I Do Not Own Naruto!
To Protect and Endure
Story by Kyoka Suigetsu Totsuka
"I assure you, Naruto-chan," insisted Tsunade, "You did nothing wrong. Perhaps Momoko-hime could have requested you be made her personal guard, but the Daimyo wouldn't have allowed it. You're an important political figure within Konoha and you have your own responsibilities. Neither the Daimyo nor the Hokage would have allowed such a thing."
"Then should I have said yes to Momoko-chan and just let Daimyo-sama and Ji-chan refuse her?" Naruto sighed as he looked down at his feet, mindlessly following the road, "She was already mad at me for some reason and I think she was crying when she ran away. Now I don't think she even wants to be my friend anymore."
"She's just a child, Naruto-kun." Shizune held onto Tonton as she walked beside the boy, "She's also a princess who's not used to people refusing her. It will probably sting for a while, but she'll get over it. She still has her brothers and sisters around her, so it's not like she'll be alone."
"I guess so," he muttered softly, "But I still don't like hurting her."
"Things like this are unavoidable, Naruto-chan," Tsunade smiled and patted his head, ruffling his hair, "I'm glad you and Momoko-hime got along so well, but you belong in Konoha and she belongs with her family in the Capital. You can still meet up occasionally, but keeping both of you in one place is out of the question. She will have to learn to accept that."
Naruto nodded silently.
"Keep your head up, kiddo!" Jiraiya walked at the back of the group, guarding the rear, "You managed to befriend one prince and five princesses in one day! You've done very well already. It's important to have the Royal Family's favor if you ever want to become Hokage." He smiled slyly, "Not to mention that Momoko-hime isn't the only princess who wanted you to stay." The sage giggled at Naruto's blush, "Her sisters were all quite hurt when you refused to stay."
"T-They were all very nice, but Momoko-chan was the one who cried!"
"I would have stayed if I were you," muttered Jiraiya with a giggle, "Oh, to be surrounded by five beautiful princesses, protecting them, defending their honor, and taking care of their every need." He shook his head in envy, "Sounds like heaven to me. You'll never have fun like that in Konoha." He sighed, "Now they've lost their little hero."
"I-I don't know what you're talking about, Jiji."
"Watch it, pervert." Tsunade sent Jiraiya a scathing glare, pulling Naruto to her side, "I've already healed you twice. Any more from you, I'll send you flying and let you bleed out."
Jiraiya surrendered his arms, "Hey, I'm just saying!"
Shizune smiled and patted the boy's head, "Just trust us, Naruto-kun. All the princesses will be fine." Naruto looked up at her, "They're some of the most well-cared-for people in the world. Just focus on yourself for now. You're about to complete your first mission as a Genin."
Naruto smiled, "That's true! I almost forgot!"
Tsunade smiled down at him, "Just a few more miles and you'll be home."
"It's only been over a week, but I really miss Konoha." Naruto grinned and bounced on his feet, "I can't wait to tell everyone about the new things I've learned!"
"Well, why don't you go ahead and scout out the road ahead." Jiraiya smiled and patted the boy's head, "Go no farther than a mile ahead. Make sure there is nothing suspicious in front of us."
Naruto grinned and saluted, "Hai, Jiraiya-sama!"
The boy disappeared with a shunpo, a golden blur flickering in the distance, leaving a group of amused adults behind.
"That boy may be extremely talented, but he still has a lot of growing up to do." Jiraiya smiled as he joined Tsunade, walking shoulder to shoulder with her. "We have our work cut out for us."
Tsunade smirked, "But why did you send him off? What do we need to talk about?"
"Lady Haruna," Jiraiya began, looking down at Tsunade, "What's her story?"
"Her story?" asked Tsunade as she looked at Shizune, "Not much to say, is there? I think she was one of the local beauties found in Hi no Kuni and was drafted into the palace by the Daimyo's scouts. The usual royal harem story, I guess."
"She was rather young at the time, I think." Shizune looked up in thought, "When we met her, she was already heavily pregnant with Yamada-ouji, and she couldn't have been older than seventeen. So, I guess she was around sixteen when she joined the harem?"
"Why do you ask?" asked Tsunade.
"She seemed oddly nervous around us last night," he replied, "It was like she was trying to hide her emotions. Her blank stare and obviously fake smile, not to mention her overly sweet voice. It all seems like she's trying to hide something."
"She's a concubine in the Daimyo's Palace," added Tsunade, "Of course, she has something to hide. She's basically the only concubine who isn't nobility to make it to the top of the hierarchy. She's surrounded by Lady Shijimi and her people" She smirked at the gossip, "It's well known that Lady Shijimi basically invited all her female cousins into the harem. Almost every concubine in the palace is under Shijimi's control. Haruna is one of the very few who is not controlled by Shijimi and her family, so she has to be very careful."
"Perhaps she's just being careful," relented Jiraiya, "But there is still the matter of her coloring."
"What about it?' asked Shizune.
"Her hair is a very peculiar shade of red," He looked at Tsunade, "Her eyes, too, a distinct violet. Could she be a part of the Uzumaki Clan?"
Shizune's eyes widened and gasped, but Tsunade remained silent.
"You mentioned that she never even cried when giving birth and she was one of the toughest women you've ever met." He chuckled, "Sounds a bit too much like Kushina, doesn't she?"
"It's possible," answered Tsunade, "She does have a very strong constitution and her coloring does match." She sighed, "A lot of Uzumaki Clan members escaped the destruction of Uzushiogakure. Most of the survivors were civilians, so it's entirely possible that some of them continued their normal lives in Hi no Kuni. Haruna could be a descendant of one of those families."
Jiraiya nodded in thought, "She could be." He chuckled, "Too bad the kid is already so obsessed with the Yamanaka girl. If Momoko-hime could be an Uzumaki descendant, she'd be perfect for him. What could be better than the future Uzumaki Clan Head and potential Hokage marrying another Uzumaki who is also the daughter of the Daimyo? Seems like a match made in heaven."
