Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or History's Strongest Disciple. Want to know a sign of when your knees are fucked? When you can't stand on your knees on a hardwood or concrete floor without being in complete agony.

I really should have worn kneepads when I started grappling back in the day.

Chapter 41: Ties That Bind

(Flashback – Before the Start of School)

It had been an ambush. One that Kenichi hadn't been prepared for. How could he have been? Despite everything he had experienced in combat, no one had ever had the audacity to attack at school. And the worst thing about it was that this time YOMI hadn't even challenged him directly.

No, they had used the school's Karate Club to do it, and his old bully Daimonji led him into it, telling him Tirawit Kokin had attacked him and the other members.

Instead, he had trained the lot of them in Muay Thai, for the express purpose of fighting him.

...And then, he beat them all decisively. Easily. Easier than he had beaten just about anyone in quite some time. It had been so long, he'd forgotten what an easy victory even felt like.

"You are impressive," Kokin said, standing among the bodies of the fallen Karate Club members. Kenichi seemed confused by his praise, "I'm saying you crushed them with ease."

Kenichi was somewhat taken aback, "W-Well their attacks were strong, but they still have no defense," It felt like Kokin was making fun of him.

"That's not what I'm saying. I mean that a naive boy like you did a surprisingly good job at beating the shit out of your classmates."

Kenichi stopped and looked around only to find that he had indeed beaten the Karate Club members to a pulp, without even meaning to, "Whoa! Why are they hurt so badly?"

Kokin stooped down by one of the beaten fighters, picking his head off of the ground to show the damage Kenichi's fists dealt him, "It's not surprising, seeing as how I didn't teach them anything about defense at all," He looked up and provided Kenichi with a stare that pierced through him, "It's been a long time since you've fought a regular person. Your entire body has become a lethal weapon."

Without warning, Kokin kicked the unconscious Karate Club member at Kenichi as an attack. He used the cover of the flying body to launch a violent flurry of punches. Kenichi was barely able to dodge and safely catch the body, taking the time to set it down,

"Stop throwing unconscious people around!" Kenichi exclaimed.

Kokin scoffed, "Have you forgotten? You're the one who knocked them out in the first place."

Kenichi growled in annoyance, but had to admit that he was right.

"It's so easy now, isn't it?" Kokin said, his face emotionless, "It's hard to reconcile. These men used to be more powerful than you, and now you could crush them without a second thought. You're so used to fighting for your life against people stronger than you, you don't know how to adjust or control yourself against fools this weak," A smirk came to his face, "Careful, Katsujinken. One wrong move, and you could become Satsujinken like us."

The taunt was enough to spur Kenichi into action, but before he could spring into an attack, a heavy bag ripped from its chains at the ceiling with a punch flew in between them.

Both Kenichi and Kokin's attention turned to where Takeda had entered

"Ah, just the man I was looking for. This guy told me you two were here," He pointed to a cowering Daimonji at the door before waving, "Hello there, Kenichi-kun."

Realizing that he was ignored entirely, Kokin shot Takeda a sideways glance, "We were in the middle of something."

Takeda laughed, "That's right, you were, but as far as I know, no challenge was issued. You just decided to go it alone. Well, I'm challenging you instead."

Kenichi's mouth fell open in disbelief, "Takeda-san, you can't be serious."

Takeda's easygoing smile fell, replaced with a grave expression, "I'm deadly serious."

"Clearly, since you'll die if you fight me," Kokin said, looking between Kenichi and the new arrival in Takeda, "At least you had the guts to come at me yourself, instead of the alternative. Alright, boxer. I'll give you two weeks."

Takeda seemed pleased by the acceptance of his challenge, "We'll see what's better, Thai Boxing, or my Underground Boxing."

With a smirk, Kokin pulled out his solid gold emblem and threw it over to Takeda, who caught it tightly in his fist. Things were now in motion.

(End Flashback)

After recanting his story after class, Kenichi waited on Naruto's response with baited breath. Surely his friend could see how serious this was, and that they would need to do something to stop this.

"Huh..." Naruto mumbled with a shrug, "...Guess you should help him train then. You know Muay Thai."

Kenichi had expected a more explosive, more worried reaction, "Wait, you're okay with this? Kokin is one of YOMI's top disciples!"

The blond ninja shrugged his shoulders. So what? YOMI was strong. What did that make the rest of the Shade Alliance? Chopped liver? "And if you haven't noticed, Takeda's kinda the shit," Naruto said, praising the boxer's skills, "If he wants a piece of the guy, and Kokin accepted the challenge, I say we make sure he's ready to take him on."

Takeda Ikki had pride as a martial artist too, and he had the skills to pay the metaphorical bills. The days when he only had one good arm were a long way in the past. Since his recovery, he'd worked tirelessly to make up for lost time, and go beyond what he had been before the injury that ended his attempt at a pro career.

"You've... got a point," Kenichi admitted. He had never been keen on having to shoulder the burden of taking on YOMI. But now that someone was willing and able to fight as well, he was afraid for them, "I can't help it. I'm just worried."

