Operation HURRICANE Part V


The night passed quickly. Team Sigma had set up a small encampment away from the beach, and many of them slumbered, wrapped up with camouflaged blankets. Daichi especially slept deeply, having exhausted himself with his constant use of the byakugan. Naruto took the chance to rest, but spent most of the night in conference with his team.

"A weapons factory and a communications post," Towa deadpanned. "Wow. She doesn't want much, does she? Was there anything else she wanted us to do, or was this going to be enough?"

"She did ask me to sleep with her," Naruto remarked offhandedly.

Next to him, Yuuka froze. Her mask was off, and she had paused mid-chew, a ration bar dangling from her fingers. Towa looked impressed, and gave Naruto a sleazy smirk.

"Nice," he whistled, then grimaced as Komachi elbowed him in the stomach.

"It was obviously a ploy," she snapped.

"Regardless," Naruto interjected with some amusement. "We need to work out how we're going to do this. Kazuya won't go without the rest of them, and we can't smuggle out 38 people without the Resistance's help."

"Could we snatch and grab?" Towa asked.

Naruto shook his head. "The Resistance won't let us, and they outnumber us," he answered. "Besides, I wouldn't want to take on Mei unless I really had to."

"Wouldn't want to hurt your new girlfriend?" Yuuka asked dryly.

"Might not be able to," Naruto replied seriously. He folded his arms over his chest. "She's one of the most powerful women I've ever met. From what we know of her, her ninjutsu is extremely powerful- probably better than my own."

Rat nodded. "She is very skilled," he told them quietly. "I would suggest you do not make an enemy of her unless you have to."

"So we'll work within her plan," Naruto concluded. "This means we'll be working with her people, so you're going to need some temporary codenames. I don't want the Resistance knowing any more about us than they have to."

"Can we pick our names?" Towa asked eagerly.

Naruto gave him a deadpan expression. "Shut up, Number Four."

Towa considered it. "Could be worse," he muttered after a moment.

Naruto's lips twitched. "We'll do by seniority. I'm Number One, Kage is Number Two and Komachi is Number Three. Towa, you know, then Daichi is Number Five and Yuuka is Number Six. Sasuke can be Number Seven and Rat, since you're an attached advisor, you're Number Eight."

He leaned in, rubbing his hands together.

"Now, let's work out the details."


By the time morning approached, Team Sigma had worked out most of the specifics for Mei's plan.

"Good morning, my favourite little shinobi," Mei greeted as the sun began to rise. She winked at him as she approached the small camp, flanked by two members of the Resistance.

One was a relatively large man with three broad, blue-striped markings on his face. He wore a standard bodysuit, covered with a dark-blue robe with light blue trimming. His eyes were covered with tinted red googles, he wore a blue bandanna over his head, and a strange purple necklace was draped around his neck.

The other was a slender boy, only a few years older than Naruto. He had shorty, spiky black hair and black eyes, and was clad in black turtleneck and a dark-grey flak jacket. His face seemed to be twisted in a permanent scowl, but it seemed to deepen as he eyed the undercover agents.

Their leader, Mei, looked as stunning as ever. Her red hair spilled over her back and hid one of her green eyes from view, contrasting beautifully with her pale skin, and her flak jacket couldn't hide the woman's curves. She joined Naruto and gestured him to walk with her, while her two guards fell back to a respectful distance.

"I trust that you had a pleasant night?" Mei asked.

"Pleasant enough," Naruto answered.

The pair of them walked towards the beach, where the rising sun had made the ocean before them sparkle like diamonds. A soft, warm breeze blew around them, and the sound of waves lapping at the beach was quite relaxing. Despite the history and blood-shed of the Land of Water, Naruto could truly see the appeal in living here.

"Have you considered my proposal?" Mei asked as she stared out into the water.

Naruto gave a short nod. "We agree to your plan," he replied.

Mei looked pleased. "Then, let's go over the plan."

It was a curious group of shinobi that met at Kazuya's cottage. His wife had taken the family away, and Kazuya himself sat at the head of the living table, his arms folded. Both Mei and Naruto sat on the other side of the table, and surrounding them were over a dozen shinobi. They crowded around them, squashed in the small room, a mixture of Resistance and ANBU Operatives. The air, while not decidedly hostile, wasn't necessarily warm and friendly.

A map lay on the table before them, covered in tiny marks.

