Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. Kishimoto, I'm going to get you to America one day, and then I will uncork the ass-beating of a lifetime on you, and you will respect me, and give me the rights to your franchise.

Because those are shonen rules. You beat somebody up in a violent fight and their possession of your choice automatically becomes yours.

I'm pretty sure I could swing that in a court of law. I have plenty of reference material to work with.

Chapter 12: Family Ties


It was odd.

Kurama didn't know that he could do what he did until he'd actually tried it. The moment he'd heard through Naruto's ears that the girl Fuu had his biju sibling Chomei sealed inside of her, he somehow had a need, an instinctual desire to reach out. He barely even had to try to establish a connection between the two seal-manifested mindscapes that the two grand chakra creatures sat within.

Apparently Fuu killing off one of Naruto's clones was all the contact the two separate chakras needed to allow him to do so. Go figure. Who came up with this sealing crap anyway?

Oh, right. Old Man Sage.

…If he actually had this sort of foresight, that more than one of the biju would ever be locked away inside of a person, well Kurama wished he could resurrect the man and slap him silly with all nine of his tails.

And so Kurama found himself face-to-face with a massive seven-tailed beetle in a place that looked a lot like the shrine where they'd been raised. Idly, he realized with quite a bit of bitterness, that this mindscape was markedly more scenic than the one in Naruto's head, which was annoying. Why did he have to get the leaky prison cell? That was aside the point however.

"So… Chomei," Kurama said in a poor attempt to make idle conversation, "Long time no see."

"Around thirty years actually," The beetle rebutted, "Seven of which I've been trapped within poor Fuu here."

Right. So now it was time to get down to brass tacks.

"Any chance of making your human stand down? Mine just wants to leave," After robbing the place of a few dozen million ryo's worth of goods and plunder, but the important thing was that Naruto, Tenten, and Shino wanted to leave without bloodshed.

The seven-tailed beetle didn't budge however, "She can't do that Kurama. That man Kakuzu will kill her if she fails him. His temper is deplorable, even compared to you."

"Hey, don't compare my splendidly awesome fits of rage with that of a mere human," Kurama stated proudly, slightly raising his muzzle into the air, "His temper might as well be that of an agitated hornet when it's set against mine for all that it's worth."

"Be that as it may-," Chomei said, peacefully ignoring Kurama's deific ego that it had long since gotten used to, "-Fuu is not you. I rather like her, and dying along with her would be inconvenient to say the least."

"Err… she could come with my gaggle of humans," Kurama suggested lamely, "There's a habit that Hatake seems to have when it comes to picking up strays."

Chomei sounded offended in return, "So now she's a stray?"

"That's not what I meant-."

"Your boy is on his own Kurama," Chomei declared without a hint of regret, anger, or any other discernable emotion one way or another, "I will not risk my container's life and that of my own. You may have some idea as to how cruel humans can be, but to think that Kakuzu could be as cruel as he was to his own family, if you of all people can remember what that's supposed to mean… she has my aid for as long as she needs it. "

Kurama felt himself slipping in his connection which meant that Chomei no longer wanted to be connected enough to converse with him. As he felt himself, move farther away, he quietly spoke with one soft admission, "I thought the old sage said that we were family…"

XxX

Fuu was so fast. Her body was built for speed and agility, that much was clear. Even without the biju chakra that she was definitely using.

Until then, the fastest person their age that Naruto and Tenten had ever seen had been a cross-up between Sasuke and Neji. Fuu was quicker than they were, and her eyes held no hesitance in her movements. Only a detached devil-may-care air to her approach.

It was weird fighting Fuu. Her movements were jerky, and didn't seem to have a lot of thought and strategy behind them, "Oof!" Which was probably why Naruto was better acclimated to deal with her than Tenten was.

Taking a shoulder-block of all things from Fuu, Tenten flew across the gold coin island, landing and nicking up her bare left arm on the ridged metal of the treasured coins. What she wouldn't give for falling on good old forgiving dirt.

Sitting up and wincing at the stinging wounds, she picked up a handful of the offending currency and hurled them at Fuu's head while she was being pursued by Shino's bugs and Naruto himself. It wasn't fatal the way a kunai or something would have been, but it was more subtle and had a better chance of hitting.

One actually did bean her in the side of the head, allowing Naruto to strike a punch to the green-haired girl's head. Fuu grabbed Naruto's sleeve after taking the punch and yanked it over his offending arm, eliciting a surprised squawk from him before she belted him away with a front kick. He'd never had anyone even try that on him before.

'Naruto-san's punch hurt, but it seemed to annoy her more than deter her,' Shino thought to himself, 'She didn't balk at all when it came to her retaliating move,' A move he wouldn't have expected out of any ninja. Instead of hitting Naruto back immediately or pulling a weapon to stab him, she screwed with his clothes and then nailed him.

It worked well, and she clearly hit like a bull, as Naruto landed face down in the water, dragging head underneath the waves. He quickly flipped himself upside-down under the water and around to get himself back up though.

He tugged at his wet shirt to work his arm back through the sleeve that it had been pulled out from and huffed angrily through his nose, "I wasn't expecting one punch to beat you, so you'd better not expect it to beat me!"

"Fuu already told you, she can't let you win, or leave," Fuu said, "She isn't trying to beat you, she's trying to kill you."

"Good luck with that," Shino said calmly, sending bugs flying her way from the sleeves of his hoodie.

Sneaking bugs onto the enemy wasn't an option. The water wasn't the best environment for his insects to try anything tactical with them, and Fuu moved around far too much at too fast a rate for a good enough swarm to attach to her in that manner.

Naruto hadn't worked with Shino for very long, but he knew enough to recognize that the name of the game whenever the young Aburame was a factor in a battle was to do whatever he had to do to ensure that he got enough of his kikaichu on an enemy to suck them dry of chakra.

With a devil-may-care rush, Naruto went right back at Fuu, completely ignoring the way she'd kicked his tail just a moment before. He had to ignore it, because engaging her up-close wasn't about winning or losing. It was about giving the others a chance to do what they needed.

Missing an overhand punch coming in, Naruto ducked a nimble kick from the flexible jinchuuriki aimed at his head before having to block it as she spun around completely and kicked low. Naruto shoved the leg off of himself and created two clones that attacked her body and head at the same time.

Fuu moved her head out of the way of the attack intended for it and used her arms to block the punches sent at her body before slamming them together in a tiger seal and pressing her hands at the palms, "Hiden: Rinpungakure no Jutsu (Secret: Hiding in Scale Powder Jutsu)!"

Naruto and his clones let out cries of alarm and pain as they found themselves all blinded. Fuu took advantage of this to kill all of Naruto's clones and shoot a blade-handed strike at the remaining original. The hand sliced right through Naruto, as part of his body turned to bugs on contact.

Shino had the original Naruto at his side on one of the coin islands, allowing him time to clear out his eyes when he substituted an Insect Clone in his place to take the attack. He'd been able to see what had been happening the entire time, as Fuu's jutsu did little to his vision because of his sunglasses.

"And now we're all clear," Shino said, guiding Fuu's attention over to Tenten's location, where she held the barrel of her Lightning Barrel tool to the surface of the water before tapping the bottom of it hard to discharge it.

Fuu let out a pained shriek as electricity coursed through her entire body. It didn't last for very long, as a soaked Tenten had to pull her ninja tool away from the water due to taking a few volts of her own. The damage had been done however, as it took all of Fuu's focus to remain on top of the water as her muscles twitched from the shocking attack.

It was surprising to Tenten that she was still standing. She didn't look that tough on the surface, but looks were obviously deceiving, 'And what's with that green chakra?'

Fuu's breaths came out shakily. She hadn't expected that. Most of the people that somehow stumbled across the money pit were greedy misers, barely able to trust each other enough to watch their own backs long enough to muster a decent effort against her. Some were willing to throw their own comrades into the face of death if it meant keeping Fuu away from them for just a little while longer.

That boy with the yellow hair though, he threw himself at her to try and buy time for his partners to come up with a plan, and they hadn't left him behind to try and hold her off while they tried to run away. They made sure they backed him up.

Something inside of her chest bit at her as she saw the three of them come together again.

"She's still up?" Naruto asked, catching sight of nothing more significant than Fuu getting a second wind, "What the hell? That should've beaten anybody."

"Would it have beaten you?" Kurama asked.

'Uh… I dunno. Maybe?' Naruto felt that if Kurama could have been free to tail-slap him without killing him, he probably would have, 'What?'

"In case you haven't noticed, you can heal from wounds quicker than the average fleshbag. That girl has Chomei inside of her, a giant armored beetle," Really? Gross, "I would say that due to this fact by itself her durability is beyond anything average humans can comprehend."

But she screamed just now. Naruto had heard it, 'So she felt the real pain when we hurt her, but it didn't actually do as much damage as it should have.'

"You had better get creative."

"Shino," Naruto said as quietly as he could in the echo of the pit, "What about your bugs?"

"They're taking her chakra, but it doesn't seem to be draining her fast enough," And he wasn't certain but he felt it had to do something with the fact that her chakra was green.

"He's not taking the girl's chakra. He's taking Chomei's chakra. He could place every insect he had on her and keep them there all day. A biju will not run out of chakra so easily." As long as Fuu was drawing upon it, neither would she, "Draining her chakra by itself won't beat her."

Damn it.

"Guys, you know how I told you that I'm a jinchuuriki?" Naruto asked, getting looks from both Shino and Tenten, "She's one too. That's what the green chakra is."

Shino visibly recoiled while Tenten went slack-jawed at the thought, "What? But… but… it's-. Jinchuuriki are forbidden! Like, the only forbidden thing that there actually is! The only thing that's off-limits! Everybody agrees! Everywhere! You're saying somebody else did it?"

"Clearly Kakuzu values his money far more than adhering to the civilized shinobi world's set of rules," Shino remarked wryly in order to hide his discomfort with the situation, "I am currently at a loss for how to handle this situation."

He wasn't the only one.

Naruto chewed on his lip before deciding on something that he wasn't the biggest fan of, '…Can you give me some help Kurama? We've been working on this haven't we?' His tone would have been the same if he'd been asking someone to fill up his bowl with vegetables.

Kurama's reaction wasn't much of an improvement.

"You want to try this now?" The fox asked incredulously, "This isn't exactly the kind of thing I know how to practice kid. I've never done this before I was stuck inside of you, and especially not during a fight."

Yes, they had been trying to work on Kurama sharing his chakra with Naruto when the need arose, but the problem was always that Kurama wound up giving Naruto more than his body was conditioned to endure, hurting him.

