Hi there and welcome to another chapter of Nidaime no Sairin.
Like I said before, this is the mission towards Kurama Yakumo, but I don't plan on following through with the real events, at least not all of them.
With that being said, on with the chapter.
Nidaime no Sairin
Chapter 11 – Yakumo
Uzumaki Naruto and Yuuhi Kurenai listened calmly as the Hokage gave them the summary of what happened.
"Kurenai, I had received a report from the team responsible for Yakumo's safety in Satomi Hill that Yakumo has been quite unstable for some time now. Usually, when that happens, they would handle it with sleeping agents, but even that has proven to be useless. Knowing about your mission, I had ordered the Anbu team back and called for you here. I'm sure that your expertise in this manner would be able to handle it, plus based on your previous assignment, you'd know how best to handle her case, I assume. One of the Anbu reports even singled that the Kurama Clan might be involved in this."
That moment, a silent conversation continued between the Hokage and Kurenai that Naruto was clueless about.
All he could see and perceive was Kurenai's tense shoulders, narrow lips and narrow eyebrows.
"Hokage-sama, I understand you calling me, but why is Naruto here…this is my responsibility, so I alone should proceed."
Naruto looked at her in surprise while the Hokage simply puffed the pipe in his mouth with eyes betraying nothing. Kurenai had a stoic expression on her face and normally she would not act this rashly towards a fellow genjutsu user and perhaps one who could have a bright future as Konoha's next generation of finest. Naruto selfishly wished to tag along, though as he thought about it, this Yakumo girl must have been a sore spot for the jounin sensei, so he quietly understood and stood there, waiting for the Hokage's order. The Hokage stood there observing both the jounin and the genin. He knew what happened to Yakumo and Kurenai, so he understood her position in all of this.
As he observed Naruto, though, the Hokage was surprised to see the boy as composed as he was, after being diminished by a senior officer.
"Naruto-kun, what are your thoughts about this?" If he was surprised to even have a say in this manner, Naruto wasn't showing it.
Hiruzen chuckled as Naruto's eyes went from Hiruzen to Kurenai and then to Hiruzen once more.
"Well, I guess Kurenai-sensei knows better and if she believes that I would get in her way, then I guess it's best if I don't go."
The Jounin couldn't help but flinch in slight shame at his response, but it lasted less than a second.
"Though, I would want to help if I could." Hiruzen smirked at that, before Naruto bowed to Kurenai. He flinched slightly at the harsh glare she was directing his way, but he at least tried to explain. "I could see how tense you became as Hokage-sama explained the situation and you've been quite helpful to me, the least I could do is help you in return." Kurenai looked stern at the blond genin for a good while and then she sighed in dismay. Naruto's shoulders relaxed as he saw a content smile on her face.
"I didn't know you're so stubborn, Naruto-kun."
Naruto simply nodded at the sensei's claim, remembering the same comment from the Nidaime Hokage when Naruto sometimes trained past exhaustion.
Hiruzen allowed a smile as he observed the scenery.
"Ok then, you can tag along, though if Sandaime Hokage is certain, then our enemies are members of the Kurama Clan, not to mention Yakumo herself. They are experts in using genjutsu as their main weapon."
"I promise I won't let you down, sensei." Kurenai just smiled at the confidence exuding from the genin. She, then, turned to the Hokage who puffed some smoke, before addressing the duo.
"Then, Yuhi Kurenai and Uzumaki Naruto, I'm issuing you two a B-ranked mission with the objective of subduing Kurama Yakumo using all means necessary."
===Top of the Hokage's Building===
Naruto and Kurenai had shunshined outside the Hokage's office and appeared on the building's rooftop.
It was a night of full moon tonight as their hair danced to the gentle wind of fall.
Kurenai, Naruto could tell, was silent as she looked towards the location of the Satomi Hill Mansion. He observed as her mangled brunette hair dangled freely, while her eyes remained its steel like quality of a professional. Right there, Naruto could see the quality of a jounin. He had seen it in Kakashi and Asuma a couple of times and it made his chest tingle in excitement to be able to witness it first-hand. He yearned to participate in more assignments like these in the future with prominent shinobi and kunoichi just like Kurenai-sensei. Still, Naruto couldn't help but notice with a dread how Kurenai's hand clinched every now and then.
That tension that he had seen in the Hokage's Office came full force and he couldn't help but worry.
"Kurenai-sensei, ah, is there something wrong?"
The jounin turned to her genin subordinate for this mission in slight surprise, not realizing that she was telegraphing her tension.
"I guess that's no harm in telling you, since you are tagging along Naruto, though this is considered a top priority secret known only to me and the Hokage, understood?" She then turned to him and placed her right hand on her waist. "You remember me saying that this is my responsibility, right?" He nodded and she continued. "A couple years ago, the Sandaime Hokage had entrusted Kurama Yakumo to me as her tutor in the shinobi arts. Being a member of the Kurama Clan, it was a given that she would be at least proficient in the art. However, I later realized that she was too good…far too good to be considered a prodigy. So I one time checked to see deep within her mind. Once inside, it's when I saw it..a demonic creature with oni mask and a female dress, a sensitive and malicious creature born from Yakumo's mind, due to her story."
Naruto choked at that as Kurenai continued. The image of the Kyuubi no Yoko instantly appeared in the genin's mind.
