Author note, Please Read.
Firstly, a friend of mine on this site; The Engulfing Silence formerly known as Pokemaster12, has spent quite a while writing a book titled A Fox's Love (American Kitsune). It's a very well written and amusing tale of your average teen whose life changes forever when he runs into a supernatural being. If you like ecchi comedy and romance stories and enjoy fourth wall breaking humor, then it's for you. It's available on Amazon on paperback and as an Ebook. I recommend it.
An anonymous reviewer recalled an author note from the original version of this story that mentioned turning it into a Naruto/Fuu/Hinata harem and asked if I was going to do that here. I apologize to that reviewer, since you said you were hoping for it, but you forgot the most important parts of that particular message. At the time, I had no ideas on what to do with Hinata and was asking my readers for suggestions. I then stressed that I would NOT make it a Naruto/Fuu/Hinata harem so no one should bother suggesting it. The main pairing in Nine and Seven was always going to stay purely Naruto/Fuu and the same goes for this story.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
The sound of thunder boomed across the land as lightning arched through the cobalt clouds covering the inky sky, hiding the sun behind a dark curtain and rain fell heavily onto the world below. Rivers were swollen and raging with their heavy fall as intense winds caused the branches of trees to sway under their power and sent leaves flying through the air.
As the storm raged, the winds whipping across the earth and producing a howl like a banshee, two unlucky people caught outside on their journey ran under the shelter the trees provided. These two were our favorite pair of Jinchuriki. Naruto had the hood of his shirt up, while Fuu was covered in a white, hooded cloak over her normal clothing, shielding their faces from the rain as they made their way through the forest at top ninja speed.
As lightning crackled overhead, the path they ran across brought them to a raging river, a wooden bridge suspended over its waters. As they reached and crossed over the soaked structure, the orange wearing boy spied something in the waters and stopped, holding out his hand to stop the girl behind him, his words lost to all other listeners over a crack of thunder as the world flashed white from another bolt of lightning.
The white clad girl followed his gaze and gasped. Within the water were three unfortunate souls who were rapidly being swept away by the storm enhanced current.
As the sky lit up with cerulean fire, both ran to the edge of the bridge, preparing to pull the trio out of the water in the hope that they were still alive.
Rokuske's mind began to stir as he lay upon a soft surface, covered by a warm blanket with a definite source of heat nearby. What all that was, he didn't know. His stirring consciousness couldn't seem to recall anything of recent events, and he felt groggy, his body refusing to respond to his commands.
His eyelids clenched and he began groaning slightly as he grew more and more awake. Memories slowly coming back into focus as his awareness began to sharpen, allowing him to identify that he was lying on a futon.
That was right! He'd run away from his village under the cover of a storm… after seeing…
Suddenly, his eyes flew open as he let out a cry of shock, shooting up into a sitting position and throwing his blanket to the side. He sat there, staring at the blanket still covering his legs as he gasped for breath.
"So, finally up, huh?" A voice nearby asked, causing Rokusuke to look up at its source. As he did, he saw a fire in between them and noticed that they were in a cave, obviously taking shelter from the storm, which he noticed he could no longer hear.
Sitting on a stone was a boy wearing a zipped up, orange vest over a black, hooded shirt, the hood currently raised, hiding his face within its shadows.
Noticing something out of the corner of his eye, he quickly looked to down to his side to find his two friends sleeping in futons the stranger had obviously laid out for them. Nevertheless, in panic, he cried, "Akito! Tokumaru!" before gritting his teeth as a jolt of pain erupted from his rib cage, no doubt bruised during his recent escapade. Seeing this, the boy stood up. You could infer that there was a look of concern under his hood.
"Hey, whoa, hold on. You may have come out of it alive, but you're still hurt. Try not to move too much." He then turned his head to the two who still lied unconscious gestured towards them. "No worries, your friends are just sleeping." The boy said, raising his hand in a calming gesture. "I'm sure they'll be up and about in no time, just wait and see."
Shifting slightly until he felt the pain pass, Rokuske allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief and nodded before turning a suspicious eye to their apparent savior. However, before he could actually voice this, he heard something behind him. Turning around, he saw a tanned girl with mint green hair in a white outfit stepping into the cave, carrying some fish strung together on a wire.
"Oh, you're awake." She said, placing a hand on the wall of the cavern. Giving him a smile, she said, "You gave us quite a scare back there in the river. I half expected you were already gone when we fished you out of the water, but you guys are lucky; looks like you still have a clean bill of health." She walked over and set the fish down on a rock by the fire before turning back to him. "The name's Fuu."
"And I'm Naruto." The boy said, sitting back and pointing his thumb at himself before leaning forward, resting his arms on his knees. "So, how'd you guys wind up getting swept away?"
