Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi. I was watching Grandma's Boy when I was writing this disclaimer. Such a good movie. My God, the drug dealer Dante is my spirit animal.

Chapter 39: Hunter Or Hunted

Kisara was not pleased with their surroundings after leaving town. The train had taken them to what she had so eloquently referred to as the ass-end of nowhere, and things hadn't gotten any better from there. The little podunk town they'd stopped in soon became a distant memory as they headed out into a nearby mountain pass.

The last time they had seen pavement had been an hour ago.

Naruto led the way with Thor right behind him. Kisara lingered behind the two of them, not wanting to be there whatsoever, "Dragged us all the way to the boonies, didn't you? Cicadas chirping and shit..." She muttered, swatting at phantom insects she imagined crawling on her.

And everything had started out so promisingly. She was a city girl. The outdoors were not for her. Walking around after sunset through a foot trail in the woods was not her idea of fun. For anyone who could say that it was, they were not the kind of person she wanted or needed to spend any time with.

"It's not so bad," Naruto insisted, trying to keep her spirits up. Thor didn't need it. He was entirely content, and he wasn't even wearing the appropriate footwear. It had to be hard walking around in sandals. It was safer than going barefoot in any case, "Just think of it like a hike!"

This did nothing to improve Kisara's mood, "I hate hiking. Let's make this quick."

She wanted to kick a few things in the face and go home to a good night's sleep. That was the goal.

Naruto let out a snort, "Quick? That's not how this works. It'll take however long it takes. Just don't rush the front door, or gate, or whatever the fuck they have."

"Why?" Kisara asked, just for the sake of being belligerent.

"Because 'stealth'," Naruto rebutted, "Come on, guys. As fun as it would be, I don't need this to turn into an arcade beat-em-up," There was a time and a place for everything. This wasn't it, "Why'd you guys even want to come with me anyway? I mean, I appreciate it and all, but still..."

"After the tournament on Despair Island... and the loss to YOMI, I admit, I'm beginning to have doubt about the limits to my style," Thor held up his hand and clinched it into a tight fist, "This is just another chance to prove to myself that my Sumo is worth it. All of the blood, sweat, tears, and time that have gone into my training."

Kisara thumbed at her own cheek and scoffed, "Seriously, Uzumaki, you get into more fights than a few. If we hang around you long enough, something outrageous will happen," She seemed to get more irritated as she thought about her own reasons for tagging along, "I've been waiting for my shot at YOMI again. Ever since that lucha bitch in the mask and her gargantuan brother beat us down."

Naruto nodded in understanding. As a person that had taken his fair share of losses in his life, he could understand the questioning oneself, and the desire to get back and prove oneself once again.

When you were knocked down and got back up, you had two choices – get up and get past it, or let it hold you to the ground. Naruto was happy that he knew people more willing to do the latter. Not that he wanted his friends to fail, but it instilled a greater sense of camaraderie in him to know that he wasn't the only one that had and would continue to face setbacks.

Kisara, entirely over the great outdoors, pulled out her phone to occupy herself, only to seethe at the lack of reception, "Ugh, no coverage! I! Hate! The boonies!" Naruto shushed her and was flipped off for his troubles, prompting him to return the favor.

"I said stealth, damn it," Naruto insisted, looking around before leading everyone off of the road. If they couldn't use technology to find their way, he had to get their bearings the old-fashioned way, "Hold on a sec, guys. Be right back," He said before quickly scrambling up the side of a tree. Near the top, concealed by leaves, he fished a pair of binoculars out of his backpack to check out just what they were about to get into.

The trail was in a narrow, mountainous area that curved around to an elevated cliff where a posh, modern-looking high-class residence rested with a prime view of the ocean. All along the pass, he could see guys in suits roaming about wielding katanas and women with traditional Japanese long bows, covering things from distant vantage points. It was going to be rough if they had to go through every last person keeping watch.

Naruto flipped open his phone. There was no reception, just like Kisara had complained about, but he had saved the files in the email Niijima had sent to him so he could go over them anywhere. His target was a girl named Kawakami Aoi, the disciple of Hoshinano Raki. She had glasses, curly black hair kept tied back, and dressed in traditional kimono, which made it very impressive that she was as talented as she was with a weapon as difficult to use as a naginata.

This wasn't going to be an easy night.

Naruto slipped down out of the treetop once he had scouted out all he could see. Thor and Kisara were still waiting for him down below, "What say you, my friend?" The large sumo asked upon his return.

Naruto wiped leaves off of his clothes and picked them out of his hair as he explained, "Well, this is a mountain pass. There's one trail in – the one we were on. And there are guards all over, so this must be the right place."

Kisara heard 'guards' and immediately perked up. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad after all? "Alright. Come on. Let's Dynasty Warriors it up. Thor agrees. Don't you, big guy?" Thor chuckled and slapped his hands together in anticipation.

Naruto gave the two of them an unreadable look before amending his previous statement, "Did I say 'guards'? I meant 'armed guards'. These guys all have weapons. You cool with that?"

Thor almost seemed offended at Naruto's concern for their well-being, "We train with the Valkyries and Freya-san. We know how to handle these kinds of people."

Naruto blinked. Of course. Naruto didn't see them as willing training partners because none of them liked him. Any attempt to spar with them for him would have ended up with them trying to kill him... again, "Right. Well, the point of us being here is not to get caught."

Kisara rolled her eyes. Ninjas, "No. Your point of being here is not to get caught," She said, "Face it, if you try to hold our hands while you sneak through this place, you're just going to get yourself spotted, and then where does your sneak attack go?"

Thor nodded, a sagely look of thought on his face, "At least if the two of us are caught, things can go in a way that you won't be," A pronounced frown then crossed his face, "I wasn't very keen on ambushing your enemy to begin with."

Naruto let out a laugh that wasn't quite for humor, "So what? Do you think I'm just gonna leave you guys here? Yeah right," He said, turning away from his friends. He got no response, "I said, yeah, right," Still no response, "...This is the part where one of you says something like, 'No, of course not. That would be ridiculous!'"

"No, this is the part where Thor picks you up and throws you in that general direction," Kisara said, just as Thor picked up Naruto in his massive hands and got in a position to hurl the young ninja, "The place you're trying to get to is up there, right?" She asked, pointing to the top of the cliff.

Naruto felt Thor's grip tighten and realized what was about to happen, "Noooooo..." He slowly droned as his situation dawned on him. Thor's grip was iron tight, and he had no leverage to try and power his way out, "Guys, seriously. No."

Kisara reached out and patted Naruto on the head, "Shhhh. Just remember. Don't yell. Because, stealth," Kisara whispered with no small amount of glee in her expression.

"I'm getting you both back for this later, so hard," Naruto said as his last words, "You don't even know how bad it's gonna be."

"If you even remember to," Thor said. He ran forward a few steps and pitched Naruto as far as he could away from them away from the trail. True to instruction, Naruto kept silent as his body careened through branches and leaves, "...Do you really think he'll be mad later?"

"Tch, who cares?" Kisara said, turning away from the direction Naruto was thrown in, "Come on. Let's get started before he can run back here. That way he has no choice but to go ahead," Both of them took off back down the trail. There was a brawl awaiting them.


Evening training at Ninja House was more difficult with less people. With Naruto's absence, that gave Jiraiya more time to focus on the two that were actually there – Shikamaru and Tenten.

