WELCOME

Welcome back to the Chronicles of the Seventh on this the most holy of Super Bowl Sundays! Lol! As always I like to begin by stating that I do not own Naruto.

THANK YOU

A special thanks to those who reviewed my previous chapter: Sailor GaOn Donut; Duesal10; Maria; bankai777; Tailed Titan 72; Geraze90; Lord Jaric; bigpac09 & Diamond Man.

RESPONSES

Sailor GaOn Donut - Thank you

Duesal10 - Lol! Wow! Then I have done my job to foster your hatred and for that I am quite proud.

Maria - Actually when I was building my characterization of Kabumaru I did have TDK's Joker in mind. I want him to come across as insane yet brilliant at the same time. And who better represents that than The Joker. Of course Konohamaru would get caught and who better to catch him than a woman who spent years carefully watching Naruto? Thanks for the review.

bankai777 - Ah! I beleive she'll let it slide. She's the most compassionate of all of the Konoha women after all.

The Tailed Titan 72 - I did. Thank you.

Geraze90 - I wish I can tell you what Shojimaru's allegiances lie. But it will be revealed in time.

Lord Jaric - No need to apologize. One of the reasons I chose to begin writing fanfiction was to improve on my writing. So any constructive criticism you can give is welcomed. As far as the relationships with Naruto and Ozuru and his wife I really wanted to highlight that no matter how much time as passed, these characters are still the ones you know and love. And I saw Ozuru as a chance to show how the cycle of caring from teacher to student goes on. Sakura's pregnancy will open her up to many challenges to come. I just hope my readers like where I take the character.

bigpac09 - With Kabumaru i wanted him to be more of the thinking man's psychopath. Lol! His mind games are something I wanted to highlight as I didn't want him to be just another "I punch you/you punch me" kind of villain. This way it keeps both the heroes and the readers on their toes.

Diamond Man - No worries when it comes to the rant my friend. Your hatred for my version of the character means that I'm doing something right. And if you did feel a sense of suspense (however mild) I'm happy to hear that. The interaction between Hinata and Konohamaru will have future repercussions. Just wait and see.

MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR

Well, here is the latest chapter of Chronicles. I hope you enjoy. My next chapter release will be Seven Sins. So be on the look out for that. Please remember to leave a little review when done. Thanks.


Naruto: Chronicles of the Seventh

Book VI: Curse of the Namikaze

Chapter XVI: Infiltration of The Rain

"So are you two sure about this plan?" Sakura asked as she, Naruto and Shikamaru leapt through the trees. It was now well into midday as they moved at a brisk pace. Naruto rested throughout the night at the insistence of his wife who threatened to put him into a coma if he tried to leave. First thing that morning, after burying the remains of the family that had been killed at the farmhouse, and a quick meal consisting of the last of the game Sakura had caught the previous day.

"According to some of the information I was able to gather at the farm, it looks like the people who lived there were fakes." Shikamaru said. "All of the pictures were new and made to look worn. All of the letters I found contained mostly nonsensical gibberish and the land looked like it had been barely worked on. But according to what I could find and some of the records, all of the supplies came from the Land of Rain"

"Which means that right now the Land of Rain is our only clue." Naruto said. "Besides it's not like we didn't have to pass through there anyway."

"True, but why are we going to sneak in?" Sakura asked.

"We don't know who's eyes might be on us as we move about." Shikamaru answered. "We don't want to tip off anyone."

"Not to mention that I'm concerned about that Shojimaru guy." Naruto added. "No matter what his motivations are I'm sure he's heading in that direction. And if we can avoid tipping him off too that will be much better."

"Since when have you ever cared about tipping off the enemy?" Sakura asked in a half kidding manner.

Naruto sighed. "There was something wrong with my confrontation with that guy. He shouldn't be as strong as he was. Or at least, he's never shown that kind of strength before. He's a former captain in Madara's army so clearly he shouldn't be underestimated. But the level of power he had warrants that we need to be cautious. Anyway, we should go over everything we know so far. How were the bodies, Sakura?"

"The bodies themselves were in decent condition." Sakura said. "The wounds that killed them were consistent with a slim, straight blade. It was done with either a katana or tanto most likely. Outside of that there were other old wounds on all of the bodies that were consistent with the kinds of wounds a seasoned fighter would accrue over time. I'm thinking that those three were ninja."

