Disclaimer: Naruto and every character of the Naruto universe belongs to Kishimoto Masashi and companies whose names I don't know.
Applause goes for my precious beta readers: ImaginationJunkie1412, Duesal10, and Minatochan2
Original upload date: 15th of January 2014
Chance for a Prophecy
Chapter 25. – Those Who Break the Rules
The sun had tumbled over the horizon only minutes ago, painting everything in a girly pink and drawing long, abstract shadows everywhere. Also, in front of a certain brown haired girl who was quietly strolling the empty streets, a long shadow followed. The paths eagerly waited for the village to awaken from her slumber.
Rin Nohara let out a long sigh in the chilly morning and tucked a chocolate tuft behind her ear. Her lean fingers unconsciously brushed over the rough surface of the carefully hidden page in her pouch. The medic's shift with the research team had ended and she couldn't get any rest because of her wavering emotions and thoughts. They wouldn't let her sleep. So instead of tumbling in her bed all day, she decided to take a walk in the hope that it would settle her storming brain.
But it had the opposite effect. Up to this point, she only had a lot of questions, but with her free time, she had started to form theories. And each one of them were painful, filled with denial, suspicion, and treason. The more she thought, the weirder her conjured explanations became.
In the end, she found herself at her wit's end and without any idea who she could turn to for advice. Her first thought was her sensei, but Minato was way too involved already. His brother —making a sour grimace at the thought—had already wound him around his fingers. There was no way that her teacher could see everything clearly and objectively. Rin knew very well that Minato was happy beyond words when he had found out their relationship, that he still had a living family member. Hokage or not, his heart would shatter if she broke this illusion, even if it was all only a fake mirage.
Kushina was the same. She was already bound tightly within the cheerful and loudmouthed blond's grasp. She couldn't speak to the redhead either. Kakashi was out as well. Even if he was already a jounin, he wouldn't let go of any of his precious people.
Maybe Jiraiya… Rin vehemently shook her head even at the thought. The toad summoner was...well, he was Jiraiya. Even if he was one of the strongest shinobi walking the Earth, Rin doubted he would take the situation seriously. And he also held the blond deep inside his heart.
Only one man's image stayed in her mind, one who she was sure would take the situation and her findings seriously and consider the whole situation with a calm and clear mind. The Third Hokage had always been wise and calm. Due to the long life not many shinobi could live, he possessed the wisdom and experience to solve this mess. And peacefully. Despite her raging emotions Rin couldn't deny the fact that she still wanted to give the loudmouth one final chance to clear himself.
With the decision done, the girl took a sharp turn at the next corner to head toward a well known compound not far away from the Hokage tower. Her footsteps were soundless on the hard surface of thedirt road; only her skirt's soft ruffling broke the perfection of her movements. Civilians started to rise here and there while she headed toward her destination. The empty roads were slowly filled with life. The sweet smell of freshly baked confections floated in the air around her. Merchants ran to their shops to sell their goods, while housewifes hurried beside her to get fresh ingredients onto the breakfast table for their families.
While she was occupied with her thoughts, Rin reached her destination. Her eyes drifted up to read the kanji above her head, proudly shouting the owner of the compound. Rin let out a calming breath and raised her hand to knock on the antique, carved wooden door.
The loud knock echoed unnaturally along the road, and a frightened cat ran through the streets. The girl grimaced, but waited patiently for a response that thankfully came soon. The faint tapping sound of graceful footsteps reached her ears despite the early hour.
The door slowly opened to reveal a brown haired woman in her late forties or early fifties. Her long brown locks were tied into a high ponytail, and the lines around her dark eyes and mouth were already deeper than they should be. However, her intelligent, searching eyes told tales about her previous experience as a kunoichi. Rin made a low bow and waited for the woman to give her permission to talk.
"What can I do for you in this early hour young girl?"
"I am Nohara Rin and I would like to request a private audience with Sandaime-sama."
The woman frowned. "And about what would you like to talk with my husband?"
"I'm sorry, but it's… it's a private matter. I can only tell Hokage-sama himself."
"You are Minato's student aren't you?" Rin nodded and dark eyes seized her once more before a small smile appeared on the wrinkled face. "I'm sorry, but my husband is away with Enma. Now that he doesn't have duties as Hokage, he's got it in his head to start training again at his age. He won't be back for a month."
Rin's face saddened and she let out a long sigh. "I see."
"Do you want me to send him a message? It seems urgent."
The medic chewed on her lower lip and frowned. Then she shook her head. "No. It's not necessary. But please tell him when he gets back that I would like to talk with him."
Biwako nodded, and after a short casual chat, Rin was gone to walk down the road and mingle with the crowd on the main street.
"Hey Gaki! Get up! We got a mission." A light kick on Naruto's shin disturbed his nap. The blond cracked one annoyed eye open to glance up at Jiraiya, who was currently shrouding the warm beams of the sun from his body. With a displeased grunt, he sat up from the soft green grass and stretched his numb arms behind his neck with a wide yawn, continuously mumbling about bad timing and sweet dreams while Jiraiya rolled his eyes. When the blond finally gathered himself, they started to walk toward the city center and the Hokage tower.
"What's this mission is about?"
"Just a 'C' ranked escort to Wave. Nothing serious. We will be back in two weeks."
Naruto snorted in response and folded his arms in front of his chest dismissively. "'C' ranked missions are cursed. I'm waiting for when one of the Mist's Seven Swordsman will appear with a giant sword at my throat during one of these not serious 'C' ranked missions."
Jiraiya raised his brow with a doubting grimace. "Don't be ridiculous. Why would one of the Mist's Seven Swordsman appear on a 'C' ranked mission?"
Naruto couldn't help but snort at the irony. "Believe me, I'm not overreacting."