Tenten had no problems with the added difficulty. While it was nice to train with more people, more got done when their teacher had to split his attention in less directions. Even with her freshly patched wound that was healing well, it was nice to get back to the grind.

Shikamaru on the other hand, wanted no part of it. Curses to Naruto for skipping out on practice. He didn't like training when it was regularly intense, let alone the overdrive that Jiraiya had kicked things into after Tenten had gotten hurt.

After putting in hours of bitter work, he just wanted to lie down on the dojo floor in the basement. He would have been fine with falling asleep there, had he not felt a sharp poke in his ribs.

Shikamaru cracked open an eye to see Tenten standing over him in her pajamas. At least she hadn't turned all of the lights back on.

"It's not healthy to sleep down here, you know," She said, "Come on. You can at least muster enough energy to drag yourself upstairs into a proper bed."

"You go to bed," Shikamaru said, rolling over onto his side, away from her, "I'm fine. We're just going to have to come back down here first thing in the morning tomorrow anyway, so staying here sounds like a good plan."

Tenten sighed and sat down on the tatami mats that comprised the floor. Shikamaru was so hopeless, "Fine. I guess I'm staying here until you feel like moving."

"Good luck with that."

The two just basked in the silence and near darkness of the basement training room. It was odd that a place where so much blood and sweat had been shed, they could find any semblance of peace.

Tenten eventually pursed her lips in thought about whether or not to broach the subject that had been eating at her for the last full day, "You've been thinking this whole time about running into that guy, haven't you?" She asked. Normally, she left well enough alone, because if something were important enough, she was always kept in the loop. For this though, Naruto and Shikamaru were treating it like their business instead of all three of theirs, "What happened?"

Shikamaru considered saying nothing, but realized that it would have been more of a bother to have her keep hounding him, "If I'd have gone past that police station instead of going in, he would have killed me," He said, hoping that had been enough, "How's the shoulder?"

Tenten smiled faintly at the concern, though she knew he was just using it to try and sidetrack her. She unbuttoned enough of her pajama top to show him the still bandaged injury through the collar, "It's fine. Don't change the subject," She told him, "So what can we do?"

"Troublesome," The wire-user muttered, before sitting up properly, "...How much do you think YOMI prioritizes being the ones to get rid of Naruto and Kenichi?"

Tenten raised an eyebrow at the vague reasoning behind the question, "I wouldn't know. Why do you ask?"

"The enemy of my enemy..." Shikamaru said before trailing off.

It was hard to consider, once Tenten picked up on what he was getting at, "You think they're going to help us? That we can ask them to help us?"

That was farfetched to say the very least. Aside from the original enmity between the Shade Alliance and YOMI, Tenten had actually killed one of them and Naruto had taken responsibility for it. That was a little intense for a mere rivalry that could be set aside at a moment's notice.

Shikamaru was aware of that. But he was also aware of a trait that most of these proper martial artists had – ego. Every last one of them did, even their friends, which made for very exploitable situations, "They won't help us outright. But I think that if we tell them someone is encroaching on their turf, they won't be happy with that," He explained, "All of that pride of theirs. Even the armed and unarmed divisions are competing over who gets one or both of them first. They want to be the ones to make the kill."

A member of YOMI wanted to do it. They didn't want to sit back and let someone else do the deed.

"Well when you put it that way..." Tenten said, conceding the point, "You think any of them can find and beat Sasuke and whoever he might wind up bringing?"

Saying yes would have been giving him too much credit when they didn't know anything about him and giving the others too little credit. Of course, the opposite was also true.

"Whether they can or they can't isn't the point. As things stand, we don't know anything about him," And that pissed him off more than anything, "He's certain that he can kill Naruto. He said he's seen all he needed to see, and not in the way that makes it sound like Naruto doesn't have anything to offer him. That there's nothing any of us can throw at him. Not just the three of us, but the whole Shade Alliance."

"And you believe him," It was a statement, not a question. Tenten could tell without Shikamaru even having to say it, "I don't see how. Shika, even if he's tough, he's saying he can go through each and every one of us, without fail," She said, her voice laced with skepticism, "There has to be something. If he can't be flat-out overpowered, there's got to be a style match-up that's a nightmare for him. Something."

From what she was aware, he was top dog back when they were training as children. That was something to be cognizant of, but it was also ages ago. Many things had changed. They had all been through a lot, and were better fighters, better ninjas, better people because of it.

Nothing she said seemed to shake Shikamaru's perspective, however. He had stared right into that man's eyes, had sized him up as best as he could, "I didn't see an ounce of doubt in him. Not a bit," There was no involuntary tell to the contrary. The way he moved and spoke was with complete certainty, "It wasn't just confidence. A part of it reminded me about how I feel when everything's coming together."

If he had really been watching, if he had seen enough to have the confidence to take them all out in whatever particular order, even when he didn't have to…

Sasuke was trophy hunting. He didn't have to kill Shikamaru or Tenten. As far as they were all aware, no one with the stroke to make that kind of call even knew they still existed. He discovered them himself during his recon.

When it rained, it certainly poured. Problems could never just happen in ones.

At that point, the light to the downstairs dojo flipped on as Jiraiya poked his head in, "What are you two doing down here? Go to bed already."

Tenten pointed her thumb at Shikamaru, "Shika says he's staying down here because he's too tired to go upstairs."

"The dojo is for training," Jiraiya deadpanned, "If you're staying down here, I can only assume that you hadn't gotten your fill during the late night session. If that's the case, I can always give you some more."

Shikamaru got to his feet slowly with a tired groan and began to slog his way past Jiraiya out the door to the stairs. The white-haired veteran ninja shook his head as the boy left. Once he was gone, he looked back at Tenten who was still sitting on the floor, "Do you still not know where Naruto is? I would have figured Shikamaru to be the first one to try and skip out on evening training before him."

Tenten shook her head, "No more idea where he's going than when he texted before. He said something about being back late."

How dare he miss out on all of Jiraiya's fantastic teaching? Jiraiya would have wagered that he hadn't skipped out on his weapon training that day… which given the quality of his sensei (in all matters) he couldn't really blame him for. Even so.

"Brat better be working..." Jiraiya grumbled aloud.


This was what Kisara and Thor had been expecting when they had decided to go along with Naruto. An all-out melee with plenty of targets willing and able to take their best shot.

Kisara ducked a swing of a sword from one of Yami's guards and stood back up, simultaneously shooting a high kick that smashed him underneath the chin and knocked him ten feet into the air.

When her man hit the ground, she took a moment to catch her breath and take stock of what Thor was doing. That was when her jaw nearly hit the ground.

The red-haired kicking expert was beside herself. Her Taekwondo style lent itself to speedier, longer attacks that she could get off before slower enemies could react. Thor had to get right up on them to do his thing, and though he was managing himself successfully, it was scary watching sharp blades get so close to his head when he went to strike or toss them.

Reacting when she saw two assailants charging right at her friend from a blind spot, Kisara dashed over and leapt over Thor, landing on his shoulder as a temporary perch to launch at them with a flip. Holding her legs over her head, she let them go and smashed down on the tops of their heads, "Nijuu Tonkachi Ashige (Double Hammer Kick)!"

"Thor, stop trying to throw people!" Kisara demanded, as she ground the heel of her boot irritably into the back of a downed opponent, "They have swords!"

