"Well I was on the way, but I had to escort Naruto to the Hokage."
"Liar!" both Kiba and Sakura roared in unison, before looking at the slightly sheepish blonde behind their teacher and blinking in surprise. Naruto offered them a light smile and a wave as she approached, Haku trailing a step behind her.
"Ah Kakashi-senpai, you were dismissed by the Hokage almost an hour ago." Naruto said, just loud enough for his students to hear him. The Scarecrow peered at her for a long moment before looking back at his students, who had morphed back from surprise that their teacher was actually doing something to fuming irritation once again.
"Did you have to tell them that," he whispered, leaning down to her level.
Naruto offered him a cheeky smile in response, "Nope."
"Oi, Naruto." Kiba grinned viciously as he walked right up to her. "Didn't get the chance last time I saw ya but welcome to Konoha!"
Naruto's cheeky smile to Kakashi morphed to a grin as the Inuzuka got into arms reach, and she returned his fist pump in greeting. "Good to be here, you been keeping well?"
The Inuzuka's grin grew a little, "You could say that, what about you. Start any other crap since the last time I saw you?"
"Eh nothing much, nearly started a few wars, got into a fight with a Jinchuriki and I'm pretty sure I insulted an S-class Nuke-Nin to his face." Kiba's face paled a little at her words, before he turned to Haku.
"She's kidding right?"
Haku shook his head, Kiba nearly choked.
"Oh by the way," Naruto said as she reached into the folds of her kimono, kneeling down to Akamaru as the puppy ran excitedly around her feet. She took out a small bag and reaching in threw a small clump of food at the puppy. "A little something for you fur ball, you like it?"
The puppy jumped up, catching the treat with his teeth and immediately digging into it, tail wagging as Naruto handed the small bag to Kiba. Sakura came up next and the two girls embraced, the pink haired girl smiling happily at seeing her new friend again, and vice versa.
"You look wonderful." Sakura gushed as the two departed. "How long are you staying?"
Naruto shrugged, "Until the Chunin exams end I think."
"Awesome, I can give you the grand tour if you like."
"Sure, sounds great."
As the girls chatted Sasuke jumped down from the tree, then leaned against it and watched the scene unfold. Kakashi walked up to the young Uchiha, leaning against the same trunk and nonchalantly pulling out his book. "You're not going to go and say hello."
"Hn," Sasuke grunted, folding his arms. "She'll come to me when she's good and ready."
"If you say so," his sensei replied simply, turning a page of his book and uttering a slightly creepy giggle. Sasuke's eyes snapped to his teacher, before rolling those same eyes in disbelief for the millionth time that he was reading such material in public.
Finally Naruto walked right up to the young Uchiha, this time with a smirk. "So, how're you doing broody?"
"Don't call me that," the Uchiha replied with a long suffering sigh, despondently returning her fist pump.
"You're as fun as ever."
"So what's with all this nervous tension in the air," Naruto asked, leaning beside him as she watched Sakura and Kiba speak with Haku.
"We just found out we'll be taking part in the Chunin exams." Sasuke replied.
"Wow, that's kind of a big deal huh?" Naruto asked, frowning as she looked to Kakashi. "You guys have only been Ninja for about nine month's right, isn't it a little soon to be applying for a promotion exam?"
"That's an 'I'm annoyed but don't want to show it' grunt right, or is it the 'your right but I won't admit it' grunt?" Naruto frowned as she reached once again into the folds of her kimono and brought out a small scroll. "Hold on I need to look this up."
Sasuke blinked at her, "Why are you bringing out a scroll?"
"Oh this thing," Naruto said as she unfurled it in a smooth motion, eyes flashing right and left as she looked at the contents. "I kind of got a little annoyed with you grunting all the time so I got Haku to help me read your body language and reaction when you did the hn thing... kind of interesting really, like trying to learn a new language."
Sasuke blinked once again before looking away, cheeks reddening slightly as Kakashi giggled in the background, from his embarrassment or from his book the two teenagers weren't sure but Naruto hoped it was the former.
"I figure it'll be a good learning curve for them," Kakashi responded, knowing that while she was speaking to Sasuke she was looking right at him. "It'll show them exactly what life for Shinobi is like in the field, plus they should learn a thing or two along the way."
"If they survive that is."
Kakashi looked at her from the corner of his eye, "That's the job we take, as a Samurai you should know this."
