Chapter 17

"Interlude: The Retired Assassins"

Brief Story Summary

This is the story of Shirahama Honoka, a young girl who harbors a strong hate for bullies and those who abuse others that cannot protect themselves. In time, she finds a powerful martial artist named Uzumaki Naruto. After three attempts, the girl succeeds in acquiring his guidance as a growing fighter in the underworld. In time, her brother also finds himself studying under many esteemed Masters. For a while, nobody knew of her exclusive skills. Honoka's current enemy is one Hatake Kakashi who she discovered to be a top disciple of an enigmatic assassination clan called, 'Konoha'. What is their scheme? And what will become of our heroine?


Koryou

Her Master had left at midnight. Without even a single goodbye left for her, his bags had been packed and his room had been emptied of any belongings - as if he had never even been there at all. Honoka had returned from her latest battle to find out from Haku that Naruto had left in haste after receiving an ominous message.

So here she was, alone and in a curious situation. She no longer had a net to fall in if things went completely wrong.

What in the world was Honoka going to do now?

"They've shown themselves. To think that Ragnarok had one up their sleeves all this time." She muttered to herself. "The new Fourth Fist: Fenrir."

The silver haired boy was a tough opponent, perhaps rivaling Ma Renka at her peak.

"Thinking about all of this is useless!" The girl mentally spat. "The only way to overcome this is to get stronger!"

Honoka, who was currently attempting to climb a steep cliff with one arm tied to her back, bit through her extensive fatigue and continued on up to the top. The road to become the strongest in the world would not come without tough battles after all.

At this moment, her mind wavered slightly. The brunette kind of wondered what her Master was up to at the moment.


Los Angeles International Airport: LA, California (United States of America)

Uzumaki Naruto had long ditched his typical country-side travelling attire. He was now wearing his rural clothes, consisting of a long-sleeved white shirt, blue pants and tinted sunglasses. He did not truly stand out in America, something he really appreciated. It was a busy country and more so than usual in the cities. The hustle and bustle was a nice change of pace compared to other places he's been.

His mind wandered to the message Jiraiya, his Godfather, had sent him not too long ago. "He wants to meet up." The blonde's eye caught a flash of blue from the corner and moved to retrieve his bag that had popped onto the ring.

Naruto made his way to the escalator and began thinking of his abrupt departure, leaving Honoka back by herself. "The girl can take care of herself. Even if she were in trouble, I can trust Hakubi to watch her back. And I suppose her close ties to Ryouzanpaku will be a great asset as well." A small smile tugged at his lips. "She is growing up before my very eyes. I'm kind of proud."

Just as he stepped off the machine, a sign that read his surname caught his attention. A tall man with red hair flowing to his shoulders held up a sign that read, 'Uzumaki'. Naruto's smile widened slightly before walking over.

"It's been a while, cousin." He initiated the conversation. "Good to see you, Nagato. It's been too long."

"And you, Naruto." The other man nodded with a small grin. "You haven't changed I see. Still exuding an incredible aura, I felt your presence from my car."

Uzumaki Nagato stood at an equal height with his cousin. The red-head wore a collared white shirt, black pants and a golden, round necklace with a six inter-layered circle design around his neck. Naruto's eyes wandered to his left hand and was surprised to see a golden ring. "Married?" The blonde inquired.

"Engaged. It was fairly recent. You remember Konan, right?" Naruto nodded, it was pretty hard to forget the woman who loved wearing blue hair. Not that it didn't fit her. "I proposed just a month ago."

"Congratulations." Naruto bumped his fist into the slightly older man. "I'm happy for you."

"Thanks." Nagato replied before turning back to the glass doors, the sun was still shining brightly through. "Let's head out. Old man Jiraiya is a bit anxious for some reason. To be honest, it's kind of bugging me."

The two walked out and in a few short moments, they found themselves standing in front of a blue Suburu Impreza. "Nice car."

"Konan picked it out." He muttered with low spirits. "I wanted an Evo. But the lady said that one car was more than enough."

Naruto chuckled at the comment. "Sounds like the Konan that I know. Well, you can always get another one after you two tie the knot and she softens up. When is that going to happen anyway?"

"We've decided on a lengthy engagement. There are some strings to cut, loose-ends to tie up, contracts to burn...you know all of that. Retired assassins have to do what they have to. Not to mention Konan and I were quite infamous. It will be difficult to disappear peacefully."

Naruto could definitely understand that sentiment. "I wish you the best of luck. Just let me know if there is anything I can do."

His red-headed cousin gave the blonde a thankful glance. "I'll keep that in mind."

The two spent the rest of the ride in relative, comfortable silence. Naruto gazed out and observed the large city, busy and bright city of Los Angeles.

"What did Master Jiraiya say in the letter he wrote to you?"

Naruto frowned slightly before answering. He moved to his left-side pocket and retrieved a small, coded letter. "Demon Sect is on the move. Hasn't he told you?"

"He has." Confirmed Nagato who also sported a grim frown. "I don't like this. It is a bad sign."

