Author Note

Hi there and welcome to another chapter of Nidaime no Sairin.

We shall begin with the first arc of the Shippuden timeline, but with a couple changes, which of course, will be revealed along the chapter..

Not much left to tell, beforehand, so let's get going with the chapter.

Nidaime no Sairin - Naruto Shippuden

Chapter 29 – A Call for Help

Beta: Scheffinator

Senju Tsunade's coronation as the Godaime Hokage was an event that made the village abuzz with cheers and celebration.

While the next leader of the village wasn't so enthused for the job, she managed to sell it with a heart-warming speech that everyone applauded her for.

Next to her, on top of the Hokage's Administration Building, was the clearly relieved Hiruzen, his two advisors, Jiraiya, as well as Tsunade's two assistants and the ones who shall be her eyes and ears in the village's hospital, Shizune and Sakura. The rest of the village shinobi stood in front of the building, wearing the same white top kimono, in reference to the next Hokage. Naruto stood next to Shikamaru, Hinata, Yakumo as well as their other peers from their Academy years. The elder generation were also there, including the village's Jonin, Kurenai, Asuma, Kakashi, Anko, and Yuugao, amongst others.

Naruto, for his part, had to give it to the village's new leader's knack for making convincing speeches, since he was perhaps one of the precious few who were privy to her doubts and insecurities in taking the job.

Despite that, however, Naruto had faith that she would do an excellent job…not only because of her Sannin status, but also because of her genes, being the granddaughter of the Shodaime and grandniece of the Nidaime Hokage.

Then, once the higher-ups began their never-ending meetings revolving around the next in line taking over, the crowd began to dissipate and two pairs of eyes looked at each other, followed by a short nod. Naruto and Kurenai had scheduled for some time together after the Hokage's event. Of course, both moved in separate directions to meet up in a more secluded location…a far-away restaurant, opposite from the village's main gate. Their little get away wouldn't be complete, without safety measures to prevent the possibility of their romance getting out in the open, in the form of hidden shadow clones around the area, in case a shinobi or a kunoichi decides on the same restaurant.

Aside from their hidden relationship, they could switch into a regular meet up between former sensei and student easily enough.

The only requirement was that his clones could relay the information, beforehand.

===A week later===

A week later, Gai's team, had received a mission towards Grass Country in order to protect a wealthy merchant, who was targeted by a local militia of former missing-nin from Kusagakure. Naruto replaced Neji who had to escort Hinata and her sister towards a clan related diplomatic event. As such, while the merchant caravan slowly advanced throughout the path that passed through the Country, the team from Konoha observed from above, staying through the gigantic bamboo trees. Normally, the team would be dependent on Neji's Byakugan to perceive threats coming, but Naruto's highly sensitive sensing capabilities somewhat compensated for their lack of actual visibility.

Still, Naruto had to keep extremely focused and not twitch his eyebrows, every time Lee and Gai announced the flames of youth in their conversation.

Tenten was the one who suggested they split up, so that Lee and Gai separated from them.

"Sorry about them, Naruto…it has taken a long time for Neji to get used to their mannerisms."

With his eyes closed and placing two fingers on the tree log they were standing, Naruto chuckled, relieved.

"It's indeed a challenge to focus…thanks for splitting us up, by the way."

"Don't mention it. Now, how are we doing so far?" Naruto's focus allowed him to extend his reach to a considerable measure and Grass Country's weather was quite humid, allowing his reach to go even further.

"Hmmm, indeed, they didn't take a look upon showing up. Tsunade-sama had said that Kusagakure was informed beforehand of us being here, so these six presences hidden beneath this bamboo forest must be our enemies. Your pinpoint accuracy will no doubt be key here, Tenten." The weapons enthusiast smiled at that and already gathered her own arsenal of shuriken and kunai. Naruto nodded at her readiness, before turning to Gai and signaling him with what he found out, plus his plan going forward.

However, both Naruto and Tenten sweat dropped, since they could see a huge thumbs up and a bright shiny smile in response from the let's say exuberant Jonin-sensei.

"Ah…I don't think I will ever get used to that, Tenten, sorry." She sighed, since the feeling was mutual.

"Me neither and I have been with them for quite some time. Now, just point in their direction and leave the rest to me." Naruto nodded and then signaled for Gai and Lee to get ready in case they evaded Tenten's projectiles.

