Chapter Four –

Naruto sighed from inside the smooth stone cubicle known as Solitary Confinement. Six days had passed and all he had for entertainment was watching Kyuubi go on a destructive frenzy against the mental constructs in the fiery graveyard, meditating with Sage Mode, conversing with Kyuubi, or replaying his memories.

So far, watching Kyuubi proceed with a mental rampage was unappealing so that was crossed out of the list for things to do. Meditating with Sage Mode and Natural Chakra was becoming tedious, rapidly so after doing so for the past forty-eight hours. After all, sensing the extremely faint, dim, and disturbingly bright and vast chakra signatures of the inmates of Houzukijou grew old when they were memorized.

Conversing Kyuubi was a chore onto itself despite twig-like bridges being built between the two. It introduced a faint and frail camaraderie that was beginning to grow stronger, but at the moment, it was far from ideal.

All remaining on the small list left Naruto with his memories. After several minutes' deliberation, he decided on one of the many conversations between him and Ryuuzetsu. He unconsciously shivered at the thought of her.

Just the air around her and the way she moved screamed of professionalism yet that too, seemed to dull somewhat over the weeks she and him had become sociable acquaintances and, should he dare to become presumptuous, one of her close and probably only friend.


Flashback, Seventeen Days Ago, Nighttime

"Uzumaki-san." Ryuuzetsu stated in a curt tone from the inside of his wooden cell. He immediately jerked up, fully awake at the intrusion she accomplished with little difficulty. She continued without so much as an eye twitch at his shock, "Do not worry about guards as I have dealt with them for the night. They will not bother us. Now, it has come to my attention that it would be prudent to know each other to work in tandem to further our goals."

"A-Ah…" Naruto nervously chuckled, slowly calming down when she gracefully sat down in the shadows of the room. "How do you want to start? Likes, dislikes, ambitions, dreams and specializations?" He offered.

She nodded, bangs moving in tandem. "That sounds acceptable. We each provide two descriptions of each and we reserve the right to avoid one should we not want to elucidate on it."

'Maybe I should be serious here…' Naruto thought as those piercing violet-purple ringed eyes studied him, not missing a single motion he did.

"Alright," Naruto began, not bothering to hide any information to his comrade, "I like my toad summons and training to grow stronger. My dislikes are traitors and having to recover from injuries. My ambition I have is to…" A thought flashed by his eyes of Tsunade wearing the wide Hokage hat with white cloth cloaking all but the front of her face and the white and red robes denoting a Shinobi's status as Hokage, her eyes staring down imperiously at him while passing judgment upon him. "Pass. My dream is to become strong enough to make my tou-san and kaa-san proud of me and make a life for myself. My specializations are Sage Mode, Rasengan and its variants, Espionage and Infiltration from my late sensei, Jiraiya."

Ryuuzetsu nodded thoughtfully at she absorbed the influx of information. "Informative." She commented. "Very well; my likes involve, but are not limited to, improving my current skill set and purveying the esoteric arts of wielding and collecting naginata. Dislikes include Kusagakure no Sato and Mui. Ambitions involve growing strong, killing Mui and an eventual defection of Kusagakure no Sato."

Her eyes grew somber for all but the briefest of moments before returning to the piercing stare making Naruto wonder whether he actually saw the brief emotion. "My dreams are my own to pursue and my specializations are Ninjutsu, Kenjutsu in the form of a Naginata, Espionage, Infiltration, Assassination and my clan's Kekkai Genkai (Bloodline Limit) that I never have needed to resort to for ten years."

"If you don't mind me asking…" Naruto began slowly, diplomatically in a way. It was closer to a bull trampling in a china shop than what he intended though. "What does your Kekkai Genkai do exactly?"

"If we're unlucky enough to be pressed into such a situation, I will reveal it then." Her lips quirked ever-so slightly at his attempt at diplomacy. It was… endearing in an odd way that she was worthy of such notice from the blond. "And try to act yourself rather than be something you are not. Diplomacy is not your strong suit." Ryuuzetsu stated with amusement lacing her words, inwardly entertained at his relieved expression.

"Since we're on the subject, what is Kusagakure no Sato like anyways? My sensei never got around to infiltrating that village with me…" Naruto actually pouted, nearly making her chuckle and sigh in exasperation.

How can someone pout at not getting to infiltrate a Great Shinobi Village?

"It's… very plant-related." Ryuuzetsu hedged before huffing lightly at his expectant expression. Really, if it were anyone else, she would've incapacitated them by this point at the least. Only sheer luck that he was so amusing was keeping her from causing due injury to the blond. "It's hidden amongst a vast copse of trees, situated amidst long shoots of untended grass. Due to the forest it resides in, the patrols are amongst the canopy giving a bird's eye view of anything that rustles the shoots of grass. Does that satisfy your curiosity enough to drop the conversation?"

