Welcome at last to the return of the Chronicles of the Seventh series. As always I love to begin by stating that I do not own Naruto.


Ok, so a little bit about this series. First off, I know it's obvious but I feel I should state that this is BOOK IV of an ongoing series. Though you can read this as a stand alone I would suggest you read the first three installments (not to mention the one shot chapter) before reading this so you can understand everything that you will read here.

Just as it states in the summary, it has been five years since the end of the Book III and the Fourth Great Ninja war. This places the ages of Naruto and his K11 comrades at about 22 - 25 years old. Many things have changed. Lives have gone in different directions and I hope you'll find what you learn to be interesting. As of now my plan is to release new chapters on a BI-WEEKLY basis. The total length of this story is pretty much a fluid situation. But I do estimate about 25 - 30 chapters.

I hope you enjoy the read and as always, when done please remember to leave a little review when done.

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible."

"This…I did."

The young ninja could feel the frantic racing of her heart as she sprinted down the long winding tunnel. Despite the fatigue that threatened to consume her, she continued to run as fast as she could as though demons were on her heals. And for all she knew, they were. For what she had witnessed couldn't possibly be human she told herself.

A few feet ahead she could see her comrade running desperately in search of the exit as though the open air represented salvation from what hunted them. Her lungs burned. Her arms and legs ached. Every step seemed to be its own minor miracle. Her mind raced as she tried to make sense of all she'd seen and learned. As she ran, she could feel herself slowly being consumed by panic as though it were some creature slowly creeping up her spine and gripping her heart.

Realizing how close she was reaching to losing control of herself she began to recall her training. She fought to remember the words of wisdom she had been given for use in times of crisis. Losing control, giving in to the fear, being consumed by panic; these were the things that spelled disaster for ninja. These were what could happen when you are far from home, with no light to be your guide. In times like this, remember the mission and most of all, remember those you fight to protect, those for whom you pray to see smile once more. These were the lessons Chouji-sensei constantly ingrained into her back in the academy.

The academy, she thought. Those care free days seemed so far away to her now. Memories of sitting in class, staring out the window at the bright sun and green grass as Chouji-sensei stood in front of the class teaching. What she wouldn't give for one more day like that. Why was this happening to her? She was only fourteen and had only graduated less than a year ago. By all accounts, as a Genin, she shouldn't be here, hopelessly trapped in this darkened and dank cave in a god forsaken country miles from home. She had been trained to expect and be prepared for the unexpected. But how could anyone prepare themselves for this? How could things have gone so wrong? She found herself cursing the gods for her luck.

"There it is!" Her comrade yelled excitedly as his voice echoed through the cave. Looking ahead she saw the reason for his sudden joy. Like a beacon of salvation she saw sunlight in the distance. They were still far enough away that it seemed the size of a pinprick in the distance, but to her it was enough. And more importantly it was a sign that there was hope. If they reached the exit, they could escape what she knew in her heart was certain death.

As the girl focused on her goal, she tripped on a small stalagmite protruding from the floor. "Shit!" She yelled as she tumbled to the floor.

Her comrade, hearing her scream, looked back. "Mitsuko!" He yelled as he immediately stopped and ran back to her where she sat holding ankle. "Are you okay? We have to keep moving."

"Yeah," she said as he helped her to her feet. "It hurts but I can manage. Sorry, Daisuke."

"Never mind that," Daisuke said. "We need to keep moving. We're almost there." Mitsuko smiled, grateful that she had Daisuke with her. He had graduated with her from the academy and was roundly considered to be a child prodigy. She considered herself lucky when she was teamed up with him and Ko who was also a talented ninja in his own right. Ah Ko, the moment she thought of him she felt a pang of pain in her heart. Instantly, she banished the thought of him to the deepest reaches of her mind. She would mourn for him later. Now she had to focus on her own survival and completing her mission. Because she had no doubt that the fate of Konoha rested on her success.

Daisuke grabbed Mitsuko's hand and pulled her along as they ran. She felt a sharp pain in her ankle with every step she took but bit her lip to remain silent. Now was not the time for weakness. They were getting closer to the exit. She could feel the fresh air and could see the sunlight.

Without warning, Daisuke came to an abrupt stop and signaled Mitsuko to be silent. "I heard something," He whispered. They both immediately drew kunai as they put their backs against each other and did their best to scan the area. As they stood silently in the darkness they could hear the slow drips of water and the distant squeak of rodents.

A few moments passed before Mitsuko said, "Maybe it was nothing."

"Yeah, you're probably right," Daisuke responded as he calmed down. "We should-"

Somewhere in the darkness they suddenly heard laughter. Mitsuko could feel herself break into a cold sweat as the man's laugh echoed against the cave walls making it impossible to pinpoint where it was coming from. "Well, well," the man then said. "What do we have here? My rodents are trying to escape their cage? How very naughty of them. They will have to be punished."