Jiraiya rolled his eyes once more while they stepped through the double door of the mission room. They settled next to Kakashi and Rin in the background to stoically watch a fresh genin team receive their next 'D' ranked mission. A wide smile spread on Naruto's face when one of them started to complain loudly about stupid, pointless assignments, but thanks to one of the chuunin behind the desk, the small hissy fit died down quickly. Minato beamed at the still nostalgically grinning Naruto as he handed a scroll to Jiraiya.
"Here are the details. An escort mission to Wave. Jiraiya, you will get some free time during the trip to deal with some…" Minato glanced to Naruto. "…other matters during the trip to Wave. Contact them for me. Maybe they have some new information on the subject." Jiraiya nodded as an answer while our time traveller was lost in his own world with an odd expression on his face, not aware of his surroundings. A familiar, sarcastic voice kicked Naruto out from his nostalgia. A voice he hadn't heard since he was a small kid and he really thought he wouldn't hear it again for long and peaceful years.
"That is just fantastic… Those would be my escorts? An old geezer, a cyclops, a kabuki girl and not to mention that idiotically grinning Sissy. "Naruto felt a vein on his forehead start to beat with the rhythm of his heart, while his right eyebrow twitched. Anger and fury raised inside his chest and not only because of the arrogant quirk. He felt a reassuring hand on his shoulder and he didn't have to turn around to know Jiraiya's eyebrow was twitching equally fast as his own. A small amount of carefully restrained killing intent brushed him from Kakashi's direction and only Minato's voice stopped him from jumping on the man then and there. The Hokage rested his chin on his folded fingers while he answered with a calm but icy tone.
"Just for your information: the 'Geezer' is one of Konoha's Legendary Sannin and my teacher; the 'cyclops' and the 'kabuki girl' are my prized students, while the 'Sissy' over there is my brother. You should consider yourself very lucky; you have received an elite team for the cost of a 'C' rank mission. As Hokage, I could charge this setup to an 'A' rank assignment considering that currently they are the only available team in higher caliber than genin, but if you still would like to complain, I can assign two genin teams as an escort instead of them. So I really advise you to restrain yourself from any further comment."
The man's mouth shut immediately, but his eyes narrowed behind the black sunglasses, eyeing the village leader with a superior expression on his face. For the first time since the man had stepped inside the mission room, Naruto turned to finally face the arrogant shrimp. Narrowed, azure blue eyes observed the short man in his late thirties. The man who caused so much trouble and pain in Wave, to Tazuna, Inari and countless others. His orbs sparked with a dangerous glint when their eyes connected for a moment behind the sunglasses. A smug smile spread across Gatou's face, then he shrugged and folded his arms in front of his chest.
Jiraiya cleared his throat. "We will depart in half-an-hour. Meet us at the village gates." Gatou grimaced at the commanding tone but didn't retort, marching out of the office without a word to the Hokage or to the newly hired team. This earned a raised eyebrow from Minato.
Naruto watched the scene with narrowed eyes; his emotions struggled inside him against the logical part of his mind. He had to defend THAT man? The man who would cause so much suffering to an entire nation? His mission was to defend Gatou from any danger?! No way in hell! A dangerous, animalistic growl escaped his lips in his frustration and it didn't go unnoticed by the others, especially not Minato.
"Hey, Toroku." Naruto flung his head toward his father with a still irritated face. "Try not to kill him during your assignment, okay? It won't do our reputation any good."
"I can't give my word on this one."
Naruto made a face while he responded. Minato started to muse that maybe sending two genin teams wouldn't be a bad idea.
Naruto marched through the busy streets, lost in his disturbed thoughts with his hands buried deep inside his pockets. He just grabbed his backpack from his room, which was always prepared in advance in case the need of sudden departure arose, and marched automatically toward his destination. He hadn't been paying too much to his surroundings, and he bumped into someone for the second time since he left the Hokage Mansion. After a short and embarrassed apology, he hopped onto the roofs to avoid another incident. Howeve r, there he suddenly spotted the cause of his misery.
An animalistic snarl ripped from his throat at the sight of Gatou, who walked on the streets of Konoha like he was some kind of ruler. The man sent pointed looks over the villagers who didn't step out of his way immediately; arrogance and superiority seemed to ooze from his pores. Naruto followed the man on the rooftops with a continuous grimace on his face until he reached his limit as Gatou grabbed an apple from a grocery stand and simply walked away. Naruto has to resist the urge to kick his fat ass into the dirt of the damn road, and after he let out a calming breath, gracefully hopped down to land in front of the man with folded arms, obvious anger spreading across his face.
"What do you want, dumbass?"
Blue eyes glinted dangerously. "Pay for that apple."
The businessman raised an eyebrow and a smug smile appeared on his face. "I don't know what you're talking about..." The vendor glanced over the counter with a frown on his face, eyeing the scene in front of his small grocery with a healthy amount of caution.
"I'm talking about that apple in your hand which you didn't even pay for. Konoha does not tolerate muggers. Pay or you will know the hospitality of Konoha's police." Gatou rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses, but after he quickly measured his situation, he tossed a handful of coins toward the vendor and walked away like nothing had happened before while ignoring the obvious stares following his short steps.
Naruto couldn't help himself; he just gaped in shock. How dare he!? His hands squeezed to fists and his teeth gritted from his rising anger, but after he let out another long, calming breath, he braced himself and followed Gatou from a distance on the crowded streets, monitoring his every move.
Unfortunately, he didn't do anything funny. Naruto would be really pleased if he could leave him to one of the Uchiha's hospitality. Which meant a black cell for an extended period. He let out a disappointed sigh and leaned against the wall of the guard stand, still eyeing Gatou with slitted eyes. He waited for the others to finally show up and hopefully free him from his troubled thoughts.
Thankfully he didn't have to wait for too long. Jiraiya hopped down from the village walls only a minute later, while Rin and Kakashi arrived in the next five minutes together with the rest of Gatou's caravan members. Even the always kind girl sent a narrowed glanced to their client. Naruto was watching with suspicious eyes as the small group of people arranged the well packed goods in the cart, following Gatou's barking commands, until finally everything was in order and the client hopped onto the box of the cart.
