A Nugget Of Advice, Chapter 26

Across the continent, going west of Yu no Kuni, was Oto no Kuni – the former conquered lands of Orochimaru. Once beautiful lands flushed with wide, sprawling rice fields, lush forests, and a brevity of rivers, Oto no Kuni had become a battlefield for leaderless ninjas serving two sides. One for those who were loyal to their former master and leader, Orochimaru, and those who wanted to run away.

The loyalists, thanks to the efforts of those in power on the side, had won. Whatever sort of rogue ninja or rebel either "reconsidered" fleeing Oto no Kuni or died trying to escape. There were other places that had the banner of Otogakure; prisons and cells that housed many of Orochimaru's experiments. It was cold as it was to think of people like that, but it was the truth. The people outside of those places had bunched up and created a settlement that served as the main base of sorts for Otogakure.

Currently, Kimimaro stands in as the leader of Otogakure. Once Orochimaru returned back to life, he would retake his throne as the supreme leader, and Otogakure would once more rise to its former glory. As it stood now, Kimimaro was tasked with a mission to retrieve Sasuke Uchiha.

The teen had said that Orochimaru spoke through him through his seal. One would believe that to be impossible but it was something Guren believed because others who were branded with Orochimaru's juinjutsu had said the same in the past that Orochimaru could communicate with them at any time. She herself lacked Orochimaru's marking, which slumped her with dejection every time she remembered that fact. Oh, how she wished to hear her master's voice again in these uncertain times.

In any case, Kimimaro had set out to go to Konohagakure to capture Sasuke Uchiha. He had taken the Sound Four with him as his backup. Their mission was simple: sneak into the village, capture the Uchiha boy, and then return back here. With no one equaling him in power, the Kaguya had left her in charge.

And when Guren had thought it was to be peace – at least until Kimimaro returned with Sasuke Uchiha – the entirety of Otogakure was once again being torn down in this late afternoon.

The land, once green, burned as a plume of fire and flame turned it all to ash. Shinobi caught in the blaze screamed and cried loudly through the darkening afternoon as they were immolated. The ones who dodged that ninjutsu were soon bisected by an arched wave of water. The last of the cannon fodder that survived those two ordeals was skewered by countless stone spikes jutting from the ground.

"Aw, man. I thought he would be in Hi no Kuni at least by now," came the random comment of a man. He started to stroke his chin in thought as he stood on the battlefield, unaware of the chaos unfolding. Or uncaring. "She isn't here either. At least with the boy, I know where's going to turn up but the girl…"

In the darkening skies, Guren could make out the man's clearly amused smile as she raced over. "Oh, who are you lot?"

Guren's team came down next. Nurari, Kigiri, and Gozu surrounded the man from three angles. They were the frontline element ninjutsu users and the heavy hitters in the squad outside of her help. Rinji was in a tree, ready to apply some long-range, bat-related ninjutsu, as was Kihō with his smoke techniques. Yūkimaru, the youngest and freshest shinobi of the group, stood at her side cautiously but had a kunai up, ready to fight.

"Who are you?" Guren called out from a short distance.

"Ichirō, I am called," the man said cheerfully. Guren took in Ichirō's long red hair, a matching goatee, violet eyes, and old-styled, grey-plated armor over a green kimono. Red spirals were painted on the shoulders of the kimono.

"Are you the one responsible for this chaos?"

"A mere misunderstanding, you see."

A hailstorm of crystal skewers rained down on the shinobi. Guren watched as the man jumped in the air. Smoke was shot out from Kihō's position. Next Nurari created and threw syrup-like projectiles to subdue the man as Kigiri created a fireball that consumed the man. It was too fast for most to dodge.

The man reappeared, however, giving them a smile. He was unscathed. "You sure you can't just let me go and you ignoring this 'transgression?'"

Guren growled at the blasé attitude, both at Ichirō's words and the fact that he didn't seem all that bothered by their attacks. "You destroyed our village, killed our men and you want me to let you go?! What was this all for? Revenge against Orochimaru-sama?!"

"Nah, I don't really care about that snake. He's long gone away. I'm here for someone else. A girl. Uzumaki."

"One person? You're doing this for one regular person?" Guren gaped at Ichirō.

