Chapter 14: Onward
Sarutobi Hiruzen wondered if he should feel relieved or grow even more anxious with how Naruto returned from his mundane C rank mission unmolested. The ANBU team that he dispatched to follow them reported that Naruto and his team had performed their mission to the letter. Despite the fact that hundreds of Naruto's kagebunshin was seen running around all over Na no Kuni for days, there have been no reports of any suspicious activity.
He found that Naruto even made time to share some of the seals he made to irrigate his garden, offering them at a discounted rate on the promise that they kept hiring Konoha-nin for missions. Apparently some of the farmers there were forced to use labor-intensive methods because they had no money to put up a proper irrigation system for their fields, Naruto's seals offered a cheaper alternative to that.
It seemed that Naruto made a killing in the said agricultural country.
It was actually the fact that the mission was almost uneventful that made him anxious. Naruto was still the same dutiful young Shinobi, and his reports are as concise and enlightening as usual. He even added a suggestion to propose a deal with Na no Kuni that may allow Konoha to monopolize D and C rank missions for the maintenance of their farms. The fact that Na no Kuni was just a day's trip from Konoha, makes it perfect for new teams to train for working in another country while still remain relatively safe.
In response, Sarutobi promised that he'll write a letter to Na no Kuni's lord as soon as possible. Naruto seemed elated by the prospect, since it seemed that the boy has fallen in love with Na no Kuni's people during his stay. The Sandaime didn't have the heart to inform him that Na no Kuni's peace is just a facade. At the heart of its court, the Daimyou is actually on the verge of being ousted by a group of criminals sponsored by treacherous courtiers.
He would have had to send a team to save the lord of Na no Kuni if only to ensure that such a deal brings prosperity for Konoha. Unfortunately the Daimyou has not agreed to the proposal, citing that there's no reason to spare his Shinobi for charity. The benefits of the proposal was found to be too small for the risks that sending a team might incur. And his advisors would never approve of this just to make Naruto happy. A Shinobi village is first and foremost, a business, and no one performs charities without profits in their world.
So with heavy a heart he dismissed Naruto with a promise he knows he'll never fulfill. He didn't even think twice about approving Naruto's request for taking leave from duty for a few days to prepare for his next ranking exam as a seal master. He had no doubt that Naruto will pass, and he hoped that this would help serve as a distraction to help the boy forget about Na no Kuni.
The Sandaime never noticed the way Naruto's eyes gleamed with determination the moment his back was turned nor how his lips silently mouthed:
Tower of Seals (Fuuintou)
It was not his favorite place in the tower, no matter how much Naruto claims to love this little rooftop garden. While he may have called it little, he didn't mean it as literally. It's just how Naruto named this place, a circular green house around fifteen feet in diameter and filled with various plants and flowers. It was "Naruto's little garden", at least, that's how the boy named it.
As for why it was not his favorite place, it's simply because of the fact that he was a sensor. While he cannot claim that he's one of the best out there, even he can feel the pressure in the air that a sensor experiences in areas that are highly saturated with nature chakra. It's like swimming in a pool of oil, as if there is something oily and slimy clinging to your senses. It was a very uncomfortable sensation to say the least.
He was aware that Naruto was developing a knack in sensing chakra, and he wonders how the blond can stand it at all. He glanced at the boy who was once again thoroughly soaking the seals all around the green house with his chakra. Naruto was pouring an insane amount of chakra as usual to maintain this garden, and at the rate he was going this place would be as rich as the rumored Mount Myoboku in terms of nature chakra in few years.
"All done." Naruto said as he stepped back from the seal array. "That will hold up for a week at least."
Itachi who was also watching the seal work keenly couldn't help but comment: "You have been feeding your plants with chakra for so long, while turning the energy to nature chakra…"
"Basically creating a rich nature-chakra saturated soil." Shisui continued, "The Hokage will flip if he finds out about this secret side project of yours."
Naruto shrugged, caressing a thick vine gently and was pleased to feel it twitch under his caress. He was no Senju Hashirama, but his project was going well enough to be considered a success. "What is the issue? It's mine, I am not hurting anyone with it, and it's not dangerous as far as I know."
It's mine. the moment Naruto said that, any chance of him relinquishing this little garden of his became nonexistent. If there was one thing the Uchiha cousins have learned about Naruto, was that of his utter possessiveness of things that he claimed as his own. Itachi would always remember the way Naruto clung so protectively to his sealing notes when they first met.
Then again… Naruto was a child denied so many things for so long because of his jinchuuriki status. He has taken to caring for plants ever since he was small to keep himself company, and because of the fact that he could give them all attention he wanted and no one would get angry or lecture him about it like they did when he tried to take in a stray cat.
"Well… not even the Hokage has seen this garden ever since it transformed into a nature-chakra fountain." Itachi admitted, "He will have a heart attack if he finds out that the five little potted plants you got back then have become like this."
"Eeh… really?" Naruto mused as rested on a giant lotus leaf floating on a sizeable pond of his garden. "Nah… I think Hokage-sama would be more shocked if he knew about what I am going to do next."
Shisui shuddered, "Is it too late to convince you to change your mind?"
"Like hell I will stop now." Naruto hissed angrily, "I won't and I can't."
"There's no way he will stop now, Shisui… " Itachi reminded the older Uchiha. "We are at the point that we have no choice but to continue in moving forward with our plans or risk everything falling apart."
Shisui sighed wearily, "It's always do or die for us huh?" Of course death would be more preferable if ever they fail since in this case they would not only lose their lives but something worse.
"Hm…" Naruto hummed, finding it mildly humorous how calm he felt after experiencing this kind of situations far too many times to count. "But you see… I couldn't help but feel excited of the things to come." He said as he raised his hand as if to reach out to the sky beyond the glass dome. "Everything will change soon…"
"It's unfortunate that it has to be this way." Shisui couldn't help but say.
Itachi snorted at that. "Don't say it like that…" He closed his eyes, "A chick could only be born by breaking the shell of its egg… the very shell that once protected it."
Shisui gritted his teeth at that, "But Itachi… " It seemed Itachi was already singing a different tune, the way his cousin was speaking. Itachi was against this as much as he did before but now… "This is the only way, huh? But still…"
Naruto hummed a playful tune, his hand was still reaching out. From the small gaps between his fingers the sunlight filtered into a thin thread. "Ne… Kurama, do you think changing the world is possible?."
"Yeah, remember that the Sage of Six Paths did change the world back then… but I am not confident of the odds that a mere child like you could do it." Kurama said, snickering in the deepest part of his mind.
The Uchiha cousins were startled to hear Naruto suddenly laughing from his napping place, it seemed that Kurama said something that amused him again. Sometimes they wished they could hear the two converse, they felt out of the loop sometimes.
"A mere child like me can't change the world..." Naruto exclaimed as he rolled around on the giant lotus leaf. "True so true… but you see…" He was laying on his stomach, crossing his arms as his eyes locked to his friends. "together I think we can do it, right guys? With you by my side, we can do everything…"
Shisui grinned at that, "Of course."
Itachi just sighed before he replied, "True."
As he watched Shisui tackle Naruto leading to both of them sinking the lotus leaf under their weight, he couldn't help but feel content. For so long he was haunted by the shadow of the third Shinobi War, by the image of blood and tragedy. Ever since he learned of his clan's ambition, their foolish pride that blinds them from the world around them… he almost felt consumed by the fear of another war.
He would then be forced to choose between his clan and village. Perhaps he and Shisui would have done something they'd regret… if that's what they had to do for…
"The water is nice!"
"My pond is not a pool for you to cool down, idiot!" Naruto said as he landed a playful punch on Shisui's face.
But because of Naruto… it was strange that ever since Naruto entered his life, his despair and doubts were soothed. He could believe that one way or another if its Naruto , he would be able to do something to make everything alright. Naruto would be there for them, the same way they would for him.
"Oh before I forget…" Naruto who was soaked to the bone rummaged his pocket sand threw something round and black at each of them. "That's the thing I was talking about few weeks ago, it's done."
Itachi caught the black object or rather it the deep red almost borderline black stone. Shisui caught his, and was observing the pendant curiously. "Not that I'm doubting you or anything since it's common sense to ask, is this safe?"
Naruto nodded, "It is… I am pretty sure it won't combust on your faces at least."
"Ooh…" Shisui rolled his eyes, "That's nice?"
"Just trust Naruto in this." Itachi deadpanned as he putting the pendant on. "It's one you made especially for us, ne?"
He nodded, "I attuned it to your chakras… but as I said it's just in preparation for things to come. You don't have to worry about using it so soon."
Shisui craned his neck. "But the problem is not really a problem if it we can make it come at us when we want it."
"According to the information network of the Shiomitsu, it won't be…" Naruto assured him. "We are as alert as we could be for now."
"We trust you." Itachi muttered. "We always will…"
Naruto smiled softly, "… thank you."
That's the reason they're still going through with this risky plan, because they believed in each other.
A Few days later, Na no Kuni's forest.
His eyes narrowed predatorily at his target, a lean and longhaired man. "Ruiga, the water user." He whispered as he unsheathed his blade.
Ruiga was a a formidable suiton user, and he was known to use dowsing to spot for water sources, extracting it from earth and manipulating it airborne to great effect. Though even if he was a formidable as suiton user, his overall skill as shinobi was another matter entirely. This man could be classified as one of those over-specialized shinobi who relies on their trump skills too much to the detriment of ignoring their development in everything else.
It won't be an easy task going aginst him, but with careful calculations and a swift execution it could be.
As easy as turning the back of his hand, his target followed him like a starving predator. All it took was a little goading from his part and Ruiga left the safety of numbers to his pursue his death. Then again he could not imagine the other two brothers coming for this fool's rescue.
Ruiga came to an abrupt halt upon noticing the four tags he had placed on the trees in a square formation, laughing haughtily and not even bothering to move from the death trap. "You think such a basic trap could kill me? A standard Fūbaku Hōjin?!"
