AN: This is the last installment telling the story of the epic 30th of April. After this chapter, I will return to a pure chronologic order again.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. This is fanfiction, after all.
Kabuto's Lab, Oto – April 30, AK 22 (late afternoon)
Kabuto frown as when he saw his test subject explode. The Dispersion Seal didn't appear to be compatible with the Curse Seal at all. The person would gain unimaginable power for around ten minutes and would explode from the nature chakra that the Curse Seal drew upon. It explained why he was getting an increasing number of reports of aggression and death over the last few months among his newest recruits who had been dual-fitted with both seals.
When the problem first came up, Kabuto, of course, didn't tell anyone that little problem in order to gather more data. Many of his weaker and unessential soldiers combined the use of the Dispersion Seal and the Curse Seal for an extra edge in battle.
None of them returned alive.
From what Kokuten had said, Kabuto knew that the Dispersion Seal would separate chakra into its base constituents. But why did adding nature chakra cause the entire mixture to explode?
It warranted more investigation. It was a shame he was running out of people to experiment. Damn that Kokuten for restricting him to using only criminals.
He looked at the calendar. April 30.
Ah. That was right. Sakuma Hyuuga.
According to his very well-placed spy, the arrogant fool was carrying out the joint operation with Kumo today to remove Hinata Hyuuga from Konoha.
What an idiot. Not even Kumo would escape Naruto Uzumaki's rage when he found out about the plot. Naruto didn't care about politics or hodgepodge like that. Sakuma was a fool if he thought he was going to take over the Hyuuga clan that easily. He would eventually get caught, executed, and then buried. Kabuto would just have to make sure he extracted Sakuma from Konoha somehow and pluck those lovely eyes out of his head.
Kabuto didn't even bother turning around. It was Kokuten. No doubt the man brought yet another batch to test.
It was good timing. Kabuto was going to try and "negotiate" a way to obtain more subjects.
"Yes?" Kabuto said in a pleasant tone. "Another batch?"
"No," came the low garbled voice. "I have come to end you."
Eyes wide, Kabuto instantly leapt backwards as the man released a huge wave of fire. "What is this for?" Kabuto yelled indignantly. Kabuto grit his teeth before activating his chakra scalpels. "Men!" Kabuto called out as he pressed a button. "Get down into the lab. We're being attacked."
"Chakra scalpels?" the cloaked man laughed. "Are you that sure that I am not using a Dispersion Seal myself? Your chakra-based attacks will not work."
Kabuto frowned. The man was right. While the yin-yang shaped glow of the Dispersion Seal was nowhere present on the man, it was possible he was using one under his clothes.
Sage Mode was probably the only option. The man had shown that the Dispersion Seals had a limit. Sage Mode was Kabuto's best shot at punching through that limit. And furthermore, sage chakra was inherently different from normal chakra and might be able to slip through the nullification power of the Dispersion Seals. Kabuto slowly felt a huge power surge in him as the seals on his own body gathered nature chakra for him. He immediately began to mold the nature chakra with his own to create sage chakra while moving backwards to put more space between him and Kokuten. Kabuto's chakra gathering seals had been the solution to the Sage Mode's requirement of remaining still.
Kabuto leered at the man. Kokuten might be strong, but like most S-ranks, he was arrogant. Kabuto would just have to take advantage of Kokuten's arrogance. As for Kabuto himself, his Sage Mode made him immune to genjutsu and the modifications on his body made him highly resistant to damage from taijutsu and ninjutsu. Kabuto would not fall easily.
Just then, the door burst open and twenty of his finest soldiers showed up, each using a Dispersion Seal. "Boss! We're here to back you up."
Kokuten laughed. "Kabuto, now you're fighting me with the tools I gave you. In the end, you never could be yourself. You always stole the work of others and tried to claim it as your own."
Kabuto's eyes widened when the man lifted up his mask. "You?! Impossible!"
Kabuto looked at his Naruto's red eyes and glowing face. His eyes were blazing with anger. "That's right. I gave you a chance. I let you live because I saw that you were cleaning up the streets. You were experimenting on people, but only on those who truly deserved a fate. It was arrogant of me to judge criminals like that, but still, in a sense, I thought that justice was being served. But," the man paused, "you grew more and more ambitious. You wanted to make the entire world your plaything. I can no longer close my eyes to your actions."
"What are you talking about?" Kabuto said in a panicked tone. He had thought he kept his plans secret to all but his strongest and most reliable men. "I had no such plans!"
"Tell that to Ranmaru," was the simple response.
Kabuto's eyes flashed with anger.
Ranmaru must have been a spy!
Kabuto had been greatly intrigued with his eyes and had let his guard down when the boy came to him seeking for food and shelter. Kabuto had trained Ranmaru and ran tests on the limits of his ocular power. He never would have thought the fifteen-year-old boy was a spy.
Kabuto had let his guard down because of his thirst for knowledge. Naruto must have known as well and purposely recruited Ranmaru for that sole purpose.
His men chose that time to attack.
"DIE!" they shouted as they charged.
Kabuto kept molding more sage chakra to prepare his attack.
Kabuto watched as Naruto tore his men apart.
"Wind Release: Gust of the Heavens!"
The blonde swung his arm and hit everyone in the room with a powerful tornado of wind.
"Useless!" Kabuto cackled. "These are my best soldiers! They, like me, have the modified and enhanced genes of the Uzumaki clan spliced into their DNA. They will regenerate any injuries you inflict upon them!"
"Rasengan!" Naruto shredded one of the man into pieces from what was probably a supercharged Rasengan even though it looked "normal."