Tsunade chuckled back and shrugged, "Well, we can't know for sure. It's not like we can ask the Daimyo for a blood sample."
"I know, but it's just fun to think about."
A golden blur returned and Naruto flickered before the group, saluting them with a bright grin.
"Report: there is nothing suspicious ahead, Jiraiya-sama!"
"Good," nodded Jiraiya, "Now we can walk in peace."
Tsunade ruffled his hair again, "Well done, Naruto-chan."
They were once again traveling under the thick canopies of the Endless Forest, sharing the road with traveling peddlers and merchants, all heading to and from the village. The wide and busy road connecting the Capital to Konoha was coined the Daimyo's Road, and it was one of the busiest trade routes in Hi no Kuni. Every day, hundreds to thousands of people would venture the road. Even the Royal Family would use the Daimyo's Road when visiting Konoha, which was why every mile checkpoint had a watchtower guarded by Konoha Shinobi.
They had already passed over fifty of such watchtowers, and Naruto sensed the shock and surprise of each fellow Konoha Shinobi they passed. It was not every day they would see two of the Legendary Sannin heading back to the village. Naruto wouldn't be surprised if word had already returned to the Hokage and rumor had already begun to spread throughout the village.
But it was certainly not lost on the Sannin that they were not the only ones drawing attention from the people of Konoha. Sure, they received their fair share of glances, but many, if not most of the stares were drawn to Naruto. Dressed in a white, high-collar jacket, a fishnet shirt, and a pair of standard-issue shinobi pants, Naruto was the very image of his father. Adding the Yondaime's hitai-ate was almost redundant, but the people were seeing the Yondaime reborn before their eyes.
Jiraiya walked beside Tsunade and whispered to her, "You know, Hime, with us walking like this, we're almost like a family." She rolled her eyes with a smirk, but he continued. "Naruto almost has your hair color, but it's spiky like mine. If people didn't know better, they'd think like the Daimyo and assume Naruto is our son."
"No stranger will assume someone like me would be with someone like you, old man." She flicked her hair back and walked ahead, "You look like you could be my father. At most, people will assume Naruto is my son and you're just his worrisome grandfather."
"Say what you will, but you can't deny the image." Jiraiya smiled at the excited boy, "He is our godchild, after all."
Tsunade smiled at the boy as well, "I guess so."
"But in all seriousness," he muttered, looking ahead towards the village, "How are you feeling? It's been a long time since you've been back."
She glanced at him before looking back at Naruto, "I'm focusing on my godson for now – I don't care about anything else. I'm back, but I'm back only as a medical specialist. I'm not on the active roster and I won't be returning to missions. If anything, I'm back to become Naruto-chan's legal guardian."
"But how are you feeling?" he repeated, "Are you feeling okay? Do we need to walk slower?"
"No," she whispered, eyes falling to the ground, "I'll be okay."
"I know we've heard it before, but things are really changing." Jiraiya smiled and stepped closer to Tsunade, almost hovering over her in protection. "Sarutobi-sensei is ready to embrace a new era and we can finally make the difference we've fought so hard in the past to make. I know it's taken too long, but we're almost there."
"I really hope so, Jiraiya." She looked forward, staring hard at the approaching Hokage Tower, "Sensei may be ready for change, but we know those old crones will be there yapping away, hiding behind their old age. With them still around, we can expect a lot of resistance in whatever we do. They value tradition more than anything."
"We'll deal with them in time." Jiraiya chuckled, "We're no spring chickens either. I think it's time we started throwing our weight around. We are the Sannin, after all." She chuckled along, "And if all else fails, I'm sure they'll die before us."
"Don't tempt fate, idiot."
Jiraiya smiled at her, "Don't worry," he winked, staring at her with his heart open, "I'm not dying until I convince you to marry me."
Tsunade choked on her breath, "What?"
"You're going to be in the village now," he smirked, "I have all the time in the world to wear you down. I have years of pickup lines and material to use on you."
Tsunade looked baffled, "You're the last person I would ever expect to be married."
"That's only because you never gave me a chance." Jiraiya looked down at her, staring into her eyes, completely serious. "If you're willing, I'd marry you right now and never look at another woman again for the rest of my life." She stared back at him as he continued, "Don't look so surprised. I would have married you when we were genin if you had given me the chance. Had that happened, I would have been known as Konoha's Number One Husband rather than Jiraiya the Gallant."
Tsunade kept staring at him, lips parting in silence.
He gave a subtle sigh, "I've wasted enough time in my life. Now that you're back, I'm not going to waste another second. I will be completely honest and shameless from now on."
He smiled at her, "I've been in love with you since we were children, Tsunade, and I'm not going to stop until I'm ash and bone." He winked confidently, "Be ready, my love. The Almighty Jiraiya is going to woo you with everything he's got."
Tsunade looked down at her feet, "You old fool."
Naruto's voice broke the Sannin from their thoughts and they looked to see the boy pointing at the sky. It was a large hawk, reddish brown with a golden beak, and it was circling the group as it swooped to the ground. The group then noticed the bird's talon clutching onto a scroll, and Jiraiya walked forward with an arm out. The bird landed on Jiraiya's arm and nearly shoved him to the ground, but the sage quickly took the scroll and released the bird into the air.
"A black scroll, Jiji," muttered Naruto as he looked up at his godfather, "It's from Commander Ryu."
"Why would Ryu be contacting us now?" wondered Jiraiya as Tsunade and Shizune approached, both curious, "I can't even remember the last time he contacted me rather than Sensei."
"Just open the scroll," hurried Tsunade.
Jiraiya did as he was told and briskly opened the black scroll, his eyes quickly scanning the encoded message. It took a while for him to remember the ciphers, but he eventually managed to mentally put together the words. As he read, his eyes grew wide in shock, and the others could only look at him as his hands gripped into a fist, crushing the sides of the scroll.
"Naruto, go into the forest and set up your security system immediately!"
