Chapter 17 - Messy Business
Hi all, I'm back. It's certainly been a while.
Before we begin, I'd like to apologise for the extended delay. I'm an avid reader myself so I know it can be frustrating when a story you're following closely doesn't update in a while, but at the end of the day there wasn't much I could do about it. I won't bore you with the details, it came down to the fact that I was simply very busy (at the end of the day I'm not getting paid for this). Anyway, I'm back now and writing again so hopefully I can get this story rolling along once more.
A bit of housekeeping first. As I'm sure many of you are aware I am currently conducting a bit of a review of my early chapters. My delay impacted on that as well, so I'm not quite done with it yet — almost, but not quite. I decided to release this chapter before that since my changes have no real impact plot wise (they're more of a refinement than anything else), and I wanted to get back into the hang of writing. The update is almost done and will be released before the next chapter. I will inform you via my profile page when it is complete.
Anyway, enough of that. This chapter is the last before the chunin exam finals, and there's quite a bit going on. I won't spoil it for you.
Like before I will endeavour to respond to any questions you may have in you reviews via PM, or if you don't have an account via the next update. To the best of my recollection I responded to the majority of the questions in reviews. If I did miss any please reiterate them, I will do my best to give you an answer.
Without further interruption, here is Chapter 17 - Messy Business.
[Standard Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Basilisk]
"Where is he?"
In a room hidden deep within a fortified structure at an undisclosed location, nine figures sat around a large circular granite table.
"Who knows, this meeting was called rather abruptly after all. I'm surprised so many of us managed to make it on such short notice."
The room was poorly lit by the light of only a few candles. Each individual preferred to maintain the illusion of anonymity rather than openly reveal their identities. They might be seated at the same table, but there was little trust amongst them. Each had far too much to loose to afford that kind of luxury.
"He better show if he knows what's good for him."
There was an air of tension in the room. Meetings such a this were rare, almost unheard of amongst their kind. There was too much risk involved. Communication was always done though proxies and agents, never face to face.
What had changed?
"You wouldn't dare."
Understandably, some were nervous. The fact that one of their members was late certainly wasn't helping.
A sharp echo resounded throughout the room. Some might not recognise it, but it was the sound of expensive wooden sandals impacting against the hard stone floor.
The footsteps grew louder and louder until the door to the room opened revealing a hooded figure in a dark red kimono. The figure was obviously a man, he had a reasonable build and was quite tall. Any other details as to his identity escaped onlookers. Like most of the others this one had chosen to mask his identity, but such measures would only fool some at the table. Others he had no means of hiding against.
The latecomer quickly made his way to the only available space at the table. As he took his seat several of the others inclined their heads in recognition. Others ignored him outright, annoyed at being kept waiting.
Danzo merely remained silent and continued to observe just like he always did. He knew who this fool was, he knew and he didn't care. He had sensed the man the moment he set foot in the building, and he certainly wasn't impressed by the man's lack of punctuality. If the fool couldn't even read the time, what good was he?
Danzo knew exactly what type of person the latecomer was. He was a person more concerned with appearance than substance. The kind of person who liked the idea of having powerful people wait on him. The kind of person who had no idea of where he really stood in the world, of how little importance he had in the greater scheme of things.
With everyone seated, one of them decided to speak, and start the meeting. Danzo knew the speaker to be someone of considerably importance within the Daimyo's court.
"Now that we're all here—"
"—Why was I summoned?" The latecomer interrupted the speaker, much to the annoyance of several people at the table.
Danzo took no notice. Such immaturity wasn't worth his time. Yes, the interruption was frustrating, but he had grown used to such behaviour after sitting on the Konoha Council for over a decade. Most civilians tended to lack the basic discipline necessary to sit through a meeting that concerned matters beyond the scope of their own wallet. He had yet to meet one who wasn't a slave to their own pathetic desires and emotions.
The speaker seemed equally irritated by the interruption,"Perhaps if you're done wasting our time, I can get to that, or was there something else you wanted?"
The latecomer tensed in anger, but stayed silent. It seemed he didn't like being called out for his tardiness, but when it came down to it the fool could do little more than bark.
Like most of the people in this room, the latecomer had no idea what real power truly was.
Nevertheless, these people had their uses. He certainly didn't associate with them because he enjoyed their company. No, every person in this room was here because they shared the same vision — a world where Konoha and Fire Country stood unchallenged.
Not that he was naïve enough to believe that they all truly believed in that vision. He knew that many in the room merely wished to reap the profit that came from being the major power on the continent. They would be dealt with at a later date, for now they were useful and that was all that mattered.
"I'm sure most of you have heard by now of the fall of the Gato Company." The speaker paused, letting his words sink in.
Danzo used the pause to observe their reactions. He might not be able to see their faces, but body language spoke volumes. Some showed no reaction, unsurprised by the news, others tensed, surprised, while some showed downright anger.
The room broke out in hushed whispered which gradually grew louder and louder.
Danzo's cane hammered down on the stone floor, silencing everyone in the room. His ample patience had worn thin. He had far more important things to do than listen to civilians argue all night. If the fools wanted to let their emotions run wild they would do so after he left.
"Enough." His words cut through the silence. "Gato was stupid enough to directly intervene with one of Konoha's mission and paid the consequences."
As he should have. What was going through the man's mind?
He had read over that mission report carefully, as well as heard his own operative's first hand account. It was heard to believe that Gato willingly put himself in middle of a fight between Leaf nin and a nuke nin, but the facts spoke for themselves.
Gato must have been truly out of touch to think a civilian could ever challenge a competent ninja, no matter the numbers. Obviously his time as a slaver had given Gato an inflated sense of power.
Danzo's thoughts were interrupted by a cultured female voice, "Gato's death was predictable. I don't know why so many of you are so surprised, I certainly wasn't. He attracted the Daimyo's attention with that Fuzuki debacle in the capital. It was only a matter of time before the order came down for his death."
Danzo's eyes narrowed at the woman. Her face was hidden by a veil so he couldn't make out what she looked like. The voice belonged to one of the few members of the group he could not identify. Whoever she was, she happened to be one of the better-informed members of the group.
Also one of the more competent, he grudgingly admitted.
"That may be so, but I don't have to remind you all how many resources we had tied up with Gato and his enterprise," said the original speaker. He was trying to regain control of the conversation.
He also had a point. Gato was to be the means by which they took advantage of the mess in Water Country to bring in several powerful bloodlines from Kiri, and finally recover the ground Konoha had lost since the Kyūbi attack. They had paid Gato a considerable amount of money to make it happen, and now it had all come undone.
"What happened to our money?"
Indeed, where had the money gone?
"It's gone," the speaker responded. "All Gato's liquid assets have disappeared, and his personal assets in Wave have either been destroyed, or lost to the local population in the aftermath. I hear his was rather unpopular. In short, with the exception of some real estate and chattels scattered around the various capitals, everything is gone."
It was an oversimplification, but he got the message across. A third party had managed to pull one over them. They had been completely out maneuvered, and someone was going to pay dearly for it if he had any say in the matter.
If things weren't so serious Danzo could have appreciated the timing. Whoever was responsible almost certainly had inside information. They had acted before even he found out about the second mission to Wave, and he had eyes everywhere.
Logically this meant the responsible party either had contacts in the Daimyo's court — where the order to kill Gato had come from — or within Hiruzen's office, which admittedly was highly unlikely. Hiruzen was soft not incompetent.
Soon enough questions started pouring out from the others at the table. 'How?' 'When?' 'What had gone wrong?'
Danzo ignored the fuss. Following Sai's report, he had done his own investigation into the incident. According to the operative he had sent to Wave, Gato's money, and more importantly the merchandise, had disappeared completely.
That much money doesn't just disappear, neither did several high profile nin who had their chakra sealed. The trail might be hidden, but he was confident he could find the party responsible. He always did in the end.
"I think you're all forgetting the most important thing." The woman spoke up once more. "We had dealings with Gato, illegal dealings. If they come to light the Daimyo will have our heads."
Danzo chose this moment to speak up. "That has already been taken care of."
He almost smiled as the cold gaze from his one visible eye sent chills up the spines every single person at the table.
Back in Konoha, on a quiet street under a moonlit sky, a shadow detached from a wall.
Stepping slowly into the moonlight, the shadow revealed itself to be a lithe figure cloaked in dark robes.
With the grace of cat, the cloaked figure moved across the street, gliding from shadow to shadow, appearing and disappearing without a trace.
Despite doing its best to hide its presence, the figure quickly and surely moved towards the large house at the end of the street. Every step taken with caution, but also with the confident gait of a predator safe in the knowledge that even if it were to be discovered it could handle anything thrown its way.
The house was a large two-story structure built in the design common to Fire Country. A large brick wall surrounded the house, the only visible entryway was an iron gate located in the centre of the wall. The house was large for Konoha, suggesting the owner was someone of import. This was further supported by the fact that the building was located not far from the Hokage's residence.
Needless to say, it was a frequently patrolled area.
However, the cloaked figure's actions were timed perfectly. At this very moment the streets were completely empty.
Moving quickly towards the wall, the figure wasted no time scaling the obstacle.
Instead of running up the wall like most ninja were in the habit of doing, the cloaked individual jumped on the wall, and proceeded to climb up rather than run, making sure to press up close against the wall to reduce the chance of being spotted.
Reaching the top of the wall, a hood covered head peaked the over the top, spotting the ground on the other side before vaulting over and landing silently in a crouch.
The front yard of the property was in pristine condition. The lawn was well manicured, each plant in the yard had been trimmed, and a shishi-odoshi was set up in the corner of the yard.
The intruder eyed the front door, but instead of entering that way the figure headed to the side of the house, making straight for the nearest window.
Pulling up alongside the window, a gloved handed reached out. Deft fingers pried the window open without making a sound, then without hesitation one leg stepped over the window ledge and was promptly followed by the rest of the body.
The inside of the building was encased almost completely in darkness. The cloaked figure took a few steps then paused, acclimating to the lack of moonlight.
After a few moments passed the figure moved again, this time keeping close to the walls.
The figure moved through the house in complete silence, only pausing to occasionally listen for any disturbance.
Sensing nothing, the figure continued and soon reached the base of the stairs.
Ascending the stairs carefully, the figure took every step with caution. A creaky staircase or a loose floorboard had been the end of many ninjas.
Reaching the stop of the stairs the figure took a right, and headed straight towards the room at the end of the hall. The lack of hesitation suggested the figure knew exactly where it was going.
Sliding the study door open with care, the figure took a step into the room. This was the figure's objective. The study of one, Ryoma Daichi.
However the figure froze mid stride. It wasn't the only one in the room.
There, sitting in a chair behind a large mahogany desk was the owner of the house, Ryoma Daichi, one of the more prominent members of the mercantile class.
What was of greater concern was the state of the man. The merchant's throat had been slashed from ear to ear. Blood from the fatal wound had run down his chest staining his clothes a dull red. The stiffness in Ryoma's body suggested he had been dead for at least a few hours.
The room also showed obvious signs of intrusion. It had been ransacked. The desk had been emptied, the bookcase was tipped over, and paper littered the floor. Whoever had killed Ryoma had performed a thorough search of the office, but not the rest of the house, that had been in pristine condition.
The figure took a cautious step into the room.
However, the moment the figure's foot touched the floor, dozens of hidden paper tags lit up.
Naruto watched the house go up in flames from his vantage point atop a building several hundred meters away.
Well, he thought. This complicates things.
He held back a grimace as his clone's memories returned to him. Being burnt alive was certainly a new experience for him, and not one he cared to repeat anytime soon.
Sighing, he stood up. His limbs were stiff from having been crouching down all night while watching from afar as his clone infiltrated the house of Ryoma Daichi.
Unfortunately things hadn't gone as planned.
Just two nights ago his clones had finally finished going through the documents he had taken from Gato back in Wave. Originally, he had planned to let Kiriko handle the information, perhaps sell it while it was still valuable, however the events of last week changed that.
At the very least, the fact that Danzo now had a man following him meant that he was in the old shinobi's sights. He hoped it was just due diligence on the old man's part, but his intuition said otherwise.
He didn't know much about what the old man, tonight was meant to rectify that.
However, he had moved to slowly, and someone had beaten him to the prize.
It was disappointing yet revealing at the same time.
On one hand, he had gained nothing tangible from tonight's little venture, but on the other hand the death of Ryoma definitely suggested he was on the right track. Someone had taken steps to silence the man. That alone suggested he possessed information worth knowing.
