kokuyō. More chakra threads were running from his fingers that clung to Shizuka's limp form.

Naruto glared at the man and took a step forward, only to be halted by the man's voice. "I would've do that. You see, this technique is very special," Kokuyō spoke saccharinely. "I call it Hundred Puppet Soul Binding. You see each time someone destroys one of my puppets, a bit of my chakra is bolted into their body. Shizuka-chan here just destroyed her hundredth one, which allowed me to take complete control over her body," he cackled. Naruto only level a glare at the man. It was all he could do at the moment. The women in the stands were in an uproar and calling for blood. But just like the blonde teen, they refused to make any sort of attempt at rescuing their leader.

"Now, Shizuka-chan and I are going to take a little trip. And upon our return, I will rule over all of Nadeshiko!" he declared. Naruto took another step forward, making Kokuyō frown. "And should anyone try to follow us…" his voice trailed as Shizuka's began to cry out in pain. Her screams echoed throughout the stadium before she fell into unconsciousness. "Nadeshiko will be mine!" The mad puppeteer cackled as he threw down a smoke pellet. The black cloud dispersed and Kokuyō had vanished, along with Shizuka.

Pandemonium. The entire village was in complete, utter pandemonium. Kunoichi were already scouring the village top to bottom in search of their missing empress. The civilians were running around in panic, only further adding to the disarray. Naminé could only watch in horror as her village fell into chaos. "Hibiki, Hikari I want you to fan out and help search for Shizuka-chan," she ordered.

"Yahan, I want you to take Tsuki-chan and keep her safe."

"Right away milady," the tanned woman made to grab the smaller blonde but she was met with surprising resistance. "But what about big brother?" Naminé turned to see Naruto hadn't moved since the man disappeared with Shizuka. He was just standing there with his eyes closed, as if he were concentrating. "Naruto-kun! We don't have time for this! we need to-" The blonde teen suddenly phased out of existence. "To find…Shizuka-chan…"

"Oh that man is in for it now!" Tsuki exclaimed. Naminé turned to the smaller blonde to see her practically shaking with excitement. "What do you mean Tsuki-chan?" a confused Naminé queried. "That man is going to make big brother angry. He won't like it when big brother is angry!" Tsuki could only grin as she leapt over the balcony and ran off to find her brother.

"Tsuki w-!" It was too late. Yahan's words fell on deaf ears as the small blonde merged into the chaos. 'Naruto-kun was right…she is quite the handful. The elder blonde sighed. "Yahan, we must find her before she gets into trouble," Naminé said as she grabbed her cane.

"But Milady, what about Lady Shizuka?" the tanned woman queried. Naminé could only sigh as she wrapped her shawl around her neck. "At this point, we'll have to leave it up to Naruto-kun. I just hope he isn't too late…"

Kokuyō was moving as fast as he could whilst toting the unconscious leader of Nadeshiko. He wasn't particularly conditioned for high speed chases as such and Shizuka's dead weight made the task even more cumbersome. He was nearly at the front gate when a kunai nicked his cheek. He glanced over his shoulder tosspot several kunoichi tailing him.

"Stop him! He has Shizuka-sama!" one of them yelled to the gate guards, who promptly blocked his path out of the village. The puppeteer only smirked and threw down a handful of smoke pellets. The two guards took defensive stances as the black cloud enveloped them. It dispersed in a matter of seconds and Kokuyō was nowhere to be seen. "Where'd he go?!" one guard yelled.

"We have to find him quick!" other exclaimed.

"Oh? We're you ladies looking for little ole me?" a voice taunted behind them. Both whirled around and flinched at the sight. There stood the aged puppeteer, smirking at him. But he wasn't alone. Behind him stood an army of bandits. The mass of hooligans and ruffians were packed onto the bridge, all armed to the teeth. By now, the rest of the Kunoichi had shown up, taking up positions atop and around the main gate.

"Surely you all didn't think I would just take over an entire village by my lonesome?" Kokuyō smirked. "Alright boys, these are the wonderful beauties I promised. All you have to do is make the bow before you and they'll be bound to you for the rest of their days!" His proclamation seemed to encourage the lust-driven horde of males. Many of the kunoichi frowned at this. The puppeteer's words held truth to them. The army of kunoichi drew their weapons, fancying being wed to any of the deviants before them.