Naruto seemed bemused that Kenichi was concerned. He had been concerned too, but that didn't stop others from edging in on his own business, "If I have to let more people in on my ninja stuff, you've got to accept that other people are going to want a piece of the YOMI disciples too," Takeda probably wasn't the only one who wanted to try his hand at taking them on. Not by a long shot, "No damn double-standards."

"Sorry. You're right," Kenichi said, remembering the grief he had given Naruto before over something similar, "I know what to do! Miu-san, do you think the masters will be alright with us training with Takeda-san today?"

Miu gave Kenichi a bright smile, "I don't see why not! That's a great idea!"

As the two got to talking about ways to help Takeda shape up for his match, Naruto stepped out into the hall to walk around for a moment to get some air between classes.

"Your stupid boxer friend is going to die."

"Whoa!" Naruto almost jumped to the ceiling at Chikage's sudden appearance. His Sakki hadn't even picked her up as a threat the way being around YOMI disciples usually did, "Holy shit! I didn't see you there. You're really tiny," Ah, there it went – danger senses, "Anyway, what? Why? You know... other than the whole 'you guys are Satsujinken and you kill people' thing."

"Kokin has already sized him up," Chikage said, leaning against the wall a ways away from class, "He's a 'style-killer'. It doesn't matter what you're supposed to be good at. It doesn't matter if he's seen you fight before. All it takes is a matter of seconds for him to calculate the best way to take an opponent down," She looked up at Naruto with cold, analytical eyes, "Your friend is too one-dimensional to pose a challenge."

Naruto frowned at such a dismissal, "Oi, you may be some kind of genius, but that doesn't mean you know everything," He said to the little girl, "Even if Takeda wasn't on his level, anything can happen once a fight starts."

Yes, Takeda would only ever attack with his fists, but there was more to his fighting style than just that. The way Takeda had been training since his arm had been restored to working ability wasn't for sport. It was for real-world application. As he was, Naruto wouldn't have been keen on having to fight him again. Also, things could transpire that even the best-laid plans couldn't prepare for. Bouts weren't always decided merely by who was stronger.

"I think you guys would have gotten this point by now, given how many of you we've whooped on," Naruto added with a grin, "Even our friends beat up one or two of you."

Chikage thought nothing about the defeats of her comrades. It seemed to be a theme in YOMI that none of them particularly liked each other very much, "They were all unprepared and overconfident. When I take my turn," She stopped and seemed to take a moment to think, "…Actually, Kokin never got to give his challenge to Shirahama, did he?"

Naruto's eyes went wide as Chikage started heading back off in the direction of Naruto's classroom. That was the last thing they needed today, "Whoa. Nope. You can't just-," He protested, reaching out to grab for her.

The moment Naruto lifted Chikage up by the back of her uniform, her eyes went robotically cold. From a position that Naruto had believed had no center of gravity for her to use, she twisted herself and found a way to throw him over her shoulder.

It was alarming. How? She had no base. She had nothing to use as an anchor to set herself for the throw, and yet before he knew it he found himself head-over-heels, flying at the wall. Following the momentum, Naruto landed with the soles of his feet against the elevated surface, though his knees groaned at the stress of bracing for the landing.

They would have to endure it. Better than his head or neck hitting instead.

For a moment, Naruto stuck there, staring at the ground before turning his head up at Chikage with a simmering anger. He took a deep, calming breath; in, then out, "...I'm gonna let that one slide, because I grabbed you first, and I really don't want to fight in school," He casually stepped down off of the wall and brushed off his uniform where he'd been grabbed, "I was going to say, you can't just march into the middle of class while the teacher is talking and call Kenichi out for a fight."

He specified Kenichi, since Chikage apparently had no interest in taking him on instead. That was fine. Naruto had a slew of weapon disciples he had yet to take to the woodshed. He didn't really need to tack on more.

…But if she wound up coming at him, he'd respond accordingly. After all, as much as he didn't want to exchange blows with a kid, he wasn't a fan of getting thrown.

The two stared each other down until Chikage walked away, going the opposite direction from Naruto, Kenichi, and Miu's classroom, so that was a small victory. Once she had left, Naruto looked back at the wall he'd been thrown at. His footprints had been driven into the surface from the force of Chikage's throw.

Naruto blew air out of the side of his mouth in exasperation before walking away, no doubt to be scolded for missing the start of the next class, "Prodigies, man. I swear."


(Later That Day – James Shiba's Shack/Gym)

Knowing what was coming in a matter of two weeks, Takeda needed to hit the ground running with his training. It was why he was pleased when Naruto, Kenichi, and Miu made their way to his master's home to help him.

By 'help him', Naruto and Miu sat off to the side outside of the ring, while Kenichi got in with Takeda, who stood in boxing shorts, happily punching his gloved hands together in anticipation, "I appreciate you all coming out here. Kenichi-kun, don't go easy on me. Naruto-kun, Honey, you two keep a good eye out for where you see problems."

