Hi everybody, sorry for the wait, but I've now the next chapter ready. Hope you like it. Happy reading.

Mission to the Land Of Snow

Naruto sat in his secret home and read through a scroll on advanced wind jutsus. There was one he had wanted to try for a while, but he had had other things that he regarded more important at the time. But now he had a week off from duty and that meant he could finally invest the time he needed for the training. For the last two months he had been doing one mission after another. After the initial B-rank with Shino, Sasuke and Shikamaru, he had also done three C-ranks leading Ino, Choji and Kiba as the team leader. One had been upped to an A-rank though. Like with the Wave mission. He found it strange that many of his missions turned out harder than they should be. The others of his age group hadn't experienced as many upgraded missions as him. Well, except during those times they were on a team with him.

The mission had been to deliver new orders to one of the outposts of Konoha at the border with Rain Country. Sadly they had run into a fight between the ninjas of the outpost and a group of missing nins from both Ame and Iwa. And the Iwa nins hadn't taken well to finding the son of the Yellow Flash close to them. Missing nins they might be, but they still harboured the hatred for the man that essentially cost them the third ninja world war. Taking it out on Naruto was simply petty, but hey, nobody said that Iwa nins were above that stupidity. Naruto had had to fight really hard to not only defend himself against two jonin level ninjas and four chunin level, but to also keep the team he was leading safe.

He wouldn't allow for any of his subordinates to die on a mission that should just have been an easy C-rank. His combination of shadow clones, wind jutsus and the flying thunder god jutsu won them the fight and they managed to capture two of the missing nins. They even had bounties on their heads, so after they had been interrogated in Konoha, they would be cashing in those bounties. Of the three genin Ino got hurt most with a deep cut on her right thigh. She had stupidly tried to use one of her clan's jutsus that left her body vulnerable. He had given her a stern talking to when it was acceptable to do something like that, as with her using it then, she not only gave herself a dangerous opening, she also tied up Choji's ability to fight back and completely prevented that he could attack. He would have to talk about that part with Asuma as well, as he would be taking over the team once he wasn't tied up with higher ranking missions anymore.

Naruto went through the handsigns for his new jutsu over fifty times to make sure that he had the quick forming of the twenty handsigns down instinctively and then he tried the jutsu with input of chakra.

'Wind release: Mirage,' he thought, having by now mastered the art of using his jutsus without shouting them out to warn his enemy.

It was a difficult thing to do, as it took massive focus. Few jonin even bothered to learn this, as it took years normally to get to the level where you could feel your chakra in a way where you could try it. And if they did, they normally used it for jutsus that they knew very well and which they used regularly. He knew that Kakashi sensei could do it for replacement, clones, raikiri, summoning and transformation. He hadn't seen other jutsus being used like that, but he suspected that he couldn't do it for all of the thousand jutsus he had copied.

Naruto wanted to have an arsenal that he could use silently and within a split second if necessary. And he didn't want to be spotted when he was on a mission that required stealth, which was why this jutsu had been on his list to learn it. When he now looked into the mirror, he couldn't see himself anymore. It wasn't perfect, there were blurred edges of the jutsu, which he would have to fine tune.

Mirage did exactly what the name said. Like a mirage in the desert, this jutsu broke the light in ways that deceived the eye. But instead of being like a genjutsu that pretended that there was something that wasn't there, this jutsu formed a kind of mirror in front of any part of Naruto. The eye 'saw' things by analysing the signals that came in from light being reflected from a surface. The brain then connected the information and allowed you to perceive the world around you. There were other jutsus that had a similar effect, but nothing could really compare with getting the effect by using wind manipulation.

And if he mastered the jutsu in the end, it would make it nearly impossible to locate him if you weren't a sensor type of a high level. It would make infiltration a whole lot easier. He was already good at suppressing his chakra to barely noticeable and this would add to his abilities nicely.

