Yes, I am alive and still writing. I've been working on The Four Ride Again, 3 Course Shinobi and Shaman of the Elemental Nations so expect an update sometime in the near future. It'd be earlier but I've been busy as all hell with my actual work. Gotta make a living somehow. Anyway, as usual my many thanks to Kamen Rider Arashi, without whom I would have been lost ages ago. Man is a bonafied genius for busting down writers block.
Anyway here's the next chapter of Half-Ghost Kitsune, the chapter after this should have the Nami no Kuni arc. YAY! Well enough of my babbling ON WITH THE CHAPTER!
"You agreed to the bet."
"No, I'm not doing it."
"You don't have a choice."
Sasuke looked over to his blonde teammate with a raised eyebrow. "And how do you figure that?"
"Because if you don't I'll make sure to ruin your reputation." Naruto answered with a smirk.
Another week had come and gone and the two genin had finally finished their chakra control exercise with Naruto managing to pull it off first and thus winning the bet. Unfortunately, his brooding teammate was trying to back out and he would have none of that.
"What makes you think they'll believe you?"
"They don't have to," Naruto said, turning to walk away. "Not at first anyway."
Intrigued the last loyal Uchiha fell into step next to his teammate and continued the conversation. "What do you mean?"
"We're going to be doing missions with other teams in the future right?" Sasuke nodded. "Well what if every time we went out and started assigning groups I made sure to say that I don't trust someone who can't keep their word to watch my back?"
Sasuke froze. The idiot of his graduating class had just put him between a rock and a hard place and they both knew it. The boy glared at Naruto with a burning hatred. "Since when were you so smart?"
"I'm the prank master teme," he answered. "When you prank someone it's not always with big showy extravaganzas. Sometimes all you need is to use the target's own words against them."
The stunned silence that followed Naruto's statement left a smirk on the half-ghost's face as his teammate contemplated what he'd just heard. Meanwhile Kakashi was silently following the duo from the treetops and couldn't help but nod at what his student had said. 'That actually sounded like something a shinobi trained in tactical espionage would say,' he thought.
The jonin pulled out a small notebook and a pencil and jotted down the phrase along with a note to himself as a reminder to send the quote to Ibiki at the Interrogation and Torture division. The man had published several books detailing the best ways to capture and interrogate enemy units so he thought he may find some sort of use out of it. He had put a few of the boy's more elaborate pranks in the text after all.
Future publishing aside, Kakashi continued to listen as his students kept up their conversation.
"You do realize half our class thinks you like guys right?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, all the girls in our class fawned all over you and you never did anything with it. What were we supposed to think?"
"That I have standards," Sasuke growled, much to Naruto and Kakashi's amusement. "Would you want to trust the future of your clan to a girl who can't fight?"
"What are you talking about?"
Sasuke sighed and rubbed his temple to stave off the warning signs of a headache. "I'm the last loyal member of my clan. Not a day goes by that I am not approached by some member of the civilian council pushing their daughter on me or trying to win my loyalty with petty gifts and the like. They don't understand that I need strong kunoichi, not civilians."
"And the reason for that would be?"
"So they can set an example for any children we have. They need to be strong to prove that the Uchiha clan is not weak, that we are still the most powerful clan." Almost as soon as he finished Sasuke couldn't help but question why he was talking so easily with Naruto. He hadn't told this to anyone and yet here he was spilling his inner thoughts just because he asked. Naruto may not be an all-powerful shinobi, but he did have some kind of ability to make people at ease around him.
Oblivious to his teammate's musings, Naruto was deep in thought. Suddenly his mind latched onto an idea and he couldn't help but grin. "So…if Sakura were to suddenly start taking her career seriously would you consider it?"
"If Sakura became serious about her kunoichi life," Naruto turned to fully face his teammate. "Would you consider her as a potential romantic interest?"
"Um…maybe. It depends on if she actually takes it seriously and doesn't just put on a show."
The grin grew larger as the blonde formed a familiar handsign and called out the name of his signature technique. In a blast of smoke he was surrounded by a dozen clones that all leaped off in different directions.
"What was that for?" Sasuke asked, voicing both his and their sensei's curiosity.
"I sent them to find Sakura," Naruto answered, crossing his arms while he waited. "Whichever one finds her will relay the message back to me and then we can get started."
"Started on what?"
"On convincing our teammate to take her career seriously, now be quiet I need to concentrate."
Sasuke was about to voice another question only for Naruto to snap his head around and start walking. "Found her," he called back.