"They're family. And we Uzumaki take family very seriously." The man revealed his heritage with a proud smile. "And I tried asking nicely before, but it seems like they got the wrong idea and attacked me first. Can't blame me for defending myself."

"Are you insane?" Guren questioned, trying to make sense of the assault on her village.

"Very sane, actually."

"You came here and destroyed the lands and lives – for one person. You're an insane fool. We had no quarrel with you."

"True, true," came the soft tenor of the red-haired man. "Truthfully, I have no problem with you either. I'm here on some business. Just that. Not here to stick it to Orochimaru, no. He has – or, excuse me, had – one of my people here. Never got around to getting them until now. Been busy, you see. I'm here to collect them as my duty to my clan and my nation.

"I see my kin has left for the south, so I won't be here for long. Instead, I'll just end this battle peacefully. Especially with the state of this place. Now that I'm out here, I can see what's Otogakure really like: a shithole. Orochimaru left his subjects to fend for themselves."

"You call this place that, but you added more to our problems! If you think I'm going to just let you go-"

The man interrupted, scratching his face. "I mean, aren't you? We're just sitting here shooting the breeze while watching this roaring fire blaze on in the background. You haven't raised your blade at me again, and your teammates are just watching what to do next. They don't look like they want to fight, and neither do you. You do have more pressing matters at stake here, little Domu, instead of fighting little ol' me."

"Don't tell me what I want and don't want." Guren's frown deepened, annoyance and confusion on her countenance. "And what is this 'Domu?'"

"Hmm? Don't know what you are? Orochimaru has had a lot of people in his employment. A lot of people's chakras here are unique and interesting. Your team is no different. Lots of minor hiden ninjutsu and kekkai genkai abilities from clans I once thought were dead. Your chakra too," Ichirō pointed at Guren, "Is telling me you're from the Domu clan, once a great clan with amazing earth-based kekkai gekkai. I should know. I deal with one on the reg. My son and all."

The Oto kunoichi gritted her teeth. "All this talking and ranting. You think you know so much! But I am no 'Domu' or whoever you think I am. I am Orochimaru-sama's most loyal shinobi!"

"Loyalty to a dead man?" Ichirō easily swatted away a kunai-shaped crystal that was aimed at his head. Unbothered, he continued, "You know what? I think you all are very interesting here. We don't have to fight. Matter of fact, why don't you all come with me?"

"What're you saying now?!"

"Calm down and think about what I'm trying to say. I offer you all the choice to come to my lands and help my village. In turn, you will have a home and a place to call your own. You see, I'm recruiting people. I want you to join me."

"Trade one master for another?" spoke up Rinji this time in a skeptical tone, revealing his place in the tree. "What do you offer better than Orochimaru-sama?" From what she could see, Nurari and Kigiri nodded, keeping a steady glance at the man. She could not see Kihō. Gozu only stared and Yūkimaru continued to cower.

Guren spun her head around, commanding, "Don't entertain him, Rinji. That goes for you all as well. We only serve one master," she hissed.

"Again, a dead one at that, one that can't even help you protect your meager lands. I offer you all a true home, a shelter – not just some random base you reside at and await orders and forced experimentation." The Uzumaki scoffed. "Orochimaru wasn't the kindest leader to you all. I've seen some of the other places Orochimaru got around this country. Jail cells, labs, and fighting pits. Hmph. You're all prisoners of Orochimaru; tools to use and throw away when you outlived your purpose. But where I am at, what I offer, you can be so much more. Join me."

"Orochimaru has given us strength to kick back at the world," Guren claimed, priming her chakra. "We certainly don't need you to fill his place."

"You really believe that, huh? But do the rest of you believe that?" The blue-haired kunoichi acknowledged the hesitation of most of her teammates, who did not raise their weapons, with barely contained rage. The Uzumaki continued with his honeyed words. "All you have to do is forget about Otogakure. Your master isn't here. Why stay? Why protect something you may not even care about?"

"I told you, we only serve one master."

"You talk too much. Aren't even letting your friends get a word in, huh?"

"That's because I am their leader." Guren turned her head to her teammates, pinning each of them with a heated stare. "And if any of you get the idea of turning, I'll make sure you'll regret it."