"Welcome to the joint briefing," Mei began, her lips twisting into a beautiful smile. "We're here to go over the particular details. 'Number One'," and here she looked extremely amused, "Meet one of my senior commanders, Chukichi."

One of her guards from before, the large man with the blue-striped cheeks and tinted glasses, gave a shallow nod of greeting.

"Chukichi will be leading bravo squad," Mei continued. "I will be leading Alpha Squad for the first half of the mission, and then my forces will relocate to our secondary objective while Number One continues on with the mission."

This had been a minor point of contention with Naruto, and he didn't like how Team Sigma was essentially subordinate to the Resistance commanders. Nonetheless, Mei had been adamant, and it did make sense. The Resistance knew the terrain better than they did, and they had a far greater understanding of the enemy, their tactics and composition, than Team Sigma did.

"Number Three, Number Six, Number Eight and I will be attached with Alpha Squad," Naruto spoke up. He gestured to the map. "We'll accompany Mei to the weapons factory here. Number Two, Four, Five and Seven will go with Bravo Squad. You'll commandeer the freighter Atakebune departing from Taiji. Delta Squad will rendezvous with you here…" he jabbed at the map. "…and the packages will be loaded on."

"After the factory is destroyed, I'll take my forces and we'll split up," Mei continued. "I'll engage the enemy forces, hindering them as long as possible. One of my lieutenants will move south, attacking another loyalist installation. Number One will take his squad east, destroying a small naval patrol and commandeering a boat to make for the mainland. If we time it right, you should hit the mainland about fifteen minutes before the Atakebune- about 1420 hours."

"My squad will take out this communications post north of the Bloody Cove, up at Cape Wazaki," Naruto pointed at the map. His brow was furrowed behind his mask as he kept running through the numbers even as he spoke.

"Ao, another of my shinobi, will attack south of the Bloody Cove at 1425 hours, destroying a small weapons cache. With the simultaneous attack from the north and south, Kirigakure's ANBU, TIDE, will be forced to split up." Mei leaned back in her chair, smiling in satisfaction.

Naruto nodded. "The Atakebune should land at about 1435 hours, a few moments before the distress calls arrive at the port," he continued. "The Resistance has men on the inside that should be able to pass you through customs quickly. We'll distribute the packages around six merchant wagons, and by 1500 hours, you should be out of the city and on the way to the Hub. Once you've passed the border, my team will move north towards the Land of Waves, and go the long way into the Land of Fire. From there, we'll avoid local forces and escort our package into the Land of Lightning."

That last part was a lie. Mei may have known that they were from Konoha, but she didn't know, and Naruto wasn't going to do or say anything that will legitimise her suspicions.

"The Resistance will leave you there," Mei concluded. She moved forward, bringing up an arm to ruffle Naruto's hair, despite his annoyance. "And that could be the end of our relationship, my little cutie."

"What a shame," Naruto responded dryly.

Mei chuckled as Naruto turned to his team. It was impossible to determine their expressions, but none of the members of Team Sigma showed any visible signs of discontent. He eyed each of them and gave them a brief nod.

"We're on a timetable," he said quietly. "So make sure you synchronise your times. Otherwise, let's move out."

Mei chuckled as she stood. "My, my," she murmured, "This is going to be fun."


It was a busy morning. Naruto had spent most of it going over the finer details of the mission with Kage, the leader of Team Sigma's detachment to Bravo Squad. Kazuya's little island cottage was becoming crowded as more Resistance members began to show up. Messages had been sent late last night to nearby cells, and they arrived not long after the mission briefing. It was as if Mei had already known that Naruto was going to agree to her proposition.

It was either that, or she had been preparing just in case he had said no.

Shinobi were divvied out. Mission groups were created. Supplies were given out. A small squad of Resistance shinobi left before the rest, travelling to the nearby islands where Kazuya had sheltered enemies of state so that they would be ready when the time comes. Finally, at noon, Alpha and Bravo squads were ready.

They gathered on the beach. Naruto stood next to Mei at the head of Alpha Squadron. Behind him, Komachi, Yuuka and Rat stood amongst six other Resistance shinobi. The spiky-haired teen from before was among them, as well as five others experienced-looking men and women. Next to them was Bravo Squad. Kage stood with Chukichi, and behind him was Sasuke, Daichi and Towa, as well as another five Resistance members. With a small team of five gathering up the refugees, and a team of eight preparing to strike on the mainland, there were almost forty shinobi involved in the mission.