Rokuske winced before looking to the floor before him, silently debating whether or not to tell them. Ultimately, deciding that it was worth a shot, he began his tale. "… We were on our way to Konoha." He said, catching both the teens' attentions. "We needed to get help for our village." After pausing to collect himself as the memories of various funerals played across his mind, he continued. "Our village has been taken over by a gang of thugs calling themselves the Kurosuki Family, and for months now, they've held our home within their iron grip, forcing us all, even the sick and the elderly, to work in our gold mines." His hands balled up on his blankets and he trembled with suppressed rage and sorrow, his eyes screwing shut. "If anyone defies them, or fails to work… they give them a 'funeral', burying them alive under an unmarked grave!"
Beneath his hood, Naruto's brow furrowed in disgust and empathy, an expression mirrored on Fuu's face, as he said, "That's horrible… those sick freaks!" He then stopped and tilted his head slightly. "Wait…Kurosuki? As in Raiga Kurosuki?" Rokusuke jerked and then looked up to him in shock and more than a small amount of worry. "Well, isn't this a coincidence? We were just headed over there to take care of him ourselves."
"H- huh?" Rokusuke replied dumbly before glaring in rage, his gaze shifting from one Jinchuriki to the other. "What are you talking about!? Don't you think we would have done something if it were as easy as talking about it!? If you know who he is, then you must know why we need to get to Konoha! We need their shinobi to bring these monsters down!"
"Who do you think you're talking to?" Naruto asked, his voice carrying a tinge of amusement before he lowered his hood, revealing his forehead protector. "We are shinobi from Konoha."
Rokuske was once more shocked speechless as Fuu moved her cloak to the side, revealing her own forehead protector on her arm with a grin. "Well to be fair, he's from Konoha. I was transferred and haven't been there myself yet. Can't wait to see it though."
"B- but…why?" Rokusuke questioned. "No one else from our village has made it out… we haven't offered to pay you. Why were you coming to help us?"
Fuu's grin widened in amusement as she bent forward slight and wiggled her finger from side to side at him, laughing slightly as she said in a playful tone, "Now now, didn't anyone ever teach you not to look a gift horse in the mouth?" She put her hands on her hips. "But if you really want to know, aside from the fact that we don't like the idea of someone like that going around, deciding he can do whatever he wants and treating people like slaves, it's part of our training."
Crossing his arms, Naruto began to explain, "You see, we've been on a training trip with our sensei for a little more than a year now. Our sensei thought we needed some hands on experience, so we've been getting missions from back home and every once in a while we go on bounty hunts. Raiga's next on our list." He said before standing, giving a wide grin while pointing his thumb at his chest. "So just leave it to us! We'll have your town free of these assholes before you know it!"
It wasn't long before the other two civilians had awakened and greetings as well as more than a small amount of gratitude were exchanged between the two groups. Miraculously, while somewhat beaten and bruised the trio was little worse for wear after their ordeal and after a day's rest, they began their journey back to their beleaguered village with their potential saviors in tow.
As the morning sun shined down on the land as beads of water clung to the leaves and foliage after the previous day's storm, the five walked down the slightly damp path leading to Katabami village, two of the miners hearts filled with hope, while Rokuske's was weighed down by anxiety and desperation.
The pair of Jinchuriki leading the group however, seemed fairly at ease, Naruto wearing his usual wide grin on his face while Fuu, her cloak put away and the red cylinder once more tied to her back, wore a small smile as they conversed with the miners. But then, this was the kind of thing they'd trained for and they knew they hadn't yet entered enemy territory. While they certainly would like to hurry to the town as quickly as possible and rescue them before the tyrannical missing nin ruling it had a chance to hold another funeral now that they knew what was happening, they could hardly move any faster with civilians travelling with them.
Once upon a time, Naruto thought to himself, he'd have probably just rushed in head first. Now, however, he'd learned better. First priority was to find a safe place to set up shop and keep their new companions safe, then get to know just what they were dealing with. Considering Raiga's Bingo Book entry said nothing about other ninja his group was probably just a rag tag bunch of thugs, but it was better to be safe than sorry. They'd asked the miners what they knew, but they couldn't help much. They didn't even know where they met and they'd never seen all the criminals in one place. It looked like they'd need to find out everything about them on their own.
He turned to look at his teammate who was in the middle of talking to a miner about how their town was in more peaceful times.
The miner named Akito looked down, his face a mask of longing as he thought about the old days. "The mining may have taken from the natural beauty of the land, but Katabami was always a good place to live. It was a peaceful and little town, and thanks to the mine we could raise our families well. With the gold flowing in, we never went without a job or wants."
