Digi doesn't own Naruto, but he does enjoy referring to himself in the third person
"There are two kinds of fights; as long as we place ourselves in battle, we must always know the difference, a fight to defend life or a fight to defend pride." – Ukitake Jyuushirou
Naruto took in a long, deep breath as he gently ran his hands through Fuu's verdant hair, playing with the individual strands as the girl slept, huddled against his form. They were both sweaty and the cool morning air had the hair across his body standing on end but he still couldn't do anything but smile as the snoozing girl murmured something unintelligible into the pillow, blissfully asleep. As much as he didn't want to move from this unbelievably comfortable position, the late morning sunlight was already streaming in through the windows and they had kept Tsunami waiting for long enough.
"Fuu." He gently shook the girl's shoulder, immediately making her curl further into the warm embrace of the covers in a vain attempt to stave off reality. In the end though, as it always did, consciousness prevailed and a bleary-eyed but still lightly smiling Jinchuuriki slowly rose up, her upper body still bare. Naruto gained a light blush looking down on her body, still covered in just a thin sheen of sweat from their previous activities; it certainly brought back a lot of recent memories… very good memories.
"Must we get up now?" The blonde raised an eyebrow; it was very unlike Fuu to act petulant, even if it was only half-seriously said. Then again, last night Naruto had discovered an entirely new side to Fuu he had never imagined before; the very light and already fading nail marks on his back were certainly testament to that.
"Yeah come on, I can smell breakfast downstairs." It was like an instant change in the girl; she practically shot out of the bed, still as naked as the day she was born. The blonde simply chuckled to himself as he watched her quickly dash about the room, gathering up clothes that had been haphazardly strewn across the room randomly. Most amusing were the fishnet shorts the two had somehow managed to lodge atop the curtain bracket; even Naruto didn't remember how that happened. After a moment or two though his stomach grumbled noisily and he too got up, joining Fuu in her search for their elusive clothing.
The two left Nami no Kuni in considerably higher spirits than when they entered, greeting people in the streets congenially and sparing a few moments to those that recognised them. Naruto was surprised and inwardly pleased and a little excited by the impact the pair had managed to make on the little nation. Many people remembered how they had helped them when the country was impoverished without asking anything in return. By the time they actually managed to reach the great bridge connecting Nami with the mainland it was already past noon; although that didn't stop them marvelling at the amazing construct.
"Kibou Bridge. Appropriate." Naruto had to nod at whoever decided to name the bridge that; it really was a beacon of hope, telling the downtrodden that there was always a way out and to never give up. However there was only so long the two could spend staring at a bridge and soon they were on their way again; however Naruto was happily surprised when Fuu hesitantly linked arms with him as they walked, enjoying her body pressed up against his side as they moved through the forest.
"So why don't we simply fly to Ame no Kuni?" They had been walking along in pleasant silence for a while, sometimes idly chatting about some of the things they had seen in Nami no Kuni. Naruto simply smirked at the question though, wondering if Fuu would ask; it was almost as if he could no longer quite predict what the girl would say. It was almost as if she had changed overnight, losing some of that shy, introverted edge she had.
"Really, after all this time you're tired of walking?" Naruto couldn't help but jest back at her; after all she had gone silent and without complaint all these years now. Fuu just gave him an even stare in return, making him chuckle half amused and half sheepishly; the girl could manage intimidating rather easily.
"I would think getting to Amegakure would be rather important considering what we found out." Naruto shrugged slowly, he had obviously considered the idea himself before dismissing it.
"The Akatsuki isn't going anywhere. In fact if we wait long enough they would quite happily come to us. But in any case flying would be a bad idea; we would have to cut right over Hi no Kuni, putting us at risk of attracting Konoha's attention. As indifferent as I profess to be to my former home…" Fuu raised a single eyebrow at that "…I really don't want to involve them any more than I want to confront possible family." Fuu's eyes narrowed briefly, searching Naruto's face for any hint that he was hiding something but looked away, satisfied.