But before either side could make their charge, a crouching Naruto landed in front of the gate. His arrival was sudden that a shockwave of wind pulsed when he appeared. "Sadly, the same can't be said for me," he stated rising to his full height. He gauged the mass of mongrels before him, figuring their numbers to be somewhere close to seven hundred. It reminded him of the time Orochimaru had him and Sasuke take down fifteen hundred of his strongest ninja. And these men were nothing more than mere bandits. Kokuyō scowled at the Naruto's arrival. He was about to speak when he noticed movement behind the blonde.

Tokiwa landed just behind Naruto with her sword drawn. She walked forward as calmly as she could manage, only to be stopped when Naruto held an arm in front of her. "Move aside boy! I must save my mistress!" she barked.

"No, leave this to me. Your mind is unfocused and clouded by anger. You won't last longer than five minutes," he stated. "Why you!" Tokiwa attempted to push her way past the teenager, only to be knocked on her backside by another pulse of wind. She leveled a glare at the boy but flinched when she saw him staring down at him with intense red eyes. "I said stay back. That goes for all of you!" he yelled out. Many of the women were enraged by his words but once they noticed the killer intent the blonde, they decided to stay silent. Most figured that they could just let him waste as many of the bandits as he could before being cut down, then move in to take out the rest. Two birds, one stone.

Kokuyō smirked at the boy's proclamation. He must truly be an idiot if he thought he could take them all on by himself. "5,000,000 Ryo to the man who brings me the boy's head!" Kokuyō yelled before retreating deeper into the crowded bridge. The bandit were even more riled up at the prospect of earning even more money. With savage war cries, the mass charged at their new target. Naruto remained calm as the horde came for him. If anything, he was actually a little excited. It had been a long time since he was able put his skills to good use instead of holding back. At least they would provide a suitable challenge, no more like mobile training dummies that he could smack around to his heart's content.

Naruto's body flickered and he appeared in front of the closest bandit. "You're slow," she stated before delivering a roundhouse that sent the man sailing. They were moving much to slow in his eyes and he decided to meet them head on. One man lunged at him with a sword but his wrist was easily caught by the blonde. He was then used to bat away two more assailant before being tossed over the side of the bridge. Naruto continued to pummel the rouges as they came for him, using non-lethal techniques to incapacitate them. He wasn't in the mindset to spill blood today. They might have the advantage of numbers, but he had the advantage of speed. After breaking one man's arm and kicking him into his cohorts, Naruto decided to even the odds a bit. "Shadow Clone Jutsu!" Four clones spawned at his side. "Alright, let's dance."

Like many of the women around her, Naminé could only stare at her grandson in awe. She was standing atop the large gate alongside Yahan, her twin apprentices, and a chain bound Tsuki. The small blonde proved to be elusive so it was for her own good. "Naruto-sama is strong, but surely he can't take on all of them?" Hibiki questioned as she watch the ensuing fight on the bridge. This elicited a growl from Tsuki.

"What? Big brother is the best! This is nothing to him!"

"Tsuki-chan I realize that you idolize your brother, but even he must have his limits," Yahan said as she gripped the chain binding the tiny blonde. She made an effort to escape every few seconds. "No, you're wrong! This isn't nearly as many as how many he's faced before!" Tsuki exclaimed, earning skeptical looks from everyone within earshot.

"What do you mean Tsuki-chan?" Naminé queried, intrigued by the young blonde's outburst.

"One time, that nasty, old snake made and brother and Sasuke-nii take on a whole army and it was twice as big as this one!" Tsuki stated. This started a string of whispers throughout the gathering of kunoichi. Most were intrigued whilst other wrote it off as nothing more than the child's overactive imagination. Naminé too was doubtful of her words, but as she watched her grandson in action, she felt there may be some merit to her words.

"Well, he certainly is handling himself pretty well," she commented.

Naruto kicked away another bandit before uppercutting one over the side of the bridge. He and his four clones were slowly, but steadily pushing through their ranks.

"Earth-Style: Erratic Stalagmites!"

