Over the Edge

Back down at the base of the waterfall, Naruto, Fu and Shibuki had just finished cleaning up the shores at the bottom of the cascading falls. Due to the fact that several rivers fed into the great landmark, it meant that a lot of refuse and discarded material took the same route through the region, and came to stop at the same lake the converged streams plummeted into. As this was a place of great importance and was also a significant part of the ecosystem surrounding the hidden village, it was up to the community's ever vigil population to keep an eye on the quality of their water and to take good care of the area surrounding the landmark as best as they could.

Owing to the nature and location of the hidden village, the villagers had learned to be extra careful when venturing outside of the protection of their home. As this was essentially their front porch, it came as no surprise to the newcomer to the area that both the children and its shinobi knew this place incredibly well.

But shinobi, villages, politics and process were nowhere in the minds of the two jinchuriki Naruto and Fu, as the pair sat before the kids that had come out to greet them and caught up on the months that'd passed since they'd last met. Taking turns in telling stories, it was this time the kunoichi's role as an audience member to sit quietly and to hang onto every word spoken to her by her fellow jinchuriki, as he went on raving about the exams and the exhausting stages that had involved both him and the other nations participating.

There was no way she was going to argue that it'd been an invigorating and hair-raising experience for the blonde haired wanderer. As she listened to his tales of excitement and adventure, the green haired girl wished more and more that she'd been a part of these trials as well.

The children sitting in front of them as well were also enchanted.

"S-So the second stage of the exams was a race across a valley that was sitting right on top of a volcano?" the young boy with the spiky brown hair asked, his eyes reflecting his interest and awe.

"Oh yeah," Naruto replied cheerfully, wiping a hand across his forehead protector at the mere memory of the stage. "The entire course was lying on top of a volcanic area. There was lava right underneath the surface of the crust and it caused everything up above it to burn and boil. The trees that grew there had to adapt to the new conditions in order to survive, producing a thick liquid inside of them to keep them cool that became highly corrosive when exposed to the air. Even the pools of water meant to keep the valley cool were acidic."

"How did you survive, Naruto-san?" the little girl sitting beside the boy asked, looking inquisitively towards the blonde haired Jonin.

The jinchuriki grinned enthusiastically, "We had to go up high where the ground and air wasn't poisonous. By climbing to the upper levels, we were able to avoid the deadly acid pools and were also able to find enough food that was safe enough to eat. Water too."

"Did other people do that? Or were you and your teammates the only ones that did?"

Scratching his head, Naruto tilted his head thoughtfully as he contemplated the events that took place then, "Well… I'm not too sure about everybody else, but the Kumogakure team that you saw in the finals did the same thing that our team did. Since it was so dangerous in the lowlands and there were so many other squads running around, they also went up to the high grounds to find shelter. Their squad was seriously tough, and the blonde haired kunoichi with them was really smart."

It was this that had the little girl's expression brighten up. "Samui. Right?"

"That's right," Naruto nodded.

This then prompted the boy to grin up at the young ninja with a smart aleck leer, "Is she your girlfriend, Naruto-san?"

Blinking momentarily at the question, the shinobi from Konohagakure didn't need to think on it at all in order to come up with a response. "Yes."

"Tayuya too?"

"Yep," Naruto nodded again with a little more pride. Two points.

Fu shook her head across at the blonde at the cheerful look that came across his face. "For such a nice guy, you really are a dirty man, Naruto-kun." This earned an immediate balk and a scowl from said jinchuriki, while Shibuki, who was standing nearby and leaning against a tree with his arms folded across his chest, chuckled in amusement. "You have girls coming at you left and right, you lucky dog, you."

The blonde continued to stare back silently before breathing out an exasperated sigh. "Perhaps it's a fact I should start feeling proud about."

"Perhaps. You exaggerate a lot, if your flamboyant displays in the exams were of any indication, and you can be really, really confident when you want to be," Fu responded with a careless shrug. "Admitting that you're a lucky guy every now and again isn't a bad thing. Knowing where you're coming from and who you are, you deserve all the love you can get." The green haired kunoichi then began rocking back and forth in her seat while looking towards the sky in a contemplative manner. "As for me, I'd like to find a guy who's smart, handsome and cool… someone who likes me for who I am and someone who can look out for me whenever I need his company."

Under the curious stares of the kids and the inquisitive gaze from Shibuki, everyone in the area looked at the kunoichi quietly as she sat there daydreaming. Taking in her expression and the tone of her words, Naruto beamed at her and reached out to pat his friend on the hand, "I'm sure Mr. Right is out there somewhere, Fu-chan. You just have to find him or wait for him to come around."

"Yeah," the teen replied before giggling. "There were so many cute guys fighting in the exams, I don't even know where to start."

"Oh?" Naruto raised an eyebrow, "Has someone perked your interests?"

Twirling her hair with her finger, the mint haired jinchuriki looked back at the blonde slyly, "Maybe~"

"Let me guess, was it Sasuke?" Naruto asked, making gestures above his head to illustrate the boy in question. "Uchiha? The one with the raven black hair cut in the style of a chicken's tail feathers and always wears that plastic expression he calls a face?"

"Nope," Fu replied quickly, shaking her head.

"Neji? Hyuuga, brown hair tied into a ponytail, looks like he's wearing a straight jacket and has lady hands?"

"No," Fu chirped again.

The boy sitting in front of the two shinobi blinked when he glanced across at the spiky haired foreigner. "How do you know he has lady hands?"

Naruto chuckled at the honest question and tapped his nose, "Intuition. You'll find out for yourself when you're older and you come across somebody like that." Seeing the kids stare across at one another and shrug at the confusing 'adult' banter, the blonde haired Jonin went back to conversing with the Chunin from Takigakure. "I'd like to keep guessing, but I'm a tad bit fearful of the answer waiting for me just around the corner."

"What? Are you scared?" Fu asked cheekily.


The kunoichi chuckled and punched him playfully in the side, getting the boy to bend and rub the affected area from the bruise. "Then what are you afraid of. Come on. This is getting fun."

"As much as I would like to stand here and laugh with you guys over this whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing, I'm afraid it's time for us to split," Shibuki spoke up, wandering over to the children sitting in front of the 'bickering' pair and getting them back to their feet. With both kids letting out a groan of disappointment, the son of their village leader shook his head and grinned at the pair of troublesome jinchuriki. "We've got important paperwork to see too and I can't leave these kids out here on their own. It's been great hanging out with you, Naruto. If you're ever in the neighborhood, feel free to drop by and visit us. Just… forward our village a memo before you do and we'll come meet you outside."

Nodding in understanding, Naruto also rose to his feet while Fu hopped up onto hers, both of them coming to stand side by side. "I had a great time speaking with you guys. And it was great seeing you again, Fu-chan."

"You too," the kunoichi exclaimed, at the same time jumping at the blonde and hugging him tightly. Squeezing the Nine Tails' container and lifting him off of the floor at the same time, the girl felt the boy return her gesture in kind while being suspended above the ground before setting him back to his feet. "Till the next time we run into each other. Don't be a stranger now."

"Hey. I'm not a stranger to anyone and you know it," Naruto chuckled while stepping away with his arms held out to his sides in a showy gesture. "I'm a celebrity, so everyone I bound to meet will probably know me on sight." More like a ninja finally starting to get a reputation in the world. All of his years of meddling and involving himself in the most impossible disputes were finally starting to pay off.

Shibuki chuckled, "A celebrity who everyone wants a piece of."

"Damn straight," the blonde replied with a quick salute to the teen before waving to both Fu and the kids. "I'll see you guys later."

"Good bye, Naruto-san!"

"Come back soon!" the children called while waving to the blonde haired Jonin.

Giving the kids the thumbs-up, the jinchuriki then turned heel and headed off. Exploding from his spot in an orange flash, he sprinted into the forest, his shadow fading away into the dense woodland and vanishing in a shower of leaves. Within seconds, he was gone, leaving behind the small contingent of Takigakure villagers standing in the clearing by the lake and staring after him.

Upon seeing the youngster off and ensuring he was gone from sight, Fu and Shibuki turned to each other and beamed.

"Should we be going then?" the villager leader's son asked.

"Sure." Answer given, Fu then took both the young boy and the girl by the shoulders and started harrying them towards the waterfall.

Scurrying down the small hill toward the shore of their village's namesake, the small group began making tracks back to one of the secret entrances that would inevitably lead to their village. However, just before they could start working their way to any of the tunnels and passageways, the kunoichi leading the group suddenly jerked to a sudden and unexpected stop, prompting both Shibuki and the two children to do the same. The latter, confused by their halt in momentum, looked up towards the teen behind them in surprise.

The young girl Yuna blinked in confusion, "Fu-san?"

"What's wrong?"

The moment the youngsters directed their questions towards said jinchuriki, both of them were caught completely by surprise when they saw the green haired kunoichi glaring off in some random direction with the most serious and intense look you would ever see on her; a stark contrast to her more common, cheerful demeanor. Eyes snapping left and right sharply, Fu kept a firm grip on the children's shoulders as they looked at her face worryingly, a feeling that was soon shared by the perplexed Shibuki, who also picked up on something off about the area they were in and began looking around just as his companion was.

It took them a few seconds, but the pair eventually realized that the birds had stopped chirping and that a cold front had unexpectedly pulled over. This wasn't some ordinary change in the weather patterns though. No. This was something much more serious.

"Killing intent… and a lot of it," Fu thought, a bead of sweat running down her head when she wordlessly pulled the children behind her and heard Shibuki unclip his leg holster. Sniffing the air and feeling the breeze against her skin, the girl steeled herself and subtly took a wider stance. "This isn't ordinary chakra. Whoever is emitting this is strong… VERY strong…" They were so strong in fact that they were practically perforating the air. After a minute or so of silence and attempting to gauge the source of the anomaly, the girl then balked when she sensed a change in the wind patterns and glared over her shoulder. "Wait… they're moving?"

Whoever it was, it was clear that they'd been watching them. However, for some strange and unexplained reason they'd decided to retreat just when the group was within running distance of the secret entrance to their village and with children under their protection.

But why?

It was then Fu worked out the direction the source of the killing intent had suddenly taken and recoiled when she realized that they were following Naruto.

Then, just before she could come up with an appropriate response to the retreating threat, the sound of water flow being disturbed had the jinchuriki's eyes snap back towards the large falls over the lake. The moment her eyes fixed on their landmark, a barrage of shuriken flew out of the falling wall of water and shot towards the group in a deadly hail of sharp, spinning metal. Shibuki spotted the incoming attack to and, upon burning through his surprise, yanked out a kunai and hurled it up at the incoming barrage.

His blade collided with one of the stars in the center of the formation, the two weapons cancelling each other out before the explosive tag the Chunin had attached to the blade exploded, knocking several of the other stars out of the air while the others further out of the arrangement continued spiraling towards the group. The children cried out in terror and huddled up, at the same time watching from under the shadow of Fu as she suddenly jumped towards the remaining projectiles and kicked them out of the air. A loud clang rang out when she struck them and scattered the blades into the lake at their feet.

Upon landing and seeing the water settle the mint haired girl huffed and glared up at the waterfall.

"Whoever did that is a dead man!"

At that moment, the people that had attacked them decided to reveal themselves to the group of youngsters and emerged from their hiding place. The water of the falls exploding outwards in several different places, a band of figures suddenly leapt into the light, three of them adorned in common mercenary clothing whereas the leader, a muscular, grey-haired man with a marking over his nose, led the charge with a wicked grin in play and killer reflected in his eyes.

"You might want to rephrase that statement, little girl!" said squad leader barked in amusement as his subordinates hurled another barrage of kunai and shuriken towards the party down below, seconds before all four of them landed across the lake surface.

Seeing the weapons flying toward them en masse, Fu gave a wide smirk and stood her ground, waiting until the blades were within reach.

At first the enemy contingent expected to see the teen get cut down by the wave of deadly weaponry. However, both the enemy shinobi and the children positioned behind the kunoichi, all of whom had yet to see her in action, suddenly saw Fu do something completely outrageous when, standing in the exact same spot she was holding, her form blurred and warped in the air around her in a sudden show of agility, and the kunai that had previously been on course to cut her down disappeared.

It was when Fu stopped moving around that Murasame and his group got the shock of their lives when, as they stared across at their target, they saw that the girl had caught every single blade thrown at her with her teeth. Flashing them a cocky grin with her mouth full of metal, the kunoichi then clenched her jaw tightly, a loud grinding noise echoing out before all of the blades she'd caught shattered and scattered across the ground.

"Mushikui," (Bug Bite) the girl chirped before licking her lips in a seductive manner. "If that's the best you clowns have got, then this won't take very long."

The mercenaries were stunned.

"H-How the hell did she do that?" one of the masked men asked out loud, keeping his terrified gaze squarely fixed on the teen.

Gritting his teeth in frustration, Murasame glared at the foot soldiers under his wing and jabbed a finger in the direction of their targets. "Who cares?! Don't just stand there gawking like idiots! Get them!"

Just as the squad of foot soldiers were trying to get their heads back into the game after witnessing the unbelievable sight, the squad failed to notice the waves on the lake beneath them suddenly change their pattern and direction. It was only until a particular area of the pool started to churn and bubble that Murasame saw something was up and managed to get the hell off of the rock he was standing on in time to dodge the enormous mouth lined with razor sharp teeth that came shooting up after him. The roar of the enormous serpent echoed out over the entire area as it snapped its jaws at the enemy, rising high into the air and arcing over to leer down at the three stunned mercenaries below.

The Takigakure children, baffled, looked behind them to see Shibuki with his hands slapped together and a smirk worn proudly upon his face as he directed his glare over the enemy shinobi.

"Suiton: Suiryudan no Jutsu!" (Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique) the Chunin shouted before commanding his creation to lean back and ready for the final attack. "Don't think that just because you outnumber us that you're going to be able to do anything. We're not pushovers!" With one final glance, he sent the towering pillar of water straight toward his targets.

The enormous water dragon let out a roar of anger as it dove towards the lake surface, coaxing cries of terror from the three cannon fodder shinobi, who attempted to flee its wrath by leaping straight into the air. While they initially dodged the first strike from the enraged creature, they didn't expect it to suddenly come back around after setting them up and engulf all three of them in a single strike. The final snap of the serpent's open mouth sealed the fates of the trio of mercenaries with the sound of crashing waves, before the great dragon dove back into the lake and vanished from sight.

Clicking his tongue, the retreating Murasame landed back onto the surface of the pond and formed a hand seal. Directing his glare towards the Chunin and the two children he was standing directly behind, the man took aim. "Nice move! But two can play at that game! Suiton: Teppodama!" (Water Release: Gunshot) Cheeks puffing, the enemy then leaned forward and fired a single blast of water from his mouth in the form of a fast moving bullet.

It approached Shibuki and the children at speed, aiming to take them out in one go, but the young Chunin standing in line of the jutsu wasn't inclined on getting washed away by his opponent's attack and, upon flipping through a series of quick hand seals, the shallow area of the lake directly in front of him shot up to form a protective wall. The barrier of rampaging water jutted skywards like a wave, taking the force of the bullet and enveloping it, before the wall eventually dropped back into the pond from whence it came and dispersed both techniques into the currents. The shield revealed a glaring Shibuki standing directly behind it and two incredibly bewildered children.

Seeing his attack stopped had Murasame curse. "Damn it. Suien didn't say jack shit about how good his student wa-wait." His eyes then narrowed suspiciously, "Weren't there four of you before?" Looking about, the man's eyes then widened when he felt a shadow fall over him and, looking up, he saw Fu diving towards him from his unguarded flank with her fist corked back and a grin worn on her face. The sight of the fast approaching kunoichi had the rogue ninja freak out, "OH CRAP!" He threw up both arms.