"In the end, it fell on to me to stop that creature from manifesting and Sandaime ordered me to seal it permanently, or so I thought." Suddenly, the floor looked quite a sight as Kurenai found herself doubting herself.
"So you think that this demon is trying to take over once more?" Kurenai just answered that with a 'yes' and Naruto continued. "What happened to her, sensei?"
Kurenai released a sad sigh but held nothing from her mission partner.
"Although she was considered a prodigy in the art, Yakumo was born with a frail composition. She was incapable of performing the other physical aspects of a shinobi life. So, her father at the time requested the Hokage for a special tutor, so the Hokage assigned me. I remembered that she so desperately wanted to become a kunoichi despite her shortcomings, hoping to focus only in her genjutsu ability. I tried to dissuade her from the ninja way of life. At the time, she just couldn't perform to at least the standard levels, so I refused to train her. At the time, I thought my decision was right, but looking at today, I found that I could have at least tried more. Yakumo, though, persisted despite her depression at the high expectations her family had put her through. Then, the incident occurred."
"One day the members of the Kurama Clan ran to check on an incident at the clan's main residence, only to see the building burning and Yakumo just standing outside the house, petrified. Later, we found out that my sealing was ineffective and that this monster inside her caused the fire. So, the Sandaime had no other choice other than that intern her in a facility and assigned a team to watch her, monitor her mental health. Of course, Yakumo has no knowledge of what happened as she went catatonic after the event."
Naruto could see how saddened Kurenai became and noticed how much she cared about Yakumo to go to such lengths to even blame herself for this.
"I see…well why do you blame yourself for this, sensei? Sounds like you did everything you could do."
True, that Naruto would push forward just as Yakumo did if someone said he couldn't do something, but Kurenai taking responsibility for this was wrong.
"Sandaime gave me a mission and I failed…but more than that, I failed with Yakumo. It took me quite some time to get over what happened. Still today, I don't know why Hokage-sama entrusted me with a genin team." Now, that gave Naruto pause as he wondered the reason behind such negativity. The genin wasn't experienced enough to empathize with her plight. He heard from both Asuma and Kakashi that not all missions will end on a positive note. There would be times when the team arrived too late, there would be times when the shinobi moved too slow to stop someone from dying…there would be times when the client withheld key information that proved the difference between living and dying. As such, simplistically and naively stating that she was wrong would be the same as not acknowledging the possibility of failure and regrets.
"I guess there's time then for us to remedy whatever you feel you failed, right Kurenai-sensei?"
The jounin looked at the genin for a while, before nodding in content. Despite the short amount of time she had interacted with him, Naruto managed to impress her, not only with his surprising well-rounded shinobi ability, but also with his maturity.
"Yeah, I guess we do…"
===Satomi Hill Forest===
It took some time for Kurenai and Naruto to cross the village and then embark through the forest that would lead them towards the Satomi Hill safehouse where their target was currently located. The eerie night and gentle wind did little to ease the duo. To a genjutsu user, such as the enemies they would face in no time, this settlement was less like a quiet forest and more like a bear trap waiting to be activated.
Despite the members of the Kurama Clan being composed of chunin mostly, none of them could be underestimated. Both Kurenai and Naruto flared their chakra constantly so as to not be caught underhanded. They were also on the lookout for hidden traps that were more easily hidden at night. Kurenai could certainly attest to the genin's experience, as she rarely needed to do anything to help him. Though, she would be remiss if she didn't converse something important beforehand about fighting against genjutsu.
"Naruto, please hold on for a moment."
They were jumping through the treetops and Naruto stopped as soon as his leader jounin said so.
They stood on top of the tree as they looked around for a while, before Kurenai turned to the genin.
"I know you're experienced in disrupting genjutsu, so hold on to that technique as soon as you sense the shift in chakra. While it would be more efficient to use counter-genjutsu techniques, this is too advanced to teach you right now."
Naruto cursed inwardly at not advancing too much in the genjutsu part of Tobirama's scroll, since using counter-genjutsu was there indeed.
"Got it…" Kurenai nodded and was about to order them to continue when she remembered another important aspect.
"Also, please bear in mind that they are still fellow Konoha shinobi, so please avoid using lethal force if possible."
She was slightly surprised to see a look of surprise in his eyes. Still, she elaborated.
"I don't think that they will use lethal force against us, their target is Yakumo."
"But, Kurenai-sensei, what if they attempt to kill us?"
True, while they were in fact fellow Konoha ninja, it's not like she trusted them to place the needs of the village above the needs of the Clan. Still…
"Use your other skills to maim instead, Naruto. I know that a skilled kenjutsu fighter like I expect you to know the subtitles between going for the kill and incapacitation." Kurenai's mind went to her friend Yuugao as she observed Naruto's sword. The genin certainly had some techniques that were more complementary in nature that could be used. Certainly, this mission could provide him with tons of opportunity to use his most diversified skill set. Plus, if Kurenai was correct, then the enemy wouldn't face them directly, opting for more subtle means.
"Okay Kurenai-sensei, I'll be careful."
"Please do, now let's continue."
They continued forward for a while, before both dropped towards the ground, while looking around for traps and keeping in close proximity to their inner chakra.