Naruto eyes widened at the call of the jutsu. He flipped backwards to a safe distance just as stony spikes erupted from where he once stood. 'So there are missing-nin as well? That certainly changes things…' Naruto mused. The small surprise had caught him off guard unfortunately it cost him one of his shadow clones. He would be sure to not let it happen again. The sight of a man jumping into high into the air caught his attention. He was rapidly weaving hand signs. Naruto was quick to jump, intent on stopping whatever jutsu he planned to release.


"No you don't!" Naruto grab the man before he could finish. He drove a knee into the man's stomach as he released a current of electricity across his body. Naruto then drove his heel into the man's chest and kicked away, sending the convulsing man crashing into more of his cohorts. Naruto slid to a stop as he hit the ground. He stood up and smoothly drew his sword from its scabbard before dispelling his remaining clones. They would only end up being destroyed in the process.

Many of the bandits took a precautious step backwards as they watched the teen casually twirl the blade in his hand. "Come now," the blonde smirked. "I don't bite." Naruto slashed horizontally at the air in front of him. Almost immediately, the score of men closest to him were thrown backwards. Naruto shot forth and began hacking into the mass of rouges, not giving them the chance to recover. Their screams permeated the air, along with a few limbs. It was a few hands, fingers, and occasional arm here and there, nothing too lethal. They would be writing in pain for a few days, but they would survive. Granted they found the proper medical attention.

"Water-Style: Roaring Torrent Jutsu!"

Naruto flipped sideways out of the path of the raging wave and thrust his hand in the direction of the voice. "Eight-trigrams: Air Palm!" Wind pulsed from his hand and crashed into a wall of men, sending them spiraling. It was a technique he'd happened stumble upon in Orochimaru's extensive library of stolen jutsu. It was meant to strike at an opponent's chakra network from a distance without them ever being the wiser. Instead it was bastardized down to his needs as a really powerful wind jutsu. Kind of like what Sasuke did with the Sixty-Four Palms and a pair of kunai…

"Naruto-kun!" At the sound of his name, the blonde spared a glance toward the gate and spot his grandmother flagging him down. "You need to recover Shizuka-chan! That man must not escape!" she yelled at him. Naruto redirected his gaze towards the mainland to faintly make out the form of Shizuka's captor. He narrowed his eyes as the bandits began to surround him. He needed to end this now.

As the men charged, seven shadow clones spawned into existence and began driving them back. As his clones fended off the attackers, he began to form a Rasengan. It was twice as big as a normal one and he began to steadily mix in his wind chakra. It was an experimental technique he stumbled upon while developing the Rasenshuriken. He'd tested it on a small scale before and was pleased with the results. But in all truth, with the amount of chakra he was using, he wasn't exactly sure what would happen. 'Only one way to find out…' A high pitched screech permeated the air as Naruto began to condense the mass of swirling chakra in his hand.

"What is that god awful noise?" Hikari yelled as she covered her ears with her hand, emulating the actions of many around her.

"Big brother's going to blow something up!" Tsuki gasped. Naminé turned to the smaller blond to see her shaking…with anticipation. She directed her attention back towards the bridge to see the small sphere of chakra her grandson held was quivering unstably. The excitement in his sister's voice wasn't exactly inspiring 'That…can't be good…'

Naruto took a step back as his clones managed to round his attackers in front of him and away from the gate. His whole arm was trembling as his jutsu began rapidly destabilizing. He needed to get rid of it and quick lest he planned to go about his life with just one arm. That and the wailing jutsu was making his ears ring. A barking laugh drew his attention as large, bald man emerged from within the ranks of the bandits. The way they gave him a wide berth led him to believe he was either really strong or their leader, most likely both.

Shiro stared down at the blonde teen before him. The puppeteer had said there would be opposition but this was ridiculous. It was just some mere kid. He obviously had some sort of training which would explain how he was tearing through his men's ranks. And that small mass of energy in his hand was very foreboding. "Heh…to think you all were getting slaughtered by a mere child," he scoffed, making the blonde's eyes narrow. Naruto body flickered and Shiro gasped in pain as all the air left his body. He glanced down in horror to see the boy's elbow driven into his solar plexus. "You die first," Naruto stated coldly as he thrust his other hand into the man's sternum. "Wind-Style: Wind Tunnel!"