"You have something precious to protect now." The blonde mentioned. "You shouldn't have to worry about it. Let me handle them, you take care of your fiance. Not to say Konan can't take care of herself, of course."

The red-head smirked. "Konan is more than capable. I'm more worried about her...condition."

Naruto frowned before connecting the dots in his mind. He turned to his cousin and saw a small, happy smile adjourning his middle-aged face. "I see."

"Nonetheless, I do not plan on confronting them unless they come to me first. I'm not interested in having to fight any of the Titans of Demon Sect. You should know how great they are, Naruto." Nagato sighed. "It is unwise to confront any of them. They are truly powerful martial artists."

"Speaking of the Titans..." The blonde Uzumaki muttered. "Jiraiya implied that there is one not too far from this very location."

"Yes." Nagato nodded. "Let's wait until we arrive before starting this conversation."

Naruto nodded and turned to face the car window once again, deep in thought.


Santa Monica

Naruto and Nagato did not stand out at all in the eyes of the public. It was completely different compared to his home where everyone knew each other. Here in LA, only big time names were worth remembering and Naruto had no plan on garnering any of that attention. He knew that even one wrong, careless move could get him in the eyes of just about every underground person.

"Even in America, your reputation is well known. There are bounty hunters everywhere." Nagato sighed. "But that doesn't mean you have to pull the whole Clark Kent get-up on me." He indicated his cousin's newly adjourned glasses.

"They are necessary." Naruto replied calmly while fiddling with the sight tool. "And effective."

"Right." The red-head rolled his eyes. "Well come on, we're almost there." They had parked the car on the side of the street, in the general area of a serene beach house. The two men completely ignored the front door and walked out back where Naruto was met with the sight of beautiful women everywhere, and not a man in sight.

"Figures this is how he'd want to spend the rest of his life." A smile crept on the blonde's face. "Money, sake and women: the three vices of the Toad Sage, Jiraiya."

"I don't even know where these women come from." Nagato muttered. "They just appear here from out of the blue. I swear, I think he's trying to make this place like a playboy mansion."

Before Naruto could reply, a gorgeous woman walked up to them with an inquisitive look and spoke in english. "Hello gentlemen." She had long brown hair and green eyes. "This is a private ar-"

"Victoria." A deep voice spoke from behind her. Only Naruto and Nagato had caught the man's sudden presence and as a result, did not jump in fright like the bikini wearing woman. "Enough. They are family." Sporting red shorts, black sandals, tinted sunglasses and an open Hawaiian shirt was a man with long, spiky white hair. He stood almost a whole head over the two men and had a large, welcoming smile on his face.

"Master Jiraiya." Nagato inclined his head in respect.

"Godfather." Naruto smiled and allowed the large man to wrap him in a manly embrace, "Time has been good to you."

"Oh yeah." He smirked. "And I still got the moves too! Well what are you waiting for?! Come on in. I'll get the fish ready!"

"Sounds good."

The two Uzumaki men walked in to the house and was taken in by the relatively modest sized home. The inside was just as beautiful as the outside design - there was a large television, numerous couches and a legion of decorative furniture. Naruto could also see the man's personal library to the side of the wall - knowing that it was either filled with books or porn concealing some sort of information. Or just porn, Naruto had never met a man as shameless as his Godfather after all.

The three men sat at the dinner table. Jiraiya began speaking first. "So, how've you been kid? Are you doing alright?"

"I've been well. Of course, I would rather return to my retirement in Koryou. Peace will have to wait, I guess."

"I've always found it weird that you chose such a random place to retire. Then again, being in the same town as Ryouzanpaku can be a smart idea. Not many assassins would dare mess with History's Strongest Warriors." Nagato piped in. "Was that your intention?"

"No." Naruto stated bluntly. "That was a coincidence. I honestly did not even know until I started at the orphanage. Funny how things work out sometimes." He briefly recalled the meeting with Fuurinji Miu in his mind. The girl really did remind him of her mother a lot. It was almost tragic.

"As much as I'd like to catch up." The blonde continued. "The subject matter is really picking at my brain. I have to know what you know of my Master, Godfather."

Jiraiya heaved a sigh. "Fine, fine. Man, you're not as fun as you used to be. I remember the old Naruto who was about as laid back as it could get. Ah well, that was almost twenty years ago." He shrugged his shoulders. "Honestly, the information I just received was kind of disturbing. It's been bugging me for a while."

"And...?"

"I'm sure you know how deep the connection Yami has with the government."

Naruto frowned. "The American government?"

"No." Replied Jiraiya, "I mean governments in an overall sense. They have high tier members in almost every government all across the world. They're planning something big and I don't like it. One of these plans involves something called 'Project D'. Otherwise known as the worldwide recruitment of rogue mercenaries."

"...I see." Naruto watched Nagato's teeth click. He rose a brow. "Something the matter?"

"I've already told Jiraiya this but - they even sent Konan and I an invitation. If they can find us, then we'll be in a heap load of trouble. I'm very worried."

"From what I hear, Masters from all over are flocking to them. Even Konoha has been contemplating signing an alliance of sorts."