"Right…they are sprawled in different locations, but close by to one another in case…three are located one hundred meters to our northeast position. Another four are on the ground level, waiting to ambush the caravan and three others, well hidden, but not so much, a few trees above us." Tenten wasted a few seconds, pinpointing their position and already arming her projectiles. She looked as Naruto released his sword and nodded at her to start. A few steps forward, an entire rain of projectiles courtesy of Tenten broke loose and the entire horde of missing-nin had to abandon their posts and move to attack the shinobi from the Leaf.

Lee and Gai advanced first, with Naruto sticking close to Tenten. With long range no longer being an option, she summoned a bo-staff to engage against a red-haired kunoichi. Her projectiles had made two victims, leaving each shinobi from the Leaf to face off against two fighters each. Lee and Gai had made quick work with them with their Iron fist taijutsu.

Naruto used Hayate's techniques to deal with one and his already mastered disorienting Genjutsu followed by a Kenjutsu strike.

Lastly, Tenten's bo-staff cracked some ribs, rendering her opponents useless.

The team, then, went towards the ground and formed a square formation around the caravan to accompany it until the end of Grass Country, where a team of Kusa shinobi would take it from there, to escort the client throughout Earth Country. It was the deal Konoha made with Kusa, in exchange for the Hidden Village in the Grass not making much of a fuss, since handling Kusa's missing shinobi would be up to them, even if they were somewhat allies. Being the leader of the mission, Gai had approached the client once they arrived at the border and then to the Kusa-nin in charge of the mission, in order to exchange mission scrolls.

Naruto, Tenten and Lee stood by, waiting for the exchange to finish, before the team returned to Konoha.

Of course, Lee and Gai had suggested a race to see who would arrive first in Konoha, but both left before Naruto and Tenten would voice their denial in participating.

"Huh, there they go again…" Naruto saw she rubbing her forehead, before the rest of the team followed towards Konoha, in a more sedate pace. Naruto at least hoped that Gai would wait for them to arrive, before reporting.

===In a Inn near Rice Country===

Just as Tsunade took over the reins of the village, she had received good intel from Jiraiya about one of Orochimaru's hidden bases, located in the border of Rice Country.

Deciding to run reconnaissance, Tsunade had called for both Anko and Kurenai for an A, possibly S-ranked mission to check this base out and confirm Jiraiya's report.

She called Kurenai because of her recent mission together with Naruto to act as an undercover couple. This base happened to be very close to the area, so Kurenai would be a somewhat knowing face and not alert attention from the locals. Anko was called in, of course, because of her former bond with Orochimaru, perhaps knowing the possible triggers of the base. They had one more slot available for the assignment, so Yuugao was chosen. Naruto would be as well, had Gai not snatched him for a mission towards Grass Country in Neji's stead. The mission turned out to be a bust, as Anko had only encountered a few members of the Fuuma Clan, keeping guard over the base.

The base was there alright, but already wiped clean when they arrived save for a Fuuma Clan member named Arashi, who tried attacking them with an unstable technique.

The trio had quickly destroyed the base soon after leaving, so that Orochimaru never thought of using it again.

So, determined for this girl trip not to be wasted, Anko had the brilliant idea of spending the night inside an inn to relax and return tomorrow. Kurenai had then suggested the one she used with Naruto for them to dress up and start the mission. The three women reserved one of the inn's hot springs for themselves, with a bottle of sake each.

"Ah…this hot water hit the spot nicely, huh." Anko stretched her arms upwards, showing some of her well-rounded breasts, while Yuugao rested her head nicely and closed her eyes in deep relaxation.

Kurenai tied her hair a bit to keep it above water, while massaging her arms, basking in the relaxation of the hot water.

"A good idea, indeed, Anko. Here I thought you'd be bummed after the mission fiasco." Anko waved her off, before swimming towards her best friend's position.

"Nah, I admit that I really wanted to find the bastard and give a nice punch in the face for what he did to me, but destroying that base also was quite satisfying. I was actually thinking of asking Tsunade-sama for another of these base searches, only to destroy more and more bases." Kurenai smiled and also closed her eyes in relaxation. Allowing her memory to run free, in this place, Kurenai had remembered when Naruto appeared before her, dressing like he did, back then, for their mission. She, then, blushed heavily when the image of them kissing in the bar came to mind and she opened her eyes in surprise at that, before the reddish hue appeared on her cheeks.

Anko, no doubt, saw it and smirked, going in for the kill, quite soon in their nice little get away.

"Oh, Nai-chan, already thinking about the blonde hunk, aren't you? How kinky of you." Kurenai looked away, briefly, before trying to come up with a save.