"We could fly around the bordering nations." Naruto shrugged again, more nonchalantly this time as he picked the pace up slightly, responding to Fuu's subtle encouragements that she thought they should be travelling faster.
"Same problem really, especially as one of those nations we would have to fly over contains Takigakure." Fuu looked down at that, just the smallest of frowns briefly passing over her features. It didn't go unnoticed by the blonde and he had to suppress a slight sigh; it didn't stop him from gently placing his arm around his lover's shoulders in comfort. Just as Konoha still held less than pleasant memories for him, the scars the caramel-skinned girl had received, emotionally at least, had never truly healed; they had only been moved out of sight. Trying to move the conversation onto something other than her painful past Fuu looked up, her face moulding into a picture of thought.
"How about summoning us there?" Naruto paused in the middle of the path, looking around at Fuu slightly incredulously.
"I would need to actually be there already to summon you." Fuu nodded, walking on as Naruto moved to join her again, still staring at her strangely. It really was odd to see her so talkative, especially about such an apparently inane topic.
"What about a clone?" Naruto almost paused again but Fuu just carried on walking so he stopped himself before he could.
"You know, in all this time I have never once tried to summon myself with a clone." In fact Naruto couldn't remember an instance where one of his clones had ever actually summoned anything. This time it was Fuu who paused to look at Naruto oddly; she sometimes wondered if the teen had more power than he really knew what to do with… she had just gotten a very succinct answer.
"Really? What do you do all day?" Naruto actually chuckled at that, looking around just in time to see Fuu's slight smirk slip off her face as she masked it behind her usual placid expression, although it seemed a little strained.
"Well let's see, most recently I got up, meditated, went through my Chakra control exercises, you and I had se-" He received an impromptu light-hearted punch to the arm from a suddenly blushing mint-haired jinchuuriki as the verdette managed to impressively look everywhere except at her blonde travelling companion. He chuckled again at her expression, wondering just where this side of Fuu had been all these years he had known her; it was like meeting a completely new person. Maybe that next step in their physical intimacy had been just what she needed to finally crack that shell around her she had built all those lonely years in Taki.
It wasn't just him either; coming through Nami he had noticed that when people would recognise them Fuu would be far more animate in their conversations than she normally might. She would actually talk to them, even smiling when one or two of the younger children would call her Onee-chan. It was definitely a change Naruto could support; he enjoyed seeing the girl he loved finally breaking down those final few barriers and re-integrating herself into somewhat normalcy.
"You know I was joking." Naruto was snapped out of his pleasant thoughts as Fuu's mumbled words reached his ears, the girl still managing to find the ground impossibly interesting.
"Yes I know, but you are much cuter when you blush." He nearly broke out laughing again as he spotted the shade of red that had violently invaded the bridge of her nose start to spread to the edges of her cheeks. He supposed there was still one aspect about Fuu he could rely on; the teen jinchuuriki certainly didn't know how to take a compliment.
"A-Anyway, I still think the clone is a good idea." Naruto raised an eyebrow before remembering the conversation they were just having; at this point Fuu had just about managed to compose herself, the blush nothing more than a light dusting of pink on her cheeks, barely noticeable with her complexion.
"Oh? How so? I would still have to get the clone there, even if it could summon us." Honestly the idea of summoning himself sounded ill-advised; if something were to go wrong then there would be no way for him to fix it as it would be him it affected. However he decided to humour the girl for a while; after all there was little else to talk about on the long forest path that stretched off seemingly endlessly into the shade of the trees.
"You could henge the clone into some kind of bird, let it fly ahead and then allow it to summon us once it reached a sufficient distance." Naruto nodded for a moment in thought however Fuu immediately noticed it was put on for show. She frowned cutely, crossing her arms under her chest and unconsciously highlighting her assets. "You don't have to mock the idea." Naruto quickly shook his head, an amused smile fighting against his fabricated mask of seriousness.
"No no it's a good idea. In fact I can only find one flaw in it." Fuu blinked, unsure of whether Naruto was actually being serious or not as she leaned in a little closer unconsciously. Naruto's voice naturally had a way of drawing one in, joking or not, and she found herself immediately curious.