Naruto had never been involved in an operation that utilised such numbers. Usually, it was him, with a small group such as Team Sigma backing him up. He found it hard to keep up with the numbers and strategies, and he was almost thankful that he wasn't in charge of the mission.

"Bravo Squad, are you ready?" Mei asked loudly.

Chukichi nodded, while many of the resistance shinobi nodded and murmured in assent. The Leaf-Nin amongst them were silent and motionless. Mei smiled at their response, and then the expression on her face turned somewhat nasty.

"Give them hell," she practically snarled, her emerald eyes gleaming.

Chukichi motioned, and the group of shinobi darted after him as they began to run across the water. Mei took a deep breath and turned back to Alpha Squad.

"We're on the clock," she told them determinedly. "We need to reach the weapons factory by 13:15. Stay alert, pace yourselves and get ready for combat. Alpha Squad, depart!"


The journey towards the weapons factory was rather uneventful. They spent most of the time running over the water- or rather, the Leaf-Nin did. The Water-Nin used some kind of technique that looked like they were skating over the swells. Whatever it was, it seemed to much more efficient than water-walking, as Team Sigma seemed to be far more tired than the Resistance members as they rested halfway through the journey.

Nonetheless, they made the one-hundred and thirty kilometre journey in good time, and soon they had arrived near the tip of the largest island in the Land of Water. They could tell they were arriving at the factory before it became visible. The water around them was soon littered with debris and rubbish, twisted plastic and half-melted barrels, and a terrible smell filled the air. Soon, on the coast ahead, a building began to loom.

It honestly seemed half-as-large as the Manufactorium, with dozens of tall, grey chimney stacks rising into the air. Large, concrete walls had been built around it, and a huge pier and port jutted out from the coast towards the sea. Huge plumes of black smoke rose into the air, and dim layer of smog began to cloud everything they could see. Small towns had been built around the walls, possibly containing the homes of the workers. A large freighter seemed to be slowly pulling into port, and dozens of tiny figures ran to and fro along the piers.

It was going to be a tough target to attack.

"Number One, break the enemies defence," Mei ordered them coolly. Her voice was brisk and toneless, and her usual smile was gone. "Kiri, prepare to move onto the primary targets. Give the timers a count of thirty and then detonate. I'll assist Number One's team."

Mei's route amongst the waves had kept them clear of loyalist shinobi, but their current course was going to lead them right into the factory. Clearly, this was going to be a full-on assault rather than any kind of stealth attack.

Naruto could feel his heart surging, his blood racing in his veins. His chakra hummed underneath his skin as he reflexively folded the chakra in on itself again and again, making it dense and more potent. The secret chakra exercise of the Third Hokage would give his ninjutsu more power, and allow him to utilise combination techniques that would normally require a full squad.

In the distance, an alarm began to buzz, and the figures on the pier began to move away. They had been spotted.

"Allow me," Mei told Naruto as he began to make hand-seals.

He stopped as Mei's hands blurred and Naruto felt the shudder run down his back as an incredible amount of chakra built up within her. She reared her head back and spat out an enormous cloud of mist. It surged forward, much faster than the running shinobi, and shot over the docks. Whatever the mist touched, it corroded and ate away, and Naruto watched with some amazement as wood, metal and plastic simply melted and dissolved away. The mist continued to travel in towards the factory, and by the time Alpha Squad had arrived the melted, twisted remains of the dock, the next hundred metres in front of them was in ruins.

Fire Release: Fire Dragon Flame Bullet Technique!

Naruto folded his chakra in on itself thrice, and condensed the resulting fire elemental chakra into a thin stream. It exploded from his mouth with enough force that made him take a step back, the sheer pressure of the super-charged, condensed flame creating a haze in the air all around him. The flame was a brilliant white and it hurt to look at as Naruto directed it at the enormous cargo ship that had docked on his right. His fire tore through the metal hull and moved downwards, splitting open the water with a hiss.

With a trembling groan, the back quarter of the container ship began to fall away from the rest of the vessel. Metal snapped and twisted as the remaining bolts and rivets were unable to hold the huge weight up, and it was with a terrible crash and a huge splash that the back of the ship fell into the water.

The rest of Alpha squad stayed behind Naruto and Mei as the two chakra powerhouses continued to advance towards the facility. The alarms continued to blare and in front of them the loyalist shinobi desperately tried to organise a defence behind their walls. A pair of solid metal gates began to close with a loud clank, but Mei merely tutted.