"Oh I do," Naruto agreed, folding her arms. It was true after all, many a time her sensei put her through training exercises without his help, usually survival training where she needed to learn the skills to survive any non-urban environment, but she was always aware that he was there, watching over her in case she would get into a situation where her life was in desperate danger. If the Chunin exams were even half as serious as she had been told then there was a real chance that her three new friends could die out there, and their sensei wouldn't be there to help them.
Kakashi seemed to see where her train of thought was heading, for he reached out and patted her on the head, Naruto let him, pouting as her eyes looked out into space. "I wouldn't be sending them into this if I didn't know they couldn't take it."
"I suppose." Naruto allowed. Kakashi may seem incompetent, but when dealing with a Shinobi first appearances were always deceiving, and she knew for a fact that the man beside her was anything but incompetent. If he said he had faith in those under his tutelage then she wouldn't take her own worries any further.
A grunt from Sasuke brought both Naruto and Kakashi's attention back to the third person leaning against the tree. He had unlatched his katana from his waist and was looking at Naruto pointedly. The Samurai could see immediately what the young teenager wanted and smiled crookedly at him. "Ready for another beating already, I thought you needed a while longer to prepare for my awesomeness."
"I'm ready." Sasuke replied, a smirk on his features.
"Been training huh?"
The Uchiha's only response was a nod.
"Think you've trained long enough to beat me?"
"We'll find out." He replied as he straightened from the tree and walked a few steps into the open, holding the katana to his side, still sheathed, as he turned to her and waited. Naruto tilted her head, sighed and righting herself as well walked out into the open, hand touching the threshold of her own katanna, where scabbard met the round guard.
"What was your last record against me?" she asked, pushing the weapon a few inches from its sheath with her thumb. "Twenty five second if I can remember."
By this time the other members of Team Seven and Haku noticed the change in the atmosphere between the two, one that they had become accustomed too during the month of their mission to the Land of Waves. They had seen this exact image many times before on the lakes surface outside Tazuna's house.
Kiba grinned, "Picking a fight with her already asshole? She's only been here three minutes."
Sasuke didn't respond as he drew his katana and fell into the stance he had been taught by the teenage girl standing across from him, spreading his feet, bending his knees, drawn katana in his right hand and held in front of him, scabbard in his left and held behind him.
"Sasuke-kun," Sakura admonished, annoyed slightly that her teammate would pick a fight with Naruto so quickly. That was a little different from what she remembered, considering back in the Land of Waves she had a crush on him, now it seemed a little more like the crush was still there but she was now aware of his faults.
Naruto did not draw her weapon right away, though her thumb was still keeping the blade drawn by a few inches, just showing the glint of silver steel as she studied Sasuke's movements. He had definitely been practicing in the six months since she had last saw him, his form was now flawless and his eyes were both sure and steady.
She slowly drew her own katana, listening to the scrape of steel against ivory as she unsheathed her weapon, bringing the sword into a slow loop, other hand gripping the hilt as she brought it up into a basic ready stance, both hands on hilt, blade completely vertical, right beside her head. It was the first stance her sensei had ever taught her, and it was a stance she would use against Sasuke until he defeated her in one of their mock duels.
For a time they simply stood there.
Naruto smirked, "Are you going to attack me or are you planning on beating me through boredom."
"Hn," Sasuke grunted in response, but he moved to the attack all the same, rushing in.
The second he was in range he swiped, and their blades met.
With her twin sister's sword slung across her back Ran rushed down the streets. She had stopped searching for her sister some time ago, but she knew in her bones that something was wrong. Her sister would never leave without her katana, which meant that she had been kidnapped or worse while her back was turned.
Who would be able to do so? That was the question which drilled through Ran's head. She and her sister had never ventured this Far East before, only coming into the Elemental nations when Naruto had invited them to join her. No one knew who they were, and no one had any grudge against them to try anything remotely close to kidnapping them.
That could only mean one of two things. Either this was a random occurrence, some nut job getting his kicks out of kidnapping random girls, or this was someone who had followed them from the west just waiting for the chance to strike at one of them. The more Ran searched the more she was willing to bet on the latter, especially with someone of Rin's training, no one who didn't know her would be able to take her down so easily and quickly without her twin sister knowing.
That left someone following them from the home nations, and she could only think of one faction who would even try this.
This was why she was running through the streets of Konoha. She needed to find her friends, for she needed to bring backup and bring them quickly. She didn't have much time, especially if the ones who had taken Rin where who she thought they were.
If she didn't find them in time then her sister would be found on the outskirts of Konoha within the next twenty four hours, with her eyes gouged out.