"Sounds like a nice place to live." Fuu replied, her smile taking on a hint of sadness. "What are the people like?"
"Oh, we were a hardy group. Have to be to work the mine. Too bad we weren't a match for the Kurosuki's." He frowned and paused for a moment before continuing, his expression of longing returning. "Maybe it was the gold, but everyone was always ready to greet you with a smile or lend a hand if you needed it. Before the Kurosuki's anyway, now we spend all day hiding in doors when we're not working." He sighed. "I remember how Kaede, the gal next door to me, would always be ready to give me a warm meal at the end of the day. Now you never see her outside. Her father won't let her leave when those thugs might come by any moment."
Fuu slowed down a bit, letting him close the distance between them enough for her to reach out and place her hand on his shoulder, giving him a reassuring smile. "Hey, don't worry. I'm sure she's ok and it's almost over now. We'll have this all cleared up and give that Raiga exactly what he deserves in no time, you'll see."
As Naruto watched this exchange, he couldn't help but let the fox-like grin that served as one of his default expressions shift into a more genuine smile. Fuu had certainly come a long way from the lonely, isolated girl who almost never opened up he'd met back in Takigakure. While she admitted she still didn't trust people that easily and she'd tend to become a bit quieter in a crowd, she gave people a chance before judging them never hid her true self behind a wall of cold indifference anymore.
He couldn't explain why, but seeing her like this made him happy. Being around her made him feel as relaxed and care free as he always portrayed himself, and even when dark thoughts weighed him down, they'd always be uplifted when she neared him. Her smile never failed to bring one to his own lips. Hearing her laugh warmed his heart and made him want to hear more. And seeing her troubled always made him feel a need to comfort her.
However, his good mood was broken a moment later, his smile replaced with a frown when an irate Rokusuke yelled, "What is wrong with all of you!?" All eyes drew towards him at his outburst. "You're all taking your own sweet time while our people suffer! We have to hurry! We can-"
"Rokusuke!" Tokumaru interrupted, causing him to glare at him. Really, how could he not understand!? At this moment, their friend was...
Tokumaru looked at his fellow miner sympathetically as he said, "Look, I know you wanted to save him now, but you have to face facts. By now, Kanpachi's-"
"And who's to say that they're not burying some else as we speak!?" Rokusuke cut him off.
"Alright alright, just hang on." Naruto interjected, drawing the anxious miner's gaze on him. Naruto had a pretty good guess of what was going on, and he had to say he sympathized with Rokusuke. Kanpachi was obviously a friend of theirs who was either going to be given a funeral or was before they left. He'd want to get back as soon as possible too, but the civilians just couldn't go any faster. "Rokusuke, I get where you're coming from. Believe me, if my friends were stuck under some megalomaniac's thumb-" He briefly thought of Sasuke at these words. "- I'd want to get there and help as fast as I could too, but we're going as fast as we can with you guys with us, and we need you to give us the lay of the land. Look, we'll get there, and when we do, we'll save all your friends. That's a promise." He pointed his thumb back at himself. "And I never go back on my word."
Rokusuke clenched his fist in frustration for a moment. He didn't like the reality of the situation, but he couldn't deny the truth of the blond's words. He let out a tense breath and then trudged on ahead of them, calming a bit as he did so.
A few seconds later, the other's followed. Naruto turned to Tokumaru and asked, "So, who's this Kanpachi that you were talking about?"
The miner looked to his feet, clearly saddened at the memory. "Kanpachi is a friend of ours who refused to stand by while his nine year old son was bullied into working the mines. They gave him a funeral as we left."
While it was what he expected, Naruto nevertheless looked down at that. "Sorry about that."
"It isn't your fault, and I'm the one who brought it up." Tokumaru replied before a silence fell over the group. Naruto looked over to Fuu and saw her jerk her head back, a sign that she wanted to talk away from the miners. The two slowed their steps and trailed behind the trio until they were out of earshot.
Fuu turned to him with a frown and said quietly, "I'm worried about Rokusuke. I think he might be in denial about his friend and the way he's acting may do something stupid. Just a heads up, but I'm going to be keeping an eye on him."
Her life under the constant scorn and her training as a kunoichi ensured that she always kept an eye on those around her, reading their body language for any sign of hostility. She'd noticed that Rokusuke was always on edge, always anxious and constantly pushing them to move faster even though the civilians couldn't. And now she learned their friend had been buried as they left? She knew it was painful to face facts. But the way he was acting... he seemed to truly believe he could save Kanpachi. And if he actually tried to pull it off, it was likely to end in tragedy.
