Things went on pretty normally after that Kumo team, led by C, showed up to give me a ride and be kind enough to escort me all the way to Kumo, with just a few stops. I gotta admit, as much as I hate to say it, that slimy saliva from the toad actually did wonders in healing all my wounds. Gross, but effective.

Of course, the first thing I did when I got the chance was take a long, refreshing shower. I would have preferred if they sent a slug to heal me.

If there was one mildly annoying thing, it was the sudden increase in altitude when we arrived at Kumogakure. It made me feel sick for a while, almost causing me to throw up. Thankfully, I managed to avoid that unpleasantness by relying on food pills.

And so, there I was, stuck in this decent-sized room, sprawled on my bed and staring blankly at the ceiling. Unlike Konoha, the sorry excuse for shinobi assigned to keep an eye on me couldn't do their job properly. I mean, seriously, they were as useful as a blind man on a search mission. Maybe it's because none of them had any fancy bloodlines or special skills. Whatever the reason, it didn't matter. None of them could hope to stand a chance at stopping me from leaving if I wanted to. I was just biding my time, waiting for Jiraiya to 'grace' me with his presence. And he was taking his sweet time for some unknown reason.

I was running out of patience. So, I decided to grant him an additional ten minutes before I took matters into my own hands.

In the meantime, I decided to get off the bed and make my way to the kitchen for a much-needed cup of water. As I served myself, a peculiar sensation washed over me, causing my senses to sharpen. Without hesitation, I spun around, my hand poised to draw my sword, anticipating an unwanted guest.

However, much to my surprise, it wasn't an enemy lurking in the shadows. It was a bored-looking toad that had somehow invaded my room.

"No need for weapons," the toad said nonchalantly. "Jiraiya-sama won't be able to make it, so he sent me instead. He wanted me to inform you and provide you with the address of his current whereabouts." With a swift motion, the toad retrieved a scroll from its back and placed it on the table.

"How considerate of him," I replied with a hint of sarcasm, reaching out to pick up the message.

"Well then, Uchiha-san, have yourself a pleasant day," the toad said before forming a seal.

"Wait," I called out, stopping the toad from leaving. "How is Tayuya doing?"

The toad paused for a moment before responding, "Tayuya is still resting, but she is in no immediate danger." His reply was brief and left me wanting more details.

Before I could inquire further, the toad vanished as abruptly as it had appeared, dissipating into a puff of smoke.

I let out a frustrated sigh, feeling slightly irritated by the lack of information. Setting aside my annoyance, I shifted my attention to the message at hand. As he told me moments ago, it contained the address of Jiraiya's current whereabouts.

And Naruto as well.

It would undoubtedly be an intriguing reunion, to say the least. There were plenty of matters to discuss, but, as I had made clear to Sakura, I had no intention of apologizing to that imbecile.

My reasons, my purposes, were mine and mine alone.

Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I left my temporary residence and made my way towards the provided address. The sentries assigned to keep an eye on me also shifted their positions, which irritated me to no end. Dealing with that kind of nonsense was something I had grown tired of in Konoha, and I had no desire to encounter it again in another village.

A quick plan formed in my head, and a smirk tugged at the corners of my lips. Performing a single hand seal, I created a shadow clone to take my place while I slipped away in the opposite direction, concealed from their watchful eyes. Everything went flawlessly, and those idiots didn't even notice a thing.

Kumogakure bore some resemblance to Konoha in certain aspects. However, what truly set it apart were the colossal bridges that connected various blocks and districts. To reach the apartment, I had to cross one of these bridges.

I paused in the middle of the bridge, allowing myself a moment to appreciate the breathtaking view from above. Surprisingly, it was quite scenic—a sea of clouds stretching out before me, with majestic mountain peaks piercing through the mist. Fu would have probably enjoyed this view.

I hoped that back in Konoha; she was keeping herself entertained alongside the rest of my team. That is, of course, assuming she hadn't forgotten her crucial task along with Karin. The eyes of my family needed to be located and retrieved, regardless of whether I chose to destroy them or keep them. Konoha had hidden them away, but they would be recovered, one way or another.

As I entered another district of the village, I walked to the left, following the instructions provided in the letter. Eventually, I arrived at a towering apartment complex with multiple floors, a rather impressive sight.