"Is it possible that they weren't the ones who came to the village seeking aid?" Naruto asked.

"Their faces matched the descriptions that were given." Shikamaru answered. "At this point we have to assume that those people are the ones who came to the village."

"Which means they came to Konoha to get some our people to come out here." Naruto asked. "But why? An ambush?"

"It's possible." Sakura replied as she and the others dropped from the trees as they saw they were coming to the end of the forest. The second they landed they sprinted out into a clearing where they came to the edge of a sharp cliff. Far below was the rocky, water-logged Land of Rain. "This place is always so damned gloomy." Sakura remarked with a frown.

Naruto smiled. "Konan once told me that even in the darkness and gloom, light can be found. Light and strength. You just need to wait for the brief instances of sunlight." He immediately leapt off the edge and down the cliff.

Sakura watched her husbands' decent as Shikamaru walked up next to her. "Are you going to be okay?" He asked.

"Of course." She answered. "Why do you ask?"

"That husband of yours can be a simple minded fool at times you know." Shikamaru said. "I don't think he even stopped to consider the fact that he's bringing you to the Land of Rain, where Konan resides."

Sakura looked away from Shikamaru out into the vast open rocky plains. "I forgave her for that a long time ago. I'm at peace with it."

"Hmm," Shikamaru said. "Forgiving and forgetting can be two very different things. And often one can't influence the other."

" None of that matters. I've moved on." Sakura replied as she clenched her fists. It was something Shikamaru saw out of the corner of his eye.

"Is that why you always seem to have an important job to do at the hospital whenever Naruto asks you to join him when he has to come here?" Shikamaru asked to which Sakura merely glanced at him. "Or the fact that you always seem to have to spend extra long hours in your office whenever she comes to Konoha? And you tend to go visit your mother after she leaves?" Shikamaru looked down as Naruto jumped from one side of the cliff to another as he made his way down. "I don't think he considers how difficult it is for you to be cordial to the woman who killed your father."

"For someone who's married you sure spend a lot of time watching my actions." Sakura said sarcastically.

Shikamaru chuckled. "Eventually we'll have to meet with her. What will you do?"

"Same thing I've done since the war ended…" Sakura leapt off the edge. "…I deal with it."

Shikamaru sighed. "Oh yeah, this is going to end well." He then leapt off the side to follow his friends.

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

"What do you mean I'm not allowed in?!" Barked a grey-haired man with a long hook nose and a face that looked like old leather. Spit flew as he screamed. Behind him were over a dozen men and women standing with him on a large muddy road that led to Amegakure which could be seen several miles in the distance. Naruto, Sakura and Shikamaru, with their cloaks over their heads, covertly joined the small crowd.

Standing between them and the village were several tall, stone faced shinobi that were all armed to the teeth. Some wore rebreathers along with their standard uniform. One kunoichi, who looked about thirty, with green eyes and matching shoulder length hair and a parasol strapped on her back, sighed heavily. "I've explained this several times already sir. I'm afraid all roads to and from the village have been closed temporarily. The village is holding a training exercise and it would be too dangerous to travel right now."

"Training exercise?!" The old man yelled. "To hell with your training! This is peace time! There are no wars! And right now my apples, corn and turnips need to be brought to market!"

"Yes!" Another, portly woman exclaimed. "And my son and I are citizens!" She yelled as she hugged her young son close to her. "We've traveled all the way from Yumegakure. Why are we being barred from returning home?!"

"I'm sorry ma'am, but my orders are absolute." The green haired kunoichi replied. "There are several inns not too far from here where you can stay until the ban is lifted."

"Unbelievable!" The old man spat as he grumbled and continued to argue with the exasperated woman.

Naruto signaled Sakura and Shikamaru to step away from the angry crowd. "So what do we do now?" Sakura asked. "What kind of training exercise would lock down all the roads?"

Naruto shrugged. "None. Something else is going on here?"

"Should we corner one of the guards and question them?" Sakura asked.

"Too risky." Naruto answered. "I don't want to raise suspicion."

"Besides, I doubt the soldiers out here would no anything about the real reason for the lockdown." Shikamaru added. "They're probably just saying what they were told to say. If we want answers we'll need to get inside the village."