"Haha! It doesn't matter!" He bellowed, dodging a downward swipe of a blade only to knock his attacker out cold with a hard thrust of his palm, "This is what all of my training with Master Kugatachi and Freya's Valkyries has been for!"

Kisara ducked out of the way of an arrow and took cover behind a tree. On a ledge a short distance away, a trio of archers were trying to get a good shot at her. She couldn't fight properly if she had to worry about being picked off from afar, "Anything you think you can do about that, big guy?"

"Of course!" Thor grabbed two suited men by their collars, spinning around in a circle before sending them flying through the air, into some of the archers. Though he didn't hit them all, he gave Kisara enough of an opening to make her own move, "There you go!"

"Goddamn it," She muttered, rushing the path leading to the ledge. When her targets came into view, she leapt into action before they could try to shoot at her again, "I said stop throwing people!" She yelled at Thor, smashing her enemies with a flurry of rapid-fire kicks.

Thor simply continued to laugh while swatting more bodyguards to the ground with crushing, crippling open-handed sumo slaps.

He was having a grand old time. Good for him.

"Stupid men," Kisara complained, turning in time to intercept an opponent trying to sneak attack her from behind with a rib-shattering kick, "Do you mind!?"


(With Naruto)

"Stupid, jerk friends," Naruto complained quietly to himself as he scaled the sheer cliff face with his bare hands. Every so often he would stop and look back, as though there was a chance he could spot the trail through all of the trees and keep track of Kisara and Thor's progress in battle, "I know I'm not Shikamaru or Niijima, but does anyone respect my opinion enough to ever listen to me?"

Not that he had a better plan, other than 'don't get caught', but still...

Whatever. If all went well, he would bust Kawakami Aoi's ass before she even knew he was there. Then he could go and get his friends, they could split for the train station, go home, get some ice cream or whatever would be open by the time they got back, and celebrate.

Naruto grabbed onto any handhold he could find in the rock and pulled himself upwards. It was only a matter of time until he reached the top. There were no lights. The moon was out, but clouds kept passing in front of it, giving him precious moments of near pitch darkness to work with. During those times, there was no way for anyone looking in that general direction to see him.

'Damn it. This is a better plan than trying to sneak everyone up here,' Naruto begrudgingly thought to himself as he peeked over the edge of the cliff, '...Okay, let's finish this.'

Creeping around the premises to see what they had in terms of security, Naruto couldn't find a soul. Weird. They had all of those people keeping watch along the pass, but there was no one standing lookout over the condo at the summit.

Upon entering, he began moving through the halls, checking room by room for the girl he was after, or anyone who would try to stop his progress. It was dark. All of the lights were out. He had not been anticipating that, and while it worked out better for what he was trying to do, it was still eerie.

This was getting absurd now. Was he wrong? Had he read the security wrong? From his vantage point earlier, he saw nothing else worth protecting. This was the only place the pass led to. There was literally nothing else beyond this point other than the ocean.

No, that line of thinking could all wait until after he'd finished sweeping the house. Then he could start wondering what this was all for. For the time being, he had to focus, lest he find himself caught off-guard. He couldn't let his own ambush become an ambush against him.

Eventually, Naruto came to a part of the house with a wide open room, equipped with glass windows and doors that gave a marvelous look at the balcony and the sea. There, in the moonlight, sitting properly on a cushion on the floor was the girl Naruto had come to defeat. She even had her naginata in her hand, standing straight up at her side.

Had she been waiting for him? Did she know he was coming? Had he not gotten there fast enough to outpace word reaching her of Kisara and Thor's attack?

Either way, there was no way she knew he was there now. His ki was suppressed as best as he could. He had faith in his stealth. It didn't matter if she was anticipating his attack or not. He still had the drop on her, and she didn't know it was coming now.

His first strike had to count.

He chose the angle that she wouldn't be able to see his shadow and took his opportunity. As fast as his body would allow him to move, aiming right for the neck, he took off like a shot, counting his distance with every step.

Thirty feet.

Twenty feet.

Ten feet.

...And that was where he stopped.

Something was wrong. He didn't feel the slightest bit of ki from her at all. Even when he stopped, she didn't even register his presence. He wasn't even trying to hide anymore, and yet, nothing was happening.

Then he saw it. The light allowed him to get a good look at her face from the angle he was at. He could see her eyes. There was no life in them whatsoever.

'Is she dead?' Naruto was afraid to take another step toward her. He knew how to play dead. Who was he to assume that no one else was capable of doing something similar? "...Hello?" No response, "What the hell?"

"You're too slow. Afraid I beat you to it, Uzumaki."

From a shadowy corner of the room, Kanou Shou emerged, flexing out the fingers of his hands. Naruto could hear the soft pop of his knuckles.

Naruto took a moment to analyze Aoi. She had been set into that position after she had died, to make sure he still came looking for her. Hopefully she breathed her last with her weapon in her hands trying to fight, instead of having it put there for her after the fact.

He didn't hate YOMI. Not really. Naruto liked Ryuuto. He had problems with his fair share of them for obvious reasons, but didn't want to necessarily see any of them dead. If it happened, that was just the nature of the beast, but he found no joy in seeing it happen, enemy or not.

But he had more important things to worry about at the moment.

Naruto kept an eye on Shou the entire time he had been analyzing Aoi, moving himself behind her to keep the two of them apart in case of hostilities, "You did this? You killed her?" He asked in a measured, yet confused manner, "Why would you do that? She's YOMI isn't she? She's like, an equal to one of you."

As he moved, he shifted his right pant leg enough to drop a concealed kunai down by the back of his heel. As he stepped, he covered the blade with his foot and hid it. It counted to have a surprise attack or two up your sleeve to start a fight with, if it came to that.

Shou's normally casual expression turned somewhat cold at Naruto's attempted comparison, "There's no equal to me. And I'm no one's second choice. I'm the best. I'm the true Sole Disciple, not some replacement for you."

Naruto went wide-eyed. So he knew about it too. It stood to figure. Ogata was the one who told Naruto, so it had to be common knowledge amongst the One Shadow, Nine Fists.

And Shou had a problem with it now? Who cared? He was the Sole Disciple now. Naruto was just some cast-away missing-nin. He hadn't even been designated as a genin before being branded a failure.

The way things stood now, Shou should have felt validated by his position. That should have been all that mattered. Naruto couldn't find it in himself to care about this guy's problems. He could have his little existential crisis at someone else's expense.

"Your butthurt bullshit is for the birds, Pigeon-boy. I don't give a crap about your Sole Disciple blah-blah," Naruto said. He was a ninja. He was going to be the ninja. That was all he cared about as far as his martial arts went, "I don't want anything to do with any of you. Yami and YOMI, armed and unarmed, you can all fuck off."

If he was insecure about something, he could at least have the courtesy to keep it to himself and suffer in silence, slowly driving himself to the mental and emotional breaking point until he could come to his own resolution, growing as a person as a result. That was the way you were supposed to handle it. It had worked for Naruto.

Shou laughed deeply, holding his hand up to his forehead. He hadn't expected much more out of the damned ninja in front of him, "That's all well and good. But I still gotta kill you. You see, I've been thinking about this for way too long and I figured, why not just do you in myself and get that weight off my back?" Ah, so that was how he dealt with his problems – by erasing them, "That's why I went to the trouble of leaking that info about this base in the first place."

...Say what?