Kakashi looked at the mission request in front of him frowning. He had a bad feeling about this mission. Since the thwarted invasion things had gone fairly well for Konoha and they were nearly back up to normal working procedures. This mission would have been one that he needed to do in person, as he had been the only one that had any experience with the country that was their destination. Snow Country. The manager of a famous actress, Yukie Fujikaze, was asking for protection of the actress while the next Princess Gale movie was filmed in Snow Country. The problem was that Kakashi remembered the name Sandayu. It was one of the Royal Guards name.

This required a carefully selected team that could deal with any situation. He looked over the roster of ninjas that he had available right now. He needed to make sure that the team was strong enough, but that he didn't send ninjas that were needed for other missions. The mission was set as an A-rank, which at least allowed him to send one or two jonins together with some chunins. He first selected Haku Yuki, as his ice bloodline limit would make him perfectly suited for the climate of Snow Country. Not to mention that he was a fully qualified medic now and would cover that position on the team as well. He was a special jonin. Sending anybody who was handicapped in the cold would be stupid, so any Aburames were out. Their bugs didn't work well in the cold.

Against the special chakra armour of the snow ninjas you didn't do well with normal ninjutsu or genjutsu, so probably he shouldn't send Kurenai. She wasn't the best at taijutsu. Gai was a possibility though. But he was still responsible for his genin team. Perhaps he could send that team with some other jonins for support? Lee was a taijutsu specialist, which would be useful for fighting against ninjas that used chakra armour. Tenten specialised in weapons, again a useful thing, and Neji with his byakugan and the juken was a good idea, as the armour didn't cover the head. So Haku as the medic and one other jonin or strong chunin for support that could cover all areas that would be needed. Hm, Naruto was available. He had just finished his last mission leading the remaining genin from teams eight and ten six days ago and would be ready to move out again.

The mission would start in two days, so that wouldn't interrupt his recovery time. Not that Naruto was really relaxing probably. He knew that his student was normally busy working on new jutsus whenever he got the time. Looking over the files of the ninjas, he nodded to himself and sent out calls for team nine, Naruto and Haku.

The six ninjas stood in front of the Hokage, waiting for their orders.

"You've been called to do an A-rank mission. The destination is Snow Country and the mission objective is protecting the actress Yukie Fujikaze from any attackers that might be after her. Snow Country was taken over in a coup d'├ętat over fifteen years ago. The daimyo was killed by his brother Doto, but I managed to get Princess Koyuki Kazahana to safety. I suspect that Yukie Fujikaze is in reality Princess Koyuki. The manager that is our client has the same name as one of the royal guards of the killed daimyo. I suspect that there is more going on behind the scenes than we are told," Kakashi informed the group of six.

"The team leader will be Gai Maito with Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze being second in command. Haku Yuki will take the position of the team's medic. One thing you have to be aware of is that back when the coup d'├ętat took place, the snow ninjas had armour that made chakra based techniques basically useless. I assume that they will have developed those armours further, so be prepared to not be able to use ninjutsu and genjutsu effectively. We don't know what's going to happen, so be vigilant. The mission starts in two days. It would be good for you all to get an idea about the actress and her movies, so go and watch the newest Princess Gale movie that's being played in the cinema. Once you did that, Naruto and Gai should go and meet with Sandayu, the client of this mission," Kakashi told them.

"Understood, Hokage Sama," most said, with Naruto replacing it with 'sensei'.

"We will make sure to perform at the peak of the power of youth!" Gai declared.

"Yes, Gai sensei!" Lee agreed loudly.

Neji and Tenten only shook their heads, knowing the quirks of their teammates too well. Though both were looking at their other teammates for this mission curiously. While Tenten had already worked with Naruto during the invasion, she had wanted to have a mission with him since then to see more about his abilities. And Neji had got a major wake-up call from seeing how somebody that had been called a loser and failure at the academy had risen above the so-called geniuses of his year. And knowing that Naruto, who had been hated by nearly the whole village, and whom the civilians and some ninjas had tried to keep down, had defied all the odds, gave him some hope that he might not be totally fated to never escape his shackles in his clan. The fact that his uncle had finally given him the last letter that his father had written to him had helped as well. He still wasn't a social person, but at least he didn't demean the efforts of others anymore.