The Fūbaku Hōjin is a trap so called for an array of explosive tags placed around an area that can be detonated with a hand seal while also being sensitive to the proximity of any who enters the enclosed area. Should the trapped opponent attempt to move, the tags explode. Since the target was unable to move lest he risk being blown to bits, it was a perfect supplementary technique to subdue an opponent. It was however a basic technique that almost any shinobi above Chuunin level won't be caught dead on, not without having another trap layered on top of it.
He could tell what Ruiga had in mind, he could extract water from the earth without moving a muscle and use it as shield to absorb the blast. However what Ruiga didn't notice was the tags that were placed far above his line of sight, in the the branches above the very same trees.
Four tags with kanji 雷 on its seal array center.
The moment Ruiga enacted his plan, the seal's sensor arrays triggered by the presence of dense water natured chakra in the air went off and fried the water user Shinobi.
Ruiga let out his last scream as high voltage electricity tore through his body. His assassin didn't even bother to listen to his howls of agony and moved on to his next target. Leaving four clones to confirm Ruiga's death and to inspect the body.
Another letter of challenge issued, and neither Jiga nor Renga lamented the death of their youngest brother.
"Get rid of this pest, or I will personally kill you myself." Renga warned his brother.
Jiga swallowed, "Yes."
They still had to kill those benefactors who had sponsored this coup and until then they had not completely conquered this country. Jiga had no delusions that Renga alone could conquer this country without him.
A smile curved up tha assassin's lips as Jiga left Renga and departed into the depths of the forest, just like Ruiga did.
"Jiga, the user of magnetism." He whispered to no one.
The second brother was known for his magnetic abilities in spite of not hailing from a magnet user clan of Kumogakure. According to the intelligence they gathered, the ability came from his consumption of iron since an early age. Jiga made his body to adapt with his unique diet that resulted in him gaining control over magnetism. However forcing his body to do that would gave him a glaring weakness.
Apparently he couldn't turn it on and off by will but by slapping his stomach, and he had to turn it off after an extended use or he risks losing control of his ability. It would be easy to exploit this weakness like Ruiga's but the problem was, unlike Ruiga, Jiga had the physical prowess to back him up and was extremely proficient with his kusarigama.
He was not going to be as easy.
With that in mind the assassin hurled a barrel of exploding kunai towards the magnet user.
"That won't work!" Jiga shouted as he used iron sand to form a shield.
"We will see…"
The voice was mischievous, echoing trough the dark forest hauntingly. Jiga was not a coward but the voice was unnervingly playful, as if it was enjoying watching him squirm under relentless explosive attacks.
Jiga won't give in and squirm for his attacker, however under the continuous assault he started to squirm as he had to keep ability for too long and eventually had to stop. Jiga threw the biggest shield he could make and quickly abandoned his cover after it exploded, turned his ability off, and took out his weapon. If the assassin thought he would stay idle and fall for this meager tactic, the bastard had another thing coming.
The attacks were relentless but so far it had only been coming from one general direction, which meant that it's very likely there's only one assassin. As long as he takes care of the bastard, he wouldn't have to fear an ambush and advance as he liked. Jiga grinned as he spotted a shinobi dressed in a standard uniform, a vest, long sleeved shirt and pants, and the man was holding a kunai. Jiga was a frontal assault type of fighter but he could do stealth if he puts his mind into it.
He threw his kusarigama to the defenseless shinobi, only for his kusarigama to turn its target to smoke.
Jiga never saw the powerful wind blade coming from behind and he hollered in pain. Both of his hands were cut off and the last blade of wind tore his back forming a long gash. Jiga was barely conscious when he bled to his death.
The target's hands were cut off to prevent him from turning on his magnetism, a little overkill but better than sorry.
The last one was Renga and he didn't rush for the last brother, content on watching Renga throw a tantrum and unleash his fury on the greedy and disloyal courtiers of this country. Who was he to stop a criminal from murdering their kin and save himself from extra work?
Besides, Renga won't let himself engage the assassin who had killed his brothers in the dead of night. Renga in spite of being a shinobi, actually had a better advantage when fighting in broad daylight.
If he wanted Renga to come out with the same arrogance and ignorance like the other two brothers did, he had to call Renga out first thing tomorrow morning.
Renga didn't disappoint as the eldest brother retraced his deceased brother's path to their deaths while accepting his challenge.
"Futon no Juujiika Fuuin (Wind element cross seal)"
The brown haired Shinobi didn't bat an eye as his transparent barrier blocked the chakra enhanced shuriken, frowning when he heard a high pitched screech from his shield.
"Che." He grunted in annoyance.
His ice was as hard as diamond, and while it could stop almost anything, apparently a wind element attack could make a crack on it. Fortunately it was not enough to pierce his ice and injure him.
Deep in the forest, hiding in the midst of lush trees and vegetation, the assassin observed his target keenly. Out of the three brothers, Renga was the one whose technique he didn't get the secret of. There was an invisible barrier as the reports said, but when his shuriken hit the said barrier he could see the crack lines form on it.
Some sort of glass or the likes, but that hardness was like a diamond's. It was unlikely for it to be actual diamond though since one of the reasons Renga staged a coup in this country was for his lack of wealth.
A feral voice whispered to him, and his lips curved up to a mischievous smile.
"I see… in that case he is no longer a mystery to me." He murmured.
Renga narrowed his eyes when a child walked out to the clearing he occupied. The child had his hands folded on his back, a serene smile on his face as he stopped roughly ten feet away from Renga. The older shinobi didn't move, not even an ounce of his being felt threatened by the child.
"What are you doing here, brat?"
There was no answer from the child, but the moment the child unsheathed his blade, Renga knew the answer.
"You came to kill me."
Once again the child's action was enough an answer as a giant wind blade tore its path towards him. For the first time, Renga felt threatened as he rushed to raise his ice shield. Just like before a hairline crack formed on his supposedly indestructible shield.
Renga felt his blood rushing to his head, and he wanted nothing but to wring the brat's little neck. On second thought he'd rather see the brat burn! With that in mind, Renga jumped to the air and landed on a disc he formed. But instead of seeing fear on the boy's eyes, he saw nothing but fascination and curiosity. In fact the boy was just standing there outright staring at him.
He had decency to look sheepish as an invisible beam struck the spot he occupied few seconds ago, melting the ground. So not the time to be distracted by observing Renga's technique. It was easy to dodge the attack because while Renga had a jounin's speed, his attacks rely on nature, therefore so as long as he could tell where's the missing nin was aiming the attack could be dodged.
If Renga thought he was the only one who could attack, the older shinobi had another thing coming. He faked helplessness as he let himself get a couple of close calls, and Renga in spite of being superior didn't bother to go down from his high throne and content to watch his assassin running around helplessly.
So focused in playing with his prey, Renga didn't even bother to look up. He only noticed something was wrong the moment the dot of light on the ground, the focus of his ice lens suddenly disappeared. He looked around and up as veil of endless white descended on him.
Renga looked around in panic as the ground below also covered in veil of mist, and he completely lost sight of his surroundings.
"Kirigakure no Jutsu?" He hissed.
"True… " A mischievous voice echoed through the air, and Renga tried to look for the source of the voice but it sounded as if it come from every direction. "While I am no master of this jutsu, overloading it with chakra made the mist become very thick and heavy…"
Renga gritted his teeth, raising his hand to expand the lens he occupied but nothing happen. "Why?!" His eyes widened when numerous chains suddenly sprung and tied his body in its iron hold, and he struggled to keep standing on his disk.
"It's wasting a lot of chakra but with how dense my chakra is in the air it's now impossible for you to imbue it with your own to shape that fancy disk of yours… or at least with your chakra capacity you won't be able to overpower mine." The amused voice said, "You may be a jonin level in terms of power, but because of your arrogance you fell to my trap just like your brothers…"
"You! What do you want?" Renga gritted out in anger, struggling to get out of his bind.
"Soten Ginsei'un (Sky Clouded in Silver Stars)"
With no means to protect himself and no way of dodging the incoming attack, Renga could only watch as the endless white mist was torn by a torrent of wind that enveloped him in the embrace of its vortex. He was pulled in, screaming and kicking and the next thing he knew he was on the ground with cuts and bruises marring his body. He struggled to stand up but his body didn't obey. The sharp pain on his back told him that his back was bleeding and his stinging shoulder was a sign of a broken bone.
The boy approached him but Renga couldn't even lift even a finger as the sharp blade cut through his blue shirt, exposing the device he had carefully hidden beneath.
"My… what is this little toy you're hiding Renga-san?" The boy asked as placing a tag on his jugular and he could feel his whole body numbed. He couldn't even twitch; he was crippled from his neck down.
"You… who are you?!" He hissed venomously, hurling curses towards the boy.
The tip of the gleaming blade on his neck didn't unnerve him at first, but suddenly he could feel the blade heat up and started to pulse like a breathing heartbeat. It as if he had his neck on a jaw of vicious beast, not cold steel.
"Losers don't get to ask Renga-san."
The boy knew his name, while he didn't know the boy. From the beginning he was charging blindly to this battle, while the boy did not.
"Kuh." He grunted.
"Well then… I'd like you to answer a few questions… and depending on your cooperation, perhaps… you will not be reuniting with your brothers anytime soon." The boy promised.
Renga wanted to scream that he didn't want pity but he found himself saying in hoarse voice. "A loser doesn't deserve to live, as the strong triumphs over them… ask your questions and this dying man will answer you honestly with his last breath… I don't need your pity, kill me as you see fit as I am a weakling who didn't deserve to live any longer…"
"Is that so?" The brat asked, for once there's a tint of sadness in his voice. "That's your nindo huh?"
Renga just grinned as his eyes gleaming in madness. "Yes, it's my nindo."
A Few hours later…
Wakaba Ienari had been pacing within the safe house non-stop in hopes that he could somewhat lessen his nervousness. Of course it didn't work well as his mind kept going back to the child and his squad mates who had saved him few days ago.