A grit came to Naruto's teeth. He had never been lured anywhere. Shou wanted to get at him that badly apparently. It would have been impressive if it hadn't been so infuriating, and if he hadn't compromised someone that had been on his side in the process.

"Well, that was a waste of your time," Naruto said, trying to keep from getting fired up. A level head was the best way to tackle the situation, even if he really wanted to fly off the handle, "I don't have any reason to stay here. You killed my target before I could even get to her. I got ready to take on a naginata-disciple. Not you. You can't goad me into a fight I don't want to have," Because retreat was always an option for someone like him, "If I get to that door, you can't stop me from leaving."

Shou shifted his stance to prepare to try and cut Naruto off, "If you were going as fast as you could just now, you might as well not even try running," He replied, as though he were daring him to so much as try it, "I always knew you were a snail. Or maybe a slug?"

This was just posturing. Both were waiting on the other to react. Naruto expected Shou to initiate the aggression, while Shou was anticipating Naruto to turn tail and run at the first hint of pressing danger. For the two young men, the debate was whether or not making the first move was worth it, or if hanging back and reacting was appropriate.

However, Naruto always did have something of an itchy trigger finger.

He turned to make for the exit. With his first move, he kicked his leg off the ground and sent the kunai flying, curving around Aoi's prone corpse at Shou's chest. Shou went to intercept him and saw the little black blade coming his way. He caught the weapon by its ringed handle before it could stab into him and tossed it into the air, never taking his attention off of Naruto.

The blond shinobi knew after Shou took off from his starting spot that he wasn't going to make it. He altered his path to jump off of the doorframe and launch himself at his enemy, flexing out the muscles and tendons in his left hand to prepare a Rasengan to counter whatever Shou would come at him with once they reached one another.

Bloodlust shone in Shou's red eye as he tracked Naruto's trajectory. The crazy bastard was switching things up and coming right at him. The silver-haired Satsujinken inheritor lashed out with an offensive rotating knife-handed strike.

With different motivations in mind, both were intent on doing as much damage to the other as possible with their very first move. Naruto and Shou were going for broke right at the outset.

However, neither so much as touched the other.

One moment, it seemed as though they were about to meet in a clash of wills, ability, and violence. The next, both were looking at the vacant remainder of room past where they had deemed their target to be. When they realized that they had missed each other, both turned to try and gain the upper-hand, only to find that they were no longer alone.

Standing between them was a tall, slim man in a striped suit that did nothing to hide his formidable lean muscles. He had blond hair with bangs that hung in front of his non-expressive eyes.

All things considered, he didn't look that threatening, but Naruto knew better. This man had stopped both his and Shou's attack at the same time. Their aim had been true, and he had diverted them both without either of them realizing it. They had never felt him for a moment.

Even then, Naruto still couldn't feel him. The only thing scarier than being able to sense a master's overwhelming ki was to know that someone was at such a level, yet you were unable to feel anything at all to compare it to.

He opened his mouth to speak. The words came so casually and indifferently, "Now, now... I think that's enough for tonight," It was like a machine trying to speak with a human inflection. Chilling.

Shou immediately identified who this person was, "One Shadow!" Naruto took a step back, almost out of human instinct to avoid something that was clearly dangerous, "Master, w-what are you doing here? And why are you stopping us? I thought it was the master's code not to get involved in their disciples' battles!"

The One Shadow turned completely Shou's way to address YOMI's top disciple, "The master's code are more like guidelines, Shou," He explained calmly, "More importantly, what are you doing here, and what have you done?"

Shou had the expression of a teenager that knew he had done wrong, but felt he could justify it, "Oh, that. Does it matter? The armed and unarmed divisions aren't even friendly," He said with a nervous grin, partially out of embarrassment, partially out of fear, "You said you wanted Ryouzanpaku's strongest disciples eliminated? Why would we wait on the armed division to get around to killing Uzumaki if we could get rid of him and Shirahama ourselves. I thought that this was more important."

"More important than Yami's goals? Ignorant, selfish boy," Those last words were delivered with the same even temperament as the rest, and yet the weight that accompanied them was immense enough for Naruto to realize the man's displeasure, "Do you realize just how much this could put all that master leagues above you have worked for in jeopardy? Do you think you're above being admonished because of your being the Sole Disciple? You could be sacrificed in a moment to maintain the Eternal Setting Sun. Another Sole Disciple can be found. But then again, you should realize that."

Ouch. Naruto felt that one. It was clear to the man before them what Shou's real motivation for all of this had been. Shou had the good grace to look admonished at the One Shadow's blunt rebuke of his actions. So Mr. Perfect could feel shame after all. Good to know.

"You will leave this place, Shou. Now," The One Shadow demanded, much to Shou's surprise, "I've sent your master to collect you. Go now."

"But master!" Shou exclaimed at his given directions, pointing heatedly at Naruto, "He's right here! I can kill him, right now! I need to! I have to prove... I have to..." He said, seemingly not willing to admit that he was even considering the thought that Naruto was superior to him in any way. What a time to manifest an inferiority complex.

The One Shadow towered over the Sole Disciple, "You are a child of the Kuremisago. One of the very last. Act according to your station. Do not let your emotions guide you in moments of strife."

Disobedience would not be rewarded. Period. And he was going to take away what Shou wanted, to fight with Naruto. Even if fighting and killing Naruto was necessary, this sort of precedent was not going to be set.

"Tch…" Shou bit his tongue, but glared past the man in front of him at Naruto who returned it full-force. This wasn't over, but on this day fear was a greater motivator than anger. Not of Naruto, but of the man saying the world's most despised word, no matter which language it was translated to – no.

That did very little to settle Naruto down. With Shou gone, someone that he had a fair chance of defeating, that left the One Shadow, who he had absolutely no chance of so much as surviving against. If this was really the leader of Yami's unarmed division, nothing good could come of this.

Naruto held his breath when the man focused his attention solely on him, "Uzumaki Naruto. I have waited a long time to meet you," Meet. Not kill. Good sign so far, "How would you like to have a talk?"

It didn't seem like a request, so much as a layout for what was going to happen, "How much of a choice do I really have here?" Naruto mumbled, "Supposing I said no?"

The One Shadow's answer was vague, yet rang out as clear as a bell, "Well, you are trespassing on privately owned property. I am within my full rights to handle such a thing accordingly, not that it matters. I suppose I can also involve your friends fighting down in the pass. They are martial artists as well, correct?" He asked, as though it really mattered to him, "...Like I said before, the master's code are more like guidelines."

Fighting would end with him getting killed. Running would end with him getting killed. Going with this man could end with him being killed as well, but it wasn't a guarantee, and as long as he kept looking for an opening to escape.

Naruto threw up his hands disarmingly, "Sure. Fine."

He held up Naruto's phone, much to the latter's surprise, "Tell them everything is fine," He said, throwing the device over to the young ninja, "Whatever you need to say to get them to leave you."

In the seconds it took Naruto to open his phone and dial the number, he couldn't think of a way to signal his friends out loud in any kind of subtle way. By the time he heard it pick up, he had come up with nothing, "Uzumaki?"

Naruto idly wondered if it would have been better to get no answer on the other end, "Hey guys. Did everything go alright down there?" He asked, making eye contact with the One Shadow. Things definitely hadn't gone well on his end.

Kisara sounded excited as she answered, "Damn straight it did. Whew! Now that was a real workout. You done up there?"