It was almost a certainty that Danzo was behind it. Either that or there was yet another faction operating within the walls of Konoha — highly unlikely.
However, with the death of Ryoma he had lost his main lead. Ryoma was Gato's sole contact within Konoha. All the other names that he had found in Gato's documents belonged to people he had yet to identify, people who lively lived and likely operated abroad, or at the very least outside the village.
That meant for the time being his sole lead was —
— Naruto tensed as a presence appeared behind him.
"Wow," exclaimed a familiar voice. "Is that your handy work, Naruto?"
"No," he replied as Akeginu walked up alongside him. "You're late."
She didn't reply straight away, instead she gazed out at the fire where several Konoha-nin had now arrived on the scene. They were trying to put out the fire with some suiton jutsu, but would have a hard time taming the blaze with such low ranked jutsu. The best they could hope to achieve was preventing the fire from spreading to nearby homes.
Akeginu turned towards him and raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean 'no'?"
"We weren't the only ones after Ryoma," Naruto replied.
"Hmm." Akeginu looked intrigued. "Interesting. It looks there's someone who knows how to operate in this village after all."
Maybe, thought Naruto. Danzo and his group were certainly more dangerous than any of the Konoha-nin he had encountered thus far, if only for the fact that they were willing to use lethal force without hesitation, and apparently cared little for collateral damage. Time would tell if that turned out to be the case.
"So," Akeginu spoke up. "You failed then?"
He could detect a hint of amusement in her voice. It was faint, but certainly there.
"I didn't fail," he responded tersely, making Akeginu smile in the process. "The mission was over before it even began."
"So you were what? Too slow."
Naruto eyes narrowed at Akeginu. "So it would seem."
"Well, you will be glad to know then that unlike your most recent failure, my own mission was a complete success."
Most recent failure? What the hell did she mean by that?
Akeginu must have noticed his annoyance because her smile grew even wider. The spectre was certainly pleased with herself tonight.
"If you're done lording your success of me perhaps you can tell me how your night went."
While he had been investigating Ryoma, Akeginu had been exploring that tunnel system she had discovered the other day after following the masked ninja that had been tailing him.
"Okay, okay. No need to get snippy," Akeginu chuckled lightly at him. "So, it turns out that that those tunnels I found are even more extensive than we originally thought. They go right under the entire village, and even out into the surrounding forest."
Wow. He was a bit surprised by that.
A network of tunnels that extensive must have been built back when the village was first founded. He had certainly found no record of it during his readings at the library... Not that that proved much other than the fact the information was not common knowledge.
"I spent several hours down there, but I was only able to explore a small portion of it. Think, Naruto. You could use those tunnels to move in and out of the village without detection."
Konoha's border detection barrier had always been a huge obstacle to him.
"Did you keep track of where you explored?"
"Of course I did," Akeginu replied in an annoyed tone. "Who do you think you're talking to?"
"I'm talking to a spirit, that's what. How did you write anything down?" He asked. "You can't touch anything."
She tapped her temple, "It's all up here."
"Don't look at me like that. I was the one who trained you remember. You had a memory like a sieve before we met."
That wasn't quite how he remembered it. "I wasn't that bad."
Akeginu just raised an eyebrow, clearly she thought otherwise.
He just sighed, he wasn't going to win that argument. "Did you find anything worthwhile down there?"
Akeginu smiled at him. "I'm glad you asked. You're going to want to see this."
Naruto took one last look at the fire blazing away. "All right. Show me what you found."
2 hours later
Naruto found himself standing in complete darkness somewhere beneath the village.
"Hold on a second," he told Akeginu.
She was standing next to him after having lead him quite deeply into the tunnel system. How she could see anything was beyond him. Only certain parts of the tunnel system were outfitted with lights. The rest either didn't have any lights, or were out of power.
Reaching into a pocket inside his kosode, he pulled out his flash light.(1) He had never actually used it before since it did little other give away your position, but in this instance he didn't have much choice. There was literally no light in the room.
With a click, he turned the light on.
"That's useful device you have there, Naruto."
Naruto shone the light at her. "You'd think you'd be used to technology by now."
He always found her reactions to it amusing. The woman still had no idea what a computer was.
"In my defence, I can't actually use any of it."
She had a point, not that he was going to admit it.
The flashlight was only small, and wasn't doing a good job of illuminating the room. It did however give him just enough light to see what he was dealing with.
He shone the light across the room revealing the existence of several desks, some bookshelves, and what looked like the remnants of a laboratory.
There was also a lot of dust. The kind of dust that took years to build up. No one had been here for a while.
"There must be a permanent source of light in here somewhere," Akeginu commented.
She was right, there was no natural source of light so where was — "There it is."
He walked over to the wall at the side of the room. There was a large wall mounted switch with several large wires attached to it. He followed the wire with his flashlight and was pleased to find a circuit breaker attached to the end.
Perfect. He reached up and turned on the switch. For a moment nothing happened, then there was a loud hum, followed by a rattle from deeper within the room.
White artificial light flooded the narrowed his eyes and pulled his hood down lower so his pupils didn't contract too much.
It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust before he could look at the room for the first time. When he did, what he saw intrigued him.
The room looked like an eclectic mix between a laboratory, a library and a morgue.
The far wall of the room was covered in the bookcases he saw earlier. It looked like someone had left in a hurry. Many of the shelves lay empty, and books and pieces of paper were randomly scattered across the floor.
On the left side of the room was what appeared to be a small laboratory. Beakers, reagent bottles, microscopes, there was even a computer, though someone had smashed the screen rendering it incapable of function.
The most notable feature however, was a large empty tank in the corner of the room. It was still intact and looked large enough to hold a human body. Given what else was in the room he had little doubt that was exactly what it was used for.
Turning his attention to the centre of the room, Naruto gaze passed over six autopsy tables.
The floor below them was stained dark red with blood, and surgical instruments were strewn across the floor.
He doubted this place was a morgue.
"Something bad happened here," said Akeginu from the other side of the room. She was looking at a gurney which had leather restraints attached to it.
She was right. You could feel it in the air. People had suffered here.
He pushed back the sense of unease he was feeling and made his way over to the bookshelf. His eyes passed over the various texts, most of which didn't have a title. Picking one off the shelf he flicked it open.
Unsurprisingly, it was a book on anatomy, but not one he recognised from the library.
He placed it back on the shelve and removed another. This one was about genetics. It was an intriguing subject. Besides the basics he didn't know a lot about it. Although he had read most of the medical texts available in the library — particularly the ones by Tsunade, the Slug Sannin — genetics was not the focus of most of those texts. It was a specialised field of science.
He removed a scroll from his pocket, and placed the book on genetics inside the scroll. The rest of the book collection soon followed. He doubted there was anything of value there. From what he could tell there were no research notes amongst them. The books were probably reference material. Still, what was useless to whoever owned this lab may be of some use to him.
Turning back to the room, he made his way over to Akeginu who was standing over by the laboratory.
"Find anything interesting?" He asked.
She shook her head. "This place has been stripped bare. Even if it wasn't, I wouldn't know what to look for."
Science wasn't Akeginu's strong point, well, modern science that it. She certainly knew her chemistry, which plants to make poison from, what powders cause explosion. However, she was not familiar with the advances in science that had occurred over the last hundred or so years.
Consequently, neither was he. Nor was science taught at the academy. The people of Konoha seemed to take it for granted, like they did so many other things. The village liked to have their ninja be seen demonstrating their strength, not cooped up in some lab.
"I think we've seen enough," he said to Akeginu.
Akeginu agreed, there wasn't much else to see here.
Just before he turned to leave, something caught his eye.
Nestled under the desk was a small leather bound book. He knelt down and picked it up. Opening it up, he hoped to find some indication as to the owner of this lab, but to his disappointment it was empty.
Akeginu peeked over his shoulder. "Place it near an open flame Naruto."
Akeginu nodded her head.
He shrugged it was worth a try.
She had shown him the trick of invisible ink years ago. Many substances that were clear to the naked eye would turn another colour when applied to heat, or when mixed with another substance to cause an appropriate chemical reaction. It was a pretty basic counter surveillance technique, but nonetheless a very useful one.
He removed a match from his pocket and lit it. Placing it near the paper, he waited a few seconds for the paper to heat up. Unfortunately, the paper remained blank.
Damn, a chemical reaction then?
Unfortunately, unless you knew what substance was used for ink you were stuck guessing what chemical to use.
"Naruto, try one of these." Akeginu was pointing at the glassware on the desk. Several were filled with substances, none of which were labelled.
Nothing to lose really.
He ripped the first page out of the book and placed it on the desk. There was no point ruining the entire book, if he used the wrong chemical. He also picked up a blank sheet of paper from one of the many scattered across the floor.
The first test tube contained a clear substance. He opened it, and let a drop fall on the blank piece of paper.
It burnt a whole straight through the desk.
Okay…that one's an acid. Not quite what I'm looking for.
He placed that test tube down carefully, and picked up the next one. This one contained a white crystalline solid.
He poured a bit on the blank sheet of paper. Nothing happened. Good.
Scrapping a little of the salt like substance onto his kunai he transferred it over to the pager he had torn from the book. Again, nothing happened.
It's not this one either, he thought as he scrapped the substance off the page with his kunai.
The third test tube contained a dark, almost black substance.
Pouring it onto the blank paper achieved nothing other than staining the paper a light blue. He supposed it was better than burning it though.
Carefully, he let a drop fall onto the paper from the book. The substance turned the paper light blue like it did with the other sheet, however this time dark blue letters started appearing on the paper.
Success, thought Naruto as a small smile appeared on his face. He quickly spread the substance over the entire page, and watched, as letters appeared, then words, soon followed by paragraphs.
However, something he saw on the paper caused him to frown.
Akeginu saw his face and asked him," What's wrong?"
Naruto turned to her, and replied, "It's in code."
Kurenai felt the ground shift beneath her.
One moment she was perfectly grounded, the next it felt as if her vision had flipped on itself.
It took a moment to register, but she quickly acclimated. The sky was still above her, the ground was still below, and a quick glance to her left revealed her opponent was still standing we she last saw him.
What had changed?
Nothing apparently, but she knew better.
Her opponent moved, darting at her with impressive speed.
She brought her kunai up to comfortably block the incoming strike, but missed the blade completely.
A tearing sound accompanied the feeling of a blade cutting through her clothes.
She froze. For a moment she thought the blade had hit her. It didn't take much pressure for a sharp katana to cut through skin. However, the lack of pain suggested she was fine.
What was…she paused, looked down, then twitched in anger. The cut had sheered straight through the front her top. Not enough to reveal her breast to the world, but she was now showing off an unreasonable amount of skin.
I'm going to kill him.
She glared at Naruto, who was standing a few meters away sheathing his katana with an eerie amount of practiced ease. "You did that on purpose?"
Naruto raised both hands as if to placate her, but she wasn't having any of that.
A sharp burst of speed and she was in front of him. Her fist struck out, and hit nothing but air as Naruto comfortably ducked under her strike.
The two engaged in a taijutsu battle. They were fairly even in terms of speed so long as Naruto didn't use his shunshin, but she had the reach advantage. Spinning, she deflected an elbow from Naruto, and delivered a straight kick to his solar plexus.
Naruto managed to deflect the kick with his palm at the last minute, and stepped inside her guard. She knew what was about to come next.
He gripped her shoulder tightly and flipped her over his hip. Before he could let go she managed to get a hold of his collar, and drag him down with her.
The two hit the ground in a tangle of arms and legs.
Naruto arm reached up around her throat, trying to get her in a choke hold, but she delivered two fast jabs with her elbow to Naruto side forcing Naruto to loosen his grip.
"I'm no Kiba, Naruto."
Spinning again, she flipped the both of them around, and found herself on top of Naruto. A moment later, a kunai materialised in her had, and was pressed lightly up against Naruto's jugular.
"My win, Naruto," she said as she smirked down at him.
Naruto just looked up at her, not in surprise like she expected, or in defeat. He just calmly said, "Not quite."
She felt something cold tap against the inside of her thigh. Looking down she was surprised to find Naruto's kunai pressed lightly against her femoral artery.
She tried to suppress a shiver at the thought of his hands being so close to her — she clamped down on those thoughts. Now wasn't the time or the place.
Reluctantly, she removed her kunai from Naruto's throat, and he did the same from her thigh.
She jumped off him a bit too quickly, while Naruto calmly got off the ground at his own pace.