They all raised their weapons then.

"So, that's it, huh? A little threat from her and you all are ready to just give up?" Ichirō shrugged. "Fine, suit yourself. I guess I gotta show you why you chose wrong."

A few minutes later, she found that killing the man was nigh impossible and one of her greatest challenges.

Early in the battle, she had set out to finish the Uzumaki quickly with a blade of blue crystal formed on her forearm. A deadly dance of taijutsu had begun. She had been one of Otogakure's best taijutsu users – ahead of the Sound Four's Sakon/Ukon twins and right behind Kimimaro and Orochimaru themselves. Yet, this man matched her fighting with ease, comfortable with using just a dagger to counter her blows.

In a climactic part of their first round of fighting, he had managed to punt her away with a kick that, even with her using armor made out of crystal to further protect herself, put her nearly out of commission.

Gozu immediately helped her. Her teammate produced a ninjutsu hardening mud that stuck the feet of the man gave a chance for her to do so – but the redheaded man quickly escaped it with his own mastery of earth manipulation and hit her with a palm strike to her chest.

The attack hurt, of course, but that wasn't the main problem. The problem was she had been hit with a seal. The man applied a fūinjutsu and she felt her chakra losing control when her crystal armor sputtered out and the technique prematurely finished. Ichirō tried closing the distance shortly afterward.

In response, she sent out a barrage of crystal spears at her enemy, noting how much chakra that took from her. Doing that relatively average ninjutsu made her chakra reserves drop considerably. Her control of her Kekkai Genkai had been absolutely perfect; now it reminded her of when she first awoken to the power of the Crystal Release.

But the barrage of crystal projectiles did deter Ichirō for a few seconds. Retreating in that time span, the blue-haired kunoichi had backed off and allowed her teammates to deal with the Uzumaki. She had not rejoined the battle, seeing she could flare her chakra to overwhelm the seal but all it did was make her waste more of her chakra. She had started to feel a bit winded – which was a first in a while. Not since her early training days with Orochimaru had Guren felt she was being pushed. Her chakra reserves were dense and large from years of activity and now they were being tested because of a seal that wouldn't go off.

Besides Orochimaru and the Sound Four, nobody in Otogakure, let alone in Guren's team, knew how to perform fūinjutsu. That meant she was going to be handicapped in the battle. The rest of her team knew it was time to step in.

Rinji had been the first one dead; shuriken stars littered his cadaver. Out of all the members of Team Guren, Rinji was never a frontline fighter, having affinities with scouting and spying instead. One could hear the loud whistling of a barrage of shuriken flying through the air, especially when it's done with a technique like the Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu. With his summoning of bats, Rinji could easily have dodged that. However, chains made out of pure chakra rooted his feet to the ground and he could do little as a plethora of shuriken was dumped into his body.

Nurari lasted longer and escaped death from the Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu by creating a slimy shield that absorbed the kunai like rubber. He even tried throwing it back, but a blazing inferno from a Fire Release technique nearly overpowered the shield and put an end to his counter. Nurari abandoned the strategy and was on defense as Ichirō closed the distance. With his suit, Nurari had a plethora of water at his disposal, and the body modifications Orochimaru-sama gave him allowed him to dodge the man's taijutsu with relative ease. However, Nurari himself could not touch the enemy shinobi. Nurari and the Uzumaki then traded Water Release techniques for a while.

It was clear the Uzumaki shinobi was merely having fun doing that but, in the end, when Nurari tried using another one of his Water Release techniques, water's natural counter, Earth, shut down any more fighting from Nurari. He was carried away from the shinobi with a river coming from the Doton: Doryū Taiga technique and a dragon made of mud, earth, and stone gored through his entire frame.

Kigiri and Kihō tried combining their smoke ninjutsu together with Kigiri providing yellowing smoke and Kihō using the smokescreen to create and send smoke dragons toward Ichirō's way. However, the dragons were made of smoke. Ichirō merely created a wall of water to have the dragons harmlessly dissipate against it, and further manipulated the water out in a wave as if the smoke didn't hinder him in finding out where the two men were.