"No, it's not that…it's the hot water." Still, the blush remained as her brain betrayed her. Anko could only laugh out loud and envelop her friend's neck with a hug.

"Oh, quit with that adorable face of yours, already, jeez. Well, since we're all here and out of possible earshot, you're still due to tell me the juicy details."

Kurenai, now composed, without her brain getting in the way, crossed her arms, below her breasts, while glaring at her friend.

"How many times am I going to say it, Anko, I ain't telling, no matter how many times you pester me…"

To this day, she had never done this to any of her sexual partners, but Anko always blabbered about hers.

"Ah, spoilsport…come on, give us the juicy details. How long he lasted…how big is he…what positions you did…come on, anything."

Kurenai released a sigh and negated Anko's attempts, before Yuugao made herself known.

"Anko-chan, I find it strange that you view Naruto-kun as a little brother, and yet you are quite eager to ask about this sort of thing."

Anko smirked as she turned to her other friend.

"Of course, I see him as my little brother and annoying him and Nai-chan is a good hobby of mine, but I also care for my Nai-chan and really wish for her to find satisfaction, especially under the sheets." Now, the blush resumed in Kurenai's face when Anko said under the sheets. Unconsciously crossing her legs, to keep the flow that suddenly started at the memory…or rather memories of Naruto on top of her…under her…behind her…hell, even the time when they went to his place, after Tsunade's announcement as Hokage.

"Well, whatever…how about we go back to our room and order some sushi, I am starving."

Anko and Kurenai both nodded as the three left the hot spring. However, Anko did not stop and Kurenai walked away from her, to protect her sanity.

"Ok, at least tell me if he has some quirks in the sack, Nai-chan…come on, give the girl something to work on here."

===With Naruto===

A few days after returning from his mission with Gai's team, Naruto was left with nothing to do for the time being.

Kurenai, Anko and Yuugao were still due to return from their own mission. So, no dating, no pestering for a free meal and no training from them, respectively.

He did hang out with Shikamaru's family for some breakfast, while waiting for Shikamaru to wake up for lunch.

Dodging Yoshino-obasan's questions about his dating prospects as well as reporting to Shikaku, the Village's Jonin Commander, about his day to day activities now that he became a Jonin, Naruto bid the Nara family goodbye after chatting a bit with the grumpy son Shikamaru, who by the way was also resting after a mission of his own. After that, Naruto went to see how Yakumo was doing, when he learned that Hinata had already returned from her mission with Neji and her sister. Apparently, according to the Chuunin Genjutsu user, Hinata had no recollection, whatsoever, of her behavior at the bar after Naruto's promotion. It was better this way, in the end.

'Not only Hiashi-sama would castrate me, but Neji as well…no doubt about it.'

Right now, he had chosen a more secluded training ground to do his most secret side projects, that being Fuuinjutsu and Space-Time Ninjutsu.

The two techniques from the Nidaime Hokage he was still attempting were fully embedded in his brain. At least, the theory, that is. The never-ending exploding tags was a nifty skill to possess, however its use was quite limited. If he would face an entire battalion on his own, sure, but against one or even two enemies…not so much. A conjunction of multiple exploding tags within multiple sealing tags and Naruto has gotten himself a never-ending series of blasts, that would neutralize any number of enemies, or at least provide enough coverage for a quick escape, if needed be.

Practicing this technique only once, though, has gotten him an earful from the Hokage, who had to calm down the entire village from the never-ending explosions and tremors.

Now, his Mount Everest was a Space-Time Ninjutsu.

The theory was that he could, through the use of chakra and Fuuinjutsu formulas, transport both objects and living beings, from one point to another, by crossing dimensional voids. The Nidaime had even written his own seal design used for his Hiraishin Giri in Naruto's scroll and after some trial and error (lots of trial and error), Naruto managed to replicate the seal formula, precisely. He even managed how to brand the seal formula using his hand. The problem remained that he was still due to move through the dimension void created by the sealing path. The scroll explained that he needed to feel his chakra mixed with the sealing formulas, so that he could mark the starting point and the finishing point.

Every time he attempted, though, he would vanish from the starting point, but appear at the same point or he would appear in another one, entirely.

