Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, Rurouni Kenshin or Chrono Cross. I am writing this purely to see reader reaction and for fun. I make no financial profit doing this.

Chapter 22 – Reconnecting

"Katon: Housenka no Jutsu! (Phoenix Flower)" Kakashi spat out a volley of fireballs larger than his head, arcing them in multiple trajectories at and around Naruko.

"Suiton: Suirou no Jutsu! (Water Prison)" Water shot out of Naruko's mouth, quickly forming a sphere around her. While holding the jutsu up under the fiery assault she ran through another set of seals.

"Suiton: Mizurappa! (Rampaging Waves)" The ball of quickly warming water flowed in front of her lips before rocketing away from the blonde, tearing through the dirt and obliterating the oncoming barrage of fireballs.

The next thing Naruko knew, Kakashi had charged her from her left, unleashing a storm of Taijutsu. Since Naruko had determined that Lee and Tenten would be her toughest competition, he was simulating a fight using only the two Genin's capabilities from what Naruko had been able to tell him of them. Meaning lots of Taijutsu, Bukijutsu, and Katon techniques.

Kakashi caught her on the jaw with a right hook, quickly following up with a left to the stomach and a roundhouse kick that sent her tumbling to the ground. As Kakashi was preparing to stomp on her, she rolled back onto her shoulders and kicked up with both legs, nearly catching him under the chin as he leaned back.

Back on her feet now, Naruko rushed Kakashi, funneling chakra into her limbs to strengthen her attacks. She didn't do it often, her well above average strength and speed usually more than enough for whatever situation she found herself in, but Kakashi was so far beyond her that she didn't have a choice if she wanted even a chance to hit him. And this was him toning it down so she could keep up.

It was unsurprising really. By the time he was Naruko's age he had already been a Jounin for three years, and during the Third Shinobi World War no less. Now, Kakashi was well into the S-Class bracket of shinobi. It was a good reminder for the girl that she had a great ways to go to accomplish her dream of being the strongest. Up until the Forest of Death she had been getting complacent, her opponents usually no match for her. The Academy had been a massive step backwards in difficulty from her usual schedule, and it was about time for her to remember the drive she'd had before.

Naruko gripped the handle of her wakizashi with her right hand, the left holding the scabbard in place. As she neared Kakashi she drew it with an upwards slashing attack. The draw was fast enough that the blade was hardly visible, yet Kakashi was still able to catch it on a kunai in his left hand.

With his free hand, Kakashi reached over his shoulder and grabbed his old ninjato, drawing it with a downward slash on top of Naruko, making her dart backwards. He hadn't used it since he'd left the ANBU, but he'd dusted it off in order to help train Naruko.

Naruko's hands shot together into the dog seal, the flat of her sword pressed along the underside of her left forearm. "Futon: Shinkugyoku! (Vacuum Bullets)" As her momentum slid her backwards through the dirt a dozen of the lethal spheres raced towards the Copy Ninja.

Kakashi fluidly bobbed and weaved around the attacks, advancing directly through the Jutsu. Not missing a beat, Naruko shifted into another Jutsu. "Futon: Shinkuha! (Vacuum Wave)" Her right hand darted out of the dog seal, swiping her sword and launching the wave at Kakashi while he was surrounded by her first Jutsu.

Kakashi threw the kunai in his hand straight at Naruko's forehead, just over the trajectory of the Vacuum Wave and quickly performed the Kawarimi (Substitution) with a nearby boulder that was quickly perforated by the remaining bullets before being bisected by the wave.

Suddenly Naruko was surrounded by three Kakashi's, all running through the same set of hand seals. Naruko quickly parried the kunai just as Kakashi finished his seal sequence.

"Katon: Goukakyou no Jutsu! (Great Fireball)" Like mirror images and as one, the Kakashi's released a large blast of fire that threatened to engulf Naruko.

Knowing that Kakashi was currently barred from using Shadow Clones in this fight, the copies would have to be the base variation and therefore just illusions. Naruko looked for the difference in temperature around her and quickly determined which fireball was real.

Raising her left arm up, gauntlet plating out, she pushed her chakra into her Tekko projecting a barrier of chakra just above the armor. The fireball crashed harmlessly against it, leaving Naruko in the center of a veritable firestorm.