Kigiri tried using black smoke to capture the man, but he wasn't fast enough, and a fast wave of water that had cutting power sliced at him. He saw it, but at the last moment, and it cost him an arm. The water had sliced it off from the shoulder blade. He howled, and fell to the floor, clearly out for the count as he tried to figure out ways to stop bleeding. Instead of finishing Kigiri off, the man turned to Guren and those crowded near her.

Gozu sent a wave of dark sludge towards Ichirō, allowing Guren to perform a ninjutsu that summoned earthen pillars that rose her teammates into the sky – all except Kigiri, who still was as good as dead in her opinion.

Kihō, Guren, Yūkimaru, and Gozu remained standing on raised pillars. Guren had no illusions that the man couldn't get them from down there, but he did not seem willing to do that. Instead, he tried talking again.

"Do we have to fight?" The Uzumaki man sighed. "I hate to kill a Domu clanmate. My son is one too, and it's like if I killed an Uzumaki myself. Your kind's numbers have dwindled, like my clan, Domu-chan. Why not join my village? Your clan once served the Uzumaki Clan well."

"I am no 'Domu.' I am Guren of Otogakure! I am me, and only me," Guren spat out venomously. Her lips then twisted into a sneer. "You're an Uzumaki, as you keep saying. Your clan was already exterminated before; I don't see how I can't continue what other nations have started. I shall send you to the rest of your people!"

The Uzumaki's face darkened. "Fine, I suppose I wasted too much time here! The Uzumaki I am after has left south to the Valley of the End anyway. I'll just say to my son that you were a lost cause. I would keep the offer for you, Mudman and Smoke Men, but your team leader just sent you to your deaths."

And then chains exploded from his body. Guren took Yūkimaru into her arms and jumped off the pillars. Loud, almost deafening sounds of stone exploding from the vertical stone pillar were created, followed by the stones falling to the grass. Gozu had jumped off his pillar, and with strength she didn't possess, repurposed the fallen rock by tossing the boulders at the man.

The Uzumaki resummoned the chains and pulverized the rock even further. Gozu shot out his mouth a volley of mud balls to the feet of the Uzumaki, attempting to slow him down, but they never hit their target. Before the Uzumaki could counterattack though, Kihō had lobbed a smoke grenade from his launcher at the man, and a plume of yellow smoke filled the battlefield again.

At that point, Kigiri had seemed to return to battle, fury apparent in his grey eyes. He looked like he cauterized the wound with some application of a Fire Release ninjutsu. Guren imagined he simply kept fighting because he was being fueled with pure adrenaline and hatred. Kigiri shot out a one-handed searing fireball that, as Guren remembered it doing when it hit a target, the fireball exploded on contact.

It hit the Uzumaki contact. However, instead of a simple and localized fiery explosion, in the enemy's place a large watery explosion detonated and the shockwave blew back everyone nearby. She reacted only fast enough to protect Yūkimaru by grabbing him as they slammed into a nearby tree, shielding Yūkimaru with her body so she took the brunt of the hit. Gozu slid across the floor and from what she had seen, was now sporting more than a few bruises and nasty wounds. His durable body was the only thing that saved him from more grievous injuries since his proximity to the enemy Uzumaki was close. Kigiri had been the closest, and Guren had no hopes that he would be alive after that.

The smoke cleared and Guren's belief had been confirmed right. Her former teammate had been crushed by the water explosion's pressure, his cadaver looking deflated.

As the Uzumaki came out of nowhere and drove a kunai through the throat of Kihō, she realized that Ichirō had used a clone on them. The smoke had dissipated by then.

Yūkimaru stirred, looking up at his leader with concerned magenta eyes. "Guren? M-Maybe I should use the power-"

The older woman shook her head, standing them both up. "Don't bother, Yūkimaru. You barely have control of it as it is. Orochimaru-sama couldn't teach you all the way how to control that power before he died, remember? Just stay out of this. I will take care of this man."

"G-Guren, let me help you guys!"

"Yes, let that one help, Domu-chan. I see he hasn't once used a technique." Ichirō commented as he appeared from a short distance from them. Guren immediately threw him away. "Why isn't he allowed to help?"

"Stay here, Yūkimaru," Guren ordered. With a hand seal, a pink crystal dome started to surround her youngest teammate. She coated it with an extra lay of earth-release chakra, to make the crystal harder to break.