Naruto's eyes widened, but saluted, "Hai, Jiraiya-sama!"
The boy vanished in a blur as Jiraiya scanned their surroundings, his senses stretching around the vicinity. He found no suspicious chakra nor wandering eyes. With only a glance at Tsunade, she knew he was serious. With a subtle nod, Shizune and Tsunade vanished with a Shunshin, following Naruto into the forest. Looking around again, Jiraiya disappeared, speeding into the forest after his team.
Naruto was already waiting for them by a large tree, and once they were all within the radius, the boy activated his system, all seals set to the maximum setting. Under the protection, Jiraiya huddled the group in front of him, still grasping onto the black scroll.
"This is a message from Commander Ryu," Jiraiya started, "Last night an urgent message was sent to Konoha from the Capital, directly from the office of the Daimyo." Tsunade furrowed her brows in thought, "It was a command calling for the arrest of Sarutobi-sensei." Naruto's eyes widened as Shizune gasped, "According to Ryu, it was sent carrying the royal seal. The protocol was followed and the message was deciphered. Ryu doesn't know when exactly, but a team of masked ANBU arrested Sensei from his home in the middle of the night on counts of treason."
"Treason?!" exclaimed Tsunade angrily.
"ANBU?" whispered Naruto.
"Yes, but none under Ryu's command." Jiraiya looked at Tsunade, "Which can only mean Root."
"Root?" asked Naruto.
"An ANBU subdivision you've probably never heard of," answered Jiraiya, "It is run personally run by Shimura Danzo, one of the elders of Konoha. They do not exist on paper, but they operate in deep shadow conditions, even more hidden than your typical ANBU. They are highly effective and powerful, and most importantly, they answer to only Danzo. If they indeed arrested Sensei, it means Danzo is making a move."
"A move…" muttered Naruto.
"But to arrest the Hokage," started Tsunade with a frown, "That's ludicrous. It cannot be done, not even with the Daimyo's orders. What about our ANBU forces? Where is the Jōnin Commander? Are they doing anything?"
"The scroll doesn't say," answered Jiraiya, "I don't think the Commander had a lot of time to send this message."
"How did they even manage to arrest Sensei like this?" asked Tsunade, "Even in his old age, he should be able to handle your typical Root ANBU Team, at least enough to escape. Something doesn't add up here."
"Sensei lives with his very young grandson," muttered Jiraiya with a sigh, making the others shiver at the implication, "If they indeed managed to arrest Sensei, I do not doubt that they must have used little Konohamaru against him."
"Sons of bitches!" cried Tsunade with a dangerous glare, "We have to go back now and break Sensei out!"
"Do act so rashly, Hime." Jiraiya's cold stare seemed to calm her down, "Think about the timing here. Danzo has been quiet for years; why did he make such a sudden move? Either he somehow magically became stronger or we've somehow triggered him in some way. It's not like the old piece of shit to act so blatantly, no – this is an act of desperation. There is something big going on, but we don't see it."
"The Daimyo supposedly sent the letter last night," added Naruto, slightly trembling, "But he seemed so happy and cheerful when we left! He didn't seem mad at all!"
"And he definitely isn't that good of a liar," commented the sage, "Someone forged the Daimyo's seal, and only someone very close to him could have done so."
Shizune hugged Tonton tighter, "Doesn't this mean the Daimyo is also in danger?"
"Yes, it does." Jiraiya crossed his arms in thought, "The Daimyo and Sensei have been working together for decades. They're old friends and partners. The Daimyo would never call for Sensei's arrest even if he really did suspect us of treason. He knows perfectly well that the Royal Family needs Konoha more than Konoha needs them. He would never commit to such a gamble." He pursed his lips, "For someone to forge the Daimyo's seal for such a purpose, they must somehow also make sure he doesn't rescind the command."
"Shit," muttered Tsunade, "So we're stuck in the middle, literally!" She looked to the edge of the forest, "We're about three hours away from Konoha, but we could get there in under an hour if we rush. We're at least eight hours from the Capital – over two hours away if we run."
"Let me send a clone back to the Capital!" exclaimed Naruto, "My Kage Bunshin can last for a long time, and with Shunpo, I can get there in under an hour!"
"That will have to do for now," answered Jiraiya with a nod, "Send one clone with half your chakra back to the Capital. Do not engage in hostility. Try to sneak into the palace and see if the Daimyo and his family are safe. If they are fine, just stay put and observe, try to see who is behind the manipulation. If they're harmed in any way, eliminate as many enemies as you can with your clone and try to escape with any survivors."
"Keep our communication scroll with your clone and make sure to write an update for me every chance you get." Jiraiya sighed, "We really should have made a scroll between you and Sensei before we left, but we won't dwell on that now."
Naruto made a clone and tossed him the communication scroll. With a bow, the clone sped off in a blur, flickering beyond the forest in an instant.
Jiraiya nodded as he stored the corresponding communication scroll in his robes, "Now the four of us will return to Konoha in secret. I'm afraid words of us returning would have made it back to the village by now – we've walked passed at least a dozen watch towers. We need our disguises."
"We can use the Security System," said Naruto, "I have a lot of extras with me. I can attach them to our clothes and use them portably."
"Good, let's do that."
Naruto got to work immediately with the approval of his godfather, quickly attaching a scroll around each of his allies' arms, activating the system with a quick hand sign. "Each of these has a built-in Chakra Battery and should last at least a full day under the lowest settings, but if we were to dial up the Genjutsu, it will only last for an hour at most. If the battery runs out, we will have to rely on our own chakra supply to keep the system running."
"Keep the settings low for now," muttered Tsunade, "We want to be undetectable, not walking around making people bleed from their eyes."
"Agreed," added Jiraiya, "Only increase the setting once we're in combat situations inside Konoha. Our goal is to investigate the situation inside Konoha. We need to find out where Sensei is being held, what our ANBU is doing about it, and does the Jōnin Commander know about this. This has all happened within the last few hours at most, so if they don't know about this, we need to make sure they learn of it. The Jōnin in the village are all loyal to the Hokage, not to the Daimyo or Danzo. We need them all on our side."
