Chapter Three:

"The food... Really is... Good here." Naruto said to Ryuuzetsu while slurping up a bowl of ramen that he had gotten for breakfast.

Ryuuzetsu shook her head at the blond, "How can you possibly even eat ramen for breakfast Naruto-san?" She herself was eating eggs and a rice ball.

"Because it's the food of the gods!" Naruto exclaimed when he swallowed the last bit of his ramen.

Ryuuzetsu rolled her eyes, checking the room in the process for anyone listening in on their conversation from the corner of the room during the process, "I have an idea about the seal and just how much chakra activates it." She discreetly checked the room again before continuing. "I believe it's due to the amount of chakra the person has and then a small percentage of that can be used before the seal does activate. So in your case, you can use around Mid-Chuunin chakra reserves before the seal activates and I can use around Low-Genin chakra levels before the seal activates."

She sighed at the low amounts of chakra she would be able to use. It was barely enough to wall-walk for seven minutes straight so any assassination attempt against Mui would have to be quick and precise without dragging the fight on.

Yet before she could continue any further, they both heard a voice lowly call out to them from behind the closest pillar, "If you're planning to take on Mui I want in." Maroi walked to the tensing duo but before they could attempt something irrational he quickly added in the same low voice as before, "I'm here to uncover any information about the Box from Kumo. I just recently got a message from Bee-san to help you out as best as I can Naruto." At that, Naruto's resistance quickly waned as he remembered the man he nicknamed 'Octopops'. But Ryuuzetsu's resistance still stood strong.

"How do we know you aren't a lackey of Mui?" She asked. Maroi noted the warning tone in her voice and moved to mollify her worry.

"If I was, I couldn't given a very accurate description of Naruto's current skill set to Mui if I so wanted, but I haven't." Maroi smiled at Ryuuzetsu's studying and wary gaze before adding, "Besides, I'll willingly give all of my information of the inner-chambers of Houzukijou that no members of The Flower can reach without being discovered along with the patrol routes and various other goodies about them. It helps to have managed to worm my way up the totem pole here and get into Mui's good graces."

Ryuuzetsu was still somewhat hesitant at that point for someone to just walk up and offer their assistance, even if they were requested to help through a trusted third party. Naruto on the other hand, was glad for the help and assistance, especially if Bee contacted him to help Naruto. "That's more than what we could get by ourselves Ryuuzetsu. Besides, if he's willing to help us then it could make our job easier if he really was asked by Bee." He tried convincing Ryuuzetsu who nearly caved in with Naruto's suggestion.

"Besides," Maroi pulled out his Kumo hitai-ate with a cloud after checking to make sure no one was looking from the inside his jacket's inner lining to show Ryuuzetsu and Naruto as every prisoner's Hitai-ate was confiscated when they arrived and replaced with one with no visible markings to show any affiliation to their village, "Does this prove my claim?"

At that, Ryuuzetsu finally agreed yet still had some reservations about working with a person who had worked with Mui. "Fine. But if you cross us I will personally show you why I was chosen for this mission." Maroi nodded in agreement but couldn't blame her in the least bit for some of her distrust. He did, after all, 'work' for Mui in a sense of the word.

For the next forty minutes Maroi began reciting some of the information that he promised to give but did not give them all as it would take far too long in that case and someone would get suspicious if they were talking for hours on end when they had never even talked with each other much beforehand. When he stated that he wasn't going to give all of the information in one setting because of two reasons:

It wouldn't be wise to be seen talking for hours on end, secluded away from the rest of the prisoners as it could be interpreted easily enough. And two, it was too much information to be passed on in one setting as they would have to memorize it and forgetting a vital piece of information could be deadly in their mission. So in response to that, they planned to space out their meetings in the courtyard to around half an hour maximum every day with Maroi meeting them in their individual cells at night, alternating to each one every night to impart more of his knowledge for another hour.

He never did expect their thirst for the knowledge to be so great though.

XXX-XXX

One Week Later

As the week progressed, both Naruto and Ryuuzetsu memorized as much of Houzukijou as they possibly could at a rate that Maroi was left nearly sleep deprived and paranoid of guards approaching as they literally had him running between both cells after two hours of teaching each of them separately. It was honestly a crack-up to both Naruto and to Ryuuzetsu in a way when he jumped the moment he heard someone walking by the cell or even talking near them.