If it screwed up, Naruto's skin would begin to burn off and his innards would feel as if they were set ablaze.

They'd found that out already.

When he'd been encouraged to find out how to be a jinchuuriki this led to some begrudging experimentation. As Kurama really didn't want a repeat situation of Twin Ridge Town he'd consented to assist. When Naruto permitted the flow to open it turned out that Naruto's body couldn't flat-out take all of Kurama's power without some nasty and quick to occur effects, and Kurama wasn't really an expert on holding back.

He'd never had to before. Not even once. Usually all of his problems were solved by vulgar displays of power and lack of moderation, not exacerbated by them. It was the blind leading the blind here.

Still, Chomei had somehow managed to figure out how to get the job done inside of Fuu's body. She was using biju chakra just fine, so how hard could it really be? Kurama was the strongest of the biju, as well as in his own humble opinion the smartest, and the sexiest, so he could definitely find the right way to do this.

If he screwed up, all it would cost Naruto and company was a big honking hole in their defense that Fuu would be able to drive a cart through and probably use to kill them. No pressure.

Fuu's body had ceased to spasm, and she shook off anything that was left over easily enough, "Chomei and Kakuzu-sousofu made Fuu strong," She said, "Fuu won't lose to any of you."

It was a declaration supported by several years of action to back it up. They weren't the first to try and as long as she was his great-granddaughter meant to listen to his commands they wouldn't be the last either.

It was then that the three of them really felt the presence of Fuu's biju chakra. Shino's insects skittered about inside of him frantically, and Tenten mind brought up thoughts of facing Shukaku. This was nothing like that though. This girl was supposed to be like Naruto. But still, Naruto never felt so imposing.

A displeased frown pasted on her face, Fuu began moving randomly around the pit at speeds that the others could barely follow, either trying to intimidate them or looking for an angle to attack. Either way, it was unnerving, "Oh man," Tenten said.

Naruto's eyes strained to keep up with the green-haired girl, a kunai held in his grip, "Don't talk if you don't know something to help. Talking leaves ope-," He didn't even get to finish his statement before Fuu bulldozed her way straight through their manji formation, "-nings?"

Well crap.

Naruto swung his arm back around to stab at Fuu only for her to block his attempt at the forearm. Her own arm didn't budge, and it was pretty annoying that a girl had that kind of physical advantage. She side-kicked Shino away before he could move to respond and moved her arm deeper to grab Naruto's sleeve.

Her intention was to throw him at Tenten as she unsealed a strange discus-like item, but Naruto used his newfound mobility to cut his own sleeve off. He fought so strangely. Little did she know, Naruto was thinking the same thing. She could have done so many things instead of grab him. But her grip was tight, and she was strong. What could she do if she actually grabbed him?

Tenten hurled her discus weapon at Fuu with the precious seconds allotted to her, and as she expected, the girl dodged the attack and moved away. A ram seal later and from the spinning ends it began spitting out smoke, bathing the entire cavern in it.

'Clever girl,' Shino thought to himself as he picked himself back up, 'I can find the two of them and our enemy easily enough without sight. And she and Naruto are close enough to each other to watch each other's back.'

He had to do something as well.

Clasping his hands together in a ram seal to focus, Shino focused intensely on his next move. If his chakra draining insects weren't enough to bring Fuu down by themselves, he had to find a way to make it happen indirectly.

In the smoke cloud Naruto moved quietly, even across the surface of the water. He was loud and brash, but when the time came to not be seen, to not be heard, he was good. Kushina was a powerful woman and a better teacher than most of her clan understood. Direct enough to point out your problems and patient enough to show you the correct way to fix them. They had ostracized her for her relationship with Minato before they'd learned that her value was more multifaceted than her power in battle.

And because of what his mother was capable of, Naruto was able to get close enough to Fuu to strike without being found.

"Fuu you're being careless!"

"Huh!?" Chomei's warning allowed her to turn around before she could be struck, but her hand only smashed straight through a clone that added to the smoke around her, "Another one?"

The second it went down, Naruto was able to memorize the steps it took to locate Fuu, and took aim straight at her, pressing his palms together in front of his chest, "Fuuton: Repuushou (Wind Release: Gale Palm)!"

Fuu dodged the direct path of the wind blast, but was left in an exposed area when the wind blew away the smoke around her, 'That wasn't very smart. Fuu can see around herself now. He can't get that close to me again.'

"Hit her Tenten!"

Above the smoke cloud on the center rotating bridge, two scrolls rolled themselves out around one another high into the air. In between the two spiraling parchments, the team weapon specialist was able to spot Fuu where Naruto had revealed her position with his attempt to attack her with a wind jutsu, "Soushouryuu (Twin Rising Dragons)!"

Having drawn her own blood beforehand, she smeared it on the scrolls and began summoning weapons at a superhuman rate, spinning and hurling them almost as soon as they touched her fingertips, raining steel relentlessly down onto her target.

Fuu gasped in shock and awe at the sight of death from above, but after dodging the first two dozen or so to the cost of her clothes and the nicks on her flesh, she realized that Tenten wasn't going to miss wide after she'd already locked onto her.

They were coming in rapid-fire succession. It was dangerous, and even with the advantage that Chomei gave her, Fuu couldn't ignore it. Metal cut and stabbed. Even if it didn't go deep enough to be fatal to someone like her, they would still hurt, and enough blood loss would kill her.

In her desperation she dove underwater as Tenten's pace didn't slow or stop for several seconds.

Cursing, Tenten realized that she could barely see her above water, let alone when she was underneath it, and ceased her attack, landing on a massive bridge portion in a flourish, "Tch."

"That jutsu is AWESOME when it's not being used on my clones!" Naruto shouted from the underside of the section of rotating bridge that his chief partner had launched her attack from.

"I didn't get her!"

"What? You didn't?"

A small, tanned hand grabbing Naruto's ankle from underwater was the answer.

XxX

(Elsewhere Nearby)

Breathing heavily, Anko held her side as it throbbed in protest to all of the dynamic moving she was doing. She was not fully recovered, she wasn't even in enough condition to take on a regular ninja safely, let alone a killer like Kakuzu, "Fucking Hatake and all of his bullshit."

She could still hear the sounds of Kakuzu's lightning attack and some pretty nasty explosions tearing the forest asunder elsewhere. Kakuzu or his ugly helper was going to aim her way eventually and she was going to have to move or suffer an ugly death.

Peeking her head out from behind her tree cover, Anko's eyes went wide and she ducked back into hiding. A grotesque creature made of wiggling threads with a white, red-designed mask on its face soullessly stalked the forest. That had to have been what sent that fireball at them earlier, and maybe what had been causing the explosions elsewhere.

What kind of a freak was Kakuzu? He stole organs and admitted to doing so. He was a miser of the highest order and condescending to every ninja other than himself. He survived an attack from Kakashi that would have killed any living creature after being hit with it. Whatever Kakuzu had done to himself, it was one of the strangest techniques Anko had ever seen a ninja subject themselves to.

This was a step above anything Anko figured she'd ever have to do as a ninja. This was the kind of crap a clan shinobi could count on facing at some point in their career. The one solace she took in being a clanless kunoichi was that things like this weren't supposed to happen to her! She could make a good living without ever getting involved with the freakier side of the ninja world and she'd been doing a great job of it until taking that banker bodyguard job.

'Fuck it,' Anko thought to herself, 'I was probably going to die before thirty anyway. At least I get to die taking a swing at the guy who took my kidney.'

When in doubt there was comfort in vengeance. And her target was a stupid golem that only knew how to kill things that weren't Kakuzu.

A sharp whistling sound from further in her direction in the forest caught Anko's attention… AND the golem's.

Within its writhing black thread body, the creature built up a condensed fireball that it hurled Anko's way. She couldn't curse loud enough to convey her irritation at the situation as she dodged the resulting explosion once it hit the first tree, the heat of it scorching her back as she escaped.

But now that stupid thing was set on her. Whoever blew her cover just could die a miserable death, and it didn't matter what their reason was. That stupid fire mask was fast, and it was wasn't exactly the kind of thing to be deterred by pissant distractions.

The body containing mask was then partially cut away by a massive shuriken that came from nowhere. As it reformed itself, no mercy was shown.

"Doton: Jihibukai-te (Benevolent Hands)!"

Two massive giant-sized hands rose up from the ground, smashing the golem in between them with a resounding, thunderous clap. Anything between them was broken and crushed flat, including entire trees.

Anko merely blinked owlishly from where she'd managed to avoid the entire thing. Goddamn, this Senju Clan didn't screw around. She wasn't sure she could have avoided that if it had been directed at her, 'Then again, Nawaki is supposed to be Tsunade's little brother.' She doubted that the younger sibling of the clan leader would be a pushover, "Overkill much?"

Seriously, you could probably see those hands sticking out over the tops of the trees from miles away.

Nawaki just laughed as he came out from where he'd placed his hands on the ground for the jutsu, "This is nothing. You've obviously never seen a battlefield my grandfather fought on."

Anko muttered something suspiciously similar to 'overpowered S.O.B.s' before she and Nawaki had to move out of the way of a pulverizing bolt of lightning shot their way. Nawaki dodged, having to cover his eyes at the debris and smoke thrown up from the impact. Feeling an incoming attack coming, he shielded his chest with his arm and grunted in pain as he felt black threads pierce his skin and muscle deeply.

"Well said Senju," Kakuzu said before pulling back with his own arm, yanking Nawaki toward him forcefully and painfully by the thread that had woven into his arm deeper than any stitch. Nawaki didn't vocally cry out in pain, but it was evident on his face, "Your grandfather was a monster, but you're just a shadow. You don't even have Mokuton."

"You don't need a kekkei genkai to kick someone's ass," Nawaki gritted out between his teeth as he cut himself free of Kakuzu's thread with the Raijin no Ken, "And Hashi-ojii might not have handed down the Mokuton to anyone, but he did give us something else."

From seemingly nowhere, Obito appeared behind Kakuzu, surprising everyone else. They'd been paying full attention to Kakuzu and still didn't see Obito appear. There had barely been a ripple in the air before he came from nothing. He really was a ghost.

Whatever he'd done to get that close, it alerted Kakuzu before he could attack, allowing the human ragdoll to turn his head and spew multiple black threads from his mouth that Obito chose to avoid, landing a short distance away, "Senju, I swear if you say 'will of fire', I'm going to throw up."

Kakuzu sneered at him before feeling something burn down on his back. Reaching there, he peeled off an explosive tag and put it out before it could blow, but he then found himself set upon by Obito, Nawaki, and Anko altogether.