"Not really."

"Of course it isn't…" Ryuuzetsu sighed lightly, inwardly acting the exact opposite of what she was portraying, actually enjoying the conversation in a way. She might actually enjoy his company if he became trained…


Flashback End

Naruto smiled with amusement at how he and Ryuuzetsu bantered back and forth. At that moment he noticed that the room had little light in it, only the ethereal moonlight glow lighting the small stone cubicle.

'I guess that passed the time rather quickly.'

'OI! Kyuubi!'He mentally roared at the seemingly lethargic fox. Damn fox always became lazy after a destructive fit.

What is it brat?

'Tomorrow's the day all bets are off. Are you ready for some good fights?'

Hmmph. You think I'm not ready for a fierce battle? Just tell me when you need me to begin channeling through the seal and remember – give me a damn good show because this shit will be a pain in the ass to channel without risking death.

Naruto shivered at the bloodthirsty tone of the fox, inwardly thankful that none of it was directed at him… for the most part of course. The fox seemed almost… neutral to him now and it was beginning to worry Naruto. Wasn't the Kyuubi no Yoko supposed to be a being of malevolent chakra, trickery, and have such a way of words that it could convince an opposing army to jump off of a cliff if it wasn't wanting to simply decimate them with tail swipes?

Inside the seal the great nine-tailed fox was laying on a patch of embers amongst the vast, eternally dusk forest around the graveyard he had created with the intent to hunt and kill creatures long since extinct inside. 'His hold on me has nearly dissipated… Naruto Uzumaki.' The fox snarled at the thought of the orange-masked individual controlling him, visibly calming when he stated his container's name. The blond gaki was growing on the Bijuu – not that he would ever admit it, even under duress of the strongest kind – at the very least warranting a neutral camaraderie.

'The storm is brewing and nearly upon us. I wonder just how we'll stand at the end of it. Whether we stand at the epicenter or whether we fall prey to the monsoon is up to you brat, but I'll be damned if I don't ensure we are the last ones standing.'


(3:10 Pm)

"So, little Ryuu-chan, all we're waiting on is for Naruto?" Sakumo asked with a grin on his face at getting a twitch from Ryuuzetsu.

"Yes, that is what we're waiting for Hatake-san." Ryuuzetsu stated, inwardly sighing at the man's attempts to rile her up. It was truly… vexing to say the least.

A hum came from Maroi. "He should be getting out soon – within the next thirty minutes or so." They were all situated on a roof, one of the tallest in the prison, staring down the courtyard. As usual, the gates opened, showing yet another shipment of fresh inmates. "Do we all know our roles for what's going to happen?"

Both fair-haired companions nodded, one sharp and the other calm, relaxed even. "Of course, brat. I'll be helping you whipping up these wretches into a riot the likes of which the guards here have never seen while little Ryuu-chan does her few insignificant parts with Naruto." Ryuuzetsu snorted at the White Fang's seemingly light explanation, inwardly debating whether she could hurt him without putting the mission at risk. Her parts were of incredible importance, especially of what was to come.

"But," Maroi cut in with a frown, "The guards seemed to have grown agitated somehow. Look over there," he pointed towards the courtyard where guards moving to and fro, more being out and about than what was expected. "That can't be good for our plans."

"No, it can't be, but we can easily turn it around in our favor. All it takes is a few modifications to our plans, well…" A wry smirk found its way onto Sakumo's face that Ryuuzetsu did not like one bit, "Which means little Ryuu-chan gets to do a wee bit more work, especially in the underground involving the gate's locking mechanisms."

The former anbu from Kusagakure no Sato sighed in exasperation yet did not contest the change. Sakumo did have her respect despite being an annoying man.

"The only question remaining is whether we all stick together after this is all done. Will we go opposite ways, or shall we stick together for the aftermath of what will come?" Maroi wondered aloud.

Shrugs came from the other two. "I was already planning on defecting from Kusagakure no Sato. I'm exasperated for having to fight for another's beliefs I have no wish to be a part of."

"I said I'd train these two gaki, so I damn well will follow up on my word. Other than that, I need to obtain my sword, the White Fang, back if I'm going to be of any prolonged assistance. Besides, I'm not exactly sure Konohagakure would like the dirty secrets dug up from me returning." Sakumo sighed, wondering where his sword was hidden and how his son was after the long years of last seeing him. 'Damn that man to the lowest pits of fucking hell!' The Hatake inwardly snarled.