Naruto considered this for a moment before nodding. He'd had the same feeling. He reminded him a bit of Sasuke way back when they saw Itachi, a single minded focus on his goal. Not that he could blame either of them, knowing what the elder Uchiha sibling had done and having felt the desire to save a friend, no matter the odds.
However, if he did what he knew Fuu feared he would, there was a good chance it would end just as badly as the meeting of the Uchiha brothers.
Much as he hated to admit it, it was a definite possibility. It was obvious in the way Rokusuke walked. Always trudging on forward no matter what, even when the other miners insisted they stop and rest. His muscles constantly tense, his walk brisk and stiff with his head held high to ignore the surrounding environment, his feet pounding on the ground with every step and his face set in either a look of stony determination, his eyes focused, his jaw clenched, or twisted in annoyance when they stopped, taking as little time as possible and pushing others to do the same. He couldn't have missed these clear signs even before Jiraiya taught him to read body language down to the subtle nuances and small shifts, a priceless tool for gathering information, a skill the Sannin wanted his students to be highly competent at, even if they weren't going to be spymasters like their sensei.
It could always be that he wanted to end this crisis as quickly as possible, as Naruto had initially believed, but this most recent exchange cast his doubts on that.
"That sounds like a good idea. There's no harm in it, but I don't think there's anything to worry about."
While he didn't like it, and he was sure Rokusuke liked it even less, Kanpachi had been buried for near if not over a full day now. Even before the Pervy Sage had the idea to give him a proper education with his clones, even at his most thick-headed, he would have admitted that there was no way this guy was still alive no matter how much he wished it otherwise.
No way would Rokusuke do something crazy like try to save Kanpachi when it was clear to anyone he was gone by now...
It was late in the evening by the time the two shinobi and the miners neared the town, the sun having traversed about three quarters of its journey across the sky. Naruto stood on a rocky outcropping towering over the forest below, partially hidden behind a stone as he held his hand over his eyes to shield them from the sun's rays and gazed out to the path ahead. Farther down the road, the path split, one was heading deeper into the forest and another into a barren, mountainous terrain, divided by a river that cut through it and trailed off into the trees behind him. There on the water's bank sat a small mining village the blond knew to be Katabami.
Naruto frowned as his ocean blue eyes scanned the town. Of course, he couldn't make out anyone from this distance; however, there was one thing he could perceive even from this distance. Something that caused a feeling of disgust and anger to well up in his chest and his face to twist into a snarl.
A field of unmarked graves.
There had to be nearly a hundred! The village wasn't that large to begin with. There was probably half the town buried there! What was Raiga trying to do, turn the place into a ghost town!?
Averting his eyes from the revolting sight, he let his gaze wash over the land once again, looking at all the possible hiding spots before he made a single familiar hand sign. In a poof of smoke, a shadow clone appeared, which promptly vanished in a blur of motion, knowing its creator's will. The blond leaned back from the stone and leapt back, bounding down the small mountain and back into the forest.
As soon as he landed in the dense treetops, he shot off towards the road, leaping from tree to tree so quickly he became a blur to the naked eye until he caught up with the rest of the group, landing next to Fuu as they came to a halt and all eyes turned to him.
"What'd you see?" Fuu asked.
Naruto rubbed the back of his head as he turned to look in the direction of the village. He decided to wait until they were alone to tell Fuu how bad the situation at the village really was. The clone would warn him if it looked like they were about to add another marker to the field, but in the meantime, they'd prepare. "Well, there aren't a lot of places to hide and look, and there's a lot of higher ground around the mine. If they're smart, they'll have lookouts looking down on the area, that'll make sneaking in a tough job." The mint haired Jinchuriki nodded at that. Naruto turned to the miners. "Is there any place nearby we can set up shop? An inn or cave, anything?"
Akito rubbed his chin, looking up to the sky in thought. It took a few moments before an answer came to him. "Well... there is this curry shop just down the road from here. This old lady lives there with her grandson, so they should have room for us to stay if we ask..."
Naruto nodded with a grin as he crossed his arms "Sounds like a plan! Worse comes the worst, we can get ourselves a hot meal! All right, let's check it out!" And with that, they resumed their journey, Naruto in the lead and Fuu bringing up the rear, more prepared to leap into action should an enemy appear now that they were just outside their destination.
Naruto craned his neck to look back at the miners. "So, what's this place called anyway?"
"I think it's called 'The Curry of Life Shop'." Tokumaru replied.
"'Curry of Life', huh?" What kind of a name for a dish was that? A little grandiose, don't you think?
He nodded in response. "I've never been there myself, but a lot of people swear that it lives up to its name. It's also supposed to be extremely spicy..."
