Super Awesome Betas: Igornerd, GwendolynStacy, ToMockingbird, Duesal Bladesinger (All of these guys are awesome author's in their own rights. I will be shocked if you haven't heard of at least one of them before. XD)

Chapter 21: For the Love of Fuuinjutsu

Thick fog layered his surroundings, clouding sight with an impenetrable curtain of grey. He shifted uncomfortably as dampness seeped into his clothing. Great. He was wet. Again. That never boded well for his health.

Perhaps he was letting that close call with the hyouton user get to him.

His thoughts were interrupted as a voice echoed through the mist. "Namikaze Minato." The name was followed by a dry chuckle. "I should have known."

Minato's lips twitched into a slight smile. "Namikaze Minato is dead. As I said, I am just a ghost."

"Ghost... Fly... I just hope it's the real you this time and not some pathetic clone."

Fly? What? He shook that thought from his head before focusing on the part about being a clone. Minato wondered how he would react if he knew all he'd ever face were clones?

"There's only one way to know for sure," Minato replied breezily, shifting his grip on the kunai in his hand.

"Fair enough."

The voice changed direction with each word. It was disorienting trying to pinpoint the source by sound. Which would have been really annoying if he'd actually needed sight or sound to find his opponent. It was pretty hard to not notice the giant chakra vacuum making its way through the fog.

He disappeared a fraction of a second before Samehada bisected the empty space he'd just occupied.

"Naruto, stop that pacing! It's driving me crazy!"

The blond winced and cowered away from the enraged kunoichi that was shaking a fist at him threateningly. "But, but..."

"Sit down, idiot," Sasuke spoke from near the table. He didn't look up from where he was sharpening a kunai.

"But this is our mission! How can they just take it over like that? Aren't we supposed to be guarding Tazuna?" the teen burst out, unable to contain his thoughts. He didn't think it was right that the grown ups had all decided to take over their mission. What had all that training been for if they weren't supposed to use it?

"What's the point? You're all just going to die anyway," a voice muttered from the doorway.

Naruto scowled at the young boy, Inari. He generally made it a point to not dislike people, especially not little kids, but this brat was getting on his nerves. "Shut up! You can stay here and wait for Gatou to come and kill you and your family, but not me! I'm not going to hide here while I can make a difference!"

The derisive snort he got for a reply made the blond's blood boil. "You can't make a difference. No one can. Gatou's too powerful."

Naruto took a moment to rein in his rage. It would do no good to be angry at this child. There were much more important targets to unleash his anger on. "Then you can stay here, and choose to die. Me, I choose to fight."

He was gone and out the door before any reply could be made. Sakura and Inari stared at the open doorway in shock.

Movement made Sakura look over to see her other teammate stand. "I choose to fight as well," he stated purposefully.

Not to be left behind, the pink hair girl followed. "Me too."

Inari was left alone, scowling at the entryway before ruthlessly slamming it shut. "Idiots. They're all going to die."

Somehow, the words felt more hollow than they had before.

Kakashi glanced up from the orange book to stare off in the distance. He was far from being a sensor, but even he could sense the large amounts of chakra being hurled about in the distance. And they'd have to be very large for him to be detecting them. Especially when they were still this far from the point of origin.

Which seemed to be the bridge he was currently escorting their client to.

"Is something the matter?" Tazuna asked, interrupting the copy-nin's thoughts.

"Mmm... not really, no," Kakashi replied sliding his gaze back to the pages of Icha Icha goodness.

"MINATO!" a voice rang out, leaving no doubt whatsoever that Uzumaki Kushina had joined the fight, "WHY IS THERE STILL MIST ON THIS BRIDGE?!"

Minato sighed as he used Hiraishin to swap places with his clone and snatched his wife out of danger. Kisame's sword came close enough he could feel the chakra drain, but they were safe as he teleported them to another side of the bridge.

"You are aware that the whole point of being a ninja is to sneak up on your opponent, right?" he commented almost off-handedly to her.

