Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto nor The Gamer. I own nothing, really.

Cover Art: Kissuli.

Chapter 102

"Don't take so long this time, ok?" Naruto said with a grin that, for once, looked rather strained. Eiji got it though, the whole group looked rather… grim. Before Iwa, they looked worried, nervous. At that moment, however, they looked somber, resigned. It was what it was though, there was nothing to be done about it.

"I'll try," Eiji replied, giving him a squeeze on the arm, before he walked away.

"Eiji," He heard Sasuke call then, almost catching him off guard. Everyone had said their goodbyes already. He'd thought that, like last time, would be it. There was no need to prolong it and make it harder for everyone.

When he turned around, he found himself face to face with the Uchiha, standing in front of him and away from the group. It took Eiji one look to realize that it was intentional, which had him send his own team away with a wave of his hand. Then, giving his whole attention to Sasuke, he nodded encouragingly. If the hesitant way he shifted from foot to foot and kept looking around was any indication, he was struggling quite a bit with words at that moment.

"I just… Don't hold back, ok?" Sasuke said, and it sounded about as awkward as those words could get, which confused Eiji to no end. The Uchiha wasn't known for this sort of behavior, that was for sure. "I mean…" The boy's face twisted into a grimace before he took a deep breath in and let it out. "I know that Itachi is in the group you are fighting. I was there when they went after Naruto."

Now that Eiji could understand, and it certainly helped fit several pieces of this puzzle into place. But surely he was wrong, right? Surely Sasuke wasn't talking about what he thought he was.

"If you see him, fight him, at your best," Sasuke all but demanded. "I… I want to kill him myself, but… I don't want you to die because you were holding back, ok?" He asked, almost pleading. "I don't want to lose anyone anymore… Please, don't die."

"I'll do my best," Eiji replied, because it was as much as he could promise all things considered. He wanted to tell him more. To tell Sasuke about his brother, and what had likely happened. It would surely help somehow somewhat, if delivered the right way… But he didn't know if he was right. He'd seen so many things change from before he became Eiji Satou, that he wasn't sure if what he knew was right or wrong.

Maybe he could do something about that though.

"Kill him, if you have to," Sasuke whispered, apparently sending all his rules out the window and hugging Eiji. "But do come back."

"Of course I'll come back. We still have to find you a girlfriend. Wasn't that part of your dream too?" Eiji told him, a grin appearing on his face as he heard him groan.

"You had to ruin it, didn't you?" Sasuke asked, but despite his words and his grimace, a glint of humor could be seen in his eyes. "Just go away already."

"Take care, Sasuke. And make sure the others don't do anything stupid," Eiji called as the other boy started walking back to the group, who were looking at him, wide-eyed.

"I don't think that's even possible," Sasuke replied and Eiji chuckled. Fair enough.

"Finished with the sappy goodbyes, Fearless Leader?" Tayuya asked, laughter in her voice.

"Aw, are you jealous, Tayuya? I can give you a hug too, if you want," Eiji asked, which made the girl shut up instantly and give him her best glare. Many people would have been frightened by that look. Unfortunately for her, he wasn't one of those. Instead he just gave her a smirk.

"You have to teach me your secrets one day, Eiji," Jirobo commented.

"One day, Jirobo, one day," The boy replied with a shake of his head. "For now, I fear she'll rebel if I do that. She could take away the music, you know? I can't risk that."

"Tch, gotta wait, I guess," The orange haired boy lamented, although Eiji could see the corner of his mouth twitching. "Maybe I can find my own method one day."

"Keep dreaming, Fatass!"

"One can only hope," Jirobo continued, completely ignoring Tayuya.

"Indeed," The rest of the team agreed easily.

"I hate you all," The redhead grumbled.

"Man, I get the feeling that you guys don't like Tayuya," Eiji commented idly. "Weird, right?"

Silence.

"No offense to you intended, Eiji Satou," Sasori started then. "But you do realize that you are the only one that likes having her around, right?"

"I mean, there's Uno?" He pointed out, receiving silence again for a good moment.

"True enough."

"That's right."

"Huh, had forgotten."

"Fair."

"When are we playing again, by the way?"