"Really!?" Fuu's eyes lit up and an excited smile spread across her face. She loved spicy food! She liked most foods just fine, she wasn't a particularly picky eater, but she'd yet to find anything she liked as much as something with a strong kick to it. That or some nice strawberry Mochi ice cream. If Naruto was to be believed, Ichiraku's Ramen would overshadow even that, but she reserved her judgment until she tasted it herself.
"Oh boy..." Naruto grumbled, remembering the last time Fuu had taken them to a restaurant that served spicy food. She let him try her meal and it had felt like it burned his tongue off!
"Look, we're coming up to it now." Akito pointed ahead, where the restaurant rested by the side of the road.
It only took another minute for them to reach the roadside shop. Naruto crossed the threshold of its open doors, taking in its simple design as the old woman at the counter looked up at her first customers in weeks.
She was a short, elderly woman whose hair had long since turned white, framing her face in two bangs that were tied at the ends. She wore a tan cap and a blue dress with a reddish-brown vest.
"Ah, hello. Welcome to the Curry of Life shop. It's been quite a while since I've seen any new faces come in through those doors. I'm Sansho, can I get anything for you?" The old woman inquired with a kind smile.
"Yeah, we were wondering if you've got room for us to stay for a day or two. And we wouldn't mind a hot meal." Naruto told her.
"Oh sure. We've always got room for travelers. So, what would you like?"
"Can we have the house special?" Fuu asked before Naruto could say anything. He shrugged, not like there was much else he could ask for. Looking up at the menu, he saw that that was apparently all the place sold.
"Coming right up." She replied before disappearing into the kitchen.
The five quickly took their seats. Rokusuke, having calmed down somewhat from his earlier outburst, looked at them with a serious expression. "How exactly do you plan to handle this?"
"Well to start with, tonight we're going to scout the town out and try to see how many enemies there are. Depending on what we find we'll come up with a plan of attack and take them out tonight or tomorrow."
"Is there anything you can tell us about your village that you haven't already?" Fuu questioned. This sparked off a brief discussion about the layout of the village, most importantly which homes now lied dormant and could serve as decent hiding places, before it was interrupted by Sansho's reappearance. The chef was carrying a tray with their food and glasses of water.
"Here you are; the house special. I hope you enjoy." She said, setting the food down in front of them along with one glass of cold water each. However, only the sole female in the group seemed in any way happy at the sight before them.
The curry was covered in a red sauce that looked as if it could suddenly catch fire at any moment. It bubbled as if it were constantly boiling and the mere sight of it seemed almost enough to scald their tongues.
Fuu on the other hand looked entranced by the food before her, staring at it as Naruto would the heavenly dish that was Ichiraku Ramen. Inhaling deeply, she licked her lips, spread into a wide smile as she moaned, "Mmmm... it smells delicious..." She licked her lips in anticipation.
She immediately picked up her spoon. "Well, dig in!" She scooped up a spoonful of the meal, oblivious to the anticipating and vaguely fearful expressions from those around her. "Itadakimasu!"
She placed the morsel in her mouth and instantly, her eyes shot open and a smile of pure delight spread across her cheeks. "Mmmm." And with that, she began to eat with gusto, barely waiting until she swallowed before shoveling another spoonful into her mouth.
"Good, huh?" Naruto questioned as he warily watched her eat.
Fuu pulled away from her food and swept her head back, rolling her eyes. "No, it tastes like dirty socks. Of course it's good." She replied before giving him a teasing smirk. She knew he would wind up eating it either way. Might as well get some fun out of it. "Though I can understand why you don't believe me."
Naruto frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Fuu closed her eyes and shrugged. "Well, it's just that I know you can't really handle anything spicy. Don't worry, it's nothing to be ashamed of." "Hey!" Naruto interrupted, but she continued.
"But next time, you might want to speak up before our host delivers."
"Take that back! I can to handle spicy food! I'm not some wimp that'll back down from food, sour, spicy or whatever!"
Fuu faced him with her slightly mocking grin, her amused, half lidded eyes practically daring him to prove her wrong. "Then why hesitate? Go on, try it."
Naruto frowned before slowly, almost mechanically, his head turned and his gaze lowered back to the bubbling sauce covered meal. With a slightly audible gulp, Naruto slowly reached for his spoon and picked it up.
Aware that everyone was looking at now, he refused to back down, even though Fuu's teasing made it clear this was going to go about as well as the last time he'd tried something spicy she liked. Slowly, carefully, he scooped up some of the sauce covered rice and raised it to mouth level. Bracing himself, he closed his eyes and brought the food into his mouth...
His eyes popped open and his entire face turned the same shade of red as a dancing flame.
A moment later, a scream of agony could be heard outside the roadside shop.