"Turn around," she told him bluntly.
Fishing a few needles from her pocket, she started pining her top back together.
She knew Naruto had done that on purpose. For what reason, she had no idea. He had ridiculous control of that blade of his, anything it cut he wanted it to cut.
This was no accident.
She was pretty sure he wasn't a pervert. Unlike most boys his age Naruto seemed to have great self-control, certainly more than her own genin, Kiba.
In saying that, she had been around enough boys Naruto's age to know most had one thing on their mind.
However, Naruto hadn't batted an eyelid at the sight of her pale skin.
So,either he wasn't interested —she very much doubted that— or, he was comfortable with the site of a half naked woman.
She wasn't sure what to make of that last thought.
Yūgao occasionally compared Naruto's talent, especially in genjutsu, to that of Uchiha Itachi.
She hadn't known the prodigious Uchiha at all. He had completed his meteoric rise through the ranks by joining ANBU at a ridiculously young age. So, she hadn't had any contact with him since she had never been in ANBU. However, Yūgao had. Although she was a few years older than the Uchiha, she had attended academy with him, and later on worked with him, if only for a short while.
According to Yūgao, Itachi had an unnatural focus about him. He wasn't really flustered by anything, nor was he interested in distractions or anything outside of his work or training.
Perhaps Naruto had a similar degree of focus. Though she wasn't really comfortable with comparing Naruto to that traitor. In the end Itachi proved to be insane more than anything.
She took a subtle look at Naruto. He hadn't turned around like she asked. Instead he had turned to the side, not looking at her, but she knew he was keeping her in his peripheral vision. It was smart, she doubted any of her genin except perhaps Shino had that kind of awareness.
In the end, Naruto probably just did it to provoke a response out of her.
It had worked.
She checked her top one last time before turning back to Naruto.
"That was good, Naruto. Very good."
"Are you referring to our initial engagement, the impromptu second one you started, or my sword work?"
Definitely trying to provoke a response.
"The first one," she told him flatly. "Your genjutsu is starting to come together nicely."
It certainly almost made it impossible to block his sword strikes. Coupled with the fact that he could somehow perform genjutsu without hand sealed, it made for a deadly combination.
How does he get a scent to carry a genjutsu anyway? She wondered.
Naruto hadn't shared that particular secret. No matter how much she tried to get him to open up about it. It wasn't surprising, she wouldn't either in his position, but usually men caved into her demands pretty quickly. She would just have to keep trying. He couldn't hold out forever.
Naruto didn't respond immediately to the complement. His frosty gaze held hers for a brief moment. It was almost like he was checking to see if she was genuine.
She didn't know what he saw in her eyes, but he gave her a subtle nod to show he appreciated her comment.
Kurenai let out a quiet sigh. She wished he would talk a little more. It was ironic, most of the time she had trouble getting men not to talk to her, yet on the one occasion she genuinely interested the man wasn't interested in talking.
Not that she was interested in that way.
She took a look at the sun in the sky. It was almost noon.
"All right, Naruto. Why don't we take a break, we've been here all morning."
Following his morning training session with Kurenai, Naruto promptly made his way towards his next objective.
Konoha's Cryptoanalysis Division wasn't talked about much. It was only mentioned in passing at the academy, and you would be hard pressed to find many members of the village who were a part of it, yet it provided one of the more vital functions for the village.
In war information was paramount. Knowing what moves your opponent was about to make could be the difference between life and death. It was one of the reasons he was so keen on setting up Kiriko as an information broker.
Logically then, protecting your own information, and accessing the information of others was of extreme importance. This was where Cryptoanalysis — code breaking — came in.
So, when he stepped inside the headquarters of Konoha's Cryptoanalysis Division, and found only a few people huddled around a single computer, he wasn't impressed.
He knew code breaking was a specialist art, and one that few had the talent for, but surely they weren't this bad off?
The room itself was quite large, covered wall to wall with bookcases like you would expect. It was certainly an impressive collection of books.
I wonder if they're all about code breaking, thought Naruto as he examined the room.
The people —who he assumed were the code breakers — huddled around the computer, had yet to notice him, which was odd considering he was not hiding his presence.
Perhaps they're ignoring me, .he thought as the people continued to 'ignore' him. Or maybe they're just busy.
He waited a second, but received not response.
Naruto sighed; it looked like he'd have to be a bit more straightforward.
Walking straight up to the nearest person — a paled haired woman in a white coat, clutching a large folder — he said, "Excuse—"
The woman jumped in surprise as soon as the words left his mouth. She dropped the folder she was carrying; fortunately, he managed to catch it before it hit the ground. That wouldn't have been a good first impression.
The woman turned around abruptly seemingly intent on giving him a piece of her mind, but she paused as soon as she saw him. He wasn't sure why she stopped, but he used the opportunity to take a better look at her.
She was young, not that much older than he was. She had messy pale blonde hair, and wore a pair of odd glasses that had a swirl tint to them, which prevented him from determining the colour of her eyes.
They probably make it difficult to get a read off her.
"Sheesh. Don't sneak up on me like that."
Or maybe not.
Naruto gave the woman a flat look. No civilization in history ever considered what he had just done to be sneaking. She wasn't paying attention to his look, instead intent on straightening her white lab coat, which she wore over a red dress.
While she was doing that he took a glance behind her. The others in the room were watching the both of them while they pretended to work. They were starring at him curiously, and at the woman with more than a little amusement.
When the woman finished fixing her coat, Naruto handed her the folder.
"Ooh, did I drop that, did I?"
She straightened her glasses then leant forward and peered under his hood. Rather than back away Naruto let her look. Most weren't this forward about seeing under his hood. "Hmm, I don't recognise you. Who are you again?"
"Naruto. Uzumaki Naruto."
"Hmm, are you here to fix the computer?"
Not the reaction he was expecting.
"Because we've been expecting someone?"
"I'm not him." Though it did explain why they were all huddled around the computer.
"Are you sure?"
"Cause you look like someone who knows how to fix a computer."
They stared at each other for a moment, Naruto in mild annoyance, the woman in…well, who knows what was going through her mind.
I think I've run into another of Konoha's eccentrics, Naruto thought to himself.
"Okay, Okay," the woman, mumbled. "Why are you here then?"
"I came to get something decoded," Naruto replied. "That is what you do, right?"
"Shiho stop bothering the young man," said the older man from over near the computer. He had glasses, a closely shaved head, and a neatly trimmed beard.
Probably the woman's superior, thought Naruto as he looked over at the man. The woman next to him was also looking their way. She was an attractive woman, with shortish brown hair, and bright red lipstick
"What can we do for you?" The man asked.
Naruto moved towards the two at the computer not before glancing at the odd woman —apparently named Shiho — one last time.
"I was hoping to get something decoded," explained Naruto as he approached the other two code breakers. "Or, failing that be pointed in the right direction."
"Oh, is this for a mission?" The man asked.
"No…I recently came into possession a notebook that belonged to my mother. She was a ninja here in the village, and the book is written in code," Naruto explained. He was thankful that he had come up with a cover story before coming here.
"Hmm, do you have it on you?" The man asked.
Naruto nodded his head, and it from his pocket. It wasn't the original, but a copy his shadow clones had put together.
"Hmm," the old man leafed through the book. "I don't recognise the algorithm. What do you think, Yurika?"
Yurika, the woman with the red lipstick took a look at the book, and shook her head. "Not one I've seen before."
Yurika looked at Naruto, "You said this was your mother's?"
"Yes. She's been dead for sixteen years, so it's quite old."
"Might have to look at some of the older algorithms then," the old man commented.
"Nope. You won't figure it out that way. No way," said Shiho, who had come over once Naruto started talking.
"What do you mean?" Naruto asked her.
She adjusted her glasses again even though they weren't crooked — a habit perhaps?
"Follow me," Shiho said before turning on her heel and heading towards one of the bookshelves.
Naruto glanced at the others at the table, but they had turned their attention back to the book, and weren't paying him any attention.
Shrugging, Naruto followed Shiho to the bookshelf. She pulled one book from the shelf, and handed it to him.
Cryptography: Combination Keys
"Combination key, does that mean encryption keys?" Naruto asked.
Shiho gave him a curious look, or at least what he thought was a curious look. It was hard to tell with the glasses. She seemed surprised he knew anything about cryptography.
"Yeah," she replied. "If it is a personal item then the code is probably one which requires a key known only to a few people."
That made things more difficult.
"Can you break the code if you don't have the key?"
"Maybe," Shiho replied. "But only if you're lucky."
That's a 'no' then.
He was back to square one. He couldn't recall anything that he found in that room which could be considered a key. Would he even know he did find it? It was almost impossible to tell.
"Sorry for wasting your time then." He had more important things to consider at the moment. The book was at best a curiosity.
He turned around, but was stopped by Shiho.
"Wait…um, leave the book with me. I'll see what I can do."
"Thank you…Shiho was it?"
"Oh…ah, yes, I'm Shiho, nice to meet you…Narubo, right?"
Naruto considered letting the woman stew a little, but she didn't seem to care much about social conventions — which he didn't mind at all.
A cold wind swept along the empty street blowing a cloud of dust into the face of the silver haired youth.
The wind died down as quickly as it came, allowing the youth to brush the dust from his face and adjust his spectacles.
The youth was Yakushi Kabuto, former Leaf genin, and currently one of the most wanted fugitives in Konoha. It was an impressive feat for someone so young, and a 'genin' no less.
Kabuto looked around the empty street. It was certainly an odd night; deathly silent.
He liked it.
This village had always been too boisterous for his liking, arrogant even, they acted like nothing could touch them.
It was about time they learned a little humility.
A sense of tension had gripped the village ever since Orochimaru had made his appearance during the chūnin exams. That one could make anybody tense.
Although most of the civilians remained ignorant of the danger they were in, the ninja certainly knew, well, the ones that mattered anyway. You could see the difference in how they acted. The village was preparing for something. They didn't know what yet, but they knew it would be bad.
Still, it wouldn't be enough. Orochimaru was right when he said the village had grown weak. They wouldn't know what hit them.
The little show he had put on back at the hospital was just a taste of things to come.
It was amusing, laughable even. Elite ANBU taken down by a genin. This village had almost lost their most precious resource even after they knew the boy was being targeted by Orochimaru. It was pathetic. Only the timely interruption by Hatake Kakashi saved little Sasuke.
Not that it mattered to him one way or the other.
A subtle noise caused him to glance sharply to his left. For a moment he tensed, ready to spring into action at the first sign of trouble, but it passed, there was nobody there.
Shrugging his shoulders, Kabuto decided to continue.
After all, he had things to do tonight.
As soon as Kabuto stepped around the corner, another figure stepped out from a nearby shadow.
Damn… that was too close, thought Hayate. Hokage-sama wasn't kidding; this guy is good.
He had been warned explicitly not to engage Yakushi unless absolutely necessary. Apparently, the boy was Kakashi's level.
At first he found that hard to believe knowing exactly how strong Kakashi was, but the Hokage wouldn't warn him for no reason.
Still, what's with all the jōnin level genin running around Konoha? First Naruto, now this guy. It was getting ridiculous.
It certainly put things in perspective. The Hokage believed this Kabuto guy was associated with Orochimaru, the Snake Sannin. If that was the case then who was Naruto associated with?
He put that disconcerting thought to the side for now, he had to focus. One stray thought could get him killed tonight. There was no room for error. He needed to find out what Yakushi was up to, the village was depending on him.
He quickly made his way around the corner and spotted Yakushi towards the end of the street.
What are you up to?
Generally, people didn't go for casual strolls at 1:00am in the morning. So, what was he really doing?
The spy was making his way towards the temple district, not far from Kikyō-jō. There wasn't much up there besides the castle, but it was a perfect place for a covert meeting.
So, that's what he's up to.
Hayate followed at a discrete distance, keeping Kabuto in sight, but not getting too close either. He couldn't afford to give himself away.
It continued like this for a few more tense minutes, but when Hayate rounded the last corner he stopped. In the shadows of the temple across from Kikyō-jō, Kabuto had stopped and was talking to someone, but he couldn't make out who.
I need to get closer.
Hayate circled around until he came up alongside the building where Kabuto and the mysterious person were meeting.
As he got closer, his sharp eyes picked out that crazy Suna kid sitting on top of the ornamental Koi on the roof of the castle.
He's here too. Great.
Tōton Jutsu (Transparent Escape Technique)
Hayate used his concealing justu to get as close as possible to the two. He needed to hear this conversation.
