Chapter 90: Demons in the Night, part 1

Posted: September 19, 2017

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto


Uzumaki Naruto, accompanied by Team Gai and Hinata, darted through the trees as they returned to Konoha after a special training session at the Namikaze fortress just north of the village. The focus of this special training…trying to find a way to temporarily insert Kurama into a special clone, allowing him to fight without going 'squish' as a Kurama clone would most likely be more durable thanks to the more potent chakra. However, despite trying, they were finding it incredibly difficult to move Kurama's consciousness to a clone. In a sense, it felt like Kurama's consciousness was intertwined with his own chakra.

As Tsunade didn't want Naruto leaving the village without a jonin escort due to potential Akatsuki activity, Naruto decided to bring Gai-sensei along, which of course meant Lee was coming. As Team Gai had just returned from a mission the other day, all members of the team had a few days rest, meaning Gai dragged them along for training as well.

Naruto was also considering himself lucky as Hinata had not been assigned the mission she mentioned the other day, and since he had yet to take her to his dad's personal training site, he felt this was a perfect opportunity to do such.

The two who were most impressed by the training ground were Lee and Gai-sensei, especially when Naruto showed them the training dummy room. It was amazing what those summoning and puppet seals his dad had placed on the dummies could do and it wasn't long before Lee and Gai were running through the Dummy Gauntlet, as he called it, trying to see how well they matched up to Konoha's famous Yellow Flash. Surprisingly, the spandex-wearing duo managed to get to almost 640 before the chakra in the seals ran out and the dummies disappeared so their seals' chakra could replenish itself. For reference, his father had bested all 1,000 dummies in the allotted time and Naruto knew Lee and Gai would be begging him to take them back one day.

Tenten spent the majority of the time looking over the various sealing matrixes scattered throughout the caverns, while also testing her mettle against the Dummy Gauntlet, managing to reach 310 before the dummies ran out of chakra, thanks primarily to her rain of sharp and pointy things.

As his challenge for the title of Hyuga elder was only a few weeks out, Neji was actually glad that the Dummy Gauntlet had distracted Lee and Gai to the point where he could work on a special project without interruption.

Naruto and Hinata spent most of the time in the chamber with the subterranean lake Hinata couldn't help but marvel at the cave, which had numerous crystal formations sticking out of the walls, reflecting the light generated from the illumination seals at the bottom of the clear lake. If it wasn't for the fact that Gai's team and Neji-niisan were just in the other caverns, this would be a great place for the two of them to sneak off for some…personal time. Hinata went bright red at that thought while she watched Naruto when he stood in the middle of the lake, shirtless, while playing around with Biju chakra. 4 years…It was coming up on 4 years since they first got together and to say that she hadn't started to think about Naruto in a more intimate way would be a complete lie. Speaking of things coming up, Naruto-kun's birthday was maybe a month or so away. What should she get him?

Still, while having time to train was nice and all, what he really wanted was a good mission. Kakashi-sensei, Sakura, Sasuke, and Sai, had left on a mission the other day. Apparently, Sasuke got a message from his summons in the southeast of the Land of Fire. Something snake-like had made a nest near Bakeneko's fortress and the four of them were tasked with an infiltration mission to discover the intentions behind the cats' new neighbors and, if necessary, exterminate some pests. The odds of Orochimaru being at this particular base were slim, but eliminating his bases was high on Tsunade's priority list, so she dispatched the three ex-ANBU members of his team with Sakura's medical abilities backing them up.

Naruto knew the mission would do good for Sasuke in particular. Ever since killing Itachi a month ago, Naruto could tell Sasuke was still fighting with his emotions. While Itachi was a traitor and murderer, at the end of the day, he was still Sasuke's brother. Still, he couldn't help but wish he was on the mission as well. Maybe he'd check with Tsunade and see if there were any missions he could go on.


The following morning,

Tsunade was looking through some of her morning reports and recent mission requests that came in the day before. However, her attention was drawn to one such scroll, coming from the mining town of Shinzukana in the northwest of the Land of Fire and a large supplier of iron for the village's forges.

"This mission again?" sighed Tsunade as she read over the mission request. "Shizune, are you sure you didn't get this mission mixed up? I thought we already completed it."