"... I hate you all. So much."

"We love you too, Tayuya," Eiji replied, bringing the girl into a one-armed hug that had her struggling hopelessly against it. "We are just joking."

"... Sure…" Temari mumbled sarcastically, earning herself a raised eyebrow from Eiji that had her rolling her eyes.

"Anyway, if we cover a good enough distance, we can play Uno while we rest," Eiji commented.

"Hell yes!" Temari celebrated. She'd become somewhat of a fan of the game.

Unless, that is…

"And Tayuya can stay out if she wants."

"Hell yes!" The redhead celebrated this time.

"Fuck!" Temari cursed.

After all, she was the second person with the worst luck when it came to Uno.

"You are so childish sometimes," Sasori muttered, shaking his head.

"Says the guy that refuses to play anymore," Yugito pointed out, receiving only silence in response. After all, the puppet master's luck had been somewhat good for a few games. Then his beginner's luck ran out and he revealed that he was somehow worse than Tayuya on that front.

"They have nothing on Kage though."

"... I hate you."

Tsuchigumo just barked a laugh at that.

[}-o-{]

"Already missing your girlfriend, Four Eyes," Tayuya asked, looking at Kabuto with a grin as he patted Yuki. The med-nin simply rolled his eyes at her, although Eiji had to admit that he did look more… subdued. Maybe it wasn't what the redhead was implying, or maybe it was, but something was definitely going on there.

"Something the matter, Kabuto?" He decided to ask in the end, when it became apparent that the med-nin wouldn't deign their genjutsu expert with an answer. Not that Eiji could blame him, really. He'd ignored Tayuya more than a little bit himself, after all.

"No, it's just… I'm getting used to some things, is all," Kabuto replied then and Eiji considered that answer for a moment. The man was certainly changed from what he'd known about him and even what he'd seen of him. He couldn't quite point out what, but slowly, Kabuto had turned into someone else. Eiji guessed it wasn't a stretch to think that the guy himself was struggling with that, then.

"Yeah, being a person is hard, isn't it?" Tayuya asked then, but contrary to what one would expect, it came out with a lot less bite to it. Even the girl herself seemed surprised by that, judging by the look on her face.

"Well, if it's any consolation, you are getting there," Eiji commented, looking at the three ex-Sound ninja. They'd come a long way from the trio he'd gathered for his… Suicide Squad. They actually looked like a team now, surprisingly enough.

"The encouraging words are appreciated," Jirobo said, nodding in Eiji's direction.

"Aw, I knew you liked us, Fearless Leader," Tayuya exclaimed, pulling him into a one-armed hug that had him rolling his eyes. "Next thing we know, we are having teary goodbyes like the brats back in Konoha."

"We can do that if you want," He offered with a deadpan.

"Naah," She waved off instantly, letting go of him. "Besides, I wouldn't want the Bimbos and Mr. Freaky to feel left out."

"Do you have to be so unbearably annoying all the time?" Temari growled.

"It's a gift," Tayuya shot back with a grin.

"One would think you'd have gotten used to her antics at this point, honestly," Eiji commented, getting a nod from Jirobo. At that, the Suna nin deflated.

"I try, but… she just really knows how to annoy me, I guess," Temari grumbled under her breath.

"I wonder if these kinds of interactions are normal in all groups. I don't remember it like this when I was a Suna ninja," Sasori commented, although it didn't seem directed at anybody in particular. Regardless, Temari tensed. Understandable, really, considering what Sasori had done to Suna. "They weren't exactly normal back in Akatsuki either, really. Things have changed, it seems."

"I think it's more about you joining weird groups, Mr. Freaky," Tayuya pointed out, although Eiji could see that she wasn't particularly relaxed around the puppet master. She was making a valiant effort though.

"I guess you do have a point," Sasori replied with a nod.

"Besides, Fearless Leader couldn't have anything normal happen in his life if he tried," The redhead commented.

"She does have a point."

"Shut up, Hachi," Eiji grumbled to himself.

[}-o-{]

"You can do better than that, guys, come on," Eiji urged his team, who groaned in unison as they pushed themselves to their feet. The only ones not complaining were Yugito, who had infinite stamina, basically, and Sasori, since he didn't feel exhaustion nor pain anymore. "Why don't you follow these two's example?"