Kurenai observed as Naruto released his sword from its scabbard. When Naruto then made a step forward, he then looked down to see branches of leaves surrounding his foot and entrap him. Kurenai's feet suffered the same fate, but unlike the jounin, Naruto felt the sudden invasion of his chakra system. The blond quickly disrupted the chakra flow and released the genjutsu technique, while observing the enemies. In less than a second, Kurenai used a counter-genjutsu technique and escaped the vines construct.
Her body was turned into flower petals, ensnaring the two Kurama clan chunin.
Naruto took the opportunity of their lack of attention and charged at them, just as Kurenai appeared behind him.
She observed as Naruto swiftly flipped his sword to use the blunt edge of the sword and slam them both on their side stomachs. She flinched at the aggression in his swing and the sound of the 'enemy's grunt in pain, before both passed out on the ground. Well, she couldn't deny it was effective and Naruto did what she asked him to do in the end.
"Well done, Naruto. Now please tie them up. We need to move quickly."
Naruto nodded at the order and did just that, before placing a chakra suppressor seal in their foreheads for good measure. "I didn't know you were into fuuinjutsu as well?"
The genin smiled at that, as he observed the sealing arrays spread towards their body and mind.
"Yeah, another side project of mine, you know. Shall we?"
Pushing aside the thought of a genius shinobi in the making, Kurenai nodded as they advanced towards the mansion. So far, they only had to deal with the clan's weakest. Still, there were some who actually managed to snare Naruto into a nasty hell imagery genjutsu for two seconds. The genin was actually surprised to see his version of hell with the fox coming to attack him, before he dispelled it in enough time to protect himself against a barrage of kunai. Naruto, then, went through a sequence of hand seals, before focusing enough wind chakra on his fist.
Fuuton Senpuken (Wind Release: Whirlwind Fist Technique)
He slammed the wind cannon punch straight at the enemy's gut, sending him flying while spinning towards a rather thick tree.
He was slammed rather hard and fell on the ground unconscious.
Kurenai, meanwhile, had the upper hand against her foes using counter-genjutsu and her own illusion techniques. Different from Naruto, she would handle her enemies without appearing to lift a finger whereas the genin had to constantly feel out his chakra pathways. He couldn't help but blame this situation on his large chakra coils, though his extensive chakra control exercises helped some. Still, as they progressed, Naruto couldn't help but feel how far he needed to go in the yin-release department.
The strain in his coils was getting to him. The precision required at all times and the effort to control his immense chakra to the level required for constant genjutsu usage. At one point, Naruto had simply defended against the enemies pumping as much chakra as possible into a wind technique that blasted everyone from the ground, except Kurenai who saw it coming.
Right now, they were resting for a while behind a thick tree. The mansion was already visible as Kurenai turned to see the panting Naruto on the ground.
"Man, who would have thought I would get tired. That's a first." Kurenai couldn't help but laugh in humor at the situation while she crossed her arms.
"Dangling between yin and yang release is quite the strenuous activity indeed and to control such large chakra the entire time is indeed taxing. We made good progress, though, so ease your chakra and rest." Kurenai stopped smiling when she turned towards the Satomi Hill Mansion up ahead. She knew that this mission would be quite demanding and Kurenai was afraid to open up the can of worms in her strained relationship with Yakumo. She wondered what they would find once inside…the sweet but frail girl or the furious beast that she met once before the attempted sealing.
"So, seeing that we have some time, how can I use counter-genjutsu?"
Kurenai snorted in derision at the question. Leave it to Naruto to consider learning something now right in the middle of a mission.
"I'm afraid it's too advanced for you right now, but the theory is quite simple. In essence, you must dispel the technique your enemy casted and perform a genjutsu of your own almost at the same time. It depends on the level of the technique, though. B and A-ranked genjutsu techniques are quite hard to dispel…not to mention perform a counter-genjutsu immediately after. In fact, even I would have difficulty using counters against an A-ranked illusion." Kurenai then saw the look of introspection in the genin's face and grunted. She wouldn't be surprised if he managed to do it in a couple of years, based on the rate he was progressing.
"How are you feeling?" Naruto looked up from his sitting position and got up, while dusting the smear from his pants.
With the theory of counter-genjutsu in his mind, he closed his eyes and focused on molding chakra throughout every tenketsu inside his body, thus easing the strain.
"Bit better now, thank you."
The two then charged towards the Satomi Hill Mansion, before stopping as a giant tree emerged in their path. Both Naruto and Kurenai paused, knowing that it was a genjutsu, but the amount of chakra invading them felt way stronger than the others combined. The two then got caught in strong vines that entrapped their bodies and forbade them from using hand seals. Naruto even attempted to slice the vines with his swords, but more would simply appear and entrap him. The two looked at each other, before seeing a man come from inside the tree that appeared in front of them. Kurenai narrowed her eyebrows as she recognized this foe. Gray hair, face filled with wrinkles from old age and wearing a gray yukata and yellow pants.
"Kurama Unkai…the leader of the Kurama Clan." The old man smirked at the recognition.
"Yuuhi Kurenai…so the Hokage sent you once more. I did believe Hiruzen to be smart this time and send in someone else."
Both Naruto and Kurenai snarled at the old man for his words. Both appeared to use brute force to escape from the binds, but failed.
"Oh this is so precious…please explain it to me how you are going to beat me, you are both in my world right now." Unkai then made more hand seals, before more vines grew from within the tree and charged straight at Kurenai and Naruto.
"Naruto, quickly use your sword on the both of us…"
The genin looked at her in surprise, before remembering their only means of escape.