"Hai, Tsunade-sama. That's what I thought at first, but it appears like Shinzukana's been experiencing these outbreaks again," said Shizune as Tsunade groaned. Two teams had already been sent to investigate this mission request. The first time was a gennin team that was dispatched a week prior to her departure to the summit and the second time, Shikaku dispatched a chunin team to the same place while Tsunade was away. Both cases were the same…those causing trouble would disappear after a brief encounter with Konoha shinobi…with no trace on where they went. After spending a week searching for any signs of the attackers, the shinobi assigned to the mission would return home with no leads. Although, the chunin team managed to defeat one of the attackers…circumstances prevented them from learning anything about the troubles of Shinzukana.

"Shizune, who do we have available to form another team for this?" Tsunade asked as Shizune went to fetch the roster of active shinobi.

"Hey Baachan!"

A snap of a pencil and a growl coming from the person situated at the desk in the middle of the office indicated the frustration of the Hokage as she stared down the sudden interruption.

"What is it now?! Don't you have better things to do besides bothering me, Gaki?" growled Tsunade. "Like learning to use a door?"

Naruto let out a chuckle as he rubbed the back of his head. Taking a page from both of his senseis, the orange clad ninja was perched square in the center of one of the windows to Tsunade's office.

"Tsunade-sama, here is the list of available shinobi capable of taking B- and A-rank missions," said Shizune as she returned to the office. "Oh, hi Naruto-kun!"

Tsunade noticed four names on the list. "If these four can't figure out what's going on, then we have a real issue on our hands. Might as well send them and get the bored Gaki off my back for some time."

"So…seeing as you're here, you up for a mission, Gaki?" said Tsunade as she turned to the grinning Naruto.

"Well, besides the summit, I've kinda been stuck in the village, -ttebayo!" exclaimed Naruto.

"Good to hear that, cause this mission has your name written all over it," said Tsunade as she unsealed the scroll containing the mission details. "There's a village in the northwest of the Land of Fire, known as Shinzukana, that has been reporting mysterious…demons attacking them. For the past month, they've been under siege by these demons. We sent a team near the beginning of these outbreaks, but the attackers ceased their attacks after just one time encountering our shinobi, despite the original team mentioning they were outclassed by them. About a week later, the attacks resumed and we sent a second team to investigate, but like the first time, the attacks stopped after one encounter. Now, it seems as if just recently the demon activity has resumed again. If you and your team can manage to solve the mission, it'll help relieve some of my headaches."

"The reports state that the attacks started when an ancient shrine, village legends say contains a demon spirit, was desecrated," continued Tsunade. "Our previous team couldn't find anything demonic about this temple…"

"So you think it could just be someone screwing with the village?" asked Naruto.

"It's possible, but whoever's been attacking the village is more than just a bunch of 'punks' or 'troublemakers'. Shinzukana has a small force of gennin and chunin stationed there and the village's report states that these attackers have managed to incapacitate or kill a number of their shinobi guard," said Tsunade. "The mission part is twofold. First, the village wants someone to repair the seals and wards around the shrine. And second, to determine the purpose behind these attacks and stop the attackers. This is considered a B-rank mission, but I'd advise treating it like an A-rank considering the attackers were able to defeat a number of chunin."

"Alright, sounds like fun," grinned Naruto. "But why did you say the mission has my name written all over it?"

"Because last I checked, you're our resident demon expert," chuckled Tsunade. "Now, considering you're on standby, your team should be made of those on standby. From Team Kurenai, it's Hinata."

"Yes! A mission with Hinata-chan!" cheered Naruto mentally.

"Too bad you're in 4-man teams," replied Kurama. "If it was just you and your Vixen, perhaps the two of you would finally have a chance to getting around to making some kits." The demon in his head chuckled as Naruto groaned.

"Ero-kitsune…"

From Team Asuma, Nara Shikamaru. And seeing as Team Gai has not been deployed yet, I'll let you choose the fourth member, although Hyuga Neji has been labeled temporarily inactive due to clan business." Naruto was aware of this and even Tsunade knew the reason…Neji's challenge. Keeping Neji healthy was one of Tsunade's main goals, especially considering what was at stake. If Neji won, then then not only would the Hyuga clan begin to move forward, but with Neji as an elder, she could finally begin training a few Hyugas as medics.