"Suiton: Suijinchuu (Water Release: Water Formation Pillar)!" Forming a tiger seal, Kakuzu shot water from his mouth in a curved barricade of a wave that rejected the three way attack. Nawaki went to draw the Raijin no Ken to cause the jutsu to backfire, but he'd been knocked away beforehand by the jutsu.

"That wasn't a bad move Uchiha," Nawaki admitted, "Quick stuff with that explosive tag."

"I had extras left over," Obito said with a devious smirk.

Anko raised an eyebrow, not liking his tone, "Extras left over from what?" She didn't receive an answer, and it was then that Anko noticed there was someone missing from their little party, "…Where's Kakashi?"

Wait… explosive tags, explosions in the distance beforehand. That dick.

Not that she cared about Kakashi's well-being to too extreme of a degree, but he was the only person she could trust far enough to throw in this room full of vipers. This 'enemy of my enemy' stuff wasn't as good of an idea when she was down one actual ally.

"More important things to worry about right now!" Obito exclaimed, changing the subject before launching himself back into battle against Kakuzu. Forming a tiger seal, Obito noted from the corner of his eye Nawaki taking a swing at him with his Raijin no Ken.

Ducking the blow, the lightning sword sliced through threads extending from Kakuzu's arm that had come up from underground. Obito didn't know if Nawaki had been actually trying to help, but seeing as how he smirked at him after coming so close to removing his head, he figured he was just trying to kill two birds with one stone, "Bastard."

This was perfect as far as Kakuzu was concerned. They'd taken two of his five hearts, his fire and earth hearts, but he still had three to go, and they all couldn't stand each other. Nawaki and Obito were both willing to turn on one another at the drop of a hat, and Obito had apparently taken the time they'd all split up away from him to take Kakashi out.

If he was lucky, all he had to do was keep the pressure on and whatever fragile truce the two sides had would splinter and crack. They were against him at the moment, but in the end they all wanted his money for their own means and devices. Greed was quite the motivator to do nasty things.

He knew that better than anyone.

An injured kunoichi and two mortal enemy clansmen. This would be easy now that he had things in a row.

A pair of hands attached themselves to Kakuzu's legs from underground just as he started to feel that this was his fight to lose. Unable to free his legs he simply snorted to the sky, "Fucking shifty new generation brats-,"

"Doton: Shinjū Zanshu no Jutsu (Earth Release: Double Suicide Decapitation Jutsu)!"

The tables had turned, as Kakuzu found himself buried underground up to his neck and Kakashi popped out, his clothing visibly singed with burns littering sparse parts of his body, "Yo," Kakashi greeted with an either pained or irritated grit to his teeth, his eyes boring into Obito's skull.

"Yo yourself, asswipe," The testy Uchiha rebutted. He thought he'd killed Kakashi, but he wasn't going to bring up the fact that what he'd tried hadn't worked.

"Did you use enough explosive tags back there Obito?" Damn it, "I hope you didn't waste all you had on me."

"Oh Scarecrow, I could kiss you!" Anko suddenly exclaimed before holding her aggravated injury and calming down thoughtfully, "…Wait, you don't have something gross under that mask like a hare lip or mouth herpes do you?"

Bad mood aimed at Obito forgotten, Kakashi regarded Anko with a ponderous expression, "Hmm… I don't remember."

"Oh whatever. Come here ya dull-tempered, frosty son of a bitch!"

"Well, well, well," Nawaki said, walking over to Kakuzu and kneeling down in front of him. He poured a flask of water onto Kakuzu's head before holding the Raijin no Ken to his face, "Kakuzu, how nice of you to stick around. And thanks in advance for telling me where your money is."

Kakuzu spat right at Nawaki's feet, "You can take your granduncle's electric vibrator and do what he created it to do; shove it up your ass."

Nawaki gave Kakuzu a dull stare before putting the blade of the sword against Kakuzu's forehead, watching as volt after volt of electricity shot through his body. He held the torturous ninja tool in place for a count of ten before removing it, "You want to try that again?"

"Sorry… your sister's the clan head now, correct? So that would technically make it her electric vibrator now. I'm sure she gives it a good worko-," Nawaki didn't let him finish before repeating his actions from before.

It wasn't that Anko had a problem with leisurely torture, because she didn't. As far as she was concerned, some people had it coming, Kakuzu being one of them. But this was a waste of time.

"I already know where the treasure is Scarecrow," Anko said as quietly and conspicuously as she could, "We should find an out as soon as we can."

"Uh-huh," Kakashi hummed in agreement. Easier said than done though, as Obito hadn't taken his eyes off of him the entire time. Now Kakashi would admit that he was pretty god, but to subtly give the slip to someone staring right at him with Sharingan, he didn't know of the person who could do anything like that, "Let me get back to you on that."

After a full minute of electro-therapy, Nawaki removed the Raijin no Ken from Kakuzu's face and yanked his head back by his hair, "Answer time, or I think I'll just go ahead and turn you into the ugliest PEZ dispenser in history. Why not? You can survive it a few more times can't you?"

Kakuzu simply grinned his stitch-mouthed smile and angled his head in Kakashi and Anko's direction, "Oh go ahead and finish me off. You don't need me to tell you anything. After all, that woman knows just where my money is."

He could have escaped. Kakashi's method of capturing him could have been escaped by a low-level ninja with enough time. But risking a heart that he could later replenish by pretending to be trapped just so he could get his enemies to do his dirty work for him was an opening he couldn't pass up.

It always came to that. Kakuzu found that whenever pressed, people would throw others to the wolves to save themselves or get something that they thought they wanted. It never failed. The only thing you could trust to support you without fail was money. Money would never betray you. If you had enough of it, it would never let you down.

And without missing a beat, Nawaki turned on Kakashi and Anko bitterly. Obito didn't need much more motivation in his mind to see Kakashi pay, so torturing the information out of him and leaving him for dead in a genjutsu afterwards meant nothing to him.

"Even if you attacked us or managed to get the location out of us," Anko said, trying to bluff her way out or buy them some time to at least finish Kakazu before things broke down, "-I sent a team ahead to get the treasure when we found the countryside swarming with Uchiha. They're probably there by now, cleaning this bastard out."

That wasn't entirely true, as in over 90% of her claim was a lie, but no one else needed to know that.

Kakuzu began to laugh cruelly after catching on to that new bit of information, "You'd better hope for their sakes you're bluffing. My vault guardian will kill them, and she'll prove to be more thorough than I seem to have been with you."

"Like you'd trust anyone else with your money," Anko snapped at him, a sense of dread rising in her stomach that she had to fight down. It was as if she had to tell herself these things and hurl insults to keep as calm as she was, "If by 'she' you mean some dusty skeleton you play with when you get lonely…"

She didn't necessarily like those kids, but sending children to their deaths was still pretty grim business.

"Fuu doesn't leave survivors," Kakuzu taunted, "I hardly have to get my hands dirty anymore. She's such a good little killer. Then again, what else could you expect from a jinchuuriki."

Everyone present froze, with expressions of horror on their faces, for different reasons varying per person.

Kakashi: 'Another one? But how? When? Which biju?'

Anko: 'What the hell are we into?'

Nawaki: 'He has the jinchuuriki? That doesn't make any sense. Hatake was supposed to be the one keeping it, and I thought the container was a boy, not a girl.'

Obito: 'He made another one first?'

"I can trust Fuu because I got her when she was young," Kakuzu explained, "She hasn't learned concepts like betrayal, or any notion outside of what her parents taught her before I took her. Everything I've ever taught her was in my best interests. The girl's spineless family gave her to me, because of a debt that her grandfather owed me."

He lent the poor fool money he needed to buy enough to stake a claim over a small amount of land before letting the matter sit idle for decades. And of course, in Kakuzu logic, the debt of a dead old man carried over to his offspring, who by the time he had come to collect were grown, one with a child of his own. He wanted his money in full, with interest, but with the plot of land amounting to nothing more than subsistence farming and a place to live, the family didn't have much.

It was a simple matter of intimidating civilians into giving up whatever they thought they were worth to avoid the horrible fate of whatever fresh death he would have conjured for them, and Kakuzu's wheels turned when they offered up the youngest person in the equation, Fuu, who had no idea what was transpiring.

People were cowards. People were predictable. They were scum when it counted. He had never felt himself proven more correctly than right then.

And Kakuzu took Fuu for himself. At the age of four he took her in exchange for squaring the inherited debt. Instead of razing the farmhouse to the ground and slaughtering the entire family he thought pragmatically. He needed an intelligent guard dog, as one or two of his elemental masks standing guard over the money pit simply weren't enough to protect his treasures from reasonable threats.

"1,000,000 ryo," Kakuzu declared proudly, "That was all it took to buy that girl from them thirty years in advance. That was all the fool's father borrowed from me. That's nothing. Even with thirty years' interest built up, it was absolutely nothing to me. I had made it back a hundred times over by the time I went calling."

"You're sick," Kakashi said, "To take a child from their family, and make them a demon container… just to what? To watch your money for you?"

"Me? I'm just honest," Kakuzu said, the chakra inside of his body stirring, "I've never made excuses for the kind of person I am. Everything is ranked by how useful they are to the world around them. Everything is a commodity or a liability, and we all see them that way. So what's wrong with being the only real person in the room about it? Every ninja is measured by how powerful they are, or the feats they've proven themselves capable of accomplishing. Ninja clans are just as cutthroat as I am on the matter. It's just that I have so much money I don't have to church up my approach or compromise to get business… not like your clan, correct Senju? Your coffers are hurting for revenue."

"My clan is better than that!" Nawaki shouted at Kakuzu, "We don't have to hide anything we've done!"

"Oh, and the Mokuton simply skipped four full generations and manifested itself in a young man that has no known family lineage to your clan?" Kakuzu asked rhetorically, " You can't get this past me. I've been around for a long time. I know of Orochimaru. He's one of my better paying clients," Just thinking about the money he made working for Orochimaru made Kakuzu smile, "Then again, with clans like yours and others hurling money at the man for the next great breakthrough in the ninja arts I guess the trickle-down would be pretty gener-."

Nawaki had heard enough. Kakuzu was speaking on things that those outside of the absolute top brass of the Senju Clan should have had no knowledge of. Clan secrets were more important than info on the money he was seeking, and he had an audience. Kakuzu had to die.

Kakuzu had other plans though, and the moment he felt the spike of Nawaki's true killing intent, threads exploding from his back crumbled the ground around him, freeing him up enough to escape the hole. Wrapping around his body to a degree like a thick mane, the threads set two of his remaining masks on opposite shoulders, both seemingly charging elemental attacks in front of them.

"You didn't really think it was that easy to stop me, did you?"