As he peeked around the corner, Hayate became surprised. There standing next to Kabuto looking out towards the castle was the Jōnin from Suna, Baki.
Oto and Suna, that makes no sense.
"You're late," said the Suna jōnin.
"Heh, I had to be a bit careful," said Kabuto lightly. Hayate couldn't see Kabuto's face, but he could almost bet the kid was smiling.
"They found out I was a spy for Oto," Kabuto continued. He scratched the back of his head sheepishly.
It was good acting.
Baki didn't sound too pleased. "If they find out you're here meeting with me then…our plans to destroy Leaf will be ruined."
What!? Shit this is big, thought Hayate.
"You were uncovered by Leaf? Then you show up and meet like this, I thought you were supposed to be Orochimaru's right hand man? You're not what I expected."
"I get that a lot," Kabuto admitted. "But to be accurate I should tell you that they didn't uncover my identity." Kabuto paused. The next words sent a chill down Hayate's spine. "I uncovered it myself."
"What are you playing at?"
The Suna jōnin seemed as shocked as Hayate was.
"I merely wanted to see how Leaf reacted. Taking that boy, Sasuke, won't be a problem now. I have all the information I need."
"Fine," said Baki. "But, if it appears you are not able to live up to your end of the agreement Suna will withdraw. You came up with this plan in the first place. Suna will stay in the background until the very end, this is the Kazekage-sama's will."
Suna's betraying us! How can this…
Kabuto removed a scroll from his pocket and handed it to Baki. "Here's our plan." Kabuto paused before looking out at Gaara who was still sitting on top of the fish. "I think it's about time you told them of the plan as well."
I need to inform Hokage-sama of this right away.
He dropped his invisibility cloak, and prepared to move.
"If you'll excuse me — oh, it seems there's one more thing for me to clean up here. I wouldn't mind testing out what kind of guys they have moving around here."
"No," said Baki. "I'll handle it. Sand should do something too. Plus—"
Hayate froze. He had been found out. I need to move, now!
"—it's only a rat."
Hayate shunshined immediately, but the Suna jōnin intercepted him.
"Going somewhere Mr Examiner?"
Shit. Looks like I have to fight.
Skidding to a stop atop a building, Hayate reached for his katana. It was still on his back like always. He had only been learning Naruto's style of kenjutsu for a few months. Now certainly wasn't the time to be testing it out. He would rely on his Leaf Style kenjutsu like he always did.
He flashed through familiar hand seals.
Mikazuki no Mai (Dance of the Three Day's Moon)
Two shadow clones immediately appeared besides him and charge off to the side. He had this maneuver timed to perfection.
The Suna jonin eyes widened as the shadow clones moved into his blind spot.
Using the distraction as an advantage Hayate charged in and brought his Katana down, cutting the Sand nin's chest wide open.
Or at least that what was supposed to happen.
He looked down in shock as his blade had been caught inside the Sand jonin's vest, something was preventing his katana from cutting through him.
There was plenty of blood, but —he tried to pull out the sword, but it was stuck. Why?
"This is Leaf's Dance of the Three Day's Moon, huh. To master it at such a young age…this village sure has an impressive collection of ninjas." The Sand nin looked down at the blade. "It was a brilliant swing, but an actual blade can be stopped, however…"
Hayate noticed the fine ethereal coating on the man's hand. He had seen something similar before with Asuma and…shit, this is…
"A blade of wind on the other hand…"
The Suna jōnin raised his other hand, the air around it started to vibrate.
It was then that Hayate did something he never thought he would do — he let go of his sword.
Just as an ethereal blade of wind flew from the jonin's fingertips, Hayate substituted with one of his shadow clones.
The blade of wind cut straight through the clones as he landed in a roll several meters away.
Now swordless, he quickly pulled a kunai from his sleeve and hurled it at the Sand nin at the exact moment as his other shadow clone attacked.
Baki had enough awareness to dodge the kunai coming at him from behind, and just before his clone could reach him, the Suna nin flicked his wrist and a blade of wind bisected his clone.
However, the clone brought him the time he needed.
Before the Suna jōnin could react, Hayate dived forward and collected his katana. It had come loose when the Suna nin dodged his kunai.
As soon as the weapon was in his hand, he swiped at the Suna nin forcing the man to take a few steps back before he could resume his attack.
Hayate rolled to the right as another blade of wind cut tore straight through the tiles had been standing on. He was forced to weave around several more wind blades that the Sand nin sent his way.
I can't keep this up.
Mikazuki no Mai (Dance of the Three Day's Moon)
Two more shadow clones appeared by his side. The clones immediately went on the offensive, launching an array of sword strikes at the Suna nin.
Instead of joining them, Hayate turned heal and used the clones' offensive to cover his retreat. He needed to get this info to the Hokage, now.
He flickered to the rooftop of the next building, and took a deep breath before breaking out into a sprint. Performing the A rank technique twice in succession had strained his chakra reserves severely, but he could manage.
He leaped from rooftop to rooftop, stopping momentarily when he felt one of his clones dispel.
Damn it, I need to get find a patrol.
Unfortunately, none seemed to be in the area at the moment.
Just my luck, thought Hayate as he felt his last clone disperse. A second later he was forced to dive out of the way from a blade of wind.
Hayate glanced back. The wind had left a huge gash in the brickwork.
If that hits me…
He knew he was out matched here. The skill the Suna jōnin displayed with his futon manipulation meant he was dangerous from almost any range.
Not to mention those strikes can't be blocked.
Hayate jumped off the building, and took cover in the alley below as the Sand nin hurled multiple wind blades in his direction. Baki had the luxury of attacking him from range.
Sprinting down the alley he was forced to dodge yet again as wind blades peppered down on him.
Damn it. I can't shake him while dodging his attacks.
He needed to shake things up a bit. 'Change the parameters of the fight', as Naruto liked to say before he pulled out some crazy new technique no one had ever seen before.
Jumping off the ground he ran up the wall just as Baki appeared in the alley.
The Suna jōnin looked up at him, and smirked. "Oh, decided to stop running have you?"
Baki stalked down the alley. Hayate could make out the shimmering air surrounding the man's hands.
He needed to play his strongest card. He had run out of time.
While he might not be the strongest, he was the best kenjutsu user in the village bare none. Yūgao might outrank him, but that was because she was better rounded and had superior ninjutsu and sensory abilities. In terms of pure kenjutsu however, he had no equal in the village. Naruto might surpass him one day, the near future even, but for now he was the best, and he was the best for one reason.
It was time to see how this sand bastard dealt with his ultimate technique. He hadn't shown this technique to anyone, even Yūgao didn't know he had perfected it.
Hiken: Tsukikage (Secret Sword: Moon Shadow) (2)
The wind blade flew from the Sand-nin's finger and hurtled straight towards him, but it cut through nothing but air.
Hayate appeared directly in front of the Sand-nin leaving an after image in his wake.
This time his katana drew blood, opening up a large gash across the man's chest.
"Argh." Baki grimaced as Hayate's blade cut through him. It wasn't deep enough to kill though, and Hayate immediately found several ethereal blades heading his way, but like last time they only cut through an after image.
Hayate reappeared in front of the Suna-nin intent on delivering a killing blow, but Baki was ready and unleashed a huge gust of wind.
The gale sent Hayate flying into the brick wall with a sickening crunch.
Hayate coughed harshly into his hand as he struggled back to his feet. The brief disturbance in the air was all the warning he had, but it saved his life.
Rolling, he managed to dodge the follow up attack, but the wind blade left a gash on his left shoulder.
Shit. Even the air around the blade cuts.
Hayate got back up and took his stance.
The two ninja watched each other carefully.
Hayate used the lull in the combat to quickly take stock of his situation. Things weren't looking good. In addition to his injured shoulder he could feel a broken rib, but it was nothing too bad. He had seen Naruto use Fūton: Daitoppa (Wind Release: Great Breakthrough) enough times to know that the Suna-nin hadn't used it at full strength, likely just enough to make sure he didn't land a blow.
A full strength Fūton: Daitoppa would have turned him into a smear on the wall.
"Impressive Leaf nin," Baki commented. "I didn't realize Konoha had so many quality ninja walking around."
Hayate knew the man had to be feeling the effects of that last strike.
"What's Suna playing at?" Hayate asked, trying to by some time while he regained his breath.
Instead of replying the Suna-nin just smirked at him.
Hayate eyes widened in surprise as a blade of wind tore through him.
However, that Hayate faded revealing itself to be yet another after image.
The two continued, trading blow after blow, neither coming out on top. Baki would deflect any other Hayate's strikes, and Hayate was too fast was any of Baki's wind blade to connect.
Baki sent another wind blade at Hayate, but this time Hayate predicted exactly where the attack was coming from and was ready for it.
Dodging at the last minute, the wind blade barely missed his face. He even felt some blood run down his cheek as the air tore at his skin. The wind made a screeching sound as it blew past his ear as it collided with the wall behind him.
The attack left the Sand nin momentarily open. Not one to waste such an opportunity, Hayate lunged forward, his katana leveled at the jōnin's throat.
Just as he was about to drive his blade through Baki's throat he felt a sharp pain in the back of his neck, and then, nothing.
Kabuto reached down and removed the senbon from the base of the Leaf nin's neck.
That was certainly entertaining.
"I could have handled that."
Kabuto looked up at flashed Baki a wry smile. "What are allies for? Besides…" Kabuto's smile turned into a smirk. "It looked like you were having a bit of trouble there."
"Perhaps… he certainly had a lot of talent," Baki admitted. "Is he dead?"
Kabuto took a look at the Leaf nin's prone form. A high-speed technique, looked like a variation of shunshin. Interesting.
"Not quite," Kabuto replied. He kicked the leaf nin over, and took a look at his face. "Gekkou Hayate, huh."
Reaching into his pocket Kabuto removed his info cards. "B-rank nin, presently considered Konoha's best kenjutsu user…he's a specialist, nothing in here about that last technique though."
Well isn't this interesting. There was one fact on his cards that he didn't share with the Sand-nin. "He'll be a good source of information."
"Hmph. Do what you will," said Baki. "Just make sure he doesn't talk. We can't afford another one of your stuff ups."
Kabuto just smiled at the Suna nin.
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that."
"Wake up Gekkou-san."
Hayate opened his eyes as he slowly regained consciousness. Did I just hear a voice?
The first thing he noticed was the smell — antiseptic. Wherever he was, it smelt like a hospital.
He was lying down on a bed of some sort. He tried to get up, but found his body wasn't responding.
"Be patient Gekkou-san, the sedative will wear off shortly."
Who was that? And what sedative?
He took a few short breaths, or tried to anyway. Every breath he took felt like fire in his lungs.
"Urgh." He tried looking around to get a better idea of where he was, but found his vision blurred whenever he moved his head.
He stilled as a silhouette appeared above him and shone a bright light in to his eyes.
He tried to squint, but a firm pair of fingers held each of his eyes open.
"Almost there…ah, that should do it."
Whoever was monitoring him removed the light, and Hayate found that his vision as starting to clear. He could make out a stone ceiling, and some white artificial light.
Strange, this doesn't look like any hospital I've ever seen.
"You're back with us, Gekkou-san."
Hayate glanced to his left, and felt his blood run cold. Now he knew he definitely wasn't okay.
There standing next to his bed was Yakushi Kabuto. The silver haired spy was giving him a fake smile.
"Don't try to speak," said Kabuto, cutting him off. "Listen for now. There will be time for that later."
"Hayate-san, do you mind if I call you Hayate?"
Hayate said nothing and Kabuto continued on without missing a beat. "I find myself in need of something, something I think you can help me with."
"G-go to hell (cough)."
"Now, now, there's no need for that." Kabuto didn't seem fazed in the slightest. "I just require some information, nothing too important."
"Come now, we both know you have no choice in the matter." Kabuto's fake smile suddenly turned cruel. His lips curled upwards, and his eyes became hungry.
Hayate couldn't help but imaging this is what Anko used to talk about. She always said Orochimaru had a sickening smile.
He felt something sharp prick his arm, and looked down to fight Kabuto
"W-hat did (cough) you do?"
"Just something that will make things easier on you," Kabuto replied. "I'm no interrogation expert, but I have some knowledge of the human body. This drug will eat away at your will power until you tell me everything I want to know. Failing that, well there are other…more crude methods."
As if to illustrate what he meant, Kabuto held up a scalpel and waved it at Hayate.