"That's no surprise." Nagato sighed. "There are very few worthwhile threats in this new Konoha. All of their great fighters; Orochimaru, Might Gai, and even Tsunade left long before Naruto...did what he did."

"They are very desperate." Jiraiya agreed, having also has his own deals with said organization. "Anyway, that's not what worries me. It is Demon Sect that worries me. In some way, they have also jumped onto the scene. Yami is trying to recruit them and I don't believe that the recent failure will deter their attempts. For the first time in a long time, Kurama has made an appearance. And from what I've heard...he is beginning to reassemble the Titans once more. For what reason, I do not know."

The blonde sunk back into his chair deep in thought. "So you've finally shown yourself, Master."

"Why though? Why wait so long to make a move? The Sword Devil has been off the radar for decades."

"He is a difficult man to understand." Naruto stated firmly. "I know my Master better than anyone. There is no rhyme or reason to what he does."

"Hm?" Urged his Godfather.

"Perhaps...he has just gotten bored of playing the retired assassin. Perhaps...he just wants to kill for the sake of killing once again. In his heart, Kurama is a warrior and he lives for nothing but to cut down opponents, to shed a sea of blood. The only thing I can think of that would delay him would be...purpose."

They sat in silence for a while after that, thinking about the situation and how dark the horizon was now getting.

That was until Jiraiya broke it. "We don't need to worry about him for now. I'm more worried about the other eight."

"Which ones have made noise?" Nagato asked.

Jiraiya stood up and retrieved a message that was dated back a week ago. He showed it to them.

"...'Mad Monk' Shukaku. Last sighted in Brazil."

Nagato clenched his teeth. "He's a nasty one. The Iron Palm of the Desert." The other two agreed.

"Unfortunately, I've only heard of one other that has made a move." Jiraiya continued. "The Tyrant, Kokuo. Apparently...he's been running the show in my own backyard - though only recently. Before this, he was reported to be seen in New York about ten years ago."

"That's it?" Naruto asked surprised. "I met them both back in the...old days - but there is no way that they are the only two to show themselves. No sightings of Primordial Thunderbolt? Black Scale? Or even Armada?"

"No." Jiraiya curled back his lips in a frown. "Those names have been silent for a very, very long time. They've been ghosts - completely untraceable."

Nagato watched the frustration build inside his cousin. It was not everyday he got to see the usually unflappable man this flustered. "Is there something the matter?"

"Kokuo and Shukaku are already powerful opponents. If the others are quiet, then that only means that they have a plan of action. Kurama is the only one that can reign in their egos to arrive at a common goal. It doesn't make any sense. Why would they show themselves now of all times? What is about to happen in the future that would cause them to suddenly act like this?"

Jiraiya didn't know what to say. "I don't know, Naruto. I just don't. The best we can do is to wait and see."

"I agree." The red head spoke up again. "I may be retiring right now but this is a situation to keep an eye on. I hope you can keep me in the loop, Master."

"I cannot just wait around and do nothing." Naruto shook his head and stood up. Jiraiya and Nagato watched as the blonde walked to the open balcony. "If Demon Sect is planning something, then I must stop them. Usually I wouldn't care for the affairs of the Martial Arts world but...I cannot help it this time. The time I spent as a member of that sect all those years ago...they were not my best. The plans they had for the world are nothing less than truly evil and despicable. Kurama is a man who just wants to watch the world burn - and his followers are merely in for it for their own, selfish gains."

"What are you planning, kid?" Jiraiya finally succumbed to what had been on his mind for a while now. "You were always a schemer, even when you were a young man. I remember when you initially returned from your infiltration of Demon Sect, I remember the look of utter fear in your eyes. But in that fear, you had a spark of determination."

"Demon Sect must be defeated. While they do not have the same connections as Yami, their members are very dangerous in their own ways. With Ryouzanpaku on the edge of going into conflict with Yami, I believe that it is time that I form my own team."

"What?!" Nagato, who prided himself in usually being calm and reserved, exclaimed. "A team? You mean like an organization of your own?"

The wind blew upon them violently while Naruto thought of what next to say.

"Right now, it is still the calm before the storm. It is a chess match for the moment and we are strategically placing our pieces. The storm will come one day, and I want to be absolutely prepared for it."


END

Very short chapter, barely scratching 3000 words. It's an interlude of sorts that is basically going to be the set up to my next legion of Chronicles for Naruto. What you guys need to know is that this all ties into the plot in the future. I know that I didn't really make Jiraiya's entrance epic or anything. Here, he's just a secondary character. Next chapter will be longer and we'll be back on track.

Now then. Yes, I've come back for a bit. Let me tell you something, Being a full time student and full time worker is no joke. I go to school in the morning 7-2pm and work from 3-12am. So as you can probably figure out, I'm tired as hell. I'm just happy I got this chapter out. I am very rusty right now.

Next chapter is going to be for Honoka and of course, everything else that's going to happen. It's planned...I just wish I had the time to write it, y'know. Hopefully, this short piece of crap chapter might have re-sparked some interest. Not just for you all, but for me as well.

Anyway, I'm tired. Very tired.

- EnP