Well, at least she and Thor got to have a bit of action in the field, "Yeah, pretty much. Things got a little bit complicated though," He'd let them know just how much the moment he got the chance, "Hey, I'm kind of on the run here. How about we split up and meet back on the train?"

Straight to the point. It was rough using that kind of subterfuge on friends, but it was better than all of them coming to where he was and getting all of them killed.

Taking on Fortuna at the end of the D of D Tournament was one thing. There were more of them then, and as far as master-level fighters went, he was bottom-of-the-barrel. Even then, it had taken no small measure of trickery and coordination to overcome him.

Being presented with a deadline, Kisara let out a seething noise, "Oh shit, that's right. The last one until morning leaves at 12:30. I'm not getting stuck in this suck-hole all night," She said, "Alright, lose those losers and shake a leg back to the station. I want out of this place, yesterday."

"Gotcha. Later," With that, Naruto hung up the phone and pocketed it, glaring across the room at the One Shadow, "There. You happy? It's just you and me. So let's chat."

The man had no emotional tells. With Kushinada, Naruto felt a perpetual sense of her condescending to everyone around her. With Ogata, the guy was just remarkably upbeat for someone of his station. With the One Shadow... there was nothing.

"Not here," He said, "If we stay all the way up in the mountains, you'll miss that last train home."

Naruto felt like he was being patronized.

The One Shadow walked out onto the balcony and leaned over the railing. Moments later, a helicopter flew up over the edge, hovering in the air right next to the condo. He turned back to Naruto with no emotion in his eyes whatsoever, his hair and bola tie billowing in the wind.

His body language screamed with expectancy. He was not going to wait on Naruto to muster enough guts to climb aboard. If he was too much of a pain, he would get rid of him then and there.

Well, at least he was getting the chance to ride in a helicopter. Naruto couldn't have ever said he'd done that before.

Naruto took a step forward but stopped. In a situation like this, information was the most valuable weapon anyone could have. Every little bit helped, "Can I at least get a name here?" He asked, shouting over the sound of the aircraft, "You know me, but I don't know you!"

The One Shadow didn't say it loudly. In fact, Naruto had to read his lips to figure out what he was saying.

"Fuurinji Saiga."


(Meanwhile – Back In Town)

What Shikamaru had said during Sasuke's run-in with him and their conversation at the police station stuck with him. As loathe as he was to admit it, until Sasuke's special team arrived to back him up, he was in it alone, while the missing-nin trio had an entire group of fighters on their side.

While Sasuke would never admit to needing anyone, it was merely common sense that the side with greater numbers would have the decided advantage. Of course, information was always a splendid way to negate such an advantage.

To know one's enemy was the best way to put oneself in position for victory. To that end, Sasuke infiltrated the Shade Alliance headquarters to learn all that he could about those who would more than likely become his enemy.

It wasn't exactly a secret where it was located. Every kid in town knew, especially those who went to the high school that most of the members were from. It wasn't exactly secure either; a dilapidated four-story building that stayed populated during the afternoon and evening, but was stark empty at night.

Which meant there was no one around to necessarily stop him from being more proactive in his approach.

Breaking in was child's play, but from there, it was pure adult's work. When he had set out from home, he had brought everything he would have needed to perform his job, including plastic explosives.

He didn't have a large amount. All he could smuggle around was enough for one operation, but he hadn't originally planned on using any to begin with. He'd brought it just to be prepared.

Now though…

If the Shade Alliance was going to have poor security, he was going to take advantage of it. He would set his trap and keep watch for when he knew Naruto was inside. From there?


Though his supply of explosives were slim, Sasuke was able to lace all of the strategic points of the ground floor, especially around the entrance. That way, he could stake out and wait for Naruto to walk in before he remotely triggered them. He would rather fight and kill him, but it wasn't prudent. An assassination was more appropriate than a foolish duel.

With that in mind, Sasuke took his time skulking about the building to take note of what was inside. Again, to know thine enemy.

It seemed more like a clubhouse than a place for a proper organization of fighters. There was an area set aside for working out and sparring, but from the look of the equipment and the smell of the room, any intense training truly meant to reach a new plateau wasn't done there.

Fair enough. Backbreaking training was normally done alone, or with one's trainer. Not in front of one's friends.

Not that Sasuke really had friends to train with. To him, there was no point. No one measured up to his brother, and that was who he was chasing. Sparring with anyone else was a waste. Taking them on seriously left them badly hurt. Not a good for working with training partners.

As he crept deeper into the building, getting closer to the stairs that led to the second level, Sasuke heard the sounds of a piano being played. Sasuke wasn't a classical buff by any means, but many people had heard Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata in some kind of meaningful way at some point in their lives, even in passing.

It was coming from the third floor, actually.

Following the music as it changed from its light second movement into its stormy final movement, Sasuke slowly approached a room where he could see light that hadn't been produced by the moon outside. Inside stood a tall young man in front of grand piano, thrashing away on the keys. The bottom of his long dark red coat and his long silver hair flailed wildly as his fingers pounded out the remaining last notes of the song with aggression.

As the sound finished resonated through the empty building, the musician turned around, staring intently out of the open door of the room, "I could feel your gaze, regaling in the splendor of Beethoven's brilliance. Not that I can blame you."

Sasuke considered drifting away and playing cat-and-mouse with what was a clearly alerted sentry, but that would have been a waste of time, and damned if he was fleeing at this point. If this was the only person on the premises, he could just deal with him and continue on. After all, if trouble was afoot and Naruto showed himself to check it out, he would still have to go inside, which was all he needed.

"Come out, intruder! Face the wrath of the 'Immortal Composer' Siegfied!"

Sasuke slunk himself into the open doorway and stared the Shade Alliance member down. Impatience inspired his decision for a direct confrontation.

Siegfried dramatically pointed at him, "Identify yourself! In case this battle inspires a melody worth remembering, I want to know your name."

"Not because I'm an enemy?" Sasuke said, slowly slipping into a hand-to-hand stance, slowly circling Siegfried, scrutinizing everything about him as closely as possible, "Well, this is not the smartest decision you've made today, I can assure you of that."

"The sounds of combat herald your end!" Siegfried bellowed, lunging threateningly at Sasuke.

Being the well-trained warrior that he was, Sasuke's first instinct was to look for a counter – a shot with his outside forearm that hit Siegfried directly in the neck. He spun around and fell to the floor facedown, holding his throat.

It was a lethal attack, but if you had that sort of an opening, why not go for the kill? If he died, it was his problem, his fault.

Sasuke slowly stepped out of his post-strike stance and put his hands in his pockets, "You should have known better. But then again, nothing I could have said was going to make you stop. You seem like the type," He said, walking past Siegfried to get a better look at the rest of the room. It seemed to be some old storage room that they had just set aside as a place to put the piano and a few more instruments for the musician's use.

As he observed a cello on its stand, Sasuke felt the movement of Siegfried rising back to his feet, and not slowly either. So surprised was he, that upon sensing the change in his environment, Sasuke jumped up on the end of the cello just as Siegfried went right for him. He pivoted on his foot while balancing on the instrument and delivered a swift kick to Siegfried's throat.

Siegfried fell to the ground, but instead of suffering the effects of the powerful blow, he sprang up onto his head and hands where he began spinning, kicking an unprepared Sasuke's balancing leg out from underneath him, knocking him off of the end of the cello and to the floor.