"Help," she whimpered, feeling tears run down her face.
She would not lose her twin the same way she had lost her mother.
Danzo waited until he exited the tower before he allowed his features to break from their impenetrable facade of stone to a frown of consternation and annoyance. He ground his walking stick against the dirt road for several moments before he began walking down the main road towards his residence.
He had thought Sarutobi to be more understanding than this, especially under their current situation, but the old Hokage had either decided to ignore the impending threat or simply refused to take them into account. With each passing day Danzo awoke and read through his agent's reports, and with each passing day he found more to worry about and more to frown at.
The civil war in the Land of Water was escalating. The death of the Mizukage had done very little to weaken the conflict, if anything the war between those loyal to him and those of the opposition had escalated to the point where he was sure it would spill over to the several coastal nations.
To make matters worse the Land of Clouds was watching the fighting of their neighbour with droll running through their mouths, waiting for the right moment to invade and take both the resources, manpower and clans of the Village Hidden in the Mist for themselves, what was worse was that they were certain Konoha and the Land of Fire would not interfere.
That was not the only cause of concern. In the north the Land of Earth and the Village Hidden in the Rock was beginning to show signs of expansionism again, especially on the countries bordering them and the Land of Fire. He had heard disconcerting reports from his networks that several influential Shinobi Commanders, known for their discontent to the current peace treaties, were vying to replace the current elderly Tsuchikage when he retired or passed away, which considering his age was likely to happen sooner rather than later.
Then there were the unconfirmed reports about their own allies in the region, most worryingly Suna and the Village Hidden in the Sand. Their own issues, including the shrinking of their own military budget and the disagreements between the current Daimyo and the Kazekage were leading to a potential civil war on their end and a need for their military to provide a proper show of force. This was especially dangerous to them considering the Daimyo was using them for contracts and jobs considerably more so than their own village, another powder keg ready to blow.
Yet Sarutobi was unwilling to take the initiative, unwilling to utilise a pre-emptive strike against these future issues, these future and very real threats.
It made Danzo's blood boil sometimes.
To make it worse he knew that his old friend would know have his own ANBU operatives watching his every move, to protect the child as well as make sure he wasn't about to try anything to wrestle power himself, this meant he would need to lay low for a while, a shame considering how powerful the child could become with the right tutelage, a buffer to protect Konoha from the enemies baying for blood at their door.
This was what Danzo believed.
A flash of movement caught the elder's eye, one which made him frown. It was not his visible eye which caught the movement. It was the eye under the bandages which piqued his curiosity even more. Whoever was moving on the edges of his sight did not want to be caught.
He wasn't used to using that eye yet, but he would risk it. He felt a sudden unnerving jolt as the eye activated, but it was worth it as the image of the assailant became all the more clear. It was a man hooded and cloaked, and he had a feminine form hung over his shoulder as he rushed across the rooftops, closer inspection showed the one being carried was unconscious and wore a hakama similar to the one the Jinchruiki wore.
As quickly as he focused on the mirage it was gone, disappearing over the rooftop. For a moment the old elder thought about giving chase, but it was only for a moment before he started walking away from the Hokage tower and towards his own residence.
He uttered a simple word, knowing that those who shadowed him would hear. "Follow."
His words carried across the distance between him and his underling, thanks to the seals he places on his subordinates the ROOT ANBU did not just hear his master's command but also the vision of the fleeing assailant and direction he was going.
Years of training and experience did the rest.
She had tried to be patient, Ran would admit that, but as time went by patience and surety had given way to fear and insecurity. Why wouldn't it be? This was her sister she was thinking about. Rin meant more to her than her own life, off course she would be panicking right about now.
Her sister could be in pain.
She could be hurt.
She could be dying for all Ran knew.
She needed to find someone who would help. Izaya, Shizuma, Ayame heck she would even go for the youngest and most inexperienced of the group in Naruto and Haku at this point. She had faith in those two, don't get her wrong, but this was her sister who was missing and she wanted to bring the most powerful swords available to find her.
She had to find her.
She had too.
She would not lose her sister the same way she lost her mother.
Hollow sockets, blood stained cheeks looked back at her.
She would not lose Rin the same way she had lost her mother.
"Naruto, Haku... please help!"
She ran into a body, barely noticing until the person grabbed onto her and refused to let go. Ran struggled to break free, but once her vision cleared she saw that it was not a random passerby but one of her comrades. Ayame was looking right at her, surprised and worried by her expression.