From what Maroi had told them, they knew about the guards' limitations which were surprisingly low for what Houzukijou held within its claws. They were only around a Chuunin's skill in Taijutsu at the most with absolutely no skill in Nin or Genjutsu but had decent skill in using the weapons they were issued. They also learned about the various squads and individual guard routes, the secret passages that Maroi had uncovered or been told about, what he knew of the Box from what Mui had told him and of Mui's office and private chambers. Another important facet of the Prison they had learned was that the guard towers and battlements were armed at all times with guard switches every two hours, being that the new guard relieves the old one with a spoken code replied to each other as a line of defense of sorts against intruders.

As the week had progressed when they weren't memorizing what they could of the Prison, which was a good majority of the daytime, both Naruto and Ryuuzetsu grew closer along with Maroi - when he wasn't in a paranoid mode that is. They joked, laughed and otherwise put on an amazing front that fooled the prisoners and guards alike that they became close friend, which in all actuality, they had.

From all the information they had, they all felt extremely confident that they would be prepared should any unexpected wrenches to be thrown into their plans and have to improvise on the spot. After all, why wouldn't they understand every inch of Houzukijou as it could very well be used as a weapon when they were handicapped as far as they were?

XXX-XXX

"Wait, so you mean that you literally painted the Hokage Monument, the landmark in Konoha that everyone in the Elemental Continues knows, in broad daylight and only your Academy Teacher caught you?" Ryuuzetsu asked in shock. How can one Genin, no, Genin-Hopeful manage to paint a mountain without someone noticing in the first place?!

"Mm-hmm!" Naruto grinned at Ryuuzetsu as they slowly walked around the Prison Courtyard. Naruto had eventually gotten to a comfortable level with Ryuuzetsu to even talk to her about his exploits in Konoha, provided it was never about his incarceration as the very thought of the topic sent him on an unwanted reminder of that night . Of the distrust that one of the closest people to him that he even considered a grandmother, an older sister and even a mother at times.

No – he did not want to remember that night, nor ever think or hear about it again.

"How did the Anbu never catch you?" She incredulously asked, "In Kusa, if any important landmark was defaced, the person who did it would be thrown into prison depending on the damage and forced to pay for the repairs!" Naruto blinked his eyes like an owl as he imagined himself at Kusa...

Yeah, like hell he'd be able live there!

The talk between the two slowly subsided to an amiable silence as they slowly walked around the courtyard. During the silence, Naruto's thoughts began to wander and eventually wrap around the woman known as Ryuuzetsu. He often wondered about her, what caused her to detest Mui so much along with the mystery engulfed that event. But he never asked as he thought it would be considered rude. Not that he wasn't rude himself -which he was at times- but due to the reason that he didn't want to offend the closest person he considers a good friend in the desolate Prison that was known as Houzukijou. But occasionally one of his odd – and quite annoying – quirks that were associated with all Shinobi and Kunoichi would rear its head.

"Ryuuzetsu, why do you hate that teme, Mui, so much?" Yeah. Sometimes, he really hated that quirk.

She turned and appraised him with emotionally detached violet eyes for several minutes. Naruto began fidgeting uncomfortably, internally panicking that he offended her greatly but before he could move to fix his mistake she sighed and cut him off unintentionally. "For reasons that involve Mui and the death of a very close friend." She curtly stated before striding ahead.

Naruto cursed inwardly at the sound of her voice and hurried to catch up to her with the intent to fix his mistake, "I'm sorry for asking Ryuuzetsu. It slipped when I was thinking about how you could hate Mui so much."

Ryuuzetsu turned and stared at him with the intensity of a hawk staring down its prey for several moments. "As long as that was not intentional, I have no qualms about forgetting about the question." Her lips quirked ever so slightly when she saw Naruto's face light up with hope, "But I do believe we have some company approaching us." The quickly changing facial expression on Naruto's face to a more neutral appearance told her he heard their loud footsteps approaching as well and felt a warming pang of pride in her being with a lesson he learned from her over the time spent together.

Weakness in any way, shape or form is not a liability that can be afforded to give to any future or current enemies in any hostile environment.

They turned to see approximately twenty of the bulkier and muscular men of Houzukijou approaching them with ill intent clear in their battle-ready postures, the Tenrou (Heavenly Imprisonment) easily spotted on their chests. She shared a momentary glance with Naruto before focusing her full attention upon the men.