Sasuke hit with a hard thud, wincing at the sudden impact, yet keeping an eye on Siegfried as he transitioned his spin into a strange side rolling kick. All Sasuke could do from his prone position was roll out of the way in an effort to dodge. Every missed kick took a chunk out of the floor. What deceptive power from such an odd opponent.

Speaking of deceptive, that could describe Siegfried's entire technique.

'What the hell is this!?' Sasuke thought, leaping back to his feet. Siegfried ceased his rolling kicks and stood back up, barreling back at Sasuke relentlessly, his voice roaring with song. Sasuke, desperate to turn the momentum back around lashed out with a counter right hand just as Siegfried moved into range. His timing was perfect.

Four knuckles made contact with Siegfried's face, knocking him to the ground flat on his back, his feet still planted on the floor. However, Sasuke had seen this movie before, so to speak. Siegfried being down meant absolutely nothing. Before he could try to follow up with a more permanently debilitating strike, Siegfried sprang back up like a dummy with a weighted bottom, headbutting Sasuke on top of the head.

Sasuke felt his teeth click together as his head and upper body snapped forward from the impact. Still having his druthers about him, Sasuke flowed with the momentum and let one leg leave the ground, whipping around to kick Siegfried in the head. He felt the contact, but when he got back upright, he was smashed in the face with a backhanded strike.

Having had enough, Sasuke jumped out of range, nursing the bumps and bruises from the spirited exchange. Siegfried spun around rapidly like a top, his arms extended, his voice ringing with an extended note, "~Laaaaaaaaaa!" When the note ended, he came to a perfect stop, facing Sasuke once more, "Why did you stop?"

Despite how cool he tried to play things, Sasuke was offensively-minded, aggressive. A Dou type of martial artist, through and through. Whenever he had to fight directly, he stayed on the attack, rarely ceasing his onslaught or falling back to regroup. With his abilities, he could see through opponents and adjust accordingly on the fly. No matter how good someone's defense was, eventually they would falter when constantly pressed without being able to counter. Even the sturdiest fortress walls would crumble from a prolonged bombardment.

In this case, it was like the fortress walls were bouncing all of his artillery right back at him.

Sasuke's first instinct was to leap back in and continue, but he used the tangy metallic taste of blood in his mouth to settle himself down.

'I haven't seen this person before. Unlike the rest, I never got a look at the way he fights. I wasn't prepared,' But by now he had seen more than enough, and felt it as well. With everything he had gotten an eyeful of, it had been more that what he needed to dissect the style before him, "You're not bad," Sasuke admitted aloud, begrudgingly, "…It takes a lot of guts to fight like that."

"So you've see through the brilliance of my style, and in just one exchange," Siegfried said before frowning, a thoughtful expression on his face. Normally, when faced with his style, even people who figured out how he was fighting would have some trepidation on how to handle him. Sasuke seemed to panic at first, but had since settled down, "...Do you possess the Inner Eye by any chance?"

Siegfried knew full well of his former Ragnarok leader Odin's special talent. He had been on the man's side once upon a time and had seen its strength on display time and time again.

Oh, that martial arts technique. Sasuke nearly spat at the thought of what he could do being compared to that one-trick ability, "You're not that lucky," He declared.

His talent was nothing so run-of-the-mill.

'His entire style is based on the perfect counter,' Sasuke thought, a measure of respect in mind for the teenager standing before him. There were certain martial artists that fought and fancied themselves counter fighters, but this was the epitome of the concept, 'Everything he does, all of his true techniques, are based around taking strong attacks with the least amount of force possible, and attacking in return with his own force added on.'

Styles make fights. A fight with this type of person would take too long to settle with Sasuke coming out the victor. At least a straightforward one. There were always alternate paths to victory. Woe be to the fool who could only see one way to reach success.

"Why do you hesitate?" Siegfried asked, "Is that as far as your skills go?"

He knew better, but he wanted to goad Sasuke into attacking more. Hitting harder. Going for riskier moves that would leave him more vulnerable afterwards. He had taken the bait once already, going for a unique attack that gave Siegfried the chance to capitalize. He could tell that it was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to what Sasuke could do.

He was strong and moved with complete confidence and certainty. He struck for two fatal blows without hesitation. Had Siegfried not been training with the mindset of fighting Satsujinken martial artists who would do the exact same thing, his first strike would have caught him off-guard and killed him.

His ki was powerful. Now that Sasuke wasn't actively masking it for stealth purposes, Siegfried could feel it. The room felt a tad colder than it had before he had begun fighting.

Sasuke took a half a step back, giving a side stance to Siegfried. Siegfried wouldn't initiate. Not unless he had to. It wasn't his strong suit. Reaction was where he shined in battle.

"No... I was just thinking, I had come here to set booby traps for the dead last. But now, there's no point," Sasuke told him.

Siegfried was momentarily taken aback at the admission, "Indeed."

Booby trap. Was he a ninja? An assassin? Who did he come here for? Was this the person that had Shikamaru and his 'Demon King' Niijima. His mind swam, and as it did, Sasuke pulled out a small device and waved it around for Siegfried to see.

A detonator.

Sasuke held it up. He could feel the desperation of Siegfried's stare as the consequences of what that device meant settled on him, "It would be a waste for all of those explosives I set to go to waste," Sasuke continued to say, "I can't defuse them now."

What mattered was what went unsaid. He couldn't defuse them and leave with them, so he might as well use them regardless.

Siegfried's blood began to boil, "And you think that I would ever let you escape, knowing what you've just told me?" He exclaimed in a grandiose fashion, placing his hand to his heart, "I will protect this place with my life!"

A roll of the eyes was the response he received, "The reason I told you is because it doesn't matter," Sasuke said, hitting the button without a moment's hesitation.

The ground underneath their feet shook and rumbled. Siegfried looked around, an expression of horror on his face. When he turned back to Sasuke, the last thing he saw was red eyes and an unmoved expression on his face in the low light of the room before he went to depart.

This would not stand.

Siegfried came barreling out of the room in hot pursuit. He could see Sasuke take a turn down the hallway and picked up his own speed to catch up, seeing him sprint down a straightaway. His destination, a large window at the end of the corridor, "You will not escape!"

Sasuke dove through the window to make his way outside in a hurry. A daring move, but not one that Siegfried was unprepared to duplicate, even on an upper level. The window had already been broken, so he didn't even have to sacrifice his body in any sort of way to get through it.

And yet, as he made his way out of the opening, he could see no sign of Sasuke landing or running off in any particular direction. But he had gone through the window. Siegfried hadn't been so far behind that Sasuke could have hit the ground and hidden himself well enough in that span of time.

"Got you."

"What?" Siegfried felt an iron grip wrap around his entire body, holding him in place, "But I saw you-!"

From behind, Sasuke had his arms wrapped around Siegfried's waist and his legs wrapped around his arms, binding them in place. With a tilt of his body they both dropped from the sky. Siegfried tried to wriggle himself free, but he had neither the leverage nor the brute strength to do so.

"You saw what I wanted you to see," Sasuke told him as they fell toward the ground, the top of Siegfried's head leading the way. "Hayabusa Otoshi (Peregrine Falcon Drop)!"

The impact of their landing kicked up dirt and cracked the ground directly underneath them. Sasuke's technique had been exceptional, the attack performed well enough to keep Siegfried's body as straight as an arrow. He couldn't spin. He couldn't take the fall in a way that would let him bounce. He was trapped and driven into the ground.