"Come on. I want to finish this business as soon as possible and get back home." The quartet let out a sigh and surrounded the irritating man to finally depart for their destination in the Land of Waves. Kakashi lead the way while Rin and Jiraiya walked on each side of the cart and last but not least, Naruto watched their back.
If you thought the traveling was painful, you underestimate the whining of a grown man. It was equal to that of a real torture session with Ibiki. Naruto's respect toward Jiraiya only grew as the white haired man calmly listened to Gatou's whining and complaining. He even tried to start a real conversation with the irritating shrimp. And his effort wasn't unnecessary;Gatou gladly shared seemingly unimportant information. However, to a spymaster like Jiraiya, they held a lot of small hints about very important issues concerning both the man and the other elemental nations. As Naruto knew clearly what the man was really dealing with, they just screamed trouble and begged for interference.
For the first hour, they had to listen to Gatou's continuous complaints about incompetent mercenaries who couldn't even defend themselves and about his money being thrown out a window by hiring them. A bunch of bandits had attacked his small caravan, probably in the hopes of gathering some expensive plunder from the cart. The mercenaries worked hard for their money and the bandits retreated, but Gatou had to hire new guards. Them. Naruto wasn't surprised when he overheard two of the caravan men murmuring that he simply left the injured on the road and ran to Konoha with his tail between his legs.
Thankfully, the shrimp didn't stop; the words flowed from his lips unguarded. Gatou was just starting to integrate into the underground trade businesses, taking advantage of the after-effects of war, and creating his own channels within the small countries. What worried Naruto the most though was that they were currently headed toward Wave where he had a meeting with the head of a shipping company. It would probably take almost a decade until Gatou could become a real threat to the citizens of the country, but if Naruto had the opportunity, there was no way he was going to sit on his hands and wait for the consequences. The question is: how on Earth would he prevent all of this from happening?
'Any ideas, fluffy?' Kurama's angry snort echoed inside his mindscape while they were slowly walking on the path.
"If you call me like that one more time, I'm going to go back to the good old days when I tried to find ways to eat you."The fox proceeded to flash teeth taller than most men.
'Sorry, sorry. Geez,you're snappy,' Naruto retorted casually, but a shiver crawled up his spine anyway. 'So, any ideas how to get rid of him?' Kurama closed his eyes and frowned.
"I have to admit, I also don't like that shrimp." Naruto shrugged and Kurama stayed silent, his face still set in a calculating frown.
"Do you want to kill him?" the fox asked gradually and carefully. The blond frowned while he thought about the possibility.
'I— No. Not if it isn't necessary.' Kurama let out a sigh and somehow it sounded relieved.
"Still the idealist." Naruto frowned and returned to watching the back of their client who continuously complained about the weather to Jiraiya.
"There is no way you can convince Gatou to give up his business,and you know this very well."
"There are two ways I can think of now. Get evidence and you can arrange a lengthy, hospitable stay for him in a cell…or if someone attacks, stand aside. Let him die." A frown appeared on Naruto's face. The first option was a long and slow one, and there was no guarantee that he would find anything. Gatou wasn't a fool. He would build up a whole underground empire in the future, deftly evading law enforcements with bribes or hired muscle. Naruto cocked his head to the side. Well, maybe Gatou was a fool. He had thought that with simple bandits he could get rid of trained shinob back theni. His hands clenched into fists at the memory while he gritted his teeth, lost in his mind for a minute until he shook his head to clear his thoughts.
The second option… Could he do it? Could he simply step to the side and abandon a mission? Could he bring shame to his village by letting his client die? Would it be any different if he simply stabbed him in the back while he was sleeping? He would still kill him, with or without his own hands. If he just stepped aside, he would be no better than a real murderer.
Naruto let out a long sigh. Then only one option remained. Get evidence against him. Evidence that he was a threat to Fire country and to Konoha.
'We are going to investigate.' Kurama rolled his eyes in his mindscape.
"Why am I even trying to give you a second option if I already know you will choose the first one…"
'Because you've got too much time to think.' Kurama didn't answer, and Naruto tapped Jiraiya's shoulder to gain his attention. They let the trio pass them to gain some distance and only then did Naruto open his mouth.
"Jiraiya, I know it's going to sound odd, but I think something is off about that man." The sennin nodded, his eyes wandering toward the back of their client.
"I know what you mean. If you discount that he is arrogant and irritating, he still reeks of trouble." Naruto nodded with a frown on his face, not sure how to continue.
"Try to plant more suspicion in Jiraiya. He is a spymaster, a better investigator than you could ever hope to be. He's just like a small child if you raise his curiosity. He won't let the subject slip by until the puzzle is solved."
"Something's really strange about his businesses. He travels a lot, but he isn't a simple merchant. Like… I don't know, like he's building something in the background."
"That almost sounded intelligent,even if it came from your mouth." Naruto resisted the urge to snap back or to roll his eyes; his orbs were locked on Jiraiya's thoughtful face, waiting for him to reply.
"Maybe..." Jiraiya answered slowly with a wondering expression on his face as he jogged to catch up with the cart.
Naruto watched his godfather as he casually chatted with Gatou, but his eyebrows started to twitch when he felt a pair of stabbing him from behind. He glanced to the side and gave a raised eyebrow to the frowning Rin.
"What? Is there something on my face?"
Rin let out a not-very-womanly snort and turned her head. "N-no. I was just thinking."
Naruto gave her a confused look before he shrugged and turned back to his previous business and watched Jiraiya in the hopes of picking up something important from their conversation. However, Rin's eyes traveled toward him once more with a frown on her fine features.
For five long days, nothing happened. The only interesting thing that occurred was when a scared fox burst out from a bush next to the road, making a tense Rin almost jump out of her skin.
Rin… Thinking about that girl, she had been acting strange lately. Whenever she thought Naruto wasn't paying attention, he could feel her chestnut eyes on him, and he desperately tried to ignore the nudging feeling. She was tensed and not just that one time when she was so occupied with her thoughts that she hadn't heard Jiraiya's command.
