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

Cover Art: Kissuli.

Chapter 95

"We keep telling you, you need more control," Temari said, slightly annoyed. "You have lots of power, but you have little to no control over it," She explained for what felt like the hundredth time.

"I know that, but it's easier said than done," Kurotsuchi replied with a groan, massaging her head. Eiji simply sat to the side as the girls talked. Really, they had it handled. The four girls of his team could really get things done when they wanted to, he'd found.

"That sounds like quitter talk. Maybe I should call you that instead of Princess," Tayuya commented, feigning disinterest rather well. Eiji, for his part, had to suppress a smile at the way Kurotsuchi's brow twitched at the nickname. It seemed that she had been put into the group for the nice sounding but equally insulting nicknames, just like he had. The redhead had realized pretty quick that the Iwa nin hated being called that, and had taken to doing so every chance she got.

"It is doable, just because it's hard doesn't mean you can ignore it," Yugito said, adding her opinion to the mix, making Kurotsuchi deflate. Really, half their time training had been spent trying to get the girl to train on that part but she just-

"I've been trying, ok?" She admitted, getting a blink from everyone. No way that was true. None of them had noticed any changes in her style of fighting since they started. Well, none that would signal some work being put into control, that is. "It just… I can't improve my control."

"That can't be," Eiji said, joining the conversation for the first time. "How've you been going at it?"

"I've done everything you guys told me. I've been training by myself doing everything I can to get at least some control over my lava but… I just can't. From weaker attacks to strong ones. From slowly using them to trying to get some instinctive feeling. And… nothing," Kurotsuchi explained, making the four of them frown. That was… strange.

"What techniques have you worked on? How long? Have you talked with your grandfather?" Eiji shot then, closing his eyes to better concentrate. That, and to consult with Hachi and Kage too.

"Strange," Hachi mused, although it seemed to be mostly to herself. "No progress whatsoever is very strange indeed. Especially since she's tried several approaches."

"There must be one that hasn't been tried yet," Kage added then.

"I… um, I haven't talked with him yet," Kurotsuchi replied nervously, fidgeting from what he got from Web Sense. "I'd like to work things out without his help, really."

"Ah, pride, of course. How very fitting for you, Princess," Tayuya pointed out, which almost made the girl flinch.

"Tayuya, enough. Say something helpful or wait until we are done here," Eiji told her, which made her mouth click shut. "As for the other questions?"

He listened then, how the girl listed all the jutsu she'd tried to work with to gain more control, how and for how long. She'd tried everything, from a technique that shot a small ball of lava to her strongest technique, and nothing seemed to work. There had to be something they were missing though. He'd seen her use lots of jutsu since she joined their training, there had to be… Then he blinked.

"What about that one you used during the Chunin Exams? The one you used during the Preliminaries, I mean," Eiji asked, recalling how she'd used a technique to immobilize Neji. It had been Lava Release, but it hadn't actually been lava, he was pretty sure.

"The Quicklime Congealing technique?" Kurotsuchi asked, frowning. "That technique works fine as is. I don't even need to add control to that. It's not even lava."

"But it is Lava Release, right?" Eiji pressed, the idea having ingrained itself in his mind.

"It is," She admitted with a slow nod, as her expression turned thoughtful. "Do you think I should try with that technique? Would that even help with my lava?"

"It's Lava Release, so it must be connected somehow. It might give you some insight on what to work with for your other jutsu," He theorized. "Can't hurt to try, right?" He added with a slight smile as he saw her processing the idea and nodding again.

"Guess I'll try with that," She replied, her eyes unfocusing as her mind got started thinking how to go about her new training.

"Well, hopefully you'll have something to show us the next time we see you," Eiji told her with a grin. He couldn't quite keep it happy though. "We are going back to Konoha soon, so we'll likely not see much else from your progress for a while," He added when she looked at him confused. It seemed she'd forgotten that they had only been there for the mission.

"I see," She said, looking down.

"Awww, Princess will miss us?" Tayuya exclaimed, pulling the girl into a hug.

"Certainly not you, ugh, let me go!" Kurotsuchi protested, trying to get the redhead off of her. The sight only made Eiji's grin widened. When she finally managed to push Tayuya away, she straightened her clothes and her hair. "Besides, chances are that you'll receive more missions from here. No way Iwa will just ignore the Redemption of the Leaf," She added, relishing the groan that escaped Eiji. "I'm sure there'll be people asking for you to do missions here at some point."