"So we just find a way around." Sakura replied as she was about to walk off when Naruto grabbed her shoulder and shook his head.

"Not that easy." He said. "If this place is on lockdown then they'll probably have guards all along the border. And not all of them will be visible."

"Since when has that been an issue for us?" Sakura asked.

"That's not the biggest problem." Naruto answered. "What is a problem is the chakra barrier that surrounds Amegakure."

"What?!" Shikamaru exclaimed under his breath. He was visibly agitated. "What barrier are you talking about?!"

"Amegakure uses a Chakra detection barrier jutsu identical to the one we have." Naruto answered.

"Like ours?! How did they learn how to perform that technique in the first place?" Sakura asked, already knowing the answer.

"I…gave Konan the technique, just after the end of the war." Naruto replied.

"You what?!" Shikamaru replied in disbelief. "And why wasn't I aware of this?!"

"I didn't tell you or anyone else." Naruto answered. "It was a matter of securing this village. With Pain gone, they had no way of detecting threats. There was a lot of instability then. Konan was afraid that she wouldn't be able to regain control unless she had some way of detecting threats to her people."

"So you gave her access of one of our secret jutsu?!" Shikamaru yelled. "Are you insane?!"

"That's why I didn't tell you. You would have tried to talk me out of it." Naruto said.

"No. I would have locked you up for being crazy!" Shikamaru yelled angrily. "Tell me Naruto, are there any other village secrets you've given away behind our backs?! How about the Byakugan? Did you give that to Gaara?!"

"That's enough, Shikamaru." Sakura said calmly.

"Sakura, are you kidding me? Have you any idea what he..?" Shikamaru said.

"I'm upset with him as well." Sakura said. "But there's nothing that can be done now. We just to have faith that Naruto did what he thought was best for relations between our villages. Right now we need to focus on the problem of sneaking in undetected. At this point we have to assume that those soldiers are standing either just inside or outside of the barrier."

Shikamaru glared at Naruto one last time before looking back at the soldiers who continued to argue with the people in the crowd. He noticed how the soldiers expertly shuffled their feet as they spoke with people in the crowd. Shikamaru smiled. "Look at that." He said as he gestured towards the green haired kunoichi. "Notice how no matter how animated she gets, she never goes beyond that water lily?"

"That must be the very edge of the barrier." Sakura said. "Okay, so they are just inside the barrier. Now that we know the limits, how do we bypass it? Could you teleport us in Naruto?"

"They would sense a chakra surge that size." Naruto replied. "How about your Shadow Meld Jutsu?"

Shikamaru looked up at the thick grey clouds above. "I don't think that's going to be possible. Besides, the Shadow Meld doesn't completely hide the chakra of those inside. The barrier, if they got it right, would detect us."

Naruto sighed as he thought. "Well, I guess we have no choice but to use Gamatoro." He said finally as he walked off back down the road towards a large formation of rocks.

Sakura's eyes widened as she had a horrified look on her face. "No way! No way!" She yelled as she waived her arms in protest and followed her husband. "I hate that! I refuse!"

"Gamatoro?" Shikamaru asked as he followed.

"Will you quiet down?!" Naruto yelled under his breath. "Do you want to tip off everyone around us?!"

"How do you expect me to react when you suggest Gamatoro?!" Sakura yelled back.

"Well do you have a better idea?" Naruto asked. "We need to get in and this is the only way to mask our chakra completely."

"There's got to be a better way!" Sakura yelled. "I hate using Gamatoro!"

"What's Gamatoro?" Shikamaru asked.

"Look I'm not a fan of Gamatoro either, Sakura." Naruto said as they walked around the rocks and he looked around to ensure they were not seen. "But we're a little desperate here. So unless you have another way to get us in without detection then we're doing it."

"Tch!" Sakura exclaimed as she folded her arms and looked away in annoyance.

"Excuse me! But what's Gamatoro?" Shikamaru asked.

"It's not a what." Sakura replied as Naruto bit the tip of his left thumb and wiped a bit of blood unto the palm of his right hand before making several hand signs and slamming his palm onto the ground. "It's a who."