Kushina flashed him a cheeky grin. "I've got my own brand of sneaky."

Minato felt more than saw the explosion of lightning chakra that enveloped the whole general area their opponent had been standing in. Judging by the string of curses, the shark man hadn't escaped unscathed.

"Seriously though, get rid of the fog. Not all of us can fight blind like you can."

Minato shook his head in amusement as he set Kushina down. She leapt off in another direction while he formed a single hand seal.

Wind chakra blasted outward, dispersing the fog looming on the battlefield. Kisame Hoshigaki was there, standing in the middle of the bridge with his huge sword resting on his shoulder. He looked a little singed from the lightning, but more annoyed than injured.

"Reinforcements?" the missing-nin asked, glancing at Kushina. "Is that a ghost as well, little fly?"

"Little fly?" Kushina asked, genuinely puzzled, her eyes never leaving the enemy in front of her. "And we're not ghosts!"

"Technically—" Minato started, only to be rudely interrupted by a chakra-eating sword smashing the concrete he had been standing on.

Right, they were still fighting.

"I'm neither ghost nor fly!" Kushina bellowed, chakra chains sprouting to life. "I am UZUMAKI KUSHINA! And you'd better remember it, Fish-face!"

Kisame's sword proved extremely effective at smashing the redhead's constructs. However, she still put him on the defensive by the sheer number of chains she could summon at once as well as the pure dogged skill at which she wielded them. Really, though, all she needed to do was distract him enough for her husband to get close enough with a Rasengan.

The shark-man was not the least bit cooperative, however, and managed to weave around everything. In frustration, the redhead decided to take a risk. Diving under her enemy's guard, she thrust her hand in his face. No time for anything complicated, she instantly formed and activated a flash seal, closing her own eyes against the blinding light that lit up the bridge.

Kisame's violent flinch and yell of rage made her grin, but her elation was quickly dashed when a crushing grip enveloped her wrist before she could pull away. Her eyes shot open as she was pulled forward and into the knee that her enemy had brought up hard into her gut.

Through the intense pain and sudden stars she was seeing, she did spy one good thing. Minato was making use of the opening she'd provided. Unfortunately, she was in the line of fire. Rasengan had a tendency to go through targets, and she was currently on the opposite side of this one.

She brought her chains back to coil around herself defensively, which she could already tell was only going succeed partially before Minato struck, but it proved to be unnecessary. In an instant she felt the familiar tug of her husband's signature technique, and she was no longer in the enemy's grip. She yelped in surprise as she fell forward without the knee in her stomach to hold her up.

She did get to watch, while struggling to get back to her feet, as Minato landed his Rasengan.

The missing-nin took a direct hit to the back, sending him flying clear across to the other side of the bridge. He somehow managed to miss setting off most of the seals on his way, much to Kushina's irritation, but did land on an explosive seal. Which he promptly dodged.

Damn. If she hadn't spent so much time on that rebound seal she'd have had more time to do more of the fun stuff instead of filling space with a bunch of basic explosions. Still, that rebound seal had been pretty awesome and necessary for making sure the bridge stayed intact.

Writing it off as too late to do anything about now, she finished regaining her breath and leapt back into the fight. Minato already had two of his clones in there, though one met a gruesome death by serrated club-sword just as she arrived to fling chakra chains in his face to force him back or risk being sealed. If she could just get close enough, she might be able to get his arm with a seal like she had Kakashi...

Her plans ground to a halt as a shout cut through the combat noise. "Hey! What are you punks doing to my bridge?!"

Kushina cursed as she glared daggers at the new comer. What was he doing here?! Wasn't Kakashi supposed to be keeping an eye on him?

Kisame wasted no time hurling a brace of kunai toward the old bridge builder only to have them intercepted by a volley from one of Minato's clones. Not that it mattered much to the missing-nin as he used the brief distraction to break away from his melee and charge straight for Tazuna.