Maroi nodded in response. "I'll see about something I can do for all of you, but I can't make any promises. I'll most likely be put on the front lines for Kumogakure no Sato."

"Maybe I have a method that could work out for both you and my soon to be brats-in-training in the long run." Sakumo grinned widely at both Maroi's smirk and Ryuuzetsu's scowl.

'Just need to persevere through today, then he can be punished…' Ryuuzetsu's sudden smirk set warning bells off over Sakumo's head. Maybe not the best idea to screw around with her… but so worth it in the end with Naruto involved.

"What's the method Sakumo?" Maroi asked inquisitively, breaking up both sinister thoughts and warning bells alike. If the method was worth it and could work, it could be a definite boon to their efforts in communication not to mention any of the other perks that it came with.

"Well…" As Sakumo continued, both Maroi and Ryuuzetsu smiled in their own way – a wide smile showing bleach-white teeth and an upward quirk of lips.


Twenty Minutes Later (3:30 Pm)

"Ryuuzetsu," Sakumo uttered with confidence filling his voice, confidence that was gained by tens of years of fierce and unadulterated combat, "Go."

In an instant she leapt to action, descending the tower. "Maroi," the White Fang grinned with ferocity to his companion who was intent on showing the same respect, "Let's have some fun then, shall we?" Despite not seeming as professional as how he acted with the former anbu, he felt no need to hide his excitement to his fellow comrade-in-arms.

"Oh-ho-ho, I thought you would never ask!" Maroi's face split, showing bleach-white teeth. Like all men, he wasn't one to shy away from a good brawl, and this was an opportunity that he would gladly partake.

Besides, it is good for simple stress relief…


(3:30 Pm))

Mui allowed himself a moment of weakness, sighing from exhaustion inside the walls of his office. After Naruto Uzumaki became imprisoned in Houzukijou, it seemed as if the events of the outside world died down after the blond was incarcerated.

In all actuality, it disturbed Mui.

On the other hand, it gave him a measure of security at the same time.

His plans could continue unfettered and undisturbed without risk of conflict knocking on his doorstep yet that still left a niggling feeling in the back of his mind. How important could the blond be if the war seemingly fell apart just before his incarceration? It didn't matter after all, he mused, pacing the office walls.

He stopped in front of the balcony overlooking the sea and produced a letter from the folds of his burgundy coat. Its broken seal was not of only one major hidden village, but of multiple. In fact, it held all five of the seals from their individual Kage no less. "It appears they have come to reclaim a prize that was mistakenly forfeited… And have even threatened myself and my prison in the process of attempting to reclaim it." A siege would merely crumple itself against the impregnable walls of Houzukijou, and the thought of Houzukijou falling would never cross Mui's mind. After all, it has stood against the assault of time itself since the great Clan Wars.

And the Shinobi were not as strong as they once were.

However, the guards were also not what they once were, the exception being only perhaps only one or two…

In an instant all doubts were washed away against the storm of the impending future. After all, he held all the cards in his corner, and he had some time to play them.

Then the unmistakable sound of combat reached his ears. Several moments later, he then heard loud footfalls before the door slammed open. "Sir," the guard saluted before continuing. "We need help! The prisoners are rioting and we don't have the strength to hold them back!"

"Very well. I shall assist in putting down the rebellion momentarily. Fall back and guard the entrance of the atrium where the cells are located." Mui dismissed the guard back to handling the riot as his mind began breaking down the situation and prioritizing what needed to be done. 'Only several prisoners are capable of mustering a riot of this magnitude. However, this riot is the perfect ruse in order to activate the box... or to destroy it.' With a flourish of his cape, he proceeded down to the depths of the prison with a clone left behind to prepare for the coming battleground.

'Fifteen minutes is perhaps all I have…'


"You ready, furball?" Naruto asked with a wide grin and mood in good shape from the depths of his mind. After all, why wouldn't he be in good spirits? He sensed the riots beginning, Ryuuzetsu approaching, and the plan was already being initiated.

Being released from the prison was only a bonus at this point.

Impudent whelp… the Kyuubi's growl held none of its usual anger and anger, only bloodthirsty anticipation. There still was some anger at being called 'furball,' but it was overshadowed by the opportunity for a potential blood bath. And Naruto did notice it, if his grin widening was any indication. I am always ready for combat and this is no exception you damned brat. Don't leave me waiting for a good show… Kyuubi grinned in such a way that his dagger-like teeth shone in the unnatural dimness of the graveyard.

"Then let's get this party started!" Fading laughter echoed through the trees as Naruto prepared what little was needed.