Naruto gave a thumbs up, and Miu smiled at the tanned pugilist, "Of course, Takeda-san. You can count on us," She said.

Because they had gone there straight from school, Kenichi didn't have his training gear and had to borrow a pair of trunks and gloves from Takeda. He looked like a fish out of water in equipment that he wasn't used to wearing, "...What am I supposed to do?"

Naruto raised an eyebrow from where he and Miu sat, observing the spar, "Give him a look. Just Muay Thai, none of your other styles. Show him the kind of stuff he'll be dealing with when he fights Kokin," That had been the whole plan since school.

"That's right," Miu backed Naruto up in agreement, "Even if Kokin was taught in a different way than you, the fundamentals of Muay Thai are still there. It'll let us all see what Takeda-san needs to look out for and needs to work on."

Takeda bounced on his toes, waiting for Kenichi to square up so they could begin, "Don't look so confused, Kenichi-kun. This is how boxers train all the time; find a fighter that can best simulate what they expect to face, and come up with ways to deal with it."

It made sense to Kenichi. If they had that kind of capability handy, it was foolish not to use it, "And your master is okay with all of us being here on what's supposed to be your training time?"

Instead of an answer from Takeda, a loud, boisterous voice sounded out from the entrance to the gym, "Okay with it? Hell, I encourage it!" Everyone turned to see Takeda's master, James Shiba, leaning against the door frame, lit cigarette hanging from his mouth, "This idiot wants to fight Yami's disciples? Well, he needs to get in and mix it up with the best to make sure he's ready. Even if you are from that damned Ryouzanpaku, you have to know what you're doing to make it this far."

Naruto neglected to mention that the last time Shiba had trusted Takeda with something involving him, the two of them and Freya almost got killed. Of course, knowing how a lot of the masters he met thought, he probably enjoyed that fact and saw it as a learning experience for his disciple.

Tired of waiting, Takeda demanded action, "Alright, let's get to it. Honey, if you wouldn't mind ringing the bell?"

Miu did as requested, and Takeda began nimbly moving around the ring. Kenichi followed suit, though it was clear that he wasn't as comfortable as Takeda trying to manage space in the confined area of the ring. It was hard to watch, and eventually someone had to say something.

"Go to the middle, Kenichi!" Naruto shouted out, "For fuck's sake, he's trying not to corner you in the first thirty seconds. You're making it too easy!"

Takeda couldn't help but smile at the advice, "I didn't want to say it myself, but he's right, you know."

Kenichi's face went red in embarrassment, "I don't fight in rings! How do you know how to fight in a ring?" He asked Naruto.

Naruto shrugged, "...I watch pro wrestling, 'ttebayo," He gestured with his hand for Kenichi to change position, "Middle of the ring, move around from there."

Kenichi did as requested, and Takeda took the invitation to begin moving around Kenichi, almost faster than he could keep up with. Still, he was able to avoid Takeda getting into a blind spot, avoiding jabs and straights meant to exploit the discrepancy in speed.

Naruto was impressed. Despite the relatively confined space of the ring, Takeda knew how to make use of every inch in order to stay a step ahead, "Whoa. Takeda is faster than I remember."

Miu nodded, her blue eyes locked squarely on the spar at-hand, "He's even faster than he was during the D of D Tournament."

Kenichi was no slouch speed-wise, but Naruto was used to Kenichi's physical abilities. He trained with him and sparred with him constantly. To see it out of Takeda was new and intriguing. That being, said, Kenichi's own abilities, and the way he used the Seikuuken to manage Takeda's punches kept him safe.

"Haha, not bad!" Takeda exclaimed, "But I've got a little something for your defenses."

Kenichi grit his teeth and focused on keeping up with Takeda's nonstop attack. He was extremely aggressive, and it wasn't just because he held the advantage of the environment they were in.

Takeda threw an uppercut with speed reminiscent of his quick straight punches. Kenichi was able to deflect the blow with one of his arms, only to feel the impact of a punch underneath his chin regardless, 'What?'

Takeda fooled Kenichi into thinking one uppercut was coming, fully intent on throwing a second immediately after, whether the first landed or not. But his body language hadn't betrayed that this was coming. When a combination of any sort was coming, the body gave off tells that allowed savvy fighters to prepare for a barrage instead of one attack.

Kenichi stumbled back, and Takeda dashed in to go for the kill. Before he could land a decisive punch to Kenichi's chin, the mixed martial artist avoided it at the last possible second, feeling the material of Takeda's boxing glove graze his skin.

'Nice,' Takeda thought to himself before a piercing pain hit him in the left leg, causing him to stumble.

Kenichi had taken the opening to kick Takeda's lead leg, breaking his footing and attacking his base. It gave Kenichi the chance he needed to attempt something more devastating, a quick swinging elbow, aimed diagonally downward.

Takeda leaned out of the way of the heaviest part, but the soft headgear he wore was split open, 'Jeez! That would have cut me to the bone!' He winced as another low kick from Kenichi impacted off of his lead leg, 'Damn it!'

