Chapter Fourteen: Something's strange. In the neighborhood. Who do you call? Whoever the fuck can control the Oogakari and not the Oogakari themselves cause those bastards will probably just come by to videotape the thing for laughs.
I don't own Naruto, any of its characters, or any references in this story. If I did, horrible things would happen. Neither do I own any other anime that I reference. I do own all OC's and new Jutsu in the story as well as every ounce of pure awesome spawned by this.
o. o. o.
With the Caravan:
It had started like a normal morning. The shinobi had gotten up before everyone else, like usual, and scanned the area for potential threats. Sasuke and Chouji then got started on making their breakfast as they were unanimously considered the best cooks among the group. Sakura and Tenten… were never allowed near any cooking area unless they were washing dishes.
Then the Priestess' caretakers had gotten up and went about their duties setting things up for everyone to leave and preparing breakfast. Like usual.
Then Shion got up, was attended to, dressed, washed, and then went to breakfast at the makeshift table made specifically for her. Taruho went to his side right next to her and began to sample her food for poison, assuring it was safe. Like usual…
At least, until a fox eared and tailed Naruto walked up to an empty spot with Hinata, fully coated… while covered in white fluid and smiling wider than anyone had thought possible.
"Naruto. I hate you." Tenten deadpanned, the first to find her voice. "I am going to express my displeasure by telling Neji of this when we get back."
"And thus my job is done. Pass the rice please," The blonde yawned widely as he plopped down next to Sakura and grabbed a bowl.
"Here." The Uchiha shook his head from the other side of Sakura, impressively letting his left eye twitch a couple of times as he did so. It was too early for him to allow himself to be scarred this way.
"Holy shit he works fast." Ino blinked owlishly. "Impressive output too."
Chouji and Shino merely glanced at one another and shook their heads, deciding to remain quiet. Kakashi didn't even bother looking up from his book.
"Hinata?" Tenten addressed the Hyuuga with clear hesitation. "Are… Are you ok?"
"Sooo good," the leader of the escorting team moaned out in a euphoric daze while licking her glistening fingers.
"Na-Ru-Toooo…" Sakura growled while reflexively making fists.
"Maim later. People food now." The Jinchuriki ignored his teammate's not-so-subtle warning as he finished putting seasoning on his food and started eating it. "You have no idea how much of a pain it is to live off of table scraps for two weeks."
"I think it's best if you explain anyways." A page turned in Kakashi's book. "If not for our curiosity, then for your safety. Sakura looks like she's about to introduce you to an all liquid diet soon."
"Is it a ramen broth plan? Those are really good."
Several knuckles began to crack loud enough to sound like bones were already broken.
"I doubt it." Kakashi's lazy eye glanced up, if only to watch how Hinata would react if things were taken too far.
The blonde jinchuriki rolled his eyes, leaned to one side, swiped off some of the white fluid from Hinata's face, leaned to the other, and stuck his finger in the clearly angered Sakura's mouth.
Many eyes nearly bugged out of their sockets at that moment.
"… Naruto. You have five seconds to give me a reason to not give into my desires to drag you back home by your entrails without your limbs." A pair of crimson orbs were all but attempting to set her soon-to-be late best friend on fire.
"Mhm." The blonde mumbled as he turned back to his food with gusto and ignored everyone's reactions.
"One…" The Uchiha skipped down to the last moment and reached for his sword menacingly, but was stopped by his teacher.
"Calm down Sasuke. Look around first before you jump to conclusions." The scarecrow sighed and nodded to the rest of the group.
"… Sweet." Sakura blinked in a daze, realizing clearly wasn't right with the sample that her insane teammate had just shoved in her mouth.
"Mooore." Hinata swooned as she leaned into the blonde. "Soo good."
Tenten blinked a few times before face palming in frustration. "Oh you've got to be kidding me. Naruto you're a fucking asshole you know that?"
"Needed some way to come like this without getting the shit kicked out of me," the drowsy jinchuriki deadpanned between mouthfuls.
"As opposed to having it kicked out of you later?" Ino snorted.
"This way I get to eat first with proper motor functions and without a straw," he replied serenely.
"Um." Shion spoke up to the group for the first time since the blonde showed up, having finally found her voice. "What… exactly just happened?"
"That white fluid covering Hinata isn't the product of bodily functions." Shino stated stoically as he ate with the normal poise and manners that had been drilled into him by his family. "I do not know why it is covering her like that, however it is none the less nothing more than a tasteless joke by Naruto."
"It's frosting." Chouji shook his head. He could smell the stuff before they even got close to the area, and Shino housed insects. Insects thrived on sugar in general so it would be retarded to think he couldn't identify essentially liquid sugar from that range. "Hinata has a weakness for cinnamon rolls. Naruto probably pulled a bunch of them out from wherever as soon as he transformed back so she wouldn't kill him."
"Never seen her act like this before for rolls." Ino tilted her head to the side skeptically. "What the hell were in those things?"
"Awesomeness and ingredients that I will never be able to pronounce correctly." Naruto swallowed his food dispassionately. "Very expensive."
"Mooooooorrrrrreeeeee." Hinata moaned as she began to gently claw on his chest like a cat on the nip.
"Apparently." Kakashi took in the sight of the Princess acting like such a child. "Any side effects of these ingredients that we should learn?"
"None that won't wear off with time… and we don't have an antidote for…" The blonde muttered under his breath.
"You didn't." Sakura leered at her friend menacingly.
"Give her a few hours and she'll be back to normal." The guilty party waved his hand holding his chopsticks lazily. "More than enough time for everyone to pack up and me to stretch out a bit."
"Don't you mean run for your meager existence?" Ino asked her soon to be dismembered friend.
"Whatever comes first. Too early to be picky." Naruto yawned.
"Dibs." Sasuke quickly spoke up.
"Di-shit." Shino tried to beat the former to the punch only a half a second later.
"You've had enough for now Shino. Let the others have some time to suffer." Chouji patted his friend on the back sympathetically.
"Yeah… wait what?" Ino turned to her boyfriend accusingly.
"E-except for you of course Ino." The larger of the pair laughed nervously and quickly raised his arms up in defense, only to wince in pain. His ribs were healed for the most part, but they felt a bit sore in some spots.
The fires of burning retribution instantly vanished in the Yamanaka's eyes. "Eh?! Chouji! I told you not to move your arms so much! Here stay still."
Naruto blinked as he watched Ino press her glowing green hands on her boyfriend's chest and treat him gently… and then continued to watch as her hands started to wander and blood drip from her nose. "Hey uh Sasuke. Has Ino always…"
"Yep. Congrats. You and Hinata aren't the only horrifically awkward couple in our group anymore." The Uchiha sighed, trying to unload as much stress as quickly as he had accumulated and failing miserably.
"What about Lee and Kin?" The blonde frowned in confusion.
"Lee's Lee." Sakura shrugged. "But Kin's been elevated to one of the few people that can reign him in so they technically can't be put on your level. You're a league all of your own."
"Got ya." Naruto nodded as he finished his bowl and began to get another serving. "He's still as big of a monster as always?"
"Bigger. Now we can't tell when he shows up if he wants to catch us by surprise." Sasuke grimaced. Even with his dojutsu he had trouble keeping tabs on the Silent Beast of Konoha. The assassination specialist had finally found out that the Sharingan was useless if the user was unable to lay eyes on him in the first place. "One second you're doing fine, the next you're being spun around and your vision is flooded with those massive eyebrows of his."
Fun fact about dojutsu users: they HATE jump scares.
"Sights that surpass that in terms of sheer terror are few." Tenten nodded sagely.
Naruto shivered. "Least you weren't locked in an indestructible version of Freddy Fazzbears for a week."
"Freddy what now?" Tenten rose an eyebrow.
"Never underestimate places that are rumored to be cursed by the souls of murdered children." The blonde's eyes turned vacant. "EVER."
Sakura grimaced. Normally she'd tear him apart for saying random things, but this was a tad bit darker than what he normally spewed out, and she didn't really want to know the story behind that particular bit of advice. "I'll… I'll keep that in mind."
Judging from the other's reactions, they'd do the same as well.
"Hug." Hinata mumbled as she wound her arms around the blonde, not at all caring that she was smearing him with frosting.
"Seriously, what the hell was in those things you gave her and how many did she have?" Kakashi leered at Naruto.
"Something that I'm told is legal in most places… and about half." The blonde absently patted the semiconscious girl snuggling against him. "… Although when I got them I think the owner of the place mentioned something about avoiding OD'ing on them due to being quality products…"
"Ok. I've heard enough." Sakura stood up with finality and grabbed Hinata's arms firmly enough to separate her from her boyfriend. "Come here Hinata. I have to detox you before you do more things in public that you'll end up regretting. After that I'm kicking Naruto's ass for forgetting that not everyone has insane immune systems."
"Nooooo." The Princess wailed feebly as she was dragged away by the clearly irritated medic. "Narutooooo. I wanna snuuuugggglllleeeee."
"That would be so adorable if it weren't for the fact that she's probably going to kill me when Sakura's done." The blonde yawned and started on his second serving.
"Welcome to being in a relationship." Kakashi turned another page, pretending that the empty and cleared out dishes in front of him didn't exist.
"Like you would know." Several of the teens glanced at the eldest shinobi there with dismissal.
"Hey Sasuke. You up for a quick spar? Like I said I need to stretch out a bit." Naruto asked as he finished his second bowl, his head arced back so he could get every piece of food in it.
"I don't think it's safe with civilians around." The Uchiha shook his head in tiredness. "Plus we're too close to Iwa to do anything to catch their attention. Even you should know about the situation regarding them by now."
"Please. I could waltz through Iwa right now and they wouldn't know a damn thing." The blonde snorted as he put his bowl down. "I meant just a taijutsu spar. No chakra or things that would wreck the landscape."
"Have you seen Lee fight?" Shino rose an eyebrow.
"… Much." Naruto corrected his statement without missing a beat before pausing. "Wait why would Iwa care about us? They should still be focused on the damn volcano that's still sporadically going off."
"Volcanooooo." Ino and Tenten hissed the word as if it was a curse.
"Too soon Naruto." Chouji shook his head.
"Don't. We need to get used to it again anyways. It's not like it's going to stop anytime soon." Sasuke grunted as he got up and began to stretch his arms. "I'll wait for you ahead."
"No need. I'm done already." The bowl he was holding was quickly put down on the table in front of him as he also got up and mimicked his teammate's movements lazily. "It'll be just like the old days."
"You mean me kicking your ass?"
"Aw you're adorable. You still haven't realized those were delusions from the concussions I gave you?"
"You know the great thing about genjutsu is that it doesn't affect the landscape. Really the only thing it does do is scramble brains. Perfect for idiots that can't control themselves and making them feel better so they don't become annoying sore losers."
"You must have a field day with Lee and Konohamaru then."
"Actually we're not allowed to put Lee under illusions anymore. Too many of them make him react as if he's under the influence."
"Ouch. What was the last straw?"
"Kin put him under one in her apartment about six months ago. She won't say what it was exactly or why, but long story short she's living in his place now on the other side of the village. They're apparently banned from renting any property in that part of town."
"Hahahahahahaha! Oh man I would have paid to see that…"
As the two teens disappeared into the nearby woods, the rest of the shinobi there shook their heads in amusement before turning to the person that they had pretended to ignore the entire time…
Shion gasped as she seemed to finally be released of whatever it was that had prevented her from moving or calling out to Naruto… or making any sound at all.