Kabuto growled. The damn boy just got on his nerves.
"There seems to a be a limit to the regeneration," Naruto murmured with giving indication that he heard Kabuto's previous declaration. Kabuto froze as he felt a tremendous surge of chakra from the man as he flashed through several hand signs. "I guess I'll just have to kill you all before you can regenerate. Let's see if you all survive this. Fire Release: Rising Twin Phoenix Tornado." Kabuto steeled himself as a raging firestorm whirled around them.
Kabuto coated himself with sage chakra to protect himself from the effects of the firestorm that resulted. Even so, he could feel his skin getting burned.
After a very long minute, the fire died out. Kabuto panted. If he didn't have both Sage Mode and the regeneration power of the enhanced Uzumaki genes spliced into his body, there was no doubt that he would have died. The proof was before him. All his genetically modified soldiers were little more than ashes.
Kabuto grit his teeth. They had been the product of over six years of research. And Naruto had come and ruined it all. Kabuto would make sure that Naruto paid with his life. This…this was unacceptable.
"So even someone like you can be underhanded," Kabuto said in a silky voice despite the pain and anger he felt. "To betray a colleague like this."
"Betray?" the glowing blonde smirked as the rest of smoke cleared. Kabuto took a quick glance around him. There was nothing left of his lab except a huge crater thirty meters wide. "You were the one who betrayed me first. You should have been satisfied with just doing research on criminals and bandits. I told you not to make moves against the great villages. You're the one who disobeyed me. I can't forgive you for wanting to conquer the world."
"I never asked for your forgiveness," Kabuto hissed. "Nor do I need it. The world has progressed and evolved because of people like me carrying out research. I don't need your permission to carry out what is my right and duty!"
"And I don't need your permission to end your life for doing something heinous. So here we are," Naruto remarked, gesturing to the destruction around him. "Our two missions in life are incompatible. Let's see which one is stronger."
Kabuto sneered. "Even if you kill me, another like me will rise. You cannot stop progress!"
The time for talk was over. Kabuto knew that he was facing a vastly overpowered enemy. He needed to end this quickly because Naruto would never get tired with his endless supply of the Kyuubi's chakra. Kabuto rushed forward, creating claws made of pure sage chakra. For the last six years, Kabuto had kept modifying his body to be the strongest possible body, even beyond those of his best soldiers. Even forbidden jutsus designed to level an entire village would not kill him easily.
Kabuto swung with his left arm only to have Naruto sidestep the swing. Kabuto used his momentum to move into a turning hook kick. Kabuto would use Naruto's overconfidence against him. No matter how strong he became, Naruto was still that immature brat who wanted to show off. Even now, Naruto was hell bent on proving his superiority and had dodged with the least amount of energy needed. Kabuto wrapped sage chakra around his leg to give it additional range. Unless Naruto completely dodged, he would get hit.
Kabuto only hit air. Naruto was now behind him and Kabuto found that he couldn't move his body. Shit! Fuinjutsu! Kabuto thought in panic as seals started to cover his body. The one ninja art that could affect me! How did he know?! I never fought him in Sage Mode before, so he couldn't have known what to use so quickly! Unless…
Kabuto suddenly remembered the rumors of Naruto beating Pein with using some other power than the Kyuubi Mode. This kid! He knows Sage Mode! He must have learned it from the toads! People only talked about his Kyuubi Mode after the war, but he also knew Sage Mode! This is really bad! I have to get out of here somehow. I severely underestimated him.
"Kabuto, you're finished. I already remotely detonated all the Dispersion Seals I gave you. It was a fail-safe in case you got over your head and tried to do something like this. Any men out on your field who had them on are now in pieces. Even if they can regenerate the damage, they will no longer be able to use the seals. And now, you too will die. Shadow Clone technique!"
"No, wait!" Kabuto desperately shouted out as another copy of Naruto appeared, "I'll give you information! My spies! My spies have found out that Kumo is kidnapping the Hyuuga clan heiress right now. You can go intercept them now! Just let me live!"
"Thanks for the information, but that won't be enough to buy you your life. I already knew that before I came here. I'm in a hurry so please die quickly. You may have survived the first technique, but I doubt you'll survive this one. Wind Release: Rasengan."
"Fire Release: Rising Twin Phoenix Tornado!" the clone shouted out.
They both chanted. "Collaboration technique: Heavenly Dome of White Flames!"
Kabuto didn't know how long he screamed as he felt the fire roasting his skin while the thin blades of wind slashed into his body. Was it five minutes? Six minutes? Ten? It felt like eternity. Somewhere in the middle of the technique, Naruto had disappeared, presumably confident that his technique would finish his enemy off, and because he was in a hurry to save Hinata Hyuuga.
Kabuto suddenly found himself pulled out of fire sphere of doom by a rope made of some strange green energy. He tried to run chakra through his body and found that he couldn't. His chakra circulatory system was completely destroyed. From how his body felt, he knew that both layers of his skin had been burned off and that muscle and bone were showing. Without his chakra circulatory system intact, his regenerative powers from his own ability, the Uzumaki genes, and Sage Mode would not work.
He was scarred for life.
And there was nothing he could do about it.
It was only the physical modifications he made to his body that were keeping him alive. He needed much less oxygen, chakra, and blood than the average human to survive.
Despite the pain, Kabuto's eyes widened at the voice.
"Uchiha. Sasuke Uchiha."
Mountains, Land of Frost – April 30, AK 22 (late afternoon)
"Kokuten? I never heard of you."