"Ran, what's wrong?" the red haired Samurai asked in confusion, looking around. "Where is Rin?"
Ran had an answer on the tip of her tongue. That she didn't know where her sister was, that she had found her katana imbedded in the ground, that someone had kidnapped her sister and she could be dead for all she knew. But she couldn't, the words would not come, only tears greeted the elder Samurai.
"Ayame." she whispered with a broken sob, clutching onto the elder Samurai's kimono as she cried, "Help."
Naruto sighed as she cracked her neck, quickly and expertly sheathing her katana in a smooth stroke as she watched her opponent with a careful gaze. He had done considerably better than the last time they had one of these spars, she would admit, and he had definitely carried on the training regime she had handed out to him.
But, how should she put it, something was missing.
Sasuke leaned in the crook of a nearby tree, panting, bruised and slightly battered as he looked at Naruto with slightly scathing eyes, the katana she had gifted him lay several feet away from him, well out of his reach. The spar had lasted a total of three minutes thirty two seconds, a full minute longer than the last record.
Kiba and Sakura had watched the while fight unfold from the sidelines, alongside Haku and Kakashi, who had spend most of his time sending subtle glances as he pretended to read his perverted book. Kiba had been yelling and cheering, as he usually did, while Sakura went from cheering on Sasuke, her crush, to looking uncomfortable and conflicted when the duel ended.
Naruto couldn't help but smile, her crush on him was so obvious.
"Not bad, you're getting better." She allowed with a cheery smile. "Another fifty years and you might just be able to beat me, duck-head."
"Shut up," Sasuke muttered sardonically under his breath as he righted himself with a little effort and walking over to the katana picked it up and checked the blade over for any damage.
While he examined the blade Naruto once again went over the duel, he had certainly improved, and not just in his swordsmanship, Kakashi was obviously teaching the team greater chakra control exercises as well as working on their speed, stamina and muscle memory over flashy techniques. It was working, and a part of her wandered how the other two had improved, maybe she should give in to her inner ego and fight all three of them at the same time.
No, not now, not when the Chunin exam was a day or two away, getting their asses whipped by her wouldn't help them in the long run, and she would not want to be responsible for ruining their first promotional exam by accidentally breaking bones or ripping muscles or messily decapitating them.
Huh, where did that come from?
Naruto shook off the suddenly morbid thought, giving it not even a second glance. She may come to regret that in the future. "So, now that that's out of the way anyone want to go and get something to eat?"
Sakura and Kiba had agreed straight away, while Sasuke, obviously suffering a hit to the solar plexus in his ego department simply hnn'd and was about to try and make a quick exit, it took a little bit of convincing on Naruto and Sakura's part to get him to stay. Kakashi scratched his head in apology, quickly scooped up the completed Chunin forms and said he needed to get them to the main office before the timeline expired. He vanished in a puff of smoke, a Ninja technique Naruto admitted she would like to learn at some point.
That was one of the reasons she was in the Elemental Nations, not just to wander and pique her sense of curiosity but also to learn a few techniques from the Shinobi. Learning about herself and her past was not on her immediate list, in truth when she first started to explore this side of the continent she had no wish to enter the Land of Fire to begin with, but now it was a welcome addition to her journey.
Making new friends was also a nice little addition.
As they walked across the training field and towards the exit the teenager mentally began counting down those she had met in the Elemental Nations she would consider friends. It was not something she had given much thought too when she first came here, acquaintances yes, contacts definitely but when she crossed the threshold she had not thought of making friends. She had sensei, she had her family in the fellow bearers of the Deviant Blades, and she was content with that.
When she began wandering through this region she did not think she was going to take a job from a worried mother and daughter, didn't think she would meet and become so close to her family. She didn't think she would meet Leaf Shinobi, speak with them, eat with them, train with them and overtime call them friends and she never even considered having a Retainer like Haku following her and watching her back.
That was just on her first real adventure here. There were other places and things she had done on her travellers. That run in with a fellow container of a tailed beast, the battle they had and the parting as, if not friends, then as pleasant company. There was the father and child she had saved from bandits in Kusa. The man whose daughter she had helped avenge, only to find that she had awoken and was now on the mend, both physically and mentally.
A lot of things she did not expect happened, but did she regret them? She sure as hell did not.
"Naruto-sama, you look a little distant." Haku spoke up, breaking her from her inner thoughts. "Is everything alright?"