Plus, the uneasy feeling in his stomach after he did it…

'And to think sensei did this by using a flying kunai…'

This was not something that Naruto could either use his bunshins to help him speed things up…he needed to understand the precise feel of his chakra in conjunction with the response from the sealing arrays. Using bunshins would only split his chakra in two and hinder his ability to perform the Space-Time Ninjutsu. Going through the procedure, once more, Naruto closed his eyes and focused on the ram seal, while focusing on the feeling of pulling from the sealing array. As soon as he opened his eyes, and molded his chakra at the precise second, he felt himself vanishing and appearing…right in front of a rather thick rock.

The only thing he could do was to turn and block his path with his right arm.

He cursed in pain when he felt his right shoulder bone dislocated from the impact.

'Ahhh…not again, damn it.'

"One more time you attempt that stupid technique and I won't bother to fix your bones, imbecile."

Naruto grunted both in pain from the shoulder and from the demonic chakra that passed through his coils towards his dislocated shoulder.

'I appreciate the help, nevertheless, Kyuubi…I am done for the day.'

"Who are you trying to fool here, you're still due to summon the amphibian with the sword." Naruto never thought he would have such a nagging Bijuu inside of him, such is the relationship constructed throughout the years. The swear words and constant insults were still there, alright, but this new side of the fox was something he didn't expect. Of course, the fox only complained when he exaggerated in his training/mission or got hurt or exercised his coils too heavily, straining them.

'Right…I forgot…damn…Gamatsurugi doesn't control his swings…so I guess I shall accept your welcomed assistance, Kyuubi.'

Kyuubi growled, but said nothing this time, before Naruto drew blood from his toes and performed the summoning technique. The Gama sword user appeared within the fog with his arms crossed.

"Good afternoon Naruto…ready for today's round, I take it?"

"Hi there Gamatsurugi, sure am…though if you could take it easy today, I would appreciate it. I just took a direct hit towards the rock behind me, so my body is not peachy at the moment." The toad, though, merely smiled.

"Of course, Naruto, I will be sure to go as easy as I can with you."

The Jonin's eyes widened as a second later, the toad was next to him with his sword drawn, forcing Naruto to pump chakra in his limbs to parry the weapon with his own.

For some reason, he knew, before asking, that the toad wouldn't accept his request.

===With Tsunade===

The newly appointed Godaime Hokage was busy smashing her nails repeatedly on top of the desk that she would face every day for the rest of her life from here on out.

Hiruzen would simply chuckle in dire amusement at seeing the look of bloody murder coming from his former student, now turned village leader.

Shizune, Homura and Koharu seemed not to notice or actually didn't care, while they vomited information left and right concerning what's required of the Godaime Hokage. Shinobi and Kunoichi records, the village's balance sheet, inner-village relations, meetings with the village clans, regular sit-downs with the Fire Daimyo and his other dignitaries. Oh and let's not forget…handling the entire shinobi and kunoichi from this village's day to day. Frankly, the only living descendant of the Senju Clan was already attempting to figure out how to back off from the decision she had made in accepting this mess.

The worst of all was perhaps the smile of vindication in her sensei's wrinkled face.

"Tsunade, are you paying attention?" Koharu chastised the Godaime and Tsunade could only hum in annoyance.

"Of course, I am…get on with it, already." The elderly woman councilor snorted and went back to her list of information.

"Hmmm, short-tempered as always…" A vein popped in her forehead at the name calling and Shizune got comically scared as the brush in her hand snapped. Turning to the former Hokage, she only had one simple question.

"I understand that I had already accepted it, but I don't remember ever saying yes to having these old goons around." Hiruzen once again chuckled, ignoring both Homura and Koharu's indignant response.

Hell, even Hiruzen got fed up with them from time to time and they went way back. And it's not like he would step up for both of them and risk his successor fleeing from the job in less than a month's time.

"You're the Hokage now…you can choose your own advisors to help you." As expected, both his advisors turned on Hiruzen and Tsunade smirked viciously.

"Hiruzen, what's the meaning of this…?" Hiruzen, for his part, simply got up and turned towards the door as his now relieved mindset emerged, certain that Konoha would be in safe hands.

"You know, it's been a long time since I got to see my lovely grandson…in broad daylight. My responsibilities as Hokage are hereby passed to you, Tsunade. Homura and Koharu, you two shall have to convince her to resume your duties as advisors. No doubt, Danzo should as well…now, take care." And with that, Hiruzen did something he never thought he would again…he used a shunshin out of his office, without a bunch of ANBU detail following him around everywhere he went. Homura and Koharu, for their part, looked back at the smiling Tsunade and the scared out of her mind Shizune.