The man chuckled. "No, I don't suppose you have. I haven't really revealed myself to anyone. Konoha's managed to attack me a few times, but I doubt they know who I am."
"So you're not a Konoha ninja?" Darui asked, his hands still in place for the technique he was about to use. If this Kokuten were a Konoha ninja, it would be the worst-case scenario. Kumo may lose the Hyuuga princess and would have to pay reparations to Konoha after being caught red-handed. Then it suddenly hit him. "You're the one who had been carrying all those attacks on our borders!"
"Correct. As for who or what I am, it's not like I am trying to hide anymore so I suppose I can be more open with information. Hm…" the man mused. "I suppose you can call me a free spirit," Kokuten continued chuckling and then suddenly, almost as an afterthought, jumped into a strange pose. "I'll do this once. Just once. For old times' sake." Darui looked at him in confusion. "I am known far and wide—from the north to the south, and from the east to the west. The ladies can't resist me and the men can't help but respect me. I am the handsome man that can silence a crying child! I am the amazing, handsome, legendary warrior of justice…Kokuten!"
Despite the situation, a sweat drop appeared on the side of Darui's head. This Kokuten was ridiculous. That sounded almost as silly as the stories he heard about—
"Are you Lord Jiraiya by any chance?" Darui stammered with wide eyes. That…that…that strange introduction was similar to what the legendary Jiraiya regularly used when giving his name and status. It was true that the Sannin was dead, but there were techniques to bring the dead back to this plane of existence. And the man said that he was a spirit. It wasn't too much of a stretch to think that this man was Lord Jiraiya.
"The old pervert is probably having a field day in the afterlife that someone recognized his lame introduction," Kokuten continued chuckling. Darui tensed when the man's voice grew dangerous. The atmosphere was completely different from what it had been before. Darui shuddered as he was reminded of the last villain to have personality switches: Obito Uchiha, who had gone by the alias of Tobi and Madara. "But this party's over. You will hand that girl over to me now."
Darui instantly placed his hands on the ground to place the seal he had prepared. An impenetrable chakra dome rose around the unconscious Hyuuga princess.
"I am afraid I can't do that," Darui said in a low tone that was just as dangerous. "Mission from Kumo aside, I cannot hand over my future wife to someone I don't even know."
"Future wife?" Kokuten asked coolly. "An unwilling wife, I presume?"
"Irrelevant," Darui muttered as he flashed through hand signs again. "Storm Release: Laser Circus!"
The entire area was blasted apart. Darui could feel the electricity and heat all around him. It's still not over. He's a space-time ninjutsu user and could have dodged that with very little effort.
There was a gust of wind that cleared the smoke away.
"Impressive power," the stranger complimented, without a hint of any damage even though he hadn't moved. "But ultimately a waste of chakra. Not smart for someone who's already low."
Darui's jaw dropped. "Im…impossible!"
It would have been plausible if the man had dodged. It would have been possible if the man had blocked. It was impossible that the man had stood there without receiving any damage. It didn't seem anything like the intangibility technique of Obito either, as a small radius around Kokuten was completely unaffected. The Laser Circus wasn't his strongest technique, but it still strong enough to level multiple buildings. The man had simply taken it head on and escaped without a single scratch.
Darui stepped back away from the man in trepidation before realizing that his back was to the chakra dome he had erected around the Hyuuga princess.
"You can try again," the man offered.
Darui narrowed his eyes. There was something wrong here. Darui's eyes went to the now glowing seals shaped in yin-yang circles that were glowing on Kokuten's mask and robes.
Fuinjutsu…he must have used some kind of fuinjutsu to weather the attacks. Given the damage around here, it's not a space-time seal that teleports the attack away. It's a seal that prevents any attack from entering an invisible barrier around him. It's somewhat like the barrier that I erected around the Hyuuga girl.
It seemed that chakra attacks wouldn't work. It would have to be taijutsu and weaponry then. Darui pulled out his cleaver sword and rushed towards the cloaked man.
The man easily ducked under Darui's swing and then parried the next blow with a staff he pulled out.
Darui jumped back. "I see. You dodged and blocked. So you not immune to weapons." Darui rushed in again, this time with a body flicker and several shadow clones. "Cloud Style: Reverse Mist Beheading!" His shadow clones attacked from all four sides he himself attacked from the top.
Darui managed to land hits on Kokuten, but it honestly looked like only the cloak was slightly ripped in several places. The man wasn't injured in the least. The man had simply positioned his body and moved in a way to incur the least amount of damage, almost as if he knew where every hit was going to land.
Darui ducked as the staff passed over his head and flipped back while kicking with his feet. Kokuten leaned back to avoid the kick and swung his staff as the yin-yang seals on his clothes faded away.
The Raikage's right-hand man put up his cleaver to block and instantly regretted his choice.
"A lightning blade?!"
He didn't have time to channel chakra into his own sword before the lighting-coated staff pierced his cleaver in less than half a second. Darui barely managed to let go of his sword and shift his body to avoid a fatal blow. The staff missed him, but the lightning on it jumped and shocked him.
Darui clutched his now slightly paralyzed left arm.
"You're incredibly fast. I didn't think you'd be able to dodge that. You really are deserving of your rank."
The Kumo ninja ignored the other man and tested his strength and reflexes in his left arm. The lightning coating the staff had changed from the piercing kind to the shocking kind at the last second. Just what was this Kokuten planning?
"But at the same time, it seems that I wasn't able to avoid that attack completely. Still, I wasn't hurt as much as I could have been because the attack itself had no killing intent. Just what is your purpose?"