It was a close call, and his country would have fallen to the hands of those criminals if not for those shinobi.
He had written that letter of request to the Tower of Konoha, in hopes that the Uzumaki clan still remembers their debt to Na no Kuni and help this country. It was his last hope and frankly he had expected the letter to be returned by Konoha because there's no longer any Uzumaki left in Konoha. He would have asked Konoha, but his poor country couldn't afford hiring their shinobi for this kind of mission. Their money had been taken over by corrupt nobles and the Three Brothers, so his only hope rests on the Uzumaki clan that would help them in light of their old friendship and debt.
Unexpectedly God hadn't abandoned him, or rather Uzumaki clan had not. He received a reply that requested him to hire Konoha shinobi for a C rank, which he still could afford with his meager savings. In the letter that was written in code his family learned years ago from the Uzumaki clan, he was instructed to hire Konoha Shinobi as a cover mission to infiltrate his country.
As expected those traitors didn't even bat an eye as a group of young ninja came to help their farmers to harvest their crops. He had chosen a correct timing too, as during that time those traitors were busy counting their earnings collected from the recently raised taxes, and could care less of a squad of shinobi in the country.
He was baffled when the youngest shinobi he believed shouldn't even be on the field but in the academy sneaked out of work and came to him. He thought the boy was a messenger, but apparently the boy was the one tasked to rescue him and replace him with a double. He was grateful to be saved from regicide, but he was more worried of what will become of his people in his absence.
The shinobi then assured him that as long as he was alive, he could deal with the aftermath and save his country when he retakes his place as their king. He was shocked when the boy introduced himself as the current head of the Uzumaki clan, and apparently the last one in Konoha.
"I am Uzumaki Naruto, the clan head of the Uzumaki… as our contract decreed we would never abandon our allies until our last breath. Rest assured Lord Wakaba, soon we will free your country from their subjugators."
He didn't want to entrust something this heavy to a child, because sacrificing another child after what he had done to his Haruna was the last thing he wanted to do. But once again there's nothing he could do, he didn't have a choice as he accepted that child's hand and sent him to his battle.
Today was the promised day the boy said, apparently he needed to return first and report about his C rank mission to Hokage. Last night the boy had return to Na no Kuni, only to ask for his blessing before running off to his battle. The boy promised to return at the latest this afternoon, but the sun almost gone and there's no sign of the boy yet.
He dreaded the worst and hoped with all his being he had not just sent a child to death.
It took all his strength to not stumble the moment he heard five rhythmical knocks, a sign that the one on the door was his ally. He opened the door and never felt so relieved when he saw the bright golden hair of Uzumaki Naruto.
"Lord Wakaba, I have…"
Wakaba didn't let Naruto finish as the Daimyo pulled the stunned boy to his arms, "You're alright… I am so glad! What was I thinking to send a child to those criminals?!"
Naruto gently pulled himself from the gentle hug, "Lord Wakaba…" Naruto smiled warmly, "I am a shinobi, and an Uzumaki… don't see me as a child, I come in the name of my clan and my nindo. Please acknowledge that… as I have fulfilled my clan's promise to you." He said sternly, leaving no room for argument.
Wakaba swallowed, it took him few seconds until what Naruto said sank in. "I am sorry Uzumaki-ku… I mean Uzumaki-dono, well I…" He stood up, dusting nonexistent dust from his kimono, then paused. "Does that mean… my country… is saved?"
He nodded, "Yes… in fact I even payed your palace a visit and did a little sweeping through your military ranks and servants." Naruto explained the reason of his tardiness. "They're all loyal to you and regret not being able to help you milord, and I ensured it's safe to return to your palace."
After he warded the palace as secure as possible, of course, it would be a moot point if Wakaba is assassinated after he went through so much trouble saving the lord. Not to mention Wakaba was one of few kind and gentle souls he thought could only be found in fairytales, apparently someone like Wakaba did exist.
Kindness and foolishness kinda overlaps as a rule in this violent world, but he'd rather have this naïve Lord to live a long life and be reunited with his daughter.
"You're getting sentimental."
'And? It won't hurt me and to have this kind of man on my side is nice… I don't need to fear him betraying me.'
"Is that so? But you fave to dread what the naïve lord going to put himself into for the sake of his country… ya know, I can imagine him throwing himself to invaders to save his people." Kurama pointed, "He didn't get the concept that ifthe King dies, the country is bound going to fall sooner or later."
Naruto ignored Kurama ranting on his head, most of the time he will listen to Kurama but sometimes Kurama's rants had to be tuned out to keep his focus. Beside he knew the consequences of making someone like Lord Wakaba as his ally.
Now all he needed to do was to keep building more connections, and soon it won't be impossible to free Wakaba Haruna. Being a hostage for so long the princess would have developed a better common sense than her father, and if he play his cards right… he could help Na no Kuni to prosper and more.
It's going to be a win-win situation for both Na no Kuni and his people.
Konoha, two days later…
To say that the third Hokage was displeased was an understatement, after all the old kage didn't give him leave to run off to Na no Kuni and make a name for himself by singlehandedly killing three Jounin level missing nin and saving the whole country. The other two elders were unperturbed by the recent development, there's no anger in their body language, just curiosity dosed with skepticism in their expressions. It seemed that they opted to wait and see before deciding their stance in this matter.
"I am so disappointed in you… Naruto- kun, you lied to me... as one of my shinobi this could count as insubordination to your Hokage."
That hurt as expected, but if the Sandaime hoped to guilt trip him with that the old kage had another thing coming. "Hokage-sama… " Naruto began, stopping Hakurei on his side from exploding in rage. "I did not lie to you… I asked for three days off, no more no less."
Sarutobi sighed, "You didn't tell me you're going outside of Konoha… and nothing about hunting missing nin either. Perhaps you didn't lie, but that doesn't excuse you keeping these kinds of secrets from your superior."
"As your shinobi, of course." Naruto admitted solemnly, "But my actions were not as your shinobi but as an Uzumaki, it's my clan's business with Na no Kuni and nothing to do with Konoha."
"are the last Uzumaki of the main family." Hakurei cut Sarutobi off, "I recall when it comes to clan's internal affairs, that the Hokage has no right to interfere as long as it's not against the wellbeing of our village." Hakurei reminded the old kage. "It's Naruto-kun's duty as the head of Uzumaki clan and I recall there's been no unwanted casualties in this skirmish so what else do you want?"
Hiruzen glared at Hakurei balefully, "He is too young... his clan affairs is still under my authority."
"No, it's not." Naruto replied promptly, startling the old kage. "I am a chuunin... while most consider genin as an adults, the matter of one's clan could be acted on once the clan member becomes a Chuunin." Naruto reminded the Sandaime with stern voice, "And I am a 4th Dan seal master… I have proven myself perfectly capable in saving one of my clan's allies. If hearsay is not enough proof I am more than willing to hand over to you the heads of the Three Criminal Brothers, I am not interested in their bounties." He said as he placed a red scroll before them, neither of them moving to unseal its contents.
Mitokado Homura narrowed his eyes at the scroll, "I'm not interested to see their severed heads Chuunin Uzumaki. Your willingness to present us this is enough proof that you defeated them and your lack of fear of any investigation attempt in regards to this case."
Utatane Koharu nodded, "That aside… while they're medium-sized fish in pool of missing nin, it didn't change the fact that they were considered Jounin level opponents."
"And you're a chuunin... how impressive." Homura continued, and he could see Hiruzen tensing from the corner of his eyes. "I want to say another promotion is in order, but as you pointed out when we promoted you to Chuunin… your field experience when it comes to battle is still meager…"
Koharu sighed wearily, "Well… with the missions we assigned to you, it's no wonder… " She glanced at her kage meaningfully, "So regretfully we have to say that you're not ready to be a jounin yet…"
Naruto nodded, that was not what he wanted anyway. "Thank you Koharu-sama, I am well aware I'm not ready to be a jounin… I am still inexperienced."
No one missed the way Naruto's voice drop at the last word, "I see… though I have to say I can't ignore the fact that you're capable of taking down three jounin."
Naruto shook his head, "Three jounin, one at a time when they're at their weakest by exploiting their weaknesses and ignorance because of their perceived superiority… it's not a fair fight…" He elaborated the circumstances.
In a straightforward fight, the three brothers would have beaten him. Of course with Kurama 's help he would have beaten them but that was not shinobi like...
"We're shinobi, we are never fair." Homura corrected.
Naruto nodded in agreement, "I concur honored elder… I am merely want to make it clear that my victory over them is result of carefully planned strategy and not mere physical strength." He was trying to gain their recognition, and if he had to flaunt himself, so be it.
Koharu's eyes narrowed, a gleam of interest on her eyes. "In spite of the fact that this battle is not a sanctioned mission from Konoha, would you mind to submit a report of how you defeated them?"
Naruto smiled at them, hook, line and sinker. "Of course honorable elders, in fact I have it with me now." He said as he pulled another scroll from his pocket. "Just in case… after all information on missing nin is always valuable..."
"You've prepared for this." Sarutobi noted, narrowing his eyes at Naruto.
Of course no one was fooled that Naruto had the report written by chance, the young Shinobi wanted them to read it. To be honest the elders didn't need the scroll to see Naruto had just painted of a billboard of himself as a perfectly capable Shinobi that they could use for more than menial tasks their kage was set on as the only missions available for him.
There's also underlying threat in this, that Naruto who was a Chuunin and in the eyes of Konoha law already eligible to be recognized as a clan head, he could take missions in the name of his clan as long as it won't endanger Konoha's interests.
"Lord Wakaba also requested me as the head of my clan to accompany him in his visit to our Daimyou to discuss a new alliance…" Naruto informed them with a smile, "It will be in ten days, and I'd like Chuunin Itachi and Chuunin Shisui to be part of escort… so in this opportunity I also will submit a mission request for the two of them… An A rank mission, which would be paid by Lord Wakaba and the Uzumaki Clan."