"Now, why don't you start by telling me everything you know about Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto let the energy swirl around him.
Very slowly a form began to materialise. Cell by cell the form took shape until it started to resemble a butterfly. As the seconds dragged on the butterfly became more detailed, its shape became more defined, legs sprouted from its body, antennae from its head, colour appeared on its winged, soon followed by an intricate pattern.
Naruto slowly opened his eyes, and looked at his creation. Where before there had been nothing, now sat a small red butterfly. He knew it wasn't real, merely a figment of his imagination. Yet, he felt pride in its creation.
Just a few weeks ago he would never have been able create something so intricate.
He had improved a lot under Kurenai's guidance.
Yin release required an active imagination. While he was certainly creative, his imagination was always harnessed, limited if you will, by practical reasoning.
Not necessarily a bad thing, but if one truly wanted to harness the power of genjutsu one needed to let go.
He had spent the last few weeks trying to harness the power of the spiritual side of his chakra. Doing so required a clear mind, thus meditation. Only then was the mind free to create.
In practice this involved frequent meditation, and imaging exercises. Which was why he was currently sitting cross-legged in the middle of a training field.
For the moment he was by himself with only the company of Oboro, his owl. Akeginu was back at the ruins practicing her cartography skills while Kurenai had still yet to arrive.
He was early though, and admittedly a little keen to see what she had in stall for him today.
Despite what many including Kurenai seemed to think, to date Naruto wasn't satisfied with his progress in genjutsu. He had been granted a huge advantage in the field via his agreement with the Kyūbi, but despite a natural affinity for Yin release —also granted by the fox— he had yet to achieve any true remarkable. Not that he expected to so soon. He had only really delved into genjutsu seriously for around six months.
Nevertheless, his current techniques were not good enough.
His Red Mirage, though devastating merely made the best of an already impressive technique in Akeginu's blood mist. He just combined it with his pheromones in way which complemented both techniques. In the end what he was doing was building on the basic principle of the blood mist, sensory deprivation, and making that aspect more comprehensive.
It was powerful yes, but that power came from the combination of genjutsu and ninjutsu, not from any real skill in the art of illusion.
Similarly, his other genjutsu techniques were nothing special. His hidden blade was merely a different application of a D rank technique, while his Sleep Induction and Neural Shock genjutsus while practical, and effective, were crude and straightforward. Useful yes, but he couldn't help but feel that they would loose their effectiveness against opponents with sharper and stronger minds. Kurenai had picked up on his neural shock illusion quickly enough, and as talented as she was, there were certainly much stronger ninja out there.
Genjutsu was fundamentally about deception. Yet, he did not possess a genjutsu technique that truly exemplified that.
That was about to change.
Until recently he had been handicapped in terms of improving his genjutsu. Yūgao's talent lay elsewhere, and Akeginu had no real conception of what genjutsu entailed beyond the obvious tactical benefits of the art. Kuruma certainly knew much about the subject, but he was hesitant to ask the fox for guidance for obvious reasons.
So he was left to find his own way, which he thought was reflected quite clearly in how his genjutsu techniques had developed.
However, he now had the opportunity to learn from a specialist in the area, and had every intention of learning all he could while her services were available.
Kurenai was an artist when it came to genjutsu.
She understood almost all aspects of it, and immediately identified his deficiencies in the area. He may be able to perform genjutsu without hand seals, but he had yet to make the best use of that ability.
The key lay in controlling the spiritual side of his chakra, something he had never really applied himself to doing before. He may have known about the basics from his reading, but that was a poor substitute for proper instruction.
Naruto was drawn from his thought by the sound of Oboro warning of an impending visitor. Her eyesight was significantly better than his own, so he reached out with his senses and felt a familiar presence heading his way.
Getting up of the ground, he stood patiently and waited for her to arrive.
After a few seconds a purple haired woman arrived directly in front of Naruto.
He immediately noticed that Yūgao was more much more tense than usual.
"I wasn't expecting you this morning, sensei."
"Sorry, Naruto, something's come up."
It must be serious to get this reaction out of her.
"I need you to come with me. We're going to see the Hokage."
That surprised him, he wasn't expecting any missions over the one month break.
Although he acquiesced without issue, his mind raced through various scenarios.
Why did he need to go see the Hokage?
A few obvious reasons that came to mind.
Had the Hokage somehow found out about his actions in Wave? Unlikely, unless he had sent someone to investigate, but why would he do that?
Was this about that mask ninja the other day? That man may have been dressed like a ninja, but he certainly wasn't part of the old man's ANBU. So that was equally unlikely.
Had he been spotted the other day when Ryoma's house had gone up in flames? He knew the answer to that question to be 'no'. Oboro was with him that night, and in the remote chance he missed someone watching him, she certainly wouldn't have — especially at night.
Convinced that this meeting had nothing to do with his action specifically, Naruto calmly followed Yūgao to the Hokage tower.
Naruto entered the room and immediately took stock of his surroundings.
The old man was seated in his usual position behind his desk. Naruto noticed that he looked far more tired than usual. No doubt the news of Snake Sannin's presence had cost him a significant amount of sleep.
What really caught Naruto's attention were the other people in the room.
Standing in front of the old man's desk were three people he recognised, and another he did not.
Of the three he recognised the first was Morino Ibiki, the proctor from the exams. The second was Yamanaka Inoichi, head of Konoha's Intelligence Division and father of that waste of a hitai-ate, Ino — though he doubted Inoichi felt the same way. The third was Nara Shikaku, the Jōnin Commander, and technically second in the Hokage in Konoha's military structure. Though in reality he would probably fall behind the Toad Sannin.
Quite an impressive line-up; matters must certainly be serious if these three are present.
The last person, and the only one he didn't recognise was a man with dark, spiky hair and red framed sunglasses. He wore the standard Konoha flak jacket and appeared to have a laid back posture.
Everyone in the room turned around when Yūgao and he entered the room.
"Good, " said the old man when they entered the room, and made their way towards him. "You've arrived."
Naruto merely nodded his head.
"Now, then," the old man continued. "We can get to the matters at hand."
The old man paused and looked at Naruto. "Naruto, I'm sure you wish to know why you're here?"
Naruto nodded his head. "You… 'gather' correctly."
"Now, Yūgao tells me that you monitored all the participants in phase two of the exam. Is that correct?"
Naruto glanced at Yūgao who gave him a serious look. She was all business tonight. Something serious was definitely going on.
"That is correct," he replied. "I used shadow clones to tail all the examinees during the second phase. They gathered information even after I finished phase 2."
"Smart," the guy in the sun-glasses commented.
Ibiki just nodded his head. The others remained quiet.
"Now, let me ask you this. Did you notice anything odd about the Leaf genin, Yakushi Kabuto."
Naruto mind flashed to the silver haired spy he had seen in the chūnin exams.
So that's what this is about. They've finally picked up on that.
"He's a spy," Naruto said, succinctly. He decided not to play ignorant in front of two interrogation specialists.
His answer resulted in an exchange of looks from the others in the room."
"Explain," ordered the old man.
Naruto recounted what he had observed regarding Kabuto, namely that the silver haired 'genin' was holding back significantly when in public, and went out of his way to meet and observe Uchiha Sasuke.
The last bit of information caused some concern for the others in the room.
"May I ask what this is about?" Naruto asked once he finished.
"Why didn't you tell anyone of your suspicions?" Inoich spoke up for the first time.
Naruto shrugged, "And say what? I had no real evidence, and it's a rather serious charge to be levelling without solid proof."
"Not long after the preliminary finals, Kabuto was discovered trying to assassinate Uchiha Sasuke," Inoichi explained. "He killed three ANBU operatives on duty, and managed to escape capture from Kakashi."
Impressive, thought Naruto. While he was fairly confident he could also assassinate three ANBU provided conditions were right, escaping Kakashi was an impressive feat. Kakashi was considered to be the best jōnin in the village for a reason.
There were certain things about the entire scenario that didn't make sense however. For starters why did Kabto, who apparently had operated for years as a spy reveal himself? It had to be intentional. There was no way he made that sort of mistake accidently.
So what game was he playing?
"Gekkou Hayate was assigned to find and monitor Kabuto, but as of last night both Kabuto and Hayate are officially missing," the old man continued.
Naruto saw Yūgao tense at the mention of Hayate's name. So that's why.
Things certainly didn't look good for Hayate if he had been missing that long. The chances of him still being alive were...not good.
"Thank you Naruto that will be all."
Naruto nodded his head at the old man again before turning around to leave.
"Yūgao," said the old man. "You're too close to this. Aoba will head the investigation. Don't worry we'll find him."
Naruto watched Yūgao clench her first. She looked like she wanted ot object, but she stayed quiet in the end. With a stiff nod of her head, she turned and left out the door.
Once they were outside Yūgao turned to Naruto.
"Why didn't you say anything?" She asked him.
Yūgao raised her voice, but immediately toned it down when a few people glanced their way.
"I already told you the answer to that inside," he replied calmly, not in the least bit intimated by her.
"No," Yūgao replied curtly. "Why didn't you tell me, Naruto, your sensei?"
"And tell you what? That I thought he was acting suspicious. I had no evidence ot support such claims."
"So you think I would have dismissed you? Ignored you? Do you really think so little of me?"
"There's nothing you could have done anyway," Naruto responded. It was a ninja's word against the other, and he doubted they would have taken his — the demon's brats — word over the adopted son of a respectable medical nin.
"You should have told me Naruto. If you think you've come across a spy, you tell your superior. You don't ignore it! You don't brush it aside! You might not give a shit about the village but I do."
"Well, its nice to see you putting things in perspective, sensei. I very much doubt I was the sole person to notice Kabuto, and if I was it's a sad indictment of the state of this village when a genin is their first and last line of defence."
"That's beside the point."
"I'm sick of these secrets, Naruto. You're going to have to trust someone sooner or later, if not me then someone else."
"Who's to say I don't already have someone."
Yūgao starred at him for a moment, and replied quietly, "Good for you then."
He could tell that the words were hollow. She didn't believe him.
"Um…I need to…I need to think. You can have the afternoon off… or train with Kurenai."
With those words said, she turned around and walked away.
Naruto watched her leave. Had her emotions made her so vulnerable that she would fall to pieces so quickly? He hoped not. He respected the woman, and didn't want to see her break down when the inevitable bad news came.
Dosu watched his target make his way to the training ground unaccompanied.
Perfect. He now had his chance.
He didn't know why Orochimaru was interested in this guy, but it was the perfect opportunity to show he was more than a mere puppet.
Originally, he had intended to kill of that Uchiha for the stunt he pulled in the forest, but after seeing how pathetic the Uchiha was in the preliminaries he realised that Sasuke wasn't worth his time.
That arsehole Kabuto had been assigned to find out all he could about this Uzumaki guy. (3) He would do one better and bring Orochimaru his head.
The heavily bandaged Oto nin descended from the tree he had been hiding in a and stealthy approached Uzumaki from behind.
The training field was empty so Dosu didn't have to worry about being interrupted. He had shadowed Uzuamki from the village, and knew no one was coming out to meet him.
"I'm curious," Uzumaki suddenly spoke quietly. Dosu sharp hearing easily picked it up. "What does an Oto nin want with me?"
Uzumaki turned around slowly, and looked at Dosu right in the eye. "Well?"
"Heh, looks like some of you Leaf nin know how to handle yourselves after all."
"Big words, genin. I seem to recall your team didn't do so well in the exam."
He didn't need to be reminded about what happened to Zaku and Kin.
"Why don't we see how fast you can really move, Uzumaki?"
Dosu raised his modified right arm, and pointed it at Uzumaki who hadn't even drawn his katana.
Kyōmeisen (Resonating Echo Drill)
Nothing happened. No amplified sound waves resonated from his arm.
Kyōmeisen (Resonating Echo Drill)
Again nothing. Dosu looked down at his arm in confusion. Why wasn't it working?
Looking back up, he froze. Uzumaki had disappeared.
He thougths were cut off as Uzumaki appeared right in front of him, inches away from his face.
As he stared into cold blues eyes, he felt vice like fingers clamped down on his shoulder.
He thought he heard Uzumaki mutter something like 'slow', but it was gone as he found himself sailing through the air.
The last thing he saw was the ground coming to meet his face, and then nothing but darkness.
Dosu awoke with a start.
"W-hat? Where am I?" He groaned.
There was a sharp pain in his left shoulder, and his head felt like someone had beaten it with a hammer.