On the sidelines, Naruto and Miu had been watching the spar closely, and just how the tide had turned. Once Kenichi started attacking an area where Takeda couldn't protect with his arms, the momentum shifted, "That's going be the hardest thing Takeda-kun has to deal with," Miu pointed out.

"The low kicks?" Naruto observed, seeing how much trouble the technique was causing. Every time Kenichi's shin smashed off of one of Takeda's legs, he could see the boxer wince, "Yeah, I can see it. He can't answer."

Every time one landed, Takeda tried to lash out and make Kenichi pay with a jab or a straight, but he couldn't quite reach him. He'd get a little tap at best because of the size of the gloves they wore, but nothing solid enough to make Kenichi think twice about doing it.

Miu nodded and continued to speak, "Kenichi-kun is shorter than Takeda-kun, and he's still making it work for him," Kokin was taller. Just as tall as Takeda. His legs were longer than Kenichi's, which would only make things worse. Takeda wouldn't be able to even graze him in response, "If Takeda-kun can't come up with a way to neutralize this, Kokin will tear his legs apart."

If Takeda took enough kicks to the legs from an expert in the practice, he would be hobbled. It was as simple as that. Just because he would only throw punches didn't mean his legs didn't matter. A boxer that couldn't use his footwork to move to get himself out of danger was a sitting duck. Even Naruto and Miu knew that, and they didn't even practice the fighting style.

Naruto looked over at Shiba and saw him scrutinizing the fight closely. From his other previous interaction with the boisterous man, he expected him to be yelling at Takeda, trying to get him to fight better, to go for the win. Instead, he was silent. He hadn't so much as blinked since things had gotten underway.

Getting frustrated over Kenichi's penchant for blasting his legs with low kicks whenever he entered or disengaged, Takeda overextended on a punch. Kenichi immediately seized the opportunity presented to him, jumping in with a flying knee to the head, "Gemon Tepii!"

Takeda's head snapped back on impact and he stumbled back to his corner, catching himself there. The turnbuckle pad and the ropes were the only thing that kept him from falling to the ground, and Kenichi had pulled the blow – it hadn't been as hard as he could have thrown it.

Kenichi held back, allowing Takeda the chance to recover. From the corner, the boxer tried to shake off the cobwebs and steady his vision on the opponent in front of him. He scowled at being left so vulnerable, "Again. What else you got?"

At that point, Shiba climbed over the ropes and jumped into the ring, standing between his pupil and Kenichi, "I don't think we need to see what else he's got, since you can't get past this."

Takeda's confidence visibly left him upon being dressed down by the man who taught him, "M-Master, I-."

"That low kick is a basic. It's a fundamental Muay Thai technique," Shiba continued bluntly. There was no need to mince words when the life of his student was on the line, "If you're fighting a YOMI disciple, he'll see faster than this kid that you don't know how to handle it. And as you felt, once you start falling prey to that, it opens you up for the nastier stuff."

If Kokin landed a knee to the head and it didn't kill him on impact, he wouldn't be allowed to slump in a corner until he could recover and keep fighting. Kokin would beat him until there was nothing left.

In the aftermath, the four disciples sat down and went over the spar and things that Takeda needed to keep in mind after first going in with a cursory view of Muay Thai – what he knew from seeing Kenichi blend it with his other styles.

Kenichi tried to break down the method of attacks that Takeda saw, "Because the style of most harder kicks in Muay Thai are sweeping ones instead of straight ones, Kokin definitely won't throw one unless he knows it'll land. But that just means that if he throws one, it'll definitely land."

Takeda didn't like the sound of having to play it safe for fear of getting his legs permanently damaged, "Can't you teach me how to block them?"

Kenichi raised an eyebrow and thought back to the way Takeda carried himself in combat, "You mean check the kick? Not with your stance. You'd have to change the way you stand and move, and having to switch back and forth to protect your legs would just get you killed somewhere else."

Takeda shook his head fitfully. That wouldn't work. Aside from the fact that he would have to learn a fast-food version of Muay Thai basics just to do it, he wanted to win with Boxing, "No, we're not doing that. There has to be some other way. We don't have time for anyone to teach me something completely new from scratch... and I want to do this my way anyway."

"We have to talk to Apachai-san," Miu said, before sparing a word of advice to Takeda, "...But be careful if you train with him. He might kill you if you're not careful," A shiver went down Kenichi's spine at the reminder.

Takeda didn't react much to the possible threat to his life. The throbbing in his head and his left leg were front and center in his mind, "It doesn't matter. If I don't learn how to handle Muay Thai, Kokin will kill me anyway."


(Onboard a Military Submarine – Undisclosed Location)

Many of the masters in Yami disliked each other. They were a gathering of the absolute strongest, which naturally led to enmity between them. But out of the ten of them, the one who was usually most reviled was Silcardo Jenazad, the Demon God Fist.

It was this man who saw fit to request a meeting with the Fist of Destruction, fellow Yami contemporary, Alexander Gaidar.