"Not important, just follow me." With that the blonde genin leaped into the trees above them and began hoping along the branches. Despite his misgivings the brooder soon fell in step, his curiosity winning over his annoyance once again. It wasn't long before they'd reached the market place and moved from tree branches to rooftops. Soon Sasuke realized they were headed for the park and sure enough he spotted Sakura sitting on a bench reading a book.
Half-expecting Naruto to approach her outright the Uchiha was surprised when the prankster simply pointed to the trail that led directly behind the pinkette and was screened from her by a wall of trees. Nodding he dropped to the ground next to the blonde who turned to face him.
"Just follow my lead," he whispered and started walking down the path and raising his voice to be easily heard by a certain kunoichi. "Still, Sasuke, you do realize that your never asking a girl out is starting to make people think you're interested in guys right?"
For a moment all he could do was glare, why was he bringing this up again, but then he saw that smirk and heard a faint gasp through the trees and realization dawned on him. Sighing in mock frustration he answered the question.
"Just because I have standards doesn't mean I'm gay dobe," he growled.
"Well you got all kinds of girls fawning over you, so what kind of standards do you have that makes you refuse all of them?"
"I will only consider girls that are serious about their career as kunoichi. Any children I may have in the future need a strong example to live by, if I have a son then I'll be the example and vice versa if I have a daughter."
"So…if Sakura or Ino were to start taking it seriously would you consider them?"
"If they actually take their life seriously and don't put just put on a show to get my attention then I might," Sasuke said. "But they have to convince me that they're sincere about it. If I think it's an act then there's no way I'd do it."
Naruto shrugged. "Yeah, I guess that makes sense. Well I have to go Sasuke. See yah!" He waved cheerily before jumping back into the trees and disappearing. The Uchiha just sighed and walked away, hands in his pockets as he continued to contemplate the enigma that was Naruto Uzumaki. Unseen by both of them a certain pink-haired girl slipped out of the trees and walked toward the village and her house, deep in thought over what she'd just heard.
Meanwhile a man dressed in a simple brown shirt and blue trousers smiled from his seat leaning against a tree. Running a hand through his white hair he suddenly erupted in a cloud of smoke which soon cleared to reveal Kakashi, his favorite book clasped in his hand.
"They're coming along quite nicely," he said, turning a page as he stood and walked away. "They just might have what it takes to become a real team after all."
Naruto's course soon took him to the most infamous training ground among the higher echelons of the Konoha Shinobi Forces, Training Ground 44. This training ground consisted of a section of massive trees enclosed within a perimeter fence with complex barrier seals embedded into the metal. It was host to massive man-eating animals and plants whose variety in appearance and lethality earned the training ground its moniker, the Forest of Death.
It was also the personal training ground of one Anko Mitarashi, one of Naruto's newest and best friends as well as a mentor and the cause of the blonde's more…bloodthirsty quirks developed of late.
Using his phantom form to reach the usual clearing where he trained faster, Naruto soon became aware of music sounding just barely hearable over the constant rabble of the animals. He quickly recognized the distinct tone of an electric guitar and smiled when he realized Ember and Tenten must be there as well.
Reaching the clearing Naruto saw both the teen ghost rocker and her human companion both playing and singing Ember's personal song while Anko and Kurama were training nearby. The ghost fox had discovered a new ability during Naruto's week of chakra control training and had been practicing almost nonstop since. By focusing either his chakra or ectoplasm, depending on which form he was in at the time, the fox was capable of changing his size. His current limit was the same size as the tigers that inhabited the forest and he had begun to take great pleasure in hunting them down and slaying them for a meal.
Currently the fox was training to increase the rate at which he could change his shape to improve efficiency in combat. Anko was assisting in the training by engaging him with a combination of thrown weapons, where she kept those Naruto didn't dare guess, and summoning different sized snakes. Kurama had to be able to shrink fast enough to dodge the projectiles and grow large enough to take on the reptiles all the while splitting his attention between the two.
Seeing that the girls were finally winding down the song Naruto shifted into his human form and dropped down to begin his own training. "What's up?"
"Hey Naruto-kun," Tenten called, running up to catch the blonde in a hug.
"Babypop," Ember said, smirking at the boy.
"Smokestack," he retorted with a smirk of his own before turning intangible just in time for a flying Anko to pass through his back and tackle Tenten instead. "Will you ever stop that?"
"Nope," the purple-haired woman chirped, smiling cheekily while Naruto could do nothing but sigh and rub his forehead. 'How could someone so irritating be so hot,' he wondered, still remembering the bedroom incident. Anko and Desiree both took great pleasure in reminding him about that and the tokubetsu jonin had repeated the act several times. Needless to say Naruto had lost a lot of blood over the past couple of weeks.
"Yes the fleshbag is back now can we get back to training woman?" the ever-sensitive Kurama growled from his spot across the clearing. "The speed is still not satisfactory."