Mitsuko's body tensed as she found herself gripped by fear. He's found us! She thought. We're dead! We failed sensei! Daisuke gritted his teeth in frustration as he and Mitsuko saw a large animal in the shadows that easily towered over the two of them. They could see the two yellow eyes and the fangs that dripped with venom.

With lightning quick speed the creature lunged at them. Mitsuko found herself frozen in fear, unable to move out of the way. Just then Daisuke grabbed her by the arm and pulled her violently. "Come on!" He yelled as the massive creature slammed into the ground, just missing them as they dodged the deadly attack.

Daisuke, with Mitsuko in tow, leapt behind a massive boulder that sat near the entrance. Mitusko could hear her heart beating wildly and cursed her weakness. "We'll be alright Mitsuko!" Daisuke said. It was then, as sunlight was able to illuminate his face, that Mitsuko could see the fear in Daisuke's eyes. That's when she understood that he was saying this as much for his own benefit as hers.

"Mitsuko," Daisuke said as he peeked around the boulder. The massive snake was looking about for its prey. "I want you to sprint for the entrance while I hold that thing off."

"What!? No way!" Mitsuko said. "I'm not leaving you!" "Don't be naïve Mitsuko!" Daisuke said as he looked at her angrily. "We're not fast enough to out run that thing. Sensei gave us a mission. And we have to fulfill it. I won't allow Ko's death to be for nothing."

"R-Right," Mitsuko responded hesitantly.

Before Mitsuko could move the massive snake slithered around the rock and reared up, cutting off her path to the exit.

"Shit!" Mitsuko yelled.

As the snake lunged at them they heard someone yell, "Gatsuga!" Two columns of spinning force slammed into the side of the snake causing it to crash to the ground, dead. And then two identical men landed between the snake and the two ninja. "I thought I told you two to run and not to stop for anything!?" One of them yelled.

"Taicho!" Mitsuko yelled happily.

"Kiba-taicho!" Daisuke yelled.

"Daisuke, take Mitsuko and don't stop running until you can get a message back to Konoha!" Kiba yelled as his look-a-like transformed back into his dog Akamaru. "Getting that Intel to them takes priority!"

"Taicho, I-", Mitsuko said before she gasped as she looked over Kiba's shoulder. Akamaru began to bark loudly. Kiba and Daisuke turned to see what she was looking at and out of the darkness they saw a figure walking towards them.

"Oh my," the shadowy figure said. "You killed my pet. How awful of you. He was one of my favorite ones." The man was inhumanly pale, like walking limestone. His skin was scaly, with white hair, purple eye markings around his eyes and yellow serpentine pupils. He wore a maroon cloak with a design of a serpent's head on the hood. The man stopped walking and cocked his head as he looked at the fallen snake. "Tsk! You're going to have to pay for that."

"Daisuke," Kiba said through gritted teeth. "Hurry and go! I'll catch up to you when I can."

"Y-Yes taicho!" Daisuke said as he grabbed Mitsuko by the hand and pulled her to her feet.

"Taicho," Mitsuko said.

Surprisingly, Kiba looked at Mitsuke with a smile. "Go ahead Mitsuko," he said. "I'll be right behind you."

Mitsuko and Daisuke immediately turned and took off running. As soon as they exited the cave and hit the open air they leapt up to the trees and jumped from branch to branch. Mitsuko looked back at the cave as they moved further and further away. "Kiba-taicho will be ok; right Daisuke? Daisuke?"

Daisuke didn't answer. His entire body was tense and his jaw clenched as he continued to move as fast as he could. And despite himself he could feel a tear run down his cheek. "Do you remember what Kiba-sensei told us when we first met him?"

Mitsuko remained silent as she leapt though the trees. "He said that a ninja's life is a life of hardship, tragedy and sacrifice." Mitsuko said. "But what makes ninja special is that we are willing to gladly face these things. We are willing to sacrifice of ourselves willingly, for our friends, our families." Daisuke looked at Mitsuko with a smile and said, "For Konoha."


"You should go with them Akamaru." Kiba whispered to his friend. "They could use you're help."

Akamaru barked and bristled as he dug into the ground. Kiba gave a little laugh. "You've never refused a command before." He said. "But now..."

"Hmm, now I have to chase them even further." The pale man said as he stared out the cave. "How annoying."

Kiba looked at the man with a grin on his face. "You seem awfully calm about the whole thing, Kabuto." He said.

"Please," Kabumaru said as he waved Kiba off. "I prefer Kabumaru. And don't insult me. There isn't another town or outpost for over a hundred miles. It won't take long for me to find them."

"You'll have to get passed me first!" Kiba yelled.