Again, and enormous amount of chakra built up into his companion, and Naruto watched as red-hot molten rock dribbled from her mouth, her pale skin seemingly unaffected by the searing heat that Naruto could feel. It solidified into multiple boulders of molten rock, and they were fired forward with tremendous force, as if shot by a catapult or trebuchet. The fiery boulders struck the walls and exploded in huge plumes of smoke and fire. Concrete cracked, and several parts of the wall fell away. One boulder struck the closing gates, and a huge pillar of fire exploded from where it had fallen. When the fire died down, all that was left of the gate was a twisted, blackened heap of debris.

Lightning Release: Static Pulse Shot!

Naruto threw out his hands and bolts of purple and blue crackling electricity blasted forward. A second later, the air was filled with the sound of rumbling thunder. The searing bolts of lightning went left and right, rising up and striking the cratered holes that Mei's technique had left in the walls. Concrete rumbled, and huge pieces the size of carts fell to the ground, making it shudder.

Lightning Release: Electromagnetic Murder!

Naruto jumped forward and slammed his hands in the ground. Chakra surged through him and his tenketsu burned. Underneath the section of the wall in front of him, the ground cracked and shuddered. A furious discharge of surging bolts of lightning tore apart the earth and soil right underneath the concrete base of the wall, and the entire thing simply collapsed in front of them.

It did so to reveal an enormous wave of water rising up towards them. Naruto caught a glimpse of several shinobi at the top of the factory with their hands twisted in various seals, before the tsunami rose up and blocked them from view. Both Mei and Naruto moved at the same time, falling into synch with each other.

Earth Release: Earth Style Wall!

The ground underneath them shuddered as Naruto manipulated the technique, and as Alpha Squad ran through the remains of the gates, a ramp made of rock and stone rose up from the ground. At the same time, Mei produced an enormous globe of water and surrounded them with a dense, curved torrent. The tsunami crashed upon them, but Mei's defensive technique shielded them from the worst of it as sprays of water splashed against them. Then, they rose above it, beyond the crashing waves of water that ran out to sea, taking with it the shattered remains of the docks with it.

As soon as Naruto had a clear view of the enemy again, he palmed two kunai and hurled up as far as he could.

Kunai Shadow Clone Technique!

At the top of their arc, as gravity once again began to pull them down, the two kunai became two hundred. They fell in a great wave of metal, slamming into the top of the factory, shattering skylights and lodging themselves in sheets of tin and plastic. Naruto made a single hand-seal as they fell, his teeth bared behind his mask as the rush of combat fuelled his body.

"Detonate!" He roared.

The explosive tag wrapped around the handle of every kunai, cloned or not, glowed white for a brief moment. Then, the air shook and the glass of the windows in front of them shattered as a series of explosions blended together to become a huge concussive wave of force. The upper level and roof of the factory simply caved in, disappearing under the balls of fire and force. At the same time, Naruto's earth technique, the rocky pillar that they were running onto them, slammed into the factory wall in front of them. Metal groaned and shrieked as it was torn apart, the earth technique lodging itself securely in the frame of the factory.

Mei reared her head back and a stream red-hot magma shot forward. It splattered against the wall in front of them, which simply melted underneath the heat and pressure of her technique, leaving a hole big enough for the squad to run through. Naruto caught a brief glimpse of assembly lines before loyalist shinobi began their counterattack, but he managed to briefly check his watch.


1319

The Eastern Sea


The freighter, having left Taiji in the morning, continued its slow and steady journey towards the Bloody Cove, the Land of Water's only outpost on the main continent of the Elemental Countries. Each freighter was guarded by over twenty of Yagura's shinobi at all times, securing the cargo and preventing any attacks. Unfortunately for the loyalists, one of those shinobi was a Resistance sleeper, and her guard post covered the eastern approach to the vessel.

Sasuke ran at the back of Bravo Squadron, feeling the burn of running on water for over an hour. It was an exhaustively intense exercise, and if it hadn't been for the monstrous training regimen that he had been a part of since joining Team Sigma, he wouldn't have been able to make the journey. Nonetheless, he was able to follow Bravo Squadron as they closed in on the freighter with at least sixty-percent of his chakra reserves ready for combat.