Naruko pushed straight through the fire, hoping to surprise Kakashi with a head on attack. She shifted her wakizashi to her left hand and pulled the Mastermune from its seal, holding it over her shoulder, behind her back in preparation for attack.

Bursting through the fireball, she was mildly gratified to see a flicker of surprise on Kakashi's masked face as she used the projected shield to bash his hand out of the half tiger seal he was maintaining, disrupting his technique, and brought the Mastermune down in a mighty chop, first one blade, and then the other seeking to cut him in two.

Kakashi quickly brought the ninjato in his off hand up to block, only for it to be caught in one of the hooks on the Mastermune's blade and carried down and out of position, opening the way for the second blade to bite into his shoulder and chest. He barely dodged the attack by twisting his body to the left.

Hoping to capitalize on the now unbalanced Jounin, Naruko stabbed forward with her wakizashi at Kakashi's stomach. Kakashi released his trapped blade so he could continue his spin, avoiding the attack. Before it could fall, Kakashi re-grabbed it in his left hand and maneuvered it out of the hook, simultaneously slashing it at Naruko's thighs. Naruko's left leg lifted, blocking the blade on her knee pad and brought the Mastermune swinging back up, aiming to catch him under the armpit. Kakashi's right hand darted under his still extended left arm, and caught Naruko's hand on the Mastermune. Gripping tightly, Kakashi spun in place and hurled Naruko away from him, quickly following up with a large barrage of kunai and shuriken.

Naruko spun her weapons around her wildly, managing to parry and block every projectile as she landed. Knocking the last kunai away, she settled back into her stance, wakizashi held reverse in front of her, Mastermune cradled in her right arm behind her back.

"That's enough Naruko-Chan." Kakashi called to her as he slid his sword into its scabbard and examined the frayed fabric of his vest. Naruko had gotten very close this time. "I think you're more than ready for whatever the finals throw at you."

She had come quite a ways in the eighteen days since the end of the second exam. She'd mastered the Water Transformation exercise, gotten a good grasp of using her new Suiton Jutsu in combat, and was making steady progress with her chosen seal-less Jutsu. She had gotten the Vacuum Bullets and Vacuum wave down to a single seal use, as demonstrated in this fight, and was able to flawlessly move between the two with no warning, largely due to the fact that they had the same trigger seal, the dog.

"Oh c'mon Kakashi-Sensei! Just a bit longer?" Her eyes were bright with joy as she panted from the exertion. Naruko always got like this against strong sparring partners. Because she had so much energy, she usually tired out her opponents just as, or well before, she was hitting the peak of her adrenalin rush. But against Kakashi-Sensei, they could spar for hours before she tired him out.

"We've been at this all day now Naruko-Chan. You might be an inexhaustible juggernaut of energy, but I'm certainly not. Besides, don't you have to meet your friends soon?"

Naruko glanced at the sun. Judging from its position it should be around five in the evening. Fighting the urge to scowl, she remembered that she'd promised to meet Haku, Tenten and Hinata at the Onsen. It struck her as profoundly stupid to put yourself in such a vulnerable position. Nude and therefore weaponless, more than likely in the company of multiple strangers and relying on some flimsy wooden fence to protect you. Not to mention it required her to leave her belongings in some cubby and hope no one stole it while she wasn't there.

But, her girl friends were insistent on it. Haku had never had the opportunity and really wanted to try it, Hinata was desperate to get away from the Hyuuga Compound and her father's strict and boring schedules, and Tenten wanted a girls night away from the boys.

"Oh fine. Be that way." Naruko put her weapons away and plucked the projectiles Kakashi had thrown at her from the dirt. Kakashi had already pulled out his smut again by the time she'd handed all of his equipment back.

"There are twelve more days until the tournament, and you've sufficiently mastered the things I planned out for you, so I'll let you go about your own training until the tournament. Though I suggest leaving at least the last two days until the tournament for rest only."

"Right, thanks Kakashi-Sensei. I'll see you later."

"Say hi to Hinata-Chan for me." Kakashi disappeared in a swirl of leaves, quickly followed by Naruko.

"Do we have to do this?" Naruko asked, clutching her precious jacket to her chest and looking warily down at the basket provided for her things.