With a yell of effort, Fu drove a right cross straight into the man's arms, a loud crack ringing out when her blow slipped right through his guard and smashed him in the face. The enemy shinobi formerly of Amegakure could only utter a single grunt of pain as the girl's fist buried into his cheek before he was unceremoniously plowed into the lake below. The sheer force of the attack caused the water of the large pond to explode upwards like a depth charge at the speed the shinobi entered it, creating a glorious spectacle that lasted for but a second.

When the spray died down, it revealed nothing but a relatively undisturbed lake and Fu standing atop of it with her fist extended in a punch.

Glaring straight into the calming water, Fu clicked her tongue in annoyance and straightened up from her haymaker. "He got away." Cracking her knuckles, she turned back towards the shoreline where the rest of her comrades stood. "My guess is that he ran back to his boss to inform him that we're coming. They'll be waiting for us."

The boy standing with the children nodded in agreement. "Yeah." He then turned towards their village's landmark and narrowed his eyes. "Both him and his friends emerged from the waterfall. I think that whoever attacked us back there might know about the secret passages hidden behind it. If that's the case, then they might just know about the labyrinths and tunnels leading up to our village as well."

"That's very bad news," Fu added as she returned to land, a stern look worn on her face and hands held firmly at her sides. "Since the shinobi and the civilians from our village are the only ones possessing knowledge about the caves, then that means that whoever ordered them to attack us…"

"Must be formerly of Takigakure," Shibuki finished, biting the nail of his thumb as he glared off to the side. "Damn it… this is not good."

Gulping, the little girl Yuna standing directly in front of the shinobi stepped forward and took the Chunin's free hand in hers. "W-What do we do, Shibuki?"

"D-Do we run?" the young boy accompanying her asked.

Looking down at the faces of the fearful and worried children, the young man of Taki and the son of its leader drank in all of their expressions and feelings, before eventually responding with a smile and patting each one of them on the head. When he stopped with his palm in the girl's hair, he ruffled it reassuringly, "No. You guys go and get help. Fu and I will take care of the bad guys." He then frowned and turned back towards the giant waterfall thundering into the lake just a few yards away. "And if my ears weren't playing tricks on me and our assassin friend wasn't cursing fibs, I think I know exactly who's responsible for this."

If he was right on the mark and it was that man who'd sent those rogue ninja out to scout them, then Shibuki knew that he was going to have to be as mentally prepared as he could to face the coming storm. Fu, though mostly concerned for the safety of her village, its people and its children, also spared a momentary glance in the direction Naruto had gone, as well as a thought to the killing intent she and Shibuki had felt before.

That aura of ill will that had drowned the entire area and silenced all of the animals in range had not come from the rogue ninja from Amegakure or any of his cronies. Neither one of their attackers had had the guts to stomach such a potent signature or exert in such vast quantities.

Whoever actually did felt like an even bigger threat than any of the enemy shinobi she'd ever encountered, and that wasn't a good thing for any of them.


A mile or so out…

Springing through the woods at high speed, Naruto continued on back towards his village with a big smile on his face and a warm flame burning in his heart. These two signs were a clear indication that he was content, as not only had he successfully completed another B-Rank mission to Takigakure and got to hang out with a few of its residents, but he'd also run into Fu again and had made a few more friends in the process. As far as he was concerned, those were two big wins for him, definitely something to hold on to and remember.

Now that his assignment was completed and he'd also gotten some good, quality time out of it to rest his legs, he could now focus on other things such as getting home, figuring out the kind of date he could take Tayuya, Isaribi or Tenten on, and get about completing his next mission. If he was counting right, then he was just about done with the box of scrolls he'd received from clients during the tournament. He only had a few more to do before finishing all of them, an accomplishment he was sure would earn him a lot of points in the eyes of the village.

He'd set aside a couple of A-Rank missions for his last ones, so he was really looking forward to getting through with them for a good experience boost.

"Maybe there'll be another save-the-princess mission," Naruto thought hopefully with a wide grin in play. "The more royals I'm able to protect and save, the more allies I can make and the more cool stuff I can have named after me." Like for example the two bridges and the Naruto Rainbow Glacier that Koyuki had decided to give her nation's most well-known, manmade landmark.

Though he really shouldn't be thinking about stuff like that as a shinobi, having countries rename things after you was becoming a really addictive venture.

Even so, now that Naruto thought about it some more, having landmarks titled after you was a really good way to build one's reputation and a good prerequisite to have when making the climb to Hokage. It added more points to his resume and made it easier for the people in charge of the process to come to a decision, as they not only had the shinobi's abilities to take into account but their standing with the village's population and the people from other villages to build a strong alliance.

If Naruto continued on at the pace he'd set, then he was certain he'd make a fine village leader someday.

"I just need to continue being acknowledged as a good person and make as many friends as I can," the boy stated firmly, leaping from another branch and shooting through the forest at speed.

However, just before he could really get into the swing of his trek back as well as his plans for the future, something on the wind caught the blonde's attention that had his body twitch suddenly and eyes narrow dangerously. Glaring off to his right while leaping through the air, he saw a cluster of shuriken fly out at him from behind a far off tree. Counting six, he watched them converge on his point of passing before countering accordingly, knocking two out in midflight and avoiding the others. Landing against the side of a tree with his back and feet against the trunk, he saw the rest of the projectiles fly off, allowing him to hone in on the source of the ambush.

"Damn. Whoever threw those really knew how to hide from me," Naruto thought furiously while gritting his teeth. "I would have noticed ages ago, but they must have swung around outside of my range and waited for me to run past. That was a pretty good move, however…" He then glared towards a large oak standing several yards out. "Since I avoided that attack, I now know exactly where you two are hiding! You may as well come out!"

A snort on the other end of the line was Naruto's immediate response as he glared through the forest. "And why would we want to do that, Konoha trash?" The disembodied voice of a male echoed over the woods like a ghostly whisper on the wind, earning a frown from the youngster.

Realizing his attacker was spacing out his vocals in an effort to throw him off his trail the blonde then gave a wicked smirk and leapt forward, at the same time answering the man's question, "Because if you don't, I'm going to burn you out!" Springing from branch to branch in a zigzag motion for several meters, Naruto then leapt towards the canopy and fired several paper balls from his gauntlet. When they ignited, the boy cocked his hand back and threw it forward while in mid-descent. "Katon: Uzusenpuhi no Jutsu!" (Fire Release: Fire Whirlwind Vortex Technique)

A tornado like blast rocketed from his hand, enveloping the exploding balls and igniting the twisting winds. The simple wind attack then transformed into a firestorm that ripped through the woods with a terrifying howl, tearing off branches and leaves, and incinerating an entire line of forest in its wake. The powerful attack stretched for many yards, a sight that could be seen even from a kilometer away as the entire area of woodland was sawn in half by a wall of flames rocketing up from the canopy, before black smoke started spewing from the green.

Landing on another tree branch right next to the trunk base, Naruto crouched down low and glared ahead of him. As he watched the surrounding trees burn and the resulting embers cascade all around him from the pillar of smoke climbing into the atmosphere above, the jinchuriki then picked up on something approaching his position and his eyes cut to the right. When his gaze fixed on the disturbance, his stare widened considerably when he suddenly spotted two black tendrils of an unknown material snaking its way through the trees towards him at high speed.

"What the heck is that?!" Naruto wondered out loud before giving a shout of surprise and leaping out of the way, making it off of the branch just in time to see the tree he was on get smashed clean through by the whip that continued its pursuit of him.

Leaping backwards through the canopy, the boy slipped and ducked around a couple more swipes from the wires before they stopped and retreated back into the forest from the direction they'd come. Landing on a branch further away from his previous position, Naruto's eyes narrowed firmly onto the woods beyond his sight and watched the attacking appendages vanish, until the sound of leaves bursting next to him alerted him to a new incoming threat. Turning swiftly, the blonde looked in time to see a man with dark grey hair in a brown tunic and with a purple rope wrapped around his waist lunging at him with a punch. Responding in alarm when he saw the person's arm suddenly distort in midflight, like it had sprouted extra fists, Naruto crossed both his arms in front of his face and blocked the swinging hit, the impact of which was marked by a loud 'bang' and the force of a mule's kick behind it.

"Tarenken!" (Multiple Connected Fists)

"W-What the fuck?!" was Naruto's one and only thought as he was lifted off of his branch and sent rocketing through the forest, crashing through a couple of trees before bursting out into an open clearing. Back slamming into the grass seconds later, the blonde slid and bounced along for several meters, before using his momentum to flip his body over and right himself on all fours. When he eventually skidded to a stop, now looking quite grungy from being dragged through the dirt, the blonde was then able to completely register to the blow he received and raised both of his hands in agony. "Holy shit! It feels like I just tried to stop a train."

His forearms had pins and needles in them from taking that punch.

Or… three punches.

What the hell was that anyway?

Clicking his tongue in annoyance, Naruto looked up again when he sensed his attacker emerge from the forest, bursting out from the cover of trees and into the clearing. When the person landed on the grass at the very edge of the area, the jinchuriki saw it was the grey haired man again, only this time he could see him a lot more clearly.

Aside from getting the significant parts of his description right on first glance, the guy was also wearing lipstick, had purple markings around his eyes, and was also noticeably smoldering from the body, with various burn marks visible on his skin and clothes. It was safe to say that Naruto had actually landed some damage with his attack in an effort to drive him out, but the guy had been sharp enough to get out of the way at the last second in order to avoid getting caught up in the brunt of the fiery gale.

Guess they were dead even in the injury department then.

"Oh. You're still alive?" the grey haired assailant chuckled while cracking his neck. "I'm impressed. That attack had more than enough power to cut through bedrock and shatter stone. I guess the specs on your toughness were right all along, Naruto Uzumaki." The moment he ended that sentence, the blonde crouching several yards away from him then watched in bewildered intrigue as fiery red markings of unknown origin suddenly started to creep across the man's face, before seemingly cooling down a second later and leaving a black, blotchy tattoo pattern on most of his skin.

Frowning, the jinchuriki stared across at the cross dresser confronting him and huffed. "Who are you?"

The stranger snickered at his question and tilted his head to the side tauntingly, "Seeing as you're about to die, I guess it won't hurt to banter for a little bit. I mean… we are enemies after all. It would be rude not to." He then pointed a thumb at his makeup covered face, "They call me Sakon… and that's pretty much all you're going to get from me, Konoha trash." Sending the boy a murderous grin, the sound ninja then took a fighting stance and spread his feet, "Now that we've made nice, how about you entertain me some more. Come on."

Massaging his arms to get feeling back into them, Naruto inhaled deeply and smirked, "With pleasure." Without needing to say anything else, the blonde blasted from his spot and charged his attacker down, who also came at him head first.

Meeting his tattooed assailant in the center, the jinchuriki exchanged a right cross with the man, both of them blocking the other's blow with a loud gunshot ringing out at the simultaneous hits. Sakon then followed up with a left kick, only for his opponent to hike off his swinging leg in mid execution and spring over him in a single motion, forcing his opponent to try and knock him out of the air with a second kick. The agile blonde however evaded the counter and dropped down on the other side of his enemy, to which the Sound ninja spun around and tried to backhand the kid, only for Naruto to skillfully duck under his haymaker and rush straight at him.

Using speed Sakon didn't account for, Naruto hiked off of both his legs one after the other, up his chest, up his shoulders, and kicked off of his face a split second later, flipping away from his opponent the moment he cocked his head to the side with his last step. The swift series of kicks thrown by the jinchuriki using him as a springboard caused blood to fly out of Sakon's mouth with a look of surprise smacked across his mug. When his brain eventually came around from receiving the combination of hits, the assassin then stumbled about and came at the jinchuriki once more with a swinging overhand as a response.

"Damn you!" The elite sound ninja's hook came in hard and fast, but Naruto swayed around it and countered him with a swift body shot and a jab to the side of his temple when he missed. The swift double blow had the winded Sakon come back with an immediate left hook, but Naruto caught his arm in mid-flight and, using it like a monkey bar, swung off of it and flipped himself onto the young man's back and shoulders.

Nimbly straddling Sakon with his leg hooked around his throat, Naruto caught his adversary in an awkward headlock, throttling the man into a vulnerable position before swiftly drawing a kunai from his pouch and raising it up for a finishing blow. Taking aim, the jinchuriki thrust down at his opponent's throat, only to suddenly see a hand shoot up out of nowhere and catch his wrist. Caught by surprise, Naruto was unable to respond in time when his opponent violently yanked him from his perch and threw him into the ground with an earsplitting crack, with an impact that managed to form a small crater in the earth.

Giving his enemy a pained glare, Naruto then saw the older boy raise his foot and bring it right down on top of him to knock him out, the motion seemingly generating two more feet from his hip. The sight had the stunned blonde react instinctively, rolling right out from under the descending attack and leaping away just in time to see the foot bury itself into the ground, the force of which was marked by the sound of a cannon firing.

Skidding to a stop, the blonde looked up in bewilderment to see the much larger crater Sakon had managed to create and clenched his teeth. "Whoa. If I'd have gotten hit by that…" Instant pancake. He also remembered the bit where he tried to stab the guy from above when he caught him in that piggy-back headlock. He had Sakon's left arm trapped, his right arm flailing about uselessly and the guy completely at his mercy.

Where the hell did that other arm come from?

Now that he thought about it some more it almost looked like it had come straight out of the top of his head.

Clicking his tongue, Naruto leapt to his feet and began skipping on the spot. Like in his match with Tsubaki and Neji, he began moving his arms and legs about at random, his fists shooting out in a series of wild feints while his head snapped left and right sharply. Once his feet blurred out and his movements became even more erratic, he then vanished in an orange haze, a sight that had his opponent balk in shock and eyes widen when he lost sight of the boy completely.

"Holy shi-fast!" Eyes snapping around him, Sakon attempted to track his foe, but was unable to react in time to the jinchuriki rematerializing out of the air directly behind him from a lightning fast shunshin.

Kunai in hand, Naruto gritted his teeth and lunged for the man's back, blade cutting through the air in an effort to finish him off in one go.

"Finally!" However, the moment the blonde thought his attack was going to land, the jinchuriki's eyes widened in shock when his body suddenly and unexpectedly shuddered to a halt. Confounded, the boy looked to see what the problem was, and discovered that a pair of extra hands and arms had sprouted from his opponent's shoulders and had managed to stop his finishing blow just centimeters from its target. Frozen in place, Naruto attempted to yank his limb free, but was unable to as the fingers wrapped around his wrist held onto him like a vice. "Hey! What the fuck?" Glancing up, Naruto then recoiled when he saw another face, an exact mirror image of his opponent's ugly mug, grinning back at him from the extra mop of hair that had been sitting behind Sakon's head.

And here he thought his eyes were just playing tricks on him and that it was actually a dummy that had been attached to the man's back. But no. It was an actual person's head protruding from the grey haired assailant's shoulders, and it was alive.

At that exact moment of stunned pause, Naruto saw Sakon look over his shoulder and, when their eyes met, the enemy shinobi's lips turned upwards into a malicious smirk and he rounded on him aggressively.

"Oh. There you are!" The Sound ninja spun around and, with his left leg, which suddenly multiplied into three, uncorked a killer roundhouse kick straight into his opponent's torso, an attack that landed with the sound of a gunshot. "Tarenkyaku!" (Multiple Connected Feet)

Naruto was thrown off his feet and sent rocketing across the field, a pained yell escaping his lips as his body careened into the undergrowth, blasting through trees and knocking two of them down in one go. A small portion of forest collapsed on top of him as a result, choking up the area in a cloud of dust and splinters.

Seeing the fumes block out the view of his now buried target, Sakon smirked, "Heh. That was surprisingly easy. Considering the shit he pulled during the exams, I was expecting him to be a lot more fun than this. Oh well." After a few more seconds of standing there and looking smug, the Sound ninja's smile then vanished from his face when the cloud of dust hanging in the air suddenly parted, and the assassin was smacked full on by a blast of wind with the force of a horse's kick behind it.