Darui hoped that the time he bought would be enough for his arm to recover a bit.
Kokuten shrugged. "Just to rescue that girl. That's honestly it. Will you hand her over?"
"Even if I wanted to return Hinata Hyuuga, I can't. She knows that the abduction attempt was sanctioned by Kumo. Konoha cannot know."
"That's something you fools should have considered before taking this foolish mission," Kokuten snarled, showing anger for the first time. "Your Raikage is always obsessed with bloodlines and secret techniques. He's the aggressor here."
"We will do anything to help the people of our village," Darui defended. "We collect power to protect them."
"Oh, how nice," came the sarcastic response. "You and you Raikage claim you don't want war, but you carry out moves that greatly anger other nations. That's like a fat person lying on the couch all day eating like a pig but claiming he wants to be skinny." Kokuten sighed. "Are you even listening to your line of reasoning right now? Just stop this foolishness."
"There won't be war if Konoha doesn't find out!" Darui snapped back. He wasn't going to let this stranger insult Lord Raikage. "And besides, Hinata Hyuuga was unhappy in Konoha. We will treated her the way she should be treated."
Kokuten shook his head. "Then I'm sure she would willingly go with you to Kumo if you ask her nicely." There was a pause. "And you probably did ask. And she probably said no."
Darui frowned. It didn't seem like the man had listened to his and the Hyuuga princess's conversation given his use of the word "probably," but it was strange that the man knew exactly what had happened.
"How did you know that?"
Kokuten removed his mask. "Because I'm her friend. I know how she thinks."
Darui's eyes widened as he looked straight into the blonde's blue eyes. "Naruto Uzumaki!"
He cursed. He should have know from that silly introduction Uzumaki had done earlier. Uzumaki was Lord Jiraiya's pupil, after all.
Uzumaki just assumed a sad smile. "I'd love to catch up and maybe even ask about Bee, but I really can't afford to waste anymore time here. You'll have to excuse me for taking this seriously."
In a quick millisecond, Darui did a quick mental checkup on his arm. It was almost fully recovered.
They both flashed through hand signs rapidly.
"Storm Release: Laser Cannon!"
"Wind Release: Gust of the Heavens."
Darui put his arms up to shield his eyes from the dust that kicked up. It was sheer insanity to try to match a two element technique with just one, but Naruto was doing it and succeeding.
It was at that moment that Darui knew he was completely outclassed. He didn't have a chance to think about it because Uzumaki had somehow teleported right in front of him and landed a powerful uppercut.
He coughed up some blood as he soared through the air with multiple kicks to his back. "Uz. Zu. Ma. Ki." He felt a presence and put his arms up to block a heel aimed at his stomach. "Naruto Combo!"
Darui landed on the ground. He slowly got up to his knees inside a small crater that formed from the impact.
"Water Release: Hydro Rotation."
He put up his hands to block the water whip but was sent crashing into a tree from the sheer power of the whip.
Coughing, he called out. "Lightning Release: Black Shock Shell."
He took a deep breath as a ball of lightning formed around him. It was a defensive technique that would shock anyone who touched the barrier. It would also hopefully goad Uzumaki into using a powerful offensive wind technique.
Darui took out a scroll that had a powerful forbidden fire technique stored inside of it that Kumo had stolen from a village in the Land of Hot Water. Darui carried it with all times for situations just like this one where he would have to fight a powerful ninja with a wind affinity. Once Uzumaki used a wind technique, he would reflect the attack back to Uzumaki with a wind-amplified fire technique.
He was suddenly crushed onto the ground from tremendous pressure. He lightning barrier kept lashing out at the ground until it dissipated completely.
"Earth absorbs water, but with time, water can erode the earth. Water can put out fire, but with enough power, fire can boil water. Fire is strengthen by wind, but with enough force, wind can direct a flame's path. Wind insulates against electricity, but electricity can be formed by vibrations in the air. Lightning pierces earth, but earth can ground lightning," the blonde lectured. "You guessed correctly that I would use wind, but I used the very earth against to combat your technique instead of attacking you with wind. A true master of the elements fully understands how to overcome the weaknesses of each element instead of just using an attack with another element. And seriously, did you think I missed the fact that you took out that scroll? A scroll with the word 'fire' on it?"
I…I can't breathe! It feels like something heavy is on top of me. And what is it with Naruto? He's not acting like himself at all. His fighting style is completely different, too!
"I will repeat myself once more. I am trying not to hurt you. But do not take my restraint for weakness," Uzumaki explained. "I can easily kill you and undo the seal myself. It will take an hour or two, but I can do it. I just want to save myself the time."
Giving up the Hyuuga girl was not an option. Somehow Uzumaki managed to sneak his way into becoming a fuinjutsu master without anyone knowing, but even he would have difficulty cracking a technique that was created and modified by dozens of sealing elites and masters over the last few decades.
"Urgh!" Darui groaned as he tried to reach for a low-grade explosive tag. He flared his chakra as much as he could and felt the pressure diminish a bit.
He took that opportunity to grab a tag from his pouch. It was incredibly risky, but the explosion from the explosive tag might blow the wind off of him long enough for him to get out of the technique. It would come at a cost, but he couldn't fail the mission that his leader gave him. If Darui couldn't finish the primary mission, he would have to complete the secondary mission at least.
The pressure was suddenly gone.
"Reckless," Kokuten commented while shaking his head. "You'll only kill yourself with that attitude. Just hand Hinata over to me."