Almost as soon as the blond opened his eyes he summoned a several clones to gather Natural Chakra while he replenished his reserves. Fortunately it was not much as he finished just before the locking mechanism on the door spun, revealing his savior who appeared worse for wear and guards knocked unconscious in a pool of their blood.

"Took yah… long… enough…" Cerulean eyes widened as he catalogued the injuries. "What happened, Ryuu-chan?!" It was an impossibility that her wounds came from the guards. No, they were far too severe for that. Not to mention the fact that she seemed to radiate weariness.

Her clothing was torn and dirty; face caked with grime, sweat, and coagulating blood that mostly came from what little remained of her heavily bandaged left ear; her arms covered from abrasions that only came from being thrown on and around sand. That didn't include legs, torso, superficial cuts, and bruising.

"Kami-sama! Did you go through a damn meat grinder?!" Naruto swore to himself as he darted out of the cubical.

The blond quickly grabbed his injured companion, ignoring her undignified squawk of protest that only cemented the thought further in his mind that she was in bad shape. Ryuuzetsu never shows as much emotion, or exhaustion, "We don't have time to waste on such superficial –"

Yeah, that didn't sit well with Naruto.

"Shut up for a moment." His interruption served to only infuriate the former anbu. That is, before she felt warmth spread throughout her body and fatigue fleeing her body. Violet ringed eyes widened in shock as her body slowly grew alit with deep forest green chakra. Thoughts of ripping into the blond were replaced in turn for analytically studying what Naruto was accomplishing.

'But that has to be impossible,' her thoughts sifted through the information provided in close to an instant, 'Naruto-san's chakra is far too vast for medical purposes, even including the amount that is currently unsealed by the Tenrou, has not stated he has any experience with medical procedures, and fluctuates far too often to be of medicinal usage unless…' A quick glance at toad-like pupils squinted in heavy concentration solidified her explanation and only seemed to further her irritation, 'Ah… that explains the impossibility at least. With Natural Chakra and what I understand of successfully utilizing it, it becomes the dominant source of chakra at his disposal, pointing towards the conclusion that his control over is more than adequate for medical ninjutsu. And it seems to be as potent as I understand of it, using so very little of it for the result it's giving off. Now…'

Slowly the chakra faded away and Naruto took a cursory glance-over onto his comrade with a satisfied nod. Bruises looked to be days, even weeks old in several places. Cuts, scrapes, and abrasions didn't appear to his enhanced eyesight, only irritated and reddened skin in their place. Her skin regained color, and her face did not appear to be as pallid as before. Not to mention her chakra reserves seemed to be replenished.

"Ah," he sheepishly grinned at his work. "Better than before!"

"Explain," Ryuuzetsu brutally cut through his sheepishness, "Why was I not informed of your skill in medical ninjutsu before now?" As an anbu, she despised not knowing of her comrade's limitations, strengths, and weaknesses. It could equate to death for herself, her team, and risk a mission's success. Despite the current plan's importance, this situation could not wait…

Especially if Naruto withheld any other important skills that could make or break their plans.

Not to mention that it somehow hurt that she wasn't privy of that skill.

Blackened eyes blinked in confusion at her cold, hard tone before he realized the implications. "I-ah…" An eyebrow raised itself in impatience and fire spreading in violet eyes spurred his explanation, "I didn't know I could do that until right now…" The eyebrow slowly lowered itself as her face grew expectant, "Sorry! Sorry! I saw that you were exhausted as hell and injured, not to mention I've had the basics pounded through my head from several Konoha-nins. But I've never actually attempted it because I never had the right chakra control until now with Sage Mode." Wisely he kept from uttering that she had a very real chance of turning into a stone statue while he was healing her. Yet he held his tongue and kept his head held high. It was, however, of the hardest things to do – keeping his head up involved keeping his eyes locked upon Ryuuzetsu's roving eyes that seemed to catch everything in their gaze.

Finally, a soft sigh left her lips at the conundrum facing her. On one hand, she could handle the problem as how she would in the past countless times – quick, brutal, to the point, and alienate the blond in the process. The other hand, however, was one that only recently surfaced with the introduction of the blond in her life – explaining what he did wrong, continue with the mission which, previously, she would never condone in their line of work, and wouldn't risk hurting the blond.

Ryuuzetsu chose to compromise.

Words began to flow from her quickly in a fierce tone, as she had wasted already a good two minutes, "What was done right now I never would have accepted in the past because of either end, something could have horribly gone wrong. You either could have unsuccessfully preformed the medical ninjutsu and injure myself further, or you have lied as to your skills which could potentially compromise a mission."