No one in the room didn't notice how the three veteran Shinobi tensed as Naruto innocently informed them of his plan, as if visiting the Lord of Hi no Kuni for political reasons was just taking another vacation. They would be blind to not see Naruto was starting to build his political influence as the head of Uzumaki clan, and with his Uchiha friends tagging along, it would seem that Naruto is just dragging his friends for a trip while anyone with the insight can see him actually involving the Uchiha clan as well as part of his political campaign.
For the Uzumaki, the old ally and distant relatives of the Senju to be allied with the Uchiha! The nerve of this boy!
For once Koharu and Homura was in the same page as their Kage, they had to stop Naruto or else. "Chuunin Uzumaki…" Homura began, "I suggest that you not get ahead of yourself, mind your place boy."
Koharu laced her fingers on the top of the table, her eyes never leaving the scroll of mission report and the mission request Naruto just submitted to them. "True… while it's impossible for us to not acknowledge the Uzumaki clan..."
You didn't discredit prestigious and noble clans like the Uzumaki even if they're extinct, not unless Konoha wanted to tear the spiral on their vests and discard their symbol.
Sarutobi could see what his old teammates were trying to get at, although he disliked it he had to admit this was the only loophole they had to exploit. At the rate Naruto was going, he was going to make a terrible mistake.
"If you keep this up, it would look like you're abusing your position for your own gain Naruto-kun." He pointed out with stern tone, "Ambition is good and all Naruto-kun, but mind your step before you trip… it's not a very good PR for your clan… in the eyes of our Daimyou."
If their Daimyou had a good head on his shoulders, but unfortunately that's not the case. It's fortunate Hokage had his ears, and Jiraiya too thankfully was Fire Daimyou's favorite so it's easy to maintain a good relationship and steer their lord away from anything that could harm Konoha and Hi no Kuni.
Naruto nodded in agreement, which was unnerving because he was unperturbed by the fact that he had no family members to speak of and accused for being too ambitious for his own sake.
"True… that won't put my clan in a good light. " Naruto said in somber tone. "Which is why I am going there on behalf of Lord Wakaba..." He beamed with genial smile on his face. "In the mission brief, Lord Wakaba requested me as such after all."
Sarutobi narrowed his eyes at that, "And why should we accept this mission?"
"It's in the mission brief, Hokage-sama… " Naruto pointed out. "I suggest you take a look of benefits Na no Kuni can offer us."
He did as suggested with spreading the unrolled scroll on the table so his teammates could read the content too. His eyes almost bulged out of his socket at the list of benefits Na no Kuni dared to offer so boldly.
"They're going to give Konoha a monopoly over Shinobi missions from their country?" Koharu read out loud.
Na no Kuni was a small country but it was an agriculture country, which mean they had lots of menial task ranged from D to C that would be perfect for their Genin and Chuunin in training
Naruto nodded, "Na no Kuni is abundant in exotic crops that couldn't be found in Hi no Kuni… their soil is rich, so they also propose a fair trade with Hi no Kuni. They also agreed to nurture medicinal plants for our needs… farmers of Na no Kuni had a knack in domesticating wild plants." He explained and he could see the elders were inwardly salivating on the prospect.
Sandaime looked down at the mission details and then to Naruto. "And the only condition Lord Wakaba proposed is for you and your team to be the one who escorts him… which could be seen as reasonable from his view considering you're his savior."
Koharu sighed wearily, "There's not much of a choice… our Daimyou would want this alliance and you could only imagine his fury if he knows we made our country pass up this chance…"
Their lord's fondness of good food was famous, legendary even, and an alliance and good trade with Na no Kuni was like early birthday present for him. But still… was it worth it to accept this and dance to their jinchuuriki's tune. They didn't survive until their sixties with naivety, and they'd be a fool to see Uzumaki Naruto as a well meaning child who only thinks of making people around him happy and having them pay attention to him. That old Uzumaki boy was long gone and has been replaced by this cunning and ambitious young shinobi.
The boy wanted to appeal to their Daimyou now that his career was hitting a temporary dead end by their Hokage's hand. And he achieved a way to do that just that with this. It's actually not hard for Naruto with his heritage to appeal to the Daimyou, his grandfather Muramasa was an exemplary court Shinobi in his service period to royal family. In fact it would be more fitting to say Muramasa was thought as a paragon of virtue and was said to be the highest standard a court shinobi like the Fire Guardians should strive to achieve.
His son, Asuma was not amused to find that elegance and being soft-spoken in speech as traits he had to learn to adopt in his service.
With his pedigree, appearing before the Daimyou with one charming smile would be enough to make the royal family see him as second coming of Muramasa. It won't take much to convince the Daimyou to be his benefactor and worse, they could lose Naruto to the Daimyou. They couldn't even deny Naruto the right unless they wanted to explain his jinchuuriki status.
"Naruto." Sandaime began, searching for correct way to snuff this attempt to be a little rebel out. "We will consider this for now… after all it's not wise to be hasty. Na no Kuni is a peaceful country but their land had long been a bone of contention among the neighboring countries."
Homura nodded in agreement, "To form a treaty with them would involve protecting this frail country and to spare resource for mere crops to trade is…"
Naruto unexpectedly didn't even bat an eye when they presented him with a big problem in his plan, a waste of human resources from their forces. The boy just nodded in agreement with thoughtful look on his face, "True…" He concurred, "Our Daimyou will address this problem in the meeting for sure."
Sandaime frowned, "Naruto-kun… I think we're more inclined to reject this proposal and not bring it up to our lord in light of this matter."
He blinked owlishly, "Bring it up to our Lord?" He wondered out loud, "Why do we need to bring it up to him when he already knows and has agreed to it?"
The three elders gaped at him, looking at the boy incredulously.
"You did what?!" Homura gritted out, "Informing our lord without permission is a serious offense! You have no authority to do such thing!"
Hakurei bristled while Naruto raised his hands in a placating gesture. "I won't dare to overstep my boundaries that way… honorable elder." Then again as a shinobi he had ways to skim around that boundary. "Lord Wakaba sent a letter via Courier Ninja, and the meeting is just… part of the formalities I suppose. I am not too well versed in how nobles socialize."
The last one was a big fat lie, as Naruto probably held the record of being the non court shinobi with the most missions dealing with nobles. He didn't have the experience meddling in noble politics like court shinobi, but he sure as hell knew how nobles work.
"But this proposal…" Koharu hissed, "Weren't you the one to propose it?"
Naruto shook his head, "I'm merely a messenger, as I was on the way back to Konoha I was entrusted to inform you."
So they're actually one step behind of Naruto, or was it the lord of Na no Kuni? Or perhaps the Tower? Hakurei?
At any rate they had lost this, and Naruto, who was planning this or not was merely a messenger in this whole plot at the time being. There's nothing they could do to stop this unless they wanted to expose too many secrets to their Daimyou, and they definitely didn't want the Daimyou to find out that the villagers had treated Muramasa's sole grandson and heir terribly.
"Make sure to prepare well for this mission."
He won this round.
Ten days later…
They're traveling using caravans, and unlike most nobles it was more practical than lavishly furnished. In fact Lord Wakaba was resting on the cart with only a tatami covered floor, a small table and tea set as luxury. Naruto and his teammates were using the cart behind Wakaba's, and they were sitting on sacks of rice. Thankfully they're pretty comfortable while leaving guard duty to soldiers and a dozen of clones Naruto left outside. Sai and Shin in the other hand were guarding from the front.
"I can't believe we did this." Shisui grunted. "I mean… with Hokage-sama letting us off for doing this on his back."
Naruto sighed wearily, "It's not like I'm jumping up and down in excitement either . Just to have this wonderful opportunity took weeks for me to plot." He reminded the shushin expert. "And I'm not happy either that I had to call debt on Na no Kuni for this. I don't like to use people, even if they get benefits out of it."
Itachi nodded in agreement, "Hokage-sama and his teammates are going to tread very carefully around you after this."
Naruto rolled his eyes, "It's not like I have a choice… oh, I have! But that's standing idle and spend my days in bliss of ignorance while our village starts to screw herself!"
At the solemn look on Itachi's face, Naruto deflated.
"Sorry… I have been a little stressed lately."
Itachi narrowed his eyes, "Naruto… you…" It seemed that betraying the Sandaime's trust was not as easy as turning the back of his hand as Naruto thought. There's no way Naruto didn't feel guilt at all.
"I haven't done anything that warrants you to fret over me." Naruto said, rubbing his temple. "I am not the twelve year old ANBU here…" He glanced at Itachi then to Shisui who was decidedly whistling as if nothing was amiss.
It's been months since they became ANBU, and that meant their missions were getting even more tasking for the mind and body.
Usually ANBU members retired after five years of service, some with unusual circumstances staying longer like Tori's squad. But Tori and his squad stayed that long with guarding him as a permanent mission, which won't drive them insane no matter how hyperactive he used to be.
Itachi and Shisui however couldn't afford that privilege when their clan was grasping at straws for their honor and name. Unless Itachi and Shisui can somehow make a name for themselves on the same level as Copy ninja Kakashi, something nearly impossible in this relatively peaceful period, they couldn't retire without being ostracized by their clan.
Yep, the three of them were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
"By the way… " Shisui as usual was the master of distracting people from gloomy stuff tried changing topics. "What are we going to accomplish from this mission, aside from… the mission itself, escorting you and Wakaba-sama?"
Naruto swallowed, "I am trying to determine how much influence my grandfather has in the royal family and if I can reap its benefits." He admitted hesitantly, showing how much he hated to use his pedigree to get any advantage. "Either way I want to try to get in the Daimyou's good graces... currently both your clan and I are under Konoha's government's authority. So I will make myself have some use for Hi no Kuni and maybe scare the elders a little…"
Itachi narrowed his eyes, "That's very risky… but isn't your pedigree an S rank secret?"