"It'll be nice and relaxing Naru-Chan. Don't you like just soaking in the hot water?" Tenten, already down to her underwear sighed in anticipatory pleasure. "And think about Haku-Chan!" Tenten grabbed the startled ice user in a hug. "She's never even had the chance to visit a real Onsen. Just some of those wild hot springs without proper bathing facilities." Tenten dramatically draped an arm over her eyes as if to hide tears.

"And Hinata-Chan too!" Tenten switched over to the Hyuuga heiress, making her squeak in surprise. "She just wants to have a nice, relaxing soak with her best friends after all the stress of dealing with her stuffy clan and overly demanding father. Would you really deny them so easily Naru-Chan?"

Naruko stared silently. Tenten could be so dramatic when she wanted to be. Probably some side effect of so much exposure to Lee and Gai at the same time. "…No. I don't suppose I would." Naruko grudgingly undressed and tucked her things away in the basket and shoved it back into its cubby, keeping only her signet ring. She couldn't even put a locking seal over it because it wasn't an enclosed container.

The four managed to find a corner of the hot springs to themselves, a few other women already occupying the steaming waters.

"So today was the last day of your probation right Haku-Chan?" Tenten turned to the black haired girl who was very slowly sinking into the hot waters, not nearly as used to the temperatures as the three fire natives.

Haku smiled, wincing slightly. "That's right. As of noon today, I am a fully fledged citizen of Konohagakure no Sato." She finally managed to immerse herself, letting a sigh of relief.

"Do you know what you're going to do now that that's been settled?" Hinata asked from beside Naruko, who kept glancing back towards the locker room.

"I've applied for the reserves and Home Defense Corp, but outside of that I'm not completely sure yet. Maybe I'll apply for a nursing position in the hospital. I have some medical training, and if you ever need ice packs I'm your girl." She generated a block of ice over one hand that didn't melt until she let it.

Naruko was eventually shaken from staring at the changing room doors when a snowball smacked right into her temple, immediately followed by Hinata's giggling and Tenten's unabashed laughter.

"Hey! What was that for?" Naruko shook her head instinctively.

"You weren't paying attention." Haku said with a wide grin, the obvious culprit of her attack. Hidden under the water her hands were in the ram seal.

Naruko gave her a deadpan stare, slush sliding down around her smiling lips and off of her nose. "So you hit me with a snowball..." Haku kept grinning, and eventually a small pile of snow manifested out of the steam above Naruko and dumped on her with no warning. Naruko twitched slightly, but that was just about the only reaction she let out as she lounged against the stone ledge.

While the snow dripped off of her, rapidly melting back into water, Naruko took a light breath and shot it back out in a powerful stream at the springs, sending a wave of hot water at Haku, drenching her. The girls laughed, and Naruko relaxed slightly, though she still glanced occasionally at the locker area.

They remained in the hot springs for a little over half an hour talking, definitely longer than they should have, but none of them particularly cared. Turns out Tenten had been accepted into Konoha's Smithing Guild and was now being taught to forge her own equipment and could make purchases at half price. Practically a dream come true for the weaponista. Hinata had been deemed fully recovered from her fight with Neji and was now being moved on to more advanced stages of the Juken. She'd also heard that Neji had mastered the Kaiten (Revolving Heaven), the Hyuuga's 'ultimate' defense. The information was welcome, but in no way intimidated Naruko. Her plans to take him out from a distance were still intact. Haku had been getting along with Sai quite well, and it was looking like the two would be roommates for the foreseeable future.

When they did finally leave, Haku, Hinata and Tenten resembled boiled lobsters, while Naruko's complexion was conspicuously normal.

"Now that's just not fair. You could probably stay in there all day and feel just fine, but the three of us look like we've gotten severe sunburns." Haku said sipping at a bottle of water.

"The benefits of being an Uzumaki with a big ass fox in her stomach." Naruko replied, looking far more comfortable now that she had her belongings back.

"So, Naruko-Chan, the Village Council is meeting tomorrow. Did you manage to get a slot in their schedule?" Hinata tied her Hitai-ate around her neck, leaving her jacket unzipped to help cool off.

"Yup. Having one of the villages Elder's as your guardian has its benefits." Usually you had to schedule something at least a month in advance to speak with the village council, but Naruko only had to ask and Danzo had arranged it so she'd be able to speak at the next meeting.

"You have a time slot with the council? What for?" Tenten deftly pulled her hair into her signature buns.