His heart was beating, his sharingan swirling behind his mask, and he knew that a smile had twisted across his face. With the adrenaline surging in his veins, and his chakra primed within his tenketsu, he was ready for anything. This was what he wanted- this was what he had always wanted. Missions that would test him, force him to into situations that would develop and hone his skills! In the last six months under Naruto's command, he had grown so far that sometimes he could scarcely believe it.

Soon it would be enough.

At the front of the squad, Kage's hands moved.

: Twenty-one chakra signatures ahead - prepare for disabling technique – all enemies are to be neutralised, however enemy with red headband is friendly- do not engage :

Their leader, the stoic, quiet Chukichi, was running through a series of hand-seals. When he finished, a surge of chakra blasted through the air around them. It sent a shudder down Sasuke's back and his sharingan spun, trying to determine the effect of the unseen technique. It didn't take long. A chill began to fill the air, and it grew colder and colder. The water underneath his feet began to harden and ice over, and a frosty haze took to the air.

The effects were more pronounced near the Atakebune. The water around it had become a sludge, ice and frost forming up to stop the ship, and Sasuke could hear the propellers underneath the water stop moving. The frost and ice crept over the ship, effectively halting it in its place, while the mist rose up towards the top of the vessel, blocking their entry of attack from view.

It was an effective technique, but there was a tang to the air that had Sasuke surprised. He glanced sharply at Chukichi as the man began to bark out orders. Was it possible that that man was related to the missing-nin Haku? It had been over a year, but Sasuke's battle with the gentle boy remained fresh on his mind. It had been the day he had unlocked the potential of his eyes- and the day he had been soundly defeated by those strange ice techniques.

As Kage relayed the orders, Sasuke pushed the issue to the back of his mind. It really didn't matter at the moment. They were going to get that ship. Bravo Squad scaled the side of the ship and emerged on the deck. The enemy was waiting for them, and Sasuke was barely over the rungs and onto solid ground when he was attacked.

"Water Style! Water Bullet Technique!" somebody shouted.

A lanky, shinobi, with dark eyes and a face twisted up in anger, reared his head back. It had been proven time and time again that verbalizing your techniques improved the efficiency and power of them- something to do with concentration and added mental focus. Nonetheless, Sasuke still didn't quite understand why some people did it. Yes, your techniques were more powerful and easier to produce, but for a competent enemy, all you were doing was telegraphing exactly what it is that you planned.

A pair of kunai flashed as Sasuke's slammed them down in metal beneath his feet. The razor-sharp edges lodged themselves in the deck, and Sasuke, crouched and waiting, placed a palm up towards the enemy. Black lines grew on his palm as he implemented the barrier technique.

Barrier Technique: Polished Mirror!

As the Kiri-Nin shot out a series of bullets of water from his mouth, Sasuke concentrated and formed a gleaming, transparent silver disc in front of his body. The water bullets struck them and the seal tags on the kunai flashed. An odd noise filled the air, like a rubber spring being wound back and released, and the water bullets bounced off the technique and back at the Kiri-Nin. Two struck him in the chest and he gasped, but then one rocketed towards his head and snapped his neck back, and he fell back in a spray of limbs.

Sasuke stood, palming his kunai, his sharingan swirling. Combat had erupted all over the top deck of the ship, mostly obscured by the icy mist that had overtaken them. Nearby, Kage dueled furiously with a burly Kiri-Nin wielding a giant sword, his dull-black machete clashing with the enemy's blade in a shower of sparks. Towa held back, a gleaming red crossbow in his hand, and he sprayed a series of crimson bolts towards the other end of the vessel, shooting at something unseen.

There was a blur of movement within the mist and somebody came charging at Sasuke. The young Uchiha's eyes spun, spotting every single detail of the approaching attacked- a woman, with short-cropped hair and a determined expression. Her muscles were poised and tense, her arm rising up, and the little quivers and the distribution of her body weight indicated she was going in for an overhead blow. Sweat beaded from her brow, her eyes were narrowed, one of her front teeth was fake, the other needed work, there was a loose thread on her flak-jacket, one of her pockets had only been partially closed- he perceived it all in a fraction of a second.

Sasuke inclined his head just a fraction and the blow- going exactly where he had predicted it would- missed his head, ruffling his hair. He countered with his own punch, but the woman's muscles tensed and she blocked it with her upper leg. Sasuke flipped back, avoiding the kick that came with the other leg, and she darted forward, engaging him in hand-to-hand combat.