"Because they are absolute freaks of nature?" Kabuto asked as he readied himself to rush back into the battle. Which… was a fair reply, really. There was definitely nothing normal about the Jinchuuriki and the puppet master.

"Still, you gotta keep up, guys," Eiji called with a grin. "I know you can do better than this."

"Goddamn slavedriver. One of these days-"

"A lot of talk and little fight there, Tayuya. Back it up, will you?"

"How I fucking hate you, just saying, Fearless Leader."

"I love you too. So, will you just stand there?" Eiji asked, blinking as he turned to the side as he smacked Yugito into the ground. "That tickled," He commented as the wind pushed his hair to the side. "Is that all?" He asked Temari, who was snarling at him.

"Fucking ridiculous," The Jinchuriki grumbled as she pushed herself up.

"Hm, maybe you guys will take this seriously if I up my game?" Eiji wondered out loud, making all of them freeze. Two Flickers later, he stood in a somewhat clear space going through hand seals.

"Goddamnit," Tayuya grumbled as Sunfire Cape formed around Eiji. "Jirobo, what are you waiting for? You gotta try your stuff, right, Fatass?!" She called then, and sure enough, her long time teammate, went through hand seals himself. As he finished, his body got covered in earth and stone. A little technique that he and Eiji had worked out together, based off Sunfire Cape, simply named Granite Shield.

"Now that's more like it," Eiji said, dodging Sasori's attempt at skewering him with his puppet blades while trading blows with both Jirobo and Yugito. Meanwhile, Kabuto, Temari and Tayuya were off to the side, looking for openings.

[Fire Release: Sunfire Cape has gone up a level.]

Tilting his head to the side, he dodged a stone the size of his head being shot at him. 'Huh, Jirobo taught Temari a trick, huh?' He mused to himself with a grin. He'd wondered how long it would take her to start looking for ways around her weakness against Fire users. It seemed that she'd already started taking her first steps in that direction.

"Now, you just have to show them that they are quite far from challenging you," Kage commented, obviously quite happy with just spectating the massacre.

"Hm… You wanna give it a go, Hachi?"

"What? Wait, I can-"

"Sure," She replied instantly, before her 'brother' could protest. Thus, Eiji receded to the back of his own mind as she took over. It was quite interesting to be a spectator in his own body, especially during a fight. It was also nice as a great learning experience, really.

He could witness what he could do if he changed his style this or that way. The twins had the same tools he did, but they acted differently, even from each other. Thus, giving them a chance to fight in his steed actually quite helped Eiji himself. It allowed him to try different things without having to actually try to change his own style.

"Bah, what's so impressive about this?" Kage grumbled, but Eiji just ignored him. He knew why the male twin wasn't a fan of Hachi's fighting style.

Where Eiji liked to think he was a balanced fighter with his own tools, Kage loved Jutsu, especially elemental ones. He would throw Lightning and Fire Release around like they were going out of style. Even Genjutsu suited his tastes just fine. So long as it was… flashy enough, he liked them. Although Kage would prefer a different description for his style, Eiji was sure.

Hachi, as she was showing, liked his more subtle techniques. She seemed to quite enjoy using the thread techniques, which was interesting. Eiji made sure to follow everything she did, trying to see if there were ideas he could implement. Especially since she seemed to go for a more subtle approach.

Eiji was pretty sure he was good at stealthily using his threads, but that was often because he gave people other things to focus on rather than the thin wires. 'Why didn't I think of that?' He mused as he saw Hachi burrow some threads in the ground. Not much, just enough that they were hidden under the not-quite-solid earth surface. She didn't do that with all of them though, only about half, actually, which he guessed was the plan all along.

It required a bit more micro-managing than he was comfortable with in a fight, but maybe there was merit to those kinds of actions. Eiji would have to see if he could train in those. Or maybe leave the twins to perfect their own styles and swap between himself and them. He was sure they would jump at the chance to be in control and fight.

"Damn right we would," Kage replied to the not actually voiced idea.

"We would like that, Eiji," Hachi agreed, giving an almost imperceptible nod as she continued fighting the team.