Naruto listened to the information that Sandayu gave him and Gai. As he had already seen the movie before, he had opted out of accompanying team nine and Haku to the cinema. He had created a hundred shadow clones to prepare a number of seals for him and get the orders from the armoury done before he left for Snow Country. It wouldn't do after all if the village didn't have enough essential seals for important missions. And the use of seals had massively increased since he had taken over stocking up the armoury. Not to mention that more ninjas took up studying fuinjutsu as they had seen how he had successfully subdued Gaara with it in the chunin exams finals.

Gaara right now had got an addition to his seal, Jiraiya had declared the seal a right mess when he got a look at it, which allowed him to sleep for at least four hours each night without trouble from Shukaku. Suna had had to pay a large amount of reparation to get the ninjas, which they had lost to capture from Konoha, back. The discovery of the murder of their Kazekage before the invasion led to Suna capitulating without any conditions, and made the Fire Daimyo a bit more willing to find a compromise for the attack on the grounds of Fire Country. The economic depression of Suna was also taken into account when the demands were made.

It led to Suna having to give up information on any kind of A-rank jutsus that they had and sending Kankuro to Konoha for six months to give introductory classes in puppetry for the Konoha academy. He would also inform the Konoha hospital about the most common poisons used with the puppets. In return Gaara, Temari and the captured ninjas were sent back to Suna. Right now Suna wasn't really a dangerous opponent and the major disturbing power in the form of Orochimaru and Oto was dealt with.

So Suna wouldn't have any ally to attack, not that they would easily do so. They were let off lightly by Konoha and they knew that. Konoha could have extracted Shukaku from Gaara and created a new jinchuriki loyal to their village, but they didn't and let Gaara return to Suna with a stronger seal.

Then worker from the film crew came in and shouted that Yukie had run away, again. Naruto sighed. This didn't bode well for the mission. He set out to catch the wayward actress. He crossed his fingers to make ten shadow clones. The clones went off to search for the actress. No verbal orders were needed.

About half an hour later one clone had found her in a bar. Naruto went there in person to talk to the actress to get a feeling for her personality.

He found her sitting at the bar, already a bit drunk.

"So you're the next one to try and get me to go? I'll never go to Snow Country. Forget it, find another main actress," Yukie slurred.

"Sorry, not within the mission parameters. Now we have the choice of you coming peacefully, or that I have to force you to come," Naruto said calmly. "I have no idea why you are so set against going to Snow Country, but there is no way that I would simply fail a mission because of a stubborn woman that whines like a five years old brat."

"You know nothing. Snow Country only brings death. There is no life, no spring in Snow Country," Yukie stated.

"There is life when you are willing to work for it, but I guess you'll never accept words, only actions will convince you," Naruto said and faster than Yukie could blink she fell down on the counter, a senbon sticking out from her arm on the side that Naruto sat. "This will go over so well when she wakes up."

Naruto took some money for the drinks from Yukie's pocket and left with her slung over his shoulder. Let her sleep until they were on the way. That way they wouldn't have to deal with another escape attempt.

Naruto had been right on his estimation how Yukie was going to react. She threw a massive tantrum when she realised that she was already on the ship on the way to the one country she never wanted to see again.

"How dare you drug me?" She laid into Naruto, who calmly leaned against the railing. "You had no right to force me to go to Snow Country!"

"Are you done yet? I couldn't care less about your tantrums. You think you had it bad? That you're the only one to suffer because power-hungry bastards ruined your life? There are hundreds if not thousands of others in this world with a fate worse than yours. The only way to not become a bitter and spiteful person is to take things into your own hands and to work on making your situation better. I have been in Wave Country before they recovered. A business tycoon named Gato had basically enslaved the country. He killed those that opposed him and were in the way to him monopolising the shipping market, which ensure that he could continue his criminal business without getting caught.