"I'm –"

"I am not yet finished." Cerulean eyes blinked in confusion as Ryuuzetsu continued in a far more moderate tone, "As stated, I never would have accepted this in the past; however, you've made me softer in that regard and your actions were done out of concern and worry from what I can discern." Her voice grew softer still, "For that, I thank you. Because of your circumstance and actions, the mission will go smoother as a result."

Naruto grinned widely at her words and knew that his relationship was not ruined, previously worried at having screwed up with Ryuuzetsu. "Okay," he grinned, rubbing calloused hands together in anticipation as the duo ran out of the winding and confusing catacombs, "Now that that is behind us… what happened on your end?"

A slight frown tugged at Ryuuzetsu's lips as the sounds of fighting grew louder by the second. "The gate levers were guarded heavier than what was expected…"

(3:38 Pm)


Flashback, Seven Minutes Ago (3:31:09* Pm)

She quietly huffed in annoyance at the placement of the gate levers, the only emotion being shown. Why did they have to be underground in the catacombs? It was the worst possible place for an attacker to be in actually, which was probably one of the few reasons it was so far out of reach. Traps, ambushes, and several small outposts were littered along the twisting and never-ending tunnel walls and flooring.

'Easily defensible, and hidden in a location away from the gate that would be impossible to find should the correct knowledge not be readily available,' Ryuuzetsu thought analytically, 'But should that information become available, it would crumple against a squad of five Shinobi of Chuunin level. Provided the guards are sufficiently occupied of course.'

After taking several quick turns, she slowed her pace. 'This should be the last turn…' Within a matter of moments, the tunnel turned from dimly lit and mostly empty to a shining bright cavern with eleven heavily armored and armed guards covering both exits. Walls shuddered for a moment before closing doors where the guards appeared from.

"Use extreme caution; she's dangerous, even if she can't use chakra," one of the guards, a woman that appeared to be a captain of the guards, barked out loudly over the din of marching in front of Ryuuzetsu. "We are under orders to capture her if at all possible." While the petite yet decently built captain appeared competent, in the former anbu's eyes she wasn't even close to competency.

And she intended to capitalize on each of the blonde captain's mistakes.

Mistake one; not allowing the guards to immediately apprehend her. Even if they had orders against killing her they could easily incapacitate her by their alone sheer numbers if they caught her by surprise. But that attempt was wasted and was now against them due to the tunnel walls being so closed in, only allowing two of the smallest to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Her training was far worse than four versus one at any given moment.

And she held no compunction against killing them in the meantime.

Mistake two; holding a naginata so loosely in her grasp and standing far too closely to the former anbu. Especially if it was specifically shortened for combat in closed in areas with a blade on either end of the handle.

In an instant Ryuuzetsu darted forward, carefully avoiding any chakra use, and immediately ripped her weapon of choice from the woman, viciously gutting the shell-shocked captain. Suffice to say, Ryuuzetsu quickly dispatched the captain with little difficulty.

Mistake three; wear heavier armor.

The guards stood in silence and shock as they watched the small-in-stature inmate brutally gut their beloved second-in-command, Shirasaki, before desecrating the corpse in their eyes by ripping the blade up and out. With a cry of outrage, the assault began.

One dead, zero incapacitated, ten left.

Sliding away from a sword thrust on the dirt-coated cobblestone flooring, she knocked the tachi *out of a monstrous guard's grasp with one end of the naginata. Momentarily following was his legs in the opposite direction, sheared off from underneath him with a reverse swing. Quickly spinning the naginata to avoid any nasty surprises (she had killed their captain, so perhaps they didn't care about their commands…) Ryuuzetsu leapt to her feet while narrowly bending to the right at the last second to avoid impalement from several blades – one tanto*, the rest wakizashi*. Her shirt ripped showing the sharpness of their blades, along with the shallow cuts along her flank.

One dead, one incapacitated. Nine left.

'Heavily armored and sharpened weapons,' Ryuuzetsu thought in annoyance as she instantaneously measured up the guard in front of her, 'Far too armed for my tastes.' It only made more work for herself, especially the armor that the guards seemed to have. While it was possible to cut through it, it wasn't worth the effort. And without chakra, it most definitely was not.

The guard in front of her crumpled to the ground in a heap when her right leg shot out and struck at the side of the brown-haired guard's right knee. A sickening pop left the guard kneeling while Ryuuzetsu used the momentum from the kick to viciously stab the guard towering behind her along his neck. Blood spurted as the carotid was opened, before the brunette kneeling lost his head from the same blade that killed his tall comrade.

Three dead, one incapacitated. Seven left.

(3:32:17 Pm)

With three comrades dead and one as good as dead, the rest of the guards realized just how much danger the blood-covered inmate in front of them truly was. "We just have to hold out a few minutes longer for the commander! The gate wall must not fall!" A cry filled Ryuuzetsu's ears as she watched the demoralized soldiers regain their previously waning confidence.