"I'm going to petition the removal of all Uzumaki Clan insignias from the standard uniform and anywhere else they're displayed or sold."

"All of them? Won't that be really difficult though? I mean, that swirl is everywhere. And it'll be super expensive to get them removed from the uniform. They'd have to recall all of the issued uniforms, commission a redesign and then produce them, rework the tailoring processes that have been in place for generations, it really goes on."

"I'm not expecting it to happen overnight. It might very well take months, maybe years to fully do it, but it's very annoying seeing my clan's symbol used so freely." Especially by people that she clearly remembered harassing her one way or another.

The girls were just exiting the bathhouse as they heard a loud crash just outside the privacy fence, quickly followed by Konohamaru's familiar shouting.

"Hey! That was my sensei you crazy old pervert! Now what am I supposed to do for training!?"

"Oh leave me alone brat! I've got important research to do. And keep it down would ya? I don't want you scaring off my inspiration!"

Then Konohamaru made a growly war cry that was quickly followed by a yelp. The girls arrived on scene just in time to see Konohamaru hanging upside down by…the tongue of a giant toad? Yup, that was a giant toad. A giant toad with a very famous old man sitting atop it.

"Let me down you stupid old pervert!" Konohamaru flailed ineffectually, kicking and punching at the air in an effort to dislodge himself from the sticky appendage.

"Is that a giant toad?" Tenten asked, pointing at the large orange and blue amphibian.

"Huh?" Konohamaru twisted to look behind him, spotting the four girls. "Nee-Chan! Beat this old pervert up! He's peaking in the hot springs! Oh, and he beat up Ebisu-Sensei!" He added as an afterthought, looking at the sprawled form of his trainer.

Having been in those springs just minutes ago, the girls all had their own reactions to this bit of news. Hinata squeaked, instinctively hunching over in an attempt to hide, Tenten grew red with outrage, and Haku frowned dangerously, the air around her growing colder. Naruko on the other hand made no outward reaction.

"I would, but I wouldn't stand any chance whatsoever against him if he paid even the slightest shred of attention to what I was doing." Everyone turned to stare at her, her friends in disbelief, the man in interest.

"You're joking! It's just an old perverted man. I mean sure, he's got a big ass frog, but it shouldn't be that much of a problem!" Tenten exclaimed.

"I'm not a pervert!" The man shouted, standing up on top of the toad, tall and proud. "I'm a super pervert!" Tenten got redder, the air grew colder, and Hinata shrunk in on herself more. "And it's not a frog, it's a toad."

"He is also Konoha's la-mmph!" Whatever Naruko was saying was cut off by a sealing tag smacking itself over her lips in a blur Naruko almost didn't even see. The force of it was enough to send her bending over backwards, arms pin wheeling slightly to regain her balance.

The man began dancing atop the oversized amphibian, and Konohamaru was dropped, landing unceremoniously on his head, as the frog retracted its tongue.

"I am the hermit of Mount Myouboku, the great tamer of toads! The one who all men envy and wish to be, and no woman can resist! I am the gallant Jiraiya-Sama!" He came a stop, arms wide open with his palms out, and an equally wide grin on his face as he looked down on them.

Naruko paused in her struggling with the silencing tag over her mouth to clap. That was awesome! Maybe she could come up with her own. A good introduction could be very useful to the image they were trying to cultivate for her.

Unfortunately, Tenten and Haku didn't seem to share her appreciation for the man's talent and sent a hail of ice and steel in his direction. Before long, Jiraiya was buried in a small hill of ice, snow, and sharp metal objects. Then Tenten hit that with a fireball. When she released the technique, all that was left were some scorched kunai and shuriken.

"What the?! Where'd he go?!" Their heads swiveled, trying to locate the white haired pervert.

"Sorry about that kiddo!" Jiraiya appeared in front of Naruko, tearing off the seal on her mouth like one would a Band-Aid. On the outside, no reaction. On the inside, "Son of a bitch! That stings!"

"I couldn't have you go and spoil my introduction there."

"That's alright. That was really cool." Her close eyed smile firmly intact, despite the reddening around her lips.

"Naruko!" Tenten jumped to her side, glaring at her. "Aren't you pissed off!? This creep was just peeping on us!"