Gaidar was a tall, muscular man with long, wavy, light-colored hair down to his shoulders, with strangely colored dark eyes. He wore a white painter's shirt, unbuttoned at the chest to reveal a cross necklace.

He was in the midst of sculpting when Jenazad arrived and ignored the dangerous martial arts master's presence until he chose to announce himself, "Keeping busy, I see."

"We all have our interests," Gaidar replied evenly, keeping a cool demeanor despite the visage of Jenazad's demon mask facing him down, "But you didn't come here to comment on my art. What do you need from me?"

"I need a favor, Alexander," Jenazad said, "It seems that a member of the royal family in Tidat has a problem with the way things are going there. I need her taken care of."

Gaidar stopped sculpting and placed his tools to the side, eyeing Jenazad curiously, "Why don't you do it yourself then?"

If this man wanted one person in particular dead, he could do it – least of all if it was a mere child.

Other than the fact that he didn't feel like sullying his hands on such a weak little girl? Jenazad had his own reasons, "My people respect power," He said, "Doing it this way would anger them more, especially if they learn that I requested it."

Gaidar initially failed to understand why a would-be despot wanted his people angry, "I don't see how that puts you in a better position of power in Tidat," He said aloud before his own words gave him the answer he sought, "...You don't care about being in a better position."

He wanted them angry. He wanted them divided. He wanted them to fight.

Jenazad held out a hand and clenched a fist, "My country will grow fat and weak in times of peace. And I refuse to wait for the Eternal Setting Sun. I want my own little piece of survival of the fittest. Now."

Even if it ended up plunging Tidat in a civil war, it didn't matter to Jenazad. The more people fighting, dying, and killing each other, the more only the strong would rise to the top. He was a god. Tidat and fighting were his domains. He would rule over them as he saw fit, and the weakling royal family would either adapt or be culled.

Well, their daughter would be removed from the picture either way.

A mission was a mission for a soldier, and for a colonel on Gaidar's level, all that mattered were the results. Namely, what the outcome for a good result would be, "What do I get in exchange for this?"

Jenazad chuckled. He had not come empty-handed hoping that their Yami ties would be enough to sput Gaidar into action, "I'm aware your government is beginning to look into a number of crimes you may or may not have been involved in with your soldiers," He said, "I will square away prime land for you to build a secret base in Tidat. I'm sure you can find a use for it."

It was a sweet offer. Busybodies in Russia were beginning to try and look into things that could lead to Yami, and Gaidar's potential connection with them. The day might come when he would need a way out.

"I'll need details for the mission," Gaidar eventually said, agreeing as he returned to chiseling his sculpture.

The sinister grin at the mouth area of Jenazad's demon mask would have unnerved a lesser master, "You'll have everything you need. Thank you, my friend."

Gaidar's chisel sank into the stone he was using, turning the entire work to rubble, "We are not friends, Demon God Fist," He said, perturbed.

All the while, Jenazad never stopped smiling, "I know."

With that, he proceeded to walk out of the room, Gaidar's soldiers escorting him off of the submarine.

As much as Gaidar didn't trust Jenazad, and as much as he loathed the man, there was plenty to gain. The investigation against him and Yami in Russia was slow-going, and whenever a particularly cheeky politician popped their head up to take things further, he was able to shut them up, but having a contingency plan never hurt.

A secret base, out of easy reach of his nation, in a war-torn country too preoccupied with fighting itself to notice a bunch of armed strangers hanging around seemed like just the ticket.

He endeavored to give Boris a call. Hopefully spending all of that time at Japanese high school didn't dull his most loyal soldier's killer instinct.


In response to his actions in killing armed YOMI member Kawakami Aoi without provocation, Kanou Shou was locked away by his masters until they could smooth the situation over with their armed division counterparts.

Isolation. What a joke.

Shou hated being walled in – imprisoned. He knew that all of his masters were privy to that about him. They had all signed off on it.

Even Hongo. His first master, the one he trusted the most. Even he stood by while Shou was put into a place where he couldn't fly. All he could do was exercise on his own. No training and learning to perfect his craft. No tending to his hobbies. Nothing to do but stew with his own thoughts. He didn't even sit up when he heard the door to his room (cell) open.

"What did I do that was so wrong?" He asked, without even checking to see who had come to see him.

Ogata crossed his arms over his chest, a smirk on his face as he looked down at his pupil. He was one of the One Shadow, Nine Fists who liked Shou and believed he was a worthy successor to all of their styles, "You killed someone who was on our side, and now we have to go out of our way to make amends. But don't worry about that. It's in the process of being handled."

Shou sat up on his bed, slamming his feet on the floor harshly, "They were in the way. What's the point of being strong if you can't do what you want with that power?" He asked, beseeching perhaps the most understanding of his masters for an answer, "Isn't that what Yami is fighting for in the first place?"

"Not quite," The white-haired man replied, "Yami is fighting for a world where the skills of martial artists won't rot away in times of peace."

"I don't see the difference," Shou grumbled. Martial arts were for lots of different things, but it was almost indisputable that one of those things happened to be for getting what you wanted. It was just that what people wanted from their martial arts tended to vary.