Anko pouted slightly, eliciting another blush from Naruto, but nodded and jumped up to start over with the fox. Meanwhile Ember decided it was time the two teens get started on their own training.
"Alright kiddies," she barked. "You two are gona spar. Buns, you only get to use the guitar. Babypop, no flying, intangibility or invisibility, you need to figure out how to shoot those ectoplasmic beams like the other halfas did."
Both genin nodded and took their positions a few feet apart from each other. Naruto shifted back into his phantom form while Tenten unslung her guitar from her back and held it in front of her. For a moment both paused, trying to anticipate what the other would do. For a moment Naruto let his eyes wander over the girl's choice of clothing, looking for any hints but all he noticed was a change in fashion…again.
She still had her hair tied up in her usual buns for training, but now she wore an off-shoulder top similar to Ember's own except a white Konoha leaf was embroidered into the front. Over the top she wore a black jacket with blue highlights running down each of her arms and fingerless gloves on her hands. Her pants remained the same dark green Anbu-styled ones she wore before along with a pair of black shinobi sandals.
Any further observations were put on hold when Tenten finally decided to strike first. Raising a hand in the air she brought the guitar pick down to strike a note, sending a wave of concussive sound flying at him. Cursing the blonde jumped out of the way, focusing his energy in the palms of his hand. For a moment a light blue aura surrounded the fingers of his right hand but it quickly faded and he was forced to dodge again. Growling in frustration the boy thought over what the spirits had told him.
'All ghosts have a set of skills unique to them,' Desiree had said. 'The three half-ghosts in history had the basic skills of a spirit but one had a gift for the control of his power. Able to easily form constructs of ectoplasm while another was gifted with ice and the last was able to absorb ectoplasm itself from an enemy's attacks. To find the power inside of yourself you must think on what makes you…well you.'
Naruto danced around another pulse of sound, contemplating his teacher's instructions. 'I am a shinobi,' he thought. 'I can create clones of myself and transform my shape thanks to my chakra. Think Naruto, remember.' Reaching into himself like he would for chakra as a human, Naruto felt his power stir. Letting his instincts guide him he raised his hands, the energy finally manifesting in a ball of blue ectoplasmic electricity. With a roar he let the last tether holding him back loose and felt a hint of satisfaction as the beam finally shot forward, meeting Tenten's blast head on and exploding on impact, sending both teens flying back.
"Alright," Ember cheered. "We finally got Babypop to shoot his lasers. Now you gotta work on doing it several times in a row so we're kicking it up a notch. Tenten, use those knives of yours. Keep throwing them in various amounts and speeds. Naruto, you have to shoot them out of the sky. Hopefully by the time we're done today you'll be done to using just a finger to shoot instead of a full power one from the hand."
Without a word both teens took their stances once again. Tenten now had kunai between each finger and Naruto was holding a glowing ball in each hand. The brunette raised an eyebrow, silently asking if he was ready and he simply nodded in response. With a battle cry of her own the girl let fly and the training had begun all over again.
Sometime later an exhausted halfa and his partner returned to their apartment. After the training Anko had treated everyone to dango (she ate the ghost's share for them) and then they had separated to go their different ways. Taking only enough time to stop and check to see if the crazy jonin was in his bed again only to thankfully find it empty, the blonde stripped down to his boxers and flopped down on the bed, Kurama quickly jumping up and doing the same.
"Those women are crazy," he said, earning a chuckle from his companion.
"I know, but aren't they great? We've gotten a lot stronger thanks to them and Kakashi-sensei."
Nodding in agreement the fox curled up next to the boy, both happily falling asleep. Only a few minutes later the window was opened from the outside and a smirking Anko slipped through, an unconscious Tenten slung over her shoulders, while Desiree and Ember phased through the wall.
"You, sister, are a bonafied genius," the rebellious rocker stated, smirking as the kunoichi set her cargo down on the bed next to their student.
"Indeed," Desiree voiced her agreement. "I must admit I can't wait to see their faces tomorrow morning."
Smirking to herself Anko pressed a finger to her lips before slipping back out the window. Once in the open the two spirits heard her cackle in delight as she made her way home, the genie following close behind.
Now some of you will get all prissy with me about mellowing out Sasuke and I'm telling you ahead of time to shove it. You'll get some psycho Sasuke in 3 Course so don't you worry about that. Also, I've got something in the works that will make you Sasuke haters VERY happy so keep an eye out for that.
As always, let me know what you think and how I can do better. Now, as for Naruto's own unique ghost powers I have a few ideas but if you got something good then hit me with it and we'll see what happens.
Until next time, Yurei King signing out!