The moment the small ball of energy touched the man's chest, it detonated. Hurricane force winds exploded in anger and began to sweep through his army. A massive tornado spawn from the point of impact and began drilling into the unsuspecting horde of men. Those closest were ripped apart by the slicing winds while those fortunate enough to be farther back where merely swept up and flung in every direction. Naruto himself was thrown backwards but safely landed just in front of the gate. He'd managed to take the explosive power of the Rasenshuriken and force it in a single direction. His small-scale tests proved destructive but this was…

"Catastrophic…" the blonde whispered as he watched bodies and limbs fly through the air. 'So much for not spilling any blood…' Naruto thought cryptically as he looked over a large section of the stone-paved bridge that was painted with the sticky, crimson fluid. He turned his gaze toward the remaining thugs. They were all staring at the scene before them in a mix of disgust and horror. Naruto drew his sword one more and began walking towards them, careful not to step on any severed appendages. It was already going to be a pain to clean blood off his white sandals. As he drew nearer to the quivering men, he narrowed his eyes. "If you want to live I sugge-"

"We're all gonna die!"

"Run for your lives!"


Naruto blinked rapidly as girlish squeals echoed across the bridge and the mass of criminals scattered to the four winds. Backtracking across the bridge took much to long for many of them and leapt over the side of the bridge, opting to take their chances with the raging rapids below. Just as long as they escaped from the blonde devil child.

"Hey where are you going?!" Kokuyō yelled after the retreating men. "Get back here! It's just one kid!" he turned back toward the bridge and spotted the blonde walking towards him, sword drawn, at an ominously slow pace. "Return Lady Shizuka and I might let you walk away with your life." Part of Naruto wished he would just drop Shizuka, turn tail, and flee like the rest of the men. Unfortunately, fate never really was one to let him have his way.

"Why you insolent little runt! Nadeshiko will be mine!" Kokuyō proclaimed as a large cloud of smoke engulfed his position. Naruto heard a lot of grinding and clanking which made him take a precautious step back. 'Whatever it is, it sounds big…' The blonde had no idea how right he was. The smoke slowly began to drift away with the wind. "Son of a…"

Big was nowhere near the right term to describe the construct before him. Naruto stared up at the monstrosity of a puppet, bewildered as to how one man had the time, energy, and space to build such a thing. Kokuyō smirked as he stood atop his greatest creation, the Scorpion. Ever since he'd learned of Nadeshiko, he'd began putting together this project over the years. He'd learned from his many defeats at the hands of Shizuka and other Nadeshiko kunoichi. He came to understand their techniques and developed sufficient defense against each. Now there was nothing stopping him from taking the kunoichi village from his own. Save for the annoying little pest before him.

Naruto eyed the metal plated puppet critically. He doubted he would be able to break through it only his sword alone. He swung his blade in a wide arc, casting out a blade of with. The puppeteer only laughed as it dispersed on contact. "My turn!" The beast's claws began to shift and split down the middle, each revealing ten long iron barrels that were closely cropped together. The barrels started spinning before spitting out kunai an alarming rate.

Naruto's eyes widened as he began backpedalling away from the hail of metal. But no matter where he went, the knives continued to rain down on him. The blonde quickly channel chakra to his sandals and began gliding across the bridge, picking up speed considerably. Kokuyō only laughed maniacally as he continued his ruthless assault.

"Tsuki-chan…please tell me your brother has faced something like this before as well…"

The small blonde shook her head in horror. "I've never seen anything that big…" they were all watching in shock as the young Namikaze was put on the defensive. The beast was now lashing out with its massive tail, trying to strike down its elusive prey. All the while, the claws never stopped firing kunai.

"Lady Naminé…we must do something! He'll be killed at this rate!" a shaky Hibiki exclaimed. "What can we do Hibiki-chan?" the elder questioned, asking the unspoken question that was plaguing everyone's minds. Truth be told, they were all unsure how to handle the situation. It was unlike anything they'd ever encountered before.