Kushina was moving to intercept, but hesitated when her husband didn't appear to be in that big of a hurry to stop the sharkman. Something was up.

It still nearly gave her a heart attack when the large scaled sword slammed into their current employer.

A blur of silver accompanied by the familiar chirping of lightning appeared behind Kisame and the Akatsuki member was not quick enough to fully block. The attack scored a nasty chunk out of his left shoulder, yet still didn't do as much damage as expected.

Then the crushed corpse of the bridge builder burst into a familiar cloud of smoke and Kushina began to breathe again. Stupid ninja tactics were going to be the death of her...

She quickly leapt forward to press the advantage, surging her chakra chains forward. The fishman had a choice, either get entangled by the chains or retreat backward into the large explosive seal behind him. He correctly chose to back step as the lesser of two evils.

The seal lit up, and all combatants were quick to place as much distance as they could between it and them before it could go off a split second later. Except for a single clone of Minato's that sacrificed itself to slam a Rasengan into their opponent.

The resulting explosion was one of Kushina's better seals, if she did say so herself. It would have been even larger, but there was only so much reinforcement she could place into the bridge in the short amount of time they'd had. Having to minimize collateral damage was such a pain.

Wind blasted through the area, telling Kushina that Minato hadn't wanted to wait for the dust and smoke to clear. Kushina cursed at the empty space where their opponent should have been. Where was he?! She scanned their surroundings but continued to sense nothing as her husband appeared beside her. Kakashi came up on her other side as well.

"He jumped into the water," Minato informed them. "I can't sense him down there. Not unless he touches the bridge directly."

"Did we reinforce the supports?" Kakashi asked.

Kushina snorted. "Of course."

"It wouldn't matter," Minato frowned. "He's more interested in fighting us than destroying the bridge at this point. He'll destroy it as an afterthought after he's defeated us."

"Not gonna happen," Kushina refuted. "Are we going after him, or waiting for him to come to us?"

Minato paused before stiffening beside her and glancing off to the side of the bridge. "Somehow, I don't think he's going to give us the luxury of choosing."

She followed his gaze and narrowed her eyes at the tendril of water arching up and over the bridge. It was followed by several others as they all came to a point almost directly above them. A sphere of water was quickly forming around them and Kushina muttered what they were all thinking.

"That can't be good."

Inari stared hard at the so-called 'prisoner' that had taken over his room. He still didn't see how such a girly looking kid needed such extreme security measures as to kick him out of his own bedroom. Or why the glowy ink designs all over the place were necessary. The teen didn't look dangerous.

He pressed a hand against the invisible barrier that prevented anyone from entering the room. It tingled oddly against his skin and a small part of him marvelled at the seemingly magical display. The creepy red haired lady had said that only this first part wouldn't hurt when he touched it. Any further into the room and it would hurt.

He believed her too. That woman was scary.

A noise from downstairs caught his attention and he headed in that direction. Was there someone at the door? Who would be at their door? Not the ninja, they didn't knock.

His mother's scream echoed from below and he scrambled down the last few steps. "Mom!"

"Inari, run!"

Inari did run, but probably not in the direction his mother had intended. He darted around the banister at the switch back of the stairwell and froze up at the sight in front of him. Two sinister looking men had burst into their living room. They both had swords out, and one was currently holding one to his mother's throat.

The other... was looking right at him.

"Hey, I think I figured out a way to get the lady to talk..."

The man with the sword began moving toward the stairs. Toward him, and Inari bolted back up the way he had come.

What had that crazy lady said about emergency seals?! he frantically tried to remember. It had been a couple days ago, and he was currently regretting not having paid as much attention as he should have. He'd been so busy trying to make them see reason. Why they should have just given up...

But that wasn't an option right now and, as he slammed the door closed to the room he and his mother were currently sharing, he had to find that weird looking symbol along the door frame. The one that locked the room...

There it was!

He stared at the unassuming little spiral pattern, nearly hyperventilating.

How was he supposed to activate it?!

