I don't own Naruto, or any of the characters from the Manga or Anime.
A Price for Peace
Chapter 28 Escaping the Capital
The city square of the southernmost district capital was normally a busy place thriving with activity, civilians rushing to acquire whatever rations they may need before the sun would set gave the city a frantic pace.
The dangers of this city were well known to those who lived within it's walls, gang run stores were never safe to anyone save members of their gangs or those who fund them. So when it became clear that one of the more influential gangs had several members killed inside their own store, the city went on full alert.
It was only the timing of such an unusual occurrence that prevented the city from dissolving into a street war with the aim of finding those responsible. What had stopped this from coming to pass? It just so happened that the southernmost capital was playing host to eight members of the imperial army, two of which were high ranking officers. The gangs knew that any thought of retaliation or open warfare would see every member of their gangs annihilated.
As it stood the members of the army had taken it upon themselves to investigate the murder turned robbery, what they had found troubled them more than anything they had experienced before. "How's the testing going?" A man asked, he stood over fix foot and had short cut hair, the colour of rust that was styled to slick back away from his face. He wore a snow white uniform with two crossed red swords embroidered on his chest over his heart and on either shoulder.
The man was addressing three teenagers that looked to be around twelve to thirteen years old. They each wore red robes holding a separate symbol where the crossed swords were on the older mans uniform. "It's no use sensei. Nobody we have questioned could possibly have performed such an attack." A young girl said with a bow, her long raven coloured hair falling around her shoulders as she admitted their failure.
"That doesn't mean they didn't do it. Come on, if we can catch this guy, we will be sure to get picked for the best squads once our training has been completed." A boy with the same rust coloured hair as the sensei said eagerly.
"You are not wrong with that, but judging from the type of attack that took the lives of those men, it would not be wise to for you three to fight him head on. In fact I am sure if they are as skilled as this, they will have left the city already." the older man explained, a hint of worry etched on his face. 'First a fortified camp is all but wiped out, and now this... both were owned by the same gang as well. Is it a rival gang getting that has learned how to manipulate chakra? Or something more troublesome.'
"No way! You're one of the strongest warriors in the empire, with you here we can take anyone down Ni- I mean Sensei." The rust haired boy retorted fully confident what he said was the truth.
The older man chuckled and ruffled the boys hair. "Maybe I can, but something like this... it's not my call, you learned in the academy what to do when confronted with a crime caused by a chakra user."
"Hai, we're supposed to immediately contact the member of the royal family that is responsible for ruling over the surrounding districts." The raven haired girl replied.
"Exactly... although, truth is I would rather not. The member of the royal family the southern region of the empire is controlled by is... well a little odd." The older man spoke careful not to say anything that may be considered an insult. 'Odd's an understatement, she is certifiably insane. Then again she is twelfth in line for the thrown... meaning she is one of the strongest people in the world.'
"Does that mean we have to leave this city?" The third and final member of the group asked. The boy was the shortest of the group, with light brown hair that was well groomed and eyes that were as green as emeralds.
The sensei nodded, he was still dreading the thought of giving this report. "Unfortunately yes. We need to travel a few districts in to find the princess. She lives in a fortress that will take two days to reach."
"Good, I can't stand the filth of this place, it sickens me." the well groomed boy said.
"So what, there is always stuff to do out here, I mean every one of them is guilty of something." The other boy replied.
The well groomed boy scoffed at his teammates response. "As expected of someone like you."
"What's that supposed to mean? You wanna go huh? I think black will go well with those green eyes of yours!"
Before the fight could develop any further the older man stepped in. "That's enough, I won't have any fighting unless it is an official match. Then again you have nothing to fight for so don't bother. I only want to see you three fighting for rank or prestige, meaningless squabbles make us all look unorganised. Now there will be no more discussion. The other team will stay behind while we travel to see the princess."
"Gah fine." The boy with the rust coloured hair spat, shoving his fists into his pockets in disappointment.
Their sensei nodded his approval and began walking away. "Good now let's head for the main gate."
Naruto stood atop the walls of the city looking out over the large field, it did not take long to find where Karin and the others were. Naruto had been carful when taking the other prisoners from the city that they did not head in the same direction. Should they ever be caught again, he would rather not let them know the others in his group, or where they came from.
"So now what? We're so high up." The slightly older teen in his arms queried a little scared as she looked down.
"We jump of course." Naruto replied honestly, his Azure eyes sparkling in anticipation. Like it or not he was a shinobi, he loved his job, so this rare chance to feel like a real ninja again was exhilarating for the blonde teen.