"Steady breaths Shion-sama." Kakashi advised the girl.
"What… what was that?" The girl shivered momentarily. "I tried to talk or make a noise but…"
"From what I could tell, he stilled the air around you so that you wouldn't talk to him." Ino sighed as if it wasn't a problem. She had sensed the air around the albino alter slightly as soon as she attempted to speak up at Naruto, but since it wasn't offensive in any way and she was in no real danger the mind reader kept it quiet.
"What?" One of Shion's assistants looked appalled. "How dare that boy do such a thing to the high priestess!"
"Calm down." Chouji waved his large hand with some authority. "I don't know why he did it, but she's clearly fine."
"He doesn't do subtle unless there's a reason. Meaning the timing isn't right for whatever Shion-sama wants to talk to him about." Tenten sighed before briefly glancing at the slightly unnerved priestess. "As curious as I am, I know better than to press the issue. He tends to be right about these sort of things. One headache at a time."
"Shion-sama." Shino spoke up and looked directly at the girl. "If Naruto does not wish to speak to you, there must be a reason. He would not take such actions unless he believed it was important to do so."
"Don't take it too hard." Kakashi added. "We're slowly getting used to the new tricks he's been using lately. It's going to be a while before any of us really let our guard down around him."
"Please don't take it the wrong way, but I question that statement." Taruho frowned from behind Shion. "Other than your initial surprise, I didn't see any of you take any precautions when Uzumaki first appeared."
Tenten and Ino rolled their eyes while the rest of the shinobi there either snorted in amusement or just plain ignored the civilian.
"So who wants to prove him wrong?" Ino sighed.
"I believe I am the most appropriate." Shino reached over to grab an apple while subconsciously creating a bug clone a few paces behind where Naruto was eating before.
It was hard for those without advanced training to tell what the hell happened and in what order. In a single instant, Shino's copy had been entangled in wire, assaulted by insects, speared by a dozen senbon from under the table, hit in the face by a gas pellet, set on fire¸ electrocuted, and paralyzed by several sealing tags.
Everyone looked at one another skeptically.
"Huh." Kakashi blinked in what could be best described as dull curiosity. "Didn't expect Sasuke to be so willing to set him on fire so early."
"Says the man that used to test his new lightning techniques on the same person." Ino muttered under her breath.
"I thought you set something up too." Tenten looked at Chouji skeptically.
"I have a few pitfalls in some key landing spots all around set up in case he jumped away." The Akimichi shrugged. "I should probably get rid of them before…"
"WHA!?" Someone in the background shouted in surprise, followed by a soft thump.
"… Someone accidentally falls in." He sighed before getting up. "I'll be back in a sec."
"I thought shinobi aren't supposed to be so liberal with their techniques out in the open." Taruho frowned in suspicion.
"As far as we're concerned, you guys haven't really seen anything." Tenten whistled innocently as she began to clean the underside of her nails with a kunai before looking up skeptically.
"Eeeeeeeeeee!" The sound of Naruto squealing like a small child as he rapidly flew above the camping ground while backflipping like a buzz-saw was clearly heard by everyone on the ground.
He was followed not even half a second later by a just as fast moving Sasuke, sword drawn and eyes burning red with rage.
"That didn't take long." Kakashi mused, speaking out loud what all his comrades were thinking as they watched the two vanish into rapidly moving blurs the moment they touched land. The pair appeared to be pretty even by the sounds of metal clashing and pieces of wood being chopped up before they went deeper into the woods.
"Didn't think he'd get that much faster." Tenten yawned lazily. After spending so much time in a team with taijutsu experts, she had long since become accustomed to following fast paced melee fights. "He's almost on par with Sasuke now."
"I was more interested in the taijutsu styles he was using." Shino nodded, also having little trouble keeping up. "He switched at least three times before they left."
"Five." Kakashi corrected without looking up. "He shifted between two grappling styles and two standing styles at one point. It was hard to tell them apart which is why you missed them at that speed. Plus he only seemed to be using the basics so they tend to overlap as well."
"Styles or not, he definitely looks like he's having fun." Ino snorted as the sound of a particularly large tree falling was heard in the distance.
"Um." Shion spoke up with a nervous smile on her face. "Shouldn't you go and stop them? If I saw things correctly, Sasuke-san had his sword out."
"Mmmm… nah. They'll be fine." Tenten waved a hand casually in the universal 'don't worry about it' gesture. "That's how those two have always been around one another. They're just making up for lost time."
"That is normal to you people?" Taruho blinked in disbelief and fear as another tree was seen falling in the distance.
"Normal for them." Ino corrected tiredly. "Those two are probably some of the strongest shinobi you'll ever see. You don't get that far in our world without being messed up in one way or another. Let them vent a bit and they'll come back bickering like an old married couple as soon as things cool off."
"How are you not at all worried that they might damage the caravan or harm us in the process of their childish behavior?" Taruto pressed despite Shion pulling back on his clothes to make him stop.
The rest of the shinobi there simply looked back at him and tilted their heads as if he had just asked a bizarre question.
"Hah?" Tenten raised an eyebrow. "Those two? Lose control over themselves over a little spar?"
"I find that scenario exceptionally unlikely." Shino pressed up his glasses.
"As if." Ino snorted in dry amusement. "Losing their sanity is one thing, but their skills? Please."
"Looks can be misleading Taruho-san." Kakashi closed his book. "Allow me to elaborate. One of the key factors that shinobi are trained to keep an eye out for at all times is their surroundings. People. Landmarks. Trees. Puddles. The slightest off detail can be what determines whether we live or not in a conflict. As we get older and more experienced, we become even more aware of these things until noticing how many trees on the road is the same as breathing to us. More so when we fight."
Everyone turned their attention to where the sounds of metal hitting metal at rapid tempos momentarily grew closer before once more retreating into the woods.
"Naruto and Sasuke in particular are exceptionally skilled for their age." Kakashi continued. "They are already considered jonin level at the very least. While their performance may mislead you to believe that they are completely focused on one another, make no mistake. They are constantly checking and keeping tabs on what is around them for their own sake and for others'. You and Shion-sama are perfectly safe."
"And if all else fails you can always just exploit their weaknesses." Tenten shrugged casually.
"Weaknesses?" Shion blinked in confusion.
"Hinata and Sakura. Their girlfriends." Ino grinned evilly. "Both of those meatheads are stubborn as hell, but they are also afraid of those two girls… actually everyone is. Hinata's just as strong as they are, and Sakura's not only their teammate, but also the Hokage's prized student. The girl knows the human body better than most doctors and sure as hell knows how to exploit it to the fullest. Naruto and Sasuke know that better than anyone personally. She's the one that normally has to put them back together when they nearly kill themselves."
"Take it from me. Those boys know better than to get on either of their bad sides." Kakashi eye smiled.
"Wait. Isn't the Hokage known for having incredible strength in addition to her medical knowledge?" Taruho asked curiously.
Shion recalled her experiences with the pinkette, both in the past and current timelines. "So that's why she's so strong…"
"Yep. It's a great way to have a laugh too." Ino grinned. "Whenever Sakura and I go on missions outside the village and have a ladies night out, we d go to a local bar and have her arm wrestle anyone there, taking bets for a little extra cash. Sometimes if we're lucky we manage to double our income in a single night. The trick is to start challenging everyone when half the bar is already a bit tipsy so they don't know any better and can't remember everything the next morning."
"I thought shinobi weren't supposed to gamble or do anything that made their village look bad." Taruho leered at the girl.
"It's not gambling if you know you're going to win, and we use transformations so no one can ID us as shinobi." Clearly the fact that they were cheating did not even scratch the girl's conscience. "Plus it's not like we drink everything that they offer to two traveling attractive young women…"
"That explains your growing liquor collection." Chouji sighed as he sat down next to her. "You still can't handle booze for the life of you though."
"I don't hear anyone else complaining." Ino pouted.
"That's because you got to the ones that did already." Shino muttered under his breath.
"Kakashi-san. Please do not take this the wrong way, but are things like this back in your home village? Because I am having trouble understanding how a military can function when the troops behave like… this." Taruho's question would have no doubt insulted any other shinobi asked this, however this would not be the first time it had been brought up among them.
"No. Rest assured, Konohagakure is filled with leagues of well trained and professional shinobi." Kakashi stood up and began to stretch. "It just so happens that the strongest out there tend to have actual personalities and mouths to match instead of being mindless drones."
"Sorry Shino. Looks like you're disqualified according to Sensei." Tenten snickered.
"I can make an army of mutant giant bugs and I only halfway know how to use them. You just volunteered to help me with the other half." The Aburame stated evenly.
"Shion-sama, I believe it is best if we clean up now." Taruho urged his charge. "I fear we will not be able to eat in peace for the time being."
"But…" The albino began to protest and looked to the shinobi for… she didn't know what to be honest, but it wasn't the rather subtle way the warriors were watching her. Outwardly they were watching with mild amusement, but their eyes were telling her a different story. They were looking for something, what she didn't know, but she had been in politics long enough to know when she was being put under a microscope.
A subtle shiver went down her spine. She had grown stronger over the years, played politics and the like, but dealing with seasoned shinobi she was still out of her league in many ways. When it came to politics, you always had to be worried about the long run but at least you had a good idea what you were dealing with: humans. Normal people with normal capabilities and normal limitations.
Shinobi on the other hand… to be honest Shion was one of the few politicians and nobles that actually genuinely liked if not willingly tolerated them. Ninja were sneaky and could bend the rules of reality yes, but the real thing that politicians didn't like about them was that they rarely knew what the assassins could actually DO. Every ninja tended to have a different array of skills that made their general populace so bloody diverse that standard negotiating tactics didn't work if you didn't know what made them tic.
Information was a key weapon to both parties, and unfortunately shinobi tended to be far better at hiding the bits that were vital for dealing with events in the near future.
Only the shallowest of nods from Shino managed to break her out of her momentary paralysis and go with her assistant's urgings. "Never mind. My curiosities are of minor importance and the trip is still far from over. It can be put off for the time being."
"Hm… care to tell us what that was about Shino?" Ino glanced at the Aburame curiously as the Priestess walked away.
"Nothing that concerns you." The bug user finished his meal.
"She seems really interested in Naruto though." Tenten looked at the others warily. The fact that Naruto actually bothered to keep her quiet for now was a major red light for any shinobi there that was even remotely familiar with the blonde. More importantly, the fact that he didn't want them to know what she wanted to talk about was even more interesting. It was for that reason that they had been so curious as to what the fortune teller wanted to say.
"Just leave her alone. We'll find out eventually what the situation is so there's no point causing trouble needlessly." The scarecrow placated everyone else there with his usual laissez faire attitude.
"That's no fun." Ino pouted childishly.
"Neither is potentially starting something that would set Hinata off." Shino pointed out.
"And now I'm going to have fun with Chouji." The Yamanaka's tune turned on a dime.
Kakashi looked around lazily to where Naruto and Sasuke kept destroying the landscape with just their martial prowess. The scarecrow, ignoring everyone else there, brought two fingers to his masked mouth and somehow blew a high pitched whistle.
Half a second later, both teens had reappeared in front of the man with slightly serious expressions on their faces. Other than a few scratches here and there, neither of them looked harmed or even tired in the slightest.