Obito carefully regarded Kakuzu as it seemed like any errant move would set him upon the lot of them. He then decided that it was in his best interest to provoke him into attacking by being the one to blink first, "…I'm pretty sure we were all hoping that it was."

"Well I'm glad to disappoint you. Fuuton: Atsugai (Wind Release: Pressure Damage)!"

The landscape was torn apart by the domed tornado that flew from the mask on Kakuzu's shoulder. There wasn't any time to marvel at how good powerful the jutsu was, as those affected by it had to take steps to try and protect themselves. Moving away from the damage zone, Obito was caught by surprise when Kakuzu emerged from the debris and smoke, taking aim right at him with the second mask on his other shoulder, lightning building right in front of it.

"Raiton: Gian (Lightning Release: False Darkness)!"

There was nowhere for Obito to run to, and the thought of killing the Uchiha Clan member that had been dispatched to take his money caused a feeling of contentment. Vision-obscuring tactics were the way you handled the Uchiha Clan. If they couldn't see you, they couldn't react to your attacks or copy your jutsu, and he had just used that to checkmate the loudmouthed Obito.

The bolt of lightning shot straight through Obito without harming him at all. Not even a measure of discomfort on Obito's face for Kakuzu's troubles. Instead there was more of a cold annoyance, which seemed eerily uncharacteristic from how he'd figured the hotheaded Uchiha to be from their interaction during the battle.

Suddenly, Obito's hand pierced straight through the wind mask and Kakuzu felt a third of his remaining lifeforce leave him, "You son of a-,"

"You shouldn't have targeted me," Obito muttered, cutting him off, "You made me show you that just so I could dodge that attack," Obito said, both of his Sharingan eyes changing patterns to a three-sided blade, "I can't let anyone know just what I can really do. Even a little bit is too much. So you have to go. Now. Kamui (Authority of the Gods)."

Who did he think he was? That was what Kakuzu thought at first, but then it happened.

Kakuzu's head was engulfed in a shimmering barrier space before it found itself suddenly dragged in. It and only it. From his neck, the extended threads were evident that they had tried to quickly reattach his decapitated head, but his head wasn't anywhere nearby to reattach to.

The body itself spasmed and fell lifelessly to the ground, the remaining intact mask cracking and oozing blood.

Obito stared down with no sense of mercy whatsoever. He had his own secrets to keep. Anyone who really saw any of his real powers had to die, no matter how many more of his real abilities he had to compromise to get it done. It was too important to him that no one could put his face to any of his true abilities.

It was too important to what he wanted to make of the world. Things weren't far enough along yet for him to be the slightest bit open about using his real Sharingan techniques. Anonymity was key.

When the smoke cleared and everyone still left in one piece recovered from Kakuzu's massive attack, all the remaining combatants saw was Kakuzu, sans head.

Kakashi noted the corpse's proximity to Obito and looked over at him, "What did you do to finish him that quickly?" He asked, "He had us all backpedaling."

And if Obito could do something that would kill Kakuzu that cleanly, why wouldn't he have done it to him by now knowing full well that Obito hated his guts? Something about all of this didn't feel right.

"You know, that's a good question actually," Obito mused sarcastically, stroking his chin in fake thought, "I'll tell you what. I'll answer that for you when you find a way to travel through time, and fix the mess you made, and the people you got killed."

Or the person.

Obito had been a fool that couldn't look underneath the underneath back then, and it wound up costing him more than a mission or an affiliate Uchiha Clan village.

Without saying another word to anyone, he simply left the battlefield in a Shunshin, to the surprise of everyone. Nawaki had definitely been expecting more of a fight, and turned off the Raijin no Ken when he realized it was over with.

"What the hell did you do to him to piss him off that badly?" Anko asked, honestly wanting to know, "There was a Senju here, and instead of trying to kill him the whole time he was gunning for you."

She felt that the only reason Obito didn't keep trying to kill him was either the numbers game, or something that led to a drawn-out conclusion to leave things as they were for now. It damn sure wasn't Kakuzu's money. He'd killed him without wishing to interrogate him first, and he hadn't tried to gun for her either.

Kakashi just shook his head, "Leave it alone," He insisted, before angling his head at Nawaki, "…More importantly…"

From his trailing off, Nawaki could hazard a guess at his intent; that the fighting wasn't necessarily over yet. Scratching at the jagged scar on his cheek, he shrugged his shoulders, "Alright look. I don't want to fight, and you don't want to fight. We all just want to get paid here."

"Actually, I just wanted Kakuzu dead," Anko corrected, "And now he is. And I hope it hurt. So I'm outta here,"

Before she could gleefully vacate the scene and plan her next life move after she'd abandoned and blown up her own home, Kakashi caught her arm to keep her in place, "You're forgetting one thing. You gave my kids a map but not me. I can't find them. If Kakuzu really has a jinchuuriki guarding his money, I'd rather not spend days searching for where they are."

"So you did have extra people," Nawaki said, getting both Kakashi and Anko to turn on him suspiciously, a hair away from taking it to him, "Hey, hey, hey, I'm just here to treasure hunt, and it's not like I want all of it. I don't think I could carry it all if it's as much as I think it is, and I don't think you could either, even if you do have more people than just yourselves. So, truce?"

Kakashi wasn't one for trusting ninjas from larger clans. Behind every great fortune was a great crime. You didn't get to the top of the mountain just by being strong. That being said, he had more than his share of good points. Other than splitting treasure that he couldn't carry the entirety of himself, the only other option was to kill them, try to keep finding the stash himself, and hope that no one else discovered it while he came back time and time again to completely bleed it dry.

Not a good option. They weren't the only ones looking for it, even though they were the only ones that were realistically close.

And if there was a jinchuuriki, Kakashi had no idea how strong she actually was. Remembering the fight with Shukaku and how hopeless that was, there was no taking any chances on this one. He didn't know nearly enough about jinchuuriki to know where their limits lay.

Nawaki was a Senju, and they seemed to have a good track record with biju. Even if letting him get close to Naruto was dangerous, it wasn't any more dangerous than fighting Nawaki for nothing and leaving Naruto and the rest of the kids alone with a mystery element jinchuuriki.

"Fine," Kakashi relented, "Let's go then. Anko?"

"As long as you're sure this won't bite us Scarecrow," Anko said. What the hell, she figured. She already should have bought the farm after what Kakuzu had done to her once. As things stood, anything she did was being played on bonus time.

XxX

(Meanwhile – Kakuzu's Money Pit)

Things were quiet. Too quiet. Quiet was bad. Quiet meant death.

It had been too long since Fuu had pulled Naruto under, and neither of the remaining kids liked what it indicated one bit.

"I can't find him!" Tenten exclaimed after surfacing from the water for the tenth time. She'd tried to dive in and find Naruto repeatedly, but each time came up with nothing, "Shino, what are we going to do?"

Shino furrowed his brow in thought, the only sign that he was out of sorts about what was going on. He'd just met Naruto a few days ago, but he was still a comrade, and maybe later he could be a friend. Not if he didn't resurface though, "I don't know."

His plan took too long to prepare before. Naruto had been dragged underwater after Tenten's attack on Fuu before he could complete the steps for his jutsu. If only he'd been faster, but he was still new with it. His father hadn't taught him the technique very long ago.

"I've got to try again then! I can't just leave him down there," Tenten said before taking a deep breath and diving down again. She could never get any farther than the same point every time. She didn't have a lot of experience with deeper diving. You didn't get a lot of leisurely swimming time when you lived on the mainland. There were more important things the water was used for, and it was dangerous to be that exposed.

After about two minutes, Tenten resurfaced and slapped the water.

Shino could only shake his head from a dryer area. This wouldn't be good. Technically they could try to leave and get away, but Naruto would be left behind. As Tenten reached where he was, she immediately started pulling things together and cutting parts out of them. Strange.

"What are you doing?" Shino had to ask, as the soaked girl worked at a feverish pace.

"Making a crappy breathing thing," Tenten answered, "Or at least I'm trying to. I don't think I have enough stuff but I have to try."

"Are you certain you can make something like that even if you did?" Did she have the knowhow to even do that?

Tenten stopped for long enough to look up at Shino with a resolute fire in her eyes, "I can make anything."

XxX

(With Naruto)

Being an island boy, Naruto had been in his fair share of mishaps under the water. There were a lot of nearby islands that gave a heavy amount of patronage to the Uzumaki Clan for work, so that meant seafaring travel.

Naruto had spent the vast majority of his life around the salty sea air, and by the ocean itself. He had strong swimming skills, and loved the water.

Except for when a really strong girl had a hold on him and was hellbent on keeping him down there to drown.

Fighting and kicking to pull away didn't do much to help by itself. Fuu was literally the albatross dragging him down into the abyss. He hadn't seen a bottom to this pit, and it made him wonder if it was bottomless.

'This is so lame!' Naruto thought to himself as he thrashed to free himself, 'I blew up a biju's head! Drowning to death is such a fail of a way to die!'

"Stop thinking about dying and think of a way out!" Kurama bellowed, as inside of his prison the waters on the floor of the sewer began to rise to an unnatural degree, "You're running out of air in your lungs!"

Fuu's bearhug grip was iron-tight as she tried to squeeze the breath out of Naruto, but unfortunately for her he was a great swimmer. She was surprised at just how long it was taking for him to drown. She could feel his ribs creak under protest from her actions, but he wouldn't give it up.

Under normal circumstance because of what Chomei had done for its container's benefit, it would have been difficult for Naruto to free himself. With Fuu using Chomei's chakra to fight and bolster her abilities, a battle-hardened adult ninja would find it a daunting task to get her to let go.

She'd practiced this before. This was probably how she'd killed people in the past. It made too much sense. Her face was too calm, and she showed no signs of running out of breath anytime soon. With her strength and the inability of most to match it, this was a bare-bones way to finish an enemy. It was smart.

Chomei probably slipped her that advice. Chomei had probably given Fuu all sorts of neat little hints to handle the small amount of chakra her body could utilize.

Damn it, why was it so hard for him then, Kurama wondered. He was able to give Naruto chakra back in the desert for a split-second and things turned out fine!

And then it hit Kurama like a ton of bricks.

That was it. That was the answer. That split-second. That night against Shukaku, Kurama had only given Naruto a momentary booster shot of chakra instead of trying to maintain any steady stream. On and off like playing with a light switch, just like that. It had been so fast that Naruto didn't even know to this day that it had happened, because it had never come up.

Okay, so it wasn't the answer they'd really been looking for when it came to moderating the chakra output, but it was a way he could get Naruto out. Still, Fuu would be stronger, even if he let the chakra current flow, so they had to be absolutely perfect.