"Guess you won't get away from training with us, then," He commented, drawing a smile from the girl that he returned. "That means you have to get some actual progress going or we'll leave you behind, you know."

"I know," Kurotsuchi muttered, which surprised him. He'd expected her to grow annoyed or display some confidence.

"Hey, no need to be like that. I'm sure you'll keep up," Eiji reassured before giving it some thought. "Maybe I can send some spiders with messages and the like. There must be someone that specializes in that."

"Oh, going to start sending letters to your forbidden love, Fearless Leader?" Tayuya teased, making Eiji facepalm and Kurotsuchi blush.

"Sometimes I wonder why I put up with you," He grumbled.

"Same," Temari, Yugito and Kurotsuchi shot back instantly.

The redhead herself simply cackled, apparently having the time of her life.

[}-o-{]

"I still can't believe it was you!" The girl next to him exclaimed, not for the first time. Eiji chuckled to himself as he looked through the drawings in the notebook she had given him.

"Well, you better start believing or you'll be shouting that when I come to say goodbye," He told her, his face twitching as the girl's expression fell. 'Sometimes I'm an idiot.'

"Only sometimes?" Kage commented but was quickly silenced by his 'sister' Hachi giving him a smack.

"Thanks."

"Don't mention it, Eiji," She replied, and he had the suspicion that she just enjoyed having a reason to hit Kage. Which was fair, he could certainly understand that.

"I hate both of you," Kage grumbled, earning a bark from Tsuchigumo that went along the lines of 'no, you don't'. Eiji almost laughed out loud at that.

"Well, you are already getting better," He said then, trying to cheer up the girl in front of him. "I'm sure you'll be better than me in no time at all."

"You think so?" She asked then, slightly subdued. In turn, he smiled kindly at her.

"I know so," He replied, looking at the notebook. "You know what. I'll give you a bunch of my drawings. And I want you to draw a whole lot, ok? I'll come back eventually and I want you to be much better, yeah?"

"You promise?" The girl said, eyes shining with tears. He simply put a hand on her head and shuffled her orange hair.

"I promise," he told her.

Itsuka was one of the people he'd interacted with the most with his clones. So much so, that he couldn't stop himself from approaching her now that he didn't need to be covert anymore. That and he wasn't glared or sneered at anymore, so that was a plus. There was the occasional one that still held a grudge, but they were the weird ones out, really. Other people even spoke up against such people.

It was actually a bit weird for Eiji, if he was honest.

"I'll be better than you," The girl said then, looking down at her notebook with a small smile. Her eyes darted towards him a few times and Eiji realized that she was expecting him to shoot that idea down. He wasn't sure why though, since that was exactly what he'd been telling her so far, but she seemed to have some self-esteem problems. Probably what had made her be completely ok approaching a stranger.

"I'm sure you will," He said instead, giving her an encouraging smile. "I look forward to seeing your drawings even more then."

"Itsuka!" Called the girl's mother, who paused for a moment as she saw him. "Oh, Eiji, still adamant on teaching her, huh?" The woman asked kindly, smiling at the both of them.

"Of course, she's amazing as it is. This way I'll be able to tell everyone that I taught her," EIji replied with a grin as both mother and daughter giggled. "Honestly, how could I pass up those bragging rights?"

"You are a great ninja though, everyone says so," Itsuka pointed out, still laughing. "I just draw."

"No-no, nothing 'just' about drawing, I'll have you know," Eiji shook his head vehemently. "Besides, then I'll be able to brag about both things anyway. It's still a win," He said, shuffling her hair once more.

"Eiji~" She whined, patting her own head trying to fix the mess he'd made. "Stop doing that!"

"Never," He replied with a chuckle as she pouted at him.

[}-o-{]

"Good job, Jirobo! Keep it up!" Eiji called from the sidelines.

Currently, the ex-sound nin was participating in a one versus two against Kabuto and Temari and winning. How? Well, first of all, the guy was much better than one would expect. However, the same could be said about the other two. The trick here was that they were using only Taijutsu, or, in Temari's case, only able to use her fan in its closed state. It was a glorified club used like that, but it was how she fought in close quarters, so he'd allowed it. He'd have her practice actual Taijutsu with Tayuya later on.