"B-But Guren-"

"We will handle it." She tried to reassure him, not wanting him to do anything. She couldn't trust her own skills to stop Yūkimaru should things go wrong since her chakra was acting up. Orochimaru-sama was not here to help either.

She didn't wait for the boy to respond as she rushed towards her enemy.

Gozu found his second wind as well as he stretched his arm at Ichirō, sporting a fist sheathed in stone. The Uzumaki evaded and tried slamming an elbow into Gozu's face but the man's face became mud, as did the rest of his body, signifying the usage of a clone ninjutsu. The mud glued onto him.

Running at Ichirō, Guren pulled the moisture from the air and directed sharp spears of blue crystals to the Uzumaki. The man used Kawirimi and her crystals bounced off a rock.

Not waiting for him to reappear, she used her previous' ninjutsu's leftover crystals and summoned a crystal mirror. Two clones of her own came out. Durable clones would distract the Uzumaki and help Gozu while she started her strongest ninjutsu.

The clones used their limited chakra differently. One created a wave of skewering crystals that grew out of the ground. He jumped in the air, which prompted another clone to summon a crystal shuriken and shoot it out at him. The Uzumaki created his chain ninjutsu again. Golden chains erupted from his person as they glowed in the evening. He took them and spun violently, whipping and destroying the fragile crystal shuriken. He then used the chains to grab one of the clones and threw it into the other one. They both exploded into thousands of shards of crystals. The distraction served its purpose, however.

"Shisho Tenketsu!" she announced, feeling her dwindling chakra pools spike and spill over, so to speak. In return, she had to ignore a new feeling of lightheadedness. More chakra to counteract her weakening amount of control of her energy.

"It's pretty amazing you're resisting my seal, even after having your chakra go out of whack from it," the Uzumaki praised her, still unconcerned with anything they were doing, which didn't fail to piss her off.

The insufferable Uzumaki then dodged Gozu's fist casually. He retaliated with a disrespectful slap to the man's face, too fast for Gozu to counter properly like last time. A seal glowed on her teammate's cheek, which stopped his movements. Ichirō then stomped and sent a wave of liquid at the man, who had no time to use his earth release as the fluid shot him away into a tree. A ram hand seal later from Ichirō and Gozu was glued to the tree as the liquid's viscosity was transformed to make it sticky.

He regarded Guren again. "And this is a pretty interesting technique too. So much chakra is brimming from you. What will you do now, I wonder."

Instead of going for her, Ichirō went to finish off Gozu, forcing Guren to use another ninjutsu. Two more crystal mirrors were formed, and more clones were left to contend with the Uzumaki and save Gozu. Her clones wove the hand seals from boar to ram. Pink crystals connected together to form several jade-colored-eyed crystal dragons. The dragons rushed past Gozu to their enemy.

The Uzumaki shinobi stood his ground and sent forth a ninjutsu. "Kongō Fūsa."

The chains from before lashed out in an attack, whipping at her constructions. Strong enough to break her crystals before and then the rock, she wasn't surprised that the dragons were destroyed by the chains too, but it was all for distraction. By the time he did the flashy chain-whip fighting, she had risen to the sky in a translucent crystal prism.

She manipulated the air and focused her chakra to the best of her ability. A strong beam of powerful heat charged up before she released it. "Shōton: Isshi Kōmyō!"

The blue burning laser blasted at the Uzumaki. It traveled way too fast for the man to dodge, she had to believe that. Her chakra was taxed; it had to end here. Blue light filled the battlefield; an audible explosion was heard. With the lingering vestiges of her chakra, Guren floated her crystal prism over the crater her energy attack caused. When the grey smoke dispersed, Ichirō was lying there, motionless.

Guren's crystal prism finally ended with a pathetic sputter. Her stamina and chakra were spent; she fell down in a heap. She gasped, greedily taking in oxygen while clutching her chest. "G-Gods, dammit."

The Otogakure loyalist tried crawling to Yūkimaru, but she stopped when she heard a sound that she didn't want to hear: the sound of a clone popping. She soon felt herself also being glued to a tree with the same sticky liquid Gozu was trapped in. Guren growled weakly, as the Uzumaki man walked up to her with a kunai.