"Hien!" (Flying Swallow)

The invisible shot knocking the wind out of him, Sakon had barely enough time to respond as he was suddenly bombarded by an onslaught of more invisibly fast attacks being fired from the thick of the woods. After receiving two more rounds that sent him barreling across the ground, another ball of wind smacked him into the air before knocking him back down into the clearing, where he landed with a loud and painful thud.

Rolling onto all fours, Sakon coughed up blood and glared up. The second he did so, he saw his thought to be knocked-out opponent leap out of the forest and uncork a right straight in his direction.

"Fūton: Senpūken!" (Wind Release: Whirlwind Fist) A tornado exploded from Naruto's fist, the head of which slammed full on into his dumbstruck opponent and sent him spiraling into the woods, just as his attack did to him. The technique collapsed many trees on top of the grey haired attacker and tore through much of the forest, resulting in a similar eventuality that had almost sealed Naruto's fate.

Looking back at the Kyuubi's jinchuriki now withdrawing his fist from his spirited counterattack, the blonde looked pretty banged up. After having two trees crash on top of him and being kicked in the stomach by a force equivalent to that of a piston powered horse, he was not only covered in splinters and bruises, but was also bleeding from the head. Breathing out from the combination attack he'd rained down upon his unsuspecting foe, Naruto then spat out the blood he'd collected in his mouth and turned his gaze onto the ruined forest ahead of him.

A minute or so later of waiting and thinking he'd managed to put his assailant down for the count, the blonde suddenly saw one of the fallen trees get pushed aside and Sakon rise up out of the cloud of dust. This time however, when he made his grand reentrance, he wasn't looking himself anymore.

Not only grungy and bruised from being hit by the salvo of wind blasts, the head on his back had morphed into what Naruto initially believed to be a demon. With red skin, a pointed chin and a horn growing out of his skull, the extra head protruding from Sakon's back had taken on the appearance of an oni, and had also had a pair of arms and legs protruding outwards, transformed to match his visage.

"God damn it, Sakon! This is why I tell you not to mess around with your opponents! When you stand there with your finger up your ass and trying to act all cool like, you get blind-sided and fucked up." the figure on the boy's shoulder snarled while the man with tattoos cringed from the scolding. "This is the third time this week I've had to save your useless ass."

"Don't get snappy at me, bro. I was just having a little bit of fun, that's all," Sakon replied with a slightly abashed expression in play. Despite the bruises he'd taken and the blood dripping out of the corner of his mouth, he was actually quite chipper. "Besides, I thought I'd taken care of this pest."

"Well, obviously you didn't. Now what are you going to do?"

"What am I going to do? What am I going to do?" the grey haired man asked as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Eyes snapping to the jinchuriki staring at the pair strangely, a sinister grin then formed on his face. "I'll tell you what you and I are going to do. We're going to kick the crap out of this bastard and drag him back to Orochimaru-sama so that he can spend the next few months playing 'doctor' with him."

"Heh. Fine. Since you're having such a tough time against this rat, it looks like I'm going to have to step in and help sort this out," the demon replied with a long, dreary sigh at the end. "Honestly, you can be such a pain to live with sometimes."

Naruto then watched with a firm glare in play as the original person he'd been fighting also underwent a transformation. The tattoo pattern Sakon had stretched across his skin expanded until his entire form became that of an oni as well with red skin, a widened grin with fangs and claws, and long white hair with a pointed chin and a horn growing out of his forehead. His eye also became inverted, with yellow irises and black sclera as opposed to the normal coloration. It not only creeped the blonde out, as the guy now looked a whole lot more menacing, but also worried the jinchuriki considerably as he felt the atmosphere become tense and the man's chakra take a massive jump.

"Okay. This is getting freaky. Who the hell are these guys? And how the hell are they fused together like that?" Naruto asked, now assured he was fighting two people at once as opposed to one, seeing as how the pair of heads were addressing each other as siblings. After watching his opponent complete his transformation and leer in his general direction, the jinchuriki shook his head, rushed forward and formed his familiar cross-fingered hand seal. "I guess I'll ask them after I've kicked the shit out of them. Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" (Shadow Clone Jutsu) Copies sprung up out of the air all around him and scattered, surrounding the red-skinned figure before converging on his position.

Eyes cutting around him, Sakon chuckled and crouched down. "You've boosted your numbers, huh? A smart move, considering there's only one of me. But no matter how many times you multiply yourself, the result will always be the same!" Springing off of the ground, the now demon morphed Sound ninja began to spin, his body blurring and a harsh wind kicking up around him as he struck out at the approaching copies. "Zero! Tarensenpu!" (Multiple Connected Whirlwinds)

A tornado rocketed up around the boy as the Naruto shadow clones launched themselves at their opponent, only to be blasted off when they slammed headlong into the vortex and sent spiraling away. The bodies vanished into puffs of white smoke, moments before the raging twister died down and the red skinned Sakon dropped back to the ground, a bark of laughter escaping his lips.

"That was fun. Got anymore tricks? Come on. I'm standing right here."

"Stop heckling the brat and hurry this up," the head on Sakon's back snapped impatiently. "I don't want this fight dragging out any longer than it has to. You're going to make us look bad."

"Heh. Whatever. You're always so boring, Ukon."

Head snapping towards the trees, Sakon saw several shuriken fly out at him in a wide arc and leapt out of the way, effectively avoiding them before coming to a soft landing. However, the moment the man's foot touched down and his body slid to a stop, the sole of his sandal scraped against something uneven, a feeling that had the Sound ninja look down in alarm. When he did, he saw an explosive tag buried under a thin layer of earth ignite before going up in a fiery explosion. The blast was strong enough to rip a crater into the earth and send debris and black smoke spewing into the sky, a split second before an annoyed Sakon leapt out of the cloud trailing fumes.

Sliding backwards upon touching down on the clearing's floor again, the demon shinobi looked up in annoyance and growled. "Stupid Konoha trash! Leading me around like some sort of dog!" The man then took a defensive stance when he saw the black smoke part sharply and his opponent come charging out at him, with agility that had Sakon bare his teeth and cock his hand back. "You want to go?" However, just as the blonde was only a few feet away from him, the blonde's hand was suddenly thrown forward and, following a sharp cracking of wind, Sakon found his eyesight blinded by a white light and his ears ringing from a flash bang going off right in front of his face. "GAH! WHAT THE HELL?!"


Flash pellets fired, Naruto dove right for the opening presented to him as both the main body of Sakon and the other head belonging to his brother Ukon were stunned. With their hands covering their eyes and their form staggered, the jinchuriki went for it with an open hand. "Two heads may be better than one, but in this case, both of them are still attached to the same neck!" Palm cocking back, he prepared to launch the pair from the ground as he closed in on his temporarily disabled target. "This time… this time, for sure!" With a yell, the blonde lunged forward…

Only to stop dead in his tracks when his right foot landed and wouldn't come off of the ground. Jerking to a stop, the jinchuriki gasped and looked down. When he did, he saw the same black tendrils that had attacked him earlier in the woods had jutted out of the earth and had wrapped around both his ankles.

The lengths of what looked like thick, black wire held him down, with the youngster trying to force himself free. "What? Again?!" he shouted, trying to squirm free but was unable to move thanks to the awkward positioning of his feet. Due to the speed the material traveled at and its weird makeup, Naruto was unable to pick up on its approaches as accurately as he would with living beings. What the heck was this stuff?

Feeling it tighten, Naruto took a closer and longer look at it. After gauging its feeling and the strength it possessed, he then blinked in surprise when he recognized the all too familiar texture rubbing against his skin and stared at it in disbelief. "Hang on… is this… hair?"

Unfortunately, as his attention was so fixed on the stuff that was trapping him, Naruto was unable to respond appropriately to the incoming threat in Sakon when the man eventually recovered from the flash bangs and lunged at the jinchuriki with a punch. Naruto had but a split second to throw up his guard and block the triple punch that ploughed into him. The force knocked him off his feet and sent him tumbling across the field again, where he eventually flew through a tree and crashed into the shrubs. The giant trunk was smashed to pieces as the rest of it toppled to the ground, shaking the earth with a thunderous 'bang'.

Grinning, Sakon drew back his fist and chuckled, "You let your guard down, brat. I hope that hurt."

After a minute or so of watching the dust settle around the crash site, the Sound ninja then had the pleasure of seeing his wounded opponent stagger out of the undergrowth. Gripping his left forearm, which had cracked from receiving the enhanced shot meant to take off his head, Naruto crouched down at the very edge of the clearing and focused his attention on Sakon. Or… that's what the Sound ninjas thought…

Sweat dripping down his head, the blonde stretched his senses out towards the surrounding forest, at the same time keeping his eyes fixed on his main opponent. "There's someone else here," A second enemy working in the shadows and assisting the brothers, someone who was able to stretch and control their hair like wire, and was preventing him from finishing off his opponent. This had Naruto clench his fist in worry as he tried to feel out his unseen foe. "Damn it. This is bad. This two-headed guy is tough enough to deal with, but I've got another one I need to fight?"

Determined to find out who was screwing with him, the jinchuriki reached out with his hand and placed it on the ground. Taking a moment to read the vibrations and foul chakra perforating the atmosphere, he then fixed his eyes back onto his enemy to see the man leering dangerously at him.

"The only way I'll be able to draw them out is if I aim for this guy," Naruto thought, his glare narrowing dangerously. "He's fighting recklessly and leaving massive openings in his defense, since he knows he has someone else in the woods helping him. He wouldn't be so easy going if he was just fighting alone. However…" His hand moved away from the grass and clenched into a fist. "Just because you have an extra pair of hands backing you up doesn't mean I'll be that easy to beat!" Eyes cutting to the right, he then vanished in an orange blur.

Sakon snorted when he saw the boy disappear. "Come on. This again? You really are a one-trick pony." Crouching low, the Sound ninja dropped just in time to avoid the left hook that nearly took his head off from his opponent reappearing directly behind him. Grinning, he then spun around with a right palm strike, only for the blonde attacking him to sway out of the way and counter with a left counter cross that smacked his unsuspecting foe over the shoulder and sent the sound ninja bending to the side.

Seeing stars, Sakon quickly came around with a left roundhouse kick, his opponent vanishing in an orange flash once again and kicking up dust to mark his speedy retreat. When the red-faced shinobi finished the motion of his kick and took another stance, the jinchuriki reappeared behind him a second time, hooking in with a kunai and aiming for the side of his head.

However, just as he was swinging in to take both of their heads off, Naruto stopped when he felt the ground vibrate in the middle of his attack. Ceasing his momentum, the blonde leapt into the air just in time to avoid his back foot being caught by the same black hair jutting up to try and grab him.

Sailing above the clearing, the blonde looked down to see the black strands retract like water in a drain, and clicked his tongue in annoyance. Acrobatically back flipping across the arena, the jinchuriki then landed on the edge of the area and looked up, where he saw his opponent round on him and charge. Due to his transformed state, Sakon was able to cover ground much faster than before, surprising the jinchuriki at his increase in speed and prompting him to respond in kind.

Taking the kunai in his hand, blonde held it back for a counter, only for his eyes to cut across his shoulder suddenly when he saw the black tendrils shoot out of the woods and wrap around his loading arm. When the hairs tightened, they held fast, prompting the boy to grit his teeth. "Damn!" Looking ahead, he saw the approaching Sakon rear his own fist back, which multiplied into three and was now bearing down upon him. In that instant, the quick thinking Naruto smirked and dropped down, pulling his bound fist forward as best as he could, meaning when his attacker swung and missed, the assailant's attack ended up catching the hair's wrapped around Naruto's arm, which struck and ripped through them without thought or hesitation.

The sound of the strands ripping like fabric was cringe worthy, as was the blood curling shriek that followed.


Barrel rolling out of the way once his wrist was free, Naruto managed to get his distance again and looked back to see his opponent frozen in place and a nervous look slapped across his once smug expression. Even his brother, the head that was normally silent, was looking ahead of him nervously.

"Ah, shit," Sakon murmured.

"You've done it now, bro," Ukon followed up.

"SAKON, YOU ASS! YOU FUCKING RIPPED THE HAIRS RIGHT OUT OF MY HEAD BY THE ROOTS!" the voice of a girl echoed out over the woods, earning a wince from the transformed Sound ninja. "I swear, when this is all over I'm going to castrate you while you're asleep and feed your balls to the rats!"

Cringing, Sakon turned to glare across at his opponent, who he could see was now looking around the area for the source of the enraged voice. Eventually, the person owning the harpy like calls decided to emerge from her hiding spot on her own accord, jumping down from a nearby tree to land directly next to the two-headed oni, and allowing Naruto to get a good look at her.

The second attacker was a young girl wearing a similar style of tunic to Sakon's with the midriff exposed, and was wearing black skin tight shorts, black sandals, had a purple rope wrapped around her waist, a snake pattern scarf, and had long black hair in a hime-style cut. On first glance, Naruto initially mistook her for Kin, but on closer inspection the boy saw that she was a couple years older than her, yet still possessed a fierce and aggressive nature about her person. However, this wasn't enough to get the blonde to forget about the fact that she was an enemy, and that she was in league with the freaky, two-headed demon next to her.

The moment she landed and stood upright, the kunoichi threw a punch across her teammate's face, knocking his head to the side, effectively cleaning his clock and getting him to rub his jaw painfully. "Dumbass."

"Fe. So you've already called me a dozen times before. You know, you can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, Kotohi-mpf" Before Sakon could finish his retort, a third hand popped out of his neck and slapped itself over his mouth, silencing him. "Mm?"

Looking incredibly irritated as well as concerned for his safety, Ukon glared across at his brother when he decisively put a stop to the curse being thrown by him. "Don't play with fire, Sakon. You're already pushing our luck with her as it is."

A mumbled response came from the demon twin before the hand sunk back into the place it'd originated from. "Heh. Like I give a shit if I get along with my teammates or not." His eyes then cut back to Naruto, who continued to hold his ground at a safe several yards away from the two Otogakure shinobi. "Anyway, we've got more pressing matters to deal with at the moment. This brat is pretty quick for a walking trashcan. He's giving us quite the run around. It's kind of annoying."

All eyes training on the jinchuriki, a tense and momentary silence fell over the area before the monotony was broken by a dreary sigh escaping the accompanying kunoichi's lips.

Running a hand through her perfect hair, the hidden attacker and young woman now identified as Kotohime flung her head around before a murderous grin spread across her lips. "Heh. A nobody is still a nobody, no matter how much you try and dress them up. The only thing that matters in a shinobi is how far they're willing to go in a fight." At that moment, the girl also decided to up the ante a little and, just like Sakon and Ukon before her, fiery red markings started to spread across her face from her neck. Seconds of metamorphosis later and her entire form became covered, the burning sensations fading away to reveal her form had taken on a dark brownish color, her eyes had turned yellow, and she'd sprouted two buffalo like horns from her head. Not only that, but her black hair had also lengthened considerably and fanned out to give her the appearance of an actual banshee. "I want to see for myself what this brat is made of."

Grunting, Ukon threw his partners a dirty look before moving so that his eyes were set on their target. "Remember guys, we're on a time limit here. Suien is probably rounding up the villagers of Takigakure as we speak, so let's just capture this kid and get to the rendezvous point as quick as we can."

Naruto then had the pleasure of watching with morbid curiosity as the brother on Sakon's back suddenly separated from the main body, resulting in one half of both siblings' forms being covered in black scales and claws. When they completed the split, the jinchuriki found he was facing off against three adversaries in total, and all of them were bearing down on him with menacing grins in play and weapons drawn.