"Shizune, please call in Nara Shikaku, Aburame Shibi and Inuzuka Tsume."

She, then, snorted and turned to the old geezers. "As Godaime Hokage, I appreciate all of the service you provided to Konoha. Now, it's high time you two enjoy your much desired retirement."

Homura and Koharu looked at each other in surprise, neither believing what happened, while Tsunade sighed in dismay at the hidden giggle heard from the shadows.

===With Kurenai===

In a forest path towards Fire Country, Yuugao and Anko were jumping from tree to tree.

They were traveling at a sedate pace, though both couldn't help but look as the third member of their mission squad jumped ahead of them, at faster speeds. They weren't in a rush to return, as the mission didn't have a specific time schedule for them. And both Anko and Yuugao were rather enjoying a few days of vacation time in the inn they were staying in. Kurenai, however, was the one who insisted that they needed to return, giving them an excuse that they needed to report on their findings to the Hokage as soon as possible. Of course, both knew the real reason for her being so anxious to return, but only Anko dared to comment on her friend's wants and needs.

"Hmmm, wonder what's got her so adamant on returning, huh, Yuugao-chan?" The sword specialist snorted at that.

"Must you always…it's quite annoying." Anko only smirked at Yuugao's complaint, though the sword user continued. "It was nice staying at the Inn, but we couldn't just stay there, forever, goofing off."

"Yeah, a vacation would be nice from time to time, but I would be going mad if I didn't have one or two torture sessions." Yuugao laughed at Anko's comment.

"What's going on back there…why are you two slowing down, let's go." Kurenai yelled from up front and Anko could only smirk.

"Alright, already…we are coming. Jeez, so anxious to get into his pants, huh." Kurenai tried denying it, but Anko only snorted as the three women resumed their path.

===With Sasuke===

Hatake Kakashi was taking a nice seat on top of a tree log, enjoying a good read.

It was a good day today with clear skies and few clouds.

Right now, the only thing messing with his perfect reading was the damage caused to the training ground he happens to be in, while observing his two students, Kiba and Sasuke sparring. Well, spar wouldn't be the correct word…full-out battle would be more precise. However, just like every other time before, it was more that Kiba and Akamaru were attempting to keep up a fight and the bored Sasuke was just wiping the floor with both Kiba and the now grown Akamaru. Well, Kiba, as many Inuzuka before him, would never become a full-out shinobi, since they relied too much on their canines and had very few aces under their sleeves to use.

While Sasuke could be considered the perfect overall shinobi, if it wasn't for the superiority complex he had still displayed throughout the years.

Kakashi then looked up from his book as Akamaru turned into a clone of Kiba and Kiba summoned a Kage Bunshin. The three Kibas turned into a gigantic white dog that started spinning dangerously towards Sasuke. However, the Uchiha's Sharingan allowed him to anticipate the drill path and had simply evaded, before going through hand seals and unleashing a giant fireball at Kiba's Inuzuka technique.

The drill managed to power through Sasuke's fireball, but his intention lied elsewhere as he lifted multiple earth walls to stop the drill technique.

The impact was too much and it sent both Kiba and Akamaru into unconsciousness.

Kakashi then noticed Sasuke, with his standard Uchiha clothing and a Chuunin vest on top of it, snorted, placed both hands in his pockets and marched towards his position.

"I shall return home and train…he's no match for me."

The scarecrow Jonin looked at his prodigy student from the corner of his eyes and then at his other downed student and his partner canine.

"You could have taken it easy with your teammate, Sasuke. As I have told you before, this is not a competition." Sasuke snorted, but Kakashi wasn't finished. "At the end of the day, he's your teammate and fellow Konoha shinobi. Not a foe you need to beat."

"Hmmm, thinking like that won't ever get me anywhere near Itachi's level, so what's the point? From now on, just call me for missions."

Kakashi sighed even before Sasuke vanished from this place. He just walked towards where Kiba was and gathered him and Akamaru to take them to the Hospital, with the help of a Kage Bunshin. Despite both his and Naruto's seals, the vendetta that Sasuke had with Itachi was still there and would forever be there. It was something that Itachi engraved in Sasuke's brain and nothing much would take him away from that drive…well, perhaps another one for Sasuke to measure himself against, that is.

===With Naruto===

The next day, a perfectly rested and light Uzumaki Naruto left Kurenai's house for the morning and went for a morning practice.