Fortunately, I didn't have to navigate any stairs, as the given number I was looking for was located on the first floor. Standing in front of the door, my hand paused midway through the motion of knocking and slowly descended.

This was it.

I took a couple of deep breaths, steadying myself, before finally rapping my knuckles against the door, signaling my arrival. Now, all I had to do was wait.

Except nobody replied.

I knocked again.

And got nothing, again.

After what felt like an eternity of waiting, my patience wore thin, and I grew frustrated. Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I attempted to open the door, only to find it unlocked. Letting out an exasperated sigh, I stepped inside, scanning the apartment for any signs of presence.

Although I didn't pay much attention to the interiors, I could tell it had a cozy atmosphere with just a quick glance. But that became irrelevant as soon as I spotted Jiraiya seated at a large table, completely engrossed in writing on a scroll.

The audacious bastard heard me enter but deliberately chose to ignore me. It was laughable how they expected me to show them any respect in return.

Maintaining my composure, I calmly approached Jiraiya and took a seat directly across from him, ready to address the situation.

"Where is everyone?" I spoke up first.

Jiraiya ceased his writing and released a prolonged sigh, his gaze finally lifting to meet my disapproving expression. "Seems like you and Naruto are magnets for trouble, huh?"

"Your point?" I arched an eyebrow, challenging him.

For a fleeting moment, Jiraiya maintained his frown, but then he set aside his pen and assumed a more attentive posture. "Never mind. It's not relevant at the moment. What matters now is that this place is secure from eavesdropping, unless Kumo has a hidden seal master surpassing my level. But that's beside the point. I need to hear the details directly from you about your encounter with Kisame Hoshigaki."

"What can I even tell you besides that it was a clusterfuck? I responded, frustration lacing my words. "Kisame had the upper hand when it came to endurance and I couldn't use my ninjutsu arsenal against him. I had no choice but to end the battle quickly at any cost before I ended up torn to shreds. "

Jiraiya leaned forward, his curiosity evident. "Fair enough. But what I want to know is, why was Tayuya in such a terrible condition when she was reverse summoned?"

"That is the biggest question that haunts me," I responded, my arms crossing tightly against my chest, a deep frown etched on my face. "I don't know why she was the target of assassinations attempts, and that bastard aimed to hurt her, kill her too, but his attempts were too weak, because I know that when he wants to kill, he doesn't hesitate to do so. Yet he truly took his sweet time brutalizing her."

Jiraiya's brows furrowed in concern. "That's strange. Don't have even a hint of what could be his reasons?"

"My wildest guess is Itachi sent Kisame. Perhaps to test waters against me."

Jiraiya let out a frustrated sigh, his exasperation evident. "He... Itachi is a special case, isn't he? Elusive and difficult to understand. It's possible they were lying in wait, planning to ambush us and attempt to steal the Nine-Tails, but your unexpected presence disrupted their plans." He rubbed the back of his neck with a grim expression. "Nevertheless, I wish Tayuya hadn't been injured so bad."

"How is she doing now? Your frogs weren't able to provide much assistance with her condition," I asked.

"They're toads, not frogs." Jiraiya corrected me, "And she's much better now compared to when she was reverse-summoned to Mount Myōboku. We had to bring Tsunade's slugs to save her. She should be fully recovered by tomorrow."

"I see..." I mused, inwardly satisfied with my decision to send a clone to assist her.

"Worried about her, are you?" Jiraiya teased, a knowing smile playing on his lips.

I shot him a dry look in response. "You know perfectly well that it would reflect poorly on me if she were to die or become a cripple on my watch."

The old man chuckled, his hand gently stroking his chin. "You Uchihas need to lighten up once in a while. Your stoic demeanor has always left you with very few friends."

"Can we get back to the matter at hand?" I asked in annoyance.

Jiraiya shrugged.

I will take that as a yes.

"Even if Itachi was behind all of this, it still wouldn't make much sense," I pondered aloud. "Why would Kisame obediently follow his orders?"

Jiraiya let out a weary sigh. "Favor for a favor. It's a fairly common thing, if you ask me."

"Before that fight, we also had to confront a brainwashed suicide bomber who targeted Tayuya," I added, sharing another crucial piece of information. "I managed to pull her out of the explosion just in the nick of time."