"What?" Naruto just looked up at a random tree, hand on his chin as he struck an obviously over-exaggerated thinking pose, pausing for a few moments just for the suspense.
"I have no idea how to perform a henge." Fuu almost face-faulted into the ground, only her natural unflappability and general poise stopping her. It didn't stop the smile from spreading over the blonde's face as he watched her incredulous reaction.
"How can you not know a basic technique like that?" In hindsight Fuu couldn't remember an instance of Naruto ever actually using the fundamental shinobi techniques, but she had least assumed that at his power he would know something so utterly basic to even an academy student. Naruto simply gave a non-committal shrug as they continued on down the winding path; the sun was making its steady descent down the sky so the many shadows of the trees had begun to stretch out eastward.
"I'm not a shinobi remember. I don't know the basic clone or the substitution techniques either." Fuu blinked at that, trying to think of an instance of her friend using either jutsu. "I only know the very fundamentals of the henge from when I was trying to create an invisibility technique, not the actual technique itself." Fuu nodded at that, remembering her amusement and intrigue as Naruto created what he dubbed the 'moving henge'.
"So does that mean-?" Fuu stopped mid-sentence as she noticed Naruto had stopped, a frown flashing across his brow as he looked of somewhere to the west of them. The mint-haired teen followed his gaze up to what looked like an old fortress up on a hill; only its silhouette was really visible, backed by the sun. "What is it?" She turned back to her friend but already saw him carrying on down the path, that same frown still marring his features.
"Two shinobi are fighting in an old fortress up there, powerful ones." It was strange, their signatures that he could sense through the water vapour in the air were familiar and at the same time, similar to one another. However he couldn't quite remember where or when he had felt this Chakra before; it wasn't like with his practically eidetic memory, Chakra signatures were more something he 'felt' and were more difficult to discern from one another. He felt as though it was right on the tip of his tongue just as he felt another presence enter his senses, this one instantly familiar due to the sheer magnitude of it.
"Ahh, Samehada was right then, it is you." Practically all of Naruto's muscles tensed as one as Kisame's harsh tone sounded through the forested area, quickly followed by the very same man walking out of the tree line. He wore the usual Akatsuki robe along with an all-too cocky grin as he lugged the massive wrapped sword atop his shoulder. "You know, Samehada has been bugging me for a long while now to come and find you little monk. It just can't get enough of your delicious Chakra. I don't know what it is, Samehada just says you taste like an all-you-can-eat buffet." Naruto almost quirked an eyebrow at the large wrapped sword that was practically vibrating in anticipation atop the former Kiri-nin's shoulder.
"What does the Akatsuki want now? I thought you couldn't come after me until the other Bijuu were sealed?" Kisame raised his brow at that, his smirk widening to show a row of sharp and suitably shark-like teeth.
"Well aren't we a well-informed little monk?" Naruto simply remained impassive; he had learned a lot more than about the Akatsuki's leader from Kakuzu. Kisame's grin never slipped even as a tense silence fell over the group, each knowing that the first to move would be the one to instigate the fight. "In any case, I'm not here for the Akatsuki…" he looked up in mock thought, a hand coming up to his chin in a casual gesture that seemed out of place in the tense situation "… although I suppose this will further the goal." Naruto began slowly building up his Chakra, feeling for the Nature energy surrounding them and drawing it in as slowly and subtly as possible.
Fuu had told him what she knew of the two Akatsuki members they had yet to actually face in a fight and her information on the former Kirigakure shinobi was surprisingly in depth. Apparently Kisame hadn't exactly been subtle in his skills while he was still working as a hunter-nin. His massive Chakra reserves were well known, thus his nickname of the 'Tailless tailed beast'. There was also his sword, Samehada, a sentient weapon with the ability to absorb Chakra as it shaved into the enemy. Of course, as a member of the Akatsuki he would have only gotten stronger in his time as a nuke-nin, at least on par with the others they had faced and probably stronger.