Kurenai had given him quite a surprise yesterday, seeing as she wasn't supposed to return for another day. Of course, he wasn't about to complain, as the hidden couple went straight to bed, even canceling dinner. After their late-night activities, both slept with a relaxed smile on their faces. Upon waking up, Naruto managed to prepare them breakfast to compensate for the lack of dinner yesterday. Kurenai had explained to him their findings, as well as her relaxing time in the hot springs with Anko and Yuugao. Now, while Naruto went for his morning routine, Kurenai went straight back to her bed to take it easy, before meeting up with Hinata and Yakumo.

Naruto was having such a nice day, as he walked towards one of the training grounds, when the smile left his face at another presence looking at him with his arms crossed.

"Hello there, Sasuke, I didn't realize this training ground was already taken. I shall find another one, see ya." Naruto turned and was about to leave.

"Hang on Naruto…" Naruto sighed in dismay. He had a feeling that the Uchiha wouldn't let him be, considering how riled his chakra was at the moment.

"Let me guess, you wish to fight me, don't you?" Sasuke snorted and removed the sword from his scabbard, before vanishing and placing the sword inches from Naruto's neck. Naruto saw the fully evolved Sharingan staring back at him.

"Why didn't you move to defend yourself?" Naruto resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

"I was actually thinking if I should humor you or simply skip training for the day and go for some ramen."

Sasuke managed to detect movement and went backward, as soon as Naruto summoned a couple of shuriken from the seal in his wrist.

Sasuke's eyes widened as he spotted Naruto's chakra using a quick shunshin to appear closer to him and parried swords.

The mere metal exchange pushed Sasuke backward, forcing him to focus chakra through his limbs to even the odds a bit.

Sasuke's fully evolved Sharingan allowed him to be toe to toe with Naruto in terms of Kenjutsu and agility, but Naruto's chakra sensing ability evened out the odds, keeping them in a stalemate in close combat situations. Because of this, Sasuke added Genjutsu as well while fighting against Naruto. The illusion was disrupted as soon as it occurred, forcing Sasuke to add more layers to keep up the speed.

Well, hidden relationship aside, Kurenai kept up with his illusion training.

So, as soon as Naruto released Sasuke's illusion which consisted of his body burning from the feet up, Naruto captured the Uchiha in a Genjutsu of his own, making Sasuke believe that his body weighed twice as much. The illusion took a total of two seconds to be released, allowing Naruto to slam a powerful kick on Sasuke's chest, sending him flying.

Sasuke flipped in mid-air and went through hand seals, but Naruto quickly sent a barrage of shuriken, before weaving faster hand seals.

Fuuton: Reppushou (Wind Release: Gale Palm Technique)

The shuriken all slammed into Sasuke, who turned into a mud clone. Naruto once again went through hand seals and placed both hands on the ground, before Kanji spread around his position. Sasuke appeared not a second later, with his sword ready to decapitate Naruto, when Naruto's barrier technique made an effect. With Sasuke still airborne, Naruto's chest gathered enough water, while Naruto made the ram seal and released a powerful jet of water that once again sent Sasuke flying. The water hit a log of wood, before Naruto was surprised by three wire strands strapped to shurikens, entrapping him. Naruto saw Sasuke bite the wire strands and go through hand seals.

Katon: Ryuuka no Jutsu (Fire Release: Dragon Fire Technique)

From Sasuke's mouth, a torrent of flame erupted, before charging through the three wire strands, straight towards Naruto. The rest of the water on the field erupted as per Naruto's Ninjutsu usage, surprising Sasuke as he was without his hands. Naruto's quick water wall blocked Sasuke's fire technique, creating enough smoke to hide Naruto for the time being. Thinning the water beam with the use of his mouth, Naruto cut the wire strands trapping him. He, then, went for the finishing strike, going through a long series of hand seals.

Suiton: Suiryuudan no Jutsu (Water Release: Water Dragon Technique)

Sasuke was surprised upon looking at the water creature emerging from the smoke and was forced to jump away from the creature, but he was slammed full force. The tree behind him got the full brunt of the technique, as he landed on the small lake created by Naruto's technique. As soon as he did, Sasuke had to move quickly as Naruto skidded throughout the water to get faster and used his sword to carve a small wound on Sasuke's chest. The Uchiha felt the pain and placed his hand on the wound, looking in anger at his opponent.

However, that look of anger soon morphed into sheer madness and Naruto was surprised to feel for a brief moment, Orochimaru's Cursed Seal activating like a light, before both his and Kakashi's seals worked to block the influence.

Still, it made him worry.