The revelation caused a deep frown to crease the Sanin's brow. "That kind of control could only be attributed to the Sharingan. Unless Akatsuki has developed a new method of manipulating people. We can't take any chances with Tayuya. She'll have to be pulled out from missions for an extended period. We don't know if their intent was truly to kill her or if they wanted to hurt you by hurting her."

You better thank me Tayuya, I indirectly got you paid holidays.

"Most likely the latter. If that's the case, I should also warn Karin," I remarked, realizing the potential danger she might be in. Even if she was in Konoha and had Suigetsu and Juugo with her, one couldn't lower their guard.

"I'll send a toad with the warning to Karin. Don't worry," Jiraiya assured me. "In the meantime, you should take this opportunity to rest. You've certainly earned it."

His words caused me to raise an eyebrow. "I don't think we have the luxury of relaxation. Akatsuki is still out there capturing Bijuus, and they're likely planning to kill me, especially Hidan."

Jiraiya nodded in understanding. "You're right, of course. But remember, I'm not Tsunade. In the next few days, you can afford to take a breather. We'll be departing for Konoha in two days. Besides, you have some catching up to do with a certain someone," he finished with a mischievous smirk , making me narrow my eyes.

Ah fuck…

I took one deep breath and exhaled before looking him in the eye. "Where is he? This has been a long time coming, and I would hate to drag it more than necessary."

It was the truth, and for the best.

Jiraiya crossed his arms, a smirk playing on his lips. "Eager, aren't we? Naruto is currently training not too far from here. That brat certainly has a knack for making friends."

An idea of who those friends might be came to mind, but it wasn't important at the moment.

"Let's get this over with." I replied with a sigh of mixed emotions, standing up and leaving Jiraiya to write whatever he was writing.

Once outside, I checked my surroundings and just like he mentioned, the place wasn't that far from the apartment and it was pretty much an open field.

And it was impossible to not notice the amount of blondes gathered in a single place doing something.

That was one of those moments where it was difficult to decide how to proceed, as the long-awaited reunion was happening ahead of schedule. Although we had already met under less than friendly circumstances when Orochimaru was still alive.

There was no point in getting cold feet at that moment, so I took the first step towards the knucklehead, who was still absorbed in whatever he was trying to do.

I calmly stood in front of his clones, observing as they focused entirely on their hands. A rasengan formed and failed, which raised an eyebrow from me. It seemed too early for him to be learning the Rasenshuriken, let alone practicing it in Kumogakure of all places.

Instead of speaking up, I walked toward the nearest wall and rested with my arms crossed. I watched Naruto pour his full attention and effort into completing his jutsu. To some degree, it was interesting, but as an Uchiha, I couldn't resist taking advantage of the opportunity.

My Sharingan flared up, capturing every detail of what he was trying to do, the chakra flow, his attempts to mold and concentrate elemental chakra alongside his own, and especially the integration of Kyuubi chakra.

That was the plan. My attention fixated on Naruto until a thunderous cry of excitement pierced the air, drawing my gaze to the left. There stood a towering, dark-skinned man, holding out a single arm for a smaller woman. With an air of flamboyance, he struck a pose, prompting a tired groan from the blonde woman who leaned against his body for support.

My eyes narrowed in recognition as I realized it was none other than Killer B, the Jinchuuriki of the Eight-Tails.

"Yo yo, Mr. Nine!" he bellowed.

His booming voice caught Naruto's attention, causing him and his clones to cease their chakra channeling. To my surprise, the fool dispelled his army and approached the duo, radiating the same cheerful attitude as he greeted them.

With my Sharingan still active, I scrutinized the newcomer more closely. I couldn't help but notice the abundance of bandages encasing her body, her loose-fitting attire failing to conceal them. In an instant, my eyes widened as realization struck me.

Yugito Nii.

The jinchuuriki of the Two-Tails.

Three jinchuuriki gathered in one place, a curious turn of events, I must admit.

It appeared that Killer B was overflowing with excitement as he introduced Yugito to Naruto, who, in turn, was equally thrilled to meet another person like him. It made me wonder how Naruto would react when he eventually encounters Fu back in Konoha..

Although, I still would prefer if he didn't fill her head with stupid ideas.

I couldn't pinpoint the exact moment, but their lively chatter abruptly ceased, and all three pairs of eyes locked onto me. Only Naruto, wearing a stunned expression, took slow steps toward me.