She was clearly a close-range fighter, and not a bad one at that. She was no Hyuuga, but her movements were crisp and efficient. She used her long legs to her advantage, attacking him at a range that he couldn't easily counter. But, her expertise and skill was useless under the power of his eyes. Sasuke saw every move as if it were his own. Every tense of the muscle, every unconscious placing of the foot, every attack she began to move in for- he could see it all happening, and it was easy to dodge and avoid.

They fought for a minute, Sasuke avoiding every single attack. It was somewhat annoying, as the woman's superior range made it much harder for the Uchiha to successfully counter. His mind whirled as he avoided a kick to the chin and spin around an elbow jab. Then, he darted forward and went in for a punch.

The woman's face twitched as blocked his arm only centimeters from her face with a single hand on the wrist. Sasuke's eyes saw her other hand go for the kunai strapped to her back. He saw the momentum building up in the hand that gripped his arm, preparing to twist it sideways and break it. He could almost envision the move- she would twist his arm, breaking it, forcing him to the left, while her other hand would grip the kunai and bring it down on his neck.

A perfect counter.

Except Sasuke had planned for it, known that she would block his strike right at that every place, and he pulled his index finger down. The wire on it snapped and the mechanism strapped to his arm clicked. A kunai shot smoothly down his sleeve, towards the hand that was only centimeters away from the woman's face just as she had begun to twist his arm. Her eyes widened, and she tried to lean away, but Sasuke grabbed the hilt of the kunai as it fell into his palm and drove it forward.

It cut through skin and flesh, ripping into her right eye, and she let out a shriek as she stumbled backwards, clutching at it. Sasuke snapped a kick upwards, striking her in the throat, and her kunai fell to the deck as her other hand came to grasp at her neck. The Uchiha flipped through a series of hand-seals and reared his head back.

Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique!

The resulting wave of flames enveloped the woman in flames, and she shrieked and writhed as the force of the technique pushed her off the side of the ship. With a torn eye, a crushed throat and severe burns, Sasuke was certain that she would not be a problem ever again. He forced down the thrill and excitement of a successful victory as the mist began to lift over the ship.

The enemy had been defeated. The Atakebune was theirs.


The battle of the weapon factory was underway. The enemy garrison, several dozen shinobi, had fallen back under the devastatingly powerful barrage of ninjutsu from Naruto and Mei, and Alpha Squad had breached the facility and split up. The sound of fighting rose all around Naruto as he stood at the hole in the wall he had created, keeping a careful eye on everything around him as he defended their retreat. Alpha Squad had pressed in on all sides, the other members of the squad, pushing forward to plant the explosives. Mei had disappeared on the other side of the factory, and brilliant flashes of red lit up the entire facility as she engaged an unknown enemy.

There was a rustle of cloth and Naruto's head shot up. His eyes widened as he picked up a rapidly falling blur heading straight for him, and he quickly jumped backwards. An instant later, the blur slammed into the rocky path he had created and a large, concussive boom filled the air. The stone shattered into a million pieces, completely pulverised by the power of the blow. As Naruto landed several metres away, the attacker blurred towards him, and the young Jinchuuriki could briefly make out his features.

It was a man. Tall, burly and a face full of rage, he was swinging a giant axe towards him. A leather cord wrapped around the end of the handle, winding past the man's robed body, while his headband gleamed under the light of the sun. Naruto palmed two kunai and moved to block the second, powerful strike. As he did so, the man spun, revealing his other hand behind his back- and the hammer that it gripped, and Naruto's eyes widened.

Axe. Hammer. Cord.

Helmet-Splitter.

He had been given a general brief on all of the weapons of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist, even though Konoha wasn't exactly sure who the members where these days. He knew exactly how each one of them functioned and how they were used.

He knew exactly how he was about to die.

The Helmet-Splitter swung at his defense, and the two kunai managed to halt the axe in its tracks, Naruto's arms locked together. The hammer blow that came next would have killed him had he not realised the identity of the weapon a second before, and just as it came to slam at the end of the axe and drive it past Naruto's defense, he jumped up off of the rocky ground.

The hammer blow slammed the axe into him with deadly force, but with his feet in the air, the blow only went so far. One of his kunai shattered under the force, while the other twisted. His arm bent backwards and something snapped. Nonetheless, Naruto survived, although the force of the blow sent him rocketing away, and he fell towards the factory floor.