"I know Shikaku-ojisan personally, so I can go find him," volunteered Naruto.
"Yes, that's a good idea. I don't want you to engage Root directly, so just find Shikaku and have him mobilize the troops. After that, I want to you keep yourself safe. Set up a security system somewhere hidden and make sure no one finds you. Danzo may be searching for you during all of this."
"Why would he be searching for me?" asked the boy.
"Because you're the Yondaime's Legacy and he will need you on his side if he really does want to take over the Hokage position." Jiraiya looked down at the boy, "And he will find a way to bend your mind to his will if he finds you, so make sure he doesn't."
"I understand, Jiraiya-sama."
"Tsunade and Shizune will come with me." Jiraiya looked at the ladies, "We'll look for Commander Ryu and try to mobilize our ANBU. I don't know about the ANBU as a whole, but I know that Kakashi and his team will be on our side. After we've amassed enough power, we'll search for Sensei and try to break him free. As we do, we'll eliminate as many of Danzo's men as possible. Our end goal should be the assassination of Danzo, but if possible, we'll take him alive. I'm sure Inoichi will have a field day breaking into his mind."
"Hai, Jiraiya-sama!" saluted Shizune.
Tsunade nodded along, "Sounds simple enough, but we know we're walking into a trap. They have to be waiting for us in the village."
"We can only hope that the kid's system works and they don't have any Hyūga on their side." Jiraiya grumbled, "But ultimately, Danzo is a hated figure in the village. Most, if not all of the Clan Heads will be on our side. He must rely on a swift victory on all sides. The longer we can stretch this out, the better it will be for us."
Tsunade cracked her knuckles with a smirk, "Well, then I guess this is just like old times."
Jiraiya smirked back, "We've always worked best together, Hime."
They gave each other a nod before they activated their security systems, seeing each other fade from view and replaced with a Genjutsu of an empty surrounding. But Jiraiya reached out to touch them, deactivating the weak illusion.
They vanished in a blur.
Naruto's clone saw the world as a blur as he sped towards the Capital, running as fast as he possibly could with Shunpo. It was his first time utilizing Shunpo to the fullest, and it was working well. His chakra was replenishing faster than Shunpo was expending, and he found himself testing the upper limits of the seals on his feet. He felt they could be improved upon, altered to take on more chakra and provide higher speeds, but he couldn't dwell on that.
After only forty minutes of running, Naruto could see the Capital ahead.
The Genin activated his own security system, running into the city without notice. He stretched his chakra to its limits, reaching out with his senses, trying to sense any sort of violent chakra signature, but he found none. It was exactly like the day before. The city was filled with mild to strong chakra signatures belonging to the palace guards and city watch, but he couldn't feel any sort of conflict or fighting.
The peaceful morning felt eerily quiet and Naruto immediately sped toward the palace. The tall fortress looked impenetrable, sitting on top of an elevated hill, its tall walls almost hiding the formidable castle behind, but for Naruto armed with his seals, it was basically just another step. With Shunpo, Naruto stood on the top of the wall, looking down at the garden below.
It was the same as the previous day, filled with maids and servants watering the plants and delivering feeds. Off in the distance, he saw the same area he and the princesses shared their afternoon together, and much to his relief, he saw most of them gathered there. Minami and Nanako were both sitting behind Bisca and Kurumu, watching their sisters play a game of cards while they prepared the tea.
He jumped from the wall, sliding down the side with a sliver of chakra keeping his palm attached, landing on the ground with a silent crouch. The palace guards were dangerously oblivious and sensed nothing as Naruto sped passed them and towards the princesses. They were all smiling and gigging, still as beautiful as serene as before.
Silently, Naruto set up another security system around the princesses by attaching the scroll to their table, creating a safe radius around them. He activated the system, casting a Genjutsu of just the princesses enjoying their tea to the outside.
The four princesses shrieked out in shock, almost falling back as Naruto appeared before them loudly. They stared at him with widened eyes as he tried to placate them, showing them that it was him. Soon, they stopped screaming and only stared at him, and he waited for their breathing to level before speaking.
"I'm so sorry for scaring you all," he muttered softly, "But this is an emergency."
"Naruto-kun," whispered Minami, "You're back…"
"I am!" Naruto stepped closer to them and knelt down, "We received an emerg-"
"Naruto-kun!" exclaimed Bisca and Kurumu together as they lunged for him, wrapping their arms around his torso and pushing him to the ground. The boy was shocked as both princesses started to kiss his face, marking his cheeks, nose and forehead with their lipstick.
"You came back!" cried Kurumu happily, "I knew you wouldn't leave us like that!"
"It's only been a few hours, but I missed you so much!" yelled Bisca, kissing the boy's cheek hard, "I'm never going to let you go again!"
"Hime-sama!" he cried, holding the two girls by their waists, pulling them to a sitting position, "I'm serious! This is an emergency!"
"You're so cute, Naruto-kun," muttered Nanako.
Minami giggled into her sleeve, "What kind of emergency?"
"Where is your father?" he managed to get through, "Where's Daimyo-sama?"
"Father?" muttered Kurumu, "Probably in his office? I haven't seen him yet today." She looked at her sisters, "Huh, which is a little odd. He didn't come see us this morning."
"What time is it?" asked Bisca, "Maybe he's still in his morning meeting."
"It's almost noon already," Minami said as she looked around the garden, "Father usually comes to see us before his luncheons."
"I'm sure he's just too busy this morning," added Nanako as she fixed her hair.
"Where's Momoko-chan?" Naruto asked, trying to sense the red-haired princess.
"Aww, why do you only say Momo-chan's name so cutely?" asked Kurumu, "You should call all of us so familiarly!"
"Please, Hime-sama," he begged, "Just tell me!"