Darui slowly stood up. His eyes flickered towards where the yin-yang shaped seals had once been. If Darui's guess was correct, that meant that Naruto was currently susceptible to attacks.
Maybe that seal was a one-time use seal or had some kind of time limit.
Darui rushed towards an impassive Uzumaki, and launched his strongest non-suicidal attack.
"Storm Release: Laser Flare!"
Darui covered his eyes as everything in front of him was destroyed.
As the smoke cleared, he found himself standing some distance in front of a indent in the ground about three meters wide, fifty meters long, and a meter deep at its lowest point.
Darui was about to smile in victory. He felt the technique hit a body. Naruto hadn't been able to escape using a space-time ninjutsu. Nor was that troublesome seal active. The Laser Flare was one of the strongest attacks in the Elemental Nations, a huge energy beam of hyper-dense water and lightning nature chakra. Even if Uzumaki was strong, he couldn't have escape unscathed. Even Lord Bee said that he wouldn't be able to withstand it.
"Not bad." Darui flipped when he heard Uzumaki's voice behind him. Darui brought his hands up to make hand signs for another ninjutsu technique when Naruto slammed his staff against Darui's left hand and broke it. "At least when it comes to power. But you're forgetting speed and misdirection. Did you even consider that I might use genjutsu to fool you?"
Genjutsu? What the hell?
Naruto Uzumaki did not use genjutsu.
It was true that Darui had been too focused on Kokuten's yin-yang seal and that strange ability of his to block any chakra-based attack and might have missed that his opponent used something like a genjutsu, but Uzumaki never used genjutsu. Ever.
He began to doubt if the person in front of him was Naruto Uzumaki.
Still, Uzumaki, or whoever it was, had fooled Darui using the same strategy that he and Shee had used to Konohamaru Sarutobi.
"I'm an idiot for falling for such a dull trick," Darui panted. Not only was his left hand broken, but his reserves were now dangerously low after he put almost everything he had in that last technique. "But the fact remains. You need me to undo this seal on the Hyuuga princess. That is why you have kept me alive."
Uzumaki shook his head. "You're wrong. I am merely tired of all this fighting and killing. I already told you my purpose. I merely seek peace. Killing you would not help achieve that."
Darui was somewhat confused at the sad tone. "Peace?"
"Peace. The great villages constantly jostle to be on the top and participate in an unending and hidden war called the balance of the power. That war is already bad enough. But by kidnapping the Hyuuga heiress, you will be bringing that hidden war to the surface where everyone can see it and be affected by it."
Darui found himself intrigued by the Konoha ninja's words.
No, this was Naruto Uzumaki. Only someone like him could use words to affect his enemy like this. It was yet another reason he was dubbed the "Sun." His bright words often sapped any ill-will that people had for one another and made people want to believe in something as ludicrous as permanent peace in the world.
Darui lowered his stance. At this point, it didn't matter if he defended himself or not. Darui knew that if Uzumaki attacked, he was dead.
"From our point of view, Konoha would not have the proof it needs to justify a war to its people and Kumo would gain a powerful bloodline."
"I suppose you're right," Uzumaki said offhandedly. "Even if I told Konoha that I intercepted you, no one would believe me unless I brought you back. But if I kill you, then the Raikage would claim that I was the aggressor and I was just trying to frame Kumo. So I would have to bring you back alive. I really don't want to have to do that."
Darui raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Uzumaki sighed. "Give me Hinata and I'll let you go. I'll even claim that Konohamaru and Hinata were fooled by an elaborate genjutsu so as to not implicate Kumo."
Darui shook his head. "Since when did Uzumaki tell people to give up? Isn't this a bit hypocritical?"
"A person should never give up standing up for what is right. A person should never give up when protecting his or her precious people. Never did I promote persisting in aggressive actions that could lead to war. Go back home, Darui. You won't lose anything because of it."
The offer was somewhat tempting, but Darui had to shake his head. He would never be able to face Lord Raikage if he turned back to save his own life.
"I can't. Lord Raikage is counting on me. I will not abandon my mission."
"You could tell him that the mission was compromised because Sakuma Hyuuga leaked information on accident," Uzumaki offered.
Darui's eyes widened. How did Naruto know about even that? He and the Raikage were the only ones who talked to Sakuma and knew of Sakuma's role in this operation. To the rest of those involved, it was merely a "Hyuuga contact," not Sakuma Hyuuga, who provided the necessary information.
"How?" Darui demanded.
"Why?" Uzumaki fired back.
"Why?" Darui asked in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Why should I reveal to you how I got that information?" the blonde responded. "Information is power in this world of ours and I have no intention of handing more power to you people. I already told you more than enough as it is. And besides," Uzumaki gestured to Hinata, "Despite Kumo being widely regarded as the strongest of the ninja villages, you pull off something deplorable like this. Just how much more power do you need?"
Darui forced his left hand into hand signs with the help of his right hand. It was slow and excruciatingly painful, but it had to be done. Darui knew that the legendary Sun of Konoha noticed, but it seemed like he didn't care.
At this point, it didn't matter how Uzumaki knew what he knew. Darui didn't have time to worry about the Hyuuga princess.
The primary mission had been to abduct the girl. The secondary mission, in case of failure of the primary mission, was to prevent anyone from finding out. He needed to kill Uzumaki. If the girl died in the crossfire, it would be unfortunate, but Kumo could not afford the information Uzumaki had to get out. While Uzumaki claimed he would keep the information to himself, there was nothing really preventing him from doing the opposite.
If Konoha somehow gained the information Uzumaki had, then war would be inevitable.