A small puff of white smoke appeared and inside the smoke was a small blue frog with a red vest on and red markings around its eyes and mouth. "Hey! What the..?!" It exclaimed as it looked around. Looking up, Gamatoro saw Naruto smiling down at him. "Oh! It's you! What the hell is your problem, huh?! I was in the middle of lunch!"

"A toad?" Shikamaru whispered to Sakura.

"Uh huh." Sakura replied as she glared down at it. "Gamakichi's son, and the most annoying amphibian you'll ever meet."

"Sorry to interrupt you Gamatoro." Naruto said. "But I can use your help."

"Of course you could." Gamatoro said pridefully as he puffed out his chest. "You know I have to say I don't see what's so great about you, Naruto. My dad and uncle would go on and on about you. But I really don't get it."

"Yes, well that not really important right now." Naruto said. "I need you to help us get into that village."

"And what the hell is in it for me?!" Gamatoro yelled. "Wait, did you say we?" The toad turned to see Shikamaru and Sakura standing behind him and instantly his face brightened and his eyes began to twinkle as he smiled widely. He immediately turned and began to hop towards them.

"Uh, hello there." Shikamaru said as he bent down to greet the toad. "My name is…"

"Out of my way asshole!" Gamatoro yelled as he slapped Shikamaru in the face while he hopped by and leapt onto Sakura's shoulders.

"Son of a..!" Shikamaru yelled as he touched where he was hit. "That little…!" He yelled as he stood up only for Naruto to grab his arm and shack his head.

"Hey there beautiful!" Gamatoro said with a sly smile as he perched himself on Sakura's shoulder. "It's been a while right?"

"Ugh! Not long enough." Sakura said disgusted.

Gamatoro laughed. "Oh don't be like that baby? Hey! You ready to leave that dork and come with me?"

"I'm right here you know?" Naruto said.

"I know, that's why I said it.' Gamatoro replied. "So anyway Sakura, why don't you and I come back to my place? I can show you some of the best places back home. Our sunsets are to die for!"

"Ew!" Sakura exclaimed. "I keep telling you, I'm married."

"That's just a technicality." Gamatoro yelled as he tried to rub against her chin but Sakura leaned back.

"And I'm a human." Sakura said.

"Nobody's perfect." Gamatoro said as he tried to touch her cheek before Sakura swiped him off of her shoulder. Gamatoro landed on the floor by her feet. "Sakura-chan, just think it over. I'm the son of the chieftain! One day I too shall be chief! You'll be a queen of our people! And our children would be glorious!"

Sakura stared down at the frog for a moment. "Ew." She said flatly.

"Okay, that's enough of that." Naruto replied. "Now Gamatoro, we need you to help get us in that village. There is a barrier that would detect our chakra. But if we use you…"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah I get it." Gamatoro said. "Alright, you want my help then I need to get something in return."

"And what would that be?" Naruto asked.

"Please say a spanking." Shikamaru said under his breath as he rubbed his cheek.

"A kiss." Gamatoro said. "I want a kiss from this princess!"

"What!? No way!" Sakura yelled. "I'd rather kiss a roach! Go die frog boy!"

"Sakura," Naruto whispered as he pulled her aside. "We need to get in and he's our only shot. It's just one little kiss."

"Then you go make out with him!" She yelled.

"Sakura!" Naruto yelled under his breath.

Sakura sighed and closed her eyes. "Fine. Fine, I'll do it. But you owe me big time for this one."

"Great." Naruto said. "It's just one small peck."

Naruto and Sakura turned to face Gamatoro who sat smiling up at them. "Fine, I'll do it." She said. "But only a quick kiss."

"Alright!" Gamatoro exclaimed happily. Sakura picked up the frog in her open palm and faced it. She took another deep breath before closing in on the toads' cheek.

Just as she was about to kiss him, Gamatoro turned and grabbed her face and placed a big kiss on her lips. "Ack!" Sakura yelled as she spat and grimaced while Gamatoro danced happily in her hand and Naruto and Shikamaru chuckled. A dark shadow fell over Sakura's face as a large vein popped on her forehead. He hair began to whip about wildly as she suddenly squeezed the toad in her hand tightly. Flames seemed to appear in her eyes as she glared daggers at it. "Naruto, do we have time to stop and eat?! I feel like making frog leg soup!"