Something about chakra... something about a work around for them since they were civilians and couldn't use chakra...!?

The door slid open abruptly, making him jump back in fear. The swordsman had come, leering down at Inari in a perverse form of glee. "C'mon kiddo, we're not gonna hurt ya."

The lie was obvious, even if Inara hadn't already been jaded by past experience. The man had swapped out his longer sword for a shorter one that he could manipulate more easily up close and he wasn't even trying to hide it.

Inari's eyes darted around for an escape route, but the only way out was the doorway behind his attacker. The man took another step into the room, and Inari moved to take one further back into the room as well when the blade lashed out at Inari's face.

Something warm trickled down his cheek, and he brought his fingers up to brush against the wetness that had collected there. When looked down at his hand, bright red liquid coated them. Blood. His blood.

"That was a warning, kid. Don't make this any more difficult or I might have to start taking fingers instead."

Fear paralyzed his body as the other man reached for him.

From downstairs, Inari's mother screamed his name. It both snapped Inari out of his paralysis, and caused the swordsman to glance over his shoulder in annoyance. It was just the distraction Inari needed to dive forward and desperately scrabble between the man's legs. He even lashed out with a foot at the guy's knee as he passed, making him pitch forward at the sudden loss of support to gain more time.

Not enough time, he realized as a hand clamped painfully tight on his ankle and Inari shrieked as he was dragged back into the room. He shot a hand out to grab the door frame, clinging to it in desperation. A familiar swirl pattern caught his eye and he didn't even question why there was more than one activation thingie on the seal before pressing a thumb onto it. Maybe if he concentrated really hard he could use the chakra the—

He hadn't even done anything when the dark ink under his hand lit up all at once and... something happened. He didn't really know what it was, but his ankle was suddenly free and he was scrabbling back into the hallway while the swordsman began screaming. Inari could only stare with wide eyes as his yells went on for a while before suddenly cutting off and the man slumped forward, unconscious.

Or dead, his mind helpfully supplied.

"Heh, you're lucky I'm here on my own business, kid," a voice interrupted his thoughts.

Inari's attention turned sharply to the new man standing down the hall. In front of the room with the prisoner, he vaguely noted. He had dark hair, a ridiculously large sword peeking out over his shoulder and bandages wrapped around his face.

The newcomer didn't give Inari time to react before unsheathing his weapon and slamming it hard into the barrier in the room. Energy crackled from the point of impact but Inari didn't stick around to see the after effects. There was one other room in the house, the guest room that had previously housed Tazuna before he'd been kicked out to the living room to give the ninja a room to themselves.

There were more security seals in there, specifically one that the creepy lady had made for her son just in case the house had been invaded. Inari wasn't her son, but the house was currently being invaded. He just hoped he could figure out how to repeat what he'd just done with the other seal.

He found it on the floor this time, though there was one on the doorway as well. He didn't know what it did, but supposedly it would help fight back against intruders. He placed a thumb on the activation spiral, but nothing happened. He desperately tried again and again, using different angles and varying the strength he used to press it. Still nothing.

How had he gotten the other one to work?!

He turned both hands palm up to stare at them, and slowly it began to click. He'd used his left hand to activate the first seal, he'd been using his right hand with this one. His left hand, the one that was covered in blood.

There were rumors that shinobi used blood in some of their techniques, but Inari had never thought there was actually any truth to those stories. Still, he barely hesitated to rub his thumb into the blood on his face before pressing it firmly to the seal.

This time, it activated.

A/N: Huh... so... that happened. You all can blame/praise Moki (ToMockingbird) for helping me find the motivation to finish this chapter! Also GwendolynStacy, Duesal Bladesinger and Igornerd who have always been super supportive and helpful whenever I needed.

What really helped though was the website Moki introduced us all to. It lets us do writing sprints and see each other's word counts. I've been super productive in my writing since we've started doing it. XD

Who knows, maybe I'll get the next chapter out in less than a year (or three/four) this time!

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