Kabumaru laughed and then said, "I'm sorry, but you actually speak as though that should be of concern for me."

"I'll show you just how concerned you should be!" Kiba yelled as he pulled a red tablet from his pouch and threw it at his dog. "Let's do it Akamaru!" Akamaru ate the pill and his fur turned red, his body grew larger and he became more feral. Kiba then created several hand signs and said, "Inuzuka-Ryū: Jinjū Konbi Henge: Sōtōrō!" There was a puff of white smoke and the two companions transformed into massive two-headed, white wolf.

"Oh, ho!" Kabumaru exclaimed. With an amused smile on his face Kabumaru removed his glasses and breathed on them before wiping them off and putting them back on. "It's been a while since I've seen the human, beast combination." Kabumaru's long tongue snaked out of his mouth and wiped against his cheek. "This should be interesting."

Ramen Studio's proudly presents…

With Characters and locations created by Misashi Kishimoto

Naruto: Chronicles of the Seventh: Book IV

Curse of the Namikaze

Chapter I: For Konoha

The young man ran through the busy mid day streets towards the large medical building several blocks away. Built three years ago, the building towered over the other low rise structures in the village and was second in height only to the Hokage Mansion in the center of town. It was built per the instructions and over sight of the Hokage's wife and was expected to be not just a hospital for the village, but the primary force behind medicinal knowledge and advancement within the Land of Fire.

It also functioned not only as a medical school for young ninja of Konoha but the preeminent place for medical treatment. The boy remembered the day the building had opened. During his speech, the Hokage spoke about believing that this would be the beginning of unifying the world through the quest for knowledge and growth.

He had no idea how right he would be. Within the few short years since its opening, Konoha quickly became a cultural hub where doctors, scientists and herbalists from the four corners of the world would gather to debate, experiment and learn from each other. Even other nations would send their medical ninja here to train and learn about new techniques and methods.

Eventually it became apparent that the increased traffic necessitated that new hotels and restaurants be built. The academy was expanded for the additional children and more homes were built including an entirely new district. Within the five years since the end of the last war Konoha had nearly doubled in size.

As the young man dodged and weaved through the packed streets he cursed himself for deciding to take this route and to not take to the roof tops. During this time of day the village square was impossibly clogged with villagers, tourists and merchants alike hustling back and forth from one destination to another. Merchants stood outside their shops or behind their carts selling their food and wares at the throngs of people.

Why the hell did I go this way? The young man thought as he dodged his way through the crowd. As he ran he took the time to be proud at his reaction time and footwork. He'd come a long way since he was that young orphaned boy, adopted by a strange village, who decided to learn to become a ninja.

He still remembered the first few days he spent here after the war. He stayed in a large building along with all the other dozens upon dozens of orphans created because of this war. The rooms were clogged with children, crying for their lost parents. Early on he decided that crying with them would serve no purpose. He could see that the staff which was placed to watch over all these lost children was overwhelmed. So he decided to do his part. He would spend his days looking over the younger children. Helping them to eat, bathe and stay out of trouble. Within, a few weeks most of the children gravitated to him to lead them and look out for them. The staff looked upon him as a godsend that helped to keep things under control.

Several weeks passed by before one day, he received a visit from the very woman who saved his life that fateful day. She was the angel who pulled him out of the dark cave that he at the time believed would be his tomb. She came to check in on him and was very pleased and proud of his progress. And from that day on, she would visit him at least once a week.

One day, she came by to see him but instead of staying with him at the orphanage she took him with her to the hospital. The boy was confused but did not have any reason to question her. When they arrived she took him into a room when a man, a nameless person who'd come to help with the village reconstruction, sat in a bed. His arm was in a sling and wrapped in bloody bandages.

The woman told the boy to take a look at the man's arm. To inspect it. The boy looked over the man in silence for a short time. When enough time had passed she began to pepper the boy with questions. "What was the nature of the wound? Where was the wound? What do you think would be the best way to treat it?"

The boy wasn't sure but answered the best he could. When she was done, she smiled. "Not bad." She said. "You made a few mistakes but for the most part you accurately diagnosed him. It's decided then, from now on you will be my first apprentice. You will become a Medical Ninja. You will refer to me as Sensei."

At twelve, his instructors believed him too old to begin the ninja training. But his sensei wouldn't hear of it. She declared that she believed he was possibly a medical genius and could learn quickly. She stated that his training would be her responsibility. And though he still had a long way to go before becoming a splendid ninja, he was now, at age seventeen a decent medical ninja thanks to his sensei.

The boy finally made his was through the crowd and up to the entrance of the building where he was stopped by two security guards. "Hey there, Ozuru!" One of the guards, a young raven haired woman with blue eyes said with a smile. "What's the emergency?"