"Alright! Alright!" Gamatoro yelled as she began to crush him. "I'll help you! I'll help you! Just…lemme…go!" Sakura dropped the toad who grimaced in pain. "Sorry, doll but could you blame a guy?! Those lips were just so enticing!"

"That's it!" Sakura yelled as she raised her foot to crush him.

"Okay! Okay!" Gamatoro yelled in protest. "Let's just do this okay! I need to get back and soak my body!"

"Thank you Gamatoro." Naruto said.

"Yeah, whatever." Gamatoro said before he began to puff up and expand his body until he was half their size. He then opened his gaping mouth and it began to expand until the opening was so big they could easily walk in. Gamatoro's moist tongue then rolled out on the floor like a red carpet. "Jump…in." He muttered.

"Alright." Naruto said as he stepped on the toads tongue and walked into it's mouth.

"You're kidding me." Shikamaru said as he looked at the scene before him.

"Wish I was." Sakura replied as she shuddered before taking Naruto's hand and stepping inside.

"Come on." Naruto said to Shikamaru who appeared reluctant to step in.

Shikamaru grimaced as he shook his head. "I hate my life right now." He said before stepping onto the moist tongue and walking inside.

Gamatoro, closed his mouth and slowly deflated back down to his normal small size. "Okay, here we go."

"This is the most disgusting thing I've ever done." Shikamaru said from inside the toads' mouth.

"This isn't exactly a walk in the park for my either pal." Gamatoro replied. "It's not exactly heaven to have humans in my mouth. Even if one of them is my precious Sakura."

"Ew!" Sakura exclaimed.

"Who knows where you've been." Gamatora continued. "And I don't recall seeing you wipe your feet before you jumped in. Now shut up and let me do my thing, will ya." The toad then jumped off around the rock and down the road. A few minutes passed before he passed by the guards who didn't bat an eye at him as he hopped by.

******Twenty Minutes Later******

Gamatora hopped down a dirty alleyway between two stone grey three story buildings. "How filthy." He said as he looked around at the garbage that was strewn about. "And you wonder why I dislike humans as much as I do. They have no respect for the land. They just throw their trash anywhere they please." Looking around to ensure that no one was looking, he began to expand his body before widening his mouth. "Everybody out."

Naruto, Sakura and Shikamaru, covered in the frog's saliva stepped out of its mouth onto the concrete floor. "This…is…the WORST!" Sakura yelled as she tried to wipe off the excess slime.

"Oh don't act like you don't love it Sakura-chan." Gamatoro said with a sly smirk as he returned to his small size.

"What was that!?" Sakura yelled as she raised her foot over the toad.

"Nothing!" He yelled as he cowered.

"Thank you for the help, Gamatora." Naruto said with a small bow. "Please give your father my best and I haven't forgotten about my promise to visit him soon."

"Yeah, yeah." The toad said as he turned to leave. "I'm not your damned messenger, ya know!" He took a few hops before her stopped and looked back. "Thanks for the kiss Sakura-chan! I can't wait to let all the guys back home about our little make out session."

"That's it!" Sakura screamed as she tried to lunge at the frog as he hopped away laughing before vanishing in a cloud of white smoke.

Naruto grabbed her around the waist as she swung her arms and legs wildly to get free. "Calm down, Sakura!" He yelled. Once the frog was gone, Naruto let her go and she walked off in a huff. The two men followed her as she stood on the street corner trying to calm herself. "Sakura…"

"Not…one…word." She said as she glared at her husband and friend. "Not one word of this to anyone, you hear? Especially Ino. I'd never hear the end of it."

"Right, right." Naruto replied with a nervous smile.

"You got it." Shikamaru answered. "Your make out with a frog is between us."

"I didn't make out with it!" Sakura screamed which caused the few people on the street to look at them curiously.

"Just kidding." Shikamaru said with a smile as he raised both hands. "Anyway." He continued in a low voice. "Now that we're in, what do we do?"

Naruto began to walk, heading further into the village as the others followed. "We mingle in with the people." He said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to find out some information about Akatsuki's movements that Konan's people wouldn't otherwise learn."

******Meanwhile******

"Naruto did what?!" Yamato exclaimed as he stood in the middle of the Hokage's office. "I can't believe he'd do that?!"

