Gurgled, muffled screams filled a lit concrete basement room with a few chairs scattered around and a steel table bolted down in the middle. Tied down on top of the table was a stripped down woman, who looked to be around her mid-thirties, gagging into a soaking wet towel that covered her face as jugs of water were being poured on top of it. Her breath-hold breakpoint instantly surpassed; losing complete control over her breathing. The water in her nose went from unpleasant to unbearable as the angle of her head kept in the residual carbon dioxide in her lungs. As the carbon increased in her blood, she started thrashing around the table, the ropes breaking and digging into her skin as the feeling of drowning and panic became overwhelming. Relief flooded through her as the relentless downpour ceased and they dropped the jug of water to the floor. With a swipe, the towel slid off her face, allowing her to intake the largest breath she could. Her blue eyes looked into a pair of brown-eyes that held a tinge of mirth. The man's brown hair was combed over and he wore a white button-up shirt he kept untucked, along with some blue dress pants and some casual footwear.

"Matsu," the man cooed. "Just tell me where your husband is. I know how fucked up all of this is. I, with all of my heart, am repulsed by what we're doing to you. The second you relent, the second all of this will end." The only response he received was silence. "Matsu," he continued. "Please don't make me get the rat. The rat is so… horrible. I beg you not to do this to me."

"Bīto," Matsu wheezed out. Her breathing ragged. "Go fuck yourself."

Bīto clicked his tongue in annoyance and motioned for one of his men to grab the rat and equipment. "You're a real pain in my ass, you know that?" He said, pacing back and forth. "You won't just fucking break!" He continued, his frustration seeping out. "Everyone quits at the water boarding! But no, you just have to love your husband so much. Putting his life before yours. Your lack of self-preservation is just fucking disgusting!" Bīto let out an exaggerated sigh when he was, again, answered with silence. "I was good to you, Matsu. I was good to your family, this whole city, and yet, you still went behind my back! Your Governor!" He shook his head at Matsu in disappointment. "Your husband discovered things he shouldn't have. Secrets that should've stayed secret. Secrets that have now put my boss and I in quite the predicament. We've kept your secrets. We've done our part. The blueprints for those ingenious crossbows your husband invented with those broad heads as ammunition are safe from everyone! We made sure of it!"

"Don't be so tight-lipped about your boss," Matsu choked out. "Gatō is the one who put you in these predicaments. He'll get his comeuppance for his greed and wrongdoings."

"That might be so," replied Bīto. "But he won't be getting it for a long, long time; especially after we finish with the Land of Waves." Bīto turned his attention to his men, who had returned with a bucket, a butane torch, and the rat. "I'm going to ask one more time, Matsu." Bīto said, placing the rat onto her stomach and covering it with the bucket.

Matsu shivered and squirmed at the cold feeling of the metal rim of the bucket being placed against her skin and the rat's nails poking and scratching against her.

With a snap of the trigger, the torch blew to life with a hiss and Bīto placed the flame against the side of the bucket. "Rats are amazing filthy creatures," Bīto said softly as he ran the flame around the sides of the pail. "They can squeeze themselves through tiny holes and can chew through almost anything. Thick wood, brick, cement…, and of course, metal."

Matsu clamped her mouth shut and let out a whimper as the rat panicked as the metal heated and the temperature inside the pail increased.

"Now," Bīto continued. "You may be asking yourself, 'Bīto, if a rat can chew through metal, why the fuck are you using metal to trap it?' Well, that's because rats can't endure heat very well. For a healthy rat, anything above thirty-two degrees celsius will be uncomfortable. Over thirty-seven can cause distress and over forty degrees it can be fatal. Metal is a fabulous conductor of heat."

Matsu let out a sharp, pain-filled yelp as the rat clawed and bit into her stomach. The long, consistent squeal and increasing aggression brought a small smile to Bīto's face.

"Well," He continued as he watched Matsu whimper and sob through gritted teeth. "Seems I don't need to continue explaining it. The rat is going to escape through the path of least resistance. Which is down through your stomach." Bīto cut the flame when blood seeped out from between the rim of the bucket and her skin. "If you want this to stop, all you have to do is tell me where your fucking husband is!" At her refusal to answer, he reignited the torch.


"What!?" Bīto snapped, turning to glare at the new arrival.

"Mister Kogasu has returned! He has brought guests with him. They look to be shinobi from Konohagakure!"