"We must put our faith in Naruto-sama." All eyes turned in the direction of the newcomer's voice to spot Lucario. The jackal was standing with his arms folded across his chest, watching the battle. "Naruto-sama is strong. This situation isn't beyond his abilities. He will prevail," he said with absolute conviction. All eyes turned toward the struggling Naruto. Naminé really wanted to believe Lucario's words, but the situation was just too dire. 'No! If Lucario believes in Naruto-kun, then so must I!' she thought with determination. "Lucario, for all of our sake's, I hope you're right…"

Kokuyō scowled at the elusive blonde. It was fun to toy with him in the beginning, but now he was just getting annoyed. "Fine then, no more holding back!" the scorpion ceased firing kunai, much to the blonde's relief, and crouched low to the ground. "You know what they say about playing with fire, you're likely to get burned!" Kokuyō exclaimed. Naruto's eyes widened and he began channelling chakra as he held his sword in front of him. Manipulating his wind chakra, he began spinning his sword just as the giant puppet exhaled a stream of fire from its mouth.

Naruto's sword had picked up enough momentum to erect a wall of wind in front of him and the scorching flames were directed away from him. Naruto cursed as he felt the air around him heat up. The fact that wind was naturally weak against fire was common knowledge to him, but this was the only barrier he could deploy fast enough. The blonde struggled as he channeled more and more chakra into his shield. His reserves were draining rapidly, and he didn't have much left after his tornado stunt. "I won't last much longer if this keeps up!" he ground out. His frustration quickly distorted into anger as his eyes grew slits and bled crimson. "Time to finish this!" He let out a high pitched whistle and the sound of cracking thunder could be heard shortly after.

Kokuyō grin grew wider with each passing second. The loud boom concerned him, but he did not let it distract him from the task at hand. There was a flash of purple light and the side of the scorpion exploded, making the construct stumble. As a result, the stream of fire was cut off and Naruto was free to drop his shield. 'Zen Headbutt!' he thought as he snatched his sword out of the air. Kokuyō was vigilantly scanning the area, try to ascertain the location of the hidden assailant when something struck the face of his puppet with great force. It clanked loudly as his was pushed back, much to the puppeteer's confusion.

Naruto quickly sheathed his blade and summoned lightning to his fist. He skated forward in a burst of speed, not willing to give his opponent a chance to recover. 'Don't let up! Keep him staggered,' he mentally commanded. More amethyst light lit up the sky and the colossal puppet was littered with explosion. Naruto drew closer to one of the constructs legs and drew back his fist. "Let's see how you handle this!" he drove his arm forward and his hand tore into the metal plating with ease. Naruto kept his moment as he moved onto the next leg.

Kokuyō frustration was steadily rising. Something or someone was littering his puppet with high-powered explosive while the blonde brat was carving into it. His defenses weren't holding up like he'd originally planned and it wouldn't be long until his armor's integrity was completely compromised. "Enough!" he roared. The scorpion began stomping its legs in an effort to stomp the blonde into the ground. Naruto saw one leg land in front of him and knew he had too much momentum to simply go around it. With a hard leap, held lightning-entrenched hand in front of him dove right out it. With the Chidori's high penetrating power combined with his built up speed, he was able to cleanly pierce through the reinforced armor.

Naruto quickly rolled and bounced to his feet, flipping away to a safe distance. Another explosion racked the scorpion's side, prompting it to begin flailing its tail wildly. With dumb luck, it struck something. Kokuyō saw a blue and white creature phase into existence. "Latios!" Naruto exclaimed when he saw dragon stumble through the air. Latios quickly recovered and dove under one of the bridge's archways to avoid being hit by the puppet's tail once more. Naruto was so focused on his dragon that he almost didn't see the massive leg descending upon him. The blonde bit back a curse as he dove over the side of the bridge. Kokuyō saw the boy disappear from sight only to reemerge shortly after, riding on the strange beast's back.

'That thing's armor should be weak enough now…' Naruto mused as they circled the scorpion. It lashed out with it tail once more, prompting Latios to climb higher into the sky. Kokuyō watched guardedly as they began to ascend. 'What's he up to now?'

As Latios took them higher into the atmosphere, Naruto began channeling the Nine-Tails' chakra and entered the One-Tail state. It wasn't an act he was particularly fond of doing but he just didn't have enough of his own left for what he planned to do. It was going to be crazy, reckless, and just a tad bit suicidal but it was the only thing he could think of to take down the giant puppet. A red Rasengan surged to life in his palm and began to spin with wind chakra. It only took a few seconds for it to let out an ear-piercing screech his strongest technique announced its presence. Naruto leapt and began to freefall back towards the earth, the wailing jutsu trailing behind him. He send a mental command to Latios and the dragon took off with great speed.