"Sorry, Tatsuya," the man uttered loudly enough for Guren to hear. "Couldn't save this one."

But before he could drive the kunai into her throat, Ichirō stopped and turned around. A loud shattering of crystal was heard.

Guren felt a wave of bloodlust, killing intent, and fear gripped her stomach. Yūkimaru had stood there, a red-orange aura rising from every pore of his body. 'Damn, that boy… No, Yūkimaru!'

"Leave Guren alone!"

"I was wondering when you would become an issue," Ichirō chirped with a smirk. "A jinchūriki! So that's what chakra I was sensing from you. Let's see what Orochimaru has been teaching you, little man."

The redheaded Uzumaki did this goading while a hand of chakra floated over his head and threatened to crush him as it came down. He sped away and reappeared with the golden chains from before.

He sent them out at the boy, but Yūkimaru – displaying dexterity and speed that even surprised her – weaved through the array of chains, a hand cocked back to smack Ichirō.

Yūkimaru clocked the Uzumaki with a punch to the face, but that accomplished not much as 'Ichirō' exploded with a violent waterfall that had enough concussive force to push back the now bijū-empowered Yūkimaru.

"I'll kill you!" Yūkimaru declared madly, now dipping more into the influence of the bijū's chakra.

"Doubt it," Ichirō egged on with the same smirk as before. "The more I peered in your chakra, the more I knew that you are a pseudo-jinchūriki with very little training with that chakra. Seems like all Orochimaru did was make a weapon without polishing it. You know, I only saw this once before in the Third War from a true jinchūriki, who might I add you look a lot like. Truly fearsome chakra – even if it's just a piece of it."

The boy snarled animalistically as a retort, crouched and his aura bubbled again. Out of his back, sprung up a tail made of the volatile bijū chakra. All did Ichirō was stand in place.

Guren watched helplessly as Yūkimaru sped off to the Uzumaki, only to be forced back with that river of earth again, and a bullet of water hit her young teammate in the chest. Yūkimaru screeched with pain, but it did not kill him. It stuck his petite body to a tree and was clearly something similar to the sticky liquid that held Gozu and her in place. However, Yūkimaru's chakra was not spent like hers or suppressed like Gozu, and he – as he kept getting angrier – increased the usage of his demonic chakra to free himself.

He didn't stop increasing the chakra. The boy started shifting more and more until Yūkimaru's body was transformed into a bulky dark red-orange mass that vaguely looked reptilian in nature. Yūkimaru's chakra formed a shell and a horned head, as well as a three-pronged tail. Only one time she had seen this when the boy had gone berserk against Orochimaru months ago.

The pseudo-jinchūriki raised his head to show his ghastly white glowing eyes before he roared at the night sky monstrously. Guren was shaken, and she was sure even the usually stoic Gozu was too, but instead of using concern, Ichirō's confidence remained. She was reminded of Orochimaru.

Yūkimaru roared again at Ichirō, this time producing a shockwave that she believed not even Ichirō was fast enough to dodge. The sound wave alone broke up the soil from the ground in an explosion. While she was at a distance to not feel the effect, Guren felt the tree she was on struggle to stay in the ground, as some of its roots shot up. Gozu's tree, which was close to where the Uzumaki and the pseudo-jinchūriki were doing battle, unfortunately, lifted out of the dirt completely and the man was launched into the air.

The tree slammed back into the ground in the distance. Guren did not know of Gozu's fate from there.

Ichirō was gone for the moment, and she had hoped the force killed him. Yūkimaru seemed to think so too, as the demonic teen screeched in demented laughter. But he wasn't done. Yūkimaru opened his mouth, and particles both blue and red rose to a black ball being made. Guren had only seen this technique once when Orochimaru and the boy were training with it. If fired, it would devastate the landscape. Any sort of survivors of the pseudo-jinchūriki's attack would die, possibly her and Gozu too (assuming he was even alive at this point) if the boy was too reckless.

"N-No, Yūkimaru!" The kunoichi tried calling out in a weak voice. "It's over! You won!"

Then, familiar golden chains wrapped around the Sanbi pseudo-jinchūriki. The boy struggled, as the chakra over his head hovered.