"No, I suppose you wouldn't," Ogata chuckled, "…You're on thin ice, Shou. You already know some of your masters disapprove of you being the Sole Disciple," He could feel the anger rise in Shou at the reminder, "From what you know happened to Jihan, you should know that getting rid of people is no issue."

Shou knew that. He had been on the chopping block at one point in time years ago when he had been younger as well. But this was different, "They don't have anyone better," He was leagues above Jihan in talent and potential, "There is no one better."

He dared any of the disciples in YOMI or anywhere else to try and prove otherwise. He wasn't the second choice. He was the best choice possible. If you could build a martial artist from the ground up, the raw materials you would want would be Kanou Shou.


(Later That Day – Ninja House)

Sakura studied the progress of Tenten's recovery with a smile. What had once been a hole in her shoulder was in the process of closing up beautifully. There would probably hardly even be a mark to remind her that it had been there, "So you have been taking it easy. You martial artists never listen when a doctor tells you something," She said, sounding pleasantly surprised, "Give it another three days. You should be alright to start training again, so long as you don't go overboard."

Tenten let out a sigh of relief as Sakura started to re-bandage her wound, "Thank goodness. I was starting to go stir-crazy just sitting around watching everyone else train."

Sakura rolled her eyes, but continued to smile. She knew her master Tsunade wasn't particularly happy to deal with the crew of ninjas being trained by her old friend, but she liked them. They were a cheerful sort, and were good patients. Good, as in they weren't troublesome while they were being treated. They didn't complain about pain or discomfort during procedures, or doubt diagnosis.

Aside from that, they were nice. Tenten was her kind of girl, and Naruto was chatty, but friendly. Shikamaru was more reserved, but never rude or dismissive. And, these sorts were her age. Being a medical apprentice didn't leave her a lot of time to spend with other teenagers. Honestly, the train ride from Tokyo wasn't that much of an issue, and heading out to a smaller town was refreshing compared to having to navigate the metropolitan mess of the capital.

"Do you have to go back to Tokyo after this?" Tenten asked out of the blue while Sakura was caught up in her own thoughts.

She quickly turned to where the markswoman kunoichi was busy putting on a shirt to cover herself, "Huh?" Sakura reacted in surprise, "Uh, no. Tsunade-shishou refused to come herself, because Jiraiya-san is here."

Jiraiya smirked at that, and let out a laugh, "Hah! Whatever! She knows she loves me."

Sakura ignored his interjection and carried on, "-So, she instructed me to check on you myself after school. She didn't expect me back in time to get any training or clinic-work done tonight, so she cleared me for the evening after this."

"Wanna hang out?" Tenten suddenly offered, brown eyes alight with hope.

Sakura responded before her brain properly caught up, "Yes! I mean, why with me?" She quickly added, "We don't know each other that well."

Tenten gestured to the room around them where Jiraiya was typing away at a draft of his next novel and Shikamaru was napping on a couch, "You know who I live with. And the clubhouse where my other female friends gather is being rebuilt right now."

In other words, there were no girls for Tenten to spend any time with, and since she couldn't train, she had nothing else to do. But Sakura had heard of worse reasons to do anything, and she was starving for some time with others.

"I can stay the night and head back in the morning for school... if that's okay with you, Jiraiya-san," Sakura asked with a hopeful glance at the veteran shinobi.

Jiraiya put on a massive smile at the thought of a new cute young lady sleeping over, "Of course it is!"

Tenten rolled her eyes at Jiraiya's exuberant response to Sakura, "He's not the head of the house. This is Naruto's place. He just freeloads here," She informed Sakura.

Jiraiya's grin turned to an offended scowl, "Hey, I pay my share by training you brats and getting you work. Besides, you all freeload here. Naruto's the one who pays for everything."

"-So, it really should be Naruto's call. But he'll say yes. I know it," Tenten said, grasping Sakura's hands in a moment of commiseration, "Where is Naruto anyway? Is he still training at Ryouzanpaku? It's after 8."

Shikamaru cracked open an eye to glance at the clock, "He might have stayed over there for dinner, or hung out with Freya at 'Go Ramen'."

"'Atta boy," Jiraiya interjected in regards to Naruto possibly spending time with the sexy staff girl, "You all know the drill. 30-minute grace period after curfew with no call. He's still got..." He stopped to check the same clock Shikamaru did, "-10 minutes until 8:30. Then I bust his ass during late night training."


Everyone's head turned to the front door at the sound of the rarely used doorbell. Guests hardly ever stopped by.

"Is that him?" Sakura asked.

"This is his house," Shikamaru pointed out, "Why would he ring the bell?"

Jiraiya grunted to himself before issuing an order, "Shikamaru, go get the door."

"What? Why me?"

"Because I'm not getting up, and Tenten's still hurt."

Tenten grinned at Shikamaru smugly as the lazier genin got up, grumbling to himself, shuffling his way to the front door, "If this kills me, you jerks stay away from my funeral," If someone punched a hole through him and the door itself when they felt him on the other side, it would have been just his luck.