"You cant be Serio-" Rea's words were lost in her mouth as Naruto leapt from such a overwhelming hight. 'Oh fuck, I am going to die, I have been killed by this idiot.' she thought, her eyes clenched tightly.
Naruto on the other hand was completely focused. He knew he had to get this right or they would both die. 'Time to see if that extra training has been paying off.' He mused sticking out his free hand as the ground was becoming dangerously close. Suddenly their decent smoothed out and they came to light landing.
The pain that Rea had been expecting didn't come, she had braced herself for a very bloody end, but she was still alive... at least that is what seemed to be the case. Regardless she was afraid to open her eyes on the off chance that the adrenaline had prevented her feeling any pain.
"It's alright, we're safe on the ground now, you can open your eyes." Naruto said in high spirits, still carrying the frightened young woman.
Reluctantly she cracked open an eye and saw what Naruto has said was the truth. "H-h-how?" she stammered in disbelief.
"I manipulated the wind to create a sort of pillow to catch us." Naruto said rubbing the back of his neck.
"Why don't you sound all that convincing?" Rea asked skeptically.
"That's what happened... it's just that is the first time I have tried to do something like that, well that wasn't from about as high as the lowest branch of a tree." The blonde admitted.
Rea stared back with a blank look on her face, Naruto couldn't tell if she was angry or impressed. "What!?"
"It's just what I said." He replied a little tentative at the harshness in her voice.
Rea's blank face slowly turned into a scowl and soon after she began yelling incoherently at the blonde for endangering her life so recklessly, especially when his clone had casually and slowly walked down the side of the wall with her brother. 'Well at least she isn't hitting me.' He sighed in defeat. He turned his neck to see Karin and the others waiting in the shade of a large tree. He also noticed that Karin was looking in his direction and did not seem happy. 'I wonder what that is all about?'
"Uh, could you let me down, I think we're safe now." Rea said having finally finished her angry rant.
Naruto realised that he was indeed still holding the angry teen in his arms like a princess. "Oh sorry." he admitted, letting her feet hit the ground.
"You looked like you were enjoying yourself." Karin said stiffly as Naruto joined the others.
"Well to be honest I haven't had that much fun in a long time." Naruto said not understanding the bitterness in his partners voice.
"I see." Karin replied a little sadly. She didn't realise that Naruto was talking about how fun it was to act like a real shinobi again rather than carrying Rea.
"Yo take a look at this, the city gates are opening." Tenji said in a hushed yell.
Naruto paled, 'Did they see me? Oh Kami this is bad.'
"Get down, don't let them see us." Isho ordered. Without argument everyone did as he suggested.
They positioned themselves to stay out of sight, but enough so that Naruto could just see the entrance. The gates were only open for a minute, just long enough for four people to exit before they slammed shut once more. "Oh shit, look at that, it's them! Three graduates and an elite soldier." Tenji said in shock.
"Yes their uniforms are a dead give away." Isho added.
Naruto didn't say anything, he just watched on in baited breath, half expecting the members of they army to look over and see them hiding. However they did not seem interested in searching for The blondes group. Instead they followed the road, at full speed, not giving a sideways glance in any direction.
"They're leaving?" Rea questioned.
"Seems that way, but the question is why?" Isho replied.
Seeing that the uniformed squad was now out of sight Tenji jumped to his feet. "Who cares, but what do you say we get out of here before they come back?"
"I am inclined to agree, we are behind schedule anyway." Isho nodded, slowly getting to his feet. Naruto followed soon after, but his attention was still drawn to the gates that had shut tight behind the leaving group. He was a little concerned but put up no complaints when the rest of the group began to head south across a large field towards the hill they had first set eyes on the capital from.
The group didn't stop running until the sun had set, and they had not said a word in that time. In the end the small group stopped to rest a the edge of a shallow river. "Man we should have been home by now." Tenji sighed, before dunking his head into the water to cool off.
"Well judging by the situation we were in, I think the fact that we're running a little late is a fair trade." Rea replied. She was breathing heavily, the stress of the day was starting to catch up to the hunters.
Naruto and Karin however were sitting a fair way away from the civilians. "That was a four man squad, and judging from the speed they could move, they were using chakra." Naruto said quietly.
"Well we guessed that what ever military was here could use it." Karin reasoned.
"Yeah, but don't you think it's a little strange that they left the city if they were supposed to be looking for us?" The blonde questioned.
"That's true. My first thought when I saw them leave the city was they would be searching the surrounding areas. But if that was the case, normally they would separate to cover more ground quickly. The four man squad is so reminiscent of a shinobi Genin team it can't be a coincidence. If that is the case, then perhaps the sensei decided that they would need assistance?" Karin reasoned, thinking over the situation. Her voice was rather stiff, because she had not forgotten the seeing Naruto holding onto Rea that afternoon.