Sasuke let go and allowed Siegfried's body to slump down lifelessly.

He allowed himself a moment to be irritated. Things weren't supposed to go this way, but in the end, it was no major loss. Actually, there was no loss at all. In fact, he had actually gained something. He had gotten a look at something very special.

"Thanks for showing me all of that," Sasuke said in regards to Siegfried's fighting style. The way he countered and could absorb damage was incredible. Even if Sasuke had discovered how he had managed it, his moveset didn't lend itself to overcoming that kind of person easily. It would have taken way too long to beat Siegfried conventionally, "That was a very interesting defense you had there. Not bad."

Siegfried didn't respond. For a moment, Sasuke imagined that he would jump back up to his feet and be on him again with the same fervor as before. But he didn't. Sasuke reached down and felt his carotid artery, receiving a pulse.

What a tough bastard. And his neck hadn't been broken to boot. One thing could be said for Naruto's choice of company – they were a unique lot. Well, he could enjoy the sight of his headquarters burning to the ground whenever he woke up. And he could send a message to the rest of his allies.

"The only reason you're getting off easy is because you're tough. If anyone else wants to get in my way, this is the best they can expect," Sasuke said to the out cold Siegfried, "The dead last is a dead man."

With that, he walked away, leaving his fallen enemy in the orange glow of the Shade Alliance building that was burning from the first floor on up.

Just one less place for his targets to lay their heads.


(With Naruto)

Fuurinji Saiga. By the name alone, Naruto automatically assumed that he was related to Miu and Ryouzanpaku's elder. If that was true, it was huge.

He wanted to inquire into just how they were related, but kept his mouth shut for once. What was more important was getting his bearings and looking for a way out of his current predicament.

Easier said than done.

Naruto sat in the cabin of the helicopter, directly across from Saiga, who seemed to be trying to pierce through his soul with nothing more than his stare. The man could probably make a flower wilt with that look.

Next to the ninja boy sat another individual. A muscular young man with tanned skin, dark scraggy hair and scars all visible all over his body. He wore an eyepatch and a vest with a fur collar. Naruto couldn't feel any malicious intent from him. He seemed more intrigued at his presence than openly hostile.

Even so, if he was with Saiga, he couldn't have been a safe entity to be around.

There had been some tight situations before, but this was a new kind of no-win scenario altogether.

"You're quieter than I thought you would be," The young man eventually said to Naruto, "Everyone else who's met you that I've talked to says three things about you Ryouzanpaku disciples. I probably shouldn't say what most of them say about master's daughter. But for Shirahama, they say there's no way a guy who looks and acts like that should fight as well as he does."

Naruto could see that sort of take on Kenichi. Though he was curious about the thing the guy couldn't say about Miu in front of Saiga, "And me?" He ventured to ask.

The one-eyed disciple let out a laugh before replying, "They say you never shut the hell up."

Naruto visibly deflated. He had hoped that it would be something more flattering. Maybe something about how hard he was to hit, or about how surprising some of his techniques were. But given how openly antagonistic he was to just about everyone he fought, and how his gums almost never stopped flapping unless he was getting punched in them, there was merit to what he was being told.

Saiga spoke, immediately setting Naruto back on edge, "Satomi, let the boy be nervous. If he weren't, I would have serious questions about his survival instinct," He said, still analyzing Naruto closely, "Clearly it's intact… and active, seeing as how he's been looking for a realistic way to escape since the moment he sat down," Naruto tensed up and wondered if he were dealing with a clairvoyant, "No…I'm not reading your mind."

Sure, because answering an unasked question was the way to convince someone.

Saiga's disciple leaned back, relaxing in his seat, "Don't look so down. It's not like I really mind, or like I'm trying to kill you," He said, getting a surprised look out of Naruto "I'm more interested in fighting Shirahama than you. No offense."

For some reason, that was a relief, even though Naruto should have been more defensive of his friend, "None taken. The less people with a hard-on for killing me, the better. I can live with that," Literally, "You know what? Forget going to school. If I get out of here by morning, I'm heading straight to Go Ramen."

"You like ramen too?" The young man with the eyepatch asked incredulously.

Naruto seemed stunned that someone else shared his favoritism for the food before nodding, "Hell yeah, I do. I haven't been getting my fix lately. Damn Ero-sennin… making me eat 'real food'," Naruto said, giving air quotes before grousing further, "Son of a bitch even threw out all of my instant cups too."

"That's a dick move," The YOMI disciple agreed with a pitiful shake of his head, "Still, he has a point though. Cup and packaged ramen is junk compared to the fresh stuff."

As much of a point as he had, Naruto didn't like hearing it, "I know… but I'd go broke if I ate Go Ramen as much as I wanted to," He said before shooting a side glare at his fellow ramen ally, "You probably don't have to worry about that. You Yami jerks are loaded."

Said Yami jerk, or at least YOMI jerk, had the good grace to look bashful at such a statement, "Oh, we're not loa-."

Naruto cut him off by pointing right at him, "No. Liar. Don't lie to my face like that," He demanded, "I've seen it! Hell, I fought a goddamn king a few months ago. And don't sit there and tell me that luchador guy Diego or whatever his name is isn't filthy rich."

"Okay, fine. We're doing pretty well," He finally admitted before blinking and extending his hand, "…The name's Satomi by the way. Kajima Satomi."

A handshake? Weren't they supposed to be enemies? Well, there was no rule that said you couldn't be cordial.

"Uzumaki Naruto," Naruto reached out and grabbed his hand tightly, only to find that Kajima had a similar idea. Both had nearly tried to break the other's hand just to see how strong they were. Neither was disappointed, "Whoa. Got a grip there, don'tcha?"

Kajima laughed in return as they broke apart, each flexing out the sore muscles and bones in their hands, "Says the guy who barehanded a rock wall an hour ago?"

Once that had settled down, Naruto felt calm enough to try and get some answers, "So, not that this guy isn't cool as shit-," He said, jerking his thumb at Satomi, who responded with an amiable 'thank you', "-But why am I here and not… you know… dead."

Because Saiga could have killed him already. He could have killed the hell out of him. He still could have, as a matter of fact.

He could have sat back and let Shou try to take his shot to kill him at the cottage, and then admonished the Sole Disciple afterwards... if he won and was still alive to do so, that is.

But neither of those things had happened. And even though Naruto was still only alive at Saiga's whim, what was the reason for it?

Kajima took that moment to speak on the subject, "Yeah, you know the reason why Suparna was so dead-set on getting a piece of you tonight?" He asked.

Saiga interrupted and took over from there, "I wanted to see for myself just what kind of man you had become, as opposed to the man your father didn't want any of us having a hand in molding you into."

The Sole Disciple. The thing that Naruto was supposed to have been. Child of former One Shadow, Nine Fists member Namikaze Minato, who betrayed them in exchange for his son's own sovereignty

Yes. Naruto knew, "And?" He led.

Saiga continued to stare at Naruto before looking away outside of the helicopter, "Whatever conclusion I have come to is irrelevant."

Naruto was at a loss for words, "You-. I-. Motherfuc-. Grrrraaagh!" Naruto eventually exclaimed, grabbing at his own spiky hair, "You dragged me onto this thing to 'talk'. Well, talk or kill me already!"