"Haa~" One of them – the leader from what the duo could tell being the tallest at 6'7'', muscles to rival that of the Raikage, A, and carried himself with an arrogant air smirked at Ryuuzetsu and Naruto. "Lookie there buddies. We have two fresh meat-bags that haven't been properly introduced to the intricacies of Houzukijou." A bloodthirsty chuckle arose from the group as bone popping snaps resonated in the air from knuckles and necks. "Let's introduce ourselves then…"

Several moments passed with little movement despite the open ended invitation from their boss to attack before a mirthless chuckle came from Naruto before any movement could be made, infuriating several members of the group. "I believe you haven't introduced yourselves yet anyways."

"Like they would introduce themselves anyway." Ryuuzetsu sniffed at the group. "Savages…"

"Why you –!" Several of the members growled at their audacity before being cut off by the leader.

"Shut yer lips Yammato!" He backhanded the smallest of the protestors before addressing Naruto with a snigger playing on his lips, "The name's Yakem." Yakem thought for a moment before continuing, "I rather like your spunk kiddo. Let's see if you can fight as well as you can talk with your little buddy." With a snap of his fingers the eighteen other men standing waited for not a second before charging Ryuuzetsu and Naruto.

They split unevenly with ten going towards Naruto, the rest advancing towards Ryuuzetsu.

Despite the odds, Naruto grinned like an eight year-old in a candy shop. Finally! A way to relieve stress in a way that didn't annoy anyone other than the men he was anxious to beat down!

His eyes quickly analyzed their movements – quick, jerky and erratic movement from seven of the ten approximately ten paces out from him, slow, sluggish and heavy movements from the other three that were approximately fifteen paces away. The ones moving the quickest were moving in no particular order or formation making it easy for Naruto to discern where to attack first – there!

Naruto shot off – careful not to draw upon chakra to augment his movements – and aimed for a scraggly man with a distinctive jagged scar running across his neck that was at the far right of the loosely formed assault party, taking him down with little resistance put up from a wild right hook that was blocked with Naruto's own right forearm. Naruto's right leg shot out and connected with sickening force on the man's solar plexus, a bone or two cracking minimally from the force that would have been more with chakra behind it.

The man fell back onto the stone cobbled ground rasping for air as Naruto used the momentum generated from the kick to spin towards the upcoming group, deflecting a haymaker with his left arm before following it up with a right uppercut to the taller man's jaw.

He stumbled back and Naruto capitalized on it by spontaneously shooting forward, catching a grazing kick on his calf making the blond buckle for a brief moment before sinking to the ground. He watched an arm extend for a punch, an elbow thrust forward and several low, sweeping kicks that he saw flash forward past his eyes, the wind ruffling his hair. Kyuubi Jinchuuriki kicked forward off of the ground and rammed his fist onto and off of the tall, gruff man's jaw, a crack resounding through the area.

Naruto turned and grinned at the remaining five gang members that were able to fight along with their larger counterpart's reinforcements bringing the totally back up to eight.

"Come on – is that all you got?"

XXX-XXX

Ryuuzetsu weaved in-between the fists, elbows, knees and kicks with a grace like a dancer unlike Naruto's rough, yet still effective, brawling style. She quickly ducked underneath a rather meaty fist, putting both hands on top of the fist and launching herself into the air towards the tall, extremely vast man.

She landed on his right shoulder before back-flipping off, kicking the back of his head hard enough to send him forward onto a slow teammate that was crushed under the unconscious meat tank. Dashing forward, she threw a combination of two lightning-quick kicks by way of a spinning kick followed up by a back-thrust kick at the diaphragm of the man closest to her, dropping him in a crumpled heap gasping for air barely conscious.

Ryuuzetsu mentally scoffed at how weak these men were. The only strength they had was in numbers and even then, they couldn't even use that to their advantage. 'Three down, five to go and Naruto has taken down two. I wonder how he'll deal with the rest of the men.'

Hearing the blond's words not even two seconds later made her sigh – outwardly this time while she narrowed her eyes in irritation after barely side-stepping to avoid a rather nasty right hook towards her temple.

Why did he have to make the job harder than was necessary?

XXX-XXX

'Crap!' Naruto mentally cursed as he attempted to shift and dodge from the redoubled effort from the enraged men. 'Maybe saying that wasn't the smartest.' The blond thought as he rammed his knee into a reedy-looking man who coughed up spittle tinged with red while falling to the floor, narrowly side-stepping a roundhouse kick to his jaw.