Hiashi had a few Hyuga's who were excited at the prospect of becoming medics and doctors. While Hiashi maintained external affairs as the clan head, the elders could overrule his decisions about what the Byakugan could be used for if their veto was unanimous. However, Neji had mentioned to Tsunade that he would wholeheartedly support any Hyuga who desired to learn medical jutsu. Hell, she was even tempted to place a bet on Kenjo winning, something even Shizune got a slight laugh out of.

"Hmm…" Naruto actually had to think on who he wanted to take with him; however, he already had an idea on who he wanted. "I think I'll take Tenten. While everyone's strong and I'm sure Lee's itching to fight, someone else who also has a good understanding of fuinjutsu would actually help."

"I see. It seems like you're actually putting some thought into this," said Tsunade. "Very well, gather your team and report to the front gate, first thing in the morning. And use the DOOR!" Tsunade shouted as Naruto turned to exit the office through the portal which he entered.


Naruto's first stop was the Hyuga house and thankfully, it turned out that he'd be able to knock out two birds with one stone, considering Tenten was over, helping Neji train a little.

"Sorry to take your training partner away, Neji, but Tsunade-baachan kind of gave us a mission," apologized Naruto.

Neji simply nodded in understanding. While he would miss Tenten's company, he understood that she still had her duties to the village to fulfill.

"Naruto-kun, you're going on a mission?" asked Hinata as she hopped off the porch.

"Yep," grinned Naruto. "Now let's go find our fourth! -ttebayo!"

"Wait, does that mean?" asked Hinata, getting a confirming grin from Naruto.

"So, what's this mission?" asked Tenten.

"I'll explain once we get the fourth," replied Naruto as the trio set off in search of one Nara Shikamaru.

Shikamaru was liking this idea of 5-man teams, allowing one member of the team to remain on standby. Considering it was his turn to be on standby, this provided him with plenty of time to delve into his favorite pastime…cloud watching.

As he lay on the grassy hillside, an unnatural shadow crept over his face. Turning his head slightly, the Nara chunin spotted the source of the shadow. "Troublesome…"


Konoha gates, the following morning,

Uzumaki Naruto, Nara Shikamaru, Hyuga Hinata, and Tenten were gathered at the gates, going over one last gear check before departing to Shinzukana, located in the northwestern corner of the Land of Fire, near the boarders of the Land of Grass and Land of Waterfalls.

Naruto had made a slight change to his mission wardrobe, as he realized that his orange and black jacket, while durable, wasn't quite designed with shinobi duties in mind. Not to mention, the jacket was kind of bulky underneath his flax jacket. Still, he kept the jacket Jiraiya got him as a more casual jacket or something he could wear for training. As of now, his mission outfit resembled something that was more standard with Konoha's uniform and somewhat of a take on his old attire after the second chunin exams. The black pants and sandals remained and he wore an orange shirt (Jiraiya wasn't going to be particularly happy) who's sleeves extended just past the elbow. He then had a pair of long, fingerless, and black gloves with bracers that extended half-way up the forearm. On these, he had a number of seals where he stored his shuriken, kunai, and two of the tri-pronged kunai which he had started to use again. He was wearing his flax jacket overtop of the orange shirt and topped his outfit off with the sage coat.

It would be about a day's journey and if they traveled at a good pace, they'd reach the village by sundown. After confirming they had all of their supplies, the four Konoha shinobi departed.

"So, what are your thoughts on this, Naruto?" Tenten asked. "Do you think the village's attackers are really demons?"

"Doubt it. Kurama says that any demons still remaining today have been sealed away," said Naruto. "Even then, the odds of us coming upon a shrine that actually houses a demon spirit is slim."

"The village is located close to the border. It's more likely that these attackers are enemy ninja from Takigakure or Kusagakure," said Shikamaru. "Ever since we took in Fu, our relations with Takigakure have slipped and Kusagakure, while technically allied with us…I wouldn't call them allies. They've become more troublesome lately with regards to operating outside of their country."