Blood dripped onto a puddle in front of her from the naginata as she slid into a stance with the handle tucked underneath her arm, legs spread evenly out. While doing so, she processed just what the significance of their words amounted to as she was attacked from the front and back. After all, if they were so confident of their so-called commander, after seeing just a brief showcasing of her skills… if anbu taught her one thing, it was never to underestimate your enemy.

This fight had to end.


But what was worrying her in the back of her mind was the simple fact of, why they were so concerned with the gate? There wasn't an impending attack are far as she knew, so why was there a higher guard detail? The attack on the gate was mainly a higher form of distraction. After all, the more distractions, the better for their plans.

With an errant shake of her head, her hair shaking in tune, thoughts cleaned in an instant. Mulling over such items is better suited after a fight. 'Four in front, three at my back and it appears that the shock and demoralization has long since fled them.' It seems the easy pickings weren't available to her anymore…

The guards did not make the first move, so Ryuuzetsu made it easy for them and in a feat of acrobatics, turned to face the three in back of her. The one in front was male, and subsequently tallest (ironically enough), a scar running laterally across his face with long black hair wielding dual wakizashi. The other two were of mixed gender, the one on the left being a crouched female with short red hair handling two shortened yari* for indoors combat. On the other hand, the male to her right had no hair yet his eyes were wide with heterochromatic eyes held a tsurugi* in front of him and a tanto in a reverse grip. All it took was a blink of their eyes to miss what she did next.

"Get ready!" the scarred soldier roared as she implemented her plan.

Darting forward, she sprinted with a small trace of chakra for the necessary speed and leapt after the left wall, having just barely thrown the naginata past the scarred soldier, clipping his left shoulder flipping over the right wakizashi. While the red-head's attention shifted towards flying naginata, Ryuuzetsu rebounded off the wall and bypassed the scarred and injured soldier entirely. She twisted midair to the right to avoid a spear thrust that came from the red-head's right yari at the last second. Grasping the flying naginata directly underneath, she tilted it up to knock the other yari and followed its motion until the blade was positioned perfectly for a thrust that was summarily executed.

Five dead, zero incapacitated. Six left.

(3:33:05 Pm)

"Chi-san!" the heterochromatic soldier growled in rage as his comrade fell prey to Ryuuzetsu's dexterity and agility. He was already running towards Chi when the naginata was thrust through her eye and stabbed forward with his wakizashi, already following it up with a reverse gripped swing from his tanto.

It was his misfortune that she had already landed by the time he was within striking distance.

Ryuuzetsu already knew that any soldier would most likely charge her when their comrade was cut down and already prepared for that specific probability, also considering the scarred soldier's assault backup as well. Consequently, she pivoted on her left foot to avoid steel impaling her abdomen while ripping out the naginata, parrying the dagger's backhanded strike before bringing down the unoccupied naginata blade down. Armor plating and bone parted easily as the heterochromatic-eyed solider lost both arm and wakizashi in the swing.

To the heterochromatic-eyed man, she truly embodied a devil in human's skin he thought in a shock induced haze as he watched his arm fall to the ground. Her speed and strength, even without chakra, was second to none as evidence of the naginata being swung at incredible speeds; her dexterity, agility, and combat prowess seemed to be unparalleled.

"What are you?" he whispered before he was viciously kicked into his comrade from behind. It felt impossible to breath now. His consciousness flickered as he watched her contend with the remaining three soldiers.

When would their commander finally arrive?

Gently, he felt himself being picked up and set to rest next to the wall. "Takami…" Kuro, Takami vaguely recollected to be the man's name, said quietly, "Rest in peace. May your soul find solace in the afterlife." Feeling his eyes grow heavier by the minute, he found it a struggle to stay awake.

He noticed another soldier fall to her prowess but not without injuring her in the process – numerous shallow cuts along her arms. How did he manage to do so? She seemed to untouchable to Takami's weary eyes.

A tremor racked the cavern.

Another comrade was hewn.

Takami's brightly colored eyes slowly dimmed as he left the world with a smile, "Commander's here…"

Nine dead, zero incapacitated. Two left. One commander left.

(3:33:41 Pm)

Ryuuzetsu did not account for two things at the exact moment the cavern rumbled while gutting the woman in front of her with a vicious twist.

Ten dead, zero incapacitated. One left. One commander left.

One was the fact that the commander would be arriving so suddenly. The second was utterly shameful for her standards: forgetting about a single foe in the heat of battle. And she paid for that price. Dearly paid for it.