His nose was broken, and he definitely had a concussion. What's more, the pain in his left shoulder told him that his clavicle was broken.
He tried to move, but found himself restrained by a several tightly bound ropes.
"It's Dosu, yes?"
Dosu looked sharply to his right. He tried not to wince as his brain pounded against his skull.
Sitting calmly on an old stonewall was Uzumaki Naruto, his target.
So I failed…again. Just like he did when failed to finish off the Uchiha in the forest.
Damn it. Why did he always fall short.
It was then that Dosu noticed where he was, or rather where he wasn't. The buildings around him were odd, and very old looking. In fact they looked like ruins.
Where the hell am I?
He hoped he wasn't too far from Konoha. He would never be able to explain—shaking his mind free of those thoughts, Dosu focused. He needed to escape.
"Let me go you bastar—"
Uzumaki's fist connected with his face. Dosu felt his cheekbone cave under force of the strike. The leaf nin had moved so fast he couldn't even see him move.
"That wasn't the answer I was looking for."
Uzumaki gripped his face and stared straight into his eye. A stab of pain ran through his body as he felt Uzumaki apply pressure on his now broken cheekbone.
"Lets get a few things straight." A chill went done Dosu's spine. Uzumaki's voice was as cold as ice.
It wasn't cruel or taunting like Orochimaru's. Nor was mocking like that arsehole Kabuto's, and it wasn't indifferent and dismissive like Kimimaro's. This voice was cold, and promised death if he didn't do what it said.
"I want to know why you were following me, and you're going to tell me. Understand."
Uzumaki cut him off again, this time by camping his mouth shut with an iron grip.
"Listen genin, you are so far out of your depth here—"
Uzumaki paused in mid sentence and looked to his right, "No. That won't work…fine, I'll try it your way then."
What? Dosu looked around, or tried to at least. He wasn't exactly in a position to get a good look at his surroundings. Who the hell was Uzumaki talking to?
Turning back to him, Uzumaki spoke again. This time his voice was warmer, had bit more colour to it. "Why you're so keen to die for someone like Orochimaru, I'll never understand. You do realise he sent you to die, pawn."
Pawn…How Dosu hated that word. "I'm no one's pawn!"
He failed to notice the smile that appeared on Uzumaki's face.
"Orochimaru didn't send me," Dosu responded proudly. "I attacked you myself. To prove I was stronger."
"Showing initiative, huh. I think your were aiming a bit beyond your means, pawn."
Tch…he's right, thought Dosu. This guy was exactly like Orochimaru's pet monster. No matter how hard he tried, people like that were far beyond his abilities.
"Tell me about Oto," ordered Naruto, suddenly changing the subject.
"Why would I do that?" He wasn't going to cave that easy.
"Need I remind you what position you are in? In a minute a few broken bones will be the least of your worries."
Dosu gulped…this guy was serious. "It...it's not a village, it's a giant laboratory." Dosu wasn't surprised that he felt little shame in selling out his 'village'. Camaraderie wasn't exactly emphasised in Otogakure.
There he learned fear more than anything else. He was getting a similar vibe from Uzumaki.
"The entire place is designed for Orochimaru to run experiments, and to invent and test new jutsu. Even the ninja are just there so he can see how his jutsu function in the field."
Dosu could see the surprise that momentarily appeared on Uzumaki's face. He took a small amount of pleasure from the fact that he had finally managed to surprise the bastard.
However, the surprise faded as quickly as it came, and he found himself once again staring at a cold blank mask.
"Interesting, and where did you fit into this?" Uzumaki asked.
"Orochimaru said he could make me strong. I believed him." He lied. "He experimented on me, taught me how to manipulate sound."
"Is that so."
Uzumaki didn't sound particularly sympathetic; he didn't expect him to be.
Uzumaki looked again to his right, and shook his head. Why does he keep doing that?
"What do you know about Yakushi Kabuto?"
Dosu managed not to snarl at the name. He hated that guy more than anyone. How that piece of shit ever got to be so high in Orochimaru's chain of command… "What about him?"
"He works for Orochimaru, yes?"
Dosu nodded his head.
"What can you tell me about him?"
He didn't know why Uzumaki was so interested n Kabuto, but what the hell, so long as it stopped him from getting tortured. He had no qualms about selling Kabuto out.
"He's a med-nin, a good one too. Orochimaru assigned him to find out information about you."
Uzumaki looked at him sharply."How do you know that?"
"He told me."
"What do you mean he told you? He said that he was assigned to find information about me?"
"Tell me. What exactly did he say?"
Uzumaki was staring at him with a serious expression on his face. He had no doubt that Uzumaki would kill him if he didn't answer.
"He said Orochimaru wanted him to find out anything he could about you. Who trained you, you were really working for, that type of thing."
"Where did you meet Kabuto?"
"In the south district of Konoha. Down in the sewers, there a small safe house down there."
Uzumaki trailed off, and looked to be deep in thought.
"How long ago was this?"
"Um...how long have I been out?"
"A few hours," Uzumaki replied.
"Then today, just before noon."
Dosu froze as a small pouch floated in the air towards Naruto.
Was that some sort of jutsu?
He saw Uzumaki reach out and grab the pouch. He opened it and poured a fine white powder into his hands.
Uzumaki look at him, "Thanks for the information, but you've just about outlived your usefulness. I really don't take kindly to people attacking me."
He blinked as Uzumaki blew the white powder into his eyes.
"What the hell?"
He blinked again, and then the burning started.
"Well, that worked exactly the way you said it would," Naruto commented as he stared down at the Oto genin's corpse.
The genin's face was a mess. The blood vessels in his eyes had bloated and were bleeding profusely. His tongue had also swelled up and was hanging from the side of his mouth.
It certainly wasn't a pleasant way to go.
"I did say it was a poison, right?"
"I suppose you did." Naruto looked at Akeginu who was examining the poison's handiwork. "I haven't seen that one before, is it new?"
Akeginu shrugged, "Not really. There's a lot of stuff you haven't seen, Naruto."
"No, I've seen most of it."
"Really now," Akeginu got up and sauntered over to him. "Since when?"
Naruto just gave her a small smile.
"Hmph, fine then. This one was a mix of viper venom, torikabuto, (4) and bone dust. "
"It helps the poison cling to the walls of the throat, and the fine particles cause friction and irritation when they come into contact with the eyes."
Nasty, thought Naruto.
Naruto took one last look at the genin's corpse before creating a shadow clone. He nodded towards the corpse and the clone went over and picked it up.
"Why do we always get stuck doing the heavy lifting," his clone complained, as it hefted the genin onto its shoulders.
"Just do it," Naruto told the clone. The things never shut up.
Turning heel, Naruto made for straight for the exit.
"Where are you going Naruto?" Akeginu called out from behind.
Naruto turned around and looked at her, ""You heard the Oto nin, Kabuto's still in the village."
"What I meant, was why are you going? It's obviously a trap."
That much was obvious. There was no way Kabuto just happened to tell Dosu the detailed of his mission, and it wasn't a coincidence that Kabuto met the genin had one of Orochimaru's safe houses.
"I'm well aware of that."
"Then why are you going?"
Naruto shrugged, "It's a challenge. Don't tell me you'd ignore it if it came from a Kouga nin."
"I supposed not," Akeginu confessed. "But, I'd prefer you'd fight on your own terms."
"You know as well as I do that we don't always get the choice."
"Maybe so, but..."Akeginu sighed in frustration. "Be careful, Naruto. This guy is good."
"Don't worry about me," Naruto replied. "This is a good opportunity. Kabuto is an A rank nin, just like Zabuza.
With that said, Naruto left the ruins with an excited smile on his face. He could feel the adrenaline in his veins. He hadn't felt this excited since just before his fight with Zabuza.
The chūnin exams had left him unsatisfied; perhaps Kabuto would provide a better challenge.
Naruto and Akeginu made their way through the Konoha. Night had fallen since his interrogation of Dosu, and most of the people were off the streets.
Not that it made much difference; this area of the village was sparsely populated during the day anyway. It was amongst the most heavily damaged by the Kyubi attack, and although it had since been rebuilt it was now one of the poorer districts in Konoha since no one wanted to live there.
It wasn't too far from his old apartment actually.
Naruto stopped above the entry to the storm drain. According to Desu, the entry to Orochimaru's safe house was below in the sewer.
Naruto knelt down, removed the cap from the drain, and tossed the iron cap aside.
"Here goes nothing."
"Let's go," Akeginu replied.
Dropping down into the drain Naruto landed on the water below. Akeginu appeared beside him a second later.
"The entrance should be just down here," said Naruto.
They made there way through the large sewer. There wasn't a lot of light, just enough to see.
After several minutes of walking they found what they looking for — an iron door located in the wall of the sewer.
"Here it is," said Naruto.
He studied the door for any obvious signs of a trap. Finding nothing, Naruto slide the door open. He winced as the door scraped along the stone.
Well…now every one in the village knows where I am.
Akeginu was giving him an annoyed look.
Shaking her head, he heard her mutter something about 'idiocy'. "I'm going to go on ahead and scout. Try not to die."
"I appreciate your faith in me," Naruto remarked sarcastically as Akeginu disappeared into the tunnel beyond the door.
The tunnel was narrow, not much more than a meter wide. There were lights sporadically located at intervals along the tunnel's ceiling.
Naruto quickly made two shadow clones that immediately turned around and went back up the sewer. One would go to the Hokage and notify him of this development, the other would inform Yūgao.
He might want to take down Kabuto personally, but there wasn't any point in not taking proper precautions. Not to mention he needed to cover his tracks encase things ended badly.
Drawing his katana Naruto made his way forward with caution. He wouldn't be able to use his battōjutsu in the tunnel. It was too narrow to allow for the arc of his draw.
Step by step, he continued forward for several minutes. The tunnel arced left and right a few times, not enough to disorient him, but moving around the corners in such a small space was a nightmare. They were complete blind spots.
Eventually the tunnel opened into a small room where he found Akeginu waiting for him.
"Took your time, Naruto."
"Well, not all of us are dead you know."
Naruto looked down at the trap door on the floor. "Ready?"
Why do I feel like a fox following a snake down a rabbit hole?
"Damn it, Naruto."
Yūgao sprinted through the streets following Naruto's shadow clone to Kami knows where.
The clone had arrived a few moments to tell her that Naruto had found a lead on Kabuto.
First, Hayate, and now this…Naruto.
She hadn't meant to blow up at him this afternoon. She had let the stress of the situation get to her.
She just hoped Naruto didn't do anything too reckless.
The clone stopped ahead of her, looking down she saw an open storm drain. "Is this it?"
The clone nodded its head.
"Okay." Drawing her katana, Yūgao readied herself and jumped into the darkness below.
Naruto jumped back as several spears erupted from the floor.
That had been the third trap he'd avoided since descending into the safe house. Truly, though, it was more like a small operations base than a safe house.
"Weren't you supposed to scout ahead for traps?" Naruto asked Akeginu.
"I'm a spirit Naruto, I don't have any weight outside the ruins. How I'm supposed to detect pressure pads?" She sounded a little annoyed. "I think the more pertinent question is why are you setting them off in the first place?"
It was a good question. Akeginu had trained him to move across a nightingale floor without making a sound. The rice paper training had been one of the more frustrating times in his life.
He shouldn't be setting off any pressure pads. That meant…
"Akeginu, I think these traps are seal based."
"What do you mean?"
"It's not my weight that's setting them off, it's my chakra."
"Can't you suppress your chakra."
"Not to the extent that I can fool physical contact." The tiles that were setting off the traps must have had seals on the bottom.
Looks like I'll just have to keep aware, thought Naruto as he tilted his head out of the way of an incoming poison laced dart.
20 minutes later
Naruto and Akeginu found themselves in what must have been the main room in the base.
The room was a large square space with no furniture or notable features besides the cold stone floor on which they stood. In the middle of each wall was an iron door, much like the one back in the sewer.
In the background you could just make out the sound of running water. They weren't to far from the storm drain.
"Good, you've arrived," called a voice from the shadows. "I'm glad to see you've conformed to my expectations."
Naruto looked around the room trying to locate the source of the voice, but there was something off about the acoustics of the room.
"I wasn't sure if you would get my little message. At least Dosu proved to be useful for something after all."
"Yakushi Kabuto?" Naruto called out. He could vaguely remember the spy's voice from the chūnin exams, but it was had to tell since the tone of the voice was so different.