"But to think either of those villages would operate in the Land of Fire without the knowledge or permission of Konoha?" asked Hinata.

"This is normal. Other villages will push into foreign territory in order to test the strength of foreign villages. A strong response by the defending village and the pushing village retreats for a time before testing the waters again. A weak response just leads to more trouble as the pushing village pushes further and further into foreign territory. That's what I think this mission is about," said Shikamaru. "It's troublesome really. However…"

Shikamaru paused for a moment, his brain thinking over the mission specifics. "That would be the case, if it wasn't for the fact that they've been at this for awhile now. Naruto, you said the attacks stopped after just one bout with the previous teams?"

Naruto nodded.

"If this were the case, they would have pushed farther into the Land of Fire by now," said Shikamaru. "This isn't about testing Konoha's strength…They're not moving on for a reason."


As the sun began to set beneath the surrounding hills and mountains, the four Konoha shinobi came upon Shinzukana. Upon getting their first glance of the town, there was nothing special about it that stood out. The town was of moderate size and with the exception of a moderately-sized mining industry in the surrounding mountains, there wasn't much strategic value in the town.

Upon arrival in town, they were greeted by a man named Harakano Shin. Upon first inspection, it was obvious this man had been trained in the shinobi arts, but Hinata's initial inspection indicated his chakra levels were on par with experienced gennin or newer chunin. The fact that he was wrapped in a few bandages indicated that he had been involved in these attacks in some way.

"I thank you for coming, shinobi of Konoha," greeted Shin.

"It's our pleasure. I'm Uzumaki Naruto," greeted Naruto. "And these are my comrades."

"Hyuga Hinata."

"Nara Shikamaru."

"Tenten."

"Yes, some of your names I know, especially yours, Uzumaki Naruto. My name is Harakano Shin and I'm part of the village's shinobi force. We are a small force totaling a dozen members or so charged with law enforcement in this town and protecting the mines from any criminals who may think to exploit it," said Shin. "For the most part, our forces have been enough to protect the town from any threats, but these demons are unlike anything I've ever seen."

"What are these attacks like?" asked Naruto.

"About a month ago, late at night, one of the officers was doing his normal rounds when he passed by the village shrine he heard strange noises coming from inside. When he investigated, he noticed the stone ward on the inner shrine to be broken and next thing he knew, he was attacked by something. The only thing he can remember about the attack is seeing a white face with horns," said Shin. "Thankfully, he made it out of that encounter alive, but after that night, there have been numerous reports of more of these demons around the village. Every night since then, they would emerge and start attacking our citizens. Most of them got off with some minor injuries, and it didn't appear like they were actually trying to kill anyone until the village's shinobi forces started to engage them. Since then, our numbers have been reduced from 14 to 6. All 8 of those killed were amongst our strongest and are what you'd call chunin in terms of skill."

"And what about this previous teams that Konoha sent?" asked Naruto.

"They encountered the demons once and the later team even managed to defeat one. After this, the rest of them disappeared and didn't return," said Shin. "However, after waiting for a few days, the demons didn't appear again so it was determined that they were warded off. Just a week ago, their activities resumed. I got these injuries a few nights ago trying to evacuate a few citizens to the town hall where we can better protect them at night, but Captain Morso was killed during night."

"What happened to the demon that was defeated?" asked Naruto.

"That's the strange part. Once the demon was killed, it just vaporized, turned to dust," explained Shin. "The only thing that remained was its head."

"Where is this head?" asked Naruto.

"We left it by the shrine. For the past few days, the village elder has been placing wards around the village, but they've done nothing. The only place that it seems like they won't attack is the town hall," said Shin.

"I see," replied Naruto. "What are your thoughts, Shikamaru?"

"Troublesome," muttered Shikamaru.


Konoha,

"What is it you have to report?" asked Tsunade to an ANBU operative standing in front of her.

"Our agents operating in Iwagakure have reported the disappearance of the Yonbi's jinchuriki," reported the ANBU. "It happened almost two weeks ago. A massive explosion rocked the main square just outside the Tsuchikage's tower, just after Roshi of the Lava-style exited the building. After that, there was no whereabouts of the targets location. All that remained was a large crater where the target once stood."