"Sorry, Riku-chan," Ozuru said as Riku smiled. "I have a message for My Lady. It's pretty important."

"Right, right," Riku said as she waved him on. "You'd better get going then. You don't want to keep her waiting." Ozuru smiled. Usually he'd stop to speak to Riku. She was very pretty and he was planning to ask her out. But he didn't have the time.

Ozuru ran off down the hall as he sidestepped the dozens of people that littered the hallways until he reached the stairwell. He immediately began leaping up the stairs at about five or six stairs at a time until he reached the top floor where he quickly turned right and sprinted down the hall until he reached a large oak door that led into the office of the Hospital Administrator. Ozuru paused and took a deep breath as he brushed his clothes down with his hand. He then knocked on the door.

He then heard a familiar voice say, "Come in."

Ozuru opened the door and entered a large, airy room. The wall on the right was wall to wall book shelves that stretched to the ceiling. They contained all kinds of medical journals and scrolls from around the world. On the right was a wall of large bay windows that allowed sunlight to illuminate the spotless office. There were several potted plants meticulously placed in the corners of the room and a large oak desk sat near the rear of the office facing the door. Every time Ozuru entered this office he would marvel at how a room, containing so many books, scrolls, medical equipment and other documents could remain so impeccably neat and organized.

Though there were documents and forms neatly piled high on the desk no one was there. Ozuru looked to the left of the desk and saw a smaller desk that faced the opposite direction. There were needles, beakers of different shapes and sizes, along with plants, bugs for experimentation and other medical equipment there. And a young woman who sat with her back turned to him; her nose buried in a book. She had a white lab coat on and her pink hair was pinned up. "Sensei," Ozuru said.

"Oh! Ozuru, I'm glad you're here," Sakura said without looking around. "I think I may have found a method of increasing the effectiveness of soldier pills by twelve percent. I'll need you to head down to the conservatory to pick up a few plants for me test the theory."

"No problem sensei," Ozuru said. "But…you asked me to keep an eye on him."

Sakura stopped reading and looked up from the book. "And?" She asked.

"You were right," Ozuru said. "He did in fact, sneak out."

Sakura slammed the book shut so loud it made Ozuru jump slightly. For a moment she remained quiet until she turned to face him and Ozuru was surprised to see her smiling. "Thank you Ozuru." She said. "You've been a big help."

Sakura immediately got to her feet and walked over to behind her larger desk where there was a matching oak armoire. She opened it and inside there were a few white lab coats hung up along with a standard Konoha field ninja uniform. There were also weapons and pouches hung on the back of the armoire as well as on the bottom.

Sakura took off her lab coat and Ozuru was surprised to see what she was wearing. Instead of her usual clothes which she wore when not on missions, she had on a sleeveless, dark red top with a large white circle on her back. She also wore black skirt, black, knee high boots, dark pink lace stockings and a black pouch strapped around her right leg. Ozuru smiled nervously as he scratched the side of her head. She was already planning to head out. He thought.

Sakura hung up her coat in the armoire and picked up a dark pink armguard and put it on her left wrist followed by a pair of black gloves. She then walked over to one of the windows and opened it. For a moment she paused and took a deep breath as the breeze streamed into the room. Sakura then pulled the pin out of hair and allowed it to fall to the center of her back and billow gently in the wind. "Thank you for the help Ozuru," Sakura said as she put on foot on the window sill. "Please don't forget the list of ingredients I'll need from the conservatory. I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Of course sensei," Ozuru said with a slight bow. The next moment, she was gone.

******A Short While Later******

"So, what do you see?" The masked ninja asked to his comrade as he crouched behind him. The two ninja were perched high in the trees on a large branch. They were both dressed in black clothing with grey armor, black cloaks and a porcelain animal mask.

"Thirty one, thirty two, thirty three," The other ninja answered as he scanned the forest ahead of him. "We've got thirty three targets. Ten are on the ground; the rest in the trees."

"Locations?" The first ninja asked.

"Twelve o'clock, ten o'clock and two o'clock." The second ninja responded. "The center formation looks like they are taking the lead in the attack."

"That formation is a feint," The first ninja responded. "They'll expect us to attack them and when we do the other two formations will hit is us from either side.

"How do you wish to proceed captain?" The second ninja asked as he looked back at him.

The captain looked about behind him as he confirmed the position of his men behind him. Hidden in various places were ten of the most seasoned veterans of Konoha's ANBU. To the untrained eye they were invisible as they blended into the forest that surrounded them. No normal ninja would be able to locate them. But their captain was no normal man. Promoted to the rank of captain of Konoha's ANBU division by the Seventh Hokage shortly after the last war, he had quickly garnered the loyalty and respect of his men despite his young age. Not that it was a difficult thing to do considering his amazing accomplishments during the previous war that had, over these past few years, become akin to legend.