Even after almost three years away from the group, Naruto's training was just as apparent as his teammates'.
"You've played around enough this morning. Help out with the cleaning up the camp. Naruto, no excuses. I know you've been paying attention to everything and know how everything is done by now."
"Aww." The blonde sighed as he put his hands in his pockets and willed several clones into existence behind him and already walking off to do some of the minor chores that could be done now.
"Does this mean he will be helping out with the mission now as well?" A maid of Shion's asked skeptically as she nervously moved out of the way of one of the clones. No doubt encountering them for the first time would be an awkward experience.
"Unlikely." Sasuke shook his head as he began to clean up his breakfast. "Once Hinata becomes sane again she's probably going to beat him unconscious for the rest of the trip."
"No she won't. I can't purr if I'm unconscious." One of the clones correct. "It's been proven."
"Oh sure when you put it like tha… wait you purr?" The Uchiha looked at his teammate skeptically.
"Haven't you been paying attention?" Tenten snorted. "He does it all the time when Hinata scratches him behind the ears.
"I tend to ignore and avoid Hinata when she's gushing. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up whenever I'm near her doing it, as if she'll murder us all if we say or do anything to interrupt her sickeningly sweet happiness." Given the looks he got from his friends, he wasn't the only one that had come to that conclusion
"It is a marvelous sensation of untold parallels." Another clone whispered in hushed awe. "The itch that can't be scratched. The chills down the spine. The jerking leg!"
"And now I am forever scarred and unable to pet other animals anymore." Ino wept. "Sorry Akamaru, but my needs come first. Thank you Naruto, for ruining another innocent childhood activity for me."
"Anytime." Another clone grinned from behind her just before it was stabbed with a senbon and vanished.
"Ino. Civilian rules." Shino chided. "No violent murdering activities in witnessing range, even for clones."
"But it's Naruto!" The Yamanaka threw her arms up in the air in frustration.
"Why do you think we had to make the rules in the first place?" Chouji wept.
o. o. o.
Several miles away:
"Danzo-sama is not pleased." Fuu frowned as he read the latest message from their master. The sparse few sentences didn't seem to convey any emotion of any sort, however such trivialities were not needed when dealing with the leader of ROOT.
For weeks they had been following Kakashi's trail from such a distance that even they risked getting lost at times. For weeks they had been secretly pulling information from Ino's mind at the farthest range possible, ones that were only realistic if both users were Yamanaka with exceptional sensory range. For weeks they had been contemplating ways to subjugate and capture Naruto to bring him back without anything pointing back to their organization…
And, as Sai had guessed, it had been worthless.
"There is little we can do." The artist pointed out truthfully. It was clear that his teammates did not trust him completely. They didn't trust anyone except for Danzo really, but him especially due to his connections to the group. Unfortunately he was the only member in ROOT and one of the few in Konoha that could keep up with Sasuke's summons along with his teammates. "Had it only been Kakashi-sensei's group there, we would have an opening with Ino, however that is simply not possible with Hinata's involved."
Physical force was out simply because they were completely outnumbered nearly three to one, even if they triggered one of the hidden codes in Ino's mind to make her switch sides. Plus even if they did pull it off, grievously harming so many of Konoha's most potential young fighters and political figures would undo the advantages gained in grabbing the Kyubi in the first place.
Poison was out too. Chouji, Naruto, Sakura and Shino all had strong immune systems to most conventional mixtures either due to their unique bodies or the training they received.
Sneaking in and kidnapping Naruto wouldn't work. Even if they got away, there was little hope that they could manage to avoid the combined capabilities of Hinata, Shino, Sasuke, and Kakashi, even if they did have a head start.
Perhaps if they had more men or if some of them had been disposable they would have considered kidnapping Shion and exchanging her for Naruto, but Sai pointed out that the problems getting to her in the first place were the same as with Naruto.
"Is there any way to exploit the jinchuriki's mental unbalance?" Torune inquired.
"None that we can see at the moment." Fuu countered. "The ones that we currently know of would only put us in danger in the process and render us vulnerable."
"We still do not know what his full range of skills are." Sai pointed out factually. "His battle with Zabuza taught us much, but not everything. We need to learn what additional earth style techniques he has come across or made. He has always used them primarily to disorient and maneuver around his opponents. I don't want to be caught blindsided by whatever new trick he has learned."
"You wouldn't as you are going to stay behind regardless of what we chose." Fuu ordered the artist. "The target is already familiar with your chakra signature. If he detects you at all before we can secure him, then this entire operation is compromised."
"Of course. I did not mean to imply otherwise." The pale boy's head sunk submissively.
"Capturing him alone is not an issue. Getting him alone and getting away without being identified is." Torune stated factually. The general plan for dealing with Naruto as far as the elder pair were concerned was for Fuu to use his clan techniques to disable the blonde while Torune hit him with a powerful seal to knock him out and keep him unconscious for the rest of the trip.
Sai… didn't have as much faith in that approach.
Among the few things he had held back from Danzo and ROOT was the existence of Naruto's parents inside his soul. He had managed to do so by convincing himself that the former Hokage and his spouse were completely unrelated to Naruto and his training, which he did disclose to his superiors… and so far no one had suspected otherwise.
Of course no one expected him to know everything about Naruto since he wasn't part of the same team, but he did a good job all things considered.
"We should probably wait before making any moves." The pale teen advised calmly.
"Reasons." Torune emotionlessly demanded. Even by ROOT standards, the Aburame was known for being all but a blank slate.
"They still just got Naruto back. I have spent a good amount of time with all of them before, and I can tell you that they will most likely be on the highest guard for some time." Sai elaborated. "Missions with Naruto on them tend to go askew frequently. It is common knowledge. Everyone will be on the lookout for anything suspicious in general for some time. More so than if they were dealing with a prized client at the same time. I would too if I were in their situation."
Given that he was in Naruto's team when they had to deal with Han, this was pretty much a given that no one could argue against. It had taken him nearly four months even with Tsunade's treatment for his crushed hands to regain enough function to properly train again.
They still hurt and tended to cramp when the weather got too cold.
"Then what do you recommend?" Fuu leered at the boy. "Danzo-sama is not pleased with our lack of progress even though we have finally managed to catch up with Kakashi and the Jinchuriki."
"The current situation is a result of matters out of our hands." Sai evenly replied. "I believe the best thing now we can do is stay back, gather more information from Ino to learn more about the target, and wait for an opportunity to present itself. While normally this would sound ineffective, I must remind you of the target's track record when it comes to missions. At the pace that they are returning to Konoha, I have little doubt that something of significance will happen… as will the others. We can use whatever it is to serve as our distraction and not draw attention to ourselves."
What he didn't say was that he doubted that his teammates would succeed. Even if they did manage to place a seal on Naruto, he had a suspicion that it would either fail abysmally or something else they weren't prepared for would happen. Sai was loyal to ROOT and its causes, but he was also loyal to his friends. He would serve both to the best of his abilities, and if he needed to slightly mislead one to serve both, he would gladly do so.
Plus, he honestly believed that if Danzo ever got a hold of Naruto… things would go wrong for everyone, including Danzo. Best to keep him alive and mildly displeased than happy and two seconds away from setting everything ablaze… by accident.
The Yamanaka in command could not but silently agree with the boy's suggestion. He had frequently gone into his cousin's mind over the years and learned a good many things from her memories…
… Including how to use what the Oogakari called Presence.
However, when it came to the current jinchuriki, even he could not hold a straight face. The boy was frequently getting into trouble, be it his fault or not. The fact that he was alive after all he had been through was almost as absurd as how powerful he was supposedly now.
Regardless of how unprofessional the child's behavior was, his skills were sharp and his ability to think on the spot in difficult situations was difficult to match. The fact that he managed to keep his team alive during the incident three years ago was evidence of his competence.
In ROOT, outside of being trained to all but throw away one's emotions and be willing to give everything to Konoha, two things were hammered into each trainee's being. Patience and proclivity. Every agent was trained to constantly keep an eye out for something that could be of use to the village or their mission, to get things done. But they also learned to bide their time when needed, to strike at the opportune time for maximum effect.
Given the fact that they tended to work anonymously most of the time, they frequently could act without repercussion of their actions… so patience was not utilized as often as many would think outside of spying and surveillance.
"Your thoughts." Torune looked at his partner. Fuu was the closest thing he could consider a friend, but even so it did nothing to break the training and conditioning that was beaten into his body at a young age. Fuu was the one in charge of the mission and thus his word was final.
The Yamanaka looked between the pair displeased before closing his eyes, the only real sign that the situation was getting to him. "We wait. We do not have enough information to perform any actions as of yet and the situation is unfavorable. We trail them at a maximum distance as I gather information from our link. Until otherwise stated, we travel nightly."
"Right." The other two shinobi nodded curtly. If Sai was at all relieved by this decision, it did not show at all on his face.
Three seconds later, they had vanished.
o. o. o.
Fuu (the seven tailed Jinchuriki this time) looked back at the village that had been more of a home to her than the one she had been born and raised in wistfully. She knew that this may be the last time she would ever see it but… she promised herself otherwise. She would come back here. She had friends here and people that she liked spending time with. She would definitely survive this time.
"It is indeed a magnificent village." Gai smiled widely from behind her, fully equipped for the trip to come. "It is little wonder why you do not wish to leave. Not to insult your home of course. I have heard many good things about Takigakure in my travels. Why in fact I have reason to believe that their youthfulness…"
He was interrupted as Neji stepped in front of him. "There's no need to go overboard Sensei. We all understand what you're trying to say."
"Yeah Sensei. Taki always was a paranoid bunch. If you keep on yelling around them they might kick you out out of fear that someone might find them from the sound of your voice." Kin absentmindedly twirled a senbon between her fingers, much like Ino. The two frequently tried to outdo one another on who could mess around with the needles. According to Tenten, who had been the impartial judge, the pair had proven themselves to be extremely dexterous, and only allowed to stay in public so long as they weren't messing with more than six of the weapons at once.
"Yes Sensei!" Lee stated almost as loud as his bigger clone. "Sometimes the best way to be youthful is to keep it to yourself!"
Neji took a moment to turn to his teammate and stare at him with a dead visible eye for a few seconds before turning away and developing a small haunted aura.
Kin, knowing better, patted the Hyuuga on the back sympathetically as Gai praised his student's "valuable insight". "There there. I'm not Tenten but I'll try my best to keep them in check."
"There was a reason why I was so happy and hammered during my jonin promotion party Kin. I was free. Free to do missions without the constant yelling, without being reminded of youth all the time… without the spandex haunting my every waking moment…"
The former sound shinobi silently noted that she was now frequently wearing the material as well, albeit with more articles of clothing on top. She also kept to herself that she didn't exactly mind her boyfriend walking around in tight clothing that made his chiseled body and ass stand out for her to take in at all times.
She had a feeling that if she brought up that last bit she might push Neji past the point of no return.
"Kakashi-sensei had to deal with him too, and he turned out… reasonable." She had to think for a moment for the right word to say. "Besides, it's not like we're going alone on this mission."
"Yeah, you're right." Fuu blinked as if just realizing the fact that they were one short. "Where's our guest of honor?"
"Excuse us." Two Taki jonin appeared with a shunshin behind the girl. While they appeared to be experienced and skilled, they none the less did not appear to be anything special otherwise. Average heights, weights, hair, scars, and stances. The only thing abnormal were the looks of distrust they were giving Fuu. "We have come to escort you back to the village. "Is everything in order?"