Tsunade groaned. This was not good news indeed. From the sounds of it, Akatsuki launched an attack on Iwagakure and snatched the Yonbi from the middle of the village, similar to what it had done in Suna? Not to mention they had timed their attack to coincide with the Summit, ensuring the most powerful ninja in the village, the Tsuchikage, would be absent. Onoki had made a grave mistake for refusing to bring the jinchuriki of the Yonbi and now, Iwa was paying the price. "Anything else?"

"After that, Iwa appears to have greatly increased its security and has begun its own measures to hunt down those behind this attack. Our operative had much trouble getting this information out, which is why it took so long," said the ANBU.


"Anything, Kurama?"

As the sun finally set in the evening sky, Naruto and his team had begun their investigation into this demon threat that the village of Shinzukana was facing. While Hinata and Tenten had taken up a high position atop one of the village's towers, Naruto and Shikamaru went to investigate the shrine, wanting to determine whether or not the shrine had anything to so with these attacks or if it was merely a diversion.

"No. Even if there was something demonic within this shrine, I'd be able to sense the residual energy."

"So?"

"Kurama can't sense anything supernatural about this shrine. And as I take a closer look at these seals surrounding the shrine, I can tell they're not real," said Naruto.

"Figured as much," said Shikamaru. The Nara chunin reached into the shrine to pull out the 'head' that was supposedly the remnant of the demon from an earlier attack. It definitely had some weight to it and the head felt very clay-like to the touch. It wasn't hollow, but that didn't mean it was the same material all the way through as Shikamaru examined the base of the neck. "Naruto, can you cut the top layer off, but very carefully?" Shikamaru pointed to the base of the neck, showing Naruto a distinct change in material maybe a centimeter in. It also looked as if the two materials weren't fused together, but the geometry of the head made it impossible to move the two materials independent of one another.

Nodding, Naruto took the head and pulled out his tri-pronged kunai, laying it against the side of the head and channeling just enough wind chakra into the knife so that the blade would cut into the stone the distance Shikamaru asked. Even Tsunade would be proud of the blonde as he made the cut along the coronal plane of the head. It was a clean cut too and as Shikamaru felt he could now remove the outer layer of the head, what laid beneath startled him…a human head made from stone.

"Damn, I figured as much," groaned Shikamaru as he examined the head and what appeared now to be a mask. "Naruto, what can you make of this?"

Shikamaru handed the mask to Naruto and an intricate, yet severely faded sealing matrix caught the blonde seal-master's eye. Even he struggled to make heads or tails of the matrix, considering most of it was worn away and faded, but he did manage to decipher the central kanji as 'stone' as well as a peripheral kanji that said 'human' and a second peripheral kanji that stood for 'exchange'.

"Not sure. I haven't seen a seal like this and because I can't make out most of the worn parts, I'm not sure what to call it," said Naruto. "The three kanji however make me think this seal turned our 'demon' to stone."

"Troublesome. So, our previous team defeated this guy and the mask he was wearing turned him into stone to keep him from leaking their objective," groaned Shikamaru.

Before Shikamaru could continue his analysis, an explosion rocked the village from a street not too far away.

"That's near where Hinata-chan and Tenten were," said Naruto, pulling out a quick scroll of his own as he proceeded to seal the stone head and mask sohe and Shikamaru could take a closer look at it later.


While Naruto and Shikamaru had gone to investigate the shrine, Hinata and Tenten took up a lookout position amongst the center tower in the village. If luck was on their side, they'd spot one of the 'demons' that has been troubling the town tonight.

Byakugan active, Hinata began scanning the town. Looking over towards the shrine on the outskirts, she spotted the familiar red-tinted chakra of her teammate, accompanied by Shikamaru as they approached the shrine. Turning her attention towards the town hall, Hinata noted much of the village's population present inside with a few small specs of chakra scattered throughout the village of those who chose not to leave their homes for the safety of the town hall. Why was it that the town hall was the safest place? Why were these attacks happening?

Out of the corner of her vision, she noticed a pair of chakra signatures racing along the streets, with one jumping along the rooftops directly above them. Focusing her vision, Hinata was able to make out what looked to be a human with a head that looked demonic and had horns sticking out of the forehead. The chakra network looked normal, but as she tried to examine the head area, it was just one big blur of chakra.