Naruto nodded, "The Daimyou knows so it's not a problem… and he also likes to keep secrets from the Hokage when the needs suit him."
"That daimyou?" Shisui muttered incredulously. "That wrinkled old man, whose wife unleashed the terror of all Genin named Tora?"
He waved his hand in negative, "No no… not that one, I am talking about the real daimyou of Hi no Kuni."
Silence fell in the room, as the two Uchiha eyed him with shock. It was comical in Itachi's case as there's lately so little that could surprise the stoic teen. Then again the revelation that the Lord they knew was not real or sort of in this case was like turning the world they knew upside down. It was actually not a common knowledge, and was only known by Hokage and his advisors. Hakurei was not supposed to know but his grandfather had the privilege to know the inside of the court and shared that knowledge to Hakurei.
Naruto crossed his arms against his chest, sighing wearily. "It's not like the Daimyou we know… Tokugawa Takechiyo is completely fake or some sort of body double." He began his explanation, clearing his throat. "He is the middle son of previous Daimyou after all."
Itachi frowned up at that, "But didn't you say… That the previous Daimyou used Hokurakushimon, the fourth Shiseiten to kill his oldest son so the third son could ascend to the throne?"
He nodded, Itachi had good memory as always. "True… the problem is, his youngest and most brilliant son that he favored was twelve years younger than Takechiyo. He was thirteen when the previous Daimyou passed away, so naturally Takechiyo ascended in place of the youngest son."
Shisui hummed at that, "Some sort of regent?"
He waved his hand in negative gesture. "No… as I said in spite of his young age Tokugawa Ieyasu is brilliant, so he made his older step brother to publicly rule Hi no Kuni in his place... and we all know Takechiyo is not that bright so he jumped at the chance of his brilliant brother backing him up."
Itachi titled his head to the side. "In short he is the shadow ruler of Hi no Kuni."
"At thirteen." Of course Shisui himself was not one to talk considering he was not much older. "Wow… but by now shouldn't he be much older? Why didn't he take the throne himself?"
Naruto sighed at that, "Which is why I am worried about dealing with Tokugawa Ieyasu, after so many years he is still content using Takechiyo as politic meat shield. Hakurei said he was fond of my grandfather, but looking at how he used his brother I really doubt it's going to help much."
"Is Wakaba-dono going to be okay? He is going to try to establish a trade and alliance with Hi no Kuni, won't he going to be hoodwinked or something?" Shisui asked worriedly, in the short time of knowing the gentle Lord Shisui found the man pleasant and would hate to get the kind man in trouble for their gain.
"It's just a trade agreement and a minor alliance… there's nothing much to be exploited from a peaceful and small country like Na no Kuni. According to Hakurei, someone like Ieyasu won't waste his time when there's bigger fish he has to be worried about like Kaminari no Kuni who keeps trying to paw on our lands like their Kumogakure." Naruto assured Shisui. "The reason I bring Wakaba-dono out of numerous Lords I am acquainted with for this is because he could propose a good trade and is not threatening enough to Hi no Kuni for Ieyasu to try anything."
Itachi sighed, "So… you're going to request an audience with him?"
"Not going to go that far… we will see Daimyou Takechiyo first but for the real one…" Naruto trailed off, "Ieyasu is so paranoid that only a number of Fire Guadians know of him. Getting his attention is going to be tough… but if he didn't want to see anyone... well no one has seen him for the last few fears."
Shisui frowned, "So what are you trying to achieve with…"
As one the three Shinobi tensed, their instincts flared in alarm when they saw Naruto tensing, a sign his clone was relaying information to him. Naruto flinched a little as he felt one of his clones dispel to relay the information.
"Just mountain bandits… " He said as he unsheathed his Hokuto Shichisei. "If we're lucky, Wakaba-dono won't know as long as we quickly wrap this up.
Shisui sagged his shoulders in relief, "Mou! I am almost thought it's ROOT again!"
Itachi frowned at his cousin, his hand on the hilt of Tenrou. "Don't let your guard down."
"I concur." Naruto narrowed his eyes as he recalled the memory that his clone transferred. "There are three leaders in their group… " He inclined his head to Northwest direction as they stepped out of the cart. "Around one hundred feet Northwest…"
"Around twenty or so?" Shisui answered, "It's always a pain trying to sense mook chakra…" He frowned. "Their number is steadily decreasing."
Naruto face-palmed, "It's Sai."
True to his word another ink lion came out of the cart Sai and Shin occupied, along with other animated ink beasts.
"While it's nice to see him taking initiative instead of waiting for orders unlike he was told in ROOT, He was supposed to wait... now unless the three leaders my clone saw are idiots, they won't be bothering to come out after that spectacle."
Shisui frowned at that, "True, there goes the chance of some bandit sweeping." He rubbed the back of his head, "The request to clean them up is going to Hokage-sama's desk sooner or later anyway."
"True." Itachi agreed, "This is one of the main roads to the Capital, they're incredibly foolish and overconfident if they think they'll survive prowling in this area."
Naruto shrugged, "We can eliminate them if they choose to engage us, but not the other way around because we can't leave the caravan unprotected for too long."
Shisui opened his mouth to say something but froze as he sensed three chakra signals closing in to them. "Naruto, Itachi… they're coming towards our direction."
"What?!" They exclaimed in disbelief.
Shisui nodded, "Seriously! What are they thinking?" He frowned, "Wait, now that they're closer, I can sense that they have decent chakra pools… around high chuunin to low jounin level perhaps?"
Naruto scowled at that, "Damn it!" He turned to the side, where he could see Sai and Shin already coming towards their direction. "Sai! Shin! Tell the Guard Captain and Wakaba-dono to speed this caravan up! Activate the barrier I prepared and continue guarding Lord Wakaba and his envoys! We're going after the leaders, we will catch up with you guys later!" He barked his orders as he and the Uchiha cousins leapt from their cart.
"Yes Naruto-sama!" Sai saluted before he ran towards the seals triggers Naruto placed in his cart while Shin went to another direction to inform Lord Wakaba of the current situation.
It didn't take long as the two groups were running towards each other, in fact the Konoha shinobi even waited for them in a rocky clearing as three men burst from the forest. They were indeed the leaders his clone saw, and they were followed by ten bandits dressed in tattered kimonos. The first was a dark skinned man, a tall bald man with pupilless eyes and manic grin on his face, wearing some sort of white cloth tied around his wrists and a short cape to cover his upper body. Second was a young man with spiky white hair, wearing a black kimono and scythe like sword strapped on his waist.
The third man made Naruto pause, as he recalled a face he recognized. The last member was a tall teen with slit eyes and cheerful grin, he was wearing a red tiger strip bandana to cover his head, a white sleeveless kimono shirt and black pants.
The dark skinned man hollered, "I didn't expect our prey to so willingly wait for us!"
"Hello there!" tall-and-teen greeted them cheerfully.
The white haired one didn't say anything but eyed the Konoha shinobi contemplatively.
Shisui eyed the dark skinned one in distaste, a typical overgrown bandit with too much confidence. "Out of curiosity… why did you come to us, usually no bandit would be stupid enough to continue trying to rob caravan guarded by shinobi." He couldn't help but pointed out.
As expected the dark skinned one answered, "We are the Sanshoku (Three Colored ones) and we fear nothing! Especially not three shinobi runts like you! I, Kuroi Sasori will give you a painful death!"
Naruto, Itachi and Shisui looked at each other and back to the three criminals. "Let me guess." Naruto began, "Is the guy with white hair Shiroi something and the guy with bandana is perhaps Benitora (Red Tiger)?"
The presumed Benitora looked at Naruto in awe, "How do you know my name is Benitora? Are you a physic or something?!" He asked in shock then as if an afterthought he added, "The guy on my left is Shiroi Karasu by the way so that also right on the dot! Man, you're good!"
"You're the one who told us you're the Sanshoku." Shisui reminded them.
"Oh, right!" Benitora grinned.
He is an idiot, they decided inwardly.
"At any rate… is this supposed to mean that you're not going back off if we ask?" Naruto asked rhetorically for the heck of it. "No?"
"NO! Brat!" Kuroi spat.
"I suppose not." Naruto rolled his eyes and without a warning he unsheathed Hokuto Shichisei and slashed it downward, creating a blade of wind cutting everything on its path.
The so-called Sanshoku quickly fled as the rock they were standing on was torn apart by the wind blade. Kuroi Sasori snarled at Naruto. "What the hell?! How dare you attack us so cowardly!" He and his companion once again had to dodge incoming attack, this time it a cyclone cloaked in flame as the two Uchiha combined their Goukakyuu with Naruto's Tatsumaki.
Kuroi was about to holler a curse but he scrambled out of the lightning threads that almost trapped him in a cage like barrier. "We're shinobi." Shisui pointed out as he drove Kuroi away from the group. "We never play fair, dumbass!" He pointed out the obvious as the dark skinned man scrambled to dodge his lightning.
Shiroi Karasu shifted as he dodged the wind blade and in an instant Itachi closed in, swinging Tenro in a vertical slash. Karasu backed away to dodge but started when he felt the blade ruffle the the top of his hair and managed to move away again, barely missing from being torn in two.
"What a long sword…" He couldn't help but comment. "Isn't it too long for you, boy?"
Itachi didn't answer instead coating his sword in flames as a fire dragon with a gaping jaw jumped out from his sword towards the pale skinned male. "Enryuu (Fire Dragon) " The white haired then man dispersed into white petals before materializing again behind Itachi who narrowed his eyes. "Genjutsu."
As the two Uchiha drove their opponents away deeper to the forest, Naruto was left alone with Benitora in the clearing. The spear wielder frowned when he saw Naruto sheathing his sword. "Oi… kid, I get it you and your friends are strong but that's no reason to underestimate me." He looked to two separate directions his friends had gone to back and forth. "You even went as far as to isolate us one by one, which doesn't really matter as much as we usually move on our own so it's not like being together can make us stronger by working together you know?"