He had reason to ask this she supposed, considering over the last few months she had worried him with her brooding, but this was different. She offered him a grin and a smack on the shoulder which made him stumble a step. "I'm alright Haku, quit worrying about me."
Her self-appointed Retainer managed a small smile, "My apologies Naruto-sama, you just warned me to snap you out of things like that."
She did, didn't she? Naruto smiled confidently at her friend, who seemed to relax, before turning back to the trio of Genin. "So where are you going to take us?"
"There's this awesome barbecue joint down the southern main street," Kiba crowed with a toothy grin as they walked. "Owned by the Akamichi clan, and considering they know their food it's considered the best joint in the village."
"Yeah, place is a favourite for Shinobi and civilians alike," Sakura chimed in, looking back at her wandering friend with a cheerful and slightly contagious smile. "I know you'll love the place, though they specialise in barbecue they do just about anything if asked."
"Sounds good," Naruto grinned at her three friends as they were about to leave the training area and onto the dirt track leading back to the village. "It's been a while since I really pigged out, and I've never tried barbecue before, should be-"
Everyone sensed it before they saw it, Shinobi and Samurai alike. It was Haku and Sasuke who felt it first, and both spun around, kunai and senbon in hand and ready for anything. Naruto noticed it a split second behind them, and her katana was half unsheathed when the dark form materialised in the field, barely twenty meters behind them. Kiba and Sakura had drawn their weapons by the time the Samurai among them had fully drawn her katana.
The figure was difficult to decipher from this distance. All they could tell was that it was an obviously humanoid figure, covered from head to toe in a black cloak; a hood covered his or her head, obscuring the persons face in shadows. Naruto took all this in before her eyes drifted to the form held against his shoulder, and her eyes widened in surprise before narrowing.
Rin did not move, and at this distance the Samurai couldn't tell if she was even breathing. She simply looked limp to Naruto, like a sack of potatoes. The figure holding her friend in such an uncaring manner looked around, obviously looking for any threat, before his eyes fell upon them.
"Ah man," he said, a whisper which seemed to carry over to them and claw into their heads. "And here I was hoping I had made a clean getaway. Ah well my bad."
It was a male's voice, but Naruto knew immediately that this was not a voice belonging to a human, it was silky, refined, noble, almost as if the person before them had perfected it over many years to the peak of seductiveness. She had heard that kind of arrogant voice, tempered by centuries, more than once before.
The creature standing before them was not human.
"Who the hell are you, asshole!?" Kiba growled, his highly tuned instincts also caught onto the situation, and Akamaru was no different. The small white puppy was snarling and growling, ready to pounce at a moment's notice, for the little guy smelled an enemy. This seemed to bring a realisation to Sasuke, for even though he considered Kiba the dead last he had no problem admitting his own base instincts were second to none.
The man standing before them was dangerous.
"Who am I?" the man asked, mock insult oozing from his tone. "Isn't that a little rude, human? You should introduce yourself first before demanding someone's name."
Haku also knew that type of overly arrogant voice. He had met a similar creature before during his time spent with Naruto, though the one he had met had been testing him of his worthiness in travelling with their chosen partner. He looked apprehensively at his charge, who shared a look which brought all of his well hidden fears to light.
Naruto began to walk, passing by the Genin and putting herself between the creature and them, Haku waited until she passed him and fell into step, flanking her left hand side, another two senbon needles sliding between the knuckles of his right hand as he continued to watch his charges back. If this was what he thought she would need all the help she could get.
"What is a member of the Void clan doing here?" She asked this with a growl in her tone, and Haku could see the blade of her katana shine with wind chakra.
"I recognise this scent," the figure said in way of response.
"Put her down... now!" Naruto demanded, eyes shining with malevolence which surprise Haku.
"Ah, I see, so you are the one under the protection of the Celestial clan," the creature sneered as he tilted his head to the side, two points of eerie white light penetrating the shadows of his cowl. "I thought you'd be... taller, Naruto Uzumaki."
"You know my name?" Naruto asked, brow raised in slight surprise.
"There isn't a member of the thirteen clans who has not heard of you and your special circumstances, Naruto Uzumaki." The creature stated this with a malicious grin, dropping Rin absently to the ground. Naruto's eyes narrowed dangerously as she watched him treat her friend with such disregard. "The first human to be presented a summoning contract in nearly a thousand years, your name has spread far and wide, even the most solitude of our kind knows of your existence."