Feeling as if he were ready, Kurama issued his command to Naruto, "Go limp."

'What?'

"Just do it. And when I say so, you kick and thrash with everything you've got."

Naruto allowed his body to lose all of the fight he had in it, where he quickly realized Kurama's reasoning. It was a ploy, and one that worked after thirty seconds when Fuu finally loosened up her grip enough to start swimming at a slow pace back to the surface. No, that would take too long. He'd die before she made it halfway.

"NOW!"

For a quarter of a second, Naruto felt like a God, or at least what he figured Gods plodded about in the cosmos all day feeling like. Wrestling Fuu's arms off of him was child's play, and the slow-motion underwater headbutt and kick he hit her with as he did so wouldn't have done as much damage as it did if he'd done it normally above water. Her lithe body went flying through the current.

"Now swim bitch!"

Naruto didn't need to be told twice, and he kicked his legs and moved his arms as fast as he could do. His entire body hurt, and not just from Fuu's deathhug. That only hurt his torso. Kurama might as well have replaced his blood with lighter fluid and thrown a match down an IV in his arm for whatever he'd done instead.

'Kurama what was that?' Naruto asked as he swam for all he was worth.

"It's the best we're going to get right now, so deal kid."

Not very helpful information-wise, but there was no worrying about that at the time. Hurting was better than drowning, and he had a lot of space to cover if he ever wanted to see the light of day again. He was feeling faint though, and the pressure on his lungs was indescribable.

And he could feel Fuu gaining on him. She was faster on land with her biju's chakra, it only served reason that she was faster underwater as well. And how long could she hold her breath for? She'd definitely practiced this. It was like she was a kappa in human flesh!

Naruto stopped long enough to turn around and hold out his right hand. With great effort, he channeled chakra to his hand, 'Kakashi you'd better not have just been making me and my clones pop balloons and rubber balls because you thought it was funny. If this Rasengan isn't legit…'

The man had insisted that it was all two parts to a jutsu that he eventually had to put together. Well there was no time for a breakthrough like the present.

All it took was Naruto utilizing the 'spin' method of the jutsu to create an underwater torrent that blew Fuu back away from him. Adding the 'power' portion caused it to blow up in his face… ironically propelling him in the right direction to get to the surface, and to something else coming down his way.

Naruto swam to the human figure he could make out back where the water started getting light again. He wasn't about to ask for another shot from Kurama. The one he'd gotten felt like someone poured scalding fluid into his veins. He'd lost half of the breath he had left when he'd opened his mouth in pain.

As he got closer, he saw it to be Tenten. Upon reaching one another, Tenten took the weird device she had in her mouth and put it over Naruto's. It was only upon having it placed in his mouth that he realized it was some kind of breathing device.

Oh! Oh that girl was so lovely! He was going to take everything that he'd swiped earlier for his own carry-on money and he was going to buy her something great! Oh, Naruto had never been so happy to have a tinkering ninja tool know-it-all as his partner.

After Tenten had handed over her makeshift rebreather, the two swam the rest of the way to the surface, where Naruto had never been so happy to get two lungs full of stagnant cavern air. All he wanted to do was get out of the water, and they made no bones about swimming frantically over to the large rotating bridge piece in the middle of the water. They wanted to be as far away from touching water again as they reasonably could be.

"Yep. Just gonna lay here and keep being awesome," Kurama crowed inside of Naruto's head.

Only when they were free did Tenten find herself the recipient of a bone-crushing hug, "Oh man, I thought I was gonna bite it back there!" Even after he'd gotten free he didn't think he had a shot in hell of getting back to the surface, "You're so awesome, 'ttebayo!"

"Uh, hello? Awesome? Right here?" He was complementing the useless ninja girl that played with toys instead of the all-important biju inside of him? That little shit, "I figured out how to help without making your blood boil inside of your body!" Much, "Granted, this is the first time I've ever wanted credit for not killing something, but come on!"

'You know I appreciate it Kurama,' Naruto thought to him immediately, 'Seriously, I couldn't even reach for a kunai or make any hand-seals for a fuuinjutsu. Thanks.'

Tenten used her hands on Naruto's face to pry him off, "Alright, alright, it's fine. Let go you dummy," She said, downplaying just how worried she'd been before. He didn't need to know how she'd almost freaked out, "But what was that flashing thing you did?"

"Huh?" Naruto answered oh-so eloquently.

"Yeah," Tenten explained as Shino joined the two of them, "The only reason I started swimming in the right direction in the first place was because it looked like someone turned on a warning flare underwater for a split-second," She looked over to Shino before whispering to Naruto, "Was that the Kyuubi?"

"His name is Kurama," Naruto corrected, "And yeah. It hurt though."

"I still don't know how to hold back enough to keep it steady! I had to do it in a single burst to make sure you could hold up."

'Alright, alright! I'm just sayin' that it hurt you big dumb fox!'

"…Just as long as you know brat. And I did it for me more than you. Fuck you Chomei... you're not better than me."

And speaking of the devil, the jinchuuriki of said biju made her way onto the bridge, bleeding extensively and looking at Naruto as if he'd played a dirty trick on her or had been hiding something the entire time.

"You glowed!" Fuu said accusingly, pointing at Naruto even as blood ran freely from her nose, "Like a spark or a match. Fuu saw you! What was that?"

"I'm a jinchuuriki too," Naruto said without shame or fear, even when Shino let out a barely audible gasp of surprise, "Why would somebody else do what they did to me to you? Why would somebody want to do it to your biju?"

"Kakazu-sousofu wanted Fuu to guard this place," Fuu explained, "He always told Fuu to be strong, that Fuu should never lose to anyone she fights after all the time he put into sealing Chomei inside of me."

"It took time, effort, bodies, and a whole lot of money to get what I needed to make you useful girl." She could remember Kakuzu saying to her during a particularly painful training session, "If you aren't up for the job of protecting your great-grandfather's legacy, I'll find another child who will. That would make you a liability. And I've told you what's to be done with liabilities."

Fuu shook the thought out of her head. Kakuzu was scary. Scarier than any enemy she'd ever had to fight. He was meaner than Chomei had ever treated her. He made sure she was well-fed enough to fight, made sure she was well-trained enough to kill, and otherwise intended for her to neither be neither seen nor heard.

Just like all children should be, as he told her time and time again.

"Brat, go hit her, now!"

Since listening to Kurama immediately worked so well for Naruto the first time, Naruto did so again and felt as if he were gliding through space and time. But in reality he'd been moving so fast, Fuu's face didn't even have time to register shock at the speed of his movement.

One punch sent her flying into the distance, her body pulverizing the weathered, poorly constructed pillar of the pit.

…It wasn't as if Kakuzu hired actual contractors to build the supports… what with it being a secret pit and all. He did it himself, and needless to say he was not an engineer.

Tenten's jaw dropped at the simple sight of the movement. She'd seen him glow yellow, and then a blur she'd been incapable of keeping her eyes on knocked Fuu into next week, "…What the hell was that?"

"OWWWW!" Naruto shouted, hugging his body, arms and legs in random order. He didn't know what pain to focus on, "There's gotta be a better way to do that! That hurt WAY more than the first time!"

"Quick, she's getting up! Go do it again!"

Still, it was working, and you didn't stop doing what was working when you had the enemy reeling.

As the pit began to fall in on itself all around, Fuu wiped away a trail of drool from the side of her mouth. Naruto had knocked the spit right out of her. Kakuzu had been the last person to hit her anywhere near as hard, 'C-Chomei?'

"Damn you Kurama, you were always so reckless." Chomei cursed before informing its jinchuuriki, "Kurama is hot-shotting chakra to the boy. Kurama was never one for control, so he's incapable of sustaining a constant connection like the one I have with you with the amount power he can't help but use, otherwise he'll burn his container out. He has to do it in spurts."

But in those spurts, Kurama was giving Naruto more chakra than Chomei ever dared to give Fuu without her being ready to take it. There were two schools of thought on the matter. Either Kurama just knew that his container was tough enough to deal with the unabashed horror that such a tactic would inflict on the boy's tenketsu and believed in him, or he didn't care about that in the slightest and just wanted to win and not die.

…Knowing the kind of fox that Kurama was, it was probably more than likely the latter, all things considered.

"Fuu look out!"

This time, Fuu was at least able to block and jump away a bit before Naruto landed on the surface of the water with a great splash and subsequently punched her one more time with flashy biju chakra use.

Naruto didn't get the chance to marvel at his handiwork for a spell before the pain set in worse than before. It was instant, and at least twice as worse as before, which had already been twice as bad as the first time. It made him physically ill to take. The chakra was too much, even in bursts, "Oh… hurk!" Tears poured from Naruto's eyes freely.

"You'd better hold out runt I swear to Kami!" Kurama declared, "Pain is weakness leaving the body!"

The pain was actually Naruto's bile frying his own liver like it was on a griddle, amongst other grievous effects, but sometimes you didn't need to tell people everything about everything.

Fuu laid on her back, floating on the surface of the water and coughing blood, tears of her own spilling forth. Tears of both pain and frustration.

It hurt so much. Everything hurt. The one thing she'd always been able to count on was what Chomei told her. That no matter how much Kakuzu made her body hurt with his brutal methods, no matter how much her heart hurt at barely remembering what her life was like when she'd been with her parents that had given her to her 'great-grandfather' or what it felt like to feel the sun and the wind, and smell the outdoors.

No matter how much any of that hurt her, Chomei promised her that no one would ever hurt her in a fight. She would never feel the pain of an average human ninja's punch. They simply weren't ever strong enough to get through the deceptively thick and tough chakra exoskeleton that Chomei gifted her with. They couldn't hurt her.

This boy had hurt her. He hurt her again and again.

She didn't understand.

The only thing she'd been able to take solace in was gone.

Naruto walked over to Fuu, set on making sure that she wouldn't be coming after them again. He had to get out of there. That place was coming apart. Water was already coming through a wall. If it fully collapsed, the air pocket wouldn't be any different than any other part of the lake and they'd drown.

"Naruto," Kurama said inside of Naruto's head, "That's enough. She's done."

What? Kurama of all people was telling him to stop? Usually when he fought someone, Kurama complained when he didn't kill them in a flashy manner. Now he was telling him to back off.

"I'm not up for getting one of my siblings killed. Chomei knows this is over as well. Look. Her chakra is human again."

When Naruto reached her, his own resolve for the finish faltered, "Wait, are you crying?" He asked, wondering if he was seeing things in the low light. And that query was all it took for the last of Fuu's floodgates to open as the girl began to openly bawl, "Holy crap, you are crying."