"Really?" Neji, who was sitting on the couch by the windows, asked with a smirk on his face. "That kind of sounds like just the kind of thing Naruto would do."

Yamato grumbled under his breath as he looked at all of the familiar faces in the room. Including Neji, Hinata, Konohamaru, Sai, Akamichi Choza, Might Guy, Nara Shikaku and Yūhi Kurenai.

"And are we certain that Sakura-chan and Shikamaru are with him?" Guy asked.

"I went over to my son's home after Konohamaru came to get me." Shikaku said. "There was no one home. Clearly he's using this time away from his wife to have a little fun."

"I also went to check Naruto's place and it was empty." Sai said. "Sakura-chan must have gone along with him."

"And they don't tell us a damned thing?" Guy asked.

"If they had we would have talked them out of it." Shikaku answered.

"Well, do we have any idea where they went? Perhaps we can pick up their trail." Neji said.

"Naruto just told me he was heading out to find Kabumaru and put an end to this." Konohamaru answered. "He never told me exactly where."

"Can we assume that their destination is the Land of Stone?" Kurenai asked.

"There's a high probability." Shikaku replied as he stroked his goatee. "But we can't make that assumption when it comes to Naruto. Doing the rational is not his thing."

"So how do we find him?" Hinata asked.

Shikaku paused for a moment as he thought it over with his eyes closed and arms folded. "We don't." He said finally.

"What?!" Yamato exclaimed in shock.

"At this point we can't afford to use valuable man power searching for them." Shikaku said. "We're stretched thin as it is. Those three are among the strongest shin obi not just in our village but in the ninja world. As a team, they would be more than formidable for any enemy."

"With all due respect Shikaku, that should be the least of our concerns right now." Kurenai said. "Naruto is our Hokage, Sakura is the head of our Medical Division and Shikamaru is commander of our military. Thanks to Kabumaru the village is still in disarray. Now three of our highest ranking officials are missing? If word of this gets out…"

"Then it won't get out." Shikaku responded. He then looked at all the faces in the room. "Until Naruto and the others return, we keep the fact that they are not here between us and us alone. We all know enough to keep the village running and make any immediate decisions. If someone needs to see Naruto, Konohamaru here will use his clones. It should be enough for the short term. As for Shikamaru and Sakura, we'll just continue saying that Shikamaru is dealing with a mission on his own and Sakura is home ill. That should hold until he returns."

"And what if Kabumaru or his people attack again?" Choza asked.

"We'll handle it, of course." Guy responded confidently.

"We didn't exactly do a good job of handling it last time." Choza responded.

"Choza's right." Neji said. "We need added security just in case and we're stretched thin as it is."

"Alright." Shikaku said before looking to Sai. "Sai, I want you to personally head out to Sunagakure as soon as you can. Inform Gaara of what's going on and request his aid."

"Understood." Sai replied as he got to his feet and made his way out.

"I'll remain here just to make sure everything is in order." Shikaku said. "The rest of you should head out to double check all of your posts. We'll meet back here in the morning to go over things again."

Everyone began to filter out, leaving Shikaku who walked over to Naruto's desk and began to look over the paperwork. "Is there something else?" He asked without looking up.

Neji remained sitting on the couch and had not moved when everyone left the office. "I was just wondering why you didn't state the obvious." He said as he rose to his feet.

"And what would that be?" Shikaku replied.

"Oh, the steaming pile of shit we're all in, for starters." Neji said. "You and I both know there is another possibility that wasn't stated in that meeting. One that, given the circumstances, is frightening to think about." Shikaku looked up at Neji but didn't say a word. "Considering that Kabumaru has so far been one step ahead of us, and we seem to be playing a game where we don't know the rules, it's quite likely that everything he's done so far was to provoke Naruto to leave the village to chase him. In which case…"

"We are all in incredible danger." Shikaku answered.

"And what do you plan to do about it?" Neji asked.

Shikaku paused as he tried to think. "I'm not sure." He said finally.

"Now that is truly frightening." Neji said before walking out of the room.

******Later******

"Well this has been a bust." Sakura said with an exasperated look on her face as she, Naruto and Sasuke emerged from a small, dingy bar out into a filthy back alley. "This is the third place we've gone too and we have no leads. Maybe we need to rethink this strategy."