"That's not good right?" Naruto sighed.
"Well I don't think it would be smart to come back here for the foreseeable future, but it would be hard for even me to track us to the village. I was able to find you, because I knew what I was looking for. They will have no idea what your chakra is like, so I doubt we are in that much danger, even if they are desperate to find us." Karin reassured the blonde.
"Maybe you're right, I just don't want to put anyone else in danger thats all. If they start searching around the village I will leave and draw them away. That way at least you will be safe." Naruto replied.
"You can't leave me!" Karin exclaimed in a hushed whisper.
Naruto leaned back, till he was resting against a tree. "I don't want to leave, believe me. But come on Karin-chan think about it. If they come looking for us then I doubt we will survive. I mean they have an army, no matter how strong I am eventually the numbers will get us. If you stay behind at least you will safe."
Karin pulled her knees into her chest and hugged them. 'He's right, that man in white had a strong chakra signature, he must have been a Jounin. There is no telling how many members of their army are that strong and if they do come in force to search for us then eventually even Naruto-kun will be defeated. He is giving me an out in a worst case scenario, maybe I should take it.' She thought but immediately couldn't stand the idea. "No! I won't let you leave me like that. We're a team now and I... I don't want to be abandoned again, I would rather die!" She admitted with tears welling in the corner of her eyes.
The blonde smiled sadly and pulled her into a hug. "I guess you win then. If things do turn out that badly we will just have to figure something out on the go. Its not really much of a plan, but then again I have never really been all that great at coming up with well thought out plans, that was more Shikamaru's territory." He cooed soothingly in the red heads ear.
"Do you promise? Promise me that you won't abandon me like everyone else." The kunoichi demanded.
"Sure, I promise. Now what do you say we go back and join the others. This talk is far too depressing." Naruto said with a short laugh at the end trying to raise the red heads spirits.
Karin nodded into Naruto's chest and relaxed slightly. "Alright I am sure they want to move out soon anyway." she sighed feeling far more relaxed. They sat together for a few moments more before Naruto helped her to her feet.
"Are you two ready to go? It's only a few more hours until we get home, so there is no need to wait around here any longer." Isho said calmly yet still with some authority.
"Yeah it's getting late, I could use a good nights sleep after today." Rea replied, letting out a soft sigh.
The group that left from the gate was still sprinting through the trees, heading north west. "Can we stop soon Sensei? I am getting tired." The young woman from the group asked through heavy breaths.
The man with the rust coloured hair shook his head. "I'm sorry but we can't stop right now. We're near the border of this district so we will stop at the next town, but only long enough to regain your strength. We can't waste time sitting around, in the military, your mission comes first, nothing else matters."
"Ni- I mean Sensei is right. You know that you wont get picked for one of the better divisions once we earn promotion with that attitude." the rust haired teen added.
The young woman sighed and kept pushing herself harder to keep up with the other members of the group. Much to her dismay it was not until long after midnight before they came to a stop. A large village, even in the dark it was clearly in a better shape than the capital they had been in a few hours earlier. The buildings, while small were in good condition that gave the village a quaint, peaceful feel.
The groups sensei stopped once they entered the border of the town. A guard gave the group a low bow and moved aside to grant them entrance into the village. "I guess we will stop here until morning. If we leave when the sun comes up we should make it to her fortress by the early afternoon tomorrow. Thats fine because I would rather not wake the princess up, there is no telling what she would do." He shivered a little at the thought.
'Nii-sama seems really frightened of this princess. None of the member of the royal family I have met have been that scary... although this princess is supposed to be one of the strongest.' The teen with the rust coloured hair thought gazing at the older man.
They came to a stop in front of a small tavern, one of the few buildings in the village that still had it's lights on. The older man banged loudly on the door to announce themselves. A few minutes later a middle aged man appeared at the door, his initial annoyance soon faded once he saw who it was at his door. "Oh my, is there something wrong sir?" he questioned.
The groups sensei chuckled under his breath. "Not at all, so long as you have two rooms for us to stay until dawn."
"Y-yes of course, please come in. the cook has gone home for the night, but there might be some left overs in the fridge if you are hungry, I can have them sent up to your rooms." The middle aged man replied.
"Thank you, please lead the way."
(The Next Morning)
The sun had not yet risen when Naruto rolled out of his futon, careful not to wake Karin, who had once more discarded her own and joined him in the middle of the night. He smiled softly down at her sleeping form, pulling the covers back up before he left the room.