Oh man, killing someone in a battle was one thing. Killing a girl that couldn't have been any older than Tenten was in cold blood was something else entirely. He was not alright with that under any circumstance. This wasn't an assassination, it was just some fight over money that didn't belong to either of them.

Of course the other option was to just leave her there. Sure, it would still kill her, but the blood wouldn't be on his hands that way, at least not directly. That was okay, wasn't it?

Goddamn it.

XxX

Tenten and Shino had managed to escape after Naruto had 'removed' Fuu from the bridge, put her through two support pillars, and started bringing the place down. Both of them hoped that he'd managed to keep from getting bogged down in a long fight.

Shino wiped the water off of his sunglasses and wrung out the bottom of his shirt, "I wonder if Naruto-san is alright. Why you ask? He's taking a rather long time making his way back up."

"Thanks for the play-by-play," Tenten said breathily. She'd done more swimming today than she'd ever really wanted to, "That girl was so tough though. If he went in to finish her… I don't think it'd be that easy to hurt her."

Tenten's strongest jutsu that was supposed to cut Fuu to ribbons or turn her into a pincushion didn't do the job even though she knew she was making contact. She didn't expect what Shino had to say next.

"I disrupted her chakra," Shino said, "I can use my insects for more than draining chakra. I can transfer it."

"You gave her chakra?" Tenten asked, "It's not like she needed it," Fuu had so much it was easily visible to the naked eye.

"If you do it wrong or don't take the time to try and adapt the chakra to the person you're giving it to, it disrupts their chakra control," Shino explained astutely, pushing his glasses up on his nose, "Why is this important you ask? Because that girl's durability was chakra-based."

It took Tenten a moment before realization dawned on her face, "Wait… whose chakra did you use for it?" For that kind of plan to work it would have had to use a lot of chakra just to keep going long enough to be effective.

"I felt that it would drain too much of my own or yours to keep up such a stratagem, so I had my insects drain a significant degree from Naruto-san before transferring it to our opponent," Shino told her in a to-the-point manner, "I did more than substitute an Insect Clone in his place when Fuu blinded he and you."

So basically, by the time Naruto started belting her with whatever Kurama had been doing to give him a boost, Shino's insects had literally created a chink in Fuu's armor, and it was up to Naruto to break the rest of the way through it.

Right on cue, Naruto emerged from the water, causing Tenten's face to light up. They had their scrolls filled with loot, and all three of them were accounted for. Then she saw the person over Naruto's back, "Naruto! What the hell!?"

Naruto crawled on all fours on the shore and rolled to the side to deposit Fuu off of his back, her body still trembling with silent sobs. Naruto sat up on his knees and flipped his wet hair back as he regarded his bun-haired partner, "I couldn't just kill her like that! She's crying!"

No one said anything for a moment until Shino did, "…So?"

Naruto bared his teeth distastefully, "Who do you think I am?"

"A ninja?"

"It was a judgment call!"

"It was a bad judgment call," Tenten said with a stomp of her waterlogged sandal on the ground, "Naruto, she's not supposed to-," She stopped herself before she realized that she was about to say that Fuu couldn't be allowed to live.

…Because she was a jinchuuriki.

That was horrible reasoning to kill her, and there was no chance that Tenten could ever finish that thought, say such a thing to Naruto's face, and have the gall to look him in the eye ever again. Right now this wasn't someone holding a monster. It was a preteen girl who looked more broken than anyone else she'd ever seen, and she'd seen plenty of newly orphaned children. She'd been one of them.

So now what?

Kakashi, Anko, and some man that they'd never seen before arrived on the scene at that moment and took in the sight of the drenched kids, one of whom was crying, "I'm going to go ahead and guess that these are yours," The man said with a drawl.

"Three of them are," Kakashi admitted, eyeing Fuu warily, "…One of them isn't."

"It's a long story," Naruto said, shaking his head as he stood up off of the ground with a wet squelch to his footwear, "But the money pit is toast."

"What do you mean it's 'toast'?" The scar-cheeked man asked.

Shino squinted slightly at the sight of the Senju Clan crest on the man's clothing and figured that a truce of sorts had been stricken. Even so, he wasn't about to let his clan name drop in case this would come back on the Aburame somehow.

"Well… you can still get to what used to be in there if you can dig through rubble a few hundred feet underwater," Naruto said. And that was only if the majority of it hadn't somehow wound up in that bottomless pit that existed, "S'gone man."

Nawaki sighed and shook his head, "Well that's just fucking fantastic," He grumbled before realizing that someone there fit a particular description, 'Wait, this is the kid that's driving my sister up the walls to get rid of.'

For fuck's sake, really?

The sanctity of the status quo in the ninja world relied on this kid being put into the ground? He looked harmless, not like he was some all-powerful secret weapon that would obliterate the balance of power, or he was some specially prepared young ninja of the Uzumaki Clan meant to get them out of their position as the 'little brother' of the Senju Clan and take their place as the top brass of the ninja world, or any other ridiculous excuse anybody would have given for why a jinchuuriki had to be neutralized immediately.

And that little girl was Kakuzu's creation? Just… no.

She was crying. Sobbing even. About something or another.

"Well hell if this didn't kill my boner for loot and plunder," Nawaki declared randomly, before patting Kakashi on the shoulder, "What can I say Kakashi? It's been… less than a pleasure, but more than a drag."

"You're leaving?" Color Kakashi surprised. The Senju Clan was supposed to be tenacious to a hellacious degree. And Nawaki probably didn't earn the title of 'The Hunter' by being more laid-back than the rest of them.

"Yeah, my sister wasn't too crazy about this mission in the first place," Nawaki said, none too enthused about going home at the moment, "She wants me working actual missions, and she let me go on this thing because I had a legitimate lead. She's going to blow a gasket when she hears that it's all probably buried under the lake. She probably won't believe I found anything."

At least he could rub in her face that he took down Kakuzu.

All that money gone though. Nawaki wondered if she'd shed a tear at the thought.

"Wait," Naruto said, fishing into his pockets before pulling out an ornate brooch and a heavily jeweled ring that he threw over to Nawaki, "It's not much, but it might be enough to prove that the place was actually real," He shrugged at the end.

Nawaki appraised the ring closely before looking back down at Naruto, a small smile slowly spreading across his face, "Thanks kid. These are actually relics. I can rub that in Tsunade's face," It was a shame his clan saw fit for the kid to die. But hey, that didn't mean that he himself had to be the one to do it, "Keep your nose clean runt and you might survive a little while."

Sparse advice, and with that Nawaki left to return home. It wasn't about the treasure or the possession he sought when he went on these searches. It was all about the find itself. His true prize was the euphoria of finding the unfindable.

It hadn't been about the money for him. But it had been for Tsunade. Hell, at least that ring and brooch would run the price of two S-rank missions, so that would probably shut her up.

With that being done, Kakashi waited for Nawaki's presence to vanish completely before addressing his young charges.

"Well I have to say, that was a nice thing you did Naruto. Really upstanding," Kakashi said with an approving tone and an eye-smile, his next words not losing their bright tone at all, "…What the hell is wrong with you?"

He didn't teach that boy 'nice'. He didn't teach anyone 'nice'.

"Well yeah, sure, I gave him those," Putting his hands back into his pockets, Naruto pulled them back out with a ring on each finger and a cheeky grin on his face, "I've got a bunch of these things. Too many. If I'da tried to walk with all of 'em, they woulda jangled anyway."

Ah, his accent broke. That meant he was pleased with himself. It wasn't a bad way to get an unwanted element out of the way; appeasing a dragon so to speak.

"Not to mention all of these," Tenten added, pulling over twelve sealing scrolls out of her private stash, "And all of Shino's."

Anko let out an impressed whistle and set a hand on Tenten's head, "Good work runts. Now what about this?" She said, alluding to Fuu as Tenten swatted her hand away.

Instead of regarding her warily, Kakashi squatted down by Fuu and gave her a long, hard look. She wasn't afraid of him, having clearly seen scarier things than some guy in a facemask, but that didn't make her seem any less broken in spirit, "So here's the deal Kakuzu's dead," He said bluntly, eliciting a surprise widening of the eyes from the girl, "…Do you have a name?"

"Fuu is Fuu," The mint-haired jinchuuriki said miserly, her eyes still red from crying, "…Is Kakuzu-sousofu really dead?"

"Yes. I'm so-."

"Good," Fuu mumbled, sitting with her legs pulled up to her chest, knees past her chin, "…Hate him. But… what does Fuu do now?"

"Well that's really up to you," Kakashi said, once again surprising Fuu before he got up and turned to the others, "Alright, let's get out of here."

"Wait, what?" Naruto asked incredulously, "You're just gonna leave her here?"

Now that they were out in the daylight, it was hard to think of Fuu as some scary girl that had tried to kill them not too long ago. And with that came extreme amounts of empathy.

"I'm responsible for you, and you," Kakashi pointed at Naruto and Tenten as he spoke, "I'm sort of responsible for him, but not really, and she's going to ditch us any minute now since Kakuzu's dead now," He said, alluding to Shino, "If I get any more of you I'm going to have to start roping you together like cattle to make sure I don't lose any of you. Besides, I'm pretty sure that girl tried to kill you."

"Yeah, but then I hit her so hard I think I broke her," Naruto said, flexing and clutching his bicep, "I'm pretty glad she stopped too. She was really tough," He wasn't sure how many Kurama-roid injections he could have taken to level the playing field before it was too much for him to endure.

"If she's really tough she'll be just fine," Kakashi said, turning to Fuu one more time to regard her with some parting words, "You can do whatever you want to do now, whatever that means to you."

XxX

(Uzu no Kuni – Uzumaki Clan Village – Clan Leader Mansion)

Accepting things as they were was no way for progress, not when he thought there was a better way, not when he thought things were wrong. The thought of doing so made Minato feel ill, and to his own shame he'd done so in the past.

He'd accepted things the way they were when he realized that he wasn't powerful enough to get any justice for when the Senju Clan tried to use him and his freelancer partners. He did nothing in response to them after escaping. He was just one young ninja. What could he have done at the time against the best?

He'd accepted things the way they were when Kushina's relationship with him was frowned upon. Time would be needed for him to be accepted, that was his reasoning, but it was never accepted, even when she bore him a son, which led to the next thing he accepted; leaving her and his newborn son to keep her from being exiled.

With the outright ostracization of Kushina and Naruto from the happenings and workings of the Uzumaki Clan, he might as well have allowed it to happen. Even if things had been safer there for the two of them, his son still wound up falling victim to the chaos of the world he'd tried to change to keep him from.