Sasuke, Kiba and Sakura watched this conversation with increasing trepidation, even Kiba was putting it together that Naruto knew exactly who or what this person was. He definitely wasn't human anyway, not by his smell, if the Inuzuka had to choose a scent from his memory he would say that the person smelled nothing like a human and a lot more like a vulpine, almost like a fox.
"If you know about my existence then why challenge me so," Naruto asked, pointing her sword right at him. "You are aware the girl you just threw to the ground is a friend of mine, right? If you don't want a full blown clan war to erupt over this you will leave her and depart, Void clansmen, I will speak with the matriarch of the Celestial clan and hopefully see about averting a war-"
"I do not act for my clan, we stand apart, as it were." The creature interrupted. "I do not take orders from that old bitch, nor do I heed the words of any of the matriarchs of the four great clans... their time has come and gone. I act on behalf of someone greater."
"Someone greater?" Naruto asked, frowning.
"Yes, someone so much greater," he pulled back his hood, and those before him saw what Naruto and Haku had surmised for a time. His hair was short and black, his exposed skin was pale as snow, veins could be seen, eyes were white as death and pupils as sharp as sickles, and the two vulpine ears, black as his hair, twitching, clearly visible. "But rest assured my dear little child, it is not you he is interested in. His interest lies with this girl, or more to the point her eyes!"
"Release her, Kitsune," Naruto said with conviction, both hands now gripping onto the handle of her katana.
"Not a chance human, come and make me!"
"With pleasure," she replied before snapping forward with unimaginable speed, entire form blurring as she closed the gap between her and her foe.
Her blade came down, and a powerful blade of condensed wind chakra exploded from the tip, strong enough to destroy anything amongst the world of the living, the line of shrubbery and trees were unearthed and cut to pieces, but the strike did not hit her target. A hand, ebony claws contrasting sharply with the pale skin, caught the guard of the blade and with a simple movement changed the course of the strike.
"My, my, you are such an impatient girl, just like the rumours said," the void Kitsune chastised, free hand reeled back, ebony claws ready for a fatal strike. "Goodbye, looks like even the Celestial clan can get it wrong on occasion!"
A flash of glacial colour and her opponent was forced to release her. Naruto used the opportunity to jump back as a spear of ice seemed to break between them. It was as the Samurai put some distance between her and her opponent that she realised the sheen of frost on the mid-summer grass and the ice now covering the river between them and the forest.
"You will not touch my master again, creature." Haku stated with certainty, hands pressed against the earth as he unlocked his bloodline limit for the entire world to see.
As the Kitsune retreated he released his chakra, sending veins of power through the now frozen soil to release spikes of pure ice in an attempt to pierce him. The creature, to the ice wielders irritation, easily seemed to circumvent and dart away from the sharp ice projectiles with ease born from an inhuman amount of practice.
"You are a century too early to match me in combat, human!"
"Perhaps I can help then," Naruto growled as she closed the gap once again, only this time skidding to a halt several steps from him, bringing her katana over her head and right back down. "Way of the sword: Divine Sabre!"
Another strike of wind chakra exploded from the tip of her sword, but the Kitsune was able to dodge it with ease, smirking in her line of sight as the destructive strike destroyed yet more landscape. "You're going to have to do better than that human!"
"Then how about me, asshole!" Kiba roared as he and Akamaru charged in with wolf-like speed and ferocious abandon, Naruto just noticed that Akamaru had taken on his masters form in passing before the two began to spin to the point where they looked like horizontal cyclones, all aimed at their enemy, "Gatsūga!"
It was a pretty cool looking technique, but like her Divine Sabre it was not fast enough to deal a blow to the Kitsune, who seemed to spin between them, coming out and landing in a crouch completely unharmed and looking all the more smug as a result. "Come on runts, that couldn't possibly hurt me!"
"Then try this," Sasuke growled as he stood right behind the Voidsman, right index finger and thumb forming a circle as he called upon one of his clans oldest and most sound fire techniques. "Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!"
Within a moment flames appeared, exiting through his mouth and quickly expanding into a huge ball of flame, capable of incinerating most of anything within its radius, for the unprepared Shinobi and in most cases the well prepared civilian. But the strike, like those before it, did not hit the mark, for the Kitsune once again circumvented around it, a grin still very much evident upon his face as both pale, slender hands suddenly shone from the gleaming black of ebony claws, ready to tear the human in two for his insolence.
A flash of pink, Sakura was there in an instant, grabbing her crush and quickly using her chakra to replace the two of them with a couple of human sized pieces of debris she had seen on the edge of the forest. The two pieces of timber shattered under the Kitsune's claws, but both children appeared on the forests edge, safe and without injury.