They stopped at several small towns and Gatou disappeared with all the stealth of a shinobi, but Naruto could follow him easily. Or more like one of his clones followed him, lurking in the shadows of the underground and even diving in a small pond at one point. However, only small envelopes were exchanged; short, seemingly pointless sentences were told between Gatou and the men and women he had met. Strange as it sounded, Gatou interacted with quite average looking vendors and shopkeepers. However, all of them seemed to be wary of the arrogant shrimp.
The caravan, after dragging the whole cart into a big ship, finally reached it's destination: a bigger village on the shores of Wave country.
All of them were standing in front of a long wooden fence, waiting for the guards to finally finish checking their papers and let them in. When the middle aged villager finally trailed back to the post and the two-sided wooden gate opened, Naruto was annoyed beyond words. They had been standing there for a long half-hour and only Kurama's continuous threats about his painful death should he try anything restrained him from simply jumping over the wooden fence and giving the guard a kick to speed up the process.
The cart's wooden wheels squeaked as they turned on the dirt road, the soil hardened as stone by hundreds, maybe thousands of foot and cartwheels during the decades. the soil nearly hardened to stone by decades of hundreds and thousands of carts and travelers trudging through. Enormous, vicious rain clouds hovered above their heads, threatening to soak them to their bones if they didn't reach shelter in time.
For Naruto, the biggest surprise was that the country wasn't anything like he remembered from his childhood. The shops were full with goods and the streets were crowded by people, even with the threat of a rainstorm hanging above their heads. There were no signs of the low economy he had seen when he was there in the future. Moreover, the village actually looked even wealthier than some of the others he had already visited in this timeline.
Thankfully, the sky fell the moment they put their feet inside the hotel. The four shinobi quickly occupied the plain room next to Gatou's and Naruto was finally able to relax. But, to his annoyance, his peace didn't last long. A soft creak interrupted his dreams in the dead of the night.
His eyes cracked open when the low squeaking sound of an opening door mercilessly stabbed the silence around him. Naruto let out a weary sigh and straightened himself on the bed, his ears perking up to look for the source of the sound.
Gatou was sneaking out from his room. A sly smile spread across Naruto's face in an instant.
The teen slowly and silently sneaked out from the bed, but his movements were followed by Jiraiya's sharp eyes. "And where do you think you're going?" the toad sage whispered.
Naruto shot a glance over his shoulder as he mouthed his answer. 'Gatou is sneaking out. I'm going to follow him.' Jiraiya didn't answer, instead he just sighed and fell in line behind his future godson to step into the shadows.
They didn't have to shadow Gatou's steps for long; the sneaky businessman reached a run down pub at the shore of the village in ten minutes, not really caring who might see him. The two shinobi silently slunk up to the rooftops and settled down in a dark corner on one of the beams, taking the opportunity to finally analyze their surroundings.
Naruto had to clap his hands over his mouth to stop himself from yelling out-loud when he recognized a man who stood straight next to a run-down counter, silently sipping his sake from a not-very-dependable dirty cup. The half-face mask Naruto remembered was now uselessly hanging on the side of the shinobi's quilted face. Gatou stepped closer to the man and the mask was back in its proper place before Gatou even reached the shinobi.
Jiraiya trailed the blond's wide eyes and furrowed his brow when he also recognized the shinobi from his own bingo book.
"Troublesome," the sage muttered.
Naruto himself wouldn't be able to express his feelings any better than Jiraiya by borrowing Shikamaru's words. Indeed, if the man managed to detect them at all, everything would be troublesome. It was hard enough for them to get rid of him in his original timeline, and Naruto was sure that Kakuzu would give them a run for their money also in this timeline with Naruto unable to use his full strength.
Jiraiya frowned and made a side glance toward his blond companion. "You knew him?"
Naruto refused to answer; only his eyes narrowed into slits as all his senses were glued on the missing nin under them.
"What do you want?" Kakuzu grunted to Gatou, who lazily occupied the empty seat next to the mismatched man. The shrimp was not aware, or most likely not caring, that he could have waltzed into his own death.
"I heard from my connections that you're always up for some great deals. I would like to offer you one."
"I'm not interested in amateurs," the missing nin grunted once more and turned his back toward the arrogant Gatou. This was quite a thing from a missing nin and the gesture only showed more of how Kakuzu was utterly despising the businessman, not even thinking he was any kind of threat to his life. Exposing your back to a shinobi was foolish, but to Gatou, it was like trying to get rid of an annoying fly. That is what Gatou was in this timeline: a sticky, annoying fly that was continuously buzzing into your ears and refused to let you sleep. Naturally, the businessman didn't take his previous answer as a "no".
"I'm currently traveling with two powerful shinobi who-" Gatou couldn't finish his sentence. His throat was gripped by a strong arm and his dumpy body was easily raised from the ground. The man desperately crawled on the missing nin's sleeve, trying to free himself, but it was fruitless. His head slowly turned blue as Kakuzu raised him closer toward his own face.
"I said: I. Am. Not. Interested. Understood?" Gatou eagerly tried to nod, but the hand around his throat restrained him from doing so. Vibrant green eyes peered into his own fading pair when no answer came.
With his last breath, Gatou desperately tried to squeeze out his final words, "Two Konoha...S-shinobi. Each...over forty million…r-ryö." The grip on his throat suddenly disappeared and his head connected with the hard surface of the floor with a loud knock. It was strange, but nobody gave a second glance to the scene. The bartender continued to get rid of a dirt speck from a glass he had been shining ever since the missing nin stepped inside the bar.
Kakuzu let Gatou gather himself and catch his breath, waiting for him with his arms folded in front of his chest until the man straightened and stopped coughing.
"Maybe I'm interested. The names."