The sight had the blonde break a sweat and take on a defensive stance. "I have a feeling that this is going to get real ugly."

That Sakon character hit a lot harder than Lee or Kiyoko ever did and he only had a faint idea of what the other one was capable of. Somehow she used her hair as a part of her fighting style and that it was as strong as military grade ninja wire. If he wasn't careful with that one, she was going to chop off something that he considered extremely valuable on his person.

Not something he wanted to explain to Tayuya when he got back home.

While this was Naruto's initial concern, his second came as a bit more mental stress to his person when he eventually processed what one of the two demon brothers in front of him said about Taki.

"Is there a bigger thing going on in the shadows?" Briefly glancing in the direction of the waterfall he'd left far behind, the boy then set himself into another defensive stance and narrowed his eyes. "If there is, then I don't have time to be playing around with these guys. I'll take them out one at a time as fast as I can, then head back to the village. Maybe then I'll actually get some answers." That is, if he was able to.

Huffing, Naruto wiped the blood dripping over his eye and drew a kunai. "As much as I'd like to ask what the hell this is all about, I think I'd rather drop you sorry lot and move on with my life."

Sakon perked up at the voice and chuckled, "Oh look. The Konoha trash wants to play with us some more. Interesting."

"Dogs tend to bark their loudest when they're cornered… not to mention bite," Ukon also chuckled before setting himself into a stance, just as the other two did. "Come on. Let's muzzle this brat."

"Like I'm going to give you that chance!" Naruto snapped before exploding from his spot in a blur, startling his three opponents when he immediately went for Ukon in the center and lashed out with his kunai. The white haired man hastily retreated, ducking and slipping under deadly strikes from the boy's blade until his opponent caught up and blocked his strike, catching the blonde's wrist while the point of the kunai hovered just next to the man's temple. The jinchuriki gritted his teeth and glared furiously at the oni he was facing off with. "Don't underestimate me." Naruto then continued his assault.

Proceeding to drive his opponent across the clearing, Naruto was then forced to duck a kick from Sakon coming up behind him, avoiding the blow that would have knocked him flying before lunging at the guy with his knife. He traded shots between the two, before his blade was eventually knocked out of his hand by Sakon parrying him at the wrist, leading to a two on one taijutsu scrap, with the jinchuriki, dancing, jumping and exchanging hits between the brothers.

Leaping over two simultaneous kicks aimed for his stomach, Naruto rolled across the ground and leapt away to avoid another kick aimed for his head by Kotohime leaping into the fray. The blonde clicked his tongue as he was then pursued by the girl dashing towards him, throwing punches and palm strikes his way and forcing him onto the defensive, before eventually driving him into the path of Sakon coming up behind him once more.

The wily young Jonin sprang back and kicked at the man, hitting him in a guard that eventually threw him off and into Kotohime's range, who fired a right cross toward his incoming back, only for the blonde to slip around it and backhand her in the face. His foot landed on her forward leg at the same time, and he used her as a springboard to jump off of her and avoid a clawed slash from Ukon coming at him from the side. Darting between the three shuffling circles around him and keeping him locked in the center; a stressed out Naruto then blocked a left jab and a right kick from Sakon, the two blows landing against his guard with dull thuds, before he countered with a right palm strike to his face.

The blow smacked the oni and drew blood from his nose, but the jinchuriki eventually had his feet kicked out from under him by Sakon dropping swiftly to the ground with a sweeping attack. Ukon then came down at him with his foot, attempting to stomp his lights out, but Naruto rolled away from it and countered by springing off of the grass with both hands and landing a kick straight into Ukon's chest. Knocking the man away and using the force to kick himself off of the nin, Naruto then threw a right cross at an approaching Kotohime, his attack landing against her guard before he threw a left roundhouse kick into her face, most of which she parried but gave him a big enough opening to leap out of the circle of death and into the air.

However, just as Naruto was sailing towards the trees, he suddenly felt his body jerk back down violently, and looked to see his leg had been caught by a tendril of black locks again.

Using her bundled length of hair like a lasso, Kotohime grinned when she managed to catch her opponent in mid jump and yanked him out of the sky. With a grunt of effort she threw him into the ground several yards away, watching him slam into it with a dull thud before she used her hair to pick him up again and slam him onto the other side of the clearing, another loud crack ringing out and a pained shout escaping Naruto's lips.

Giggling maniacally, Kotohime pulled the blonde up a third time and, using strength enhanced by the power of her Cursed Seal, let out a roar of effort and chucked the boy straight into the forest. "HAVE A NICE FLIGHT!" The second she threw him, she released him, watching the jinchuriki get whipped straight into the thick of the woods and plough through several trees along the way, all of which collapsed in the wake of his body crashing through their bases.

Flying through the forest at breakneck speed, Naruto eventually emerged in another open area of the woods, his body tumbling down a rocky hillside and inevitably crashing into a wide stream at the bottom of the incline with a heavy splash. Lying in the water for several seconds and attempting to regain his bearings, Naruto slowly pushed himself up onto all fours, shaking his head to rid himself of his blurry vision and looking up with a growl. He absently wiped the blood running down from the corner of his mouth, giving the pain racking his figure and the stain on his hand a moment of thought before dispersing it in the water.

Now even more banged up than before, the young Jonin struggled to his feet and glared over his shoulder, just in time to see his three opponents leap out of the forest in hot pursuit of him and land a top of the water further up the river.

Sakon snickered, "Heh. You're looking pretty messed up there, trash. Need some help?"

Narrowing his eyes, Naruto turned to stare at the three ninja from Otogakure. Taking a second to look them over, he then raised his right hand and massaged his wrist, having hit it pretty badly during his rough landing. "Before we continue, I have a few quick questions I want to ask you three. First of all… what's with the freaky change in costumes? You guys look like those little imps I see in the pictures on temple doors." Yeah. The ones that told stories about spirituality and all that stuff.

Balking at the runt's little comparison and jab at their appearances, Ukon clenched his teeth and snapped at the boy, "You really know how to piss people off, don't you, you little smart ass?"

Naruto blinked, "Well… aren't you?"

Sakon chuckled at the kid's inquisitive stare, "You wish, kid."

"Our strength comes from a much higher power," Kotohime continued, pulling back on her scarf while craning her head in a confident manner. "Being Orochimaru's elite, his strongest followers and his most loyal servants, our master bequeathed to us the gift of the Cursed Seal; a fuinjutsu that forcefully draws upon the body's chakra, enhancing it with our master's senjutsu chakra and increasing both our physical strength, and the strengths and effectiveness of our other unique abilities."

"Utilizing our master's chakra by sacrificing our own results in the forms that you see standing before you," Sakon concluded, raising a clawed hand and flashing his talons. "By altering the structure of our bodies, we are also able to perform techniques that we would otherwise be unable to sustain or execute with our previous forms, thus we choose to rely on the strengths given to us by Orochimaru-sama."

Ukon clicked his tongue and looked away distastefully, "Ugh. You two really don't know how to keep your mouths shut."

Upon processing what the two enemy shinobi just told him, Naruto widened his stance and narrowed his glare. As his mind churned through the information they had just spilled, a bead of nervous sweat ran down the side of his head, "So that's it. Those freaky transformations come from a Cursed Seal that has been placed somewhere on their bodies." The same thing he remembered Anko telling him about when she showed him the mark she'd been branded with by her previous teacher. Though it'd come as a shock to the boy when he learned exactly who the woman's teacher was and what he did to her, it'd left him wondering what else could be achieved through leaving such a permanent scar on a victim other than the power to control them. Now he knew. "It seems I'm running into Orochimaru everywhere nowadays."

If these clowns were working for the bastard, then Naruto knew he was going to be in for a long haul. From what Kin and Isaribi had told him about the Sannin and his minions, they were not only strong, but downright cruel, vicious and dangerous. They were not the kind of guys you would want to mess around with, nor were they the kind of people he'd want to run into on a bad day.

Still, they were awfully chatty for being 'elites' under whatever flag, ideal or 'insert reason for living here' they were fighting for. The jinchuriki figured it came with the territory of being a favorite to the boss.

Corrupting power and overwhelming arrogance really did open up ones tongue to spilling details that would otherwise be considered private.

Nevertheless, the boy nodded his head in understanding and cracked his knuckles by tightening his fists, "Good to know."

Kotohime smirked at him and ran a hand through her hair. "Orochimaru-sama told us all about you and what you were capable of, Naruto Uzumaki. In fact, he gave us all a very thorough description on all of your little tricks and habits, and told us that if we were to ever run into you that we were to dispatch you with extreme prejudice and have you brought in for dissection… preferably alive." Upon running her hand over her forward bangs, her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Your unorthodox nature and ability to traverse the field like you owned it was something master expressed extreme concern over, and instructed us on how we should fight you." With that said, the girl then suddenly drew several lengths of hair before throwing it out.

In a surprising change of pace to the fight thus far, Naruto then watched with vested interest as the raven haired woman began throwing masses of hair out in all directions, the lines stretching a considerable and ridiculous distance across the field. Like lengths of taut, overhanging wire, she began crisscrossing the strands over the entire valley, covering the area in webbing and forming an intricate system of nets and zip lines that encompassed the entire group, leaving the four of them confined to a small section of land and stream, with the only good space available being the space standing between them. Hell, even Kotohime had strewn the air above them with lengths of hair, essentially boxing them in.

"Ninpo: Ke Kakeami!" (Ninja Art: Hair Casting Net) Kotohime chirped while flicking her locks back over her shoulder once she was done filling up the gorge with a barely visible and random web of death. "The hair I produce is naturally the same strength as the tow rope they use for ships in harbors and even stronger when I run my chakra through it. Sure, this would make going to the hairdressers a pain in the ass, but since I can control the growth and length of my hair, this doesn't matter." She then leered at the blonde. "The point is, you won't be able to cut through it with ordinary weapons."

When Naruto threw them a questioning look, Sakon spoke up. "Orochimaru-sama told us that your unnatural speed is depended on space and that you can aim your shunshin in and around obstacles with terrifying accuracy. However, it's going to be much harder for you to fight at your full potential when you have to worry about wire taking up most of your airspace."

Eyes narrowing, the jinchuriki gave a smirk, "You guys have thought this through."

"Our master sees you as a big threat to his plans for the future and has instructed all of his forces to eliminate you on sight and his elite to capture you should we ever meet you on the field," Ukon informed with a grin. "It's an organization wide order that we're more than happy to follow through with."

Naruto frowned and lowered his position, alerting the three Sound ninja to his intent. "I'm no stranger to having people sent after me. I'm also quite used to the fact that a lot of people out there in the big, bad world want me dead as well. However, just because you've studied my moves and know about most of my abilities doesn't mean you have the upper hand in this fight!" He then shot from his spot and charged straight at his attackers, fist cranked back and ready to run them through.

Reacting immediately, the trio of Sound ninja sprang into action, scattering themselves over the small area while at the same time keeping away from the hair barriers. Sakon met Naruto half way, lashing out at him with his claws, only for the blonde to nimbly weave and sway between his hits while stepping back from his approach. The jinchuriki retreated, avoiding several more wild swings from his opponent, before parrying a right overhand that plowed into him with blunt force.

Frowning, Naruto's bullet time allowed him to break down his adversary's agility and work out an appropriate opening. "His strength and speed are great, but the guy has absolutely no technique. It's all wild and unbound. That means when he swings in big, I can simply do this!" Without warning, Naruto then smacked the guy in the chin with a swinging uppercut that snapped Sakon's head skywards, a shocked look pulling across his face.

When the man staggered with blood flying out of his mouth, Naruto then spun at him and threw his signature roundhouse kick, which he buried into his opponent's side with a satisfying crack to follow. "CHASER!" A loud 'bang' came shortly afterwards and the Oto ninja was suddenly lifted off his feet and sent violently tumbling across the field.

"GARH!" Sakon shouted as he bounced off of the wire at the edge of the creek before falling onto all fours in the shallows, "You bastard!" Forcing himself back up, he sprang forward and rushed straight for his opponent, who was now engaged with Ukon in battle.

Ducking and weaving around more deadly swipes of kicks and claws, Naruto hiked up Ukon's front and kneed the man in the face, bringing back his fist for a knockout blow before feeling it get caught. Looking over his shoulder in surprise, he saw Kotohime had lassoed another length of hair around him and, with an excited grin, yanked him off of her teammate and towards her.

Yelping as he was pulled through the air, the jinchuriki then countered with a quick Hien shot at the kunoichi, the blast of wind smacking her clean in the front and knocking her tumbling into the stream. While she was on all fours and her hair was still wrapped firmly around Naruto's wrist, the boy then saw Ukon running at him from behind and, grabbing the woman's hair, spun on the spot, picking her up off of the ground and throwing her straight into the approaching oni. The young woman slammed into the older brother's side and sent them barreling into the water with a splash, a counter that also freed Naruto's arm from the woman's grasp.

However, the second the jinchuriki downed the two, he received a left cross into his stomach, knocking him flying backwards before skidding through the shallows. Dropping to his knee, Naruto wheezed out from the force of the blow, looking just in time to see Sakon come swinging at him wildly, forcing the Jonin to block and parry awkwardly before swaying backward and nailing the man with a right counter to his face when he over flourished yet another attack. This hit managed to stagger the oni enough for the jinchuriki to upright himself and send a left cross into the man's face, smashing him into the water.

When the young sibling fell into it on all fours, Sakon glared irritably over his shoulder at the approaching Naruto. Taking aim, the man then very discreetly fisted some mud into his hand and flung it straight up at the blonde from the stream, catching him in the eyes and earning a yelp of shock from the jinchuriki.

"Ah! Damn it!" Naruto shouted, stumbling away while now trying to rub the shit out of his face.

He was right; getting hit by your own tricks really did sting like a bitch. Though it wasn't the same as his hidden gauntlet of magical secrets, these bastards really knew how to pull some dirty moves of their own.

Unfortunately, due to being temporarily blinded, Naruto was unable to respond in time to Ukon and Kotohime finally finding their feet again, with the latter suddenly whipping her hair around in a mass like it were alive before sending it straight at the jinchuriki. "Ninpo: Kuroge Muchi!" (Ninja Art: Black Hair Whip) The massive tendril flew straight at the blonde and blindsided him, hitting him hard and fast, with the impact being marked by a dull thud that echoed over the whole area when Naruto was knocked clean off his feet.

Bouncing off of the wire wall and crashing into the water, Naruto coughed up blood and held his side, where a massive gash had been ripped into him and a purple mark had formed, showing he'd cracked a couple of ribs at the force of the attack.

Gargling down whatever sounds of agony he had to make, the jinchuriki looked at his three assailants recovering their bearings once more, before opting to change the setting a little bit. Cocking his hand back, Naruto then plunged it straight through the water. "Jet Hand!" Activating his jutsu at the same time, the Jonin created a splash with the force of a wave, which he sent straight at the trio of Sound ninjas and filled the entire area with a fine mist.

Blocking the wall of water that crashed into them, the three assassins looked through the thick haze that their target temporarily created. When they saw he'd vanished from his spot, the trio began looking through the thick to try and find the youngster, unaware that the jinchuriki had managed to get their backs again and was swinging a kunai straight down at Ukon.

However, just when it seemed like he was going to get in a successful kill, Naruto suddenly bounced off of something invisible before being forcibly thrown to the ground. A loud crack marked his landing as he crashed into the stream again, letting out a harsh growl and looking up to see the rest of the water from his mist settle back into the ground, and Kotohime appear behind the two brothers while at the same time retracting her hair.

The woman grinned maniacally at the winded blonde as he pushed himself up onto his knee. "Hiding in smoke won't help you here. Like I said, we know exactly how you operate under these types of conditions, Uzumaki. Don't think it'll be so easy to pull a fast one over us."