He managed to make a single hand-seal, but then the Swordsman was upon him, diving down to meet him. The axe lodged itself in his chest and Naruto made a gurgling noise. An instant later, he slammed into the ground, and the hammer came down to crush his head. The resulting blow cratered the concrete floor, sending shudders running through it. When the Swordsman lifted his weapons, however, all that remained of the undercover shinobi was a series of wooden splinters- the result of a successful replacement technique.

Naruto, holding one arm awkwardly and shoving the pain away, reared his head back.

Fire Release: Soaring Flame Bullets!

Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique!

His chakra surged. Flame elemental chakra folded in on itself as Naruto moulded it into the tenketsu in his throat, merging the two techniques into a single, deadly variant. He spat out a giant globe of fire three times the size of him- and then another, and then another. Three giant fireballs raced towards the ground, sizzling and crackling. An instant later, dozens- hundreds, even- of smaller streaks of flame fell from the falling orbs of flame. They bombarded the ground in a never-ending series of waves, and the Swordsman disappeared under the barrage of fire. A few seconds later, the three giant fireballs struck the ground in three different places and a furious storm of fire rose up, engulfing the entire area of the vast factory.

Machinery sparked and exploded. Wooden crates burst into flame. Concrete grew red hot. The air around him howled as the huge fire sucked it all in towards itself.

From it came a streak of movement as the Swordsman, moving at speeds that rivalled Naruto, darted out of it. He had not escaped unscathed, however, and his robes were blackened and burnt, his exposed skin red and blistering. He spat out a water technique, and the fire hissed as an enormous wave of water came crashing down upon it, extinguishing most of it. Mist rose up into the air, thick plumes of hot steam rising, blocking Naruto's view.

Wind Release: Great Wind Breakthrough!

Naruto was not going to let one of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist use a Silent Killing Technique. He threw out his hands, ignoring the flaring pain in his forearm, and banished the mist away with a huge billowing gust of air. He did it just in time, as the Swordsman had advanced rapidly towards him and jumped up onto the metal walkway he stood on. The hammer swung but Naruto ducked and pivoted around it, producing a kunai in his right, uninjured arm and using the Swordsman's momentum against him as he parried it aside. He let go of the kunai as he darted past the man, one hand rising up into a seal.

Kunai Shadow Clone!

Wind Release: Wind Breakthrough!

The one kunai became a hundred, and the smaller wind release technique propelled them at the man's suddenly exposed back. The Swordsman was quick, however, using his giant axe as a shield to black most of the kunai, and as Naruto spun around, he leaned back and threw his giant hammer. The leather cord extended as the huge hammer flew towards Naruto, who had to jump away as the hammer slammed down onto where he was standing. The metal walkway shattered underneath the power of the blow, bits of debris and twisted metal scrap falling on the blackened, smouldering factory floor.

The hammer must have weighed a lot, Naruto deducted grimly as he landed on a lower metal walkway. They criss-crossed the roof of the assembly line, although many of them had been damaged or destroyed in the attack.

The Swordsman jumped down and Naruto darted away, avoiding a swing that would have taken his head. The blow was close enough that he could feel the wind whipping past him, and several strands of hair fell on his shoulders as he jumped up to a higher walkway. The blond ANBU heard the rustle of robe and groan of metal as he was pursued, and he threw a kunai at the railway he was just about to land on. Then, he jumped away again, spinning in the air and making a hand-seal.

Detonate!

The explosive tag detonated and the metal railing collapsed with the screech of twisting metal. The Swordsman batted it aside with his hammer, but it had given Naruto enough time to find the high-ground, and he bombarded the man with more fire. Streaks shot down by the dozens, whizzing through the air, striking the nearby railed paths and slamming into the blackened concrete below. The man blocked them with his hammer and axe, but temporarily halted his advance.

Then, before Naruto could form a more powerful technique, the Swordsman unclipped the cord from his hammer and hurled it upwards. Naruto jerked his head back as the hammer flew by inches from his face, disappearing into the ceiling. Something smashed above as the hammer burst through the roof and disappeared from view. The man used Naruto's distraction to advance, and a second later he was in front of Naruto, axe swinging.

Naruto blocked with a kunai and for a few moments, they duelled. The man was strong, much physically stronger than Naruto. He was also fast on his feet. Naruto, however, was smaller and much more agile, and without the hammer to support the axe, he was able to parry and avoid most of the wide blows. Sparks flew as metal grinded on metal- Naruto ducked as the axe swung at his head- the Swordsman jumped back as Naruto lunged for his knee- Naruto sidestepped a kick to the face and parried another blow from the axe.