Darui was out of chakra, but he could convert his life energy for one final blast.
"You'll die if you fire that technique," Uzumaki commented matter-of-factly as Darui kept moving his fingers slowly. "You'll even kill Hinata."
Darui didn't deny it. He would die firing off a bomb that touched the power level of a bijuu bomb. Unlike the first technique where the blast was away from him, this technique had him at the epicenter. Even if he survived the loss of his life-energy, he would die from the explosion itself.
"We all knew the risks of this mission," Darui replied as he finished his last seal. All he needed to do was finish converting his life force. "If we were caught, we were to say that we were acting on our own and try to find a way to destroy our bodies. Since the entire operation was compromised, I have a duty to get rid of all the evidence implicating Kumo. There will be no remnants of any of our bodies and even of the Hyuuga heiress. There will be no proof that Kumo did anything besides host Sakuma Hyuuga on one of his trips. Even if Konoha were to interrogate Sakuma, war will not start simply because of the information gained from one greedy Main House Hyuuga. As long as you won't have our bodies, there is no proof besides your word."
"Stop this. I already agreed to withhold information from Konoha."
Uzumaki must be an idiot if he thought Darui would seriously believe that.
Darui ignored the other ninja and continued molding his life force as quickly as he could to turn his entire body into a huge bomb. There was no chance he could fight Naruto and win, even on a good day. But a Naruto with fuinjutsu and genjutsu on top of what Darui already knew Naruto to know? Even a god didn't have a chance.
But he didn't need to win. He just needed to settle for a tie.
Finally, it was done.
"Storm Release: Ultimate Laser Bo—"
Uzumaki was much faster, however. Darui suddenly felt all his chakra he had converted from his life force dissipating. He looked down. The kid had tagged him with some kind of paper seal. It too had the same yin-yang symbol on it as the seals that had been on the stranger's clothing and mask.
Crap! I was wrong. This wasn't a barrier seal to prevent attacks from reaching him. It was a chakra nullification seal.
"You fool! You just dug your own grave."
Darui wanted to respond but felt himself falling forward as he felt life leaving his body. He mentally whispered an apology to the Raikage. He couldn't even salvage it by completing the secondary mission to prevent Kumo from being implicated.
My apologies, my lord…
Cave, Border between Land of Hot Water and Land of Frost – April 30, AK 22 (early evening)
Konohamaru landed with Tajiri in his arms. The battle both had and had not gone well. Konohamaru was easily able to kill off Shee, the arrogant "elite" Kumo ninja who specialized in genjutsu and medical techniques. However, Omoi had killed Takaishi, and Karui had critically injured Tajiri in that same time frame.
In the end, it had been too much to ask a couple of C-rank chuunin to take on A-rank jounin.
It had been extremely fortunate that Konohamaru finished his battle quickly because otherwise both of his younger teammates might have died. It took releasing yet another one of his chakra storage seals to give Konohamaru to save his last teammate and escape. The only consolation was the Shee was dead and both Karui and Omoi were burned, Karui fatally so, from Konohamaru's Genesis Flame Shroud. Even if they found a way to survive, without immediate medical attention, Karui would die and Omoi would be crippled for life. The heat from the Genesis Flame Shroud was just that intense. Even Tajiri, who had been standing a meter away from the two Kumo ninjas, suffered some mild burns from the attack.
Instantly, after Konohamaru landed the attack, he had turned his flame armor off, grabbed him Tajiri and Taikashi's body, and used repeated body flickers to high-tail it out of there without waiting to see if Omoi could counter attack with only one functional arm or if Karui would launch a last minute suicidal attack even with her wounds.
Once they had escaped far enough, Konohamaru sealed Takaishi's body in a storage scroll and tended to Tajiri.
Her injuries did not look too good. He managed to prevent her from dying immediately, but if the girl didn't get professional medical attention in the next few hours, she would die.
Konohamaru was torn between his desire to go after Hinata and his desire to prolong Tajiri's life. It was about four more hours away to the border of the Land of Fire and a few more after that to the nearest town. If Konohamaru took extreme care, Tajiri could potentially make it back home alive. But that would mean dooming Hinata to a life of being a sex slave for Kumo.
For now, he had just resorted to sending a monkey back to Konoha as a messenger with a scroll detailing what had happened. The monkey he sent was extremely quick and would reach Konoha by early morning.
But Konohamaru knew that there wasn't anything Konoha could do. Konohamaru had failed to bring back anything that could be used as official proof besides his word. His word meant a great deal as he was clan heir of the Sarutobi clan, but Konoha would not start a war from just his words. Hell, Konoha didn't even start a war when Kumo had demanded Hiashi's body seventeen years ago.
And it wasn't like war was the perfect solution either.
"Captain?" Tajiri stirred as she woke up. "Ugh…"
That sealed the deal.
If Tajiri was in good enough of a condition to regain consciousness, then he couldn't in good faith abandon her to chase after Hinata when it might already be too late the Hyuuga girl. Konohamaru wasn't close to Tajiri by any means, but her life was no less valuable than Hinata's.
Politics be damned and Hiashi Hyuuga could go to hell if he didn't like that. His daughters and clansmen weren't the only important people in the world.
"Don't move," Konohamaru ordered the chuunin girl. "You're critically injured. I've stopped the worst of the bleeding and fed you all the blood pills I have. I also found some medicinal herbs to help you deal with the pain, but you still need to take it easy. Although, if I have to be honest, things don't look so good for you right now so we need to get you to a medic somehow and quick. There's only so much I can do with battlefield treatment."