"One and the same. It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Naruto-kun."
That was obviously designed to draw a reaction out of him so he let pass without comment.
"Now, now Naruto-kun let's not be rude. Your friend Hayate wasn't very co-operative, he had to learn the hard way."
Naruto didn't dare trust Kabuto. He knew any of the words that came out of his mouth were likely designed to unsettle him.
"Do you intend to hide behind those speakers all night?" Naruto asked. His senses told him that Hayate was not in the room, but as far as the other rooms were concerned he was blind. Something, likely fuinjutsu, was blocking him from sensing anything beyond the walls.
"Very good, Naruto. Why don't you come and find me so we can get better acquainted. Pick a door. "
He refrained from asking Akeginu anything just encases Kabuto had eyes on him. Instead, he indicated to the left with his head. She would take that door, and he would take the right. She would be able to move much faster without him anyway. Perhaps she could locate Kabuto and save him a lot of time.
With the path forward decided Naruto made his way to the door on the right.
Kabuto smiled as Naruto began to move. Now the game could truly begin.
His initial efforts at uncovering information about Naruto had proved largely unsuccessful. Most either hated the boy, or were so indifferent that they had absolutely no idea about him. It also seemed that Naruto had conducted a misinformation campaign over a number of years; the records regarding him ranged from inaccurate to down right false.
He didn't mind though, he enjoyed the challenge.
Gekkou Hayate was the first real opportunity he got to get any real information on Naruto, and now he had a chance to gather first hand information. Perfect.
A sensor went off, drawing his attention.
Hey now, what's this? It seemed someone else wanted to join in.
Yūgao avoided a blast of boiling hot steam that came from a nearby pipe.
This place is a death trap.
She had lost the clone several hundred yards back, just after she entered the trap door. Wherever she was it was, it was layered with traps.
Fortunately, she hadn't come across Naruto or any evidence to suggest he had sustained injury.
If he still alive when I find him, I'm going to make him pay for this.
Still, a lead was a lead. If it managed to find Hayate…She just had to keep pushing forward.
Naruto found himself inside what appeared to be an armoury of some variety.
Or at the very least what used to be an armoury. Most of the weapons seemed to be missing or in need of repair.
He continued walking through the armoury, passing various bits of old ANBU gear. When he got near the end of the room he paused. He wasn't alone.
He rolled to the right, neatly dodging a blow from behind.
"Not bad, Naruto-kun," said a mocking voice from the shadows. A moment later the attacker revealed himself. The silver haired spy stood casually before him, scalpel in hand.
"Silent type, huh."
Naruto ignored him and concentrated on his adversary. Kabuto didn't look much different from the last time he saw him. The spy's still wore his black-rimmed circular glasses. His dark purple clothes hadn't changed since they chūnin exam either. In fact Kabuto looked exactly the same. No one looking at him would believe him to be an A rank ninja.
The mark of a good spy, thought Naruto.
"You know, we have a lot in common, you and I," Kabuto said as he to took a step towards Naruto.
"Originally I thought you were one of Danzo's lot, but I can tell you're different. Not quite as dead inside as his ninja. No, you're like me, an outsider. Someone who despite protecting the village has been excluded by it.I'm interested in finding out who you work for."
Naruto stayed quiet during Kabuto's speech. He had yet to figure out the man's angle. What was he hoping to achieve with this?
"Now, why don't you show me what you're really capable o—"
His blade cut straight through Kabuto's neck before the medical nin even finished his sentence. The silver haired spy's eyes opened wide with surprise before they turned dark brown, and the spy's body crumbled into mud revealing itself to be nothing more than a doton clone.
I could barely tell the difference.
It was an excellent clone. It also suggested that Kabuto had a strong doton affinity.
Naruto glanced towards the door at the end of the room.
Onto the next one then.
This next room was larger than the previous one and showed evidence of having recently been used.
A few working computers lay around the room, as well as other pieces of monitoring equipment. Several medical tables lay in the middle of the room as well.
However they weren't what attracted Naruto attention. No, what attracted Naruto attention was the other presence in the room.
"N-Naruto….is that you?"
There, crouched up against the wall was someone he though he'd never see alive again.
The kenjutsu user looked a little worse for wear, showing signs of having been quite badly injured, but it was definitely him.
"Naruto (cough), help me up. We need to get out of here."
Naruto made his way over to Hayate, and helped the man to his feet.
Hayate went to thank Naruto, but his eyes widened in surprise as Naruto drove the point of his katana straight through his chest.
Naruto withdrew the katana roughly, and Hayate fell back against the wall.
However, instead of falling to the ground dead, 'Hayate' leant up against the wall and started laughing uncontrollably.
"My first time using that technique in the field, and I get found out straight away. What a shame."
Hayate face melted off replaced by the smiling visage of Kabuto. (5)
Naruto wasn't surprised, he had spent enough time around Hayate to recognise the man's chakra signature. He knew from the moment he set eyes on him that he wasn't Hayate, though he still had no idea how Kabuto made such a convincing mask. It wasn't a henge.
What did surprise Naruto though was that instead of bleeding to death, Kabuto seemed fine, which was not the standard reaction to being stabbed in the chest with a katana.
Naruto's sharp eyesight picked up traces of steam around the spot where he had stabbed Kabuto.
What is that? A jutsu?
Kabuto saw where he was looking, and he smiled even wider. "Impressed. You could say that this is my ultimate technique, In'yu Shōmetsu(Yin Healing Wound Destruction)."
Naruto didn't need to hear anymore. It was obviously a medical ninjutsu of some variety, and an incredibly powerful one at that.
He immediately appeared straight in front of Kabuto, and his katana flew from its sheath intent on removing Kabuto's head.
Much to Naruto surprise he found his sword strike blocked by Kabuto's palm of all things.
Naruto quickly spotted the shimmering blue light — a tell tale sign of chakra —around Kabuto's hand.
Did he just block my battōjutsu with a chakra scalpel?
The notion was ridiculous.
Kabuto went on the offensive, his blue hands flying at Naruto at speeds he could just barely keep up with.
Naruto made sure to keep his blade between him and Kabuto's hands. He knew what chakra scapels were used for, and how they could make cuts inside the body without actually making an incision. Those things could easily sever his tendons or arteries.
He had never heard of them being used in combat before though.
Kabuto continued to push Naruto, but Naruto wasn't giving any ground. They were at a stalemate, Kabuto needed to get in close but Naruto was keeping the spy at bay with the reach advantage afforded to him by his katana.
Naruto knew he could end this if he had time to use Kamataichi, but that was a mid range technique, and he doubted Kabuto would afford him the luxury of time and space.
Therefore he needed to create some space.
Genjutsu: Kakushi Ken (Genjutsu: Hidden Blade)
The length of Naruto's blade shortened marginally. It might not seem like much, but in a fight of this level it could make all the difference.
Nothing happened at first, the stalemate continued, but soon wounds started appearing on Kabuto's body.
He saw Kabuto frown as his katana cut into his bicep.
Kabuto glanced sharply at Naruto then smirked. Jumping backwards Kabuto he heard Kabuto whisper, "Kai."
As the words left Kabuto's mouth another inch of metal appeared on Naruto katana.
Naruto responded by sending a shuriken Kabuto's way.
Kabuto tilted his head to the side intending on allowing the projectile to fly harmlessly past his head, but his eyes widened as Naruto made several famous hand seals
Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Technique)
The shuriken multiplied by hundreds, each one as deadly as the other.
Kabuto dived to the ground, but wasn't able to avoid them all collecting several shuriken in the arm and leg.
He heard Kabuto grunt in pain as he collided with the ground.
The wall behind Kabuto was painted black with shuriken.
Using his first real chance Naruto brought his fingers to his lips intent on finishing Kabuto off, but the the spy had already disappeared out the door.
He certainly moves well for a man with a dozen shuriken stuck in him.
The clanging of the iron door against the stoned wall showed Naruto exactly where his prey had ran.
Naruto promptly followed the blood on the ground into the next room.
He had Kabuto on the run, and intended to finish the spy off.
This room was empty though, and both doors were closed.
The trail of blood also ended halfway into the room.
He sent a pulse though the room, but like earlier the walls prevented him from sensing what was beyond them.
Deciding to try the door to the left, Naruto reached for the door handle, but stopped as Akeginu came through the door, literally.
"Stop! Don't take that one Naruto."
"It's rigged to blow from the other side. There's explosive tags all over that room."
"He's through the other door then?"
Naruto turned and faced the other door, but instead of opening it immediately he indicated to Akeginu that she should go through.
There was no telling if Kabuto rigged this one as well, or had some type of trap pre-prepared.
Akeginu phased through the door. She was gone a moment then reappeared.
"He's in here Naruto."
He immediately opened the door and found himself in the room he and Akeginu had started in.
Kabuto was standing at the opposite end of the room. About a dozen or so bloodied shuriken lay at his feet. The distinct green glow of the mystic palm technique shone in Kabuto's right hand.
"Ready for round—"
A giant ball of earth impacted right where Kabuto was standing. Unfortunately, the spy had managed to jump back just before the jutsu
A moment later Yūgao appeared next to Naruto.
"Good you're okay," she said to Naruto. He could see the relief in her eyes.
Why does everyone keep thinking I'm going to die?
Naruto gave her a quick nod in recognition, but kept his eyes on Kabuto. He wouldn't put it past the spy to use Yugao as a distraction, he knew he would if he was in Kabuto's position.
However, the spy was at this very moment at a huge disadvantage. There was no way he would be able to take on the two of them, yet didn't seem too concerned by this latest development.
"Let's make things a little bit more fair shall we."
I don't like the sound of— shit.
A shadow descended from the roof, and landed right next to Kabuto.
The identity of the newcomer caused Yūgao, and even Naruto to stare on in shock. The shadow was Gekkou Hayate.
"Hayate?" Yūgao called out in obvious concern.
Naruto glanced between Kabuto and Hayate. This wasn't Kabuto in disguise like before. He immediately sent out of pulse of chakra, and found that this was indeed Gekou Hayate, but something was off about him. Hayate's chakra felt sick, like something was wrong with it.
"Hayate," Yūgao called out to him again.
Naruto saw Hayate reach for his blade, "Yūgao-sensei!"
Fortunately Yūgao had enough awareness to block the incoming strikes.
To Naruto, Hayate's movements seemed stiff, off, and sluggish compared to how he usually moved.
No matter, he needed to handle this before it got out of hand. Naruto palmed a kunai and sent it flying towards Hayate's leg. However, it was taken out mid flight by a scalpel hurled by Kabuto.
"Now, now. Let's leave the couple to their business. We have our own matters to settle."
Naruto blocked an attack as Kabuto forced Naruto away from Yugao and Hayate.
He managed to keep her in sight despite Kabuto's best attempts. She was deflecting Hayate's attacks comfortably, but making no effort to go on the offensive. Understandable, but it was probably going to get her killed.
"Naruto!" Akeginu called out. She had positioned herself near where Yūgao and Hayate were engaged. "He has explosive tags all over his back."
It took a moment to register, then Naruto felt the fluctuation in Kabuto's chakra, and put the two together.
He immediately flickered away from Kabuto, opening up some distance between the two of them. He could use shunshin more easily now that he was in the bigger room.
Before Kabuto could pull off his trap, Naruto flicked an ebon rope out towards Hayate. The wire wrapped tightly around the man's leg. Twisting sharply, Naruto used his momentum to fling the jōnin across the room, and away from Yūgao.
The resulting explosion shook the entire room.
Naruto covered his mouth with his sleeve so he didn't breath in the dust that now covered the entire room.
Kabuto must have had at least a dozen explosive tags hidden on Hayate to cause this big of an explosion.
And what the hell was going on with Hayate? Attacking Yūgao, the stiff movements…some kind of mind control jutsu?
Naruto narrowed his eyes and tried to see through the thick cloud of grey dust, but he wasn't having much luck. The explosion had also disorientated him a little, and left his ears ringing.
He immediately sent out a pulse of chakra. Yūgao was where she was before the explosion, about ten meters to his left. She was moving about, so she was relatively okay.
Hayate's signature had disappeared as expected, and Kabuto was —
Naruto's katana flew up and intercepted the scalpel, however Kabuto predicted this and his other hand brushed across Naruto's wrist.
Naruto felt a sharp pain in his right wrist and a second later his katana fell from his grip. Kabuto had just severed a tendon in his wrist.
The next moment Kabuto had a chakra scalpel levelled at directly at Naruto's throat.