He began to fire more blasts at the colossal puppet as he descended. Kokuyō tried his best to evade them but his but was just too big for such swift movements. Latios let off one last blast before sweeping just over the puppeteer head. Kokuyō flinched as the dragon shot past him and look of confusion set on his features. He was broken out of his stupor by a high-pitched shriek. "Wind-Style: Rasenshuriken!" A pillar of crimson light rose from the center of the puppet briefly before it expanded in violent storm with a concussive bang. The red dome completely enveloped the scorpion in a prison of violent winds. Its body began to slowly disintegrate as it was assaulted by countless wind blades. The sphere continued to rage for a few seconds before dissipating. Where the large puppet once stood was now a jagged pile of obliterated metal.

There was a flash of orange light and Naruto's body skipped across the bridge before skidding to a halt. The blonde was lying on his back and breathing heavily. The only thing that had protected him from his own attack was the cloak of infernal chakra enveloping him, which slowly retreating. The Nine-Tail's power made the technique significantly more potent. The microscopic wind blades had grown to about the size of senbons and were much more lethal now. "Well at least it worked…" Naruto breathed heavily as he glanced at the shredded remains of his opponent. The simple act of lifting his head was a struggle. His whole body felt like it was being weighed down and even the slightest of movement were a chore.

Latios appeared above his master and tilted his head as he stared down at the immobile blonde. In his mouth, he held up a slumbering Shizuka by the back of her shirt. "Nice work boy!" Naruto smirked. He'd instructed Latios to distract Kokuyō and safely extract the kunoichi from the blast radius. A loud crashed caught his attention and he slowly lifted his head to gaze farther down the bridge. His eyes widened at the sight of Kokuyō knocking aside the remains of his puppet. 'How the hell did he survive?!'

Pain was the only thing that registered in the aged puppeteer's mind. His whole body ached and he struggling to keep his foot. He didn't know what happened, but whatever it was, it had left his life's greatest work in shambles. He managed to escape death by encasing himself in a protective shell using the last of his chakra and sinking deeper into his puppet. But even still, he ended up with a few lacerations. He was hurting, but he would survive. Kokuyō turned his gaze toward the blonde to see him lying prone on the ground. That strange creature was there as well, holding up his prize in its mouth.

"Damn you boy! You couldn't leave well enough alone! You couldn't just mind your own dam business could you?!" Kokuyō roared. He brandished a kunai and began slowly trudging towards the downed teen. Naruto was willing every muscle in his fiber to move as the enraged puppeteer stumbled his way down the bridge. But they were being more resilient than one of his sister's more stubborn streaks. A soft moan reached his ears and glanced up.

Shizuka was beginning to stir and she reentered the land of the living with a pained groan. Her eyes fluttered briefly, trying to adjust to the light, and she slowly scanned her surroundings. The first thing that came to her attention was that she was no longer in the arena. She'd somehow ended up on the bridge connected her village to the mainland. A tuff of blonde hair caught her eye and she glanced down to see Naruto sprawled out on the ground. The blonde looked as if he was struggling to move. The sight of her legs dangling also brought to her attention that she wasn't even touching the ground. She craned hurt neck and was shocked to see she was being held by a blue and white dragon of sorts. 'How long have I been out? And what the hell happened to this place?" she pondered. The ground was literally painted with blood and lacerations littered the stone in any places. It was during her survey that she caught sight of her attacker. He was slowly making his way toward their position and he was wielding a kunai. His body was covered with sweat, blood, and cuts all over. She leveled a glare at the man which made him come to a halt. "Put me down," Shizuka commanded, to which Latios complied. Anger radiated off the woman like the heat of fire and he wanted no part of what was about to happen next.

Shizuka landed with grace and turned her gaze toward the prone Naruto. "I take it he is responsible for this?" she queried. "It was more of my own doing really," the blonde chuckled. Her gaze lingered on the boy momentarily before it was directed towards the frozen puppeteer. "You! I'll end you once and for all!" she said venomously as she purposely strode toward him.