"OH MY GOD, I'M ON FIRE!" Indeed, Naruto was running around the restaurant, his hands clasped over his neck as he breathed gouts of flame that would make an Uchiha proud while Fuu laughed uproarisly at the spectacle. "GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!"
"Don't you mean 'put it out'?" Fuu asked through peals of laughter.
"YOU THINK I CARE ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW!? HELP ME!"
"Here, Naruto. Drink this." Fuu said, picking up her water and holding it out for him.
Naruto quickly grabbed the glass of water and downed the whole thing in one gulp...
Unfortunately, that only seemed to add fuel to the fire, pun not intended. Naruto threw his head out and breathed out a stream of fire that nearly reached the ceiling. "IT BURNS! MY MOUTH'S BURNING! AHHHH! PUT IT OUT! PUT IT OUT!"
"That's it! Run! Run!" Fuu laughed hysterically at the sight while the miners could only watch the chaos unfolding before them with matching sweat drops on their heads.
Turning to look at each other, as one, they looked down to their own plates, where the sauce on their curry bubbled and sparked ominously. Once more, they looked to one another, sharing a nod, they picked up their plates, preparing to dispose of the meals as quietly as possible. No way in hell were they eating whatever that stuff was.
However, as they prepared to rise to dump their meals into the trash, a collective shudder ran down their spines. They could practically feel a pair of eyes staring at them.
Slowly, they all turned to see Sansho looking at them from behind the counter. The kind old woman wearing a sincere and expectant smile on her face, obviously wanting to see them enjoy the meal she worked so hard to make.
They looked from her, to Naruto, who was still spewing fire, and then to each other with panic stricken expressions.
There was no escape.
Slamming his glass of water on the table, having had to refill it several times, a feeling of cool relief washing over him as the water cleared away the last of the burning spices, Naruto let out a sigh breathing out a puff of smoke as he was finally able to relax. No longer did he feel like his there was lava coating his mouth. Opening his eyes, he saw the miners staring to his side with wide eyes and slackened jaws. Turning himself, he instantly knew why.
In the time it had taken for him to finally wash away all of that hellfire in liquid form, Fuu had finished her plate... and a second helping... and all the miners'... and she was just finishing the blond's own meal, gently placing the plate on the table with a sigh of contentment.
The Uzumaki could only look on in bewilderment as she calmly took a sip of her water. How could she stomach that... that... that apocalypse on a plate and act like it was nothing!? And how could she eat like that and still look so thin!? While she was still a growing girl and her hips had filled out a little more improving her already attractive figure, she still looked like she was on a constant diet. Ino would kill to be able to eat like that and still look that good!
Thinking back on how much ramen he used to eat (oh how he missed the heavenly taste of Ichiraku ramen) and how it never seemed to unduly affect his body besides stunting his growth a little, he chalked it up to one of the benefits of being a Jinchuriki.
She turned to him and the two shared a brief look, their expression shifting to one of seriousness that showed both knew it was time to get down to business as they nodded. Naruto looked at the trio of miners, all levity gone from his face. "Alright guys, we'll be heading out soon. You three just sit tight here. They're probably looking for you, so it'd be best if you stay inside and leave things to us."
Two of the villagers seemed content to hear that. Rokusuke, however, was obviously not ok with the idea of twiddling his thumbs while they took out the criminals, especially with the chance that they might wait until morning.
His brow furrowed in his ever-present expression of anxiousness, Rokusuke silently resolved to himself to do what he knew he had to.
Meanwhile, the other miners nodded as the two shinobi rose up. "Please, save our village. We may not get another chance."
Naruto gave a confident grin as he punched his fist into his open palm and replied, "Don't sweat it. Your village will be free again by this time tomorrow."
"Are you really willing to consider letting us suffer another day of Raiga's tyranny?" Rokusuke asked angrily, shooting out of his chair and slamming his palms on the table. "What if they hold another funeral!?"
Now Naruto frowned, giving the miner a solemn look as he answered, "It depends on what we find, but if it comes to that, we'll step things up and put a stop to them then and there. We're not going to let them take one more life from your village, that's a promise."
Rokusuke eyed him warily before he nodded and sat down. With that, the two Jinchuriki walked back to the entrance of the shop. However, as they neared, Sansho called out to them. "Please, wait a moment!" The whole group turned to the old woman, who suddenly seemed antsy and worried. "You're talking about the Kurosuki Family, aren't you?" Getting a nod in response, she looked down to the floor. "Before you go... my son, Karashi. He joined them a short while ago. I was always pushing him to be strong and to stand up for himself... I think he thought joining a group he considered strong would make me proud or at least he'd be doing as I told him." She looked up, her eyes going from one to the other. "Please... he was just doing what he thought I wanted. Please try to bring him back safely. If something happened to him..."