"Death from above," The captain said. "You fall back to the rear and have Yukita provide support. Use your Byakugan to keep track of enemy movements and Yukita can use her jutsu to keep us all in contact. The rest of us will fall back and go around the enemy and I'll use my jutsu to then attack from above. Half of them will be dead before they ever see Hokage Mountain."

"Yeah," The second ninja responded. "We'll teach these Akatsuki bastards not to cross our borders. I don't know why they insist on these ridiculous raids. They never get anywhere."

"Alright," the captain said. "Let's get move..!"

"Wait captain!" the ninja exclaimed. "I've got something moving towards us!"

"What?! Where?" the captain responded.

"Six o'clock!" The ninja said. "It's moving towards us at an incredibly high rate of speed! And whatever it is, its chakra is enormous!"

The captain immediately turned around and tried to see what was coming. Shit, he thought. Could the enemy have gotten behind us somehow?! Just then he looked down at the ground and saw what he thought was a blur that passed by all of his men. What the hell!?

"Captain!" The ninja yelled.

The captain turned back around and was shocked to see a man standing in the clearing a few yards ahead of his unit. Though the man's back was turned to him, the captain instantly recognized the bright blond hair, as well as the large shield strapped to his left arm that was fashioned after the Hokage's hat and finally the distinctive short sleeved, dark orange coat with black flame motifs at the edges. Written on the back of the coat in black, were the words "Shichidaime Hokage".

The captain sighed to himself as he looked at the man below. Damn it! He thought. What the hell are you doing here?

On the other side of the clearing, the enemy ninja remained hidden in the trees. Several yards away from the man and to his right, two of them were perched in the trees. One of them, a thin man with black hair, heavy eyebrows above narrow eyes and a hawkish nose, stared at the blonde man who stood calmly in the clearing. "What the hell is that guy doing out in the open like that?" He asked. "Could they be using him as bait to draw us out?"

The other ninja, a barrel-chested man with a black goatee and a scar running down his left cheek under his eye, shook his head. "Not their way," He said. "I'm not really sure what's going on. Order the men to hold firm until I can confirm the enemies' strategy."

"Wait a minute! I know who that is, Mamoru!" said the thin ninja as he broke out in a cold sweat. Damn it! I never thought we have to face him! He thought.

"Well," Mamoru said impatiently. "Don't just stare at him, Kyuichi! Who is he?"

"D-Don't you recognize his clothes from the descriptions we were given?!" Kyuichi asked. "That's..!"

"My name is Namikaze Naruto. I am the Seventh Hokage." Naruto said as he addressed the enemy ninja that his among the trees. His pupils in his eyes were orange and frog-like. Naruto adjusted the shield as he continued to talk. "I know you can hear me. I can sense each and every one of you. But I am not here to fight you. I am not here in the interest of being your enemy. I am here to tell you, that I understand."

While Naruto spoke the two ANBU listened intently. "Captain, what do we do?" The ninja asked. "We could use this opportunity to surround the enemy. What are your orders, Captain?" The ninja waited for an answer, but it did not come. The captain remained silent as he remained focused on Naruto. "Captain!? What are your orders? Sai!?"

Hearing his name, jogged Sai out of his deep thoughts. He then looked at the ANBU ninja next to him and said, "Nothing. We do nothing for now. Let Naruto-kun handle this his way. But be prepared if the enemy makes a move."


"Namikaze Naruto!?" Mamoru yelled. "Damn it! We were supposed to get in the Land of Fire, find what we were sent here for and get out! Dealing with him was not part of the plan."

"We should fall back," Kyuichi said. "You know what we were told. We have orders to flee on sight if we come into contact with that guy."

"Wait Kyuichi," Mamoru said. "I know this guy is the Hokage. But we've got over thirty powerful ninja on our side. I think we could take him."

"Don't be an idiot Mamoru!" Kyuichi said. "You know what this guy did during the previous war. We were both there that day and saw what he was capable of."

"Yeah," Mamoru said as he clenched his fist. "I saw alright. I saw these Konoha bastards take down our comrades. I saw them look down on us and hunt us. I saw what this guy did to Madara-sama. And now we have him right in front of us, and we're supposed to just run away?!"

Naruto stood silently for a moment hoping to see some sign of response. And though, with his sage chakra activated he could sense where each enemy was he saw no sign of anyone coming towards him. No sign that they seemed interested in negotiation. "I know why you're here," Naruto said. "You're here because you're angry. You're here because you're tired of being ignored. You're here because you can't forgive the past. But you must move on. Akatsuki is dead. You now fight for a dead cause and for a man who never truly valued you as anything more than fodder."