"Tenten!" The weapons mistress nodded at Hinata in understanding before the two took off to confront this demon.

"What do your eyes make of it?" Tenten asked.

"It looks human and there's nothing odd about the chakra, except around the head," explained Hinata. "I tried to focus my Byakugan to see within the mask, but it was just a big blur of chakra."

As the two got a better look at who the demon was targeting, it was a mother and a young boy, most likely trying to get to the safety of the town hall. As luck would have it, the boy tripped in the middle of the street, causing the two of them to stop and the demon to strike.

"Protection of the Eight Trigrams!"

With almost unnatural speed, the demon managed to break off his attack before making a fatal error and slamming into Hinata's cutting chakra barrier. As he jumped back, the demon was wrapped in a metal chain.

"Heh," grinned Tenten as she pulled taught on the chain, only for mud to splatter from the demon and her chain to lose its hold on the demon. From the puddle of mud, the demon rose. "Tsk. Mud Clone?"

"I don't think it's a clone, Tenten," stated Hinata.

The demon drew a pair of scimitars and rushed at the two kunoichi. Tenten jumped back and Hinata rolled to the side, out of the path of the blades before retaliating herself with a wind-infused strike, only for their opponent to raise his blades in defense.

Hinata easily moved out of the way of her attacker's attack, but was unable to get another opening strike. As this little dance continued, the lavender-haired Hyuga jumped out of the way.

"Fuin: Implosion Barrier!"

Six sealing tags that Tenten had laid around the demon while Hinata was keeping him preoccupied lit up and a barrier encased him as inside the barrier erupted in a violent explosion.

"Did that get him?" asked Tenten.

"No…"

Hinata and Tenten groaned as mud rose up from the cracks in the street and formed into their demon opponent. The demon made another motion for the girls, but the two dodged as he then began going through hand signs. "Doton: Earthen Stone Shoots."

Four earthen spires shot out, intent on piercing the girls. However, Tenten managed to use her chain to change her momentum out of the way of the spires while Hinata used one of the spires to springboard herself away from the others.

"Okay, who are you and why are you attacking us?" demanded Tenten; however, the demon said nothing, only stood there, waiting for his opponent to make a move.

"Hinata-chan! Tenten!"

From the rooftops above, Naruto and Shikamaru jumped down next to their teammates to confront the demon. As the Konoha team regrouped, the demon just stared at them, his gaze mostly drawn towards a particular newcomer as he reached into his back pouch before slamming a few smoke bombs onto the ground beneath him. When the smoke cleared, the demon was gone.


"So, the four of you encountered one," said Shin. It was the morning following the demon attack and Naruto's team had spent a majority of the night combing the city for signs of where that demon might have fled to. However, despite Hinata's Byakugan and Naruto's sage-mode, they were unable to come up with anything.

"Yeah, but he got away," said Naruto. "But don't worry, we'll find where he took off to."

"Once again, the demons plague us to no end," spoke an elderly man who was leaning on a large staff to support him. This man was quickly identified as the village elder.

"Actually, it's not really a demon problem you're having," said Shikamaru as he motioned to Naruto to unseal the head. Upon showing Shin the head, they removed the demonic mask to reveal a human face underneath, although turned to stone. "From the looks of things, this was an enemy shinobi, but why he attacked you, and why he turned to stone, I don't know just yet. It's so troublesome."

As they left the town hall, the four of them walked through the street. It was mid-morning now and based on the reports, the demons only attacked during the night. However, from the looks of things, the town was going to be experiencing a bit of weather as dark clouds gathered in the distant.

"What are you thinking, Shikamaru?" asked Naruto.

"Well, I think it's obvious that these aren't demons we're dealing with. Especially considering he was using ninjutsu last night," mulled Shikamaru. "Like we figured, our opponent is an enemy shinobi. As to why he's here, I have a suspicion…I think they're trying to lure something…or someone out."

"What makes you think that, Shikamaru?" asked Naruto.