"I have been part of the team, a genin team at that, that freed Wave Country, but the one thing that gave that country hope was that one man, a bridge builder, refused to give up on his country. He bravely started building a bridge to the main land to overcome the poverty and desperation of his people. And he was made a target for assassination for it. One team managed to free a country. One team managed to help a brave man to finish his dream. You only need to have the guts to do something to have success. Otherwise you'll only be a victim for the rest of your life," Naruto pointed out and then went back under deck.

"He's right you know," Haku now spoke up, "Running away never solves problems. They will catch up to you. I nearly did that after I lost my master. I had made it my destiny to help him achieve his dreams. When he was killed on the same mission that Naruto spoke of, incidentally by the current Hokage when he was still the jonin sensei of Naruto's genin team, I first thought I had nothing to live for anymore. But with some support and the willingness of Konoha to help me find a new reason to live, I am now much better off than before. I'm originally from the land of water, where people with a bloodline limit like mine were hunted and killed on orders of the Mizukage. I learned to fight to protect myself and my precious people. Since coming to Konoha I found a few more than I had before. Even if I lost the person that meant most to me, because he was the one to save me when I was a child, I realised that throwing my life away and running away from it all wasn't the way to honour his memory.

"I will fight and make my name known as the best student of the greatest member of the seven shinobi swordsmen of Kiri. My master was Zabuza Momochi. And while others call him a demon, for me he was the one to save me. I have some friends that give me a reason to live and to fight. The opposition may appear overwhelming, but I know one thing. Never underestimate Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze. I did and I paid for it when I fought against him when he was just a genin. Konoha ninjas don't just give up when things get hard. And his life was way harder than you could imagine. It's not my place to say anything, it's his story to tell when he wants, but know that if anybody knows how to overcome overwhelming odds, it's him."

Haku then left Yukie to think about what she had been told. It would take time to get through to her. But if he, who had at first hated Naruto, Kakashi and Konoha for taking away Zabuza, could come to cherish them all as comrades and some as his precious people, then this woman, who probably had gone through a traumatic experience, the death of her father if the Hokage was right about her identity, could learn to stop running away and face her fears.

The Konoha team watched in awe how completely different Yukie was when she was in her role. It was like she did a 180 turnaround. She was fully into her role, but Tenten and Lee were aghast seeing that she needed eye drops to fake crying believably. Neji and Naruto stood at their positions, looking around for any kind of disturbance, but right now everything went as it should. They were on the open sea and it would take some time till they reached Snow Country. So far they also didn't need to wear their warmer clothes, even if every member of the team wore long clothes already.

After the filming for the day was done, the actress stormed back into her cabin, ignoring the requests of her manager Sandayu. Well, he had been the one to arrange for this trip, so probably she was a bit justified in it.

Some days passed and the ship encountered a massive iceberg.

"We're close to Snow Country now!" Gai announced. "Let's fan our flames of youth to protect our charges to the best of our abilities!"

"Yes, Gai sensei!" Lee shouted eagerly.

The director of the filming crew then decided that the iceberg was the perfect location for another scene in the film, so they went there to get it done. Then Neji called out a warning.

"I detect three persons coming closer fast," he told the team. "Two male and one female. One male uses a board on which he glides over the snow."

Then the group appeared and their leader greeted Yukie as Princess Koyuki. None of the Konoha ninjas was really surprised, as the Hokage had already suspected something like that. The snow ninjas started to attack and the Konoha group managed to dodge and keep Yukie and the film crew safe. Gai gave orders.

"Lee and Haku, take the guy with the snow board. Naruto and Tenten, take out the woman, I'll deal with the leader. Neji, you are in charge of protecting Princess Koyuki and the film crew," Gai ordered.

"Understood," the younger ones in the group chorused and took their positions.