"We are still waiting for our last member." Gai turned back to the men with a wide grin on his face.
"Last member?" The other jonin frowned as he looked around. "Forgive me, but outside of Fuu, we expected to be traveling with one team of combat specialized shinobi."
"Yes, well, extreme circumstances sometimes require abnormal responses." Neji turned to them with a diplomatic tone and an even face. "Given the situation, Hokage-sama decided to go the extra mile to ensure relations between our villages remain intact and stable. As such she has also sent someone with… experience, to aid Takigakure as a sign of good faith during our stay."
"Forgive me if I express my displeasure about this." One of the Jonin glared at the Hyuuga. "Do you believe that we are compromised to the point that you are unable to trust us with such information?"
"Oh no. Please do not think so little of us," an aged and experienced voice came from the shadows nearby…
… And from them walked a casually dressed, easily smiling, and clearly trolling Hiruzen Sarutobi. "We just thought that given the circumstances, it would be best to keep this turn of events as close to the chest as possible. For security reasons of course."
It did the former Hokage's heart good to know that he still had it in him to make seasoned Jonin's eyes nearly bug out at the sight of him.
"S-Sandaime-sama." The first Taki shinobi fumbled over his words. It didn't take a psychologist to tell that the man was having trouble believing what he was seeing. "Forgive us. We did not expect someone of your repute to actually come…"
"Neither did we." Another aged voice, one far less amused with the situation, stated firmly from the other side of the street.
Everyone turned to see Danzo, Homura, and Koharu standing in plain view as if they had been there the entire time, and they clearly had a few words to say given their expressions.
"Ah." The former Hokage grinned as if nothing was out of the ordinary. "This is quite nostalgic isn't it? I haven't gone out on a mission for so long, and yet my friends have still gathered to see me off. I feel younger already."
"I don't know who is more foolish. Tsunade for sending you out of the village or you for actually agreeing to it." Koharu shook her head in shame.
"Oh come now. I've only been retired for a few years, but that doesn't mean I haven't been letting myself go soft." The Professor huffed. "If anything, all that time behind the desk and the stress of managing the village did more damage than all of those assassination attempts over the years."
"What about Konohamaru?" Kin asked, knowing full well how much of a hell raiser the little monkey was.
"Don't even get me started on that one." The old man slumped over in depression. "I started to take heart medication shortly after he was born. Enough said."
"I thought that Naruto would be a bigger headache." Lee whispered to Neji curiously. "After all, wasn't he in charge of him? And Konohamaru never pranked the village en mass."
"Naruto didn't live in the same building as Hokage-sama." Neji pointed out, getting an 'ah' look from his friend.
"Regardless of your condition, the fact that you are actually willing to leave the village is absurd." Homura didn't react to the group's antics. "Even if you are retired, you are still a primary member of the village and could be targeted at any time."
"It's just a diplomatic mission." Hiruzen smiled without worry. "Tsunade and I both agreed that it was in Konoha's best interest to ensure that our allies are in primary form to prolong this time of peace. Takigakure has always proven itself to be a valuable ally in stressful times, and it is only natural to do the same when things are calm. Surely you three agree with this."
The hidden jab was well heard by the elders. After all, the four of them had only barely managed to escape the Kinkaku squads from Kumo that had killed the Nidaime Hokage, and only then managed to live because the shinobi from Takigakure had helped them out while traveling through their territory.
"These are two different things Hiruzen." Danzo didn't so much as flinch at being reminded of what he considered his single biggest failures. "Akatsuki is active and looking for the jinchuriki. While the girl may be their target, you would no doubt prove to be an appealing consolation prize if an opportunity presents itself."
"Well then it's a good thing I know how to defend myself don't I?" Hiruzen's relaxed face didn't change. It was obvious to everyone that he and Tsunade were expecting them to appear in the first place and that he intended to fight, but to say it out loud would cause many problems down the line. "Really now. No doubt you all are well aware of the situation. If we leave Takigakure alone for too long without aid, who knows who might try to take advantage of their unstable situation. And given that they are paranoid about their location, we are unable to send many people there without escalating the instability there. Given the requirements, there aren't many individuals who can fulfill this position."
"So we need to give them a strong elite force that can fight Akatsuki, and strong diplomatic support with as few individuals as possible and still ensure Takigakure that we are allies. Who else could fulfill both positions at once other than a former Hokage…" Neji thought with a straight face as he looked at the elders. "It appears that they are aware of this as well."
"You are getting ahead of yourself Hiruzen." Koharu's frown deepened. "You aren't as strong as you used to be."
"I completely agree. That's why Gai's team here will be my backup." Hiruzen countered calmly.
"B-backup?" Gai squeaked out in disbelief. He was a taijutsu expert, no, THE taijutsu expert of Konoha. The man didn't do backup period unless he was coming late to a fight. The last time he had been planned to be backup from the beginning of a mission was back when he was still a chunin.
"Might want to lay off the jokes Sandaime-sama." Kin snapped her fingers next to her teacher's head. "You almost broke him with that one."
Unlike the other people there over fifty, Hiruzen found Gai's panic very amusing and actually expressed it. "Haha. Fine. Fine. I suppose I have enjoyed myself a bit too much. Please do not worry Gai. My primary mission is to provide diplomatic and governmental assistance to Taki from behind the scenes. Unless things get too hazardous I'll leave the fighting to your team. Of course…"
"Of course?" Lee blinked in confusion as the former Hokage looked at his former advisers with a wicked gleam in his eye.
"Of course, I would be more than willing to step down from the mission if my friends have someone in mind that is available, capable of managing the political fiasco that needs to be dealt with, and is powerful enough to be a significant asset in a high level battle. Given the time frame and how long we have already taken, it would not do to delay any more."
It was a finishing blow and everyone knew it. Out of everyone in Konoha, the only people that could be considered politically savvy and powerful enough to deal with such a situation were Hiruzen, Danzo, the Oogakari, a handful of the clan heads, Tsunade, and maybe Kakashi.
Kakashi was out of town. It took months of pre planning for a clan head to leave the village for an extended amount of time. More so for Tsunade being the current Hokage. The Oogakari were… the Oogakari, and sending Danzo in person for diplomatic reasons was a recipe for disaster. No one sent him for diplomatic reasons other than negotiating terms of surrender and military management.
Plus there was the fact that Danzo still posed as a cripple to the wider world and those in Konoha as well. It wouldn't do for him to reveal the cards in his hand just yet, and everyone that knew better was well aware of this.
All in all, Hiruzen really was the ideal choice. Outside of being one of Tsunade's top advisers, something that Koharu and Homura seethed at frequently, the old man didn't really have much to do other than train and teach the latest generations a few tricks every once in a while. Since he wasn't a Hokage anymore and not a clan head, he had little to none of the red tape to go through in order to be assigned the mission…
It also helped that there were no Kage that had ever managed to retire before or after him, so the paperwork that dictated what they could actually do once retired was still a bit of a legal gray zone.
So, like any good ninja, the old man exploited it as much as he damn well pleased without causing an international incident.
Oh, how he wished he would live to see Konohamaru's face on his seventeenth birthday, heheheh.
Danzo's only visible eye cracked open enough for everyone to see his displeasure before he turned around. "If this is what you truly feel is best for Konoha, then there is little I can say to stop you at this point. Do not expect any comforting words should things do not go as planned upon your return though."
"Since when have I ever expected anything less but the cold relentless truth from you?" Hiruzen's counter was heard loud and clear…
… As was the biting insult veiled underneath. All the elders knew that Danzo had been lying to him for decades.
"Hiruzen…" Koharu broke her stern facade and adopted a look of genuine worry. "Please. You do not need to do this. Let someone younger deal with this mission."
"And let them mess up what I've worked hard to maintain? No thank you." The former Kage snorted as he stretched a small bit. "You know as well as I how tedious and difficult Taki is to deal with given their paranoia. No one in Konoha knows the loopholes of our agreements better than I do and I intend to remind them of it personally."
"Hm. I had forgotten how restless you could be." Homura took a different approach and shook his head with what could only be considered dry amusement. "It's been a long time since we saw you this eager to move Saru. We had almost forgotten this side of you…"
"Times change things. Being restless wouldn't have done anyone good at the time." Hiruzen took in his victory with humility.
"Just do try not to scare them with your talks of burning the place down if the workload gets too much." Koharu sighed in defeat. "We don't want them to think you've gone senile."
"Why not? It sounds like a great way to get them to pull their weight if they try to dump everything on me. It's not like they would be able to stop me if I actually wanted to."
The scary thing was that he was telling the truth. Fuu was their trump card, and she knew for a fact that she didn't stand a shot in hell against the old man.
"Just curb your new sense of humor." Homura glanced at the progressively sweating Taki jonin still kneeling within hearing distance. Judging from their reactions, they had come to the same conclusions as everyone else. "People might get the wrong idea if you flaunt it too much."
"There's a time and place for everything my friend. I'll make sure to schedule myself accordingly."
"Honestly." Koharu shook her head as she began to walk away. "And here I thought the worst of you had passed when you were training Jiraiya."
Gai's team and Fuu, who all knew the Sage's habits, wisely kept quiet about this new revelation. This did not however, stop them from leering at the former Kage with skeptical eyes.
"I have no idea what you are talking about." The elderly man retorted with a chuckle.
"… At least you have enough pride to deny that much." The old woman mumbled with a pout. "We expect a report every two to three weeks Hiruzen. Taki's security be damned, you are a valuable asset, retired or not."
"Well, at least I'm still wanted at this age." The former Hokage sighed whimsically. "I'm confident my time riddled mind can scrounge up standard procedure. It'll be a nice change to give other people paperwork for once."
"Hopefully they'll bury you in enough work to return you to normal." Homura leered back.
"You can retire too any time you want you know."
"The thought of the village being run without our input terrifies me Hiruzen." The honesty of the man's statement seemed to sober the former leader.
"We are old, my friend. Our job is to guide the future generations so that they don't repeat the same mistakes we have. Not to hold their hands or force them down the path that we want. Nothing would be achieved and no one would learn that way." The person that replied was not the joking old man from before, but the wise Shinobi that had ruled the village for half a century. "Tsunade is not a child, and neither am I. It is best you remember that the next time you question our judgment."
The sudden change in composure caused Koharu to momentarily stop and turn around warily, while Danzo made no such gesture.
"It is our job to question your judgment Hiruzen." The war hawk dryly replied as he began to walk away. "We are the ones that remember the world at its worst and its many faces. It is only natural that we put those memories to use to aid our village."
"Only so long as we do not forget that we do not live in the past, but in the present, and strive for the future." The Professor sagely replied. "The world is constantly changing, and like everything else, we too must adapt or be cast into the winds of time like dust along with all we have worked for."
"That's unexpectedly grim for you. Perhaps our concerns were warranted after all." No one could see the small frown that was on the ANBU leader's face.
"Concerned or not, this is no longer an issue." The dismissal was heard as loud as could be. Even though he was technically retired, no one could argue against the authority that the old monkey still had. "Now if you will excuse me, I have many conversations to be had with my teammates and our clients."
"Humph. If that is what you want. Hopefully if you return you'll see reason again." Danzo disappeared with his final say, seemingly no longer interested in the matter. Koharu and Homura merely looked at one another with some concern before politely bowing to the group and walking away.