"Blood pills?" The girl asked in a dazed voice before her eyes sharpened for a second. "How did you get me to swallow them? And what about the herbs?"
Konohamaru groaned. The girl was not going to like his answer. Still, he had to be professional about it. And it was protocol. "You couldn't swallow anything solid," Konohamaru remarked. "So I cracked open the blood pills and placed the fluids inside the pills in your mouth. As for the herbs," Konohamaru paused, "how do you think I fed you those?"
The nineteen-year-old girl blushed and gasped. She clearly was embarrassed that he had chewed on the herbs and fed her mouth-to-mouth. "B…bu…but, Captain!"
"It was either that or death," The twenty-year-old said matter-of-factly. "I figured that you wanted to live. I kissed you. I had my tongue in your mouth. So what? Get over it." He frowned. "This isn't the appropriate time for you to be worried about something like that. You're not in too much pain because of painkilling effects of the herbs, but you have a foot in the grave right now."
The girl immediate grew somber at that. "I…I see. What about Yamato?"
"Chuunin Takaishi is…"
No words were needed. Konohamaru could tell that Tajiri understood immediately. After all, she too had seen him get slashed by that Omoi before she herself was stabbed.
"I…I…I…he…um I knew him from basic training," Tajiri murmured in a soft voice. "We were placed on the same team often once we started being deployed in the field. I knew him for a long time."
Konohamaru nodded sympathetically. "I'm sorry I couldn't do anything to help. Our opponents were three elites and a master. The two of you were completely outmatched. The way the two of you fought with grit was admirable. The fact that you survived is miraculous in and of itself."
The girl didn't cry. Konohamaru figured that the news still hadn't completely hit her yet and that the painkillers were dulling her mind as well.
"Captain," she began. "I…I'm going to die, aren't I?" Konohamaru didn't say anything. "These wounds…I can't feel much, but I know that I was critically hurt. Some of my vitals were grazed."
He took his time to carefully word his answer. "I can't promise you anything. But I know for a fact that if we had a medic here, you would survive."
She shook her head lightly. "But we don't, Captain. So…so I want to tell you something before I die."
Konohamaru frowned but nodded. The girl was probably trying to leave some sort of will. "Is it something to tell your family?"
She giggled lightly at that. "No, nothing like that." She blushed, but began to sob lightly. "I never really mustered the courage before but…but I really like…"
He didn't have time to hear the rest of the sentence because he suddenly felt a presence in the area and faced the opening of the cave.
"Who's there?" he demanded out loud even if he couldn't see the enemy just yet.
He didn't know if it was an enemy but he didn't want to take any chances. He charged up a Rasengan and stood in front of Tajiri protectively. He lost one subordinate today and the older sister of his favorite training partner, but he wasn't going to lose the last one he was responsible for.
"I advise you to stand down, Konoha ninja."
A masked man dressed completely in black walked towards them.
"Who are you?" Konohamaru growled.
"I am called Taiyo no Kuroi Kokuten."
Konohamaru froze. This was Sasuke Uchiha.
This wasn't good at all. He clenched his fists.
"Don't lie. I know that you're Sasuke Uchiha. We were briefed about your activities and abilities."
Behind him, Tajiri gasped at the name.
"And I'll kick your ass if you try to hurt Tajiri. As her captain, I'm responsible for her life. You won't be killing her on my watch, Sasugay."
Konohamaru was able to keep up the Rasengan active but he fell on his knees as a huge chakra pressure weighed down on him. Behind him, Konohamaru could hear Tajiri whimper in fear before passing out. This aura. This pressure is unreal! It's at least twice more than what Naruto regularly exposes me to.
"Do not mistake me for a friend, Sarutobi. I have intercepted the Kumo ninja and have taken your Hyuuga friend into custody. It's probably not a good idea to insult me right now."
Konohamaru recoiled as if he had been hit, despite all the pressure in the area. Sasuke had beaten Darui? The battle couldn't have been more than two hours ago and Sasuke still looked like he was completely fresh. That meant that Sasuke outclassed Darui. Konohamaru repressed a shudder. This…this man was Naruto's rival. This was the one person in the world who was on Naruto's level.
That didn't mean that Konohamaru was going to just roll over and die without struggling though.
"W…where…is Hinata, you son…son of a bitch?!" he growled out, doing his best to fight against the pressure. If he had been close to full power, Konohamaru wouldn't have this much trouble, but with less than a tenth of his power, it was all he could do just to stay conscious. Konohamaru released another chakra storage seal, his fifth for the day. Immediately, he flared his chakra to brush off the pressure. "Rasengan!"
Konohamaru landed the hit but soon found himself flying towards the other side of the cave. Before he could even move, Konohamaru felt a hand gripping his throat and holding him up.
There was a few seconds of silence as Konohamaru wordlessly tried to struggle.
"Weak," Konohamaru heard Sasuke drawl before being tossed to the side.
"Why didn't you kill me just now?" Konohamaru asked painfully. Konohamaru wasn't the most intelligent among the elites in Konoha, but he probably had one of the sharpest battle senses after Naruto. Konohamaru could tell that Sasuke had let himself get hit by the Rasengan just now.
"My purpose today isn't to kill anyone," Sasuke explained. He pointed. "I am just here to heal that girl over there."
"Like I'd let you anywhere near Tajiri," Konohamaru growled warningly as he stood up. His reserves were now full so he could put up a fight even though there was little he could actually do against Sasuke Uchiha. "Like you already said, you kidnapped Hinata. What's to stop you from kidnapping Tajiri even if you don't have any intent to kill her?"