Only to move into the line of fire for another attack that came in the form of a fist pummeling itself onto Naruto's nose, breaking the cartilage. Warm blood trickled down his nose as he jumped back and away from the rest of the men, glaring balefully at the man who managed to sock him.

"Not so tough now eh?" The tan man scoffed at Naruto and proceeded to charge him along with the other six of his allies, two coming from the left and right, one circling around to Naruto's backside with the remaining two charging the Jinchuuriki upfront.

Quickly taking in where all the attackers were at, Naruto took a chance with charging into the middle of the fray once again. A fist courtesy of Naruto found itself sidestepped by the tan man who also gifted the same courtesy to Naruto. The blond jumped over the fist and rolled over the man's arm, finally landing in back of the three men who found themselves to be only one once again – the tan man.

Naruto spun, using the momentum from the spin to augment his elbow's force against the back of an extremely pale, thick yet muscular man, effectively knocking him out before throwing his leg around in a roundhouse kick to a semi-turned masked face that was soon kissing the ground not moments later in jet-black darkness.

'Four left haha!'

The remaining four – with the exception of the tanned man who was of a swimmer's build – were the frame and build that was hunted for in bodyguards – towering heights, black-skin and corded muscles lining their arms and legs with similarities going so similar that they could be mistaken as triplets. Their only discerning features was an arm simply missing , one that was bald and the last having a scar running from left eyebrow to jaw-bone.

The three bulky men gave a moment's thought to their predicament as so how the blond was systematically eliminating their comrades. They shared a thoughtful glance before attacking as a group head-on, the tanned man standing back to observe how Naruto dealt with a coordinated attack instead of a bar fight type brawl.

'I wonder how you'll handle Michiro, the Strong-Arm; Gant, the Scalper; and Ichiro, the One-Eyed Terror – the elite Jounin trio of Kumo.'

XXX-XXX

Ryuuzetsu swatted the fist barreling her way with ease and followed up on the slim man's shock by launching her leg to his ribs. Several loud bone-cracking sounds resounded in the air around the prone form of the man on the floor several feet away.

'This is pathetic, both my own precarious Taijutsu style and the utterly weak opposition. Both are terrible.' She lamented her poor Taijutsu prowess without chakra as a twinge of pain hit her, originating from her foot, her weapon of choice to augment her fighting style not present. 'This petty squabble would have been put down already had I been able to bring my naginata.' With a growl threatening to release itself from her throat, she quickly moved to discover where the remaining four men were at before moving to assault them and end the petty squabble.

She charged the wary men, hiding a modicum of surprise at the fact that an older man in his fifties and gray-white shoulder length hair with stubble passing for a beard, avoiding her sweeping kick along with the follow-up kick from the ground directed to his sternum. Ryuuzetsu quickly ducked and weaved through the barrage of quick jabs, elbows and knees thrown in tandem with extreme difficulty, countering with a jab to the underside of his lean arm or with a leg to a knee to no avail as it did nothing to stop the freight train. Slowly, the other men began to circle in on the fight.

Her surprise was evident to the older man as he chuckled in-between putting his right arm up to block a kick from her left. "Didn't expect your opponent to have such skill eh, girly?" He whispered the last part to Ryuuzetsu, chuckling more when she froze and caught a heel drilled into her right shoulder from two of the three working in tandem.

Ryuuzetsu cried in pain before viciously thrusting her leg out to cave in the offending leg's kneecap, inwardly cursing the pain of a dislocated shoulder from her momentary lapse of concentration while weaving out of the throng of the fight.

'Can take a debilitating injury and still fight amidst the pain… She and her friend just might be my way out of this hell.' The graying man mused to himself as he noted Naruto's brawl slowly turn into a one-sided beat-down with the use of a unique Taijutsu style and Ryuuzetsu's elegant yet brutal method of battle. He shrugged as he watched her efficiently take down the remaining two men with a combination of catching one's arm with her left, showing amazing flexibility with her leg snapping up and rendering the arm useless by fracturing the joint.

That man cried in agony before being silenced by his throat catching a heel in it, neck snapping back with enough force to snap the spin, yet not kill him. 'That takes some skill to do in the heat of battle and fighting the haze of an injury to not kill. She's a smart at least to not risk going to the underground cells for life.'