"Is that so?" Bīto asked, pushing the torch into one of his men's arms. "Guess we don't need this stubborn bitch anymore!" He exclaimed, adding some pep to his step as he started making his way towards the exit, ignoring the panicked, tortured screams of Matsu. "Wait…" Bīto stopped mid-step, rubbing his chin. "Wasn't Junko recently captured outside of Konoha?" He asked, more to himself. "So the man he had inside is most likely dead and Konoha knows about our plans…" Bīto snapped his fingers with a grin. "So that's what Kogasu has been up to! That sly dog! I never thought he would actually do something with the information! Still…" He glanced at the pale, shaking, sweaty form of Matsu lying on the table. "Precautions are always necessary…" He continued sheepishly. "Let's go give our persons of interest a nice hearty warm welcome to Chōwa!" Motioning at Matsu with his hand, he gave his attention to the subordinate he passed the torch to. "Once you're done with her, nicely wrap her up, and please, take your time. It would be impolite for us not to present him with a welcoming gift."


Rin walked at pace to the left of Mister Kogasu while Sakura held the right, Kakashi the rear, and Naruto and Sasuke held the front. She tried her best not to feel disappointed by being paired with Sakura, but the looming feeling of dread that swept over her every time they get paired together, which was all the time, made it almost impossible. She knew why Kakashi paired them together. He hoped it would motivate Sakura to improve her own skills if she was constantly around another kunoichi the same age that's considerably more skilled. The results from doing this weren't very positive.

"Sir, err, Mister Kogasu," Sakura started. "If you don't mind me asking, what are you looking for in Chōwa?"

Mister Kogasu, a bronzed hair, taciturn man with a slim build and short stature, looked down at the girl, his squared spectacles glinting in the sunlight. "My wife, Matsu."

Sakura deflated, forgetting that their client was pretty reserved. Never willing to give more than what they asked of him. "I assumed Chōwa was pretty safe, given the name. Why would you need escorts?"

"Corruption, greed, lack of moral integrity; nothing can stay perfect forever. You are just a safety net."

Sasuke, seeing that Kogasu wasn't about to say more, turned his attention back to Naruto, who had his hands clasped around the back of his head. "She'll find out, eventually. Just show her."

"No." Was Narutos curt response.

"She might appreciate it."

"Nobody appreciates it."

"Nobody openly appreciates it," countered Sasuke.

"If their reactions are anything to go by, you're probably right."

"If I'm right, then do it. Show her how you can eliminate three people at once."

"So you admit it works on you." Naruto pointed out triumphently. "Do you follow Adonitology in secret too, Sasuke?"


"Are you sure, Sasuke?" The blond smirked. "Sounds like something you could get behind…"

"Hn, no."

"Only deep down, I assume." Naruto said, Sasuke's annoyance building him up. "Can't openly appreciate it."

"Neither can you."

"Oh, I can," Naruto replied. "I just appreciate having a fully functional body."

"She seems to be too professional to do anything in front of our client. She'd wait for you two to be alone first. By that time, she'd most likely forget what you had done."

"That's possible…," Naruto contemplated, glancing back at the brunette who caught his gaze before turning her attention back to a rambling Sakura. "You know what," Naruto said, locking eyes with Kogasu, an impish smirk crawling onto his features. "I've always been more of an act now and worry about the consequences later, type of person." The blond finished, forming a Ram Seal and spinning around. "Oiroke no Jutsu!"

Kakashi, despite not having seen that expression from his blond charge in a long time, knew that it was a sign of incoming trouble. Sighing in amusement and slight annoyance, he snapped his book shut and pulled his Hitai-ate over his remaining eye. He knew what was about to happen and wouldn't let himself succumb to such a technique in public. The sound of Naruto's voice and a puff of smoke reached his ears and he couldn't help giving himself a pat on the back for guessing correctly. E-Rank or not, the jutsu was extremely effective against most males and even some females. A shriek, amused hn, thud, gasp, and the jutsu dispersing followed by a disappointed sigh let him know it was safe to bring his headband up. What greeted him caused him to release his own sigh of disappointment, although for different reasons.

"What the hell was that, Naruto!?" Sakura shrieked, staring down at the bloody nosed, twitching form of Kogasu.

"That is proof that I still got it!" Naruto said. "Although," he continued, "he didn't stand a chance. I didn't get to do or say anything flirty. I was going to ask him to rub my feet…"

"You got nothing, you're just a pervert!" Sakura kneeled down next to their client to clean up his bloody nose. "Also, nobody in their right mind would want to rub your feet!"

"At least we know his greatest weakness is a centerfold…" Sasuke muttered.

"I'm not a pervert, just a curious child! The ones who fall for it are perverts!" Naruto retorted, ignoring his dark-haired teammate. "Plus," he continued. "If it was Sasuke standing there blowing you a kiss with nothing but a little cloud covering his bits, you'd be in worse shape than Kogasu here."