A light chuckle came from the jinchuriki as he brought a kunai up from his holster. Taking it into a backwards facing grip, he faced his three attackers with a smile and a confident glint in his eyes. "Funny. I'm normally the one to say that. But feel free to think that I've reached the point of giving up, because I haven't." On that cue, the three Sound ninja lunged at him with Ukon leading the charge and their respective weapons drawn back for an attack.

The moment the three rushed him, Naruto sprang from the ground with a burst of wind, facing the opening blow with a look of absolute concentration.

When it seemed like the three were going to cut him down, an unexpected development took place when the jinchuriki suddenly 'glitched' right past Ukon's blow and seemingly teleported behind him, where Kotohime came in with a kick, which the jinchuriki swayed under before coming face to face with Sakon. The man roared as he lashed at the blonde, but the boy nimbly slipped around them before his body once again distorted on the spot and he reappeared in a running stance directly behind his attacker when he passed, a spray of blood flying through the air followed by a yell of pain when Sakon gripped a deep gash in his side.

Stumbling forward, the three Sound ninja looked back to see the jinchuriki turn around to face them again, his kunai raised defensively while the trio shook their heads in disbelief.

"What the fuck?" Sakon choked.

"What the hell was that just now?" Ukon also asked. He swore to Kami he had the kid on the first shot. But it was like his attack veered off course and the boy just flickered out of sight.

And he did it so fast too, but that was to be expected.

After a moment of careful thought and replaying the scene in her head several times, Kotohime looked up in surprise before grinning. "Oh. It's that move, isn't it. The one that gave the lightning girl pause in the tournament."

Frowning, Naruto rushed in again and disappeared in an orange blur. The three Sound ninja were then hit by the flash darting between them and nailing them, before an all out scrum took place right there in the creek, with the jinchuriki using his insane speed to fight between all of the Otogakure ninja present and to trade hits with them. Using the swaying and weaving motions of his fighting style, he danced around Sakon and Ukon's attacks and countered each of them respectively, drawing blood from them before being forced to avoid Kotohime's hair when she whipped it around and slammed it into the water where he'd been standing, only for the jinchuriki to vanish in another blur.

Reappearing just on the edge of the tiny space that was there fighting ground, Naruto chucked a barrage of shuriken at the enemy, only for Sakon to smack them out of the air with his plated arm and charge at him. The blonde watched the man move, before seemingly flickering out of the way of his swipe and reappearing behind him, at the same time driving his kunai into his back.

The sharp thud was followed immediately by a yell of agony when Sakon stumbled forward with the knife in his side. Unable to reach it, he rounded on Naruto in a rage and took a swing at him, only for the boy to leap away and dodge Ukon coming at him from behind.

"You son of a bitch! You're dead!"

Dodging and 'glitching' between the brothers lashing at him viciously, the blonde then disappeared when a whip of hair slammed down on him from above and attempted to impale him, avoiding the nearby kunoichi's response. Getting the heck out of the kill zone with a shunshin, the jinchuriki was unable to get that far due to the wires hampering his abilities, and cursed when he stopped only after a few meters.

Managing to put some space between his attackers, with only five meters standing between him and the person closest to him, Naruto formed his cross fingered hand seal and produced a small numbers of clones. Once the extra bodies filled the area, their respective eyes darted between the three enemy ninja, including the wounded Sakon, until the squad's gazes settled on a serious Kotohime jumping to the front of the pack. Her hair fanning out aggressively and waving on the wind like a frill, she leered at the jinchuriki and his doppelgangers before dropping down onto all fours and throwing her hair forward. With a grin appearing to match her actions, upon assuming a cat like posture her mane bristled, a split second until she suddenly fired off a jutsu that the jinchuriki certainly did not account for.

"Ninpo: Kebari Senbon!" (Ninja Art: Hair Needle Senbon)

Her length of hair then began rapid-firing strands in the form of deadly, long needles at an accelerated rate, filling the air with a wall of flying death that flew straight for Naruto at a ridiculous speed. The jinchuriki's eyes widened in horror at the approaching attack and, with nowhere to run and unable to perform the necessary hand seals fast enough to dodge the attack with the insane spread to it, both he and his clones were forced to block the barrage of senbon with their arms and legs when they were peppered by the spray of deadly projectiles. His clones were the first to fall, disappearing into puffs of smoke, followed shortly by him.

A spray of blood flew from the blonde's body followed by a yell of agony when Naruto was knocked off his feet with thick needles buried in different parts of him, giving him the appearance of a pincushion. The jinchuriki's flight was stopped short by the hair wires behind him, his body hitting it and spinning on a line before falling flat onto his side. Gripping his chest in pain, the blonde boy growled and bit back as much of the stinging sensations as he could, but could do little as his blood began to mix with the running water he was lying in.

He got hit… badly.

A laugh from above quickly drew Naruto's gaze upwards, where he saw Kotohime and Sakon approaching, with the former retracting her hair and returning it to its previous state.

"Ooh. That looks like it hurts," Sakon mock-groaned in a taunting manner, his demonic eye set on the wounded jinchuriki at his feet and reflecting his delight while his brother came to stand directly beside him.

Naruto spat angrily, his body shaking from the damage, "It does." The jinchuriki then turned his attention to the kunoichi beside the twin, where he saw Kotohime step forward and crack her knuckles in an intimidating manner. The grin she wore on her face promised nothing but ill intent toward the stricken Jonin now lying helplessly on the ground, which didn't instill much confidence or enthusiasm in Naruto from the way he was still bleeding out all over the place.

"Now the real fun begins," the kunoichi said, licking her lips.




Past the waterfall…

There have been very few outsiders that have ever been able to lay their eyes upon the actual village of Takigakure. Some had only ever seen the countryside that surrounded the hidden community and others had only ever looked upon the great waterfall that stood as the very symbol of the village itself. However, thanks to the elaborate system of caves and tunnels that served as the main highways to the heart of the village, it made finding the actual town itself a near impossibility. The fact that the village's location was so well hidden made a lot of the neighboring nations question whether Takigakure even existed.

Contrary to popular belief, Takigakure's military bulk wasn't confined to just one location. The giant waterfall that served as the front for the nation's shinobi community hid only the heart of the village itself, the place where most of the civilians lived, while its forces were scattered across an entire countryside made up of rivers and dense forestation. The shinobi stayed around these parts, at outposts and towns that would allow them to keep a better eye on the countryside and the nation's borders, sort of like the wall that surrounded the village of Konohagakure, and would periodically return to the hidden waterfall to receive orders from their leader. It was a complicated setup that ensured that the village of Takigakure would be well protected, even if disaster should befall them.

Countermeasures were set in place in case the village was ever threatened, a routine that every single shinobi under the banner was familiar with. The instant Shibuki and Fu realized that their home was in danger, the two of them wasted no time in sending the children with them away to call for reinforcements, while they entered the hidden village via one of its hidden entrances.

Making their way through the elaborate labyrinth of tunnels, including underwater passages and tight corridors, the pair eventually ended up inside the village's main lake, a massive pool surrounding one of the largest trees a person would ever see.

The enormous pillar of wood, leaves and branches towered over the entire village of Takigakure, with a canopy that blocked out the sky and sheltered the entire community from the outside world. The main portion of the village sat along the shoreline of the water surrounding the island the tree was built upon, with a bridge that allowed the civilians access to another, smaller portion of huts built at the base of the tree. The whole island stood as another great landmark of the village, one even fewer on the outside world have even seen.

Not wishing to surface, for fear of drawing attention to themselves from the people invading their village, both Shibuki and Fu remained underwater, with the latter following after the boy as he led her towards the tree and its roots. In actuality, the tree didn't grow up from an island in the middle of the lake. Soil and sand had accumulated on the surface of the water surrounding the base of its trunk, creating the illusion of an island. The tree in fact grew right up out of the lagoon like a mangrove, with roots stretching deep into the water, allowing it access to the richest minerals in the area.

Since the villagers had taken such great care of it, it was no wonder the tree had grown to such an enormous size.

Of course, its purpose in the village didn't just serve as a landmark or a marker on a map. Its other purpose to the people lay deep within it.

Accessing the tree via its underwater ducts, Shibuki emerged inside of a hidden chamber inside of the trunk. A pocket of air sat here, with enough breathing space for over two dozen people. It was there, nestled within a collection of roots coming down from above, situated on top of a raised surface, a small shrine had been built. It was this very construct that the son of the village leader was searching for, and as he stepped onto land and ascended the gradient to the structure, Fu followed shortly in his wake.

Emerging from the lake and shaking the water off of her like a dog, the girl looked back in the direction they had come and frowned. "Are you sure Ken and Yuna-chan will be alright?"

Shibuki smiled, drying off his hands before reaching for the building's doors, "They'll be fine. If they keep heading in the direction I told them to and keep moving they'll be able to reach the nearest outpost without encountering any problems." Gingerly opening the gate to the shrine, the boy's gaze immediately fell upon a glass gourd filled with water and hanging from the ceiling like a lamp. Due to the secretive nature of this place, it was quite clear that the flask was not filled with ordinary water, a fact that was made more obvious when Shibuki reached out and gently removed the bottle from its place of suspension. "I don't want to get the villagers involved. If Suien is really behind this, then I think I know what he's after."

Fu looked back at the boy with a serious look pulled over her. "Do we give it to him? I know it's our village's greatest treasure, but if he's planning on holding the civilians hostage just so he can force you to hand over the Hero's Water, then…"

"If we can stop him, then we won't have to," Shibuki said while looking back at his companion. With the flask held firmly in his grasp, he flashed the girl a determined look, one that spoke more words than his next ones did, and narrowed his eyes. "I will not let anything happen to the villagers or our home… that I can promise you."

Blinking, Fu grinned and nodded back to her friend with an equally determined expression befalling her, "That's exactly how a future village leader should sound, Shibuki-kun."

Once they had the relic in their possession and their plans had been outlined in brief, Shibuki then led Fu up the tree. Following the tunnels twisting about at random through the enormous fig, the two shinobi from Takigakure traveled up to the nearest vantage point they could find. If the village was under threat, then they needed to find a good spot to scout from and see exactly what they were up against. The shinobi that they encountered at the base of the giant waterfall was only the tip of what they assumed to be the iceberg. That amount of manpower was not going to be enough to take over an entire village. There was surely going to be more, and both the village leader's son and its resident jinchuriki knew this.

The inside of the tree was a bit of a maze itself. There were few in the village who actually knew that the entire structure was hollow on the inside and that people were able to traverse its inner network of roots and caves. You could fit an entire town inside of it and live off of the nutrients the tree was able to produce. However, this being only a passing thought to the pair making their way through the tree, Shibuki and Fu focused on the more pressing issue at hand in the form of the enemy, and upon making their way to one of the openings along the surface of the trunk, looked out towards their village.

Though all of the buildings and huts remained standing and in plain sight, it was not the town that immediately drew their gaze. No. It was the band of mercenaries and the entire village's population at the base of the tree in front of another shrine that did.

With the community's population grouped together in threes and tied together to ensure that none of them were left unaccounted for, the frustrated and terrified masses remained sitting quietly in their assigned lots, looking around at the menacing faces of their captors. A majority of the enemy force that stood guard over the men, women and children was made up of common thugs and brutes wearing the outfits of shinobi, but all of them were similar in appearance and only dressed up for show. These guys were in no way different to the ones that Shibuki was able to take out at the base of the waterfall.

It was the other guys that actually gave the concealed pair pause. Three Amegakure ninja pacing around the area; one of them the spiky haired shinobi that had attacked them earlier at the lake, a masked shinobi with a sharp glare, dark ensemble, scarf and bandana, and a brown haired woman wearing a unique type of battle robe with long sleeves and an exposed midriff. These guys were immediately identified as the lieutenants of the party, with the person running the entire show also stepping into the spotlight from behind the archway of the temple built against the fig. It was a figure and face that quickly confirmed Shibuki's fears and instilled a momentary sense of dread and worry in his gut.

Fu's hand clenched tightly when she also spotted the man rise up from the steps at the foot of the tree and narrowed her glare upon him. "You were right, Shibuki-kun."

"Suien," the boy growled, his fist balling against the moss of the trunk entrance he was leaning against. "The bastard. He led them here."

"And it looks like he's rounded up everyone from the village," Fu murmured. Well… everyone that had been in the village at the time of his arrival. But that was beside the point.

The young son of Taki cursed under his breath as he saw the former member of their hidden community as well as his former sensei survey the area before directing his attention towards the bound villagers around him. If there was any time he wanted to capitalize on his position, this was it. "Damn it. What happened to the home forces? Were they all wiped out?"

With the number of mercenaries that were currently present on that island, it seemed like a bit of a stretch to think that the small invading group would be able to overpower all of the shinobi that'd been stationed here. Even in the absence of the village leader, it was still customary to have at least one platoon of ninja stationed within the confines of the town to keep an eye on the people. Sure, Suien had once been a respected shinobi of Takigakure and one of their finest Jonin at one point in his life, but there was no way he along with his band of lackeys would've been able to sneak past and overwhelm all of the village's defenders. So how in the world did they infiltrate the village and round up all of the civilians unscathed?

There had to be some sort of an explanation.

"This is bad," Shibuki thought with a bead of sweat running down his head. "If they were able to take out all of the guards, then that means the shinobi that Suien has with him must be really strong." The boy then looked across at Fu nervously, with the intent of explaining to her their next plan of action. "We'll need to tread carefully. If we're going to free the villagers, then we're going to have to…" He then stopped when he realized Fu was no longer with him.

Looking about in alarm, the boy then turned to the island down below. When he saw the mercenaries rally and form up around Suien, Shibuki breathed out a sigh and slapped his forehead.

"Damn it Fu… sometimes I hate it when she's excited."

She was always keen to get into a fight, that girl.

It must have come with the territory of being a jinchuriki.


"Why, Suien?!" a random villager from one of the bound groups shouted up at the man when he strode past with his hands in his pockets. Managing to capture the big boss's attention, the bold young man sneered. "You were once a beloved member of this village and one of our most respected shinobi! How can you do this to us?"

The adult with the goatee grinned sinisterly back at the villager and shrugged his shoulders. "Simple. I got tired of taking orders and decided to pursue a new career, one where I was in charge." The man leered over the collection of hostages and waved off all of their hateful glares. "When you choose to follow the path of strength, it becomes your one and only reason for living. You have to set any and all other things you once thought were important to you aside, which only really served to weigh you down in the long run, and focus all of your attention on it. By casting this village and its people onto the wind, it was easy for me to stab you all in the back." Suien then laughed at the round of flinches and growls he received for his answer. "Now don't look so shocked. What else were you expecting me to say?"

"So that's it?" the young man shouted.

"We were just a burden to you? Dead weight?" a woman yelled from the back.

The rogue ninja and former member of the Takigakure forces then gave a look indicating a moment of thought, before he then nodded to the people. "Well… yeah, pretty much."

"You cruel, heartless bastard! You won't get away with this!" another person, an adult Genin tied up with the others, shouted before receiving a punch across the face from Kirisame. The blow from the lieutenant was enough to knock him out, leaving the man surrounded by three other, terrified villagers.

Suien chuckled, "Actually, I will… and I have."

"What is it that you want?" another male villager, a farmer, asked with a frustrated glare of his own. "To take over Takigakure?"

"Not at all," the Jonin replied with a shake of his head. "What would I want with this pathetic collection of huts and rabble? No. I have my eye set on something even greater, the very thing that has helped to preserve this village through all these years of turmoil and strife." He then brought his hand out and clenched it into a fist. "The Hero's Water!"


"You're insane!" the same farmer shouted with a harsh glare thrown at the man, "Lord Shibuki would sooner pour it out all over the ground than give it to you!"