With all the evidence he needed, the graying man strode with a purpose and eliminated the remaining man with a chop to the back of the neck. He fell in a crumpled heap onto the ground in front of Ryuuzetsu. "Sorry about that missy. I needed evidence to support my opinion that you are the real deal in your plans to escape Houzukijou. And don't try to deny my words," He said in response to her opening mouth, "The prison walls have ears and unlike some," He cast an unfavorable glance filled with scorn and derision at his previous comrades who were moaning in pain or were unconscious, "I can actually hear. So, I want in. In return, I can get you safe haven in several of my safe houses scattered across the Elemental Nations and possibly train the two of you for the war I can feel on the rise in my weary bones."

A recognizing glint shined in her eyes as she recognized the man in front of her. "YOU?! You're supposed to be dead!" Ryuuzetsu uncharacteristically yelled at the sheepish man. The proverbial cogs spun in Ryuuzetsu's mind as the chances of success further increased with this legend's assistance along with his experience.

"Supposed to… But as you can see, I'm not." Sadness seemed to lace his words before grim determination set in. "Do you agree to my proposition? There are no drawbacks other than what certain officials might hear…" Despite the open-ended threat, Ryuuzetsu knew the decision she would make.

With a nod from the white-haired Kunoichi, the man spoke up once again, cheering at his good luck. "Excellent! Now then, let's go assist your boyfriend in his battle. He's not going to have any sort of paradise facing Michiro, Gant and Ichiro as you can see." He grimly stated, filing for later notice how Ryuuzetsu didn't show any outward emotion towards his boyfriend comment, only choosing to fixate on dissecting and countering the three men's individual styles. He shrugged.

'Could be she didn't hear with those eyes of hers studying their fighting styles too...'

XXX-XXX

Naruto panted heavily, spitting out coagulated blood from his mouth as he studied the triplets who named themselves Michiro, Gant and Ichiro.

"Weak." Gant, the bald Jounin spat out as he prowled towards Naruto.

Michiro snorted. His one arm bruised black and blue pointed at the panting blond, "Hah! You only think so because you haven't been hit by him yet!"

"See what I have to deal with? A one-word man and the other that constantly fights the other in words or by fists." Ichiro sighed.

"Screw this – he's mine!" Gant bellowed before breaking into a charge that both of his comrades roared at him to stop.

Naruto smirked before swatting the out-stretched left fist away from himself and striking the armpit of Gant, managing to stop the right upper-cut in its tracks and slammed his fist in Gant's stomach. Gant doubled over, gasping for the air expelled from his lungs before catching a knee in the face.

A snap resounded in the air as Gant's nose snapped with blood already spurting out onto Naruto's knee. Naruto attempted to move only to find he couldn't as Gant held onto his leg with both arms in an iron-tight grip. "No moving for you now you wretch! Michiro! Ichiro! Get this runt!"

"With pleasure!"

Ichiro simply sighed and complied. The two men charged forward and moved with the intent to kill. Despite their speed, their attacks were deflected with simplistic ease from Ryuuzetsu and the gray haired Shinobi and were knocked backwards several feet from Naruto who barely got out of Gant's loosening grip.

As he jumped back, Gant fell forward in unconsciousness. "Well then, I didn't expect you to be able to knock of the three elite Jounin from Kumo out. Good job kiddo."

In-between pants, Naruto replied, "Who… are you… old man?"

He responded with amusement, "Why, I'm hurt you didn't notice me Naruto-kun. I would've thought you'd have noticed the obvious similarities between me and my own son, Kakashi Hatake." Seeing Naruto's eyes widen was obviously what he was looking for. "Yes, I am Sakumo Hatake, the so-called White Fang of Konoha."

The fox inwardly smirked at this new development. 'Very interesting indeed…'

"B-But you're dead! … Aren't you?" Naruto exclaimed ignoring how the two men began retreating as guards finally began pooling into the courtyard.

Sakumo's eyes hardened. "No, and I intend on getting my revenge on the one who is responsible for imprisoning me in this hell." Sakumo shrugged. His lips quirked upwards, the tense atmosphere ending, "Regardless, you have some… assistance for your future ventures." The White Fang waved goodbye once before disappearing in the throng of guards taking the gang members away, the tanned man and the gang leader vanishing in the crowd.

"At least you can take care of yourself in a fight fairly well despite the odds." Ryuuzetsu huffed as she put his arm around her neck and heaved him up from the ground while ignoring the medics and guards swarming the area.