Rin covered her mouth with her hand to hide her giggles at Sakura's tomato colored face and sense to stay quiet while she kneeled down on the other side of Kogasu to wake him up. Naruto's little stunt rightfully surprised her and to do it to a client was unprofessional. Although she had to admit that it was pretty amusing and her being able to get a glimpse of the blonde's personality that she had yet to see, only heard about, was what entertained her the most about it. Ignoring Sakura, who was trying to ease her and Kogasu's embarrassment, Rin pushed herself up to her feet and snuck a glance over at her blond teammate who was receiving a half-hearted lecture from Kakashi.

Naruto caught Rin's gaze and gave her a cheeky grin before giving his attention back to Kakashi. "I get it, Kakashi. Reading porn and physically displaying it in public are two different things. One's okay as it's modest and the other one isn't."

Kakashi's lone eye snapped up from his book and met with the whiskered blond in front of him. "I didn't say that."

"You implied it."

"I never implied it."

"Yes, you did."

"I didn't."

"You know, Kakashi." Naruto said, giving his Sensei a vexatious grin. "Maybe if you read less and spent more time listening to yourself, you wouldn't be so confidently incorrect."

There was a long pause before Kakashi shrugged and went back to his book. "Hmm, and to think I was excited to see that you still had it in you to be annoying." Kakashi revealed, flipping a page in his book. "Anyway," he continued, ignoring the blond's scrutinizing look. "It's getting late. We should set up camp as we will enter the sealed grounds in about two hours of traveling. Better to be well-rested so that we can be at our best when we enter the city, especially if something goes wrong. No chakra being a hindrance to our performance and such."

Naruto watched Kakashi make his way towards the group as they all started on getting their area of rest setup at his signal. His gaze briefly locked with a pair of curious brown eyes before placing his hands into his pockets and heading into the forest to grab wood for a fire. The feeling of being out of place and a lack of belonging grew in his stomach as he continued deeper into the trees. "Excited that I still had it in me to be annoying," Naruto muttered under his breath as he collected kindling and fuel, bitterness etched into every word. "Liked you better when you were desperate for attention, Naruto. Liked you better when you craved respect, Naruto. Liked you better when you were moldable, Naruto." The blond continued to spit out, the venom in his voice increasing with every word. He assumed he was taking it out of context, but the resentment he held towards the Jonin assured him that wasn't the case. Years of abuse and the man did nothing to help him. Nobody did.

Naruto rubbed his head with his free hand to ease his building headache. There was a tugging at the back of his head that was getting worse and stronger with every step; his vision going haywire as the surrounding trees went static as they morphed into giant black shadows and repeatedly back to trees while the ground formed slowly into a puddle around his feet. "Never forget what they have done to you, what they haven't done for you."

Naruto flinched at the deep, malicious voice of the Kyūbi echoing around his mind. His surroundings changed from the thick growth of trees to him sitting against a building wiping tears and blood off of his face in a puddle filled alley of Konoha. The young blond wiped the remaining blood off of his lip, his heavy breathing subsiding. His blue eyes slowly scaled the wall before landing a figure standing still on top of the building, his eyes locking on to a white porcelain dog mask. Naruto shakingly pushed himself onto his feet, spitting out some of the built-up fluid, his body protesting every movement he made. "Useless," Naruto muttered as he placed his hand against the wall to support his weight. "Why do they even bother?" He continued as he limped his way home.

Konoha blurred around him, and he almost instantly found himself back in the forest on his hands and knees. "What the fuck was that?" A disoriented Naruto spat out. The sound of chirping crickets was the only response he received. "Furry prick," He growled out as rose to his feet; taking slow deep breaths to help calm himself down. "As if I could forget."

Naruto walked back into camp and noticed a pit for the fire was already in place along with everyone's sleeping bags, minus his, laid out around it.

"About time, Naruto! My grandma could've done it faster!" Sakura called out, folding her arms and leveling a glare at him.

"Make her proud," Naruto replied as he dropped the bundle into her lap. He turned around and made his way over to sit next to Rin, who had isolated herself as much as she could on the other side of the pit and had placed his backpack next to hers. "A little out of the way, aren't you?"

"I can't stand her." Rin replied quietly, giving a small glare to her pink haired teammate. "I understand having a crush and wanting to be with someone, but this, this is too much."

"What's worse is that there's two of them and they compete."

Rin nodded in agreement as she watched Sakura run back to her spot after igniting the fire and link arms with their dark-haired teammate. "I mean, I don't hate her. Just wish she would sort out her priorities, ya know? Take her training more seriously so she doesn't get herself killed." Rin watched, slightly annoyed as the blond next to her lay down in the dirt. No sleeping gear unpacked or set up. "Uh, Naruto, not to be a busybody or anything, but why are you lying on the ground instead of setting up your stuff? You're lucky we found a dry spot after last night's downpour." Realization dawned on her after remembering tidbits about their conversation last night. "I'm sorry, Naruto."

"Sorry for what…?" The blond asked, pushing himself into a seated position as he watched the brunette rummage through her bag.