"But I value you," Naruto said. "Even though you are enemies I value you as people; as human beings. And I understand you're frustrations. And I promise you this; if you stand down now I will not persecute you. Set aside your personal vendettas and together we can come to a mutual agreement that prevents future bloodshed. This world is changing. The need to spill the blood of others for gain is not the way of this new world. I give you my word, as Hokage that you have nothing to fear from us. But only if you stop now."

"So I give you this one option," Naruto continued. "Surrender now, or deal with the consequences. But you will not set another foot into our land. This I promise you."

Mamoru gritted his teeth as he could feel the rage boiling inside him. Stand down? Give up? How dare this bastard look down on us!? Akatsuki isn't dead! Our cause isn't dead!

"Mamoru, let's go," Kyuichi said. "You heard him. We should get out of here while we still can."

"We can take him," Mamoru whispered.

"What?" Kyuichi asked.

"I said we can take him!" Mamoru responded.

Naruto sighed as he waited for a response that never came. "I guess I'm going to have to do this the hard way."

Just then someone yelled, "There you are!"

Naruto suddenly felt a chill up and down his spine as he heard the familiar voice. His eyes widened and he began to sweat as he slowly looked behind him. No one was there. But as he glanced down he saw a shadow at his feet that was not his own that was increasing in size. Naruto looked up to see someone descending upon him. "Shannaro!" Sakura screamed as she punched Naruto in the head with enough force to send him hurtling to the ground and leaving small crater underneath him.

Shocked, both the ANBU and the Akatsuki recoiled in horror at Sakura's brutal entrance. "Grr!" Sakura grumbled as she stomped over to where Naruto lay and pulled him up to his feet by his collar.

"Oh! Hey Sakura!" Naruto said as he smiled nervously. "What are you doing way out here?"

"The question is, why the hell are you out here!?" Sakura yelled as she shook Naruto violently like a rag doll. "You promised me that you would let ANBU handle this situation! Don't you know you can't just go running out to fight every threat yourself!? You're the Hokage! You need to remain in the village for the protection and comfort of the people! What the hell are you thinking!?"

Naruto hung limply in her hands as he tried to fight the wave of nausea and dizziness caused by her violently shaking him. A moment passed before he shook his head and regained his focus. He then gently touched Sakura's hands with his own and got her to release him. "Now Sakura," he said with a smile. "Let me explain."


"Shit!" Kyuichi yelled. "We're done for now! That's Namikaze Sakura; Naruto's wife! We were instructed to flee on sight if she showed up too! How the hell can we deal with the both of them?! We have to get the hell out of here Mamoru!"

"No," Mamaru said. "We can do this."

"Are you insane!? Didn't you hear what I just said!?" Kyuichi said in disbelief. "Now isn't the time for foolish bravado. We can find another way to get what we want!"

"Shut up Kyuichi and look at them." Mamoru said with a grin. "They're so caught up in their argument that they aren't even paying attention. We can get the drop on them, I know we can! Signal the men to prepare the explosive tags. We'll hit them with a volley of explosions they can't possible escape!"

"But..!" Kyuichi said.

Mamoru grabbed Kyuichi by his neck and yelled, "I said do it!" Mamoru let Kyuichi go and Kyuichi glared at him venomously as he rubbed his sore neck. Without saying a word, Kyuichi turned so that his men could see him and gave them the signal. Instantly, the ninja began to get in position as they drew their weapons.

"We have a problem captain," The Hyuga ANBU ninja said as he scanned the surroundings.

"What is it?" Sai asked.

"We've got movement!" The ninja replied. "The enemy is spreading out among the trees. Even the segment that was on the ground is spreading out in a semi circular formation around the Hokage and Lady Sakura. It looks like they're preparing to attack. Orders?"

Sai looked out towards the forest and then down at Sakura and Naruto. "We hold," He said. "The Hokage has things under control. Just be prepared for a counter offensive."

"So you see Sakura?" Naruto said. "You really don't need to worry. I have everything under control."

"That's not the point Naruto," Sakura responded. "It's not about whether you have everything under control or not. It's about you running yourself ragged and not believing in your comrades."

"I have complete faith in my comrades!" Naruto said defensively.

"Then why are you here?" Sakura asked. "Why are you here instead of in your office right now? Why is it that every time we have to deal with a few Akatsuki insurgents you have to personally handle it? We have the ANBU here. We have other ninja. This isn't your sole responsibility!"

"Are we in position?" Mamoru asked Kyuichi.

"Yes." Kyuichi answered.

Mamoru glared at Naruto and Sakura as they argued. This is it, he thought. My chance at glory. Akatsuki will rise again! "Fire!" Mamoru yelled and immediately all of the ninja hurled their explosive tag kunai at the pair who continued to argue without acknowledging they were under attack.

"Taicho!" The Hyuga ANBU ninja yelled at Sai as he saw the dozens of kunai hurtling towards Naruto and Sakura.