"Momo-chan hasn't left her room since you left last night," answered Minami with a soft smile, "She really didn't want you to leave, I guess, but we haven't seen her at all today. I was going to have the servants send her lunch to her room later."
"I'll go find her," Naruto said as he looked at the four ladies, "But I have to make sure you're all safe first." He formed another four clones, each one standing by one of the princesses, and the girls all looked at their clones dreamily. "Please stay here. I've placed a security system around this area – don't move beyond twenty-five feet from this table. Stay in here and I'll make sure you're all safe."
Bisca hugged her clone's arm with a giggle, "Sure, I'll play princess and hero with you."
Kurumu sat on her clone's lap and purred against him, "We'll stay right here."
"Perfect, my back has been hurting this morning." Nanako welcomed her clone behind her, winking up at him, "I think it's because my chest grew again. It's so heavy now that my back hurts." She pouted up at him, "Will you massage my back again?"
Minami sighed and pulled her clone down to join her, "Just have some tea with me, Naruto-kun. I'm not as immature as my sisters."
Naruto nodded at his clones whom all nodded back before he vanished from view, speeding off to Momoko's room at full speed.
From the outside, Konoha looked to be normal. A steady flow of people passed in and out of the village, each and all checked for travel papers at the main gates. The regular Chūnin guarded each gate and nothing looked amiss, but something was wrong. As Naruto followed his godparents around the village walls, he noticed that he recognized none of the chakra signatures guarding the ANBU stations.
"Jiraiya-sama, up there, in the wall," whispered Naruto, "That's one of many hidden ANBU watch stations spread out along the village walls. I know everyone's chakra signature in the ANBU, and those people inside are not a part of our ANBU." He frowned, "I assume they're a part of Root."
"So we have to assume the village security has been compromised," Tsunade muttered as she leaned against a tree, "If that's the case, we have to assume the Barrier Team is also working against us. If we just march inside, we will be sensed."
"I know all the ANBU secret passageways in the village," added Naruto, "Those are free from the Barrier Team's detection."
"But they do only lead into ANBU guarded passages." Jiraiya crossed his arms in thought, "Danzo isn't so stupid to leave those unguarded, so regardless of how we enter, we will be opposed." Shizune stepped closer to Tsunade, listening carefully, "If worse comes to worst, I'd rather fight the Root ANBU in a secluded space than to be confronted in the open by the entirety of Danzo's forces."
"I agree," nodded Tsunade, "We go into one of those passages and assume Naruto's security system will give us at least a few seconds of surprise. We silence the guards and leave our clones in their place. Once we're inside the village, we'll at least be able to gather more intel."
Jiraiya nodded, "Tsunade and I will attack first, Shizune will be our support. Naruto will stand the farthest back and be our sensor. If you feel anyone getting away, eliminate them. But unless that happens, I want you to find an opening to slip into the village. We will work on finding Commander Ryu and you'll try to find Shikaku. If you can't find him, just find a place to hide away. Your safety is paramount, understand?"
"But should I lead you into the ANBU Barracks?" asked the boy, "I know the area better than anyone in the village. I can help you find Commander Ryu."
"No, that is where the fighting will most likely happen, Naruto." Jiraiya shook his head, "As strong as you are, you have no actual battle experience. I will not risk your life on an enemy that Tsunade and I can likely defeat with relative ease."
Tsunade nodded along, "I agree with Jiraiya. This is too dangerous for a Genin, Naruto-chan, no matter how strong you are."
"Just do your assigned mission, Naruto."
Naruto nodded, "I understand, Jiraiya-sama, Tsunade-sama."
"Good, now lead us to the ANBU passage closest to the ANBU Barracks."
The ANBU Barracks was located in the southeastern quadrant of the village, so they quickly made their way to that side of the wall. Hidden under a Genjutsu was a hidden passage, a common way for returning ANBU members to enter the village. It was the closest one to the barracks, so it was also one of the widest passages. More than once had Naruto waited for his siblings' return on the other side of the passage, but he had never been through it from the other side.
Jiraiya and Tsunade walked into the passage first, fully hidden under the security system, and Shizune followed after. Naruto followed at the end, stretching his senses to their limits. He left three unfamiliar chakra signatures at the end of the passage and quickly relayed the information to the two Sannin in front. They were the only enemies in the vicinity, and they weren't very powerful if their chakra signatures were any sort of measurement.
They were soon nearing the inside of the village and the guards were only a few feet ahead.
Fully hidden from most senses, Jiraiya and Tsunade disappeared in a blur. From where he was, Naruto sensed the three foreign chakra signatures vanish, replaced with only silence. They were dead in an instant – the two Sannin and quickly slit their throats and crushed their neck, leaving them a silent husk. The bodies were quickly hidden by the security system's protection radius, and the two Sannin replaced them with transformed clones of their own, standing guard as if nothing happened.
Naruto glanced at the dead bodies and felt a shiver down his spine – they looked exactly like his siblings in uniform and mask. For a moment, he felt dread, but he reminded himself that they were the enemy, and he had his own mission to complete.
"Permission to begin my search, Jiraiya-sama."
Naruto sped passed his family and flickered into the village, seeing the familiar hidden entrance of the barracks just in front of him. For a moment, he wanted to run inside and see if his siblings were okay, to hug his sisters, to tackle his brothers, but he knew he couldn't. With a heavy heart, Naruto forced himself to move away from his home and sped down the busy streets of Konoha, hopping onto the roofs towards the Jōnin Lounge.
He could still remember the feel of Shikaku-ojisan's chakra signature, and he was determined to find it.
The Daimyo's Palace was large, but it was easy to memorize. Each towering building was connected by stone paths, and Naruto remembered the path from Momoko-hime's room was lined with a stretching garden of red roses. The Genin sped along the path, completely hidden under his system, dodging every maid and servant in his way. It was only half a day ago when he said goodbye to the princess at her door, but it already felt like a long time had passed.
