Chapter 25 – The New Mission Begins
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[Mission Assignment Room, Konoha]
Several Days Later…
Naruto returned to Konoha, along with the rest of his team and Team Guy, a few days ahead of schedule, despite the delays caused during their time escorting the caravan, and immediately made a beeline for the Hokage's (aka Tsunade) Office; they arrived at their destination just as Hiruzen, now the former Hokage (again), was about to exit the office. The old Sarutobi clansman, at both Naruto's and Kakashi's insistance, went back inside before Kakashi and Guy gave the mission report.
With that formality out of the way Tsunade finally addressed the group.
"I'm guessing you have more to say? Something important must've happened if you've asked Sarutobi-sensei to stay," Tsunade pointed out.
Naruto stepped towards Tsunade's desk before he placed the scroll that he took from the Akatsuki on said desk.
"I encountered two members of the Akatsuki; while they were able to escape I managed to take this from the contact they were meeting with. I've already seen what's inside and I'm sure that you'll see importance of its contents," Naruto explained rather vaguely as he made note of how quickly Tsunade had changed from being a hopeless gambler to a capable and learned leader since becoming Hokage.
"I guess being in a leadership position really can cause people to change; never imagined it would occur this quickly with her, however," Naruto thought to himself as Tsunade opened the scroll with her sensei looking over her shoulder to see what was written on it.
When the two read what was in said scroll Tsunade almost dropped the scroll in shock.
"Are you sure that this information is accurate?" Tsunade asked after a few minutes.
Naruto nodded before he responded to the Sannin's question.
"The Akatsuki sent two of their most powerful members, such as they are, to retrieve that scroll; I doubt that they would do that for phony intel," Naruto pointed out.
At this point the rest of the group, minus Kakashi and Guy, were now even more confused than they were before they were forced to make a beeline for Konoha.
"What information? What's going on?" Sasuke asked; like the rest of the group the young Uchiha was getting tired of being left out of the loop, so to speak.
Naruto, knowing that this was going to come up eventually, finally decided to tell the rest of the group what they had discovered.
"The scroll contained the location of a former Konoha-nin that the Akatuski are trying to recruit into their ranks; the chances of that person joining are almost nonexistent at best but, considering who this person is, it's very important that we find her before the Akatsuki does," Naruto explained vaguely.
The rest of the Konoha 12, as the younger members of Teams, 7,8,10, and Guy were now known, had learned about the Akatsuki's efforts to capture Naruto and, more importantly, why they were doing so. Thankfully Naruto's peers were no where near as ignorant as the most of Konoha was before Naruto's return from Las Noches to begin with so they were unaffected by the recent revelation of their friend having Kurama sealed within him; if anything the revelation only made the rest of the Konoha 12 have more respect for Naruto as well as make them more determined to protect him from the Akatsuki even if he had the strength to protect himself. This was also the reason why Naruto could talk about the Akatsuki in front of his friends without having to explain to his peers who the rogues were.
Sasuke, Sakura, and the younger members of Team Guy were surprised to hear that the Akatsuki were already looking for a replacement for the guy Naruto had killed when he and Jiraiya; that shock was, naturally, then replaced by curiosity.
"Who is she? And why would the Akatsuki want to have her join their ranks?" Neji had asked.
Naruto sighed before he gave his friends the answer.
"Her name... is Kazuko Uchiha; she's a former Konoha kunoichi who has been considered MIA for almost 13 years," Naruto explained; he turned to face Sasuke whose eyes, as one could imagine, widened in shock even more than their other teammates. (A/N: Kazuko roughly means 'Peaceful Child')
"Uchiha? But... how?" Sasuke asked in a stutter. Naruto sighed at this.
"Did she survive? Like I said before she has been gone for almost thirteen; I can't really explain why she did except that after a certain... incident... between her and the rest of the Uchiha Clan that occurred sometime before Kurama attacked Konoha they falsely implicated her in a heinous crime which forced her to flee the village at the age of ten. After the Uchiha Clan was massacred several documents arose that proved her innocence; this would've allowed her to return to Konoha without any consequences... assuming she was ever found," Naruto explained as he made sure he didn't give out any information that he didn't have to reveal; after a few seconds Neji, who was still in the room, realized something.
"I get it; because she was forced to flee the village at that time she wasn't around when the Uchiha Massacre occurred which meant that she wasn't among those who had been killed that very night," the Hyuga prodigy reasoned; this got him an affirmative nod from Naruto.
Sakura, meanwhile, still had a question that had been bothering her since the beginning of Naruto's explanation.
"But if this Kazuko was forced to flee when she was only ten years old how was she able to survive all this time?" Sakura asked.
At this point Hiruzen entered the conversation.
"That's a fair question, Sakura, but to answer it in its entirety, however, would be to disclose some very sensitive information which I cannot do for now. I can tell you, however, that Kazuko was the strongest kunoichi produced by the Uchiha clan and is an even stronger shinobi than Itachi; from what remember of Kazuko she was also very wise and knowledgeable girl with her understanding of the world and wisdom having reached the level of a Hokage by the age of 6. In all honestly I would've been surprised if she had not survived for all this time," Hiruzen explained with a great deal of sadness in his voice.