"One, I'm a shinobi. I left modesty behind long ago. Two, I am annoyed that he peeped on my friends who so clearly have a problem with it, but three, this is Jiraiya-Sama. And as I was saying before he stopped me, the last of Konoha's loyal Sannin, and probably the villages most powerful shinobi, including Hokage-Sama." Naruko explained, raising a finger for each point. "Which is why I can't beat him up."

"Haha! It's refreshing to see a brat with a good head on her shoulders. But I think you might be overestimating me." Jiraiya laughed, reaching out to pat Naruko on the head, which she leaned away to avoid.

"I stand by my analysis."

"Anyways, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find another place to conduct my research. All of this commotion has scared off all my inspiration." Jiraiya quickly vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving the girls there to fume.

"I can't believe we just got peeped on." Tenten's arms shook at her sides.

"I can't believe that my first time was peeped on by some old man." Haku said, slumping over a little.

"Careful with the phrasing Haku-Chan." Naruko didn't seem bothered in the least by everything that had just happened.

"What will my father think?"

Naruko sat in the Council Chambers, waiting for her turn to speak. She'd been waiting for nearly two hours by now, but that was okay, she was a patient girl. And even better Sai was here with her! Naruko was an active girl, usually out and about doing something productive, but there was nowhere she was more comfortable than with Sai. She was more than happy just to sit with him while he drew, reading one of her books, or just relaxing.

Finally it was her turn to speak.

"Genin Uzumaki Naruko, we are prepared to hear your petition." The Hokage motioned for her to take the seat at the center of the room, just like when Danzo had been gaining custody of her.

"Greetings Hokage-Sama, thank you for hearing me. As the only living Uzumaki in the village, and therefore head of the Uzumaki, once recognized as a clan until its decimation, I would like to demand the withdrawal of all Uzumaki Clan Crests that have not been dispensed by a member of the Uzumaki family. I do not appreciate seeing my family's symbol on the backs of every shinobi in the village, nor sold by common vendors." Naruko had the Uzumaki Signet Ring in clear sight for this meeting. Maybe it would help sway things in her favor.

"Naruko-Chan, that symbol serves to remind everyone of our fallen friends in Uzushiogakure. Bearing the Uzumaki Clans crest is a great honor for the village and her ninja."

Naruko grit her teeth for a moment. "None who bear that symbol deserve it. As far as I'm concerned, only someone who received it from either me or my mother should hold it. They are not my family. The vast majority of them aren't even acquaintances, yet they bear my family's crest. Quite frankly, I'm insulted by it every time I see it." It was odd hearing her so cheerful when her words were so hostile. "So I'd like it removed from the uniform and barred from vendors wares unless they have my explicit permission."

The Sandaime held in a sigh of resignation. "I don't suppose I can convince you otherwise, can I?"

"No Hokage-Sama." The only person in existence who could convince her to change her mind was Danzo, but he held no particular interest in the issue. Besides, having the Uzumaki swirl reduced to just its clan members would be another distinctive feature for her reputation.

"You realize that it is impossible for such a change to happen quickly, and it will be quite expensive, correct?"

"Yes Hokage-Sama. I don't expect the process to be quick or cheap, and I am prepared to shoulder some of the expenses. Although I feel it would be incredibly unfair if I had to pay for the removal of my clan's symbols when they had been distributed without the consent of the Uzumaki Clan in the first place."

Most members of the council were looking annoyed with her, but none of them were willing to speak out against her petition. They would hold the exact same position if their clan's symbol was held by someone outside of the family.

"Very well, then unless there are any objections…" The Hokage paused a moment to survey his council. None spoke. "Then Genin Uzumaki Naruko's petition is heard and approved. The details of the matter will be dealt with at a later date. Notifications will be delivered to all those whose involvement is necessary." The Sandaime slammed an approval stamp over the petitions file and placed it in a pile to his left.

Naruko bowed when she was dismissed and quickly left the chambers, Sai casually falling in at her side, as the next issue was brought forth. That had gone rather nicely. All that was left was to play the waiting game as the Sandaime got things organized.

"That went well." He observed happily.

"Yea, I expected more of an argument, but that was pretty painless." Naruko bumped his shoulder with hers. "It's been awhile since it was just the two of us huh?"