Able to free one of his hands, he whispered a silent sorry to the sensei, before piercing her right shoulder and then his own thigh. Both flinched at the pain, but it was enough to rid them of Unkai's technique as the tree vanished. Unkai snarled at that and threw a barrage of kunai and shuriken straight at Kurenai who appeared to be the most injured from the small one's attack. Naruto, despite the injured thigh, managed to step in front of Kurenai and block the projectiles, before Unkai caught them in a genjutsu once more, just as Naruto charged with his sword.
This time, he didn't allow for the vines to bind his arm and released the genjutsu, before parrying the kunai. Unkai then quickly evaded a barrage of shuriken from Kurenai.
Naruto took the opportunity and went through a sequence of hand seals as he saw Unkai in mid-air.
Fuuton Daitoppa (Wind Release: Great Breakthrough Technique)
Unkai saw the blast of wind about to skewer him and he vanished using genjutsu.
"Naruto, keep on the attack…he is hidden behind that boulder to your right."
The blond genin used a quick shunshin and focused wind on his fist to destroy the boulder, forcing Unkai to escape from his hidden location.
The leader of the Kurama Clan stood menacingly at Kurenai, before Naruto stopped in front of her once more.
"Why are you doing this Unkai?" The old man was still in strike position with a kunai, before standing up and dropping his arms.
"Yakumo is a disgrace and a menace to the clan, Kurenai. You know that more than most." Naruto and Kurenai were surprised when Unkai vanished once more and Naruto closed his eyes, focusing first on disrupting the subtle genjutsu and then pinpoint the enemy's position. Naruto then looked up just as Unkai came falling down with a kunai.
"Well, it appears you got yourself a competent bodyguard."
Naruto didn't stop and focused wind chakra through his sword and charged with speeds that surprised Unkai. He tried to block using Kunai, but his weapon got sliced in half like it was nothing. When Naruto was about to slice him in half, Unkai vanished once more and managed to send a barrage of shuriken at the injured Kurenai, who for her turn used genjutsu as well to vanish from her position. Though, one of the shuriken ended up lodged on her arm. Before Unkai could follow up for the final blow, Naruto came barging in and landed a strong kick on Unkai's shoulder, followed by another kick to the man's chest.
Unkai flinched in pain at the strong attack and snarled at the genin, before vanishing once more.
Naruto stood for a while in front of Kurenai waiting for their enemy to appear once more.
"Don't worry Naruto-kun, he is not here anymore." Naruto grunted at that and then turned to the downed jounin.
"I'm sorry sensei, he slipped from my vision and got you injured. I should have been faster in dispelling genjutsu." Kurenai's messy ebony hair dangled in her dismissal to Naruto's self-blame and Naruto couldn't help but stare for some time at it.
"You needn't worry Naruto-kun, Unkai is a master in genjutsu fighting, you actually impressed him. Now, could you do me a favor and close these wounds for me." The blond sighed and got the first aid from his kunai holster. The jounin released the sleeve from her injured shoulder as Naruto cleaned up the injury and then passed some lead tape over the wound to close. Muttering an apology at Kurenai's subtle complaint, Naruto then made a tight knot to hold it steady. He did the same with Kurenai's arm as well.
"Thank you, though your patching needs more work." The woman jounin giggled at the sudden look of concern from the blond genin, wondering if he had made a mistake. "Huh, you worry too much Naruto, I was only jesting."
"This is the first time I did this…I was worried that I squeezed too tight."
"It's okay…I can handle the pain. Now, it appears the path is cleared towards the mission, so let us proceed."
===Satomi Hill Mansion===
As soon as they stopped in front of the house, both Naruto and Kurenai were surprised when the door slowly opened up for them to enter.
Naruto then looked to Kurenai and frowned at the worried stare in her eyes.
"Naruto, I'm sure we are about to enter the demon's lair, but we have no choice but to enter." The genin nodded and followed the jounin inside. As soon as they did so, the door behind them closed and the mansion all but vanished.
As soon as they stepped inside the house, Naruto and Kurenai were immediately oppressed by the strong energy that invaded their bodies. Naruto found himself lost for words as he couldn't feel his chakra for the first time in his life.
"No doubt about it…we are in Yakumo's world right now."
"What now, sensei? I can't feel my chakra." Kurenai nodded at the genin's words.
"This is Yakumo's ultimate genjutsu, Naruto. Right now, we are inside her world and she rules everything, even our own ability to use chakra. Our only hope right now is for us to reach her and deal with whatever is happening to her right now."
"Oh sensei! So nice of you to visit me again…" the two suddenly tensed at the sudden haunted girly voice echoing throughout the corridors. "…and you brought company as well…I was hoping for us to talk alone, actually. Shame that you two will not leave this place." With nothing left in terms of defense, Naruto unleashed his sword and Kurenai a lone kunai as the two wondered the dark hallways together. Considering that any room in this mansion could be a trap waiting to kill them, splitting up would be ill advised…very ill advised indeed, based on Kurenai's information just now.
"Naruto, please be careful...Yakumo's genjutsu prowess is so powerful that it could kill you."
"Huh..how's that possible...genjutsu affects the mind and the senses into believing in something that isn't there…how can genjutsu be strong enough to kill?"