Naruto stood by her door but could sense no one inside the room. Now that the door was safely concealed within the radius of his system, he quickly opened it and sped inside. There was no time to admire the beautiful room or its sweet scent, and Naruto dashed into the princess' closet. As he expected, the entrance to the passageway was still open, and he once again entered it.
It was as dark as he could remember, but he was starting to feel the princess' chakra signature – she was definitely still alive and inside the castle. She was a vibrant flicker of red in the darkness, and he made his way to her as quickly as possible.
Before long, Naruto returned to Momoko's secret room and found her sitting on her chair.
"Momoko-chan!" he cried, happy to see her all right, "Thank goodness you're okay!"
But she looked up at him with tears in her eyes, "Naruto-kun…" she whispered, "You came back." She sobbed, "I thought I was imagining it. I sensed your chakra." Tears fell from her eyes, "You really came back!"
Naruto rushed to her and wrapped his arms around her, holding her close, "What's wrong," he whispered, holding the trembling girl tighter, "Are you hurt?"
"I-I saw everything!"
Naruto frowned, "Has this anything to do with Daimyo-sama?"
"Yes!" she yelled, "I saw her, I saw Mother!" Momoko sobbed, "I-I heard her say something to someone last night, but I didn't see who it was. I ran away because I knew I wasn't supposed to hear that, but then I sensed Father going to Mother's room!"
"You can sense chakra?"
"I can!" Momoko nodded as she cried, "I went to look and I saw Father come into Mother's room. And I saw the person Mother was talking to," she whispered, "It was Hikaru-oniisama."
"The crown prince?" asked Naruto with widened eyes, "Why was he there?"
"I don't know!" she cried, "But then suddenly some kind of weird circle appeared under all of them." She sobbed against his chest, "It was glowing and Father looked shocked! I heard Onii-sama yell stop, but nothing stopped! They disappeared in a flash of light! Just gone! The room was empty and the weird circle on the floor was gone! It was like they just vanished!"
"Teleportation?" he whispered.
"I was so scared!" she cried, "They all disappeared! I didn't know what to do or whom to tell!"
"Have you been here the whole night?" he asked, gently rubbing her back.
"Yes," she whispered, "I was praying they come back, but they never did!"
"Don't worry, Momoko-chan," Naruto whispered back, patting her head, "I'm here now and I won't let anything happen to you. Just stay close to me and I'll keep you safe." Momoko just nodded silently against his chest, still sobbing as he stroked her hair. "But we need to find a way to save your family. Can you take me to your mother's room?"
She flinched, "Why?"
"We need to figure out what happened so I can relay the information back to Jiraiya-sama. He'll know what to do." He hugged her tighter, "Don't be scared, Momoko-chan. I'll be here to protect you. I promise."
She glanced up at him, her violet eyes staring into his blue, "Okay," she whispered, "Follow me."
Momoko held onto his hand tightly as she led him down the dimly lit path. It was the opposite direction of the path they took just the previous day; this way was much more unexplored by the princess. There was fallen debris from the aged wooden ceiling littered on the ground and much of the way was narrowed by bending wooden beams, but they walked on.
Naruto felt the chakra signatures of the passing guards below them, making their rounds around the palace with no clue. He wondered just how private the Daimyo usually was for none of his guards to notice his disappearance. It was a dangerous loophole that someone obviously took advantage of, but he digressed for now. Clutching onto Momoko's hand, feeling her warm red chakra, Naruto followed along, and they didn't stop until they reached the very end of the passage.
"Mother's room is down there," whispered Momoko as she pointed at the end of the hallway, "It should lead to an opening in her closet, just like in my room. From the looks of it, it hasn't been opened in a long time. I don't think Mother ever found out about these passages."
"Can your mother sense chakra like you can?" he asked.
"I don't know," she whispered, "But she didn't catch me snooping last night, so I guess not." She looked at him, their faces a bit too close, "You're the only one to ever sense me in these passages."
Naruto blushed a little as her breath tickled his cheek, "Okay, let's keep going."
With a deep breath, Momoko nodded and pulled Naruto along, pushing through the opening in her mother's closet. It was certainly much more packed than her own closet, and they had to push their way through a mountain of her mother's kimonos and gowns. Still being as quiet as possible, Momoko crack opened the door of the closet and peeked outside, not walking out until she confirmed they were alone.
"We're the only ones here," she whispered.
Naruto smiled and squeezed her hand, "You should learn to rely on your chakra sensory abilities rather than your eyes. It's much safer and more useful."
"Sometimes I forget I have it," she muttered.
Naruto smiled before fully entering the room, and he saw it was immaculately tidy and clean. Everything was in place without a spec of dust in the air. There was even lingering incense in the air, so there definitely wasn't a violent confrontation in the room. He walked to the middle of the room, still holding onto Momoko's hand and pulled her along.
"They disappeared here," she whispered, hugging Naruto's arm close, "With a bright flash and they were gone."
"You said your brother was here as well," he muttered as she nodded, "But why was he here at all? This is your mother's room. I thought grown male members of the Royal Family had to move into a different area of the palace. I thought only the Daimyo was allowed back here."
"I don't know," she whispered as she looked down, "But sometimes I see Mother and Onii-sama looking at each other. You saw yesterday in the gardens," she said, making him think back, "Whenever Mother is in the gardens Onii-sama would be there as well. I always see them looking at each other, but I don't think I've ever heard them speak to each other until yesterday."
"There's something very wrong about this," he muttered as he walked around the table in the middle of the room. "So they were all talking to each other here, around this table?"
"Yeah, and that weird circle was right here," she muttered, looking scared as she looked down at the ground, "It was around this table."
"This table was in the middle of the circle?"
"Yes, right in the middle."
"So," he muttered, looking at the ornate wooden table covered in fine silk tapestry, "If that was a seal formula you saw, it must have been unsealed from this table." She looked confused, but he continued, "There are records of possible teleportation seals in Konoha. My father was famous for using them in battle, but it requires an incredible amount of skill and control to use, not to mention years of studies in Fuinjutsu." Naruto looked under the tapestry and under the table, but found nothing interesting, "If they were really teleported away, it could only be done by a powerful Fuinjutsu master."