"Heh. I highly doubt your future village leader would be foolish enough to do that," Suien continued on while slipping his hands into his pockets again. "As his former teacher, I know him better than anyone. Plus… I don't think your village would last for very long without the Hero's Water to fall back on. It's too precious an artifact to simply take and spill every single drop of, and Shibuki knows this." The way he said it silenced a great majority of the villagers in the area, filling them with a sense of trepidation above the hope they held out that help would come.

Hisame giggled in amusement, "Look, it's not that difficult a deal to make. In exchange for all of your pathetic lives, all the little runt has to do is hand over the Hero's Water and we'll be out of your hair."

"It's something even a child can understand. No complications," Murasame chuckled as he folded his arms.

"But if he gives us any trouble, we'll be sure to make his life and the lives of all of you all the more unpleasant," the masked Kirisame stated with a leer towards the women and children sitting nearby. His blast of killing intent had all of the civilians around him shiver with fear. "That we can promise you."

After several minutes ticked by and silence prevailed amongst the waiting mercenaries and villagers, the man in charge of the attack on Takigakure then looked down at his wrist and flexed his arms. "Well then… time to move into the final phase of our plan. Now that all of the sheep have been rounded up, it's time to call out the shepherd. I'm sure that he'll be willing to negotiate." Stepping further into the open, the Jonin grinned and trained his attention on the village across the way. Even though he had no idea where his intended target was, if he spoke loud enough he was sure that the boy would be able to catch wind of him. "SHIBUKI! I know you can hear me! It's time for you to come out and play! Don't be shy! Everyone is out here waiting for you!"

Watching from the sidelines eagerly, Kirisame chuckled and nudged his fellow male compatriot in the side with a grin clearly outlined by his facial cloth. "Ten ryo says he shows up after the second hostage is killed."

Murasame thought about it for a moment before grinning, "You're on."

Smirking widely, Suien stepped out into the open while his lieutenants flanked him, at the same time facing the town across the way. "Well? Are you here or what? Come on, boy! Surely you don't want anything to happen to your precious villagers! Your father would be absolutely ashamed to hear that you chose to run and hide rather than step out and save your people!" The man yelled on, goading the son of the community's beloved leader to appear and face him. However, just when the rogue was about to start directing his men to pick some civilians to line up for the 'firing squad', the sound of shouting and dull thuds ringing out from behind suddenly drew Suien's attention to a break in his program. "What? What's going on?" When his eyes cut to the mercenaries guarding the civilians, he received a rather unwelcome surprise.

A young girl with tan skin, wearing white and with a mop of green hair atop her head could be seen jumping between the mercenaries and beating all of them senseless. When everyone finally noticed her presence, she'd already taken out three of them, and was now moving to dispose of the rest.

The moment everyone's eyes landed on the newcomer, relief flooded every single villager sitting in that clearing.

"It's Fu!" the farmer from before shouted.

"Fu-chan!" a child cried out happily, a beaming smile formed on her face.

"She's here!"

"Fu has come to save us!"

Ducking under a stabbing attempt from an infuriated brute, a lightning fast and obviously pissed off Fu grabbed her assailant by the wrist, twisted and shoulder tossed him into his friend coming at her from behind, sending both men violently crashing to the ground before they wound up smashing their backs against the roots of the giant tree behind them. Upon knocking them unconscious, the girl then turned her attention to another attacker coming at her from above, who threw a hail of kunai and shuriken in her direction.

Counting the number of deadly projectiles quickly, Fu dodged them effortlessly before springing into the air straight at the man and appearing directly in front of him. Seeing the look of instant shock come over him, the young Chunin grinned his way before performing an elegant spin and kicking him across the face, sending the man spiraling to the ground and smashing a crater into the hard soil. The villagers sitting nearby stared in astonishment and then seeing their savior land and tackle two more men rushing at her from her blind spots, ramming into one head first and knocking him flat out before jumping to the other, straddling his chest and grabbing hold of him while he was still upright.

"Hello there!" Fu chirped, giving him a devilishly sly grin. "Going up!" Suddenly sprouting a pair of insect wings from her back, the girl shot straight up into the sky, earning a manly scream from the mercenary she was holding onto. Almost breaking the sound barrier at the speed she ascended, the girl climbed several stories high and, albeit the panicked cries of her victim, spun through the air and dove straight towards the lake.

Just when it seemed she was about to crash straight into the water's surface, the girl pulled up at the last second, at the same time releasing her hostage and sending him shooting into the water like a torpedo, where he vanished in a towering splash. The Amegakure shinobi down below could only watch in awe as the green blur that was the village's jinchuriki performed several impressive and acrobatic maneuvers through the airspace, just to show off, before diving for the remaining two mercenaries still conscious and on the ground at the edge of the lake.

Fu dove right for them in a blur, startling the two shocked men at her speed before crashing into both with a pair of kunai in her hands. She slammed the pair of hapless mercenaries into the earth and buried them; along with the blades she used to impale them with. When the dust settled on the bank where she landed, it revealed the girl perched on top of two dead bodies, still holding the kunai in place, and glaring across at the leader of the rogues.

After looking her in the eyes, Suien smirked, "Well, well, isn't this a surprise. Long time, no see Fu-chan… how have you been?"

The green haired kunoichi smirked and stood up, "I've been good. In fact, I think I'm feeling better today compared to how I've been the last couple of days."

"Hm? How so?" the Jonin asked curiously.

A grin formed across Fu's face as she stepped off of the bodies and back onto solid ground, at the same time beginning a slow and menacing approach of the main antagonist. "I haven't been on many missions lately and have been feeling a tad wound up. Perhaps I can let myself loose by taking out my boredom and frustrations out on your face for the next few minutes. How does that sound?"

Suien feigned a cringing expression, "OOooh… scary." A chuckle then escaped his lips when he saw the girl stop and heard her fists tightening with the popping of knuckles. "You were always a strong girl and one of the best kunoichi to ever come out of this village. It's a shame we never saw eye to eye on certain ideals and you were always so set on sticking around this shithole, otherwise I would have asked you to come along with me when I decided to 'retire'. I could have used a girl of your talents."

"Well, I'm sorry to say sensei, but my talents belong to Takigakure, its people, and myself… not to you," Fu stated, looking across at the villagers and seeing a great majority of them smiling at her, obviously happy to see that she was here. Her eyes then cut back to the man and narrowed dangerously. "Since you've gone and turned your backs on everyone, you're no longer a part of this village. I'm going to make you pay for hurting my friends."

The Jonin with the goatee chuckled and closed his eyes, "Whatever you say.

Wings sprouting from her back again, Fu prepared a charge straight at the bastard, until three whips made out of water suddenly shot out from her blind spots and wrapped around her. Binding her tightly, the girl jittered to a stop and glared over her shoulder towards the three Amegakure shinobi that now surrounded her on all sides.

Hisame, Murasame and Kirisame had managed to scatter themselves across the area during Fu's assault on the mercenaries and snuck up on the girl while she was having her little glaring match with Suien. Once they were certain she had all of her attention fixed on him, they pounced, and now had her bound in three whips of water that had her fastened to the ground and her arms snapped at her sides, keeping her from forming any hand seals. The wings on her back were also bound by the technique, temporarily disabling her ability to fly.

Murasame grinned as he struggled to hold down the surprisingly strong girl. "You're not going anywhere kid!"

Fu gritted her teeth and thrashed against her bounds, but found the ninja were determined to hold onto her. "Damn it. Let go of me!"

"Just sit down and be quiet," Hisame chirped, before suddenly all three shinobi began running lightning style chakra down the binds towards their target.

The three currents of electricity converged on Fu's position and lit her up, the girl letting out a pained cry as she was hit with how many thousands of volts were now coursing through her. After several seconds of being subjected to the simultaneous shocks from the three ninja formerly of the hidden rain village, the mint haired girl then collapsed to her knees. Sparks flashing off of her a couple more times, the now singed and smoldering youngster glared up at her antagonists and the smugly grinning Suien several yards in front of her. Upon feeling the paralyzing and painful effects of the electrical attacks subside, Fu then gave a cocky grin and looked up at her attackers through one eye, while the other one was shut to bite back the pain.

"Is that all you got… you weaklings?"

Kirisame chuckled, "Wow… this kid really is tough."

"She's able to maintain consciousness even through all that," Hisame murmured, before smiling and giving another pull on her water whip for extra incentive. The response from Fu was a noticeable wince as the three binds began to squeeze her into submission once more. "It doesn't matter. We can either zap her until her heart stops beating or slice her into pieces and end this whole thing right now. Whatever she chooses is fine with me."

At hearing this, the villagers looked up in alarm.

"No! Don't!" the male farmer shouted, not wanting the kids to be exposed to such a sight or have to experience the loss of another fellow villager. "Please! Don't hurt her!"

"Go ahead," Fu growled, her fists clenching tightly once more as she glared around at the three assassins trying to keep her bound. "If you jokers think you can kill me then give it your best shot. You'd better do it fast, because all you've done so far is piss me off. Chomei-kun too!"

"Noisy brat," Murasame sneered before tightening his grip on his own whip. "If that's how you want to play it, fine! Prepare to get cut in half!"

Just as the three Ame ninja and Fu were getting ready for a final showdown, their little spat was interrupted by the sudden arrival of an unexpected anomaly from above. This took the form of a large tornado of water suddenly crashing into the shallows of the lake just a few meters away from them, forming an undulating waterspout that caught all of the villagers and the mercenaries still conscious by surprise. Distracted by the sight of the twisting vortex, the three Amegakure assassins were unable to react fast enough when it suddenly shot towards them in the form of a drill, bouncing off all three of them and knocking them off their feet.

The sheer force of the attacking twister sent Hisame, Kirisame and Murasame tumbling across the ground, their clothes ripped apart by the attack and two of them immediately getting knocked out at the impact. When Hisame was slammed onto her front, the woman shakily looked up with a stunned expression in play and blood dripping down her face, and watched as the water vortex made landfall and stood in the middle of the open area. The sight was just beyond comprehension.

"N-No way," the woman choked out before also losing consciousness.

Suien stood staring in surprise at the fountain of spinning water while Fu, having been relinquished from the hold of the three rogue ninja, was now back on her feet and smirking at the funnel. Though she was still a little dizzy from being zapped and sporting some significant burn marks, she was for the most part okay, and was more than focused enough to witness the twisting pillar disperse and reveal a glaring Shibuki inside of it.

The villagers' expressions became filled with joy at the sight of their beloved leader's son. It was an arrival that they'd all been holding out for and expecting.

"Lord Shibuki!" was the collective chorus of every civilian in the area speaking up.

A young boy sitting in the crowd kicked his feet happily, "I knew he would come!"

"Geez. You're always such a showoff, Shibuki-kun," Fu chirped brightly, despite the massive hazing she'd gotten from the electro-shock treatment.

The brown haired Chunin flung his hair back and grinned across at his partner, "Says you, Ms. I-want-to-make-the-first-dramatic-entrance. You were the one who jumped the gun before I could finish telling you my plan and ended up getting caught by those goons. What if they were serious and really did end up slicing you to pieces with those water whips?"

"Ha! They wouldn't have been able to even if they tried," Fu laughed before wiping her nose confidently. "Their strength was nothing compared to mine. It was like being held down by silk threads. All I had to do was snap their water whips with arms and kick their asses before they had a chance to react. You took them out before I had the chance to show off my new moves."

Shibuki sighed and shook his head, "You girls are always so violent. You're the main reason why I haven't found a girlfriend yet. I'm just afraid that she might turn out to be somebody like you."

"Aw, come on. I'm not that bad," Fu replied while winking at the boy in a flirtatious manner. "I'm as gentle and delicate as they come."

"Yeah. Like I said. Afraid," Shibuki said, clearly joking around with the teen who stuck her tongue back at him in response before the pair eventually trained their eyes onto the problem at hand. It was so nice that Suien had just stood there waiting for them to finish their banter, otherwise they'd have had an interesting game of cat and mouse to play. When his eyes landed on the man standing there with his hands in his pockets, the Chunin frowned and lowered his head towards the Jonin, "We can talk about this afterwards, Fu. Right now we've got some unfinished business to take care of."

Suien grinned and stuck his nose in the air, "I take it you received my invitation?"

"Oh yeah. Loud and clear," Shibuki replied before narrowing his eyes. "Word of advice, the next time you want to have a message sent to somebody, go and give it to them in person, sensei, don't send in lackeys. That's just a bad day waiting to happen."

The man closed his eyes and laughed to himself, completely ignoring the fact that he was now all on his own and that all of his subordinates, including his trusted lieutenants, were either knocked out or dead. "I see that you've grown quite a backbone, Shibuki. Hanging out with your father these past several months has done you a lot of good."

"Yeah. And my self-esteem wasn't the only thing that's improved," the boy replied before holding up a fist and clenching it tightly. "Ever since you left, I spent all of my time training and working on my skills as a shinobi for my village. With Fu standing by my side and supporting me every single day, I've been able to double my power and stamina. Now I'm three times stronger than when I used to be." Shibuki said this with absolute confidence in his abilities as he then leered across at his former teacher, who was also smirking back at him. "I'd even go so far as to say I'm even stronger than you now… sensei."

"Young pup, I wouldn't get too confident if I were you," Suien shot back, cracking his neck and pulling out his hands. The grin he flashed next had Shibuki step into a defensive position, as well as Fu. "Don't forget, I was the one who originally taught you all of the secrets to ninjutsu. As the one who practically brought you up from the day you became a Genin, I know all your tricks and habits."

Shibuki huffed and brought his hands up, "I've changed a lot since our last training session. I'm not a child anymore."

"Well, to me you are," Suien shot back before turning his gaze towards Fu. Eyeing both teenagers momentarily, the man then allowed a roguish smile to form and turned his head on them. "As much as I would like to stand here and catch up with you two for the rest of the afternoon, I'm afraid I have a very important business meeting to attend to, so I'll make this quick." The man then pulled out a kunai and chucked it towards the villagers next to him, the knife burying into the ground directly in front of a young woman and getting her and the others to shriek. "Hand over the Hero's Water and I'll let you and the villagers go."

Shibuki's frown deepened, "I don't think so." He crouched down, preparing for an attack to run right through the man.

"You're in no position to bargain with us," Fu also spoke up, a frown of her own appearing across her normally chipper expression. "We've taken out all of your guys and you're all alone now. We also have backup on its way from one of the village's outposts. What makes you think you'll be able to get away when you have Takigakure's 'Wild Child' and the village leader's son to deal with?"

At that, Suien's grin widened considerably as he then trained his gaze towards the jinchuriki of the Seven Tails. His next look was filled with nothing but amusement and malice, "Oh, my dear Fu-chan… what makes you think that you've taken out all of my guys?"

Their expressions appearing puzzled, Fu and Shibuki were about to comment on the man's statement before, all of a sudden, the entire village was shaken by the sound of an enormous explosion going off a few kilometers away. With Suien, the villagers and the two Takigakure shinobi holding their ground against the violent tremors, all eyes eventually trained towards the horizon over the treetops and cliffs, where they then saw the sight of a mushroom cloud of dust and smoke rising high into the air, followed by more plumes further in the distance.

Though many of the pillars of smoke had been there for a while, nobody had seemed to take notice them, as they were too busy concentrating on business in this region of the community. However, in the advent of the large explosion that came from Kami knows where, it quickly left most of those present on that island underneath the large tree baffled as to what had caused that blast.

It was a question that Shibuki felt he needed to address, "W-What was that?"

That was no ordinary blast. Hell, there wasn't even any fire in the explosion, so what in the world was going on over there.

Unfortunately, the boy didn't get his answer right away, as a loud murmur from over his shoulder caught his and Fu's attention. Suien and the villagers looked as well, where they then saw the distinct form of a tall figure marching across the lake with a collection of about five bodies held over his shoulder.