"No, this is for Samehada, not Akatsuki. I like to treat my blade every once in a while; now hold still so Samehada can have a little taste-" Anything else the massive blue-skinned man might have said was lost as Fuu suddenly shot forward, a crisp orange cloak of Chakra appearing around her body faster than a civilian could blink. Two vicious swords of water appeared in her hands, stained violet by the cloak of Chakra, as her rapidly beating pair of wings took her on a low skimming path across the ground. However Kisame simply remained in place, actually swinging his still bandaged sword off his shoulder just to rest it on the ground casually.
"What, you thought I would come alone?" Fuu didn't make it halfway across the distance between them before the ground in front of her was blown outward in a conflagration of flame and broken earth. She diverted her course in time, pulling up so harshly she felt the sudden shift in direction pull at her bones uncomfortably.
"Haha, I finally get to prove to you my art, yeah!" Naruto sucked in air through his teeth as he looked up, spotting the form of the blonde Akatsuki he thought Fuu had dealt with back in Mizu no Kuni. He rode on a large white dragon, probably made of clay given what Fuu had told him about the crazy artist. He hadn't sensed him because he was too high up, well out of his passive range; he worried that meant the Akatsuki knew about his water sense, or at least were preparing against the possibility. "Your fight's with me Nanabi!" Before Fuu could decide what to do an entire flock of small clay figures, no larger than hummingbirds and shaped to match, swarmed from the surrounding trees and shot right at her like deadly little bullets.
Naruto watched with slightly narrowed eyes as the mint-haired jinchuuriki was chased into the treeline, disappearing into the shade as she weaved around trees in an attempt to shake her small but manoeuvrable pursuers. Deidara laughed with an insane glee as his own mount dived down to chase after them and witness the result of his art. Naruto and the blue-skinned swordsman were left alone again, a harsh quiet settling back down even as dulled, muffled explosions echoed through the forest.
"Ooh, so cold leaving your little girlfriend alone with the mean old artist. From what I was told about you I had expected you to go running off at the first sign your friend was in trouble." Kisame's smirk took on a more vicious edge as he hefted his sword back up into a more offensive stance; he was naturally the type to play about with his opponents but this young teen had taken down Sasori and Kakuzu, he was not one to be underestimated.
"Fuu can handle herself, I trust her." Despite Naruto's confident, even tone he couldn't quell the small spark of worry he felt in his chest for the teen. True she had dealt with Deidara before, but at the time they had thought he was soundly defeated. The other blonde now had only time to prepare to face Fuu again and he didn't want to know what that twisted artist had come up with for his friend. "How did you know we would be here?" Kisame grinned, ignoring the agitated vibrations from his sword as it practically begged him to start fighting already.
"That's the best thing isn't it? I had no idea you would be here. Me and Deidara were just supposed to keep people away from the two up there. Us meeting up is just a coincidence." He causally motioned to the massive fortress built into the hill where Naruto could still feel those same two Shinobi fighting with a large, careless swing of his sword. "Samehada can feel your Chakra from miles away though, no matter how hard you suppress it; the smell is just too exquisite for it." Naruto spared a glance to the sword which was still quivering just from being in proximity to him; he supposed it must be all the Bijuu inside of him. However it seemed Kisame had grown tired of simply talking as the massive blade was finally raised into an offensive stance.
"I suppose there is no peaceful way to settle this." Naruto suppose he had to try at least, even if the cruel glint in Kisame's beady eyes told him everything he needed to know.
"Of course there is." Naruto raised an eyebrow but didn't allow the tension to leave his body; he had nearly gathered enough Chakra to enter Sage mode. "You come with us quietly and allow us to rip the Bijuu out of you and your little girlfriend." The shark-like man grinned even wider as he took a step forward, hefting his weapon to point at the young monk. "I'll even spare you one of your arms or legs, how's that sound?" Naruto simply released a single breath in a long sigh as he closed his eyes, mildly disappointed.