The only saving grace was that the sudden tremor shook Kuro's aim to the point that only her ear was sheared off and her shoulder was sliced into lightly before jerking forward instead of her skull being cleaved in two.

Before she could retaliate with cold fury backing her retribution, lightly remarked with amusement, "You've done well enough to keep her attention occupied despite the costs, Kuro," a pale man of tall height, no taller than perhaps Sakumo, with cropped silver hair underneath a wide-brimmed hat that covered the majority of his face, the exception being a faint smirk on his face. The commander – for that was who she assumed him to be – stepped forward, black robes flapping as a breeze fluttered through the tunnel, "Fall back and assist your fellow comrades. I will take over from here."

Ryuuzetsu watched with Kuro retreat with cautious eyes, already tearing her tattered rag of a shirt to use as a makeshift bandage while applying due pressure. Finally, the makeshift bandage was set into place and the bleeding abated for the moment. Not to mention her equilibrium was affected dearly by the wound, and, already, her body was beginning to burn from injuries and fatigue after running, exertion, and fighting for several minutes.

Violet eyes locked onto the physically unimposing commander. Already she was analyzing every little motion made, calculating her chances of winning with little to no injuries sustained, and weighing the risks and benefits of using what limited stores of chakra were available to her.

The naginata was in her hands instantly at the commander's first step forward and plans were established at that instant. "Welcome little Flower-Anbu. Your looks are very distinct to me… Ah!" He snapped his fingers in recognition, "Am I correct in assuming your name is Ryuuzetsu Seichi*, the famed Anbu of Kusagakure no Sato, known for the singlehanded massacre of –"

The commander raised an eyebrow as she interrupted, "Am I correct in assuming you are the Commander of the armed forces of Houzukijou?"

"Hit a touchy spot there did I?"

It pained her to admit it, but it did. She was not proud of her actions while an anbu, most notable being the massacre of her own clan. Eyes narrowing to dangerous slits in anger became the only indication of rage she allowed herself to display. "Ah, I assume I did. But wait, where are my manners," he gracefully threw his pure black robe off with a flourish revealing the same armor as the guards, but with distinct differences. The greatest distinction being several softly pulsating seals randomly located on the samurai-like armor. The second distinction being that it gleamed brightly, even with the dimly torch-lit passageway.

"You can refer to me as Maebure*. Now prepare yourself, last scion of the house of Seichi, for the harbinger has arrived." He said before crashing both of his gauntlets together and charging towards Ryuuzetsu at speeds that far outstripped the soldiers from before, perhaps on the low-end of a jounin. In that instant, she knew that to have any chance of winning distance must be kept. For that focal point of her strategy the naginata would be crucial in the small arena.

Ryuuzetsu parried the left armored gauntlet aimed for her left clavicle, batting away the right gauntlet with an expertly spin of the modified naginata with some difficulty and prepared to thrust the spear forward. Yet she was caught off guard by his quick recovery and subsequent left hook pummeling into her torso.

Ringed, violet eyes widened in shock at his quick reaction before being launched at the opposite tunnel wall some ten yards back. Already she felt the customary stiffness of a large bruise forming with a wince. 'It appears his strength is far beyond what the guards displayed,' she watched Maebure stroll over to her with a calm and measured gait. 'And I have foolishly lost my weapon when I allowed myself to be caught off guard.'

The former anbu allowed a snarl of rage appear at the taunt, "Is that all the last scion of Seichi can amount to?" Anbu may have assisted in tempering her emotions and keeping them firmly under wraps, but the underhanded blow towards her clan was weathering her fraying patience.

Arising from the cloud of dust, Ryuuzetsu intoned the time-weathered aphorism of her clan, "If you truly wish to measure yourself the might of the 'last scion' of Seichi so terribly, then come. Approach and fall into despair. Wail in agony as you crash against Seichi's unbreakable fortitude and indomitable strength." Settling herself into a fighting stance not used for years, she awaited Maebure's onslaught.

A clap resonated from Maebure. "Finally you release shackles long since binding you to ineptitude young scion! Now," a grin could be distinctly heard in his words, "Let us truly see if those shackles have shattered!"

Words having no more use, they turned to resolving themselves to who would walk out of the tunnel alive to see the light of another day.

Armored gauntlets and elbow bashes flew at breakneck paces from Maebure; kicks and debilitating strikes to chinks in the armor were all but visible from Ryuuzetsu. From an onlooker's point of view, it was as if Maebure was a human tank, able to take strikes that would have crippled another man and returned them in equal strength. The evidence alone was evident in the craters all along their battlefield.