"You don't have any choice," Konohamaru saw the man take a few steps forward. "I can easily overpower you, restrain you, and do what I want with the girl." Konohamaru stood defensively in front of Tajiri. "And you know as well as I do that the girl needs treatment immediately. That chakra pressure earlier wasn't just to intimidate you, Sarutobi. It was to knock the girl behind you out so I can treat her. The girl will be healed. You can either watch me willingly or you can watch while bound and gagged."
"You're a medic?" Konohamaru didn't relax even as he saw Sasuke's hand glow green.
"Stand aside," Sasuke merely replied. Konohamaru knew that it was the Mystical Palm technique used by medics. It didn't appear to be quite as refined as Sakura's or even Ino's, but it was definitely a healing technique and didn't have any killing intent in it. But he still didn't trust the Uchiha. "The girl will die without treatment," Sasuke explained. "You can either trust that I won't kill her or you can bet on the minute chance that she'll survive without treatment."
Konohamaru didn't like it, but there was little Konohamaru could do. Sasuke was right. Tajiri would die in a few hours without any treatment.
"Why are you helping us? You ran away from Konoha years ago!" Konohamaru demanded as the man worked. Konohamaru was pleased to see that Tajiri's wound was slowly closing and her complexion was becoming better.
"And just why should I answer that? You ninjas of the great villages have a strange way of demanding things even when you're in no position to do so. I suppose it is an arrogance brought forth by decades of standing on top of weaklings."
"Why you?!" Konohamaru started before checking himself. Sasuke was still healing Tajiri. If Konohamaru attacked, Tajiri would get hurt as well. And in a way, Sasuke was correct. Konohamaru didn't like to criticize the village that his grandfather had given his life for, but Konohamaru could see too many flaws in how the village was run.
"How amusing." The man chuckled. "You know I speak the truth, but can't admit it because of your own pathetic ties to your village."
Konohamaru clenched his fists again. "That's none of your business. What are your plans with Hinata?"
If Konohamaru knew that he wasn't completely outclassed, he would have pounded the Uchiha's face in. No one insulted Konoha and got off lightly.
"To return her to Konoha along with the rest of you."
Konohamaru stood there, stunned. That was not what he had expected. "What?! Aren't you an enemy?"
"I am," Konohamaru jumped back, startled, as the man stood up. "What?"
"I mentioned it earlier. Do not mistake me as a friend. You are my hostages. I'm going to use you to extract something of value from Konoha. I need all three of you alive for that."
"What?! You bastard! I won't let you!" Konohamaru quickly flashed through hand signs to activate his Genesis Flame Shroud, only to be knocked out when the man outflanked him and hit him on the back of the neck.
"Sleep…" was the last thing Konohamaru heard before everything went black.
East Gate, Konoha – April 30, AK 22 (early evening)
Ranmaru walked hand in hand with his "little sister" to the gatekeepers.
"Here," Ranmaru said. "But we are the hired servants of our lord and he is a citizen of Konoha. I have the purchase receipts showing the name of our master."
"You're in luck," one of the guards said. "We had been ordered to not let in anyone who isn't a VIP because of some strange attacks on our borders. But given the identity of your master, we should be able to let you in."
Ranmaru grimaced. Those "strange attacks" were probably the attacks he made on scouting squads as Kokuten. He wasn't nearly as skilled as his sensei so had almost been caught multiple times. He hadn't killed a single person, but he doubted that Konoha or the other great villages even cared. They just cared that an unknown threat to them was running around. Fortunately, being able to teleport nearly at will made it incredibly easy to escape from enemies. The high-speed movement he demonstrated added to the myth of Kokuten.
"Oh wow!" Yuna chirped. "I didn't know Master was a VIP in Konoha. Hey, Big Brother Ranmaru, what does VIP mean anyway?"
"Very important person," the other guard chuckled out before Ranmaru could respond. "Your master saved this village many times so he is definitely a VIP."
"Do you have any proof besides your papers? We need something more than just papers as real proof that you belong to your master. Usually, we need a verbal confirmation, but considering the time, it may take some time before everything gets confirmed. Naruto is currently out of the village right now."
Ranmaru nodded. He had received the message from Sasame along with their ticket into the village. "Here is also his symbol. Our master said it was imbued with something called chakra."
Ranmaru held up the fist-sized coin made of pure gold and knew that the chuunin guards immediately recognized it. It had a swirl in the center that was surrounded by the symbols of the five different elements.
Sasame had been right. Once the guards saw that, their attitudes had completely changed from tense to completely relaxed. Naruto-sensei truly had Konoha completely fooled. Konoha believed that Naruto was the ultimate loyal guard dog for them.
Idiots. There was only so much you could manipulate someone until that person got sick of it.
"Hey," Yuna piped up. "Why didn't Master give me something like that? That gold symbol is pretty! Do you think Master will let me have that?"
Ranmaru groaned and apologized for his "little sister's" antics as the gatekeepers checked the symbol with a machine to confirm its authenticity and match the chakra signal.
"Yuna, settle down," Ranmaru admonished. "We know that our master returned early from his trip. Originally, we were supposed to arrive a few days later, but he gave us the order to go to his place as soon as possible. Can you tell us where Lord Naruto lives?"
AN: And yes, Naruto absolutely destroyed Darui. That was the point. Naruto is an S-class among S-class ninjas. The fact that Darui even managed to land a blow on Naruto was miraculous and was because Naruto wasn't taking him seriously (i.e. using purely spiritual energy & only defending at the time).