"Our duties do keep us busy. And you've had a rather exciting month. Encountering first Orochimaru, then Jiraiya-Sama. Think you'll be meeting Tsunade soon?"

Naruko giggled. "Unlikely. Orochimaru is an acknowledged enemy and Jiraiya-Sama is an active Konoha shinobi, so they actually have business of one type or another here. Tsunade is a neutral threat." Meaning that she's a potential liability, having made it clear that she would not return to the village. And that makes her a potential threat, despite her background. It would be very troubling if her abilities fell into foreign hands.

"Well, I've been hearing talk of enticing Tsunade back to the village since we acquired Gato's fortune. Word is that the Sandaime wants to use some of the funds to finally put her Combat Medic-nin program into play."

"Oh yea?" Naruko turned to him in interest. Konoha's medical ninja program was in severe need of an overhaul. Most of their Medic-nin were taught through apprenticeship by their already limited number of qualified medics or self-taught. Konoha had been struck by a string of severe disasters that constantly required the money and resources that could've gone to the program to be put to use elsewhere. The Second Shinobi World War drained most of Konoha's coffers, Uzushiogakure was wiped out, and efforts had to be focused on reconstruction and stabilizing their territory, and Tsunade left the village. Before the village accumulated enough money to fund the project and hopefully bring Tsunade back, the Third Shinobi World War broke out, once again draining Konoha's coffers. Then the Yondaime was chosen and Orochimaru deserted the village, followed by the Kyuubi's attack, the Yondaime's death and then the most recent disaster, the Uchiha Massacre. It really made one wonder if Konoha was actually the strongest of the Great Five as they liked to boast.

Sai nodded. "I imagine that's why Jiraiya-Sama's in the village. I think he'll be staying until the end of the exams for extra muscle, just in case, and then set out to bring Tsunade back to head the program." Sai looked her up and down. "Are you ready for the tournament?"

"Probably. But that doesn't mean I'm gonna stop training." Heck, Naruko was training right now. She had one clone studying her mother's Fuinjutsu in her old office, one practicing the Shinkugyoku (Vacuum Bullets), another practicing the Shinkuha (Vacuum Wave), and one last clone practicing the Kage Bunshin (Shadow Clone), in hopes of mastering those jutsu to the point she didn't need hand seals. She was closest with the Shadow Clone jutsu, having had that technique down to a single seal for a long time now. She'd even managed to successfully do it a few times, but nowhere near consistently enough for her liking.

"Of course not. It would just be foolish to stop training." And there was also the fact that Naruko truly enjoyed training and getting stronger. "Now, since Haku-Chan's probation has been lifted, how about we train together, just like old times?" Sai smiled at her.

Naruko grinned right back, snatching his hand in her own and pulling him towards her parents house, where they could train undisturbed. "Yea! I've got some new tricks to show you too! I hope you've gotten stronger since last time, or you won't stand a chance."

Sai let himself be pulled along, smiling in fondness at the blonde.

A pack of ink wolves circled around the battlefield as Sai did his best to fend off Naruko's offensive. Coming at her from either side, they forced her to disengage or be mauled by their claws and fangs. The wolves didn't break their stride as they continued on, now split into two sets of three to keep circling the fight and look for attacks of opportunity.

As Naruko was jumping backwards, Sai lunged forward, slashing at her with his cut off tanto, just brushing her cheek but failing to cut her tough skin. If Sai didn't keep the pressure up Naruko would obliterate his drawings, taking away his advantage. The wolves never tired, and thanks to some of the sealing techniques Naruko had shared with him, his creations were far less chakra consuming than they would've been otherwise, as well as just being altogether more powerful.

As the blade slid against her cheek Naruko drew her own sword in a slash that cut a gash into his chest. Sai's body quickly collapsed into a large puddle of ink that lashed out at her with whip like tendrils. Naruko's eyes widened as she jumped back, the tendrils managing to snag her left leg and hold her in place.

"Well that's new."

Naruko felt the air shift behind her and ducked down into a splits as the Sai's sword sliced through the air where her neck had been. Simultaneously the wolf packs rushed at her prone form again as Naruko made a cross seal, a pair of shadow clones popping into existence, one on each side of her.

One kicked Sai away, nearly breaking one of his ribs, while the other grabbed their creator and tore her free of the binding ink that had settled into what seemed to be a mound of tar, just as the wolves crashed into them, fangs and claws making them burst into white smoke.