"Yes...this is what I need. Not any of those losers I get to fight every day. Let's continue!"

Sasuke vanished before doing so and this time, Naruto had to saturate the air with water elemental chakra, to hinder Sasuke's movements.

The full sword close-range battle resumed and Sasuke once again felt his body getting heavy, but unlike before, this was not a Genjutsu, but pure water manipulation. He could see the chakra all around the area they were in with his eyes. Tried as he might, however, he couldn't get over this hindrance, allowing Naruto to increase the beating. Seeing no easy way out, Sasuke had to resort to using science against the Uzumaki and used lightning manipulation chakra. Naruto's eyes widened as he was seeing himself trapped by multiple lightning currents, all set on frying him.

'Quite interesting, Sasuke…'

Naruto had to quickly go through a quick sequence of hand seals, burning his chakra coils at having to shift elemental natures in such a short amount of time.

Of course, the fox was already bitching at him for it, but it was necessary.

After a fast sequence, Naruto finished with the bird seal for a technique Asuma-sensei helped him create.

Fuuton: Shippu Shouheki (Wind Release: Hurricane Barrier)

Sasuke looked on in surprise as the wind gathered around Naruto and formed a protective typhoon around him, ridding the area of the lightning current he created. The wind then picked up speed, as Naruto focused more chakra for the second part in this technique. Going through another series of hand seals and once again finishing with the bird sign, the typhoon expanded and expanded, until it caught the Uchiha, while spinning fast. Tried as he might, Sasuke just couldn't escape from the wind onslaught and was sent flying towards a rather thick tree, before slamming head first and going unconscious.

As soon as that happened, Naruto released the technique and managed to breathe easier in relief.

Sasuke had been getting better, that's for sure. Naruto feared that he would have to start using more lethal techniques to stop him.

But that wasn't concerning at the moment…what mattered was to report about Sasuke's seal weakening and the prospect of Orochimaru taking over once more.

===At the Hokage's Office===

After their little spar, Naruto went straight to Tsunade's Office and reported his findings to the Hokage.

The office happened to be packed with Shizune, Sakura and now Tsunade's three advisors Inuzuka Tsume, Aburame Shibi and Nara Shikaku.

"In the end, even with both Kakashi-sensei and my sealing, I think it's a matter of time for Orochimaru's Cursed Seal to influence him and with the level he's at, it will be harder to neutralize him, without using extreme force, Tsunade-sama." The Hokage was in her seat with her arms crossed, while hearing Naruto's report on Sasuke's condition. Sakura was behind her leader and looked clearly troubled by the news her senpai gave about Sasuke's situation. She also heard from Kiba that Sasuke's mood has worsened these last few months.

"Oh, so the Uchiha's stick up his ass strikes again, huh…I thought that was gone with the clan extinct."

Inuzuka Tsume had encountered many of the Uchiha Clan in the past and failed to meet more than one that didn't fit that description.

"A powerful tool the Sharingan may be, but the user gets conceited with time. A true shame…save for perhaps Uchiha Shisui, the rest was more or less the same." Aburame Shibi turned to Shikaku who was releasing a sigh in irritation at having to deal with this mess…as well as other messes. The man was still wondering why the Hokage called him to act as her advisor, though he was glad that at least Hiruzen's elder advisors are no longer there. They were very troublesome individuals, indeed.

Shikaku, then, turned to Naruto.

"Naruto-kun, can you tell precisely what triggered the change when you battled?" Naruto nodded.

"Sasuke's lust for battle was there the entire time…the more it prolonged, the more driven he became to beat me. Usually, when I use Genjutsu on him, it ends up showing him perhaps a memory of his worst nightmare. For example, in our fight at the Chuunin Exams, he saw his brother Itachi when I used it, so, yes, I believe the most sensitive trigger is his older brother or any mention of him, whatsoever." Tsunade hummed in acknowledgement at the report, before turning to Shizune, who was silent throughout the ordeal, just waiting for her orders.

"Kakashi now shall have to keep a closer eye on Sasuke than before. Please call him here, Shizune."

Before Shizune moved to call in the scarecrow Jonin, a woman from the village's Cypher Division opened the door to the office instantly.

"Hokage-sama, an urgent message from Suna…we worked diligently in deciphering it…here it is." Tsunade quickly grabbed the message and read it. Ever since Suna had invaded Konoha, Homura and Hiruzen had exchanged talks of reparation, but also in order to keep the animosity between villages more subdued so to speak. Homura was more in favor of a tougher settlement, one that would cripple Suna for a longer time, but Hiruzen had to step in and placate his advisor, thus deciding on a more broad settlement, thus avoiding another war or desperation and securing an ally for good this time, not merely on paper.