Releasing yet another sigh, I deactivated my Sharingan and closed the distance with deliberate strides, maintaining my stoic expression. The entire area fell into a profound silence as we stood face to face, locked in a piercing gaze with a pair of blue eyes.

After a prolonged silence, I decided to break the ice. "Long time no see, dobe."

However, he remained silent, continuing to stare at me with the same shocked expression, unmoving like a statue. Annoyance crept over me as the silence dragged on.

Just as I was about to speak up, I detected a glimmer of anger in his blue eyes. In a swift motion, he retracted his right arm and struck my face, precisely targeting my jaw. I stumbled back a step, not from pain but from the unexpected sucker punch.

But it didn't appear to end there. I observed him preparing to strike again, prompting me to activate my Sharingan. Time seemed to slow down as his punch gradually aimed for my nose. Yet, I intercepted it, seizing his wrist mere inches away from my face, and released a dark chuckle.

"Couldn't resist getting even, huh?" I tightened my grip, increasing the pressure. "Always an idiot, acting without thinking twice or the consequences."

I saw his widened eyes as I utilized the force to gradually and steadily push him away, only to swiftly pull him back, disrupting his stance and leaving him vulnerable. Seizing the opportunity, I delivered a direct knee strike to his stomach, causing him to gasp in sharp pain.

Without granting him a moment's respite, I followed up with a punch aimed at his face, a small payback with interest for that sucker punch, as I unleashed a second blow.

By this point, the shouts of the duo not far away reached my ears, likely urging us to stop. But I paid them no heed. That imbecile had asked for this, and I was itching for a rematch.

Kumo or not, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Besides, he should be grateful to me for taking care of Akatsuki, essentially doing his job for him and protecting his sorry ass.

Yet Naruto remained resolute, defiantly meeting my gaze. To my surprise, he managed to halt my attack, even with my Sharingan activated. However, I didn't reveal my astonishment. Instead, I arched an eyebrow, anticipating his next move.

Whatever he could do, I would do it better.

I couldn't discern how many seconds had elapsed as we stood locked in this stalemate. Meanwhile, Killer B was practically hovering above us, likely trying to convey something, but I couldn't care less about his words. All my attention remained fixed on Naruto Uzumaki, who maintained an unwavering stare, locked onto mine.

"Welcome back." He finally spoke up, catching completely off guard.

His words served as a signal for him to release my hand and engulf me in a tight hug, leaving me utterly bewildered and likely causing a stir among the onlookers.

I didn't reciprocate; instead, I simply stared at him. My eyes widened in surprise, as my Sharingan subsided. My attention then shifted to the most experienced jinchuuriki, who scratched his head in confusion.

Not knowing what to say, I attempted to pry his arms open, but the bastard possessed such a formidable grip that I struggled to budge him even an inch.

"I assume you must be Sasuke Uchiha, right?" Yugito asked, gradually drawing closer with short and slow steps.

"Depends on who's asking," I replied curtly, still attempting to disentangle myself from Naruto's grasp.

"I'm Yugito Nii, and we were expecting you. But we didn't anticipate this turn of events, to be honest," she stated, gesturing towards my former teammate.

I nodded in acknowledgment before shifting my attention to the other jinchuuriki. "Killer Bee, right?"

My short question broke him away from his stupor and grinned wide, before striking a dumb pose. "Yo, you got it right, my friend, Killer Bee's the name. The jinchuuriki of Eight-Tails, bringin' thunder and fame."

I cringed, I cringed hard.

I knew he would be bad, but I never anticipated it would be this dreadful. Even Yugito let out an exasperated groan, dragging a hand across her face in frustration.

Yet that didn't discourage the larger man who kept his spirits high. "This ain't the spot to throw down, gotta be wise and big bro might lose it if things start to break,

We gotta keep it chill, no mess to make. Fool ya fool!"

Just for a moment, a pang of pity washed over me for his team, who had to endure this rapping day in and day out.

With a long, weary sigh, I requested, "Just help me get him off me."

AN: I promised a chapter and I will give you a chapter, but still not reaching the 4k words promise… shit, that seems a bit harder than expected. It could be for this story compared to the other one. But here it is the long awaited reunion with Naruto and the talk that will be in the next chapter and a minor surprise for everyone.

*wink wink*.

Also need to stop caring about some stuff since it will be overcomplicating myself again. The story must progress after all, I cannot get stuck, again.