"For being insensitive," she answered, giving a click of her tongue as she pulled out the scroll she was looking for.

With a 'poof', Naruto felt the soft form of a sleeping bag get pushed against his stomach. "You weren't being insensitive…" He squeezed the ripstop fabric and unrolled it, noting the taffeta liner. "Do you always keep an extra on you?"

"Yup!" She answered, a proud glint in her eye. "As a medical-nin I like to make sure that I have extra of everything, especially if it's something that can easily prevent illness or injury! Storage scrolls really help make the extra load pretty much non-existent."

"What made you decide to become a Medical-nin?" Naruto asked, finally relaxing and making himself comfortable. He couldn't help but let a small smile form when her eyes lit up with excitement.

"To help people! Be able to make a difference in the lives of those who have suffered." Rin answered, clasping her hands together. "I'd much rather not be the one fighting out on the front lines hurting and killing people. Enemies or not. I'll do it if I have to, but if the option for non-violence is there, I'll almost always take it. It's not because I'm scared either as death comes with being a ninja…" Rin trailed off, the light in her eyes dimming briefly. "Being a medic is more than just healing others," she resumed. "We do extensive research into new techniques, the human body, diseases, and medicine. Not all medics are part of teams or out on the field. Some specialize in mental health too, as not all wounds are physical. Out of all we do, in the end, we end up doing the most important thing I think we can do. Prevent unnecessary death and hardship." Rin felt her stomach give a soft tug as she studied the blond, her eyes darting down to the whisker marks on his cheeks, then back up to his eyes, his attention fixated on her and what she was saying. "A mission, to me, is only successful if everyone on it makes it home alive. Goal completed or not."

"That's admirable." Naruto couldn't help but smile back at the beaming brunette. It was contagious.

"What about you?" Rin asked, pulling out a scroll from her bag and unsealing two bento boxes. "Why did you become a Shinobi?"

"To get away…." Naruto trailed off as he accepted the offered box. He'd have to be careful with what he said because even in the low tones they were speaking in, he knew this conversation wasn't private.

"From Konoha?" Asked Rin, breaking apart a pair of chopsticks.

Naruto nodded while breaking apart his own pair. "Even if it's just in increments. Seeing more of the world would be a pleasant distraction from everything and everyone."

"We get vacations, you know! You'll have your own free time to explore. It doesn't have to be during assignments. If you're okay with it, I'd love to explore with you!"

"I'd definitely be okay with it! Where's the fun in discovering and experiencing fresh places alone?" Naruto opened the box to see rice, grilled chicken, and a carefully packed assortment of colorful fruits and vegetables. "Did you make all of this yourself?"

Noting his look of awe, she puffed out her chest slightly, proud of the outcome of her efforts. "You know it! Kushina, who is-''

"Mister Kogasu." Kakashi cleared his throat and snapped his book shut; ignoring the miffed looking brunette he just interrupted. "What's going on in Chōwa that would make you feel it necessary to hire us as safety precautions?"

Kogasu swallowed his food and cleared his throat. "Bīto. He is the current leader of Chōwa and the biggest threat to my family. He is an extremely cruel man. Working for him, I discovered the plans that he and his boss, Gatō, had for the future of this once amazing city."

"What type of work were you doing for him?"

"Designing weapons. Not everyone shares our values and way of life. We must still be able to protect ourselves."

"What weapons?"

"A semi-automatic crossbow. It can fire at speeds of up to five-hundred feet per second. Weighs only ten pounds and has a three-hundred pound draw weight." Kogasu answered, pushing up his glasses to rub his eyes. "It can hold up to ten bolts while the hand crossbow can hold up to five. I designed the bolts for them as well. One-hundred and fifty grain broadhead. I could get into specifics but I'll just tell you it'll punch holes into any sized person or animal."

Kakashi let out a low, impressed whistle after Kogasu's explanation. To the average person, those would be quite a pain to deal with if they could even defend themselves from it at all. "What were the plans you discovered?"

Kogasus features darkened. "Human trafficking. The city being sealed off makes it a prime area for it; especially because Bīto and his 'police force' aren't anything special themselves. Keeps them on almost equal footing with anyone who would try to intervene."

"That's horrible!" Sakura exclaimed, looking visibly repulsed.

"That's the world. To some people, money is more valuable than human life."

"How can people be so cruel…"

"I've been asking myself that same question for years." Naruto muttered under his breath.

"Not everyone is bad, Naruto, I promise." Rin said quietly; grabbing his hand and giving it a soft squeeze. "Just give me your time and trust. I'll prove it." She wiggled her interlocked fingers, ignoring Kakashi's disapproving look. She had a list of questions that needed answers, and he was going to provide them.


I didn't mean for this to take so long. Especially for what it is.