Naruto knew that they had been flying northwest away from the west coast of Japan where he'd been taken from. The sun was beginning to come up, so he knew that they were just circling in a wide pattern at this point over the open ocean. They weren't taking him anywhere. This was it.

Either they really were just going to have a conversation, or they were going to off him and dump his dead body at sea. Possibly both. However, conversations were usually two-sided.

"Your father was a spy for them," Saiga said, "For Konoha. I trust you know what his mission was."

"To infiltrate Yami," Naruto replied.

"To destroy Yami," Saiga corrected, "Be it by his own hand, or by filtering back enough information to his superiors that they would be able to arrange it themselves."

Of course. A lot of this went without saying. That was textbook spy work. None of this needed to be explained to Naruto. Even the parts that would have were redundant. None of this information was fresh, "I get it. What does that have to do with me? I never got involved in any of this until now. And it didn't have anything to do with that."

There was a subtle shift in Saiga's posture, as if this was where he had been waiting for the conversation to go.

"Do you know what your mission would have been?" He asked, getting a befuddled raised eyebrow from Naruto, "Oh yes. You would have had a mission from Konoha as well."

Naruto waited for the other shoe to fall, explanation-wise. When it didn't, he squinted over at the One Shadow, "I don't get it."

"If your father had lived, if you had graduated from basic training, you would have been returned to him with a mission of your own to carry out in the undercurrent of serving as their mole."

"Why are you telling me any of this?"

Nothing Naruto asked seemed to disturb the man, "Like I said, I want to see for myself just what kind of man you are, as opposed to who you would have been," Saiga said, "If you so wish, however, I don't have to continue. The thing about spies is, sometimes the flow of information goes both ways to a degree."

A false pleasant smile found its way onto Naruto's face, "Since you know so much about where I'm from and what they are, tell me. What would they have had me doing while I was playing disciple?"

Saiga's voice had a harsh undercurrent to it for the first time since Naruto had met him, "Your mission would have been to eradicate all traces of the Kuremisago's next generation," "Including Kanou Shou, and my daughter… Fuurinji Miu."

A wave of illness rolled through Naruto at the thought of killing Miu. He wanted to vomit, but he fought it back down, "...I thought Pigeon-boy was my replacement," He asked, trying to divert just how uncomfortable he was at the other part of Saiga's 'what if' scenario, "Konoha wouldn't have known about him since he wasn't around until after mom and dad left, right?"

Saiga immediately shot down that theory, "We had Shou years before your parents officially joined and we knew of his capabilities even then. There were no plans for him at the time, other than to become one of our disciples. Plans changed when your father's treachery became known."

"Suparna was booted upstairs into the big seat, right where you would have been," Kajima said with a shrug, "That's the way it is sometimes. Hey, if there was someone the masters liked more than you before you graduated, the same thing would have happened to you."

For some reason, this put a part of Naruto's mind at-ease. There was a chance that even if everything had gone according to plan and he had graduated only to become a pawn in Konoha's mission for his parents, things wouldn't have gone as they had been laid out. He would only have been as useful to them as his value as a fighter and student would have allowed.

For all he knew, for all anyone could figure, Shou might have always ended up as the Sole Disciple, seeing as how Yami always had him in their back pocket. Someone should have told him that. Better yet, if he had been there the whole time, he should have come to that conclusion on his own.

Insecurity could be a nasty feeling though. When it was inside of your head, until it was resolved properly it would fester.

Once the shock from what Saiga had told Naruto faded, it only left a sense of emptiness. He wasn't any angrier than he was before he knew, "You didn't have to say anything to make me dislike Konoha anymore than I already do. They've been trying to kill me for the last six months, if you haven't noticed. But why kill them?"

Why Miu, particularly? Shou was kind of understandable. He was a disciple for a major Yami player. But not Miu though. All things considered, she never would have ended up with Yami if Naruto's idea of events were accurate. She still would have been with Elder Fuurinji whether Minato started spying on Yami or not.

"How much do you know of the Kuremisago?" Naruto held up his hand in the form of a zero, "I see."

"Give me a break. I got kicked out early."

"The Kuremisago is a clan that refused to join the great federation of clans that comprise Konohagakure. And like all others, Konoha sees them as a threat. Or saw. That is all I will say about the matter."

"Well, ain't you informed?" Naruto said, nearly sneering.

"You're a very effective shinobi. More so than you should be with how you turned out."

Naruto had long since accepted that he had dropped from the ninja program, being deemed a failure. That didn't make it any easier to have thrown in his face, "Yeah? What are you getting at?"

His first reaction had been to snap at Saiga. Then he realized where he was, and more importantly who he was dealing with.

"Nevermind. I had a thought. An offer, if you will. But you would never agree to it," Saiga said, "After all, you were almost physically ill at the thought of harming my daughter."

So he noticed that. Well at least he got official confirmation that Miu was his kid. He'd said it twice now. What a messed up family situation the Fuurinjis had. Worse than his, which was disturbing, "If it involves turning my back on anyone, you're right."

Naruto had never heard of either of Miu's parents. Until last night, he thought they had been dead like his were. Whatever Saiga had done to get him basically forbidden from ever even being mentioned on the Ryouzanpaku premises, especially within earshot of Miu, it had to have been something pretty heinous.

Even if Naruto had been in the business of cutting deals of this nature, this would have been one of the last people he trusted. Whatever he wanted, Naruto wasn't the guy for it.

"A shame. But, you're in a position to make your own decisions. You're no prisoner here," Saiga said, opening the door of the helicopter as it hovered high above ground, "We're done, Uzumaki. By all means, feel free to leave at any time."

Naruto stared at him and slowly it dawned upon him what he was getting at. This was it. It wasn't like they were going to turn around and take him back to where they'd found him from. Saiga wasn't even going to get the pilot to stop or so much as lower their altitude. The bastard.

Naruto turned to look over at Kajima. The one-eyed boy seemed intrigued more than anything else. He simply sat in his seat, relaxed and arms crossed as he waited to see how everything played out.

From where he was situated, Naruto could see how high up they were. It was quite the fall, and he couldn't measure it just by looking outside of the helicopter.

Still, even so... the vindictive part of Naruto didn't want to give Saiga the satisfaction of showing any concern for his own well-being.

"...Thanks for the ride," Naruto said, before stepping out. As his body fell, he focused on getting in position to properly dive. He had been taught the best way to fall from severe heights into deep water. Though he wasn't sure how effective it would be from at least 200 feet up.

All he could do was shut his eyes, brace for impact, and hope for the best.

Kajima leaned his head out of the helicopter and watched Naruto's drop all the way, right up until his body hit the water and disappeared. They never stopped moving away, so he never saw if he ever surfaced or not. Even without seeing him though, there wasn't a doubt in his mind-, "He's not dead," He remarked with a small measure of amusement, "Huh. Gotta be hard for him to be a decent fighter... what with balls the size of watermelons like that."

Saiga said nothing in response. He simply sat straight up in his seat, eyes closed and waiting on them to reach their destination, 'What a shame. What a shame that you were against us all along, Minato. And what a shame that your son seems to share the same morals you do.'

Right. So that's that for now.

Wow, this is weird. I don't have anything dumb to say to wrap everything up. As far as I'm concerned, that doesn't happen much.

Oh well. Perhaps I'm just tired?

...Nah. Guess I'll do some curls before bed, because biceps, son!

I hope you enjoyed. Kenchi out.