'At least the guards are ignoring us.'

Naruto preened at her roundabout praise, even more so at her next few words. "Keep up the good work and there might be a reward later on."

Her lips quirked at how he smiled widely as she inwardly marveled at how easily he began to slip in-between the chinks in her proverbial armor. 'I can't fathom why I'm feeling so ambient towards him but… it isn't such a bad feeling to be close to another person that isn't entirely about business.'

XXX-XXX

Nighttime

"-ruto! Naruto!" Maroi hissed quietly at the slowly rousing blond. "Wake up!"

"Hmm-mmm?" Naruto mumbled at the coat-wearing Kumo-nin. Deep blue eyes shot open when Maroi kicked the blond's ribs rather weakly and immediately jumped up, already in his unique Taijutsu style taught to him by the toads.

The fight earlier told him mountain-loads about using the style religiously.

"What the hell!"

"It's nice to know you'll get up when I use force to do so." Maroi dryly commented at the glaring blond. "Now let's hurry it up – we're meeting in Ryuuzetsu's cell."

Maroi sighed when Naruto blankly stared at him. "For Sakumo, remember?" Understanding lit up in ocean blue eyes.

"Ohhhh… Why didn't you say so?"

Kumo-nin resisted the urge to face-palm at the blond's antics. While ignoring the blond, Maroi quickly took a cursory glance outside the wooden bars of the cell and ushered Naruto out, placing a weak Genjutsu over the cell to show a sleeping Naruto. They hastened their pursuit to Ryuuzetsu's cell, Naruto using the minutest amounts of chakra to muffle footsteps against the flooring, also serving to accelerate his running pace.

XXX-XXX

"Good. You two are finally here." Ryuuzetsu intoned softly as the two nin slipped into the cell, Maroi already in the process of setting a Genjutsu before Sakumo rose from the shadows and interrupted the process.

"Don't bother with that – I've already done so and made it so any noise will seem to be snoring from the general area we're residing in." Maroi goggled at how the living legend was able to use such a Genjutsu with precision on top of having the Tenrou (Heavenly Imprisonment) working in the background to seal chakra. Naruto was simply dumbfounded at how he was able to even use a complex Genjutsu with the seal even with the control needed to cast the jutsu.

Ryuuzetsu's lips quirked upwards for a brief moment at Maroi and Naruto's expression before receding into a neutral fixture. "The reason we're here is for two specific reasons, both involving Sakumo Hatake." Hatake simply grinned at her. "The first is two pronged: assurance that you are who you say you are, and why your death was staged if you are who you claim to be. Once that assurance is made, we will progress to the second reason."

'Whoa… Ryuuzetsu-chan really is cautious in accepting allies. First Maroi and now Sakumo Hatake…' Naruto frowned, 'But if he's a Hatake and Kakashi's father no less, why didn't he mention him even once in passing? Maybe it's because of this 'staged death' that keeps being bantered about…' After reassuring himself, Naruto focused in on Sakumo's words.

"Smart woman you are." Sakumo cordially complimented Ryuuzetsu who remained unperturbed at the compliment. "I can't count how many times my comrades were foolish enough to accept an enemy ninja's words, only to be cut down like cattle when their attention drifted." His facial expression turned pensive only momentarily. "Very well, I'll humor your request. You know of the chakra unique to Hatake clan members?"

Purple-rimmed eyes closed before opening, staring intently upon Sakumo for several moments before curtly nodding. "Then watch and learn youngsters." Slowly, wisps of silvery-white like tendrils extended from his fingertips before disappearing with a huff. Seeing the shocked expression of Naruto made him chuckle. "Not everyday you see an inmate of Houzukijou visibly manipulate and display their chakra eh?"

"How did you manage that old man!?" Naruto eagerly awaited his response.

"Well…" The suspense built until even Ryuuzetsu was curious enough to have the desire to know. "It's a secret method of training the Hatake employ." After roaring in laughter from their dumbstruck and angered expressions he added in a consoling tone, "If we get out of here – relatively unscathed – I will be… willing to assist and even train you youngsters for the duration of the storm brewing in the distance."

After seeing the troubled look in Ryuuzetsu and Maroi's eyes cemented further in Naruto's mind that war was imminent and unavoidable. Even the slowest of Shinobi and Kunoichi in Houzukijou noticed the ominous clouds roiling in the distance, slowly closing in from the distance.