"True, illusion targets the mind and the senses. However, Yakumo's genjutsu is so powerful that the brain is led to believe that you're in a life-or-death situation and react accordingly. Since we lack the usage of chakra, our mind is all we got."
The news was quite startling indeed.
"So this is why the Hokage wanted you to deal with her, sensei. Because her power is dangerous?"
"YESS! The Hokage wanted me dead right Kurenai-sensei!?"
Again the voice echoed throughout the haunted hallways and it appeared to come from the door to their right. When Naruto pushed it open, he was surprised to see that he was one step away from falling down into a pool of lava. And he would have, had Kurenai not held his shoulder at the last possible second. The unbearable heat crawled on their skin. The lava lake was so hot that bubbles appeared on the surface and even skeletons were floating freely. They knew that this was a genjutsu, but the feeling was so real it scared Naruto. He was scared to realize the sheer potency of a strong genjutsu user, and the possible damage done to his mind. Kurenai pushed Naruto back from the door and back to the hallways.
"Come on Kurenai-sensei, what's taking you two so long to get here. I'm getting really bored waiting." This time, the hollow voice shifted to a more urgent tone.
"Sounds like she's truly pissed." Kurenai released a sigh at the blond's comment.
"Of course she is, and your comments are not helping, Naruto." The genin backed off at the sensei's tone and quickly apologized. "Forgive me for snapping at you, just do realize that she hears everything, so avoid upsetting her until we find her."
"Who is he, sensei? Another life for you to ruin?"
Naruto didn't enjoy the hollow laughter that followed after the jab. And Kurenai wasn't much interested in playing this game for long.
"Yakumo, you know you can make us walk for hours on end without finding you, so let's cut the chase and show us where you are."
"Well, that is true, sensei. Though, I wonder if I am done playing with you two…humm…yeah, you're right. You two please step inside the double door in front of you and let us have an interesting chat." True to her guiding, the brown double door surged out of nowhere and one of the doors opened. As soon as the two entered inside, the door was then shut, before vanishing. What they saw was breath-taking. It was like they were in outer-space and a lone girl stood on some hovering platform in the middle of the room surrounded by paintings. Naruto now could take a look at Yakumo's appearance. Long brown hair and light brown eyes. Her hair is straight on one side and braided on the other side. She wore a pink kimono held closed by a pink sash with two pockets on the front.
The hovering paintings were also quite disturbing…one had Konoha burned to the ground…other was the Hokage's tower being bombarded by lightning from the sky, but all the rest were of Kurenai suffering painful deaths.
"Do you like it sensei…when I think of you, I get so creative you know. I can think of many ways to deal with you right now and then Konoha shall be next."
Naruto took a step forward but stopped when Kurenai ushered him to stop.
"Why involve the village, Yakumo. I alone should be enough for your revenge." Yakumo, though, merely frowned at the comment as a painting from a shocked Kurenai in full body appeared in front of her. She then took a brush from her kit and painted Kurenai's feet up to her knee. The result was instantaneous as Kurenai looked down to see her feet up to her knees vanishing. Yakumo just kept her stoic face as she observed the painting as if neither Kurenai nor Naruto was there in the room with her.
"I have complete control over your life or death Kurenai-sensei." Kurenai appeared frantic as she focused on her now missing feet.
"Why are you doing this Yakumo?" The girl giggled at the question, but still kept on facing the picture.
"You know, I was really counting on the Hokage sending you to deal with me, sensei. And now you're here with me...so now I can get the truth from you." Naruto tensed as Yakumo turned aggressively at them. "I want the truth, sensei. I deserve to know the truth...The Sandaime ordered the death of my parents, right? He wanted the annihilation of the Kurama Clan, didn't he?" Naruto wondered about what the girl was saying, but he had kept his mouth shut. It was clear that something was not right, based on Kurenai's story when they started. The jounin looked briefly at the genin and nodded in appreciation at him allowing her to conduct the conversation.
"No Yakumo, the Sandaime Hokage had not ordered such a thing."
"Please stop lying, sensei. You'll vanish If you continue."
To prove her point, Yakumo repeated the brush on Kurenai's knees and thighs and like before, Kurenai was now only visible from the waist up.
"Kurenai-sensei…" The beautiful ebony haired jounin looked at Naruto briefly and negated, before turning to Yakumo. She knew that some buttons needed to be pushed for Yakumo to truly see what was going on here. Though, at the same time, this was quite emotional for the jounin-sensei. Kurenai had too many traumas in her life growing up. Something happened without her being able to do anything about it, but the worst ones were the ones where she could have done something about it, but didn't and Yakumo was clearly in the top three.
"Dear sad child, if killing me will settle your suffering, then by all means go right ahead. Your hate will vanish together with your suffering." Naruto's chest clinched as the woman tried to appear strong, but couldn't hold back the tears from falling.
Yakumo, though, merely observed the 'show' and cursed her once more.
"What are those tears for, sensei? Well, let us continue." This time, Kurenai saw as her stomach vanished, leaving only half of her arms, chest area and her head. Naruto was finding hard to continue observing only and took a step forward.
"Stop, Naruto!" The genin then crossed eyes with the stern looking red eyes. He was at a loss right now in how to solve this manner.
"Please Yakumo, speak everything you have held inside your heart, focus your hatred on me." Both Naruto and Kurenai could see the brush on Yakumo's hand tremble.