"Why are they attacking the villagers and shinobi? Yet why is the townhall the safest place? Also, the mask that they're wearing suggests they're from an ANBU-like group, or at least they operate like one. Think about it," continued Shikamaru. "Why did they stop their attacks twice after our shinobi encountered them in the past?"

"I see…" said Hinata. Shikamaru nodded. Hinata's team was a tracking team. Of course she had some experience on how to trap and catch an opponent. "If my team were setting a trap for our target, but we caught the wrong thing, we'd reset the trap, making the necessary adjustments to better catch our intended target."

"So, these attackers kept disappearing because they didn't encounter the person they were targeting?" asked Tenten.

"Yeah. They'd disappear until the previous team left before they reset their trap," said Shikamaru.

"And the villagers?"

"The bait. From what I understand, these guys are strong and could overpower the villagers easily," said Shikamaru. "However, they're leaving them alive. Why? To give Konoha a reason to keep sending more teams to investigate. The first team was sent after a few civilians disappeared. Konoha then received a C-rank request and an appropriate team was sent. However, after that team left, they began attacking and killing the genin in the village force. Konoha was then sent an updated B-rank request. But apparently, that still wasn't enough. They then killed the chunin of this village, forcing Konoha to upgrade it to an A-rank mission, meaning the person they're after is of at least jonin-skill."

"Any thoughts on who they're after, Shikamaru?" asked Naruto.

"I need to think on that a little more," said Shikamaru.

"I see. It's probably best then if we get to the inn where they gave us a room and rest up. If we're going demon hunting tonight, we'll need all the energy we can get," suggested Naruto. Both Tenten and Hinata agreed and Shikamaru wasn't complaining. This would give the strategist a chance to think over the specifics behind this mission a little more.


That afternoon, a storm had passed over the town and by the time Naruto's team departed the inn to resume the investigation, the worst of the weather had passed, but a light rain still continued to fall upon the darkened town. They had made sure to get everyone to the town hall tonight as they didn't want anyone else to draw the attackers' attention.

Shikamaru knew why they weren't going after the town hall. If they just killed everyone, then there would be no reason for Konoha to continue sending team, meaning that whoever they were targeting wouldn't show.

"Anything around the perimeter, Hinata-chan?" Hinata had taken up a position near the center of the town, placing the entirety of the town and some of the surrounding areas well within range of her Byakugan. Earlier that day, Naruto, Tenten, and Shikamaru had gone to work constructing a number of traps throughout the town.

The four of them regrouped on top of a nearby building and began discussing the mission at hand. "Spill it, Shiakamaru, something's been on your mind this entire day," said Naruto. "Have you figured out who they're targeting?"

Shikamaru took a deep breath. "I think so. The person they're targeting is obviously jonin-level in skill if they've sent the message that they can easily kill a chunin-level opponent. Furthermore, why disguise themselves as demons and why desecrate a shrine that was rumored to have a demon spirit sealed in it, even when you told me it was all fake? You bait the trap with whatever has the best chance to flush out your target. Once I thought about who in our village could actually do something about a 'demon', the list of possible targets shortened."

A crack of thunder echoed through the night, indicating the arrival of another storm. "You're on that list, Naruto."

Another bolt of lightning lit up the darkened sky and that flash of light was enough to confirm Shikamaru's suspicion. All around them, dozens of the demons were perched upon the surrounding buildings.

"W-what?" gasped Naruto. "How didn't I sense them?" If they were targeting him, negative emotions sensing ability should have warned them of their presence. And Hinata had scanned the outskirts of the village just earlier, nothing out of the ordinary coming up. How did they get the jump on them like this?

Everyone's eyes widened at the sight as they took in sight. Dozens of white-faced, dark-eyed masks stared down upon them as Hinata activated her Byakugan, trying to make out the identity of their attackers. Just like the solo demon, she could make out human chakra flowing through their bodies, but when she got to the head, it was just a big blur.

All around, the demons pulled out kunai with explosive tags attached and threw them at the base of the base of the building where the Konoha team was standing. In a flash of fire and noise, the base of the building exploded and the ground supporting it crumbled away as the four Konoha ninja were cast into the dark maw of the earth.

To be continued...


A/N: Right, first chapter of the next arc. Not going to say much on this arc just yet.