"Damn…so they moved already…I actually thought it would take longer…" Tsunade mumbled mostly to herself, before passing the message to her new advisors, before announcing what happened. "It appears the Kazekage was taken by Akatsuki."

Everyone in the room backed away in surprise, before Tsunade closed her eyes again.

"Time is off the essence here…Sunagakure has called for our assistance. Shizune, call in Kakashi's and Gai's team immediately. Gai's team shall be sent later, to act as backup. This is an S-ranked mission. Naruto, Sakura and Kakashi shall go right away towards Suna." Naruto nodded, remembering how it was when he faced Kisame and Itachi three years ago. Now, he had to smile, since he would be measuring his capacity against them once more, it appears. It has come to his knowledge sometime in the past that Gaara, the one he faced in the Chuunin Exams, was appointed as Kazekage not so long ago.

Tsunade, for her part, finished explaining the mission details. "It appears that the Kazekage's brother Kankuro has been deeply poisoned and Suna is having trouble taking care of him. That's where you come in, Sakura. You are to go and aid the hospital there in curing him."

"Yes, Tsunade-sama." Sakura nodded with a smile.

"Ah Tsunade-sama, is it wise to send in Naruto on this mission? If Akatsuki…"

Shizune whispered close to Tsunade's ear, before the leader negated, while eyeing the resident Jinchuuriki waiting in front of them.

"Right now, we can't afford to run through the list and see who's available. Plus, Naruto has proven himself quite capable as one of our Jonin, not to mention Kakashi and Gai shall be with him." Tsuande whispered, then announced to both Naruto and Sakura. "As soon as Kakashi arrives, you three shall head straight there…oh it just so happens that Temari, the Kazekage's sister, has just left Konoha towards Suna. You two shall meet up with her and bring her up to speed. Crossing the desert will be much faster with her guidance." Sakura now stood next to Naruto as both nodded. The Haruno Chuunin looked sideways and smiled, since this was the first time she would go on a mission with Naruto.

Despite her being a more active medic-nin these days, it's not like she forgot her training under him.

As soon as Kakashi arrived, he was brought up to speed and the team composed of Kakashi, Naruto and Sakura left towards Suna, with Gai's team to be sent as soon as possible.

Author Note

Ok, that's it for now.

Yeah, I had opted to maintain Gaara as the Kazekage. His overall personality won't be much different from canon, with the exception that he won't have the same bond he had with Naruto for obvious reasons.

In this story's invasion, it was Jiraiya who handled Gaara, possessed by the Sand Bijuu.

The idea about firing the elder advisors was made as a spur of the moment type of thing. Though, as the idea came, it solidified nicely. I don't recall if the Yondaime Hokage had Homura and Koharu helping him or someone else. There were some scenes of Hiruzen himself helping the Yondaime Hokage. Either way, it was something of a democracy for the next ruler to bring in his or her team to help out with the day to day business. Thus, calling the medium-sized clans to help out would help to balance the scales of power in the village…not that I plan on focusing on this throughout the story, but it was a very funny scene to write, followed by Jiraiya giggling from the shadows.

Furthermore, I hereby wish to everyone an anticipated Happy Holidays and please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Covid appears to make its face known once more, so please get vaccinated if you haven't already. Aside from that, stay safe…reach out to others as many times as you can…reach out to others who you know could use a comforting hug…let them know that whatever is going on in their lives shall one day pass and the pain will stop. Calling out for help as well is just as important as reaching out. Focus foremost on your mental health and seek every single opportunity available to get out and exercise. A simple walk, sometimes, towards any direction or no direction at all, can do wonders for the mind.

I know I don't talk about this much, but I feel nowadays it is important.

There are many invisible hazards in the world that are invisible and sometimes, these harms are caused by our own actions or omissions and it hits us and our loved ones deeper, because of it.

Once again, Happy Holidays to everyone and may 2023 be better for everyone.

Lastly, I have recently created a P-atreon account for those who wish to follow my stories more personally, sending suggestions and occasional polls to help me.

Also, for those who wish to make a pledge there, it would be greatly appreciated. If not, then, it's fine as well. What's important for me is to have more readers admiring my stories.

P-atreon Account: Anime-Enthusiast

Next update: Avalon Bond