Hey guys, missed you all so much! Here's a shorty one for ya, hope you like it. On a side note, good news: I created a page on FB for me to make posts and keep communication for you folks. It's called EggsandBaconFics by CrimsonNi—there isn't much on it yet except a couple posts from me but you guys can also post some pictures and comments if you want. Let me know what you guys think about the chap or the page. See ya next chapter!
Anyway, please enjoy the story and if you enjoy this, perhaps you'll enjoy my other story Always a Sin. Thanks so much for reading, and please review!
Eggs and Bacon,
Finally coming to from his near-death genjutsu fail actually proved easier than he assumed. He didn't feel any physical hindrance and his head was nice and light. Taking a deep breath, he felt his lungs expand calmly followed by some wiggling of his fingers and toes. The opening of his eyes came last. It surprisingly took little effort, yet still, he took his time opening his eyes, wary of any brightness that may suddenly blind him. Luckily though, there was none. Instead, Naruto found himself under a tree with tremendous amount of shade under it and just as he went to sit himself up, a bout of breeze blew by to shake the leaves. The tree head danced back and forth above him, leaving behind the sound of rain. And when the sound settled, Naruto tuned in to his surroundings and could hear a waterfall nearby but there were no signs of either Sakura or Sasuke. …what's going on?
"You passed out after that interesting experience. The girl deemed you livable and both her and the Uchiha moved you here so they could continue to investigate the site."
Laying next to him was a fairly large and red fox with one tail curled around its back. It was in a relaxed pose; its head posed on its two paws and the rest of its body stretched out, basking under the shade of the tree.
The fox didn't pick up its head but one of its ears flickered upon hearing its name. It went as far as pulling its lips to display its best representation of a smirk. "The one and only."
"Relax or you'll pull a muscle. I used your body to create a clone and then transferred myself into it so that I could watch over your lifeless body."
"You've never done that before," Naruto exclaimed, still feeling shocked—he didn't even know Kurama could do that!
"No and neither did I."
"But you can still read my mind. How does that even work?"
"You do know I was practically born from a deity, correct? Do not question my limitless capabilities."
"You didn't even know you could do it!"
"That was not me questioning myself but realizing it was yet something else I could do. I just assume I can do anything."
Naruto rolled his eyes. "Could you be anymore conceited? If you can do anything than why can't we figure out what's going on or who's pulling the strings."
"I didn't say I could do anything, just that I assume I can until I can confirm or deny otherwise. Moving on, I think I figured out what went wrong."
"We were on the right track but the problem was that the location resembled too closely to the battle at the Valley. Instead of the desired memory being triggered—"
"We get the Valley," Naruto concluded. "But what about the genjutsu?"
"A red herring set up by the perpetrator."
"Doesn't a red herring mean this person wants us to find them? Wouldn't it make more sense to set a trap?"
"It's a trap either way, because the end result is your—our—death either way. The question is does this person or group want to kill you quickly or do they want to go through the trouble of capturing you first and then killing you?"
"Well they left that genjutsu and that could have killed me."
Kurama growled, suddenly whipping his tail violently as he dug his claws deep into the dirt. "You insult me. In what world would such a weak assault have succeeded? Whoever "they" are knew you would not have died because I was there."
"Have you not noticed the pattern yet? Those that were attacked were ambushed through means of consumption and poison, so why would they suddenly want to drown you? Or kill you through a genjutsu? It's a trick, they are messing with you, playing mind games."
"Why single me out though? Why leave a trail of bread crumbs here without any intention to actually kill me?"
"Well, that's what we should go and find out."
Naruto agreed and decided to haul himself up with a grunt. The little Kurama-fox decided to remain and followed him as he walked back towards the waterfall. In just a short amount of minutes, Naruto found the waterfall again, the same red rocks and greenery, but still saw no sign of his teammates. Deciding it was faster to check for their chakra versus actually going around to look for them, Naruto gently pushed a pulse of chakra and immediately found the both of them back on top of the cliff. As Naruto climbed up the side of the cliff, Kurama took the opportunity to leap up onto Naruto's shoulder and settle there similarly to a cat. Naruto wanted to comment on it but honestly could care less and figured the old fox would owe him in some fashion. The feel of Sasuke and Sakura's chakra was growing stronger, signaling that he was getting closer to the top of the cliff, which was notably hard to discern. Finally, Naruto pulled himself up and was suddenly distracted by the beautiful view of nature—Kurama nipped at his ear to bring his focus back.
"Sakura-chan?" He called.
Before him was nothing but solid and clear rock that lead straight to the edge of the cliff where the waterfall met the bottom. Standing close to said edge were his teammates looking downwards at something, based off of their peculiar expressions. Hearing her name, however, caused Sakura to look up and brighten a bit at seeing the recovery of her friend. It was cut short though when—what appeared to be—nostalgia kicked in and she scowled in anger. Right, Naruto remembered that Sakura threatened him before passing out.