A man with long brown hair, a beard that had strands tied with beads, and adorned in a long-sleeved, pin-striped top, black pants and leg warmers, and wearing a slashed-out Kirigakure headband and a patch over his left eye, strolled into view of the Takigakure residents. Also carrying an enormous sword over his back, the person could be seen looking in the direction the explosion had come from and mumbled irritably to himself at the sight of it. Needless to say, in spite of the way he was casually walking into the midst of the conflict between Suien and his former comrades, he was a little bit annoyed at the other event he suspected were taking place not too far outside of the village walls.

"Those two fools are getting carried away with their target," the swordsman formerly of Kiri grumbled as he stepped in the shallows of the water. "They're supposed to kill that Naruto-maki-whatever the hell his name is and meet us back here. Why are they just messing around?" The bearded man then looked back towards the island and blinked when he saw Suien, the bound villagers, the two teenagers looking at him, and the mass of unconscious mercenaries lying all about the place. "Oh?"

Suien smirked, "Jinpachi. Perfect timing."

It was hearing that name that had Shibuki's eyes widen a little, "J-Jinpachi?"

Fu, also surprised at seeing the man, then took note of the people he was carrying with him. Slung over his one shoulder and piled up on top of each other, the mint haired girl saw the man was hauling five of their village's shinobi on his back, all of them Chunin and all of them were unconscious. Though it was glaringly obvious the man could have killed them at any time, it wasn't like he'd let them all off easily. All of them looked messed up and burnt from whatever fight this man was able to give them.

It had the jinchuriki tense up worryingly when she saw the one-eyed swordsman look around at all of them. "Who is this guy?"

The rogue Jonin leading the attack on Taki grinned across at his other 'hired help'. "Did you have fun playing around with the shinobi in the village square?"

Hearing the question, said mercenary looked around and shrugged, "Yeah. I guess. It's a shame you didn't let me kill them though." He then dumped the bodies unceremoniously into the shallows and watched them roll and groan as they struggled to regain conscious. Upon depositing them onto the bank, the man trained his gaze onto the teenagers now looking at him with intent and bewilderment, a sight that brought an amused smirk to his face. "But never mind that. It seems to me like you're having your own fun over here."

Suien chuckled and waved towards the kunoichi standing several yards away, "Yeah, this girl jumped in and started beating up all of my men. She's really starting to get on my nerves. Do you think you could kill her while I continue talking with Shibuki, please?"

"Sure. No problem," Jinpachi replied, reaching up and grabbing the sword on his back before drawing it. With lightning fast speed and force, the rogue slammed the tip of his weapon into the shallows, causing a large splash before he settled it in place, at the same time leering across at the two youngsters now rounding on him. "It's part of my contract anyway. The other shinobi stationed here didn't put up much of a fight. I figured a village so hard up about security and protecting their people would at least put some effort into training their dogs. Hopefully this little one will let me stretch my legs."

After several moments of thinking, Shibuki finally realized who it was he was speaking with and looked at the man in shock. "I… I recognize that sword." The headband too also helped with the boy's analysis as he then looked at the face of the individual now glaring them down. "You're Jinpachi Munashi; former shinobi of Kirigakure and member of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist." The name had all of the villagers sitting within earshot freeze up.

The mercenary grinned, "You know my name. I'm flattered." The assassin then brought up his weapon and propped it over his shoulder with a heavy 'clunk'. "Being a part of the strongest generation of swordsmen, I'm not surprised that people as far out as Takigakure would know me."

"Everybody knows you," Shibuki said before frowning deeply, "What are you doing here?"

"Heh. Isn't it obvious?" Jinpachi asked with a bit of an amused laugh, "I'm here earning my next big paycheck. People have got to make a living somehow… even wanted serial killers who abandoned their village like me. Some associates of mine pointed me in the direction of your former comrade here, who needed some help with some big job involving Takigakure or whatever, so I decided to tag along for the ride. Since I was able to stick around for this long, I was able to scout out all of the little secret entrances and passageways to this place. A nifty little setup, if I do say so myself. So not only am I getting a lot of ryo out of this little heist, but some interesting intelligence as well. Any of the other Five Great Shinobi Nations would pay big money for the information I can give to them on your village. Consider it a bonus for freelancing myself out to the highest bidder."

"Sellout!" Fu spat distastefully as she turned her full attention on the swordsman, "And you call yourself a shinobi!"

Jinpachi glared at this and pointed his sword in the girl's direction, "Just for that, I'm going to take my time killing you first, little girl. A free man can do whatever he wants in this world. That's the most indisputable truth in life. I don't expect someone like you to understand that."

Suien smirked and took a stance, setting his eyes on Shibuki who turned his attention to him in kind. "Strong words from a powerful warrior. There is no way I can't respect that." He then held out his hand before summoning a mass of water from out of the air. This bubble of liquid then formed into a long, jagged blade, which then quickly took the shape of a sword that he held firmly in his grasp. "Takigakure-Ryū: Mizukiri no Yaiba!" (Takigakure Style: Watercutting Sword) A laugh escaped his lips when he saw Shibuki take up his guard. "I'll let you and the jinchuriki have it out."

Clicking his tongue, Shibuki also brought up his hand and extended it. "Fu! You take care of the swordsman. I've got my sensei!" A mass of water also appeared out of the air in front of him, which he quickly formed into a jagged sword as well and brandished at arm's length in front of him. "Think you can handle him?"

"Of course," Fu shouted back and also dropped into a stance. "With my speed, he won't be able to even touch me." She then sprouted her familiar pair of wings and crouched low, intent on taking her opponent head on.

Jinpachi chuckled, flooding the area with killing intent as he felt the excitement of the stand-off grow exponentially. Presented with whom he deemed as an interesting opponent and his 'partner' facing off against his former student, this made for a very intriguing fight. "I don't need speed to catch you, little girl. There are more ways to winning a battle then superior agility." His grin became more dangerous as he fixed all of his attention on the kunoichi, "Here… let me show you."

Gritting her teeth, Fu gave a loud battle cry and took off from her spot in a dash, the villagers watching in bewilderment as she charged towards the swordsman at takeoff speed, who leapt at her as well. The tall swordsman also let out a fearsome bellow while swinging his sword, the blade of which ignited from the explosive tags that appeared along its length, which he then struck out at the girl with.

When they collided, an enormous explosion ripped apart the shore they were on, drawing screams from the villagers and marking the beginning of the final battle for the village hidden behind a waterfall.

This was going to be rough.



Far outside Takigakure

Needless to say, Naruto's fight with Sakon/Ukon and Kotohime had not gone as well as he'd thought it would. Sure it was epic as hell and they'd wrought about a great deal of destruction to the countryside, but the ultimate result still ended completely messed up.

Ever since getting trapped in the Sound kunoichi's web of hair, which she'd covered an entire valley surrounded by cliffs with, the young Jonin went on to engage his three opponents in a bloody brawl inside of a small arena of wire. However, even with the walls of wire surrounding them on all sides, the barrier didn't stop the fight from escalating and taking all of them out of bounds. Using a combination of juiced up wind attacks and explosives Naruto managed to remove much of the netting boxing him in as well as some of the cliffs, and took their fight across the forests once again. He was then however forced into close-quarters when he ended up stuck in another field of hair webs inside of the woods, and had the fight of his life between three incredibly stubborn and dangerous foes. Using their best moves, the group of young ninja was able to lay waste to three square miles of forest and valleys, absolutely ruining the river they were fighting at till it was a muddy pit stretching for five hundred yards in all directions, and smashing an enormous crater into the land from Naruto's exploding vacuum ball technique.

Sakon and Ukon however had been able to block the nuke of raging winds with a weird gate thing they summoned from the ground, which protected them from much of the blast before the battle carried on.

Eventually, the group's fight boiled down to a scrap in a now ruined clearing and a mostly decimated forest, where Sakon, Ukon and Kotohime stood panting exhaustedly and bleeding while looking across at their opponent who, after doing his best to overcome the damage that he'd been receiving from fighting his high-level enemies, had paid the price for it big time.

Naruto was fucked up.

That wasn't even sugarcoating it. He looked even worse than when he did coming out of his fight with Tsubaki. Not only was he bound and strung up by a web of hair flung by Kotohime between two trees, with his arms and legs sprawled out and trapped, his body was also riddled with senbon, kunai and shuriken, and the entire area surrounding all of the ninja was covered in spent weapons and craters. His knees had kunai buried in them, his front was gashed up and had massive scars crisscrossing his chest, he was beaten, bruised, his face was swollen, his body was burnt, and he had kunai sticking out of his back like a porcupine. What's more, he had blood dripping out of his many gaping wounds, down his head, and was pooling at his feet.

While Sakon, Ukon and Kotohime had suffered serious injuries themselves, with scars, bruises, bloody cuts, kunai lodged in them and were absolutely fatigued to the point of collapse; Naruto was the worse off out of all of them. He was pretty much close to dead, while his opponents stood victorious and looking at his utterly broken body.

Managing to catch his breath from their prolonged battle, Sakon breathed out and looked around. After glancing about the ruined countryside, which he could see had taken them way out of the way of their starting point, the young man huffed and turned back to his still transformed companions. "Geez. Do you think we overdid it a little bit?"

"Maybe. But hey, can you blame us? This kid was intense," Kotohime chuckled harshly, wiping the blood dripping down from her lips and face, and brushing it against her ruined top. "Damn if it wasn't a good way to relieve some stress, any longer and I would have passed out."

Ukon, after catching his own breath, smirked across at their quarry hanging lifelessly from his strung up position. "I have to admit, this brat gave us quite the workout. I never expected him to come at us as hard as he did, but fuck." He stepped forward and prodded the kid in his cut-up chest, which still had senbon sticking in it. "No wonder Orochimaru wants this boy thrown into the stockades. With this kind of body, he could take on an entire army and keep on going for days."

"Yeah. Too bad all of that stamina is wasted on this runt. He's too much of a punching bag," Kotohime said, also stepping closer when the three of them figured it was safe. The kid was unconscious and bleeding heavily. He was done. "Good thing we knew how to stop him from using his ridiculous speed to fight us, otherwise he would have been running circles around us the entire time."

"Heh. Kimimaro would have a ball with this brat if we were to introduce them. He's clearly a lot tougher than a lot of the other squids they're dishing out of the other villages," Sakon remarked with a bit of a chuckle. "I think he'd do pretty well against old bones."

With that said, Kotohime reverted back to her tattooed form, dropping the demonic appearance she'd taken in the Second Stage of her Cursed Seal. Upon doing so, she breathed out exhaustedly and started picking the kunai out of her arm. "Damn it. This kid was nasty. I'm definitely going to be sore in the morning." She added to this by pulling out the shuriken stuck in her shoulder and dropping them to the floor.

"The brat was still able to jump around quite a bit in a confined space. If it was one on one, we would have been screwed," Ukon replied, looking around at his grinning brother to see him step towards him. "Guess his rank of Jonin wasn't all for nothing."

"Yeah. But he's still trash from the hidden leaf… and that's really as close to nothing as you can possibly get without being called completely worthless," Sakon chuckled, placing his hands on his hips and glaring at their foe. Stepping into the boy's shadow, the Sound ninja reached up with his clawed hand and lifted his chin, checking out his bloodied up face before letting it drop. "Still, we did our job and came out on top. Now what are we supposed to do with him."

Kotohime scoffed, "Do you need to ask? We tie him up and take him back to Orochimaru-sama… preferably alive and in one piece." She then looked over her shoulder across the ruined field and in the direction of the giant waterfall that served as the basis for Takigakure. "But first we have to meet up with the gangly bunch in the village and get our hands on the Hero's Water to take back to our master. Man… I hate meager chores like this. They're always so tiring."

"You're only saying that because this kid spent the better part of the last hour kicking us around like a couple of training dummies," Ukon commented dryly.

"Do you want to die, asshole?" Kotohime asked, earning a couple of raised hands from the oni before the kunoichi rubbed the back of her head and massaged the soreness out of the affected area. "Look, like it or not, we've still got several more missions to do over the next few weeks. After we take this rat back to base and recover, Orochimaru-sama will then send us after that Tsubaki girl and the rest of this blonde idiot's friends."

Sakon chuckled and ran his tongue over his upper lip, "Oh yeah… I forgot about them. Aren't we going to be taking on Sasuke Uchiha as well?"

This question, though it was specifically being passed between the three Sound Ninja, was one that was picked up by the supposedly unconscious Naruto. When the name 'Sasuke' was mentioned, unbeknownst to the group of elite, the boy's finger discreetly and unexpectedly twitched in response.

Kotohime nodded and smiled, "Yeah. Sasuke Uchiha, Gaara, Tsubaki, Kiyoko and Tayuya. Orochimaru-sama wants all of them."

Another twitch from Naruto went unnoticed.

Ukon sighed and rubbed his head, "Damn it, how bothersome."

"Oh, come on bro. It'll be fun," Sakon exclaimed with a sneer. "I mean, sure the Uchiha might give us a bit of a run around, but in the end he'll fold, just like this runt did. I'm especially looking forward to taking on that fine looking thing Tayuya. Man… have you seen the shots of her during the tournament? That girl is one hot little item." As the man chuckled on freely about their next targets, the group again failed to notice Naruto's hand clench into a fist, followed by the kid's teeth baring and starting to grind. In spite of his close-to-death state, the boy's consciousness slowly, but surely started to return as the trio's conversation, namely Sakon's wicked tongue, continued on. "Orochimaru would love to stamp, bag and grab that one. If he can add her to his collection, he'll have himself a full house. Can't have a party without one girl in it, right?"

Getting a bit annoyed at her teammate's rant, Kotohime glared distastefully at him. "You're a disgusting man… you know that?"

"Hey, only around family," the oni shrugged while nudging his brother in the side, who leaned away from him with a glare thrown his way. "Come on, I'm being honest here. That Tayuya girl could grow up to be a really fine piece of ass one day." He wagged his eyebrows at that note. "Too bad this brat won't be around to appreciate her when she grows up. He's going to end up Orochimaru's lab rat and future new coat, while we'll be reshaping his girlfriend, training her up and making her work for us. If she's lucky, she might even become master's favorite plaything some day."

And this was the last thing Sakon said on the subject…

Because the second he finished, a low growl came from Naruto's throat with a tone matching that of a tiger's, a sound that drew the three Sound ninja's attention to him. When their eyes fixed onto his battered form, they suddenly saw a strange orange chakra start to bubble off of him and shape into a cloak, which bled out of his skin before encasing him completely. Once it trickled into the open and enveloped the boy, it then formed what looked like a pair of ears atop his head, which continued to hang along with the rest of his body until it started to twitch, tighten and jitter.

The low growl he was emitting now coming out in a louder, much more menacing snarl, the blonde haired Jonin started to hit the area with insane amounts of killing intent, a feeling that had Sakon, Ukon and Kotohime stiffen if the sight of the weird chakra now coming out of him didn't.

Stepping back warily, Ukon flinched when he saw the boy's fingernails sharpen and the whiskers on his cheeks sharpen, before swallowing hard and whispering to his teammates.

"Sakon… I think he heard you."

In response, Kotohime activated her Second Stage of her Cursed Seal again.

Just in time to, because the second she did so, three chakra tails suddenly shot out from behind Naruto and fanned out behind him, at the same time his head shot upwards and his blue eyes flashed a bloody red, with slits forming out of the pupils. The sight startled the hell out of the three Otogakure ninja who jumped away, seconds before the formerly unconscious Jonin let out the most terrifying roar you'd ever hear from him, followed swiftly by him ripping apart the steel hairs holding him up and disintegrating half of the weapons stuck in his body.

The other half was blasted off of him when his chakra output punched a crater into the ground and knocked the two trees beside him over, snapping them at their bases and disintegrating their trunks.