"Calm down," Sai responded calmly. "That kind of attack is meaningless to those two. The enemy just doesn't realize it yet."

The kunai began to land all around Naruto and Sakura and they immediately began to explode engulfing the couple in flames and debris. "Direct hit!" Mamoru yelled happily as Kyuichi stared in slack jawed disbelief.

"Taicho!" the ANBU ninja yelled in a panic as he began to get to his feet.

Sai reached over and put his hand on the ninja's shoulder and pulled him back down to a crouched position. "You really must learn to better control your emotions." Sai said. "You may be new to ANBU but you need to remember to have more faith in your Hokage."

As the flames and smoke began to die down everyone looked on in rapt attention to see the results of the attack. It was at that point they were shocked to find both Naruto and Sakura standing in the same spot surrounded by what looked to be a dome of wind and they were arguing as though nothing had happened. "What?!" Mamoru yelled in disbelief. "How?! They didn't even move! We caught them dead on!

Sai smiled underneath his mask and looked at the young ANBU ninja. "You see. Not a problem," He said.

Surprised, the ninja said, "But, when did he..?"

"It happened about a second before impact," Sai said. "He did it so fast that even I barely caught it. He used one hand to create the hand sign for this jutsu. I believe he calls it Protection of the Mamoru no Fujin no Jutsu (Protection of the Wind God Jutsu). He creates a wall of wind so powerful that it can push back against projectiles and even explosions of that size. It's why he's called the Red Tornado of Konoha. He has mastered wind style to unprecedented heights."

"It's my job, as Hokage to protect my people and my comrades!" Naruto said. "I made a promise to myself that as Hokage, no one would die under my watch!"

"Naruto, you can't protect everyone from doing their duty!" Sakura yelled. "They are ninja and they know what choosing to live his life could ultimately mean for them."

Mamoru gritted his teeth. Not only did they somehow survive the attack but they continued to argue with no recognition of the danger they were in. It was as if these two ninja didn't consider them a threat. They were like insects to them. Insignificant. And that was something Mamoru could not abide. "Again!" He turned and yelled at Kyuichi. "Attack them again!"

"No! We should use this time to escape," Kyuichi said. "Our attack failed and we don't have any explosive tags left."

"Then have the men use normal kunai!" Mamoru yelled.

"Enough, Mamoru!" Kyuchi yelled. "We tried things your way and it didn't work! We need to retreat and regroup!"

Mamoru suddenly turned and stabbed Kyuichi in the throat with a kunai. "The new Akatsuki has no room in it for cowards," Mamoru whispered as she stared into his former comrades' stunned eyes. Mamoru slowly guided Kyuichi's dead body down, so it would not fall out of the tree. He then stood so his men could see him and signaled them to attack.

"It's my job to protect and fight for the people of Konoha. How can I just sit there and send my comrades on missions where I know they might not return?" Naruto asked. "How can I do that when I know that I could help?"

"You do it because you are Hokage," Sakura responded. "You do it because running yourself ragged does your people no good. You do it because…because…you love me." As Sakura continued to speak, dozens of kunai emerged out of the trees, hurtling towards them. But again, neither of them paid any attention to them as they crashed against the air dome and fell harmlessly to the ground. "Look at yourself, Naruto," Sakura said. "You're exhausted. You've been pushing yourself to hard, trying to be everything to everyone and you just can't. The human mind isn't capable of taking this kind of pressure. And neither is the body." Sakura stroked Naruto's cheek. "I'm afraid if you keep pushing yourself too hard something bad could happen."

Naruto hugged Sakura tightly to his body. "Nothing is going to happen," He said as he looked into her eyes. "I promise."

Mamoru was stunned as he saw the couple embrace amidst the carnage he'd tried to unleash upon them. Not one single kunai got through the dome and they all lay scattered about. Mamoru pulled a kunai from his pouch and squeezed the handle tightly. There has to be a weakness, he thought. There has to be a way through!

As Sakura and Naruto kissed, Mamoru saw the opening. Naruto was distracted and the dome was weakening. "Now!" Mamoru yelled as he threw the kunai so hard that he wrenched his own arm.

The kunai flew through the air at incredible speed aimed at the two lovers as they continued their passionate embrace. Mamoru looked on in eager anticipation as the blade closed in on its target. Sakura and Naruto stopped kissing and Sakura took a step back. And then, with incredible speed she reached up and grabbed the kunai out of mid air, inches away from the side of Naruto's head. Without even looking at it she placed her thumb on the blade and snapped it in half. The blade tumbled to ground as she threw the hilt away behind her.

Naruto laughed then said, "Well since I'm already here, can I at least see this through?"

Sakura sighed and then said, "Fine. Finish it quickly."