Naruto realized how uncomfortable this topic was for the Sandaime and had to raise his spiritual pressure slightly just to prevent several of his peers from pressing the issue even further before he turned to Tsunade.
"Tsunade-san, since most of the jonin and chunins are currently unavailable due to them either going out to find intel on the Akatsuki or being needed here to secure Konoha is it safe to assume that we'll have to go and find her?" Naruto asked to which Tsunade closed her eyes as if she was deep in thought.
After a few moments of tense silence the Sannin opened said eyes and looked directly at Naruto.
"Not exactly; Kakashi and Guy are now needed elsewhere and since there's a risk that the a potential conflict Akatsuki might still occur I'm going to have to put you in charge of this situation, including the formation of a team for this mission. In addition you'll have to keep your Fracciones here in Konoha in order to deter any further infiltrations into the village," Tsunade declared, having learned about, and met with, Tiraran and Jango shortly after arriving in the village.
The Uzumaki sighed at this.
"If that's the case then I have to have the final say on who is to be on said team; am I understood?" Naruto requested.
After getting a affirmative response from Tsunade the young Naruto exited the room with the rest of Team 7 and Team Guy following his lead; the young Uzumaki then left the group to prepare for the new mission.
Pein, upon receving word of Hidan and Kakuzu's return from their mission, called for all of the Akatsuki to convene at the hideout that they were in now; as opposed to their normal meetings, however, the entire organization was currently present in the flesh as opposed to the hologram-like apparition that some member would normally use.
Unfortunately for the Immortal Duo this meant that they were in the presence of their leader who was less than pleased when they gave their report of what happened.
"Let me see if got this correct... you're talling me that the jinchuriki of the Kyubi somehow managed to stumble into your meeting with the first contact, killed the man and took the intel on Kazuko Uchiha's location, and then proceeded to defeat Hidan with a single attack before he LET you both walk away with your lives?" Pein asked incredulously.
The figurehead leader of the Akatsuki was getting tired of this jinchuriki, a 13-year child no less, getting the better of the S-rank missing that have the misfortune of crossing paths with the Konoha-nin and was considering the possibility of confronting the boy himself. Only the orders from Madara Uchiha, who was the true leader of this organization, prevented the Village Head of Amegakure from making his move.
"Unfortunately Hidan refused to take heed to the warnings that Itachi gave to us before we headed out and when the boy managed to provoke my idiot of a partner he tried to attack the jinchuriki head on which lead to the rag doll that you see before you now," Kakuzu explained in a nonchalant manner getting a large vein to poke out of the aforementioned Jashinist's forehead.
"Who the [expletive] are you to [expletive] call me a [expletive] rag doll, Kakuzu?!" Hidan yelled in an irritated tone.
After getting hit by Naruto's Gran Rey Cero Hidan had lost both both of his arms as well his left leg in the ensuing explosion. Once Kakuzu finally found the rest of Hidan, after obviously taking his time to do so, Kakuzu created new limbs to replace the ones that were disintegrated by the young Uzumaki's attack hence why his limbs were now connected to his body with stiches; with his Akatsuki coat had been been heavily torn by the cero allowing the stitches on his arms to be visible to everyone else.
Before Hidan and Kakuzu could continue their argument Pein managed to get their focus to return to him.
"Since it's obvious we have no intel on Kazuko's location we have no other choice but to find a way to continue our plan with the manpower we have now," Pein declared solemnly.
Before anyone could question the Ame-nin's decision the Akatsuki's meeting was suddenly interrupted when two shadowy figures suddenly appeared from out of nowhere in the center of the hideout, taking the group by surprise.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that, Pein-san," one of the figures said in response...
[Aka no Uzu Harbor]
Several Days Later...
While the Akatsuki were busy trying to figure out what their next move would be Naruto had already formed his team and was already at the first major stop along the way to the location where Kazuko was supposedly located. For this mission Naruto had chosen Sasuke, Neji, to join him; in addition the Uzumaki was able to "persuade" Shikamaru, of all people. to complete his team despite the doubts of the other two. After gathering whatever provisions they needed the group arrived at the main gate where Naruto gave the group brief overview of their mission.
After that the group headed east towards the port where this entire situation started; not surprisingly Neji and Sasuke were surprised by this move on the part of Naruto.
"Why are we here again, Naruto?" Sasuke asked.
Naruto sighed as the group entered the port town.
"As I've already told you the information on the scroll clearly states that Kazuko is a certain location somewhere in the former Land of Whirlpools; as this is the closet port to that land this is the place where we're supposed to meet up with the boat that'll take us there tomorrow," Naruto explained, having told the group about the former nation that was now Kazuko's "home".
"In any case I think we should find a place to stay for the night; when we get on that boat tomorrow I'll give you guys the full rundown on what you can expect," Naruto continued as he and his team entered a small inn next to the harbor...
Next Time – Contact: The Worst Uchiha Reunion!