Naruto narrowed his eyes as Benitora circled him like a hawk, his fast movements leaving afterimages which stopped moving while he continued to circle aroun until there were eight of them.
"Yo!" One of them cheered.
Benitora grinned, "I am the shadow master!"
"Even if you're a kid, you're a ninja so I won't hold back!" Another said.
Naruto just smiled at that, "Good choice."
Benitora's shadows all turned around and saw copies of the shinobi holding Kunai that was pointed at all of his copies. "This is..."
Naruto snorted, "A pretty neat teachnique you have there, a variation of our Bushin no Jutsu, one you created without hand seals… perhaps with the constant chakra emissions you were putting out when you were circling me around. That afterimage is not merely an afterimage but chakra that gradually takes shape to be your clone." A very simple trick but amazing nonetheless, especially…
Benitora shrugged, all of his shadows disappeared in a blink of an eye. "Well… as expected of a Konoha Shinobi, very observant."
When he dismissed them, there wasn't even a puff of chakra. If not for the need to move speedily to create those shadows, this technique would be a better version of the Bushin no Jutsu.
"Thank you." Naruto muttered, then his eyes narrowed. "As for your previous question of why we purposely separated you… Just from the way you interacted tells us that you're not really familiar with each other."
"Eh?! You can tell? Seriously?!" Benitora exclaimed incredulously.
Naruto shrugged, "We're shinobi of Konoha, teamwork is one of the core tenets of our strength."
"That's cool!" He complimented with a wide grin. "But why split us up then? You guys are better fighting in a team than individually like us." He couldn't help but ask curiously.
Naruto glanced at Benitora, his blue eyes find nothing but genuine curiosity. "We're about to, but looking at you changed our mind." He said as recalling the documents regarding the royal family that Hakurei showed him a day before their departure. "I asked my teammates to drive your comrades away because I am curious of you."
Benitora tensed and Naruto knew he had the man. "Wha… what are you curious about? Ha ha ha… I am not exactly a popular guy ha ha ha"
Naruto crossed his arms, his eyebrow scrunched at the laughing man. "Pray tell me… what is the crown prince of Hi no Kuni like you doing here?
Benitora froze and stammered, "What are you talking about?! I don't know this Hidetada guy! Even though I am as handsome as a prince I am just…"
Naruto cut him off, "Pardon me, but please polish your lying skills before you try to lie to a shinobi… Hidetada-sama." He pointed out. "Your voice is shaking and you're averting your focus from me… you're a terrible liar."
Benitora groaned before he sat down and sulked. "Fine! You win!"
"I am not aware we're having a competition." Naruto said in confused tone. "Pardon me for being rude, but as a shinobi of Konoha I have to be careful with my conduct in presence of a member of Hi no Kuni's royal family… thus it's a must for me to confirm your identity… rest assured that my teammate isolated both Shiroi Karasu and Kuroi Sasori so this will not compromise your identity."
Tokugawa Hidetada straightened his back, and at once his laidback look changed to one that befitting of a regal prince. "Well… in Konoha those who're of noble birth who probably knows how I look like dresses like any other Shinobi so I can't tell. So… you're one of a noble shinobi clan?"
Naruto frowned at that, "My name is Uzumaki Naruto… my clan is distantly related to the Senju but we're not considered a noble clan in Konoha." Not officially at least.
The prince blinked at that, "Hm… Uzumaki, I've heard of your clan. Wasn't your clan the one who designed our security seals? It's really awesome, those seals are at least a hundred years old but are still functioning, then again, the Uzumaki have been said to be the best seal crafters in history."
A surge of pride ran through his very blood, and he suppressed his urge to grin proudly at the young prince. "We're flattered by your kind words... Hidetada-sama." He spoke in his clan's place, giving the prince a respectful bow.
Benitora snorted, "Cut the formality, I don't want that when I am outside of the palace." He waved his hand dismissively. "And since you caught me, I'm here for a covert mission from my father." He jerked his thumb to the direction in which Itachi and Shiroi went off. "The Sanshoku is working for a man suspected for plotting a coup against our country. I sneaked in when he man was looking to form an assassination group to work for him."
Naruto flinched, "My deepest apologies, we hope we have not compromised your cover."
He waved his hand in negative, "Nah… all of our lackeys went to support Kuroi and Shiroi, and thanks to you separating us… my cover is still safe and frankly I didn't need it anymore!" He laughed boisterously, and Naruto couldn't help but think Hidetada was not a type who cared about his princely image. "They're here to intercept Wakaba of Na no Kuni in hopes of gaining some leverage against my father and uncle… or so the boss said." He shrugged, "I am done collecting evidence against the suspects. I actually meant to leave them in few days, and if possible take those two out of the picture."
Not one to waste an opportunity, Naruto placed his hand above his heart. "If you don't mind, we will be honored to eliminate the enemies of Hi no Kuni in your stead."
Hidetada laughed at that, "I wonder how old you really are? You can't be older than ten, but you're very sly to try to gain my favor! But I really like you, a bit too respectful for my tastes but you didn't gloss over yourself to get in my good side!"
Naruto just smiled at that as he unsealed a flare launcher from his scroll and sent a red flare up to the sky. "Well… to be honest, it's a very pleasant surprise to find you here Hidetada-sama."
Well, sometimes luck was on his side, showing up in the most unexpected ways and he was not complaining about it. Perhaps he didn't have to ask for help from spies Hakurei planted in court after all and risk blowing their cover. He didn't even have to plan anything to draw attention to himself.
The Next Day
"I see…" Hidetada said as they're on their last hour of their journey to capital. "You're on a mission to escort Lord Wakaba to my uncle."
Of course he would be crazy to reveal all of his plans to Hidetada when he just met the man, and he didn't have to do so either to get what he wanted. "Yes."
Hidetada suddenly closed in, his face was just inches from theirs. It almost took all of their will power to not react on instinct and attack the prince who foolishly entered their personal space. Not a very wise thing to do in a shinobi's presence.
His usually slit eyes opened, "You're seriously taking that kind old man towards my uncle? There's a Tanuki that will eat that man alive!"
Naruto sweat-dropped, "Am I right to assume that you're talking about your father? Hidetada-sama?"
He nodded, "Yeah… I assume you know how my family works, and call me Tora… call me Hidetada after we step on that stuffy palace of ours."
As one they wondered if having this easygoing guy as the crown prince of Hi no Kuni was a good or bad thing for their country.
"It's rare to have such a good old man in a position of power, and I would be damned if that Tanuki dad of mine exploits him."
As one the three shinobi waved their hands in negative gesture. "No, we don't think so. Na no Kuni is so small I don't think Ieyasu-sama is going to bother to exploit them."
"Like hell he won't!" Hidetada, now dubbed as Tora exclaimed. "That old man has grubby hands like you have never seen before! He is an old bastard who will use anything to get what he wants!"
Okay, it seemed that they're not so lucky after all if this how their prince voiced his opinion in regards to his father. In fact…
Naruto rolled his eyes to the side, "It seems that things are getting even more complicated."
He had to say he was almost worried that things were going too smoothly, it seemed his fears were unfounded since this mission would proceed the same as they usually do. A tangled mess of problems you couldn't see the end and beginning of , and strangely enough, he felt more comfortable in this familiar territory.
"You know… even I am starting to get worried with how your mind deals with trouble and how you get used to it." Kurama voiced his long-standing concern.
'Oh really… '
Hello there! Welcome to the long awaited fourteenth chapter of Unsealing Legacy~ Sorry for the delay but I will do my best to update more often, preferably monthly for this story ^^/ Thanks for Garrorar for fixing this chapter! You will not believe what a mess it was before...
AT any rate I think my style of writing change a little but well... I have been working on other fandom and it's affecting my style of course. I know you must have been thinking why I cut the fighting scene with Sanshoku... I wrote it down but there's nothing significant happening and I feel it's wasting time in the end as they're not strong enough to make Itachi and Shisui sweat so I just pass it... the problem is their ability just not a good match against Uchiha's sharingan so it's curbstomp battle I don't want to write DX
Hopefully I can finish Chapter 15 ASAP, we will have time skip but I think I need more time until I get to that point... hm... there would be at least two or three major events before we go to time skip to canon start \(^^)/
Here is a little preview
Chapter 15: Who You Are
He looked at the shogi pieces and the board laid before him and then to the face of true ruler of Hi no Kuni. He could feel those dark eyes staring to the depth of his soul, daring him to make his move. A move that would decide their future and if he made a wrong decision everything he worked so hard for would crumble beneath his very hand.
"Now boy... chose the piece that represent your standing in this board, tell me who you are! Are you a Keima (knight) or perhaps a mere pawn?"
Naruto didn't answer but he knew he was neither.
"Or perhaps..." The dark eyed ruler flipped the hisha (rook) piece, "You are a daring piece, a sleeping dragon waiting for his ascend to be the ryūō (Dragon King)?"
Shisui and Itachi felt fear unlike any other before as they knelt behind Naruto who was still contemplating his choice. They didn't know if there was any way out of this, as their shinobi mind told them that the Daimyou's question was one of those trick question with no correct answer. If Naruto lower himself that meant his worth was not enough for Tokugawa Ieyasu to pay any attention to him, but if he dared to choose daringly he would be seen as a would be usurper, a dangerous piece.
There was no correct answer within the board, and Naruto knew that. So he chose to do the craziest and unthinkable thing to do ever recorded in history of Hi no Kuni before the mighty ruler. He flipped the board down and sent all pieces clattering on the tatami floor.
Ieyasu smirked, "So that's your choice... Uzumaki Naruto."