"I heard you and the Hokage talking sensei. How you tried to kill the Kurama Clan." Kurenai now looked solemn as she really wanted to approach the sad child and hold her.
"No Yakumo, you got it all wrong…I…"
"Stop lying! My mother and father wouldn't die in a fire. They were murdered, plain and simple." Naruto tensed once more as only Kurenai's head remained visible. Still, the jounin didn't bulge.
The only way they would get out of this was by telling her the truth.
"The truth Yakumo is that it was you who killed your parents…or rather something inside you did." The girl looked incredulous at the notion and was about to finish the job, when her head started hurting. The brush fell on the ground as Yakumo squeezed her head trying to stop the unbearable pain. The sudden image of her house burning to the ground and Yakumo standing outside crying non-stop at her parents' demise. The memory was repressed, but now it came bearing down at her like a broken dam. "Keep a strong mind Yakumo, you have to keep it under control!"
"Keep what under control, I don't understand…"
Yakumo began to tremble until a painting fell on the ground next to her. It was completely dark…looking like dark mud, until it started to melt. Yakumo then looked at the image in the painting and froze in fear at the image of the beast dressed in the same clothes as her. Then the repressed memory of what happened appeared in her mind. She remembered it clearly now. Her parents were talking to her inside her bedroom. They wished for her to stop pressuring herself into becoming a shinobi. But, she felt that they were looking down on her…that they were really disappointed at her. Then, this creature appeared and turned to attack her parents.
The fire…the fire was caused by this creature and it was all her fault. Kurenai-sensei was right…she killed her parents.
"You're right sensei, I killed my parents. My genjutsu killed them!"
"No, Yakumo, it was not you. Please try to listen to me! You and that monster are completely different beings." Naruto now focused on the sensei's frantic tone and he couldn't help but draw parallels once more with this girl.
"You're wrong sensei, this creature lives inside me. I know now what must be done…sorry Kurenai-sensei for causing you so much trouble."
Kurenai saw the tears escape from Yakumo's eyes and turned to Naruto.
"Stop her, Naruto." The genin didn't need to be told twice and used all his chakra less agility. Yakumo had a kunai aimed at her chest hoping to kill herself and end her suffering and Naruto would make it in time, though he stopped when he saw a hand come out of the painting and hold Yakumo's. A hand that looked like hers, only bigger. Yakumo still tried to go through with it, but the hand wouldn't bulge. The creature in the painting now turned into a picture of Yakumo herself and started talking to the little girl.
"Why do you want to take your own life?" The voice was painful and hollow as well. "Only those who are responsible for this burden should perish." The creature then emerged fully from the painting and stood in front of Yakumo with its hunched back and elongated arms and oni mask. The creature then marched past the still struggling Yakumo towards Naruto and Kurenai. Naruto didn't wait long and charged with his sword. The creature then exhaled the blue flame beam at him, forcing Naruto to evade and keep on the assault.
The monster's long legs managed to block his sword, so Naruto kept on attacking. He may not have his chakra, but he still had his physical skills. So, he used kenjutsu added by shurikenjutsu to keep the monster on the defensive. Kurenai looked worried at the genin and then looked back at Yakumo who was still nurturing her head.
"Yakumo, you need to handle the monster. It came from your heart, so you need to confront it yourself!"
"But…" Yakumo focused on the boy facing the monster that she created and while he was holding his own, Yakumo couldn't do anything but shake her knees. All she was focused right now was to keep standing up.
"Yakumo!" The girl then noticed that the boy was talking to her, while facing the beast that she created. "This is the first time we have met, but I may be the only one who understands you." Kurenai looked at the blond genin and it truly only came to her now that Naruto was indeed speaking the truth. "I know what's like to have a beast inside of you." Yakumo looked at him strangely, only this time her head stopped hurting. "For the longest time, I was only known for the damage and thousands of lives that my demon caused to the village. There was a time when I wanted to do the same thing you tried just now…" Naruto needed to stop, because the monster was right now attacking him. "I know that pretty much all of the villagers would be thrilled to see me going all the way and taking my own life."
Despite the laced humor in his voice, Kurenai could feel the pain laced within and it saddened her.
Yakumo even more so as she looked at the beast that was now attacking him.
"Is this true, Kurenai-sensei…"
Kurenai was saddened by the tone of the genin and took some time to realize that Yakumo had stopped trembling and addressed her. While it was still an S-ranked secret, it was perhaps the only way to convince Yakumo.
"Uzumaki Naruto is the jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi no Yoko, the fox demon who attacked the village"
Yakumo looked at the blond in a completely new light at the revelation, but even more so when she saw the drive in which he battled her own monster.
"Like Naruto deals with the fox every day of his life, Yakumo, so can you! You need to deal with this monster you created." The Kurama heir got a sudden influx of guts at seeing a fellow demon jailer and focused her chakra into the ram seal, before grabbing the kunai on the ground and appearing in front of the monster who was trying to attack Naruto. Yakumo then slammed the kunai right in the creature's forehead, earning a scream of pain from said creature. It skidded backwards in pain as it asked why Yakumo would do such a thing.
"Have I not served you…I protected you from them all. Why did you do this to me?"
The creature's oni mask then slashed in half and dropped dead on the ground.