He never wanted Naruto out in that jungle. But the choice was either bring his son outside to dwell with killers, or leave him at home to die via biju extraction, and if those were the choices there was no choice at all. As long as that were the case, there were some things that were long overdue that needed doing.

Minato just had to get past Nagato first.

That wasn't so simple a task.

Nagato was no fool. He wasn't about to let Minato plant a Hiraishin marker anywhere near him. Even as Minato darted all over the sizeable rooftop, Nagato's gravity abilities kept him from getting close enough to risk getting blown away. Nagato knew he wasn't going to out-quick Minato, and he wasn't even willing to try and go there.

It didn't stop Minato from setting markers around him in something of a surrounding formation, but every time he teleported to one, Nagato instantly moved and tried to blow him away with his gravity jutsu, 'How is he able to react like that. It's like he doesn't even need to try and look for where I move to.'

He knew Nagato wouldn't go too far and start damaging his village unless it was necessary. The roof of the mansion by itself was large enough to contain a battle between two normal high-level shinobi.

They weren't normal though, so it stood to reason that it might not be enough if it got down to it.

"I don't have to discover some grand secret to beating the Hiraishin," Nagato said, smoothly gliding his body through the motions needed to watch his back from any angle needed, "I always knew it would come to this eventually, so I took what I knew about your jutsu and I taught myself a way to battle against it."

Minato chuckled humorlessly, "Why am I not surprised?"

"Well I have known you for over fourteen years," Nagato said, "And you're not of my clan. I think it would have been stupid to never think that I might end up fighting you."

At that point being raised, Minato frowned bitterly, "Why does it have to be this way? We were friends Nagato."

He still remembered when they first met. Minato met Nagato and Kushina at the same time, almost by chance. Separate missions on the battlefield against the same enemy. It was the day Nagato unlocked his Rinnegan. There were so many memorable things about that day. He didn't know that all these years later he would wind up fighting him.

Nagato remembered as well, and shut his eyes for a moment trying to fight back the memory, "I…" With a sigh he steeled himself. He had been clan leader for years now. He was used to saying things that people didn't want to hear, "Minato, I always resented you for that mission."

"What? Why?"

The sheer anger that flashed across Nagato's face for a split second caused Minato to recoil in shock. He didn't know Nagato could even get that angry.

"Because you finished it for me and then gave me the credit, that's why," Nagato said miserly, "Because of that mission, and you saying that it was me who finished it, I was groomed from then on to lead the clan," He pointed to his eyes, "Because of that and these. And I should be grateful, I know I should, but I can't. Because it wasn't me, it was you!"

Nagato almost died that day. Kushina almost died that day. They both should have. She had been unconscious and he hadn't the strength to pull through. The horror that dawned upon him when he realized this stirred something deep inside and triggered the Rinnegan and bought them time. Even so, Minato saved them, finished the missions both theirs and his own, and broke the back of the enemy.

And with a smile on his face, he handed the credit of the mission's success over to Nagato. And when Nagato didn't rebuke it, didn't have the backbone to let everyone down and say that it hadn't been him, that it had been Minato, he knew in his heart that he'd lost Kushina. The way she looked at Minato whenever he was around from that day forward.

He'd gained the respect of the village that he hadn't earned for himself at the time, and lost the respect of the only woman he'd adored to the person that had given him everything else.

Did it make him an awful person that he could never get past it? Did it make him a bad person that every time he smiled at Minato in the past, and tried to consider him a friend or even an acquaintance he just couldn't find himself able to do so?

Minato's face was a portrait of misery. First his friend from youth Konan hated his guts and saw nothing wrong with killing his son, and now the man he'd felt that he could entrust the safety of his wife and son to was admitting to holding a grudge against him.

"So don't," Nagato said, "Don't think of this as something that can be solved with words. I won't let you take her, and you won't leave without her. In that regard I would say that you and I have nothing left to discuss."

"I guess not," Minato said with a sigh before his gaze steeled over, "Fine. No holding back then," Drawing a Hiraishin kunai, Minato threw it Nagato's way before making hand-seals, "Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Jutsu)!"

As the metal weaponry multiplied hundreds of times in mid-air, Nagato raised a hand in return, "Shinra Tensei (Heavenly Subjugation of the Omnipresent God)," Every single kunai stopped cold. Surprise was evident on his face though, when Minato appeared right in front of him, having used their close proximity as a cue to teleport to him, "Minato…"

That was a checkmate. He could appear anywhere around Nagato, close range, for five full seconds before his gravity attacks would allow him another try.

In Minato's right hand was a spinning blue ball of chakra that he brought forward, aimed at Nagato's head, "Rasengan (Spiraling Sphere)!" Nagato held up his hand in Minato's direction, probably as a desperate attempt to stop what was about to come, "That won't work!"

"Won't it though?" Nagato said, smiling as the chakra from the jutsu went into his body instead of turning his arm into hamburger, "It seems like you've been preparing to fight me for quite some time as well."

"You mean the five second thing with the Shinra Tensei?" Minato asked, returning the smile with one of his own despite the mortal combat they were locked in, "I guess you could say that."

"About that," Nagato said, maintaining a smile despite the fact that he was irritated by one of his most powerful techniques having a weakness of it exposed, "…It's been five seconds," Minato Hiraishined out of harm's way before Nagato could send him flying, but found himself caught in a gravitational pull that was coupled with Nagato blazing a path right toward him, "Don't think it's that easy! Banshou Ten'in (Heavenly Attraction of All Creation)!"

There was no way. It was impossible with all of the markers that he'd already set for Nagato to locate where Minato was teleporting to in advance. It made no sense.

But here he was, finally having been caught mid-move.

With purely inhuman reflexes, Minato created a clone and teleported out of the way with the opening that the decoy of himself had allowed for him.

Nagato was not pleased after disposing of it, "I see you get the point. You were never going to get an angle on me with that jutsu. I know where you're coming from no matter what you try to do. What will you do when you can't use your signature jutsu to get close enough to do anything to me?"

Minato simply smirked. Nagato might have killed his clone in close-quarters, but his clone had been able to-… wait, something was wrong.

Nagato grinned when he saw a confused look on Minato's face, "Oh, are you trying to feel for the little marker your clone left on me for you?" Damn it, "You can't mark me. Not unless I let you. Have you ever wondered why you were never able to come back here in secret from time to time? Why all of the markers you left around the island were just gone?"

"I was curious about that, yeah," Minato groused. This was becoming increasingly dire, "Are you going to tell me or just leave me in suspense?"

"I think I'll keep this to myself. You knowing about this particular jutsu won't do anything to solve your problem, but let's just say having one over on the 'Yellow Flash' is just too good to pass up."

"Fair enough," Minato grunted before trying a new avenue of attack. If Nagato could truly wipe out his markers, that would be a major issue. That eliminated his coup de grace move of marking his enemies and quickly taking them out.

He needed a better view of the battlefield that they were using; the rooftop of Nagato's mansion.

With that in mind, Minato prepared to throw a kunai into the air for a quick bird's eye view when he noticed a bird high above… getting a view

He'd ignored it at first, as it was too high to be anything threatening, but realized that it had never been intended to attack. It was indeed a creature under someone's control, because it was circling. It was a large bird with… three legs?

Yeah, that was definitely someone's summon animal. Nagato's if he had to take an obvious guess.

Things made a bit more sense now. What little Minato was able to gleam of Rinnegan lore, the eyes could allow the user to see chakra, and the field of vision could be shared by somehow linking with another creature via chakra. The bird could probably see the ripples of chakra that indicated in advance where he would Hiraishin to, as he had to focus on them in order to initiate the jutsu.

Nagato had found a better way to use his summon than to fight. Besides, if he had used it to fight, Minato more than likely would have filleted it in a heartbeat.

'And here I wanted to do this without tearing half of the village apart,' Minato thought to himself, 'I used to love this little place,' Well he hadn't expected this to end without having to cut loose. He just would have preferred not to. If that was what it took to get the job done though, so be it.

Minato's hand moved to one of the two bands on the right sleeve of his shirt, prepared to remove them to roll the sleeve up when something stopped him. It was nothing Nagato did. It was actually something aimed at Nagato that got his attention.

Over the sides of the mansion, several chains flew up and crossed over each other before coming back down and linking onto the edges of the roof. Nagato's jaw dropped. His bird had been doing exactly what he'd told it to do. It had been paying close attention to Minato so that Nagato could anticipate the Hiraishin, 'No. She didn't.'

It was a large barrier, the chains were only the physical representation of the jutsu's limits. There weren't any other clan members that used chains to activate their jutsu. Nagato couldn't think of any other ninja he knew period that did so.

"Really Minato, you're going to start using that? I almost forgot that you fight like such a mainlander," The blond man's heart stopped for a full second upon seeing those chains and hearing that voice. It had haunted his dreams for years, "You sure took your sweet time though, didn't you?"

All of the fight and simmering frustration went right out of Nagato when he realized what was happening, "Kushina…" Apparently her strength hadn't lapsed any since the last time he'd seen her fight. That had been quite some time ago.

Kushina knew that she couldn't actually do anything to defeat Nagato. With the Chakra Chains Barrier she couldn't hurt him or subdue him, but the area it covered was wide enough to keep him somewhat confined… at least for a short while. That was all she needed. It wasn't like she was going to let Minato inside of it to fight him, and it wasn't like she was going in there herself.

"Man, it's harder to keep this barrier small than to make it bigger, Then again, control wasn't always a strong suit of mine." Kushina said, appearing in a Shunshin with several large, long chakra chains protruding from her back, causing her no discomfort despite their appearance. In fact, she gifted Minato with a dazzling smile, "Hi there. Long time no see huh?"

He regarded her almost as if she were a ghost. Granted, she was the only reason he'd dragged himself back there with the risk that went into it all, and he knew she would be there, but thinking about facing her and actually seeing her in the flesh were two entirely different things.

Minato didn't know he'd been consciously walking toward her until he stood arm's length away. He was almost afraid to reach out to her, as if his hand would pass through her, as if he wouldn't be able to touch her.

She beat him to it however, and pressed her hand to his cheek, shaking her head as her smile grew. As hard to believe for her as it was, she had no words for the moment.

Minato on the other hand, had his whole spiel down long before he'd arrive on Uzu no Kuni, "Kushina, I-." Anything that he had to say was quickly cut off in a physical manner, and not the good kind, "-Oof!"

A fist to the belly. Yep, that was Kushina alright. What was it with first Naruto, and then Kushina suckering him in with the sentimental looks and then slugging him?