"Only after we made the deal. I'll give you the names and their location for half of their bounty on their heads." The missing nin raised one of his eyebrows, but after a hesitant minute while he weighed his thoughts, nodded.
"I'll give you five percent and you can have your miserable life. That is my deal."
Gatou's face scrunched up in a displeased grimace, but after he saw the man towering above him once more, he nodded. He had already cursed the minute when this idea popped up in his head a dozen times. But he'd still receive a reasonable amount of money for his information and he wouldn't need them anymore since they had reached their destination.
"I'm traveling with a team of Konoha shinobi. Three have got a bounty fee on their heads-"
"The names. One by one. I'll decide if they're worthy of my interest," Kakuzu interrupted Gatou impatiently, making the business man gulp.
"One of the youngest shinobi in history who gained a bounty fee on his head. He is young, but they already started to call him the Copy Cat. A million ryö on his head. His affinity is lighting and fire, his ninjutsu is already equal to a seasoned jounin despite his young age. Good, but not worthy enough for my time. Hope the other's will be more to my liking." Kakuzu sat down and grabbed his bottle of sake to refill his empty cup and gestured to Gatou to continue. The mask that had been previously covering his face was gone, revealing his mismatched face and the stitches where his mouth should be. The businessman took a shaky step backward, but with time, he braced himself. It was already too late to think of a plan B.
"Jiraiya of the Densetsu no Sannin."
"That sounds much better. He's got fifty million on his head currently. His affinity is earth and fire along with a powerful summon. A powerful opponent." Kakuzu made a wondering expression, slowly sipping his sake. "I could use his heart. It must be strong to have belonged to the Toad Sage. The last one?"
Gatou eagerly presented the name, "The Hokage's brother, Namikaze Toroku."
The missing nin furrowed his brow for a second before he nodded. "One of the newest additions of the bingo books and he's already got thirty-five million ryö on his head. I have no information on his abilities, but there are whispers that he was the one who killed Orochimaru. The toad summoner and the Hokage's little brother are interesting targets. I'll let you live and I'll give you your five percent dividend. Now get out of here. I can't stand your face and you're just wasting my time and money."
A smirk spread across Gatou's face, but it slipped into a confused expression in the next moment. "Wait, you don't even know where to find them."
"Oh, that information is unnecessary." Kakuzu gradually glanced up to the high beams where Naruto and Jiraiya were lurking under the dark shadows. A smirk spread across the missing nin's face, the stitches on both sides of his mouth twisting the expression into something from another word.
"Jiraiya of the Sannin and… Namikaze Toroku. You two are worthy of my time."
"I told you C rank missions are cursed," Naruto grumbled as he tensed his muscles. His eyes never left the smirking missing nin under them. Jiraiya didn't answer, instead shrugging and gracefully hopping down to land in a low stance. But Naruto's serious expression scrunched up into an annoyed grimace as his teacher slowly turned, letting his long white hair follow the motion and whirl around him in a theatrical way. His hands were already moving in a dancing motion, preparing his debut.
"Beware! For he who takes the hearts of lonely women, the savior of the vulnerable, the toad sage of Mount Myoboku, the great Jiraiya of the Densetsu no Sannin has arrived! Prepare yourself for-"
The blond let out a long, weary sigh and likewise landed beside his grandfather's left side, interrupting him before he could warm up and really start his flashy, not to mention, unnecessary show.
"Hey, old pervert! It's not not the best time for your kabuki performance ya know?"
"Brats don't know respect these days," Jiraiya grunted with a pout on his face, but he still lowered himself into a graceful stance close to the ground. "And I've got one thing for you too." The toad summoner shot a glare toward Gatou, who had already run toward the farthest corner of the pub and tried to cover himself behind a brawny figure. "We're quitting. You're on your own until your fat ass will be dragged back to Konoha for what you've done. You'll face Konoha's wrath for selling us to a missing nin."
A wide grin spread across Naruto's face. "Hey, can I still kick his fat ass?"
"The Uchiha police will give that ass-kicking to him."
A pout appeared on Naruto's face, but he didn't have time to retort. The place exploded as the missing nin flung into action. They responded in kind.
Dust, dirt, broken boards and beams covered the whole area that used to be a pub. People yelled and cried as soon as they realized what was happening around them. A brunette clung tightly to Naruto's clothes, wide grey eyes scanning the area that used to be her workplace.
"What… What did you do? What did you do to my pub?!" The woman whimpered, but her voice was on the verge of screaming.
"Hey, I saved your life!" Naruto protested with a grimace.
"But my workplace! How should I live now?!"
The blond shook his head and let out a sigh. "I bet Boss is going to rebuild this place. Just hang on. I have to go after them." The clone put down the brunette and turned toward the edge of the woods.
Another explosion shook the ground. The bunshin made one last side-glance toward his replicas who were trying to hush the other customers. He smirked when one of his copies send a kick toward the frozen Gatou's butt. The businessman flinched, not really noticing that one of the dark lenses of his sunglasses laid in a dozen shards under his knees. Another clone hopped next to the still frozen client and with one efficient chop of his hand, Gatou was out cold, probably never having comprehended what happened around him in the last minute.
When the clone was sure that nobody was killed or seriously injured, he dashed into the thick woods to give a helping hand to his creator. When he finally reached a large clearing, he could only steal Shikamaru's words.
"Troublesome a zillion times."
A dozen clones had been trying to get rid of each beating heart of the missing nin. Sinister black forms had been dashing through the clearing, attacking and retreating. Lightning chakra milled deep, long and black rips into the soft soil. Wind chakra shattered the trees of the never ending woods, sending millions of leaves falling over the area like soft snow on a December night. Earthen spikes stabbed through the landscape causing one of the clones to vanish from existence with a loud puff, leaving behind nothing else of his being other than a slowly floating cloud of white chakra.
Naruto fluidly rolled to the side to avoid a vicious water dragon that rushed out from the real Kakuzu's body, while Jiraiya flung to the side to dodge the effects of an earth release. The blond snapped his head left and right, desperately trying to dig every bit of information he remembered from his fight in the past/future/ whatever with Kakuzu.