Naruto smiled and then looked out towards the trees. "It already is," he said.

Mamoru suddenly felt a sudden nervous as he stared back at Naruto who, despite the fact that Mamoru believed himself to be well hidden, seemed to be staring right at him. Before Mamoru could react he heard a voice right behind him and, worse yet, a sharp object jammed precipitously under his jaw. "Tsk, tsk, tsk," the person said. "You really should have taken my offer."

Frozen in shock and fear, Mamoru put his hands up and moved his head slightly to see who was behind him. His eyes grew wide when he saw that it was a smiling Naruto. How did he sneak behind me and my men?! He wondered. It was at that point he was able to see that there was a Naruto standing behind all of his men. Each Naruto had a kunai at the throat of his men, forcing them all to surrender. "Clones," Mamoru said without moving his lips too much for fear of getting cut. "When did you..?"

"Do you know what the one set back to setting off a massive explosion like that one is?" The Naruto clone asked. "If the attack fails then all that smoke and debris now acts as a perfect screen for your enemy. I made the clones then. And you and your men were so focused on seeing if your attack succeeded you didn't notice that I was surrounding you." The Naruto clone looked down at the dead ninja next to Mamoru. "You actually killed you're own comrade? Is this all Akatsuki is made of now?"

Mamoru slowly faced forward and glared at Naruto who stood smiling up at him. So this is the Seventh Hokage? He thought.

******Sometime Later******

The large crowd that lingered around the village entrance roared happily as Naruto led the group of captured ninja through the gates. Walking next to him was Sakura and on his other side was the masked captain of the ANBU. Behind them were the prisoners, who marched into the village with their hands tied behind their backs and their heads lowered in shame. They were surrounded by ANBU ninja and the clones Naruto had created. As soon as they entered the village, several ninja arrived to take the place of Naruto's clones. Naruto dispelled the clones and allowed the ninja to take the enemies away to the prisons. "Thanks for the help today," Sai said to Naruto. "But in the future, let me know before you just show up on the battlefield."

Naruto patted Sai on the back and replied, "Now where would the fun be in that?" Sai shook his head and walked off behind the prisoners to ensure they were taken care of, leaving Naruto and Sakura alone with the throngs of villagers.

"Lord Hokage-sama!" One girl screamed.

"He did it again!" An older man yelled.

"No one can defeat our Hokage!" A young boy exclaimed.

"He's so strong and cute!" Shouted another woman.

"Can we have your autograph!?" A few young, voluptuous girls asked.

Naruto stopped and blushed as he scratched his head. "Well sure," he said to the girls with a big smile. "I can sign a few for you."

"Don't get too carried away Naruto," Sakura said as she stood right behind Naruto and glared at him.

"Now, now there's no need to be jealous Sakura," Naruto said as he signed the pieces of paper. "It's just childish. These are just loyal fans."

"Uh huh," Sakura said as she pulled Naruto away.

"Umm, Lady Sakura," someone said as they pushed through the crowd.

Sakura turned and saw a handsome young man with fair skin, black hair and light brown eyes. He was tall and muscular. "Can you please sign your autograph?" He said happily. "I'm training myself to be a medical ninja and you are my hero."

"Oh!" a blushing Sakura said with a smile. "No problem. Who can I make this out to?"

Naruto was busy signing autographs when he looked over to see Sakura with the good looking stranger. "Hey!" He said as he walked over. "I think we've signed enough autographs today."

"No, Naruto you're right," Sakura responded teasingly. "We owe it to our fans to show them some attention."

Realizing that she was messing with him Naruto gave a sour smile and took the paper and pencil out of her hand and gave it back to the stranger. "I think we're done for the day." He said as he took Sakura by the hand and led her through the crowd.

"What's the matter Naruto? Jealous?" Sakura asked with a smile. "You shouldn't act so childish."

As the couple made their way out of the crowd they say Shikamaru walking directly towards them. "Naruto! Sakura!" He said as he walked up.

"Ugh!" Naruto said as he tried to brush Shikamaru off. "If this is about me sneaking out I already got an earful from my wife Shikamaru."

"No it's not about…" Shikamaru said before Naruto cut him off.

"Just give us some time alone Shikamaru," Naruto responded. "I promise I'll be back in my office reading boring documents soon enou-"

"Naruto!" Shikamaru yelled, cutting him off. It was then Naruto and Sakura noticed the look on Shikamaru's face. It was a look they had not seen for a long time. In fact, it was a look Naruto hadn't seen on his friends face since the war. Since Lee. "Naruto there…there's something…" Now they could see that Shikamaru had been crying. And that even now it seemed he was fighting the tears back.

Shikamaru looked at them with a look of pure despair etched on his face and said, "Naruto, something terrible has happened."

To Be Continued…