Each of them raced towards their opponent while Neji was ready to shield against any kind of attack. Meanwhile he arranged for the retreat of the film crew. Koyuki was a shaking mess on the ground, so he picked her up bridal style and then put her onto one of the carts that the film crew used. He deflected a few kunais from hitting anybody while keeping an eye on the whole battle.

Haku and Lee were pushing the guy on the snowboard hard. His armour worked fairly well against Haku's direct ninjutsu, but he used them mostly, after finding out that any chakra based attack really didn't cause any worthwhile damage, to herd his opponent towards Lee, who was a green blur on the snow. Lee then took care of smacking him around with his taijutsu and easily got him off his snowboard, which lost him the manoeuvrability advantage he had had before. Then Haku landed a perfect hit with his senbons on a spot on the neck that put their opponent into a fake death state. Soon they had the opponent in a prisoner scroll and were back on the way to the ship.

It was clear to Neji why Haku was known as a really good medic. And hitting that precise spot on a moving target from a distance proved serious skill with senbons. Not even Tenten could have done that any better.

"I'm going to take the fight up in the air against her," Naruto told Tenten when the woman activated some flight extrusions of her armour, "I'd like you to put more pressure on her from the ground as best as you can."

"I could set up a trap, but she would have to come down for that. And here is nothing suited for that," Tenten complained.

"Just preventing her from leaving a certain area will help a lot. And if you manage to hit her armour in that round field, I would guess it would malfunction. I'll see to it that you get some good opportunities to fire at her," Naruto informed Tenten.

"Alright, let's do it!" She agreed and got her arsenal ready.

Naruto took off his warm coat and activated the flight seals on his normal trench coat. He soon was upon his opponent that hadn't expected that there was somebody in the Konoha group that could fly and match her in aerial combat. And by now Naruto could instinctively control his movements in the air. His control over his wind element was that advanced. He saw that he had surprised his opponent with his ability and used it to fire a wind jutsu that created a tornado around her. It wouldn't harm her body, but she wouldn't be able to fly around like she wanted to.

He had read Kakashi's report on the armour of the snow ninjas and knew that he had to attack indirectly, causing physical damage. So while the wind made of chakra didn't do much, when he added a pack of senbons into it, the situation was completely different. He could hear pained yelps from inside the tornado. Fast senbons were simply devilishly tricky to dodge or deflect. He controlled the tornado enough to bring his opponent lower in the air and then he dropped the jutsu when he saw Tenten in position to strike.

Tenten reacted immediately. She threw a barrage of kunai, aiming at the round piece of the armour, where Naruto suspected the power source. The second kunai was a bull's eye, the first one had been deflected. The third and fourth ones also hit, but not dead centre, as the woman had started falling from the sky when her power supply to her wings was cut off. Tenten secured the woman quickly, tying her up in ninja wire for later interrogation, not to mention that the research department in Konoha would love to have a look at the armour. Naruto took out a prisoner scroll and soon the two went back to the ship, backing up Neji, who simply nodded to them for a good fight.

Gai meanwhile was having a harder time. His opponent was very skilled with Ice release and was keeping him at a distance. While he didn't manage to get a true hit onto Gai, he was simply too fast for that, Gai also couldn't get into range to use one of his jutsus. They exchanged some attacks and counters, but the man, whose name was Nadare, retreated when he noticed that his comrades had fallen and were captured. Against superior numbers he wouldn't do too well and he knew it. Gai frowned at him leaving, but with having to get around another ice jutsu to get to him, he didn't really manage to stop him.

Gai returned to the ship.

"Good work, everybody. I'm proud of you all! You truly showed them that your flames of youth were far superior to their weak will," Gai declared, giving them a thumbs up with sparkling teeth showing in his bright smile.

The film director was also ecstatic about having got so much perfect action material from this incident. Yukie was taken inside to rest and then the ninjas sat down with Sandayu. They needed the full story now, as this mission had got a whole lot more difficult than expected.

And I'll cut it here. Till next time.