He glanced toward the dark figure with the spike-like shoulder and horned mask. Lightning. His azure eyes swept toward the one with the red mouth. Fire. His pools went to examine the one with the wing-like things. Wind. His eyes moved toward the last black puppet and his brows furrowed. That was the first heart Kakashi and the other took down and Kakuzu himself is using water jutsu. This leaving back only one possibility. Earth.
Lightning, fire, wind, water and earth. Kakuzu had every elemental affinity, but Naruto was really glad now for Kakashi's strenuous training with the other three he possesed. He would be able to cover four of them and Jiraiya had earth and fire affinities if Naruto's memories were anything to go by. They just have to choose their opponents wisely, and this fight would be like a ride in a fun-fair. A confident smile spread across Naruto's face and he jumped next to his sensei.
"I've got a plan. Let's change opponents. The real body is yours. He has a water affinity and it's weak against your earth releases. I'll be able to handle his other four hearts."
"Hearts!?" Jiraiya grunted in shock while dodging another attack. "What do you mean by hearts?"
"Exactly what I said. He stole hearts of shinobi to get their nature affinities. Be very careful and never let him shoot those black string things at you."
"This wasn't in the bingo book you know." Jiraiya grimaced and stole a glance over his shoulder.
"Just trust me on this one. I know what I'm doing."
"I'm not doubting it," Jiraiya muttered and nodded. "Let's do it."
Naruto smiled and was gone with a soft puff. "Stupid clone technique. You never know who you're speaking with." The sage coughed and dashed toward Kakuzu's quilted body.
Naruto quirked an eyebrow as soon he received the memories of his clone. He acknowledged his copy's idea with a wide, confident smile on his face.
"Okay, boys! You know what you have to do!" he shouted, and dozens of blond crowns nodded at once between two explosions.
Naruto gracefully landed in a low stance in front of a dark figure with bull-like horns. A cocky smile spread across his face as he slowly raised his palm toward the inky lighting user. His hands weren't forming any hand seals, but deep inside his coils he could already feel sharp blades of wind gathering, waiting only for him to release the attack. Release it he did.
Wind surged from his palms with the ferocity of a hurricane, slamming into the figure and sending him flying to the far end of the clearing. With one flick of his fingers, the Futon: Kuuki Hanmaa (Wind Release, Air Hammer) could have flown parallel to the ground, slicing everything in his way. But with Jiraiya in the way, that wasn't an option.
The dark figure gathered itself from the scarred ground and hopped high in the air; lightning chakra surged through the area from its mouth. With a single, lithe twist of his torso, Naruto safely avoided the attack, his hands already fluidly dancing through the air. The blonde thrust his hand toward his attacker, and billions of razor sharp wind blades surged from his open palms in the form of two viciously dancing tornado. The blast grabbed the trees around and aggressively shook them until the leaves had abandoned the branches. The jutsu transformed the once proud, green and thick woods to mere skeletons.
A viciously roaring fire dragon burst through the bare forest, hounding its prey. The winged, black puppet desperately tried to avoid the blazing creature. The flipping fire licked the end of its inky form and with one surge of chakra, the dragon pounced on the escaping heart with an open mouth. Its flaming fangs plunged into the twilight muscles, the jutsu's long, snake-like form already rolling over like an anaconda, slowly crushing the life from it.
The inferno around the puppet increased with each passing second, until it reached its ultimate power and slowly consumed Kakuzu's marionette into nothingness. A minute later, a charred, cracked mask was the only clue that the creature ever existed.
Naruto glanced toward the fading fire dragon as it let out its final roar, then he shifted his eyes back to his opponent. He flickered his fingers and wind chakra stirred up the dust below his feet. He took one step toward the being, and it retreated a step backward. A vicious smile spread across Naruto's face, and he lunged forward. With a surge of chakra, the creature was pinned to the ground by an unrelenting gale that buffeted and battered with sadistic glee.
Two clones appeared next to Naruto in midair, and when they landed, powerful chakra started to swirl with insane speed between their palms.
A shining azure orb appeared between the hands, and then it shifted. The air filled with the squealing sound of cutting wind chakra. Four snow-white chakra blades appeared on the sides of the Rasengan. Naruto's ears slowly became numb from the harsh sound as millions of invisible blades continuously cut into the empty air above his head. He raised the finished technique, silently threatening the restrained ink-black creature.
This time, the clones didn't disappear; even more popped into existence around the small trio. A fourth clone stepped into the triangle to replace Naruto who carefully handed over the jutsu to his concentrating copy.
The technique wobbled once when Naruto slipped out under the jutsu, but it still managed to hold together. Naruto raised his hand once more and chopped down with it. By the signal, a dozen bunshin dashed toward the struggling being while Naruto leapt away to get out of the attack range.
As soon as he landed next to the panting Jiraiya, an explosion shook the ground. Everything became white and silent around them for a second as the jutsu struck and the lightning-wielding creature was gone as the wind technique tore it apart.
"And you taught this attack to Minato? This could kill him if you're using clones!" Jiraiya let out harsh breath, while dodging a kunai from Kakuzu's real body, who stopped attacking. His creepily glowing green eyes were glued on the place where the Rasenshuriken had detonated. The puppet with the red mouth hopped next to its owner and let out a hissing sound.
"Your heart will be a fine replacement for the three you destroyed, Namikaze," Kakuzu stated confidently. Naruto glanced to the side just in time to see as one of his clones destroyed the earth masked with a well aimed lighting jutsu. The black creature slowly crumbled into nothingness.
"Oh, you aren't interested in mine anymore? I'm hurt," Jiraiya said with a broken voice, but he had already bit down on his fingertip, summoning a man-sized, stoic-looking green toad with a katana on its back.