Then again, maybe she wouldn't stick around once they made it back to Konoha. He'd have to talk with her and Gaara. They'd achieved what they wanted. He'd gotten a person with a good head on their shoulders and that he could somewhat trust while he led a team of what had been potential threats. And Temari had gotten some goodwill for her people after the Invasion.

Both of those things were resolved now though. He could trust his team at least as much as he could normal ninja from Konoha, if not more. It was weird, to think about it, but he'd lived with these people for a while. He'd observed them, interacted with them, trained with them. He'd thought he was being naive, but Hachi and Kage had agreed with him on that, and that reassured him quite a bit.

There was Sasori, of course, but he was confident that he could take him out. He'd also gotten Kabuto to focus on his antidote skills, even working with him to help him improve. That together with the list of ingredients that they were providing the puppet master should be enough to be covered in case the ex-Akatsuki member went rogue on them.

As for Temari, she could probably continue to get her people even more on everyone's good side, however, it wasn't really worth risking one's life for that anymore. She could back out now and she wouldn't be losing anything. She could now go back to her country, her village and her family. He wouldn't even blame her, really. He was kind of expecting her to do just that, if he was honest.

"Tayuya will fill her place quite well," Hachi commented with a hum. "Especially since she's getting better with her genjutsu. Now she can give orders while still using her flute."

"Kabuto isn't that far behind either," Kage pointed out. "He can lead just fine in a pinch."

"I guess you guys are right," Eiji acknowledged. It didn't mean he had to like it though. He'd miss her. "I grow entirely too attached to people."

"Yeah, you do," Kage agreed instantly and without mercy whatsoever.

"To be fair, you have good reason to, considering what you've gone through," Hachi added after her counterpart's words.

Now, with Temari and Yugito probably leaving, his team would feel so much smaller. Not necessarily that much weaker, considering Sasori, but they would certainly feel that loss. 'It is what it is,' He mused after taking a deep breath in. 'I'll have to visit or something, I guess. I'm sure Gaara would appreciate that… not so much for A but who cares about that guy.'

[}-o-{]

"Finally," Onoki grumbled, making Eiji chuckle. They were all standing right on the outer wall of Iwagakure. The team was leaving for Konoha, just like it had been decided. He wasn't precisely in perfect conditions, but Kabuto had said he could travel just fine, so long as that was the only thing he did and he didn't overexert himself.

Iwa would have let them stay for longer, after the disaster they'd prevented. Even Onoki, complaining the whole time as he'd been, wouldn't have really cared. However, Eiji himself wanted to leave already. He wanted to see his brothers and sisters once more. He wanted to see his village again.

He wanted to truly be able to relax at home.

"You do know you aren't fooling anyone, right?" The boy pointed out with an amused grin. Refusing to deign that with a response, Onoki simply glared at him. Next to the man, Kurotsuchi tried and failed to contain a giggle.

She didn't put too much effort into it though, Eiji was sure.

"Anyway, it was… actually nice to be here," He said, giving the two of them a smile. "I'd expected to have a much harder time here, I'm glad I was wrong. Once this whole mess is over, if you guys send any missions, I'll be sure to take one once in a while."

He was sure they wouldn't, and if they did, Onoki would make sure it was something irrelevant just for politics and the like. After all, there was no way Iwa would ask for another village's help without stakes as high as the ones they had right now. That and a lot of political reasons too. A repeat of the situation they were in was unlikely, unless Akatsuki sent another pair to them.

On second thought, Eiji wasn't so sure it was that unlikely.

"Let's hope I don't actually need to call for your help again, shall we?" Onoki said. 'Need, huh?' Eiji noticed. 'So, he also realizes it's possible it might happen, huh?'

"Just give me a call and I'll rush back here," Eiji replied with a smile on his face, despite the concerning thoughts in his mind. "I still have to make a decent ninja out of the Princess here."

"Wha-?!" Kurotsuchi's mirth vanished instantly, replaced by irritation.

"At least I'll have something to look forward to if that's the case then," Onoki said then, interrupting his granddaughter and surprising Eiji. He hadn't expected the man to go along with it. He'd half expected a rebuke or something.