"You think they were teleported away?" she asked, "Could they have just been captured?"
"Maybe, but what you described sounded similar to some old Uzumaki Sealing Formulas I've read about." Naruto's eyes narrowed at the incense burning that sat on the table. He reached for it and found it was still warm. "I'm still a novice when it comes to advance Fuinjutsu, but it sure seems possible."
"This incense burning looks different from mine," Momoko said, "It looks…foreign."
"It certainly does."
Naruto set it back on the table before sending a pulse of chakra through it. Their eyes widened as it lit up with chakra etching all around it, striking black ink strokes carved invisibly into the golden surface. He looked at Momoko and waited for her nod, and with her permission, he sent more chakra into it. They were amazed as the Seal Jutsu Formula peeled off the incense burner and spread along the ground, forming a perfect circle of ink markings around them.
"This is amazing," whispered Naruto with widened eyes, "I've never seen such intricate etchings before. This is far beyond what I've read about in Konoha."
"This is the same circle," Momoko whispered as she hugged his arm to her chest, "The exact same one. Can you feel it? The chakra, it feels familiar."
"My chakra must have activated the chakra already stored inside it," Naruto muttered as he observed the markings, "The chakra," he whispered in thought, "It's red and vibrant." He looked at Momoko, "It feels a lot like yours, Momoko-chan." She looked shocked as Naruto frowned, "This chakra belongs to your mother, Lady Haruna."
"B-But I don't think Mother even knows how to use chakra!"
"She does," he answered as he stared at her, "But more importantly, this means Lady Haruna was the one to activate this seal. She was the one who teleported away your father and brother."
"But why?!" she yelled.
"We can find out," he replied, "I think I can activate this seal. Teleportation Seals, at least according to my readings, should only connect to one place at a time. If I use it, I'll be teleported to where they went." He smiled at her, "I can go find Daimyo-sama and bring him back home."
"What about me?" demanded Momoko.
"I can't let you come with me, Momoko-chan." Naruto shook his head, "I've put you in enough danger as it is. I will leave a clone here with you and it'll take you to the gardens to your sisters. I've left each of them with a clone of myself as well. They're well hidden under my Security System and you'll all be protected until it's safe to come out. My clone will also find Yamada and protect his room as well. He's bedridden right now, so he has to stay there. I'll make sure he's fine."
"I can't let you go alone!" she cried.
"I'm a Ninja, Momoko-chan, you're a princess." He smiled as he made a clone, gently passing her hand over to the clone. "It's my job to protect you and the Daimyo, not to put you in even more danger." The clone gently pulled her back, but she was still looking at him, "I'll bring your father back, Momoko-chan."
"It's too dangerous for you to go alone!" Momoko was crying again, "Just tell Jiraiya-sama to go!"
"Jiji is busy on his own mission back in Konoha, but I'll make sure to let him know." He winked at her, "I'm much stronger than I look, Momoko-chan. Don't worry about me!"
Naruto activated the seal and a bright red glow emanated from the seal, but it was oddly silent. There was a slight flare of chakra, but it was much less than he had imagined. He marveled at the brilliance of the seal – it was incredibly complex but relied on such little chakra. If mastered and perfected, Naruto imagined it could potentially be even more useful than his father's Hiraishin no Jutsu.
Naruto braced himself and prepared to draw his sword if need be as the circle grew brighter. It was going to happen at any moment – he could feel the chakra plateau.
"No!" cried Momoko, "These are my parents we're talking about!"
"No, Momoko-chan, I'm not going to let you go," said the clone.
"Let me go!" she cried, turning to face the clone with a glare. "I need to know why my Mother kidnapped my Father!"
"Momoko-chan!" cried Naruto from within the seal, "It's too dangerous!"
"I don't care!" She struggled in the clone's grip, "Let me go!"
"I won't, Momoko-chan," the clone said calmly.
She pulled against his grip, but suddenly lunged forward, jumping into the clone. She wrapped her arms around his neck and crashed her lips onto his, suddenly kissing him hard. The clone's eyes widened in shock as her lips were still against his and couldn't do anything as she pushed him away. The princess dropped to the ground and jumped for the seal, leaping into Naruto's arms.
"I-I don't care what you say," she whispered, looking up at him with a burning face, "I'm coming with you!"
Before Naruto could even respond, the chakra peaked and they vanished in a bright flash. They disappeared in an instant, leaving the clone alone in the room, touching his lips still in shock and awe.
The original Naruto had nearly circled the Konoha twice already, but still couldn't sense Shikaku-ojisan's chakra signature. He'd scaled the Jōnin lounge building, but it was empty. Something was clearly very wrong – it was as if all their elite forces had somehow vanished overnight. There were still plenty of Chūnin and Genin running around the village, but Naruto couldn't find a single Jōnin.
He now stood on top of the Nara Clan Estates, but he still sensed no high chakra signature. He stretched his sensory abilities to envelop the area, reaching over to the Akimichi and Yamanaka Clan Estates, but there was still nothing. But much to his relief, his surrogate aunts seem to be fine. He sensed Yoshiko-obasan, Shouko-obasan, and Emiko-obasan inside their homes, and their chakra seemed calm.
But Shikaku-ojisan was missing, and he couldn't find Chouza-ojisan or Inoichi-ojisan either. It was as if they vanished. He wondered if he should ask their wives about their location, but he didn't want to risk their panic. Jiraiya had instructed him to keep this inconspicuous, and he couldn't risk it.
Naruto knew his mission was a failure, but before he could follow his instructions and hide away, he had to make sure Ino-chan was safe.
In a blur, he sped off to the Academy. Using Shunpo, it was barely a walk. The Hokage Mountain was only a few steps away and very soon the familiar building came into view. It also looked normal and there were no signs of conflict. The usual small chakra signatures filled the building with several Chūnin-level signatures throughout. But he had to make sure his best friend was safe and he wanted to take her with him to their treehouse.