She deactivated Sunfire Cape, the technique a little too distracting for what she was trying to do. She needed to put all her focus on her threads. Besides, ninja wire was all she needed, really. With the handful of new techniques Eiji had made to use through the metallic strings, she didn't need anything else.

All this gave Eiji an idea though.

Reluctantly, he pulled his consciousness fully into the mindscape.

"Huh, I didn't expect you to actually come here. Got tired of the show? I know it's boring, but that's gotta sting for Hachi," Kage commented with a lazy smile, while Tsuchigumo enthusiastically greeted Eiji with a tongue to the face.

"I had an idea that I thought both you and Hachi would enjoy," He commented as he started walking, a hand firmly placed on Tsuchigumo's head as she walked beside him. Kage, for his part, soon followed, letting out a curious sound.

Eventually, they stood outside one of the Training Grounds in his mindscape. Most of them rarely saw much use, besides animal creation experiments and such, which was why Tsuchigumo instantly grew interested. Unfortunately, Eiji had no plans of creating more prey for her… At least not at that very moment.

"Sorry, girl, but this is for the twins," He told her, quite enjoying the way Kage twitched at being called that. Giving the chakra beast a consoling pat on the head, Eiji turned back to the training grounds.

Flexing his mindscape powers a bit, he twisted the reality of the place. The start was simple enough, an easy change that was barely noticeable at first. Kage's frown told him that he'd noticed what he was doing though, but the twin remained silent for the moment.

What was he doing? Simple, he'd taken away Kage's and Hachi's control over his mindscape while inside that specific training ground. Unless, that is, he allowed it in an emergency or something.

That was almost all he needed to do, really. However, he decided to take it a step further. Outside the Training Ground, he shaped two humanoid forms. Soon, it became apparent what they were. Copies of himself, with all his equipment and capabilities. He also designed them to adapt as he progressed. However, he gave them no consciousness.

He was rather nervous and wary of putting more AI inside his mindscape, really. Eiji considered himself lucky that he was doing well despite Kage's, Hachi's and Tsuchigumo's existences. No need to tempt his luck, really.

Anyway, the Eiji copies weren't for that anyway. They were meant to have no mind of their own. Instead, he made it so that they could be possessed by Kage and Hachi.

"Oh, I get it," Kage mused, a smile growing on his face. "Literally turning it into a Training Ground, huh?"

"I thought you'd appreciate it," Eiji replied with a grin of his own.

It was a shame that he couldn't quite turn off his control over his mindscape, not that he wanted to. However, that limitation meant that there wouldn't be any mindscape training for him, sadly. That didn't include Hachi and Kage though, which was where this idea had come from.

He wasn't sure how much use this would get, or how much he'd let the twins come out and play, but he wasn't losing anything by creating it. If he gained something from that, it would only be a plus for him. 'Now, back to Hachi's fight.'

As he looked back to the outside world, he saw that the female twin had already made quick work of his team.

'Well, I guess I better take over then.'

[}-o-{]

"Man, our missions are shit but at least we can fucking travel without anything going to hell," Tayuya said as they approached Takigakure. Eiji couldn't exactly fault her there, really. It was a relief to at least be able to at least travel without trouble. Their missions were plenty dangerous enough as they were.

The surroundings were… not that notable, Eiji thought, which wasn't surprising. He'd already studied the place to no end, to be prepared for this. Takigakure wasn't all that impressive, which made sense, really. After all, this was a minor village. How they had gotten their hands on a Jinchuriki, Eiji didn't know. History was a little unclear on that front, he'd found. He did suspect that there must have been an agreement back in the day or something. It had been a prominent village back then, which he supposed had to be the reason, even if they'd kind of fallen from grace.

Regardless…

"Well, we are almost there," Eiji said, making all of them stop in different nearby tree branches. "You know what to do," He added simply.

"Suicide Squad, you heard Fearless Leader, chop chop," Tayuya announced, looking like she was barely containing her laughter. Everyone rolled their eyes at her, before disappearing.

With a sigh, Eiji closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he created as many clones as he could and scattered them around. There would be a lot of waiting around this time around too, but differently from before, they didn't have the village's permission to actually be there.