"Honestly, as if this mission wasn't going to be stressful enough." Kin muttered to Fuu, Gai, Lee, and Neji. She glanced over to the Taki Jonin who had not moved from their spot since they had crouched down. "Those two are going to stir up major hell for us once we get to their village."
"It's their job. No doubt Danzo expected it to happen the moment he decided to show up." Neji sighed.
"It won't be that bad. Because of how much we value security they won't let it get in the way of the situation." Fuu tried to placate the group with a nervous smile. "After some sense of normalcy is returned though…"
"You need to relax Fuu-san." Lee stared at her with his beady eyes intensely. For some reason she, and most people for that matter, never could get used to the way he opened his eyes wide like that. It was like staring at two giant circles with dots in them… soulless, machine like dots. It was really creepy. "You are not acting like yourself."
"What do you expect?" The jinchuriki snapped back. "First of all, I don't want to go back. Second is Akatsuki. Third is the fact that the new people in charge are probably going to treat me worse than the old group, and last…" She shivered and looked around warily. "I feel… I don't know, like something's going to happen or something…"
The faces on the Konoha shinobi fell instantly. "… Like it's tied to us?" Neji spoke up first.
Fuu blinked in surprise. "Y-yeah, how did you…"
"Hinata-sama told me once that those experienced with presence sometimes become more aware of things around them in odd ways. Like our trained instincts but with greater range." The Hyuuga elaborated. "Some users can tell when they are being watched and identify where the observer is almost instantly. Others are capable of detecting whenever another party is harboring ill thoughts and what those thoughts are within a certain distance. It's a vague ability, but I believe it's appropriate for what we are feeling."
"I see. So in a sense it is a magnification of our basic instincts, taking them a step further than what would be possible." Gai crossed his arms and frowned in thought. "Yes, that does sound accurate and matches what I can feel, but… there's something else too…"
"Something else?" Fuu frowned as she tried to figure out what Gai was talking about. She went over her nerves, both natural and unnatural, ignoring her apprehension and emotions… deeper… older…
She turned back to the village and turned to the subtle odd feeling she was getting. It was a small but distinct sensation. Easy to miss if you didn't know what to look for, but stood out like a bright light if you did know. It was a fair bit inside the village, but the direction was…
"Wonderful." Neji all but hissed out the word, his donated eye glaring off to the distant out of sight location.
"It seems as if things are going to be more interesting than we anticipated." The former Hokage mused with a hint of dark humor, having followed the conversation from where he was and having come to the same conclusion as the rest of the group.
"Hokage-sama?" One of the Taki jonin looked at the old man warily before glancing at the Konoha shinobi and Fuu all looking in the same general direction. "Is there something wrong?"
"Hm. No. Nothing is wrong." The former Kage took a moment to gather his words before shaking his head and turning around. "It's nothing to concern yourself with."
o. o. o.
"They noticed us." Ghost smirked as he lounged on the couch in his compound's living room, drinking a beer.
"Not bad." Shadow shrugged while sitting next to him and chewing on some taffy, clearly not that impressed. "It's not like we were hiding ourselves, but still not bad for a bunch of noobies."
"Hmmm. But they can tell something is going to happen too. They're going to be even more wary now that they know we're paying attention." Waltz had his eyes closed and was leaning back on his personal ez-boy lounge chair and wearing one of those cheap napping blindfolds with eyes drawn on the front. He had made it himself and had Crypt cover the damn thing in protective seals so that no one could use it as a prank. It was his safe haven from the rest of the world and even Shadow knew better than to fuck with it or him when he was napping.
"The calm before the storm, gotta love premonitions." Ghost sighed, knowing that a lot of yelling was going to take place in the near future. He really should have talked to Neji before the kid left. Odds were it wasn't going to be pretty when they had the next one on one chat.
A not well known fact about Presence was that moderately competent users in their home universes tended to be more sensitive to the natural flows of the world and timeline around them. This frequently took the form of premonitions, or feelings that something was going to happen whenever a major point of divergence approaches. More so when they are directly involved.
A major point of divergence is, in definition, when there is an event that can yield an abnormally large number of potential outcomes that affect the future of the world significantly in a wide number of ways. While technically any point and event in time can affect the future in a wide range of ways, these particular ones tend to have significantly more outcomes with greater effects in a short period of time.
Examples for this world include, but are not limited to, the Kyubi's attack on Konoha on Naruto's birth, the battle at the valley of the end, Hashirama's legendary battle with Madara, Naruto's mission to Wave Country...
… And Han's attempted slaughter of Naruto's group.
Of course, while the Oogakari were not natives to this universe, they were powerful, experienced, and significant enough to detect these events when they came easily. In fact, the less they and other non-natives involved themselves with the world, the easier it was for them to predict and foresee what would happen.
It was part of the reason why Gods themselves tended to minimize their involvement with the worlds they worked in, so they could maximize their efficiency and ability to do the most with only a few words and actions. If too many outside forces interfered with the universe, only the most absolute of all those on the higher planes would be able to foretell how things would end up or keep order. That way they could manage several hundred thousand jobs, worlds, and even universes at once with little issue.
… But that would be boring, knowing everything and doing little, wouldn't it? A repetitive happenstance. Definitely not the style of the god level beings in this story, which is why they took the middle road. Enough to keep things interesting and fresh, while still minimizing what they do to keep the whole thing from being a colossal fuck up.
"With walnuts." Crypt added his two cents with his head sticking out of the wall next to the stairs. "And extra cheeeeese."
"What about the scrubs that manage to squeak their way in?" Shadow lazily glared at Ghost, who in turn failed to look innocently away while drinking. He had caught hell for forgetting to completely close up the portal behind him, even if he had been suffering from a major Kung-Pow flashback episode. "From what I heard, they almost fucked everything up a week ago."
"Scab's dealing with them." Waltz waved one of his tremendous arms about lazily, dismissing the issue. "He's always been the best at long term multitasking. They already understand that if they start being a problem we have no issues with dealing with them personally."
"Anybody we know? I could have sworn that I felt one of their signatures before." Ghost yawned. Normally he was more on top of things like this, but Scab had already claimed and dealt with the issue before the rest of them could make a move.
"Not from what I was told." Shadow swallowed her treat only to instantly replace it with another one. "Sparky said that one of them was the bounty hunter that accidentally caused that dystopia to become aware of the multiverse and start trying to take over multiple realms at a fast pace a century back."
"The one that had everything looking like it was from the Tron worlds, or the one where everything they used looked like a hispanic knockoff of a 1980's anime?" Waltz lifted his head in curiosity.
"Thundercats! Ho!" Crypt squealed. "Kitty kitty bang bang."
"Ah. Yeah, Scab had a lot of fun wrecking them from the inside out didn't he? Made AMV's from the video recordings of the hell he caused and everything. Poor shmucks didn't stand a chance." The old immortal snorted. "Did he even leave his room for that one?"
"Nope. Managed the entire thing via remote hacking." Ghost popped the last syllable of the word before drinking again. "He bet… what's the name of that giant he's friends with? The one that decked out his cave with that gaming desktop the size of a skyscraper and is one of the few hackers that Scab actually gets along with?"
"Potato." Crypt blew his tongue.
"I want it." Shadow drooled at the memory of the godly setup. "That processing power was deemed illegal in over a hundred universes because the power needed to run it could black out entire countries, and would sometimes take the life force of the local wildlife if left alone for too long. It was beautiful…"
"Paul?" Waltz clearly didn't care about the device unlike his sister. "Twenty-x stories tall. Brown hair? Green eyes? Has an asthma problem? Collects cartoon figurines that are triple our size and once mistook Midget for a magical girl from one of his favorite shows?"
"Po-ta-toe?" The insane man's head tilted at a right angle in confusion.
"Right, him. Paul bet him he couldn't stop a reasonably big multiversal crisis from his room. Scab of course took it."
"It's been over two millenniums and he still has that damn gambling problem." Waltz grumbled.
"Not a problem if he's always winning." Ghost shrugged. "Dude knows how to rig a system."
"What did he win?" Shadow blinked in confusion.
"Not sure." The blind man yawned. "I think it had something to do with an old business rival. A biomancer that was annoying us a while back or something."
Nether Ghost nor Shadow noticed the sharpening that took place in Crypt's and Waltz' eyes that lasted half a millisecond before they returned back to normal…
… That was a lie. Both had easily detected the instantaneous reaction, but they did not respond to it. If it was important, the two would have brought it up by now. If they didn't, then the issue was addressed, simple as that.
"So who wants to tail them this time?" Shadow cracked her neck and getting back on subject. "Ghost and I used up our turns with Han."
"Why can't we just have Scab record all the damn things?" Waltz moaned as he leaned back on his chair so that he was almost parallel to the ground. "He has all those bloody cloaked drones, nanotech bugs, and satellites all over the planet by now. Plus it's not like he hasn't already prepared to turn the entire place into one massive weapon at a moment's notice if he wanted to."
It was a hidden joke among the family. When people outside of the loop spoke of him, they frequently talk about the time he used his alchemic powers to completely restructure an otherwise dead planet into one that could actually support life… complete with trees, plants, minor towns, and a taco bar three feet away from where he was standing.
What they didn't know was that he had been able to do such things for centuries beforehand, and made it a habit to prepare any planet he spent long amounts of time on to be warped into a planet sized weapon of apocalyptic destruction that would make the Death Star look like a happy meal toy.
Shadow tended to enjoy testing out his creations with "battle planets" of her own making and then have them duke it out. More often than not though, it would end with the more chaotic of the two having too much "fun" and ramming her planet into his in a blitzkrieg kamikaze attack, complete with psychotic and rampant maniacal laughter.
Her personal favorite was when she turned a gas giant planet twelve times the size of Jupiter into a mobile horror version of Mrs. Pacman.
She named it Betty.
It didn't help her case when she sent "Betty" about to "eat" "small round objects" nearby.
Three universes worth of civilizations are now traumatized whenever someone makes the "wakka wakka" noise in hearing range, as it apparently is associated with Armageddon.
And then there was the time they decided to test out their creations on Unicron for shits and giggles. The Decepticons of most universes were clearly not happy when word got to them about that particular incident.
Scabbard's excuse when asked why he did such things was a simple one. "I get bored very easily."
Shadow wouldn't get an answer out when asked simply because she would laugh too hard at the memory.
"Stop being so lazy." The only person with two X chromosomes chided.
"I'm not being lazy when I'm one of the two people here that has a constant income and job." Out of the five family members, only Waltz and Scabbard could maintain a steady job. Shadow was too temperamental to do anything other than single requests, Crypt was insane, and while Ghost was able to perform many jobs and was sane enough to not get fired for insubordination, at the end of the day it simply wasn't in him to maintain such a lifestyle. He could get an income sure, especially in a world like this where his assassination and spying skills would get top dollar, but it would be on a job by job basis.
Crypt blew out his tongue and made a fart noise like a child.
Everyone looked at him skeptically.
"Really?" Shadow rose an eyebrow.
Another raspberry was spat out.
"It's not like we don't trust you to not get involved in another guy's fight, but…" Ghost started skeptically… Only to get saliva sprayed onto his face.
"Damn it, he got it in the beer that time."
"Oh just let him go already." Waltz groaned. "It'll get him out of the house and out of my hair for once. Plus it's something he can actually do without possibly destroying the local society and civilization."