'Alright, I will quickly go drop off the stuff I'll need to complete the house, then off to the woods to summon Fukusaku-sensei.' The blonde decided as he stepped out of Cho's house and into the early morning air. There was a cool breeze off the mountains that gave the morning a chill, but it was nothing that he was not used too.
The sun was just starting to rise when Naruto entered the small clearing he had created for training. He instantly sat and began concentrating, summoning even one of the toad elders was difficult. Regardless a minute later he began to run through the hand seals and in a puff of smoke Fukusaku was standing before him.
"Ah Naruto-chan, why didn't you summon me yesterday for our training?" The small green toad with grey hair and a short goatee to match queried.
"Sorry Fukusaku-sensei, I was going to summon you in the afternoon, but I got held up on our trip for supplies, sorry." The blonde admitted apologetically.
"Then we will have to work extra hard today. So hurry up and create some clones, there is no time to waste." Fukusaku ordered. Argument Naruto did as he was told, creating a large number of clones and sent them off to work. "Good now while they train in the toad style arts, you and I will spar. No sage mode and do not use the foxes chakra."
Naruto nodded and set into his stance. "Ready when you are Fukusaku-sensei."
Fukusaku simply nodded then kicked off, his legs giving him enormous power and speed. It was only Naruto's instincts that let him escape a head butt that would have debilitated a normal man. Naruto was no normal man however, so the worst it would have done would have been to wind him.
The toads small size was both an asset and a hinderance. Because he was so compact, he was able to block most of what Naruto had thrown at him, but at the same time, his reach meant that he was restricted to large movements that made them easier to predict as well as leaving him exposed at times. Naruto was finally starting to read this and his counters were becoming far more effective.
Fukusaku was not one to be bested easily however. He had almost a thousand years of experience to call on, so once his young student had gotten to grips with his attack patterns he decided to mix things up a bit. The small toad leapt high into the air, spinning so his feet would come in contact with a large branch of one of the over hanging trees. Using that to kick off he rocketed towards the blonde shaping to catch him with a spinning leg.
Naruto readied himself to avoid the attack and launch a counter of his own and tensed his legs in preparation to jump back at the last second for maximum effectiveness. What he wasn't expecting however was for the toad to faint the kick and spat his tongue out striking Naruto who could not avoid the whip like muscle. "Expect the unexpected Naruto-chan, you became so comfortable and let your guard down." The pint sized toad lectured.
Naruto slowly pulled himself to his feet, his face was stained crimson on his left side from a deep cut above his eye. Even without using his fox cloak it was healing before Fukusaku's eyes. "Well I can't argue with the point you made." He chuckled.
'Naruto-chan's healing is faster than ever, it's faster than it should be even with sage mode he wouldn't have healed this fast from that attack. Is it because of his relationship with the fox?' Fukusaku thought slightly amazed with what he was seeing.
'That damn toad, that would have left a scar if I didn't intervene. Get yourself hurt like that again and I won't boost your healing abilities.' Kurama raged.
'Yeah sorry Kurama, I'll be more careful.' Naruto apologised while avoiding another strike from Fukusaku's tongue. 'Damn what the hell do I do about this, his range is massive.'
'Yes but that is also the weakness of his attack, if you can move closer his attack will be useless. That is how a whip works. The closer you get the less power the attack has behind it.' Kurama explained.
Naruto nodded and smirked. 'Sounds easy enough, all I have to do is find a way to get closer then.' He needed to time everything perfectly, slipping under yet another attack he sped forward at top speed.
Fukusaku, seeing Naruto's plan began retracting his tongue but it was not fast enough. Naruto grabbed it with one hand and yanked the small toad forward before delivering a powerful punch that connected perfectly. Fukusaku was sent flying back, crashing through a large low lying branch.
"Not bad Naruto-chan, you were able to read my attack perfectly." Fukusaku said picking him up, he had a small trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth but otherwise seemed to be unharmed. "Reading your opponents movements without the aid of your clones is vital, the time it takes to predict a faint or an unexpected ability can be the difference between life and death." He lectured wiping the blood away from his face. "Regardless I think we should stop here. we are about to have company, and it would be best if she didn't see you covered in your blood."
Naruto stopped and scanned for himself, feeling Karin slowly approaching for himself. "Yeah you're probably right."
Naruto only just had enough time to wipe his face clean when Karin arrived, perched high in one of the surrounding trees. "You left before the sun came up again. Do you mind if I join you, I could use some training as well."
"That sounds like a good idea to me, Naruto-chan, you can train with Karin-chan, I'll go check on your clones and then head back to Myobokuzan, you did good today." Fukusaku said before hopping away.