Hiruzen had been careful not to say that out loud, even during their meetings, but it had been clear in the papers Eiji had been given. Takigakure didn't even know they were being sent there to keep Akatsuki away from their Jinchuriki. They didn't want them there, stating that they had the protection of their asset covered.

Emphasis in the word asset, at least in Eiji's mind.

He honestly couldn't fathom why they were doing that. It was stupid. They were a minor village at best and that wasn't only because the land it was on was small. They might have been a big deal back when villages were just starting, but now? People honestly forgot that they were there sometimes. Considering that they had one of the most powerful 'weapons' – even if Eiji disliked referring to Jinchuriki's like that – at their disposal, that said enough, really.

To make things worse, Takigakure seemed to have started putting all their village's focus on Fu, the current Seven Tails container. It seemed like they had decided that she was the only real chance they had at being on the map again, with all that was going on outside and inside their village. Between what was happening between the major villages and the struggles Takigakure itself was going through to get some decent ninja out there, they were grasping at straws.

And that led to a mistake.

Maybe there were people out there that thought it was a good idea to pressure a Jinchuriki like Takigakure was. After all, they were supposed to be a weapon for their village, right? Those people were idiots. Even Danzo agreed, or maybe he'd just done so to get Eiji to do what he wanted. Either way, the Satou's mind had been made.

A part of it was that he could easily imagine Naruto going through the same thing. Both alienated, which had already happened to the blonde, and also forced into being less than a person, less than a ninja. Being considered a weapon, a thing, was something Eiji couldn't let happen to his brother.

Fu wasn't Naruto though, but that's where another part came in. The part that thought that Takigakure's approach gave an opening to Konoha. If they were alienating their Jinchuriki, then that gave them the chance to snatch Fu away without her even resisting. She might even be eager to go with them. Eiji didn't have to try too hard to convince himself then, especially since it would actually be the right thing to do. Fu would be better off in Konoha, even if there was a chance it was only slightly so.

Would it be an easy thing to do? Certainly not.

The standings of the major villages were shaky at best. However, Konoha was firmly on the safest side so far. Kiri owed them too much not to side with them for a good while. Suna was under their thumb, basically. Kumo didn't have any allies, or even prospects of such outside of Konoha itself. A good part of Iwa had just been saved by a Konoha nin.

If there was ever a moment to strike and take a big risk-big reward chance, it was then.

And Konoha was taking it.

First though, Eiji needed information. Both, to confirm that Danzo hadn't lied to his face and to get more intelligence to work on. What the Root leader had given him was good enough, but it might be a little outdated. He'd have to see for himself how the situation looked before doing anything.

Besides, he still had the actual Akatsuki part of the mission to deal with, so having eyes around would only help. 'As if just dealing with them wasn't enough,' He lamented with a grimace. 'Not only do I have to do that, but I also have to not be seen around and I also have to see about stealing this village's Jinchuriki from under their nose.'

"Fun stuff, huh?" Kage asked, sounding amused by his annoyance. No surprises there though.

"It could be worse," Hachi commented, ever the 'optimist', if it could be called that. "It could be one of the other pairs involved," She added, and he had to concede that point. Itachi and Kisame, Pain and Konan, any of those would have been infinitely worse than Hidan and Kakuzu.

Still, the fact that the mission almost sounded easy was the part that worried him. This was Akatsuki he was dealing with. Something was going to go wrong, he just knew. What? Well, that was the real question, really.

[} Chapter End {]

Hey guys! How's it going?

Well, the trip was quick, but I'm sure people will be happy about it.

There are some parts that I'm unsure about, like the Sasuke part. Once again, more on how I wrote them than the actual development. Maybe that's just me though, it honestly could be.

Regardless, I hope you enjoyed the chapter.

As always, if you can't wait until next week for next chapter, there's up to three new chapters in my Pa tre on:

P a treon . com (slash) AdrianKing

Discord Link: discord .gg/UTDransjJZ

Random Question: I've written a good few of this and my brain is running out of ideas. What random questions can you think of? (Yes, I'm that lazy. Sorry, not sorry.)

See you.