"You are not so bad, old man," Eiji commented, drawing a frown from the Tsuchikage. "Well, I think that's enough beating around the bush. I'm sure we'll see each other at some point."

"Do try not to get killed on the way to Konoha, will you, brat?" Onoki replied, making the boy chuckle.

"I'll do my best. Let's go," Eiji said, getting a nod from his team before they all started on their way.

As they did that though, the leader's eyes found their way to Sasori. The puppet master had been given a body before they left together with a few scrolls with most of the things he'd asked for. Some of them, Onoki hadn't allowed, of course. To make up for that, the Tsuchikage had added some of the things Eiji had suggested.

Back on track though, Sasori was now using the only puppet from his army that had survived the fight, courtesy of Kabuto. It had been looked over by Onoki's people and, apparently it was little more than a normal puppet, with its only addition being chains inside both arms. Still, Eiji wouldn't be taking his eyes off of him for a while. He'd also make sure that there was always at least one person guarding him.

He also had his metaphorical eyes on Kabuto, because as much as he agreed with the Sasori idea… He had gone behind his back to do that. While that made Eiji nervous, he also considered the idea that maybe he was worried for nothing. Hachi and Kage seemed to agree with that last part, mostly.

They thought this was Kabuto's attempt at showing initiative, which was valid. They'd also pointed out how hard the med nin had worked to have counters for Sasori's poisons and plans in place if the Akatsuki member got out of hand. Eiji was very reassured after they'd discussed it for a bit, actually.

Still, just in case, he would still keep an eye out.

"Eiji, slow down," Kabuto said sternly, almost drawing a groan from the boy. "I told you, don't overexert yourself."

"I can go this fast no problem, Kabuto, seriously," He shot back, annoyance almost bleeding into his tone. Tsuchigumo started growling inside his mind in agreement. Unfortunately, her siblings didn't think like she did.

"Eiji," Both Kage and Hachi said, exasperatedly, making the boy deflate and slow down. His team's medic did the same, sighing in relief. For what reason, Eiji didn't know, but he was too busy trying to keep himself from getting too annoyed.

He just… he wanted to get back home, see his family. He'd missed them a lot, but he'd managed to push that to the side considering the situation. Now that he was on his way, they were practically all that he could think about. Were they ok? The Spider Clan had reassured him they were fine, but he couldn't help but worry. Had they gotten stronger? Some of them had several projects for that, after all. Had they done something interesting while he wasn't around? He wanted to know.

"Distract yourself, Eiji," Hachi suggested, her tone soft and understanding.

"Ideas?" The boy asked, unable to come up with anything.

"Yugito?" Kage offered and Eiji had to give him that point.

After all, the Kumo nin was still going to be around, it seemed. She'd communicated with a few messenger birds that Iwa had offered for them after the Akatsuki was dealt with. Apparently, she'd been told to stay in the team.

After much deliberation, Eiji and his mind council of sorts had come to some theories regarding that made sense.

Regardless, Eiji was confident he could take her if she was being set up to stab them in the back. Especially if he had the team behind him. The problem would be that if she truly were a traitor, that could mean Killer B being thrown into the situation and that was a guy Eiji wasn't confident he could handle… At all. He'd progressed a lot from their last fight, but he was still nowhere near the man's level. Hell, during their fight, B hadn't even used his full capabilities.

"Worrying too much again, Eiji" Kage pointed out, sounding exasperated.

"I know, I know I just…" Eiji muttered back, grimacing. "Things have gone relatively well so far, I'm just waiting for something to go to hell."

"I wouldn't say things have gone well, really," Hachi countered vehemently. "The Nations are hanging to peace by a thread, everyone's watching everyone like hawks, waiting for either an incoming attack or an opportunity for their own, Akatsuki is mostly still out there doing whatever they want and now they have more information on you and your team and there's probably at least a handful of other variables that we are not aware of for Alternative Universe or Butterfly Effect situations," She explained and silence followed.

"Was that supposed to be… reassuring?" Kage asked, sounding both amused and bemused.

"He said he was worried because things were going too well," Hachi defended her actions, sounding the smallest bit self-conscious.

"That helps… I think," Eiji replied with a chuckle. "At least I appreciate the sentiment. Tsuchi, girl, do something nice for your sister, will you?" Immediately afterwards, he heard the agreeing bark.