Dropping down onto all fours, the kid glared across at his three opponents leaping away to a safe distance. As soon as he saw them take defensive stances, the blond now exuding chakra from every pore on his body let out a low snarl before digging his fingers into the floor, splitting the earth at the increase in force and whipping his tails behind him in fury.

Looking on at the sight in horror, Sakon stepped away and raised a fist, "Whoa, whoa hold on! What the fuck is going on?!"

"I don't know. Where the hell is this kid drawing all of this power from?" Ukon also asked out loud.

Kotohime was baffled too. However, not wanting to question the kid's sudden increase in strength due to the danger he was now presenting them, decided to take the lead in a quick counterattack. Seeing as how the brat was still probably injured from having his body beaten and impaled with all manner of abuse and weaponry, he was still most likely feeling the strain from whatever this transformation he was undertaking was. Confident in her abilities to handle him, the kunoichi extended her hair, whipped it around her, before flipping it forward, extending it over several yards to reach her target and with blinding speed to boot.

The direction her attack followed ensured it would hit her mark from the side.

"Ninpo: Kuroge Muchi!" (Ninja Art: Black Hair Whip)

Her attack was right on course. However, just as it was closing the final feet, the enraged boy in her line of sight suddenly raised a hand and smacked the attack out of the way, literally tearing through the steel strands.

Withdrawing her hair in alarm, Kotohime then saw the boy charge forward in an orange haze.

He was fast.

REALLY fast!

Reacting instinctively, Sakon and Ukon bailed, while their kunoichi teammate fanned her hair out and drove them all into the ground. Just as Naruto was only a few yards away, tendrils of hair suddenly shot out of the earth in front of him, the black lengths catching him and wrapping around his body like snakes. The binds tightened considerably and stopped him in his tracks, anchoring him to the ground and cutting into his cloak.

Gritting her teeth, intent on holding the crazed animal that was now their opponent down, Kotohime began sending more and more strands at him. Hair burst out of the earth to cocoon the boy from all sides, the floor cracking under the force and effort to seal the kid where he was. However, just as it seemed like the steel hard ropes would be able to hang onto the teen and keep him settled enough for Sakon and Ukon to finish him off, another growl escaped from the jinchuriki before he then did something completely unexpected.

Sonic booms exploded from beneath his feet before jets of air began rocketing off of him and ripping into the floor. Before Kotohime could react, her opponent rocketed off of the valley floor and shot into the sky, dragging her hair and, eventually, her along with it. Letting out a shriek of fear as she was pulled along with the boy, the kunoichi then had the pleasure of watching the flying demon stop, unravel the hair from around him, take it into his vice like grip, and begin to spin. The girl's scream was mashed together with the howling wind as the Kyuubified Naruto spun in the sky above the ruined valley, their forms blurring together into an orange cyclone before, without warning or hesitation, the boy let loose his opponent and sent her rocketing into the woods below.

Kotohime's last conscious thought was feeling her strained hair released from the jinchuriki's claws before her body was sent plowing through the woods, knocking over several trees and coming to a painful halt somewhere deep in the undergrowth.

Snarling at the sight of the settling dust and the line of trees that had been collapsed in the wake of his opponent's flight, Naruto then turned his attention to Sakon and Ukon far below, and descended back to the decimated clearing to meet them.

The two oni brothers glared nervously at the sight of the orange glowing Jonin settling on the ground many yards away. Crouching down on all fours as soon as he touched the ruined surface, Naruto growled across at the Sound ninja before, upon hiking up and taking a pouncing animal start, blasted forward at insane speed. The two brothers leapt back for extra insurance the moment their steroid induced opponent took off, managing to gain enough ground and time for the Sound ninja to run their thumbs over the blood they had dripping out of open wounds and simultaneously slapping their hands into the ground.

"We need to stop him, Ukon!"

"Don't need to tell me that, Sakon!"

The second they did, a black sealing array expanded out from their points of contact while they fixed on their approaching target.

"Kuchiyose: Rashomon!" (Summoning: Rashomon) the pair shouted, a split second before the ground in front of them exploded upwards and an enormous gate suddenly jutted into view. With flames adorning its blood red frame, large roof and counterweights hanging from either side of the door, which had an enormous face of a repulsive demon on front of it, the monolith of a barrier came to stand at the pair's defense in an instant as the Kyuubified Naruto bore down on it without any signs of slowing down.

Charging headlong towards the gate, the three-tailed Naruto let out a menacing growl as he leapt straight at the barrier, right hand cocking back and forming into a fist. The second he loaded up for a punch, purple wind chakra started to twist around his forearm, rotating and spinning before a visible, enormous drill of energy formed all along his arm to encompass his entire body. Once the transformed boy had managed to gather enough energy, he then let out a bellow of rage and lunged straight for the metal gate, hitting the demon face square between the eyes.

The second his attack made contact with the wall, the enraged Naruto tore straight through it like a knife through butter. The impact of the blow was marked by a concussive explosion that blasted a hole straight through the door, the face of it being punched in and rubble and debris flying out to smash into both Sakon and Ukon standing directly behind it. Thanks to his massive increase in power, which was able to augment the penetration power of his original Tsubame Gaeshi technique, the jinchuriki had no problems in getting through the brothers' ultimate defense, the very same one that was able to cushion the explosion of his vacuum ball.

Both flying back through the hail of debris, hot winds and dust, Sakon and Ukon looked ahead of them fearfully as they touched down several yards away. Stopping amidst a shower of gate remains, the pair glared through the cloud of smog hanging in their way and blocking their view, until an orange haze shot out and darted towards them in a zigzag pattern, as if deciding which one to go to first.

As it turns out, Sakon was the first target.

Ukon looked across in alarm. "BROTHER! HE'S ON YOU!"

The red faced fighter looked down in alarm when he suddenly saw Naruto appear directly in front of him, just a few inches from touching him with his forehead. His yellow eyes meeting the red eyes of his enraged adversary, the Sound ninja only had a split second to contemplate all the mistakes he'd made in his life and the mistakes he made leading up to this moment, before a sharp pain in his chest had the young man's eyes bug out of their sockets and his body freeze up in shock.

Standing some yards away, his older brother could only watch in horror as he saw the transformed Naruto's arm bury itself all the way through his sibling and come out the other side in a spray of blood. After the attack was launched, the two figures remained standing in place for a full minute in silence, Sakon gawking down at his opponent who continued to hold the execution stance of his decisive blow before in effortless yet gory fashion he yanked his arm out of Sakon's body and allowed him to keel over. The young adult hit the ground with a dull thud, seemingly marking the end for him.

Ukon looked on in horror, "SAKON!"

His shout drawing the attention of the still transformed Naruto, the jinchuriki gave a snarl and vanished in an orange haze. Reacting in alarm to the incoming attack, the older brother acted on instinct and dove straight into the ground, using Doton: Moguragakure no Jutsu (Earth Release: Hiding Like a Mole Technique) to evade the wrath of his infuriated opponent. The three-tailed Naruto eventually reappeared out of thin air striking out at the space where his foe had previously been standing, before his eyes cut around quickly in search of him. With his back turned, he completely missed the sight of the older brother popping out of the ground beside his supposedly dead brother and slapping his hand onto his chest.

Emerging completely from the ground, Ukon took on the role of the main body as his brother wasted no time in merging with him. The assimilation allowed the gaping wound in the man's chest to heal, leaving both thoroughly exhausted as they dropped out of the level two state of their Cursed Seal mode and back to a level one. The tattoos crisscrossing their faces showed just how much juice they had left to spare as they stared exhaustedly across at their foe, the blonde haired boy quickly honing in on the position of his target and rounding on the two now fused brothers with a menacing glare.

"This is bad, bro," Sakon wheezed tiredly from his spot on his older brother's back. "He got me good."

Clicking his tongue, Ukon jerked his shoulder to quiet his brother down, "I know. Just shut up and rest for a bit, you idiot. I'll take care of him." He then glared back at the three-tailed boy, who he could see was huffing like a raging bull along with his chakra tails flailing around behind him. You could tell that he was still pissed and that even though Sakon was safe for now, that they were in for a one way trip straight to hell. The sight of their shockingly powerful foe had Ukon sweating nervously. "This is great. Now what the fuck are we supposed to do?"

Why the hell did Sakon have to go and open his big, fat mouth? And who the fuck is this kid?

What happened to the smart-aleck, cocky blonde with the impressive moves from before, and where did this monster come from?

Unfortunately for the older brother, he didn't have time to contemplate on the stupidity of his sibling or the ludicrousness of his situation, as his opponent had once again restarted his attack. Seeing the glowing, orange boy suddenly vanish in another orange flash had Ukon's eyes widen and the Sound ninja take a step back, before he then threw his fist forward in an attempt to hit his invisibly fast foe. He launched his attack hoping he'd hit the bastard… anything really. Hell, he'd even settle for clipping the guy in the shoulder.

However, what he got instead was a sudden, sharp pain in his wrist and his attack stopping dead when, bleeding back into the visible world, Naruto materialized out of the air directly in front of the terrified Ukon. Only this time, instead of being cloaked in the menacing orange chakra, the blonde had reverted back to normal, and was now standing limply in front of the stunned older brother, gripping his extended arm with his head lowered, completely hiding his face.

Shocked at the sudden development, Ukon then shook himself out of his daze and began trying to pull his arm out of his foe's grip. Growling in effort, he jerked and yanked away to try and free himself, only to find himself stuck fast in the vice of his enemy. "W-What the hell? Let me go, you freak!" Trying fruitlessly to free himself for several more seconds, the Sound assassin then stopped when he heard a sigh escape his opponent's lips and looked in time to see the blonde slowly raise his head to glare at him.

Eyes fading back to blue, Naruto showed to the enemy the real anger he was feeling while not under the influence of the Kyuubi, an emotion that had been drawn on from the group's talk about capturing and using his friends for their master's purposes.

They'd talked about capturing Sasuke and kidnapping Tayuya. That was something the jinchuriki was not going to stand idly by and watch happen, let alone listen to.

Having managed to settle the demonic chakra that had once been radiating off of him like a fire, the blonde allowed his teeth to bare, eyes to narrow and expression to darken as he held onto his opponent without mercy, literally beginning to crush the boy's wrist in his hand. The pressure he administered with his grip caused a low series of cracks to ring out and Ukon to shout in agony, before trying once more to free himself.

His efforts however, were all wasted.

"I will never…" Naruto breathed out, his expression becoming animalistic and aggressive, bringing a fearful look to Ukon's face, "Let you… or anyone… lay a finger on my friends… especially Tayuya-chan!" Bringing his free hand back and spreading his fingers, a small twister of wind formed within his palm and began to spin at a high velocity, alarming the brother that was on the receiving end of his fury. "You're done!"

Balking in shock, Ukon then reeled forward in rage, spittle flying from his mouth, "LIKE HELL WE ARE, YOU BLONDE HAIRED LITTLE-" He was unable to finish his retort.

The second words started flying out of his mouth Naruto thrust a palm strike straight into his chest. A roar of effort escaping his lips, the jinchuriki plowed his hand straight into his enemy, "JET HAND!" The impact was quickly marked by the deafening sound of a sonic boom, followed by a hurricane wind exploding from the point of contact in the center of the Sound ninja's chest, which tore apart the ground around them and sent dust and rubble flying outwards in a violent storm.

A silent scream escaped Ukon's mouth as he felt the force of thousands of tons of gravity fall onto his stomach before, without warning, he was lifted off of the ground and sent rocketing across the valley, a tornado tearing a trench into the earth and marking the path of his flight. Spinning and spiraling uncontrollably, the grey haired man and his sibling literally broke the sound barrier several times as they not only flew straight through the forest behind them, but continued on for well over two kilometers until their flight was cut off by a mountain standing in their path.

The Sound ninja crashed straight into the rock face, a massive explosion rocking the entire region with tremors as over half of the tor collapsed in on itself from the projectile slamming into it. Once the slabs of boulders had stopped cascading and a cloud of dust hung in the air as a result of the violent impact, silence once more fell over the valley.

When the veil of debris and fumes faded, it revealed an enormous crater had been punched into the ground filled with enormous slabs of rock. There, smeared against the face of what remained of the tor that was still standing, was what was left of the two brothers. A couple of limbs lying scattered here and there inside of the crash site, the only traces that remained of the two brothers was an arm, a leg, a bloody patch on the face of destroyed rock, and the ruined battlefield where their final fight had taken place.

Standing at the beginning of the large trench that he'd managed to rip into the forest, Naruto kept his hand extended as he let out a few labored and exhausted breaths. Recovering slowly from exerting the amount of force that he had in that last attack, the blonde then stepped out of his stance and looked up, before glancing down at his ruined clothes and the wounds he'd sustained in his ridiculously tough fight, which were now starting to heal over.

In the back of his mind, the familiar voice of his consciousness and health benefactor spoke up. "You're a stupid fool."

Closing his eyes, the physically and emotionally beaten Naruto nodded, "I know."

"You let your guard down. Had this been under normal circumstances, you would have been killed. You're only lucky that you have me here to save your ass whenever you get beaten up by someone who's on a completely different level than you," the Kyuubi spoke up again, cracking open an eye from where he had his head resting on his arms.

Massaging his wounded shoulder, Naruto looked up again. "Those three were ridiculously strong. Even if it was just one of them they would have given me a hard time." The Sakon and Ukon guy was about as tough if not tougher than Kiyoko and Sasuke, and that girl with the wicked hair was the same. Thinking about the fight that had taken them across the entire region around Takigakure, the blonde once again looked at his stomach and rubbed the area he knew where his seal was. "That was a big loss for me. Thanks… furball. I would have been screwed if it wasn't for you."

The Nine-Tails grunted. "Don't thank me, brat. It's weird." Pausing for a moment to allow his response to sink in, the fox then looked off to the side with a grunt. "And you're welcome." Sensing the half sad, half happy smile that sprouted on the boy's face, the Kyuubi's ears perked and the enormous demon looked back towards the gate that stood in his path. "But now is not the time for you to be worrying about your screw-up. Don't you have something else you have to do?"

Blinking as he returned his focus to the problems at hand, the jinchuriki then recoiled when he remembered what Sakon, Ukon and Kotohime had been talking about and why they were out here in the first place. Recalling that there was something going on over at the village and that these three were somehow involved with this entire conundrum, the boy then wheeled around and began sprinting across the battlefield en route to the giant waterfall he'd left far behind.

"Shit… I'd better move it."

He'd been fighting these three assholes for Kami knows how long. There was no telling what'd happened to Fu and Shibuki in the time he'd been busy.

As the blonde disappeared into the woods on the edge of the ruined landscape, hitting his engines at full speed for the hidden waterfall village, the boy failed to notice the strange figure that'd been watching him from the shadows. Vacating the field without even giving it a second look, Naruto missed the sight of a giant plant thing resembling a Venus flytrap jut out of the ground in the middle of the leveled forest and rise up to full height.

Adorned in a cloak with red clouds on it, all of them outlined in white, the figure then cracked open the plant incasing their head, showing off a half black, half white face with a yellow eye glaring out through the shadow of his veil. A smile forming, the mysterious member of Akatsuki gave a chuckle as he watched the jinchuriki of the Nine-Tailed demon fox vanish into the distance, and glared across the battlefield almost excitedly.

"Things have become quite interesting around here, haven't they?" the deep voice of the black half spoke, earning an agreeable chuckle from his white half.



Author's Note: Surprise, everyone. Naruto sure got the fight of his life in this match. He's mortal after all. But rule number one when you're going up against him; never threaten or talk shit about his friends, otherwise he will rip you to pieces. A lesson to Sakon/Ukon and Kotohime (especially the former) not to talk trash like they normally do.

The next arc after this one is the Three-Tails arc, and then the three year gap. Hope you're all looking forward to it, because shit is about to get real.