"Nope, I can't let you do that now," the Uzumaki announced his return. "As interesting as it was, I do not want to see a Bijūdama. Saw that in the Third War already, thank you."

A clone of Ichirō formed in front of the writhing beast-boy and yelled out, "Kongō Fūsa: Yokusei!"

First, the demonic chakra ball sputtered out of existence. Then, Yūkimaru's inhuman roars became petulant cries fitting for a growing teen as the bijū chakra receded back into his seal. The boy looked spent and in pain. His skin was red and raw, and soon after his own chakra was suppressed, he fell into a deep unconsciousness. Ichirō's clone watched over him, crouching down. Ichirō himself walked back over to her.

Guren gasped, fear once again gripping at her. The bijū's chakra, even an iota of it, was supposed to be one of the most difficult things in the world to fight, and yet, the man handled it without so much of breaking a sweat. He even managed to suppress that power – which meant he more than likely matched Orochimaru in strength.

"G-Get away from him!"

Ichirō shook his head. "Now why would I do that? A pseudo-jinchūriki is too good to give up."

"Don't take Yūkimaru away from me!" Tears started welling in her eyes.

"Enough, you're not his mother," the Uzumaki coldly stated, looking ready to bolt with the boy. He kept a hard look trained on her before he sighed. "I don't want to kill you. You really are one of the few people of the Domu clan. A clan that I admired, and one my son is a part of. It's obvious you care about this boy."

She helplessly watched as another clone of Ichirō picked her up, and she felt her chakra completely leave her. "It will be a shame to just kill you. You're coming with us, whether you like it or not because look around you, Otogakure is no more. Don't worry about your boy either. He did a lot of damage to himself transforming like that, but luckily, I can heal him."

Guren bit her lip. She could bark out that Kimimaro and his team were going to grab Sasuke Uchiha and that Orochimaru-sama was going to get him for what he's done, but seeing how easily he could have killed her and taken Yūkimaru from her forever and not given her a chance at something else, she didn't. She was truly loyal to Orochimaru but Yūkimaru, Yūkimaru trumped that loyalty.

So, she said and did nothing. There wasn't even so much of a squirm from her as Ichirō's clones moved her and Yūkimaru far from their creator.

"Where are we going? Where is he going?"

"My creator's said it so many times before, it's kinda getting tiring to say it again, Domu-chan," Ichirō sassed with an easy-going smile. "He's got business finding the female Uzumaki – and that means going to Hi no Kuni. Someone, you know?"

"I know of no Uzumaki that was in Orochimaru's service, and the only kunoichi that went to Hi no-" She then paused, remembering the Uzumaki said his creator was going to Hi no Kuni. "Tayuya… You mean her?"

"Tayuya, huh? Sounds like a pretty name."


A/N: Here comes the umpteenth time a fic decided to turn Tayuya into an Uzumaki but hey, I still like the idea of it. Guren also was a cool idea that the anime-only arcs of Naruto Shippūden created, so I decided to use her and the equally underutilized Yūkimaru, who is now a pseudo-jinchūriki, instead of merely being partially able to control the Three-Tails for this fic. Not entirely original. I got the idea from DripBayless' The Moon Rises at Dawn who does something similar with Yūkimaru. It's a great story so far, I would recommend it. I hope the addition of another Uzumaki OC of mine was, at least, tasteful.

Another chapter to toss out soon. Thanks for reading.

Translation List:

Bijūdama – Tailed Beast Ball
Doton: Doryū Taiga – Earth Release: Earth Flow River
Kongō Fūsa – Adamantine Seal Chains
Shisho Tenketsu – Pressure Points of Harm and Death
Shōton: Isshi Kōmyō – Crystal Release: String of Glory

Technique List

Adamantine Sealing Chains: Suppression (Kongō Fūsa: Yokusei) – Adamantine Sealing Chains: Suppression is a follow-up technique of the normal Adamantine Sealing Chains. The point of this technique is to completely nullify and suppress tailed beast chakra or something similarly strong. So as long as the user is holding on to the target, their chakra will recede and deactivate in their bodies for as long as the user wants to. This is because the user's chains brand the target with thousands of invisible small seals reading "Suppress." To reactivate one's chakra, the user uses the Adamantine Sealing Chains: Release technique.