"Thhpppppt." Crypt agreed, his head circling one of the lights embedded onto the ceiling.
"That goes without saying." Shadow nodded.
"Well…" Ghost raised his drink to the air. "Here's to the nice and quiet times that we catered to. And here's to the hell, accusations, and screaming that once more that will come flying in our direction once the bodies start to fall yet again, as all mortals blame those in the greatest of power when the world around them starts to fall apart."
"Here here." Waltz and Shadow raised their hands in agreement to the toast.
Crypt was already gone.
o. o. o.
"Is this a joke?" Deidara blinked in confusion. "Because it's in pretty bad taste if you ask me."
"No one trusts your taste, which is why no one asked you." Sasori glanced at his partner dryly before returning his gaze to Pain. "However I share your sentiment in this case."
"What you feel is irrelevant." The Rinnegan user stood impassively next to Kakuzu, a recently released Hidan, and a fairly annoyed looking foreign woman wearing a dirty brown cloak. "You will do what I command."
The newcomer rolled her eyes. Clearly she did not put as much weight into the man's words as the others did.
"Why the hell are you paring up the crippled doll with the newcomer bitch and sending them with us?" Hidan snorted annoyed.
"Because I see worth in her capabilities and her array of skills match Sasori's." The leader replied evenly. "Sasori will analyze and watch her progress as she supports you on your mission. Deidara on the other hand will be on another mission in the meantime."
"Where did this woman come from in the first place?" Kakuzu spoke up finally and stared at the disinterested foreigner with intensity. There were several things about her that rubbed him the wrong way. He didn't recognize her from any bounty boards. She was clearly not from the area. But what put him off the most was the sheer level of disinterest she was expressing to… everything. She was surrounded by some of the most dangerous people on the planet and yet she didn't seem put off or disturbed in the slightest. Hell she didn't even seem impressed.
"Well when a man and a woman decide to fuck one another's brains out…" Her vulgar and sarcastic reply held a moderately strong accent that none of them could identify.
"Sold!" Hidan shouted with a wide grin.
"One of our resources came across her recently in the aftermath of a battle involving the Kyubi." Pain answered for her seeing as she wasn't going to tell the truth anytime soon. At the mention of the Fox, the rest of the group instantly went serious. "Her traveling companions appeared to have been caught up in the fighting and were not available when she was found disoriented. She impressed this resource enough for me to consider her filling Orochimaru's position."
"Hey I never agreed to fill any big positions." The newcomer glared at the Rinnegan user, not at all put off by his odd appearance and oppressive power. "This is a temporary thing I'm doing to pay you guys back for helping me out and that's it. I don't mind doing a few jobs, but if you want me for the long run you have to make it worth my while. I take my payments in cash, jewels, precious metals, and enchanted artifacts. I'm not cheap."
"Humph." Kakuzu snorted in amusement. "Finally someone else that knows how to do business around here."
"Fucking wonderful." Hidan sarcastically groaned.
"I would be careful with my words if I were you." Pain frowned and blasted enough killing intent to make the rest of the shinobi there silence themselves. "I am the god of this world."
It didn't even make her flinch. "Could have fooled me. Didn't know gods were brought so low in this region."
Even Nagato paused to take in the woman's words. If he didn't know any better, he would have thought that she knew more about the all-powerful than he, the wielder of the Rinnegan, did.
… No. It was best to leave this foreigner to her delusions. If he got caught in her pace he would appear weak. "We will discuss your payment and the term of your employment after you yield satisfactory results on your mission. Sasori will be your observer. He is still recovering from his previous mission and is not battle capable just yet."
"Heh. Babysitting duty." Deidara chuckled to his partner.
"Don't make me kill you." Said babysitter growled back. Replacing the parts for his main body and Hiruko was one thing, he had replacements aplenty for them, but fixing the Sandaime Kazekage's body was proving to be a straight up pain in his artificial ass. True he had his five hundred spare puppets and a good number of traps, though currently not as many as he usually carried, in his back-up bodies, but given the battles they were bound to be involved in soon, there was no way in hell he was going out into the direct line of fire without his strongest ace.
Carmen didn't blink as she stared down her new temporary boss. "Oi. Miser with the red and green eyes. Is the pay really good enough to deal with these guys on a constant basis?"
Kakuzu snorted. No amount of pay was worth dealing with Hidan on a constant basis. "It's constant and there are fewer rules than most would find in our profession. And the name is Kakuzu, arrogant brat."
Translation: the pay wasn't the biggest, but good enough for what we did, which was very dangerous and big. So long as you followed the main rules you could do what you want. Also, what we do is extremely illegal and likely to cause some major problems for people in the near future.
All in all, it was a profession where they didn't expect everyone to live, but so long as you did you could expect a reliable source of jobs that could sate their greedy appetites. The biggest paying jobs tended to be one time only deals. If he had claimed the pay was great she would have bolted the first chance she had and known something was up.
The brat comment meant that the large man was old too. Probably older than everyone else in the room, and thus the most experienced. One didn't reach that kind of age in this occupation without knowing damn well what he was talking about.
"Humph." She snorted and finally turned away from her boss, sauntering up to Sasori as if she was lowering herself to their level. "So Pinocchio here is my partner? At least he isn't disguised as a small child this time. The whole innocent boy routine has been beaten to death enough as it is."
The puppet master didn't bother to respond to the woman's peculiar comment and settled for pretending she was just another immature partner bound to get themselves killed like his old one.
"Deidara, come with me. I have a mission for you while the others are busy." Nagato turned around, indicating that the meeting was over and was satisfied with the results. "Zetsu will inform you of your mission. I expect results this time."
"Sasori and Deidara were the ones that screwed up last time." Hidan moaned. "Don't land their failures on us."
"Kakuzu." Sasori addressed the other immortal fellow in a warning tone.
"Feel free to shut him up in any way you want if he gets too much. Just make sure he'll be of use when we have to work. It's a pain in the ass to look after him if he falls apart in the middle of a job." The miser absently replied as he looked at their new addition skeptically. While he did somewhat appreciate her attitude and approach to the job, he would still kill her if she posed a problem. All things considered, he didn't trust her at all simply because he didn't know anything about her.
"Don't miss me too much Sasori-danna." Deidara snorted as he followed Pain, waving a hand casually as they rounded the corner.
Carmen, simply stood there and blinked a few times. "Was that a… on his hand…"
"Yes." The other four members of Akatsuki sighed at the same time.
"… How does he go to the bathroom without… you know?"
The room was silent for several moments before everyone slowly turned to Sasori with mild curiosity.
"I hate all of you." The Puppetmaster disclosed his thoughts with some irritation.
They continued to stare.
"It's the only time he wears gloves." The red head relented. "He's also a fanatic when it comes to washing his hands."
"Ah." The rest of the room's occupants nodded in understanding.
"That's seriously messed up." A new voice shakily laughed from the ceiling. A normal person would have jumped in surprise, but the occupants in the room simply looked up in annoyance.
"I'm disgusted that such a thing interests all of you." The black half of Zetsu chided them from the ceiling as he manifested himself.
"Oh don't be like that. Now we know better than to give reports to Deidara if he has his gloves on." The white half chuckled, clearly amused.
"Well that answers my question on whether or not this group has any experimental mutants about." Carmen muttered, clearly not impressed. "And one with a split personality to boot. Do tell, are you both asexual or is one a boy and the other a girl? Because either way would just make my day at this point."
"Well that answers our question on whether or not the newcomer is a bitch." The white half deadpanned back. "I miss Konan already, and she really isn't much of a conversationalist herself."
"Please, I'm THE bitch."
"Wonderful." The dark half added thickly, though there was no physical movements on his part. "Good luck Sasori."
"Just give us the mission so we can get this over with. The sooner I'm done with her the better." The puppeteer glared at… well his face was stuck on glaring in general. He didn't really see the point in returning it to its normal impassive setting for the time being.
"That's what she said." Hidan grinned…
… Only to get a hole blasted through the side of his head.
"Sorry." Carmen didn't sound it at all as she held a simple hand gun. "I tend to shoot people that make that crappy ass joke."
The room was silent as everyone stared at her.
"… Wait, he is the immortal one, right?" She asked skeptically.
"FUCK!" Hidan shouted on the floor as the pain of getting shot finally caught up to him. "What the hell was that for?!"
"Oh. Ok. For a second I was actually worried there."
"WHAT?!" Apparently she had blown out his eardrums when she blasted the thing right next to his skull.
"We're keeping her." Kakuzu turned to Sasori with a dead serious face.
"Its times like this that make me appreciate how normal Itachi and Kisame are." The dark half of Zetsu mused out loud.
"Once you get over Kisame's whole rampant butcher thing and Itachi's… lack of interaction bit." The white half agreed.
"Please don't lump me together with them." Sasori glared at the plant man. "If you don't mind, can you get on with the mission?"
Carmen began to tune out what the double plant man thing was saying as soon as it started to talk. She had a recorder on her taking in everything that she could play back later so she wasn't worried about missing anything.
In the mean time she once more began to go over the situation in her head. That one eyed prick had managed to put some sort of mind control illusion on her earlier, and a bloody strong one at that. Bastard had been pressing her for information for almost a whole day before he finally left her alone. He was really interested in how her powers worked, specifically Presence seeing it was what she used to cut off his arm. Apparently he didn't take too kindly to having his timespace powers negated so easily. Big surprise there.
He did grill her a bit on other worlds, her weapons, her teammates, and any other outsider that might be in this world of course, and likewise she responded without hesitation. No skin off her back. She doubted he believed even half of the things she told him and just wrote her off as some deranged woman that had been experimented on five times too many.
Not that it would do him any good. Her weapons couldn't be manufactured without the right, significantly advanced, equipment. Her dimension jumping equipment was useless with this world under lockdown. Her partners, while either worried or tweaked off at her, were easily capable of taking this cocky shit down, and as for the other possible outsiders…
… Well, the less they paid attention to her, the better.
She had spent more than long enough with him to get an idea of what he was like and how he acted. His hypnosis was a good way of controlling her, but didn't make her forget anything. The way he talked. The way he carried himself. His odd eye. His vocabulary. His blatant confidence of his superiority…
The more she saw, the more she was pissed off that she had been taken out by this self-entitled and clearly deranged idiot. He was clearly not who he said he was, and was very much over reliant on his little intangibility move.
The fact that he didn't even ask her if she had some potential way of breaking his hypnosis on her was all she needed to know that he was an overconfident ass that had has his way with things for far too long.
A nifty little unknown fact about general hypnosis, illusion, and general brain control powers is that they generally tend to not work well with machinery and cyborgs. There were exceptions of course, but they were exceptions for a reason.
More so when said cyborgs have a built in rebooting and defragmenting protocol that goes into effect every few days to clean out the system and for moments like this.
Mind control experts, hive minds, giant sentient network programs, etc., were more frequent than most expected, and considered among the most annoying kind of powers found in "locals" that a reality jumper could encounter if they weren't prepared for. You couldn't count the number of times these guys have caused problems by conveniently getting control of a random jumper and thought to themselves: "Hey. These guys were easy enough to control. I'm pretty much done with my world. Why not try conquer others too?"
… Then they got the shit kicked out of them by people and gods way out of their league and way pissed off. The newcomers were beaten. Everybody cheered and partied. Wait a few years and the same thing happens all over again.