Fear locked Kokuyō's body in place and he felt the blood running through his go cold. The blonde was troublesome enough to deal with and now there the enraged kunoichi, who was in peak condition. "Now, now Shizuka-chan this was all a misunderstanding. How about I just leave now and never bother you or your village ever again?" he tried as the woman drew closer. His answer came in the form of a vicious right hook that shattered his jaw. Shock didn't even has time to register on his features before and uppercut to his chin sent him stumbling backwards.

Shizuka relentlessly drove her fists into the man, not giving him an inch. Kokuyō felt a jab to his abdomen that expelled all the air in his lungs before being sent flying by a severe roundhouse. As the broken man sailed through the air, part of him was wishing that he had quit while he was ahead. He could've easily slipped away while the blonde was wreaking havoc on the bandits, but no. He'd wanted to see the life drain from the boy's eye. And the miserable Shiro was of no use at all. The man died within seconds of confronting the teen. By now, Kokuyō was falling head first toward the ground and with any luck, the impact would offer him a swift death. But fathead other plans and bled his luck dry.

He was a mere meter off ground when Shizuka appeared before him with her arm drawn back. There was wind violently whipping around her fist. "Ah shi-"

"Roaring Gale Fist!"

Shizuka connected with the man's face and the sheer force of the impact killed him instantly. His body was torn to shreds by the tempest of wind chakra as it limply sailed through the air. It landed on the far side of the bridge with a sickening squelch and slid to a halt, leaving behind a sizable trail of blood. Satisfied, Shizuka turned and walked back toward her village. By now, majority of the kunoichi had shaken their stupor and leapt off the gate greet their awakened leader. Naruto felt someone rapidly approaching him and his whole body when stiff, only to relax when sensed a familiar presence.

"Tio-chan" a shrill voice exclaimed. Before the dragon could react, he felt a new weight crash onto his back as a small pair of arms encircled his neck. He let out a grunt of annoyance a Tsuki nuzzled her face against his back. "Oh stop it you! You know you love it!" the small blonde chided playfully. Naruto felt another presence and found himself looking up into a pair of slanted red eyes. "Well done Naruto-sama," Lucario stated, standing above the blonde with his arms folded across his chest. "I'm glad you are well too Lady Shizuka," he said turning to the newcomer. Naruto tilted his head and spotted Shizuka standing over his as well. "So it's finally over I see?" he question.

"It is. That man will never bother me or my people ever again," Shizuka stated impassively.

"I see…well in that case I' going to pass out now," the blonde said tiredly. Today was just supposed to be simple spar of sorts and it somehow escalated into a battle of near epic proportions. At least epic on his part considering it was mostly one-sided. And now he was completely drained and was more than happy to let sleep's gentle embrace take him. 'Seems nothing in my life can ever go right…' was the last thought that ran through Naruto's mind as he floated out of consciousness.

I'd like to apologize once again for the year long wait. I've been super busy and I'm not even finished with Thunder Maidens like I'd hope to be. But as I stated before, I refuse to let this story go unfinished.

Now before everyone rips this chapter apart, it was totally rushed and not even I'm satisfied with it (Hasn't even been proofread yet so if you guys spot anything I'd appreciate it if you let me know). I'm preparing to go on leave next week back home to see my family and wanted to get this up before it slipped my mind. The good thing is that I'll be home for a month so I'll revise and repost sometime in the next two weeks.

The Wind Tunnel was derived exactly from Miroku's in Inuyasha. Just picture it doing the exact opposite with the properties of wind from the Narutoverse.

In Naruto's actual fight with Shizuka, not once did he attack and he still beat her so I feel my fight was pretty accurate.

Shiro was absolutely irrelevant. I used suspense to over-hype him. Kind of like every anime/manga when the main character unleashes their power for the first time.

And yes I know Naruto destroyed a puppet last time, but for the sake of argument, Shizuka had already destroyed 99 beforehand.

Lastly for anyone that made it this far, I'm going to rework the earlier chapters a bit like I did with TM. Completely disregard any ANs that are posted now. I was young, imature, and a little hotheaded towards criticism back then. Now, I could personally careless if it's not constructive.

And I think that's it...

As usual, R+R, spread the word, and let me know what you think.

P.S. I also recommend reading TM to those that haven't. I like to think it pretty good. People also gripe that it's not a true crossover but it is. They're just salty that there aren't any evident elements from the Narutoverse until the middle of the story.