"You can't be serious!" Rokusuke yelled, standing up and balling his fists. "You want us to just let him go, after everything they've done!?"
"I understand how you feel... but if anything happened to him..."
Naruto and Fuu looked to each other for a moment, before Fuu stepped forward. "We won't kill him. Gangs like these usually fall apart when you cut off their head so we really only have to take out Raiga, but beyond that it's not really for us to decide. We're not the injured party here. We'll speak on his behalf and ask the villagers to be lenient, but we're not making any promises."
Sansho nodded. "Thank you for that, at least."
She nodded before her eyes returned to the miners. "Just sit tight. We should be back shortly after nightfall."
And with that, the two Jinchuriki turned and walked out of the door. Once she was sure they were out of earshot, Fuu gave Naruto a worried glance and asked, "So, just how bad are things there?"
Naruto came to a halt at that question and closed his eyes. Letting out a sigh as he ran his hand through his hair. "It's bad, Fuu... I'm not sure how much longer the village would have lasted at this rate." He raised his head to look at her. "Come on, we're dealing with an ex-member of the Seven Swordsman of the Mist. This is going to be the toughest bounty yet, so let's get a move on." Receiving a nod in response, the pair vanished in a blur of motion, speeding through the trees towards the small mountain that hid the village from view.
Hours later, night had fallen, covering the land in a blanket of darkness as the chirping of crickets filled the air. Fuu frowned, looking down in disgust at the field of graves, each marked only with featureless metal or wood marker from their hiding place amongst the rocks, anger boiling inside her. All these people... killed because of one man's greed and depravity... she wanted to find this guy. To make sure he'd never do this to anyone else.
The village was fairly small, the dwellings far away from the main village where the mine rested, but still visible from that vantage point. Simply wooden homes built in small clusters, each a fair distance apart. The village had one, large main path that cut through it that led to a bridge connected to the watermill, and finally, the mine. Looking up, there in the pale moonlight she saw a large mansion built into the side of the mountain. This was the home of the mine's owner, who now rested among the graves before them, his home commandeered by Raiga Kurosuki.
Looking over, she saw her expression mirrored on Naruto's features. He turned to her and with a jerk of his head, signaled for her to follow him. Shooting off in a burst of speed, the pair quickly moved along the stony terrain, staying out of sight as they moved to the forest at the edge of the of the area and vanished into the trees.
Touching down on the forest floor and hiding behind the trees, Naruto turned to Fuu as she plopped down onto the ground and sat Indian style. "All right, time to get to work." She placed her hands together in a tiger seal and closed her eyes, channeling her chakra and sending mental commands to the insects she carried with her. A quiet clicking sound could be heard as a dozen beetles began to crawl out of the top of the container on her back before taking flight.
Naruto leaned back against a tree, peering past its trunk to look out to the village as Fuu's beetles soared past him and disappeared into the night. Knowing they would have alerted her to any nearby presences, Naruto relaxed and slid down, joining Fuu on the ground.
Seeing through the eyes of her one of her beetles, her gaze scanned over the village beneath it as it flew through the air until it honed in on a source of light. Commanding it to investigate, she watched through its perspective as it and a few others dived towards a man wearing a black cloak, carrying a torch to light his way. He swatted his hand at the annoying insects that buzzed around his head before they flew away, satisfied, one of them staying behind as Fuu commanded to follow the man.
"Ok, I think I found one of them." Fuu said, her focused expression unchanging.
"How's it look?" Naruto inquired.
Fuu took a few seconds to respond, the insect communicating what it sensed back to her as she had it fly around to get a look at his face. "He looks like he's in his late twenties to early thirties, and his chakra is about the same as that of the average genin." Her lips spread into a smile. That was consistent with a man who'd had only basic ninja training. More dangerous than a bandit and able to use some low level ninjutsu, but little threat to even experienced genin. "Good news for us. It looks like these guys are just thugs he picked up somewhere and trained a little. If they're all like this, then it should be smooth sailing until we take on Raiga."
Minutes passed as Fuu continued to locate all the members of the Kurosuki family using her insects. As she did, Naruto began to think of the best way to take them out. If it turned out they couldn't deal with them all tonight, then their best bet would be to gather the underlings together into one place. The return of those three miners might draw some attention... of course; they'd really be disguised clones rather than the genuine article. It could draw most or all of them into one place, then all they'd be left with was Raiga.
Fuu, meanwhile, had her insects explore the small mansion where Raiga resided and found something... unexpected. "What the hell...?" She muttered as her brow furrowed.