Unfortunately for Sai, this gave Naruko plenty of time to utilize her hit and run tactics. As soon as her foot touched down on the ground she became a hardly visible blur, kicking up dirt and grass in her wake. She quickly demolished the ink wolves, leaving them as nothing but large splatters on the ground and trees, before turning her attention to Sai.

It was only his great familiarity with Naruko's fighting style that Sai wasn't immediately defeated, as he leaned back, feeling the air rush past his face, quickly followed by laying the flat of his tanto above his back, blocking Naruko's wakizashi with a loud clang, sending a jolt of pain through his arm. Before he could bring his arm back in front, he felt a fist bury itself in his abdomen, quickly followed by a leg sweep that had him on his back staring up at a sword threatening to put itself through his eye.

Instinctively, Sai Kawarimi'd (Substitution) himself with a nearby log that was shattered under the attack. Naruko was visible for a second before she burst out of sight again, the ground where she'd been standing exploding from the force of her kick off.

Taking the opportunity, Sai created a half ram seal. "Ninpo: Geijutsuka no Sekai (World of the Artist)" Immediately every puddle of ink in the area shot towards Sai, splashing around him and forming into dozens of thin spears arranged into walls.

Naruko's momentum carried her directly into the spear wall that formed in front of her, sending her plowing straight through it as she activated the shields on both arms, just managing to keep from being impaled. As it is, several of the ink spearheads managed to clip her thighs, making thick, bleeding gashes.

"One of the nice things about sparring with Naruko-Chan," Sai mused to himself. "Is that you really don't have to worry about accidentally killing her." Looking closely, the wounds were already sealing themselves. In another minute or so they'd be completely gone. But in a battle, a lot could happen in a minute.

Not giving Naruko a chance to recover, Sai went on the offensive, dashing forward while simultaneously drawing a trio of tigers on his left forearm. "Ninpo: Choju Giga (Super Beast Imitating Drawing)"

The three tigers quickly converged on Naruko, roaring, clawing and biting, as Sai threw a handful of shuriken at her.

With her legs damaged as they were, Naruko wouldn't be able to reach her previous speeds, but by no means did that make her any less dangerous. Her hands shot into the dog seal a split second before she slashed her wakizashi out horizontally. "Futon: Shinkuha! (Vacuum Blade)" The blade of wind easily sliced through the tigers, reducing them to puddles, while Sai slid under the attack on his knees, quickly recovering his footing and continuing his charge.

Following the swipe of her blade, Naruko brought her left shield in front of her, causing the shuriken to bounce harmlessly off its glowing surface, and then charged to meet Sai. At the last second before they met, Naruko created four Shadow Clones seal-lessly, two of which ended up vanishing unsuccessfully. Sai had just enough time for his eyes to widen in shock before the three blondes had tackled him to the ground, two restraining his arms, while the original sat on his stomach with her sword at his throat.

"I think I win again Sai-Kun." She said with a grin, ink splattered all over her face and clothing.

"I think it was more of a tie Naruko-Chan." Sai said looking at her chest.

"Eh?" Naruko looked down at herself, quickly spotting several dozen explosive tag seals drawn all over her, pulsing warningly. She'd even bet that there were a few on her neck and face that she couldn't see. "A tie it is." She giggled out. "And now I'm all dirty. Thanks."

"You're welcome. And you wear it so well."

Naruko rolled off Sai, lying next to him, head landing on his still outstretched arm, staring up at the sky.

"…My arm is falling asleep."

End Chapter!

Ninpo: Geijutsuka no Sekai (World of the Artist) – B Rank Ninjutsu created by Sai. This jutsu allows the user to utilize fluids, in this case ink, that has been saturated with their chakra to create solid objects, ie walls and weapons. This jutsu has the potential to let the user rule the battlefield, rebuilding the field to suit their fighting style.

I'm SO sorry for the extremely long wait, but my muse has been largely in the RWBY universe, an animated web series that I highly recommend you all watch, and I find that arguing with my muse is usually counterproductive and futile. So yea, nothing's canceled, and nothing's abandoned. I'll do my best to get the next chapter out quicker, but no promises.

Anyways, like always, please review and let me know how it was. All feedback, constructive criticism, and questions welcome and appreciated.