The Kitsune fell, spun and landed in a predatory crouch of a four-legged predator, elongated teeth well seen as he snarled at his human adversaries. He would not take this kind of annoyance lying down. For their insolence he would crush them. He quickly noticed the impending attack and jumped high, watching a forest of icy stakes pierce the ground where he was once crouched, immediately ne saw this as not an attack but a diversion, and noticed the blonde haired girl rush towards his quarry.
He couldn't allow that.
His thoughts of destroying his opponents came to a halt, and in a heartbeat he closed the distance between himself and his own quarry, backhanding the blonde haired girl as she reached for her friend, his quarry, and sending her spinning through the air and landing roughly on the ground, hitting rocks and spinning across the savannah as she finally came to a halt several meters away, unmoving.
A spark of electricity brought his attention to what was right on top of him.
Haku had not seen this technique before, but they both knew the chakra signature. It was an amazing thing to behold, held in the copy-nins gloved right hand, a pulsing flickering mass of bluish white lightning. It's very design was for the single all consuming purpose of ending the life of the one on the receiving end.
It was the same technique that Kakashi had used during the closing moments of the battle in the Land of Waves. This was the technique used to end Zabuza's life. Haku had almost forgotten that the teacher of the team Naruto had befriended was the same man who killed his former teacher and master.
That didn't matter to him. Their opponent moved fast, astronomically fast, so fast that Haku saw him as nothing more than a blur. He seemed to not just sidestep the strike but spin in midair as well, letting the momentum carry him away from the killing strike of Kakashi's lightning, but Sharingan Kakashi was not one of the best Ninja in Konoha for nothing. He used his own momentum, pivoting on his right foot to right himself and give chase to the illusive foe, Raikiri still crackling in his hand.
Several meters away Naruto stirred, groaning in pain as she forced herself to a knee, using his katana which somehow she had managed to keep a hold off to use as support. Nothing seemed to be broken, though the rough strike and tumble had left the obvious beginnings of several bruises. She spat out a gob of blood before getting shakily to her feet, a glare forming as she watched their foe backstep, Kakashi right on his tail.
"Naruto," Sakura called, by her side in an instant with a worried expression. "Are you alright?"
Kiba and Sasuke had followed her, the Inuzuka coming down to a knee while the Uchiha stood protectively over the three of them, kunai in hand and Sharingan eyes spinning as he watched their teacher engage the enemy.
"I'll be alright," Naruto soothed with a smile which was supposed to be comforting, but the trail of crimson running down the corners of her mouth seemed to have the opposite effect.
"Naruto-sama," her self-appointed Retainer was by her side in a flash.
"Haku," Naruto looked at him quizzically as he seemed to check her over. "Stop looking at me like that."
"That strike could have snapped your neck." The ice-wielder said. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"I need to get Rin out of there." Was her reply with a grimace, knowing that he was right. When the Void clansmen struck her she felt her head snap to the side with enough force to snap a neck if hit in the right place.
Kakashi had chased him right to the trees, hand still crackling with lightning infused chakra. His opponent seemed to stumble on some loose gravel, and he pierced straight through the creature's heart with his Raikiri, followed by splintering wood as the aftermath energy cracked the bark of the tree, nailing him there.
Only he wasn't there anymore, only Kakashi with his hand through a tree trunk. Naruto's eyes flashed right and left, immediately recognising the flicker of chakra. She had been warned enough about these people and their own unique abilities. There was a reason why the thirteen clans were mainly confined to myths, and there was one skill which helped them to greatly keep up the charade.
To the untrained or ignorant eye it was Genjutsu, but it was not Genjutsu, Enchantment was in a totally different league from your run-of-the-mill Genjutsu. Genjutsu had a subtle weakness, something which the trained eye would be able to ascertain with time, but with Enchantment the illusion was so subtle, so perfect that you didn't know you were under it, not until it was too late.
Kakashi had been completely led by the nose, away from his students and from them. Naruto's eyes darted to where Rin was lying and felt her blood freeze in her veins. There the man stood, Rin tucked under his arm and a condescending smirk on his features as his eyes darted between Kakashi and them.
"Tell me I had thought the Uchiha clan was all but extinct, but here I see two people before me with the Sharingan eye." Kakashi looked like he was about to move, but the man moved his free hand, ebony claws glinting, a millimetre from Rin's exposed throat. "Now, now, let's not do anything too hasty. This is not considered your fight, Shinobi, but a fight between me and the disciples of Jin."