This quite exclamation caused Naruto to frown as he wondered what could have surprised her. "What? What did you see?"
"He's... got a kid with him."
"There's this little kid sleeping in another room in the mansion... he's definitely not a fighter and he doesn't look anything like Raiga, so I don't think they're related... what's he doing with him?" Fuu's mind ran through the possibilities. There didn't seem to be anything out of ordinary with the boy, or at least not while he was sleeping. He did apparently have oddly powerful chakra according to her insects, especially given his waifish physique, but beyond that he seemed ordinary. There were a few possibilities she'd rather not consider. Enough said on that front.
Naruto shrugged, reaching the same conclusions as her. "Well, whatever his deal is, we won't find out if we just sit here thinking about it. Once we take out Raiga, we can sort that out." He knew he didn't need to tell her to have her insect keep an eye on the boy.
Fuu nodded and opened her eyes, having tagged the boy and all the members of Raiga's gang with an insect, turning as she said, "All right, I think I got them. There's twelve guys in all, not counting Raiga, and all of them are just your standard bandits." She looked to Naruto as she continued. "Most of them are asleep, but there are three out on patrol. Two in the town and one on the mansion grounds."
Naruto grinned. "In that case, let's deal with them right now."
Standing on guard, Karashi let out a sigh as he stared up into the pale moonlight. For not the first time, his mind and emotions were all over the place, his thoughts twisting around like a leaf caught in a maelstrom.
What was he doing out there? When he heard whispers of the Kurosuki Family, he'd thought that maybe, this was what he'd been looking for all along. To be part of something greater. To finally find the strength he'd never had and to make his mother proud. The miners who used to come to their little curry shop had always said how the owner of the mine basically ruled the town. Oh, they did live well enough, but it could have been better and work was hard. When he learned that Raiga had run them out (something he now questioned, considering no one heard from them since) he'd thought that he and his group would bring the town greater wealth and protection than they'd ever had before...
... But it wasn't supposed to be like this. Sure, he could understand needing to quell dissent and maybe using heavy handed tactics, but he did not sign up to bury people alive!
But their boss was so strong; one of the strongest in his home country. Surely serving such a great person count for something?
Not for the first time, he questioned his path. Turning his head in the direction of the Curry of Life Shop, he wondered what his mother would have to say to him if he returned home now.
His musings were cut short when a cry of "Ow!" as he clenched his left eye shut in pain and slammed his hand to his neck, where a sharp pain had suddenly shot through his system, like getting jabbed with a white not needle.
He failed to hit his mark, but he did disturb his attacker. He swiped once more as a second jolt elicited a yelp from him, this time at the back of his neck as a quiet buzzing filled the air before he finally caught sight of his attackers. He jerked back, his face a mask of shock and fear as he saw a pair of wasps flying around his head, the obvious source of his pain.
Now, he wasn't afraid of a pair of wasps, oddly red where they were normally yellow but still indistinguishably a pair of wasps... but he knew enough to know that wasps wouldn't come out at night of their own volition. That probably wouldn't happen unless someone disturbed a nest... which would mean...
His head whipped back and forth as he searched for the swarm he feared was coming but there seemed to be... nothing?
He calmed down a bit, his eyes scanning his surroundings as he rubbed his smarting neck, but nothing seemed to stand out amidst the darkness of the night. His brow furrowed as he wondered where the insects came from before he shrugged, dismissing it as an oddity.
It was only a few minutes later that the world suddenly began to blur in and out. His mind, suddenly foggy, couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on as the world around him came in and out of focus and he began to lose his footing.
Stumbling over onto the nearby wall, he placed a hand on his head as he tried to fight off whatever was happening. Realizing something was wrong, he tried to call for help, but all that came out was an incoherent mumble.
A moment later, he saw the oddest sight of the ground rising up to meet him, and then there was only darkness.
In his fairly large room inside the mansion that housed the Kurosuki family, a young boy with chin length, purple hair slept on a luxurious, queen sized bed. The room was beautifully furnished by the home's previous owner, with an ornate dresser with a mirror, not that he was ever able to use it, a short legged table, soft tatami carpets and various paintings along the wall and this excellent bed he rested on. All in all, a room fit for a prince. He'd told Raiga he didn't need such accommodations, but his companion, the only friend he'd ever known, had insisted. It wasn't as if he could really argue against it, so in the end, he'd accepted the accommodations.
However, his sleep was disturbed. Something was nagging at him to wake up. His eyes screwed shut as he tried to shut off whatever it was that was trying to wake him up.
However, fear jolted him awake, his crimson eyes shooting open, glowing in the darkness of the room as his mind finally registered what it was that had stirred him from his slumber.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. As always, please review.