"Just be patient Sakura." Naruto replied as they walked. "I used to do this kind of thing all the time when I was on my own hunting leads on Sasuke or Akatsuki. Gathering information can take a long time."

Shikamaru laughed. "I never thought I'd see the day when Naruto would be the one preaching patience!"

"Well, it was something I had to learn the hard way." Naruto said. "When I was first on my own I thought that yelling loud enough or beating up enough people would get me the info I needed. That didn't always work. So I learned to sit and listen. Sometimes the answers would come to you."

As they walked, Sakura heard a soft meow and looked to see a small black cat standing by a overflowed trashcan. The cat bristled at her as they passed by. "Yeah well, was there any time between the sitting and listening to rest and eat?" She asked. "I'm exhausted and I could use a meal."

"Again?" Naruto asked as he looked back at his wife. "We just rested a few hours ago."

"It looks like all that sitting around in that lab of yours back home has made you soft Sakura." Shikamaru chided with a playful grin.

"And you made us stop to eat three times since we left that farm." Naruto said. "How come you're eating so much all of a sudden?"

Sakura turned bright red as her body tensed. "What's with you guys?!" She screamed. "Can't a girl be a little hungry or sleepy without getting grilled about it?! You don't understand a woman's body at all, you idiots!"

"Ahh! Fine! Fine!" Naruto exclaimed. "No need to get all bent out of shape about it. We were just kidding around. To be honest I could use a rest myself. We've been at this for hours already. We'll find some place to rest up while we consider our next move."

"Thank god. My feet are killing me." Sakura said. Just then, she heard a soft meow and she looked down to see a black cat standing by an overflowed trashcan. The cat bristled as they passed by.

"Anyway, just what is our next move Naruto?' Shikamaru asked. "This hasn't exactly gotten us anywhere. Maybe we should head over to the Konan's mansion. Sometimes we can find out something from officials with big mouths."

"I considered that." Naruto replied. "But too many people know what we look like there. I'd prefer to avoid that place until we absolutely have to. There are a few more places I'd like to check out including a few dive bars by the river."

"Oh great." Sakura said. "Just what I need, more time around filthy bars." As they walked, she heard a soft meow and she saw a black cat standing by a overflowed trashcan. It bristled as they passed by.

"Did you notice it?" Shikamaru asked Sakura as they continued to walk.

"Mmm, hmm." She said. "Looks like they're really good whoever they are."

Naruto stopped walking unexpectantly and spun around to face Shikamaru and Sakura. "Notice?" He asked. "Notice what?!" He exclaimed as he looked around. "What the hell are you talking about?!"

Shikamaru slapped his own forehead. "Of course he didn't notice." Shikamaru said with a heavy sigh.

"Don't tell me you missed it." Sakura said as she shook her head.

"Missed what?!" Naruto asked as he waved his arms in a animated fashion.

"That black cat." Shikamaru said. "We've passed it twice already."

"I count three times." Sakura added.

"Obviously we're trapped in someone's genjutsu." Shikamaru said. "One that has us in an infinite loop. We're probably just walking around in circles."

"Ohhh!" Naruto exclaimed as he rubbed his chin and looked up at the sky. "Is that it? I noticed that about five minutes ago. I thought you were talking about something important."

"Five minutes?!" Sakura exclaimed in disbelief. "Well, why didn't you say anything?!"

"What would be the point?" Naruto replied as he looked at them. "We're already caught. Besides, I'd rather just go along with it until whoever did this decides to come out of hiding. And it looks like they finally have."

As Naruto spoke, they saw someone begin to rise out of the side of the building just above them to their right. The person slid out of the sheer surface like a fish poking it's head out of calm waters. To their left and even higher up, another body emerged out of the side of a building just as the first. Naruto could see the gleam of a kunai in the person's hand. And even higher, at the top of the building to the front of them, stood a third person. This one was not partially submerged into the building, but was standing, with his hands on his hips. All three figures smiled down viciously and Naruto and his companions.

A sly smile crept on Naruto's face as he cracked his knuckles. "See what I mean." He said to Sakura and Shikamaru. "All we had to do was wait and what we need would come to us."

End of Chapter XVI