"This fight is on our turf, Kitsune." Kakashi replied, voice clear and firm. "That makes it our business."
Naruto could see Sasuke and Kiba stiffen at the name Kitsune, even Sakura and Haku were aware of what the name entailed, after all the greatest calamity in recent memory was caused by the most well known and infamous of them all. Everyone in Konoha and the surrounding region knew of the Kyubi no Kitsune, even those who were too young to remember.
A slightly exasperated sigh escaped the ethereal creature's lips, "Humans and their territorial squabbles, how insufferable."
"It is more than territorial squabbles, as you say." Kakashi replied, his one visible Sharingan eye spinning. "They are guests of the Hokage, meaning that they are all under his protection. Not protecting our guests makes us look pretty incompetent, wouldn't you say?"
"It matters not," the Kitsune dismissed before he turned to Naruto. Their eyes met and the challenge was issued. "I will be waiting for you and Ran Takeda in what these humans call Training Ground Forty-Four. The two of you will come and come alone by sunset. If you do not then I will kill Rin Takeda, if you come with anyone else I will kill Rin Takeda."
He was gone before he could get an answer, his form becoming transparent before vanishing altogether. Naruto was not surprised, as Kitsune were masters of such techniques, forget the wanton destruction of the Kyubi no Kitsune during the time of her birth. Kitsune were far more devious and subtle than Kurama who was trapped within her bones, illusions were their primary form of combat; enchantment was their main defence mechanism.
"Naruto, did Kakashi-sensei say what I think he said?" Sakura asked, eyes wide and frightened. "Was that really a Kitsune?"
"It was," Naruto replied, taking in a deep breath. "He was."
"You have some explaining to do, Naruto." Kakashi stated simply, one visible eye hard as he approached. "Why was there a Kitsune here, and why did it seem to have such an interest in you?"
Naruto was silent, even as all eyes were trained on her, even Haku's. "I'll tell you what I know, but first we need to find Ran and assemble everyone. Izaya and Shizuma should be in the most dangerous bar in town, Ayame was in a cafe near one the main gates... I'm not sure where Ran will be."
"Sasuke, Kiba, Sakura you are all dismissed for the day, go home and prepare for the exams." Kakashi ordered, an edge in his tone which his pupils caught onto, but it didn't stop them from protesting.
"Naruto needs our help, sensei!" Sakura admonished.
"Yeah, that bastard attacked us on our own ground, made us look like morons on our home turf!" Kiba snarled, obviously angry and his companion shared his anger. Sasuke did not add his own piece; then again he did not have too. His hardened onyx orbs said everything.
"This is not an enemy for Genin, and it is not a situation where we can just rush in." Kakashi admonished sternly. "This will be considered an S-class threat, something only Jonin and ANBU will be capable of facing. Go home, prepare for the exams."
"To hell with the exams, not when a friend's life is at-"
"He's right Kiba," Naruto cut in, offering him a thankful smile. "This isn't something for Genin to be able to handle, this is not something for Shinobi to handle. This is a Samurai problem, and only we can resolve it without my friend being killed. Please all of you, thank you for sticking up for us, but please go home."
"Naruto," Sakura murmured, looking more worried than ever.
"You all heard him, not just me." Naruto said, stopping her. "If it's anyone else than me and Ran then he will kill Rin."
"It's obviously a trap."
"Obviously, but Rin and Ran are my sisters," Naruto countered with a humourless smile, rising to her full height and sheathing her katana. "Kakashi-senpai, please gather my comrades."
"I will do so," Kakashi replied. "We will have them assemble in the Hokage palace."
Kakashi, Naruto and Haku vanished in a flash of movement, leaving the three Genin behind.
Reviews and opinions are interesting, I mean it.
And so we are into the new year, my 26th Birthday has come and gone and the recession does not look like it is about to loosen up anytime soon besides some assurances about inflation falling or some bullshit like that. My American readers are probably all too aware of this; my Chinese readers most likely don't have a clue what I am talking about, lucky bastards.
Anyway new chapter is up, longer than usual, and the ball is rolling at last. You obviously knew what our mystery villain was if you knew some mythology about the thirteen clans, but Kakashi sort of ruined the surprise. Anyway next chapter there will be some more information on Naruto and a few of her colleague's history, training ground 44 will feature quite heavily in the next few chapters, and for anyone who doesn't know what Training Ground 44 is then you have not been paying attention to early Naruto lore.