"Continue, Sakumo-san." Ryuuzetsu held out an arm to forestall Naruto's comment and glanced once at him to still any further comments for the moment.

The graying, older Shinobi dramatically sighed at Ryuuzetsu while ignoring the honorific added to his name, "Of course, only you would be able to subdue your boyfriend." Ignoring the spluttering of Naruto, the chuckling of Maroi and the most minute of eye twitches from Ryuuzetsu that signified something dangerous about to occur, he continued on with upturned lips that quickly lowered into a fierce scowl in-between sentences, "That should show proof of who I am. The reason for me residing in Houzukijou has died along with the rotten son of a bitch that slammed my ass in here for refusing to complete the mission." He snarled the entirety of the last sentence, only lessening the harsh tone at the end of his tirade.

Accepting his silence at the end of his tirade Ryuuzetsu took control of the momentary lapse of conversation, "Very well Sakumo-san." She nodded with grace before Sakumo snorted.

"Stop saying my name with 'san'. I'm not to be respected by those who haven't for any reason other than the whispers of fools who spin yarn about the skills of the enemy." Sakumo rather forcefully stated.

Once more Ryuuzetsu nodded acquiescently to the graying man who sat down in the shadows. "Very well Sakumo-san." Sakumo gritted his teeth and refrained from continuing as it would do nothing except fuel her amusement from the upwards quirking lips that he caught Naruto continually glancing at.

'In-ter-esting.' He inwardly grinned to himself. 'Infatuation eh? Maybe not but it seems like he must be something close to her to stare so intently.'

"Now that the first reason for this meeting is met, we can proceed to the second – informing Sakumo of our current plans."

"I already know the entire plan." Sakumo interjected with a knowing smirk. At the dumfounded glances of the trio – Ryuuzetsu included he added, "It's a wonder at how easily you can maneuver around the innards of Houzukijou when no one thinks to look in the correct place."

'How did he manage to escape my – albeit limited – sensor abilities under a Genjutsu where the same restrictions apply to him for hours on end?' Ryuuzetsu marveled at the skill of the White Fang exhibited in overhearing the strategizing her, Naruto and Maroi partook in. Inwardly, she marveled at how lucky they really were to gain the skills of Sakumo Hatake on their side for their flight and subsequent war efforts.

However, one doubt remained in her mind – one that unnerved her to no end that she murmured more to herself than anyone else, "If you were able to escape my notice, was there anyone else who managed to?"

Maroi finally spoke up at that point, "If that's the case, then we will need to hasten our plans instead of waiting another week. We have, at most, two days time which I suggest we take to recuperate from your little courtyard smack-down."

"We haven't been listened in to." "There were no peeping ears." Both Naruto and Sakumo stated at the same time, both staring at each other in shock and amusement respectively.

"And how do you know that Naruto?" Maroi asked in humor, "Was it somehow an affect of absorbing a portion of a stronger being's chakra?"

"Actually, yeah. How'd you know?" Naruto responded with a baffled expression on his face. How did Maroi guess that Naruto taking Kyuubi's power would give him an unintended affect of being able to proverbially 'sniff' out ill intent. "I mean, you three already knew I hold the Kyuubi but when I took a portion of his power for my own, it gave me a side affect that allowed me to… 'Sniff?'" he shrugged. "Out ill intentions from those around me. I have to be in my Bijuu Mode to be able to sense all forms of emotions."

Ryuuzetsu blinked at the information. "That's… amazing actually." Naruto preened under her compliment before she faintly smiled at him before it disappeared leaving Maroi and Sakumo staring at each other with a silent conversation being traded in a lightning-quick transaction.

'Did you just see what I saw?'

'Yeah.'

'Is it just me or does Naruto seem to be rather attached to Ryuuzetsu?'

'Not just you.'

It alternated from Maroi to Sakumo as they began chuckling. "Alright little Ryuu-chan, Naruto-chan, why don't we catch up on some much needed recuperation time." Sakumo suggested with a fiendish grin that Maroi seconded, ignoring the unnerving and – quite frankly – disconcerting glare from Ryuuzetsu.

"I agree! Besides, little Naru-chan and Ryuu-chan need some alone time." Maroi grinned before it turned into a fearful expression as both Naruto and Ryuuzetsu glared at him.

"I say we break his legs first."

"Hold him down for me and I'll do worse."

"My pleasure, Ryuuzetsu." Naruto evilly grinned at Maroi, lunging at the Kumo-nin.