His kunai was chipping and dulling, and Naruto threw it at the Swordsman's face. The man blocked it, but it gave Naruto enough time to produce another. Suddenly, another crashing noise filled the air above them as the roof was smashed. Naruto's eyes widened as the hammer returned back to the earth, gravity taking hold, and the Swordsman grinned. He held out his hand and the hammer zoomed towards it.

It took a second and a half. In that time, Naruto, realising the danger he was in, jumped up off the railing and sped through some hand-seals.

Water Release: Exploding Water Colliding Wave!

His mouth bulged with water and he spat it out in huge waves, the torrents pouring forward down on the metal walkway he had just been fighting on. The Swordsman retrieved his hammer, but as he spun around the water was on him and he was washed away, over the railing and towards the ground. The Head-Splitter fell from his hands as the Swordsman twisted in the air, hands flashing, and suddenly a rippling wave of water rose up. It formed a long, serpent-like dragon and lunged at Naruto.

The blond ANBU threw himself away and the water dragon smashed into something behind him. He fell as well, looping wire around his good arm and throwing a kunai as he did, and his fall descended into a swing. He landed on a nearby walkway and released the wire, turning to face the enemy once more. His heart was racing, his blood pumping furiously through his veins. Despite his broken arm, Naruto could continue to fight.

The Swordsman, however, was panting. His burned, blistered skin was oozing blood, and his limbs were shaking as he supported his weight on one leg. His next charge was much slower than the rest, and Naruto saw an opportunity to end it. As the man came in for a blow with his axe, Naruto flipped through some hand-seals.

Wind Release: Wind Cutter Technique!

He threw out his hands and a scythe of sharpened wind grew in his hands. A second later, the axe slammed into it and the wind hissed and sparked as the metal grinded upon it. Naruto held it, gritting his teeth, and the man, despite his pain, seemed confident as his hammer rose. In that split second, as the hammer came down, Naruto ducked and the propelled axe swept over his head. He lunged forward and thrust the wind scythe right into the Swordsman's belly.

He roared in pain, his axe flying back. Naruto slapped an explosive tag onto his leg and then kicked him in the groin, pushing off and avoiding the axe while simultaneously sending the man flying off the railing. Naruto landed on his feet, hands flashing, and finished the fight with one more technique.

Earth Release: Rising Stone Spears!

The ground beneath the falling Swordsman erupted with gleaming, stone spears. At the same time, the primed explosive tag on the man's leg detonated with a small blast, disrupting the man's attempt at an escape technique. It was with a sickening squelch that he landed on the rising stone spears. The Swordsman twitched once and then went still. A moment later, the Head-Splitter fell on the ground with a thundering boom.

Naruto took deep breaths as he surveyed his enemy. Satisfied that he was dead, he turned around, gingerly touching his arm. The fighting was still going on around them, but it seemed to be dying down. Lava spilled from the other side of the factory, melting everything it touched, and smoke rose into the air.

Some minutes later, the members of Alpha Squad began to trickle back. The Resistance shinobi were first. The spiky-haired, scowling teen was one of the first to arrive, and he glanced at Naruto's wound sharply. His palms glowed green and he began using his medical ninjutsu to heal the factured arm. Mei appeared next, looking untouched. She glanced down at the Swordsman's body and a dark, satisfied smile glimmered on her face.

"Well done," she congratulated Naruto. "He was a dangerous man. He had killed several of my operatives before today. You did well."

Naruto acknowledged her praise with a curt nod. His eyes were on Rat, Yuuka and Komachi, who were approaching. Yuuka held the back of her head as Komachi tended to it on the move, blood seeping between her fingers. Rat's robes were torn but he looked otherwise fine. As the last of the Resistance members joined them, one being carried by his partner, Mei gestured to the entry.

"It's time to leave!"

As Alpha Squad departed the factory several minutes after their initial attack, a series of explosions tore through the air. The ground beneath their feet and the trees around them rustled, swaying to and fro as the force of the detonations shook them. The factory disappeared underneath a fog of dust, several sections of its walls collapsing in on itself. Huge plumes of smoke rose into the air, and the alarms continued to blare even as Alpha Squad slunk into the shadows of the forests surrounding the island.

The first stage of the mission was complete.