"Wha- No, there's no need. Tsuchi, no!" Hachi started babbling before she was interrupted. Eiji could almost see the Chakra Beast tackling her and starting to lick her face.

"So, this is what it's like to be on the other side of that, huh?" Kage mumbled then over his 'sister's protests. "Gotta say, I get it now."

[}-o-{]

"It's a little scary that you can beat us even while basically crippled," Temari commented conversationally.

"He can't beat us anymore though," Yugito pointed out with a smile.

"Speak for yourself, Bimbo Number Two," Tayuya snapped, making the Jinchuriki's grin grow strained as her eyebrow twitched. "When the hell are you going to let us stand on the damn ground, Fearless Leader?" The redhead asked.

"Hmm, I think I'll wait until you say please," He decided, before giving himself a nod. "Yeah, that sounds about right."

"Good to know," Jirobo replied. "I'll get to meditating in the meantime. Can someone tell me when it's time for dinner?"

"Sure can," Kabuto reassured him.

"I'll so get you, Fatass, Four Eyes," Tayuya growled. It didn't help her 'argument' that she didn't look anywhere close to doing as Eiji had said.

"I'll get some meditation done too," The boy himself decided. "Kabuto, Temari, you are on watch duty. Yugito, can you accompany Yuki if she wants to take a look around?"

"I can, don't worry," The Kumo nin agreed easily. A response that was somewhat undermined by the fact that she was eyeing the ninken apprehensively. As it turned out, Yugito didn't like dogs. That just wouldn't do though, no one on his team was allowed to have that opinion and keep it.

Before closing his eyes, Eiji took one last look around at his team. All of them were hanging by wires that would cackle with electricity if he felt the slightest of twitches. 'Man, this is fun,' He mused with a smirk before he closed his eyes and delved into his Mindscape.

Time to play with his 'daughter'.

[}-o-{]

"I swear to God, Bimbo, if you have a Draw Two too, I'm gonna-" Tayuya started, before screeching. Because of course Temari had one of those. The redhead just had the most terrible luck in Uno. It was actually half the reason everyone voted to play the game every time.

[}-o-{]

"Soooo?" Eiji asked, for once looking like the young boy he was supposed to be. He was all but bouncing excitedly where he sat, almost unable to stay still as he waited for the verdict.

"Your chakra pathways seem to be almost completely recovered from the exertion and your body is in top condition," Kabuto informed him. Despite the good news he was delivering, he looked less than thrilled. His face was twisted into a resigned grimace as he added. "Yes, you can go back to training in full."

"Of fucking course!" Tayuya exclaimed with a groan before turning towards Sasori "Can you kill me?"

"I'm afraid it's too late for that," The puppet master replied, with a flat tone and not looking up from where he was tinkering with the new puppet he'd been working on for the entirety of the trip. He seemed to be re-making his own body, from what Eiji could tell. He wasn't sure if it'd be the same as before or with new… additions. "I'm sure our team leader wouldn't appreciate that."

"I sure wouldn't," Eiji acknowledged with a smirk. "I'm the only one allowed to kill you, guys. Now, all of you besides Sasori, get ready, we are sparring before we start moving again."

All around, groans resounded, even from Yugito. 'What does it say about my team that Sasori is the one that doesn't complain?' He wondered.

"I mean, he hasn't been included in the spars yet, it's a little early to say that," Hachi pointed out.

"Poor guy might be delaying his puppet creation to avoid it, honestly," Kage mused.

"Oi, I'm not that bad," Eiji protested.

He was only met with silence.

[} Chapter End {]

Hey guys! How's it going?

Welp, we are back to Konoha in the next chapter. I'm not sure how I'll approach that, honestly, but that's a problem for next week and Future!Adrian will deal with that. For now, this chapter.

I didn't get to write as much about Iwa as I wanted, sadly, but I liked this arc nonetheless. People seem to have been less than pleased with it though, which is a shame, but it is what it is, I guess. Can't please everyone and all that, right?

Regardless, as always, 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: If you could make single puppet for your use, how would you make it? I'd give it all the tools it'd need to do chores for me, because, honestly? I can't be bothered to do that myself. (And I certainly wouldn't go the fighter route if I was in a ninja setting. Too much of a coward for that.)

See you.