That night, the snores were particularly loud before suddenly quieting in that section of the prison.

XXX-XXX

Two Day Later

"Are you ready for this Naruto?" Ryuuzetsu mouthed to the blond several days after the fallout of the fight subsided. The time resting left Naruto entirely healed up, Ryuuzetsu in proper enough condition to fight, Sakumo being familiarized with the plans laid out and Maroi actually getting much needed sleep. The blond nodded once imperceptibly before being carted away to Solitary Confinement for a stint of seven days with a chortling foreman following closely behind.

Once he was shoved – quite forcefully – into the tiny smooth stone cell, he immediately sat cross-legged and entered the mindscape to work out another deal with the fox.

XXX-XXX

"What is it… Naruto?" Kyuubi sneered to the unperturbed blond who merely sat on the ground in front of the cage.

"I want to propose another deal – one that I've been hoping would be possible with your help should my Sage Mode not cut it in this upcoming fight." Naruto finally spoke up after several moments' deliberation.

At the serious words, Kyuubi's interest was piqued. Anytime his container was serious, it always ended in something interesting to pass the monotony of time in the sewer. "I'm listening."

"Is it possible to use Natural Chakra to fuel the Bijuu Mode, making a hybrid Sage / Bijuu Mode?"

Thinking about it for several moments left the Kitsune murmuring under his breath before finally responding, "What you're suggesting is damn well impossible-" He swatted his tail violently against the gate to forestall the upcoming complaints from Naruto before snarling, "Silence ningen! Now, as I was saying – it is damn well impossible to accomplish without both parties willingly working in tandem through the seal as a medium. I would have to mix the Natural Chakra in your Chakra Coils that contain the power you… Stole from me for you to be able to use a Mode similar to what you are proposing. Not only that, I would have to also willingly take in Natural Chakra through the seal while you are fighting to sustain the hybridized Mode which brings me to my question." Kyuubi's grin stretched to cataclysmic proportions as he caught the shocked gaze of his Jinchuuriki.

"Now what are you going to do for me in return, little Shinobi?"

"I'll attempt to morph the landscape of the sewer here into something that you would prefer along with entities fitting for that environment to play with when you are bored." Naruto diplomatically approached the situation, attempting to avoid stepping on any feet – paws.

"AH-HAHAHAHAHA!" Kyuubi roared in amusement and for a moment, Naruto feared Kyuubi would decline the proposal. "For a worthless ningen, you certainly pass the dull monotony of my existence in this… Prison.

"Very well – I will go along with this little agreement provided you follow-up on your end of the bargain and provide me with more amusing entertainment as you have been." Kyuubi eagerly began descriptively describing exactly how he wanted the mindscape to appear – a graveyard wreathed in crackling flames that circled in a hazy line that never dissipated, moonlight shining down on the aforementioned flames giving them an ethereal sheen to them. From the graves arose faux appearances of Shinobi, Kunoichi and all of the Bijuu that he either disliked or out-right hated – each with a cohort of minions for Kyuubi to swat around.

Naruto panted from the mental strain he exerted on transitioning the sewers to the graveyard of hell, groans of the deceased already beginning to unnerve the Genin. "There… That's finished… If you want to make them harder, then I'll allow you full reigns to increase their skill level along with their abilities."

"Hahaha…" Kyuubi sinisterly chuckled, leaving few parting words to the blond, "Once the time comes for you to leave the Solitary Confinement, inform me for the battle…"

Naruto took no prompting from the Kitsune's final words before fleeing the mindscape, attempting to drown out the screams of the damned in the graveyard.


So sorry about the long awaited chapter! I know I said end of February but I have an excuse -

*Ducks under a barrage of thrown tomatoes*

SORRY! My muse died, I'm sorry! Now that you're done raging at me, I have a few notices I'd like you to read:

One) How was the chapter overall? The fight good? Interaction with Kyuubi? Me bringing a dead character rather than making a new one altogether?

Two) Am I portraying Ryuuzetsu as to how you expected? It's fun to write her character so I'm wondering if I'm doing her justice.

Three) Check out my profile periodically for how far along the chapter is progressing, for both this story and my other one, Rise of Demons.

I'm ready for the salvo of flames for bringing Sakumo back, so let's go reviews! I'll take you all on haha!

Have a good weekend and a memorable Memorial Weekend!

-KuyouFox