In fact, no one punched through the door, or so much as attacked at all. Standing outside was a young woman Shikamaru's age, dressed from head-to-toe in a hooded cloak. Next to her was a tiny girl in a similar cloak that was at least four times too big for her, "I've been looking for someone. Does the name Jiraiya mean anything to you?"

Shikamaru let his guard down a tad. While his danger senses weren't tingling, his trouble senses were. Whoever this was, and whatever they needed, he wanted no part of it, "Uh, Jiraiya?"

He doubled down on his mindset when he saw the older girl's eyes light up at hearing Jiraiya's name, "So, Jiraiya is here. I need to speak with him, please."

At this point, Jiraiya nudged Shikamaru aside. The way he towered in the doorway had both of the would-be guests staring up at him with wide eyes, "You know my name," Jiraiya said, his voice deep and grave, "That's not something you just get off of the street. Why are you here?"

To Shikamaru's surprise, the girl got on the ground and bowed to Jiraiya, "My apologies for intruding, but I need your help. My country is in the hands of a madman. I'll give you anything if you can remove him from power."

"Don't bow to me. I don't train you or rule you," Jiraiya demanded, waiting for her to do as he asked before continuing, "You want me to assassinate someone. Do you know what you're asking of me, girl? Do you really think you know what it means?"

"Silcardo Jenazad."

The name resonated with Jiraiya. It took a moment, but after adjusting, he let out a loud laugh, "And you want me to kill the Demon God Fist to boot."

The girl looked up at Jiraiya with intense violet eyes, "That monster killed my brother and threw my entire nation into turmoil. He wants a civil war! Countless people will die, all because of his bloodlust," She clasped her hands together as though she were praying, "Name your price, Jiraiya-sama. No cost is too great."

Jiraiya gave her a long, hard look. Jenazad was from Tidat, and that country was a long way from Japan. Also, she had gone through the painstaking effort of finding him, which while it would have been next to impossible had he still been a hermit, was still wildly difficult.

Eventually, he decided to hear her out, "...Come in. This isn't the sort of thing you discuss outside on the stoop," He stepped aside and gestured for the foreign pair to enter.

"Should I even be here for this?" Sakura asked as everyone took a seat and got comfortable, "I'm just a doctor's apprentice. You guys are the ninjas."

"I don't know. You going to Tidat anytime soon?" Shikamaru asked rhetorically, "If not, I think you're good to stay."

Jiraiya was quick to get down to business. A contract needed to be established, "Alright, so let's work out just what it is you want. You want me to kill the Demon God Fist. Anything else?"

The girl seemed taken aback by Jiraiya's cavalier attitude to what was an imposing task, "You... aren't intimidated?"

Jiraiya gave her a look as if to ask if she were serious, "If you thought bringing up his name would be enough to rattle me, why did you even come looking for me?" He asked, 'Come to think of it, how does she even know of me?'

He hadn't been exaggerating when he said that his name wasn't just something that one picked up from anywhere. While his name wasn't as hush-hush as Konohagakure itself, one had to be very plugged into a very narrow amount of avenues to even come across him in passing.

The girl was clearly someone of note. The way she spoke, moved, and deferred respectfully said as much. He wasn't the only one who could tell. From looking at Shikamaru, he could tell the boy noticed it too.

"I honestly don't mean to insult you," The girl said, lowering her head in a slight bow again, "It's just that as much as I want to see Jenazad removed, I would never send anyone into this without full disclosure."

"A client that isn't hiding things before making an arrangement?" Jiraiya said as though this were a novel concept, "Refreshing, to say the least."

"Does that mean you'll consider my request?"

Jiraiya opened his mouth to answer when everyone heard the front door click open, "I'm home," Naruto called out. He could be heard taking his shoes off before heading any farther inside, "Sorry, I'm late. I was helping Takeda out for a while. Man, I've got some stuff to tell you guys."

The moment he rounded the corner from the foyer and entered the living room, he stopped cautiously at the sight of the cloaked newcomers. His caution was warranted, as one of them sprang into action at the sight of him, "You!? Uzumaki Naruto!?"

Before Naruto could ask how this person knew him, her cloak was off and thrown into his face. By the time he swatted it aside, the girl had pulled a dagger from her hip and was upon him, stabbing at him overhanded.

Surprised, Naruto sidestepped and aimed a quick jab at her wrist, getting her to drop the weapon with a yelp. In one motion, he used his foot to slide the blade away from his attacker and shoulder-check her hard, sending her tumbling over the side of the couch she'd been on.

Once she hit the ground after her fall, Naruto shot his toes under the heavy piece of furniture and kicked his leg up, flipping the entire thing on top of her, pinning her down underneath it.

The little girl that the older one had brought with her went to draw her own dagger in defense of her mistress, only for near invisible wire to snake itself around her wrists, drawing them together. She hadn't noticed Shikamaru move to the other side of the room, past her, once the disturbance had started, "I knew this was going to be troublesome."