"Gamahiro, I'll need some distraction here." The toad didn't answer; it just nodded and jumped into action in an instant. Naruto also didn't hesitate. As Gamahiro and Jiraiya enchained the missing nin into a taijutsu fight, he also jumped on the fire-wielding puppet.
His breathing was still steady, and his chakra reserves were also more than half which left him on equal standing with any Kage. His grin twisted into a cocky smirk as he landed more and more hits on the struggling creature. A kunai appeared in his hands to slice through the black tissue, but as soon the blade touched it, it parted into two and sucked in his arm.
Snake-like, black strings started to crawl up under his shirt toward his pounding heart, and more reached for his limbs and for his throat to restrain him from struggling. Naruto sucked in a harsh breath as the ice cold things touched his chest next his heart. Something roared in the distance and when he blinked, a wild, lion-like creature bit down on his opponent. It was made from familiar white hair. Jiraiya's hair.
Stinging wind chakra shot out from Naruto's palm at the same moment, slicing through the black strings and also cutting down a good portion of the black puppet.
With another twist, he freed himself and desperately tried to get rid of the now lifelessly hanging, disgusting black cords. In the next moment, the owner of the hair was next to him, experienced fingers peeling the strings from his neck.
"It looked like you needed a helping hand."
"I can take care of myself, old man," Naruto grunted and shook of the last remains of the black rope like things from his skin.
"Don't get cocky or you'll fail," Jiraiya said with a disapproving frown on his face, but hopped back to Gamahiro. Naruto froze and glanced back to his godfather with a wondering expression on his face. However, a flaming ball of fire interrupted him.
He dodged to the side, and the remaining bunshins also jumped to beside him.
"What's the plan, boss? We don't know too many water releases." Naruto frowned as he observed the patiently waiting creature in front of him. He could already feel as the ink black thing started to gather chakra inside it's coils to shoot out another attack from its mouth.
"We will stick to the good, old tactic. We will fight with quantity against quality." The clone displayed a confused face, but he didn't get time to ask as Naruto yelled the name of his next technique.
"Taiju Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Multiple Shadow Clone Technique)!"
Hundreds of identical copies flooded the place, each of them instantly finding their pair. Hundreds of water chakra powered rasengan shot toward the stilled black creature, while several bunshin erupted from the ground to grab its foot to hold it in place.
And this time, quantity won against quality. Naruto didn't wait to see as his clones destroyed the puppet, impassively walking to Jiraiya's side, who was calmly watching as Kakuzu desperately tried to struggle out from a swamp-like spot. His eyes swung toward Naruto for one last time before his body was sucked down and disappeared inside the mug. Jiraiya slowly crouched and gathered an empty scroll in his hands. In a minute, the swamp was sealed inside his scroll, together with Kakuzu's body.
Jiraiya shot a disapproving glare at him before he gradually turned to go back to their accommodation. "You're becoming arrogant. I'm starting to miss the old you."
Naruto let his mouth fall open as he watched the retreating back of his godfather. His gaze hardened and he folded his arms in front of his chest. "I'm not arrogant," he muttered lowly into the empty air. But he received no answer.
"I'm not arrogant," he repeated stubbornly.
Kurama narrowed his eyes and shot a stabbing glare at the entity in the back of Naruto's mind. The shadowy figure's silhouette was sharper than last time, the formless mess of hair on its head had become a lighter, yellower color than before. The ghost-like figure slowly raised its head to glance up to the non-existing sky. The black sclera and the crimson orbs flashed with a vicious glint, and a sly half smile appeared on the mirage's whiskered face.
"Oh, but you are becoming one," it purred into the shadows.
"He already accepted you once," Kurama growled. "You shouldn't be here."
"You can accept the darkness in your heart, but you can never get rid of it. I was here, subdued and waiting for an opportunity to surface again. And if I gain my full power, the connection between you and him will be disrupted." The black eyed entity stated and gradually straightened to walk in front of the growling Kurama.
"You have changed since we last met, but you can't argue that your heart is far from pure. Your hatred is still there and with my help, it will surface. Don't you want to be free? Don't you want to feel the air once more in a new body? I can give you that."
"I'm not interested in it anymore," Kurama growled, lashing one of his clawed hands at the figure to dismiss it, but it did nothing except harmlessly passed through. The fox continued to growl ferociously at the laughing figure, but this time in frustration rather than in murderous intent. The fur raised threateningly on his back, making his enormous form looked even bigger. "He'll realize that you're here, and you will disappear again."
"Heh, I'm doubting it. You're the only one who can sense me. He's finally gotten everything that he could have ever wanted in his life. He got a family, he got a chance to save his friends from doom. He's too occupied to look inside himself. He's different from who he was before the war."
"I have faith in him."
"But he doesn't have faith in himself anymore. He fears to open his heart and share his burdens with anyone. He is becoming arrogant by thinking he can shoulder everything on his own. He trusts in the people around him, but he won't entrust them with the consequences of his knowledge and his actions. He won't let people help him anymore. Nobody has the capacity to endure this alone. He will break, and when he breaks I'll be there to turn him in the right direction."
"He won't break. He'sfar stronger than you could even imagine. And he is not alone! I'm here, and I won't let anything like that happen!" Kurama snapped, but Naruto's inner darkness didn't flinch, only taking a small step toward the fox.
"He will break. He needs only a small push, and he will be walking in Madara's footsteps. He's been manipulating the people around him, deceiving them ever since he got thrown into this timeline. A man who wants to change the world by himself and who wants his loved ones to be alive… Was it not the same obsession that Obito and Madara had?"
"It's different," Kurama argued, but his voice faltered at the end.
A wide and confident smirk was the mirage's only answer.
Naruto let out a thankful sigh as soon he spotted the sign of an inn in the distance. They turned on their heels after what happened in Wave. Gatou was placed under a genjutsu, and one of Naruto's clones had been dragging along the dead weight on his shoulder, handling him a little bit rougher than necessary from time to time.