However, once their look from Maebure shifted to Ryuuzetsu, they would wrongly make the assumption that she was not human. Just by the graceful way she ducked, weaved, and spun around the vast majority of the strikes, she truly seemed inhuman, especially so after the modified naginata was retrieved. Very few actual hooks, punches, and elbows found purchase in her guard.

Yet all throughout their fight, those curious runes inscribed onto Maebure's samurai armor glowed and flickered in tune with how he struck and shielded himself against a strike.

They separated for a final time, appraising the damage done to one another. Ryuuzetsu, at one point, was thrown like a ragdoll against the rough, sand-covered cobblestone, resulting in numerous abrasions along with numerous bruises from the few strikes that snaked past her guard. Blood now caked the side of her face. Not to mention that her lack perfect equilibrium contributed to most of the snaking strikes, and to the fact that she had black spots in occasionally appear in her vision. Regretfully, she did have to resort to brief bursts of chakra usage, and as a result, anymore used would activate the Tenrou.

Maebure, on the other hand, stood tall despite blood dripping into a small puddle underneath him. It was pure, stubborn resolve that kept him conscious throughout the brutal beating received from Ryuuzetsu. Dents and cracks littered his once gleaming and shining armor. Curiously, however, was not his resolve and fighting prowess that peaked Ryuuzetsu's interest. No. It was that fact that his face remained hidden from view for the entirety of the fight. The wide-brimmed hat never flew off, nor was it struck once leaving his most unknown face hidden from sight.

"Ah, last scion; you have more than succeeded my hopes and wishes…" a rattling cough escaped Maebure's lips and hand, spattering the ground with it. "I lost most grievously yet I have accomplished my goal in life – to fight and die against one of the Seichi. Kill me now, or leave and complete your plans as I die here in these tunnels." He dismissed her with an errant wave of his hand, gaining a minute measure of respect from the former anbu before she snuffed out his life.

'That took far more out of me than I expected…' she stumbled ever-so-slightly before regaining her balance. 'I think I might take a few minutes to get to Naruto-san from here…' she thought while destroying the gate lever with an errant wave of the now-blunt naginata before discarding it.

"A shame too. It was a high-quality naginata. Balanced, finely-honed, and unique to top it off." Ryuuzetsu said aloud, frowning to herself. It was filled with cracks, dents, and the formerly finely-honed edge was about as useful as a sledgehammer at the point it was at. "At least solitary confinement is close." With a sigh, she went on her way.

She still had Mui to kill after all…

(3:35:59 Pm)


Flashback Over

Naruto and Ryuuzetsu

"Wow." Naruto said in shock. Ryuuzetsu nodded in agreement, her weariness and fatigue next to nothing compared to what it was before. The duo ascended the tallest tower to Mui's office, easily overpowering any guard left that was not handling the riot on the staircase. "Remind me not to piss you off in the future."

Ryuuzetsu inclined her head, amusement dancing in her eyes but was otherwise impassive, "Duly noted. Of course, that hinges only upon if I can remember to do so before you incur my wrath."

The blond stood back in shock as he watched her enter the office and stroll towards the hidden chamber, hidden behind an inconspicuous bookcase.

'Did she just make a joke?' Naruto shook his head at seeing her eyes morph so quickly from amusement to… showing nothing really, 'Nah, can't be. I must've been imagining her eyes changing.'

What he didn't realize was that she was impassive for two reasons. First, she wanted to be in control of her emotions while walking deep within enemy lines, especially against the bastard who she held a vendetta against. After all, being in control of one's emotions could mean life or death for one's team. The second was to keep herself from laughing aloud at his dumbstruck look.

'Now I understand why Hatake-san finds enjoyment in "playing around" with people.'

My apologies to everyone for such a long in the making update. But, hopefully this had made it up to you guys. I tried to do the fight scene realistically, so tell me if I accomplished. Have a happy New Year's!


(3:31:09 Pm) Done in Hours: Minutes: Seconds.

Tachi -

Literal translation: Big sword.

Description: A sword that is slightly longer and more curved that the later katana.

Tanto -

Literal translation: Short blade.

Description: A knife or dagger, with either a straight-edge, or a double-edge.

Wakizashi -

Literal translation: ?

Description: A general sword name.

Yari -

Literal translation: Spear.

Description: Fairly self-evident.

Tsurugi -

Literal translation: Sword.

Description: A straight, two-edged sword.

Seichi -

Literal translation: Sei - Life, Chi - Blood; Lifeblood.

Description: An amalgamation of two words, Seikatsu (Life), and Chi (Blood), to make the word Seichi, Ryuuzetsu's Clan name.

Maebure -

Literal translation: Harbinger.

Description: Nothing really to say here.