The current Second True God was one… of sorts. After the hell he caused everyone, no one took his kind lightly ever again… that was almost two millennia ago.
That cocky little red eyed shit thinks that he has her under his control, like most mind controlling nuts that hide in the background. She'd play his game for now, but only until the opportunity to rob the entire organization blind was right in front of her.
Groups that tend to try to take over the world and have a solid shot of doing so ALWAYS had a sizable stash of valuables hidden away somewhere.
And if the world got into a bit of trouble because she taught these third universe monkeys a few advanced tricks… well it was no skin off her back. She'd probably be gone before any of them would even manage to learn anything.
Sometimes it helped to be a pretty face. People tended to pretend that they were incapable of coming up with ways around elaborate plans and potent powers.
o. o. o.
Kiba looked around frantically. "… Why do I feel like Shino?!"
Kurenai rolled her eyes as she and Asuma walked past him in civilian clothes and towards a nearby restaurant for a date.
"He's your student." The chain smoker pointed out factually.
"Do you want anything to happen tonight or not?" The genjutsu mistress glared at her boyfriend.
"And like that he's been thrown to the side." The other teacher grinned, feeling not at all guilty.
"Hello Kiba." Shibi Aburame greeted his son's teammate two feet away from him, glasses shining in amusement. "Welcome to the fold."
"What the hell?!"
"Just ignore it." Kurenai dragged her boyfriend further away from the yelling. "If we get involved now we'll never get away. You know that they are behind it in some way. Shibi wouldn't do anything like that otherwise."
"I don't know about that. Shikaku, Inoichi, and Chouza have told me he's been getting a bit of a sense of humor lately." The Hokage's son let himself get pulled along without any complaints. "For all we know Shibi might be a bit buzzed at the moment."
"One, that was a terrible joke. Two, it's too early for anyone to get that plastered. Three, there is no way he would allow himself to get actually plastered by himself." Kurenai growled.
"Oi Shibi! Where are you!?" Chouza shouted as he came from the opposite side of the road. "You said you were going to the bathroom!"
"Not. One. Word." The woman turned her crimson eyes to the bearded man that was trying hard to not laugh. "We are going to have a normal dinner, with normal conversation, and then go home and have some normal sex."
"I don't know about you, but that last part actually managed to depress me somehurk!?" Asuma started off before his date twisted his arm in a clearly not normal way. "I give! I give! You win! Normal sex! Normal sex!"
With a huff, his hand was released and her arms crossed. "I hope you keep that mindset."
"I hope my arm stops throbbing." The larger of the two rubbed his arm tenderly. "Is there something wrong? You're set off easier than normal."
"I'm just getting tired of this." She waved her arm at where Kiba was trembling, possibly still paralyzed in fear from Shibi's sudden appearance, as the elder man chatted conversationally to Chouza. "Everyone's getting more and more crazy and childish these days. Sure we're getting stronger, but it's like for every step we take closer to being a Hokage, we back another into being genin who do nothing but yell our heads off all the time."
Asuma blew out a breath of smoke, knowing full well what the woman was getting at. He too had noticed the slow change in everyone, including himself, but admittedly was less disturbed by it. "Is it really that much of a bad thing?"
A quick but murderous glare from Kurenai prompted him to keep talking. "I mean… sure it's embarrassing a lot of the time but when was the last time you actually saw or hear of an Aburame be this social. Or the Hyuuga reaching out to other people… or the general populace being this… happy?"
He wasn't stretching the truth either. The past few years had been some of Konoha's most prosperous in decades, even with the strained relationship with Iwa and a portion of the elemental nations cut off from them. The village's economy was at an all-time high, and morale wasn't that far behind. True there were missions that went bad every now and then, and so funerals of shinobi and kunoichi that were KIA were not an uncommon if not weekly event, but that was normal for them.
Ties and trading between all of the villages except Iwa were on the rise, bonuses were being handed out more, as were vacations, and it wasn't uncommon for popular long time missions to exotic locations to show up every now and then.
It wasn't a golden age for Konoha, but it was damn good all things considered for the general population.
"It's ridiculous." The woman countered. "We are a shinobi village. We are supposed to be trained. Alert. Aware. Mature. Ready to impress our clients, protect our home, and be ready for war at a moment's notice. Look at everyone Asuma. Does this look like a place that's on the verge of war with Iwa?"
"No, and I honestly hope that it stays that way." The man's face hardened. "Don't tell me that you want everyone to be stressed as you are right now."
"I'm not." She recoiled at the accusation. "I want everyone to be happy and for the world to be peaceful and all that nonsensical blather that idealists spew out… but that's not now Asuma, and it concerns me that so many people are behaving as if they can't see it too."
The man stared deep into her eyes with concern. They had been dating for years now, and had known one another for even longer than that. It was because of their familiarity with one another that he saw…
"You feel it too, don't you?" He muttered quietly so no one could hear them. "That shiver down a spine that doesn't exist."
Her eyes widened in surprise for just a moment. "If you also… it can't be just a coincidence Asuma. Something must be happening soon…"
"But it's not here. And not now. Not that soon at least." He enveloped her in his arms and held her close. "I can tell that much. We can tell Hokage-sama about it later if she isn't already feeling the same thing. You know how superstitious she can be at times."
"But if we can actually feel it too…" The woman started before being silenced with a kiss on the lips.
"We'll stop by the office after dinner and give a message to Shizune. She's always doing overtime for one reason or another so it will be in safe hands. After that we will go home and spend the night as you planned. You've been stressing yourself out lately and I intend to fix that."
"You have your work cut out for you." The mature woman grumbled. "I'm a volcano of stress right now."
"Normal sex doesn't sound that satisfying now does it?" The smoker grinned.
"Oh shut up. I swear for a man who has strained ties with his father, you certainly share his habits." She let him off lightly by pushing herself out of his grasp and sighed. "Honestly. It's like with Anko gone for so long my tolerance for the absurd has dwindled."
"Yeah, she and Hana are really taking their time on this one." Asuma rubbed the spot where she pushed away. Kurenai may have a lithe figure, but she was a jonin for a damn reason. The callouses on her thin flexible fingers were proof enough of that.
He had once seen those "thin flexible fingers" shear through metal armor like it was tissue paper.
"I think I'll ask about them the next time I'm in the office." She grabbed his hand and began to lead him towards the restaurant that she had made reservations at. Normally it was the man's job to do this, but Asuma had a tendency of picking places that were… well they were nice, but she wanted to go to a place that didn't have the smell of smoke clinging to absolutely everything inside every now and then.
"They're fine. Those two are among the strongest in the village." Asuma sighed. Really, outside of Akatsuki and a handful of other elite individuals around the world, the man couldn't think of any shinobi on the planet that could handle the two of them at once.
"I suppose." The woman huffed, hiding her jealousy poorly. "It is hard to compare to those two women after all."
"Hey now. Don't be like that. Ghost may have landed himself with two monsters, but I have me a woman who is beautiful, strong, and not crazy."
"Gee. You sure know how to make a girl feel special." The illusionist deadpanned.
"Just telling you what you wanted to hear." The man shrugged as he got out a pack of cigarettes and began to hit the bottom to shift all the chemicals to one side before it was snatched out of his hands. "Oi!"
"No." She stated simply as she put the nicotine in her purse. She didn't throw it away for two reasons. The first was that the brand she had stolen was imported and provided only by the Oogakari, and Asuma had stated on multiple occasions that it was expensive. The second reason why she didn't toss them was because, while it did annoy her to admit it, Asuma had been using them to train his wind chakra manipulation via lacing his lungs and making shapes out of what he exhaled. While it was amusing at first, she also knew that the man had some particularly lethal uses for the trick as well. "Not tonight."
A heavy breath of air puffed out of his nose. She had always hated his smoking habit, and more often than not stole his smokes whenever she found a good excuse. Of course when he came up with his new uses for smoke and ash, she reluctantly held back her distaste… unless she was in a particularly poor mood. "Fine. Come on. Let's see if getting some food in you will make you lighten up a bit."
"You're such a gentleman." She smirked weakly.
"Comes with being a Kage's kid and working for the Daimyo for almost a decade." The man shrugged.
"And he never complained about the smoking?"
"Nah. I was the muscle in front of the doors. Never got close enough to him for it to be a problem. Chiriku was the one that catered to the guy day and night. Let me tell you, there are fewer sights that can compare to a drunk and angry pacifist monk when off hours."
"… Well at least you're pretty and can get me into the expensive places without reserving too far ahead in advance." She sighed tiredly. She had no doubt that she was going to be hearing some stories about this during dinner. "How is Chiriku anyways? The last time we saw him was last year for that meeting between the temple and Konoha right?"
"Yep." The former guardsman stared up to the sky absently. He really should visit his old friend again soon, especially given what was going to happen soon. "We spent all night drinking to the old days and laughing about how bloody stupid we were."
"Hard to imagine that stern man laughing." The woman smirked.
"That's what the entire night of drinking was for." The man matcher her grin.
"Well then, let's see if the same will work tonight." She looped her arm around his and led him across town. "I'm confident I have a stronger alcohol tolerance than a secluded monk."
"Challenge accepted." Asuma grinned, knowing for a fact that she didn't. Chiriku could down enough booze to drop a jinchuriki and still recite passages from his scriptures from memory without so much as a slur. The man's mental training and fortitude was absurd.
o. o. o.
Jiraiya stared with a near emotionless expression on his face. It would have been emotionless had it not been for the rampantly twitching eyebrow.
"So… he summoned not one, but all four of you." He started slowly.
"Brother, didn't we do this joke already?" Gamatatsu complained.
"Quiet Tatsu. I'm enjoying the moment." Gamakichi lightly hit his immature sibling.
"Yes Jiraiya." Pa sighed. "And before you have an opportunity to ask I'll finish repeating myself. He was extremely weakened and tired. His chakra was somewhat erratic. The Kyubi is now able to leave his person at any point he wishes. He managed to run away from the Great End. He is exploring the Elemental Nations by himself, and finally, No, we are not going to reverse summon him just so you can wail on him and rant about how immature he is."
"… Why?" The sage's eyebrow did not abate as he tried to wrap his mind around what sort of bizarre and absurd logic Naruto used to convince the elder toads to stick to such a, in his words, blatantly retarded and suicidal idea.
"Why not?" Gamatatsu tilted his yellow head to the side. "He was really strong Jiraiya! I mean, yeah he was weak, but the amount of natural energy he could control at once was incredible! I don't think anyone could have beaten him!"
"That's not what he meant Tatsu." Ma lightly chided her decedent tenderly. He was one of her current favorites and she enjoyed babying him whenever possible. She didn't comment on the fact that what the young toad said was indeed true. Even she had trouble comprehending just how far the boy's mastery of natural energy had reached. "Jiraiya-chan, one look at that boy was all I needed to tell that he had things to work out. In some ways he looked a lot like you right after Orochimaru betrayed Konoha. A strong front to cover the child underneath that was tired of the world around him."
"He did not decide to do this lightly Jiraiya." Pa elaborated. "Childish and unstable his choice may be, but not without careful deliberation. We have all spent enough time around him to know that he is no fool by any means."
"Tsunade's going to kill me when I tell her of this." The man groaned as he pinched the bridge of his nose. If he had kept in more contact recently with his unofficial "partner", he could have learned of this in time to convince the toads to his side before the blonde did. It probably would have saved everyone a great deal of time. "Why didn't you inform me of this sooner?"