Kakashi refused to communicate both with Jiraiya and Naruto ever since they arrived back at the ravaged village, and he found out what had happened with their client. Kakashi and Rin had been desperate to catch up with the two men, but Naruto's remaining clones restrained them from doing so.
It was for their own sakes. Kakashi in this time wasn't as experienced as the one he had grown up with, and the blond feared for his sensei's life. Rin was also equally silent, but not in a sulking way like Kakashi. It was more like she was buried inside her own small world. Her lower lip was chewed sore, but she refused to answer any of his or the other's question. But Naruto could feel that she had become distant.
Finally, they stepped into the almost empty motel, and while Jiraiya and Kakashi argued on the prize of the only two rooms of the inn, Rin and Naruto headed toward them.
The blond hurriedly got rid of the dead weight on his shoulders in one of the plain room's corners.
"Hey! You can't handle him like he's a flour sack!" Rin growled as she went closer to examine the new bruise on Gatou's temple. "What did he do to you anyway?"
Naruto narrowed his eyes and grimaced. "Nothing besides selling us to a missing nin. And that was the smallest crime against me." The blond grunted and hopped down on his bed to finally get some sleep. Even though he was way stronger than when he first fought with Kakuzu, without using sage mode or Kurama's power, his limbs were still sore from the strain of the fight and the long travel. Kurama wasn't in a rush to help him out somehow. He had also been quiet during the last few days. With another grunt, Naruto lazily turned toward the wall, showing his back to the girl.
Rin watched the blond for one long and tensed moment, her tooth once more chewing her lower lip as she retreated into the next room with a deep frown on her fine features.
The other two males quickly occupied the plain room after a quick glance of mistrust towards Gatou, and Naruto was finally able to relax and drift off into sleep. But for his biggest annoyance, his peace was disturbed once more. A soft knock interrupted his dreams in the middle of the night.
Annoyed beyond words, because it wasn't everyday when you could literally swim in an enormous bowl of ramen, the blond slowly dragged himself to the door to pry it open. With a loud yawn, he desperately tried to blink out the last bits of the juicy topping and the soft noodles from his head.
"What do you want Rin-chan?! Do you know how late it is?"
"I-I forget something back then. Can you help me?" She pushed a thick book under Naruto's nose. "You know, when you brought sensei two weeks ago you forgot to sign the papers, so I brought them with me."
"Couldn't it wait until morning?" the blond muttered.
Naruto tried to brush out the dream from his eyes, but he obediently grabbed the book quickly signed it with a pen he didn't remember having and another loud yawn. "I've never had to sign any documents until now."
"It's just formality." Rin muttered with a deep frown on her face and snapped the book out of the blond's hands.
However in the next second, the book slipped out from Rin's now shaking hands to land face down on the hard floor with a loud bang in the silent night. Naruto let out one more enormous yawn and lazily reached down to give it back to Rin. His fingers dug into the opening where he signed it and gently raised it toward the girl. But he paused when he noted as Rin shakily raised her hands to restrain a shriek, her eyes were wide and shocked and her gaze were fixed like a statue's on the open page in Naruto's hands.
The jinchuuriki unconsciously traced back her eyesight, and his own eyes also widened.
"S-Sensei..." Rin pressed out in a slowly rising tone, but nothing happened.
Naruto shot a quick glance at his back where he could hear Kakashi's faint soft breathing and Jiraiya's muffled snore. He thanked every Kami for the privacy seal Jiraiya had activated because of Naruto's loud snoring. He carefully reached back with one hand and closed the door behind him.
"Ka-Kakashi," Rin whimpered.
Naruto swept his head back and took a step towards the now shaking Rin who flinched a step backward, her gaze desperately darting between him and the locked door. Rin slowly gathered herself as lean and graceful fingers traveled toward her weapon pouch on her thigh.
Naruto tensed his muscles while thoughts raced through his mind with insane speed. Wild, azure eyes ran from the open book in his hands to Rin and back, his breathing and heartbeat increased and his muscles tensed until the breaking point. The girl didn't stop calling for her teammate. Adrenaline flooded Naruto's veins, and his quick breathing transformed into gasping as oxygen was forced out of his squeezed throat by the raising panic.
"Naruto…Don't do anything stupid," Kurama muttered with a deep frown on his face as Naruto strained his muscles to take another step forward to try to hush down the trembling Rin.
"Rin-" Naruto pushed out between two, ragged breaths and actually took that step forward.
"Kakashi!" This time, she really wanted to yell out loud, but the name sounded more like a whimper by her raising fear.
Any further words were cut off as Naruto suddenly reached forward to clap a hand on Rin's mouth. Rin grabbed a kunai from her pouch and opened her mouth to finally let out the shriek she had been holding back ever since her chestnut eyes landed on the two simple words screaming on the end of the book. Uzumaki Naruto.
However, this time Naruto was faster than the air in Rin's lungs.
A surge of chakra. A flash of gold. And they were gone. Only the fluttering curtain in the opened window indicated that something had happened on the now empty and silent passage.
I believe that no one ever thinks about stopping Gatou from getting his hands on Wave in any time travel fics before the canon's Wave mission. And sorry for keeping Kakashi out of this fight, but I wanted a Jiraiya/Naruto fight scene.
Dark Naruto told my point of view. Naruto changed. Not by much, but he changed and played God by nudging things here and there. Manipulating people, even if it is for their own good, is the first step to following Madara's creed.
And for Rin: sorry for the cliffhanger once again. I had told you in the very beginning that I love them. :)
Minato's: The Art of Being Dead by PyrothTenka
Trust the Yondaime to turn death into a minor inconvenience. /This is just hilarious. :) I love her Kushina./
Drunken Space-Time Ninjutsu by Igorner
The day after a wild party to celebrate the end of the war against Madara, Naruto, the remaining Konoha 12 (and some guests) can't help but wonder what happened last night as they wake up in a different Konoha. Time-Travel. Rated for language , alcohol and just to be sure. /This blew my mind away. It's funny, entertaining, and I can't wait for the next chapter./