Karin dropped down from her lofty perch. She wore loose fitting purple sweat pants and a casual grey top that allowed for free movement. Her hair was tied back into a pony tail, so she was more than ready for a what ever training they had in mind. "So where do you want to start?" Naruto questioned.
She sighed and lowered her head. "To be honest, I don't think I am good enough in any aspect of fighting. So in that case, maybe we should start with a spar?"
Naruto smiled and nodded his agreement. "Alright, I am ready when you are."
Karin ran forward and through a flurry of punches at the blonde, who weaved through them, only blocking what he needed too. After fighting with the toad elder, karin was slow and predictable, she had no real style and was more of a brawler, which, when he thought about it was similar to his own style.
This fact made the young jinchuuriki confident that he could train her, as he had made all the mistakes she was making before. Effortlessly he grabbed one of Karin's arms and tossed her over his shoulder and onto the ground, pinning the kunoichi while remaining careful not to hurt her. He smirked down at her while she glared playfully back. Leaning in he brought his lips to her ear. "Looks like I win Karin-chan."
The taunting feel of his breath on her skin, the closeness of his lips forced a frustrated moan from her lips. Not even Sasuke had made her react in such a way before but she forced herself to maintain composure. "Well I didn't exactly expect to be able to beat you. This is just mean." She complained.
'She's so cute when she pouts like that.' He thought, unconsciously moving his lips closer to hers.
Karin saw this and her heat began to beat out of her chest, closing her eyes in anticipation, but the kiss she was expecting never came. Instead she suddenly felt his weight shift off her. 'What happened? Did I do something wrong?' she thought in desperation opening her eyes to search for her partner.
Naruto was sitting under a tree careful not to make eye contact with the kunoichi. "I'm sorry, I almost k- did something I shouldn't, it wont happen again."
"It's alright I don't care. In fact I wanted you to do it." Karin admitted quietly.
Naruto cast her a quizzical look, not really believing what he heard. He had many questions at this point, but, "Huh?" was all he could manage.
Karin picked herself up off the ground and walked over to where Naruto was sitting, kneeling before him and forcing him to look in her eyes. "I meant what I said yesterday, I never want you to leave me. I... I really like you Naruto-kun, more than anyone before. So when you were about to kiss me, I was happy, no it was more than just being happy. So don't apologise because it was something that I have wanted for awhile now." She admitted before leaning in and gently placing her lips against his.
Naruto's eyes were as wide as saucers as she kissed him, but he felt exhilarated. This was his first kiss, not including one horrendous experience during his final days in the academy. Karin's lips were soft and just a little moist and he was hesitantly upset when she pulled away before he had even kissed her back. So to rectify that mistake he pulled her back and returned the favour this time both parties were fully committed sending a shiver of ecstasy through both shinobi. They broke apart a few moments later, each panting slightly from adrenaline and the need to catch their breath.
Naruto smiled and brushed a stray thread of her silky red locks back, pinning it behind her ear. "Well that was..."
"Amazing." She finished for him leaning in once more.
Semi cliff-hanger ending, just hope that last scene wasn't a little too cliché, I've been looking for an organic way to bring them together for a few weeks now, so I hope it didn't seem too forced, Karin also may have come off a little bit Yandere. But if you look at here character, she does come off a little like bit like that at times anyway, more so since she was reunited with Sasuke and her character development has been assassinated. Relegating her to the halls of the mindless Sasuke fan club. (Not a dig a Sasuke, a dig at the shallow female characterisation of many characters in the cannon.)
Next chapter we'll get a first look at the royal family at least one of them. How will things play out... well to be honest I haven't thought that far ahead yet lol. I write what comes to me, as it comes to me, so basically your guess is as good as mine. I know that's not really comforting but I guess you're just going to have to trust me to come up with something good, thankfully if I don't think it's going to be interesting I don't usually write it.
So Obito saves the day... of course it had to be, people go from good, to bad, and then to good again so fast it's like watching a tennis rally. Still 95% of the problems here occurred because they didn't kill him when they had the chance, but regardless, Interesting to see what technique Obito is using. Is he just giving him Bijuu chakra because Madara said he only got part of the Ichibi and Hachibi. But for those keeping score that completes the set for Bijuu giving their chakra to Naruto... Although I am not exactly sure if this counts as voluntary. On that note we could have a potential power up for Naruto, Still it wouldn't be cannon if they didn't have an Uchiha involved somehow.
Okay maybe I am being a little bitter at this point because overall the chapter was pretty good, they were actually using their brains for once in the fight. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Gai is going to pull out.