"Excuse me?" Ma frowned. "Who was it that wanted minimum contact for the past few weeks while they investigated several possible Akatsuki bases and rumors about its members?"
The sage grimaced. Over the past few years, while he wasn't helping out to train Naruto's friends or sharpening his own abilities, the man had been going over everything he knew about the organization from the previous timeline and then verifying that it was not only accurate but gaining more information in the process.
Not only that, but he had also been inspecting the odd phenomena that were the increasing appearances of Orochimaru's old experiments and people with the cursed seal. He highly suspected that Kabuto was involved in some way, but the little glasses wearing nut might as well be dead in a ditch somewhere from the little information he had gathered. Considering how many of the old snake's hideouts had been destroyed, he considered it to be more than frustrating.
"Fine. It was a stroke of bad timing on my part." He relented. "But could you guys…"
"No, we aren't going to reverse summon you to his location." Pa cut him off before he could finish. "The boy clearly wanted to be left to his devices for a reason and we will respect it."
"Well it was worth a shot." He muttered. "How about…"
"We won't point out his current location to you either." Ma deadpanned.
"Hahaha." Gamakichi laughed. "You can't catch a break can you Ero-senin!"
"Oi! How many times have I told you to not call me that?!" Said pervert yelled.
"Doesn't matter! I'm not stopping anytime soon!" The toad had no remorse as he continued to laugh as much as he wished.
"Geez. What is it with this generation? No respect for their elders." The man glanced at Ma and Pa who had the decency to nod slightly in agreement.
"Jiraiya-chan, regardless of Naruto's situation, you must be aware that his appearance only means that things are to pick up now." Ma got back on topic. "The Rokubi has already been captured and they already attempted to catch the Ichibi. Perhaps it is best if you spent your time not on uncertainties but on polishing your skills. You are going to be busy with your spy network in the near future."
"I'm still working on some leads that I just got recently involving some odd movements of missing nin to the west." The sage shrugged helplessly. "They'll go cold soon. I can't afford to ignore them at this point unfortunately."
Sage training wasn't something that took a few days or a couple of weeks. To make even a sliver of progress at Jiraiya's stage, he would need to isolate himself there for at least a month, and that was if he was lucky and made a major unlikely breakthrough.
It took nearly two months for Pain to attack Konoha after he killed the Sage. The only reason why Naruto managed to progress as much as he did in the Sage Arts was due to his liberal use of clones, his habit of learning by doing instead of listening, and his frustratingly stubborn personality…
… Everyone agreed that the clones were the biggest reason he pulled it off.
"Mmm. This may be a tad bit reckless of you." Pa closed his eyes and pondered heavily. "I am not questioning your skills, and this is likely a simple job, but do you want to risk what happened last time to occur again?"
The sage glanced at his senior of nearly six hundred and fifty years with an unreadable gaze… before a wry smirk made its way onto his face.
The four toads blinked in surprise as they felt the man's existence stand out from reality. He physically didn't change or even move that much, but he was greater… wiser… more familiar to them…
… And his significance only increased as the skin around his eyes took on a crimson hue, his hair became more spiked, and his body filled out oh so slightly.
Naruto was indeed a power sage trained by the toads… but Jiraiya was without a doubt The Toad Sage of Myoboku. The summons instinctively could not fight against their instincts to recognize him as one of their own… that the fact that he was human and less than a tenth of the age of the great sage elders was irrelevant to this truth.
Jiraiya still have some troubles with sage mode… but if the Toad Sage of Myoboku desired to mesh his chakra with the natural energies of the world, then it should pose no issue for him. No, it should be expected of him to only achieve that much.
"Whoah." Gamakichi blinked in surprise, his previous amusement completely vanished. "Didn't see that coming."
"Brother! Did you see that!?" Gamatatsu whispered. "He was moving and still mixed his power perfectly so quickly!"
"J-Jiraiya-chan." Pa stammered, completely dumfounded. "Since when could you do this?"
"What?" The Toad Sage grinned, allowing the four to bask in his greatness. "Did you think that everyone else would be learning all these new tricks and leave me out to dry? Naruto might be constantly pulling ahead these days, but that doesn't mean I can't get a leg up. I learned Rasengan from Minato, so this here could be considered the brat's contribution to my greatness."
He didn't bother to mention that the path that enabled him to achieve this impossible task involved getting down on his hands and knees and begging Waltz Oogakari for assistance. The most reasonable of the immortals aside, it still didn't change the fact that none of them actually held much of a warm spot for him.
The Sage had learned a good deal from the group. It wasn't the fact that he had screwed up a kid's life by accident that earned their ire. They knew a bunch of people like that. Hell they had done atrocities far worse a hundred times over. It was the fact that he practically made the same mistake over and over again without even recognizing it.
His three students from Ame… he left them alone after training them, giving them hope, in a crappy country that was constantly in civil war with a paranoid and very powerful despot in charge. No amount of training would keep just those three alive if they wanted to change the country. Indeed it would have been better to… you know… take them with you to a more powerful and socially active country to develop political ties that would span for long distance while experiencing and visiting the world to expand your reach further.
Having the Rinnegan would be one hell of a political selling point too.
Minato at first appeared to be a counter example… except for the fact that Jiraiya's other two students at the time died in the process due to his focus on the prodigy, and he didn't really do much other than give the boy pointers and spar with him a lot. The boy was independent and didn't really need much instruction or guiding in the first place.
Plus it helped that he actually had a normal home life as a kid.
And when it came to Naruto… yeah that had already been covered.
Long story short, the man just simply wasn't good material when it came to helping kids develop for the future, especially ones that clearly needed special guidance. He made them stronger physically, but their mental development was rarely if ever addressed.
The fact that he didn't recognize his obvious mistakes... to be so powerful and experienced in the ways of the world and still miss something like that over and over again… such stupidity was inexcusable.
Waltz had learned his lesson after the first time he made that mistake. He made sure the entire Multiverse had known it.
The old man had not been lenient on his training. Jiraiya accepted it willingly…
… And as a result he no longer questions the pecking order. Not after what he experienced firsthand.
He wouldn't make the same mistakes again. Considering the results of his actions, he couldn't afford to either.
He turned his head to a seemingly random location and frowned. He had been getting a bad feeling all day from that place that he couldn't see, but now that he was in Sage Mode and using his presence it was even more apparent.
The world turned. Everyone moved independently. Something was going to happen. He only hoped that it would be in his favor.
o. o. o.
Tobi went through all the information that he had obtained from the woman as he casually sat at a small café near the edge of Nagato's domain.
Gods? Presence? Multiverse? Honestly it sounded like the ravings of a madwoman in his opinion. The idea that the world had been claimed by some outside great power without him knowing was as laughable as Nagato's god complex. His eye saw everything, disillusioned and powerful…
But she couldn't be ignored. Not completely. She had after all cut his arm off. She knew things of use, had tools of use. If nothing else, she could be useful in case more foreigners showed up. If they didn't, then he would simply dispose of her once he was certain that there was no true benefit to keeping her around. It wasn't the first time he had done such a thing, and it wouldn't be the last either.
Frowning beneath his mask, he focused his power in the way that she had. From what he understood it would take a normal person, or even a trained shinobi at least a year or so in order to get the basics.
However his hypnotic and mental abilities were anything but normal. Without even looking he could tell that the people around him were shifting about uncomfortably. Some even began to sweat… although that might have just been the humidity that plagued the country due to the constant rain.
Mastering oneself to such an extent that you can chose what affects you and what doesn't. Certainly for someone like him it sounded like a useful, if peculiar skill. It wasn't perfect, not comparable to the foreigner's, but he doubted it would take long to surpass her.
Compounded with his current skillset he would certainly solidify his position and aspirations in the future. It didn't hurt to learn a few extra tricks every now and then, regardless of how powerful you were.
It also didn't hurt to upload said skill hypnotically into an otherwise simple and easy to read subordinate to check it out… just to make sure that in case he missed something during his questioning.
What could possibly go wrong?
o. o. o.
"Good boy! Now roll over!"
The sound of something moving on the ground was heard.
"… I didn't think this would ever happen… but it has." Tenten blinked owlishly alongside her friends at the sight in front of them. "It really has."
"Now chase your tail!"
"Well… if we needed evidence that he's gone round the bend before…" Sakura watched the spectacle disbelievingly.
"This… is beautiful." Ino gushed. "I will treasure this memory for the rest of my pitiful and meager existence."
"I should have known that this is why she spent so much time helping Kiba train the new pups at his family's kennel." Shino emotionlessly stated.
Kakashi didn't say anything as he debated on whether or not to put away his book to fully take in the show.
"I don't know him. I don't want to know him." Sasuke started to go into denial.
Hinata ignored everyone as she continued to lead and order Naruto around, once more in fox form… while she was holding a leash that connected to a collar wrapped around his neck. "Good Naruto! Now beg!"
The blonde fox turned his head to the audience with large tearful blue eyes. The message "KILL ME" was easy to anyone to understand.
"How… did…" Tenten stammered, unsure of what to make of Hinata's reaction.
"Technically… he did just beg." Chouji winced, both in pity and in the fact that no one was going to help his friend.
"Wait…" Sakura started slowly. "Given the commands she's giving him… you don't think that she'd actually tell him to…"
"Oh crap." Sasuke paled.
"Now play dead!" Hinata answered their worst fears.
The fox jerked his head in a way that clearly snapped his neck, causing his body to collapse instantly.
"… Good Boy!"
Apparently Hinata had put more faith into his regeneration abilities than the rest of them had anticipated.
o. o. o.
Thanks kagaseo for looking over this.
The Sharingan is broken and hax. I intend to use that in interesting new ways… and because of it, interesting things are going to happen very soon…
To those who don't know, Monty Oum has died recently.
Monty was a legend to our generation. The man had a work ethic that anyone would kill for, and a talent for learning and bringing out his imagination that if we were lucky came out once in a century, and actually recognized for it.
But… believe it or not… the man was like us. The man made Fanfiction.
Dead Fantasy? Haloid? Fanfiction, just not written but animated.
You could say that the man was what all of us technically hoped of being one day: employed and famous for expressing our fascination and twists on someone else's work, then using what he learned in the process to make his own unique story.
Fuck 50 shades of smut. That wasn't original. That's just a twilight fic with the names and places changed so the maker wouldn't get sued for copyright. There was no originality, no building everything from scratch. It was just one big shortcut that somehow made it for some god forsaken reason.
Monty was the person that really reached the top of what we could do and where we could go, and could have gone so much further.
This chapter… is NOT dedicated to him. This chapter was a breather. A break. Honestly not even that good from my perspective.
I was going to work on the next FFD after this, but… fuck it. I'm doing one more chapter here before going back. Why? Because to dedicate something to the memory of a man like that, you don't make some quick homage. You don't make a small sad story or chapter of people crying. You don't make a small announcement that lists the man's achievements.
You do it by pulling the stops and make something fucking awesome and epic.
It's time to pull out my namesake.
If anyone from Roosterteeth is reading this… shit I lost my momentum. Just uh… keep on reading. The next chapter is for Monty, inspired by Monty… and hopefully entertains everyone as much as Monty did in life.
SO REVIEW! WORSHIP THE LOG! PREPARE FOR THE EPIC! AND REVIEW AGAIN!