"You're gonna heal me, right?"
"I'm still debating."
"Naruto, you asshole! I'm going to kill you!"
"W-Wait, Sakura-chan, I just recovered!"
"Do you have any idea how worried we were?! You know you're not fighting this battle alone, right? Don't' scare us like that again!" She scolded. She held an expression of concern and anger, melded together harmoniously to make Naruto feel all the more guilty for how he treated her earlier.
"Sorry, Sakura-chan, I'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again." He moved closer to better investigate what the two of them had been previously looking at, however, he kept his focus on Sakura.
She scoffed. "You better or I really will kill you, but speaking of which, what did happen?"
Naruto opened his mouth to speak but Kurama covered his mouth with his tail and spoke up instead. "Someone left a genjutsu behind and it interfered with my memory digging."
"Then perhaps it has something to do with this," said Sasuke, gesturing towards a spot on the ground.
Both Naruto and Kurama looked at where Sasuke pointed to and saw a drawing or painting of sorts. It was rather large and depicted an equally large, dark red fox with white globes for eyes and white triangles for teeth. The fox clearly was referring to Kurama because nine spikes were poking out from the back but what was most disturbing was the yellow stick figure poking out from between the white triangles.
"Is that you eating me?"
"Or a distant relative eating your father—that drawing is much too hefty to be me."
"Yes, because clearly there's more than one of you running around without anyone knowing or noticing."
"There was during the war, if you recall."
"Guys…can we focus?" Sakura said exasperatedly.
Naruto looked sheepish while Kurama rolled his eyes. For a moment, everyone remained quiet until Sasuke caught Naruto's attention. "Didn't you say before that Isobu-san mentioned something about a painting? Could he have referred to this?"
His eyes widened because, yeah, he did remember that and a creepy chill raced down Naruto's spine. "Yeah and he said something about a genjutsu too!"
"But also about a girl, right? And clouds? Wonder how they fit into this," Sakura interjected."
Kurama, without warning, hopped off of Naruto's shoulder and approached the painting with no apprehension. He sniffed at it first before quickly swiping a paw over the painting, smearing it and causing the red, white, and yellow to blend.
"This couldn't have been the painting that Isobu saw—this is too fresh. Which means the person we're looking for came back here knowing we'd find this and set up the genjutsu."
"Maybe we can ask around and see if anyone's noticed someone suspicious, particularly a young female, lurking around here," Sakura added.
"I doubt they'll be of much help; they're probably hoping it was a foreigner who did this."
"Uchiha is correct but it wouldn't hurt to try. If anything, if they see how invested you are in capturing the culprit, it'll give them the option to either help or resist."
Sakura looked skeptical. "We're not trying to step on anyone's toes."
In reply, Kurama gave a toothy smirk. "Has the lack of war mellowed you all out? Show your respect to the right authorities if you must, but keep in mind that a fellow brother has been killed and whether now or last, he's after this blonde idiot as well."
Unlike Sakura, Sasuke wasn't surprised by the old fox's words, but he was motivated by them, not that he'd ever admit that. The fox was right and Naruto's safety was top priority, even if that meant eliciting another world-ending war. "Then what's our next move?"
No one spoke, but instead, looked to Kurama. "What? I am not your captain."
"I thought you were on a roll. No ideas?" Naruto asked.
Kurama huffed, amused but also annoyed. "From what has been gathered so far, it seems the key ingredient is this missing bitch. I suggest Sakura-san does the asking since she is the kindest and most diplomatic. Uchiha should try and use his abilities to scope around and see if there are any suspicious individuals connected to this painting or any other of the happenings."
"We should go somewhere safe but secluded. I need to finish sifting through your memories without interruption and this painting has actually helped out a lot."
"You found something?!" Sakura and Naruto asked together.
"Nothing definitive yet but something popped up."
"Great, then let's get going before the sun sets and we waste anymore time," Sasuke said, reluctantly agreeing with the fox. All parties nodded and turned back the opposite direction to climb down the cliff.
She stood before a full length mirror with a completely exposed bodice. Although others have admired it before, all she could see where ill flaws; discoloration, paleness, bruising, stark veins, brown and wrinkly nipples, loose skin, and just general ugliness. However, she knew it would all be gone soon. Watching her every move in the mirror, she slowly grabbed a fine brush, placed on a table next to her, and dipped it in a cup of paint—the color was black. With deliberate movements, she swiveled the paint on her skin, a messy display of swirls and circles before placing the brush back on the table.
In a language unheard of, she whispered an incantation, softly, sensually, and tapped her belly twice. Chakra blazed with a bright blue, engulfing the black paint, before forcing it to move into specific characters that spelled Killer B.
"You've dodged me again, Uzumaki. Until next time, but for now, I am off to Kumogakure."