And CUT, I feel so generous to give preview of historical moment in Unsealing Legacy's universe hm! *smug* ho ho ho And another promise I need to fulfill a bonus omake LOL
As usual it was another warding mission, and Naruto was getting borderline sick of it, Itachi and Shisui tagged along as teammates-slash-bodyguards for the Konoha Jinchuuriki. After all Konoha didn't want a repeat of the kidnapping incident, especially since Hachi no Kuni was very close to Kaminari no Kuni. Then again if the Sandaime was desperate enough to take him out of the village since because of his long absence, or rather non-existent appearance in the public eyes of Konoha some idiots thought he died (again) and it was time to celebrate the Demon's death. The Hokage tried, but he was failing marvelously in hiding his peoples' folly. After all what reason could make the Sandaime request him to take a mission whose appointment was pushed one month early, having to exit his own village as discreetly as possible through a back door, even receiving a stipend for some relaxation on the road?
Seriously, at this rate the Hokage would have to make him appear at least once a month in crowded street of Konoha just to tell the villagers he was very much alive and they're prohibited from celebrating his death. Hopefully it would never come to that, and for now he would enjoy this paid vacation to the fullest as there's no rush to get to the nobles mansion at Hachi no Kuni.
Itachi, a connoisseur of Japanese quaint teahouses as always wanted to enjoy tea and sweets first. That was the closest to being enthusiastic Itachi could be, not that Naruto could blame Itachi. He had the same obsession with ramen. Unfortunately on the way to a teahouse that was recommended by a vendor they asked on the road, they came across a couple locked in passionate embrace right in the middle of dark and narrow alleyway they were going to use as a shortcut. They had used civilian method of travel as to not arouse attention to themselves if they took the roof paths. As it seemed the couple was too engrossed in each other and uncaring that they had an audience, the roof seemed better choice. So the three Shinobi exited the scene as silently as possible and took to the rooftops, ignoring the pointing fingers of people making a fuss over seeing shinobi, they're pretty rare sight in this country it seemed.
Shisui snickered as they descended to the ground. The street was secluded so they could blend back to crowded street unnoticed. "Man! That's one passionate horizontal tango! I think they're exhibitionist!"
"Shisui." Naruto chided. "Keep your opinions to yourself."
"Horizontal Tango?" Itachi echoed in confused voice, which made both Naruto and Shisui stop their stride. "Is that what they're doing in such place? A dance?"
Naruto and Shisui stopped in their track and at once turned their eyes to stare at Itachi.
Shisui stared at his cousin in disbelief, "Did you say those sentences with a question mark? Did I hear you right?"
Naruto stared at Itachi in horror. He couldn't be serious! Wasn't Itachi the one who is supposed to ask if he even knows what puberty consists of? Then again... Recalling the children of The Tower, they could be amazingly aware of the birthing process and yet have no idea how the baby could get to their mother's womb, or that some men prefer same gender's company and chalked it up as a different taste like some people like chocolate and other likes vanilla. But this was Itachi they were talking about! He was promoted to ANBU at eleven! The thought he didn't even know... Waiiiiiiiiit... that they expected him to know doesn't mean he knows.
"Uhm... Itachi, have you ever gotten The Talk from your parents? Teachers in the academy?" Shisui asked hesitantly.
Itachi looked thoughtful for a moment, "Mother did mention something about how it's about time for father to tell me something... I believe she said it's a talk, and father looked pretty uncomfortable when she brought it up."
"So… did he?" Shisui pressed on.
Itachi placed his hand on his chin then answered, "For five minutes he keep repeating 'When a man and a woman loves each other very... very much' but he was never able to move on to the next sentence, and then one of his subordinates came and requested his presence in Police HQ. Father looked relieved when he told me he would continue some other time and went off."
Coward, The same thought echoed on their minds.
"The academy instructors didn't tell you?!" Shisui asked again.
Naruto shook his head, saving Itachi from trouble answering. "He was seven when he graduated, shinobi or not you didn't give a seven years old the talk... usually." He pointed out loftily, "But you do know about inappropriate touching if your reaction to Oda Nou's flirting is anything to go by right?!"
"I have been told of that by my mother when I was six." Itachi admitted, growing uncomfortable by his teammates' reaction to his lack of knowledge of horizontal tango. "That time father was working on a case of a child molester that was running rampant, so she deemed it prudent for all children of Uchiha clan to be warned."
Naruto stared at his best friend in disbelief, that Itachi is really clueless of sex. He understood dangers of molestation, rape and the likes, but apparently Uchiha Fugaku had no guts to sit his oldest son down for a short talk about the bird and bees.
Shisui gaped then suddenly he burst to a peal of laughter, "Ha ha ha ha ha! I can't believe this! You… you don't know about sex?"
"I know I am a male." Itachi replied seriously, looked pretty murderous that Shisui ridiculed him.
Naruto looked between them back and forth, "Uh… Shisui is not talking about gender… Itachi…"
"Don't worry Itachi... all we need to do is hit one of good places of Tanzaku's red district! We look old enough to get some service and..." Shisui trailed off with a grin but never managed to finish his sentence as Naruto whacked him upside the head hard enough that he was sent crashing to a tree.
Naruto fumed, "You're not bringing Itachi anywhere! You hear me Uchiha Shisui?!" He roared furiously, waving his clenched fist at the older Uchiha. "If you dare, I will lock you up in my rooftop garden!" Naruto didn't really understand why both Itachi and Shisui avoid his garden like it was worse than T&I division's torture room, but looking at Shisui's paling face it seems to work wonders to threaten the shushin user.
Then he turned to Itachi who for once looked so naive and impressionable, there's no way in hell he could leave Itachi to stay clueless like this! He swallowed, should he really hijack Itachi's father's job? Then again the clan head seemed like he would avoid the said duty as long as he could.
"Naruto..." Itachi called him, "What is it that my father was supposed to give me a talk about and why you seems so flustered that Shisui is thinking to help..."
"Help?!" Naruto echoed in horror, "Itachi, that's not help he so much as he's trying to corrupt you! Seriously, my friend... so innocent... " He lamented, "You're not going even one step to a red light district before I give you the talk! Or even after that unless for a mission!"
Shisui burst to another laughing fit, "Ha ha ha YOU are going to give Itachi, the talk?! Wait! You already know?!"
"Of course, I know! What do you expect? I live with Shin and Sai, though that's not why I know! Besides... can I trust you to do it without any bad intentions to corrupt him?!" Naruto shouted, pointing at Shisui accusingly.
Shisui looked offended, and for a moment Naruto felt guilty. Maybe he was judging Shisui wrong, "Hey! I am not going to corrupt Itachi with any bad intentions!" It seemed he should apologize for Shisui for misjudging the older boy. "If anything I am going to save him from a life of celibacy! At the rate he is going, it's going to doom the Uchiha clan! If he grows up asexual without even having any idea of the comforts of a good mastu..."
Naruto silenced him again with another good whack on the head, "Don't you dare to finish that sentence! I even wasted few seconds thinking I've misjudged you!" Naruto shook Shisui back and forth, "You hear me, Uchiha Shisui?! What you're going to do now is go buy us some food and don't you dare to come back in less than three hours!" The talk itself won't take that long, but Itachi would need a head start to run from Shisui if the older Uchiha was getting ideas.
"I am still here you know." Itachi reminded them of his presence, and to Naruto, this was the first time Itachi was acting childish. He didn't pout, but by Itachi's standards to be offended that he was ignored was equivalent of pouting and sulking.
Naruto shot Itachi an apologetic look before he ushered Shisui to go away and do his errand or else. After Shisui was out of sight Naruto turned to attend to his other teammate, sometimes he forgot he was supposed to be the youngest and not their babysitter. "Itachi, let's go back to the inn and we will..." Naruto swallowed, "Have the talk about bird and bees."
He wished this place had a bookstore, but the closest thing was a tourism center that sold maps, guidebooks, and Icha icha. While the latter could be used if he wanted an easy way to get Itachi to understand reproduction process, but there's no way he was going to use the smut novels that Jiraiya of the Sannin wrote. That was not any better than leaving Itachi to Shisui's mercy.
"It's called the birds and the bees but more or less it's a talk to explain about sexual congress and pregnancy." Naruto said to Itachi who was watching him raptly,
"You know... maybe once upon a time you might have asked your parents 'where does the baby come from' and if you're under ten they might have told you that a stork brings the baby from somewhere, a baby factory, baby heaven, baby primary hidden village or some shit... to parents who were waiting in hospital for their baby."
Itachi blinked owlishly, "How do you know that's what my father told me when Sasuke was born?"
Naruto face-palmed, inwardly cursing the wonders of a human's mind in compartmentalizing things. He still couldn't wrap his head around the idea that Itachi understood all about inappropriate touching, puberty and other sexual crimes but was clueless of how humans procreate. "Probably because it's the one topic any parents would find awkward to explain to their children no matter what era, so much that since the Rikudo Sennin's time no one bothered to be more creative in telling the cover story for their children until they're old enough to find the truth."
"I know it's a cover story." Itachi confessed, "I never believed it, because I was sure the baby's weight would have broke the stork's neck. I never said it out loud to my parents though since it seemed they were triying really hard to make me believe them."
The blond stared at Itachi in bemusement, "While I have to compliment the four-year-old you for being considerate of your parents, on the other hand I can't believe you didn't buy that story because of the fact that a baby's weight would have broken the stork's neck of all things." Naruto said in deadpan voice, inwardly thinking Itachi was a not a handful as a child but was actually a different kind of handful when he was four. "At any rate... I am going to explain to you about..." He sighed, "The process of baby making, love making, horizontal tango... whatever words humans have creatively invented for sex." Naruto mused, "Now... you know when boys and girls hit puberty their body starts to change?"
Itachi nodded at that, "Facial hair, change of voice, hormones..."
"Yes..." Naruto murmured, "Like any other creature on earth humans mature in both mind and body as they age, the biggest change would be in their ability to procreate." They didn't even get to the main part and he already had a feeling things was going south and beyond. "You have fangirls from academy days until now right?" Naruto ignored Itachi's cringe at the reminder, "At that time they probably just have crush... A puppy love for you, simply because you're good looking, cool, smart and so on... you know, standard shallow reasons they chalked up as true love." Even though they had zero idea of what true love is when they were seven.