Yakumo was sweating profusely, now looking directly at the creature responsible for her parents getting killed. She then went through a number of hand seals, before Kurenai's body returned to normal. Naruto was content as the jounin appeared to be alright. Yakumo then limped towards Kurenai and fell down to the ground, as she remembered her frail composition. Before she could fall on the ground, Kurenai kneeled next to her and secured the pale but smiling girl in her arms. Kurenai was looking down at Yakumo with a beautiful smile and the girl was looking up in admiration.
"You did good, Yakumo…you defeated your darkness." Yakumo nodded and smiled as she closed her eyes and basked in her sensei's loving arms. Though, there was another person that she needed to thank as well.
"Thank you as well, Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto merely nodded in acknowledgement as Yakumo then went straight to unconsciousness. Strangely so, one of the paintings that had Kurenai being pierced by a yellow beam melted to review the very scene Naruto was observing right now. The other paintings all fell on the ground and the room curtains opened to review the blessing light of the moon outside. Last but not least, Naruto welcomed the sudden influx of his own chakra passing through his tenketsu once more. Being without was an experience he wasn't thrilled to have it anytime soon.
"Now it is quite clear to me, Kurenai-sensei, that you were wrong." The jounin looked back at him curiously, before Naruto explained with a content smile on his face.
"You didn't fail Yakumo nor did you fail your mission."
There were many things in her eyes towards the genin. Admiration and respect certainly being the top emotions she was feeling right now. But, above all else, one word was enough to express and for Naruto, it meant the world.
"Thank you, Naruto."
"Now, all we need to do is keep the clan from going after her, right?"
The jounin nodded and ushered Naruto to lead the protective detail while Kurenai gently carried the unconscious Yakumo to the Hokage.
He would decide the best course of action.
===A week later===
A week has passed since Naruto and Kurenai saved Yakumo and then took her straight to the Hokage's Office.
It came as a surprise when the leader of the Kurama Clan, Unkai was there waiting for them.
Apparently, his goals were much the same as the village's, or so he made it sound. In the end, Yakumo managed to defeat her inner beast and no longer had the same problem, meaning she could go back to become a kunoichi. And the Hokage had denied Unkai's request for Yakumo to return to the Kurama Clan's grounds. Since she was now a registered genin, she could do whatever she wanted and she was also under the Hokage's authority. In the end, Kurenai took a step forward and offered one of the rooms in her house for the girl to live, until she could find her own home. After Unkai left, Kurenai and Naruto each gave the Hokage their separate report, ending with yet another successful mission for Naruto's record.
After that, Naruto had met with Kurenai on occasion to receive more tutorship in genjutsu and even other 'side projects'. The woman was all too eager to help him with all of his so called 'side projects' and she came to know there were indeed many.
Asuma was in possession of a complete gold mine and he selfishly was keeping Naruto all to himself….well, not anymore.
Though, she could see something more in him that made her want to see him more often. Aside from having the opportunity to watch his growth…his stellar progression and perhaps aid him in his quest, Kurenai felt herself unguarded so to speak when they interacted. It was something she only reserved for a precious few, those being her friends Anko and Yuugao. It's nice to think that she could possibly add another friend in him.
Today, Naruto was taking a quiet walk towards the Hyuuga Compound. Hinata had asked him to come see her morning spar with her sister.
Well, actually she had already wanted him to come, but this was the first time her father authorized him to come.
When he arrived at the gates, Naruto saw the two guards at the gates holding staffs and blocking his entrance.
"Beat it, these are private grounds kid. You can't come in here." Naruto looked at the one on the right who spoke. Well, it was already an improvement, considering the other words that people normally referred him as.
"Hi there, yeah, I'm Hyuuga Hinata's genin teammate, Uzumaki Naruto. She invited me to come and Hyuuga Hiashi-sama authorized it." The two Hyuuga guards looked at one another and grunted. At least, now, Naruto knew they recognized him.
"You can go in, but do not wander around or else you'll suffer the consequences." Naruto resisted the urge to roll his eyes. With eyes like the Byakugan that could see through walls, Naruto wouldn't be stupid to do such a thing.
One of the guards ushered him to follow as they walked towards the clan's training grounds. Naruto observed as many spars were occurring while the clan in its whole stood and observed. His blond hair and blue eyes stood out completely and he was receiving looks of complete hatred from some and apathy from others, as if he didn't exist in the first place. Usually, Naruto would receive the latter from the general population. Later, he saw Hinata kneeling next to her grunt of a father. Her sparring partner, Hanabi, was kneeling on Hiashi's other side.
Naruto decided not to bother Hinata, but he could see the saddened look in her eyes at having to do this once more and in front of the clan no less.
The timid girl, for her chance, looked around, wanting to see if Naruto had arrived. All she could see, though, were white hollow eyes, long black hair and white or black robes, depending on the family branch. Her eyes suddenly looked livelier as she saw Naruto waving subtly at her, almost hidden by two Hyuuga branch members. She waved back at him, before giggling once she saw Naruto being chided by the Hyuuga branch member for waving at her. Naruto then grumbled and crossed his arms at being scolded for doing nothing.
That interaction alone made her entire day worth it and with him here, she could allow herself to relax as she remembered the one and only request Naruto made for coming here.
'Of course, I will go Hinata…but promise me that you will take the spar seriously. I know you don't wish to hurt your sister, but you will be hurting her even more by taking it easy on her.'