Using his usual path to the Academy side wall, Naruto jumped to the window to Ino's class, and he saw the first anomaly since returning to Konoha.
'Where is Iruka-san?'
Naruto saw that neither Iruka nor Mizuki was in the classroom. He had learned from Ino about their homeroom teachers, and from what he knew of the Academy, it was strange for them to be gone in the middle of the day. Instead, two teenagers stood at the front of the class. Channeling his senses, Naruto felt their chakra signatures, and theirs were significantly stronger than their age would suggest.
With his security system still active, Naruto slipped into the classroom. As usual, Ino was sitting by the window with Sakura next to her. At the sight of her, Naruto felt the need to hug her, but he pushed it off. His eyes covered the room and he found his friends.
Shikamaru was sitting a row below Ino and Sakura, and Chouji sat next to him. Kiba was a few seats to the side, and beside him was whom Naruto remembered as the Aburame Clan Heir. There were some familiar faces, such as the Hyūga Clan Heiress, and someone who looked a lot like Itachi-nii. It was Uchiha Sasuke, and he sat alone near the front of the class.
After the first few seconds, Naruto saw the expressions on everyone's faces – they were all looking suspicious of the teens in front of the class.
"What are you talking about?" exclaimed Kiba loudly, "Who the hell are you two?"
"That is not of concern," came the stoic voice of one of the teens in front. He looked very peculiar, wearing a pair of face-fitting goggles that only left his mouth visible, and he was dressed in all black. "You've all been ordered to follow us to a safe place. The village is under threat and because of the importance of this class, we've been ordered to take you to safety."
"And where do you plan to take us?" asked Shikamaru, still looking lazy, but Naruto noticed his friend's hands were reaching for his weapons pouch.
"To a safe house," answered the other teen, who was dressed much more normally in a dark orange short kimono shirt that matched his orange hair. "Time is of the essence, so we have to move quickly."
"That's my cousin," Naruto heard Ino whisper to Shikamaru softly, "Yamanaka Fu. I haven't seen him in a long time."
"And the other one is my cousin," added the Aburame Heir, his voice as stoic as the teen. "Aburame Torune and it has also been a few years since I've seen him."
"Why are you two taking us rather than our Sensei?" continued Shikamaru, "It's hard to believe that they'd allow someone as young as you two to take care of all of us."
"We're much stronger than our ages would suggest, Nara-san." The one in all black stared at Shikamaru, "And if you're all still so resistant, we'd be forced to show you."
"Is that a threat?" muttered Uchiha Sasuke.
"It's an order." The orange-haired teen stepped forward, "Now stand and follow us out. You can all walk out of here or we can drag you away unconscious." His chakra flared as he sent a wave of killer intent at the students, and Naruto saw everyone freeze in shock. "Do not test us."
Everyone was frozen and some even had tears in their eyes.
"Fu," muttered the stoic Aburame teenager, "We are being watched. My insects sense something amiss."
The Yamanaka reached for his sword, making everyone tense, "Where?"
"By the window."
Naruto grunted as he was detected – he should have known the Aburame would have some sensory bugs. But before Fu could draw his blade, Naruto vanished in a blur in a Shunpo, appearing in front of the teenagers.
"FU!" cried Torune as he sensed something.
It was too late. Naruto slammed a heavy fist into Yamanaka Fu's face, breaking his jaw instantly and sending him an unconscious heap into the wall. The blackboard fell onto him as blood dribbled from his shattered face, slumped to the ground.
Torune was quick to react, reaching to form a hand sign, but to Naruto, he was moving slowly. Still under his security system, Naruto swung his body around, landing a devastating spin kick on the enemy's face, his heel crushing the teenager's cheekbones in an instant. With an impressively soft groan, Torune crashed against the wall head-first, knocking him out instantly. He slid down the cracked wall as blood bled from his cracked head, joining his teammate on the ground.
"W-What happened?!" cried Kiba as everyone looked shocked.
Naruto deactivated his security system and revealed himself to the class. Everyone gasped and some cried out in shock, but his friends recognized him immediately. Shikamaru and Choji's eyes widened and their jaws dropped as Kiba and Akamaru jumped from their seat. Sakura held her mouth in shock as tears welled in her eyes, but Naruto could only spare glances at them.
Ino was looking at him with tears in her eyes, and he wanted nothing more than to comfort her, but they were all in danger and he was the only Ninja around to protect them.
"Naruto!" cried Kiba, "Holy shit!"
"Keep calm and try to stay quiet, everyone." Naruto looked at the kids his age and tried to keep his voice calm, "You are indeed in danger, but it's not like what these two are saying. I can't say exactly what is happening or why this is happening, but there are way too many Clan Heirs and Heiresses in the class to be left alone. Please stay in your seats and I will make sure no one comes into this room."
"N-Naruto," muttered Choji.
"Trust me, Choji." Naruto looked at Shikamaru and Kiba, "Shikamaru, Kiba, please shut and lock all the windows and close the blinds." The boys nodded and rushed to do so, "Everyone gather in the middle of the room and avoid being close to the walls." Everyone slowly moved, but Naruto didn't rush them. "If we remain calm, this will be over shortly."
"W-What…what is happening, Naruto-kun?" asked Sakura as she shakily moved to the middle of the room.
"I don't know much myself, but my job here is to keep you all safe." He smiled and pointed at his hitai-ate, "I'm a Genin of Konoha and I promise you'll all be okay."
"When did that happen?!" cried Kiba.
"I'll explain later, Kiba." Naruto gestured to the middle of the room, "Please just sit down and be quiet."
Ino stood and slowly walked to the center of the room, joining Sakura and Choji, but she was staring at Naruto the whole time.
"Everything will be okay," Naruto said to the class, but he was only looking at Ino. He activated his ring and held her hand tightly, "I promise I'll protect you."
Chapter 19 – End
We are in the thick of it now! More action to come next chapter!
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