The Uchiha's scion shifted uncomfortably, "Could we please not talking about fangirls anymore? I am not comfortable talking about them."
"Unfortunately they're the easiest example you can relate on because they've been constant in your life since you're six." Naruto said with apologetic tone, "Moving on... if we want to finish before Shisui comes back so we can have a head start running from him."
Itachi raised an eyebrow, he was still upset Naruto wanted to keep mentioning fangirls but he was more curious why they had to run from Shisui. "Why?"
"Itachi... Shisui is at the height of puberty now, there's no telling what's he is going to do to your impressionable mind." Naruto informed him helpfully. "Now that he knows I know and am telling you now, I don't want him getting ideas."
"I am not impressionable." Itachi said, he was offended Naruto of all people think he was impressionable.
Naruto snorted, "Normally you're not, but believe me... the talk does wonders to someone's mind for a while..." He sighed wearily, fortunately or unfortunately he found out himself from an educational book. Then again not everyone has a bijuu-who knows the blow-by-blow account of the night he had been conceived sealed in them. Fortunately Kurama liked him enough to not traumatize him more than telling him that the bijuu knows the details, unfortunately the threat was still hanging on his head if he ever displeases Kurama.
"Now... back to your fangirls." He ignored Itachi's subtle flinch, "When they hit puberty I am sure lately they didn't just giggle and blush when you walk past... I have seen them trying to give you a peek, cleavage, legs... and try to touch you too." Itachi's flinch was not so subtle anymore at this point, "You see Shisui trying to hit on every pretty girl he sees in hopes that they will give him a good time as he put it... In a normal relationship usually man and woman go through this courting process to get their desired partner... and then move on to the next level of their relationship..."
Itachi nodded numbly at that, "Next level?"
Here comes the dreaded part, but since he was not even in puberty yet maybe it wasn't going to be that bad. It was like talking about someone else's problems. "Yeah... sexual intercourse, and I really hope you're aware that a man and a woman have different sets of equipment between their legs. Are you?" Naruto waggled his eyebrow.
The older boy frowned before he gave a hesitant nod, "Yes..."
"Okay... " He breathed a sigh of relief that he knew was too early, he closed his eyes in hopes that it would be easier if he didn't see what kind of face Itachi made once he moved on to the next part. "Now... " Naruto droned on, "It functions as reproduction equipment... men and women have different sets, and since I am not going to lecture you about the wonders of biology... I am going to make it much simpler. All men have a penis, which produces sperm. While the women have a vagina, and uterus... which makes the egg."
Unexpectedly it was not that hard to say, closing his eyes really helps! "So... the sexual intercourse between a man and woman will involve both partners stimulating each other's sexual desire." Which he requested Itachi to read a proper book about it later but explained it was basically 'inappropriate touching' with consent on both partners... usually, "Moving on… the main thing involves a man inserting his penis to woman's vagina. Noted that for virgin women who never had sex they would have something called hymen so they will…" Naruto started to explain a bit of detail of woman's body and somehow along the way the topic went to a woman's monthly period, which made Itachi let out flustered stutter, making Naruto go back to the main topic. "Thrusting in and out for sometime... his seed, which is the sperm goes into the woman… fertilizing the egg on her womb… the fertilized egg grows inside the womb and become a fetus, then nine months later the mother gives birth to the baby."
Itachi didn't say a word, and Naruto took that as a cue to keep going. He opened his eyes but did his best to not pay attention to Itachi's face, in the hope that it won't be awkward and a message that he didn't mind what kind of face the Uchiha made.
"Now… while biologically sex is for reproduction, that's not the only reason for humans to have sex… the other reason, the simplest and also the most complicated is love… in our age I guess we won't understand the details but yeah, you love someone so much so you want to do stuff with them end of the story…" Naruto shrugged, "The third reason is simply because it's pleasurable… and this is why even without a partner teenagers will start experimenting with their bodies, touching themselves in sensitive areas… " He shook his head, "If you ever catch Shisui moaning in the privacy of his room..." Itachi nodded numbly, and Naruto saw that gesture from the corner of his eyes. "That's pretty much what he is doing…" Naruto finished, looking up as he listened as a certain nine tailed fox adding his two cents.
"I see…" Itachi murmured.
Naruto laughed softly, "Oh… and Kurama said… That humans will have the urge to do it after life threatening situations, a natural urge to preserve their species he said." Naruto shook his head exasperatedly; "He has an advice, if we ever have the urge to have sex after a life-threatening situation. It's a normal thing to feel, so we must get it out of our system even if it is done with touching yourself rather than risking your life fighting when you're in a need to get laid." Naruto snorted, "And be careful of your surroundings that you won't be caught by your enemies with your pants down." He finished, "Now… I guess that's the end of our talk, not so bad I hope?"
Naruto blinked owlishly, "Itachi… that's the only thing you have said so far in response, are you al…" Naruto trailed off then for the first time since the talk began turned to see Itachi's face. Itachi had turned interesting shade of red, and Naruto could almost hear his mind gears cracking. "I… Itachi, are you alright?"
Itachi opened his mouth, closed it, opened it, closed it, and then stuttered. "No… I think the world just turned upside down on me. Now I understood why father avoided giving me the talk that time. How could you explain all that with straight face?"
"I guess because I am not teenager with hormones yet? Or in Shisui's case, a horny hormonal teenager." Naruto said nonchalantly as if he was talking about the weather, "I'm not going to lie to you, but to me now… it's like talking about someone else's problems. Never mind my mental age, but physically I am still nine."
"Hn… I see…" He murmured with dazed face.
Naruto face-palmed, "Ah… would you prefer it's Shisui who…"
"No!" Itachi's eyes widened in horror, "You have no idea how grateful I am that you saved me from Shisui's talk!" He asked in incredulously, "You're right! He will try to corrupt me, regardless if he succeeds or not I am never going to hear the end of it from him!"
This was the first time Naruto saw Itachi lose his composure when it's not involving shinobi duties, his clan, and family. Then again knowing Shisui… "Ah your welcome, I guess?"
The Uchiha's scion swallowed, "I am sorry for troubling you with this… I should have known about this."
Naruto smiled at that, "It's no trouble Itachi… and don't tell me you should have known it like it's your fault. People around us assume a lot of thing because our status as prodigies… they just expect us to do well in everything, to know everything… " He shook his head exasperatedly, "But we're just like anyone else… we can't know everything, regardless of what they think of us."
True, for as long as he remembered everyone in his clan and in the academy took his talents for granted, giving higher and higher expectations without care of how much effort he has to put in just to meet their quota. Whenever he succeeded, it was seen as something he was supposed to do so and do nothing less. But whenever he failed, he was subjected to their disappointment that really hurt him as a child. Which was what pushed him to protect himself from the pain, so they would leave him alone.
Shisui was subjected to the same treatment, but not as badly as he was not the heir of the Uchiha clan. Shisui was also more carefree and not as easily pressured. Shisui didn't feel pressured by their clan's expectations and took it in stride. He never related to Shisui, simply because Shisui thought Itachi had the same opinions as he was of their clan's expectations while actually it was not the case. It was not Shisui's fault but his, since he was always careful in hiding his feelings.
"I can always speak my mind to you without restraint… and you never judged me, Shisui laughed when he found out I don't know about sex… you're surprised but you didn't say anything judgmental for my lack…"
Naruto sighed, "You know Shisui have no bad intentions right?"
Itachi nodded, "I am not angry he laughed, in fact even I find it's funny now that I have no idea…"
"I guess." Naruto agreed, "It's not that I didn't judge your lack at all… I just tried to understand why you don't… people around us are prone to take our talents and knowledge for granted, and we unconsciously or not will protect that image they have of us…"
Naruto on the other hand was just there and without the need to ask will understand what's going on his mind. Unlike him Naruto had been subjected to neglect and ignorance for most of his life. And yet people unfairly expected him to be as great as his parents. The sad part was no one in the Tower meant any harm with their expectations, Naruto if anything encouraged them to do so because he craved for their acknowledgement. He had been ostracized for most of his life that he accepted their expectations if it's what it takes to get that acknowledgement. It doesn't matter he knew the Shiomitsu or the tower would be loyal to him even if he fails their expectations, he was too used to conditional acknowledgement that his heart couldn't accept the concept of unconditional respect and acknowledgement.
They're not exactly the same, but they understood each other better than anyone else.
Itachi took a deep breath, "Nevertheless… I owe you…" He breathed out. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Naruto replied. "At any rate… I think he is going to come back soon, and we better avoid him for now before he drags you to a red light district for practice or something along that line…"
"No way…" Itachi growled.
Naruto agreed, there's no way Itachi could face Shisui in this condition. "Fine… let's ditch him in this inn and go to another inn, suppress our chakras so he can't find us, and I will keep him away for you on our way back to Konoha."
And so Shisui came back to find the room was vacated of Itachi and Naruto's belongings, save one note telling Shisui that Itachi needs some time alone and Naruto would kick his ass to next Tuesday if he dares to look for them. On the way back to Konoha, Shisui pouted like a five year old, moaning about being left out from manly bonding. Naruto informed him that they won't leave him out as long as he keeps what happened yesterday a secret and never mention it ever again or else.
Shisui agreed, but it didn't stop him from pouting. Maybe if he pouted long enough they would tell him more details of the talk, but unfortunately, no such luck.
"Pouting is so unmanly…" Naruto said with a smirk.
And of course, a certain blond brat always knew the right words to make him behave. Damn Uzumaki, he loved the brat platonically as a brother but it didn't stop him from thinking of strangling the brat sooner or later for being annoying.
I hope you enjoy the 14th chapter and the omake!
Don't forget to review! It's my food, drink and air as an author and most of all LOVE LOL