"Sorry, no deal." When his eyes slowly opened again they burned the colour of molten gold, the air around him shimmering with repressed Chakra.
One of Fuu's shimmering wings of Chakra carelessly shaved through the trunk of an old tree as she ducked and weaved in tight arcs as she once again found herself trying to outrun the annoyingly persistent creations of the former Iwagakure shinobi. She could feel him, flying up above her and occasionally throwing taunts down at her, mixed in with new swarms of his lethal sculptures. The tree behind her crashed to the ground, taking out a few of the little white hummingbirds that in turn exploded and carved great swathes from their numbers. In that brief moment or respite a single arm of bright glowing Chakra shot from her cloak, grabbing onto a nearby sturdy bough and allowing her to swing up in a much tighter manoeuvre than the clay birds could match.
Deidara's eyes widened when he suddenly found Fuu careening up towards him, moving so fast that the air at the edge of her flickering wings created small white trails. He tried to force his mount to turn out of her flight path but it was too late and not a moment later a spinning blur of orange drilled straight through the much larger dragon. Before the bomber could even detonate the clay the corrosive properties of the bijuu shroud infected the pure white substance, wresting control away from him and allowing the dragon to fall harmlessly to the ground, already dissolving without the magnificent explosion he had been waiting for.
"Don't deny me my art, yeah!" Fuu came to a hovering stop some distance above him, having had to slow down her spin without completely throwing herself off and losing control of her wings. It was always harder to use her drilling spin going up but she managed, coming out of it in an elegant arc, looking down at Deidara with that same emotionless, disinterested expression that seemed to irritate him so much last time. Sure enough a scowl broke out over his features as he thrust his hands back into the pouches on his waist; Fuu noted that he had brought a lot more than he had last time.
"Don't underestimate me, un!" He slapped his hands together and when he brought them apart three small clay dragons were wrapped around his wrists. They didn't stay that size for long though and soon Fuu was staring down at three large white dragons, each the size of the blonde's previous mount. "You're nothing more than a test! A stepping stone for my art to reach the next level and finally be enough for him!" He spat the last word in contempt as he shot a scathing look towards the fortress that lay silently below them in the waning light of the evening. He didn't seem entirely focused on the fight so Fuu decided to remind him that he was in the middle of a fight as she darted down.
Deidara looked around to see Fuu take a deep breath, her Chakra shrouded-chest expanding much more than should have been physically possible before she breathed out an enormous cloud of glittering dust that immediately caught the dimming light streaming over the horizon, reflecting it so many times it was like a small sun hovering in the sky. However the mint-haired girl wasn't prepared for Deidara to suddenly burst through the cloud of dust, his long blonde bang moved to cover his usually exposed eye to reveal some kind of device over the other. A grin alighted on his face as he saw his opponent caught unawares, signalling for two of the dragons to break off and encircle the girl.
"You think I wouldn't be prepared for your tricks? Your art is stale and lacks vision! My art is only evolving, growing and becoming better, because my art… Is an explosion!" Fuu braced her body for the explosion she had been expecting however there was no flash of light or burn of fire. Instead, she was surprised to feel something soft and sticky wrap around her body and when he opened her eyes she saw that the two dragons had indeed exploded, but into a softer, almost liquid clay that had proceeded to cover her in a bubbling white paste. He eyes widened at the implications of that even as Deidara's grin widened, his hands moving into an all too familiar hand seal.
"Katsu!" The sky lit up in a plethora of yellows and oranges as a great plume of flame rose into the sky, quickly washed away as a great shockwave of air ripped across the sky, scattering clouds and blowing smoke across the entire area. Deidara strained his eyes to peer through the smoke, looking for the falling, charred body he wanted to see. He had seen how the girl moved the last time they fought and he knew he had to somehow restrict her movements if he wanted to catch her in his art. Clouds began to gather above him, darkening the sky as the low rumbles of thunder began to make themselves known. Slowly rain began to fall, dispersing the dust enough for Deidara's enhanced eye to pick out a small, curled up form within the smoke.