"That was for bending to the clan head like a willow in the wind and leaving like you were keeping us safe or something," The intense redhead explained, bending him back up before doubling him over again with another punch, "And that was for my NOT GETTING ANY FOR TEN YEARS YOU ASS!"

God, did he ever have that coming! Still, she never stopped smiling despite her words.

"Erk... you're so going to get it for that later."

"Mmm, you promise?"

"You're not the only one that's been holding off for ten years."

"Well we can fix that soon enough," Kushina chirped before grabbing the collar of Minato's coat and giving him a deep kiss in an effort to make up for lost time. It took half a minute for her to finally release him, "Ah… alright. Get me out of here and take momma to her baby."

Hearing that snapped Nagato out of his mini-trance. It was all at prospect of having one of his bad dreams come to pass; that she would truly be gone, "Wait! Kushina!"

Any warmth and happiness she'd held in those violet eyes went cold as she turned to him. She would never look at him the way she looked at Minato.

It couldn't happen like this. Even after all of these years, Minato could just… have her. Just like that, without even trying. All of Nagato's power, all of the influence he had as the clan head, and what good was it if he couldn't get one thing that he wanted?

What good were the eyes of a God then?

Nagato couldn't bring himself to be angry with her, and that only left Minato. Why did it have to be so hard? Why did Kushina have to be so loyal to Minato and not to him? He was distant blood. They were members of the same clan. He was her clan leader for crying out loud! He'd been there. He'd been the easy option.

So why?

Kushina turned to Nagato and regarded him carefully, "I'm leaving. I thought that I could convince you that Naruto wasn't dangerous, but you sent Konan of all people after him? No, that was the last straw. You and the Senju Clan can keep trying now for all I care. A clan that has no place for my son and husband has no place for me either," And that was that as far as she was concerned.

"It was never like that."

"Then how was it?"

To that, he had no answer, but that didn't mean he still couldn't try to keep her, "You know what it's like out there Kushina," Nagato said, trying to keep her there. He couldn't reach her any other way. He wasn't sure he had the heart to do so with force even if Minato wasn't fully capable of using Hiraishin no Jutsu to bolt out of there in an instant, "Here you would be safe."

…Safe there with him.

Kushina didn't give a damn it if was safe there. Not if her son wasn't safe there. Not if her husband wasn't safe there. The only reason she'd stayed behind, was because she knew if she'd left with Naruto immediately, Nagato would have held nothing back on hunting them down. At least with the game she'd played she'd bought enough time for Minato to be found.

Kakashi was better at running than she was, and he'd proved it in getting Naruto to Minato, the designated marker of a 'safe point'. Now the only thing left was to go Kushina herself

"You've forgotten who you're dealing with Nagato," Kushina said, holding a pair of her own chakra-manifested chains in both hands, sharp hooks sitting at the ends of them, "If you've been thinking I'm just some helpless housewife since I had Naruto, you're damned mistaken. And besides…" She said with a look off into the ocean horizon, "…With what's out there I think I'll take my chances."

And like that they were gone. With Kushina's departure, so went her chains, which mean that the barrier was no more. She'd taken it all with her.

It took every bit of poise that Nagato had developed as clan head to keep from yelling into the open air.

XxX

(With Naruto)

"Naruto?"

"Yeah Kakashi?"

"…Why is that girl following us?"

Since leaving the lake that used to house the late Kakuzu's riches, Naruto and company found themselves followed by Fuu. Not in a way that guaranteed malicious retaliation, or violent intent to harm them. Merely curiosity.

She'd kept a maximum distance of twenty feet behind them at any given time, and merely smiled whenever anyone looked back at her to see what she was doing.

Even when they'd stopped to take a break and ensure that Anko hadn't aggravated her injuries, or that Kakashi hadn't lost or burned anything important because of Obito's attack on him, Fuu stayed with them, only she kept just out of conversational range.

Shooting Kakashi a cheeky grin from where he sat on a felled log near Shino, Naruto answered his temporary guardian, "Well you told her she could do whatever she wanted. I guess she wants to follow us."

"Indeed," Shino said in agreement, "Your lack of empathy for her situation did leave things open for interpretation Hatake-san."

Anko let out a bark of laughter and Tenten smirked while Kakashi simply stared Naruto down, "I wonder if I could genjutsu you into behaving better? You suck at those, right? Tenten, Naruto sucks at those, doesn't he?"

"Yep," Tenten said, her grin never dropping, "But you can't just make Naruto behave sensei. That's Minato-sama's job."

"Feh," Naruto spat, crossing his arms and legs and turning around on the stump away from everyone else, "The old man can't make me do what he says. He hasn't put in the time to. Only mom can make me do anything."

"Oh that's kind of sweet Naruto," Naruto's eyes popped open at the sound of a voice he hadn't heard in months. Before he could even turn back around he found himself plucked up by the collar of his shirt and turned around in midair to meet his grinning mother's face, "I mean yeah, it was a really delinquent kind of thing to say, but it had respect for me, so I'm good with it."

"M-Mom?"

"Yep?"

Naruto looked past her to where Minato stood leaning against "So the old man-!? But how did you guys get here?"

"You kept the shirt I tagged back in Twin Ridge Town," Minato guessed with a small smile, "I told you I was going to bring your mother right to you. Didn't you know? A good man always keeps his word."

A nod came from Naruto before Kushina put him down, only to wind up the recipient of a full-on bear hug. Surprised at first, Kushina eventually returned the hug, resting her hand on the back of Naruto's head, "It's alright. I'm so happy you're oka-, whoa!" She exclaimed, blocking a punch that Naruto sent right at her, "Oi! I knew you were going to do that, but really?"

"Naruto!" Tenten cried out, appalled that he would try such a thing. She was grossly unfamiliar with how things worked in that household. This was nothing.

Minato palmed his face. It seemed to be a mother-son thing to pull someone in with a heartfelt sentimental moment before trying to belt them one while they were off-guard, "Yeah, he's hers alright."

"What was that huh? Making me leave without you? Making Kakashi kidnap me?" Naruto asked belligerently, "Kakashi?"

"I had a plan!" Kushina argued back before blushing hotly, "…Granted, it failed miserably, but that's not the point! And what's wrong with Kakashi anyway? He did a good job from what I can see! You have all of your eyes, fingers, and toes!" She emphasized with a hard flick to his forehead.

It wasn't for a lack of the universe trying to remedy Naruto's lack of physical disfigurement mind you. Aside from that, for the last few months Naruto's only constructive role models were a hardhearted veteran ninja whose face no one had ever seen and a gigantic sociopathic red fox that lived inside of his stomach.

The fact that he listened to advice from the fox more often than advice from Kakashi would tell one all they needed to know about the matter.

"Kakashi's a terrible role model!" Honestly, he just was. The man was a great ninja, but he was a miserable human being for the most part, "He stuck me to the roof of a metal cart! In the midday sun! In the desert! He kept me around people like her!"

The indecently dressed Anko just waved at the new arrivals and chirped brightly, "Hiiii!"

All eyes then turned to Kakashi who merely pulled out a small book to read, as if the conversation bored him or he was being told something that he already knew, "What? I've never lied to any of you and said that I was a good person or a role model. The last few months were me being nice. Just think about that for a second."

Minato nodded, understanding just how screwed up his most ardent follower really was. It didn't bother him at all. Kakashi wasn't the raping, pillaging kind of asshole. He was the sarcastic, non-caring, cuddly-as-a-cactus kind of asshole. Things could have been way worse, "Right. Good work Kakashi."

"Of course Minato-sama. It was my pleasure."

"Your pleasure? You beat the crap out of us, gave us vague explanations for the jutsu you taught us, made us spar with each other so you could make fun of us, and treated us like bag carriers half of the time!" Naruto bellowed.

"Exactly," Kakashi said, listlessly turning a page, "It was my pleasure."

Kushina had to grab Naruto in a headlock to keep him from trying and failing to throttle Kakashi.

Anko just looked at Kakashi with an appreciatively leering gaze, "Oh, I think I'm going to stick around with you for a while," Kakashi simply shrugged as if to say 'suit yourself', "You blew up my house after all."

"You blew up your house," Tenten muttered, wondering how what should have been a tearful reunion turned into Naruto and his mother arguing and wrestling like animals, "We were just in it at the time."

Ahh… family.


Jutsu List

Doton: Jihibukai-te (Benevolent Hands). A-rank ninjutsu. Inspired by several of Senju Hashirama's more powerful ninjutsu attacks, the user will fold the earth upward into two hands meant to 'clap' together. This will crush the target(s) and everything else between them. The size and scale of the hands created makes this a battlefield-warping kind of attack.


And that's the chapter… and it's this long because I couldn't find a decent place to split it.

I'm thinking about putting out a side-story that explains in-depth the past situations of some of the characters that I haven't been able to flashback to due to space constraints and just flat-out breaking the story flow. Things like exactly how Minato met Nagato and Kushina, or the situation between Kakashi and Obito, what Kakuzu did to get Fuu, Tenten meeting Minato, Naruto's earlier days within the Uzumaki Clan, stuff like that. Origins crap that I can't go into here the way they probably need to be.

It would probably help readers better that way than what I'm doing now since I can't do flashbacks for most of this stuff. It's just too much more to add into chapters. These are all long enough as it is.

So to actual story stuff that I figure will come up and I'm attempting to head off at the pass:

Kurama actually doesn't want to hurt Naruto. He acts like an ass to him, and makes him believe that he doesn't care about one insignificant human life, but he actually likes Naruto, and after he finds out that the side-effects of his chakra are harmful he doesn't want to pump the kid full of the stuff and break him, even if it would theoretically free him. Remember, here he's never been sealed away before, he hasn't been sealed away for very long at this point, and things aren't as bad as they were for him any of the times when he'd been sealed away in canon.

Since I've yet to see a Minato power move in the manga that didn't involve having half of Kurama's chakra sealed inside of him it's up to me. I want Minato to be more of an untouchable tricky speedster kind of character than the human-nuke/tank that every other top-tier character in the series turns out to be though.

That's just my two cents on the matter though, so who cares what I think?

Oh, and Kakashi and Obito aren't sharing Sharingan. Obito has both as you've obviously picked up on. Important for later. The backstory behind this would be in the flashback/background story I was talking about.

Later it'll be time for the fun of Nagato losing his mind, and the funderful in-universe explanation of why he's sporting the Rinnegan.

So… yeah. I have several long-term antagonists set up. You know what the main underlying tension for this part of the story is. You know what the main goal of the protagonists is. Good show.

After the relatively happy ending we've got more work to do, so let's get to it! Questions? Concerns? I'll answer what I can if I get to them and if they're not direct spoilers.

Yeah! Kenchi out!