Naruto froze; he could feel the chakra against his skin. It would only take a slight movement from Kabuto and his jugular would be cut.
"You lose, Naruto-kun," announced Kabuto. His voice was thick with the mocking, and fake politeness Naruto had come to expect from him.
"I don't think so," Naruto replied calmly as he looked straight into Kabuto's eyes and activated his dōjutsu. It was time to stop messing around.
His mystic eyes made quick work of Kabuto's chakra scalpels. One moment the silver haired spy's hands were glowing a faint blue the next the chakra had disappeared completely.
Naruto didn't let the opportunity go to waste.
He immediately brought his one hand up close to his face, and released the tiny satchel on the inside of his sleeve.
A fine white powder appeared in his palm, and Naruto blew it straight into Kabuto's face.
Kabuto coughed in surprise, but that cough turned into a painful gasp as Naruto's poison took effect.
Naruto didn't stop there. While Kabuto was choking, two of the fingers on his left hand flicked in Kabuto's direction.
From those two fingers, two invisible wires arced towards Kabuto.
Kabuto right arm was severed at the elbow as the ebon ropes cut straight through flesh and bone.
Kabuto fell backwards into the dust cloud, and out of Naruto's vision, the blood from his right arm spraying all over Naruto.
Naruto whipped his hand in the direction Kabuto had disappeared, and the two ropes arced back around. His swept the ropes right across the area Kabuto had faded into, but didn't feel his ropes cut through flesh.
Damn it…I can't see anything.
He drew in a deep breath, making sure not to cough on the dust.
Futon: Daitoppa (Wind Release: Great Breakthrough)
A large blast of wind erupted from his mouth immediately clearing the area in front of him of dust.
Naruto eyes gazed across the area before him. There was plenty of blood, an arm even, but no Kabuto.
A quick pulse of chakra informed Naruto that Kabuto had fled the room. He briefly considered pursuing the spy. He would at least be able to follow the trail of blood, however Kabuto knew these tunnels much better than he did. He doubted he would be able to catch him.
"Naruto!" Yūgao's voice called out from behind him.
He turned around; the stone coloured dust was still covering the room. He took another breath and released another gust of wind clearing the dust.
Not far from where he stood was Yūgao, her sword drawn in a defensive position.
Her eyes quickly looked picked him out.
"Naruto, all that blood—
He pretended not to see Akeginu breath a sigh of relief out of the periphery of his vision. She was standing not far from Yūgao.
Naruto frowned, he was missing something.
Ah, there it is.
A few feet from him lay his katana. He knelt down and retrieved his blade. No doubt he would get an earful from Akeginu later. A swordsman never drops his blade.
He awkwardly sheathed his katana with his one good hand. He still had no feeling in his right. By his estimate it would take an hour or so before the tendons repaired themselves.
Naruto turned to where Yūgao was now looking. Across the other side of the room where he had flung Hayate was a giant heap of rubble. The wall had been brought down, and water was slowly seeping into the room.
While Yūgao stared at the sight in horror, Naruto walked over. There wasn't a trace of Hayate's body. The explosion had brought the entire western wall down.
Honestly, he doubted they would find anything. The explosion would have destroyed most of him, and the rubble would have hidden the rest.
He made to turn back to Yugao when a metallic flash of light caught his eyes. Not far from him Hayate's katana stood upright in the rubble.
What do you know? Naruto walked over a retrieved the blade. It was stuck into the rubble firmly, and it took a couple of tries to pull it free. He held the blade up with his left hand. Remarkably, it was still in good condition, and hadn't been damaged by the blast.
He made his way bake to Yūgao and handed her the katana. It was a small gesture, but he didn't know what else to do. What do you say to someone who just watched their lover die?
She grasped it with unsteady hands, and stared at it in silence.
Naruto waited beside her awkwardly.
"We should leave, sensei." Naruto spoke after a few minutes of silence. "The explosion would have destabilised the tunnels. We shouldn't linger."
Yūgao merely nodded her head in silence. She took one last look at the rubble, then turned her back on it, and made her way back up to the surface.
Naruto lingered a moment. He too looked back at the rubble. He might not have shown in much, but he respected the sick swordsman. The man was an excellent technician when it came to kenjutsu, and he was one of the few to ever treat Naruto just as himself. For that he had Naruto's respect.
With one last look at the rubble Naruto turned heel and followed Yūgao back up the tunnel, but not before grabbing Kabuto's arm. It wouldn't hurt to have at least some first hand evidence of Kabuto's presence.
Several tunnel systems across; a figure leant up against a stonewall in obvious pain.
Shit, shit, shit.
Kabuto tightened the bandage around his right arm, or what was left of it.
How had he lost?
I had his life in my hands, and he escaped. How?
He had been running the last moment over and over again in his mind. He had his chakra scalped pressed up right up against Uzumaki's jugular, and then his jutsu suddenly failed. Why?
He knew Uzumaki was somehow responsible. No one was that lucky, and he knew for certain that nothing happened on his end. He didn't make mistakes like that. Ever.
It was logical to conclude that Uzuamki had — and he had no idea how — cancelled his technique. Such a thing should be impossible, but he had learnt to dismiss such thoughts after spending time with Orochimaru. Some people were capable of anything.
Kabuto coughed up some blood. That poison Uzumaki hit him with had been a pain. Even now he could feel the burning sensation in his throat and eyes.
He had managed to counter the poison, barely. One didn't spend time with the two most dangerous poison users in the world without picking up a few things.
He didn't know how Uzumaki did what he did tonight, but he knew one thing for sure — he wanted it, and he would enjoy pulling the secrets from Uzumki's cold dead body.
Now…I need to get this arm taken care of.
3 hours later
Naruto exited from the Hokage tower.
Well that took a while.
The debrief took a bit longer than expected, but they had gotten things cleared up by the end of it.
Fortunately, he had a story prepared. It had been a simple matter of recounting to the ANBU officer how following his meeting with the Hokage about Kabuto, he had spotted the spy speaking with Dosu— who had conveniently disappeared without a trace.
He had trailed the two back to the ruins, while he sent several clones to notify his superiors. Textbook procedure.
Yūgao had been able to verify Kabuto's escape, but the fact that he had Kabuto's arm in his possession certainly made things easier. Particularly considering Kabuto wasn't well liked after taking out a team of ANBU earlier in the week.
However, he was surprised to find out that Hayate was likely dead the entire time. According to Yūgao, Kakashi had informed them that Kabuto was capable of reanimated the dead.
That was a little disconcerting.
Yūgao had already gone home to grieve, and he knew he wouldn't be seeing her for a few days. Although she had to be expecting the bad news after the Hayate disappeared, expecting at and being faced with the corpse of your dead lover were two different when you were forced to fight said corpse in armed combat.
It certainly didn't help that Kabuto escaped.
He didn't really know what he could do to help her at this stage. He had no experience with matters such as this. Maybe he could ask Akeginu, she would know.
Sighing, Naruto made his way back to the ruins. Speaking of Akeginu, she would want to have words with him, or at the very least go over the entire night in extreme detail.
It could have gone a lot worse than it did. Kabuto was capable of killing multiple ANBU, and he had fought the man on a battlefield of his choice. Considering the big advantage that afforded Kabuto, he knew he did well to come out on top.
It was a shame he didn't finish Kabuto off though.
I doubt that the last I've seen of him either.
"Naruto!" A voice called out form behind him.
He turned to find Shiho running down the street waving a sheet of paper.
She came to a stop right in front of him, hands over her knees drawing in deep breaths.
"—Cracked." Shiho took in another deep breath. "Code… old…old encryption…twenty years."
"Take a breath woman," Naruto said to Shiho, as he watched her with amusement. "I'm sure your news can wait few seconds."
As Shiho caught her breath, Naruto went over what Shiho just said. In the excitement of the night, he had almost forgotten about the book.
"We cracked the code," Shiho said once she had recovered.
"So I gathered. I thought you said I needed the combination?"
"I was wrong," Shiho admitted.
"You don't sound surprised," Shiho commented. "Why don't you sound surprised?"
"I'm sure you've been wrong before," Naruto said with a flat tone.
"Not me. Nuh-uh."
He found this woman to be rather amusing.
"Really?" He asked again.
Shiho nodded her head a couple of time, and adjusted her glasses for no reason.
"Didn't you have something to tell me?"
"Oh, right. The code."
"Yes, the code."
"We broke it."
"Oh, right." Shiho blushed in embarrassment. "Here you go."
She handed him a single sheet of paper.
"The code was an old encryption key from before the third shinobi war. It was so out of date that it wasn't in our system."
Before the third shinobi war, so at least twenty years, likely more.
Naruto looked at the page, "Was this all there is?"
"Ah…no. We've been a bit busy, and this wasn't priority," Shiho explained.
It was probably better that way. If the book had anything incriminating in it, which wasn't stretch considering where he found it, he would have to admit to at the very least finding it. He doubted the old man would believe it was his mothers.
"That's fine," Naruto said. He hadn't expected anything to come of this after all. "Thank you."
Naruto politely ignored the pink tinge in her cheeks, and bid her farewell. He was late to his debrief with Akeginu.
Back at the ruins, Naruto stared at the piece of paper Shiho had handed him. The digits in the corner of the page showed a date from well before he was born, sometime during the old man's first reign as Hokage if he wasn't mistaken.
The mission was a success, the Uzumaki clan is no more.
I met little resistance infiltrating Uzushiogakure. They were more concerned with the Kumo, Iwa and Kiri forces on their doorstep.
I commend whoever orchestrated that particular alliance. Who would have thought? Iwa, Kumo and Kiri working together.
The old hawk's prediction proved to be accurate. I was able to use the ensuing chaos and infiltrate deep into the village. Despite that assault I still encountered considerable resistance in the form of fuinjutsu based defences.
He was wise to give me this mission, despite whatever misgiving he may have about working with me, no one else would have been able to get through those defences alive. It seems the Uzuamki reputation as seal masters is well deserved. Not that I didn't already know that.
I was able to retrieve several valuable scrolls from the Uzumaki clan's library. I've already made several copies, the old hawk will want the originals.
I've keep several of the seals for my own collection. He won't know any better.
I plan to visit the village once the vultures are done picking that corpse clean. The Uzumaki's were amongst the oldest clan's on the continent. No doubt many of their secrets still remain undiscovered.
Naruto stayed silent as he finished reading the letter. Despite considerable effort on his part he was unable to discover anything worthwhile about the destruction of the Uzumaki clan. All he knew was that sometime between the second and third Shinobi war they were wiped out, with only scattered members such as his mother left alive. There was no information as to why or even how — in Konoha anyway.
He took another look at the paper then folded it away.
He would have to get the rest of that journal —as it appeared to be — decoded as quickly as possible,
(1) I'm not exactly sure if a flashlight was ever depicted in the manga, but they do have batteries, artificial lights and computers, so I think it is a reasonable assumption.
(2) Hayate's techniques come from ep 307, and 308 of the anime. Its not canon, but they are useful for fleshing out Hayate's and Yugao's fighting styles.
(3) The manga was a bit vague on whether these two knew each other. Regardless of that the entire incident before the start of phase 1 did have a sagged feel to it.
(4) Also known as wolfsbane, or aconitum.
(5) Kabuto never used this jutsu in canon, but given his skill set and his closeness to Orochimaru, it fits him preety well.
Kabuto wouldn't be Kabuto if he didn't survive one near death experience. He overstayed his welcome in canon once he went all necromancer on everyone, but I always though he was one of the better villains early on. He's just the type of guy you can dislike pretty easily. I think at this moment in Naruto's development he's a good opponent for Naruto. There are a lot of parallels between the two, both prefer use of deception instead of outright force, both fight with precision, and both are far more skilled and experienced than peers their own age. Kabuto is probably a little stronger at this stage mainly due to experience, but Naruto certainly has a better offensive arsenal.
Obviously, there was a bit of tension between Yūgao and Naruto in this chapter. Naruto's secrets have always been there between them, but this is really the first time one of his secrets has impacted on Yūgao personally. That's not to say Naruto telling her would have changed that, but Yūgao might not see it that way. There will be more on the fall out as far as Hayate's death goes in future chapters. Obviously it will hit Yugao harder than Naruto.
The Danzo stuff and the journal is part of the ground work I'm setting up for an original arc, and Naruto's eventual exodus.
Tune in next chapter for the chunin exam finals. I plan on splitting that into two chapters. One for the final, another for the invasion.