At the time, she couldn't give him a confident answer. Every spar she had with her sister was practically the same. Hinata was more agile, more skilled, and certainly more experienced. Hanabi may be strong for her age and more attuned to the Hyuuga's standard practice, but the only reason Hanabi appears to win every time was because Hinata would create an opening to finish the spar, but she would never go through with it for fear of hurting her. When Naruto said that, by doing so, Hinata was hurting her little sister, which gave her pause to reflect. The truth had only came once Hinata later saw her sister walking around the clan compound as if she was the clan head, mistreating everyone, demanding attention from the clan…she grew conceited and Hinata was the one to blame…by letting Hanabi win their spars, the little girl let this false fame go over her head.
Well, not anymore. Hinata would shudder to think about Hanabi as a genin out there, doing something stupid and getting killed.
So, when their father ushered them to stand in line and begin their spar, Hinata stood resolutely and met her sister in the middle. Hinata couldn't help but look at Naruto from the corner of her eye and bask in his confident eyes for her.
'Just watch me, Naruto-kun. I'll make you proud of me.'
Hanabi was the one who initiated the attack as her hands glowed in blue chakra.
As a firm and proud practitioner of the Jyuuken, Hanabi kept on the hard offensive. Though, her offense was met with a subtle defense that merely diverted Hanabi's energy away without the little kid knowing what happened. Naruto smirked immediately. Hinata was taking this seriously. Hanabi looked back at her sister who looked back sternly.
Hanabi snarled and kept on the offensive.
Then, the jyuuken back and forward began with high energy thrusts between both Hyuugas. Still, Hanabi flinched at each and every thrust from her jyuuken strike was completely diverted by Hinata and her sister's strikes were causing internal damage. Hinata, for her part, focused on her goal to stop her sister from her way of thinking, but it was hard.
It was time to finish this, before her own will falters. So, with surprising speed, Hinata diverted Hanabi's last strike and got a full view of her little sister's exposed side.
She could have given a solid jyuken strike on Hanabi that would cause some serious internal damage, but Hinata chose a different venue and Naruto saw it happen. The elder sister gave Hanabi a concentrated slap at the back of her neck, sending Hanabi into the sweet realm of unconsciousness. Hinata knew that in the eyes of the clan, she should have followed through with her attack. Though, she couldn't do that to her sister. She promised Naruto that she would win the spar, so she did. She will not in any way or form willingly harm her little sister that reminds her so much of her own mother.
So, she stood proudly for the first time in her life as she looked Hyuuga Hiashi in the eye.
Her father stared back, seeing his daughter's resolve in all of this, despite the clan's murmuring sounds of disapproval.
After some time, Hiashi had a subtle smile on his face at seeing his daughter finally show some backbone.
Though, he never opened his mouth and issued the end of today's spar, before ordering Hanabi to get attended. Hinata managed to breathe once more in relief and a proud smile was on her face, despite no one approaching to see if she was okay.
"Well done, Hinata…" The girl didn't want anyone in the clan to come…only him. "You did great, especially in the end there."
"I...I couldn't go through with it Naruto-kun…"
"I know." Hinata looked at his face in surprise. "But there are more ways to defeat an opponent and you did it without having to use brute force. I'm proud of you Hinata."
The girl opened her mouth in awe for a while and then smiled brightly.
How much she wanted to hear those words from the one she most admired.
"Say, you have some time right now…there is this one person I want you to see." Hinata nodded, though she wondered about whom Naruto wanted her to meet.
===Training Ground #3===
Kurenai was currently overseeing Yakumo's training with other skills aside from genjutsu. While Yakumo took over her problem with the beast, her overall composition was still in the way, so Yakumo would never be a close-range fighter. The best she could do right now was to provide support from long range and use her illusions. While it would be fair to assume that her career would be limited, Kurenai figured that with enough experience, the Kurama clan heir could be quite an accomplished chunnin at specific assignments.
Perhaps, become a tokubetsu jounin in genjutsu…who knows.
Still, it was a far better future than being in a mental facility. So, Kurenai would be tutoring Yakumo together with her own genin team.
So, as Yakumo focused on shuriken and kunai target practice, the ebony haired jounin stood behind her with a smile on her face and her arms crossed. She then turned to the right when Naruto appeared with Hinata in tow. They appeared to be chatting amicably and Kurenai's heart swelled at seeing the girl walk. Hinata still looked reserved somewhat, but she was smiling more and her shoulders were more open, showing more confidence. So, Naruto did tell the truth. Hinata, for her part, looked up and saw Kurenai. Her content smile turned into a full out happiness as she saw the jounin.
"Kurenai-sensei…" Hinata then turned to the smiling Naruto for a second, before she ran towards Kurenai and embraced her.
Naruto was just content in seeing their encounter once more as Kurenai was busy caressing Hinata's hair and chatting with her former ward. Naruto then saw Kurenai introducing Hinata to Yakumo. Kurenai had talked to Naruto about the possibility of Yakumo flourishing more if she had a girl her age to hang around more. Both Ino and Sakura could be good choices, but their out-going personalities would probably push Yakumo away and do more harm than good. Hinata, on the other hand, was a perfect fit for Yakumo.
And they were right.
Kurenai then looked up at her blond friend for a while, before returning to their private chat.
Yakumo and Hinata laughing with one another was perhaps Kurenai's favorite little song.
Ok that's it for now. Next up, the Chunin Exams.
Next update: Fate Shadow Spear