The older girl tried to push the couch up and crawl out from underneath it, but a kunai spiking into the floor right in front of her face got her to pause and look up, where she was met with the icy cold stare of Tenten.

No one attacked one of her friends in front of her. Definitely not in his own house. Even with one arm available to the markswoman, as their 'guest' was trapped, taking her out with nothing more than the flick of a wrist would be effortless.

The entire scene had taken less than fifteen seconds, leaving a very confused Naruto standing on top of the overturned couch, crouching down to look at the pretty girl on the ground who'd tried to stab him on sight, "...I have lots of questions."

"So do we," Tenten agreed before turning to Jiraiya accusingly, "Starting with, why didn't you do anything?"

Jiraiya shrugged and gestured to Naruto, "Eh, he had it," The three ninja kids simply let out tired groans in response, "Besides, the way she went at him just like that. He must have done something to get on her bad side."

Naruto threw his hands into the air in exasperation, "Oh, come on! What did I do this time?" To the best of his knowledge, he didn't even know this person.

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, still holding a grasp on the little girl attendant that she couldn't hope to break without her dagger, "Why do you think you did anything?"

Naruto thought that much was obvious, "Because she came to my house, and tried to kill me."

Tenten chuckled, tossing a kunai in her good hand, "Well, she didn't come here to try to kill you. She came to hire Jiraiya-sensei to kill someone."

"Is that someone me?"

"No, but it would have been the damndest thing if it was, though," Jiraiya remarked, walking over to stoop down by the girl under the couch, "Alright, little lady, what did Naruto do to you?"

Without the cloak, they could all better see her features. She had long wavy black hair in a ponytail, and dark tan skin with a nice figure. She wore a revealing white exotic outfit that exposed her backside and some of her lower back along with some of her legs, sleeve guards, sheathes for knives on her hips, and a cape over her shoulders. Around her forehead was a decorative headband encrusted in jewels and precious metals.

She tried to turn over enough to glare up at Naruto, "He killed my brother!"

Naruto's mouth fell open in shock, before he regained his composure and snapped back, "No, the fuck I didn't! As far as I know, I only for sure killed one person, and if your brother's name isn't Hyuuga Neji, it ain't him!" At that, he calmed down and tried to think through his laundry list of enemies, "...Who is your brother, and while we're on the subject, who are you?"

The girl took a calming breath and tried to carry herself with as much grace as her current circumstances would allow, "My name is Raden Tidat Lona, and my brother is Raden Tidat Jihan, formerly the Crown Prince of Tidat."

Naruto's expression shifted in realization. The king guy he beat up at the cultural festival. It had been a while since he'd fought him, "Ohhhhhh… that explains a lot. But I definitely didn't kill that guy. Not even close."

Gave him a royal beating? Yes. Killed him? Absolutely not.

"No, I suppose not. It's just that you defeating Jihan..." Lona trailed off, realizing she was making excuses. And here, she had come looking for help. With a deep sigh, she remembered her manners, "No. I apologize, Uzumaki Naruto-san."

And that was all it took to get Naruto to ease off of her, "Okay. I'm gonna take the couch off of you now," He said, tentatively, "Are you gonna try to kill me again?"


"You promise?"

"I promise."

Naruto hefted the large couch off of the ground and flipped it in the air, setting it back to its proper position. That being done, Shikamaru let his smaller captive go. She immediately bowed in front of Lona, "I'm sorry milady. I was no help here."

Lona rose to her feet and smiled apologetically at her charge, "It's alright, Sham. I behaved in a way that was unbecoming of someone asking for help," She turned to Naruto, "Again. I am sorry about that. It isn't your fault the Demon God Fist disposed of my brother after his loss," It had been in a fight where Jihan would have killed Naruto if he'd won, after all.

Naruto awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck, refusing to make eye contact. Beating up her brother had gotten the guy killed. Talk about consequences, "Wow."

Lona reacted curiously, "Hm? What is it?"

"It's just..." Naruto seemed to be reaching for any kind of words to lighten the mood, "I mean, this makes me two-for-two in beating up royalty. That's kind of cool."

An uncomfortable silence filled the room, broken only by Tenten slapping a palm to her head, and Shikamaru muttering 'idiot'.

Sakura had watched the entire thing from Tenten's side and finally responded, "I'm just glad I didn't have to work on anyone else today. I can still stay over, right?"

After all, there was a real-life princess in the house. There was no way she was just going to go home with something that interesting right in front of her!

It's on. Boxing vs. Muay Thai. Takeda has challenged a bonafide killer in Kokin, but does he really know what he's gotten himself into? We shall see.

Also, more royalty has come, but not for a fight, for help. Can the sensei of the ninja crew do as Tidat's princess requested, and kill the legendary master trying to turn her country into a violent cesspool?

And... other stuff! Next time! Kind of short, but writing more would have gone way too long before I found a decent stopping point. I have a feeling things might get a touch chaotic next chapter.

Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed.

Kenchi out.