Slowly Fuu unravelled her body, the bubbling, incoherent six-tailed cloak she had been forced to form slowly receding into her body until only wings remained to keep her aloft. Her body was littered in light burns and her clothing was charred but she was otherwise unhurt. Deidara's eyes narrowed in rage as his hand curled into a fist; however before his scathing, enraged remark could leave his lips, the sky chose that moment to unleash its wrath.
The first strike cracked the earth beneath Naruto's feet as he blocked it with a thick black rod of Chakra. Kisame's strength was immense, but with Nature energy surging through his system Naruto was actually stronger and bit by bit he was able to start pushing the larger man back. However Kisame wasn't a master swordsman for nothing and was easily able to use Naruto's momentum against him, allowing the younger teen to lunge forward as he suddenly changed his grip, spinning around to gouge a pound out of the blonde's back.
Samehada met its mark but only received a few strips of cloth and a cascade of sparks for its efforts as it ground against the monk's tough Asura path before Naruto jumped away. The Rinnegan bearer frowned as he shucked his light, airy haori, leaving him in just his loose brown pants and traditional sandals. The Chakra rod in his hand crumbled away into dust as the Chakra holding it together finally fell apart, too much of it absorbed by the hungry blade. It would appear he would need something more permanent to face such a blade wielded by such a skilled swordsman. His hands were quickly wreathed in blue and red flames before being brought together.
"Banbutsu Souzou: Tonbogiri" He brought his hands apart and in between them a long, intricately carved wooden pole began to appear, engraved lovingly with light golden patterns of winding vines that looked so detailed it was as if the plants themselves wreathed the shaft. At the base of the weapon a long plume of fine red threads cascaded down, brushing the floor gently. The top though was tipped by a razor-sharp and curved blade that glinted dangerously in the dimming light trickling through the trees. In under a few seconds Naruto was carefully holding a long, gleaming naginata in his hands that even Kisame had to stop and appreciate for a few moments.
"Heh, nice blade; bit of a presumptuous name though don't you think?" Naruto simply allowed a small smile to tweak up on the corners of his mouth as he settled back into what looked like a well-practised stance, his weight towards his back foot.
"Why don't you find out?" Kisame grinned broadly as he once again altered the grip on his blade, opting for a strong one-handed grip and he rushed forward, the ground under his feet bursting back as he sped forward. His first lunge was dodged s Naruto slipped to the side, using the advanced senses Nature energy gave him to pre-emptively predict the strike. He ducked under the follow up swipe that passed over his head, so close he could spot the individual scales writhing beneath the clean white bandages wrapping the blade. He tried to sweep Kisame's legs out from under him but the man simply drove his sword into the ground, blocking the finely-crafted Naginata from connecting.
"Heh, you're good kid but stick to stuff you know, blades are my thing." Naruto just smirked as he revealed the hand he had taken off his blade to point at Kisame's chest.
"Good advice; Shinra Tensei." With his blade planted firmly into the ground Kisame didn't even have time to widen his eyes before his body was wrenched backwards by a bone-crunching invisible force. Naruto gazed into the small line of destruction the large Akatsuki member had gouged through the forest. After a few tense moments he staged back into the small clearing they had been using as a battleground. His robe was hanging off his body so he quickly shucked it, leaving him in the same state of dress as Naruto.
"I didn't think you monks were the eye-for-an-eye type of people." Naruto shrugged nonchalantly as he span his blade and returned to a ready stance next to where Samehada was still planted ion the ground. He would have to keep Kisame as far from that blade as possible to give him enough advantage to finish this quickly and get to Fuu.
"I liked that haori." Kisame grinned as he spat out a wad of blood, experimentally twisting his torso to make sure he had full manoeuvrability. However before either could make another move rain began to fall from dark, angry clouds that hadn't been there a few minutes ago. Moments later there was an enormous flash of light as the skies were viciously rent open.
Kibou – hope
Banbutsu Souzou: Tonbogiri – Creation of all things: Dragonfly cutting blade